Thinking Out Loud

January 7, 2012

Tonight We’re Gonna Church Plant Like It’s 1999

“Church planting is the extreme sport of ministry.”

I’ve always believed that, and always encouraged people along those lines.

“The true growth the capital-C Church takes place when new churches are planted; the rest is all transfer growth.”

That’s me quoting me again.  Probably said that a hundred times in the last decade if I said it once.

But then, along comes Andrew Jones, aka Tall Skinny Kiwi; a guy who has been there done that far more than I.  A guy who has traveled the world looking under rocks for all things emerging, Emergent, alternative and counter-cultural.

And guess what?

He’s not sure that’s the way to go anymore.  He’s like, ‘Hey, that is so 1997.’  I added two years to work in the song lyric.

He says, “There has been some disillusionment with the church planting movement, even after it has purged itself of its 80’s church growth pragmatism. I have talked with many of these leaders and have added some observations myself. Here are some of the issues…”

And then he lists nine big issues; nine issues ya gotta read really slowly and carefully, because this isn’t some random blogger; this is a guy who has lived through some of these movements in ways the rest of us can’t begin to imagine.

Again, please, click the article, and if you don’t have time for the intro, at least read the nine reasons we need to rethink some things.

 

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August 13, 2011

Trend Toward Part-Time Church Staff Raises Other Issues

With declining attendance figures, and a tight economy, many mid-sized and smaller churches are moving toward models involving part-time or bi-vocational staff.  But what does this trend mean in terms of the training that church staff committees look for in a candidate?  Normally, in any profession, one sees a full-time position as the payoff for a four year investment in college or university courses.  While one could argue that theological study is its own reward, certainly in economic terms, it doesn’t make sense to invest those years if the resultant job is only 20-30 hours per week.  And while Christian institutions of higher learning are increasingly offering specialized courses in urban ministry, student ministry, or worship ministry; these positions are most vulnerable to reduced hours or even elimination when money isn’t there.

If post-secondary education for ministry development is peaking, what happens to an entire Christian magazine industry that has budgeted vast amounts of income from advertising to Christian colleges, universities and seminaries?  I know that may seem cynical, but those adverts in those glossy periodicals are indicative of the vast amounts that have been historically spent on recruiting students.   Most Christian colleges have been in a growth mode for several decades as prosperity has allowed more people to pursue education beyond high school.  But if the economy slows and churches are cutting back available job hours, it means these institutions could see themselves facing years of decline.

Do you know anyone in ministry who has recently had their hours cut? Or lost their job completely due to the economy and/or church attendance issues?   Continue the discussion by looking at a Canadian study at ChristianWeek.org.

 

Photos: Cross Island Chapel in Oneida, New York has turned up on this blog before, but the one in Drumheller, Alberta was new to us!

 

March 9, 2011

Wednesday Link List

I think we’ll start with a shout out to all the people who gave up social networking and blogs for lent. In which case, why are you reading this?

  • We kick off with a few quotations from an interview U2’s Bono did with a Johannesburg radio station last month, along with a link to an audio file of the entire program.
  • The Rob Bell release date for Love Wins has been moved up by two weeks to March 15th, less than a week away!  Mars Hill Bible Church in Granville, Michigan has made no official comment, but on Sunday, parishioners were told that church staff are supportive and excited about the book’s release.
  • However, Jon Rising suggests that there’s a whole other controversial book releasing at HarperOne — the same day — and traces links to advance reviews of Miroslav Volf’s simply titled Allah: A Christian Response.   The publisher blurb helps define the book’s hot spots.
  • A young Christian woman tells her Christian father that she is gay. We’ve all heard stories like this, but what does that actually look like?  How does that play out exactly? John Shore takes what is, to many of us a very abstract concept, and spells out what that really looks like in many families in his fictional Smith Family Chronicles; episode one and episode two already complete with more to follow.
  • A couple of strong stories at Christian Week (three actually, and we’ll give each one its own bullet!). First a piece on how urban poverty is not a downtown thing anymore but is hitting the suburbs featuring the director of the Yonge Street Mission.  (In fact, urban downtown areas are reconsolidating into a very upscale vibe.)
  • Next, a piece about the relationship between the church and political debates sparked by Billy Graham’s statement that he regrets the times he waded in on political issues.
  • Last in our CW hat trick — and I don’t expect my U.S. readers to get the full impact of this, but here this is huge — Crossroads, Canada’s largest Christian television ministry gave InterVarsity Christian Fellowship five of its Circle Square Ranch summer camps.  No strings attached.  An outright gift from one ministry to another.  They become part of the ministry of IVCF as of the first of April.
  • I find it interesting that many of today’s younger preachers are the subject of condemnation by older ones because the younger ones don’t do expository (verse by verse) preaching.  But Andy Stanley really rose to the occasion in this series on Acts titled Big Church.
  • Okay, it’s not that Facebook is solely responsible for one in five divorces as originally reported in 2009; but it is definitely accelerating the process.
  • Spent about 40 minutes on Sunday night enjoying a mini-concert by an artist who is quite established here in Canada who needs to be shared with the rest of the world.  Check out Greg Sczebel’s website.
  • Got baggage?  Know someone who’s got baggage?  Check out this short video at GodTube.  Also at GodTube here’s a music clip from Christy Nockels from the new album Passion: Waiting Here For You.
  • Looking for some good news online?  Here’s a site with a difference: My Miracle invites readers to post stories of God’s intervention in their lives.  Maybe your story.
  • Got a question for The Pope?  He hits the Italian TV airwaves on Good Friday for a little bit of Q & A in a pre-recorded program.
  • Several months ago, this blog ran a piece on modesty for girls.  Now here’s a modesty test for your preteen or early teen daughter from Dannah Gresh’s Secret Keeper Girl website.
  • If you’re reading this Wednesday morning or afternoon you can still catch our contest from Monday to win a copy of One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp.
  • Here’s another one from Darrell at Stuff Fundies Like featuring all your favorite types of church songleaders.
  • And speaking of same; here’s CT’s list of the Top 27 All Time Favorite… Hymns?  That’s right, all scientifically calculated using books which contain them that nobody actually uses anymore.  This could be the very last such list.  (Click the image to see the chart clearer as a .pdf)
  • Our cartoon this week recognizes that today is the first day of Lent, which every good Evangelical knows is the _____  ____s before ________.  (Betcha we caught a few off-guard.) Bad Sheep is the product of Jay Cookingham who blogs at Soulfari, You can also click the image below to check out Lambo and Chop’s merchandise.

February 16, 2011

Wednesday Link List

This is undoubtedly the best link list anywhere published on a Wednesday by a blog called Thinking Out Loud.

  • David Murrow, the author with a passion for making church more male-friendly, suggests there’s a reason why the guys on the weekend were standing with their hands in the pockets letting the women do all the singing.
  • Consider this church: “A 911 call in the middle of a service is not abnormal…We want to meaningfully bring worship into the mess of our lives. There is a place for ordered worship, where everything is well orchestrated and predictable. However that is not necessarily the world in which many people find themselves today. Life is messy. We need Christ in the midst of the messiness.”  Read more about Toronto’s All Saints Church.
  • If you find yourself suddenly the recipient of a large number of theological books, or if you’re a pastor who is about to retire, perhaps you’d consider helping this guy out.
  • Steven Furtick says his church is more focused on the “people we’re trying to reach than on the people we’re trying to keep.”  He says we should be “fishers of men, not keepers of the aquarium.”  He goes on to suggest that perhaps it should not be the ‘saved’ who are setting the agenda.
  • Resorting to tabloid-styled language, John MacArthur announces a Bible translation catastrophe to a captive audience at Liberty University.
  • Provoke not your children to anger.  Who me?  I could never do that.  Or could I?  Mark Altrogge suggests numerous ways in which we can and do provoke our kids.
  • Chaplain Mike at Internet Monk has a rather interesting review about a rather interesting book which follows the lives of two pastors.  The book is titled, This Odd and Wondrous Calling by Lillian Daniel and Martin Copenhaver.
  • Name Dropping (1): Rob Bell guests at CNN Religion blog on the topic of suffering.
  • Name Dropping (2):Meanwhile over at USAToday Religion, Justin Bieber is labeled a ‘Tween Evangelist,’ even as a pastor quoted in the article says the faith element is not all that overt.
  • Name Dropping (3): At age 102, George Beverly Shea picks up a Grammy Award on Saturday for lifetime achievement.  (Background story)
  • That Soulful Ragamuffin, Carols Whitaker, gets interviewed by the 30-minute weekly Canadian Christian program, Listen Up, and defends the position that you can have real relationships with people online that you’ve never met in person.
  • Michael Horton jumps into the “What is the Gospel?” discussion, albeit by video.  He likens it to a “victory report.”  (Via Brian at Near Emmaus blog.)
  • Here is another testimony that captures quite well the struggle with pornography which is common to so many people.  This was submitted in response to something that appeared here a few weeks ago, and I encouraged the author to set up a separate home for the article where more people can read it.  Check out How God Broke Me To Fix Me.
  • Pete Wilson preaches at a church in India that their church in Nashville helped to start.  Check out Cross Point India part one, and also part two.
  • I get into some strange discussions during the course of a week, and in that process have learned all sorts of information about various faith groups, not to mention the times my wife and I have visited mosques, a mandir and a Buddhist temple.  But I had never actually heard of Mormon Underwear.   Or, as they prefer, “garments.”  Honestly, I had to look this up online.
  • When a business like Ashley-Madison advertizes promoting the value of having an affair, it’s no wonder that Albert Mohler sees it as a kind of adultery industry.
  • That’s it for this week; if you missed them, check out posts at this blog for the last few days; there’s always something happening here.   Our cartoon is from Jon Birch’s popular ASBO Jesus blog.

December 25, 2010

Christmas Narrative, Street Bible Style

Rob Lacey was an actor and street performer in England who performed in inner-city London and Manchester, and wrote a book called The Street Bible which was a kind of “highlights reel” of all 66 Biblical books and later became published in America as The Word on The Street.   Before passing away all too soon he also wrote a more complete free-style paraphrase of a harmonization of the synoptic gospels that was published in both countries as The Liberator.

Because my wife had taken the time to type out the text for a Christmas Eve service we did, I wanted to include them here for all to read.   She made some minor edits to it, and the poem is of other origin, which I can’t trace right now.   Remember, this was written for inner-city youth in urban centers in the UK and makes no pretense to be an actual translation.


So how’d it happen?  Baby Jesus.  The Liberator?  You ready for this?

I’ll tell you:  his mum, Mary, is engaged to Joe.  They’d not had sex yet, but – weird!  She’s pregnant!  Courtesy of the Holy Spirit.

Focus on Joe.  A good guy, trying to do the right thing and he’s desperate to keep this news quiet.  The locals would come down so hard on her.  He’s working out how best to deliver the “sorry, but it’s off” speech – without the gossip grapevine crashing from overload.

He’s smashing the billiard balls of his best options around his brain, well into the early hours.  Finally he drops off and God downloads a dream:  An angel saying:

“Joe Davidson, don’t you chicken out of making Mary your wife.  I’ll tell you why.  ‘Cause it’s the Holy Spirit’s baby.  She’ll have a boy, and you’ll put the name Jesus down on the birth certificate.  Why “Jesus”?  ‘Cause it means Liberator and that’s what he’s going to do for all his people…. liberate them from all the mess they’ve gotten themselves into.”

Joe wakes up and, yes, realizes it was all a dream.  But he follows his Angel Orders to the letter and the wedding’s back on as soon as the baby’s born.  Joe makes sure the birth certificate reads, “First name:  Jesus.”

Meanwhile, in the depths of the Roman Empire, he-who-must-be-obeyed, Augustus Caesar, announces the Big Count.  Caesar, the Big Cheeser, wants accurate population stats across the empire.  Everyone is expected to trek back to their hometown for the registration.

So Joe Davidson sets off on the 130 km trip down the map, crosses the border and arrives in Bethlehem, Davidstown, in the south.  He takes his fiancee Mary, who’s pregnant and showing.  Three, four, maybe five days later they arrive and realize someone else is about to cross a border and arrive in Bethlehem.

Crisis!  Her waters break!  “No vacancy” signs in every B&B window.  Decision.  Mary has a ‘home birth’ in a livestock shed.  She wraps strips of cloth round the baby and uses an animal feeding trough as a cot.

Noisy night, chaotic night
All is alarm, all is fright
Rounded virgin, now mother to child
Wholly infant, so other, so wild
Awake at an unearthly hour
Awake at an unearthly hour

Pull back to the fields outside the overpacked town, focus in on a local Sheep Security Team sitting through their night shift.

One of God’s angels turns up, with brilliant supernatural special FX packing the fields with God’s radiance.  The guys are scared stupid.

The angel delivers his standard, “Don’t panic” line then hits them with, “I’ve got great news, great news to bring a smile to every shape of face on the planet.  Mark the date in your diaries.  Today over in Davidstown there’s a new baby born.  Not just any baby – The Baby!  The Boss, Liberator God himself, turning up for you in baby shape.  You’ll know which baby – he’ll be wrapped up snug and lying in a feeding trough that’s caked with old animal grub.”

Cued to make their entrance on the last line of the breaking news, the whole angel choir turn up and blast out the song:

“Celebrate!  Elevate!  And on planet Earth, serenity.  In your earthly home, shalom for all who have known God’s smile.”

Once the angel choir scoots back up the Heavenly HQ, the Sheep Security Team come out with, “Let’s check it out”.  “Yeah, let’s hit the town.”  “Search the whole of Bethlehem for this baby.”  “God’s put us in the picture – let’s go!”

They leg it and, sure enough, they track down Mary and Joe, then find the baby in his makeshift cot.  The next days they fill the pubs with echoes of what they’d been told about this baby.  The public pulse is breakneck pace as “Liberator Talk” bounces round the walls of the town.  The reactions range from amazed to – well, amazed.

The Sheep Security Team go back to work, talking up God for letting them in on the whole adventure.

And Mary’s reaction?  She’s quietly storing away all of this in a safe place in her heart, bringing memories out when ever she has some space to wonder.

October 2, 2010

CNN: Shane Claiborne on U.S. Gun Violence

The Belief Blog at CNN, in addition to providing breaking religious news, regularly includes columns and editorials by key figures in Christianity and other faiths.    This week that included author and speaker Shane Claiborne…


My Take: Getting in the way of gun violence

By Shane Claiborne

Last week there were gunshots again. This time, four people were hit with bullets. One was 3 years old.

I don’t live in Afghanistan or Iraq, but in North Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, a place where 5-year-olds know how to distinguish the sound of fireworks from the pops of a gunfire.

Nearly every night this week there have been gunshots. And it’s been only about six months since we heard gunshots on our street one cold February night and looked out the window to see a 19-year-old kid stumbling down the block with blood pouring out of his body. We held him, prayed with him and watched him die.

Martin Luther King, Jr. remembered the good Samaritan story in the Bible and said in effect (my paraphrase): We are all called to be the good Samaritan and lift our injured neighbor out of the ditch… but after you lift so many people out of the ditch, you start to say, maybe the whole road to Jericho needs to be re-imagined.

For over a decade…[continue reading at CNN Belief]

March 4, 2010

Homeless Teens: Life on the Street

I stood beside her coffin.  She looked she was sleeping.  I suppressed the urge to reach out and touch her.  I wanted to talk to her just once more.

But she was dead — found in a construction site, in suspicious circumstances, of unknown causes.  She was poor; she was aboriginal; she was a street kid; there would be no further police investigation.

I looked at her young face and remember the times we had share, times when I had hugged her, telling her I loved her.  She had come from a troubled and violent home.  Incest was a way of life for her.  Three months ago, she had given birth to a baby girl.

Once she came to Evergreen particularly distressed.  She cleared a table with a sweep of her arm and grabbed a pen.  Then, with deliberate strokes, she put her heart on paper:  a striking scene of two friends sitting together on a bench.  When she left, she smiled and said, ‘This is the best time I’ve had in a long time.’

She had come to Evergreen the day she died.  Now she was gone forever.

How very hard and short life is for some; how essential is the need to minister the Kingdom of God every moment, because that moment could be the last.

I looked at her once more and through my tears, I said, ‘Good-bye.’

She was only 14 years old.

~from Prayer for the City, a quarterly publication of Yonge Street Mission and the Evergreen Centre in downtown Toronto, Canada.   Pray for the young people at Evergreen for whom life is hard and sometimes very short.  To learn more about YSM, click here.

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