Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Four Categories of Strengths & Spiritual gifts

In the new book, Strengths-Based Leadership, the authors divide Strengths into four categories: 1) Executing strengths;
2) Influencing strengths;
3) Relationship building strengths; and
4) Strategic Thinking strengths.
They then suggest that a team ought to strive to have a team that hits on all four of these categories.

I had been seeking to find a way to categorize Spiritual gifts, and so I applied the Strengths-Based Leadership categories to Spiritual gifts. These are the results:

Executing Spiritual Gifts
  • Administration (Tasks)

  • Administration (Coordination)

  • Giving

  • Helping

  • Leadership

  • Service

Influencing Spiritual Gifts

  • Evangelism

  • Prayer

  • Prophetic Ministry

  • Speaking

  • Teaching

Relationship Building Spiritual Gifts

  • Encouragement

  • Faith

  • Hospitality

  • Mercy

  • Pastoral Care/Shepherding

Strategic Thinking Spiritual Gifts

  • Missional Leadership

  • Discernment

  • Knowledge

  • Wisdom

For information and resources on Spiritual gifts, see Story of Redemption.

I took these categories for both Strengths & Spiritual gifts and looked at Strengths & Spiritual gifts of a couple of our ministry teams, and the results were very interesting. I think I will add these categories to the Spiritual gifts team theory that I am putting together.

What do you think of these categories? Do you see any changes that you would suggest in how these Spiritual gifts are categorized?

How Can I Know God Better?

How Can I Know God Better from James Nored on Vimeo.

This sermon is one which I had had very much on my heart for some time. It emphasizes that we do not know God better by just gaining more knowledge. Instead, we come to know God better by a lived out faith, serving and loving others.

How can we move out of the classroom to a lived out faith?

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Caught in a snow storm

Garth and I are stuck in Tulsa right now, caught in a snow storm. We are hanging out at Panera Bread, waiting for the snow to subside. There are trucks jack-knifed on the highway. Please pray that we ate able to get home tonight safely. I have already been rear ended this weekend!

-- Post From My iPhone

A Church that prays for its community

Josh Ross is speaking about prayer and evangelism. He told a story about a church that prayed for it's community block by block, family by family. Then they sent letters to these families, telling them the specific things that they were praying for. Then they asked these families to call them if they had seen God work in their lives in these areas. They had a huge outpurong of calls. A great story.

It is good to not always be the youngest preacher in the workshop, and great to hear another young preacher speaks of the missional nature of the church.

-- Post From My iPhone

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Meeting people online first

Here is a picture of me with @johndobbs at the Tulsa workshop. I met John first online before meeting him in person today. Kind of stance don't you think, meeting people online first? Glad to know John is a real person and not a Tiawanesee girl in South Africa. :-) We are in a different world today!

-- Post From My iPhone


Check out this interesting post on being missional in everyday life.

Sent from my iPhone

Ways to promote your blog

@johndobbs at the Tulsa Workshop right now is giving a top ten list of how to promote your blog and use it for outreach.
1. Read genuine comments on other people's blogs that have similar comments.

2. Post new content several times a week.

3. Show love by posting links to other people blogs.

4. When you post a blog, post it over multiple platforms.

5. Pictures, sidebars, videos, and widgets make your site more interesting.

6. Write about current topics of interest.

7. Ignore trolls and arguments. (People in the community will not find this attractive.)

8. Tell about God's great news in your life.

9. Always respond to comments.

10. Ask for help when you need it.

11. John also recommends using Wordpress.

12. Stay aware of the changing face of blogging. Most of the to blogs are not personal.
-- Post From My iPhone

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

What objectives should a church have in using social technologies?

Charlene Li, author of Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies, gives five primary objectives that successful companies have pursued in using social technologies:

1) listening to customers;

2) talking and spreading a company’s message;

3) energizing their customers;

4) helping customers support one another; and

5) embracing customers by inviting them into the company’s design process.

Social technologies are technologies like Blogging, Facebook, Twitter, the Missional Outreach Network - basically, interactive technologies that can spread through social networks.

As churches learn to use social technologies, which of these five objectives do you think is most important for them to concentrate on? And who are their "customers"--members or non-Christians?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Being Missional in Our Worship Times - Americans need more sleep

Being missional must factor into everything that we do. This should include even such things as our worship times. Is this not what a missionary would do? Is this not what a church planter would do? Absolutely! They would say, what time would have the best chance of having someone that we are trying to reach attend? They would not say, hmm, I think I'll have it at _____ time because that is what I like.

So what worship times would be culturally appropriate? That, of course, will depend upon the culture. I imagine that this might be very different in Africa, Europe, or Asia. But what about typical American culture?

Here is where research is helpful--something which every missionary, missional leader, or missional church must do. Consider these three news stories and the research behind them:
  • ABC News Story on Americans and Sleep Patterns - This news story reports on a2007 study that shows Americans are: ) losing sleep to work; and 2) losing sleep to commutes. This is particularly true in suburbia. Furthermore, cellphones are extending the work days of Americans. Where do Americans catch up on this sleep? "The survey suggests that people who cut back on sleep on weekdays often try to sleep in on Saturday and Sunday."
  • One-third Of Americans Lose Sleep Over Economy - March 2, 2009 - "One-third of Americans are losing sleep over the state of the U.S. economy and other personal financial concerns, according to a new poll released today by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF)."
  • Americans Just Want a Good Night's Sleep - This 2005 survey by the Barna research group indiactes that "Seven out of ten adults (71%) said they look forward "a lot" to having a refreshing snooze." This was the number one thing that people looked forward to, above, vacations, travel, entertainment, etc. These results were true for both those with children and those without. It seems that nearly everyone is sleep deprived.

All of this would point towards late Sunday morning start times for worship if one wants to have the unchurched attend. And early morning starts are probably not good for most churched people either, due to a general lack of sleep throughout the week from work and commute times. Ragged schedules at other times due to kids' activities are perhaps controllable, but work and commute times often are not.

The realities of this is why churches that are seeking to reach out often have worship services at 11:00 PM or 11:30 PM on Sunday, and no earlier than 10 PM. Early afternoon services, such as 1 or 2 PM, might also be tried. Some churches have even gone to Saturday night services. The Jewish day began at sundown, so a case can be made for Saturday evening being "resurrection day," though it is not typically thought of in this way for most Western cultures such as the US.

We would withdraw support from a missionary that went to Africa and failed to adjust meeting times to fit the culture, and no amount of saying, "This time fits best with our members" or "This is when we have always done this" would be listened to. The problem is, in an established church, these questions are usually not even asked. Usually, they are not asked because the church views itself as an institution for club members, not the people of God on mission to reach the world for Christ.

Missional thinking must factor into everything that we do.

When do you think your unchurched friends and neighbors would most likely attend a worship service?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Changing the scorecard of the church

I just finished reading Missional Renaissance by Reggie McNeal. I took Reggie for a D.Min. class at Fuller, and Becki and I heard him speak at a minister spouse retreat. He is very in tune with both the religious and the non-religious world, and I give him credit for inspiring me in a lot of the missional concepts that I've sought to make a reality. He gives practical, usable insights, and in person, he is a very witty guy.

A lot of this material he has shared in his seminars and in the excellent DVD series, The Present-Future. However, this book is an excellent book to hand to church leaders to help them see the practical application of what it means to be missional.

In this work he makes the point that whatever gets counted gets rewarded, and what has been counted in the past has often not been missional nor particularly spiritual. Instead, they have been institutional markers. Some obvious examples:

  • Numbers in worship - Unless these are differentiated by members and non-members, these are really just church growth stats (which do have their place)
  • Numbers in Bible class - This number by itself tells us nothing about whether people are growing spiritually. We assume that knowledge = transformation, and this is a false assumption. Again, this is an institutional measurement.

These numbers could double, triple in 5 years, and yet the numbers might only be people moving into an area. This perhaps might indicate church health, but these numbers alone say very little about whether or not a church is fulfilling its mission.

I have always sought to put in good counting systems in the churches at which I have served. I like to know these numbers so that I can gauge progress. There is nothing wrong with these numbers; however, they need to be but one set among many.

If mission from outreach and service to the community is fundamental to what the church is, then these numbers must be counted. Otherwise, the old scoring system might be merciless. For instance, if a church releases its members on Sunday or Wednesday night to serve people in the community and build up relationships, then Bible class numbers will take a hit. So those serving outside of the church building walls need to be counted in some way. And they need to be tracked, and celebrated when they rise. Concern should be raised when they drop--just like other numbers.

Other things we might record related to mission:

  • People prayed for in the community
  • Number of people fed, clothed, from the community
  • Number of community groups meeting in the church building
  • Number of baptisms from the community
  • Number of new outreaches begun & number of participants
  • Number of spiritual conversations at work
  • Number of people going on short term mission trips
  • Number of people in evangelistic Bible studies

These kind of celebrations can help us keep other numbers in perspective. If Bible class attendance increases, does it really matter if people's lives do not change and we do not reach or serve people in the world?

Buy Reggie's book and give it to your church leaders!

What other kinds of of measurements could we make related to outreach and service?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Tiffany Schuchert baptized this morning!

Tiffany was baptized into Christ this morning. Hallelujah! She is such an inspiring young woman who clearly wants to live for Jesus. Also, her parents and sister traveled here from Abilene, and she invited her friend, Will. I believe that she will touch many lives for Christ. Praise God!

Read some of Tiffany's story here.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Be Back Late Tonight-Baptism tomorrow!

My flight gets in 10:40 PM tonight, so I will probably get home about 12:30 PM or so. I had a productive trip working on my D.Min. work, which should really benefit the church as well of course. No down time at all, unfortunately, as classwork lasted until 9 PM--with homework. But it was productive.

Lord willing, tomorrow we will have a baptism. A great young woman named Tiffany. She has a wonderful heart for God and wants to follow Jesus. Amen to that! Let's keep Tiffany in our prayers.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

My D.min work

I'm taking a class this weekwhich will help me focus my final D.Min paper. I'm beginning to think that I'll really be able to use most of the D.min work that I've done fir this paper. It looks like it might be an evangelistic outreach strategy for High Pointe that uses service, spiritual gifts discovery and use, online social networking, and evangelistic Bible study training.

These are, of course, all things that I'm working on anyway, which is the point of a practical minister degree. Of course, many things could be added to this list, such as church planting, spiritual retreats, motivational sermons, leadership transformation. I just do not know how broad in scope they will let me be.

Another option is to expand upon the spiritual gifts inventory and training manual that I have written. This would be the option I could finish most quickly.

We'll see what develops!

-- Post From My iPhone

Monday, March 09, 2009

New Survey: Those With No Religion Fastest-Growing Group in US

On Monday, a new religious study was released that showed that 15% of the US population defines themselves as belonging to no religion. Here is an excerpt from the American Religious Identification Survey—conducted by the Program on Public Values at Trinity College. (Here is also a link to a US News report on this study.)

"The percentage of Americans claiming no religion, which jumped from 8.2 in 1990 to 14.2 in 2001, has now increased to 15 percent. Given the estimated growth of the American adult population since the last census from 207 million to 228 million, that reflects an additional 4.7 million 'Nones.' Northern New England has now taken over from the Pacific Northwest as the least religious section of the country, with Vermont, at 34 percent 'Nones,' leading all other states by a full 9 points.'Many people thought our 2001 finding was an anomaly,' [Ariela] Keysar said. We now know it wasn't. The 'Nones' are the only group to have grown in every state of the Union.'"

In addition, every single Christian group has decreased in terms of percentage of the US population--and most have declined in raw numbers as well. In regards to atheism, the study says:

"Only1.6 percent of Americans call themselves atheist or agnostic. But based on stated beliefs, 12 percent are atheist (no God) or agnostic (unsure), while 12 percent more are deistic (believe in a higher power but not a personal God). The number of outright atheists has nearly doubled since 2001, from 900 thousand to 1.6 million."

In sum, the findings show or lead to the conclusion that:

  1. Religion and Christianity are on the decline in the US;

  2. Protestantism is doing worse than Catholicism due to Catholic immigrants;

  3. Mormonism is keeping up with population growth, and Islam and New Age/Wicca are exceeding it;

  4. Atheism, while still a small percentage of the population, is on the rise; and

  5. "Spirituality,"--or non-organized belief in God--is still vibrant in the US.

What implications does this have for the church in the US?

  • Attractional methods alone will have decreasing effectiveness, though they will reach some.

  • Not only theologically, but pragmatically, we must make the structure of the church be missional in nature and make dramatic changes in how we allocate our resources. This might mean moving all "Bible studies" off site, in coffee shops, Starbucks, homes, schools, etc.to meet people where they are. With antagonism and apathy towards religion, fewer will show up because we have better programs. And those that do will already be Christians.

  • We need to train our members in knowledge of other faiths and resurgent atheism and methods to reach these adherents.We must make dramatic changes. Sadly, however, most churches will do almost nothing to respond to these cultural changes. Those that do respond will respond incrementally only. With a shrinking pool of Christians, there will be an increasing competition amongst churches for members. This will, ironically, put more pressure upon church leaders to shore up "programs" to attract church members to shore up the decreasing member base.

In the midst of all of this, it is unbelievable to me that our fellowship is consumed on all sides with "doctrinal issues"--meanwhile our nation is hopelessly lost. And the resistance to making practical, methodological changes, such as replacing Sunday night worship or Wed. night classes with outreach and service, moving "classes" off site, planting new churches, changing times, making budgets missional, etc., is quite simply, absurd.

What do you think of these findings? How should the church respond to the changing (a)religious landscape of the US so that we can reach people today?

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Viva la Lida by Coldplay

This is one of my favorite songs, Viva la Lida, by Coldplay. Here are the lyrics below. They are filled with spiritual themes. So, do you think this song is pro-spirituality or against spirituality?

I used to rule the world
Seas would rise when I gave the word
Now in the morning I sleep alone
Sweep the streets I used to own

I used to roll the dice
Feel the fear in my enemy's eyes
Listen as the crowd would sing
"Now the old king is dead! Long live the king!"

One minute I held the key
Next the walls were closed on me
And I discovered that my castles stand
Upon pillars of salt and pillars of sand

I hear Jerusalem bells a ringing
Roman Cavalry choirs are singing
Be my mirror, my sword and shield
My missionaries in a foreign field

For some reason I can't explain
Once you go there was never
Never an honest word
And that was when I ruled the world

It was the wicked and wild wind
Blew down the doors to let me in
Shattered windows and the sound of drums
People couldn't believe what I'd become

Revolutionaries wait
For my head on a silver plate
Just a puppet on a lonely string
Oh who would ever want to be king?

I hear Jerusalem bells a ringing
Roman Cavalry choirs are singing
Be my mirror, my sword and shield
My missionaries in a foreign field

For some reason I can't explain
I know Saint Peter won't call my name
Never an honest word
But that was when I ruled the world

I hear Jerusalem bells a ringing
Roman Cavalry choirs are singing
Be my mirror, my sword and shield
My missionaries in a foreign field

For some reason I can't explain
I know Saint Peter won't call my name
Never an honest word
But that was when I ruled the world

Emily at ballet

I'm having fun watching Emily at ballet class!

-- Post From My iPhone

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The power of serving others

This morning I had another good coaching session with Carlos Lopez, our hispanic church planter. I am really encouraged about the progress that he is making in connecting with the community.

We met at Starbucks for our coaching session. I arrived early, and during that time I saw Allysa again. She told me that she was from Canada, which I think I had forgotten, and that her family moved to Virginia. She liked living in Colorado or anyplace northern in the US, but still prefers Canada.

Anyway, after I ordered, one of the customers dropped his drink, and it went everywhere. The workers were really busy, so I got a bunch of napkins and cleaned it up.

They said, you don't have to do that, but I did it anyway, and I could tell that they were grateful. One woman--I'm not sure if she was a customer of worker, but I think the latter--said, Boy, your wife must really love having you around.

Hmm . . . I'm trying to be more servant-oriented at home, but my wife would testify that I am much better at teaching, encouraging, affirming, listening, etc. at home. While I seek to have a servant attitude in general, as to the "gift" of service (doing tedious tasks), my gifts lie in other areas. I am motivated to do "servant" tasks in places like Starbucks by the gift of evangelism. It is one of the few ways in those settings that I can show Christian love.

Simple acts of service can go a long way of impacting people, whether at home, in the church, or in Starbucks.

How have you seen simple acts of service impact people in your family, church, or with non-Christians?