Monday, March 29, 2010

Transformational Church...

I found this excerpt from the soon-to-be published book Transformational Church by Ed Stetzer and Thom Rainer to be a worthwhile read. I look forward to reading the entire book.

We have spent the most of our adult lives as leaders serving churches. During those years, like many of you, we have watched God transform people with the power of the gospel. Transformation is at the heart of God's mission to humanity. He delights in moving us from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light--and then empowering and directing us as agents of his kingdom. And He has chosen the church as His instrument in this world. We, the body of Christ, are God's chosen method to deliver the message of transformation to our neighbors both in the community and around the world. It is our mission.

But the story of many churches is not one of transformation. It is more of repetition or even stagnation. As leaders, we sometimes fool ourselves into thinking that the Merry-Go-Round approach to church is enough. Keep everyone moving, the lights bright, and the music happy and you will get no complaints. The big problem-- too few are making any headway. Rather than missionary disciples for Christ moving out into the world, we have a group of happy people going in circles.

God calls us to make a transformational impact on the world, not provide a carnival of frenetic activity for ourselves. But to do so, we must engage in His mission.
And ministers and church leaders must move beyond entertaining the consumers to engaging Christ's mission.

Friday, March 26, 2010

When Supermodels And Cafeteria Workers Fall...

Every now and then I come across something that's so compelling that my first reaction is "I wish I'd written that." The following post by Mike Foster is in that category... I wish I'd written this.

Last week The Tonight Show with Jay Leno played two video clips of people falling down.
One was a cafeteria worker who slipped and fell hard on the floor. The next clip was of a beautiful supermodel who took a tumble on a fashion show catwalk.

Both were similar falls while at work. Both had lots of people looking on.
Can you guess which one of them got help from others? Yep, the supermodel!!!

Not 1 or 2 or 3 or 4 but FIIIIIIIVVVVVEEEE (5) people helped her back up!!!! No big surprise right?

And how many helped the cafeteria worker? ZIP! NADA! NOBODY! The people just watched and then went back to eating.
It was a funny comparison of how people respond to basically the same situation.

The problem is we do the very same thing when hand out grace. Too often our mercy is conditional and inconsistent. We are picky and choosy of who we help.

Dope smoker = Forgiven.

Crack whore = Judgment.

Porn watcher = Forgiven.

Porn maker = Judgment.

Straight extramarital sex = Forgiven.

Gay sex = Judgment.

People who have the same struggles as us = Forgiven.

People who have different struggles than us = Judgment.

You get my point.
Grace doesn’t discriminate and a second chance should seek equality. (By the way, for those thinking I’m just throwing out the reality of consequences to our actions, I’m not. Don’t miss my point here.)

My hope is all of us can be a little more consistent when handing out a second chance.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Debunking The Hydraulic Theory of Missions...

Several years ago a friend shared a concept that's stuck with me: the hydraulic theory of missions. According to this theory, and apparently widely accepted by many people and churches, is that the only meaningful mission fields are found when one travels great distances... usually across some great body of water (that puts the "hydraulic" in the theory).

I'm fairly certain my friend did not endorse this theory. I believe he was simply pointing to its existence based on his observing many people
and churches practicing the principle behind the theory.

Having just returned from a mission experience in New Orleans, which indeed was of some distance from Abilene... and which did cause me to pass over a great body of water (the mighty Mississippi River), I'd like to add my voice to the debunking of the hydraulic theory of missions. Here's what I consider the most sinister, yea verily the most satanic, underlying principle in the theory:

1) Mission is always far away from you live (wherever that might be),
2) Few people have the wherewithal to get to those places (but God bless them for going) and

3) For those who do make it to those faraway places: plan to leave your passion/purpose for reaching people behind when you return home.

I'm thinking the insidiously evil message that lurks behind the hydraulic theory of missions is this: "Go, Christian soldier, if you must. But be deceived into thinking those same opportunities, people, needs you find in that faraway place you're visiting are NOT found where you live."

So... I'm standing up and shouting (if a blog post indeed has volume) that the hydraulic theory of missions is a bunch of bunk. Please don't misunderstand... I praise God for those who go to faraway places to serve and teach others in the name of Jesus. But for those of us who don't go to those places, or who visit them for a short time, we have
powerful opportunities for serving and teaching others in the name of Jesus right where we live.

Join me in living as a debunker of the hydraulic theory of missions.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

I've Been Taking a Break...

Those of you who take the time to visit Conexus have most likely taken note of the paucity of posts over the past month. An exciting new role I've been called to at SoHills has made some significant demands on my time.... and I spent last week as part of an ACU Spring Break Campaign team in New Orleans. Suffice it to say I've been busy, but content.

Regarding my new role... SoHills' elders will be sharing both their hearts and information with the church this Sunday about some exciting changes they have implemented in our leadership model. Recognizing that systems create behaviors, and systems trump vision, our shepherds have spent the past 2 years prayerfully considering the changes they are making at a systems level. More on m new role later... I don't want to steal any of the thunder from my elders as they speak to the church on Sunday.

As far as my week in New Orleans with the ACU Spring Break Campaign team... what can I say, I loved every minute of it! Serving alongside 20 university students who give up their Spring Break, pay their own money, to serve others in the name of Jesus--wow, I get chill bumps just typing those words.

Our team loved on, and was loved on by, the Carrollton Avenue church. Members of our team spent time at two New Orleans' elementary schools tutoring children. Those who served in this way came away deeply moved by the sweet spirits of the children, and profoundly touched by the deeply difficult circumstances the children lived in.

And a significant work project our team engaged in during our week in New Orleans was the construction of a playground for the Carrollton Avenue church. No sooner had placed the finishing touches on the playground, than children were happily climbing in the "geo-dome" our team had purchased and donated.

If you want your heart encouraged, and your spirit lifted... come to New Orleans with me and the ACU students who'll participate on next year's Spring Break Campaign.

Okay... you're somewhat caught up with me. I'm hoping to get another post up in the next day or so. Thanks for reading...

Thursday, March 11, 2010

"And" Instead of "Or"...

I couldn't whether to just read or re-post this thought-provoking article by Tony Morgan ... so I decided to do both.

Why does it have to be attractional or missional? I’ve seen lives impacted by both approaches. Why can’t it be attractional and missional?

Why does it have to be evangelism or discipleship? Christ-followers need to be engaged in both. Why can't it be evangelism and discipleship?

Why does it have to be teaching from the platform or teaching in the living room? I've been stretched by God's Word in both settings. Why can't it be teaching from the platform and the living room?

Why does it have to be worship with an amazing production or simple, stripped-down worship? I've experienced powerful worship in both environments. Why can't we do both?

Why does it have to be corporate gatherings or one-on-one relationships? I need both to be encouraged and stretched in my faith and my leadership. Why can't we embrace both ways of connecting with others.

One of the things that most frustrates me about church-world blogs is the "or" approach to writing. I don’t get it. Frankly, it’s probably one of the reasons why in most cases I’d prefer to read marketplace blogs. In marketplace writing, if someone thinks they have the "right way" of doing something, they just go do it. Then they write about how it worked or didn't work. In church-world writing, if someone thinks they have the “right way” of doing something, they write about how the other church is wrong.

What if we took the "and" approach? What if we were open to the possibility that more people might be reached if we stopped doing either/or and started embracing both/and? What if God really designed some churches to be one way for one community or culture and other churches to be another way for another community or culture? My guess, as an example, is it's going to take a completely different type of church to reach the inner-city than it’s going to take to reach the neighborhoods of Paulding County, Georgia.

We spend a lot of time and energy fighting for the "or." Wonder what would happen if we just embraced the "and" needed to reach our communities?

The problem, of course, is that we like to worship our methods. Our preferences are the priority. In fact, we shape religion around our preferences even if it means sacrificing the broader impact of our ministry. Why help other people when it might make us uncomfortable?

I just wanted you to know I'm more of an "and"-type of guy. I know that frustrates you. It would be a lot easier to dislike me if I didn't agree with you. The problem is that in many circumstances, I think you're right. The only difference is that I don't think you're always right.

And neither am I.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

10 Characteristics of a Healthy Team...

The following post by Ron Edmondson caught my attention. Ron's ten characteristics remind me of the healthy team I work alongside of at SoHills.

I love organizational leadership as a subject and I am happy to serve on a healthy team. It’s amazing how many church leaders I know that say their team is not healthy. Recently I started wondering why it is that I claim our team is healthy and it led me to this post. Here, in my opinion, are 10 elements of a healthy organization/team:

1) A shared vision is held by all team members.

2) Team members and their individual ideas are equally valued.

3) Leadership development is a part of the strategy.

4) The organization readily embraces change and risk taking is encouraged.

5) Team members are continually energized and encouragement flows freely.

6) It’s a fun place to hang out…people enjoy their work and relationships are deeper than just the professional environment.

7) Mistakes are considered part of the learning process.

8) The structure doesn’t limit growth, but provides healthy boundaries.

9) There is a freedom to offer constructive criticism, even of top leadership, without fear of retribution.

10) Conflict is not discouraged, but used to make the team better.

What would you add to the list?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Rube Goldberg Would Be Proud...

As someone who has a super-sized version of the old "Mousetrap" board game in his office, I am in awe of the creativity displayed in this video.

Indeed, Rube Goldberg would be proud.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

In Memory of Paper Phone Books...

Someone recently delivered to the front door of my house two new phone books. That same week someone (I'm not thinking it was the same person) placed a new phone book in front of my office door. My response was to deliver all three of the above-mentioned phone books to our local recycling center. ("Thank you for recycling!")

Let me state for the record... I hold no animosity toward new phone books and/or those who distribute them. In fact, my father spent his work career with the people who put the Yellow Pages in many cities' phone books. So phone books have a fond place in my heart in that they helped put food on our table when I was growing up.

The fact is: I no longer use the printed-on-paper phone book.

Now... that doesn't mean I have memorized all the phone numbers I use on a daily basis, or that I have given up the phone. The fact of my life is that I no longer use a traditional printed-on-paper phone book because other readily-at-my-fingertips' resources (the Internet, GOOG411, etc.) are more convenient and easier to use.

My choices: 1) bemoan the demise of the paper phone book; 2) continue to use a paper phone book because it's what my parents used, and I grew up using; 3) or accept the fact that things change... and change does not equal bad or evil.

"For things to change, somebody somewhere has to start acting differently. Maybe it's you..." (Switch by Chip Heath & Dan Heath)

What are your holding on to that needs to be taken to the recycling bin? And who needs to start acting differently in order for things to change... and might that who be you?