Why don't more ethnic churches have a small groups ministry?
by Sam O'Neal
I came across an interesting interview in the recent issue of Leadership Journal. The subjects of the interview were from River City Community Church—a multi-ethnic ministry located in the Humboldt Park neighborhood of Chicago. Leadership talked with Daniel Hill, who founded the ministry, along with several key leaders of the church.
Here's a brief excerpt of their conversation:
What kind of person is attracted to River City?
Hill: Most of our new people are white. But there's a revolving door with the white community here. They have a romantic notion of being part of a multi-ethnic church, so many of them get frustrated and leave when they realize how difficult it is to erase their assumptions about the way church is supposed to be.
What assumptions do white people carry into the church?
Arloa Sutter (pastor of community life): When I came I said, "Let's just start small groups! Everyone wants to be in a group, right?" The fact is small groups aren't as important to other ethnicities as they are to white people.
Small groups are a white church thing?
Hill: White people rely on small groups to connect. Other ethnicities form community more organically, more relationally. Immigrant communities find fellowship within extended families. In the city a lot of community happens on the front porch or sidewalk. So non-whites aren't as eager to set up structures and systems like small groups.
Online churches are missing a few essential ingredients.
by Bob Hyatt
**Editor's Note: I apologize for the lack of posts in recent days. We've been experiencing some technical difficulties. -Url Scaramanga**
I was disappointed to read Douglas Estes’ piece last week on Ur, for a number of reasons, but chief among them is this: it fails to deal substantively with a single serious critique that has been raised regarding virtual church. In fact, Mr. Estes not only fails to address the critique, but he seems to fail even to understand it.
So in a spirit of Christian love and good dialogue, let me respond point by point!
First, Mr. Estes asserts that critique of virtual church can be boiled down to “Internet campuses and online churches are not true churches because they don’t look like and feel like churches are expected to look like and feel like (in the West, anyway).”
Respectfully, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, my concern about internet church is that it’s too much like what we expect (and want) church to look and feel like (at least in the West).
Douglas Estes, author of SimChurch, responds to critics of online churches.
by Douglas Estes
A myth is growing in some circles of the blogosphere that online church is not good, not healthy, and not biblical. If we read carefully the criticisms levied against internet campuses, they boil down to some very common and tired themes: Internet campuses and online churches are not true churches because they don’t look like and feel like churches are expected to look like and feel like (in the West, anyway). Arguments against virtual church follow the idea that if it doesn’t look like church, feel like church, swim like church, or quack like church, it’s not a church. This may be a useful test for ducks, but churches are far more complex animals.
This myth is causing even open-minded people to have doubts about whether a church online can be ‘real.’ Let’s lay aside for a moment that nowhere in the Bible does it preclude online church, in any way. Let’s lay aside the fact that church history almost nowhere would lead someone to conclude that a virtual church is not valid (the lesson of church history is that new formats for church always go through a period where they are attacked as invalid). Let’s lay aside the troubling truth of the testimonies of meaningful community that are coming out of online churches. Let’s lay aside the problem that most (all I’ve read) of the blogposts criticizing virtual churches are based on cultural factors, pop psychology, materialistic misreadings of a few New Testament verses, or worse, citations of famous pastors who have doubts.
An even greater concern is the proliferation of a related myth: The myth of the “virtual” church. As a result several of the churches who have launched virtual campuses are telling their pastors and people, “Don’t use the word ‘virtual,’ because people think it means fake.” For the record, virtual doesn’t mean fake, it means synthetic. In the long run, it doesn’t matter whether church culture embraces or discards the word virtual, but we need to be accurate in our representation. Virtual churches are not fake churches; they are real churches that use synthetic space as a meeting place (or a synthetic medium as a means of building community). The ‘virtual’ part of the term—which identifies where they meet—has nothing to do with the question of their realness or validity.
As we finished our tea and truffles, I took Lynne to the book of 1 Samuel. I explained that the first mention of someone in Scripture often reveals something significant about the person’s character. The first king of Israel, Saul, is introduced as a young man trying, unsuccessfully, to find his father’s donkeys. This humorous scene hints at Saul’s later inability to lead others well. Though his early years of ruling God’s people are marked by humility and self-control, over time Saul becomes disobedient, jealous, and full of hatred. He’s known as the foolish king who lost his crown.
The introduction of Saul stands in sharp contrast to the first mention of David, the second king of Israel. The prophet Samuel is told by God that one of the sons of Jesse will be the next king. Noting that the Lord hasn’t chosen any of the first seven sons of Jesse, Samuel asks the father if he has any other sons. Jesse responds, “There remains yet the youngest, and behold, he is tending the sheep” (1 Samuel 16:11). When we meet David, he’s watching over his family’s livelihood.
The Hebrew word for youngest, qatan, implies insignificant and unimportant. One translator even uses the word “runt.” Though David is the runt of the litter, God selects him to rule over Israel.
“Does it surprise you that the youngest child was caring for the sheep?”
“Not at all,” Lynne said. “In ancient societies, and even today in remote areas, the weakest members of a family are often the ones assigned to care for the sheep. When we were in Peru staying with a family, a five-year-old boy, a few women, and an old man took care of the family’s sheep. The shepherds were those who lacked the strength or skill to do more physically demanding labor.”
The best books for leaders you won't find at your next ministry conference.
by Scot McKnight
What makes a leader? Ideas. Courage. Contact with great thinkers. What makes a Christian leader? Great ideas, courage, and contact with great thinkers shaped by the gospel. So, I offer to you a list of my top ten books for leaders, and none of the titles of these books have the word “leader” or “leadership” in it. Some of these are overtly Christian classics; others are not. These books have the ability to swell the chest, flood the mind, and reshape how we see the world around us – and a gospel-reshaping of these great works can inspire a leader to new levels.
From the classical world, though one could choose all sorts of great works, I recommend a soaking in Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, to see how the great philosopher constructed a set of ethics that shaped the Western world. Homer told the story of Odysseus and Virgil in The Aeneid. Homer’s story came into the Roman world and gave to all of us the power of a journey into ideas and ideals, sanctifying place and history. Dante took Homer and Virgil to the next level in his Divine Comedy, and if you follow him all the way down into the inferno, up through purgatory and then climb into the swirling glorious presence of God you will find new dimensions to life’s journey.
Carlos Whittaker gets excited about the STORY Conference in Chicago.
Skye Jethani will be presenting at the STORY Conference next week, Url will be blogging from the event, and Leadership's editors will be hosting video interviews with the speakers. Be sure to check out more at StoryChicago.com.
Do your assumptions about leadership reflect the values of your generation?
by Jimmy Long
In recent years we have entered into lengthy discussions about how worship, spiritual formation, and evangelism are transitioning in the church. However, the most crucial area of transition, leadership, has received minimal attention. For more than 35 years, I have been overseeing the ministry of young InterVarsity staff and college student leaders. In that time I have seen a significant swing in how these young leaders view leadership. The emerging generation of leaders desires a context that fosters community, trust, journey, vision, and empowerment.
If we are going to transition the church to the next generation, both existing and emerging leaders will need to understand and appreciate each other's values. This quiz, developed in conjunction with the editors of Leadership, is a helpful start.
This tool is intended to foster dialogue between older and younger leaders about their divergent views and contribute to greater understanding between the generations. No test can fully reveal the nuances that exist within an entire generation, and you may agree with more than one answer for a question. Mark the answer that best fits your approach to leadership.
For Keller an idol is “anything more important to you than God, anything which absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give.” Elaborating on the book’s title, Keller writes that a “counterfeit god is anything so central and essential to your life, that, should you lose it, your life would feel hardly worth living.” What does Keller have in mind? Well, everything: family, children, career, earning money, achievement, social status, relationships, beauty, brains, morality, political or social activism—even effective Christian ministry.
Do you ever feel like church activities, which are intended to promote God's mission, are actually keeping you from promoting God's mission? We're eager to see your captions for this cartoon by Roger Judd. Winners will be published in the Winter issue of Leadership. (Please include your name, church's name, city, and state.)
Five statements worth remembering during your next 50 years of leadership
1) Whatever you do, do more with others and less alone
2) Whenever you do it, emphasize quality not quantity.
3) Wherever you go, do it the same as if you were among those who know you best.
4) Whoever may respond, keep a level head.
5) However long you lead, keep on dripping with gratitude and grace
Catalyst Leadership is a new digital magazine combining the wisdom of Leadership Journal with the innovation of the Catalyst Conference. Sign up for your free subscription today at CatalystLeadershipDigital.com/subscribe/
To write the book, Feinberg spent time with a shepherdess in Oregon, a farmer in Nebraska, a beekeeper in Colorado, and a vintner / winemaker in California. She learned lessons for life and growth in God.
What focus and intensity and time and God can produce.
by Marshall Shelley
The irrepressible financial guru Dave Ramsey burst on the Catalyst stage talking about “momentum.”
“When you have it, you look better than you are. When you don’t have it, you’re better than you look.”
He talked about times his ministry had no momentum and times that it had it. He poked fun at those who don’t work hard enough to make momentum a possibility. Some people are so low key, he said, they can’t experience burnout because they’ve never been on fire.
Momentum is created; it does not randomly occur. And it requires our best efforts.
He talked through “The Momentum Theorem”: “Focused Intensity over Time, multiplied by God, creates unstoppable Momentum.”
Be open to divine interruptions, and follow only where God leads
By Drew Dyck
As a leader, you face a lot of great projects to take on, a lot of good directions to go. But in Friday’s first session, Priscilla Shirer reminded the Catalyst crowd to proceed only down those paths on which you sense God’s presence.
“God often shocks you with his plan,” she said. “But when God interrupts your life, will you obey?
In her sermon she unpacked the story of Joshua leading the Israelites across the Jordan. She presented Joshua as a paragon of leadership. What did he do right?
Soul sickness comes from coveting someone else's life. Accepting God's gift of you is the cure.
by Marshall Shelley
Rob Bell warned the crowd before he began: “I’ve never talked about some of this publicly but I have a sense that we need to.” So we buckled our seatbelts.
He talked about the pastor he met who wanted to quit. Because he could never get away from the responsibilities. Another who felt his ministry was insignificant because it wasn’t large. What drives these soul-shaping forces?
Malcolm Gladwell told the story of the battle of Chancellorsville, VA, in which General “Fighting Joe” Hooker maneuvers his Union Army to encircle the Confederate Army on three sides, and then delivers a speech to his troops: “God Almighty Himself cannot prevent us from victory in this battle.”
What led to such misguided certainty? As the battle unfolded, it turned out he was horribly wrong.
Andy Stanley opened Catalyst 09 with an illustration from the Ridley Scott movie, Kingdom of Heaven. In this movie, set in the medieval Crusades, the blacksmith has a phrase inscribed in his shop in Latin: “What man is a man who does not leave the world better?”
Andy then set up this tension: If you have the leadership gift, you want to make a mark, to leave the world better. But you won’t know your legacy, even your greatest mistake, until years later. The defining moment will happen when you don’t know it’s happening. So the problem/challenge for leaders is you don’t know the thing you’ll do that will make the biggest difference.
What to do? Andy drew insights from the Book of Joshua:
Jessica Jackley no longer feels badly for the poor. She's doing something better.
by Marshall Shelley
Jessica Jackley was in first grade when she became aware of how the poor were being presented to her. She saw ads for parachurch organizations and appeals for missions groups that featured photographs of impoverished children with distended bellies and flies in the eyes.
She realized even at that young age that those pictures made her feel bad, and they caused her and her friends to give money just to make the bad feelings go away.
As she got older and had more awareness of the pervasiveness of poverty, and gained firsthand experience working with the poor, she realized that appeals that provoke pity and guilt were not pointing in the right direction. To get people to respond simply to ease their own discomfort was actually counterproductive. Such appeals don't help the poor long-term; these appeals eventually just make people calloused and cynical or at the least able to view such presentations with very little impact.
Jackley learned that what the poor really needed was not pity, but something much more useful.
A few minutes into his talk on the church and the environment, Matthew Sleeth, MD called up a young man named David to share his story.
David recounted how he had recently suffered a grand mal seizure. After a trip to the emergency room, David received some devastating news: he had an inoperable tumor the size of a racket ball growing in his brain. He’s 27.
Why the uber-bloggers encourage fasting from their task
by Drew Dyck
For one of the first Catalyst lab sessions, three of the top Christian bloggers took the stage to talk shop: Ann Jackson (www.FlowerDust.net), Carlos Whittaker (www.RagamuffinSoul.com), and Jon Acuff (www.StuffChristiansLike.net)
So what wisdom did these titans of the blogosphere impart?
Stay away from blogging.
Well, take breaks at least. Basically, blogging is like cat nip for your ego, so taking the odd break is advisable.
Mark Batterson's Primal call to purity of motivation
by Marshall Shelley
Mark Batterson led off the Catalyst lab sessions with a few words from his upcoming book Primal, which led into a reflection on the foundation of ministry. (Kevin Miller was across the room blogging this session as well, and his report follows this one.) Mark's emphasis:
"What is the primal essence of what we believe? Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. That's more foundational than the forms we employ to live that out. ... There are ways of doing church that we haven't thought of yet."
Then Mark pointed out: "We come to conferences too often to find methodologies that we can take out of context and apply to our context. But that too often is misguided. We can learn 'how' but forget 'why.' "
He reflected on 1 Samuel 14-15, where Saul sets up a monument to himself. He suggests we need to erect not monuments to ourselves but altars to God, to remind yourself of the greatness of God and the cause to which you have been called.
Mark told about the moment he was aware of God calling him into ministry. He was in a pasture in Minnesota. Years later, he framed a photograph of that pasture and hung it in his office as his "altar," to remind him of the greatness of God and of his calling.
All of us listening are forced to consider: Am I performing my ministry as a monument to myself? Or to show the greatness of God?
Catalyst is here. We'll be blogging for the next three days from the event in Atlanta. While the main event starts tomorrow, today the pre-conference "Labs" will feature multiple tracks and a lot of speakers/leaders. We'll be in and out of many sessions and blogging about the experience. The labs really get rolling after 1pm. Until then, I'll been hanging out in the green room which is buzzing with activity.
I had a great chat with Alan and Deb Hirsch about their upcoming book, Untamed. It's their attempt at developing a missional approach to discipleship. It sounds fantastic, and they're the right people for a project of that nature.
If he hadn’t died from a tainted smallpox vaccination in 1758, Jonathan Edwards would be celebrating his 306th birthday today--Monday, October 5. When Edwards died, at the relatively young age of 55, he was one of the best known pastor-theologians in the English speaking world. Interestingly enough, the Calvinist pastor is making quite a comeback. There’s been lots of talk on Out of Ur recently about the so-called New Reformed movement—folks that are proud to call Edwards “homeboy.”
But would Edwards be proud to claim the New Reformed movement? Well, I just couldn’t pass up the chance to ask him. Using skills learned on my many travels and my finely tuned interviewing skills, I sat down with Brother Edwards to ask him how well he thinks the new Calvinists are representing the old time religion.
Url: So, I’ve read “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” You’re pretty intense.
Let me guess: high school English class.
Yep. Some of the New Reformed folks seem to like that hellfire and brimstone stuff. Did they learn that from you?
They might have. I preached my fair share of those sermons. But back then, you had to. Everybody was religious—it was against the law to skip church. So my greatest challenge as a pastor was combating spiritual apathy. I did everything I could to make sure people took their spiritual lives seriously, because it was really easy for them to take God for granted.
Do you think that sort of preaching is still effective today?