Reflecting On Our Invisible Children Screening

What is Invisible Children?
For those who don’t know, for many years these children were being abducted by Joseph Kony’s army the LRA and turned into child soldiers (and many of the girls were trafficked).  To avoid being abducted, many of the children would commute out of their village and to a bigger town and sleep in hiding. The next morning they would return to do their schooling and chores and then commute back (There are some absolutely horrific and heartbreaking stories).  Since the ceasefire in 2008, Cony’s army is believed to be in the Congo and night-commuting has stopped.  This has become an important time for healthcare and education. You can learn more and watch short video clips at and order the full length dvd’s, which of course helps raise funds.  You can read more of the beginning of IC here.

How We Got Involved
For me, It started when my friends Todd Hiestand and Gary Alloway were planning to take their church, The Well, to a sleepover in center city Philadelphia to create awareness for the “Invisible Children” of Uganda.  Like most people I know, there are so many causes and organizations that need help.  How do you discern which caues/organizations to support and which ones not to?  It’s an impossible question but I’m of the school of thought of being faithful with the opportunities that present themselves and for us, this came was one of them.

I was very moved by the first Invisible Children dvd called “The Rough Cut”.  It’s disturbing alarming and even more depressing is knowing that Uganda is not the only place of such evil atrocities.  A few years ago, we showed it to our Sr. High youth group.  They too were moved.  Immediately, I had facebook posts and emails about what we could do to help.  It started by taking a  collection and later buying a  few dvd’s and a few shirts.  Last year we saw another one called “Sunday”.  It’s a story centered around a teen-age boy named Sunday that lost his family but now dreams of being a doctor.  This past summer at YS’s DCLA, we saw their newest one called “Go” which features their new “Schools for Schools” campaign (American schools helping Ugandan ones). Afterwards we signed up to host a screening.  One of the awesome “roadies” called us and the date was set for Wed. Oct 21st.

Aside from raising financial support, creating awareness is an  extremely important part of the cause. We are not a large church  and not a large youth group but we decided that this was a cause  that we wanted to share with our friends.  In some ways, this  became a way of discussing faith and religion with others.  But  instead of asking questions like, “Do you know where you will go  after you die?”, a better question was “Would you like to come to  a free documentary screening about the atrocities in Uganda?  It’s  really moving and we can help.”

Flyers were created, Facebook invites were sent, and quite  seriously, most of our students felt this was among the easier  things to invite people to.  The weekend before our screening, we  stood outside grocery stores, Starbucks, and went business to  business asking if we could post our flyers.  When the night  finally came, we had almost 200 people.  Even better was that  crowd brought their wallets and bought shirts, dvd’s and signed up for the “Tri-campaign” ($3/week to IC).

We had a really solid response afterwards from students, parents, and people from our community we met at A&P, who saw our signs in deli’s, laundromats and Facebook.  One mother called me the next day and said something to the effect of, “You are showing us that we need to rethink evangelism.”  I think I’ll save that for another post but that was a moment that did my heart some good.

Invisible Children is a form of the Gospel.  And screenings are an excellent opportunity of telling our communities that Christians care about the needs outside its walls.  Further, the situation in Uganda is dire.  I’d like to encourage you to look into this, especially my fellow youth pastors.

How you can get involved:

  • Go up on and watch some of their shorter video clips.
  • Order some DVD’s
  • Read up on the history of the war in Uganda.
  • Consider inviting a bunch of friends and host a screening with the hopes of creating awareness
  • Not a youth pastor?  Consider showing a documentary to a few friends or your church small group.
  • Commit to giving through the “Tri” Campaign (3 bucks a week)

So what’s next for us? It looks like a benefit concert.
As always, holler if you have any questions.  Would love to help in any way I can.

Regarding the Coming Evangelical Collapse

First, well done Mr. Spencer, your post, The Coming Evangelical Collapse was a very interesting post. I had bookmarked Internet Monk but I now regret not adding it to my RSS feeder. I will remedy that. It is not my intention to refute his post, just adding to the conversation. Also check out Evan Curry’s post, “Dear Mom, the Evangelical Collapse is Coming”.

Indeed change is in the air. I agree with the consensus, it’s coming but I don’t think the “collapse” will happen within the next 10 years. My main reason is the Boomer Generation is not yet old enough and they still have enough money.

Consequently, I see the following happening within the next 30 years: “Collapse” is too overstated, I see it more as a evolutionary, and we’ll look back and cal it the “Renaissance of Evangelicalism”.

I mean no offense by this, though there is a strong attraction to the Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and Anglican faiths, their current approach to family ministries will not be relevant enough to the children of young X’ers and Millennials. This will result in the aforementioned evolution of evangelicalism.

Agreed, there will be a drop off political ideology in the evangelical world. Meaning, there will be less and less of an assumption that evangelicals are republicans.

Agreed that the mega-church will stick around in the coming years. There will be fewer and fewer mid-size churches (600+) There will be fewer and fewer of the less than 100 people churches in their traditional role. They will more likely be house churches, or cell churches.

Agreed that we will not be speaking about the “emergent church” but not because it failed but as so many have pointed out, it was a segue to different conversations that did not create their own brand or denomination (praise God).

Reflecting on Rick Warren's Visit to NYC

Today me and our jr. high youth pastor went to see Rick Warren at the New York City Cultural Center in Brooklyn.  Frankly, I have mixed feelings about this whole thing.  I love the guy named “Rick” who has the last name “Warren”, while I am cautious of the brand of Rick Warren.  I think he’d say the same on a good day. 

The event promoted the New York City Leadership Circle and a bunch of other things.  For instance, (in case you haven’t heard), Warren is promoting a new movement called, “40 Days of Love” and he preached a sermon to us on the topic.  Honestly it was very good.  Of course it was, after all, you don’t get to me “Rick Warren” the brand by not being good. 

I couldn’t help but like him. He’s got personality, gives off a down to earth quality and is prepared to speak on the topic of choice.  He’s interesting, inspiring (and now I’ll use any word that doesn’t begin with letter ‘i’), and seems to enjoy what he’s sharing.  To contrast that with other leaders who seem to be annoyed that they have to explain these types of things to their audience.  They tend to come across as condescending.  And miserable.

This launched quite a few thoughts.  Like what makes someone a mega-church pastor?  Is it calling, talent, pedigree, money, education, the right people around you (social pedigree), circumstance, vision, etc?   I have nothing against who God sets up in the places He desires to.  However, I get frustrated with the “game show” senior pastor, if you know what I mean.

In the course of this morning, Rick spoke of Saddleback and several huge surrounding churches.  He mentioned Greg Laurie and plugged his event at Madison Square Garden in October.  This got me thinking, how we do not have nearly the East coast equivalent o mega-churches led by iconic pastoral figures.  I think the two most popular North East Coasters are Tim Keller from Redeemer and Joe Fosch from Calvary Chapel.  In the South, there are probably more but I can only think of Andy Stanely.  Anyway, this got me thinking why and the differences between the Northeast and California culture.

I am concluding that it has to be more then the Jewish and Catholic strongholds in the Northeast.  Some of it has to do with our elitism, lack of hospitality, the northeast pace (yes I realize other parts are busy too but here they call it the New York minute and until they change it to the Milwaukee minute, you’ll give me the benefit of the doubt), and I don’t know how much of it is spiritual warfare. I’d have to do some more thinking about these things but it got me concerned in a weird way.  I don’t want more mega-churches, in fact, I think they’ll be sorta of a dinosaur eventually except for the mega-mega churches but that’s another story.  I think I became concerned that more mega-churches will form in our area.  Everything always starts in California right?


Reflecting on NOLA – P2 – Desperation Conference

Prior to arriving to New Olreans, we took our students to the Desperation Conference in Birmingham, Alabama.  I was surprised how normal Birmingham was since it was in … Alabama.  It was an experience filled with souther drawl and terrible driving skills.  There were good things too like Krispy Kreme.  I was disappointed though that I didn’t meet anyone named Bubba.  

Anyway, the Desperation Conference was put on by New Life Church’s  student ministry in Colorado and the host church, Church of the Highlands in Birmingham.  Evan and I felt that the conference was needed for a several reasons (and I think more became apparent while we were there).  One, was to help be prepared spiritually for the mission trip.  No matter how much you stress throughout the year, it always seems that more could have been done.  Second reason was that decent conferences generally don’t come to the Northeast.  (No offense to Battle Cry-Acquire the Fire but I think you need to tone it down and until you do, we won’t be participating).  Thirdly, to see something different.  There’s a lot to say about that but not saying it works too.

One of the themes that the speakers and worship leaders had repeated was the difficulty they’ve experienced this year.  The references to Ted Haggard and the tragic shootings at New Life have got me thinking about a couple things.

It seems that one of the points they made as a leadership was not to slow down the ministry.  This would have been a good year to say, given our situation maybe we should suspend some of our ministries or go into a “safe mode”. This has personal significance to me personally.

This also has significance to me as one of the pastors at our church.  Being without a sr. pastor for the past year (but our new sr. pastor is coming at the end of Aug. Praise God for sending us a great man.  I’m excited, grateful and eager).  In the absence of a sr. pastor, I know sometimes we as a leadership felt that we should wait until the new sr. pastor arrives.  Mostly it was to not intrude on the coming sr. pastor’s vision and possible ideas.  There were other times, when we could have just said, “let’s wait” but didn’t because leadership was needed at that moment.

My point –  rare is the time right to do something difficult, enormous, and controversial.  Certainly all that a church seeks to do must be grounded in where we feel the Spirit leading us after prayer, Scripture, communal discussion, and many other factors.  But the timing is hardly ever ideal and I find myself thinking about that today.

Reflecting on McLuhan's "message is the medium" (and Hipps)

I am taking an intensive class through Biblical called “Ministry and Media”.  It’s being taught by Pastor Tim Lucas from Liquid Church and we are encouraged to blog of course.

One of the books we are reading and posting feedback on our class site is The Hidden Power of Electronic Culture by Shane Hipps (who was at Fermi’s Q Conference – fantastic).

This was the assignment that we were to respond to:
“Marshal McLuhan famously observed, “The medium is the message.”  Yet, a lot of evangelicals claim media is value neutral.  Do you think media affects us as powerfully as Hipps suggests?  Or do you think it is truly neutral?  Give some examples of ways media has impacted you powerfully (for good or for ill).  In a well-thought out paragraph, show your interaction with the text we’re reading!”

Here was my response:

Like everyone, I agree with McLuhan and love the idea. Though it’s rare that I would defend an established evangelical opinion, especially one concerning the view on technology, I’d like to unpack this a little. Evangelicals are scared to death of watering down the message. If they believed in tattoos, they’d get Rev. 22:18-19 inked (“If anyone adds anything [to this book] … God will add to him the plagues ….”). Kidding (sorta) but our modern “interpretation” puts a great deal of fear in us that results in guarding the message. There is almost a theological reason to disagree with McLuhan.

In a sermon I preached this Mother’s Day, I said something to the effect of “The Gospel is changing”. I learned quickly that the “bolts of lightening” were not electric at all but were pews being thrown from the balcony. “I said, wait the resurrection is still true but the way my parents understood the Gospel is different then how I understand it … which is different then how my child(ren) will understand it … Jesus still died and was raised BUT understanding that is different….”. As they elderly women dismounted from the projection screen that they partially tore off, I tried to use the example that Rob Bell has regarding the idea of having a “personal relationship with God”. He reminds us that it is a new idea to the church, it’s an invention from this century’s evangelical movement. This revelation of course resulted in the biggest offering ever collected …

This based on a true story account did not end in tragedy because for many of them, the message was still in tact. Surprisingly, I did receive several positive comments from the “Silent” Generation because they saw their grandchildren in these thoughts.

Like everyone’s above comments, aside from the periodic data loss, I have had a fantastic experience with media and technology. Ipods, podcasts, ezines, blogs, have helped me grow spiritually in addition to the written word (and frankly with no help from the televangelists. But may those who are blessed by it be blessed by it). Hipps makes mention of the local Ft. Worth pastor who insisted the spiritually successful have a daily quiet time with the Lord, part of my normal morning ritual includes listening to sermons via podcasts as I am applying deodorant and hair gel. And though I’m not spiritually successful and couldn’t imagine making such a legalistic statement, I feel what that guy was trying to say.


"What Makes a Church Missional" by J. Todd Billings

Our seminary cohort as this running joke regarding the word, “missional”.  

Of course we love the idea of being missional, but know that it’s entirely overused and afraid this buzz word becoming another cliche like seeker-sensitive, purpose-driven, etc.  All  good ideas that had their value (and eventual shortcomings) by the way.


For those interested in the idea of missional church, here’s a decent article that was posted on the Christianity Today website.


“Some use missional to describe a church that rejects treating the gospel like a commodity for spiritual consumers; others frame it as a strategy for marketing the church and stimulating church growth. Some see the missional church as a refocusing on God’s action in the world rather than obsessing over individuals’ needs; others see it as an opportunity to “meet people where they are” and reinvent the church for postmodern culture.”


link here 

Reflecting on Dan Kimball on Shapevine

Who doesn’t love Dan Kimball?  I probably shouldn’t ask such loaded questions on a blog but if you know what I mean, you can’t help but appreciate this guy.  Sure, he has weird hair, and he’s from CA (but apparently he’s from north Jersey – holla!) but he really gets it.  I appreciate his heart for non-believers, appreciate how he’s trying to “do church”, and love how he comes across in his books, seminars, and various ways.   We could say this about many people, and praise God.

Dan wrote a couple decent books and his new one is, “They Love Jesus but Not the Church”.  It’s one of those you wished you would have written this but you never would have but whatever.  If you are new to the emergent, emerging church, we need to do church differently conversations and you’re too frightened (or have been frightened off) by great minds like Brian McLaren, Doug Pagitt, Tony Jones, etc.  then you might appreciate Kimball.

Concerning the webcast, one thing that he said that got me thinking was something like this.  Dan tells a story of being picked up at an airport by this couple.  They talk about church, he asks them what he likes about their church and they talk about how wonderful the pastor is.  They love him.  The preaching, the personality …

Fact of the matter is, some churches are too pastor driven.  If you know me, you know why this bothers me so much.  Churches cannot be built around their senior pastor (or their staff in general).  If a church falls apart after the pastor leaves then we ought to question what the church was based on anyway.  It wasn’t Christ.  I know I’m preaching here but this is something very important to me.  It’s like there’s a book out there called “The Personality-Driven Church”.  

Check out

I’m enjoying watching a live webcast of Dan Kimball on 

Very cool to be able to do this.  I’m at coffeeshop doing this.  Sign up for free here  Just create an account and you’re good to go.  Every Thursday there’s a new webcast.

Here’s what I know – check the site for more info.

It doesn’t appear that the previous webcasts are stored anywhere.  (I could be wrong but I couldn’t find it and I spent at least 3 minutes looking and clicking and looking).

Anyway, here’s the schedule. Webcasts begin at 4pm:

Dave Ferguson – Jan. 17 

Leonard Sweet – Jan. 22

Tri Robinson – Jan. 24 

Ryan Bolger – Jan. 31


A Seminar on "Issues Facing Adolscent Girls"

Last night, my wife and I attended an evening seminar regarding issues facing adolscent girls. Among the topics that were discussed (and will be discussed next week) are: Depression, Eating Disorders, Sexuallity, Addiction, and Cutting.

It was put on by a local church in their sanctuary and the speaker panel were professional counselors and social workers. I was glad to see the church host this very important topic.

I mention this not because I desire a pat on the back, (ok, I’d like for you to put up a life-size poster of me on above the mantle but aside from that), it’s a great thing for other churches to do. Maybe a panel discussion regarding boys will follow too. Also, please note that aside from an opening prayer, it was not blatantly “Christian”.

In any event, on a 101 level, I thought this was very beneficial and will most use my notes as a starting point for some issues.