Cool church?

This is so encouraging to read – especially from a church with the size and influence of Life Church:

The American Church is not lacking for “cool” pastors. Like a single guy who is trying just-a-bit-too-hard to impress a girl, some churches are simply trying too hard to be cool.

I’m very encouraged to see a shifting in direction. For years, many of us seemed focused on:

  • Designing relevant church experiences.
  • Producing entertaining videos.
  • Creating inviting environments.
  • Crafting sermon series to draw a crowd.
  • Writing sermons with shock value and plenty of humor or stories.

While all of the above can be effective tools, many of my friends are intentionally moving in a stronger direction. So many great Christian leaders are seeing far better results with:

  • Bathing a sermon in prayer.
  • Fasting regularly.
  • Practicing personal confession and repentance.
  • Preaching from the overflow of time alone in God’s word.
  • Caring deeply for others in biblical community.

I’m thrilled so many leaders are placing less emphasis on being cool and more emphasis on being like Christ.

Relevance matters as long as we define relevance as meeting people where they are at a point of need. But it’s so easy to spend time fighting a battle we won’t win. We can have fun and tell great, meaningful stories. That’s good and important. But if it’s about the flash and cool-factor alone, we’ll never beat Hollywood, Comedy Central, or even SNL! Creativity is great, but there’s something more to our message.

Who has the power?

It’s easy for Christians to struggle with this idea of “sacred” vs. “secular.” You’ve seen it. It’s the whole idea that “Christian” music is good, while “non-Christian” music is bad. Or that a “pastor” is more holy than a postal worker. Neil Cole has been doing a series of posts about this false division. I love what he says here:

The way we try and remove ourselves from the “secular” world for fear of losing our spiritual power demonstrates that we actually believe more in the power of the darkness than we do in the light of Jesus Christ. Ouch!

I would rather have small faith in a substantive thing than have great faith in a flimsy thing. Jesus said it only takes the faith of a mustard seed to move mountains when that small faith is in the right person.

Read his whole post here.

[thanks to Aaron for the link]

Catch some behind-the-scenes interviews on church planting and more

For those of you who may not follow some of the big blogs that are involved in it, Rick Warren is hosting a summit for a select group of pastors, and a group of bloggers has been busy live-streaming interviews all day. I just watched an interview with Rick McKinley and Bob Roberts – two guys I really respect for how they’re actually engaging the culture around them and the world. As a church we’re getting better at talking missional, but it’s great to hear some stories from some folks who are actually doing it.

Oh, and don’t tell my wife, but I’m about to order three books because Bob recommended them.

They’ll just have to sit on the shelf for a little while, but I’m excited to dig into some brain-stretching thoughts on how we can engage the world in a global society.

If you want to check it out, the interview is here. Seriously. If you’re interested in church planting or what it means for a church to step outside of it’s walls, this is a good place to learn a little about missional thinking, global engagement, and finding mentors.

The live stream is here with links to all of today’s interviews. There are a lot of big names – Perry Noble, Nelson Searcy, Mark Batterson, Kerri Shook, Mark Driscoll and more…

Becoming missional communities

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about what it means to be a “missional community” – how small groups can organize around outward mission that enables those relationships with God and each other to grow and be developed along the way. Alan Hirsch has a lot of great things to say about this here.

The problem is, life isn’t giving me much time to think, and I haven’t been able to put much of it into words to share here. But never fear! There are people much smarter than I’ll ever be talking about the same stuff. Here are a couple of pieces of good “thought food” from Drew Goodmanson.

I’m serious. It’s good, thick stuff. Take some time to look at it. If you need more of an intro to some of the ideas, read the Hirsch article above first. It’s from a different perspective, but it’ll begin to give you a framework through which to process the ideas.

Organic Movement – Reverse Church Planting
Today, a lot of what is called church planting is really starting a new 1 hour service for people to attend.  There’s a belief that just by opening your doors and great preaching, you will start a revolution.

Leading a Missional Community
A Missional Community (MC) is a committed core of believers who live out the mission of God together in a specific area or to a particular people group by demonstrating the gospel in tangible forms and declaring the gospel to others – both those who believe it and those who are being exposed to it.

Multiplying Missional Communities
As our communities gather rdinary people doing ordinary things with gospel intentionality, we should both pray for and expect the Spirit to work among us.

Jesus, sinners, and you

I’m always amazed at how Jesus not only hung around rough crowds filled with corrupt businessmen, prostitutes, and sinners but how those crowds actually wanted to be around Jesus. How does that happen? His message essentially tells them they need to change, but they invite him to parties.

When I’m in a new group and want them to “like” me, my first instinct is to impress them. If I look the right way and say the right things, they’ll think I’m cool and want me around, right?

Yeah. It’s a lousy approach. You can work to impress people, or you can try to connect with them. Impressing involves working to send all the right signals. Connecting involves spending a lot more time listening, asking questions, and sharing stories. It’s being who you are and caring about the other person rather than showing off a certain look or feel.

So the down-and-out crowded to be around Jesus. But today, most people outside of church avoid Christians like the plague. Part of the problem, it seems, is that while Jesus worked to connect, we’re working to impress.

I’m convinced it’s all about love. Jesus’ love was attractive. Somehow, the amount he cared about the people he was around came through enough that it was the message.

For us as individuals and the church, it’s a freeing message. Be yourself and love people.

It doesn’t mean we have to soften the rough edges of Christianity that might offend. Just be yourself and love people.

It doesn’t mean we have to lead perfect lives so everyone can see what a Christian should be like. Just be yourself and love people.

It doesn’t mean that our creative church services must be perfect every Sunday. Just be yourself and love people.

For some folks, this call is more difficult. It’s easier to put on a show than to simply be. But God’s call to love God and love others is centered around that type of relationship. Jesus’ call to “follow me” focuses on those relationships as well.

So how about this. Stop worrying about impressing people. Follow God. Be yourself. Love people.

Remove jargon. Communicate clearly.

The more you’re a part of a subculture, the more you speak that culture’s language. That’s all fine and good until you need to communicate with someone outside of that culture.

It happens in the church world. Phrases and expectations can be completely odd to the newcomer. And let me tell you – seminary doesn’t help. Most Christians wouldn’t know what half the stuff seminary students talk about means.

Want to know what it feels like to be someone walking into a jargon-filled church for the first time? Watch this…

[ht: 22 Words]