Eintsten’s Theory Of Insanity and Church Planting

November 30, 2011 at 11:50 am

I have the awesome privilege of meeting a lot of pastors and church planters. It is an exciting time for the American Church. We’re seeing local churches partner for the sake of their cities instead of being territorial (well, Phoenix still has its share of territorial churches, so it’s not all roses). There seems to be a surge of theological passion and Gospel Centrality.

There also seems to be quite a surge in all things “missional” (however you define the term – for the sake of this post, we will simply define it as followers of Jesus living everyday lives as missionaries in their immediate context). The problem, of course, is that not everyone agrees what the term missional means or what it should look like. The result is that many highly “attractional” churches (Sunday morning is the main attraction, also coupled with their luxurious amenities – the prevailing attitude is that the culture will “come to us”) tack the word “missional” on to their small groups without really making any changes.

For the vast majority churches in North America, Sunday morning’s “service” is the “organizing principle” of church life. In other words, Sunday receives a bulk of time and attention during the week. Between staff members and volunteers, it’s not uncommon for hundreds of hours/week being poured into making sure “service” goes off well. Most of the other ministries of the church find their place in relation to Sunday. Sunday is the entry-point and many of the other ministries exist to keep you tied to Sunday.

In some ways, this is understandable. Sunday morning is easy to quantify; easy to gauge “success or failure.” How many people were there? How much money did they give? How many “professions” did we tally? But a question should be the umbrella of all of those other questions: what exactly should the church be doing? Jesus told us quite clearly to make, mature and mobilize disciples, followers of Him (Matthew 28:18-20). The next question we should be asking is: how well has the North American model of church done at making disciples? I have had the chance to ask hundreds of people this question in a variety of formats. Not once have I had someone tell me that we’re killing it. We are doing exceedingly well at making disciples. In fact, nearly everyone recognizes that the Sunday-morning driven model of church creates consumers more than it does disciples.

And yet we keep at it. Remember how Einstein (how cool is it that a scientist is on a one-name basis with culture?!) defined insanity?

Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

I see church planters asking advice on “preview services” and how to create “wow experiences” or “turn first-time guests into fully-engaged members of our churches.” Most church planters would not say that they are setting out to plant a Sunday morning production but in practice, that’s exactly what we do. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying preaching is unimportant. I’m not saying singing together is unimportant. I’m not saying worship gatherings are unimportant. But I am saying that these are not the most effective way to make disciples. Emphasizing these things reinforces consumerism rather than an expectation that we will die to ourselves and personal preferences.

By no means do I pretend that I/we/Church of the Cross have this thing figured out other than that, what the North American church has been emphasizing for years isn’t working. Wouldn’t you think that at least the pragmatic types would recognize this? I am becoming convinced that the primary “organizing principle” for local churches should no longer be Sunday but Gospel Communities on Mission. People being equipped (Ephesians 4:11-13) to speak the Gospel to themselves and one another in sacrificial community, mobilizing themselves as missionaries to reach those who don’t yet know Jesus.

This means that the elders should spend less time preparing for Sunday and more time working out the Gospel with people in everyday life. I’m admittedly not great at this yet (having been “trained” in a Seminary and all) but I am trying to rearrange my priorities as a pastor and even how I go about doing what needs to be done. Please pray for me and Church of the Cross . This is not an easy process and we’ve got a long way to go but we are convinced that everyday life is no less important than Sunday morning.

Cain, Compartmentalization and the Holistic Life

November 29, 2011 at 10:36 am

So, another woman has come forward to make sexual allegations against Presidential hopeful Herman Cain. This is not the first woman, nor will it probably be the last from what we’ve seen. The latest woman claims this time, not sexual harassment but a long-term extra-marital affair. Needless to say, Cain’s got big problems.

But, what I think is more interesting is the “defense” offered in a memo by Cain’s lawyer:

No individual, whether a private citizen, a candidate for public office or a public official, should be questioned about his or her private sexual life. The public’s right to know and the media’s right to report has boundaries and most certainly those boundaries end outside of one’s bedroom door.

Now, on one hand, I can see the point: we don’t need to know every sexual detail of our public peoples. And yet, we are whole people. We may try to live compartmentalized lives, but the truth is that who we are in one area of life is who we are in every area of life. Al Mohler points out:

Character does not end at the bedroom door. Any effort to make this claim will be recognized by the public for what it is. We live in a morally confused age, but there is little confusion about the fact that sexual behavior and personal character are inseparable. The question of character is among the most crucial issues of a political campaign. Americans may come to different conclusions about the significance of sexual misconduct in its different forms (as in the case of President Clinton), but they know better than to accept being told that it is none of their business.

This is exactly the defense used by Clinton during impeachment hearings. What he did in private was private and did not affect his public life. And yet, if a man is willing to lie to his wife without any apparent sense of remorse, then I simply don’t trust him to tell the truth to the public. A liar is a liar. A cheat is a cheat.

Please hear me. I’m not saying we all need to live spotless lives. There’s only One who has ever done that. Nor am I saying that we should hide all of our past (or even current) faults. But it is nonsense to say that the public and private spheres of our lives are not connected. In fact, we could probably push this even farther; who you are behind closed doors is who you really are. What you do, say or think when (you think) no one is looking is more telling about your character than how you behave in the spotlight.

Cain and his team’s reaction to these allegations reminds us that our lives are whole, we do not exist in compartments (though we may live in apartments).

Who are you when no one is looking?

The Dangerous Act Of Loving Your Neighbor

November 27, 2011 at 9:53 pm

“Why does the church of Jesus Christ live so complacently in a world where each year nearly eight million children die before the age of five, or where nearly a million children are sold into sex-trafficking? Why, if God is all-good and all-powerful, is the church so unchanged, so untransformed? Why, for example, in a recent study by the Pew Foundation, were white American evangelical Christians the one who were the most likely to affirm the use of torture in order to gain information from enemies?”

Mark Labberton, The Dangerous Act of Loving Your Neighbor: Seeing Others Through The Eyes of Jesus 

Chris Bathgate House Show

November 27, 2011 at 8:46 pm

If you’re in the Phoenix area, please try to make it to tomorrow night’s Chris Bathgate House Show with the Habañero Collective. House shows are incredible opportunities to see live music an an extremely intimate setting. We hope you can make it. Here’s Chris performing three tracks for something called “The Bridgehouse Sessions:”

First, “No Silver:”


Chris Bathgate : Bridgehouse Session Pt. 1 from Mostly Midwest on Vimeo.

Next, “Poor Eliza:”

Chris Bathgate : Bridgehouse Session Pt. 2 from Mostly Midwest on Vimeo.

And last, “We Die:”

Chris Bathgate : Bridgehouse Session Pt. 3 from Mostly Midwest on Vimeo.

Drew Grow and the Pastors’ Wives, Kelli Schaeffer and The Head and the Heart

November 25, 2011 at 4:52 pm

Part One:

Part Two:

Thanksgiving: The Everyday Holiday

November 25, 2011 at 8:52 am

So, yesterday was Thanksgiving and all. You know, the day when Americans everywhere celebrating being thankful for all their possessions by eating way too much, then decompress by watching grown men being paid millions of dollars to play a sport in tight pants and helmets. Then, just to top it all off, we show how thankful we are for “good deals” on stuff we don’t need (oh, wait, we’re buying other people stuff they don’t need as gifts, so that makes it better). All in the name of gratitude, right? Pardon my cynicism but it’s so interesting that we choose to celebrate gratitude mired in “more.” But that’s not really my point.

What makes Thanksgiving special (aside from your overwhelming love for turkey, like some people I know)? An extended meal-time around the table with family and friends giving thanks for the many things you don’t deserve. Filling your home with people you love and people you’d like to include in that love. Good food and an attitude of celebration, listening to one another’s stories, hearing of blessing and sharing in the glow.

It occurs to me that this is exactly the way followers of Jesus should live everyday. Not necessarily that we should have HUGE meals that no one should actually finish everyday, but you know, the general idea. Thanksgiving should be an opportunity for Christians to welcome others into our lifestyle. A lifestyle not of gluttony but of celebration, of family, of shared meals and time and above all, a poster of gratitude.

But, I wonder how many of us actually live such lives on a daily basis? We so easily get caught up in the tyranny of the urgent, we get distracted by the details of life and we forget that we’ve been given life abundantly (John 10:10), we’ve been given easy easy yokes and light burdens (Matthew 11:30) and that we, of all people, ought to give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:16-22) because, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly (Romans 5:6), making His enemies His children (Romans 5:10-11; Galatians 4:6).

How easily we use site of the regular rhythms of life that remind us of our identity in Christ. Thanksgiving should be a window into the life of the Believer rather than an exception to the way we live; a snapshot of lives lived in continual thanksgiving for Jesus.

I Am Thankful For Joe Henry

November 22, 2011 at 8:56 am