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Justice Friday Tuesday, May 05, 2009 |

A few weeks ago I started Justice Friday on Twitter.  What is it?  It is a day that different people "tweet" about, blog about, facebook about, and generally raise awareness for all sorts of justice issues.  From human trafficking to malaria, all sorts of justice issues are raised, with the end goal of generating awareness and action.  The point is not just to share statistics, the point is to help other people understand the great justice issues of our day, and how they can respond and act to bring justice.

You can get involved in a couple of ways:
  1. Follow the action by searching the hashtag #justicefriday on Twitter - read the tweets. (Here's how hashtags work...)  Follow me on Twitter here
  2. Tweet and retweet stats, info, and facts about your favorite justice issues. Do you have a favorite organization like the IJM or Not For Sale or Compassion?  Follow them on Twitter and retweet their info for the rest of us!  There are lots of ways to get involved.  Remember to use the #justicefriday hashtag.

He has showed you, O man, what is good. 
And what does the LORD require of you? 
To act justly and to love mercy 
and to walk humbly with your God. 
- Micah 6:8

Is Twitter narcissitic? A response... Thursday, April 23, 2009 |

Recently, Justin Taylor posted these excerpts from a blog about the inherent narcissism of Twitter. I did not feel that this article really gave a gospel-centered approach to the phenomenon that is Twitter (and other forms of social media), so here is my best attempt at a gospel-centered response:

I find it ironic that he blogged about his Twitter angst.  You know it wasn’t long ago that blogging was considered the “telegraph of Narcissus,” etc, etc.  Blogging also wraps itself and its users in an infantile language… bloggers blogging on blogs. In fact, any communication medium worth being called a communication medium creates its own language – that’s the whole point of having a communication medium – newspapers, television, preaching, cell phones, email, papyrus scrolls – all inherently create and profligate a new language. Not surprising is the fact that he is, by his very admission, using the wood from his own rickety bridge that he’s standing on…to build a fire.  (But that is what post-moderns are good at - castigating and eviscerating the very language their rants are written with…)

And I disagree that the community is merely symbolic. For him it may be, but for me, at least, it is not.  Case in point… I run into a guy at one of our gatherings… he’s a group leader… we’ve never met before in person before that day, but we’d exchanged “tweets” and I’d been following his Twitter stream. Interesting thing happened… I asked him about his family (the family he “tweeted” about) and his family outing the week before (that he had “tweeted” about)… In a matter of a few moments we were able to go from “small talk” to “big talk” because of a history of relationship (however thin and surfacy – but, then again, isn’t that what all “small talk” really is…).  (A wise mentor told me a long time ago that you have to go from “small talk” to “big talk”…)

I can’t tell you how many times that scenario has happened in ministry with me… these are real people that I’m able to connect with and love and pray for and listen to and keep up with because of, yes, Twitter.  My friend had to take his newborn to the doctor… how did I find out and why did I pray? You got it – Twitter.  And not to mention the countless births, hospital visits, chemistry tests, birthday parties, etc., etc. 

I would not say that the “great paradox of ‘social networking’ is that it uses narcissism as the glue for "community."  I would say that the great paradox of human communication and existence is that it uses narcissism as the glue for community… The problem is not Twitter, the problem is the human heart.  The problem is not money. The problem is the human heart.  The problem is not sex. The problem is the human heart. 

So I won’t spend any more time or energy exegeting Nicholas Carr’s myopic view of Web 2.0… Is it narcissistic? Yes… But isn’t all communication inherently narcissistic, unless redeemed by the gospel?  Aren’t there 4 things we as Christians know about everything in the world?  1. It was created by God, 2. because of the Fall it’s been broken/ganked/abused/narcissistic because of sin, 3. it can be redeemed, and 4. it will ultimately be renewed.  (Creation – Fall – Redemption – Renewal… the plot-line of the Bible, and the bedrock of a gospel worldview...)

I think that our gospel worldview is big enough to handle Twitter… but I don’t expect his to be.

Q&A (via Twitter) about Church Planting Monday, January 19, 2009 |

So I was on my way to lunch with John Herrington, the church planting director for HCBC.  John's a great guy and full of wisdom, insight and practical how-to's on church planting.  He's the kind of guy you just wanted to glean from over and over again.  So on the way to the lunch I Twittered about going to lunch with John and asked anyone to chime in with their own questions for him.

(By the way - John is doing 2 workshops at our upcoming Leadership Conference.)

Here are the questions I got and the responses from John:

From Jonathan McIntosh: (Alec asked a similar question over Facebook...)

Question:  "What are the Top 5 qualities of a church planter - assuming elder qualifications?"

John's answer:

1. Love lost people: I mean, LOVE lost people.  If you're gonna start a church and you don't like lost people - you've missed the point.

2. Ability to gather people:  you've got to have the ability to gather a missional core who will do this WITH you and do that in a way that's "sticky" too, where people stay with you.

3. Teambuilder: church planters think they need to do it all, but they need to be able to build a team that can help them.

4. Spousal participation: your wife is your partner - you don't work for IBM - WE are church planters doing this together.  Great and growing marriage is a must.  If I see your marriage is struggling with deep issues - you're out - no matter what your talent.

5. Capacity to meaningfully exegete your community: despite our best efforts, most planters are worlds apart from the worldview and way of thinking of the lost... different language... you might as well be speaking Chinese to a Russian.  It's that drastic.  Go to Kazakstan - can you read the signs? No! Neither can you understand the lost until you learn their language and worldview - it's the same principle. 

From Jacob Vanhorn:

Question: "How have the challenges of a full blown residency changed your vision or strategy from its inception?

John's Answer: 

Having 5 guys in a church planting Residency means that I have to think 5 different ways. The tendency has been to franchise and systematize everything and that just won't work. Everything in me wants to tell them what to do, but they are all different guys with different models.  HCBC was originally very model-specific for a suburban strategy.  However, it took 18 years to plant 5 churches. They made the paradigm shift to missional church planting and have planted 15 church in 3 years.

You can keep up with my Twitter updates here.

Top 6 Reasons I haven't blogged in 6 months Sunday, December 21, 2008 |

1. Karis.  My last blog post was June 18th.  Our 2nd daughter (and 3rd child in less than 4 years), Karis, was born on June 23rd.  You do the math.  Although Kimberly, my wonderful wife, had made the transition to 2 kids, now that she was consumed with Karis, it was now my turn to learn what it's like to have to take care of 2 children under the age of 4.

2. For the City - our Fall Vision Series at The Austin Stone Community Church.  On top of launching over 300 missional communities, we raised close to $11 million to build, among other things, a non-profit center in the poorest neighborhood in Austin.

3. Designed, launched, facilitated and taught, with the help of Allen and Joey, Project 297, a pilot training platform for urban missionaries, global missionaries, and church planters.  We currently have 27 guinea pigs... ahhh, I mean, participants.

4.  Hired 4 new staff - 2 church planting residents, a church planting intern and a ministry assistant.

5.  Discovered Twitter.  You can follow me at http://twitter.com/_Stew_

6.  Got an iPhone.  Whatever you think is next level, the iPhone is 5 levels above that.  Trust me.

image: writer's block by: thorinside

Missional Blog-fest Wednesday, June 18, 2008 |

Let's face it - the word "missional" has become a junk-drawer word. You know what a junk-drawer is - that drawer in your bedroom or desk that just gets all sorts of crap thrown in it. G.K. Chesterton once said something to the effect that if you don't believe in anything, then you'll believe everything. The reverse is true for the word "missional." If it comes to mean everything and anything, then soon (if not already) it will mean nothing.

On June 23rd, more than 50 bloggers will blog in response to this one question - "What is missional?" Rick Meigs, who founded the Friend of Missional site, has called for something akin to a Missional Blog-fest in order to reclaim the term "missional" - primarily because of it has become a junk-drawer word - overly and wrongly used.

I'm in. If you'd like to join in on the Missional Blog-fest, just let Rick know. By the way, here are the other bloggers who are joining the party:

Alan Hirsch
Alan Knox
Andrew Jones
Barb Peters
Bill Kinnon
Brad Brisco
Brad Grinnen
Brad Sargent
Brother Maynard
Bryan Riley
Chad Brooks
Chris Wignall
Cobus Van Wyngaard
Dave DeVries
David Best
David Fitch
David Wierzbicki
Doug Jones
Duncan McFadzean
Erika Haub
Jamie Arpin-Ricci
Jeff McQuilkin
John Smulo
Jonathan Brink
JR Rozko
Kathy Escobar
Len Hjalmarson
Makeesha Fisher
Malcolm Lanham
Mark Berry
Mark Petersen
Mark Priddy
Michael Crane
Michael Stewart
Nick Loyd
Patrick Oden
Peggy Brown
Phil Wyman
Richard Pool
Rick Meigs
Rob Robinson
Ron Cole
Scott Marshall
Sonja Andrews
Stephen Shields
Steve Hayes
Tim Thompson
Thom Turner

image: junk drawer by: kosmonautica

insights from redeemer's church planting center Saturday, June 07, 2008 |

This past Wednesday Kevin and I went to NY to visit with the some of the staff of the Church Planting Center at Redeemer Presbyterian Church. As I mentioned before, they are #1 on the list of Top 25 Multiplying Churches in the United States. Terry Gyger and Mark Reynolds graciously gave up their morning to give us the opportunity to sit down with them, ask questions, and learn from their experiences and expertise in being a global church planting church. As we're in the process of building a church planting center as well, we wanted to learn from the best - and very few are as effective as Redeemer.

Dr. Gyger and Dr. Reynolds were unbelievable in their grasp of church planting, gospel movements, city culture, effective systems, and the many, many facets of becoming an effective church planting church. Being around Terry Gyger you get the sense that he's forgotten more about church planting than you'll ever know. He was incredibly gracious, and you would have never known that he was the one who actually recruited Tim Keller to come to New York, unless you had read Keller's history of the church. Dr. Gyger's influence is pervasive in the PCA church planting world - his fingerprints on Redeemer and Perimeter Church, two of the top 5 multiplying churches in the U.S. (#1 and #4 respectively), may not be outwardly visible, but pervasive nonetheless.

Here are a few insights from our time there:
  • Church planting has to be who you are - it has to be in your DNA - and it can't just be a side thing; make it a part of all your vision statements.
  • Key question the Redeemer CPC asked themselves early on, "Are we going to be a CPC that serves Redeemer or serves the city?" Their answer - the city.
  • They partner with a ton of people in the city - their Church Planting Alliance has over 17 different denominations.
  • Bring in people who are experts in the specific are of church planting (assessment, coaching, training, etc.).
  • To reach the world, reach the world's global cities.
  • 3 things to look for in a "global city":
    1. local influence
    2. regional influence
    3. global connectivity
  • The KIND of church they start is VERY important - a gospel-centered, balanced ministry, holistic, church planting church
  • Plant fewer churches and train longer.
  • Plant resource churches (hubs in a city).
  • Their goal - to create city-renewing movements.
  • Quote of the day: "We will know we're finished when we've become a forgotten entity."
  • Movements attract and prepare leaders.
These are just a FEW of the insights we gained from Redeemer. Keep in mind that they also sent us about 50 pages of documents on their distinctive vision, strategy and theology. That, along with their "Church Planter Manual" and "Coaching Urban Church Planters" Manual were invaluable to getting us prepared to understand and learn from their unique success in planting.

More to come later...

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headed to Redeemer's Church Planting Center this week Monday, June 02, 2008 |

This Wednesday Kevin and I leave for NY to visit with the staff of the Church Planting Center at Redeemer Presbyterian Church. They are #1 on the list of Top 25 Multiplying Churches in the United States. We really want to learn from what they are doing to multiply churches, specifically as we look to build a church planting center ourselves, as well as pilot a church planting residency this Fall. Terry Gyger and Mark Reynolds have graciously offered to give us the opportunity to sit down with them and mine the gold of their experiences and expertise in church planting. I'm sure that I'll be blogging about all that we soak up from them this week.

And I got my copies of the Redeemer Church Planting Manuals - the Church Planter Manual and Coaching Urban Church Planters (right). Just in time!


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