Monday, December 12, 2005


Last night was a beautifully cold night and it happened to be the night my little organic "church" gathered to feed the homeless. We partnered with a teeny "real church" on the south side of town who was hosting the men and all we had to do was show up, serve the meal, eat the food ourselves, then hang out for an hour or two talking, playing games, soaking in the strange smells, etc.

So I left my warm, newly re-sided, freshly painted homestead on my five+ acre lot nestled along the blue ridge mountains of Virginia and climbed into my BMW 325i. I fired the engine and wound my way up my 600 foot, snowy, icy, slushy driveway. As an aside, the guy who invented the heated seat deserves a medal. Mine warmed the leather right up to the point I didn't even need to wear my coat. It made the trip in the passenger's seat.

Out on the road my comfort was temporarily placed in the back seat while my complaining spirit took the wheel. There's a four mile stretch of road from my house to the first stop light where you can't pass and I happened to get behind some old cottonhead just creaping along. What a pain... there's not much worse than being in a sporty vehicle that can't do what it's designed to do. If my auto-traction indicator doesn't light up the dashboard on the ice patches then somehow I feel I'm not getting my monies worth out of the vehicle.

Along the way my bored car told me she needed her tank refilled. So as soon as I got around the slow-me-down I found a place where I could complain about the price of gas. At least the folks at the major petro companies don't need to worry about becoming homeless... with what their raking in lately they ought to be set for a while.

I made the rest of the trip to the sounds of one of my favorite radio stations. The one my wife likes when they play acoustic sets in the morning, but can't stand as the day wears on and the other instruments start showing up, and the volume gets cranked, and the lyrics & guitars all get distorted into a heap that has to force its way out the speakers... it's the FM I listen to when I want to feel cool and young and hip and... you get the point. Anyway, the Foo Fighters, Radiohead, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, etc. made the drive with me.

I got the last parking space at the little church and nearly ran over three homeless guys in the process. They were standing around drinking coffee as I whipped around the corner and dove for the spot. I'm sure I probably offended them as I climbed out and locked my car door. I asked them if they had already eaten and they said they had. I asked them if it was good and they said it was. Then I probably offended them again as I told them I was glad the food was good, because I needed to get inside a get a bite myself... "who's the guy in the BMW coming here to eat our dinner?!"

I opened the door to the church and was nearly washed away in the sea of cots... literally wall to wall cots, many of them occupied, all of them marked with a handful of belongings. I had to make my way toward the kitchen, sometimes scooting sideways to get there.

The meal itself was good (our group had prepped it)... ham, green beans, rolls, jello salad, cookies, etc. I joined our group late, so I jumped right into eating and sought out a table where I was able to enter into conversation with a couple of the men. The thing that struck me right away was how it was difficult to tell the difference between some of the homeless and those serving them. The two I was speaking with could have been either, but I was either too afraid or too smart to ask, so I just let it ride.

Both of these gentlemen were black and both shocked me with their knowledge of the history of punk music. In my mind punk music has always been a white thing from my youth. Similar to the stereotypical concept that I've always had that rap was a black thing. One of these men was in his forties and the other in his late thirties and together we discussed all the groups from my youth... Black Flag, the Dead Kennedy's, the Ramone's, the Clash, the Kinks, the B-52's, the Sex Pistols, etc., etc. Then as quick as the conversation began it was over... I don't know if I got up to get more desert or what, but when I returned they were gone and it was done. It was almost like a strange dream where you think it might have really happened, but you're afraid to mention it to anyone in fear that they might point out that it was only a chimera.

I spent the rest of the evening playing cards with my eight year old son and his friends. We dealt a couple of mighty hands of "war" while a handful of the homeless guys huddled in a corner to watch the dvd of Cinderella Man. Upon retrospection, it must be an interestingly inspiring film for a homeless person to watch. In a bizarre sense, widespread poverty in the midst of the great depression could possibly be a comforting scenario to those with nothing. But then again, it's only a movie.

There was no discussion or debate over whether the film should be nominated for Best Picture at the 78th Annual Academy Awards. It was just men glued to a story, passing time, two hours closer to bed time, two hours closer to the next meal, two hours closer to...

Every year I ask a certain single friend of mine what he's doing for Thanksgiving or Christmas and year after year he gives me his standard response. He tells me he's gonna go down to the bus station to watch people who have somewhere to go. That's what last night felt like. It was as if I were at the bus station... a few men gathered around the tv in the corner, a couple people playing cards, a few others stretched out on benches or cots with their backpacks nearby... all of us waiting patiently for a bus that would never arrive.

I had a couple of other brief conversations with a couple of the guys where we exchanged courtesies, etc., while I prepped to leave. I shook a couple of hands, smiled, said goodbye and climbed back into my car... my safe, secure, foreign automobile.

I didn't witness it, but I learned later that when I was walking out another friend of mine was walking in. He went inside to give his jacket to one of the homeless men he had befriended. He went inside to be the hands and feet of Christ.

Me, I fired up my BMW, turned on the seat warmer and drove home... my jacket riding shotgun the whole way...

At least I've noticed the disconnect...

Tuesday, November 08, 2005


This article was originally written in the summer of 2004 as the Holy Spirit was preparing me to leave the traditional church structure and enter into the wild, vast and widely uncharted territory of being the church in a post-modern world...

Many lessons have since been learned, but this was a catalyst, a starting point of sorts... one of those conversations with friends where the blurred begins coming into focus...

by Kent C. Williamson

Imagine the most horrific terrorist attack happening to the Church. Your own church’s building laid waste, the sanctuary reduced to dust, church programs bleeding and dying, everything gone… everything. This is the starting point of a journey I took recently with seven friends, seven believers, seven “loved-ones” of the Church who stood with me at our fictitious “ground zero” and helped me sort through the rubble, searching for items necessary to help us (by the power of the Holy Spirit) become more mission-minded, enabling us to be both effective and relevant in a post-modern culture.

The first thing I noticed while standing at our “ground zero” was that the building was gone. Just gone… and I had to ask the question, “do we even need to rebuild it?” And the answer finally came… “no.” The church is not a building with a spire pointed at the heavens. The church is people, like you and me, called by God according to His purpose. Christ lived, died and rose again in order to move the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit from the Tabernacle or Temple, into the heart. When the traditional sanctuary is empty it is void of the Holy Spirit, but when you walk in, the Holy Spirit is there because the Holy Spirit indwells YOU! Not because someone rang a bell in heaven waking the Spirit and sending Him your direction. The same goes for Wal-Mart or Starbucks. If either of these establishments would ever be empty (and trust me they never will be) they too would be void of the Holy Spirit and if you would enter through the doors then the Holy Spirit would be there because the Holy Spirit indwells each believer. So the physical church building does not need to be rebuilt. That doesn’t mean that believers don’t need a place to gather, it means that the gathering doesn’t have to take place in a traditional church setting.

As I began to dig through the debris around me, one of the first items I came across was a communion plate. Tarnished, scratched and dusty… I tucked it under my arm, because I knew we had to take it with us. In order for a mission-minded “church” to be effective and relevant in a post-modern culture there we’re certain things we had to dig out and take with us, and communion was high on the list.

A torn choir robe was found near the altar. I toyed with the idea of taking it, repairing it, and putting back into service. But then I realized it could stay. At first I thought the robe represented worship and that we needed to have it for that purpose, but then I realized it more accurately represented the concept of worship more than worship itself. The image of the choir in the their robes in front of the congregation immediately conjures up an image of praise… not the praise itself. Instead I picked up a hymnal with its cover torn off and decided to bring it with. Much of the poetry contained within speaks to a history of believers faithfully expressing themselves through worship of God. Some of it is deeply thought provoking and profoundly worshipful. Those are the pages I’ll keep. Other pages contain tripe; dribble for a weak believer expressing a weak faith. Those pages I’ll probably eventually tear out, but for now I’ll keep the book, knowing that it will help guide the post modern-man. (Fortunately much of the modern “Jesus is my girlfriend” music has not found its way into many hymnals. If we can help people forget the catchy jingles and horrendously weak lyrics future believers will be better off).

A friend of mine digging in the area near the remains of the church office found the wooden placard that once hung on the wall where we faithfully displayed our attendance numbers. It was in decent shape, but he wisely went ahead and broke it before tossing it back into the rubble. In the reorganized church, numbers will not matter. They will not be used as our gauge for success. We will not be concerned with how many contacts we’ve had, how many professions of faith we’ve heard, or how many re-dedications have taken place. What we will be concerned about is have we lived our faith authentically? Have we loved our neighbor as ourselves? Have we loved the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind? These measuring sticks are far less tangible than how many people were in the “early service,” but far more relevant in a world that longs for realness.

The next casualties we uncovered were "church programs“ and “curriculum." The majority of church programs we came across were dead long before the attack on the church and most of the curriculum was a very poor attempt at the Denomination trying to dictate the role of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the churched. They did a fine job of allowing the staff to not have to confront heretics… meaning that if the whole church studied “approved curriculum” then no teacher could stray too far into the vast ocean of heresy. Ankle deep in heresy perhaps, but definitely no swimming allowed.

Somebody found the sign that pointed church members to the “Fellowship Hall”. It was broken right between the words Fellowship and Hall. We kept the half that said Fellowship and tossed the other half into the ashes. The word fellowship alone was enough to remind us of our need for drawing together. We didn’t need a specific room where it could take place (giving the idea that it couldn’t take place anywhere else).

Next I heard faint sobbing from behind the crushed pulpit. As I approached I realized it was the pastor. You could tell that his grief was tremendous. We tried to comfort him, but to no avail. We asked him to join us in re-building a church without all the trappings, but he refused. He stood behind that broken pulpit where he had preached a thousand sermons and looked out over what remained of his sanctuary. The sanctuary where hundreds had walked the aisles, and millions had been put into the offering plates. And right then and there he vowed before us and God, that no matter what, he would rebuild it. He would use the same blueprint and the same materials. He would rebuild it exactly the way it was, but it would be better than ever… a bigger choir, more programs, more members, a larger gymnasium… a testimony that God can overcome anything!

I stood there and thought about the poor out in the streets that would never truly be welcome in the new building. I thought about the homosexuals that would never even think of crossing the threshold into the sanctuary. I thought of post-modern man and how he wouldn’t give a **bleep** about this pastors new found “vision.” And that’s when I decided that I would just keep digging. I would dig and look for remains of the faith that are needed for me to live as a missionary to my community. I’ve found a few of them. And when the Holy Spirit tells me I’ve found them all then I will leave this “Ground Zero” and I won’t look back. I will grieve for my loss, but I won’t look back.


November 2005 Update


GIVING... We eventually found an offering plate and decided to keep it, but not for the purpose of giving money to ourselves (like many traditional church offerings do*), but for giving directly to those whom the Spirit calls us to give. Talk about freedom! Being able to give directly to the missionaries you feel called to support, the ministries within your own community, state, country, the poor, whomever. It requires us to be much more intentional about our giving, because no one is passing a plate that we can drop a generic check into.

* I recently learned that 83% of my previous traditional church's income was committed for activities, events, payroll, and administration at the church. This means that only 17% is being used outside the walls of the church for missions, community, etc. I'm not certain what percentage should make a church "self-centered", but I'm pretty confidant that 83% would fall into that category.

SERVICE... We also are attempting to learn about corporate service to the community around us. On this one we have a ways to go, but I'm convinced that if the world around us is served by men and women of faith, lives will changed.

PREACHING... "Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary" Even though scholars say that St. Francis of Assisi never used this phrasing, I'm a believer in the spirit of this concept. Many Post-Moderns will respond better by seeing the Gospel than by hearing it. That said, some will need to hear it, so be prepared to preach... but we must remember not to throw pearls before swine, and don't preach to those who don't need to be preached to.

TEACHING... Discipleship is critical for new believers... we must make it happen, but it doesn't need to be with a fill-in-the-blank workbook. Teaching my son how to hammer a nail is best done with a hammer and a nail. Pictures and words only go so far... the same is true for discipleship... words and classes can't compete with learning by doing.

Other lessons are still being learned... such is the journey of faith.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Disciples Undisciplined

By Kent C. Williamson

Discipleship – It’s probably THE most critical element related to spiritual growth. Sure there are churches that are on target in regards to discipleship, and some are more on target than others. But my thirty-seven year exposure to American Christendom leaves me believing that often churches think they are discipling believers when in actuality they are merely providing “programs” for their members. Many have forgotten that the root of the word disciple grows most deeply in the same fertile soil of the word discipline.

Now when I use the word discipline I don’t mean “punishment” or a “field of study”. I mean (to expound on Webster) “training that shapes, corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties, moral or spiritual character of an individual.” It is important to note that it is impossible to truly shape the spiritual character of an individual without the aid of the Holy Spirit, and by shaping the spirit it is impossible not to impact the moral and mental faculties of the one being transformed.

If there are spiritual disciplines that shape our spiritual character and make us disciples (as opposed to merely “aimless followers of Christ”), then what are these disciplines, and more importantly why are they not being consistently and effectively taught? In a recent dinner conversation with a friend, I asked this question. The disciplines we thought of were prayer, study, worship and fasting. We scratched our brains a bit until my wife mentioned a book she had read nearly fifteen years ago called Celebration of Discipline. She grabbed it from the shelf, dusted it off and handed it to me. This began my latest crusade.

That Sunday as I was teaching an adult Sunday School class, I decided to ask them, “Who among us has ever fasted?” I wasn’t shocked by the response, I was more disheartened by it. Of the twenty-five or thirty people there, maybe four or five people raised their hands while the remainder looked at me as if I had suddenly started speaking Chinese. That’s when it hit me that the Church has failed in teaching the spiritual disciplines to the flock.

At lunch that day as my family filled an oversized booth at The Blue Bird Cafe, I asked my five kids what fasting was. Now my ten-year-old daughter tends to be wise beyond her years. She has been raised in the church and I knew she was about to make me proud with her brilliant response. I looked at her over the half-eaten plates of brunch and she stared back across the booth at me as if I again had suddenly started speaking Chinese. Meanwhile one of my five-year-old twin girls piped up, “Fasting is what we do when we’re late. We drive fast.” That’s when it hit me that I have failed in teaching the spiritual disciplines to my family.

In Foster’s book, he focuses on the following as spiritual disciplines: Solitude, Silence, Fasting, Frugality, Simplicity, Sacrifice, Prayer, Study, Service, Submission, Worship, Celebration, Fellowship, and Confession. Quite a list if you dwell on it. Most churches I have been a part of touch on Prayer, Study, Worship, and Fellowship. Some dig deep into Study while others focus on Worship or Prayer. Most have been pretty good at Fellowship (or at least hanging out together). I’ve never been privileged to be a part of a congregation that was really good at more than two or three of Foster’s list.

How do I teach Service to my children if I’ve never been taught how to effectively serve? How does a pastor teach Solitude if he’s never been taught the purpose of Solitude? How does he teach Fasting when one of our main forms of “Fellowship” is the pot-luck dinner on Wednesday nights? How does he teach Frugality while his church’s new 2 million dollar gym is being built?

There is also a huge difference between teaching by preaching and teaching by doing. All of our preaching about the disciplines is useless if we don’t teach by example and if we don’t provide hands-on opportunities for learning to take place.

I recently finished eighteen days of fasting. Doesn’t that sound impressive? It had been well over a decade since my last fast (you can see how disciplined I am), so I decided to refrain from food… one meal a day for the eighteen days leading up to Easter. It was a wonderfully confusing time. It gave me opportunity to pray more (another discipline) and to experience restraint first-hand. It did not culminate with God showing up in some sort of miraculous vision. It simply ended with a quiet celebration (another discipline) of the Risen One.

Was it life changing? Yes, I believe it was, because in fasting, in denying myself food, it gave me a hunger for far more than a half-pound bean burrito at the Bell…. It gave me a spiritual hunger for discipline. It also gave my children an opportunity to see Fasting up close. My son joined me for a handful of those eighteen days, so now there’s an eight-year-old in Virginia that has a little better idea of what it’s like to taste a spiritually disciplined life. One day during our fast we were in line at the Sam’s Club deli, buying lunch for the rest of the family, and I caught him with his eyes closed and his lips moving. I asked him what he was praying about and he simply said, “I’m praying that I won’t get hungry.”

I was recently invited to speak over lunch to a small gathering of Lutheran ministers about my spiritual journey and about my moving into ministry outside the walls of the church. I was encouraging and challenging these ministers to take the spiritual disciplines more seriously with their congregations, knowing and believing that the result will be men and women of deeper faith, more capable of being ministers of the gospel themselves. It was going very well when I was blind-sided by one of them who thought I was encouraging legalism and condemnation by promoting a deeper understanding and practice of the disciplines. He thought it would lead us to judging the depth of one person’s faith over another, and what about “grace” anyway? We’re saved by grace not by works, so this spiritual discipline stuff seems like works-based faith! This was not at all my intent, but his perception of it troubled me greatly. Are we called to use grace as an excuse for spiritual laziness?

Later it struck me that if pastors encourage the disciplines too much, the result will be deep-faith believers who are less dependent on the Institutional Church and more effective in their ministries in the community around them. Not something you want to hear if your livelihood is dependent on the Institutional Church.

So maybe instead I’ll promote a different cause: Help keep your pastor employed, stay spiritually unfit. Whatever you do, don’t study the disciplines, don’t read Foster’s book, don’t deepen your faith. Things are just fine in American Christendom… please don’t trouble the waters.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Do Not Be Deceived

I read an interesting letter to the editor in World magazine the other day. While the topic of the letter isn't relevent to this article, the writer made a statement qualifying believers (those who claim to be 'born again') as "only those who are active in church and living out their faith." (italics mine)

Interesting distinction, I thought, and one of the greatest sources of confusion and deception in the body of Christ today. Now I'm not a biblical expert, but I can't find anything in Scripture that declares that one must be "active in church", to be a born-again follower of Christ. But being active in church seems like such a good thing that it surely can't be bad to use church participation as an indicator of a soul's spiritual state, you say. This logical error compounds one of the greatest deceptions that we struggle with as believers today. The deception is this - that being part of an organized church is what being a believer is about.

Now don't get me wrong - in itself the organization and structure we call the church is not a bad thing. But it has grown in complexity through services, programs, and ministries, until it consumes the lives of the church attenders. It is a tar baby that pulls you in, and sticks to you, each touch compounding the problem, until at last you and the tar baby are indistinguishable. At some point in this consumption, the average church attender comes to believe that these services, programs, and ministries are what being a believer is about.

Now I don't know how the average church attender would respond to my challenge that they see the organizational functions of the church as their calling as believers, because I haven't asked, for the most part. I suspect they would say that being caught up in the organization we call the church is not the main purpose of a believer. But their actions reveal and betray them. If you watch where and how their time is spent, it would appear that the chief end of an average believer was, in fact, the services, programs, and ministries of the church.

Here I must take a stand, here I must disagree. When I read the Scripture, I read that being a believer is about living the will of God, glorifying Him, and enjoying His presence. To love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself sums up the Law, as Christ said, not being active in church.

So, it comes down to this. Activity in church is no indication of being a follower of Christ. Can you be active in church and be a believer? Absolutely. But you can also be deceived. You can spend your life caught up in services, programs, and ministries, and somehow think that that is what being a believer is about, while your neighbor is consigned to hell because you failed to see the meaning in the declaration of God that you are to love your neighbor as yourself.

For those that are deceived by their involvement in the organization of the church, there will be no greater tragedy than standing before our Lord, protesting your service, your programs, and your ministries, as He says "depart from me, you who are cursed... for I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me."

Be cautious, fellow believer, and do not let your involvement in the organization we call the church mask your call to be the salt of the earth, to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and strength, and to love your neighbor as your self.

Do not be deceived.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

WHAT OR WHO IS THE ESTABLISHED CHURCH? (aka - intro to Trickle-Charge Christianity 101)

The other day I received the following email:


Read through the ROT blog, and since I'm new at this blog stuff I figured I would just e-mail. I am impressed with your yearning for a church that will have a greater impact on our post-modern culture. I need a little clarity. What or who is the established church? How does rebelling against the established church translate into Christ's call for unity(Jn.17:20-23)? What is the injustice that you are rebelling against? How do you define tradition? Your ideas of your next church seem vague and abstract.

I replied to the sender that I would try to tackle each of their questions and concerns in a series of Blogs, so here goes...


In a couple of postings on the Rebellion of Thought BLOG the term "established church" is used. But what do we mean by this?

In my research I learned that back in history some would equate the "established church" with the official "state religion", but this is not the definition we are using. It may touch on our distinct brand of North American cultural Christianity, but since we have no "state religion" it certainly would not mean that.

A simple definition would be to say that the established church is the church which has been handed-down to the current generation. In all of it's varieties and flavors from Catholic to Anglican to Protestant and back again. But this definition would be too simple for our use.

I stumbled upon a website that offers this defintion: "An established church shall be defined as one which (1) has a baptized membership strong enough to be self-supporting, (2) meets regularly for worship, Bible Study and fellowship, and (3) has a natural leader." They go on to outline the church planting priorities, the work assignments and the methodologies of their mission in Taiwan. What's interesting about this is that they also write "no missionary will be permitted to remain in an assignment to work primarily in an established church." They can partner with established churches, but their main focus will not be working in an established church.

This goes hand in hand with what I consider to be the main calling of believers... to be missionaries in the culture around them. Some people get freaked by the idea of becoming a missionary. Visions of African jungles or ugly clothes from the "missionary barrel" invade their minds, but what becoming a missionary means is simply living out the two greatest commandments wherever you are. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind... and love your neighbor as yourself. We do the later through relationship and by attempting to understand the needs of our neighbor... whether we're in the jungle, the backwoods, the big city, or the small town.

This is where I think an understanding of post-modernism can be helpful. Post-Modernism is the language of many of our neighbors and for us to effectively reach them we must be able to speak their language. Just as the missionaries in Taiwan will be more effective if they can speak the language of the people.

My roots were grown in Protestant soil and evangelical Protestant soil at that, so I recognize that my definition of the established church will be influenced by this background. But I strongly believe it to be more universal in nature, reaching across denominational bounderies and into the hearts of believers everywhere. Please remember that this is a working definition, so your input through replies to this post can help shape it. Here goes...

The established church is any church whose focus of it's faith is on it's coming together rather than on it's going out. This is a simple definition that attempts to address a more complex issue which may or may not include your church or the church down the block. But the philosophy that "church" has become about Sunday mornings and perhaps Wednesday nights has invaded our cultural mindset.

I liken the believer to a rechargeable powertool. A cordless drill, for example, is designed for a purpose... to drill holes, or to install, tighten, loosen, or remove screws and nuts, and depending on the attachment it can even stir paint, etc. The drill is also designed to be plugged into a power source to have it's battery recharged. Why? So that it can once again fulfill it's purpose. It's purpose is not to remain continually plugged into the recharging source. But often times isn't this what believers tend to do? They find a church, they get recharged, they get "plugged in", and then they stay there, continually receiving the trickle-charge that the church provides through it's programs, services, and pot-lucks, all-the-while forgetting the purpose for which they've been created and called.

Pastors across the country and around the world are guilty of promoting what I call trickle-charge Christianity. We build bigger sanctuaries, add more programs, more services, additional opportunities to "plug in" and then we stand around and scratch our heads as to why we are not relevant to the culture around us?!?! All of the programs, services, etc. combine to create churches whose mission is to "come together" with other believers, but few church calendars allow or schedule time specifically to "go out" to spend time with non-believers.

The culture around us doesn't care if we have two or three services on Sunday morning. They don't care if we have traditional or contemporary worship styles. They don't care if we have the latest "insert Christian celebrities name here" Bible Study. Post-Moderns want authentic relationships and experiences. They don't want sugar-coated or plastic-smile anything. They desire realness and they deserve realness... which can only be given through true relationship... through us followers of Christ authentically loving them as ourselves. This is how the gospel message will spread in a post-modern world. The challenge will be to keep converts from becoming Trickle-Charge Christians.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005


Brad, Sam, Matt and I were recently in Oklahoma premiering our dramatic motion picture When Love Walks In at the Bare Bones International Film Festival. It was cool... we won 4 awards. On the way home we took a detour to Selma, Alabama and filmed a couple new segments for Rebellion of Thought.

The first one we filmed in Live Oak Cemetary, a great location with old headstones emerging from the earth and spanish moss hanging from the trees throughout. Brad made a great correlation between the denial of absolutes within our culture and reality of absolutes so evident in the etchings on the headstones... death happens (don't that cheer you up!)

The second segment we filmed was very powerful for me, personally. We shot at the bridge which crosses the Alabama River heading out of Selma on the road toward Montgomery. As you may recall, Selma's Edmund Pettis Bridge was the sight of the 1965 march that became known as America's "Bloody Sunday."

A group of 350± (mostly blacks) were marching to try and secure the right to vote, a privelege that had been granted, but was being denied by the white-slanted voter registration tests (there were blacks with PhD's that couldn't "pass" the same tests as uneducated white folks). The marchers were met at the bridge by Sheriff's Deputies and Alabama State Troopers with billyclubs, bullwhips, and teargas.

Two days later the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. led 650± marchers to the bridge to pray, then two weeks later after receiving a judicial decision which guaranteed their safety, MLK, Jr. and 3500 others started marching the 50 miles to Montgomery. They slept in fields along the way and four days later the crowd had swelled to 25,000 who marched up to the state capital. It was 5 months later that congressed approved LBJ's Voting Rights Act which secured the right for all American's to vote.

Back at the bridge the sun was beginning to set as we began filming our piece on movements. What is it going to take to begin a revolution of faith within our culture? I don't promote violence, I don't advocate civil disobedience, but I do believe there will be significant events that mark the turning points of this emerging movement. So I have to ask myself a few questions... Am I willing to march four days and 50 miles for the cause? Am I willing to face teargas, billyclubs, and bullwhips? Do I believe in it enough to put my own life at risk?

All I can say is, "bring it on..." How about you?

Monday, April 04, 2005

What Makes A Church A Church?

I spoke with John Herman, pastor at Peace Lutheran Church in Charlottesville, who told me that he quoted a portion of my My Next Church article in his sermon yesterday. Here are links to text and audio of the message titled What Makes A Church A Church?

Read Text
Listen to Audio

John has also asked me to speak next Wednesday, April 13th, to a regional group of Lutheran Ministers. I'll post more on that later.


Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Post-Modernism Defined

Even the experts can't agree on a definition of Post-Modernism. It's a vague and shifting topic, that eats at your core like undetected cancer. At least it's eaten at mine for the last four plus years and I still struggle to put it into words, but here's an attempt. What follows are three psuedo definitions of what I believe will be the second biggest turning point in human history... the first of which was the act of God wrapping himself within the mortal coil.

Please note that I offer these only as springboards for others who may be struggling to grasp the concept of Post-Modernism. They are by no means intended to be absolute definitions... besides one of them is more poetry than definition. Here they are! Kent

Post-Modernism is... a term used to describe the transition from the modern era into a yet to be named time-period of human history. It is marked by the tearing down of absolute truth claims and a hunger for human experiences. It is the place where we find ourselves today in our North American culture. In and of itself, it is neither good nor evil, it simply is what it is. We should not be afraid of it, nor should we embrace it. Instead, we as followers of Christ should become increasingly diligent in learning to understand the post-modern mind, so that someway, somehow the Spirit of God will use us to reach post-moderns that Christ went to the cross and died for.

Post-Modernism is... an unbelievable opportunity for followers of Christ to live their faith in the streets, not hidden in some sanctuary, not veiled with airs of "holiness", but authentic, truth-driven, experiential faith that is marked and known by Christ's own summary of the gospel... to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind... and to simply, yet passionately, love your neighbor as yourself.

Post-Modernism is...
a seismic shift in cultural ideology
a sizable shifting of values

a lack of pursuing virtues
a lack of "virtues" to pursue

a moral degeneration
a generation without morale

a looking forward to where we've never been
a forgetting from where we've come

an absolute lack of absolutes
a defiance to be defied

a purposelessness to behold
a yearning for more of nothing

a belief in ourselves over God
a look in the mirror seeing emptiness

a forgetting of where the soul resides
a forgery of the spirit

a longing for authenticity
a cringing at the superficial

a dose of experience
a lethal injection of "experiences"

a self-gratifying worldview
a self-grandizing whirlpool

a dominance of ego
a dormant orthodoxy

a relative outlook on life
a life of relatively no introspection

a nonsensical twist of faith
a non-stick gospel in a non-prophet world

a simple life gone haywire
a heinous sinful gonorrhea of the soul

an opportunity like none before
a privilege like none ever seen

a belief in taking chances
a chance to live your beliefs

a seizing of the moment
a monumental need for truth serum

an occasion to be Christ
an occasional glimpse of Christ your neighbors will watch

an invitation to love those who hate you
a proposal to dance with "sinners"

a heart transplant - yours for Christ's
a transubstantiation of the mind

a hope where none should grow
a growth of spirit in a stagnant soul

a juncture for the pewsitter
a purpose beyond the program

a freedom for the faithful
a faith for the fearful

a connection for faith in the world around it
a contortion of the world from the faith within it

a predicament to ponder
an uncertainty to ascertain

a turning point in the history of the Church
a crossroads of how you'll live your faith

Sunday, February 27, 2005

My Next Church

written by Kent C. Williamson

My next church will not look much like my current one at all, and most likely, not like yours either. It will not look like the mega-church I attended in the suburbs of Chicago, nor the "new" church I visited in Southern California, nor the Presbyterian church I was married in back in San Antonio, nor the Christian & Missionary Alliance Church I loved so much on the Virginia coast, nor the little struggling Baptist Church I joined in upstate Wisconsin, nor the home church a dear friend of mine invited me to in his home state, nor the Bible Church that holds such a dear place in my heart from my youth in El Paso.

No, I imagine it will not look like any of these at all. As a matter of fact it may more closely resemble the non-organized, highly persecuted, low-key, huge impact church in China I recently witnessed first hand than any Main Street, Maple Street, side street, back street, high school gymnasium, or strip mall church that exists today in America.

My next church probably will not have a building (nor a building fund, a building program, or any building aspirations). This will save enormous resources and of course will eliminate any potential arguments over carpet color or pews versus theatre seating, but more so it will mark an enormous shift in ideology. No longer will the church be so inwardly, self-centered in it’s focus. No longer will the church be isolated from the community it claims to serve. No longer will the church be seen as a refuge from the woes and worries of the world… instead by the power of the Holy Spirit we will face them head-on.

My next church will not be about Sundays and Wednesday nights. Imagine if Christ had compartmentalized his life and ministry in the way the church of today does. His example was a 24/7 one, which by the way, is what our current post-modern culture begs for. The church has no set hours. If ministry waits for the doors of the church to open, ministry opportunities will be missed. There will be more living and breathing the Gospel and as a result more impact on the communities in which we live.

My next church will not be about church membership. The goal will not be for more people to walk our aisle, fill our pews, or join our club. The focus will not be on more numbers or others joining us in our sanctuary from the world. Instead it will be about people called by the Spirit of God to join along side one another in action and deed, ministering to a broken people in a critical time. Please do not confuse this with a works-based faith. It is not, but as James points out, a faith without works is dead. And I will add that a self-serving faith, one that is only about our own “spiritual growth” (the trademark of the modern church), is equally as dead.

My next church will not be about "worship services". It will not emphasize corporate worship over life worship. It will not relegate worship to a few minutes of singing jammed in-between announcements and a sermon. It will not negate the power and beauty of corporate worship, but it will focus on an individual’s life as worship. It will enable believers to more fully understand that using our gifts and living our lives is just as much worship as singing can be. Our vocations will become instruments on which we play the hymns of my next church. Whether we are filling prescriptions, fixing mufflers, home-schooling five children, preparing tax forms, or making motion pictures, the attitudes of our hearts will be worshipful, not a worship of ourselves and our talents, but a worship of God for the talents He has given us and the work he performed through his Son on the cross.

My next church will not be about more church programs. Actually it will be the opposite. It will be about less church programs. And in doing less it will do less better. It will not be about more programs for the youth and children’s ministry. It will not be about more adult class options on Sunday nights. It will not be about adding a second, third, contemporary, or alternative service into the mix. The one thing my next church will be intentional about is discipleship. Whether you are 6 or 60 you will be challenged towards becoming a better disciple of Christ.

My next church will not have a denominational title. I’m confidant outsiders will attempt to label it this or that, but in it’s mission and purpose it will be about putting aside labels. It will be about looking at the heart of the individual rather than his pre-given denominational identifier. Will it be void of all doctrine? No, it will be doctrinely sound in regards to the core message of the gospel. But it will discourage argument for arguments sake over the finer points of theology that have divided so many for so long.

My next church will meet in the community. It may gather at a coffee house, a restaurant, or a neighbors yard today, and a playground, a theatre, or a parking lot next time, but the focus will not be on meeting to cloister ourselves from the world. Instead we will meet to spur one another on toward action. And our main action will be, 'loving our neighbor as ourselves.' In lieu of a building, our prayer closets will become our sanctuaries where power will be given to us to enter and engage the world according to God’s purposes.

My next church will actively engage the culture. It will not wait patiently for seekers or the lost to wander through it’s doors. No, instead it will prayerfully seek them. It will not abandon the arts, but instead will actively pursue them, both in creating them and experiencing them. It will attempt to live culturally relevant lives, not to be seen by the world around us hip or in, but in an attempt to become all things to all men so that more may come to know Him.

Finally and probably most importantly, my next church will be about the great commission and the greatest commandments. It will actively pursue making disciples (not merely converts) of all men. It will actively be about loving our neighbor as ourselves. And it will actively attempt to love the Lord our God with all our heart soul and strength. The message of my next church will not change, but it’s methods will. And as a result of these actions my next church will need to be more prepared for persecution. Like our brothers and sisters in China, we will need to be prepared for anything and everything that may come our way. But imagine the impact of the church on our culture if the resources spent making “church” happen were instead spent on reaching out to the community.

My next church is not for the faint of heart and it is definitely not for the weak of faith either. It is not for those who sit comfortably in the pews. It is not for those who are content with the way things are, but it is ready for me… or more so, I’m ready for it.


This article originally appeared in the Food For Thought column on the Soul Survivor Website.

Kent C. Williamson is an owner of Paladin Pictures, Inc., a film and video production company dedicated to the production, distribution and promotion of family-friendly, morally strong entertainment and educational media. He lives with his wife and five children along the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.

Please reference My Next Church when sending comments to Kent at

©2004, Paladin Pictures, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Editing Rebellion of Thought

We're neck deep in post-production on Rebellion of Thought. I often feel like I'm drowning as we wade through 60 hours of heavy-duty intervew footage in an attempt to cut it down to 90 minutes.

Since this is the first blog about the actual film Rebellion of Thought I'd better fill in a few details. Brad and I started work on this film in February 2001. We've filmed off and on over the last four years gathering interviews with theologians, philosphers. film theorists, thinkers, and folks on the street. We currently hope to have the film wrapped by the end of May... I won't say May 2005... if I just say "May" it keeps our options open.

We're also weaving our own personal story into the film as our lives have drastically changed since we started exploring post-modernism and the role of the church in a post-modern world. If you haven't yet seen the teaser and the open, go check 'em out at the Paladin Pictures website.

So anyhow, back to the drowning... Since we've got most of our paying clients happy for now, Sam Voelkel (our Assistant Editor on this film) and I will be spending many hours trying to find the story amidst the chaos. Meanwhile Matt Uncapher (our DP and Editor) is putting the finishing touches on the color correction of our dramatic feature motion picture When Love Walks In. That film is set to debut at the Bare Bones International Independent Film Fest in April. And of course Brad is missing all the fun... he's drinking nuclear cocktails on some beach somewhere.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

The Modern Church Lies Comatose in the Postmodern World

written by Kent C. Williamson

"Coma," the Doctor said, "He’s in a coma from which he may or may not recover." It was May 22nd, 1991 when I heard those words in regards to my father. It was May 22nd, 1991 when my life would be permanently changed - in some ways for the worse, in some ways for the better.

When you learn that someone you love has slipped into a coma time seems to swiftly and surely come to a stop. It was three and half weeks in May and June that year which all blend into one lengthy, tiresome trip to and from the hospital. In reality it was filled with up to three trips a day driving across the hot, dusty town of El Paso to and from the intensive care center at Thomason Hospital. It was filled with sadness (and occasional laughter) as my family, brought together by tragedy, grieved. But mostly it was filled with prayer - prayers of a twenty-four year old who desperately hoped that God’s will would align with his will - prayers of a family who had never suffered through anything so tragic - prayers of literally hundreds, even thousands of the faithful scattered across the country and around the globe lifting up a brother in the faith.

It was a tragic time, but it was a wonderful time. It was a time that looks and feels awfully familiar in a strange and bizarre way as I stare at the Church in 2004 - a modern Church lying comatose in this post-modern world.

The comparisons between my father’s coma and that of the Church are striking and eerie. They begin with the fact that the patient never knows he is in a coma. As strange as it may seem, it is true. Although the world continues to spin with the best medical staff available, the best treatments available, the best waiting room, decent cafeteria food, a newly paved parking lot, fine shopping, cars filling up highways, baseball games and cable television - the patient lies oblivious to it all. Three and a half minutes or three and half weeks, time means nothing to the comatose. They simply don’t realize that they are in a state of coma.

The second similarity is life-support. In the case of my father his coma required a ventilator. An outside object designed to breath for him - to keep his blood circulating - to keep his vital organs working when his body could not do it on its own. In the Church’s case this role is lovingly and caringly filled by the Holy Spirit. A job He willingly does regardless of whether the Body is in or out of coma. The difference being that out of a coma His breath gives life and life more abundant, while in a coma His breath merely sustains life.

Another similarity is that people check on the coma victim on a regular basis. Whether it is three visits a day or merely on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights there are those that check on the victim regularly, seeking any signs of improvement. Have they wiggled a foot, did they open their eyes, anything? Or did they just lie there since I saw them last? The only movement being the slow rise and fall of their chest forced by the ventilator and the inching of the blood through the veins - an impossible act without the life-support system.

The doctor told my mother and I that my father may be able to hear things, but just not be able respond to them. So our family talked to him, we told of our love for him, we prayed with him, we held his hand, and we even played music through headphones for him. We patiently tried to make it known that we cared, whether he knew it or not. We had to believe that he could hear us and that our words and actions mattered even though he could not tell us that they did. It was an act on our part out of love for him that in reality may have only helped us to keep our sanity in our hour of crisis. Shaking the church will not cause it to leap forth from the coma. But neither will our silence. We must trust that our words and actions will be heard and felt and that somehow they will make a difference.

I will never forget the day after three and half weeks when my father opened his eyes. I remember asking him where the clock was and watching as his eyes slowly moved across the room and landed on the ticking numbered circle, which hung on the wall behind me. It was an unbelievable sign of communication that filled my world with renewed hope.

Another noteworthy point which I am confidant will be true in the case of the Church is that when (not if), but when the Church awakes from its coma it will never be the same. The reason a coma occurs is that the body shuts itself down in attempt to keep itself alive. This state is often caused by traumatic injury, the effects of which can be life-long. In my fathers case it was a brain-injury that affected his personality and short-term memory skills. In the case of the Church we will have to wait and see the change when it awakes. When it realizes that the world has changed around it, and that the modern world it was comfortable in has ceased to exist. One thing is certain - the message of the Church will not change, but it’s methods will.

Now at 36 I find myself again praying for a coma victim, but this time the stakes are higher than just one man’s life. And again I catch myself secretly hoping that God’s will would align itself with my will - something I don’t think He is too fond of.

In the mean time, I can only patiently and prayerfully wait for the eyes of the Church to open and move slowly across the room to the ticking clock hanging on the wall.


This article originally appeared in the Food For Thought column on the Soul Survivor Website.

Kent C. Williamson is an owner of Paladin Pictures, Inc., a film and video production company dedicated to the production, distribution and promotion of family-friendly, morally strong entertainment and educational media. He lives with his wife and five children along the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.

Please reference The Comatose Church when sending comments to Kent at

©2004 Paladin Pictures, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Dreaming of Tornadoes

This morning I dreamt I was walking through a very narrow airport hanger with a high sheet metal ceiling and tall, thin, truss supports. The sides were mostly open and as I walked along with your typical airport crowd I sensed danger around me. As I looked through the open walls I noticed several tornadoes surrounding the building.

Some were white and some were dark grey and they all danced around the airport spreading panic amidst the patrons. I ran and grabbed ahold of a truss and ducked down in an attempt to hide. Clinging for my life, I painfully watched as others were literally sucked out, vacuumed out of the building by a force far stronger than man.

It was then that I awoke. Immediately, and I mean instantly upon waking, the thought raced through my mind that the Airport Hanger is the Church and the Tornadoes are the Holy Spirit pulling people out of the protection and safety they find there and into their place of ministry in the community.

Seeing the dream in this light I have only one question of myself... why did I cling so tight to the structure of the Church?

Friday, February 18, 2005

Anchored in the Harbor 2

Last night I watched the footage from my Spring Hill speaking engagement with my parents. They were both impressed, but who's parents wouldn't be of their son in that role.

My mother thought it was a little too much like a performance... a little too dramatic, but at the same time she felt the content was dead on.

After we filmed the three "performances" last week my shooter, Matt Uncapher, and I went to lunch at the local Mexi joint. As we devoured the chips and salsa we discussed the events of the morning. His viewpoints are distorted by the viewfinder (as most cameramen will attest) and my viewpoints are more grossly distorted by simply being too close to the topic, so the jury is still out in regards to how the message was delivered and taken.

The pastor of the church emailed me two days ago and said it "went VERY WELL." Hopefully it won't end there, but this will just be the beginning for a few select folks to start living their faith outside the walls of the traditional institutional church.

Back to the chips and salsa... I told Matt that I don't know how a pastor can give three audiences the same sermon without it becoming a "performance." With my presentation I would polish it between services and try to improve upon it each time. I would imagine that pastors would do the exact same thing.

We filmed it, hoping that some of the footage will make it's way into the Rebellion of Thought film. We shot all three services from different angles and we hope to be able to cut it all together into one. I guess that explains the "performance" thing. Anyway, I think the piece as a whole will probably find it's way into the Special Features section of the DVD.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Anchored in the Harbor - Kent Speaking at Spring Hill

This past Sunday I spoke at three services at Spring Hill Baptist Church in Ruckersville, VA (outside of Charlottesville). This church has a pretty good pulse on the community around it. Their pastor has a vision to reach out beyond the walls of the church. He asked me to speak on my experience moving from the pew into the passion.

Here are my notes...


STORY: Cannery Row by John Steinbeck. Henri the painter and boat builder.

“The boat was sculptured rather than built. It was thirty-five feet long and its lines were in a constant state of flux. For a while it had a clipper bow and a fantail like a destroyer. Another time it had looked vaguely like a caravel. Since Henri had no money, it sometimes took months to find a plank or a piece of iron or a dozen brass screws. That was the way he wanted it, for Henri never wanted to finish his boat”

The reason is given elsewhere in the book: A man named Hazel says to the main character Doc: “(Henri’s) been building that boat for seven years that I know of… Every time he gets it nearly finished he changes it and starts over again. I think he’s nuts. Seven years on a boat.”

And Doc gently replies: “You don’t understand. Henri loves boats but he’s afraid of the ocean.”


Kent loves the Church, but he’s afraid of the world!

GIMME one more discipleship class, THEN I’ll live my faith out in the world…
GIMME one more book of the NT, THEN I’ll go visit with my unsaved friend…
GIMME one more sermon… THEN I’ll…
GIMME one more worship experience… THEN I’ll…
GIMME one more act of service toward the church… THEN I’ll…


The BEST things God has for us come from obeying the two greatest commandments…
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind.
And love your neighbor as yourself.”

If they only would have been written:
“Love your church with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind.
And love yourself more than others.”

But I realized I WAS FAILING at the two greatest commandments

There are 2 kinds of ministry:

1. Ministry to the Body… worship leaders, Sunday school teachers, child care workers, etc. – This is what I was really good at!
2. Ministry to the World… that’s what I failed at doing (and what I believe the Church as a whole is rather weak at doing)

I had anchored myself in the Harbor… I had anchored myself in the Church (Deacon, Adult SS Teacher, Committee Member, Child-Care Worker, Kitchen Clean-Up Crew, etc. etc.). I had anchored myself in the Church and by doing so I didn’t have time for the second greatest commandment… to love my neighbor as myself.

CHINA – The Holy Spirit opened my eyes to my own problem of being anchored in the Harbor.

The Church in China:
Handful I saw are baptizing new believers every 36 hours…
one of the differences I saw… NO HARBOR

From my China experience the Spirit told me give it all up… .(Deacon, Adult SS Teacher, Committee Member, Child-Care Worker, Kitchen Clean-Up Crew, etc. etc.). And He revealed to me that the door to ministering to world is the exit door of the church.

So where do I find myself now…
7 months to resign my duties
Getting our bearing
Learning what it means to live as missionaries to our own culture
Learning the language of our post-modern culture
Email me

Look around you… this is your Harbor.

The seas of the world are rough, and Christ (as he’s been described time and again) is the Lighthouse… his light guided us safely into the harbor. But it wasn’t for the purpose of us dropping our anchors.

Harbors do have a purpose…
to refuel
to restock supplies
to get a new coat of paint
to get repairs.

Harbors are safe places for boats, but boats are made to sail… If we anchor ourselves in the Harbor we do the Boatmaker a disservice.

God is not like Henri in Cannery Row… He doesn’t build boats to never have them sail.

It’s the same Lighthouse that drew us here that now shows us the way back into the stormy seas of the world around us.