Monday, May 20, 2013

The writer of TV comedy Rev, James Wood, talks about the show which was inspired by his grandfather (and some boozy vicars)


A softly spoken Army chaplain, he was known to his troops as ‘The Bish’. Even when the elite Chindit unit of the British 23rd Infantry Brigade fought in the jungle behind Japanese lines, the Reverend Lawrence Wood remained unarmed. 
The Battle of Kohima in 1944 was a decisive victory for the Allies in the Burma campaign but it was on the desperate march to safety that he proved one of the unsung heroes of that ‘Forgotten War’ in the East.
He had severe dysentery and  malaria and had turned his ankle. He limped alongside the stretchers, offering words of support as the men staggered back to base. 
Marching on: Tom Hollander stars at the Rev - the show chronicles his daily struggles as a parish priest in east London
Marching on: Tom Hollander stars at the Rev - the show chronicles his daily struggles as a parish priest in east London
When finally he arrived, the medical officer saw his cadaverous frame and said: ‘Why aren’t you on a stretcher? You’re the sickest of the lot.’
‘The Bish’ was my grandfather. I knew him only briefly, yet he has always informed my understanding of the Church and, he would have been astonished to hear, has played a small but vital role in a hit TV comedy . . .
The Church has always featured in my life. My great-great-grandfather, the Rev Francis Bryans, was vicar of two parishes in Cheshire in the 1860s, then one in Hampshire until 1901.
His grandson – my grandfather – returned from Burma to become  rector of St Nicholas in Elstree, Hertfordshire, before moving to Stoke Bruerne, Northamptonshire. My own parents are regular churchgoers.
I didn’t follow suit. The nearest I came was attending schools with chapels and singing badly in choirs. I kicked against religion as a teenager and got a firm dressing-down for telling a school chaplain his service was like ‘a sheep dip’. 
In my 20s and 30s, I wandered away from the Church completely, as many do. Yet I’ve always admired its attempts to enshrine a moral code in human behaviour and I find the language and rituals reassuring.
Christian soldiers: The Rev Lawrence Wood, ringed, - known to Army comrades as The Bish, in 1940
Christian soldiers: The Rev Lawrence Wood, ringed, - known to Army comrades as The Bish, in 1940
In 2009, I got a call from the actor Tom Hollander with an idea for a TV series about an urban vicar. He had read in a newspaper about ‘the most powerful vicar in Britain’, who had many Tory Shadow Cabinet members attending his West London church.
Had they found God? No, something even more enriching: a free, high-achieving local Church of England school. The Reverend was courted by the elite in the hope of securing a school place for their children. This tale seemed redolent of modern Britain.
There is, of course, a rich history of clerical comedy in British culture, going back to the priests in Jane Austen’s novels and beyond. On TV we’ve seen Father Ted and The Vicar Of Dibley but few shows have tried to depict the joys and irritations of day-to-day church business. 
That’s what Tom and I set out to achieve in creating Rev, a comedy about the daily struggles of the Rev Adam Smallbone (played by Tom) in his East London parish.
Researching the project, we met a variety of urban vicars. One London curate told us how he’d been insulted by builders working outside his church. On the first morning, he’d arrived to wolf-whistles and yells that he ‘dressed like a girl’. By day two he was a ‘poof’ with an interest in choirboys.
By the third day he had had enough. He stunned them into silence by yelling: ‘Why don’t you all just f*** off.’
Tom and I knew instantly that this tension between public and private identities would be the basis for Rev. The incident featured in the very first episode and epitomised the show.
 Most of the priests we met swear. Some of them a lot. Some smoke. And nearly all of them drink. ‘Well, we do have to socialise a lot,’ said one canon of a Royal Peculiar. (A Royal Peculiar is a church which is governed by the Crown rather than a bishop).  I even helped him unload a trolley full of frascati at a supermarket checkout.
I’ve seen a well-respected priest polish off four pints of bitter in a 30-minute break between carol services, while a female priest greeted me by asking: ‘Have you got a car? I need to get to the bookies.’ 
Private and public identities: Most of the priests interviewed during research for the show swore and smoke
Private and public identities: Most of the priests interviewed during research for the show swore and smoke
She’d been given part-ownership of a racehorse and wanted to bet on it. At the betting shop we watched the race, my companion in full clerical garb, shouting: ‘Go on boy!’ at the TV. The other punters shuffled nervously. Even with God on its side, the horse failed to place.
Tom and I found the full range of humanity in a dog collar: we were spooked by the sinister, patronised by the sanctimonious, bored by social climbers. 
Rowan Atkinson recently said clerics are ‘people of such extraordinary smugness and arrogance and conceitedness who are extraordinarily presumptuous about the significance of their position in society’. Yes, we met those too.
But the vast majority were  generous, patient, intelligent and very hard-working, struggling to help others for little or no reward and even less recognition.
Their stories were often inspiring,  many tinged with black humour. The Rev Andrew Wickens, of Boston, Lincolnshire, met us at the station straight after a baptism, not at church but on a rough council estate. ‘That’s the first christening I’ve done that ended with a visit from the police,’ he said with a stoic smile.
He had baptised a 34-year-old mother with seven children by seven different fathers. All the fathers and children had turned up to celebrate. Which was lovely, until a fight broke out between three dads over who should hold the symbolic candle.
Most vicars had similarly entertaining tales: of a coffin that wouldn’t fit in the hole, or a gangster wedding where guests on day release were closely accompanied by members of Her Majesty’s Prison Service.
Perhaps the most surprising reve-lation was how the Church pressurises priests, who must raise all the finance for the upkeep of buildings but also contribute regular ‘parish share’ payments. Rich parishes effectively subsidise poorer ones. Archdeacons often harass late payers.
Priests welcome suggestions for raising money. Well, most of the time. One in London told me how a notorious congregant offered to help  by selling temazepam and Mogadon – powerful prescription sedatives abused as recreational drugs.
All this isn’t even to mention  ageing congregations, women bishops, homosexuality and claims that the Church is no longer relevant. When it came to writing Rev, we certainly didn’t lack for material.
Our unspoken rule was never to laugh at people with faith. After all, to a large degree my grandfather’s faith helped to see him through the war and to bring words of comfort to men whose lives were impaired. 
I have an abiding memory of looking up at him standing at the vicarage window in his clerical collar, smoking a pipe, staring out silently.
He died in 1977, shortly after leading a Remembrance Day service at Stoke Bruerne.
After Rev began on BBC2 last year, it quickly became a surprise hit with viewers from all backgrounds. 
Generous and patient: Many of the vicars were hard-working who struggled to help as many people as possible, for little or no reward
Generous and patient: Many of the vicars were hard-working who struggled to help as many people as possible, for little or no reward
The Rev Adam Smallbone smokes, drinks, swears and even occasionally fantasises about women other than his wife. But thanks in no small part to Tom’s outstanding  performance, his humanity shines through. Rev won the Bafta for best sitcom against a strong field.
The biggest shock has been the reaction of clerics. We never set out to do PR for the Church: many of the best jokes are directed at its dogma and out-of-date laws, as epitomised by Archdeacon Robert (played brilliantly by Simon McBurney).
But since Rev came out, Tom and I have had more invitations to Church events than a freshly consecrated bishop. We’ve been invited to Lambeth Palace and numerous Church forums and been asked to address a Cambridge theological college.
I was flattered and alarmed when a female priest said of Rev: ‘It’s not a comedy, it’s a documentary.’
For centuries, the Church was at the heart of British daily life. In my grandfather’s parish in Elstree in the Fifties, there was one butcher, one grocer, one pub and the Church – and that was it. No wonder the Church had such influence.
The Rev Lawrence Wood would no doubt be dismayed to see its present state of schism and uncertainty, especially the controversy at St Paul’s. And he’d be equally disturbed by some jokes in his grandson’s sitcom. But if Rev makes viewers consider the trials and tribulations of their parish priest for a moment then I’ll be pleased. And I think he’d be pleased too.
The new series of Rev begins on BBC2 on Thursday at 9pm.

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Monday, May 13, 2013

John Piper Has Retired From Bethlehem Baptist

John Piper is a giant. He has faithfully served his church as pastor for 33 years by carefully preaching Scripture and writing about the pleasures of being known by God in a way that has been singular and entirely fruitful. For a man who has written a book called, Do Not Waste Your Life, I believe it is safe to say that he can look in the mirror after 33 years of faithful service to the Gospel and smile- he has found pleasure in ministering in Jesus name and it has brought much fruit.

Mark Driscoll, another faithful minister of the Gospel, recently wrote a reflection about John that is well worth the read:


Mark Driscoll » Church Church Leadership Wisdom Calling Church HistoryStewardship

John Piper has faithfully modeled “a lifetime of obedience in the same direction.”
Recently Bethlehem Baptist Church hosted a celebration event to honor Dr. John Piper, who retired from the pulpit after more than 32 years of faithful service. I was genuinely saddened that I was unable to attend, as I needed to serve at Mars Hill Church.
While much can be learned from John’s life, I wanted to share seven lessons I’ve learned from his example that are especially helpful for younger leaders. This may seem basic, but it’s a lifetime commitment to some basic things, faithfully pursued day after day, year after year, and decade after decade, that makes a difference. It’s what Eugene Peterson called “a long obedience in the same direction.”


Bible study will help deepen your conviction and clarify your confusion. But don’t just study to have great sermons or a great ministry—study to experience the love of God and grow in love for God. Out of that experience comes family and ministry.


Many leaders, particularly young leaders, are like a husband with a wandering eye. They are never really married to a church or ministry, but rather only sleeping with one while they keep their options open, constantly looking for a potentially bigger and better opportunity. I recently spoke with a young leader and he asked me how you know which ministry opportunity is the best. I told him the best ministry is the one you marry. The family of God is like our own families. There is never an easy way to have a great family. It takes a covenantal commitment and lifetime investment.


The Holy Spirit, who wrote the Scriptures, is glad to anoint the man who opens the Scriptures to teach about Jesus. John was originally on a path toward a lifetime of professorship at a seminary when Jesus rerouted his life journey into a local church. And he’s been teaching the Bible ever since. A life spent teaching the Bible is not a wasted life but rather an invested life. Having a bit of passion never hurts either.


I first met John when I was a young man. I have seen him demonstrate a constant concern and commitment to young leaders. His care for them explains in large part why a generation of young leaders appreciates him.


Very few are prolific enough to publish 50 books, but when we write down what we learn, we are forced to sharpen our understanding and we are blessed to share it with others. The first book I read by John was Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, which he edited with Dr. Wayne Grudem. I was a newer Christian in college, and my pastor recommended it. It’s a big book. But I read it, and it was foundational to the rest of my life, influencing how I read the Bible, how I lead our family, and how we govern our church. Another one of my favorite books from John is Finally Alive. In simple, readable language, he explores the new birth that happens when the Holy Spirit regenerates believers.
Writing is a way to serve more people than you will ever know, possibly beyond your lifetime, even if the writing is something simple, like position papers and blog posts for your own church.


While John is transitioning from leadership as the preaching and vision pastor at Bethlehem, he will still be serving Jesus and not playing shuffleboard for the rest of his life. Teaching and writing will be occupying much of his time, as he’s committed to investing—not wasting—his final years in God’s kingdom.


John once quipped in a conversation that he had only one sermon message and everything he’s ever taught was a variation of that big idea: God is greater than anyone or anything, and living for his glory in all things, by his grace, is why we were made and where we find our joy.
In this season, let us thank God for John and learn from his example to walk in God’s grace and invest our lives in what Jesus invested his life in, the people who are the church. Let us pray for Bethlehem Baptist as they enter a new season with their new preaching pastor. And let us pray for John as he still has a lot of tread on the tires for the coming years.

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones Preaching Trust

Martyn Lloyd-Jones has been a titanic force in the world of preaching. From WWII to well into the 1970's, we wielded the pulpit of London's Westminster Chapel to deliver serious expository (verse by verse explanation) of Scripture to a generation of young people. Beyond these years his books and his sermons have had a major influence over some of the "heaviest hitters" in the Christian world. Men like John Stott and JI Packer followed in his shoes and those to whom many of us look today for great preaching were profoundly impacted by "The Doctor." For instance, John Piper and Tim Keller (arguably the two greatest preachers of our day) have both looked to Lloyd-Jones as a model for their own preaching, at times, mentioning him by name in their own sermons alongside of Charles Spurgeon, Luther, and Calvin. From books like The Cross and Second Peter to his monumental expositions of Ephesians and Romans, that took years to complete in the pulpit at Westminster Chapel in London, Lloyd-Jones challenged the shallow topical preaching and biblical commentary of his day and reinvigorated a generations love for God and His Word.

On the 30th anniversary of his death in March of 2012, The Martin Lloyd-Jones Trust released 1600 sermon recorded at Westminster Chapel. These recording are an invaluable record of reformed preaching. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Breaking the Mold

Christian formation means not letting the world press us into its mold.
Jon Tyson | posted 6/13/2011

As a Christian leader, I am grieved by statistics indicating that believers and non-believers live almost identical lives: similar sexual ethics, spending patterns, and lifestyle choices. Despite spending millions of dollars on transformation campaigns, conferences, books, curricula, worship music, small groups, multimedia, Internet churches, and all forms of relevance and engagement, Christians are remarkably like the world.
This is compounded by real confusion about how to healthily engage the culture around us. So we end up, sadly, "of the world but not in it." Why do our best efforts seem to make so little difference? And how can we help our people grow into actual Christ-likeness?
I agree with James Wilhoit, author of Spiritual Formation as if the Church Mattered: "Spiritual formation is the task of the church. Period. Spiritual formation is at the heart of its whole purpose for existence. The church was formed to form. Our charge, given by Jesus himself, is to make disciples, baptize them, and teach these new disciples to obey his commands."
The apostle Paul addressed this issue in a letter to a young church in one of the worldliest cities in history: Rome in the first century. After describing the human condition and the character of God, the power of the gospel, sin, law, grace, election, and love, Paul calls for a response: "Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." (Rom. 12:1-2).
Paul knew, and I am coming to realize, that before we see real gospel transformation, we must be aware that the world in which we live is not neutral. We live in heavily contested space: The enemy of our souls is seeking to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10; 1 Pet. 5:8).
On a human level, corporations compete for brand loyalty, educational institutions compete for worldview, and we are continually marketed to, mocked, rewarded, seduced, and compelled by the things around us.
Maybe Paul was trying to rouse the Romans to see that until we identify and confront the forces that seek to conform us, our attempts at transformation will be continually undermined. It's like trying to bail water out of a sinking ship, while ignoring the work of plugging the holes that are causing the ship to sink.
We are trying to offer a solution to people, when they don't really see that there is a problem.
Cultural formation
How exactly does the world shape us into its image? I recently asked my eight-year-old daughter a question, and she replied, "Whatever." I asked her where she learned to respond to others' questions in this way. Her response: "Everywhere."
It's this "everywhere" that shapes our lives.
Paul was asking the Romans to consider the larger forces that formed people into Romans. Then he wanted them to consider how Jesus transformed Romans into Christians.
For us, rather than simply asking how to make Americans Christian, we first need to ask what makes Americans American, and then decipher how Jesus can transform Americans into Christians. That allows us to see substantive progress in spiritual formation.
Pastoring in New York, not unlike the city of Rome, I've struggled to decipher these forces of cultural formation, and to open our people's eyes to them.
The French philosopher Michel Foucault called this shaping of people into a worldly mold "the normalization of the individual." Think about how these forces press us into the world's view of "normal."
• Education: Almost all education is secular, even at a kindergarten level. At the college or graduate school level, belief in God is often seen as childish at best, and a serious intellectual impediment.
• Media: Media is pervasive, pouring story after story into our lives, most of them contradictory to the way of Jesus. What was once held sacred has been transformed into entertainment. In most media, truth has been reduced to sound bites, and the sensational drowns out the substantive.
• Marketing: One commentator estimates that we see more advertisements in a single year of our lives than someone 50 years ago saw in an entire lifetime. We ourselves have been branded.
• Economics: We learn from our earliest years that more is better, and better is not enough. We spend much of lives trying to keep up acquire things and experiences in order to feel good about ourselves. The supreme value of life is how much we can acquire. Success is defined by one word: more.
• Sexuality: The message of our culture is that sex is purely physical, and that as long as no one is hurt, people can determine their own sexual practices. The rise of pornography has taken sex out of the bedroom and turned it into a form of entertainment.
• Religion: All religions are seen as equal and valid, and to claim that one is true and the others are not is cultural treason. The only belief you can hold with conviction is that there isn't any true-for-everybody belief.
Growing up in a culture like this, we quickly find that a sermon on Sunday, or a weekly youth group talk, can hardly give us the tools to renew our minds and be transformed into the image of our Creator.
American Dreaming
The most popular story in the world is the story of the American Dream. America is a place where you can start with nothing, and, by your own hard work and determination, rise out of poverty and obscurity to become a successful person whom others admire.
Our major institutions—education, business, even family—distribute this story to us in various forms. We are taught to be hardworking and competitive, to win, to get ahead. We are pushed to succeed and accumulate, and we feel like failures if we don't.
The media take this story and then distribute it with alarming effectiveness to every component of our lives. From carefully composed Facebook profiles that show how well we are doing to the onslaught of reality TV shows always designed with a competitive edge to generate winners and losers, we absorb a message: to strive and succeed as an individual.

The result holds massive sway over the actual practices of our lives. Afraid of being left behind or missing out, we shop, browse, sit, watch, work, and slave, all in pursuit of the American dream.
These practices set the pace for what we actually value, and these values often determine the major choices and habits that define our lifestyle.
Here lies the tension we all feel. Our theology is defined by Jesus, but our lives are defined by some other lord.
Instead of believing (Phil. 1:21) that "to live is Christ" (the purpose and mission of our lives) and "to die is gain" (in his glorious presence), we end up reversing the great mission of the Christian faith.
The American version says, "To live is gain, to die is Christ"—live now and accumulate all you can in terms of wealth, pleasure, sexual experience, luxury, privilege, and fun, and when you die, you get to go to heaven, too, and do it all over again, except better. Our story has been co-opted.
The gospel in contested space
Imagine yourself in first-century Rome, walking to attend one of the local house-church gatherings. You walk past the Palatine Hill, where the elites of Rome watch over the world's most powerful city and where Christian martyrs had been set on fire in order to light up Nero's drunken parties. You walk past the local theater, and hear the crowds roar at the retelling of the stories of Rome's history. You pass a group of Roman soldiers, taking a break from enforcing peace in the world—the kind of peace that had crucified a Jewish rabbi named Jesus about 25 years earlier. You continue on past the Circus Maximus, a giant chariot-racing stadium and gladiatorial complex, and you realize other believers had been martyred there for disloyalty to the empire.
You walk past dozens of temples to Roman gods, houses of prostitution, images of the emperor on buildings, temples, coins, and benches, and then enter a house where believers are meeting to worship Jesus as Lord and seek first his kingdom. There one of the elders announces that Paul has written a letter to your church. Then he reads: "Do not be conformed to the image of the world, but be transformed through the renewing of your mind."
You, a first-century Christian, would not have thought of one immediate social or political issue when hearing these words. Instead, you would have been overwhelmed with the reality that everything in your life—the story, institutions, practices, values, and lifestyle of the empire—was working in unity to conform you into a good Roman citizen.
It was not one thing in particular, but everything in general, that was pressing you into its mold. The goal of a good Roman citizen was to embody Rome's values, to be an icon (a small image) of the empire as a whole.
Rome was forming people to believe that Caesar was Lord. Jesus was renewing people's minds to see that he was Lord.

Rome was forming people politically to believe that peace was made though power and domination. Jesus was renewing people's minds to believe that peace came through servanthood.
Rome was forming people through entertainment to be attracted to sexuality and violence. Jesus was renewing people's minds to see that art is what's good and true and beautiful in his world.
Rome was forming people economically to believe that the rich got more, and that the poor were commodities. Jesus was renewing people's minds to see that the poor and the rich were equal in the kingdom, and that it was better to give than to receive.
Now, imagine walking home through the streets of Rome and trying to make sense of how to live out this verse. To love your spouse, raise your children, earn a living, interact with neighbors and friends, and fulfill civic duties. My guess is that your mind would be swirling.
What sort of deep and ongoing work of the Spirit would it take to transform you from the image of Rome into the image of Jesus? You would have to surrender your whole life to this pursuit. You would have to present yourself as a living sacrifice, an offering to God himself. Anything less than offering the whole of your life to God in response to his invitation would be both futile and laughable.
Every day as a pastor I glimpse how those first Romans must have felt upon hearing these words about "being conformed to the image of the world." New York City is arguably the fashion capital of the world, the finance capital of the world, the international relations capital of the world, the entertainment capital of the world, the media capital of the world—you get the point.
A person walking to our church through the city could walk down Madison Ave., through Times Square past the MTV studios, past the United Nations Headquarters, through the Fashion District, through the arts neighborhoods, through the heart of the gay community, past Wall Street, to sit in a church and hear me expound the apostle Paul's words about not conforming to the world.
Many of the people in this congregation work in the institutions that define what worldliness is for our time. Any serious pastoral work here has to take into account, not just the sinful nature and tendencies of the flesh, but the realities of the world that powerfully pull us into their story and mode.
As C.S Lewis put it, "You and I have need of the strongest spell that can be found to wake us from the evil enchantment of worldliness."
Breaking the spell
Saint Peter wrote to the Church in exile:
"Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us" (1 Pet. 2:11).
We are pushed to succeed and accumulate, and We feel like failures if we don't.
I often hear people say that the need of the hour is being a "relevant church." Some people argue that the world's attitude toward the church (indifferent at best, and hostile at worst) is because they don't understand what we are trying to do, or that we don't connect with them, or that we aren't relevant.

I would humbly disagree. Though I'm not opposed to being relevant, in practice we often end up mirroring the world rather than engaging it.
Jesus didn't tell his parables so that people could "connect with his points." Jesus told his parables to awaken their imaginations to the new reality of the kingdom of God that was breaking in around them. I believe that the real need of the hour is a robust discipleship that engages the whole of our lives with the Lordship of Jesus, the resurrected head of the church.
Our church is not far from Times Square, so rather than entertaining people in church (as if they need any more entertainment), we need to equip them with a gospel that has the power to transform them into a movement of grace, working its way through the whole of our culture like salt and light, for the common good.
Rather than simply consuming the story of the world, we need theologians and thinkers, pastors and authors, screenwriters and songwriters to tell an alternative story to the American dream. We need the biblical story, the overarching, overwhelming epic of the creation, fall, restoration, and renewal of the kingdom of God and its beautiful king.
We don't need to withdraw from secular institutions but to engage them with the truths of the gospel. We need our best leaders in education, politics, media, arts, and international relations salting the world with the truth of Jesus and his heart for us all.
We need to help reshape the systems that we have condemned, unleashing systemic good rather than the systemic evil that is so prevalent today.
We also need to help people living as radical individuals discover the beauty of covenant community, and renew their commitment to the local church.
Rather than just following consumeristic practices, we need to create and cultivate alternative practices, birthed not out of planned obsolescence, but from excellence and discernment. These practices, based in generosity and goodness and selflessness and sustainability, confront our greed and desire for more, and teach us to live in God's world in God's way.
We also need to rediscover the ancient spiritual practices that help us grow in the image of Jesus. Reading, fasting, resting and celebrating help us encounter the grace and goodness of God.
The great work of being a pastor is not entertaining the saints, but transforming them.
This then leads to a real impact being made on our values. Our lives begin to reflect God's heart and concerns, and our choice to live for Jesus begins to make sense and fit into God's overarching plan for the whole of our lives. We then become living sacrifices, and our minds are transformed. Instead of the mold of the world, we can begin to see the good, pleasing and perfect will of our loving God. This is articulated beautifully by Stassen and Gushee in Kingdom Ethics:

"Where Christian faith is functioning as it should, it serves as the governing paradigm for life. Life is governed by the narrative of God's coming reign in Christ and the way of life appropriate to it. Ultimately, in a growing Christian life, this process becomes second nature. One is so absorbed into kingdom living and one's identity as Christ's disciple that it essentially becomes impossible to respond to the circumstances of life from any other frame of reference."
Labor pains in New York
Paul referred to the Galatian church as "my dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth, until Christ is formed in you."
This is definitely more than theory for me. I pastor a network of congregations in some of the most godless neighborhoods in America, and in spite of the odds, sprouts from the seeds of the gospel have broken through the secular concrete of Manhattan.
We have Wall Street traders, steering their careers away from greed into radical generosity. We have people in the fashion industry who get behind the veneer of beauty with restorative and creative projects for victims of sex trafficking and battered women.
We have families living in proximity and sharing resources and valuing community above convenience as they live as the people of God. We have media executives working on new stories and programming that highlight the good, the true, and the beautiful. We have artists creating out of a renewed imagination, offering compelling works of hope in a culture of cynicism. The list goes on.
The great work of being a pastor is not entertaining the saints, but transforming them. Helping them to be a compelling preview of the world to come, as the kingdom of God comes near.
Then, as our people live lives of true and proper worship, they will find God's good, pleasing, and perfect will.
Jon Tyson is pastor of Trinity Grace Church in Manhattan, New York.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

James Vincent McMorrow

While working out at the gym, my friend tossed me a Cd and said, I am pretty much obsessed with listening to this guy. Check it out. The CD has been in my car playing over and over agin for the past two months. So, now I pass it on. I am pretty much obsessed with listening to this guy. Immaculate lyrics and beautiful vocals. Thanks James, thanks Dublin, thank you Matt for introducing me to this great artist.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Introducing the Civil Wars

I sat stunned in my car yesterday listening to The Civil Wars harmonize in a live show on The Word Cafe. Christian song writer Joy Williams is no stranger to stunning music. Teaming up with John Paul White makes this duo epic.

Check out the infamous Edie's Attic performances of You are My Sunshine and Billie Jean from their first recorded live show.

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Sunday, February 06, 2011

The Best Superbowl Ads for 2011

Super bowl ads seem to always have elements of humor, sensuality, male & female stereotyping and lots of incredible story telling. Some company’s commercials aren’t worth commenting on and others seem to be able to capture the human story year after year.

This year, we had the usual funny and manly categories telling great stories about what it means to be human. Two growing categories are Epic commercials and commercials that take us through a timeline, or emphasize history.

Standouts for me were VW’s Dark Vader commercial, Coca Cola’s Border Crossing and Chrysler’s very moving Eminem


Carmax I Feel Like

There was a lot of irony in this commercial which always gives us this three second delay in humor… “I feel like a kid in a candy shop”… all the way around until you hear, “I feel like a customer in carmax.”

Doritos House Sitting

Doritos pushes the envelope and often uses shock humor and surprise to make us love their stories. In this ad we see Doritos having resurrection power, “I missed you grandpa.”

Pepsi Shooting Cooler

Every Superbowl should have a “Revenge of the Nerds” storyline and this one even made fun of preppy people.


Three ads felt Epic, like they were not just telling earthly stories, but ones were the whole universe was involved. I loved these ads.

***Kia Optima One Epic Ride

***Coca Cola Dragon

***Volkswagon Darth Vader Kid


The following commercials all seemed to have men as their target audience.

Snickers Roseanne Barr

Careerbuildercom Chimps

Bridgestone Reply All

Budweiser Tiny Dancer

Bridgestone Beaver

Volkswagon Black Beetle

***Coca Cola Border Crossing

Chevy Lassie Truck


I really like the way so many technologically driven corporations are tapping into the fact that even though their industry depends on change and progression, they are now old companies that have histories that span generations and tell the stories that help us understand who we are and where we came from.

Chevy Volt

Hundai Old School

See Video HERE

Carmax Service Station

***Chrysler Eminem

Mercedes Diddy


The Soooooo Creepy Doritos Finger Licking Commercial

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