Sunday, January 7, 2007


by Jon Talbert

Pietà[1] is born in the soul of mankind and is a God-mark inscribed upon the DNA of human history. Natural threads of compassion can be found in spontaneous human reaction, from a baby’s cry… to the images of people suffering from the ravages of AIDS. The human inclination towards compassion can be nurtured or repressed, but never completely lost. It resurfaces in secret places, in shadows, in confessions, or at one’s deathbed. Both highly advanced and underdeveloped people groups are intuitively aware of the needs around them. The pastor preaches it, the parent embraces with it, the activist shouts it, the politician poses for it, the hurried miss it, the college student envisions it, the artist depicts it, the celebrity champions it, the sacrificial live it, the suffering long for it. Compassion usually finds itself alongside the actions of forgiveness, mercy, hope, tears, sweat, relief, or belonging; and it never stands alone without love. The irreducible minimum of compassion includes the individual, others, and love.
Compassion reflects the nature of God through the supreme attribute of love, actively displayed towards someone in need. Compassion is the recurring theme through out the scriptures.

But you, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.[2]

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers… let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.

The same irreducible minimum (by individuals, to others, through love) is modeled as the ultimate act of compassion in the gospel message… by God, to mankind, through love. Therefore, all acts of compassion, whether sacred or secular, are a rooted in and a reflection of the nature of God regardless of the initiators intention, awareness, or belief in God.
Looking back at early American history, compassion, benevolence, and charity are derived in and around religious faith communities. However from colonialism to the 21st Century, compassion has all but lost its connection to the redemptive work of Jesus. Many faith-based and church communities are missing the compassion component today that was such a guiding staple of the church in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. Mission and compassion in the church has either taken a lesser role, or has been lost entirely. The church is either at the dawn of a new day, or on the brink of death.
New churches, established churches, healthy churches, struggling churches must become what Reggie McNeal calls Missional churches. He writes that “the rise of the missional church is happening all over the world. Two primary shifts are occurring that give the missional church its unique characteristics: The shift from an internal focus to an external focus. Missional churches are churches that are turned inside-out. They are heavily involved in serving their communities. The shift from program-driven to people development.[4]
These churches must embrace the DNA of compassion in this emerging culture if they want to have any chance of survival.
“The emerging community” another writer puts it, “can teach us again that love must be the first word on our lips and also the last, and that we must seek to incarnate that sacred word in the world.”5

God of compassion, in mercy befriend us;Giver of grace for our needs all availing;Wisdom and strength for each day do Thou send us,Patience untiring and courage unfailing.6

One love
One blood
One life
You got to do what you should
One life
With each other
One life
But we're not the same
We get to
Carry each other
Carry each other

[1] An Italian word meaning pity, compassion, and sorrow, it is strongly associated with Michelangelo sculpture found in St. Peter's Basilica portraying Mary holding and mourning over the body of Jesus.
[2] Psalm 86:15 (NIV)
[3] I John 3:16,18 (NIV)
[4] Reggie McNeal featured article, PART 2: What is the missional Church?
5 Peter Rollins, How (Not) to Speak of God (Brewster, Mass.: Paraclete Press, 2006). 3.
6 Hymn John J. Moment (1876-1960)
7 Lyrics from the song One. From the Achtung Baby album, 1991 Polygram Records

Saturday, January 6, 2007

The Death and Revival of the Church

    The Death and Revival of the Church

    (aka Launching Weapons of Mass Compassion)

  1. Beautiful Day has exceeded our expectations and moved beyond an annual event that we ramp up to participate in. It seems to be a vehicle for WestGate on multiple levels to impact our church and our surrounding community, as well as the church of Santa Clara County, the Bay Area, California, and beyond. Beautiful Day has also moved beyond churches becoming more compassionate… it has moved churches toward becoming more missional (taking Christ’s redemptive transformational love to the communities surrounding them in active forms of service). However, in my studies, conversations, and evaluation of the church in these post-modern times is that unless there is a significant shift towards becoming missional, churches will grow old, lose members, and die within the next 10 years through out the valley and across the US. Churches are currently looking for the next fad or church growth technique to increase attendance or simply sustain the numbers they currently hold. A quick look at the change in landscape of churches through out this valley over the last 10 years should be enough evidence of to illustrate the declining attendance and lack of community impact. Simply put… WestGates growth rate is no indication of the overall growth rate or statistics of churched people in this valley. We must not be fooled into thinking that because WestGate has experienced substantial growth that the kingdom of God is advancing in the valley… its not. The valley is losing the fight, and kingdom of God and the influence of the church in our valley is diminishing.

    Simply put… we are losing.

To me the best answer to the issue is not to “look at the WestGate model” or “join the Beautiful Day network” or anything like that.
The best answer for any church that wants to make a kingdom impact is, in fact, to always point them to the Jesus-model, that is, “I did not come to be served, but to serve.”

While WestGate does have things to offer, it is far better for us to lead them to “become” a missional church in their community context rather than “replicate” our missional church in their community context.

This is where Beautiful Day comes into play. The concept of Beautiful Day landed in our laps as a fresh way to reconnect ourselves and other churches to the ancient characteristic of compassion found in the nature of God. Beautiful Day became an active form of Christ’s love, expressed in innovative service, and wrapped up with a cool name and logo.

Beautiful Day became organic… in that creative service ideas could be dreamed of and discovered within any cultural context. It is not a set program, but rather an “always changing, ever-growing” means to meet needs.

Beautiful Day became everybody’s and nobodys. While WestGate fostered the name and the collaborative idea in San Jose, we recognize that a mind-set of compassion cannot be bought and sold by anyone. The mind-set of Beautiful Day… to serve others… belongs to everyone. “Owning it” will extinguish it… while “giving it away” only fans the flame.

Beautiful Day became a catalyst for unity. Finding unity among the many diverse churches in the valley is difficult. Schedules, doctrinal differences, philosophy of ministry variations, and numerous barriers have kept THE church of San Jose from rarely doing anything together, thus rendering it impotent and useless collectively. Compassion, in its simplist form, has served as a banner to draw us together. The organic nature of Beautiful Day allows churches of all shapes and sizes to work together and collaborate for the kingdom’s sake.

Beautiful Day became a strong partnership bridge between the church… and businesses, organizations, and government. The more churches served as the center point to address real needs and issues within their particular community, the more outside organizations sought that strategic partnership. This partnership also serves cross purposes in building relationships with outside groups with the intention to extend Christ’s love.

Beautiful Day is helping churches become the influential hub within their communities. It is not enough for the church to exist in a community, it must re-establish itself using actions and not words. Beautiful Day was used to represent the church “in-force, in-love, and in-action” in a community.

As it stands right now, WestGate has been handed an opportunity to make a significant dent in the planet through the God-given role of humbly leading churches in the Bay Area back to Christ’s mission and reviving the universal church of Jesus Christ. Our role can no longer be limited to what WestGate is doing to impact its community, but what WestGate is doing to impact churches who desire to impact their own communities.

This has become our God-given time to articulate to our staff, our board, our ministry teams, and our church family that our strategic ministry initiatives are changing. Our thinking must shift from “winning the battle” mode to “winning the war” and in order to do this we must use the philosophy of Beautiful Day as a catalyst to launch weapons of mass compassion. The philosophy of becoming a missional church probably involves more than just creatively serving communities, and there are probably many forms of compassion and service models that are out there… however, Beautiful Day is ours… it works, its proven, it has brand-recognition, and WestGates reputation preceeds itself (through Steve and the board) that we are not about ourselves… we are about serving others and building the kingdom.

With that being said… putting the concept of Beautiful Day in the hands of as many churches within our capability to help them become missional (and do our part in their survival) is not only ideal, it’s imperative.

In my humble opinion I believe that God has handed us the ball… and we must decide to either run with it, or punt!

Thoughts on Beautiful Day going forward…

-Qualify almost all WG local Compassion ministry as Beautiful Day (i.e. Beautiful Day HUNT, Beautiful Day Car Clinic, Beautiful Day adopt-a-family) for branding purposes for local network of churches.

-WG diversify the Beautiful Day calendar (not so concentrated in November), to lead by example that a missional church is not seasonally compassionate.

-Our traditional dates for Beautiful Day (the weekend before Thanksgiving) becomes spoken of and known as Beautiful Day Weekend. Beautiful Day Weekend becomes a concerted effort to unify churches under the banner of Compassion and a jump start for move towards the missional model.

-WestGate works towards a dual role… 1.) continue to motivate our people to be compassionate and missional in their personal lives, in their community groups, and in the church at large. 2.) to facilitate kingdom work through serving other churches who want to move towards a missional model. This includes Steve’s investment in lead pastors, WestGate hosting (and co-hosting) missional church-type seminars for churches and leaders. Pastoral staff becomes more resource-available to other churches in the valley.

Friday, January 5, 2007

My Jerry Maguire moment

In 1996 the movie Jerry Maguire tells the story of a professional sports agent whose crisis of faith leads him to write a document that advocates a new mission statement that brings about better service, fewer clients, and less focus on the bottom line. After his distributes his new mission statement to his co-agents and board of directors it gets him fired from his high profile job.

I write this not because I am looking to get myself fired or I think in anyway, that my board of directors don't get what I'm talking about. I'm writing this because I feel an affinity with the passion and the direction of Jerry Maguire as has an epiphany about his calling, the people he works with and for, and the strategic moves that are passionately felt, in order to make a difference in the world. So today... I have had my Jerry MaGuire moment, and above is the document I have written entitled "The death and revival of the church."

My hope is that it gets you fired up... and doesn't get me fired.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Another Rock Star Kid

Here's another one of my rock star kids. Lauren has the fashion sense in the family and will start her studies at the prestigious FIDM (Fashion Institute for Design and Merchandise). She sings in the band at church and is asked to sing at verious venues.

Debut on Oxygen

My daughters song debuted on the Oxygen channel tonight. It's an unbelievably stupid show called "Bad Girls club".... I don't recommend any one watch it... however, they played the first song of a series of songs she has sold to them. This was the one highlight in the show.

This is the second set of songs that have been purchased since she has moved to Hollywood. The first was on an ABC reality show that was canceled after two episodes... unfortunately her songs were never played.

But we did cash the checks!!!

Rock Star kids

All my kids are rocks stars... my eldest daughter is the furthest along. Hopefully we will see an album come out 2007. A Million Trillions will be the debut cd.

Monday, January 1, 2007

Bono... the new mother teresa

Aside from being a personal hero... Bono is emerging as the new Mother Teresa. He is a music legend... a rock and roll immortal. He has achieved everything one could ever hope for musically, and yet he's troubled and not satisfied. His passion to address the needs of the poor and oppressed around the world, specifically his desire to do something about the HIV/AIDS pandemic moves him beyond superstar to world-hero status.
The irony of his "world-hero" status is that anyone has the opportunity to change the world within the scope of thier personal influence. Anyone can do (in theory) what Bono does... that is, use whatever influence you have to extend compassion to those around you. It maybe an elderly neighbor who needs a lawn mowed, or a school that needs some simple landscaping done, or some kids who need tutoring, or a continent that needs a cure. Jesus said, "to whom much is given... much is required" with much influence comes much responsibilty.

bathing a massive dog

I probably should do this more often... bathing our 150 lb. great dane, but it's not easy. It's like having a circus animal in my house that I have to have in the shower with me in order for me to get her somewhat clean. I was dry when I started... but when you do this you have to commit yourself to getting soaked. There is no easy way to do this... just like there is no easy way to groom a porcupine, or potty-train an elephant. It's all or nothing.... and believe me, not bathing your massive dog leaves your house with massive dog-smell... yep, it's all or nothing