Thursday, October 26, 2006

Some links I've recently come across

Leadership Network - lots of good (and free) resources
Church Relevance
Christian Vision Project - tagline is "How can followers of Christ be a counterculture for the common good?" Great question!

Friday, October 20, 2006

Reflections on Mary

I have just started working my way through the New Testament. I'm using The Daily Bible. The New Testament begins on October 15 and goes through the end of the year. Today's reading was on the birth of John and Jesus. I've heard this story all of my life, and at times I've glazed over it because it's been too familiar. Rather than waiting until December, I've been excited to begin meditating on it now, in October.

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

Evolving Church Conference

Here are some good notes from this conference.

What happened in New England?

Mandy, Adam and I spent the last few days in New England. In the next couple of days I'll be posting pictures on my other blog.

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.

Catalyst - Day 2

OK, this is a little late coming, but Mandy, Adam and I have been out of town for a few days. Here are a few notes from day 2 of the Catalyst Conference. Jason and I ended up leaving after the second session and missed out on the last two.

If you'd like to read someone else's reflections on Catalyst, click here.

Session 5: Rick McKinley & Donald Miller

Rick McKinley is pastor of Imago Dei in Portland, OR. Donald Miller is the author of Blue Like Jazz and is a member of Imago Dei. This session was really just a laid back conversation between these two friends. A few things I came away with…

Imago has two values:

  1. Their primary identity is that of a sent people
  2. 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.”

Session 6: Louie Giglio

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

Catalyst - Day 1

We wrapped up day 1 of the Catalyst conference a couple of hours ago. While it's fresh, I wanted to jot some thoughts down.

Session 1: Andy Stanley

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 Babylon. The key verse is Daniel 4:25. Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar that his judgment (he would go insane and live outside with the animals) was due to the fact that he did not acknowledge that the "Most High God is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and sets over them anyone he wishes." Even though God's people were exiles in Babylon, this did not mean that God was off his throne. God would not allow His glory to be stolen even by a pagan king.

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.

Session 2: Marcus Buckingham

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):

Question 1
What percentage of a typical work day do you spend doing things you really like to do?

Question 2
Which do you think will help you be most successful: Improving my weaknesses or building my strengths?

Question 3
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?

Session 3: George Barna & John Maxwell

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 North Point Community Church. John agreed to meet with him every so often to ask him questions regarding leadership. Andy wanted to ask him some of these same questions…this time on our behalf.

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 1 to 10. He said that most people can increase their level no more than two points. Therefore, a 3, if he works very hard, might over time become a 5, but that is still pretty average. On the other hand, if he works on another skill set in which he is a 6, over time he could become an 8, which is a lot better than average.

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 5 or 6-level gift.

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.

Session 4: Gary Haugen

The final session of the day featured Gary Haugen, of International Justice Mission. I am familiar with them through our involvement with Hillside Church, who supported IJM. He began by saying that one of the saddest things in life is to realize you’ve been on a trip but have missed out on the adventure. He shared about a time when he was ten years old and was on a trip with his father and older brothers. They wanted to climb a mountain together, but because Gary was scared, he backed out and instead spent the day in the visitor’s center (not something you’d allow your ten-year old to do today).

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.

Thoughts from Rick McKinley's lab

We didn't attend this lab, but I found these thoughts about it online.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Catalyst Conference

Jason and I arrived in Atlanta tonight. We're here for the Catalyst Conference. We had a good drive, are both tired, and are looking forward to the conference. Some of the speakers: Andy Stanley, Louie Giglio, John Maxwell, John Stott, and Donald Miller. Should be pretty good.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Grizzlies changing ownership?

Former "Dukie" Brian Davis, along with Christian Laettner, and at least one "famous person", are getting set to buy the Memphis Grizzlies. Being a Duke fan, I can't think of anything better. Here are a couple of quotes from today's Commercial Appeal.

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.

A good post

This post is from Chris Marshall, a church planter in Cincinnati.

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

Chapter 1 - Reimagining Evangelism

A couple of months ago I posted a review of this book. Here's a pdf of chapter 1.