Posts Tagged ‘church’

idol church

Monday, October 29th, 2012

I don’t hate church.

Agape Ann ArborLet me say that again to be perfectly clear. I don’t hate church. I’m a missionary and a church planter. God called me twelve years ago to vocational ministry. God called me to work in and for the church. My current endeavor is launching a new church community called Agape Ann Arbor.

As a missionary and church planter, I spend a lot of time talking to people about Agape Ann Arbor. The more I share our vision and our story the more confused I am by the reactions I receive. Here is a brief summary of what I typically share with someone interested in learning more about us. If you’d like to know more you can check out our Open Letter to Ann Arbor, Introduction to Agape Ann Arbor, and blog.

Agape Ann Arbor is a different kind of church community. Our vision is to be a community experiencing and expressing God’s love. The typical church in America is built around the weekend worship service, focusing on musical corporate worship and preaching. We’re building Agape Ann Arbor around relationships where people can experience and express God’s love with each other. The typical church plant launches with a Sunday morning worship service. We’re launching with parties and conversation groups where people connect and share relationally.

Virtually everyone with whom I’ve shared this vision has responded incredibly positively to the idea. Here’s what I don’t understand, why aren’t more people doing this? I’ve not met a single person trying something similar in the US. It’s almost an unspoken rule that if you don’t have a traditional Sunday morning worship service you’re not a church.

I feel like many of us have made an idol out of the Sunday morning worship service. I feel like we value singing and preaching more than we value Loving each other just as Jesus loved his disciples.

What do you think? Is this a fair assessment? What am I missing?

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.

The Way of the Cross

Thursday, April 5th, 2012

This year I’m going to be live blogging the Way of the Cross to celebrate Good Friday. Throughout the day I’ll be posting meditations based on the traditional Roman Catholic Stations of the Cross. I invite you to join me on this meditation and please post your thoughts and meditations as we worship King Jesus together.

How the Evangelicals Lost Christmas

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

This Christmas season in evangelical churches all over the United States you’ll be able to hear amazing well written sermons about how Jesus was born in a manager, lived a perfect sinless life, died on the cross to atone for our sins and arose on the third day proving he had defeated sin and death. While all of these things are biblically true they have nothing to do with Christmas, except for the born in a manger part.

We evangelicals have lost Christmas. We are so caught up in the atonement that we forget the incarnation. Even in our Christmas sermons we blow by Christmas to get to Easter, because that’s the good news after all. Or is it? Jesus sent John’s disciples back to him with the message that the good news was being proclaimed (Matthew 11:5). The message that Jesus proclaimed wasn’t that he was going to die to save us from our sins (Although this is very good news and I don’t mean to minimize it). The message that Jesus proclaimed was that the Kingdom of God was near (Mark 1:14 and many others). The Kingdom of God was manifested in the life of Jesus.

The incarnation is about communication. The incarnation is about displaying a life lived in the Kingdom of God. Jesus lived his life in full submission to the Father and invites us into that life, the life that the Apostle John termed eternal life. Christmas is about God “making his dwelling among us” (John 1:14). The incarnation shows us how to live in relationship with God. The incarnation is a model for our lives. Then on the cross Jesus redeemed us restoring our relationship with God and after the resurrection he ascended to heaven and sent the Holy Spirit to empower us to live that life.

As Christians, we’re called to live our lives from the perspective of the incarnation. The community we’re forming in Ann Arbor is all about this kind of incarnational living. Agape Ann Arbor is a community experiencing and expressing God’s love as modeled by Jesus in the incarnation. We would love for you to join our community. There are several ways you can be a part of this incarnational ministry. You can contact us to find out about our next meeting. You can join our prayer team and commit to praying for us. You can support our ministry financially.

More importantly, however, you can make the choice this Christmas to reclaim what we’ve lost. During this Christmas season, don’t skip to Easter. We will celebrate the glorious resurrection of our messiah soon enough. This Christmas, celebrate his incarnation.

Experiencing and Expressing God’s Love

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011

In my last post I talked about why we’re starting Agape Ann Arbor. I talked about how we want to break the stereotype of Christianity in Ann Arbor. The vision of Agape Ann Arbor is to be a community experiencing and expressing God’s love. How do you do that? How do you build a community that experiences and expresses God’s love?

Experiencing and expressing God’s love requires contact. It can’t be done from a distance. Experiencing and expressing love happens eyeball to eyeball. We’re starting Agape Ann Arbor with a focus on relationships. We’re focusing on connecting people to each other. We want people to connect in small groups where they experience God’s love through the people around them and have the opportunity to express God’s love back to the people around them.

We’re looking for people who want to be a part of a new movement in Ann Arbor Michigan. We’re looking for people who want to experience and express God’s love. Are you interested? Do you want to join the movement or know someone who does? Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.
Subscribe to our newsletter
. Or just contact me so we can talk.

God’s changing lives. Are you going to be a part of what God’s doing?

What is Agape Ann Arbor?

Thursday, August 18th, 2011

Have you ever spent time thinking about what you’re known for? Joe Montana is know for being an amazing quarterback. Oprah Winfrey is know for being a media mogul. Snooki and the Situation are known for taking themselves way too seriously.

What about Christians? What are Christians known for? In his 2007 book unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity… and Why It Matters David Kinnaman found that in America Christians are known for six things:

1. Hypocrisy
2. Concern for conversion more than the person
3. Antihomosexuality
4. Sheltered
5. Overemphasis on politics
6. Judgmentalism

These are the things the average American ages 16 – 25 thinks about Christians. This is what Christians are known for. It’s a far cry from what Jesus said we should be known for, isn’t it? In John 13:35, Jesus said that the world would know we were His followers, Christians, by our love for one another. There is nothing loving in any of those statements.

This is where Agape Ann Arbor steps in. Agape Ann Arbor is a new community of Christ-follwers. Our goal is to break the stereotype. Our goal is to be a community of people known for our love. We want to be a community where God’s love is experienced and expressed. We want the City of Ann Arbor to see us and know that we love them, God loves them, and Jesus died for them. And God willing, we will break the stereotype in Ann Arbor. Christians won’t be known for their politics or their hypocrisy. We’ll be known for our love and what we do here in Ann Arbor, MI will change the way America and the world views Christians.

Would you like to be a part of this change? Would you like to break the stereotype and be known for what Jesus called us to be known for, our love? There are a couple of ways you can get involved. You can follow us on Twitter and Facebook. You can
subscribe to our newsletter
, and receive weekly email updates about how to specifically pray for us. If you’re in Washtenaw County and would like to become part of the team you can contact me and we’ll get together.

Please pray for us. There are 98,000 people in Ann Arbor who don’t know Jesus. We’ve got a long road ahead of us, but we’re excited to be a part of what God’s doing in our city.

Leadership Pipeline

Friday, April 30th, 2010

While in a seminary leadership class I read a great book on leadership by Ram Charan et. al.; The Leadership Pipeline: How to Build the Leadership Powered Company. The book discusses why corporation often fail to develop leaders in their organizations. The root problem, Charan proposes, is that the organization does not think about the skills and training necessary to develop a leader in their organization. Rather than preparing and promoting the best leaders they promote the best performers who often are not the best leaders. For instance, the best salesman in the organization may be great at sales but mat never be a good sales manager.

The book proposes that to develop leaders in an organization the organization needs to first identify the skills and abilities necessary for the next level of leadership. Then they can train to and promote to those skills and abilities.

I think this is true in the church world as well. It seems that those who are the best communicators or have the best stage presence are pushed into leadership in the church, whether they are good leaders or not. I think we have failed to identify the skills and abilities necessary to lead in the church. We, therefore, train and promote communication ability and neglect other necessary skills and abilities.
We need to identify the skills and abilities necessary to lead and start training to and promoting to those. Below I’ve started a list of skills and abilities that I think are necessary for leadership in the church. What would you add or subtract and why?

Communication (While I think this one is over-emphasized I don’t think it should be left out.)
Team Building
Project Planning
Delegation
Time Management
Supervision
Task Evaluation
Leadership Evaluation

To Hire or Not To Hire (Part 2)

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

In the previous post we talked about the questions churches should ask when deciding whether a position should be paid staff or volunteer. The overarching principle I proposed is that the staff should be responsible for equipping the church for ministry. If we follow that perspective then our default decision should be to allow volunteers to serve in every position.

There are two situations in which paid staff should be put in place rather than volunteers. The first is in positions that require special skills or education that are unreasonable to expect from a volunteer. The primary example of this would be the primary pastor of the church. Whether you call that individual the Senior Pastor, Lead Pastor, Teaching Pastor, or other name the role is the same. The person filling that role needs to have both the theological training and leadership training necessary to lead the church. (Yes, I know there are biblical reasons for having a paid Pastor but that’s for a different post.) Another example would be someone overseeing the technical arts in a church with a high production level. Not everyone serving in the technical arts should be paid staff, but someone needs the skill to train and oversee this area of ministry that requires a very specific skill set. In a church with a large auditorium or sanctuary that has a high production level the leader of this ministry should be paid staff with the requisite education and experience.

There are other positions in the church that should be paid staff as well but remember this should be the exception rather than the rule. What other positions can you think of that require paid staff because of the lever of education and experience necessary to fulfill the role?

To Hire or not To Hire

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

In the past 13 years, I’ve had the privilege of serving in both volunteer and staff leadership positions in churches and parachurch organizations. It’s interesting to me how haphazard many churches are with regards to identifying which jobs are volunteer positions and which jobs are staff positions.

The problem seems to be that the decisions are driven by pragmatism rather than vision. Pragmatism works well for short-term decisions. The decision to fill a position with staff or volunteers is a strategic decision that has far reaching consequences. Leadership teams, therefore, need to have a firm vision of the difference between staff roles and volunteer roles in the structure of the church.
It is important to remember that it is not the staff’s responsibility to do the ministry of the church. It is the whole church’s responsibility to do the ministry of the church. The staff is responsible to equip the church for ministry.

When making staffing decisions the questions that are often asked are:
(1) Can we afford to hire this position? (Do we have the money?)
(2) Can we afford no to hire this position? (Do we trust a volunteer to do it?)

These are pragmatic questions. They do not focus on vision. Better questions to ask are:
(1) Does this position require special skills that it is unreasonable to expect a volunteer to have?
(2) Are the expectations of this position unreasonable to expect from a volunteer?

I’ll unpack these questions in future posts and explain why I think they fit the vision/strategy category rather than being merely pragmatic. I’d love to hear from you though. What questions do you think should be asked in determining whether a position is a staff or volunteer position?

hope and freedom

Saturday, January 31st, 2009

Adrian Warnock is asking people to write about why they love the church. He’s also giving away free copies of Vintage Church, and I’m a sucker for free stuff. You can read Adrian’s blog here.

Joking about free stuff aside, I love the fact that people are being encouraged to write about why they love the Church. Particularly among younger Christians it’s very popular to not like the Church. Yet, how can you love Jesus and not love His Bride? Granted, imperfect humans make up the Church so it’s much harder to see the radiance in her that Christ sees. But it’s still there. And Jesus is madly in love with His Bride.

There are two facets of the Church’s radiance that I see and am grateful for. The first is hope. It’s almost cliche to comment on how messed up the world is. Just yesterday the front page of the Detroit News had a picture of a guy that had frozen to death, and the man that found the body was afraid to report it because he didn’t want to get introuble for trespassing. Everytime it seems like it can’t get worse something else like that happens. Yet, the Church speaks hope into this miserable experience. The Church proclaims that this misery is not permanent. The Church proclaims the Gospel of Jesus that promises not only redemption of individuals but redemption of the world. Moreover, the Church lives out the hope of the Gospel by living a redeemed life and modeling it to the world.

The second facet of the Church’s radiance is freedom. The reason that this misery exists is because humanity is held captive by sin. The evidence of this is everywhere. Although American culture tries to deny the very existence of sin stories like the one in the Detroit News cannot be explained away so easily. Yet, the Church proclaims the Gospel of Christ that frees people from the power of sin. The Church models this freedom and in so doing draws others to the freedom that is only foind in Christ.

Jesus’ Bride is radiantly adorned in the hope in freedom that is found in Christ. That is why I love the her.