Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Journey into the Unfamiliar

This fall my church is focusing in on discipleship. As leaders we're asking questions like "What does a disciple look like?" and "Is there a process by which we can lead people to become disciples? If so, how do we walk people through it?"

One thing we're discovering through is that discipleship pushes people into unfamiliar territory. Some people see it as a positive challenge, understanding that this will (hopefully) bring them closer to the Lord who loves them. Others are less eager to take on the challenge.

And that's to be expected. Jesus' call to follow him is not a simple action like following someone on Twitter. Look at John 6:53-68. When Jesus told the people to eat his flesh and drink his blood, "many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him." When Jesus asked the 12 disciples if they wanted to leave too, Peter replied, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life."  

Being a follower of Jesus is, by definition, a journey into the unfamiliar, but it's where we're supposed to be, because it is the journey that leads to life.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Do Numbers Really Matter in Ministry?

Photo by Flickr user Pshab. Used under
Creative Commons licence .
I am excited to be part of a team who admins several thriving Facebook pages such as The Bible page, and the Jesus Christ page. The team also manages several other pages which you should definitely check out. 

Recently, our team was discussing the importance of the number of "Likes" each page receives. Some team members liked tracking the numbers and setting goals; others weren't too keen on the idea. 

Personally, I like seeing the numbers. Are they the indicator of good things happening and souls being transformed? No.

But they are an indicator that something awesome is happening. Read through the book of Acts and note how many times Luke talks about people being added to the community of faith. In Acts 2:41 he even cites a specific number! 

The growth of the church in Acts was an indicator that God was doing something amazing with this little bunch of fishermen. Did the numbers tell the whole story? Of course not, otherwise Acts would be about 5 sentences long! 

These conversations are good for our team to stay grounded and focused on the higher prize: not lots of likes, but a single like from the One who matters most.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Google Mystery Logo 2 - Grey... With a Twist

Yesterday, Google's logo was a cryptic bouncing ball thingy. Today the home only has a grey (or some might say a "chrome") logo. Kind of a ho-hum logo after yesterday's boisterous display.

But when you start typing something in the search field...

it turns to color!

Here it is completed.

Like a double-rainbow all the way across the sky, it's got me asking, "What does this mean?"

Google may have some answers for us tomorrow though. We'll have to wait and see. It's clear this isn't just a birthday celebration, as I, along with the rest of the internet, previously thought.  

Some are speculating that Google's going to announce a new algorithm for indexing websites that uses the data collected through Google Analytics to help users find the most relevant sites for their search. If this is the case, then Yahoo and Bing might want to start emptying their desks. 

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

What's the Meaning Behind Google's Bouncing Balls Logo

As I've mentioned before, I love Google. Today's logo has me stumped though. Here's what it looks like when you load the page.
Then when you wait a second, the balls fall into place.
Plus, it's interactive! Run your mouse through them and the balls are repelled from the mouse!

I've been trying to figure out what it's all about, but I can't find anything. In the course of searching, I did, however, discover this interesting fact: 6 Nobel laureates were born on September 6th and another Nobel laureate died on September 6th. Weird huh?

If someone figures out what the logo is referring to, please let me know because I'm baffled.

Update: A friend on twitter pointed out that September 7th is Google's birthday. I'd bet if this is a form of digital confetti.

Update 2: Others speculate that it could be Google showing off Chrome's HTML5 skills. Loading the page in IE8 shows a blank area where the logo should be. Could this be the more likely explanation?

What's the Meaning Behind Google's Bouncing Balls Logo

As I've mentioned before, I love Google. Today's logo has me stumped though. Here's what it looks like when you load the page.

Then when you wait a second, the balls fall into place.

Plus, it's interactive! Run your mouse through them and the balls are repelled from the mouse!

I've been trying to figure out what it's all about, but I can't find anything. In the course of searching, I did, however, discover this interesting fact: 6 Nobel Laureates were born on September 6th and another Nobel Laureate died on September 6th. Weird huh?

If someone figures out what the logo is referring to, please let me know because I'm baffled.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Waiting... part 2

Friday, August 13, 2010

Yet Another Reason to Love Chick-Fil-A (@ChickFilA)

I have a dark secret that I have only shared with my most trusted friends. If I were to reveal this secret openly among people in my circles, I would expect gasps of horror followed by endless questions like "Why?" and "How could you ever say such a thing?" 

But I have decided to come clean here in this most public of forums. Prepare yourself. If you're standing, sit down. If you're sitting, well, just keep sitting. Here it goes.

There was a time in my relationship with Jesus Christ during which I did not like to eat at Chick-Fil-A.

Wow that feels good to get off my chest! I have carried this burden for so long, I wasn't sure how I would ever function properly within the community of believers.

Rest assured. I adore Chick-Fil-A now for several reasons and so should you, if for no other reason than Jon Acuff told you to.

Chick-Fil-A called me for some time before I gave my fast-food life over to them. Their marketing is pure genius. Cows. For a chicken restaurant. How did that meeting go?

"Guys we have a new client. Some place called 'Chick-Fil-A.' They claim to have invented the chicken sandwhich. Have any ideas?"

"I'm thinking: cows."

"Sounds good. Go with that."

The first real step in my transformation was the addition of the Spicy Chicken Sandwich a few months ago. Along with a diet lemonade, it's the only thing I ever order. But last week I had the most positive experience I've ever had with any fast-food restaurant thanks to Chick-Fil-A in The Colony, Texas.

Last week, I picked up some Chick-Fil-A food for some people and someone was going to reimburse me, but I lost the receipt. When I called the Chick-Fil-A restaurant and told them about my problem, the employee named Greg took my name and phone number. About 10 minutes later he called me back saying that he had found transaction and a printed copy was waiting for me whenever I could make it back to the store to pick it up. Something as simple as that has made a kept a devoted customer.

I am proud to be a reformed Chick-Fil-A lover. I once was lost, but now I am found. Was blind, but now I see. Chick-Fil-A is THE primo Christian food chain and only Satan and his minions ever eat at other restaurants. 

Except on Sundays.

Yet Another Reason to Love Chick-Fil-A

Yet Another Reason to Love Chick-Fil-A

Monday, August 2, 2010


Photo by Flickr user pfv under creative
commons license. 
Abraham had to wait to become the father of a great nation. Jacob had to wait seven years to take his bride. Joseph had to wait to see a dream realized. Israel waited 400 years to be freed.

Something struck me a few days ago as I was reading: Israel had to wait even in the wilderness. We all know the story of how God led the people of Israel through the wilderness with a pillar of cloud and fire, but read Numbers 9:22 and think about it for a second.

"Whether it was for two days, or a month, or a year, that the cloud prolonged its stay over the tabernacle, the Israelites remained camped without traveling; but when it was taken up, they traveled on."

I always kind of figured God would lead them for a few-hours around the wilderness 5-days a week. Take a sabbath, maybe an extra day here and there. But when the cloud stopped, the Israelites had no idea if this was one of the two-day stops or if this was going to be for an entire year! If it's just for a couple of days, I might not really unpack. If it's going to be a year or more, I might plant a garden.

With lost jobs and a weak economy, many people are in this waiting state. "How long is this stop going to last, God?" If I'm getting a job next week, that's fine, I'll just chill for a while. If it's going to be a year, or two, or three... I'll plan my life a little differently.

But God didn't tell Israel how long the wait would be. He didn't tell Joseph how long the wait would be. Jacob thought he would work 7 years and it turned out to be double that. Abraham couldn't wait any longer, so he tried to move things along before God started moving.

Waiting is probably the hardest part of faith. Maybe that's why God has us doing it so often.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Serving Others is Fun! Who Knew?

Before the onset of summer, I decided to find some places to volunteer my extra time. I have been serving in our student ministry at Fellowship Bible Church Arapaho for some time now, but recently our student pastor has taken a position at another church. This has necessitated our adult volunteers to step up and take on some more responsibilities. So this summer, I have been trying to spend as much time with the students as I can, and it's been a blast!
This morning Amy, Malcolm and I are headed out with some high school and jr. high students to serve a local ministry called Network to stock some of their food shelves. We have done it before and had a great time. It can be fun to serve others! Who knew?

Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. - Galatians 6:10

Thursday, May 20, 2010

So... Should the Episcopal Church Go out of Business?

Should the Episcopal Church go out of business? That's the question George Clifford asks over at Episcopal Cafe, and I have to say it's an intriguing question. The church has been having problems for decades as it has gone through an identity crisis of sorts. In recent years, the factions within the church have started to splinter.

Photo by Metrix X under creative commons license.

This whole discussion is important to me. I've mentioned in passing that I grew up in the Episcopal Church and that my extended family is Episcopalian. Tomorrow, I will tell you more about my experience with the Episcopal Church, but this post is going to be long enough already. So, let's look at some selections from George's article.

From a sociological perspective, the Episcopal Church (TEC) has suffered both a striking numerical loss in membership (almost 30%) and an even larger decline as a percentage of the nation’s population (almost 60%). In 1960, TEC had 2.9 million members, equaling 1.6% of the U.S. population. Forty-eight years later, TEC had fewer than 2.06 million members, or only 0.65% of the U.S. population.

There are probably hundreds explanations for why the Episcopal Church has seen this decline in members over the years, but I would argue that this may not tell the whole story and that the facts may actually be much worse. Many non-denominational churches count attendance rather than membership because it is a more accurate representation who how many people are actually coming to church during any given period of time. If almost one million people are no longer members of the Episcopal Church, the actual attendance figures may be much lower than that.

The median average Sunday attendance in TEC congregations was 69 in 2008, continuing a long-term decline. My point is not that small congregations are of less value than large congregations are, but that small congregations necessarily devote a far greater percentage of their resources to maintaining their physical plant than do large congregations. In fact, keeping the building open and maintained often consumes such a large portion of available revenue that insufficient funds remain to pay clergy adequately, let alone fund ministry and mission programs. The building, instead of being a means to an end, becomes the congregation’s de facto raison d’ĂȘtre.

This problem is not confined to the Episcopal Church. The church where I attend made cutbacks in staff and missionary support recently due to financial issues. Church leaders are constantly discussing the wisdom of buildings as they relate to finances, but the Episcopal Church may have a unique culture that would hinder its ability to flourish outside of the traditional church setting. For example, on any given Sunday, I could probably find thousands of young churches who meet in gymnasiums, schools, and civic centers. I don't have the figures, but I would be surprised if any of those churches were Episcopalian.

First, fifty years from now the church in the United States (its worship, community, structure, facilities, and leadership) will almost certainly look vastly different than today’s church. The shift away from the way of being church that I personally cherish is already underway.

The problem with the Episcopal Church is not only due to external challenges as the church is dealing with internal struggles too. Just this past weekend, the Episcopal diocese of Los Angeles ordained the first openly lesbian bishop. The Episcopal Church is changing. Unfortunately, it's changing in the wrong areas and into the wrong direction. George understands that the forces of change are internal as well as external.

In the last couple of decades, thousands of mostly non-denominational congregations, many with rapidly growing membership and diverse patterns of being church, have emerged. Living in denial benefits neither God nor the growing non-Christian majority. Pro-actively adapting to a rapidly changing context and constituency will afford the church more leeway in defining and shaping its identity and form than reactively struggling to survive.

Many of these non-denominational churches have seen exponential growth and have not made the compromises that the Episcopal Church has. In my experience with the Episcopal Church, the church has not adopted a culturally relevant method of communicating the gospel message, but it has attempted to make itself culturally palatable by compromising on important theological and political issues. The point that George is making is that the church needs to adapt. I would argue that it's attempting to adapt, but is doing so in the wrong areas.

Second, TEC is not alone in facing these challenges. Other Churches – the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the United Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church (USA), and the United Church of Christ to name a few – have experienced similar, large declines and face parallel challenges.

And what do these denominations have in common? Generally speaking, they are primarily traditional churches who resist aesthetic changes, but seem apathetic to major changes in polity. They have shown signs of being willing to compromise values before compromising methodology. (I know, I know. Not all congregations in these denominations fit this description.)

Third, the real work of the Church – becoming God's people by striving to increase the love of God and neighbor – occurs primarily in local congregations... most of what happens at the diocesan and national levels is “overhead,” essential as a means to an end but not, per se, why the Church exists. Bishops, for example, perform critical tasks teaching, confirming, ordaining, organizing and deploying ministries but those instrumental tasks support the life and work of local congregations. As much as I love and appreciate my bishop, my parish does not exist to support him. Similarly, most diocesan and national staff offices exist as a means to support the life and ministry of local congregations.

This describes the difficult balance of denominational churches. For the benefits that the denomination offers, do local congregations suffer? I don't have any data to back this up, but I would guess that when the economy is strong, the local congregation and the denominational higher-ups are both clicking along pretty well together. But as the money dries up, or attendance overall declines significantly, the local congregations no longer have the funds to operate their own ministries, much less support the bureaucracy that was designed to help them achieve their purpose in the first place.

Imagine … several small, geographically adjacent congregations of various Churches laying aside their idolatry of buildings and accoutrements to unite as the people of God, worshiping in homes, served by a single member of the clergy, and using their consolidated resources to engage in expanded ministry and mission.

How is this vision different than what many non-denominational churches and seminaries are already doing? Many non-denominational church plants start as house churches or at least meet in shared spaces like schools and are served by a single pastor.

Imagine … large and medium size, geographically adjacent congregations sharing a single physical plant while retaining their distinct identities, cooperating in diverse projects that might include feeding the hungry, offering different styles of worship, establishing an institute for lay spiritual formation, etc.

Larger non-denominational churches have congregations from various backgrounds, but I don't know if this is what George is promoting here. It sounds more like many churches meeting in one location (not to be confused with the satellite church model of one church meeting in many locations.) I'm not sure what this would look like if various churches were meeting in the same building while "retaining their distinct identities." I have heard of smaller churches joining larger churches, but rarely are they encouraged to retain their identities. Please leave me a comment if you know of a church that meets in this way. I would love to learn more about it.

Imagine … seminaries and judicatory staffs of different denominations consolidating to reduce expenses on physical plant and internal administration while better serving their constituent congregations.

At Dallas Theological Seminary I had classmates from dozens of different denominational backgrounds, and though we might have differences in opinion on church polity or methods of worship, we could not have been more unified on the fundamentals of the faith. Again, I don't know if this is what George is promoting, but it sounds pretty similar to what is already happening.

From where I stand, which is admittedly on the outskirts of the Episcopal Church, the church needs to find where it can adapt the methods without adapting the message. I would argue that this is true for any church.

Three exit questions:

1) Is the future of the Episcopal Church really as bleak as George makes it out to be?
2) What can other denominations and non-denominational churches learn from the struggles that the Episcopal Church is facing?
3) What are some ways that your church has adapted or needs to adapt in order to address cultural shifts?

I have not commented on the whole article, so do yourself a favor and go read the whole thing. George raises some interesting ideas for the future of the Episcopal Church.

The Future of the Episcopal Church - My Take

Yesterday's post got a little too long, so I thought I would add my personal story today.

The traditions of the Episcopal Church are rich with theological significance, but to an outsider (and a young insider when I attended) the message may as well be written in Japanese. I would (and have) encourage my Episcopalian friends and family to try to look at the service through the eyes of someone who did not grow up in the Episcopal Church or any church for that matter. I grew up in the Episcopal Church, but it wasn't until I received my master's degree in theology that I understood the significance of many of the church's traditions, including most of those that took place every Sunday right in front of me.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Video: Missional Church... simple

Here is a video that gives a pretty basic description of the missional church. Admittedly, it doesn't cover all the nuts and bolts of missional ministry, but, as the title suggests, that is not its purpose. When people talk about the "missional church," it can sometimes come across as being overly critical of "other" churches. I could see how people who are invested in attractional ministries might take offense to that video even though I don't think it was attempting to be critical.

Does it have to be an either-or thing?

Maybe attractional ministries can still bring people in to hear the message of Jesus Christ while people are going outside of the church walls to share the gospel.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

This Video Has 5 Million Views?

When archeologists in the future examine our civilization, they will not debate what signaled the beginning of our decline because they will unanimously agree it was when this video passed 5 million views on YouTube.

Yes, I know it was posted last fall. Mercifully, I was protected from this video until tonight.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

5 Reasons to Suspect that Google is Targeting Apple

Since when do search engines pose a threat to hardware/software manufacturers? Since Google has effectively taken over the entire web, that's when. In the last 6 months Google seems to be increasingly focused on competing with Apple.
1. Google releases open-source mobile OS (Android)

2. Then Follows up with Nexus One

3. Google Doesn't Need No Stinking Apple App Store

4. Chrome OS

5. Rumors of a Chrome OS Tablet Are Solidifying
And Steve Jobs is not happy about it either.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Introducing the iPad: As iPhone Users Age, Apple Releases Large Print Edition

The typical iPhone user has now aged almost 3 years from the day they purchased their first iPhone (most of them are on their fifth one by now) and they are now the age that they used to call "old" and "out of touch." Apple, in it's wisdom, released a large print version of the popular smart phone.

"Sometimes have to blow in it to make it work."

Apple has some of the most loyal fans on the planet and the tech giant knows how to keep them coming back. Today Apple released their much-awaited tablet device. Although it was supposed to revolutionize everything that has ever been created ever (Apple's products always do that), the large-edition iPhone dubbed the "iPad" failed to wow the Apple fans sufficiently. Oh every last Apple fan will buy one the minute it is released, but they won't be fainting in the streets in anticipation.

Aside from the numerous jokes being made on Twitter and Facebook about the name (think feminine hygiene products) and concerns about proprietary AT&T internet access, the iPad does include... wait for it... speakers and a microphone! ooooOOOOoooo!

Do you notice anything missing from the trending topics in the hours after Apple announced a product called the "iPad?"

Finally, as computers go, you just can't find one with 64 gig of memory at the low price of $829. This thing is a steal!

(Picture via: New York Times Live Blog)

Friday, January 8, 2010

Colt McCoy Keeps Perspective - Post-game Interview after the BCS Championship Game

Colt McCoy has a perspective few would after injury in the BCS Championship Game. I doubt I could have had such an admittedly emotional, but God-glorifying response to the circumstances Colt faced last night.

Also, be sure to watch Colt McCoy's video with Sam Bradford on I Am Second. I promise it's worth the few minutes of your time.
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