Friday, March 31, 2006

The Audience of Truly Relevant Ministry

In my continuing discussion about relevant ministry, I want to highlight an aspect of 1 Corinthians 9 that is often overlooked: the broad audience that Paul sought to reach. Here's 1 Corinthians 9:19...
"For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them."
Do you hear what he means by saying "all?" He really meant all. He meant Jews, Gentiles, rich, poor, weak, strong, men, women, slaves, free. He meant everyone.

To the Jews, he became like a Jew. To the Gentiles, he became like a Gentile. To the weak, he became weak. Notice: he didn't limit himself to the strong or the cool or the effective or the famous. Relevance, in Paul's ministry, meant relevance to everyone.

Today's evangelical church has a particular fondness for business and marketing. In our zeal for excellence, numerical growth, and relevance, we have adopted many secular "best practices" for growth and expansion. What works for Pepsi and Coke, music-makers, clothes designers, and drug companies will also work for the church, right?

Maybe so, if "work" means simply a larger gathering or more hits on the website. But if "work" means building up the church of Jesus Christ, there are some dangers lurking in the crevices of the "best of business." One of those dangers is the TRAP OF THE TARGET AUDIENCE.

Businesses succeed by finding a niche. They find the product or the place in the market where they shine, and they put their money and time and energy into taking advantage of that niche. When we apply this to the church, however, we unfortunately get outreach and ministry to some people but not others. We seek to be relevant to a narrow audience type, and though we're effective there, we often neglect caring for the rest.

Is this what God wants?

Paul made it his purpose to share the gospel with everyone he encountered.

In the great commission, Jesus said
"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations."
Joel 2:28 says
"And it shall come to pass afterward,that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions."
Does God have a target audience? No. He wants to reach everyone.

Tough question for the day: Are you ready to give up being the "Gen-X" church (or whatever label you may use) to become truly relevant?

During my next post on relevant ministry, I'll discuss some possible lures of the idea of target audience and what could happen to a church that is focused too much on one small group of people.
More Posts on Relevant Ministry

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Apologies to Non-Firefox Users

Whoa! My wife just let me know that the blog looked really strange on Safari and Explorer. To any of you non-Firefox users, I'm so sorry! Firefox was intelligent enough to fix some mistakes in my html code. That's what you get when you combine great open-source software and a lousy programmer. Unfortunately, Firefox had fooled me into thinking you all were seeing the same thing I was. Instead you were seeing some huge picture of me! Yikes! Sorry, sorry, sorry. The problem seems to now be fixed. Let me know if you see otherwise.

If you want to get your free copy of Firefox, and improve your web-browsing life at every turn, visit www.mozilla.com.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Found ~ Evaluating a Modern Parable

Stewart Redwine of 36Parables sent me a very helpful comment on the post "Should We Always Preach in Parables?" He and several others at 36Parables are working on taking 36 of Jesus' parables and turning them into short films. They have finished three so far on the parable of the lost coin, the talents, and the good Samaritan.

He commented in response to the question I asked: What do we do with pure storytelling media to most effectively use them for the proclamation of the gospel? That was the last of four questions, all of which I'd like to discuss at some point. However, I've decided to jump ahead to the fourth question, given Stewart's willingness to have his film considered and critiqued. Thanks, Stewart, for your humility in this.

So, do this first: head to the 36 Parables website and watch the online version of Found. There are two big questions in my mind related to the movie:
  • Should we use this film to proclaim the gospel?
  • If so, how should we use this film to proclaim the gospel?
I would encourage you to come to your own conclusions on those questions before reading mine.
First, let me say thanks again to Stewart, who invited feedback on his films. He is a brave artist who asks for honest criticism of his work. Though I am no film-maker, I did have some experience making videos in college, none of which should ever be called by the name "film." It was wonderfully hard work, and I have the deepest respect for anyone who attempts to make movies. Kudos to 36Parables for undertaking the honorable task of making good art from the Word of God.

So, now on to some analysis.

Should we use Found to proclaim the gospel?

First, let's be clear. Found does not contain the explicit gospel. It is not a proclamation of the gospel. The original parable did not intend to fully explain the truths of salvation, nor does this work attempt to do so. Both highlight one aspect of salvation: God is in the business of finding those who are lost, rather than those who are already found. Neither attempt to fill in the rest of the details such as the the holiness of God, the sinfulness of man, the substitutionary death of Christ on the cross, and his resurrection.

Therefore, Found requires an explanation if it is to be more than just a good story. Christians would need less explanation than non-Christians. But there needs to be some kind of framework for the audience to be led to think about God, Jesus, or salvation. The filmmakers have clearly recognized this, and they are offering free study guides to go along with all their films. As far as I can tell, they intend for these to be used as discussion guides for small groups. That is an excellent idea.

With some sort of explanation, I do think this film could be used to advance the gospel. Would it work as a sermon illustration? Possibly. In my personal opinion, it's too long for that role. Could it be a kick-start for a good small group discussion? That seems more likely. I could also see it used as a "trailer" to get people interested in an upcoming sermon or such regarding that parable. For that to work, one would need to add information to make sure the viewer knew what to do next if he is interested in learning more. I'm not sure if 36Parables would allow editing to their material.

However, I would warn against using Found as the primary source of truth for a message or a discussion. Why? Even though the modern parable mirrors the ideas of the original, I think it blurs the point that Jesus was intending to make.

The parable itself is in Luke 15:8-10. Let's start a few verses earlier. Luke 15:2-3 goes like this...
"And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, 'This man receives sinners and eats with them.' So he told them this parable:"
and then Jesus told the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the prodigal Son.

Jesus was trying to show in the first two parables that everyone goes looking for what they've lost. And rejoicing is appropriate when the lost thing is found. In the same way, it is appropriate for him to receive sinners and eat with them because they are lost and he has come to find them. When they repent, the angels rejoice. Heaven throws a major party. The pharisees, who didn't think they had anything for which to repent, didn't bring any joy to God.

Unfortunately, the film blurs this idea. The vagabond searches for the jewels for a particular reason: because of the sentimental value they carry for him. He loved his wife, and that last memento of her life had significant meaning to him. The theft of the accordion, the coins, the dollar bill, all point to the fact that these jewels were more valuable to him than anything else.

This is a wonderful dramatic idea, but the metaphor then becomes this: God searches for the lost because of the value of people and a sentimental love for them. Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that people have no value in God's eyes. God loves people and has given them real, significant value on earth and in his kingdom. However, that isn't the primary point of THIS parable in its original form. Nor is it healthy to be thinking that God saves because of how much we are worth. Rather, God saves us out of his pure mercy in spite of our sin and our hatred for him.

So, my conclusion is this: a film like this has definite merit in ministry and evangelism as long as it is presented within a context that either explains it or points people to a place where it can be explained. However, Found itself may blur the original text enough to confuse or mislead people, and so I would not recommend it as a primary source of teaching or discussion. Using it alongside the parable itself or even other texts that highlight God's love could be very valuable. I do look forward to seeing the other films they put out, to learn more about how to use storytelling for God's glory.
More Posts on Storytelling in the Church

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Faith Defined

Because today's topic in Media Devos was faith, I thought I would share a timely post on faith and work from our church's Married Life blog. Here, John Loftness gave the simplest definition of faith I have ever read.
Faith is what you think between your time of need and the time of fulfillment.
Now, honestly, I do not immediately see my times of technical serving as times of unfulfilled need. But how many times have I thought, "How are we going to get all of this done before the service starts?" or "I sure hope that equipment doesn't fail on us!" or "If only the band members would do such-and-such!" Those are times of unfulfilled "need." And they are times to apply faith in God by thinking true things about him while I wait. Thanks, John!

Serving with Faith ~ Devos 3

This is a part of a series of posts on "devos" that I've put together as meditations for the Covenant Life Production teams. I've been looking at parts of Romans 12:1-8 for insight into the character behind a godly servant.
"For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned." -- Romans 12:3

Today, we'll look at why faith is such an integral part of serving and what that might look like in the life a media or technology volunteer.

First, why does faith matter when serving?
  1. Salvation comes through faith. "O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?" -- Galatians 3:1-3. The Galatians got the single strongest rebuke of any church to which Paul wrote. And the reason? They got rebuked because they attempted to live the Christian life as if they would be perfected by the works of their flesh. But that is sheer foolishness because the Spirit works through us when we live by faith. When we work by our flesh, ours is the only work that gets done. And it doesn't go very far.
  2. Faith comes from God. Jesus met a man who's son was demon-possessed and said to him, "'All things are possible for one who believes.' Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, 'I believe; help my unbelief!'" (Mark 9:23-24). Among many things that this short statement says about faith, it confirms this: When we need faith, we need God. When we recognize that we need faith to serve, we also declare that we need God to serve. And in this we have the seeds of God-glorifying service.
  3. Faith is in God. "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." -- Hebrews 11:1. Faith is essential in serving because it appropriately connects the supernatural to the mundane. It declares that there is more to serving than just the labor. There is something spiritual that goes beyond the doing. God is involved in faith-filled service to the church, even when we don't see it. Even when it just looks like plugging in the same cables we plugged in last month, there is something eternal happening.
  4. Faith pleases God. "Without faith, it is impossible to please [God], for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him." Without faith, God is not pleased. We must believe that God exists and that he will reward us for our service. When we do, we declare that God is real and that he is faithful to his promises. We worship him.
Second, how does faith transform the soul of a servant?
  1. The faith-filled servant prays. You know that time at the beginning of each event where the leader takes a moment to stop and pray? That's the first chance a person has to place faith in God rather than himself. Do you pray sincerely at that time? Or is it just a routine? And do you pray on your own before or during the time you serve? Or is running the sound board just business as usual, something you've done dozens of times, and something you can manage on your own?
  2. The faith-filled servant praises. When one really believes that God is serving the church through him, he transfers the glory to God. Who gets the credit when you do well? Do you praise God in your heart and your words? When people thank you for serving, what's your response to them? "Aw, it's nothing!" or "Thank you, God helped me."
  3. The faith-filled servant sacrifices. He sincerely believes in eternal rewards, as God's Word declares. Do you? If so, then you can sacrifice with faith because your "loss" on earth will be mean gain in heaven. What joy and pleasure this will bring to your service!
  4. The faith-filled servant seeks more faith. At the end of the day, he humbly admits that his faith is half-hearted, and asks for more so that he might honor God more. Is this a request you make of God: please give me more faith?
  5. The faith-filled servant disappears. If the measure of a God-glorifying servant is faith, and faith comes from God, then only God can make someone a successful servant. And when God helps, and all goes well, and the service is perfect, and no one notices, and no one says thanks, that's just fine with the faith-filled servant. He thanks God and disappears.
Are you serving with faith?
More posts on devotionals for media and technology volunteers

Picture Post for Header


Friday, March 24, 2006

The Servanthood of Truly Relevant Ministry

Sidenote...
As I was writing these posts about relevant ministry, I started asking myself, "What in the world does this have to do with media?" You may have been wondering the same thing. The reason I'm exploring this topic further is that the result of current thinking in the area of relevancy is leading to what I would call a media "frenzy." Churches who seek to be relevant tend to have media-centric services. I believe that a right understanding of Paul's ministry as described in 1 Corinthians 9 will help all of us more effectively use media in our churches.
"For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant of all, that I might win more of them." -- 1 Corinthians 9:19

Paul made himself a servant. Now, let's be honest. Although technology and media folks are servants, we don't understand serving like Paul understood serving. Our serving is easy. Our serving is fun. Paul's servanthood was anything but easy.

When interacting with Jews, Paul gave up his rights. He gave up the right to eat whatever he wanted. He purified himself according to Jewish traditions and customs. He even circumcised Timothy to help take the gospel to the Jews. To be relevant to the Jews, Paul became their servant by laying down his freedom in Christ.

When interacting with Gentiles, Paul sacrificed as well. He lived among them, becoming ceremonially unclean and risking loss of the respect of the Jewish Christians. He fought against the Judaizers who wanted to come in and steal the freedom of Gentile Christians (the same freedom he willingly gave up for the Jew's sake). Many of the lifestyles of the Gentiles would have been abhorrent to him, and he constantly required discernment to identify what was sin and what wasn't among his friends. Yet he didn't shy away from walking alongside them.

What can we learn from this?

Paul became relevant to his hearers by laying down his right to freedom in Christ, his personal preferences, and a life of comfort.

Now I have to ask myself these difficult questions:

Does this sound like my life and ministry? Does this sound like my church?

Does this sound like your life and ministry? Does this sound like your church?

Relevance like this is difficult. It requires selflessness. It requires that I stop asserting my rights and satisfying my preferences. It requires that I think of other's needs and desires above my own.

I think this is where many Christians get turned around. We want to be involved in a church that is relevant TO US, that is excellent and inspiring TO US. However, the Bible calls us to be involved in ministry that sets US aside and is relevant to others.

Is that your heart?

Are you willing to lay down your personal preferences in order to more effectively reach the lost?

Are you ready to change your life, maybe into a form that is less enjoyable, in order to build relationships with your neighbors?

Are you open to using media in church that doesn't suit your tastes but will draw in the people in your community?

Would you be so daring as to attend a church that didn't use the musical style you prefer but was having a clear impact on its community through the true gospel of Jesus Christ?

Are you willing to be truly relevant?


More Posts on Relevant Ministry

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Build ~ Vision

As an experiment, I'm going to post about a new ministry team our church has asked me to create from the ground up. I welcome any thoughts or suggestions on the ideas or the process.

We're calling the new team build. Essentially, build is a scenic design and construction team.

Here is my typical team-building strategy...
  1. Establish the vision for the team.
  2. Establish parameters for the team's service.
  3. Find and train a lay leader for the team.
  4. Establish an initial team structure with roles and job descriptions.
  5. Establish one or two initial projects for the first team members.
  6. Recruit new team members to the vision.
  7. Place team members in appropriate roles and projects.
  8. Give it a try.
  9. Review and Revamp.
So far, I'm on step 1. What's the vision for build?

James 1:22-25 -- "But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing."

Members of build, the Scenic Design Production Team, edify the body of Christ by using their gifts to design and construct creative sets and decorations. We serve the congregation by giving them unique visual pictures to go with different sermons, so that they can more easily remember the messages in the future.

Essentially, we'll be memory-makers! What a joy it will be to strive to make God's truth stick to slippery hearts and help God make doers out of hearers.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Should We Always Preach in Parables?

Mark Batterson's blog is highlighting his 10 "buzz commandments." The 6th Buzz Commandement says "Thou Shalt Preach in Parables". I disagree. But I have a commandment for my readers: thou shalt read his post completely. I'd rather you get the full sense of what he's saying before you listen to any thoughts I have on it.
Disclaimers:
Now, I want to post a short disclaimer, lest I be misunderstood. This post is not intended to rebut everything that Mr. Batterson wrote. My intent is to show only that:
  • Jesus did not use parables to truly teach the crowds, but used them to cause the crowds to misunderstand.
  • Jesus does not intend for us to use parables as the primary preaching method to reach the crowds of our day.
Also, before going further, I want to thank Mr. Batterson for his passion for God, for his desire to see technology and media used to reach many people with the gospel, for his intense creativity, and for his commitment to planting churches. I would recommend reading his blog regularly just to keep your juices flowing on creative ways to do church. (Mark, if you're reading, I hope you hear that these are thoughts from a friend, not a critic.)
Should we preach in parables? Jesus regularly did. Mr. Batterson wrote:
What if Jesus were a teaching pastor at a 21st century American church? Would he preach the same way he did in the gospels? I think he would.
I disagree.

Many people, including Mr. Batterson, claim that Jesus spoke in parables because that was the most effective way to get his message across to the largely agrarian culture that surrounded him. Their conclusion is that we should follow Jesus' example and speak in the language of our culture, telling stories that are metaphors for the truth of the gospel.

But why did Jesus say he taught in parables?

This is from Matthew 13:10-17.
"Then the disciples came and said to him, 'Why do you speak to them in parables?' And he answered them, 'To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand."
And this is from Mark 4:10-12.
"And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. And he said to them, 'To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, so that

"they may indeed see but not perceive,
and may indeed hear but not understand,
lest they should turn and be forgiven."'"
And one more from Luke 8:9-10.
"And when his disciples asked him what this parable meant, he said, 'To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that "seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand."'"
Jesus spoke in parables in order to ensure that those who heard him did not understand what he really meant. He spoke privately and clearly about the "secrets of the kingdom of heaven" to his disciples and more committed followers, those whom he did want to understand.

Shouldn't we still follow Jesus' example, even if the message isn't perfectly clear or could be misunderstood? Isn't he a model communicator? Note what Jesus commanded his disciples as he prepared for them to go out and preach on their own. He said in Matthew 10:27:
"What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops."
My conclusion: Jesus, using parables in his public preaching, reserved clear teaching for private times with his close disciples. However, he didn't intend for the preaching of his gospel to continue that way throughout history. He wanted his disciples to preach the "secrets of the kingdom" clearly and plainly, in public, from the housetops, to the most people possible.

Some more topics for future discussion, then, might be:
  1. Why did Jesus teach differently than he wants us to teach now?
  2. If Jesus wants us to preach clearly and plainly, does metaphor have a legitimate use in Biblical preaching?
  3. If so, what is the best use of metaphor in preaching?
  4. And what do we do with pure storytelling media to most effectively use them for the proclamation of the gospel?

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Holy and Acceptable ~ Devos 2

Here is part 2 in my devotionals for tech and media teams.

Scriptural Exposition

Romans 12:1 -- "I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship."

What does that mean for us as we serve?

1. We are set apart to God.
Holy means "set apart." In 1 Peter 1:16, God says, "You shall be holy, for I am holy." God is altogether different than we are, separate and perfect. When we offer ourselves to God, we should do so in a way that demonstrates that we, likewise, have been set apart for our holy master. Serving in the church is more than a volunteer activity. It's more than giving blood at the Red Cross or serving soup at a shelter, as significant as those can be. How do you view your serving in the church? Do you think of it the same way you do your job or your homework or your other responsibilities? Or do you remember that you are involved in a holy activity, set apart to a holy God.

2. We should act godly.
When God calls us to holiness, he specifically calls us to separate ourselves from our worldly passions and to live in a manner worthy of the gospel. Service that is worship to God will be defined by godly motives, godly means, and godly results. Picture a perfect serving Sunday morning... As you come to church you are grateful for God's grace and you are ready to do anything to see his gospel proclaimed and his name glorified. You serve with joy and passion, loving others in your heart and in your deeds. You excel in your role because you're serving where you're gifted, and everything comes off without a single error. No one thanks you, but that doesn't matter because when you've done your job well, no one knows you're there. Finally, you thank God, who actually did it all through you. You recognize your insignificance and the honor it is to be used by your Savior. You leave even more grateful for God's grace.

3. We need Jesus.
So, your serving doesn't always resemble that description? Neither does mine! That's why we need a Savior. And here's the final point: although we should always be striving to grow in serving to God's glory, we will ultimately fall short. On our best days, our motives are mixed, our interactions with others are tinged with selfishness, our minds are quick to snag the recognition that God deserves, our hearts are slow to give it back. If we are to be living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God, we need to rest on the grace of God through Jesus Christ our Savior.

One of my favorite verse is Hebrews 10:12-14: "But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified." Even in the midst of the long and arduous process of sanctification, we have this assurance: Christ has completed the work necessary to perfect us for all time. We can be holy and acceptable to God through Jesus' blood. Praise be to our Savior!

Thoughts for Application


Our actions and words are the evidence of what is in our hearts. Even if we agree with what Scripture says about us and the way we should serve, what we do demonstrates what we really believe. If there are areas of your serving life that do not match up with what was written in the second point, you can know that God is at work. He's pointing out your deficiencies not because he wants to discourage you but because he wants to change you. Here are some suggestions on how to work with him in that change process:
  1. Ask God to forgive you for the sin areas that surround your serving.
  2. Believe that God has forgiven you through the death of Jesus Christ.
  3. Thank him for sending his son and saving your soul.
  4. Ask God to continue to reveal your sin to you.
  5. Ask God to show you how to obey him and what it looks like to serve in holiness.
  6. Dig into God's word to learn how to attack the root sin related to this serving sin.
  7. Ask people around you, "How can I grow in this area of my life?"
  8. Take the first step toward change.


Questions for Discussion
  • What is the area from point two where you would like to grow most?
  • What is the root sin associated with that area of growth?
  • What does the Bible say about that sin?
  • What can you do to join God in putting it to death?
  • Are you convinced that Jesus' death is the only way you can be acceptable before God?

Friday, March 17, 2006

The Motive of Truly Relevant Ministry

Motive matters. Always. That's even true for our ministry methodology.

Yesterday, I mentioned how 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 supports many of the methods and ideals of "relevant" ministry. Here's the verse in its totality.
"For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings."
Before discussing what it looks like to live alongside unbelievers in a redemptive way, I want to identify motive. Why does Paul "become all things to all people?"

There is a simple answer: "that by all means I might save some." The heart of relevant ministry is this: the gospel. The gospel is a message meant for all people, a message that can reach any person, a message that should be spread to the ends of the earth.

Isn't that why we all serve? Here's the challenge: our motives are always mixed. We never perfectly understand God's heart, want only God's glory, and live fully according to God's word. What begins in our hearts as a love for the gospel can easily, quietly, and deceptively be transformed into selfish goals.

So, here's my question... Really, why are you seeking "relevance?"
  • so that you can have a bigger church?
  • so that you can write that book you've always had in your mind?
  • so that you can offer a music style you prefer?
  • so that you can be seen by the world as cutting-edge?
  • so that you get invited to speak at the next big conference?
Or is it truly so that the gospel will be proclaimed to whomever comes through your doors?

Heart check moment -- Stop and answer this question: What are you thinking about most when you seek to be relevant? Is it God's glory? Or one of the things on that list above? Or something else completely? Let's all pray that God would help us kill all idolatry and then live redemptively alongside non-Christians for the glory of God!
More Posts on Relevant Ministry

Thursday, March 16, 2006

A Call for Relevant Ministry

"I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some." -- 1 Corinthians 9:22
Relevance is a big word in the church these days. Being "relevant" is a highly sought-after quality for ministries and local churches. One of the most prominent magazines is Relevant Magazine, aimed at 20-somethings. Relevant ministry is the buzz, and has been for some time now.

Honestly, I fear for many churches that live to be relevant. Nevertheless, I find this passage from 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 unmistakeably in favor of aspects of their approach. Specifically, Paul teaches here clearly that in order to communicate the gospel effectively, we must love unbelievers by living in their world.

Over the next few days, I'll be examining what relevant living looks like, according to Paul's description here. Hopefully, we can find helpful ideas on how to live alongside unbelievers as we pray for God to change their hearts.
More posts coming on this topic...
The Motive of Truly Relevant Ministry
The Servanthood of Truly Relevant Ministry
The Audience of Truly Relevant Ministry (coming soon)
The Holiness of Truly Relevant Ministry (coming soon)
More Posts on Relevant Ministry

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Worshipful Service ~ Devos 1

I've been looking for some devotional material for tech team members but found little. Any ideas? Until then, I'll be posting some media servant "devos" each Saturday that we can hopefully use with our volunteer teams to help them not only serve but grow. Here's the first.


Scriptural Exposition
Romans 12:1 says, "I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship."

The first thing to ask about verse 1 is this: "What is the 'therefore' there for?" "Therefore" always indicates cause and effect. The effect is described in the rest of Romans 12: serving others to the glory of God. We'll explore the rest of Romans 12 later in this devo series. But the cause is what was written before this sentence. Let's not miss why we should serve God to His glory.

Romans 12:1 is a significant moment of transition in Paul's treatise to the church at Rome about God's saving plan and their lives. For eleven chapters, Paul has been laying out a theology of salvation:
  • Chapters one and two confirm God's righteousness and his justice. He will judge the wicked and reward the innocent.
  • Chapters three and four then clarify that we are not the innocent. We are guilty sinners. However, there is a righteousness that comes from God and is available even to us, if we believe that Jesus died for our sins.
  • Chapters five and six emphasize the powerful salvation of Christ: Jesus saves people who are his enemies; Christ's death overcomes the power of sin that has ruled since Adam; Believers in Jesus are changed in their very essence from slaves of sin to slaves of God and slaves of righteousness.
  • Chapters seven and eight declare that we are free from the tyranny of the law. And not only that, we are filled with God's Spirit, who leads us into the righteous life that God intends. Even when we suffer or feel weak or fall short, we have assurance through the Spirit that Christ's sacrifice gaurantees us eternal life.
  • Finally, chapters nine through eleven remind us to be humble. God chose us out of the goodness of his mercy, not because of something he saw in us.
So, here we stand at the end of chapter eleven. We are sinners rescued from wrath by the grace of God. We have been essentially changed into slaves of righteousness and then promised eternity with our Savior, all because of the goodness of a sovereign and merciful God. He is worthy of sacrificial worship.


Thoughts for Application

This thought should motivate us to serve over any other desire: "Jesus Christ died for me and I want to worship him." What other thoughts might vie for that first place motivator? How about...
  • This is where I'm gifted
  • I'm the only one who'll do it
  • I enjoy it
  • It sure beats (you fill in the blank) ministry
  • I feel important and needed
All of these may be true in one sense or another. But if that is what is motivating us to serve, we've missed the wonder of our salvation. If that's you, take a moment to read back over the summary of the first eleven chapters of Romans and be amazed at the mercy of God!


Discussion Questions
  1. What part of your salvation amazes you the most?
  2. What is your primary motive for serving?
  3. How do you know?
  4. How could you be more God-centered when you serve?

Friday, March 10, 2006

Do We Experience Life, or Just Media?

Peggy Noonan wrote an editorial yesterday on the Oscars. Here's a part of her analysis...

"The Clooney generation in Hollywood is not writing and directing movies about life as if they've experienced it, with all its mysteries and complexity and variety. In an odd way they haven't experienced life; they've experienced media. Their films seem more an elaboration and meditation on media than an elaboration and meditation on life. This is how he could take such an unnuanced, unsophisticated, unknowing gloss on the 1950s and the McCarthy era. He just absorbed media about it. And that media itself came from certain assumptions and understandings, and myths."

Interesting notion. Is it possible that so much of life is driven by media now that we can think we've really experienced something when we haven't? We just experience a version of life mediated by others' "assumptions and understandings, and myths?"

This slightly echoes James 1... being hearers but not doers and ending up deceived. May God help us, as the media and technology gatekeepers, to not infect the church with this disease: "Because I've seen it, I've experienced it." This type of relationship to a message, regardless of the medium, will not lead to changed lives.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Dangers of Relevant Ministry?

In my time with the Lord this morning, I read this passage from 1 Corinthians 2:1-5...

"And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God."

I have questions about some of the primary methods of churches that seek to provide "relevant" ministry. This passage brings up one of those questions. When we go into the world to learn the best of the world's techniques for communication, we may learn how to connect with the people around us. However, are we substituting "plausible words of wisdom" for the power of God when we simply follow the world's pattern of using media? If non-Christians who are attending our church have a comfortable experience, but they don't experience God's power, have we really succeeded?

It is possible, and at times necessary, to put the message of "Jesus Christ crucified" into a package that is attractive and understandable to people who don't understand Christianity. Furthermore, excellent communication produced an up-to-date style that connects with this media-savvy generation doesn't necessarily compromise that message.

However, consider this: Excellence and style in media are defined by the world, and without regard for the gospel. If we just set our message into that style, have we really done the message justice? Wouldn't it be better to begin with the message and create media that flows out of that message, out of our love for God, and out of his creativity? Are we dishonoring God by attempting to duplicate an experience people find in the world rather than being truly creative?
More Posts on Relevant Ministry

Oscar Impact

Dr. Albert Mohler wrote about the power of film on culture in his blog yesterday. Here's what he wrote...
"Hollywood has enormous power and influence. In many ways, the cultural products of Hollywood, both movies and television, simultaneously serve as both barometers of the cultural mood and as engines for social and ideological change. It is sometimes hard to know which role Hollywood is playing in any given season or with any particular movie...

"With the 2006 Oscars now handed out and as the Hollywood set aleady dreams of next year, let's remember that Hollywood really is important -- that its cultural products have an enormous power to influence our society. But let's also remember that Hollywood is not all-powerful, and that one movie -- whatever its message -- is not likely to transform the nation."
Even if we assume a single movie is not likely to transform the entire nation, I have seen movies affect individuals' thoughts and actions. So here's my question for you:
  • Have you seen a movie change a person? Even a whole group?
  • If so, which movie? And how did it change the person or group?
  • Why do you think it had such an impact?

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Hiding From God by Serving the Church

Anthony Coppedge has a fantastic post on his blog today. Check it out here...

Techies that Hide from Ministry

I've been that person. I remember the guilt of living in sin and having responsibility in the church. Despite the conviction of God, I was decieved into think my serving was making up for my other lack of character. Because I looked good to those around me, and I wanted to protect that false image of "servant extrordinaire," I hid my character flaws from others rather than seeking the help that I needed.

Praise God that he freed me from that cycle of deception and sin!

If Anthony Coppedge's blog describes you, please talk to your team leader or pastor today.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Blog SWOT

In light of encouragement for church staff and pastors to write blogs, I thought I'd do this quick analysis of blogging for me as a church technical director. Anything I'm missing? Would you blog if this was your analysis?

INTERNAL ANALYSIS
Strengths
  • God-Worship :|: Writing a blog well will require me to seriously consider the grace of God around me and thank him for it.
  • Excellence :|: Making my ideas public could provide professional accountability and challenge me to provide more excellent service to my God and my church.
  • Relationships :|: Blogging could provide relationships with other church technology and media staff, which I greatly desire.
  • Humility :|: I need some, and it's good for me to hear from others how much I stink at what I do. Bring on the negative comments!
  • History :|: What a great tool to track the history of what has happened in my journey toward God-glorifying media.
Weaknesses
  • Black Hole of Time :|: This could become a time-sucking occupation, especially if I like it too much and lose self-control. It could take me away from greater calls of God like time with my family, small group, and church.
  • Pride :|: When I most think I have something to say, I usually should just close my mouth.
EXTERNAL ANALYSIS
Opportunities
  • Learn :|: I have plenty to learn from folks out there. Maybe through blogging I can connect with people I can learn from. Like you.
  • Teach :|: Those who are teachers are held to a higher standard. That's scary. But maybe something I've done could be instructive. Especially my mistakes. God's good like that.
  • Invest :|: Non-Christians are out there on the web and may read, too. Opportunity? Definitely.
Threats
  • Anyone Out There? :|: No one has commented on my blog yet. I don't blame anybody for that. But it makes me wonder if anyone's reading.
  • Claustrophobia :|: There are tons of blogs out there. Maybe the space is just too crowded to make it worth the effort.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Topic: April Showers

When it rains, it pours. April is a busy month at Covenant Life Church!

We have almost one major event every other day. This is definitely one of those things that challenges my faith and humbles me before the Lord. However, God has always proven faithful during these busy times in the past.

In order to celebrate the grace of God throughout this month and to keep his work before my own eyes, I'll be posting on some of those events. As you read, I hope you are encouraged to hear how God is at work here and reminded that he will meet you in your busy times as well!

Here are the events I've posted on so far:

The First Weekend -- April 2, 2006
The Women of Titus 2 -- April 5, 2006
Weekend #2 -- April 9, 2006
Good Friday -- April 14, 2006
The Acts Play -- April 21, 2006

Books

Topic: Relevant Ministry

Here is my list of posts on the topic of relevant ministry.
Dangers of Relevant Ministry? -- March 8, 2006
A Call for Relevant Ministry -- March 16, 2006
The Motive of Truly Relevant Ministry -- March 17, 2006
The Servanthood of Truly Relevant Ministry -- March 24, 2006
The Audience of Truly Relevant Ministry -- March 31, 2006

Topic for Sundays: The Big Day

Sundays are the most important days for the church. Here are my random thoughts as a church technical director about those big days.

July 2, 2006 :|: Darkness and Death to Illumination and Life
June 25, 2006 :|: Mercy and My Morning
June 18, 2006 :|: Like Your Father, Love Your Enemies
June 11, 2006 :|: 10:31 Sunday
June 4, 2006 :|: ServFest
May 21, 2006 :|: Place Your Faith in God, Not System Processors
May 14, 2006 :|: People Who Clean Up My Messes :|: Part 2
May 7, 2006 :|: The DaVinci Code and the Gospel
April 30, 2006 :|: Go Forward Sunday

Topic for Saturdays: Scriptural Serving

The Bible has a lot to say about the church, serving, and the glory of God. Read more here about what it says to us as media and technology servants.

July 15, 2006 :|: Summer Celebration, Service, and Suffering
July 8, 2006 :|: Evidences of Grace
July 1, 2006 :|: Trials, Temptations, Tests, and Forever
June 24, 2006 :|: Excel for Rewards in Paradise
June 17, 2006 :|: Fear God. Not Men.
June 10, 2006 :|: Excel Because God Sees
May 20, 2006 :|: Why Excel
May 13, 2006 :|: People Who Clean Up My Messes
May 6, 2006 :|: Moments of Worship

Topic for Fridays: Questions & Answers

Do you have questions about equipment, volunteers, media, anything? Please comment here or anywhere, and I'll try to answer your question on a Friday in the near future. Of course, I may not have the answer, but I'll try to find an answer, and I'll learn something in the process.

July 7, 2006 :|: More About ServFest
June 23, 2006 :|: Comments on the Topics
June 16, 2006 :|: WorshipGod06 :|: Question for You
June 9, 2006 :|: Serving and Saying "No"
May 19, 2006 :|: How Loud is Loud Enough :|: The Art
May 12, 2006 :|: How Loud is Too Loud :|: The Science
May 5, 2006 :|: Discussuing "Quality" with Your Pastor

Topic for Thursdays: Team Building

Are you a tech or media ministry leader? God-willing, I'll post different ideas on how to build a team of people that serve your church effectively, efficiently, and with joy.

July 13, 2006 :|: A Tech Teen Story
June 29, 2006 :|: ServFest Results
June 22, 2006 :|: New Team Leadership
June 15, 2006 :|: What's MY Next Step?
June 8, 2006 :|: What's the Next Step?
May 18, 2006 :|: Structure for Success
May 11, 2006 :|: Motive-Casting
May 4, 2006 :|: Building the Church by Building Your Team

Topic for Wednesdays: Tools and Techniques

Media are everywhere. There are many tools available today to the church media servant. But which ones work for what? Read more on these posts, so you don't accidentally pound in a screw with a wrench. It'll work, but was it the best way to do it?

July 19, 2006 :|: Pictures of Your Favorite Set Designs
July 12, 2006 :|: "Look Me In The Eyes"
June 26, 2006 :|: Flattening the Mixing Pyramid
June 21, 2006 :|: Mixing Priorities and Pyramid
June 14, 2006 :|: IMAG :|: What I Like and What I Don't
June 7, 2006 :|: IMAG and What We See on TV
May 17, 2006 :|: IMAG :|: A Sound System for Your Eyes
May 10, 2006 :|: People Media
May 3, 2006 :|: The Media Toolkit

Topic for Tuesdays: The Basics

Everyone can use a refresher in the basics, from the newbie to the professional. Here are some posts on the important things to get right before you do anything else.

June 20, 2006 :|: How Bright is Bright Enough: Picking the Right Projector
June 13, 2006 :|: Gain Structure: Corrections and Clarifications
June 6, 2006 :|: Gain Structure Within Your Mixer
May 26, 2006 :|: Gain Structure: Steps of Application
May 16, 2006 :|: Gain Structure: Impedance Matching and Unity Gain
May 9, 2006 :|: Gain Structure: Matching Signal Levels
May 2, 2006 :|: Intro to Gain Structure

Topic for Mondays: Reviews

As the significance of media in worship increases, the amount of books, articles, and materials available to churches increases as well. Here are some reviews of that material. If you have something that you would like reviewed, please let me know by commenting here.

Honestly, I doubt I'll be posting every Monday because this is the most time-intensive topic. And Monday is my one day off per week. But I'll do my best.

Nothing has been posted under this topic yet. The first post should arrive on May 8th.

Topic: Storytelling in the Church

Here are some posts on storytelling, parables, and the church:
Should We Always Preach in Parables?
Found ~ Evaluating a Modern Parable

Meg Laughs

Tunes

Blogs

Sites

Sermons

Magazines

Topic: Devotionals

Here are some posts on devotionals for media and technology teams:
Worshipful Service ~ Devos 1 -- March 11, 2006
Holy and Acceptable ~ Devos 2 -- March 18, 2006
Serving with Faith ~ Devos 3 -- March 28, 2006
Serving with Humility ~ Devos 4 -- April 1, 2006
And...Action! ~ Devos 5 -- April 8, 2006

Topic: Building a Volunteer Team

Here are some posts on building a volunteer team:
Build ~ Vision -- March 22, 2006