October 28, 2005
Islam has its five pillars. Buddhism has its eight-fold path. Evangelicalism has its four spiritual laws. And now the Emerging Church has its seven layers of conversation.
Last month I was part of a small gathering of church leaders that hosted an evening with Brian McLaren. And the conversation turned as hot as the chutney. A number of participants were eager to discuss the criticisms that have been levied against the emerging church in recent months. The hijacking of the emergent movement by those merely interested in new worship trends rather than more substantive issues aggravated others. Everyone was looking to McLaren to chime in.
Always more likely to defuse than to detonate, McLaren entered the spicy conversation casually while slouched into the sofa with beverage in hand. He cautioned us against judging where others were in the "emergent conversation." Leaning forward, he outlined what he saw as the seven layers of the emergent conversation. "We all enter at a different layer," he said, "but everyone should be welcomed into the conversation no matter where they may be."
Based on McLaren's description, I've outlined the seven layers below.
Continue reading How Emergent Are You? McLaren's Seven Layers of the Emergent Conversation...
October 27, 2005
Marshall Shelley becomes a fan of the newly well-led White Sox.
Though I've lived in Chicago more than twenty years, when it came to the White Sox, I was only a casual fan (is that an oxymoron?). Until recently.
Yes, I attended games in both old Comiskey Park and more recently "The Cell" (it's still hard for me to endorse a telecommunications product every time I want to refer to a ballpark). I rooted for the South Side Hit Men of the 1970s and witnessed the infamous Disco Demolition night.
I understood the Sox' inferiority complex. They frequently voiced sour irritation over a city that gives preferential treatment to the Cubs. But let's face it, in a long-term relationship, lovable losers are easier to identify with than sore losers.
But all that changed this year.
Continue reading Darned Sox: An Exercise in Rebuilding a Team...
October 26, 2005
(Our friend Angie Ward is a writer, mentor, and ministry leader in North Carolina. She is the founder of Forward Leadership, a ministry coaching ministry. She is also a regular contributor to Leadership journal and our e-newsletter, Leadership Weekly.)
When I worked at a camp in northern Wisconsin, my fellow staff members often told a story about a cat that had lived on the campgrounds for many years. When the cat died, one prankster decided to have the cat stuffed, then placed it in strategic locations to startle other staff members and visitors. (I swear I am not making this up.)
Apparently, the cat appeared serenely napping on a car dashboard, cuddled at the feet of a secretary, and propped up with a sign directing visitors to the camp office before it was kidnapped (or should I say cat-napped?), never to be seen again.
I was reminded of this story when I read that actor Alan Alda, most famously of the TV show "M*A*S*H" and more recently of "The West Wing," recently wrote a book entitled, Never Have Your Dog Stuffed: And Other Things I've Learned. In it, Alda talks about how he had a beloved pet dog when he was eight years old. When the dog died, Alda was so sad about burying it that his father decided to have the dog stuffed instead.
Continue reading Ministry Taxidermy: Don't Stuff the Dog...
October 24, 2005
(Here is the remainder of James MacDonald's commentary on emerging culture. MacDonald is pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel in Rolling Meadows, Illinois, and its several satellite locations. He is also the featured preacher on the radio program Walk in the Word. )
4. Because the answer is Jesus, not cultural analysis.
Several times in the past few years we have baptized more than 200 adults in our church in a single weekend. When you listen to so many concurrent stories of conversion to Christ in such a short period of time, you get a clear picture of how it happens. "I was going along thinking I was ?too sexy for my shirt,' and God dropped a boulder on my life to break me down and get my attention." While the label on the boulder may change, the story does not. Bottom line: God uses the painful circumstances of life to soften human hearts and bring people to faith in Christ.
In the past few years we have analyzed our culture ad nauseum. Cultures don't come to Christ, individuals do and the fields are more ripe for harvest than ever before.
Continue reading Why James MacDonald Is Not Emerging (Part 2)...
October 21, 2005
My hair stylist cancelled my appointment yesterday because of a schedule conflict, and for a few minutes afterward I searched the Internet for the Flowbee, the vacuum-attachment haircutting system that lets you give yourself a buzz cut. (I really, really need a haircut.) Very popular on the infomercials a decade ago, the Flowbee is still manufactured, and if the testimonials are to be believed, still giving great haircuts. But few people are buying them anymore. After a couple of recalls and too many jokes about the product, the Flowbee just isn't selling.
Oddly, the Flowbee reminded me of what Donald Miller said at Catalyst in Atlanta earlier this month. At the pre-conference session, Miller (of Blue Like Jazz and the Campus Confession Booth) pondered the growing consumerism in our society and in our faith. I was prepared for him to deride the consumerist nature of churches, especially megachurches, but I didn't expect this one comment:
We've turned Jesus into a product, and we've become products ourselves. (That's an indirect quote, but it's pretty close to his exact words.)
Continue reading Flowbee, Jesus, and Me: A Catalyst Echo...
October 17, 2005
(James MacDonald is pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel in Rolling Meadows, Illinois, and its several satellite campuses. His preaching is featured on the radio program Walk in the Word. His is another perspective in the postmodern, emergent church dialogue.)
Let me begin with a word of personal appreciation for the current leaders of the emerging church movement. I am deeply grateful for your courage in standing against the many shortcomings of the modern Western church. Thanks for insisting that authenticity in relationship is the foundation of genuine Christian community. Thanks for standing against the formulaic/instant Gospel which fills our churches with tares and insulates the human heart from a genuine transformational encounter with the living Christ. Thanks also for daring to believe that failure is not final and that Christ yet longs for His bride to function with the health and wholeness He created it to enjoy.
In case you are wondering why my gratitude for the leaders of the emerging church does not translate into enthusiasm for their current emphasis and direction let me take a few words to explain why I am not emerging.
Continue reading Why James MacDonald Is Not Emerging (Part 1)...
October 13, 2005
Ben Folds' song "Rock Star" includes these lyrics:
You need their approval
To tell you you're cool
Hey, but look how you pay for it
Give the people what they want
You've got to give the people what they want
Got to give the people what they want
I'm a pastor and not a rock star (despite the blurring of those roles in recent years). Still, every time I retreat to the bookstore coffee shop to write another sermon I face the subtle temptation to tickle ears, to preach for approval, to be cool, and give the people what they want.
Continue reading Should I Rock the House or Preach the Word?...
October 11, 2005
Tony Campolo and Brian McLaren are influential among church leaders, although their influence is often from a negative position. Some would say their value is in how many people they make mad. Both men have taken contrarian stances on many topics, from homosexuality to hell. In the second of our four-part interview, Campolo and McLaren discuss the feedback they're getting.
What are you hearing from pastors and leaders who are in the trenches who are reading the kind of things you are writing about?
Campolo: One thing I hear, and I'm sure you do too Brian is, ?I'm so glad you're saying what your saying - I wish I could say it, but I'm afraid to.'
Continue reading Campolo and McLaren 2: Radio Orthodoxy...
October 9, 2005
The following is from Jennifer Oxford, one of our Leadership team in Atlanta for the Catalyst Conference.
Erwin McManus took stage and continued to expound upon the very clear message of the entire Catalyst event...that it's not about formulas...the church, I mean. That there are no formulas that will enable a church to structurally meet every person's needs. Currently, when a new believer joins a church they are plugged into the structure where the church needs them most. They are discipled and led in ways that make them all look the same. For people outside of the church, who inherently know (and cling to the fact that) we are all unique, the sameness of the church, and the structure that they are potentially being asked to fit into doesn't work.
Continue reading Erwin McManus at Catalyst: Formulas Don't Work...
October 7, 2005
Leadership editor Marshall Shelley offers this report on his conversations with young leaders at Catalyst.
"It's funny. It's like theology is back," said Rusty, who is planting a Methodist church near Auburn University in Alabama. The church is meeting in a skate park, mirror ball on the ceiling and all.
Rusty put his finger on a reality that many at the 2005 Catalyst Conference identified with. Theology and a skate park don't seem like a matched set, but theology is increasingly a subject of great interest to younger leaders, in fact, it's of great interest to younger people in general.
Continue reading Theology Is Back...
October 7, 2005
(Here's a post from Cory Whitehead, editor of the Building Church Leaders newsletter, one our Leadership guys on site at the Catalyst conference here in Atlanta.)
Integrity. We hear all about it today, or at least the lack thereof. Enron, Martha, fallen church leaders. We hear about the breakdown of integrity constantly, but we don't hear much about the upright, about those that do not and will not compromise their integrity. Those stories usually have to come out in our personal conversations and experiences.
At this year's Catalyst Conference, Andy Stanley spoke about integrity. In 1 Samuel 24:1-4a, David had the perfect opportunity to kill Saul, stop living like a bandit, and take over the leadership of Israel as God had promised. David had the opportunity to put an end to it when, in the only place in the Bible that it speaks of "relieving oneself," Saul enters a cave to do so. Consequently, Saul enters the cave that David and his men are hiding in.
But David didn't take offense. The perfect opportunity to move forward, to make progress, to "follow God's will," but he didn't take it. Why?
Continue reading Catalyst Dispatch: Andy Stanley on Integrity...
October 7, 2005
Leadership editor Marshall Shelley reports from Catalyst, a conference for young leaders.
After two days at the 2005 Catalyst Conference in Atlanta, I've picked up the mixed feelings that the emerging generation has about leadership. Even though Catalyst is billed as a conference for "young leaders," the attendees I've talked to don't openly aspire to leadership, at least not "the strong, dominant leader" model.
No one openly and forthrightly says (as I heard young people say 20 years ago), "I want to be a leader." Or "I hope to be a person of great influence someday." Instead, the conferees at Catalyst carefully parse the meaning of the word leadership. The attendees see the importance of good leadership, and everyone appreciates being in a group that's well-led. But when picturing such a group, very few mentally picture an individual leader. The mental image of a group that's well led doesn't have a clear and established leader. In fact, a person who identifies himself or herself as a leader, too openly, is viewed with suspicion and maybe even scorn.
The attitude is reminiscent of "the tall poppy syndrome"
Continue reading Catalytic Conversion...
October 6, 2005
Hello from the Catalyst conference in Atlanta. I just heard a new Guiness World Record set: more than 8,000 people sitting on Whoopee cushions simultaneously. It was explosive!
I am hopeful that the rest of the Catalyst conference will be as exhilerating, if not more substantive. If Andy Stanley's message this morning is any intication, it will be. More on Andy, other speakers, and the whole Catalyst experience later. Editor Marshall Shelley is here. He's taking good notes will share some thoughts. Carol, Cory, Jennifer, and Jesse from our Leadership team are also here. We're giving away 2 free copies of the Journal to the first 1,000 people who visit our booth, and one of them will receive $300 in iTunes.)
Five characteristics of a Catalyst leader:
1. Courageous in calling.
2. Engaged in culture. (Culture is not the enemy, but rather the environment we serve in, says Andy.)
3. Passionate about God.
4. Uncompromising in integrity. (The subject of Andy's message.)
5. Intentional in community.
October 4, 2005
Tony Campolo and Brian McLaren have much in common. They have been hailed and hammered, venerated and vilified. Lately they are said to have an orthodoxy that has become too generous. The pair was interviewed by Keith Matthews, former lead pastor with McLaren at Cedar Ridge Community Church in Cedarville, Maryland, and now a professor of theology at Azusa Pacific University. This is the first of four parts in our blog conversation.
Matthews: How do you both see yourselves - your calling within the evangelical church? Are you prophetic voices, reformers, or just agitators and rebels to the status quo?
McLaren: I think I'm more aware how others see me versus how I see myself in the evangelical world. I think a number of people see me as a problem, but I hear from an awful lot of other people who say they can't stay evangelical with the rising "religious right" identity - they are embarrassed to be associated with a lot of the people that they see on television representing evangelicals, they are embarrassed by the strident language, they are embarrassed by their narrowness, and they are looking for someone who speaks for them, someone like a Tony, or Jim Wallis or myself and say there's at least some alternative.
Campolo: I don't particularly know if we've become prophetic as much as returned to what we used to be, but now, the evangelical community has moved much farther to the right and has left many of us out their stranded - I think that's the best way to describe it.
You know, I basically believe the same stuff I did thirty years ago, but the world has changed and the sense of commitment to the poor and oppressed has taken on a different form.
Continue reading Campolo and McLaren: Prophets or Agitators?...
October 1, 2005
Meet the contributors and moderator of Out of Ur.
Continue reading Introducing Url and the Urthlings...