All posts tagged: church

This past weekend at Rancho Community, we had a guest missionary, Johnny Li, from China share with us. It was a moving time, hearing his heart and how he experiences “mission”. He talked about how “western” missionaries are viewed as the “father” to the Chinese church. And now the “child” is growing up and reaching out other asian countries and into the Middle East.

A couple things he talked about really stuck out. The first was the simpleness of a hug. This was not their culture, but something they embraced through the church, and have now brought with them to their mission field. It is one of their distinctives, they hug. And it’s that human connection, that touch that really sets them apart from other people – they hug.

The other even more powerful thought that he talked about was the idea of the Muslim Jihad (feels weird to even type that). What he said was very simple, “If they are willing to die violently and give their lives so willingly for the wrong beliefs, what are we (as Christians) willing to do for the right beliefs?” Then he continued to speak about going to the lowest, poorest, outcasts, slums, etc. and bringing the light and love of Christ.

A “violent” love is the way he explained it. With a belief that Christ’s love is greater than anything, we are compelled to go, to help others go, to serve, to love, to reach, to lift up… to give the least and the lowest, dignity; to hug them and remind them that they are important, valued and loved by God.

It was a refreshing challenge. That’s all.

Learn more about Johnny Li’s ministry at his website.

Screen shot 2011-09-12 at 10.56.35 PM

Church is made up of imperfect people. If you believe the Gospel, then you realize that those imperfections are covered by God’s grace. That’s the core message of the Bible, and of the church.

At Church (and by “Church” I mean the evangelical, Christian, American Church), we say things like:

  • “We are a family”
  • “Come just as you are”
  • “We are a place of forgiveness”
  • “We are transparent”
  • “We are authentic”

And the list goes on…

What happens when we fail to live up to the calling of Christ? What happens when we don’t measure up to the standards we’ve set for one another? Not just leaders… all of us?

My experience has shown me that when this happens, all that talk about family, grace, forgiveness, transparency, and authenticity suddenly seems empty. The place that is supposed to be the safest, most supporting, most loving, most forgiving, suddenly becomes a place to be avoided.

How can this be? How come when we need help the most we run from it? And how can the place that is supposed to help, commanded to help, how can it suddenly, and sometimes viciously turn on it’s own?

No easy answers here, just a lot of incongruence.

This is the series art for Rancho Community Church’s Fall 2011 series, “4D: Seeing the Bigger Picture”. Here’s the story.

We read the book, “The Big Idea”, as a staff a few months ago. Unfortunately, we never finished it – we just felt is wasn’t quite a good fit for our church. What we did take away from it was the general idea that our whole church could embrace a teaching series and teach through it together. So we decided to do that with our fall series.

4D: Seeing the Bigger Picture came from a big brainstorm meeting with our teaching pastors, worship leaders, and creative types. The series will focus on Christian worldview, it’s also our lead into church membership. The basic idea is that there are truths from the Bible that show us the ‘bigger picture’ – things like: how God sees us, how we see God, how we see others, how we see church, how we see history, and how we see eternity. It’s a great series to teach basics about Christianity and the Gospel. And lastly, these verses from Ephesians kind of wrap it up:

 14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family[a] in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Just as a little history context – I’ve been at Rancho for about three years, and I started doing series graphics from the get go. Since then we’ve started getting into a rhythm of series art for promotion, utilizing the arts more and more, and being creative in our presentation. This series features (hopefully):

  • Screen graphics (for both campuses, and for our Murrieta Campus the screen is actually the stage backdrop)
  • Invite cards
  • Bulletin shells
  • Rancho Kidz take home sheets
I also am always trying to use the creative talent that is in our church (I KNOW you’re out there!). This time I asked a buddy who goes to Rancho and is a graphic designer if he would be interested in helping. Jason DeArmond (follow him on Twitter here) took some white board drawings and a lot of descriptive emails and created the conceptual art – he did a fantastic job! All I had to do was put some skin on the art and we were good to go. I love being able to collaborate with artists and see God using the gifts and talents of people in the church.
A follow up post on this will show what we did with the stage. I’m excited about that.

creative1

I’ve been thinking a lot about “creativity” lately. It’s in my blood. It’s who I am. I mean, I’m not way out there (I don’t think), but I do love new ideas, solving problems, dreaming of how things should and could be better.

The Church has a little bit of a sordid history with creativity. At some points in history, the Church has embraced creatives, artists, thinkers, and dreamers. At other times it has burned, tortured, hung, and crushed the same people.

Here’s what I think, for what it’s worth:

Creativity is what keeps a church moving forward. Without creativity, things are done the same way for years on end. Churches become museums and the only “art” on display tells stories of years-gone-by rather than dreams of the future. The world is constantly changing, cultures are changing, new problems arise, new paradigms are born and we need to have answers and solutions in real-time.

What kills creativity at churches?

  • Fear of the unknown: Creative endeavors often have unknown outcomes. What will that song sound like? What will that art look like? There must be a great deal of trust built between the creative and the leader or leadership.
  • Fear of failure: Will people like it? Will the artist pull it off? Will we offend people? Will it even work? But we’ve all heard the quote, “If you’re not failing, you’re not trying anything new”.
  • Fear of change: Ah yes, change. For most people in my demographic change is just how life is experienced. Things change all the time and change faster as time goes on. Just consider the last 100 years: cars, computers, phones, travel. Successful organizations have figured out how to embrace change and use it to their advantage. The church, well some do, some don’t. Those who don’t end up dying slow and painful deaths.
  • Fear of emotion: This one’s tough. Men don’t cry. Passion is overused. Emotional decisions never last. It’s easy to stir people up. Blah, blah, blah. We are just as much emotional as we are physical as we are spiritual. Ignoring emotion, quenching passion will result in a culture that is heady, out of touch with reality, and unfeeling. Passion is what sells the dream.

I loved this quote from a comment on Vicky Beeching’s blog:

There was a time when the Church was known for artistic innovation. At a time when the music industry is imploding, a great opportunity exists for the Church to reclaim her historical place in supporting the arts…

Now for those who know me, I’m not lobbying for more drama’s on our church stages, or body painting during worship, or worship flags. That’s not the point. The point is, creativity is what solves problems in ways that move things forward. Creative thinking, dreaming, collaboration – these are like connectors between what is and what should and could be. And it’s not the Bible’s fault, or even the idea of the Church (the Gospel). The Gospel is transcendent, applicable to all cultures and all generations. But it’s our charge to live it out and present it in a powerful and convincing way to each generation, whether thru words, deeds, tweets, songs, art, etc.

I know, I’m not saying anything new. Or maybe I am. Either way, dream more…

(commenting doesn’t seem too popular anymore, but if you did comment, I’d love to hear how your church does or doesn’t embrace creative endeavors?)

shift

Imagine a car where you’re stepping on the gas but going nowhere. What’s missing? If the engine is running but the transmission is not engaged, you’re not going anywhere…

I had an epiphany the other day as a few emails hit my inbox. They were from members of our Worship Arts Team, which I lead at Rancho Community Church. One email had some ideas for stage design, another had examples of another church’s volunteer training, another was one of our worship leaders looking out a few weeks with suggestions, another one contained info on an online worship training webinar, another was one of our leaders sending her plans for assimilating new team members.

The epiphany I had was that as a leader, this kind of engagement is what I long for. I don’t want to give people a list of tasks to accomplish – I could save everyone some time and just do the tasks myself (in most cases). I want people on my team to be engaged. I want them to notice problems and find solutions. I want them to dream about how things could and should be. I want them to look for answers in places that we don’t normally find them. I want them try things, things that could possibly fail.

There’s a few different definitions of the word “engage”, the first:

to take part; participate

And the second:

to undergo or cause to undergo interlocking, as ofthe components of a driving mechanism,
such as a gear train

In order to engage as a team, we must willingly and enthusiastically participate. The result is that we interlock, as one, and move forward. It’s like putting the car in gear, all of the sudden the power of all the engine is transferred thru the transmission to the wheels and suddenly you begin to thrust forward, going places you never thought possible.

I think there’s a lesson here for leaders and teams.

Leaders, what are you doing to get your team to engage? Asking the right questions? Finding out what their passions and gifts are? Giving them opportunities to learn, teach, achieve, and even fail?

And for those being led. What are you doing to engage with your team? Are you just pulling off an event? Checking a box? Or are you passionate about your role? Do you desire to grow, to learn, to teach and train others? Do you dream? Do you give your input, ideas, and feedback?

I’m learning a lot as each week goes by. After realizing how important “engagement” is, I’m going to be working more on fostering that kind of environment on my teams.