Saturday, February 24, 2007


by Keith Giles

For most of this week I've been struggling with depression. I've felt like a loser because my search for a full-time job has come up empty, after months of doing contract work and sending out resumes and beating the bushes, as they say.

I've felt like a failure because I seem to be unable to do what most guys my age seem to do with ease. Why is it taking so long? What am I supposed to learn from this? Am I doing something wrong?

Last week I attended a talk by John Hayes (author of "Sub-Merge"). It was all about incarnational missions, and many of my friends who are already doing this sort of work were there too.

John's testimony involves his immersion into one of the poorest, gang-infested, violent streets in Santa Ana several years ago as a single, white male. He discovered an "incarnational" approach to missions where he himself lived among people and became part of their families and shared in their struggles in order to invest in their lives and to work for long-term spiritual and economic development in the community.

As I listened to John share his story with us, I realized that I was called to the same sort of ministry he was called to, but with one exception. He, and others in that room, were called to live among people who were from another culture to help them escape the grip of poverty they were living in.

Honestly, if God had called me to go and live among the poor in order to serve them as Jesus would, I'd have no trouble with that. Instead, I realized, that God had called me to do exactly the same thing, but to my own people group. Instead of calling me and my family to move into a lower class community to live as missionaries to the poor, He has called us to move into a white, middle class community to serve and love them as missionaries.

This has been difficult for me to accept and to work out in my head...and my heart.

As John continued to speak, I begin to see snapshots of each child's face from our street. Under each photo I saw their name and this sentence; "This is Johnny. I am his pastor. I love him." Face after face. Name after name. I realized that, like it or not, I am the pastor of Glenview Place.

Finally, I realized that it's not up to me to figure things out before I step forward. My only concern is to go and to do exactly what I know that God has called me to do, regardless of whether or not I can understand why ministry to the poor has been ommitted from my marching orders. It doesn't matter. I don't need to understand first. I just need to go and to do.

My wife, Wendy, always has great insight for me at times like this. She reminded me that, as we begin to become more involved in the lives of our neighbors here on Glenview Place, we might discover poverty that isn't easily recognized on the surface. I think she's right.

So...starting in mid-March we've decided to invite our entire neighborhood over to our house for a Barbecue. Our plan is just to get to know people here a little better. After that we'll invite individual families over for dinner in the evenings and see where things go from there.

It's a long-term vision to make friends, love people and follow the Holy Spirit as we enter into relationship with others.

Just yesterday I was invited to attend a meeting with the Senior Chaplain of the local Rescue Mission and the Motel Ministry leader at Saddleback (yes...THAT Saddleback Church). I was humbled to sit at the same table with these two men. We talked about strategies for bringing other local churches in Orange County to the table so that we could have every poverty motel covered by at least one church. We shared ideas, we prayed together, we agreed to start inviting other pastors and to meet once per quarter to get things rolling.

As I sat at that table with these other men I wondered, "What am I doing here?" One guy is overseeing close to a hundred small groups as they mobilize to serve the poor who are living in area motels. He's written his own curriculum to train new pastors on how they can get involved and duplicate their ministry. The other guy is the Senior Chaplain of the "Cadillac" of Rescue Missions in North America. Their founder regularly flies to Washington D.C. to meet with the President to talk about how other major cities can implement their programs and services to their own poor. They've just built a small town called "The Village of Hope" to provide homeless families with job training, day care, education, medical care, and counseling.

And then there's me. I don't have a job. I pastor a house church of about 17 people in my house. I write a newsletter that's read by around 100 people.
What was I doing there? How had I been invited to this meeting?

It made me realize that God really does still intend to have me serve the poor in Orange County. He still intends for me to interact with other pastors on this issue. He still wants me to serve the poor and love them the way He would.

Last Sunday our Mission House Church met at the Studio Inn in Santa Ana. This is the same motel my family and I have been serving at for about four years now. I was asked by the ministry from Saddleback to preach a sermon for their pancake breakfast. It's honestly the first time I've preached a sermon at that motel in all those years. Our own ministry has dealt mainly with children and their families and I've always wanted people to know that we love them before we ever preach to them. So, we've spent more of our energy on serving and blessing them with no strings attached.

Last Sunday I stood up and opened my Bible for the first time and preached a sermon to a handful of people under the E-Z Up Tents. Afterwards one gentleman named "Rick" came up to me. He told me he'd only been out of prison for about a year. He used to be hooked on heroin. He told me he had given his Bible away to an elderly woman, a friend of his, who was very sick and wanted to read the Word. I told him I'd get him a new Bible to replace it. He said it had to be King James. Luckily I have a nice, white leather KJV that someone gave to me about a year ago.

I realize that Rick needs a church home. He needs other Christians who will encourage him and help him navigate life outside of prison. I realize that God wants me to invite Rick to our house my house, to worship alongside us so we can help to disciple him.

This will be a stretch for me. It will be a stretch for some of the families in our house church to welcome someone like Rick into our fellowship. I'm not even sure he will join us or not. But I know I need to invite him.

Maybe what I'm discovering is that being a loser isn't so bad. Maybe my problem all this time is that I've been afraid to let lose my life for the sake of Christ.

"...and now I know the secret that only losers I know the reason why all the finder's weep" - kg

"For whoever desires to save his life shall lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake shall find it." - JESUS (Matthew 16:25)

COMING SOON: "The Non-Con" is coming soon. Details are developing. I'm praying now about a location. I've invited a few people to join us as our facilitators. I've even purchased the domain name
There's a basic blog here:
More soon...
DISCUSSION GROUP: I'm trying one last time to set up an online forum where you guys and gals can provide feedback, share comments, engage in dialog, etc. You'll be getting an email about the [Subversive Underground] Google Group soon. I hope you'll join and share your story.

Sunday, February 18, 2007


NOTE: The following is a true story. It was sent to me by my friend Kent Williamson and was written by his mother-in-law. I hope it makes you think.

An Encounter with Peter
by Sandy Sturch

Peter, a man in his early 50's, slight stature, dressed in a dark blue suit, with blue shirt and a red tie that said "Jesus" on it, and a lapel pin of a small white dove, walked into First Presbyterian Church on Sunday morning, February 11, 2007. His hair was slightly peppered with grey, he wore dark-rimmed glasses, his eyes were dark, and his face had prominent bone structure; his fingers were long and slender. He was from New York City, was staying at the apartment of a friend while he was out-of-town. He was not a street person. He was not homeless. But he was family-less and desperate. He had come to San Antonio to kill himself.

Katie spotted him in the McCullough Room, where the people gather for coffee and cookies on Sunday morning after worship services. She offered him food and coffee. Soon he found himself in the Guthrie-Bryant Chapel, talking with a few church members who listened to his story. He repeated over and over that he was going to kill himself. One of the ministers, George, asked to spend some time alone with Peter, and took him into one of the church offices where he called the suicide hotline. After a few minutes, the suicide counselor hung up on Peter. George continued talking with him. When George and Peter finally emerged from the office, George announced that we were taking Peter to lunch. I had been waiting in the lobby of the church with Katie and with Bob. Peter chose to go in Bob's car, along with Katie, and George and I, having driven to church at different times, drove our cars to Water Street Oyster Bar, our favorite place for Sunday lunch.

The waiter went around the table taking our orders. When he came to Peter, Peter said, "I'll have a double bourbon with soda." He wanted no food. We urged Peter to have a meal, but Peter said he had had a good breakfast, he wasn't hungry, and the drink was all he wanted. When our food came, we joined hands around the table to ask the Lord's blessing on our food and especially our conversation with Peter.

Peter was indeed the center of our conversation. He told us the same story over and over; he had nothing to live for, he was going to kill himself. But in the same breath, he said what he really wanted was for someone to adopt him. He wanted to be a part of someone's family because he had no one. In fact, the bad thing about killing himself was that in the end, no one would give a damn, so even that wasn't very satisfying.

We learned that Peter was a graduate of Princeton University, born to Jewish parents, though he did not claim Judaism as his faith. Both parents were dead. He said he killed his father. When I asked how, he didn't want to go into it. His mother committed suicide. His father left him $1,000,000 dollars that would soon be gone. He had never done anything with his life. His dream job had been as a receptionist in New York City, but he quit, just quit, for no reason. It was then that he realized how much the job meant to him and how much the people meant. It was a place where he had friends. Now he could see that. Suddenly he was totally alone. No one cared if he lived or died. He hated himself for walking out on the job. He wanted to go back, but he knew he would never be hired again, not after walking out, and by now, someone else had his job. No, he couldn't go back.

Furthermore, he had no skills to work anywhere else. He did not even know how to use the computer. He did not even know how to drive a car. There was no hope for him. He had never been married. He had no relationships with either men or women. That was not his problem. He was not depressed over loss of a lover.

He had no one in the world who cared about him. All he wanted was to be adopted by someone. He just wanted to be a part of someone's family, he said.

Then he said to us, "Look at you! You are all so lovely. This is amazing. I am eating this meal with you, and I don't even know you. Please, everyone, eat very, very slowly because I want this meal to last forever. I don't want this meal to end, because when it is over, I'm going to kill myself."

When he said, "I wish someone would adopt me," I thought, "Yes, Jesus wants to adopt you—you could have a family." But was he in a state of mind that could comprehend what I would say about Jesus? I asked him what he knew about Jesus, hoping to tell him how much Jesus loves him. But before I could finish my sentence, he said, "I hate Jesus!" He said he hated Jesus because Jesus sends people to hell and that's what Baptists preach about Jesus. We said that we were not Baptists, and this is not what we wanted to tell him. But he did not want to talk about Jesus. He did not believe in Jesus. Yet he had walked into two downtown churches that morning. The first church he visited was Grace Lutheran, across the street from First Presbyterian. They gave him some literature and gave him the dove lapel pin. He didn't explain the red tie with "Jesus" on it, but it appeared that a Christian had encountered Peter even before we did. He kept saying how much he wanted this meal not to end, how lovely we were, and that when it was over, he would kill himself.

We asked about doctors, medication—and yes, he was on medication. When he asked if he could order another bourbon, George said no. He gave no indication of being drunk, but he would not eat but a few of the sweet potato fries that Katie offered him.

The conversation continued, the same things repeated again and again, always ending with, "I want to be adopted...I don't want this meal to end...when it's over, I will kill myself."

Katie finally had to return to church for a meeting, so she borrowed Bob's car, and as she said goodbye, she looked Peter straight in the eye, and earnestly said, "Peter, take care of yourself." I had to leave also, and I assured Peter that I hoped we would see him again.

So George and Bob were left with Peter. Peter had heard about the spaghetti dinner and youth talent show at church that evening, and this intrigued him. So George drove Bob and Peter back down to church where they spent the evening with other church members who gathered for the dinner and special program by the youth. When it was over, Peter refused the offer of a ride home and slipped out into the night.

I could not get Peter off my mind. When George got home, we talked about the afternoon spent with Peter. What could we have done or said differently? Who could we have called for help? Would Peter really kill himself? Why didn’t we have a plan in place to help people like Peter? Any one of us could have "adopted" Peter that night. We all could have offered him the comfort of a home. We could have invited the stranger in. But, yes, that might be dangerous. How much risk should we assume? Our rational minds had many reasons why we ourselves, disciples of Jesus Christ, could not have done more for Peter. We did what we could, didn't we?

In Tuesday's San Antonio Express-News, February 13, 2007, there was this article:

Man dies after leap from hotel's 11th floor. A man died Monday afternoon after he jumped from the 11th floor of a downtown hotel, landing in an interior atrium, police said. Authorities did not release the man's name, but officials said he was in his 50's. Police are calling the death an apparent suicide.

The San Antonio Express-News does not typically report on suicides unless the circumstances surrounding them are public. A witness told police she saw the man jump around noon from the 11th floor of the Hyatt Regency San Antonio at 123 Losoya Street, officials said.

He landed on a floor just below the lobby level, which is an enclosed atrium that faces the River Walk. San Antonio Police Department Homicide Detective Bobby Bradley said people were mingling throughout the hotel when the man jumped.

The man was not a registered guest at the hotel, Bradley said.

I wondered, was this Peter? Or was it one of the many other Peter's in our city?

"…for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me....And the king will answer them, 'Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.'"
Matthew 25:35-40 (NRSV)

"What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill," and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead." - James 2:14-20

As I continued to reflect on our encounter with Peter, these scriptures haunted me. I searched for new meaning, trying to escape the guilt I was feeling, and wondering for what sins of neglect I needed to repent.

What we did that was "right" did not seem to matter as much as how impotent we were to help Peter. In today's culture, how is the church to respond to needs like Peter's? How does a faithful disciple respond to the needs of the Peter's in the world? And the harder personal questions: How much should I risk to help a person in need? What is appropriate? What is foolish and dangerous? How do I apply these scriptures in today's world?

NOTE: After I read this email from Kent I was reminded of the elderly homeless woman I had been talking to for several weeks. Her name was Linda. I used to buy her a Quizno's sandwich and we'd sit and talk while she ate.

One morning I saw her walking down the sidewalk in my neighborhood. I stopped to give her some cash and she told me she was hoping to find a place to sleep for a few nights because the nights were getting cold.

For a moment I considered bringing her home. I'd like to think I drove away without offering her a warm bed because I have two small children, or because I wasn't able to clear it with my wife first, or some other good reason...but I fear the truth is that I didn't invite her into my home because I've not yet walked that far with Jesus.

After I got this email from Kent I received another from him reporting that the man who jumped off the hotel was not Peter. He was alive. He had returned to their church and now they had one more chance to adopt Peter into their family.

I've never seen Linda on the streets since that day.


Monday, February 12, 2007



Number 9 -
As we continue in our series, counting down the top ten things the modern Church seems to have forgotten about, we look at number nine on our list: "The Kingdom of God is NOT the American Dream"

You'd think it wouldn't need to be said out loud, but more and more I find that there is a blurred line in American Christianity between "The American Way" and "The Kingdom of God".

Maybe it's the feeling that America is God's new Israel? Or maybe it started with The Dallas Cowboys being "God's Favorite Football Team"? Maybe it's something that's been brewing since the first Boston Tea Party? I'm not really sure, but I do know that today we have a serious problem separating good old American Values from the Gospel that Jesus died to proclaim.

If you've ever doubted someone's eternal salvation because they voted Democrat in the last election, then you may have a problem in this area.

Yes Virginia, there WILL be Libertarians and Green Party members in Heaven. You'll probably live next to one, knowing God's sense of humor.

The Kingdom of God and the American Dream are not the same thing, and in fact, they are two opposing viewpoints which are in conflict on many levels.

Believe it or not, Jesus did not come so that you and I could engage in our "Pursuit of Happiness".

The American Dream is founded on the concept of every person's right to the pursuit of happiness. Whatever you can imagine would make you happy you are free to pursue it with all your heart. That's your right.

The Kingdom of God is founded on the concept of laying down your life, your idea of what will make you happy, in favor of receiving what Jesus knows will really make you happy.

Following Jesus involves laying down your life and giving up your rights. It means full and complete submission to God because you recognize that His perfect will for your life is a million times better than anything you could ever dream up, or pursue, on your own.

Jesus didn't ever instruct any of his disciples to fight for their God-given, "Inalienable Rights", and neither did Paul the Apostle. In fact, they both encouraged their disciples to live humble lives, serving others and not demanding more because they deserved more. Paul even specifically told those followers of Christ who were slaves to remain slaves, even if they were being mistreated.

Historically, the early Christians didn't fight for their rights as citizens, they took it on the chin, and in the Lion's den, and in the arena. They literally would rather die than to take another person's life.

Simply put, they followed their Lord and Savior, Jesus in His example of non-violence and submissive service to those who hated them and mistreated them. Does that sound like the American Dream to you?

Repeat after me: "Politics and Christianity are not the same thing", "The American Dream is not part of the Gospel", "George Washington and Thomas Jefferson did not die for your forgiveness of sins", "Jesus was not a Republican".

Are we trying to make God in our image? Do we want a version of Jesus that fits into our way of life? Or are we willing to conform our life into His image?

It's interesting to me that the scriptures reveal to us a Jesus who was not so preoccupied with Earthly political discussions. "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar and unto God what is God's" was pretty much the only true political statement He ever made, if it can even be called that.

In his time on Earth, Jesus didn't seem so concerned about the politics of the day. Nor did He talk so much about current events, other than to reference the collapse of a tower in a nearby village where a few people had died.

However, Jesus WAS interested in a political system, a new way of life called "The Kingdom of God". In fact, it's pretty much all he ever talked about.

It might shock you to consider that Jesus probably cares less about what the upcoming Presidential Candidates are saying on their campaign trails than He does about what you and I are doing with our actual lives.

Many of us, if we're honest, know way more about the views and values of our particular political perspective than we do about God's Kingdom. But, Jesus urged us, His followers, to "Seek first the Kingdom of God."

It's not that Jesus wants the Kingdom of God to influence or even to compete with the political systems of our nation, as much as he wants His Kingdom to influence and change you.

Do we share His views of the poor? Are we even aware what His position is on economics, or foreign relations, or peace-making, or consumerism? Are we actively, seriously, continually seeking after the things of The Kingdom of God?

Perhaps we're more comfortable with a blue-eyed, six foot tall, Republican Jesus who conforms to our political and social ways of living. Probably. But, is that really who Jesus is? Or have we now made God in our own image?

Which version of Jesus are you holding on to? Which way of life are you currently pursuing? Is it the life Jesus describes in the sermon on the mount, or is it something pretty close to the life you would have lived had you never heard the Gospel at all?

The polls are open.

- kg
As sort of an experiment I've opened a new online forum to have more open dialog about the issues covered on this weekly e-newsletter.

We'll talk about Social Justice, Missional Life, Organic Church, House Church, Spiritual Formation, and even the Arts, Media and Culture...actually whatever you want to talk about.

You are welcome to join in the discussions on
the [subversive underground] message boards.

To join our discussions, simply go to

The [Subversive Underground] Forum is part of Delphi Forums. If you've never used Delphi Forums before, you'll need to go through a quick registration (so you can post messages). It only takes a minute and it's FREE!

NON-CON 2008- The plans are in the making. Greater details now online at

My "lost" interview with the current Director of the Center for the Study of Religions at UCLA on the early Christian Church and "normative Christianity" in the first three centuries. Good stuff.
Read this now so we can post part 2!

Read this on my blog here:

"We Can Only Fail Them If We Do Nothing"
March 9th and 10th - Anaheim Vineyard
Os Guinness, David Ruis, many, many others
Details at:

"It's time for the Church to listen first, talk later"
Lee Strobel * Todd Hunter * Brenton Brown *More!
March 9th and 10th - Costa Mesa


Monday, February 05, 2007


THE PROBLEM by Keith Giles

Last week we looked at the way our own sub-culture isolates us from the world we're supposed to have a positive influence on.

I wanted to continue this thought-process a bit further and point out another aspect of how our insistence upon huddling together against the "big bad" world has disqualified us from our calling to be Salt and Light in the culture around us.

One by-product of the Christian Sub-culture is the sense of antagonism it creates. More specifically, the "Us vs Them" mentality begins to dominate our thoughts from behind our wall of safety and comfort.

Keeping in mind that most of this "comfort" and "safety" is made up of materialistic goods and services; as if our descent into Christian Consumerism would ever hope to change us...or the World around us in any way other than towards the negative end of the spectrum; we've probably all had the opportunity to hear this mentality verbalized as something like, "If only those sinners would get saved, the world would be a much better place".

You can substitute the word "sinner" for anything such as "Homosexual", "Liberal", "Atheist", "Agnostic", "Criminal", etc. It really doesn't matter what word you place in that sentence. The heart of the matter is still the same. We, who call ourselves followers of Jesus, tend to point the finger and shake our heads and blame the moral decay of our Nation on "Those People" who are not like us.

The idea being that, if there were more people in the world just like us, then everything would be perfect...because of course, we are so much better than all of "Those People" who are not like us.

There are so many things wrong with this kind of thinking that I really don't even need to pull in a scripture verse here to begin to explain just how...but I will because the Word of God has more weight than my own.

In 2 Chronicles, chapter 7, verse 14, we read a most interesting idea set forth by God Himself. This passage is not uncommon among those who call themselves followers of Jesus. We quote it now and again, but I suspect we miss the point that is being made more often than not.

God says, "If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land."

Did you see it?

God speaks to those who are "called by (His) name" and says that the healing of their land, their Nation, is held back because of their own lack of humility, their own lack of prayer, and their own unwillingness to seek His face.

It's amazing to me that God holds His own people accountable for the healing of their land. What He says needs to happen first is that we humble ourselves. That means we don't use statements like "If only those people would be more like us, everything would be wonderful". Humble people don't talk like that...or think that way either.

Next, he calls us to pray, and I would suggest that in this context what we need to pray for is our own hearts to be changed and softened and melted. We need to humble ourselves first, and then second we need to pray for forgiveness and repent of our pride.

Remember, "God opposes the proud, but gives Grace to the humble"- (Proverbs 3:34). I don't know about you, but I'd rather that God give me Grace than that He oppose me.

After we pray, God asks us to seek His face. This means that we remain humble, we stay on our knees, and we submit ourselves to Him and His perfect will for our lives.

Finally, God asks that those who are called by His name "turn from their wicked ways". This is sobering stuff. At face value it would appear that it is our sin that is holding back the healing of our Nation, not the sin of "those people". If this is true, then we will have more to answer for than we have expected when this life is over and our lives are laid open before God at the Judgement. Has our sin, our pride, our lack of humility or submission to God prevented our Nation from being blessed and healed and restored?

Simply put, this verse suggests that we are the problem, not "those people".


You and I.


Repentance is not an option, then. It is a necessity. Not just for our own salvation and spiritual health, but for the health of this Nation.

Let the humility, the prayer, the repentance, the submission, begin.

Time is short.


For every paid registration to the "Children At Risk" Conference with Os Guinness, David Ruis and others (March 9th and 10th) you will receive one FREE pass to share with a friend.

CONVERSATIONAL EVANGELISM CONFERENCE (March 9th and 10th)- "It's time for the church to listen first and speak later"
with Lee Strobel, Todd Hunter, Brenton Brown and more.

WEST OF VERONA - "Breaking Out Of Beigeland"
My good friend John Wahrmund and his wife Lisa have recorded their second, amazing, ep and you need to hear it.
More info: