June 30, 2008
A prophetic illustration by Tim Ayers in 1994.
June 27, 2008
Christians on the air aren't the only ones guilty of sappy sentimentality.
It's official: I'm tuning out of Christian radio.
When some of the Christian radio stations in my area shifted their play lists from Southern gospel, country Christian and syndicated preaching, I took notice. I was thrilled to have airwave access to what I considered great Christian music. And I found myself tuning in more often.
But even my favorite stations have started losing me in recent months. What led me to reprogram my car radio and cancel my monthly $10 pledges? Three things.
First, I've noticed a growing level of - how shall I say this? - sappiness. Yeah, that's the word. It's not so much the music that's sappy (some of it is); it's the commentary, news stories, and contests that combine to present Christianity as synonymous with sentimentality. I live in a real world that's not always positive and encouraging, so Christian radio's steady diet of sugary spirituality doesn't promote sustaining faith.
June 26, 2008
Can a church be attractional and missional at the same time?
A few weeks ago Skye Jethani had the opportunity to speak with Alan Hirsch about the definition of "missional." Hirsch expressed concern that the word was being redefined and its true meaning lost. This week Skye sat down with Dan Kimball, pastor of Vintage Faith Church and a regular contributor to Leadership and Out of Ur. Kimball had a slightly different take on the word, and he believes a more traditional, attractional, model of church can also be missional. This podcast jumps right into the conversation between Jethani and Kimball.
To download this episode of Audio Ur, click here.
June 25, 2008
Marshall Shelley responds to Willow’s Revealing YouTube video.
In October 2007, Out of Ur posted what has now become a much read and much quoted commentary that we titled "Willow Creek Repents?" It was based on comments that Bill Hybels and Greg Hawkins, Willow Creek's executive pastor, presented at The Leadership Summit 2007, announcing the release of Reveal, a book emerging from an extensive study of Willow and other churches.
Earlier this month, Bill Hybels and Jim Mellado, president of the Willow Creek Association, posted a video on YouTube objecting to the "misinformation" published by Out of Ur and our sister publication Christianity Today regarding Reveal.
The week following the release of the video, I went to South Barrington to meet with leaders of Willow Creek to hear their concerns face to face, which was a very helpful experience. They shared with me new approaches to ministry prompted by Reveal that are in process and things they are not ready to have published. I will honor their trust. I certainly affirm the steps Willow is taking to more effectively turn irreligious people into fully devoted followers of Christ.
I do need to respond publicly to two items that were aired in the YouTube video.
June 20, 2008
Ed Young Jr. responds to your questions about church piracy.
UrL: Some people are taking issue with the idea that a pastor's sheep can be stolen because the sheep really belong to Christ. Where do you think the church member's loyalty should reside - with Christ, the church, the pastor, or all three?
Ed Young Jr.: I agree that church members and attendees don't belong to the pastor. They are God's people, called by him to serve him above all. Pastors are called to shepherd them, not own them.
The issue of pirating, though, isn't about the members' loyalty or about attendees finding another church. We tell people all the time that if Fellowship Church isn't for them, they should leave. And we lovingly direct them to any one of the phenomenal churches in our area.
The issue with pirating is all about what happens in the church leadership - specifically the staff. I've discovered there are several types of people around you: those who are with you, those who are for you, and those who use you. Pirates are the ones you thought were with you, but who end up using you for their own agenda. They are the people you, as a leader, pour your heart into. They're the people you laugh with, cry with, and share your life with, the ones you mold and shape.
Pirating rears its ugly head when those leaders that you cultivate work behind your back (and the church's back) maliciously and intently to gather their own "kingdom" and head out the door. The real issue is betrayal.
I have no problem with leaders being cultivated in the church and then being sent out to start new churches. But the key is that they are sent. When someone on your staff usurps the authority of the church, starts a rogue movement, and does their own thing, then you are dealing with a pirate.
June 16, 2008
Is the hottest new Christian novel an exercise in heresy?
A graduate professor of mine liked to say that every attempt to explain the Trinity is heresy - every metaphor overemphasizes either God's one-ness or his three-ness. In his bestselling novel, The Shack, William P. Young tries to explain the Trinity. You can see where this is going.
Now currently at number eleven in book sales at Amazon.com and number nine on the USA Today Top 50 Books list, The Shack began as the self-published debut novel of an unknown writer. It has sold like hotcakes: somewhere around 500,000 copies (depending on who you ask) in less than a year. However you feel about the book, the story of its success is remarkable; all the more so considering that the content is unashamedly Christian.
June 13, 2008
There is a difference between church planting and church plundering.
When I posted the "church pirate" video on my blog last month, I knew there would be response. I hoped there would be. And based on the amount of response I've received, this topic is one that reaches deep and cuts close for many, many church leaders.
I didn't shoot this video as a personal vendetta. This wasn't based on some fleeting emotion. It wasn't done out of spite. I did this video because pirating is something that I have seen happen to far too many churches.
Too many people have joined the movement of a certain church only to later siphon resources (staff, money, etc.) from that church and begin their own work just down the street. Rather than partnering, they are pillaging. And it has led to the damage and destruction of many good churches and great church leaders.
My hope is that as light is shed on this controversial and often taboo topic we, as church leaders, can have some healthy discussion about the reality of planting versus pirating. And as the dialogue continues, I pray that we can all join together to support those leaders who are truly starting new churches the right way and finally keep the pirates at bay.
-Ed Young Jr. is the founding and senior pastor of Fellowship Church in Grapevine, Texas.
June 12, 2008
How multi-ethnic should your church staff be? Should churches have hiring quotas to ensure diversity? In the spring issue of Leadership, Mark DeYmaz, pastor of Mosaic Church in Little Rock, Arkansas, discusses the importance of being intentional about diversity.
To download this episode of Audio Ur, click here.
June 10, 2008
David Fitch responds to your comments.
In his first post, David Fitch argued that all converts are not necessarily the same in terms of time and context, and that emerging/emergent, neo-monastic communities, and megachurches each minister in different contexts and, in some cases, with different purposes. In this post, David responds to a few of the many comments his post inspired.
From Leonard: If missional churches don't last for more than three years, then someone needs to rethink how they are planted, who is planting them, and exactly what their mission is. If churches are not making converts in this culture then we need to ask hard questions about boldness, methods, and not being distracted from the truth that brings grace.
DF: Leonard, I think we agree. I think it is the expectations placed upon missional planters from exterior sources that inhibit their success. We need to prepare missional church plant leaders to set entirely different expectations (including being bi-occupational, indeed self supporting). Your second point reverts back to my suggestion that converts take more time in post-Christendom.
From Mike h: 1) One of the beauties of the organic church is not how difficult it is, but how simple. I don't see how developing a complex megachurch is easier than starting an organic missional community. One difficulty may be getting the community large enough to support the "planter." Is that the goal?
2) The author states "The conversion of a post-Christendom "pagan," who has had little to no exposure to the language and story of Christ in Scripture, may require five years of relational immersion before a decision would even make sense." Would it take any less time for a megachurch to reach them than for a missional community?
June 6, 2008
Willow Creek tries to set the record straight about their changes.
In a video released on June 5, Bill Hybels discusses the "unfortunate" reporting that has revolved around Willow Creek's REVEAL survey. The video refers to a recent Christianity Today article and Out of Ur posts as examples of "misinformation." You can watch Hybels' full interview with Jim Mellado, the president of the Willow Creek Association, here.
After watching the video you may want to read the articles in question and post your feedback:
June 6, 2008
Is the communion table becoming more about personal preference than church unity?
Imagine the scene. Jesus has gathered with his followers in the upper room. He takes the bread, breaks it, and gives thanks. Then he says, "This is my body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of me." Then, in the same way, he takes another loaf and says, "This is my low-carb body which is given for you South Beach dieters." And then he takes another loaf and says, "This is my gluten-free body which is given for you?."
You get the idea.
Over a century ago, many American churches began to abandon the use of fermented wine in communion in favor of grape juice (much to Charles Welch's delight). Today, most evangelicals give little thought to the substitution. It's just the way it is. But last Sunday I was unexpectedly jarred into reconsidering the nature of the communion elements when the bread, and not just the cup, departed from tradition.
I sat down after preaching the sermon and another pastor began to lead the congregation in partaking of the Lord's Supper. He invited people to come forward, receive the cup, and tear a piece of bread from a single large loaf. The use of a single loaf, he explained, was a symbol of our unity in Christ. (This metaphor, by the way, dates back at least to the Didache from the first century.) But then he added something unexpected. Gluten-free crackers would also be available for anyone unable to eat the bread.
June 4, 2008
The word "missional" is everywhere. But what does it mean? Is it another way of saying "seeker-focused" or "purpose-driven"? Not according to Alan Hirsch, author of The Forgotten Ways and The Shaping of Things to Come. In this edition of Audio Ur the insightful, yet soft-spoken, man from Down Under talks with Skye Jethani and Marshall Shelley about what it truly means to be a missional church.
To download this episode of Audio Ur, click here.
June 3, 2008
David Fitch responds by addressing the nature of mission in a post Christian context.
Last year at the Convergent Conference at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Mark Driscoll made the following remark:
And all the nonsense of emerging, and Emergent, and new monastic communities, and, you know, all of these various kinds of ridiculous conversations--I'll tell you as one on the inside, they don't have converts. The silly little myth, the naked emperor is this: they will tell you it's all about being in culture to reach lost people, and they're not.
I often hear this in places where I speak. It usually goes something like this: "We love missional theology, but does it work? How many converts have you had in your missional church?" Once again, the modernist drive to measure success raises its ugly head. Yet it does not offend me because these are important questions. I believe if we are not seeing people transformed by the gospel then "missional" in the end means very little.
So here is my response to Driscoll and others who question the evangelistic impact of missional churches: