Thursday, August 31, 2006

Postmodernism: Friend or Foe

Wow, 2 posts in one day!

Since my days of youth minstry I have heard how bad this new postmodern generation will be to the future of the church. Over and over, I have heard statistics of how young people do not believe in absolutes. I'm not so sure this is a bad thing.

I have thought many times that the emerging world looks more like the first few centuries of the church than has the generations of the last 400 years. We worry about things like sensuality, abortion, gay marriage, separation of church and state, materialism, and situational ethics. In the first few centuries, we saw temple prostitutes, orgies, homosexuality, tremendous persecution of the church by a religiously pluralistic government, and gods for every situation. In the first centuries the Christian church seemed to get singled out. Sound familiar? In spite of all this we saw some of the most rapid growth in the history of the church.

The problem for the evangelism in a world where non-Christians believe in absolutes is that they absolutely believe that we are wrong. While I'm sure it has happened, I have never seen a debate where someone was so convinved by the other side that they changed sides at the end. Is a culture that focuses on experience such a bad thing? The Psalmist said "taste and see that the Lord is good" (Ps 34:8). I think that postmodern people who initially don't believe in God might be willing to accept Christ as they experience His goodness.

I was re-reading my highlights today in the book "The Present Future" by Reggie McNeal. I assigned this book as reading for our next team meeting. I liked his thoughts on the emerging post-modern culture. He says:

"We need to take courage. Though secularism and nihilism have taken their bast shot to kill God, they have lost. The post-modern world, governed by quantum physics and its emphasis on relationships, is God's end run around the modern world. A quantum world stands ready to accept divine design and divine interaction. God himself is stirring the pot (not the kind you smoke). If we can pay attention we will eventually discover that not only will we not lose God in this emerging postmodern world, we will find him again."

The church will become a bit messy by the standards of the past 50 years of the church. But, I think that's a good thing. Jesus sought out people with problems and many of them joined him. If you don't like messes I don't suggest you enter the medical field. But, Jesus, himself, was the great physician.

Tag Team Church

I was reading a Mark Batterson blog about a new invite card . I love what he says here: "Invite cards are one way we remind ourselves that church is a tag-team sport. When NCCers walk in they tag me and say "go for it." When NCCers walk out I tag them and say "go for it.""
He is so right on. Most of my life I have been in churches where the leaders expected the members to completely lead someone to Christ and then bring them to church and the members expected the pastors go out and bring the people in.

Churches like NCC and my church, C3 CHurch, find ways to use everybody's strength to reach more hurting people.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Something we can learn from the French

Americans generally think the French are rude. They don't speak to strangers. As a matter of fact, if you same hello to someone on the street they will often look at you as if you are strange. Most Americans would think that this is rude behavior. We consider saying hello to strangers polite. They consider it shallow. I guess we're both right. It is polite. But, in reality we probably don't mean it if we say "how are you" to a stranger.

As we plan to plant a church in France we have to understand not only how people act but why they act that way. They place a high value on being genuine. So they won't say something if they don't mean it and they would be offended if you say you will do something and don't follow through. For example, when we say, as we often do when parting company, "I will call this week" or "lets do coffee this week" they expect that we will follow through. Unfortunately our culture of politeness almost sends those words out of our mouths before we can think about them.

In the past six months I have really noticed the negative side of this phenomenon. I can't tell you how many times I have left messages with people who never called me back. In many cases, it was someone who said "call me", I left a message, and they never called back. In many cases I left multiple messages and in some cases sent emails. Most of these cases involve either Christian people or contractors that I want to pay. If, on our answering machine, we say "leave a message and I will call you back" and don't call back, then what does that say about us? I know that I do and have done this often. Having seen this so often recently, I am very really convicted about it.

I think the French are on to something here. "Say what you mean" and "do what you say." My wife and I have committed to changing this. And, I urge you, especially as Christian, to do what you say you will do and if you say, on your answering machine, you will call someone back if they leave a message, call them back if they leave a message. If you say you will call someone to get together for coffee, call them to get together for coffee. If you already make following up with people a priority, thank you.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Kids with Passports

France, here we come!

Our children received their passports yesterday. That is a concept that boggles the mind: children with passports. Especially, a 1 year old with a passport. They are good for 5 years. Do you think that my 1 year old will look the same at 6 or how about my 5 year old at 10.

We haven't recieved Gina's updated passport from her maiden name to Witcher yet. Then I got to thinking about some of the stamps and visas in her passport and realized that it might take a little longer than normal.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Death to "Comment Spam"

Well I knew this day would come. I am beginning to get more comment spam. So I took the plunge today and turned on "word verification." Sorry if it takes and extra step to comment but, hey, think of it as learning (or making up) a new vocabulary word with every comment. Got a good definition? Post it with your comment.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Book Review - Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller

For starters, I like the book. The book has a great conversational style that is an easy and interesting read. He is nothing if not genuine and real. I can't imagine with all he reveals about himself that he is hiding anything. For me it was a great introduction to a culture that I don't really understand. It will prove invaluable in the future when I meet people like Miller who have been hurt and burned by traditional organized religion (whatever that means). It also gives us hope that there are those out there that we might least expect who are truly seeking God and yet their experience with Him is expressed ways that many of us don't get.

While I liked the book I am left feeling a little torn. I also had some problems with the book.

While Miller says that Christian Spirituality is not political, the book is full of the authors political rants. Unfortunately, most of those rants end up being attacks on other churches and Christians. It seems as if he belittles just about everything and everybody relating to Christianity that does not fit in his comfort zone. The good part is that he owns up to it. That kind of thinking comes from people who are fairly self-centered. One of the consitnet themes in the book is Miller's continual recognition of his own "self-addiction."

The final thing that concerns me is that while he does a great job of pointing out problems in the church I am not sure I agree with his conclusions. I am not sure that a "cussing" pastor is something not be lauded. I also don't like the fact that he sets up pot smoking, oversexed hippies as our examples for Love. I am sure that we can learn a lot from people outside the community of faith but I sure there are many good examples of Love displayed within the faith community that are both moral and Holy Spirit led.

I really would like to meet Miller. I am thankful for what he taught me and I am interested in reading some of his other works.

Those "far from God"

We had a great weekend at C3 Church. It began with a Leadership Conference led by Pastor Matt and Pastor Rick White from The People's Church, in Franklin, TN. It was a truly great leadership conference, follow by a great sermon by Pastor Rick on the weekend. He shared about how he made a decision in 1992 after leading a mainline traditional church for 10 years that he had to do change to begin to reach those who were "far from God." This decision cost him friends and 1/3 of his church but he has no regrets. Today they are more than twice the the size that they were before 1/3 of the church left. The great part is that the growth they experienced since 1992 is largely due to this new effort to reach those "far from God." He said that before '92 his church sustained continued growth but in those days they were just "trading sheep." He said that the only people coming to new faith in Christ were children of members.

I praise God for men like Pastor Rick White. He is one of the few pastors who developed a vision for a new type of ministry and had the strength stick it out. There will be many in heaven one day who will thank him. He opened his sermon by asking a question from the book No Perfect People Allowed: Creating a Come-as-You-Are Culture in the Church by John Burke. What does a Buddhist, a Biker couple, a gay rights activist, a transient, a high-tech Engineer, a Muslim, a 20-somthing single mom, a Jew, an unmarried couple living together and an atheist all have in common? They are the future church. So I guess I have to add a new book to my wish list.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Sticker Picker

Over the past few years we have noticed sticker grass (aka stickers)invading our yard. Toward the end of summer we will hear one of our four children screaming like they have been stung by a bee and then we begin the torture sessions with a pair to tweezer (and sometimes a needle) to remove the remnants of the little devil.

My wife, bless her, loves our kids beyond normal sometimes. She has been out in our 3/4 of an acre backyard picking these evil stickers by hand for many days. Finally, after 10 wagons full of stickers she was satisfied that she had picked most of them and we finally mowed the yard.

The last 2 days we have noticed our 1 year old out in the yard pulling up grass. It is amazing to see how children emulate their parents. When I began to think about it I saw a beautiful illustration here.

When sin enters our lives God is there. When he hears us screaming about the pain the sin causes, he will take us through a sometimes painful process to remove the sin that causes the pain. But he also deeply desires to remove the things in your life that lead to sin before we sin. The things that grow and grow in our lives until one day we will enevitably step into sin. The most beautiful part though is that when we come to God as little children, finding our only real satisfaction in Him like a 1 year old does in his mother, we begin to do the things that God would have us do to clear the junk out of our lives before it lead us to sin.

I learn so much about God through my children. I sure hope that they learn somthing about Him from me.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Divine Connections

As we prepare to go and plant a church in Paris, we are in the process of raising up partners who will fund our ministry. It will cost $9,000 a month in ministry and living expenses to plant a church in one of the 15 most expensive cities in the world. There have been many times that I wish I did not have to raise support. Times I wished that we would be supported all from one source.

But I guess, like Garth Brooks, sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers. He (God not Garth) has led me to meet lots of new people in this process.

I have had the opportunity to meet and partner with amazing pastors like Matt Fry, Dino Rizzo and Mark Batterson. The church where I was saved as a youth, FBC in Lampasas, Tx (Rick Willis), is supporting our ministry. That means so much to me. I have met many new awesome pastors in this process. Pastors like Tom Bartlett, John Siebeling, Dan Ohlerking, and Vince Blubaugh. My wife and I have had the opportuity to meet Christine Caine and Phil Dooley from Hillsong Church.

Last week I met two awesome pastors in Charlotte, Naeem Fazal at Mosaic Church and Jerry Stone at The Life Church. Both pastors gave me the names of other pastors they knew. Naeem said he knew Erwin McManus and would connect me with their missions ministry. Today, before I got any contact info from Naeem, I got an email from Alex McManus (Erwin's brother)whose son just got back from 2 months in Paris. A few minutes later I got an email from Erwin McManus himself. The writer of the most inspiring book I have read this year was emailing me. He said they love Paris and want to plant a Mosaic church there.

I stand in Awe of God. Except for the fact the God has a great plan for the people in Paris that he is going to let me be a part of, I would never have met most of these great men and women of God.

I am writing this as a monument to all God has done. Joshua 4.

Survey says . . . I belong in Paris?

You Belong in Paris

You enjoy all that life has to offer, and you can appreciate the fine tastes and sites of Paris.
You're the perfect person to wander the streets of Paris aimlessly, enjoying architecture and a crepe.