The other day as I left after two maddening hours at the Apple Store, running very late to fight the DC rush hour to pick up a friend for a baseball game, I got onto I-395 only to discover no traffic. Whole lanes empty. I called my friend to joke, "The rapture came and it's wonderful - you can finally drive in this town!" Turns out it was just the Friday before a long weekend, and the legions had left town early.
Thursday, December 22, 2011
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
This past summer, at the height of baseball season, Bener Agtarap and I created a metaphor for church multiplication using a baseball diamond. Bener had sent me to Manila earlier in the year to study the habits and patterns of ministry by which United Methodist churches had multiplied so rapidly. In the Philippines, new congregations begin as mission stations (first base), then the become faith communities with Bible study (second base), then they become worshiping communities (third base), then fully established churches who are fully invested in the mission of the denomination (home base).
Friday, November 18, 2011
NIXON IN CHINA: THINKING ABOUT WHY THE WEST NEEDS TO PAY CLOSE ATTENTION TO THE RISE OF THE CHURCH IN THE EAST
The jet lag has subsided finally, and I am fully back in the world of North America after an April in Asia that will haunt me for a good season. So much of our American perception of the world beyond our borders is rooted in a mixture of out-dated reality, media-reinforced cliche and cartoon over-simplification. The world has changed and is changing faster than some of our notions and ideas. Nowhere more than China!
Monday, May 2, 2011
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
American Idol, it is the most successful television show in the history of... the world. It was planted by music producer/entrepreneur/all around obnoxious guy, Simon Cowell. His rudeness and expertise mixed into a cocktail that millions happily devoured weekly. Ratings had begun to slip in years recent, and like most planter-characters, Cowell was looking for his next mountain to climb. And so he announced he was leaving for another challenge. The denomination, er the network, announced their appointments for a new lead team at Idol... and most of us looked away, embarrassed as if we were about to watch something that had been great die a horrible, prolonged death.
Expiration dates are on all sorts of things these days, and for good reasons! We can find them on loaves of bread, gallons of milk, and egg cartons. Expiration dates are on plenty of other things, too. They are on our driver’s licenses and professional certifications. These dates are put in place to make sure things stay fresh, maximize effectiveness, and give us an opportunity to evaluate the need for change. In the church setting (and any setting that uses volunteers), these are great reasons to put expiration dates on volunteer positions.
One of the by-products of endless and relentless denominational efforts to revitalize human beings and their congregations is what we might call fad fatigue.
From the perspective of the judicatory leader or team looking for a fresh emphasis each year, there may be a common theme from year to year (such as “Vital Congregations”) that causes him or her to believe that the area churches and leaders have a stable sense of vision. But if we are constantly throwing a new book or process at our churches and leaders, each with slightly different set of ‘3 things one must do’, it begins to get confusing.
I regularly listen to Dean Snyder at Foundry United Methodist Church in downtown DC, who is one of the best exegetical preachers I know. In the last place I lived, I had two of the best preachers in America within a mile of my house: Wesley Wachob at First United Methodist Pensacola and Russ Levenson at Christ Episcopal. (Levenson is now rector at St Martin’s in Houston.) So maybe I am spoiled.
What the Dog Saw. I am a Gladwell fan, and was glad the latter publication recirculated several brilliant columns.
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
visited China yesterday. In Brooklyn. A five-year old United Methodist congregation called Tian Fu (House of Heaven) is on track to receive around 700 adult converts to Christianity this year - possibly placing them in the lead among all mainline congregations in America. In fact, they had just baptized and confirmed a class of 99 persons the week before I attended.
In my coaching of church plants across North America, I observe several factors that are typically present in the ones that catch fire. Other folks have made their lists of characteristics of thriving planters (Charles Ridley, Jim Griffith and the group that produced the book Extraordinary Leaders for Extraordinary Times.) This is Paul Nixon’s list:
Between 1997 and 2002, I had the fun of helping to plant a new faith community in Gulf Breeze, Florida. I did not do this alone. I was assisted by a team of five other staff persons and about a hundred others as we planted the Soundside Campus of Gulf Breeze United Methodist Church. It was no wonder that the new ministry exploded, and began to touch hundreds of lives a day, and two or three thousand a month. One, we were doing God’s work and... two, we had assembled a great team. The rest was just a matter of showing up to what God was doing and having a good time! It was all about God and the team.