December 27, 2007
A year ago on this blog it seemed hard to imagine that 2007 would surpass 2006 in traffic and participation, but that is exactly what happened. Thanks to the thousands of Ur-banites that read this blog everyday and drive the conversation, 2007 has been the best since Out of Ur launched in '04. Thanks for sharing your time and insights with us. You've made this blog an engaging place to discuss the intersection of ministry, culture, and theology.
Here are the top ten posts from 2007. These were not determined by the editors, but by Ur's visitors. These are the posts which received the most traffic and provoked the most comments.
Willow Creek Repents?
Why the most influential church in America now says "We made a mistake."
Heresy on Tour?
Popular pastor/author Rob Bell's controversial message: God loves you.
Continue reading Top 10 Posts of 2007...
December 20, 2007
Challenge your congregation and share the real meaning of giving this Christmas.
Earlier this month Skye Jethani posted about the obstacles we face during the Advent season, and his church’s attempts to overcome the busyness and materialism of the season. Last week, David Swanson reported on the new film What Would Jesus Buy and Reverend Billy’s crusade to rescue Christmas from consumerism.
In keeping the Out of Ur’s theme this December we’re happy to share with you that our friends at Faith Visuals are offering a series of free Christmas/Advent videos. These vids all focus on consumerism, priorities, and giving. You might find them useful and inspiring personally and for your congregation.
Check out the videos at FaithVisuals.com.
December 18, 2007
Learning to trust older leaders may protect us from the hype surrounding younger ones.
In part 1, Chad Hall questioned the emergence of popular young church leaders. Through their books, conferences, and postcasts these "new bishops" are attracting a great deal of attention. Hall wondered if their status was the result of their genuine spiritual authority, or the cleaver marketing of Christian publishers. In part 2, Hall suggests ways we can respond to these pastor celebrities without falling prey to the hype.
How can Christ-followers navigate the era of new bishops and guard against theology by marketing majority? Here are a few ideas?
First, let's not forget that faithfulness to God often does entail faithfulness to leaders. Leaders discerning God's movement and directing others toward faithfulness is Biblical. We happen to live in a world where we get to choose our leaders, and we should choose wisely. I hear some ministers today who almost seem unwilling to follow anyone other than themselves. Being your own bishop is not healthy.
Second, let's be savvy in noting the complex relationship between following and consuming.
Continue reading The Rise of the New Bishops- Part 2...
December 14, 2007
Who has chosen the new crop of celebrity church leaders—the people or the publishers?
After reporting on Rob Bell's tour last month, Chad Hall has been wondering about the influence of young Christian leaders like Bell. Are these "new bishops" the result of a generation searching for leaders outside traditional church structures, or are they a product of publishers and slick marketing?
I’ve been thinking lately about how influential a few leaders are in evangelical Christian America – especially among younger Christ-followers. Such leaders exercise a tremendous amount of influence on the thought and practice of other church leaders. I’ve come to think of them as the real bishops of today.
Just like the earliest church fathers, today’s bishops earnestly seek to discern what faithfulness is and then dispense their discernment among followers. Oh yes, and just like the old bishops, the new ones sometimes disagree and dispute what it means to be faithful and the dispute can carry over to their followers (as an earlier post re: Rob Bell and Mark Driscoll demonstrated).
So what gave rise to these new bishops? Three primary factors…
First, denominations are waning and few church leaders look to denominational leaders as experts on how to think theologically or practice church ministry well. Even in traditions who ordain bishops, the influence of these leaders to affect the thought and practice of those they serve is diminishing.
Continue reading The Rise of the New Bishops...
December 11, 2007
A prophetic documentary preaches a message that should be coming from the church.
Last winter Pastor Dave Swanson was Out or Ur's man on the street at the Sundance Film Festival. His reports sparked an excellent discussion about the impact of films on culture and theology. Swanson is back with a review of a new documentary about the evils of consumerism, and he wonders - why isn't the church preaching about this?
I don't remember when or how I first stumbled onto the website for Reverend Billy's Church of Stop Shopping
. After watching video clips online of the reverend preaching his anti-consumerism gospel, I wasn't sure what to make of this secular evangelist. The confusion was cleared up last Friday evening after watching the new documentary about Reverend Billy, What Would Jesus Buy?
The film raises important questions, but first a bit of context. Bill Talen was born into a Dutch Calvinist family in the Midwest. After moving to the west coast to pursue acting, Talen developed the Reverend Billy character before relocating to New York City where the character would reach maturity. While other street preachers were condemning the sex shops in Times Square, the Reverend Billy was using his pulpit to preach against consumerism.
Eventually his combination of street performance, activism, and evangelistic zeal attracted enough of a following to loosely form the Church of Stop Shopping complete with an energetic gospel choir. This is where the film picks up the story.
Continue reading The Church of Stop Shopping...
December 7, 2007
What evangelicals heard in Romney’s ‘Faith in America' speech.
From time to time this blog has addressed issues of faith and politics. In September, Isaac Canales shared his views about the church's response to illegal immigration. Brian McLaren has spoken here about the demise of the Religious Right. And we've debated Greg Boyd's belief that America's status as a "Christian nation" is a myth.
Yesterday, a leading candidate for the Republican presidential nomination gave a speech concerning "faith in America." Mitt Romney's Mormon religion has increasingly become an issue in the campaign - particularly as his sizable lead in Iowa has been lost to Baptist pastor turned politician, Mike Huckabee. But what impact will Romney's speech have on the crucial conservative evangelical voters that populate the base of the Republican Party? Will they overlook his Mormon faith and focus on common ground values? Or will theological differences trump political ideology?
Our colleague at Christianity Today, David Neff, has analyzed Romney's speech. We encouraged you to read his article on the CT website and then share your impressions here. Below are a few excerpts from the article:
After promising, "I will put no doctrine of any church above the plain duties of the office and the sovereign authority of the law," Romney resisted those who would want him to put distance between himself and his faith. "That I will not do. I believe in my Mormon faith and I endeavor to live by it.
Continue reading Are You Ready for a Mormon President?...
December 5, 2007
"The old paradigm of evangelism was a transactional sharing of the gospel. I would try to get people to intellectually agree with me. But the new paradigm is different, an approach in which I invite you to walk alongside me, examine my life, and see evidence of the truth, and hopefully there will be something compelling that you see. It's a no-strings-attached invitation to enter my life as I follow Jesus."
-Ken Fong is the senior pastor of Evergreen Baptist Church of Los Angeles. Taken from "5 Kinds of Christians" in the Fall 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.
December 3, 2007
How is your church combating the busyness and materialism of the season?
Last week my wife and I got all of our Christmas shopping done - in one day. This blitzkrieg approach has become a tradition for us. It's like pulling a tooth; better to have the whole thing out at once. In the evening we treated ourselves to a victory dinner at a restaurant. While savoring my accomplishment and my meal, I watched A Charlie Brown Christmas on the television above the bar. Ah, Christmas in America - spend all day battling the crowds at the mall and have Luke chapter 2 recited to you by a cartoon character at night.
Many have lamented the way our culture has "taken Christ out of Christmas," and in recent years we've heard conservative pundits freak out when retailers wish customers a "Happy Holiday" rather than "Merry Christmas." But even for those of us in the church, aware of the season's spiritual significance, and determined to celebrate the advent of the Messiah, this month still poses many challenges. Let's face it, focusing on God in our society is always difficult and the added stress of the holidays only makes things harder.
Four years ago we decided to shift the way our church engaged Advent. We came to see that December posed unique challenges for our people, and if these obstacles were left unchecked they would significantly interrupt our mission to be formed into the image of Christ. For this reason our church is taking some intentional steps to help people commune with God this Christmas in a counter-cultural way.
Continue reading The Obstacles of Advent...