Monday, October 29, 2007

Rap hits middle-age

You think the "worship wars" over praise music were bad?

Wait until rap shows up in your church.

As Jeff Chang's article in Foreign Policy points out, hip-hop is now 34-years-old -- and it's gone global.
  • In Shangai, Chinese-speaking rappers face off.
  • In Paris, the children of Arab immigrants use rap to protest government policies.
  • I'm told that, in West Africa, posters of Tupac Shakur are everywhere.
And yes, there are Christian rappers too -- Oakwood College's student CD for 2005-06, for instance, included at least one example.

In short, it's payback time: our children are doing to us what we did to our parents.
  • They want to listen to "their" music in church,
  • and we just want them to turn it down!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Willow Creek packs them in -- but what happens next?

There's a big kerflubble going on at Out of Ur -- the blog run by Leadership magazine. As near as I can figure (and to be honest, some of the pastors who post on this blog are neither clear nor concise):
  • For the past thirty years, Willow Creek has been the model for church-based evangelism.
  • But Willow Creek recently published a study that indicates it doesn't do a very good job of encouraging spiritual growth in its members.
  • This has prompted a number of pastors to say, "See -- I knew it! I knew it! I just knew that anything so popular must represent a total sell-out! Bwah-ha-ha-ha!"
  • This has prompted a number of other pastors to say, "Now wait just one cotton-picking minute. That's not really what the study says -- and besides, Willow Creek should get credit for recognizing there's a problem (whatever that problem may actually turn out to be).
  • And this has prompted a number of pastors to jump in with their own solutions to whatever it is that ails Willow Creek.
Myself, I'm going to wait and see. Number one, I'm still not entirely sure what's going on at Willow Creek. Number two, I'm not sure the rest of us are doing any better.

But add this to my previous post on the New Hope Community Church in Portland, and it looks as though megachurches are not the be-all and end-all some thought they might be.

Then too, I'm heartened by Willow Creek's report that the best ways to grow spiritually remain Bible study, prayer, and relationships. These are things any church can encourage, regardless of size.

(For a link to the discussion in Out of Ur, click on the title of this post.)

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Megachurch gets malled

Forget "megachurch."

Think "urban lifestyle center."

That's the dream of New Hope -- the 3,500-member church that pioneered the concept of megachurches in Portland. Now its leaders plan to tear down the church's sanctuary and develop the 33-acre site into "Eagle Landing," complete with:
  • nearly a thousand apartments and condos,
  • a dozen restaurants,
  • 600,000 square-feet of office space,
  • a skybridge to a nearby health club
  • a rock-climbing wall and skate-park . . .
Oh yes, and a church building too.

The plan is rooted in the church's "Target 75" -- an attempt to reach the 75% of all Portlanders who do not belong to a church.
For someone new to church, [says Ray Cotton, the lead pastor at New Hope,] taking that first step through the door can be an intimidating prospect. "There's such a need out here for community gathering places," Cotton said. "It doesn't matter whether it's sacred or secular. How do we take the walls of the church down? . . . How can we create a place where people can feel comfortable to come and take the next step?"
Keep in mind, this development is still at the talking stage. No permits have been granted; no construction has begun. And given the recent slowdown in Portland's real-estate market, it's not going to be as easy to arrange financing for this project as it might have been, even a few month's ago.

What's more, it will be interesting to see how New Hope's leaders combine managing a major real-estate development and pastoring a 3,500-member church. (The apostle's concern that "waiting at tables" not replace "preaching the gospel" does come to mind.)

Still, it's nice to see a church recognize that "business as usual" isn't good enough anymore. And if they succeed in creating "neutral spaces" where people can learn about God . . .

Maybe we should open a Subway at the Gladstone Adventist Convention Center?

(Click on the title for a link to the article in the Oregonian.)

Friday, October 12, 2007

In "God" we "trust" (and there's a lot of argument as to just what we mean by those quotation marks).

Was the United States ever a Christian nation?

Encyclopedia Britannica runs a blog that stumbled into that debate -- a blog that attracted some very heavy hitters on that subject. To read what they said, click on the title of this post.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The Odyssey Years

Trying to attract young adults to your church?

Keep in mind that young adults have changed. As David Brooks pointed out in a recent column, "People who were born before 1964 tend to define adulthood by certain accomplishments — moving away from home, becoming financially independent, getting married and starting a family."
  • In 1960, roughly 70 percent of 30-year-olds had achieved these things.
  • By 2000, fewer than 40 percent of 30-year-olds had done the same.
For more stats (and more thoughts on what it all means), click on the title of this post.

Monday, October 08, 2007

At least it wasn't "Grand Theft Auto" -- heaven forbid we should glorify stealing!

The New York Times reports that hundreds of youth pastors have found a sure-fire way to get young men into the pews: they're holding "Halo Parties."

And no, it's not what you think.

Halo 3 is an incredibly popular computer game; it is also incredibly violent -- so much so, that it's rated M. That means you can't buy it unless you're over the age of 17; that also means any youth pastor who invites kids to "come on over to the church and play it" is going to be:
  • very popular with adolescent males,
  • very unpopular with the adult members of that church.
Thus far, the debate has been pretty predictable: the adults argue that killing is wrong. The kids argue they're not really killing anybody -- and besides, it keeps them off the streets and out of real trouble.

Myself, it's difficult for me to imagine Jesus playing Halo 3 -- but in all honesty, I've never understood the appeal of computer games; like golf and gambling, they've always seemed pointless. That's why I'd appreciate some insight by somebody who actually knows something about these games.

And if you'd like to read the article in The New York Times, then click on the title of this post.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Cash for kids? Fuhgedaboudit!

If you live in Oregon, you've been seeing and hearing a lot of ads from the tobacco companies, all of them asking you to vote "no" on higher taxes for cigarettes. This is a no brainer for them -- higher taxes mean fewer smokers, with teens and pregnant women especially likely to quit.

Anyway, I've been wondering about the accent of the actor who plays a "concerned citizen" in the radio ads. I guess he's supposed to sound like a working stiff, but he sure doesn't sound like a local to me. In fact, I'd swear he's from New Jersey!

You don't suppose Tony Soprano . . . ?