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Take Courage & Love People

September 29, 2009

I couldn’t have said this better myself:

Be encouraged that simply finding people interesting and caring about them is a beautiful pathway into their heart. Evangelism gets a bad reputation when we are not really interested in people and don’t seem to care about them. People really are interesting. Every person you talk to is an amazing creation of God with a thousand interesting experiences…. Very few people are interested in others. If you really find their story interesting, and care about them, they may open up to you and want to hear your story—Christ’s story.

John Piper, Finally Alive, 185

The first step to being an effective evangelist? You have to actually love people the way Jesus loved people. Without that, all the clever slogans, memorized presentations, and programs won’t do you any good.

Lord, please let me love people the way you do. Amen.

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Thoughts on Technology and Ministry

September 24, 2009

In Tuesday’s chapel, Dr. Reid showed this video:

I’ve been thinking about it like crazy ever since. As we prepare to church plant and think through the best ways to utilize social media outlets and technology, the issue is more complicated than it may seem. How do we best utilize these means of communication? How do we prevent them from replacing face-to-face contact? As my friend, Alex, noted, “how do we even know what will be ‘in’ two years from now?

Here are three observations I made on the matter:

1. High quality technology does not equate excellence

Just because you have incredible bulletins and a sweet intro video to the sermon doesn’t mean that you’re demonstrating excellence in ministry. This means that you’re demonstrating excellence in your use of technology. The two are not synonymous.

If a cool logo and website replace excellence in the gospel, then it is only a matter of time before you will fail. Even a church name, logo, and website must be reflections of a robust understanding of the gospel.

2. Lack of/low quality technology does not equate holiness

Our hearts are “idol factories,” and this manifests itself in many subtle ways. One way that I’ve observed is that some who abstain from the recent technological trends (facebook, twitter, blogging, etc.) can present this as though it’s the most spiritual decision – apparently the “super-Christian” would never Twitter.

I have no problem with people who think it’s the wisest decision not to own a TV, use Facebook, Twitter, or whatever else, but don’t make it seem like God is a little more proud of you because you have done so. I believe the model example for this is John Piper, who doesn’t own a TV, yet is incredibly gracious whenever he is asked about this during interviews. Let’s not try to further justify ourselves by our lack of technological use.

The same goes for your church if it has a website that’s done poorly. This can be another way for churches to justify themselves, as a poor use of technology is somehow equated with having a greater spirituality.

An acceptance of mediocrity in any area, even in the technological realm, reveals a larger philosophy of ministry where it’s okay to be selective in what we do well for Jesus.

3. Context needs to drive quality to some extent

The question remains, “how do we balance between these two principles then?” I point to J.D. Greear’s “just enough principle” that he applies at The Summit Church. The question applied to matters of facilities, technology, etc. is “what is enough to get the job done?”

This means that technology will look different in various contexts. The quality of the website needs to be better in an urban environment full of young professionals than it does in a context where half the congregation doesn’t have e-mail. For example, do you really need to use flash on a website when most of your people’s browsers won’t even support it? Cautiously allow your context to determine (but not drive) how you use technology.

However, the thing that should transcend our culture should be our desire to do everything with excellence, including our use of technology in the church. This means problems like broken links on the website, regularly misspelled words on the Powerpoint, and old information in the bulletin are inexcusable if they characterize your church. No matter what the context, mediocrity must be rejected and everything must be done well for Jesus.

Writing’s Greatest Disease: Clutter

September 23, 2009

I’ve intentionally attempted to diversify my reading recently, spending time reading works of business, fiction, and education along with the regular theology books. On Writing Well is one of these books that I’m enjoying at the moment. In its early pages it states:

Clutter is the disease of American writing. We are a society strangling in unncecessary words, circular constructions, pompous frills and meaningless jargon… the secret of good writing is to strip every sentence to its cleanest components. Every wod that serves no function, every long word that could be a short word, every adverb that carries the same meaning that’s already in the verb, every passive construction that leaves the reader unsure of who is doing what – these thousand and are the the thousand and one adulterants that weaken the strength of a sentence. And they usually occur in proportion to education and rank.

– On Writing Well, 6-7

I love that last sentence. I used to think that if something was too complicated for me to understand when I read (much of my undergraduate religious studies reading comes to mind) then I had a problem. I’m realizing that being verbose doesn’t equate intelligence, and complicated sentences deserve more indictment on an author than praise. 

I think it was C.S. Lewis who said that you haven’t truly mastered anything until you are able to articulate it to a child in elementary school. Amen. It’s not necessarily the scholar who writes thousand-page books that is brilliant, but rather he who is able to communicate the same material in a hundred pages.

Where we’re going (part 3)

September 20, 2009

In the last post, I noted three major criterium I had in mind if I was going to feel good about us planting right out of seminary. Here are what they were/are:

1. A Team

The thought of Megan and I being a couple of lone rangers and moving to a city to start a church is terrifying to me. I don’t know how guys have done it in the past, although many of the best have done great things with this model. But for me, when I examine the responsibilities of a church planter and pastor, I see that they are greater than one man can handle. I wasn’t going to plant apart from having some great and talented people to plant with.

And fortunately that’s what we have. We’ve already seen a wonderful team (see their blog links in the preceding post) come together including:

Alex and Kristel Acevedo – The Acevedos are awesome and crazy talented. Alex works at Apple, is a very talented graphic designer, and is taking classes here at Southeastern. Kristel is getting her M.A. in Biblical Counseling at Southeastern and is one amazing photographer. They’re originally from Miami, and have become dear friends of ours.

Andy Metzger – Andy and I went to USC together and is one of my best friends. He is the type of guy who can do a million different things well, as his talents include administration, bow hunting, and fixing things around our apartment when they break. I’m not sure if I should be offended that Megan’s first instinct is to call Andy when something needs to be fixed in our apartment or cars.

My wife (Megan) – Sometimes a planter’s wife can get lost in the mix, but Meg is incredibly talented and she’s just as much a part of this as I am. She has a tender heart, a gentle spirit, and has a compassion for others that far surpasses my own. 

I feel so fortunate to see this group come together and look forward to seeing who else will join our team.

2. A Sending Church

Churches plant churches, and this meant that we desperately wanted to be a part of a church that would coach us and send us. We also wanted to be a part of a church where we could serve together and is in the type of context where we’ll be ministering in Denver. Fortunately, the pieces have started to come together to have this happen at The Summit Church.

The Summit is an incredible church that has done great things in RDU. They are a church that measures their success by their “sending capacity” rather than their “seating capacity.” Part of this is their desire to plant 1,000 churches in the next forty years. Summit, in partnership with their SendRDU program, has begun coaching and assessing us to be one of their church plants. While there is still much that needs to happen to make this official, I’m thankful that we’re at least being considered for this. It is such a tremendous blessing. 

3. Partnerships in the City

We also didn’t want to be oblivious to the work that has gone before us in the city. It’s not like we’ll be the first good church in Denver, as there is already been work going on out there. I love cooperating for the cause of the gospel as the gospel is “the great unifier.” Territorialism in light of this is utterly ridiculous. 

Fortunately, we were able to start putting relationships in place with pastors already in the area when we made our trip out there in January. I really appreciated their spirit of cooperation, and recognition that no one church is going to reach a city of Denver’s size on its own. One of these pastors, Korey (lead pastor of Hope Valley Church), has been in the area for some time and has a heart to share his wisdom with new planters. I am really looking forward to learning from him. I also look forward to intentionally trying to develop relationships with other pastors and planters in the area to see how we can complement the work that is already taking place.

So it looks like the three biggies are in place. It truly has been a work of God, and has not been because of any wit of my own (in fact, I’d say this has all happened in spite of my shortcomings). Thank you, Lord, for the work that you have already put in place.

Where we’re going (part 2)

September 17, 2009

Ok, I’ll cut to the chase – sometime in the Summer of 2011 we’ll be moving out to Denver to work toward planting a church. Exciting, huh?

Some who know me may wonder why I decided not to pursue a PhD immediately following graduation, and others may be wondering why in the world we would go to Denver. There are numerous posts that need to be written on this, but I thought I’d at least begin by saying how I came to the place where I felt good about making this our next step.

For the last couple of years we have felt like urban church planting was where we wanted to end up, but we weren’t sure of the steps to get there. Would we get more education? Do student ministry for a few years? Go right away? In my mind I had three major criteria that I wanted to meet if we were going to church plant. Those will be the subject of my next post.

No longer desiring to “be like Mike”

September 17, 2009

For anyone who grew up in the 90’s, Michael Jordan was the man. I had Air Jordan’s, watched his defining moments in NBA finals series religiously, and yes, even saw Space Jam. I loved his Gatorade and McDonald’s commercials and tried to stick out my tongue he did as I played basketball.

Last weekend he was inducted into the NBA hall of fame as probably the most talented and successful player to ever play American sports. Apparently his induction speech was a fairly large disaster, though. His 23-minute speech consisted more of self-praise and backhanded comments than anything else.

Contrast this with David Robinson’s 7 minute speech that exalted everyone but himself.

Interestingly enough, Robinson was often put down for being “too nice” on the court. Jordan had a killer instinct, and could carry his team to victory on any night. In the end though, with his playing days now behind him and little cultural influence remaining, Jordan’s final image under society’s spotlight will be remembered as a sad moment of self-justification and “settling scores.” While he was no doubt the superior player to Robinson, he demonstrated that he was not the superior man. And while a decade ago Jordan had everything a man could want, I recognize now that all the commercial deals in the world don’t compensate for a lack of character. In the end, despite him being the greatest basketball player of all time, I have little desire that my future sons “be like Mike.”

Voddie Baucham writes an article contrasting the two speeches here. Below is an excerpt:

Jordan is defined by what he did on the court.  He needed this moment to snatch his throne back from the likes of Kobe Bryant if only for one night.  He needed the bright lights, and the attention again if only for twenty-three minutes.  And in the end, it was quite sad.  A man who has “everything”; the most recognizable figure on the planet at one time, looked as empty as the United Center (where the Bulls play) two hours after a disappointing loss.

Where we’re going (part 1)

September 16, 2009

http://deaddogcafe.files.wordpress.com/2008/09/denver1.jpg

I don’t have the time to write tonight, but in the morning I’ll start writing here about where we are headed following seminary. Much has fallen into place these last couple of months, and we have seen great things come together.

In seminary, you are often presented with so many awesome opportunities that it seems like there’s something new you want to spend your life doing on a daily basis. Over these last few years it seems like we could be doing anything and everything. Well (drumroll) … we’ve committed, and I plan to start writing on this tomorrow morning.

In the meantime, I’ll allow Kristel, a member of our church planting team, shed some light on where we’re headed.

Please pray for Alex, Kristel, Andy, Megan, and I as we prepare for this great adventure.