Monday, March 31, 2008

Make Church Fun and Stimulating

This recent study shows us that the Millennials (or Gen Y) (wiki) have allowed their desires for things like user-friendly interfaces and adaptability interact with the way they view the world.

Most of them report that their workplace "should adapt to me."

The Millennials put "fun" and "stimulation" in their top five ideal job requirements.

If the Millennials expect their jobs to be adaptable and their work to be fun and stimulating, wouldn't it suggest that the church should at least be communicating to them in these terms? How "fun" and "stimulating" is your church? Consider your church. How adaptable is your church to the individual user? How adaptable is it to the needs of an entire demographic?

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Fundamental Functions of the Online Church (Part 3 of 6)

Yesterday, I explained that the first part of UpReach is Worship, but I also told you we would look at UpReach 1.5 today. I hear your voice already. What is UpReach 1.5?

UpReach 1.5 is a function of the church that spans both UpReach and InReach, so in a sense it is InReach 1.5 too, but that distinction will get confusing later in this series. Trust me on this. UpReach 1.5 is the way to go with it. You can thank me after you read Part 6 of this series.

Upreach 1.5 - Discipleship
UpReach 1.5 is the Fundamental Function of the Church that spans both UpReach and InReach and it's what is commonly known as Discipleship. This is a pretty "churchy" term, but the basic idea is that one of the Fundamental Functions of the church is to take a person who is already a believer in Jesus Christ and help them to form a closer relationship with Him. Primarily biblical teaching is where this happens, but it happens in community with other believers as well.

Too often our churches have been good at "getting people saved" and not so good at "making disciples." Salvation is the first step, of course, but we must never forget it is the first step of a long and exciting journey.

I think the online church has the opportunity to do discipleship pretty well. We function within a community of people sharing ideas on blogs, interacting with each other in social networks, and twittering their lives to each other almost constantly. The online church needs to strategically use these powerful tools to encourage people to have a closer relationship with Jesus Christ. That sentence is true for any church that seeks to engage people living in the 21st century whether it's an online church or not.

What do you think? Can the online church perform the function of discipleship? How does your church use technology like this to encourage discipleship?

Friday, March 28, 2008

Fundamental Functions of the Online Church (Part 2 of 6)

Last time I talked about the purposes of the church: UpReach, InReach, and OutReach.

Now we're going to dig a little into each of those to find the Fundamental Functions of the church. I'm using this as a test to see if the online churh can fulfill the fundamental functions. (Hint: I think they can.)

UpReach 1 - Worship
In the simplest terms this deals with worship. Please note: this is not restricted to worship services, music, or any other limited notion that may exist. The disciples worship Jesus in a boat (Mat. 14:33) and I seriously doubt they broke out the worship band to do it. It's much more a matter of the heart.

Tomorrow we'll look at UpReach 1.5. If you're not sure what that would be, come check it out!

Can the online church fulfill the fundamental function of worship? I've already tipped my hand, but I would love to hear your thoughts!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Welcome new friends

I've noticed some new traffic from the community over at and I just wanted to give a warm welcome to you all. I hope you find the site uplifting challenging as you think about the church's role in the 21st century.

I will be getting the rest of the series I started this week called "Fundamental Functions of the Online Church" up later in the next day or so. Please don't give up on me altogether!

Please drop add a comment to say "Hi!" if you're from the Crosswalk community! It would be great to have you all in the discussion!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Fundamental Functions of the Online Church (Part 1 of 6)

Before we can adequately discuss the Fundamental Functions of the Online Church, we must understand what the purpose of the Online Church is if it is to function as a legitimate church.

Wayne Grudem, in his book Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, (a 1296 page introduction!), identifies three primary purposes of the church.

Ministry to God: Worship - The church is to be involved in worship of the living God. DO NOT be tempted to limit this to simply the "worship service" or "worship music." Worship should extend deep within us and be expressed in a variety of ways.

Ministry to Believers: Nurture - The church is to protect, encourage, build up, strengthen and instruct the believer to grow in his or her relationship to Christ.

Ministry to the World: Evangelism/Mercy - The church has a responsibility to share the gospel with the lost, and bring hope to a fallen world through serving the lost, the least, and the lonely. (I stole that from somewhere, so please forgive my plagiarism.)

The cliché, but easy way to remember these is with the terms, UpReach, InReach, and OutReach. Before you look to the online church to see if it fulfills these purposes, hold your own church up against this list and see where the holes are.

I pastor a Bible church and we tend to be very good at doing InReach, interested in OutReach (especially if we can give money to it rather than do it ourselves), and the UpReach is there but not always very visible.

Over the next few days, I will explain how the Fundamental Functions of the Church fit into these purposes dealing specifically with issues related to online churches.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Sunday's Coming!

We're getting ready for Easter at Ennis Bible Church, and as we join together with our family and Christians around the world celebrating the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Our worship series is called "MyStory" where we have a number of people sharing their stories of how they came to trust in Jesus Christ. I'm looking forward to sharing a video that we're putting together introducing some of the people from our church.

I pray that each of your churches have a great celebration and that many place their faith in Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God this weekend!

Friday, March 21, 2008

2008 TEDPrize Winner: Karen Armstrong (Part 3 of 3)

This is a little late coming out, but it's been sitting in my posts list for a while waiting to be edited, so here it is. The third installment of the TEDPrize Webcast! Click the tags if you would like to read the other related posts.

Amy introduced James Nachtwey's TEDPrize update. which is to use photography to tell the vital story to use news photography as a means to stimulate conversation. They found public spaces to present the photography such that they would be easily noticed (read: unavoidable in the public space.)

Mode Studios created an immersive environment where the pictures can be seen all over the place.

PR Newswire offered the use of the largest digital sign in the world.
Time Magazine assisted with the project as well.
"People will care if you give them something to care about." Great quote. The church needs to learn to care more, and I think we're moving that way. But many in the church, myself included, are unaware of what crises others in the world are facing daily.

This TEDPrize will be fully realized in September of 2008. Mark you calendars. This will be something to see.

Chris Anderson then introduced the third 2008 TEDPrize winner, Karen Armstrong.
  • Went to Jerusalem and began to learn about Isalm and Judaism and noticed the profound connection between the religions.
  • Belief before the 17th century meant to love, to prize, to endear.

  • Credo - didn't mean I accept certain articles of faith, it meant I commit myself to this. That's what the creeds are supposed to mean today, too, but we lost this in modernity. "To believe" became "to agree that it is correct." Augustine said, "Unless you believe you will never understand." He put beilef and understanding in different categories. To believe in Jesus Christ means to put your faith, hope and trust in his shed blood, not just agree with the facts.

  • If religion is not about believing things, what it is about? It's about behaving differently. It's about both. Remember we need to keep a historical view of belief.

  • Religious doctrines are meant to be summons to action. You only understand them when you put them into action.

  • Compassion is the highest place of religion. Once we get rid of ego, we're ready to see the divine.

  • Every major religion has placed the golden rule at the center of their faiths.

  • "Scripture teaches nothing but charity." - Augustine

  • Reglion has been hijacked. Terrorists cite the Koran. Christians endlessly judging others and putting people down.

  • Throughout the ages religion has been used to oppress others.

  • You cannot confine compassion to your own group. Love your enemies. Honor the stranger.

  • The cause of our present woes are political, but religion is a kind of fault line and gets sucked into much of the problem. There is a great deal of religous illitericy.

  • The golden rule is difficult.

  • A lot of religious people prefer to be right rather than compassionate. Are right doctrine and compassion mutually exclusive?

  • What can we do to change things?

  • People want to be religious and it should be a force of harmony in the world because of the golden rule. So true.

  • Here is my wish: I wish that you would help with the creation, launch and propogation of a charter of compassion from a group of inspirational thinkers from the three great religions based on the golden rule. It should give guidlines as to how to interpret the texts instead of being abused. As a religious leader, I would have to think long and hard about something like this. I agree that the texts should not be used to harm others, but I would be wary of agreeing to a set of interpretive guidelines as she describes them.

  • Goal: That it will be signed by 1000 religious leaders.

  • A charter in every college, church, mosque and synagogue in the world.

It will be interesting to see this wish come alive.

As God's image-bearers how do we respond to calls for ecumenical relationships with those outside of the faith? Do we illustrate God's love by promoting love and peace in this fallen world?

Karen really makes you think, doesn't she? What is your response to this?

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Spring Break

I know it's been a few days since the last post, but I've been on spring break from school and you know what that means.... I'VE BEEN BUSIER THAN EVER!

Not really, but it feels that way sometimes.

Easter is just a few days away! It sure is a great feeling to picture the millions of people who will be celebrating the resurrection of Christ together.

Admittedly, many will be participating without having faith, but I pray that the celebration of this pivotal moment in human history will impact their lives so deeply that they respond in faith to the clear message of the gospel.

Next week I will be blogging about the Fundamental Functions of the Online Church in a six-part series, so don't forget to drop by and join in the discussion.

Friday, March 14, 2008

WEC Conference Update

I'm about a day behind on reporting my adventures at WEC this week at DTS. Here are some notes from yesterday.

The session I attended was entitled Connecting the Local church to the Global Community, and it was led by a representative from CAM International, Voltaire Cacal.

Some of the key points from this presentation were:

Action Steps for the Local Church to Connect with the Global Community

1. Examine current missionary and outreach programs.
2. Before taking on new missionaries/projects, find out if there is someone already involved with that people group.
3. If you church "adopts a people group," find agencies that work with them (rather than on your own) and utilize the resources in your local church to support that people group through the agency.
4. Build upon existing work
5. Work with mission agencies
6. Send short-term trips through agencies or established missionaries*
7. Consider local implications of strategic partnerships (other local churches and ministries)

There was a great diagram about how this would look. My feeble attempt to illustrate it is shown below. Yes, I do know how to use Photoshop. No, it's not installed on this computer. So here it is in all its MS Paint goodness.

The basic idea is that a youth ministry should fit in with the other ministries working with People Group A. So, a mission agency that primarily focuses on, say, church plantning, should work strategically with the other ministries already working with that group so the church plants fit in with the other established ministries.

*Voltaire noted that some overt evangelism (street preaching, tract distribution, etc.) can be harmful to established missionary work going on especially in "closed" countries. Working with established agencies would help alleviate this concern.

What are some ways your churches coordinate with other local ministries? What are some ways you connect your local body with global community of missions?

I would love to get your thoughts on these ideas, so please leave a comment! After that, be sure to check out Voltaire's blog, too!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

WEC Conference

Yesterday I attended a seminar with Dan Branda with Association of Baptists for World Evangelization (ABWE) entitled One Punk Under God: A Discussion of Contextualization. The main thrust of the seminar focused on a Sundance Film, One Punk Under God, featuring Jay Bakker (son of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker). Jay has a church called "Revolution Church" that meets in a bar and ministers to the punk scene in Boston.

One interesting quote from the video was "For some groups we're too Christian. For others we're not Christian enough."

Some of the questions raised were:

  • Is it a problem that they meet in a bar?
  • Is it a problem that the the bar is open while they're meeting? (In one scene Jay reminds those in attendance to tip their waitresses.)
  • Is there a line to be drawn as far as contextualization to the culture is concerned?

The rest of the story, according to the film, is that Jay also happens to be a "gay-affirming pastor." The second portion of the seminar focused on Jay's struggle of whether or not he believes homosexuality is a sin. How far does contextualization go here?

Dan led the discussion well and it was a packed room! (I kept looking over my shoulder to make sure the fire marshall wasn't there because I'm pretty sure some codes were violated!) Some quotes from Dan:

"There is a healthy tension between theological truths and reaching the least of these."
"There is a real need to think through why we do what we do."

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

World Evangelization Conference at DTS (quick update)

I will be blogging from the World Evangelization Conference at DTS all this week. I attended two great sessions which I will tell you about later tonight.

But I wanted to quickly update you on some cool happenings at the conference.

A few years ago my wife, Amy, and I spent some time will Craig and Denise Williams in Mexico City. This morning I was speaking with, a representative with CAM International, and mentioned our stay with the Williams. He said, "Craig is here at the conference!" So I got to see Craig and catch up with him on how things are going in Mexico City. I also want to say, "Hi!" to some new friends, Sharifa, Dawn, and Voltaire, who did a great presentation of CAM's work in Spain.

I'll post my notes from the sessions I attended this evening, but all I have to say so far is "Wow! This is going to be a great week!"

Also: If any of you are going to be at the conference, let me know and we'll try to meet up.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

First Draft Due Today

The first draft of my research paper about Online Churches is due today. I'm just putting the finishing touches on it and working on organizing the bibliography. I'll post my bibliography when I'm finished with it so you can see some of the research that I've been doing.

I also want to thank the "Church 2.0" group on Facebook for their help on this project. Your thoughts have been very enlightening.

Monday, March 3, 2008

2008 TEDPrize Winner: Neil Turok (Part 2 of 3)

This is the second post of a three part series recounting the webcast of one session of the 2008 TED Conference. You can read the first post here. Again, my thoughts will be bold.

2008 TEDPrize Winner: Neil Turok

Next a video rolled of Bill Clinton's TEDPrize wish from 2007: To create a high quality health care system in Rwanda.

A group from TED took a trip to Rwanda to see what it was like. They came back home sharing the dream with others and they opened an open-source raised $500,000 to make the hardware software systems to run open source medical information.

AMD, Sun provide hardware/software solutions for the open-source system.
Carl Page from Handheld Entertainment provides technology to run the systems on hand-powered electricity.
Nokia provides devices and software so local people can communicate with the open-source health care system and the systems can communicate with the rest of the systems.

The initial response that many Christians in my part of the world have to the idea of Bill Clinton having a part in a TED wish is disgust. The work that's being done in Rwanda through TED is good regardless of who's name is on the initial idea. Politics should take a back seat to expressions of compassion.

Great quote by Amy after the video: "People don't feel enough." This is true of the church too.

Chris Anderson then introduced the second TEDPrize winner for 2008, Neil Turok.

Neil Turok

  • Theoretical Physicist testing models of the Big Bang, and moonlights working with Schools in Africa

  • Born in South Aftrica and parents imprisoned for resisting the racist regime.

  • When they got out fled the country.

  • Moved to London for high school.

  • Came backt o Africa to teach at the age of 17. (Lusutu)

  • 80% of the men work in the mines.

  • "There are many bright kids in Africa and if Africa is ever going to be fixed it will be by them, and not by us." The west is not the ultimate solution.

  • Then I turned to theoretical physics.

  • "There's only one question that really matters, 'What banged?!'" Perhaps the universe existed before the bang.

  • According to new theories there are more dimensions than the 3 we know of.

  • Brane theory. We live on one 3-d sheet and another universe exists on another 3-D sheet seperated by a tiny (like the size of a nucleus). In this theory the big bang comes from a place where these sheets collide. This theory fits all of the data we have about galaxies.
    Using gravitational waves we can test this theory.

  • It may be that there have been bangs in the past and there will be bangs in the future.

  • But what about Africa?

  • Big changes are happening in the world, but they're not helping africa.

  • Africa leads the world in death from preventable disease, AIDS, and war. 45,000 die per month in the Congolese war.

  • All of the aid that's been given to Africa has failed to put Africa on its own two feet.

  • An Idea Neil Had: Let's set up an African Institute for Mathematical Sciences. (AIMS). So we set it up and brought students from all over Africa to hear the best lecturers in the world and the students came.

  • Bought an 80 room hotel for $100,000 in South Africa and started the best math institute in Africa.

  • You have to rethink, What is the university for?

  • Working in groups, not chasing grades, solving problems.

  • 5 students are educated in AIMS for cheaper than 1 in America.

  • My TED Dream: The next Einstein will be African. I love huge goals like this!

  • The plan - replicate the AIMS model across Africa

  • Establish 15 new centers

  • Add entreprenuership and policy skills to the curricullum

  • Political support exists. Local scientists must play leading roles and governments must buy in

  • Relevant

  • Innovative

  • Cost-effective

  • High-quality (RICH) The church could benefit from following the RICH model. These are buzz words in the church, but are not fully understood. (For example: Relevant means the phrase "that's how we've always done it" needs to used as little as possible.)

  • Stephen Hawking and several others will be there to launch a new site. May 12

I see a lot of things that we could learn from this, but I will instead pose them as questions.

  1. What could the church learn from the way the secular world answers problems when they see them?
  2. Shouldn't the question "But what about Africa?" be coming off of our lips more than it does?
  3. Amy was right that "People don't feel enough." How do we get people to feel more for those who suffer in our world?

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Top 10 Reasons Teens Don't Buy CD's

According to the LA Times, 48% of teenagers bought no CD's at all in 2007. None. Have teens suddenly stopped listening to music in droves?

Of course not. Teens now use iTunes or simply download their music from illegal filesharing sites. This calls into question some copyright issues that I will not address, but for an interesting take on the issue watch this video by Larry Lessig.

The point is at least 48% of teens are speaking with their feet and staying home to get their music. Digital downloads have advantages that outweigh the nostalgia of hanging out in the record store.

Top Ten Reasons Teens Don't Buy CD's (In My Opinion)

10. Purchase only the songs you want

9. You don't have to transfer your new CD to iTunes

8. You can shop in your PJ's online.

7. Search and find. No unorganized CD racks like the store.

6. You're not embarrassed to buy The Best of Vanilla Ice. (Okay not as embarrassed.)

5. Why buy a CD when you can copy it from a close friend in Burma?

4. Downloads are more environmentally friendly (no wrappers, bags, receipts)

3. Cover flow is cool except when you see this.

2. A CD takes up more space than my entire collection on my iPod.

1. When you already buy everything online, why use "real" money for music?
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