Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Why do I feel this way? I just finished getting our inaugural newsletter out for Catalyst France. So much has happened in the last 2 months to get Catalyst France off the ground. I am a visionary at heart but when you are starting a new organization from the ground up, you have to get your hands dirty and keep them that way. I think deatils are Satan's tool to stop people from dreaming big dreams for God. Praise God he has given us the encouragement along the way to help us see the future.
I spent quite a bit of time designing a brochure for Catalyst France. I am not a designer but it actually looks really good. I have had lots of comments from designers. I guess God gives us what need for the task. I planned to use it as a primary piece for our mailing this month with a brief letter. In the last week though, I found out that we could not handle the printing ourselves and would have to have it professionally printed. I then had to move quickly to write a stand alone newsletter to replace it. At 5:30PM today I dropped 350 newsletters in the mail. I am tired but relieved. I am excited for everyone to understand who we are at Catalyst France, to catch the vision, and to dream with us about reaching France and Europe for Christ.
If you do not get our newsletter but would like to, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Monday, July 30, 2007
There are differences between the unchurched. Some of them haven't attended anywhere, but had praying grandmothers or grew up in places where Christianity was part of the fabric of the community, so they at least took their hat off during prayer before high school football games. But then there are unchurched folks who have had no connection with anything Christian, let alone evangelical. They hang crystals and spirit catchers in their front windows, drive cars with "coexist" written on their bumper stickers, and think church-goers are like militia members. "The Unchurched" cannot possibly be a universal term.Great distinction!
Sunday, July 29, 2007
The church knows how contagious our lives can be. My entire Christian life I have heard church leaders say that we need to be careful who we hang out with because will very likely become like them. The problem is that Jesus never hung out with people he wanted to be like or even wanted to be associated with. He hung out with people that he wanted to become like Himself.
As Christians, are we giving or taking. Are we spending time with people we want to be like or are we spending time with people who we want to see meet Jesus?
Saturday, July 28, 2007
At one point I wasn't paying attention and a foul ball was hit our way. The guy behind us caught it and gave it to one of my boys. A few minutes later they hit another one my way and I got it. It is the first foul ball I have ever caught. Only problem is that in spite of the fact that I now have 2 balls, I have 4 kids.
It was also a great last inning come from behind win. Now, I am ready for bed.
Friday, July 27, 2007
Dad: Austin, what do you want to be when you grow up?I wonder where he got that from?
Austin: I want to be a policeman.
Dad: What to policemen do?
Austin: They arrest people.
Dad: What do they arrest people for?
Austin: For not wearing their seatbelt.
This part of the vision is why we do what we do. It is how we Define Our Win; how we know we are accomplishing the Great Commission. Seeing and hearing life-change through Jesus Christ is not enough if the unchurched never experience it.
Jesus said, "I came that you might have life, and have it to the full" (John 10:10) Jesus did not die so that we could become better rule followers. He died so that we might live. If we teach the people all there is to know about the Bible and morality but fail to lead them to experience new life in Christ we have not fulfilled our vision.
Paul said, "if any man is in Christ he is a new creation" (2 Cor 5:17). While new life is the goal, it is also a means. When asked why people don't go to church, the top reasons they give is that they believe it is boring or irrelevant. I think that one of the biggest reasons people go to church on the invitation of a friend is because they see something in that friend's life that is different. I think that many people who don't believe in Jesus after their first visit to a church come back because they see something different in the people at that church.
It's really a circular thing. If we can point the way (or get out the way) for people to experience a life changing relationship with Jesus Christ, they will become the best reason for others to find that same life changing relationship.
How about your church? What would an unchurched person see? What would they hear? Would they get it? Would they come back even if they didn't get it? Is life change obvious to your guests?
Love to hear your thoughts. . .
Thursday, July 26, 2007
I also have been wanting to use some scrap wood to make my former 2 time National Champion Steeplechase bride a steeple barrier to practice on. I am a little late since she runs in the US Masters Championships in Maine next Friday. But I built her a steeple barrier to train on today. We both think it actually turned out pretty good.
While I was at it I build my 6 and 4 year old boys their first bike ramp. I am so glad that they are finally getting to this fun age. No blood yet. You can see my handi-work in the pics (except for the beans, maybe I will save that for the podcast).
In college I had to check out 2 disks from the computer lab front desk because computers back in the day didn't have hard drives. We printed on 9 pin dot matrix printers. I didn't grow up chatting with my friends on IM programs. I have a friend who feels dumb sometimes when people use those little initials in their emails even though he worked in the IT industry for 10 years. You know IMHO, HT, LOL, 411 BC, BTW, OMG etc.
Imagine how an unchurched person feels when they hear words like salvation, sanctified, the blood, sanctuary, discipleship, Sunday School or pulpit. Imagine what may go through their head when singing a song from the hymnal with lyrics like "come thou fount of every blessing" or the second stanza, "here I raise mine Ebenezer, Hither by thine help I come."
Even if we use a newer Bible version like the NIV, we can't assume that they know what we mean when we talk about the exodus, the garden, the passion, pentecost, the upper room, or the exile. We have to recognize that if we have been Christ Followers for more than a few years we speak a language that the unchurched person doesn't get, or worse, makes them feel like an outsider.
But not only must we speak the language of the culture, we have to help the unchurched understand how Christ impacts their life today. When asked "the diagnostic questions" many French people would say "who cares." We must enter into a conversation about issues in their culture. Jesus did not talk to the woman at the well about dietary laws or the Jubilee year. He talked to her about about water that gives life and acknowledged her current situation.
Finally, we must quit being so gloomy about Jesus. I don't know about you but Jesus changed me and made me a happier, more exciting person. Jesus didn't just say "let him who is without sin throw the first stone;" he also said "don't talk about the splinter in your neighbor's eye while you have a beam in your own eye." That is funny. It communicated a truth in a fun humorous way.
ht- Tony Morgan
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
We both entered and left the conversation teachable. We each saw the merits of the others views and will hopefully be better equipped for our ministries because of the conversation.
Unfortunately, it doesn't always work this way. I have talked to other church planters who think that they have it all figured out. These guys are usually the ones who not only don't attend conferences and visit churches, but believe that they are better for not being "conference types." This is sad because visiting churches, attending conferences and talking to successful church planter is probably the best indicator of success in a church plant. Not because these things are more important than character and a personal walk with Jesus, but because they are an indicator of character and a personal walk with Jesus.
This may be the most important part of a person's openness to the Gospel. Jesus was not just a good teacher. In fact his disciples followed him for a long time and really didn't get it. But they followed him anyway . . . until they got it.
Imagine going to a car dealership to buy a car. The salesman tells you about a new car you have never seen before. It sounds great but he didn't have this car to show you. Would you buy it? What if he shows you a picture? The truth is most people don't buy into anything new unless they have had an opportunity to see it, test its claims and hear from others think about it.
The biggest problem with all this is that much of the body of Christ is not living out a transformed life with Jesus in community. We spend so much time focusing on peripheral issues and rules and expectations that our focus is not on Jesus. The greatest commandments are to love God and then your neighbor. And they will know we are Christians by our love. So people will question our love for God if we don't love people. All people. Not just the ones in our Sunday School class.
We must build a community of faith that is not our typical expression of the local church. One where people love God and people and live it out in very raw, authentic ways. It can't be taught. It must be caught. It must begin with the leadership and it must begin early. We can get away with teaching what we aren't living. But no one will catch something from us that we aren't living.
In todays western culture, many people will accept something they observe is real even if they don't fully understand it. But they may never understand it if they don't observe it.
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
Well if you like good coffee, you have got to get a french press coffee maker thing. We got one expecting to use it in the afternoon sometimes for a special time together. Now we use it almost exclusively. It makes incredible coffee.
If you already spend more on beans like Starbucks. Try making it in a french press.
Just one more great thing about the French.
After 2 trips to France talking to people and pastors (I know, pastors are people too), and observing people, I began to sense God showing me that these people all had similar unmet needs that He placed in them for a purpose. I observed a lack of hope, a lack of meaningful relationships, and a lack of understanding how they fit into humanity.
A year later I heard Erwin McManus talking about his book Soul Cravings. He said every human soul has a craving for intimacy, destiny, and meaning. It felt great to think that God was speaking to me the same stuff he was speaking to Erwin McManus. So what if Erwin says it better.
These soul cravings are so obvious in France. When people enter into a relationship with Jesus, they find relationships, they find hope for a better life, and they begin to understand their purpose and how there life matters for something.
For people to experience it, we must first live it in front of them and communicate it in a way that makes sense to them.
I will talk more tomorrow about seeing it.
Our blogs are getting hits from all over the world and most importantly France. Even non-Christians from France.
In a little over 2 months we have had 2 couples and 2 singles talk to us about joining our team to go to France. These are people on church staffs of amazing churches doing the very things we need people to do in Paris. We did no recruiting. None. No recruiting budget. No campus visits. How did we find them? Other than a chance meeting with a creative pastor at a conference and the rest read our blogs and website. Since I didn't know any of them, I guess they found us through word of mouth or through someone else's blog.
Gina told me this morning that a lady who reads her blog in LA (the state) was looking at a blog post I wrote about ways people can use their gifts to help Catalyst France stateside. She said her husband is a film producer and they want to help with video work.
Within 15 minutes of sending an email that included an announcement of our online giving tool, we had a new donor via that tool.
In the last 12 hours I have had contacts via email, skype, and facebook from 3 different continents.
God will redeem technology to redeem the world. I am just thrilled to be in a place where God is working.
Monday, July 23, 2007
The emerging generation of young people in France today is open to spirituality like few generations before it. By reaching this generation for Christ we will reach the next generation of French leaders. And since, France is a nation of unparalleled world influence, a movement of young French people becoming Christ followers, could make world headlines opening the door for greater impact for the Great Commission.
Our vision is toI will flesh this out more each day this week. If you are interested in more information please visit the Catalyst France website. If you would like to partner with us and support the ministry of Catalyst France you can give online here.
. . . plant churches where French people have an opportunity to see the Gospel lived out in the lives of transformed believers, hear the message of Christ clearly communicated in an exciting and relevant way, and experience lasting life-change through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
. . . and to establish a church planting network that will bring the most effective churches and leaders from around the world together to provide training and apprentice programs to prepare new church planters.
Thursday, July 19, 2007
In the church we often try to make everything happen now, or tomorrow or this weekend. If we can't convince someone in a "friend weekend" or a first visit then we move on to the next unsuspecting neighbor or visitor. Maybe we could talk to them outside of church without a tract in our back pocket waiting for the right moment to make our move. Get to know them. Let them see something in you that they like. Value them as a person not a potential notch in your baptistry. If you do these things they will ask questions and then you have an open ear.
Changing tomorrow is really, really difficult. . .
Changing next week's future is a little easier, next month is easier still. You can lay the groundwork now to change your team and your products and your story so that over time, you're in a different place than you are now.
Changing next year, though... that's really hard. It's hard because a year is so far away, you can count on the world being a very different place by then. (more)
But don't wait too long. The church is notorious for being the best at last year's (or decades) culture. Remember that today's contemporary will become tomorrows tradition. The world is changing. If we want that world to meet an unchanging Jesus, we better keep up
I had a sales call today were the sales rep tried to sell me something that I didn't think I needed. He talked a lot and asked few questions. Several times he was telling me about how his product would help me do things that I am already doing. But, I realized quickly he was so proud of his product he just wanted to talk about it. The truth is I might really need what he was selling. But, I don't perceive that I need it and his presentation of his product did not address my situation.
What's my point?
I think the church does this. They are trying to sell the greatest product in the world to people who think it has no value (I may have just lost half my readers with the sales analogy). I once heard it said that truth begins with the other person's perception of truth. If we want to reach people who don't care about church or Christianity we must begin where they're at. We need to ask questions. Learn who they are. What satisfies them? What do they wish they could change about their life? Has the church hurt them? As you learn what their needs you may have earned the right to offer a solution. Sure, you know the solution. But they'll have to come to that conclusion on their own.
Have you ever had a friend ask you to come to a meeting at his house for a business opportunity? Did you think that if you don't sign up it may ruin a good friendship? We, the church, must be willing to love the lost even if they don't buy in to our faith. In the end the best marketing is always satisfied customers. If you're a satisfied customer, they will see it.
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
- After talking about Wisdom, the first specific topic dealt with was adultery.
- Most prominent subject in the book is the power of the tongue (lips, mouth).
- Character themes - Righteousness, Integrity, Pride, Patience, Honesty.
- A number of verses (19:4, 7; 22:4, 7) talked positively about the influence of the rich or wealthy. (this one surprised me). I don't know if he is just stating a fact or presenting goals to strive for.
- Glory of young men is their strength (I'm heading to the gym this afternoon). Grey hair (not 'no hair') is the splendor of the old (sorry bald pastors) (20:29).
- Solomon must have had some quarrelsome wives. He mentioned them enough that you wouldn't miss it (19:13; 21:9,19; 23:27; 25:24; 27:15).
A lot of people post these lists and then say that they are not into these kinds of lists. Why not? If you're in a competitive mode then sure these lists can feed your ego if you are on them. But, these lists serve a purpose. I can think of a least 3 here:
- They help you look at your own church and see if you are being effective. Unfortunately, many churches don't have a measure to evaluate their effectiveness. This list alone will not do that, but it is a starting point to get an idea of what you or others are doing right so you can keep your focus on the right stuff.
- They give you vision for what God can do. All of these big churches were once small ones and many of them experienced enormous growth only in the last 8-15 years. If you think that your church can never grow like that, it would be worth your time to look at some biographical information on these churches. Like #21 New Spring Community Church in Anderson, SC. Where is Anderson, SC?
- Finally, lists like this are a great tool for church planters to use to learn what is working? When you see a list of 50 to 100 churches you have a place to start learning. You can visit these churches, read the pastors blogs or join their networks. You probably can't check out all 50 but don't stop with just one. Learn all you can from all you can and you will fill a toolbox that you can go to in your unique situation when you need to.
This list is a good one but not my favorite. You might want to look at other lists that measures salvations, baptisms, or churches planted.
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
In the internet world information is fast, free and editorialized. Everything we do and every decision we make affects how the unchurched view church. We must be very careful to differentiate between what is important and what is personal preference. If people don't share our faith it is likely that they won't share our preferences. If we want to change people's view of the church then we must begin to focus our efforts on beginning a conversation with those far from God rather than condemning a world without God for acting unGodly.
Monday, July 16, 2007
Sunday, July 15, 2007
Yep, today is my birthday. It was pretty uneventful. Went to church last night so I kinda slept in this morning, if 8am can be called sleeping in. My wife kept me in cool looking clothes and my kids asked why it was daddy's day again. With Fathers day last month and our anniversary a week ago, I guess it might seem like I get too many days in a row. We celebrated with a pool party and about 30 friends from the praise team at our church. Most of them didn't know it was my birthday though.
I did a search to see what famous people I share a birthday with . The 2 biggest names on the list were Rembrandt and Jesse Ventura. I'm not sure what that mean because I am no artist and I'm pretty sure wrasslin is fake.
Oh and I think I will quit calling them birthdays after this year. Can you guess how many years that is for me?
Saturday, July 14, 2007
Friday, July 13, 2007
Resolution (they are pretty basic)
- Spiritually - Read through the Bible
- Mentally - Read 2 books a month
- Physically - Workout 3 times a week
- Spiritually - :)
- Mentally - :(
- Physically - :(
How are you doing? Any suggestions?
Thursday, July 12, 2007
Tuesday night grandma kept the kids and we got to have our annual anniversary dinner. We went to the Angus Barn. The food is fantastic and the atmosphere tops it off. They have the best crackers and cheese and they always give you a special pound cake if it is your anniversary. Including the year we were married we have celebrated our anniversary 8 out of 10 years. It is kind of a tradition.
Well, we considered getting a hotel with a pool and just kicking back. Instead we went to Dick's and bought Gina some new running shoes. She couldn't have been happier. I got a FIFA, Germany Soccer t-shirt. It was good time.
Since we will probably be living in Paris next year, I'm sure we could find something pretty awesome to do for our tenth.
His main point is that we are finding that more non-Christians don't believe in God these days. This is a change in a culture that has mostly accepted the existence of God up until the last 10 or 15 years. The church must change as well. Most outreach approaches are based on presenting a doctrine of salvation to people who have a basic belief in the existence of God.
You just can't engage some people with scripture or theology. I have had experiences where I used scripture and spent the rest of the conversation defending the Bible. It became an academic exercise that led no where. We must focus more on authentic relationships where people will care to hear what we say. That can be hard if we spend most of our time with Christians. It was great to hear Bobby refer to someone as a friend who doesn't believe in God.
Are there any people who don't believe in God who would call you a friend?
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
The name for this blog, Newboxes, came from the idea that we don't think "outside the box" as much as we create new boxes from new experiences. We believe that most effective church planters will come out of effective churches.
The goal of Catalyst France is not only to plant a life-giving church in Paris, but to train French church planters through internships, networking, and conferences.
With the incredible influence that France has in the world we cannot afford to lose ground because of the high cost. We must invest in effective church planting now.
To learn more about partnership with Catalyst France go here.
To hear audio and see video of the sessions go here.
To see the videos that won the film festival awards go here.
To see the best video (if you love the 80's) that didn't win go here and play the Volunteer Appreciation Night video.
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Coffee houses are very similar to these old wells. They are places where sales reps work, students study, employers have interviews, church planters study and people just go to take a break. I always meet folks in these places. I sometimes avoid the local Starbucks when I have a lot of work to get done because I know I will end up in conversations with people.
In France, the same is very true. In a culture where people don't talk much to strangers, the coffee house creates a common experience where defenses are down just a bit. We don't plan on going to France and just putting up a sign or sending out an Easter mailer about our cool new church. We know that relationships are key. We know that most people will attend church for the first time because of a relationship. So we will be intentional about developing relationships (I may talk more about that later). Going to coffee shops will not just be a way to to take a break, for our team they will be part of a job description. Want an application?
If you love Starbucks, notice the stores in Paris in the picture. But you may quickly forget the mermaid when you sample the local espresso.
Check out Catalyst France.
Monday, July 09, 2007
After that, I met Kimberly, our treasurer at the bank to officially open our Catalyst France/ Catalyst Europe bank account. After, a trip to the Sec of State's office, the deeds office, back to the bank, then back to the deeds office and back to the bank once more, it is done. We can receive checks made out to Catalyst France or Catalyst Europe. To make financial partnership in an internet world easier we plan to have online E-Checking and Credit Card capability in the next week or two.
We also got an offer on our house tonight, without having ever put a sign in our yard.
Saturday, July 07, 2007
Friday, July 06, 2007
Erwin McManus has said that the human soul has a longing to be alive that is stronger than our instinct to live. An there is an intuitive connection between being alive and living free. The problem with the church today is that it is known more for what it is against than what it is for. Most people aren't looking for freedom of religion, they are looking for freedom from religion: freedom from the the rules , the judgment, the condemnation. And the church is the last thing they think of when they are looking for something that is alive.
They key to reaching the unchurched in France and Europe is in establishing a local church that speaks the foreign language of culture and presents the abundant life that Jesus offers. We must stop expecting non-Christians to act like Christians before we let them enter a church. Jesus did not die to so that we could become better rule followers. He wants our hearts. When He has those His Spirit will change our lives; not to follow rules but to be alive and free in Christ.
Wednesday, July 04, 2007
Hopefully we can find another day in the near future to celebrate, the kids that kept us from celebrating are the very reasons we need to get away and celebrate.
Gina, I love you and am blessed to be married to you. You complete me. I am glad you are on this journey with me. I am looking forward to the next nine years with you.
Tuesday, July 03, 2007
YouVersion is a product of the incredible creative energy that surrounds the guys at LifeChurch.tv.
After many trips to Europe the need for Christ there is obvious, but the opportunity there is also striking to me. So much of the church, even newer church plants, is wrapped up in a historical package. I love European history. I even did graduate work in medieval history. But, I believe that Europeans are post-Christian because they don't believe that Christianity offers anything for the future. When Europeans think of the church they think of beautiful cathedrals with little old ladies and priests. It has about as much impact as the Alamo does on San Antonoins. If we want to reach them we must begin to focus more on how Jesus impacts their today and tomorrow and less on historical traditions.
YouVersion is thinking forward not backward. I wonder if Martin Luther could ever have imagined what his Gutenberg Bible could become.
Monday, July 02, 2007
During my stay at the JHouse they had their monthly summer barbecue for Hill staffers and summer interns. Probably over 100 in attendance. They even had Congressman Pence from Indiana drop by and share his testimony. It was great to talk to lots of these young people who are still in college but taking the summers to intern in DC. I knew that I was talking to the next generation of leaders who are already becoming influencers.
After the barbecue about 30 or so stayed behind to have a worship time and then I heard them making up words to "the JHouse Blues." Of course after arriving about 2am the previous night, I stayed up talking till about 2am after the party. It reminded me a little of the Frat House I lived in at college without the persistent stale beer aroma. Hopefully I can connect with the guys again on another trip to DC.