Saturday, September 13, 2008

Let Mercy Come

A few weeks ago Ryan did a sermon that really moved me, based on the song "What I've done" by Linkin Park. It was part of a sermon series on spirituality and pop culture. We've had a lot of amazing sermon series, but I think this one has been the closest to my heart: exploring how God bears witness to himself even through secular movies and music.

And I just have to say -- an Adventist church that isn't afraid to play a Linkin Park song as part of the service? And find legitimate spiritual truth in it? I love this place.

Listen to the sermon here (Let Mercy Come)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Recovering Evangelism

Missional Church: Recovering Evangelism as authentic, credible Witness (Ryan Bell) Click to listen

The word "Evangelism" is in bad shape these days. The church's methods of evangelizing the world often do more harm than good. Why? Let me make a confession. I'm more interested in winning people over to my point of view than engaging in authentic friendship and being there when my neighbor's in need. I'm more interested in validating my own sense of value and importance to God's kingdom than in spending myself unconditionally, loving someone who shows no signs of ever reciprocating or turning to God. I think the church is more interested in a 10-step plan to "winning souls" than in befriending our communities, more interested in numbers and efficiency than in genuine life change. I think we're willing to give up our bodies to be burned, but we don't know what love is.

Just recently Pastor Ryan got an inside look at how the world views us Christians, talking to a girl in a barbershop on Sunset Blvd. She told him about her absolute repulsion when a Christian asks her if she goes to church, and then condescendingly tells her "I'll pray for you." This girl can sense that such a Christian isn't really interested in getting to know her or in finding out what she thinks, as in winning her over to a point of view.

What would it take to restore "Evangelism"? What would it take to restore the church's image as a group of the most radically loving and alive people you'd ever met? . . . Let me rephrase that. What would it take to restore the church as a group of the most radically loving and alive people you'd ever met?

I think its possible, but it will take a pretty radical transformation inside all of us.

I would love for you guys to hear Ryan's presentation:
Missional Church: Recovering Evangelism as authentic, credible Witness

I think it really nails the issue head-on. I could hardly sit still while listening.

"How is it possible that the gospel should be credible, that people should come to believe that the power which has the last word in human affairs is represented by a man hanging on a cross? I am suggesting that the only answer, the only hermeneutic of the gospel, is a congregation of men and women who believe it and live by it." - Leslie Newbegin

Friday, August 22, 2008

Zeal for your house shall consume us

Hello friends,

I'm writing to you tonight not about Marbles, but about the project that has consumed the other half of my existence - a documentary on the Hollywood Church.

I'm writing to ask for your prayers because I believe that the success of Marbles rode mainly on the backs of your prayers . . . and I consider this documentary to be more important and further reaching in its impact for God's kingdom.

I started attending the Hollywood Church a year ago when it was empty and broken. I got to watch and participate as this group of people began to ask God to dwell with them; to ask him what his purpose was for them in Hollywood. And I got to watch God's Spirit fill the place and a true community, a true family -- a true church -- begin to form.

For the rest of this year I'll be editing 100+ hours of footage into 60 minutes of content that will tell that story.

At a time when "church" is often thought of as no more than an obligatory, compartmentalized, once-a-week ritual, I think the Hollywood Church's story desperately needs to be heard. The North American Division of the Adventist church will be distributing the videos online throughout North America as a resource to church leaders.

I need your prayers! Watching the Holy Spirit work is one thing; catching it on film is another! I think it might be possible to do the story justice, but I need him to guide me.

Participating in the formation of this community has been one of the greatest blessings of my life. The people at Hollywood have become like brothers to me -- my church -- a group of people who have covenanted together to live missionally in a certain place.

I feel like I'm using lots of superlatives in this email. Let me go back and check if they all apply. Yup, pretty much.

Psalm 40 is my prayer for the Hollywood Adventist Church.

Psalm 66 is my prayer for this documentary.

Thank you for being part of my extended church family,
Lotsa love,

Kevin Ekvall and Brian Bazemore are doing similar projects at two other churches in California. Keep them in your prayers too (as long as you pray for me more... J.K.!)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

RUMBLESTAR strikes again

Hi everyone,

Just wanted to let you all know how the story ended. I just signed a contract today with the North American Division. They're hiring me full time for the next year to shoot a documentary on the Hollywood church.

I prayed for three things. A job that would pay the bills, help me grow as a filmmaker, and minister to God's church. God provided all three in one fell swoop.

The whole focus of the doc is to chronicle how this church body learn to become a relevant agent of change in its community here in Hollywood.

I guess the story is really only just beginning...



Saturday, September 8, 2007


It seems it was only a couple weeks ago I was writing, "I'll try to shut up now for awhile, but that may prove difficult."

Well, it has indeed proven difficult, and here I am to accost your inboxes once again. I'm sitting here next to a brand new Panasonic DVX-100 video camera and $5000 worth of video equipment – all to start filming a documentary I barely just conceived of less than a month ago.

Watch how this God of ours works.

Back in March, an important conversation took place between a few of my friends. We were talking about the problems we see in the Adventist church, why so many youth feel alienated, the cultural changes that have made traditional services seem irrelevant to our generation, why secularists are cynical about the church, etc. Then it sort of struck us that, well, we are the church. What are we doing about it? We decided to take 4 months and look at all the SDA churches in the area, find one that we felt was really seeking to become the kind of church God intended it to be in its specific culture, community, and time – and really get involved there. Then somehow, spread the word so other churches could be inspired by what was happening.

After 4 months, we settled on Hollywood SDA. It wasn't that there were a lot of people (there were hardly any) or that the service wasparticularly spectacular. But we felt drawn there, sensing a certain openness and a desire to be Spirit-led, especially from the Pastor, Ryan Bell.

Perfect timing. Almost immediately we were asked to join one of the "Missional Action Teams." Ryan gave us 10 weeks to research the question, "What does it mean to be a people among whom God dwells?" then recommend specific action to the church board. (We're now in our 7th week.) It was exactly what we were looking for – a place we could participate, a place we could be part of the body, a place that was seeking the Holy Spirit: "What is a church? What do you want us to be?"

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

I had listened to that sermon, "Don't Waste Your Life," and started praying about what God wanted me to do with my time.

Next day, saw the Nick Vujicic DVD and was inspired to do some sort of documentary series on Christians who are living radical, fully committed lives. God, is this what you want me to pursue?

One week later, in Kentucky at ASI, I'm introduced to this guy Ken who says, "I have this idea I want to talk to you about." He then repeats to me, verbatim, the idea I had a week ago. Ok, tracking with this…

5 days later: August 7. Through Ken's connections, I'm on the phone with a guy named Tim Scott, producer of the TBN Series "Travel the Road," a reality show about 3 missionaries. He tells me that because of the video aspect of their ministry, literally thousands of people have called in asking how they can get involved in full-time missions.
Ok, still tracking with this… now I need a subject…

Meanwhile, amazing things are happening with the Missional Action Team (we have since been dubbed "The Transformers™: More Than Meets the Eye.") Interesting questions are surfacing: What is worship? What is a church? How does Christ intend a body of believers to function in the year 2007? What does it mean to be a Christian in Hollywood?
How can we invite the Holy Spirit's presence here in ways that are more than just haphazard? God, what is your purpose for us? Will you help us become the kind of church that actually knows each other? Supports and prays for each other? Gets in each other's business? And once we become that kind of church family, will you show us how to go out and serve the people of Hollywood?

What's happening at this church? …Could this be my story for the doc?

August 9. In my car on the way to a Transformers meeting, praying about finding a collaborator for the doc. At the meeting, I end up telling our team leader, Lennox, all about the idea. He gets excited about it and wants to know what he can do to help.

August 14. Lennox and I drive to the Media Center and meet with Linda Walter. She also gets excited, says she'll do anything to support us, helps us come up with possible sources of funding. All we need now is a camera… we're already missing some great footage at these meetings.

August 17. Linda had mentioned the Pacific Union Conference might be a source of funding, so I start browsing their website. Right there on the front page is a link to the Evangelism Endowment Fund: "Do you
have a passion for creative evangelism? The Endowment Fund assists with projects that are creative and innovative, and can be replicated by other people and other places." Perfect. I call Lennox and read off the list of criteria to him. He starts laughing, it so perfectly fits what we're doing.

August 20. Lennox and I meet with Pastor Ryan. He's totally on board with the idea of filming a documentary on the Hollywood church's journey over the next year. He suggests we create a new media ministry, with me as Director, which will make the film a church-sponsored project… which will help us when we go to the conference for funding. Next board meeting is on the 30th; get ready to present…

August 26. I'm up in rural Northern California, away from the traffic and noise and rush. Away from email, away from my cell phone. I spend some time in prayer for the doc idea. God, insofar as my understanding is that the purpose of this doc is to inspire the Western church to a new level of radical commitment to your purposes, my prayer is that: You provide the right subjects; You guide the events of their lives as they unfold in front of the camera; You provide the creative collaborators; You guide the movement beginning at the Hollywood church; you pour out your Spirit on Ryan and Lennox; You use this project to raise up an army of youth to go out in the world and live lives that glorify you; You provide the equipment and funds; You provide a camera soon so we don't miss what's already happening; For humility: what is your purpose for this? For distribution and airtime on the right networks.

August 27. I feel impressed to call my friend Kevin and tell him about the project, though I have no idea what his involvement could be. He says, "You should talk to Paul Kim. He's already doing the exact same thing at another church."

August 30. Talked to Paul. The North American Division is already sponsoring a video on a church in Oakland, and they want to feature other churches as well. Paul says the Hollywood church is perfect. And really, the project has already been approved. He says when I present at the church board meeting, I can let them know I'm in talks with the NAD, that they support what I'm doing, and that there's a good chance for funding through them as well.

How often do you get to say that your project got approved before you even pitched it???

That same night. Lennox and I prep to present to the church board. We go in, and I basically just tell them all the things God has been doing over the past 4 weeks, including the most recent development only a few hours before when I talked to Paul. (I had to stop talking halfway through the story because they were getting so excited!) I ended with, "So Ryan suggested that we create a new Media Ministry so the project will be sponsored by the church, which will help us when we go to the conference for funding."

I swear, I hadn't even closed my mouth yet, and one of the board members said, "I move that we create the new Media Ministry." Someone seconded. They proceeded to vote that they start us off with $5000 so we could get a camera and start filming immediately.

Lennox and I wanted to start dancing on the table. We went out to the church parking lot pretty much beside ourselves. And there was Kelsy, one of our team members. She had been in the parking lot praying for us while we presented.

Next day: August 31. Ryan and I went down to Express Video Supply in Burbank and bought… the Preciousssssss… Panasonic DVX-100B. I've since given him a proper Transformers name, aka, "RUMBLESTAR."

You know, people say that discerning God's will is such a vague and ambiguous process. But truly, he will dialogue with us if we just take the time to pray, and come to him not with our own programs, but asking what it is he wants us to do.

If our purpose as Christians is truly this: to make Him look great in the way we live – it was awesome over the last few weeks to witness his greatness in such a way that – if only for a few minutes – you forgot about yourself altogether – and all you really cared about was telling everyone the amazing things he'd done.

As the church board continued on with other items on the agenda that night, and Lennox and I sat there pretty much seething in our enthusiasm, I scribbled a quick note:

"I need me some New Dawn praise action right now." (New Dawn is the black church I go to every Sunday.)

I'll close with Lennox's response:

"Start getting used to it."

Monday, August 27, 2007

Monday, August 27

So much is happening so fast, I feel like I should be keeping a journal. Called Kevin today, told him all about the project. I told him I didn't know what his involvement could be, but just felt impressed to call.

He said Paul Kim has been writing him about a similar idea - documentary on the growth of a church. He's gonna call Paul tomorrow to find out more and see if there's a way we can combine them all.