Tim Keller Helps Pull the Log out of My Eye

23 10 2009

I was flipping through channels today being my day off and I came across a preacher who was upset about something in the church.  I should have kept on flipping to ESPN, but I just had to see where he was going with the rant.  He was in the process of attacking churches who use entertainment and “worldly” methods to bring people into the church.  He did not call out any names, but it was clearly directed toward the Willow Creeks and Saddlebacks of the world.  Since I serve in one of those wicked churches, I felt a little attacked —- like I was part of a movement which did not care about God’s Word and only wanted to “tickle the ears” of the attenders.  To the preacher’s credit he did have a brief caveat that he was not saying all innovation was wrong — after all he was on TV and thought that Spurgeon would cringe at his use of the evil organ!!!

I eventually turned the channel saddened that this pastor felt like he had to take shots at churches that actually have the same Lord as the Head of their church.  But I also realized that I am guilty too of being critical of different philosophies of ministries.  I do this because I appreciate where I serve and have seen God work there in a huge way.  And if I am honest, I also can take shots to make myself look and feel better.  Pretty selfish.  Pretty wrong but we all do it just maybe not on a national televised program.

So, as I was removing the log out of my eye I read a blog post that put this all in perspective.  It was from Tim Keller and his reflections after speaking at Willow’s Leadership Summit.  Here is what he said:

This summer I spoke at the Willow Creek Leadership Summit. It was an honor to be invited. No one pulls off a conference like Willow Creek. Who else could bring their content to 120,000 people?  And the three other talks or sessions that I saw were extremely high quality.

The time at Willow led me to reflect on how much criticism this church has taken over the years. On the one hand, my own ‘camp’ — the non-mainline Reformed world — has been critical of its pragmatism, its lack of emphasis on sound doctrine. On the other hand, the emerging and post-modern ministries and leaders have disdained Willow’s individualism, its program-centered, ‘corporate’ ethos.  These critiques, I think, are partly right, but when you are actually there you realize many of the most negative evaluations are caricatures.

John Frame’s ‘tri-perspectivalism’ helps me understand Willow. The Willow Creek style churches have a ‘kingly’ emphasis on leadership, strategic thinking, and wise administration. The danger there is that the mechanical obscures how organic and spontaneous church life can be. The Reformed churches have a ‘prophetic’ emphasis on preaching, teaching, and doctrine. The danger there is that we can have a naïve and unBiblical view that, if we just expound the Word faithfully, everything else in the church — leader development, community building, stewardship of resources, unified vision — will just happen by themselves. The emerging churches have a ‘priestly’ emphasis on community, liturgy and sacraments, service and justice. The danger there is to view ‘community’ as the magic bullet in the same way Reformed people view preaching.

By thinking in this way, it makes it possible for me to love and appreciate the best representatives of each of these contemporary evangelical ‘traditions.’ Nobody provides more practical help for organizing and leading ministry than Willow Creek.  I also am humbled that Redeemer is well-regarded in each of these ‘streams’ of evangelicalism, though we have our feet firmly set in our own Reformed tradition.  That is quite unusual, and it makes it possible for us to both teach and learn across the spectrum of church life today.

Click here to see this post and to read some of the comments connected with it.

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How to Kill Relationships… A Sermon Series

6 07 2009

killrelationships_cover, originally uploaded by yourpilcher.

Just saw this promo for a sermon series. Very Good!





Community or Die — Your Choice!!

13 10 2008

I listened to this great message by John Ortberg; well, I think most of them are pretty great, but this one was exceptional.  It was on the importance of community and entitled, “Every Life Needs a Cheering Section”.  I loved the following quote:

“Robert Putnam, (from his book Bowling Alone) …. wrote,

‘As a rough rule of thumb, if you belong to no groups but you decide to join one, you cut your risk of dying over the next year in half.’

Isn’t that remarkable? Anybody here not interested in cutting your risk of dying in half?  That’s why the new model for our small groups ministry is, ‘JOIN A GROUP OR DIE!!’ Just something kind of uplifting about that one.”

That is great!!!  We are looking to have a marked increase in our groups as we try this new strategy.

Check out the whole message in written form (what other top shelf communicator posts his sermons in transcript form?) or listen here.





Connecting to Hope

27 09 2008

My job around Hope is to see how we can best connect people into our ministry especially through membership and volunteering.  But we cannot connect people who never come and check us out.  So, we do many things to advertise our ministry here — a presence on the web, a sign leading onto our property, billboards around our city at various times throughout the year, Craig’s new radio spots, etc….  But the best advertisement is people telling people.  In fact just the other day, I was in a doctors office and the nurse asked me what I did for a living.  I told her that I was a pastor at Hope and she said that she had heard a lot about our church and really needed to visit.  She said that she had been involved in a church that split a couple of years ago and had been disillusioned with the whole church thing.  I told her that Hope is about that very thing.  We are a church for those who have not necessarily given up on God but have given up on Church.  I hope she comes and check us out.

Another thing that we have noticed about people telling people about Hope is that some of our best evangelist are members of other churches!!!  Maybe they are in a very traditional church and invite some friends to their church and it just does not click.  They will say, “What you need to do is to check out Hope Church.  They are very different.  I think you might really connect with what they are doing over there.”  And that evangelism goes both ways.  I have pointed people toward other churches in our city where I feel like they might connect better.  No church has the corner on the gospel market.  We are just communicating the good news in different ways.

Check out this insightful post by Ben Arment that really got me thinking about this issue of outreach.





Hope on the Radio

20 09 2008

Back in the 80’s here in Memphis, a comforting voice hit the radio airwaves.  His name was Dr. Maxie Dunnam, then pastor of Christ United Methodist.  He pioneered a short radio spot called “Perceptions”.  This was not a heavy handed preaching point to get in the face of those fighting the morning drive.  Maxie gave a one minute word of encouragement usally based around a story.  His specific target?  The unchurched.

That brings us to 2008 in Memphis.  “Perceptions” has gone into syndication and is proving to be an effective outreach tool.  But we wanted to follow this tradition with our own “Hope Spin” on it.  The spots are called “There’s Always Hope”.  Craig is now on a couple of radio stations for the morning drive time.  He tells a good story, and we are hopeful that we will reach out to some new folks in our city.

Here is a sample spot:    The Cancer Year

Click on the above grafic for an itunes feed.





Branding Hope

4 12 2007

When I pulled into our parking lot the other day, I noticed this brand new sign telling the community who we are. What’s significant about this sign? HopesignThe funky design? No. The LED display? No. Is it that a word is missing from our name? That is correct!! That word would be “Presbyterian”. And it is not because there was no room on the sign or that we have defected from our denomination.

No, but it is strategic. It is a barrier busting decision. Being a church for the unchurched, we are always looking for ways to remove barriers that might come between people and their desire to come visit Hope and hear the good news. The past few years we have been publicly referring to ourselves as Hope Church from up front, but this is a huge step in changing our “brand”.

Again, we are not anti-Presbyterian. During our new member class, we still talk about our denomination and what it means to be a Presbyterian church. That is who we are, but we also say that we are much bigger than a denomination. We are a church that is committed to Christ and committed to reach into our community as effectively as possible. Any comments? Is this defecting? Is is being disingenuous?





The Lure of the Web

8 11 2007

        hope web    

I am starting to get a few more people who come to our new member class —Introducing Hope — who have found us or at least first checked us out through our web site.  Just 2 or 3 years ago our web site —how can I say this — sucked!  We had a do over, and it is not perfect, but it is much better.  And we are striving to keep it up-to-date.  I ran across a reference to an article in USA Today at MondayMorningInsight.  Check out what they have to say about shopping for a church on the web—–

Across the country, fall is high season for “church shopping,” as people in search of a new faith community to call home set about the task of finding one. But that doesn’t mean they’re showing up, singing hymns, shaking hands and sampling doughnuts at a different church each week.

Instead, observers say, they’re visiting church websites and evaluating congregations — often without having actually met anyone at the church. And that has some church people worried that the practice of faith is getting ever more impersonal — and consequently less powerful — in an age driven by efficiency and impatience.

Church shoppers “used to have to go to the service, sit in the back row and watch,” says Tom Bandy, president of EasumBandy & Associates, a church consultancy. “The website has just replaced that. The color schemes, the formatting, the language, the music — those things powerfully reveal who they (in the church) want to come there and who’s going to be accepted there.”

Read the rest of the article here.