In Conversation with… Scott Williams

Scott Williams is a good friend of Wendy, Mark, and I. Even the dog likes him. Mark prays for him and his kids twice a day but from his answers, I am not sure it makes a difference or at least with his Homer puzzle. He is also the pastor of New Heights, a church in Mission, B.C. that as Scott has said, loves loud rock and roll as well as reaching out to the poor. It does both really well.

Scott is also Wendy’s arch nemesis and is responsible for several tramatic events in her life for which she has yet to have a comeback for. He also publishes one of my favorite blogs right here. Here is the interview. Scott walks the fine line between giving an interview and making fun of Wendy and I. Some things never change.

What’s your age and occupation. How long have you lived here, where did you come from, and where do you live now?

I’m forty years old but everyone says I’m really immature and that’s a good thing right? I live in Mission, BC Canada, where I started a church here eight years ago. I grew up in a military, non-christian family of alcoholics and card players. I trace my roots back to Scotland where our ancestors were hung for horse stealing? blue blood all the way. My sister recently upgraded to her first trailer. I’m a single parent of two teenage boys.

What makes New Heights different from the bazillion other “contemporary” churches in North America.

Contemporary? Yuck.

New Heights is not a contemporary church. When I think of contemporary I think of dressing well, singing hillsongs, matt redman and delirious chorus’s instead of hymns; powerpoint, topical sermons and nice flyers. I am not sure New Heights aspires to be contemporary, at least not in its present status.

I grew up in the days of the church growth movement, Willow World and the migration from hymn books – overheads – powerpoint. I started churches using these paradigms but it was never really who I was at heart. I am not, by nature, someone who fits into mainstream anything, even contemporary church. New Heights strives to be brutally honest and you cannot really be that within the mainstream evangelical church movement. People are our church are screwed up, poor, lack any Christian background, or just aren’t interested in regular church. We are more crass, use words like piss, crap and sin, believe in the redemption of secular media, drink light beer (cuz we’re Christians) try to shock people into reality, rebel against dress codes and ‘fitting in’, looking cool, and following any ‘come–lately’ model. The church was born out of who we were. We didn’t fit in and didn’t think we had to care whether or not we did. We wanted real even if it was brutal or painful. New heights has largely grown out of pain? and we grew out of powerpoint a while ago.

Coolest gadget you have ever owned.

Without a doubt it was the breast pump your wife Wendy gave me. Oh, the mammories…

If you could experience on moment in church history, what would it be?

Would have loved to ride with Constantine. I think he did more for Christianity than any person since Christ. Two other church heroes of mine are Mungo and William Lamberton, the great friend of Robert the Bruce. Would have loved to talk with a few of the reformers and told them to ‘get over themselves.’

Who have been some of the most influential thinkers along your spiritual journey?

Nietzsche and whitehead have had a big influence on my thinking. Peter Griffin from “Family Guy‘ too. I’m not sure he’s considered a ‘thinker’ but it is hard to overestimate the influence that Tony Campolo had on my early leadership development. He changed my view of the world and challenged me to be something other than what I was. He gave me freedom and a ton of cool illustrations. Of course Jordon Cooper has had a big influence on me too. I don’t know anyone that looks as good in spandex as Jordon.

When you take a look at the church growth movement… what is the biggest thing that historians and theologians are going to look back at and say that they got wrong?

It’s hard for me to confine my comments to this question to a single answer. The cg movement did a lot right, and tons wrong. Undoubtedly the thing that has probably affected my friends and I the most, besides the bad hair styles of the movement, has been the insidious drive for success and numbers. Everything became boiled down to a measure of success that seems blatantly skewed. I have spend much too long in the cg movement, have walked and talked with some of its greatest proponents and seen firsthand the bondage that movement brought to young pastors and churches that didn’t measure up to a very narrow definition of success.

When you look at the movement of postmodern churches being birthed…what is the biggest thing that historians and theologian are going to look back at and say that they got wrong?

Personally, and I’m not as well versed in this area as some others are, I think that they will wonder why we ever thought we knew what we were doing. The very nature of this time in history is its transience; yet we have tried to convince people it is an end in itself.

The other thing I think they’ll say about us is that we tried to convince people that they were in Oz using a feeble magician to lead the way. We were convinced we were so ‘up to speed’ and knew the answers but when they pull back the curtain in the years to come they may think that we didn’t have a freakin clue what we were talking about.

Who would make the better pastor, Homer Simpson or Peter Griffin?

I love you. Finally a theological question I can understand.

Homer is an idealist at heart (“I’m normally not a praying man, but if you’re up there, please save me Superman”.). Peter is a pragmatist (“I saw you in that coffee shop, breaking the fifth commandment. Congress passes these things for a reason, Lois.”). Of course The Simpsons is a very spiritual show and all Family Guy has to offer is that it’s the best comedy ever made.

Simpsons is linear, Family Guy is chaos (Peter: We love the Bible in this house. Francis Griffin: Really. What’s your favorite book of the Bible? Peter: Uhhhhh… the book where Jesus swallows the puzzle piece and the man in the yellow hat has to take him to the hospital.).

Homer would care more but Peter isn’t as dumb as a post, though he fakes it well. Of the two I would definitely choose Bender from Futurama.

Did you ever get that Homer Simpson Rubik’s cube puzzle solved?

Shut up? it has nine different corners! Shut up.

Best part about living in the Fraser Valley?

I was going to say “micro-brewery beer” but that doesn’t sound very spiritual. Then I was going to say, “not having to live in Saskatchewan anymore” but that might be construed as offensive.

I like the action out here. There are people here that are innovative, friends who “get it”, places that expand my mind and create vision. Or maybe it’s just the beer.

Most embarrasing thing to ever happen to you in a church service?

The list seems endless. Let’s see, I broke a 6 year olds collar bone at a ‘get to know you’ prelaunch family event. They didn’t come back. I got a marshmallow stuck (flaming) on the end of my nose on a Saturday night and went to church with a one inch high scab on my shnoz (do you think anyone noticed?). I did a sermon high on cocaine when I was first in the pastorate and my delegate found out about it. You know, your basic church life stuff.

How many churches have you planted now?

I have personally helped to plant 4 churches and oversaw the planting of two others. We are hoping to start a new one in the Fraser Valley this fall. I need to do something crazy every couple of years or I die a little inside.

You are a student of military history. How do you think some of the previous war presidents like Roosevelt and prime ministers like Churchill would have handled 9/11.

FDR was a great man who was a slave to public opinion and therefore would have probably done what good he could without being run out of office. Churchill was one of the greatest leaders who ever smoked 12 cigars a day and would have done what he thought was best, the world be damned. Neither would have jumped three months early into a war without assessing the cost. Both were smarter by far than Bush. Both were smarter than most.

Most historical leaders fall into two camps ? idealist and pragmatists. Homer and Peter. Fewer than we care to admit were willing to die for a cause. It’s easier to talk big than be big. It’s easy to act out of arrogance or a position or unquestionable power. It’s another to suffer for it.

Best book you have read in the last year? What made it worthwhile reading?

The bible. Did I get the right answer?

I read a lot of fiction and history mainly. Plus any book that you send me for free, Jordon.

It’s hard to remember which were best unless I happen to have them on hand right now but I will tell you a few books I have read in the last month that were decent.

First, any book by Nigel Trantor on the history of Scotland. Mein Kampf, I Claudius, a novel based on ancient Rome. War of the Rats ? the battle of Stalingrad, How the Scots invented the Modern World, bird by bird was helpful with my writing, and the left hand of darkness, a sci-fi book written by an anthropologist. All of these books were well worth my time but I wish I could say I was reading more philosophy and guys with German names, but I’m a church planter, and Family Guy was on.