June 28, 2006
Most people spend a significant part of the week looking at screens; television screens, movie screens, computer screens - in fact, you're looking at one right now. But traditionally Sunday morning was not a screen-time. Then came PowerPoint. First the hymnal was replaced and now many churches are substituting 3-D preachers with 2-D digital projections. Shane Hipps, Lead Pastor of Trinity Mennonite Church in Phoenix, Arizona, has written a new book that asks us to explore the implications of new technology on our ministries. Below is an excerpt from The Hidden Power of Electronic Culture: How Media Shapes Faith, the Gospel, and Church (Zondervan, 2006). To get more background on Hipps' understanding of how mediums impact our message be sure to read his previous post.
One of the increasingly popular initiatives in the North American evangelical church is the use of multi-site, video-venue worship services. This is a model where multiple congregations are sprinkled throughout a city or campus, but one preacher is piped in to each gathering via video. Its proponents argue such a method offers the best of both worlds - you don't have to commute, you get to worship your way, and you don't have to sacrifice great preaching.
I was visiting a church recently on the day they were launching their multi-site service. I watched the sermon live, while two other gatherings in other parts of the city watched via a large projection screen. It was a stellar sermon by an extraordinarily gifted preacher well-known in the Christian subculture. But the most striking feature of the sermon was that his message was being directly contradicted by his medium - the video venue.
Continue reading Video Venues and the Papacy of Celebrity: Why changing the methods always changes the message...
June 23, 2006
Some churches are more unstable than others. This may not be the result of impulsive leadership or poor planning, but rather the life stage of the congregation. Dave Terpstra pastors The Next Level Church in Denver, a community comprised primarily of young singles and families. Here, Dave compares the instability of church attendance to the half-life of radioactive material and gives some helpful suggestions from his own experience.
I have noticed a trend in the churches of which I have been a part. Most church attenders have a half-life. In other words, on average, one can predict the longevity of an individual's participation in the church by their life stage. [I'm going to be using general terms and rough numbers so please don't get lost in the details, but try and stick with the overarching analogy.]
After high school students graduate from high school, about half of them will leave the church. After college students graduate, about half of them will leave. When a college grad takes a career, again half of them leave the church. When they get married, when they have kids, when they become empty nesters, when they retire?half, half, half, half.
Continue reading Radioactive Church Attendance: predicting your congregation’s half-life...
June 19, 2006
Thank you Hollywood. Thank you Warner Brothers. Thank you director Brian Singer. Thank you for leaving me and my church alone!
Next week the highly anticipated film "Superman Returns" debuts in theaters. Early reviews are incredibly positive, and some are predicting the return of the original superhero to the silver screen will break box office records. But the web is also chatting about the movie's apparently overt Christian themes. That made me wonder - why didn't I receive any marketing materials at my church? Why no posters, toys for the children's ministry, or helpful super-sermon ideas? Why wasn't America's comic book messiah marketed to Christians?
CNN's entertainment page is running an article titled "Jesus Christ Superman" that discusses the film's Christian credentials. Billed as a sequel to the original movie directed by Richard Donner in 1978, "Superman Returns" has a digitally resurrected Marlon Brando playing Superman's "heavenly" father that has sent is only son to earth as a "light to show the way."
Continue reading The Second Coming of Superman: Finally, a "Christian" movie not marketed to churches...
June 15, 2006
In May, NY Times book reviewer Michiko Kakutani surveyed seventeen books written about the leadership of President Bush. Her article, which summarized what Bush’s fans and critics have observed about his leadership style, caught the attention of Out of Ur blogger Andy Rowell. Andy is a teacher of church leadership at Taylor University and a former pastor. In part 2 of his post, he reminds us that some bureaucracy may actually be good, and he champions the value of transparency.
Lesson 3: Remember that some policies and procedures created generations before us actually make sense.
There is nothing more annoying than a policy that does not make sense to us. There certainly may be policies on the books at your church that no longer fulfill their original intended functions.
By all accounts, President Bush inherited a dysfunctional overly bureaucratic intelligence establishment. Sensing this, the Bush administration created a special office to look into the evidence for Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. In doing so, they unintentionally avoided experts and procedures that would have noticed and corrected some of the weaknesses in the intelligence gathering methods and conclusions.
Continue reading The President & The Pastor (part 2): more lessons from George W. Bush’s brave/reckless leadership style...
June 13, 2006
In 2000, Bill Hybels invited President Clinton to speak at Willow Creek's Leadership Summit. The controversial move was based on the assumption that pastors could learn from Clinton's leadership experience - both his triumphs and his mistakes. Following this tradition Ur blogger, Andy Rowell, examines President Bush's leadership style to glean wisdom for ministers. Andy teaches church leadership at Taylor University in Upland, Indiana, and previously served as the Associate Pastor at Granville Chapel in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Pulitzer prize-winning NY Times book critic Michiko Kakutani reviewed seventeen recent books about President George W. Bush in her May 11, 2006 article entitled "Critic's Notebook: All the President's Books (Minding History's Whys and Wherefores)." She concludes that Bush's supporters and critics agree on one thing - that he often ignores advice and chains of command in decision-making. While this approach has the potential to bring fresh ideas to useless bureaucracy, it can also lead to poor decisions. Kakutani's article raises serious questions about the decision-making processes of the Bush administration. Still, the breadth of her reading, her attempt to make her points without partisan exaggeration, and her thorough documentation, make the article wonderful fodder for anyone (Bush fan or hater) seeking to learn about leadership.
In particular it seems that young pastors like me [I'm thirty years old] can learn much from the effects of President Bush's brave/reckless leadership style. As young pastors we can easily spot things that look outdated or overly bureaucratic. We can walk into a room and have a vision for how things could be spruced up. In some ways, young pastors are in demand precisely for these instincts. We have fresh eyes to old problems. We have fresh energy to tackle big challenges. And yet, Bush's example reminds us to take care as we lead.
Continue reading The President & The Pastor: lessons from George W. Bush’s brave/reckless leadership style...
June 9, 2006
The summer issue of Leadership, arriving in mailboxes in July, focuses on the impact of consumerism on ministry. Some people have equated the church growth movement with the rise of "consumer Christianity." Others believe the church growth philosophy has brought innovation and health to ministry.
Our friends at ChurchMarketingStinks.com are hosting an interesting conversation on the blessing/curse of the church growth movement. Here is a sample.
Start talking about church growth and things can get ugly. Eyebrows raise. Tempers flare. Comments explode. Just ask any blogging pastor who has broached the subject. It's as if growing your church is taking the on-ramp to the highway to hell.
Continue reading Is Church Growth the Highway to Hell?...
June 6, 2006
Recent posts on Ur have focused on the nature of Emergent - is it liberal Christianity recast for a new generation, or simply a forum of conversation for those looking for a better understanding of their faith? Critics have accused Emergent's better known participants, Tony Jones and Brian McLaren, of being evasive with answers to pointed doctrinal questions. In response, Jones and McLaren have pointed to the importance of dialogue and thoughtful questions over definitive answers.
Ed Gungor's new book, Religiously Transmitted Diseases (Nelson Ignite, 2006), equates definitive answers with "dead religion." In this excerpt from the book, Gungor affirms the life-giving role of mystery within our faith.
I think Christianity is supposed to be the unreligion. That's because the strictness and predictability of religion causes simple, pure faith to become diseased. If not stopped, religion can even kill living faith. And dead things just aren't very interesting. Case in point?
I was eleven years old the first time I dissected anything. I was on a scouting trip. Armed with flashlights, a few of us wandered into the woods after dark to explore. Joe was the first to spot him. He was a pretty good-sized frog. And he was quick. Flashlights and size 8 feet darted every which way as we scrambled to grab him. Something in us boys wanted to know what was inside that frog, what made that living thing alive.
Continue reading Is Jesus the Answer or the Question?: rediscovering the role of mystery in our faith...
June 1, 2006
Dallas Willard has said that most churches are not intending to produce disciples, but increase their ABC's - attendance, buildings, and cash. Dave Terpstra, pastor of The Next Level Church in Denver and regular contribut-Ur, believes many church leaders focus on these tangible measurements of success because they are simply easy to quantify. In recent months, Terpstra and his elders have been stretched to think differently about discerning ministry success by reading Jim Collins' advice to non-profit organizations. The respected author of Good to Great believes churches and businesses must evaluate success differently.
Jim Collins recently wrote a monograph to accompany his best-selling book "Good to Great" where he examines the application of his book in the social sectors. He was also interviewed on the subject of his monograph for the current issue of Leadership.
In both the monograph and his interview Collins emphasized the importance of being disciplined as an organization in defining goals and assessing results. But the most intriguing aspect of Collins' work is what he suggests true goals and results for not-for-profits should be (and should not be).
Quickly after entering church leadership, most individuals realize that churches find value in the intangibles. Whereas businesses exist to make money for their shareholders, churches and other not-for-profits exist for something else. Collins suggests that one of the biggest mistakes those of us in the social sector make is to follow the business sector in thinking that money is a goal or output of our church.
Continue reading Beyond Bodies, Bucks, and Bricks: Jim Collins on how churches should measure success...