Monthly Archives: November 2011

Here With Us

So if you are in Abilene, please share this post with your friends before this coming Sunday, December 4th. Highland is hosting a Christmas Celebration at the Paramount Theater at 7 PM for free. It will have instrumental and a cappella moments of worship, bluegrass, slam poetry, preaching and more.

Brandon Scott Thomas has done a great job of getting together some of the most talented people at Highland and Abilene to bless the community. The goal is for Highland to give classic Christian moments back to the community. We want as many people (especially those who are not connected to a church)  to be blessed by the Christmas season as possible. So with that in mind…Here’s a bit of a preview.


In  Tijuana, Mexico is  one of the worst prisons in the world. It’s filled with some of Mexico’s most notorious and violent criminals. These men have murdered, raped and beaten people in their lives, but when Mother Antonio comes around they melt. They are known to reach through the bars shouting for her to please come visit them today. To the guards and warden they are some of them most violent and dangerous men alive, but when Mother Antonio comes around they turn into family.

Mother Antonio wasn’t always a Catholic nun, in another lifetime she was a Beverly Hills Socialite. She had seven children and she had been twice divorced. A John 4 moment if you ever saw one, It wasn’t until her children was grown that she decided that her calling was to go into prison ministry…and that’s exactly what she did. When her last child moved away for school, Mary Clarke changed into the Catholic nun Mother Antonio and moved to Tijuana, and the rest is history.  Continue reading Here With Us

Red Ocean, Blue Ocean

So this past week David McQueen, the senior pastor at Beltway Baptist and I, swapped pulpits for one Sunday. I preached at Beltway, and he preached at Highland. It was a great experience for me, Beltway is a Kingdom oriented church, and I was so glad that David (someone who grew up in Churches of Christ, but hadn’t preached in one for decades) was able to bless the people at Highland.

The very next day, Ben Siburt (the Executive Minster at Highland) and I went on a pastors retreat for churches in the area, where we prayed, worshipped and dreamed together for the city of Abilene. And then we all took communion together.

At one point during breaking bread together, one of the pastors stood up and confessed that he had been jealous of another pastor’s success. For years, he had looked at this church across town with envy, he had wanted not just to have what this other pastor had, but he also didn’t want him to have it. He had wanted to build his own little parody of a kingdom, have everyone look at how successful he was, but that was not the lot he was given in life. So he envied.

And all the other ministers squirmed in their seats. Because the dark side of ministry is that all of us can feel like this.

But then the minister went onto say, but God has been working on my heart the past few months, and I’ve realized something. When this other minister succeeds, I succeed. When his church grows so does mine. Because there is only one church.

And this is at the heart of what it means to be a Kingdom church. Kingdom of God language is common in churches, it sounds great, it’s inspiring and taps into the deep recesses of our souls about belonging to something larger than ourselves. But underneath a lot of our language is a little talked about fact, that’s not very Kingdom oriented. Churches compete with one another.  Continue reading Red Ocean, Blue Ocean

Below the Line

So this will be my last post on my time in Hollywood, thanks for putting up with me taking a detour from normal blog stuff to write about this. If you missed some of them I wrote about it  here,  herehere and here, besides the past two weeks of posts.

After a few hours of being on the set of Good Christian Belles for a few hours, I had come to grips with the reality of what was going on, I was sitting in the holding area and day-dreaming about worst-case scenarios And that’s when Allison spoke up. She had heard that I was a preacher and was intrigued by the fact that I was doing this…particularly this show. Allison had been married before, to a Jewish man She had grown up, and was living in the Bible Belt- and when she married she was vilified by Christian people who she had  grown up with. They saw her marriage as a mixed marriage, and instead of engaging her they kept her at arm length, even telling her from a distance that her marriage was offensive to God.

Allison made the point that the show that we were filming was pretty close to home for her. She had been wounded by Church, and Church people.

She made the point that when she thought about Christians, she automatically thought about the American Families Values Association, the very association that had boycotted the show we were working on. Then she said, “I don’t know a lot about organized religion anymore, but I just want you to know I think it’s cool that you are here doing this.”

Matt Maxwell is a guy who grew up at Highland (the church I work at) and now he works in Hollywood behind the camera. He and his wife love Jesus, are plugged into a community of faith, and view their work as both creative expressions of who God made them to be, and as missionaries. Here’s an email he sent me last week that I asked to share with you:

“This question of where we–as Christians– should work and use our talents is a constant conversation and struggle with me and many here in the entertainment industry. So many worry, wonder and ask about that one line that if we cross we no longer represent our Lord and our faith. But this conversation has always rubbed me wrong because the underlying problem is not how the world might perceive us Christians but how our Christian world and friends might perceive us and, in my eyes, this is a mistake.

I had a conversation with a dear friend several months ago who shared his resentment about working in post-production on the new, and now canceled, Playboy Club. He was considering talking to his superiors about moving to another show. I understood exactly where he was coming from but I kept thinking about all the lives he wouldn’t be able to touch.
Continue reading Below the Line

Why I Stayed

So since I’ve come out and told everyone the story about what happened to me in Hollywood, I have had one question raised more than any other…Did you think about leaving? Which is kind of like asking me, “Did you want to stay employed as a preacher?” For the entire day I questioned whether I should be there, and if so, what would the people I serve back in Abilene think. Here’s how this played out and why I stayed.

So there I was. I was on the set of the Disney studios, it was almost 8 in the morning, and I had just heard that I was about to be filming a scene in the Booby-licious bar. I had already done so much to get there, this was the product of a couple of weeks of planning, researching, standing in lines/registering, and one really, really big mistake about what show I would actually be filming.

My gut told me this was an unchartered area for preachers. I hadn’t heard a lot of sermons on a preachers spending time on a PG-13 sit-com, and I wasn’t that thrilled about being the first one to preach that sermon. I wasn’t expecting to be given a line or have any kind of established scene on camera, I knew that Extras are blurs in the background, so I could get by with it with no one knowing. The problem was that I had come here to tell the story of what the experience was like, and now that seemed slightly more difficult. The reason I would have left, or just not talked about it has nothing to do with me thinking that it was wrong for a Christian to be in that situation.

It was because I, on some level, was there as the preacher of Highland. I would have represented them, in other words I would have taken people along with me that had no idea or desire to be there. This is part of the burden of pastoring, you have to try to think about what people can hear, or what will prevent them from hearing you clearly again. I want to be clear on this, because after I talked about it at Highland there was a variety of responses, but the one that stuck with me the most was hearing from a person who said, “If he thinks that was wrong to be there, than I don’t want to ever confess any of my sins to him.”

If you know me, you know that I’ve done a lot worse than that. I didn’t think it was wrong for a Christian to be there, I had to figure out if it was wrong for me to be there.

Obviously I stayed (but I did plan on just not talking about it) and the first reason was because once I heard that the American Family Values Association had boycotted it, I had no desire to add my voice to that. I still had lines that I would not cross. There were things on that set, or any situation, that I would hope to say no to, despite whatever fallout might come. But they hadn’t asked me to do anything unethical, or anything that was wrong…just lots of grey areas.

Which is something that I think Christians are going to have to get used to.

Because to use Biblical language, Christians are in Exile, which means that we are no longer telling the dominant story lines in our culture. And that’s a problem because the only places that Christians generally feel comfortable really being in, are the ones where we can still have a semblance of control over the reality around us. But the reason that I decided to talk so publicly about it, was because I know that there are a lot of Christians who feel called to go into this (and other precarious industries). There are a lot of Jesus-followers (especially among younger generations) who are trying to wade into the grey areas of our society and be a blessing in whatever small ways they can.  Continue reading Why I Stayed