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January 2012

You can't spin this...

No-spin"LifeWay Research data has placed the dropout number (of young adults) at 70 percent. But this number is not as definite as it sounds. It is not as if 70 percent of all young adults vanish in some kind of reverse rapture. More specifically, 70 percent of young adults who were active for at least one year in high school drop out for at least one year between 18-22. Half of those who leave stay gone. But then, half of those who leave return. Among evangelical churches, the number of dropouts is also lower."

Dave Kinnaman (author of You Lost Me, which claims the number of dropouts to be over 60% recently wrote: "The significant spiritual and technological changes over the last 50 years make the dropout problem more urgent. Young people are dropping out earlier, staying away longer, and if they come back are less likely to see the church as a long-term part of their life. Today's young adults who drop out of faith are continuing something the Boomers began as a generation of spiritual free agents. Yet, today's dropout phenomenon is a more intractable, complex problem."

And friends...these are "evangelicals"...among "mainlines", only 2% of the nation's young adult population attend some sort of mainline church...there is a measurable difference in the number of young adults who walk away from more "traditionally" positioned ecclesiastical bodies.  

No matter how you spin it, something needs to be addressed.  We're not talking JUST programs, etc.  This is an issue more of substance than style...as many of the people I know have been saying for a LONG time now, the issue has more to do with what happens in the home than what happens in the church building.  You can check out Sticky Faith or Christian Smith's landmark prophetic call for reexamining our youth ministry results (in the book Soul Searching)...see what they have to say and you'll agree...

To address the trend, we need parents and faith communities to get "serious" about equipping students to live their faith and share their lives from a God-centered worldview.  Read THIS POST in which a young adult shares some of their perceptions of "religion" and organized church.  Look, no easy answers here...this is not about coming up with the next "best" way to "keep our kids" locked into our churches...the issue is broader and needs considerable conversation, prayer and a re-load of a new sense of purpose in building young disciples.  I'm trying to have those conversations... 

 


More work on Discipleship and Disciple-making...

3 Spheres of Discipleship Formation

HEART: Character Formation

Being = who a Christ follower is…

Personal Identity

"UP"

HEAD: Biblical ("mind of Christ") Formation

Knowing = what a Christ follower understands…

Relational/Community Hermeneutic

"IN" 

HANDS: Ministry Formation

Doing = what a Christ followers does…

Mission-driven action

"OUT"

A

Thanks Bob...I adapted your idea and put it into my context...I love the Body!


A beautiful video of one of my favorite places in the world...

Yosemite National Park is a magical, truly awesome and spiritual place...I've been there several times and have always been moved to the depth of my soul.  It's majestic beyond expression...to say that it is "beautiful" seems to be a massive understatement.  Every time I have visited the park, my life with the Lord seems to take a giant leap forward as my love for God, understanding His nature and character and creativity gets underscored simply by gazing at His handiwork!  Here's a great time-lapsed video of this wonderful place!  

Yosemite HD from Project Yosemite on Vimeo.


Telling a Story...discipleship strategy

StoryDisciplemaking Strategies: Bible Storying

I’ve been doing an intense study on the issue of discipleship.  In past posts (which you can take a peek at on your own), I have attempted to spell out issues such as “discipleship as journey of maturity”, the identity of a disciple, and who/what a disciple is/does.  Just the other day, I was doing my “usual” blog browsing when I came across this ‘strategy’ of disciple-making…story-telling.  Now, the “bible as story” is, again, something on which I have posted in the past…but these suggestions have more to do with US telling the story of the bible versus us understanding the bible as story.

The Bible Storying strategy is based upon a couple of assumptions:  first of all, even followers of Jesus don’t know many of the stories of the bible.  So to understand the text well enough to “tell it” (oral tradition is a time honored methodology of passing on truth) not only cements the story in a person’s heart but also gives the listener an opportunity to hear the story without a “formality” of a text-based reading. In addition, it gives the storyteller HUGE flexibility in sharing the story in ways that can be effective and consistent relationally.  Lastly, it's based on the reality that "even if people like learning through reading, reading by itself is not the best way to move information from the head to the heart."   It has been shown time and again that stories can change lives..

I would suggest you start by “bible story telling” in the context of some of your other relationships with followers of Jesus.  Maybe you can do this at a bible study, adult class, small group, or some other gathering a people who love and follow Jesus.  Here's how the one blogger said it could work…

1. Choose a story from the Bible that is relevant (Old Testament history books, the Gospels, Book of Acts, etc.)

2. A group facilitator learns one of the stories or assigns someone else to learn the story. (Learn so the story is told without reading it, but not word for word.)

3. While the two storytellers tell the story, the rest of the group can read along to see if the storytellers have missed anything.

4. When finished, the storytellers will rebuild the story, pointing out anything that was missed.

5. The facilitator can ask someone else in the group to tell the story back to everyone without reading. (in this instance, don’t tell anyone who will be asked ahead of time so everyone pays attention during the storytelling process)

6. Once the story has been told, rebuilt, and told again, the facilitator can ask questions to draw out the important truths in the story. For example:

  1. What new things did you discover in the story that you did not know before?
  2. What did you learn about God?
  3. What did you learn about people?
  4. Which person is most like you in the story?
  5. What will you take away from this discussion?
  6. What will you do with what you have learned?

7. Lastly, ask each person to identify application points for their own life.

You will quickly discover that you don't have to be an expert to tell a story. By simply telling the story, asking questions, and looking for application, you can see how the Spirit can use these stories in your everyday life.

 


Confessions of a Recovering Ecclesiastical Hipster


Hipster!!!-783448Confessions of a Recovering Ecclesiastical Hipster

“Hipster” – (def) “A person who follows the latest trends and fashions”

Ok – my name is Robin and I am a recovering ecclesiastical hipster.

For years when I was younger and naïve and, frankly, more egocentric and narcissistic than I am today (yes, leaders DO struggle with these issues – if you are a leader and you say, “that’s not me” you are a liar or delusional or in denial), I confess that I was attracted to that which was the “latest and greatest.”  For a period of time in my life, I became an ecclesiastical hipster.  I admit that I tried the “latest and greatest”…I went to the conferences…I bought the books…I had the discussions…I changed many things in the spheres of life and ministry of which I was a part.  And, I also have to admit, I enjoyed it.  Hey, it’s fun being a hipster.  It’s cool to think you are cool too!  I was in my 30’s…I thought I was at the top of my “game”…and so I jumped on the bandwagon in order to see if success as it was being defined by the “lead hipsters” was going to come my way.   Sidebar here – the issue is not whether you ARE a person who embraces change and innovation…that is God’s wiring pattern for many of us…the issue is the embracing of change and innovation for their sake alone in order to merit or achieve or even predict specific outcomes.  Then innovation borders on that which is manipulative, prescriptive, manufactured or formulaic and not authentic.  I must again admit, I bought all that hipster stuff for a while and you know what?  It worked!  Even so, over time, I realized it wasn’t me…it wasn’t my heart or my gift or what God was asking and calling and equipping me to do in my context.  More on that below…

Now before I move on, one more comment:  I’ve spent considerable time reflecting, conversing with pals and praying through my hipster days and I have to ALSO admit, all that I went through in my younger years as a Jesus following leader wasn’t JUST BECAUSE I was an ecclesiastical hipster…there were some “righteous” reasons.  You see, I was also doing what I was doing because I was watching and listening to what God was doing not only around me but also in the world at large.  I could see the “waves” of the Spirit breaking over the landscape and many people taking HUGE spiritual risks to ride those waves.  In addition, due to some of the encouragement and challenge of some close friends and mentors, I decided it was time to take some risks and to allow the Spirit to do what it wanted to do in and through me in a variety of contexts. 

Maybe you “were there”…maybe you were not…so let me tell you, growing as a leader and Christ follower in the 70s and 80s were exciting times.  The boundaries and constraints that had been shackling expressions of faith through redemptive community were coming off…people were attempting to listen to the Spirit and try new things. I learned HUGE lessons in creative relational ministry through Youth for Christ and along with my friend, Kevin, in Lutheran Youth Alive.   I discovered the power of biblical teaching and effective communication in working side by side with some powerful people who shared the truth of God’s Word with accuracy and vitality (thanks Bob, Tony and Bill).  I discovered more about how God could work in a faith community’s life as I was exposed to some in depth teaching and encouragement about God’s Spirit through the ministry of John Wimber, the Vineyard Movement, and Lutheran Lay Renewal.  I was challenged as a musician to offer the best of my gifts in and through worship music through the encouragement of Larry Norman, Randy Stonehill, Andre Crouch, John Fischer (someone I actually can call, “friend”), Tommy Walker, Hillsong music, and the artists of Maranatha Music as well as some close friends who started to “get it” that music could be more than a “lecture” or doctrinal statement but something that could touch the head AND heart.  Then there was the “Seeker Driven/Targeted” movements…the Willows and Saddlebacks and Community Church of Joys that started to ask questions about congregational ministry that I had never heard posed before.  I even deeply investigated contemplative and historical spiritual practices by becoming a regular at monasteries and conferences dealing with spiritual disciplines.  Of course, in those days as now, I wanted to do great things for God…my thinking at the time was if it benefited me, that was extra icing on the cake.  I wasn’t doing it for me but doing it for God, asking God’s blessing upon it and then waiting for blessings to come my way.

But now, my hipster days are over.  Coolness is something that young pups strive for…us “older dogs” come to some new realizations and start to embrace new dreams and visions where the issue of “us” is fortuitously sidelined.  I’ve spent considerable time reading Richard Rohr’s book, Falling Upward, regarding “first and second half of life” issues…and I couldn’t agree with him more.  Over the years, achievement and making a name for ourselves drives the soul…whether we want to admit it or not (I would have NEVER admitted that when I was younger because it wasn’t in my consciousness to admit), that was something we all have lived.  Now? Now I simply want to live my life as a follower of Jesus – doing what He wants me to do – living out the giftedness and loving the people that He has moved within my sphere.  If something “good” or culturally defined “successful” comes out of it…so be it. That’s God’s business.  I used to think that I could help God out with a definition of “successful ministry”…I was wrong.  God’s perspective is higher than mine…His view of success different than what I can imagine.  One smile on a child’s face…one elderly person sensing His love…one person prayed for…one Kingdom moment experienced is enough for the angels of heaven to celebrate.  Big churches, big programs, fancy buildings, and cool programs…they will all pass away.  They will.  If that is something that God wants here and now, that’s His business. To tell you the truth, I’ve studied large churches and small churches…why God decides to bring MORE fruit out of one ministry and not another is completely baffling to me.  Essentially, every faith community I’ve seen is attempting to love and follow Jesus as they have been taught and mentored over the years as faithfully as they can…they want to do “right” with the Lord.  Every faith community is “founded” with joy and anticipation of all the blessings of the Spirit over time.  I know that there are those who think if you do “x” or “y” or “z”, you can get predictable outcomes…but that hasn’t been my experience and, trust me, I’ve looked for how a “hipster” can pull off a fast one on the Lord and come up with a strategy to insure “success” and I’m still confounded.  No one has ever been able to conclusively prove to me that there is a one-to-one correlation between our strategies and God’s blessings.  And if there was such a thing, then we would need to redefine our theology…because then it wouldn’t be us serving the Lord but vice versa and that is blasphemy. 

So my days as a hipster or over…and you know what?  I’m happy and at peace. I must admit though…I still battle that tendency.  I still have to pray daily to “put to death” that CEO type of leader within me that thinks that I can come up with THE way to do what I THINK God wants to have happen here in my backyard…but then I get to the point where I just have to let God by God…and leave it at that.  My job is to have “eyes to see and ears to hear” and a life lived as a living sacrifice to the Lord…the results?  Those are HIS business!  

 


Quick post from something I just read...too long for FB

Atake a lookKeys to integrated life:

  1. Begin sharing stuff. It breaks down the barriers when someone borrows your sewing machine, lawn mower or car. It’s a lot easier to shape an inter-dependent family when you’re sharing things regularly.
  2. Don’t think about people as possessions. (i.e. my children, my husband, etc). Think about what they bring and who they are within the wider community.
  3. What gift do I have that I could share with others for good? (cooking , cleaning , decorating, computer skills, etc). I could swap my gift for another (“if you teach me how to use Quickbooks, I’ll babysit your kids so you get a date night). What do I need and what do others need, and what ways do they relate to each other so we can be more interdependent?
  4. What shared tasks would be more fun and completed quicker if done in oikos (extended family)? Christmas /thanksgiving, children’s parties, landscaping, etc.
  5. If you’re discipling someone in your extended family, is there something I’m already doing that someone else could tag along with? Driving kids to school. Going grocery shopping. Going to the airport. Rather than setting up a coffee or lunch every time someone needs something, fold them into your regular life and use the time more efficiently. Plus, there are lots of other things they’ll pick up.
  6. Start thinking about major decisions (like schooling , where to buy a house, etc) in terms of where your community and relationships are, not just your individual preference . Start with where the People of Peace are (people God has already prepared in advance to be open to you).
  7. Have at least one meal a week when you invite someone(s) over. You’re already eating, invite someone to do it with you!
  8. Walk the same roads and neighborhoods. Park the car in the driveway instead of the garage so you have to talk to your neighbors.
  9. Go to the same restaurants at the same time on the same day each week and sit in the same place so you get to know the staff over time.

A guy I'm "following" just posted this on his blog today!  Good stuff to consider as you and me live our lives as Kingdom people...thanks Mike!


A friend online suggested I read John's new book...some "preface" remarks

9780892960880I'm not ready to give a review yet...truth is, I've only gotten about two chapters into the book.  John's writing is crisp as usual.  I've enjoyed, been blessed and challenged by John's gifts in the past.  I still count a couple of his books as key readings in my own formation as the person the Spirit is 're-creating' in me.  That new identity, as well as yours if you are a Jesus follower, is modeled after or, better yet, spun out of the image of our Lord and Master Himself...Jesus.  That's why not only knowing about Jesus but knowing Him...knowing as much as we can about what He did, what He said, how He lived, even how He was "wired up" in his personality is key.  John makes a good point in the opening of the book...we know more about the actions and teachings of Jesus than we know about who He was and is.  So, delving into an "investigation" or at least a "holy imagination" based upon scripture about what Jesus was actually like as a human person is not only understandable but desirable.  I'll let you know more about the book as I get into it fully...you can bank on that!  

In the meantime, here's a quote I came across in another book that captured my attention as gives you (as well as me) a taste of some of the things we can learn about Jesus:

“What is therefore the task of the Christian today?  Shall I answer, “faith, hope, and love”?  That sounds beautiful but I would say “courage”.  No, even that is not challenging enough to be the whole truth.  Our task today is recklessness.  For what we Christians lack is not psychology or literature.  We lack a holy rage.  The recklessness that comes from the knowledge of God and humanity.  The ability to rage when justice lies prostrate on the streets…and when the lie rages across the face of the earth – a holy anger about things that are wrong in the world.  To restlessly seek a recklessness that will challenge and seek to change human history until it conforms with the norms of the Kingdom of God.  And remember that the signs of the Christian church have always been the Lion, the Lamb, the Dove, and the Fish…but never the chameleon”.  Danish Kaj Munk

I have said in many places that it is time to "de-sanitize" Jesus.  We have made Him all cute, cuddly, full of syrupy love and "political correctness" when the REAL Jesus is more complex, more shocking, less safe, less unpredictable...yes, still full of grace but someone with an intensity and passion for what His purpose was in the world that it changed history.  You see, how we see Jesus shapes our mission...

  • If we adopt a tame/insipid Jesus then it shouldn't surprise us that we are "reflecting" the same to the world
  • Because we adopt a mission that is consistent with the picture of Jesus that shapes our incarnational/mission-driven imagination
  • The grand story of Jesus is really a paradigm of life – it is a paradigm for our purpose, our devotion, our mission and our followership
  • If we sanitize Jesus and tame him in our orthodoxy, is it no wonder that Jesus seems to have let us "off the hook” - you see, He gave US His ministry...He said "greater works will you do"...let your mind and heart wrap around that?  

So, more to come...when I get done with John's book, you'll know!  In the meantime, take a risk...follow the real Jesus!


I've let things get out of hand...

AurgentI've been down this road before...in fact, I hit it often.  On my 'life gps', it seems to be the number one route that I dial in as soon as the morning dawns.  URGENT!  Got to get everything done...got to be perfect at getting everything done...got to be perfect in everything I do...you would think that after all the years of my adult life that I would have learned my lesson.  Even so, as an old friend of mine reminded me years ago (oh, he also charged me tons of money for soliciting his counsel), "the lessons in life keep repeating themselves (and keep getting bigger) until we learn from them and conquer them. So, we are on the rerun side of the "urgency" of life...now the question is, "what are 'we' going to do about it?"