Church Feed

Why Earth Day Texas is the new SXSW for Baptists

 I recently visited Texas and met with some of the key leaders of the Texas Baptists. I was encouraged to see some necessary transitions and changes but was quite shocked to see the presence of styrofoam cups at the coffee machine in the main HQ.

I believe EDTx is the new SXSW for Texas Baptists and I recommended they send a delegation to the event that happens this weekend. Let me tell you why.

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When I first started working as a consultant for the Texas Baptists (BGCT back then) I suggested we work alongside SXSW and send our top artists and creatives to participate. In 1999, we set up a multimedia labyrinth called "Ecclesia" that was promoted by the Austin Statesman as one of the recommended events. In 2001, we did another called "Epicenter". And in 2003 we hosted "Wabi Sabi". Since then, a small team of creatives have continued to have a presence at SXSW which has been a great way of learning, listening, contributing to the vibrant arts scene there. 

It changed the way we looked at worship arts. It was a revolutionary experience. 

Earth Day Texas, which is the largest Earth Day in the world, might do the same thing for Texas Baptists. It will be an opportunity to consider a Christian cosmology, ecology, our stewardship of the earth's resource. And it might put a stop to those awful styrofoam cups.

Styrofoam Cup
I can't believe churches still use these. What does that say about us?

I enjoyed meeting the Festival's director, Michael Cain. He is a warm, friendly man who has faith in God and a deep commitment to managing the planet's resources. I told him I would send some Baptists. I hope they do not disappoint. 


Enough for All - My Bible Study

If you are in Germany then you might be joining the 100,000+ people in Hamburg for Kirchentag 2013 (Church Day) on May 1-5.

12 04 02 Kirchentag 2013

If you make it to my session, please say hello afterwards.

The Kirchentag folk do an absolutely incredible job of organizing and hosting a massive scale festival  - the best organized I have ever seen - and they invited me to teach over a year ago. Here is the info they sent me.

Information about your Bible study at the 34th German Protestant Kirchentag from 1st to 5th May 2013 in Hamburg

Dear Mr. Jones,

"As much as you need” – is the theme for the 34th German Protestant Kirchentag. Meanwhile there are tens of thousands of people who have received a program booklet and discovered that you are holding a Bible study.
Your Bible study will take place at the St. Pauluskirche (Heimfeld), Petersweg 1, Hamburg (758 / AA1)on Saturday the 4th of May 2013, from 9.30 to 10.30 am.
You will be welcomed and introduced. Furthermore, your Bible study will be accompanied by the gospel choir Schacht-Audorf.

The topic of Kirchentag 2013 is "As much as you need", with reference to the manna from heaven that sustained God's people in the desert. My teaching will add the miracle of the Feeding of the Five Thousand (John 6) to the mix and will focus on abundance and poverty,  generosity and equitable distribution, sustainability, God's provision and His plan to use his people to solve the global challenge of hunger. Hope you can make it. 

 T 7f360c06ae

Reflections on Kirchentag 2011.

Rick Warren sets up memorial fund

I have been thinking of Rick Warren all week. A dreadful loss. Praying peace on the family after the tragic suicide of their son Matthew.

Rick Warren just set up the Matthew Warren Memorial Fund for Mental Illness. I hope the fund does well in raising awareness of this issue that affects so many, including many ministry families. It's a hard issue to talk about without creating disrespect for the individual involved. I hope there is a way forward. 

Rick warren matthew warren fund

Rick is an incredible man and I respect him a hell of a lot. In the early days, we in the emerging church gave the seeker-sensitive pastors a hard time but they, in particular Rick, never retaliated. In Rick Warren's case, he not only embraced much of what we were doing but he also endorsed books and stood by as a resource and mentor. Some months ago I received a huge amount of love when Rick called my twitter profile "brilliant" and tweeted it for his followers. What a guy!

Rick warren and tallskinnykiwi

Over those years, God has continued to use Rick Warren beyond our imagination. 

Last week we turned up at a remote camping site in the Queen Charlotte area of Marlborough Sounds, South Island, New Zealand. Hardly any civilization anywhere. And at the campground, in a little shed used for washing dishes, someone had left a copy of Purpose Driven Life. 

I may not have actually read that book but I have boat-loads of respect for how God has used that book in people's lives. And the impact of the Warren family. 

 God's peace and blessing be on his family and church in abundant measure. And if you say anything negative about Rick this week (Mega-church pastors are the easiest target) then I will surely kick yo ass!

Thoughts on Pope Francis

GREAT to hear waves of excitement over the new Pope. I am also excited about the appointment of Pope Francis, because . . .

- he is from South America.

- he is a humble man, riding the bus to work and refusing ecclesiastic titles. 

- he has a heart for the poor.

- he wants renewal of the church, which is awesome.

- he is a Jesuit, and those guys are really cool!

- the charismatic Catholics really like him.

In Italy a few years ago, some friends and I met with Matteo Calisi, who heads up the 150 million people in the Charismatic Catholic Renewal, known as the Catholic Fraternity, and reports directly to the Pope. Lovely man, this Father Matteo, who invited us to speak in his church. Before the service, he was telling us how excited he was about what was happening in Buenos Aries, where he had visited, meeting the archbishop and seeing some of the communities there. I imagine he is totally pumped about having his South American friend living and working in Italy.


Tony Palmer, who helped arrange our meeting with Matteo, has reflections on meeting Bergoglio, who was then the archbishop of Buenos Aries. 

"Here I am in Argentina in a meeting with Cardinal Giorgio Bergoglio, who made it very clear to us during the meeting that we were not to refer to him by 'Eminence' or 'Excellency' as these titles are not found in the Bible and that simply 'Brother' would be better . . . "

Father Anthony, quoted by Marc Van Der Woude, who was also with us in that Italian meeting, on why he thinks Francis is a surprising Pope.

Related: My experience with the Charismatic Catholics in Italy.

If I was Pope

Wishing Pope Benedict XVI a smooth transition into his next phase of life as simply Joseph Ratzinger. What a surprise!!

I was thinking of running for Pope.

Change is good. I have been a Baptist, an Anglican, and a Presbyterian, but never a Catholic.

And besides that, the Catholics have the coolest church buildings, especially those from the 1950's and 60's. Of course I would need a retro suit to match it.


If I was Pope I wouldn't live in Vatican City or Rome. I think I would stay in Tuscany on a vineyard. Maybe Assisi. Its lovely there. 

If I was Pope I would have strong words with my bankers. Those guys have been naughty.

If I was Pope I would commend the South Americans for their great innovations. Maybe even move the HQ down to Sao Paulo.

If I was Pope I wouldn't change the robes. But mine would need to be longer than the last guy.

If was Pope my Popemobile would be 4X4.

If I was Pope I would start an Italian pizza chain and use it to support mission efforts among the poor. 

And that's just a start.

How about you? What would you do if you were Pope?

Related:  3 Things the Emerging Church took from the Catholics

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8 Thoughts on Lasting Out, not Burning Out

Greater productivity in ministry comes from lasting out and not burning out. A mentor once told me, 

"In your first year, you can do NO WRONG.

In your second year, you can do NO RIGHT.

In your third year, either you or your critics WILL LEAVE.

In your fourth year, if you are still there, you can begin your real ministry."

This weekend I am speaking at a retreat for the Blueprint church. They asked me to speak about longevity and lasting out in ministry. 

Blueprint church

It's an important topic. Burnout rates among ministers are incredibly high. When i took my first job as pastor in a church, the Senior Pastor burned out within the year. Not my fault, by the way. But what's sad is that that the pastor I am talking about, who was hospitalized with the shakes and had already taken a 3 month leave, had taken over the job from the previous pastor who also burned out in much the same way. 

Here are my first thoughts on lasting out, not burning out. If you have others, please let me know in the comments below.

1. Be yourself. Find out what you love to do and do that. Align your gifts and passions with your ministry. Decades from now, you will probably still find joy in it

2. Minister out of who you are, not what you can do. Character based ministry will outlast accomplishment based ministry. If you accept a position, make sure they appreciate that who you are is more valuable than what you can do.

3. Know that the ministry is Gods, not yours. It is his prevenience that initiates lasting change and his grace that carries it through to completion. You are not as indispensable as you think.

4. Recognize God's favor as it presents itself to you because it can be a reliable pathway into a God-empowered, God-blessed ministry in which the yoke of Jesus is not heavy.

5. Preaching the gospel is a matter of receiving and passing on rather than reinventing and customizing. It's not the new twists you put on the message but the substance of it that is important. People can make it relevant themselves.

6. Install an on/off switch and use it. Its OK to be off, to be out of season, to take a break. 

7. Accept criticism. Embrace criticism. And learn to dismiss it when you need to. You cannot please everyone. Accept the fact that 10% of your people will be mad at you for something at any one time.

8. Avoid vanity metrics. They are not helpful to you and you will kill yourself trying to live up to them or get back to them when the chips are down.


Who was the mentor I quoted at the top of this post? Bro. Thom Wolf, who also stressed that the goal in spiritual warfare was standing firm. It appears three times in the Eph 6 passage. Spiritual warfare is not primarily about kicking butt, demolishing strongholds, and tearing down the works of the evil one. Its about standing, about remaining, about lasting out and emerging from the fire, ready for more service.

OK - your turn. How do you avoid burning out?

Liverpool: Fresh Expressions Over One Third

New emerging church research on the Diocese of Liverpool just released by Church Army:

"The proportion of fresh expressions of Church compared to parishes is 38.6%. If compared to the number of churches, which might be a closer comparison, that proportion is 30.4%. Either way, about a third of the ecclesial bodies in the diocesan family are current or recent fxCs [Fresh Expression Churches]." Research Paper by Church Army, Summer 2012.

Interesting: 60% don't use a church building, only 29% meet on a Sunday. 39% of cases used an existing church, 23% a church hall and 37% a secular venue including houses. 

HT: Opinionated Vicar and kudos to the Admiral.


Video: Bishop Justin Duckworth starts wearing purple

Here is my short video of Justin Duckworth getting installed as Bishop of Wellington last weekend. There's some footage of the breakfast we all had with him in the morning, the ceremony at the Cathedral, some thoughts from Jenny Duckworth on the symbols, and some fun stuff. All in 5 minutes!! For the video of the whole ceremony, go here to the Anglican site. For the TV news program featuring my handsome face, go to TV3. But for my ultra-cool video, watch this . . .

Baptists in the house

It's been an interesting weekend with a Baptist theme

.Spoons at ngatiawa

We enjoyed having Rodney MaCann here a few times. Rodney has been National Leader of the Baptists for most the past decade, and has recently handed over the reigns to Craig Vernall. Rodney's son, The Venerable Stu, is on the Ngatiawa team, where he functions, among other roles, as the official psalter. Which makes sense coz his dad is also an opera singer. 


But we also had a team from Carey Baptist College in Auckland as part of the UMEC urban missions training. We gave them a hard time, of course, making them do horrible mission related tasks like chopping chicken heads and carrying a pottery kiln that weighed a gazillion tons, and fed them Luwak poop coffee from Indonesia. Which Joseph didn't mind at all. 


Baptists chopping heads

They did really well. And they were a joy to have around. Although I was a little disappointed they knew so little about WIlliam Carey.

"Isn't he the founder of our school?"'

Ahhhh . . . . no . . not directly.

Umec baptists

Best time we had was doing a session in our yurt and our truck where we told stories of getting through borders without bribing corrupt officials, getting sensitive documents out of one country and into another, helping out with earthquake relief, and leadership training memories all done through the truck, the same truck 

there were sitting in. 

Hope to see this crowd again. They go from here to get some urban mission experience in Wellington area through the other UV teams.

Next month: Graham L. from the Holy Transfiguration Monastery in Australia comes here to teach on prayer. This Baptist monastery started in the 1970's and is still going strong. Looking forward to hearing their story. 

As much as you need: An invitation to Kirchentag

I am about to accept an invitation to speak at Kirchentag which will happen in Hamburg next year. Every two years, 100,000 Protestants gather in a German city for this festival. In 2011 Kirchentag happened in Dresden and I had the privilege of being on a panel to talk about building and keeping relationships in the church world, as well as leading a workshop on blogging and the internet. It was a great time. The outdoor worship was amazing, as I shared in my post "A worship service your city won't forget".


Anyway, the theme of this 34th Kirchentag is "As Much As You Need" and they want me to lead a Bible study on the feeding of the five thousand, John 6:1-15.  I am about to say YES because it's an amazing event and because Germany is such a crucial country right now as the world steadies itself from a global recession and so many countries look to Germany to help them out. 

The question Jesus asked his disciples in that passage, "Where are WE going to get enough to feed these people" is the same question Germans are asking of themselves. Its not a case of standing back and letting God act apart from his people, but of partnership with him as Jesus and His Body the church find creative ways of providing for a hungry, hurting, struggling world. 

I think I will accept the invitation. Kirchentag will happen in Hamburg May 1-5, 2013 and my session will be May 3.  Is anyone else going top be there, apart from the 100,000 Germans, I mean?