Category Archives: Ministry

Is It Cool to Be Hip These Days?

Brett McCracken’s recently released a book titled Hipster Christianity: Where Church and Cool Collide. It details the stories and pitfalls of attempts to be relevant to the 20 and 30 year olds who have left church after adolescence not to return.

McCracken recently wrote in the Wall Street Journal, “If the evangelical Christian leadership thinks that ‘cool Christianity’ is a sustainable path forward, they are severely mistaken. As a twentysomething, I can say with confidence that when it comes to church, we don’t want cool as much as we want real.”

McCracken added, “If we are interested in Christianity in any sort of serious way, it is not because it’s easy or trendy or popular. It’s because Jesus himself is appealing, and what he says rings true. It’s because the world we inhabit is utterly phony, ephemeral, narcissistic, image-obsessed and sex-drenched—and we want an alternative. It’s not because we want more of the same.”

I agree with McCracken that attempts to play the hip game will always come up short for churches because they can’t out hype Hollywood or the latest must-listen-to band. And that shouldn’t be the goal. Being different in a good way is what will make a difference.

Young people want relevant, connected and authentic expressions of worship and journeying through life together. Attempts to market Jesus will only backfire. If you remember Jesus wasn’t big into marketing. He would do great miracles and then tell the recipient not to tell anyone. At the end of the day, it really comes down to helping young people feel connected to a story bigger than themselves that still seems relevant to the world in which they live.

I think that any time we set out to copy what others have done in a church setting we have to be careful. There is nothing wrong with learning from others. But you have to first know who you are as a local body of Christ and what makes you unique. A church can’t steal the identity of another congregation and expect it to work.

In the end, a local church has to first know itself in relationship to Christ before it can truly benchmark from others. If you try to benchmark first, you will only end up copying someone else’s dream.

Here are two interesting articles on the book and topic of Hipster Christianity.

Help Wanted – Need Perfect Pastor!

Looking for a new pastor is a tough dance for both a church and potential candidates. While it is a job, being a pastor is a very intense, personal occupation. Many churches and pastors put on their best behavior. But what may be needed is more candor. I have been thinking about this after a discussion with some other students at Union-PSCE.

Here’s a list of questions that I would consider asking  if I was seeking a position at a church.

1.) Tell me a little bit about the history of the church.

2.) What is the distinctive flavor or character of the church today compard to others in the area?

3.) What are the circumstances that led to the church having this position that needs to be filled?

4.) What do you envision as the requirements for this position? Goals for the first two years? Expectations?

5.) How exactly do the spouses of the other pastors currently serve in the church? Expectations regarding the spouse’s involvement?

6.) How do you go about ensuring the emotional, spiritual and relational health of the church staff?

7.) What is the governance of the church? Who are the key decision makers?

8.) What is the leadership’s five year vision for the church? What about ministries that I would be responsible for overseeing?

9.) How do you see me fitting in with the long-term vision of the church?

10.) Please describe the community life of the city and surrounding area?

11.) Who directly would I report to and what level of access would I have to other key leaders?

12.) If you could wave a wand and change anything about this church, what would it be?

13.) What are the salary and benefit options available for this open position? 

14.) Who are the major spiritual influences in the lives of the key pastors and church leaders? What books are some of the other pastors currently reading?

15.) What is the statement of faith and code of conduct that I would be expected to agree to as part of my employment?

16.) When was the last time that the church made a major change prompted by the Holy Spirit? What was that change?

17.) Describe the ministry of the predecessor. What worked? How could things have been better? 

18.) How quickly are you looking to fill this position?

19.) How is the church being strategic about turning members into disciples of Jesus?

20.) Who are the existing champions and non-church staff involved with the ministries that I would be overseeing? Once you are far enough through the interview process, I would try to informally meet some of these people with the church’s permission and assistance.

2009 Is…

While I generally avoid New Year’s Resolutions, I have decided to make a few  this year. Maybe these aren’t resolutions because that sounds kind of final. Life is too difficult to make such firm commitments. 

People generally make resolutions every January to fix things they don’t like about themselves. I have found that I am not very good at changing myself. I believe that is something that relies mostly on grace and divine intervention. I do have a small role to play. But the real power to change comes from God.

Here are declarations that I want to make for 2009 knowing that the only way I will keep them is with God’s help. If you are a friend, feel free to ask me in a month or so how something on this list is going.

  • 2009 is a year of worship in all things. That means I will try to view all things as an opportunity to glorify God. There are no longer ordinary moments because all things have the potential of being sacred space.
  • 2009 is a year of living, praying, blogging, crying, singing, questioning and journeying through the Psalms. I want to dig into the Psalms to such a degree that I touch the heart of God and unearth deep longings that only Jesus can fill.
  • 2009 is a year of organization. Yes, I am going to get organized and reduce the clutter in my life. Things are starting off better than 2008. But I still have lots of work to do.
  • 2009 is a year of praying first and doing everything else second. I want to start each day with a moment of prayer and have regular times just to listen to what God is saying to me.
  • 2009 is a year of giving to others when they least expect it.
  • 2009 is a year of working on my house.
  • 2009 is a year of making new friends and strengthening existing relationships.
  • 2009 is a year of setting achievable work goals and accomplishing them.
  • 2009 is a year of better health, less fast food, limited soft drinks and more salads.
  • 2009 is a year of at least one spirit quest in the mountains.
  • 2009 is a year of supporting new missionaries.
  • 2009 is a year of obedience to Christ not fear of man. 
  • 2009 is a year of grace where I learn who I am in Christ.
  • 2009 is a year of grace where I walk by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Unified in Death

Pastor Dave Simiele from MCC spoke about unity in the church last Sunday. I found his comments to be right on the mark. Unity only comes when we set aside our rights and humbly seek to serve others in the name of Christ. This requires us to look beyond ourselves and our own interests. It calls us to really trust God and others we are called to connect with in Christian community.

Pastor Dave said, “Simple unity can only live where humility exists.” I agree. We must realize that everyone has a part to play in the life of a church. This is especially true when it comes to the different generations coming together to celebrate and understand each other. 

Then Dave told a story about how he did something to honor his wife for her birthday even though he generally disliked the activity. It ended up giving them a real good time to further their relationship. Dave said that we must come to realize that “What is death to me can be life to someone else.”

Jesus called His disciples to a radical mission. He said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23).

That is a radical call to live a life greater then your own desires. The question is, “Are we ready to embrace such a radical message?”

Listen to Pastor Dave’s sermon at

What does real revival look like in a local church?

Revival is a curious thing. All Christians seem to think different things when they hear that word. Some think of tent meetings or prayer gatherings. Others think about miraculous signs and wonders. Others think about famous preachers who tell it like it is. Still others talk about great evangelistic crusades, the Great Awakening or missions efforts to spread the Gospel.

I have thought about what revival means to me after a good friend asked me two hard questions this past weekend. He asked, “Are you really ready for revival?” Then he asked, “What do you think revial would look like in your life and your local church?”

Wow! Those are tough questions. 

I would like to say that I am ready for revival but I know that I struggle to fully trust with everything all the time. And I know that revival starts with trust. I must abandon my will over to God’s divine purposes for my life. That is hard to do, especially in the moment when He asks us to sacrifice something that we hold dear.

The last question may be even harder because revival can look so different depending on the person and the local congregation. Here are some things that I came up with while discussing the topic with friends.

Revival in my church (and my life) would look like…

  • Greater unity and a coming together of various age and culture groups
  • Repentance, prayer and brokenness
  • Less negative talk and more words of faith
  • Abandonment to do whatever God asks without complaining
  • Deeper commitment to spiritual disciplines
  • Hunger for more supernatural encounters that require us to live by faith
  • Increased vision and heart for the lost and spiritually wounded in our community
  • Commitment to make Jesus number one in every aspect of life
  • Using spiritual gifts and equipping all believers to serve
  • Deepen mentoring and discipleship relationships as spiritual fathers and mothers raise up the young in the faith
  • Looking for opportunities to serve those who are marginalized, poor or oppressed
  • Walking in humility as we relate to those outside of the church
  • Seeking to reconcile with those we have hurt or hurt us in the past
  • Tearing down institutional idols and mindsets that keep us from reaching our culture for Christ

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Is Personal Liberty A Bad Thing?

“Emergents find the biblical call to community more compelling than the democratic call to individual rights. The challenge lies in being faithful to both ideals.” – Tony Jones, Emergent Village coordinator and author

I believe the Emergent thinkers are absolutely right when it comes to this point. The idea of personal liberty is important to have true community and collective liberty. At the same time, selfish motives can easily be justified by a culture aligned around individualism. There is a point where personal liberty gets in the way of establishing God’s kingdom on earth. That has happened in many instances in American Christianity today.

Many well-intentioned people treat being part of a church as more of a consumer experience than a radical call to a covenant community. Somewhere along the way, we have forgotten that Jesus called His disciples to forsake their personal liberty for the sake of God’s kingdom. As Christians, all of our rights belong to God. Everything we have should be trusted to the careful hands of God.

I am not suggesting that Christians live minimalist lives in some type of neo-communist community. But I do believe we have to be willing to sacrifice to show God’s love. And we have to embrace the simple yet seemingly impossible concept, “It’s not about you or me.”

“Church Is Dead”

Emergent thinker Tony Jones wrote in The New Christians, “In the 20th century, it’s not God who’s dead. It’s the church. Or at least conventional forms of church.”

Jones’ new book is one of the resources that I have to read for an upcoming class this fall on missional evangelism. I don’t know where I stand on the whole Emergent movement. I am not ready to castigate postmodernism like many fundamentalists. But at the same time I do believe that some things are too sacred to toy with just so that we can be relevant. I don’t always trust new things. And I find something comforting about ancient traditions, practices and theology.

What I do know is that Jones hit on an important point. I agree that conventional forms of doing church are suffering a disconnect with both God and people. I don’t know if denominations and institutional Christianity is dead. But it certainly is in flux.

Let’s be clear here. Jones is not saying that The Church is dead. No that would be brash even for him. The Church belongs to Jesus. And He is eternal life. It will never die. The Church extends beyond the building and even the people. It is the body of Christ throughout the world. It is the most powerful force on the planet because its life comes from Jesus. But that doesn’t mean that our ways of doing church and being the church reflect God’s intent. Sometimes we got it right for a while but stray from God’s best. There are times and seasons in history. Things change, and our methods and practices may need to change with it.

Here are some questions that I will seek to answer over the next semester as I wrestle with how best to do church and be The Church.

1.) Is institutional Christianity dead? What can churches do to respond to the current angst and disconnect that has taken place for many Christians?

2.) How does the church process through the tug-of-war between liberal and conservatives interests?

3.) Is it the methods or the theology that need to be rescued?

4.) Why are so many people leaving institutional churches for home churches or small groups? Will this trend change as some people become disillusioned by these new expressions of faith?

5.) Is the real problem church or something deep within us? Maybe our expectations are off? Maybe our abandonment to God needs work.

Bridge Builders 2008

Here is what I am up to this week. I am participating as one of the adult leaders in Bridge Builders, an intergenerational outreach ministry done by my church every summer. Today, we are heading to Washington DC for homeless otureach.

Keep up with the team by visiting our blog at

Friends and family… please keep me and the entire Bridge Builders team in your prayers. Godspeed!

The Two Words That Can Save Your Ministry

There are two words that can make all the difference in your ministry relationships. Those words are very simple, yet they are quite profound. These words can heal and create a sense of trust. They can let others know our sincerity as well as our approachability.

These words are… “I’m sorry.”

Why is it so hard to apologize and admit our weaknesses, mistakes and even sins in ministry? Is it pride? Is it the sense that admitting any wrong doing will jeopardize our ministry or public reputation? I know that I don’t like to admit when I am wrong. And I certainly don’t like to apologize if I feel that I am not really responsible for whatever “wrong” was done. Should we apologize just because we know that another person has perceived an injustice even if we are not primarily responsible for the outcome? I believe the answer is frequently “Yes.”

We can disarm situations by taking responsibility for our part. Also, we can let the other person know that we wanted a different outcome than what occurred. We can recognize their pain and express our desire to move forward in a new direction. We can create a bridge that will allow a restoration of our relationship.

Of course, there are some things that leaders should never apologize for because it would do more harm than good. We don’t need to apologize for loving God or fearing Him more than any person. We don’t need to apologize for obeying divine direction or speaking the truth in love. It requires divine direction to know what is appropriate and helpful for each situation.

Are you willing to be proactive in seeking reconciliation? Sometimes it takes a big person to say that you’re sorry.