Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Meeting Chris Seay

Note: I met Chris back in October and since then I’ve read his book, “Faith of My Fathers” along with mourning the death of Kyle Lake. After meeting Chris and Donald Miller, I have a special place in my heart for these men who are brave in their honesty about today’s Christianity. Writers and pastors such as Donald Miller, Chris Seay, and Rick McKinley, just to name a few, love Christ and love people – no matter their sin. We need to remember that Christ loved everyone from the prostitute to the tax collector.

More and more I find Christians repulsed by sinful people and refuse to genuinely reach out to them.

How can you love others if you can’t love yourself?

Ponder that question as you read my encounter with pastor and author, Chris Seay.

On Tuesday, October 11th, I had the great fortune of meeting Chris Seay, author of, “Faith of My Fathers” and “The Gospel According to Tony Soprano”. Chris is also pastor of the emergent church, Ecclesia, in Houston, Texas. I became interested in meeting Chris after seeing his church, Ecclesia, offer immediate help to the victims of hurricane Katrina. Ecclesia, located in the Montrose district in Houston, reached out beyond their church borders to serve those in need.

Chris had been invited to speak at the McAfee Institute for Healthy Congregations conference at the McAfee School of Theology, Mercer University, Atlanta, Georgia. Dr. Larry McSwain, a faculty leader at McAfee, invited leaders of traditional, contemporary, and emergent churches to speak.

As being one of the first few people to check-in at the conference, Chris walked in with Dr. McSwain. I was introduced to him and recognized his face from his books. I assisted Chris with setting up his presentation. He was quiet and pensive. I could tell he was preparing for his talk.

Chris is tall and of sinewy build. Dressed in a long sleeve white dress shirt and dress slacks, he has a soft, humbled look about him and his voice is mellow. He walks slowly while taking in the surroundings. From what I understand about Chris, he is every bit the family man who deeply cherishes his wife and children.

Chris began his talk to us with a humorous movie which showed Jesus saying phrases we often hear, but aren’t in the Holy Bible. His point is that we often offer the Gospel of Jesus Christ as a set propositions. It’s the ole case of, “If you’ll do this…then you’ll receive that.” Simply, that doesn’t work.

Chris went on to say that Christianity is about incarnation. Jesus draws close to us through the Gospels. We are all missionaries and therefore incarnation requires us to get our hands dirty.

“Consumerism is the enemy of the church.”, Chris declared. He explained this by saying we now have religious goods and services. We embellish feeding ‘wants’, instead of meeting our needs.

Chris then explained his preaching style at Ecclesia. “People left Jesus asking the right questions while not having all the answers. Hope brings incarnation; incarnation brings reconciliation.”

Chris added with a smile that he and his family took a sabbatical to the Bahamas this past summer. While there, he ate a fresh mango. “Go eat a mango and tell me you don’t believe in God.” All this to say that God’s presence is more than just words, He is in music, art, and nature.

For the next hour of the symposium, a church service was held with Chris giving the sermon. He chose the Gospel of John chapter 12 and began telling the story of Jesus preparing for the crucifixion. The first part of John 12 tells of Mary, sister of Martha and Lazarus, anointing Jesus with nard; an expensive perfume.

Chris had taken a small vial of dark green liquid and poured a tiny amount in three cups. He then passed them around the room asking everyone to dip their fingers in the nard, and those men with beards, rub the nard into their hair.

The aroma was pungent, yet sweet. I immediately symbolized the crucifixion with the resurrection. The bitterness of Jesus taking on God’s wrath as punishment for my sins. The sweetness of His resurrection, his conquering death, and giving our souls life through him.

Chris went on to examine Judas Iscariot’s reaction to the nard, Jesus’ response to Judas, and subsequent foretelling of his death. Next, Chris focused on the crowd chanting, “Hosanna!” to Jesus while on his journey to Jerusalem. “Hosanna” literally means, “save me”. He compared the crowd’s chants to Mary’s actions – words versus an action.

The sermon ended with Chris telling us how we need to be relational with all of God’s people and the impact we can have through Christ.

I spent a few hours with Chris in the afternoon. He is very much like Donald Miller: Both are relational, thoughtful, and provocative. Chris doesn’t view the bride of Christ as just a body of people filling pews. He views them as very special creations that God loves deeply.


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