May 29, 2007
Dan Kimball on the history and impact of consumer Christianity.
We caught up with Dan Kimball, pastor of Vintage Faith Church in Santa Cruz, California, and author of They Like Jesus but Not the Church (Zondervan, 2007), at a conference where he was talking to other leaders about consumerism and the church. Kimball says the size of a church isn't what makes it consumer driven, but how the leaders define success.
You've been talking to other pastors about consumerism in the church and the impact it's had on our theology. How do you begin to recognize that impact?
You hear a lot of the complaints and valid criticism about the church being "a provider of religious goods and services," as Darrell Guder says in the Missional Church. I started thinking about my own church and asking could the leadership be the ones who are really guilty of this? How did that happen?
I began to think about our meeting spaces. The early church met in homes where it is easier to participate, people can contribute, can be more vocal, make a meal, whatever. And then worship moved to the Roman basilicas and the format changed. People became more passive, but they still walked around and engaged. After the Reformation pews were brought in and people began to understand church different because they become passive. Expectations of a pastor and a leader become different. People expected us to do things for them.
So how has that translated into the church today?
We've been taught that this is how church goes. This is what you're supposed to do. But now we're making it better and bigger - better seating, better lighting, better sermons, better parking, better children's ministry, better youth ministry. We're simply fueling the whole thing.
Continue reading Vintage Consumerism...
May 23, 2007
Research shows pastors are the most satisfied professionals, but not everyone agrees.
Last month the Chicago Tribune reported that pastors are the happiest people on earth - really. Research done by the University of Chicago's National Opinion Research Center found that clergy ranked highest in job satisfaction and "general happiness." They even out ranked highly paid professionals such as doctors and lawyers.
The article reports:
Eighty-seven percent of clergy said they were "very satisfied" with their work, compared with an average 47 percent for all workers. Sixty-seven percent reported being "very happy," compared with an average 33 percent for all workers.
"They look at their occupation as a calling," Carroll said. "A pastor does get called on to enter into some of the deepest moments of a person's life, celebrating a birth and sitting with people at times of illness or death. There's a lot of fulfillment."
Can this possibly be true?
Continue reading Happy Shiny Pastors...
May 22, 2007
Curious about the future values of the church? Tic Long says look at the teenagers today.
In this final installment of Angie Ward's report on the impact of youth ministry on the American church she talks more with Tic Long, Youth Specialties' president of events. Long shares his thoughts on the lasting impact youth ministry has had on the larger church, and what current trends among teens will continue to gain momentum among evangelicals in the decades ahead.
As youth ministry becomes firmly ensconced in middle age, it is appropriate as in any mid-life crisis to pause for reflection and evaluation. Indeed, youth ministry has made quite an impression on the American church landscape. Here are some of its greatest legacies thus far:
1. Better preaching and teaching.
"They're going to kill me for saying this," Tic Long said, "but youth workers are often better communicators than pastors. They may not be better preachers, but they know how to grab the attention of middle-school and high-school students pretty quickly; kids who aren't in the habit of being polite to just listen.
"As a youth worker, you learn to be a good communicator," he continued. "A lot of the good communicators today cut their teeth communicating to students."
In addition, youth workers such as Bill Hybels initiated the movement toward application-oriented communication. If God's word is not viewed as relevant, people will not be interested in hearing it.
Continue reading How Teenagers Transformed the Church (part 3)...
May 18, 2007
In part 2, Angie Ward continues her reflection on the emergence of youth ministry and its impact on the church. The first generation of youth ministers, she points out, grew up to lead the seeker-driven movement that has dominated evangelicalism for 30 years. And now we are seeing the second generation of youth pastors bringing their own new ideas to the church. Although the seeker church movement and emerging church movement appear quite divergent, their common roots in youth ministry mean they share a common value - innovation.
"In youth ministry, you get permission to break the rules," explained Doug Pagitt, a former youth worker and now the founding pastor of Solomon's Porch in Minneapolis. "Youth pastors get to do things that other people don't get to do. Youth ministry requires that you break the conventions to connect with teenagers. If breaking the rules is permissible in youth ministry, then why is it not permissible in a broader scope of ministry?"
Tic Long agrees. "You experiment and question a lot in your teens and twenties, and a lot of youth workers are in their twenties," he said. "They don't have all the vested interests and encumbrances that the larger church or the senior pastor has. They're not running the budget; they're not responsible for the whole machine. I think it's a breeding ground for creativity."
In 1972, a college-aged youth worker named Bill Hybels started a youth program at South Park Church outside of Chicago. Similar to the para-church model popularized by Young Life and Youth for Christ, Son City featured high-energy games, skits, and a dynamic, engaging talk by the young Hybels. The idea was to make the program so good that Christians would invite their non-Christian friends to the event. It was Jim Rayburn's ministry philosophy, "It's a sin to bore a kid with the gospel," applied to the church. And it was a huge evangelistic success.
Continue reading How Teenagers Transformed the Church (Part 2)...
May 16, 2007
"With the performance pressures church leaders face today, it's a wonder more are not flaming out. I wish more churches could talk honestly about the ministry systems that perpetuate the problem. What will have to happen before we change? For how long will we ignore the health of our leaders' souls and focus only on their performance?"
-Mindy Caliguire is a director with the Spiritual Formation Alliance. Taken from "Soul Train: Learning to minister at the speed of your soul." in the Spring 2007 issue of Leadership journal. To see the quote IN context, you'll need to see the print version of Leadership. To subscribe, click on the cover of Leadership on this page.
May 14, 2007
The rise of youth culture 50 years ago explains the shape of the church today.
Seeker churches, emerging churches, ancient-future churches, mega-churches, house churches, Boomer churches, Gen-X churches. There is a debate occurring in American evangelicalism about the future of Christianity and what form the church should take within our culture. But is it possible that these divergent philosophies of ministry actually originated from the same source? In the coming days Angie Ward will be sharing multiple reports about the emergence of youth culture, and youth ministry, in recent American history and how this phenomenon gave rise to both the seeker movement and later the emerging church.
The end of World War II ushered in the beginning of the baby boom: 76 million American babies born between 1946 and 1964. As these baby boomers grew up, they gave birth to their own youth culture. The advent of youth culture gave rise to a new profession: youth ministry.
Fast forward nearly 40 years. Some of those youth leaders have become some of the nation's most influential pastors. Meanwhile, many of their former students have themselves gone into ministry, not without their own adolescent rebellion in the form of a movement toward ecclesiological deconstruction. And now a third generation of youth, the millennials, is just beginning to make their mark on the church.
Youth ministry has significantly altered the course of American church history. The youth group of today is the church, and its leaders, of tomorrow. How did this shift occur, and what can we infer about the future of the church based on current trends in youth ministry?
Continue reading How Teenagers Transformed the Church (Part 1)...
May 9, 2007
Scot McKnight says the church�s problem is rooted in what we preach.��
A few weeks ago Dave Johnson questioned our adherence to a gospel that does not call forth or expect transformation in our lives. In this post professor and blogger extraordinaire Scot McKnight continues the discussion. He contends that many of the problems facing the contemporary church can be traced to the individualistic gospel we preach. Both Johnson and McKnight will be featured presenters at the upcoming Spiritual Formation Forum in June.
When I was in high school, my youth pastor ? may his soul rest in peace ? opened his home to me and my girlfriend, Kris (now my wife). David King became our personal theologian and one thing that impressed me deeply at the time was this contention of his: he often contended in a rather robust manner that every problem that he encountered as a pastoral counselor could be traced to a "spiritual" problem.
Most of us would not agree with this conclusion, but many of us would contend that we do need to do more "systemic" analysis to find the underlying issues that give rise to many of the problems we now face in the Church. I'd like to suggest a significant underlying issue that gives rise to more than one problem today.
Because of some research I did on the "gospel" in the Bible, leading to a book called Embracing Grace, I have come to a conclusion not unlike that of David King: namely, when I see "problems" or "issues" in the Church, I often say to myself, "What kind of gospel would have been preached and responded to that would give rise to this kind of practice, problem, or theology?" At the bottom of lots of our problems is a "gospel" problem. Students of mine that grow up in Christians homes often admit to me that the gospel they grew up was this: Jesus came to die for my sins so I could go to heaven. This parody of the biblical gospel, I contend, is at the heart of many of our problems.
Continue reading Getting the Gospel Right...
May 5, 2007
A rant from the pastor of a small, organic, missional community.
Crack your knuckles and prepare to type your comments. Pastor/professor David Fitch is back with his take on why leading a small church is more difficult, and more rewarding, than being a mega-church pastor.
My recent conversation with Bill Kinnon over the big church superstar mentality spurred me on to think of my own experience as a church planter. I have often pondered the church planter's task versus the mega church pastor's. To me, what the smaller, organic, missional community leaders do is much more difficult. Here's why.
It is more difficult to take 10 people and grow a body of Christ to 150 than it is to transplant 200 or 300 people and then grow that congregation to 5,000. A crowd draws a crowd. From day one if you have all the bells and whistles, 5 full time pastors, a youth program, and a charismatic speaker with spiked hair (a shot not aimed at anyone in particular) and you don't mind putting the smaller community churches out of business, it will be harder to stop attracting a big crowd.
(BTW, did you know that statistics say that small church growth (from 10-150) is where the conversion growth, as opposed to transfer growth, occurs? Why then do evangelicals exalt the mega congregations as the answer to reaching those outside of Christ?)
Continue reading Good Things Come in Small Congregations...
May 3, 2007
What are your captions for this cartoon by Dik LaPine? We know Out of Ur and Leadership readers will have some great ones on this theme.
Winning entries will be published in the Summer 2007 edition of Leadership. Please include your name, your church’s name, city, and state.
May 1, 2007
The pros and cons of Hollywood marketing more movies at Christians.
Films have been a popular subject on Out of Ur. That might seem odd for a blog devoted to issues facing church leaders. But in recent years films have become a testing ground for evangelical engagement with popular culture - a topic ripe with implications for our philosophy of ministry and approach to mission.
Our colleagues at Christianity Today Movies have a thought provoking article about the lucrative niche market for Christian films. Some of Hollywood's evangelical insiders gathered for a conference in Los Angeles recently to discuss the trend, and CT's Jeffery Overstreet was there. His full report can be read on the CT Movies site, but we've included a few excerpts below.
It is a complicated, difficult, exciting time for Christians involved in movies, TV, and digital media. As Hollywood rushes to capitalize on money to be made in the "faith market," each of the panel's experts has been caught up in the action.
The panelists agreed that Christians must overcome many challenges in order to make faith an acceptable topic in American art and entertainment again. But how should Christians go about that? And are these new "faith-based entertainment" divisions at major studios going to help us?
Continue reading Lights…Camera…MISSION!...