What is Awesomeness?

26 12 2007

awesome.jpg

Thought this poster would help bring us closer to defining this word increasingly emerging in our vocabulary (as well as putting our tawdry lives into perspective). I think I’m going to need to get this poster for my son who’s a raving Star Wars fan (yes I’m one geek that spawned another geek…deal with it. As long as we can find someone to mate with us we’ll keep making more.) 🙂





The Personality of a President & America’s obsession with weakness

19 12 2007

Time magazine just announced the “Person of the Year” and the winner is –

Time’s described Putin as follows –

“Vladimir Putin gives a first impression of contained power: he is compact and moves stiffly but efficiently. He is fit, thanks to years spent honing his black-belt judo skills and, these days, early-morning swims of an hour or more. And while he is diminutive?5 ft. 6 in. (about 1.7 m) seems a reasonable guess-he projects steely confidence and strength. Putin is unmistakably Russian, with chiseled facial features and those penetrating eyes. Charm is not part of his presentation of self-he makes no effort to be ingratiating. One senses that he pays constant obeisance to a determined inner discipline. The successor to the boozy and ultimately tragic Boris Yeltsin, Putin is temperate, sipping his wine only when the protocol of toasts and greetings requires it; mostly he just twirls the Montrachet in his glass. He eats little, though he twitchily picks the crusts off the bread rolls on his plate.”

Read the full story here

Now putting aside Putin’s specific ideology or actions but looking ONLY at his personality I think it’s safe to assume a man like this would NEVER be elected as President of the U.S. (wouldn’t even come close to being nominated).

And why?

It seems the person we want as President is a slightly smarter, slightly kinder, slightly better-looking version of the man/woman next door.

Could an introvert with clear vision, deep conviction, piercing logic and a well of inner strength be elected? No, because most Americans could not relate to this person.

We’ve got to see our candidates flipping pancakes, kissing babies, telling jokes and smiling incessantly. Their personality must mirror the masses even if more rare personalities are stronger leaders.

Are we doomed to have weak leaders in America?





The Tyrannus Effect – Paul’s Neglected Strategy for City-wide Discipleship

17 12 2007

paul1a.jpgHow have we missed this?

Ever since Constantine declared Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire and began to use the techniques of Roman paganism (temples, priests, pagan holidays etc.) to institutionalize Christianity most people have completely ignored the methods of the first churches or the way Paul went about church planting.

Recent movements have begun to try and recapture this ancient way of doing church, believing the Constaninian transition was not an improvement, but that it was ultimately destructive to church life and practice. Many involved in church restoration see Paul’s methods as extremely simple and essentially free of structure; just encourage people to meet in homes, release gifts and live life in community. Each of these elements have been very helpful but they’ve neglected a necessary piece of Paul’s strategy which has thus far, rendered much of the house church / simple church practices virtually ineffective.

I call this missing element the Tyrannus Effect. It describes the impact of Paul’s primary church planting activity. How do you begin to plant a church? What do you actually do week in and week out from month to month, year to year? From what I’ve seen, if you don’t believe it involves the planting of a weekly worship service you believe it primary involves weekly meetings in homes. Neither was Paul’s primary activity.

In a little known passage in Acts 19 we get the clearest glimpse of what Paul spent his days doing when he wanted to plant churches in a city. Luke records that after Paul abandoned his original method of working through the local Synagogue he rented space in the School of Tyrannus and held daily discussions there for about a two year period. This is most likely what he was doing in Synagogues before this time and we know this was what he did during his house arrest in Rome (Acts 28). This discipleship center was the public and constant activity and he supplemented this by also training in individual house church meetings (Acts 20:20).

What this strategy results in is the Tyrannus Effect.

So what is the Tyrannus Effect? It is what happens when your primary focus in a city is NOT the churches themselves but is on discipleship training through discussion. And this is what happens through this shift in focus:

  • Churches form naturally around those who are being trained
  • Complacent converts are quickly changed to committed disciples
  • The level of discipleship city-wide is continually increasing
  • Unity among the churches is developed through a common discipleship process
  • New believers are immediately immersed in the essential “renewal of their mind”
  • Teaching and training gifts are released for the benefit of the whole city
  • Disciples have a city-wide Kingdom vision vs. a preoccupation on an individual church
  • Individual churches are deeply interconnected with one another and equipped simultaneously
  • Discussion-based training replaces sermonizing as a means to a long-lasting, faith-building group discovery experience.
  • A central base of operations (city-church) exists for recognizing elders, releasing the five-fold ministry and dispatching trainers to other localities

For the past year we’ve been experimenting with the Tyrannus strategy and have experienced the beginnings of this effect first hand. I can’t imagine what would happen tomorrow if the biblical teachers and trainers in a city came together to disciple the city. This unifying of willing disciplers is the next phase in our strategy to bring our activity in line with Paul’s method.

What should you do if you want to experience the Tyrannus Effect in your city?

  1. Create a clear, repeatable discipleship process
  2. Transition each lesson from lecture format to discussion-based training
  3. Hold regular gatherings in an appropriate location where people commit to the discipleship process
  4. Open up the training to the whole city especially to other churches
  5. Keep expanding bringing on more trainers and more training modules until training discussions are happening daily
  6. Dispatch trainers to other cities to begin discipleship training centers in other regions
  7. Encourage discipled believers use their gifts to build up their church bodies.
  8. Send 5-fold ministers (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers) into the churches to stir them up
  9. Recognize city elders who can help shepherd churches (this will apply mostly to home-based churches).
  10. Continually communicate and network with all the churches and ministries in your region offering this training as a means to build up the churches and expand the Kingdom

There are many unique challenges to doing this in areas that are very churched with many dis-unified denominations (this may be why Paul preferred to go to areas that were unreached). But we desperately need to create a way for the church to return to our central mission and the final command of Lord – “to go and make disciples of all nations” one city at a time.





Would you have been a Nazi?

15 12 2007

I’ve wondered, if I was born in German, if I would have been a Nazi and I found the possibility quite doubtful. So I took this test and now there’s proof. 😉 Apparently I would have gotten out of Dodge with Einstein (not bad company but it still makes me sort of a wimp). Now it’s your turn.

Your Score: The Expatriate

Achtung! You are 30% brainwashworthy, 31% antitolerant, and 33% blindly patriotic

Congratulations! You are not susceptible to brainwashing, your values and cares extend beyond the borders of your own country, and your Blind Patriotism does not reach unhealthy levels. If you had been German in the 30s, you would’ve left the country.

One bad scenario — as I hypothetically project you back in time — is that you just wouldn’t have cared one way or the other about Nazism. Maybe politics don’t interest you enough. But the fact that you took this test means they probably do. I’m gonna give you the benefit of the doubt.

Did you know that many of the smartest Germans departed prior to the beginning of World War II, because they knew some evil shit was brewing? Brain Drain. Many of them were scientists. It is very possible you could have been one of them.

Conclusion: born and raised in Germany in the early 1930’s, you would not have been a Nazi.

The Would You Have Been A Nazi? Test
– it rules –

Link: The Would You Have Been a Nazi Test




Why Discipleship Training should be Centralized

15 12 2007

I’ve been discussing this over at Drew Goodmanson’s blog and wanted to post my thoughts here as well. The following describes why I believe it is essential to centralize the discipleship process instead of putting the responsibility for discipleship on the smaller community.

Well, the easiest way to describe the difference is to use an analogy like joining the Marines. A marine goes through at least 10 weeks of intense training BEFORE they join their unit.

Why shouldn’t you just, give them a gun, put them in their unit and let them get on the job training? It would not be nearly as effective.

1. Repeatable Tasks Can be Perfected. This is HUGE. In Marine Basic Training the drill Sergeants and support staff have the advantage of doing this over and over again, getting the best trainers to focus on training, gleaning from hundreds of years of training experience that has gone before them etc. They become extremely effective in a way that others can’t begin to emulate. We’ve seen this is also true in discipleship training. This is one of the reasons the massive 1 to 1 discipleship movement that started in the 40s failed to really succeed at the task of endless multiplication. Not everyone is a gifted trainer.  Few people are.  Its a unique gift and needs to be carefully refined.

2. The Outcome Must be Clearly Defined and Measured – When we send people into communities hoping that they will catch what they need through relationships (even intentional discipling ones) you will get as many results as there are trainers and even if you have a defined outcome, it will rarely be achieved. This is not true when you centralize training. You can define exactly what you want the disciple to learn and do and you can easily and clearly measure whether your training is producing the desired result.

3. Unity and Quality must be maintained over time – When new people come in are they going to get the same training? Having everyone in a community totally committed to the same training produces a common faith that brings unity and gives all the disciples in each community a clear expectation of what to expect from each other.

I’m not saying that training is not going to incidentally happen in community. The Marine is going to learn a lot in and from his unit but that on-the-job training must be separated from the core training and the latter should be centralized.

I’ve said nothing about how we actually translate this in our community so let me say briefly that it involves –

1. A 9-week training (the Story-Formed Life) EVERYONE goes through at least one time per year. And 5 additional 5-week trainings that make up the core of our discipleship process.
2. Training NOT to be confused with teaching. We drive toward defined outcomes, have individual application discussions each night and follow up the next week.
3. Intense Interaction – Our goal is to deepen faith in a way that changes lives NOT to impart knowledge. Interaction using strategic questions is FAR better at this then a lecture.

The average person goes through more than 20 weeks of intense training BEFORE they enter one of our communities. By that time they are really prepared to contribute understanding the mission the tools and their role.

This has completely transformed our struggling church into a deeply committed force for the Kingdom and made our common life far more rich.





The Perfect Church Service – the Worst Experience

13 12 2007

worship1.jpgI posted some questions about the church on a forum I frequent and received some enlightening responses I’d like to share (with their permission).

Below is perhaps the most thorough and thoughtful description of a church service I’ve ever read from the perspective a new comer.

WARNING: His language is real and raw and we hereby deny any liability for flashbacks or offenses that may result. It’s important to see things from a variety of perspectives and as these churches almost always give new comers feedback cards that come back with canned responses, here’s what you won’t get in your survey.

Enjoy –

“My biggest issue with church is the suffocating emotionality of it all.

First, I pull into the parking lot and make my way past the hip, extroverted greeters who high five the youngsters and give me the over-friendly welcomes.

Then I make my way through the halls of people milling about and chattering. This part isn’t so bad except that I get the distinct feeling that everyone is “being Christian” at this point. All the body language and vernacular seems calculated to reflect their true Christian core. Everyone is suddenly called brother and sister and the amount of caring they show over the most trivial aspects of each others lives is both impressive and disturbing. Frankly, I suspect many of them are just doing what they think a dutiful Christian should do with no actual understanding why they should even care.

After that, I sit in the pew and consider why I’m there. Why did I come to Church? What am I seeking? What is going on here.

About 5 to 10 minutes later, some lead vocalist person shouts into the mic “Let’s all stand up and praise the Lord!” and the cool-Christian-rock-band tears into an up-tempo worship number. Wow, everyone is having such a GOOD TIME! The vocalist inevitably starts clapping in time to the snare hits while bopping their head and lyrics from the powerpoint slide flash across those nifty projection screens backed with some artsy-fartsy image of a cross or serene lake or the clear blue sky. The music is usually based on a verse from Psalms, but fixed up to show that this church understands rock and roll and is cool with youthful energy.

Some people in the congregation squish their eyes shut and extend their arms upwards and palms out while getting real into this praise and worship time. Others, bop and clap along with the beat and others stand next to their spouse seeming very robotic like.

After 10 to 15 minutes, someone (usually the worship/music director) segues into a soothing piano piece. Everyone closes their eyes, the lights dim and (s)he starts a prayer in a voice that, frankly, sounds like they’re getting good oral. Very breathy and overwhelmed by the majesty of the Father.

The worst part is when they (sometimes) do the “let’s turn around and greet each other this morning” and the pews come to life with hugs, handshakes and more over friendly greetings.

At this point, I feel like a turtle that’s having it’s shell ripped off by a bunch of curious, but unruly schoolboys and the actual message hasn’t even been delivered yet. Once we get to that part, I’m fine. But once it’s over we have to back to more flamboyant praise-and-worship. Ugh.

It’s just the sheer ritual, robotic, trance-like nature of it all. Very uncomfortable to me. And I don’t dare ask questions or tell people that I’m not a Christian. Or tell them I’m a truth seeker who’s read just as much of the Hindu and Buddhist texts as I have the Bible. They’re not so happy-go-lucky then.

I just hate being around anything that tries to twist my emotions around before delivering some bit of self-proclaimed truth. I wonder if lots of people in the congregation are like that. Is their knowledge of God just what they get after hearing some loud worship songs and being told what they already know? Or do they go home and read texts authored by apologists from other religions when they’re not emotionally high?”





Give it up for the Body

12 12 2007

bodyofchrist.jpgSo my last few thoughts have been a bit heavy so let’s do something kind of different for a change (and because I can’t think of anything deep and profound this late at night).

I’ve really enjoyed our community these past few months, particularly in the way we are helping each other live much fuller lives through a diverse network of deep relationships (the body).

So enough taking it for granted! Click on the link below and give it up for a person in the community who has made your life fuller by their life, their gifts, their presence.

No, I didn’t suddenly become a feeler (how dare you think such a thing) but we all need to regularly acknowledge how much we need each other. Don’t let your silence be taken for indifference. Let the mush fest begin.