Archive for July, 2003

Submerging Church Camping Trip

Submerging Church Camping Trip
In an odd twist of circumstances half of the people that I expected to meet me at the lake have dropped out.  It’s down to Jeremy, Randall, Linsay and me.  Looks like it could be a much more intimate affair.  With the smaller numbers we may just have to morph this thing in to a spiritual retreat.  My kind of holiday.  That or Jeremy and I will pull a pinky and the brain and plan our take over of the entire world.

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Why I don't believe in the modern sermon

Why I don’t believe in the modern sermon
Have you ever wondered why millions of Christians listen to millions of sermons but never seem to learn much?  I’ve always been amazed that we haven’t really rethought why we preach the way we do.  In researching my paper I found some 40 year old research that might provide some insight. 

People don’t remember what they hear
Since the 1960’s the world figured out that most of what we sit and listen to goes through one ear and out the other. Preachers spend countless hours preparing and delivering sermons that make almost no difference in the world whatsoever. Millions of Christians around the world waste their time listening without learning every Sunday morning.

Study after study has proven that the traditional sermon is not an effective way to pass on information and rarely results in life change.

Following the morning worship service in a New England church, 271 persons filled out questionaires. Fifty-six percent felt the minister’s sermon was superior” and another 35 percent felt it was good”. However only 21 percent could reflect the minister’s central message clearly and accurately, and 40 percent omitted any reply at all when asked what the message had been.

A study of the United Church of Christ” Plainville, Connecticut. Church Surveys, Boston University, August 4, 1964.

People don’t hear what the preacher says
Shortly after I started preaching I quickly realized sermons did not have their intended effect. People would thank me for the message but when I asked them what they liked about it they couldn’t come up with much more than it challenged me”. Those who were able to provide a deeper answer often heard something very different from what I said. Sometimes what people heard was the complete opposite of what I said.

Jesus did far more than just preach
Jesus did preach. He also did far more than just preach. Jesus also dialogued with his hearers, he lived in mission with his followers, and he mentored his disciples. Monologue is useful and effective when it is combined with other mediums of communication. By itself its ineffective. When combined with dialogue it is better. When combined with action it is works very well. Traditional preaching doesn’t work because there is no place for dialogue or missional action in church. I would also argue that the average preacher is under a lot of pressure to deliver entertaining messages that don’t offend everyone. There is an unspoken pressure to appear holier than others and speak as one in authority. This makes it more difficult to be real and honest.

I’m convinced that Jesus preached as much as he did because the people he desired to reach were illiterate. Preaching was the best form of communication out there. If Jesus were here today I believe he would take full advantage of all forms of media. Yes…I think Jesus would blog.

I understand why we appeal to Jesus in support of preaching. What I don’t understand is why we neglect every other method he used.

Passive learning is bad
Mass media, mass marketing and mass ministry all have something in common. They encourage uniformity and passivity. The traditional sermon will often do as much harm as good. The medium itself tells people that they are less valuable than the preacher, that they have no voice, and they need not participate in their own learning because they have neither the knowledge or authority to do so.

I have heard it said that the preacher’s role is to feed the sheep. It’s probably borrowed from Paul’s metaphor about milk and solid food.  The idea is to move from immaturity to maturity. The Corinthains were exhorted to move from milk to solid food. If I were to extrapolate for a bit that progression should move from eating solid food to preparing ones own food and eventually food for others. In an age of incredible learning and information we give the average church goer so little credit. Our teaching methods leave people stunted because we don’t provide people with the tools for self learning. People aren’t in a place of action which would create an impetus for self learning.

What should we do
I think we need to move from mass ministry to a model that includes conversation and mission.  Ultimately we learn best by doing.  If want to disciple others I need to do something with them.  I can’t just speak and have them listen and expect them to learn or change.  Those who wish to teach must be open, honest, real and have a lot of integrity.  We need to teach people how to learn.  We need to put away methods that hinder peoples confidence and perceived value in the body of Christ. 

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Some technology metaphors for Church

Some technology metaphors for church

I work up this morning with a sudden rush of brain waves about church and possibilities for the house church.

Brain Wave #1) Peer to Peer Network
As we plant new churches we will be associated together through a decentralized network.  Each new church plant can be as distinctive as they want in terms of faith tradition, church structure and style. 

Brain Wave #2) Open Source Resources
All materials used for worship, training, instruction will be shared online for other churches to use.  Anyone is allowed to use anything they like as long as whatever they create from it is also shared with the community.  The goal here is to create an alternative to the Christian music and book industry without the hype and costly overhead.

Brain Wave #3) Multi-protocol
Face to face meetings are highly valued along with blogging, Instant Messaging, and email.  Learning and ministry training happens through a full range of mediums instead of just monologue.  People will be encouraged to learn through books, mentoring, video, the Internet and most importantly mission.

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Going to the cabin

Going to the cabin
This weekend I’m headed up to Chitek Lake for 3 weeks.  In some strange cosmic twist my family’s cabin is free for 3 weeks in a row in July/August.  That is pretty rare.  I have to complete a big 40pg paper to finish off my internship.  So I’ll being doing my homework at the lake.  It doesn’t get better than that.  God, the word, the water and the waves.  

Some of my buds are coming up for the emerging church camping trip.  After that a couple of people will join me one at a time at the cabin.  There is enough room for some solitude.  I’m turing the garage in to a sacred space, a place of worship.  A place to connect with God. 

My paper is on the greek stuff on the top of my current design.  “The kingdom of God does not consist in words but in power”.  So I will likely blog a lot of my experiences and reflections.  Right now I miss God.  I haven’t connected with Him well over the last few months.  That should change, when I’m up at the cabin I really dive in to the spiritual disciplines such as prayer, study, meditation, solitude etc…  I almost always have these thick rich experiences with God up there.  I usually go in the winter.  This summer will be good because I will get to really enjoy our summer before it fades away in 2 months.  Summer is too short here, or maybe winter is just too long.

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Rediscovering Church

Rediscovering Church
Scotty, Conrad and I were out for a chat last night.  We started talking about what the house church could look like.  We are pretty sure we really don’t know how to structure a church that would facilitate spiritual life rather than suppress it.  I had one thought on the issue.  We should study scripture and look for the most common themes.  What picture does the bible paint?  For the most part we interpret scripture in small chunks and string them together to form some theology.  For example one can pull out all of the verses about God supplying  those who faithfully give and come up with a prosperity gospel.  Unfortunately the guy that wrote a lot of those verses must have been a complete loser because he suffered so much he thought it was an inherent part of following Christ. 

What are the themes about church in scripture?  Here are a few I can think of.

  • Following Jesus Christ is an act of faith that will consume ones entire life
  • The life of the body will evidence spiritual power, and the gospel is preached in demonstration of the Spirit and power.
  • Leaders are stewards of the mysteries of God, faithful servants who do not elevate themselves or seek to be elevated above others.
  • The church can lovingly discipline its members to preserve the spiritual intregrity of the congregation.
  • All people are accountable to each other in mutual submission
  • All people in the church are valued, interconnected, and joined directly to God.
  • We are saved by grace through faith, following the old law or making a new law is futile

Added at 9:55

  • Discipleship happens one person at a time
  • Sincerity, pure love and a pure conscience are valued as much acts of service. Why we do something is just as important (or more) as what we do.
  • All are expected to become mature in faith, wisdom, knowledge and love
  • Ministry is an act of service, not a means to attain gain

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The Cost of Community

The Cost of Community
I’ve been toying around with the idea of making a clear expectation for all the people in our house church.  Everyone has to be plugged in to the mission of God.  It doesn’t really matter what as long as the people are being salt in light bringing spiritual truth or justice.  It could be volunteering at a food bank, working with a community association, or working on a web project. I hesitate to make it some kind of a rule.  Today most Christians in my context would consider the sermon and some singing as the most important aspects of church life.  If you miss Sunday morning you’ve missed church.  Looking at the scriptures I see mission, God’s mission, as an integral aspect of church life.  I’m starting to think if you miss mission, you miss church.

In some ways persecution had its benefits.  People were forced to consider the cost of joining this spiritual revolution.  Today we’ve lost the idea of cost.  The ‘gospel’ message preached today is not unlike those of a cell phone salesman.  You can get the phone for free and all you need to do is subscribe to this monthly plan.  I do not believe we are saved by works, but I do believe that to truly have faith, to truly follow Jesus, it means putting our entire lives on the line. 

I’m hoping that if as a home church we place biblical expectations on those we fellowship with we might regain a sense of that cost.  In other words, if you are going to join us you are joining a group of people plugged in to the mission of God.  That mission takes us to uncomfortable places.  You don’t have to sing or hear a sermon, but you do need live a life of obedience, constantly learning and constantly working for the promotion of God’s kingdom. 

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Indie Allies

Indie Allies Meetup
Once a month independent Christian thinkers get together in cities across the world.  I’m not sure if I can make the next one but I’ll certainly be there in the future.

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What right do we have to speak?

What right do we have to speak?
I had a great conversation with a Christian leader today.  He questioned the political furor over the Canadian government’s direction on gay marriage.  What right does the church have to speak to society on the issue of marriage when Christians get divorced as much as non-Christians?  Perhaps when we are able show how much we care about the sanctity of marriage will we gain a hearing with those we seek to instruct and admonish.

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Connections

Connections
The connections I’ve made with people online have made me rethink accountability and cross-church support networks.  Traditionally denominations are the ones that provide accountability for churches.  Today I found an incredible amount of friendship and support from my online connections.  Almost any time of the day there are 2 or 3 other Christian leaders online on with Yahoo or MSN Instant Messenger.  Just yesterday a pastor and I were talking about how one would deal with an unrepentant leader. 

I think the traditional view of church as the group of people you sit down with on Sunday morning is eroding.  It seems as though we are moving towards a multi-protocol church.  Each main service on the Internet (web, email, IM, ftp, streaming media) has its own protocol.  I have church on so many different protocols.  There is face to face, shared space/events, my blog, and IM.  I think its really good because I have a community that can respond to me quickly without the traditional overhead.

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Two of my best friends are now blogging

Two of my best friends are now blogging
Scott Derksen as ScottyD.org and Jeremy Kliever at LeVrai.net.

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