Not Dead Yet!

Chris —  January 29, 2015 — 1 Comment

Here’s an excerpt from today’s post for Fresh Expression US, entitled Dying Church? Five Signs You Still Have Something to Give:

For many declining churches, their primary asset may be their building. In years past, the building may have been solely dedicated to official church activities. Today, the building sits vacant most of the week.

Have you thought creatively about how your building can be a blessing to your community?

A few options might include:

Continue Reading…

At some point, your values will change.

This is a good thing.

When I was growing up, I was incredibly insecure and had a hard time making friends. My primary value was to avoid the shame I felt when I failed to connect with others. By focusing on avoiding the shame of connection, I grew increasingly lonely.

For years, I was embedded in churches that focused on a set of “legalisms,” specific rules that couldn’t be broken. These mainly had to do with language, dress, sexuality and how often we showed up for church. By focusing on rules, I grew rigid and judgemental.

For many churches “success” means a growing number of bodies in seats on Sundays, and a growing budget. By focusing on the numbers, churches often go to ungodly lengths to gather more people.

For fundamentalists (Christian, Muslim, Atheist, etc.) intellectual assent to core beliefs is essential to one’s identity. By focusing on right belief, fundamentalists often will excuse hurtful behavior.

Sadly, what often happens is that our ideals change but behavior does not.

We all know the truism that what you measure is what gets done. Whether we like it or not, our ideals often get trumped by our score card.

So how do we redefine a win when our values have changed? Here’s a five steps that I’ve found helpful: Continue Reading…

The term “Third Place” caught on after Ray Oldenburg’s 1989 book The Great Good Place: Cafes, Coffee Shops, Bookstores, Bars, Hair Salons, and Other Hangouts at the Heart of a Community. Like many books since, Oldenburg outlined how American individualism was starting to take a social toll.

“The course of urban development in America is pushing the individual toward that line separating proud independence from pitiable isolation.”

This isolation has led to our need for a “third place.” If the home is your first place and work is your second place, then the third place is the place where socializing can authentically take place. For many, the need for such places was immediately recognizable. It resulted in a number of social experiments, most notably, the explosion of Starbucks.

It didn’t take long for thought leaders in churchworld to grab on to this. Churches started building in coffee kiosks and books about how churches can be more like Starbucks started showing up. Continue Reading…

From my sermon prep for this week about the baptism of Jesus:

We believe that Jesus is God, yes, but we need to be careful that we don’t make him “too sacred.” By that, I mean that Jesus is not set apart from the world.

Some religions look at their founders and heroes as people who escaped the darkness and pain of the world. Jesus embraces dirt, disappointment, disgust and disease.

Some religions look at their founders and heroes as symbols that must be venerated, never questioned or mocked. Jesus doesn’t need to be protected, he asks to be followed.

Some religions aim to achieve a sort of God-ness. Jesus was a man, and call us to live fully into our humanity.
Some religions provide a license to demote other people to less than ourselves. Jesus invites us to join the lowest of the low.

If we take Jesus identity seriously, we need to as ourselves “who or what do I despise?” We need audit our hearts and our actions and ask: Who did I ignore? Who did I avoid? Who did I mock? Who do my choices hurt? Chances are, those are the kind of people that would line up with Jesus at the river with John the Baptist.

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