Archive for September, 2012

The Future of the Gospel

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

I have a confession to make. I’m kind of a conference junkie. As a missionary and church planter in Ann Arbor, MI it hard to find the time to connect with other missionaries and church planters to learn from and build relationships with. It’s also hard for me to create space to sit back and experience corporate worship and teaching, which all Christians need. That’s why I like conferences.

Yet, it’s not easy to attend a conference. The conference cost plus food, travel, and lodging makes it difficult to attend conference. So, I’m very selective about what conferences I attend. With that said, in 2013 I will definitely be attending:

This year we will be discussing how themes such as Gospel, Kingdom, and Scripture interact in a pluralistic culture where Christianity once was but no longer is the dominant framing story of culture.

Here’s why I’m attending this conference:

  • The theme is incredibly relevant to me and the ministry we are doing through Agape Ann Arbor.
  • Two of my favorite authors and long-distance mentors Scot McKnight and Dallas Willard are speaking.
  • Another long-distance mentor and someone I’m developing great respect for is speaking, David Fitch.
  • This conference is intentionally diverse in denomination and theology.
  • I expect to connect with other missionaries and church planters.

I could give you other details like the cost, the schedule, the accessibility of the venue, etc.  But you can go to the website for that.

Here’s what you need to know.  If you’re a missionary, church planter, or ministry leader in America looking to engage with American culture in a way that honors Jesus and pushes forward the influence of his kingdom, you need to be at The Future of the Gospel: A Missio Alliance Gathering.  So, stop asking questions. Stop thinking about it.  Go to the website and register.

Kosher Shoes

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

I heard a really interesting interview on NPR this weekend. In their money segment on Sunday mornings they’re running a series on faith and money. This weekend they talked to a young Jewish couple who run a kosher food truck in LA and their Rabbi.

What stood out to me was the practical ways in which the young couple being interviewed applied their religious principles to their lives. These principles, by the way, are the same principles that Christ-followers should apply as well. We are all reading the same book after all.

A comment they made early in the interview was that as practicing Jews it was easy for them to determine what to buy at the grocery. Yet, it wasn’t so easy at Best Buy. That struck me as kind of funny. I had never thought about whether a TV could be kosher or not. I’m still not sure if it can, but that’s not the point. The point is that for them shopping involves intentionality. Shopping is and exercise in mindfulness. That’s the first lesson I drew from the interview.

Are you mindful when you shop? Do you consider the full implications of the purchase you’re making? Do you consider how this purchase affects other people? I wish I could say I do. But I don’t. You see, it’s not just about getting the best deal on the product you want to enhance your life. Every purchase we make is a moral choice.

There was a second point that they made. It has to do with the value of the service provided by the people selling the product. The young woman talked about making a shoe purchase. Very stereotypical I know, but it’s true. Anyway, virtually any shoe you can find in a shoe store can be found online.

If getting the best price on a pair of shoes were the only goal, then it would make sense to buy shoes online. Yet, shoes are very personal. You have to try them on before you buy them. There’s a simple solution of course. Go to the shoe store. Find the shoes you like. Try them on. Then go home and shop online to get the best deal.

Yet, what does that strategy communicate about the value of the person trying to sell you the shoes in the store? Do you see how dehumanizing that strategy is? You would be making that person work for free (shoe salespeople generally work on commission). That strategy communicates that the service of the salesperson is of know value. That strategy, moreover, violates God’s principles of caring for people. The service that people provides has value and they should be paid appropriately.

Every dollar we spend communicates something about the person we are and the person we are becoming. We need to shop intentionally and, to the best of our ability, spend our money in the most morally responsible way. We also must remember that every person is valuable and they deserve to be compensated for the work that they do. These two principles should affect how we spend money every day.

Do you have any stories of how you have shopped mindfully or made a point to value the work that someone has done for you?

Review of “They Like Jesus Not the Church” by Dan Kimball

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

This is one of those books that I’ve been meaning to read for a long time. I first heard about it when it came out in 2007. I wish I had read it then. It would have helped me a lot in the process of developing the vision for Agape Ann Arbor.

The book is well written. Dan’s style is easy to follow and the stories he chose are both compelling and relevant. Overall, I like the format too. He broke the book down into three sections. The first section sets the context of the book by describing the culture and lifestyle of young adults in the 21st century. Section two focuses on specific views that young adults have of the Christian church. The final section offers advice to churches and Christians based on what Dan has learned over his many years of ministry.

The first section does a very good job describing the situation of a young adult in the 21st century. It describes well the cultural phenomena that have shaped this generation and the behaviors that this generation has developed. The one thing that I struggled with in this section is the overall tone. I’m well aware of the statistics that highlight that phenomenal lack of church participation among the 20 – 35 age group. What I remain unconvinced of is the uniqueness of this phenomenon to this generation. It’s become commonplace to bemoan the lack of religiosity among the younger generation. The builders did regarding the boomers. The boomers did regarding GenX. Now the boomers and GenX do regarding the millennial generation. Yet, I haven’t been presented with evidence that religiosity among the 35 – 50 age group is dramatically less than that group was 10 or 20 years ago. In other words, people have and keep coming back to church.

With that said, I don’t think we should dismiss what Dan and other authors are saying about young adults. Young adults have and will always react to their parents culture. The flappers did in the 20s. The boomers did in the 60s. What we’re experiencing now is the second verse same as the first. Yet with every verse, we have to learn. We have to learn new ways to reach the people who are responding negatively to the way things are today. That is where this book and the others like it are so important.

The phenomenon we’re experiencing isn’t anything new, but we still have to respond to it and do something about it. If we don’t we may experience something new. This group of young adults may not follow the normal pattern and return to the church. Moreover, every person that has ever lived is important to God and as Christ-followers it is our job to point them to his love. With every generation we need to learn to speak a new language that will point them to God’s love.

That’s where the second and third sections of Dan’s book are so important. His experience has been confirmed by a great deal of research and my own anecdotal experience. If you take the time to read the book, I bet your experience will confirm it too. Section two puts words to what we’re experiencing. Dan makes it concrete so we can address it. He provides the opportunity for all of us to open our eyes and understand “these kids” so we can communicate God’s love to them. Finally, he provides some advice on what to do about it.

I highly recommend Dan Kimball’s They Love Jesus but not the Church. Anyone who seriously wants to see God’s kingdom come and his will be done on earth as it is in heaven needs to read this book and consider seriously what they are going to do about what they learn.