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Archive for June, 2010

“When the Church sets itself to pray with the same seriousness and strength of purpose that it has devoted to other forms of Christian effort, it will see the Kingdom of God come with power.” – The Edinburgh Missionary Conference

I’ve written in previous posts the importance I place in “knowing the season” in which we are living. What is God doing in our generation? I want to know so I can throw myself into it wholeheartedly and partner with God on the things that are important to him in this hour of history.

It seems that everywhere I turn in the evangelical church today God is moving on the people with urgency of the hour, revived & new authentic expressions of faith (particularly in care for the needy and poor), and prayer. I just finished David Platt’s book “Radical” which I had seen broadcast all over the Christian blogosphere (or the portion of it I participate in, anyway!).  Once again, it’s a story of a successful Christian leader being gripped with the state of the western church and hearing the call of God to turn from our materialistic, “me-centered” Christianity for a return to the biblical gospel and  living it out “in ways that are true, filled with promise, and ultimately world changing.” This is becoming a familiar story all over North America. Even going to the websites of moderate and mildly charismatic churches I have been engaged with in the past I see they are seeking God and preaching on these same issues. It’s seems to be everywhere.

In his wildly successful and insightful book “The Tipping Point” Malcolm Gladwell gives us three rules for understanding fads and movements in the culture:

1. Law of the Few – Word of mouth is still the most important form of human communication. The Law of the Few describes the type of people that facilitate the spread of information.

  • Connectors – this first group has a special gift for bringing people together. They know many people.
  • Mavens – this group accumulates knowledge. To be a Maven is to be a teacher and a student.
  • Salesmen – this group has the skills to persuade us when we are unconvinced of what we are hearing.

Malcolm Gladwell

2. Stickiness Factor – Stickiness is critical to tipping because it determines retention and comprehension. It is what makes customers return to a website, children watch and learn from a television program, and people choose their wardrobes.

3. Power of Context – “The key to getting people to change their behavior sometimes lies with the smallest details of their immediate situation. The Power of Context says that human beings are a lot more sensitive to their environment than they may seem.”

Without going into any defense of the statement, I think I can certianly say that Mr. Gladwell’s formula has held true if we take time to dissect what God is doing in much of the church today. It is easy to identify the context as well as leaders and communications that have caused the current messages to take root.

So I started asking myself the question, “is what is happening here in our church and all over the western church just another passing fancy?  Are the current issues being championed in the church just the mass appeal of something new, different, and well communicated to keep us entertained at church?”  In our fast-food, 24-hour news cycle existence, fads and movements rise and fall faster than the daily stock indexes. Even in the new move of adoption and orphan care sweeping across the American church people are starting to question it’s authenticity, wondering if it’s just the latest craze brought on by high profile celebrity adoptions that will be abandoned as quickly as last fall’s collection from Louis Vuitton.

In short, I have to answer these questions honestly with: “I don’t 100% know”. However, there are two things I feel very certain about.

First, while I believe in “knowing the prophetic season” the church is in, I am very wary of starting to label things “revival” or “move of God”. My experience and personal observation tells me that in our celebrity, fame, and success obsessed culture, the more we get focused on giving title and marketing what God is doing among us, the quicker we get our focus off of  the simplicity of listening to and following the leading of the Holy Spirit and relying on Him for our daily direction both individually and as a local body. We quickly package, promote, and copyright the “move of God”, and roll it all into a profitable conference event that, I believe, guts the full-power of what the Spirit is giving birth to. I think we would do better to simply focus on giving testimony to what God is doing among us (in a non self-agrandizing way) and continue to spur each other on in the things that got us to where we are. Let the historians figure out what was a “revival” or “move of God”.

Secondly, while (with the help of Malcolm Gladwell) we may be able to dissect how a movement was born and carried across the nation, there is one sole factor that gives me confidence in God’s authorship and the staying power of a new move in the body of Christ – prayer. God has promised us that when we call out, return to Him, repenting of our ways and setting all our affections on Him, he will “relent from disaster”, “heal our land”, and send “times of refreshing”on the people. If it wasn’t for several decades of an increasing wave of prayer across the globe, I might find myself more cynical and skeptical of the eschatological urgency, social justice, and intercession emphasis that might be seen by some as new “fads” in the church today. But when these biblical mandates find fresh emphasis through extended engagement in the place of prayer, and more specifically a people and leadership  transformed by His presence, there is no doubt in my mind that God is at work through it.

The Church is looking for better methods; God is looking for better men. The Holy Ghost does not flow through methods, but through men. He does not come on machinery, but on men. He does not anoint plans, but men…men of prayer.”- E.M. Bounds

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I was just perusing my wife’s Facebook homepage and saw a post by an old friend that immediately caught my eye:

“http://twiturm.com/c5akf Here’s an old jazzy tune I wrote with a buddy David Wilcox”

I totally forgot about this song that Nico and I wrote and recorded together! What a great surprise and memory on this warm summer’s eve.

The best part of it all? My friend of 13 years still can’t spell my name right. But that’s why we love him…

Miss ya ‘Nic!

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Hannibal’s “I love it when a plan…” (said through dazzling pearly whites) is the famous “A-Team” one-liner that came to mind as I thought about this past week or two.

As a church I cannot think of a season like we’ve experienced these last eight months where things seemed so led of the Lord yet so confusing all at once.

God has been speaking to us about prayer and making it the essential element of our expression in our local church body for some time. Along the way in this journey of trying to discern the Lord’s path forward in that,  so many different elements and “moving targets” have been in play: Eschatology, House of Prayer, The Daniel Institute, The Praying Church Initiative, relationship with ministry partners, the spirit of adoption message, and the busyness and activity of church life. Together these and other elements have made for a thick soup of difficult discernment! And as Charles Spurgeon wisely says: “if there’s a mist in the pulpit, there’s a fog in the pew!”

However, these past couple of weeks it feels as though we’ve finally prayed and fought our way through the nebula. We’re coming out the other side, and you can see God is at work. I’m excited and invigorated about where he is leading us as a church and He has been confirming our direction yet again.

The Lord laid it on Pastor Matt’s heart that this fall is the time to focus our efforts on establishing the message and lifestyle of a culture of prayer in the church.  We started by planning a “prayer paradigm” sermon series for the fall that will be accompanied by short-term home fellowships focused on prayer and engaging a vision for a culture of prayer.

After this plan was established, through an odd confluence of events, God put me in touch with Randy Bohlender who heads up the adoption ministries of the International House of Prayer in Kansas City. Long story short, all the dates and ideas lined up perfectly and Randy will be coming to preach at Bethany Church on October 10th to launch this fall season of establishing the vision for a culture of prayer in our church. I’m still not 100% clear on what God is up to with adoption and the “Spirit of Adoption” message in our church. But I know it is a key part and I’m believing God has brought Randy into our path in order to provide some of that clarity.

The other surprise was that in the same week as my interactions with Randy, Pastor Tom Gilman from Emmaus Lutheran here in Bloomington stopped by for a surprise visit one afternoon. Tom’s son, Matt, is a key worship leader at IHOP-KC. Turns out they’d like to do a worship/prayer event here in Bloomington and host it at Bethany. Again, long story short, everything is looking good for a late November event at Bethany that will supply a concluding “book-end” to our fall season. Brilliant! The gravy is going to be if everything works out for Billy Humphrey (who is the leader of IHOP-Atlanta, and also leading the “Praying Church” initiative out of IHOP) to come up that same weekend to preach a concluding message for our launch season. Love it. Billy and Pastor Matt have been talking about Billy coming up ever since “The Praying Church” initiative got started.

Right now in my spirit it feels like the first domino has been pushed over and an unstoppable chain of events is in motion. Tomorrow we’re getting together with a group from the church who carry a burden for prayer at Bethany in order to discuss these things. Looking forward to it!

Now if only they could back us into a corner like the A-Team and we would build some amazing machine in 20 minutes that would let us escape all our adversaries…

I love it when a plan comes together.

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