Church Leadership

All Culture is God’s Culture

See Nicholas Kristof’s post at his New York Times blog which spurred on these thoughts, John Stott and Christian Evangelicals.

Feedback? If what I’m saying is true, how would this impact how you do ministry in and through your church?

Church Leadership

Jesus is the worst sales pitch ever

I'm sure this is a real page turner...

Have  you ever sat in on a timeshare presentation? You’re on vacation, spending $100 every time you get out of the car with your family, and a very nice front desk person tells you… “Mr. McLane, if you’d be willing to sit down and talk with us about our vacation packages, we’ll give you $100 in cash and free tickets to a show. It’ll only be about an hour.

It seems like it will be worth it until you actually do it. For an hour they berate you with every sales tactic in the book. They show you the property. They say, “Imagine coming here for two weeks every year, wouldn’t that be great?” Or “You can trade your weeks for points and go anywhere in the world! And it’ll already be paid for.” Or my favorite, “Mr. McLane, you work hard. Doesn’t your family deserve a vacation like this every year?

It’s moment of insincerity, remembering your kids names, relating stories of other pastors who have joined, on and on. The more they talk the more you want to punch them in the face. It’s hard to say $100 for an hour of your time isn’t worth it. But it’s not worth it.

No offense to those who have bought timeshares. But you go into the presentation either knowing you want to buy one or you don’t.

In which case, since I’m already wanting to buy in the pitch is useless. And for the person who already knows they don’t want to buy the salesperson is just going through the motions and so are you… you just want to be nice enough to get the $100. (And those who get talked into it are more preyed upon than sold on it, right?)

It’s all just a game, isn’t it? I know I’m not going to cave and buy a $30,000 timeshare because I don’t want one. And before I arrived at the presentation my wife and I already told ourselves that no matter what, we’re going to be polite, but we’re just taking our $100 and going to the beach later.

We are not buying a timeshare in Ft. Lauderdale.

Selling Jesus

Photo by David Prasad via Flickr (Creative Commons)

This is, at it’s core, the problem with the “If you build it, they will come” strategy so popular in Christianity.

The sales manager (aka the pastor) polishes up his sales pitch and tells his sales team (congregation) that if they can bring the prospects, (non-church goers) he will close the deal. (I mean, get them to give their lives to Jesus.)

When pastors tell their congregation to do this, there is always a sly little smile, as if to say… “They’ll never know that what we’re about to do is tell them about Jesus.”  Yeah– as if visitors are surprised that your marriage seminar is really a Gospel presentation? Doubt it.

The problem is that the psychology doesn’t work.

Put yourself in the car of a non-church goer about to visit your church with you. You are either interested or you aren’t before you even get there, right? If you aren’t interested in church you are thinking, “No matter what, just be polite, drink the coffee, and peace out ASAP. I’m doing this for my friend.

No amount of manipulation or sales pitch methods will get that person to change their mind. Why? They are locked in as uninterested. And one could argue that those who get talked into it are more preyed upon than sold on it, right?

The problem is that the theology doesn’t work.

Jesus isn’t a deal.

  • Regeneration of the soul happens only when the Holy Spirit calls a person to Himself, right? (Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter X) A sales pitch can be used by the Holy Spirit. But, as I heard over and over again in Haiti, an earthquake can be just as effective a call.
  • A life with Jesus is messier than a tight 35 minutes with 5 points, isn’t it? While a presentation of the Gospel is excellent at piecing things together in someone’s mind, coming to faith in Christ is more an unwinding of life’s ball of yarn than winding it up into a ball.
  • Jesus promises that a life lived in relationship with Him will be more difficult than a life without Him in your life. (Romans 12:1; John 15:18) That is a pretty tough thing to “sell” from a platform. Come and be like Jesus, who died on a cross penniless and almost no friends!
  • In a world that lives for today, an assurance of heaven, pearly gates, and a mansion tomorrow is a program they don’t want. That doesn’t make salvation any less important. You just can’t stand in front of people and say, “If you were to die tonight… would it be heaven or would it be hell?” Culturally, that’s just not what people are thinking about!
hmm... thoughts

Caught between two religions

If you are a fan of storytelling, and chances are good that you are, you need to subscribe to the Moth podcast. The Moth is a non-profit organization dedicated to the art of live storytelling. They put on live storytelling events where members of the audience get a few minutes to tell a story, live and without notes, on a theme. The best stories make it onto the podcast. It’s 13 minutes I look forward to downloading each week.

The story I’m linking below is poignant for a couple of reasons. First, it’s great storytelling. Jen pulls you in. Second, because the content of her story is just a little too close to home for a lot of my friends. Jen is caught between two worlds, Evangelical Christianity and selling Mary Kay. In the end she isn’t sure which one she is selling anymore.

1. The Moth Podcast- Jen Lee - Targeted     

(Note to RSS readers – you can come to the site and listen to the audio)

As a communicator, storytelling is one of the things I wish I were a lot better at than I am. I’d kill to have a group of friends who regularly got together and practiced telling stories. Some ground rules, some themes, and some live audience feedback to refine the craft. Because ultimately, we need to tell stories that matter!

Church Leadership

Christians and Gun Control


Am I the only one that finds it disturbing that a majority of evangelicals are all about owning guns? I find it a bit of a difficulty that you can be both pro-life and anti-gun control. That seems like an oxymoron to me. It’s as if we think it’s a mortal sin to kill an unborn child in the womb but if that child grows up to become a robber than I want to make sure I have every right to put a bullet in that persons head so he doesn’t steal my flat screen TV. Pro-life… so long as that life doesn’t mess with me or mine.

Now I know what new people to my blog are going to think. They’ll roll their eyes and say, “Well, he lives in Southern California. Of course he thinks the government should restrict my right to buy a Glock so I can put a cap in someone whenever the Lord lays that poor sucker on my doorstep. He’s just another one of those California liberals.” You’d be wrong. I’ve been all about gun control for ages. I’m sure I made tons of my friends in Michigan roll their eyes. Personally, I liked to save my sentiment for the churches annual celebration of killing anything with four legs, the wild game banquet.(We both know Jesus hated Bambi.)

Am I the only Christian in the United States asking why others aren’t demanding their congressman to better control the sale of handguns, automatic weapons, and other non-sporting weapons designed to kill human beings? At least make every single handgun owner go through some sort of training. We make people take a test to drive a car! But buy a Colt .45? You just need to be a certain age and never committed a felony. God bless America, pass the ammo!

Back to my theory that Christians makes strange political bedfellows.

hmm... thoughts Politics

Republicans Make Strange Bedfellows

politicsLast night I caught a moment of a news story that made me chuckle. Meghan McCain [stinkingly close to my daughters name, by the way!] was the keynote speaker at an event designed to push Republicans to reconsider their position on gay marriage. John McCain’s former campaign boss, Steve Schmidt, took it a step further by saying, “It cannot be argued that marriage between people of the same sex is un-American or threatens the rights of others.”

Of course, James Dobson has proclaimed that for the last 15 years. I couldnt agree with Schmidt more on that point. Dobson’s logic has lead to the downfall of his power as people wake up and realize that having a married gay couple across the street won’t devalue their heterosexual marriage one bit. I’ve long said that James Dobson doesn’t speak for me. But the point is that we’re starting to see a logical shift by Republicans towards the center politically after the religious right failed to deliver a victory in November 2008.

More and more Evangelicals are realizing that Republicans make for strange bedfellows. While Democrats don’t provide a great alternative, people are realizing that with their fervor to be anti-abortion, they’ve gotten into political bed with some weird folks!

– There are plently of Evangelicals who wrestle on the edge of passivism, Republicans have never been accused of that.

– There are plenty of Evangelicals who long for  a society that takes care of the poor, Republicans are for eliminating social programs and viel it behind a “small government” mantra.

– There are plenty of Evangelicals who are uncomfortable with having Washington controlled by big business lobbyist.

– There are plently of Evangelicals who believe in gun control, Republicans are entrenched in the NRA.

– There are plenty of Evangelicals who believe we need to take care of the environment, Republicans are bought and paid for by big business who want to “self-regulate” like they did back in the Reagan days. You know… the stuff that kept the EPA so busy through the 1990s.

– James Dobson accused Clinton of placing judges in office that passed a lithmus test, then tried to forced the Bush administration to do the same thing.

– There are plenty of Evangelicals who want to see leaders come from diverse backgrounds, genders, and ethnicities. Watching last year’s RNC gave them a glimpse of something they didn’t want to be a part of.

I could go on…

Reality is, the Democratic nor the Republican parties make good bedfellows for the average Evangelical. We have to take some good with some bad. I’m just happy to see the death of the assumption that because I’m an Evangelical I must be a Republican. In fact, I’ve always been an Independent who felt responsible to vote for the candidates who could best represent me for the office they are running for.

Church Leadership hmm... thoughts

The Gospel is Social

As I mentioned in my post last night, my head is spinning a little as I think about today’s evangelical church.

And yet I know that simply by saying that the evangelical church should stop doing church the way they currently that some people will instantly categorize my thought as “social gospel” in order to ignore what God is doing in my heart.

Here’s the thing. The gospel a social gospel. Pure and simple. Jesus didn’t just come to make a way for us to experience salvation. He also came that we may “do good works” to help bring the Kingdom of God to the people. This means bringing justice and mercy to people who experience injustice and no mercy.

This is what I’m really asking. Is there any way that the church can stop discriminating? Is there any way we can try to reach all people? Or are we doomed to see the evangelical church target rich white people for another generation? And will that generation tolerate classism towards everyone who is not rich & white?

What do you think?

Church Leadership hmm... thoughts

Secret Sex

I’ve been around Christians long enough to know that they like to talk about sex. In fact, I know enough about internet traffic to know that only one thing is more popular than a post about sex. In fact, most of you are reading this because you clicked on a link with a keyword you like to click on, “SEX” and are wondering what the secret is all about.

What’s the one thing more popular than a post about sex? A post about sexual behavior Christians “shouldn’t do but like to talk about.”

– Homosexuality

– Cheating

– Masturbation

– Pornography

– Getting caught looking at gay porn and masturbating.

Here’s some data behind this Christian propensity to search for and click on things about sex. Notice the #1 read item at YMX over the last 2 years by a wide margin… it’s an article called “Solo Sex” and its about masturbation. In the 2 years that article has been on the site it has averaged 25 readers per day! Likewise, my blog data shows that most of my google visits from google searches arrive on terms such as “Christian dating” or “Christian sex.”

Proving this point further, stop for a second and think about this:Why are you reading this post? What about the title ‘Secret Sex’ made you click here?” Did I trick you to come here with my blog title? Did you click on a delicious link I served on Twitter? Or were you googling something like “Christian love advice?”

Here is my theory, disagree with me if you like. I think that internally many evangelicals are wrestling with sexuality. I don’t mean they are worried about their gender preference or even secretly longing to do sinful things. I think that within Christian circles it just isn’t safe to talk about sex which leaves many adult Christians very immature in how they handle sex. So the result is that we talk about sexuality in very immature fashions. (And then we wonder why students have messed up views on sexuality!)

While in non-Christian circles it isn’t unusual to have some safety within your peer group to talk about sex in an intelligent manner, I know I’ve never found Christian friends willing to have a serious conversation blushing it off as either “naughty” or diverting to childish jokes. (Of course, maybe its just my friends?) So while it may be normal and/or healthy to seek out talking with a peer about something intimate… in our circles we repress that discussion and look for answers privately.

And I’m not sure that’s a good thing.

I wonder if that repression of the discussion, which in and of itself is amoral but breaks a Christian taboo, is exactly what leads to the gross sexual dysfunction within many churches and marriages. Why can’t Christians just talk about sex? Why do Christians scour the internet searching for answers?

Sidebar: Of course it could also be that there are so many people out there googling anything to do with sex that this disproportionally elevates the click through rates of posts about sex… that’s a theory worth contemplating without devaluing the overriding question.

So, what is it?

– Victorian cultural leftovers permeating Christian culture?

– Fear?

– Our mommy told us never to talk about sex, just learn about it the way she did in the library?

– It should just be repressed. Asking this question proves that Adam is a pervert and just likes to say “sex” a lot.


Is James Dobson’s Reign Over?

James Dobson I’ve talked about this before. But I think it is safe to say James Dobson no longer represents the middle of the road Christian. I don’t think I’m in the middle of the evangelical road, but I think it’s becoming clear that he’s now losing traction with the masses.

I hate to sound like Rush Limbaugh. But I predicted sentiments like this. Middle of the road evangelicals are leaving the right-wing conservative camps in droves to express their dissatisfaction with their ignoring the policies that motivate young Christians to action. Justice. Equality. Education. Environment. These aren’t ideals to young Christians, they are minimum requirements and Dobson’s old-fogey-out-of-touch ways aren’t even on their map.

Prime example of Dobson’s lack of connection with today’s young Evangelicals:

Should Sen. McCain capture the nomination as many assume, I believe this general election will offer the worst choices for president in my lifetime. I certainly can’t vote for Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama based on their virulently anti-family policy positions. If these are the nominees in November, I simply will not cast a ballot for president for the first time in my life. These decisions are my personal views and do not represent the organization with which I am affiliated. They do reflect my deeply held convictions about the institution of the family, about moral and spiritual beliefs, and about the welfare of our country. Source

How mature. He doesn’t get his hand-picked candidate so he isn’t going to vote. (Allegedly)  Good leadership there Mr. Dobson.