Christianity Sweeping China

China_christianity_2The Sunday Chicago Tribune had a fascinating and informative front page story titled, Jesus in China.   The article begins, “Christianity’s rapid rise is reshaping the officially atheist nation, it’s politics and the way many Chinese view the world…”

One of the reasons that I was so interested in this article is that I’m increasingly convinced that the church in the west must learn from the church in the east.  There is so much growth and innovation happening in places like China, India, South Korea and beyond – we must learn what God is teaching them.  At this next years Exponential Conference we are going to feature leaders from the east in our main sessions so that we can expose leaders from the west to what God is doing in other places around the world.  It’s going to be awesome!

If you want more info beyond the article, here are a couple audio slide shows from Chicago Tribune

You might also want to know that the Public Broadcasting Service and Chicago Tribune are airing a TV specialJesus In China on Tuesday, June 24th, 8 pm CST on PBS stations.

Tim Keller… on being brilliant!

TimkellerI’ve been fortunate enough to get to meet and even know a lot of the people that I really admire who are in the ministry.  But one of the people I have never met and really admire is Tim Keller. I admire the church that he leads – Redeemer; I admire his commitment to church planting and I admire how smart he is!  (And I plan on connecting with him at the Exponential Conference – don’t miss it!)  I had a chance to meet him last week for dinner, but it was last minute and I already had stuff planned.  Ugh!  However, here is an interview with Tim in First Things where he talks about his new book (The Reason For God, which I just ordered and it is currently #18 on the New York Times bestseller list), C.S. Lewis, “seeker churches” and being a Presbyterian.  Check it out.

How The West Was Won For Jesus.

The_rise_of_christianity_mdI was asked to contribute to the Leadership Network Book Blog by periodically offering reviews of what I am reading.  So, while I was away a couple weeks ago with Sue to Florida I brought  with me a book recommended by Tim Sutherland and Perry Bigelow, The Rise of Christianity by  Rodney Stark. What follows is my review…

of my reading consists of new releases that come highly recommended and
books that are sent to me as pre-release copies.  I don’t think that is
necessarily good, but it is true.  But I’m going retro on this review.
Rodney Stark’s The Rise of Christianity:  How the Obscure, Marginal Jesus Movement
Became the Dominant Religious Force in the Western World in a Few
is an important work from a world-class sociologist that gives us new insight into how the west was won for Jesus.

As the person responsible for the vision of the NewThing Network
I have a keen interest in movements and how the early church grew.
Stark offers some of the best research I’ve seen on this topic and
dispels the myth that the church of the first few centuries grew at
miraculous rates that are not possible today.  He writes, “(Most)
Studies of the rise of Christianity all stress the movement’s rapid
growth, but rarely are any figures offered…(it is assumed) in order
for Christianity to have achieved success in the time allowed, it must
have grown at rates that seem incredible in light of modern
Stark goes on to show how the early church grew
from about 1.000 in 40 A.D to more than 33 million by 350 A.D.  Because
of the extraordinary features of exponential curves Stark explains, “Hence,
40 percent per decade or 3.42 percent per year seems the most plausible
estimate of the rate at which Christianity actually grew during the
first several centuries.” 
Stark doesn’t just give us those
numbers, he goes on to unpack how and why those numbers came to be and
the sociological realities that made it possible.

Other highlights from The Rise of Christianity
are Starks discussion of networks, the role of women in the growth of
the early church and Christianizing the urban empire.  While this book
was first published a little more a decade ago, if you are interested
in how the west was won for Jesus it is one of those books that if you
haven’t read by now – you should!

Cultural Trends That Will Impact the Church

Look_into_futureOne of the more interesting conversations I had while at the National Outreach Convention came during the Leaders 100 Dinner hosted by Outreach on Wednesday night.  I was talking with Dave Browning of Christ The King, Lynne Marian of Outreach Magazine and Chris Brown from North Coast Church. The topic of conversation was about cultural trends that will impact the church in the next five years. Here are the two trends that seemed to rise to the top:

The Age WaveWe are just about at the point where there are more people who are over the age of 65 than there are children under the age of 12.  With the aging of the baby boomers this will bring an unprecedented number of seniors who have discretionary time and resources.  It seems as though there will be a shift from primarily reaching out to young families with children to reaching out to the growing senior population.  Our Carillon Campus is a glimpse of what more and more churches will be doing in the next few years.

The Bono EffectI would rather call it the Jesus effect, but it was Bono’s name that was used when referring to a renewed interest in social justice and meeting the physical needs of people.  This perfectly paves the way for us to force churches out of the dichotomy between evangelism and social justice and focus on accomplishing the Jesus mission of reaching whole people with the whole gospel.  Those churches that only focus on “saving souls” will become obsolete.  Those churches that reach out to whole people will see whole communities find their way back to God! Our Community 4:12 ministry is an example of what more churches will be doing in the future.

Christianity is Going East and Islam is Coming to the West

Time_cover_82606_1A couple fascinating articles in the August 28th edition of Time Magazine that I thought you might want to check out.  The first article:  The War For China’s Soul tells about the spread of Christianity in east and how the church is being persecuted.  I have a friend who just got back from spending the summer in China and I’m anxious to see if the article is accurate to his experience.  The other article is Allah’s Recruits and is about the spread of Islam in the west and in many cases as extreme Islam.  If I assume that Time wasn’t just being politically correct by putting both articles in the same issue and that is it equally true that Islam is coming west and Christianity is going east; then how should the missional church of Jesus Christ respond?  Strategies?

U2’s Bono On Celebrity, Jesus, Africa and More

Bono1For the fifth year in a row CCC is hosting a site for the Leadership Summit.  Every year the Willow Creek Association does the a great job of bringing in the best of the best on the topic of leadership.  And one of the highlights of this year was an interview with Bono of U2.  If I still have heroes I think Bono is one of them.  I’ve seen U2 in concert three times and each time it was like a worship experience and Bono was the worship leader.  He is absolutely the most engaging and charismatic performer I have ever seen.  Crowds of thousands literally hang on his every word and gesture.  It’s an amazing gift.  Perhaps even more amazing than his concert performance was his interview with Bill Hybels that covered everything from celebrity to Jesus to Africa and more.  The following are just a few of the quotes from the interview (I was typing as fast as I could so they are probably 95% accurate).  If you saw the interview or are moved by any of the following I would love to hear your comments.  I now give you Bono…

  • “The most rewarding part of this past year?  Selfishly, it is to wake up with a melody in my head and heart.  But beyond my music it is the work we are doing with the ONE campaign.”
  • “I never had a problem with Christ…it was Christians that gave me problems…they seemed completely disinterested culturally and politically…they seemed very strange to me.”
  • “The world works on the principle of Karma; what you put out comes back to you…but then enters the story of grace in the person of Christ and it turned the world on it’s head.”
  • “Duality is the mark of really great art and it’s what is missing in Christian art.  It’s missing the tension that is missing…the attempt to wrestle truth to the ground is often absent.”
  • “Much of gospel music seems fake to me…pretending that everything is o.k…I relate more to the blues…that sounds like the song of David to me.”
  • “Jesus was either a Charles Manson – a nut case or he was who he said he was.  I’m fascinated by a child born into straw poverty.  The Christmas story is a remarkable story that never ceases to amaze me.”
  • “How in a world of plenty can people be left to starve?  We think, ‘it’s just the way of the world’.  And if it is the ‘way of the world’ we must overthrow the ‘way of the world.'”
  • “Redemption is an economic term.”
  • “What else are you going to do with thing called ‘celebrity’…it’s absolutely ridiculous that it is valued more than being a teacher or more than being a mother…but it is currency and I decided that I was going to spend mine.”
  • “God has made me an opportunist.”
  • “Great ideas are like great melodies…they are memorable and a moral force whose time has come…and there is movement behind them.”
  • “The reason the church has been slow to respond is that the church has historically always been behind the curve:  civil rights, apartheid…the church is afraid of politics.  The second reason the church has been so slow is less palatable..the church has been very judgmental about the AIDS virus…it believes that it is about people living irresponsibly.  Only 6% of evangelicals felt like they were to act in response to the AIDS epidemic.  But the Christ will not let the church walk away from the AIDS emergency…it is like a car crash, we have to act.  AIDS is the leprosy of our age.  But then something tragic happened…the church woke up and began to act…and they ruined it for me…I couldn’t hate the church anymore.”
  • “Love your neighbor is not advice…it’s a command.  Should an accident of longitude and latitude really decide whether you live or whether you die?  There are 2003 verses in scripture about the poor, second only to personal salvation.  Jesus speaks of judgment only once and that is the passage in Matthew where we are asked:  ‘who clothed the naked?’ and ‘who fed the poor?’ and ‘who visited those in prison?’  That defines whether you are a part of the Kingdom or not.”
  • “If the Christian church can lead this movement it can eradicate malaria in 10 years…and then AIDS.”
  • “Stop asking God to bless what you are doing…find out what God is doing – it is already blessed!”
  • “This generation could end stupid poverty…we really can fix that in our generation.”
  • “‘Thy Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven’ is a phrase that grabs me…in every detail of our lives we need to seek that.”
  • “The world is more malleable than you think.”
  • Bill has convinced me of the importance of the church as the moral force and practical infrastructure for solving the worlds problems.  Open the doors of your church and make them an AIDS clinic.  Your charity is important, but your passion for justice is needed.  I’m asking for your voice and for you to give permission to fix these problems that are fixable.  It’s not a burden, it’s an opportunity…it’s an adventure!”

The Future of Town Building

Creating_genuine_community_2Genuine community is both place-based and Christ-centered. In order to create genuine community there must be collaboration between real estate developers and church leaders.  That is why on September 19th the Institute for Community and NewThing Network will host the first ever, CREATING GENUINE COMMUNITY FORUM

  • We can see a time when every real estate developer who dreams of a developing a new community knows that a church is essential to that dream.
  • In the future church planters will not plant on their own, but will partner with real estate developers to make sure that the physical and spiritual spaces are in alignment to create the kind of community that God desires for all people.
  • There is coming a day when town planners will understand that to create genuine community it requires having a church at the heart of that community.

With this dream in mind the Institute for Community and NewThing Network are introducing to a limited number (the first 100) of real estate developers, architects, builders, planners and pastors a one-day CREATING GENUINE COMMUNITY FORUM.  Here are some more of the specifics:

  • What: Creating Genuine Community: Church and Real Estate Developer Partnerships.
  • Why: Genuine community is both place-based and Christ-centered.  In order to create genuine community there must be collaboration between real estate developers and church leaders.
  • Who: Limited number of Pastors, Developers, Architects and Planners.
  • When: September 19, 2006, 9am-3pm; tours begin at 8am.
  • Cost: $75 (lunch included)
  • Location: Romeoville Campus of Community Christian Church
  • For more Information or Register:  Contact Pat Masek at 630.388.5205

Check It Out or Throw It Away

Garbage_can “One mans junk is another mans treasure”.  So here are a few things I came across that I enjoyed – check it out or throw it away.

First, if you haven’t got enough of the top 50 most influential churches – here is a link to the CNN report they did on the 50 Most Influential Churches featuring Mosaic and Erwin McManus.  I know Mosaic and Erwin have definitely influenced me!

Or if you were at Community Christian Church this weekend you probably heard Tim or myself tell the amazing story of Jason McElwain.  Here is a link to the CBS report Autistic Teen’s Hoop Dreams True.  The CBS link also gives you a link to the video report that shows him scoring 20 points in four minutes and his school mates carrying him off the floor.  I LOVE THIS STORY!

If you are new to Community Christian Church or just curious about CCC you might enjoy a couple of Sherry Gossman posts.  Sherry is now a long-distance staff member who recently moved to Omaha, Nebraska and she describes how CCC Has Come Along Way and CCC’s Missional Church Virus.

What Lyle Schaller Told Me In The Library

Lyle_schaller_2_2I was reviewing my own blog this morning and I realized that in Friday’s post I didn’t pass along any of the good stuff that Schaller and I talked about in the Naperville Public Library.  So here are a few the highlights from my ninety minute conversation with my friend, Lyle Schaller:



Schaller on teaching / preaching:

“People can hear in 15 seconds what it takes us 2 minutes to say.  So, if we want to effectively communicate to our audience our preaching and teaching needs to always use multiple channels of communications.”

Schaller on the multi-site church: 

“My observations has been that in some very large churches with regional off-sites the people attending are coming because they want two things: great preaching and low commitment.  Beware of this because Community Christian Church is a high commitment church.”

Schaller on the migration of ex-Catholics to independent churches like CCC:

“The reason that people leave the Catholic Church and the reason that they start coming to a new church are two different sets of reasons.  They may leave the Catholic Church because of hierarchy or the sexual abuse scandal, that is one reason.  They begin and continue attending a new church for another reason; perhaps because, ‘they never knew you could have this level of community’ or ‘they never knew the preaching/teaching could be this good’.  Lyle went on to compare it to when he was a kid and they first got air conditioning in their house – he didn’t know what he was missing until he experienced it.

Schaller on DO’s and DON’Ts of leading a network (like NewThing):

  • “DO repeatedly emphasize, congratulate and reward reproduction.  The question should always be, ‘Denver, when do you plan on starting your second site or next new church?'” 
  • “DO have a national event every year only for the participants of the network and rotate it from location to location”. 
  • “DO make mutual accountability the number one reason for communication.  The auestion you should be asking is:  ”What are your top 4 goals for this year?  How are you doing accomplishing those goals?'”
  • “DO give advice and counsel, DON’T give money”. 
  • “DON’T let the network revolve around one personality” 
  • “DON’T let the critics say this is a passing fad; instead you are a part of a new movement that is not based on perpetuating the old.” 
  • “DON’T act like you are the headquarters of a denomination; your calling is to help all the network churches succeed.” 
  • “DON’T charge the network churches a percentage, that penalizes growth; instead charge a flat amount.”

Lyle told me his last book will be coming out in July, From Cooperation To Compeition.