September 30, 2011

September 28, 2011

this week's round-up (september 28)

God Makes Lemonade - love this concept!

Seth Godin on Talker's Block - great post about working through writer's block; of course the mild irony, for me, is that I frequently do have "talker's block" and tend to keep silent if I don't have anything to say. Also from Godin: Marketing the Placebo - When Everyone Gets Their Own Belief.

Lifehacker: Upgrade Your Health & Fitness Routines.

Donald Miller: Leaders Lead People Through Fear.

Dan Dick: Take Time to be Holy.

Jamie, the Very Worst Missionary: Using Your Poor Kid to Teach My Rich Kid a Lesson. Raises an important point to consider about the unintended messages of mission trips.

Cameron Conant (via Rethink Church): Live the Best Case Scenario.

Christian Piatt (via Huffington Post): Why Young Adults Are Walking Away From Church.

Michael Hyatt: What Drives You As A Leader?

Chad Missildine: 8 Dos and Don'ts of Transformational Leadership.

I'd forgotten about the whole "Playing for Change" project, so I had no idea they had new songs out. Here's their latest, and it's a good one:

September 27, 2011

what people are looking for

I don't really fit the theological camp that Good News Magazine is written for, but I do try to read it when it arrives in my mailbox to broaden my theology and to better be in dialogue with other United Methodists; and the fact is, frequently there are good articles in the pages. The article by Jason Vickers "Renewal in an age of Anxiety" has some great stuff in it (it doesn't look like the on-line version is available yet, otherwise I'd link to it). I especially appreciated these thoughts:
"The truth is that we do not need more demographic or generational studies to figure out what people are looking for. In the midst of workplaces full of resentment and hostility, people are searching for love. Surrounded by anxiety and depression, people are looking for joy. Amid the violence and insanity of city streets and war-torn countries, people are searching high and low for peace. Faced with spouses and co-workers who lose their tempers at a moment's notice, people are looking for self-control. Amid rampant road rage, people are in desperate need of patience. Against the backdrop that is the harshness and cruelty of the evening news, people will inevitably be drawn to churches that exhibit gentleness and kindness in every aspect of their lives. Over against the gospel of pervasive pessimism about human nature and human communities, people will be drawn to church that proclaim and embody a gospel of transformation and holiness.
 "Conceived along these lines, the real question for the church is not whether we can get people to come to church in the first place. The real question is whether, upon coming, they will find compelling reasons to return time and time again.
"People will not be drawn to and held captive by the church simply because it carefully preserves and maintains its long-standing structures. Nor will they be drawn to and held captive by the church simply because it is part of a prophetic movement aimed at renewal or reform. Rather, people will ultimately be drawn to and help captive by the church when they discover in the church something they cannot readily get anywhere else, namely a community that embodies in readily discernible ways the mind of Christ, the theological virtues, and the fruits of the Spirit. In other words, they will be drawn to and held captive by those churches that bear the marks of incorporation into the Trinitarian life of God. Short of this, people may come to the church for a season, but they will ultimately look elsewhere for their salvation." 

September 22, 2011

get ready to lose

I have the bad habit of trying to read several books at the same time. I'll start one, get half-way through, set it on my bookshelf, get distracted by another book, then a couple chapters in, go back to the first, etc. Unfortunately that's been the case with Dirty Word: The Vulgar, Offensive Language of the Kingdom of God by Jim Walker; unfortunate, because while the whole book is good, the last couple chapters are exceptional.

Jim's words here, really spoke to me:
"In talking with the young adults who are part of our community, I have noticed that many of them are paralyzed by life. With so many choices and expectations, they freeze and don't do anything at all. I think part of the problem is that our culture demands that we do something 'big' with our lives. In the face of that expectation, we go into a coma. There is a strong undercurrent in our culture, which makes its want into the church, that pulls us into thinking that we have to change the world somehow. This expectation leaves many young people who want to follow Christ trying to figure out how they can be a disciple of Jesus, the sufferer, and a big rock star at the same time. The result is an epidemic of Christian rock stars. Instead of finding places to serve, these Christian rock stars will only serve when the work is cool or sexy, or they get to climb up on the roof and take their shirt off. Or when there's a camera around. Instead of being honest about their struggles, they push their dirty laundry under their beds and pretend that they have it all together. Instead of running toward the cross, they run away from the cross, all the while talking about their plans to change the world. We need less Christian rock stars and more heroes, people willing to surrender and sacrifice so that the kingdom of God will be near.
"I believe that we are at a critical point in church history. There is a conflict going on, and we need losers like Jeremiah to stand in the fray and be torn to shreds. The outcome of this conflict will affect the future of the church. The conflict within the church and between those who call themselves Christians. The conflict is between those who are surrendered and those who use fear as a weapon. It is between those who humble themselves and wash feet and those who use rejection to conquer and control. It is between those who share in compassion and those who guard their luxury. It is between those who pursue the truth, the Word of God, and those who abide behind fake veneer or superficialities and disillusion. It is obvious who will win and who will lose this conflict. The winners will take the spoils - the beautiful buildings, the large endowments, and the places of position and power. The losers will quietly go their own way, back into the catacombs from which they came. They will go back underground, to the tattoo-shop basements and dark, dirty holes of this world where they share little pieces of body and little drops of blood with one another, and they sing quiet hymns of praise. We need heroes who are ready to go and lose that battle for the sake of the kingdom of God, ready to be losers for Christ, and for the sake of those who do not yet know of the awesome love and grace of Jesus." (pgs. 244-246)

this week's round-up (september 22)

Roger Olsen: Is Hell Part of the Gospel? Also Olsen asks the question, do we really think of the people of America as family? (his answer in short, only when it suits us).

Rick Dake: Moving Out. Rick's a good friend & colleague and I appreciate his thoughts on choosing isolation, or choosing to learn a new language and embrace a new culture.

Chad Holtz: After the Storm More Christians are Developing a 'Designer Faith'

Philip Bewer: Social Security is Not a Ponzi Scheme

Jonathan Martin: What Does it Mean to be a Preacher? Some great stuff in there (I'd encourage you to read the whole thing):
"It is understandable why we would pretend to be something different than what we are, because to put it mildly, preachers have limitations. We are compared to poets, but we generally lack their precision with language, using words with clumsy brute force as often as not. We are sometimes called prophets, but we are not generally so courageous, especially since our livelihood generally depends on the people we prophesy to. We are not precisely artists, since we lack the artist’s originality. The preacher’s job is not to paint new things but to repeat old things...
 "I am a preacher... I live under the weight of words. I carry words in my pockets, words in my satchel, words in my heart. Words, always the words. Words as pitiable weapons in a world when there are guns for sale at Wal Mart, words as medicine in a world where prescriptions are all we seem to need. Carrying my words to places where they are impractical and words to places where they are inept. Delivering words that make some people look at me with the superstitious fear of a witch doctor, a shaman, the village medicine man who has all the answers—words that make people look like the village idiot, a man out of time, a man that won’t move on with the world.
"And I know that words cannot always be the answer. But that sometimes they can, and that words can create galaxies and words can burn cities down. All this damnation and hope at my disposal, all this absurd power—living under the weight of the words. I wish that I could live up to the greatness of the words, to have a soul big enough and a life noble enough to be worthy of them. But don’t you see by now—I’m a preacher? There is nothing greater than the words, they are the stars that light up the night. Isn’t Jesus Himself called the Word of God? Only He could bear up under the weight of so many words, only he could exceed the expectation that words create and surpass the reality of what words signify. 
"I don’t live up to the words, create the words, own the words. I gaze at them, I gibber with them. I consume them, I choke on them, I vomit them. I am a preacher. Words are all I’ve got, words will have to be enough."
Lifehacker: Forget the Standing Desk - Move. Too bad, I always thought the idea of a standing desk seemed kind of cool (although also somewhat impractical).

Donald Miller: The Best Writing Advice I Ever Received.

Seth Godin: Lousy Tomatoes and the Rare Search for Wonder. While Godin's critique crosses all institutions and industries, it seems especially apt for the church - we are the boring supermarket - there when people need us, more often than not, offering visitors "good enough" instead of remarkable. It's possible the church can swing too far in one direction and go overboard with trying to get the "wow!" factor, especially when you set the expectation that each week you need to top the previous one - before too long, the pastor will have to be juggling flaming batons, while a trapeze act flies over the pews, or you end up with this. We can be reliable, let us also aim to be remarkable.

Jay Voorhees: Get the Churches to do it, They'll do Anything! Great post from Jay, questioning one of the key arguments of those seeing to limit government assistance to people in need. The argument is that churches will pick up the slack, and that they are precisely the institutions with the missional foundation to best help those in need. You can back the argument up by showing how it was churches that built the key social structures in this country, hospitals, colleges, even public schools have their roots in religious institutions and are the result of faith-based leadership. The problem is the world has changed since then. Many hospitals and colleges are now only loosely affiliated with the religious bodies that founded them. I haven't studied the reasons behind that shift, but I'm guess there were a few elements behind it - the institutions were adapting to a more secular culture and  the churches shifted their focus to congregational life instead of social service. But my guess is the primary reason has to do with the professionalization of the fields - the business of running a hospital has become so complex that it no longer makes sense for pastoral authority to hold supervision over the institution. It might have worked 50 or 100 years ago when clergy were among the best educated people in the community, but that is no longer the case.

In Jay's blog, he addresses a different point. Based on current conditions, most congregations are in no place to address the groundswell of needs that are happening in our nation right now. And the notion that a tax cut would produce a sharp increase in charitable giving to help churches provide for the new needs is questionable at best. The reality is, it would need to be basically a one-to-one ratio, not to mention the increase in inefficiency due to a lack of coordinated authority.

Jen Lemen: How to be Happy (Part 5).

Will Willimon: Using Dashboard to Understand the Church's Story.

The end of R.E.M. I know I should feel sad, and I wish I had seen them perform live, but honestly they had pretty much dropped off my music radar for the last decade.

My DS, Eugene Blair, writes on cross-racial appointments and urban ministry here (and no, I'm not posting that just to "kiss up").

One of my former professors, Rabbi Jay Holstein, is featured in a recent documentary. Unfortunately I don't have the channel the program is being broadcast on, but he was a fascinating professor. (I'd especially love to go back and sit on one of his classes now).

Michael Hyatt: How to Write a Blog Post in 70 Minutes or Less. Good ideas in there, especially since at some point I'd like to break away from the pure "round-up" nature of this blog. Related: 13 Idea-Starters for Stuck Bloggers.

Derek Thompson: Who's Had the Worst Recession: Boomers, Millennials, or Gen-Xers?

This week - new music from Gungor - "When Death Dies." Anytime you have a guy beat-boxing AND playing cello simultaneously, you know something awesome (or awful) is happening (fortunately, I file this under "awesome").

September 13, 2011

this week's round-up (september 13)

I knew I'd been off for a couple weeks... didn't realize it has been close to a month since my last post. Time to play catch-up:

Damon Lindelof on Raiders of the Lost Ark

Unexpected ways the library can save you money. Actually these are all pretty standard and obvious in my opinion, but then again, I'm a cheap nerd who loves the library (and I especially love my current local library because they do have an excellent music, movie, and magazine selection in addition to a great book collection).

Why 99% of Pastors are Universalists... at Funerals. Love the last line, "Maybe if Rob Bell had spoken his thoughts at a funeral, nobody would have had a problem with it."

Donald Miller: Learning to Love Your Flaws.

Jen Lemen: What If...

Amy Valdez Barker has a few thoughts about churches failing to do the most basic of outreach efforts I think she is a little "off" in directing her criticism at the pastors; anyone can build a church website or facebook page, ordination isn't a requirement, even though I know the main point is it takes pastoral leadership to get the church to even consider those things. Amy's also quick to affirm when churches get it right.

My good friend, Eric, is back blogging at Operation Nu-U, great thoughts on the battle with food addiction, and the efforts he's making towards living a healthier lifestyle. Eric's an awesome guy, and I wish him the best in his efforts.

Another good friend, Jeff, tells of the 10 things he snuck into his son's backpack before he starts kindergarten.

How to Shave 10 Hours Off Your Ministry Work Week.

Dan Dick on Accountability Ability nice post on a tough topic - at what point do we take membership vows seriously enough to remove "Christians" blatantly exhibiting un-Christ-like behavior?

Roger Olsen: Was Kierkegaard an evangelical? Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Also from Olsen: Why "evangelical" is a label I won't surrender; while "evangelical" is not a label I grew up with, I've been interesting in finding ways to reclaim it, because it is part of the Wesleyan heritage. Just recently I was taking part in a phone survey where the question was asked, "Do you consider yourself evangelical or mainline?" and I wanted to answer both, but not in the way "evangelical" has been commonly understood in the last 30 years.

Fred Clark on Neuhaus and "Dominonism". Just prior to labor day, I heard something on NPR about Bachmann, Perry and Palin's connection to this theological arena (movement?) I worry that connections, and beliefs like this can be overblown and overstated, but I also think this is something worth keeping an eye on. Fred offers a follow-up post here. Also interesting stuff on the ACLJ, I had always been a little weary of the organization's efforts, I had no idea about the financial aspects of the organization. One more from Fred to plug: Refusing to Bow Before the Beast, on understanding the Book of Revelation.

Lifehacker: People Who Get Malware, Also Get Mugged More Often.

What If Steve Jobs Made Disciples? 

Who Said It? God, MLK Jr. or Captain America?

Six Key Tasks of Pastors Who Make a Difference.

Jeremy Smith: I Could Sing of Your Love on Sundays. Great video if you haven't already seen it. On a much more serious note from Jeremy: Do We Seek Success or Significance?

The Post I Shouldn't Have Posted, and How It Changed Me.

Several college friends were living in NYC ten years ago. Here an IM chat my friend Rudy posted from that day.

McSweeney's: You Look At Me Like You've Never Seen a Neo-Hipster Before and Do You Like Me, Click Yes or No.

3 Blogging Experiments That Might Make You a Better Writer. I've wondered about trying to do something with video, but I know I'd make myself crazy with wanting it to be "perfect" - I'm okay with a misspelled word, but the idea of stumbling over spoken words, or even poor sound or video quality would make me nuts.

Michael Moore on what it felt like to be the most hated man in America. Moore has always interested me, especially since I've moved to Michigan, and can now see areas like Flint up close, that 22 years ago seemed like a very far away place.

Using John Wesley's words in regard to the Global Leadership Summit. (Actually a good quote for a variety of learning experiences).

With all the attention given to this being the 20th anniversary of Nirvana's Nevermind, I'd forgotten that it is also the 20th anniversary of Fugazi's Steady Diet of Nothing, an album that I not only purchased before Nirvana, but also understood much more immediately than Nevermind.