Thursday, November 30, 2006

Web Site

Our site is up! Thanks to Lindsay for making it happen. Here's the link.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

The Top 50 Books That Have Shaped Evangelicals


IVP New Testament Commentary

The IVP New Testament Commentary is online. I've always liked this commentary set.

Monday, November 13, 2006


Yesterday was the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. Last night our church met and spent some time praying for our brothers and sisters throughout the world who are suffering for their faith in Jesus. I did a little reading on Saturday and discovered that over 200 million Christians are suffering from persecution. They define this persecution as being interrogated, arrested, tortured, or killed. I also read a story of a man who has faced persecution every day since he became a Christian. I realize that I'm in the exact opposite place. In all of my years of being a Christian, I've never truly experienced persecution. This obviously makes me question "Why?" The second question I have to ask myself is, "What am I now going to do with this knowledge?"

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.

Psalm 126

The reading from this morning's Celtic Daily Prayer was from Psalm 126. This psalm was most likely written sometime after King Cyrus of Persia allowed the Jewish people to return to their homes after being in exile for seventy years (see Ezra 1)

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.
Psalm 126:1-3

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Art of Evangelism

Some will read the title of this post and be immediately turned away. However, I think you'll be surprised at the author, as well as the content. It's the title of a post by Guy Kawasaki, author of The Art of the Start. He was an "evangelist" for Apple computers back in the 80's and 90's.

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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

Our trip to New England

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.

New England Holocaust Memorial

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.

National Community Church

I just heard about these guys. They are a church in Washington D.C., and are one of the most innovative churches I've come across in a long time. They are a multi-site church that meets in movie theaters throughout the city. I heard about them through the most recent Catalyst podcast. (By the way, I have to plug them again. If you haven't subcribed to this podcast you should. Here's the link to their podcast).

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.

Article by Gordon Cosby

Gordon Cosby started The Church of the Saviour in Washington, DC, in 1946. I first heard about this church about three years ago, and it has had a profound influence. Actually, it was through them that I first heard of the Inward and Outward Journeys. I felt that this was such a simple way of explaining the church.

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

Parable of the Sower

I've always been drawn to the story Jesus told about the farmer who was sowing seed for a crop. The story comes from Matthew 13. Jesus first tells the story in verses 1-9, then explains what it means in verses 18-23. The seed is usually explained as the Gospel or the Scriptures. In verse 23, Jesus refers to the seed as "the word." However, in verse 19 Jesus gives a more specific meaning. The seed refers to "the message of the Kingdom." What exactly is the message of the Kingdom? In my study Bible, I have a reference next to this verse. It points to Matthew 4:23 (Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people). A second reference is Mark 1:15 (The time has come. The Kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news). Dallas Willard paraphrases this verse from Mark:

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.

Halloween Party

Last night we hosted a Halloween party for toddlers. At Adam's age, Halloween is more for the parents than the kids. Parents want to show their kids off. We ended up having close to thirty people - eight kids in all. We had a pumpkin, a pig, a chicken, a duck, a cow, Jojo the clown, Eyor the donkey, and the Incredible Hulk. Quite a lineup, huh!

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.