June 23, 2010

June 18, 2010

this week's round-up (june 18)

More links, less commentary this week:

Mike Todd offers some pretty hard hitting thoughts on WWJD About BP? with the reminder that we all have oil on our hands.

Neighbors for Neighbors: Chalk it Up! Love this idea! (via Heif)

Presentation lessons from Steve Jobs.

Andrew Conrad explains the Internet #FAIL at Church of the Resurrection Online this week. Like the lesson from Jobs, transparency is good. If there is a problem, acknowledge it, solve it, and move on.

Seth Godin explains how we've moved past "slick" and what matters now is transparency, reputation, and guts.

More on clergy appointment guarantees. (via Steve)

Justin Wise on Mormons, iPads, and a New Way. Good thoughts on evangelism - first rule, treat the person you're dealing with like a human being.

Small groups are the building block of small churches. The important reminder here for me is that small groups don't always have to fit a certain model of a home "cell group" - sometimes just adding a new Sunday School class makes a difference.

Establishing a culture of distributed leadership good read, written from a secular perspective, but very applicable to the church. I just finished reading Ultimately Responsible: When You're in Charge of Igniting a Ministry by Sue Nilson Kibbey which really takes this idea and examines it in depth - all about finding and training the right people for the mission and task of the church, making sure they understand and support the vision, and giving them an environment to succeed.

Jeff Nelson hits close to home this week's offering - No Outlet.

Crazy week ahead. Don't expect a round-up (but who knows, maybe you'll be pleasantly surprised).

Another great video from OK Go

If you like the music, check out the album:

June 16, 2010

On franchise churches and Methodist reform

 A couple days ago Jeremy Smith wrote a great article about his concerns with Church of the Resurrection entering into discussion with another struggling United Methodist congregation about becoming a remote campus of CoR. Jeremy does a great job not only naming the temptations of such a move, but also suggests the ramifications (specifically dangers of theological outsourcing, denominational splintering, and the marginalization of women and minority clergy).

 I think Jeremy's on-target, but in the early morning hours as I found my mind awake before my body was ready to be, I found myself reconsidering.

 I'm playing "devil's advocate" to a degree here, but is it possible this (or something like it) is exactly where United Methodist reform is going to come from?

 Is it possible that instead of this being the first step to a Wal-Mart church, this is a step back to what John Wesley was doing by traveling the English countryside preaching churches where he was invited in (and fields where he wasn't), declaring "the world is my parish" and doing an end run around the (largely ineffective) structures of his day? Could an internet feed of a person's preaching simply be the modern-day equivalent of publishing a volume of "Standard Sermons"? The reality is: creating a wide-spread movement, observing a set of unified expectations and practices, primarily driven by a single dynamic personality, that generated controversy and divisiveness is largely was Wesley was about.

 Now I'm not saying that's what Hamilton is after, and he's certainly not going to accomplish it by entering into a series of adoption agreements that involve studies of things like demographics and debt obligations, and the approval of Bishops, District Superintendents, and Church Councils.

 But it did strike me that Hamilton (and Slaughter) are both in the position to spark that kind of reform if they wanted. It seems to me that they are both very close to having the tools as well as the leverage in place to bring about significant denominal change if they so desired. By design the United Methodist system lacks a single visionary leader, largely to our credit; the system of leadership offered by regional Bishops works well. Yet, I find myself wondering, if we've entered a time when we need a new "John Wesley" - someone who can spark a wide-reaching, inspiring vision that is rooted in those unified standards and expectations.

 What if it's not about building an empire of mini-CoRs, what if it is instead about inspiring a church to reach back to it's roots (before it was a 'church'), to be a reform movement once again, reaching out to the people who have been alienated from the institution, and motivating people to live their faith?

 I don't think that's what CoR is doing right now, and so in the end, I resonate with Jeremy's concerns, but I find myself wondering if it could be possible.

June 11, 2010

this week's round-up (june 11)

Check out the staycation ideas for churches from UM Communications. One of the things I'm excited about with the congregation I'll be serving in July is the connection we have with Myers Lake Camp; they already to VBS at the camp, and many people stay at the campground during the week, but I'm already starting to think how else we might be able to utilize the space for mini-retreats that can foster fellowship, fun and spiritual development over the summers.

Friend and colleague from just down the road, Aaron Kesson offers some nice thoughts on the spiritual practice of confession. Another DAC Metho-blogger has joined the ranks, welcome Sherry Parker!

Jeff Nelson hits another one out of the park*. Donald Miller also addresses the subject of the Tigers game where Jim Joyce made the wrong call, costing Galarraga a perfect game. Like Jeff, Miller reminds the reader of the power of apology, in part, he writes:
If you’re a leader and you’re wrong, admit it. People will respect you. Admit it and show remorse. And if you follow a leader who struggles admitting they are wrong, DO NOT FOLLOW THEM. We all make mistakes, and people who admit their mistakes are in touch with their humanity, and those who don’t are simply delusional. And if they are not willing to pay for their mistakes, you better believe they are going to make those around them pay.
Rick Dake gives a few words on his experience of church as a youth versus the church of today. I've occasionally thought about how our "home" church experience can shape and influence our expectations of how we give leadership to the church today, sometimes to a negative degree, wanting to recapture a past imperfectly remembered. Rick's post is a nice celebration of the positive changes that have taken place. Like Rick, my missional experiences were pretty limited - collecting for UNICEF was about it; the "big trip" we took was to go skiing in Minnesota, but in these last seven years of ministry I've led youth to serve others in Alabama, Washington DC, and Mexico; plus had the opportunity to be among the first to bring youth and adults to do flood recovery work in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. This isn't the church of yesterday, and that is something to be thankful for.

Kem Meyer asks, "Are you leading a movement or managing an institution?" It's a good question to consider - especially within Methodism which was always intended to be a movement instead of an institution.

Great meditation on transitions from The Art of Non-Conformity, that is especially meaningful given an work transition, now less than two weeks away:

I say: hold on to the moment as long as you can. Fight for it if you have to. Get up early and stay up late. Be brave. Choose the raw emotion, even the awkwardness if necessary. If we must go on to something else, let’s at least think about what was and what could have been.
The more intense the feeling, the better. If synchronicity and the feeling of being part of something meaningful comes with sadness, loneliness, and disappointment, so be it. I just know that I don’t want the alternative—mediocrity, routine, the safe and the comfortable.
Len Sweet on the need to adapt to and adopt the new digital language... "the devil is already learning the language of Google, are you?"

The Google Language from The Work Of The People on Vimeo.

Lifehacker offers an excellent guide to escaping from office clutter. Much needed advice in my case, hopefully I can just commit to actually following through with it.

If you have the time (about 16 minutes), I'd also encourage you to check out this TED talk from David Byrne (you can also download it from itunes, for playback at another time). Byrne speaks to how the setting influences the form in the creation of music. Might the same be true for preaching? Is it possible that where we preach, subtly changes how we preach, and where we write influences what we write? I think it was Adam Hamilton who once suggested that if you write your sermon in the church office it will come out sounding like it was written for "church people," but if you write it outside the church (coffee shop, restaurant, etc.) it will more likely speak better to people outside the church.

In preparation for the move I'm making in a little less than two weeks, I had to make the difficult decision to part with a part with a portion of my music collection that I still had on cassette tape. Admittedly, they weren't great works of art, and can be easily replaced with better quality digital versions, but it's still hard for me to part with those pieces of plastic and magnetized tape. Here's one of the songs I had to part with:

June 4, 2010

this week's round-up (june 4)

Some friends are really bringing it this week on their blogs:
Not a personal friend, but Jeremy Smith also has some good comments regarding Willimon. While I haven't gone in-depth on the subject, I have mentioned the dilemma before - I think Willimon does have a point in that in the end you do need some kind of metric to help examine what is happening in the life of the congregation. He also has a point in that we take all this time and energy to collect the data, so we should be using it as well. But, as Steve and Jeremy point out the numbers (of baptism, membership, attendance) don't always tell the whole story, and even that data can be abused and manipulated. Furthermore, when the numbers are taken to specifically measure clergy effectiveness, with the assumption that all areas are the same, problems will emerge. A congregation that is serving an area facing negative population growth simply can't be expected to do as well as an area that is growing. Likewise, while the clergy leadership is an important element in congregational growth, it is not the only element and sometimes other factors (resistance within the congregation, "cleaning up" after another person's mistakes, etc.) will limit growth, at least in the short-term.  Having said all that, though, I will concede that Willimon does have a point that sometimes in the face of the hard numbers before us, all we choose to offer is excuses, instead of actually doing something to bring about change and growth. What also needs to be understood is that the denominational authorities can't just command this to happen: vision, training, support, and resources are needed for this change to take place - the entire church culture has to change, not just the performance of individual pastors.

Scot McKnight shares some interesting data suggesting that people who hold to a concept of a benevolent and engaging God are significantly more committed than those who primarily understand God to be wrathful and judging.

Both Eric Bryant in his post, Seinfeld as a Drama?, and Dan Kimball address the issue of context. The videos they each link to are great, and an important reminder that a story can be told and manipulated, by how it is presented and removed from its original context.

Similar to Dan Kimball's discussion, but with different take on the issue, Fred Clark has some interesting things to say about the emphasis Christians give to sexuality versus money relative to the amount they are discussed in Scripture. Clark is writing in a multipart series, check it out: Part 1 and Part 2.

It didn't make it in my posting last week, but I did enjoy the piece from David Byrne on The Architecture of Fear. (Warning to the easily offended: Byrne uses some objectionable language).

Lifehacker posted the recommendations for essential Windows software. Quite a few things on the list I already use and can vouch for (Chrome, Skype, Thunderbird, VLC, Picasa, Microsoft Security Essentials) and a couple I've been meaning to check out (Mozy, Dropbox). If you use Windows, I'd encourage you to check it out and download the pack. (Of course I'm considering converting the Windows box in my new office to Ubuntu, just because I am a big nerd).

Interesting article suggesting we can all expect an increase in traffic tickets as state and municipal revenues remain tight. It especially hits home because I just received my first ticket after 20 years of driving, just two months ago.

If anyone wants to send me to Portland so I can hang out with Donald Miller for a couple of days, sign me up here.

My friend Eric mentioned how he just discovered The Black Keys this week, so in Eric's honor here's they are: