Social Networking and Churches

Nearly two years ago I tweeted about three sites which sought to connect people in order to meet needs: worldwideopen.org, roov.com, thecommon.org.  All seemed to be quite similar in filling such a niche.

I had the same feeling when I heard of tableproject.org today.  It reminds me of mychurch.org, onthecity.org, beonebody.com, and some aspects of churchcommunitybuilder.com and other ChMSes.

No doubt there are differences between those listed above, but it will be interesting to watch how churches respond to all of these choices.

[update: related post on some of the above and another]

Missional in praxis; traditional in thought.

I’ve heard the missional church described as:

  • smaller scale
  • reproducible
  • inexpensive
  • led by / with the people

(no doubt there is much more the to the missional church paradigm, but I think many would at least agree with the above four characteristics)

I resonate with those.

I’m not a big fan of large scale and expensive glitz and glamor in ministry (at least glitz and glamor as defined in a suburban American context; simply having a projector would be seen as glitz and glamor by much of the developing world).

Too often glitz and glamor distracts from the Gospel message; when the glitz and glamor is gone (or not glamorous enough), all too often the new Christian is often gone.

However, some of the missional stuff is so anti-institution and even anti-church.

I don’t resonate with that.  Yes, the current church is blemished and we need be carefully reevaluating all areas, but it just seems that the baby is thrown out with the bath water.

Hence, as of now, I’m missional in praxis, but traditional in thought.

Social Justice and Us

The thrust of Dangerous Worship by Mark Labberton is that one’s vertical worship of God cannot be divorced from the horizontal love of one’s neighbor.  Although this is nothing new (cf. Isa 1:10-17, Jesus’ indictment of the Pharisees in Matthew 23:23-24, and the Greatest Commandment in Luke 10:27 (which, not coincidentally, is followed by the story of the Good Samaritan)), I was convicted that we, as a community, need to be more intentionally and strategically involved in alleviating poverty.  Hence I was particularly thankful for the following resources which came across my radar:

  • When Helping Hurts – “The book provides foundational concepts and clear principles for helping the poor without hurting them. It then presents proven interventions and relevant applications for churches to use when ministering to the poor both at home and abroad, including advice about short-term missions programs.”  We are planning on doing a one-session book club to discuss this book.  Hopefully this will get some creative juices flowing for how we can get involved.
  • Seek Social Justice – From the makers of the excellent Modern Parables (which we used before) comes this 6-session small group study. We really enjoyed Modern Parables, and this looks to be excellent! In addition, it is FREE and available as a digital download (starting in December 2009)! The trailer is below.

Is it wrong to use video / music / drama illustrations in preaching?

The title says it all: “Is it wrong to use video or music or drama as an illustration in preaching?”

Some would answer affirmatively and argue that using video, music, or drama implicitly declares that the Scriptures alone are insufficient (hence the need to use these so-called “bells and whistles”).  They argue that it teaches and trains people to crave and depend on these other means (rather than the Scriptures alone) for edification.  Further, more often than not, people only remember the illustration and not the point of the illustration!  In this sense, such use is neither theologically, pastorally, or homiletically wise.  [more thoughts here]

Others suggest that Jesus’ own use of the parables is a defense of such modern storytelling.  Further, they argue, done properly, such means can be used to appropriately drive home the point of the Scripture in a honoring and edifying manner.

What do you think and why?

[Aug 2009 update: John Piper and churchmarketingsucks.com weigh in]

Preaching Christ in the Old Testament

One of the most burning questions I have right now is this: How (if at all) ought one to preach Christ from the Old Testament?

Context

As I’ve mentioned before, in 2002 I read Bryan Chapell’s Christ-Centered Preaching and it transformed my preaching.  Suddenly it was clear that all the Scriptures were to relate to and point to Christ.  However, if I’m understanding my Old Testament profs correctly, we must treat the Old Testament texts as they stand and not infuse Christ where He is not. 

I agree that we mustn’t pull allegorical gymnastics and find Christ’s blood, for example, in the scarlet thread of Rahab.  But ought we not nonetheless point to Christ in all of our preaching–including Old Testament preaching?  What then makes our preaching distinctively Christian?

These questions have ben piqued as I’ve been enjoying the lectures by John Woodhouse on OT narrative preaching.

FWIW, my current stance on Old Testament texts that do not type Christ is to deal with the text in its literary and historical context (which doesn’t relate directly to Christ) and then shape the application/significance in distinctly Christian terms (perhaps as the secondary meaning of the text). 

This is still a work in progress of course. 🙂

Google Spreadsheets vs. Wufoo vs. EventBrite

We have a number of retreats each year which require attendees to register and pay.  Back in the day forms and checks were the way to go.  However, recently I’ve been exploring online registration and payment.

Here are my thoughts on three services I’ve explored.

Google Spreadsheet is a great way to collect information; I only wish it could send an email confirmation once the form is completed as well as easily redirect to Google Checkout for online payment.

Wufoo can do all of that at their entry-level plan ($10/month); if one upgrades to the second-tier plan ($25/month), one can make it even slicker as payment is integrated directly into Wufoo (however, there is no way to registrants to pay by check).

EventBrite is slickest of all with a complete event site (complete with calendar and map integration) and timed tickets (for example, and early bird tickets which is only available until 10 days before the event).  In addition, because everything is integrated, it keeps track of how much everyone has paid.  IOW, all of their information is kept together.  However, EventBrite would be the most costly of the three surveyed here.

In sum, here are my requirements and wants:

Requirements

  • Gather custom information from registrant
  • Allow registrant to pay by credit card (via Google Checkout) or check (offline)

Wants

  • Timed tickets which expire (e.g. – “early bird”)
  • Email confirmation sent to registrant
  • Graphs of data (like grade or payment vehicle)
  • Free or inexpensive

On that last note, if we have ~50 people, here is the cost breakdown (per person) of the registration system (not counting Google fees):

  • Google Spreadsheet and Checkout: $0.00
  • Wufoo entry-level: $0.40
  • EventBrite: ~$2.50

Currently, I’m thinking of staying with the Google Spreadsheet and Checkout route, but we’ve used Wufoo in the past with good success.

5/29/2012 Update: We’re now using Smart Events for our retreats. Made especially for these types of gatherings.