Category: trends

Rob Bell’s New Story Challenges Evangelicalism’s Party Line

Rob Bell’s newest book, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, And The Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived sits at number three today in Amazon’s book sales list.  Love Wins will no doubt hit the New York Times bestseller list this week.  Bell obviously has churned up tremendous interest in the Christian doctrines of heaven and hell, but is that what Bell intended?

If you read Bell’s book as doctrine you are missing the point Rob Bell is making.  In short, Bell is taking on the evangelical establishment.  And while Bell asserts ultimately that Love Wins, it remains to be seen if Rob Bell will.

Continue reading “Rob Bell’s New Story Challenges Evangelicalism’s Party Line”

Living Into vs. Talking About

Seth Godin asks How long before you run out of talking points? His point is that those who “live into” rather than just “talk about” (my words, not Godin’s) what they espouse are the real deal.  Then he says,

Then compare these passionate leaders to a pundit, spin doctor or troll (for just about any cause du jour) being interviewed on TV. After three sentences, they run out of assertions, facts or interesting things to say.

There’s a lot to be said for being deep, scientific and informed.

There are lots of religious talking points, especially among pastors.  Several years ago I was attempting to have a conversation about the nuances of religious faith, but one of the three in our little conversation triangle kept offering up his “talking points” in response to every idea presented.  What I wanted was brain-storming and the exploration of our theological imaginations, but what he wanted to do was keep us all on the “orthodox” path by inserting his talking points.

Talking points are good, but as Godin says, if that’s all there is to our comprehension of any subject, and I think faith especially, then we might need to live into our faith more, and open our mouths less.  What do you think?

A Must-read Conversation With Rick Warren

You need to read The Future of Evangelicalism:  A Conversation With Rick Warren over at The Pew Forum.  It’s long, and covers a lot of territory, but in it Rick talks about how megachurches do the small church thing (my words, not his).  Here’s a quick excerpt:

WARREN: For example, our church, while we have the big services on Sunday, we meet in homes during the week in small groups of six to eight people. We have over 4,500 small groups. They meet in every city in Southern California.

CROMARTIE: How many again?

WARREN: Four-thousand-five-hundred. They meet in every city in Southern California from Santa Monica to Carlsbad. It’s a hundred miles distance in our small groups. So on Sunday morning they’re coming to Saddleback or they’re going to Saddleback San Clemente or Saddleback Irvine or Saddleback Corona, but during the week they’re in small groups.

And it is in that small group – when you get sick, you’re visited in the hospital. When you’re out of work, the people help you out. There is a real tight-knit community. There is a longing for belonging in our community, and large churches have figured out it’s not the crowd that attracts; it’s the stuff under the surface that attracts.”

Bingo!  I love that line….“it’s not the crowd that attracts; its the stuff under the surface that attracts.” Of course, Rick points out that the largest churches in the world are not in the US, but in Asia, Africa, and South America.  Read the entire interview.  It’s good stuff about issues of interest to us all, no matter what size church you serve.

Get Your Own: Outreach Magazine’s “Small Church” Issue

Outreach magazine’s annual small church issue is on its way to subscribers right now.  For those of you who don’t subscribe, you can order this single issue from Amazon. That’s right, the entire issue is available to you today from the friendly folks at Amazon.com.

After you check out this one issue, you’ll want to get your own subscription so you won’t miss any of Outreach, including my column – Small Church, Big Idea – in each issue.  Let me know what you think.  End of commercial.

Be Dunkin’ Donuts, Not Starbucks Is Good Advice for Small Churches

Michael Kelley gets to the heart of small church authenticity over at Ed Stetzer’s blog today.  Here’s an excerpt:

I would propose that the church has something to learn from Dunkin’ Donuts.

The reason we have something to learn is that we have tried to be Starbucks. We’ve tried to be slick, trendy, and hip. We’ve tried to be a place that is non-threatening and easy to come to. And when you walk in, you see beautiful people in holey jeans and black glasses, all looking very intellectual and hair-frosty. Additionally, we have tried to make church a low-demand environment, much in the same way Starbucks is. It’s low demand in that even though the basic premise of the store is selling coffee, some people don’t even go there for coffee at all. And nobody’s going to pressure them about the coffee. That sounds familiar, too.

But guess what?

People like Dunkin’ Donuts. They like that it’s not trendy. They like that it’s not hip. They like that it’s not cool. You know why they like it?

Because it’s simple: It’s good coffee at a reasonable price.

Okay, that’s enough, but click on over to Ed’s blog for the entire post.  It’s a word we in small churches, or large ones for that matter, need to hear.

Strengths of a Small Church webinar now online

For those of you who missed the webinar, The Strengths of a Small Church, with Brandon O’Brien and me, the video is online now.  Tim Avery at BuildingChurchLeaders.com put it up yesterday at their site.  The seminar was well-attended with lots of participation in the comments and chat portions of the webinar screen.  The webinar ran about an hour, so grab some coffee, get comfy and tune in when it’s convenient.

‘Tour of Small Churches’ Coming Out in Small Church Issue

I just finished writing “A Tour of Small Churches in America” article for Outreach magazine.  I’m not sure that will be the final title, but in the article I sketch 7 types of small churches, and other writers are profiling a specific church in each category.

The seven categories of small churches we cover include:

  1. Traditional small churches;
  2. Marketplace churches;
  3. Lifestyle churches;
  4. Ethnic or immigrant churches;
  5. Multicultural churches;
  6. New church starts;
  7. Intentionally-small churches.

I can’t give away all the goodies in the piece, but trust me, there are some.  Plus, I haven’t even seen the real-life profiles of specific examples of each kind of small church.  Actually, we could have included a few more types of small churches such as neomonastic, liturgical, and mission-driven.  Maybe we’ll save those for another day and another article.

All of these articles, and more good stuff, will be in the annual small church issue coming out in July/August.  You just have time to subscribe to Outreach magazine so that you won’t miss this big, small church edition.  Now back to our regular programming.

Outreach in the Crises of Life

Outreach in the Crises of Life is the title of the workshop I’ll be hosting at the National Outreach Convention in San Diego, November 3-5, 2010.  This will be my 4th year speaking at NOC, and I’m looking forward to addressing this topic of reaching out to others during a life crisis.

I’m convinced that caring outreach is the most neglected opportunity for outreach for any church, large or small.  But small churches particularly can reach out to those who are hurting with caring and redemptive ministry.   And, one of the benefits is that this type of ministry is low-cost, relational, needed, and highly effective.

Life crises include sickness, death and grief, loss, trauma, divorce, crime, moving, job loss, loss of mobility or independence, and a host of other life incidents.  I’ll be talking about when we can offer care to those outside our church, and presenting examples of churches that are involved in caring outreach during a life crisis.  I hope you’ll be able to join us in November.

I know it seems early to be thinking about November, but that’s only 5 months away.  Plan now to join us.  If you’ve never been to NOC, you’ve got to experience it to believe the breadth of resources, and the variety of presenters that equip church leaders to effectively reach out to their communities.  See you there!

Free Small Church Webinar Thurs, May 6, 11 AM

Only one more day until “The Strengths of a Small Church” webinar on May 6, 11 am to 12 noon EDT.  You can join the almost 500 other participants by registering here.

The free video webinar hosted by Christianity Today’s BuildingChurchLeaders.com features Brandon O’Brien, author of The Strategically Small Church. Brandon’s book is filled with great examples of small churches who have leveraged their size strategically in effective ministry.  Participants will be able to submit questions, and view resources we’ll be discussing, all on the webinar screen.  This isn’t just one of those “listen-to-us-talk” deals, but a full video webinar that I know you’ll enjoy.

I’m Brandon’s sidekick for this gig, and I hope you can join us for the webinar on Thursday, May 6, at 11 am to 12 noon EDT.  (For those of you on the west coast, that’s 8 am, but we’re serving free coffee so that should help!)

Seriously, don’t miss this.  Registration is already record-setting, but the good news is we can take everybody.  The miracle of the internet.  See you tomorrow.

Two words about Stetzer and Bird’s new book, Viral Churches: Get It!

Ed Stetzer and Warren Bird’s new book, Viral Churches: Helping Church Planters Become Movement Makers, packs a punch like no other church planting book I’ve read.  Stetzer and Bird, both experienced church planters turned missional researchers, deliver compelling examples of real churches engaged in church multiplication strategies.  These networks of church planters are reshaping the theology, philosophy, and execution of sustainable church planting in ways not seen since the Baptists and Methodists struck out across America in the 1800’s planting congregations.

Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research, and Warren Bird, director of the research division of Leadership Network, teamed up to study over 200 church-planting churches, 100-leaders, 45 church planting networks, 84 organic church leaders, 12 church planting experts, 53 colleges and seminaries, 54 doctoral dissertations, 41-journal articles, and 100+ church planting books and manuals — all with the goal of understanding this new surge of church planting multiplication that is sweeping America. Continue reading “Two words about Stetzer and Bird’s new book, Viral Churches: Get It!”