Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Growing churches vs. growing christians

I am so moved by Bill Hybels "mea culpa" in Leadership Journal where he states that the method Willow Creek has been using for years isn't truly helping their members become more like Jesus. We left ministry in this type of church three years ago because we saw the same thing. People, especially those helping the church to function, are so busy and packed with programs they have no time to "be still and know God". We saw that the church itself grew and grew on the backs of these dedicated people, but their own spiritual lives were spent pouring out so much that they had very little time to draw in.

Here's a portion of the post:

Having put all of their eggs into the program-driven church basket you can understand their shock when the research revealed that “Increasing levels of participation in these sets of activities does NOT predict whether someone’s becoming more of a disciple of Christ. It does NOT predict whether they love God more or they love people more.”

Speaking at the Leadership Summit, Hybels summarized the findings this way:

Some of the stuff that we have put millions of dollars into thinking it would really help our people grow and develop spiritually, when the data actually came back it wasn’t helping people that much. Other things that we didn’t put that much money into and didn’t put much staff against is stuff our people are crying out for.
People are so hungry to truly experience God. Programs cannot give people what they really long for. It's bait instead of a banquet.

Hybels confesses:

We made a mistake. What we should have done when people crossed the line of faith and become Christians, we should have started telling people and teaching people that they have to take responsibility to become ‘self feeders.’ We should have gotten people, taught people, how to read their bible between service, how to do the spiritual practices much more aggressively on their own.

I loathe the limited description of spiritual disciplines that CT's Leadership Journal confines themselves to "through the age old spiritual practices of prayer, bible reading, and relationships." - why stop there? Those alone don't work either. Spiritual disciplines are far richer and deeper than those worn out, sad, old three - church history is filled with far deeper and richer experiences than just this Protestant trifecta. I know that Bill Hybels was speaking in much broader terms than LJ narrowed them to - thank God.

Diana Butler Bass addresses this beautifully in The Alban Institute article - Intentionality, Practice, Vitality:

“Congregations that intentionally engage Christian practices are congregations that experience new vitality.”

The sentence combines three components: intentionality, practice, and vitality. Further defining them, I point out that intentionality involves choice and taking responsibility for individual and communal spirituality; that practice is not a program, rather it is a meaningful way of life; and that vitality cannot be measured in terms of numbers as it means spiritual health and maturity. A vital congregation is one where all people—including the pastor—are growing members of an organic community of spiritual practice.

Driving people with programs strips them of the time they deeply need to develop individual and community spiritual disciplines that will help them "self-feed" as Hybel's terms it. I don't like the individuality that term brings - as "communal feeding" is truly what will build strength and vitality and Christ-likeness into the soul. Disengaging from the system and shutting down the programs that are facilitating church growth instead of Christian growth is crucial to allow those, especially in leadership, to draw in so that when they are required to pour out they have that wellspring that comes from being still and knowing God. Living a life of being drawn and not driven.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Merton via Rohr via Cooper

Jordon Cooper is my dealer right now on what's happening at Soularize with Richard Rohr - I just can't get enough - this quote made me smile:

Contemplation should not be taught to monks if they are still slamming doors

Thomas Merton

Saturday, October 27, 2007


Mark the false trail

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.

And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.

When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.
So, friends, every day do something
that won't compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.

Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.

Listen to carrion — put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.

Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go.

Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, novelist and Kentucky farmer.


Friday, October 19, 2007

Tragedy please pray

I can't give out too many details here but a dear friend of mine has experienced the most horrific thing a mother can experience. Could you please pray for her?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


Andrea posted yesterday on the Docublog that the 1000 Journals documentary went LIVE yesterday at 12:00 noon west coast time. That meant that critics and the press got to see parts of me that other than being present at the time I have never seen!

I really want to go to LA in November to be at the premier. And I really want all of the reviews to be smashing for Andrea. She has poured every ounce of herself into this and birthed it like a baby. But this is even more difficult because my babies never had to sit in front of a group of people and be judged before the world. Holding thumbs Andrea!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

My birthday wish

This is the story from The StoryPeople today:

Wish for your deepest desires, she said &
when I asked if they'd come true,
she said they always do,
so you might as well get them out in the open
while you're still young enough
to correct any serious mistakes.

I thought it was appropriate for my birthday. 42. My mom died when she was 43. I never understood, really understood, how young she was. I was 21, she seemed old to me. She was so sick I think her body was much older than the calendar said by the end. And her soul was definitely much older, chronic illness has a way of doing that to some people. Most of my conscious interaction with her as a child was colored by the knowledge that she was ill and dying.

43. Until about three months ago I thought she died when she was 42. I had forgotten she had a birthday before she died. There is something that happens to a child when their parents die young. It's somehow a date stamp in the psyche that says "here and no further" - I can't explain it, but I have talked with others and it is a shared fear. I have learned in my 42 years that fears only get bigger when you don't talk about them - that they loom bigger and darker when they are hidden away and actively ignored.

So today my birthday wish is for a year of change. A year of hope. A year of freedom from fear. I begin classes for my masters program on Monday. This is a big step for me. I have a lot of fear here too. Fear of failure. Fear of success. Both options bring me a lot of fear. It's easier to live the familiar life I have now, but it's definitely not nearly as interesting.

I now know that 42 is young. 20 years of marriage. 42 years of life. I truly feel like I am just growing into all of this - like the best is still out there. This second journey gives me great hope and I can't wait to see where it takes me. Happy Birthday Heidi.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Max and his Barlow Girl

Alinea has been home sick all week with a possible case of mono so today, as we made the TESL flash cards for the team from our church to take to Mozambique, we listened to our whole collection of Superchic[k] songs. Great bonding time over some amazing music and lyrics.

It put a huge smile on my face to see that Max Hsu has found his Barlow Girl - these wedding pictures are breath-taking.

Max + Shara by Jen Kroll

David Jay's Photos

Inner Circle is the best Facebook application ever!

I added Inner Circle on Facebook the other day and have been working with the developers to iron out the kinks. It's working now and I have found it to be a great tool to tame the growing circle of friends.

It allows you to create circles of friends that you pick for whatever reason and keep updated on their updates. None of your friends can see your circles and only you benefit from the application. There is even a feature that I haven't used yet called "Shout" that allows you to interact with each circle and begin a conversation. It looks promising.

I know I've said it before but Facebook truly is the most elegant web tool I have found to keep people in touch. It's effortless. I think Inner Circle is Facebook 2.0 and is going to make the effortless interaction of Facebook even sweeter.

Oh, and if you aren't using Facebook, why not? You obviously are reading blogs so you're online friendly - this is the next level. Really. Yes, I have drunk the Kool-Aid. I am a convert. Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated...

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Brant Hanson makes blogs funny again!

I feel like an old geezer saying this, but remember when you used to read blogs and they actually made you laugh out loud? Miss it? I did. Kamp Krusty is changing that for me again and Brant Hanson hit one out of the park today - enjoy!

The Krusty Sage: Get All Exorcised Over Halloween