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Thursday, May 05, 2005

05/05/05. Cinco de Mayo. Day after my youngest daughter's (Kasidy) 6th birthday. Haven't blogged since Uno de Mayo. Lots on my mind.

Here are some random thoughts that have been piling up this week . . .

Finished reading "The Present Future: Six Tough Questions for the Church" by Reggie McNeal. Dang! Everyone in "professional church ministry" needs to read this book. Everyone who is thinking about "church work" as a vocation needs to read this book. Everyone who is frustrated with the current state of the church and can't explain why needs to read this book. Everyone who resonates with the eloquent words of U2--"You've got to get yourself together. You've got stuck in a moment and now you can't get out of it. Don't say that later will be better. Now you're stuck in a moment and you can't get out of it."--needs to read this book.

This is another one of those books that is an emotive read for me. I like some books because they inspire or make me "feel good" about what I'm involved in. I like some books because they challenge me. I like some books because it's just a good story. I like some books because I identify with them. I like some books because they light a fire under my butt. I like this book because of the last reason.

Speaking of U2--since I just mentioned them above-- I am going to see them at the United Center in Chicago on Monday. Day before Bono's birthday. Should be a party! There is a new book out on the life of Bono. "Bono: In Conversation." Just picked it up today. You can order the book from my friend Bridget at www.nomadbookhouse.com

In other news . . .

I read a great article in the Wall Street Journal in the Wednesday, April 27th edition (you can do an online subscription to the WSJ at https://users2.wsj.com/wsjreg/do/loadReg?KEY_EXT_CODE=fvs16) . 40 years ago, St. Peter's Evangelical Lutheran Church in New York created a position with the title of "Pastor to the Jazz Community." Incredible! The man who currently holds the position, the Rev. Dale Lind, is the second pastor to hold the position. The original pastor, Pastor John Ginsel, died in 1998 at the age of 80.

The article states, "In 1964, (the Rev. Lind) had become a full-time assistant pastor at St. Peter's, and three years later, he recalls, 'I had an idea which would better enable me to reach out to young adults during their leisure time and on their own turf. I decided to get a job as a bartender, which was quite unconventional for a so-called man of the cloth.'"

It goes on to say that the Rev. became a nightclub owner in Greenwich Village as part of his ministry effort in NYC and has become known as a "shepherd of the night flock." The jazz community loves this guy! He has been their pastor, friend, marriage counselor, wedding officiator, funeral officiator, and godly influence. He works with the Jazz Foundation of America which helps provide medical care for musicians in need. He runs a Jazz and Church Conference. He says his mission has been to "bring the church to the musicians and thereby the musicians to the church."

There were many things that jumped off the page at me in this article. Rev. Lind calls his ministry a "ministry of presence." It's amazing to me that I haven't heard of this guy until now. Every book I am reading (and probably you too) about being missional and being innovative in in our cultural relevance is hinting at this kind of revolutionary approach to ministry. Where has this guy been?

Here is a great quote from the Rev., "Many people feel they have to be good to go to church, but all they need to go to a bar is the price of a drink." Wow. The Rev. has struck a chord with me. In many cases, there is more community in a bar than our churches.

Pick up a copy of the book "The Shaping of Things to Come by Frost and Hirsch. In the first chapter, they tell "A Tale of Two Pubs." Fascinating story. One church in Australia decided to be "innovative" and "risky" and buy out one of the pubs in town--kind of a cleanup effort. They turned the pub into a conference center and offices. They teetotalers did serve coffee (which sounded like the only attractive thing about the whole deal to me). Problem: they displaced all the regulars from their "local." Guys who used to come in to the bar for good conversation and sit in the same seat day after day suddenly had no place to go. All of the "Norms" (uhh, that's a Cheers reference for those of you who don't know) suddenly saw the church as an enemy. The church messed with the only thing they knew about community.

The second church study was of a church in England that actually ran a pub. They have a Christian Pub Owners Association in England--no joke. The guy who runs the pub sees himself as a very missional leader who believes Jesus never said to "sit in your church and wait for people to come to you." He answers the question that is raised by a church owning a bar (and the question many of you are asking right now) by saying, "Yes, we're selling booze to people who could do without it, but if we don't, they'll just go somewhere else--at least if they're here, we can get alongside them." He goes on to say, "I think the Lord would have been here in the pubs."

Part of me understands the first church's thinking behind their "mission." It is much like the thinking of the past few years where Christians form bands to provide an "alternative" for kids by creating music with "Christian" lyrics. This church's idea of mission was to create a "sanctified religious zone." My question is, "is it working?" Has it ever worked?

By the way, this is not about alcohol. I know both of my stories (The Rev. in NYC and the 2 Pubs) revolved around bars, but I am trying to ask the question about mission. These stories look a lot more like Jesus to me than creating a safe, country club environment, that usually attracts a bunch of Christians. It seems a lot of church growth in the last few years has been fueled by who has the best thing going. If your music rocks, you get a lot of people. If your preaching rocks, you get a lot of people. And usually, they are people from other churches. Not all the time by any means. There are some great churches I know of that are big and missional. I'm not knocking growth. It's just that I think Jesus would rate effectiveness a lot different than we have in the last few years.

To quote my friend Vince, "Last time I checked, I signed up for a revolution."

If you want to talk more about this, give me a call. I'll meet you at the pub and compare notes.

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