Thursday, December 14, 2006
Friday, December 08, 2006
Suicide is the second-leading cause of death from age 15 to 19.
Nearly 14 teens kill themselves every day in the United States.
We'll let K.C. Jones tell what it was like:
"We are playing in Seattle. Five seconds left on the clock and the score is tied and it is our timeout. In the huddle, I am thinking Xavier McDaniel is guarding Larry.
"So I said, 'Now Kevin, you take the ball out and get it to Dennis and Dennis you can finish that.'
"Larry said, 'Why don’t you just give me the ball and tell everybody else to get the hell out of the way?'
"So I said, 'Larry you play, and I’ll coach.'
"And he said, 'All right.'
"So I said, 'Dennis, you take it out and you get it to Kevin. Kevin you get it to Larry and everybody else get the hell out of the way.'
"That is communication. Before the timeout was over, he leaves the huddle, and I said to myself, where is he going.
"And Xavier was right there and Bird said, 'Xavier, I’m getting the ball. I’m going to take two dribbles to the left. I’m going to step back behind the three point line and stick it.'
"And that is what he did. So when he stepped back behind the line and released the ball, as soon as he released it, his arm was still in the air going to the dressing room. Game over."
Thursday, December 07, 2006
Social Impact, Aspiration & Growth, Entrepreneurship (the ability to do a lot with a little), Innovation, Sustainability, and a Customized Approach.
"...over the next decade, the two most effective expressions of the Gospel will be through social justice and environmental justice."
This statement was made by Clint Kemp, the pastor of New Providence Community Church. Yesterday Jason and I were talking about both of these issues. As I've said before, there was a time when neither of these issues were even on my radar. I'm thankful to God for changing that.
In today's paper, there was an article in the Life Magazine pullout section called "What I Prayed For." A fourth grader wrote this: "I'm praying for Darfur. For the people there to get clothes and food and beds. I learned about Darfur on Oprah, and I read books about Africa." Yeah Oprah, and yeah fourth grader. As a side note, I don't remember what kinds of things I prayed for when I was in fourth grade, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't for anything like this.
Next, they adopted a section of beach that had been turned into the island's dump. "They believed that as followers of Christ, they had a responsibility to redeem this hideous, corrupted area of the island." They spent two years cleaning it up, then invited local artists from the island to come and help transform this space into something beautiful. They call it Sacred Space. (You can see pictures, along with a five minute video, here). "The breathtaking sunset views create an amazing spiritual experience - but more than that, it's a testimony to the leaders of the Island of how a community can be a significant part of th restoration of all things within their society."
This article was written by Gabe Lyons. It's not currently online, but hopefully will be soon.
Here's one final quote from the article:
"New Providence Community Church is shaping the culture of the Bahamas because they have approached their mission with the belief that they are called to be the Gospel in the context of their community. By deciding not to make their church a place for people to come and see, they have pushed their people to go and do. And they clearly illustrate the influence one church can have when it takes this mission seriously."
Thursday, November 30, 2006
Sunday, November 26, 2006
Monday, November 13, 2006
During our prayer time, Adam was becoming a bit of a distraction, so I took him to the back room. I asked him if he would like to pray with me. He said yes, and so we sat in the floor, held hands, bowed our heads, and I said a thirty second prayer. When I said Amen, he looked up and smiled at me. It was one of those truly great moments for a dad.
When the Lord brought back the captives to Zion,
we were like men who dreamed.
Our mouths were filled with laughter,
our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
"The Lord has done great things for them."
The Lord has done great things for us,
and we are filled with joy.
Sunday, November 12, 2006
Out of curiosity, I went to SimplyHired, a vertical search engine for jobs, and looked for openings containing the keyword “evangelist.” Amazingly, there were 611 matches--and none were for churches. It seems that “evangelist” is now a secular, mainstream job title. Indeed, the first eight matches were for evangelist jobs at Microsoft--go figure.
As people hit the streets with this title, they need a foundation of the fundamental principles of evangelism. Fulfilling this need is the purpose of today's blog.
- Create a cause. As the previous blog called “Guy's Golden Touch” explained, the starting point of evangelism is having a great thing to evangelize. A cause seizes the moral high ground. It is a product or service that improves the lives of people, ends bad things, or perpetuates good things. It is not simply an exchange of things/services for money.
- Love the cause. “Evangelist” isn't simply a job title. It's a way of life. It means that the evangelist totally loves the product and sees it as a way to bring the “good news.” A love of the cause is the second most important determinant of the success of an evangelist--second only to the quality of the cause itself. No matter how great the person, if he doesn't love the cause, he cannot be a good evangelist for it.
- Look for agnostics, ignore atheists. A good evangelist can usually tell if people understand and like a product in five minutes. If they don't, cut your losses and avoid them. It is very hard to convert someone to a new religion (ie, product) when he believes in another god (ie, another product). It's much easier to convert a person who has no proof about the goodness or badness of the evangelist's product.
- Localize the pain. No matter how revolutionary your product, don't describe it using lofty, flowery terms like “revolutionary,” “paradigm shifting,” and “curve jumping.” Macintosh wasn't positioned as the third paradigm in personal computing; instead, it increased the productivity and creativity of one person with one computer. People don't buy “revolutions.” They buy “aspirins” to fix the pain or “vitamins” to supplement their lives.
- Let people test drive the cause. Essentially, say to people, “We think you are smart. Therefore, we aren't going to bludgeon you into becoming our customer. Try our product, take it home, download it, and then decide if it's right for you.” A test drive is much more powerful than an ad.
- Learn to give a demo. An “evangelist who cannot give a great demo” is an oxymoron. A person simply cannot be an evangelist if she cannot demo the product. If a person cannot give a demo that quickens the pulse of everyone in the audience, he should stay in sales or in marketing.
- Provide a safe first step. The path to adopting a cause should have a slippery slope. There shouldn't be large barriers like revamping the entire IT infrastructure. For example, the safe first step to recruit an evangelist for the environment is not requiring that she chain herself to a tree; it's to ask her to start recycling and taking shorter showers.
- Ignore pedigrees. Good evangelists aren't proud. They don't focus on the people with big titles and big reputations. Frankly, they'll meet with, and help, anyone who “gets it” and is willing to help them. This is much more likely to be the database administrator or secretary than the CIO.
- Never tell a lie. Very simply, lying is morally and ethically wrong. It also takes more energy because if one lies, then it is necessary to keep track of the lies. If one always tells the truth, then there's nothing to keep track of. Evangelists know their stuff, so they never have to tell a lie to cover their ignorance.
- Remember your friends. Be nice to the people on the way up because one is likely to see them again on the way down. Once an evangelist has achieved success, he shouldn't think that he'll never need those folks again. One of the most likely people to buy a Macintosh was an Apple II owner. One of the most likely people to buy an iPod was a Macintosh owner. One of the most likely people to buy whatever Apple puts out next is an iPod owner. And so it goes.
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
I'm finally getting around to posting some pictures that Mandy took during our trip to New England. She's getting to be a really great photographer, as I'm sure you'll agree!
If you'd like to see more, here's a link to some pictures that Mandy posted to Kodak's site.
One of the things we got to see while we were in Boston was the New England Holocaust Memorial. It features six glass towers, each 54 feet high. Inscribed into the glass are six million numbers. At the end of the walk is a poem written by Martin Niemoller, a Lutheran pastor from Germany. The poem is titled First they came..."
They came first for the Communists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for me,
and by that time no one was left to speak up.
Here are a few of their values:
- Expect the unexpected
- Irrelevance is irreverence
- Love people when they least expect it and least deserve it
- Playing it safe is risky
- Everyone is invaluable and irreplaceable
- Everything is an experiment
- You cannot out give God
- Maturity does not equal conformity
- It's never too late to be who you might have been
Here's the pastor's (Mark Batterson) blog, and here's a link to their site.
I'm happy that Mr. Cosby is still writing. Below are excerpts from a new article that he's just written. Here's the link for the entire article.
To neglect context is literally fatal to a living faith. For me, in the context of my life and era, I am finding that there are two ‘givens’ - necessary components - for a true embodiment of God’s community.
First, I will be part of a small family group of extreme ‘opposites’ - people who represent diversity in terms of race and ethnicity, economics, education, personality and temperament, in all ways - for the express purpose of letting our inner lives be known by one another. This means I will listen to the pain of unhealed wounds, really taking it in to my own inner being and bearing it with others, not shaking it off as soon as I’m able to forget it. This small group becomes for me my primary family. We represent all whom Jesus loves and is seeking to reconcile, bringing us together in deep intimacy.
In this small family, we not only hear each other’s pain and hurt but we also seek to lessen that pain in concrete ways. Together we lift the extreme heaviness of one another’s burdens, and in this way participate in lifting the misery of the ages. We also talk with each other about the pain brought on by the disparity of wealth and privilege and poverty among us, the wounds we’ve experienced through racial hatred and our inability to forgive and ask to be forgiven. We share our resources of money and wisdom and time to ease the pressure of carrying our burdens alone. As we face ourselves and each other in all our rawness and yet don’t run away, we move beyond the ‘principle of reconciliation’ and find a way to be family.
Second, I will be a witness of this good news of reconciliation - telling others of Jesus, who IS the good news. I find that most of us talk more freely of justice, peace, righteousness, being enemies of Empire and lovers of the poor than we do of being lovers and followers of Jesus. We easily ask each other, “How are you doing these days?” but the more important question, “How are you and Jesus doing?” goes unsaid.
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
All the preliminaries have been taken care of, and the rule of God is now accessible to everyone. Review your plans for living and base your life on this remarkable new opportunity.
The message (of the good news) of the Kingdom is that God's reign is now fully present, and that it's open to everyone.
As the farmer was walking and sowing the seed, some of the seed fell in different places. Each of these places yielded a different result. The first bit of seed fell along the path, and the birds immediately came and ate it. Jesus said that many people hear the message of the Kingdom but do not understand it. Because of that, they are easy targets for the enemy, who comes and snatches what was sown in their hearts.
The second bit of seed fell on rocky places, where the soil was very shallow. The crop sprang up quickly, but once the sun came out, the plants were scoched. They withered because they had no root. Jesus said that many people hear the message and at once receive it with joy. However, when trouble or persecution comes, because there is no root, these people quickly fall away.
The third bit of seed fell among the thorns (and weeds), which choked the plants as soon as they grew up. Jesus said that many people hear the message, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful. This goes back to Mark 1. Repentance is required for this type of living. A new type of believing is required, but so also is a new type of living.
The bulk of the seed (I say bulk because I assume this farmer was probably pretty good at farming) fell on good soil. Naturally, it produced a crop - 30 times, 60 times, or even 100 times that which was sown. Jesus said that the key was not just to hear the message, but also to understand it. I would say that this word "understand" is not simply referring to a cognitive understanding, just as the word "believe" in John 3:16 is not just about a mental belief. A person changes the way he or she lives when understanding or believing something new. Jesus was saying that if a person heard and understood the message of the Kingdom, they would produce a crop, which apparently is a sign of usefulness in the Kingdom of God (see also Matthew 5:13). The amazing thing here is that a person like this will produce not just a few apples or ears of corn, but 30 times, 60 times, or even 100 times what was sown!
It brings me back to how simple things really are meant to be. God's plan was that something planted grows naturally under the proper conditions. Last spring my dad gave me a small grape tomato vine. Being that there were no tomatoes on it at the time, I had to take his word for it. (It's important to point out that up to this time, everything that Mandy and I have planted has had an ill-timed death). He told us where to plant it, according to how much sun and water it needed each day. I did what he said, and I'm happy to see that not only is it still alive, but I have a lot of grape tomatoes on it. Should it amaze me that a tomato vine produced tomatoes? It really shouldn't. Perhaps I should think in these terms about our little church.
How awesome would it be to see people we're investing in produce fruit 100 times what we invested? That would mean more church planters. That would mean creativity and goodness like we've never seen. That would mean people making a difference not only in our neighborhood, but all across the world. I think it's a part of seeing God's Kingdom being evident here in our neighborhood just as it is in heaven.
God, may we be faithful to complete the work that you've given us to do, just as you will be faithful to complete the work you've begun in us.
It gave an opportunity for parents with toddlers to meet other parents with toddlers, and it gave us an opportunity to meet more of our community.
Thursday, October 26, 2006
Friday, October 20, 2006
Mary's story blows me away. Here is this young teenager who obviously is a follower of God. She is engaged to a man named Joseph. One day an angel named Gabriel shows up and tells her that she is going to have a baby, and that baby will be named Jesus. Not only that, but this baby will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High...and his kingdom will never end.
She then asks the obvious question: "How will this happen since I am a virgin?" Good question, right? Crazy response!
"The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you."
What do you do with a response like that?
Here's what Mary does with a response like that:
"I am the Lord's servant. May it be to me as you have said."
That is nothing short of amazing. She has such faith in God, and that faith leads to obedience.
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
We spent a lot of time on the road, and passed through some really beautiful places. In just about every town we came through there was a church at the center. Most of these were congregational churches. I was fascinated with these churches. It struck me that today we think of New England in many ways as a mission field, yet this was the site of the greatest revival that this nation has ever seen. It caused me to wonder what happened.
Ed Stetzer says that the church must contend for the Gospel as well as contextualize the Gospel. The first part of this, Contend, is found in Jude 3 (I urge you to contend for the faith that was once entrusted to the saints). The second part, Contextualize, is found in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 (I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some).
Using Stetzer's logic, it seems to me that one of the main reasons the church in New England is in the state it's in is that they failed to contend for the Gospel. Since I've returned I've been reading a little on the Great Awakening and the history of the churches in New England. It's pretty obvious that many of the churches shortly after the Great Awakening went in some bad, theologically speaking, directions. Many evangelical churches, and especially my denomination, fight very hard to contend for the faith. We truly want to stay true to the Gospel of Jesus. However, I wonder how good we're doing at contextualizing the Gospel. What is the church in the south going to look like in 100 years? The culture is changing all around us. If we only contend for the Gospel, and fail to contextualize, could we end up looking like New England?
I'm planning on studying this more over the coming weeks. I'll post if I find anything interesting.
If you'd like to read someone else's reflections on Catalyst, click here.
Rick McKinley is pastor of Imago Dei in
Imago has two values:
- Their primary identity is that of a sent people
- The church is for the world, not for us
Donald has started the Belmont Foundation, which connects teenage guys with older mentors. Here’s a staggering statistic: “85% of men in prison grew up without their dad around.”
Here are a couple of quotes I found here. Both are from Rick.
“When we started, we thought that the city would be against us. When we began to care about the things they cared about, they had open arms.”
“When the church is on mission, there is nothing more transformational for the world. We are the leaders of the church, and if we don’t lead our people into mission, then the church gets misrepresented to the culture. It’s not size or programs – it’s just disciples on mission. It is our job to lead them out to get messy. Discipleship happens when we lead people out into the streets where God is.”
It would be a bit cheesy to say that Louie Giglio is a passionate guy, but that’s exactly what he is. It just oozes from him. He was a little all over the map, but it was ok. His passion for Jesus and the church more than made up for that. A few notes:
God’s plan to save the world is the church. Again, there’s no Plan B.
The message of Jesus was, “The Kingdom is near.” There is some good in this message: authority, power, a kingdom, etc; but there is also some scary stuff in Jesus’ message: sacrifice, danger, and even death. We have to ask ourselves, “What are we getting into?” Further, “What are we calling others into?” There is life and abundance, but there are also times when it’s going to get, as Louie put it, “hairy and scary.” He said that the church should in some ways be the least safe place on earth. Danger is ahead. We need to be aware of this and we need to make a decision: Do we really want to take part in this adventure?”
Thursday, October 05, 2006
He spoke from Daniel 4-5, on Daniel's encounters with Nebuchadnezzar and Beltshazzar. Both kinds were prideful and arrogant, and this led to their destruction, as well as to the destruction of
Andy said that if we believe this (that we too have been put in our places of leadership by God), then it should lead to us being diligent, fearless, and humble.
Diligent – We are in our places of leadership for a purpose. Therefore we should not be lazy. We should work hard.
Fearless – God put us in our place of leadership, not a hiring committee. We need to primarily concentrate on pleasing the Father. He will take care of things. Who do we have to fear?
Humility – If God put us here, He can also remove us anytime He wants, for any reason He chooses. He is definitely not dependent on us. Our leadership is temporal and must be stewarded. This is why men like Moses was ok with not being allowed to go into the Promised Land, why David was ok with Solomon building the temple, and why John the Baptist was ok taking a backseat to Jesus once he began his ministry. It’s not about us. It’s about the Father.
Marcus wrote the bestseller Now Discover Your Strengths. The basic premise is that we need to quit focusing on how to improve our weaknesses and instead spend time developing our strengths. He said that it is ingrained in us to spend time working on our weak areas, and he said that this starts as a child. If your child brings home three “A’s”, two “B’s”, and a “D”, what are we going to tell him or her to focus on. Not the A’s or B’s. He went on to say that the overwhelming majority of adults believe that success comes when a person works to improve in their areas of weakness.
He has polled many people on the following three questions (taken from his website):
What percentage of a typical work day do you spend doing things you really like to do?
Which do you think will help you be most successful: Improving my weaknesses or building my strengths?
When your manager discusses your performance with you, do you spend more time talking about how to build your strengths or how to improve your weaknesses?
This session was actually divided up. The first part featured Gabe Lyons interviewing George Barna. The focus was on Barna’s controversial book Revolution. I’ve not finished the book, but the premise is that many people today are finding their “church” experience outside the normal boundaries of “church”, in things like house churches, online, and in coffee shops. Here are a couple of reviews of the book, one that’s pretty positive on it, the other not quite as positive.
The second part featured Andy Stanley interviewing John Maxwell. Andy shared that he first met John around the time he was planting
He started out where Marcus Buckingham left off – play to your strengths. He said that this is difficult when your ministry job description is children’s pastor, worship leader, youth pastor, etc., or especially when you are planting a church. As much as is possible, though, he said that we should begin working on this. He looks at leadership on a scale of
He made a great point that skill sets and competencies should not be confused with things that you choose. You can’t always choose to be a great athlete, musician or leader. As he said, you might go up one or two levels, but you’re going to be hard pressed to make anymore progress. On the other hand, there is unlimited potential in things that you choose (attitude, commitment, spiritual development).
He went on to say that we need to look at this when we are equipping people. It sounds bad, and actually unbibilical, to say that we’re only going to invest our time in a few select people, but if you think about it, Jesus did it. He spent most of his time with the Twelve, and among them he spent even more time with just Peter, James and John. He said that we need to spend time with leaders who have a
The last question Andy asked John was the most powerful. He asked how he had maintained good relationships with his wife and children, when all around us we see ministers falling to immorality. He shared that in the early days of Promise Keepers he was asked to speak on the subject of Moral Purity. He found out the topic around six weeks before the conference, and during those six months he faced temptation like he never had before. He couldn’t explain why he was happening, and even wanted to back out of the conference, believing that he wasn’t fit to speak on this issue.
On the night before he was to speak, he asked his teenage children to lay hands on him and pray. He said that it was one of the most powerful things that he had ever experienced. (If you’ve ever heard John speak, you’ll probably have figured out that he was crying by this point). Before he got on stage to speak the next day, he felt like God said to him that he had been victorious, and it was time to share the message with these men.
He ended the time by praying over us. It was deeply moving, and I think we all felt the presence of God in the room.
The final session of the day featured Gary Haugen, of International Justice Mission. I am familiar with them through our involvement with
He then spent the rest of the time sharing about the adventure they’ve been involved in, fighting injustice all over the world. He said that we don’t really understand true injustice. To us, injustice is being in the express checkout lane at the grocery store, and seeing someone in front of you with two more items than they are supposed to have. True injustice deals with an abuse of power. It is taking from a person that which God wants them to have. I encourage you to go to their site and learn more about this amazing ministry. They work to free slaves in parts of the world where slavery is illegal. He said that 27 million slaves, many of them children, are held illegally in the world. They also work to free children who have been forced to become sex slaves. He said that one million children, some as young as five years old, are forced into this type of slavery every year.
The question that must then be asked is: “What does God think about injustice?” The Bible makes it perfectly clear that God hates injustice, and that it is His desire to bring justice to the poor and oppressed. The next logical question is, “What is God doing about it?” “Does He have a plan?” He certainly does, and that plan is Us. We are the only plan. There is no Plan B.
We will continue discussing this as a team. We feel that this is a critical question for us, certainly for us as Christ-followers, but also for us as missionaries in our neighborhood. I believe that people are just waiting to see us become the light of the world in areas such as this. Perhaps that is one of the reasons that have no interest in our churches. More to come on this subject later.
That wraps up Day 1.
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
East Coast real estate developer Brian Davis has an agreement to become the Grizzlies' majority owner and ambitions of leading a $500 million to $1 billion transformation of the neighborhood around FedExForum.
Davis said he'd relocate to Memphis and has no intention of moving the team..."I'm coming here to be here for the rest of my life," Davis said.
Davis is managing partner of Blue Devil Ventures, a Durham, N.C.-based development firm that specializes, its Web site says, in adaptive reuse of historic urban properties. He said projects extend from Durham to Baltimore and Philadelphia. He said development around FedExForum could include upscale commercial space, hotels, and condominiums.
As I previously posted that things are changing, perspectives are being altered and expectations are morphing, let me clarify what that is meaning for me.
I am in no way feeling discouraged, dismayed, disallusioned nor despairing. Quite the opposite, I'm in a place of real encouragement and ready to move on to the next thing, whatever Yahweh wants that to be. I recognize that I am deep into a spiritual war and it costs us all the time. I'm not going to sit around and wallow about the world and focus on the pain. I'm wanting to connect with the One who reigns over a Kingdom that is unshaken. I am no longer satisfied with my talk of Kingdom unless I apply it to every dark corner of my life. If it is Truth, then I want it to reign in the places that darkness and selfishness has only lived. And as I have been applying this, I am finding new freedom. With new freedom comes fresh faith. With new faith comes courage to fight this war. I recognize that I live in brokenness but I am calling to hope.
Wake up, Deadman! On the day that our brother, Chad Canipe, passed over to Kingdom, a few of us stood over his body in intensive care and had a few moments. This happening while 100 miles north, Palmer was in intensive care fighting for his life. I will never forget that moment, a tremendous realization of being a warrior in a war that was well beyond us. At some point in our initial grief, Mike Bishop said something to the sort of, "well, we're not just hanging out anymore." And that's the stuff that I'm talking about.
If emerging church is just a means for being angry at modern church, an excuse for being broken with only our vices to dull our pain, community for "hanging out" instead of for deep transformation and missional living . . . then I'm not sure that is church in the orthodox or historical sense. But if all of that happened and existed so that we could move towards being church . . . then let's get on with that. The stakes are too high to give up now. I don't care about church models, I care about hope and life lived out in Kingdom communities for the sake of Christ in this world.
I want to press on for more of God and more of His transforming power amongst us. Nothing less is permissable. Discouraged? hardly. If this be War, so let it be. I'm sharpening my sword for I have pitched a tent in enemy territory. Subversive revolutionaries, that's just daily reality for those that follow Jesus.
Monday, October 02, 2006
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
Earlier today I posted an article about social justice as well as an article about the Christian's response to global warming. A few thoughts on each...
I admit that I'm still pretty ignorant about global warming. We started recycling when we moved to the bay area, and over the next few years began using less plastic and paper products. I guess those are pretty decent first steps, but I feel like we can do more. We are called to cultivate the earth, have dominion over the things that God has created, and use the resources that God has given us for His purposes (Gen. 1:28). I'm learning that there is a lot of responsibility with this, and I don't want to do anything that is going to jeopardize Adam's future, as well as his children's future.
As to other social justice issues, Jesus said that the second greatest commandment was to love your neighbor as yourself. For many in the western church, meeting social needs is nothing new. I think the real awareness comes with the global needs. We in the United States really have no idea how blessed and fortunate we are, especially compared to people in other parts of the world. I believe that there is great responsibility with this. We need to continue to become aware of the problems in the world, and we need to do our part to do something about them. This involves faith, work, and creativity. In the above verse, we must ask the question, "Who is our neighbor?" We have determined that our neighbor is the one who lives across the street as well as the one who lives across the world.
The photo in Vanity Fair's "Green Issue" is the best place to start. It shows just how far Richard Cizik will go to shatter stereotypes about evangelicals, defy the organization he represents, and spread his newfound environmental gospel. Cizik (make that Reverend Cizik, pronounced "size-ik") is the Washington lobbyist for the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), the largest such group in the country, representing 45,000 churches and 30 million church-goers. But here he is, pictured in a magazine that had just put two actresses on the cover who were as naked as Eve. A magazine whose editor routinely rips on George W. Bush, the Evangelical in Chief. A magazine with enough harlotry and pride in its pages to fill a special circle in hell.
In February, Cizik and Ball kicked off a groundbreaking campaign to convince evangelicals that the fight against global warming is their Christian duty. At a press conference in Washington, DC, the Evangelical Climate Initiative (ECI) spelled out its biblical underpinnings and called for reducing fossil-fuel use and passing tougher environmental laws to help prevent catastrophic droughts and flooding. Although those suggestions were hardly radical, the event made national headlines: Cizik and Ball had persuaded 86 evangelical leaders to sign on--pastors of megachurches, evangelical college presidents, the head of the Salvation Army, even Rick Warren, author of the best-seller The Purpose-Driven Life. The ECI also ran full-page ads in The New York Times, Roll Call, and Christianity Today, along with radio and TV ads on Christian and Fox stations in 15 states with key congressional campaigns this year.
Cizik has heard all the objections. He rejects them. "We're on a collision course of monumental proportion," he says. "Twenty million to 30 million people could be victims. As evangelicals we can't just ignore it and hope it goes away." According to polls commissioned by the ECI, 70% of 1,000 evangelical respondents believe climate change is a threat to future generations. Half believe something should be done now, even if that causes economic fallout. "There's a leadership transition under way," says Cizik. "We are the future, and the old guard is reaching up to grasp its authority back, like in a horror movie where a hand comes out of the grave."
Pop Justice: Is social action the latest church trend?
What do a pastor, a politician, and a pop star have in common? Until recently, not much. But Bono, lead singer of the band U2, has managed to unite these unlikely groups around the issue of social justice. As a self-appointed ambassador for the poor, Bono has helped the evangelical church in America become more sensitive to those in need around the world and awakened our marginalized, or in some places forgotten, call to seek justice. But, is the new focus on social justice just another pop-Christian trend? This week Dan Kimball, pastor of Vintage Faith Church in Santa Cruz, California, ponders that question.
I had a very, very haunting conversation with a good friend who is a pastor at a church in southern California. We hadn't seen each other for awhile and as we were catching up he was excited about a ministry he was starting with used clothing stores where all the profit goes to orphanages. My friend has had social justice and compassion ministries as major part of his church ethos since it began many years ago, definitely in the PB (pre-Bono) dispensation.
As he was showing me photos of his latest venture with the clothing stores he stopped and said, almost with embarrassment, "This sounds really trendy, doesn't it?” What was haunting to me and what I have thought about since the conversation I had with my friend, is what if it is true? What if social justice and compassion projects are simply the latest trend?
In recent years many churches have become involved in social justice issues, or at least talking about it. Saddleback and Willow Creek have both jumped onboard very strongly, including being a global voice for AIDS. I rarely ever go to a Christian concert, but during the last two I attended videos were shown of the band members in Africa talking about helping with Compassion International and the Invisible Children. And lately it seems at every leaders now bring attention to some international compassion or social justice project they are supporting. This is all so wonderful and must please Jesus so incredibly much.
Bono has certainly caused us all to really evaluate the "sleeping giant" (what he called the church several years ago) and how the church was ignoring the poverty, injustice, and AIDS crisis. He recently said the church has woken up and has now taken notice. But, will it last or will it fade like every other trend?
My friend’s comment got me thinking because over the years I have seen the church get excited about "small groups", or about being "seeker sensitive," or "Vineyard worship music" and other various bandwagons the church jumps on for a season. And there have been many other trends that I wasn’t a part of like cell churches, or using the baseball diamond for assimilation, or the breakouts of laughing in the Spirit by certain types of churches, or radio preaching, or whatever it may be. Whatever the trend the routine is the same. First there is excitement, then early innovators adopt them (maybe not the laughing in the Spirit), then in time most churches may do it. But eventually, it passes and we wait for the next “new” thing.
I keep wondering if all the attention the church at large is now rightfully and biblically giving to social justice could fade through time. Will we still see Christian bands showing videos of themselves in Africa five years from now? Will conferences spend time promoting compassion ministries and AIDS awareness five or ten years in the future? Will all the pastors and church leaders who today are such strong voices justice to the people in their churches still maintain that voice in the years ahead?
Of course, even if for some Christians and churches it is only a short-term trend even doing something short while still helps people and is greatly needed. So, I don't want to dismiss those who jump in while the conversation is prominent, as any help is very, very welcomed. But it seems horribly sad if this rising interest in justice is only-short term. I hope that is avoided, and the rising interest in compassion for the poor, AIDS, and caring for those with needs locally will not simply be a "trend.” Hopefully it won’t fade away, but instead we will come to see it as central to what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. I guess time will tell.
Friday, September 22, 2006
This site, which is associated with North Point Community Church in Atlanta, has a monthly podcast featuring interviews with people such as Eugene Petersen, Andy Stanley, Rob Bell, etc.
I think I've listened to just about all of them. The last two interviews were with Louie Giglio and Chris Seay. They're defiinitely worth listening to.
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
- Prices disconnected from fundamentals. House prices are far beyond any historically known relationship to rents or salaries. Rents are less than half of mortgage payments. Salaries cannot cover mortgages except in the very short term, by using adjustable interest-only loans.
- Interest rates going back up. When rates go from 5% to 7%, that's a 40% increase in the amount of interest a buyer has to pay. House prices must drop proportionately to compensate.
82% of recent Bay Area loans are adjustable, not fixed. This means a big hit to the finances of many owners every time interest rates go up, and this will only get worse as more adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs) get adjusted upward. Nationally, about $2 trillion of ARMS will adjust their rates to much higher levels this year and next.
- A flood of risky adjustable rate "home equity loans". Just like the bad primary ARM loans, these loans do not have fixed interest rates. When the interest rate adjusts upward, it can double monthly payments, forcing owners to sell.
- Massive job loss. More than 300,000 jobs are gone from Bay Area since the dot-com bubble popped. This is the worst percentage job loss in the last 60 years. It's worse than Detroit car problems or Houston's oil bust. People without jobs do not buy houses and owners without jobs may lose the house they are in. Even the threat of losing a job inhibits house purchases. Santa Clara County posted its fourth straight year of job losses in 2005, so it's not over yet.
Facing the world's five giants!
by Rick and Kay Warren
The world is full of problems. Some are small and some are huge. As Kay and I considered the problems facing the world today, we concluded there are five giants -- five pervasive problems that affect billions of people.
These are the ones we want to tackle, believing God gets the most glory when we attack the biggest giants. These problems are so huge that they can only be addressed with total dependence on God and with all of us -- your congregation and mine, Christians all around the world -- working together to confront them.
Here are the giant problems, as we see them:
1. The first global giant is spiritual darkness.
Here’s a startling truth: Billions of people have never even heard the name of Jesus Christ. Three thousand distinct people groups around our world wouldn’t even know the name of Jesus if they heard it.
“Who is that?” they’d ask. “What’s so significant about that name?”
These people know nothing about Jesus or about God. If you were one of those who had never heard the name of Jesus, wouldn’t you want somebody to come tell you about our Savior, our Lord? The Bible says in Romans 10:14 (NCV), “Before people can ask the Lord for help, they must believe in him; and before they can believe in him, they must hear about him; and for them to hear about the Lord, someone must tell them.”
The greatest giant in our world today is the fact that billions of people do not know Jesus Christ.
2. The second giant we want to tackle is the lack of servant leaders around the world.
Around the world, there are plenty of people in leadership who abuse their power. Many refuse to use their power for the good of their people -- instead they choose to use it for themselves. This has created chaos in the world.
Leaders must have moral basis. They must have wisdom. Proverbs 11:14 (NLT) says, “Without wise leadership, a nation falls.” Proverbs 16:12b (Msg) says, “Sound leadership has a moral foundation.” And Zechariah 10:2 (TEV) says, “People wander around like lost sheep. They are in trouble because they have no leader.”
In the developing world there are 2.1 million pastors and church leaders. Of those, 1.9 million have never had any training at all. Not only have these leaders not gone to seminary or Bible school, they haven’t even gone to high school or primary school. They have no training whatsoever -- and yet they lead the church. This must be remedied.
3. The third giant we’re going after is poverty.
More than half of the world -- that’s three billion people -- live on less than two dollars a day. One-sixth of the world’s population lives in slums. Those are heart-breaking statistics. Proverbs 28:7 (NIV) says, “The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern.”
It’s easy to live in a bubble and think the rest of the world lives like we do. When we go about our daily lives forgetting how most of the world lives, we tend to judge people for being poor. Job 12:5 (GW) says, “A person who has an easy life [that would be you and me] has no appreciation for misfortune. He thinks it is the fate of those who slip up.”
Tell that to the parents of 10 million little girls who’ve been sold into prostitution in Southeast Asia. Their families exist in such grinding poverty they see no other way to feed their families than to sell their little girls into prostitution. It’s a horrible existence.
4. The fourth giant we want to attack is disease.
Billions suffer the effects of famine and drought. They are homeless, hungry, and helpless. They’re ill. We can do something about that.
Psalm 38:6-11 (GW) says, “I am bent over and bowed down very low. ... My insides are filled with burning pain, and no healthy spot is left on my body. I am numb and completely devastated. ... I’ve lost my strength. Even the light of my eyes has left me. My loved ones and my friends keep their distance and my relatives stand far away because of my sickness.”
We have seen the effects of poverty as we've traveled. We’ve seen the effects of people with HIV/AIDS. The stigma is enormous. People are abandoned by their own families. Their bodies slowly waste away from opportunistic infections. As Christians we cannot ignore these people.
Ezekiel 34:4 (TEV) says, “You have not taken care of the weak ones, healed the ones that are sick, bandaged the ones that are hurt, brought back the ones that wandered off, or looked for the ones that were lost. Instead, you treated them cruelly.”
5. The fifth giant we want to tackle is ignorance.
Over half the world is still illiterate. How can a country grow and be strong economically when its citizens can’t read, can’t write, and don’t know the fundamentals of math and science that we take for granted? It’s no wonder these countries aren’t strong. Hosea 4:6 (NIV) says, “My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge.” There’s a desperate need for teachers and schools and materials to help people grow.
These five giants can be toppled. We can make a difference. In a future issue, we'll talk about why the church is the perfect tool for toppling giants.
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Here's the link.
UPDATE: Here's another link like this one.
Friday, September 15, 2006
Missional Church, edited by Darrel Guder
I read this a week or so after I finished seminary. I had actually been trying to make my way through it during the three years I was attending seminary, but I never made it. I guess it was a timing issue. The premise is that we in North America need to begin looking at North America as a mission field.
The Shaping of Things to Come, by Michael Frost & Alan Hirsch
I read this one in a couple of days. It is one of the most refreshing books I've read in a long time. The subtitle says it all: "Innovation and Mission for the 21st Century." Here is chapter one if you'd like to read it.
Resident Aliens, by Stanley Hauerwas & William H. Willimon
We Christians here in North America no longer have some of the cultural sway that we once had. We are no longer the majority. Instead, as "aliens and strangers," we as the church discover a new kind of power that only Jesus can give.
Call to Commitment, by Elizabeth O'Connor
This book tells the story of The Church of the Saviour, which started in Washington, DC shortly after World War II. All of the books about this church are worth reading. We talk a lot about the Upward, Inward, and Outward Journeys. I first heard about these from this church.
Planting Missional Churches, by Ed Stetzer
This book covers some theory, but also gets into a lot of the nuts and bolts of church planting. If you can only get one book that covers a little bit of everything, this might be your best bet.
Confessions of a Reformission Rev, by Mark Driscoll
This is the story of Mars Hill, a great church out of Seattle. They started with just a handful of people a little over a decade ago, and now have over 4000 people, and the amazing thing is that they have seen this happen in one of the most post-modern and post-christian cities in the country. He's a funny man, but he'll make you blush at times as well - so be warned.
The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church, by Roland Allen
I first read this book in a church planting class in seminary. This was another book that I read in a couple of days; and, yes, another very refreshing book at the time I read it. He was a missionary to China in the early 1900's. One of the things that most impacted me about this book was his insistence that getting out of the way and allowing God to do what He wants to do is often one of the hardest things to do for a pastor or missionary.
The Celtic Way of Evangelism, by George Hunter
In this book Hunter compares the Celtic way of evangelism with the Roman way of evangelism, which has often resembled some of our methods. He describes the Celtic way as a very organic, holistic and missional approach.
More Ready Than You Realize, by Brian McLaren
I grew up being very afraid of evangelism. This was one of the first books I ever read that made me rethink evangelism. It caused me to go to the gospels to see how Jesus evangelized, and I came to understand that many of his "methods" would have caused a great deal of controversy for us today. This was very freeing to me.
A Theology as Big as the City, by Ray Bakke
I'm actually only about a quarter of the way through this book. I feel called to the city, and feel like I need to understand more before I am able to minister effectively. Bakke takes the reader through the entire Bible, starting with the Genesis account and ending with Revelation, and through that process extracts God's heart and plans for cities.
Church Planting Manual, by Timothy Keller & J. Allen Thompson
I haven't started this yet, but I've been told that it's one of the best resources for a church planter. I've just become aware of Tim Keller (Redeemer Presbyterian Church in NYC), and have pretty much been blown away by everything I've heard.
Monday, September 04, 2006
That night we went to see Mandy's college roommate, Samantha. Emily, one of Mandy's other roommates, and her husband Matt, were there as well. It was a quick visit. Sunday morning we were back at Leslie's, but Addie Mae, still on China time, was asleep. We ended our time at Shane and Steve's house. Shane and Steve were friends of ours from the Church@Hickory Hollow. They now have three kids. Bryan and Liesl Dunlap were there with their two kids, as was Michelle Mattox. It was so good to be with all of them. I'm grateful that we will be able to see them more frequently now.
We got home around 7:30, put Adam to bed, and were asleep by 9:00. We were all drained, and Mandy and I were both fighting colds, or allegies, or a little of both. Adam was a trooper through it all. He's such a great little kid.
It was great seeing so many people, but I think we'll try to spread our trips out a little more from now on.
Thursday, August 24, 2006
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
With a Matt Damon smile, short-sleeve button-up shirts — no tie — and an aw-shucks demeanor, Platt seems to put an audience at ease, then stuns them with his apparent near-memorization of the New Testament.
"He has such a command of the Word of God and love for it," Herndon said. "You forget how old he is; he's not speaking from experience, he's speaking from the Word of God. He disarms the audience with his youthful presence and casual manner, sets people at ease, then he starts teaching, and you get engaged. When he speaks, he's confident of what he's saying."
Platt can recite long Scripture passages from memory and moves from one precise biblical reference to another to back up his points, which focus heavily on evangelism and world missions.
"I want my preaching to be saturated with the Word of God," Platt said. "We have to know Christ, know him well and know his word."
In sermons, Platt draws on his travels to Indonesia, where he has led pastors' conferences, taught seminary courses and visited earthquake survivors. He's also visited Sudan, China and India. He and his wife plan to go to Kazakhstan to adopt a child this year.
"The Christian life is not to be lived in seclusion from the rest of the world, it's to be lived in the middle of the world," Platt said. "My mission is to make disciples of all nations and mobilize other people to do the same."
Herndon, 55, said older ministers on the staff have embraced Platt's leadership, which often takes off in unexpected directions.
In concluding a recent sermon, Platt made what seemed to be a spontaneous call for donations to build houses for earthquake victims in Indonesia. He asked those who would give over their usual offerings to step forward at the two morning services in the 2,100-seat sanctuary.
The congregation gave $110,000 to build bamboo huts with tin roofs for Indonesian villagers ravaged by a massive earthquake.
"We did not expect this kind of response," Herndon said. "We can almost build a village now."
Friday, August 11, 2006
Thursday, August 10, 2006
Monday, July 31, 2006
Jason and I had thought about going to the Willow Creek Leadership Summit next week. It's pretty expensive, and you're really just watching a video. We thought it would make more sense to get the DVD's when they came out. However, today I got an email from the Church Planter's Network that Hope Pres sponsors. They had ten tickets to give away. I got us two tickets.
A week or so ago I signed up for a new phone service - SunRocket. It's like Vonage, only a MUCH better deal. The promotion was, sign up for a year for $199, get three months free. (You get two lines with this deal). So I signed up. Yesterday I hooked everything up. So far I've been very pleased. Today I was at work. I was telling my friend Camille about SunRocket, and went to the website to show her a few things. They had a new promotion - 2 years for $199. You can imagine that I was a little frustrated. I decided to call. I was on hold for close to ten minutes, but I used that time to get my ammunition ready. Fortunately for them, I didn't have to use that ammunition. They gave me the new promotion price!
Today was a good day.
Oh yeah...if you want to get SunRocket, please give them my info. I get free stuff.
Phone Number: 901-881-7724
Email address: email@example.com
Saturday, July 29, 2006
My first thought is that I'm extremely grateful that I have always had everything I need. My last minimum wage job was when I first moved to Nashville, right out of college. I lived with three other guys in a church-owned home, so rent wasn't much. I also had my parents helping me a little. It wasn't a stressful situation. I don't know what it's like to not have what I need. The sad thing is that here in the U.S., many people know exactly what this is like. One out of every eight children under the age of twelve goes to bed hungry every night. But that's nothing compared to children in other parts of the world. Every year 15 million children die of hunger. (These statistics can be found here).
One of the most touching parts of the episode was when they heard about a church-sponsored store called "The Free Store." They were able to get blankets, furniture, dishes, etc. - all for free. They were blown away by the goodness and generosity they experienced. Alex later commented that it made her realize that humanity can be so good, and that the world isn't that bad of a place.
I continue to be faced with the question, "So what is my role in all of this?" Or, as a community of Christ-followers, "What is our role in this?" Over the next few weeks my goal is to put to paper (or to blog) some of my questions and thoughts relating to this issue.
Friday, July 28, 2006
As I said, things have been pretty hectic. Jason and Barb arrived in Memphis a few weeks ago. It's GREAT to have them here. I'll write more on that later. I have about two more months at my accounting job. The corporate office is relocating to Des Moines, so we're being laid off. A severance package is involved, so it's not that bad. My plan is to stay through the transition, but it's getting more complicated now that others are leaving.
I applied for the executive director position for the Cooper-Young Association around a month ago. I had no idea if I was qualified for the job. I didn't get it, but I was the runner-up, for whatever that's worth. Actually, it's worth a lot. I had two interviews with the board officers, which was great. I also got an invitation to join the board soon.
Adam is doing great. I'll post pictures soon! He is such a fun little boy. I love spending time with him. He is truly a gift from God.
Mandy just landed a great part-time job in a Memphis City school. She is going to be co-teaching with a lady who could be a great mentor for her. She also just found out that she's eligible for benefits!
I've been reading a lot lately. I think part of the reason I've been frustrated with not blogging is that I've been doing a lot of intaking, but haven't taken the time to reflect (which often comes through writing). I just finished up Rob Bell's Velvet Elvis. Great read! I've also gotten into Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan. I heard a sermon from a conference at Mars Hill, and, though it was the first time I had ever heard or read anything by him, I felt like I had been reading him for a long time. I finally realized the reason: many of the people who have influenced me have been influenced by him. Mandy and I are reading Blue Like Jazz, by Donald Miller. It's very refreshing.
I think I'll stop now. More to come soon - I promise.
Monday, July 03, 2006
Thursday, June 15, 2006
So here's where I've been lately...
First a little background...
After I finished seminary Mandy and I moved to San Leandro, CA. A few months after we moved there, we had the opportunity to go to a meeting of young nonprofit leaders. I was deeply encouraged by what I saw there. The passions and visions I heard about were just awesome. I left that night feeling like much of what God wanted me to do was somehow connected with this "people group." As you can imagine, there are many like this in the bay area. In fact, most know that the bay area has fewer churches than almost anywhere in the U.S. What they don't know, however, is that the bay area also has more nonprofits than just about anywhere in the U.S. At least I was shocked by that. The more I listened to this group's passions and visions, the more I realized that I had so much to learn. Specifically, I began to be convicted that I knew little about the world. My heart would not begin to hurt for the things that hurt God until I first educated myself. At the same time, I felt bad for many of these young nonprofit leaders. Last October Jason and I went to the Craigslist Nonprofit Bootcamp in S.F. Again, there was a great deal of activism and passion. However, I also saw a lack of power and authority. There was so much activisim and desire to see change, but where was the power to see true change? Here's the frustrating part. The church, through Jesus, has this power. However, we often don't use this power, in part because we lack the passion and activism.
This is why I've been drawn to Christians and churches who are not content to simply be blessed, middle-class, white American Christians. They are like Rick Warren and Saddleback, who are tackling the AIDS epidemic both here and in places like Rwanda. Or they are like Blood Water Mission. I first learned about them through Donald Miller. They are working to build 1000 wells in 1000 African communities, believing that clean water will go very far in helping to bring about an end to AIDS.
This journey has now led us to Cooper-Young. We continue to be drawn to people whose desire is to see our world changed for the better. On Tuesday night we went to the neighborhood association meeting. The topic for the evening was safety, and Inspector Mark Collins of the Memphis Police Department was the guest speaker. Some people wanted the police to do more. However, others wanted to step up and be part of the solution. They wanted to do something to help.
Let me bring some of this to a conclusion, since it's beginning to be a long post. I believe that Jesus is concerned about the world. He is concerned about the poor, the dying, the neglected, and the marginalized. His Church is his method for doing something about these problems. As his Father sent him, so he has sent us. Many of these young nonprofit leaders have never seen the Jesus who is concerned with the things that they are concerned about. The sad thing is that we're often what is keeping them from seeing this Jesus. We at times haven't done a very good job in representing him. But what would happen if people began to see this Jesus? What if they saw him through us? For that to happen, we have to educate ourselves. We have to ask God to break our hearts over the things that break his. We have to get our hands dirty. Then we simply get to watch God do what only he can do.
I just heard a message by Ed Stetzer. He made a statement that I thought was very key, and that I'll attempt to sumarize (and add to a little) as best as I can.
People in your culture are asking questions that the Gospel has answers for. The task of the missional church is to discover what these questions are, and then to proclaim those answers through both word and deed.
In my culture/community one of the major questions is, "how do we make this neighborhood a safer and better place?" Does the Gospel of Jesus have an answer for this question? I believe it does. How would a new community of Christ-followers here in Cooper-Young respond to this?