thinking out loud

…things that are on my mind, heart, and soul

The Next Christians: An Important But Incomplete Work

Gabe Lyons’ new book, The Next Christians: How a New Generation is Restoring the Faith” is an important, yet incomplete read. Let me begin with the important aspects to his work.

I was encouraged to discover that early in the book, Lyons’ challenges the typical evangelical view of America as a Christian nation. He writes, “our nation’s founders were influenced by Christians ideas, but they were also wise enough to structure America to allow for a pluralistic setting – a place where all faiths could be practiced and no faith would be given the upper hand”(22). And while the Church no longer holds a central place in the marketplace of ideas in our culture (at least among the younger generations), Lyons is hopeful that this is not a time to be discouraged, but instead a season to be encouraged by what God is doing in this new movement of the next Christians.

In chapter three, Lyons shares the fruit of a conversation he had with a Hollywood producer who had called upon Gabe to share his perspective on potential strategies for filmmakers to reach Christians. Lyons categorized believers into two groups based upon their interaction with culture identifying the groups as the Separates (insiders, cultural warriors and evangelizers) and the Culturals (blenders and philanthropers). Lyons goes on to present a third way (reflective of Jim Belcher’s approach in his book, Deep Church) to live out the reality of the Gospel in today’s world and this makes us the bulk of the book. This third way, which is reflective of the next Christians, is defined as the way of restoration. The posture of restoration involves having the full story of the Gospel in our minds and hearts – the story of creation, fall, redemption and restoration. The next Christians embrace this in its fullness.

Lyons identifies six characteristics of the restorers and devotes a chapter to each of these movements: provoked, not offended; creators, not critics; called, not employed; grounded, not distracted; in community, not alone; and countercultural, not relevant. The chapters are filled with inspiring and hopeful stories of people who are living out their faith in real-time as restorers. These stories are one of the highlights of the book.

This is an important read for people seeking to influence our world toward the kingdom realities of Jesus Christ.  Ministry leaders would be wise to gather some key people together and begin to engage in dialogue over Lyons’ premise and perspective. As well, Lyons includes a study guide that connects material from Q Notes with each chapter. This supplemental material is captured from the Q conference that Lyons facilitates and includes video messages from important thinkers (Scot McKnight, Andy Crouch, Ambassador Max Kampelman and others) in the various channels of cultural influence, as well as a number of commissioned essays by people like Tim Keller, Matthew Sleeth and Josh Jackson and Nick Purdy from Paste magazine.

While this is an important read, I also feel it is incomplete. My biggest critique is that Lyons identifies the next wave of Christianity by the individual actions of highly committed and passionate followers of Jesus. While I applaud their faithful efforts, as I read their stories I keep asking myself, “where is the Church?” The only substantive illustration of the next Christians that involves the church is Lyons’ discussion of what God is doing through the church in the city of Portland. In the last chapter, “The Next Big Shift,” Lyons also makes a minor reference to the church-planting movement that has swept the next Christians, but overall I keep coming back to the question, “what kinds of churches will help shape and nurture the next Christians?” Perhaps Lyons will have more to say about this in the future. Or even better, perhaps we need to engage in this conversation and create the kinds of churches that will model the third way of restoration.

Stay connected…

BTW: I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Filed under: books, leadership, Q, reviews

12.12.20 Worship Confessional

This morning was the third Sunday of Advent and our theme was active anticipation. Our Director of Spiritual Formation, Marlaena Cochran taught from Romans 8:15-25 and she talked about three ways in which we wait during this season of Advent:  we wait as parents who are pregnant, we wait as children and we wait for the glory that will be revealed.

One of the lectionary readings this week was a personal favorite –  Zephaniah 3:14-16. Many people equate worship with singing songs to God. However, this text in a sense turns the tables on us. The prophet speak not of our winging to God, but the Father singing over us:

“Sing, Daughter Zion; shout aloud, Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, Daughter Jerusalem! The LORD has taken away your punishment, he has turned back your enemy. The LORD, the King of Israel, is with you; never again will you fear any harm.On that day they will say to Jerusalem, “Do not fear, Zion; do not let your hands hang limp. The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”

After a time of listening and quiet prayer, we sang together a beautiful song by Matt Maher and Jason Ingram based upon this text. The chorus declares:

Out of the depths you cry “Come and be satisfied?”
Father you sing, Father, you sing over Your children.
Let us see through Your eye, we are Your great delight
Father you sing, Father, you sing over Your children.

If you are not familiar with this song, I would encourage you to give it a listen and think about including it in an upcoming worship gathering.

One of the other dynamics of our worship this weekend was the inclusion of a number of students in our music team.  We had a high school student playing keys and three college students as well (on drums, acoustic guitar and vocals). Korey, Natalie, Vince and Caleb all willingly offered their musical gifts to God and our community of faith. I love to serve together with the next generation of worship leaders and am grateful for the heart and passion they bring to the ministry.

Our music set included:

  • All Bow Down (Tomlin)
  • Glory to God Forever (Fee)
  • Jesus Messiah (Tomlin)
  • Sing Over Your Children (Maher)
  • Come Thou Long Expected Jesus (Daniel Renstrom arrangement)

Learn what other worshiping communities experienced this weekend at The Worship Community.

Filed under: advent, hope, sunday setlists, worship gatherings

The Present Future

I love the Church and believe it is God’s chosen vehicle to carry the good news of Jesus Christ (see Ephesians 3:10). My life’s call has been to help the Church become everything God intended, created, redeemed and gifted her to be.

Over the past seven years it has been one of my greatest joys to provide leadership to a community of faith that describes its mission as helping people connect with God, one another and our world. And even more important than the words we speak are the actions we take.  Day in and day out our community demonstrates a faithfulness (not a perfectness) to being this sort of presence in the world.

During this Advent season I have been using the Mosaic Bible as a devotional and these words about the “present/future” dynamic from Brad Harper greatly encouraged me and renewed me in my call to do whatever I can to serve the Church and help her live as deeply as possible into her purpose:

“The future is about a community in which barriers that separate people from God, one another and creation are no more. Every broken relationship, every wounded heart, every chronic pain of body and soul will be healed. In the church, this community of the future has already been inaugurated by Jesus Christ. As God’s eschatological community, we hope for ultimate redemption in the future. But in the present, we must break down the barriers and bear each others brokenness. Through this here-and now experience, Christ’s bride, the Church begins to take on the beauty that will be hers when he comes to claim her as is own.”

Stay connected…

Filed under: advent, hope

12.5.10 Worship Confessional

Today was the second Sunday of Advent and our focus for the morning was hope. The words of the prophet Isaiah provided the shape for our gathering:

“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins.  A voice of one calling: “In the wilderness prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all people will see it together. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” (Isaiah 40:1-6)

During my message I shared Doug Pagitt’s description of the significant role that hope plays in our faith: “Christianity has always been the hope of God through Jesus played out in the lives of real people living in real circumstances.” To illustrate this reality, two members of our community, Brandon and Heidi, shared the signs of hope they witnessed during their recent mission trip. Brandon and Heidi served as team leaders for 14 students from Waynesburg University and they served about 80 children in the Nutritional Center and Home for Children in Patzun, Guatemala. You can read some of Brandon’s reflections in his Friday column in the Herald Standard.

What signs of hope do you see during this Advent season? How does hope inform the practice of your faith?

Our music set included the following songs:

  • All Down Down (Chris Tomlin)
  • Salvation is Here (Hillsong)
  • This is How We Know (Matt Redman)
  • O Come O Come Emmanuel ( Traditional)
  • Comfort Ye (Daniel Renstrom)
  • This is Our God (Chris Tomlin)

Learn what other communities of faith experienced today in worship at The Worship Community.

Stay connected…

Filed under: advent, hope, sunday setlists, worship gatherings

11.28.10 Worship Confessional

Happy Liturgical New Year!

Today was the first Sunday of the season of Advent which marks the beginning of the liturgical calendar in the Christian Church.

This year we are using an Advent resource that comes from the Mosaic Holy Bible. This is a beautiful and well crafted biblical and devotional resource, arranged in such a way that each week presents a variety of content for reading and reflection. Each week follows a theme appropriate to the Church season and the content includes full-color art, Scripture reading, a historical reading, a contemporary reading, a prayer, creed, hymn or quote; and space for reflection.

Our focus this morning was on longing and we leveraged these words from John Paul II (taken from the Mosaic Advent Devotional):

Advent…helps us to understand fully the value and meaning of the mystery of Christmas. It is not just about commemorating the historical event, which occurred some 2,000 years ago in a little village of Judea. Instead, it is necessary to understand that the whole of our life must be an ‘advent,’ a vigilant awaiting of the final coming of Christ. To predispose our mind to welcome the Lord who, as we say in the Creed, one day will come to judge the living and the dead, we must learn to recognize him as present in the events of daily life. Therefore, Advent is, so to speak, an intense training that directs us decisively toward him who already came, who will come, and who comes continuously.”

Have you ever thought of the weeks of Advent as an intense training season? I would love to hear how your faith community engages the four weeks of preparation before Christmas. Do you celebrate the season of Advent. If so, how?

This morning we introduced a new song by Chris Tomlin entitled, “All to Us.” This song worked really well coming out of the message, leading us into the celebration of the Sacrament of Communion. It has a hymn-like richness and quality to it and presents some beautiful images of Christ. I love the chorus which declares:

Let the glory of your name be the passion of the Church
Let the righteousness of God be a holy flame that burns
Let the saving love of Christ be the measure of our lives
We believe you’re all to us.

You can listen to Chris tell the backstory of this song at the New Song Cafe from Worship Together.

Our music set this morning included:

  • Shout of the King (Matt Maher)
  • As It is in Heaven (Matt Maher)
  • Forever Reign (Hillsong and One Sonic Society)
  • Call to Worship (Matt Redman)
  • All to Us (Chris Tomlin)

Learn what other communities of faith experienced today in worship at The Worship Community.

Stay connected…

Filed under: advent, leadership, sunday setlists, worship gatherings

Change the Story – Join the Conspiracy

It’s Black Friday and in preparation for Christmas, Americans are spending by the billions today. Is it possible to change the story of consumerism? Is it possible that Christmas can still change the world?

I believe it is possible. And that’s why this year our community of faith will once again be joining with numerous other churches by participating in the Advent Conspiracy. This movement is based upon four critical turns in the Christmas story:

  • Worship Fully
  • Spend Less
  • Give More
  • Love All

During the Advent season, members of our community of faith will make over and above gifts to our Advent Conspiracy fund. Ever dollar received will be used to support three special mission initiatives:

Shepherd’s Heart Church: We will be helping our sisters and brothers serve the homeless population of Pittsburgh. Shepherd’s Heart operates a drop-in center in the mornings which offers coffee, some breakfast and a place to rest. The drop-in center needs a a space where they would store the paper products and food supplies used.  Our gifts will help to construct this space.

Gulf Coast Team: In March, 25 members of our community will travel to the Gulf Coast region to partner with Habitat for Humanity in the Bay/Waveland area of Mississippi  to continue the work of rebuilding following Hurricane Katerina. This will be our sixth visit to the region and we are committed to partnering with people on the ground to restore dignity and the quality of life for residents of the Gulf Coast region.

Hamlin College for Midwives (Addis Ababa, Ethiopia): The mission of the college is to train, equip, deploy and support highly skilled, trustworthy and accountable midwives, who are willing to serve women and families of rural Ethiopia. Pregnant women and their unborn children our at great risk and the women trained at the college will be trained to be instruments of change in Ethiopia.

Today (and every day) you can begin to change the story. Be a part of the conspiracy. And believe and act in such a way that the story of Christmas once again changes our world.

Stay connected…

Filed under: advent, global poverty, gulf coast

11.21.10 Worship Confessional

It was great to gather with the people of God this morning for worship. Today was the last Sunday of the liturgical year as we celebrated Christ the King Sunday. Established, in 1925, between the two Great Wars  — in the face of growing nationalism and secularism — Christ the King Sunday was created to proclaim the headship and rule of Jesus over every human institution, political entity, and economic and cultural ethos. As a call to worship, we used a powerful video from The Work of the People entitled The Reign of Christ. If you are not familiar with their visual liturgy I would encourage you to check out their resources. As well, I shared a message from Colossians 1:10-20 and Luke 23:33-43 and included the oft-quoted words from Abraham Kuyper: “there is not one square inch of the entire creation about which Jesus Christ does not cry out, ‘this is mine! this belongs to me!’

This morning my brother Rob led our music team. It has been a true blessing to partner with him. He is a talented guitar player and it has been a joy to see the growth in him not only as a musician, but more importantly as a follower and worshiper of Jesus Christ. I have been working with our music leaders on “leading worship in-between songs” and Rob practiced that this morning as he told a moving story on how he has seen his own daughter’s heart expand with love for her newborn daughter. As we reflect upon the love that God has for us and the great extent God went to demonstrate that love, may our hearts be expanded as well.

The worship set he put together and led included:

  • Shine Like the Son (Matt Maher)
  • Forever Reign (Hillsong and One Sonic Society)
  • Jesus Saves (Tim Hughes)
  • This is How We Know (Matt Redman)
  • Center (Charlie Hall)

It’s hard to believe that next Sunday we began the season of Advent. I’d love to hear what kind of plans you have for Advent.

Learn what other communities experienced in worship this weekend at The Worship Community.

Stay connected..

Filed under: leadership, sunday setlists, worship gatherings

11.14.10 Worship Confessional

This morning was the last Sunday in the season of Pentecost which means that next Sunday is the last Sunday of the liturgical year.  Over a year ago, I was convicted by God and challenged to preach and teach through the lectionary. For those of you unfamiliar with this term, the Revised Common Lectionary is a series of readings from the Bible for use in Christian worship, making provision for the liturgical year with its pattern of observances of festivals and seasons. Each Sunday there are four readings – two from the Old Testament and two from the New Testament – and we have been using these readings to help shape our worship gatherings (musically, prayerfully and teaching-wise).

We have tracked through the seasons of Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost and I have found this to be a deeply enriching experiment. As well, a number of people commented this morning how their own faith journey has been enriched by our participation in this liturgical practice.

I would love to get your input on the following questions:

  • How familiar are you with the seasons of the Christian year?
  • Has your church ever experimented with the lectionary?
  • How might your people respond to a liturgical experiment?
  • In what ways do you try to connect your worship with the worship practice of the historical and global church?

Musically, our worship set this morning included the following:

  • Came to My Rescue (Hillsong)
  • Salvation Is Here (Hillsong)
  • Scripture Reading from Psalm 98
  • The Earth is Yours (Gungor)
  • Forever Reign (Hillsong/One Sonic Society)
  • Yahweh (Hillsong)

Learn what other communities of faith experienced in worship this weekend at The Worship Community.

Stay connected…

Filed under: leadership, worship gatherings

11.7.10 Worship Confessional

Today was the second time where we featured the music of one particular worship artist.  This morning all the songs we used in our gathering came from the movement known as Hillsong. I have been a pretty big fan of Hillsong ever since the first time I heard “Shout to the Lord” at a leadership conference at Willow Creek Church back in the 1990’s.

Hillsong has a passion for worship and helping others experience the presence and reality of God through music and the arts. One of the things I love most about Hillsong is that fresh expressions of the movement continually emerge. From a church in Sidney, Australia called Hillsong we have seen Hillsong United arise as well as Hillsong London. Last month at the David Crowder Fantastical Music Conference, I had the opportunity to experience worship with Hillsong London. It was perhaps the most intense, emotive, energizing, loud and passionate musical expressions of worship I have ever experienced.

Most churches I know cannot (and I might add should not try to) replicate the Hillsong sound. It is simply too big, too polished, too presentational in nature. However, I am really energized by the latest Hillsong project which is called Hillsong Chapel. Here is how they describe the project:

“Hillsong Chapel is an intimate and devotional collection of Hillsong songs by the Hillsong Live team. Recorded live in the Hillsong Chapel in March 2010, “Yahweh” is the first installment in this organic contemplative expression of praise and worship. Comprised of 13 congregational songs carefully rearranged to be more intimate, this project is perfect for smaller gatherings and will help resource smaller congregations with the favourites from Hillsong Live and Hillsong United.  It is also ideal for your own personal devotional and meditative times of worship.”

This morning we had a large group from our community of faith serving low income homeowners throughout the city in partnership with The Pittsburgh Project. And it was the perfect opportunity for us to scale back our music and try out the “Hillsong Chapel” sound and feel. We used two acoustic guitars, one electric, bass and a percussionist playing congas and a canjon (if you are not familar with the instrument – run quickly and find one: they are awesome). It was a lot of fun to scale back these songs and to discover afresh the beauty, depth and power.

Our Hillsong worship set included the following:

  • Came to My Rescue (bridge only)
  • Salvation is Here
  • Forever Reign
  • Mighty to Save
  • Yahweh
  • Stronger

I would love to hear about your worship gathering today and encourage you to earn what other communities of faith experienced in worship at The Worship Community.

Stay connected…

Filed under: leadership, worship gatherings

10.31.10 Worship Confessional

This morning we celebrated Reformation Sunday. On October 31, 1517 a young priest of the church by the name of Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenburg, Germany and changed the trajectory of the Church.

I shared a message from the book of Habakkuk, “Living by Faith.” I found that the words found in Habakkuk 2:4, “the righteous will live by faith,” are a perfect text for Reformation Sunday.

Our music set included:

  • Hosanna (Baloche and Brown)
  • Because of Your Love (Baloche and Brown)
  • The Earth is Yours (Gungor)
  • Forever Reign (Jason Ingram and Reuben Morgan)
  • Let Our Faith Be Not Alone (Robbie Seay Band)

Forever Reign is a newer song written by Jason Ingram and Reuben Morgan. It has been recorded by One Sonic Society and Hillsong and you can learn more about this powerful song at Worship Together, New Song Cafe.

Stay connected…

Filed under: leadership, worship gatherings

about me

my name is terry and i've been married to a great woman, patty for 29 years and we have four children, (ranging from 17-25) and an awesome grandson. i serve as lead pastor of christ community church of the south hills in pittsburgh, pa (lets go pens!). i am currently working on a book on worship with a working title of "a movable feast: a liturgy for our everyday, ordinary lives."

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