Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Write Stuff

As you well know, I'm a writer at the seminary. People often ask me about the job, so I thought I'd give you some insight. Most of the time I think the title sounds more glamorous than the job really is. People hear "writer" and they get the idea that I'm some novelist who pumps out brilliant text. In reality, I mostly pump out news releases, write articles for the student newsletters and magazines, and write "copy" for advertisements/marketing material. Even though I'm not writing something with Fabio on the cover, I enjoy it.

At any rate, the job is going very well. I work with some incredibly talented people (makes me feel kinda out of place at times). They're also a lot of fun to work with, which makes the stressful moments a little more manageable. Some things are more interesting to write than others, but that's to be expected. One of my most exciting articles to write was about a Navy chaplain and the 9 salvations his ship saw while on a 7 1/2 month tour in Iraq. (see article and companion video to the article at

The job feels like a good fit. They keep giving me writing assignments, so that must be a good sign. :) You can always check out what I write if you'd like. Our newest edition of the seminary magazine just came out (my first magazine), and you can read it online at You can also read news releases at

Continue to pray for us. Working, schooling, internship, etc. eats up a lot of time and energy. I struggle with not having the time I want with Amy and the kids and time to reflect and process what I'm learning. At the same time, I don't want to be in school for 5 years, so I must press on. Pray that I will be efficient with my time and keep my priorities where they should be.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Planting Pontifications and more

As I'm in the mode of church planting these days, things run through my mind off and on. I want to share some of my thoughts lately...really more for myself so I can look back on this in the future to see what God was doing in me...but maybe also for someone else out there. Pardon these ramblings:

God continues to strengthen in Amy and I a desire to return to NW Denver. Every time we hear anything about Denver or Colorado, we grin from ear to ear. For example, how about those Colorado Rockies?? (the baseball team, not the landscape, although they are quite nice as well)

I'm getting seminary credit for the internship I'm doing through our church. As part of the credit, I also have to have a support group of peers who I talk about ministry with. So, I invited a couple of my close friends and their families over for dinner last night. They asked us some really good questions about church planting, such as "How do you plant a church?" We shared our experiences and what we would keep or do differently if we had a chance to do it all over again. It was a really refreshing time because I tend to make greater strides and keener insights when I dialogue about things out loud with people. It's like things that have been sporadically bouncing around in my brain begin to link together in words and sentences, and they suddenly make more sense. I'm looking forward to future meetings like these.

I've been struck lately with a deep concern about the current trend towards church planting. Please don't misunderstand me, I will be the first to say that church planting is one of the most effective forms of evangelism we have today and it's one of the most needed things. I am 100% for church planting. My concern lies in the underlying trendiness associated with church planting (which I'll now start referring to as CP to prevent carpal tunnel). CP is the really cool thing to do now. It's being pushed in most evangelical denominations and for good reasons. There are a lot of young men and women who are jumping into CP with a desire for the glory of God but no foundation. They think (like I did at one time) that it's better to jump right into ministry and not waste time with training and/or seminary.

The danger in this is that many people, enamored by the opportunity to start something exciting in a new place and thinking they won't have to deal with people set in their ways at an existing church, press on towards CP without being called by God to do it. In effect, God may want them to revitalize an existing church, and yet they forsake that calling because it seems uninspiring or boring. I reject the notion that some CP "experts" have that says that we should just let dying churches die b/c it's easier to plant a new one in their place. God, forgive us if we ignore the work You've begun when You want to do more.

So, back to my concern...I'm afraid that scores of people will chase the trendy ministry of CP without counting the cost and in the long run end up costing the Church a double-whammy: abandoning existing churches and burning out and never doing ministry again. CP is extremely hard work, but it is also some of the most joyous work when it's what God has called you to do. This is why I have waffled so much with whether God is calling me to do it. I don't want to do it b/c it's trendy or adventurous. If I do that, you can buy my plane ticket back home for 2-3 years from now when I fizzle from trying to do something in my own power.

We need church planters! We need teams of individuals to lay it on the line and engage communities with no visible church presence for the sake of the Gospel. We need blue collar and white collar workers to transfer jobs or venture into new careers so they can move with a team to plant a church. CP teams do not need to be made solely of vocational ministers. Our views of discipleship have got to change. We have a lecture-style mentality of discipleship which says, "Just buy a couple more devotional books or participate in another Bible study, and you'll be a stronger Christian." My Korean friends are showing me the biblical model of mentorship-discipling. Jesus didn't set up a university to train disciples...He said, "Come, follow me."

I issue a challenge for you to pray right now about the possibility of CP, whether that be from a prayer or financial support aspect or whether that be from a participation aspect. Too bad we think church planters have to be young. Oh, to see middle-aged and senior adults leveraging their spiritual maturity and life experiences for the Kingdom of God instead of trying to figure out a way to spend their remaining years in self-satisfaction. But, in all of this, we must count the cost. (By the way, this is not a plea for you to join us in CP, although we welcome anyone who God calls along side of us. God may be calling you in a completely different direction, and you need to follow that calling).

In addition to the call, I believe church planters must be equipped not just with strategy and networking skills, but also with pastoral skills and preaching skills. It's disheartening for me when I read CP books that never teach church planters how to effectively and creatively preach the Word of God or how to relate it to someone who is struggling with certain issues in his life. They'll tell you how to plan events, reach out to the community, or cast vision, but I haven't read much about how to teach the biblically illiterate in your mission field how to read and understand the Bible. Fortunately, I'm getting great training in how to do some of these things, but like I mentioned before, many church planters skip the training because they're anxious to get their hands dirty. Maybe God will allow me to help train others in some way.

Lastly, here's some facts I heard the last week or so. The U.S. currently has approx. 500,000 international students in its colleges and universities. 70 % of these students have never been invited to an American's house. 80% have never been invited to an American church. Oh what a global mission field awaits us out our back door! It's government-funded missions, and you don't have to leave the country. The mission field is coming to us. Won't you consider seeing how you can befriend an international student or two? They are lonely. They are struggling with the language barrier. They want friendships. They need Jesus. Are you daring enough to at least ask God what you should do about this?

I'm sure this stirred the pot some. Post a comment or two if you'd like. There's lots here to hash out.