Friday, February 26, 2010

#6. How do you define success?

This question is for church people....Pastors, Leaders, Elders, Members. If you are not a church person, keep reading...I'd love to hear your thoughts on this discussion. I grew up in church and, since I can remember, the identity of my church was always attached directly to the amount of people in the building AND the size of that building. Now if I ask any evangelical American pastor, "How do you define success in your church?" the answers will probably be predictable. Any well intentioned church leader is going to blurt out a rote answer like "the transformation of lives" or "discipleship and the development of passionate Christ followers." Good answers [I hope they're true!], but let's be honest...the real answer is NUMBERS. As a pastor your life is wrapped around those empty spaces in the parking lot on Sunday morning, or the lack thereof. It's where encouragement comes from. As leaders you talk about how "Awesome the worship was last Sunday!" coincidentally, "last Sunday" just so happened to be the largest gathering of the year. Sound familiar?

It's happening all over the country, and sometimes even in my own church. We say we are about the things of God and his Kingdom in our community throughout the week, but we put the majority of our time and money into 1 hour on Sunday [see question #4].

One of my new favorite people is a guy named Dave Gibbons. He asked 1200 pastors this same question last Tuesday morning while he drew the above diagram. He wants to re-define success. So do I. Maybe success should be less about Sunday morning and more about Monday-Saturday. Maybe success should be less about the number of people in your pews and more about the number of foster children and orphans who still need families in your city. Maybe success should be defined by a shrinking crime rate or the elimination of poverty. How do you define success? What's your answer?

Friday, February 19, 2010

#5. Is technology for information, communication, or both?

The story of technology coming to earth and invading humanity is a passionate soapbox that I cannot step off of. I am concerned with the potential technology has to separate humanity from reality. I think that it is IMPERATIVE for us to discuss and be keenly aware of the rapid paradigm shift that we are all riding on thanks to the advance of technology in every second of our day and in every avenue of our lives. And I am amazed at how fast and without warrant it has become a necessity in our lives.

A friend of mine was at a parenting conference not too long ago and the keynote speaker was addressing the burgeoning issue of teenagers and even pre-teens and their accessibility to mobile devices (laptops, ipods, cell phones, etc.). The speaker was unpacking what is a healthy approach as a parent to monitoring the previously mentioned accessories and he made an interesting statement...

"Technology is for information, not communication."

Now I have a strong and definite opinion on that statement, but I want to save those thoughts for a later date and a different question. I will, however, say that I think this guy's point was an interesting one. It sounds like his position was that all of the good and safe aspects of technology sit underneath the banner of information. Meanwhile all of the evil, dangerous characteristics lurk in the shadows of a lifestyle that uses those same informational tools as our primary mode of communication. Interesting theory. Is technology for information, communication, or both? What's your answer?

Friday, February 12, 2010

#4. Where's your treasure?

If it hasn't happened already this is probably the place in my long-illustrious-brilliant blogging career where conflict and hypocrisy take root. So I'll just go ahead and start by saying that my thoughts surrounding this question are inadequate at best. In fact, I'll probably need to go and repent as soon as I finish writing this. The reality is that, especially for anyone who lives in the developed world, this is an unfair question. In the West our occupation is privilege and therefore, by necessity, we hop in the metaphorical ring with selflessness every day in an attempt to grip entitlement as tightly as possible. More on that idea later, but for now let's define the term so we're all talking about the same thing...

TREASURE. Before we talk about where the treasure's at we should probably figure out what the treasure is. Merriam Webster defines treasure as "something of great worth or value stored up or hoarded." My pastor always says "If you want to know what someone treasures look at their checkbook and calendar." Pretty good idea huh? People can talk all they want about what or who they love, the great organizations they believe in, or the faith that compels them towards living, but where you spend your time and money is probably a stronger barometer of what you really care about. The last directive i'll give to the kind of treasure we're talking about comes from the sermon on the mount where Jesus said "for where you treasure is there your heart will be also." In another part of the bible Jesus said this "Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever gives his life for me will find it." At the risk of being heretical what if we replaced the word life with treasure? "Whoever wants to save his TREASURE will lose it, but whoever gives his TREASURE for me will find it."

So where is it? Is it in your mortgage...or maybe your marriage? Your children or career? 401k, 403b, roth ira? Maybe it's not that significant...maybe your treasure is locked up in that vacation destination this summer or how you'll perform in the big game. Maybe it's in the plasma tv you'll watch the game on. It could be in the world of academia or in becoming an innovator. Or maybe, just maybe, your treasure could be hiding in those simple, elaborate thoughts about where you're going for lunch tommorrow.

There are some serious nooks and crannies for us to stick our treasure in. As Americans the possibilities seem endless...even for those living below the poverty line in America we are among the wealthiest human beings in history. Everything in our world is elaborate, extravagant, and immediate. But is that reality? I am convinced that we are at a great disadvantage when it comes to understanding the truth, because our worldview is cloudy. The lenses with which we watch the world through are scratched by possessions, wealth, and dispensation.

Ammon Hennessy was a radical social activist who lived a wreckless life for much of the 20th century, but I think his words concerning the American condition might be helpful to us considering the question..."You were born a white man in mid-twentieth century industrial America. You came into the world armed to the teeth with an arsenal of weapons. The weapons of privilege, racial privilege, sexual privilege, economic privilege. You wanna be a pacifist, it's not just giving up guns and knives and clubs and fists and angry words, but giving up the weapons of privilege, and going into the world completely disarmed. TRY THAT." He penned those words over 40 years ago. Before the internet, before social networking, before cable television, before HD. Lauryn Hill wrapped up all of my loose thoughts into 10 concise words..."What people want is fantasy, what people need is reality."

So where's your heart? What rocks are you hiding all that time and cash under? What would the world look like if we all went and found it, then put it where it belongs? Try that. John Piper and his friends over at "Don't waste your life" answered the question in the video below. Check it out. Where's your treasure? What's your answer?

Friday, February 5, 2010

#3. How young is too young?

Our son Josiah turned 2 years old last November and so we thought [as any logical, healthy, loving, parents would] "It's time he had his very own Ipod touch! I mean after all, he has been on the planet for 24 WHOLE months, and he can almost use the bathroom on his it's time right?" He loves using his ipod for a myriad of mind-numbing activities. He holds our family's high score at the paper toss app, and his favorite song to listen to is "paparazzi" by Lady Gaga. We really think those little white ear buds are the key to his educational and social success. What a bright future that Ipod is going to provide for him!

If you're picking up on my sarcasm don't feel too special, because I am laying it on pretty thick. I have a love-hate relationship with all things technological. I love it's provision of information and it's speedy delivery of that information. I love how it eases the burden of research and communication, and how it provides instant access to the media and art that shapes our culture. I HATE how you have to sell your soul to love any of the previously mentioned "advantages" in the information age. I could talk for hours about this subject, but you probably wouldn't read it, so allow me just to share 1 story...

...I'll never forget the first time I saw it. About 5 years ago I was in a Chili's restaurant in the suburbs with the in-laws on a Friday night. I needed to use the restroom and, as I rounded the corner, there it was. In one paradoxical moment I looked on in wonder and devastation. He was about 9 years old and was having dinner with his parents...well sort of. Their table was stiff and cold. Absent of conversation or eye contact. It was as if there were three tables all with one person sitting their eating and living and breathing solo. Did I mention that the 9 year old had two white earbuds in and was gripping his new Ipod? IT WAS THE WEIRDEST THING I HAVE EVER SEEN. Three people sitting within 2 feet of one another eating and living completely divorced from the reality of their familial situation. Technology had wedged itself in and was not going to take "Not at the dinner table!" for an answer. You know what's the craziest thing about that, my first, experience with the incredible Apple Ipod is? The craziest thing is that 5 short years later a 9 year old who would rather listen to JAy-Z than his own parents at the dinner table isn't so crazy.

When I was 16 [that was a little over a decade ago for those of you keeping score at home] the greatest piece of mobile technology available to us was a pager. That's right...a pager. I was a freshmen in college before I got my first email address. "Social Networking" came after college. NOW, most 16 year olds demand a cell phone, with unlimited text and web, a lap-top for school or maybe just pleasure, and an ipod. Completely mobile, and ISOLATED lives. I know some 8 & 9 year olds that have nicer cell phones than I do. I know some middle-schoolers who spend between 6-10 hours on any given day validating their existence on myspace and facebook.

Steve Jobs just announced that Apple sold their 300 millionth Ipod a few weeks back. That is one for every single person in the United States. Pretty impressive right? 300 million people who, thanks to technology, can now eat dinner by themselves. How young is too young? What's your answer?