June 6, 2012
Two prominent young pastors are leaving their influential churches.
Shane Hipps, teaching pastor at Mars Hill Bible Church, has announced that he will be leaving the church once a new pastor is found. Hipps came to Mars Hill at Rob Bell's request to share teaching responsibilities as Bell's ministry was taking him away from the church more regularly. Last December Bell announced he was leaving Mars Hill to relocate to Los Angeles. (Skye Jethani interviewed Bell about this departure.)
Mars Hill has had a challenging year. The controversy surrounding Love Wins, Rob Bell's best-selling book, led some to leave the church. And Bell's departure has also taken a toll. In the wake of these events, leaders at the church decided to restructure the staff and adjust the teaching pastor role. They want this person to preach 40 Sundays a year and report to the church's executive director. Hipps said that he "knew instantly my internal shape did not fit the role they created" because it would "dramatically reduce my service to the broader church which is an integral part of my sense of call." Hipps has two new books in production and plans to start a leadership development company.
Continue reading Hipps Leaving Mars Hill, Whitehead Leaving Willow...
April 24, 2009
A clear word for confusing times.
Ever faced a leadership decision, and didn't feel you had all the information you needed to decide? For instance, to hire or not to hire? To discipline or extend more grace?
Andy Stanley opened the Catalyst West conference with the best leadership talk I've ever heard from him. He clearly connected with the 3,200 attenders by describing the inescapable fact of life for leaders: you have to lead even when you don't know for certain what to do.
Or, as Andy reframed the issue: "uncertainty is why we need leaders." "God gets more out of chaos than out of wrinkle-free days." If every situation were clear, no leadership would be needed. "Uncertainty underscores the need for leadership. Uncertainty is the arena in which leadership is recognized." For leaders, "Uncertainty is job security!" The crowd laughed. Nervously.
Those of us who've followed Andy for a while recognize this theme as one that he first explored in 2003 in an article in Leadership ("The Uncertain Leader") and in his book The Next Generation Leader. But Andy has continued to develop his thoughts nicely since then. And with the current economy, the awareness of uncertainty has, uh, certainly been heightened.
When you're uncertain, Andy told the assembled leaders, focus on two elements:
Continue reading Andy Stanley: Live (and Uncertain) at Catalyst West...
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.
Continue reading This is My Low-Carb Body, Broken for You...
October 23, 2007
If a church refuses to marry gay people should it still bury them?
In August, leaders at High Point Church in Arlington, Texas, "cancelled a memorial service for a Navy veteran shortly before it was to start because the deceased was gay." That is how the event was described by the Associated Press. The report ignited a firestorm of bad press for the church with many accusing the congregation of homophobia.
Initially, High Point Church had volunteered to host the funeral because the dead man was the relative of a church employee. However, the church withdrew the offer when the family asked that a choir of homosexual men (Turtle Creek Chorale) perform at the funeral. In addition, they wanted a homosexual minister to officiate the service. The church's decision to cancel the funeral was "a slap in the face" according to the man's sister.
The Dallas Morning News reported that the church's reason for cancelling the funeral had nothing to do with the man's homosexuality but that "his friends and family wanted that part of his life to be a significant part of the service." This contradicted the church's policy and beliefs.
Continue reading The Alternative After-Lifestyle...
April 12, 2007
Can a church embrace those on the margins without excluding its core?
This week the New York Times ran a story about a controversy dividing a church in Carlsbad, California. Outside Pilgrim United Church of Christ hangs a banner that reads "All are welcome." Now that claim is being tested.
In January, a 53 year old attender at the church, Mark Pliska, informed the congregation that he had been convicted in the past for molesting children. The leaders and members of Pilgrim United Church of Christ now face a dilemma. Can the church be inclusive, even to convicted child molesters, and still be a safe environment for children and adults healing from past sexual abuse?
The pastor of Pilgrim United Church of Christ, Rev. Madison Shockley, finds himself caught between two factions in the congregation. The Times reports:
Before introducing Mr. Pliska to the congregation, Mr. Shockley spoke to a few congregants who had been abused as children and to parents, and none objected to Mr. Pliska's inclusion.
But Mr. Pliska's introduction unlocked a flood of emotions among the 300 members.
Continue reading (Some) Sinners Welcome...
December 14, 2006
On Sunday morning Pastor Dan Kimball of Vintage Faith Church arrived at the coffeehouse where his congregation worships to discover three of the three hundred sketches decorating the space were nude drawings. After debating the nature of art, holiness, and the church's responsibility, Dan had to make a decision - flash the flesh or lose the nudes? Dan's first post outlined the nature of his deliberations. Here is the rest of the story.
The nude drawings were very tastefully done, classical and artistic, it was not erotica. But we took them down. I felt keeping them up would cause more questions than it was worth. Additionally, there was no time to warn parents about the nudes on the walls of the coffeehouse before our worship gathering.
Continue reading Nudity in Church 2: The Wrap-Up...
December 11, 2006
One of the most famous churches in the world, the Sistine Chapel in Rome, was originally decorated with dozens of nude figures on the ceiling. Painted by Michelangelo, the chapel is considered one of the greatest masterpieces of Western art. However, a later Pope was uncomfortable with the nudity and hired another artist to paint loincloths over Michelangelo's nudes. For centuries people have debated the pope's actions. Was he advancing holiness or desecrating art? Not long ago Pastor Dan Kimball from Vintage Faith Church in Santa Cruz, California, faced a similar decision.
I got a call Sunday morning as I was driving to our worship gathering. A friend informed me that the coffeehouse our church worshiped in had new artwork displayed including a number of nude drawings. He asked what we should do? No one taught me how to handle this in seminary.
We recently opened the coffeehouse as phase one of our building plan. We are using it for worship until we develop a business plan that allows us to open the coffeehouse to the neighborhood every day like a normal coffee shop. The mission of the coffeehouse is to be a place where those outside the church can meet us, develop friendships, and hear and experience the gospel in a variety of ways.
The coffeehouse has an art theme that changes every 6 to 8 weeks. We recently asked people from inside and outside the church to submit art from their sketchbooks. Our art team strung cords all around the room like a spider web, and the artwork was fastened to the cords. A local tattoo artist submitted beautiful tattoo sketches. Another artist created landscapes. But among the three hundred sketches submitted were three nudes.
Continue reading Nudity in Church...
June 15, 2006
In May, NY Times book reviewer Michiko Kakutani surveyed seventeen books written about the leadership of President Bush. Her article, which summarized what Bush’s fans and critics have observed about his leadership style, caught the attention of Out of Ur blogger Andy Rowell. Andy is a teacher of church leadership at Taylor University and a former pastor. In part 2 of his post, he reminds us that some bureaucracy may actually be good, and he champions the value of transparency.
Lesson 3: Remember that some policies and procedures created generations before us actually make sense.
There is nothing more annoying than a policy that does not make sense to us. There certainly may be policies on the books at your church that no longer fulfill their original intended functions.
By all accounts, President Bush inherited a dysfunctional overly bureaucratic intelligence establishment. Sensing this, the Bush administration created a special office to look into the evidence for Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. In doing so, they unintentionally avoided experts and procedures that would have noticed and corrected some of the weaknesses in the intelligence gathering methods and conclusions.
Continue reading The President & The Pastor (part 2): more lessons from George W. Bush’s brave/reckless leadership style...
June 13, 2006
In 2000, Bill Hybels invited President Clinton to speak at Willow Creek's Leadership Summit. The controversial move was based on the assumption that pastors could learn from Clinton's leadership experience - both his triumphs and his mistakes. Following this tradition Ur blogger, Andy Rowell, examines President Bush's leadership style to glean wisdom for ministers. Andy teaches church leadership at Taylor University in Upland, Indiana, and previously served as the Associate Pastor at Granville Chapel in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Pulitzer prize-winning NY Times book critic Michiko Kakutani reviewed seventeen recent books about President George W. Bush in her May 11, 2006 article entitled "Critic's Notebook: All the President's Books (Minding History's Whys and Wherefores)." She concludes that Bush's supporters and critics agree on one thing - that he often ignores advice and chains of command in decision-making. While this approach has the potential to bring fresh ideas to useless bureaucracy, it can also lead to poor decisions. Kakutani's article raises serious questions about the decision-making processes of the Bush administration. Still, the breadth of her reading, her attempt to make her points without partisan exaggeration, and her thorough documentation, make the article wonderful fodder for anyone (Bush fan or hater) seeking to learn about leadership.
In particular it seems that young pastors like me [I'm thirty years old] can learn much from the effects of President Bush's brave/reckless leadership style. As young pastors we can easily spot things that look outdated or overly bureaucratic. We can walk into a room and have a vision for how things could be spruced up. In some ways, young pastors are in demand precisely for these instincts. We have fresh eyes to old problems. We have fresh energy to tackle big challenges. And yet, Bush's example reminds us to take care as we lead.
Continue reading The President & The Pastor: lessons from George W. Bush’s brave/reckless leadership style...
March 14, 2006
Some congregations experience doctrinal divides. Others wage worship wars. But an increasing number are experiencing schooling squalls. Public school, private school, or home school - how should followers of Christ educate their children? And what does the answer reveal about our belief in mission, culture, and the nature of the gospel? Dave Terpstra, pastor of The Next Level Church in Denver and the father of young children, has been wrestling with these questions and looking to an unlikely source for clarity - first century Judaism.
My oldest child is only two and half, but already my wife and I are having conversations about where we will send our kids to school. The more we discuss the issue the more I realize that where followers of Christ send their children to school says more about their perspective on the interaction of Christianity and culture than any other issue I've encountered.
Where I live, the Denver metro area, there is a full spectrum of educational options for my family: public, private, charter, homeschool, Protestant, Catholic, etc. There are certainly varying degrees of excellence among the teachers and administrations of these schools; but for the sake of argument, let's say all things are equal as far as talent is concerned. How is a Christian parent to choose?
Continue reading Really Old School: What 1st Century Judaism Says About the Public/Private/Home School Dilemma...