March 26, 2010

this week's roundup (march 26)

Good friends from college, Clint Twedt-Ball and his brother Courtney Ball have been doing great ministry in Cedar Rapids with their organization, Matthew 25. A recent article in Faith and Leadership, tells of their Block-by-Block program.

Rocky Supinger over at offers some interesting thoughts on Jeff Jarvis' book, What Would Google Do?. You will find Supinger's thoughts in three parts: Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. A couple key points he makes:
Churches model themselves after other forms of organization. They always have and they always will. The earliest Christian congregations were modeled after synagogues of the day. Most churches in North America today are reflections either of mid-20th century civic organizations or late 20th century business and and self-help and leadership movements. These models affect everything. Worship, education, polity, dress, outreach, marketing: everything churches do reflects models borrowed from other sectors of society.
I frequently am required to chase off skateboarders from the church property for insurance and liability reasons. Yet are these skaters not simply using the church as a platform for what they want to do, which is not just skate but also hang out and connect with one another? To protect ourselves, we have to chase them away; doing so may actually be causing us harm.

Communities aren’t waiting around for permission from churches to do their thing; we ignore the great stuff they’re doing at our peril, because, if Google is right, helping them helps us.
The church knows the lesson, but we are still having trouble living into it. The logic of "build it and they will come" no longer applies - we need to go to where the people are - bringing Jesus into the neighborhoods like Clint and Courtney are, or to the skater kids hanging out in the parking lot. I'll confess that even I can preach & blog on it but still have trouble doing it, but that's where we need to be, and we need to keep challenging, supporting, and encouraging one another to get there.

I don't know the history behind the statement, but over a Sojourners there is a Covenant for Civility that is simple, Biblically-rooted, and speaks to the need for real conversation both in and out of the Church, instead of the shouting and self-aggrandizement that so often takes place. There is certainly a need for it on the macro level, but I also wonder about the micro-level of congregational life - could it be a covenant for Bible studies of controversial issues or even for committee work? (Maybe with slight adaptation). On a related note, I found out that Chuck Colson, who has signed the Covenant, has said that it doesn't apply to Glen Beck, because Beck is a Mormon.

I've added Donald Miller's blog to my feed reader and found it to be filled with all kinds of good stuff. This week, you can read about Nella's Beautiful Story, a powerful reminder that life doesn't always go according to (our) plans, but God's grace has a way of brining light into the darkness and love is the most powerful force on all. He also writes on Changing Negative Character Traits and Letting Go of Cynicism (and, yes, Amy, I know you will find that a little ironic given my cynical attitude over the past week).

I couldn't help but read Miller's post on cynicism, without thinking about Conan O'Brien's parting words, "Please don't be cynical, it's one of my least favorite traits... if you work really hard and are kind, amazing things will happen."

Music for the week is by the Eels... you might remember them for their mid-90s song "Novocaine for the Soul." I actually remember first hearing Mark Everett's music on Rob Michael's "All Alternative Friday Night" show on KDMG - though, I can't remember the specific song that made me first think "Hey, this guy is really cool" (my guess is it was either "Hello Cruel World" or maybe "Fitting in with the Misfits" off A Man Called E). I haven't done a great job of keeping up with the band over the years, but I did pick up Hombre Lobo a few months back and enjoyed it. The song and video, both, are worth taking a peek at:

March 19, 2010

this week's roundup (march 19)

Back from a break last week to attend/officiate my brother's wedding in Iowa. Good times... of course the weird thing about going back and seeing people you haven't seen for a while is that I find myself thinking, "Wow! They are starting to look old..." and then realize that they are probably thinking the same thing about me.

Kem Meyer shares a friend's thoughts on using social media within the church. Some good points are made - 1. Most church folk aren't actively using twitter 2. Most people outside the church aren't going to randomly follow a church twitter feed. The solution, according to the author-
There is a lost and suffering society all around us without hope. A high percentage of them actually use Twitter and Facebook. Since I know they don’t have an interest following our church, I’m going to follow them instead. Using the search tools, I’m going to purposely follow anyone and everyone who posts anything on Twitter within 10 miles of our zip code. I’m going to do this with the prayer that some of them will in turn follow us. And even further that some of the people who follow the people we follow will want to follow us (confusing I know…draw a picture if you need to).

In all honesty, much of what is posted on the twitter accounts I’m now following is very objectionable. I want to lead old school believers to an understanding that not only is it okay for the church to do this, we’re supposed to. What I know to be true is the best way to fill your own cup is to fill someone else’s. Since I know these people are not going to come to me, I’m going to go to them.
I like the idea, and would add to it that I think there is value in listening to those "outside" (even if they are objectionable) simply for the sake of knowing what people are saying/doing/thinking. It is way too easy to get locked inside the church bubble and not realize that our experiences and perspectives can sometimes be very different from our neighbors. We can't connect with our neighbors until we understand our neighbors.

Jeremy Smith has some thoughts on Thursday night's episode of the Colbert Report. I had seen the part on Glen Beck, but I missed the interview with Mary Matalin.

(As a side note I'm actually glad I wasn't writing last week so I could avoid the hype around Beck's comments. I certainly disagree with what Beck was saying but I also think some people have gone a little overboard with their objections; it seems to me like their is a point where you just have to let Glen Beck be Glen Beck, fully expecting him to say things that are controversial and move on).

David Byrne writes this week on the topic of collaboration, he speaks of the challenge and benefits of collaborations, noting (in part):
Another reason to risk it is that others often have ideas outside and beyond what one would come up with oneself. To have one’s work responded to by another mind, or to have to stretch one’s own creative muscles to accommodate someone else’s muse, is a satisfying exercise. It gets us outside of our self-created boxes. When it works, the surprising result produces some kind of endorphin equivalent that is a kind of creative high. Collaborators sometimes rein in one’s more obnoxious tendencies too, which is yet another plus.
But the other fascinating thing, to me, in the article is Byrne's comments on the songwriting process - I always assumed you generally started with the lyrics and built the melody around it, but Byrne (generally) does it the opposite way. There isn't any deep meaning for "lesson for the church" in there just the personal revelation that the process is usually done opposite the way I always assumed.

This week at The Jesus Manifesto there was also some powerful thoughts on following the Abstract Jesus as opposed to the "real" Jesus who has a way of entering in, getting personal, and "messing up" our lives. Good food for thought.

RIP, Alex, thanks for the music -

March 5, 2010

this week's roundup (march 5)

Tony Campolo has an article on Making Matters Worse in Haiti, suggesting that in spite of the best of intentions and the good work that faith based groups have and are accomplishing, there might be another side we aren't considering - that mission teams disempower the Haitians, keeping them from potential employment and fostering ongoing dependency.

Scott Couchenour offers 10 Questions to Lead from Your Strengths. Good stuff to chew on. Also this week a couple good posts at Church Marketing Sucks: Follow the Leader: More Jesus, Less Personality Pastor, focusing on avoiding the "cult of personality" that threatens to attach itself to those in pastoral leadership; and The Church as a Dream Factory or Do Factory - I'm with that author that it isn't an either/or, at it's very best, the church should be about dreaming God-sized dreams AND working to help build the Kingdom.

I've mentioned before that I've been fascinated by issues around church architecture; in that vein I came upon this article, which offers some important thoughts - first, the style of the building doesn't seems to be important as condition of the facility, but also as they note, people don't come because of the building, they come because of spiritual longing and personal invitation (an obvious point, but one that often gets forgotten). They also provide this analysis:
"The "third place" area is important. A "third place" area is a social gathering point outside of the two usual community environments, work and home. Those churches that remain at the cutting-edge realize that a third place area is growing rapidly in importance with society. Churches that provide these types of gathering areas are much better positioned to reach the unchurched people in their surrounding neighborhoods.

The gym fallacy. Many pastors hear from their members that building a gym will help attract the unchurched in their community. Our research, however, found the exact opposite to be true. In fact, one of the areas of the church that was least important to the unchurched was the gym. Church leaders that are considering building gyms need to understand that gyms, in general, serve their current membership and have little effect on attracting the unchurched."
The "third place" stuff is interesting and something I've been thinking about for a while - especially how to offer a meaningful "third space" that is more than a coffee shop that serves the membership, but I'd never thought about the whole church gym issue before. It seems like that could be a third space, too, but maybe the focus around it would have to be about building relationships instead of just offering more programs.

Taylor Burton-Edwards points to the changing model of the US Postal Service which is aiming to create more decentralized points of service in the places people already are (grocery stores, pharmacies, convenience stores, etc), instead of the traditional single point of operation (the Post Office building). Taylor asks what the United Methodist Church might learn from this, especially when parallels can be drawn between the two institutions (lots of underutilized buildings in remote areas with the expectation that people "come in" instead of "going out" to serve).

I personally prefer the "marching band" version of OK Go's This Too Shall Pass, but this one is certainly worth 4 minutes of your time as well:

Damien Kulash from OK Go also has an Op-Ed up on the New York Times about how music labels are against the very thing I'm doing here. The problem is, when I embed the video on my site, youtube doesn't pay a royalty to the record label, but as Damien point out, if people like me don't embed, the video doesn't go viral, and people don't find out about the band or the new music. I think the bottom line is if you find an artist you like on the internet, find a way to show them some love - buy the cd/mp3/etc., see them on tour, etc.