October 31, 2006

Way Too Important!

Seth Godin, while talking about marketing, destroys the typical conception of marketing. This article reminds us that the message of salvation in Jesus Christ is too important to reduce to marketing plan and wait for professionals to get the word out.

The best way to reach people for Jesus Christ is for one person to tell their friends; it means having a church and mission so exciting that people want to tell others about it. This is one of the things that happens at my church. It is such a great place to be that you want to tell others about it. You know you won't be embarrassed by what happens when people get there.

When I was a teenager, I started attending a church that actually HAD a youth group. I still attended the "other" church with my grandmother occasionally. Once I decided to take some friends from my new church to the "other" church. To be honest, this was a rather sadistic move on my part. I knew that all the new visitors were expected to come to the front of the sanctuary to pick a pencil out of the box. Not only did they get a spiffy new pencil, but they got embarrassment to go along with it. Neither of them held it against me too much because I married one and have coffee with the other almost weekly. But, it certainly was funny.

I think back to some of the churches that I attended. It is no wonder they couldn't reach people because they weren't doing anything exciting enough for people to want to tell others about. The church plant I pastored excited some people, but most of them, because they were attending out of denominational loyalty and not vision alignment, didn't tell very many people about the church. (I don't think they had many friends outside the church anyway).

Marketing is organic and grassroots. It must start with an excitement about who (Jesus) and what (changing the world and serving others), and then move to the common, every-day-person telling others.

Thaumaturgus


Gregory Thaumaturgus is probably not a name that rings a bell for most of us. In fact, he received nothing more than a single sentence in Justo Gonzalez's The Story of Christianity. But he is a very important Saint??? to those of us who desire to actually reach the lost world for Jesus Christ and do it in a way that speaks the world's language without changing our message.

Gary Lamb and Dan Richardson have both posted about their Halloween experiences, and I think many more planters and pastors will over the next 24 hours. (What do you know I am adding one more...me!)

Two years ago, and another denomination ago, I was traveling to a certain "progressive" church in our denomination to do some workshops. I was passing out conference books to people as they entered the main session before heading off to the workshops. It was near the end of October, and I forgot that I was back in the Bible Belt. This lady walks up to me, hands full, and holds out her bag with both hands; much like a little child does when trick-or-treating. So I said, "Oh! Just like trick-or-treat."

Have you ever heard the expression, "If looks could kill"? That is exactly what happened next. Here was a woman who did not "celebrate" Halloween. (Though I bet she took her poor children to her little church's Hallelujah Party.

Gregory Thaumaturgus was one of the first Christian leaders to take a Missionary Approach to the holidays, festivals, and celebrations around him. He knew that people needed an alternative to what the world was offering, BUT he knew they needed a GOOD alternative. Gregory created rival festivals and celebrations that were meant to put the pagan celebrations to shame. His events were so well put together that pagans wanted to attend them more than they wanted to attend their own festivals.

Gregory didn't run from the pagan celebrations. He interacted and redeemed them. He believed, as do I, that Christ's redemption impacted more than just the personal soul of an individual. Christ's redemptive work goes beyond just personal salvation and redeems all of creation, time, and space. The pagan holidays, the pork of the Gentiles, everything is redeemed by Jesus' death and resurrection.

There are many who have taken the Gregory's missionary approach and substituted lousy, poor quality events for ones that parents and people could find better elsewhere. There is also the danger of dis-engaging from the world around and loosing the missionary focus of the event causing it to become nothing more than an "us 4 no more" "holier-than-thou" event.

After receiving the "die scum-bag" look from the woman, I returned home after the conference. I gathered up the bags of candy that my church had been collecting for weeks. Then, like we had planned to do all along, we went door to door at the local businesses and gave the workers all the candy they could eat. We called it reverse trick-or-treating. We went to those who were working and gave them candy because they couldn't take part in...are you ready for it?....Halloween!

Here is a list of other innovative outreach ideas.

October 30, 2006

Tired!!!


Yesterday was a long, long day. More than 15 hours of work from Sunday morning set-up to preparations for the Halloween Outreach to cleaning up from the outreach.

Funfest 4 was a blast! More than 3,500 people showed up for this one night event, and that was after we had to postpone from two days earlier because of rain. I managed the lines at the commuter parking area. There were more than 300 people who came through there and waited up to 45 minutes to ride a bus to the church campus.

This morning, my body reminded me that I am no longer in my 20's.

October 27, 2006

My Tongue is Killing Me!


I found this story at Newsweek. Who knew that piercing your tongue could cause so much pain? Duh!!!!

And then there is the story about the girl who almost died from her navel piercing, and her mother gets 2 1/2 years in jail for it.

Maybe my mom was right? If God wanted metal in our....He would have put it there.

October 26, 2006

Motivational Speaker


I just came across the blog of a motivational speaker who is 24 YEARS OLD!!!!

I am certainly not against listening to speakers who are young, nor do I believe that they can't teach me something simply because they are young. BUT!!! Come on...a motivational speaker...at 24!

Maybe this is a sign that I am getting old?

I certainly remember when I was 24 and thought I had all kinds of valuable information to unload on the world. I was wrong. I guess this guy just doesn't want to end up living in a van down by the river (for those of you who are SNL ignorant here is the link).

I wonder if someone in their 40's or 50's is reading my blog and thinking the same thing.

October 25, 2006

Lust

Christianity today has three (very) long posts.

Here is #1, #2, and #3

They are challenging, especially for a male, but they are well worth the read. I say that not because women do not have to deal with lust, but because lust seems to be a completely different beast when it comes to the male of the human species.

October 23, 2006

Prayer is Giving Up


Prayer is hard. and it is easily misunderstood. How many times has someone approached prayer as a way to get what they want? Too many.

But prayer is more than "getting our way;" prayer is the ultimate act of submission. When we pray, we are not saying, "God do it this way." No, we are saying, "God, I cannot do it on my own." Prayer is submitting to the will and direction of God the Father.

Check out this prayer resource here and here.

October 20, 2006

Learning to Read


Last year, in Kindergarten, my daughter began the long process of learning to read. The first few months of First Grade were challenging to her as she was pushed to read more and more. Lori or I would sit each night and listen to her as she struggled through several books (2 each night for practice).

But somewhere, somehow, she suddenly began reading very well. It is like it just clicked. She is reading more smoothly, and sounding out the words less often because she recognizes them.

This will, however, become a problem later on. At some point we become so familiar with the words that we forget to actually read what is being said. We have it in our minds what the person is saying, so we simply hear without listening.

Need an example?

Example #1 Preach a sermon. Following the sermon, someone will come up to you and say, "That was a great sermon! I liked when you said...." After listening for a few moments, you wonder whether you were listen to the same sermon because this person has gotten something out of the sermon that you never said.

Example #2 Write something. I have been reading the blog of Scott Adams, creator of the Dilbert cartoon. His blog is satirical and funny, but somehow that seems to be lost on the ignorant people who feel a need to point out that what he says is flawed. For instance when he said that all the knobs and buttons in a cockpit are simply to keep the male interest in technology appeased. His comment section was filled with people explaining the use and need of those buttons.

Example #3 State an opinion. There will be someone there to correct what they think you said, but you didn't really say.

Here is the thing. It is okay to disagree with someone, only if you ACTUALLY understand what they are saying and what they mean by what they are saying.

Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren wrote a wonderful book called How To Read a Book. When I first heard of the book, I thought I know how to read! The problem is that most people really don't. They have the mechanics down, but its the thinking part of reading that many people decide to forego.

Adler and Van Doren point out that there are 3 "readings" that must be done. The first reading concerns understanding the structure and purpose of the book. This reading requires the reader to discover what phrases the author uses and how he/she uses those phrases. The second reading involves understanding what the author is saying. This requires the read to construct the "argument" or opinion of the author. The third reading is one of critic (not meaning negative). Once the author's opinion and propositions are understood, then, and only then, can the reader judge the value of the work.

While in seminary I had a wonderful professor who taught me a valuable lesson. Dr. Truesdale was committed to presenting the opinions and arguments of others with integrity. He had experienced teachers who presented "straw men" and then tore them down as though they had actually proven them wrong.

It demonstrates a lack of integrity when we respond or disagree with someone without fully understanding their side. This is where humility is also required. I have read many blogs and statements by people about certain aspects of another person that, while the critic thinks they have understood what is being said, was not what was actually said.

It is easy to misunderstand someone. The English language is vast, difficult, and cumbersome at times. It is also impossible to describe every aspect of something; completeness takes time and often more space than is allowed. The written word, via blog, letter, or article, lacks context and "body language" (which is 90% of our communication). Humility and integrity are truly our best options.

My Dream Vacation

I just found my dream vacation!

This place looks amazing; a place for writers and readers. I would be in heaven. I would, however, have to leave my family behind as my wife couldn't stand the place my daughter would read too loudly.

October 19, 2006

5 Things learned from Celebration of Discipline


I just finished reading Richard Foster's Celebration of Discipline for the second time. This book, along with Thomas Merton's Seven Storey Mountain, was instrumental in changing my life and ministry.

Here are somethings I learned (again?):

1. I am far from finished. Those who know me, know this is very true.

2. I want so much more. Every time I read this book, I am re-convinced that God has so much more available than I am taking advantage of on my journey. I also realize that my lack is not God's fault. I am responsible to be in the place where God gives His grace. I always think of Paul's use of sporting metaphors. We are training. We are preparing. We are growing stronger.

3. I realize that it is all about God. It is not my effort that causes me to grow. I must show up. I must use the disciplines that God has given, but God is the one who gives the grace and deepens me spiritually.

4. I also realized that my pursuit of God and Christlikeness is the priority. This is not self-seeking or egotistical, but simply a recognition that God has called me to be an example of the life he desires. I am fallible, but that too is an example to others. I need to be giving the best me I can give. This takes place through simple, but rigorous obedience to His commands.

5. I also re-discovered "conviction." We don't speak of that word much because of the negative connotations of guilt. But God-inspired guilt is really what conviction is all about, and without it there is no access to forgiveness. We realize we are in the wrong, need to change, are helpless to do anything on our own, and so we accept all that God has and does for us.

This is probably not a point, but I also decided that this book should be a must-read for anyone entering the ministry, and should be at least an every-other-year read for me.

October 16, 2006

What Would They Put in Your Coffin?


There is an interesting line in the movie Castaway. Tom Hanks has escaped the island, and is seated on an airplane with a friend. They are talking about how life has moved on in the four years since the plane went down. The friend says, "We had a funeral with a coffin and everything!" Tom Hanks's character says, "A coffin? What was in it?" The friend said that they put a pager (because Tom's character always carried a pager), and several other things that represented his life.

When I was in Junior High, I had to take part in that activity that Adam and Eve probably had to do (shortly after eating from the tree)--I had to write out the epitaph for our headstone. This is probably a similar activity.

After watching Castaway, I got to thinking about what they would put in my coffin. I haven't really come to any conclusions. I don't know what people would put in my coffin, or even what they would say about me.

What do you think they would put in your coffin?

October 14, 2006

Great Idea!

Scott Adams at Dilbert Blog has a great post about Great Ideas. He says that most people can tell the difference between a "good" idea and a "bad" idea rather quickly. But practically nobody can tell the difference between a "Great" idea and "bad" idea until the great idea works.

Great ideas and Bad ideas both look crazy until the Great idea works.

October 12, 2006

Fruitless Ministry

For six years I worked at planting a church outside of Kansas City. For six years, we never went above 40 in regular attendance; most of the time we never went above 30. Those six years were some of the hardest years of my life so far. There was unbelievable personal hardship and stress. There was complete lack of numerical growth despite the fact that we reached out in new, creative, impactful ways to our community. Personally God forced me to face some tough issues, grow in my faith, and learn some hard lessons while I was there.

I remember sitting in church/pastors conferences and meetings and hearing how the "leader gets the church that reflects them." That certainly didn't help matters. That meant that as a leader, church planter, and pastor--I sucked!

For two of the six years, I struggled through a dark depression that crippled me emotionally, spiritually, and any other way imaginable. I sat literally at the end of my rope. I told God that I no longer wanted to be a pastor, I no longer wanted to be a church planter, and I wasn't sure I even wanted to be a follower any more. (Good thing God is a big boy and can handle my rants.)

The problem was that I had no where else to go. Where could I go? What could I run to other than God? There was nothing. I knew this because I had tried most of it before my conversion. Anything I hadn't tried, it didn't take a genius to know wouldn't have any different results from the stuff I had tried.

I learned many things during that time of my life; not that I am no longer learning some tough lessons. But those times were very tough, and they were very dark. Looking back, I know that God was there because those times have taught me so much. I learned that my relationship with God is first and foremost above the ministry I lead. My focus and priority must be on God and bringing all the glory to Him. I have to be the best follower/apprentice I can be. I think God often uses the "fruitless" times in our lives to remind us that using all the best methods will not bring glory to God nor will they "grow" a ministry; only God can grow a ministry.

Ben Arment has a great post on his blog about Fruitless Ministry and the Mysteriousness of Jeremiah's call.

October 10, 2006

Women in Ministry

I got two comments on yesterday's post about being in church leadership. Anyone who knows me, knows that I believe woman can pastor a church if they are qualified and God has called them do it.
But, like the original blogger who posted the article says in a follow-up post, this passage was taken from The Message and thus goes back to Paul writing to Timothy. The language was and is masculine in the biblical text.

However, I don't think that in any way disqualifies its application to women. I can read the book of Ruth and and Esther and other stories of women from the Bible and learn a great deal from them.

Does that get me off the hook Shawna and Ronni?

October 9, 2006

In Memory


Very few people outside of Kansas City (or sports junkies) have probably ever heard of Buck O'Neil. Buck played with Satchel Paige, against Babe Ruth, and saw many other baseball greats. He was part of the Negro Leagues.

I heard Buck O'Neil speak a few years ago at a Pastor's Christmas banquet. He was witty and spry; not at all hindered by 92 years of age. I only hope to be half as active when I am that age.

Buck was a great man. He missed induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame by 1 vote (which is outrageous). His work in the field of baseball and civil rights is outstanding.

He will alway be remembered.

Church Leadership

Todd at Monday Morning Insights has a good article about Church Leadership. The list is based off Eugene Peterson's paraphrase of 1 Timothy 3.

A leader must be...

1. well-thought-of
Are there people in your church right now that you need to clear the air with? Are there people you are trying to lead who don't think well of you? How can you make it right this week?

2. committed to his wife
How close is your relationship? Sure, you may feel totally committed to your wife, but does she know that? Do whatever you need to this week to make your spouse feel vibrant and a useful part of your ministry.

3. cool and collected
Have you blown your temper lately? Have you held a grudge? Again... is there someone you're trying to lead who you are ticked at? Pray for God's help to stay cool and collected even under pressure.

4. accessible
Is your office door open or closed right now? Are you accessible to your staff? to your church? to other pastors in your community? to those who oppose you?

5. hospitable
Are you friendly? Do people feel comfortable around you? How long has it been since you've opened your home to new people?

6. he must know what he's talking about
Are you well-researched? Do you really know what you're talking about, or do you do a good job 'snowing' people?

7. not be overfond of wine
Is this a temptation of yours? If so, watch out.

8. not pushy but gentle
Are you a leader or a manipulator? Are you motivational or abusive?

9. not thin-skinned
Are you sitting around this morning consumed by bad comments from yesterday? Think about the positive things that were accomplished yesterday. Truth be told, many more people were ministered to in a postive way than were upset about something that went wrong.

10. not money-hungry
Are you consumed and motivated by money?

11. handle his own affairs well
What personal affairs are in shambles? Take some time to do your best to get your personal affairs in good shape today so you can concentrate on ministry.

12. attentive to his own children and having their respect
Don't place your ministry over family. Spend some time with your kids today. Quality and Quanity.

13. must not be a new believer
Not much you can do here... hopefully you can check this one off your list!

14. outsiders must think well of him
What does your community think about you? Who cares, you ask? Evidently, it's important... because Paul stuck it in here. Make a list of things you could do to help people in your community have a good impression of you!

To the Over fond of Wine I would think of more than just wine. Are you over-fond of anything apart from God and His kingdom?

October 6, 2006

Forgiveness

I am learning a lot about forgiveness over the...well...my whole life. Over the past few weeks, there is a lot more added to it, that is not for this blog.

But I did want to draw attention to the Amish response to the murder of 5 children. They are offering forgiveness from the start.

"As we were standing next to the body of this 13-year-old girl, the grandfather was tutoring the young boys, he was making a point, just saying to the family, 'We must not think evil of this man,' " the Rev. Robert Schenck told CNN.

"It was one of the most touching things I have seen in 25 years of Christian ministry."

Later in the article: "I don't think there's anybody here that wants to do anything but forgive and not only reach out to those who have suffered a loss in that way but to reach out to the family of the man who committed these acts."

Tagged

My first tag.

The words I am supposed to respond to are: Cataclysmic- Tempting- Focus- Joy

Cataclysmic-At this moment in history, I would have to point to all the tragedy in the world. But out of that tragedy, we are seeing a wonderful example of God's ability to help people forgive.

Tempting-I think the greatest temptations, in need of overcoming, are the ones that deal with internal attitudes and thoughts.

Focus- What?

Joy-Serving. I get joy from giving things to people. I love to watch the person open the gift. That gives me joy.

October 4, 2006

Heresy of the Instantaneous

I read an article similar to this, a few months ago. In the other article it said that the average customer's wait was reduced by 30 seconds! 30 seconds! I can't remember a time where 30 seconds would have made a difference in my enjoyment of the restaurant. Maybe the fast food industry could invest a little bit more in developing the taste factor.

Assembly lines, fast food, solid state electronics, computer processors, and microwave ovens have all contributed a shortening of our wait times. This technology was supposed to ease the stress on our lives and give us sooooo much more time. In fact, it has done the opposite. We now expect everything to be done quickly and efficiently with little investment on our part.

This attitude has leaked into our spirituality as Christians. When it comes to spiritual growth, we want God to heal us, deliver us, release us, or whatever other term we use to signify that we want spiritual maturity and we want it now. Does God heal, deliver, release us instantaneously? Yes, but there is often something in the process of seeking and working that God uses to change us with His grace.

Often we seem to believe that if we can't get it instantaneously, then it is obviously not of God. God, for some reason, is not going to make us work for anything because He is a God of grace. I contend that God often makes us work because He is a God of Grace. What we get for free we often treat as though it has little value. Through the centuries, God has distributed His grace through the "acts of righteousness" and the spiritual disciplines and practices of the Church.

God definitely changes people instantaneously, but often, God uses the process and the work to give value and provide grace to the change. And often the "instantaneous" release of God is an attitude that needed to change, and then your homework is to work out the details of what that looks like through His continued grace and presence.

Personally, I prayed for years that God would give me a closer relationship with him, greater depth in my spiritual life, and more consistency in my time with Him. One day, I realized (through God's enlightenment) that in order to be more consistent in my time with Him I had to show up no matter what. So I began setting a time early in the morning and literally forcing myself out of bed. Even if I sat there in a groggy haze, I was there. You know what? God showed up. When I showed up, God showed up, and when God showed up my relationship with Him became closer and had more depth. I also discovered that consistency happened when I MADE myself show up to my time with God. It was an instantaneous insight that led to a lot of hard work on my part, but brought the outcome God desired in my life.

October 3, 2006

Preaching Quote

"There is something impure about preaching where truth has not passed through personality."

I found this quote interesting. I think it sums up why a pastor should do most of the work putting a sermon together.

October 2, 2006

In a Pit With a Lion


Today Mark Batterson's book hits the online shelf at Amazon.

Having read only the first chapter, I cannot give a proper review. But I can say that the book looks interesting. As Christians, we must face our fears, and follow God. Our current battles prepare us for what God has in the future.

Check out the book, and check out Mark Batterson's blog.