“The World Is Not Ours To Save” by Tyler Wigg-Stevenson is a Must Read for Activist-Types

Note: I requested a review copy of The World Is Not Ours to Save – Finding the Freedom to Do Good from Inter Varsity Press.  I am not obligated to write a favorable review but an honest one. But if I’m being really honest, it was really easy to write this  – the book is great.

Many would agree the activist label is used quite liberally. While I am unable to determine how many hours a week you must labor in activism to qualify you for the title, it’s certainly overused. So to intentionally overstate, this book should be handed out just before every short-term mission trip, along with every Invisible Children dvd and box of TOMS shoes. Further, it should required in seminaries, film schools, and military training academies. Oh and every celebrity who sets up a charity foundation should get one too, especially the Christian celebrities.

Now I know just listed a bunch of things that are easy to pick on. But if you know me, I actually think short-term mission trips can be incredible life-changing moments, I think the work of Invisible Children is good, so are TOMS and all the things I mentioned (yes, even seminary ;).  What I think Tyler does a phenomenal [Read more…]

Joel Kotkin – The Future of Suburbs at #Qconf

You may be “suburbed” out from hearing of its problems and to its hope but this is a conversation that isn’t going anywhere.

Here are my notes: 

Joel Kotkin – The Future of Suburbs

Began by giving a history of how the suburbs came into our American lives.

There was the Victorian Industrial City.

The British alternative, Garden City. 

Town and country must be married,” Howard preached, “and out of this joyous union will spring a new hope, a new life, a new civilization.”  – Ebenezer Howard

In the West, the single family home became the predominated desire.  It was the social universal aspiration – everyone gets their own home and yard.

Today, 50% of immigrants come first to the suburb.

– We now have multi-generational, multi-cultural neighborhoods in our suburbs.

– Employment as moved into the suburbs.

The archipelago of the  towards “smart crawl”. It won’t end sprawl but will “smart” will make it more efficient. 

May appear as a village system.  (there was a cool artistic rendition shown of beautiful country field with a future looking “village” with a couple roads leading into it.)

The belief that work will return to the homes similar to pre-industrial models.

The goal will be to restore the “Sense of Place”           

“City is a state of mind, body of customs and traditions.

You can read a more indepth article Rule, Suburbia off his blog that was published in the Washington Post

Alan Hirsch at Q, Austin

The second session proved to be one of my favorites.  Alan Hirsh, author of The Forgotten Ways gave a fantastic vision for the church that truly desires to be missional in the post-Christendom world and he presents a summary of it here:

It starts with this picture.

Each ‘m’ represents one significant cultural barrier to the effective communication of the gospel whether it be language, worldview, religion, racial history etc.

Based on the “Attractional” model, our missional stance in relation to the world will work only to people within a close cultural orbit.

It will not work with those in say, M3 bc they are socialized in their own context (or cultural orbit).

If an individual from this marker was to enter into the church model, it would be the seeker that would have to do all the cross-cultural work (rather than the church).

Thus, attractional in a missions environment is extractional.

Problems with extractional:

Contrary to Incarnational impulse

Violates our “sentness” as a church

Is a big problem for missioanal movement (bc again, it takes people from their culture)

Leverage is found in changing the church’s missioanl ecclesiology.

Among our current problems is that our delivery system is stuck.

90% of churches are trying to become Contemporary Church Growth Model (CCGM) attractional type of churches

This is a strategic problem.

2 more problems present themselves

because of m0-m1 cultural orbit, if it works, it will only reach the 35%-40% of people in that orbit.

CCGM  is a missional problem.

And we get more of the same.

This is also organizational insanity –  the problem of the church cannot be solved by the same mentality that began the problem. 

“If you have dug a hole and realized that you need to dig the hole over there,  the solution isn’t to keep digging in your same hole.”  (just when I thought the hole analogy couldn’t be expanded upon …)

The decision we make now will affect the next era and will invoke imaginary solution to thrive in the 21s century.

My reactions:

The church needs to be different to the m2-m3-m4 …

Which means we need to rethink what it means rethink church.  (I’ve been hearing that expression for so long). 

I love the cultural orbit idea and I plan on using it.  I think it demonstrates the realistic influence of a church.  Given a particular context, this ministry can only do so much.  Not that we ought to be “foolish” enough (replace with “modern”) to know just exactly to what extent, but there is humility in this idea and it’s great perspective for us a church.

Understanding our cultural orbit ought to help us with several things.  First, that our current ministries, approaches, personalities, models have limits.  Or for those that speak “pop” – one size will not fit all.  So if you have ever said, “I would never go to a church like that” or “This person would probably never feel comfortable at a gathering like ours” then you are scratching the surface of a suitable starting point.

Second, and much, much harder is the need to create different types of “models” (read “churches”) that will reach the m3’s and m4’s.  In doing so, we will have a better grasp of how to be missional and help us re-think the Gospel.

One of the values of these types of presentations is that it provides a vocabulary for thoughts you may have had but didn’t have the articulation, the research or the expertise to communicate them properly – especially to those who disagree with you.  

Q Conference – Why Austin? – Post 2

Each year Q is held at a different city that has cultural significance to our country.  The first year being Gabe and the Q team’s hometown, Atlanta, and last year was New York City.  According to the Q site “(Austin) is against that backdrop – a city seeking to maintain and re-express the heart of its identity – that Q 2009 comes to Austin.” You can read more and also listen to Gabe Lyons talk about it here.

For the first session, Gabe interviewed David Taylor who among many things serves as a pastor in Austin and Lisa Hickey who works for (and from the sound of it pretty much runs) Austin City Limits.  Each spoke of the hip uniqueness of Austin including their live music scene, its affordability, its vintage shops and its friendliness. It’s small enough where you can go grocery shopping downtown with your car but big enough that there’s a fair amount of public transportation.  For me having lived outside of Philly and now NYC, it was hard for me to appreciate the alleged abundance of public transportation (I think I saw a bus or was it a van …) but that was just my perception.  What I did appreciate was the Austinians  had gone to great lengths to insure that their downtown was not overrun byt franchise restaurants like Chill’s and Applebee’s (I pray for the day when Time Square gets rid of that Olive Garden).  Indeed, there were quite a bit of cool eateries, among them was a restaurant owned by Sandra Bullock whose food was far better than Miss Congeniality.  Anyway, they want you to know there’s more to Austin than SXSW and Stubb’s.  That was helpful for me because that’s all I think of when I think of the town.

If you want to understand Austin then you need to appreciate a couple of their unofficial mottos – “Just like God loves the whole world, we love Whole Foods” and “Help Keep Austin Weird”.  It’s a cool town with a lot of personality despite it’s size, and I still can’t believe that I parked all day for $7.  Having Q here the year after NYC added credibility to the idea of distinctive cultural centers and I hope to make it back. Next year is Chicago and I know they got a culture of mediocre pizza, mediocre baseball and now an above average NFL quarterback to complement its mediocre wide-receiving core.  Looking forward to be shown otherwise. Who wants to go with me?

The Q Conference, Austin, TX – What is Q? – Post 1

A couple weeks ago, I attended the Q Conference in Austin, TX.  A lot was said and among my goals is to put out these posts before next year’s conference (yeah, I’m pretty ambitious).  Anyway, because it’s not very publicized, many do not know what the Q Conference is or who the Fermi Project are.  Well after my second year attending it, I’m not real sure I do either.  But whatever it is, it’s good – real good.  Here’s what I know.

The Fermi Project was started by Gabe and Rebecca Lyons a few years ago.  Prior to that,  Gabe was on the Catalyst Team and as the story goes (the one not told by Gabe), he was given a great deal of credit for the success of Catalyst.  After a few years there, Gabe felt compelled to work in a different direction, one smaller and more conducive to conversation and eventually the Fermi Project was born. 

So what does Fermi mean?   Yep, that’s a good one. It’s “a metric unit of length equal to one quadrillionth of a meter … (That clarifies it all, right?).  Basically, “In contrast to things that are big, Fermi represents the beginning of a chain reaction”  (and slightly fuller explanation here.) But the name certainly matches their origin story.

The Fermi Project puts on the  ‘Q’ Conference (‘Q’ is for ‘Question’).  The tagline is for Q is Culture, Future, Church, Gospel.  The speakers focus on one of these and are from one of the 7 channels of influence which are: media, business, education, government, church arts/entertainment, and the social sector.  Similar to T.E.D.S., each regular session presenter is given exactly 18 minutes for their message (there’s literally a countdown clock next to them) and also there is the keynote presenter who receives 36 minutes.   This was the first year they did the 36 min. and I think it worked out  pretty well.  It’s hard to stay attentive for 30 speakers, so the time limit is a great idea that keeps everyone focused.  In addition, there are talkbacks, panel discussions, music (Over the Rhine, Zach WIliams), group discussion, free fair trade coffee (Land of a Thousand Hills from Rwanda), and after-parties at local pubs and billiard places.

Most of my friends know that I enjoy attending conferences and I find them to be extremely beneficial for so many reasons.  Hoping some of you can join me next year.  Til then, I’ll try to communicate the goodness of Q.

Francis Collins – Q Conference – Session 3

Session 3 with Francis Collins was a little more controversial.  Again, we sat in round tables of 10 so whispers were easy to hear.  Not to insult your intelligence, but in case you don’t know, Dr. Collins is the chairman of the Genome Project, author of The Language of God, a devout believer, debates Richard Dawkins on NPR regularly, but does not hold to conservative Christian views of origins.  Frankly, he wasn’t very specific of his position.  One of his points was to leave the audience unsettled with theirs. 

He discussed how science and faith are not enemies stating, “Regardless of what we have heard from the atheistic horsemen, we do not have to choose between the two.” 

I was proud of that because I’ve been teaching my students that for years.  In fact, back when I was in 4th grade and heard of the Big Bang Theory and how that threatened the teaching of Creation, I immediately asked the teacher, “Why couldn’t God create the big bang …” The budding theistic evolutionist trajectory was quickly squashed when I entered youth group.  Today, I am certain that God is sovereign and that not even Francis Collins can figure it out.

Back to Collins, he showed 2 pictures – one of spiritual (stained glass window) and the other – DNA view along its axis which resembled each other.  Cool although the skeptic in me couldn’t help but think this was a little gimmicky for a world class intellectual.  Fortunately the next slide was not Jesus in the nucleus but his point was to segue how the spiritual world and the material one intersect.  It got everyone’s attention.

Collins was not raised in a religious home, his parents did not criticize religion but did not promote it.  He was an agnostic throughout college and then in med school, he was touched by the faith of those in hospital beds.  A woman asked him what did he believe and he did not have an answer, he researched it, found CS Lewis and continued his journey. 

The most unsettling moment (and this would come up in various conversations I had with people) was when he showed a slide of the human chromosome and the chimpanzee’s.  I am paraphrasing but he said the key difference was with the one part in the middle that has  a something mysterious in it while the chimp has two parts but not this particular thing (sorry I didn’t get what it was he said) inside it.  It’s here where they split.  He said something to the effect of it is possible that they had been the same until a certain point in time when God pre-ordained/pre-programmed/pre-something or other to split and create a new species.  Again, this was the unsettling moment.  He mentioned in passing literal meanings of Genesis 1, quoted Augustine, and Chesterton, and asserted his faith in the Almighty God.

Again, each Q speaker only had 18 minutes and his “big point” was, “science and Religion are not incompatible … God cannot be threatened.”  Some attendees were as upset as if he had just slapped their wives and ran out the door.  As for me, maybe their view deserved it.  So the possible lessons are don’t marry your theology or don’t marry an ugly wife, or be smarter then Francis Collins or maybe keep your theology open-handed and maybe your wife won’t get slapped by Dr. Collins.

Chuck Colson – Session 4 at Q

I appreciate a lot of what Chuck Colson says, can’t stand some of it, what can you do?   He’s been very critical of the emergent conversation and quite frankly, I don’t think he really understands what is actually being said.  But it was good to see him at Q. 


This picture has received a lot of praise and it summarizes his session.  To paraphrase what he said emphatically,  “We (as a Church) are ignorant (of the Gospel message) for if we took it to heart, we’d all be changing the world.” 


To read more Chuck, feel free to stop by Breakpoint or read any of his 67 books.  He told us at Q, he wanted to write more books then Jesus.  (Not true but neither is what he says about the emergent conversation).