July 3, 2012
Why go to a church service when you can watch online?
Tim Stevens from Granger Community Church was asked a question recently that earlier generations of pastors never faced: "Why go to a church service when you can watch online?" With more churches offering online videos of their worship gatherings, staying home is a growing option for many Christians. While there's nothing new about broadcast worship (churches have utilized radio and television for decades), the fact that you can 'attend' your local church without leaving home makes one feel more connected or committed.
Stevens responds to the question with five reasons to physically go to church. In one of his points he reminds us that church isn't just about being "fed":
If going to “church” once a week was just about gaining what you need spiritually to make it through another week, then tuning in online would be just fine. You could get what you need on Christian radio, reading books, studying the Bible or watching your favorite TV preacher. But the purpose of church is so much broader than that. It is about corporate worship, praying and studying the Bible together, serving one another and reaching out in mission together. This can’t be done in isolation.
Continue reading Online Church: The Pros and Cons...
August 8, 2011
Why right thinking and right doing are not enough.
In 1995, Mark Noll argued in The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind that the problem with evangelicalism is “that there is not much of an evangelical mind.” His solution was to take scholarship more seriously. A decade later, Ron Sider argued in The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience (2005) that the problem with evangelicalism is that Christians live just like nonChristians. His solution was to take the social and corporate implications of the gospel more seriously.
Whether or not these books can be credited with sparking current trends, it’s clear the spirit of both of them is alive and well in American Christianity. The so-called “New Reformed” movement is living out Noll’s call for greater intellectual engagement and doctrinal sophistication. And legions of younger Christians are taking up Sider’s vision to seek social justice in Jesus’ name. I support both of these relatively recent developments, more or less. But I think they have the same shortcoming in common. As different as they are, they both appeal to the intellect in one way or another. They both seem to assume that if we simply believe the right things (whether it’s the doctrine of atonement or the Christian’s moral responsibility in the world) then we’ll behave the right way.
I’m not convinced.
I think there’s another, deeper problem in evangelicalism, what I’ll call (for consistency’s sake) the scandal of the evangelical imagination.
Continue reading Scandal of the Evangelical Imagination...
May 9, 2011
Innovation in worship is good, as long as we use wisdom.
In part 1 of Skye Jethani's interview with Chuck Swindoll, he spoke about the insecurity that leads some pastors to seek a crowd and to pander to cultural trends. Some of you felt Swindoll was just being old-fashioned and grumpy. (I hear Grandpa Simpson saying, "Back in my day we walked five miles to church on Sunday. Twice! And we liked it.") In part 2 he expresses his appreciation for innovation in worship, but is concerned that we employ more wisdom in what trends we adopt.
Jethani:We can look back before modern technology entered the sanctuary and see the same values at work. The crusades of Billy Graham, the revivals of the Great Awakening, even all the way back to the Reformation, you see that Martin Luther used music and forms of worship that were relevant to his German culture. So what's wrong with taking relevant cultural expressions in the 21st century and using them in our worship?
Swindoll: Nothing, if they square with Scripture and if they honor the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. There is nothing wrong with using something new. We are called to sing new songs. I love them. Nobody sings louder in our church than I do—both the old and new songs.
But everything must square with Scripture. We must make sure that new things actually help people grow in the truth, that they edify the saints and build them up. Will it equip them to handle the world around them? Will it form them into the kingdom of God rather than the kingdom of this world?
In many cases we use new things because they are novel, not because they are helpful.
So the issue is not innovation or tradition, but why we're using a particular method or technology.
Exactly. I have been to church services, and you have too, where the only people who knew the songs were the band. I'm not edified. I'm just watching a show.
Continue reading Chuck Swindoll: We're Creating Spectators Not Worshipers ...
January 11, 2011
David Taylor discusses three encouraging developments. Do you agree?
June 7, 2010
A helpful book of counter-intuitive pragmatism.
Years ago I worked for a visionary pastor who saw ‘the city on the hill’ that he believed our church could become and then he proceeded to lead us there. Using his preaching, pastoral care and personal charisma, he got everyone – or nearly so - focused on the one main goal of impacting our city for Christ. And because of his single-minded devotion, in time his vision became a reality. The church prospered, the community was blessed, and hundreds of lives were touched with the Gospel.
Unfortunately, that was the extent of his success. In subsequent years he lost his way. He regularly generated new ideas and strategies but hardly focused at all on the need for more organization and structure. He continued to change out staff and lay leaders, but spent almost no time building community with the ones who stayed. And he gave too little attention to the necessary practice of self-leadership. That, unfortunately, resulted in a tragic moral failure. Too bad Scott Belsky’s book Making Ideas Happen wasn’t around then. It might have saved our pastor, his family, and the church a lot of heartache and wasted resources.
Continue reading Book Review: Making Ideas Happen...
April 16, 2010
How Url Scaramanga thinks about cool new church names.
Have you noticed that church names are getting increasingly strange? Our friend Dennis Baker has. He's been keeping a list of church names in order to document how far we've come from the days of "First Presbyterian" and "Springfield Baptist." He sent us the following list of 129 church names. I've added my reactions in parentheses.
2. Revolution (Where only senior pastors get beheaded.)
3. Radiance (Where the female vocalists all glitter like Mariah Carey.)
4. Elevation (U2 songs every bloody Sunday.)
6. Renovation (You can do it! God can help.)
8. enCompass (Wii th-|-nk [outside] the box. We R crAtiVe.)
9. Epiphany Station (Next stop, Conjunction Junction!)
10. Soma (Our pastor knows Greek.)
12. Rock Harbor (If your life hasn’t run aground yet, we can help.)
13. Journey (“Don’t Stop Believing” is our theme song.)
Continue reading A Church by Any Other Name ......
March 3, 2010
Forget video preaching, holographic technology is coming to the church sooner than you think.
Clark, a media technology company that supplies churches, is pioneering holographic technology that can create a life-size, three dimensional projection of a preacher on a platform. Blogger Tony Morgan was given a preview at Clark’s offices near Atlanta. He writes, “Pricing is coming down quickly to the point that I won’t be surprised if we see this technology implemented in churches within the next 12 months.”
Morgan took a photo of himself standing beside the holographic preacher.
What do you think? Like Morgan do you “love these days we live in,” or bemoan the loss of incarnate ministry? If the technology was affordable, would you consider it for your ministry?
This week film critic Roger Ebert, who has been unable to speak since cancer surgery removed his throat in 2006, debuted his "new voice" on the Oprah show. The technology uses past recordings of Ebert's voice to construct a digital replication. Whatever he types is read aloud by the computer in a voice remarkably like his own.
The technology is still under development, but if combined with the holographic images being developed by Clark, this could be the solution to the succession dilemma facing many megachurches. Andy Stanley may well be the teaching pastor at North Point well into the 22nd century.
November 2, 2009
What liturgical church leaders and the Catalyst Conference can learn from each other.
According to data from the National Congregations Study (2006-2007), 38% of people in the United States associate themselves with liturgical churches (Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Episcopal, etc.); while 46% associate themselves with free churches (Baptist, Pentecostal, non-denominational, etc.). The 14% of people associated with Methodist and Reformed/Presbyterian churches sit atop this watershed—some sliding down the liturgical slope, others down the free church slope. Liturgical churches emphasize historical and global continuity in their worship services; whereas the term “free church” is related to the relative autonomy of individual congregations. Almost every heated discussion about the church tends to divide along these liturgical / free church lines.
Liturgical clergy see their role as being a faithful steward of historic Christianity. This consists especially of serving the Lord’s Supper and preaching. Free church pastors tend to see their role as equipping their congregations for evangelism and social justice. Because of their different understandings of their roles, it is not surprising that free church pastors are open to insights gleaned from megachurches, church planters, and business leaders; while liturgical church clergy see these sources as consumeristic, arrogant, and hopelessly misguided.
Nowhere is free church innovation more plainly seen than at The Catalyst Conference attended by 13,000 people October 8-9 outside Atlanta, Georgia. The Catalyst Conference is “specifically focused on leaders under the age of 40.” Its podcast tagline is “what’s next in the church.”
Continue reading Catalyst, Liturgy, and Innovation...
August 5, 2008
Why video venues should be a last resort.
Evergreen, our small church here in Portland, Oregon, has just gone multi-site. But not video venue.
We started in a pub in southwest Portland, outgrew that space, and moved to another pub across town. Outgrowing that one, we moved up to yet another pub in northwest Portland. Yes, we are the church on a pub crawl. When things got crowded there, we knew we had some decisions to make.
Our goal has always been multi-faceted. First and foremost, we want to see people come to and come back to Jesus. That implies growth. Second, our worship gatherings are highly interactive. We never want to lose the dialogical vibe in our teaching. Third, knowing that, according to statistics, people are reached best by newer (under 10 years old) and smaller congregations (as they grow from 100 to 200), our ultimate goal has been planting.
Continue reading Multi-site the Low-tech Way...
October 15, 2007
How many voices speak of God in your church?
We live in a dark world. Our hearts long for goodness, beauty, justice, and peace, but they are often hidden behind the shadow cast by evil and sin. This is why preaching is so necessary. Whenever the kingdom of God is proclaimed, it is like a bright burst of light. In those brief moments, the shadows recede and we are given a glimpse of a world behind the darkness. It is a sublime vision that reorders our perception of reality and leaves us hungry for more.
This understanding of preaching, the unveiling of an inspiring vision of God's kingdom, is not the one I've always held. I was formed to think that the primary purpose of preaching was instruction. This view of preaching expects the informed, articulate person behind the pulpit to teach the congregation divine truths and skills. The pupils are then expected to bury these seeds of biblical knowledge away in their brains where in time they germinate into godly values and behaviors, although few people seem surprised when they don't.
In Dallas Willard's V.I.M. model of spiritual formation, he differentiates three parts: vision, intention, and means. Instructional preaching falls under the third component - means. It teaches people the methods through which they can obey Christ. These "how to" sermons usually have clearly articulated, often alliterated, application points relevant to one's life.
I never questioned this "preaching as instruction" view until I stepped behind the pulpit myself. What I discovered disturbed me.
Continue reading Glimpses of Glory...
April 25, 2006
For decades churches have been experimenting with forms of communication, and one of the hallmarks of seeker churches has been the use of dramas in worship gatherings. It should come as no surprise that a church named Hot Metal Bridge Faith Community has chosen to push this experimentation to its logical end. The church has chosen to communicate biblical truths and narratives entirely through dramas - the sermon is no more.
Hot Metal Bridge has been getting a lot of press for its unusual worship format. Both The Wall Street Journal and the Today Show have run stories. Here is what some other media sources are reporting:
No one preaches at Hot Metal Bridge. Plays are its liturgy. Mr. Walker, a soon-to-be ordained United Methodist minister, leads the church with his friend Jeff Eddings, a Presbyterian seminarian. "Instead of coming to our church and listening to a sermon, you can be part of the sermon," Mr. Walker says.
Continue reading Drama King: one pastor drops preaching entirely for dramas...