"Everything is flourishing. So, I’m needing to focus."
by Url Scaramanga
On Wednesday Mark Driscoll announced his resignation from the presidency of the Acts 29 church planting network. The same day leaders from The Gospel Coalition said they received a letter from Driscoll announcing his resignation from the group's leadership council.
In a statement released by Driscoll, he made it clear that no one asked him to resign and that he will continue to support both Acts 29 and The Gospel Coalition. No conflict or controversy was behind his decision. Rather, says Driscoll, "I'm transitioning for no other reason than I find myself at the end of my tether with time and energy."
It was announced that Matt Chandler will assume the presidency of Acts 29, and the group's headquarters will move from Seattle to Dallas. Driscoll will remain on the board.
Youth pastor takes a lesson about persecution too far.
by Url Scaramanga
Are you trying to develop a more hospitable, seeker-friendly atmosphere in your church? Here's the first step: Don't kidnap people at gunpoint.
A church in Pennsylvania is under investigation for taking a lesson about persecution too far. Glad Tidings Assembly of God arranged to have two men with real (unloaded) guns raid a youth group meeting. They covered the teens' heads, loaded them into a van, and took them to the pastor's house. The pastor was covered in blood and appeared to be tortured by the kidnappers. The entire scene was a stunt to teach the teens about persecution of Christians in other parts of the world.
Because at least some of the teens were unaware that the raid was a stunt, the church is being investigated for crimes against a minor--a second-degree felony that may result in up to 10 years in prison.
Retaining young adults begins with getting the gospel right.
In January, Skye spoke at the Lumen conference at Mariners Church in California about the exodus of young people from our churches. Rather than focusing on the sociological data, he used his time to talk about how the way we understand the gospel may actually be inoculating young people to genuine faith.
When the church presents a less than biblical understanding of how to relate to God, it leaves young people with a powerless form of Christianity predicated on fear and control. When this way of life proves ineffective, they may abandon both their faith in Christ and the church. So, our first job is to get the gospel right. Check out the talk and the brief Q&A afterward. Much of the content is based on his book, WITH.
Want to reach the next generation? You can't ignore the role of politics.
by Skye Jethani
As I get around the country there is one question I hear from pastors more than any other: How do we reach young people? They don’t need research from Barna, Lifeway, Pew, and Gallup to tell them young people are leaving the church. They see it every Sunday as the congregation gets a little more gray.
But the evidence is mounting that reaching or retaining the young is going to take a lot more than new music styles or even a systematic rethinking of church leadership and organizational structures. There is the larger cultural matter of politics.
“The best evidence indicates that this dramatic generational shift is primarily in reaction to the religious right. And Millennials are even more sensitive to it, partly because many of them are liberal (especially on the touchstone issue of gay rights) and partly because they have only known a world in which religion and the right are intertwined.”
The decline of the Crystal Cathedral cannot be separated from the Schuller family saga.
by Url Scaramanga
The post mortem on the Crystal Cathedral continues. The iconic southern California megachurch pastored by Robert H. Schuller once represented the innovative and market-savvy dexterity of American Christianity. Schuller started his church at a drive-in movie theater, allowing visitors to stay comfortably inside their cars. Then he utilized television with the “Hour of Power” ministry broadcast. Its success allowed him to build one of the largest churches in the country.
But last year the church filed for bankruptcy, the soaring glass building was sold to the Roman Catholic diocese, and the ministry is in shambles. What happened?
Some view Schuller’s ministry as the canary in the megachurch mine. It was one of the first megachurches in the country, and does its demise forecast the fate of others? Others point to demographic shifts. When built, the Crystal Cathedral was in a young and affluent community. But today the area is more economically and racially diverse.
But there is another aspect to the Crystal Cathedral’s story worth exploring: family.
So what is the solution to the captivity of ministry leaders to business models?
I've got a theory: to the extent that the church does not know its Bible, really know the Bible, the more it seeks distraction in terms of participating in other ministries and making junkets to ministry conferences.
We truly neglect the reading of God's Word today. We give it lip service, beginning with pastors. But I have heard too many pastors who obviously know more about Seth Godin's Purple Cow than know about historical-critical interpretation of the Bible.
And I've got a very simple suggestion. Pastors should preach through the book of Galatians and read the epistle in its entirety every day in the process. Encourage your congregation to do the same. Luther called Galatians the Magna Carta of Christianity. If we committed ourselves to that, we probably wouldn't need most of these ministry conferences. Let me add, no church should ever send any pastor to any conference if they have not first read Luther's commentary on Galatians.
How is ministry a different calling than leadership in other areas?
"Ministry" in the church should not be singled out as distinct from other vocations in terms of being ministry. I'll tell you who and what is very helpful here: Os Guinness and his book, The Call. We do a great disservice when we treat those who do not hold positions in the church as somehow not equally called to ministry. We set up a false sense of guilt. Worse, we end up with some of the most unqualified men in the pulpit.
A business expert warns pastors not to emulate marketplace principles.
Skye Jethani interviews James H. Gilmore
I first discovered Jim Gilmore when his book, The Experience Economy, was handed to me by a nationally known church consultant in 2002. If I wanted my church to grow, he explained, I had to employ the marketplace strategies in Gilmore's book. Years later I wrote about my encounter with the church consultant in my first book, The Divine Commodity, and how I believed his advice was misguided. I specifically mentioned the danger of applying Gilmore's book to the church. A few months later my phone rang. It was Jim Gilmore calling to thank me. That was the start of our friendship.
Jim's bio will fill you in on his business chops and publishing accolades, but he's best described as a "professional observer." And his skills are highly sought after by companies and universities. When I'm curious about a random topic, an email to Jim will include a reply with five must-read books on the subject. He seems to know something about everything! He's also the only person I know who teaches at a business school, seminary, and architecture program. As I continue my research for my next book, I spoke with Jim about the current state of the church and how Christians should think about engaging the world.
Skye: You spend a lot of time in the gap between the business world and the ministry world. Why do you find this space so important?
Jim Gilmore: Because business is the most corrupting influence on the visible church today. I only became fascinated with this space when I learned of so many pastors reading our book, The Experience Economy. I would normally have been delighted to have readership emerge in any pocket of the population, except the book was not being read to obtain a better understanding of the commercial culture in which congregants live, but in many cases as a primer for "doing church." I found it particularly troubling when our models for staging experiences in the world were being specifically applied to worship practices.
The talk of "multi-sensory worship," the installation of video screens, the use of PowerPoint, having cup-holders in sanctuaries -- and I'm not talking about for the placement of communion cups -- and even more ridiculous applications really took me back. I even read of a pastor who performed a high-wire act, literally--above his congregation. All of this effort to enhance the so-called "worship experience" arose at the same time that I detected a decline in the number of preachers actually faithfully preaching the gospel through sound exposition of the scriptural text.
Why do you think it’s so dangerous to use what's effective in the marketplace in the church?
Can a name change rehabilitate the SBC's image in our culture?
by Url Scaramanga
Last month the Southern Baptist Convention decided to change its name, sort of. They have proposed using the informal designation of "Great Commission Baptists." It will serve as a kind of nickname for those congregations who deem "Southern Baptists" unhelpful or off-putting in their community.
The problem is one of branding. The SBC brand has suffered a number of setbacks in recent years. First, while still the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S., the Southern Baptists aren't just Southern. And in many parts of the country the South is still associated with unpopular values and an unjust history. In fact, the "Southern" in Southern Baptists came from the SBC's allegiance to the Confederacy, and slavery, in the 19th century--a fact the SBC has repented of but it remains a stain on their image.
Secondly, cultural crusaders from within the SBC ranks have garnered negative media attention for the last few decades. Remember the boycott on Disney over the media company's decision to offer benefits to domestic partners of gay employees? Calling Micky Mouse public enemy #1 is not how you win public favor. And while there are culturally sophisticated and popular SBC pastors like Rick Warren, the impact of voices like Jerry Falwell's have done far more to shape the Southern Baptists' image in our culture.
In this segment of an interview of David Kinnaman by Kevin Palau, Kinnaman discusses new research by the Barna Group revealing Americans are becoming increasingly indifferent toward religion. The implications for outreach and evangelism are profound, and it may result in churches requiring an entirely new approach. This is a must watch.
"I have the opportunity to hang out with a number of younger evangelical influencers, and sometimes it's breathtaking how little we think about, talk about, or seem concerned with personal evangelism."
-Jonathan Merrittquoted in "Outlooks on Outreach" in the Winter 2012 issue of Leadership Journal. Check out the quote in context by subscribing to LJ in the left column.
Merritt is on the staff of Cross Pointe Church in Duluth, Georgia, and the author of the new book, A Faith of Our Own: Following Jesus Beyond the Culture Wars.