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contextualization response

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On the TGC site today, Jonathan Dodson posted, Be Missional, Not Superficially Contextual where he generalized that many church plants today are not planting a church that fits their culture, but planting something that looks a whole lot like the church in the adjacent community, town, city, etc. Dodson wrote about two concerns with U.S. (at least I believe he is speaking about efforts inside the U.S.) church planting to “a superficial approach to culture and, second, gospel contamination that results from this approach.”

In short, I agree with Dodson. Also, I commend him for promoting contextualization as several have criticized it of late. His piece raises a couple points I want to write on quickly.

First, whether what Dodson calls syncretism is actually that or obscurantism as normally evaluated on a contextualization scale is debatable. Though I would contend the latter would be consistent with most evaluations, I see the situation he writes about as a possible combination of woes. On one side of the scale by making the gospel unclear due to forms that are held–he mentions “building, music, service, website design”–which may not fit the culture one is entering being a classic expression of obscurantism. On the other side, the consumeristic vice of “blending Christianity with another religion, in this case consumerism” could be described as syncretism. For this to be syncretism, though, church participants would be worshipping the objects which had been intended to aid in worship in addition to the One who alone is worthy of praise. This would be a very strong statement–a very strong accusation.

Second, and, in my opinion, the most important is that it is normal to be dealing with beginning contextualization issues in U.S. church planting. Issues such as whether or not a denomination needs to be on a sign or what style of music a people should sing, or whether or not to multi-site, or fill in the blank. In a number of contexts overseas, however, the reverse is of great importance. A much more common concern when on mission to other nations is what denotes over-contextualization. Cross-cultural planters must be careful to seek to express the gospel and the church in ways that are able to be understood and fit within the rhythms and moires of life in that context while seeking to keep the gospel of Christ as the point of transformation, the point of tension.

The contextualization issues that planters address today are important, but they are basic compared with some deeper questions that need to be addressed. As planters and church leaders, we would do well to be seeking to contextualize at deeper levels.

Categories : missiology
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Our call is to make disciples. He builds His church.

Often it seems we give ourselves wholly to building our church and trusting her to make His disciples.

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hiding story

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Throughout the story, my eyes often filled with tears. The purity of heart and faith in God were deeply compelling. God’s faithfulness to bless those who follow Him as well as His chosen was evident. Then, as the story unfolded, tear-filled eyes were not enough to deal with the cathartic outcome. Corrie Ten Boom’s book The Hiding Place tells of God’s faithfulness, love and forgiveness.

My reading of the classic–The Hiding Place–is thanks to my wife’s recommendation as she and one of my daughter’s had just read the book. This story illustrating the reign of God bring every evidence to bear with accounts of justice, reconciliation, beauty and the miraculous. As an added bonus in the book, I think there are some phenomenal church-planting truths and numerous missional living lessons for us to discover.

In closing Corrie shares, “And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself.”

I wholly recommend the book. Here I will also include the original movie and a variation that came out this year. While I haven’t seen the second, I am anxious to view it soon even though some reviews are critical of the acting.

Categories : story
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launch not

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Though I have been away for a bit, I wanted to give a quick update on the last post which created some really good conversation about what the term might be in church planting if it is not a “launch.” With so much good input, it gave the church planter dealing with the issue, Jason Egly, an opportunity to work through this process with the sage advice of many that had gone before. (Thank you to all that participated in the conversation, your contribution was very helpful.)

So after much thought and prayer, Jason and his crew decided to go with: This is “our next step.” To make it a bit more emphatic non-event, they are using the idea that this is: Just our next step.” Thanks for processing with us Jason. I am cheering you on and praying for you as you move forward.

In this vein, I am sharing a video that I saw on Tall Skinny Kiwi’s site that may give more food for thought on this issue.

Categories : church
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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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that money thing

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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.

Categories : missiology, trends
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Farewell Starbucks

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It is time for me to say adios to my backyard coffee vendor. Goodbye Starbucks.

We are not parting on bad terms. In fact, I appreciate how St. Arbucks has always been there for me when I could not find a quaint, local-flavor coffee shop that had a beverage that was at least as good. Though I am not a big fan of their normal coffee, I do enjoy a Starbucks frappucino, caramel macchiato, and mocha–especially with a bit of peppermint added. But my consistent patronage must end. I will still be able to come and see you from time to time when I am on the road, but no more visits in my hometown. This also goes for my other local coffee shop that has such amazing pastries. Though I may still stop by, it will be very, very rare.

As we move into another part of our town where Christ needs to be exalted among an exploding, low-income minority group, I don’t find any of your stores for miles. The roads that demarcate where my new people reside are still at least two miles from your kind, green sign. Though the future place(s) for my work on all things digital while interacting with the people on some level is not clear, I will find a spot where the language and culture reflect the people rather than my more accustomed, U.S. environment. My drink(s) of choice and normal fare will need to change as well.

Thank you Starbucks. I will see you in the future. But until then you can find me in….

Categories : missiology, story
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Mosaic as Church

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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.

Categories : church, trends
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Why?, How?, or What?

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This brief talk has significant implications in both the disciple-making and the church-planting process. Thanks to Larry McCrary, a founder of The Upstream Collective, for alerting me to the video.

To move forward, it is first essential that we identify our Why?, How? and What? Though not the only options, some major options are as follows:

Why? – For glory. But a follow-on that each must wrestle with is whether it is about His glory and/or ours?

How? – Make disciples and/or plant churches. Also may include acts of justice, blogging, writing articles and books, speaking, etc. There is an interesting discussion on this going on at David Fitch’s blog today.

What? – So many options here. Perhaps a point for consideration begins with the video in yesterday’s post.

Are we starting with and maintaining focus on the Why?, the How?, or the What? What are the implications?

Categories : video
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I’m not saying, I’m just saying…

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Thanks to North Point Media for this piece.

Categories : fun
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