Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Relevance, Cruise Ships, and Church

by Skye Jethani
[Passing on a stimulating article. The last two paragraphs are worth the read.]
In the first part of this article I examined how the radical shifts in the American church paralleled the transformation of the passenger shipping industry in the 20th century. Prior to the 1960s, ships were primarily a form of transportation. When this utilitarian function was disrupted by jet travel, the cruise industry was born by transforming ships themselves into the destination and triggering a rapid increase in the size of the vessels.
Similarly, in the mid 20th century the utilitarian role of the church, transporting people into communion with God, was disrupted by secularism. This led innovative pastors to transform churches into destinations rather than vehicles, and attracting irreligious consumers required much larger churches with previously unimaginable offerings. The megachurch explosion began. 
Both the cruise industry and megachurches have been incredibly successful ever since. In 1970 only 500,000 people took a cruise, and there were only 10 megachurches in the United States. In 2010 over 14 million people cruised, and there are now over 1,500 megachurches. If the transformation of the passenger shipping industry has helped us understand the emergence of the megachurch phenomenon, what might it say about its weaknesses?
In the early years of the cruise business ship owners believed the airlines were their competition. Rather than flying to Bermuda, the Caribbean, or Mexico, cruise lines tried to sell the romance and glamour of an ocean voyage (remember “The Love Boat”?) as superior to the speed of air travel. Eventually, however, cruise lines accepted that they were not in the transportation business, but rather the vacation business. This meant Carnival Cruise Lines wasn’t competing with United, Southwest, or even other cruise lines, but with Disney World and Las Vegas. 
To win more of the vacation market some cruise lines began to downplay the allure of the sea and instead built amenities aboard their ships people expected to find at land-based resorts. Today there are ships with water parks, roller coasters, golf courses, planetariums, bumper cars, even tree-lined parks with carousels and ice skating rinks. Step on to Oasis of the Seas’ cavernous main boulevard with fountains, cars, street performers, and a bar that ascends four stories through a glass canopy, and you’ll hear awestruck passengers saying, “I can’t believe I’m on a ship.” 
And that is the problem.
By trying to compete with land-based resorts, these cruise lines literally lost sight of their unique value proposition--the sea. Ships are so crammed with amenities designed to lure passengers and their dollars, it is now possible to spend all day on a ship and never see the ocean. While a passenger may catch a musical, play golf, or ride a roller coaster, the inherent limitations of a ship, no matter how big, mean these experiences will never match what is possible on land. Broadway will always have better productions and Six Flags will always have better rides. As a result the modern cruise industry is engaged in a strange delusion. It is ignoring the one thing it can offer that no one else can--the allure of sea travel--to compete in areas where it can never win.
The church can learn an important lesson from this delusion: Relevance backfires when it overshadows your uniqueness. Not every cruise line has succumbed to this temptation, nor has every megachurch, Some, however, find the accolades of cultural relevance too affirming, and the pressure to fill thousands of seats every weekend too demanding. They will spend millions of dollars for state-of-the-art theater equipment, will stock their children’s departments with Xboxs and 3-story playgrounds, and even run live Twitter feeds during worship. Churches that can’t afford these “wow” factors or a tattooed pastor with electric personality, may still feel the pressure to run an expanding array of programs normally found at a community college or YMCA all to attract consumers away from their devices and health clubs to the church.
At the same time these churches strip away their distinguishing qualities. Gone are the crosses, stained glass windows, steeples, hymns, pews, and liturgies. Sanctuaries become auditoriums. Choirs become bands. Communion becomes a coffee bar. Like a cruise passenger who never experiences the sea, some attenders may be so occupied with programs and productions that they may never actually experience the church.
A friend recently told me about a convicting conversation he had with a newcomer to his congregation. The man, from a Hindu background, came to the large church about a month earlier because he was curious about Jesus. “Everyone here has been very friendly to me,” he reported to the pastor, “and my family has been enjoying all of the programs. But I do have one question. When am I going to learn about Jesus?” The church's reason for having its mega-building and programs is to more effectively draw people to Christ, but the pastor wondered out loud whether they had gradually confused their methods and their mission. After all, the church could survive if people don't meet Jesus, but not if they don't meet their budget. 
This story reminds me of recent research conducted by Barna. While pastors are scrambling to discover the secret bullet to engage young adults, Barna found the top reasons millennials want to attend church are to be closer to God (51%) and to learn more about God (31%). Imagine that. It’s like discovering people want to take a cruise because they like the sea--no roller coasters necessary. 
Eventually we will learn that no matter how much money, effort, or innovation the church possesses, it will never be as cool as the culture. Relevance is a race it cannot win, but in our misguided attempts to compete with the culture we risk losing sight of the only thing of value the church can offer the world--Jesus Christ. 

[If you're willing to reconsider what it means to be a healthy church, go here.]

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Gospel Coaching Training in Peoria

I'm going and I'd love to experience this together with anyone from PALCO.

Who is in?

And why not invite folks from your ministry to join us? Here's the PDF of the flyer above for you to share with others!

Note: There's also an evening option for volunteers who serve in ministry.  Here's the PDF flyer for volunteers!

Looking forward to these days together!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Why you should be a part of the PALCO lunch on 9/11/14

Note: At our next PALC Ongoing lunch on September 11, 2014 (complete details here), we are going to explore 20 great questions that can help us create a disciplemaking culture in our lives and ministry. To that end, here's a brief and thought-provoking article. I hope you take the five minutes needed to read it and let it speak to you.
Learning to Ask the Right Questions
by Skye Jethani
Whoever defines the question defines success.
A great deal of Jesus’ ministry was intended to challenge and transform the questions being asked by his disciples. For example, when the widow put a penny into the offering Jesus’ disciples dismissed her gift as insignificant. Their culture was conditioned to ask, “How much did she give?” Jesus, on the other hand, celebrated her offering because he asked a different question, “How much did she sacrifice?” In this case, like so many, determining the right question is the difference between success and failure. 
Before we evaluate our lives we must first determine what questions to ask. Sometimes identifying the right question is far more difficult and time consuming then the evaluation itself. Consider Albert Einstein’s observation. He said, “If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on it, I would use the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes.”
If we’ve adopted the wrong questions, then it is very likely we are judging ourselves incorrectly. This is vividly displayed in Numbers 20 when Moses led the Israelites to Meribah. As they often did, the people complained to Moses about a lack of water. The Lord commanded him to speak to a rock and it would “yield its water.” Instead Moses disobeyed God. He rebuked the unfaithful people and struck the rock twice with his staff. Amazingly water erupted from the rock. The people and their animals drank. The crisis was averted. Moses had saved the day. 
Let’s evaluate Moses at Meribah with the question we frequently ask. Was his ministry relevant? Yes. What could be more relevant than giving water to thirsty people in a desert? Was his ministry effective?Absolutely. Was Moses’ ministry powerful? Yes. In fact it was miraculous. Each of these questions leads us to conclude that Moses was a success, but God asked a different question: Was Moses faithful? 
While the Israelites splashed and celebrated in the water, God severely punished Moses for his disobedience. “Because you did not believe in shall not bring this assembly into the land I have given them.” Success or failure depends entirely upon the questions we ask. What the world celebrates as an effective, relevant, and powerful ministry God may declare a failure. No doubt if Moses were leading today we’d all be reading his book Sinai Success: How to Draw Water From Rocks in 3 Steps. But when we ask God-oriented questions we may discover that a leader stuck in obscurity and panned by the Evangelical Industrial Complex is actually highly successful in God’s kingdom.
All of this means whoever determines our questions wields enormous power over our lives and work. We must consider the resources we engage, the books we read, the leaders we follow. What questions are they asking? How are they shaping our assumptions about success and failure? Are they helping us ask God-directed questions, or merely human ones? 
So much of contemporary life, including in the church, is focused on answers and solutions. But maybe we need to take Einstein’s advice and spend more time in self-reflection determining whether we are asking the right questions. Ultimately it's the question that determines success or failure, not the outcome. 
Can't wait to lunch with you and our other disciplemaking friends in the Peoria Area Leadership Community Ongoing THIS Thursday, September 11th, 11:30AM-1PM!  Complete details here.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

How to create a disciplemaking culture

It's time for lunch with your disciplemaking friends in PALC Ongoing!
* September 11, 2014
* 11:30 am to 1 pm
* La Fiesta, 1101 W. Jackson, Morton, IL

We'll explore 20 key questions you must learn to ask if you want to create a disciplemaking culture in your life and ministry!

You'll leave with these questions to use and share in your life and ministry... and more.

But wait! There's more!
Did I mention chips? Salsa? Tacos? Disciplemaking friends?

Note: Please save the date and email Bill if you're coming so La Fiesta knows how many to expect!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Details for August 28th PALCO gathering

This generation wants to change the world.
Here's how you can help them do it like Jesus did.
We'll wrestle what disciplemaking looks like with people who don't yet know Jesus as Savior. (Yep, I contend that evangelism is a part of the disciplemaking process—not two separate things. More on this on August 28th.) You'll experience the newly updated Evangelism Is Relationship training experience—and here's the big deal: You'll have the option of taking EIR training back to your leadership team as a five-session training experience later this fall! Plus, there will be a sweet extra "bonus" only for PALC alumni who are present on August 28th.  For a look at the content of this training, go here.

Thursday, August 28th

Coffee and goodies at 8:30 AM
Training from 9 AM to 3 PM

WhiteRose Fellowship Church
505 S. Main St
Bellevue, IL 61604
(Not far from the Peoria airport—go here for directions.)

PALC alumni—and you may invite one guest from your ministry

$50 per person and includes the training experience and training materials.

Please register with Bill ASAP via email. This helps us on the planning end of things.
* To pay tuition via regular mail, send a check to: Cadre Ministries, PO Box 264, Mossville, IL 61552 and include a note that the check is for PALCO.
* Even if you plan to pay tuition on the day of our gathering via a credit card, please register with Bill via email ASAP.
(If money is truly an issue for you, let me know and I'll take care of it for you. Not joking. I love you.)

Bring your own lunch.

Be sure to bring your Bible and pen.

Can You Help?
We need someone to bring...
* healthy snacks
* donuts and goodies for the rest of us who don't care if we die young
* coffee
Please let Bill know ASAP if you can you help with one of these!

Can't wait to wrestle what disciplemaking looks like with people who don't yet know Jesus as Savior with you at this upcoming PALCO on Thursday, August 28th!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Equipping Others to Change the World Like Jesus

At our next PALCO day together, Thursday, August 28th, you will leave equipped to help those in your ministry to change the world like Jesus did. Not joking. This training experience will be something you—PALC alumni—can take back to your ministries and do in a five session series this fall!
1. Save the date: Thursday, August 28th.
2. Read the description below.
3. Use the FREE download below to start this conversation with those you will want to train and equip this fall.
God wants to use YOU and your friends to make a difference in your world.

But where do you start?

You start right where you are.

In Cadre's Evangelism Is Relationships training experience, you will learn to live a biblical process for impacting your world like Jesus.

Session 1 iNTERCEDE 
Love the Lord. Making a difference in your world requires the power of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, you must learn to connect with the heart of God via prayer for those He has placed in your relational sphere of influence.

Session 2 iNVEST
Be a Friend. The natural result of connecting with God's heart is a desire to love people with God's love. We will explore how Jesus intentionally befriended those in his relational sphere of influence—and how we can follow His example.

Session 3 iNTERSECT
Truth and Grace. We'll explore how Jesus brought God's truth and grace to people in His relational sphere of influence. Then, taking our cues from Jesus, we'll explore how to bring God's truth and grace to those in our relational sphere of influence.

Session 4 iNVITE
Share God's Story. God uses ordinary people like you and me to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with others. We'll explore how to clearly share God's story, our own God story, and how invite others into a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
    To get a feel for this training experience, you can download a FREE two page PDF here.

    Each person gets a 28-page training manual AND a 25 day follow-through John 3:16  Factor Living Guide that is good for personal use and great for small group use. 

    NOTE: If you are interested in hosting this PALCO on Thursday, August 28th, please contact Bill.

    Monday, June 23, 2014

    If this is your idea of outreach...

    If this is your idea of outreach, then I strongly encourage you to plan to be a part of our day long PALCO gathering on Thursday, August 28th.

    And don't forget the PALCO Picnic at the Allisons on Friday, July 18th.