28 June 2006

Ministry Multiplicity

There was a movie with Michael Keaton and Andie MacDowell that came out in 1996 called "Multiplicity". The basic idea, was that the main character, Doug, just didn't have enough time. There were work responsibilities, family responsibilities. personal responsibilities, you name it. So, he had a clone made of himself. And then another. Finally, things started to get a bit easier; more Doug Time" and less stress. Then the two clones got the bright idea that they needed more Doug Time". So, they made a clone of Clone #1. A copy of a copy. You can only imagine how bad that turned out. Funny movie, worth a watch.

We all have an idea of how a copy of a copy works out. Ever make a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy? Not very effective, is it? So why is it that we do this so often for ministry? "Hey, if it works for Saddleback/Willow Creek/Brooklyn Tabernacle, then it can work for us."


Even if it does work a little or even very well, is it what you are supposed to do with the ministry/church? How many pastors download sermons and tweak to their personal taste? With no research or personal devotional time becasue they are jus too busy? What about ministry programs, mission statements, and entire paradigm shifts totally dependent upon a template designed by a church or ministry whose demographical profile doesn't event remotely resemble yours?

These Mega Churches and large parachurch ministries usually start by someone taking inventory of where they're at, who they are called to reach, and where God wants to take them. Then they allow God to lead them in the particular way to get it done; the way that is most effective for that local area or country. After all the variables are considered and prayed about, the devise a plan. It sounds complicated, but that's what we should be doing everyday on a personal level anyway. Just upscale that concept and super-impose it onto your ministry.

When all these things come together in the right way, it works for growing the kingdom of God. "Great! I'll just take that and make it work here!"

Um. No.

There is something very unique that God wants to do in your area. Sure, it's ultimately the same end as every other Christ-centered ministry - wins souls for Jesus. But, the means are going to be unique to where you are and who you are called to reach. Don't copy the Purpose Driven Church or the Purpose Driven Youth Ministry. Sure great concepts for who they were intended for, but not necessarily for you. Get ideas, but don't mimic so closely it's impossible to see God's unique creation at work in your ministry. If you do that, you get a copy of a copy of a copy; not the real deal.

God's Word should be your ministry manual and planning guide. Prayer should be your brainstorming session initially. Don't plagiarize; you'll just end up with a watered-down, dummied-down version of what could really be. Sure, you may see growth in numbers and in the spiritual life of each believer. But, is it the kind of growth that God had in mind, or are you short-changing the Kingdom because you won't sacrifice some other (even good) things in order to do it the right way (usually harder)?

What works in sunny California or Texas will be counterproductive in New York and Boston. Slow down, read, pray, and listen. God wants to do something big, but not in the way that it has already been done. Just think about something as silly as Super Bowl commercials. What if they showed the same commercials every year? Look at different TV stations and who their target audience is. Watch how they advertise. You'll see the same product promoted on the Disney Channel or Nickelodeon that you see promoted on ESPN or Fox, but the approach totally different. Do kids care that their toys are made out of ABS plastic and are safe for kids over 3? No. But parents do. Do parents care so much that you can changes the rims and tires out on that cool remote control car? No. But kids do.

Who are you reaching and what do they respond to? The product (Jesus) remains the same. The means for making people aware of the product and then opening their minds enough for them to realize that they need the product will vary depending on what you are called to do.

Seems like we're back to creativity and and doing what God would have us do in His image rather than relying on past successes for three or more generations ago.

27 June 2006

You think I'm a good fit for this job?

As you might expect from the nation’s leading music technology retailer, Sweetwater’s sales team is comprised of a diverse group of expert salespeople, each with a unique style of selling, and all with proven track records of excellence. A successful salesperson must apply a number of skills every day. We look for a range of characteristics when selecting a new member of our talented team.

You have both technical savvy and street smarts. You know how to qualify the customer, understand his or her needs, determine the best mix of products, put together a comprehensive solution, and close the deal. You achieve a balance of performance and principle while maximizing customer satisfaction. You are passionate about your work and are always thinking about the next sale and who to discuss it with. You work hard, are always prepared, and have earned the customer's trust. You also stay engaged, even after the deal is done.

Skills We Look For

• A firm understanding of all aspects of music and audio technology
• A passion for the gear, with the ability to turn that passion into sales
• Motivated, results-driven personality with a strong desire to succeed
• Articulate communicator, both verbally and in writing
• Highest level of ethics
• Strong competitor
• Excellent negotiator
• Account management skills
• Qualification skills
• Enjoy working on your own as well as on a dynamic team
• Are comfortable thinking analytically, solving problems, and taking ownership
• Seek challenges and enjoy finding answers
• Have a high level of attention to detail and are a perfectionist

26 June 2006

On the heels of (non) creativity...

Anyone else sick of "Contemporary Christian Music" (CCM)? Don't get me wrong, there are some great songs being written with the heart of God in mind and with the purpose of helping people express their worship to God. That's not what I'm talking about.

I'm thinking more along the lines of the bands who are just clones of so-called secular bands. I mean, how many versions of U2 and Cold Play can you possibly need? When will the falsetto fad die out?

I don't like the idea of designating bands Christian or Secular. They are bands, period. The distinction should be Band or Worship Musicians. If you need help discerning what is what, if you have to buy a ticket, you are going to a concert to see a band. Sure, you may worship there, but that's not the goal. The price for admission to enter into God's throne room has been paid in full by the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Should these bands be supported financially? Absolutely! Just don't call it a time of worship if it's off limits to those who can't afford a ticket.

The other fad I notice, is musical relevance over biblical content. Oh, there can be both, but I rarely see it. I will not mention any names, but I'm sure you can figure out who they are. Any band/music that causes the focus to be on the band or the music is ineffective for leading people in worship. If it's all about being high-energy and interacting with those around you, then it is not worship. Is jumping around and yelling wrong? Not at all. If it is genuine worship from you to the Creator, go for it! I've seen it, and I love it. However, that vast majority I see first hand spend more time goofing off than worshipping.

Another gripe I have with CCM is all the cheerleaders it produces. Getting people all hyped up by yelling and jumping around is a bit much.

I love loud and fast music, even for worship. But not 90% of the time. Mix it up, and let the music allow people to go on a journey from beginning to end. When a setlist is made, you should have the end in mind, "Where does God want this to go?"

Constant looking around while "leading worship" in order to see who's watching you, or to gain a nod of approval is wrong. Rehearsed, canned movements and actions need to go; please, please, please, don't copy what you see on a DVD. Just because Matt Redman goes to his knees at a particular point during "Facedown" doesn't mean you have to do it, too. Every time. Rehearse the music, people. Then, your worship can be spontaneous. Funny how we have all the cool rock star moves down, but can't play a song from our hearts. We can't remember two verses, a chorus, a bridge, and the 5 chords that are repeated throughout the whole song. We can spit out the words to "Gold Digger", but need a lyrics chart for "Better Is One Day". Sad.

Churches need to start writing their own songs. Songs about what God is doing in their congregations and communities. A good example would be Hillsong Australia/Hillsong United. United especially, has their own unique sound that works. Unfortunately, there are too many Hillsong United "cover bands" out there. Just like there are too many Chris Tomlin and Matt Redman wannabes. Crowder is another great example of creativity, along with Charlie Hall. Now, take your cue from that and be original; stop bitin' off others creativity. God didn't make you to be like them. First, find out who you are, then get comfortable with that. Then get creative and let God use you how He wants to use you. Don't try to be what God created someone else to be.

I need coffee.

22 June 2006

Where's the creativity?

A pastor friend of mine said the following:

"Christians should be the most creative people on the planet!"

I have to say, I totally agree. Even though it goes against all that I am (non-creative), I have to stand by that fact. But, the American church (for the most part) has snuffed out creativity like it were Jimmy Hoffa, seemingly to never be found again. Why is that?

Our traditions were born out of someone's creative thinking years ago, right? The stuff we do today was new at one point. Why are we so comfortable with being comfortable? Why is anything "new" met with cynicism? I mean, I'd be happy if things were met with skepticism, because a skeptic will at least look into things before turning up their nose. Cynics on the other hand, I have no use for them.

We were created in God's image, right? There is really nothing new under the sun, right? Well, keeping those two points in mind, we can pretty much eliminate the opinions of most naysayers (some naysayers are good; they keep you from getting yourself into trouble).

We, being created in God's image/likeness means that we should follow His example in order to be an accurate portrayal. Now, that God is a smart one. He knows, well, everything. So, you would think that when He inspired people throughout the years to pen the Scriptures, He probably had some idea as to how they would turn out. Maybe just a hint, huh? Well...

When I go to the beginning of God's written revelation to us, I can't seem to get past the first five words of Genesis, "In the beginning God created..."

So, from that we can see that everything starts with God. In the beginning, all that existed was God. For eternity before the time of man, He was. Now, after eternity (is that possible) He did one thing to break the "silence", so-to-speak. He created. Of all the things to start the story of God and man, He wanted us to have no doubt that is was HIM who existed and started all things and that what He did in the beginning, was CREATE.

Do you think that maybe, just maybe, He'd like us to follow suit? All mankind was created in His image, that includes everyone in the world who are headed straight to hell if they don't receive Christ. So, if everyone on earth was created to be creative, like God, explain this to me.

Why are the most creative people outside of the Kingdom of God? Because although the Kingdom of God (and its King - God himself) wants creativity, the American church doesn't. Oh sure, some churches allow anyone to come and sit in a pew on a Sunday, which they should. But, you want to serve in ministry?

"Well, I know you are a devoted prayer warrior and you give faithfully to the cause of Christ. I can even see that you have a gift for music, (or art, or dance, or whatever) but if you're gonna be in plain view of the rest of the congregation, your hair can't be like that. Blue hair is not allowed. You'll have to shave that mohawk. Of course we want you to wear a tie, but not with a t-shirt, cargo shorts and a pair of Vans. No, you can't wear plaid pants on the platform."

Why are these things "taboo"? Because they are labeled as new. Guess what. There is nothing new under the sun. It's not new to God, it's only new to you because you have tunnel-vision and are too comfortable being comfortable. You know what happens when people do the same thing the same way for far too long? They roam in the desert for 40 years.

You know why these things aren't allowed? Obviously because they can be distracting and seem as though those people are trying to draw attention to themselves. Why would it seem that way? Because everyone else, the "mature Christians" all do it the same way. They follow the same old traditions that have almost zero validity. Why? Because it's comfortable.

Creativity left the church so long ago, that we are uncomfortable with creative people. We call them names and assume they lack humility. You can even follow the suit and tie dress code to the letter, but if your tie is say, tie-dye, you will get some looks and most likely some comments. Heck, if enough old-timers don't like it, you may get "spoken to". Why, because it's "showy". Because you are obviously trying to draw attention to yourself.

It's funny. The reason I felt so comfortable at church so quickly was the fact that there was no sign whatsoever that creativity was even an option, let alone a requirement. Ironically, that feeling now makes me squirm in my seat and pray for God to unleash His creativity in me. Of course if He did that, I'd get in a heap of trouble. Mmmmm... trouble.....

Y'all can thank Amy for triggering this particular rant.

(Almost) Daily Comedy Video 6/22/2006

Canadian Idol, it's a gas.

21 June 2006

Communication Breakdown

Communication breakdown, it's always the same.
Having a nervous breakdown, drive me insane!

So why can't people communicate? Maybe some just have nothing to communicate, and that's understandable. How about we not let those people be in charge of anything important? It's one thing if the person in charge has things planned out and a course of action thought up but just lacks in the communication department. It's another to just have nothing to communicate because you don't plan or think far enough in advance to effectively carry anything out.

The second situation is made worse when such a person knows that they are lacking in these areas, are offered help from people who excel in these areas, yet turn it down out of sheer pridefulness. Then to hear them talk about how many hours they put in. Doing what?

Don't try to do everything, especially those things you are not gifted at doing. Let those with the gift carry that burden for you. "Hello, hand. Stop trying to be a foot; you end up walking funny that way and everyone can see how stupid it looks."

When you work outside the calling that God has for your life at any given time, you're robbing the Kingdom. By trying to work in the flesh in those areas you are not gifted, you're not allowing people gifted in those areas an opportunity to do what God has called them to do. Thus, you are robbing the Kingdom. Eventually, all the gifted people around you will walk away and leave you there crying in the corner with your broken toy (ministry) wondering what happened. Then mommy and daddy will come over and take the broken toy away and explain that you should have learned how to play with it properly, especially given how many people were there to help.

Communication is a two-way street. I can even work with a one-way street type of person. It's the other type I can't work with. They don't share any thoughts or plans (if they have any) until the last second or until after the fact. In addition, they don't listen when other people say anything to them.

Either those in leadership above this type of individual need to cut ties with them, or we (I) need to seek another place to serve within the giftings and abilities God has bestowed upon us.

(Almost) Daily Comedy Video 6/21/2006

Frank Caliendo on Letterman

20 June 2006

(Almost) Daily Comedy Video 6/20/2006

Cowbell, baby!

19 June 2006

Why Not U.S.?

The previous post talks about thinking like a missionary here in the U.S.. We like to preach it and think that we are practicing it, but we're not. How are we supposed to seep into every area of this society if we just ignore what's going on around us and live our safe little (so-called) Christian lives?

We give money to foreign missionaries so that they can live abroad in the culture they are trying to reach. We not only allow, but expect the people to learn the culture inside and out. We expect them learn the language, dress, and customs of these different places. Great. So why is it different here?

In the U.S., we're told you can't do this, don't go here, don't wear that, don't be around these people. We use Scripture to justify what we think is a legit point. Sure, we are to capture every thought and make it obedient to Christ. Just don't use the Scripture to say that you should basically tune out of popular culture so that you don't sin. Temptation is not sin. Giving into it, is. Yes, watching TV, listening to the radio, reading a book may tempt us. That's not sin. Picking up a newspaper can tempt you. Do we stop reading it? Do we turn off the news because we're afraid we might see a commercial?

How can light be seen except if it is shining in a dark place? I don't care how bright your light is on a Sunday morning with all your fake 'amens" and incessant head nodding. Where's your faith without the pretty building? Does Jesus go to the dry cleaners with your suit Monday through Saturday? Why is the main concern about how things look? It doesn't look good for you and your girlfriend to pray together and have a bible study in the most open space in the building. You can't wear this or that if you want to serve in a particular ministry. Things that will be more effective and functional are shot down because, "I just don't like how it looks on me." What about this: "I don't think the Decor Committee will like that." God so loved the world, that He didn't send a committee. He sent His Son. A blue collar working slob like so many in the church today. Didn't have a fancy house, fancy clothes, or a pimped out camel to ride. No family heirlooms. And this is God we are talking about.

Almighty God himself came down to live in the flesh among men. He called men to follow him and learn from him. To spend every hour of the day with him in his presence. He came with promises and a free gift. Yes, there were commands to follow, but worthy commands from the Savior of the universe. He was a humble servant spending time with those whom no one else would. It "didn't look good" for him to be alone with the woman at the well. I suppose that no one told him about the rule forbidding you to be alone with the opposite sex if they are not family. I don't suppose the Decor Committee liked the smell that probably followed Jesus and his disciples. That happens when you wear leather sandals in desert heat; your feet stink.

Funny, with what we know about how Jesus dressed (like common folk), there is no record of him ever being reprimanded for preaching in the temples without wearing his "Sabbath Best". Of all the things the Pharisees would nitpick him about, you'd think they'd jump all over that one. Where were his Holy Garments? His phylacteries? His clothes didn't threaten them, his message did. Even the Pharisees knew what was worth arguing about sometimes.

Why do we preach that we want to reach the lost, but so much time is spent in the church building? Why will we try to preach a convicting message about how you can tell where your loyalties and priorities lie by how you spend your money, while at the same time having a yearly budget with the overwhelming majority of money going to the mortgage, utilities, and upkeep of the building and the missions budget is a distant second? It's kind of funny; we wouldn't want to sit next to too many of the people that our missionaries are trying to reach because they probably smell funny or dress differently.

We justify spending big bucks on a huge building by saying that in order to reach people in this particular community, you need to appeal to them in a way that they will best respond. Basically, upper/middle class and rich white people won't come to your church unless it's pretty and expensive. They won't listen to what you have to say unless you dress in appropriate business attire. I'll buy that. That's almost like missions, except it's a lot closer to hypocrisy.

We want the poor city folks here. We want the young people to come here. We want the drunks, the addicts, the sluts, the homosexuals, the abusive husbands. At least that's what we say. But in reality, we don't want them here. We don't want Christians going anywhere near the places where these people are. We don't want Christians to have anything to do with these people.

Dr. Ted Roberts was at our church not too long ago leading a Pure Desire Leadership conference. He said this, "Twelve step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous were a great idea. They were based upon principles found in the bible (James to be exact). The only problem was that the programs worked, and drunks started coming to church. So they kicked them out."

We don't care if our man made traditions and preferences interfere with the advancement of the Gospel. "God doesn't require this of you, but I do. Follow my rules or don't be a part of the program."

I think the guy who God used to found the Calvary Chapel movement has got the right idea. Back during the Jesus Movement, all the hippies started coming into the church. A lot of them came in with food and drink, beach sand on their sometimes bare feet, suntan lotion, etc. It cost a bit of time and money to clean the carpets every week. So, instead of instituting a rule against these things, he tore up the carpets and said, "Come as you are."

When did we lose focus? When did our big God turn into a big clubhouse? When did we trade the Great Commission for the Great Omission?

The world is a dangerous place and we are in it. Not of it, but in it nonetheless. Jesus sent out the original disciples like sheep among wolves. Did you think it would be any different today? I'm glad there is preaching about how important prayer is. About how important it is to meditate daily on God's word. About how important it is to have strong Christian fellowship. But when we follow that with telling people to basically stay away from all the places you're gonna find lost people, it's counterproductive. The reason we pray, read and meditate on the bible, have strong fellowship, etc. is to equip us for the work of bringing the light of the Gospel into the dark places of the world. We prepare so that we will not fall prey to the wolves of temptation. We don't prepare so that we can sit on a pew every Sunday and blab about how thankful we are for not being persecuted.

Tell ya what, sheep. Go out among the wolves in the dark places (like we are called to do), and you will find persecution. You will get laughed at, spit on, punched, maybe even killed.

Be a light in dark places. We have every opportunity to do that here in America. This is one of the most spiritually dark nations on the planet. If you don't believe that, then get your head out of the sand. In fact, the only difference I can see between an ostrich and your average American "Christian" is the fact that God created the ostrich to stick its head in the sand every time it was threatened.

If we ever get to the point where a church building is the only place you can find a (so-called) Christian, then Christianity is dead.

18 June 2006

Missions Minded?

"When you begin to think missionally, you realize, This is not somebody else’s responsibility; it’s my responsibility. Christ’s commission to the early Christians was to reach out to Jerusalem, then Samaria, then to the corners of the earth. I have to take care of my 'Jerusalem'.

As people begin to think like a missionary, they begin to take responsibility for the lostness of people in their Jerusalem. And they see those people as individuals. As followers of Christ begin to build a bridge to individual lost people, they create personal, tangible evidence of their Christian testimony.We have to be involved in an incarnational theology. We have to demonstrate the reality of Christ in all that we do. Yes, we have beautiful buildings and our churches offer lots of programs and activities. But we can’t expect the lost to come to us. We, as Christ’s representatives, have to seep into every fiber of this society so that we influence people positively for the Kingdom."

Alton Garrison serves as executive director of Assemblies of God U.S. Missions. His passion for reaching America for Christ is built on many years of personal ministry. He was an evangelist for 18 years before pastoring First Assembly of God in North Little Rock, Ark., for 15 years. Prior to leading U.S. Missions, Garrison served as superintendent of the Arkansas District and as an executive presbyter of the Assemblies of God. He spoke with Hal Donaldson, editor in chief, about some of America’s greatest spiritual needs — and his belief that Assemblies of God churches are divinely positioned to meet those needs.

16 June 2006

FedEx Hell

All that's missing now is to have real-time GPS tracking of the FedEx truck that has your package. I would love to sleep before I go to Rev night tonight at the church, but I gotta get my phone; I'm phoneless until it arrives.

I know why FedEx sucks... it's the "Fed" part. Nothing Federal ever works right.