September 26, 2010

this week's round-up (september 26)

Ron Edmonson on 10 Random Things to Know about Pastors. They are all really good, but I especially appreciate:
Even though I’m teaching it…I may not yet have mastered it…but I’m working on it…
I get nervous every time I start to preach…sometimes sick to my stomach nervous…
Your story probably doesn’t surprise me anymore…but I am never callous towards it…
To my family I’m not a pastor…just a husband and dad…
If you tell me something on Sunday morning…you probably should back it up with an email to remind me…

  • Maps of Racial/Ethnic Populations in U.S. Cities. Check out the depiction of Detroit, based on racial/ethnic identification from the 2000 census (can you guess where 8-Mile is?) (Red = Caucasian, Blue = African American, Green = Asian, Orange = Hispanic, Grey = Other each dot represents 25 people). [Original image here].

  • Race and ethnicity: Detroit

    Great site to find local recycling centers.

    Seth Godin reminds us that the current recession is rooted in a much larger cultural shift. He also has some thoughts on risk-taking, noting:

    The problem with putting it all on the line...
    is that it might not work out.
    The problem with not putting it all on the line is that it will never (ever) change things for the better.
    Not much of a choice, I think. No risk, no art. No art, no reward.
    There's a really important message for the church in there. 

    Jeremy Smith has some thoughts on Why Every Church Needs Video Engagement. He's probably right, but I notice feelings of resistance within myself that I can't quite pinpoint - I think the first main reason is that I'd hate to do video (streaming or podcasts) so poorly that they would be a deterrent to reaching new people and populations (but that's probably just the perfectionist in me). The second is that I'm still nervous about the idea of a purely "virtual" church where a person's interaction is only (or primarily) through a computer screen. I say that knowing the irony is that I tend to be tech-obsessed, and would much rather send a e-mail than call someone. Jeremy isn't even suggesting the virtual church, he's just recommending another tool, but I fear how that tool might be misused in the future, in a way that reduces the incarnational aspect that is vital to ministry.

    Check out Don Miller's post on humility.

    I was having a conversation with a clergy friend last night, who was recounting a conversation he recently had about the future on the United Methodist Church. The person my friend was talking to suggested that people my age probably wouldn't retire from the UMC. Many of the local churches will still be there, but the institutional structure will have collapsed under it's own weight by then and something new (probably more regional in nature) will have replaced it. I find that difficult to think about - on one hand I think what will come out on the other side will be exciting and a healthier institution, but I know it's going to be a long painful process to get there, and unfortunately this change isn't going to come proactively, but as a result of crisis. Then, on my way to church this morning, I listened to this sermon by Adam Hamilton and realized that as long as we carry forward the missional DNA from our Wesleyan roots, we're going to be okay, even if "the institution" radically changes (or goes away completely).

    (Yes, I am fully aware of the irony of mentioning my concerns about churches using video in the same post where I link to a video of a sermon, AND where Hamilton suggests that this might be part of the future model of church. I'm not really anti-video streaming, I just want it to be done well (which COR does) and I think we need to be asking questions about how the incarnational piece is maintained in a virtual setting (which COR is also considering)).

    Music this week from Belle and Sebastian - their new album (Write About Love) comes out October 12.

      September 23, 2010

      have hope

       a few friends are going through a rough week, and with this pastor as minor poet retreat coming up i'm trying to get back into writing... so here's something i came up with this evening - it's rough and not quite my usual style...

      to those
         who are feeling
            wiped out
            washed up
            without a clue of what to do
      to those
         who are feeling
            freaked out and full of doubt
      to those
         who know not what tomorrow brings
         who can find no comforts in the little things
         who are left feeling tired and used
         who can go no further being abused
         who just don't know where to turn
         who hold that anger that always burns
      have hope
         that in the dark
            a new day dawns
         that in the cross
            a resurrection song
      have hope
         that fire may burn
            but not consume
         that waters may rise
            but not entomb
      have hope

      September 19, 2010

      this week's round-up (september 19)

      Shane Claiborne offers an important reminder about humility and Terry Jones' decision not to burn the Quran.

      Be Unreasonable!

      Bike Maintenance for Beginners.

      Great article at Ragamuffin Soul about being intentional about spending time outside the office. (Thanks to Paul Thomas for the tip!)

      A couple good ones from Seth Godin this week on Self-delusion and Self-loathing and on Marketing and Responsibility.

      Interesting ministry idea: Positive Picketing!

      Scot McKnight gives a thumbs-up to the book by Efrem Smith Jump: Into a Life of Further and Higher; it looks interesting (although the reviews on Amazon aren't quite as strong as McKnight's take).

      Mike Slaughter keeps it short and simple with a few thoughts around When Christians Disagree.

      Fred Clark offers a parable, of sorts, on the moral decisions we have to make when our worldview is incongruent with reality.

      File under trips I'd like to take: Back to the old stomping grounds in Chicago to attend this and then to Washington D.C. at the end of the month for this:
      The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
      Rally to Restore Sanity
      Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

      Music from Jonsi's album Go (worth checking out if you are into Islandic alterna-pop).

      September 18, 2010

      Book Review: Nudge by Leonard Sweet

       Nudge: Awakening Each Other to the God Who's Already There is Leonard Sweet's latest - this time focusing on the topic of evangelism.

       The book starts strong, Sweet makes the case that there is a better way between the strong-arm  approach built around the question, "If you died today, do you know without any doubt that you would wake up in heaven," and the completely passive position where you just sort of hope someone picks up faith by osmosis. He notes:
      "Evangelism as we know it hasn't worked. Either evangelism is so aggressive you want to get a restraining order, or else evangelism is so restrained you want to call it to order. Our strategies have been spectacularly useless at best, counterproductive at worst. We have lived through an exodus, but not of the biblical kind" (pg. 35)
       The alternative is the "nudge" - a touch, but not a shove - gently guiding people into the reality of God's constant presence in the lives of all people, and God's constant desire to be known in the lives of God's people, reunited in a restored relationship made possible through Jesus. The nudge is built upon a foundation of honesty, compassion, and respect, recognizing that we aren't the ones who bring God to people or taking Jesus to the 'unsaved', our job is to help people simply see what God has already been doing. Sweet writes:
      "Evangelism is nudging people to pay attention to the mission of God in their lives and to the necessity of responding to that initiative in ways that birth new realities and the new birth" (pg. 28)
       "The integrity of the nudge requires that it be welcomed and that it be reciprocal. The purpose of the nudge is to manifest Christ in a moment of mutual knowing, which benefits both the person being nudged and the nudger. Nudging is not best driven by fear or by some need within the nudger. Nudges are not contrived but are the natural consequence of being with someone in a moment and wishing them to join you in recognizing a God-moment. The best nudges culminate in a grunt to mutual recognition. God nudges me because God likes me. I nudge others because I like them. There is an implied caring that comes with nudging" (pg. 29).
       Sweet is able to articulate an understanding of evangelism that I've been trying to get my head around for the last few years, he offers a thoroughly Wesleyan concept of grace (prevenient, justifying, sanctifying), with an approach that is accessible to all Christians.

       He then speaks of how nudge evangelism must be rooted in semiotics - the art and discipline of reading those signs from God that are constantly in our midst, but are often missed. God is constantly speaking, reaching out to us, nudging us, but in our attention-deficit-disorder world most of us (even within the church) just aren't paying attention. According to Sweet:
      "When we don't pay attention to what God is doing, we dishonor and devalue him. In everything we do, whether it be reading the Word, hiking in the woods, watching a movie, viewing a painting, we respect God when we ask ourselves this question: 'What is God's invitation here?' By not paying attention to life, we pay God no respect" (pg. 59). 
        Again I'm completely on board with the case Sweet is making here, he does a great job explaining why we need to be paying attention, as well as reminding us of the reasons why we frequently miss Jesus in our midst.

       Len then unpacks the connection between semiotics and holistic evangelism by developing an extended metaphor of a "sensational" Christianity that engages all five senses - we pay attention to God and we do the work of evangelism by engaging all fives senses - to hear, to taste, to see, to touch, and to smell. Unfortunately, for me, it is this second part of this book, focused on this metaphor that the book begins to break down.

       The problem isn't that the metaphor doesn't work, it's pretty inspired as a whole, but it personally felt a little too long (and tortured) in some spots, while lacking in others. For instance, in the chapter on hearing Sweet delves into a discussion around physics and string theory that seems completely unnecessary. I get what he is trying to do here - all throughout the second half of the book he's trying to identify all those signs, big and small, obvious and unseen, that point to God's grand design; he wants this to be an exercise in semiotics. While I appreciate the attempt, it doesn't quite work - it seems a little belabored. Maybe I wasn't reading this section with the right frame of mind or an appropriate level of attentiveness, and Sweet continues to make some good points here; it just felt like there were too many clever metaphors, illustrations and word-play that only obscured the larger point. As I kept reading, it struck me that this is still a good book, but there is a great book hidden within half-as-many pages that could really connect with lay people, instead of feeling like an exercise for scholars.

       Overall, Sweet does a excellent job inviting and challenging the reader to be more intentional about paying attention to God and reaching out to others so that they might experience God who is already in our midst. The first half is brilliant, the second half is a little bumpy but worth your time. If you are at all interested in a vision of evangelism that makes sense, check this out.

      (Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book for review).

      September 12, 2010

      this week's round-up (september 12)

      Back again! Getting caught up after a week away.

      A few things all Leaders should have. It feels a little like "Hipster Pastor 101" - but I do have a Moleskine, use Google Reader, and have "played" with Evernote (never used it to it's full potential, though).

      Peter Rollins at Mars Hill. It's an mp3 file - very interesting listen.
      Here's the opening blessing from his recent Insurrection tour, beautiful use of language - this is the kind of poetry I wish I could write:

      WTF Church. Apparently this made the rounds on Twitter a couple weeks ago, and everyone assumed it was just a case of a church being horribly out of touch in it's use of language. Turns out they did it on purpose, and it's a core part of their identity. I'm not quite sure where I fall on this one - I like the idea of turning a pop culture phrase on it's head, but I'm not sure this is quite the way I'd go. In the words of Nigel Tufnel, "There's such a fine line between stupid and clever."

      Donald Miller - Knowing Where You're Going will Keep You From Making Bad Decisions.

      Mike Slaughter and Jeremy Smith on the Qur'an Burning controversy.

      Seth Godin on Interpreting Criticism.

      Scot McKnight on fundamentalism and maintaining a public persona.

      David and Ben Crumm provide a nice summary of their recent trip across the US with the reminder that actual conversations (as opposed to shouting matches) still matter, and are needed more than ever.

      Great series on Detroit:
      Part 1

      Part 2

      Part 3

      I apologize for this, but it had to be posted: