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Everyone is talking about hell and the afterlife, but what should Christians believe? p.36





It’s on pilgrimage that our souls begin a journey that takes us up mountain passes and brings us down transformed. On this pilgrimage, meet the different people with whom we share this world—a world that is both beautiful and ugly.






Introducing the first translation built by a community for the community. Why do you need this new translation? Because the Common English Bible is uncommon. It’s fresh. It’s contemporary. You can understand it from the start. It’s the ONLY Bible to have this many translators, from American, African, Asian, European, and Latino communities, from this many denominations.




That means accuracy, precision, sensitivity, and breadth. It’s the ONLY Bible to seek feedback from hundreds of everyday readers, of all ages, to help the scholars translate the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek Biblical texts into modern conversational English. That means clarity. Begin reading and living it today. To see for yourself, visit CommonEnglishBible.com.

Best-selling author Jon Gordon shares powerful insight and truth in his inspiring new fable. It’s for anyone hoping to harvest more purpose from their professional and personal life. If you are searching for more deeply rooted passion and happiness, and are ready to leave your mark on the world, then plant the seed of inspiration!

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10 Neues

32 Why We Need a Slow Church Movement | by John Pattison

20 Neue Info

36 Are We Repainting Hell? | by Jeff Cook

24 Neue Church

46 Kyle Idleman: Not a Fan of Jesus | by Josh Lujan Loveless

Crossover Church

48 The Local Global Church | by Dave Davis

26 Neue Thought

52 10 Books Every Leader Should Read | by Brad Lomenick

Create Common Good

Called to Convene by Gabe Lyons Entering Consumer Detox by Mark Powley

30 Innovator Whitney George

54 How to Get Your Team Unstuck | by William Vanderbloemen

58 Neue Conversation

Carolyn Custis James

62 Neue Recommends 64 Last Word

Why Pastors Want Loyalty by Josh Lujan Loveless

p. 36

p. 32

p. 54

p. 48 p. 46

ACT. THINK. DISCUSS. In the following pages, we invite you to interact with the content we’ve assembled by acting, thinking and discussing. The prompts we offer at the bottom of each page are meant for both you and your team as you wrestle with the ideas shaping the future of the Church.

IDEAS SHAPING THE FUTURE OF THE CHURCH From the makers of RELEVANT | August/September 2011 | Issue 08


Cameron Strang > cameron@relevantmediagroup.com

Editorial Director | Roxanne Wieman > roxanne@relevantmediagroup.com Senior Editor | Josh Lujan Loveless > joshl@relevantmediagroup.com Copy Editor | Ashley Emert > ashley@relevantmediagroup.com Contributing Editor | Ryan Hamm > ryan@relevantmediagroup.com Associate Editor | Alyce Gilligan > alyce@relevantmediagroup.com Editorial Assistant | Heather Meikle > heather@relevantmediagroup.com CONTRIBUTING WRITERS: Tyler Charles, Jeff Cook, Dave Davis, Brad Lomenick, Gabe Lyons, John Pattison, Mark Powley, William Vanderbloemen Senior Designer | Chaz Russo > chaz@relevantmediagroup.com Senior Marketing Designer | Jesse Penico > jesse@relevantmediagroup.com Designer | Tanya Elshahawi > tanya@relevantmediagroup.com CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS: Pete Curran, Carlos Espinel, Corey Lack, RIKU+ANNA Chief Marketing & Finance Officer | Josh Babyar > josh@relevantmediagroup.com Account Director | Michael Romero > michael@relevantmediagroup.com Account Director | Philip Self > philip@relevantmediagroup.com Promotions Manager | Sarahbeth Wesley > sarahbeth@relevantmediagroup.com Marketing Manager | Calvin Cearley > calvin@relevantmediagroup.com Fulfillment Coordinator | Tyler Legacy > tyler@relevantmediagroup.com Chief Analyst | Chris Miyata > chris@relevantmediagroup.com Audio/Video Producer | Chad Michael Snavely > chad@relevantmediagroup.com Video/Photography Intern | Jeremy Snell > jeremys@relevantmediagroup.com Systems Administrator | Josh Strohm > joshs@relevantmediagroup.com Web Developer | David Barratt > david@relevantmediagroup.com Web Production Assistant | Lin Jackson > lin@relevantmediagroup.com Communications Manager | Theresa Dobritch > theresa@relevantmediagroup.com Project Manager | Austin Sailsbury > austin@relevantmediagroup.com Finance Manager | Maya Strang > mstrang@relevantmediagroup.com


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ost leaders feel the interruptions in their busy days are troublesome. In TouchPoints, Douglas Conant and Mette Norgaard show how these are overlooked opportunities for leaders to increase their impact and promote their organizations’ strategy and values.

Leadership mastery in these small, ordinary moments can transform aimless activity into a fresh, effective and enduring way to lead.

w w w. J O S S E Y B A S S . c o m

s n a Tr T n a pl our chur c y in e if l e some of th is none. e r e h t e r e Wh


You can transplant the life of your church right into the unreached world. We provide the training and logistical support you need to make it happen. Even small church communities can send, support and sustain teams. It takes a bit of daring to break the mould, but that's where partnership makes sense. We call it “Joint Venture,” where leaders from church and agency come together, embrace a glorious vision, and go for it. Your best people may want to give their lives - are you ready to send them?

Watch the video at:

www.avantministries.org/jointventure Avant ministries • 10000 n oak trafficway • Kansas city • mo 64155 • 800.468.1892 or 816.734.8500 • fax 816.734.4601 • info@avmi.org

NEUES IN THE CHURCH BUT NOT OF IT Is church membership merely a thing of the past?

Take a look around the pews during your service this Sunday. Don’t count the heads in the room, but look at the faces. Who has been there before? And who will be back again? In general, church membership has maintained a consistent ebb and flow throughout the years— until now. According to recent Gallup polls, only 61 percent of Americans say they belong to a church or synagogue—the lowest measure since the 1930s. With a few exceptions (notably, Pentecostal and Assemblies of God churches), most American denominations are seeing this kind of decline. The decrease in membership in mainline Protestant churches alone equated to a 1.05 percent decrease in total U.S church membership (now coming in at 145.8 million). So where are their members going? One answer is that today’s twenty- and thirtysomethings are reluctant to permanently affiliate themselves with a particular group, place or ideology. Robert Wuthnow, sociologist and director of the Princeton University Center for the Study of Religion, explains, “In this demographic, it is less common than was true among their parents to attend church regularly (unless they are married and have children) and more common to engage in church shopping and hopping; i.e., attend sporadically at several different congregations.” This consumer method of church attendance may encourage critical thinking as potential attendees are invited to question all aspects of a church: from baptismal beliefs to the quality of the coffee. But the danger is that it also nurtures a culture of window shoppers, looking only to attend 10

Dwindling Denominations (so long as it suits them) and with no interest in long-term commitment. Still, the “missing” members aren’t all divvying up their time among other congregations. Though a slim majority (54 percent) of Americans still say religion is “very important” to them, a growing minority admit a diminishing respect for organized religion. Fifteen percent of Americans now claim to have no religion, and 29 percent feel organized religion should have less influence in society. So how should the Church respond to this changing attitude toward church attendance? Perhaps by redefining the way it sees growth and membership. Sociologist and University of North Carolina religious studies professor Wade Clark Roof suggests: “Churches will need to put new emphasis on touching people’s lives instead of gaining new members. These are two different enterprises.”

Membership for Jehovah’s Witnesses grew by 4.31 percent, and Progressive Baptists saw a startling 60 percent decline. Here are some less extreme, though still disheartening, statistics for major American churches: Southern Baptist Convention


United Methodist Church


Evangelical Lutheran Church


Episcopal Church


Presbyterian Church


United Church of Christ


American Baptist Churches


*DISCUSS: Have you seen this trend reflected in your community and friends? What seems to be the motivation of those you know who haven’t committed to or become members at a particular church?


Oprah and Jesus Are Still Homeboys



A new study looks at religion’s impact on the brain Faith may ultimately be an issue of the heart, but it still affects the mind. In fact, the physical size of your brain could significantly depend on your religious affiliation. A study by the National Institutes of Health and the Templeton Foundation

found more gray matter in Protestants who do not claim to have had a “born-again” experience. The study focused on the hippocampus, a brain region that monitors emotion and memory. Evangelical Christians, Roman Catholics and the religiously unaffiliated

showed smaller brain size or signs of hippocampal atrophy. A substantial case has not yet been made for the reason behind this association, though some researchers say belonging to a minority group can induce stress, which damages the hippocampus.

Oprah Winfrey spent 25 years making television history, giving extravagant gifts, shouting over celebrities, empathizing with guests and most recently, being praised or criticized for her personal brand of faith. But when The Oprah Winfrey Show said goodbye this past May, its tearful host seemed to step away from her mish-mash theology of late and gave specific credit to the Christian faith of her roots. “How were we able to last 25 years?” Winfrey asked. “My team and Jesus.” The talk show tycoon used her final episode to dish out spiritual insight, humble reflection and life advice, concluding with, “To God be the glory.”

“I have felt the presence of God my whole life. All of us have the same voice. Be still and know it.” —Oprah Winfrey

Are You a Church Planter? A new test helps determine who is up for the task Planting a church is exciting—and risky. Even the greatest visions, the biggest budgets and the most talented teams often fail. Is there a common thread among those who have succeeded? Is there a certain kind of individual who is cut out for the challenge of church planting? LifeWay Research compiled a list of common attributes observed among ministers who successfully planted churches, and used them 12

to create the Church Planter Candidate Assessment.* However, the CPCA hesitates to discourage people from attempting a church plant, and instead determines what kind of role an individual would best play in the process. “God uses all kinds of people to plant churches,” LifeWay says. “Our goal with the church planting assessment is to help you and your organization better understand where you might fit in church planting.”

ACT: See the survey results and take your own “church planter” personality assessment at ChurchPlanter.lifeway.com.




Gallup continues to find that more than 90% of Americans believe in God For more than 60 years, Gallup has been asking Americans, “Do you believe in God?” Back in the 1940s, 96 percent responded in the affirmative. Today, the results are surprisingly unchanged, with 92 percent of the nation’s adults professing belief.* (However, when alternative answers were available, only about 80 percent remained convinced.) Here’s a glimpse at some of the key groups who generally call themselves believers.

b History Channel 98%











Mark Burnett is most famous for producing Survivor, but now he’s set his sights on telling a different brutal and triumphant tale: the Bible. The History Channel has approved production of a five-part, 10-hour docudrama that will bring to life some of Scripture’s most popular stories. Noah’s ark, Daniel in the lion’s den and Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection are just a few of the events set for the onlocation filming. “This series will bring the historical stories of the Bible to life for a new generation,” said History Channel President and General Manager Nancy Dubuc. Though production was only recently green-lighted, Burnett has been pursuing the project for two years with his wife, Roma Downey—also known as “Monica” from Touched by an Angel. So should we expect Della Reese to make an appearance?




Goes Holy


The ACLU defends prisoners’ rights to have more reading material It seems like giving a prisoner a Bible would be a good idea—right? Not if they’re denied all other reading material, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. When inmates of a jail in South Carolina were refused all books except the Bible, the ACLU filed a lawsuit, calling the decision “unconstitutional.” Jail officials defended the rule, claiming they originally banned other magazines, newspapers and books because they could contain staples 14

*DISCUSS: So why aren’t they in church? Where’s the disconnect?

or nudity. Still, David Shapiro, staff attorney with the ACLU National Prison Project, says, “There is no justification for denying detainees access to periodicals and in the process cutting them off from the outside world.” The ACLU maintains jail officials have enforced the ban with “no good reason,” and insists the availability of more books and publications is necessary for the rehabilitation of prisoners.





Combatting climate change has been acknowledged by faith-based groups as an important aspect of creation care. But a report from the Vatican’s science panel makes it clear this is not just a nice idea—it’s a necessary command. “We call on all people and nations to recognize the serious and potentially irreversible impacts of global warming caused by the anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants, and by changes in forests, wetlands, grasslands and other land uses,” the Pontifical Academy of Science stated in their report, “Fate of Mountain Glaciers in the Anthropocene.” The group worked with the Catholic church to define three responses to the potential climate change: reducing worldwide carbon dioxide emissions, reducing the concentrations of warming air pollutants by 50 percent and preparing for the already inevitable climatic changes. If the Vatican has anything to say about it, our quality of life may depend on taking such actions.



15% - 17%


Does Long Life Beat Eternal Life? New research suggests there may be a connection between increased life expectancy and decreased church attendance. It seems an odd conclusion, as other studies have shown healthier, longer lives among believers. However, economists from the University of East Anglia in England say younger generations take longer life expectancy as an excuse to delay making decisions about religion, heaven and hell. The study, published in the International Journal of Social Economics, pointed out that 10 additional years of life expectancy coincided with an 8.4 percent decline in “religious” people and a 15 to 17 percent drop in church attendance.


The Neue Podcast is a weekly conversation with ministers and thinkers shaping the future of the Church.

“If you just float around with the currents, that’s where you are. By being complacent, you end up giving your tacit approval to a system that is at work in the world that I think is incredibly harmful.”

The Pontifical Academy of Science

“... If we want justice and peace, we must protect the habitat that sustains us. The believers among us ask God to grant us this wish.” —report from Pontifical Academy of Science

Adam Hamilton “We have this idea that every single decision we make, God must already know in advance what He wants us to do, and then He’s kind of holding out so we don’t really know. ... If it’s God’s will, why would He make it so hard to figure it out? ... How much more could God tell us His will than what we find already in the Scripture?”

Subscribe at iTunes. Search keyword “Neue.”


*DISCUSS: Do you think your church is the appropriate size? Why or why not?

Leslie Jordan “We hope that the honesty in the songs doesn’t push people away but rather brings people closer in. ... We just hope that it begins conversation among other artists, among other writers and within the Church that it’s bigger than what we know, and that God is continually running ahead of us and we have to follow after Him.”

Andy Stanley

Eugene Peterson

“I think in every generation there have to be spokespeople to stand up and say: ‘OK, nothing has changed. God is still a God of grace, and in spite of what you’ve experienced from your world, from your family of origin and even in your marriage, your father is not a reflection of God the Father necessarily. It’s a whole different system.’”

“Size has to be proportionate to what you are, what you’re doing. An elephant is one size, and it’s fine for an elephant. But a human being is another size and when it starts to grow too much or too little, it’s sick. But congregations are that way too.* There’s an appropriate size for everything and every kind of congregation.”


The Tech Family Tree

Does technology serve as a catalyst for a healthy home life, or create a sort of digital divide? Here’s what parents and children had to say about how technology has impacted their family—for better and worse.





Computers, cell phones and video game systems have a more positive than negative impact on my family.


Music, movies and television have a more positive than negative impact on my family.

I try to take off one day a week from digital usage.

Computers, cell phones and video game systems have a more positive than negative impact on my family.



Music, movies and television have a more positive than negative impact on my family.*



I worry about technology and media wasting my children’s time.



I get frustrated by technology because it makes it hard to have conversations.

21% 39%

I would be interested in hearing more about a Christian or faith-based perspective on how to be a good user of entertainment and technology in my family.






I try to take off one day a week from digital usage.

My parents have a “double standard” when it comes to technology.

Parents bring their work home with them too much.

I would be interested in hearing more about a Christian or faith-based perspective on how to be a good user of entertainment and technology in my family.

Study by Barna Group, 2011. 18

*THINK: Shocker: Parents are more worried about technology’s negative impacts than their kids are. How have you seen families approach technology in healthy ways?


[HOW TO…] ... Revisit Great Movies Based on Books

It’s a summer of book-to-bigscreen adaptations. So why not catch up on a few classics? THE GODFATHER (1972)

Mario Puzo’s book, The Godfather, was adapted into three movies—each of which is now a classic worth revisiting.


Adapted from a Stephen King novella, this film features an innocent man and his escape from an unjust imprisonment. More than that, it’s about friendship, perseverance and new beginnings.


Chances are you’ve seen it, and you can probably quote it. Not as deep or thought-provoking as some films, but it remains a rich and enjoyable movie that gets better with each viewing.


The Coen brothers’ depiction of Cormac McCarthy’s novel is beautiful and unsettling, juxtaposing the laidback landscape and lifestyle of western Texas with the intense and riveting drama that unfolds.


... FINALLY FINISH THAT TO-DO LIST The to-do list can be the bane of overachievers and underachievers alike. Overachievers fill their list with too many tasks and run out of time before each is completed, with the leftover tasks spilling onto the next day’s already crowded list of to-dos. On the other hand, underachievers may conclude completing half of their tasks is a sufficient day’s work and the rest can be saved for tomorrow—adding to an ever-increasing list. Whether you consider yourself an overachiever, underachiever or something in between, chances are you’ve been bogged down in to-dos. If you can relate, here are some tips for clearing that to-do list. Rank your priorities. Don’t do the easiest tasks first (a common mistake); start with the most important

items. If it isn’t too overwhelming, create a master list of everything you need/want to accomplish, and then set aside a day to blaze through it. On that day, forbid yourself from doing anything other than what’s on the list. If the phone rings, let it ring. Keep clearing that list. Transform your list of tasks into a schedule. Establish the order you will work through them. This reduces the likelihood you will lose focus. Anything that isn’t essential right now can be transferred to another list—and then filed somewhere so it’s not staring you in the face and suggesting you’ll never finish everything. Establish rewards. For example, if one of your favorite TV shows airs that night, tell yourself you can’t watch it unless you meet your goals for that day.


You know who you are …

Don’t Be a Serial Retweeter

Separation of Church and You

All Things in Moderation

Self-Promote … Sparingly

Just because you can share that witty comment from your favorite star, the inspiring quote from a trusted pastor and a useful tip from a business mag, doesn’t mean you should. If you retweet everything, you will annoy people. Reserve the retweet feature for only the most worthwhile tidbits.

If you maintain a church account for Twitter or Facebook, don’t make it your page for personal communications. A church account should communicate the church’s ministries, vision, etc. If you want to socialize with friends and family, create a personal page.

Regardless of how popular you are, few of your friends and followers will care about the cereal you’re eating. The occasional trivial post is permissible, but don’t make it the norm. Maintain an important/trivial ratio of 3 to 1. For a church account, the ratio should be much higher.

Users are wary of online friends who use social media to self-promote. When you are proud of something, by all means, share it. Social media is about interaction, though, and if you give the impression you only care about self-promoting, people won’t hesitate to unfollow or unfriend you.

... Take a Break from Technology Yes, we all love our smart phones, iPods and tablets. But as convenient as they can be, they can also drain your time and distract from other tasks. Maybe you check your email compulsively, or maybe you waste way too much time on Angry Birds. If that technology has taken over your life, consider implementing one (or a few) of these tips to help you take your life back.

Start Journaling (on Paper)

... END A DWINDLING MINISTRY The men’s breakfast is attracting four people and three of them are on staff. Ever since your church relocated, kids don’t show up for the afterschool tutoring sessions. No one wants to play church softball, but guys sign up out of obligation. Attendance for the Friday night open mic night continues to drop. If your church has a ministry like any of those mentioned above—something that began with the best of intentions but just isn’t effective now—maybe it’s time to cut bait and cast your nets elsewhere. Ending a ministry is a tough decision. It can be hard to overcome the temptation to see it as a failure. It’s a reality that some ministries are effective for a time, but as your members, their passions and their

needs change, so too should the ways you minister to the congregation and the community. Maybe you know a ministry that needs to go. Before you bring it up at a board meeting, talk to the people who have spearheaded that ministry. You might find they are worn out and eager to end it. Sometimes they will be heartbroken, unwilling to see their passion isn’t meeting a pressing need. Through talking with them, you may realize it’s possible to rework and revitalize the ministry. But if not, meeting with them gives you a chance to assure them their hard work is appreciated and, if possible, to figure out how you can elicit their involvement in another ministry—whether it’s one that already exists, or a new one that will address an unmet need.

Get out an old-fashioned “tablet” and write. It will probably take a few minutes to get used to again, but you might find it cathartic, relaxing—or a waste of time (since you can type three times faster and remove mistakes with a keystroke). Don’t worry about putting together a perfect essay; just jot thoughts and see where it takes you.

No-Tweet Tuesdays

Pick a day of the week and choose to abstain from tweeting, texting, researching your fantasy team, surfing the web, emailing or whatever technology vice tempts you most often. Use that time to pray, read the Bible or spend time with your family.

Handwritten Words of Encouragement

... START A NEW MINISTRY No church meets every need. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. Sometimes an obvious need surfaces (i.e., in the wake of a natural disaster), and the response is almost automatic. But within your church and your community, there are people who are hurting, lonely and desperate for help. These needs will never be as obvious, but they’re just as real. Finding these aches and pains takes a little investigative work. Start by asking church members whether they have any ideas for a new ministry or if they know of any needs that aren’t being met. Maybe it’s a Bible study for widows and widowers, a small group for college students when they come home in the summer, an accountability ministry for those

struggling with an addiction to pornography or volunteers willing to help people who are incapable of raking leaves and shoveling snow. In addition to the suggestions from those within the church, you can also talk to others in the community. Start conversations in the grocery store, your neighborhood, at youth sporting events and anywhere else you see unfamiliar faces. Ask everyone what they would like to see a church doing in their community (if possible, invite these people to become a part of it). Once you have a list of ideas, find people who would be excited to spearhead that specific ministry. Work with them, make suggestions and then give them the reins.

Handwrite encouraging notes for your co-workers and drop them in their mailboxes. Not only does this separate you from that computer screen for a few minutes, but handwritten notes can also be more meaningful to the recipients.

Quiet Times

Consider creating a new “quiet time” in a place or time that isn’t usually quiet. Maybe spend a week without listening to music. Whenever you’re tempted to pop in those ear buds, use that time to pray. Or instead of watching the news, set aside time to pray for your friends, family, the country and your community.

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[HOW TO…] ... Get Familiar with Classic Literature If you’re convinced fiction isn’t worth your time, well, you’re wrong. If you still can’t get excited about reading fiction, at the very least, it’s a great way to mine for more sermon illustrations. Here are five classics worth reading:

Franny and Zooey, by J.D. Salinger

Salinger is most famous for The Catcher in the Rye, but Franny and Zooey is fascinating. Almost entirely dialoguedriven, it depicts two twentysomethings (a brother and sister) and their attempts to understand spirituality.

East of Eden, by John Steinbeck

Oprah may have made it (even more) famous, but this classic stands on its own merit. Drawing from the story of Cain and Abel, it explores family, guilt and forgiveness, and humanity’s capacity for love and wickedness.

The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoevsky

In this classic, characters wrestle with faith, reason, doubts, free will and the nature of God. Full of themes worthy of discussion, Dostoevsky’s final work is a great book to read with a notepad at the ready.

The Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand

A precursor to her more famous Atlas Shrugged, Rand’s Fountainhead also touts the superiority of humanity and not-so-subtly outlines her objectivist philosophy. Whether one agrees with her or not, it’s an intriguing read.

Lord of the Flies, by William Golding

You know the basics: plane crash, island, boys, chaos. Lord of the Flies is worth re-reading because of its depiction of humanity’s sin nature— and because there are more than a few worthy sermon topics here.


... INVITE YOUR CHURCH INTO THE PROCESS OF CHANGE Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Ellen Glasgow once said, “The only difference between a rut and a grave is their dimensions.” In other words, change is vital for life. In the life of a church, some consistency is essential. As visitors return to the church, they start becoming familiar with the routine, which in turn can make them feel more at home. Even long-term members will appreciate a certain amount of stability. But eventually that stability can turn stale. If you’re worried your church has become stuck in a rut, start by soliciting suggestions from church members. Maybe they’ll recommend changing the structure of the small group ministry, switching to hand dryers in the bathrooms or redesigning

the main entrance so it looks more inviting. Once you have enough feedback to start making changes, enlist the help of those who made the suggestions. If people say the church décor is bland, for example, ask for their help choosing new paint (or even enlist their help with the repainting). For changes that are less tangible, make it clear how people can help. For example, if people suggest your church needs to be more welcoming, ask individuals to personally introduce themselves and shake hands with people they don’t know. If you allow people to be part of the process of change, they are more likely to understand and own the vision that prompted it—instead of just blindly following along.




CREATE COMMON GOOD BOISE, ID Refugees are a forgotten population. Fleeing war and persecution in their home countries, about 80,000 refugees seek asylum in the U.S. every year through the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Once granted sanctuary, they are matched with resettlement agencies that place them in their new home. Most refugees have little to no education or work experience, and with travel loans to be repaid to UNHCR and impending costof-living bills, many get lost in the shuffle. While resettlement agencies assist with initial needs such as applying for a Social Security number, transplants often have difficulty assimilating into the working world. Create Common Good bridges that gap by providing hands-on training and employment to 24


With the booming popularity of Christian hip-hop artists like Lecrae and Tedashii, it’s evident the urban community is thirsty for ministry. Crossover Church in Tampa, Fla., has built a faith community around hip-hop culture—but don’t call them a hip-hop church. “[We] haven’t referred to ourselves as [a hip-hop church] in many years,” says Crossover Church’s lead pastor, Tommy Kyllonen, aka Urban D. “We’ve “We strive to be a New Testament faith found it brings way too many community in [a] 21st-century, urban questions, confusion and context.” —Tommy Kyllonen, lead pastor at Crossover stereotypes. We strive to be a New Testament faith community in [a] 21st-century, urban context.” In any case, Crossover Church is doing refugees and others in need, with Participants are trained in a something radical. When they opened their doors the goal of “equipping them for variety of areas, from agriculture in the early 1990s, they were a small group of long-term self-sufficiency.” to hospitality, and graduate from burned-out Christians looking for a change; “We look at community need courses intended to equip them this year, they moved into a 43,000-square foot in a variety of ways, but we try for life outside of the program. facility—a former Toys “R” Us. to draw upon the strengths of The process has been Crossover connects urban culture and Christ, individuals and prepare them enormously successful for a divide that has ensnared a large portion of best for long-term resettlement high-risk transplants. “A lot of America’s youth who are put off by how “out of into an area,” says Tara Russell, the population we serve are only touch” most churches are. the founder and CEO of CCG. getting into employment either While more traditional churches focus CCG started as a job and 15 to 50 percent of the time. their music somewhere between hymns and language training operation, Those who come through our Christian rock, Crossover appeals to their key training refugees in entry-level training and work with us tend demographic by integrating rap, beat poetry, skills to get their first jobs in to enjoy 70 to 80 percent job break dancers and live DJs. the U.S. The program is now a placement rates,” Russell says. “People walk in and they are wowed not only four-part process—train, grow, “We see them getting into other by the building, but by the love and acceptance create and stir—and is aligned educational opportunities after of our people who look like them,” Kyllonen to meet the desire for farmthey’ve completed our program. says. “Overall, we’ve cultivated a very real fresh, locally grown produce, We see them sending their kids culture at the church from music, to teaching, to supporting the agricultural model to school, buying cars, eventually discipleship to serving.” that is redefining food production resettling and getting a home.” In a culture so typified by violence and tension, in America. There are large refugee Crossover has managed to elude the enmity, “We try to look at real market populations in cities across something Kyllonen attributes to the biblical needs, in this community and America, and getting involved is roots of the church. Their mission statement beyond,” Russell says. “So it’s as simple as sharing stories. focuses on the five main reasons the Church looking at, ‘What are people “We work with some church exists: worship, fellowship, discipleship, serving really thirsty for?’ Our farms, our groups that send people here and evangelism (Acts 2:42-47). product creation and our food on short-term trips,” Russell “For us there isn’t a tension,” Kyllonen says. service are [the] best in their says. “We have very tangible, “We’re unapologetically about staying true to class, quality and excellence. specific project needs that we Christ and the Scriptures. We’re not waving a Everything we do we try to have individuals from all over banner for hip-hop; we’re a church that is about take to an unexpected level of the country come and serve and worshiping God in an indigenous way, and we excellence.” work with us on.” happen to do that with a hip-hop/R&B flavor.”


CALLED TO CONVENE GABE LYONS In A Christian Manifesto, Francis Schaeffer famously wrote, “True spirituality means that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Lord of all of life.” Such a statement may be easy for some Christians to affirm, but not as easy to live out. As Schaeffer went on to point out, this statement means “all of life is spiritual and all of life is equally spiritual.” Do we believe that? Sure, church work is “spiritual” and missionary work is “spiritual,” but what about the work most Christians engage in during their work week? What about the realms of business, education, art, science or even entertainment? Are these realms “equally spiritual” in light of a God who through Christ desires to “reconcile to himself all things” (Colossians 1:20, NIV)? And if so, how would that shape how a person might fulfill their calling as a pastor or church leader? I recently hosted 27 leaders from the fashion industry with my pastor, Jon Tyson, at my Upper East Side apartment in Manhattan. Models were present as well as designers, merchandising and retail innovators from brands like Ralph Lauren, Estée Lauder and many more. Depending on the faith tradition in which you were raised, this may seem a strange way for a pastor to invest his time, but Jon desires to see Christ exalted in every area of human work and progress. During our meeting, he didn’t try to teach or mobilize; Jon simply communicated that our faith community, Trinity Grace Church, cares

up with excitement as they began imagining the possibilities of what fashion could be like if seen through a Kingdom lens. Many pastors today fulfill their calling to preach and minister, but few recognize their role as a convener. Even if they only interact with their church body one morning a week, as the leader of the ekklesia, they are a critical cultural convener. If pastors would begin taking seriously their roles as conveners, I believe it could make an immeasurable difference for the Kingdom of God and the Church in the West.* Although the work of culture creation may take place outside the walls of a church building, the local church creates a natural space where social networks of leaders, within all seven channels of culture, can work together toward a common goal. Nowhere else does this potential for synergy exist. The Church is the single organism that manifests Christ and the single channel that gathers all other channels of cultural influence on a weekly basis. Christians recognize the Church is to exist in a cycle of gathering and scattering, of assembling

MANY LEADERS DO A GREAT JOB OF INTENTIONALLY GATHERING, BUT FEW ARE AS INTENTIONAL IN THEIR PLAN TO SCATTER. about their work in this industry. He affirmed their God-given passion to create, and reminded them their industry was a critical place for the Kingdom of God to exist. The tone and nature of his encouragement wasn’t wrapped in a quest for triumphal control, but more a gentle prod that God cares about their faithfulness to show up and be salt and light in every corner of the world—including fashion. For many, this marked the first time they’d ever been affirmed by a pastor or church in their work. I could see their eyes light 26

and sending out on mission. Many leaders do a great job of intentionally gathering (Sunday mornings are a given), but few are as intentional in their plan to scatter. Focusing time and resources on how the Church scatters is one of the most important conversations of our time. Stewardship of our calling demands we seriously consider both. As John Stott reminds us: “We find ourselves citizens of two kingdoms, the one earthly and the one heavenly. And each citizenship lays upon us duties which we are not at liberty to evade.”

In your congregation, you have access to business leaders, teachers, contractors, interior designers, scientists, nonprofit leaders, architects, lawyers, entrepreneurs and artists. Would your community look differently if you began convening your people for the purpose of collaborating and dreaming about how their vocational work might be leveraged for the Kingdom? As Tim Keller writes, “If we produce thousands of new church communities that regularly attract and engage secular people, that seek the common good of the whole city, especially the poor, and that produce thousands of Christians who write plays, … begin effective and productive new businesses, use their money for others and produce cuttingedge scholarship and literature, we will see our vision for the city realized and our whole society changed as a result.” As the Church rediscovers its unique role in culture and supports the calling of its cultural leaders, it can continue becoming a fresh force for good in our communities, cities and nation. Don’t waste the opportunities God has given you. Initiate conversations about the future of your people’s industries and callings with those who are best positioned to influence them. Host them in your home or in a cultural space that represents the daily world of those you are seeking to convene. Drive the cultural conversation instead of simply responding to it. Frame the importance of work and vocations as part of God’s original design of the creation. Listen intently. Raise issues of injustice and if you have some ideas, offer potential solutions. Support local artists, business leaders and educators. Be an advocate for beauty and goodness and truth, and be the first to praise those in your community who align with these values. You don’t need all the answers—simply a willingness to bring people together and inspire their imagination for expressions of God’s love in places they otherwise may have thought were off limits for Kingdom activity.

Gabe Lyons

is the co-founder of Catalyst and founder of Q, a community mobilizing Christians to advance the common good in society. He is the author of The Next Christians (Doubleday) and lives in Manhattan, NY with his family.

THINK: How seriously do you take your role as a convener? How intentionally do you steward that part of your calling to equip and send out?



ENTERING CONSUMER DETOX MARK POWLEY “What I want,” Lydia implored, “is for you to make me stop wanting the next summer fashion collection.” She was a young—early 20s, maybe—serious-minded Christian desperate for freedom from the shopping-mad culture all around. I know how Lydia feels. “Buy me!” screams the book on Amazon. “Dive in!” calls the beach from paradise on the travel advert. And the more subtle stuff, too: I desire films to help me to relax; I desire a car so I’m not restricted in my options; I desire food because—well, because it’s just food. And yet all the time the “holy” guilt inside my head screams, “Desire is bad.” So what did I say to Lydia? “No.” I said no. I can’t stop her from desiring. Why not? Because it’s impossible. In fact, it’s undesirable. God made you to desire. God is a desiring being. He desires you, for starters. And He made you in His image. So desire is part of who you are, and it can’t be switched off. So … desire is good? Not exactly. Our addiction to stuff has unhealthy side effects. It doesn’t truly satisfy—we have nearly three times as much stuff as our grandparents, but on average we’re no happier than they were. It’s not good for the planet. And it tends to make us just that much more selfobsessed.

Christianity has been called a personal relationship or a religion of the heart. But the heart is just where consumerism wants your faith to stay. It’s a well-worked deal: Let God have your heart and consumer society will effortlessly take up the rest—your politics, your relationships, your finances, your fears, your habits and your imagination. Whether your Christianity is megazealous enthusiasm or chilled-out faith tourism, consumerism doesn’t care. As long as your faith stays in your heart. But Jesus wasn’t interested in this kind of deal. He deliberately calls people to act in ways that evoke their desire; He calls out their heart by summoning them to action. He invites them to put their treasure where they want their heart to be. James K. A. Smith describes this tellingly in his book Desiring the Kingdom. He writes that some practices are “identity-forming” in that they “get hold of our core desire.” For instance, we may not feel that our shopping habits, film viewing and web surfing affect us that deeply, but all the while

DON’T STOP DESIRING; DESIRE THE KINGDOM. SEEK THAT AND EVERYTHING ELSE WORTH HAVING WILL COME WITH THE BARGAIN. The problem isn’t the fact that we desire—it’s what we desire. “Why are you working so hard and worrying so much about stuff that just isn’t going to last?” Jesus asked. Don’t stop desiring; desire the Kingdom. Seek that and everything else worth having will come with the bargain (Luke 12:29-34). If there’s nothing at stake, our hearts are not engaged. If we’re not risking anything real, our desire isn’t going to follow. In other words, where your treasure is, there your heart will be. 28

they are “grabbing hold of hearts and capturing imaginations, shaping our love and desire and actually forming us in powerful ways.” To be a follower of Christ is to be on a journey where heart and life and possessions all get pulled along in the direction of the Kingdom. So what kind of habits can reshape our desires? There are many: Sabbath worship with all our soul and strength; sharing life with other Christians; practical action for the poor, and many more. But

Jesus did prescribe one particular habit to remake the desires of would-be disciples with plenty of stuff to their name: sell your possessions. In fact, in Luke’s Gospel, every time someone increases their possessions, it coincides with moving away from the Kingdom. Bigger barns, new fields, new oxen—it didn’t matter what it was; their hearts were just following their newly acquired stuff. But to His followers, Jesus said “sell your possessions” and “those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples” (Luke 12:33 and 14:33). There’s no point turning this into a new law— our response should be Spirit-inspired, grace-filled and creatively unique. But this is definitely a call to action. So what could that possibly look like? Idea one: sell your possessions. Call me a fundamentalist, but why don’t we actually try what Jesus said? A few years back, I realized I had never sold anything to give the money to the poor. So I decided to make a sale—my high-tech keyboard. I can’t say it didn’t hurt, but I was amazed at how freeing it was. And four years later, in answer to a prayer, God gave us a piano for free. So sell something. Go crazy—sell two things.* Idea two: change tracks. A friend of mine did this. He was a successful management consultant in London, a bright guy with a bright future. But it turns out he was on a different track. At first it was just that he had an older car than most colleagues. Then he started sharing his budget with friends as a way of being accountable. Before long he negotiated a four-day week so he could serve his local church. Little steps, one thing at a time, but God was remaking the shape of his life. And where is he now? In Pakistan with his wife and kids helping to start microfinance initiatives. It’s not the destination that counts, though. It’s the journey—the willingness to let the Kingdom change your desire, your habits and even the shape of your life. It begins with the smallest of steps, but where it will lead you, who can say?

Mark Powley

is the author of Consumer Detox (Zondervan, 2011, © Mark Powley), from which this article is adapted. Used with permission.

ACT: Make it a goal to sell at least two things—preferably items you like having but don’t necessarily need—by the end of the month.






In 1994, Whitney George was just looking for a summer job. He had no idea that job would lead to him becoming the creative director of a church with more than 10,000 members. “My dad [Pastor Willie George, pastor of Church on the Move in Tulsa, Okla.] told me I could go to work at the church. I needed a job, so as was our custom, he would put me to work around the church during the summer just doing odds and ends jobs around the church,” George remembers. “That lasted for a few weeks, and then he came in and said, ‘Would you like to get out of laying sod?’ So he moved me over into our TV department. I said: ‘That sounds great, but why? Why would you put me there?’ That was just my mentality, and he said: ‘Well, you’ve made these little films. I think you have a talent for this.’ That’s sort of the moment I started to think, ‘Maybe there’s something about me that’s a little different.’ ” That start as a church landscaper turned into a full-time gig as a youth pastor with the church youth group, Oneighty. As George started working more with the youth ministry, his creativity was again tapped to help the church’s visual style. “When Oneighty first began, we needed to do something innovative or cool,” he says. “We needed a graphic designer, so I started looking around on Illustrator. I had no idea what I was doing, but we messed around with it and eventually ended up with the original Oneighty logo, and that kind of thrust me into a graphic design role. So I started doing graphic design, started spending a week working on just a bulletin, which was an enormous amount of time to spend on something like that.” George says at the time it felt wrong to spend that much time on design, but now he realizes 30


he had fallen into a do-it-yourself sort of design education. “I always thought back then that I was taking advantage of the church, but looking back on it, I was really going to school,” he says. “I got a hold of Wired magazine and design manuals, and I just started poring over that stuff, figuring out fonts and all that good stuff that you have to do as a graphic designer. I don’t know how long I spent sort of really learning that—probably two to three years before I started to get competent at it.” He was even recognized by those outside the church for his designs, and eventually became more involved in the church’s design process. “Somewhere in there I started to win awards here in the city. So I sort of moved from Oneighty to working in our design department, just putting graphics to everything.” Under his leadership, the creative team has helped Church on the Move become one of the most notable churches in the country for their cutting-edge approach to media, technology and the arts. George believes this is an important investment to include in the life of a church, and points to a more mainstream example as proof. “I think art can connect on a lot of different levels,” he says. “[Consider] the difference between a lot of DreamWorks animated films and Pixar animated

congregation buys] it, it’ll be amazing.” George says he’s able to take a step back and look at the big-picture version of the service to see what’s working—and what needs to change. “My gift is, I think, being able to come in and look at our different process and just know that it’s not going to work, or if we tweak it it’ll make it better. I just provide direction. I’m the one coming in going: ‘That sucks. That doesn’t work, we have to change this.’ I’m able to find the heart and spirit behind the things that we do, and direct our artists toward how to capture that, or how we should do that.” George believes having a good, collaborative team is the key to the production values Church on the Move is able to maintain, and one of the ways in which they’ve increased collaboration can easily be reproduced at a church of any size. “Our team is not that big, but we had these much larger offices, and this little, tiny hallway,” he says. “I noticed we were meeting in the hallway all the time. So what we did was we crashed our offices back, made them really tiny, and created a giant hallway with chairs and tables. We just kind of live in a communal space. Most of us have our private office space to work, but we work communally. “We don’t assign out projects real strictly. I used to try to do that to give people labels, but I stopped caring about that stuff. Since we’re all together, we talk about everything all the time. Really, work just becomes a giant conversation all the time. We say that we break away from meetings to do work.” This slight change in their office space has helped create an intentional, organic workflow. “That’s the way our process has kind of flipped,” George says. “Rather than breaking away from work to do meetings, we meet daily to talk about what we’ve got, so stuff we do is the result of dozens and dozens of conversations. We work on everything at once together. So [for instance], the music guys are involved in conversations for video; we all contribute to everything. We just start throwing out ideas; we’ll grab random people who don’t even work in those departments.” George says this method also affects how they plan and approach individual services. “When we do Christmas—the first thing that we do—we write down the feelings we want people to feel at Christmas. We write down the moments that we want to create.” Church on the Move’s commitment to art and high-end technology spills over into every aspect of their ministry. Their recent Father’s Day video, “Dad Life,” became a viral sensation, and their Seeds

“WHEN THERE’S REAL HEART AND SOUL, AND IT REALLY IS GOOD ART, IT CAN CONNECT WHETHER IT’S BIG OR SMALL.” films. The DreamWorks films are smaller, less budget—honestly, just less art. I think most of them are terrible. “But Pixar puts all this extra money into making each film—all the extra effort—and when there’s heart and soul behind it, it works. My opinion is that when there’s real heart and soul, and it really is good art, it can connect whether it’s big or small. I completely recognize there are cities that wouldn’t handle what we’re doing, but where we’re at, it’s working. It’s similar to Pixar: They say they make movies they love, [and] I make services that I would want to go to.”* George sees his role as a sort of ringleader of every creative element that people might see during a weekend service. “What I see in my mind, I’m able to just sort of visualize these things. I don’t think it comes from me; I think it’s a God thing,” he says. “The real struggle is, how do we get there? How do we get to the point where it makes sense, because if we can get to that point where [the

conference attracts creative pastors from all over the country. Additionally, their production values during the service are top-notch, bringing to mind a big-budget rock tour. Think more U2 and less Gaither Vocal Band. George believes that, although this sort of production isn’t required, it helps add to the overall experience and impact. “A friend of mine, Marty Taylor, says it best,” George says. “He says, ‘Before God created man, He created a beautiful environment for man to worship in.’ The way I approach it would be the same way. Large-scale production can create a beautiful environment for people to worship in. Do I think it’s absolutely necessary? No, I don’t think we have to have it in every case. [But] production and art can have profound impact in a lot of things.” That tension George sees means he understands the hesitancy many people feel when they think about high-end technology and the Church. “I can see why a lot of people aren’t into it, and I think a lot it of has to do with the sort of copyand-paste approach the Church is famous for,” he says. “It’s human nature to look for shortcuts, and the Church is a huge victim of this mentality. I think too many churches have taken the approach that it takes lights, smoke and projectors to reach people nowadays, and [they] fail to realize it’s about so much more than that. We see these things as storytelling tools, not some sort of magic formula for relating to the next generation.
 “And by the way, its not just the Church who does this,” George continues. “How many movies are now in 3D just because of Avatar? When will people realize the magic isn’t in the technology?” Where George thinks the Church can succeed is story. He believes the story and the heart behind the technology is what makes all of the cuttingedge effects and techniques effective. “I don’t think the size of the production is the problem. In my mind, the problem is that we’ve got the budget, we’ve got the lights, we’ve got the projectors, but we’re not saying anything compelling with them and it comes off as some sort of overproduced show,” he says. “It’s not the money, it’s the lack of a compelling story. Pixar proves this. They spend more money—by far—and generally take longer to complete a film than the other studios, and yet no one thinks of their movies as overblown, mindless entertainment suitable only for the uneducated crowd. “The issue isn’t whether or not we should be spending the money or investing in the technology and doing the large-scale production,” he continues. “The issue is whether or not we’re telling a compelling story of who Jesus is, because at the end of the day, that’s what matters.”

*DISCUSS: What role does creativity play in your church’s services? Would you consider yourselves more of a Pixar or DreamWorks? What would it take for your church to put more heart and soul behind creativity?

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etween documentaries, books and TV shows spotlighting its slow but steady rise in popularity, the Slow Food movement has made its way into the public eye over the last several years. But what does it have to do with the Church? And, more importantly, what can the Church learn from this conscientious, intentional way of life? To make this connection, it’s necessary to look at the roots of the Slow Food movement.

THE INTERNATIONAL SLOW FOOD MOVEMENT was launched in December 1989 when delegates from 15 countries gathered in Paris to sign the Slow Food Manifesto. The manifesto starts with a prophetic assessment of the 20th century: “Our century, which began and has developed under the insignia of industrial civilization, first invented the machine and then took it as its life model.” The Slow Food movement was formed as an act of resistance against Fast Life, the homogenizing effects of globalization—what Alice Waters, the executive chef and co-creator of Chez Panisse restaurant, calls “global standardization”—and the attendant loss of natural and cultural diversity. The name “Slow Food” was inspired by a rally against the opening of a McDonald’s near the Spanish Steps in Rome. Carlo Petrini, the journalist who co-founded Slow Food, helped organize the demonstration, during which the crowd chanted: “We don’t want fast food! We want slow food!” The weapons of protest that day were bowls of penne pasta. Today, Slow Food is comprised of 1,300 local chapters and 100,000 members in 53 countries. Each chapter is dedicated to protecting local food and wine producers, preserving food traditions and promoting the pleasures of conviviality—a lovely word that implies an atmosphere of festivity and is derived from the Latin word for feast, convivia, literally “to live with.”* Slow Food has inspired other Slow campaigns. Cittaslow (Slow City) was launched by a group of Italian mayors in October 1999 and now includes more than 140 communities in 23 countries. “These cities have decided to bet on values that thwart alienation,” Cittaslow Chairman Pier Giorgio Olivetti has said. “We want to limit the spread of ‘non-places.’” Other manifestations include Slow Money, Slow Gardening, Slow Parenting and Slow Art. There is even a World Slow Day, which some playful Italians celebrated last year by offering free public transportation, poetry contests, yoga and Tai Chi lessons, and by issuing fake citations to pedestrians who were walking too fast or taking too direct a route. While these efforts differ in scope, scale and strategy, they have many things in common—most obviously their opposition to what Canadian journalist Carl Honoré describes as “the cult of speed.” Fast and slow, Honoré writes, are not just rates of change. “They are shorthand ways of being, or philosophies of life. Fast is busy, controlling, aggressive, hurried, analytical, stressed, superficial, impatient, active, quantity-over-quality. Slow is the opposite: calm, careful, receptive, still, intuitive, unhurried, patient, reflective, quality-over-quantity. It is about making real and meaningful connections—with people, culture, work, food, everything.”

INSTANT FOOD, INSTANT CHURCH For better and for worse, the North American church seems to be just as susceptible as the rest of culture to the alluring promises

of speed—of what the sociologist George Ritzer calls “McDonaldization”: efficiency, predictability, calculability (quantifiable results) and control—or at least the illusion of control. The farmer Joel Salatin has written that conventional agriculture experts view the soil as merely a convenient way to hold up the plant while it is fed from the top in the form of ever-increasing doses of chemical fertilizers. He describes this process as superimposing a mechanistic mindset onto a biological world. Nature, in contrast, feeds the plants from the bottom up, through the soil. That is why the health of the soil is a top priority for conscientious farmers. Is it possible that plug-and-play ministries, target marketing, church growth models that can be applied without deference to local context, celebrity pastors, tightly scripted worship performances and the substitution of technology for human work (satellite churches, iPad worship bands and Skype counseling, to name just a few examples) are the church equivalent of imposing a mechanistic mindset onto a biological world? When evaluated in terms of efficiency—defined as the easiest way to get someone or something from here to there, from unsaved to saved, from unchurched to churched—these top-down inputs seem to yield impressive short-term results: they can pack the pews. So on the upside, the Church has been busy. On the downside, it’s not clear at what long-term costs these methods have been employed, or how helpful and sustainable they will be going forward. As evidenced by the growth of the Slow movement, Americans seem increasingly wary of being sold another product so scrubbed and polished and unsurprising you’d never guess it had been born of soil and sun and scat. “Speed is the enemy of the craftsman,” the Quaker artist Fritz Eichenberg has written—and we are all God’s workmanship. In adopting the stance of the Slow movement, perhaps Christians ought to take care not to move faster than the Creator

*ACT: Consider adding Slow Food meals into your church’s calendar of events. Encourage church members to buy all the ingredients from local sources and then take part in a large sit-down meal as a community—without rushing through it.

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Artist. In the words of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin: “Above all, trust in the slow work of God, / our loving vinedresser.” Or, as Warren Wiersbe once told me, “Just remember, you can never franchise the blessings of God.”

THE CENTRALITY OF PLACE One of the keys to understanding Slow Church is captured in the 17th century phrase le goût de terroir, which can be translated as “the taste of the place.” Petrini writes often about terroir as “the combination of natural factors (soil, water, slope, height above sea level, vegetation) and human ones (tradition and practice and cultivation) that gives a unique character to each small agricultural locality and the food grown, raised and cooked there.” A Pinot Noir from Oregon’s Willamette Valley takes on the taste and texture of the grape, the soil, the barrel and the late frost. In the same way, Slow Church is rooted in the natural, human, and spiritual cultures of a particular place. It is a distinctively local expression of the global body of Christ. In other words, “the Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood” (John 1:14, The Message). Just as a Pinot Noir from Italy should taste different than a Pinot Noir from Oregon, so too should a church in Denver look and feel and be different than a church in Tucson.* Chris Smith, the editor of the Englewood Review of Books, says churches can come to see themselves as dispensaries of religious goods and services, which falsely bifurcates life into the spiritual and nonspiritual. Smith’s faith community, Englewood Christian Church, located in the Englewood neighborhood of Indianapolis, has tried to move away from this compartmentalized paradigm. The wisdom of the cross, he says, is pertinent to all aspects of life. “The world is fallen; and the way God has chosen to redeem the world is place by place, by gathering communities that together seek the common good, the redemption, the shalom of particular places.”


In his new book, Missional: Joining God in the Neighborhood, Alan Roxburgh writes that the way to know God is to “[enter] into the ordinary, everyday life of the neighborhoods and communities where we live.” He says later: “I’m appealing for the recovery of local and particular ways of calling forth the personal once more in the towns and neighborhoods where we live. For me, this is about dwelling among, working beside and eating at the table of the men and women who live in our communities, who long for the personal rather than the pitch.” Ben Katt, pastor of Awake Church in Seattle, talks about praying “the reverse prayer of Jabez”: “God, would you shrink my kingdom and focus so I give a damn about those around me?”

TAKING TIME OVER TIME One-size-fits-all success models don’t take the time to discover the assets, needs, history, diversity, traditions and values of a community. (Mike Bowling, pastor of Englewood Christian Church, describes this process as “exegeting the place.”) Models don’t take the time because they don’t have the time. When you believe you are racing the end of history, it is easy for efficiency to become an idol, and church can become just another Jesus-deliverysystem. Slow Church, in contrast, operates from a perspective of the superabundance of time. Jonathan Dodson, the pastor of Austin City Life church in Austin, Texas, puts it this way: “Time is a gift, not a burden. We have precisely as much as we need. Every second is a gift of God.” Serving, as we do, a God who acts in time but is yet unbound by it, we can afford to enter a neighborhood with the posture of the listener. We can start work we won’t see the end of. “Plant sequoias,” urges Wendell Berry:


Put your faith in the two inches of humus that will build under the trees every thousand years. A Slow Church philosophy enables us to settle into the good, long labor of spiritual formation. Kyle Childress, who has been the pastor of Austin Heights Baptist Church in Nacogdoches, Texas, for 21 years, says he knows there are people who come into his church at 11 o’clock on Sunday morning looking for a deep spiritual experience, but they want it instantaneously. They want a light show, exotic music and a dynamic speaker. “But there is so much about being a Christian that isn’t like that,” Childress says. “Slow Church is about taking the time with God, with one another and with yourself—and not only taking the time, but taking time over time. That makes a big difference. “The danger of Fast Church is what the poet Christian Wiman calls the ‘frantic instant’ of our culture,” Childress continues. “My concern is the difficulty in raising Christians who have both depth and strength to be sustained through good times and hard times—to be faithful and to be the Church whatever circumstances they are in. And I think that takes time.”

COMMON SPACE AND SHARED TRADITIONS Slow Church happens when people live, work, worship, eat, grow, learn, heal and play in proximity to each other, often outside the walls of the sanctuary. We are bound one to another, but a culture

*DISCUSS: What is the local “flavor” of your church? Does it have any?

built on speed—fast cars, fast food, fast computers and the fast track—wants to fling us out from the center like a centrifuge. Thus, to commit ourselves to nearness and stability, and to conversationally develop shared traditions, is to take a stand against alienation. It is a way of crafting a new, shared story for the community, while also connecting us to the cosmic Church across time and prefiguring the Kingdom of God. It is also an acknowledgement that our fates are wrapped up with the fates of our neighbors. As the prophet Jeremiah wrote in his letter to the exiles, “But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare” (ESV). Craig Goodwin is a pastor in suburban Spokane, Wash., and the author of Year of Plenty, a chronicle of the year his family lived by four simple but radical rules: buy local, buy used, homegrown and homemade. Goodwin says his church, Millwood Presbyterian, has wrestled with questions of what it looks like to move into the future, and what it

means to open themselves up to “the gift of alternative patterns.” What’s taken shape over the last five or six years, he says, is that Millwood has re-entered the neighborhood around the church. For example, the church converted a storefront it owned into a community youth center, which required the church to go out and meet the people and organizations who were already doing similar work in the area. This led to “generative conversations with them about where we live and what’s going on.” Several years ago, responding both to the interests of a teenager in the congregation and the needs of local farmers, Millwood started a farmers’ market in its parking lot. “Instead of us imposing our will,” Goodwin says, “we ended up being receptive to the possibilities that were already there.” More recently, the church has led a coalition of neighbors to help turn an old lot—once the town pumpkin patch before it was ruined by industrial use and left abandoned—into a thriving community garden. “There is a new story emerging that is reclaiming the old story, but there is a new story growing up around it as well.”* Goodwin believes for too long the emphasis has been on how to get people in the church, and how to keep them once they are inside. Goodwin thinks it’s time to shift our gaze outward. “One of the leadership challenges I see is how, in intentional ways,

we get the congregation out into the neighborhood and the community with the skills and capacities to pay attention to what God is up to, and where He is calling us to step in and respond.” It’s similar to something author and pastor Alan Hirsch tweeted recently: “Rather than simply adding one new location/campus to church, help every member see they are a location. This is true multi-site!”

BECOMING CO-PRODUCERS The Slow Food movement holds important lessons for the American church. First, it compels us to ask ourselves tough questions about the ground our faith communities have ceded to the cult of speed. Second, it invites all of us—clergy, theologians and laypeople—to start exploring and experimenting with the possibilities of

Slow Church. Not as another church growth model, but as a useful way of re-visioning what it means to be communities of believers gathered and rooted in particular places at a particular time. “Eating is an agricultural act,” Wendell Berry famously said, and Slow Food views consumers as active participants in the production process. An eater who knows where her food comes from, knows how it got to her table and supports local farmers becomes nothing less than a co-producer. Slow Church is more than a consumerist experience, and it goes beyond just offering people a safe haven on Sunday morning from the storms of Fast Life. Slow Church is a way of being authentically connected as co-producers to a Story that is as big as the planet (bigger) and as intimate as our own backyard. JOHN PATTISON is the co-author of Besides the Bible: 100 Books that Have, Should, or Will Create Christian Culture (Biblica, 2010). He lives in Silverton, OR with his wife and daughter.

*ACT: Take your team on a walk through the neighborhoods surrounding your church. Point out areas of need you see, or opportunities for new ministries that are specific to the area. When you get back, pray over what you saw and ask God to reveal particular ideas for ministry.

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1741, Jonathan Edwards preached a sermon called “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” climaxing with a powerful image: “The God that holds you over the pit of hell— much as one holds a spider or some loathsome insect over the fire—abhors you and is dreadfully provoked: His wrath toward you burns like fire; He looks upon you as worthy of nothing else but to be cast into the fire.”

Four centuries earlier, Dante painted hell as a multilayered underworld with a sign at its gates inviting those who enter to abandon hope. Dante depicted gluttons battered by unceasing rain, the greedy chained to the earth and sycophants swimming in gutters of filth. Less than a hundred years ago, C.S. Lewis illustrated hell as an ever-thinning shadow world in which the occupants became shades who either journeyed out and toward a purging, restorative heaven or else surrendered more and more of what once made them human. And John Milton, author of the epic poem Paradise Lost, asked, “What could be more just, than that he who sinned in his whole person, should die in his whole person?” Such portraits of hell have had powerful effects on Christians, and those who paint hell for their culture embrace a holy and weighty calling. But I

suspect many of us would not use all of the images above. I suspect we are each drawn to one or another, but not all—and the reason they do not all appeal to us is because these paintings are not consistent with one another. We might ask if hell is a natural consequence or a location specially created, a realm of evaporation or continuous torment or the reclamation of a soul or simply the grave—illustrations of hell vary in emphasis and specifics in the great writings of Christian history. Many of us who are pastors find ourselves debating over the best way to repaint the nature of hell to our churches and to our culture in a way that is both consistent with Scripture, while likewise portraying hell as the well-reasoned and exceedingly just response of the completely benevolent God who we experience in prayer and at the cross.

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FRANCIS CHAN or Francis Chan, speaking up about hell was nothing short of a call from God. He admits his own reluctance to delve into the fray and his fear of leading anyone astray, but says he just couldn’t shake the feeling that he had to address the topic.


Neue: Is it a coincidence you have a book coming out right after Rob Bell’s book on hell? Francis Chan: [His book] made me study again and go, “Gosh, I’m not so sure about some things anymore.” As I studied and as I got into it, I felt like, “I need to write something to this issue.” Hell isn’t something I normally think about—I almost try not to think about it. But then, as I was thinking through these thoughts, I realized, “This is a topic we avoid, and there really isn’t a lot written on the topic, at least to the mainstream.” I felt like God wanted me to write something about it. Is there a way to talk about hell that removes the fear people feel in having discussions one-on-one? If [Jesus] was trying to not have us feel any fear, I feel like He didn’t do a very good job at that. I read some of His statements and go, “Why would you say it that way?” It’s harsher than I think He’s normally portrayed as, and so I do think some of that fear is supposed to be in us. And yet at the same time, that’s what makes us love the cross, love Him. What do you feel the discussion on hell has exposed over the last few months? It shows how unhealthy we are as believers and as a body, especially here in the U.S. We don’t know how to 38

This year, no fewer than six major books are being published on hell—we are all aware of Rob Bell’s Love Wins, of course, but there are also books releasing by very well-known teachers and thought-leaders like Francis Chan, Tim Keller and Mark Galli. Such authors are rightly seeking to showcase both the vile weight of hell, while at the same time sketching images of hell they find worthy of devotion. These writers know our culture is deeply confused about why an exceptionally gracious God would punish someone eternally, and whether or not this is the best way to understand the biblical warnings of future judgment.

STAYING ON THE CANVAS From the first days of the Jesus movement, brief statements of faith (often called “creeds”) outlined the essential beliefs of Christianity. Like establishing the edges of a canvas, the creeds formed the boundaries within which one could dialogue about God and remain “a Christian.” The creeds establish orthodoxy— right thinking. As such, if I affirm beliefs that are contrary to the

creeds, at that moment I have entered a new playing field and I am no longer speaking of Christianity. I am discussing something else. “Orthodoxy” is essential when dialoguing about hell. For some, hell has been elevated into that realm of beliefs that make someone a Christian, and this is a massive mistake. Mark Galli, editor of Christianity Today and author of the new book God Wins (obviously a response to Bell’s polarizing Love Wins), rightly says Christians are not redeemed “by our views of hell, but by the work of Christ on the cross and in the resurrection. The question is not if one’s view of hell is ‘Christian,’ but is it faithful to the teachings of our Lord?”* We are not saved from hell by believing in hell. We are saved from hell by believing in the Lordship of

*DISCUSS: As a team, talk through the difference—how does this affect the way you approach discussions on hell (or anything that isn’t essential to salvation, for that matter)?

Jesus Christ. And that is a place of great hope for people like me. Years ago, I decided not to be a Christian anymore in part because of hell. After a few seasons of wrestling through my issues, I decided to follow Christ again, but hell has always been a topic of great difficulty. I’m a professor of philosophy and a pastor, and in order to move forward there have been times when I had to set the topic of hell on the backburner and simply shrug my shoulders in confusion and say, “Maybe I just don’t know stuff.” Perhaps that move didn’t make me a good pastor, but it allowed

and not like adversaries. We need to intentionally paint a view of orthodoxy that is both big enough to include disagreements on secondary matters and specific enough to showcase the God who is real. I suggest that moving forward means talking about the boundaries in which dialogue about God can take place. We need to establish how to walk hand and hand together during seasons of disagreement without pulling a gun every time someone floats a view that is different from ours. “We are kin,” Galli notes. “We cannot change that reality. We are one in Christ. The point is to recognize that right from the start and act like it. We can only stop being kin if one of us rejects Jesus.” Now does this mean hell isn’t important? Of course not. Hell is a topic Jesus said a great deal about. Our view of hell may drastically affect the spiritual formation of ourselves and others, and as such we are duty-bound to think hard about the interpretations of hell presently on the table.

WE NEED TO CREATE SPACE FOR CONFUSION, HESITANCY, REBUTTAL, DOUBT AND EVEN—DARE WE SAY— CREATIVITY. me to continue following Jesus—and I’m willing to take that step.* During that time, my community gave me space to go down the roads of doubt and confusion I needed to travel. They didn’t revoke my Christian ID or kick me off the island, and had I lacked such unflinching support to question and verbally wrestle with hell, I would not be a Christian now. Collectively, however, this has not been the case in the American Church. In a number of podcasts and blog entries I’ve seen over the past few months (especially in the aftermath of Love Wins), the salvation of folks who are clearly committed to the divinity and saving mercy of Jesus has been called into question—and it’s not just those who are writing books. Churches have fired staff, lead pastors have led interrogations, and there’s been a consistent move to form battle lines as if we were at war. We need a new path forward. We need to be able to both talk about issues like hell with passion and frankness, and we need to create space for confusion, hesitancy, rebuttal, doubt and even—dare we say—creativity. We must learn to dialogue like brothers and sisters

A DEAD OPTION AND FOUR LIVE ONES Recently in the discussion of hell, the term “Universalism” has been thrown about. Universalism is not a playing field. Universalism is about who gets saved, not about who God is. As such, one may be a Christian and a Universalist if one holds that each human being will, in the end, be redeemed by the power and saving work of Christ. One can honestly hold a view of hell as a place of both punishment and transformation, and think that the only God is the Father, Son and Holy Spirit reconciling the world to Himself. Though I personally reject Universalism, I think it can be squared with the essential claims found in the creeds, and as such I will outline one view of hell below—the rehabilitationist view— which, given the free choices of those in hell, could be a door that eventually leads to the salvation of all. But Universalism (the theory of salvation) looks a lot like Pluralism (the theory of reality). Pluralism is the most significant view discussed by Christians today that cannot be squared with the basic tenets of Christianity. Pluralism says that all “religions” are equally legitimate, each one moving humanity toward a common future. Pluralism denies that at the fulcrum center of reality is the Triune God rescuing His world and those He loves through the incarnation, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ—and as such those who embrace Pluralism have walked off of the Christian playing field, even if they continue to use words like “Jesus,” “God” and “salvation.” But there is a good and worthy debate about hell being firmly played on the field of orthodoxy. Unlike the recent Time magazine headline—“What If There’s No Hell?”—the question being asked in print recently in Christian circles is, “In which hell should we believe?” That is the debate taking place. The debate about hell is asking how we interpret God’s inspired, authoritative words. With Pluralism set aside, let’s look at the four primary contenders being debated.


ROB BELL erhaps no one is as responsible for the recent controversy on hell than Rob Bell. His book, Love Wins, was the first volley fired in a fierce debate that has consumed much of American Christianity over the past few months.


Neue: You have a lot of ideas—some become blogs, some become sermons and some become books. Why did this idea become the topic of a book? Rob Bell: My experience has been—as a pastor interacting with real people who are sort of across the spectrum in their various journeys of understanding—that what lingers behind most discussions and most conversations is the real question [of], what is God like? This book comes out of [my belief] that Jesus came to show us, teach us and invite us into relationship with a God who is good, and a God who is love. That is good news, and I believe the world desperately needs to hear it now more than ever. How has your theology of heaven and hell evolved over the years? One of the things I traced is that heaven and hell in the Bible are present realities, they are dimensions of existence, they are choices we can make every day. All of this arises out of my studies of the Scriptures and my interactions with people from across the depth and breadth of the Christian conversation. The dominant story of the Bible is a God who wants to restore and renew and reconcile and redeem this world, which is our home. In [Love Wins] I explore: “Here is every verse in the Bible in which hell is mentioned. Here are the actual Greek words. Here

*THINK: What do you think—does this make him a bad pastor? Is there room in the pastoral vocation for questions and doubts? How have you handled your own doubts while continuing to shepherd your church?

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FRANCIS CHAN disagree well. We revert to name-calling or labeling, belittling, versus really getting into the Word and loving each other, and saying, “Hey, let’s study this together a little bit more,” or, “Let’s talk through the issues a little bit more.” Everyone runs to their camp and I don’t know how open they are to really listening and to studying the Word deeply for themselves. Did your belief systems about hell change while researching for the book? Some things changed, some things I feel more strong about and other things I realized, “OK, I always thought that was a lot clearer than that,” and it wasn’t. Some of it’s what I said about Jesus’ words. If there’s a Francis Chan statement of faith about hell, what is it? That it’s very real. It is a place we need to avoid at all costs. It is a terrifying thought to fall into the hand of the Living God, as Scripture tells us. But I was also surprised these passages are written to people who call themselves “believers.” Usually we only talk about hell in this “I’m going to preach the Gospel and hell, fire and brimstone to these unbelievers” [way], but these passages really were written to those who called themselves the Church. It’s a very sobering thought and a very interesting warning.* Do you feel a holy responsibility to be a voice of truth about hell, based on the conversation happening in the Church? I do. This is not something I wanted to do. It really felt like a responsibility where I couldn’t sleep at night. [I] sensed the Lord wanting me to approach the subject. Part of me wonders: “OK, Lord, why did you want me to do this? Is it really that you wanted me to be the voice for this?” Some of me wonders if it was for me. Like, the Lord saying: “OK, you don’t think about this enough. You need to repent of some of these things.” That certainly has happened, and continues to happen. It’s really humbling. So, yeah, I do feel a calling. That’s what led me down the road. Are you more concerned about Christians, or how non-Christians might embrace a false reality? I’m most concerned about the people who don’t believe, and that they may have 40

HELL IS A PLACE OF UNENDING PUNISHMENT WHOSE FIRES TORMENT WITHOUT END This view asserts that in our world, many consciously rebel against God, and when God reclaims creation, such rebels will be imprisoned and punished indefinitely. Dr. Bobby Conway, author of Hell, Rob Bell, and What Happens When People Die, says: “Hell is an eternal place of conscious torment and separation from God, whereby God pours out His justifiable wrath on Satan, his demons and unrepentant sinners. … Scripturally speaking, hell is a place where one is punished for their sins. The greatest sin is rejecting God and His ways. In hell one gets what they want—an existence without God.” Why would God choose to create such a state of affairs for rebellious souls? In a recent online panel, pastor and author Tim Keller argues: “Anything less than endless punishment lessens sin and the God who has been sinned against. If you take away the infinitude of punishment, everything diminishes.” As such, there is no hope of escaping hell because God’s everlasting judgment on sin falls on those souls who have consciously united themselves to sin as their master. Hell, then, is the space such souls occupy. Hell entails “being shut out from the presence of the Lord” (2 Thessalonians 1:9) and cast “into the eternal fire” (Matthew 25:41). There are three primary objections this view of hell must overcome. Some suggest that “death,” not unending torment, is the Bible’s most common description of the future of the wicked. In fact, the Bible begins with God removing Adam and Eve from the garden precisely so they will not eat from “the Tree of Life” and live forever (Genesis 3:22-23). Apparently, living forever in a fallen condition would be awful, so at the outset of the human story God graciously removes that possibility. Secondly, because God in the age to come will both “reconcile all things to himself” and become “all and in all” (1 Corinthians 15:28), it seems there will be no space in reality for a realm of eternal punishing to exist. Lastly, we must give an answer to why God feels it necessary to sustain the life of the damned for trillions upon trillion of years. Has the local strip club owner (for example) so violated God’s moral expectations that the best response God can imagine is an eternity of torment and alienation? (In fact, prior to creation, God would know the names of those who would remain in rebellion, and as such, He would have created a large swath of humanity knowing their only possible future would be indefinite agony.) Critics of eternal conscious torment argue that creating such a hell is vicious and hardhearted, and since the Jesus of Scripture is neither vicious nor hardhearted, this interpretation of the Scriptures must be false. Even if we affirm the idea that those who sin against an “infinite” God deserve an “infinite” amount of punishment (which is certainly questionable), God may want to end such punishments at an appropriate time, either by ending the life of the damned or restoring them by His grace.

HELL IS A PLACE OF REHABILITATION WHOSE FIRES RESTORE THE DAMNED What I call the rehabilitationist view argues that, though the damned are punished in a state of alienation and torment after death, such fires have reconstructive power. The idea here is that human beings (both the rebellious and the faithful) are immensely

valuable to God and He wishes “all people to be saved” (1 Timothy 2:4). As such, hell is a location of transformation. Bell, for example, argues in Love Wins that the phrase often translated “eternal punishment” could be translated “a period of pruning.” Hell, then, has both a retributive and a restorative function, and it contributes to the vision of Paul who saw Christ “reconciling to himself all things” (Colossians 1:20). With this understanding, Dr. Robin Parry, author of The Evangelical Universalist, describes hell as “the eschatological climax of God’s wrath against sin. As a manifestation of God’s holy love, [hell] serves both as retribution against sin and as an educative experience, one in which the true nature of sin and its consequences are made manifest. … I see [this view of hell contributing to] the natural climax to the biblical metanarrative of creation, fall and redemption, the climax that makes the most sense of that story—all things are from Him (creation), and through Him (redemption), and to Him (eschatology).” A benefit of this view is that some find it closer to the character of Jesus and are able, for the first time, to celebrate the doctrine of

*ACT: Very few people discuss the warnings of hell as they pertain to believers. Do some research into passages about hell and note who they are for— believers or unbelievers.


ROB BELL is the word ‘forever.’ Here are the actual words.” And I try to help people [see]: “This is what the Bible actually says. Now, you’re free to believe whatever you want, but don’t make the Bible say things it doesn’t say.” Are these conclusions you came to years ago, or is this new to you? My growing understanding of what Jesus meant when He said certain things—my growing understanding of how the first-century Jewish world talked about this—this has all been the past 10 years, I would say. And then just the endless discussion and discovery of, “Oh, this is nothing new.” Lots of Christians have said, “Hey, wait a minute, perhaps we ought to think about it like this.” It all comes out of what is the story the Scripture is telling, what is Jesus calling us to, how did He talk about these things, and sort of that joy that comes from that relentless pursuit and discovery. And how many things are floating around in the culture, that are lingering there in the air about heaven and hell, that have no basis whatsoever in the Bible? My experience has been [that] when people are shown, “By the way, here are a couple passages, here are the roots of the passage, here is the first-century context,” it comes to life.

hell—for not only do such Christians want appropriate justice done, many long for those chained to sin to find final and decisive salvation. Hell in this view contributes to both. By experiencing hell, the damned are punished for sin but may move into a saving encounter with Jesus Christ. Problems with this view focus on the “eternal” ramifications of God’s judgments. Opponents believe God’s judgments are described as everlasting in their consequences. As one passage suggests, “People are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). Furthermore, Jesus spoke in one parable of a “fixed chasm” (Luke 16) that separated the redeemed and the damned, and this was not unique. Nearly 50 percent of Jesus’ parables are arguably about hell and judgment. We must ask, if hell was simply a

continued opportunity to find salvation, why would Jesus spend so much energy on warnings? What is the significant difference between this life and the next? Another primary problem is that the Bible concludes by describing a “lake of fire” (Revelation 20, 21:8)—a place into which death, the devil and those united to sin are cast. It seems that neither death nor the devil are being rehabilitated in the lake of fire, and so the function of the lake of fire (having been prepared for the devil, Matthew 25:41) is different than the reconstruction of a soul, which brings us to the next contender.

HELL IS A PLACE OF ANNIHILATION WHOSE FIRES CONSUME EVERYTHING WED TO SIN AND DEATH Those who hold the “annihilationist” position argue that only God is immortal (1 Timothy 6:16), and once one is separated from God, they are thereby separated from the source of life itself. This plays out in passages like John 3:16, which concludes, “whoever believes in [the Son] shall not perish but have everlasting life.” Some argue that phrases like “perishing,” being “altogether destroyed,” “vanishing like smoke” and “dust returning to dust” are the most common ways the Bible describes the future of the damned—and these descriptions imply evaporation.

Based on how you describe heaven and hell, what is your take on judgment day? Sometimes what develops is this sort of: “Man, I can’t wait for those people to get it. Judgment is when those bad people get it, you know, the ones who disobeyed God, the ones who failed to love and did all sorts of horrible things.” I would point out that one of the things Jesus warns us of again and again is this [thought], “Man, I can’t wait for those people to burn and fry ‘cause of all the stuff they did.” Central to Jesus’ call was confession and repentance and owning up to the ways our hands are not clean in this. We all have contributed to this. We all have disturbed the Shalom God intends for. So sometimes what you find out is people want to be off the hook for their own stuff, but they want other people to pay, and this is why we are at the mercy of God. How do you recommend a follower of Jesus wrestle with which areas they

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FRANCIS CHAN more of a passive attitude toward it, or answer flippantly like, “Yeah, I’m probably going to heaven,” or, “We’ll all get there” or something along those lines. This is a big deal. If there’s anyone I can influence in that way, I feel like I’ve got to try. If the texts are so clear, why are we all still disagreeing? I don’t want to guess at anyone’s motives. I know my own, and I know there are certain things I really, really want and wish to be true, and I know that gets in the way. I don’t want to look for, like, an obscure detail, or try to find some nuance in the language. I just read the Bible and go, “OK, if I read this 50 times on an island, what would I come up with?” I’ll look into the language, but I really don’t try to bring up some strange thing that a 15-year-old couldn’t come up with. It’s just [like], “Gosh, this seems like the obvious teaching of Scripture.” So that’s where I hang my hat. What influence do you think culture has had on our perception of hell? I think it’s huge, because our culture is very, very different from others. Like, for example, with the issue of authority. We don’t take authority seriously. The idea of authority and submitting to someone who’s over you, I know a lot of my friends struggle with that more because we live in a different culture. Do you think you could be wrong? Of course. I mean ... I could be wrong about salvation. I’ve said things that are wrong, and I want to be very, very careful. If I tell someone there’s a hell and there really isn’t, I’ve ruined their lives. They carry this unnecessary burden for the whole time they’re on Earth. I slander God. And at the same time, if I say there is no hell, and there is, then by the time people figure it out, the ones I’ve convinced ... I don’t even want to think about the consequences. I worked pretty hard on this one. I prayed pretty hard. I’m praying this is right. The whole time, every day: “Lord, don’t let me say anything, don’t let me write anything that’s not true about you. I don’t want to get anything wrong. Please, please don’t let me say anything about you that’s not true … especially in this area.” 42

We see this in the words of Jesus, who said that at the end of this age the angels will gather humanity up and those who serve sin will be cast into a fiery furnace (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43)—which to many sounds more like incineration than imprisonment or rehabilitation. Furthermore, Jesus implores us to fear the one who can “destroy both body and soul in hell” (Matthew 10:28). The word here for “destroy” is also translated “execute,” “drown,” “kill,” “bring to end” and “lose” in the NIV. On this view, hell is an “everlasting punishment,” for the consequence of hell—annihilation—cannot be erased. Popular advocates of this view include Greg Boyd and John Stott.

all people, as I believe that He does, then when God annihilates a sinner He is, in effect, giving up His attempts to save that person. Rather than seeking the lost sheep ‘until he finds it’ (Luke 15:4), He seeks the lost sheep for a while and then, if it won’t come home, He shoots it.” Furthermore, it must be noted that a majority of both Christian scholars and saints throughout history seem to have held to a traditional view of hell as a place of everlasting, conscious punishment, and it would be awkward to say all such folks were wrong about a fairly important matter. Given the worthy arguments and refutations of the positions above, we might add a fourth take on hell.

HELL IS A REALITY WHOSE DETAILS HAVE NOT BEEN CLEARLY TOLD It is not necessarily evasive to say the true nature of hell is not revealed in a way that is plain and decisive. It could be the case that the biblical language concerning hell gives us a clear warning that without faith in Christ something very bad will happen, but what the details of that badness are we cannot know. It may in

PERHAPS GOD THINKS FAMILY-AFFIRMING LOVE IS A BIT MORE IMPORTANT THAN HAVING A BODY OF PERFECT DOCTRINAL AGREEMENT. Edward Fudge, whose extensive study, The Fire That Consumes, has been recently updated and re-released, argues: “Hell is the place of final punishment—in this case, capital punishment—by which the wicked are destroyed totally and forever. This does not necessarily occur instantaneously, though it might. The destructive process allows ample room for the precise type, intensity and duration of conscious torment that is consistent with perfect divine justice in each individual case. However, in Scripture, the emphasis is not on the conscious pain but on the final result, which is dissolution and destruction.” Critics argue that annihilation is problematic in verses that imply the continued existence of those in hell. Jesus said, “Their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:48), and Revelation 14:9-11 speaks of those persons who worshiped the beast being “tormented with burning sulfur. … The smoke of their torment rises forever and ever.” As Parry argues, “If God desires to save

fact be a sign of hermeneutical humility to only go as far as the Bible takes us and not overreach. Critics of what we might call “the agnostic view” contend that the Bible is clear on hell, and that disagreements are either a failure of scholarship or an unwillingness to embrace what the text says. Though even the strongest portrait of hell probably won’t be able to answer every question. It seems even if we have a robustly defined view of hell, some things are clearly unknown.*

GROANING FORWARD I know about theological disagreements. My 4-year-old son thinks heaven is in the clouds. I can’t convince him otherwise. He’s pretty set on this view, and he’s spreading his lies at preschool. Since he won’t listen to me, I have decided to call him out online. I tweet about him regularly. I make sure his real views are exposed on his Wikipedia page. He was recently caught in a video that made him look quite foolish, ranting about his heaven-is-really-in-the clouds view. I quickly posted the video everywhere I could so all my friends and colleagues could see his error, but it’s gotten so bad recently that I’m now looking at ways to remove him from our church. Of course, I’m a committed Christian and I’m doing it all out of love. There’s a reason the story above is ridiculous (and fictitious, by the way) and it’s not about my son’s age. Make my 4-year-old 40 and the way I relate to him is still unacceptable—because he is my son and I should respond to him with class, with unflinching care, and defend him even when I think his beliefs are misguided. The fact that we are family makes the way we handle our disagreements different than how I handle issues with those

*ACT: After reading the four view of hells, which resonates with you the most? Least? Find a book or article on each view and research it more thoroughly. Dialogue with others about the views (dialogue, don’t argue) as you continue to work out your own position on the topic.


ROB BELL should say, “I know this to be a fact” or to say: “It could be. Maybe.” I always begin with your own experience of the resurrected Christ. I’d always begin with your own story. And the power of your own story being retold. Your sins, failures, shortcomings, conflicts, things that totally blew up in your face, your victories, your achievements, all of it—Jesus wants to retell your story, and He wants to retell it through the lens of grace and love. I think grand declarations about who will burn forever and who will not, something within us says: “That’s not my job. That is not something that Jesus calls me to do, I don’t have to make that kind of declaration.” I think you can hold up Jesus as the way, the truth and the life. You can speak of Him as the unique, singular revelation of God and you can still create all sorts of space, and you can in all humility say: “There are a bunch of other questions I can’t answer. All I know is I’ve met Him, and it’s saving me, and I think He wants to save the whole world.” I think for a lot of Christians, that wasn’t enough. You also had to make grand declarations about all sorts of other people, and something within you says: “I do? I have to make those kind of judgments? I do, really? And if I don’t, I’m not a real Christian?” That needs to be challenged. That just needs to be challenged. Do you think you could be wrong that you don’t get a second chance to choose heaven or hell? Of course. We are speculating about exactly how it unfolds. That’s what we are doing, so the most important thing is to be honest about what we are doing. And we have to begin with humility. Sometimes the question simply is, “Well, if that’s true, we’re all actually really screwed.” We will have far larger problems than some pastor from Grand Rapids saying some stuff, if in the end God turns out to be something other than love or goodness, and love doesn’t win, and we don’t have choice. And I believe people will; people choose hell now, I assume people, when you die, you can choose hell. So there is no denial of hell here. There is a very real awareness that this is a clear and present reality that extends on into the future. 44

outside my home. Notice, family is a huge idea in the Bible. The word adelphos—“brothers and sisters”—is used more than 200 times to describe our relationship with one another once we commit ourselves to Jesus. “In this, as in all disagreements, the idea is to remain both truthful and charitable,” Galli notes. “To be charitable does not necessarily mean to be nice, but it does mean we are called to be loving. The issue is to speak with one another as family, which means no matter how heated the conversation becomes, we cannot let go of one another.” The transformation and fusion of different kinds of people into one body is the central work of God in our world. God created the universe for no other purpose than to make a community of renewed, joy producing, mutually dependent, self-sacrificial persons with Himself as the center, sustainer and chief inhabitant. Yet looking at the Church today, it would seem the one thing we are not is a family. Given our current situation and our history, Christians apparently

love to tear each other down for self-serving, unnecessary reasons. We have not mastered the art of disagreeing in worldchanging, iron-sharpening-iron ways. Our pursuit of “Truth” has often turned into vicious, unreflective smears, and our all-toopublic condescension gives evidence to doubters that Jesus is not Lord, that His Spirit is not at work and that we remain a fractious, argumentative, self-absorbed clan. This is unacceptable. We must allow disagreements and wrestling within the bounds of creedal thought. Every person comes to the dialogue about God with different pasts, different assumptions, different struggles and issues that the Spirit is working them through—and that is a great good. When wrestling through issues together, let’s allow humility to wash over our thought life. More important still, the recent commotion about hell is providing a brilliant opportunity for us to boldly care even for those brothers and sisters we disagree with most—and perhaps God thinks family-affirming love is a bit more important than having a body of perfect doctrinal agreement. For unity is a Spirit-Induced miracle. And like all miracles, this one will display for the world the God who is real. JEFF COOK (@jeffvcook) teaches philosophy at the University of Northern Colorado. He is the author of Seven: The Deadly Sins and the Beatitudes (Zondervan 2008), now an audiobook with the music of Tim Coons.



Kyle Idleman, teaching pastor of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Ky., had a major realization while preparing an Easter message: He was preaching the wrong Jesus. As a result, his new book, Not a Fan, asks Christians to be followers of Christ instead of “fans.” Here, he discusses guiding his church from fans to followers and why it’s hard for the American church to embrace the crosses of Christ. You talk about a moment in the days leading up to an Easter service that changed everything for you. What was that moment? I went to plant a church when I was pretty young and just didn’t have much idea of what I should be doing. And so, in my mind the simple equation was, “If people come, then the church will work,” but really, without knowing it, I adopted a paradigm where I was trying to make the Gospel as attractive as possible. Telling the truth but just highlighting the parts I knew people would like, while making the rest of it kind of small print, and [I] just learned that this works. 46

I had this moment that changed everything on an Easter week. I didn’t know what I was going to talk about. I was hoping to get a little inspiration, so I go into the sanctuary and just sat there wondering, “OK, what should I say to get people to come back?” I opened up the Bible and I was just looking at some of the different places where Jesus taught, where He had the big crowds. I started to jot down the references, and as I looked at it closely I realized that most of the time when He had the big crowds, when it seemed like He was at the height of His popularity in ministry, He would say something that caused a large amount of the crowd to go home, and He didn’t necessarily chase after them.

I specifically turned to John 6, and was studying where Jesus gives a pretty difficult teaching, and the Bible says from this point on, a lot of people no longer followed Him. In the sanctuary what struck me was that it could become like a stadium. A stadium full of fans who cheer for Jesus, but are not necessarily following Him.*

What do you think keeps the average follower of Jesus from making that full-life commitment to follow Jesus? I think we are afraid of what we’re going to miss out on if we go all in. You see it with marriage, where a husband or a wife doesn’t fully commit

*ACT: This Sunday, ask yourself if your church is more of a stadium or a sanctuary. Are people there to actively worship and follow Jesus, or merely to cheer Him on?

Is there a practical tool you used within your church to get people to be more honest with their own selfassessment, or is that just part of the DNA of your culture? What we did was look at the different Gospels, and what I try and do in the book is look at different encounters Jesus has with people in the Gospels where He essentially says, “Are you going to step across the line or not?” And then from there, asking some questions like, “What are you giving your time and money to?” Because that tends to point to who or what we are following. “What gets you most excited? What are you most passionate about?” And then looking at a relationship with Jesus and then saying, “OK, have I confused knowledge with intimacy?” In large parts, we equate knowing about Jesus with knowing Jesus, and knowledge and intimacy are not necessarily the same thing.

What are some other shifts that you’ve had to make as a church to fall in line with this idea of trying to get a whole church community to completely follow Jesus?

because they’re afraid that by committing, they’re going to miss out. Of course, what you discover is that it’s only by fully committing, fully engaging, that you discover the joy of the relationship. We’re afraid of what we’re going to have to give up. Fans want to follow Jesus, but they want to follow Him close enough to get the benefits without following Him so closely that it requires pain or it requires sacrifice, or it takes something from them. I think the challenge is to help people see that by going all in, it’s only then that you discover the life that is full in Christ, that surrender and dying to ourselves is really the key to finding life.

You know, I think we needed to address how we measured our relationship with Jesus, because if you ask the average person in our church, and probably most churches, “Are you a follower of Jesus?” it almost seems like a rhetorical question. They dismiss it because [they think], “Yeah, I’m a follower of Jesus.” But how do we measure that? Because what we’ve found is that in large parts, the reason why people considered themselves as such is because of cultural comparisons. They would compare themselves to the commitment levels of other people around them. I’ve found in talking to folks that if you are measuring your relationship with Jesus by comparing yourself to others, then that’s pretty self-indicting.

When you think about your role as a pastor within your church community, at what point do you talk about coming and dying as a follower of Jesus rather than, “Hey, just come and live”? Jesus as an example seemed very comfortable with people coming to hear His teaching and to see the miracles, to receive the free bread for a while. But then at some point He wants to challenge them about where the relationship stands. He wants to have that “define the relationship” moment with them. One of the things we have

tried to do through this is share stories of people who have gone down this path. You hear a mom whose son is handicapped and disabled, and she talks about the fact that before the accident she had a relationship with Jesus, she went to church, but she didn’t really know what she believed. But then something happened, this tragedy took place, and suddenly all her religion wasn’t enough. You hear that story and it begins to make sense to people who may not understand the terminology of dying to self or carrying a cross. When you hear someone share their journey from fan to follower, I think it’s a great way to help people understand the spirit, the heart of what you’re trying to communicate.

Has the Church done a sort of baitand-switch with people, selling the Jesus life that’s easy and comfortable, or do you think people have chosen the things they want to apply? Well, I think it’s both because of the culture that we live in. We love to be comfortable, and we want to relax. We like to make sure we’re taken care of, and so I think the culture we live in, it almost seems intuitive that, of course, we’re meant to be comfortable, and that’s the best way to approach the Gospel. The challenge is that what you win [people] with is usually what you win them to. What I see happen with a lot of our college students is that they get out, they experience some suffering, they go through some difficulties and they’re no longer fans of Jesus. They were fans when everything was good, but suddenly their faith is challenged in one way or another, and [that] didn’t match up with the faith they were presented with, with the Gospel they were taught. I think it’s a challenge of our culture. But I would say one of the most surprising things to me about this message, about challenging people to follow Jesus completely, is how hungry our folks were for that. I wasn’t sure how they would respond; I probably wasn’t very optimistic about it. But what I discovered is that they really wanted it. They knew there was more than just raising their hand at the end of a sermon and repeating a prayer, or setting their ringtone to a worship song. They knew there was more than that. And so, it seems to me that they were very much ready to be challenged with, “OK, this is what it means to follow Christ, and here are the implications, and they may not always be comfortable.”

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ver the past half-decade or so, a growing number of evangelical churches have begun investing deeply into the underserved, the marginalized and the under-resourced of their communities. This is something more than simply welcoming a guest with a warm cup of designer coffee or the occasional feeding of the homeless. This is about the local church becoming the literal “hands and feet of Jesus” to the widows,


L O C A L orphans and poor in their backyard. The results of this idea might include members of your church coaching basketball for immigrant children, starting urban gardens whose proceeds are used to feed the homeless, or even selling their homes and moving into the apartment complex on the other side of the tracks. In other words, it means people interpreting quite literally Eugene Peterson’s take on John 1:24: “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.” Local churches are finding new ways to serve—not in an effort to grow, but simply to serve. They are partnering with local schools, local governments and community leaders to bring something to those who have nothing. They are setting aside their “inspired” agendas and their prejudiced ideas of what or who is salvageable in an effort to bring hope back to the community in which they live. They are, as one revolutionary friend of mine puts it, “creating opportunities for the Gospel to be heard and seen.” The idea of local churches investing into their community is not new. In fact, local partnerships are not all that revolutionary, although I would argue they are still far too rare within the American church. Where this idea moves into the realm of revolutionary is when churches begin applying the lessons learned through the local partnership model to their global missions efforts. Historically, partnerships between the local church and the global church have proven to be problematic. As a result, many partnerships have been marred by broken promises, hidden


agendas and unmet expectations. American churches have often overpromised and under-delivered. In an effort to help, some real damage has been done over time to communities and people groups around the world. Justin Narducci, the director of partnerships and resources for Life in Abundance International, explains it this way: “There is a tendency for American churches to get directly involved with the communities they seek to serve, without having any sort of ministry partner to provide technical and programmatic assistance. Time and time again, I have seen the relationship between the ‘local pastor’ and the American church become strained over conversations about money, needs and expectations that weren’t fulfilled.” Fortunately, this trend is changing. As church leaders engage with the call of the Church to serve the widows and the orphans around the

O B A L world, the local church is embracing the big problems facing the world and is finding a cause, an issue, a community or a people to serve. As a result, churches are shifting their strategies away from financially supporting a menu of fractional missionaries in different parts of the world. Instead, churches are focusing on an area of passion, and they are making long-term commitments to effect change. They are once again “moving into the neighborhood.” However, this time, rather than risk further damage or continuing to waste God’s resources, successful church partnerships are turning to like-minded organizations that possess the experience and wisdom needed to help them build effective global partnerships. “We long for local American churches to take back the mantle of ‘ownership’ for ministry among the most vulnerable,” says Damon Schroeder, the director of U.S.


church mobilization for World Relief. “Historically, the Church has delegated this type of work to agencies like ours. A partnership— which combines loving the most vulnerable, redeveloping church-owned mission and employing agency-equipped skills—is a tremendous foundation for transformational mission here and around the globe.”

THE FUTURE OF GLOBAL MISSION WORK There is no more effective tool for global change than the local church. History has proven that when the Church unites around a need and moves in conjunction with the will of God, it can make a tremendous difference. “This three-way partnership is very important,” says Brandon Baca, senior director of development for Living Water International. “The Church is the physical representation of hope and redemption in the world, and, as a result, we believe the best partner we as an organization can have is the Church.” The harsh reality of this calling is that the problems Christians seek to solve are big and overwhelming, but this must not stop them from acting. The Church cannot sit on the sidelines any longer when it comes to these generational, global problems. Christians must engage with the poor and the thirsty. If they don’t, who will? The burden of responsibility is not dependent upon the size of the church or the number of resources available. Take, for example, the global water crisis. This is a huge problem; it impacts more than 1 billion people. Every day, water-

related diseases claim the lives of 5,000 children under the age of 5. It is a massive problem, but experts insist it is solvable. In fact, many believe the local church could solve this problem. How is that possible? How can an individual church tackle this global problem? It can’t. Individually, churches can’t solve the water crisis, but together and with the right partners, they can.* “We need the Church to continue leading the movement to end the global water crisis,” Baca says. “We need the Church to partner in a way that communicates to a region or people group, ‘We love you and we are going to journey with you for a long time.’ Imagine the impact of a church staying connected to a community long enough to see an entire generation of kids who have never had to drink dirty water from contaminated, handdug wells.” So, where to start? Schroeder suggests Christians can “start by finding God’s heart on the role of the Church in loving the stranger, poor, widow and orphans.” “Our theology has to guide and direct our practice of justice, mercy and humility,” he says. “That is the difference between joining the latest Christian ‘cause’ fad and bringing the Kingdom among the

*DISCUSS: Talk to your team about different nonprofit organizations you should look into partnering with—both locally and globally. Pray about what those partnerships could look like over time.

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most vulnerable. Second, expect God is already at work among the most vulnerable before planning anything. Find where He is working by listening and learning first, and commit to becoming an ‘insider’ rather than an ‘outsider.’ ”

MAKING THE PARTNERSHIP WORK For a partnership to have the best shot at working, it must start with two equally important questions. On the surface these questions seem simple, but they are complex and difficult to deal with. They are messy and often intimidating, but without them there is no partnership. The partnership begins by asking, “What do you need?” and, “What do you have?” These two questions should be asked early and often. They should be the filters through which everything else must pass. Once these questions have been asked, those in the local American church must then do something that may require tremendous effort: be quiet and simply listen. It is imperative to fight the urge to respond with, “Great, but we could also …?” or, “That’s nice, but have you thought about …?” Hear me when I respectfully say, “No, you can’t” and, “Yes, they have.” This is where good partnerships often go wrong. For a partnership to grow, the local church must do something it does not like to do: listen. Western Christians must put aside their own agendas in favor of building a relationship. It’s easy to get carried away with the desire to help, and to start injecting ideas into the mix. Church partnerships require the breaking down of the typical benefactor-beneficiary relationship. It is here, in this side-by-side working relationship, where things start to change. Walls come down, prejudices are broken, lives are changed when everyone becomes equal in spirit as they seek to serve one another. “When the American church looks at the widow and the orphan, I want them to be moved to respond, but I also want them to do so in a way that realizes their response is not simple and is likely just the tip of the iceberg,” Narducci says. “Billions of dollars and millions of good intentions have been spent in relief work, but we all know that 90 percent of the iceberg is underneath the surface. Our investments in orphans and widows should follow suit.”

CHANGE THE WORLD, ONE CHURCH AT A TIME I know from personal experience how difficult this can be. I recently returned from my second trip to India in two years. The church I serve, in conjunction with Compassion International, is establishing a church-to-church partnership with a local church near Kolkata. This trip was designed to further ask the question, “What do you need?” No tasks, in the traditional American sense, were to be scheduled. We were simply going to build the relationship. As the trip got closer, I experienced strong tension from team members and people in the church to define the purpose of the trip. We want measurable goals; we have a need to justify the expense, but this trip had nothing measurable to it. As the departure date approached, a revised agenda was sent to me, and on it were these words: “Saturday—paint the church walls.” For years I have been conditioned to know a successful mission trip required me to paint something, so on some level


this was a relief to me. However, I also knew this trip needed to be something different. In my frustration I reached out to Compassion’s relationship director, Mark Gehri, and he provided some very sound advice. “When you start painting, look around, and if there are as many Americans with paint brushes as there are Indians, then you have a partnership.” I remembered that advice on Saturday when I looked up and saw Indian women in their colorful saris painting side by side with their American counterparts. Great church partnerships will accomplish great, long-lasting and life-changing things only if—and this is a big if—there are as many of you holding paint brushes as there are of them. “The global church is going to work arm and arm in this work, putting aside years of paternalism and realize our common brokenness and passion to see God’s Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven,” Narducci says. “There won’t be room in this equation for heroes or Christians wanting to write a memoir—just broken people who can serve effectively by serving together.”

HOW TO START Changing the world is a very big and bold idea. Each of you is surrounded by huge issues and staggering concerns. The problems are immense and numerous. Every day, fantastic causes come across your desk; countless requests for your attention and the attention of your church pull you in different directions. I am simply suggesting you pick one. Just pick one. Maybe it starts in your own backyard with an immigrant community, maybe it starts with water, maybe it starts in Africa or maybe it starts with something totally unique to you. But every body of believers must develop a heart for something or someone beyond the walls of their local church. You simply cannot let the bigness of the problem or the smallness of your resources stop you from acting on your God-

given responsibility to serve the poor among you. Arguably, one of the greatest expressions of Jesus’ compassion for the physical needs of people is found in the feeding of the 5,000. Jesus recognized that people were hungry and wanted to make sure they ate. He identified a need, but notice how He solves this big problem. He first gathers His partners. Then He asks, with what I am sure was a half-cracked smile, “How much money do we have?” The implication to His disciples was, maybe we can buy our way out of this problem. He knew the answer to this question before He asked, but He wanted His disciples to wrestle with the concept first. Then He does something really important. He sent them to find out what the people needed and what they had. After the disciples gathered up the available resources, Jesus did what He does best. He multiplied what they had over and over and over again until everyone was fed. I don’t think anyone wants to settle for anything less than changing the world, but over time it’s easy to lose the drive for the revolutionary idea. For some, cynicism prevents them from seeing the revolutionary. Fortunately, there is hope even in the huge task. “Remember, it is about relationships,” Baca says. “Deep connections over the long haul result in long-lasting transformation. The relationships you cultivate with your mission partner, the community or country you are serving and the local church will be the difference between success and failure. No one is perfect, so look to stay connected through success and failure. Failure is as much a part of community transformation as success. Finally, let me say this: You don’t have to change the whole world to change the world.” You don’t have to change the whole world to change the world. It is imperative that those in the American church ask these relevant questions. That is the local church’s role. It is fully God’s responsibility to do the multiplication. I believe there are only two options when faced with, as Tim Keller calls them, “the quartet of the vulnerable”—the poor, the immigrant, the widow and the orphan—to turn away, to ignore the problems and hope to God someone else will come along to pick up the broken pieces. Or to seek to change the world, one glass of water, one village or one person at a time.

DAVE DAVIS is the executive pastor at Parkview Community Church in the western suburbs of Chicago. He and his wife have three girls: two in Glen Ellyn, IL, and one in India. Twitter: @DavidDavis


The classic business leadership book, in which Collins addresses one major question: How can a good company transition into a great company? Collins and his team set out on a five-year research project comparing teams that made the leap from good to great with those who did not. Good to Great is filled with relevant examples, innovative ideas and clear data to support the conclusions. Phrases from the book are now standard vernacular in offices and organizations. Good to Great challenges leaders in the discipline it takes to leap toward greatness.



Leaders are readers. You’ve probably heard that all your life. And, as with many well-worn clichés, there’s truth to the words. Reading expands your imagination, engenders empathy and challenges lazy thinking. Whether it’s fiction, biographies, books on business, leadership, marketing or innovation— constant reading means constant growth.


There’s never a lack of good books being published, but there are also certain books that stand the test of time; classics worth reading again—or for the first time. While there are hundreds of great books to choose from, we’ve tried to narrow it down to what we consider the 10 best books on leadership for leaders. Here they are (in no particular order):

Maxwell has written countless leadership books, but this one stands out above the rest. In The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, Maxwell reveals 21 life-changing principles necessary for successful leadership. He communicates that these 21 laws of leadership can be learned, stand alone, carry consequences with them and are the foundation of leadership. This book challenges leaders to dive in and discover how to embody “laws” and concepts such as influence, navigation, respect, intuition, empowerment and sacrifice.


Hybels has forgotten more about leadership than most of us will ever learn. His influence on church leadership over the last 40 years is significant. In Courageous Leadership, Hybels explains that when the spiritual gift of leadership comes alive in churches everywhere, the Church will become the hope of the world and a most influential force for good. He insists that using and maximizing your spiritual gifts of leadership is absolutely essential. Hybels breaks down simple concepts and gives readers insight on how to discover their own leadership styles, make decisions and develop other leaders. Courageous Leadership equips readers with the tools needed to lead in the most effective and influential way possible.


the subtitle: “How to Win Business and Influence Friends.”


In this book, Stanley addresses facets of leadership such as character, clarity, courage, coaching and competency. He says these five principles are the keys to influencing future leaders. Stanley uses stories about biblical leaders like David (courage), Joshua (clarity) and King Rehoboam (paying heed to elders) to illustrate these concepts. The Next Generation Leader shows readers how to discover their strengths, harness their fears, leverage uncertainty, enlist a leadership coach and maintain moral authority.


This book is truly a gamechanger for leaders looking to understand themselves and their team better. Most of us have probably taken the StrengthsFinder assessment sometime in the last 10 years. In this follow-up, Buckingham and Clifton propose a unique and rare approach to effectively managing (and motivating) personnel. They explain the key to motivating people is to build on their strengths. The most effective way to motivate is not by correcting or eliminating weakness but by drawing and expanding on people’s best qualities and traits. Buckingham and Clifton share that capitalizing on present strengths is key for knowing how to lead. This book encourages leaders to look within while providing clear direction for applying its lessons.


I first heard about this book in 2003 when we had Sanders speak at Catalyst. His message of abundance was revolutionary. I still continue to recommend this book almost 10 years later. In Love Is the Killer App, Sanders tells readers how to get ahead by helping others. He introduces acronyms such as NSPS (Nice, Smart People Succeed) and DREAM (Differentiation, Relevance, Esteem, Awareness, Mind’s eye). Love Is the Killer App shows that by practicing the core concept of selflessness, you can indeed live up to


Gladwell is one of my favorite authors, period. He is a master researcher, storyteller and cultural influencer. The Tipping Point is a book about change. Specifically, it’s a book that presents a new way of understanding why change occurs as often, quickly and unexpectedly as it does. Gladwell uses in-depth research to identify three key concepts that each help determine whether a certain trend will “tip” into wide-scale popularity. The Tipping Point looks into issues and occurrences such as crime spikes in New York City, smoking patterns among young teens and TV ratings, all the while noting their impact as “social epidemics.” Most importantly, Gladwell identifies the leaders and networks that help tip ideas and movements toward large-scale impact, and ultimately helps readers figure out how to start a positive epidemic of their own.


SETH GODIN Godin continues to impact millions of leaders around the world through his books, his popular blog and speaking. In Tribes, Godin explains why you should act on your lifelong dreams. He focuses on leadership, new innovation and word-of-mouth marketing strategies, and shares how to “launch your tribal movement.” Godin defines a tribe as a group of people who are connected to one another, a leader or an idea. He writes, “Becoming such a leader, being charismatic, being positive and being active are all choices you make, not gifts you receive.” Godin says the world (and your tribe) needs these kinds of leaders, and you can become that by shining a light, building a tribe and making a difference.


One of the best books I’ve found regarding the spiritual aspect of leadership, In the

Name of Jesus is just one of more than 40 books written by Nouwen. I believe this is one of his best. The heart of the book is centered around the three temptations of Jesus. Nouwen teaches that to each temptation there is a correlating spiritual discipline that serves as a remedy. In the Name of Jesus presents Nouwen’s definition of successful leadership and how to measure it against a society that thinks effectiveness is everything. Nouwen describes that successful leadership is measured by a “communal and mutual experience” and that it cannot function without community.


CRAIG GROESCHEL It’s a known fact that people are drawn to churches and ministries for many different reasons. Groeschel describes the most influential reason as “IT.” In Groeschel’s book It, he focuses on the many facets of “what IT is and where IT came from.” He provides examples of people and places who have IT, who have lost IT and have gotten IT back. This book explains how vision, focus, humility and Kingdom-mindedness are necessary to obtain IT. Groeschel is direct but lighthearted and keeps readers on their feet. With input from leaders such as Mark Driscoll, Perry Noble, Tim Stevens, Mark Batterson, Jud Wilhite and Dino Rizzo, It is fully packed with instructions on how to obtain IT, keep IT and use IT.


DR. HENRY CLOUD It’s tough for me to leave this book out of the top 10 list because I believe integrity is essential for young leaders. This book pushes leaders to evaluate the true meaning of character. Cloud explains that our character, the ability to meet the demands of reality, determines our integrity. Cloud insists that integrity is more than simple honesty and morality. It is, when obtained, the key to success. BRAD LOMENICK is the co-founder and executive director of Catalyst, a conference seeking to create “change agents” throughout the Church and to ignite the next generation of leaders.

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omentum is the leader’s best friend. As Dave Ramsey says, it makes you look smarter than you really are, and better than you’ve ever been. But if momentum is the leader’s best friend, then getting “stuck” is the leader’s nightmare. When a team gets stuck, doldrums set in. Motivation drops. And what was once fun and full of progress is now languishing and filled with pain. Workforces are demoralized, people get anxious and nerves wear thin. If that happens in corporate America, it certainly happens in the nonprofit and church world, where team compensation and viability rests upon the public’s ability to give away money. So how do you change the emotional vibe of your team when times are tough? How do you lift the spirits of a church staff that is going through a valley? How do you motivate people who are stuck? And how do you do so without spending a lot of money? Good leaders are asking this question, and wise ones are figuring out answers. As our firm— the Vanderbloemen Search Group—helps staff churches, we are seeing some really great answers to beating the “stuck” epidemic from some of the best churches around. Here are a few keys we have identified through work with our clients. While these practices may sound corporate or clinical, we see them working, especially when they are undergirded with great spiritual leadership, biblical teaching and prayer.


MAKE SURE YOUR TEAM IS LOOKING UP Smart leaders spend an inordinate amount of time focusing their team on the eternal impact of the mission. When the team is looking up to the highest prize, the scuttle and drags on the ground are much easier to navigate. Consider the pyramids of Egypt, and that literally thousands of lifetimes were given to create a space for what—a dead body? One might wonder why they spent so much time and energy building

a funeral home. The answer, as so many have noted, is that the Egyptians knew they would spend far more time on the other side of life than on this one. As Bill Hybels has said, “God placed eternity in their hearts.” The ancient Egyptians had a tremendous sense of purpose, and much of that purpose was derived from their work in and on the pyramids. These folks had confidence and hope about the future because they knew they had built a secure place in which they could spend eternity—hope in the future in the middle of a land whose fortunes rose and fell on a creek bed. That’s impressive. In short, focusing on eternal goals makes people stronger and more willing in the daily grind. How can you focus your team on the eternal impact of your work as a ministry? Central Christian in Las Vegas is one of our favorite clients. With around 20,000 attending each week, the church is booming and growing. Las Vegas, however, is really hurting. Many economists say Vegas has had a bigger economic hit than any major city in the country. So how do you motivate a team to work harder on fewer dollars? Central does a whole lot right, but one thing I’ve noticed is their relentless focus on the eternal difference their work is making. Baptism Sunday has become a spiritual payday for staff. If you talk to their staff, everyone is clear about the real difference the church is making, and the staff has been able to do more ministry than ever on fewer resources than ever. Another client who has gotten busier and busier in the last few years has taken a counterintuitive step: They’ve upped the frequency of their corporate prayer time, and allowed more individual prayer time during the workday. Their pastor tells me the increase on spiritual focus and health has led to greater motivation and productivity. Instituting such steps is another example of a team looking up and finding motivation.*

WALK IN YOUR TEAM’S SHOES Every good marketer will tell you there’s a universal principle to marketing momentum: “Get in your customers’ shoes.” We do this all the time with church design, service design, sermon planning and any other area of the service that people will see or hear. We ask ourselves, “What will people connect with in this service?” or, “How will parents feel about our children’s area?” When is the last time you thought about your team and asked similar questions—when have you put on their shoes and asked yourself the hard question: “Am I asking too much for the place my people are in?” This year, on Sunday night of Easter, I sent an individualized text to most of the senior pastors of our client churches. I’ve been a senior pastor for more than 15 years, so I know the post-Easter feeling. My text simply said: “Hey. Three quick things for you tonight: 1. Know that I prayed for you—particularly for your rest tonight and tomorrow, 2. Don’t make ANY decisions until Tuesday and 3. Let me know if you broke an Easter record today!” The responses came in so fast that I worried the chime on my phone was going to wear out. Why would pastors of some of the busiest churches in the country text me right back? I think it was because I showed them that I knew what they were going through, that I knew they were beat and that I knew they really wanted to tell someone how awesome the day was. What do you imagine would have happened if I had texted them Easter night and asked for a meeting about a search or a contract to be signed? Doesn’t take much imagination. And yet, too often I see leaders ask their teams to do things with no regard for what they are going through. For instance, study after study has shown that church staff are down and emotionally spent on Mondays. But when I was leading a church (before I knew this), I had Mondays scheduled as the big kickoff day for the week, jammed full of important, decision-making meetings. Not my best example of awareness as a leader. Making the effort to know what your people are going through will likely show you how to motivate your team in new ways.

MAKE SCHEDULES FLEXIBLE Nothing drags people down when they’re stuck more than routine and the drone of staying at the office. Breaking the routine can break your “stuck” people. Additionally, there’s a new reality in the workplace, particularly with team members who are under 40: Flex time motivates. Nearly every expert I have studied says offering flex time as a benefit goes a long way without costing a penny. In a results-driven workplace, it often motivates team members to get more done with the time they spend on work. According to Richard Martin, president of Alcera Consulting Inc., flexible scheduling can be a key to motivation. “Give a little latitude in determining work schedules and to take time for family or personal issues (such as doctor’s appointments and banking errands). ... As long as the employee is deserving and doesn’t abuse the privilege, this can go a long way to building trusting and mature relationships with key workers.” Think about Jesus’ ministry. Did He have a daily schedule? I don’t think you’ll find a more motivated, productive guy in history. But He certainly moved around from place to place, and probably would be better defined as a flex-time guy than a 9-to-5’er.

*THINK: What are you doing to keep your team’s eyes pointed up toward the eternal difference the church is making?

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welfare of the community. It’s a win-win-win. Exercise has also proven to be a key to motivating staff. Many companies allow a longer lunch break if employees can show that part of it was spent exercising. Why? Exercise motivates. One study found that when a group of people suffering from mild to moderate depression exercised (i.e., strength training, running or walking) for at least 20 to 60 minutes three times a week, they were significantly less depressed five weeks later. The benefits were maintained as long as they kept exercising. We have one client who provides a bonus to staff who show improved health and fitness year to year. Not surprisingly, they are one of the highest energy, most motivated teams I’ve ever seen.


Checks and balances will need to be in place, but by freeing up your people with flex time, you may experience they actually have greater productivity.

RETHINK A TRADITIONAL OFFICE SPACE Another motivator is rethinking where your staff works. Telecommuting is more possible than ever. We have a client with an average weekly attendance of more than 8,000 and no office at the church. They don’t even have a land line—just a Google Voice number that rings into one staffer’s pocket. Studies are showing that telecommuting programs often relieve stress and make workers feel more appreciated, as well as more productive. Brian Margarita, president of the IT staffing firm TalentFuse Inc., says this sort of freedom in the workplace is becoming highly prized. “Having the option to cart the kids to soccer practice, visit the beach during the afternoon or cut out early to avoid traffic congestion is becoming more important than working an 80-hour week for a larger paycheck.” Traditionally, employers have been concerned that telecommuting will result in lower team motivation. But times have changed and the possibilities are limitless. Smart employers are setting up reward and compensation structures that drive each individual to deliver their own results. While we have a core of our firm’s team in our Houston office, we also have people helping staff churches from Atlanta, Dallas, Chicago, Richmond and Louisville. We’re likely opening a west coast office this year, and are already in talks for our first international office. While miles separate us, we’re all able to stay connected through technology and a results-driven workplace. By motivating people to work “for themselves,” employers find they don’t need everyone in the same building all the time.* As Dave Ramsey says, when you work for yourself, you’re working for the biggest taskmaster you’ve ever met! 56

GET ACTIVE My mother has worked with hospice care for more than 25 years, and she says that over all that time, one piece of advice remains constant: Hospice tells grieving family members to go volunteer somewhere as a coping skill. We all know the saying, “it’s better to give than receive,” but it’s only recently that I’ve realized the power of that saying in motivating staff through service. Recent studies have supported this time and time again, showing us that if we simply become more active in our lives, then we will feel better and think more positively. Basically, you can become more motivated by taking action and engaging in new, positive experiences. This could take a couple of forms in the workplace. What would happen if you offered to let people use a tithe of their work hours toward serving in a mission/ministry that is not a part of your church or ministry’s work? Your team is so involved in what you’re doing as a church that they may need variety to get unstuck! Corporate America has figured this out. During my time as an HR manager at a large corporation, I saw company after company allow their workers to spend a percentage of their work hours toward community service. The workers came back refreshed, a cause or ministry in town was helped out and the employer came out looking (and acting) like a company that was interested in the

Finally, we have found that the smartest (and most spiritually mature) leaders we work with find plenty of motivation through the simple act of loving and encouraging people. Proverbs 11:25 offers a great motivational key for leadership: “He who refreshes others will himself be refreshed” (NLT). Here’s a list of simple ways to motivate your team we’ve seen from great leaders we work with as we staff the church: Push the Cart, Serve the Coffee. In September during the back-to-school week, and during the week before Easter, one of our busiest clients takes an entire day pushing a cart through their building, serving coffee and refreshments to the team. Nothing else is on his calendar but to serve and listen. The return on that investment of time has been phenomenal. Win the Spouse, Win the House. Lots of our clients know to recognize their employees on their birthday, but one of our clients sends gifts to employees’ spouses on their birthdays. It goes without saying that if you go out of your way to care for your employees’ spouses, those employees will likely be more motivated. How are you “winning the spouse”? Take Time to Write to Your Team. You’ve probably heard it said, but it bears repeating: write notes of encouragement. Studies are uniformly clear on the benefits of this practice. Nearly all of our clients say this makes a huge difference in motivation. A word to the wise: canned, pre-written form letters are actually a negative motivator. My advice is that you either take the time to write a couple of sentences by hand, or don’t write anything at all. The law of inertia is a fundamental truth in physics, but I believe it’s also an axiom for human motivation. Things that are moving keep moving. People who are moving keep moving. And while not a direct part of the law, things that are at rest stay at rest. People who are not in motion tend to remain stuck. Oftentimes, motivation means making sure people are moving, but using new means to get them moving. Gaining motivation doesn’t take a lot of money or innovation. By using these methods, many of our clients have found a way to beat the doldrums and get “unstuck.” By integrating some of these tips into your church’s life, you can get your staff moving again and build up that all-important element: momentum. WILLIAM VANDERBLOEMEN is the founder and CEO of The Vanderbloemen Search Group, a retained executive search firm that helps staff the church. FindYourLeader.com

*ACT: You may not want to tear down your office space just yet. On-site team time is certainly important. But are there tweaks you could make to free people up from the traditional space? You might be surprised how much it motivates your team.




The author of Half the Church discusses feminism, men and women in partnership, and if there will ever be agreement on women in ministry. What’s your interpretation of God’s view of women and their specific place in the local church? Well, I’m taking the question back beyond that. It’s important to lay the foundation with, “What is God’s vision for us in the beginning?” Because whatever that vision was is what we’ve lost in the Fall, and is what Jesus has come to restore. I’m interested in going way back to the beginning to deal with questions like that. That’s what I’ve spent my time doing. My questions didn’t come out of questions I had regarding what role women have in the Church itself; it really came out of personal questions. I was trying to figure out what God’s calling was on me, and what my purpose was as His daughter. I go way back to look for answers to that, to the Genesis narrative of creation.

What do you believe is that vision God has related to men and women? When God creates humanity He creates His imagebearers: male and female. The second chapter of Genesis goes into the individual creation of male and female. Typically we’ve talked about that in terms of, “This is the creation of marriage,” which leaves major portions of everybody’s life out of that, and some people are left out entirely. When you look at it closely, it’s really not talking about 58

marriage, it’s talking about male and female, and the implications for marriage are given at the last. But you have God launching His purposes for the world, and His A-team is male and female. When He creates the man, He looks at the man and He says, “It’s not good for the man to be alone,” and doesn’t qualify it by saying, “It’s not good for the man to be alone when he comes home, or when he wants to raise a family.” It’s just a blanket statement. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with the man. Sometimes when we talk about the creation of male and female, we make jokes about men or we make jokes about women, but the Bible doesn’t do that. The Bible has an elevated view of male and female. God created His world to work with men and women working together, bringing all that they have to whatever it is God’s calling them to do.

Will there ever be a consensus among churches on the role of women, or on God’s vision for women, or do you think this debate will always be with us? I think it’s going to always be with us. When I look at it—and even in my own thinking as I’ve written the books I’ve written—I feel like it’s a very stuck place. I wouldn’t say it’s an unimportant discussion, but I think it’s distracting us from the deeper questions we need to be asking. I think in the Church there are certain people whose gifts are valued more than others, and we’re missing a lot of the richness God intends for us, because when somebody walks through the door of the church, we don’t ask the question, “What gift did God just send to us?” It’s sort of [that] we think: “Did they go to seminary? Is it a male or a

female? Are they married or are they single?”* It’s all these criteria, and these things determine—not just for women but also for men—how we value them when they come and become part of our fellowship, and that’s not how the Bible talks about us. It talks about every part of the body is needed by every other part of the body. The body of Christ is, I think, in a very unhealthy state the way we work together—or fail to work together.

Over the last 50 years, do you think feminism has scared the Church in any way from empowering women? From what I hear of women who were adults in the pre-feminist era, they had more opportunities. I think a lot of the debate today has been a reaction to feminism. That’s why I think we need to clear the decks and say: “What was God’s vision for us in the beginning? How did we lose that?” If you look at the Fall, the two load-bearing walls of God’s Kingdom strategy was that there needs to be a strong relationship between God and His image-bearers. You can’t be like somebody you don’t know, and so by creating us to be His image-bearers, He makes a relationship with Himself utterly essential. It’s our lifeline, our oxygen supply, and we can’t know who we are, why we’re here or what our purpose is if we’re disconnected with God. The other load-bearing wall is the malefemale relationship: This is God’s A-team to fulfill His Kingdom purposes on Earth. That’s what Jesus comes to restore, and He lives it out in His relationships with women, as a friend in a culture where men wouldn’t talk to women in public. Jesus is engaging them in deep theological discussion, He’s engaging them in ministries, empowering them to be part of His movement.

*THINK: Have you found yourself thinking these questions before? How can you be more conscious of asking the former: “What gift did God just send to us?”



Here are a few of the things we’re enjoying these days for inspiration, motivation—and an occasional moment of amusement.




Pinterest.com | Think of Pinterest as a digital bulletin board, with more space and organization. Whether you’re reinventing your wardrobe, decorating a home or experimenting with recipes, this invite-only site lets you create a personalized pinboard of your favorite things on the web.

Falling Upward | We tend to think of life in two halves, with some sort of “peak” in the middle. But Fr. Richard Rohr explores what spiritual growth looks like on both sides of the line, and why the second half of life can be just as fulfilling as the first.

Prezi.com | First, we used overhead projectors. Then came slides, followed by PowerPoint. But now we have Prezi. This online program allows you to create 3D graphics like you’re presenting at a TED conference.

The Leisure Suit Trap | Maybe a leisure suit is comfortable—but it’s out of style. Tony Morgan uses this analogy to encourage churches to embrace new ideas and identifies eight reasons churches might get in a rut. Bonus: This e-book can be downloaded for free.

Houzz | This decorating app allows you to store ideas of what you like based on hundreds of thousands of design photos. It’s a must-download for those needing design inspiration for new church and home environments.

Fark.com | Pulling a sermon illustration from the main headline of the day is predictable. But filtering through the true and ridiculous stories compiled on Fark might just reveal a unique angle for your message (or at least provide some afternoon entertainment). Trust.org/alertnet | AlertNet is the humanitarian arm of global news agency Reuters, covering natural disasters, human rights crises and various social justice issues around the world. By staying informed, you and your church will know how you can best pray, support or contribute to humanitarian causes.


Rumors of God | The God we know and the God we’ve heard of don’t always seem to align. But Darren Whitehead and Jon Tyson encourage readers to explore the powerful and life-changing things God is still doing in the world today.

iPhone Etch-a-Sketch case | This nostalgic, playful iPhone case will make you the biggest (and coolest) kid at the table. Plus, that whole “shake to refresh” feature will make that much more sense now.




The Voice of Justice — http://relm. ag/ku6lPZ | What does justice really look and sound like? This convicting production from the Justice Conference personifies the two opposing ideas of justice and injustice, and shows viewers how humanity can confuse the two.

Givers — In Light | The union of Afrobeat and indie pop is nothing new— but it’s always something fun. Louisiana band Givers is the latest to master this energetic style. It’s like having a piece of summer all year round.

Ryan Meeks — @ryanmeeks | “Just choked on my own saliva. #brillianceisnumbing” There’s more where that came from with Ryan Meeks, the refreshingly down-to-earth leader behind East Lake Community Church of Bothell, Wash.

Forgiveness — http://relm.ag/majcy0 | This powerful PBS documentary from Helen Whitney delves into what it means to forgive and how this virtue has been put into practice in cultures around the world. You’ll be reminded of how reconciliation is the key to peace on an individual and global level. How to Plant a Church — http://relm. ag/mxQjn4 | There’s no secret formula for planting a church, but this hilarious video attempts to summarize the process in three minutes. Whether it’s getting a haircut like “the Driscoll Spike” or slyly asking everyone you know for money, here’s everything you don’t want to do in real ministry.

Sleeping at Last — Yearbook | What’s better than a new full-length from Sleeping at Last? Twelve EPs and 36 songs from Sleeping at Last. Over the past year, they’ve released a new threesong EP for each month. As of October, the project will be complete and you’ll have a dreamy soundtrack for any time of year. Story Worthy | Each week, this podcast picks a theme and brings it to life with true stories, ranging from relatable to ridiculous. You’ll be reminded about the power of story and the kind of lives that people are really experiencing beneath the surface.

Drew Dyck — @drewdyck | If you’re not intimidated by leaders who have both the smart and funny gene, Drew Dyck is worth the follow. The editor of Leadership Journal and the author of Generation Ex-Christian shares profound quotes, sporadic thoughts and interesting links. Joan Ball — @joanpball | Upon converting to Christianity, this former atheist quit her job and sold everything she owned to start fresh with faith. Now she’s an author, professor and quite the thought-provoking tweeter.

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WHY PASTORS WANT LOYALTY JOSH LUJAN LOVELESS I once led a team that tried to fire me. There was no moral failure on my part. There was no money being embezzled. I wasn’t even hiding bodies in the basement. They came to me after they had decided as a group they would rather not have a leader but instead “lead one another without any hierarchy of leadership.” That was one of the toughest days I have ever faced as a pastor. I thought we had good chemistry. I felt like we’d developed an incredibly collaborative team environment. I was in shock because I’d never even been confronted for having a pushy or bossy personality or temperament. I was devastated. When your team tells you they don’t want you to lead them the way you’ve been leading them anymore, you can’t help but feel inadequate. I was grateful to have some leaders in our church step in and mediate the situation and lead a process that resolved the issue over a short period of time. But the wounds of that experience stayed with me. I found over the next couple of years that one of the strongest qualities I subconsciously began to look for in new team members was loyalty. I didn’t realize I was doing it, but I wanted to feel

Something didn’t sit right with me when they talked about it. Later on when I looked back on those conversations, I realized my distaste may have been based in my own desperate need for loyalty—it had become my drug of choice. A brief search through the world of definitions will reveal that, in the context of leadership, loyalty means a “faithful adherence to a leader” and “a devout allegiance.” On the surface it can sound innocent enough. It can be healthy to want to work with a team of people who have your back in a season of negativity. Every leader I know wants respect and secretly hopes the community around them is spending their free time singing their praises. That definition can also sound uncomfortably “cult-ish.” The problem seems to be spreading; it feels like the number-one quality I hear senior pastors

WE’VE BECOME GUILTY OF ASKING OUR DISCIPLES TO BE LOYAL TO US BECAUSE WE’RE AFRAID OF PEOPLE LEAVING US. a wall of security around me from the people I worked with. It was as though I needed a false sense of security to hold me in my place and protect me from being hurt again. I was reminded during that season of ministry about some conversations I’d had with a couple of the most well-known pastors in the country. Through a series of circumstances, I was given the opportunity to spend some time with leaders I greatly admired and respected. One of the common things that seemed to keep coming up with them was what they wanted from their staff. In every conversation I had with one of these pastors, they would bring up this desire for their staff to carry this quality of loyalty toward them personally and toward the church itself. 64

talk about now when describing the character of the “perfect staff member” is loyalty. As I’ve begun to see the sin in my own life related to this issue, I feel like I’ve gained clarity about how our desire for loyalty has gone from a healthy one to a dirty one. It begins in the language we use when describing the work we do. A leader with an unhealthy desire for loyalty will regularly use the words “my” and “I” when describing the work he or she is doing within a church community. We do this to try to prove to others and convince ourselves “I am worth your allegiance because of how great I am with my ideas, gifts and opportunities.” Healthy leaders who are centered and understand their identity are able to use the

word “we” on a regular basis to describe the collaborative nature of team. They look for ways to use “we” language, even in moments they could take credit for more than they do. It’s easy for a leader to say “we” when it’s time to be grateful to your team. It’s another thing to use that kind of language day in and day out. Part of the brokenness that led to my team wanting a flattened leadership structure was because of the way I talked about the ministry we were doing. I talked about “my” church, “my” staff, “my” team and “my” strategies in a way that was de-motivating and hurtful. Those of us in leadership are supposed to be the group saying, “Follow me as I follow Christ,” and instead we’ve become guilty of asking our disciples to be loyal to us and our institutions because we’re afraid of people leaving us. To be a pastor means you probably live within a community of people you feel have betrayed or abandoned you at some point. Every pastor has his or her own story that parallels my own. However, it is our responsibility to recognize when it is from a place of hurt and woundedness that we demand loyalty from those around us. If we’re honest, the whole idea is ironic because the call of God on the lives of church staff (as well as everybody else) means God can and will invite people into new adventures in other cities and with other leaders. This coming and going based on the obedience of God’s voice only goes to prove that loyalty to a person or place is rare and should never be a requirement. Following the Spirit demands an open-handed life. We must give up control and the demand to hold on to the people and processes that keep us from feeling vulnerable. Surrender only happens when we’ve stripped ourselves of the mechanisms that keep us feeling like our words and our ways are protected from change. This type of surrender allows us to recognize God brings people into our life for a season. Sometimes He extends the contract for another season, and other times it’s cut short. Either way, it’s out of our hands—just the way it should be.

JOSH LUJAN LOVELESS is the senior editor of Neue. Josh has 14 years of pastoral experience and lives in Orlando, FL.


Almost 70% of Americans believe we are suffering from a crisis of leadership, but rather than asking why leaders are failing, we need to ask, “Why aren’t we choosing better leaders?” Authors Jeffrey Cohn and Jay Moran offer an unique, expert perspective on understanding leadership and how to find, create and recognize great leaders.

W W W. J O S S E Y B A S S . C O M

Profile for RELEVANT Media Group

Neue 08  

Neue Magazine Issue 8

Neue 08  

Neue Magazine Issue 8