Thinking Out Loud

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

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March 1, 2013

March Madness, Blog Style

I don’t do repeats here until the piece is a year old.  So a new month always offers new items from the previous year that you may have missed… (Apologies to email subscribers…this is long!)


A Letter to the Nominating Committee

Dear Nominating Committee;

Visiting your church for the first time last Sunday, I noticed an announcement in the bulletin concerning the need for board members and elders for the 2012-2013 year. I am herewith offering my services.

While I realize that the fact I don’t actually attend your church may seem like a drawback at first, I believe that it actually lends itself to something that would be of great benefit to you right now: A fresh perspective.

Think about it — I don’t know any one of you by name, don’t know the history of the church and have no idea what previous issues you’ve wrestled with as a congregation. Furthermore, because I won’t be there on Sundays, I won’t have the bias of being directly impacted by anything I decide to vote for or against. I offer you pure objectivity.

Plus, as I will only be one of ten people voting on major issues, there’s no way I can do anything drastic single-handedly. But at the discussion phase of each agenda item, I can offer my wisdom and experience based on a lifetime of church attendance in a variety of denominations.

Churches need to periodically have some new voices at the table. I am sure that when your people see a completely unrecognizable name on the ballot, they will agree that introducing new faces at the leadership level can’t hurt.

I promise never to miss a board or committee meeting, even if I’m not always around for anything else.

I hope you will give this as much prayerful consideration as I have.

Most sincerely,


This Song Should Be the Anthem of Churches Everywhere

I was scrolling through the CCLI top 200 worship songs, and it occurred to me there is a song that really needs to be there; in fact it really needs to be part of the repertoire of every church using modern worship.

Eddie Kirkland is a worship leader at Atlanta’s North Point Community Church, where, just to warn ya, the worship set may seem to some of you more like a rock concert than a Sunday service. But I hope you’ll see past that and enjoy the song.

We want to be a church where freedom reigns
We want to be a people full of grace
We want to be a shelter where the broken find their place
We want to be refuge for the weak
We want to be a light for the world to see
We want to be a love the breaks the walls and fill the streets…

All are welcome here
As we are, as we are
For our God is near every heart

If those sentiments are not the goal of where you attend on Sundays, frankly, I think you’re doing it wrong.

Here’s another version of the song that was used as part of North Point’s Be Rich campaign, where each year, instead of reinventing the charity wheel, NPCC members flood secular social service organizations with money and volunteer hours.

Watch the song a few times, and then forward the link to today’s blog post — http://wp.me/pfdhA-3en — to the worship leader at your church.

If a church of any size desires to live up to what this song expresses, there’s nothing stopping that church from changing the world.


Qualifying “It Gets Better”

One of the Church’s biggest failures of the past decade has been our reaction, and over-reaction to the LGBT community, especially to those who — absent the treatment they see their peers receiving — hold on to a faith in the Messiah-ship of Jesus Christ.

On the one hand, there are the usual conservative voices who insist that any gay sympathies constitute an automatic ticket to hell. Frankly, I am curious to see who shows up to picket at their funerals.

On the other hand, there are among the more progressive progressives, certain Christian bloggers who in their compassion have thrown out a lot of the core of the Bible’s ideal for family, procreation and partnership.

And now, to add to our confusion, we discover that Psalm 139, the scripture used as a major element in the argument against abortion, is used as a rallying cry for gay and lesbian Christians. Regardless of which translation is employed.

Anyway, I’ve already blogged my personal place of balance on this issue, but in thinking about it this week, I’ve realized that my particular choice of words has a bearing on another commonly heard phrase particularly among teenagers who either come out of the closet by choice or who are outed by their classmates.

The phrase is, “It gets better.”

For the bullied, the confused and the lonely, I certainly hope it does. Soon.

But I have to say this, and maybe this can be your response as well, “It gets better, but it doesn’t necessarily get best.”

In other words; I’m there for you.

I understand.

I’m not someone looking at this from the detachment of an outsider; I’ve read your blogs, I’ve looked in to your online discussions. I do get it.

But with all the love in my heart, I just think that ultimately, God has something else in mind which, because He made it, is perfect.

So yes, it gets better, thought it doesn’t necessarily get best.


A Powerful Story Echoes Three Decades Later

This was recorded nearly 30 years ago at a Christian music festival somewhere in Canada. Nancyjo Mann was lead singer in the band Barnabas. I always knew that I had this in my possession — on VHS, no less — and have always felt that more people need to see it. For those of you who knew me back in the days of the Searchlight Video Roadshow, you’ll remember that I often closed each night with this particular testimony.

January 30, 2013

Wednesday Link List

Moses Tablets

This week’s linkelele (you pronounce it like ukelele).

  • Kent Shaffer has gone back through ten years’ worth of charts from The Church Report and Outreach Magazine and has compiled a list of 493 churches to watch on the basis of growth, influence, innovation, church planting and sheer size.
  • This is the one not to miss: The principal figures in the Chick-Fil-A /LGBT conflict last year get together at Dan Cathy’s invitation to Shane Windmeyer and Shane ‘comes out’ (in a different way) at Huffington Post to explain why his organization has dropped the boycott of the fast food restaurants. [HT: Kevin]
  • As a pastor, Andy Stanley was impressed with the ‘pastoral’ side of President Obama following the Newtown tragedy. But when he called him the ‘pastor-in-chief’ many people took it out of context
  • Bobby Schuller is the new television pastor for the Hour of Power, but understandably, donations have dropped.
  • Rick Apperson scores an interview with the 29-year old Liberty University vice president Johnnie Moore, author of Dirty God.
  • And now it’s time for … wait for it … a clergy fashion show. What are the hot trends for clergy vestments this spring?
  • Nadia Bolz Weber is somewhat disappointed that snarkyness and sarcasm aren’t spiritual gifts. Dont read this; click the player to get the audio. (Warning: The church’s yoga classes are mentioned in the sermon.)
  • The man who gave the Christian world talking vegetables has relaunched the Jelly Telly website as Club Jelly Telly, a subscription based site with more than 150 hours of video for kids for only $5 per month. They’ve also added all of the content from the What’s In The Bible series… 
  • …And at his blog, Phil Vischer’s weekly (Tuesday) podcast has a special guest, an associate professor at Wheaton College with a specialty in Christian Education who may or may not have given birth to Phil many years prior. (You’ll just have to listen.)
  • Flashback video of the week is from the veteran ‘Rock ‘n Roll Preacher’ from the Jesus Music days; Chuck Girard sings the much more mellow song Lay Your Burden Down.
  • And speaking of the Jesus People days, another veteran, Kelly Willard is still performing, set to do an Orange County coffee house in February.
  • The 15-year-old son of a former Calvary Chapel pastor has been charged in a murder that included the pastor, his wife and three children. 
  • In a video made months earlier, former Mars Hill Bible Church (Grand Rapids) pastor Shane Hipps previews his now-available book Selling Water By The River. A fuller book rundown is available on the Relevant Magazine podcast.
  • Add a link of your own — insert a recent Christian blog story in the comments…
  • Looking for more?  Visit the Friday Link List at fellow Canadian Kevin Martineau’s blog Shooting The Breeze by clicking the icon below for a recent sample.

Favourite-Links-Friday

March 30, 2012

This Song Should Be The Anthem of Local Churches Everywhere

So the other night I was on the website of Christian Copyright Licensing, Inc., the company that tracks the songs being used in local churches’ video or overhead projection.  This organization provides royalties to songwriters commensurate to the size of the church in question, each time that church creates another projection master or data file, and replaces the income lost from the days when songbooks and hymnbooks ruled the market.  If your church’s projected lyrics or homemade songsheets don’t contain a CCLI number either at the beginning or end of each song, question whether the songs are being used legally, since the fines can be hefty.

Anyway, I was scrolling through the top 200 worship songs, and it occurred to me there is a song that really needs to be there; in fact it really needs to be part of the repertoire of every church using modern worship.

Eddie Kirkland is a worship leader at Atlanta’s North Point Community Church, where, just to warn ya, the worship set may seem to some of you more like a rock concert than a Sunday service. But I hope you’ll see past that and enjoy the song.

We want to be a church where freedom reigns
We want to be a people full of grace
We want to be a shelter where the broken find their place
We want to be refuge for the weak
We want to be a light for the world to see
We want to be a love the breaks the walls and fill the streets…

All are welcome here
As we are, as we are
For our God is near every heart

If those sentiments are not the goal of where you attend on Sundays, frankly, I think you’re doing it wrong.

Here’s another version of the song that was used as part of North Point’s Be Rich campaign, where each year, instead of reinventing the charity wheel, NPCC members flood secular social service organizations with money and volunteer hours.   

Watch the song a few times, and then forward the link to today’s blog post — http://wp.me/pfdhA-3en — to the worship leader at your church. 

If a church of any size desires to live up to what this song expresses, there’s nothing stopping that church from changing the world.

Here’s a bonus worship song for today from C201

December 14, 2011

Wednesday Link List

Christmas List Lynx

Here’s this week’s list; remember to have your suggestions in by 8:00 PM on Mondays to make sure that they get considered.

  • North Point Community Church’s “Be Rich” campaign breaks all previous records for giving to local charities as reported at CBS News Atlanta.
  • For those of you who missed the last decade completely, the BBC re-traces the history of the WWJD slogan in light of its re-emergence in the Occupy Protests.
  • This week’s top music video release introduces recent Nashville resident, singer-songwriter Jesse Santoyo.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision not to hear an appeal of a lower court ruling means the end of churches meeting in schools in New York City and eventually, beyond.
  • Vital question for worship leaders — and others — at Zac Hicks’ blog: Is the Lord’s Supper a Funeral or a Feast? s
  • Churches in Santa Monica, California are almost completely shut out of the 21 spaces where they normally erect nativity scenes because of strategic planning by atheist groups.
  • If you’re into Bible translation issues, here are three academic presentations on video by NIV, ESV and HCSB representatives, and a Q&A and response video with all three, from Liberty University’s Bible Translation Symposium.
  • Lost files found: This has been bookmarked in my computer since February; it’s a short article by a Minneapolis author, Tyler Blanski who has a book with Zondervan forthcoming later in 2012.  This deals with rethinking sexuality or you could check out his blog.
  • Lost files found #2: Another February flashback, Perry Noble asks if there’s anything you’re holding on to that God wants you to let go.
  • From our Pastor True Confessions Department, Kevin Rogers gives his personal reasons for not practicing the spiritual discipline of fasting.
  • Video recently posted, but apparently dating back to 1989, here’s a cultural artifact guaranteed to make you smile. Or something.
  • A Kentucky pastor reports he has canceled a church vote banning interracial couples. But you get the impression this fight ain’t over.
  • This video is from last year, and we may have linked to it then, but I needed something seasonal, right? Enjoy The Digital Story of the Nativity.
  • Mark Galli says there’s a need right now for more chaplains and fewer leaders. Sample: “We find ourselves in an odd period of church history when many people have become so used to large, impersonal institutions that they want that in their church as well.” This discussion really swims against the current.
  • Another Christianity Today item: Anthony D. Baker surveys what’s going on in church life, particularly as it affects our children, and finds us doing all manner of things except actually teaching the gospel.
  • First there was Rachel Held Evans’ 2010 list of 13 things that make her “…A Lousy Evangelical,”  and now it’s Michael Camp’s 31 reasons why he “…Left Evangelicalism and Became a Progressive, Not a Liberal.”
  • Big Bang Theory Department: Scientists working at the Large Hadron Collider believe they have confirmed the existence of The God Particle.
  • Ever been in a group of people where someone outside the circle only asks the husbands the “What do you do for a living?” question? Michelle Garred guests at Eugene Cho‘s blog.
  • Sadly for some, this time of year is just an excuse to drink, even if they do so in the name of remembering ‘the reason for the season’ as this advent calendar found at Ironic Catholic indicates:

April 18, 2009

Andy Stanley on Getting from Here to There

principle-of-the-path

After nearly five years of watching the North Point videos and downloading audio sermons, I realized I had never read one of Andy Stanley’s books.   There’s something especially interesting about reading a book when you can hear the author’s voice speaking inside your head.    That was the first thing I noticed reading Andy Stanley’s The Principle of the Path: How to Get From Where You Are to Where You Want To Be (Thomas Nelson, 2009).   It was like purchasing a book on CD, only to discover it’s being read by the original author.

While Andy Stanley would be the first to tell you that he believes in the “one point” sermon, rather than the more popular “three point,”  this is not a one point book.   But there is one recurring truth throughout:  “Direction, not intention, determines destination.”    If that sounds a bit lightweight to some of you, the book continues to add additional precepts through ten chapters with new variations on the theme building to a crescendo in the final pages.

The teaching delivered in Principle of the Path comes with a healthy serving of anecdotal stories from Andy Stanley’s life, as well as people he has known or counseled.   His autobiographical moments are marked by genuine transparency and humility.

Using mostly Old Testament passages from the lives of David and Solomon, the book combines scripture with practical truth that is applicable to marriage, parenting, finances, relationships, career and even faith itself.

Who is this book for?   Ideally, someone starting out in life has the most to gain by reading this now.    But realistically, most of the readers of this book may already be down the road of life, perhaps even at a point of midlife crisis.   And some may already qualify for a senior’s discount at some stores.    Somehow, Andy has managed to capture some truths that can be processed by people at all stages of life’s journey.

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