God will make his glory known, whether we risk it …

God will make his glory known, whether we risk it all or not. God doesn�t need us. God never needed us. We need him. We desperately need him and because we need him so much we should be willing to risk everything for his glory. One Purpose. The truth is, the entire Southern Baptist Convention could drop dead and turn to dust and God will still make his name rise about every other name and his glory will be shown.

David Platt

I believe this quote is appropriately applied to more denominations than the Southern Baptist Convention.

Hat tip: iMonk.

Easter Message: Highway to Hell?

This last Sunday, NewSpring Church started its Easter service with a cover of AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell.” After watching the video of the service, it didn’t feel right to me. Instead, it felt tacked on to the beginning of a more typical church service.

I’m sure I come to this issue with biases. I grew up in a conservative denomination that’s still debating “music style.” My congregation now debates drums and electric guitars; acoustic guitars, electric bass, and the occasional conga or djembe are now “blessed.” I also play electric guitar and I appreciate loud, raucous music.

Somehow, though, I don’t expect to see my church’s praise team covering “Highway to Hell” anytime soon. Not even (especially?) on Easter.

Was this just an attention-grabbing gimmick? Maybe. If so, it succeeded. After all, I am writing about it. But it still feels like a gimmick to me. Maybe if I read the lyrics one more time…

Update. Pastor Perry Noble says he wouldn’t do it again. ;-)

Hat tip: Tony Morgan.

Self Censorship Online

Gary Walter asks about self censorship — do we trade off authenticity for safety?

I gave my opinion in his comments, but because it ended up being so long, I’m reposting here (with minor modifications):

Gary, we all self-censor. People ask us for an opinion about clothing or hair style and want affirmation. They don�t want to hear that it makes them look fat or old. So we don�t tell them. We say it makes them great or young or vibrant or whatever. We�re protecting their feelings and letting them know they�re loved.

Other times we self-censor because we don�t want to admit that we�re not perfect, that we�re still figuring things out, or that we hold opinions or do things that others might consider unacceptable. This self-censorship is not about protecting others, it�s about protecting ourselves. It�s more insidious because we still justify that we�re protecting others from the conflict that might occur. But we�re just fooling ourselves.

Does that make it wrong to self-censor? I don�t think so. I don�t have to bare every thought or impulse or action just because I have a blog and a twitter account. Part of this journey we call life is learning how and when to disclose to others, who we can and should trust.

I�m not �authentic� enough to tweet that my wife and I had a fight on the way to church and then paste on smiles to shake hands and say �fine� when asked how I am. Maybe that�s part of what�s wrong with church. We need to be more open and honest about our true condition. Yet it�s hard. Those who volunteer at church, even playing the piano, are expected to meet certain standards (at least in some eyes) and is authenticity really the battle we want to fight? I�m not there yet and may never be. I rationalize that this problem is as much with the church as with myself, but am only half convinced.

With social networking, authenticity is even more difficult, or maybe it�s easier. Most of us have never met you, yet feel like we know you from your blog posts and tweets. We come to this relationship with no expectations other than that you entertain us or make us think once in a while. It�s working.

It�s when the �in real life� and �virtual� lives cross paths that difficulties arise. Those in real life don�t understand how or why we bare our lives online. It rocks their paradigm in ways they don�t understand. How dare you admit that or hang out with those people or do that?

It�s a personal decision. What do you get from online sharing? Is it a self-discovery process that could just as well be done with a private diary? Is it an ego trip where you fool yourself into thinking that the world is interested when you get your drink and piece of free fruit from the cafeteria? Or is it a way of making friends in a new world and you�d no more censor yourself with us than you would with your friends in real life? After all, why would we be authentic with you if you�re not willing to do so with us?

Maybe the real question is why would you be willing to share something online that you wouldn�t share in person?

Questions only you can answer. Good luck! And I�m looking forward to reading your answers online. ;-)

What do you think? What are you not willing to share online and why not?

Update. Check out the comments on Gary’s post. Gary responds to my comment and at least a couple others.

Another Vicarious Victory

I take success where I find it. Many times, it in celebrating the victories of others. Here’s a doozy.

Last Sunday my brother-in-law completed the an Ironman 70.3 — 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, and 13.1 mile run. He describes the race:

I had a great swim, which is good as it’s probably my weakest of the three sports. The ride was very hilly (rolling they said, yeah right). Aside from a sore right hip and right knee from mile 40 to the finish, the bike section felt good. The run was very challenging. The course was quite hilly and my hip and knee continued to bother me throughout the run. By mile 11 the pain in my feet overtook the pain in my hip and knee so I had something else to focus on :).

My goal was to complete the Ironman 70.3 in less than eight hours. My official finish time was 6:40:29.9. I finished 1,054th out of 2,500 athletes.

Sounds like a victory to me. But there’s a lot more to his story:

It’s hard to believe that less than six months ago God performed a series of miracles to help doctors find the aneurysm in my brain. 74% of people with berry aneurysms that bleed die, 8% have neurological issues; leaving just 18% who are functional survivors. Four months ago I was returning to work after spending nearly two months in bed following brain surgery. My first training run in late March was a 2-minute run after which I felt like I’d been hit by a mac truck. My training began in earnest about 11 weeks ago. Thanks for your prayers over the past six months for our family!!

I’m in awe!

Seeker Services

Todd at The Todd Blog asks about “seeker-sensitive” churches. Here’s my answer.

Guitar Group

My church has a guitar group. Over the last couple years or so, its focus has changed.

Beginner focused. When we started the group, most of us were beginning guitar players. We spent a lot of time learning guitar basics: how to strum different rhythms, how to finger a B-minor, how to play a barre chord, how to use a capo, etc. We had some more experienced guitarists show up. They never came back. I think we bored or embarrassed them (or both).

Growth focused. As we progressed, we entered a phase where we knew all the “cowboy chords”, needing help only with the more unusual chords or strumming patterns. We’d experiment with more complex songs to keep learning. As the word got out, some beginners wanted to join the group. Initially, it was a frustrating experience for those of us who had advanced beyond beginner status. Instead of learning our new songs and expanding our skills, we’d sit around while the one or two beginners learned how to play a G chord. In response, we started a beginners group that met at the same time. A couple of the more advanced among us would teach the beginners and then we’d come together at the end to play a song that all, even the beginners, could play. We led praise sing at church every two or three months and sang at a retirement home a couple of times. We had twin goals of improving our skills and increasing the size of the group.

Service focused. Now, we’re “better.” The guitar group leads praise sing every month so we’re more focused on learning songs for the next time. Some more experienced players have joined the group and stuck. We spend some time learning more difficult songs. We’re growing in different ways. We have a couple of bass players and we have people who sing. We do a much better job leading praise sing. We’re scheduling a couple more visits to retirement homes.

Unfortunately, not all changes have been positive. None of us seem to have the time or inclination to teach the kids anymore. They don’t show up much anymore. And that might be okay. After all, only so many guitarist fit on the platform.

I Thought This Was Going to be About Church…

The phases of the guitar group could be compared with many churches. The beginner-focused phase describes churches that have only seeker services. This is not a sustaining model unless the goal is to funnel maturing Christians to other churches in the area. “Mature” Christians will find another church unless they are quickly tasked with leadership roles.

Our second, learning and growth-focused, phase describes churches that have services for both the long-time member and seekers. While continuing to disciple maturing members, they also work to attract those with questions. I think those could be fun churches to attend.

Our group’s third phase could describe many churches, too. Rather than focusing on growing the church, they focus on serving. Is this a healthy church model? I believe so, as long as the focus is on serving those outside. One danger is that the focuses turns inward, on “doing church.” Rather than trying to grow the church, its focus become improving the “professionalism” of the church. “Sorry, can’t lead you to Jesus, I have to practice for church next week.”

An good book on this topic is Building a Contagious Church by Mark Mittelberg and Bill Hybels.

What do you think? Does your church have a seeker service? Are you a seeker?