April 30, 2006
In part 1 of his post, Andy Rowell lamented the preoccupation his generation has for image management, and the way GenX church leaders have adopted this vice. In part 2 Andy offers a few antidotes to younger church leaders seeking a more genuine spirituality.
I think there are three dangers we need to be vigilant about. First, we need to beware of the tendency to be image-strong and content-weak. GenX ministries need to be careful about distinguishing themselves solely by their name and website. We want to convey, "This is not your average church." But we want to be better than the average church in substantial ways. In the end, it is not these three that remain: websites, jargon, and coffee. Let us teach better, worship better, and love better than the "average" church.
Second, we need to beware of our attention-getting tendencies.
Continue reading Image Isn’t Everything 2: depth and transparency offer hope for GenX...
April 27, 2006
Not long ago I attended a young adult ministry conference. My wife commented that I looked out of place because none of my clothing was torn. I showed her the frayed cuffs of my pants to verify my young-church-leader credentials. Andy Rowell was associate pastor at Granville Chapel, Vancouver, British Columbia, and recently became visiting instructor in biblical studies, Christian education, and philosophy at Taylor University in Indiana. Here Andy shares his concern over the image management that he sees driving the younger generation of pastors.
Perhaps you have noticed at your most recent pastor's conference that a number of young pastors have slipped away together. If you had followed them, you might have found them in a plain church basement room with chairs circled around together. And if you drew close enough to overhear them speaking, you might have heard, "Hello, my name is _________ and I'm an Image-Conscious GenX pastor." Unbeknownst to you, you would have stumbled into the latest booming group therapy movement.
All joking aside, I can't help but recognize the unease in my conscience about how image-conscious we are becoming as young pastors. I want to share with you some examples of the importance of image as well as some of my concerns about this tendency.
Continue reading Image Isn’t Everything: the uneasy conscience of a GenX pastor...
April 25, 2006
For decades churches have been experimenting with forms of communication, and one of the hallmarks of seeker churches has been the use of dramas in worship gatherings. It should come as no surprise that a church named Hot Metal Bridge Faith Community has chosen to push this experimentation to its logical end. The church has chosen to communicate biblical truths and narratives entirely through dramas - the sermon is no more.
Hot Metal Bridge has been getting a lot of press for its unusual worship format. Both The Wall Street Journal and the Today Show have run stories. Here is what some other media sources are reporting:
No one preaches at Hot Metal Bridge. Plays are its liturgy. Mr. Walker, a soon-to-be ordained United Methodist minister, leads the church with his friend Jeff Eddings, a Presbyterian seminarian. "Instead of coming to our church and listening to a sermon, you can be part of the sermon," Mr. Walker says.
Continue reading Drama King: one pastor drops preaching entirely for dramas...
April 19, 2006
Are you looking for new people to attend your church? Try eBay. In January, DePaul University graduate student, and committed atheist, Hemant Mehta listed his services on the auction site. Mehta promised to attend one hour of church for every ten dollars of the final bid.
Off the Map.org purchased the atheist's services for $504 and sent Mehta on his assignment to attend churches throughout the Chicago area. With an open mind, an outsider's perspective, and a dose of humor, Hemant has been reporting his findings on Off the Map's "Atheist Blog."
In a recent post, Mehta explained why he's addicted to Christian media. He began with his musings about TV preacher and megachurch pastor Joel Osteen:
I enjoy watching Joel [Osteen] for the same reason many Christians don't watch him? it's Christian-lite!
Continue reading The eBay Atheist: musings about the Christian media...
April 17, 2006
A surge of new books have hit store shelves about the challenges facing followers of Christ who live in the suburbs. Many voices are beginning to say that the lifestyle of the affluent suburbanite, while heralded for 50 years as the fulfillment of the American dream, may actually be detrimental to the Christian life and mission. In this post David Fitch, a pastor and professor in suburban Chicago, and a regular contributor to Out of Ur, addresses the difficulty of practicing the biblical discipline of hospitality in the isolation of the 'burbs.
My church is very much in the suburbs. Specifically, the northwest suburbs of Chicago. Strangely as these suburbs have become more diverse (conspicuously more Hispanic, Asian, as well as other ethnicities) they have become more starkly spatialized. Each family unit is isolated in its own house with fenced in yard and automatically-opening garage that can be driven into permitting all contact with the outside world to be avoided.
David Matzko McCarthy in his wonderful book, Sex and Love in the Home, describes the myth of this suburbia:
The dream of the suburbs is a self-sufficient home, inhabited by affable kin and grace with plenty of yard to provide a buffer between neighbors. The aim of suburban life is to choose a home and neighborhood where we can be happy, where people work hard and respect the ways of others, and where families get along on their own and come together for recreation and leisure?.The great pleasure of home ownership is freedom and autonomy.
Continue reading The Brutal 'Burbs: how the suburban lifestyle undermines our mission...
April 10, 2006
Two years ago, Mel Gibson's film, The Passion of the Christ, was marketed heavily to church leaders as "perhaps the best outreach opportunity in 2,000 years." Gibson stunned Hollywood naysayers by pocketing over $600 million as The Passion became the eighth highest grossing film of all time. By targeting churches The Passion may have uncovered the greatest marketing opportunity in 2000 years. But what about the film's spiritual impact - did The Passion deliver?
According to George Barna, it did not. Barna conducted an extensive survey of those who saw the film and concluded:
"Among the most startling outcomes?is the apparent absence of a direct evangelistic impact by the movie?. Less than one-tenth of one percent of those who saw the film stated that they made a profession of faith or accepted Jesus Christ as their savior in reaction to the film's content."
Either The Passion wasn't the greatest outreach opportunity in 2000 years, or churches simply squandered the opportunity it presented.
Continue reading The Passion Reloaded: is the silver screen really an outreach silver bullet?...
April 6, 2006
Last month I attended a "worship experience" that included smoke machines, lasers, digital graphic projections, and more flat panel screens than I could count. Technology is changing the way we worship, but what are we losing as a result? David Fitch, pastor of Life on the Vine Christian Community in Long Grove, Illinois, and author of The Great Giveaway (Baker, 2006), encourages us to use greater discernment when employing technology in worship.
I read a nice story recently about football player Jerome Bettis (aka "the Bus") returning home to Detroit for the Super Bowl. They described his whole journey and how he bought a house for his parents on a golf course in suburban Detroit. But he didn't stop there. Johnie Bettis, the running back's mother, recalls: "When Jerome found out we were going to the laundromat, he said that wasn't acceptable and told us to go get a new washer and dryer. But I kind of liked the laundromat because you get to meet so many interesting people."
Mrs. Bettis' comments reminded me how technology can change the inherent "good" of the basic practices of our lives. Technology, in this case a washer and dryer, means no longer needing to go to the laundromat. As a result, we lose the "good" of meeting and engaging interesting people in our lives. We must therefore discern whether more technology (buying a washer and a dryer, a cell phone, or Tivo) is a good idea by considering more than just the capitalist reasons: "it's more efficient," "it saves time," or "it just looks and feels so good."
Continue reading Disposable Worship: a caution about using too much technology in worship...
April 4, 2006
General Motors launched its Saturn brand in 1990 with the tag line, "A different kind of company, a different kind of car." GM believed they could carve out a market niche by addressing the collective American psyche's negative view of car dealers. They were right. Saturn's "no-haggle" sales policy earned it awards for customer satisfaction. In the car business, it pays to be different.
Dave Terpstra, pastor of The Next Level Church in Denver and a regular contributor to Out of Ur, has observed that many churches are adopting the "different is good" marketing strategy used by secular companies. (Who can forget, "Little. Yellow. Different."?) But by championing our differences, are we treating other churches like fellow communities of Christ, or like competitors?
Because my church's primary service is on Tuesday nights, I have the opportunity to visit other area churches at least once a month. I call it my church-of-the-month club. This past Sunday I read this in the bulletin of the church I visited: "[Church Name] is a different kind of church." They went on to explain how their church is for those who don't like organized religion or for people who have not had their needs met by a traditional church.
Continue reading A "Different" Kind of Church: how secular marketing is fueling church competition...