Tag Archives: gospel

Evangelicals and Lack of Tradition

This year, the Christian calendar begins November 28th. It is the Season of Advent.

Advent House

Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Lutheran and many mainline churches observe the Christian calendar. The topic for each Sunday is predictable. Scripture from the lectionary guides the themes, liturgy, sermon, art, and music of that particular time. Traditional? Yes. Useful? I do believe it is.

It provides congruence. Most Evangelical pastors are accustomed to, more or less, speaking about what’s been on their mind recently. This is carefully referred to as “what God has laid on their heart.” (And you’d be a fool to question the movement of the Spirit, right? Maybe a fool, or maybe a blasphemer…if you spoke your thoughts.)

In general, it’s not a terrible thing to follow the leading of the Spirit. (If that is truly what is happening. But, that’s another post entirely!) But does this unformatted contemporary formula help cinch together the Story of God, the Christian Story, and bring a cohesive message of the Gospel, in history and depth, in a palpably connected way? Or, is the shoot from the Holy hip often more of a “bang here and a bit there,” approach?


I’d like to hear your take on it?

I tend to think a healthy mix of several Christian traditions could be very spiritually useful in contemporary times. We are already malnourished on a sound bite way of life as is it.

Chaplain Mike, a one-time Southern Baptist preacher, who blogs at imonk does the whole topic much more justice than I can. I strongly encourage you to link to his specific post with the link at the bottom, if you’d like.

Witness this poignant quote found there:
(It really hit home with regards to my Christian church experiences.)

“Part of the problem is that evangelicals really don’t have traditions,” said Carter. “Instead, we have these fads that are built on the strengths and talents of individual leaders. … But a real tradition can be handed on to anyone, from generation to generation. It’s hard to hand these evangelical fads down like that, so it seems like we’re always starting over. It’s hard to build something that really lasts.”– Joe Carter as quoted by Terry Mattingly

My main resource for this post and a really helpful article is here at imonk. It is most helpful for Evangelicals, and I challenge you to consider a deeper appreciation for the Christian calendar year, starting this Sunday, November 28th.

Thank you for reading.

Everlasting Torture in Hell: McKnight and Piper

Another intriguing post by Scot McKnight! (It’s worth a look)

He notes the issues contained in this book: A review of John Piper, Jesus: The Only Way to God: Must You Hear the Gospel to be Saved? (123 pages, $5.99), by Terrance L. Tiessen.

It brings out important topics like- How do the various views of Hell effect Evangelism and sharing the gospel?


Jesus, WORST TATTOO EVER!

What a FIND! Introducing painter Stephen Shelby Sawyer. (art4god.com)
Steve, doesn’t just do art FOR God, but ON God.
He probably means well, but
when I first saw this image called “No Appointment Necessary” I threw up a little in my mouth.
Shortly after pondering that, I laughed my butt off at the lunacy of it all. It’s probably that smoldering look in sexy Jesus’ eye that tickles me. This hunky American Jesus is totally peacockin’! If you’ve got it, flaunt it, right JC?
If you’re wondering where the Holy Spirit is, I proposed that he’s in Jesus’ hair.

BTW. Wicked hot triceps, Jesus. I mean, Steve. Yes, we noticed!
(Hey friends, if you think THIS Jesus is hot, wait until you see him in, the Sabbath, painting. He’s reclined and “resting”. Right. He looks like he’s waiting for, oh, well never mind.)
Steve has also painted Jesus as a super buff boxer at least four times. Round 15 is the sexiest I’ve seen of that series. (And his hair is crazy gorgeous, like Jesus uses Wen shampoo.)

One of the more awkward ones, is Fireman’s Prayer, Jesus is tucked in close behind a firefighter, and helping him, by holding his hose. And No, I did not make that up.
I thought I didn’t like Thomas Kinkade. But, Steve, you kick his buttocks.
If you don’t like this art, does it mean you don’t like Jesus?
Did anyone ever tell Steve that Jesus was not attractive?
Isaiah 53:2 (prophecy fulfilled)
He grew up like a small plant before the Lord,

like a root growing in a dry land.
He had no special beauty or form to make us notice him;
there was nothing in his appearance to make us desire him.

What if you got a tattoo of this picture of Jesus with a tattoo?
I will give you $100 if you do it.
It’ll be totally BEAST, dude.
Or, maybe the universe would explode. Not sure.
Give it a try: Give this image a caption.

DYING Churches: “The boneYARD” interview with John O’Keefe

boneYARD, by John O'Keefe

In his new book, boneYARD: creatives will change the way we lead in the church, John O’Keefe tackles an issue rampant in the United States: the overwhelming trend of dying and dead churches. He also speaks to a pet topic of mine: the prevalent misguided practices that give churches supposed membership growth. [What I’ve called, “Poaching from the Choir”.]

You may know of John through his creative project ginkworld.

Here are his interesting answers to 6 questions about the issues discussed in boneYARD. Your comments or questions are welcome.

1. John, you use the terms “industrial church” and “conceptual church”, and so on, referring to eras. Can you briefly explain the terms you use; and -Do you think most churches are caught somewhere in the middle, or have they been fallen behind?

The industrial church is a church that centers on the principles of “Maxwellian Leadership.”  The ideas that grew out of the Industrial Revolution, where there needs to be a “CEO” (Pastor) and “Vice-CEO” (Associate Pastors) to control the organization.  The central motive of this style of leadership is to see the church as a business, and everything the leader does centers on benefiting the organization.  People are seen as assets and they are used to benefit the organization – “what will help the church.”  They are very logical, linear, and focused on profit.  For them, profit is defined in terms of the offering and getting people in the pews.  But, if the attendance is going down, and offerings are going up they do not see a problem.  I read an article earlier where it explained how the Evangelical Lutherans are declining in numbers (most churches are), but that there was no reason to fear because giving was on an increase.

The conceptual church is forming today.  Leadership (if that is even a valid term in a Conceptual Age) focuses on the organism; the organization holds little value.  Everything a conceptual leader does focuses on the person, the organism, and centers on how we relate to others.  In the Conceptual Age we think in terms of personality traits of a conceptual leader; people have personalities, machines have qualities.

While some are in the middle, struggling to find their voice, even fewer are in front of the curve, in my research I have found most churches are far behind the curve.  They are stuck in the idea that they need to keep doing what they have always done, and those outside the church need to change to fit into their world.

2. Do you think it’s apt to say that for a great many churches, an increase in membership has more to do with (as I like to say) “poaching believers from other churches”? (Or poaching from the choir.)

I love the visual of “poaching.”  Sometime back I wrote an article entitled “Three Kinds of Fishing” where I saw the possibilities as pole fishing, net fishing, or tank fishing, but I love the visual of poaching.   I believe most churches are growing because of poaching.  Poaching is easy for the church.  I love churches that advertise on Christian Radio; the question we need to ask is “Who are they trying to reach?”  I don’t know any “non-follower” listening to Christian Radio.  Churches that advertise on Christian Radio prove the point.  Their ads are targeted to those already going to church and say, “Come to our church, our pastor is cooler, our music is better, our service is exciting, and we will not bug you to get involved.”

Some churches even go as far as to count people who come from other traditions as “new believers.”  The Baptists and the Non-Denominational Church of Christ are the ones who do this the best.  I use to attend a church is Las Vegas called Central Christian (Currently about 15,000 people), when it was just over 300 people.  One of my family members was attending the church also and he was required to be “re-baptized” in order to become a leader in the church.  Even though he had been a follower for years before he attended the church.  They counted him as a “new believer.”  Soon, he left Central and started to attend a Southern Baptist Church in the area, and was required to be “re-baptized” and was counted as a “new believer.”  These churches count everyone who was not baptized in their method as a “new believer.”  This inflates numbers, sure – but more than that, it tells everyone who is not “one of them” you are wrong and we are right.

3. What’s the difference between church growth and kingdom growth? and, What is your best nugget of advise for those in ministry regarding church growth and kingdom growth?

Church growth centers on growing an individual church, so taking from another church is seen as an easy form of church growth.  Kingdom growth centers on growing the Kingdom, and sees people in other traditions as part of the church universal.  Kingdom growth centers on not caring what church the person is involved with, but that they understand the love and grace of God.  When I was at 247 we use to have teens coming to all our events, and many times those teens would ask about our services.  I would encourage them to get connected to the churches their parents attended and go as a family.

I think the best thing I can share with churches today is to not concern yourself with growing your church, center on growing God’s Kingdom.  When we focus on growing God’s Kingdom we move out from the walls of the church, and into the communities we are called to serve.  We desire to share the message of hope with people, who need to know the love of God through Christ, and we are avatars of Christ to the world around us – we are the incarnation of Christ to the world.  Our care is more for inviting people into God, and not into our church.

4. There will always be left-brained thinkers. If the new era of leadership is right-brained, as you say, what should these people do?

Change, embrace their right side.  Keep in mind, being right brain dominate does not ignore those who are left brain dominate.  The idea in a Conceptual Age is that right brains will be the dominate side and left brains will play a subordinate role.  In my research I came upon a study I mention in the book that says 98% of us are born right brain dominate and creative, while 2% are born left brain dominate.  Over time, our educational system causes those numbers to flip, causing 2% to be right brain dominate and 98% left brain dominate.  It is amazing that our educational system flips the numbers to left brain dominance.   This is because, in an Industrial Age, we need more left brain thinkers to “oversee” others.

5. In your opinion, does the “bone yard phenomenon” (of vast numbers of churches closing) have anything to do with apprehending church and/or the church building from a materialist and modernist vantage point? And how can we do better?

While I believe it matters little where a community of faith gathers, for the industrial church the building has become an albatross.  Some churches spend more on building upkeep then they do on ministry and care.   Between salaries, mortgage payments, utility bills and upkeep a major part of the budget is spent just to keep things going.  Because of that, the leadership focuses on keeping the building afloat, and less on reaching those who are not followers of Christ.  So, they strive and strive to increase the numbers in their pews to fill their coffers and less on bringing people into a life changing reality that Christ offers all people.  This is one of the reasons I believe the church is comfortable with poaching.  If they are poaching they are attracting givers who will help keep the building going.

6. With all the churches closing, and new ones not meeting the needs, is there any way out of the boneyard?

You bet there is.  I see all the churches closing as a good thing, not a bad thing.  I see the churches failure to reach a new generation as a good thing as well.  Why?  Because it is causing us to wake-up, and move out of the church.  Many churches are waking up to the realization that what they are doing is not working, so they are now open to change.  The only thing that is holding them back is that they do not know how to make the change.  Keep in mind, deciding to change and actually changing are two different things.

Conversation about change is a waste of time, we simply need to change.  The future looks bright for the church willing to make the change and reach a conceptual mindset.  While boneYARD is not a program, I believe it is a good starting point to make those changes.

Thank you, John.

If you would like to try for a free signed copy of boneYARD, leave a comment, and tell us if you’ve seen churches closing in your region, Or, tell us the approximate % of worshipers per Sunday in your church that may be the product of poaching.

Hipster Pundit, Brett McCracken Responds to 5 cool questions

Here is the much-anticipated interview with Brett McCracken, author of Hipster Christianity: When Church and Cool Collide. Thank you, Brett! This was fun.

Brett's face in the City

5 Questions for
Brett McCracken


1. Does the hipster Christian phenomenon pivot on the “Be in the world, but not of the World” Scriptural directive?
I think the hipster Christianity phenomenon is absolutely about this notion of how to be in the world but not of the world (with emphasis, perhaps, on the “being IN the world” part). Christian hipsters want, above all, to engage with the culture at large. They want to have a meaningful dialogue and cooperation with the wider world, rather than being cut-off or segregated from it. Rather than having a Christian music industry, a Christian movie industry, Christian this-that-and-the-other, these Christian hipsters long for a faith that is relevant in and among the culture. They don’t want to be set in opposition to the culture, but rather they want to be productively engaged with it. Their instincts tell them that if Christianity is true, it is not something meant to be separatist, overly legalistic, and anti-everything. Rather, it should be something that speaks into every aspect of life and illuminates the beauty and wonder of existence. They resonate with the famous C.S. Lewis quote that says, I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen. Not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.

2. If you could communicate one thing to your readers that they would remember forever (and in so doing, change them forever), what would it be?

Wow, that’s a big question! I guess I would want to communicate the notion that the “coolest” thing about Christianity has little to do with how trendy, cutting-edge, and “of the moment” it appears to the culture, but has everything to do with the transcendent truth of a Gospel that changes lives.

3. Every writer has “haters”, what do yours complain about? (Mine complain about nipples, but that’s a rather long story, and this interview is about YOU.)
A lot of the critics of the book suggest that I’m not giving enough due to the cultural context and “mode-of-delivery” through which the Gospel is communicated. They maintain, rightly, that the Gospel always has to be presented in ways that are embodied, formed, packaged, and specific to the context/audience in which it is being presented. I totally agree. I’m not suggesting that the Gospel is just some nebulous cloud of ideas or concepts that we can communicate apart from form. Of course we have to consider the medium, the context, etc. All I am saying is that form influences content, and we have to be careful that the various new strategies we are undertaking (placing tons of emphasis on looking cool, cutting-edge technology, etc) are not negatively impacting the content of the message or distracting us from making sure we are communicating a deep, rich, transformative message. At it’s core, my caution in the book is that we not get so preoccupied with hip/cool/attractive packaging that we forget what is actually rich and powerful about the message itself.

4. To you, is “cool” more of a state of mind than anything? Why or why not?

Hmm, that’s an interesting question, because I think it is and it isn’t a state of mind. In the sense that the pursuit of “cool” is very self-conscious and a sort of existential endeavor to be “in the know,” I definitely think it is a state of mind. But then again I think that there are plenty of “naturally cool” people who never really think about or try to be cool. It’s not something they consciously strive for as much as it is just a side-effect of them truly liking certain bits of culture that happen to be fashionable or appear cool in a given cultural context.

These days, it’s hard to tell where “cool as a self-conscious state-of-mind” ends and “cool as a natural outgrowth of who one is” begins. The problem is complicated by the fact that cool today (as in, “hipster” cool) is largely defined on the superficial “how one dresses” level, so you have “true” hipsters who dress in a certain way but then you have the “I want to be cool” hipsters who can simply purchase the exact same look at American Apparel or Urban Outfitters. On a phenomenological level, there is no difference between the two. Both types signify “cool,” which we take to mean “elitist/snobby/annoying.” So whether one actually IS elitist/snobby/annoying doesn’t matter, because “the look” communicates this regardless.

5. Have you ever considered offering McDonalds a signature menu item? (For instance, like the McCracken Sandwich: 8 crispy strips of bacon, melted sharp cheddar cheese, and sweet horseradish sauce on crispy, lightly toasted Sourdough bread pocket.) [Seriously, that whole thing came to me in one package like that. It must be a God thing.] If you have not, this could plague your mind, and I’m sorry about that. I too am feeling hungry.

If I were to have a McDonalds signature item, it would probably include arugula, grass-fed beef and raw goat cheese, just to cover my hipster bases.

For a signed copy (For beginners, that means eXtra cool) of Brett McCracken’s book, Hipster Christianity: When Church and Cool Collide. You can link over, and leave YOUR comment. YOU might be the lucky winner.

Post here and share any questions, thoughts, comments, etc.

Thanks for reading.

Banqueting Table, Part 3: Factory Food and Slow Cookers

Mass produced factory food, simply re-heat.

I’m not a big fan of prepared foods, like the one you see above.

But, I have to admit, usually when food comes from a factory, it’s quick and simple.

It’s also sealed with cellophane and full of sodium to keep it “fresh”. How long could you keep this “meal” before heating it? …months for sure, maybe a year. It’s a bit of a one-size-fits-all cuisine approach, right?

A frozen meal typically comes tidy, in a divided plate. So, no mess, no worries. There’s no long prep time, no plate, just a piece of plastic flatware is needed-say a “spork”–to cover any food texture. One might not even need a napkin, if one eats it…calmly. But, I think, you’d have to be on the verge of starvation, have non working taste buds, or have little experience with eating delectable food if you wish to devour this quickly. Not too many salivate over or pine for pre-fab food, like only a mother a factory could manufacture.

When people want to “serve up” the love of God, or share the gospel can’t the same thing happen?

Serving up God. yum... ?

Sometimes not only are the workers few, but maybe what workers there are don’t know enough about the richness of the God’s banqueting table. Maybe they’ve been using the spiritual microwave too much. Or maybe they aren’t patient enough to let God into their kitchen and make the meal, and show ’em how it’s done.

It takes a while, it seems he likes slow-cooker and long roasting recipes. (Ask Moses or Joseph about that one.) Sometimes the longer process of becoming a lot better in the kitchen, and letting God be the Chef de Cuisine, doesn’t seem like the smartest or most efficient move for a ministry. “What, spend long hours in the hot kitchen? Chop vegetables, mince, simmer, sauté, reduce…that could take, well, heck, years! We’re trying to help people, here!”

Well, we might give them something to eat, “really quick,” but how edible is it? Is it healthy or good for them? Will it cause stomach cramps and diarrhea? Will they only be able to serve up the same sort of thing? Will we get to the point of creating and serving the kind of spiritual food that God specializes in–the kind we created with him at his side, just like Abba used to make?

Can we reflect God properly by serving up convenient, ready-made, spiritual fast-food?

I’m doubtful.

What if we tried a sumptuous slow roast?

What if we could mentor (disciple) willing helpers (pilgrims/Jesus followers) and give them a solid, theological, narrative framework (God’s Story) from which to see their reality: God’s present Kingdom, and his Kingdom to come.

What if things marinated, and the juices got savory and settled down deep into the meat, rather than inviting others to dig into some version of pre-fab nosh because, the slow cooker style just won’t suit our time frame and ambitions?

Would we be able to offer something closer to the nature and heart of God the slow cook way?

(For our good and theirs.)

Would we be changed to be more to his likeness in the process of that?

Oh, yes, it’s far messier to prepare, serve, and eat! It takes prep time, long hours of cooking, setting the table nicely. We’ll need plenty of napkins and perhaps a wet washcloth or two. Plus, don’t forget we’re talking about REAL people. There are spills, squirts, and stains. Life is MESSY. Even good relationships are fraught with various difficulties. What about the clean up? A sticky, gooey mess for sure. And maybe dental floss will be handy to keep around. Real meat gets stuck in one’s teeth.

Oh, but there’s this: it’s really satisfying, and tastes fantastic.

Messy, and slow cooked

Add some veggies or a large salad to the slow-cooked entrée you see above, and you have an excellent, tasty, and messy meal many will really enjoy. If the company is good, they might even come back for more.

What do you think about it?

Have you ever been in a situation where it seemed like you had to choose one way or the other?

What happened?

Does the slow-cooker way seem out of reach? (Does this post need a follow up with specifics? Let me know.)

Comments, ideas, responses…

thanks for reading.

Banqueting Table, Part 1

ONCE UPON A TIME~

You hear a famous chef will be working his magic at the neighborhood restaurant, so one night you stop by for a sumptuous meal. Inside, you are welcomed by a maitre d’. Curiously, he’s wearing a name tag that reads, “Hello, my name is: Friendly Maitre d'”. His large teeth settle wide and inscrutable, as he motions his branchy arm for you to follow him. A large room decorated in rich browns and warm accent lights and sconces awaits you. A marvelous walnut table yawns out, bare. Below the table is an enormous drop cloth. You sit as directed, and wait.

Gazing around the room, you shiver a bit in your chair, as you notice light and airy music just a bit out of hearing comprehension. A candle might be nice, you daydream.

Out of the blanket of quite three people bustle through the swinging door. One holds a glass of water, another plastic utensils and cocktail napkin, and then the chef brings up the rear with a partitioned plate in his hands.

“Sorry for the wait,” he says. We’ve been planning this for a while, but now that you’re here, we’ve had to step it up a bit. We hope you know that we want you to feel comfortable.”

“Yes. Very, very comfortable,” say the other two together. You spy their name tags. Both read: “Hello, my name is: Casual and non judgmental host (pre-friend).”

The chef doesn’t wear a name tag at all, but his chef hat has “chef de cuisine” embroidered on it, large and flowing. He is sweaty, but cheerful, and a bit out of breath.

“You don’t want to go anywhere else. You feel welcome, and at home here. This is the banqueting table, friend! We don’t want to be pushy. Just, please, enjoy,” he says wiping his top lip, and setting down the steaming plate in front of you.

“Soon after you begin your entree, we should begin with our spontaneous conversation,” says a beaming host.

“We’ve prepared well in advanced to be natural and friendly with you,” says the other.

You look down at your banquet meal. The cocktail napkin is imprinted with, “Psalm 34:8 Taste and see that the LORD is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!”

Appetizing Spiritual Food?

to be continued…

(responses are welcome)