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Archive for the ‘Willow Creek’ Category

This is Kara Powell. You probably don’t know Kara but you should. She’s Executive Director of the Center for Youth and Family Ministry at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. Kara gets it.

She’s presenting at Shift, Willow’s Youth Ministry Conference. She has what I think is a killer observation.

“She says that a lot of what students are fed is a guilt based gospel—what Dallas Willard calls the “gospel of sin management.” Powell compared it to a diet of Red Bull. It’s fast, energetic, and easy, but not very nourishing. And after the rush is over you deflate. We’ve fed students a gospel of rights and wrongs, but nothing nourishing that they can internalize and grow from. No wonder they fall away shortly after graduation. The buzz is over.” (More at Out of Ur)

Love it.  Listen up people.

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“We used to think you can’t upset a seeker. But while focusing on that we’ve really upset the Christ-centered people.”

Greg Hawkins, Executive Pastor of Willow Creek as quoted at the Shift Conference

The article mentions, “But the research shows that it’s the mature believers that drive everything in the church—including evangelism.”  It’s hard for me to fathom that it took a study to reveal this.

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Mark Van Steenwyk has a great (old) post about Generica and the cost of living in the suburbs. Hey that’s me. People driving up to their manicured houses and closing the garage behind them. Thanks for the reminder Mark.

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Bill Kinnon throwing down with an interesting post on Willow Creek’s Christmas service. Nicely said. (I BTW love Willow Creek but he has a great point).

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Still the best version of Little Drummer Boy…ever. Josh Groban also does a great version as well.

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My friend Jeromy added a good bit to my dream for a missional discipleship community called tribe.

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Check out this conference in Feb-Mar called The New Conspirators. It looks very interesting. Who’s going and who wants to go? I’m in.

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I’m reading No Perfect People Allowed by John Burke, pastor of Gateway Community church in Austin Texas. So far I’m liking what I’m reading. The desire for creating an authentic culture is addressing a deep need in the world turned off by judgmental Christians.

But this isn’t about the book.

Burke used to work for Bill Hybels at Willow Creek and the culture he’s creating is bent towards the seeker and creating a culture that allows people to be real. As I’m reading the book, I was realizing why the seeker model churches were deeply important to the emerging conversation. They created the groundwork for authentic conversation and community.

Historically the church has been bent on control, creating a perfect people culture that is stifling. I grew up in that culture to a certain extent and goths, homeless people and basically sinners were not really welcome. The seeker model church, pioneered by people like Hybels, helped tear down one of the central barriers to church, namely the perception that people had to be perfect to enter church. They helped people discover that church is not just judgmental people.

And without that innovation or creativity, which the people and Willow and like minded churches who tried the seeker model helped create, we’d be stuck in severely outdated models that have lost a significant amount of relevance. We in the emerging church conversation wouldn’t be where we are without them.

But as the Reveal study shows, there is getting people into the church and helping them grow. I know they are doing good things in spite of what the study shows and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Willow break new ground.

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This is update number two of WWJD…WTC Synchroblog.

I’m a marketing guy. I spent some of my younger years working at my own agency with some of the best companies in the world. I lived the dotcom bubble. I was in the middle of it all. Good companies with good products would come into my office asking me to help tell the world about how their product would transform people’s life. I learned many superlatives and hyperboles in the process.  And to a certain extent, part of my role was to temper the language of the plan.  Everybody wanted to be the “leading this” or “best of class at that”.  Most of the companies had glorious views of their capacity to transform the marketplace.

The very nature of marketing is to communicate an idea in some way. But anyone who has ever stepped foot in a marketing conversation, cubicle, wing, or department knows that there is always the promise, and then there is the delivery. Marketing gets the easy job. We get to make the promise. It’s up to someone else to deliver. Thus the nature of marketing requires considering the limits of the promise. This was my job for seven interesting years in Silicon Valley.

Jesus promised abundant life, which is an astounding thought when you think about it. To some extent it has the potential to sound like a marketing scheme. Over promise and let someone else deliver. But the truth is, Jesus delivered. And He did so by employing a simple strategy of discipleship. Come follow me was the mantra. Three simple yet incredibly powerful words. Which for me is kind of cool. I like that simplicity of it. Follow Jesus. Follow Jesus. Oh, I get it…love and be loved. Engage His mission.

And what was more interesting is that Jesus didn’t stick around to run the show. He gave us His Spirit and said, “Now you go change the world.” He put it into our hands, which alludes to the idea that He believed we could do it. All we had to do was follow the leading of the Holy Spirit and engage His mission of restoration with love.  We didn’t have a building.  We didn’t have pastors to do it for us.  We didn’t even have a great marketing plan. In fact, some might suggest Jesus was crazy for doing it this way.  But He did.

But at the same time, I can imagine some crafty tax collector or market seller standing from afar wondering how he could profit off of Jesus. In fact Simon the Sorcerer even tried. “This transformation business could be huge.  I could make some serious bank off of this”  Steve Martin made a movie about this. Elmer Gantry was another.  Holding this type of power, even the illusion of this power, can be intoxicating.

And this is the allure of the promise of transformation. Just the idea holds so much potential for compromise and fudging with its intent. See here for further example. The very same principles apply. Someone promises and someone else delivers. As long as you buy that transformation is possible, I only have to produce limited transformation, or enough to convince you that it is possible.

But there is enough evidence to posit that we are no longer delivering. Willow Creek’s study suggested that what we are doing is actually driving away those who are trying . We get the pulling in part. We just haven’t mastered the follow part. And worse, when we buy in to the old structures that pull us in and then don’t see experience what Jesus was talking about, we’re likely to become embittered about the whole process.

And to a certain extent, this is one of the things that I would change about the church. I would stop placing so much emphasis on pulling people in.  Because if my interest is in pulling people in and keeping them there I am not likely to engage people in something that would make them leave.  And the allure is to create an organization that serves itself, not the Gospel.  But Jesus turned up the heat all the time.  In fact, He let people leave.

Instead, I would focus on the the follow part. I would immediately tell people what it means to follow Jesus. And to a great extent I think people are wanting this.  We’re craving honesty.  Tell me its hard.  Tell me its going to change my life in ways that are not comfortable, but that are really worth it.  Lead me into what actually will do what Jesus was promising.  Help me connect with my Father like Jesus did so that I can gain His Spirit.  Help me learn what it means to trust so that I can stay intimately connected to love.  Help me learn how to tear down the walls I’ve created that keep me from relationships.  Help me learn how to forgive so that I can help restore the world around me.  Help me learn stewardship so that I can give when the Spirit is calling me to.

I want to know the fullest extent of what Jesus means when He says, “Come follow me.”  Let’s create a structure that supports that.

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Other WWJD…WTC Updates

Erin Word

Gary Means
Update 1

Alan Knox
Update 1

The Refuge

Nate Peres

Sally Coleman

Barb
Update 1
Update 2
Update 3

Rick Stillwell
Update 1

Jeff Greathouse
Update 1

Dan
Update 1

Barbara Legere

Jonathan Brink
Update 1

Jason Ellis

Rainer
Update 1

Cynthia Clack

Glenn Hager
Update 1
Update 2

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I was watching this video from the Willow Creek Arts Conference, which makes me laugh to some extent. Why are all the Emerging conversations taking place in the Arts conference. What about the Leadership Summit? But I’m digressing.

One of the speakers, (Shauna Niequist) says, “Okay, what do I have to do. Like, do I untuck my shirt? Do I grow a gotee? Do we…?” And from what I see from Shauna (she worked at Mars Hill) my assumption is that these are not her words but the words of people who are looking for the next “thing”. But the sad thing is that this is a modern mindset, which says, what show can I produce, what thing can I create, what program can I put on that will get you into my church? And they ain’t listening people.

But how sad that we have to exhaust all of these forms before we’re willing to strip it all down to the what Jesus already gave us, missional discipleship in love. We don’t like that do we? We want to the next big thing to rule, to be the thing that attracts people to the church. We want the thing we create to be the center of attention so that we won’t have to love. Because if I can get you into my church then I’ve done my work.

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Chances are if you clicked on this, it was the title that grabbed you. Why? Because we all want the next big thing. We’re all looking for something that works, and if it will work fast, then that’s better. If it works instantly, then that’s the Holy Grail. The next big thing usually falls into the last category.

We do this don’t we? We constantly search for something someone else has done the hard work on. I saw this in business when I worked in Silicon Valley, the land of the next big thing. The latest leadership fads sent everyone running to the nearest convention center at a $695 bucks a pop looking for the latest guru’s next big idea. We bought the authors books and attempted to convert entire divisions over to a “new and improved” way of doing things. And for some reasons, only those who were in the trenches could see the underlying problems in all of it. You see, they were the ones who had to DO the thing. But the moment we didn’t see immediate results we went back to the next conference and started the entire process all over again.

Churches have done the same thing. Seeker sensitive, gen-x, worship evangelism, emerging, alternative church in a church, video, etc. Did it work? Maybe for a while. But even Willow Creek is admitting they didn’t get it all right. In fact, some of their basic assumptions were completely wrong. Yet 12,000 churches signed up to follow them. Did they mean well. Absolutely. It was obvious. But was it costly? Maybe.

Noted author Sally Morgenthaler (ht) and founder of the worship evangelism idea expresses her insight on what happens when we chase the next big thing. She says,

“Several asked me to help them crack the unchurched code. One wanted to invest in an expensive VJ machine and target twentysomethings. The others thought a multisensory, ancient-future, or emergent twist might help. However, when I visited their congregations, it wasn’t hard to see that the biggest barrier to reaching the unchurched had little to do with worship technique or style. It had to do with isolation and the faux-worship that isolation inevitably creates.”

So did all that chasing and time consuming cost work? Morgenthaler continues…

“The upshot? For all the money, time, and effort we’ve spent on cultural relevance—and that includes culturally relevant worship—it seems we came through the last 15 years with a significant net loss in churchgoers, proliferation of megachurches and all.”

15 years and a net loss.  Not the best return on investment they’d say on Sand Hill. And when we think about it, it kind of makes sense.  If our entire focus has been on getting people in the door, which is what Willow and most churches have done, someone is getting left in the wind on this one.  And what Willow found was that it were those who had reached a depth of faith.  In other words, the farther we go up the ladder the less they pay attention to us.  And what Willow found is that these people become disgruntled.  And when newcomers come in, why would they want to be like that?

But my question is why do we do that? Why do we chase the next big thing? Could the answer be that we just don’t want to do the work? Is it that we simply want someone else to do it for us. Maybe. A friend of mine wants to be Tiger Woods but he doesn’t want to practice like Tiger. He wants to be famous like Tiger, but he doesn’t want to put in the long grueling hours AFTER the long tournament. I saw Tiger play the 2000 US Open at Pebble. And on Wednesday, he played his practice round and then spent almost an hour and a half after the round hitting buckets of balls with his coach. We forget about that part. But is it simply laziness, or is it something deeper?

Morgenthaler’s comments hint at the what might really be the underlying problem. She elegantly describes the hidden meaning behind all of this chasing.

“But by 1998 something had shifted. The set-up crews weren’t looking quite as fresh as they once were. Why would they, playing “portable church” 52 weeks a year, year after hopeful year? Of course, they were waiting for the “promised land”—the gleaming megaplex their pastor had envisioned on those 20 farm acres south of town. The savviest start-ups reached that promised land. Most did not.”

Could the real problem be that we’re looking for the next big thing, the thing that provides all the answers, to validate what we’re doing, to validate who we are? The next big thing has the potential to make us look like rock stars. It allows us to step up to the plate and look like a hero, basking in the applause that comes with hitting the home run. Look at us. See what we did.  Yes, God was involved but we led the charge.

But the interesting thing is that Jesus didn’t invite us into the next big thing. He invited us into a missional discipleship journey; a long, hard, sweat of our brow, richly rewarding, time consuming, I want to quit right now but I won’t kind of journey. He didn’t invite us into the next big thing because it was too easy and easy wasn’t worth it. Easy didn’t give us what we really needed. It didn’t require anything of us. It didn’t reveal who we really are. It didn’t reveal what was possible. It didn’t reveal love.

I like where Morgenthaler is going. She’s dropping her own next big thing and shutting down her website to support it.  She say near the end…

“To this end, we will be focusing on the radically different kind of leadership practices necessary to transform our congregations from destinations to conversations, from services to service, and from organizations to organisms.”

It doesn’t sound like the next big thing but it does sounds like something love would do? But then again, isn’t that what we’re really looking for?

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