Throw a party!

glocalnet t-lounge: Throw More Parties!:

“One of the best pieces of advice that I received early on was simply put, ‘Throw more Parties.’ Church planting really comes down to meeting people and connecting those people to one another. They may connect with you early on but if they don’t connect with one another they will drift off. One of the best investments you can make is in food.

Connections happen when we rely on others

In this post, Darren Prince tells about how asking for help instead of fixing a bike tire on his own brought a small – but significant – breakthrough with a neighbor…

As people on mission, if we are the answers to our own problems, we probably miss out on bonding opportunities with our neighbors.  Why should we be the only people with resources – available to help “them” with their stuff but not need them in our own moments of crisis?  In this instance, I had to fight back my own instinct to get the problem fixed in a hurry, and simply rely on a prayer and a glance up at the balcony for something bigger.

There’s power in sacrifice

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A woman is walking around at the CIA command center somewhere overseas. They’ve been tracking a rogue agent and are hot on his trail. Her cellphone rings.

“Pamela Landy,” she says.

“This is Jason Bourne,” the caller says.

They go on to exchange important spy-like details and cleverly written dialogue. He wants to meet. She says it can be arranged. He says he wants the girl who worked in the old office to be the one to be there. She says she’ll have to work to find her.

“Shouldn’t be too hard,” Bourne says. “She’s standing right next to you.”

HA! He’s been watching from across the street the whole time! The whole room erupts in chaos as they try to find where Bourne is and how this one guy they’ve been trying to track found them instead.

The Bourne trilogy gets me fired up. I love that type of movie. There’s something inside that just loves to see Jason Bourne take out the bad guy and win. It’s powerful. It’s awesome. It’s sexy.

But then I hit a challenge. I love seeing people win – I love seeing the bad guy get put in his/her place. But the way of Jesus says we win by dying.

That’s not sexy. It doesn’t have that same ring to it. Doesn’t give you that “yeah! You get ’em Jason!” feeling in your gut, does it?

But that’s the message of the Bible. We win by dying.

Did you get that? We win by dying.

Do you know someone who has been to church – maybe even grew up in church – but now has nothing to do with anything Christian?

Why does this happen? You can find people who have been a part of everything from the most relevant, rockin’ mega church to the smallest, most intimate discipling gathering who have drifted away and decided this Jesus thing didn’t really matter.

We’re not even talking about the people who aren’t following God because they’ve never heard! Somehow, for some reason, these folks have chosen either intentionally or unintentionally to just plug away at life – knowing the Jesus stories and deciding they’re nothing more than just stories.

They’ve heard the information. But something’s still missing.

There’s one thing that cuts through everything else. One thing I’ve seen make a difference in people’s lives who have said, “It’s not for me.” It’s sacrifice. Nothing – absolutely nothing – rings truer in the lives of people who are far from God than the lives of people who have given up their lives, comfort or position because they believe Jesus really is Lord.

It’s amazing to see what happens when an individual or group really gets to the point where they can say, “God came to earth as a man. He lived among us, showed us how to live, and died in a historic act that can save us right now and for forever. I believe that when God comes to earth and tells us something, what he says matters. And I believe it so much, I’m willing to do whatever it takes to obey and follow him.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m typically not there. Most of us Christians blend into society – seeking the same things as everyone else. We want comfort, convenience, and respect. We want to be liked and be seen as cool. None of those things are bad when they come our way. But when we spend all our time seeking them, we’re missing the point.

Here’s a guarantee. Giving something up for God and doing what he says will make more of a difference in the lives of those people who aren’t following God than any invite to another church service ever will. Both may be best. But a lot of people are moderately informed about Christianity. They just haven’t seen a lot of it.

Sacrifice may not feel sexy, but that’s really the point. The power of God goes beyond perfect lives where everyone is happy and has a shiny new car because they love God. God’s love causes us to give beyond what we’d ever give on our own. And that service, sacrifice, and love speaks volumes to a world that desperately need to hear and see the truth.

How do you feel about sacrifice?

A power trifecta of amazing posts!

Every once in a while you need an over-the-top title, don’t you?

But seriously, there are three bloggers who have has some amazing posts recently. And in my goodness, I’m going to point you right to them.

First, recording artist extraordinarre Shaun Groves tells a story in three parts (one, two, and three) you’ve got to read. I think his responses to the woman who wants him to sign a “take back the government and get prayer in schools” petition are extremely well said. It’s a devisive issue in the Christian world. Whatever side you’re on, it’s a good read.

Next, my favorite glocal trekker Bob Roberts (blogging at glocal.net) tells us once again that it ain’t about the “style” of how we do church. It absolutely comes down to disciples. Form follows function. He writes, “Your church is only as good as your disciples–not your preacher! If you want to tinker with something, tinker with the disciple. How do we create a culture of the kingdom so people will engage it in a daily manner?” Awesome stuff, Bob!

And finally, my new favorite blogger, Vince Antonucci, has two thought-provoking, challenging posts about how we do church. The first one lays out his case for the belief that our churches just aren’t reaching lost people. Even though there have been tons of church starts and super mega churches popping up all over, there are less people in church now than in 1990 in every single county in the United States! The next one talks about his informal surveys at churches, finding that most people have transferred to “this church” from “another one” and if they weren’t here, they’d be going to “this other one down the street.” If the church was reaching more lost folks, Vince believes they wouldn’t be in that church shopping mindset. This would be their home.

Now, a lot of people can bash the church without anything positive to say (Vince is even criticized of this in the comments of his post), but what I respect about his writing is that he’s leading a church and doing something about it. He says he’ll be talking more about the “what now?” steps next. As my buddy Michelangelo said, “criticize by creating!”

The discussions in each one of these posts are important to me, not only because of the church planting ideas, but because I’m working on a new “thing” at Glenkirk focused on the post-college/pre-kid age group. It’s supposed to be a Sunday morning class, but we’re going to let it be a lot more experimental. Instead of one guy standing up front and talking about 10 steps to a healthy relationship, it’s going to be a lot more interactive. We’re going to focus on the Gospels and see how we can live them out together.

I have a lot of ideas for where it could go, but for now we’re going to start simple and see where God leads. Hopefully we can begin meeting off the church campus and do some things that don’t immediately “fit” within the typical paradigms – not just do “be different,” but to stretch our faith and follow Christ into places where he’s a lot more needed than the typical church classroom.

Thoughts?

A network church – diversity and unity

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When Grete and I fly into LAX from a trip, we typically take the Metro train back to Pasadena. Although it’s a much longer trip than taking a car, I love the experience. The crowd riding the Metro is incredibly diverse. You have high schoolers hopping on and riding one stop down together, men and women getting off work and heading home, people heading to sporting games, and a few folks who are probably homeless. It’s a place where every race and (almost) every class brush shoulders on the way to their next thing.

Why can’t church look more like the Metro?

Ryan Bolger has said that people shouldn’t have to cross cultures to come to Christ. In other words, they shouldn’t have to get used to a “church” culture before they can hear the message of Christ. We shouldn’t expect people to come to our turf, act like us, enjoy our music and understand our traditions so they can learn about God. They need to hear about God in a way they can understand.

At the same time, the Bible values diversity. Look at the mix of folks who Jesus considered friends. There were wealthy benefactors, rough and tough fishermen, government-sponsored tax collectors, zealots who possibly killed government-sponsored people like tax collectors. Would have made for an interesting dinner party. Continue reading “A network church – diversity and unity”

Learn from people with different perspectives

Maybe it’s not right to “rate” churches. Maybe it seems consumeristic. Maybe one visit to a service can’t get the feel of a community.

But what if a view from the outside, from an atheist, shed some light on a few of your blind spots? What if it caused a little conversation? What if it shook some presuppositions?

I’ve been reading some of Matt Casper’s ratings of a few churches. He’s an atheist who has traveled and visited churches with Christian Jim Henderson. Their recent book is Jim and Casper go to Church.

There’s a comment on the ratings site that nails down an important thought:

I love all this conversation…it’s all very challenging for me right now. First things first, I’m a Christ follower, but I’m having my doubts about my association with the Christian religion right about now.

Matt your book is more than intriguing to me because I’m a newer Christ follower (5 years) who works in a mega-church in the Midwest. I understand your points completely about the ‘lights, camera, action’ approach to a church service. I’m the guy in my church who’s in charge of making sure that all those things work each Sunday. In all honesty, I pushed to have a lot of those things installed in our building. I love production…what else can I say? Continue reading “Learn from people with different perspectives”

Do two things well

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In one way of looking at it, church exists for two things:
a message – to tell the world of God’s love. To share they have a way, a hope.
a movement – to be the incarnation of that love in the world. Here and now.

An exciting thing has happened over the past 10 years. Some churches have become really good at sharing the message of God. They decided that the greatest message of all time needs to be told with excellence. It isn’t enough just to expect people to come to us. We need to compel them to come. We need to encourage our people to invite others. We need to communicate that relevant, real, and powerful message in a way that’s understandable to outsiders.

And it has worked! Lives are changed. God transforms people and uses these messages and ministries.

But sometimes, something is missing.

Beyond the ministries within the church, very little is happening to impact the wider community. We market to get people to come in. But we do very little going.

We need to use the gifts and talents of our congregations to bless the city. Bob Roberts often asks (quoting someone), “If the church no longer existed, would anyone besides its members know or care?”

What are we doing to make people’s lives better because Christ’s love compels us? We don’t work to earn anything before God, but if we’re not working to bless the people around us, what does it say about our faith?

My next steps (part four)

Here’s my final “next step” thought from the class I took with Alan. I’ll process more of the ideas from the class later, but these are simply a few of the things I need to apply from the time personally. As with any classroom environment, it’s easy to get stuck in the theory and never get to the action. So, before any of the ideas are processed, it’s probably best to process those actions I feel God’s pressing in on my heart.

You can read the first three posts here, here, and here.

  • I am not, but I know I AM – This one isn’t a “next step,” but a feeling I have from the week. Louie Giglio spoke about this “I am not” idea once. I’m not much of anything, but I’m following the God of the universe. He’s where my worth and value come from.In a class like this, I’m always drawn to the people who are doing it –  people in the midst of ministry. I’m doing some things – but they’re very little. Very little. I don’t have much to offer in discussion. But I dive in anyway. It’s both a humbling, and actually freeing, experience.

    I’m excited to have the chance to be a small part of what God’s doing, and I hope that excitement overshadows any feelings of “I’m not good enough” or “I’m really, really good at this.” We’re all in ministry, and we all have the amazing opportunity to be a part of what God’s doing. It’s worth the risk, discipline, and sacrifice every single time. I want to live into that truth.

My next steps (part three)

The third post in my series of next steps I’m taking after a class with Alan Hirsch. Read the first two here and here.

  • Gospels – Most of the communities we talked about centered most of their learning around the Gospels. We get most of what we know about God from Jesus, so we need to spend time studying and understanding him. It doesn’t lessen the need for the Old Testament or the other New Testament writings, but sometimes we’re guilty of focusing mainly on Paul and forgetting about Christ.Jesus is sometimes hard to handle. He’s messy. He says things that challenge how we live life. I want to spend more time embracing that messiness and integrating his words into my life. That means more time focusing on and studying the Gospels.

My next steps (part two)

Continuing from the last post, here’s another next step I’m taking after finishing up The Forgotten Ways.

  • Practices – The Western church is all about knowledge. If we KNOW enough, we’ll start DOING the right things, right? It hasn’t really worked, has it? I love how some churches we discussed have embraced practices instead of values.

    Most churches have similar written values. But are most people living them out? Let’s decide as a group how are values are fleshed out in practices – the things we do as individuals and as a church. Humans want to find meaning in what we do, so if we start with the practices, the knowledge will happen as we begin doing them.

    I love the set Small Boat Big Sea uses – BELLS.

    BLESSING: Who have you blessed this week through words or actions and what learning, encouragement or concerns were raised by it?EATING: With whom have you eaten this week and what learning, encouragement or concerns were raised by it?

    LISTENING: Have you heard or sensed any promptings from God this week?

    LEARNING: What passages of Scripture have encouraged you or what other resources have enriched your growth as a Christian this week?

    SENTNESS: In what ways have you sensed yourself carrying on the work of God in your daily life this week?

    I don’t think I’ll simply adopt these, but they may be a good place to start. It’s not a legalistic thing. It’s more of a way to see concretely the things God’s leading me to and how I can make sure I’m actually living them out.

    If Jesus is Lord, how do we – how do I – respond to him in a way that reflects that?

My next steps (part one)

So I haven’t blogged much about The Forgotten Ways since last Monday’s class. The week flew by! But I will be writing more about some pieces soon.

We finished with the classroom portion last Friday. I’ll just say it was a powerful week – listening to Alan, processing the ideas, hearing other people’s stories and feedback. It honestly leaves me excited and hopeful for the future of church in America and beyond. That’s something I don’t usually hear when talking about new or existing forms of church in America – hope. Our conversations centered on Jesus – following him and empowering others to do the same. I love that it’s really that simple. It starts with a simple statement: Jesus is Lord. Do we understand it? Are we really living it out?

I’ll flesh some of this out later, but for now, let me start by sharing where I’m committed to go because of this discussion. Ideas are just ideas. They don’t mean much. So what changes has this course challenged me to?

Here’s the first one. I’ll post more later.

  • Third Places – Working in seminary and church worlds, it’s very easy to become part of that Christian subculture that doesn’t “get” any other culture. We’re completely removed.But it can happen to folks whose lives aren’t filled with seminary and church. We tend to spend most of our time in our first places – home – and our second places – work. But there’s a different kind of connection that takes place in those third places – where people go to hang out, relax, and have fun.

    Whether it be a coffee shop, a cafe, a happy hour, a sports team, or a hobby club, there’s a place where we all can be close to others. These are the places where real spiritual conversations can happen because real connections are made. I’m looking for places I can be intentional about spending my time off campus and outside of the church.

More traffic?

(This post originally ran here in May of last year. It’s re-running because it fits with some of the recent conversation. Consider it a “Best of.”)

Check out these excerpts from Seth’s Blog:

“So, here’s your choice:
You can have a billboard in Times Square (seen by 2 million people a day), or you can be the keynote speaker at the Allen & Co. annual millionaire media mogul retreat, listened to by about 150 people for an hour.

A no brainer? I hope so.

Of course, it’s not just the demographics. I think it’s the quality of the interaction.”

And he continues …

“MySpace is killing Amazon in traffic.

… It’s just human nature to measure a simple metric, and to want to improve it. It’s human nature to believe that the more people get exposed to your idea, the better you’re going to do. It’s human nature to want to ‘win’, however you define winning.”

It’s a constant battle in any field: numbers or quality. But why is it easier to see in business? It makes sense. If you have to choose between owning MySpace and Amazon, most would chooose Amazon. MySpace may get more hits, but Amazon has a clear, profitable purpose.

What about churches? Is the goal to just gather a crowd? To talk more about what God’s about? What if we were to gather a core and build in a healthy, organic way? What if they could see relationships? Experience Christ today through real service and community?

Amazon sells books. The Church is all about helping people see, get to know, and follow Jesus Christ in a way that transforms them into people who embody love and truth. I’d love to start a giant church, but I’ve realized that most of the time, God works in a way that’s a lot less about me.

Once you start on a healthy growth path, then absolutely, numbers are great! Amazon wouldn’t turn away customers. But it’s a lot easier to grow Amazon’s page hits than it is to figure out how to sell stuff through MySpace.

The thing is, once your culture is set, it’s hard to change the expectations.

“All a long, long way to say something simple:
Whatever your website, I think you want better traffic, not more traffic.”

The Forgotten Ways – Day one, part one

Here’s a quick list of a few things that stood out to me from the first day of class. Before you read, know this: I can’t include everything, so you’re getting a limited context. Read the books!

Also, Alan is great at helping a group understand a problem so they see the need for a solution. If the first day seems negative, it’s because we have to see what’s wrong first. We’ll soon move to what the positive alternatives are.

Finally, Alan articulates something better than most people I’ve heard. He’s not against one expression of church and for another. The type of church we’ll talk about will look different than a mega church, primarily because in many areas, studies have shown that type of church really only attracts about 15% of the people. The problem is, more than 90% of churches are seeking to be that style. Not all of them can pull it off. And even if they could, we’d only be connecting with a small section of the population (15% is the number in Australia, it’s very likely higher here, but probably no higher than 40%). We need to think creatively and theologically about how we can join God where he is and go be the church.

  • We’ve never been in a post-Christian environment before. We’ve never been in aspace where we stand in an inoculated culture before. Like we can be inoculated for diseases, much of our culture has been inoculated to Christianity. They’ve gotten a little of some false form of it, and it’s shut them off from having any part of it when the real thing comes around.
  • Emerging is different from missional. In a missional church (or as he terms, emerging missional church, mission is the organizing principle. The mission of God determines how the church organizes itself.
  • God is everywhere, wooing people to himself. We need to be willing to go to dangerous places (places Christians wouldn’t normally go), listen to the stories people tell, affirm those stories, and while showing how God is working within their stories, point to that alternate ending.
  • We need to give that process time and learn the arts of conversation and friendship.
  • Constantine is still the emperor of our imaginations. He introduced us to the institution of the church. His using Christianity to unify his empire could have been the worst thing that happened to us.
  • Americans are highly mobile. That mobility can lead to an incapacity to relate over the long term. He saw this in the church he worked with in Australia. Young 20-something singles would get a two-year itch where they had exhausted their relational skills and said God was moving them on. He and other leaders pushed back and said no – we’re going to learn to keep relating.

This is just one small piece of our discussion yesterday. I’ll add more thoughts later.