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Archive for the ‘Rick McKinley’ Category

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I want to be part of a mega church. And no I’m not abandoning my desire for a growing emerging church. Let me explain.

I love the church. I say that because part of the journey I am on is to look at the structures that produces spiritual growth, and often times people think I mean “church”. But to me the church is people and I’m not criticizing people. I love people. I am beginning to see my Father’s reflection in everyone I see. But the structure needs work. Structures hinder or release people to ministry. Structures produce or deny fruit. Structure is what makes the organization. Take an automobile engine. Remove the spark plugs and the car won’t run. The structure is broken. Put em back in and the structure does what it is supposed to do. It’s a basic principle in nature.

Over the last thirty years the church has become fascinated with the mega church and it has taken on new importance. As the church begins to study the nature of organization, it is beginning to engage practices that allow it to use resources effectively, to a certain extent. And one thing that has emerged is the mega church. It’s nice to have large buildings that allows people a lot of people to gather. It’s nice to have six different pastors reaching out to distinct groups of people. It’s nice having a kids program with all the bells, whistles, and padded playmats.

I actually grew up in one of the very first mega churches in California and it was a lot of fun. There were 7,500 people on average on a Sunday morning service. This was in 1975. I loved coming to a youth group with 400 people around me. It made looking at girls easier. 😉 And to a great extent it became a large family. I knew the youth interns loved me because they really spent time with me. And as I reminisce I realize that it was people that made the difference. No building or program could ever have the same impact as people.

And this realization helps point to the true definition of mega for the church. The first century church grew rapidly, mostly because it didn’t have a centralized structure to control it, to get in the way. It was a disparate group of people following the leading of the Holy Spirit. I’m sure there were elders leading the way and not everything was perfect but the structure supported growth. The church in China is another great example. No centralized controlling body.

And then about two years ago I found people like Rick McKinley, at Imago Dei who are helping to redefine what mega means. The distinction is not one of large buildings and numbers of people, but one of impact. They are releasing people to ministry, to be the hands an feet of Jesus. And this is the kind of mega church I want to be part of. I want to be part of a church that is releasing its people to ministry and trusting them to follow the Holy Spirit, and supporting them a long the way. This is the power of the organization. To design structures that support people doing effective ministry.

So I want to be part of a mega church because I believe this is what we are called to do.

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Today is Black Friday. It’s kind of an ironically appropriate name to the god of consumerism. Black Friday is a reference to today, which is the day after Thanksgiving and one of the biggest shopping days of the year. The term was coined by the press after the stress it causes people and was named after the Black Tuesday stock market crass of 1929. Niiice.

My wife and are deeply wrestling with Christmas this year. To be honest we don’t really want to participate. It has almost completely lost any semblance of meaning for us and we’re looking for alternatives. A friend of mine talked about taking a van load of gifts to a Mexican orphanage this year and my heart leaped. The trip would have meant missing any Christmas with extended family but I really didn’t care. And when my sister told me that we weren’t doing Christmas with the them this year, I had nothing standing in my way. Unfortunately the trip didn’t materialize so I was bummed.

Rick McKinley’s Imago Dei Community church created Advent Conspiracy, as an alternative to the typical consumer oriented Christmas of buying a million gift. I really like the idea and we’re looking into it as an alternative. AC is about giving, not presents. It’s about capturing the spirit of what Christmas is really about by making Christmas gifts and then giving the rest of the “Xmas budget” to a clean water project.

“Advent Conspiracy is an international movement restoring the scandal of Christmas by worshipping Jesus through compassion, not consumption”

There it is, that word: consumption. Christmas is a big deal in this country. Shoppers are expected to purchase 454 billion dollars in November and December. Consumption is critical to keeping our economy humming. But is all of that consumption producing what we expected? It consumption making us bloated at the expense of something else? It is completely fair to say that I don’t need a single thing I would ever get from UNDER the Christmas tree.

I wrestle with letting go of the Christmas “traditions” because I know some of my favorite memories are of my childhood Christmas experiences. I don’t want to take the value of the holiday away from my three kids. But even those memories, with closer inspection, I realize are more about family that the gifts. The only gifts I can really truly remember as special were a G.I Joe and a bike.

The memories that really stick out to me have nothing to do with the presents. The best ones were hanging out with family. I remember the long drives on Christmas Eve morning to Los Angeles to my grandparents house. I remember hanging out with all my cousins and playing endless hours with people. The presents were fun but it was the people that I remember the most. Even later in life, I remember the 27 person dinner table conversations filled with laughter. One thing my family knew how to do was laugh.

And two things really sticks out to me. The first was that my mom always invited someone to Christmas Eve, which was the big night in my family. And she was so good about making them feel so special and part of our family. When I was young this felt awkward, but as I grew older I began to see that she got what Christmas was really about, the deep need for connection. The second was that the “gift” really didn’t do much for me. Yes it was cool to get the latest shirt all my friends had or the Star Wars collectible set with 367 pieces, but to a great extent the newness wore off very quickly and that thing that I got ceased to become the center of my attention withing days. I see this same process happen in my children.

The more I look at Christmas, and Black Friday, the more I wonder if Christmas has taken on a new meaning. In the endless drive to fill the tree with presents, has it become a way to compensate for our lack of connection as human beings? Do we give the endless stream of gifts as a way of saying sorry for the lack of connection throughout the year? Has it become the only way we know how to connect, through the process of giving gifts. Has it become a forced ritual that leaves us wanting? And in the end, do all of the gifts leave us as sick as when we started?

If you have a really good alternative idea for Christmas, I’d really like to hear it. My family and my soul would really be interested.

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I love Rick McKinley. If you haven’t heard him. You should. And you can. His podcast is exceptional at Imago Dei, and this audio session from Catalyst is a good start to really get an idea of the person his is. He’s also the pastor of Donald Miller, author of Blue Like Jazz.

But if you listen to this session from Catalyst, he asks a really good question. Can we effectively do the “how to” if we don’t have the “want to”? And how many people do we know who truly have the want to if they were really honest?

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