Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Outward Journey

I need to explain why I've been blogging so much on social justice issues. First, I feel like I'm playing catch-up on many of these issues. Global warming, AIDS, poverty, education, crime, etc were never really on my radar as a Christian, at least not until the last few years. I guess it actually began when we moved to the S.F. Bay Area. I was suddenly around many people who had never stepped foot in a church, yet had a great passion about these types of issues. As I began educating myself, I began to believe very strongly that God's heart was on many of these issues as well. Second, I began to understand that these issues could also be bridges to the Gospel. What was my response to someone who could care less about my church, but who was passionate about supplying orphans in Africa with safe drinking water? Now that I realized that God just might be passionate about supplying orphans in Africa with safe drinking water, I had an opportunity to introduce this God to my new friend.

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.

Should Christians be concerned with Global Warming?

This article comes from Fast Company. Here are some excerpts from the article, as well as a link to the entire article.

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."

Is social action the latest church trend?

This title comes from an article that Dan Kimball wrote for Leadership Journal's blog. I haven't really thought about this, and certainly pray that this will not be the case. Here's the article.

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

Link of the Day


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

Bay Area Housing Bubble

Here's an interesting article on the housing market in the bay area.


  1. 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.
  2. 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.

  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Read more

Facing the World's Five Giants

The following is an article from Rick Warren.

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

Seminary via IPOD

Many Christians wish that they could go to seminary, but just can't afford either the time it takes or the money. Covenant Seminary offers twenty-one of their MA classes for free. You can download pdf's of the notes and study guides, and download mp3's of the lectures. Or, you can subscibe to them as podcasts.

Here's the link.


UPDATE: Here's another link like this one.

Biblical Training

Friday, September 15, 2006

Robert's Top Ten (actually 11) church planting books

These are the books that have most influenced me when it comes to church planting.

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.

Recommended books for church planters

Resonate has compiled a list of several people's favorite books on the subject of church planting. I've read many of them, but I also added several to my amazon wish list.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Labor Day weekend

We had a very busy Labor Day weekend. Perhaps it has something to do with being in California the past six years, but we had four different invitations from people for this weekend. We spent Friday night at my dad's cabin on Pickwick Lake. There were twelve of us in all. We were there for less than 24 hours, then drove to the Nashville airport to meet Adam's new cousin, Addie Mae. Mandy's aunt and uncle spent the past two weeks in China in order to adopt Addie Mae, and they wanted the whole family at the airport when they arrived. It was awesome to see how so many people's lives have been changed by this little girl. I'll try to write more about Addie Mae sometime soon.

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.