Archive for trends
Congratulations to the people of Egypt! It must feel like a new era of opportunity and hope. Both for you and others in the region including the peoples of Bahrain, Iran, Tunisia, Algeria, Jordan, etc., I pray for the very best for you. In this period of social unrest may you find peace, hope and truth.
A combination of inflationary food prices, decades of me-oriented leadership and social media innovations that are going mainstream make for a powerful convergence that impact the political, economic and social balance of a country and far beyond. While only one of these three factors can be significantly influenced, the leadership element demands attention. These events call for humility, integrity and trust among leaders and the people they represent. Chicanery and lies at this juncture, could cause outcomes that are far worse than the history they follow. Today is the time for leaders to embrace the golden rule. This is the era for those that would truly lead to “consider others better than [themselves].”
Over the past months I have spoken with a number of people that are looking to go on mission, advance a church plant or do some humanitarian effort. Many times a primary sticking point is the funding aspect. I am convinced that there are large numbers of people that are eager to invest their lives in a greater cause if only they can pay the bills. In my mind, this presents a number of options including fundraising, doing business as mission (now being referred to by some as business for transformation) and/or pursuing missional living in an existing or future employment opportunity.
With increased interest in finding ways to do what one feels called to, new funding approaches will be essential. In doing this, I believe it will be helpful for individuals and organizations to look for incremental sources of money. This approach would allow for raising a portion of the funds in conjunction with finding other income sources. For example, a person could raise 50% of their funding, take a part-time job that supplies another 40%, and then have investment income fulfilling the remaining 10%. This incremental approach minimizes risk to some extent in that if one source of funding is impacted, still others remain. This means future disruptions are less impacting and easier to overcome. (Of course it is important to remember that this journey remains a faith-walk with tremendous risk that is best placed in the hands of the Faithful One.)
One tool that is just now coming on-line that already has buy-in from a number of very well-known mission leaders is Moolala.com. Similar to some other social network buying sites, this opportunity is unique in that for every purchase someone in your “paymatrix” network makes, you and/or your non-profit can generate 2% of income. With this going out to four levels beyond yourself, there is significant potential to generate a sizable paymatrix network with those that choose to work this approach. For example, if a person were to get 1000 people in their paymatrix, and each of these were to spend $50 per month purchasing deals that they would have already bought at greatly reduced prices, then the monthly incremental income would be $1000.
This is not AmWay as you are not selling anything. However, friends and family would likely be open to saving money especially if in doing so they can help advance your effort to go on mission and/or plant a church. This incremental approach may deserve serious effort especially while this is in its infancy stage in order to generate residual incremental income by encouraging your network to be a part of your paymatrix. If they generate a paymatrix and choose to donate the funds they make from that to your benefit, then all the better. (smile)
If you poke around on the site you will see that there are not any daily deals available right now. These are expected to be going up in the next 30 to 45 days. Now would be an ideal time to let your network become a part of your paymatrix so that when deals do start coming a potential viral spread of interest could help you increase this as an incremental income source.
Click on the link to get started using Moolala as a tool for incremental income as you seek to be about His business.
While there are numerous ways to live this out, I would like to share one great way is through the Skybridge Community. Check it out.
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?
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.
Communicating the points of this post seem almost as foolish as to say 2 + 2 = 4. It’s true and everyone knows it. However, I feel the following needs to be shared in this community. The church needs to think on and talk about these things. For that reason, I am posting this intro post which I will then follow-up with 3 posts on action steps that may be taken. These steps will obviously not be exhaustive, but they will hopefully provide some ideas to consider. Here goes the obvious…
These are tough times for many here in the U.S. Tough in ways that we have not seen in a long, long time.
People need to work. Currently official unemployment in the U.S. is hovering around 9.5%. This means that, if your church is the average, 1 out of every 10 breadwinners in your church have lost their job. If there are 2 workers in a family, then 1 of every 5 families has or is struggling with lost income. As there is variance in the concentration of economic turmoil across the country, some cities and communities report numbers that are much higher. Unofficial estimates of under-employed, those that have given up looking for work, and those that do not qualify for benefits would come close to doubling the official number. This is staggering–especially if these numbers are the reality for a meager economic recovery that may be stagnating or changing direction. It is a reasonable inference that unemployment statistics will at best remain static and will at worst shoot much higher.
Unemployment benefits have been extended out to 99 weeks. The first wave of people losing these benefits and their stories are starting to be made public. In desperation, they are spending the last of their savings to have lodging for just a few more days. Yesterday, someone shared with me that their family is going to lose their home within the month if there is not some intervention. Though anecdotal, this conversation brings a weighty immediacy to the statistics for me.
People need to eat. While official reports on the Consumer Price Index indicate that inflation is not an issue, the reality is that some food costs will inevitably rise. With drought in so many parts of the world, grain prices have been shooting upward over the past several weeks. This will impact next years’s food pricing with anything that depends on wheat in its life cycle including bread, milk, beef, corn, etc. These natural inflationary pressures may be fueled by monetary policy and other issues I will not delineate here. Challenges are not isolated to next year’s prices, though. The number of people on food stamps has been increasing for more than a year now. Currently the number stands at 40,000,000 people receiving food stamps (approximately a $150 per month benefit).
People need a place to live. With the economic difficulties, many people now face a reality that the remaining debt in their mortgage is greater than the value of their home. Reports show that 1 out of 5 homes in the U.S. are in this underwater situation. Many cannot afford to make the payments because of lost jobs. Still others have chosen to stop making payments as the idea of building equity has been lost with the drop in housing prices. There are efforts now to stabilize house prices, but there is no guarantee that these efforts will work. It is possible that homes could drop further in value. A large majority of metro areas have seen increasing rates of foreclosure so far this year. It appears this trend will carry on for some time.
The church has a call, yet she is facing significant challenges. Churches across the country are experiencing decreases in giving. Whether traditional or a more contemporary expression of the church, the challenges listed above are impacting her. A growing number are struggling to make budget. Many cuts are being made.
In the next post, I will address the need for prioritization….
While on the recent JetSet, we had a missionary / church-planter–T.J.–share some of his story. He has been in France more years than not. While so much of his talk was fascinating to me, there was one slice that grieved me. This is a paraphrased version of that story told in 3rd person.
As the “French” guy, TJ was invited on multiple occasions to be present at Sunday lunch with U.S. families that had finally convinced their French exchange student to go to church for the first time. The best he could understand is that these families wanted him to do a church debrief as he was uniquely qualified to understand and communicate with them from a French vantage point. This scenario played itself out on five different occasions with five different students. When TJ asked the young person how they liked their church experience, the responses were similar. Each thought the music was good. Each thought the preaching time was interesting–but not in a good way. They were surprised at how passive and compliant the audience seemed to be to whatever the preacher was saying. Each of them shared some variation of the following idea: “I felt like I was in a Nazi war rally.”
This is the unique, growing challenge of working in a post-Christian context.
These pictures were taken over a period of a few days in London during the recent Upstream Collective JetSet trip (thanks to Brad Hamilton for the assist with the photos). These represent the mosaic that is modern-day London and so many other global cities.
With the influx of immigrants and cultures, there is, some say, now a trans-national individual. For the individual that is a frequent traveler, student of cultures, in close relationship with non-native nationals, and/or as a 2nd, 3rd, or 4th generation immigrant, there is a stronger connection with a culture that is more diverse than the singular culture of their parents. As a result, it is possible that a resident in a global, urban center may identify with cultures in other large, urban cities around the world more so than with the culture in other smaller cities and towns in his or her native country.
Missiologist and life-long practitioner, SJ expounds on this idea that there is no such thing as a multi-cultural church. Instead, he claims that there is a multi-ethnic church. Though a church may have people from different nations and languages, the reality is that every church has its own culture. For this reason, a city such as London needs thousands of churches and the resulting cultural connections and expressions that come out of this.