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Apr
12

economics and planting

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It is a common push at the end of the year. Often church leaders are encouraging members to make their contributions by the end of the year in order to get their tax credit. But what if…?

Sitting in a “missional business” that is hotel / hostel / restaurant here in Prague, some interesting questions came up at our table. What would happen to church planting in the U.S. if no tax credits were given to members for contributions? Businessman and JetSet participant Paul Mayfield shared that the normal tax benefit of the average person in the U.S. is a 30% realized return for contributions. If this incentive was removed, would it change the economics of church planting? Further, we discussed what would happen if other charities brought tax benefits to their donors while church contributions did not gain any value beyond itself. For those looking to help others but motivated by tax savings, contributions to nonprofits that were anything but a church would take priority.

Is it possible that assumptions are made about church planting based on economic realities that may fit the exegesis of our tax structure but not the exegesis of our culture? As these tax benefits are not available in most European countries, the question of economics becomes either more or less important. But which is it? Does this lead toward setting up business as mission opportunities, tent-making or other possibilities? AND what would removing or downgrading the economic issues from church or gospel planting do to how we implement in these areas in a current known or future unknown context?

Categories : case study, church
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Apr
11

question

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I am writing this from Prague just before jumping in bed to try to sleep off the worst of jet lag before the rest of the JetSet crew arrives tomorrow. Excited about all that is to come over the next week and a half, I continue thinking, praying and preparing for the days ahead. One idea that keeps coming to mind is: question. Whether as a noun or verb it is important for each of us (I am writing to me on this post as much as anybody), yet something that is at times hard to do.

It seems that it is either a part of human nature, American culture or a leadership profile (perhaps there is a combination of reasons) that the more experience or familiarity a person has with a topic, the less likely he or she is to ask a question to seek to wrestle with a topic. I would offer that the only helpful question is the one that is genuinely asked. Further, the only difficult question is the one that does not have a pre-determined answer.

For example, maybe someone has already dealt with and implemented a third place strategy that has 10% believers or 40% participation in a time of worship during any week. But what might a third place concept look like in a city that has less than half a percent of people who follow Christ? Does this change the outcome? If so, then what?

I am listing out some questions that may be worthwhile for you and me over the days to come:
What can I learn here? What do I do with this? Have I understood / dealt with this well historically? Have I chosen a simple answer based on simplistic inputs? Is there more to this I should consider? What other solution might fit my current context? What might happen to my outcomes if my context were to change?

It is my hope and prayer that you will genuinely benefit if you are led to participate in #js2011. See you here, at the Upstream Collective and at many other points around the net in the upcoming days.

Categories : church, missiology
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Apr
01

reJADED keynotes

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Here is a bit more of several of our keynote speakers / vendors at this year’s reJADED conference:

Bam! Media is helping to make the medium the message. Good and well-done are two adjectives that should never be used regarding media in the church. Instead, we strive for superb, stellar, unparalleled, first rate, oscar-caliber, unbelievably creative, out of this world descriptions for each piece we prepare.

Our research shows that when using top-shelf, highly professional productions, the viewer gets caught up in the experience. Time stands still, distractions disappear, and the piece will be remembered for a long time after the viewing experience. BAM! Media productions are the post-worship conversation. As an added bonus, 93% of our church clients report significant increases in guys that are being called to plant media productions in their communities.

Twitter Salt produces enough creativity for both of us. Twitter salt helps you live in the Twitterverse with a message. The company has a range of services that help users be salt and light to those they are leading and to other leaders in a broad, digital community. 4 key packages are available for purchase today. Also, for the person really seeking to be salt and light, use of multiple packages can help further your efforts and results. Our four highly valued packages are:

  • #BringIt! – features 3 different ways to communicate each Sunday how good your message or song set are going to be. To really get noticed, you need more than “I’m really excited about what I’m sharing today,” or “(our guest speaker) is going to bring it.” While you may not be able to do better than that, we can.
  • #Promote! – helps bring creativity to 10 tweets a day that will promote your latest blog post. We both know it’s important because you wrote it. Let’s get the world to read it.
  • #EchoEchoEcho! – through proprietary algorithmic software, this package provides 2 tweets a day that are guaranteed to get re-tweeted by your followers and help you generate new followers with historical facts, quotes, witty sayings and off the wall thoughts that will improve your Twitter rating and make you one of the cool kids in the Twitterverse.
  • #Tell! – this disciple-making service provides each user with a database of Tweets, each of which compresses the full gospel into a 140 character Tweet. This enables all of your followers to have repeated exposure to the gospel to aid in evangelism or be a key part of a discipleship process. In addition to the 140 character Tweets, there are more than 500 Tweets that communicate aspects of the gospel in a 120 character format making each post more likely to be re-Tweeted.

Mighty Escort enables tomorrow’s big deal to step it up by a day. We can see when a star is rising, but sometimes they need a little help. Mighty Escort (ME) has a full range of services that can be made available for a day, a week or longer. ME supplies a fully trained “Band of Mighty Men” to escort you from your office or a green room to the stage so you can remain focused, ready to bring it without distractions. The band can consist of as many trained bodyguards as you need to provide protection and communicate the message. Some other select services include limo and jet rentals helping you make a subtle statement. Because ME is all about you, we help you arrive.

Holy Stix, we rock your worship! Our clients tell us that our completely original repertoire sticks better than any other songs they have used. We like to think that our lyrics are the holiest, while our tunes are the catchiest. Some of our great hits have included: “I Thought It Was All About Me And Then I Met You And Realized That I Was Badly, Badly Mistaken” and “I Saw Two Sets of Tracks, But Then There Was One; I Knew That It Was Your Footprints In The Sand.”

Projecting Right helps the church look like a church should look in today’s world. Projecting right helps your church campus communicate the right message through making culturally appropriate, architect-designed facades for your buildings. For campuses that need a little missional sprucing up, we can make the most elaborate of facades to announce the new, improved church. Our clients often share that thanks to our re-design, their people are prouder of their church than ever before. Not only are people glad to come to a place with one of our new facades, they are likely to stay minutes longer after the service, begin inviting their friends to special events and hold more key family celebrations on the campus.

Inspired by Mike is the leader in creating the right environment, atmosphere and systems for working with children. Michelangelo was the master of the church mural for centuries. Drawing from his creativity, Inspired by Mike (IbM) prepares children’s areas that are highly creative, fun for children and comforting to moms. With extensive padding embedded into each wall and covered over with hand-drawn murals, rubberized floors with sedating hues, tranquil music and pleasing vegetable aromas, IbM creates a sensory experience that allows for a rowdy, crazy good time, but helps restore order and calmness so that your church can teach your kids the important stuff of life during the children’s hour or two each week.

Categories : church, fun, trends
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Dec
17

rethinking church

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Thanks to the UMC, here is a well-done piece about reThinking Church.

Categories : church
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Dec
15

ethnocentric gospel

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If God’s desire was only for a small, homogenous group to live in obedience to Him, the Old Testament would have been significantly different. For example, no mention or model would be found in Melchizedek. Neither Ruth nor Rahab would play a special role. The Ninevites would be left to their own devices and certain peril. Other altered stories would have included Balaam, Nebuchadnezzar and Darius.

ethnocentricIf His plan was for only a select number from one ethnolinguistic people group in one geographic area to walk in the transforming love of Christ, then the New Testament would be radically altered–even more so than the Old Testament. If God’s desire was not for the nations, then Jesus would have dismissed the woman at the well, the Syro-phoenician woman, the Roman centurion and the thief on the cross. He would not have pointed to a good Samaritan as the hero in the story. The day of Pentecost would not have included God-fearing Jews from every nation. Peter would have had to refuse the invitation of Cornelius. Philip would not have stepped into the chariot with the Egyptian official. Paul would not have written his letters to the churches, as none would be outside of Jerusalem. He never would have gone to the Philippian jailer’s home because he never would have traveled to Philippi as a missionary called and sent out by the church in Antioch. And the church in Antioch would have looked nothing like it did. Jesus would not have spoken to the seven churches in Asia Minor. There would be no record in Revelation of “a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language standing before the throne and in front of the lamb” wearing white robes, worshipping God.

These stories and others similar in nature are still with us. They are recorded in the Bible. The reason for this is simple. These stories are key to the plan of God. Removing the above stories would cause the loss of some incredible tales–a huge fish swallowing a man, a talking donkey, a sheet coming out of heaven filled with animals of all kinds, potential jail breaks and so much more. But if these stories were to be removed, it would alter history and eternity forever. The story of redemption would be incomplete. Stories such as that of Rahab and Ruth are more than interesting. The love of God demonstrated to these two ladies from other nations is key to the genealogy of Christ. Following His birth, the Messiah is visited and worshipped by humble, pungent shepherds from nearby and by wealthy dignitaries from the East, possibly from modern day countries like Iraq, Iran or Jordan. Even in the Christmas story God makes clear that He sent Jesus for the entire range of the socioeconomic scale and for the nations. The vast, far-reaching plan of God begins to unfold both prior to and following the coming of the Savior.

(This is an excerpt from beyond myself and even our own city on the Reproducing Churches site.)

Categories : Bible, church, missiology
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Nov
23

city church. so much more

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From the beginning of the church in Acts 2, the gospel went out to the nations. After a short period of time, the believers were scattered and the gospel went again to the nations in Acts 8. Undoubtedly, God’s plan for the nations is essential for the city church. Whether a church is the oldest, most traditional church in the community or the newest church plant, it is part of God’s plan to be about taking the gospel to the nations. The city church is blessed with the calling to take the hope of Christ to its community and beyond.

Scope

When considering the scope of the call for the city church as she seeks to live sent, it may prove helpful to have thought about what did and did not happen in Scripture. If God’s desire was only for a small, homogenous group to live in obedience to Him, the Old Testament would have been significantly different. For example, no mention or model would be found in Melchizedek. Neither Ruth nor Rahab would play a special role. The Ninevites would be left to their own devices and certain peril. Other altered stories would have included Balaam, Nebuchadnezzar and Darius.

If His plan was for only a select number from one ethnolinguistic people group in one geographic area to walk in the transforming love of Christ, then the New Testament would be radically altered–even more so than the Old Testament. If God’s desire was not for the nations, then Jesus would have dismissed the woman at the well, the Syro-phoenician woman, the Roman centurion and the thief on the cross. He would not have pointed to a good Samaritan as the hero in the story….

(this is the start of a chapter posted on reproducing churches.com’s discussion of City Church. Check out the whole piece and the other contributions on City Church starting on Sept. 22. They are all worthwhile!)

Categories : church, missiology
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Sep
27

the world would notice

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Pure religion is practical, straightforward and non-negotiable–care for orphans and widows. James records these instructions as the clear outcome of what it looks like for believers to combine faith and action. Anything less than practically meeting the needs of the needy is simply an exercise in worthless religion. Not taking action is a sure way to fool ourselves into thinking our religion has meaning and purpose. But….

But we are to make a difference. We are not to be served, but to serve. We are to give our lives as a living sacrifice. We are to feed those that are hungry and clothe those that are naked. We are to care for orphans and widows.

Toward this end, I am happy to introduce and shamelessly promote theworldwouldnotice.com. These guys are encouraging the church to make a difference in the lives of orphans–all of the orphans in the state of Florida and beyond. Their challenge is this: For every one church, let there be 1 less child that needs a home.

Advocating that we impact the world together, the site founders promote the idea for every church to have multiple families that rally around one adopting family to be their support network and community to love and embrace a new member of the family. As a result, the church living in obedience will impact so many as they experience and live out the love of Christ. And one more thing…if done on a large scale, the world would notice that something unique and good is happening among these people seeking to obey their God.

Categories : church, social justice
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Sep
23

could i survive in poverty?

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From time to time I post original writings of guests from around the world. In this post,  a lover of Jesus, poverty advocate and devoted believer in social justice for the world shares some of her experience in identifying with the impoverished in America.

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How can we truly be Jesus’ hands and feet to the poor? What does it look like to truly serve the marginalized, oppressed and lost? Like many of you, I want to make a difference in this world so I went searching for a job with meaning after graduation. I enrolled in a volunteer corps program for one year where I worked at a local non-profit. In my particular program, I received a small stipend that was the equivalent to what a single person in poverty would make. This was the challenge: could I live like a person in poverty lived? Could I survive on $26.00 a day?

The answer is no. If it weren’t for my gracious parents, savings and a lot of free church meals, I wouldn’t have made it. Yet I learned an incredible amount in that year and I began to see a glimpse of what poverty truly looks like from the inside out. I didn’t just read about it, I lived it.

Part of my experience included applying for food stamps. I wanted to better understand the system and personally go through the process, not to mention I was hungry. I never imagined that it would be so difficult. It took a total of four months to receive my benefits.

My breaking point came when I visited the food stamp office for the fourth time. I asked the clerk why I had not received my EBT card in the mail and she informed me that I had been denied. At that moment, I started crying and yelled at her, “You’re telling me that even though I make less than $800 a month, I can’t get on food stamps!?”

It wasn’t my proudest moment, but it was a life changing one. I was frustrated that I would have to reapply for the second time. But even more so, I was heartbroken for my brothers and sisters, neighbors and friends who would never be able to get on food stamps even though they desperately needed them. I watched a system that was designed to help the poor, fail them.

I don’t claim to understand what it truly feels like to be in poverty nor do I claim to understand the agony of going to bed hungry, but from this experience I have come to better understand the challenges the poor face on a daily basis. More importantly, it got me thinking about how I could be an advocate on their behalf as a believer in Christ and a proponent of social justice.

Food security and hunger are growing concerns across the United States. It is no surprise that only 65% of Alabamians who are eligible for food stamps receive them according to the USDA. Additionally, food stamps only provide $3 per person per day for a family of four. That’s simply not enough.

We then must ask ourselves: What is the responsibility of the Church? What role do we have to play? It is time to rethink how we do ministry and find more effective ways to defend the weak and fatherless and uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed (Psalm 82:3.)

Categories : church, social justice
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Sep
21

pursuing conversion (4 of 4)

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Due to financial difficulties in the U.S. at present, many people are losing jobs, realizing reduced values in home prices, experiencing reductions in investment income and retirement savings, and seeing a rise in scenarios where banks are calling in loans as a period of extend and pretend is coming to a close. These factors combined are leading to a major rise in home foreclosures. More than 95,000 homes are reverting back to the banks through repossession in August 2010–this is the largest number of homes repossessed in one month so far. For the first time in generations, large numbers of people are losing their homes. Some of those have nowhere to go….Absolutely nowhere.

One recently homeless man, Butch, shared with me this week that he thinks “we are close to being back in the Great Depression.” He continued, “people don’t see it, but there are more [homeless] on the streets everyday.” The reason these suffering are unseen is because they are sleeping in their cars, spending the last of their savings on cheap hotels, and living in tent villages or in the woods just out of sight of others. Some have taken their lives before facing eviction or their own personal financial catastrophe.

So what might the church do? There are, I believe many ways to positively address this growing plight. A couple of unacceptable options, though, would include ignoring the problem or promising our prayers and best wishes while taking no action.

What if we pursue a major conversion? If a church with property were to take some rarely used or unused property and convert it into dormitory-style living, a good number of people could have shelter and experience a daily, grace-filled blessing. Space normally reserved as educational space could be utilized with great effect in terms of size and fulfilling the objective of making disciples. Those living there and those who had previously met in those rooms would have an opportunity to experience the love of God in a whole new, profound way. Other options may include having families seek to rearrange living arrangements to free up a bedroom or living area for those that are struggling. There are a growing number of situations already in cities the hardest hit by the housing crisis where people are living in community with multiple persons or family units in a home as people seek to align their income and expenses.

Undoubtedly there are challenges to undertaking such drastic conversions dealing with logistics, how to oversee, etc. At this point, Butch’s thoughts are vital to embrace. He shares that the homeless are just seeking to maintain some of their dignity. This may be expressed in basic ways by providing some monies even if there is a chance that it may be squandered on alcohol. He suggests that this is not a time for moralizing or preaching, but showing the unconditional love of Christ.

This is the 4th in a series on ever-growing economic realities in the U.S. and some practical ways for the church to respond. In the next post and others in the future, we will continue to look at aspects of this challenge. The next post will be a guest post–Could you survive in poverty?

Categories : church, trends
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Sep
07

toward building programs (3 of 4)

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For regular readers of this blog, this post may initially sound a bit off-kilter for me. However, I believe it is time for churches to seriously consider the need for undertaking a new building project. Right now. No, I am not proposing the next $130 million dollar project. But I am proposing something that should be promoted and celebrated with the intensity that some would allocate to constructing a state-of-the-art worship center celebrating the majesty of God. This humble project should be fast-tracked. Regardless of a church’s financial condition, a capital campaign for this undertaking will likely be met with enthusiasm from those that are passionate about putting the words of Christ into practice. The church would do well to consider ways to put in gardens and greenhouses on church property and empty lots throughout the community.

During a time of rapid growth in unemployment, with food stamp usage nearing an all-time high, and even signs of escalating suicide rates because of financial stress, the church needs to be active in feeding the hungry. To provide ways to deal with one of the most basic needs of life for those struggling financially the church can equip and enable them to plant, cultivate, and harvest produce. In addition to providing much needed food, the process gives a sense of self-worth while providing multiple metaphors and object lessons of God making us into a new creation. Depending on geographic location, greenhouses may be beneficial to allow year-round produce to be harvested.

Called to seek the lost, the church will do well to make the garden visible to the community. It is possible that the garden and/or greenhouse function as a sign of service to the community. This sign could replace the symbol of the steeple for the church signifying that this is where a group of people that love and minister to their community for the glory of God in obedience to Him may be found worshipping and working. It may serve as a new symbol of trust, hope, and safety for the community.

To take this into the community more, creating multiple gardens throughout the community may serve as points of engagement with the lost and hurting. Use of empty lots as a way of beautifying the city while meeting needs for the surrounding neighbors through their labor and collective work will allow people to begin a process of discipleship and journeying toward Christ long before they have made Him their Lord.

It is time for the church to rethink the old food pantry and to look for creative ways to meet needs and share the love of God through being the incarnation of Christ as we live and work and relate to those that are lost. Additionally, considering other alternatives that maximize resources such as Angel Food Ministries will be a blessing to those in need.

Continuing with this series that began with stating the obvious and pursuing prioritization, the next post will address the need for pursuing mass conversion….

Categories : church, trends
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