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Feb 282007
 

I don’t like to slow down, but I’ ve had to for a stomach flu or food poisoning. I’m feeling a bit better now, enough to blog and make mention of 3 things:

LightsTogether.com is a new Christian social networking web app in the works, with some notable backers and funders supporting it. There’s more than a dozen of these Christian MySpace alternatives. They’re keeping a tight lid on things right now, as they continue working on the software, and run WebEx demos for church leaders to walk them through the features, and invite private beta sign-ups. The only thing in the open now is the sign-up box at LightsTogether.com – you could maybe get in on a demo before the launch anticipated for April 2007.

Visited with Lindy Lowry, the editor of Outreach Magazine, when I was in San Diego a few weeks ago. This embargoed raw photo of the current cover with Dan Kimball was shot in a hallway where they pin-up all the magazine’s pages for preview, review, and feedback. Cool to get a behind-the-scenes look at a magazine’s content in process; other photos were not released and promptly deleted. Kimball’s feature article, I Like Jesus… Not the Church, is an excerpt from his new book.

Outreach-cover-raw

I’m not unaware of the hub-bub with the racially-offensive skit material recently published by the Skit Guys, and commend Soong-Chan Rah for being an advocate and voice to call them to corrective actions. My involvement has been to work the back channels to build relationships so that this kind of thing will not happen again. Without relationships, we’ll have endless cycles of shouting matches and misunderstandings, and nobody wants that. [update] Youth Specialties’ President has issued a public apology and corrective actions

Feb 272007
 

A while back I emailed Publisher Thomas Nelson’s CEO, Michael Hyatt, about his blogging, curious if he really did it himself, since I’ve discovered that some (many? all?) top executives often have their staff write the copy on their public communications. He replied back within a day:

Yes, I do all the writing ó 100% ó myself. I donít think blogging can be done by a ghost. The writer’s “voice” is too important.

I was amazed by his wise practical content and his blogging frequency, which is now up to a daily pace. Here is a CEO who understands how blogging can be used for effective communication:

As the CEO, I think that communication is one of my primary responsibilities. My job is to cast vision, shape our culture, and mentor those under me. Blogging is simply a means to an end.

However, I like blogging because it gives me direct, unfiltered access to my colleagues. It also provides a way for me to hear directly from all of our employees. It essentially “flattens” the organization and puts us all on an equal footing.

The truth is that I spend no more than about forty-five minutes a day writing. Maybe this sounds impossible, but I assure you itís not. You have to remember that I have written four books. I wrote each of them while maintaining a regular day job. Over the years, I have learned to write fast.

And, I do it on my own time. Usually, I write late at night or early in the morning. I usually donít write every day. I tend to write several posts at a time and then ďbankĒ them for posting later.

Read the full text of his post about how he blogs and why. Now if only other executives can get it too.

While we’re on this subject, you might be curious about my blogging frequency and rhythm, as this often becomes a discussion item when I meet people who read my blog in real life (if only I could get them to comment!) I aim to write a blog post 3 times a week, with no undue pressure on having to do a set number. And in all, it takes me about an hour per week to blog. Note, this does not include the time it’d take me to read other blogs. So being an active blogger does not have to be so time-consuming; we all only have 24 hours a day.

Feb 262007
 

I’m planning to be at the Q boutique event in Atlanta, April 25-27. You can call it a conference, but it’s more of a gathering, more about who’s going to be there plus the opportunity for relationship building than the content they’d dispense.

Here’s how I’d describe Q: the event revolves around 22 big ideas from Christian leaders seeking to (or already are) impacting mainstream culture nationally and internationally. Each will have less than 20 minutes to speak their peace — what they’re anticipating for the future, not what they’ve already published. Listen to Gabe Lyons talk about Q and Fermi Project here:

Early registration ends this Wednesday 2/28: $625 per person. (Then it goes up to $725 on March 1st.) Yes, it’s steep, but this kind of pricing is common in the business industry, and when we’re talking Kingdom business, the price will be self-selecting of who would go and who wouldn’t.

churchrelevance.com has the list of speakers as does Tim Schrader with links to the speaker’s organizations/ initiatives. Names I recognize are: Rob Bell, Chris Seay, Clint Kemp, Andy Crouch, Andy Stanley, Mike Foster. Josh “ThewayIthink” Scott describes Q being the brain-child of Gabe Lyons (and I sense it’s got a lot of input from Andy Crouch and others too):

… Gabe Lyons [of Relevate and Catalyst] as an effort to re-brand Christianity on a national and international level. It’s a joint effort by leading voices in the church to create seismic change in how the church views its role in shaping mainstream culture.

The idea is shape culture, not to take over government and social policies. The kind of questions that would be the kind that Q would talk about are:

  • What are the major social and environmental issues coming over the next 10 years and how can the church take a leading role?
  • What are our responsibilities to confront injustice to humanity locally and internationally?
  • How does globalization affect the culture and the local church?
  • What role does news and media play in shaping the future generation’s views of life, humanity and religion?
  • How can we change the negative perceptions of Christianity in our culture?

The perceptions that most non-Christians have about Christianity and its adherents are overwhelmingly negative. Q presenter David Kinnaman will share insights from his new book, unCHRISTIAN: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity – and Why it Matters, releasing October 2007. I think it’s this book that has survey results 16-29 year old non-Christians about their reaction to 3 words: Christian, Born Again, and Evangelical. The list of the top 12 reactions broke down this way: 9 negative, 2 neutral, 1 positive. Does it matter what non-Christians think of Christians? Yes, according to Jesus: “… let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)

(Some) Bloggers are among the influentials, but so far there’s only 12 mentions in the blogosphere about Q, per Google Blog Search (at the time of this writing.) Hmmm…

Feb 242007
 

Instead of writing up the more formally sounding book review, I’m going to start blogging my book reactions. I get to peruse many books but rarely finish reading them, b/c I’m not the voluminous reader that Mark Driscoll has been known to be (he read a book a day, for over a year, I’ve heard), and I don’t want to be summarizing a book’s content; the publishers and marketing agents do a fine job at that.

Soul CravingsSoul Cravings is the latest book by Erwin Raphael McManus, pastor of Mosaic LA. Erwin’s perhaps the most effusively passionate creativity artiste kind of a guy around, very much wired for the Los Angeles epicenter. I’ve heard him surprisingly downplaying his enormous gift as a verbal communicator on many occasions, disarmingly and persuasively saying, “I’m just like you.” Ah, the master communicator at work — finding common ground. That’s true to some degree, but not so true, and that I find unfair, or incomplete to say the least. I want to shout back, “You are so NOT like me, I can’t communicate like you!”

That’s the kind of provocatively emotional level that Erwin excels at engaging audiences with, in his speaking and in his books. Soul Cravings has no page numbers. Instead, Soul Cravings has 20-some numbered entries on 3 themes: intimacy, destiny, and meaning. Having heard of Erwin’s core message over the years, this is akin to his reinventive replay of “belong, become, believe” or “love, faith, hope”, though rearranging the order of this interplay on this go around. I love the book for its artistic meanderings around the emotional heart and soul of humankind. I think if I read him right, the underlying notion of this exploration is that our soul’s cravings point to the invisible attributes of God just as much if not more than the creation’s natural beauty (cf. Romans 1:20).

Erwin makes a few self-disclosures in Soul Cravings, and I’ll make one here of myself. I’m aware of my own cravings in life. I find my insatiable craving for intimacy so hungry and lacking that my other supposedly innate desires for destiny or meaning don’t exist. It sure feels like I don’t care about destiny or meaning. So, maybe it’s this: not all 3 cravings are equally compelling for everyone. They’re all there beneath the surface, in the recesses of our soul, and one of them drives us, motivates us, to do what it is that we do, more than the other 2. For me, that’s my quest for intimacy. Of the 3, this is the most elusive one b/c it depends on others.

[disclaimer] I received the comp book from DeChant-Hughes & Associates, a Chicago-based firm specializing in books on religion and spirituality. In the email to me, they said that, “We are always happy to keep bloggers aware of new books if you’d like to be added to our mailing list.” I’m not sure how many bloggers they want to keep happy, so leave a comment below and let’s see if you can get in on their program of comp books for bloggers.

Feb 232007
 

Pastor Mark DeYmaz of Mosaic Church (Central Arkansas) and Mosaix Global Network spoke at Denver Seminary‘s Chapel earlier this week. You can listen below:

Monday 2/19: Biblical Mandate for the Multi-ethnic Church

Tuesday 2/20: Seven Core Commitments for a Multi-ethnic Church

Or, you can download the MP3 audios from their Chapel Media page.

Sadly, this whole issue’s still an uphill battle. This true story from Exit Interviews: Why blacks are leaving evangelical ministries shows the glaring relational gap:

One strange encounter typified the underlying racial tension Davis faced. … I got a call from a prominent white Christian leader, asking me to go to lunch with him. As we’re sitting down to eat, all of a sudden this guy starts crying. Ö “I just came back from an annual conference on the other side of the country,” the man told me. “A bunch of us got together to discuss reconciliation and cross-cultural ministry. Usually, when black leaders come into the meeting, we make them feel right at home and let them be part of the decision-making process. But to be honest with you, Darrell, the decisions are made before your leaders ever get there. … “How can I get over this?” the leader asked me, sobbing. “How can we be friends?” … He was taken aback. He said, “You want me to come to your house?”

“Yes,” I said. “If you want me to sit here and clear your conscience for all the crap you did, I can’t do that. Friendship is not cheap. It takes time and commitment.” I gave him my home phone number and told him to give me a call.

I never heard from him again.

Maybe Megachurch Mythsone way to address it is megachurch diversity, as “more than half of the megachurches say they are intentionally working to attract different ethnic groups”, cf. Trendsetting US megachurches take up challenge of desegregating Sunday worship. Can’t wait for the new book Beyond Megachurch Myths: What We Can Learn from America’s Largest Churches by Dave Travis and Scott Thumma. (Pre-order from amazon.com.) [disclosure: I work for Leadership Network.]

Location matters. The Rev. David Anderson, founding pastor of Bridgeview Community Church in Columbia, Maryland, which has about 2,000 members, conducts what he calls the “Wal-Mart test” by driving to malls or Wal-Marts within a 20-mile (30-kilometer) radius of his church to see who is shopping.

“If the Wal-Mart is diverse,” he says, “then your church can be diverse.”

Anderson’s megachurch is unique in that he started it specifically to be multicultural. He estimates that Bridgeview, more than a decade old, is now 55 percent African-American and about one-quarter white, with Asians, Hispanics and others making up the rest.

The name of David Anderson’s church is BRIDGEWAY, not Bridgeview. I’ve worshiped there several times, love the fun atmosphere they’ve fostered over the past decade.

Feb 222007
 

Ed Stetzer’s been making the rounds on the speaking circuit this week. You might have heard of Ed for introducing the 3-category understanding of the emerging church: relevants, reconstructionalists, and revisionists.

Ed has a slot at the Resurgence blog, and apparently a more established blog presence at The Missional Network. He recently gave his take on Why cultural relevance is the big deal (also here).

Ed Stetzer spoke on 2/17/07, Toward a Missional Convention at the Baptist Identity Conference (48:57)

[cf. TallSkinnyKiwi also noted this; download PDF of address too]

And then he spoke on 2/19/07 on The Future of Church and Mission at the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary, both lecture and Q&A recorded for you to listen:

[update] Ari live-blogged the lecture here and here and a final word.

Ed Stetzer has a new book to be released this June, written in conjunction with Elmer Towns and Warren Bird, 11 Innovations in the Local Church: How Today’s Leaders Can Learn, Discern and Move Into the Future. (You can pre-order it.)

Book introduction from the publisher Gospel Light:

11 Innovations in the Local Church: THEY DARED TO BE DIFFERENT- AND YOUR CHURCH CAN TOO!

The Church of today doesn’t look or act like it once did. Take a look around communities nationwide and you’ll see local churches taking on a variety of forms and expressing themselves in a multitude of ways. Now you can join three seasoned church-growth experts on an insider’s tour of the most exciting innovations in churches today! Throughout this engaging book, you’ll discover multiple profiles of cutting-edge churches that have implemented each innovation in their own way.

You’ll explore churches that have dared to be different, from Ancient-Future Postmodern Churches to Cyber-Enhanced Churches to churches that are intentionally multicultural. More than a show-and-tell tour, each chapter offers a solid takeaway as you learn from the innovative direction that other churches have taken and come up with your own. The authors also provide guidance and wisdom through scripturally based assessments of both the positive and negative implications of implementing innovations for your church.

There are many ways to present the gospel. God is using innovative expressions of the Church today to reach many different types of people. Come discover with Towns, Stetzer and Bird, how God has blessed churches such as yours as they have stepped out to find their unique signature. There’s never been a better time to explore innovative new directions for your church and reach more people for Christ.

Feb 212007
 

Had a good chat with Scott “ValueOfTheKingdom” Burness this week, and he wanted to spread the word about this Michael Medved interview with Producer Ken Wales, who’s got a new movie Amazing Grace coming soon to a theater near you and me. So all kinds of stakeholders, Christian churches, and ministries are rallying the troops to drive up the opening weekend box office.

So Scott is spreading the word about the via email to people, like this:

Brothers & Sisters! As many of you have already heard, the movie Amazing Grace (see the trailer here) opens Friday, the 23rd. This movie looks awesome– about the ending of the slave trade in the UK by evangelical William Wilberforce. John Piper wrote a book to go along with the release of the movie. <clipped>

I prefer to spread the word via the web and blog, and rather than getting the interview audio encoded into MP3, I like having the convenience of 1-click listening online. (Now, for audios of certain sermons that I consider keepers, I’d download and keep around, but for the rest, listen via web or streaming suits me fine.)

Great to hear Chris Tomlin‘s version of Amazing Grace in the movie trailer. My family got to sit in the Patriot Center’s nosebleed section 107 at last Friday’s sold-out Tomlin concert (“How Great Is Our God” tour). First time I’d heard Louie Giglio speak in person. Aus_chick has photos and a video clip.

Amazing Grace movie

Feb 202007
 

As a church connoisseur, I appreciate the subtle and not-so-subtle varieties in the variety of ways that the people of God worship and praise and preach or teach. Like a wine connoisseur who can enjoy different kinds of wines, worshiping in a variety of ways with a variety of personalities and persuasions can likewise be enjoyable and edifying.

There’s a few others that have crossed my radar: Here‘s someone who has become quite the connoisseur of church signs. All Saints Boughton Aluph has been described as a connoisseur’s church. One church connoisseur has been influenced by his church-hopping Dad. And to take a more grassroots consumer product review approach, there is ChurchRater.com .

For me, being a church connoisseur does not mean being elitist or snobbish, nor does it necessarily take away from loyalty for relating deeply at one local church, and certainly it does not detract from having one’s personal theological convictions. To connect with the people of God deeply and widely both at the same time enhances my perspective of the multifaceted grace, though, granted, for some it can be disconcerting dissonance. Now, I’m not quite the journalistic observer when I worship at different churches, like these two guys below.

More recently, Dave Travis shared a few stories over at Leadership Network Learnings about his recent San Diego area church visits, titled I like the Diversity in Churches on his visit at North Coast Calvary Chapel and Over to Emmanuel Faith when he worshiped at Emmanuel Faith Community Church.

On a mini-pilgrimage (or excursion?), John Lee is on the front end of his 3-month Church Hop Extravaganza, visiting Westside Community Church near Toronto and then Harvest Bible Chapel. I hope he’s still touring and will post more observations of people worshiping in God-glorifying ways.

fast fast food

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Feb 192007
 

Decided on a hot breakfast this morning. Wound up at “Mickey-D’s“. Noticed on the way in they’re serving Dr. Pepper now. Got my usual #2. My son Jeremiah went with #5. The fast food was served up faster than I ever experienced, done before my credit card transaction goes through at most other places. Can you say: no wait time?

#2 Sausage McMuffin #5 Sausage Biscuit
This is a McDonald’s that’s now open 24 hours, has a redesigned brown palette decor. Can you say: third place? Looks like things are turning around for McDonald’s. Jeremiah and I had a little business strategy conversation about customer service. Why is quality and speedy customer service valuable? 2 ways to increase profit: sell to more customers, or sell more products to the same customers. Customer service connects you better to the same customers. Voila.

Needed a place to sit for a while to work. Wifi access is available here via the WayPort network for $2.95 per 2-hour block. This one isn’t announcing its availability yet, no comp logins yet. Nevertheless, $3 for 2 hours is a good deal for the mobile road warrior. But I used my T-Mobile Total Internet access plan to let you all know this.

wifi-mcdonalds