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Friday, April 29, 2005

OPINION: Take MegaChurches Seriously

SaddlebackThis comes from an article in the secular magazine Mother Jones.  Read this and then let’s discuss…  (Note:  since this is a secular article, it is very biased in my opinion.  There is a great source of accurate demographic information on megachurches available at http://hirr.hartsem.edu.)

“You might have predicted their rise from shifting demographics alone. Mainline denominations are drying up. In rural communities and cities, congregations of fewer than 100 are shutting their doors at a rate of 60 a week. Megachurches, meanwhile, have increased in number by 30 percent in the last four years. Out in the suburbs, Christianity is experiencing the same consumer shifts that occur when Sam's Club or Costco comes to town. Megachurches can have congregations that are black or white, evangelical or not; half belong to no traditional denomination. Scholars call them "postdenominational churches" or parts of the "new apostolic reformation." Their own laity call them "purpose-driven" or "seeker-sensitive" churches. Detractors call them McChurches or Wal-Mart churches. But whatever they are called, they deserve to be taken seriously, if only because they help explain why George W. Bush is still sitting in the Oval Office and how suburban malaise can be transformed into a multitude of organized, values-driven voters. Not by happenstance did Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ play the megachurch circuit before making its theatrical debut. These are the churches that held get-out-the-vote rallies and stressed the importance of politics in the service of religion.”

FOR DISCUSSION:  Is this a fair representation?  (I've already said that I don't feel it is).  Is there a correlation between small churches closing and megachurches growing?  Does the ‘megachurch’ have anything to do with who is president?  Is the ‘megachurch’ the reason Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” was a success?  Is there a direct relationship showing that ‘megachurches’ are more politically active than smaller to medium sized churches?  If so, and ‘megachurches’ need to be taken seriously (as Mother Jones suggests), what are the ramifications?  I’d be interested in your thoughts!

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April 29, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (38) | TrackBack

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Conflict? Ask Ken: Tips On Church Conflict Resolution

TipsAn important document of the church membership process is the covenant of membership form.  It signifies a shared understanding by those who sign it and become identifiable members of that church.  It also tells the church’s spiritual leaders that these individuals are formally putting themselves under their spiritual charge.  A signed membership covenant means there is an agreement with and a commitment to abide by the church’s organizing beliefs, principles, and practices. 

This is why I recommend that churches incorporate a conflict resolution process that is distinct from the church’s discipline process outlined in Matthew 18:15-18 (see my “Conflict? Ask Ken” comments for Thursday, December 9, 2004).  When individuals sign the covenant of membership and agree to abide by the doctrines and norms as reflected in the church’s bylaws, they are also agreeing to a pre-defined manner in which they will work out their differences.  Indeed, this should be explicitly highlighted in the covenant itself.

To Illustrate
Consider the following true scenario:  The planning of a new church is undertaken by a young pastor whose vision is to build an interracial congregation.  Early in the church’s experience, when numbers ranged only in the dozens, a member was dissatisfied with the pastor’s selection of certain individuals to fill certain church roles (not elders).  This man sent a letter to every member of this fledgling congregation to express his dissatisfaction.  Not surprisingly, this caused an uproar.

Now imagine with me the above scenario with one difference.  As part of it’s DNA, the church adopted a church conflict resolution process which outlined the steps one needed to take to address areas of frustration, unmet expectations, etc.  If this man were to send out his letter, the whole dynamic of the debate would be different.  Why?   The primary issue would not be the content of the letter, right or wrong, but the man’s failure to abide by his covenant of membership whereby he agreed to the church’s conflict resolution process.  Since most understand that righteous ends should not be achieved by unrighteous means, the one who breaks his word will stand condemned by the rest of the congregation.  The covenant of membership provides a universal agreement on how conflict will be managed, a significant step in fortifying the church’s fellowship and stability.

Let’s Be Specific
Therefore, I propose that every church conclude its covenant of membership document with wording similar to the following:

I have read and agree with Appleton Community Church’s doctrinal statement and bylaws and pledge to abide by them as a member of this church.  As Christ's under-shepherds, I understand that the church’s board of ________ [elders, deacons, fill in the blank] is responsible for the spiritual nurture, fellowship, and discipline of the congregation, both individually and corporately.  Accordingly, as it relates to the areas of biblical doctrine and Christian conduct, I willingly submit myself to their spiritual care, oversight, and authority. 

I understand that my membership is voluntary and that I may resign from Appleton Community Church at any time.  But for as long as I choose to be a member, I pledge to do my best to make it an assembly where God is honored by my life and others are encouraged by my words and my deeds.  And, in the event a dispute arises between myself and another in the congregation, I agree to follow the conflict resolution process adopted by this church.

    The last line in this membership covenant assumes that the church already has a conflict resolution process in place.  If your church does not, but would like to learn more about the model I have developed, let me know and I will e-mail information to you free of charge.  You can call me at 301-253-8877 or e-mail me at Newberger@ResolveChurchConflict.com.

For Discussion
This forum provides us all with an excellent opportunity to share ideas that will help others.  In the area of church conflict resolution, would you be so kind as to share an idea or “tip” that has worked for you?  Thank you in advance.


--

© 2005 Kenneth C. Newberger
Ken Newberger, an experienced church conflict resolution specialist, earned his Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary, has ten years senior pastoral experience, and is in the dissertation phase for his Ph.D. in Conflict Analysis and Resolution at Nova Southeastern University, one of only two accredited doctoral programs of its kind in the United States. If your church needs help resolving conflict, if you need individual coaching, or if you would like to introduce a proactive conflict management system into your church, please visit Ken's website at
www.ResolveChurchConflict.com  or call 301-253-8877.

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April 28, 2005 in Church Conflict | Permalink | Comments (41) | TrackBack

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Six Shifts That Will Shape the Church

KeyToday’s church definitely looks a lot different than the church of 20 (or even 10) years ago?  Where is the church heading?  Paul Sorensen wrote the following about where he feels church leadership is headed.  Take a read, and let me know what you think.  Paul writes…

Think back to 1993: Did you email? Did you do your Christmas shopping online?

The local church has been transformed since the early 90's as well: contemporary music can be found in most churches, small groups have become an essential part of body life, ethnic diversity is multiplying, PowerPoint is being used instead of hymnals, the emerging generation is being ministered to—just to name a few.

Put simply: change inspires change, which requires increasing levels of leadership.

The church, God's church, will continue venturing into uncharted waters. That will necessitate strong, flexible, growing leadership and leadership development. Therefore, the goal of the church, in this unparalleled season of change, ought to be generating new ways to inspire and develop leaders within the local body.

Here are 6 necessary shifts that I believe the church needs to make:

1. Being to Becoming.
If I asked you to name the top five leaders of all time, you might list men like: Jesus, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Bishop Tutu, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Then, if I asked you to list the characteristics that make them great leaders, you might say: charisma, boldness, servitude, a caring heart, trustworthiness, good listener or integrity-filled.

Historically, the church has sought out born leaders; however, a shift is occurring. We are beginning to realize that the characteristics of a great leader can be learned or developed. Living a life of integrity or serving others in love are all things that can be ours, as Christians.

We are all leaders. If you have children, you're a leader. If you're a Christian, you're a leader. If you teach Sunday School, you're a leader. In short, anyone in the congregation has the potential of growing into leadership. Some may grow stronger than others—but everyone has potential.

It is not a question of who you are but in what ways will you work with God to become more?

2. Technical to Spiritual.
A primary shift in educating leaders involves moving away from teaching tactics to developing the spiritual. The inner working of the heart is pivotal to leadership growth. Mentoring prospective leaders to live lives of honesty, integrity and respect for authority will produce greater eternal dividends than a list of tactics.

3. Control to Empower.
An organizational shift is just beginning to take place in the church. The age-old paradigm that leaders run and control the church, and then the congregation comes, out of no where, once a week to check out what has been going on, is changing. No longer is it only the formally recognized leader who serves.

Though hierarchical leadership is still necessary, leaders, now, share power with a growing number of lay-leaders by offering tools and training. As we continue to move from traditional models, collaboration, coaching, networking and servant leadership will continue to be on the rise.

4. Individual to Team.
As traditional church leaders continue to empower servant leaders another shift will emerge in tandem: moving from an individual to a team-oriented work system.

Not everything can be done as a team. Church leaders must be able to designate those things which are best done on an individual level (i.e., data entry) and team level (planning programs, developing processes, goal-setting, etc.) As team participation grows within the church, so will commitment, excellence and love.

5. Bureaucratic to Entrepreneurial.
To encourage servant leaders to take an on-going ownership and delight in ministry an intentional move away from bureaucratic operations to entrepreneurship must take place.

As a pastor if you are hearing, "Pastor, what should I do next?" bureaucratic strongholds have not yet been lifted. When you begin to hear, "Pastor, I have this idea, is it okay?" you have successfully entered entrepreneurial leadership.

Under this shift leaders become permission-givers, allowing people to dream and create new ways of serving the community.

6. One-Time Training to Life-Long Learning.
For years businesses have conducted corporate-training programs, with limited success. Why? The training is typically a one time event. The trainees sit down soak it in, regurgitate it back, and then promptly forget the entire session by the time they leave the classroom and buckle their seat belts.

Great leadership development is a process. It's about mentoring and continually finding new ways to discuss it, live it and apply it.

The people who perform the best in leadership roles have been forced to stretch, learn, grow, adapt and rely heavily on God. Leadership training is not a one time event but consists of life-long learning.

What do you think?  Is Paul dead-on?

[You can read the whole article here…]

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April 27, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (17) | TrackBack

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Where Do I Stand on Rick Warren?

Rick_warrenAs many of you know, a few months back I started a blog (that grew out of our Monday Morning Insight email newsletter).  It has been fun to write about all kinds of things that are of interest to pastors and church staff members... but one thing over the past few months has suprised me.  It seems that many pastors and church leaders can be as judgmental and critical as those we serve in our churches. OK, I'll  admit, this is probably one of my biggest pet peeves.  Please allow me to diatribe for a couple minutes...

Take the subject of megachurches and megachurch pastors for example.  It's a hot button for many pastors.  Just mention Saddleback, Willow Creek, Rick Warren, Bill Hybels or any well-known church or pastor.  Mention a new methodology like multi-site churches, or video venues and you'll have a good percentage of pastors feverently opposed.  Mention being culturally relevant, and some pastors will call you unorthodox, preaching a new gospel that isn't really the gospel at all.  Heck, mention tithing and you'll hear all kinds of differing opinions from pastors about how tithing is unbiblical.

Which brings me to today's subject... Rick Warren.  I'd never really thought Rick Warren was a 'controversial figure' until two things happened:  1.  We did the Purpose Driven Life program at our church and 2.  I mentioned him at the blog.  We actually had people leave our church because of Rick Warren and his "seeker sensitive" style. (and I thought SS was a buzz word for what the church was attempting in the early '90s).  It seems that a few people in the church (well, one, really) did a google search on Rick Warren and found websites that were dedicated to bring down the "Purpose Driven Movement".  Meanwhile, at the blog, some pastors told their feeling that Rick's theology was such that people really weren't getting saved because he made it too easy; the music was too contemporary; and Saddleback was too culturally relevant and worldly.  The world would be a better place without people like Rick Warren and churches like Saddleback (even IF people were getting saved, it's still a bad thing).

Now, I really don't want to get into a Defend/Attack Saddleback/Purpose Driven discussion here... but quite frankly... here is my point:

Why all the antimosity?
Why all the bad talk?
Why all the trash from other leaders?

This leads me into a piece written by Matt Friedeman over at Agape Press.  He states my thinking exactly... Here's what he writes:

"A question from this writer's blog:  Where do you stand on Rick Warren? I can't really tell through your links and articles. People either love him or despise him, it seems.

Despise him?  Why?

Here is a guy who, after seminary, looked for a relatively Christ-less place on the map and found the Saddleback Valley in California. He plants an innovative, purpose-driven church that wins thousands to Christ; starts a few dozen daughter churches; and writes a couple of best-selling books that are used in seminary classes and sold in secular bookstores across the nation.

Despise him? Only if you are jealous. Or you have some kind of quibble with his use of technology and contemporary music and the fact that he never buttons up for a church service.

Time for some of us to grow up and get over it. 

Not that the guy is perfect. I am quite sure that he is not. And his being a Baptist gives him a slightly different theological construct than my own.

Still -- anybody who is within the orthodox Christian faith, wants to evangelize the unredeemed in his corner of the world, is passionate about church planting and fervent in his role concerning missions, is eager to share his secrets, is apparently as humble as a man of his popularity can be expected to be and, joy of joys, has a happy marriage -- well, that is a saint to be counted as a brother and a friend.

He is a man worth emulating and praising the Lord for. 

And now this -- for his mid-life crisis he has decided to start a massive new international initiative called PEACE. It is Warren's plan to, in his words, "do the five things Jesus did while He was here on earth." It is an acronym that stands for Plant churches, Equip servant leaders, Assist the poor, Care for the sick, and Educate the next generation.

The emphasis calls for churches and small groups to adopt villages where lack of spiritual leadership and holiness and where disease and poverty have kept people from knowing the abundant life God wants for them.

My hunch: some people out there will take Warren to task for sliding off into the abyss of the social gospel or some such thing. And I am sure, having read his Bible, Warren will lose no sleep over the criticism. For Jesus was about building His church, equipping the saints, assisting the downtrodden and disenfranchised, and making disciples (educated ones) for the work of the Kingdom.

"The world is my parish," John Wesley once said. And apparently Warren, in all the boldness with which God has gifted him, thinks the same. That he could participate with Christ in bringing shalom to the world well beyond Saddleback isn't a bad way to spend a good chunk of the last half of your life. 

Where do I stand on Rick Warren?  With him."

To that, I say "Amen"!

Todd

P.S.  Come back often and watch the discussion on this post.  I can tell you almost exactly what it will be and what direction it will take.  Watch it and see!  (wink)

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April 26, 2005 in Leadership Issues | Permalink | Comments (295) | TrackBack

Monday, April 25, 2005

A Pastor Responds to Second-Hand Criticism

CriticismComedian Steve Martin has said, "Before you criticize a man, walk a mile in his shoes. That way, when you do criticize him, you'll be a mile away and have his shoes."

Have you ever been criticized in your job as pastor or church staff member?

OK.. I'll admit, that's a stupid question to ask on this Monday morning... If you've been on staff or in leadership longer than 5 minutes, chances are you've faced the reality of criticism. Being criticized is not fun. And what makes it even worse is that most times you hear the comments second-hand, hardly ever from the person leveling the criticism.

Many times we just don't even see the criticism coming... it hits us seemingly from out of the blue. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, "Do what you feel in your heart to be right. You'll be criticized anyway." How do you feel when your best intentions and hardest efforts are met only with second-hand criticism?

Pastor Scott Hodge writes this about this problem and his frustration on his blog recently... Scott writes...

"Beginning next Sunday, all of our sermons will be spoken in ancient Greek and Hebrew.

Why? Because we want to provide people with more depth.

Huh?

"I want more depth."

What does this mean? Someone just told me that a person they know made that statement in regards to our church. But what does that mean?

Perhaps what they should be saying is, "I want the the PERCEPTION of depth."

The question I have for someone who says that is, "How's your love walk? Are you loving God? Are you loving people (all)? How many relationships with unchurched people have you built in your life this past year? Perhaps 'depth' is not what you need. You think you do, but you probably wouldn't even know what to do with 'depth' if it jumped all over you."

Ok, so maybe that's not very nice.

But here's the thing... That person isn't ready for depth anyway.

Here's the proof: If they have a problem with me and what I'm doing, they should have come directly to me. Isn't that the Biblical way? But instead, they went to someone else who has no power to change anything in the first place.

WARNING WILL ROBINSON.

Matthew 18 - "If your brother wrongs you, go and show him his fault, between you and him privately."

Ever feel like Pastor Scott? Why doesn't the person just come to me personally? Why should I give any credibility to a person who wants 'in-depth study', but doesn't have a handle on basic scriptural principles? Why do I have to spend so much of my time answering my critics? The harder I try not to offend, the more criticism it seems I receive. Why is that?

Are you ready for the answer? Here it is: I don't know! I really don't. I guess it's just human nature to criticize. Admittedly, some people tend to criticize and accuse more than others. Maybe the more important questions is... how do you deal with criticism? How do you respond?

As always, Jesus provides us the perfect example. Whatever you're accused of, Jesus was accused of worse. However badly you are treated, Jesus was treated worse. No matter how much pain people inflict on you; you can find consolation in the fact that Jesus endured more physical and emotional pain than you or I ever will.

How did Jesus respond to his critics? With love. Always with love. And that's how we must respond when we're criticized as well. Though we will many times initially be angry and want to fight back, the apostle Paul urges us to respond with sincere love. Look what he wrote in Romans 12:

Love must be sincere...Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer...Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse...Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord... Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

A good many reading this right now were criticized yesterday! Some things that were said in churches across America yesterday were downright brutal. If you were the recipient of second-hand criticism, choose right now how you'll respond. Don't let it fester.

And don't be down on yourself... you're not the first pastor or church leader to be criticized! "To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, be nothing." (Elbert Hubbard)

Have a great week!

Todd

FOR DISCUSSION: Let's discuss this today at the MMI Blog... what are some of the criticisms you deal with the most? You do you repond? Have you ever responded negatively? What was the outcome? Stop by and share your experiences/input.

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April 25, 2005 in Leadership Issues | Permalink | Comments (32) | TrackBack

Friday, April 22, 2005

10 Ways to Increase Offerings 10-25%

MoremoneyOur friend Brian Kluth offers ten different ways to help your church increase their offerings and become better stewards.  This article was recently featured at ChurchCentral.com… Here are the main points… you can read Brian’s insight and words of wisdom on each point by viewing the full article here

#1 - Personal giving testimonies

#2 - Outside teaching resources that will teach Christians to manage their finances

#3 - Annual financial or whole life stewardship sermon series

#4 - Designated giving

#5 - Money-back guarantee

#6 - All-church tithing Sunday

#7 - Pre-offering Bible verse, comments and offertory prayer by a church leader

#8 - Effective use of your church's giving records

#9 - Outside stewardship speaker

#10 - Start a Christian financial counseling ministry

Brian writes, “I have seen churches that have used just three or four of these ideas increase their giving 10 percent to 25 percent or more.”

Brian Kluth is a national and international speaker and writer on Biblical generosity and financial matters. He is also a church pastor and the founder of MAXIMUM Generosity, a public ministry dedicated to advancing Biblical generosity through inspirational preaching, leadership training seminars, writing, resources and the media. Brian’s written materials have been distributed to more than 350,000 Christian leaders in more than 100 countries. For additional materials or to contact Brian, email: bk@kluth.org or visit: www.kluth.org.

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April 22, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (22) | TrackBack

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Conflict? Ask Ken: The Forum is Open!

Ken_questionsThursdays is your turn on Monday Morning Insight!  That is to say, let’s use the discussion board to talk about whatever is on your heart and mind.  Do you have a problem you are struggling with?  Share it (and do so anonymously if you prefer).  Pastor, are you unsure how to deal with a church or board member?  Are you thinking about moving on to another ministry?  Church member, are you thinking about attending another church because of some unresolved frustration?  Let’s dialogue about it here.  Others can share their perspectives and hopefully provide you fresh insight.  Maybe the answer doesn’t reside in leaving but in constructively working through your issues. 

The forum is wide open.  Who will go first?

--

© 2005 Kenneth C. Newberger
Ken Newberger, an experienced church conflict resolution specialist, earned his Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary, has ten years senior pastoral experience, and is in the dissertation phase for his Ph.D. in Conflict Analysis and Resolution at Nova Southeastern University, one of only two accredited doctoral programs of its kind in the United States. If your church needs help resolving conflict, if you need individual coaching, or if you would like to introduce a proactive conflict management system into your church, please visit Ken's website at
www.ResolveChurchConflict.com  or call 301-253-8877.

 

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April 21, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Evangelicals and Mormons: Is There Anything in Common?

MormonThis article appeared recently in the Deseret News.  It discusses the dialouge going on right now between certain evangelical groups and the Mormon church.  For example, BYU professor Robert Millet, left, and Pastor Greg Johnson go to college campuses and do seminars on the similarities and differences between Mormons and evangelicals. Read this article and give your thoughts on whether or not this is a good thing…

“Having dinner recently with a top official of the Anglican Communion in his British castle, two Utah men talked about their attempt to create a bridge of understanding between historical Christians and Latter-day Saints.

That they found themselves the guests of Bishop N.T. Wright of Durham, England, was just one of the pleasant surprises they've encountered on a public journey toward understanding that began five years ago as a discussion between friends.

Robert Millet, who holds an academic chair in religious understanding at Brigham Young University, and Greg Johnson, a Utah-born former Latter-day Saint who has become an evangelical minister, have been finding common religious ground since they first met in 1997. And since 2000 they've been talking about it publicly with whoever cares to listen.

Bishop Wright has reason to tune in. He is currently trying to help bridge the chasm created by American Episcopal bishops, who ordained an openly gay bishop in 2003, and the bulk of the 77-million member worldwide Anglican Communion of which they are a part.

Many Anglicans say the Americans have ignored scripture and Christian teaching, while the U.S. bishops counter that their action embodied the highest biblical mandate to love one another without reservation.

While both camps believe in Jesus Christ and the Bible, their approach to the issue of homosexuality comes from widely different poles on the religious and political spectrum. Though the chasm has threatened to throw the faith into schism, Anglicans share much common ground.

So it is with Latter-day Saints and evangelical Christians, say Millet and Johnson, though both concede there are significant doctrinal differences between historic Christianity and a faith that claims to be a restoration of Christ's original gospel.

The history of interaction between The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and most long-established Christian faiths has been a rocky one ever since Joseph Smith told Christian ministers he had seen God and Jesus Christ in a vision in 1820. Smith's subsequent publishing of a unique scriptural canon known as the Book of Mormon and other extrabiblical scriptural texts set Latter-day Saints apart in significant ways from Protestant and Catholic tradition and teaching.

The differences simmered for decades, with occasional spurts of public discussion. But Southern Baptist Convention leaders' public proclamations in the late 1990s that Latter-day Saints were not Christians brought the topic into focus on the public stage, as LDS leaders countered the claims.

Since then, both Johnson and Millet have looked for similarities, and maintain the two traditions have more in common than most had supposed during the past 175 years since the LDS Church was organized. And they've taken their message on the road in recent years, holding increasingly frequent public appearances on a variety of college campuses including Harvard, UCLA and Fuller Theological Seminary.

After receiving permission from the LDS Church's First Presidency, they organized the appearance of widely known Christian theologian Ravi Zacharias at the Tabernacle on Temple Square last November, and have since taken heat from some in both religious camps for their peacemaking efforts.

In the process, they've garnered enough curiosity that network television has taken notice. The CBS Sunday Morning News got wind of their discussions and sent a film crew to Boise in early March to chronicle their dialogue.

They've started a weekly one-hour dialogue on local TV, with a live call-in format that producers believe will draw viewers to Channel 20. "Bob and Greg in Conversation" will air Tuesdays from 9 to 10 p.m.

They're also organizing another large public forum similar to the Zacharias event, only this time it will be held in an evangelical venue in California and feature a yet-to-be-named LDS leader.

And in the process, they don't shrink from asking tough questions, and from acknowledging failings that continue to keep suspicion simmering between people on either side. "On too many occasions, Latter-day Saints can be guilty of taking the attitude of 'If I can't baptize them, I don't know what to do with them,' " Millet said. "We need to acknowledge there is something even deeper than doctrine and theology, and that's our humanity."

He said conflict often arises because both groups take the obligation to share the gospel of Christ seriously. "But underlying that has to be a real love for people, rather than seeing them as a (potential) baptismal statistic."

Johnson remembers a conversation with one of Millet's colleagues at BYU, who reaffirmed to him that Millet was never going to see things Johnson's way, and then asked, "so what's the point?"

That mind-set is reflected in the willingness on both sides to be patient and invest time talking when you're convinced the other person is beginning to see things your way, Johnson said. "But the moment we see that not happening we think we have to move on and use our time in more productive ways ... Yet we live in a world where friendship is just as important."

"Debate and confrontation are the easy way," Millet said. "We say: Are you willing to invest some time in this so you can learn something," rather than soaking in self-righteousness?

Doing so "just doesn't compromise us," Johnson said. "It's harder to want someone to see it your way, but to not give up when they don't."

OK… let’s hear your thoughts!…

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April 20, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Monday, April 18, 2005

Why Do Christians Leave the Church?

Old_church2Recently, I found a link at ChurchMarketingSucks.com about a study conducted over at Charisma Magazine.  It seems that  nn alarming number of Christians are staying home on Sunday mornings. Charisma researched how this trend is affecting today's church.  Here is part of the article…

Lynn loves God, praises His name, studies His Word, serves His people and helps build His kingdom. She just can't be bothered to go to His house anymore.

The Spirit-filled believer who spends many of her working days at Christian conferences is more likely to be found slumbering on Sunday mornings--or washing her clothes.

"I'm sick of hearing pastors talking for themselves," she admits candidly. "I don't want to go and hear the same thing I did last week, sing the three fast, the three slow. ... I just don't want to spend 3-1/2 hours at church. I prefer to sleep in, do my laundry or prepare for the next week."

Lynn is in good company. Thousands like her who by all litmus tests would be gauged as devout, even zealous, Christians are voting with their feet and becoming "stayaway saints."

"It's not like I'm backsliding," she cautions, describing her daily commute prayer-and-praise sessions in her car. "Only people with a religious spirit who think you have to be 'in church' say that. I just have a hard time with the routine of it. ... It's not fresh."

Lynn is part of a growing trend that is alternately worrying and exciting church leaders, pointing to what is being seen as either a serious threat to the spread of the gospel or the actual cusp of a revolution that could usher in the sort of revival many have prayed for and dreamed of for years.

These stayaway saints are not just the Bedside Baptists of the old joke. The movement transcends denominations and is as likely to include in its number Pillowtop Pentecostals, Comforter Charismatics or Eiderdown Evangelicals.

A Charisma investigation has also dispelled some other myths about Christians who are part of this trend. They are not necessarily postmodern 20-somethings rejecting anything of their parents' generation, nor are they grudge-bearing grumpies carrying an offense from a previous church life.

Although the leaders we spoke with agreed that stayaway saints are a significant movement, they were hard-pressed to back their definite view with data--citing instead widespread anecdotal evidence…

Revival historian and teacher Andrew Strom found painful evidence of "a worldwide phenomenon." After speaking on radio about what he has dubbed the "Out of Church Christians," and writing about them in one of his e-newsletters, he was bombarded with responses from people around the world telling him, "Me too."

He found "people leaving the church in droves," he says.

"It got so bad, I got carpal tunnel problems trying to answer them all," Strom told Charisma. "I was really surprised by the response. It told me this was no longer a small thing--it had become much bigger."

A Christian sociologist says we can learn a lot from Christians who leave church.

They're not backsliders, but they're not typical disciples, either, so what do you call committed Christians who don't turn out for the usual Sunday morning services anymore? Post-congregationals, says Alan Jamieson, who has done some of the most serious research on the movement to date.

A sociologist and pastor at charismatic Wellington Central Baptist Church in the New Zealand capital, he began to study the phenomenon 10 years ago after seeing youth-group members drift away and recognizing his own growing dissatisfaction with church life as it was. He discovered that, far from being people on the fringes of the church, most of those opting out had been heavily involved. More than 90 percent of those he tracked had been in some sort of leadership role, and almost 33 percent were former pastors.

Jamieson also identified four main reasons why people leave a church--cultural preferences, personal factors such as broken relationships, disagreements over doctrine and changing stages in their faith development.

This last area, he says, is especially important in Pentecostal and charismatic churches, which "are very good at attracting younger people and introducing them to Christian faith and God, but not so good at helping them to work through normal later-faith development."

Jamieson sees something "very positive" in the movement, for some. "Some of the leavers make the best leaders in church life down the track," he comments. He also sees God "sponsoring a return to the deserts of personal faith and encouraging new supports for such a faith."

His church started a Spirited Exchange meeting, where people can meet to discuss faith-related topics in a nonchurch setting. He believes churches that ignore the "stayaway saints" are missing something very significant.”

What do you think?  Is this a problem you’ve been noticing in your church?  What have you been doing about it?  Any ideas to help minimize the problem?  I’d love to hear your input…

By the way… you can read the whole article here…

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April 18, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (128) | TrackBack

Friday, April 15, 2005

Baseball Goes the Way of the Church: No More Organ!

OrganJust as many churches have phased out the organ, so are many baseball stadiums.  Here’s an interesting article featured recently in the Press-Enterprise by Erin Auerbach.  You can read the full article here (free subscription required).

[Interesting sidenote:  While Peggy won’t be playing for baseball at Angels Stadium this year, Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church has hired her to play for their 25th anniversary at Angel Stadium coming up later this year.]

“When the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim take the field Tuesday for opening day, fans may notice something different.

The team's name isn't the only change. Peggy Duquesnel, organist for the team since 1998, has been laid off to make room for more canned music, videos and corporate sponsorship.

"I always played on opening day," Duquesnel said. "Often times someone would sing 'God Bless America' or 'America the Beautiful' and I'd accompany them ... then I would play a pre-game set."

Her dismissal reflects a growing trend in baseball stadiums nationwide: the death of live organ music. The San Diego Padres stopped using it in 1998, opting for pre-recorded bits and music videos. While the Los Angeles Dodgers still have Nancy Bea Hefley at every home game, she spends a lot more time sitting quietly than she used to.

"As a musician, you don't like to see it happening," Hefley said by phone. "But it's no different than offices being downsized because of computers taking over jobs. At first it bothered me, and it bothers my husband more than me. I finally had to sit him down and say that I had to go with the flow."

Duquesnel played a wide repertoire of music from patriotic songs to jazz standards such as "In the Mood" to classic rock such as "Brown-Eyed Girl" and "Ticket to Ride" She played "We're Talkin' Baseball" for the player lineups and "Jump Jive and Wail." She played Nat King Cole and The Beatles. She also played popular Christian contemporary crossover songs such as "I Can Only Imagine."

"In recent years, I added more Latin type things like 'Girl from Ipanema,' bossa nova songs and Santana's 'Evil Ways,' " she said. "I just gave them a lot of variety."

Angels' representatives say it's time to take game entertainment in a new direction.

"We're going to a different approach in our presentation," Tim Mead, vice president of communication for the Angels, said by phone. "We're not using the organ quite as much. There may be some taped organ music sometime."

The decision to terminate Duquesnel's employment was strictly a change in direction, not a financial matter, Mead said.

"We did away with mascots four of five years ago for the same reason," he said. "The presentation has changed."

Duquensel remembers it differently.

"When (entertainment director) Peter Bull talked to me in January, he told me that I was being let go because of budget and real estate," she said. "They wanted to use the organ booth for something else ... I think for (operating) the geysers and neon signs."

Hefley, who begins her 18th season with the Dodgers, occasionally substituted for Duquesnel at Angels' games. When she heard about the decision, she called Bull, who told her that the budget was the reason they were cutting live music.

Duquesenel was originally brought on board when Disney still owned the team. She played for the Mighty Ducks from 1993 to 1997.

"The Angels didn't have an organ player in 1997 and a lot of fans complained, so Disney asked me to audition," Duquesnel said.

An organ will remain at Angel Stadium of Anaheim in case it's needed for special events, and Mead said that Duquesnel was told that she might be asked to play.

"I want to keep the door open and would be happy to play for these events," she said.

Erik Meyer, director of entertainment for the San Diego Padres, said that computer technology allows their DJ to pull from pre-recorded organ music when necessary, such as for rallies, fanfare, stingers (on a third out), and the seventh inning stretch.

"The decision was made (to not use live accompaniment) before I was in this position," Meyer said by phone. "So I couldn't speak to why the decision was made, but it's pretty easy to do it without a live person."

While organ music still has its place in baseball, Meyer sees game entertainment veering more toward video and popular music.

"Now you've got more sponsorships," Mead said. "We have commercials and a lot of videos and we have the best (multimedia) board. ... The organ has its spot in baseball, but it's been altered."

Hefley, whose organ used to provide most of the music for the games, has seen her time reduced to an abbreviated pre-game show, an early inning and the seventh inning stretch.

"When I questioned it (playing cuts) they said they wanted to go toward the younger fans and play newer music..." she said. "And yet I get young people coming up to me and saying, 'I wish you would play more.' "

Duquesnel saw the same changes in her playing time over the last few years as well. She will return to Angel Stadium of Anaheim on April 17, but not for a game. She'll play for Saddleback Church's 25th anniversary celebration.

She continues to write and record music.

"To me live music is very valuable and organ music is a staple of baseball. And the kids get excited about it," she said. "You want kids to learn it's special to hear live music. That's what's sad to me. The tradition shouldn't have to die."

Any thoughts on this one?!

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April 15, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack