Archives For November 2010

“The Critical question for our generation – and for every generation – is this: If you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the friends you ever had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties you ever saw, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no human conflict or any natural disasters, could you be satisfied with heaven, if Christ were not there?

And the question for Christian leaders is: Do we preach and teach and lead in such a way that people are prepared to hear that question and answer with a resounding NO?”
– John Piper – God is the Gospel

Very challenging thoughts from John Piper.  Especially as it relates to the good news that we proclaim. When we share our faith, what is the good news that we are offering? Fire insurance? Salvation from pain/suffering? A few more:

“Have we presented the gospel in such a way that the gift of the glory of God in the face of Christ is marginal rather than central and ultimate?”

“Readiness for heaven means taking pleasure in beholding the Lord Jesus . . . and being change into his likeness”

Download and read the book in its entirety for free in this PDF (don’t you love John Piper and Desiring God’s generosity??).

The question I have: what does this look like in real life (for me, talking to college students)- If you just knock on a guy’s dorm room and tell him, I have the best news imaginable, you can spend your eternity gazing upon Jesus . . . how do you think that will go? ?

What do you think: In our presentation of the gospel, how do we preach Christ alone while still appealing to uninterested college students?

I think Piper gives us a hint:

Unintelligible good news is not even news, let alone good. . . When the gospel is proclaimed, it must be explained. . . How have we dishonored the King? What is the price that has to be paid? [and why?]”

What have you seen be effective in proclaiming Christ while explaining a sometimes unintelligible (to postmodern college students) good news?

“In building a movement, the students currently involved have to be better leaders than the previous generation because the movement is larger and more complex”

Brian McCollister (Campus Crusade director at Ohio)

I had never thought about it in these terms but it makes sense- If your movement of college students is growing in size and scope year after year, your students need to be raising up better leaders than they are.

But you’re probably familiar with John Maxwell’s Law of the Lid that essentially says this:

“If on a scale of 1 to 10 your leadership ability is a 4, the best you will attract is 1, 2, and 3 leaders. You will never attract 7 and 8’s.

7’s and 8’s will only follow 9’s or 10’s.”

In general I agree with this Leadership Principle and it relates to my earlier post on “Followability“.  I’ve found this to especially be true for men’s ministry: guys tend to only follow other guys they look up to and respect. They will not follow lesser men.

So here’s the question I’ve been wrestling with:

  • Taking into account the Law of the Lid, how is it possible for students to raise up better leaders than themselves?

What has been your experience with this?  What are the necessary conditions for students to be able to raise up better leaders than themselves? How can staff help them do that?

photo courtesy of bingisser

Becoming an Antioch Movement

November 9, 2010 — 1 Comment

“St. Peter’s Cave Church in Antakya – one of the oldest churches in Christianity.

Peter, Barnabus and Paul all worked with the Christian community in Antioch.”

The church in Antioch as described in the book of Acts is a fascinating case study on building a thriving gospel movement.

Just wanted to share a great resource I used in our staff meeting last week that our staff really enjoyed and were motivated by (it took about 45 minutes).

Here’s essentially what it is:

  • Looking at three passages in the book of Acts, what are the consistent themes and distinguishing marks of the church at Antioch?
  • What can we learn about building a movement where the gospel spreads rapidly
  • How can we be a sending movement like the church at Antioch – Are we a leadership/laborer-factory like the church at Antioch?

Here’s how to set it up (download the notes listed below so this will make more sense):

  • Read the first passage out loud
  • Ask- “What do you observe about the movement in Antioch in this passage?”
  • Repeat for all three passages
  • Ask- “What are the take-aways for our campus in building that type of movement that is modeled in Antioch?”
  • Share some summary thoughts from the 5 Movement Building Principles (that Ken Cochrum came up with)
  • End with some of the closing questions to further apply it to your movement (see notes below)

The notes and idea are from Brian McCollister (Cru Director at Ohio University) who did this exercise at our Regional Local Leaders conference last week.

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photo courtesy of tamra hays

Sometimes leadership feels like whack-a-mole.  You put out one fire only to have another crop up.

It can be incredibly draining and demotivating.  Unless.

Unless you understand that’s what you’re there for.  That’s a large part of your job description.  If we don’t have problems, we don’t need leaders.

Some great insights from Brian McCollister’s talk that he gave on “Leading thru Complexity” at a Crusade Campus Director Conference I attended last week:

Leaders are problem solvers. As leaders we are always managing and working different problems.

  • Jesus ended his life on earth with laying a problem at the feet of the 11 disciples: take the gospel to the ends of the earth.
  • Half of the New Testament is Paul writing to address problems in churches

And here’s the payoff: effectively dealing with problems is often what leads to success.  Matt McComas mentioned in a post that authors Chip and Stan Heath have found that failure and problems are almost always warning signs for success.  Problems are prerequisites for breaking thru to growth.

I was just reading in Acts this week.  In chapter 6 the expansion of the gospel hit a bump in the road: intercultural conflict.  The fragile, young church easily could have splintered along racial lines.  The 12 disciples wisely dealt with the problem.

Aside: Their solution is an interesting study in and of itself.  They didn’t deal with the problem themselves, on their own.  They empowered their “followers” to deal with it themselves and pick their own leaders.  Interestingly, all 7 leaders selected had Greek names (meaning they weren’t from the Jewish majority).  The solution involved empowering and handing over authority to the offended minority.

The result? The resolved problem results in verse 7: “And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem”.

photo courtesy of AnimaBandit

Political Thoughts

November 3, 2010 — 2 Comments

I usually don’t touch politics. I don’t comment about it on Facebook/Twitter. I don’t talk about it when I speak to college students at Cru. It’s just not worth it. I don’t want to erect any unnecessary barriers to the gospel.
A few years ago, I threw out a pejorative remark about liberals in a Cru meeting talk and had a thoughtful student approach me after the meeting. He was investigating what it meant to follow Christ, is a life-long Democrat, and was very turned off (to me, and God) by my thoughtless comment.

So I’ll tread lightly . . . but for those in college ministry (helping students become mature influencers for Christ) and for anyone hoping to change the world, I think it’s important to talk through all areas of life – including politics.

A couple thoughts:

“For a long time now I’ve been convinced that what happens in New York (finance), Hollywood (entertainment), Silicon Valley (technology), and Miami (fashion) has a far greater impact on how our culture thinks about reality than what happens in Washington, DC (politics). It’s super important for us to understand that politics are reflective, not directive. That is, the political arena is the place where policies are made which reflect the values of our culture—the habits of heart and mind—that are being shaped by these other, more strategic arenas. As the Scottish politician Andrew Fletcher said, ‘Let me write the songs of a nation; I don’t care who writes its laws.'”

  • Is it just me or is it A LOT easier to talk to college students about God when the Religious Right is not in power? I felt like from 2004-2008 there was an overwhelming amount of W backlash and that spilled over into students’ views of Christianity.  I think the book unChristian is a product of that era.  Since Obama was elected it’s like that tension and antagonism toward Christians has dissipated.  I’m glad to see that the Tea Party is exerting more influence because it’s diverting attention away from the Religious Right (though some would say there is quite a bit of overlap in their constituents).

photo courtesy of vgm8383 via flickr

I like Twitter about 1000x more than Facebook.

Like Brian Barela quoted on his blog: “Twitter makes me like people I’ve never met and Facebook makes me hate people I know in real life”.

I use it as an all-in-one:

  • Feed reader (letting me know when my favorite blogs update)
  • News Aggregator (NYTimes, CNN, CollegeFootball)
  • Devotional (gospel-centered content throughout the day from guys like @PastorTullian and @PaulTripp)
  • Leadership-Developer (short bursts of leadership genius from the likes of @MichaelHyatt or @ScottBelsky)
  • AND Friend-updater (the one feature Facebook is good at)

But when I link to my blog in my Facebook status I get 5x more traffic then when I just get the word out via Twitter.

Matches up pretty well with this interesting Fast Company article: “Facebook Is Worth $2.52, Twitter Only 43 Cents” and the fact that Facebook has 5x as many Users (and I have 5x as many “friends” there!).

A primary reason why Facebook continues to dominate?  Ease of use.

Have you ever tried to explain Twitter to someone new?  What are hashtags? What does RT mean?  What’s  Where’s the insert photo button?

37Signals blog states it well:

Some serious flaws are holding Twitter’s usability back. A collection of hacks that were initially cool and clever among the geekset have turned into de facto features. Why should users have to know what a URL shortener is? Why does attaching a photo to a tweet require third-party tools and diminish your character count?

Related back to college ministry. . .

What are we unknowingly doing that prevents new people from understanding our ministry and wanting to “Sign On”.  
What do we need to do to make our ministry, in the words of 37Signals, “easier to use, easier to explain, and easier to expand”?

To Start:

  • Hashtags = getting rid of insider Christian lingo
  • URL Shortener = Bulit-in ways to help students take the next step (clear map of what it looks like to get involved past the weekly meeting)

What would you add?

photo courtesy of abraham.williams via flickr

(Free) Music Monday

November 1, 2010 — Leave a comment

A little bit of everything today.  John Piper (does that count as music?). VeggieTales.  And great free music.

Here’s the 6 best (in order of awesomeness):

  1. Sufjan Stevens – I Walked
  2. Shout Out Louds – Walls
  3. Miiike Snow – Animal
  4. Young the Giant – My Body
  5. Death Cab for Cutie – For What Reason
  6. The Dodos – Longform

Lastly, check out this band’s really impressive use of iPhones to perform on a NYC Subway: