Friday, November 29, 2013

Friday Burn

::: Thanksgiving Through the Eyes of Missionaries
Link via The Upstream Collective

::: Language Facts Around the World

::: Millennials and the Mega Church Bubble
Link [youtube] via Skye
Skye nails it. If you have 7 minutes, it's well worth the watch.

::: Lets Kill the Aid Industry

::: "No matter what happens, it will have been worth the trying." –Amelia Earhart, in a telegram to her mother, 1928. - @BenArment

Photo: Oreo [and Emily] graduating from beginner dog class.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Book Notes - Youth Ministry in a Post-Christian World

The first time I heard about post-Christianity was when a fellow youth worker told me something he'd overheard. He said a friend of his asked a young pregnant woman if she and her husband had thought of any names for their baby. She answered with this little bomb: "We really haven't thought of a name yet, but one thing we do know is that it won't be a biblical name." This took him aback, so he asked her why. She responded matter-of-factly, "Oh, because we live in a post-Christian world."

This is the world in which our students are growing up today, and they and their friends are no dummies. For Christian students with a faith that really matters to them, growing up in a post-Christian world will cause them to feel like the minority... because they are.

In our post-Christian world, no value is placed on the Sabbath, so our children have some scheduled anxiety seven days a week. This has created the most anxious and stressed-out generation in history.

...this is the world our kids are growing up in, and they need to feel safe as they study, research and try on different faiths. But this Starbucks spirituality is a growing trait, and it's something we need to really think through. In a post-Christian world, you're going to hear this kind of stuff. You're going to hear that students consider themselves "Buddhist Christians" and a plethora of other mashups. How will you respond?

In the past, sometimes I've felt less like a pastor or a shepherd and more like a used car salesman. (I sincerely apologize to any used car salesmen who are reading this right now.) Have we made youth ministry just another product for teens to consume?

In his book Working the Angels, Eugene Peterson says, "The pastors of America have metamorphosed into a company of shopkeepers, and the shops they keep are churches. They are preoccupied with shopkeeper's concerns - how to keep the customers happy, how to lure customers away from competitors down the street, how to package the goods so that the customer will lay out more money."

A sage has a heart for the next generation - Psalm 71:18

Christian relativism
The Miraculous
[These sound sketch but trust me, they are not.]
This is a solid read and the first three chapters outline the state of things in western culture - evangelical student ministry in crisis. If you don't think that is true, then you'll need to get out of your cave and look around. Then go buy this book.

It is also a great read because it helps those who lead students navigate the culture that our kids are growing up in. The post-Christian world is nuanced and complex, confusing and different. But you know how it goes, once a sold out, passionate leader or two gets it, the students that they care about get it too. And that will make all the difference in the world.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Looking for Just One

If you've been around a little while, you've heard us talk about the journey of self -> service -> systems. Some of it comes from various service experiences we have been involved with and some of it has come from reading current practitioners in the charity/nonprofit/missions space. The real clincher is the third step - getting to a point where you have a system that will help people help themselves.

I will be the first to tell you that it is all talk. It's a mantra that we use that has no real experience behind it. It is experimental thinking. And no one associated with Ember has made that third step. I'm optimistic and I'm desperate for just one.

Here are two great examples of what something like this might look like:
My Congregations Experiment in Using Market Values

Why I Finally Wear Toms Shoes

Friday, November 22, 2013

Friday Burn

::: Four World Changing Products
Link from the current issue of Wired magazine, edited by Bill Gates.

::: The 15 Most Popular Cities for Millennials

::: The Date - 8 countries in 21 days without changing clothes

::: Google's Nine Principles of Innovation

::: Names for Change
From the same people that brought you, all to benefit Urban Ministries of Durham

::: "If God be your partner, make large plans." D.L. Moody - @jdgreear

Photo: NYC, March 2009.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The IMN - Strategic and Ideational Leadership Immersion

I have learned a ton from Alex McManus in the past number of years and I know that these immersions that he runs are some of the best if the words in that tweet resonate with you. The IMN has opened registrations for both the online and onsite sessions. Be forewarned though, Alex's gatherings always feel like you are meeting with a different species of human.

Get an idea from some of these notes... Orlando 2005, Humana 2007, Humana 2008, M2011

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Ember Baltimore

Ember facilitated a short leadership service experience last weekend based in Baltimore with some of our friends from Salisbury. If you've followed along here for a little while you know about Wendy and us sending her to AZ last summer. She's the current ring leader for a group of college kids at Salisbury who are deeply invested in a bunch of different community impact projects. Wendy approached us a few months ago about setting something up around the theme of churches with unique impact to their communities.

There seems to be a groundswell of stuff happening in Baltimore - lots of recent new churches starting and some interesting under the covers service stuff. If you follow any of this, you probably know the name Colleen Smith. She is a Baltimore legend. We first met many moons ago when she was Kt's Sunday school teacher. Fast forward through her journey with the inner city, serving at Charm City Church, hosting block parties for Mission Advance and her most recent move to work with Captivate Church. [Read the story about their inner city property.] When we thought of the theme, Colleen certainly came to mind.

We spent the morning with Colleen and some of her kids club kids, walking with her around her community and listening to her stories, like: the police raiding her house multiple times, her now babysitting the kids of the first homeless man she ever met, and executing a bedroom makeover for one of the teenagers in her neighborhood. If you ever get a chance to walk her community with her, you'll see that she literally knows everyone and everyone knows her. Just so you know, this is her life pattern and it's amazing to see.

Around lunch time, we took some pre-made lunches to a spot where lots of homeless people gather. The original plan was that each of our team would give out 3 lunches and actually eat with homeless people. Instead, we ran out of food and spent a little time having conversations with some of the people there. Interestingly, most of our team felt a little awkward about the whole exchange. That's healthy to see because it certainly was an inequity of power [a la Toxic Charity.] It's also healthy because a number of years ago, young people I served with would have been fully satisfied by this - now, they want to serve the less fortunate while caring about their dignity. Of course, trusting your local host is one great step towards the right balance in this tension.

After lunch, we distributed some flyers around the neighborhood for Freedom Church, whose staff is in the midst of starting up a Sunday night church service. Instead of actually starting a gathering, they have hosted a number of community open forum nights to hear from people about what is good and bad about where they live and how could a church help with some of those issues. The flyers we distributed were to publicize another one of these coming up that Sunday. Absolutely love that approach.

Be encouraged about the emerging generation. They desire to connect and learn from legendary practitioners like Colleen. When they execute on their passions and principles from those that have come before them, the world will be a better place.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A Letter From...

When Ember ProtoGuide Measu wanted to get in touch with the author of a significant book she read but couldn't find an email address, she wrote him a letter. Like with a paper and pencil. An envelope and a stamp.

Finding a resource, raising some funding, shaping a team, starting a movement. Emerging global student leaders find a way. The rest of us have no excuses.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Perspectives - Lesson 12 - Ekklesia Church

Fantastic time teaching the Perspectives class at Ekklesia Church last week. The lesson I taught was #12, Christian Community Development and I loved being able to bring some emerging global student leaders to listen in on the class.

Here's a few items to note:
+ There was about 20 people in the class, maybe half spoke Spanish and the other half English. The original intent of the class was that it was to have used real time translation via a translator and Spanish speakers wearing headsets to hear the translation. They ended up not doing that anymore because the people that really needed that stopped coming to the class. In either case, fun to see a class like this move to something like that.
+ Perspectives typically has an older demographic, much like anything else you term 'missions.' There were however, a few young adults in there. I'm a firm believer that if more young people heard about this class, they would take it.
+ Worship was in English and Spanish.
+ Met a girl who had lived in Brussels all through her high school years and we knew some of the same people [small world].
+ She was also family friends of someone who sits on our Ember board of directors [smaller world].
+ We also dropped in, before class, on a good friend of mine and his family who lived in Bangkok and Okinawa. Loved hearing them talk to young people about crossing cultures.
+ My slide deck. It's going to go through some major rewriting though. As always, steal or borrow what you wanna.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Friday Burn

::: Superzips - Washington DC
This week's must read if you live in or near Howard County. Stunningly accurate article about life in Howard County. Pick the cultural idols apart of out this article and let it inform how you make disciples.

::: The 10 Smartest Cities in North America

::: NorthPoint and their bazillion short term trips in 2014

::: Tension, not balance.
So so true

::: Plan to Reach 50 US Cities

Photo: elevator, Vienna City Hostel, 2008.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Plan to Prepare

Some of you might be planning your summer 2014 adventures. Let me encourage you - it's not too early to think about how to prepare your students and leaders in the right manner for those adventures. Think leadership, team building, acclimating to navigating a different culture. Ember is booking student missions prep sessions and would love to help.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Meet Tess

That's Tess on the left [and ProtoGuide Measu on the right... but you knew that...] Ember is at the very beginning embryonic stage of a little project with Tess - it's one of those throw-and-see-what-sticks kinds of things.

Tess spent a little while in Brussels last summer and fell in love with the city, the culture and the people there. Even better, she came home with a new realization of how western culture is post evangelical, post modern and post Christian. Along with all of those posts comes a sense of urgency - humanity is desperate for something.

Tess is a great example of what Ember likes to call an emerging global student leader. She's traveled a little, interested in global cultures and already has lots of influence and responsibility. If this little experiment works, we will all be thrilled.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Friday Burn

::: How Fast Food Eaters Split Along Ethnic Lines
Wait - Asians visit Panda Express?

::: Top 10 Countries for ExPats

::: "I'll pass on waiting for the torch. I've got a fire to start"

::: On the day of their IPO, Twitter chose a nine year old girl to ring the bell on the NYSE
But instead, when time came to pronounce Twitter public Thursday morning, a 9-year-old girl dressed in a “little bluebird” tutu dress appeared behind the bell. She is Vivienne Harr, who recently raised more than $100,000 to fight childhood slavery by spending 365 days behind a lemonade stand....
"Can I say one thing?" Harr asks me before our interview ends. "I just want to say that today I ring the bell to open freedom. And you don’t have to be big and powerful to change the world. You can be just like me."

Photo: WWII memorial.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

To Benefit All

Again, we felt God calling us to a deeper commitment to His glory among the nations. We had developed partnerships after our first Sacred Gathering but, this time, we began to feel God leading us to send teams to live in an unreached or unengaged people group to share the gospel and train local leaders to start indigenous churches. On the last day of the Sacred Gathering, Kyle came to my office and said he couldn't get Belgium off his mind. I think we both knew what was happening. After weeks of discussion and prayer, I told him that if God was directing him to Belgium, then He was directing us to Belgium. I believe when God gives direction to pastors and church leaders, it's not just for their benefit; it's for the church. - The Sending Church: The Church Must Leave the Building by Pat Hood.
The Kyle mentioned here is Kyle Goen, Brussels campus pastor for LifePoint Church.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

My Nonprofit Gives

I sent myself two gifts a few weeks ago from my little nonprofit. Sounds kind of self-serving doesn't it? I sort of agree too, I felt a little strange doing it.

On the other hand, I'm a firm believer in people investing in themselves. Whether it is taking a class or buying some books or learning a new skill, at some point, someone might choose to provide something like that for you. But in the end, the only one that is looking out for your own development is you. There is quite simply no one else as interested in your growth.

So gift yourself something that will make you grow. And be happy about it.

Monday, November 04, 2013


+ Working with a team of college kids led by the infamous Wendy Usher to work on a weekend project with a church with a unique impact to the community. Love this kind of thing. You might remember Wendy as the college kid went sent to AZ for 6 weeks this past summer. More so than usual, this one has been a struggle to get together. That might be the dip that is worth working through.
+ Our host for this project is Colleen Samantha, who I have known for years. She was Katie's Sunday school teacher long ago and we've worked together on multiple projects, the most significant being two block parties that were integral to Mission Advance. Her and Captivate Church have such a unique impact to the city - exactly the theme this team is looking for.
+ Getting final wraps done for my Perspectives session next week. I read that Steve Jobs practiced 1 hour for every 1 minute of his presentation. I need to get 20 hours in this week...
+ You know that phrase that someone 'is unemployable...' In the same way, there are people that are 'unchurchable.' I apologize to you in advance for visiting your church.
+ Thrilled to have ProtoGuides finish reading Church in the Making and start The Forgotten Ways. They've gotten a ton out of the first book and I'm sure will get a ton out of the second. Tell me what other high school students are reading stuff like this.
+ Spent Friday evening with Sarah A, the student transplanted from Aix-en-Provence where the Ember X team worked this summer. Sarah is doing a gap year here in DC and we gave her the night time monument tour.
+ Katie got her learners permit and is in a week of club volleyball clinics and taking drivers ed.
+ 6 weeks after getting our dog, Oreo absolutely loves Emily the best.
+ To parents of younger children - don't believe the lie - it doesn't get any easier.