Wednesday, December 26, 2007

19 Great Dane Puppies? Insanity!!

Saw this in the paper and had to laugh. This families dog had 21 great dane pups (19 lived, 2 still born). This is crazy!! We have a great dane... she's around 165 pounds... seriously, its like having a circus animal in your house... like a small show horse, or a baby hippo... having a large dog is not normal. Most people see my dog (Madison) and say something dorky like... "that's a horse!... you can get a saddle and ride it!"

Then they look at you like you've never heard that before (note: dane owners know what I'm talking about cuz we hear it all the time)... you give a smile and walk away thinking "hhhmmm, I've never heard that one... moron!" One time I was walking my dane and become so annoyed at people saying the dorky-"is that a horse?"-line that I said to one lady who asked me what kind of dog I had... "its a chihuahua, we just had a bad breeder!" At which she quietly turned to her friend and gullibly said "its a chihuahua... they had a bad breeder". I think she was drinking... but it's now my standard come-back to moron questions.

Some people tell me they want to seriously get a dane... my advice is that you rent a drooling goat for two weeks and let it live in your house, then make your decision. People who want danes without doing their research wind up giving their dogs away, because they have not counted the cost in raising, feeding, and picking up massive mounds of poop!

(note to parents when your kids use the line "we'll clean up after it... we promise!" Answer them by saying... "well Johnny, do you have a Utility Bobcat with a backhoe?... no?... then no great dane!!")

Trust me... this answer will save you.

For Christmas, one of my daughters gave Madison a peanutbutter flavored bone that was the size of a average mans femur bone... which she consumed in two hours. It was scary and wrong on multiple levels... one, watching my dog gnaw down a bone the size of my thigh, and two... who the heck makes peanutbutter-flavored bones? The worst was the canine-gas-immissions (aka, "doggy-farts") which followed. Think about this... peanutbutter-bone-smelling-dog-farts for Christmas. I tried to mask the smell with some Illuminations Holiday-scented candles... not a chance! Now I have peanutbutter-bone-dog-farts... with a hint of christmasy-pine. As I'm evacuating the house I'm wondering what poisonous-warfare-gasses were banned after WWI that are listed in the articles of the Geneva Convention. I think will we have a new submission to add.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Common Grace v. Intentional Incarnational Compassion

by Jon Talbert

Each and every day thousands of needy and marginalized people around the world are served and cared for with little to no participation from the church. With the growing tide of social activism and volunteerism that reaches both local and global issues, the church has struggled to find its groove[1] that is, defining the theology of compassion and justice, and the equally important implementation of it. While emerging service oriented non-profits rise to new levels of local and global impact, many churches are either replicating social services or neglecting this issue all together.

With these growing services it becomes increasingly important to better understand what’s happening in popular culture and how the work of common grace is different from that of the work of the church.

-Pop Culture, the Image of God, and the work of Common Grace
Popular Culture has found its moral high ground in what theologians call Justitia Civilis,[2] that is, doing that which is right in civil or natural affairs. We see Angelina Jolie is the UN Ambassador and mother of three 3rd world adoptions, Starbucks led all fundraising efforts in the Santa Clara County Walk for AIDS, Condoleessa Rice lends support for the Human Trafficking “Not For Sale” Campaign, and Bono who continues to lead the fight against extreme poverty, debt relief, and AIDS, just to name a few. Yet, this recent wave of Justitia Civilis is merely a current echo of the ancient scriptures resounding the common grace characteristic found in the image of God. "The LORD is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he has made....The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. You open your hand, you satisfy the desire of every living thing."[3]
While there may be historical nuances or variables that contribute to this fresh trend of compassion and justice in western culture, the imputed DNA of God-like characteristics upon mankind remains the same, in that we are made in the image of God, and God is inherently good. Francis Schaffer writes, “Since God has made man in his own image… that he can influence history for himself and for others, for this life and the life to come.”[4]
Strangely enough, with this rise in social services and volunteerism some would argue that the growing trend of compassion in a consumerism culture requires the endorsement power of celebrities connected to a cause to rouse the deadened common grace that has grown callous within western society. As one writer puts is "The fact that it takes movie stars to make people care about pressing human rights struggles reflects a self-absorbed culture where compassion and empathy is awakened through glamour rather than human conscience and duty."[5] The strong influence of pop culture on the expression of common grace only lends to the argument of fads and trends. This influence also illustrates the growing need of a clear theological basis for compassion and justice in a church that has a tendency to lean towards cultural trends. Reggie McNeal writes that “consultants, parachurch ministries, denominational headquarters, and publishing houses prod and push the church towards whatever the current fad is. A spate of program fixes have consistently overpromised and underdelivered.”[6] The growing awareness of compassion and justice in the church cannot afford to fade away like the latest hairstyle or fashion statement in Hollywood, it must have clear theological motivations that ensure its survival.

-Theological motivations of Compassion & Justice
A deeper understanding of the theological motivations of Compassion and Justice is intertwined and rooted in the missio Dei. The underpinnings of these motivations are inseparable from the work of God, through Jesus, and empowered through the Spirit of God. The clear picture of missio Dei has either been lacking in the church or reinterpreted in light of church viability, either way, its lack of clarity has left compassion and justice susceptible to the wash of trends that run through the church.

In the missio Dei, God chose to redeem all creation.[7] In Genesis 12, God choose Abraham to the channel of blessing “through you I will bless many nations”[8]. It is through this covenant that the eventual redemption blessing in the form of Christ would come to mankind. Through the incarnation of Jesus, the world would not only experience the ultimate redemption and reconciliation but also the concept of kingdom of God extended on earth. Through out the entire redemption narrative God manifests his character and the coming overture of Christ’s kingdom ministry which is rooted in compassion and justice.

Compassion, Justice, mercy, et al, are an irrefutable subset of the nature and quality of love found in the character of God. This love is whispered in common grace and screamed in redeeming grace. Love becomes the foundation of missio Dei featured in the attitude and action of Christ’s life, and set as the modeled mindset for his disciples, and the ministry of the church. As David Bosch writes, “The classical doctrine of the missio Dei as God the Father sending the Son, and God the Father and the Son sending the Spirit [is] expanded to include yet another “movement”: Father, Son, and Holy Sprit sending the church into the world.”[9]
The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made. Psalm 145:8-9

“I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in I delight” Jeremiah 9:24

The Spirit of the Lord is on me to… preach good news to the poor… freedom for the prisoners… sight for the blind… release for the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. Luke 4:18-19

“As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” John 20:21

“By this all men will know you are my disciples if you have love for one another”
John 13:35

The mode of love that is found in God, formed in Christ, and empowered through His Spirit, is the missio Dei that must be displayed in the church as an extension of the kingdom. This love expressed in compassion, justice, mercy, kindness, and becomes the foundational expression of our theology, or as one writer puts it, “everything in our Christian theology should be missional.”[10] Understanding the theological motivations sets the stage for the actions and attitudes of intentional incarnational compassion and justice that should be reflected in the church and may differ from that of culture.

-Actions and Attitudes of Intentional Incarnational Compassion
The earthly ministry of Jesus was so shockingly distinct from the religious system of the day that it set a mark for his disciples and the church to follow. Jesus even said that loving others the same way he loved would actually mark those as followers. “Love one another, just as I have loved you… by this all will know you are my disciples if you love one another.”[11] In his book Conformed to His Image Kenneth Boa writes that “our faith… and our hope… are demonstrated in the present through the choices and works of love.”[12]
Many of these “love” distinctions are found in the actions and attitudes of intentional incarnational compassion and justice that are distinctly different than the cultural “common grace” driven compassion seen in everyday life. Will and Lisa Samson highlight this difference in their book Justice in the Burbs, they write, “humankind seems to have some general sense of the need for mercy, compassion, being fair, and living by the golden rule. We see hopeful glimpses of this from time to time, such as scores of people reaching out to help victims of the 2004 tsunami or Hurricane Katrina. But apart from some future hope, these brief looks are merely distractions from the awful state we find ourselves in.”[13]
Intentional incarnational compassion finds identity with the fatherless, the oppressed, the widow, and the poor. While common grace initiates a great work in meeting needs for those in the margins, incarnational compassion is named among the margins it descends into. The main idea of “identity with” is to become the personification of Jesus, removed from the comforts of familiarity, and embracing what Scott Bessenecker, author of The New Friars would call “the messiness of community.”[14]
This idea of identity with those in the margins follows the model of God incarnate, who identifies with mankind in all things.

“Then I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God.”[15]

“[Jesus] made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.”

Intentional incarnational compassion finds intimacy in its connection with Jesus. While common grace meets a need and often times the general serving public find a deeper purpose, they are not looking for intimacy with Christ. Jesus binds himself alongside the hungry, thirsty, stranger, naked, sick, and imprisoned by caring for “the least of these”[17] is caring for Jesus himself. This connection with the poor contains some mysterious intimate bond with Jesus that brings about fulfillment and purpose to the Christ follower. Mother Teresa, in all her work with the poorest of the poor would include that “in the poor we find Jesus in a distressing disguise”[18]. Bessenecker concurs with this transcendent connection and adds that and says “in serving the poor, they find a level of devotion and intimacy with Christ that is hard to obtain in any other way. And sometimes the most profound way to serve the poor is simply to walk alongside them.”[19]

The ancient scriptures speaks of a similar transcendent connection in its wisdom literature. “Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and will be repaid in full.”[20]

Intentional incarnational compassion finds interdependency essential to community. While common grace extends service primarily in one direction, interdependency within community requires an exchange of compassion that blesses and is blessed. The early church illustrated forms of interdependency in its infancy as “all the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.”[21] In the context of any community there are numerous variables that require collaborations of interdependency. The effects of individualism and consumerism has closed off people groups from one another and created classes that sub-divide into mini-cultures. Interdependency works differently, as Don Tapscott notes in his work Wikinomics. He writes that collaboration is “the creation of attributes, structures, and capabilities that are not inherent to any single node in the network.”[22] While interdependency does not require mutual blessing, it thrives in community where relationship are impacted through incarnational living.

Intentional incarnational compassion finds indiscriminate grace irresistible. While common grace embraces the unsuspecting, indiscriminate grace reaches compassion and justice even to its enemies. As Deiterich Bonhoffer describes it, “it is unreserved love for our enemies, for the unloving, and the unloved, love for our religious, political and personal adversaries. In every case it is the love which was fulfilled in the cross of Christ.”[23] Even modern psychology confirms the complications of tackling moral behavior outside the norm of a community. In a recent article in Time magazine entitled “What Makes Us Moral” it states that “we face our biggest challenges not when we’re called on to behave ourselves within out family, community or workplace but when we have to apply the same more care to people out side our tribe. The notion of the “other” is a tough one for Homo sapiens.”[24] The heart of indiscriminate grace makes incarnation difficult to ignore.
(This is an excerp from an article I wrote entitled "Fads & Trends"... if you want the entire article, email me and I will send it to you)

[1] “Groove” refers to the rhythmic feel.
[2] Berkhof, Louis. (1941). Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids, Mich., W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. p. 443.
[3] Psalm 145:9, 15-16, NIV.
[4] Schaeffer, Francis. A. (1969). Death in the City. Chicago, Inter-Varsity Press. P. 80.
[5] Washington “Hollywood Stars Find an Audience For Social Causes” Sunday, June 10, 2007.
[6] McNeal, Reggie. (2003). The Present Future : Six Tough Questions for the Church, Jossey-Bass. p. 11.
[7] “For God so loved the world” John 3:16, NIV.
[8] Genesis 12:1-2, NIV.
[9] Bosch, David. J. (1991). Transforming Mission : Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission. Maryknoll, N.Y., Orbis Books. p. 390.
[10] Vestal, Joel. (2007). Dangerous Faith : Growing in God and Service to the World, NavPress. p. 60.
[11] John 13:34-35, NIV.
[12] Boa, Kenneth. (2001). Conformed to His Image : Biblical and Practical Approaches to Spiritual Formation, Zondervan. p. 43.
[13] Samson, Will, Lisa. (2007). Justice in the Burbs : Being the Hands of Jesus Wherever You Live, Baker Books. p. 29.
[14] Bessenecker, Scott. (2006). The New Friars : The Emerging Movement Serving the World's Poor, IVP Books. p. 105.
[15] Exodus 29:45, NIV.
[16] Philippians 2:7, NIV.
[17] Matthew 25:40, NIV.
[18] Bessenecker, p. 89.
[19] Ibid.
[20] Proverbs 19:17, NIV.
[21] Acts 2:44-45, NIV.
[22] Tapscott, Donald. (2006). Wikinomics : How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything. New York, Portfolio. p. 44.
[23] Bonhoeffer, Dietrich (1995). The Cost of Discipleship. Touchstone. p. 170.
[24] Jeffery Kluger, Time, December 3, 2007. “What Makes Us Moral” p. 60.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Serve the City and Beautiful Day Combo

The first week of November I had the opportunity to meet with the leads of the European equivelent of Beautiful Day called Serve the City. This is a group of churches that are bringing service, compassion, and justice into the margins of Brussels and different cities world-wide.

One of the key leads is Carlton Deal... a visionary who sees the idea of compassion extending through out the city by those willing to extend themselves and the kingdom.

Carlton and I met on line... and shared a common vision, then we both co-spoke at a conference break out in some small Belgian city named Carlsbourg. While we spoke and bounced back and forth in our session, it became clear to us and to the students who were there that this was some sort of divine appointment and we were to collaborate somehow.
Here are a few things we're considering...
-Sending people from the Bay Area to partner in Serve the City Brussels June/July 08.
-Speaking at the Compassion Unleashed Conference May 08
-Developing a US and a Euro conference on Compassion and Justice issues called "Unleashed" where we join forces and invite similar organizations to partner with Serve the City and Beautiful Day to bring Christ to the margins of any community on the planet.
For more information on Beautiful Day go to
For more information on Serve the City go to

Friday, October 26, 2007

Things we learn from Disaster Response and Starfish

Thanks to live news reporting and Hi-Def TV we are able to witness like never before the devastation of the Southern California fires. As many of us witnessed the massive destruction and panic from these raging sites we are intuitively moved with compassion and drawn to offer a helping hand. This is compassion DNA that exists in every person on the planet. I hear people say… “we need to do something”… or “how can we help?” and these are all the right thoughts… but I also want to challenge our thinking and refine our “emergency-response-reactions” to something more sustainable and hopefully helpful for those in need as well as those offering support on the front lines.

In the past few years we have all witnessed natural disasters (Fires, Hurricanes, Tsunamis, earthquakes), as well as acts of terrorism (9/11, Oklahoma City, etc) and hopefully we’ve learned a thing or two on response. Often times there is a season of immediate response that last about 2 weeks to a month depending on the severity of the disaster. News media keeps us riveted to the TV and webcasts that allows us to see things first hand. But in a entertainment driven society… where pop-culture is king, we become quickly bored or move onto our daily routines and the things that consume our own lives.* (* that is, of course, if you don’t live in the affected area).

This past year I read a book that deeply influenced how I work and what I do. It’s called "The Starfish and the Spider". I do not want to outline the entire book for you, but I will give you the main idea, which is… the nature and make up of a Starfish differs radically from a Spider. “Cut off the leg of a spider, and you have a seven-legged creature on your hands; cut off its head and you have a dead spider. But cut off the arm of a starfish and it will grow a new one. Not only that, but the severed arm can grow an entirely new body. Starfish can achieve this feat because, unlike spiders, they are decentralized; every major organ is replicated across each arm.”

With that being said… a Spider organization is centralized and has clear organs and structure. You know who is in charge. You see them coming. While Starfish organizations, on the other hand, are based on completely different principles. They tend to organize around a shared ideology or a simple platform for communication. They arise rapidly around the simplest ideas or platforms. Ideas or platforms that can be easily duplicated. Once they arrive they can be massively disruptive and are here to stay, for good or bad. And the Internet can help them flourish.

So in today's world Starfish organizations are starting to gain the upper hand.

In my understanding of this “Starfish/Spider organizational principle” is that churches are supposed to be like the Starfish… yet often act like Spiders. The whole idea of Kingdom is that we share the same principles, the same ideals… our “Starfish-like network” should spread from here to San Diego… to China, AND follow the same ideology… “Love God, love one another, love your neighbor”.

The truth is… in Western Culture, a Spider-like mentality often arises when things like disasters strike… we want to know who the leader is… we want to know who’s in charge… and for some, they become the self proclaimed leader. Churches too, can fall victim to Spider-mentality rather than letting its Starfish-like qualities take over.

(Note: I’m not suggesting a “no-leader” idea… I’m just pushing an idea out there… hang in with me a bit longer).

After personally visiting the 2003 Cedar fire, the gulf coast, and Tsunami-devastation, I’ve come to the conclusion that the church automatically defaults to it intended design… that is, of a Starfish-like organization. While government agencies and relief organizations work frantically to assess the situation and establish some control (some good, some bad)… churches already have the organic networks in place both locally and globally. No agency or government group can work with as much clarity and charity as the church… if it functions like it’s supposed to.

In the gulf coast… who is still there working on rebuilding and relief? … the church.
(For more information on trips to the gulf coast go to )

In the tsunami- devastated regions… who is working with orphans and micro businesses?... the church
(For more information on Tsunami Relief go to

The church finds itself doing the very thing it’s supposed to do (in Starfish-like fashion) when it’s responding to needs or being persecuted.

With that all being said… let me now say this…

-To the churches in the Bay Area and beyond… foster the growth of organic church networks. Champion the shared ideology “Love God, love others, you’re your neighbor” in your community groups, bible studies, and new church plants. Build relationships with other churches… and network together for a greater cause.

-To the churches in Southern California… stay the course, hang in there… we are part of you, and we’ve got your back!

Some helpful info...

The Rock Church ( ) has networks in and around the entire San Diego area. They have an infrastructure in place that allows your funds or specific supplies to be used where they are needed most. They have also communicated to us that they will offer long-tern help for those recovering from the fires and would welcome short-term teams in the future for clean-up and rebuilding (we will keep you posted).

Our best option through the Beautiful Day Network is to identify and support a church with an immediate and long-term plan. We are confident that The Rock has both.

To make financial contributions (individually or corporately) go to their Fire Relief site at
Hit the “contact Information” link, and send checks to the address given. Add “Fire Relief” in the memo section. For follow up information you can contact the church directly at (619) 226-7625 or email

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Walk for AIDS Silicon Valley review... and thoughts on "Compassion-Partiality"

Today almost 150 people from churches throughout the Silicon Valley participated in the Walk for AIDS Silicon Valley under the name Team Beautiful Day. This team was the largest team and raised the most money of groups participating.
While I secretly reveled in "largest" and "most" categories, there was something much more tangible for me and my fellow team-mates. Most evangelical churches have distanced themselves from the HIV/AIDS community. Some make the callous statements that "sinful people got what they deserved", while others ignore the problem locally yet send thousands of dollars globally for AIDS relief. While caring for those suffering globally is noble... ignoring this issue locally sends a mixed message to those already skeptical of the church, and points to what I call "compassion-partiality". Exactly one year and four months ago, we wrestled with our own "compassion-partiality" while we sent incredible sums of money to those suffering on the other side of the globe... and because of our own predjudices and indifferences ignored the local componant of a global pandemic.
We decided to walk in the San Francisco AIDS walk 2006. Shortly after that walk I made a cold call visit to the Billy DeFrank Center to ask for other areas where we could support. That connection lead us to the Living Center in San Jose... the only HIV/AIDS community center in Santa Clara County. One year later we have an ongoing relationship with the Living Center and are currently doing a make over at the Food distribution center next door (that does delievery for AIDS shut-ins and walk-ins), as well serve in numerous venues to those in that community. I must note that my reasons for writing this is not for self (or group) grandizing... but to make a point.
After todays walk, and a reflection of our growing re-connection with the gay community and care for the HIV/AIDS community, I feel compelled to call churches to re-engage in bringing compassion, hope, relief, and message of Jesus through our actions... and by showing up in areas of their community that need it most.
To shut up, and show up... and even cough up... for a cause!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Expired Prescriptions of the 21st Century Church

Most households have expired prescriptions in a bathroom medicine cabinet or the kitchen. These medications are prescribed by a doctor or specialist to heal or aid the body in one form or another. All medications have a shelf life with a date printed on the container indicating its expiration. In the cycle of ones sickness and health, prescriptions are made, used, and stored for another day. Many times one might draw from that same medication for recurring symptoms, but after a period of time that prescription expires. The problem arises when prescriptions are used for something long after the expiration date. When it comes to health there are some who do not read labels, follow instructions, or care all that much. Some expired prescriptions have the potential to turn toxic while most just lose their potency and are ineffective. Strangely enough, when a church goes through a cycle of sickness and health, many will draw upon prescriptions that have lost their shelf-life and have long since expired. Often times a church leader will go back and rummage through useless remedies that served their purpose in days long gone, rendering the effort useless (and sometimes toxic!).

Problems that arise in the church is nothing new. Churches have faced numerous difficulties through out the ages, (footnote the first centuries church problems Acts, Corinth… et al.) and have worked through active remedies to address these issues. However with the rise of the church-growth movement in the 70’s-80’s new measurements of church health required new prescriptions to be filled. (footnote from Hartford) Robert Logan’s book Beyond Church Growth typifies the church-growth mentality. He writes, “Beyond Church Growth will help your church become more effective in ministry. Effective churches are healthy churches; healthy churches are growing churches – they make more and better disciples. This is precisely the focus of the church-growth movement.” (Logan p. 17)

One of the main prescriptions that was essential for this church-growth movement was something called “needs based” ministry. Needs based ministry is the assessment of the essential needs of your demographic target audience and the development of ministry based around those identified needs. In his classic work entitled Life-Style Evangelism, Joseph Aldrich touches on this essential prescription for the church leader to address; “The responsible church leader must examine the programming of his church in light of his people’s need for vital fellowship.” (Aldrich p. 120) While this movement gave a fresh perspective to churches identifying with the needs of their cultural context, it also offered church-growth prescriptions that have expired for the emerging church. In hindsight, church leaders were enamored with what Hirsch calls “gather and amuse” church growth theory. He argues that “we grew in numbers – but something primal and indispensable was lost in the bargain. We got more transfers from other churches, but the flow of conversion slowed down to a trickle and then ran completely dry.” (Hirsch p. 220)

Pastor Brian Kay of Trinity Presbyterian Church in San Luis Obispo comments on some of these prescriptions. “Since the 1970’s, many American pastors began to turn to the experts of the church-growth movement who told them the best way to reach people who thought the Church was irrelevant was to appeal to something that is undeniably relevant to the mass culture: being entertained.” He goes on to comment on how these remedies have expired, he writes, “In a way the church-growth movement worked, because a lot more people started coming on Sunday. But, as its music and preaching became more trivial, many other sensible people stopped taking the Church seriously… The church life they had witnessed, even in cases where the doctrine was solid, was pure mayonnaise.” (Relevant p.5-6)

In the 21st century some churches are drawing on old prescriptions, remedies, and potions to face the challenge of desired ministry impact in an emerging culture, while many other churches are making desperate attempts to address the health issues of declining membership and possible extinction.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Toxic consumerism and the death of mission

In the National Capitol Poison Center published work Quick Facts on Poison Exposures in the United States they cite that “75% of poison exposures involve ingestion of a poisonous substance. 86.7 % of poison exposures are unintentional”. Toxins are most harmful when they are ingested into the system and a large percentage of them go undetected. The church of the 21st century has unknowingly ingested cultural toxins for many years that have wreaked havoc on the church in western culture. One of the main cultural toxins has been the rise of consumerism. In the aftermath of the Depression and two world wars, the United States government cultivated a new path for economic recovery that facilitated a snowballing consumer mindset into the post-war era. During his presidential campaign speech in 1932 Franklin Roosevelt said, “I believe that we are at the threshold of a fundamental change in our popular economic thought, that in the future we are going to think less about the producer and more about the consumer.” This mindset played into the developmental psyche and public duty of the early babyboomer generation in a context of a national post-war ideal. Lizabeth Cohen in her book A Consumer’s Republic develops this ideal more as she writes, “Out of the wartime conflict… emerged a new postwar ideal of the purchaser as citizen who simultaneously fulfilled personal desire and civic obligation by consuming.” (Cohen p. 119)

The consumer mentality has grown and matured with marketing, mass production, and technology into a virus that permeates every area of our current culture, including the church. In first century Palestine crowds gathered to hear Jesus address issues of consumerism. He said, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?” (Matthew 6:25). The question is… would they have gathered and listened if the shopping malls existed and were open? Apparently not in 21st century. In a recent study done by two economists at MIT, church attendance and participation dropped with the repeal of Americana Blue Laws. As their research concludes that “the repeal of these laws in cities and states substantially increases the opportunity cost of religious attendance by offering alternatives for work, leisure, and consumption.” It seems as if Jesus could clearly see the affects of consumerism that would eventually hit his followers and the church. The toxic nature of consumerism on the church should alarm every leader in every church across the US. Alan Hirsch, in his book The Forgotten Way, writes, “I have come to believe that the major threat to the viability of our faith is that of consumerism. This is a far more heinous and insidious challenge to the gospel, because in so many ways it infects each and every one of us.” (Hirsch p. 106-7).

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Summer's over... School starts Monday

Summer rips by. I hate that! As a kid they seemed to last way longer than they do now. Not sure why that is, but its a familiar epidemic in this world. Most days this summer felt like an anticipation to the next thing... and it rarely felt like I slowed down to take it in... this is something that I must work on.

The best part of the summer (and by best I mean most memorable and enjoyable) was our family vacation to the Sequoias. We barrowed a hard-side trailer and camped for some time up with extended family. There was no internet, cell phone coverage, TV, Radio, Tivo (although I had some shows Tivoed at home), and no pressing meetings. Just true, honest, refreshing down-time with the family.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Music by Stem

There is a new band that is emerging on the scene... called Stem.

Jaclyn... Grant... Luc... and Sam
You can get samples of their music on their website

or you can sample some of their acoustic recordings on


Monday, July 2, 2007

Re:Visioning Leadership According to Myspace, TiVo, Web 2.0, Costco, Organic Foods, and itunes

Re:Visioning the Myth of Leadership
Jon Talbert

To re:vision something is to assume there was a “vision” in the first place. To stretch the imagination to “re:tool a dream” or “re:work a mental picture” indicates that somehow somewhere along the line the original vision died or was in desperate need of repair. Many who work in church leadership circles can sense that we live in a different world with ever changing technologies, multiracial communities, and mass communication systems, just to name a few. This different and changing world is more like an undiscovered region that early European explorers and navigators would chart and discover. Yet these new people groups long for a new way, a new thought, and new language; and are searching in every cultural nook and cranny to identify something spiritual and meaningful. Even ancient forms of worship have re:imerged in post-modern circles and are considered “new” and “cool” to a generation that rejects the previous worship form. Some emerging worship venues have taken on an eclectic (even chaotic) form that has been pieced together from the remnants of deconstructionism, soul-searching, and ancient liturgy. This worship form is taken from the old, and given new life… its messy and organic, but the next generation likes it that way. A re:visioning form of leadership should work to re:interpret ancient truths in light of common/popular culture without re:working the theology. This would include re:packing the message and re:trofitting the methodology. Alan Hirsch puts it this way, “The tools and techniques that fitted previous eras of Western history simply don’t seem to work and longer. What we need now is a new set of tools. A new “paradigm” – a new vision of reality: a fundamental change in our thoughts, perceptions, and values, especially as they relate to out view of the church and mission.”[1]

Re:visioning leadership… according to Myspace
In 2003 two students by the name of Tom Anderson and Chris DeWolfe set up an interactive website that has quickly grown into the number one site of connectivity and community called Myspace. Originally Myspace was designed to communicate with friends who wanted to connect to the Los Angeles indie music scene. There are currently over one hundred million people who find a sense of cyber-community within its massive social network. Friends, pictures, blogs, videos, instant messaging, are just some of the main menu of items that are found on the menu template of each subscribers page. “Myspace is an online community that lets you meet your friends' friends… create a private community… share photos, journals and interests with your growing network of mutual friends!”[2]. If the rise in popularity of Myspace has shown us anything it is that people in the 21st century have a deep desire to be connected in community more than ever before, and with that an indictment on the church that has imposed its old forms of gathering in community onto a new world order. In her book Finding Our Way, Margaret Wheatley indirectly lays down the gauntlet for church leaders who want to take the advances of technology and the principles of organic myspace-like networks and bring them into healthy relational communities. She writes, “Our great task is to rethink our understandings of community so that we can move from the closed protectionism of current forms to an openness and embrace of the planetary community.”[3]

Myspace is not without its misgivings. This enormous portal of networking has both its blessing and its curse on common culture. However the task of the emerging leader is to see the core values and principles within this phenomenon and dream of community for the next generation.[4]

Core values include… Personalized profiles, Self-expression, Feedback, Open-invitations, and Massive unique networks.

Re:visioning Leadership… according to TiVo
In many homes in the US there is an entertainment component that is almost as important as the TV itself, that is, the revolutionary toy called TiVo. TiVo is a Digital Video Recorder (DVR) that allows the user to easily program shows for later viewing. Although recording shows is nothing new[5], TiVo affords its user much more power than a simple pre-recording. Its website boasts that TiVo “automatically finds and digitally records all of your favorite shows, every time they're on. Every episode of your favorite series. Every Coppola movie. Every home improvement program. Even Dora cartoons! Whatever you choose. All while you're out living life. Plus, only TiVo lets you watch your favorite shows any time, anywhere.”[6] Personal users rave about the ease of usage and the commercial free life. TiVo also allows you to pause live TV, while interruptions occur in the home, and with its 8 second rewind and slow motion capability users will never miss a dropped pass or a soft spoken word.[7]

In Anthony Willaims and Don Tapscott’s new book Wikinomics, they develops a concept under the term prosumers. Prosumption is “the gap between producer and consumer”[8] where the consumer has the capability to watch what he wants to watch… when he wants to watch it. Prime time TV is becoming more my-time to watch the shows that have been set to record. While TiVo does not meet the full specification of prosumer[9] it still creates a sense of self-prescribed personal programming and consumption at the discretion of the viewer.

While personal convenience can sound negative and selfish in a church community the value of customization could serve as a tremendous asset to emerging ministry. Many churches preset a membership curriculum that introduces new attendees to the fundamentals and the basics of that particular denomination or community. Within all of those membership groups are people with individual needs and specific nuances in their journey. Too often the church presupposes a one-size-fits-all mentality that herds people through a system with little to no personal programming. Re:visioning leadership would be to empower the church member to take more personal ownership of their journey and become the spiritual-prosumer. Leaders participate as co-creators in the personalized artistry of the prosumers soul.

Core values include… Customization, Convenience, Prosumption, Participation, Co-Creation.

Re:visioning Leadership… according to Web 2.0
Web 2.0 is a reference point to the second generation of web technology that has emerged over the past few years. Web 2.0 is a concept that moves technology beyond simple interfacing and global users to social networking, wikis, and collaborative mash-ups. One of the biggest values to web2.0 technology is the idea of open sourcing.
Open source is a concept that allows the user to become an active participant and contributor rather than a passive observer or bystander. The book Starfish and the Spider qualifies open source this way, “put people into an open system and they’ll automatically want to contribute.”[10] This idea of open source also excels under the creativity and innovation of “mashing” technologies together. Mash-ups are some of the most cutting edge technology to come from Web2.0 and allows for chaos, creativity, and collaboration on the highest level. Brafman and Beckstrom also write, “when you give people freedom, you get chaos, but you also get incredible creativity. Because everyone tries to contribute to the community, you get a variety of expression.”[11]

The community is in desperate need of Church 2.0. Leaders need a re:visioning of the value of active contributors and kingdom mash-ups that allow for creative collaboration on a new level in ministry. Churches mashing with other churches, businesses, government, education, organization, media, entertainment, and health care to unleash ministry in a new way, and in unparalleled levels.

Core values include… Collaboration, Open-source, Imaginative, Creative, and Mutating.

Re:visioning Leadership… according to Costco
Costco has changed the shape of shopping. It is the largest membership warehouse club chain in the world based on sales volume. Costco focuses on selling products at low prices, often at very high volume. These goods are usually bulk-packaged and stored in the same facility affording customers bulk prices with no fancy showroom overhead. The chaos and messiness of the warehouse is part of its appeal. Forklifts, stacked pallets, 3-story storage shelving, and the buzz of bakers, butchers, and stockers give a sense that you’ve been granted back-stage passes to factory in the chaos of full production. Right before holiday weekends Costco reaches a level of messiness and chaos which becomes its most productive time[12]. Abrahamson and Freedmans book The Perfect Mess write, “in any situation there is a type and level of mess at which effectiveness is maximized, and our assertion is that people and organizations frequently err on the side of overorganization. In many cases, they can improve by increasing mess, if its done in the right way.”[13]

Churches that want to embrace the idea of birthing new innovative ministry must become accustom to the idea of mess and chaos. At the onset of birth or new life (be it ministry, church plant, or a human baby) the process is extremely messy.

Too many churches leadership teams that exist with a hierarchical structure find themselves too mess-adverse. They avoid the ministry and the risk of something new because of the potential mess it may bring. A re:visioning of leadership would value chaos and disorder to afford room for ministry that is otherwise order-adverse.

Core values include… Mess, Struggle, Chaos, Risk, Disorganization.

Re:visioning Leadership… according to Organic Food
Almost all major grocery stores carry a label entitled O that represents a movement in food, that is “Organic.” This is a hot trend that requires retailers to carry products that are good for the consumer and good for the planet. Or as one product reads, “To be certified organic, dairy cows must be managed under organic livestock practices at least one year before milking. Their feed must be grown on land that has been under organic cultivation practices for a minimum of three years.”[14] From the consumers side the big O represents that there are not unwarranted chemicals or pesticides that have made any contact with the product in any way. From the farmers perspective the product was acquired in a humane and ethical way that follows a code warranting the O label. There is usually a higher price associated with Organic, but as many nutritionist would say, “you can pay more now, or you can pay more later… either way you’re going to pay.”[15] Health coaches, nutritionist, books, and magazines all preach the message of the value found in the O. There are many reasons associated with the move towards Organic, the main one being the recurring theme of cancer-causing chemicals and pesticides that are put into common everyday food items. Many pesticides approved for use by the EPA were registered before extensive research linking these chemicals to cancer and other diseases had been established.[16]
The value of Organic represents something to people in the church life as well. Individuals long for something that rings of authenticity and real life. Community’s desire relationship that have not been manufactured or mass produced, they long for spiritual journeys that are not the latest book fad or discipleship craze. Christ followers would rather be part of something that is organic and homegrown. Re:visioning leadership would bring the O back to church, that is, to

see the value of authentic homegrown organic ministry. Reggie McNeal says it this way, “Much of the incrementalism that plagues the North American church results from a failure to learn. Without the will to learn the church defaults to methodologies and mental maps that keep it anchored to the old world and tether to outmoded paradigms.”[17]

Core Values include… Genuineness, No Preservatives, Organic, Authentic, Homegrown.

Re:visioning Leadership… according to itunes
When Apple computers extended themselves into the music business in 2001 they did themselves and the rest of the world a favor. itunes became the most common digital music and video program used to store, download, organize, and sample music in the history of the business.
The brilliance of itunes is that it served to facilitate the growing needs of the ipod, and now the iphone. This personal music media portal allows users to create their own playlists, manage their own library, update national podcasts, and convieniently download specific songs. “Apple realized that music listeners were getting increasingly frustrated with hearing a song on the radio and going out and purchasing it on CD only to find out the rest of the album was garbage.”[18] With the growing issue of illegal pirating of songs, Apple came in with a system the meet the needs of the customer and music industry by creating this venue that specified, sampled, and systematized the very best of music.

In order for churches to meet the growing needs of the ever diverse culture, leaders need to re:vision and customize church to fit the specific nature of that community. As opportunities to connect and serve the neighborhood arise church leaders need to create a specific “playlist” from the resources they have and get after it. Churches should be able to download (from similar churches) specific songs (specific ministry ideas) that are working in their “playlist” (ministry context). The idea is that churches move more to customize their style to meet specific needs. There is also the idea that churches hit “shuffle” in their worship venues from time to time. The shuffle feature in any worship service allows the user to enjoy a random mix of the old and the new, the forgotten and the fresh, fused together for a unique experience that celebrates the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Bono.

Core values include… Playlisting, Shuffle, Customize, Downloading, Sampling

In the emerging culture, churches are faced with a pressing issue in leadership, that is, change or die. This task may seem obvious to some while impossible to others. To change the nature and shape of church and to contextualize for its specific community requires leaders to look within themselves and their community and read the dials of that particular culture. To start re:visioning the myth of leadership is to create an environment of innovation and creativity that not only empowers your free-thinkers, but it also sets a new course that is organic and contextually fresh for the local church. Many churches in the emerging culture that refuse to release the “sacred cows” of ministry will fade and die with them firmly in their grasp.

[1] Alan Oct Hirsch, The Forgotten Ways : Reactivating the Missional Church (Brazos Press, 2006).
[2] Taken directly from the “about us” section on the Myspace web site at
[3] Margaret J. Wheatley, Finding Our Way : Leadership for an Uncertain Time (San Francisco, Calif.: Berrett-Koehler, 2005). p. 45.
[4] To join my cyber community of friends go to:
[5] There are still people that use VHS to record and watch show while they are out. To program a VCR to do that is an amazing accomplishment in technology.
[6] Taken directly from the TiVo website at
[7] The Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show controversy was probably when most Tivo owners figured out their 8 second rewind feature.
[8] Don Williams Anthony D. Tapscott, Wikinomics : How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything (New York: Portfolio, 2006). p. 126.
[9] With TiVo the producer is still the one responsible for the overall production/distribution schedule.
[10] Ori Beckstrom Rod A. Brafman, The Starfish and the Spider : The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations (New York: Portfolio, 2006). p. 74.
[11] Ibid. p. 81.
[12] Info is found on Why Costco is so addictive by Fortune writer Matthew Boyle at
[13] Eric Freedman David H. Abrahamson, A Perfect Mess : The Hidden Benefits of Disorder : How Crammed Closets, Cluttered Offices, and on-the-Fly Planning Make the World a Better Place, 1st ed. (Little, Brown, 2006). p. 53.
[14] This quote was taken directly from the side of an O organics Fat Free Milk carton.
[15] Quoted directly from the produce manager at Whole Foods in San Jose, CA.
[16] Found in the Why Organic? Section on
[17] Reggie McNeal, The Present Future : Six Tough Questions for the Church, 1st ed. (Jossey-Bass, 2003). p. 116.
[18] Brafman. p. 192.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

What is Beautiful Day?

Each day someone asks me about Beautiful Day... what is it?

Here's what I found myself saying...

Beautiful Day is about a lifestyle... when an individual begins to think about the needs of others rather than themselves.

Beautiful Day is about an attitude... that reacts to the poor, the under-resourced, and the marginalized.
Beautiful Day is about unity... when churches come together regardless of their shape, size, or belief system to bring about change on an unparalleled level.

Beautiful Day is about synergy... churches, businesses, organizations, media, government, entertainment, healthcare, education... all on the same page, coming together for the same cause.

Beautiful Day is about innovation... adapting to its surroundings and adjusting to any circumstance to achieve its purpose.

Beautiful Day is about compassion... bringing the same love that Jesus would bring to the broken and the lost.

Beautiful Day is about justice... standing alongside the neglected, the falsely accused, and the abused.

Beautiful Day is about mercy... to care for the suffering, the dieing, and the forgotten.

Beautiful Day is about transformation... working together in such a way that you actually believe that you can change any region, town, or city.

For more information about Beautiful Day and how you can get involved go to:

Thursday, May 31, 2007