The Weekly Town Crier

February 27, 2009 at 10:22 am

town-crier1Welcome again, welcome for the first time, whatever it is, welcome. Welcome to the Weekly Town Crier where I link, you click, we all discuss and come away the better for it.

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Download music from eMusic, you get music, I get music, everyone wins!

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Read Steve Timmis’ comments about “missional communities”becoming trendy and what we might should call them instead.

this list of five fonts to avoid.

Read the surprising raves for the Ford Fusion.

You might not be a church if . . .

Read as Barna considers how technology fuels the generation gap.

Read as Christianity Today considers the patriarchy movement.

Read Paste‘s review of Morrissey’s latest.

Read about Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak’s venture into solid-state drives.

Wade through the political mudslinging when it comes to what is and isn’t true about the stimulus package.

Read Christianity Today’s recent interview with Louie Giglio, including Passion City Church, which we recently planted with Matt Redman and Chris Tomlin.

Read this piece arguing that Twitter is as good or bad as you make it. This piece is particularly recommended for you who say: “I don’t care what you’re doing.”

Read Wired‘s interview with Pitchfork editor-in-chief Scott Plagenhoef.

Read the New York Times’ inteview with Leonard Cohen about his recent tour.

NPR is streaming Neko Case’s wonderful Middle Cyclone album, due March 3.

Read the New York Times’ piece on the Kindle 2.

Download the Morning Benders Daytrotter session.

Read this piece examining the economy’s impact on used bookstores.

Browse this list of recommended books on understanding culture from Ken Myers.

Read John Piper’s thoughts on “Disciplined Duty vs. Legalism.”

Read about the Octuplets mother being offered $1M porn contract.

Music Friday

February 27, 2009 at 7:28 am

Here is Antony and the Johnsons on Lettermen recently:


Here’s “Happy Hour” from the often-overlooked, but always brilliant Housemartins, one of my favorite bands of all time, featuring the man who would become Fatboy Slim as well as he core members of The Beautiful South:


Here’s “We’re Not Deep:”

The Puzzle of Self-Perception

February 23, 2009 at 9:37 am

noteI’ve been thinking a lot lately about the notion of how we perceive ourselves. Much of this has been triggered because, as a pastor planting a church, I must understand who I am, the culture I have been called to reach and the church I have been called to lead in reaching that culture.

If I am unsure about about small things like dress and music style (yes, I said music style in church is a small thing), then other people will want to make those decisions in my place. Though it sounds odd, if, at the early stages of this church, I let that happen, it is quite possible that I might one day find myself pastoring a church where I don’t even feel comfortable, where I don’t quite fit.

As awkward as it sounds, in many ways, the planting pastor determines in a great many ways, the direction, feel and culture of the church he is planting. We like to think of churches as self-existing entities that sort of spring up into existence with a life of their own. But the truth of the matter is that every church has a “personality” a “feel” to it. Some churches are more formal while others casual in dress. Neither is wrong (and we must be clear on that) because these are issues of personal preference.

But how do we wade through all of this, admitting, as we must up-front, that these are subjective issues. I wonder if part of the reason we have such difficulty finding churches where we can feel like family is because we’ve never internally wrestled with these issues ourselves.

Some of these thoughts were actually sparked when watching a documentary on American television comedy. The creators of The Simpsons were talking about how family on television has often been portrayed in a Leave it to Beaver, Ozzie and Harriet, “everything’s great” sort of way. But, when these people watched these shows, they were struck by the fact that this depiction didn’t match their family experience, leading them to question: “what is normal”?

The popular conception is that everything thinks they’re normal, but the more people I talk to about these issues, the less I think this is true. Most people I talk to actually feel abnormal. But if everyone feels abnormal, is there even a normal?

This is where the power and the beauty of the Gospel are ready to pounce. The Gospel breaks down the barriers of personal preference we erect, bringing (and demanding) unity where we naturally lean towards division. Christ calls us to consider others (and their preferences) as better than ourselves, because this is exactly what He did at the Cross.

Everyone, including the planting pastor, but understand who he/she has been called to be, what likes and dislikes they have, what preferences they cater to, and this all must be submitted to the Gospel. The Gospel calls us to lay aside our preferences for the sake of others. This requires that we repeatedly examine ourselves with an eye towards loving and serving others.

Do you think you’re normal? Why or why not? How do we even determine this? How do you “know” who you’re called to be while making less of yourself and preferences for others?

The Weekly Town Crier

February 20, 2009 at 7:19 am

towncrier3asWelcome one, welcome all, to the greatest show of all. Well, maybe not. Some might call it a comeback, but I’ve been here for years. Linking, posting and sharing with the best of them. The best of the linking, posting, sharers, that is. Welcome to the Weekly Town Crier, crying out stuff in the midst of other stuff. I link, you click, we all enjoy. But, please, remember, click responsibly.

Be my friend on Facebook.

Download music from eMusic, you get music, I get music, everyone wins!

Follow me on Twitter.

Read about the 13 year-old boy who looks like he’s 8 who just became a father, with his 15-year old girlfriend.

Read about Apple being sued over possible copyright infringement related to their touch screens.

Read the New York Times‘ profile of M. Ward.

Read as Neko Case talks to the New York times about her much-anticipated (at least by me) upcoming album Middle Cyclone.

Read the Guardian‘s review of the latest from Bonnie “Prince” Billy.

Read Seth Godin’s thoughts on the music industry.

Read/Listen as NPR’s profiles Andrew Bird.

Read this piece wondering how scruffy rockers get gorgeous girlfriends.

Read about the African “apostolic” movement that rejects the Bible as a source of authority.

Read about Guitar Hero’s spelling error.

Read about many Chicago area black pastors calling for Senator Burris’ resignation.

Read this profile of OR band Blitzen Trapper.

Read as Ars Technia considers the (growing) complexities of internet radio and royalties.

Read as Pitchfork reports that The Hold Steady will open six dates for the Dave Matthews Band.

Read this piece examining the economy’s impact on live music.

Read about Touch and Go ceasing new signings and distribution.

Browse this list of 30 novels worth buying for the cover alone.

Read this piece: “Why Digital Music Companies And The Labels Have So Much Trouble Getting Along.”

Browse the lineup for 2009′s Sasquatch Music Festival.

Consider these four “Practical Ways to Build Up the Church” drawn from 1 Corinthians.

Read Justin Taylor’s piece chronicling Scot McKnight’s criticisms of the “neoReformed”

Read Paste‘s interview with Animal Collective.

Read about Daptone records being robbed.

Read Paste’s thoughts on the Beirut double EP.

Read Pitchfork‘s review of the EP.

Watch Mark Nelson of SEBTS interview Mark Driscoll.

Read Matt Chandler’s “Thoughts Concerning Seminary.”

Music Friday: Ramsay Midwood Is For Lovers

February 20, 2009 at 7:15 am

Just because we can, here’s Ramsay Midwood, live at Tipitina’s in NOLA performing his song “Jonah:”


Here is Ramsay’s video for “Chicken on the Lamb.” This video was shot at a little place called Sam’s Town Point in Austin, TX. My wife and I went there on our tenth anniversary to see Ramsay play. Good times. Where everybody knows your name. Unless you’re from out of town like us.

Authentically What?

February 17, 2009 at 11:00 am

913923_pure_tinAs a pastor planting a church, I have thought much about the idea of church “personalities.” Like people, every church takes on a different “personality.”

Every church, within the bounds of orthodoxy takes on a different “feel” if you will. This is derived from a wide variety of factors, where the church meets, how the leaders dress, the language that’s used, the songs that are sun and the style in which they’re sung. It’s not just one of these things, it’s all of them and more.

Some of these things are intentionally thought through and decided upon while others simply arise from the continued life of a group of people living for Christ together. Different areas of the country, and different groups of people think about things differently and, whereas one church may dress more formal than another, both can be within the bounds of orthodoxy and each will reach people the other may not.

This becomes a problem when we try to impose our “church personality” on all others, as though our way of doing things is the only way. It is also a problem when a church tries to adopt certain things that are not natural to them. As a pastor planting a church, I look at a lot of church websites. I’m forever interested in the “face” that churches put forward to the public. I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that a church’s website is a distillation of how that church wants to be perceived.

I’ve seen websites that are, frankly (and I realize that much of this is subjective) not well-done but which permeate with sincerity. I’ve also seen websites that look a bit slick but just don’t quite feel right. They seem to lack authenticity, as though this is a church trying on clothes that just don’t quite fit. How is it that we can sense when a church just doesn’t seem quite authentic?

How do we evalutate this idea of “authenticity” when it comes to churches, much less individuals? The best way I can try to think about it is that of clothes. When David went out to face Goliath, he was expected to wear the appropriate armor. But it just didn’t fit him, as it often doesn’t when we try to wear another’s armor. It was too big, bukly and it was a hindrance rather than a help. Instead, he wore what fit, what he was used to and what worked best for him.

Each local church must strive to find the “clothes” that fit best, just just the ones that are popular.

Church Planting Challenges (3): The Self/Less Tension

February 16, 2009 at 7:03 am

1057325_Walk in to just about any bookstore these days and one of the largest sections is often the so-called “self-help” section. A good chunk of this section is filled with books on “finding yourself,” or “discovering your true identity.” However you phrase it, it seems that many of us are in the midst of an identity crisis.

This oftentimes carries over into the church as well. We have sermons reminding us that we need to understand and cling to our “identity” in Christ, that we need to understand who we are in Him. While this is true, I wonder how many of us actually grasp what is being said. I say this because, as a pastor, I have often struggled with this sense of identity myself.

I’m not complaining (at least that’s not my intent), but being a pastor is hard. Nearly everyone has their own preconceived ideas of what a pastor should look like, how he should dress or not dress, how he should talk or not talk, you name it and people expect something from you. Some of these expectations are indeed biblical, but a good many of them simply are not. What’s a pastor to do? To complicate matters, Paul seems to say that he’s willing to let his own personal preferences go for the sake of reaching others. Consider 1 Corinthians 9:19-23:

For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 20To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.

What does this mean for pastors, church planters and all Christians? Well, we need to live our lives in such a way that we can cross boundaries that otherwise divide, we need to be willing to truly consider others as more significant than ourselves (Philippians 2:3) for the sake of the Gospel. Practically, this can play itself out in such simple ways as taking an interest in sports when I normally wouldn’t for the sake of reaching someone. Though there are certainly many more aspects to consider here, that’s not really my point.

You might be wondering what all of this has to do with church planting. If pastors face pressure to meet other people’s standards and agenda, then church planters face it all the more. Many people see church plants as blank slates upon which to write their own agendas. The planter must possess a clear calling and sense of identity and he must be willing to stand firm as others seek to change directions. Yet he must do so all the while with sensitivity and humility.

John Piper once preached at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and though his specific context was preaching, I have found his words to be tremendously helpful over the years. He was talking about how so many young preachers simply try to emulate their favorite preachers, adopting delivery style, etc. Piper admonished the young would-be preachers, saying that we need to learn to be sanctified versions of ourselves rather than watered-down versions of someone else. We will never be the people we seek to imitate. Most of us won’t ever be as good as the people we try to imitate, so as long as we simply imitate, we are watering things down.

But, when we learn to realize who God has created us to be, and strive to be sanctified versions of ourselves, then our ministries will be more potent. This means, above all that we must learn to examine and know ourselves, our likes, our dislikes, our preferences and we must submit them all to the Gospel. God has created each of us different and we simply do ourselves and Him and injustice when we place our personal preferences upon others.

You might still be wondering what all of this has to do with church planting. The planter must know, with certainty, who God has called Him to be and he must be willing to stand by these convictions. This is intimately tied to the question of what kind of church God has called each planter to plant. Every local church, in some sense, has a “personality,” drawn from its leaders, people and surrounding culture. If the planter is unsure of who he is in light of Christ, he will be unsure of what the church should look like (every church does not and should not look the same), others will decide this vital question instead.

This is a hard line to walk: being firm in conviction on one hand and desiring to reach out to others unlike ourselves on the other hand. There will, by necessity, be sacrifices made. The question becomes what and how much we’re willing to sacrifice. Can we effectively minister in churches where we don’t fit? How do we even know?

What do you think?

  • Read Church Planting Challenges (1): Discontent Contentment
  • Read Church Planting Challenges (2): Consumerism and Personal Agendas