February 28, 2006
If Jesus walked into your church this Sunday and preached, what would he say? That's a question pastor Jim Martin has asked on his blog, A Place for the God-Hungry. Jim is pastor of Crestview Church of Christ in Waco, Texas, and below he shares his thoughts about what Jesus might say to the "mature" in his congregation.
I am thinking about my teaching/preaching. I am thinking about my words, my sermons, and the over all message these people hear.
I am thinking even more about my own life. At times, I feel like I have gotten lost in a system that has eaten me alive. At other times, I think that I am simply coming back to what really matters most to me. This is why I am thinking about the following two questions:
What if Jesus were the guest speaker at our church this Sunday? What would he say?
Continue reading What Would Jesus Preach?: Telling the Truth in Church...
February 25, 2006
Developing a multicultural congregation is something many people have talked about but few have done. David Anderson is one of the few. As founder and pastor of Bridgeway Community Church, a multicultural church in Columbia, Maryland, Anderson knows the challenges of ministry. But he encouraged pastors on Friday morning to never settle for less than what God has called us to.
An engaging and colorful storyteller, Anderson spoke about his recent purchase of a 1991 Ford F-150 pickup truck, and the thrill of shifting into all-wheel-drive when he got stuck in a snow filled ditch. After reveling in the masculinity of the moment (Anderson wants a bumper stick that simply declares "TESTOSTERONE"), he shared an important principle: in ministry we get stuck from time to time and we need to shift gears.
Continue reading National Pastors Convention 3: David Anderson Reminds Us “Shift Happens”...
February 23, 2006
I've heard Tony Campolo speak enough to know you're in trouble when he takes off his glasses and squints his eyes so tight they disappear into his skull. At that moment his brain is loading a spiritual bombshell into his mouth and preparing it for delivery. Campolo's bombs found their target on Wednesday night at the National Pastors Convention is San Diego.
He formed his talk around a sociological study (Campolo is a sociologist by training) conducted with people over the age of 95. The survey asked them, if you could do life over again what would you do differently? Most responses fell into three categories:
1. Reflect more
2. Risk more
3. Do more that will live on after I'm gone
While each of his points were powerful, I was especially impacted by Campolo's exhortation that church leaders take up their prophetical calling to be the opinion shapers of the culture - a calling that always involves risk.
Continue reading National Pastors Convention 2: Tony Campolo says “Risk More!”...
February 22, 2006
Leadership's editorial team is posting from sunny San Diego this week. We've gathered with 1700 other church leaders for the National Pastors Convention. At the opening session Methodist bishop Will Willimon spoke (with his charming and colorful Southern humor) about our pastoral tendency to control and squelch the Spirit of God.
Building his case from John 3 where Jesus speaks with Nicodemus about being born from above, Willimon found it interesting that the only person Jesus told, "You must be born again" was someone "like him" - a church leader. Nicodemus' responds to Jesus with a question church leaders can relate to, "How?"
"How?" is a question pastors ask a lot.
Continue reading National Pastors Convention: Will Willimon has Control Issues...
February 21, 2006
Many of the most prominent and influential ministries in the world are not churches. But, the spread of parachurch ministries in recent decades has caused some to wonder: do parachurches help or hurt local congregations? Dave Terpstra, pastor of The Next Level Church in Denver, believes he has found the perfect parachurch model.
Most churches offer a wide variety of ministries to various demographics: men, women, children, youth, etc. Some even specialize more than that: singles, divorc?s, re-marrieds, single mothers, etc. Some even go above and beyond with ministries outside of their church: prison ministry, homeless ministry, food closets, etc. But for every ministry inside of a local church, there are dozens of ministries that meet those needs outside of the church. There is Promise Keepers for men, Women of Faith for women, Young Life for the youth, Focus on the Family for the whole family ? I think you get the idea.
But do these ministries supplement the local church, or take from them?
Continue reading Searching for the Perfect Parachurch...
February 16, 2006
I just read about the latest form of oppression: Tivo Tyranny. It's the burden of having recorded too many TV shows, and now finding there's no way you're going to be able to watch them all.
Tivo has a feature that automatically records preselected shows week after week, or day after day, and that's created for some people a backlog that they'll never get through. The convenience of easily recording something now for viewing later has produced it's own overstuffed feeling.
It's just the latest example that, yes, we live in a "consumer culture." And whenever we consume, whether goods, products, or services, we're inclined to overindulge. And each new convenience, promising new kinds of freedom, can lead to its own form of bondage.
How can preachers effectively address people who are surrounded and saturated by their consumer culture?
Continue reading Tivo Tyranny and Preaching to Consumers...
February 13, 2006
We've gotten an interesting response to the current issue of Leadership, which deals with ministry amid a sexually charged culture, and which we titled "The Drive." Those who claim to get the journal for its articles have been overwhelmingly positive. But a number of subscribers can't get past the cover. Leadership's editor Marshall Shelley has some explaining to do.
The cover photo is a detail from the famous statue of Pallas-Athena that stands in front of the Parlament building in Vienna. Athena was the war goddess of ancient Greece, but also worshiped as the goddess of wisdom. The Viennese statue was erected as a tribute not only to Athena but also the four rivers that were once a part of the Austrian Empire: the Danube, Elbe, Po, and Vistula.
But it was neither the pagan inspiration nor the implied endorsement of Austrian imperialism that caused some of our readers to object. It was a bared marble breast that was visible on the statue.
Continue reading Leadership’s Cover Exposed: Is partially disrobed a total disgrace?...
February 8, 2006
In his earlier post, Dave Terpstra described why the spiritually mature find most churches ill-equipped to assist them in their growth. This, he says, is why the more mature often leave the church or disengage from active service. After reading your responses, Dave has returned with further thoughts about spiritual growth within, and without, the church.
When my friend's dad died it was a challenge to his faith to say the least. His dad was a long time follower of Christ and had been in full-time ministry for years. He seemed to be at the height of his ministry career. The he got sick and died. My friend didn't officially "leave" our church. But as best as I can remember he stopped serving. He stopped participating in programs. I rarely saw him at worship services. I'm sure he missed more than he made. But God was up to something amazing in his life and with his faith.
Some of the comments in response to my original article seemed to hold the viewpoint that my friend was being spiritually immature because he stopped serving. But to cut straight to the point, I trust his maturity more than those who would question it simply because he stopped serving for an indefinite period of time.
Continue reading Exit Stage Left 2: How the Spiritually Mature Reengage...
February 6, 2006
Last week the Oscar nominations were announced and Brokeback Mountain, popularly known as the "gay cowboy movie," has been nominated for more awards than any other film. Although not a financial blockbuster, the film has been heralded by critics as a cinematic triumph. Newsweek's Sean Smith wrote, "Brokeback feels like a landmark film. No American film before has portrayed love between two men as something this pure and sacred. As such, it has the potential to change the national conversation and to challenge people's ideas about the value and validity of same-sex relationships."
Despite Hollywood's growing appreciation for evangelical viewers (and evangelical money), Brokeback Mountain was not marketed to church-goers. However, after reviewing Brokeback on ChristianityTodayMovies.com we received the following letter from one Christian who saw Brokeback Mountain, and believes there may be a hidden blessing in this film for the church.
Thank you for your honest review of Brokeback Mountain. First, I want to point out that I am a born-again believer who has known the Lord for many years. I have also struggled with homosexuality most of my life. Because I accept the written word of God as truth, and because it teaches that homosexuality is sin, I have never accepted homosexuality as an acceptable orientation and lifestyle. For obvious reasons, I wasn't sure if seeing Brokeback Mountain would be good for me. But, I saw the film anyway and I am glad that I did.
Continue reading The Hidden Blessing of Brokeback Mountain...
February 1, 2006
Last month we looked at George Barna's new book, Revolution, which reveals that a growing number of people are seeking spiritual growth outside the institutional church. In this post Dave Terpstra, pastor at The Next Level Church in Denver and a regular contributor to Ur, explores why Barna may be correct. Although many will say preaching, music, or programs are why they left a church, Terpstra wonders if more people are simply outgrowing the church's ability to spiritually nourish their faith.
I'm sure there are just as many reasons that people leave churches as there are people who leave them. Perhaps more. In this consumer culture I'm sure that many people who leave churches are going to search for a better or newer "product." But recently I've wondered if some followers of Christ simply outgrow churches.
If you haven 't read the book The Critical Journey by Janet Hagberg and Robert Guelich (Second Edition, Sheffield Publishing 2005) you need to pick up a copy. Although the book's subject is spiritual formation and not church dynamics, it gives great insights into why people leave the church - reasons many pastors have likely never considered.
Continue reading Exit Stage Left: Why the Spiritually Mature are Leaving the Church...