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Posts from May 2011

What would you do with the Crystal Cathedral?

The Crystal Cathedral is up for sale and I just heard that someone bought it for $46 million.

Dang! Maybe some emerging church out there should have bought the 40 acre campus and recycled it into something useful. Although if Randall Balmer is correct in saying that passing on a huge unsustainable megachurch is a generational problem, then it might take a bit of imagination.

But hey - its worth a shot. Let me ask you, since you are young and free.

What would you do with the Crystal Cathedral?

Off the top of my head, I can think of a few things that could be done to transform the Cathedral into a kick-butt emerging church or, even better, a contemporary monastery.

450px Crystal Cathedral on edge

1. Dig up the parking lots, add soil and reticulation and plant stuff that is green and organic. Salad anyone? Yum! Sell the surplus at the famers market and to restaurants and generate some income. Sustainability, anyone??? Need a greenhouse for the seedlings? No problem. The whole church is a flippin' greenhouse!

2. The interior is huge and just crying for an adventure playground. Add climbing walls, tarzan swings and flying foxes. Dress up as Quasimodo and invite your friends.

CrystalCathedralCover web

3. Pull the pipe organ apart and rearrange it into a whisky distillery. Hmmmmm. And that leftover wood will make a great bar.

4. Turn every second pew into a table. Much better to watch movies when you are eating pizza. Invite the neighbours.

5.  Baptismal. Crystal Cathedral is where the famous Evel Knievel was baptised. You are probably thinking of adding extra heaters and making it into California's largest jacuzzi. Unfortunately, this church is more of a sprinkling church (like the Lutherans) than a dunking church (like the Baptists) and I don't think they even have a decent baptismal. Better knock off million from the price.

6. The foyer is huge. What about some temporary shelter for the homeless and potential earthquake shelter should it happen. Social enterprise center?

Anyway, what do you guys think. What would you do with the Crystal Cathedral?

Global Cities: Some thoughts

In the past week I have been in three of the worlds largest cities - Hong Kong, Beijing and London.

City global

Beijing was my favorite. Its a wonderful city. So much potential.

While there I met with friends who are working in many other global cities like Tokyo and Seoul.  HUGE CITIES!

Over the next year I hope to visit a dozen more of these ridiculously large, sprawling, intimidating metroplexes. Some of the most exciting models of doing church and ministry differently (and sometimes more effectively) are happening in global cities.

Some thoughts:

1. Countryside. To reach the cities we also need to reach the countryside. Beijing's population has swelled by another 6 million people recently to reach 19 million, mainly due to the number of workers arriving from rural areas. These workers leave their families behind and many of them only return once a year, usually during New Moon Festival. If we apply all our resources to the cities and forget the countryside, we might see families devastated in the process.

2. Institutions. It is not fair to say that incarnational and organic models of church are opposed to institutions because many of them are starting institutions of a different form. Instead of starting a church institution, they start a Kingdom-principle-oriented social enterprise or micro-business and then allow spiritual community to form around it. These structures allow greater financial sustainability as well as fluidity for the communities to function as church, even if they cannot gather as such.

3. Monastic. Urban monastic models of church, and their modern-day counterparts that look less like monasteries but function the same way, are increasingly effective in the urban environments of global cities.

4. Rich and Poor. Reaching cities means working with both rich and poor at the same time. The poor need resources, empowerment and justice and the rich have resources, power and justice to dispense. Bringing them together is essential and it is in these moments that the church becomes church. A missional focus allows both groups to work together.

Many of the 50 holistic fringe expressions of church that we want to help young leaders start and develop over the next year will be in global cities. Will you pray with us? You can follow our progress with our newsletter.


A Chinese book turns 100

Last week I stopped into Beijing, as one does, and went to a church called Next. This church is part of the larger BICF, but it meets separately in this funky restaurant. They were a wonderful and whacky group of young internationals and they asked me to share a story. OK . . . why not?

Next church china


I told them the story of a Chinese book that changed my life, a book that is celebrating its 100th year anniversary this year.

The book, Missionary Methods: St Pauls or Ours (1911), by an Englishman named Roland Allen, was a harsh critique of Western missionary methods that the author found to be unsustainable and quite unhelpful.

Somebody say "MISSIONARY COMPOUND" and keep a straight face.

Allen recommended going back to the New Testament [HELLO!] to discover the way of Jesus and his disciples, something that he felt would enable a more indigenous and less Western approach to ministry. His book was based on insights from China as well as a search of the Scriptures regarding how the Apostle Paul achieved such remarkable results.

In many ways, the book was forgotten for its first 50 years, as the author anticipated, but was re-released to the world through Bishop Lesslie Newbigin who wrote a glowing intro to the book and highly recommended it to a Western world struggling with a post-Christian identity. Allen's later book, The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church and the causes which hinder it (1927) was also helpful in moving the church to its roots with a more simple and reproducible strategy.

The lack of Chinese-oriented books that teach an indigeonous Chinese way of following Jesus and doing ministry in a Chinese context worries me. And not just China. When I was in Hong Kong the week earlier, I asked a Seminary student what Chinese books he was studying and he stared back blankly, not able to name a single book.

"What about Watchman Nee? The Normal Christian Life?"

"Ahhhhh . ..   No"

Now that worries me!

The church in China is vibrant and strong, growing rapidly over the past 60 years to become one of the largest in the world with some estimates as high as 130 million, a number including registered and unregistered churches.


On the other hand, the church in the West has not grown for 150 years and today it is in deep, deep trouble. Why should be we exporting our dysfunctional, resource-sucking church models to the world when other countries have already discovered a better way? The Chinese have much to teach us, and much to teach themselves, based on a rich heritage including both Chinese leaders and missionaries like Matteo Ricci who is still honored in China today. I hope to see more Chinese-inspired and Chinese-authored books available in the future, not just in China, but around the world.

Related on TSK: Roland Allen and megachurches on the internet

I need books on emerging blogging nomadic couch surfing apostles

I need you to recommend some books for me. The creative people at Cornerstone Festival have taken my three seminars and given them a single title. THANKS! I have asked them to change the "emergent" word, which I try to avoid, but that's fine if they want to use it. Here's how the seminar looks on their website:

Emergent Blogging Nomadic Couch Surfing Apostles
Andrew Jones (3 Sessions)

The Tall Skinny Kiwi offers a travelogue of places and people on the road into the 21st century. First, an account of one man's journey through Emergentdom, its rise, controversies, and what remains after the movement finally shaves off its goatee and gets a real job. Second, a survey of Christian blogging and look ahead down the online stream. Third, a look at existential migration as an alternative to short term missions — how to survive, and how to make an impact.

Heres the deal. For Northern Seminary to offer credit for the courses they sanction at Cornerstone,  I need to recommend some books in each of the three areas. Can you help me?

The three sessions needing books for students to read before they come, and the books you can possibly point me to, are:

1. The global emerging church. I want to trace the movement over the last 25 years as it has grown on each continent. Most books only deal with USA and sometimes UK. Very few, if any, deal with Asia, Latin America and Africa. I suggested The New Conspirators by Tom Sine because it deals with plenty of countries (although mostly Western) and include the new monastic movement which is important in my opinion.

2. Social media and Christian ministry. My talk will be an overview of the first decade of Christian blogging, how social media has changed the way we do ministry today and the future of life-streaming online, publishing on tablets and the shift from web site to app. Any books on this????

3. Mission among the next generation. What global missions is looking like today with young couch surfers, new monastics, global nomads and missional pilgrims carving out a new and more sustainable way of changing the world on a budget through Kingdom oriented social enterprise. I can think of a lot of real life examples but I am pulling out my hair trying to think of a single book on this subject.

Somebody help me.

Christian Social Entrepreneur Initiative

Praxis Labs is offering $50,000 first prize for a social entrepreneur. Might be you.  Read more.

“Our ultimate goal is to help Christian social entrepreneurs to create high-impact, long-lasting organizations that serve the greater good. We succeed when our entrepreneurs succeed,” said Kwan, who is also the director of international giving for David Weekley Family Foundation.

Sounds a little like Feast on Good, sponsored by Echoing Green which I have enjoying partnering with over the past few years. All good. Very good!

HT: The Gathering

Related: Mission and the Fourth Sector

Back to London

Flying back to London today and then to Prague on Wednesday. Its been a fantastic time in Asia over these past few weeks and I will surely tell you all about it when i get a chance. Such a huge, vibrant, dynamic area of the world. Its been busy and full but totally worthwhile.

Andrew wall

Rapture: Jesus stood us up again.

It's May 21st. Some people were expecting Jesus to come and apparently he stood them up, once again, and left them high and dry on late great planet earth. Maybe the same people who thought he was coming in September 6, 1994, according to an earlier prediction by the same guy.

Hey Harold Camping . . . please don't do that again.

Dang! There goes my plans for starting a used lawn mower business.

Here is an old blog post of mine that I am reposting today in honor of Harold Camping.



rapture painting

Matthew Paul Turner has a collection of the best rapture paintings including some tips on how to make them - like including HEADSTONES. Not bad. In response to MPT, here are what I think are the 3 best ever rapture movie posters:

1 A Thief in the Night, 1972

A Thief in the Night rapture movie

The movie that gave us Larry Norman's "I Wish We'd All Been Ready" theme song and by far the best rapture movie poster. Even better, imho, would have been that scene with lawnmower running all by itself, its operator sucked up suddenly into the heavenlies. Didn't see the movie? Check out a clip here.

2 A Distant Thunder, 1978. 

a distant thunder movie poster

I love that strained look of anxiety on her face. Ahhhh!!!!! It happened, exactly as Hal Lindsey and Tim LaHaye predicted it would. Armageddon outta here!

3 The Prodigal Planet, 1983.

prodigal planet rapture movie

Is that a walkie-talkie or a phone? Whatever it is, something is terribly, terribly, wrong! But nothing wrong, apparently, with the script-writer's eschatology.

RUNNER UP Image of the Beast, 1980.

image of the beast rapture movie.jpg

Why the long face? It's not the end of the world!!

Maids in Hong Kong

There are almost 300,000 domestic workers (maids) in Hong Kong and almost all of them are from either Indonesia or the Philippines. This morning in Hong Kong I preached at a church for Philippino maids and we had a blast. Yesterday I preached at a church for Indonesian maids. Also a blast. I was the only man at the Indonesian service. Obviously the pastors of these churches are all female.

Both times I told the story of 3 young fishermen who, having decided to follow Jesus, ended up in the house of a prominent religious offical named Jairus (Luke 8:40). You dont have to be wealthy to reach the wealthy. If you know Jesus, you can be the poorest and most vulnerable person you can imagine and you can still impact anyone. In fact, its easy for poor people to minister to others than rich people which is why Jesus recommended voluntary poverty for his trainees (Luke 9, 10). Changing the world involves hanging out with both the poor and the rich. One group needs justice or resources and the other has justice or resources to give. We become the bridge between the two.

Some of the domestic workers I met had experienced a rough time in Hong Kong. Some had been denied their pay. A few volunteers were helping file some paperwork to get some justice but no one professionally trained was there to help. Such a great need.

Kirchentag. A party for 120,000 Protestants

Imagine 120,000 Christians descending on a single city for a few days of celebration, teaching, music, food and talk. It's absolutely HUGE! Its the size of 6 Greenbelt Festivals. I'm talking about Kirchentag.

Kirchentag is German for "Church Day", the 33rd German Protestant Church Day to be exact. It happens from June 1 to June 5. And they had the good sense and immaculate taste to invite me to speak there this year. Good on them!

Kirchentag picture









I love big parties and this one is BIG! About 120,000 German Christians from all over Europe are taking over the city of Dresden. We will be driving our truck up to Dresden and camping out with lots and lots of young people.

Heaps of cool stuff - imagine a Moravian agape meal lead by Moravians from Herrnhutt, Gregorian night prayer and Quaker silent prayer, and Taize worship prayer led by the Taize community from . . Taize, France.

And also plenty of teaching panels and sessions. I am doing a few of those in the youth area and also one important event where I have to behave myself and speak on the subject of Ecumenism. I will probably talk about ecumenism in the area of missional theology, deep ecclesiology, cultural and geographical networking and will mention the example of Dietrich Bonhoeffer who became a subject of interest AGAIN last year through that excellent book.

Kirchentag schedule ecumenism

Download the English version of the program and read more. And let me know if you want to come along and camp with us. We have some extra tents you might be able to borrow.


Starting a Blog

Now is the best time to start blogging. Really!

Probloggers-first-week-of-blogging Darren Rowse has just released the Probloggers Guide to Your First Week of Blogging. Its a great little guide to getting started and developing some rhythms of writing and posting which will be a great help.
- Set up a folder for ideas
- Use mind mapping techniques for ideas
- Post your content the day after you write it
- Check google for key words that others use
- Integrate with other social media
There are also a lot of helpful links to previous content that you probably wouldn't find without the book.