07 November 2012

Leadership for a Church on the Edge: Wisdom from the Lewis and Clark Expedition

Posted in Emerging, Leadership, Church


The church finds itself on the verge of uncharted territory, a geography that is unsettling and unfamiliar.

No one knows how the future is going to unfold. Our answers are partial, at best.

Sometimes it seems like we standing at edge of a cliff, but, for me, it feels more like the opening of a vast new territory that calls us to exploration and adventure - and I am excited for it.

I recently took heart in this from reading Stephen Ambrose's excellent book, Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West, which tells the story of the Lewis and Clark expedition of 1803-1806 to find a route to the Pacific coast.

It was an epic journey, one with great lessons for the church as it finds itself thrust into a new age of exploration. 

Here are six pieces of inspiration and wisdom I took from Lewis and Clark for church leadership now:

29 October 2012

The Rise of the "Nones" and My Trip to Asheville

Posted in Culture, Emerging, Church

Asheville Love Local

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life recently released its study "Nones" on the Rise, which stated that the percentage of religiously unaffiliated Americans has risen to 20% - and tops out at 34% among those under 30.

This increase in the unaffiliated corresponds to a decline in those that identify as white (evangelical and mainline) protestants.

There are plenty of takeaways from the report, but it is clear that there are simply fewer and fewer people with whom the church has a traditional, historic affinity - people who might attend a church out of expectation,  obligation, or habit, be it for familial, ethnic, or cultural reasons.  

It is also clear that the cultural space the mainline churches inhabit is shrinking fast.

The challenge here is not about finding some great new outreach program, but entering into our culture, which is increasingly defined by the unaffiliated - and discovering, as Elizabeth Drescher has argued, the many spiritual connections there.

This place of the church in culture (or lack thereof) came home to me in a dramatic way on a recent trip to Asheville, North Carolina.

25 October 2012

Animate Faith: Finally, An Adult Formation Program I Can Love (Review)

Posted in Emerging, Church

Animate logoI generally run away from pre-packaged adult formation programs. I experience them as stiff, watered down, answer-oriented, and too focused on theological orthodoxy.

So, I am naturally skeptical when a “Wonderful! New!” adult education program rolls out.

Yet, I was hopeful when I heard about the new program Animate | Faith from SparkHouse. The speakers, including Brian McLaren, Nadia Bolz-Weber, Lauren Winner, and Lillian Daniel, encouraged me to give it a shot, and they did not disappoint.

We are currently doing the Animate series this fall at our church. So, I have reviewed all the sessions myself and done about half of them with our congregation.

And I have to say - I love it.

Here are the things that I value most about Animate:

22 October 2012

How to Get Your Church Podcasting on iTunes

Posted in How To

on-the-airIf you create audio recordings of sermons or educational programing at your church (or want to start), its a great idea to podcast them in iTunes.

In today's web, its not enough to just make your content available, you want to serve it up in a way that makes it easy for people to access and listen. Podcasting on iTunes is great for this. With iTunes, people don't have to sit at the computer and listen for 10, 15 minutes or more, they can subscribe and get them automatically delivered to their mobile devices - which makes them more likely to actually listen.

Setting up a podcast on iTunes is a very managable process, you just have to know where to begin. iTunes provides an extensive information page. In this post I break it down into five steps and include some advice for getting the most out of your podcast. I just set up my own podcast for my sermon blog using this process and it works like a charm.

17 October 2012

How To Host Your Own Beer and Hymns Night

Posted in How To, Emerging, Spirituality, Church


There is something very cool about singing Beautiful Savior, Amazing Grace, and A Mighty Fortress in a pub.

Sure, its partly the novelty of it, but it also worshipful, spiritual, intimate, fun, great outreach, and an affirmation of God's presence in our daily lives - in all the places we gather, including pubs.

I've helped to host four Beer and Hymns events. They've each been a little different but they have been great experiences. The singing is beautiful, the environment is relaxed, it takes us into the community, and it opens something up for people spiritually.

Beer and Hymns has been popularized in Lutheran circles by Nadia Bolz-Weber and House for All Sinners and Saints. Jodi Bjornstad Houge and Humble Walk Church also regularly host Beer and Hymns. Jodi writes about their experience here. I've included several links at the bottom of this post with examples of how people have done Beer and Hymns and what it means to them. 

Here's my version of how to host your own Beer and Hymns event:

12 October 2012

Our Amazing Experience of Digital Prayer

Posted in Digital Ministry, Church

prayer votiveI've always been a big fan of praying for people on Facebook and I have done a lot of it, but it wasn't until my son broke his leg and needed surgery that I really felt the power of digital prayer for myself.

I've prayed many times for others Facebook as a care giver, but to receive prayers as the parent of a sick child was a different and powerful experience, one which I will try to capture in this post.

In short, it was like this: all those comments, likes, direct messages, as well as email and texts - they were each like a votive prayer candle that was lit for my son, and, though we are separated by time and miles, it was like all those candles were all lit in one place. My Facebook newsfeed resembled the rows of prayer candles you often find in Catholic churches and monasteries - visible symbols of the thoughts and prayers of many, bringing us warmth, comfort, and light - lifting my son and family up to God.

Thanks so much for your love, support, and prayers. It means more than we can say.

Here are a few other things I noticed through this experience of digital prayer: 

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