Monthly Archives: March 2009

Virtual Church?

Virtual fellowship is just that…virtual. Cyber-relationships are not real, they are 2 dimensional at best. This trend is a poor substitute for the assembly of the brethren and almost a mockery of the means of grace. It’s simply televangelism for the ipod generation.

Sure the net’s great. But, it can’t supplant the vibrant fellowship which a get up in the morning, read the bulletin, turn to hymn #150, everyone pray for Mrs. so and so whose father just died, drop the kids off at the nursery, local church gives the believer.

In the end though, its marketing genius. I mean, church is big business man. Paypal baby!! Sometimes its hard not to get too cynical.

But then again, I’ve been handed a very tidy apologia for a very tidy sort of cyber-assembly of the brethren in a blogservation with a self-proclaimed web campus staffer.  He took some of my comments personally, as so many do, and accused me of claiming that his Christian brethren weren’t real.  However, I never said his brothers weren’t brothers in Christ…just that his relationship with them was two-dimensional (well, even I do admit that is a bit inflammatory). While web-brothers may certainly be believers and therefore real, a web-campus relationship with them cannot satisfy corporate worship. Web-campus contact is a poor substitute for church. While I am a firm believer in the dialoguing capabilities of the web and the possibility for gospel encouragement therein, it ain’t the gathering of the saints man. As you can probably tell I ain’t so pomo yo. I genuinely hope that the Web Campus church trend does not catch on. Heb 10.25 and Act 2.42 help me to view a more touch, taste, and feel  ‘qwertyless’  kind of church.  Really don’t see screen substitutes as being all that healthy.

To all virtual church advocates out there:  If your friends are so excited about the possibilities of community then why don’t you encourage them to try it with 3-dimensional people–some of whom remember when SPAM was breakfast, don’t have a clue who David Crowder is, paint sanctuaries together, play ultimate Frisbee with the youth group, bake cancer casseroles for the ill, and who just might put a check in your hand to help out with that new baby.  But, maybe that’s the very type of stuff that our generation is too selfish to put up with…..we’d much rather have that confirm/deny option… know, like Facebook.

I’m not even going to get into the administration of the sacraments problem. Needless to say, I appreciate your sentiment–you’ve got responsibilities, an urban tribe already formed, 3 hours on Sunday morning?  That’s just a dead form. But, in my end of the world we have next door neighbors (single dad and 3 year-old boy) who need the community of faith but don’t even have cable.  IM isn’t going to do it for them. But, our old ladies church daycare can babysit the child one morning.  Meanwhile I take the dad out for lunch and open up a bible written on real paper that I can give him to take home. Then I can pick them both up for church on Sunday where they can meet elder Jones who owns a contracting business that can give my neighbor a job. The deacons help out with money for church daycare while my neighbor builds decks. He meets a nice girl in singles class on Tuesdays, they get married. Now they’ve got cable, he’s a foreman and his boss requires a laptop for the job. One day he’s searching for a book on Google and he hits on Newspring and gets directed to the emerging community forming around the new web campus. You think that’s what his family needs? Maybe so. Then again, people like my neighbor probably are a little too backward to understand the sort of ‘moving forward in worship’ that the communal difference of a Web Campus can provide. But, I could be wrong. It has happened a couple of times before.



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Video of the week

What a Savior!

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Hello greycoats lovers, lurkers, and possible lunatics,

We’re making a little change around here.  From now on, no more aliases or nicknames.  Everyone who comments will be required to give a full name and a valid e-mail address.  We are interested in Christian accountability in our lives and we should be striving to be just as authentic online as anywhere else.  Furthermore, you must have had one comment approved through a catch-all moderation in order to make further comments on our posts.  Its a halfway point between no moderation and total moderation of comments.  So……we hope you enjoy the blog, but just know that we will be requiring full names (even for regulars like IWantthetruth and others… offense guys, its just a good overall policy.)


Nathaniel Ruland


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How We Roll….A Little History

The greycoats began as a spontaneous experiment.  It grew quickly, largely due to our contact with Ernie Gruen and then the Lakeland thing….well, that was really too easy.  But, on that wave we crested, got lofty thoughts, bought our own dotcom and decided to make a go of it.  Well……we realized that we are technidiots.  Some of you are fully aware of this after being subjected to the many bugs, delays, snafoos, and general fubar which characterized our website.  Granted, some of this was committed at the hands of hackers (we don’t know who, only how) intent on unleashing moths in the greycoats closet.  Well, that didn’t work.  But, what did almost shut the doors and mop the floors at the greycoats cafe was a little topic called…..abortion.  Yeah.  We had some serious problems on an abortion thread with A. lack of monitoring B.  the flatness of the blogging medium C.  general miscommunication D.  personal miscommunication and for E.  Could it be???????  SATAN!!!!!

Well, there we were.  In over our heads, not willing to hiring a webmaster (or spend the time it takes learning how to do that), not making any money, working full-time jobs, full-time seminary, full-time ministry, full-time families, but not fully agreeing on what to do with the greycoats.  Ready to call it quits we were (notice the Yodaesque phrasing….adds a certain, ‘I don’t know what’, don’t you think?).  But, we technidiots didn’t even know how to shut down our site.  So we sort of kept on rolling.


We remembered the glorious ease of  The many applications, the free tech support, the many user forums, the glitch free performance, and so……..we also remembered why we started the greycoats.  But, we also realized that our perspectives have changed.  This has been due to several factors.  A major one being time.  Time away from immersion in the prophetic movement and the firsthand excesses of extreme charismaticism.  However, other aspects effecting our thought train have certainly been our interface with the topics and readership of this blog.

With that said, we haven’t softened up our positions regarding the prophetic movement’s neo-Montanist whack-jobs who call themselves Christian leaders.  We haven’t slacked up on our desire to see them exposed for the heretical pulpit pimps (think Creflo Dollar) and spiritual crack dealers (think John Crowder) that they really are.  However, we are more inclined at this point to spend equal, if not more, time explaining the truth of what we believe rather than the untruth of what others believe. Frankly, and in the words of Drew Blom the ex-Sign of Jonah guru: we are getting tired “of trolling the proverbial gutter that is the prophetic movement.”  If that is what it takes to be a successful blog, then I guess we just won’t be the big dogs on the block.  Constantly digging up dirt on these dufuses (while sometimes extremely easy) tends to eat at the soul.   We really aren’t heresy-hunters and have always resisted that label.  Honest questions are one thing, but continually answering the same charges, arguments, and tired rhetoric of the extreme-charismatics has become quite honestly….boring.

We do thank you if you’ve hung in there with our little corner of blogdom.  Please feel free to add your experiences with the greycoats to this thread, your comments or your critiques, or even a little loaded language if you feel so inclined.  Thanks.


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The Pastor and the IRS Agent

I’ve been teaching through the book of Acts with our youth group.  And, I’ve been paying special attention to instances of mercy (both God to person and person to person) to bring out Luke’s Parable of the Good Samaritan vision.  This is an ethic set within the larger context of an overwhelmingly evangelistic overall theme. So, while preparing my Sunday sermonette (high schoolers can handle about 15 minutes) I stumbled across this little parable by Alex Sims at Common Grounds. Due to my teaching focus and our recent video of the week which highlighted a bit of the pomotivational king’s theology; I decided to tweak the story a little and toss it up for greycoat perusal.

A Pastor and an IRS Agent

A Pastor and an IRS Agent both had a flight from Denver to DC. They were flying Southwest Airlines, which uses open seating: passengers board and choose their seats in the order they check in.

The Pastor was attending a conference in DC entitled Pastoral Evangelism in a Postmodern World. He was one of the first people to enter the plane. As he boarded, he passed a nursing mother and thought to himself, “I’m glad I checked in early.” (In reality, his assistant had checked him in.) The Pastor walked to the back of the plane because he knew the front was more likely to fill up. He settled on a window seat a few rows from the back, but not too close to the lavatory because that also gets crowded. He placed his briefcase across the middle seat in the hopes that it would deter anyone from sitting there. As he saw the plane start to fill up, he knew someone would be sitting on his row, so he pulled out his iPod to signal: I’m not interested in chatting. After all, he had a speech at the conference to prepare for, and it wasn’t like he was going to develop a meaningful relationship on a three hour flight. By the time a middle-aged woman sat in the aisle seat on his row, he had his earphones in. As he scrolled through the playlists on his iPod, he felt some satisfaction in how much he’d kept in touch culturally. He picked a playlist with Sufjan Stevens, U2, Bon Iver, and some other indy artists. Yes, he was hip, cutting-edge, relevant. The Preacher then leaned back his seat and polished up his speech. He never noticed the middle-aged woman order 4 vodka tonics throughout the flight or the brace on her leg and the cane she used to support her gout infested right foot. He missed the flight attendant’s black eye which she had furiously attempted to conceal with makeup. Not only that, but he missed the reality that comfort one day will have its price.

The IRS Agent was attending a conference in DC on new tax rules for the upcoming fiscal year. The Agency had closed some loopholes, and they were training their agents to crack down on audits this year. By the time he boarded the plane, it was pretty full. Between researching March Madness and filling out bureaucratic paperwork, he hadn’t remembered to check in online. He took the first open seat he saw, which was a middle seat between the nursing mother and an overweight man. The IRS Agent was a pretty big guy, so squeezing in was tough. He crammed his briefcase underneath the seat in front of him. He had planned to review some new tax rules, but with no elbow room he decided that would be too much of a pain. He was silent at first because he felt intruding and awkward striking up a conversation with strangers. But after take-off, he got bored and turned to the heavy guy next to him and asked, “What do you think about the Broncos this year?” This led to both men agreeing on the decline of NFL player character across the board. The IRS Agent asked his new friend, “Why do you think that is?” which initiated a short conversation about original sin.

After about an hour he offered to hold the mother’s baby while she went to the bathroom. He noticed the child’s ragged shirt and tucked a $100 bill and also a small New Testament into the diaper bag under the mom’s seat. You see, the IRS agent was also a Gideon. He made his neighbor swear not to say a word. But, by the time the flight descended onto DC, they’d all three determined that Jay Cutler would win the 2009 MVP. And, they had all three experienced the mercy of God’s common grace found in simple companionship.

Which man better understood the Gospel?


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