Reflecting On Bad News, Good News and Dylan Turning One

Earlier this week I had prepared a post about our second son, Dylan turning one and had planned on posting it by now but for a number of reasons, that post didn’t seem appropriate.

Monday morning I read news of friends who had a miscarriage and a church member’s aunt had died at her own daughter’s wedding reception. Add the news of another friend’s recent miscarriage, a number of people going through various treatments and losses, and many friends going through financial and career challenges and decisions, I just couldn’t hit the “publish” button.

I have been thinking about this and have come to a few realizations. One, we have some great friends. I know that all of our friends (yea, all) are extremely happy for us and would never want their sufferings to affect our joy – like I said, we have good friends.

Two, I have been an longtime advocate that the internet is a great place. Truth be told, I pray more for the needs of others because of things like Facebook and Twitter. Further, in today’s hectic place of life, things like Facebook keep us better connected. Like I said on friend’s blog recently, I am beginning to think that the internet was God’s idea.

Third, bad news travels too fast and good news too slow. Bad news finds a broader audience and good news is sometimes too awkward to share and to receive. Though I’ve always know that to some extent, I feel convicted in a sense to share more good news more regularly. As one who talks about the good news of the Gospel regularly, I’m encouraged that we Christians will always have genuine good news to share.

Other good news is that dear friends of mine – the Turners have had a beautiful baby girl and they have named her Delancey Sophia. She is now almost two weeks old and has already read Moby Dick, watched the entire Lord of the Rings Trilogy and composed a series of sonnets that aid her parents in going to sleep. She’s pretty cool.

Fourth, despite my or anyone else’s Facebook profiles, pictures, real life amenities, and blessings, I do not know anyone who is living a perfectly happy, pain-free, stress-free life – Not a one. I know people who are in good seasons of life, tough seasons but I do not know anyone who does not have any problems. I know people who handle life’s challenges better than others but obviously, still have challenges. To that, let’s not ever let our envy and hurt consume us and allow it to create and harbor bitterness towards others.

Lastly, when Susan and I were going through our years of infertility, we genuinely were happy for those that were going through beautiful seasons of life and like I mentioned in post shortly after Dylan’s birth, we were relieved that no one we knew was going through the same thing. Sadly, we now know numerous couples but fortunately, we have heard and seen numerous great stories as well.

So to those that grieve for whatever reason, to those that are overwhelmed by the stresses of life, to those that do not see any hope, I pray you will lean on the grace of Jesus that offers to carry our burdens and sojourn together with us in this life. There was a time that I stopped believing in a number of things, and among them was seeing my wife holding our own children. This week, the second one turned a year old and I praise the Lord for His persistent faithfulness to the doubting and hurting. May the Lord give you joy as you seek His presence.  In the meantime, I deeply thank the Lord for these times and pray others would receive even better.

Reflecting on Being at the Grapevine Project This Weekend

This past weekend I was one of the workshop speakers at the Grapevine Project. Their mission “is to glorify God by equipping the Second Generation to develop true identity, spiritual maturity, and the skills for discipleship so that they are strengthened forministry in their local churches and communities.”

I first became aware of GP after speaking at a Middle Eastern Church Conference for their College and Career age back in 2007. Between seminary and then kids (praise the Lord for both!), I could never make it out. This year worked out differently and with the blessing of my local community, I was set to go and was asked two give two workshops – one on purity and the other on missional living which was framed by the question, “With all the stress in our everyday lives, how can we live out the mandates of Scripture like worship and serving others?”

Things like Grapevine are important to me because I really wish there was something like this when I was growing up. By focusing specifically on the first and second generation middle-eastern students – a lot can happen potentially.   As any immigrant family knows, there is a great deal of cultural identity searching in addition to the other identity searching that adolescence and adulthood bring. I am so grateful for people like Khalaf, Ash, Maya, Tala, Mark, their families, and the many others including all the small group leaders that have served this need for the last 5 years.

There was a lot I found at Grapevine regarding their hopes and dreams and wonderful moments and conversations I had over the weekend and I’d like to post more but here’s a little bit of what I found:

The value of relationships. This is not new of course, but rather encouraging. It’s always a big thing to me when I hear people say, “It’s all about relationships here.” Of course some people flippantly use that in the same way selfish people say, “I like to help people” but when you see a place that thrives on relationships, you believe it. This weekend I saw so many that gathered to reconnect, share the stories of their recent past and further their relationship with God. As an outsider, this was pretty obvious.

However, even though I was an outsider, I was so encouraged by the unity I found in the body of Christ. Three things struck me. One was our worship. Led by a young twenty something named Mark (who led worship at the conference I spoke at back in 2007) and his friends from Taylor University, I felt that unity of the Body. Second was in Khalaf’s teaching. Khalaf is a fantastic speaker, a recent MDIV grad, and has a full-time career in Microsoft Training. He’s a couple years older than me and we connected on the “stuck between two generations” thing, as well as of course the middle-eastern connection. It was helpful to me that he said a number of things that I normally say and my workshops seemed to reemphasize his main session points. That’s a cool thing when you don’t know each other and haven’t planned that.  And third, I got to meet some great people. Though you cannot maintain great relationships with everyone, in the Facebook age, you can still keep in some type of touch. There were a couple other things that I wrote down in my journal – I was reminded by the importance of inter-generational ministry and inter-cultural ministry which deserve their own posts.

Lastly though I was motivated further to work in my local context to which the Lord has called me to. It’s here in my local church in Montvale (and to a certain extent, the youth group at my first church) that many thoughts and ideas are birthed. It’s our students that have to hear the illustrations that don’t work before the ones that do take some shape. It’s through them and our leaders here that have provided countless stories and other thoughts and ideas and I find myself grateful for that. it’s always nice to get away, speak, and hope to be a blessing to others, but it’s so good to be rooted some place where you can come back, share life together, and hopefully be a blessing (and be blessed as well).

I hope to get back to Grapevine and would be great to either organize an event here or bring a couple church groups out there. We’ll see what happens.

More from the Grapevine Project’s Mission:  Over the years many families have moved from the Middle East to North America, seeking opportunities and a better way of life. These immigrants brought their faith and their traditions, and began to establish churches similar in form to what they had left behind. These First Generation believers worship the Lord with all sincerity of heart, and continue to do so to this day.

The children of these immigrants, the Second Generation, have much in common with their parents. Yet being born here and growing up in a world unlike that of their parents has shaped them differently. … Over the past ten years the Lord as laid a burden on the hearts of many people to effectively reach the Second Generation and nurture them to spiritual maturity in Christ, in effect “reconnecting” them to the True Vine.

Check out their site here.

Reviewing The 7 Minute Difference by Allyson Lewis

I was provided with a free copy of this book and planner so that I could review it and am not oblgated to write a positive review.

So here is my honest review of the The 7 Minute Difference by Allyson Lewis

About once or twice a year, I read a time-management type of book (usually at a Barnes and Noble). For whatever reason, I have always had a skepticism towards self-help books, including a particular type of leadership/management books. Over the years, I have softened a little bit and have usually found an idea or two that I tried to work into my life. I still use some of Stephen Covey’s ideas (like “Important and Urgent”, “Not Important but Urgent”, etc.) but since getting my Palm Pilot turned Treo turned iPhone days, I have never made used his stuff digitally and have never been compelled to examine what his system offers.

Which brings me to The 7 Minute Difference – I read the book, looked through the workbook, and have been slowly applying some of the practices.

What I liked about The 7 Minute Difference

I must say that I felt very validated with some of Allyson’s suggestions because I am “sorta-kinda” doing some of them. As one who has the habit of creating numerous to-do lists while I am driving, I often space out on my tasks and plan when i finally get to my desk or get online or whatever the case may be. My iPhone has been helpful in recording some of my thoughts too but have never been consistent with it.

What has helped me is writing things the tasks for the next day whether on paper or on my phone. I tend to do this at night and then again before lunch. I even break them up into sub-categories of “Office”, “Home”, “Online” and “WO (“While I am Out”). Allyson’s system is better organized and I appreciated the intentionality.

I really liked the idea of “micro-actions”. Yep, it’s what you guessed – little things. Though I came across that idea and others before, some of them might as well be new again because I found myself motivated by the concept. The idea is to do smaller things regularly with defined time limits as in “Do a little every day …” type of thing. There were many social/professional micro-actions like reading body-language, expressing notes of gratitude for clients, etc.

Like Allyson, I am prone to cluttering my workspace. She was very adamant in making sure at least one of your work-spaces is always de-cluttered. To insure this, she recommended some micro-actions like spending 15 minutes each day clearing out one drawer, 20 minutes of your weekend sorting through shelves in a closet and schedule 10 minutes three times a week to work on your office files.

There are many other elements that I’ll mention. Like there is an entire thread dedicated to client relationships that to put it simply, in ministry I do things a bit differently but still, many of her suggestions were helpful. Another helpful theme is devoted to the importance of reading a minimum of 10 pages a day, preferably non-fiction.

Further this is not a Christian self-help book but Allyson repeatedly mentions her faith and practices. I appreciated that she did that without sounding cheesy. Further, she repeatedly her values of having a strong marriage, healthy relationships with her children, and quality of life aspects. I admit, every so often, I found myself wrestling with some of the “success” language but throughout the book, Allyson undermines materialism, the pursuit of wealth, etc. Having the life “you want” is a complicated discussion for me and this is not the book to discuss it over but I did appreciate the spiritual tone of the book.

If you are looking for a resource to help you be more productive and need some motivation to de-clutter and take a bit more control of your life, I recommend you check this out at

Reflecting On Our Sr. High Fall Retreat – Part 2 – The Need For Retreat

Yesterday’s post began with my gratefulness for a great weekend but ended with the concern of a poor attendance because of all the other functions that were falling on that weekend.

Then there was a turning point. A junior girl decided to skip her Homecoming Weekend. Now, to guys like me, i would consider a retreat scheduled on a weekend like this to be a favor but apparently to girls, this was a stressful decision and a major sacrifice. I don’t understand Twilight or Justin Bieber either.

Looking back on it, her decision became quite the message that was communicated to everyone. I heard a few people say, “Wow – that’s cool she’s doing that.” Soon other junior girls signed up, seniors signed up (we have awesome seniors btw), and a handful of students who I did not expect began making the commitment. One skipped her tennis meet (she’s good too), a lead in a school play skipped his Saturday rehearsal and numerous other sacrifices were made and you know what – this commitment became an important message to each other. (What was also cool is that no one intentionally made a big deal of it).

By the end of the weekend, everyone was saying, “I am so glad I came …. I really needed this.” Which for those of us in youth ministry that is the same jubilation felt when a senior pastor hears the phrase “Pastor, we got a big offering today!” (Kidding, Kidding).

The other youth pastor, Greg, and I spent a lot of time talking about the idols we (un)intentionally create in our lives. It ranges from academics, sports, the arts, and numerous other extracurriculars. This stems from being taught at an early age that we are in competition with one another. “Nothing will be handed to you, you need to earn it” and sitting at the kitchen table and hearing a loving and concerned parent explain that scholarships are essential to get into a good school so you can get a good job so you can get a good life and if you don’t, insert the nightmare story here that every family has but rarely shares from behind closed doors. This is the pressure that my classmates and I grew up with and in many ways, it is even more competitive now.

Numerous times a day, I hear the crazy pace of our students – getting up early, after-school practices and rehearsals, jobs and other responsibilities that bring them home around 9 (some later) and then the homework … On the retreat we discussed this at length. Where is the balance that God intends for us? Is it even possible to live a life that is focused on Jesus with such a calendar? Is an idea like Sabbath even practical today?

I know these sentiments may be scary to people, especially to parents (and I write knowing very aware of this and hope you communicate any concerns to me). These sentiments when abused lead to laziness in the name of God which is of course, not godly at all. We as adults, youth pastors, students, anyone who considers themselves a follower of Jesus is called to live out the calling placed on our lives. This always means hard-work, being a good steward of our gifts, personalities, time, resources, etc. we have been entrusted with and our commitment to serving the Father’s Kingdom, because as Jesus said, “What good is it for a person to get a 4.0, a perfect SAT score, a dream job that provides the luxuries and amenities of the world but lose their soul?”

Reflecting On Our Sr. High Fall Retreat Part 1

I find myself very thankful for an excellent retreat this past weekend. Some excellent conversations and connections were had and made, some important truths were remembered, and some friendships were made and deepened. From my vantage point, it was great to see those and other beautiful moments happen over the weekend.

Our group joined the good people at Westminster Presbyterian from West Chester, PA on their annual fall retreat. Their youth director Greg Kilmovitz and their director of alternative worship, Jon Frost and I know each other from Biblical Seminary. (Faithful readers of the blog/twitter will recognize Jon as a member of my cohort and the recipient of the prestigious “Biblical Seminary Missional Student” award ;-) Back in April, the three of us and two other good friends went to see the NT Wright Conference at Wheaton and we really connected (it was sorta like a youth retreat, except for theology nerds). It was on our way home that Greg and I began talking about the possibility of doing a retreat like this with our respective groups. Though I knew it was a terrible mistake to ever partner with someone whose last name you could not pronounce, like how Kierkegaard taught about the absurdity of Abraham, I stepped out in faith.

Here’s the context of it – We both serve in suburban churches, contend with a bit of our denominational traditions and have high visions for student ministry. This means a lot of things. For one, some consider us boring because we quote Barth and Augustine to our students but we do it to attempt to communicate the rich history of the Church. On a good week, we even use the Old Testament ;-) Two, denominational traditions, as well as the histories of our respective local churches inform what we do. I do not intend to make this sound like a negative thing at all for there is a lot of goodness in this too, only to say, it’s something necessary to account for. And three, youth ministry in the ‘burbs is a tricky thing for a lot of reasons but among them is our collective busyness.

Simply having a retreat weekend is tough enough. In fact, one of the reasons we do not do fall retreats is due to the difficulty of creating a critical mass. A week before the retreat, I did not know if we would have 2 students or 20. Further, in order to secure the camp (Sandy Hills, in North East, MD), we needed 50 participants. I want to be clear here and not cast any negativity on our respective youth groups (our churches, our families, etc.) but only to make the point that youth ministry, and in this case, fall retreats are becoming increasingly difficult in the busyness of suburban life.

Back to April – we discussed this on the long ride back from Wheaton, the expectation of our retreat grew. In fact, this helped us develop the problem that we wanted to discuss and its solution – the idols we create and the journey that Christ has called us to. We decided that there were numerous journeys that our lives were on and some times the metaphor of “journey” was not always helpful so we narrowed it down to two – the Inward and the Outward Journey and this became our theme.

Deposits from our ministries were in, youth leaders were committing to the weekend, the brochures were mailed out and we were excited. Then the next week all I felt I heard was, “I can’t make it, I got a recital, game, practice, it’s Homecoming, taking the PSATs, taking the SAT’s, taking the MCATS” (some of these AP programs are getting out of hand ;-) and I thought to myself, “I should have never have listened to Greg Klimokegaard”.

Part 2 Tomorrow.

Regarding the Future of the Church – Part 2 – “People Used to Want to Come to Church”

From what the Boomers and Builders say, it seemed that “Church” was easier in years past. Among the sentiments I hear are “People used to want to come to church”, “Church-planting was cheaper, land was everywhere and we could meet in garages if we wanted …” and “We had great strategies and programs that made churches grow”. As an X’er hearing this, I have to do my best to smile and nod. I’m sure there is a lot of truth behind these words but it probably these ideas describe something I find a bit hard to believe on face-value. But we don’t have to talk about that then – let’s talk about now (for now ;-)

As I mentioned in the last post, there are so many angles one could look at the current evangelical landscape from. Things are not all bad, nor are they really good – and many things are somewhat complicated and so I thought I would reflect on some of these common statements.

“People used to want to come to church”
It depends on what you mean by this. No doubt that someone could easily produce a statistic demonstrating that a higher percentage of the American population attended church on Sunday morning. They won’t be able to produce a statistic that suggests that they wanted to of course. Perhaps in generations past, people used to come to church in higher numbers. That’s generally a good thing but does a bigger church translate to a more worshipful, God-honoring, Jesus-following, Spirit-led Church? I submit that it does not necessarily.

Please do not interpret that paragraph as a judgment against highly-attended churches in the 50’s and 60’s. God bless them and a lot of good things resulted (lives changed, churches built, etc.). But let us not simply assume that churches are weaker today because a lower percentage of the community are attending them.

One again, there are multiple angles we can examine. I am personally blessed by the many believers who worship faithfully, who are growing in their spiritual disciplines and intentionally seeking to be a part of a Christ-following community. Many of today’s believers really own their faith. If it is true that it is more challenging to be a believer today, than how beautiful is it to find one (and be one!). Let’s not take that for granted.

Note that I didn’t say “all of today’s believers …”. Because many today who profess to be Christians are nominal. Many still attend Sunday morning for tradition than to worship. Many still leave frustrated if if the sermon or music was not to their liking, (as if the worship of God in community was not enough that morning). Today’s healthy evangelical churches need to be intentional about confronting the spiritual consumerism that plagues so many. We pastors need to be less concerned with “pleasing” the people and more concerned with ministering. In the short-run, many churches will shrink and shed the weight of those only looking for a good show on Sunday morning. May the be left with believers who want to build the Kingdom, seekers who want to discover it and people who really do want to come to church.

Blessed are the churches who are growing because people are finding their identity in Jesus and blessed are the churches who are shrinking when they are faithfully practicing His Gospel.

Regarding the Future of the Church – Post 1 – Encouraged and Discouraged

Primary Audience – My Local Context
Secondary Audience – Friends and Fellow Travelers Who Suspect Something Is Wrong in Evangelicalism

Over the last few years, I realized as I have been spending more time with students, that I often leave these conversations a little encouraged and a little discouraged. Encouraged by the many good kids really “trying to try” to love God, follow Jesus, be led by the Spirit. Discouraged because I know I need to use the phrase, “trying to try”.  The same can be said after conversations with fellow adults as well but working with students gives me a different sense of responsibility.

From one angle, I see a growing disconnect between evangelical culture and the culture at large. From another, I see evangelical culture mirroring the larger culture (and I am not just referring to the divorce rate but rather our values that are times quite “worldly”). I also see a “mirroring” in a healthy way as well. And yet from another angle I see it evangelical culture being intentionally counter-cultural in a truly Christian way. (I know for some, this sounds bit confusing, I have been reading a lot of Paul in Romans lately and to make matters even more complicated, there are so many more angles that would be difficult to categorize, even for a modernist ;-)

In short, there is an identity crisis that the the Church is having and this is being reflected in the the life of the Christian American teenager as well. Honestly, despite the frustrating moments of youth ministry, my heart goes out to the students we serve and the countless I will never meet. I think those who are either involved in youth ministry or close enough to see it understand what I mean.

From the beginning of my full-time ministry, I’ve had a sense of knowing the church had lost much of its authority throughout our culture. To be forthcoming, I don’t know really know how much though. Here in north Jersey, evangelical culture is obviously much different than what i imagine in to be in the Carolinas, the Atlanta area, and even in the wanna-be country of Texas and throughout the nation (And of course when considering it from a global perspective …)

This has led us to use phrases like, “We are living in a post-Christian society”, “the Church is shrinking”, “Things aren’t like they used to be”. Whether you appreciate or loathe these expressions, at the very least, they describe something that is really going on. I try to avoid these statements, because I despise some of truth they contain. (I take that back, I have never uttered, “Things aren’t like they used to be” and I don’t see it as true but the previous statements are half-truths that are sadly at work).

To make this as simple as we can, I believe these are among the primary reasons I was drawn to the emerging church movement. Rather than simply holding on to traditional yet failing ideas and paradigms, some realized that paradox of a new Christian expression  needed to “emerge” (rooted in the ancient church – the present one, all the centuries in between while squinting to see what was up ahead) under the submission of the Holy Spirit. This is because the culture is changing and as the second paragraph of this post indicates, it’s complicated.

This is not to say that anyone who sees that we need to refocus is necessarily “emergent”.  I tend to define that word pretty broadly these days and see it as conversation as opposed to a “denominational” thing.   That said I feel the evangelical church needs to come to the table and realize our “what worked” a generation ago, even 10 years ago, could very well be as obsolete as the transparency machine or a word-processor. By this, I do not mean that Jesus is obsolete or His Gospel – (in fact, truly the opposite!). But rather, our language, our framework, perhaps many of our methodologies, structures, interpretations, practices, lack there-of, among other things needs to be rethought. And we need to begin “again, again” by committing ourselves in surrender to the Holy Spirit.

I hope to unpackage some of these thoughts in upcoming blog posts. Also, I recently I attended the Eighth Letter Conference, heading out to our Evangelical Free District Meeting (Ron Sider will be speaking)  and read a few books like Doug Pagitt’s Church in the Inventive Age, David Platt’s Radical, and currently doing a book study with friends on the extremely popular The Hole In Our Gospel. I plan on working on these thoughts and reviews as well. Thanks for reading!

Ed Stetzer Is Pretty Cool Even Though He’s a Baptist ;-) – My Notes on his Multiply Seminar in Randolph, New Jersey.

Last week, I joined a fellow youth pastor and his senior pastor to go see Ed Stetzer share his “Multiply” Seminar. It’s focused more on church planting but as one who is interested in processing through ideas and practices that would help churches in North Jersey, I was interested in going.  And it was free (thanks!).

I try not to be critical of anyone personally on my blog and as a result, I find myself often writing as a “fan boy” here. So let me disclose the impressions I have on Ed Stetzer and his research before I walked into his seminar this morning. Bear in mind that I have not read his books yet but frequent his blog every so often and follow him on Twitter. My first impression is that he’s a Baptist and employed by Lifeway Research. No offense but I’m cautious around Baptists. Second, I don’t have anything against Lifeway but have not really connected with their material (probably because they’re Baptists and I’m suspicious …) Third, I am skeptical of all types of statistical research because stats are always subjective and many times manipulated by their agenda. (If you know me, you know I appreciate the work of Christian Smith, Kenda Dean, Dave Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons but even still, hold the research open-handed).

All that said, the evangelical churches in the North East (Jersey, NYC, New England etc.) are in trouble – that’s not breaking news. My corner in North Jersey is very post-Christian and heavily influenced by Catholicism, Judaism, agnosticism, and most people I know are either too skeptical of organized religion and those that aren’t are simply too busy for it. Combined with intellectualism that sees religion as too simplistic and too disconnected from their real world, multiculturalism, etc., our churches are shrinking and the Church’s influence is diminishing in the cultural landscape.

So when people like Ed come to Jersey, I try to attend and glean from their expertise because we could use any help that we can get up here – even from the Baptists. Here are some of my notes – here’s the link to his blog and here’s the link to Viral Churches, his book they handed out to each attender.

Of course Ed would be knowledgable of the subject matter he was presenting on.  But I was really grateful for his words concerning Northern culture (he’s planted in NY & PA), denominational hindrances, sensitivity to the financial climate and calling for a need to change our methods in order for more pastors to plant more churches.   There was a good deal of balance and wisdom and left me thinking on a number of points.


Church Multiplication Movements – Rapid multiplication of church where a movement grows by multiplication by 50% in one year with 50% conversion rate to the third generation.

Of the 34 Western,industrialized democracies in the world – there are no church planting movements among majority peoples (that’s depressing).

There are all these whispers of movements of church planting movements that have not been validated (like Long Beach).

Only 3% of churches have accepted the direct financial responsibility for the new church as a primary sponsor. (or said in another way, only 3% of churches are taking the responsibility of planting others. This means that the vast majority of churches being planted are independent, partially sponsored, or only being supported by a handful of churches).

We must embrace the “Count the Cost” process.
Most churches birth in survival
We want to help plant in strength

The way you win your first disciple will determine the way you operate for the next 50 years.

Model Multiplication – You cannot lead what you do not live.
What is the optimal size to plant a church? Some respectable say 800 people.?????
You have to model multiplication when it hurts. (If you need to be Saddleback before you can multiply, you are never going to multiply)

Make heroes out of church planters not villains out of church planters.
Many of them are mavericks, that’s why they plant. Support, edify, help.
Welcome the Planter – they will go somewhere else if they get beaten down
Act 29 type of networks – are 27 year olds who have been marginalized by their denominations and traditions.

Define Mission Well –
Don’t define missional without the conversional Kingdom element.

The only thing worse than being lost is being lost and nobody looking for you.
Plant by multiplication not by funding.
You cannot buy your way into a church planting movement. Denominations have tried but it’s been unsuccessful.
Every time there has been a church planting movement, it hasn’t been because of funding.

One of the greatest hindrances of church planting is the professionalization of church planting.
How do we “guarantee” orthodoxy in church planters?
Orthodoxy has to be held by the community. Covenantal unity

“Be Born Pregnant” –
Elmer Towns – says at any first church meeting, take up an offering for your building
Ed says at your first meeting talk about church planting.

Open More Lanes
Ethnic, Law, Urban, bi-vocational, etc.

Overcome Fear
People are afraid that lay people will go crazy and plant unorthodox churches
Planters can be included in that
Churches losing people
The Loss of our denominational identity

The How of church planting is largely determined by the who, what, when, why of culture.

What needs to drive us is a confessional identity with unity and missional cooperation – these are the Viral Churches
For more check out his book Viral Churches and his blog Ed Stetzer

My Review of The Social Network

Over the weekend I saw The Social Network.  I have to admit, there was a certain irony of watching it alone (but I was in Toronto for the Eighth Letter Conference and thought why not). So here’s my quick review:

All in all, I liked the movie, I really did. I did feel that Rolling Stone Magazine exaggerated it a bit by calling it the best movie of the year and it defines the decade but I really liked Inception and have never played Mafia Wars, so I am biased and not really qualified. The movie is entertaining, contains an excellent script, solid acting and it tells a good story of something obviously relevant to me and to many.

Frankly, I like Facebook. I think part of my appreciation for it is due to the fact that I don’t take it too seriously. Watching its alleged origin story is a fun trip that brings up the topics of ingenuity, brilliance, betrayal, revenge, and the pursuit of wealth and fame. That said, it was hard for me to really sympathize with many of the characters. In fact, the only one that I felt for was Mark Zuckerberg’s ex-girlfriend, Erica Albright – the way her character served the movie was excellent. She was probably on screen for all of 7 minutes but her character released Zuckbererg’s drive and ambition.

Don’t get me wrong, Zuckerberg’s character is very entertaining, extremely witty and Jesse Eisenberg does a fantastic job bringing him to life. There’s been a lot of criticism from the Facebook groupies that it’s an unfair portrayal of Mark but I have to say, I think I like him more now.

Honestly, I’ve been surprised that some people think this movie has cast Mark Zuckerberg in a negative light. Were people under the impression that he was a saintly character that simply wanted to unite people? I had always assumed that Facebook was an ingenious idea that wanted to be a cultural phenomenon and make billions of billions of dollars. The fact that Zuckerberg shows a great deal of restraint in making money off the site was quite impressive to me. But that just meant he wasn’t in it it for only the money, he did intend on creating an empire from Facebook and any doubt anyone could ever had on that should have been dismissed with the privacy setting debates that obviously had no regard for the users.

So it is no surprise that the Zuckerberg character is told in the first scene that he is an “a–hole” (edited to keep my PG rating). He spends the rest of the movie trying to figure out what the audience already knows, his ex-girlfriend, Erica is right – he is one. But it’s ok, you’re flawed, I’m flawed, he’s flawed, whatever. We are grateful for your work, we made you rich, you helped us reconnect with old friends and keep up with new ones – let’s call it even.

After watching it, I tried to figure out what was the central theme of the story. There are a lot to pick from but so far, all i got is that people are spiteful. It is a very appropriate commentary on American entitlement in the digital age. Exhibit A is that the movie is set in two separate disposition cases of people suing Mark. One of the cases is by his co-founding best friend Edwardo Saverin (you’ll have to watch it to figure out how that sorta works out) and the other is the hilarious twin duo of the Winkelvoss twins who by all accounts are real and supposedly attended the premiere.

The other thought that you have after watching it is, how much of this is true? Writer, Aaron Sorkin, in the last issue of Entertainment Weekly assets that it’s completely true. To paraphrase, he says, “We know the beer he was drinking the night that he hacked into the Harvard databases and we haven’t been sued”. Drawing from close sources from the last 7 years, using first-hand testimonies, and avoiding lawsuits seems to be validating enough to him. Maybe he’s right, maybe he isn’t.

Zuckerberg swears he won’t see it, and most people I know can’t wait to. I’ll say this, The Social Network is going to create a great deal of conversation because it’s a pop-culture piece the that transcends the medium (and it includes two huge mediums – movies and internet) and will be a social fixture for years to come. I find it very interesting that the movie came out so soon. It probably doesn’t surprise some people but for some reason, I am a bit unsettled by it. But it’s done and out there and now this movie is part of Mark’s life and in some weird way, part of ours.

THE LAST WORD POST 3 – The Invitation to Serve in the Kingdom (Not Just a Free Ticket to Heaven)

Thiese posts have had to do with the evangelical treatment of Scripture. Largely from my perspective and with the obvious help of NT Wright’s Last Word, we as individuals and as a community have not only regulated the Bible to something less than it is, but even then left it on the shelf with the diet plan and finance management books. We may have a faulty pre-supposition that the Bible is the “ultimate self-help” book or the “greatest how-to” manual. It isn’t. Believing such a thing ridicules the beauty of grace and of course, reduces the person of God as a guru-helper, or a even a product offering enhancement, and Christianity as a spiritual pyramid scheme as opposed to the process of transformation being brought on the Holy Spirit.

When we reduce the Scriptures and our understanding of God to the sentiments aforementioned, we actually destroy our belief in Him and make a mockery of the Scriptures whether we realize it or not. Even worse, we elevate our human experience as divine and which in sort becomes our attempt to be the gods. As it turns out, the Bible is not just about us.

However, the Bible is not exclusively about God either. This is among the points that Wright is saying in The Last Word. It’s about us being led by the Spirit to bring glory to the Father because of he work of Jesus. And the Bible is a crucial piece for the Church:

“…the authority of ‘scripture’ is most truly put into operation as the church goes to work in the world on behalf of the gospel, the good news that in Jesus Christ the living God has defeated the powers of evil and begun the work of new creation. It is with the bible in its hand, its head and its heart—not merely with the newspaper and the latest political fashion or scheme— that the church can go to work in the world, confident that Jesus is Lord and Caesar is not.”

God is the Giver, Redeemer, Sustainer of life. The Bible is God’s invitational narrative to participate in life in the Kingdom. We completely miss this when we limit the Bible to “the free ticket to heaven”. Even further, we lose our motivation to read, study, meditate, discuss and apply it. This is astonishing when considering that so many evangelicals take pride in belonging to a “Bible-believing church”.

There are many other reasons why we as evangelicals are struggling to give the Scriptures their importance. From a lack of personal/communal discipline to our collective entitlement that runs against the type of sacrifice described in the Scriptures to a terrible underestimation of what is at risk when we the Scriptures do not play the role that God has intended for us.

We as evangelical believers cannot make the other extreme mistake by treating the Bible as its own divine person (like a 4th person of the Trinity) but rather regard it as a God’s sacred revelation that offers His redemption all people. Again, I want to encourage you on reading The Last Word. I found it to be the place to start for evangelicals reading NT Wright.