Archives For July 2010

Weekend Links

July 30, 2010 — Leave a comment
  • NPR has a fascinating article on the growth of Christianity in China. “Official Chinese surveys now show that nearly one in three Chinese describe themselves as religious, an astonishing figure for an officially atheist country, where religion was banned until three decades ago.” (via Redeemer Blog)
  • Also from Redeemer: Interesting insight into Tim Keller’s Daily Devotions including this quote to ministers: “what your people need most from you is your personal holiness.”
  • A GREAT list – What’s in, What’s Out in Leadership – “Generosity, sharing, serving, and “giving it away” is in.”
  • Benson Hines has a helpful list of things to think through for your college ministry website (and read the comments – the first one especially is helpful).
  • For Parents: Joel Miller with an excellent, short article on “Why God Gave us Kids” – The short answer= “So we’ll stop being children ourselves”

This is heartbreaking. I’m truly sad for her, but also because her story is playing out in thousands of untold “I quit Christianity” stories on a daily basis across America.

Anne Rice, an author best known for her vampire books, became a Christian 10 years ago. Today via Facebook she announced that she is quitting Christianity.

For those who care, and I understand if you don’t: Today I quit being a Christian. I’m out. I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being “Christian” or to being part of Christianity. It’s simply impossible for me to “belong” to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten years, I’ve tried. I’ve failed. I’m an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else.

You don’t have to read the book unChristian to understand how outsiders perceive Christians, just read Anne Rice’s Facebook wall:

As I said below, I quit being a Christian. I’m out. In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life. In the name of Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen.

Look familiar unChristian readers? The common theme? Christian = anti.

And obviously her thoughts resonate with many. She has close to 2,000 comments on those two posts alone.

To me, the most hearbreaking part:

“It’s simply impossible for me to “belong” to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten years, I’ve tried. I’ve failed. I’m an outsider.”

Here’s what she posted a few days ago when she still was an “us”:

This shocking link [about a Christian punk rock group saying its OK to execute gays] was provided by a poster below. No wonder people despise us, Christians, and think we are an ignorant and violent lot. I don’t blame them. This kind of thing makes me weep. Maybe commitment to Christ means not being a Christian.

What are your thoughts on all this?

Photo courtesy of Llima via Flickr

My 6 year old sledder/theologian

Nothing has taught me more about God and my own depravity than having children.

  • They’re like little mirrors into my own soul. Little kids are so honest and without guile (most of the time). They don’t know yet how to disguise their sin (at least not very well). They’d be horrible poker players.
  • The things they say and questions they ask about God force you to really know your stuff (and how to articulate it simply – you can’t use words like articulate).

My daughter said something to me last night that stopped me in my tracks and made me ponder 2 things (and I still haven’t figured out either):

  1. What should I have said to her?
  2. How am I like her?

Here’s how it went down:

The kids were up past their bedtime working on a puzzle.

Me: “It’s time to go to bed guys”

Them: “Daaaa-ad, can we please stay up for just a few more minutes”

Me: “No, it’s already past your bedtime”

Them: “Pleeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaase?”

Me: “NO”

My 6 yr old daughter (in a sweet sing-songy voice): “You’re not being like God!” (i.e. – God = grace)

Part 1: What should I have said to her?

This is my attempt to crowd-source my parenting. Looking for a little help here.  What would you have said to her?  “Shut-up and go to bed” is not an acceptable answer.  How would you explain how the man/God relationship operates (that we as child/Father model)?

My answer to her at the time?  I mumbled something about authority and law.

Part 2: How am I like her?

This is where the real spiritual growth comes.  How am I like her in my view of God?  Demanding grace when I deserve justice.  And probably even a deeper issue: demanding control.

To quote Tim Keller from his excellent book Counterfeit Gods (which I’m currently reading):

“The original temptation in the Garden of Eden was to resent the limits God had put on us and seek to be “as God” by taking power over our own destiny.”

2 great resources we’re going to get in the hands of as many students as possible this Fall:

Four Sevens

We’re doing this in all of our discipleship meetings.  All of them – including upperclassmen and staff.  Taking the Vince Lombardi approach: “Gentlemen, this is a football”.  You must know how to study God’s word on your own in order to be a life-long laborer for Christ.  And you have to read it in a Christ-centered way (not simply looking for moralistic to-do’s).

And we’re pushing it hard at our weekly meeting (I’ll give a big plug for it in my first Cru talk): “Buy these for only $5 at the back!  If you don’t have $5 just take one.  There’s no better way to start your semester!”

The idea of the devotional =  commit to spend time with the Lord each day for 28 days.  The intro alone is worth the price of the book – great, brief explanation on how to have a QT.

The devotions take you through the Gospel of Luke and are very well written – great balance of giving you some help but allowing room for self-discovery and having a go at it without training wheels.

Buy it here. $9 – (around $5 for Crusade staff if you buy enough of them- I think 100)

Gospel Centered Life

We’re having all of our studies work through this phenomenal Bible study.  It is equally challenging for freshman up to senior studies.  For the fall we’re departing from our usual use of the Cru.comm material.  
As I mentioned before in a post about GCL: Almost zero prep.  Incredible heart-probing, Christ centered content.  If you buy enough of them (100 or more) they are cheap – $1/copy.

I love the format:

  • Read and discuss a passage
  • Read/Discuss an article
  • Do Application/Disussion questions
  • Pray together

I think the Article especially helps.  It communicates incredible truths very succinctly (and you’re not dependent on a Joe Sophomore Bible study Leader to articulate to his Freshman study what it means that “the heart is an idol-factory”).  It gives you a crystal clear understanding of the topics that you wouldn’t get from just a free-for-all discussion of a Bible passage (with multiple rabbit trails and heresies flying)

The ultimate goal would be that our students in Cru Community Groups would be more thoroughly gospel-centered Christians (many even understanding Christianity for the first time).

Here’s a link where you can purchase it from World Harvest Mission (it’s written by a couple of former Cru staff – Bob Thune and Will Walker). You download the file from them – it’s $7 for one copy, $40 for the license to print 20 studies.

What are you using this Fall?

My Favorite Blogs

July 27, 2010 — 4 Comments

This may be preaching to the choir but . . .

I think one of the best ways to develop as a leader is by subscribing to and reading blogs.  You won’t grow as a leader if you’re not being exposed to new ideas and great leaders.  And there’s no quicker way than to read great blogs.  They’re short and to the point – my favorite kind of reading.

For those of you who don’t know, I explain how (and why) to subscribe to blogs here.

Here are my favorite blogs that I read almost daily (I’ve added these to my Resources Tab).  

Let me know in the comments what your favorite blogs are.

The quick list – My top 3 favorite overall:

The full list by category:

Christian/Gospel-centered (ranked):

  1. Justin Taylor –   If all you did was follow his blog you wouldn’t be missing much else on the internets.  By far the best Christian blog out there.
  2. Tim Challies – voracious Christian book reader/reviewer.  Rock-solid theology.
  3. Tim Keller – doesn’t post very much but when he does. . .

Church Relevance has a good list of the top 100 Christian blogs.

Leadership (ranked):

  1. Seth Godin – brilliant thinker/writer on leadership and marketing.  at least once a week I bookmark one of his posts for use with my staff team.
  2. What’s Best Next – incredible thoughts on productivity and leadership (I also use a lot of his posts with my staff)
  3. Ben Arment – not sure why I like this blog so much.  Random compilation of leadership thoughts and design.  Ben is probably the best Christian event planner in the world.  Great creative mind and eye for design.
  4. Michael Hyatt – CEO of Thomas Nelson publishing.  Great thinker on Leadership
  5. Signal vs. Noise – from the authors of Rework.  Leadership, design, etc.

Design/Marketing/Culture (ranked):

  1. Smashing Magazine – a must read for designers (especially web design)
  2. Already Been Chewed – a Christian designer with mad motion skills
  3. New York Times Editorials by David Brooks – what do all my favorite NYT editorials have in common?  David Brooks wrote them.  Often looks at religious topics (from a secular point of view)
  4. Abuzeedo – overwhelming number of new posts every week.  But great inspiration for designers (plus free fonts/textures/tutorials/etc)
  5. Church Marketing Sucks – “The site to frustrate, educate and motivate the church to communicate, with uncompromising clarity, the truth of Jesus Christ”

College Ministry (in no particular order):

I didn’t even discover this category of blogs until Summer 2010.  So I’m new to the game here.  I’m sure I’m missing some stellar blogs in this category.

  1. Benson Hines – a college-minitry-blogging-machine.  He blogs new ideas every day.
  2. Matt McComas – CCC staff in Portland – blogs on leadership, technology and innovation as it relates to college ministry
  3. Brian Barela – Director of CCC’s New Media Strategies – movement building, evangelism, innovation

photo courtesy of neXres via Flickr

Music Mondays

July 26, 2010 — Leave a comment

Lots of free (legal) music for you.

Get some good Christian music (wouldn’t it be nice if we didn’t have to put the “good” adjective there to clarify?) from upcoming albums.  You have to give them your e-mail but they don’t spam you:

Some Free Summer Samplers from Amazon.  In the left hand column there are Sampler Albums from 10 different Music Labels.

I’d highly recommend the sampler from Matador (if only for the incredible Cat Power and Shearwater songs; oh, and go ahead and delete the Girls song.  You’ll thank me later.)

A really cool commercial featuring Jonsi’s (of Sigur Ros) song Go Do from his great solo album Go:


Scared to Share

July 25, 2010 — 1 Comment

This is part 3 in a series of posts inspired by the book Souls in Transition.

Young people are sharing their faith less, but why? My gut is they do it less because they believe (& have been told) a myth.

Keith Davy reports on an interesting survey called “How teenagers faith practices are changing” (link to a great summary on the survey – a quick, must-read for college ministers):

“The study suggests a significant decline in believing teens attempts to witness.  Believing teenagers were asked if they had attempted to explain their religious beliefs to someone else with different religious beliefs with a hope that they might receive Jesus Christ as Savior. In 1997, 63% of “born-again” youth answered affirmatively. In December 2009, that number had dropped to 45%.”

Here’s my 2 cents on what causes students (and all of us) to share the gospel less:

  1. Lack of understanding of the gospel. If we really understand it, we can’t help but share it.
  2. They’re gun shy. We’ve all heard the doom and gloom of “post-Christian” America and are scared to approach people who surely must hate Christians.

It’s something that I’ve noticed in students in the last few years – an almost embarrassment to tell others that they are Christians.  The book unChristian really hits the nail on the head as far as students’ reluctance to share their faith:

“2/3 of young born-again Christians say they believe that most outsiders have a negative image of Christianity. Another 1/3 say that the way Christians act and the things they say make them embarrassed to be a Christian. We heard many young believers say that in some circumstances they are reluctant to admit they are Christians. They don’t fear being unpopular, but they feel that raising the Christian flag would actually undermine their ability to connect with people and to maintain credibility with them.”

But here’s the interesting thing, and back to the whole “myth” thing.

Souls in Transition says something REALLY interesting: that it’s a myth that young people are hostile or averse toward talking about religion (christian teens’ fears are unfounded). In their research the authors find non-Christian students “generally seem happy to talk about religion if it happens to come up.” (page 144)

“In the ordinary lives of many emerging adults, religion doesn’t come up often as a topic of conversation, but that’s no because most are actively avoiding it.  It is . . .simply not something of central importance that most would expect to . . .come up in discussions. . . it is no particularly threatening or controversial.” (page 144)

So, to me, the 2 questions we need to address are:

  1. How do we help students more fully experience/understand the gospel (besides the obvious answer of having them listen to TIm Keller sermons 24/7)?
  2. How do we help them “get in the game” and simply talk about their faith as a way of life?

Any ideas?

photo courtesy of Tiago Ribeiro via Flickr

Weekend Links

July 25, 2010 — Leave a comment

Some links (all videos today) for your weekend enjoyment:

Great words from Matt Chandler on Suffering:

Some quotes (via Justin Taylor):

“Lauren asked the doctor, ‘What’s best-case scenario and what’s worst-case scenario?’ He said: ‘Best-case scenario is that God heals you. . . . Worst-case scenario, honestly, is that you get killed in a car wreck on your way home today.’

“He was the first one to say to me out loud, ‘Nothing’s really changed for you—you just get to be aware that you’re mortal. Everyone is, but they’re just not aware of it. The gift that God’s given you is that you get to be aware of your mortality.’

“So if this goes bad for me, if my MRI scan shows that . . . I have a short amount of time, I can talk to my wife, talk to my children, shoot videos. . . . Most guys who die in their 30’s kiss their wife goodbye in the morning and never come home. . . . At least once a year, for the rest of my life, I get the anxiety of ‘Am I going to hear today that I only have a couple years to live?’ . . . It is a gift.”

Matt McComas recommended (via Twitter) this great 10 minute video that is packed with leadership wisdom:


Great Quotes:
“The moment you feel the need to tightly manage someone, you may have made a hiring mistake.”
“Everyone on your team should be able to articulate their responsibilities and not have a title”

And in honor of me getting my new iPhone4 this week, a  funny video to wrap up.  It would help if you understood Taiwanese (HT: Collide Magazine):


I’ve added a few pages of good resources divided into Books, Sermons, and Online Resources (I’ll add a list of articles at some point).

I think the Sermons page is particularly helpful because I have no shortage of books I want to read, but whenever I’m picking out a sermon to listen to I’m kind of flying blind.  Sure, I have my favorite pastors (Tim Keller, Tim Keller, and Matt Chandler) but I’ve never found a good way to find recommended sermons.  So, check out my favorites and tell me your favorites in the “Sermons” comments.

For those of you in ministry, do yourself a favor and start with Tim Keller’s “Preaching to believers and unbelievers” (at the bottom under “Ministry”).  Mind-blowingly-good.

Just hover over “Resources” at the top of this page and you can click on a category.

Photo courtesy of San Jose Library via Flickr

This is part 2 in a series of posts on the book Souls in Transition.

First the bad news: College-aged young people are “the least religious adults in the United States today.”  Only 20% attend religious services at least once a week.  They are morally adrift and alienated from religion.

These are a few of the findings of the Authors of the book Souls in Transition.

Based on five years of academic research, Souls in Transition presents the best information to date on the spiritual beliefs of the current generation of college students.

Here is what they report about how Emerging Adults (what they call those age 18-22) line up spiritually (and I find this to be less “doom and gloom” than I’d feared):

  • 15% are Committed Traditionalists who “embrace a strong religious faith, whose beliefs they can reasonably well articulate and which they actively practice.” (p 166)
  • 30% are Selective Adherents who “are not that interested in matters religious or spiritual” but do hold to certain aspects of their religious tradition that they pick and choose (p. 167, 295)
  • 15% are Spiritually Open, who “are not personally very committed to a religious faith” but mildly interested and open to some spiritual topics or activities. (p 167)
  • 25% are Religiously Indifferent who “simply [don’t care] one way or the other”.  They “religion really doesn’t count for that much” (p 168, 295)
  • 5% are Religiously Disconnected who have little exposure to religious ideas or people.  Religion is not a particular interest.  They lack “the social and institutional ties to religion to know or care that much about it in the first place.” (p 168,295)
  • 10% are Irreligious who “hold skeptical attitudes about and make critical arguments against religion generally, rejecting the idea of personal faith.” “Religion just makes no sense” (p 168)

So on your typical campus:

  • 15% are “solid believers”
  • No more than 10% are “atheists/agnostics” –
  • 30% come from a churched background (this would be more like 60% on our campus) but are moral relativists
  • 45% are what I would call “Unspiritual but Open” – they would be very receptive to Christians and having a conversation about God

Obviously (like I mentioned re: our campus) you’d have to adjust for your campus but these findings would/should definitely shape the way you approach outreach on your campus.

A few takeaways for our ministry:

  • It might be helpful for staff/students to be able to think through: “which category does the person I’m talking to fit into?”  And then training students how to communicate the message of the gospel to each group.  You wouldn’t talk to a “Religiously Disconnected” student in the same way that you’d talk to a “Selective Adherent”.  The former has never really been exposed to religious beliefs or people.  The latter has been inoculated to the gospel and now want little to do with it (at least during college).
  • At our campus we need to get a lot better at communicating the gospel to our average student: The churched kid who picks and chooses which parts of Christianity he wants to follow: “sex before marriage?  Perfectly fine.  Attending church?  Optional.  Alcohol/drugs?  Why not.  But I feel really guilty. Thanks religion”  The authors summarize their outlook: “I do some of what I can.”  They are religious moralists (and pretty crummy ones, at that) who do not understand the gospel of grace..
  • My heart really goes out to those in the “Unspiritual but Open” category – it just seems like if they just consistently rubbed shoulders with a passionate follower of Christ over the course of a school year, they would be open to the gospel.

What are you takeaways after reading these findings?

Photo courtesy of Neil Dorgan via Flickr