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Cultivate 2009: Prepare Ye Head to Explode!

I don’t know what’s more impressive about Cultivate 09: The list of facilitators or the fact that the proceeds of the conference are, for the most part, being given away.

I first heard about Cultivate through my “e-friend”, Tim Schraeder (thanks to Mr. Dan Bryan for the introdcution!). We had a quick phone conversation a few months ago and after I hung up, I felt like a kid on Christmas Eve: “PRESENTS!

It’s been a long time since I’ve been genuinely excited about a conference or convergence of leaders in the ministry world. Not because people don’t have something valuable to say, but because everyone seems to be saying it in the exact same way.

Enter Cultivate.

The brainpower behind this conference will blow ya’ mind, but the short list includes the aforementioned Tim Schraeder, Matt Knisley, Rhett Smith, John Saddington, Cynthia Ware, Tony Steward, and one of the most under-the-radar creatives this side of the Mississippi, Brad Ruggles.

You should go. Seriously. I’ll be there … I may even bring an autograph pad because a lot of the people who I really respect and learn from will be there as well.

In the words of a wise friend, “How do you tell a story to people who have already heard it?” You cultivate creativity. That’s how.

Jay Leno to Conan O’Brien: A Lesson Learned

Jay Leno has been hosting the Tonight Show for 17 years. That’s almost two-thirds of my life. I’ve grown up with Leno, so watching him leave was bittersweet.

As I watched this interview, I quickly saw that there was some major life lessons happening: Transition, leadership, unemployment (what will become of John Melendez?), and passing the baton to a new generation.

Then I thought, “What can those in leadership in the Church learn from Leno?” Watch this video and find out. (Unfortunately, NBC hasn’t gotten the clue yet that shoving ads down our throat doesn’t work. There’s a 15-second ad on the front end.)

If you’re “fast-forwarded” (a.k.a. impatient), watch the last 40 seconds of the video. That’s where the real gem comes out:

“I couldn’t be any happier. You were the only choice. You were the perfect choice … Good luck next week, my friend.”

This is how transition of leadership is supposed to be done. This is text book. Jay genuinely believes in Conan and he shows this by:

1. Affirming the new leader (Couldn’t be happier…”).

2. Building the confidence of the new leader (“only choice…”).

3. Building the confidence of those being lead (“perfect choice…”).

4. Handing over the reigns with joy (“my friend…”).

I know I, for one, was touched. I can only hope that when my day comes to ride off into the sunset, I am as gracious and supportive with the next generation as Jay Leno has been for Conan O’Brien.

In the words of Leno, it may “only be a talk show,” but that is how leadership is done. What did you learn?

Use Twitter “Favorites” to Rule the World!

This post originally appeared on our sister site, ChurchTweets.com. Check it out for all the latest social media strategies for ministry!

For the longest time, I couldn’t quite figure out how to use the “Favorites” function on Twitter:

Do I mark tweets I find humorous? If so, why? Am I ever going to look at them again? Probably not.
Do I mark tweets of my own that I like? That seems kind of vain. Pass.
Do I mark the tweets of my friends to make sure I don’t miss them? That’s what groups are for on Tweetdeck and Seesmic Desktop.

Then I found my answer: Links. You favorite the links in tweets that you want to read later. Brilliant!

When you’re following a significant amount of people (more than 200), your “tweeps” are bound to post links that sound interesting that you just don’t have the time to look into at the moment. That’s when you click the little star, send them to your “favorites” pile, and read them when you can.

Favorites on Twitter is what Delicious.com is for bookmarks. It’s like a self-selecting RSS feed of all the best links that you yourself have picked out. It makes my use of Twitter much more enjoyable and productive when I don’t have to worry about reading every, single piece of information that comes my way.

Plus, when you uncover a real gem (because you have time to read the interesting ones now), you can retweet with confidence and watch your Twitter stock grow. After all, the best Twitter users are the ones that bring value.

Try it out for yourselves. I think you’ll dig it. (Oh, and don’t forget to follow me while you’re at it!)

Your Ministry Tweetquarters: ChurchTweets.com

Tweet!

Whatever John Saddington touches usually turns to Web 2.0-gold. (Although he might disagree with me!)

A few months back, Jon (a.k.a. “Human3rror“) started a ministry-focused Twitter directory called ChurchTweets.com. Basically CT is an all-encompassing, Twitter-for-ministry solution. It provides a “who’s who” of ministry-related Twitterers as well as Twitter tips, tricks, news, and strategy. It’s everything you wanted to know about Twitter-for-ministry (but were afraid to ask).

John put out a call for new leadership to step up and “take over” the day-to-day for the site. Over 50 people “applied.” Three were chosen. I’m excited to let you know that I was chosen as one of those three!

What does this mean?

It means I’ll be doing regular weekly posting along with fellow editors Jay Caruso and Luke DeMoss. It means I’ll be finding some of the best uses of Twitter + ministry and highlighting them on ChurchTweets.com. It means I’ll be seeing “how deep the rabbit hole goes” with God and social media.

We’re always looking for a “few good wo/men,” too. Got ideas? Are you using Twitter in a creative way for your ministry? Got the gift of gab? Want to contribute? Get a hold of Luke and we’ll get you started.

Thanks to John and to my fellow editors Jay and Luke. I’m really looking forward to seeing what’s in store. Follow the conversation on Twitter using the #churchtweets hashtag.!

The 21st Century Church: A Recap

This is the seventh and final post in the series “The 21st Century Church” here on BeDeviant.com. You can read the rest of the posts here.

This series has been one of the most engaging for me personally, but judging by the comments, the conversation, and the site traffic, it’s been engaging for you as well.

What has the discussion surrounding “The 21st Century Church” told us?

1. For starters, we learned that most churches need to get on board with online giving. Cash and checks are becoming the rarity, with many people preferring to “swipe the card” instead of “signing the check.” Reader Chad suggests: “What if the church had a kiosk(s) where there would be a debit card swiping machine to “pay” their offering?”

2. We stayed with the theme of income for a second post where reader Tracy stated, “I’m going to be honest, sometimes [as Christians] I think that we are supposed to be poor.” Do you agree?

3. Switching topics, Church communications was up next. How we communicate the reality of Christ says a lot about us, namely: Is Jesus a product to be peddled or a relationship to be had? Petey asked, “What do you do when you have hundreds of 60+ year olds in a large, multi-generational church who don’t use email and refuse to sign up for anything except in person or by the phone? Write ‘em off? Ignore them?” Well, do you?

4. The pastor: What is his or her role amongst the congregation? The current model leans towards the pastor being “all things to all people.” Does the new model of the pastorate look the same? The conversation got lively and many felt that it was time to see a change for those who feel called by God to shepherd a body of believers.

5. How a Church chooses to structure and order their worship service says a lot about the community the seek to build. With the technologcial shifts that are happening in our culture, how will these changes affect the service? Should they? If so, how? Reggie commented, “I love pushing the boundaries, though. Not just for the sake of pushing boundaries but for the sake of offering the ability for people to experience God in new and fresh ways.”

6. Finally, we wrapped up with the most-discussed post of the series, The Pastor’s Wife. (Many a-reader corrected me gracefully and informed me it should actually be “The Pastor’s Spouse”!) I was most impacted by the comments that so many people who have been burned by the church their spouse serves at left. The 21st century church owes it to those who are called to the ministry to re-think how we treat not only our ministers, but the people whom they are married to!

Like I said, this was one of the most rewarding series I’ve written to-date on BeDeviant.com. Thank you to all who read, commented, and participated. Culture is changing fast, the Church owes it to herself to learn this new language and respond in a culturally relevant way.

What changes do you want to see for the 21st Century Church?

The 21st Century Church: The Pastor’s Wife

This is the sixth post in the series “The 21st Century Church” here on BeDeviant.com. You can read the rest of the posts here.

As we saw earlier this week, sometimes pastors are looked to for perfection. In the comments of that post, a few of you suggested we take a look at pastors wives.

So we will.

Why? If the role of the pastor needs to be re-imagined for the 21st Century Church, the role of the pastors wife definitely needs to be re-looked at as well. Pastors wives got it rough. Mostly because they are part of a system that they cannot directly influence through positional authority. Only relational. And sometimes those relationships are difficult to navigate.

Below is a portion of post originally written in 2005 by Amy Andrews over at WithPurpose.com. Amy is a “former” pastor’s wife, her husband has since left ministry. I contacted Amy and asked if I could reprint her post here and she gracefully agreed. A lot has happened for Amy and her family since 2005, so you can read a “follow-up” interview with her here.

See if you don’t identify with any of these or see them at work in the church you worship at:

1. You know you’re a pastor’s wife when…you are rarely referred to by your given name. You are most often “The Pastor’s Wife” or a variation on that theme (”Pastor ______’s Wife,” “Married to the Pastor,” etc.). You may even be called “The First Lady” (which I find personally unnerving—I don’t know why). In our church, there’s a guy from Brooklyn, NY who calls me “The Underboss.” Now THAT I can handle.

2. You know you’re a pastor’s wife when…people act weird around you. I was once in a conversation with a group of adults when one woman said, “Yeah, I haven’t been to church in a while.” As soon as she said it, she looked at me with an “I’ve been caught” look and then she said, “Oops…busted.” For the record, I don’t take attendance. I am not a babysitter. And my general feeling is that adults can and should make their own decision about if and when they attend church. Heck, it takes all my energy to make sure I make it to church let alone the rest of the population.

3. You know you’re a pastor’s wife when…you relate best to anyone NOT in your church. This is largely due to #2, however it’s also because you don’t know how to deal with the I – have – no – idea – how – much – to – share – with – you – about – my – personal – life – because – it – will – most – likely – involve – issues – about – my – husband – leaving – his – underwear – around – (or something similar) – and – my – husband – is – your – pastor – and – you – probably – don’t – want – to – hear – about – his – underwear.

4. You know you’re a pastor’s wife when…”rich” (monetarily speaking) is not in your vocabulary. Never has been. Never will.

5. You know you’re a pastor’s wife when…you’re either extremely uncomfortable or extremely gleeful (depending on your personality) when you’re in a conversation with someone who uses lots of four-letter words and then asks you the question, “So, what does your husband do?”

Granted, Amy’s situation isn’t the case for every wife of a pastor, but I’m guessing those of you who are married to someone in the ministry or are in ministry yourself can relate to one or more of the items on the list.

How do we change this? Clearly this is a case of unfair expectations and demands not only on a pastor, but on his family as well–namely his wife. (I realize that there is a whole segment of the Church population we are missing–pastors husbands–but that’s a different post altogether.)

What do you think? What does the 21st Century Church look like for the pastor’s wife?

[Image Credit: AwkwardFamilyPhotos.com]

The 21st Century Church: The Worship Service

This is the fifth post in the series “The 21st Century Church” here on BeDeviant.com. You can read the rest of the posts here.

As we’ve explored in the past few posts in this series, “the times they are a-changin’“. Not just culturally, but also in the Church.

ChurchCrunch.com just featured an interview with über-blogger and Christian, Darren Rowse. This is what he said:

From what I know of the development of the Printing Press (a technology that changed the world) – Christians were at the forefront in using this tool to print Scripture. Many futurists believe that what’s happening online at the moment is as significant as what happened with the Printing Press – the world is changing. I guess my question is – are we as the Church embracing and using this new technology – or are we being left behind?

No where do I see more potential for the 21st Century Church to change, adapt, and excel than in our worship services. Most of our services (or for my PoMo brothers and sisters, “gatherings”) are based in rich cultural tradition that brings the worshiper into the service. The pastor leads the congregation in a communal worship experience where everyone plays a part: Singing; tithes & offerings; reading Scripture; receiving Communion.

In a gentle critique, some of our services have gotten off-track and have become more of a “spectator sport” than a communal worship experience. You can “sit” through the entire experience–not just physically, but mentally “sit”, spiritually “sit”, financially “sit”. Simply put, there’s no intertia coming from you in response to God’s Spirit being present.

Partly this is to blame on the consumer culture we in the West are saturated in. But part of the blame rests on those of us who plan worship services. There’s something to be said about structure and having a set format to follow every week, but when does “structure” become an excuse for laziness or lack of innovation?

My mind is still reeling from a conversation I had with a friend of mine who creates spiritual video games. He built an interactive video element for the services at our church this past weekend that left my jaw on the floor. We got to talking about what our services would look like if we could build interactive elements into them? Leverage technology to draw us closer to the heart of God in worship? Make it impossible for people to “sit” (not just physically, mind you) during the service?

What if….

  • Twitter and interactive messaging became standard issue in our worship services? Not to add more “clutter” to our already congested lives, but to provide a communal worship experience?
  • Imagine bringing your Wii controller to church and interacting with a live on-screen “video game” that allowed worshipers to control video elements to the rhythym of the worship music.
  • We set time limits on sermons? Much like Q, the communicator gets 15 minutes to deliver their message. No more, but less if needed.
  • Worship experiences were not limited to the physical space of a church sanctuary? How would that happen? (Here’s looking at you, LifeChurch.tv)
  • Churches had large communal worship gatherings quarterly, with a weekly worship component happening in homes and businesses with groups of no more than 12?
  • We never had another worship service ever? Would people miss it? Would your surrounding community notice?

What do you think? How’s this all going to shake down?

The 21st Century Church: The Pastor

This is the fourth post in the series “The 21st Century Church” here on BeDeviant.com. You can read the rest of the posts here.

“Pastors over-function for their people.”

A seminary professor of mine spoke those words almost a year ago and I have not stopped thinking about them since. That day in class not only served as a pivotal moment in my education, but also my life. He verbalized the words that had been on the tip of my tongue for so long, but I never knew it.

In the West, we want pastors who:

  • Know the Bible backwards and forwards, able to quote verses from memory at will complete with numbers for book, chapter, and verse. (Nevermind the fact that numbering system for our bibles weren’t introduced until the 16th century!)
  • Rush to the side of any member of the church, for any reason, at any time of the day (or night). And they better be there within 30 minutes or less (or the offering check may not be so big next time ’round!).
  • Preach sermons that enable us to understand the bible in its entirety without any extra “work” (i.e. reading) of our own.
  • Sacrifice their family life for the life of their church.
  • Sacrifice every weekend, holiday (major or minor), and at least three weeknights per week without question.
  • Have the exact right thing to say in all places, in all situations, for all people, everywhere.
  • Won’t hurt our feelings.
  • Have perfect families, perfect marriages, and perfect lawns (even though we’ve asked them to sacrifice their family for their church).

In short, we want perfection. We want someone who will tell us exactly what we want to hear and do everything that needs to be done while we sit and watch and complain. I’m as guilty of this as the next guy (or gal) and it’s simply not fair.

The Pastor of the 21st Century will not over-function for her or his people. They simply will not allow it. If not for the sake of the congregation they serve, then certainly for their own sanity.

Why? Because it is “not good”. Need an example? Read Jethro’s dialogue with Moses in Exodus 18. Western pastors are Moses in this passage and I believe Jethro represents the Spirit of God saying to these pastors, “What you’re doing is not good! You are creating a culture of burn-out and depression … Stop!”

What if…

  • Pastors allowed their congregation to dream wildly and execute the visions that God had put on their hearts while having little say in how it happens? Is it messy? Yes. Does that mean there is less positional “authority” for the pastor? Yes. Is it healthier? 100 times, yes.
  • We believed in the “priesthood of all believers”, not just the ordained ones? What if when bad news struck, the first call you made wasn’t to your pastor, but to your small group? Your neighbors?  This seems to me to be the much more biblically faithful model.
  • We did not exalt our pastors to the place of “Superstar” and saw them as a fellow brother or sister in Christ with a different “Kingdom job description”–not better (or worse), just different.

Most pastors I know are exhausted on some level or another. That’s not good. Could it be it’s because most of us are over-functioning for our people?

I could keep going, but I won’t. I’ll let you add to the list.

The 21st Century Church: Communications

This is the third post in the series “The 21st Century Church” here on BeDeviant.com. You can read the rest of the posts here.

We aren’t in Kansas anymore, Toto. As if someone needed to tell you this!

The way information is transmitted is changing drastically. The “age of advertising” is dying a slow, agonizing death, but it isn’t going away without a fight.

“Buy/Use/Drink/Eat/Visit Product X and you’re life will be better/faster/stronger/happier/cleaner/complete!”

This mantra has served society well as the primary way to communicate something of value. Even in the church, many of our sermons and messages are built on this formula: “Your life is incomplete. You need Jesus to make it complete. Trust in Jesus and you will be fulfilled and satisfied.” The Gospel, it seems, has turned into a sales pitch.

The days of organizations, businesses, and yes, even churches delivering (read: shoving) information to us is coming to a close. Why? We’ve heard it. All of it. And we’re not listening anymore. We’re tired of the message–tired of “the pitch”. So we’ve tuned it off.

  • Why do you think people love DVR/TiVo so much? It’s because they can fast forward through the commercials.
  • Newspapers and magazines are folding, in part, not because people are reading less, but because there are ad-free (or less ad-intrusive) alternatives online.
  • Radio? Forget about it. Podcasts and sites like Pandora and Last.fm are providing mostly commercial-free content, drastically eliminating the need to “tune in”. Case-in-point: A local talk radio station here in Des Moines was literally giving away ad time a few months ago.

I believe churches who will be effective at communicating to the masses will do the following:

  • Decentralization: Communication will be a “two-way” street. The Institution no longer holds all the power and churches that succeed will give information as well as be intentional about receiving it as well.
  • Paperless: Reduction in paper correspondence. Weekly bulletins will give way to digital counterparts–all of the information but none of the waste.
  • Virtual: The churches best at communicating will provide “online hubs” for their members to interact throughout the week. This won’t be a luxury for churches, it will be necessity.

If the Church has been trusted with the most important message of all time but we don’t know how to communicate it in a relevant way, we fail. God doesn’t. We do.

What churches do you see who are communicating well?

The 21st Century Church: Income Generating Strategies Pt. 2

This is the second post on income in the series “The 21st Century Church” here on BeDeviant.com. You can read the first post here.

We’ve covered online giving, now let’s get a litte creative and brainstorm some ideas to generate revenue for churches and ministries. Keep in mind that money is not a bad thing and is 100% necessary to do the work of ministry:

  • We can’t buy buildings, sound systems, communion bread, crayons for VBS, or crossing guard vests for the parking lot attendants without it.
  • We can’t give it to local or global missions that God calls us to if we don’t have it.
  • We can’t support people in their time of need if we don’t possess it.

The fine line is making sure our money doesn’t possess us. I think we need to get over our fear that desiring money is somehow inherently evil.

“But Justin,” you say, “Jesus said that money is the root of all evil!” Actually, Jesus didn’t say that, Paul did. And Paul didn’t even say that. He said “the love of money is the root of all evil.” Jesus said you can’t serve two masters–it’s either going to be God or money.

The church has incorrectly assumed that Jesus wants us to all be poor and  take whatever table scraps are thrown at our feet. This assumption, while based in what seems to be holy motives, is ultimately what’s keeping a lot of the church to remain the “tail” and not the “head”.

This attitude ultimately leaves those inside the kingdom who have been given tremendous abilities to create wealth out in the cold. So they go elsewhere–into the business world, stock market, etc.–and generate income there. And the church loses out on their talents because we think the Bible says something it actually doesn’t.

I assert that we need to be cautious with our money motives, constantly offering them up to the Spirit for “weeding out” the sin and replacing it with the divine opposite. I also assert that now, more than ever, followers of Jesus need to be asking for prophetic imagination for creative ways in which to generate income.

Why?

As Dave Ramsey puts it quoting Margaret Thatcher, “No one would remeber the Good Samartian if he were broke.” Think of what a body of believers could do if financial resources were not an obstacle. We see it happen in the non-church world all the time:

  • Anything that Oprah has ever asked anybody to give to. Ever.
  • Gap’s RED campaign.
  • Lance Armstrong’s LIVESTRONG bracelets.
  • Any disaster relief concert that’s ever been done in the past 10 years here in the US.

What if…

  • Churches were economic resource centers for their communities, giving out microloans to hundreds of different people both home and abroad? The resulting entrepreneurial surge would boost the local economies and create more jobs in the process.
  • Churches were havens of creativity for entrepreneurs–allowing them to explore ideas that generated income for the church and, yes, even generating income for themselves?
  • Churches figured out a way to market the unique content being developed inside their walls weekly in a way that honored the heart of God?

I seem to remember a story a really smart guy once told. He seemed to believe that generating more money was a good thing and burying money (i.e. not generating income) was a really, really bad idea. Maybe we should listen to him? What do you think?

How can we in the church creatively generate income in God-honoring ways?

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