Friday, September 24, 2010

Book Review: 'The Present Future: Six Tough Questions for the Church' by Reggie McNeal for the Church


As a young pastor of several years, I am not surprised when people come up to me and say, “We should have more of....” Maybe it is hymns, or quieter music, or spiritual formation, or discipleship, or being more missional. And I humbly admit that I also have my own biases or should we say my own passions that come from my own unique journey.


That is all to say, this book by Reggie McNeal resonates with my passion for people with a missional faith. That we should be more missional. To survive as a church in this modern western world, we need a huge paradigm shift of being missional. “Missional” is the buzz word today for outreach, evangelism, holistic gospel, and more. So it’s broad meaning can get lost in its overuse. I would define it as the incarnational reality of Christ naturally lived out to others, especially those far from God. Or more simply, Christ in us loving others far from God. If there is any word that I might add to it, it might be “intentional.” And that is what I believe McNeal’s bullhorn call is, an intentional missional living.

A Wake Up call:

I would have to agree with McNeal’s urgent cry for the church to wake up. Times have changed and we are losing our relevant engagement with the culture. As McNeal says the church “has largely forsaken its missional covenant with God to be a part of kingdom expansion. It has, instead, substituted its own charter of church as a clubhouse where religious people hang out with other people who think, dress, behave, vote, and believe like them.” McNeal points out that only 26% of Americans go to church. Being from Denver-Metro area, I would guess that the figure is around 15-25%. Pretty dismal when you think about it and even more depressing considering that the rate lowers drastically for the younger generations. The reality is that as McNeal says, “Church leaders seem unable to grasp this simple implication of the new world - people outside the church think church is for church people, not for them.”


Strengths:

  • Not a how-to book. Personally, I think that church-model or church growth strategies (how-to philosophies) can be blasphemous. We reduce God and his blessing to a formula. If you just do A,B, and C then God will bless you. I do think strategies can be helpful but they need to be God given, Spirit inspired, and locally relevant - and common sense helps too.
  • I believe that the ‘Church should not be a clubhouse’ mentality is helpful. When we make decisions towards services, ministries, events, how much do we think of those outside the church.
  • McNeal observes an interesting contrast between the Pharisees evangelism strategy and Jesus strategy. The Pharisees would say, “Come and get it” and be like us. They would withdraw from people in attempt to not be contaminated. While Jesus strategy was “Go get ‘em” and was known as welcoming sinners and eating with them. Sadly, our churches act more like the people that Jesus despised.
  • A couple ideas for missional living. 1) Don’t build buildings for yourself but partner with the community in something the community can use as well. Partner with a YMCA or rent out an existing space. 2) Adopt a school: help with literacy classes, mentor and tutor students. 3) Get out there: instead of meeting as a small group or class in the church, meet in a restaurant or coffee shop. You never know what God could do.
  • This missional paradigm shift takes changing the score card. The success of the church is not wrapped in buildings, budgets, and butts, but celebrating people being sent our or out-reaches within the community.
  • McNeal has some great thoughts about life coaching towards spiritual formation. He says, “Instead of dumping a packet of church club member stuff on them, why not interview them about what they would like to see happen in their lives in terms of their spiritual development and personal growth.” He has a great analogy of walking into a YMCA and being intimidated by all those contraptions of torture to having someone walk alongside him and dialoguing about how to live a healthy life...and even use those machines to what spiritual coaching could look like.
  • In speaking about vision and values, McNeal says, “It is critical that heroes be made of the right people and the right ministries that embody the vision and values of the congregation.”


Weaknesses:

  • If there is any weakness that I see in this book, it might be the consulting feel closer to the end of the book. The book does an excellent job of not reducing God to “to do list” or a “sure-win formula.” McNeal talks about changing the scorecard which I believe at a philosophical level is essential but as he starts to focus on missional results, it has a modernistic feel to it. I think it is great to aim towards God transforming results but ultimately I need to leave it in God’s hands.


Quotes:


“Missionless religion that calls itself Christianity is an affront to God, however it styles itself.”

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Aiden Lucas Long

Aiden Lucas Long arrived on Sept. 8th, 2010, at 3:10 pm, 5 lbs. 13 oz. 19 in. Baby and mom are doing fine and resting...until he poops or feeds which feels like very hour. He is adorably sweet and a great addition to the Long family. McKye says, "Ohh, baby, ohh, baby."

This was a rough pregnancy for Angie (2nd rough pregnancy and last) that ended with mild pre-eclampsia. We praise God that things did not escalate as fast allowing the baby and Angie to last to 37 weeks.

Aiden enters the world:

We are trying to warm up his armpits...you will have to ask the nurses:

Aiden meets his parents:


A cute pic:
Aiden meets his brother McKye:


Monday, August 30, 2010

McKye Talking

Now, just let us know what he is saying...

video

Thursday, August 5, 2010

I got published

An ad in the newspaper is not really being published but I felt pretty cocky for a couple minutes seeing that what I wrote up about Lookout Mountain Community Church was in the Saturday edition of the Denver Post.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Baptizing in the Caribbean

Not exactly your typical setting for a baptism - turquoise waters, the gentle breeze dancing with the warmth of the sun, Dominicans playing along the beach and the scattering of Speedo-clad European tourist wondering about this circle of Dominicans and Americans in the water.

What a joy to be a part of a baptism service with Pastor Janel and his ministry to the Youth of La Victoria. Eight kids, ranging from five years-old to eighteen, were baptized. Many of these kids come from challenging environments and now they have found a community where they are accepted, loved, shown the gospel, and encouraged to live it out.

As I stood in this circle hearing the words of Pastor Janel and looking up a the clouds in the sky, I imagined God and the majestic hosts in heaven looking down dancing with joy because the lost have been found.

In Luke 15, there are three stories in a row that Jesus gives about the lost. The lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost sons (we often call this the Prodigal Son). It is striking that in each of these stories, after finding what was lost, there is rejoicing and celebration. It is extravagant, bewildering, and shocking. It is a reflection of God's economy, He gives all for the lost. That is the depth of His heart for just on person.

Why?

Because He loves them and because He desires that they would be a part of the celebration that is intrinsically a part of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They are a divine circle, a dance of life looking down at this broken circle, in the middle of the Caribbean, declaring a need for God and His dance of life.

DR: June 26th - July 3rd Pics



Beach Day
The Caribbean, the best setting ever to preach
Check out the shadows. I think Sammy got a little more air than me.
Keko and Marnie at the Beach
Party at the Community Center
Praying for Pastor Janel (a great man with a David's heart)
Working on the drama at Biemba's for the campo
The girls did a great choreographed dance for us.
Worship dance time in the campo (poorer outskirts of La Victoria).

On Wednesday, Gregg took Jim and myself
up to the mountains to check out a couple waterfalls.

Absolutely refreshing from the sweltering heat. Just imagine waking up three in the morning because the power went off and you have a ring of sweat around your neck on your t-shirt.

Dominican Republic Trip - June 26- July 3rd


(Left to Right: Pastor Janel, Jim Maynard, Adam Long, Damion Johnston, Barb Dokter, Mercy Tucker, Gregg Tucker, and Pastor Bello)

We arrived in the Dominican Republic on June 26th after a thankfully uneventful trip...and with all our luggage. Barb Dokter and Jim Maynard and I flew down together while Damion and Judah Johnston would be joining us the following day. We met up with Gregg & Mercy Tucker with their two kids, Taryn and James who are down in the D.R. for a month this summer.


(From a blog sent two days into the trip)

Jim Maynard, Damion and Judah Johnston, and myself are staying with Tito, a good Dominican friend we have known for years.

On Sunday morning, we headed off to a town close to Santa Dominica to a recently built church that the youth of La Victoria are reaching out to. Pastor Janel joined them to serve the community.

So... here came a bunch of kids on a bus to love the kids of this community! They were also praying about the possibility of trying to create a community center in that area.

We were in the top room praying together with open hands with what God wanted to do. We asked that it would not be our idea but God's.

And then it hit me.




What they were doing -- coming to God in openess -- is what we from Lookoutare doing by coming down here. We want to come with open hands, listening to how God wants us to connect with them. Much like life in Christ, we need to walk with open hands asking God where he is working.

Sweating for Jesus,

Adam Long