What Are We Doing Here Anyway?

This blog really stems from who I am.  I am a youth pastor/church planter, Internet entrepeneur, and the husband of an awesome woman from Taiwan.  I have a passion for writing, seeing the Church use communication technology (specifically the Internet) in the most effective way possible, and helping to grow Christianity in America into what Jesus intended it to be.  I blog about these things here in separate pages according to these various themes.

2009 American Religious Identification Survey

This week’s Newsweek has a cover story on “The Decline and Fall of Christian America,” written by Jon Meachan.  I read the article today (more on that in another post) and am now pouring over the actual survey that formed the basis of the article.  I will explain my findings on that in the next few days, as I discover new things.

Incidentally, it wasn’t easy to find.  There are simply so many blogs talking about it, most of them just scrapes of the Newsweek article itself.

Twilight

Peichi and I are watching Twilight.  Was it written by a 12 year old girl?

What Makes a Good Church Web Ministry (Part 1)

It is time for a paradigm shift among most churches when it relates to the web.  This starts with the very nomenclature that is used to describe it.

Most churches “have a website.”  That is great!  Who doesn’t?  Most churches look at their “website” the way everyone did about 15-20 years ago, Web 1.0.  They have a site that includes some information about the church.  This is so that people who find the site will know what time the service is, how to get there, and maybe some info about how to dress and etc.  This paradigm looks at the site as a thing, sort of like a yellow-pages ad (really bad idea!) or a billboard on the freeway (in most cases an even worse idea).  It is a thing that displays information.

Might I suggest an idea that really came into my mind while preparing to speak about this very subject at a national conference last summer?  We need to stop thinking of church websites as a thing, and instead as a place.

As long as your church website is a billboard (or as we in the industry call it, an “ebrochure”) it will have no life, few visitors, and will be a waste of your resources.  Even with a free site donated by someone in the church, you get what you pay for.  I have talked to hundreds of pastors, and I have yet to hear one tell me that the free site donated to the church a year ago has been a great source of life and growth.

Instead, look at your website the same way that you do part of your building.  You church website is the sign out front, the foyer where people first make their impressions of who you are as a body, the Fellowship Hall where people gather, the sanctuary where people meet with God.  If you change your paradigm from thing to place, you have started in the right direction.

But that leaves one little detail unanswered.  You can’t really call it a website anymore.  A website is a thing.  To me “web ministry” better defines what churches end up with when they start thinking this way.  I will continue calling it that.  This blog is really meant for those who want a web ministry.  Folks who are looking for a website would do well to look up angelfire (do they still exist?).

Ryan

Check out Part 2

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A Great Church Tech blog

Drew of Monk Development, who makes Ekklesia360 (one of our partners at Epiphany Systems), just did a big Church web survey.  He blogs about some of the things that they discovered on his site: www.goodmanson.com.  I can’t even begin to describe how enlightening the webmeeting that we had the other day was.  I’ll include more of my thoughts as they coalesce.

Muchas gracias to Jon Bourne for using his secret spy tactics to share this with me.

Pledging Allegiance

This may seem like a stretch at first, but I think it bears consideration:

Do you remember when you were a kid and you stood up every day to say the Pledge of Allegiance in class?

I pledge allegiance to the flag and to the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands. One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Those words are indelibly imprinted in my mind.  It is like an old TV or computer screen that was stuck on one thing for an extended period, and had that image burned into it for all time.  When I was younger, I felt like I couldn’t pass a flag without getting teary-eyed and patriotic.  Really!  I know it sounds hokey, and if you aren’t an American, you are probably rolling your eyes.  Maybe even if you are an American, you might be too.  There is nothing wrong with having a deep love for your country.

All of those feelings were concurrent with the whole “my daddy can beat up your daddy” phase.  That is natural.  Back in childhood we all had a natural sense that there were certain things in life that were unquestionable.  Your mom was a better cook than every other mom.  Your dad was the strongest man in the world, and everything they said about the world was written in stone as by the very hand of God.  Even when they said you had done something wrong, and you were angry, still you knew inside that they were right.

At some point in childhood this all goes away, slowly at first.  Then you wake up one day when you are about 13, and suddenly you realize that the opposite is true.  It sort of comes on you like a flood in the night, and you wake up in the morning, and you know everything about everything.  Anything else is to be questioned with the most stringent of examinations.  It isn’t until later when you realize that the truth is somewhere in the middle.

Now, as I read my Bible I am daily confronted with a nagging question.  What should I do about those things that I am reading that challenge the way I’ve decided the way things are and should be?  What do I do about the words and commands in the Bible that say something I don’t want to be true?  Do I tear them out, pretend they are not there, or in the fashion of the day, explain them away as saying something else entirely?

I don’t have to enumerate these issues.  Anyone who has truly read the Bible has found them.  Issues of sexuality, the proper roles of men and women, giving money to the Church, speaking only words of kindness and blessing, all of these and more assault me daily.  In a post-Christian world this is increasingly going to be a battle line.  We have lost an innocence that repeats, “God says it, so I must believe it.”

One of the many questions to ask is how accurate is this paradigm of adolescence to the spiritual landscape?  In many ways I think we are in our spiritual teens as a society.  I think that we have in large part decided what we want to be true.  We want issues of sexual morality to be however we’ve determined them.  The Bible has to be wrong, in our eyes, if it says something other than what we’ve already determined is right.

The answer to this that many Christians in a post-Christian world are going to have to learn is not to simply return with “God says it, so you must believe it.”  That won’t affect people any more than convincing a teenager that you are right simply because you are their parent.  Notice the use of the word “you” in that quotation.  We must continue and hold fast to the fact that we MUST believe it simply because God says it.  That is where our allegiance lies.  Our reality must not be conditional or subjective.  But our dialogue must point to Christ, not to behavior.

Christ will continue to affect lives, no matter what title we give to an era.  But we Christians have failed in many ways to point our lives and rhetoric to Christ.  Instead we have pointed both towards our code of behavior.  This is not my idea of how things are.  It is fact.  Most un-Christians statistically view Christianity mostly as a code of behavior, and their criticisms of our faith almost unanimously stem from that.  Our behavior is important, as it points others toward Christ (as is the main point of Ephesians 5), not as an ends to itself.

What the post-Christian era knows that we don’t is that it makes no sense to say “God says, so I must believe it, and therefore do it,” if they have no allegiance to God.  We would do well to stop saying “you should live this way,” and start saying living lives that make people ask us “How can I have a life like yours?”

Today’s Video Infection

I’m sorry, but this is just awesome. Pointless? Yes. Weird? Totally.
But anything one does with tasty sheep is pretty cool. You have to admit, this is neat.