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Feb '05

I might have to thank Doug for a worship leader!

Tonight I walked down to Starbucks for Heidi to get some coffee and as I was leaving the Vitamilk parking lot I ran into Doug Lemm (Doug goes to my church). We talked for a good amount of time and even thought it was a beautiful eventing I was getting pretty cold. So I finished my walk to SBUX and as I was standing in line I noticed that the Barista making drinks tonight was a young man named John that I met a few weeks ago. I met him through Melodie Hewitt. John is 22 and kind of an atypical 20-somthing. He is one of the most outgoing young men I have met in a long time. His tight curly brown hair and warm smile make him popular with “the ladies!”

While standing in line I happend to heard John talking to a young lady about church. He told her that he was currently looking for a church and she said she would take him to a church she had attended a couple of times.

When I went to get my drink the young lady had left the counter and so I was trying to figure out how to bring up the church plant in Wallingford to John. I asked him if he had seen Melodie tonight as I thought she was heading down to SBUX, but he hadn’t. It was then that he recognized me as Melodie’s friend. I then just casually asked him, “So did I hear you say that you were looking for a church?”

“Yes,” he replied.
“Really, beacuse I am actually starting a church,” I said with an excited expectation.
He didn’t get as excited as I was but asked inquisitively,”Really, well tell me about it.”
I began to tell him about our vision for church. I told him that we really wanted to start a church that was non-denominational and non-religious; how we thought that church should be about journeying with people not giving them rules and how we think that relationships are all we truely have in this life.

At this point I could see the beginnings of that sparkle in his eyes that I have come to know as God begining to envision people. I then said to him, “We just really want to start a neo-Christian movement.”

To which he replied, “Man I am getting tingles.” He went on to tell me that he used to be a worship leader at Mill Creek foursquare. And that was the moment we both knew this was not a chance meeting but it had been divinely orchestrated. I gave him my email address and he said he would email me tonight so I am going to send him “The Manifesto.”

We’ll see what happens. I may just have to thank Doug Lemm some day for helping me find a worship leader…Who knows.

Feb '05

Denominational Honesty

“I belong to the [insert Denomination here] but no one knows it.”

“Sure our church is [insert denomination here], but I bet there are some of our board members that don’t even know it.”

I hear remarks like this all the time. I used to think this was a great attitude. Lately, however, I have been thinking about the honesty represented in these kinds of statements. It seems that to many of my peers belonging to a denomination is a must. It also seems that keeping that on the down-low is also a must. For many of them they would never say it but that is how their churches are set up and how they talk to visitors. One church I know well even claims to be a “Non-denominational church affiliated with [insert denomination here]. What a load of crap. You either are a part of a denomination (or movement as some would prefer to be called), or you are not. I am a little confused as to why it is so necessary to belong to a denomination but so necessary to keep that a secret from congregants. I recently posed this question to someone I respect a great deal who has left one denomination for another. He is a nationally known speaker and someone I admire a great deal. He said that he understood my desire for intellectual integrity but felt it really wasn’t that big of a deal.

I wonder at what point you cease to be honest about your organizational affiliation. I mean if you were giving money to an organization that you found out had just slight ties to Neo-Nazis would you feel like they had decieved you? I would. If you joined a club or organization and found out months later that the leader was a member of a cult would you continue to be involved? Even if the organization, church, or club had no obvious ties to that cult or their ideologies, most people would not stay involved much past finding these things out.

One last example. Imagine you had been attending a church for several years. You really love the pastor and the people have become like family. If you were to find out that the pastor was a member of a group of terrorist sympathizers would you continue to go there? While I would never equate any denomination I am aware of with terrorist sympathizers I do think that many in our world would see the lack of communication about affiliations as a form of dishonesty.

If I were a leader in a denomination and I had members that were trying to down-play their affiliation I would kick them out. If you recieve all of the benefits of a denomination shouldn’t you be proud of that denomination? If you do not see any benefits or are not proud of belonging to that denomination then I have to ask why you are still a member! I suspect it is out of fear. Fear of leaving what you are comfortable with. Fear of letting others down. Fear of how it will look to your peers. Fear of being alone with God and no human “covering.”

But I could be wrong.

Feb '05

And so it begins…And it’s Viral?

Tonight history was made. I know that seems like a big statement, but tonight we had the first meeting of those interested in the Wallingford church plant. It was 13 of the most diverse people imaginable. It would have been even more diverse if it weren’t for the fact that a couple of people were unable to make it. Overall it was a great meeting. We discussed how we got to this point and where we are going from here. We were also able to pass out the prospectus that I have been slaving over for the past 2 weeks. If you would like to read it, you can find it here. By way of warning though, it is 8 pages long in 10pt. font! Don’t let it deter you though…It may be one day regarded as the 95 Thesis of 2005! Just kidding…

Tonight was simply an informational meeting. It was just a “here’s the vision” what is God speaking to you about it meeting. Within the next week I have asked everyone who was there to let me know for sure if they are in or out just for communication purposes. I have been thinking that what I would like to do is have all of the meetings from this point out be totally voluntary and what we should do is let them come or not as they please until they are ready to committ. Then when they are they will tell us and we will then know they are in. Not a “tell me so I can start a team,” mentality but more of a Viral approach to this. I’ll be honest, it is very hard to do this Virally because I have never really started a team with a Viral approach. Yes I think that is what I am going to do. We’ll just lay it out and they can tell us when they are in. We’ll just keep having meetings and when they commit then we should have something for them that tells them what that committment means. But it should be Viral. The Principals of Viral are:

  1. Gives away products or services
  2. Provides for effortless transfer to others
  3. Scales easily from small to very large
  4. Exploits common motivations and behaviors
  5. Utilizes existing communication networks
  6. Takes advantage of others’ resources

So how can we apply this to our church plant team?

Gives away products or services:
What kind of product or service are we giving away? I think the most obvious one is community. We really need to establish real community. Luckily we have kind of a head start as we have a group of people who for the most part already know each other. There are a couple of people who just met for the first time but 10 out of 13 is not a bad start. The secondary product is a church home. That will develop more as the process proceedes.

Provides for effortless transfers to others
Every person in on this team must see themselves as personally responsible. If they dont then they wont want to transfer it to anyone. I think the tone of future meetings will be to empower EVERYONE to give input. Whether it is someone’s first time or not, we all have something to offer the community. So how does this effortless transfer take place? I think by several means. First the prospectus becomes our field manual. Easily reproducable and downloadable. Second any member of the team has the option to begin another home group at any time. They can do exactly what we have (or will soon) start to do and have any of the resources we have. All of these resources will be available via the web.

Scales easily from larg to small
We need to develop a community “style” of meeting where everyone is involved. It must be interactive from the get-go. When we start having “our big gatherings” then the same community “style” should be used. It has to be easily used no matter how big the group gets too. This is a detail that we will have to work on.

Exploits common motivations or behaviors
To me this is the easiest of them all. Common motivation: the desire to belong to a group of people that actually care about each other. Common behavior: Getting together to have (for lack of a better term) fellowship.

Utilizes existing communications networks
This one will be a little tricky because I need to know what existing communications networks exist first. I think this group would become like the inner circle of a spider’s web where I communicate with them, they communicate with those whom they bring, come in contact with etc. Or we could just base all communication around a website…..What if people actually went to a website to get on the mailing list…an egroup if you will, and then our communication became very viral. We could even offer email addresses for those who don’t have them. Like all 5 people left in the USA who dont have email would want one now….

Takes advantage of other’s resources
I think this one would come very easily as well. It would start with us using other people’s houses, money, time, talents, etc. But also we would have to give ownership to those with resources so they could get on board. What about some of the Christian business owners. Their resources, not just money but clout in the community for example would be a great asset. I will think about this further.

It is now midnight so I am going to sleep on this but I think God has really spoken to me on this. I think from now on it will be very viral in nature…but I have to figure out how exactly that works on a practical level….Oh Sid…I need your help!

Feb '05

Holistic Christianity

Why is it that we never have enough time for “spiritual things?” It seems like I hear someone complaining about time almost everyday. Heck, I complain about it all the time. I used to say that if there were only 25 hours in a day I could get everyting done. So what happens to my spiritual life in a hectic, overly-scheduled, fast-paced world? Of course It gets ignored. But why? Why is it that the most inportant part of my life seems to get left behind? Probably because of

the way I view my life. I view it as a bunch of compartments that are all somehow seperated yet connected. I think I kind of view my life like the trinity. Seperate but joined. But that is totally stupid…I am not seperated. I mean I have a body, mind spirit, etc., but I am one whole person. Why is my spiritual life not “integrated” into every area of my life? Probably the same reason yours isn’t, becuase we look at the spiritual as a “compartment” not as the sum whole of what we are trying to become. Christianity should not be one aspect of our lives; it should be the foundations for every aspect of our lives.

Holistic – Not Just for Hippies
Christianity should be holisitc. This may seem like the “obvious statement of the year,” but it is a fact that I think we often ignore. For too long we have looked at our lives from a Western Philosophical view. We have viewed our lives like a Roman Arch. Many pieces that are all working together and even need each other to bring about stability. But what if our lives are not like this at all but are more like a tree? A tree has many different parts; branches, leaves, sap, bark, roots, heartwood, etc. But the are not a bunch of individual parts that make up a greater thing…They are all interdependant and related. Symbiotic. Holistic.

Be the Tree
Let me explain. If you were to burn all the leaves off of a tree the whole tree would suffer because the whole tree needs the leaevs to survive. If you were to strip all of the bark off a tree it would eventually die. Why? Because it needs the bark. If you were to cut all of the roots off of a tree it would die. You get the picture. Our lives are like this. Neglect the emotional side and we will suffer. Neglect the physical and we will suffer. Neglect the spiritual and we will suffer.

If this is the case why would we simply try to treat one or the other. What if everything we did in one area of our lives affected all of the others? I mean what if every person we talked to had an impact in the invisible relm of the spirit. What if every time we prayed it actually did something in the physical? What if every time we cry out of grief or sorrow there is something going on in the other areas of our lives and maybe even the universe as a result? I know this sounds a little metaphysical but think about it: God is omnipresent right? That means he’s everywhere. Closer to us than any person can be. What about this: Colossians 1:17 17He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. What if this means that EVERYTHING that happens in the universe is somehow effecting everything else? Let’s make it a little more palatable…What if everything we do in life effects the rest of our lives? That means that every word we speak affects the spiritual. Every thought; every deed; every action; has an effect on the spiritual?

Teaching People
We must begin to teach people once again to look at their lives holisticly. We must teach them that the American Gospel has been nutered and become a man dying because I did some bad thigns. It is so much more than that and so much farther reaching than that. Which means that “becoming a Christian” is much bigger than that. I may mean that we have to stop people from becoming Christains, and start them “living life in the way of Jesus.”

I could be wrong…but this is what I have been feeling lately.

Feb '05

*Sung to the old tune of the same name* No Turning Back, No Turning Back!

Well as of today my time at Westside is officially numbered. Yesterday I met with the Elders and later the Staff and we informed them of the news of our intentions to plant a church in Wallingford (see http://chriscochran.blogspot.com/2005/01/wallingford-here-we-come.html for more information). This means that it is now public knowlege that we are planting and will be leaving Westside at the end of March. That is only a little over 6 weeks away! To be completely honest I have absolutely no clue what God is going to do in that time. But I am confident that he will provide. He always does. Today I am meeting with Dan Johnson of the NLA and Rick Enloe to discuss some church plant stuff. We’ll see what happens. I am excited to meet Rick as he has been someone I respect very much since I was in High School. I will write more when I have met with them.

If you are reading this it is because you are part of a fairly select group of people that know of this blog. I would like to ask you to PRAY then for my family and myself. We will need those prayers more than anything!

I’m off…..

Feb '05

From the Jordon Cooper Blog….

Below is a post by Jordon Cooper that I thought was amazing. Jordon Cooper’s Blog can be found at http://www.jordoncooper.com/

Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond
I am reading Jared Diamond’s large book Collapse. Excellent book and I have been learning a lot about societal collapse, both ancient (Easter Island) and current (Montana of all places). Here are my early observations….

It is always a combination of factors that start with a reliance on a particular activity that other factors turn unsustainable.

What seems sustainable now will often have long term consequences later (mining in Montana has had a terrible impact on water quality and a legacy of now decrepit dams full of toxic waste).

We living in a much more complicated and integrated world that we can imagine. The downfall of some of the Polynesian Islands was not just environmental factors of their own land but also their trading partners.
Radical shifts needed to survive are often ignored in favor of war.

While reading about Montana, I realized that in their efforts to save their traditional way of life, they are actually going to kill it as the world changes around them. It was reminiscent of a line from former Saskatchewan Finance Minister Janice McKinnon’s book that in the Devine’s government’s efforts to preserve the rural way of life, they may have accelerated it’s demise.

I also kept thinking of the church. The decline of the church culture (or church civilization) reminds me of Montana. 100 years ago it was at the top of the (western) world and through a combination of several factors things started to unravel (some as a result of the church and others as a change in the enviromental factors). In efforts to save it, we may end up speeding its demise. While Baptists and Methodists are hardly at war, the war between conservative and liberal Christians increases, not to say with the battle between conservatives and Sponge Bob

Feb '05

Spiritual Pornography

The traditional American church has become the best place to score porn on planet earth. I’m not talking about the huge number of pastors that admitted that they struggle with pornography. What I am talking about is a systemic problem within the body of Christ. I have coined it (thanks to my wonderful wife Heidi) Spiritual Pornography. What, you might ask is spiritual pornography? Let me start by talking about why I think pornography is both dangerous and so attractive to some men.

A Black Hole of Death
Pornography by it’s very nature of images of unattainable people readily

available to men desperate for something more than they already have, is a deceptive snare. I believe one of the most alluring attributes of pornography is the sense of false intimacy that is associated with it. The entire pornography industry is founded on the premise that everyone wants intimacy and the way to get intimacy is through sex. Therefore if you can’t get real sex then the next best thing is pictures or movies of it. This very destructive because it deceives it’s victims into thinking that they are finding intimacy when they are being sold a lie and a cheap substitute instead. Instant gratification that only pacifies it does not really gratify. In fact, it is a gratification that gratifies the wrong things and so the cycle is perpetuated. So thousands upon thousands of people think that they are getting a need met when all they are doing is being given a horrible facsimile that barely resembles the real thing in form but the substance of which has been replaced with a black hole of death. This may sound a little alarmist in it’s tone to use phrases like “black hole of death,“ but what does scripture say?

James 1:15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

Porn Church?
So what does porn have to do with the modern church? I believe that the Christianity of the majority of people in American churches have bought lock, stock and barrel a similar facsimile that rarely if ever resembles what it was intended to be. Let me explain. In the average church in America the “brand” of Christianity sold is one that has “a form of godliness but denying the power thereof.” I know I am painting with a very broad brush and I do not, by any means, want to question the intentions or integrity of any pastor, denomination, or church, however, the ineffectiveness of the church is becoming more and more obvious. How can I say this? What authority do I have? None but let’s look at the average congregant in the average American church.

Church Viagra
More and more churches are being taught how to grow. You grow by being more sensitive to those seeking spiritual meaning. You grow by using slick marketing, mailers, webspace, etc. You grow by providing the best “services” possible. Great musicians; great teaching; great chilren’s programs; growth (numerically anyway) becomes a matter of “performance” and “efficiency.”

Don’t get me wrong there is nothing wrong with putting on a great service..I am obsessed with quality in the church, but might it be that we have for so long thought that we would “lure” the spiritually depraved in through better performances that we have forgotten what our churches are supposed to be?

The Exodus
For some time now I have been asking those leaving the church I am currently employed at why it is that they are leaving. The most common response? I’m just not getting fed. What does that mean? For along time I thought it must mean that they didn’t like the preaching. But that can’t be the whole reason. I decided that, rather than try to figure out what they meant by “I’m not getting fed,” I would begin asking what their motivation was in coming in the first place. In other words, I stopped asking “why are you leaving” and started asking “why were you coming at all?” The answer to this is much more important. When you start asking people why they are coming and they talk about their needs, then what we have done is set up a consumer oriented system where shoppers walk the isles of churches looking for the one that has the most products that appeal to them. I know we live in a consumer oriented world but aren’t we as Christians supposed to live a life that is so different that it makes us stand out like “cities on hills?” Ought not our churches to be communities of like minded people that are sojourning this spiritual journey together? That doesn’t sound like a multi-million dollar organization to me. Though it may have thousands and even hundreds of thousands of members, it still remains a community; an organism if you will, and not an organization.

Our churches have become corporations of spiritual porn peddlers handing out instant gratification and doling out instant solutions to problems and needs that will take a lifetime of grappling and growing to understand let alone solve. Some of the mysteries of God we were never meant to know, yet we have this thought that if we simply package biblical knowledge in a more relevant style then more and more people will come to the faith…but statistically it is not happening. I truly have reached a place where I am beginning to fear for the future of the church in America. If we continue to bring up a generation of believers that have the form of what they are looking for but the substance is filled with something else, we are going to create an entire generation of disenfranchised, calloused, congregants who, like restaurant patrons who got terrible service, will never “eat there again!”

Feb '05

Today I Became Peter!

My whole life I have been Chris…Christopher to my family, but Chris none the less. But today I became Peter. It was a day I have dreamed of for most of my life as a Christian.

Today I became one of those guys that I have always heard about who just jump out of the boat and find their feet getting wet but funny thing (wink, wink)…my feet remained on the dry side of the water! What, you ask, am I babbling about? Today I resigned as a pastor at The Westside Church so that in 60 days I can fulfill the calling God has placed on my life to Pastor a community of people that have a passion to be the church.

This is a process that I have read about and admired in others for most of my life; those with the guts to just jump when God called; the kind of people who live life out on the ends of the tree branch waiting for the “go-sign” from God. That is the kind of person that I have always admired but never thought of myself as having the “opportunity” to be. Today I found myself on the edge of the branch and when given the opportunity, I jumped!

It would seem to most people that this would be a frightening time but to be honest it was the single most exhilarating day in the last 5 years of my life. For most of my life God has followed a similar pattern: when it rains it pours and then things move very quickly. The last three weeks of my life have been like this. If I were to list here the things God has done, the people he has brought into my life, the things he has spoken to me both through the Bible and through people, the “inspirations” I have had, if I wanted to list them all it would take me several days of writing. As I told my pastor today I don’t remember growing like this since I was in High School.

Everyday Faith Jumps
February 1, 2005 will be a day that I will remember for the rest of my life. Why is it that these kinds of events are so rare to the majority of Christians? Is it because they rarely occure? Or could it be that they occur as often as we are willing to jump? What if these kids of events happen all the time but we miss them because we are too busy looking for the really spiritual kinds of opportunities? What do I mean? Take today for example…I was sitting at Firehouse Coffee with a friend talking about graphic design. I said to him that I wanted to learn some photography because sometimes you just cant find the picture you can see in your head. This guy at a table next to us blurts out, “that’s when you call me.” So was that an opportunity to jump? I had no clue. Most of us don’t. So how was I going to find out? Rather than ignoring him, I answered him with the most pithy and obvious response I could muster: “So are you a photographer?” Duh…moron…That is what I expected him to say, but instead we began to talk about how photography was his passion and how he would love to quit waiting on tables and make his living from his photography. His name was Colin Meagher. Was that one of those life changing opportunities? To be honest I really don’t know. What I do know is that if it is I would never have had the opportunity to find out had I not been willing to stop my private conversation and talk to a stranger. The next time I go in the story may continue. The jump may be a series of events and not a single leap. But without taking the attitude of being willing to jump regardless of the time or place I would never know.

Not Blind, Just Blinded
What if these kinds of events happen every day and we miss them simply because we are not looking for them? What how would our lives be different if we stepped out of the boat every morning when we when we stepped out of bed? Just a thought.

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