Friday, July 30, 2010

The Challenge of Listening

I was recently home on vacation. Home, where I live, is Cypress, CA. Home, where I grew up, is Ravensdale/Maple Valley, WA. I’m speaking of the latter home. While ‘home,’ I had an embarrassing gaffe that I was completely unaware of. My grandfather made it over from Eastern Washington to visit with us during our stay as well as to see the rest of the family on the west side of the Cascades.

I found out a day later that three times during our conversation in my dad’s backyard I had totally spaced out and cut off a conversation almost like he was never there. It was lame of me. I felt terrible when I found out. I wrote a note of apology and spoke with him a week or two later. Everything’s fine. Perhaps better than it was before.

But what’s more embarrassing is that I think I do this often. My brain just disconnects and I go to something else mentally. Like that dog in Up whose attention is completely shot when someone says, “Squirrel.” My poor listening skills just “are,” but seeing how they hurt someone I love and respect so much made me wonder what kind of damage I had done to others. It boils down, in my mind, to an issue of respect and honoring people. I dishonored my grandfather by not valuing him with my undivided attention. And I do the same with others all the time.

A friend recommended a book to me awhile back and my first priority upon returning ‘home’ (Cypress this time) was to read it. It’s Quick-to-Listen Leaders by Ping and Clippard. I just finished it and there are good challenges all over, but there are a couple chapters in particular that I need to nail down to do the work/training it takes to be a good listener. It might come naturally for some people, but not for me. So I’ll try to put together a couple posts soon that summarize those points where I want to see the most improvement in my life.

In the meantime, I’m working to listen better and it has been a blessing. I don’t always need to run to the next thing. Things get done just fine – even if I slow down to listen and give people my full attention. At least the same amount gets done (maybe more), but people are honored in the process. This work seems to be paying off. I hope the skills will help all the more.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The State of the Blog

It’s odd. I have tried to be really consistent in my blogging and giving content from the things I’ve been reading. It got really exhausting and the joy of writing and blogging became burdensome. I initially sought to blog for my own purposes – whether anyone read it or not. What’s funny is that as soon as I quit writing, I posted what was intended to be a humorous anecdote from St. Augustine and received more comments than I had ever received. Thanks, everyone, for your comments. It gave some substance to what was intended to be humorous regarding my aging.

Anyway, I’m reviving the blogging after taking more than a month off. It will look different this time around. More sporadic. Less ‘content’ from books I’m reading and perhaps a little more response, commentary on the significance of it (at least in my life). At least that’s what I think for now. This could all change when I get tired of this angle on blogging. Perhaps this will be a bit more refreshing than this last ‘spurt’ of blogging has been. Either way, I hope you find something helpful and it will again be a useful tool as I process things a little better in a public forum.

What to expect coming up? There will be some residual posts with “Missional Mondays” I had prepared before getting exhausted as well as a few “Hump Day Histories” with Augustine. I may end up doing more of these (for example, Tim Keller’s Ministries of Mercy makes up the upcoming “Missional Mondays,” but only for the first few chapters … I’ll keep going if I get ‘inspired!’).

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Hump Day History: St. Augustine’s City of God

It’s been downhill for awhile for me. I turn 37 tomorrow and when I was reading Augustine’s City of God earlier this year he was grappling with the question of what our eternal bodies would be like. For instance, would a baby who died be a full-grown person, or would they be in the state of an infant for eternity. More specifically, he wonders if we’ll all be the same size as Jesus since He’s perfection. I honestly don’t remember the conclusions, but the constant refrain is that “not a hair of our head will be harmed.” God will take care of us, eternally.

The part that struck me as humorous – less so now – is when he states that it’s all downhill after 30. Behold, Augustine on age…

“For even the world’s wisest men have fixed the bloom of youth at about the age of thirty; and when this period has been passed, the man begins to decline towards the defective and duller period of old age” (p. 838-839).
It’s all downhill from here! And it has been … for years!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Hump Day History: St. Augustine’s City of God

… and Donald Miller, Reggie Joiner, and Moses, Jethro, and Joshua. I’m preaching on Father’s Day and I think I’m going to fill in some parts of Moses’ life that we skipped in our Exodus series on Sunday morning. I’ve been listening to this Donald Miller podcast (Episode 95) talking about fatherhood and I bought and started reading his book, Father Fiction. This challenge of fatherlessness in our nation is tremendous and as it is developing, I’m wondering how the church can solve it. Miller is working on a mentoring program. I’m not even thinking about mentoring kids in the community. I’m wondering what we do with all these single moms in our church. How do we get men into the lives of these kids? My short term solution is to invite a few of them to our small group … and get our small group rolling again.

The Bible uses family language for the church – brothers and sisters, etc… - and St. Augustine likened the family dynamic to caring for sinning brothers and sisters. I’ll end with his quote that simply adds a link to this church/family chain that I’m trying to figure out … as I raise my own kids and as I seek to lead in the church in such a way that we can go to battle against a huge issue in our world. From St. Augustine for your digestion…

“…if any member of the family interrupts the domestic peace by disobedience, he is corrected either by word or blow, or some kind of just and legitimate punishment, such as society permits, that he may himself be the better for it, and be readjusted to the family harmony from which he had dislocated himself. For as it is not benevolent to give a man help at the expense of some greater benefit he might receive, so it is not innocent to spare a man at the risk of his falling into graver sin” (p. 695).
I don’t like church discipline and I’m not innocent in keeping people from the risk of greater sin by calling them out. But if we don’t, are we making people spiritually ‘fatherless,’ in a sense (of course God is their father, but I hope you get what I mean…).

Monday, May 31, 2010

Happy Memorial Day!

We have much to be thankful for. One of those things to be thankful for is those who serve our country – living and dead. May God bless them and their families today.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Sunday Services

I hope you enjoyed your Sunday services today. If you didn't make it to any or don't have a local church, be sure to get in one. Until then, here's our church podcast and here's the link to some friends up in Bellevue, WA: Eastgate Bible Fellowship.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Catalyst Recap: Andy Stanley (General Session 4/23 – Closing Session)

Andy Stanley ended the conference with a helpful leadership challenge. It starts with a clear maxim: “My fully developed strengths will always be of greater value than your marginally improved weaknesses.”

It corrects the myth that good leaders are good at everything and we need to focus on our weaknesses and ‘wing’ our strengths. This is natural and necessary when we start out, but it will limit our leadership in the long run if we stay in that mode.

Stanley likes numbers. Here are the two best kept secrets in leadership.
1. The less you do, the more you accomplish.
2. The less you do, the more you enable others to accomplish.

Each year you need to think through what you need to quit doing. “Only do what you can do” – it’s unrealistic, but always keep it as a target.

Three things happen when you drift from your core competencies. (These are easy to recognize in others, not self.)
1. Their effectiveness diminishes.
2. The effectiveness of other leaders are diminished.
3. The ability of the organization to keep good leaders diminishes.

Why Leaders Miss This Principle
1. They buy into the myth of being well-rounded. (You don’t need to be well-rounded … your organization does.)
2. Leaders forget to distribute between authority and their core competencies. (Everyone has authority outside of their competencies. Make as few decisions as possible. Let others choose.)
3. Some leaders can’t distinguish between their competencies and non-competencies. (Know what you don’t know.)
4. Some leaders feel guilty delegating their weaknesses. (Don’t. It’s someone else’s joy and strength).
5. Some leaders won’t take time to train other leaders. (Let people make mistakes. Do you want to be right, or do you want to make more leaders?)

Acts 6 illustrates this issue. “It would not be right for us to … serve food.” Not right = it would be WRONG!

What’s the outcome of all this?
1. It’s easier to establish a sustainable pace. (You won’t wear out from doing things you hate.)
2. Corporately, you’ll end up with a congregation that reflects your strengths, but not your weaknesses.

How do you get started on this? Ask some ‘Discovery Questions’:
1. What’s effortless for you, but draining for others?
2. In what areas are you the ‘go-to’ person?
3. What energizes you?
4. What do you wish you could stop doing?
5. What organizational environments are you drawn to?
6. Which do you avoid?

‘Discovery Project’: Write your ideal job description. This isn’t anything you might be able to act on immediately, but make it the target, the ideal.

We can do many things, what MUST we do?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Catalyst Recap: Erwin McManus (General Session 4/23)

Erwin McManus is an excellent communicator, which makes it all the more tragic that my sound bytes of notes won’t demonstrate the cohesiveness of his message, but here goes. He does one session walking through Solomon and Ecclesiastes (he’s currently teaching on it – check the Mosaic podcast. Series titled “Reality Check”). He starts with the statement that “wisdom and knowledge are not “enough.” He’s referring to the fact that Solomon, writing Ecclesiastes later in life, thinks everything is meaningless.

The ministry application is that ministry can suck the meaning out of our lives. We get so pragmatic that we lose our souls. And it has had effects on our people. We teach them (by deed, if not by word) that their lives don’t have meaning outside of ministry.

This is where McManus gets provocative. He says Solomon is wrong when he says there’s “nothing new under the sun.” God says so in Isaiah 43.19 (I think this is what he referenced. I didn't have time to write it down). God is doing new things all the time. God gave us imagination and creativity, but we’ve abdicated creating the future to people who don’t know the Living God. We need to focus on living lives of meaning as leaders and help people find meaning in their own lives.

This is a good challenge. I can go on auto-pilot with my life too often instead of seeking to live with significance and meaning. What about you?

Random notes: We keep confusing fame and greatness. If we focus on fame, we’ll never hit greatness. (To link it to the body of the message, I suppose it indicates that there’s a difference between all this meaning talk and fame. We can live meaningfully without being famous.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Hump Day History: John Chrysostom on Pastoral Ministry

I found a challenging couple paragraphs for those of us engaged in pastoral ministry in Hall’s Reading Scripture with the Church Fathers – specifically the section on John Chrysostom. All that is below is from Hall’s book; the block quote is actually Chrysostom himself.

“In John’s well-known and well-loved work, On the Priesthood, he compares the Christian pastor to a physician, one who has ‘discovered a multiplicity of drugs and various designs of instruments and appropriate forms of diet for the sick.’ John notes, however, that occasionally a healthy climate or deep sleep makes intervention by a physician unnecessary. Not so with physicians of the word. The preacher must carefully diagnose the ills and needs of his congregation, faithfully applying the only efficacious remedy, ‘teaching by word of mouth.’

That is the best instrument, the best diet, and the best climate. It takes the place of medicine and cautery and surgery. When we need to cauterize or cut, we must use this. Without it all else is useless. By it we rouse the soul’s lethargy or reduce its inflammation, we remove excrescences and supply defects, and, in short, do everything which contributes to its health. … We must take great care, therefore, that against a single kind of attack. … Unless the man who means to win understands every aspect of the art, the devil knows how to introduce his agents at a single neglected spot and so to plunder the flock. But he is baffled when he sees that the shepherd has mastered his whole repertoire and thoroughly understands his tricks” (p. 95).

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Catalyst Recap: Kay Warren & Wess Stafford (General Session 4/23)

These were actually two separate sessions, but their content overlapped and I think I was exhausted at this point. They were both pretty intense, which may have added to my fatigue. Most know who Kay Warren is, but Wess Stafford is President of Compassion International. Both are focusing on children. Wess more generally, Kay is intentionally challenging us to deal with orphans in our country and globally.

Starting with Kay Warren … there are 143 million orphans worldwide and God loves and protects them.

Proverbs 23:10-11 Do not move an ancient landmark or enter the fields of the fatherless, for their Redeemer is strong; he will plead their cause against you.
God watches out for orphans and they are a litmus test of our faith (James 1.27). We all have personal responsibility when it comes to orphans. It may not be adopting, but we are responsible for caring for them in some way.

A powerful reminder when it comes to adoption is that we have been adopted by God and when we take care of orphans (adopt!), we are doing what our Heavenly Father has done for us. He has adopted us and shared all of His good things with us. We’re to do the same.

The Challenge: Ask yourself, “God, do you want us to adopt?” He won’t say ‘Yes’ to everyone, but He will to more people than you’d think.

Wess Stafford was next and he did a great job of showing Jesus’ care for children and His anger when people kept children from coming to Him (Mark 10.13-14; cf. Matthew 19.13-15; Luke 18.15-17).

I wish I remembered more of his talk. It was passionate and it ended with the challenge to not cause a child to stumble … and don’t let it happen at the hands of others, either.

It was an emotional, passionate hour plus with these two speakers back-to-back and I wish I’d taken better notes, but it was a challenging session nonetheless.

Incidentally, I have a friend who is caring for orphans in India. Check out Jane’s House if you’re looking for a way to care for orphans overseas in need.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Mission(al) Monday: Living Incarnationally

I was privileged to spend some time with some of our missionaries and hear them share about living incarnationally in ministry. Ministry is relational if it’s going to be lasting. They talked about, even prior to their call overseas, they were living in an ethnic community and gained a hearing with the people and built relationships with people that were meaningful and transformative only after they moved in and actually shared life with people. Ate strange food, watched people’s kids, and the like.

It seems we’ve been going around in circles as we’ve attempted to minister to folks who are long term residents in the local motels. From our missionaries’ perspective, we’ve probably hit the wall in terms of what we can do until someone moves in there to live incarnationally among them. That’s kind of frustrating; there’s no way our family of 5 can do it, but it is also refreshing. The fact that we’re beating our head against the wall should be expected. We’ve reached the end of what we’re able to do effectively. We’ll keep doing it to keep the contacts alive until someone can get there – and we genuinely love some of the people there – but there’s not much more we can do with ‘drop in’ ministry.

As challenging and encouraging as this was for our ministry to the motels, it was challenging to how we live all the time. We don’t live incarnationally. Well, maybe we do, but it isn’t intentional. We live in a detached way like so many others rather than immersing ourselves in the culture and investing in those around us in a way that they feel loved. A challenging word for our family that I’m not quite sure what to do with it yet.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sunday Services

Be sure to plug into a local church and listen to God speak to you through your pastor and your local community as you get involved. If you're not plugged in yet, check us out at Cypress Church. Or listen to my friends at Eastgate Bible Fellowship up in Bellevue, WA.

I feature our church each month, but rotate another church in each month. Let me know if you have any ideas for some other churches to feature.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Catalyst Recap: Donald Miller (General Session 4/23)

Donald Miller, author of Blue Like Jazz and, most recently, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, talked about good stories and how to live one. He says people become the character they play in the narrative they believe. It can bring out the best in us … or cause us to settle for some pretty lame stories (read that as lives). Miller says the stories adjust the moral compass in our brains and we live according to them. When we live good stories, we make a good life.

Miller talks about story often – as an author naturally would – but he doesn’t stick with unhinged stories. He wants people to find their place in God’s grand narrative. He says doctrine is important because it is the true story in which we live.

He challenged us to write a bunch of ‘what if’ questions on the board. “What if …” we built a house for someone who needs it in a hurting nation? “What if …” we did this or that? When we ask some “What ifs …” we can write a great story.

One final note, conflict is a key element in a meaningful story. We’re taught to avoid it, but if a story is to be meaningful, we need to have conflict.

The challenges to think about our stories are always compelling to me. I need to scribble out a few ‘What ifs …’ with my family. What about you?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Catalyst Recap: Louie Giglio (General Session 4/22)

The first day ended with a great evening of worship led by Christ Tomlin and speaking by Louie Giglio. Giglio is known for some pretty amazing sermons online and his leadership with the Passion conferences. But he’s also just jumped into pastoral ministry, planting his first church. His message was a great basic reminder to all of us.

When he’s asked what kind of church he wants to be, he says, “An Acts 2 Church.” That’s great. But then he asked the question, “What did the Acts 2 church want to be?” They didn’t have an example. They had the Holy Spirit, the resurrection, and Jesus’ teaching.

Guess what?

We have those, too.

And if we want a movement like the early church, we need to be confident and lead confidently in God’s Word, trusting in the Holy Spirit and the Risen Christ.

That’s it. This ain’t rocket science. It’s unfortunate that I need reminders like this one, but I’m grateful to receive it. I need it.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Hump Day History: St. Augustine’s City of God

I’m a pastor. Sometimes I think I’m paid to talk. I’m paid to preach, give advice, be a ‘spiritual director.’ But I’m rebuked by St. Augustine’s description of a powerful moment in his ministry. He’s talking about different healings happening during his time as a church leader. On one such occasion, everyone was going crazy praising God going into the service. And this is how the service progressed after this time of healing…

Silence being at last obtained, the customary lessons of the divine Scriptures were read. And when I came to my sermon, I made a few remarks suitable to the occasion and the happy and joyful feeling, not desiring them to listen to me, but rather to consider the eloquence of God in this divine work (p. 830-831).
A great reminder that we are to always point to God’s eloquence in His divine work. Sometimes that means speaking. Sometimes it means keeping silent and just pointing the way.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Catalyst Recap: Reggie Joiner (General Session 4/22)

Reggie Joiner talked about “One Thing” that would make a difference, THE difference, in every church. After saying all the things it wasn’t, he told the story of the Prodigal Son (Lk. 15.?-?). The “One Thing”? Just treat a returning prodigal like a loving father treats his own son. He asked a frightening question: “What if the older brother had come out first?” How different would this story have been?

Loving Fathers are preoccupied with the missing. (Older brothers are preoccupied with themselves). Example: Don’t build church buildings for the people who are in it, but for those outside of it.

Loving Fathers operate from a context of forgiveness. (Older brothers operate from a context of shame). The goal is to create a place where the first place people run when they are in need is the church.

Loving Fathers throw parties. (Older brothers throw fits). We need to put joy and forgiveness in our homes and in our churches and there will be a huge difference.

Conclusion: Treat every prodigal like they’re your own son. And (speaking to church leaders), we have an opportunity to train a generation to love prodigals … or not.

Bonus: Joiner has a book out (Parenting Beyond Your Capacity) and he mentioned the idea earlier in the message that it is really difficult to raise children on your own. We need to invite other adults into our kids’ lives with our same values to reinforce what we tell them, but it will be from an objective resource. I thought that was brilliant. And I guess it needs to be people of different ages, too.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Mission(al) Monday: Missional Renaissance, Shift from Church-Based to Kingdom-Based Leadership – Changing the Scorecard, Part 2

Check out the post from May 10 for the first half of this scorecard shift. We’re going to hit the last two elements now, as we wrap up Missional Renaissance by Reggie McNeal.

Resource Management
These resources are pretty generalized because they are so broad. It is up to each of us to make it specific for ourselves. The key in these areas is making sure these resources are missionally-oriented.

· Prayer. What do you pray for? When? How? Who’s praying for you? You need a prayer team and it might be smart to have different people take care of different aspects of your life. McNeal has people who pray for his preaching, his leadership, and his personal life. Each person only gets one section.
· Relationships. Missional lifestyle starts at home. Your family needs to model it. You’ll have relationships where you’re investing in the development of other people – Jesus followers and otherwise.
· Time. Audit your own time and then think about how to use it more missionally. Difficult choices will have to be made, including taking your Sabbath to grow in your personal development.
· Money. This is personal and organizationally. Do your finances reflect missional generosity that blesses others? This needs to include your family as well – those closest to you can thwart what you’re trying to do if they’re not ‘on board.’
· Technology. Figure out how to use it missionally and don’t let it own you. If you’re into gadgetry, you may need a technology fast.
· Personal Property. Your home, office, car(s), vacation properties, etc… are all things that need to be approached from a missional perspective. What is ours is no longer ours alone.

Personal Growth
McNeal: “Too many leaders lose their life in leadership. …The missional message is incarnational, meaning it is wrapped up in you” (p. 168). The author doesn’t think you can template personal growth, but here are some big ones.

· Self-Awareness. You need to know what pushes you (or prevents you) in the things you do – “your fears, tendencies, and so on.” What are your personality strengths and challenges? What is your cognitive style – do you reflect, process with others, make decisions with little or all of the information, big picture, want details, etc…? What is your conflict style? What is your emotional intelligence? What is your talent level, honestly? What are your passions? What are your hidden addictions and compulsions? (If hidden, you may need a coach to help you find them!)
· Family Development. People development starts at home. Blessing others starts with your spouse and your children – the same thing when it comes to helping them develop as people.
· Emotional and Spiritual Health. Practice the spiritual disciplines, including Sabbath – he’s mentioned this a few times. I think it is often neglected by leaders (I’m guilty at times). He also includes practicing forgiveness and reconciliation. Also pay attention to emotional health – anger, depression – and cultivate hobbies and build boundaries to maintain emotional health.
· Physical Health. Take this seriously. Eat right. Exercise. Sleep. Go to the doctor for your checkups, etc…
· Financial Health. Make a plan for your personal and family spending, a financial plan to prepare for your future, and figure out ways to enhance your income (this was discussed a couple weeks ago).

This needs to be a very personal scorecard, but I’m putting it on my list of ‘things to do’ because I need to really set some goals for who I am as a person – as a whole person, not just a church leader.

Missional Renaissance Conclusion
The world is changing and God is calling people to embrace the change and minister to His people in the midst of it. Over the last couple months we’ve seen the changes and now it’s time to catch the wave.

My notes through the last couple months don’t do this book justice. I encourage you to look into it if you’ve found these at all interesting. In all of these posts you’re getting the bullets, but missing the stories and much of the learned theory from McNeal. Grab the book. It’s a good read and less than 200 pages. It will be time well spent.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Sunday Services

As always (or almost always!), be sure to attend worship somewhere on Sundays and reflect on what God is teaching you through your local church. If you're not involved in a local church, here are a couple places to listen ... but look into a good Bible-preaching church near your home.

We're starting up a series on Acts at our place. Check us out here.

Here's a link to Eastgate Bible Fellowship - the church of some wonderful friends up in Bellevue, WA.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Catalyst Recap: Mark Driscoll (General Session 4/22) already did the work of transcribing the points of Mark Driscoll’s message at Catalyst West. I’m going to put in just a few of the notes I sketched in my notebook.

By way of introduction, Driscoll mentioned one of the hardest things for him in ministry is to see other ministers not finish well. This message is a reminder that ministry isn’t what we do for God, but what God does in, for, and through us. Here we go…

11 Things God Does for Church Leaders
(Mark Driscoll via
Last week, Mark Driscoll was one of the featured speakers at Catalyst West. I did not get to hear his entire talk, but found these notes from The Resurgence to be really helpful. The topic: 11 things that God does for church leaders. See what you think:

1. Jesus is the Senior Pastor of the church. 1 Peter 5:4 – "And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory."

2. The Holy Spirit chooses leaders for the church. Acts 20:28 – "Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood."

3. God gifts leaders of the church. Ephesians 4:11–12 – "And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ."
Don’t work on your weaknesses; build a team to complement you.

4. God empowers leaders for the church. 1 Corinthians 15:10 – "But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me."
Hard work doesn’t make you righteous – Jesus makes you righteous.

5. God encourages leaders in the church. 2 Corinthians 4:1 – "Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart."

Your hope is in God’s mercy, not your results in ministry.

6. The Holy Spirit speaks to leaders about the church. Acts 13:2–3 – "While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, 'Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.' Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off."

7. God gives wisdom to leaders over the church. 2 Timothy 2:7 – "Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything."

8. Jesus joins leaders as they discipline in the church. Matthew 18:20 – "For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them."

9. God answers leaders' prayers for the church. James 5:14–15 – "Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up."

10. The Holy Spirit falls on Bible preaching in the church. Acts 10:44 – "While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word."

11. The Holy Spirit says no to leaders of the church. Acts 16:6 – "And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia."

Sometimes God says ‘No’ because He loves you. It’s not God’s best for you. Love
God, don’t use Him. Worship Him for saying ‘No.’

Any of those jump out as particularly helpful for you? I don’t know if one stands out, in particular, but the entire package was something I knew, but needed to hear afresh in my life and ministry.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Catalyst Recap: Charlene Li (General Session 4/22)

Charlene Li is a social media expert and author of Groundswell and the forthcoming Open Leadership. She says the social media trend isn’t a trend – it will be like air in the future – and it isn’t about technology. Rather, it’s about developing relationships you never would have been able to before. Since it’s inescapable, what do we do?

First, develop a strategy. Use it and get disciplined with it. How often do you write back to people on your blogs, on facebook, on Twitter. Start using it. It’s a valuable tool. You can use it and know the technology well, but if you’re not putting it to good use, you’re missing great opportunities.

Also, as you’re interacting with people, create “Sandbox Covenants” in your organization. Who can speak on your behalf and in what contexts.

Also, failure is inevitable as you’re figuring it out. Use failure as an opportunity to build trust in who you’re reaching. An example Li used was an innovation she wanted from Starbucks. She and several others posted it online, Starbucks tried it, and discovered it wouldn’t work. She was disappointed that it didn’t work, but her commitment to Starbucks grew as she understood that they listened to her and did their best.

How do you use social media? How have you seen it benefit your business/ministry? Have you had any failures that you’ve learned from?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Hump Day History: St. Augustine’s City of God

OK. We’re back to St. Augustine, one of the “Great Doctors of the West” (see Hall), and one of his most famous works, The City of God. Regarding eternity (Book XXII), Augustine has a couple challenging quotes that struck me.

Neither are we to suppose that because sin shall have no power to delight them (those in heaven), free will must be withdrawn. It will, on the contrary, be all the more truly free, because set free from delight in sinning to take unfailing delight in not sinning. …Are we to say God Himself is not free because He cannot sin? (p. 865-866).

But their intellectual knowledge, which shall be great, shall keep them acquainted not only with their past woes, but with eternal sufferings of the lost. For if they were not to know that they had been miserable, how could they, as the Psalmist says, for ever sing the mercies of God? (p. 877)

I’ve wondered about this issue of being able to sin in Heaven before. I like how Augustine mentions (not in the quote) that we will have more fully partaken of the divine nature and, if God is free and doesn’t sin, why can’t we be? That takes some of the tension away – because Adam sinned when he had it pretty good. Why wouldn’t we? We’ll be in a perfect place … but so was Adam. Augustine’s first quote helps, but there’s a reason I added the second.

When I wonder why the world has to be so bad, why evil is so prevalent, why sin is so pervasive and powerful in every human person, I wonder if that second quote gives us a good answer. Even if our eternal state is similar to Adam’s in some ways, his knowledge of the catastrophe of sin is nothing compared to ours. He knew nothing of it (until after it happened). We’ve been seeing it for generations. When we see what is unleashed when we set our wills against God, coupled with the flesh being set free as we are in glorified bodies, should keep us from such catastrophic choices as we enjoy God in eternity.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Catalyst Recap: Eugene Cho (General Session 4/22)

Eugene Cho is a pastor from Seattle, WA who has a heart for those suffering extreme poverty. He and his family actually went without a salary for a year to understand poverty and to give their salary to help the poor. He has gone on to form an organization, One Day’s Wages. The idea is that one day’s wage (roughly 0.04% of your annual salary), it would be a small cost for you, but make a huge difference when it comes to extreme global poverty. A small church can make a huge difference. Generosity doesn’t start when you have a bunch of resources. It starts now.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Mission(al) Monday: Missional Renaissance, Shift from Church-Based to Kingdom-Based Leadership – Changing the Scorecard, Part 1

This is a challenge for those who are involved in church-based leadership, but McNeal helps with metrics in four different areas in his leadership training: paradigm issues (moving toward a missional mindset), microskill development (competencies the leader needs), resource management (what the leader has to work with), and personal growth (the leader as a person). Before we look at each, McNeal notes that it will take ‘ruthless self-management’ to ‘live the change they seek’ in the church and in others. What does it look like?

Paradigm Issues
Moving to a missional worldview is seeing your life as a mission trip. Following Jesus is not something you add onto your life, it is your life. McNeal suggests the following to help track the shift.
· Numbers of relationships with people who aren’t Jesus followers or church people, including those who are community leaders.
· Intentional study of things that help you understand your culture – periodicals, books, blogs, websites, and podcasts – and debriefing the culture with your leaders.
· Number of venues for intentional service in the community and number of hours serving.
· Number of life-coaching relationships and a regular commitment to debriefing your personal life with a coach or personal growth group.
· Number of stories of external, missional experiences used in your speaking and writing.

Microskill Development
There are plenty of resources available – books, seminars, and professionals – to grow in the areas to follow.
· Coaching. This means helping people with their further development.
· Storytelling. People under 30 make meaning through story. It is key to helping the missional change. It helps persuade and show people, concretely, how the gospel makes a difference.
· Conflict Management. Change means conflict. There’s also a self-awareness of what’s happening psychologically in yourself if you deal with negative emotions in conflict.
· Transition Leadership. Change doesn’t kill people. The emotions of change bury them. Helping people through it is vital.
· Listening Skills. This is mostly done through focus and intentionality, but there are also resources available to help with this (one of the books on our Friday Book Club queue is Quick-to-listen Leaders).
· Celebrating Others and Self. Celebrate missional progress and achievements because ‘what gets rewarded gets done.’
· Missionary Training. We need to help people understand the language of their own culture – and it should probably begin with generational studies.
· Praying. More time praying, but just as important, prayer must be dialogical, listening to what God is doing and where He wants to lead us.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother’s Day!

It’s Saturday, May 8 as I’m typing this. I just got done giving my son a bath after disciplining him for a few rounds of defiance. I’ve been alone with my three kids for about 27 hours and everyone’s ready for relief. When I have the kids alone for any significant chunk of time I spend money without conscience. I need diversions. Dinner out. Starbucks. Whatever. Throughoug the day I’ve taken any chunk of time I can get to catch brief naps here and there – whether it’s while the kids are napping or shortening their attention spans at the expense of Alvin & the Chipmunks: The Squeakel.

What does this have to do with Mother’s Day? Everything. My wife lives this and handles it with grace and wisdom – and doesn’t need the budget I expend. She’s amazing. Happy Mother’s Day!

And my mom did all of this before videos were commonplace and we lived so far away from anyone or anything to occupy me that I’m not sure how I kept from driving her insane.

Moms are amazing. Be sure you tell your mom how much she means to you today … whether she’s near or far. Thanks, Mom! You’re wonderful. Happy Mother’s Day.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Catalyst Recap: Andy Stanley (Opening General Session 4/22)

Andy Stanley officially opened the conference subtitled, “Unusual Tomorrow.” It was a pretty simple message that’s good for us anytime, not just at the beginning of a conference. We need to lead to create a better tomorrow and God has given us vision, but life beats our vision down. Stanley said, “Your vision will never be larger than what you believe is possible.” The challenges of life beat our belief down.

“Don’t let the realities of today crush your dreams for tomorrow.” The spread of Christianity is undeniable and unexplainable (from the beginning). And how did it happen? The church.

To conclude: “More is possible than you could ever imagine.”

The fact that this was at the beginning of the conference means I lost the power of the message in the barrage of lessons given. I needed to hear this again. I need clarification on my dreams and maybe some tinkering, but lately I’ve been discouraged, ready to dismiss them or let them fade away. It seems changes are afoot, but it shouldn’t be based on a lack of hope and faith, but because vision is being clarified.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Catalyst Recap: John Ortberg & Dallas Willard (Closing Lab – Ortberg only/General Session with both 4/22)

John Ortberg has just recently released his newest book, The Me I Want to Be and it is about the shaping of our souls, which he says is the most important thing ever – and pastors are entrusted with it. Only God knows what our true potential is and he’s more concerned that we meet it than we are. And the reality is, we’re being spiritually formed whether you’re doing anything or not. How are we formed? Grace.

Grace isn’t just for salvation, it is how we live. Ortberg quoted Dallas Willard (and Willard repeated it in their interview): “Saints run on grace more than sinners ever will.” Ortberg’s point at the closing lab session was that the River of God (Jn. 7.38-39) is always running and we just need to step into it.

This seems to be through spiritual disciplines, but Ortberg says that disciples are hand-crafted, not mass-produced. He suggests Monvee as a way to get your individual diagnosis of what you need. When you flourish, you become more the ‘You’ you’re intended to be.

The next day, Dallas Willard was interviewed by Ortberg before he was given the Catalyst West Coast lifetime achievement award. Some highlights…

Q: What ahs the church not been getting right?
A: Problem is the message. Jesus invites us through faith to live in the Kingdom now.

Q: What is Jesus’ gospel?
A: How to get into heaven before you die. We have to learn to live with God in charge now because the Kingdom is in action now as God is gracious towards us.

Random note: “Grace is God acting in your life to accomplish what you can’t accomplish on your own.”

Q: Why do disciplines matter? How do they relate to grace?
· Grace doesn’t make us passive.
· Grace isn’t opposed to effort; it is opposed to earning.
· Do things within your power to enable you to do things you’re unable to do on your own now by direct effort. Disciplines are training vs. trying.
· Make space for God to act.

Q: How do I spiritually grow?
A: Do the next good thing you know to do.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Hump Day History: Gregory of Nazianzus

I read Gregory of Nazianzus’ biography last year. He was an interesting guy to whom we owe much. He fought against many and fierce opponents to clarify the doctrine of the Trinity. Christopher Hall’s Reading Scripture with the Church Fathers has a great, brief bio of Gregory before examining how he approaches Scripture and walking through his battle with the Arians over the divinity of Christ. It’s a great summary and, like Augustine, I’m not going to unpack everything. Instead, I encourage you to give Hall’s book a read and I’ll comment on a brief quote that challenged me. A few insights from Hall as an interpreter of Gregory of Nazianzus’ life…

“Gregory contended his devotionally deficient stance before God hampered their ability to interpret the Bible well. A diseased spiritual life crippled their ability to comprehend and explicate divine truth. …who one is, the state of one’s spiritual health and devotional well-being, distinctly influences one’s ability to interpret Scripture correctly and communicate its truth faithfully” (p. 68).
“Gregory’s words remain a sharp and timely rebuke to the continuing temptation to practice theology as though we could separate the exercise of our mind from the development of our character” (p. 72).
This is a good challenge for pastors and theologians. We aren’t dispensers of theological truth. We’re people who are supposed to be communicating the gospel through a life changed by the gospel. Perhaps if we did that more faithfully we might have a deeper impact on the lives of our congregations/students and, in turn, deeper impact on the community outside of our churches and schools.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Catalyst Recap: Scott Belsky (Lab 3, April 21/General Session, April 23)

Scott Belsky’s lab session was a torrent of information. I’ll give you some of the highlights from my view. By way of background, Belsky founded Behance, which helps creative people get things done. That was his focus (and he just wrote a book: Making Ideas Happen).

A major issue creative people face is actually following through on their ideas. They get bored and jump to another idea. While this will challenge creatives, his charge is to do less, but see your few things through to completion. Each year one of the top three businesses for their management and supply structure is Apple. They’re known for their creativity, but that’s because they make their ideas happen. Several half-developed ideas (from my notes, not Belsky’s brain) are to follow. Let me know if you have any questions on them, but I hope there will be something that grabs you as useful for making more of your ideas happen. These are the ones that caught my eye.

His key equation was: Creativity/Ideas + Organization/Execution + Communal Forces + Leadership Capability = Making Ideas Happen.

Ideas. You’ve got this down.

· Don’t let today trump tomorrow. A key idea that I’ve already put into practice is ‘windows of non-stimulation.’ For the first chunk of your day, focus on long range project you’re passionate about before you get sucked into the vortex of your email Inbox. I’ve only been doing it a week and it’s already made a difference in my efficiency.
· Spend energy on staying organized.
· Organize with a bias towards action. When you’re in a meeting, new ideas are going to pop up. Don’t go after those ideas and lose focus. Put them on a “Backburner List” and get to them later. It might be a great idea worth chasing. And then create a process to either cull things from the list or turn them into action steps.
· Measure a meeting in action steps. If there’s no actionable point(s), it was a waste of time. (Not sure I totally agree with this, but the basic premise is important).

Communal Forces
· Partner with people different from you. Dreamers need “Doers” and “Incrementalists.”
· Share your ideas liberally so when people ask you about them, you’ll know it might be worth pursuing.
· Share ownership of ideas. It may not go exactly how you want, but it will be a better product. The benefit will outweigh the costs.
· When an idea is in process, decide your ‘sacred extreme’ and be willing to compromise on the rest.

Leadership Capability
· If you’re the leader, talk last. It lets your team engage and express their passion. And who knows what you’ll learn!
· Develop others through appreciations. You don’t have to highlight what they didn’t do well so much as praise what you liked. They’ll highlight that next time and the other issues will often fade.
· Judge (and hire) based on initiative (not experience). Find people that are eager to get things done and chase their dreams.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Mission(al) Monday: Missional Renaissance, Shift from Church-Based to Kingdom-Based Leadership, Part 2

We started exploring the shift from church-based to kingdom-based leadership last Monday. Go check it out if you missed it and you’ll be up to speed for today’s continuation.

From Train and Deploy to Deploy and Debrief
Academic proficiency does not result in great leadership. McNeal isn’t against training; he thinks we need more theological training, but not the train & deploy model we’re working. Jesus deployed and then debriefed on their experiences. We’re seeing a shift toward this direction in many modular and online programs and it is trickling down to the M.Div. level as well. This opens the door for teachers and others to get a theological education without uprooting their families, etc… It should help develop genuine leaders, not just people with the right credentialing.

From Positional to Personal
The hierarchical authority days are fading. Leadership has been based on positional authority, but those days are numbered. It is personal influence that will soon carry the day. We need up-close and personal leadership. This leads to a huge challenge: “Are we living what we’re talking about? Are our own lives missional? Is there a spiritual attractiveness to us?”

Frequently Asked Questions
This discussion ‘frequently’ freaks church leaders out. Here are some of the questions McNeal deals with on a regular basis.

What is the role of the traditional church in the missional movement?
McNeal doesn’t think the traditional church should or will fold. Rather, McNeal is focusing on changing the focus of the church from “what” to “who” as the church goes into all areas of society. Here are some roles the traditional churches can take in the ‘missional renaissance’…
· Intake and deployment centers for missional followers of Jesus.
· Umbrella organizations for missional communities. This means building up the church, not necessarily this church.
· Use their gifts meeting some of the needs missional communities uncover.

How will you maintain doctrinal and biblical orthodoxy if you’re all off in your own communities doing your own thing?
There have always been theological shifts and we have the same Word of God and the same Spirit shepherding the church.

What is the role of clergy in the missional movement?
· Teaching: Good teaching and a theological perspective are still vitally important.
· Life coaching: This has been covered in previous posts.
· Missional strategies: Clergy are in a perfect position to be missional strategists.
· Training for missional community leaders: As missional leaders proliferate, they’re going to need someone to lead them. Clergy have some of the tools necessary for this training.

How do I earn a living doing what you’re talking about?
Bivocational may be a necessity for many. Get training now instead of later so you’ll be ready when the need for more than one job arises.

What about my call?
“Does your call revolve around a mission or a job?” Rarely has a question to a question been so clear. Unnerving for those of us who make a living in ministry, but the answer is clear.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Sunday Services

If you follow the blog, you're in rare company, but you also know I've had some issues with getting a new computer and working out some blogging glitches. Anyway, I'm back and want to encourage you to reflect on the Sunday message of your local church. If you don't have one, I have links to our church, Cypress Church, and another church that I feature alongside ours each month. This month I'm featuring Eastgate Bible Fellowship in Bellevue, WA. The pastor was my senior pastor when I came to Christ in high school. They're going through 1 Peter, it appears. We're finishing up Exodus this Sunday.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Quite a day, Friday.

I'll admit. I was only focused on the frustrating Mariners' game, but Jerry Brewer tracks an exciting day for Seattle sports last night:

Friday, April 30, 2010

Catalyst Recap: Jim Belcher (April 21, Lab 2)

Deep Church by Jim Belcher was the Leadership Journal Book of the Year (along with Dallas Willard’s Knowing Christ Today) so his was the session I was most determined to see. It was titled “Deep Culture” and was more about culture than the contents of Deep Church – the traditional/emergent church issue. Belcher was arguing against a false dichotomy in terms of responding to culture – assimilation (lose distinction) and tribalism (withdraw from culture).

There’s a third way: seeking the good of the city (Jeremiah 29.1, 4-7). We are resident aliens (study Daniel on how to do it well). We need to pray for the city and seek its peace. Belcher referred to the Hebrew word for peace, shalom, and described it as peace with God, selves, others, and culture & creation. Instead of walking through all the Q&A, I’ll put relevant materials where they’re, well, relevant. One way we demonstrate shalom to those around us is by seeking to bring peace in our workplaces.

What does this look like? Some corporate coaches that Belcher knows/works with (I don’t remember for sure) focus on healing relationships, ending backbiting, etc… in an organization and it’s a wonder how much that does. They don’t necessarily preach the gospel, but they bring shalom into the workplace using the language of common grace. It can open doors for more explicit sharing, but the focus is on doing good. City planning shalom includes community gathering places where relational shalom can develop within a city. Sometimes shalom is just bringing beauty to a city, a place, a people. An example is the OC Rescue Mission. It is a beautiful facility that inspires people to get back on their feet.

There are two roles for the believer in this. The first is the institutional church. We gather for sacraments, worship, etc… and this body must be distinct. The second role is the ‘organic’ church where the church goes into the world as salt and light on Monday. We need to train people to be secret agents of influence in the world – to bring shalom and equip them to do it well. This means training our children and our college students doing extra work to integrate their faith with what they’re learning.

After this time of study I’m interested in teaching a series at our church along these lines and finding some people or getting some cohorts together for people to unpack how to bring shalom into their workplaces.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Hump Day History: St. Augustine’s City of God (with some Christopher Hall on hermeneutics! – can it get any more exciting?!)

I lied last time when I said we’d get back to Book XXI. It’s been long enough since I’ve read the book that Books XXI and XXII are no longer fresh so we’ll hop around as appropriate. I mentioned last Wednesday that I’m reading a book on patristic exegesis a few days ago. The book starts with a wonderful challenge on why we should read the fathers and it served as a fine rebuke for the critique of Augustine’s hermeneutics I was eventually planning. (I know; who am I to critique Augustine? I know, I know.) I thought now would be a good time to walk through the process and learn from both Augustine and Hall.

Augustine’s City of God was a challenging read so I wouldn’t say I had my critical reading spectacles on. I was mostly mining for helpful insight and get a feel for him as a thinker since he’s one of the most formative in Christian history. But there are some times where I wonder what he’s doing. He spends forever and a day wrestling with genealogies and timelines. I guess it was a major apologetic issue at the time, but he argues that time may have been measured differently in times past than it is today (XV.14). I suppose that isn’t impossible, but it seems like doing some significant gymnastics to prove a point while there may be some significant reckoning to be done later. He gets creative with his prophetic interpretations at times (XVII.8) and his desire to make biblical characters more noble than they might have been (XVI.25, 37). This, in addition to things I’d heard about his allegorical tendencies in Bible school makes me roll my eyes and be quick to dismiss some of the great saint’s intepretations. Not so fast, says, Hall.

Hall doesn’t argue (in his Introduction) that Augustine is infallible, but he does remind us of what a great tool the early church fathers are for us today. Just like they have their cultural blinders and quirks, we have our own. Given that they are so close to the source (time-wise) and they are in the stream of orthodoxy, we should give weight to their interpretations and use them as good resources to help us get out of our own cultural lenses. We are quick to point out others’ errors and remain willingly blind to our own. Reading the church fathers gives us the challenge of a broadened perspective coupled with the assurance that they bulk of their teaching is within the stream of orthodoxy.

I always thought those Ancient Christian Commentaries on Scripture were a waste of money. I haven’t bought one yet, but Hall has me thinking it might be worth snagging one for the next book I teach through.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Catalyst Recap: Darren Whitehead and Jon Tyson (April 21, Lab 1)

I was blessed to go to the Catalyst West Coast Conference last week (April 21-23). It was a great event and it was great going with a handful of staff and lay leaders – as well as catching up with old friends. Over the next few ‘open days’ (that is, not Monday, Wednesday, or Sunday) I’ll give some recap and some thoughts that were helpful/challenging to me. Consider it my public review of what God taught me at Catalyst.

Catalyst Labs are the ‘day before’ sessions with different church leaders. The first I went to was “In the City, In the Suburbs” with Darren Whithead and John Tyson. It wasn’t at all what I expected so I was initially disappointed, but it gave some great things to think about and I ended up being really pleased by the end of their time with us.

I could probably spend multiple posts on each speaker, but I’d get bored after awhile and never finish. So the format will be bullet thoughts from each speaker(s) that I found thought-provoking.

· Whitehead is one of the teaching pastors at Willow Creek (mega-megachurch) and Tyson leads smaller parish communities in Manhattan, but they are best of friends and they encourage leaders to build friendships with those in different ministry contexts so your thinking can be challenged and sharpened and you can learn from one another.
· Every culture is telling a story. The American story is framed by Disney. We assume everything will turn out fine and we’re the center of the story. Disney re-worked some tragic tales about character and turned them into happy endings based on the American Dream.
· Worldviews are crafted from various angles/media/practices/values and there’s no way to overcome them in one hour. We need to take spiritual formation seriously.
· Challenging question: What would your life look like if you got everything you wanted? (Tough answer: Probably like many others – and they aren’t Christians). We sell the gospel asking, “What if you die?” We need to ask them, “What if you live?”
· How do we fight culture? Preach against American consumerism, unpack the biblical story, small groups that are built on practices, not just thinking, round table discussion groups to talk about how to influence culture, take Sabbath seriously.
· Almost unrelated, but perhaps the thing I found most fascinating is that there are 5 lessons that every culture has taught men except our own. I think it is from the book Return to Adam, but I’m not sure. I need to do some searching. Here they are:
1. Life is hard.
2. You’re not that important (the tribe is more important).
3. Life is not about yourself.
4. You are not in control.
5. You’re going to die (legacy).
Some great thought to dwell on when all is said and done. The two things I’d most like to follow up on with these guys is finding that book on men and finding out how Tyson does small groups. They are the ones that are more ‘practice’ based than thinking based. I’m not sure I’ll be able to answer much in terms of questions, but I’m willing to try.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Mission(al) Monday: Missional Renaissance, Shift from Church-Based to Kingdom-Based Leadership, Part 1

The last shift is a leadership shift that includes moving from church-based leadership to more of an AD 30 Leadership. The style is apostolic, though the term freaks some people out. The idea is that leadership needs to shift from building the church to mobilizing people as missionaries. This may mean being a missionary yourself (like Paul) or helping the church be outwardly-focused (like Peter). Here are some transitions in the leader’s self-perception that needs to happen…

From Church Job to Kingdom Assignment
Somehow the passionate expansionist ideals of the early church were crushed by the burden of church hierarchy and institutionalism. Leaders in the missional movement are reengaging the world, not necessarily through the church, but by recognizing the importance of influencing those outside the church. This can be pastors who have an element of their jobs where they serve outside the church or believers who use their influence to minister to their employees and co-workers in practical ways. It doesn’t fill the pews, but it connects people to Jesus.

From Institutional Representative to Viral Agent
Oftentimes current church leaders are promoting this or that event that you need to be at, focusing on what is happening inside the church. Kingdom leaders are doing everything they can to get themselves and leaders into the community making a difference in the lives of those outside the church – most effectively if it is within people’s daily routines. Sometimes the institution and the community can come together perfectly. Example: one church took their VBS to a day care center. Most kids participated where they wouldn’t have before and the tie between day care and church was strengthened, including connecting day care workers with church prayer partners.

From Director to Producer
In the movie business, directors have their hands on the details of the film-making. Producers have a big picture and make it happen. In churches, clergy think they need to be in the middle of everything sometimes. It’s better if they don’t. Rather, they release people to do ministry all over the place, in different venues – their own venues. Instead of getting people to star in church movies, they’re empowered to make their own.

From Reliving the Past (the Historian) to Rearranging the Future (the Journalist)
The memorable quote (after visiting an empty Swiss church on a church holiday): “A faith built on dead people doesn’t thrive.” We need to honor the past and teach the Scriptures, but all our heroes can’t be dead. We need missional leaders who experience God on the frontiers and then take people along to experience him there as well.

We’ll cover the rest of this chapter next week as well as some Frequently Asked Questions on how this works for the leaders who are going to need to undergo change.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Book Club Friday on Hiatus

Due to busyness, we're laying off the book club for awhile. If you can't live without it, let me know and we'll fire it back up, but it's taking a break for now.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Mission(al) Monday: Missional Renaissance, Shift from Program Development to People Development – Keeping Score

(NOTE: I know it isn't Monday, but I can't copy & paste my posts on my new computer so this post couldn't make it out on Monday. However, my old computer is still in my office so I can make it work ... at least for today:)

The shift from program development to people development makes enough sense, but it is more difficult to figure out how to keep score with such a paradigm shift. We’re used to counting how many are in services or going to church activities or church-centered growth opportunities or staff committed to managing programs. The new scorecard should include relationships people are cultivating, people released into service, personal life development, life-centered growth, and staff engaged in coaching people for their personal development. The shift needs to reveal real changes in people and real staff hours spent in helping people move forward, not just program management. Let’s see what it might look like…

We don’t pray enough or expectantly and with our eyes open to see what God is doing. The new scorecard may include…
· The number of people growing in their prayer lives.
· Amount of prayer – individual and corporate – in public gatherings.
· Work team/Committee meetings with key component of prayer linked to the mission of God.
· Time spent in prayer in staff meetings.
· Number of people serving as prayer partners for community leaders and staff.
· Prayer meetings – inside the church and in the community.

We need to coach people and help them develop life skills, self-awareness, resource management, and personal growth. This might be ‘scored’ like this…
· Number of people with improved marriages, friendships, family life over time.
· Number of people engaged in financial planning and increased giving to Kingdom causes.
· Number of people receiving coaching or being mentored or just increasing friendships.
· Number of people identifying strengths, developing, and living a plan.

This also affects leadership. Leaders need to be involved in these things for themselves and serving others so they can happen.

Most of the ‘scores’ so far deal with time spent investing in personal development, but there are some creative ways to measure this.
· Amount of time spent debriefing people serving the community.
· Amount of time in leadership meetings figuring out how to develop people.
· Percentage of time in corporate gatherings celebrating faith stories.
· Progress on simplifying the church calendar to leave more time for personal development.

Money reflects values. Some benchmarks to consider…
· Reducing corporate debt to free money up for investing in people.
· Amount of seed money in microeconomic development.
· Number of financial planning courses and the number of people participating.
· Number of people reporting personal debt retirement.
· Number of people increasing their generosity through charitable giving.
· Amount of giving by constituents.
· Number of messages on financial issues (not just giving).

Facilities can do more than just provide places to support ministry programming. Some ways it might be more people development-oriented…
· Percentage of facility used during the week by people for personal growth (exercise classes, tutoring, skill seminars, etc…)
· Number of external or additional venues the church is creating for ministry, such as coffee shops or prayer booths.
· Number of schools or community organizations using church facilities for their activities.
· Space devoted to conversation-friendly areas.

Technology used to support ministry. Now it delivers it. If it is being used to develop people, you’ll count the …
· Number of personal growth and online learning opportunities on your website … and how many people are using them.
· Number of life change stories on your website.
· Number of people being trained in technology usage.

One church of several hundred congregants interviewed was seeking to be a people-developing church. So they interviewed anyone who wanted to be interviewed wherever they wanted to be interviewed. Their interview had five questions and then they built ministry and people around their findings. The five questions (read McNeal for their rationale – this post is already too long!)
1. What do you enjoy doing?
2. Where do you see God at work right now?
3. What would you like to see God do in your life over the next six to twelve months? How can we help?
4. How would you like to serve other people? How can we help?
5. How can we pray for you?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Hump Day History: John Chrysostom & the Bible

I just started Reading Scripture with the Church Fathers by Christopher Hall. I got the book for free and, since most of the fathers he speaks of are guys I’ve already read about as I read through Schaff’s church histories, I thought, “Now or never” in terms of reading and being even slightly interested in Hall’s slim volume.

The other day I found a nice ‘quotable’ that can encourage us, coming out of the Lenten/Easter season to keep going (or start anew) our commitment to reading the Scriptures.

“…get a copy of the New Testament, the Apostle’s epistles, the Acts, the Gospels, for your constant teachers. If you encounter grief, dive into them as into a chest of medicines; take from them comfort for your trouble, whether it be loss, or death, or bereavement over the loss of relations. Don’t simply dive into them. Swim in them. Keep them constantly in your mind. The cause of all evils is the failure to know the Scriptures well” (p. 96).

Monday, April 12, 2010

Mission(al) Monday: Missional Renaissance, Shift from Program Development to People Development – Keeping Score

I can't seem to copy and paste from my Word file to blogger here. I'll get this up ASAP.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sunday Services

We're back on Exodus at our place - click on the media tab in the left margin. Check out one of my friends up in Washington state if you're not currently attending anywhere.

What has God been teaching you lately through your Sunday services.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Book Club (Nerd Club) Friday: Church Unique, Chapters 9-10

For our most recent post in this series, go here. They should be every Friday previous to the one just linked as well.

It's been a few weeks since we've covered Church Unique, but we're back at it. I'm not sure if my partners are still with me, but we'll roll it out this week and see where we stand. This week we'll cover chapter 9, "Discover Your Kingdom Concept," which led to some great discussions in staff meeting a few months ago. I'm looking forward to looking deeper into and seeing some of the principles behind our specifics. I hope to get into it in the next day or two, but feel free to comment and set the table in the meantime.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Hump Day History: St. Augustine’s City of God

Since we’re just a few days out of Easter, I thought I would get out of Book XXI, which is about judgment, and hop ahead to the final book, Book XXII to look at eternity. (We’ll get back to Book XXI next Wednesday). While heaven is happier to think about than hell, we’ll dwell on a bittersweet thought of Augustine’s today. Specifically, we’ll forget our sins in heaven so far as we will forget them experientially. But we will remember them intellectually. Here’s why…

“But their intellectual knowledge, which shall be great, shall keep them acquainted not only with their own past woes, but with the eternal sufferings of the lost. For if they were not to know that they had been miserable, how could they, as the Psalmist says, for ever sing the mercies of God? Certainly that city shall have no greater joy than the celebration of the grace of Christ, who redeemed us by His blood” (p. 866).

Our sins bring us great pain and we shall be delivered of them one day in full, but not to such a degree that we forget the great debt paid at the cross by Jesus. I don’t know how this works, but it rings true. He will wipe away every tear (Rev. 22), but we will still look upon the Lamb that was slain.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Good start!

Good win for the M's - wish I could have seen it!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Mission(al) Monday: Missional Renaissance, Shift from Program Development to People Development (Part 2)

Go here for Part 1 of this post. Let’s continue on…

From Delivering to Debriefing
Pastors often think once they’ve delivered the goods, the information, they’re done. Or maybe the program ‘does its thing,’ but that isn’t enough we need to let people process what they’re learning and living. It may mean giving time in service to share what God is doing in their life with their neighbors or it could be having people share how they’ll apply a Sunday message with the people sitting around them. It’s a move from mental assent to the Word or an event to actually processing how it changes us.

From Didactic to Behavioral
This is the next step from debriefing – training people to live their faith, not just get the facts down. It isn’t a delivery system we’re looking at. It’s helping people live their faith. This can happen with a bunch of faith coaches to help people grow in a customized way.

From Curriculum-Centered to Life-Centered
Instead of pulling people out of life to go through curriculum, enter into their lives and walk with them through their challenges. The example is a woman with quintuplets. A woman wanted to get her out of the house an hour per week to mentor her. Instead, she was challenged to fold diapers with her and talk about life. That’s life-centered.

From Growing into Service to Growing Through Service
Don’t worry about getting people ready to serve by ‘growing’ them. Get them serving as soon as they’re interested and watch them grow through that process!

From Compartmentalization to Integration
Instead of recognizing giftedness that MUST be used in the church, help people recognize that they are gifted by God to serve the world wherever they find themselves in their work, neighborhood, etc… It is the church being a who rather than a place. The church should be integrated into society as Jesus’ Body is serving all over the place.

From Age Segregation to Age Integration
Program-driven churches have ‘generational silos’ where a family can go all Sunday without interacting. Of course there’s a draw to being with people your own age, but if we’re to develop people, we need the range of human experience and to build relationships across generations. One baby step is a youth leader who sends a summary of his messages to parents with discussion questions so they can follow up. Discipleship isn’t the church’s job. It’s the family’s. We equip.

Final Thoughts
This is about relationships. And, coupled with the shift to service, it means not just transforming people in our congregation, but those we serve. So, instead of just giving food to the poor, we figure out how to move them forward and help them develop as people to be who God has called them to be.

We’ll look at how we might ‘Change the Scorecard’ on moving from programs to people-development next week.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Walking With Jesus During Passion Week: He is Risen!

Resurrection Witnesses
But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. 2 And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. 5 And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, "Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7 that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise." 8 And they remembered his words, 9 and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, 11 but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12 But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened. – Luke 24:1-12
Jesus’ Resurrection AppearancesJohn 20-21

Friday, April 2, 2010

Walking With Jesus During Passion Week: Good Friday

Betrayal and Arrest

While he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a great
crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the
people. 48 Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, "The one I will kiss
is the man; seize him." 49 And he came up to Jesus at once and said, "Greetings,
Rabbi!" And he kissed him. 50 Jesus said to him, "Friend, do what you came to
do." Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and seized him. 51 And behold,
one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and
struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. 52 Then Jesus said to
him, "Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish
by the sword. 53 Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at
once send me more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then should the
Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?" 55 At that hour Jesus said to the
crowds, "Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture
me? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. 56 But
all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be
fulfilled." Then all the disciples left him and fled. – Matthew 26:47-56

Jewish Trial

First they led him to Annas, for he was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year. 14 It was Caiaphas who had advised the Jews that it would be expedient that one man should die for the people. 15 Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he entered with Jesus into the court of the high priest, 16 but Peter stood outside at the door. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the servant girl who kept watch at the door, and brought Peter in. 17 The servant girl at the door said to Peter, "You also are not one of this man's disciples, are you?" He said, "I am not." 18 Now the servants and officers had made a charcoal fire, because it was cold, and they were standing and warming themselves. Peter also was with them, standing and warming himself. 19 The high priest then questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching. 20 Jesus answered him, "I have spoken openly to the world. I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. 21 Why do you ask me? Ask those who have heard me what I said to them; they know what I said." 22 When he had said these things, one of the officers standing by struck Jesus with his hand, saying, "Is that how you answer the high priest?" 23 Jesus answered him, "If what I said is wrong, bear witness about the wrong; but if what I said is right, why do you strike me?" 24 Annas then sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest. – John 18:13-24


And they led Jesus to the high priest. And all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes came together. 54 And Peter had followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. And he was sitting with the guards and warming himself at the fire. 55 Now the chief priests and the whole Council were seeking testimony against Jesus to put him to death, but they found none. 56 For many bore false witness against him, but their testimony did not agree. 57 And some stood up and bore false witness against him, saying, 58 "We heard him say, 'I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.'" 59 Yet even about this their testimony did not agree. 60 And the high priest
stood up in the midst and asked Jesus, "Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?" 61 But he remained silent and made no answer. Again the high priest asked him, "Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?" 62 And Jesus said, "I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven." 63 And the high priest tore his garments and said, "What further witnesses do we need? 64 You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?" And they all condemned him as deserving death. 65 And some began to spit on him and to cover his face and to strike him, saying to him, "Prophesy!" And the guards received him with blows. – Mark 14:53-65


And as soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole Council. And they bound Jesus and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate. – Mark 15:1
Roman Trial (three phases)
And Pilate asked him, "Are you the King of the Jews?" And he answered him, "You have said so." 3 And the chief priests accused him of many things. 4 And Pilate again asked him, "Have you no answer to make? See how many charges they bring against you." 5 But Jesus made no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed. – Mark 15:2-5
Crucifixion (approx. 9:00am-3:00pm)

Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor's headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. 28 And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, "Hail, King of the Jews!" 30 And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. 31 And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him. 32 As they went out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. They compelled this man to carry his cross. 33 And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), 34 they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall, but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. 35 And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots. 36 Then they sat down and kept watch over him there. 37 And over his head they put the charge against him, which read, "This is Jesus, the King of the Jews." 38 Then two robbers were crucified with him, one on the right and one on the left. 39 And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads 40 and saying, "You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross." 41 So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, 42 "He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, 'I am the Son of God.'" 44 And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way. 45 Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. 46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, "Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?" that is, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" 47 And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, "This man is calling Elijah." 48 And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink. 49 But the others said, "Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him." 50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. 51 And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. 52 The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, 53 and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. 54 When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, "Truly this was the Son of God!" – Matthew 27:27-54

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Walking With Jesus During Passion Week: Maundy Thursday

Preparations for Passover

Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, "Where will you have us prepare for you to eat the Passover?" 18 He said, "Go into the city to a certain man and say to him, 'The Teacher says, My time is at hand. I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.'" 19 And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover. – Matthew 26:17-19
Passover Meal and Last Supper

When it was evening, he reclined at table with the twelve. 21 And as they were eating, he said, "Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me." 22 And they were very sorrowful and began to say to him one after another, "Is it I, Lord?" 23 He answered, "He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me will betray me. 24 The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born." 25 Judas, who would betray him, answered, "Is it I, Rabbi?" He said to him, "You have said so." – Matthew 26:20-25
Upper Room DiscoursesJohn 13-17

Prayers in the Garden of Gethsemane

Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, "Sit here, while I go over there and pray." 37 And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, "My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me." 39 And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will." 40 And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, "So, could you not watch with me one hour? 41 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." 42 Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, "My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done." 43 And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. 44 So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again. 45 Then he came to the disciples and said to them, "Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand." – Matthew 26:36-46

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Walking With Jesus During Passion Week: ‘Silent Wednesday’

Jesus and his disciples remain in Bethany

Judas makes arrangements for the betrayal

Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests 15 and said, "What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?" And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. 16 And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him. – Matthew 26.14-16

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Walking With Jesus Through the Passion Week: Tuesday

Debates with Religious Leaders in Jerusalem and Teaching in the Temple - Mark 11.27-12.44

Olivet Discourse - Mark 13.1-37

Monday, March 29, 2010

Walking With Jesus Through the Passion Week: Monday

Cursing the Fig Tree on the Way to Jerusalem

On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. 13 And seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. 14 And he said to it, "May no one ever eat fruit from you again." And his disciples heard it. – Mark 11.12-14
Cleansing the Temple

And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. 13 He said to them, "It is written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer,' but you make it a den of robbers." – Matthew 21.12-13
Return to Bethany

And when evening came they went out of the city. – Mark 11:19

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Walking With Jesus Through the Passion Week: Palm Sunday

Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem

Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, "Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, 'The Lord needs them,' and he will send them at once." 4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, 5 "Say to the daughter of Zion, 'Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.'" 6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. 8 Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, "Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!" - Matthew 21.1-9
Jesus Surveys the Temple and Returns to Bethany

And he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple. And when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve. - Mark 11.11

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Walking With Jesus Through the Passion Week: The First Saturday

Traditionally, Passion Week begins tomorrow – Palm Sunday. But this first Saturday is a day of preparation. Here’s the texts for today. Let’s enter into the narrative…

Jesus arrives in Bethany

Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. – John 12:1
Evening celebration, Mary anoints Jesus

So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at the table. Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, "Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?" He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. Jesus said, "Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. The poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me." – John 12:2-8

Friday, March 26, 2010

Walking With Jesus Through the Passion Week: Introduction

This is different! We’ve been doing the Friday Book Club for awhile, but we’re going to take a break for a couple weeks. That will help us catch up, but we’re also approaching the most significant week on the Christian calendar – Easter Week. Also known as Passion Week.

One of my professors in seminary, Mike Wilkins, gave us a handy little tool to help us walk with Jesus during Passion Week, beginning tomorrow. To find these materials in print, check out Matthew by Dr. Wilkins in the NIV Application Commentary, p. 708.

My hope for this series of posts through Easter is that we could engage the Scriptures and re-live that most significant of weeks – even just for a little bit of time each day. May we enter into the story and let it change us and live out God’s mission more fully in our lives.

We’ll get started tomorrow. I hope you’ll find it profitable.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Hump Day History: St. Augustine’s City of God

We’re still working through some highlights of Book XXI. There isn’t necessarily an outstanding quote here, but there’s an important objection he addresses. I’m not sure I like his answer, but it’s close to how I think through it.

The objection to hell is that it is unfair that a punishment should last longer than the time it took to perpetrate a crime. Augustine rightly notes that one may murder in an instant, but that doesn’t mean the punishment should last a moment. It can go on for a long time – and justly so. That’s the extent of Augustine’s point (pp. 781-782).

I get it and it makes sense. Another way I’ve heard it framed is, “How can a finite crime be worthy of an infinite punishment?” I think I read this in one of John Piper’s books years ago. If I remembered which it was I would cite it. (And if it wasn’t him, my apologies to Dr. Piper if I’ve misrepresented him.)

The key to this concern is not that the offense is so great, but that the One offended is so great. Infinite, in fact. The nature of the offense isn’t the defining issue. It is the violation of the infinite holiness of the One sinned against – God. This makes sense on a human plane. For instance, if I were to threaten an ordinary citizen, I would/should be punished. But, if I were to threaten the President, I would/should be punished more severely. The offense is the same, but the one offended makes the difference.

The infinite holiness of God makes my transgressions infinitely punishable. And yet, hope is offered in the infinitely valuable sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Mission(al) Monday: Missional Renaissance, Shift from Program Development to People Development

McNeal begins with a challenging story from a church plant he started twenty plus years ago. After a meeting, God spoke to him: “Are people better off for being part of this church, or are they just tireder and poorer?” It bothered him – because he thought he knew the answer. He didn’t know how way to measure people’s spiritual growth – only church involvement. This is the most difficult shift for leaders to make. We know how to cross programs and events off our calendar, but people are never ‘done.’ This is a trap for the missional church, not just the traditional. We can feed the poor, but that’s just step one. How do we mentor them or help them get jobs or whatever’s next.

The rise of the program-oriented church came in the wake of WWII with the rise of the service economy. People outsourced things they didn’t like to do, including spiritual formation. According to McNeal, the church isn’t supposed to be the center for spiritual development – “everyday living” is. In all our programming, the church is disliked by many because we have not loved like Jesus, despite all our programs.

McNeal isn’t calling for the death of programs. Rather, the issue is making peoples’ success the end, not the program’s success. The quality of people, not the programs is what we’re looking for. (Note: McNeal is quick to point out that this isn’t a mega-church vs. small church issue. Both have successes and disasters in their portfolios).

What does this look like? We’ll start this week with “Fostering a People Development Culture” and we’ll finish it next week. Like moving from internal to external, this is going to take some shifts in our thinking and behavior. Just one of these changes won’t work, but taken together, they can get us on the right track.

From Standardization to Customization
For a long time churches were like McDonald’s. You knew what you were going to get at a Baptist church all around the US (or any other denomination, for that matter). It started with the desire to target programs to people, but things were inverted in time. But just as the previous era was mass standardization, now the mode of operation is mass customization. You don’t have to buy a CD for one song or go to Bible study on Sunday only – with people others have chosen for you. This creates challenges for the program-oriented church, but opportunities as well.

From Scripting to Shaping
Pastors are trained to give people the script for growth, but people are less inclined to listen to experts and want more control over their lives. The role needs to shift to coaching, which people are more inclined to receive. Leaders should know what people need, but we need to help them participate in the process by coaching them. This is labor-intensive, but worth it. And this is a place where you can direct people to programs that will help them build their growth portfolio.

From Participation to Maturation
People can participate in a bunch of church activities and never actually be changed. They can tithe and still be as mean as ever. Go to Sunday School and still defend racist views, etc… The missional church focuses less on what people are doing and more on who they are becoming.

We’ll cover the rest in two weeks. Next week we’ll be walking through Passion Week.