Stuff Churches Like: Top 10 List

One of my favorite things to do is watch Christian church culture morph and change. I’m not talking about the core stuff like evangelism, mission or our views on the atonement, but rather the not so important stuff, the stuff we like, until we don’t. Here are some of our current favorites. If your church scores at least 5 of these 10 you can consider yourself #BLESSED.

10. Fair Trade Coffee Coffee Sourced From Indigenous People Groups:

It started in the 80s with Folgers and a styrofoam cup. In the 90’s it was all about the in-church coffee shops like “Holy Grounds”, “HeBrews” and “Jehova Java”. Today we have gone missional with our coffee and are fighting global injustice with every drop.

9.The Episodic Sermon Series:

Who wants to spend 68 weeks in the book of Numbers. Not me. Rather, give me short punchy 6-8 week sermons filled with challenge and invitation. And by the way, keep um under 28 minutes and make sure that I’m the star.

8. Beards and Hair:

You would have to imagine that any man who aspires to be a pastor but cannot grow a full beard or is thinning is definitely questioning his calling at this point in the game.

7. Motion Graphics:

Nothing says “Building Campaign” like rolling out the motion graphics video. We love simple, animation with smooth voice overs to get that ground breaking event kick-started.

 

6. Livestock

No big church holiday event is complete without livestock. Give us our petting zoos and full blown Christmas extravaganzas complete with live elephants. While ceremonial livestock was also true for Isrealites in the time of Moses, it seems that a sacrificial bull might have the children running for the exits and PETA at our door.

5. Smoke And Fog

I recently heard at a church conference that we don’t want to give them church, we want to give them an experience. Unfortunately a few weekends ago a local toddler experienced emotional trauma after not being able to find his parents in the service for 26 minutes.

4. Found Wood Backdrops:

Pretty sure that we are nearing the end of the pallet wood backdrop trend. After 10 years or so of making our cold warehouse churches feel like warm Alpine lodges, it won’t be long until the youth group is burning them down at the beach this summer.

3. The Edison Light:

Ok, I like these, but you need 126 of them to produce enough ambient light to read a book by at night. I wonder when really sterile white LED lights will become in and we think that having churches that look like operating rooms will be cool? #HeIsTheLight

2. Gold Rush Era Worship Leaders:

I’m pretty sure that most worship leader job descriptions these day include smithing, biscuit making and proficiency in playing the saw.

1. Jesus

While the church loves its trends and chasing the next fad, most of all I still find that churches love Jesus and he will put up with all of our shenanigans if we keep the first thing first.

 

 

 

Being Awesome In 2016 Part 1

Bat utility belt? Check! Cape? Check! Gray tights and bat mask? Double check!
I was close to eight when my parents got me the full batman costume. It was not like today’s flimsy outfits whose inferior quality regularly reminds you that you are anything but transcendent. No, this was circa 1970s American made livery. It had the weight and texture of a Roman centurion’s tunic. More importantly, it had soul. The moment you put it on, imagination became reality, mortality became superhuman and the world that is was transformed into the world that could be. It was awesome, but more importantly, you had become awesome!
There’s nothing quite like the magic of being a child. Here in the shadowlands between birth and reclamation by earth and way before you had to figure out what your purpose was, you could busy yourself in just being the awesome and fascinated you.
Childlike awesomeness is nothing like the adult version. Adult awesomeness lacks the ability to separate itself from comparison. Its value is often tethered to an emotional algorithm of me vs. them. It repeatedly asks, “Am I more awesome then they?” Nothing about this question is awesome. It’s a question asked from a platform of insecurity.
Adult awesomeness also fails at being able to run around the backyard for an hour by yourself dressed like Batman or Super Girl and fully entranced in the wonder of living beyond the margins of reality.
Adult awesomeness continually pings you with thoughts of your own meaninglessness, worthlessness and a host of other “nesses” that scream, Wake up, you dreamer, and get back to your treadmill of fear worry, guilt and concern. Stop this whimsy!”
Adult awesomeness fails to live in the grandeur of its prefix “Awe”. Awe, the ancient Nordic word whose root means something akin to running into battle against a stone dragon yelling “Aarghhh!”
Awe is so awesome that it is practically indescribable. It is a poultice of wonder, beauty, hope, power, love and imagination so blended together that each of its individual components has been lost to an even higher manifestation.
Awe is experienced by the newborn baby’s unfused brain that cannot discern the difference between taste, sight, touch, smell or feel, but rather harvest them in one dynamic and awesome sensation.
I believe living in awe is not only part of the human experience, but core to its fulfillment. Today’s world peddles a cheap form of awe. Awe in the form of fame, money, power, sexual experience or distraction beg you to accept the minimal returns that they offer and call them awe.
I believe that God has more for you than that. God offers you the whole of life and asks you to dive in deeply and experience it all in one passionate non-discernable experience that is better known as abundant life. He calls you to live a life of transcendence rather that one which is transactional. He is inviting you into the awe-filled and awesome life.
For the last few days of 2015, I want to take a journey with you to explore the space of what it means to be awesome. No, this is not a trek into self-aggrandizement; that’s what Facebook is for. Rather, this is an exploration into learning how to radically experience life and all that God’s creative world has on offer. It is a chance to reclaim our wonder, our hopes, our joy. More importantly it is a time to come a bit closer to the God who looks at you and thinks, Wow! How absolutely awesome is this child of mine!
Check out other books by Adam Stadtmiller

Exploring the space of being awesome in 2016!

A few weeks ago I was sitting with a friend and asked him what his hopes and dreams were for his spiritual life. He said, with the utmost authenticity, “I just want to be awesome!” It got me thinking about what it means to be awesome. Thus, I’ll be exploring how to be awesome for 10 days before the end of this year. I hope you will join me for the ride in learning how to be Awesome!

Evangelism and the Baptism of the Holy Spirit

IMG_9031

Evangelicals have a conundrum on their hands. The very title suggest that they have a public faith, but few people feel equipped our empowered to make Jesus real to others in common everyday places they live. Pastor Adam Stadtmiller again breaks down the baptism of the Holy Spirit and it fundamental purpose. Evangelism.

 

Finding The Perfectly Imperfect Church

I sat there waiting for the Executive Pastor to show up. He was twenty-five minutes late. I had been asked to interview for the newly created Campus Pastor position at this well known and highly effective Orange County megachurch.

The lobby was bustling and the waiting easy. There were plenty flat-screens on the walls pumping out the latest worship gigs, a Keurig station offering dark bold Sumatran, free wifi, leather couches and interior decor that coagulated the best of surf hipster, New York chic and rustic farm house. Stunning. Unfortunately, the few people hustling by did not seem to notice.

As I sat there in opulent comfort, my mind flashed back to a church meeting I had attended in Thailand a decade earlier. The coffee was instant, the floor seating hard and the only decor a faded picture of a brown eyed Jesus hanging on the cross. The spirit of peace in that place was tangible. It was as if no one was trying. I mean that in the best of lights.

The executive pastor arrived with lavish apologies for his tardiness. A radio interview had gone long. He was likable, focused and obviously loved Jesus. Under his arm was a copy of Fast Company magazine. He told me to wait another five minutes and that his assistant would come out and collect me for the meeting. I was offered another coffee. For me, the interview had already ended. I knew we were headed to the same destination, but on different paths.

If there is one thing I have learned in twenty-plus years of leading in churches is that you can buy church. Check that. You can buy or create a church experience for your community that will offer them the temptation to think that this church has it all together. It’s also a great growth strategy, as it allows people to check the box of being part of something that is effective and meaningful.

As a pastor of a small local church and having just come out of 10 years ministering in a mega church setting, I feel the pressure to create a “Fast Church”, one with all the modern bells and whistles, singing the latest anthems and offering clean efficient systems to organize people around legitimate spiritual causes.

The problem that I face, is that if I went after that, it would not be long before I was the wizard behind the curtain offering up an illusion of spiritual perfection that would not only be soul killing for me, but also for those I lead.

It’s one thing to talk about messy churches and lives from the pulpit, but it’s quite another to actually allow that messiness to be part of your church staff, volunteer base or even organizational systems.
What I often see are churches that preach and sing about brokenness and authenticity, but then go out and try to create a church image and culture that presents modern ideals of perfectionism. Here is what I mean. Would you allow a seriously obese person  to be your door greeters? Can we allow someone to stay on staff who is not reaching their targets and goals for one reason or another believing that sometimes God cares more about your staff as individuals then what they can produce. Can someone be on the worship team that occasionally sings flat and do heads roll if the sound or PowerPoint is not run with Spielberg perfection?

I believe that when we present authenticity and imperfection from the stage but don’t allow that to play itself out in the ebb and flow of our church matrix’s and social systems, we are actually creating a culture that never let’s people truly be free. In fact it heaps unseen heavy burdens on their heads.

No, I am not advocating a sloppy church. Being an A Type control junkie, it pains me to be patient as God grows those I lead. I see every perceived misstep, off note and occasional unedited promotional piece. The thing is that deep down, my desire to present the perfect church has more to do with how I want people to perceive me then trying to offer them a savior who brought a casual perfection, but never demanded it in return.

Living In A Selfie-Stick World

IMG_8993

Little did I know when I walked into Marshalls last month that I would do something I promised myself never to do. The problem was, the conditions were perfect. We were one day away from a month long trip to Europe to visit my brother, I had a little extra trip cash in my pocket for those last minutes extras before you leave, a travel pillow, pair of cheap sunglasses, a paperback fiction novel.

Moments from my escape and trying to seamlessly run the Marshall’s impulse shopping line gauntlet I saw it. The selfie stick. I tried to look away, but like a bee to a marigold I was sucked in with visions of full frame family selfies at the Eifel tower, Big Ben and Five Guys Burgers Edinburgh. Before I knew it, I had it out of the box and fitted to my life control device, the iphone 5c. It felt good in my hand and the semi-automatic shutter button made me feel like a social media Clint Eastwood asking Mark Zuckerberg if he felt “Lucky”.

Like it or not, we are living in a Selfie Stick world. I’m not sure that things have changed very much. Most people’s favorite topic has always been themselves. The only difference now is that it’s much easier to get a front row seat to others moments of self-obsession as well as have a platform for our own.

Few things scream, “Do you love me?” like the selfie.

Self obsession in all forms comes down to an issue of worth and where we are extracting that worth from. The scriptures tell us that in the end, perilous times will come as people begin to draw their worth from self-love. The reason self love is treacherous is that it is impossible to harvest love from yourself. Love is product of God and all pure love, even virtuous love of self must be generated and purified in understanding God’s great love of you.

“But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2 For people will be lovers of self” 2 Tim 3:1

When we become lovers of self, we are once again trying to be like God. Love of self tells God that we don’t need his eternal and limitless love and mines a fool’s gold of momentary adrenaline and dopamine hits we can garner of our own efforts.

The fact is this. God has set His vast affection upon you. He calls you to plumb the depths of that love and to drink deeply for it is only by drowning in the love of God that we can really begin to breath.

Does this mean that all selfies are bad and a bi-product of egotism? Not at all. I believe God himself delights in the exposition of our daily lives. It’s just that He wants to be a part of every image you capture, standing there beside you saying, this is my son or daughter in whom I love and am delighted in.

1 John 3:1 See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.