Thinking Out Loud

December 28, 2009

Post #1001 – Don’t Go To Church

One of the things about Andy Stanley’s church that impresses me is a study that they did using a Fortune 500 company where they conducted interviews with people in their services who had been in attendance for five weeks or less.

Let me pause and say that this speaks huge volumes about their church when they have enough people passing through on a regular basis that it’s worthwhile to employ a company to survey those who have been there only a very, very short time.

What they found was that many of these people were already interested in “discerning next steps.”  They wanted to jump in with both feet and get involved; they wanted to get their hands dirty.   (Okay, technically, that would be jumping in with both hands.)

I was reminded of this in a church yesterday when I looked at their bulletin which runs a recurring promotional paragraph about their men’s ministry, and it talks about a couple of social events their group holds a few times each year.   I couldn’t help but think, “Okay, but what else do you do?”

I should say that this group does in fact offer some optional missiony things throughout the year — like that word?  I just made it up — but they don’t advertise them much.   I think people are looking for a cause.   I think people who haven’t even crossed the line of faith yet are spiritually savvy enough to realize that Christians, if they are going to bear that name at all, should be about changing the world.

And then, in the evening I came across the Faith In Action site.  This California-based organization partners churches with projects.   Frankly, I’m not so sure that there ought to be any church in any part of the U.S. that has to engage an outside agency to point them in the direction of need.   But what the heck, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt; there are many churches out in the American suburban hinterland that may be a tad isolated from what’s goin’ on down in the ‘hood.   Or even what the church down the block is up to, which is another partnership service Faith in Action offers.

Faith in Action will also provide you with additional promotional materials to support your project.   Banners.  T-Shirts.   Postcards.   Doorhangers.   (Ouch!  I just bit my tongue.)

They’re also promoting a Faith in Action Sunday on 10/10/10.    Nice numeric optics.   But people in the inner city, people in need of jobs, people in need of food on their table,  people in need of housing, people in need of justice, people in need of medical help, people in need of freedom from addictions, people in need of love, etc.; these people all need help NOW.    Not on 10/10/10.    It scares me to think a church could be aware of need but decide to hold back until that Sunday.    I hope instead that 10/10 is actually the day they do THE REALLY BIG PROJECT.

But I do like their T-shirts.    Don’t Go To Church, Be The Church.

Like, a big Amen to that.

October 12, 2009

Sharing the Spotlight, Passing the Torch

Coming Events sampleFor the last five years I’ve been doing a project on the side that represents something I once swore I would never do.    I’ve been publishing a monthly newsletter that lets people know what’s going on that would be of interest to the local Christian community; and with our twin-towns having a population of less than 40,000; there often isn’t much going on at all, and the whole project seems hardly worthwhile.

Years ago, I met a guy — I think his name was Bill Scarborough — who published the Christian Activities Calendar magazine in several cities.   At the time I thought the whole thing was rather pedestrian.   Why not produce a magazine that does outreach, or discusses doctrine, or deals with youth and family issues?

But now I do the same thing.   The newsletter still goes out, but we modified a blog page to get online quickly.    It’s filled with concerts, car washes, bake sales, conferences, church picnics and lots of advertising for our local Christian bookstore.    It would be easy for someone to say I should be using that energy for evangelism, or theological discussion, or examining parenting and marriage issues.

But nested in between the seminars and the fundraisers and the singles events there are often things that are worthy of reaching a greater audience, often put together by people who aren’t connected or established or loaded with the money it often takes to make things happen.

I just finished watching the first two parts of a four-part series on DVD by Andy Stanley called Playing God and it reminds me of the need to use whatever power and influence I may have to help those who have even less.  His example in Part Two was Jesus stripping himself (literally) of his status and position to wash His disciples feet.

When it comes to these new or unknown or untried or unproven ventures I think my goal is obvious:

  1. We need to promote them
  2. We need to elevate them
  3. We need to resource them

To me, if the premise is valid and the doctrinal convictions of the organizers are sound and the spiritual benefit to the participants will be real; then I want to be seen as someone lending support.   Just as the business world has “incubators” for new ventures, so also do we need to incubate local ministry providers who want to serve the communities where we live.

Christian Events headerWe need to celebrate that in this chaotic world, there are individuals who are still willing to get their hands dirty in ministry; still willing to risk failure; still willing to attempt new ministry start-ups.

I don’t want be a skeptic sitting on the sidelines waiting to see if it will happen.   I want to make it happen.

Right now there are people in your town who are starting something or dreaming a dream or are out there in the trenches doing real ministry who need your support.   Whatever power and influence you have, use it to share the spotlight or pass the torch to those who will follow after.   Especially those next-generation projects that are so easily dismissed by the “religious establishment” as non-consequential.

What will you do to help ministries where you live?

If you want to see what our “Coming Events” site looks like you can click here.   If you don’t have one of these in your community, why not start one?

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