Saturday, June 30, 2007

Friday, June 29, 2007

My Reflections on the 2007 Buzz Conference

The 2007 Buzz Conference really snuck up on me. Leadership Network had asked me to research and write a paper for them on how churches are using social networking tools for kingdom impact. Mark Batterson agreed that it made sense to distribute the piece at this conference (now avail here) and LN was gracious enough to enable me to attend. Though I ended up participating in one of the Q&A's around the piece (and other topics) on Wednesday, I primarily went to network with other leaders.

I've been to a number of church conferences and technical conferences for my day job, and perhaps I've grown a bit cynical. Longtime emergesque readers are aware of our critique (here and elsewhere) of an evangelicalism that sometimes has seemed to subscribe to the omnicompetence of information transfer as the primary modality of spiritual transformation. We've suggested biblical information is necessary but that something else is also needful. Our conferences (and, without apology, I do consider myself to be an evangelical, though I know in some circles that seems to be increasingly unfashionable) have to me sometimes seemed to be too much of an extension of that.

But Buzz snuck up on me because today I realized that after this conference, I actually feel spiritually refreshed and deeply challenged! Evidence of that is the volume of notes that I took represented below - I don't generally do this. I think there are at least three factors behind my response:

  • As I mentioned before, Mark graciously invited me to his home Wed night for dinner and I was able to spend some relaxed time chatting with the main speakers, their families, and some others. I appreciated the humility, the heart, and the spirit of the folks there.

  • Though there certainly was a ton of information transfer at this conference, there was something more. We didn't just receive info from our speakers but they also gave us their hearts and showed us their passion. This deepened the impact of the truths they shared.

  • Mark has set up prayer teams for the participants of this conference. I believe I personally experienced the positive results of their faithful intercession.

  • Finally, I was just encouraged by the general direction that we are beginning to see in evangelicalism - and evidenced by speakers' comments - away from the attractional model that focuses on church growth and toward the incarnational model that emphasizes the church moving out into the community. (I actually believe it's a both/and situation.) A significant contingent of the folks at NCC's Ebenezer's site are homeless folks and I loved the mixture of demographics that was obvious in the NCCers that volunteered to work at the conference.
I just emailed NCC because I want to hear again today's talk by Craig Groeschel. I resonate with what Mark Batterson blogged today when he wrote:

I honestly think that Craig Groeschel's session today may have been the most powerful conference talk I've ever heard. I'll be digesting it for weeks and months!
NCC is considering not doing Buzz in '08. If you're reading this and found Buzz '07 useful, please join with me in campaigning NCC to by all means do it again next year!

- Metapost to all emergesque Buzz Conference posts

Buzz Conference - Friday 29 June 2007 - Mark Batterson

Mark Batterson of National Community Church in Washington, DC closed out the Buzz Conference with his final talk.

Mark continued his earlier talk on The Spy Rules:

  • Spy Rule #5 - Assume you are under surveillance.

    • people will only be as vulnerable as their leader.

    • the greatest freedom is having nothing to prove.

    • don't be afraid to cry publically (john 11:35)

    • quit trying to be a pastor and start being yourself.

  • #6 - Blend into the Crowd

    • We are to incarnate Christ into our neighborhoods

    • There are 4 potential responses to culture

      • ignore it
      • imitate it
      • condemn it
      • redeem, engage, and create it

    • Jesus didn't hang out at synagogues; he hung out at wells.
    • Coffeehouses are the postmodern wells.

  • #7 - Avoid Defensiveness at all Costs

    • it can be detected.

    • stay in the offense

    • The enemy uses guilt and fear to put us on the defensive.

    • When you are criticized, it's easy to spend too much time on defense.

    • Erwin McManus says that we should not let criticism penetrate our hearts unless it's processed through the filter of Scripture.

    • Criticism should be regarded in proportion to the degree to which the criticizer is close to you relationally.

    • Don't allow negativity to take root in your staff or in your church.

    • Start every meeting with sharing wins.

    • You cannot preach out of your discouragement or an angry spirit.

  • #8 - Be Aware of Your Environment at all Times

    • Be a first class noticer of groups and of individuals (e.g. Genesis 40:7 when David notices the dejection of Pharaoh's officials)

      • Read minds and read rooms

    • We grossly underestimate the way that subtle differences in our environment can affect us.

      • When we think of the DoubleTree Hotel, the first thing that we think about are the cookies!

      • What stands out about the Fractured Prune is that when you visit the first time, they offer you a free donut of your choice.

      • Many chapters of the book of Exodus are devoted to the details of the interior design of the Temple.

  • #9 - Never Go Against Your Gut

    • "I'd rather be biblically correct than politically correct."

    • We live in a culture where it's wrong to say, 'It's wrong.'"

    • We need more guts in

      • preaching
      • evangelism
      • leadership.

    • "The difference between where you are and where God wants you to be is the difficult decision that you refuse to make."

  • #10 - Don't look back!

    • We need to be casting vision more frequently.,

    • NCC does this in a number of ways

      • Leadership Retreat for all leaders (including Small Group Leaders) at the beginning of the year - paid for by NCC

      • Quarterly Leadership Summits

      • Monthly podcasts

      • Etc.

    • RK Kendall's book The Anointing: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow asks if we are living under the anointing today or are we living on the momentum of yesterday's anointing?

      • If we don't experience an anointing every day, then it's only a matter of time before we become yesterday's man.
- Metapost to all Buzz Conference posts

- graphic by kind permission of snaptography

Buzz Conference - Friday 29 June 2007 - Q & A with Craig Groeschel

After Craig's Friday talk, Mark Batterson interviewed Craig. Here are my notes from some of the exchange:

Q: What's the 20% of your job that you don't like?

A: Craig struggles with the organizational side of pastoring a multi-state, multi-site church - e.g. terminations, etc.

Q: What do you do for sermon prep?

A: The part of Craig's answer that I found most interesting was that he runs each sermon by 2-3 groups of people that comprise demographics unlike his. He's interested in the reaction of folks that are younger, older, etc.

Q: How do you balance work and family?

A: Craig's a classic workaholic and it was an issue earlier in his career. One day after he told one of his kids that he would be home from work after she went to bed, she said, "Daddy, this isn't your home, you live at the office." So now he comes in early and leaves every day to workout at 3:45 PM. He only has any church-related meetings one night a week - six nights a week he's with his family.

Q: Did you have any idea how successful would become?

A: No. Craig's mentor said that we tent to overestimate what we can do in the short run and underestimate what we can do in the long run.

- Metapost to all Buzz Conference posts

Buzz Conference - Friday 29 June 2007 - Craig Groeschel

This morning's talk by's Craig Groeschel was definitely one of the most powerful of the conference. It was, in fact, so good that Mark Batterson commented during this talk afterwards that he was struggling to focus on his message because he was still thinking about Craig's!

Craig called his talk "Confessions of a Pastor"

His talk was precipitated by his own sense of failure and weakness and this poem by Sir Francis Drake:

Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too well pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we have dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when
With the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wider seas
Where storms will show your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.

We ask You to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push into the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.

Some points from Craig's talk:
  • Craig has a divine disturbance that he both hates and needs.

  • He confessed to us that he is a practical atheist.

  • He believes in God but has struggled with doing ministry as if He did not exist.

  • Craig quoted Isaiah 29:13,14 (below in NIV)

    13 The Lord says:
    "These people come near to me with their mouth
    and honor me with their lips,
    but their hearts are far from me.
    Their worship of me
    is made up only of rules taught by men.

    14 Therefore once more I will astound these people
    with wonder upon wonder;
    the wisdom of the wise will perish,
    the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish."

  • An early mentor told Craig that he needed to maintain "the pastor's mystique" by dressing in a certain way, speaking in a certain way, and - by all means - show no vulnerabilities.

  • Instead, Craig came to resonate with something that he heard Bill Hybels say - "The way I was doing the work of God was destroying the work of God within me" (may be loose quote).

  • Craig came to realize that he was a full-time pastor but a part-time follower of Christ.

  • Craig detailed three wrong belief:

    • First Wrong Belief: We believe that our effort is better than God's power

      • We'll be successful when.

        • we get out the right mailing,
        • or build the right building,
        • or make the right phone calls,
        • or have the right worship pastor,
        • etc.

      • If I just do a good enough job, then God will bless my ministry.

      • But there is a theological problem with this approach.

        • If I'm not successful, then it means that either

          • God did not come through for me, or
          • I suck.

        • In addition, if we blame ourselves for the declines, then we also must credit ourselves for our successes.

    • Second Wrong Belief: We start to believe that our private life doesn't affect our public ministry.

      • You have to determine your point of vulnerability and you need to be talking to someone about it.

    • Third Wrong Belief: We believe that we must please people more than we must please God.

      • In recent years, we've swung away from irrelevant exposition of Scripture toward a relevant engagement with culture. But we need to take care that we don't go too far in the other direction and be mostly about engaging with culture to the detriment of spiritual truths.

  • It's easy to drift away from God, decision by decision, neglect by neglect.

  • 5 Things that Craig Stepped Into

    • The Spiritual Disciplines

      • Craig's found no substitutes for

        • Time in the Word
        • Prayer
        • Fasting
        • etc

    • The Realm of Faith

      • We have to get to the place where we are taking steps that if God does not help us we will completely fail.
      • If we aren't doing this every 4-5 years, then we're doing something wrong.

    • Authentic Confession

      • Craig underlined that when we confess to God, we are forgiven by God.

      • But he said that to receive healing, we need to confess to others and cited James 5:16 (NIV):

        "Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective."

    • Full-Blown Intentional Accountability.

      • We must be in an accountable relationship for every area of our lives.

      • "Your ministry will never outgrow your willingness to be accountable to others."

    • The Boldness of Preaching God's Word

      • We have to be careful that we don't get so into cultural relevance that we lose the counter-cultural Word of God.
Craig re-affirmed that he was a practical atheist but that he's in recovery.

"If I took my eye off the Cross for one minute, I would be back doing ministry as if it were by my power."


I still need to give some thoughts to Craig's talk. Very helpful.

- Metapost to all Buzz Conference posts

- graphic by kind permission of snaptography

Buzz Conference - Friday 29 June 2007 - Bloggers' Breakfast with Tony Morgan

Left Ellicott City, MD early this AM to make it to Ebenezer's in Washington, DC by 8 AM to participate in the Buzz Conference Bloggers' Breakfast with Tony Morgan, who is the Chief Strategic Officer at New Spring Church in Anderson, SC.

It occurred to me before I went that he might want to know how long we had been blogging and I really wasn't sure how long I had been blogging. So I checked my archives and discovered that as of this month I have been blogging for five years.

He suggested "10 Reasons You Should Stop Blogging." I'll summarize some of his comments below and add a couple of my own prefaced by "ss."

  • You haven't determined your primary audience.

    • Tony's primary readers are other church leaders.

  • You don't post regularly.

    • ss: Tony's argument here was that you can't build a relationship with your readers unless you communicate with them on a regular basis. For months and perhaps years I've posted almost every day, though since I've returned from my blogfast, I haven't been posting as often. I know that what Tony is saying is conventional wisdom but I wonder if today when it seems that most folks are using aggregators like Bloglines if it is as important as it used to be. In days gone by it was more important to blog regularly so that readers did not visit your site too often without finding new content. But now with aggregators, they are prompted when to visit your site. So I guess I would say that you should only post regularly...if you have something to say! (I'm sure Tony wouldn't disagree!)

  • Your posts are too long.

    • The nice thing about blogging is that we don't have to post fully-formed thoughts!

  • You're trying to sell yourself.

    • You need to be vulnerable.
    • You need to show the real you.

  • You don't use humor!

  • You're attacking other people or ministries.

    • Tony's made a commitment not to attack other leaders or ministries and invited his listeners to call him on it if they ever catch him doing it.

  • You've forgotten that blogging isn't private.

  • You're not a thought leader.

    • Tony doesn't like blogs that merely point to others' contents.

    • ss: "Confession:" I have done a lot of this. One reason is that I view my blog as a portal to the rest of the web (or what little part of it I see!) through the filter of what I consider interesting. One thing that emergesque readers have probably legitimately complained about in the past, though, is that I often make no comment as to the significance of what I'm linking too. I probably could do better in that regard. I tend to only post original material when I have enough for what I call blarticles which often turn into articles.

  • You're listening to your critics.

    • You should ignore badly motivated critics.
    • By responding to critics you only bring them more attention and responding serves to legitimize what they're saying.

    • ss: Brian McLaren has great advice about criticism: View every criticism and complaint as a request for assistance. I believe that before we summarily dismiss any criticism - irrespective of source or motive - we should always consider if we have anything to learn from it. That being said, I do think we often do well to avoid engaging our critics when we can see not good coming from the conversation.

  • You're not revealing the real you.

    • People tend to follow blogs with a strong brand identity.
    • People are interested in who you really are.

On the whole, it was a helpful talk and Tony seems like a great guy with a lot of hard-won blogging wisdom to share.

- Metapost to all Buzz Conference posts

This is the Truth

If you want to see something truly amazing,

  • go to Granger Community Church's site,
  • then click "Media Player" in the upper right hand corner of the screen,
  • then click on "Extras"
  • then scroll down to the video that's labelled "The Truth" - Vertigo - Series: U2 Christmas and play that video.
It's worth seeing and highly creative.

Tim Stevens tells me that it'll be available in a few days to purchase @ wired churches.

Thursday, June 28, 2007


Todd Rhoades, Warren Bird, and I had a chance today to chat with Bobby Gruenewald about the new version of the Bible that his team at is launching. It's called YouVersion and here is the site they've just announced.

On Tuesday Bobby briefly described YouVersion this way:

"YouVersion is a free online Bible that allows users to associate video, audio, images, text, tags, and links to other websites with any verse or series of verses in the Bible. Each piece of contributed content can be labeled as public or private, so the application can be used both as a personal study tool and a public expression of user-generated commentary. In addition to contributing content, Scripture can be organized by assigning user-defined “tags” to any verse of the Bible."

This will surely turn out to be a very interesting project!

Buzz Conference – Thursday 28 June 2007 - Craig Groeschel

Craig Groeschel, of, also had some great things to share during his session.

    • It's a distraction to look longingly at the resources other churches have that you don't have.
    • "You have everything that you need to reach the people God wants you to reach."
    • Limited Resources + Increasing Passion = Exponential Innovation
    • If someone demanded $100,000 from you in 2 business days, you'd probably say, "Can 't be done."
    • If someone demanded $100,000 from you in 2 business days or it would cost you the life of your child, you would make it happen.
      • Though your resources are limited, your increased passion would make you exponentially innovative.
    • We need to get more passionate about getting the church into the world, not getting more people in church.

    • Four Characteristics of Innovative Leaders

      • They heal the sick.

        • To reach those who no one else is reaching, we have to do things which no one else is doing.
          • Example: the 4 guys who lowered the paralytic through the roof so that Jesus would heal him. They were innovative in their approach due to their passion and limited resources!
          • Our tendency sometimes is to avoid those being so outrageous!
        • Dave Ferguson: If we're going to reach the world, we have to sit in the smoking section.
        • When is the last time you've had a non-believer in your home?
        • We need to not just go after "the Lost" but after people with specific names.
        • Who is God calling you to reach who no one else is reaching?

      • The break rules

        • NASCAR drivers go straight and turn left, go straight and turn left, etc.
        • Innovative leaders turn right!
        • Every great moment of God started when someone turned right.
        • We have to care more about reaching people than keeping people's stupid rules.
        • Today's contemporary is tomorrow's traditional.
        • What is God calling you to do that no one else is doing?

      • They offend Pharisees

        • The things that are closest to God are most offensive to Pharisees
        • What's accepted today in the church was rejected years ago.
        • If you're not being called a cult every now and then, then you aren't doing anything.,
        • Don't worry when Pharisees criticize you; worry when they don't criticize you!
        • But when criticized, it's important to respond with Grace.
        • What new thing will God call you to create that will be hated today and embraced tomorrow?

      • They redefine success.

        • John 3:30 – "He must become greater; I must become less."
        • We must become less impressed with ourselves and more impressed with Jesus.
        • The largest church in the US today is tiny [compared to the need].
        • We need to focus more on building the church and less on building attendance.
        • Success is not getting voted into the Top 10 of a magazine that only Christians read.
        • Success is
          • Time with God
          • Quality family time
          • The amount of money and the people that we give away
        • Increasing passion will do anything short of sinning to reach others for Christ.

- Metapost to all Buzz Conference posts

- graphic by kind permission of snaptography

Buzz Conference – Thursday 28 June 2007 - Tim Stevens

Tim Stevens, of Granger Community Church, had some great things to share:

  • Most churches don't have buzz 'cause they're not having any impact
  • Impact derives from love.
  • "Would our community be any different if our church ceased to exist?" Would anyone notice?
  • Buzz comes from unexpected care.

  • Using Pop Culture

    • Five Ways to Respond to Pop Culture

      • Ignore it.
      • Separate from it.
      • Condemn it.
      • Embrace it.
      • Leverage it.

    • "Jesus is so obviously at work in Pop Culture…."
    • John 1:14a in the Message paraphrase: "The Word became flesh and blood,
      and moved into the neighborhood."
    • Paul used Pop Culture – Acts 17

    • 3 Ways to Use Pop Culture

      • As a hook
      • To lower folks' defenses
      • Find great art and redeem it

- Metapost to all Buzz Conference posts

Buzz Conference – Thursday 28 June 2007 - Mark Batterson

Great day at Buzz in DC today. Very thought-provoking and encouraging. I am starting to think that many quarters of evangelicalism are starting to get the balancing temporal and eternal concerns thing (aka as the social justice / gospel balance). But there's another dynamic at work here too and that's the incarnational / attractional balance, of which Mike Frost has written and spoken so eloquently. You'll see these themes below, but in summary, a major focus of this conference has not been growing large churches (attractional) but it's been getting out into the community and making both temporal and eternal differences in the lives of neighbors (incarnational).

There were three speakers today.

Here's what struck me from Mark Batterson's talk on The Spy Rules, Part 1

  • Mark Batterson

    • Know your Mission

      • Mark showed a video of a number of folks being baptized and it had a marvelously focusing effect on the mind.
      • "What am I doing that I need to stop doing?"
        • We all have fig trees in our life that we need to curse
      • "What am I not doing that I need to start doing or start doing again?"

    • Gather Intelligence

      • Barna: 61% of kids who grew up in church eventually stop going to church
      • We need to incarnate ourselves into culture.
      • In today's society, musicians and movie makers are the chief theologians.
      • When we take advantages of resonances between today's culture and biblical truth, we are following what Paul did in Acts 17.
      • When we quote the Bible, we gain credibility with Christians
      • When we quote non-biblical sources, we gain credibility with non-Christians
      • We need to read strategically.

    • Maintain a natural pace.

      • Churches don't need sermons well-preached, they need lives well-lived.
      • There's a need for a family / ministry balance and a work / play balance.
      • 3 Resolutions Mark made this year:
        • Don't do work-related email on days off.
        • Use all avail vacation days.
        • Not more than 30 nights a year away from the family.
          • Don't be deceived by the appearance that every speaking opportunity is "an amazing opportunity."
        • Mark also limits himself to only one evening away from the family for anything church related.
      • We must keep a Sabbath.

    • Vary your patterns

      • Love people when they least suspect it and deserve it.
      • The best ads have an aspect of unexpectedness.
      • Leadership is keeping what is sacred from becoming routine.

- Metapost to all Buzz Conference posts

- graphic by kind permission of snaptography

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Buzz Conference: 6/27 PreConference Session - NCC Undercover - Heather Zempel

Here's what struck me from Heather Zempel's talk from NCC Undercover

  • Heather Zempel

    • NCC has a free market small group leadership philosophy.

      • They do not prescribe what small group leaders will do with their groups - they want them to follow their passion.

      • Only three criteria:

        • leader must have been in small group.
          • Mark says this protects culture
        • the group must be relational
        • the group must be missional

      • Find a rhythm with distinct beginning and ending points. NCC uses semesters.

      • Intentionally execute a thought-out discipleship strategy

      • Focus on leaders, not on groups.

      • Keep asking questions and don't be afraid to restructure or relaunch when necessary.
Mark graciously invited Warren, Todd, and me to have dinner at his home afterwards and we were able to meet Mark's family and 2 of the speakers in Thursday's sessions: Craig Groeschel and Tim Stevens. Most of Craig family was there, some of Tim's workmates, and some other NCC staffers as well. It was a wonderful evening and humbling to be with such extremely gifted people.

I'm really looking forward to tomorrow's sessions.

- Metapost to all Buzz Conference posts

The Buzz Conference: PreConference Session - 6/27 NCC Undercover - Joel Schmidgall

Here's what struck me from Joel Schmidgall's talk on 6/27 as a part of NCC Undercover

  • Joel shared 10 best practices for Outreach. Here are some of them.

    • Mix it up - have all kinds of outreach efforts. They have

      • a ministry to the homeless
      • kids' movie nights
      • back to school carnivals
      • handing out water on the 4th of July at Metro stops
      • etc

      • Joel said that if you don't have a few failures then you're not doing enough.

    • Have a few uncontainable neighborhood events every year.

      • this puts the church on the radar screen of the neighborhood

    • Go after the people that nobody wants and you'll get the people that everybody wants.

    • Blog your mission trips so that folks at home will also benefit from your team's spiritual adventure.

    • Joel has a list of all the local news media - newspaper, tv - contacts and whenever NCC plans a big event, he emails them a month in advance of the event.

    • Take advantage of local grants for these events
- Metapost to all Buzz Conference posts

The Buzz Conference: PreConference Session - 6/27 NCC Undercover - Mark Batterson

Today, Buzz offered pre-conference sessions before the primary sessions begin tomorrow. I went to the afternoon NCC Undercover session, which drilled down into the history and inner workings of National Community Church in Washington, DC. Speakers were

Todd Rhoades and I were asked to participate during the Q&A session after Warren spoke on social networking tools and the church.

Here are some of the points that struck me from what Mark Batterson shared:
  • from Mark:

    • NCC has a budget of $2 million per year, yet they give $300,000 every year to missions.

    • 73% of their folks are single 20somethings and because so many are Capitol Hill interns, they're typically there only 2 years. NCC has to gauge their discipleship strategy accordingly

    • NCC has a coffee house - Ebenezers - that's in a bldg that was built in 1908. Mark prayed that God would give NCC that building, a former crack house, for 8 years.

      • It's right beside Union Station which is one of the NCC sites. They finally were able to buy the site - over superior competing offers - for the very low price of $325,000. It was worth at least $1,000,000.

      • Mark comments, "We grossly underestimate our spiritual authority in prayer." Mark also says that we should not be afraid to pray ridiculous prayers. He says that we need to believe in something bigger than us so that we can grow into that vision.

      • 54% of folks who go to the church site that meets on the floor below Ebenezer's had never gone to any other NCC site.

- Metapost to all Buzz Conference posts

New Horizons for Kingdom Impact: Social Networking Tools

Leadership Network has released a piece (pdf) I put together on various ways churches are using the internet and social networking tools for kingdom impact. It's being distributed at The Buzz Conference taking place now in Washington, DC.

- Metapost to all Buzz Conference posts

The Buzz Conference

I'm off to the Buzz Conference today - I'll be blogging my thoughts about it.

Speakers are:

Today I'm going to a pre-conference session on the history of National.

This should really be interesting!

- Metapost to all Buzz Conference posts

Monday, June 25, 2007

As A Public Service: YouTube to iPod

I wanted to try to find a way to get Paul Pott's incredible Britain's Got Talent audition video on to the 5G iPod Beth bought for me for Father's Day. I found this free very easy-to-use program and it works like a charm.


Thursday, June 21, 2007

"The Simple Way" Community Devastated by Fire

Many of us are aware of Shane Claiborne through his book, The Irresistible Revolution. This sad news from the Simple Way site:

6/20/07 11:25PM (UPDATED)

This morning, a 7-alarm fire consumed an abandoned warehouse in our Kensington neighborhood in Philadelphia. The Simple Way Community Center at 3200 Potter Street was destroyed as well as at least eight of our neighbors’ homes. Over 100 people were evacuated from their homes, and 400 families are currently without power. Despite this tragedy, we are incredibly thankful to share that all of our community members and every one of our neighbors is safely out of harm’s way.

This fire will forever change the fabric of our community. Eight families are currently homeless, and in many cases have lost their vehicles as well as their homes. One of our neighbors, the Mahaias Family, lost their three cars as well as the equipment one family member uses for her massage therapy business. Teenager Brian Mahaias is devastated not because he has lost his belongings, but because he fears that this fire will force him to move away from this neighborhood that is his family as well as his home.

The Simple Way has lost a community center that was home to our Yes! And… afterschool program, community arts center, and Cottage Printworks t-shirt micro-business as well as to two of our community members. Community members Shane Claiborne and Jesce Walz have lost all of their belongings, Yes!And…’s after school studio and library were ruined, and community member Justin Donner’s Cottage Printworks equipment and t-shirts were destroyed.

We are thankful that we are able to help each other during this time of need, and we will continue to keep your informed about today’s events.

We have established funds to support the families who have lost their homes, the Yes! And… afterschool program, and the Simple Way community.

These funds have been established through a partner organization, EAPE. Tax-deductible donations can be made at Please make sure to put “TSW-Kensington Families Fund” or “TSW-Rebuilding Fund” in the memo section.

-The Simple Way Community


kenny sheppard posts a short video on the power of gift. very moving and worth watching.

after seeing the video, you can get an update on Paul Potts here.

And he was on the Today show this AM.

Monday, June 18, 2007

30 Billion and 1 Reasons My Wife Rocks

Now that's a Father's Day Gift!

That comprised the 30 billion reasons. But the one reason that was the best gift Beth gave me yesterday was a day with my Michaela (11), Skye (9), and Alia (7) at Chesapeake Water Park.

Thanks Beth!!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Bible Experience

I hadn't noticed this low a price before, but is selling this great audio Bible for $20.99 for the MP3-CD version of the New Testament.

The version used is Today's New International Version. The complete cast list reads as a who's who African-Americans in the entertainment industry but also from other fields with

  • Angela Bassett
  • Samuel L. Jackson
  • Cuba Gooding, Jr
  • Forest Whitaker
  • and many others
If you've never heard this fully-scored audio Bible you can sample it here.

Beth and I have been really enjoying our copies of this. The one thing we don't like is that in some of the epistles one person will be reading, then two people will be reading at the same time, then they will phase to the second person only. I can think of no dramatic or other reason they would do this other than to give more people an opportunity to participate in the project. But I really find it distracting.

That quibble aside, this is a fine and engaging audio Bible which is very professionally done. lists a release date of 30 October 2007 for the Old Testament.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

the best arguments I've ever heard for the plurality of elders

from Darrin Patrick (via Mark Driscoll)


  • Fifteen hundred pastors leave the ministry each month due to moral failure, spiritual burnout, or contention in their churches.
  • Fifty percent of pastors' marriages will end in divorce.
  • Eighty percent of pastors and eighty-four percent of their spouses feel unqualified and discouraged in their role as pastors.
  • Fifty percent of pastors are so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living.
  • Eighty percent of seminary and Bible school graduates who enter the ministry will leave the ministry within the first five years.
  • Seventy percent of pastors constantly fight depression.
  • Almost forty percent polled said they have had an extra-marital affair since beginning their ministry.
  • Seventy percent said the only time they spend studying the Word is when they are preparing their sermons.

Pastors' Wives

  • Eighty percent of pastors' spouses feel their spouse is overworked.
  • Eighty percent of pastors' spouses wish their spouse would choose another profession.
  • The majority of pastors’ wives surveyed said that the most destructive event that has occurred in their marriage and family was the day they entered the ministry.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Update to Associated Press Story on Brian McLaren

UPDATE: On Monday 11 June, I posted questioning the accuracy of a story claiming to be from the Associated Press quoting Brian McLaren. In that post, I also published Brian's response to the story.

An emergesque reader, Scott B, seems to have identified the source of the story and brought it to our attention in comments to that post.

The source appears to be a Wed 4 June 2007 podcast by Steve Coleman, an Associated Press Religion Editor, where he makes comments over audio Brian McLaren quotes.

The podcast is only about 1 minute long and I've transcribed the complete text below:

Steve Coleman:

Thy Kingdom Come

I’m Steve Coleman, with A Closer Look.

The Chairman of the liberal Christian group Sojourners says he believes that

Brian McLaren:

“Jesus coming was not primarily about getting people into heaven versus hell. I think he was actually coming to proclaim the Kingdom of God, which is God’s will being done on Earth.”

Steve Coleman:

The Rev. Brian McLaren says that’s why congregations in the emergent church movement focus more on social action than trying to convert people to Christianity.

Brian McLaren:

“We want to share our faith with other people, but people who don’t want to accept our faith - they’ve very happy being Muslim or Buddhist or Jewish or atheist or whatever - we have to say: well you know what, our faith drives us to want to be good neighbors to them and care about them whether or not they ever accept our faith."

Steve Coleman:

Does he want them to become Christians?

Brian McLaren:

“I wish that everybody would find all the great things I’ve found through Christ, there’s no question about it. But that’s not the same as wanting to shoehorn them out of their religion and push them into mine.”

Steve Coleman:

The Rev. Brian McLaren.

I’m Steve Coleman.

This original podcast is more nuanced than the derivative text article we cited and Brian's explanatory response makes his position more clear.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

What I'm Reading

Someone asked me what I'm reading, so here goes:

I just finished

Monday, June 11, 2007

Bogus "Associated Press" Story on Brian McLaren

Brian was my pastor from 1988 until 2001 and I worked with him on staff at the church he founded - Cedar Ridge Community Church - from 1999 through 2000. He married Beth and me and helped us dedicate our kids. Brian and I don't agree on everything, but he has always been very good to me and I have learned a lot from hearing him speak and serving with him at CRCC; I definitely consider him one of my mentors.

I ran across this story about Brian that just didn't ring true. On this link, it claimed to be from the Associated Press and so I searched their archives. I could find no such story from the AP though it is being picked up in various places.

So before I posted my doubts about the credibility of the story, I wanted to confirm my suspicions. And so I contacted Brian. He responded quickly and wrote, "I have no idea who this journalist is or where these comments come from."

Brian also provided me with a running commentary on the story and authorized me to publish it here. Find the full text of the story with Brian's responses italicized below:

The chairman of the liberal Christian group Sojourners says he believes that "Jesus coming was not primarily about getting people into heaven."

-- First of all, Sojourners is not a "liberal Christian group," unless you define liberal as "not limited to the Religious Right." This kind of binary thinking is a huge part of the problem in our culture - it is part, I think, of the "Jerry Springerization" of the media, where every story is "shoe-horned" (to pick up a word that will be included below) into a liberal/conservative, left/right polarity and fight. Many of us are trying to get beyond these old categories and pugilism because we believe that the Right and Left both have valid concerns and both have major blind spots. We believe the Christian message in some areas affirms and in other areas critiques both "sides" in many of these polarized debates.

-- Second, I'm not "chairman of the group," but chair of the board of
directors, which, as you know, is a voluntary position; I'm not an official spokesperson for Sojourners.

-- Third, the word "primarily" is
important here. I believe that we Christians have overemphasized the issue of post-mortem destination of souls and have underestimated God's concern for human beings in this life, in culture, in creation. The results of this problem of emphasis are complex and far-reaching.

The Rev. Brian McLaren says he believes that Jesus came "to proclaim
the Kingdom of God, which is God's will being done on Earth."

-- This certainly is true, as my book "The Secret Message of Jesus" explores in detail, and as the Lord's prayer makes clear. I'll also be exploring Jesus' message of the kingdom of God in my upcoming book, "Everything Must Change," which will be out in early October.

McLaren says that's why congregations in the "emergent church"
movement focus more on social action than trying to convert people to

-- After a brief respite of accuracy, we're back to some unfortunate journalism. I certainly can imagine some churches having a special vocation or calling in evangelism or in social action, but I wouldn't say churches in general (of whatever labelling) should focus more on social action than evangelism, nor would I say the reverse. Both are integral to our mission as followers of Jesus. What I would say is that if we better understand Jesus' message of the kingdom of God, we will see how it integrates the making of disciples and the seeking of justice in one beautiful whole called "mission."

McLaren says that if people are "happy being Muslim, or Buddhist or
Jewish or atheist," he doesn't think it's right to try to "shoe-horn
them out of their religion" into Christianity.

-- I could imagine saying something like this as part of a larger conversation, but in this context, coming after the previous misrepresentation of my thinking, this statement would be quite misleading, just the kind of thing some of my critics would love to seize on. Obviously, I don't think anyone should be pressured into conversion - shoe-horned, coerced, bribed, manipulated, converted "by the sword," or anything of that sort. The fact is, people who are satisfied with their religion won't be interested in changing. But if people see "the light of good deeds" in our lives, as Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, if they see love us love one another, if they sense the love and grace and truth and character of God in us, if they hear us bearing witness to God's reality in our lives, they'll be attracted to our message and eager to learn about the hope that we have. I'm all for that. In fact, as you know, that's what I've devoted my life to ...
I know that Brian would agree with me that it's ok to disagree but it's not ok to misrepresent the position of the one with whom you disagree.


- An emergesque reader has found the apparent source to the story above. See this update.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

essential and non-essential teachings

Dan Kimball, far left with NPR's Krista Tippett, Karen Ward, Mark Driscoll, and Doug Pagitt as a recent Listening to the Beliefs of the Emerging Church event, offered some helpful thoughts on the difference.

I agree with Dan that the distinction is an important one and would only add the nuance that we must never collapse Christianity down to a set of propositions.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

"Ministries have expiration dates"

"By the way, I think the same goes for every ministry in our churches. Once it serves it's purpose, please kill it. Don't let it die one of those embarrassing deaths! Ministries have expiration dates. Once you pass the date, it can actually be hazardous to your health and become counter-productive. Certain committees can cause more harm than good if you let them exist forever! Alright, most committees! Just kidding. Sort of."

Mark Batterson posts some helpful counsel.

Friday, June 08, 2007

The State of Katrina Recovery

This past weekend, KatrinaGrace, the Katrina Recovery relief organization Beth and I lead with Neil and Sandra Clabough at Grace Community Church, brought Mark Lewis, Director of the Evangelical Free Church of America's Crisis Response Team, and Mary Held, who coordinates follow-up for their Katrina Relief efforts, to Grace to update us on how things are going in New Orleans and what still needs to be done.

Since Katrina, KatrinaGrace has sent over 100 folks on 11 Teams to work with Trinity Church and the EFCA in the New Orleans area and we have 5 trips scheduled between now and the end of 2007. We interviewed Mark and Mary in all three services this past Sunday and then manned sign-up tables for this year's trips. Through Trinity Church in Covington, LA (on the North Shore of Lake Pontchartrain) and the EFCA, we work with Habitat for Humanity in Slidell, LA and are about to also begin working with Habitat for Humanity in New Orleans proper in association with Urban Impact Ministries.

Though we know from being down there that there's still a ton of work to be done (Mark Lewis estimates that recovery in the area will take 8-10 years), I had been looking for ways to keep up with the overall state of Katrina Recovery. I just found The Greater New Orleans Community Data Center, which seems to be doing a good job keeping up with at least some of the core recovery metrics. Just last month they released an updated Katrina Index which updates some of these details. Among their findings:

  • 70 Orleans Parish schools remain closed

  • 15 public libraries remain closed

  • 36% of area health care facilities are yet to open

  • On an up note, 92% of New Orleans hotels have opened.
I'm continuing to search for means to quantify the recovery in the New Orleans area. If you find good articles/sites that do this, please let me know. I know there will be some good analysis in the media as we approach the 2nd anniversary of the storm towards the end of the summer.

Just last night I finished The Great Deluge by Douglas Brinkley of Tulane University which I bought in New Orleans when I was down there. Written as a continuing narrative of the events of 27 Aug thru 3 Sept 2005, the book is a helpful collection of story after story of what was going on on the ground, and with private, non-profit, city, state, and federal government response (or the lack thereof).

It's so easy to be faddish when it comes to disaster recovery and it's also easy to lose focus when a situation is changing so very slowly. Mark Lewis helpfully challenged Beth and me to keep the long view in mind when it comes to aiding the New Orleans area.

There are so many ways to get involved with this effort and many faith-based initiatives as well. Beth and I have been thinking about what it would mean if the church in the US were to decide that we would make up the difference between what the various government agencies are doing and what actually needs to be done.

Mark Lewis and Mary Held both have the proper perspective that our job is to holistically serve folks in New Orleans, balancing gospel and practical relief effort concerns. It's fun to think about how the church could have such a positive spiritual influence in the area through serving the practical needs there and building redemptive relationships...

Thursday, June 07, 2007

God Debate between Mark Roberts and Christopher Hitchens

Author Christopher Hitchens recently released a book entitled God is Not Great.

Hugh Hewitt has released the transcript of the three-hour debate he moderated between Mark D. Roberts , who received his Ph.D. in New Testament and Christian Origins from Harvard, and Christopher Hitchens.

You can find the transcript here and you can download the audio here.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

great quote on transpropositionality

"I am not so lost in lexicography as to forget that words are the daughters of earth, and that things are the sons of heaven."

- Samuel Johnson

- on transpropositionality

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

a new and amazing memoir of the holocaust...

...from a 14 year old Pole and Jewish girl.

"'The little faith I used to have has been completely shattered. If God existed, He would have certainly not permitted that human beings be thrown alive into furnaces, and the heads of little toddlers be smashed with gun butts or shoved into sacks and gassed to death.'"


"Later that day, she shifted back to her harsh reality, describing how she watched as a Nazi soldier tore a Jewish baby away from his mother and killed him with his bare hands."

- link

- page on the problem of evil

Saturday, June 02, 2007

blog buzz link love for my friend dj chuang

A couple of days ago, my good friend DJ Chuang and I met again at Sierras Grill just outside of the Washington Beltway and shared a fine Mexican meal. DJ wears several hats, including dad, husband, Director of Digital Initiatives and Asian American Church Research with Leadership Network and as the Executive Director of L2 Foundation. DJ and I met while we both attended Cedar Ridge Community Church which Brian McLaren and others started in 1982. We had a fine conversation and spent a good bit of time discussing the unique opportunities of online community and the inadequacy of the term "the declining cost of information" to describe what's happening in media nowadays. (I'll probably blog more about this later, but lately I'm thinking that "the declining cost of community" is a better rubric because it captures the relational interactivity now available to us through media.)

I was sad to find out just before we met that DJ and his family are moving to Los Angeles! But DJ's adventures are our opportunities! That's because he has agreed to accept sponsors for his trip! He explains some of what he could offer:


  1. cell phone with internet plan to blog, to send photos and to post video - to share this ultimate road warrior experience, I’d like to make blog posts while going 65 mph, upload photos and videos right from the phone, even host chat hours via IM
  2. overnight stay at 3+ star hotels - candid reviews posted for free, but raving positive reviews + photos + links can be had for a comp stay
  3. meals at restaurants - candid reviews posted for free, but raving positive reviews + photos + links can be posted for meals on-the-house
  4. car-wrap advertising on a 2006 Nissan Xterra - yes, we’ll drive cross-country with your full-car ad
  5. web hosting - host the blog and domain name for 2 years with unlimited bandwidth and one-click WordPress installation
  6. bonus: GPS navigation equipment — for driving directions and more, we’ll talk it up as we use it all the way across the country"
Be sure to read his post on this to get the full scoop.

DJ, I am going to miss you here in Washington, DC but I'm glad the declining cost of community will empower us to keep in touch.

God bless you and thank you for your friendship and contributions to Christ's kingdom.

Friday, June 01, 2007

God and Jazz

This evening while exercising I was listening again to Jazz extraordinaire Pat Metheny's wonderful Offramp, which first came out in 1982 and won a grammy that year for "Best Jazz Fusion Performance." I have been enjoying this album for over 20 years. I originally purchased the album in CD format. But shortly after being given a Nano for my birthday in October of 2005, I imported the album using iTunes Advanced Audio Coding (AAC) @ 128 kps.

Recently, I upgraded my car stereo and wanted to see if I could improve my sound fidelity by using a thicker file format. And so I changed the default import format to MP3 @ 256 kps.

I haven't decided yet if I can really tell a difference, but tonight as I was exercising outside with my PortaPro's I did notice musical detail and activity on the title cut of Pat Metheny Group's third grammy-award winning album that I had never heard before. This, even though I have been listening to this album for over 20 years. (Now, I know the CD format is even thicker than the MP3, so I think it might have been due to the quality of the cans - I have been extremely happy with the Portapro's even though Koss has been selling this line since 1984!)

But irrespective of why, the better fidelity I experienced and the ability to appreciate greater musical detail reminded me of our growing knowledge of God.

Sometime recently, I realized that I was spending a lot of time focusing on concepts of God rather than on God Himself. A couple of weeks ago, I felt graced with a deeper knowledge that God Himself is my primary context rather than the one circumstance in my life about which I spend too much time obsessing.

There is a certainly a greater detail to God that I've been missing and what I need to do is to listen more carefully.

Over the last several months, I've spent a good bit of time trying to wrap my brain around Ephesians 3:14-20. Paul writes:

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord's people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,

The harder one looks at and reflects upon this passage, the more one sees. One thought thread that has jumped out at me has been that:

We are reliant on God to help us to realize how much He loves us. When we realize how much He loves us, we are full of God.

And - of course - this knowledge is not just informational; it's transpropostional.

I believe that God wants us to get lost in Him, in His wonder, in His majesty, in His greatness, in His holiness, in His love.

I am trying lose myself in Him by listening more carefully.

picture from