Monday, December 29, 2008

What are your thoughts on new year's resolutions?

On Sunday, I'll be working in some material on New Year's Resolutions (NYR). So, I am curious. - What are your thoughts on NYR?
-Are you making any this year?
- Have you made them in the past?
- Have you seen any interesting stories or top ten lists on NYR?

Here are some popular NYR, according to (see story):

Looking forward to your thoughts!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The 10 Coolest Open Source Products of 2008

I just caught this article tonight off of The 10 Coolest Open Source Products of 2008. Open source is free software, designed, created, and maintained by an online community that is dedicated to the application.

I'm not a programmer, so here are the open source products in the article that I am familiar with:
  • - A free alternative to MS Office suite. Apparently 2008 version is much more compatible with MS Office.
  • IBM Lotus Symphony - IBM's contribution to OpenOffice, seeking to break Microsoft's domination in office suite software
  • Firefox - An alternative browser to Microsoft Internt Exploser
  • Android - Google's new mobile operating system designed to compete with Apple's iphone application.

I have shied away from using a lot of open source applications due to compatibility issues. But if this is changing, I will consider these open source applications more. And so may many others.

Do you use any of these or other open source applications?

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Dedicated to God

Tomorrow I'm speaking on "A Life Dedicated to God," with Jesus as our model.

I found the following definition of "dedicated" from Webopedia.

"Dedicated - Reserved for a specific use. In communications, a dedicated channel is a line reserved exclusively for one type of communication. This is the same as a leased line or private line.

A dedicated server is a single computer in a network reserved for serving the needs of the network. For example, some networks require that one computer be set aside to manage communications between all the other computers . . . Note, however, that not all servers are dedicated . . .
The opposite of dedicated is general purpose."
This is pretty interesting when applied to the Christian life, isn't it? We are made for a "single type of communication"--to tell of Jesus and the kingdom of God. We have a singular purpose--to take up Christ's mission to the world.
Not everyone is dedicated. But this is our call. And Christ is our model.
How do you think this definition of "dedicated" fits the call that God has upon our lives? What gets in the way of us being dedicated to God?

Man shoots father who talks during a movie

I just saw this story, Man shoots talker at movies, police say. According to the report, a man who was angry at a family that was talking in the theater threw popcorn at a boy and shot the father in the arm. I could not be more sympathetic about being irritated at people talking during movies. But shooting someone? Wow.

Talk about not being in the Christmas spirit. What is wrong with our country? We are so blessed materially--perhaps too blessed. Let's put it this way--someone shoots a gun at someone else because they are messing with their entertainment experience.

Obviously, material blessings are not enough. We need hope and joy in our lives--the kind of peace that comes from knowing why we are here, having a purpose, and having God in our lives.

What does this occurence and others like it say about our country?

Friday, December 26, 2008

Top Technology Breakthroughs of 2008 has a new blog post, the Top Technology Breakthroughs of 2008. This is a pretty interesting list. My favorite, though, is the first one--flexible displays.

Remember those ultra thin, flexible computer displays in the movie Minority Report? Apparently, these displays will be available in 2010. Presumably, this will replace old style newspapers, and we'll be able to customize these newspapers with our favorite blogs, websites and RSS feeds.

The year 2008, however, may be remembered as the year in which several technology breakthroughs in the last few years reached the tipping point. Facebook, Twitter, Youtube--just two years ago, these technologies either came into existence or no one had really heard of them.

It's a pretty exciting time to be alive! Our kids will look back and say, what was it like before ________? Tell us about the olden days.

What new technologies did you start using in 2008? How has it changed your life?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Jesus' birth was scandalous

We often think of Jesus' birth in terms of a beautiful, glowing nativity scene off of a Christmas card; however, Jesus' birth was actually quite scandalous. It took an angel of the Lord appearing to Joseph for him to not divorce Mary when he found out that she was pregnant. If he had a hard time believing that Mary was pregnant through the Holy Spirit, surely this would have been doubly true of the small towns that Mary and Joseph lived.
There are several hints in the gospel of Jesus' questionable parantage--among other things, Jesus was called "son of Mary" (rather than son of Joseph). See the news article What Jesus Suffered at Christmas. In fact, it may well be that Jesus was excluded from worshipping in the synangogue or temple due to his questionable parentage.
Jesus really was born a lowly birth.
What does Jesus' lowly birth say about God?

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Is it really a Wonderful Life?

Today I read the news story Wonderful? Sorry, George, It's a Pitiful, Dreadful Life from the New York Times. A very interesting read. The author points out how terrible life really is really is. Here is a quote:

“'It’s a Wonderful Life' is a terrifying, asphyxiating story about growing up
and relinquishing your dreams, of seeing your father driven to the grave before
his time, of living among bitter, small-minded people. It is a story of being
trapped, of compromising, of watching others move ahead and away, of becoming so
filled with rage that you verbally abuse your children, their teacher and your
oppressively perfect wife. It is also a nightmare account of an endless home
The author draws parallels from the greedy banker (Mr. Potter) to the greedy executives of today. He even points out that though George's friends come up with the money that had been lost by his not so bright uncle, George still would have gone to jail for theft.

But in the end, the author concludes that he still likes watching It's a Wonderful Life. Here is a click from the movie that I think shows us why this is still a well-loved, timeless movie.

What do you think of the article and the movie?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Gay Leaders Furious with Obama over Rick Warren

In a move that probably has surprised many conservatives, President-elect Barak Obama has chosen evangelical Rick Warren of Saddleback Church to usher him in at his inauguration. Read the story here. This has drawn sharp criticism from gay rights activists due to Warren's opposition to gay marriage.

This news story quotes Kevin Naff of the Washington Blade, who says this about Obama's choice:

“This tone-deafness to our concerns must not be tolerated. We have just endured eight years of endless assaults on our dignity and equality from a president beholden to bigoted conservative Christians. The election was supposed to have ended that era. It appears otherwise.”

I suppose that I was a bit surprised at this reaction, that Warren would be opposed so strongly because of his views. After all, Billy Graham stood on moral issues and received little criticism.

What do you think of Obama's decision and the reaction to it?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Christians seeking to evangelize Islamic North Africa

A recent news story, Christian Missionaries Stir unease in North Africa, tells how Christians are seeking to reach out to Islamic strongholds in North Africa. Here is an excerpt:

"Missionary groups say the number of Moroccan Christians has grown to 1,500 from 100 in a decade and that Algerian Christians number several thousand, although no official figures exist.

They say their message is reaching thousands more, thanks partly to satellite TV and the internet.

The Koran states no-one can be forced to follow one religion, but many Muslims believe that to abandon Islam is to shun family, tribe and nation and bring shame upon relatives."

The story goes on to tell how those who converted to Christianity from Islam were shunned by their families.

I was struck by how people around the world are making real sacrifices for their faith. I wonder if this pressure is not a blessing, as people must take their faith seriously, know what they believe and why, and be conscious of this choice every day.

What are the benefits and drawbacks of living as a Christian in an Islamic country like Morocco?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Fierce Conversations

I recently read the book Fierce Conversations: Achieving Success at Work & in Life, One Conversation at a Time by Susan Scott. Fierce means robus, intense, strong, powerful passionate, eager, unbridled. I was struck by the title, and then the book was assigned in my coaching class.

I particularly liked the author's suggestion on how to confront difficult issues--you know, the conversations that we avoid. Here are here suggestions.
  1. Name the issue.

  2. Select a specific example that illustrates the behavior or situation you want to change.

  3. Describe your emtions about this issue.

  4. Clarify what is a stake.

  5. Identify your contribution to this problem.

  6. Indicate your wish to resolve the issue.

  7. Invite your partner to respond.
Scott counsels against other approaches such as asking someone, "How's it going" when there is a clear other agenda.

This is a direct approach, something I sometimes avoid. I prefer to persuade, bring along, educate, and the like. But sometimes confrontation or directness is necessary, and there are conversations that we ought not avoid. Often, everyone is relieved when such issues are brought out in the open in an honest, up front way. For instance, a struggling employee often knows when he or she is struggling or misplaced, and is relieved to be able to talk about.

Scott's book is a quick read and decently interesting. But I think that this is the best part of the book.

What do you think of the author's advice on fierce conversations?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

News Story - Bikini-clad women make men impatient

Here is a very interesting news report called "Bikini-clad women make men impatient." (Don't worry, there are no pictures.) It seems that sexual stimulus makes men impatient about non-sex related decisions, such as what to spend or buy. No wonder sex is used so much in advertising. Not only does it get men's attention, but it also causes them to buy more impulsively.

I guess we are pretty pathetic.

Why did God make men this way?!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Check it out - Cool video of children saying Lord's Prayer

The Lord's Prayer from Clint Loveness on Vimeo.

Here is a cute video with children saying the Lord's Prayer. Do you like it?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Astronomers may have found the "star" of Bethlehem

My friend Debra Arvin sent me this news story from NBC's website, Christmas in June? Stars Say Maybe. This article details how astronomers have looked back at the time of Jesus' birth trying to determine what "star" the wise men might have seen.

Here is a quote from the article: "The most likely candidate for the Christmas Star made its most dramatic appearance not on Dec. 25 in the year 1 A.D., but on June 17 in the year 2 B.C. What's more, that event was not the appearance of a single bright star, but a grand conjunction involving the brightest planets and one of the brightest stars in the sky."

What do you think of this story?

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Missionaries in the work office

In the Savannah Morning News, Dana Clark writes an article named Missionaries in the office. The article describes how Danny Falligant, an attorney, sets up Bible study groups in workplaces.

Clarks says that "many people of faith turn to prayer and scripture whenever facing stress or frustration, even when that happens at work." These groups seem to thrive, some joke, when the stock market is down.

Another Savannah resident ,John Crosby runs a ministry called Priority Insight, "a local nonprofit organization and workplace ministry that helps businesses incorporate 'Biblical principles' at work. Crosby has worked with about 90 area businesses and is involved in about 40 local office-based Bible study groups."

Apparently, religious activities are legal in the workplace, so long as they are not mandatory.

So, what workplace rules do you have about religious things, written or unwritten? Could a workplace prayer or study group be started in your office?

Friday, December 05, 2008

90 Percent of Americans pray every day

Much has been made about the religious decline in America. It is true that Americans are increasingly deciding not to attend weekly worship. "Religion" is down in the US. But "spirituality" remains high.

One recent study found that 90% of Americans report that they pray every day. See news article on prayer.
It is interesting what Americans pray for. In a study of prayer journals of John Hopkins' patients, the study found that of prayers "twenty-eight percent were requests of God, 28 percent were prayers to both thank God and ask for help, while another 22 percent were thank yous.
The article also says that "a 2006 University of Pittsburgh Medical Center study that analyzed actuarial death rates found that weekly worship service attendance could add up to three years to a person´s life." So prayer is good for us. As if we needed a study to tell us that!
When and how often do you pray? What do you pray about?

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Social Networking - How the internet will change how we do outreach

As a lot of you know, I just took my D.Min. class at Fuller on Ministry in the Postmodern Matrix. For my paper for this class, I'm going to be writing about how the internet will change how we do ministry and outreach, particularly through social networking sites.

In just the last two years, how people use the internet has dramatically changed with the rise of sites like Facebook. Today, people have a very public persona on these sites, giving public updates and commenting on each other's walls very personal things. In the blogosphere, we have finally found a way to be transparent. A bit ironic.

The internet also allows people who are introverted to have a very powerful presence, much greater than they would feel comfortable doing in public.People today are meeting first on the internet through sites like eHarmony, Facebook, etc. Two years ago even this would have sounded strange, but today, it is becoming normal. Teens prefer to text one another than call. They will even text each other in the same room.

All of this means that outreach will take place on sites like Facebook and the Missional Outreach Network first. These will be the places where people--both Christians and seekers--will meet one another for the first time. They will openly discuss their faith journeys in very public ways, and will be able to check out the Christian community through these sites. It is already happening here, as we have several who are in Bible studies and part of recovery groups who are interacting on this site.

For instance, I recently posted an article on how our church was helping a man who was homeless by taking him in. Christie, who is on this site and studying with a couple of other people on this site, shared with us her experience of being homeless. I find it amazing and awesome that we can find connections with people whom we have not yet met and share in such open ways. All of this can lead to powerful in person connections.

Those are the issues that I'm exploring. I will be talking with Ryan Bolger, Eddie Gibbs, Keith Matthews, Brian McLaren, Spencer Burke, David Fitch and other contacts that I have through Fuller about how they see these issues.

So, how do you think the internet will change how we do outreach and ministry?

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

What is Twitter? - A new social networking tool

Twitter is a relatively new social networking and microblogging service. Read the Wikipedia article on Twitter.

There are several uses for Twitter:

  • It is useful for posting short updates that are not the length of a regular blog, such as "Getting off the plane right now."

  • It allows a user to post an update from his or her phone, not requiring a computer- It can help a user make quick updates in, say, an emergency

  • It can be integrated with Facebook, with Twitter updates being used as the "Status" update on Facebook; this allows Facebook friends to get more updates.

  • The Twitter updates can be fed to a website through RSS and HTML code inserts.
Like other social networking tools, Twitter allows its uses to send out invites to their friends from their email address books to "follow" them (receive their Twitter updates) on Twitter. A Twitter user can follow others who use Twitter as well as see who is following them.

If you go to my blog, on the top left hand side you can see my Twitter updates, and you can sign up to receive these updates.Twitter has some great uses, though some post trivial things like what they are eating for dinner. It is another way to communicate and stay in touch with friends. If you are up-on technology, you are on Twitter.

Do you use Twitter? If so, what do you use it for and why? How might Twitter be helpful to outreach and ministry?

Monday, December 01, 2008

Will books become obsolete? - Google's plan to digitize the world

Here is an interesting article from Maureen Dowd of the New York Times on the demise of books. Google has scanned seven million books, taking them from print to digitized forms. She still sees a place for books, but they will become quite different in use.

Libraries will shrink. Out of print works will be revived and gain new "shelf life." Information will become even more ubiquitous. So, the question is, how will this affect the church and Christians, who have been so heavily dependent on books?

Ever since the invention of the printing press, Christianity has been linked to print. Perhaps too dependent. Printed Bibles, commentaries, and newspapers that were made available to the public had a democratizing effect, casting down popes and bishops.

This trend will undoubtedly continue. People no longer look to church leaders for all of their information. Gone are the days where ministers were the disseminators of knowledge. Most everything we say can be googled at a moment's notice.This means that sermons and lessons must become intensively practical for Christians, with the authentic ring of a lived out faith and leaders that give examples from their own lives.

For non-Christians who are biblically illiterate, it may mean directing them to these resources online, and following this up for questions and mentoring. A real live Christian to sort through the overwhelming flood of information.

Perhaps we will recover our value of authority and lessen our worship of knowledge. Not the authority of position; instead, the authority of a lived out life. Moral authority.

How do you think the world will change as it digitizes?

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Our cruise to Mexico on the Carnival Ecstasy

Hey, we're back from our cruise to Mexico on the Carnival Ecstasy! Many of you have asked how this went, so here is the low down.

Monday - We got on board about 1:00 PM. Got into our room. Looked around, saw the ship. When we went to eat in the evening, Becki was sea sick.

Tuesday - A day at sea. Spent the day reading mainly. Tuesday evening was formal night. Took some pictures in our formal wear. Becki made it through dinner.

Wednesday - Port of call at Progreso, Mexico. Took a bus out to see the Mayan ruins. Ate some good Mexican food out at the ruins. Spent a short time at a beach.

Thursday - Port of call was Cazumel, Mexico. Took a cab to "Paradise Beach." Ate some good nachos at the beach. I watched some of the Dallas Cowboys-Seattle Seahawks game while Becki read out on the deck. Slept through dinner.

Friday - Day at sea. Read. Saw some of the Mumbai bombing. Watched movie (Ironman). Saw a musical in the evening that was a strange mix of The Wizard of Oz, WW II, Barlem and Bailey, and music through the decades.

Saturday - Back at Galveston.

There were a lot of good things about the trip. The service on board was great, the food was pretty good (I think I gained a couple of pounds, unfortunately), we had a decent cabin, and the Mayan ruins were interesting. Becki and I spent some time together, and for once, I didn't work for a week.

There were some things that were a little disappointing. Becki struggled with getting her "sea legs" (or sea stomach) for much of the trip. There was just one small adult pool on the ship. I guess we have seen too many commercials and too many episodes of the Love Boat, because we both thought that this would be a lot bigger and where we would hang out. The beach at Progresso was not that pretty, and the one at Cazumel was packed (probably because we were on a free beach). Because we went on Thanksgiving, there were a ton of families with older kids there, but not a lot of young couples. We missed out on not having more people our age to hang out with.

Overall, while it was good for us to get away, our trip was a bit different than expected. But hey, we're not complaining. We rarely get to spend a week away without our kids, and we certainly had an experience that many people will never have. There were people working on the ship from all around the world working service jobs. They were so wonderful, and I could not help but think how blessed we were.

If we go on another cruise, it will be with some friends, which would be a lot of fun! Probably try out another cruise line too. Thanks for all of the well wishing and for thinking of us. We're now ready to see you again! :)

Have you been on a cruise? What was your experience?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Becki and I are on vacation!

Hey guys. Just letting you know that Becki and I are on vacation this week. We are going on a cruise! We leave on Monday from Galveston on Carnvial cruise line. We'll go down to Cazumel and Progresso, where the Mayan ruins are.

Becki and I wanted to go on a cruise for our 10 year anniversay. We are now in our 13th year of marriage, and this is our first cruise. Hey, we've tried. Recently, we were delayed by two hurricanes and ministry stuff. But not this week!

I am pretty amazed at how inexpensive cruises are for what you get. It looks like there is a ton to do. Maybe we won't come back . . . :)

Check in with you guys in a week!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

How does change and transformation happen?

I have had very little down time this week during my class, but I wanted to get in a quick post. Keith Matthews, our teacher, asked us to share what the circumstances surrounding a transformative experience in our lives.

Here are the answers:
  • Cross-cultural experience
  • Lack of purpose to purpose
  • Crisis/loss of job,/loss of call/disorientation
  • Spiritually dry
  • Uncertainty/searching
  • Holy Spirit work
  • New opportunity/vision
  • Lack of family relationship
  • Loss
  • Victimization
  • State of exhaustion
  • Someone has challenged

These can be boiled down to two things that cause change:

1. Level of dissatisfaction/discomfort/or pain in current situation propels them to seek change.

2. A new compelling vision for a different reality

Matthews made the great point that so much of the time, we do everything in the church to help people avoid these states. Thus, lack of transformation.

Think of a transformative experience in your own life. What were the circumstances behind this experience?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Check out the Blog - Reclaiming the Mission

Here is a website that we were turned on to in my class on ministry in the postmodern matrix, Reclaiming the Mission. David Fitch is an author and church planter who really has a lot of good things to say. Check it out!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Class I'm Taking RIght Now - Ministry in the Postmodern Matrix

Hello friends. I'm in Pasadena, California, taking a Doctor of Minstry class on "Ministry in the Postmodern Matrix" at Fuller Theological Seminary. Originally, Brian McLaren taught this course.

My teacher is Keith Matthews, who used to teach this class with McLaren and who was a pastor with McLaren at Cedar Ridge Community Church. Keith has a great spirit about him. I think that it will be a great class.

We'll be looking at what is going on in our culture, and how to do ministry effectively today in light of our culture.

After this week of class, Becki and I are going on vacation. This should be a great two weeks. I love learning, and I love my wife!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Sharing a meal with a man who used to make $80,000, now living out of his van

Yesterday a man named Bradley came in needing some financial help. We gave him food and talked and prayed with him. He almost has a masters degree and used to work in the finance industry. He is out of work, and currently living in his van.

Bradley had applied at various places, but his cell phone was almost out of minutes. Unless he could be contacted, he could not get phone calls from prospective employers. Clearly he was trying hard to get work. So I took him up to the AT&T store and put some more minutes on his phone. Jason's Deli was right next door, so I asked him if he would like to eat together. He said that he would.

In our conversation, he explained how he came to his current state. At one time he had been making $80,000 a year doing various types of loans. With credit dried up, he longer had any clientel. He was about 50 probably. When I asked him if he had any children, he started to tear up and say, "No, I have never been married." His mother had passed on, and he was estranged from his brother. He said that he had to "prove himself" to his brother in order to come back into his life.

He was raised Roman Catholic, but said that he realized that after catachism in 3rd grade that Catholics did not study the Bible. He said that "Christians--whatever that means--" seem to do more Bible study. I asked him if he would like to study with me, and he said that he would. I told him that I would start studying with him after I got back from my upcoming trips. He said that he would also come and worship with us on Sunday. He needed to be around people. And he was touched by our dear Linda, who had offered to have him come and have Thanksgiving dinner with her and her family.

On the way out, I told the manager at Jason's Deli who I was, that we were trying to help Bradley and thought he was a good guy, and that I would appreciate it if they gave him a good look. (Bradley had applied there, and clearly had spoken to the manager). I prayed for Bradley, and then we parted.

Last night, Bradley called me and said, "Because of you, I was able to have a good conversation with my brother tonight." I'm not sure how I helped in this, but I was glad to see some reconciliation begin.

I could not help but feel how blessed I was as I heard Bradley's story. I think he is legitimate, and I am glad to be a part of a church that God is using to help those who need it. This is the Lord's work.

What do you think of this story about Bradley? How should we respond to these types of circumstances?

Giving should be purposeful

Here is today's devotional thought on giving. At our congregation, we will be purposing our regular giving tomorrow, as well as thinking about all of our types of giving that we will be doing throughout the year. It should be a great day. To enlarge the devotional, click on the image to the left.

This series has been good for our family, and I hope that these thoughts have been helpful to you.

What do you think of purposing our giving? Does this help you in being more consistenly generous?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Giving helps spread the gospel of Jesus Christ

Here is today's devotional thought on giving. To enlarge the devotional, click on the picture to the left.

Studies show that in the average church, the level of giving is 2.5%. In most churches, there are probably about 1/3 who give quite a lot (percentage wise), 1/3 who give some (percentage wise), and 1/3 who give little to none at all. Imagine how many good works could be done and how many local and foreign missionaries we could support in sharing the gospel if 100% of God's people generously!

We must make our church budgets reflect what we say our priorities are--reaching the lost. Churches that are growing evangelistically tend to devote at least 10% of their contributions directly to local outreach. Unfortunately, most church budgets are devoted almost exclusively to members. If there ever is a debate about whether to hire someone who works in outreach or to hire a children, youth, congregational care, etc. minister, the outreach hires almost always lose. Usually, there is not even a debate.

My D.Min. director has a saying: everything that we do is theological. This is so true. Our giving and spending as a church and in our personal lives says something about what we believe. I hope that we believe that reaching lost people is important.

What do you think that our giving says about our theology?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

God makes those who give rich in every way--so that we can be generous on every occasion

Today I came home and my girls ran up to me. Gina said, Daddy, we have to do the giving book now. Last night you were gone, and so we haven't done it!
Yesterday I had meetings from 5:30 PM on, so I did not get to come home and do the devotional with Becki and our girls around the dinner table. This has become our "new habit," and I was glad that they looked forward to it. They really have hearts for God. I am thinking about checking out some other daily devotional material to continue the practice. (We have songs and prayers and Bible stories at nighttime, but this is a bit different.)
To enlarge today's devotional thought on giving, click on the picture to the left.
What do you think of this promise of God to "make us rich"? How is this different or the same compared to the "health and wealth" doctrine?

Pastor Leaves His Church

This is a story I found entitled, "Pastor Leaves His Church."

From the Associated Press –
Hiam Shatir may look like your average pastor, but he’s not acting like one. In a nation filled with expensive mega-church buildings popping up, Hiam instead chose to sell his mega-church, Crestview Community Church, and attempt to live into what he says is the call to “be the church.” And although many doubt him, Hiam just knew it was the right move to make.

“We just felt it was the right thing to do,” said Hiam, a businessman turned pastor, from his converted basement where he now administrates the church. “We couldn’t put our foot on the problem. People were sitting in the pews and not doing anything. They would come and sit and leave. And we began to ask if this is the Gospel.”

Crestview was known for its amazing stage productions, heartfelt contemporary worship, and relevant sermon topics often based on current events and pop culture. It quickly grew in numbers—adding two satellite “video campuses” and a recently launched online church campus—and was cited as one of the fastest growing churches in the nation. “Having someone validate what we were doing like that was really cool at first. We were really good at creating the ‘Wow’ factor that would have them wanting more,” Hiam says in reflection. “But I would go home exhausted and consistently wonder what difference we were making. I didn’t like that. And I just reached a point where I couldn’t do it anymore.”

In what many would consider a stunning move for a 8,000-member mega-church, Hiam and the board of elders chose to sell their recently developed $12 million dollar campus to a local technology company, which is now planning to convert the sanctuary into a manufacturing facility. “Selling the building was easier than we thought,” one elder stated.
So what made this ultra-successful pastor of one of the city’s largest suburban communities take such a radical step? Hiam shared that it was faith. “One day I walked into the main sanctuary, and it was empty. It was this huge building that we were paying a mortgage on and it was dark. I just had this sense of wonder if this is really what Jesus would do. Would he have created this building? And then when the economy took a downturn, paying the mortgage became our primary concern. But everyone was hurting. We had to let people go from their jobs. All of a sudden paying the bills became our primary motivation.”

Hiam shared that his messages became motivated by how much those people could give to the church rather than the Gospel. And then a moment of clarity hit me. “I was standing there on a Sunday and, right in the middle of my sermon, I just stopped. I looked around and just realized that, if we let go of this burden, everything would change. It was at that time I started to really question our intentions. At the same time, some really good people asked if we were living ‘missionally.’ Were we really releasing people to minister to their neighbor? I didn’t have a good answer to that question.”

Hiam began to doubt his own faith and purpose. “It was a dark time. More than once I told my wife I wanted to quit and go back to business,” Hiam said. “I felt like I was losing my soul. But the board of elders stuck with me, and they began to ask how we could begin to use money to solve real needs when we saw them. We suddenly realized we had the power to release people to be ‘missional.’”

Hiam wrestled with the decision over a six-month period. He knew that letting go of the building meant doing things in a completely different way. “The show would be gone, and, in some ways, that was hard for my ego to let go. It essentially meant trusting God to work in the people and not being everything to everybody. It was like we had new glasses on. We quickly realized that, before, a small majority of people were doing almost everything. They were burned out and completely exhausted. Now everyone has responsibility and purpose. So many people came to me, thanking me,” Hiam said.

When the building was sold, many felt lost in the transition. “We immediately lost about 30% of the people who attended our church,” Hiam shared. That number roughly translates to almost a thousand people. “Everyone called me and told me they just wanted a place to go on Sunday. They didn’t want to go out into the world. People’s primary concern was the loss of our children’s program.”

In talking with several families that had left, one woman expressed what has become a common refrain of ex-Crestview members, “Who will teach our children about Jesus? We just felt we needed a good children’s program and didn’t want to lose that.”
Life for Hiam and the church is now more complex but, he says, more rewarding. To accommodate the lack of facilities, Hiam took the radical step and converted his basement into an administration center. “We slimmed down everything and focused on following Jesus into mission. We asked what it would mean to love God and our neighbor as ourselves. We now meet once a month for a large gathering and meal, and put all of our focus on meeting in homes. It meant really getting serious about discipleship and putting our trust into the hands of our gifted leaders.”

Once a regular speaker at evangelical conferences on topics such as leadership and church growth, Hiam says the invitations to speak have all but dried up. The shift has allowed Hiam to focus almost exclusively on meeting with leaders. He now meets almost daily with those who run discipleship groups in their homes. One leader, Bill Jarvis, liked the transition, “For the first time, I feel like I am understanding what Jesus meant when he said, ‘Go and make disciples.’ And I like it.”

The lack of mortgage has allowed the church community to give almost 80% of their tithe away. “We’re now seeing people take initiative where they wouldn’t before. We’ve empowered them to be Jesus right where they’re at. And they like it. One part of the community is using their money to help single mothers get through college. Another group has renovated an old warehouse and turned it into a community art complex. A third group builds fresh water wells for third world countries almost every month.”

Hiam is now more aware of his impact on the community and can’t imagine going back. “Someone just yesterday came up to me and said, ‘I don’t have to drive to the church to feel like a Christian anymore. I just have to go out my front door.’ That right there told me we made the right decision.”

This is a work of satire. We hope it causes some reflection and sparks some good discussion about how we steward the church in the midst of this economic crisis.

What do you think of this "story"?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Out of Severe Trial Can Come Rich Generosity

Here is today's devotional thought on giving. To enlarge the devotional, click on the picture to the left.

What is the most difficult thing about giving out of "poverty" and "severe trial"? What is the easiest?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

What if Starbucks Marketed Like a Church? A Parable.

One of the new members of the Missional Outreach Netowrk, Jimmy Jones, posted this video. It is pretty funny and too true.

Tuesday's Devotional Thought on Giving

Here is today's devotional thought on giving. As we approach the Holiday season and think about the different kinds of gifts that we will be buying for others, it would be good to think of the different kinds of gifts we will be giving to God.

To enlarge the devotional, click on the picture to the left.

How does thinking of our giving as a "present" to God change our heart towards giving?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Monday's Devotional Thought

Here is today's deovtional thought on giving. To enlarge the devotional, click on the picture to the left.

This devotional talks of Christ's sacrifice as being the motivation for our giving.

How do our "sacrifices" compare to Christ's sacrifice(s) for us?

Sunday's Devotional Thought on Giving - We should give our firstfruits to God.

Here is yesterday's devotional thought on giving, sent out today. Sorry for the delay. To enlarge the devotional thought, click on the picture to the left.

I was encouraged on Sunday to hear stories of people using this devotional booklet with their families and in small groups.

The devotional talks about giving our "firstfruits"--the first and best of our income to God.

How does giving to God first work in setting a budget?

Church told obvious lies, gay activists allege

An article came out today citing protests against Saddleback, where Rick Warren is the pastor, for its support of Proposition 8. This proposition was an amendment to the California constitution, defining marriage as being between a man and a womn. See the article, Church told obvious lies, gay activists allege.

I suppose that I am glad that the amendment passed. Ironically, the high turnout of African-Americans to vote for Barak Obama helped this amendment's passage, since 70% of African-Americans voted for its passage. Since the measure passed by 52%, in a normal election, it probably would not have passed.
Laws can only be enforced if the will of the people is behind them. Currently, this is the will of the people--but only just barely. I'm glad that right now this is the people's will.

I do wonder that once support for amendments like Proposition 8 falls below 50%, whether it really is productive to the Christian cause to seek to enforce morality. Will we reach more people by passing laws, which creates protests, or by loving people and sharing Christ?
What do you think of the passage of amendments and laws that seek to define marriage as between a man and a woman? How long will this be helpful to Christianity?

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Giving Devotional Thought - The rich should be extravagently generous

Here is today's devotional thought on giving. To read the devotional, just click the picture image on the left and it will enlarge the image.

As I say in the devotional, I never think of myself as rich, but compared to people around the world, I certainly am. God has richly blessed us.

Why do we not think of ourselves as being rich?

I came across this video on giving on YouTube. Powerful stuff, showing what our spending here in the United States could fund around the world.

What do you think of this video?

Obama's impact upon federal judges

Here is an article, "Federal Judgeship Openings Await Obama," that details Obama's possible impact upon federal courts. He will probably impact court decisions through these appointments for many years, and Jo Biden's long tenure on the Senate Judiciary Committee is likely to make this a certainty. As you may recall, Biden was one of those who "Borked" Justice Bork.

What concerns do you have about these upcoming judicial appointments?

Friday, November 07, 2008

Today's Devotional Thought on Giving - Sacrificial giving is based upon Christ's sacrifice for us

I love the historical reference in this devotional, explaining why Christianity thrived and pagan charities failed. Only Christianity has a giving God!

Our girls—and Becki and I—have benefited from going through these devotionals thoughts each night. I pray that they might help shape all of our hearts.

How does Christ's sacrifice motivate you in your giving?

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Giving Thought for Today - We are happier giving than getting

Here is today's devotional thought on giving. (Click on the picture to the left to enlarge the picture.)

Why is it so difficult for us to believe Jesus' words that "it is more blessed to give than receive"? Do you have any stories to share about how giving has brought you joy?

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Today's Giving Thought - We cannot hold onto material things

Here is today's devotional thought on giving, taken from the devotional booklet on giving that I recently wrote, Giving: Shaped by God's Heart. To enlarge the picture, click on the picture.

What thoughts or comments does this devotional thought bring up for you and your family?

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Post-Election Analysis--Why Obama Won and Where Conversatives Go From Here

Barak Obama, the freshman senator from Illinois, tonight became the next president of the United States. The historic nature of this election cannot be overstated. Forty years after the death of Martin Luther King, the US has elected its first African-American president.

So why did Obama win? There are many reasons. First, this was the worst political environment for a political party (the Republican party) perhaps ever. President Bush is at a 27% approval rating. Ninety-two percent of Americans believe that the US is on the wrong track. We are fighting two wars, one of which (the Iraq war) has been hugely unpopular. We are in the midst of a recession. And the stock market has dropped 5000 points in the last month.

I believe that these factors made it virtually impossible for any Republican to win this year. McCain was probably the one Republican who actually would have had any kind of chance this year due to his "Maverick" reputation.

Obama worked with an extremely positive environment for him. He also helped himself in many ways. His team ran an excellent campaign. He was discipled as a candidate. And he was able to tap into the hopes and dreams of younger Americans.

As a student of culture, generations, and communication, I can say that Obama absolutely "speaks the language" of younger generations. It is not only what he says--talk of bringing people together, a positive message (yes we can, change you can believe in)--but how he says it. He comes across as thoughtful, carefully weighing different sides of any issue--a stark contrast to Bush's cowboy, shoot from the hip perception. He is respectful of his opponents, vowing to listen to them. And he speaks with humility. In his speech tonight he said that he would have false starts and make mistakes. Again, this is in stark contrast to Bush, who in a press interview could not or would not come up with a single mistake that he had made as president.

I say this not in support of Obama, but in explaining his appeal.

Conservatives are in disarray tonight, with the Republicans losing not only the presidency, but also incurring major losses in the Senate and the House. They can take solace in this only: that despite all of the things in favor of the Democrats this year, McCain still won 47% of the popular vote. This is still a center right country. Part of the reason McCain lost is that conservatives are actually upset with the Republican party. Bush, while strongly conservative culturally on social issues, proved to not be conservative at all on foreign policy or fiscal policy. The country seems to not necessarily rejected conservatism, but to have rejected Bush--his decision to go to war, his spending, and his perceived lack of reflection. It is very possible that if the stock market collapse had not occured in mid-September, McCain might have been able to squeak out a victory.

On the other hand, the Republican party faces serious challenges in the future. The US is becoming more and more diverse, as evidenced by not only the election of an African-American president, but also by his very diverse constituency. Meanwhile, the Republican party is overwhelmingly white and aging. Sarah Palin may be the future of the party, but there is no evidence that she has any appeal outside of the shrinking Republican base. Mitch McConnell, the senate minority leader from Kentucky who survived re-election, has the role of seeking to pick up the pieces of the Republican party. Republicans may still have 43-44 or so seats in the Senate, which means they still can filibuster some bills to provide a bit of a check on an absolute democratic agenda. But what does it mean to be a Republican today? This is the question for the Republican party.

In truth, I have no idea who we have just elected. Obama certainly speaks in a way that sounds very unifying and bi-partisan. However, his voting record is the most liberal in the Senate. He has so little history that this voting record is the only thing by which we can get a sense of how he would govern. With a Democratic Sentate and House, it is rather disconcerting to think what kind of legislation might be pushed through--legislation that would be far at odds with a center right nation.

The one real positive from this election that probably all sides can agree upon is this: electing an African-American for president is a good sign of racial progress in the US. Many are eager to put this issue behind us.

I am uneasy right now mostly because of the huge unknown concerning Obama. Will he govern center left and help heal some injustices of the past, or will he align with Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi and push through a far leftist agenda?

Whatever happens, we should pray for soon to be President Obama. He faces many challenges. And we should remember that our faith is in God, not presidents or Congress.

What should a Christian's response be to this election?

A Bible study and election watch tonight

I have a Bible study scheduled tonight, going through part 7 of the Story of Redemption with a young man named Russell. I will then rush home and catch the election results. The first should be great. The second--well, it should prove interesting! I'm praying for both tonight.

Today's Giving Thought - Giving Should Cost Us Something

Last night, Becki and I sat down at the table for dinner, and after eating, we went through yesterday's giving devotional. This was very appropriate, for yesterday's Scripture starts out by saying, "After you have eaten . . . Don't forget the Lord your God ".

Today's deovtional thought is on giving as a sacrifice.

2 Samuel 24:21-24
David, “Let my lord the king take whatever pleases him and offer it up. Here are oxen for the burnt offering, and here are threshing sledges and ox yokes for the wood. O king, Araunah gives all this to the king.” Araunah also said to him, “May the LORD your God accept you.”
But the king replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.”

Devotional Thoughts

David’s words here--“I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing”--have always stuck in my mind. A sacrifice should be, well, a sacrifice. Giving should cost us something.

Giving is often something that we give out of our “extra” funds, rather than a choice gift that really causes us to give up something.

I did an image search on the word “sacrifice” on a general photo site, and I was surprised to find that most of the images were of a cross. This sort of makes our sacrifices for giving look rather small, does it not? But we must start somewhere.

Questions to ask yourself and/or your family
What could we give up in our spending that would really be a sacrifice so that we can give more?

Prayer - Father, help us to not just give you our extra, but to give sacrificially.

What comments or questions does this devotional thought on giving spur with you and your family?

Monday, November 03, 2008

A caution on exit polls

Here is an article from the Drudge report on exit poll data. Historically, exit polls tend to overstate the Democratic vote--something which voters probably remember happened rather dramatically in the 2004 presidential election.

Giving Devotional Thought - By giving we acknowledge God as the source of our blessing

On Sunday, we began a two week series on giving. As part of this series, I have written a devotional booklet on giving entitled "Shaped by God's Heart." This devotional is intended to be read with one's family, with a couple of questions and a prayer for each night. Below is today's devotional thought.

Deuteronomy 8:10-14, 17-18 (The Message)
After a meal, satisfied, bless GOD, your God, for the good land he has given you.
Make sure you don’t forget GOD . . . Make sure that when you eat and are satisfied, build pleasant houses and settle in, see your herds and flocks flourish and more and more money come in, watch your standard of living going up and up—make sure you don’t become so full of yourself and your things that you forget GOD, your God,
the God who delivered you from Egyptian slavery;
the God who led you through that huge and fearsome wilderness . . .
If you start thinking to yourselves, “I did all this. And all by myself. I’m rich. It’s all mine!”—well, think again. Remember that GOD, your God, gave you the strength to produce all this wealth so as to confirm the covenant that he promised to your ancestors—as it is today.

Devotional Thought
Where do material blessings come from? It is easy to think that our hard work or skill brings about wealth. But we are living in houses we did not build and eating food that we did not grow.

All that we have and own, God has given to us. He is the one who has given us the “strength” to produce material blessings. People sometimes call the money that is given through the church, “the Lord’s money,” as if this money is to be spent carefully but the rest is “ours,” to do with however we please. This passage tells us that all money is “the Lord’s money.” By giving, we acknowledge God as the source of our blessing.

Questions to ask yourself and/or your family
- If we believe that God is the source of wealth, how should this affect our giving?

Prayer - Father, help us to remember that it is you who gives us everything, and to acknowledge you as our “source” in our giving.

What thoughts or conversations did this devotional thought spur for you or your family?

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Sarah Palin and Barak Obama both make huge blunders in final days of election

Okay, again, I place no faith in politics to change the world, but I follow it "religiously." In the final two days before the election, there are two news stories that stand out that could hurt each candidate.

1. Fox News and some Netherlands newspaper is reporting that Obama told a San Francisco newspaper that he would bankrupt coal plants (due to new environmental regulations) and that electricity rates would sore. See news story on Obama, coal, and electricity. This is the first YouTube video clip. I have heard the fuller news clip, and it is rather shocking to hear a politician make such an admission. This could be very damaging for Obama in the critical Rust States (Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia).

2. Sarah Palin was prank called by a Montreal radio station, with a comedian pretending to be French President Sarkozy. This is the YouTube video. At first I thought that this was some user generated video, a spoof. It is not. Palin really got duped on this, and it is not at all flattering. Frankly, listening to the call, it is hard to believe that she fell for this.

Probably most people's minds are made up about Palin, one way or another. The Obama interview is potentially more damaging, since it is an economic issue that hits at the core industry of some critical swing states.

However, this is very late in the campaign, so it is hard to tell how much impact either of these blunders will have.

What do you think of Obama's and Palin's political blunders?

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Giving Series Begins Sunday

Tomorrow we'll begin a short series on giving. I always grow through these series, and as much as anything, they help affirm in my own mind God's promises and teachings on giving.

Money is the alternative God in our world. We are too sophisticated to bow down to anything else. But our media saturated culture constantly pushes us to consume and buy more. This shapes our heart towards material things.

So this series is called, "Giving Shapes Our Heart" (see the nice artwork by Rebecca Hope). As part of this series, I have written a short devotional book with a daily individual or family devotional thought for each day of the series. It is a combination of biblical teaching and personal reflections on giving. On November 16, we will purpose our giving for the year.

How does our culture shape us towards material things? How can we best resist this shaping?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Archaeologists find 3000 year old Hebrew text

Today a news story came out that archaeologists have discovered a 3000 year old Hebrew text, perhaps with links to King David. It was foud Elah, where the Bible tells us that David killed Goliath. Some of the words found on the pottery piece that have been able to be read so far include "judge," "slave," and "king." Sound biblical?
This text predates the Dead Sea Scrolls by 1000 years! See Achaeology Story.
What do you think of this finding? Does it confirm your faith or not affect your faith?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Who will win the election?

Who will win the 2008 presidential contest--Barak Obama or John McCain? I asked this question on one of my websites on an online poll. The results so far? There have been 19 respondents, and all 19 have said that John McCain will win.

That is interesting, considering I did not ask who did people want to win. I asked who they thought would win--a prediction.

How do you explain this prediction, since McCain is down in every poll? Is this a desire for McCain to win, or does this group know something others don't know?

Hospitals and Evangelism

Hi guys. Just checking in. I'm out at the hospital, waiting with a family of a member who is having heart surgery (Mil).

I care about people, and it is always good to serve and try to show Christian love and care. I am not, however, a person who really enjoy just being a hospital chaplain. My gifts are more evangelistic than pastoral.

However, in most serious cases where people are in the hospital, there are non-Christian family and friends who are present. By showing genuine love and care, Christians can open doors to Bible studies, worship, and conversation with non-Christians who are present. These extended visits, where you are waiting with a family for several hours, can also help give a person credibility with these families. This credibility may enable a minister or church leader to then call these family members to greater Christian service somewhere down the line.

All of this fits into Christ's example of serving people before presenting the gospel. Anyone, no matter where they are in their Christian walk, can serve others. And hospital visitation is one such service. We need to encourage a whole church to do this whenever they can.

None of us can get to everyone, particularly in a large church. But with a whole church looking for these opportunities, we can try to cover all of those who are facing serious health problems.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Microtargeting and the McCain campaign--a model for outreach?

I read today an article on Microtargeting by McCain campaign on NPR (National Public Radio). The McCain campaign will call people and record whatever information that they discover that could be helpful in "microtargeting" them. Then, when McCain workers go and knock doors, they pull up this information prior to seeing them. Then, they base what they talk about upon this information.

For instance, if they find out a person is a teacher, they will talk about McCain's education plan. This strategy is light years ahead of non-targeted, one size fits all advertising and messaging of previous years. Here is a wikipedia article on microtargeting.

All of this made me think about outreach. What if we put this much time and effort into approaching people with the gospel with a "targeted message." For instance, going door knocking or visiting a family of four, telling them about our church's children's ministry. Or talking with a person who lost a loved one about the hope that Christ offers. Or sharing with a person who has been addicted how Christ can break the power of addiciton.

Are we less committed to reaching out than political campaigns are to getting people to vote for their candidates?

Should we seek to "microtarget" our outreach efforts?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

I'm about to perform a wedding

That's right. I'm up here at the church building, getting ready to perform a wedding at 2:00 PM today. This will be the wedding of the soon to be James and Marie Ward. They are a couple from the community who came in looking for someone to marry them.

I view these types of weddings as an opportunity to serve and reach out. I've done some pre-marital counseling with them, and we have scheduled after the wedding a time to begin doing some Bible study as well. Please pray for this study and for their marriage.

Did you have pre-marital counseling? Was it helpful?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Crowdsourcing - Why the Power of the Crowd is Driving the Future

I have a lot of books that I am working through right now. But I picked up one recently that I found fascinating called Crowdsourcing by Jeff Howe.

I have been reading several books on the power of social networking through the Internet and its implications for ministry and outreach, not to mention life itself. Crowdsourcing is one of these types of books.

The power of the crowd is phenomenal, but not perhaps how it might typically be thought of. The power of the crowd is not a "crowd" or "mob mentality." The power comes from each individual acting individually, in large numbers, problem-solving the same issue.

It is actually the diversity in this type of crowds that makes the crowd so effective in problem solving. If everyone thought alike, no new solutions would emerge.

Howe cites a Innocentive, an online group that posts problems in business, chemistry, and other fields that have not been solved, offering prizes for whoever comes up with the solutions. These are problems that all of the top people in a company have not been able to solve.

We might think that the solutions would come from other top people in the same field. For instance, a top chemist in another company solving a chemistry problem that no one else could solve.

Instead, most of the solutions to these problems came from people solving problems outside of their fields. For instance, physcicists came up with physic solutions to chemistry problems. They saw solutions that chemists never were able to see because of their different perspective and background. The power for problem-solving came from the diversity of the crowd--a physicist looking at chemisty problems.

This got me thinking. Rather than having only "evangelism experts," for instance come up with outreach ideas, we ought to have a wide diversity of people looking at these issues. Someone is sure to come up with a great idea that experts have missed, because of his or her different background.

Where else might the power of diverse crowds be helpful in ministry or outreach?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

A sad mission

Teresa, who volunteers here in the office and is on our outreach team, and I are going to go and take food to a family who is friends with one of our members. The son in the family committed suicide. Please pray for them, and that we can be a source of love and healing for them.

What can we do to prevent suicide? Also, how can we best minister to families who has had someone in their family commit suicide?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Starting a Missional Network

Hey guys. I was up till about 3 AM last night working on a new project. I'm starting a "Missional Network"--a social networking group that works like Facebook with Wiki technology. I'll share more later. Stay tuned!

Are you using Twitter?

Twitter is a new "microblogging" technology. See My question is, are you using twitter? If so, how are you using it and how often?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Taliban Kill Christian for Sharing Her Faith

Yesterday I spoke on "Jesus Christ, Our Life." It was a sermon about making Jesus the most important person in our life. To illustrate this point, I highlighted Christian martyrs throughout the centuries who had given up their lives for Christ.

While losing our lives for Christ seems remote to American Christians, there are Christians around the world who are losing their lives for their faith. Note this news story about a Christian aid worker in Kabul who is killed for "spreading her religion."

We need to be praying for these Christians around the world.

Would you be willing to die for your faith?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

This baby can preach! (Video)

This is a pretty funny video of a baby preacher who really gets down. See I think I picked up some preaching pointers here. Skip at least to the 1:20 minute or so mark and catch the end of this video.

How do you like this baby's preachin'?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

How to make small groups evangelistic and outward focused

Most small groups are not evangelistic. Period. This is, unfortunately, the simple truth. There are many reasons for this.

First, this is not their stated purpose. There is no intentionality for this.

Second, most small groups are study groups, and this only appeals to a limited number of people.

Third, the groups are made up of close knit, long time Christians, discussing things which only Christians are much concerned about. This is intimidating for non-Christians.

There are several different ways to make small groups evangelistic.

1. Make this the stated purpose of the group. This will drive the decisions that are made, and fellowship, prayer, and Bible study will probably happen along the way.

2. Have your group serve some group or individual in the community who is non-Christian at least once a month. When we serve others, it opens hearts and doors of opportunity to share what we believe and why we are serving.

3. Have your group study something of interest to non-Christians. Like biblical principles of money management or help for marriages. Have a specific start and stop time (8 weeks series, for instance), and let those involved know that there will be a mix of Christians and non-Christians at the study. Offer good food. Make the study portion no longer than an hour, and leave plenty of mingling time.

4. Make your group social groups that seek just to befriend and do fun things with non-Christian friends, such as having a barbeque, going to a ball game, etc. Do this repeatedly with the same non-Christian friends, out of genuine love and interest in them, and see what God will do with this.

5. Pray for non-Christian family and friends by name. This can be done every week, and I can personally testify that this is powerful.

Here is a good quote from Jeffry Arnold, in his book, Small Group Outreach, on how to make a small group evangelistic.

"As you and your group prepare for evangelism, each individual should sit down with a pen and paper. List family, friends, neighbors and work associates. To identify the people your group should pray for and talk to, look for the ones who (1) live close enough to attend the group, (2) need the life-giving offer of salvation through Jesus and (3) would be comfortable in your group."

What do you think of these suggestions? Do you have any additional suggestions for how to make a small group evangelistic?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Bob Newhart Skit/Video on Therapy - "Stop it"

Here is a video clip that I used Sunday in my sermon, "Making Positive Change in Our Lives." It is hilarious.

While this kind of blunt, direct, talk featured in the skit may not always work, the point I made was that we need others in our lives to help us make positive change.

In Sunday's sermon, I highlighted three ingredients needed to make change: relationships, a desire to change, and the Holy Spirit.

Do you like the skit? What do you think it takes to make positive change in our lives?

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Heading Back Home

I had a good week with some great training at the 3 day Coachnet seminar that I attended this week in California. I'm flying back tomorrow morning. There is a connecting flight in Phoenix, so it will take most of the day to get back home. See you guys soon!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

I arrived late Monday night in Ontario, California, to attend a Coachnet coaching seminar with Bob Logan. Coachnet is the top group for Christian coaching.

What is coaching? Well, the term itself actually is a bit problematic, since it evokes for many a very directive relationship--telling a person what to do. In fact, coaching as it is defined by Coachnet is coming alongside a person and helping him or her realize his or her God given goals and dreams.

In the coaching relationship, the person being "coached" sets the agenda, determines what needs to be worked on, etc. The coach asks a lot of questions to help the person help clarify the issues that need to be worked on, and put together an action plan to help with these issues.

This actually fits very well with the Strengths and Spiritual gfits discovery process, in which we ask a person how they can apply their Strengths and Spiritual gifts in their lives. The assumption is that because the Spirit of God lives in this person, he or she is the one who bests knows how to make these applications. Only after a person exhausts his or her resources or ideas does the assessor give ideas of his or her own. People are much more likely to follow their own ideas than the ideas of others.

I'm staying in a Best Western hotel. I got a good deal on it through Orbitz. I didn't expect a lot, but actually it is a great room right by the pool with a friendly, helpful staff. Too bad I don't have much time to enjoy it!

Last night I ate dinner with a guy from the seminar named Damien. He is from St. Petersburg, Florida. We went and ate at the Rain Forest Cafe. Gina and Emily would have really liked it, with the rain forest scenery and the elephant figures. Damian and I had an interesting discussion on what spiritual formation is and how it happens.

I just now finished today's seminar sessions. We did a lot of coaching in triads. Hands on training for this is essential. I'm catching a bit of political news before going to get something to eat. Catch you guys tomorrow!

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Groceries have risen 10.5% this year

I always laugh at the government's Consumer Price Index and their estimation of "core" inflation. These numbers will come out, and it will be said that "core" inflation is, for instance, 4%--excluding "volatile" food and gas prices.

Last time I checked, food and gas are a key part of people's budgets. This is particularly true for lower income people.

This week, CBS Marketwatch reported that groceries are 10.5% higher this year than last year. See That, combined with high gas prices, presents a significant increase in cost of living for a great number of Americans.

We are seeing this hit people as so many are now coming through to our food pantry.

Now, more than ever, is the time for us to be as generous as possible as a church and individually.

Have you noticed the increase in food prices? Has it affected your family or others that you know?

Friday, October 03, 2008

Coachnet - Helping People Realize their Goals and Dreams for God

Next week I'll be headed to California to attend a Coachnet training conference. Coachnet trains people to coach others by giving coaching on a person's coaching. In other words, they help trainers become better trainers.

The Coachnet philosophy ( is that each person generally has the solutions within themselves. By asking good questions, developing a relationship, and listening, coaches can help those with whom they are working to grow in the areas that they have identified.

This very much fits into the philosophy of Strengths and Spiritual gifts--that God has created a person uniquely, and that the Spirit of God is at work in each person's life. Thus, while at times people need information and advice, primarily the goal of a Strengths and Spiritual gifts assessor is to help a person become more aware of how God is already at work in his or her life.

For instance, when I go through a Strengths and Spiritual gifts assessment, I ask a person to try to apply his or her gifts in the three areas of his or her life--family, workplace/neighborhood/world, and the church. However, I resist making these applications for them. They know themselves better than I, and they will take more ownership of applications that they make for themselves. By asking good questions, an assessor can help someone make these applications.

I am looking forward to this conference, which is also a part of my D.Min. work at Fuller.

What do you think of the coaching philosophy?