Thank You Jesus

#FF – Dave Kraft

I decided to take the week-end Twitter trend Follow Friday and extend it to the blog, posting some spotlights and links to some of the stuff I read on my Flipboard app. There’ll be a mix covering church & ministry, art & design blogs, media & marketing, music & skateboarding, and maybe the odd travel blog or Apple log.

Dave Kraft is a 71-year old leader who has lasted the distance, spending around 40 years in leadership and on mission with the Navigators and currently on team at Mars Hill Church, Seattle, where he works with training and developing younger leaders. As you’ve probably seen on the blog before, I’ve appreciated his book Leaders Who Last a lot over the last year or two, and our whole Core Team at New Generation have found his insights and teaching to be really helpful on our own journey as individuals leaders and a leadership team. It’s not often you can find someone who’s really run the race well over the long haul and who is primarily devoted to investing that experience into younger up-and-comers, which I guess is why I try to get my hands on everything and anything Dave produces. So, just in case you’ve missed it, you can visit his blog at davekraft.squarespace.com and send him an email if you’ve got questions, he’s happy to send through material and further reading when he’s got stuff.

Groeschel Gets Weird

I stumbled across this short interview/promo video for Craig Groeschel’s new book Weird – Because Normal Isn’t Working on Michael Hyatt’s site, and I can say, if the content of the book is as good as the ideas and insights in the video, then I’m looking forward to reading it. Check the video here.

The Doctrine Discourse

A couple of months ago my virtual blog buddy Jon over the Atlantic came up with an idea. He suggested we get together and read through Gerry Breshears and Mark Driscoll’s co-authored book, cockily titled Doctrine – What Christians Should Believe (in true Driscollesque fashion), and then discuss what we’ve read chapter by chapter on the blog. Last month he kicked the conversation off with the first chapter on Trinity and Community. This month it was my turn with The Doctrine of Revelation and The Word. Whether you dig Driscoll or not, and whether you’ve read the book or not, why not stop by and join in with some comments and let us know what you think over at www.reflectivemusings.com?

Back to Church(?)

The other week I started on a series I’m doing over the next weeks (and possibly months) on perceptions of the Church outside of its walls. The idea is to focus on young people, and my motivation comes mainly from stats and surveys that point to an under 30s exodus from the Church over recent years/decades.

I’ve had some great input and ideas, comments and conversations on the subject with people both in person and online, and have put together a few questions I plan to pose to some passers by downtown sometime soon in search of some fresh perspectives and perhaps some pointers to help us hold up that mirror and see where the spots are.

Before I do that, I thought I’d post an article that puts another slant on the stats and doomsday declarations that church and young people are soon to be no more, found over at the Gospel Coalition…a site that’s certainly been getting it’s fair share of hits over the last week, but we’ll leave that for another post.

Let’s hope that they’re right about this one at least…

Beware of the Over-Hyped Stat

Basic/What’s Up With Francis Chan?

Wherever I turn right now it seems Francis Chan is there.

The same Francis Chan that stepped down from the senior pastor role at his church Cornerstone some time back because he was tired of being “caught up in keeping the machine running” and didn’t recognise his church and his church members’ walk when reading about Jesus and his followers in Scripture.

Ironic that the guy who “walked away from it all” partly due to fear of his own affection for affirmation and popularity now seems even more popular than before. Also ironic that the guy who “walked off his own megachurch stage in search of something smaller and simpler” is not only getting interviews and press coverage left, right and centre, but also strutting his stuff on stage at Catalyst and being given a go at John Piper’s Desiring God gig a few weeks back. No wonder people can’t figure the guy out! No wonder he’s being labelled a little OTT, or in some cases, just downright crazy.

But then that’s the beauty of it…

Hearing Francis lay out his own thoughts and his agenda (or lack thereof) on the Neue podcast over the last couple of weeks fills me with a deep respect for the guy’s authenticity, honesty, and transparency. Sure, he doesn’t have it all nailed out…but then that’s his own point. He’s still figuring it out…and he’s not doing what he’s doing primarily to point the finger at “the establishment”, or because he’s discovered the key to a better way, but as a means of making space and stripping things back in hope of finding that way himself.

Sure, he’s a little nuts…but he’s an inspiration, and his actions, whilst somewhat “irresponsible and irrational” to some, are at the same time a huge thought-provoker for the institutionalised church, particularly in the pretty comfortable confines of the US.

So, whilst nobody really knows what’s up with Francis and where he’s going, one thing I’m grateful for is the film project he’s put together with the Flannel guys, of Nooma fame. Flannel and Fran have teamed up to make a 7-part series of 15 minute films called Basic, and the 2 videos released to date are both visually breathtaking and weighty in content.

The first three videos are on fearing God, following Jesus and rediscovering the Holy Spirit. The next four will be on the primary pillars of the early church as seen in Acts 2: teaching, prayer, communion and fellowship. Really looking forward to seeing the rest of the series as they’re released one by one, and highly recommend the two that are out to anyone looking for a good resource for use in small groups, youth meetings, services and the like. They’re pretty good for simply watching at home alone too for that matter…I’ve come away moved, inspired and challenged to strip it back to basics, starting with a renewed awareness of the need to truly Fear God.

http://basicseries.com/

Church

Over the next month or two I’m planning to do a series of posts on perceptions of The Church. The motivation behind it is simply that I love it and believe that it is (in the words of Mr. Hybels) the hope of the world. At the same time see fewer and fewer young people engaging with it. This concerns me.

According to whychurch.org.uk in a few decades 65% of the UK church will be over 65 years of age, and in the last couple of decades 49% of all males under 30 have left the church. At the same time, statistics say that over 80% of young Europeans are interested in faith and spirituality.

Similarly, denominations in the US such as the Southern Baptists have experienced a 52% drop in the number of people baptised into their churches over the last 2 or 3 decades, whilst the Barna Group recently published findings that 67% of adults in the US claim an active personal relationship with Jesus.

All of this suggests that faith and spirituality are as relevant and real to 21st century citizens as to previous generations, but that the Church is no longer the obvious place for those interests to be nurtured and nourished.

I’m hoping to spark some conversation and find out a bit more about why young people are leaving (or never finding) the church, and also ask some hard questions about how we (the Church) are perceived, particularly amongst people who are either new to church or don’t attend church at all.

So, there’ll be some surveys on the streets and some questions to people I know who are new to church or don’t do church at all, and there might be a few links and references to books and articles along the way too.

My aim: to hold up a mirror for us to look at ourselves more clearly and see the spots and stains that might need removing (Jonathan Acuff paraphrase), so that more people can engage with God’s community, be built up with Bible teaching, served in prayer and join Jesus’ mission.

I’d like some help though…

  1. – If you’re not a believer, used to be a believer, or are a believer but don’t regularly attend church, I’d love to hear why. Feel free to post any questions, criticisms, frustrations or suggestions here and we’ll throw them in the mix.
  2. – If you’re a churchgoer and want to help me come up with some questions to ask people outside of the church, hit me up here and I’ll try to incorporate those questions in my surveys and interviews.

The Bible as a Building

Last night our Connect group met to eat cake and read James together, a combination I can highly recommend. It was great…reading just a few verses together brought so many new insights to the very same texts that I’ve been reading on my own for almost 6 months now. Love hearing other people’s take on a text.

Speaking of reading the Bible, here are a few lines I wrote in my notes the other day whilst studying Scripture alongside Alastair Campbell’s book The Story We Live By…. They’re loosely taken from the introductory chapter.

The Bible is like a huge and beautiful old historic building, full of treasures and surprises. To visit a building like that only once would be to miss out on much of the detail, and to visit it alone, without a tour guide more familiar with the history, context, features and anecdotes attached to it would be to solely scratch the surface and miss out on the deeper insights and discoveries to be made.

Could this mean the Bible is always best read in community? Why/why not?

Velvet Elvis, the Bible and Community

Ok, last Velvet Elvis post and then I’ll stop. This time on community.

Community is obviously a cool Christian word nowadays, and we’ve probably all heard, read and witnessed a whole range of takes on the concept, but I thought Bell had some new insights, particularly in relationship to community and the Bible.

“The Bible is a communal book. It came from people writing in communities, and it was often written to communities. Remember that the printing press wasn’t invented until the 1400s. Prior to that, very few if any people had their own copies of the Bible. In Jesus’ day, an entire village could probably afford only one copy of the Scriptures, if that. Reading the Bible alone was unheard of, if people could even read. For most of church history, people heard the Bible read aloud in a room full of people. You heard it, discussed it, studied it, argued about it, and made decisions about it as a group, a community. Most of the ‘yous’ in the Bible are plural… You saw yourselves and those around you as taking part in a huge discussion that has gone on for thousands of years.”

“Contrast this communal way of reading and discussing and learning with our Western, highly individualised culture. In many Christian settings, people are even encouraged to read the Bible alone, which is a new idea in church history. A great idea, and a life-changing discipline, but a new idea. And think of pastors. Many pastors study alone all week, stand alone in front of the church and talk about the Bible, and then receive mail and phone calls from individuals who agree or don’t agree with what they said. This works for a lot of communities, but isn’t the only way.”

“In Jesus’ world, it was assumed that you had as much to learn from the discussion of the text as you did from the text itself.”

“Community, community, community. Together, with others, wrestling and searching and engaging the Bible as a group of people hungry to know God in order to follow God. Perhaps this is why the Bible can be confusing for some the first time they read it. I don’t think any of the writers of the Bible ever intended people to read their letters alone.”

Velvet Elvis, Truth and College

I wasn’t planning to turn this into a series, but with so many thought-provoking statements in the book, I figured I might as well throw up a few more, if only as a means of processing them myself.

These ones are about college and culture…using the analogy of a young adult moving from the comfort and familiarity of family, friends and a home church to a college or university in another city, where they know no-one and have little support structure. At New Generation, we see this all the time, and Bell’s take on some of the solution (of which I’ve only posted a couple of pieces…guess you’ll have to read the book for the rest) is interesting…

“Do you know anybody who grew up in a religious environment, maybe even a Christian one, and walked away from faith/church/God when they turned eighteen and went away to college?

Whenever I ask this question in a group of people, almost every hand goes up. Let me suggest why. Imagine what happens when a young woman is raised in a Christian setting but hasn’t been taught that all things are hers and then goes to a university where she’s exposed to all sorts of new ideas and views and perspectives. She takes classes in psychology and anthropology and biology and world history, and her professors are people who have devoted themselves to their particular fields of study. Is it possible that in the course of lecturing on their field of interest, her professors will from time to time say things that are true? Of course. Truth is available to everyone.”

“Paul affirms truth wherever he finds it. But he takes it further in the book of Acts. He is speaking at a place called Mars Hill and trying to explain to a group of people who believe in hundreds of thousands of gods that there is really only one God who made everything and everybody… He quotes their own poets. And their poets don’t even believe in the God he’s talking about. They were talking about some other god and how we are all offspring of that god, and Paul takes their statement and makes it about his God. Amazing.”

“The writers of the Bible are communicating in language their world will understand. They are using the symbols and pictures and images of the culture they are speaking to.”

…are we sometimes setting our young people up for failure by presenting them an either/or approach to faith and science, spirit and intellect, Christ and culture? …and is the Acts 17 approach a better way for young people in our day?