Friday, March 30, 2012

Friday Burn

::: The Fastest Adopted Gadget of the Last 50 Years

::: Couple Gets Engaged Based on Charity: Water Campaign

::: Young Adults, Cars and Church

::: 5 Strategies to Reach Young People at Church
Will lists some really interesting, and true, facts in the intro.
Because the gift of leadership naturally develops leaders in its wake, a lack of presence with the next generation is a lack of leadership in some way.

See all the Burn posts here.

Photo: Ben Boles and I, Philadelphia, PA, November 2011. Ben has been a participant this year in our Ember Impact Coaching.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Nepal and 8th Grade

I sat in a session a few weeks ago where some long term missionaries talked to a group of 8th graders about their ministry in Nepal. No personal details or pictures are in this post on purpose - Nepal is considered a 'closed' country.

What they shared was really interesting but I was even more fascinated with the significant global concepts that they touched upon. Ideas like: unreached people groups, church planting, population density, the caste system, tribal social networks, economic roles, THUMB [tribal hindu unreligious muslim buddhist], The Jesus Film, Buddhist prayer flags, oral versus written cultures, and churches planted to reach the unreached. They didn't dive into any of these in great detail, because certainly each one could almost be its own class. But like I've said before, middle schoolers can understand these ideas. It's our responsibility to intentionally expose them to these ideas.

If you work with middle school students, they already know a ton about the world. Maybe it's time for you to give that knowledge a catalytic filter.

PS - I heard about Nepal twice that week. But that doesn't mean I'm moving there.

Related: Middle School Missionaries

Monday, March 26, 2012

Ember Darley Park

The Ember Cast helped facilitate a service and leadership experience last Saturday for some students at Salisbury Uni via Serve the City Baltimore's Spring service day. If you've been reading along, you know that we've worked with TayEst and her clan of college students for a few years and that they've been doing some pretty remarkable things at school. A few months ago, Taylor asked if Ember could put together a service and leadership experience where they could learn about sustainable community development, based on a desire to learn more about these kinds of principles like outlined in Toxic Charity. I asked my good friend Patrick Donohue if there was a possibility that this could work out for the Serve the City Spring service day and we got Saturday, which worked out perfectly.

Our team heard some teaching about the context of Darley Park, one of the most at risk communities in Baltimore, and go to work with Dorothy, one of the most senior residents of this community that decided that she was going to stay, even in the midst of the community being overtaken by bad people. Our big task, chosen by Dorothy, was to clean all the trash from two alleyways. In and of itself, the actual task would have been pretty good. Knowing that it was chosen by someone who is indigenous to the community [Dorothy] and hearing about the context of Darley Park made it a great project.

Here's some other items of note:
::: Our host, besides Dorothy, was one of the leaders of The Transformational Team, a partnership between the police department, local congregations and local nonprofits. Take special note at the Indicators for Transformation section. Perhaps this is how we should measure effectiveness of our churches.
::: Darley Park context
+ 1 church for 300 people in Baltimore. More pastors and deacons in the city than drug dealers but the mindset of the city is still owned by evil.
+ The level of darkness is greater than the level of prayer.
+ Push back the dark, then minister to needs.
+ Spiritual and cultural initiatives this summer in Darley Park:
art project
jazz on Friday nights
a prayer alter on a porch on every block
+ Is 62:4 The idea of married to the land.
::: There was a police car with us the whole day. I was told later this was by intention.
::: Two key concepts for next generation global leaders: systems and people of peace.
+ Systems - think systemic and systematic. Apply change to the system instead of just the circumstance.
+ People of peace - Dorothy was one of 6 elderly ladies that had a lot of influence in the community. Dorothy is a Christian so that one aspect of a person of peace doesn't quite fit her.
+ Neither of these concepts is taught enough to our high school or college kids.
::: Patrick Donohue, who runs Serve the City Baltimore and is planting Mercy and Grace for the City, is a phenomenal leader.
::: Grace Church used this service day as a launching point for their student teams as part of an overall preparation plan. Mission teams are stereotypically underprepared. This event helped teams grow together before they reach the field.
::: My 11 year old smelled pot for the first time. It didn't go unexplained.

More pictures

Friday, March 23, 2012

Friday Burn

::: More than 2B people live on less than $2 day - here is how they save money.

::: Digital Natives are Slow to Pick Up Nonverbal Clues
Link via Alex McManus

::: 14 Smart Solutions for Housing the Homeless
Link via Mel McGowan

::: "Vision without execution is hallucination" - Einstein via Dan Sadlier

See all the Burn posts here.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Serving the City - Baltimore

Ember will be participating in Serve the City Baltimore this coming Saturday for their Spring serve event. It should be a lot of fun seeing some old friends in the context of working with some on-the-ground nonprofits doing good work. It's not too late to sign up if you are free and have an interest in Baltimore.

Lots of interesting social and spiritual dynamics moving in Baltimore, including a number of high energy church plants and STC is part of a strategy for one of these plants, which is fun to see. I'm grateful for some connections we have - we will be working with a team of kids from Salisbury again and specifically learning and serving with a community development organization. Sustainable community development has been on a lot of our minds after our Toxic Charity discussion night.

There is a progression from self to serving to systems. At first, we only think about ourselves. Then we develop a habit of serving others, both in terms of events like this one, and in our lifestyles. After having a lifestyle of service, we'll start to look at the systems that can propagate certain social, economic or spiritual issues. Most of our team on Saturday is all the way on the right side of this threshold and I'm excited to see what we all learn.

If you are going to be a STC this Saturday, let me know.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Less Than 10 Minutes with Pastor Oscar

I spent less than 10 minutes with Pastor Oscar last weekend. Some random stuff I learned:

+ Incredibly warm and inviting in person. You can be incredibly hospitable even when you are the visitor and that is a rare gift to others.
+ He asked someone what our church's strategy for reproduction is. You must be intentional about exponential growth.
+ Oscar is trying to unleashing church planters and leaders before the age of 28. After the age of 28, leaders start getting married and having kids and becoming much more risk averse.

Had I remembered reading about Steve meeting Oscar, I would have tossed all my other plans and stayed much longer.

[Related: Movements Move]

Friday, March 16, 2012

Friday Burn

::: Nearly One in Four High School Seniors Smoke
and one in three young adults under age 26 despite a half-century of federal warnings about tobacco

::: The Church Foreclosure Crisis

::: Middle Aged Prodigies [hope for me and my peers]

::: A Connectors Guide to Making Connections
I want to be a connector like this. via whitney johnson

::: When WL Gore kills a project. They have a party. @kylewestaway

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


It is one thing to teach a student how to be culturally sensitive to a given context. You can teach them how to politely eating bushmeat in Cameroon, to watch both the players and the audience at a soccer game in Brazil, or to only use their right hand in Middle Eastern environments.

It is a whole different thing to teach a student how to navigate different cultures, understanding both the surface icons, what they signify about the culture and decoding the right behavior from that association. Some of the latter also includes lots of observations, talking about these concepts in community and having a learning posture.

You could do this too. Start with asking students to:
+ Identify symbols that are different in their new context versus their home context
+ Tangibly engage in something different, like food, music or language.
+ Explain the relationship between a cultural icon in their school/home/etc and the meaning behind it.

Ember will be doing some of this with students in early April. DC is our playground.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Book Notes - Flickering Pixels

Flickering Pixels - How Technology Shapes Your Faith by Shane Hipps. Remarkable read, highly recommended because of the culture we live in and how we maybe hardly recognize it. Some comments in brackets.

Christianity is fundamentally a communication event. The religion is predicated on God revealing himself to humanity. God has a habit of letting his people know something about his thoughts, feelings, and intentions. God wants to communicate with us, and his media are many: angels, burning bushes, stone tablets, scrolls, donkeys, prophets, mighty voices, still whispers, and shapes traced in the dirt. Any serious study of God is a study of communication, and any effort to understand God is shaped by our understand - or misunderstanding - of the media and technology we use to communicate.

The erosion of memory is, in fact, a downside of the invention of writing; however, there is also an upside that Thamus [king of Egypt, debated on the value of writing versus knowledge] failed to perceive. Reading and writing have an incredible capacity to expand consciousness and advance the common good. Consider the Reformation, which challenged the corruption and abuse of the medieval Catholic church. This would not have happened without a rise in literacy among the masses.... Or consider the fact that free democratic forms of government have a tendency to take root and thrive in cultures with high literacy rates. Democracies demand that citizens have access to information in order to make informed decisions. Literacy provides this on a scale that a purely oral culture does not.

The belief that media are neutral tools is only half right. Marshall McLuhan, the oracle of the electronic age, reveals that error of this assumption when he says that "the medium is the message." If the first truth is that our methods necessarily change, the second truth is that whenever our methods change, the message automatically changes along with them. You can't change the methods without changing your message - they're inseparable. [Large ramifications to the idea of contextualization - the Gospel stays the same but is communicated differently in different contexts. This premise says that is not true.]

The broad introduction of literacy into an entire culture completely alters the way that culture thinks. Writing restructures the worldview of entire civilizations.

The printing press had been in existence in China for nearly 800 years prior to its European debut in the 1400s, and yet it had none of the same liberating intellectual effects it had in the West. The simple explanation is efficiency. The Chinese language just wasn't every efficient. Because each symbol in the Chinese language represents an entire word or idea, a dizzying number of characters are required for communication. In fact, that number could be equal to the number of words in the language - the Chinese dictionary has more than 80,000 characters and is still growing. The idea of using the printing press for mass communication in China made about as much sense as creating a computer keyboard with 80,000 keys.

The linear arrangement of pews in churches didn't exist before the printing press.

Printing makes us prefer cognitive modes of processing while at the same time atrophying our appreciation for mysticism, intuition, and emotion. It can make us suspicious or fearful of feelings, especially as they interact with our 'logical' faith.

The Bible presents us with at least two different understandings of conversion, and yet, depending on the cultural context, one understanding is always emphasized at the expense of the other.

The printed word creates fissures in the mind. It makes us prefer distinctions between things. Printing breeds a strong preference for categories.

The radio returned our culture to the experience of the tribal campfire with its shared stories, songs and banter.

If oral culture is tribal and literate culture is individual, the electronic age is essentially a tribe of individuals.

I find it troubling that so many communities of faith are in hot pursuit of these [social networking] technologies. The Internet is seen as the Holy Grail of 'building community.' However, churches will find the unintended consequences of this medium coming back to bite them. The Internet is a lot of things, but it is emphatically not a neutral aid. Digital social networking inoculates people against the desire to be physically present with others in real social networks - networks like a church or a meal at someone's home. Being together becomes nice but nonessential.[This reminds me of The City, which I have some reservations about. Maybe another post.]

To many adult minds, the digital land is a foreign country with strange languages, norms and practices. Parents are undocumented immigrants, while their kids are native citizens of the land and serve as interpreters and gatekeepers.

This shift marks the first time in the history of the world that parents have limited access to the world of teens and children. Go back five hundred years to the dawn of the print age and the situation was reversed. Printing empowered adults. It led to a more pronounced elevation of adults over children. It shrouded the adult world in mystery, leaving children on the outside straining to look in. A child wanting to access adult information was required to learn a complex code - phonetic literacy - which could take decades to master.

The electronic age changed all this by dissolving the information barriers of the print age. … This means even young children can have access to the same information that adults have.
[remarkable chapter Getting Younger on digital generations]

Monday, March 12, 2012

Youth Sunday at GRACE

+ CStolte, 2012 Ember intern, helps lead worship. [didn't get a good pic...]

+ Scott Murrill, current senior high youth pastor, has his last youth sunday - an era ends soon.

+ My daughter shared from the stage. Very, very proud.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Friday Burn

::: Two of the best reads I've found about #Kony2012. Both from Ethan. [I'm thinking you know what I'm talking about, unless you've been living in a hole.]
American sentimentality towards Africa
Unpacking Kony2012
[I might post some observations about this whole thing from the context of our efforts in mobilizing global leaders from the suburbs.]

::: Zipcar's Cities of the Future

::: The Culprits of Quitting
classic Ben Arment

::: Is America Heading Towards A Post Marriage Society?

See all the Burn posts here.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Eurochurch - Missions and Church Planting

Here's a pretty recent report on church planting in Europe. Dig into it a bit and you'll see lots of different kinds of models of church as well as lots of different kind of leaders involved in these kinds of things. This is valuable for you and I - we are on the verge of the same kind of secular, post-Christian environment. Add to that the mix of the emerging generation that you and I are trying to prepare and a report like this gives us lots to learn. Keep digging and ask yourself how you would do this kind of research and put this kind of report together.

I tweeted about this and of course my friend, Andrew Jones, replied. PS - He's driving their truck through Africa right now. In exchange for a donation to their fuel fund, you'll get what I'm sure is going to be a fabulous ebook about movements in the developing world. It is also going to be an amazing collection of wisdom.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Ember Board Meeting #4

I'm always inspired and grateful when I think about Ember's Board of Directors. Our last board meeting was last Friday night again, I'm so appreciative of this group of people that believes in helping you people mark human history.

Here's some quick and possibly interesting-to-you updates:
+ Joyce brought her computer so we could load Quickbooks so she could help on the finance side of things.
+ Matt always asks, "How are you feeling about all of this?" It's a question I've come to expect and really appreciate.
+ We've renamed the 'youth worker coaching' or whatever we used to call it to Ember Impact Coaching. We might even be coaching you in something you didn't realize you needed.
+ Matt is going to help me develop a capacity model.
+ We are going through a dip. We will work with what we have.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Friday Burn

::: The 7 worst international aid ideas
Link via Andrew Means

::: The First Robotic Convenience Store
Link via Mel McGowan

::: Eight key scriptures for community development

::: True role of pastor & pastoring has been lost. Currently most commonly, Pastor=Communicator. Eugene Peterson @guywasko

::: Overheard: the justice conference was 99% white... How is that justice? @djchuang

::: If church is building, u cant send it. If its event, it only happens weekly. If its people, u can send them 24/7 on mission. @JeffVanderstelt

See all the Burn posts here.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

March Kindling

+ Working on notes for an upcoming Ember Board of Directors meeting this weekend. We'll review the past few months, talk about future plans and go over finances. And have a healthy snack.
+ Been trying for months to launch some summer projects - global leadership mission trips per se. Getting a ton of 'nos' and not a lot of 'yes'. It's pretty discouraging and the momentum just doesn't seem to be there for one reason or another. The emotional rollercoaster tied to something you started is really fun.
+ Reading Toxic Charity threw us. In many, many ways. Probably intertwined with the above.
+ The girls finished 2 months of playing basketball in Upwards. They had a great time and the level of 'competitive' play fit our family very well [read: we don't do sports]. I think it's funny that it's meant to be an 'outreach' ministry.
+ Deanna is still doing well navigating diabetes. She has almost lost 30 pounds and continues to be diligent about what she eats and getting exercise. So proud of her.
+ Been thinking a lot about church, extended family, reproduction and discipleship - in connected and discrete ways. Must be the people I follow on twitter.
+ Loving the team that is helping out with a student missions team prep experience taking place in April. So much talent and passion.
+ A college student told me last night that she declined a summer missions trip with a standard college ministries because she didn't want to be led, she wanted to lead. Did you catch that?