Monday, June 13, 2011

A niche market for the Gospel- Flesh and Blood!

In discussion with several shepherd friends today our subject was the impact that electronic media is having on church life and how Marshall McLuhan's axiom "The medium is the message" is more fitting today than ever.
In light of how electronic media tend to disconnect us from each other to the point of disembodiment we wondered how an incarnate Christ would fare in a church where we are more connected to people hundreds of miles away than we are with those who are in the room.
If media is simply an extension of our selves is there a neglected niche market for real flesh and blood ministry? When the gospel is constantly presented through TV, DVD, Internet, Ipad/pod/phones, and big screens in church there may come a time when it will seem cool and novel to share truth with someone face to face, one on one with spoken language. At that point the obscure pastor in his humble little church will be positioned to capture the moment with a new medium, the gospel incarnated in a human being.

See this video

Rich Earl is author of Shepherds Balm, a weekly devotional for pastors and church staff.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


Leaders from across PennDel met this week to pray, evaluate and plan for the future of C3 in the PennDel Ministry Network. In the Monday night session Pastor Steve led an analysis. Here are some of the areas discussed:

• Camaraderie
• Shared Resources
• Permission Giving
• Small Group Fellowship
• Leadership Multiplied (More Openings)
• Everyone has Something to Offer
• Depth of Relationship
• Cross Pollination
• Several Tracks to Choose From
• Safe Place (Accountability)
• Shared Responsibility
• Celebrate Wins Together
• More Horizontal

• Camaraderie Can Become Exclusive
• Voluntary
• Institutional Management is Difficult
• Lack of Clarity
• Perception
• Duplication
• Can Lack Spiritual Vitality
• Less Sectional Fellowships
• Lack of Reproducible Things
• Loss of Diversity
• Less of Senior Adult Participation
• Vision Leakage
• Need to Re-communicate the Vision
• New People Need to be Educated
• Easier to Hide
• Challenging to Evaluate

• Training
• Clarity
• New Groups, New Entry Points
• Shape the Future
• Criteria / Expectations
• Recruitment
• Openness to the Gospel

Friday, April 29, 2011

Hallelujah! The wedding of the Lamb ...

Like millions of others around the world, Pat and I watched segments of the royal wedding this morning. We enjoyed the pageantry, music, colors and multiple layers of symbolism.

As I watched, the words of John in Revelation came to mind. The greatest wedding of the eons will be without comparison.

Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:
For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.
Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.”
(Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.)
Then the angel said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!’” And he added, “These are the true words of God.” – Revelation 19:6-9

Let us prepare ourselves for the great wedding to come!

May the Lord fill you with hope for Jesus coming.

Friday, February 18, 2011

FaceBook: A Marinated Perspective

When Facebook first went viral there were a number of articles and blogs which suggested how it might best be leveraged as a tool for reaching non-Christians and for marketing the church. I read some of these with interest, but did not apply much of what I read. Instead I decided to just experience Facebook for myself and entered it along with my “friends”. In the process I have learned that using Facebook as a tool does not really work. Facebook is a community, now 500 million strong, and I chose to be a part of the community. After a few years on Facebook I have discovered some things.

Recently I have been stunned at the quality of connections that can be made through Facebook. I have heard from a number of old friends from college and high school who never knew me as a follower of Jesus. They have seen my posts, which often reflect my faith in a non-preachy kind of way, and have contacted me to talk about “religion”. I just got off the phone with an old fraternity brother who was amazingly grateful and excited to hear whatever I had to say about the Bible or Jesus, or whatever. I had instant credibility with him because of our past association. We talked for an hour and he told me he would be going to Barnes and Noble to get the Bible and other book I recommended. He also gobbled up some links I sent. How often does that happen?

I have come to believe that using Facebook to deliberately market a church or to press Christianity is not its greatest use. Postmoderns, and that’s who is using Facebook by and large, prefer a less confrontational approach. Strident tones don’t hit the mark with them. Creative, thoughtful and pithy posts tend to draw them in. They also crave authenticity. Sincerely joining the community gives us a stake in it, as opposed to being interlopers pushing our agenda. Presence has power.

Here are some things I try to remember when I post or comment on Facebook:

1. Be real. Share things that genuinely touch you, and that you believe will be a benefit to others.

2. Be concise. Brevity is the soul of wit. Long posts tend not to get read nearly as much as those short, snappy ones.

3. Be imaginative. Find things to say that have not been said over and over. Think about it before you post. There should be real value added to their lives by being connected to you. Make them grateful to be your friend.

4. Be interesting. Some say the great sin today is being uninteresting. That may or may not be the case, but it sure is better to create interest.

5. Be eclectic. Don’t be afraid to be different. Vary your posts between the silly, the profound and the personal. People will look forward to connecting with you if you vary what you say.

6. Be generous. Don’t expect others to comment and “like” your posts if you’re not doing that for them. That’s part of being in the community. Don’t be a voyeur, enter the conversation.

7. Be careful. Posting and commenting is fraught with peril. It is easy to be misunderstood when writing our thoughts. Objectively read over what you have written before you post or comment. Many times I have written something and simply decided not to send it at all.

8. Be sensitive- know your audience. Not everything you post will impress everyone on your friend list. Try to imagine how different sectors of your network will react to what you say. It’s okay to target certain segments, but make it obvious when you do.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

In the early 1990's I was the pulpit guest at the North Central University chapel. The morning became unforgettable as it unfolded. Our son, Jonathan, had starred the night before in a basketball game between the host university and our alma mater, Central Bible College had beaten the host team soundly. I was introduced as Jonathan’s father and the student body of knowledgeable sports fans welcomed me half-heartedly.

But, even more memorably, in the service a faculty member announced that an official of the Assemblies of God in Egypt had been martyred. The student body prayed for the fallen minister’s family, especially for the next of kin who succeeded the martyr. And, an explanation was made that two or three more successors were in line because the believers expected that their leaders would be either martyred or imprisoned for long periods.

As I awaited my moment in the pulpit, I remember thinking, “What can I say that is of any importance against the backdrop of this announcement?” All of that came back to mind as the Egyptian people orchestrated the deposing of their national leader recently. Pundits are convinced that the overthrow of Egypt’s national leader could not have happened without social networking technology not yet in place in the 90's. And, the phenomenon is spreading. Watch TV news and read newspapers. Oppressors are being threatened by masses gathering in public places demanding change.

What ought we to learn?
• Technology is changing the way we live more than we realize. Shouldn’t we observe and measure its impact on us. How much time are we spending communicating digitally? Are digital communiques equal to face-to-face, eye-to-eye, and heart-to-heart conversation? Are we emboldened to join and opine anonymously when we lack courage to do the same in person?
• We ought to use every tool in proclaiming truth which is absolute and constant. No matter how many times the Word of God is contradicted – often at the speed of digital light – its truth must be proclaimed. Sing Psalm 119 in your soul and allow its lyrics to penetrate every crevice of your being.
Global University is making great use of the media, and I am sure the innovators there are only scratching the surface.

Because of our changing role, this will be one of the last E-Bulletins in this format. You may continue to receive periodic messages by asking to be placed on the new list forming. Just click the “reply button” and we’ll include you. Or visit our new blog at

The blog will not tell you where we went shopping or ate for breakfast, but will attempt to provoke thought and stimulate to conversation among Jesus’ disciples. Pat and I will look forward to hearing from you!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Missional Coaching Works!

This is a follow up to my post from December about Missional Coaching with the unemployed in the Coal region of Pennsylvania.

Coaching is taking hold in the PennDel District and this is an example of how coaching can work in the everyday ministry of local pastors and laypeople alike. The result is that we reach people who might never think to set foot in our churches, but who can benefit profoundly from the principles found in God's Word and exposure to the people of God. Here are two examples of changed lives.

Jason (not his real name)- Jason was a frenetic and disoriented mess when he arrived at our first coaching session two months ago. He arrived flustered and with a backpack attached that looked like it was a part of him. He described a background of abuse and abandonment. After years in foster care he ended up homeless on the streets of California. A series of events brought him to our little Pennsylvania coal town. He was doing pretty well until he was fired from his job at a major store chain. When he walked in, he had no goals and was definitely in survival mode. Living alone in a one-room rental, he was desperate for a friend who would not let him down. He shared that his biggest obstacle was needing $12 to get a state ID card. He was so grateful when I was able to connect him the resources to get one, and he made a friend from our church in the process. He was so encouraged, and since that time I have watched him slowly come to life. Religion was not something he was looking for, having had bad experiences in the past. But after our second session he asked if he could come to our church. I said sure, and gave him a Bible. He loves to read and has now become a student of the Word and attends several Bible studies as well as church services. He has reached a number of small goals and expects to be employed again soon. His countenance has lifted as he senses that God loves him.

Diane (not her real name)- Diane came to our little town from Philadelphia with her two young children to live with relatives. Although she is only in her early 30s, she has lost all of her teeth and her self-image is very poor. The smallest obstacle will keep her from following through on what she knows she should be doing. In the past two months she has set some reasonable goals including getting her GED, finding a place to live, and getting a job. Her main goal, however is rebuilding her self-respect. She has an appointment to get her new teeth this week, which will be a dramatic step toward her goal. She has also secured an apartment to raise her children in. She will take her GED test this month. Her goal is to open her own Laundromat because she loves talking with and helping people. She is learning that obstacles can be overcome. Diane says that being held accountable and having someone to believe in her has made all the difference.

More to come....

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Less Is More

Conventional wisdom says, "I have to do more to get more done." Not so quick. The best leaders know that in order to get more done, one must actually must do less.

The book of Acts, specifically chapter six, demonstrates this little-known contrarian leadership axiom. We read the church was exploding with growth, which brought new challenges and complaints. In this case, church members were complaining that there were legitimate needs within the church family that were not being met.

Instead of doing more and spreading themselves too thin, the leadership made a pivotal decision to do less. Seriously. They said, "we are going to do three things: study, preach and pray. That's it."

So what was the solution? The leaders strategically raised up other qualified leaders and delegated responsibility and authority.

Principle: Church leaders are NOT responsible for meeting ALL the needs. They are responsible for making sure ALL the needs are MET.

This year get more done by doing less. Raise up leaders. Train them for ministry. Release them to meet the needs. Do only what you are called and capable of doing. And then watch as your church expands with explosive growth.