August 30, 2007
"Next to a church's preaching pastor, the most important staff member in the shaping of the message is the media pastor...The second hire in most congregations should be the media pastor."
-Eric Reed, managing editor of Leadership, reports this statement made by the media pastor of a multi-site church whose web address ends in dot-tv. in his report, "Preaching by Faith and by Sight: How oral communicators are joining the visual revolution" in the Summer 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.
August 28, 2007
Taking the gospel where people can taste and see that the Lord is good.
I've heard that the church is like a family. We've all been told the church is like a business. Now Leadership contributor, Chad Hall, explains that a missional church is like an ice cream truck. He may be on to something, but there will still be arguments about what kind of music to play.
My kids (6, 3, and 2 years old) LOVE the ice cream truck, and so do I. What's not to love? There we are, outside on a hot day playing in the yard or riding a bike or washing the car and out of nowhere we hear the faint melody of the ice cream truck. Like an unexpected friend dropping by, the ice cream truck rounds the corner and delivers delicious desserts in the middle of an otherwise humdrum day. It's a beautiful thing.
The ice cream truck reminds me of what it means to be a missional disciple. The ice cream truck driver has a wonderful gift he wants to bestow (okay, he's selling it ? every metaphor has its flaws, so let's ignore the mismatches, okay?). The driver also seeks out the very kinds of people who are ready and in want of the gifts he has. The driver does not sit in the parking lot of the old folks' home and wait for my family to drop what we are doing and come to him and get our cool treats. No, he comes to us. And we delight in what he brings.
Missional disciples also have a wonderful gift (Jesus), best offered to those who are in want.
Continue reading Missional Ice Cream...
August 23, 2007
Does Christian radio have more influence over your flock than you do?
Sola gratia, sola fide, sola scriptura,?sola radio? The following conversation is based on true events.
Church member: "Pastor, I'm very disturbed by something you said in your sermon yesterday."
Pastor: "I'm glad you came to talk with me about it. What's bothering you?"
Church member: "In the sermon you mentioned Erwin McManus."
Pastor: "That's right. I quoted something he said about church membership."
Church member: "Well, I'm very disturbed that you would reference someone like him in a sermon! McManus is part of the emerging church, and I have serious problems with their theology based on what I've heard on the radio."
Continue reading Thus Saith the Radio...
August 20, 2007
Expert advice from Leadership’s first sage, Fred Smith, Sr.
Leadership's longtime friend and sage Fred Smith, Sr., died on Friday, August 17, 2007 at age 91. Smith was an accomplished businessman, church leader, and mentor at the time Leadership journal was launched in 1980. He was featured in the first issue, and we have welcomed his sage advice in the journal's pages many times since.
When his health prevented him from leaving home for lectures and group meetings, Fred began inviting young leaders to his house for a weekly breakfast. That led to a website and new interaction with a new generation of leaders through his "Ask Fred" e-mails.
Even at his advanced age, Fred was learning what's really important in life and ministry. Here an excerpt from Fred's last article in 2005, the distillation of Fred's final years as a mentor.
It must be awfully safe to write to a 90-year-old, because I get lots of questions. Most of them deal with hard issues of character, spiritual growth, and suffering. I suspect many think of me as playing in my second overtime, so they assume that the answers may be coming from a little closer to heaven.
They tell me they believe I will give them an honest answer and that at my age I should have more answers than they do. I do my best to thoughtfully respond. But sometimes I just have to say, "I have been struggling with that same issue for all of my adult life, and I will be praying for you."
Continue reading 5 Guides for Today...
August 16, 2007
The purveyor of overpriced coffee has a lot to teach the church about community.
Once an article is published in Leadership one never knows the ripple effect it will have. Greg Asimakoupoulos, pastor of Mercer Island Covenant Church, wrote for Leadership about the community-forming power of Starbucks in his neighborhood. He confesses, "We like to say that our church is a genuine community of faith, the kind of place people can feel at home. Still, you may have to go down the block to get to see that become a reality for lots of people. We need to be honest and admit that people are lining up to get into Starbucks, but they aren't lining up to get into many of our churches."
For this reason Asimakoupoulos refers to the coffee shop as St. Arbucks.
This week, Terry Mattingly drew heavily from Asimakoupoulos' Leadership article for his column which appears in over 100 local newspapers and at GetReligion.com. Mattingly recognizes the draw of Starbucks as a "third place" - "a safe zone between home and office. For generations, bars, diners, barbershops and a host of other locations have played similar roles." And he notes, "This kind of hospitality has become rare in this rushed world."
Diversity is another strength Starbucks exudes more than most local congregations. Mattingly continues:
Writing in Leadership Journal, Asimakoupoulos noted: "At St. Arbucks, I've seen a rabbi mentoring a Torah student. A youth pastor disciplining a new convert. High school girls working on a group assignment. A book club sipping mochas while discussing a fiction author's plot." Could churches try to be more open to outsiders?
Continue reading Lessons from St. Arbucks...
August 14, 2007
Technology is changing the way we preach. Is this a good thing?
Twenty-five years ago, the film Tron was a revolution - the first movie to use digital animation extensively. But critics almost universally panned the movie. One said, "Tron is loaded with visual delights but falls way short of the mark in story and viewer involvement."
How can preachers avoid that same trap? With our increasing ability to produce "visual delights," can we forget what matters most? How can we use technology to help, not hinder, the proclamation of God's Word? At the most recent National Pastors Convention, we brought together three pastors to discuss these questions. Below is an excerpt from the conversation. You can find the full interview on Leadership's website.
How important is it to use 21st-century technology when communicating the gospel in the 21st century?
Shane Hipps: It's important only if we understand their innate bias, because media are not neutral tools. The media are messages in themselves, and every single medium you use carries a different message embedded in it.
I occasionally use visual media and technology as a crutch to help keep what I'm saying interesting. But when an 80-year-old woman who lived through the Great Depression stood up in my congregation and told a story, she didn't use any technology, and everyone was on the edge of their seats listening to her suffering and what she lived through.
As the medium, she was infinitely more powerful than any technology I could bring.
John Palmieri: I agree, to a point. Trying to more media-savvy than the world around us - that is a battle we will lose. And if I'm just trying to be "relevant," I'll probably miss the mark every time.
Continue reading The Tech Effect...
August 9, 2007
A New survey finds 70 percent of young adults stop attending church by age 23.
A new study reported by USAToday finds that a high percentage of young adults who attended church while in high school stop attending by age 23. The poll was conducted by LifeWay Research, an affiliate of the publishing arm of the Southern Baptist Convention. 70% of young adults drop out of Protestant churches, and 34% do not attend even sporadically after age 30. That means at least one in four young people who leave the church never return.
"This is sobering news that the church needs to change the way it does ministry," says Ed Stetzer who directed the study. "It seems the teen years are like a free trial on a product. By 18, when it's their choice whether to buy in to church life, many don't feel engaged and welcome," says the associate director Scott McConnell.
Part of the problem, says Stetzer, is the way many churches organize their student ministries. "Too many youth groups are holding tanks with pizza. There's no life transformation taking place," he says. "People are looking for a faith that can change them and to be a part of changing the world." It seems spiritual formation, not just spiritual entertainment, may be what young people are seeking from a church.
Continue reading Evangelical Drop-Outs...
August 7, 2007
"The modern, essentially atheistic mentality despises mystery and considers enchantment and befuddlement an affront to its democratic right to know--and then use--everything for purposes of individual fulfillment. This flattened mind loves lists, labels, solutions, sweeping propositions, and practical principles. The vast, cosmic claims of the gospel get reduced to an answer to a question that consumes contemporary North Americans, though it's hardly ever treated in Scripture: What's in it for me?"
-Will H. Willimon is bishop of the United Methodist Church, Birmingham (Alabama) Area. Taken from "Power Pointless: The way we distill the gospel for presentation can take the life out of it" in the Summer 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.
August 2, 2007
How visual technology always impacts what we preach.
Our friends at FaithVisuals.com recently spoke with Shane Hipps, author of The Hidden Power of Electronic Culture. We posted part one of the discussion last month where Hipps uncovered the ways electronic media affect our messages, and how it can be misused. In part two, he talks about what kinds of messages are well-served by electronic media. You can read more from Shane Hipps about the challenges of ministry in a visual culture in the summer issue of Leadership available now.
Speaking from a specifically church-based context, what kinds of messages are well-served by video or other visual media?
Any messages that demand sustained concentration and intellectual participation or engagement are not well-suited to a video medium. For example, the kind of abstract theological reasoning found in the letters of Paul is extraordinarily difficult to express and depict in visual imagery, since video and images offer impressions and evoke emotions. So, if the content that you want to communicate demands any kind of complex reasoning, images and video will actually work against your best efforts. This is one of the reasons that in the Middle Ages, when literacy rates plummeted and the dominant means of communication was stained glass windows, Paul's letters disappeared in the church. And it wasn't until after the print revolution that Luther "re-discovered" the epistles and basically elevated them above the stories of Jesus.
The question that we have to ask as leaders in the church as we consider using video and visual media is this: Are we inadvertently facilitating the disappearance of Paul again?
On an average Sunday, what are some practical ways that you think the church can use visual media without threatening the integrity of our message?
This question is an interesting one, because embedded in the question is the assumption that there is an "integrity of a message" - I don't think there is such a thing as a pure, unadulterated message.
Continue reading The Ever-Changing Message...