Posts Tagged ‘church’
photo credit: http://www.talkandroid.com
I need to admit something to you. I secretly read all the web/tech blogs. I love it. I can’t get enough. Ask me the difference between the ‘interest graph’ and the ‘social graph,’ and I’ll have an answer. Propose to me all your reasons why the laptop is an evolutionary dead-end, and I’ll add three more reasons.
I think I’m so into this stuff because more pure innovation happens here than anywhere else. The lessons begging to be learned and applied in other fields are endless. Such is the case with the raging war between Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android.
To be up front with you, I operate on Android–phone and tablet–but I choose not to get into the petty word battles. I think Apple products are amazing. Steve Jobs will be remembered less as a computer genius and more as an artist. But the benefits of Android in my opinion are worth the draw-backs.
Nevertheless, Android and the ‘Fandroids’ love slinging mud at Apple and her followers, and the latter have no problem throwing it right back. The fundamental argument is over what Apple calls Android’s problem of ‘fragmentation.’ Here’s the simple version:
Because only two hardware platforms use iOS–iPhone and iPad–the people who develop our precious Apps have very little work to do in order to make sure the Apps function perfectly, regardless of your device. Android on the other hand runs on 216 unique devices at last count, manufactured by more than 20 companies. 216! That means when an App developer wants to make your life easier when it comes to, say, choosing a restaurant, he has to consider how it might scale differently on each of the 216 devices, not to mention all the different screen sizes or versions of the OS. (Too much geek talk? Let me get to the point.)
Apple and Google say they see this issue differently. While Google say their ecosystem is ‘inclusive’ (‘look at all the devices you can choose!’), Apple calls it fragmented (‘Don’t expect an App to work on your Xoom just because it works on your Razr.) And herein lies the problem–which is better? An operating system that works perfectly but only on two devices? Or one that gives you tons of device and brand options but may not offer the same experience across them all?
The answer isn’t easy. It’s a philosophical debate. And we face the same dilemma in the church at so many levels. Shouldn’t we ‘be all things to all people?’ But if we attempt to make the gospel work across all ‘platforms,’ isn’t that diluting the message? What about weekend services–hymns, drums, liturgies–do you try to be ‘inclusive’ in your styles? Or does that just lead to ‘fragmentation?’ If we say no to inclusion, well, isn’t that… exclusive? Are we OK with that?
What’s your answer? Should our ecclesiology–the way we do church–be functional across our own platforms at the risk of exclusivity, or should it work in countless ways, at the risk of fragmentation?
photo credit: http://wickedmonkeys.com
Tolkien’s whole premise in The Lord of The Rings is this: Fellowship comes only through solving problems. Ask a firefighter, member of the military, teammates on an NFL team… they’ll tell you. Something happens when you bleed with someone, when you pour out everything you have with a group of people in order to solve a problem. It seems to form an unbreakable bond among those involved.
So, can someone tell me how we got to the point where we name the facility in our churches that has coffee, juice and cookies pleasantly prepared for our consumption: the Fellowship Hall? Seriously? If that didn’t strike a chord with you, how about this. Community Groups? Who only meet on Tuesday nights to talk through a Bible study? The type of community we see in the disciples and the early church is much different than what we tout today.
I don’t believe there’s some wild, complex reason why we’ve lost sight of how to build real community. In fact, I think the reason is pretty simple. A mentor of mine recently said, “The primary work of Lucifer is to separate words from their meaning.” Explore that a bit today and you’ll find it’s a profound truth. Words like Christian, belief, work, worship, evangelism and yes, community; do an analysis of original Biblical language and context and you’ll find Lucifer has been pretty effective in his endeavor. Bottom line, in too many churches today, the real meaning of the word community has been lost.
How do we get back to building real community? Glad you asked. The answer is: suffering. A few weeks ago I had the privilege of riding my bicycle from Miami to Key West–165 miles of pure suffering–to raise funds and awareness for those living with HIV/AIDS. I found myself in a group of 5 people, none of whom I’d met before that week. Despite our incredibly diverse backgrounds, we were each there for the same reason, and we all knew that we were taking on a task nearly impossible to accomplish… alone. For hours on end we rolled together, single file, rotating the front person every ten minutes or so, who would bear the brunt of the wind. We shared the suffering, we helped change each other’s tires, we picked each other up after falling. I didn’t even know some of their names until after the ride. That was a few weeks ago. Today, Randy, Rob, Evan and Kim are my brothers and sister. An unbreakable bond has formed among us. I’m certain if I’d met them at a cafe and shared a relaxing cup of coffee, I’d barely know them. Because we suffered together in an attempt to solve a problem, we will be deeply connected for the rest of our lives.
If suffering and problem solving is the only way to form real community and, by themselves, study and casual consumption doesn’t do it, then share with me some practical ideas for building real community in your church.
photo credit: menlo park presbyterian church
It’s that time of year again. For one spectacular weekend at many churches, senior pastors grin hard while they pass the weekend service reigns into the hands of over-paid, over-valued (or is that under-paid and under-valued…) student pastors for a little “here’s what we taught your kids all year.” If you sense a tone here, it’s only because when I was a youth pastor, I never got to do a Senior Weekend :,-(. Anyway… Last year, I posted a great message by the most creative, dynamic, influential and effective youth guy I’ve ever met: my brother Matt (@matthew_bond). Click HERE to watch.
This year, Matt and his middle school counterpart, Chris Sturgeon, team-taught. The message is… well, freaking awesome. While Matt has this up on his blog, I couldn’t resist putting it here. One, he’s my brother and my hero. Two, the message focuses on something very near and dear to my heart: cross-pollination of the generations in Christian community. Have a listen and give Matt and Chris a shout in the comments here, on Matt’s blog, or on Vimeo.
“Younger people don’t pay attention.” ”They all have ADD.” “It’s impossible to connect with them because they’re always buried in their phone.”
I find myself in a lot of conversations with pastors and leaders who share a lot of the same struggles. One that seems to come up a lot is communicating with the younger generation. Here’s a short clip from a radio interview I did recently that provides some insight on how to really connect with Millennials. Comments welcome!
I have been totally mute for the last three days.
I’m not sick. Nothing else seems wrong. I just lost my voice completely. Needless to say, I’ve been doing some thinking… If I never get my voice back, how would I share Christ with people I encounter? I have relied upon my voice as the main conduit for this pursuit–if it’s taken away, then what? I mean, laryngitis is, to a talker like me, what a broken leg must be to a soccer player–no way around it: you’re benched. (If you’re reading this and you know me, get all your jokes out–my dad says that having a conversation with me is like trying to take a sip of water from a fire hydrant. Beat that.)
My thoughts led me to a place that I think all of us ought to explore–the practicality and effectiveness of non-verbal evangelism. Many forms exist, but the most versatile one I can think of would be the use of Gospel tracts. You can’t really build a house or provide food for the homeless when you’re on an airplane… Anyway, I admit that Gospel tracts have always rubbed me a little funny. Until I was given these last few days to really think through it, I was never really sure why. The purpose of this post is NOT to bash Gospel tracts or those who use them–I want to make that perfectly clear. Anyone who makes an attempt at sharing Christ is a hero in my book. My hope is that upon reading this, if you’re inclined to fulfill Jesus’ Great Commission, you will have a much clearer understanding of how best to go about it.
Let me state up front that I plainly believe God can use anything to proclaim His message–I am certain many people have entered into a relationship with God because He spoke to them through a Gospel tract. So my argument is not a moral one–rather, it hinges upon the fact that God chooses us to be His messengers, which comes with serious and often over-looked responsibilities. To be sure, I’ve done a lot of reading for this post–I wanted to be as prepared as possible. I am absolutely certain that my opinion on the subject will create some disapproval with some of you, including my friends and even my mentors, but I am convicted enough at this point to make an attempt at sharing my perspectives. So here we go.
Do Gospel tracts work?
Firstly, this is one of those loaded questions that has created a bit of controversy in the church, primarily (though not exclusively) between older and younger generations. I think the problem is the way the question is posed. We often enter this conversation with the statement, “Gospel tracts work,” or, “Gospel tracts don’t work.” These types of statements tend to incite defensive responses because they’re over-generalized and vague–they leave too much open and require instant interpretation/assumption. Be honest, when you’re trying to get a rise out of someone, don’t you tend to ask nebulous questions to which you already have your answer? I believe we need to qualify the question with some thoughtful details. If we do this, then the conversation can remain civil, regardless of whether we agree or disagree.
Let’s craft this question in a way that clarifies our context.
Are Gospel tracts an effective method of evangelism in any situation in the United States, in 2010?
For me personally, this is about the most applicable form of the question because it speaks to the world in which I seek to share Christ; perhaps this is true for you as well. If the question was about a different culture today, such as central Africa, the answer would naturally be quite different; but for this post I won’t be attempting to go into any other realm. Maybe another time. So for this specific question, let’s consider the implications:
Effectiveness implies a measurable outcome. Because of my position, I have had the privilege of meeting and chatting with countless people over the last 23 years (since I first began to teach evangelism) who are committed to sharing Christ, both personally and vocationally. I have yet to hear sadly, anyone who has used Gospel tracts anonymously (by far their most common implementation) report on their effectiveness in any way. This is by definition, of course, since the user does not meet the person who may end up reading it. This fact alone does not mean they are not effective, it just means that the effectiveness is not measurable.
Both common sense and Scripture would indicate that our methods ought to be measurable. See Acts 2:41 and Acts 2:47 where Luke offers, among other measures of effectiveness, an account of the people turning their lives over to Jesus. PLEASE don’t misunderstand my rhetoric here–numbers are only one metric when it comes to assessing our methods–don’t be one of those people who only care about numbers! It’s just as important, however, to refrain from the attitude that measuring our effectiveness is somehow wrong or unBiblical. God calls us to fulfill His Commission and He expects us to be faithful to all of Scripture while doing it. See also Luke 10:17-20 where the disciples return from a short-term missions trip with a report of the effectiveness of their efforts (note even here Jesus is careful to remind the disciples that it isn’t all about the numbers…)
2. Any Situation
I know–this one is a bit vague. Let’s catalog quickly the situations where Gospel tracts have recently been used most often: Handed out in public venues, left in a conspicuous location like a gas pump or park bench, on bus and airplane seats, and (I cringe when I think about this one) as a tip at a restaurant. Though not an exhaustive list, this gives us some scenarios to discuss. Beyond the fact that it’s impossible to assess the effectiveness of these examples (see above), I am inclined to search for a Biblical precedent for this strategy. Over and over again, we find two primary methods of evangelism in Scripture. I would describe them as Macro and Micro. (Others exist, but these are the most prevalent.) Preaching and teaching fall into the Macro category (we find a great example in Acts 2:14-41 of Macro-evangelism.) Interpersonal dialogue is what characterizes a Micro approach (John 4:1-26, Acts 3:1-10)
Whether Macro or Micro, virtually every method of evangelism I find in Scripture shares one common principle: personal engagement. Sometimes this leads to long-term relationship and sometimes the connection lasts only for moments. Either way, the evangelism in the Bible clearly shows us an inherent responsibility to engage, human to human. Using Gospel tracts in the absence of intentional interaction has become the ‘easy way out’ methodology of evangelism. It tends to make the user feel good about ‘spreading’ God’s Word, but it moves us in the opposite direction of what we see in Scripture.
The testimonies of every one of my non-Christian friends who have received a Gospel tract in one of the above-mentioned situations are the same: A. “It made me laugh,” or B. “Who in their right mind thinks that leaving this thing as a tip was a good idea?” Every one of them moved a little further away as a result. I know I’m making a strong statement here, and I certainly don’t mean it to be antagonistic, but it is an accurate account of my experience. Just because you consider yourself less than ‘relational’ doesn’t excuse you from engaging, human to human. God cares way less about your own perceived abilities and much more about your obedience and availability–just look at Moses: Exodus 4:10-12. For some, this is a very difficult notion. My encouragement to you is this: 2 Corinthians 12:9-10. Trust Him–He’s got you covered.
3. In The United States, in 2010
Originally the word ‘tract’ inferred a tome-like work–the tract itself was but one volume in a larger body of work. They were used even in the pre-printing press days to communicate political and religious messages, most popularly in Europe. They were kind of like Twitter, but with much, much slower distribution. In this epoch, tracts were incredibly powerful and effective. Entire movements were spawned on the basis of tracts (check out John Milton’s Areopagitica.) In a culture where print media was the only form of mass communication, tracts proved to be massively influential.
We live in a vastly different culture today than when the tract was first introduced. The question now becomes: Do we use Gospel tracts because they are effective today, or because they were effective at one point in time, and we just lack the desire to innovate? It’s an age-old matter, really. It’s the same proposal made by the proponents of electricity to those who preferred candlelight. The innovation didn’t render the former methodology completely ineffective, it was the result of discovering a better way of doing things.
In Western culture today, I believe we have better ways of doing evangelism than anonymously distributing Gospel tracts.
The Better Way
I believe that we have a Biblical blueprint from which to build and implement incredibly effective ways of sharing the Gospel. I believe God can use anything to proclaim His message, but His desire, in His infinite Grace, is to use us; not because we are capable, but because He wants us to share in the joy of His Kingdom work.
I believe YOU are the best method of evangelism in our culture today. When you begin to share the stories that God is writing in your life that strengthen your faith, you will inspire a genuine curiosity about God. Explaining the Gospel is a simple matter of responding to that curiosity. It doesn’t require more than your own willingness.
As for me and my missing voice, well, I have to believe God still has a plan… Talk to you soon-