Tuesday, February 27, 2007
Monday, February 26, 2007
Recent finds for me are Aaron Strumpel, Todd Berger, Ryan and Jen Lott (sonlux), Tracy Howe (therestorationproject), and the very out of the box Bridge Church folks who are calling themselves Agents of Future. (Their My Space Page is off the hook!
Todd Berger worked on Village Thrift
The song Strong Weakness is a song I ignored for too long because of the dissonance at the beginning of the song. It is annoying but effective. However, once you get past the dissonance it is pure beauty. Check out the video below:
This is a Portland Oregon Group from the Bridge Church. There is some amazing talent in the room and when they take their stuff to the studio and mix it, it is just amazing. There isn’t a hint of CCM in this band. They are pure! You must check out their my space page and have a listen to their songs.
Agents of Future
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
Week One March 20th
Les Miserable (1998) retells Victor Hugo’s incredible story of Jean Valjean (Liam Neeson), a heartless convict, living during the time of the French Revolution, whose life is transformed through a powerful act of sacrifice when a Bishop frees Him from a life of guilt and shame. In turn, Valjean turns his life over to God by making great sacrifices for Fantine (Uma Thurman), a vulnerable prostitute, who begs Valjean to raise her only child, Cosette (Claire Danes).
Week two March 13th
Facing the Giants (2006) is a story about courage, faith, and sacrifice. In this film, failing high-school football coach, Grant Taylor finds that in order to succeed he must convince his team that there's more to sports than fame and glory. As his sixth season as coach begins to crumble, “
Week Three March 20th
The Mission (1986) stars (Robert De Niro) as Mendoza, a ruthless slave trader who, after killing his brother Felipe (Aidan Quinn) in a fit of rage, seeks redemption by calling upon a group of missionaries to assist him. Through the mission,
Week Three April 4th
The Passion (2004) is Mel Gibson’s presentation of the last 12 hours of Jesus life. This incredibly unsettling depiction of Christ’s death will be viewed during Holy Week and will allow us to see the incredible sacrifice that Jesus made for each of us.
A few months ago, a women from our church told me that I was foolish and irresponsible because I persist in riding a BMX bike even though I am pushing 40. She said something like, "You have a wife and kids and a flock to oversee. How could you take those kinds of risks." My response was simple. I said, "In order for me to be alive, I have to take risks. In order for me to do all I do to love and protect and care for those under my care, I must have a small arena where I can face odds." It is the facing of odds in the small arena, day after day and week after week that keeps me vibrant and fit for the larger arena of life that requires of me to overcome great odds. BMX might kill me, but not BMXing might just steal from me my manhood. As Neal Young Said, It's better to burn out, then to fade away.
Along this area of being a man who is willing to take risks, I want to recommend two things for the fat and happy. First, is a film called The World's Fastest Indian (trailer). It is a film that tells the story of Burt Munro, who road a motorcycle until his dying day, knowing that it was the joy of overcoming odds that kept him vibrant and alive. Though the risks he took could have killed him, the risks he took kept him fully alive.
The second resource is a book called RISK, by Kenny Luck. The book shows how to break the chains of predictability, control, safety, and comfort in exchange for a radically dependent trust in God.
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
I usually do not like church growth books. They remind me too much of Muzak. You remember Muzak right (Is there still Muzak?). Muzak takes stuff like a Bruce Springsteen song and puts it into a format that can be played inside an elevator or a mall. It's like background music. The problem for me with muzak is that the music baptizes all of the grit, all of the sweat, all of the context from a song and makes it into something, well, "vanilla." Born To Run just needs someone behind the mike growling. Anyway, so many church growth books seem to try to boil down the amazing phenomenon of being a vibrant Spirit filled church into something that can be consumed by all. The blood, sweat, tears, and laughter that God stirs in the hearts of men and women which make a church truly great are often put into some kind of neat process that can be used "everywhere with similar results. "
This is not to say that these books do not have ANY merit. There are some fine general principles that can be gleaned from such books. Like design rules (you must know them before you can break them) they may help us in a general way. However, rarely do I find church growth books compelling or revolutionary. That is, until I read Simple Church. This book is beautiful. It presents elegant and simple ideas for helping churches to move away from having frenetic calendars to designing their common life in such a way that it brings honor to God and spiritual growth to the church
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Mewithouyou- paper hanger
On a bus ride into town
I wondered out loud "Why am I going to town?"
And as I looked around at the billboards and the stores
I thought "Why do I look around?"
And I kissed the filthy ground
And in the first dry spot I found
And I didn't have to wonder why I was laying down.
Before long I was too cold
Took a bus back to the station
I found a letter left by a pay phone
With no return contact
And it read like a horn blown by some sad angel
"Bunny, it was me... it was me who let you down"
It was the shyest attempt I'd ever seen at conversation
If I didn't have You as my guide I'd still wander lost in Sinai,
Counting the plates of cars from out-of-state,
(how I could jump in their path as they hurry along!)
You surround me, you're pretty but you're all I can see,
like a thick fog - if there was no way into God,
I would never have laid in this grave of a body for so long.
And Bonner fair always came through the first week of September
But it's already the 19th
And there's no sign of it.
Yet I have a hard time
Remembering all the things that I should remember
And a hard time
Forgetting the all things that I am supposed forget.
Oh Christ when You're ready to come back
I think I'm ready for You to come back
But if You want to stay wherever exactly it is You are,
That's okay too - it's really none of my business.
If I didn't have You as my guide I'd still be wandering lost in Sinai
Or down by the tracks watching trains go by to remind me:
There are places that aren't here.
I had a well but all the water left
So I'll ask Your forgiveness with every breath,
If there was no way into God,
I would never have laid in this grave of a body for so long, dear.
“Hey Bob, Supe had a straight job, even though he could have smashed through any bank in the
Superman proves that the beginning of virtue is saying not “Can I do it?” but, “Should I do it?” and Superman shows himself to be a man of virtue because despite his super-powers he chooses to use them, not for personal gain, but for the building of a just society. May you use your powers today in a way that stops crimes, rescues damsels, and keeps the city alive!<
Thursday, February 08, 2007
“When I was three I thought the world revolved around me I was wrong, and now I sing along.”* Bono
It’s not about me. That is an amazing realization. Once we learn that we were made to love God and others before ourselves, our lives have the potential to turn from selfish gray to worldwide full color. Don’t be a selfish clod, give something to God and others today and shout from the rooftop, “When I was three I thought the world revolved around me I was wrong, and now I sing along.”
*Today’s quote is from U2’s song Party Girl and can be found on the 1983 Live at Red Rocks: Under a Blood Red Sky Album
Sunday, February 04, 2007
One of the most frightening times of my life occurred when, at 14, I realized that the habits I was forming were forming me. It was this realization that forced me into the arms of God. I knew what the posters in the halls at school said; “If you can believe it, you can achieve it.” I knew what me and my friends thought: “Religion is for weak people who cannot hack life." All that is just words. Watching yourself turn into something you hate is a powerful remedy for false truths. So, now I realize that Christianity is for the weak, but I also believe that I can do all things through He who strengthens me. There is a beauty to admitting you are weak. There is also a hidden power in knowing that there is an evil out there so forceful and dominating that it can consume you. So, now I live with my weakness, but I have a strength that is not my own living inside of me- the Spirit of the Living God. I hope you run to Him today, run to Him today so that you will not be consumed by the habits that are forming you.
From Shmeagol to Golum
Thursday, February 01, 2007
"I lift up one foot and it says, 'Glory!' and I lift the other foot and it says, 'Amen!' and so they keep on like that all the time I'm walking. If I were to go down to Hell I would shout, 'Glory! Glory!' unto my blessed Jesus until I made the bottomless pit ring again, and that miserable old Satan would say, 'Billy, Billy, this is no place for thee; get thee back.' Then up to Heaven I would go, shouting, 'Glory, glory, praise the Lord!'"Billy Bray
Billy Bray was a 19th Century Cornish Farmer who went from a life of drunkenness to a life of preaching. He had such a strong sense of his own conversion that people called him, “The King’s Son” due to his constant references to himself as the Son of the King of Heaven. Many today would call Billy a fanatic. I call him refreshing and wonderful. Billy knew how much God loved us and he knew how to give that love back. Oh that we would be reconciled to God and do the same today. O Praise Him
O Praise Him
Pastors turn to technology for help writing sermons
By MAUREEN SIMPSON
The Island Packet
Published Saturday, January 27, 2007
Sometimes, even the Holy Spirit isn't enough to move a congregation with a short attention span.
So some local clergy are finding that even a profession based on ageless truths needs the occasional upgrade -- from where they draw inspiration, how they prepare their messages and how they deliver them.
The Rev. Jerry Kramer of Lowcountry Presbyterian Church has been a minister for almost 40 years. He remembers the days when everything he produced began at "the old typewriter." Now, though he prefers to write his sermon outlines out on a yellow legal pad, he no longer has to pore over stacks of aged index cards and clunky reference books to find helpful commentaries or appropriate illustrations. Instead, virtually everything he needs is just a click away -- giving him more time to focus on how to be creative enough for his congregation.
"Sometimes, I think I could get rid of 90 percent of the books on my shelves and not miss them," said Kramer, who has gone increasingly to E-books and Bible software that enables him to have almost an entire library on his laptop.
"I'm finding that preaching over the years has become much more narrative or storytelling," he said. "A sermon 30 years ago only needed one illustration, and the rest was Biblical and more doctrinal. Now, you have to craft them in a way where people will really listen and respond. It has to have humor in it."
Usually -- in addition to Biblical text itself -- he turns to a lot of secular fiction ("The Alchemist" was his most recent read) or faith-based Web sites for inspiration. Marrying these sources, he said, tends to produce topics that are both socially and spiritually relevant.
When presenting his material to members of his church, however, he prefers to stick with his "no-note" style of preaching. And PowerPoint, he said, is rarely incorporated -- if ever. Though he has pastored at churches that prefer that sort of visual stimulation, his current congregation wishes otherwise. As much a fan of tradition as he is of technology, Kramer complies, noting that sometimes electronics can work against you.
"It's important to still be able to create word pictures in people's minds. I've found that visuals could be more distracting," he said. "If a gifted preacher can create word pictures in people's minds, the visual is more internal than external and thus more effective."
As someone who says he was "nursed on 'Gilligan's Island'<2009>" and is enthralled by graphic design, the Rev. Jay Slocum of The Church of the Cross Buckwalter Parkway Campus respectfully disagrees. In his opinion, the image-based culture in which we live demands we pay attention to it.
"I can never imagine not having images be part of what we're doing, but you also have to be creative with it. Don't just have a PowerPoint up for the sake of having a PowerPoint," Slocum said. He works in conjunction with the church's worship leader to fashion creative graphics and illustrations to accompany his sermons. He has begun crafting YouTube-like videos that he calls "digital teaching and preaching." The 6-miclips are filmed at various locations in Bluffton and on Hilton Head Island and shown before his sermons to help illustrate the points he then expounds on in the pulpit.
"Since people are reading less and less and watching more and more, you have to have a tool to reach them," he said. "It definitely depends on your demographic, though."
Slocum said that just a few years ago it would have been difficult to produce quality videos and presentations that were engaging enough for an audience, but now both the tools and the expectations are in alignment.
"People are able to handle it better, and it's produceable," he said. "It's more plausible to people too, because they're used to seeing it."
Despite Slocum's and others' strong leanings toward technology and image-based preaching, not all clergy feel the pressure or need to keep up with "The Sims."
Like Kramer and Slocum, Rabbi Mark Covitz of Congregation Beth Yam on Hilton Head said he will read or listen to other clergy's commentaries on the Internet for ideas, but ultimately prefers conversations when it comes to preparing and delivering his messages. Even the wealth of resources on the Web can't compare to the inspiration that surrounds him every day, he said.
"We do our best work when talking to people, not a computer," he said, noting he schedules a weekly phone conversation with a rabbi in New Jersey to share thoughts and ideas. "When personal contact is replaced by computer communication, I think the community loses its soul. I don't use a lot of technology in presentations. I think a sermon should be done in an old-fashioned way, from a preacher's mouth to a listener's ears."
No matter their differing perspectives on how technology should or should not be incorporated into their profession, all three clergy agree it's a job that should not be taken lightly. A fine line exists between researching sources and ripping them off, and they say it's one that is crossed too often by some of their spiritual counterparts who purchase and use complete sermon transcripts off the Web.
"I was just reading something a day or two ago where someone said, 'Pastors are so busy that ultimately, you have to do what works,'<2009>" Kramer relayed in hushed dismay. "What was once considered plagiarism is now more commonplace. I've listened to some younger preachers and wondered whose sermon I'm hearing. Sometimes (those Web sites) can be helpful in terms of structure, but I'm of the old-school thinking that a sermon should be your own. It's a matter of integrity."
Slocum, who maintains four different blogs on various personal and spiritual topics throughout the week and posts all his sermons online, said he is open to having other people use his material since advancing the kingdom of God is a common goal of the clergy. But, they need to give people credit where credit is due and be able to reinterpret messages for the community in which they live.
"Everything I create is out there. You can have it if you want it," Slocum said. "What's disturbing to me is pastors that really aren't cng anything new, just baptizing old ideas over and over again. I call it using 'stock' rather than using something that emerges out of you and your relationship with God."
Just as their faith teaches them that the Bible is not meant to be an easy book with simple directives, these clergy understand their job isn't to deliver easy answers and catchy slogans, but to struggle alongside their congregations in examining the text and their concepts of God -- using whatever resources they can to help reach and connect with them.
"A lot of people say preaching has had its day, but I think preaching has never been as dynamic because of all the tools we have to use," Slocum said.
Added Kramer: "Change is part of what keeps ministry fresh and dynamic for me."
Contact Maureen Simpson at 706-8141 or