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.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Watching the Growth of WalMart Across America


You may either love WalMart or hate them, but one undeniable fact is how fast and big WalMart has grown - in such a short period of time. This interactive map illustrates where and when WalMart has grown over the years - fascinating.

While looking at the map, I couldn't help thinking about the growth of the church in Acts. How it started in Jerusalem, went into Judea, Samaria and spread to the outer parts of the world. The Kingdom of God is dynamic, always on the move, always growing.

The previous post on the 1% church growth from conversation could leave you frustrated, but always remember what Jesus said to Peter -
And I tell you that you are Peter,Peter means rock. and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.Or not prove stronger than it
No one or nothing can thwart the Kingdom of God.

1% of churches' growth come from conversion

Catalyst had this interesting post this morning regarding a study that was recently presented at the Baptist World Alliance gathering in Prague.

David Laubach presented some startling statistics last week at the Baptist World Alliance gathering in Prague. He stated that church attendance is stagnant or declining in 75% of America’s churches. Furthermore, he said that 24% of churches are only growing by getting members from the declining churches - and only 1% of churches are growing from the unchurched, he said.

We can pat ourselves on the back as much as we want, but it sounds to me that we are failing miserably.

Related posts:
Suburbia and the MegaChurch
Shuffling the Deck
Numbers are People

Canton Georgia is not crappy!

I live in Cumming, GA - a town not too far from Canton, so I am always interested when small towns like Cumming or Canton make national news. It is especially interesting when they are mentioned by no other than Stephen Colbert. See below the article from the AJC and the video where Colbert apologizes to Canton, GA. (funny stuff!)

Stephen Colbert apologizes for "crappy Canton" remark

Holy backtrack, Batman! Stephen Colbert has issued what he termed a "rare" apology for last week's "crappy Canton" comment that "puzzled" mayor Gene Hobgood.

(The line was about John McCain's schedule. He was listing cities and got to this: "And Canton, and not the crappy Canton in Georgia. I'm talking about Canton, Ohio!"

"Evidently, I offended some people because two days later, I saw this in the Atlanta Journal Constitution," Colbert said in his Wednesday night broadcast. My colleague Jamie Gumbrecht's print story is shown on screen and he reads the headline "Colbert's 'crappy Canton' comment puzzles mayor."

"Seems the mayor of Canton Georgia was none too happy with me," he continued.

"It's clear to me he has not been to Canton Georgia," Hobgood says in a video clip from WXIA-TV.

"You're absolutely right, Mayor Hobgood" Colbert said, to laughs. "I haven't. But I hear it's a beautiful place. Nestled in the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains, Canton is the fastest growing city in Georgia. It has so much to offer like the Canton Historical Theater and the Hickory Creek log dam. Not to mention oxygen and paved roads."

"Yes, Canton Georgia, a wonderful place to live. So again, Mayor Hobgood. I apologize."

"Why did I call your lovely city crappy? A simple mix-up. I meant Canton, Kansas."

Then he puts his "crappy Canton Georgia" comment to shame. "That place is a **hole. You can smell that place all the way from Topeka. You know what they say about Canton, Kansas? Nothing. Nobody talks about it. I would say you should convert it to a landfill but that is insulting to landfills. If Dorothy was from Canton, Kansas, she would have wished the house dropped on her. That reminds me of a joke: how many Canton residents does it take to screw in a light bulb? None. They don't use lights because they don't want to see where they live. I'm glad I cleared that up because I don't want to offend anybody." (ht: AJC)



(thanks Jared for bringing this to my attention!)

Men - when you take your kids to church, it matters!


According to a new Ellison Research poll of more than 1,000 people, almost one-third of men say they never attend church—not even on holidays. Among both men and women who do go to church, 62 percent went with both parents when they were children. If only one parent went with them (usually Mom), that number declines to 50 percent. And among those whose parents never took them to church, only one-third now attend.

“Dads need to model the behavior,” says Ellison President Ron Sellers. Dad's you matter.


(ht: usatoday.com, 7/25/08)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Suburbia and the MegaChurch

I live in the Atlanta metro area where there are reported to be 70+ megachurches (by definition 2,000 + in attendance). Living and ministering in this context, I found Al Hsu's recent post very interesting.

Here is the start of Hsu's provocative post...
I just finished reading Christine Wicker's The Fall of the Evangelical Nation, which chronicles the tenuous state of American evangelicalism. She's a former religion reporter (and former evangelical) who argues that evangelical Christians are far less numerous or influential than often assumed in the popular media. Rather than 1 in 4 Americans being evangelicals, the real numbers are probably more like 1 in 14. Not insignificant, but not quite as dominant as usually touted. Southern Baptists claim about 16 million in membership, but actual church attendance suggests that the truly committed are more like 4 million. A few years ago the Southern Baptists aimed for one million new converts, but actually had just a third of that, less than previous years. And denominations across the board are losing members. Overall, the evangelical church may well be losing a thousand people every day.

The rest of Hsu's post are how megachurches flourish uniquely within the suburban context. And yet, even though megachurches have dominated the landscape of the church these past several decades, megachurches may be overheating and becoming irrelevant (read the rest HERE)


(ht: The Suburban Christian).

Crazy Love


This summer I have been plowing through a lot of reading, getting most of it done while on vacation in Florida.

Over the next couple of weeks I want to post about some the books that I've consumed in order to share some of the stuff that really impacted me while reading them.

One book that I tackled while on vacation and sitting around the pool was Crazy Love by Francis Chan.

What is Crazy Love? Chan explains his book this way -
This book is written for those who want more Jesus. It is written for those who are bored with what American Christianity offers. It is for those who don’t want to plateau, those who would rather die before their convictions do.
Chan wants to challenge believers who end up with spiritual complacency because they embrace the status quo of a society that searches for economic, political, and emotional security.
The core problem isn’t the fact that we’re lukewarm, halfhearted, or stagnant Christians. The crux of it all is why we are this way, and it is because we have an inaccurate view of God.
Also he wants to inspire a search into the essence of the one true God, and in so doing, inspire the discarding of every false, preconceived notion of God that hinders in order to motivate followers of Christ toward a wild, crazy, intimate relationship with God.

Crazy Love is an easy read but not "easy to read" in that it will convict, deconstruct false beliefs and assumptions and force you to surrender to the crazy love of God.

Pictures of the Mission Trip

I know that many of you were able to follow my updates and pictures from Twitter about the Mission Trip to St. Louis. I thought I would post here some pictures (via a slide show) of our time serving with the work days and the backyard Bible clubs.

Colbert does it like no other...

...by using funny satire and biting commentary to take on the religious issues of the day.


Stephen Colbert takes on the Lambryth Conference and the Anglican debate on ordaining homosexuals as only Colbert can do...watch the video.



(ht: MMI)

Monday, July 28, 2008

Has the internet killed reading?

This is a fascinating read from the New York Times on how the internet has either helped or hurt reading.

In many ways I think that it has hurt reading that entails complex subject matter. My reading on the internet is mostly skimming and in many ways my attention span has suffered as well

(see related post: Is Google Making Us Stupid?)

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Back from the Missions Trip


We got back late yesterday from our missions trip to St. Louis. It was a great experience for everyone, especially the middle school kids.

It was so cool to see God at work on their hearts. Many of the kids didn't want to leave and their hearts broke for the kids and the people they met. It was a good opportunity to expose them to a community outside of their sheltered affluent suburban bubble. Not only did they meet wonderful people, but they met Jesus in the city.

Make sure you go to http://twitter.com/msymission to read all the updates (especially about the one of me falling through a roof!) and to view pictures from the trip.

Thanks to everyone who supported us with their prayers and financial support!

(picture of me on the roof near the spot that fell in!)

Friday, July 18, 2008

On Mission Trip with My Daughter

My daughter and I are on a mission trip to East St. Louis for a week starting today. So I won't be posting at Provocative Church for 1 week. But if you would like to read some new posts that are scheduled to be posted while I am away - please visit my other blog: Ministry Best Practices

Also, check back here daily to view my Twitter updates on the mission trip. Through Twitter I will be posting updates, prayer requests and pictures. The "what I am doing" feed below will post the latest mission updates throughout the week.


Information Overload

Too much stuff, so little time. Here again is a lot of good material throughout the week that I've come across. I feel the need to share some of the good stuff with you since I don't have time to comment on it throughout 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)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Starbucks closes 600 Stores

Finally announced here are the stores in GA that are closing:

983 VININGS 2941 PACES FERRY RD ATLANTA GA
8452 ROSWELL RD @ I-285 5841 ROSWELL RD NE ATLANTA GA
8479 PEACHTREE @ 17TH 1375 PEACHTREE ST NE ATLANTA GA
11843 GA AQUARIUM 250 PARK AVE W ATLANTA GA
11870 EAST-WEST CONNECTOR & POWDER SPRINGS
2860 E-W CONNECTOR AUSTELL GA
13518 MALL OF GEORGIA II 3333 BUFORD DR BUFORD GA
13433 US 80 & MALL RD 2011 VETERANS PKWY DUBLIN GA
8385 PLEASANT HILL PLAZA 1630 PLEASANT HILL RD NW DULUTH GA
11675 GWINNETT MALL 2100 PLEASANT HILL RD DULUTH GA
13341 VETERANS MEMORIAL PKWY & BUCKNER BLVD
836 VETERANS MEMORIAL PKWY MABLETON GA
11587 MACON MALL 3661 EISENHOWER PKWY MACON GA
13408 BASS RD & STARCADIA CIR 1693 BASS RD MACON GA
11177 EAST-WEST CONNECTOR & S COBB DR
4624 CAMP HIGHLAND RD SE SMYRNA GA

Here is the whole list of U.S. Starbucks locations that are closing
(click here).

Kick'n Video Games, Old School


You can read my latest post at Christ and Pop Culture about the world of competitive, classic video gaming from the movie, "King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters".

Modesty is making a comeback


This post by Cindy Swanson got my attention especially since I have two teenage girls. She writes about how modesty is gaining attention and momentum. However, she cautions:

All young girls know what attracts the average boy, and that's the more skin, the better. Today's popular music, especially the hip-hop genre, glorifies girls who show it all. As far as the entertainment industry goes–even those young actresses and singers who start out with wholesome, squeaky-clean images, seem to end up shedding those values along with their clothes.

So what would prompt a beautiful young girl with a terrific body to keep it relatively covered up? In my view, only Biblical and/or religious principles would be the motivating factor.


Read the rest of her post HERE

(ht: Tullian Tchividjian)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Not Art, Gospel.


The guys over at The Plow have been working on a project called, Not Art. Gospel. It is an artistic view of each topic on the Sermon on the Mount. It has been about a month since they started this project, and they have seen God do some amazing things through it. Through this project, doors have opened and it has cultivated some great conversations.

We want to create art that will lead to God, and we pray that this project will be for His glory.

These posters are free, so download the posters, print them, hang them, and then talk about the words of Christ.

(ht: The Plow)

Reading is the Trait of Leaders

Read the JollyBlogger's thoughts on Reading and Leadership. A pastor must be a reader. Books, magazines, blogs, cereal boxes - it doesn't matter, you must read.

And here is my summer reading, a good bit of it already done.


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Gas Prices are Hitting Church and Missions Hard




Panic over pump prices isn’t just affecting church attendance this summer, as well as bringing aid to the elderly and shut-ins. It’s also hitting many missions ministries hard—especially airborne ones.

Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF), a nonprofit ministry that transports missionaries into remote areas of the world, recently had to cut its operating costs by 10 percent and is still looking for other ways to manage the current $13-per-gallon price tag for aviation gas. International relief agency Food for the Hungry also has had to trim both costs and the amount of food provided as higher gas prices cause food costs to swell.


“The bottom line is all mission organizations need to raise more money to help fund their ministries,” says MAF vice president of resources David Fyock. “Many believe high fuel costs are here to stay.”

(ht: christianpost.com, 7/9/08)

Jedi Gym

I am such a geek - I thought this video was so stinkin funny. You got to watch it all the way through. Have a good laugh today!


Monday, July 14, 2008

Twitter


What is Twitter?

It is called, Micro-blogging. It is where you share short little clips, called tweets, of what you are doing or where you are etc...

Here’s the Wikipedia summary: Twitter is a free social networking and micro-blogging service that allows users to send “updates” (or “tweets”; text-based posts, up to 140 characters long) to the Twitter website, via short message service (e.g. on a cell phone), instant messaging, or a third-party application such as Twitterrific or Facebook

I have been looking at Twitter for some time, and I have had a wait and see approach. I am not usually an early adapter with these things. I want to first know, How will this add value to my life? Will it be convenient and easy to use?

Needless to say, I have jumped on the Twitter bandwagon for the last couple of months. I am loving it! Twitter has proven to be a fun and powerful little tool.

The first thing that I like about Twitter is the ubiquitous nature of sending tweets. I can send them via SMS, IM, my Blackberry, Twirl (my PC app), Jott (using my voice) and even Firefox.

For instance, I can capture a quick Tweet through Google Talk while I am in Gmail...I am always in Gmail.

Or I can capture a quick Tweet through Jott.com, when I am on the road. I have been using Jott like an animal, especially since they added the capability to audibly update my Google calendar. Using Jott, I can just call in, and add an audible update to Twitter.

The other thing that I like about Twitter are the practical uses for it. Within my first Twitter account, which you can follow HERE, I Twitter about life and happenings. The nice thing about using Twitter is that it updates my Facebook statuses as well.

Also, as I blogged previously HERE, I have used Twitter to journal my eating, diet and exercise.

Twitter has been a helpful and easy tool in recording and documenting my diet's progress.

Also, I am using Twitter for my upcoming missions trip starting next week. I will be able to Tweet updates, prayer requests and even some pictures using my phone and Blackberry.

Twitter is a tool that I can and do use. I encourage you to check it out if you haven't yet.


Sunday, July 13, 2008

Have Evangelicals Become Less Partisan?

Republicans shouldn’t count on the loyalty of evangelicals, according to a new poll.

A survey of evangelical leaders shows the group is more concerned about the candidate as an individual than his political party this election year.

Out of 100 board members of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) surveyed, only one mentioned political party when asked, “How do you decide which candidate to vote for?” Instead respondents said they listen to speeches from the candidates and see where they stand on the issues. The majority said personal character and integrity were key considerations.

“What was most interesting about the survey results was virtual silence about political party,” observed Leith Anderson, president of the NAE. “It says to me that evangelicals aren’t as partisan as many think.”

I know that for me personally, I have been very unexcited about the election this year. I am usually a person who is very excited during a political season, but the candidates being delivered up are uninspiring. I will vote - that is a certainty. But I will examining the candidates on their own merits and not caring very much if they have a "D" or a "R" in front of their name.

(ht: christianpost.com)

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Tony Snow and Cancer's Unexpected Blessings

In light of Tony Snow's death this morning from cancer, this is a repost from last November about Tony Snow's article, Cancer's 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.

(Tony Snow (1955-2008). He was not only President Bush's press secretary from 2006-2007, a broadcaster with Fox News, a journalist and newsman, but also a committed Evangelical Christian.)

Creativity Doesn't Come From Perfection


Just about every working team has at least one creative person on it. And yet too often the creative people are the ones that we can frustrate the most while working together. Very often, we want precision and structure when working and those noble values can at times frustrate the creative person.

Are you allowing your team to be creative, not just perfect, in their execution? Are you willing to let the outcomes be messy? James Marsters, actor and musician, offered a great example of perfection vs. pleasure for creative people in a June 2008 interview (read below or listen to it here):

Q: What is the hardest thing about guitar playing for you?

A: “Being comfortable with the fact that the guitar is a very sloppy instrument. Guitar, by its nature, never hits the right note ever. If you go for a G, you’re gonna get a G sharp or a G flat, period. There’s no way you’re gonna get a clean note on a guitar because there’s the bending of the strings and there’s so many variables. On a keyboard, you hit an E and you’re gonna get an E. But, a friend of mine told me that perfection in music is not pleasurable and the proof of that is those irritating Christmas ornaments that will sing you the Christmas songs (imitates tinny melody). It’s soooo bad, but it’s perfect. It is in imperfection that the artist shines, that’s where the expression comes in. So, the artist is always kind of sharp or flat, that’s the expression - and that’s what’s so frustrating about the guitar but also so exciting - it never will be perfect.”



(ht: Agile Ministry)

cross posted from Ministry Best Practices

Friday, July 11, 2008

Freeze

This is a fun video and a clever promotional gimmick.


Thursday, July 10, 2008

Wash away your sins


If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. - 1 John 1:9

Do you really believe that? Or do you say, "No way, my sins are too big."

"You don't know what I've done!"

"Maybe he can forgive me once or twice, but I have failed continuously with the same sin, and certainly there is no more grace for me."

No, I don't know what you've done and I am unaware of your huge and shameful sins. But what I do know is that God's grace is bigger than your sins and failure. How do I know that? - because I am a sinner, with all kinds of shameful sins, but who has experienced the wonderful grace of God.

That wonderful grace isn't just some experience that is a memory of the past, but rather His grace which I rely and depend on every day. I need to surrender to His love and fall into His loving arms. Abba, daddy loves me, and nothing I can do or say can change His love for me.

He loves you too. Be blessed today.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Information Overload

Too much stuff, so little time. Here again is a lot of good material throughout the week that I've come across. I feel the need to share some of the good stuff with you since I don't have time to comment on it throughout 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)

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

So Simple








I think you would agree with me that there are a lot of things in life that are SOOO simple. Then answer me this? Why is it that so many simple things are NOT easy?

For instance:

Simple: Reading a book for an hour every day
Simple: Devotional time in the Word and Prayer for 30 minutes day
Simple: Listen to people when they are talking to me
Simple: Turn off the computer, TV, radio whatever, to focus on listening to my wife and kids
Simple: Replace that light bulb that's been out in the bathroom for 2 months
Simple: Follow 5 choices to every email, either Delete it, Delegate it, Respond to quickly, Defer it or Do it.
Simple: Encouraging someone with a kind word
Simple: Eat healthy and exercise
Simple: Don't always talk about myself
Simple: Don't look at my blackberry "crackberry" on my day off
Simple: Be not only "physically" present with my family at home, but "mentally" and "emotionally" as well

Simple? - YES! -but only by the work and power of His Holy Spirit and grace.

Thanks Tony Dye for provoking my thinking in this area.

(the snowflake in my mind represents the quintessential combination of simple yet complex)


Monday, July 07, 2008

Provocative Church is your family friendly blog

The Blog-O-Cuss Meter - Do you cuss a lot in your blog or website?

(courtesy of the Cuss-o-Meter)

Not sure what the .1% represents? :-)

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Picturing Excess

I have posted about Chris Jordan and his picture's before. Chris Jordan's pictures communicate more powerfully than words can often describe. Recently Chris Jordan presented at TED Talks in January.
His talk was just posted on the TED's website - you can watch it below.

Chris' combination of art and social lessons is a great way for us visual learners (that's at least 60% of us) to get a new perspective on excess.I think what Chris has been able to accomplish with his art, is a helpful example to those of us who communicate often.

Certainly words are powerful and persuasive, but at times words can't evoke the kind of emotion and feelings that a picture can. Watch the video, you'll see what I mean.



Go here for more information on TEDTalks

For more of Chris Jordan's Art go to his website: Chris Jordan's Photography Website.


Cross Posted from Ministry Best Practices

Friday, July 04, 2008

Happy Birthday U.S.A.


Having recently finished the HBO mini-series on John Adams, I have grown in my appreciation for this obscure and often over-looked Founding Father.

When the Founding Fathers finished the final draft of the Declaration of Independence on July 2nd, 1776, it was a day after, on July 3rd, that John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail about the momentous occasion.
The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty.

It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more. You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not.

I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will triumph in that Days Transaction, even although We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

A Superhero that is "Smaller than Life"


Check out my latest post at Christ and Pop Culture - a review of the latest Will Smith movie, Hancock.

Subverting Community

Here is an excerpt of an interview with Pete Rollins by Ian Mobsby, that raises some intriguing questions about how we “grow” authentic communities:

Ian – How does your book impact the vision of emerging churches exploring contextual forms of worship mission and community?

Pete Rollins – I suppose I would have to say that it does this by questioning the very ideas of “Worship”, “Mission” and “Community”. To take one example I think that emergent groups ask really interesting questions about what it means to be community and whether we should ever try to be a community.

I mean the phrase, “whether we should ever try to be a community,” very precisely insomuch as I am not saying that these groups won’t end up being community, just that they shouldn’t necessarily try to be one. For instance, as soon a group begins to identify itself as a community
people begin to have pastoral expectations. The result can be an unreasonable pressure on those who organize the meetings, the slow formation of hierarchical leadership structures (in order to meet those needs) and the danger that the group [or leaders] can become a psychological crutch for many who attend.

However, if a group refuses to offer pastoral care and makes it clear that it is not a community, rather just a collective of disparate people exploring faith and life, the fewer expectations are generated among people. This direct denial of community can turn out to be the most fertile soil for real community to develop indirectly. For if there is no ‘group’ who cares about the person sitting beside me then there is more need for me to care about that person. If there is no pastoral support team in place then I need to be the pastoral support.

The refusal to offer pastoral support thus generates a potential place where pastoral care is distributed among everyone. As Dostoyevsky once said, ‘we are all responsible for each other, but I am more responsible than all others’.

Do you agree with Pete's statement? - "This direct denial of community can turn out to be the most fertile soil for real community to develop indirectly."

Will we ever hit the mark of building authentic community if we are not intentionally aiming at it? I would love to hear your thoughts.

(ht: Next Reformation)

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Be a Card Giver



Giving can be so simple.

STEP 1: Use as much of your card as you want.

STEP 2: Write how much is left on your card using a permanent marker.

STEP 3: Challenge your friends to join you and collect what they give.

STEP 4: Place all the cards (You & Friends) in an envelope and send it.

GiftCardGiver.com

490 East Side Ave SE

Atlanta, GA 30316

THEIR PROMISE: We have never used a card for ourselves (Not even Starbucks) and never will. Thanks for contributing and collecting.

ABOUT GiftCardGiver: How many gift cards do you have sitting in your wallet? At the very least $5? What’s 5 bucks going to buy you? Five bucks in Gift Cards may buy you a pair of socks, but 10 people giving 5 bucks will buy a kid a winter coat or 100 people giving $5 from Home Depot will give that same kid a warm bedroom to sleep through the night.

We are Gift Card Giver. We are a community, that collects and distributes unused gift cards to people and organizations in need. Did you know the Gift Card industry has risen to be a $60 billion industry. Ever wonder how many gift cards are unused? More than 10%. That’s nearly $10 Billion. Billions of dollars are waiting to be redeemed. Waiting in your pocket. Can you spare one for our friends in need?


This is a great idea, I have some of these cards laying around. Rather then collecting dust, hopefully these cards can help someone in need.


(ht: The Plow)


Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Christian College Students Don't Know Christianity


That's the thought of Barbara Brown Taylor's insightful and provocative article at the Christian Century. Barbara Brown Taylor has a wealth of experience around college students, particularly Christian students. She teaches at both Piedmont College and Columbia Theological Seminary.

You can read her article HERE.

Here is a select quote that will make your head spin:
Even as they are turning in their quizzes, the students know that something has just gone badly wrong. "I think I just did the worst on my own religion," one says. Another asks me if Charlemagne was the main figure in the Protestant Reformation and slaps his forehead when I break the bad news. The only student who makes an A+ on the Christianity quiz is an orthodox Jew.

Later the whole class talks about why this quiz was so hard for them, and what they think this means. A few confess that they did not study because they thought they knew plenty about Christianity. Others say that they had too many quizzes on the same day.
Soon a consensus emerges, at least to my ears: that when they tried to put what they were learning about Christianity at school into the drawers they had gotten at church, there was no room for the new information—not because the drawers were full but because they had different labels on them.

The church drawers are labeled "Favorite Bible Passages," "Personal Commitment to Jesus Christ," "Summer Mission Trips," and "What My Church Means to Me." There is nothing wrong with any of these drawers. Mostly they contain good, life-giving things. But where are you supposed to put your new insight about the role of the early churches in the formation of the New Testament? Where does your fresh curiosity about Orthodox Christians go? What happens to your church drawers once you realize there are hundreds of other churches with just that many drawers of their own?
We, the church, are failing our young men and women. Young people are rootless within their faith. Their faith isn't anchored by knowing and digesting it's rich history. the years of sacrifice, hard fought struggles, and martyrdom. And certainly I am not suggesting that the history of the church has been nothing but pure and perfect.

But knowing the history of our faith helps us discern and understand the issues of our current day. An ahistorical faith will not keep their faith afloat in the face of pain, trail and direct attack. Our faith has never been ahistorical. Jesus, himself, entered time, space and history. There is a grand story and "meta-narrative" that our faith lives and flourishes within. We must continue to tell the stories of our faith. These are the stories that shape us. These are the stories that make our faith real, rooted and concrete.

And two final comments. Everything I said here could and most likely applies to adults. I don't think most adults would test out any better than the students that Taylor encounters in her classes.

Also, it is a real challenge to teach and tell these stories. I am not insisting that it is easy. I know that it is easier for my kids to digest pop-culture than it is the stories of their faith. (I am ashamed to say that I often wonder how much my kids actually know about the history of their faith. Sure stories like this one I posted a while back may be funny but it also illustrates the real challenges that we confront)


(ht: BagofNothing)