Friday, August 28, 2009

How globalization is affecting the spread of the gospel

I just finished reading GloboChrist: The Great Commission Takes a Postmodern Turn by Carl Raschke. It is a very interesting book that, among other things, explores the impact of globalization on the spread of the gospel.

Globalization has been received in various ways. Trade unions are against it, and anyone who has had his or her job outsourced probably is not a big fan. However, globalization has also helped lift millioins of people out of poverty in India, China, Africa, and other places around the world. It has also made most goods in the US and other Western countries much cheaper.

Whether one is a fan or not, however, globalization is here, and it is an unstoppable force. If companies do not globalize, not only do they miss out on market share, but they also will fail to be competitive and may go out of business.

One might think that globalization would have a positive affect on the spread of Christianity, as Western thoughts and Western technologies flow into non-Western countries and people groups. And it has had a positive effect--but not for the reasons that we might think.

Western culture is moving away from Christianity at a rapid pace. Europe has done so for some time, and the US--while founded with spiritual dimensions and retaining a spiritual vitality--has moved in this direction as well. Filling the void of Christianity has been secularism, consumerism (pursuit of material things), and hedonism (pursuit of decadent pleasure).

According to Raschke, the reaction of the "Global South" to globalization and the exporting of Western values has been a strong move towards religion, as these forces have been seen as a threat to their values and way of life. The two religions that these countries are turning to are radical Islam and devoted Christianity. While these religions are obviously very different in terms of theology, they share a common vitality and all-encompassing worldview that inspires their adherents.

This helps explain the phenomenal growth of the gospel in continents like Africa. In 1910, after colonialism with its enforced, non-indigenous expression of Christianity, there were only 108 million Christians. By the mid-1980s, however, Christianity had grown to be the majority religion in Africa, growing at the rate of 6 million new adherents per year. (p. 43) Radical Islam has grown significantly during this time as well, resulting in events like 9/11.

One of Raschke's most interesting--and scary--points is that anemic, consumeristic Christianity as is so typical in the West does not have the power to compete with the fire and passion of radical Islam. It is seen as the product of a corrupt, consumeristic West. Only the "real deal"--a passionate, Christ-centered Christianity offers a real alternative to the appeal of Islam. As globalization brings eastern religions and Islam backflowing to the US, they may have great appeal to Americans. Indeed, Wicca and Islam are currently the two fastest growing religions in the US. Churches that offer weak, add-on Christianity to a consumer lifestyle will suffer attrition to churches--and other faiths--that offer a more devoted, comprehensive worldview.

GloboChristianity is a fascinating read for anyone interested in globalization, Islam, and the spread of world-wide Christianity. i recommend it.

What do you think of Raschke's conclusions?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

What does the world think of us? Check out these headlines

I did a search today on on "church" to see what articles would come up with this in the title. Here are some of the article titles that I found and the categories that I have placed them in:

- Mormon Anti-Gay Machine Cranking Up Against IL Civil Unions
- Why Do American Christians Approve of Torture?
- New Proposed Arkansas Law: Take Your Gun to Church
- Soldiers in Afganistan Gives Bibles, Told to "Hunt People for Jesus"
- Disgraced Pastor Ted Haggard Facing New Sex Allegations
- Pastor Had Sex With Daughters to Teach Them How To Be Good Wives
- Two Catholic Priests Stole $8 Million From Church

- Hate on Display: The Westboro Baptist Church Protests the White House
- UK Flooding is God's Judgment on Society
- My Christian Daughter Says I'm Going to Hell

- 16 Victims of the Church of Scientology
- Catholic Church Excommunicated 9 Year Old Rape Victim
- Mormon New Zealand Man Beat Daughter Over Church Refusal
- Thousands Raped and Abused in Catholic Schools in Ireland

Out of Touch/Ignorant
- Why the Catholic Church Can't Ignore Science
- Reason is the Greatest Enemy Faith Has
- Faith Healing Parents Charged in Infant's Death

Not Helpful Spiritually
- Spirituality, not Religion, Makes Kids Happy
- Church Signs That Won't Make You Go To Church
- The Eight Most Bizarre Patron Saints
- 7 Year Old Steals Car to Skip Church, Car Chase Video

With all of this negative publicity, it is easy to see why the world is not big on "church." The implications of this are huge.

First, we must not assume that someone wants to "go to church." Non-Christians are likely to fear that they will be judged, hated, abused, bored, or subjeted to politics at church. This means that impersonal appeals and church marketing will continue to decrease in effectiveness in getting people through the church building doors.

Second, we must create safe, non-threatening and appealing entry points into church life. One of the workers that I know at a Starbucks here in McKinney named Brittany attends a house church in Princeton. Small groups and worship gatherings in homes, coffee shops, book stores, parks, and other non-churchy type of settings are places where we need to invite people to visit.

Third, we must do things which give the church a good name. Jesus told his disciples to do good deeds before people so that they may praise the Father in heaven (Mt. 6:14-16). This means we must do things which impact people and the community and are recognized even by non-Christians as being good. This includes feeding people, clothing people, providing school supplies to needy children, helping the abused and lonely.

As an example, you can read this story of how a family praised God because of how the Clothes Closet Ministry and the High Pointe Church of Christ helped the family after they had lost everything in a fire. I also met one of the school representatives who was up at our building today, coordinating with us on school supplies that the church provides. She talked about how this church helps them so much.

Basically, to change the way the world things of us we must act and be more and more like Jesus Christ. Not focused on ourselves. Not spending on ourselves. Not judging, but loving. Serving. Helping. Would not this type of church impact the world and our communities?

What do you think that we can do to change the world's opinion of us?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Pictures and Video of Our Coldplay concert

Here is a video (Viva la Vida) and some pictures of the Coldplay concert that we went to on 7-21-09. This was an anniversary gift to ourselves, and it was a great one. The concert rocked!

Becki and I at the Concert

We ran into Regina Irons, now married, and her new husband, at the concert! Regina was in the youth group when I served as a youth minister at Wilshire. She is now teaching music at an inner city school in OKC,

These bouncing yellow balls came out on one of the songs. It was fun!

Pictures of the crowd!

Ron and Diane O'Neal--came to the concert too! Ron is a shepherd at High Pointe.

A cool picture of him playing.

The band came out into the audience, not far from us!

Magic fingers at work!
Have you been to a Coldplay concert? Do you listen to them? What are your thoughts?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Is Christianity a movement or an institution--lessons from the health care debate

There has been much talk about those who have shown up to "tea parties" and town halls to protest government spending and the current health care bills. Principally, the question has been, is this a genuine grass roots movement? Or are these merely events manufactured by political groups.

I'm sure that there are elements of both. But for my part, I see people who have never gone to political functions going to them. I don't condone rude behavior, such as shouting people down, but the people I have seen speaking on the news seem to be very genuine in their concern. I am interested in going to a tea part or town hall myself to get a feel for people's moods first hand.

Bussing in protesters, whether from political groups or unions, would not be a genuine movement. But providing information on where to go? This kind of "organization" does not mean that there is not a genuine movement going on.

So now let's turn to Christianity. Certainly, it began as a movement. There was no massive "institution" organizing them, no manufacturing of responses. The movement was a Jesus movement, a spreading of the message and way of life of Jesus and the kingdom of God. As people heard about this Jesus and responded to him, they passed this on by word of mouth and in the public square. Their primary public spokespeople were passionate believers, willing to die for their faith. As these Jesus followers engaged in mission together, they naturally bonded, coming together to encourage one another, break bread, and pray.

In other words, the church was the result of the movement, not the other way around. When we start with Jesus, we get a church. When we start with a church, we miss Jesus. The faith becomes all about structure, organization, following the rules, and top down management.

So what are we today--a movement or an institution? Certainly, the church has largely become institutional--inflexible, bureaucratic, and hierarchical. Consider the following:
- A movement flows wherever the message needs to go. An institution says that you must go through "government forms" and a lot of hoops to do anything.
- A movement is innovative. An institution is primarily concerned about preservation of established ways of doing things.
- A movement has natural leaders who surface as the message is being spread. An institution requires a person to run for office and have an official title, designated by the institution.

Not convinced? Try changing your assembly times each week in response to the needs of the message or community. In many churches, try doing something religious (hold a Bible study, outreach, or worship) without getting approval. Try ditching Wednesday night service for Saturday night neighborhood outreaches. What would be the response?

So you tell me--is the church a movement or an instituion?

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Why recruiting leaders in churches does not work

Most every church I've known has struggle in finding ministry leaders. There are undoubtedly reasons for this that are specific for individual churches, but I want to highlight a few reasons for these struggles that tend to be true in most churches.

Here are the mistakes that churches make in trying to recruit leaders:

1. Recruiting through impersonal means.
The bulletin is a lousy place to recruit. True, it may occassionally catch someone's eye and interest. But most of the time, it doesn't. Same goes for sign-up sheets, unless it is done in the worship assembly, in conjunction with a message on the subject, with time given for people to respond. Even then, one study has shown that personal recruiting is 5 times more effective than impersonal methods.

Reliance on impersonal methods is even less effective in big churches. Why? Everyone assumes that someone else will do the work or task. And in a large group, there is less relational pull. No one will know if you are a spiritual bum and never lift a finger to help. In smaller churches, it is harder to hide.

While I will at times put out invitations to serve in the bulletin and pass around sign-up sheets, I know that this usually at best raises awareness of the ministry. Primarily, the church bulletin is a place to celebrate ministries. A great picture or a powerful testimony of a ministry at work can do more to recruit new people than any generic announcement. (But personal recruiting is still best.)

2. Failing to consider a person's Strengths and Spiritual gifts when recruiting.
The fact is that when a person is given an opportunity to serve in the way that God has made them, rarely do their arms have to be twisted. Churches are horribly guilty of finding people to fit ministries, rather than letting ministry flow out of a person's giftedness and heart's passion.

True, some ministries need better organization and publicity. But much of the time, churches need to let ministries die if there is no one to fill the post. We are in the people business--and so is God--not the program business. A program is a life of its own that continues regards of the people involved. We need to let more things die in churches so that people can be freed to pursue the ministry God has put upon their hearts. At High Pointe, most all of our new ministry leaders have come from people going through a personal strengths and Spiritual gifts assessment.

3. Failing to reach out and make new disciples.

I am finishing up reading Organic Leadership by Neil Cole, a very interesting book. He says the following:

"When churches reach new people, the changed lives infuse the whole congregation with energy . . . . If your ministry is struggling without leaders, do not reevalutate your leadership development program. It is time to reevalulte your disciplemaking system. If you are doing next to nothing to reach lost and broken people, your leadership development system will yield very few resutls." (p. 138-39).

I am very pleased when I go back to Liberty (my previous church where I ministered for six years) and I find new converts serving on the minister search team, serving on outreach teams, and serving as ministry leaders in finance, transportation ministry, and more.

Recently at High Pointe, one of our new converts from Celebrate Recovery said that he wanted to help transport our clothes for our Clothes Closet ministry. (Read his story). And he volunteered to do this even before being baptized! New converts provide passion, energy, and new leadership in all kinds of different ministries. (Of courses, we should not forget that the primary goal is to send them back on mission and not become part of an internal church ministry machine.)

So, if you want to find new leaders, recruit personally, help people discover their strengths and spiritual gifts, and make new disciples of Christ!

What thoughts do you have about recruiting and developing new leaders?

Saturday, August 01, 2009

The Tangible Kingdom

This is a short video that graphically illustrates the contrast between going to church and being the church out in the community. It promotes the "Tangible Kingdom" the book by Hugh Halter and Matt Smay. See

The Tangible Kingdom came out in 2008, and it has quickly taken hold in missional and church planting circles. One of the reasons it is pretty powerful is because it tells the real life story of the authors, who church planted in Denver (and elsewhere). They tell their challenges and blessings of being in established churches, and then in church plants.

Some interesting points that they make include:

  • Telling Christians who want to join their community that they are on mission, and that in order to be a part of this group, they will need to commit to certain missional practices such blessing others, hospitality, etc.
  • Letting "Sojourners" (those who have not yet fully committed to Christ, but who are searching) participate in their community, including having leadership roles in certain parts of worship.
  • That starting a church with Christian is not really easier than starting it with non-Christians, since most Christians bring with them a consumer attitude that says, "Feed me," rather than seeking to feed and serve others.
  • That mission is an essential part of spiritual formation, and that spiritual formation is a process.

They also have four major missional practices:

  • Leaving - Replacing personal or Christian activities with time spent building relationships with people in the surrounding culture.
  • Listening - Listening is watching and sensitively responding to the unspoken and spoken needs of Sojourners in ways that demonstrate sincere interest.
  • Living Among - Participating in the natural activites of the culture around you, with whimsical holiness. This would include eating and drinking whatever was put in front of you (including moderate consumption of alcohol), a la 1 Cor. 10:23-31 and Jesus' example (who was accused of being a drunkard and a glutton).
  • Loving Without Strings - Pretty self-explanatory!

The Tangible Kingdom is an interesting, thought provoking book with real life application.

Have you read this book? What do you think of the video and above summary?

PIctures of my wrecked car

Just to commemmorate it, here are some pictures of my wrecked car. As most of you know, a car pulled out in front of us last week. It was Friday, July 24, 2009, at about 5:45 PM, and Becki and our girls were in the car. We were headed down Virginia street going east, about to go under HWY 75, when a teen and her boyfriend turned left in front of us. Fortunately, no one was seriously hurt, though I've been dealing with some back and neck pain.

The car was totalled, as you would expect from these pictures. Unfortunately, it is unlikely we'll be able to get anything near what the car was worth. It was a 1996 Honda Accord in excellent condition, with relatively low miles, leather seats--and it was paid for. We will have to pay more to get anywhere close to this.

I was just thinking the other day how great it was to have two cars that were paid for. Looks like I need to eliminate these positive thoughts next time to avoid jinxing myself!

Any thoughts on where to get another similar type and condition of Honda? What tips do you have on getting a good settlement for the car with the insurance company?