April 24, 2010

this week's roundup (april 23)

Donald Miller continues to offer great insight - on his blog this week he asks a key question about how personality might influence theology. I'm not one to say he's absolutely right (which, of course, is a reflection on my own personality and theology), but I think he is on to something. I remember reading something similar a few months ago about Pat Robertson's understanding of a vengeful God, and after a little digging, it turns out Donald Miller wrote that one, too.

Miller's other post that really got me thinking this week was on the topic of asking people to leave church - it's a tough subject, especially in an environment when "success" in ministry is so driven by numbers; but there is something to be said for it. Sometimes having the wrong mix of people inhibits God's work from being accomplished. In many ways we would be better served by adopting a "kingdom mindset" where instead of obsessing about numbers at any one particular church (or denomination), we celebrated the unique identities of many churches and helped people find the one that would be the best fit, but it's a lot easier to say "yes we should do that" than it is to have that actual conversation with the person who might be better served by finding a new church home.

Thinking more about the "numbers dilemna" Jay Voorhees weighs in on the subject I continue to wrestle with (see last week's post). I'm with Jay that there is more to growth than numbers, but like him I have to ask, when we make that case are we just deluding ourselves?

Some great, simple thoughts on leadership: It's Hard to Lead When... by Perry Noble. For a longer lesson on leadership check out this look inside Pixar's Leadership.

A brilliant, simple tutorial on the Missional Church - change the arrows, stop expecting people to come, instead equip them to go.

I haven't had a chance to listen to it yet, but I suspect Seth Godin's talk from his April Linchpin Session is worth checking out.

I know this will hurt my nerd-cred to admit but I never figured out the Rubik's Cube; I still have one at my parent's house that I have yet to solve. Fortunately Lifehacker posted a link that will help solve this 25(?) year dilemna.

In personal news, it was announced this week that I'll be appointed to the Byron United Methodist Church effective July 1. For any Byron-folk who happened to Google my name - Greetings! I'm looking forward to working with you soon.

April 16, 2010

this week's roundup (april 16)

Been a crazy week and a half, so I'm playing a little catch up.

During Lent and Easter I really tried to make the point this year that you can't just jump from the celebration of Palm Sunday to the glory of Easter (actually I try to make that point every year but I hit it even harder this year). It was comforting to know that I'm not alone in that struggle and I appreciated the words of Steve Stockman, via Mike Todd on how we have failed to communicate the life changing message. As he says:
How could we have left the majority of our population missing the subversive revolutionary who entered Jerusalem that first Palm Sunday with a mission in his soul to uproot the way things were to make them the way they should, could and will be, who freed the world from its chains but did so in the most humble of ways before smashing the tombstone and crashing into a post Resurrection world where now by the power of the Spirit weeks away from being unleashed could begin to bring God’s Kingdom on earth the way it is in heaven!....
Forgive us Lord! Forgive us public! Let us start repenting and putting it right!

Seth Godin looked at some of the lessons from the iPad launch that could be applied industries/movement/etc. There is a lot that could be relevant to the church as well:

  • Don't try to please everyone
  • Make a product worth talking about
  • Create a culture of wonder
  • Be willing to fail
  • Give the tribe a badge
  • Don't give up so easily
  • Don't worry so much about conventional wisdom

Steve Frost at The Work of the People offers some thoughts on the "big-little church" (a church that overbuilt, yielding a small congregation in a large space). In his concluding thought he writes:
This big little church seems interested in people and one thing is for sure, God is interested in people. To be interested in people is to be open to the wideness of being God-shaped, whatever that surprising wonderful mysterious shape may be. To be God-shaped is to step into a future of infinite possibility. Enjoy the view big little church.
In a similar vein, one of the many gems to cross Mike Slaughter's twitter feed this week was this:
One key choice church leaders make: will u focus on building disciples for Christ or tallying decisions for Christ?
Of course playing the numbers game is always controversial, and many times we can justify small numbers by saying our focus is to go "deep" instead of "wide" when the reality is nothing is happening in either direction.

Tim Schraeder at Church Marketing Sucks reminds us how everything the church does is, in one way or another marketing -- from how the phone is answered, to how the ushers welcome people, to e-mails being sent out they all leave impressions. Unless the image the church tries to project accounts for all those subtle ways the message is actually communicated, it will be curtailed. Seth Godin resonates with that same idea in a blog post from today. Sometimes first impression are all you've got, so you've got to try to make every interaction the best it can possibly be. (Of course the danger, for me at least, is that sometimes you can be so concerned about how something might be received that it no longer reflects authentically who you are. Even with this blog, I sometimes find myself second-guessing (and third- and fourth-...) how someone might interpret something I've posted. I often have to go back to Godin's thoughts on the iPad - be willing to fail, and don't try to please everyone.

And without seeing the connection until right now, that resonates with a blog post by Donald Miller this week on how he learned to like exercising. Once he figured out that 20 minutes was good enough and everything after that was above and beyond, he began to like exercise and found himself exercising for longer periods. There is freedom in naming what you are able to accomplish and finding satisfaction in that, instead of holding ourselves to often unrealistic standards of excellence.

The taste of a few days of beautiful spring weather has put me in the mood for the pure alterna-pop bliss of the Lightning Seeds.

April 15, 2010

praying w/ JW & challenged by MS

I've had the Wesleyan Covenant Prayer on my mind a lot over the past week:

I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed by thee or laid aside for thee,
Exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things
To thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
Thou art mine and I am thine. So be it.
And the covenant which I have made of earth,
Let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.

And then this tweet from Mike Slaughter pops up today:
Feel you can't have impact because of ur church size, location, resistant people, lack or resources? Gen. 28:16-17. No excuses.

Both are reminders I need daily.

April 2, 2010

this week's roundup (april 2)

TreeHugger has a post on High Speed Rail, while I'm not the train nerd my friend Rudy is, I do enjoy taking the train when possible (i.e. family trip to Chicago and a couple trips back to Iowa). Making a serious commitment to improve the rail infrastructure and introduce a real high-speed system is a good thing in my mind, but, as the article notes, if you going to do it, it needs to be done right.

Making Light has a nice summary of the Hutaree situation that happened in Adrian last weekend. Having not lived in Michigan during the first wave of militia activity, I find myself fascinated by this, as well as a little nervous, Adrian is just a 10 mile drive from my home - and also happens to be the location of my denomination's Annual Conference. (Note to my brothers and sisters in the Detroit Conference: Please leave the camo and automatic weapons at home this year).

Donald Miller's blog continues with it's solid output - today he shared a short meditation on what Peter might have written to fellow believers immediately after Jesus' crucifixion. I love the line:
"Perhaps he was a fool, perhaps he was mad, but he was mad with a love emboldened by an unseen authority that I simply cannot explain."
He also showed pastors a little love this week (and yeah it feels a little self-indulgent to post that... oh well).

Miller also hit on a theme that has been a big part of my thinking in the last year or two - the whole idea of finding a common ground, the "radical center", or the "third way" that moves beyond the divisive attitudes that are so prevalent right now. Miller's article addresses the problem of "black and white" thinking. In a similar vein Mike Slaughter this week offered some thoughts on "The Way of the Cross vs the Political Divide". I'd consider Slaughter's article a must read, for thoughts like this:
"Christ compels us to tear down the barriers that create religious, ethnic, gender and national conflict. If it’s not about healing and reconciliation, it’s not the Gospel."
I've also been slowly working my way through the book Follow Me To Freedom by Shane Claiborne and John Perkins and in there Shane writes:
"We can't just write people off because we disagree with them. we need to start thinking 'What is behind that?' - even when we disagree [with] them or don't particularly like their style. Even the Religious Right has leaders, albeit leaders some folks may disagree with. But if we aren't careful we will write off all their followers if we don't engage their message and the reasons that folks followed and are still following them. Jesus was always inviting dialogue with His critics. He was able to draw together a pretty eclectic dinner conversation. Look at His followers. He was able to bring to the same table a zealot revolutionary and a Roman tax collector. Zealots killed tax collectors for fun on weekends. What a mix... and all of them were being transformed into a new creation in Christ."

I also stumbled upon this video (via Seth Godin). There is one word, as well as a gesture some might find objectionable, but if you aren't easily offended check it out - the message of Taylor Mali's poem is a great - and it's always good to send some love to my teacher friends.