Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Calvin's Commentaries and Institutes

Check out this great deal from CBD. $99.99 for Calvin's commentaries and institutes which would typically cost $1100. If you like the idea of having some great commentaries on hand, this is a hard deal to pass up!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Global Missions Conference Reflections

Parkview recently finished its Missions Conference with guest speaker Carl Medearis. Often times missions speakers have the reputation of being boring. This was definitely not the case with Carl Medearis. He managed to not only challenge our biblical understanding of mission but he did it in a way that showed these principles happening in real life. Here are a few of my reflections on the time:
  1. Christianity is a term that no longer represents what is true and good about the community of faith. The term Christianity has gotten a bad rap in most part because of those who have done horrible things in the name of Christianity. Because of this, it is most winsome to no longer make that the banner under which we associate. This is why many on the front lines of missions (both locally and globally) use the term Christ follower (or Jesus follower).
  2. Most Muslims are good and loving people. We must come to terms with the fact that our stereotype for followers of Islam is based on a small minority of hyper-fundamentalists. We can’t let ourselves get swept up in the conspiracy theories that paralyze us with fear in our relationships with Muslim people. They need Jesus and are willing to learn about him, as long as it isn’t flown under the misunderstood banner of “Christianity” (which to them is as much a cultural identity as it is a religious identity).
  3. Sharing about Jesus doesn’t require one to have an answer to every question. Let’s face it, none of us has all the answers. Why is it then that Christ followers believe the only way to share their faith is to do so in a combative manner? Sure we are to be ready to give an answer for the hope we have in Jesus (1 Peter 3:15) but we are to do so with gentleness and respect. This means it’s ok to answer hard questions with, “I don’t know.” The question that really needs to be answered is, “Who is Jesus?” It is in searching for that answer that people will find life.
  4. Biblical evangelism happens best in the context of followers of Jesus living with and loving lost people. We have been tricked to believe that evangelism can be boiled down to a slick brochure and polished presentation. It sounds like a great idea, but is it truly Biblical? Are there any examples of this kind of evangelism in the scriptures? The reality is that some plant, some water, but God gives the growth (1 Cor 3). If this is true, then like Jesus we need to see every encounter as an opportunity to share some truth that will help those we love step closer to the kingdom of God. Of course, we must preach the Gospel, but when we see it as our responsibility to plant, reap, and grow in 5 minutes with full-color gospel-track, we’re missing the point.
Well, there are more reflections I could share, but you get the point. If you want to learn more about Carl Medearis and his ministry you can go to his website here.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Use What Works for Church Communication

As the old analogy goes, it's always best to pour sidewalks after the paths are worn. At Parkview we're finding this is often the best way to learn how to communicate with people. For example, let's face it, more and more people are on Facebook. So what do you do? Pay for mediocre version of a "Christian" Facebook service? There my be important reasons to join Christian web services, but more often than not your best move is to try and harness the communication mediums that are already in place and filled with your people. This is why Parkview now has a Facebook page...

And why my new church plant The Vine also has a Facebook page...

For project management here is a private blog set-up on blogger that is being used by our building committee at Parkview...

And here is one we use in the arts ministry...

Park Church is known for it's progressive use of technology for communication. Here is a video posted by Tim Schraeder that Park recently used in their church service allowing people to sign-up instantaneously for church texting notifications.

Bottom line, if you want to connect and communicate with people, do your best to use what's already working.

Monday, November 09, 2009

2 Pillars Church in Lincoln, Nebraska

My seminary friend Todd Bumgarner is preparing to plant 2 Pillars Church, an Acts 29 church in Lincoln, Nebraska. You can check out his blog here and video below. Lincoln is actually where I was born, so I'm glad to see the A29 vision coming to this part of Husker land.

2 Pillars Church Vision Video from Todd Bumgarner on Vimeo.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Chandler: Belong to Become

The following notes came from the RightNow conference presently going on in Dallas, Texas. Matt Chandler is the Lead Pastor of the The Village Church in the Dallas, Texas area. The following is a break-out session he presented on some of the challenges that exist in reaching 20-somethings. After discussing the problem, he went on to unpack some of the solutions from scripture. Unfortunately, I was unable to record most of the references because he moved too quickly. Despite this, you can get the gist of his talk below.


There are two needs within the 20-something culture...

DESIRE TO CONNECT: In 20-somethings there is a struggle for authentic community. Social networking has only served to intensify this problem. We know people but only know them in a shallow way. 20-somethings need to belong to a community.

DESIRE TO GROW SPIRITUALLY: 20-somethings are hungry for spiritual depth and are frustrated that they can’t get it. In the end they don’t exactly know where to find it. Because of this they are prone to religious fads and drawn to creative oration that is often times void of truth.

We must look to the scriptures to see how to meet these desires. Chandler contends that 20-somethings are struggling because their view of church has been formed by culture and not-so-good teaching. Our modern church environment of web churches, trendy churches, etc... is feeding into the problem. We must teach the truth in order to counter this.

Genesis 1-2

God said it was not good for man to be alone so God created community. God was saying I am not “into” people existing in isolation, I am into them having relationship with others. Because of sin we not only need to be reconciled to God but also to one another.

On the other side of the Exodus (Israel’s escape from slavery in Egypt) the people of Israel were given the law. Those laws were not only to restore relationship with God, but were also to help people relate to one another. Those laws instructed on civil issues like "don’t covet", "don’t commit adultery", etc... The bulk of the law is relationally based. God was using the law to encourage restoration both in his relationship to his people and in their relationship with one another.

What does the church do?

The church has a calling from the Bible to:
  • Worship God
  • Nurture and disciple believers
  • Minister to the world (evangelism/mercy)
  • Work at keeping the previous three purposes in balance
What makes the church the church?
  1. It is a place where the Word is rightly preached.
  2. It is a place where the sacraments are rightly administered.
Chandler explained that the enforcing of church discipline (i.e. disciplining those who are sinning in very significant ways) is not in the list because, in the early church, discipline was exercised by removing people from participating in the sacraments. The “right administration” of the table is referencing the exercise of discipline. 

Chandler then went through numerous scripture references showing how the Bible commands the church to exercise leadership and submission. A few references included:
  • Hebrews 13:17 - Obey your leaders and submit to them....
  • 1 Timothy 5:17 - Let the elders who serve well be served a double blessing...
We are all called by God’s Word to submit to the authority and leadership of the elders within our local church. Chandler developed this further by reading and teaching from 1 Peter 5:1-11 and 1 Corinthians 5:1-2.

How can you hold someone to account if they don’t belong?

Chandler went on to emphasize the importance of calling people to membership in the local church and the importance of people being under authority. 

As a side note Matt mentioned that unbelievers (i.e. people who don’t follow Christ) at his church are able to participate in everything the local church does, with the exception of The Lord’s Table (I’m pretty sure leadership positions in the church would also be excluded). His point being that they welcome unbelievers to participate fully in the community of faith. He wrapped up this segment emphasizing that people have lost their communal soul so we, as leaders in the church, have a responsibility to emphasize the need for belonging. The following are three Biblical reasons to belong.

Three Reasons To Belong To a Church
  • Obedience
  • Safety / Encouragement
  • Purpose and Growth
Three Words

The following three words capture an important calling for every person within the local church. Members in the church must:
  • Belong
  • Believe
  • Support
If you belong, believe, but don’t support (submit) you are a rebel.
If you belong and support, but don’t believe you are not a believer.
If you believe and support, but don’t belong you are a consumer.

Hundreds and thousands of books have been written on engaging lost people but very few have been written on ecclesiology (how the church is to function in a Biblical sense). Genuine community reveals where there is sin in your life that you didn’t know existed. Being in authentic community is an important part of our spiritual health and relational flourishing.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Barna: Six Leadership Checkpoints

The following thoughts came from the RightNow conference presently going on in Dallas, Texas. George Barna is the director of the Barna Group, the leading research organization focused upon the intersection of faith and culture. This is the second of two posts from his session on leadership. There are some really great nuggets in here for leaders of all kinds. This talk is based upon a new book coming out called Master Leaders which highlights his findings after interviewing some of the nations most successful leaders.

Six Leadership Checkpoints

1. Leaders can strategically change reality, but they cannot intentionally change people. Leaders must understand they can’t change anyone unless that person has the will to change within themselves.

Once a person reaches the age of 13 they change very little. This is why Barna contends that the most important ministry we have is the ministry to children and young people. By 13 their morals, values, beliefs, and world views are already well formed. Those will only change slightly over the course of their life. What you believe by the age of 13 is likely what you will die believing.
  • Pre-teen: Experimentation and establishment
  • Teen: Refinement and application
  • Adult: Consistency and transmission
  • Senior: Re-evaluation and finality
We assume we can reshape the raw talent of people, but we are setting them up for failure. We need to take stock of the people who we work with and work to accentuate their strengths, not to try and reshape them into something they are not. We can then move them into a team of leaders and help them achieve success in that setting.

2. Nobody is the “complete leadership package” so it’s important to work in a leadership team.

We often try to be sole-practitioners. At some point we will hopefully wake-up to our need for others to get the job done. A team ALWAYS out performs an individual. Leaders have a tendency to overestimate their abilities. Humility is one of the most difficult character traits to find among Christian leaders. Arrogance will ultimately undermine a leader.

Use diagnostic tools to learn the strengths of your team. Strength-finder tools helps you to learn how to build on your strengths. The Christian leader profile by the Barna group will help you to determine what is your primary aptitude as a leader. The key is to blend all four aptitudes in your leadership team.

The best teams:
  • are small in number (4-6)
  • spend time together, know each other well
  • lean on their captain (the internal motivator for the group)
  • have a shared vision, values, passion
  • have vulnerability and communicate well
  • are people who strive to empower people to achieve the vision
3. One of the most under valued and least common skills among leaders is listening.
  • Ken Blanchard, “When we try to lead, we need to lead with our ears... You cannot listen effectively unless you are willing to have your mind changed.”
  • If you want to solve problems you’ve got to listen. Many leaders think leadership is telling other people what to do instead of gathering as much intelligence as possible for the people with whom we work. Consistently listening shows our humility and respect for others.
  • Lou Holtz said, “I never learned anything by talking.”
  • Bad listening leads to bad leadership. Not listening undermines creativity and destroys enthusiasm. We need to listen, think, and then decide.
  • Can you repeat back to others their message so that you can seek clarification? Do you see the value their message has for your goals? Do the people who work with you feel safe about telling you what is on their mind?
4. Leaders must master conflict and confrontation.

John Townsend, “conflict is simply one of the realities of leadership... every leader must assume it will occur and be prepared for it.”

We cannot avoid conflict so we must expect, accept, and address. We must normalize it as a reality we will experience.

Some action points when dealing with conflict:
  • Seize the initiative: Be the one that gets the ball rolling when you see it.
  • Do your homework: Know the facts on all sides.
  • Position yourself as a friend, not a foe to those involved. Avoid the fight or flight syndrome. The brain is always trying to determine if what it is encountering is friend or foe material. You need to avoid putting people into an adversarial position. When threatened we go into defensive mode.
  • Ask clarifying questions and listen to what is said. Be open to having your mind changed.
  • Seek a win-win outcome for everyone. Sometimes you need to create conflict in order to root out bad behavior or get people moving.
Paraphrase from Erwin McManus, “Everywhere Paul went he found danger. Those places were probably safe before he got there. Sometimes leadership requires you to bring danger with you.”
People will not always appreciate good leadership because it is a little bit dangerous?

5. Success is helping people achieve their potential.

Barna found that most pastors have the following specific ways they gauge success. Our studies show these are the prominent standards:
  1. How many people attend the service
  2. How much money has been raised
  3. How many programs do we have
  4. How many people are on our payroll
  5. How much square feet of facility we have built
What’s wrong with this? Jesus didn’t die for any of these things! Why are these the ways we measure success? You get what you measure!!!! If these are the things we measure, then this is what we get. We get these things and wonder why our people are indistinguishable from anyone else.

Lou Holtz: He didn’t measure his success by his win-loss record. He measured success by how his players achieved greatness. Too many leaders try to be well liked. You need to push other people toward greatness because you believe others are capable of greatness.

Great leadership is not synonymous with popularity. A great leader motivates people to change the world. Vision is about change and people hate to change.

Never ask those following you to do what you are unwilling to do.

Lou Holtz: The most important thing you can do is help people see how it is in their best interest to reach the goal you are putting before them.

6. Do not accept a leadership position unless you are ready to pay a stiff price. The more significant the outcome you seek to achieve, the more substantial the price you can expect to pay.

Great leaders want the world to be right and operate at its highest level. To do this you will experience harsh criticism and face pressure. What is pressure? Pressure is having to make a decision that matters when you are not ready to do so. Pressure is very valuable for a leader because it purifies you and prepares you for a higher level of performance.

  • God: You only lead because you believe God called you to lead. If God hasn’t called you, don’t do it.
  • Convictions: Refuse to compromise those convictions. Be up front about what you stand for and let the chips fall where they may.
  • Family and close friends: Rely upon the help and encouragement of those close to you.
Concluding Comments:

People need to be lead. It’s not a job, it’s a calling. Your task is to commit your life, and other’s lives, toward a vision. The only vision worth committing your life to is one from God.

Barna: Seven Reasons the Church Needs Great Leaders

The following thoughts came from the RightNow conference presently going on in Dallas, Texas. George Barna is the director of the Barna Group, the leading research organization focused upon the intersection of faith and culture. This is the first of two posts from his session on leadership. I am not taking time in these posts to critique his presentation. Though there are a few concerns I have with his presentation, the statistics and conclusions do offer some very helpful information on the topic of leadership.

Seven Reason the Church Needs Great Leaders

  1. The more selfish our society becomes the more critical it is to have godly leadership. We are getting more selfish as a culture. We need leaders who can motivate us to get our eyes off ourselves and onto other more significant causes.
  2. The more choices we have, without a Biblical worldview, the more confused our priorities become. Research shows that less than 1 our of every 5 adults and less than 1 out of every 20 teenagers posses a Biblical worldview. 
  3. In a time of rapid cultural changes the rules are different, the competition stiffer, the stakes higher, the opportunities greater. These realities necessitate superior leadership to guide us forward.
  4. Recent poor decisions and behavior by high-profile leaders have ushered in an era of criticism, skepticism, and mistrust requiring a new generation of wise godly leaders to restore public trust and confidence. 
  5. In a culture that rejects moral and spiritual truth, the result is confusion, stress, distraction, busyness, and chaos. The antidote is focused leaders who can make sense of reality, provide vision, and deliver direction to make that vision a reality.
  6. Our culture has adopted a hyper individualism that undermines community and personal relationships raising the need for an emphasis upon team-based leadership. Those who are most successful in leadership operate in team-oriented leadership environments.
  7. Churches have given lip service to leadership but suffer from a paucity (meaning insufficient amount or scarcity) of genuine leaders who are guiding people toward true Christ-like transformation. Fewer than 1 out of every 5 senior pastors in protestant churches can be identified as leaders. Less than 2% posses a vision from God for the future of the church they lead.