Saturday, November 26, 2005

Book Review: The Revolution

I read a pre-release copy of George Barna's latest book, The Revolution back in the summer but have held off posting a review until now that it's actually available. As you can see from my previous post, a great number of my thoughts these days are on what it means to be the church as opposed to going to church. The Revolution considers this as well but takes it one step further...what if the most committed Christ-followers, those who are really "on fire," no longer attend church because it leaves them feeling spiritually drained and disconnected from God?

According to Barna's research, by the year 2025, "I expect that only about one-third of the population will rely upon a local congregation as the primary or exclusive means for experiencing and expressing their fait; one-third will do so through alternative forms of faith-based community; and one-third will realize their faith through the media, the arts, and other cultural institutions." Pretty radical stuff, yet not especially surprising considering the number of people I know who have "dropped-out" of church in the last couple of years. For the most part, these people would still consider themselves believers, but the local church and its institutions don't hold any appeal for them. So where do we go from here? This is where Barna spends the majority of his book.

He considers what a Revolutionary looks like, what a Revolutionary is looking for, what the local church needs to do in response, and how to become a revolutionary yourself. Note that becoming a “revolutionary” doesn’t necessarily mean giving up on your local church; it simply means living a radically different lifestyle and being the church in your community. Barna again, “These extreme God-lovers reform the culture simply by being true representations of who God made them to be. They do not create and enforce a carefully plotted and meticulously deployed agenda of reform. They simply live a holy and obedient life that a society suffering from the stranglehold of sin cannot ignore.”

There are many ramifications of this revolutionary shift and Barna is not afraid to tackle them head on: what will happen to church attendance in the next 20 years? How will this affect pastoral staffs? And who’s going to supply the funds to keep a church running? Good questions, all.

Label it what you will, there is a movement afoot in the church and George Barna has written a book that will provide a perfect summary for those who want to understand what the fuss is all about. It just might inspire you to start a revolution of your own. YYYYY

Friday, November 25, 2005

Mosaic Conference

I had the opportunity last week to attend the MOSAIC church planting conference in Toronto as part of my responsibilities to promote the New Living Translation. While I didn't have a lot of free time, I did manage to partially take in two sessions - Rick McKinley (Donald Miller's pastor) and Erwin McManus. These were both interesting sessions in that we heard what these guys are doing in their respective communities (Portland, Los Angeles) and how they are reinterpreting what it means to "do church" in a postmodern era. Call them postmodern, postevangelical, emerging church, or whatever you want, they are doing some interesting things in the name of the Kingdom.

On the downside, most of the discussion (that I heard anyway) centered on inner-city churches, and working with the urban poor. Great stuff, but what about us who live and work in a white collar, middle-class, suburban setting? How do we go about engaging people with the message of Jesus when for the most part, they are happy, satisfied, self-sufficient people? It would seem to me that we too have to conceive of new ways of "doing church" that meets these folks where they are at. This is my struggle...not that I want to plant a church, but I definitely want to be the church in my neighbourhood. I guess that makes me a church plant! I guess that makes all Christ-followers a church plant! that's something to think about!

Here are some interesting stats I picked up...
Total evangelical congregations in Canada (all denominations): 9,401
Largest denomination: Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada: 1,106 Congregations
Number of people in Canada for each evangelical church: 4,035
Province with the greatest number of churches per capita: New Brunswick
Province with the least number of churches per capita: Quebec

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Book Review: Flashbang

Let me start by saying that Flashbang is one of the funniest books I have ever read. Mark Steele has had a lifetime of crazy experiences and manages to roll most of them into this book. Not only are his stories hilarious but he also draws some meaning out of them as he looks back on all of the ways that God has been leading him from birds drowning in spaghetti sauce to having shock therapy to restore his facial muscles. This book is a must read; but a word of advice, listen to Mark read from one of the chapters here then read the book with his voice as the narrator and you'll find yourself laughing out loud every time you pick it up! The humour will draw you in, but it is the final thought that will knock you right between the eyes. Steele concludes by saying,

"So I press on until all of the flash and noise the world attempts to drum up will result in no effect on me whatsoever. Where I was once the one weeping, wailing, and waving my arms to get the world's attention with no actual result - now the roles have reversed.

I will not be distracted by the explosions I now know are frauds.
I hear the bombs and will not be swayed.
I see the flashes and will not be blinded.
And when the enemy takes his best shot - by the grace of God, I will remain unmoved.

Because the world and I have traded places.
I am now grounded in the rock.
And because Jesus is my anchor -

It is the world who is the flashbang."