The Great Divorce: The Church and the GOP

After a long, frustrating courtship with the GOP, Richard Land, then President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention declared, ”The go-along, get-along strategy is dead. ‘No more engagement. We [conservative Christians] want a wedding ring, we want a ceremony, we want a consummation of the marriage.” That was 1998.

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Millions, Church Planting, and Math

What would you do with your next $60 million? My friend Mark Riddle, Founder of The Riddle Group and Redeeming Leadership, took out his pencil and paper and did a little math. After he put the pencil to it he wrote a letter and included all of this at LiquidThinking. I wonder what my statistically minded friends at Lifeway would think about Mark’s thought process in relationship to church planting movements.

Here is the teaser if you still have not gone over for a read,

The next time you raise 60 million dollars to reach more people consider the following idea:

What if you planted 600 churches, giving each church $100,000 over three years to spend however they want?  Think about the impact 600 churches would have on your city.

Seriously.  Take a moment to think about this.

But let’s be realistic.

Let’s say that even if you could find 600 leaders within your community who feel called to live the mission of God in this way, let’s also say in that 450 of the 600 church plants don’t make it and are no longer in existence before or at the 3 year mark.  At $100k per church that would be a $45 million loss over three years, but bear with me.

Let’s say that of the 150 churches who do continue after 3 years, that 140 of these churches only get to the average size church in your denomination: 75 people.

Seventy-five people doesn’t seem like much of a success does it?  But when there are 140 of them, with average attendance of 75 per church we’re looking at 10,500 people.

Wow. This feels like I’m being too generous.

So let’s just say that these 140 churches only reach 30 people weekly.  That’s 4,200 people.  Even with this seemingly low attendance, that’s a 3,200 person increase over the 1,000 persons gained from your last use of $60 million—and we’re not done yet.

Let’s also say that 9 of the remaining churches thrive. By thrive I mean they have an average attendance of 300 people. That’s an additional 2,700 people. Bringing our total to 6,900 additional people attending worship in these churches in the Tulsa area.  If we’re real lucky, maybe one of the 600 original churches really takes off in terms of attendance and gets to 800 people. That’s going to bring your total to 7,700 people compared to the 1,000 person increase that you have experienced.

After you read the piece, come back and share you thoughts on Mark’s off the cuff thinking.

Brian McLaren, Rick Warren, Christian Identity

Recently Pew Research pointed to an increase of the “Nones.” Those who, when queried, noted no religious affiliation. The response to the news seems to be varied. Ed Stetzer, President of Lifeway Research, often looks for both the concern and the possibility when referencing Lifeway Research findings, or reports from other research groups. He weighed in on the Pew Research report here. He concludes his reflections,

So, as society moves away from Christian identification, let’s meet them on the road and say, “We did not believe in that expression of Christianity anyway. Let me tell you about Jesus and how he changes everything.”

Stetzer believes the current religious climate allows Christians the opportunity to address the matter of Christian identity. Ed picks a theme that for some is packed into the descriptor post-Christendom. You may quibble with the definition or description of Christian identity that Ed would put forward, but that he recognizes the issue turns on, “What is a Christian,” puts him in interesting company. Read More

Protecting Privilege or, Will We Work for Justice?

She had tears in her eyes. He acknowledged the need to radically re-think how we learn to view others. These are just two responses to our use of N.T. Wright‘s, Surprised by Hope, for our Sunday morning Bible Study. Collectively we wrestle with eschatological visions cast for us in our adolescence.

You know. The sort that frames justice as punishment. Classically this is represented in the social collective that points to a rendered sentence as, “Justice has been served.” I am not sure when we began to conflate punishment with justice. But, we do. In fact, we tend to skew judgement into justice and thereby make the two interchangeable. They are not.

Wright makes a point to talk about justice in different terms. He is not opposed to punishment, or so it seems. Instead, Wright wants those who read Scripture to capture how justice is understood. Justice sets wrongs right. To talk about the God’s justice is to point to the day when God will set “the world to rights.” The widow is cared for. The stranger, immigrant, is not longer treated inhumanely. The orphaned receive family. These are the prominent prophetic themes. Read More

Newbigin Misread? or, Missing Sentralized and Wondering

There will always be next year. But, I confess that I was looking forward to hanging out with David Fitch, for at least coffee over the next few days. Call it trip interrupted. I will spare you the painful details but when I learned the stones did not pass that spelled the end of my trip. Who wants to leave home to possibly writhe in pain, cry like a baby, and potentially miss out while being in the same town as the gathering you hoped to attend? Not me.

Add to the fact that my urologist could get me in Wednesday morning and could perform a procedure first thing yesterday morning and only a misguided teenager with a crush would have gone on to the concert gathering. So much for poor analogies.

Last week while I was clipping items to read I was intrigued by this one by Len Hjalmarson, missional, post-Newbigin. I wonder what those gathered in Kansas City would say? How would they respond to the idea that we may have not read Newbigin deeply enough, or even rightly? Would it scuttle him in the pantheon of missional thinkers? Or, would we be compelled to make some adjustments?

Len relayes a comment by Tom Allen left on Alan Hirsch’s blog, Read More