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Thursday, March 24, 2005

Keeping it Weird in Boulder

We have a friend named Kirk who is currently planting a church in Boulder, CO. We thought you might enjoy hearing how things are going out west...

Marketing cities is big business, and receiving a #1 in "The Best Of" rankings is the about as good as it gets. The current issue of Men’s Journal ranked Boulder as #1 of the top 50 cities in which to live in the US.

I am so proud of this. I would love to find a way for Deb and me to take some credit for this ranking. Apparently we can’t - Boulder has been receiving these top honors in The Best of categories for years, long before we even thought of moving here.

If you come to Boulder you may see the phrase Keep Boulder Weird. This shows up on t-shirts, hats, and bumper stickers. You may not think this is a good marketing strategy. I mean who wants to be weird? Starting at the age of 12 or 13 we work our tails off trying to not be weird. Not in Boulder. Most residents of Boulder recognize this as more than a clever marketing scheme, but as something they love about Boulder.

Frankly, as far as cities go, Boulder IS weird. I say this with great affection. As I network in Boulder and interview many residents, I ask what they love about the city. Almost every person said they love its values.

They love the green policies for which the city is committed. They appreciate the fact that Boulder values its open spaces and is committed to protecting them by refusing to allow development in these areas. Most of them mention the atmosphere in Boulder that encourages and inspires creativity amongst artists, musicians, entrepreneurs, philosophers, and the religious communities. The majority of them love the activist-friendly environment.

All these things are part of the fabric of Boulder. However, some of the things Boulderites value can cause severe negative reactions in us Christians, making us feel uncomfortable and/or fearful. It is interesting and somewhat discouraging to Deb and me that the most challenging times we’ve had here have been our interactions with some of the Christians we’ve encountered, who have ungodly responses to Boulder’s weirdness.

One guy who moved out of Boulder, but continues to live close by, spent 15 minutes one Sunday after church trashing the place. He couldn’t believe we had moved to the city. It was as if he thought by listening to him and getting the low-down on Boulder we might actually leave. His final comment to me was that he wouldn’t bring his kids into Boulder in order to let them take a #*@$.

This is a man who professes to be a Christian. Not only was it hard to love him, it was hard not to punch him. That was my city he was talking about.

Why should we be uncomfortable or fearful of green policies, protecting the environment, creativity, activists, or interacting with people who have philosophies or religious beliefs different than our own?

If we, as Christians, refuse to engage with our world and withdraw in judgmental fear we become a kind of weird the Bible teaches against. In 1 Corinthians 5 Paul tells the church in Corinth (a pretty weird place) that they are not to disengage from their city. He tells them not to stand in judgment of those who do not follow Christ, but to be involved with them.

You know, the very Gospel we cherish frees us to love people who are different than us. It frees us to find avenues to engage in a meaningful way with a healthy Christian world view. Why should we befriend and love people who think differently than us or come to different conclusions than we do, Christian and non-Christian alike? Is it to win the battle over the issue at any cost? Is it so we can say we are right?

No! It is because human beings matter as image bearers of God. But is this all the Gospel is? Simply the tool we use to find the freedom to love others who are different than us and difficult to love?

You know, one of the great dangers we face is to forget how much we need the Gospel. I don’t just need the Gospel to free me to love others and be in relationship with them. I need the Gospel to be in relationship with the living God. It is easy to forget how offensive my sin is. It is easy to look at others and see their need and forget my own.

Let’s face it, the Gospel which frees us to love and engage with people who are different than us seems pretty weird at times. It is so weird and counter-intuitive that Paul says the Gospel is foolishness to men in their own wisdom.

The Gospel is weird because it says we are made strong in weakness. It is weird because it tells us that we need to find our identity in Jesus, rather than finding it in our work, friends, spouse, good deeds, or our city that has received a #1 ranking. It is weird because it tells us to trust completely in the good works of Jesus rather than our own. It is weird because it goes against the grain of our natural tendencies.

Our desire in Boulder is to be the kind of Christians who love those who think and act differently than us.

Pray that Deb and I, and the church we are planting, will love out of the massive love with which Jesus has loved us. We want to see Boulder’s people and culture redeemed by the power of the Gospel. We want Boulder to begin looking more like the city of God. It may not receive a #1 ranking for this from Men’s Journal, but it sure would be weird.

We thank you for your interest in this ministry and the city of Boulder. Please continue praying for us and supporting this project financially. May the Kingdom of God spread in your city, Boulder, and around the world!

Keeping it weird by God’s grace,
Kirk & Deb

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