This is Mark Phifer-Houseman's Typepad Profile.
Join Typepad and start following Mark Phifer-Houseman's activity
Join Now!
Already a member? Sign In
Mark Phifer-Houseman
Recent Activity
As a young man I fought a lot. (I don't think I got Paul's words in 2 Timothy at that age.) In mid-life I get heated when "sheep" are being mis-led, in stage 4 speak, "when someone is trying to bend their arrows away from Jesus to something else". For everything else I am pretty much too tired most of the time w/4 kids teen and up. Oh, did I mention that i argue with my oh so opinionated kids? And what does that do? Well, it certainly humbles me because I need to apologize over and over and over.
1 reply
Friends, I happen to come from a long line of alcoholics and married into another long line. I don't know if anyone else has apocalyptic characters in their families or you all came from happy Christian families, but I have seen hell overtake many people in my family. It's agonizing to have loved and lost someone to living hell and then death. It's also a great Kingdom joy to have seen a few brought back from the brink of hell. So, for me, family is the most powerful testimony of heaven and hell being at stake in our daily choices, and also the most grim when all is lost and the person drinks/drugs themselves into oblivion or the co-dependent chooses to go down with the ship. If any of you have seen the recent academy nominated film, "Winter's Bone", you know the kind of apocalyptic family situation I am talking about, even if you haven't lived it. I love fiction, but as many of us readers have found, Hollywood movies are the common language of our culture. I found Dave's references to film much more powerful. Being the father of teens and a friend of college students, I think it's much easier to have discussions of the shaping consequences of our choices from that launch pad. Peace to all, Mark
1 reply
Really appreciate your taxonomy and hope you don't mind if I use it out here on the left coast.
1 reply
This made my day. (It was a rather hard day.) There are several takeaways for me. First, to remember that unless there is joy involved in what we are doing and calling people into, it's not going to be attractive or really in touch with the Spirit. Joy is not the same as blissing out to the latest Chris Tomlin song covered by our band, though it could be found there. Joy is a deep resonance of our spirit with the Holy Spirit. Joy comes from hearing the "music" of the Spirit and coming alive, by the grace of God. It can be in tutoring inner city kids, leading Bible studies with Chinese internationals, it's where our greatest joy meets what God is up to in our world, our 6, our community. The second point for all of us is, I think, that Jesus is that dancing guy. The Apostles and prophets and martyrs of the early church are the first followers and the people running in. The Jesuits (for people who've been reading Dave's blog) were a group that took the dance of Jesus all over their world from universities to starving beggars in India. There are many movements of dancers in history and our current world we can learn from. As a leader, first follower, late follower, husband, and tired parent, I have to get in touch every day with Jesus and his dance. Following Jesus for 30 years now and being a "leader" for 27 years on and off, my greatest challenge is hearing the music of the Spirit's movement and keeping in step with Jesus - how he's dancing and inviting me to dance with him and then inviting others to join us. Or seeing Jesus in the way they are dancing and affirming it, blessing them, equipping them, etc. However old we are, whatever our generation, leadership, followership, etc. are just means, they are wineskins. Too often, leadership or church movements lose the wine, the authentic spiritual life, the scary experience of prayer and risking with Jesus, because it's uncontrollable, it's wild, it's vulnerable, it's humiliating at times. It's easy to formulate wineskins once we have found some "success", to write about them, to become authorities on the wineskins de jour, but to have lost that precious mysterious connection of joining the shirtless crazy guy, Jesus, in his dance in my heart and in the world. Peace to you all as you seek to deepen your own dance connection with Jesus and call your friends, staff, members, and the unchurched into relationship with Jesus, our precious, shirtless (on the Cross) dancer.
1 reply
Father Joe, where is your parish? I am encouraged by your post. Not in the SF Bay area by any chance? Peace in our common Lord, Mark Phifer-Houseman
1 reply
On Dave's challenge to me to pull out of my bag of tricks the majority world leaders who at least verge on the Stage 4 vs. Stage 2 paradigm, here is a conference on the left coast with a line up of speakers to listen to and invite to dialogue with. It's a conference "Overflowing joy and generosity in a world of pain and scarcity -- a conference for hearing the church in the majority world. Then, there's always Desmond Tutu, who is stage 4 perhaps in a way many of us are not interested in, but his core is a radical Christ follower.: http://www.fpcberkeley.org/gcc2009_schedule.asp
1 reply
Dave & Team, May the fruit grow as people get back home and deal w/entrenched mental models, church staff cultures, family stress, and just all the diversions from "the main thing" that our habits and our enemy throw at us. May you guys experience good rest and happy people upon re-entry. Lots of hope for a building movement, Mark P-H
1 reply
Dave and friends, We spent age 23-37 entirely with leadership dreams and being on the edge of a movement starting, getting stroked a lot as the up and coming couple in co-ministry, then getting laid out by God with chronic pain and illness for 12 years in which I could not lead, our movement wilted and our leaders were scattered abroad; I had plenty of time to reflect and pray about what I could possibly envision out of a disabled leader's life. I have mixed feelings about the thesis. 1) Augustine ended the City of God (his great leadership dream that shaped Christendom for 1300 years) with the wonderful lines, "On that day (the eternal day of Christ) we shall rest and behold - behold, and love - love and praise - for this is to be the end without the end of all our living, that Kingdom without end, the real goal of our present life. I am done." So, I would say that all Gospel dreams worth their salt are Kingdom dreams that eventuate in our eternal bliss and God's eternal glory. Without that gaze, we are merely building sand castles and putting crosses on them. I found out that God loved me enough to destroy my incipient movement so that my soul was purified. Peter tells us, "these trials have come, so that your faith, of greater worth than gold, may be purified . . ." God cares more about the purity of our faith, that we might be qualified to participate in that "gazing and praising" that Augustine wrote about without melting like the wicked witch of the West. 2) There has been an increasing distrust of "institutions" among evangelicals since the Woodstock generation came back to church. I recall hearing John Wimber say in the late '80's, with resignation, that the Vineyard was probably just a one generation Boomer institution. Let's hope he was wrong on this account. Like the Methodists or the Roman Catholics, the Vineyard and its sub-movements like yours, Dave, have a gift to offer the Body of Christ that is of eternal worth. We need a better view of leaving a legacy and catechizing the next generations. I thoroughly hope and strive and pray with all my might that my children would think and pray and love and serve and strategize like Gayll and I and our small movement does. I certainly want them to build far beyond our labors, even jackhammering up poorly built sections of our movement, but ultimately, "following us as we follow Christ" and our spiritual mothers and fathers before us. Robert Greenleaf in does an excellent job of locating a Gospel leader with reference to institutions. He "argued that institutions were both the glory and bane of modern society because they extended essential human services beyond the wealthy few, but also often behaved in unresponsive, bureaucratic, and destructive ways. The servant leader's central mission is to call institutions back to their fundamental mission of service, raising the institution's capacity to serve and to perform as a servant." Somehow young or adolescently minded Christian leaders ("I've got to be me!" "My generation!" "God is doing a new thing", etc.) like to imagine that life with God can be lived outside of an institution or that every generation's destiny is to abandon institutions and start over. Usually such revolution leads to a naive blindness about one's own institutional development. Again, John Wimber insisted throughout the '80's and into the '90's that he was not starting a denomination. So he refused to own responsibility for churches branded as "Vineyard" to the harm and demise of hundreds of churches or attempted church plants until scores of thousands of believers and seekers in the Vineyard "movement" were harmed by soft gloved hard fisted pastors or just bumbling ones who were ill prepared and unsupported -- that generation had no accountability and very little support. When two people band together under a covenant, explicit or implicit, there you have an institution for good (Dave and Charles) or ill (Mao and lady Mao). The continued existence, fecundity in spawning many spiritual children, and vitality of the Benedictines, an institution with a rule, unchanged, that is over 1400 years old, proves that institutions are renewable, essential, unavoidable if you want to make an impact for the Gospel in this world. Certainly, Whitefield with his magnificent voice, legendary anointing, and incredible stamina and longevity made a great impact for the Kingdom, but the Wesleys and their institution with their classes, methods, and bands have had a much more profound and lasting influence. The business world is an excellent resource for understanding the life cycle of institutions and how they can be renewed. The Peter Senge, Fifth Discipline group in Boston is an incredible resource with their systems analysis and understanding of leverage points. Jim collins latest book, "How the Mighty Fall and why Some Companies Never Give In" is also a tremendous research based work on the topic. I suggest we all get to work understanding institutions, because unless you are going to be a monk or a recluse like J.D. Salinger, you will lead and memb in institutions your entire life. Let's light the candle of the Gospel in Institutions and never give up until they renew or kick us out like Luther. Recall, Wesley never gave up on Anglicans, a tremendous perseverance and laying down his life kind of love given the persecution and hatred served up to him and his followers by the majority, especially the powerful in the Anglican church. If you are not a builder or you don't have the gifts around you to organize, then recruit to your weaknesses or join a likeminded band with those gifts in place. 3) Finally, (I hope this one doesn't get me kicked off the island) What is wrong with a Kingdom dream of reuniting with the Catholic Church someday? They apologized and agreed with the Lutherans on 'Justification by faith' less than 15 years ago, after a 480 year disagreement. All that movement towards reconciliation and Biblical fidelity has happened in the last 50 years. They are a church in radical transition with high stakes for the future of Christianity world-wide. They represent 2/3 to 3/4 of the Christians worldwide, especially in the global South. Their "brand" is far more Gospel centered and Biblical than the Charismatic brand in the Global South - one has only to watch TV in an African or Latin American country and see the mimicking of all the worst of the health and wealth movement to be sickened in your souls - every leader longs to be a TV star with his private jet, just like Benny Hinn and all the rest. It's the one thing that makes me doubt that God exists. If it weren't for Paul and Peter's warnings that it would happen, I don't know what I would do. Christianity in our lifetimes (assuming we are 30's and 40's) will be led and dominated by leaders from the global South, Kingdom leaders and cult leaders. Of the Kingdom leaders, priests, nuns, independent evangelists, Dalits in India, Anglicans in Africa - these leaders are the true apostles. They have suffered the persecutions and martyrdoms and hardships of our Lord and his apostles, not Brian McLaren, John Wimber, Rob Bell, Hillsong United (you fill in the blank with the hottest young leaders in the U.S. or British world). Frankly, more of the cult leaders are Protestants, precisely because they start their own movements and are accountable to no historic Institution or governing body anchored to the Scriptures' true witness that the Christian life, especiallly for the leaders, is an ongoing cycle of death and resurrection, of increasing weakness and frailty in ourselves and confidence and power in the Spirit's work apart from our talents, but through our weaknesses. Can one dream about 2 Cor. 12:9f? I don't think it's dream material. Thank God he doesn't show us in detailed dreams our Crosses before they come upon us. For now, I am learning with the Catholics, journeying alongside their charismatic renewal stream. I think we have a lot to learn from them, and not just from the early Jesuits, but living Catholics and non-Western Anglicans and even some Orthodox in some places like Ethiopia. (But, the Orthodox churches of Russia and Greece are the counter-example to the Roman Catholics. They are corrupt, in bed with the State, and increasingly irrelevant in the global advance of the Gospel. May the Lord prove analysts wrong, since they too have precious gifts to contribute to the Body in the future.) I do dream that our church would be a church and sodality planting dynamo. I dream of being linked together in a network with the Boston Vineyard and other churches with similar DNA and theology. I dream of 100,000's of secularized university educated urbanites coming into relationship with our Lord and fresh wineskins streaming out of the West/North in Partnership with the Global South churches. I dream of churches led in all the secularized cities of America and Europe with leadership shared between us Westerners and leaders of the church in the Majority world. "Establish the work of our hands!" (Psalm 90) So, I do believe any Kingdom dream worth its salt is a leadership dream. We may need to be tested at the same level as Joseph who was so enamored of himself as the ruler in his dream, not the purpose of that rulership. But, by the time God gave him the rulership, his character was prepared to lead/rule for God's glory and to serve, even his murderous brothers and their offspring. I really wish I was back at your culture summit. May the Lord free my entire church staff up for next year's. Peace, Mark Phifer-Houseman
1 reply