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Posts from June 2010

Page vs Screen

"We are reading more text, writing far more often, than we were in the heyday of television."

from Steven Johnson, Yes, People Still Read , But Now Its Social", NY Times. Johnson's earlier book "Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software" was superb and I  highly recommended reading it to understand emergent theory and its relation to church planting.

I have also discussed Johnson's other book,  Everything Bad is Good For You: How Today's Popular Culture is Actually Making Us Smarter" (blogged here) in relation to Generation Text and how the next generation actually think differently. My post was called Reclusing Ourselves to Death. Just in case you need some Sunday afternoon reading.

How to Survive a Christian Bookstore: #2 FINDING YOUR HAPPY PLACE

So, you still want to buy a Bible from a Christian bookstore but don't want to drown in a sea of mozzarella? I get it. Welcome to Part 2 of my series "How to Survive a Christian Bookstore". 

You have read How to Survive a Christian Bookstore: #1 EMBRACING THE FEAR and so you already know what to expect at the front door and what grotesque ecclesiastic marketing monsters await you inside. You now have enough ammo to fearlessly step into the store without breaking into a sweat.

So far so good.

But there is a snag! The Bible you want to buy is located all the way at the back of the store and you will have to fend off attacks from a host of formidable foes before you conquer the store and claim your prize. Not to worry. We are going to get through this one together. You need a strategy that works. Stick with me now.

Your strategy is to . . . 

Find Your Happy Place!

Use your entry into the store to immediately locate possible happy places, ie, safe points along the way and so that you can reach the Bible section in stages. Here are some possible Happy Places. Pick the one that works for you.

Happy Place 1: Music Department
No matter how cheesy the book covers are, the music department is surprisingly cheddar-free and you might even find yourself browsing through the CD's. Dont feel ashamed about that. Its normal.

Happy Place 2: Second Hand Books
This area is actually my favorite part of the store. Here you will find classic old books for a good price and you will NOT experience the symptoms that accompany the viewing of more recent books. Not sure why that is.

Happy Place 3: Icons 
If it's a Catholic or Orthodox bookstore, your first Happy Place will be the icon department. Its where you see tiny statues of saints and posters of sad Jesus, which can be surprisingly funky, in a retro-50's-kitchy way, and much more palatable than the 80's-profoundly-inspirational-scenic-waterfall-with-relevant-but-forced-Bible-verse poster that your mother got for Christmas last year from Aunt Mavis who works at the Methodist bookstore.

Happy Place 4: Coffee Shop
Many of the larger Christian bookstores have a coffee shop area where you can sit down, calm down, wipe the perspiration from your brow, congratulate yourself for actually entering the store, and formulate a plan to get the rest of the way to the Bibles.

When you finally and successfully land in your Happy Place, remind yourself by saying out loud, "I'm in a Happy Place!" Repeat if necessary.

Once you have arrived in your Happy Place, you should be able to locate the Bible section, plan your route, and estimate how many steps. From there, its just a simple manner of holding your breath and walking directly over to the Bibles.

Don't get distracted! Don't respond to the nice lady smiling at you. She actually is not smiling at you  - its a permanent facial contortion that the faces of religious people aspire to and not, in fact, an invitation to chat. So just be rude, ignore her, and walk straight towards your target area.


And that should land you right at the Bible section. From there, you can choose from a myriad of Bibles -  study Bibles, youth Bibles, Bibles with celebrity-pastor's names on them [avoid them], white Bibles [that means you are in a Catholic store], black Bibles [Presbyterian], burgundy Bibles [evangelical-suburban], Bibles in mean-spiky-metal covers [evangelical-urban], New Testament-only Bibles [Charismatic - nahhhhh - inside joke], Bibles with the words of Jesus in red [Baptist] or the words of Paul in read [Reformed . . . no not really], and Bibles of all shapes and sizes and bindings and price tags. Plenty to choose from.

What Bible do I like? I use The Net Bible which contains really good notes on why the translators [including my Cuz] translated it the way they did but you might want to start with a simple no-nonsense Bible that's easy to read. I think "paraphrased" Bibles are for morons so I try to avoid them. For a good translation, ask your respected Christian friend what they use. If they use a paraphrase, then don't tell them what I said.

So, grab the Bible you want, exhale, let your pulse return to normal and pat yourself on the back for making it so far. Now you have to make your way to the counter to purchase it and that's another journey that we probably need to talk about. I will tackle it soon in Part III but you don't have to wait for me if you want to buy a Bible. Just do it!

Kindergartens: Impact AND Sustainability?

Observation: Running a kindergarten (a little school for little kids aged 3-5) might be a new way for new [emerging] churches to impact their community and become more sustainable at the same time.

Last week in Macedonia, we listened to leaders from the Glasnost community in Skopje talked about their kindergarten for Romany children. They actually pay the mothers a small sum to let their children attend kindergarten rather than beg on the streets with them. By teaching the children how to read and write, they are breaking the poverty cycle. Now they are looking into primary schooling so they can continue helping the same kids.

Last year we were in Belgium and went to visit Frank's church, the Lighthouse. Frank is part of the Jesus Freak movement in Europe and runs a kindergarten in Antwerp as a social enterprise. I think their kindergarten might be the primary outreach of the church. Bram - I know you are reading this. Would you agree?

At the Lighthouse, we met some Vineyard pastors who were planning to start a kindergarten in Germany and were getting some ideas from Frank. Good, I thought. When the German Vineyard interviewed me a few years ago I suggested they move towards greater sustainability through social enterprise. But I never thought about kindergartens.

What about you? Have you seen other kindergartens like this? Has anyone written a how-to guide?

Transform 2010 and the law of preferential attraction

Why do missionaries always go to the same places? The same reason why most of mission funding goes to the same organizations (something discussed at the SBC Annual Meeting today in the GCRTF report).

The answer? It happens because of what someone called the "law of preferential attraction". He who has gets more. Big web sites get even bigger because they attract more links and grow exponentially. Mission resources are sucked into the larger already-well-funded ministries. Short term mission teams avoid the hardest and neediest places in favor of the countries that always get the mission teams and are better set up to host them. THUS the squeaky wheel gets more grease and the rusty wheel stays dry.

The solution? You can only break this by an intentional effort to go further, go harder, go beyond. Take the road hardly-ever traveled, push into new territory and avoid landing wherever the stream's flow wants to push you.

That's why I am excited about Transform 2010 and the focus on Mediterranean countries this summer.

If you are thinking of coming to Europe this summer then please consider joining Transform 2010. This short term mission hosted by Operation Mobilization begins with a conference in Rome and then send you out in a team of crazy young people like yourself into one of 20+ countries both North and South of the Mediterranean Sea.

Its where the needs are. Really. Consider it. But consider it quickly because registration closes on June 19th. And if you cant go, then you can give, follow on Twitter, and pray.

The Skinny on the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force Report

Today is the BIG day! At the Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in Florida, The Great Commission Resurgence Task Force Report [read it here] is presented and voted on. Quite historic, actually. Big Al Mohler wrote some thoughts last week on how important this document might be for the future of the Southern Baptists. I agree.

As for me, I was thrilled to read the report when it was released and I give it a tall skinny thumbs up!! I won't be present at the Annual Meeting this year, keeping up a perfect record of absence since 1999, so obviously I cant vote in person, but I hope it goes through.

The greatest jump in my opinion is allowing the IMB (International Mission Board) to play in the USA, something that has been off limits due to an understanding that IMB does foreign missions overseas and NAMB focus on the home country. This actually is the biggest reason why we did not finalize our application with IMB back in 1999 - we felt God's call toward a people group that spanned the globe, including USA, and that didn't work with the geographical limits of the IMB. Not to worry, we managed to find funding in other places, most of the time, and that allowed us to partner with other groups in a way that would have impossible if we were representing IMB rather than The Boaz Project. But this report gives me hope if there will be a place for families like ours in the future, and a greater cross-pollination of IMB with NAMB and, hopefully, with other less obvious Southern Baptist ministries like ours.

What I would have liked to have seen is evidence that the IMB will also make some changes in its budget and strategy, allowing for the sweeping changes in the mission landscape which challenge it to a greater level of cooperation with other mission entities, and allow a more holistic measurement criteria in its ministries. Mohler was right to suggest that Southern Baptists not "choose business as usual" but in fact, Southern Baptists working overseas must also demonstrate an equal measure of boldness, eagerness and faithfulness.

But that's for another moment. For today, lets hope the report gets a big thumbs up from everyone.

Related on TSK:
Did God send Jamie Oliver to the Southern Baptists?
Highlights from the Baptist World Alliance Congress

A new blog editor for me

I finally gave up on ecto blog editor after it constantly crashed on me and I was losing posts. I hope they get ecto stabilized in the near future so that I can return to it. I have been a huge Ecto fan and a user of its predecessor Kung-Log. I have even had the pleasure if its creator Adrian coming on my blog before to discuss issues and problems with ecto. I still think its the best blog editor for mac, but for now I need another editor.

I tried Mars Edit and liked it a lot  - although not as good with images as Ecto - but now the trial is over and they want $39 from me. Not now, I am thinking, especially after paying for Ecto. So in the meantime, I have downloaded ScribeFire to work with Firefox and that will let me write some posts offline and then send them up when I get online. This post is my first ScribeFire post. Feels pretty good!

Glasnost, Balkans and some reflections from our gathering.

Balkan Connect was a really good experience. One of the questions running through my mind was "What is God doing in the Balkans?" and I feel like I got a few answers. Here are some moments from the gathering you might appreciate.


On Sunday about 25 young people come over to our campground for crepes, coffee and splashing around in boats on Lake Ohrid. That big guy on the right was shunned by the churches because he was a martial arts trainer but found a place in a new church called Glasnost. He has made a huge impact in his social circle for Jesus. When it was my turn to speak, I shared about the late and great and EVER-FUNKY Brian Ollman and his church in Pomona where one of the pastors - John Jensen - was a martial arts instructor, cage fighter and the guy who taught on "Missional Jujitsu" at a recent missional church event. The Macedonians really liked that story. It was like hearing about a mirror image on the other side of the world - another church with a similar story.


Glasnost led the worship on Saturday night with hip hop, creative movement, poetry, singing and ancient prayers from Macedonia. Glasnost is one of the churches, or "monastic communities" as Scot Bower refers to them, that is making a difference in their city of Skopje, Macedonia and also in other cities where they are attempting to plant churches. Its a really cool group of wonderful, poor, struggling, creative young people who are the first ones to break out of the mold and start something that makes sense to the new generation in Macedonia. One of their leaders [Alpin, who attended our roundtable in Poland last year] is a tattoo artist and others are starting up new businesses to sustain themselves. One of their most impressive ministries, in my opinion, is the Kindergarten they run for Romany [Gyspy] children, many of whom would be on the streets begging for money with their mothers if if wasn't for their intervention. Someone recently made a short video about Glasnost and another video about their ministry is here.


Alek and his son watch the splashing war that happened when the participants from the conference jumped on our boats. What is it about the Balkan people that makes them fight all the time? Honestly?

Who is Tommie Naumann?? You should really know this man. Not only did he pioneer much of what I have just talked about in Macedonia, but he has started a church in Thessoloniki, Greece, that even the Greeks refer to as a very Greek church, one in which newcomer can remain Greek AND orthodox AND still join in with what God is doing among the next generation. They have a coffee bar in Thessoloniki and you will be pleased to hear that Tommie and his wife BLOG. This guy is REALLY REALLY SPECIAL to the Kingdom.


When the Balkan Connect crowd came over on Sunday morning, we showed them a cave church from the 1400's (my estimate) that has some of the best preserved paintings out of any of the cave churches in this area. The monks who painted these caves and turned them into churches [or 24-7 prayer spaces] were the emerging church of their era. They were an ascetic bunch of young Christian mystics noted for their miracles, healings and prophetic words. We felt a strange connection to them.

This is Nuno, a Baptist pioneer church planter from Portugal leading us in a spiritual song that God put on his heart. What song??? You will never guess. It was "Redemption Song" by Bob Marley.

So, God is doing stuff in the Balkans, yes, but it seems to be in its infant stage right now and could really use some prayer and encouragement.

More reflections on Balkan Connect coming soon. But in the meantime, if you want to understand the heart of this prayer movement, check out a post by the man behind the man behind the man behind the man BEHIND THE MAN who was at the conference but keeping a low profile. Talkin' bout the ever-present Ian Nicholson, who got quite emotional, and yet restrained at the same time as Englishmen are required to do, when England drew with USA in the World Cup two nights ago.

Smelly people in church

Here's a great story from last weeks mission meetings in Edinburgh about the beginnings of the world's biggest church.

"Once a woman missionary asked Cho, ‘Reverend, why are there only sick people in this church? I can’t stand the smell. How can our holy Lord come to this smelly place? Try not to gather these people anymore. And go out and preach the Gospel. Teach your congregation on how to take a bath’.

Cho’s answer to the missionary reveals his view of the church’s role to the poor and suffering, Rightly said, Missionary. These people are from heaven’s 1st complex. Why is it 1st complex? Because when Jesus comes, they will be the first ones to go to heaven. It is not that these people are not cleaning themselves because they do not know how to take a bath. During winter they have to go to a public bath for washing but they cannot afford as they are poor. They can only clean themselves in the summer in the Han River. As a missionary, you must know this. Do you think that Jesus ever took a bath? Foxes have holes and birds have nests but Jesus had to sleep on the mountains and fields because He did not have a place to rest His head. Jesus could only take a bath in the Galilee beach when it rained. Jesus likes poor and smelly people because he belongs to them. Is there any greater news than healing the sick and helping the poor? Isn’t this the gospel? Isn’t God our healer, and healing the gospel? "

Quote from Dr Young-Hoon Lee of Korea, Christian Spirituality and the Diakonic Mission of the Yoido Full Gospel Church

Rocking the Cradle: Historical Adventures in Deep Ecclesiology

Lake Ohrid, Macedonia. Its really beautiful here and I am looking forward to the Balkan Connect gathering that has just started.


I get to flap my lips tomorrow with a look at some of the movements that have shaped the church and brought us up to this moment, in particular the emerging church movement that started in the mid-late 80's as isolated experiments and "hopeful rumors", expanded to national organizations and networks in the 90's, and since the countries started collaborating together a decade ago, has created this funny-messy-delightful-frustrating situation we now find ourselves in. I have entitled it "Rocking the Cradle" as a respectful nod to the President's talk on religion here in Lake Ohrid last week. He called this area a spiritual cradle for the world - which it is, and has been for many centuries. Time to wake up the sleeping church. Time to rock the cradle!

Cant wait to meet all the young people here and listen to the stories of what God is doing around the Balkans.