Still Making Sense of Church: An Interview with Spencer Burke

There once were churches. Then Denominational Churches. Mainline Churches. Traditional Churches. Evangelical Churches. House Churches. After that Seeker-Sensitive Churches. Traditional Churches. Mainline Churches. Seeker-Friendly Churches. Purpose-Driven Churches. Emerging Churches. Missional Churches. Gospel-Centered Churches.

If Christians can’t make sense of these large groups and their subsets, what hope have we those for whom we are to be the Light of the World will make sense of church? They may think it all non-sense.

Key Ingredients: Humility and Hospitality

Many, like me, grew up in the church world of the either/or. Either you were charismatic/Charismatic or you weren’t. Either you were Conservative or you weren’t. Either you were Liberal or you weren’t. Either you were Protestant or you weren’t. And on and on it went.

Over time you meet great Jesus-loving people who fit in the other category, the one you weren’t. You found them gracious, generous, loving and kind. All the stories pitting your notorious others as bogy men crumbled when you learned they weren’t mean, deceived people.

What to do? You might maintain your resolve and resist the notion that you have the corner on the market following Jesus. Or, you may take the time to develop relationships that take the other person as a real subject to be loved rather than an object to be scorned.

That is the easy part, generally.

But, what if you are leading a church, or are a member in a church, where some will develop relationships of mutual understanding while others resolve to resist?

Have you ever faced that dilemma?

Maybe you looked around for helpful advice. You love(d) the people. They love(d) you. If you are/were wise, you look/ed for guidance, discernment.

From the Third Floor to the Garage

The key ingredients to taking up relationships where the other person as a human subject are humility and hospitality. That is the advice Spencer Burke gave me 15 years ago. His short hand was, “Don’t be rude.”

Today on the podcast I talk with Spencer about our friendship, his advice, that some designated him the Forest Gump of Evangelicals, and the power of metaphor. When we come to an end we have discussed the power of metaphor and what shape the Hatchery_LA might offer for the future of the church.

When Spencer left the mega-church as a Teaching-Pastor in the late 1990’s he never really found a home. Consider the shock of leaving on your own terms, not fired but searching. You hand code a new website, jump on Al Gore’s Internet and discover thousands of people also searching, hoping to make sense of church.

Their wounds were deep. Their ideas taboo. Their conversation acerbic at time. But most were looking for someone to listen when no one else would. What do you do? You practice humility and hospitality. And, you create TheOoze.

Imagine ooze as a metaphor fitting a time when most are talking about things evolving. Out of the primordial ooze of the combined experiences of those in, hanging on, or outside the church, arose not one thing that solved the situation that would later be described as the move from Christendom to post-Christendom. Instead, many things became life-giving to those convinced Jesus to be real but go lost amidst any number of features that became modern Christianity.

New Metaphor(s)

Today Spencer is at a new place. Never thinking he would be ordained, Spencer is leading a project of the Disciples of Christ, Pacific Region. It would not make sense if there were no metaphor involved. For this new project Spencer chose hatchery.

Hatchery LA is an incubator for common-cause-communities. Do you see the metaphors strung together? Hatchery. Incubator. Common Cause Communities. Consider it church planting of a different sort.

Spencer explains that the project likely, like others before it, has a short life. But, it taps the cultural ooze of an emerging generation of doers whose gut instinct is to serve. They do not disdain teaching-centric churches. But, for them when Jesus told his disciples the greatest will be those who serve, they find service a first order practice where they work out the teaching of Jesus.

This podcast is not just for pastors. Everyone wanting to make sense of church and the world as it is will find something helpful here.

You may keep up with Spencer by following HatcheryLA online.

Get in on the Hatchery 24 Book Giveaway. Click here for details and entry. The giveaway ends THIS Friday (7/1/16)

Take a look at another new venture: startupseminary.org. The site is in its placeholder phase so bookmark the page and check back for updates.

If you did not notice the clickable heading, From the Third Floor to the Garage, click here for a bit of Spencer’s own story.

If you find the podcast helpful, share it with your friends. Share it with your pastor friends as well as folks you know involved in leadership that touches on the pastoral. Also, consider heading over to iTunes, login, search for patheological and give us a five star rating and a kind review.

About the Author
Husband to Patty. Daddy to Kimberly and Tommie. Grandpa Doc to Cohen, Max, Fox, and Marlee. Pastor to Snow Hill Baptist Church. Graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Reading. Photography. Golf. Colorado. Jeeping. Friend. The views and opinions expressed here are my own and should not be construed as representing the corporate views of the church I pastor.