3 WAYS CHURCHES WILL ADDRESS CULTURAL ISSUES IN THE COMING YEARS

13 03 2015

Ed Stetzer has some very important observations about the interaction between the church and the prevailing culture that greatly benefit those committed to being Bridgebuilding Churches. – STEVE

3 Ways Christians Will Address Cultural Issues in the Coming Years

The way we engage culture as Christ followers matters. It matters a lot. |
3 Ways Christians Will Address Cultural Issues in the Coming Years

Jean-Christophe BENOIST / Wikipedia

At some point during the 1980s and 90s, a desire birthed among politically conservative Christians to begin to stand for things that mattered to them culturally in more active ways than before.

What followed was a ground swell of support for what would become known as the “Moral Majority.” Their understanding was that those who held the beliefs they championed were actually the majority in the country. Some believed that through the right flavor of political activism, they would win the “culture war.”

Fast forward a few decades and, despite these efforts, evangelicals appear to be on the losing side for those who considered it a war.

That’s not a matter of preference or desire; it’s a matter of numbers. Simple math shows that most of the core issues on which the religious right was focused are trending the wrong direction from evangelical belief and practice.

It didn’t work.

When I said that a few years ago, it ended up being quoted in the Washington Post and was listed as a key quote of 2012. It seemed news then.

Now, that idea just seems like common sense and most people would agree. Actually, recent surveys show that the vast majority of pastors tend to agree. (I should add that I don’t use the term “culture war” except in references where others use it—I don’t think you can war against a people in culture and reach them at the same time.)

So the question is, what do we do now? How do we find our way out of a rather awkward cultural moment?

I believe Christians can and will generally focus on three approaches in the years to come.

Cultural Engagers

First, I think there will be some who will be culture engagers. This is where I fit in, but I am aware enough to know I’m not the only one who thinks about engaging culture and that my way is not the only way to do so.

That being said, those who are culture engagers are those who believe we must understand the people around us in order to meaningfully engage them for the cause of Christ. We think about planting churches that are culturally appropriate for the setting, equipping our people with the tools they need for wise and appropriate cultural engagement, and how we can be biblically faithful and culturally engaged at the same time.

We need more culture engagers and more churches engaging culture.

This issue still remains. And, as the culture is shifting, most churches (yes, most) are still living as if they lived in a different era, not engaging the people around them.

I teach and write about this topic often because it is so widely misunderstood. Christians need to engage culture for the cause of Christ, not run from it because people are worldly. Paul explained that he did not call us to “leave the world” (1 Corinthians 5:10) but rather to “become all things to all men” so as to engage them with the gospel (1 Corinthians 9:22). (I’ve written extensively on engaging culture and contexutalization, so I won’t rehash that here, but you can find about 90 articles I’ve written at this link.)

Christians need to recognize that holiness is separation from sin, not separation from sinners. Put another way, holiness does not mean separation from people in the culture around us, but separation for the sin in culture around us.

For Christians to identify with and be identified with Christ, we need to do more of what He did. We need to be accused of the things he was accused of. We need to spend more time, not less, with the people he did.

Our churches need to better understand when we need reflect and when we need to reject the culture in which God has placed us. As one who cares about discerning culture engagement, I will spend more of my time helping churches understand and engage the cultures around them.

We need more culture engagers and more churches engaging culture.

Cultural Defenders

I do not think, however, that we only need the particular emphasis about which I am enthusiastic.

Other approaches to culture will be essential. For this too-simple article, the second approach would be that of culture defenders. These people are the ones who will take a stand in both the political and social arenas on issues that have to do with human flourishing.

They will, hopefully in a winsome and gracious manner, stand in the public square to speak on issues of life, family, and morality. They will be the evangelical voice on important issues where Christians are concerned.

They will defend certain positions, arguing that it is better for human flourishing to value certain things in any culture. These people will participate in important work and start organizations that carry it out, as well as supporting those who are already involved.

Though the work or organizations may not be inherently “Christian,” culture defenders will engage with them for the sake of the gospel. I imagine this may be the most difficult work, but people’s religious liberty will have to be defended, the greater good will need to be advanced, and truth will need to be said.

I imagine that some culture engagers and culture creators will roll their eyes, thinking that the culture defenders are not helpful or as discerning as they are. And, some, indeed, won’t be helpful—fighting in ways that are unhelpful and counterproductive. However, culture defenders will be an important part of our future engagement with culture as we move to the new cultural reality of our time.

We need more culture defenders and churches that will stand winsomely for the truth.

Cultural Creators

A third way Christians will approach culture is as creators. Now, I need to distinguish here between culture creation and evangelical culture creation.

Two-thousand-and-fourteen was the year of the Christian film. Evangelicals released all kinds of different films last year. The unimaginable success of God’s Not Dead caught people completely off-guard, both Christian and not (you can see more from the author of the book on which the movie is based in my interview with him here).

We need more Christians in culture creation and we need more churches encouraging them that way.

Many of these films were made by Christians for either Christian consumption or evangelistic purposes. Their messages are overt and clear, and they are meant to challenge those who do not share the evangelical worldview.

There is nothing wrong with these types of films. There are probably some in this vein I could do without (and some my family enjoyed together), but they help and encourage many.

However, other films written and developed by Christians do not have an overt Christian message. This type of movie seeks to shape culture in a completely different way than the others—they are creating culture that engages the broader culture.

They are not evangelistic, but they are creating and presenting a picture of a different—and better—reality to a culture that needs a picture of the vision they present.

The purpose is to create art that crosses religious boundaries, yet communicates particular constructs that reflect those of the Christian artist.

These types of projects are being produced in several genres of art, including music, theater, and film. The idea is that Christians, having been changed by the power of the gospel, espouse a worldview that creates culture. As believers, they engage in activities that shape the culture around them.

Andy Crouch has written about this in his book Culture Making (you can see my interview with him here). I would encourage you to read what he has written about the creation of culture. We need a lot more culture creators. For two examples, and there are many others, see the music of Lecrae and the movie The Blind Side. Neither see Christian as a genre, but rather hold up Christian values and a better way.

We need more Christians in culture creation and we need more churches encouraging them that way.

Culture Matters

When we assess our current situation, I believe that we find the need for all three types of respondents: culture engagers, defenders, and creators.

We need more culture defenders and churches that will stand winsomely for the truth.

Many Christians will go about this in different ways—and it won’t fit in three nice little categories. Regardless, it does matter that we think well about culture: how we engage it, defend things within it, and create it. And, we need to do so “christianly.”

The challenge will be developing ways that honor Christ, while loving and living with those who think differently. And that’s our new and great challenge.

These three different types of people interacting with culture—engagers, defenders, and creators—need to stop shouting at each other and start acknowledging the value that each brings to this new culture moment. All three types of cultural interaction are important.

In this new and shifting context, we need all hands on deck, and even though we’re working in different ways, we need to work together.

If we are not a moral majority, how do we show and share Jesus in the cultural moment where we find ourselves?

Somehow, as God’s people, that’s how we should engage culture—that because of our good works they might glorify God (1 Peter 2:12) and, ultimately, might consider the truth claims and gospel and the Christian worldview that undergirds it.

Related Topics:Arts; Film; Music




WHAT YOUR CHURCH NEEDS MORE THAN ORDINARY

12 03 2015

Dr. Steve Dunn, Bridgebuilders creator, speaking at the recent sessions of the Great Lakes Conference in Findlay OH. Photo courtesy of Ed Rosenberry.

Churches who are building bridges often slip into the trap of the worst of “attractional” Christianity.  They try to have the “best show” in town or depend on approaches that are as much spiritual adrenalin as Spirit. Tim Spivey has some guidance on this important issue. – STEVE

What Your Church Needs More Than Extraordinary

If I asked you to tell me about your 2014, you’d likely tell me about the highlights—vacations you took, job changes, big things in the lives of your kids, and other things that stand out in your mind. But that’s not what made the biggest difference in your life in 2014. Here’s what actually made the biggest difference:

You ate.

You slept.

You drank water.

That’s why you’re alive. That’s what sustained you and allowed all of the other things to happen. When any of those slipped, so did the rest of life. Try to enjoy your vacation without food, drink or sleep. Try to have breakthroughs at work or be a sunshiny presence at home. Eat, drink, sleep. Do those three things well and the rest of life happens. Fail to do them and life is worse—or life ends.

It’s more consistency in the ordinary stuff of Christianity that helps one’s spiritual life grow—not major breakthroughs. Major breakthroughs are great—but they tend to be flashes in the pan or become squandered opportunities when they aren’t undergirded by a foundation of consistency in basic Christian practices like prayer, reading Scripture, loving others and sharing our faith.

Consistency in the Basics—Most Vital for Churches

There’s a trinity of basics in church life that sustain churches—an eat, drink, sleep. It’s attending, giving and inviting. I’m not saying they are the most important things of all, theologically. I’m saying they may be the most necessary.

Consistency in attendance, giving and inviting friends is the eat, drink, sleep for churches. Without it, there will be no big shiny new initiatives. It sounds simple and bland, but it’s true. Look around at the best churches you can think of and you’ll see: Great churches aren’t great because of the big stuff. They are great because of faithfulness in the “small stuff.”

We spill a lot of energy and ink trying to convince ourselves these things don’t really matter. We say idealistic things like, “You aren’t a Christian because you go to church.” True enough, but when we don’t explain our emphasis well, what we are saying is … it doesn’t really matter much. So, people aim for something splashier or more private that feels more powerful but sustains them less and detaches them from basic Christian practices that teach obedience to Christ, humility (you’ll rarely get thanked for showing up to church consistently), and bless the faith communities that help nourish their walk with God. We’re not only hurting the spiritual walks of people when we say thoughtless things like this—we’re crippling churches.

In all our efforts to cast big visions for our churches, we must make sure to help them understand the vision behind the “ordinary.” If we don’t, it will reveal itself when the stakes of our “bigger” visions are high. Ministry is neither marathon nor sprint—it’s more like interval training. That’s why consistent beats extraordinary in ministry.

It’s better to be consistent in the ordinary than irregular at the extraordinary. If you are looking for a way to bless your church and walk with God, do these three things with a great attitude: show up consistently, give faithfully and invite your friends with regularity. Encourage others in the church to do the same. You might be surprised how much growth, evangelism and community happens. You’ll also be shocked at how it transforms you—to be consistent.

These days, that’s what’s exceptional.





BUILDING BRIDGES TO THE CITY

24 11 2014

10351076_801775483194703_8461806556289882453_n

BY STEVE DUNN

ExponentialChurch.TV of Harrisburg is a four year old congregation that meets in a movie theater.  Powerful and highly contemporary worship, practical and creative sermons and a children’s ministry make up a Sunday experience.  The church has in its DNA a strong service component called You Matter.  One of the things this ministry promotes is for individuals to follow their passion and gather others to make a difference through their service.

Karen Lockard commutes nearly 30 miles to be a part of this urban ministry.  One day as she was in another town she saw homeless man with a cardboard sign “Will work for food.”  She was on her way to a Life Group, her car carrying clothing that another  church was distributing, but the encounter so compelled her that she called a friend and together they met the man on the street and helped him

.10734130_801767273195524_1212667097432725992_nKaren says she is not a leader and a  small comfort zone.  Yet this experience prompted her to start a ministry as part of her You Matter connection,  With friends and her church she put together “I Can” – based on the promise of Philippians 4.13. The result was she and several others from Exponential now making periodic visits to 13th and Derry, an economically depressed part of Harrisburg,  With vans and trailers, they distribute food and clothing and coats to the people living in that area.  Just a small thing in her eyes, a growing effort in the estimation of her pastor, Gilbert Thurston.

Karen Lockard is a bridgebuilder, as is her church.

10689510_801776066527978_1306068022719743667_n





SCIENCE AND RELIGION ARE NOT ENEMIES

16 11 2014

Dr. Paul Louis Metzger is the Founder and Director of The Institute for the Theology of Culture: New Wine, New Wineskins and Professor at Multnomah Biblical Seminary/Multnomah University. He is the author of numerous works, including “Connecting Christ: How to Discuss Jesus in a World of Diverse Paths” and “Consuming Jesus: Beyond Race and Class Divisions in a Consumer Church. He writes a blog called Uncommon God, Uncommon Good” from which this post is taken.  It is lengthy and requires careful reading but speaks to the premise in Bridgebuilders that we must stop making the debate “science versus religion” if we are to build redemptive relationships with the un-churched, especially younger generations. – STEVE

Brain PhotoMany religious people are suspicious of significant issues in science. Many people—religious and non-religious alike—reflect suspicions and indifference toward the church (especially among younger people); one of the reasons for many young people leaving the church is the perception that churches appear hostile to science, as a Barna study claims. Could it be that many if not all fears and suspicions of science as well as the church are in the head?

Regarding the suspicion of key considerations in science, specifically as it relates to Evangelical Christianity, it is worth noting the cultural, emotional and psychological damage caused by the aftermath of the Scopes “Monkey Trial” in 1925. It is still present in conscious or unconscious ways. The impact of that trial has led George Marsden to write, “It would be difficult to overestimate the impact” of the trial “in transforming fundamentalism.” George Marsden, Fundamentalism and American Culture: The Shaping of Twentieth-Century Evangelicalism — 1870-1925 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980), p. 184. Given the damage done to the movement as a result of that trial, I wonder how many of Evangelical Christians’ suspicions of science are in the head.

It is important for churches and Christian educational institutions to work hard on the integration of faith and science. Further to what was stated above concerning many young people leaving church today, some Christians’ fears and/or disregard for science in the church can lead scientifically minded and vocationally oriented individuals to feel isolated and leave church. David Kinnaman addresses this concern and many others in You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church…And Rethinking Faith (Baker Books, 2011). Kinnaman quotes a young man named Mike, who says: “I knew from church that I couldn’t believe in both science and God, so that was it. I didn’t believe in God anymore” (p. 138). Christian leaders such as myself need to pursue the integration of faith and science in ways that foster and strengthen these respective domains (regarding this subject, see my recent post titled “Missing Links: On Faith and Science”).

With these points on the need for integration in mind, let’s turn to consider the relation of the brain, body, and beliefs. The hope is to show through such reflections as these that there is no necessary hostility between science and faith; perhaps the hostility and suspicion between science and religion is all in the mind. By overcoming the disconnect, we might be in a better position to connect people with church.

The brain, the body and beliefs are intimately connected. Take for example this PBS documentary titled “Faith and the Brain” that discusses how religious practices and beliefs influence the brain. So, too, there is a close connection between the rational and emotional dimensions of the brain, as discussed in the PBS documentary titled “The Adult Brain: to Think by Feeling”; their interaction is essential to one’s well-being.

One of the things that stand out to me from these studies is that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. As the Psalmist writes, “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well” (Psalm 139:14; ESV). Religion should not fear science, but learn from scientific truth. I believe the more we learn from science, the more we will come to realize that we are truly fearfully and wonderfully made.

Greater consideration of scientific studies should demonstrate to Christians the profundity of biblical faith and its emphasis on the profound connection between the spiritual and physical dimensions. For example, orthodox Christianity prizes embodiment. We do not exist as disembodied spirits, but rather, as embodied souls. The eternal Word did not hover above the physical world, but became flesh and blood (John 1:14). Such theological considerations should help us to take seriously the scientific studies noted above that there is a close connection between the body, brain, and beliefs. Such theological considerations and scientific studies can also help churches foster greater inclusivity and connections with people who might otherwise leave church.

Let’s take two examples. First, let’s take technology. In view of the theological considerations and scientific studies noted above, churches should encourage parishioners to be mindful of how technology can impact them, often for the good, but also, often for the bad. Here is what one of my seminary students John Lussier writes,

My question(s) on embodied presence: When it comes to personhood and relationality, is there something important to our being bodied people? When we remove the body but leave communication, does this change how we relate? Christ came as an embodied human male, and not as a spirit or human soul without a body. Why is this important? Does the body matter or is it simply a tool for relationality? What happens when we use technology in place of our body to communicate? Is technology that removes the bodily presence an extension of the human, a dissection or something else entirely?

John is by no means antagonistic to technology; actually, he is quite adept at it. Still, he and I wonder why many people today often prefer texting to other forms of communication. What is the impact of texting on our relationships if it and other non-physically present means of communication do not complement but rather replace face-to-face communication? While technology can create venues for greater accessibility, virtual church gatherings through social media can never take the place of embodied church. Orthodox Christian faith requires that we come together as embodied souls, not disembodied spirits. Face-to-face interaction strengthens our faith; I believe this is what the writer of Hebrews has in mind: “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25; ESV). I wonder if the decline in church attendance has something to do with the decline in face-to-face interaction in society in favor of virtual connections.

iStock_000019820735SmallHaving spoken briefly of technology, let’s take a second example—race. Greater understanding of the brain may impact our view of racial dynamics and the need for greater inclusivity in the church.

Various studies suggest that exposure to the faces of people of different ethnicities activate the amygdala, which is associated with fear conditioning, far more than faces of the same racial background or ethnicity (personal note: it leads me to wonder if and how discussions about science might activate the amygdala in some religious people’s heads). It appears that greater exposure can reduce such increased activation. See Grit Herzmann, et al, “The neural correlates of memory encoding and recognition for own-race and other-race faces,” in Neuropsychologia 49 (11): 3103–3115. Intentionality in creating exposure through the diversification of churches may very well help churches decrease such fears and help people sense loving affirmation and experience inclusion.

Other studies suggest that people’s prejudices and beliefs impact facial processing and memory dimensions of the brain. See J. A. Richeson, et al, An fMRI investigation of the impact of interracial contact on executive function,” in Nature Neuroscience, 6 (12): 1323–1328. Based on such analyses, it has been claimed that beliefs can help control amygdala activation. In keeping with this point, it has been argued that racism decreases when we foster the convictions that there are racial differences as well as racial equality. Take for example the volume titled Are We Born Racist?: New Insights from Neuroscience and Positive Psychology (Beacon Press, 2010). The Judeo-Christian belief that we are all created in the image of God (See Genesis 1:16-27) and that God values diversity as revealed in all peoples of various cultures worshiping before the throne (Revelation 7:9-10) should lead church leaders to cultivate greater unity and inclusivity involving diversity in church bodies.

For these and other reasons, I ask: could it be that many if not all fears and suspicions of science as well as the church are somehow in the head?





TIRED OF HERDING CATS?

28 10 2014

Getting a church to take on an outward-focus is tough. William Tenny-Brittian gives some powerful advice-STEVE

 

BY WILLIAM TENNY-BRITTIAN

Tired of Herding Cats?

Herding Cats

You probably hear it as often as I do. “Trying to get them organized is like herding cats.” Whether it’s being applied to the stewardship committee, the congregational council, or the local minister’s alliance, it’s an apt simile whenever you come across a pack of individuals who are more interested in getting what they want than they are getting where they need to go.

This is never more true than when working with a local congregations. Recently I spent thirty minutes coaching a pastor and board chair in the fine art of conflict resolution and herd-culling (it’s pretty clear there will be no conflict reconciliation in this congregation). The issue facing the congregation is that multiple groups (cats) want to “lead” the church in different directions. And the biggest problem is that there has been no clearly defined, unifying mission or vision. And without a unifying mission and vision, every cat has their own idea about why the church exists and what it’s trying to accomplish.

The church wouldn’t be in this fix if it had started with a compelling, God-given mission and an awe-inspiring vision. So take a lesson: if you’re tired of herding cats, get a bigger, more tasty, succulent mouse.
If you’re tired of herding cats, get a bigger mouse. – Bill Tenny-Brittian

Too many churches reflect a misguided mission mindset that puts member care above all else – and especially above the only Jesus-mandated reason a church exists: to make disciples.

And too many churches have adopted an uninspiring vision that’s either too safe or one that’s so heavenly minded it’s no earthly good.

Jim Collins suggested every organization needs a BHAG – a big, hairy, audacious goal. Your congregation needs a BHAG … a reason to move as one in a single direction. If it doesn’t then competing missions and visions and good ideas and some not-so-good ideas will fragment your church and at best you’ll have cats to herd. At worst you’ll have a cat fight.

So, if herding cats isn’t your primary calling, then:

Read the Gospels until Jesus makes it clear to you exactly why he created the church
And then hit your knees and stay there until you’ve caught God’s vision for your congregation.

Get a Mouse Worth Chasing

Set a mouse like that loose in your congregation and your cats will chase it ’til the cows come home. 😉
===





A GREAT TOOL FROM THE SKIT GUYS

8 10 2014

click the link !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

http://fast.wistia.net/embed/iframe/f822e3681e





THE BIGGEST REASON PEOPLE RESIST CHANGE

6 10 2014

Bridgebuilding churches find their culture, paradigms, and methods changing.   When this becomes obvious, resistance sets in.  Ron Edmondson provides excellent insight as to the dynamics of peoples’ resistance to change. – STEVE

The Biggest Reason People Resist Change

The Biggest Reason People Resist Change
Understanding this reason can help navigate through change. Ignoring it makes the process of change miserable for everyone.

After years of leading change, I’ve discovered some things about the process. One of those discoveries is that change will face resistance. All change.

Surprised by that revelation? Not if you’ve ever led change.

If the change has any value at all, someone will not agree—at least initially.

There is something in all of us that initially resists change we didn’t initiate.

And I’ve discovered the absolute most common reason change is resisted. I mean the biggest.

Would that be helpful to know?

I would say it is true the majority of the time when change is resisted.

Understanding this reason can help navigate through change. Ignoring it makes the process of change miserable for everyone.

What’s the most common reason change is resisted?

It’s an emotion they feel. They may not even be able to describe it, but it’s more powerful at the time than the excitement the change may bring.

What’s the emotion? You may think anger, or confusion, or fear. And while those are often true emotions of change, in my observation it isn’t the most common. I recently wrote 7 Emotions of Change, and it isn’t one of them. I was saving the biggie for this post, because all the others are often products of this one.

The most common emotion that causes resistance to change:

A sense of loss.

People emotionally feel a sense of loss in the process of change.

Have you ever felt like you were losing or had lost something?

How did you react? Didn’t you try to hold on to whatever you were losing?

It’s not a good-feeling emotion.

  • Loss of power
  • Loss of comfort
  • Loss of control
  • Loss of information
  • Loss of familiarity
  • Loss of tradition
  • Loss of stability

They aren’t always rational emotions. They are often perceived as bigger than they really are.

But they are real emotions to the person experiencing the emotion of loss.

It doesn’t matter if people know the change is needed. They often feel they may be losing something in the change—and it causes them to resist the change.

And because change is—well—change, their emotions are based on some truth. Things are changing.

I have found, as a leader, that if I understand what people are struggling with, I’m better prepared to lead them through it. Some people are never going to get on board with the change, but many times people just need someone to at least acknowledge their sense of loss. It doesn’t eliminate the emotion, but genuine empathy allows me to keep leading.

When a leader discounts a person’s emotions—or ignores them—the resistance becomes more intense, because the emotions become more intense. That’s when some of those other emotions—like anger—are often added. The process of change is stalled, sometimes even derailed.

Leader, are you paying attention to the emotions of change?