Welcome to Provocative Church

As you browse, read and share the many articles, our hope is that you may find this site an encouragement to your faith and Christian life.

Worship

We were created to worship. And we are to worship God with every aspect and area of our lives - presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God.

The Church

The bride of Christ can often times be difficult and messy - but it is Christ's beautiful mess - to which He is the head and chief cornerstone.

Ancient Future

Our faith comes out from a rich heritage and history. It was during the formative years of our faith that creeds, confessions, traditions, and liturgies were developed. These practices and traditions recaptured will not only anchor us but move us forward in our faith.

Freedom

There is freedom in the gospel as it proclaims that in Christ we are sons and daughters of the King. The importance is learning to preach those truths to our heart and life everyday.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Elf Yourself!

Here is a little elf dance from the staff at Big Creek. Have a good laugh!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Information Overload

Here again is a lot of good material throughout the week that I come across. I feel the need to share the good stuff with you since I don't have time to comment on it through the blog.

This stuff shows up in my Google RSS Reader throughout the week and I use the widget from my "shared items" in my Google Reader to post the most interesting information that I've gathered from the web. Enjoy some fun, entertaining and provocative reading. (my shared items have their own individual rss feed that you can subscribe to directly)




Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Pray for Rain

(HT:Debmo1 Flickr Stream - taken November 21, 2007)

This photo taken at Lake Lanier and the Starboard Marina. Not much of a lake is it? Severe drought has hit our region. This lake is where Atlanta gets a lot of it's water.

This is very serious and it is only getting worse. Those of you in Atlanta, understand the importance and urgency of this request: Please pray for rain.

If you are a reader of Provocative Church, and live other than Atlanta, I implore you to pray for Atlanta and for the much needed rain.
He bestows rain on the earth;
he sends water upon the countryside.
Job 5:10

Gov. Sonny Perdue, asks citizens of Georgia to pray for rain

Also, if you are in the Atlanta area, read my friend John's post about one small, yet significant way we can help conserve water.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A Glorious Hope



We had an opportunity to visit Lauren's parents this past week down in Florida. It was a good and necessary visit but at the same time it was also very hard for Lauren (see my previous post with some additional information about Lauren's mom and her health).

Lauren's mom, Jean, is having great health challenges and watching Jean with her new challenges and diminishing abilities has put the Resurrection in a whole new focus. This Sunday I am preaching on Philippians 3:12-4:1. In verses, 20 and 21 it says this:
But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.
This Sunday is the first week of Advent. Advent is a season of expectation. It reminds of those before Christ and how they eagerly awaited the coming of the Messiah. Their expectation gave them hope. Many, like Simeon (Luke 2), waited with eager expectation for the day when they would see the promise of the Messiah fully realized.

We now look back. We look back to the cross and see all that Jesus accomplished. But you and I are called to be forward looking as well. Just as Jesus came once, as a Lamb - a sacrifice for us, He will come again, as a Lion, in all authority, glory and power. And when that day arrives, all things will be set to rights. There will be a re-creation. A new heaven. A new earth. And our bodies which were corruptible in this life, will be translated into new bodies, incorruptible. Resurrection bodies.

This is our hope. This is my mother-in-law's hope. This promise and expectation is what continues to drive and move her forward in faithfulness and thanksgiving to God. Her circumstances right now are bleak, but she has a hope and expectancy of more. Today - the "now" isn't all there is. Rather, there is a glorious future awaiting us.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Wet Cat


(filed under: What happens when you take your wife out and leave the kids home alone!)


We have a cat named Ginger. Ginger is a wonderful, nice and peaceful cat.

Lauren and I were out this evening together.

Our oldest, teenage daughter decided that the cat smelled. She took it upon herself to wash the cat.

Our daughter found out quickly that cats don't like water.

We need more bandaids!

Stop the Madness!



Black Friday.


I know that I am a little late to the discussion about what happened last Friday. But since most of what happened last Friday is going to be repeated in some form or another throughout the next month until Christmas- this post is in fact very timely.

Disgust. Embarrassment. Anger. Disappointment. Sadness.

These are some of the emotions that I experienced as I watched people pile into the stores on Friday morning. Up until Friday morning, I saw the hype. I watched the television commercials tell us that we need to wake up early Friday morning to take advantage of unprecedented savings. "Run, don't walk!" was the mantra of every television commercial and newspaper insert. If I hurry, stores will happily open early (some as early as 4am!!) so that I can take advantage of buying their cheap crap now.

What continued to amaze me was watching the television news on Friday evening. The camera's were in place to capture all the action. Reporters were sent to the stores. It was a big party, the stores had a carnival-like atmosphere. What did I see? -people pushing, running and screaming. People pushing over their fellow man in order to save $20 on a digital camera, or $50 on an Mp3 player. Good savings, sure. But at what cost?

People sacrificed their time. Thanksgiving is a time for family. It is a time for reflection and giving thanks. Thanksgiving is a time to look beyond one's self and give thanks to God, our wonderful creator and source of all blessings. In contrast, Black Friday is all about self.

Many of these sales demanded that if you wanted to save you had to be there early. The stores opened as early as 4am. But you needed to get there earlier than that in order to secure your place in line. I read stories of people leaving Thanksgiving evening to spend all night in line. People sacrificed their sleep. They took time away from their families and from their homes. A lot of families approached the shopping day like planning for D-Day. Members split up, while in constant communication via cell-phone, in order to divide and conquer and maximize the coverage.

People sacrificed their dignity. I could feel the craziness and energy come through the television as I watched people shove and squeeze their way through the small, narrow portal doors of large department stores. People were worked up into a feeding frenzy. All social considerations were thrown out the window. No more was it women and children first, rather it was every man for himself.

Other people are to be seen as important and valuable and to be treated with kindness and consideration. But not on Black Friday. People are obstacles who are now in my way of getting the $500 LCD flat panel big screen T.V. If you have to trample over someone's fallen body, then DO IT! If you have to throw an elbow in order to grab a Nintendo Wii, then DO IT! Do whatever it takes because they don't call this day Black Friday for nothing. Disgusting!

People sacrificed their souls. Is this what we are? Is who I am defined as merely being a consumer. Is that my sole identity? Is that my sole purpose? God tells us that we are more than consumers. Our purpose goes well beyond mere consumption. We are to glorify God and enjoy Him forever (Westminster Shorter Catechism question #1)

Look!-let it be known that I like getting a good deal more than anyone. I rarely buy anything full price and will often wait for something to go on sale. But what I am angry about is how many of us are being led around by the nose by these stores and their contrived, manufactured sales.

They create artificial scarcity to build up need and angst. They manufacture hype and buzz. They tell us that we need to be there. They tell us we need to sacrifice everything to get it, our time, dignity and soul. And in return they will sell us stuff, already marked up 400%+, at a token discount, letting us believe that we smartest and luckiest people in the whole world.

Please - STOP THE MADNESS!!!


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Sunday, November 25, 2007

Volunteering made easy

Too often many of us are well meaning. We want to volunteer and help the under resourced in our community, but we don't know how. The opportunities aren't always clear and the information isn't always easily accessible. But thanks to a new website that I just heard about which is trying to connect volunteers to the real and urgent needs.

ChristianVolunteering.org is a free directory with over 2,000 volunteer opportunities in ministries serving the "poor". The site's partners include the Salvation Army, GospelCom (BibleGateway.com), World Vision, the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions and over 1,000 ministries serving under resourced communities. In addition to volunteer opportunities for individuals, you can also search the site for opportunities that might be appropriate for church small groups. If you just type your postal code, you can get a listing of the volunteer opportunities in your region. There is also a partner Web 2.0 site for equipping people to serve the "poor" called UrbanMinistry.

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Friday, November 23, 2007

Enchanted


Today, our family got to get out of the house and take in a movie up at the "Villages" in Florida. This afternoon we went to see "Enchanted".

Enchanted is a classic fairytale story which gets a modern twist. It is a story of a fair maiden, Giselle (Amy Adams), who lives in the beautiful, fantastical world of Andalasia. Giselle is unceremoniously thrust into the "real world" by the evil Queen Narissa (Susan Sarandon). It is a classic fish out of water story as Giselle, for most of the movie, finds herself face to face with the harsh realities of modern New York. During the movie Giselle begins to change her views on life and love especially after meeting a handsome divorce lawyer (Patrick Dempsey). Prince Edward (James Marsden) , the man Giselle was destined to marry in Andalasia, sets forth to rescue his true love from the schemes of his evil stepmother and her evil henchman.

This was a thoroughly enjoyable movie - from start to finish. This is one of those rare movies that has plenty of laughs and enjoyment for the adults as well as the children.

Throughout the movie there is a tension that plays out between the fairytale magic of love and the realities of love. "Enchanted" has a message that affirms the lifelong commitment of marriage and at the same time illustrates the painful consequences of divorce. There is a married couple (some secondary characters in the movie) that illustrate well the real struggles of marriage but also the rewards and blessings of persevering in spite of it.

Given that it costs a boatload of money to take a family to the movies (and we went to a matinée), this is a movie well worth the money and will provide a wonderful afternoon of enjoyment for the entire family.

GRADE: A

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving


Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation

Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation that follows is taken from the collection of Lincoln's papers in the Library of America series, Vol II, pp. 520-521.


The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.

Abraham Lincoln

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Unexpected Blessings

"We want lives of simple, predictable ease—smooth, even trails as far as the eye can see—but God likes to go off-road" - Tony Snow

If you were there this past Sunday at Big Creek Church, then you experienced a special moment. During a part of our worship service we took time sharing stories and testimonies of thankfulness. It was such a wonderful and precious time of sharing and giving thanks to God.

As I was hearing people praise God, my heart just wanted to jump out of my chest as I wanted to join in on the wonderful symphony of praise and thanksgiving. It is always such a blessing to hear people share their genuine love and thanks toward our wonderful and merciful God.

One particular pattern I noticed, as I heard person after person share, was that many of the testimonies of thanks didn't stem from an experience of ease. In fact, much of the thanks and praise come out of having gone through some major trial or difficulty.

That experience reflects a general rule of life -Trials produce unexpected blessings.

The other day I was looking over an article written by Tony Snow back in July. He had just resigned as the President's Press Secretary because of his ongoing battle with cancer. In ChristianityToday he wrote an article reflecting on lessons he has learned and is continuing to learn. Here is an excerpt from that article: Cancer's Unexpected Blessings
The moment you enter the Valley of the Shadow of Death, things change. You discover that Christianity is not something doughy, passive, pious, and soft. Faith may be the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. But it also draws you into a world shorn of fearful caution. The life of belief teems with thrills, boldness, danger, shocks, reversals, triumphs, and epiphanies.

Yes, like many of you, I have had a share of trials and tribulations, and yet through it I have come away with a deeper appreciation of God. When I read the cries and laments of the Psalms, I see a picture of God meeting with people in their pain. I don't claim to understand why that is, but He does. It is like the words of Corrie Ten Boom (a holocaust survivor) , when she said that "No pit is too deep where God is not deeper still."

This Tuesday, our family is going down for an unexpected visit to see Lauren's mom. She has been blind for two years, has deafness in one ear, and is currently struggling to recover from a serious injury from a fall. This Thanksgiving is a hard time for Lauren and our family. But nevertheless we are tremendously thankful that Lauren's mom is still with us and for the opportunity to spend these moments with her.

Like us, perhaps some of you are spending this Thanksgiving in the middle of your own "Valley of the Shadow of Death". But no matter where God has you, know that He loves you and is with you. Giving thanks and praise to God is a powerful antidote to the pain, disappointments and the trials that you may be currently facing.


Monday, November 19, 2007

He has my vote!

I usually don't get into politics on this blog, but this time I couldn't resist. This ad alone would make me want to vote for Mike Huckabee (and yes, I am just that superficial!)



(HT: Joe Carter)

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Power of Story


Story is powerful.

I have posted on the power of Story before.

At our staff meeting last week, our middle school team leader, Caleb Click, quoted Phillip Pullman (self proclaimed athiest and author of "The Golden Compass- a soon to be released movie based on his book)


‘Thou shalt not’ might reach the head, but it takes ‘Once upon a time’ to reach the heart.
Caleb is going to do something that some parents in our church may take issue with, he is going to offer an opportunity to take the Middle school youth to the movie with him. Why? Because he wants to train and equip the youth to engage and think critically about the culture we live in.

He plans to not just watch the movie with the kids, but afterward they are going to discuss what they saw. As a parent of one of the middle schoolers, I applaud Caleb's foresight and heart to engage movies such as the "Golden Compass". It is important to help our youth engage and process the culture they swim in with a self-aware, biblical worldview.

Thanks to the Jollyblogger for pointing out the reference.

Also, for a great article on Cultural Engagement, go to Joe Thorn's blog here.

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Time alone with my girls...

My wife is at a women's retreat this weekend, so last night and today - it's just me and the girls. It is always fun to spend some daddy-daughter time with my little girls. I have a sneaky suspicion that they want me to take them to the mall.

I will be making breakfast this morning...I wonder if I should take a cue from Bill Cosby? (one of my favorite comedy routines of his)

Friday, November 16, 2007

Reading the Classics



I posted over at Relevant Christian, go there to check it out.

Humor are the sparks of creativity



The is an interview with John Morreall from FastCompany.com (HT: Accidental Creative)

Ministry can be hard work. But the best teams are those that can laugh with one another. We just finished our staff meeting this past Monday morning and we never laughed so hard during our time together. Did we get stuff done? Of course. But I think John's opinions are right on the money. Humor increases productivity as well as enjoyment within the task.



Why You Should Include a Joker in Every Brainstorming Session
You say that humor increases productivity, reduces conflict, and fosters change. Is this a joke?

Humor is healthy, especially the way it reduces stress. Humor is the opposite of fight-or-flight emotions -- especially fear and anger. I can't be laughing with you and angry or afraid of you at the same time.

How does it encourage creativity?

Humor makes us think more flexibly. People who think funny do better on creativity studies. To put it really simply, humor loosens up your brain to think of more possibilities and be more open to the wild and wacky ones. There is a guy at the State University of New York at Buffalo named Roger Firestien who has a center for the study of creativity. When he teaches brainstorming, he says you should put a joker in the group -- somebody who will come up with preposterous ideas. Very often that will stimulate people to come up with ideas that will work. Let me give you an example. A bunch of paint engineers were moaning and bitching about how hard it is to get paint off a house. One guy says, "Why don't we just put gunpowder in the paint and blow it off the house?" That led people to think, "What could we do that would be the equivalent of gunpowder?" They came up with a chemical they added to the paint and when you wanted to remove the paint you did a light wash with a second chemical over the first one. That didn't blow it off the house, but it allowed it to drop off.
Also, read my previous post, 5 Ways to Spark Creativity.

Added bonus: Jason Clark just posted some great thoughts on Idea Generation - awesome stuff!

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Millennials are coming...


The Millennials are coming... Take a look at this video (from 60 minutes)

Are you ready? You better be.

(HT: Andrew Jackson)

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Jesus called - He wants His religion back


I was at the mall the other day shopping with my family and I came across a bumper sticker that said, "Jesus Called, He Wants His Religion Back".

Now I know that some may interpret it as a slam against Christianity, but actually it is a slam against "Cultural Christianity." It recognizes that some of what we see today in the name of Jesus, is often antithetical to all that Jesus stood for.

My friend Tony over at Sets n' Service did a great series of reviews of the book, "UnChristian" which address that issue. My copy of the book is arriving soon, and I look forward to reading it.

I must confess that I am very often struggling with the cultural Christian crap around me. We are called to be a peculiar people (1Peter 2:9 KJV), - a people belonging to God, different and set apart. But being different doesn't mean that we are strange.

A woman in our small group said that after coming back to the states after growing up in Africa (she was a Missionary Kid) - she felt strange. She didn't understand the American culture - clothes and such. She felt strange, weird and out of place. But God doesn't call us to be "strange" in that way.

Although we often allow ourselves to be set apart from God by merely being and acting strange:

We speak a strange language - You know what I am talking about here - the Christianeze. We either use big theological words like, "propitiation" or use inside language like "VBS", or "CCD".

We make strange life-style choices - I know that we are to be in the world and not of the world but too often we separate ourselves so much that we aren't in the world at all.

Is it smart for us to have Harvest day festivals instead of seeing how Halloween can open the doors to our neighbors? (see my previous post here)

Are we creating a Christian sub-culture, a ghetto in fact, in which we aren't allowing ourselves to have any measurable impact on people and our culture?

People get an ear-full of what we believe and stand against. But do they ever get to know a real, flesh and blood Christian? Do we ever allow ourselves to live out our lives before them. What real impact are we having? Some would argue, that the impact we're having isn't very positive overall. (read the book, "UnChristian")

People are tired of what we have to say...blah blah blah...they want to see how we're living.

What difference does it make?

Is it REAL!

The "realness" of our faith is being measured by experience.

We are not called to be strange, but rather "provocative" Does our life evoke curiosity? Is it intriguing?

Even though we want to see something provocative and different in some way, people also want to know that we are like them. Too often we want to protect our testimony and sell Jesus that we aren't willing to show people that we are just like them. If we are cut, we bleed too. We have challenges, struggles in our marriages. We deal with fears and disappointments. We need to open up our lives to others.

What they'll see then are how real issues intersect with real faith. They will see how we are genuinely trying to apply our faith to our life. Yes, it is messy. It isn't all buttoned down and figured out.

But our faith points to someone bigger than ourselves. Jesus is bigger than any and all challenges we may face. In Christ, there is a story bigger than our little drama being played out in the here and now. We fit into that big story. Our life therefore has meaning. It has purpose.

(rant over)

:-)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Information Overload

It is that time again that I share all that interesting material that I come across throughout the week. And since I don't have time to comment on it through the blog - I will just share a list o' links with you.

This stuff shows up in my Google RSS Reader throughout the week and I use the widget from my "shared items" in my Google Reader to post the most interesting information that I've gathered from the web. Enjoy some fun, entertaining and provocative reading.




Starbuck Jesus


I love being a pastor.
I love coffee.

As a pastor I meet a lot of people in a lot of different coffee shops throughout the area.

My two loves come together.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Virtual Community?


You know already that I am a big fan of Facebook (see my previous posts, here, here and here).

Facebook has been so cool in catching up with students, that I've lost contact with, from my years of ministry with Campus Crusade. Also, recently we taped a drama by the High School students at our church, and Facebook was so helpful to spread the video around so that everyone could have a chance to see it. Facebook is definitely a helpful tool but I appreciated this article by John Mark Reynolds entitled "Real People, Not Just Facebook Friends".

This is article is a very balanced perspective on the usefulness of Facebook but also it's shortcomings in developing true, real, authentic community. Here are a couple of select quotes.
Virtual reality is dependent on plain old reality, so it cannot escape harming or helping the souls on line. Because it so dependent on the world of concrete, neon, electricity, and physical bodies, it will never replace them. People are not just minds, but minds in bodies. To really know me (all of me), you have to know my whole self which includes my physical self.

Facebook is helpful only as it "builds" upon real, flesh and blood relationships. We have to know each other in the physical world, not merely in the virtual.
Virtual contact (phones and Facebook) can sustain me only so long. God made us to want to be with each other. He takes this so seriously that though God sent a perfect Story, He loved us enough to come and live that Story out in front of us.
Christ came and showed up in the flesh, we are designed to show up in one another's lives in the flesh as well.
If God shows up, shouldn’t I?

Showing Up in Every Area of Life

I must be with my kids to parent them.

I must be with my friends to be friends.

I must be with my students to teach them.

I must be with my wife to love her.

There is no substitute for real relationships. But that is the challenge is our culture, developing those real, messy, flesh with flesh relationships. It isn't easy. It takes time. It can get painful at times. It isn't convenient. But it is worth the investment and it is the way God designed us.

(HT: Real People, Not Just Facebook Friends: The Importance of Being There in the New Media Age)

Also, here is an added bonus in the discussion of Facebook, check out this podcast from GodBlogCon 07, Rhett Smith

New Media Ministry by Rhett Smith (mp3) from GodBlogCon 07


Also, you are certainly welcome to visit my profile here.

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Monday, November 12, 2007

Extreme Commuting

In Atlanta, everyone complains about the traffic. But what are we complaining about? The time and inconvenience? The money spent on gas? The opportunities spent away from the family? I think that the implications and consequences of our commuting culture are far beyond what we realize.

Atlanta is a commuting city. We commute not only by car everyday, but also by plane. Many men and women travel 2-4 days every week for their job. With one of the world's busiest airports, people live in Atlanta to work all across the country.

These work trends have serious implications. They make it extremely difficult for people to connect and build community. More time commuting in the car and traveling out of town allow less time to invest in meaningful relationships with people in their community and in the church.

Al Hsu has been reading a fascinating book called Microtrends. His post on Extreme commuting is a important read especially if you live in a time intensive commuting area such as Atlanta.
Microtrends: Extreme commuting, at-home working and more

I just started reading the new book Microtrends: The Small Forces Behind Tomorrow's Big Changes by Mark Penn. Penn is best known as the pollster who first identified soccer moms as a cultural entity back in the 1996 election cycle. This book describes dozens of new (and sometimes contradictory) cultural trends in American society today.

For example, Extreme Commuters are the 3.4 million people who commute 90 minutes or more each way to work. These folks are naturally very concerned about gas prices. They also have health issues because longer commutes are linked to obesity. A study found that every 30 minutes of driving increases your risk of becoming obese 3 percent. Why? One poll reports that 4 in 10 people say that when they're stuck in traffic, they eat. The person identified as "America's Longest Commuter" drives 372 miles round-trip each day, leaving his house every morning at 4:30 a.m. and getting home around 8:30 p.m.

Of course, many of us find extreme commuting unappealing and unsustainable. The flip side is the microtrend of the Stay-at-Home Workers, 4.2 million who work from home full-time, plus another 20 million who work from home part of the time with some sort of flexible schedule (like myself). This trend is being embraced by employers not only because they can save on office space and the environmental footprint of office workers, but also because working from home results in happier and more productive employees. 76% of full-time telecommuters report high job satisfaction (vs. just 56% of on-site workers), and at-home workers put in an average of 44.6 hours of work a week (vs. 42.2 in the office).

Other microtrends: Commuter Couples, the 3.5 million people who are living geographically apart from their spouse or partner for work or school reasons; technology is making long-distance relationships more doable. Office Romancers (60% of employees have been involved in an office romance) and Married Colleagues (like me and my wife), who can be assets to companies because "they are productive for the firm even in downtime, since they wrestle with work challenges even as they give their kids a bath." Working Retired - more folks are working longer and later, into their seventies and eighties; they do so partly because of the meaning and purpose they derive from their work, but also out of fears of not having health insurance. (The extra work and taxes also means that Social Security is not as likely to collapse.) And longer lifespans and workspans mean that people can raise kids in their twenties and thirties and then still have forty or fifty years of work (or ministry) afterward.

Read the rest here: The Suburban Christian


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Wesley quote




I thought that this was too good not to post
brad brisco said in the comments from my last post entitled "Wealthier and Less Religious"




It was John Wesley who said:

"I fear, wherever riches have increased, the essence of religion has decreased in the same proportion. Therefore, I do not see how it is possible, in the nature of things, for any revival of religion to continue long. For religion must necessarily produce both industry and frugality, and these cannot but produce riches. But as riches increase, so will pride, anger, and love of the world in all its branches."

This was a good follow up to that earlier post, thanks Brad!

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Sunday, November 11, 2007

Wealthier and Less Religious


Does this surprise anyone? Survey: Wealthier Nations Less Religious

A Pew Research Center report recently showed that religion is less likely to be central to the lives of individuals in richer nations than poorer ones.
The survey found a strong relationship between a country's religiosity and its economic status. According to the report, which released last month, African and some Asian countries – which are among the poorest in the world – scored highest on the religiosity scale. Meanwhile, rich Western European countries are among the most secular. Canada, Japan and Israel are also wealthy nations that have low levels of religiosity. (read the rest here)




Saturday, November 10, 2007

Some Saturday Lite-Fare

I've heard that one of my favorite shows, "24", won't be coming back this Winter, unless they can resolve the writers strike soon.

In order to bring a little joy to some disappointing news - check out this parody of what "24" would look like in 1994. What is especially funny (as well as interesting) is just how far technology has grown in the last 10+ years. Enjoy!

Friday, November 09, 2007

6 Keys to Leading Volunteers


I have been thinking a lot about volunteers recently, particularly since everyone in my ministry downline happens to to be volunteer. In churches, the work of ministry happens because of volunteers. Since volunteers make up 95% of the ministry workforce, the question that we need to grapple with is, how do we lead and recruit volunteers? Here are just a couple of my thoughts...feel free to comment and add your own.

1. Vision is their paycheck. A volunteer isn't motivated and driven by a paycheck (hence the label volunteer :-) ), so what gets a volunteer to step up to the plate? Vision. Vision, that is compelling and communicated often, is key for volunteers. They want to know how their service in their corner of the church fits into the overarching mosaic of the church's vision, mission and purpose. Vision not only keeps volunteers motivated but it is the essence of recruiting volunteers. You want people to join your ministry team? Share the vision. People respond more to communicating "vision" rather than just merely sharing "need".

2. You need to give people volunteering on-ramps. How do people connect with volunteering opportunities in your church? What is the process? Is it simple? Is it clear? At Big Creek Church we are working on clear and simply on-ramps giving people the opportunity to serve. (read Simple Church by Rainer - this book has been challenging us big time the last 8 months). Very often people want to serve - they just need to know how. We currently use our Taste of Big Creek (a.k.a. monthly newcomers lunch) and our Big Creek Inquirers (membership event) as two major on-ramps to help connect people with serving opportunities.

3. Volunteers need to be celebrated. It is true that most people volunteer because they want to use their gifts and make a difference. They are not overtly looking for praise and recognition, but that doesn't mean that they don't deserve it. Whether it be big, huge volunteer appreciation gatherings or simply walking in the nursery and thanking the lady who is holding a crying baby - volunteers did to be celebrated.

4. Volunteers often times will only rise to the level of your expectations. There are some volunteers who will go well beyond the call of duty, but most volunteers will serve up to the bar that you set. So set the bar high. Too often we are afraid to ask a lot from our volunteers - that is a mistake. Ask boldly, ask big! You will be surprised how motivated volunteers are willing to serve.

5. Volunteers will only work under leaders. People that are serving in your church need clear direction. You need to lead them. Make sure that you do your due diligence in planning and preparation as a leader. At the same time, don't worry if your don't have all the answers. As a leader you should concentrate about being clear with your volunteers even if you are not certain about every detail (via Andy Stanley)

6. Volunteers recruit other volunteers. One of the biggest issues for leaders is recruitment. As a leader, you have tapped into our sphere of relationships and may now feel tapped out. As a leader, you don't and shouldn't be the key recruiter. Encourage your volunteers to recruit their friends. People love to serve with their friends and they have a circle of friends and relationships that you probably don't have.

What are some of your thoughts about leading volunteers in your ministry context?

Thursday, November 08, 2007

It is so dry in Georgia....

...that:

The Baptists are starting to baptize by sprinkling;

The Methodists are using wet-wipes;

The Presbyterians are giving out rain-checks;

and the Catholics are praying for the wine to turn back into water.

Now THAT's Dry!

(trying to find some humor in a dire situation)


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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Information Overload

Here again is a lot of good material throughout the week that I come across. I feel the need to share the good stuff with you since I don't have time to comment on it through the blog.

This stuff shows up in my Google RSS Reader throughout the week and I use the widget from my "shared items" in my Google Reader to post the most interesting information that I've gathered from the web. Enjoy some fun, entertaining and provocative reading.




Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Being Missional Made Easy


I pulled this article off of Allelon. If you haven't checked out their site, you need to. Too often we think reaching out to our neighbors and into our community has to be some big, complicated affair. Because we think so, we never do anything about it. It doesn't have to be complicated and difficult to reach out. All it requires is opening up your home. It seems simple enough, but in this cocooned and fragmented culture - simple hospitality makes a big impression. Thanksgiving is coming up in a couple of weeks. In the past, our family has invited neighbors and international friends over to our house for Thanksgiving. It doesn't have to be Thanksgiving...but don't neglect the power of practicing hospitality.
The Missional Congregation: Practicing Hospitality

Contemporary western culture is characterized by high levels of alienation and fragmentation. In our families, churches, neighborhoods, and workplaces, many live as strangers even to those they rub shoulders with on a daily basis. Typical responses to strangers include suspicion, withdrawal, and fear. Christian hospitality is the art of sharing with others the gracious welcome that we ourselves have received from God. It is therefore a profoundly missional practice distinguished from mere notions of “entertaining.”

Biblical Hospitality

Scripture describes hospitality as the way of life of the people of God. This hospitality is primarily the welcome we extend to outsiders, not to family and friends. In the OT it was particularly the outsider, or alien, who was the object of hospitality. Aliens were to be protected in the knowledge that the Lord himself loves the alien (Deut. 10:18) and watches over him (Ps. 146:9). Aliens live in a situation of high vulnerability to injustice and oppression; therefore, the Israelites are commanded to treat them like the poor, the fatherless, and the widows-- with mercy and justice (Lev. 19:10; 23:22; Deut. 24:17-22; Jer. 22:3).

The Israelites own experience taught them the appropriate response to strangers: “Do not oppress an alien; you yourselves know how it feels to be aliens, because you were aliens in Egypt” (Ex. 22:9). What Israel has experienced from the Lord, she is to extend to others.

The NT also teaches the importance of hospitality toward strangers (Rom. 12:13; Heb. 13:2). It is a basic requirement for positions of ministry and leadership in the church (1 Tim. 3:2; 5:10; Titus 1:8). But it is in the ministry and teaching of Jesus that we are especially confronted with the profound implications of hospitality for mission. Jesus regularly received hospitality from others while at the same time extending to his hosts the welcome of the kingdom of God. Thus, the tax collector Matthew and the other “sinners” invited to dine at his home experience a welcome from Jesus that offends the religious sensibilities of the Pharisees (Matt. 9:10-13). Jesus’ practice of eating with the wrong kinds of people was an activity subversive to the social and religious status quo.

Hospitality is a critical component in the expansion of the kingdom. The hospitality offered to Jesus in the household of Peter (Luke 4:38-44) likely provided him with a headquarters for more extensive ministry in Galilee. The Lord’s commission to the 72 kingdom preachers exhorts them to accept hospitality from those who are responsive to the message of shalom (Luke 10:5-7).

Read the rest here...
(HT: ALLELON )

Friday, November 02, 2007

Missional Canines?



Strange but true, dogs are used as a church outreach...

"The dogs were decked out in sweaters and birthday hats. They had cold snouts, soft coats and the dispositions of Job. For more than an hour on a recent Saturday, they sat beneficently as dozens of children petted them.

They are members of the canine ministry at Irvine's Mariners Church, which organizers say may be one of a kind.

Its mission: to put people at ease and begin a process that could lead them to God.

"They are able to break down walls that we often can't," said Sheree King, a Mariners outreach director.

"The dogs facilitate relationships. They start a conversation" ultimately enabling church members to make their pitch."

(HT: Dogs help church get its message out - Los Angeles Times)


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Thursday, November 01, 2007

Remembering Reformation Day from Yesterday

I didn't have a chance to post this yesterday...but I thought this quote was worth sharing.

“I greatly longed to understand Paul’s Epistle to the Romans and nothing stood in the way but that one expression, ‘the justice of God,’ [Rom. 1:17] because I took it to mean that justice whereby God is just and deals justly in punishing the unjust. My situation was that, although an impeccable monk, I stood before God as a sinner troubled in conscience, and I had no confidence that my merit would assuage him. Therefore I did not love a just and angry God, but rather hated and murmured against him.

Yet I clung to the dear Paul and had a great yearning to know what he meant. Night and day I pondered until I saw the connection between the justice of God and the statement that ‘the just shall live by his faith’ [Rom. 1:17]. Then I grasped that the justice of God is that righteousness by which through grace and sheer mercy God justifies us through faith. Thereupon I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise. The whole of Scripture took on a new meaning, and whereas the ‘justice of God’ had filled me with hate, now it became to me inexpressively sweet in greater love. This passage of Paul became to me a gate of heaven….”

- Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 34: The Career of the Reformer IV, Helmut L. Lehmann, ed. (Minneapolis, MN.: Fortress Press, 1960), 337



(HT: Of First Importance)


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