Thinking Out Loud

February 4, 2015

Wednesday Link List

 

I think this guy is late for the evening service. He may not have his Bible, but he remembered his cross.

I think this guy is late for the evening service. He may not have his Bible, but he remembered to take up his cross.

  • Living Ministry Life Backwards – From The Washington Post: “For most of his career, Joshua Harris was the kind of evangelical pastor who chuckled at the joke that ‘seminary’ should really be called ‘cemetery…’ That is, until Sunday [1/25], when the 40-year-old announced that he is leaving to go to seminary, saying he needs formal education and training and more exposure and connection to other parts of Christianity… Harris said he expects that studying at Regent College, a graduate school of theology, will broaden his perspective, including on accountability.” (Links to full sermon/announcement video.)
  • Getting Back on the Horse You Fell Off – After battling the Ebola virus in the University of Nebraska Medical Center, Dr. Rick Sacra is back in Liberia. “Thomas Curtis is senior pastor at the Sacra’s church, Holden Chapel, and a long-time friend and prayer partner. He said watching Sacra battle Ebola this last year helped to grow the congregation’s faith and united several area churches in prayer. He said members at Holden Chapel are excited that Sacra has returned to serve in Liberia. ‘It wouldn’t make sense to us if he didn’t because he’s not that kind of person…'”
  • Church Planting in Sin City – “The [San Francisco] Bay Area has never been perceived as religious: a 2012 Gallup poll found that fewer than a quarter of residents identify as “very religious” (defined as going to church weekly), as opposed to 40% of the nation as a whole. High salaries have drawn droves of well-educated millennials to the booming tech sector, which correlates with lower religious sentiment. So far afield from the Bible belt, the region is in fact seen as hospitable to all forms of old testament abominations: fornication, paganism – even sodomy. If you look around, however, you’ll notice a bumper crop of newer Christian ministries…
  • The Danger of ‘Winging It’ in the Pulpit – While the Perry Noble Christmas sermon on God’s “Big Ten” brought some major doctrinal concerns, perhaps a greater problem was the backstory on how the sermon happened at all: “Sometimes you are put on the spot and have to rely on the Holy Spirit to guide you. This was not one of those occasions. Perry Noble got caught up in excitement and interrupted a program to deliver a message that he was in no way prepared to give. Preaching is not just some form of spiritual motivational speaking, it’s declaring the word of God. Even the goofiest sermon is a sacred act of worship that is meant to call those who hear to a deeper relationship with God. It’s just irresponsible to take that lightly. There is a real danger that can come from misrepresenting God’s word. I have no doubt that had Perry Noble spent a few hours preparing this message (instead of 10 minutes) that a lot of the controversy surrounding it would be almost non-existent.”<
  • Gideons Face Roadblocks in Georgia – Did the framers of the constitution intend this? For most Christians, clearly not, but it doesn’t stop secularists from continuing to marginalize Christianity in public places. “Some board members are in favor of the proposal. However, school board attorney Tommy Coleman says it’s unconstitutional for them to allow the Bibles to be distributed on school grounds. Glenn Phelps, with the Gideons, presented board members with a map showing many other South Georgia counties that allow Gideon Bibles to be distributed. But Coleman held that if it was happening, those school boards were not obeying the law…He said he doesn’t believe there’s any practical way to legally distribute Bibles to students at school.”
  • Podcast of the Week – Steve Brown talks to CCM singer Jennifer Knapp about coming out (which he thinks might lose him a radio station or two).  “I had people writing…the worst is the anonymous stuff… I’ve had people disagree with me in public spaces and come to shows and say they’re disappointed in me, but those are pretty tame in comparison to the anonymous kind of stuff that you get… The thing I didn’t anticipate that absolutely happened was an overwhelming responsive of positivity.” 43-minute audio.
  • The Worship Article That’s Got Everyone Talking – Perhaps it’s just the fact that articles that begin with a number (6 Tips, 5 Principles, 7 Ways) always get traction; but it seemed that everywhere I turned last week, someone was including this in their own internet roundup. Check out 15 Worship Decisions We’ll Regret Later. (Sample #10 – Not providing a venue for creatives to express their art as worship.)
  • Micro-Church Planting – “There are 60-some beds at the Kings Motor Inn, but it doesn’t seem like our friends find much rest here. People bounce from room to room, cars come and go, kids play in the parking lot. Everyone looking to escape, to feel some peace, but nobody really finding it.” They call it Dope Church. Fife, Washington is on the I-5 corridor, which is also a corridor for drug and sex traffic. Some snapshots of ministry life at the motel.
  • Moody Press Offers To Trade Books – The conservative Evangelical publisher is inviting readers an opportunity to mail in their copy of 50 Shades of Grey and receive in exchange a copy of Pulling Back the Shades by Dannah Gresh and Dr. Juli Slattery. The latter book helps undo the damage done by the former. (You can also read a sample chapter at the site.) Related article: How 50 Shades of Grey Harms Women & Jesus Saves Them.
  • The Angst Your Church Sound-Tech Faces – “The stage was set.  The equipment checked and double-checked.  The band was plugged in and ready.  Everything was as expected until they played the first song…They sounded horrible.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying the musicians were horrible.  The house mix sounded atrocious…” I’ve probably never seen an article that so well exposes the heart of that guy at the back who is under-appreciated and dealing with his own self-doubts.

Short links and things that got cut from Parse!:

  • A different kind of Baptism invitation: Don’t come forward, go out the door.
  • Everywhere I went online this week, people were talking about the band I Am They. Check out the song From The Day. (Also posted here yesterday as it turns out!)
  • Trinity Western University in British Columbia, Canada continues to its battle to see the school represented by various law schools on a province-by-province basis including this recent victory in Nova Scotia.
  • The Hour of Power with Bobby Schuller TV show is getting a makeover with a new producer who has done similar work for Billy Graham, Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer; as well as a host of denominations and organizations.
  • On the wearing of leggings as pants, there is no end of media coverage. Read the original story with the ABC News video clip. And coverage here. And here. And…
  • As we’ve said before, there are no cats in the Bible, but dogs do not fare well in its pages.
  • is this transcription correct? if so, it’s the only time that e. e. cummings used a capital letter… see what may have occasioned this exception.
  • I can see using this “service countdown” video at youth group, or even mid-week, but I’m not sure it would work in even an informal Sunday morning. Then again, churches are changing right.  Step away from the computer and enjoy 5 minutes of exercise.

May 3, 2012

Focusing Outward

Ever been to a sod turning?

A sod turning ceremony is what happens when members of a church that is about to move to new property go en masse to the new site where someone with a shiny shovel digs into the ground to symbolically represent the machinery which will then soon come to start moving earth to begin construction of the new facility.

Usually the members gather in a circle — perhaps even joining hands — to watch and then a prayer of dedication for the land. (The building dedication happens when the place is complete.)

Anyway, I heard a story recently about a church where, as it came to the gathering in a circle part, when it was time to pray, instead of facing inward, they formed the circle with everyone facing out, in recognition of the larger community they intend to serve.  Personally, I think they got it, and that’s the kind of faith family I would want to join.

I thought of that this morning when Zach at Vitamin Z reposted this piece from Thom Rainer.  (Yeah, the LifeWay guy… see, we can be open minded.) Click the link on the title to read the full introduction.

The 10 Warning Signs of an Inwardly Obsessed Church

  1. Worship wars. One or more factions in the church want the music just the way they like it. Any deviation is met with anger and demands for change. The order of service must remain constant. Certain instrumentation is required while others are prohibited.
  2. Prolonged minutia meetings. The church spends an inordinate amount of time in different meetings. Most of the meetings deal with the most inconsequential items, while the Great Commission and Great Commandment are rarely the topics of discussion.
  3. Facility focus. The church facilities develop iconic status. One of the highest priorities in the church is the protection and preservation of rooms, furniture, and other visible parts of the church’s buildings and grounds.
  4. Program driven. Every church has programs even if they don’t admit it. When we start doing a ministry a certain way, it takes on programmatic status. The problem is not with programs. The problem develops when the program becomes an end instead of a means to greater ministry.
  5. Inwardly focused budget. A disproportionate share of the budget is used to meet the needs and comforts of the members instead of reaching beyond the walls of the church.
  6. Inordinate demands for pastoral care. All church members deserve care and concern, especially in times of need and crisis. Problems develop, however, when church members have unreasonable expectations for even minor matters. Some members expect the pastoral staff to visit them regularly merely because they have membership status.
  7. Attitudes of entitlement. This issue could be a catch-all for many of the points named here. The overarching attitude is one of demanding and having a sense of deserving special treatment.
  8. Greater concern about change than the gospel. Almost any noticeable changes in the church evoke the ire of many; but those same passions are not evident about participating in the work of the gospel to change lives.
  9. Anger and hostility. Members are consistently angry. They regularly express hostility toward the church staff and other members.
  10. Evangelistic apathy. Very few members share their faith on a regular basis. More are concerned about their own needs rather than the greatest eternal needs of the world and community in which they live.

~Thom Rainer

What Thom doesn’t list here of course is the opposite, the ten signs of an outwardly obsessed church.  That, of course, would be a description of the whole Missional Church movement, and its characteristics wouldn’t be the opposite of these ten, but would instead would be indicators of apostolic, incarnational ministry.

Here’s a piece from Rev. Dr. Ronald Carlson with six characteristics of a Missional church. It’s a lengthy 2007 American Baptist Churches document that was only available as a .pdf file, so I’ve greatly edited and freely paraphrased it here.  But in the interest of equal time:

Six characteristics of a Missional Church

  1. Considers its context to be a changing mission field.  The church allows itself to enter into situations where the beliefs, culture, language and social needs are greatly different from its own.
  2. Is active in, and supportive of missions. The church frees up its members to be involved in longer term projects, according to individuals gifts and abilities.
  3. Gives recognition to the Great Commission and the Great Commandment.  In other words, the mandate to make disciples and the mandate to go out and be ‘love in action’ are not mutually exclusive but are one and the same.  You can’t have one without the other, and if you over-emphasize one you are under-emphasizing the other.
  4. Recognizes that all people are both the subject and object of mission. We exist not to be served but to serve, but also need to be reminded that Jesus received the service of others offered to him. Again, there is a balance.
  5. Engages in transforming persons, systems, cultures, and communities.  This includes transforming the church itself by creating new structures but know when to discontinue others.  This is best accomplished through a partial assimilation into the broader culture; something we often tend to want to avoid.
  6. Multiplies churches, disciples, mission. This is done not through cloning the original, but by constantly creating new teams and projects which spring from the original and its purpose but may take different forms to accomplish different purposes.

Michael Frost’s Five Characteristics of a Missional Community is also worth remembering:

  1. Bless. We will bless at least one other member of our community every day.
  2. Eat. We will east with other members of our community at least three times a week.
  3. Listen. We will commit ourselves weekly to listening to the promptings of God in our lives.
  4. Learn. We will read from the Gospels each week and remain diligent in learning more about Jesus.
  5. Sent. We will see our daily life as an expression of our sent-ness by God into this world.

Okay, my sod turning picture turned out to be for a sports club.  I was going to change it — and did once already —  but it best captured what I was going for, though I doubt they closed in prayer. Of course because I tagged it “church sod turning,”  now it will turn up in image searches perpetuating the error; another reason why you can’t believe anything you see on the internet.


I also meant to say here that articles like Rainer’s as good as they are, a dime a dozen in the Christian blogosphere.  It’s so easy — and I fall into this trap, also — to simply offer criticism and point out errors and negative traits present in many of our churches. That’s why I made this piece rather lengthy by finding a couple of examples of the opposite in order to give balance; but it is also why the missional church model is somewhat foreign to many people, perhaps even some of you reading this.  I encourage you to look into Michael Frost’s books if you want to uncover more.

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