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Mar
02

storying

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Over the past weeks I have been busy with travel, meetings, and a writing project. I am expecting news to be available on the writing project soon, but it is under wraps for now. I can share that my writing has involved a good amount of research which has turned up all kinds of interesting things as usual. One of those, I wanted to go ahead and pass along. It is a video of Caesar Kalinowski, one of the planters and elders of Soma Communities. He has spent time learning from missionaries about the process of storying with pre-literates and now is advocating use of story with post-literates.

Storying has potential application in urban centers among nationals and what some may consider an emerging people group of transnationals–people that are more at home in international cities than they would be in smaller towns or villages among people that share a language and cultural background. I have used elements of storying with post-literates among multiple cultures and feel like this deserves more trial both in the U.S. and among the nations.

Ceasar Kalinowski – Story of God from Verge Network on Vimeo.

Categories : trends, video
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Dec
16

Christ-less Christmas?

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If you are easily offended, skip this post. You can come back soon for the next one.

This week I learned of Tim Minchin, a highly-talented British-Australian who is either a comedian that sings or a singer that does comedy–both descriptions seem accurate. In listening to some of his stuff, I found almost all of his songs and comedy to be laced with profanity, except for one song that consists of profanity sprinkled with conjunctions and a name. One theme that seems to run throughout his stuff is a disdain for all things religious as well as anything God-related.

Minchin could easily be a key narrator for a western, post-Christian world. With a recent trending on Twitter and his concerts taking place in some of the largest venues in the western world, his message clearly resonates with a large percent of audiences in Australia, the UK and the US. Having examined various aspects of religion including a number of key points from the Bible, he rejects it all. But, he is not rejecting all that is good. In what is becoming a Christmas standard, White Wine in the Sun, he sings of the deep trust and safety he has in his family. His holiday celebrations with them represent a place and time that he treasures. Something that he wants to convey and extend to his baby daughter. He values the deep community made up of people that he loves, a people that love him well.

In this song, Minchin celebrates the sentimental aspect of Christmas. His celebration is of a Christ-less Christmas. For him, I pray a wonderful celebration with those he loves and that one day he will experience the transformational love of Jesus. For me and others that read here, I pray that we can learn from Tim about how to better represent Christ to those that have wholly embraced a post-Christian non-belief.

Categories : missiology, trends
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Dec
09

making a case

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Putting up a video today that has gotten some play time lately. It was brought to my attention by a tweet from an Upstream Collective buddy and posted on the Missional Church Network. In case you have not seen it, I encourage you to make the time to work through it. Participating in the Page Lecture series at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Christoper Wright does a great job of making a case for a missional reading of Scripture.

Categories : Bible, missiology, trends
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Nov
07

not going away

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The economic landscape of America is changing rapidly at present and it is having and will have significant ramifications for the western church. We would do well to be aware of the trends and be thinking about not only the impact current economic developments will have on the church, but more importantly, the impact the church will have on a hobbled economy–at least those participating in the economy.

One of the most disturbing trends at the lower socioeconomic strata in the U.S. is the huge number of people on food stamps. With a 74% increase since 2007 and the current number of people participating in the program is some 15% of the population. (ht)  While this puts a strain on government coffers–not the topic of this blog–there is growing concern that these food stamps will contribute less and less to the daily needs of recipients due to growing inflation–especially in the key “core inflation” category.

Another troubling trend is the foreclosure issue that has been an albatross for the U.S. since 2008. This key factor continues to be a drag on the whole of the economy with some signs of an uptick in foreclosures on the way.

A third issue to address quickly is the massive concerns surrounding the developed world right now–specifically in Europe. With Greece being an ongoing concern, Italy is now moving to the forefront of the economic discussion. The concerns for Italy make it look like a whale in comparison to Greece being a minnow. Many are referring to Italy as “too big to fail, but too big to save.” If Italy, or Greece, or Spain, or Portugal were to succumb to the debt pressures facing them and not be able to finance their debt, the ramifications are significant, but unknown.

So what does the church do? Well this is not intended to be a doom and gloom view, but it seems essential that we are aware of the macro and micro issues that impact both existing and would-be disciples. The combination of the above factors and others should impact how we minister, allocate resources, live on mission in our local and global context, etc. More on this in the future, but for now I will link back to a series of posts on things the church would do well to consider.

the obvious

prioritization

toward building programs

pursuing conversion

Also, here’s a first-hand account of one living in poverty and the food-stamp system.

Categories : trends
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Oct
11

eavesdropping

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In the CNN Belief Blog there was a recent article entitled, Preachers confront ‘last taboo’: Condemning amid Great Recession by John Blake. The piece in itself was interesting, but for me the content paled in comparison to some of the comments directed at clergy and religion.

There is so much to declare that the U.S. is not a post-Christian society with the prevalence of churches across the land today even though most of those are in decline. Yet, there is a wave of people speaking against the church and those that lead her. As these conversations may not be the norm for Christian circles, I find it helpful to listen to the voices and learn what we can. So, may we consider this food for thought…

“And here I thought the last taboo for preachers was rational thought.” –sleepytime

“Religion is poison.” -pockets

“These guys preaching against greed would be like Bill Clinton lecturing people on adultery.” -j mann

“False prophets and charlatans. The whole lot of them.” -Mighty7

“Sounds like most of these preacher dudes are better Republicans than they are Christians.” -Dr. Rang

“There are Christians holding on tight to their nest eggs while people in the next pew are living paycheck to paycheck. God takes back seat to financial realities. The clergy doesn’t want to mess with their own meal tickets.” -Meal Ticket

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Jul
11

launch this

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Recently in a conversation with a friend that is in the process of planting a church in the least-reached region of a Bible-belt city in the U.S., we were talking about the upcoming first public gatherings. I have been cheering for them as well honored and blessed to be a small part of helping them to put mission in their DNA from the beginning. As we were discussing this upcoming first, the only common language we had for the event was a “launch.” While the term conveyed an idea we were both familiar with, it troubled us both.

Of course launch refers to all things rocket related. It is the goal. The desired action in rocketry–much of which is explained in Sir Isaac Newton’s laws of motion–is about getting the vehicle off the ground. Newton’s third law is often summarized as: “for every action, there is [always] an equal and opposite reaction.” Ignite thrust downward in order to achieve lift. Rockets are conceived, engineered and built to leap off the ground. This is the goal for which people build them. Whether for recreation, science or weaponry, the goal is the same. Get the thing up in the air to a desired altitude and then you can add to it any functionality that one may desire.

So if launch is the goal in and of itself, then I would offer that it sucks for use in church planting. As this is not the realm of the laws of motion, launching a church does not hold to the confines and realities of physics. I have seen a lot of energy expended in church launches that proved unsuccessful and vice versa. So, because church planting and physics are not bound by the same physical laws, for this reason alone the term is less than adequate. In fact, it is wrong. But it is wrong for an even greater reason….

If launching is the goal, then it is possible that simply holding a religious service is the objective for which we strive. Some may say that it is a little more developed than that. Perhaps the goal is a recurring service which leads to transformation and development of disciples. I will pass on spending a lot of time on that here as I think this has been candidly dismissed by Willow Creek’s reveal. A public meeting, worship gathering, or church service–regardless of what you call it–is not the goal of church. Nor does a recurring service constitute a church.

If the church is conceived and functioning before any public declaration or launch, then what is it that we are kicking off? And with that what would be ideal for this launch thingy to be named? In the particular plant in question–(whether planting a church or planting the gospel is the goal is another topic for another day as well)–disciples are being made. Broken relationships are being restored. Justice is being pursued in the community. What this community of believers is about to do is let it be known to their neighborhood that there is a group seeking to live as the body of Christ, love God and love others so that those not already in community with them may find them more easily.

Now, I say this is not a launch. The pastor participating in this says it is not a launch. But we don’t have an acceptable “what is it?” yet. Wordsmiths / thinkers, what say you? What is about to happen in this community?

PLEASE help us with some input on this topic!

Categories : church, trends, Uncategorized
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Jun
27

disturbing statistic

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Last week a friend of mine met with the president of one of the state SB conventions. According to him, the number of SB churches in the state that are dead or in decline was 85%. This number is troubling for a whole lot of reasons. While I am aware that there are significant changes in the U.S. church scene at present, no growth or realignment comes close to addressing an 85% decrease in the number of existing, functional churches in one denomination.

As this state is in the Bible belt, it doesn’t really matter where this interview happened. It seems that this statistic could very well be true for any of the Bible belt states–take your pick.

To turn it around and look at the positive side of the statistic, 15% of the churches are vibrant. A meager 15% are in a situation where they can be more concerned about loving the lost around them rather than being focused on self-preservation. This positive side for me is a bit depressing. Clearly, things as they have been are not working.

Categories : church, trends
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For some time I have followed the writings and blurbs put out by Justin Long with Mission to Unreached Peoples at his blog–The Long View. I would encourage those interested in mission to unreached, unengaged  people groups (UUPG) to follow Justin on the Twitters or add his site to your RSS feed. One recent piece of his is, in my opinion, worth special attention due to the weight and timing of the topic and the swarm theory applied to the SBC he put into his piece entitled “2 major challenges Southern Baptists face in getting churches to engage the unreached.” Before reading any further here, go read his piece. If that’s all you get out of this post, then still it was probably worth your time. Seeing the Southern Baptist Convention as a swarmish entity is uber helpful especially in light of the daunting task of making massive change in default behavior. (Again, let me encourage you to read Long’s piece before going any further here.)

To restate Long’s two cautions in the referenced piece:

  • Can Southern Baptists change the default of SB churches as it relates to international missions?
  • Will Southern Baptists cooperate with others outside of the convention in the efforts to embrace UUPGs?

The first caution is a good question that I will not pretend to answer, but I will share that the desired change in default is, I believe, highly substantive and positive. It is encouraging to see that the language and expectations imb is holding out to SB churches is changing. Over the past several years I have seen imb be more open to the idea of the church functioning as a missionary–which I would credit my friends and cohorts at The Upstream Collective to a great extent for promoting and holding out this idea of the Sending Church. In the past I have seen imb consider sending churches as those that would do non-strategic or non-critical work to free up company personnel to do the strategic roles such as engaging new peoples and areas. Now, however, with the vision that Dr. Tom Elliff–the recently elected imb president–is conveying, it is a call for all to participate. All are to play critical, strategic roles in taking the gospel to the nations. Churches are being  asked to partner with imb to embrace the unengaged. To be clear here, embracing a people is for the intended purpose of leading to engagement. To do this among one people is significant and challenging. To seek to do it among 3800 at one time is one of the more lofty and complex challenges undertaken historically in missions. It must be of God if it is to succeed at any level and the activity must be scalable and largely driven by a vast number of smaller swarms (as Long points out).

Exactly what the minimum default expectation and activity looks like is being ironed out as different leaders pose and grapple with this issue. These expectations should be public soon.

On the second caution, I strongly agree that the SB swarm is more likely to be effective in the end goal of engaging the UUPGs if the effort is not exclusive. It seems helpful to remember that this commitment to reaching UPGs and ultimately UUPGs was birthed 11 years ag0 at table 71. As part of a larger group of like-minded Great Commission Christian organizations, imb accepted the challenge to take the gospel to those that do not have access to it.

If one holds to the theology that once an individual from every nation, tribe, people and language has made Christ their Lord, then Christ will return, then it would be best to admit that mission is really about the existing followers of Christ rather than those that have not heard. In other words, if evangelicals can get one person from every people to pray a prayer of salvation, then those that believe can finally get out of here sooner. Were this to be a correct eschatological view, which I question strongly, then the task is not about reaching peoples, but reaching a person from each of the peoples. However, this view does not seem consistent with the whole of Scripture for a number of reasons including that we read of Christ’s guts churning when He beheld the masses that were “like sheep without a shepherd.” Jesus consistently was concerned about individuals and masses. He spent his ministry years continuing to share primarily with one people group. His passion was about seeing people become followers of the Most High God. Regarding Revelation 7:9 and eschatology, Elliff states that this is not a cause and effect relationship. Instead of a causal situation, this can be viewed as coincidental in nature. Our responsibility is obedience to take the gospel to the nations. The timing of Christ’s return is known only by God the Father.

If this is about the peoples of each people group and not about a person from each group being compelled by the Savior, then it seems that partnershipping is of increased value and importance (please allow the word for extra emphasis). SB churches, entities and imb must be in partnership for this to work to fulfill the imb vision. Even further, partnership with other like-minded churches and agencies is essential to reach the peoples among the unengaged and unreached peoples. Elliff’s responsibility and station is to seek to influence the swarm that is SB. It is my hope that through the language that he uses and the  messages–both overt and meta–imb sends this week and in the coming months that other swarms beyond the SB affiliated will be influenced and encouraged to see churches, agencies and networks  be about reaching both UUPGs and UPGs.

Finally on this point, I want to reiterate Long’s point that others will believe because of the unity of the believers in Christ. While the instruction is simple yet often difficult for us to live, “they will know we are Christians by our love for one another.” Partnership is essential. And based on what I am hearing, it is welcomed by imb leadership.

In addition to Long’s concerns, I will offer two aspects that I believe will be critical for the Embrace effort to be successful. One of these is timeless in missions and the second a bit more specific to this vision.

First, churches must prayerfully seek to answer the question: “To whom are we sent?” The Embrace conversation may influence this significantly, but ultimately a people should go only as the Lord directs. Whether to a UUPG, a UPG, Dearborn, MI or even a town in the U.S. Bible belt, both the individual and the church would do well to go those to whom she is sent.

Second, Embrace is a commitment to see the effort through. If the church is going to those people that the Lord has sent them to, then the Embrace effort will not be contingent on the presence of the initiating pastor or other church leader. I envision a future question for staff hires including the senior pastor to be whether or not he senses that God is leading him to be sent to the people that the church has already embraced. This is a commitment to see the task through to fulfillment. At this point, the church would do well to calibrate expectations in terms of a decade or more rather than think in years. The call to Embrace is not a call for the preservation or development of imb or for the enrichment or ease of the church. This is a call to obedience. A call to be about the Great Commission. Embrace is ultimately a call to “go and make disciples of all nations.”

*These ramblings are my own and are not the official position of any person, agency or church. Where the arguments are lucid and helpful, there is a good chance that these points are influenced by other persons. Where they are unclear or unhelpful, there is a good chance that is mine.

Categories : missiology, trends
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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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Apr
01

reJADED is finally here

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Last year’s JADED conference–yada, yada, yadawas such a success, that 2Good2BeTru Productions is thrilled to announce the 2011 theme of this year’s reJADED conference–turning the tables. This year’s exciting event will feature those that never have a chance to share from the front, the vendors. Each keynote and breakout session will be led by leading vendors in different areas as they educate on trends and provide insight on opportunities to meet the core needs of today’s church and its leaders. Some of the key presenters and their mottos include:

  • Bam! Media – Helping to make the medium the message.
  • Twitter Salt – We have enough creativity for both of us.
  • Mighty Escort – Enabling tomorrow’s big deal to step it up by a day.
  • Holy Stix – We rock your worship!
  • Projecting Right – Helping the church look like a church should look in today’s world.
  • Inspired by Mike – Leaders in creating the right environment, atmosphere and systems for working with children.
  • Top Flite Search – Finding the candidate that’s a cut above to take your organization to the next level.
  • Book Junket – Turning each “significant” thought into a weighty book.

As the conference progresses throughout the day, there will be an updated post to share some of the key points of these keynote presenters. Be sure to check back to be enriched with what they have to share. Also, be looking for quotes from the event on Twitter as the #jaded conversation continues.

Finally, please note that 2Good2BeTru Productions is passionate about clean water for those in need, we are glad to announce that all of this year’s proceeds and donations will go to drilling a new well. This well will enable others to have clean water at our new Augusta, Georgia offices and conference center. We are very excited that the water for next year’s conference will be potable.

Categories : fun, trends
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