Penn and the real deal

29 12 2008

I saw this clip on a couple other blogs yesterday and thought it was worth posting here because it speaks volumns about our lack of love and authenticity with people.  Penn Jillette is a well known atheist who not only advocates his beliefs but does so vigorously (check out this atheistblogger.com post).  So what do you suppose would happen if a Christian prostelitized him?  Well, it all depends… I was both amazed and sobered listening to what he had to say about a recent experience:

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The Fine Line

18 12 2008

thefineline2Reaching people is less about knowing the answers and more about relating to the questions. But living out how to relate well to people in the world – how to be in the world but not of the world – is tricky.

We have a sense there are lines that should not be crossed but I find those lines much more clear in theory than reality- at least in the reality of loving people in need.

Kary Oberbrunner’s new book The Fine Line went on sale this week and based upon the reviews I’ve seen is quite helpful at shining some light on this oft murky matter. Below is a short intro video for the book:





Thomas Merton

13 12 2008

Please avoid reading anything written by Thomas Merton – you will probably not sleep well. Thomas Merton exposes more than most of us want to see – he looks at life very seriously in stark contrast to most of us busily being busy. I’ve started reading Merton and not I’m sure what would be safe to post … well – here’s something short that may not cause much harm:

If you want to identify me, ask me not where I live, or what I like to eat, or how I comb my hair, but ask me what I think I am living for, in detail, and ask me what I think is keeping me from living fully for the thing I want to live for. Between these two answers you can determine the identity of any person. 

This week marks the 40th anniversary of the end of Thomas Merton’s life (1915-1968 ) which is being commemorated, in part, by a documentary produced by Morgan Atkinson that will air on PBS beginning tomorrow. Locally WFSU-TV didn’t place it very well on their schedule so set your DVR to record at either 2 or 4 am Monday.





Are we finding our way out of the cold cellar?

28 10 2008

In The Root of the Righteous, A.W. Tozer begins the chapter “Christ Died for our Hearts” with the following: “The human heart lives by its sympathies and affections. In the day that will try every man’s works how much we know will not come in for much consideration. What and whom we have loved will be about all that matters then. For this reason we can never give too great care for the condition of our inner lives.

“The vital place of the moral sympathies in human character has not in recent times received from our religious teachers the attention it deserves. We are only now emerging from a long ice age during which an undue emphasis was laid upon objective truth at the expense of subjective experience. The climate in evangelical circles was definitely chilly. We made the serious mistake of taking each other as criteria against which to judge our spiritual lives instead of comparing notes with Bible saints and with the superior lovers of God whose devotional works and inspired hymns linger like a holy fragrance long after they themselves have left this earthly scene.

“The reason back of this huge error is not hard to discover. The movement toward objective truth and away from religious emotion was in reality a retreat from fanaticism. Bible-loving Christians half a century ago were repulsed by certain gross manifestations of religious flesh on the part of some of the very ones who laid claim to the most exalted spiritual experiences, and as a result fled from wild fire to deep freeze. Bible teachers became afraid to admit the validity of the religious sympathies. The text became the test of orthodoxy, and Fundamentalism, the most influential school of evangelical Christianity, went over to textualism. The inner life was neglected in constant preoccupation with the ‘truth’, and truth was interpreted to mean doctrinal truth only. No other meaning of the word was allowed. Objectivism had won. The human heart cowered in its cold cellar, ashamed to show its face.”





Small groups need a mission

23 10 2008

Scott Boren knows what works and what doesn’t when it comes to small groups.  Both of his books are excellent resources for anyone engaged in forming or leading small groups.

I recently read his latest book, How Do We Get There From Here?: Navigating the Transformation to Holistic Small Groups – here are a few of the points that really stuck with me:

♦ Small groups only work when they exist to change the world.

♦ The only way to train leaders is to mentor.

♦ The focus of small groups must be to expand the group ultimately to start new churches, train new pastors and impact the world.

♦ Small groups will not work if they are just about deep knowledge without reference to practical ways the group can live out what they discuss.

♦ Small groups have three core requirements:
    1) Members must be discipled
    2) Leaders must be coached and invested in
    3) The church must value small groups above all other church activities/functions

♦ Effective small groups need to:
    1) Be holistic in nature
    2) Meet for a task
    3) Have a stated purpose of reaching nonbelievers
    4) Be intentional at raising up new leaders and multiplying groups

You can read the Introduction here and a second sort of introduction titled Navigational Hazards here (where Scott discusses eight typcal hazards encountered by churches intentionally moving toward small groups).





Friday is for videos

19 09 2008

Michael Frost is an Australian teacher, writer and church leader, and one of Australia’s leading communicators and evangelists. He is the Director of the Centre for Evangelism and Glocal Mission at Morling Baptist Seminary in Sydney, Australia.  He has authored numerous books including Seeing God in the Ordinary (©Hendrickson, 2000), The Shaping of Things to Come with Alan Hirsch (©Hendrickson, 2003) and Exiles (©Hendrickson, 2006).

In August 2007 Michael spoke at the Presbyterian Global Fellowship (PGF) conference along with John Ortberg (the 2008 conference speakers included Rick Warren and Alan Hirsch).  Who is PGF? – you can check out their web page but I think what they say at the beginning of their “Covenant 2008” describes what they are about quite well: 

“The mainline church is in crisis. We have turned
our eyes inward and have lost the central focus of
the New Testament church: its apostolic calling to
bear witness to Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth.
We live in a time when our own culture is a mission
field, and we acknowledge that maintaining old
institutions and systems leads neither to renewal
nor to faithfulness in God’s mission.

The mandate of the Gospel and the needs of
the world are urgent.

We confess that the living and reigning
Lord Jesus Christ alone is the hope of the world.

We believe that the Father sent the Son into the
world out of love (John 3:16) and that the church is
not an end in itself but a gift given to the world in
order that all may believe (John 17:21).

We believe Christ is calling us to recommit
ourselves to the authority of Holy Scripture and to
the faithful summaries of biblical teaching found in
the historic Reformed confessions.

We believe Christ is calling us, as covenantal
people, to be transformed by his indwelling
Holy Spirit and to be empowered by the Spirit
for faithful witness.

We believe Christ is calling us to move beyond
confidence in our own capacity and culture to a
new interdependence with others in the global
Body of Christ.

We believe Christ is calling for significant
transformation of our congregations, both in who
we are and what we do, as we engage in God’s
missional purpose for the church.

We believe it is time to gather anew around
God’s mission to the world…”

What Michael Frost has to say in the following discussion is very important explanation of missional and how our ecclesiology needs to be realigned:





Missional renaissance

9 09 2008

I just received an email from Leadership Network featuring four churches who have decided to move in a more missional direction.  I found the brief summaries of their stories both encouraging and motivating.  Change is not only possible but it can also bring more life to the congregation and the community:

Some strange and wonderful things are happening at Rivertree Christian Church.

After praying for 12 years about purchasing a local 85-acre farm and finally coming to a point in the congregation’s history where leaders thought they could pull it off, the church took a different direction.

Greg Nettle, senior pastor for the Massillon, OH church, explains: “When we announced that we’re not going to put up a $40 million campus…that we’re going to be committed to being generous as a church and give money away…people cheered in every service,” Greg says.

The announcement and the congregation’s response were unusual because such a turn of events is counterintuitive to most pastors’ dreams of growing a church, buying land, attracting even more attenders and seeing new Christians invite friends to help the church grow even larger.

Instead, some churches today are pursuing a different course that takes them out of the four walls of their church buildings and into surrounding communities. This adventuresome spirit is sometimes even taking them to other continents.

This shift toward first motivating church members to serve in their communities, rather than initially inviting community members into the church buildings is what some ministry leaders around the country are calling a missional impulse. And because this is not a new desire, but the revival of an old one, this ongoing transition is being called a missional renaissance.

The motivations leading today’s missional churches to adopt a more incarnational approach vary. And the leaders of these churches are motivated by a variety of influences – both internal and external – including Scripture, books, the example of other Christian leaders, or the success of a particular ministry within their own church.

Tim Senff, director of ReachOut , a ministry of Crossroads Community Church (Cincinnati, OH), identifies 2004 as the year his church began a serious movement toward more missional involvement with its local and extended communities.

The catalyst for the change was a building campaign in which church leaders decided to dedicate a percentage of the money raised toward practical assistance for others. Most of these designated funds helped the church build an AIDS hospice in Mamelodi, South Africa. Brian Tome, Crossroad’s senior pastor, had visited South Africa in 2003, and brought his passion for the project back to Cincinnati.

Crossroad’s leadership was surprised at the people’s response to the challenge and it began a season of change in the ministry emphasis of the church. Tim Senff reports that the congregation’s “Go Mamelodi” trips have “rocked the church” and “helped them to see the power of what the local church can do when they come together as a team.” Read the rest of this entry »