Thinking Out Loud

February 10, 2014

U2Charist: Rock’ n Roll Communion

u2charist St Peters

On Saturday we attended our first U2charist: The music of Bono, The Edge and the rest of U2 combined with an Anglican (Episcopalian in the U.S.) communion liturgy. Two very different forces. Do they complement each other, or stand in stark contrast as opposing elements? I’m still not sure. You can read more about it at this Wikipedia page.

I believe part of the concept is to open up the Eucharist to the broader community; perhaps to attract lapsed Anglicans or former C. of E. (Church of England) members. I didn’t see a lot of that, though. Most of the people we saw seemed to be stalwart adherents of the host church. Many were retired. It was actually demographically awkward. My wife reminded me that U2 is a boomer band, but I still clung to the opinion that if only out of curiosity, members of the church’s youth group should have shown up.

We also spoke with a lot of people afterward who said they would have attended had they heard about it, though we did our best to put the word out. The church hired a U2 tribute band, and I must say that for their part, they played their role flawlessly, this being the first U2charist they’ve performed at.

I don’t quite understand why Anglicans can’t worship without the Eucharist. Maybe that’s a bit harsh. What I mean is that it always comes back to the same default. They do have Vespers (Evensong) and something called Compline, but for the most part, the church is very Roman Catholic about re-staging the mass on a rather constant basis. And unless you’ve taken a non-Christian to a high church service lately, the enactment of communion, the drinking of Christ’s blood, which we find rather normal, appears cultic or even pagan to the uninitiated.  Could you offer a broader community a “church” experience without the Eucharist? From an Episcopal perspective, maybe not.

Could you do a “rock” Eucharist with the modern music of a leading Christian worship leader such as Paul Baloche, David Crowder, Brian Doerksen or Chris Tomlin? Again, probably not since Anglicans don’t recognize those names at all, much less the wider populace.  Still, the ‘worship concert’ format — an oxymoron to some, I realize — is the Evangelical outreach format de jour.

Again, I think the band did a great job and the host church had good intentions. Some of the songs seem well-suited to the occasion. It was the demographics of the audience that failed for me; more effort should have been made to tap into and invite various segments of the community, rather than simply make an announcement and figure that the broader community would come to them.

January 7, 2014

How to be Rich is not a Book About How to be Rich

How To Be RichOn the one hand, in these televangelist-saturated, prosperity-gospel-promoting times, giving a book the title, How to Be Rich is probably the dumbest thing ever. On the other hand, for anyone familiar with the annual Be Rich campaign at North Point Community Church, the title is absolutely brilliant. In fact, once you get to know the program, and read the book, your church may want to be rich as well, though it is much easier to do as a new church start-up than it is to try to shift the paradigm of how your church presently does local ministry.

So first the title.  It’s taken from I Timothy:

NIV 6:17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.

Next the book. I enjoyed the book. I read it from cover to cover, some sections more than once. But the Be Rich campaign is the real star here, and if the publisher wants me to create some buzz for the book, a better course might be to create some buzz for what North Point does.

The book merely consists of material that author Andy Stanley (yes, I was going to get to that) presents each year as a set up for the campaign itself. It’s a reminder that we’re already rich. In an interview with Jonathan Merritt of Religion News Service, Andy was asked if this was a prosperity book:

It’s actually the opposite of the prosperity gospel. The prosperity message is “Give and it will be given unto you.” This message is, “It has already been given unto us. Now it is our turn to give.” I don’t need to give one to get 10. I live in the United State of America, so I already have my 10.

That interview however didn’t touch on enough of the history of the campaign for my liking, so let me try to fill in some details. In a nutshell, the team at North Point decided that when it came to doing things like food banks, after-school programs, support for young mothers, addiction counseling, etc., the church was determined not to reinvent the wheel. Instead, they purposed to find the people in the Atlanta area who were already doing well at various charitable endeavors and provide them with a funding boost. It wasn’t about ‘let’s start our program,’ but ‘let’s connect with our broader community.’

The next step was to raise the money — we’re now talking millions — in a single weekend.

At this point, I know some of you are thinking, ‘What does this have to do with the presentation of the gospel?’ The balance between social justice ministry and proclamation is never easy, especially for Evangelicals. But in the second phase of Be Rich (the campaign, not the book) the people of North Point pledge to spend hours in service, many times at the very same organizations which have received funding. They don’t want people simply writing a check or swiping a debit card and feel that they’ve done their part. They want people to also get their hands dirty.

I’ve watched that video* about eight times now, and each time I well up with tears. This model may not import entirely directly to what your church is doing, but you can’t help but want to adapt some of the concepts.

You can’t help but want your church to be rich.

A copy of How To Be Rich: It’s Not What You Have, It’s What You Do With What You Have (Zondervan) was provided by the Canadian division of HarperCollins Christian Publishing.

*If the video isn’t loading go to http://vimeo.com/81844837

December 24, 2012

Are Churches Counting The Wrong People?

Filed under: Church — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:45 am

Church metrics.

Yeah, that’s a thing.

Vince Antonucci has a different take on it:

Churches count their “attendance” each week. (Some don’t count very accurately, willing to count people – band, choir, staff, children’s volunteers, etc. – multiple times, but that’s a point for another day.) They count the amount of people from their city who show up at their church each week.

But I’d like to propose counting something different: The amount of people in the city not showing up at any church.

Seriously, a church can say that “This year we grew from 1,000 to 2,000!” but what if, in the same year, the amount of people not going to church in that city grew from 370,000 to 391,000? That gives you a very different picture of what’s happening, doesn’t it?

If the number we counted was how many people in our city are not going to church it would force churches to no longer celebrate growing through stealing people from other churches, it might lead churches to support and celebrate the success of other churches, and it would lead churches to focus on truly reaching the lost instead of focusing on their attendance numbers.

Instead of magazines featuring the “Hundred Fastest Growing Churches” there would be articles on the cities where the most people are coming to Christ, and isn’t that what we want to promote and celebrate?

So, what about it?

July 25, 2012

Wednesday Link List

Click the image above to learn more about the comic book version of the book In His Steps, where the whole WWJD thing originated.

March 31, 2011

200 People Are Skipping Church on Palm Sunday

Filed under: Church — Tags: , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:14 am

I’ve never been prouder of an initiative launched by the church we’ve attended — off and on — for 20 years since moving an hour east of Toronto.

Call it “reaching out,” or “community involvement,” or whatever you want.  Cobourg Alliance Church has decided to participate — in a huge way — in the annual walk for Multiple Sclerosis; a walk which just happens to fall on Palm Sunday, what most would consider the third most important Sunday of the year after Easter Sunday and Christmas Sunday.

The church will still hold worship services for those who wish to attend, but the nearly 200 people who have signed up so far is a significant percentage of the regular attendance at church in this town of only 18,500.

Participation also means fundraising, and the pastor, Andre Turcotte, is hoping that the church will be one of the top fundraisers in the area.  Those who can’t walk significant distances will be acting as volunteers. There are five individuals and/or families in the church dealing with MS.

I’m sure that organizers of events like this notice a dearth of participation from churchgoers when the events are held on a Sunday. “Skipping Church” is a big sacrifice for those who grew up believing the place to be on Sunday morning is singing the hymns and listening to a sermon.

Instead, this congregation will be busy “being church.”

Though we will be leading worship at another church that Sunday, we will be watching this with interest, and praying that it shows to the local community that Christ followers are willing to, literally, put feet to their beliefs; not just ‘talking the talk,’ but, literally, ‘walking the walk.’

February 19, 2011

An Outreach Piece The Smallest Church Can Afford

I first presented this here two years ago, but I remain convinced that it’s an inexpensive mailer concept that can be done by even the smallest church, and one that will especially resonate if your church is located near a mass transit line where people spend hours each week sitting on subways or light rail with their faces stuck inside a newspaper.

It’s a mailing piece that costs virtually nothing to produce, in fact it might work better the closer you can get to black-and-white, photocopy quality. You can also do a four-color enhancement of the idea with background gradients and even a photo of your church on the back page. Furthermore if you actually did photocopy them, you could target individual streets or blocks.

sudoku-flyerThe mailer is a simple 8.5 x 11 piece of paper (an A4 for you Brits) folded in half, producing a four-page layout. Each page contains the grid for the popular newspaper Sudoku game where you fill in the numbers from one to nine without repeating any within any given row, column or sub-square. Only on this the squares are all blank, with the first page bearing the text, “Sudoku Blanks. Because sometimes you just want to start all over.”

Talk about hitting two points of identification at once! This concept identifies with everybody who sees it, but for the exception of Canadian pastors I first shared it with who, for reasons I do not understand, do not read newspapers. (Or if they do, they certainly don’t lower themselves to looking at things on the puzzles and comics page, even though this occupies much of the time of anyone in their congregation who rides a commuter train or kills time in the staff lunchroom at the plant, or whatever, on a daily basis.)

The top two-thirds of each page are simply the blank grid as you see it above.

The rest of the piece’s text can be written as needed with as hard or soft a connection between your church and doing puzzles as you wish, In our sample version (available on request by e-mail if you can open a .pub file attachment) the pages read:

Page two:

You’re just about done and then you see it—two numbers the same in the same row, column or box. You try to backtrack a few steps, but eventually you realize the only way to win is to start over. Given the chance for a do-over, most of us get it right the second time.

Page three:

…If only life were like that; if only there was a way to get a new beginning a new start. But really there is; the Christian concept of grace is just that; the board’s wiped clean, everything begins fresh. We can’t turn back the clock, but we can get our record cleared and allow the scars to heal.

Page four:

The concept of grace isn’t widely talked about these days. If it’s new to you, or you want to unpack the meaning of a fresh start, let’s get together and talk about new beginnings.

Community Village Church
Sunday Mornings at 9:00 or 11:00
or drop by the office anytime during the week
555-555-1234
church@email.dot

I know that personal contact is better than mailing pieces, but if you think this has any merit as a discussion starter and you want to use it; just let me know, mail me a couple of souvenir copies and let me know how it works for you. Sudoku continues to be popular, and people will relate to this. It’s a useful piece of paper that may find itself sticking around long after other mailing pieces have been thrown out, and Joe or Barb or Dave might even find themselves making multiples of it on the copier where they work; hopefully with your church name intact. They may even drop by your church office just to pick up more blanks!

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