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a beat down

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It was a beat down. Michael O’Leary had 15 minutes to present ideas on innovation from Ryanair–the Southwest Airlines equivalent of Europe–to the Innovation Convention at the EU. Within the first 30 seconds, he was skewering the EU. For the next 15 minutes, he continued in the same way. To say that it was a blistering presentation would be an understatement.

So, while this is not a political forum, I thought it interesting to point out this video because it was interesting to me to watch the uncomfortable chuckles that came from the session moderator who was miked up and the audience as the camera pans out to capture the grimaces on a regular basis.

This is illustrative of a natural response to criticism. The presenter gave an in your face effort to force some level of disorientation for the audience, but the response of the moderator at the end of the video shows the resistance to really considering Mr. O’Leary’s point. It was an effort to defend the present based on actions taken some time prior. Mr. O’Leary quickly addresses the point and seems to make a mockery of the whole thing.

As it is easy to see the awkwardness that comes with a hollow self-defense, it is an opportunity for us to see the strange responses we are apt to give to criticism. The Pharisees did it when they were skewered by the rabbi claiming to be the Son of God. We do it in defense of church as is. What if we really were to evaluate criticism that comes our way to see if there was any truth to what the speaker was communicating?

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brewing conversation

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There is a percolating discussion on the blogosphere about the mission of the church with the release and subsequent reviews of What is the Mission of the Church? by Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert. I first learned about this from my compadres at UC and then this morning saw a pretty exhaustive list of those critiquing the book on Stetzer’s blog.

I wanted to add my 2 cents to the conversation. First, let me state the obligatory disclaimer that I have not read the book. So now for my critique…just kidding.

Second, I have decided that these discussions make me tired. Not because they are unimportant, on the contrary I think they are very important. Thinking through why these discussions make me tired, I thought maybe it was because the debate wasn’t done over a cup of coffee. Then I dismissed this as I took a sip of my coffee and still didn’t feel the conversation to be any brighter. Then I realized it tires me because it is not done with visible eyeballs. There is something about sitting around the table or campfire or wherever and drinking a cup of coffee or tea or whatever and talking about how these things impact our lives. So, carry on the discussion, I just wish it could happen with some of my buddies where theological discussions happen best: in person, in community.

Still, I do have something I would like to offer to the conversation. Here’s a clip with Frost’s take on the purpose of the church. This seems important as Gombis states that he is “not sure that the authors are familiar with the viewpoints of missional Christians.” Consider this guy as one of the voices among the missional tribe(s).

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.

Categories : church
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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


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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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

Categories : trends
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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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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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BAM and church

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With the different wiring and ¬†issues facing the mission-oriented person (MOP) and the business-oriented person (BOP), there are several options for how to be about business as mission (BAM). The first option is to determine that one type of individual and resulting strategy is categorically right and the other is always wrong. There are a host of issues that make this a poor choice, so let’s put this choice aside for now. Second would be to allow that both have merit and each MOP or BOP should find his or her own way. I have seen cases where this has and is happening, but often with poor results. A third option would be for the church to come alongside the MOP or BOP person and resulting proposed strategy and speak into the conversation, process and strategy. This is, I am convinced, a super healthy way to move forward.

If mission belongs to the church, then BAM is a tool or strategy for the church to use. The church is uniquely positioned to be able to work with the MOP to bring some BOP(s) into a collaborative relationship to be able to speak into strategy and process. On the other side of the scale, the church can bring MOP(s) into a consultative relationship with the BOP person being sent out to provide balance and perspective.

The church that is seeking to take rightful ownership of the commission of Christ can as a healthy body help in addressing strategy in a range of areas including resourcing whether it be expertise, legal counsel, capital fund-raising, business plans, missional living coaching, etc. The church is key in seeing the gospel go forward. If she takes ownership of this responsibility, then she should also prepare to work in a range of ways and strategies including BAM.

As this happens, there will be a slew of new questions to address. At the base level, the church will do well to look to answer the question about her role both if and in BAM as a strategy for her people to reach out to those to whom they have been sent.


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exegesis and a coming out

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Participating in the public reading of Scripture was her “Christian coming out” party. Using the same language as one would to announce a homosexual lifestyle, a Czech woman was declaring her identity with Christ in a story related by Sasha Flek. This was viewed as a huge announcement that this lady was uttering.

In a culture shaped by the Thirty Year War and the resulting dominance of the Catholic church in what is modern day Czech Republic, the confessions were often not heart-felt. Claiming to be Catholic was necessary to avoid hardship at that time according to Flek.

A few centuries later the people usually decided that claiming to be Communists to an invading power allowed these “supporters” to be able to have better benefits in the area of compensation and benefits. Of course to criticize the party or Communism could merit some away time in an austere environment. With these long-standing oppressions, why would someone choose to go against the grain? Why would someone “confess” to something or someone that would bring difficulty and harm on themselves and their family?

The second annual Easter reading of the Bible that Flek had recently finished translating, provided this lady a good opportunity to declare that she was standing with Christ.

In the U.S., we are all aware that the history is radically different. A church culture in the South meant that large numbers of people went to church and were expected to make known their standing with Christ at some time in their first years in the church. The two histories could not be more different at this point. The two cultural outcomes could not be more polarized.

Exegeting the culture in key areas including the history and resulting values are key to formulating an answer to key question #2: what does the gospel look like in this culture? This is one of many topics we will be exploring during our Friday conversations on Upstream’s JetSet.

Categories : social justice
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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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