Why Did Kaepernick Bring Politics Into Sports?

“I watch football so I don’t have to think about politics.”

Many people express this sentiment when it comes to sports and entertainment.  I recently heard it again in reference to President Trump’s weekend remarks about NFL players who protest police violence against African Americans by kneeling during the national anthem.

Unsurprisingly, Trump’s remarks prompted various responses from NFL players, coaches, owners and fans.

In the wake of all this many lament how politicized sports has become.

Isn’t this supposed to be mindless entertainment?
A reprieve from divisive politics?

But sports have always been politicized!

The idea that these black athletes are politicizing sporting events is seriously narrow-sighted.  All of our national sporting events are already political.

The act of playing the national anthem, of standing in attention, is already a political statement. We are just so normalized to it that we have forgotten.

The U.S. military spends millions of dollars to fly over stadiums, to send service people to events, to run commercials during broadcasts.

And why do they do that.  They aren’t just recruiting.

They are actively associating American leisure time, American relaxation, American freedom, with the American military.  The wrapping of these symbols of American military power and freedom around sporting entertainment equates the two.


It is working because people have now forgotten that these events are already politicized, or more specifically, they are nationalized.  Sporting events have been equated with supporting the nation itself and the U.S. military.

The idea goes like this:

  1. Because of the U.S. military you are safe.
  2. Because you are safe you can relax.
  3. Because you can relax you can enjoy some entertainment.
  4. And while you enjoy your entertainment we will remind you why you are safe, but playing the national anthem.

Now those aren’t necessarily bad things to think or support or approve of.

But Colin Kaepernick says people like him don’t feel safe

And last year, LAST YEAR, Colin Kaepernick wants to state that African American don’t feel safe in America.  So he decides to take a knee during the national anthem.

During the time that we celebrate our safety (the national anthem) is the moment Kaepernick chooses to say, “I don’t feel safe.”

His idea goes like this:

  1. I and my people don’t feel safe.
  2. We cannot relax and enjoy our lives like many other people can in America.
  3. To draw attention to this I will not stand during the symbol that expresses national safety (the national anthem).

This is a very sauve political maneuver. And it has upset many people.

So please, don’t complain about politics.

Maybe you disagree with Kaepernick and others about the extent of police brutality or harsh tactics. Maybe you disagree with Kaepernick about the choice of venue for his protest.  Maybe you disagree with all of that and more.

But please, don’t complain about politics ruining sports.

Politics and sports have always mixed.

The real question is whether or not you support the politics of the various people involved.

Here are some links to great posts about the mixing of politics, sports, and race. 

(This post it is part of my “20 for 20” post where I write for twenty minutes a day for twenty days.  So these are quick thoughts as I push out my ideas and practice writing.  See my explanation here.)

Love without thinking?

Think before you act.

Don’t just act. Don’t just react.
Slow down, think it through, reflect and plan.

We are all told this.  It’s what I tell me kids.

But is this right?

Thought wastes time. It’s dangerous.

Thought takes time.  And it takes energy.  The more you think the more blood your brain needs, and the more calories you burn.  That’s why you feel tired when you think too much.

And thought is literally dangerous (not figuratively).

At the dawn of humanity, to think instead of react means you’ll miss your meal. To think instead of react is to become a meal!

Acting is survival. Thinking is leisure.
Acting is necessary. Thinking is optional.

Trust Your Training

Athletes and the military constantly practice and train.  Practicing repetitive movements programs their bodies—and minds—to act automatically. They act without reflection or hesitation.

They train so that in every situation they are not thinking, but only reacting.

“Trust your training” is a motto for both athletics and the military. Trust your repetitive actions.  Don’t think about it!  When things get intense, don’t think about winning or losing, living or dying.

Just execute your training.
Act automatically.

Can Love Become Automatic?

Can love become automatic?
Can mercy become unconscious?
Can grace become unthinking?

Love seems the opposite of our natural instincts. Love seems opposed to our programmed prejudices.  All our mental short cuts—all those unthinking thoughts that speed us through the day, from surviving as a hunter-gatherer to succeeding as a city dweller—seem to work against the deep and profound call of love.

But, on the other hand, if other activities can become unconscious and unthinking through practice, why can’t love be without thinking?

With practice we can use thought, focus, intention, and intensity to train our brains and our bodies to love unconsciously, to love unconditionally.

Love takes practice

As pastor Juliet Waite preached on Sunday at Life on the Vine, surrendering to God’s love is not passive.

Surrendering to God’s love takes work. It takes practice. It takes focused effort and intention.

And with that training, the training to surrender to God’s love, comes the ability to love automatically, to love without thinking.

Love without thinking

To love without thinking is to care for one without considering the cost to oneself.

To love without thinking is to stand for justice without wondering how it will effect you.

To love without thinking is to offer yourself without calculating a return on investment.

To love without thinking is probably as close to loving unconditionally as we will ever get.

(This post it is part of my “20 for 20” post where I write for twenty minutes a day for twenty days.  So these are quick thoughts as I push out my ideas and practice writing.  See my explanation here.)

The Other Bridge Illustration: Visual Christus Victor

For all those visual learners who need to see it to understand it. This is the “Other Bridge Illustration.” And yes, I drew these while at Starbucks.

(David Fitch and I did an entire podcast on this topic if you are interested.)

The Original Bridge Illustration

But first we must talk about the Original Bridge Illustration, that staple of evangelism in my corner of evangelicalism.

The Original Bridge Illustration (pardon my drawing)

This is how I was taught to explain it.

On one side is humanity. Humanity sins (Rom. 3:23). And the wages of sin—what you earn—is death (Rom. 6:23). So “sin”, “wages”, and “death” mark the cliff separating humanity from God.

But on God’s side, God chooses to forgive our sin, which is a gift of grace—not earned like wages.  And this gift leads to life (Rom. 6:23).  So “forgiveness”, “gift”, and “life” are on God’s side.

The death of Jesus—his cross—becomes the bridge by which we cross over from sin and death and receive forgiveness and life.

We cross over to God through the cross of Jesus.

Simple, right?

Problems with this Bridge Illustration

Often—but not always—this presentation of salvation emphasizes individual sin and individual responsibility and individual salvation (notice a theme?).  It also assumes a movement from the side of humanity (on “earth”) to God’s side (in “heaven”).

Also, this view, when unpacked, usually holds to certain understandings of God’s wrath against humanity and how Jesus’s death satisfies God’s wrath so that we can avoid hell fire (drawn at the bottom of the chasm—too bad I didn’t have a red sharpie).

And lastly, this view can lead to truncated understanding that “Jesus came to die” or “Jesus was born to die“—which I regularly hear on Facebook or Twitter when I emphasize the significance of Jesus’s ministry or the kingdom of God.

The Other Bridge Illustration

But humanity IS separated from God.
Something needs to be done.
We need salvation.

So here is the Other Bridge Illustration.

The Other Bridge Illustration (the bridge if made of stones, if you couldn’t tell)

On one side is humanity. We are within the kingdom (or reign) of death (Rom. 5:14-17). We are slaves to sin (Rom. 6:17).  And we are captives of the powers (Col. 1:13).

But on God’s side is the kingdom of life, the redemption from sin, and liberation from the powers.

The bridge is made of three stones—the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus (I don’t know why stones. It’s just what came to me).

God coming to us.

But here is the main twist.
Through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, God is coming to us.

God comes from heaven to earth. God comes to the damned and the sinners. God comes to the enslaved and captives. God comes to seek and save the lost.

The totality of Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection witnesses to this. 

Salvation comes to where we are. And this has always been the case. From Genesis to Revelation, God seeks to dwell with humanity. And God is pursuing humanity, bridging every divide, overcoming every obstacle.

This is the victory of God—not that we leave the place of sin and death, but that God overcomes by coming to our place of need, of desperation, of death.


To be fair, parts of the Original Bridge Illustration are true and we shouldn’t ignore them.  But we must place them in the larger context of the Other Bridge Illustration—The Christus Victor Illustration.

What needs to be added?

What would you add to make this better?

(I want to figure out the best was to add the Holy Spirit to this illustration.)

(This post it is part of my “20 for 20” post where I write for twenty minutes a day for twenty days [BUT I WENT WAY OVER TODAY].  So these are quick thoughts as I push out my ideas and practice writing.  See my explanation here.)

4 Reasons Salvation is Coming…Not Going

Going Home

Believe it or not, in eighth grade I wrote a song called “Home.”

It was all about “going home” to heaven, finally being with God.  It was actually pretty good. In was an 8-bar blues song in the key of “C” with decent lyrics (for an 8th grader). I can still play it on guitar, but I’ve lost all the words—I’m sure you bummed.

Of course, given my evangelical-fundamentalist upbringing it is no surprise I viewed salvation as going home to heaven.  The Rapture was going to whisk us all away. The earth was going to burn. And we needed to get everyone into the raft before Jesus came back and all was lost (yes, I know that is mixing metaphors of flood and fire, but hey, that’s what I was given).

Of course there are passages of the Bible that seem to suggest this—that we will leave this place and go somewhere else.

And for many that is GOOD NEWS.  Because, well, this place can kind of stink.  Many people can not find a home, a place to belong, or a place for love and welcome.

So, we’re going home!

Coming Home

But what if we aren’t going home.

 What if our home is coming to us?  

What if God had always made earth our home and will make it our home again?

This would fundamentally change the direction of salvation. Salvation is not about “us getting back to God” with a little help from God. Rather, it’s about “God coming back to us.”

So, really quick, here are 4 reason salvation is “coming”, not “going.”

4 Reasons Salvation is Coming

  1. The Biblical Bookends Say So

    Genesis opens with God creating a home for humanity in God’s presence. And this home is here.  God created all things as a cosmic-temple of his presence. In addition to this, God walked and talked with humanity in the garden-temple of his presence. 
    And in Revelation, at the end of all things, we hear of heaven coming down to earth. And heaven comes so that God can dwell with humanity forever. If heaven is the place God lives, then every passage that speaks of heaven as somewhere else must be provisional, not final.

  2. God comes to Israel

    With the call of Abraham and the deliverance of Israel from Egypt, to the building of the tabernacle and temple, God comes to his chosen people. And when God comes there is salvation and life.The entire life of Israel is marked out by the fact that God lives with them. The sole purpose of the Law was to facilitate the presence of God among his people.

  3. Jesus is the who comes as sent

    Jesus, the Son of God, is sent to us as one of us. He comes to “dwell among” us as the “tabernacle” of God (John 1:14).  Jesus comes declaring the kingdom of God and his ministry makes it present. In Jesus, heaven is coming to earth in forgiveness, in healings from sickness, in deliverance from the powers.In Jesus salvation has come to us.

  4. The Church comes as sent

    And finally, like it or not, the church comes with the presence of God.It is no small thing that they church is called the “body of Christ” or the “temple of the Holy Spirit.”  These both indicate the place where God dwells (in a primary sense, although God of course is in all places and times—which is a comfort to all who suffer in secret).

Home Coming

The real question is, Are you welcoming God home in your life right now?

And the next question is, Are you living as a home for others?

(This post it is part of my “20 for 20” post where I write for twenty minutes a day for twenty days.  So these are quick thoughts as I push out my ideas and practice writing.  See my explanation here.)

Human for Our Sake: 3 Reasons Jesus’s Humanity is Important

Forgetting Jesus’s Humanity

When we don’t remember the humanity of Jesus we tend to forget our own.

Pastors and theologians are quick to emphasize the humanity of Jesus, that he is the full revelation of God, that he manifests God’s glory, that he embodies God’s presence in the world—all of which I of course agree with.

But when we emphasize these to the neglect of Jesus’s humanity we miss fertile pastoral and theological ground.  When Jesus’s humanity is only an instrument—a disposable one?—then we tip toward an instrumental view of our own humanity. Or worse, we can view others this way.

Here are three reasons the humanity is just as important as his divinity.

3 Reasons for the Humanity of Jesus

1) God is fully with humanity.

God fully with humanity, in fellowship and friendship, and intimacy and intensity, was always the God’s plan. The incarnation was not “plan B” after the Fall. While it would take a bit to unpack biblically, God’s plan for creation and humanity was always to dwell with humanity. This is the story from Genesis to Revelation.

And it only makes sense that this full dwelling of God among humanity would include the incarnation of God at some time.  The course of humanity placed it firmly in the realm of death and destruction. And for that reason the incarnation also included the crucifixion (and resurrection!). But that was not the plan. But the plan was always to be come human.

Affirming the humanity of Jesus means affirming God’s full intention to dwell with us—not up in heaven, but down here on earth.

2) Salvation is in and through humanity.

As the classical formula goes, “What is no assumed is not saved.” If Jesus is not fully human then who and what we are is not fully saved.

If Jesus is not fully human then Jesus only saves a part of us.  And too often this some “spiritual” part. If God only saves the spiritual part of us then we can dispose of our bodies, of our those parts we are ashamed of, those parts that don’t make the cut. This means salvation leaves out entire areas of our lives.

But if Jesus was fully human then there is hope and redemption for everything about us. Nothing is “too human” for God to renew.

3) God is always working through humanity.

That Jesus if fully human reminds us that God is always working through humanity. Humanity is the chose means by which God gets things done.  From Adam, to Abraham, to all of Israel, God’s chosen means of working is through humanity.

And not just generic humanity. But specific humanity. God calls Abraham from his home. God raises up Israel and places Israel in a specific place. God is born in a Jewish body. I could do on.

And not only specific humanity, but the marginal, the meek, the powerless.

Human for our sake

So God takes on our skin of flesh, as Augustine says. God, who once provided Adam and Eve with “garments of skin” (Gen. 3:21), now takes on the garment of human flesh. Not so that he can then take it off later and save us all from our humanity.


Jesus comes not to save us FROM  our humanity, but saves us FOR our humanity.


How have you seen the neglect of Jesus’s humanity?
What have been the practical and pastoral results?
What are other reasons we must keep the humanity of Jesus before us?

(This post it is part of my “20 for 20” post where I write for twenty minutes a day for twenty days.  So these are quick thoughts as I push out my ideas and practice writing.  See my explanation here.)

I Have Never Been Wrong

I’ve never been wrong. Being wrong suggests weakness, stupidity, or incompetence.  And to be weak, stupid, or incompetent would be devastating. So, thankfully, I’ve never been wrong.

It is not just that I need to be right. I AM right—and you are wrong. Sorry that you are wrong.  But that is just the way it is.

My rage at you is to be expected, and fully justified.

You claimed I was wrong after all.  How dare you place such a thing before me?  My inner world is perfectly at peace with being right—because I AM RIGHT— and you ruin it by pointing out an error in logic, a lapse in judgment, a faulty opinion.

Preposterous! I’m never wrong.

Pointing out my supposed errors in logic, judgment, or opinion make you doubly mistaken. First, you are wrong that I was wrong. Second, you are wrong about the causes of me being wrong.  How embarrassing for you! Really, no wonder you keep coming at me with this stuff.

And now I have to waste time defending that I was right AND the rightness of me being right. That is exhausting and my wrath is fully deserved.

Even if I was wrong—IF, that is—it would be too painful to admit it after being right for so long (and see how honest I’m being about how painful it would be—so wouldn’t I know if I was wrong).

Not painful for me, actually.

But painful for everyone else—all those people relying on me, trusting me, needing me to be right. Their faith would crumble and their confidence would shake.

And not just their faith and confidence in me, but in everything that WE stand for.  If I’m not right then how can they be right. If they aren’t right then who are we really?

So, I’m right because we are right, and we are right because our community, our church, our country might not survive if we aren’t right…if I’m not right.

We are not mistaken, weak, stupid, or incompetent.

But it is they who think we are wrong who are wrong.

Am I right?


(This post it is part of my “
20 for 20” post where I write for twenty minutes a day for twenty days.  So these are quick thoughts as I push out my ideas and practice writing.  See my explanation here.)

Church Stats: Advanced Analytics

The baseball playoffs are approaching and teams are drilling into their advanced analytics to scout the strengths and weaknesses of potential opponents.

In honor of this great time of year, I bring you “Church Stats: Advanced Analytics” (developed through a fabulous team somewhere on Facebook, but I can’t find the thread—how’s that for giving credit).

Stat Categories

As a review, there are three major categories we track with our sophisticated stats system:

  1. Service Time: This is a measure of the length of service.
  2. Preaching: This measures the quality of the preaching.
  3. Worship (or “Musical Worship” for those who would remind us that all of life before God is worship). This measures the exuberance of the worship and how it is led.

Service Time:

Service Time stats are pretty straightforward.

  • LOSS: This is the “Length of Sermon and Songs” stat recording how much time is LOSS(T) each Sunday.
  • SOT: “Starts on Time” average. You can judge the relative age of the congregation by this stat (there is a High/High or Low/Low correlation, the congregation is high in age if the average “Start on Time” is high, and the reverse).
  • FOT: “Finishes on Time” average. You can judge how committed to the NFL a church is by looking at this time.

Preaching Quality:

  • SAL: “Sermon Average Length”
  • VEPS: “Verses Per Sermon”

The previous well established stats help you know if a church is liberal or conservative. A low SAL and VEPS mean you are liberal and a high SAL and VEPS means conservative (although, some of our younger preachers are turning this stat on its head. So we started developing more advances stats).

  • PAR: “Preacher Above Replacement” basically calculates how many people join or leave a church because of the preacher (regardless of SAL or VEPS).
  • EX-EIS Ratio: This is the “Exegesis vs. Eisegesis Ratio.” It compares—in relation to how many verses are expounded—whether the preacher is preaching the “word of God” or mere human tradition.
  • SWAT: “Sermons with any Tears” (developed especially for David Fitch)
  • APS: “Amens Per Sermon” (applicable only for non-white congregations)

(Musical) Worship

Here are the more standard metrics for distinguishing between a traditional and contemporary church.

  • VPHY (pronounced Viffy): “Verses Per Hymn”. This stats allow you to know whether a church is singing all 7 verses of “All Creatures of Our God and King” or not.
  • HI(cu)PTS: “Hymns Included Per Total Songs”. If this is above .500 then you are definitely in a traditional church. Usually you are looking for a .10 (or 1 hymn for every 10 songs, which included having contemporarized/rewritten a hymn). But watch out for “hipster” or “retro” church which are not traditional but could have almost .450 HI(cu)PTS.

Now this is where we have gotten very experiment, but we think there is much fruit to be gleaned if these stats are applied properly, especially for the more charismatically inclined.

  • SLEAPS: “Song Leader Emotive Average Per Song”. This includes pre- and post-song statements, in song encouragements, and all inarticulate verbalizations (whether in “tongues” or not).
  • HaLELU: “Hands Lifted or Elevated & Loudness Unit”. This measures the congregational response to the musical worship (because it is assumed everyone on stage is already lifting hands and being loud).

In Development

  • TOMS: “Tatoos On Main Stage”
  • WIMS: “Women in Ministry Status”, not to be confused with just WOS, or “Women on Stage”.

Please add your own below. We would love to build out our analytic approach to church growth.

(This post it is part of my “
20 for 20” post where I write for twenty minutes a day for twenty days.  So these are quick thoughts as I push out my ideas and practice writing.  See my explanation here.)

Jesus. It’s Complicated

It's Complicated

Jesus is love. But he sometimes seems like such a jerk.
Jesus is kind. But calls out his disciples.
Jesus is compassionate. But gets all cranked up about stuff.

It’s complicated.

A woman pleads for the healing of her daughter and Jesus talks about how scrapes shouldn’t be thrown to dogs. A dad ask for his son to be healed and Jesus rages against the unfaithful generation.

It’s complicated.

Jesus speaks in parables so that people won’t understand. He teaches his disciple who seem set on misunderstanding.   He heals, but tells people not to talk about it. He preaches and sends the crowd away.

He’s traditional, but not conservative.
He’s non-traditional but not progressive.

Where does he fit in?

It’s complicated.

Jesus. It’s complicated.

It’s almost like…like Jesus is a real person.

He’s like someone you really need to get to know. Someone with a personality.

He’s like someone trying to make the best out of a bad situation, like all of us.  Someone who is navigating an impossible situation with people coming at him from a bunch of different angels and agendas.

When you read him one way in one situation he then moves off in a different direction in a different situation.

It’s so confusing.

Or, at least, it should be!

It Should Be Complicated

But too often we box in Jesus around a couple of ideas, a couple of stories, a couple of teachings that fit our agenda, our strategy, our hopes for the salvation—be it of our church, for heaven, or the country.

And when we box in Jesus two things happen.

  1. We stop listening to Jesus. We tune out what doesn’t fit the theological or political angle we are promoting. We cut out statements of judgment because we want the “Jesus of love.” Or we cut out the radical hospitality because we want the “Jesus who is just.” Or whatever.
  2. And Jesus becomes a tool. We stop treating Jesus as a real person who longs to know and be known, who longs to help us know and be known. Instead we treat him as a tool to accomplish something in the world—be it “God’s glorification in all things” or “The expression of God’s love to all people” or some other theological or political project.

But can we just admit that Jesus is complicated? And that our relationship to him is complicated. Can we be OK relating to Jesus as a real person.

For some it is a copout, pushing the “It’s Complicated” button.

But really—Jesus…He’s Complicated.

(This post it is part of my “
20 for 20” post where I write for twenty minutes a day for twenty days.  So these are quick thoughts as I push out my ideas and practice writing.  See my explanation here.)

Life is Short, But God is Long

God is long

“A gospel shout
And a gospel song:
Life is short
But God is long!”

Langston Hughes, from “Tambourines”

The aftermath of hurricane Harvey and the approach of Irma, the repeal of DACA by President Trump, disasters all around the world, the rise of North Korea and return of nuclear fear—on our own, in the face of these all we can say is “Life is Short”, and with the Teacher, “Everything is meaningless.

But God is long.

Long enough to stretch to all the places I can’t go and don’t know about. Long enough to reach to every place of hidden from the cameras and interests and policies of the West. Long enough to wrap the oppressed and forgotten in hope and love.

But God is long.

Long enough to see the beginning and the end, to be the beginning and the end.  Long enough to be before we invented of racism and long enough to see the hope of reconciliation.  Long enough to see the restoration of all evil.  Long enough to hope the hope when we have no more.

Can we offer this gospel shout—this gospel song?

Can we offer it to ourselves?
Can we offer it others?
Can we offer it to God?

A gospel shout
And a gospel song:
Life is short
But God is long!


(This post it is part of my “
20 for 20” post where I write for twenty minutes a day for twenty days.  So these are quick thoughts as I push out my ideas and practice writing.  See my explanation here.)

I Hate Writing Sermons

~ the confession of a seriously ADHD sermon writer ~


The sermon wrestles you as you wrestle it.
Against me, the sermon usually wins. And I hate it.

I don’t mean that the sermon wins in a sanctified sense where the gospel confronts me and I’m changed by amazing grace. No. More like, I hate writing sermons because I am defeated by the whole process.

I don’t write my sermons out.  To do so would be to re-write the entire Bible along with the entirety of human existence and all the possible objections to everything I would say in the process of the previous two. It is exhausting because it is exhaustive.

You could say I’m lazy. I would.

I hate writing sermons because my mind snaps back and forth between possible roads of explanation, possible ways of understanding impossible grace, ways of objecting to and twisting God’s gift, all the ways of living the new life in Christ. Where does one start? Where does one end? Why begin writing? My mind grinds to a halt because I even start. It’s hopeless.

You could say I’m undisciplined. I would.

I hate writing sermons because it is easy to write a bad sermon. But who wants to do that?  I need a set structure and process. But then I forget to use it, or there are all these exceptions, or this text doesn’t really fit, or I’m bored with that structure, or… You get the picture.

So you could say I’m unfocused.

I hate writing sermons because I refuse to think of discipleship as “paint by numbers” where you just proclaim another law for people to follow, telling them what to do week after week.   I want to actually pay attention to the text and mine the experiences of my life and the life of others, their hopes and fears and dreams and terrors (all of which I actually suck at). AND THEN I have to listen to the Spirit for how redemption is at work through this particular text for this particular people.

I probably hate writing sermons because my standards are too high, my expectations are too high. (Is that comforting, arrogant, or both?)

Yes, I probably should end this confession by remembering that God works through all things, takes what little we have to offer to bless others. And I know and believe that.  And I know that results of a “good” or “faithful” sermon (by whatever metric or understanding you want to use) can only be seen by God.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t still hate writing sermons.
It just means I love all the other stuff more.

(This post it is part of my “
20 for 20” post where I write for twenty minutes a day for twenty days.  So these are quick thoughts as I push out my ideas and practice writing.  See my explanation here.)