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Monthly Archives: May 2006

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Can you feel it? Do you believe it? Will you experience it?

Rest your head

You worry too much

It’s going to be alright

When times get rough

You can fall back on us

Don’t give up

Please don’t give up

—Peter Gabriel

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“More and more, the desire grows in me simply to walk around, greet people, enter their homes, sit on their doorsteps, play ball, throw water, and be known as someone who wants to live with them. It is a privilege to have the time to practice this simple ministry of presence. Still, it is not as simple as it seems. My own desire to be useful, to do something significant, or to be part of some impressive project is so strong that soon my time is taken up by meetings, conferences, study groups, and workshops that prevent me from walking the streets.

It is difficult not to have plans, not to organize people around an urgent cause, and not to feel that you are working directly for social progress. But I wonder more and more if the first thing shouldn’t be to know people by name, to eat and drink with them, to listen to their stories and tell your own, and to let them know with words, handshakes, and hugs that you do not simply like them, but truly love them.”

Henri Nouwen

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I ran across a post just now that asks about a ‘24/7’ church. How cool is that? Take a look at the conversation and let me know what you think about the idea here. Does your community have any experience with a ‘24/7’ prayer room?

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As a tribute to my students this week of graduation, I give you the transcript of Guy Kawasaki’s version of a graduation speech.

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NBC news has been in Africa following Bono as he travels the continent to raise money and awareness for the needs of the continent. What strikes me most is how he relates to the people he encounters, even saying at one point “Look at these kids,” Bono insists to NBC’s camera crews. “Come on over here! Look how royal they are — the most beautiful kids on earth!”

What also impacts me is why we don’t use our status, our wealth, to help those in our communities. I know we’re not a rock star, but we have resources and abilities that God has gifted us with, and yet…

Finally, the cost of a $5 dollar mosquito net could have an incredible impact of the lives of those kids and we who live in the richest country the world has ever known can’t find a way to equip every child in Africa with a mosquito net? Somebody explain that one to me, I’m listening…

Here are the stories and videos as posted by NBC news.

“Bono Heads Into Africa”
“African Aid Remains Mostly a Promise”
“Bono Leverages Celebrity to Aid Africa”
“Bono: ‘We have written off’ Africa”

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Read the post from Larry James below and tell me that God doesn’t work in relationship with us…

We were created in His image and were gifted with incredible powers and abilities. If we could only learn to imagine…

Look at our children and try to see the world through their eyes. They believe all is possible in God…

Imagine!

Churches Can Matter

Last Thursday, John Greenan, Executive Director of the Central Dallas Community Development Corporation and one of our lawyers at our LAW Center, and I flew to a city in another state to consult with the leaders of a church.

This particular church has a storied past in its denomination. Thirty years ago its membership had grown to almost 2,000. Its minister and leaders had a vision and an ambition to build a giant, megachurch on the almost 40 acre tract of land that the congregation owned.

They built a sanctuary that could seat 3,000. An educational complex was designed to accommodate the growing congregation.

But somehow things just didn’t work out as planned.

Today the church numbers under 700 members. It finds itself strapped with a lingering, paralyzing debt to service monthly. Fixed costs often exceed revenue generated by the weekly offerings.

The leaders of this church are eager to reach out, to serve the community, to make a difference. But their financial realities block them at every turn.

As we spent the day with these really fine folks, both John and me could literally feel the burden and the depression of the group.

What could be done to provide some relief to the church and at the same time assist it in regaining its legs for mission?

As we learned about the community surrounding the congregation’s building, a new vision began to emerge.

The church currently owns 32 acres of the original tract of property.

On one side of the building sits a beautiful 6-acre tract of carefully mowed Bermuda grass. We learned that 42% of the homes in the four census tracts surrounding the church are occupied by working families who rent.

What if the church created a non-profit arm to do community development? What if this new community development corporation (CDC) developed a planned community of say, 120 new townhomes with first time home buyers in mind? Further, what if their CDC provided homeowners’ education as an outreach strategy? What if 10-15% of the new townhomes were sold to church members who fit this same profile and who were willing to purchase one and live in the new community intentionally?

Success in this endeavor would mean at least two things.

First, most, if not all, of the debt could be eliminated by the profits earned from home sales by the CDC.

Second, a viable outreach to area families would open to the church immediately. With current members living in the new neighborhood, all sorts of possibilities seemed evident.

On the other side of the building was another tract of undeveloped land, partially devoted to a gigantic parking lot that was seldom more than 1/3 full.

What if the church’s CDC applied for U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funds to develop senior housing on this part of its campus? In addition to providing much-needed, quality housing for senior adults, after generating income for a specified period of time, the building would become property of the CDC.

Again, multiple results that serve the church well.

Seniors could be “adopted” and cared for by the church, including some of its own present members.

The strategy would provide more funds for the CDC to continue its work with the church while further relieving the church’s debt and fixed costs load.

Finally, we suggested that the church “deed” its property to the new non-profit and then rent back only what it currently needed to conduct its business. The CDC would then have the task of retiring the remaining debt while raising funds to immediately service the monthly debt expense, freeing up weekly offerings for church activities and outreach.

One obvious business opportunity, thanks to the size of the building, appears to be convention and meeting services that would utilize the entire building for outside groups needing space and catering services. The church enjoys the presence of a large, fully outfitted commercial kitchen. The building could actually become a very important “profit center,” as opposed to its current “loss center” with “albatros about the neck” status!

As the day ended, the energy had returned to our new friends!

The key was the group’s willingness to think outside the box of traditional church approaches.

The prospect of harnessing market forces with clearly defined assets on hand, opened a new vision of opportunity to a faith community that is needed in its city.

Churches can matter.

However, new thinking will be critical for most.
Larry James’ Urban Daily 2/19/06 2:28 AM Larry James

I’m thinking about buying a camera. Here’s what I’m looking at, anybody have comments or experience with either camera or others like it?

Here is an article from the Wall Street Journal on churches using social network sites like MySpace.com and Facebook to reach out to people. I have a profile on MySpace, I have a friend who has a profile on Myspace for his church. These places get a bad rap. It’s not the technology that is bad, it is the misuse of that technology. But, here is my main point.

If Jesus thought that he could encounter some people using MySpace and help them to see God’s love, don’t you think he might have a MySpace profile?

Shalom

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Frost is an author, speaker, teacher in Australia. His book cowritten with Alan Hirsch “The Shaping of Things to Come” is at the top of my most wanted list. In this series of talks, he discusses was in which the church must rethink its role in the world of the postmodern mindset.

Here is the first two days, I’ll get to the others as I get a chance.

Day One

“They want what we want, but they can’t see it because the church is blocking the view.”

“Once you’ve encountered this community, do you want to go to the 1st Baptist in San Francsisco?”

“You don’t cudddle up to Aslan. Jesus is an untamed, wild beast!”

Worldviews…

Dualistic: sacred (places we go to for God) vs profane (ordinary things not expecting to encounter God). This concept is not in the bible. Made up by Greeks and Romans, not Jews, not Christians, but it is everywhere in the church. We must leave the ordinary world to enter the sacred to meet God.

Holistic: God is felt in both the sacred and the profane. Jesus doesn’t say sacred versus profane. Jesus talks about God using stories of people looking for lost things, sheep, tax collectors, etc. He takes the ordinary and sees God working in those moments.

“We must abandon the separation between the church and the world. ‘When you leave this place and go out into the world…’” Try selling that to the Burning Man generation.

Story of the Baptist church that bought the local pub and the opportunities that represented to reach the community. And, then they gutted the building and made it their own church. Farmer asked what he thought, “Well I’ll miss my spot at the bar, but I’ll go find another place someplace else.”

Are you radical enough to…open an art gallery, a business center, a cafe, a bar? An untamed, radical community people!

Day 2

Matthew 5 “You are the salt of the earth, but if it loses its saltiness…you are the light of the world, a city on the hill can not be hidden. let your lite shine….and praise your father in heaven.” Holy living is designed so that it so compelling, that people want what we’ve got. It’s not about what we don’t do (smoke, drink), but what we do (generous, love, hospitality, caring). What they normally see is hypocrisy, infighting, arrogance, etc.

What we must do…
1. Holy living so we are attracting others to the God that creates us
2. Pray for more people to help evangelize our culture. An evangelist is billy Graham, but also somebody that secretes the gospel so that people’s lives are transformed by their presence. They always remind us that we are their for the community, the community is not there for the church.Then pray for their success, for the blessing of their ministry. Finallly, we are called to pray for our neighbors, our family, those we know. Name them, love them, you are God’s gift to them and you have a responsibility to pray for them.
3. We are called to socialize with as many sinners as possible.Go forth as missionaries. 1 Corinthians 5 & 10
4. Resource evangelists. Support them financially and from other obligations so they can go out. Don’t buy more ads.

Don’t fish with a single line, fish like Peter with a net. Be the best friend possible to a few people. They will soon be ensnared in the net that is your life with Christian friends. What if one of those friends is an evangelist? What would happen? Is it possible we’ve made it harder than it has to be? What would our churches look like? It would be pandemonium…

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