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Sunday, March 23, 2008

Google hosts the reason for God

Tim Keller, a hero of mine, has recently written a book titled "The Reason for God". This guy leads Redeemer Church in New York City and has helped establish a network of church plants throughout the city -- something not many can claim.

On March 5, 2008 he spoke at Google about his new book and tackles challenging questions about God from Google employees. If you can set aside an hour please watch this video, it's really amazing -- if not a bit head spinning. Keller has the ability to connect and handle the intellectuals of today in a very effective way. I almost fell over when I found this video, I'm a total Google freak and I love Keller's stuff, feels like Christmas! (If you receive this post via email click here to view the post).

Tim Keller At Google:

Tim Keller resource page

The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism

Friday, March 21, 2008

Church planting update -- the story so far ...

It's been about a month now on the Church Planting Internship. What have we been doing?
  1. Contacts/Community: We need to meet LOTS of people & make friends
    1. Attended the Neighborhood Association meeting.
    2. Called the President of the Association and introduced myself, talked about Angel Food.
    3. Invited 2 strangers to Easter service. A Greek guy called Napoleon & a girl from the local Enterprise car rental.
    4. We have the coolest neighbors downstairs. We've chatted with them a few times now and bought them a little baby outfit for their unborn son. Hopefully we can establish an ongoing friendship with them once they move.
    5. Heather and I have spent time praying in the mornings for our neighbors.
    6. We are planning a front yard grill party!!!
    7. We have met neighbors on both sides.
    8. I came across an organization called Toastmasters and have inquired about attending their meetings. I know NOTHING about it, just that it's an environment for public speaking and leadership development. It's open to anyone, it's community run, but it sounds like a great opportunity to meet people. It could potentially be a context to share publicly about the gospel.
    9. We joined a running group which meets each Monday at 6pm. We are trying to enlist others from Jubilee to join. There are currently 17 other people in the group from the neighborhood.
    10. We are planning short walks with Jones in the stroller in the early evenings. This is when people take their dogs for a walk and there is generally a lot of people around. We hope to become familiar faces and meet more of our neighbors.
    11. We received additional sponsorship specifically to take dancing lessons after I posted about this idea on our blog. Heather loves dancing. Should be interesting.

  2. Study
    1. I have read Rediscovering Church, Church Planting: The Next Generation and I have 25% through The Multiplying Church by Bob Roberts (loving this book!).
    2. Euan Crane and I are beginning to prepare for the Year Team coming to serve Wentzville next month. We are going to be doing some teaching.
    3. I need to knuckle down and move ahead with my theological and theme studies.

  3. Mentoring
    1. I met with John Lanferman on Tuesday. We discussed multi-location/site churches. We also talked about how Heather and I are doing and long term plans. John rocks!
    2. Heather met with Linda Lanferman and had a great time. I think my wife likes Linda a lot.
    3. Euan and I met with Rick and Curt yesterday in Wentzville. We drove around, visited the school where the new location will be meeting to begin with. We drilled Rick with questions about what he had been doing and how he had been getting the word out about the new church. This Sunday is the first Wentzville preview service -- can't wait to be there.

  4. Part-time Freelance
    1. To subsidize our income I have some freelance work coming my way from a local advertising agency. I should be signing a contract next week. I interviewed with them last week and had to scramble to get my resume updated.
    2. Still waiting on a few other opportunities.

  5. Planning For Launch
    1. We are driving to Chicago next weekend to scope out that city. We will be staying with Tim and Chloe who have been gathering a group for a few years. I'll be speaking Sunday night to the group.
    2. We are considering if we should visit other major cities to test our calling. As of yet, we still have not heard clearly about final location.
All of this activity is to build into us character, skills and vision for church planting. Please continue to pray for us.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Huge mistake in 'Rediscovering church'

Some of the most shocking news in the Christian world surfaced last year. Wondering what it is? After I recently read the story of how the "Seeker Sensitive" Willow Creek mega-church got started (Rediscovering Church by Lynn and Bill Hybels), I heard about the Reveal Campaign which highlights fundamental errors within the seeker sensitive model. The seeker sensitive guru's got something wrong. Before I assume too much more, please understand the following:
A seeker sensitive church communicates the Christian message in slick, non-religious, culturally relevant and presentational ways. They integrate multi-media, art, drama and pour lots of energy into minimizing religious language, eliminating churchy customs and simplifying messages. A seeker church is a culturally fashioned, highly targeted, palatable meeting to cause non-Christians to say "Oh, church really isn't that bad, it's similar to American Idol, maybe I'll give God a try!" It makes evangelists drawl with jealousy at the results. It kinda sounds like what church should be -- inviting, engaging and understandable. But it does have some apparent side affects. Read on ...

12 years ago Lynn Hybels wrote "For the first time in twenty years, we feel we can adequately address both ends of our mission: we can introduce the lost to Jesus Christ and help them become fully devoted followers" (Page 134).

In 2007, a few months ago, after an in-depth survey of Willow Creek, Bill Hybels said "We made a mistake. What we should have done when people crossed the line of faith and become Christians, we should have started telling people and teaching people that they have to take responsibility to become 'self feeders.'" (Full video explanation by Bill Hybels below). Willow Creek didn't have the discipleship process down like they thought, they spent millions of dollars on programs that weren't helping. Discipleship seems to be the biggest challenge in adopting a strong seeker mentality.

The Willow Creek team, based on the recent research, are currently implementing a personal development system for their members. I'm glad they shared this lesson with us. It's easy to imagine that with so much focus on the seeker, discipleship could get left behind. Striving for a harmonious balance of mission and discipleship seems to be the challenge all church leaders face. Sadly, some are doing neither, at least Hybels is passionate for the lost and willing to admit his mistakes and take action to correct them.

What are the take-aways from reading Rediscovering church?
  1. Bill Hybels is passionate for the church to reach unbelievers. He is an evangelist. His level of passion, and commitment to the church, challenges my level of passion and commitment.
  2. His insights into leadership are inspiring.
  3. He is aggressive in providing learning opportunities for the unchurched.
  4. He received input and direction from other leaders, and adjusted things accordingly.
  5. He established a team of elders.
  6. He allowed scripture to change his thinking.
  7. Bill & Lynn sought marriage counseling -- a very commendable thing to do and admit.
  8. It took a while but it sounds like they finally got what the grace of God was about.
What are the lessons learned?
  1. Bill had an addiction to ministry fruitfulness, the numbers kept growing.
  2. In the beginning their staff structure lacked authority and accountability.
  3. Major sin issues in leadership were not dealt with properly -- the truth was ignored and then hidden.
  4. Unbalanced, seeker sensitive preaching lead to spiritual carelessness in the church.
  5. A workaholic mentality lead to a constant crisis mode and burn out.
  6. Because of the pace of ministry over a long time, many of the marriages in the leadership team ended in divorced, and some lost their faith.
  7. The seeker sensitive approach prohibited global mission for many years.
  8. Their style works for baby boomers, but will it work for gen-xers?
Is seeker sensitive the way to go?

As with all things there are extremes. The church at large does need to do a better job of being seeker sensible, explaining and addressing the needs of non-believers and church guests. Not making people feel alienated, but accepted. Just like the seeker sensitive bunch, I also dislike religious talk and traditional customs. I do find it funny that the book is titled "Rediscovering church" when the model of church they pioneered had never really been done before, it was not so much rediscovered as reinvented.

If God doesn't work today in power, like in the book of Acts, if he doesn't heal, or speak, or break into our lives, or gift us, or desire intimacy with us, then a pure seeker sensitive approach makes some sense. If there is no power, then embracing a primarily slick and sensitive production can generate numerical results -- not something to be ignored.

But, if you believe that people can and should meet with God in a personal and corporate way, in a dynamic and radically transforming moment, in a way that empowers and motivates them to be different, then you'll need to incorporate more than just palatable drama. You'll need more than just sensitivity. You'll need to make room for God's power, for his gifts and for intimate, spirit charged worship and prophetic preaching. Ultimately, that's what people need, power, not production. Christianity in the book of Acts didn't spread because of sensitivity, but because they received power from the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8).

If you are interested in the history of Willow Creek, the roots of the seeker sensitive movement and Bill Hybels inspiring insights into leadership then Rediscovering church is a good buy. You can also find more info about the Reveal Campaign.
This could be a neat tool to measure the maturity of a church. Please comment if you have any more in-depth knowledge about how the survey works.

In this video, Bill Hybels explains the mistakes they made, and their plans to fix it:

Monday, March 3, 2008

Church Planting Internship

Heather and I have been in St. Louis now for just over a week. So what exactly does the CPI program (Church Planting Internship) look like?
  1. Community Involvement:
    The work of the church, being representatives of God on the earth, is to be a blessing to the community. Therefore, the training involves building connections and contacts into the community. I plan to do this through practical and relational avenues:
    1. Revamping a food distribution ministry that helps ordinary people reduce their grocery bill. Angel Food has already been started at Jubilee Church, however, this ministry needs promotion in the community. I plan to go door to door, offering people a box of food worth $75, for only $30. Sounds like a real blessing and a great way to meet people, right?
    2. Being involved in a new Student Ministry. Bryan Mowrey is casting some vision this coming Sunday evening for reaching college students. Student work is an area of exponential growth and increasing the overall passion and testosterone level of any church. My desire would be to blitz the Universities in August as all the freshman arrive and snag as many as we can -- rahhhhh!
    3. Volunteering and participating in established community events and groups through organizations like the YMCA and other charities. I need to do some asking around and research to find out more.
    4. Taking my wife to dancing lessons for example, or other social environments where we can have a good time and meet some people.
    5. Engage in conversation with our neighbors to build genuine friendships. We already are getting to know our super cool artist neighbor downstairs!

  2. Study & Application:
    1. I have a list of books to read about the church:
      1. Church Planting Handbook from Redeemer Church (Timothy Keller)
      2. Rediscovering Church by Lynn and Bill Hybels (already half way through)
      3. Breaking the Missional Code by Ed Stetzer
      4. Planting New Churches in a Postmodern Age by Ed Stetzer
      5. Planting Growing Churches for the 21st Century by Audrey Malphurs
      6. Starting High Definition Churches by Ron Sylvia
      7. Church Planting the Next Generation by Kevin Mannoia
      8. The Multiplying Church by Bob Roberts
    2. Each month I will study a church theme. This will help me build a library of resources. Themes include: church membership, finances, staffing policies, assimilation process, volunteer ministry, etc...
    3. Having completed a Year Team and 3 years of Trilogy, I have established a good theological foundation. However, I will study deeper into certain theological areas that more directly impact pastoral and missional activities such as divorce & remarriage, other religions, family issues, Baptism of the Holy Spirt, etc...
    4. I will also be interviewing church planters inside and outside Newfrontiers to learn from them and gain a broader understanding of what other church groups are doing. You should see these interviews appear on this blog, watch this space.

  3. Mentoring:
    During the internship I will be:
    1. Initiating a monthly one-to-one with John Lanferman. John oversees a number of Newfrontiers churches in the US and travels abroad as well. He started Christs' Church at the Lake of the Ozarks and Jubilee Church in St. Louis. If I don't initiate this, it wont happen. It will be fun to chase down a guy who travels around the world but I plan to make the most of this man and hope that we become deeper friends and that I can truly catch his vision for the church.
    2. Having weekly meetings with Rick Hein who is starting a new Jubilee location in Wentzville. I expect to have a lot of fun with Rick. He will provide regular accountability in what I am doing. One key advantage I see from Rick is the play-by-play "this is what church planting is like" as he has sleepless nights and goes through major successes and failures in his endeavor (smile Rick!).
    3. Working closely with Jubilee's leadership team who will help shape and develop me.

  4. Part Time Work:
    As we continue to reach towards our sponsorship goals I will be subsidizing our income through freelance Web Design and Search Engine Optimization from my previous employer. Initially this will be about one day a week. This is a great example of how God has made a way for us. The only challenge with be balancing the time commitments of CPI and freelance work -- I'll suck it up though!

  5. Strategy Planning:
    During the internship I will:
    1. Start demographic research and explore potential locations for us to start a new church.
    2. Develop skills and ideas for establishing a new church in a new environment.
Please continue to pray for us as we get going. I believe the Church Planting Internship has a lot of the right ingredients to effectively train and send us out so that Jesus can build his church.