Archive for the 'opinion' Category

Published by Brian Slezak on 15 May 2009

Let the church Die

See this post by Tony Steward, and the accompanying TED video. That has essentially been my argument for building services that fit a younger demographic better. Churches are horrible at this though because:

  • They are staffed and driven by people that can only reach their own demographic really well
  • New services means more time commitments, more staff causing more expenses, or stretching thin of existing staff
  • Sometimes new ‘hip’ services are seen as threats which must be contained or jettisoned
  • Leaders are overly concerned with breaking from traditions that seem to ‘weaken’ or ‘water down’ the spirituality of the service in their eyes

In Howard’s terms, they are building plutonic services. “This is the best way this church can do worship services.” 🙂 That could be completely true. Then again, the church as a whole in the US dies massive deaths every day. If your church is declining, hey – thanks for doing your part.

Thankfully, the body of Christ is compromised of lots of church flavors and the new flavors are more and more readily available. I wish more young Christians had a calling to ministry. I am begining to settle into the belief that energy is better spent lifting up new young pastors, or new effective pastors of any age, than trying to turn around a declining church.

Published by Brian Slezak on 25 Aug 2008

And It is Windows Vista for the Lose!

I just got off the phone with a staff member who told me about her experience buying a new laptop. She said that she and her husband were looking at a PC, but everyone has told her that she won’t like Vista -including the sales people she talked to. She said, “Why would I buy something if you’re telling me that I’m not going to like it?” The sales person said, “Well, we have Apple laptops.”

She ended up going with a Mac, of course, and loves it. The store where she bought it offers a 1 hr per week tutoring service for $99 per year, and she’s thinking about doing that to get up to speed with the change from Windows to OS X.

Microsoft is losing.

Published by Brian Slezak on 20 Aug 2008

Do Not Advertise Like This

A couple weekends ago we were driving home after a late dinner with friends, and we drove by a church which had a tell tale, hand-written sign on the edge of the church property, facing the street. (I wish I had a picture, but I was driving at the time.) The sign was a white backboard with large, black, hand written text that read, “Thinking about becoming Catholic? 816-123-4567”

<sigh> I instantly knew this was wrong in many ways, but after actually putting some thought behind it, here is why:

There is NO Audience for this Sign
C’mon. Seriously, who walks around with the thought, “I’d actually like to be <insert denomination here>. I wonder how I can do that?” No one does. This sign better targets squirrels, because squirrels like to sit on signs. Squirrels can’t even read.

The End is Near
More likely, this sign is a visible cry for help. Please be a part of our church, or we’ll die! Help!

You Will Talk to Us
Rather than provide a site url, allowing someone to experience the church before attempting anything in-person, they provided a number. That means even if I was interested, I’m gonna have to talk to someone and say, “Yeah I saw this sign with this number … so I called it.” Hmm.

That’s Some High Quality
A hand written sign plopped in the front yard? Oh no – you didn’t?! Printing out banners on 8×10 sheets of paper, splicing them together, and and covering the whole thing with clear tape – would be a step up from this. Think about that. How serious is this church about welcoming someone, if they either A. will not pay for a printed sign, B. don’t have the motivation to go through that trouble, or C. do not have the money. If C – then close the doors.

Please, please, if you are someone in a church that has this or other similar sign – take it down! Please don’t advertise like this. Squirrels appreciate it, but you are making rational people laugh, cry, or both.

Published by Brian Slezak on 23 Jul 2008

My Closing Thoughts on the DZ Mission Trip

I wanted to provide a last post to lay down my thoughts about the trip and event as a whole. Without a doubt, I feel the mission was worth the time and money to visit the Navajo people and serve them, even if for a short time. Could we have done a lot more and been more efficient? Oh sure, hindsight is always 20/20. Would we have had the same cultural experience if we were more efficient … probably not. In all ways it was worth it, and I really hope I can return again some day.

Ironically, the Monday after I returned I found a post on a blog I casually read titled Are Short Term Missions a Waste of Money? In the post, Andrew addresses the Washing Post article, Churches Retool Mission Trips. I’d suggest taking a moment and reading those posts, they are both thought provoking.

I’m guessing this topic is an age old question that has been asked since missionary work was formed. I’m also guessing that people gave Paul a hard time about how far he traveled at such great expense of time and or money, only to get thrown out of a town on his butt. Is it a shame that Paul didn’t decide, “Hey, I can make a lot more impact at a lower cost of time and risk if I just focus on the local community?” In the Washing Post article, a Florida pastor was quoted in saying,

“It became too hard to justify the expense of flying the kids overseas”, Brinton said. “If you’re going to paint a church, you can do that in Florida as easily as you can in Mexico.”

Ouch. While I am sure it is easier to pant a church within a 5 mile drive of your house than one in Mexico, I think the cultural experience is going to be a bit different. The article sites some great examples of mismanaged mission efforts, and I agree that there are probably a decent number of trips that need to be canceled, heavily trimmed, or completely reorganized. But as a member of the race of broken people, I can’t see the brilliance in ignoring everyone outside of our comfortable range of influence and hoping that there is someone closer to do the job for us. Continue Reading »

Published by Brian Slezak on 27 Apr 2008

DeepShift, Everything Must Change Tour – Day 2

In my previous post, I described my experience and opinions on day one of the Everything Must Change Tour that took place on Friday evening. Saturday morning, the conference began again at 7:29 am. I have to say that is really early to get postmoderns out of bed, but plenty were awake enough for good conversation. The morning started with break-outs, and we attended McLaren’s session on church plants. It was essentially just a gathering of people involved in church plants, young churches, or those trying to do something new in established churches. We sat in a circle of chairs and people commiserated about the difficulty of those tasks.

My wife and I connected with trying to do something new in established churches. Most people talked about how the old guard would work against them, and in some extreme cases just kick them out of the church. McLaren led the discussion and would interject his experience where appropriate. The conversation followed natural peaks and ebbs, and everyone seemed comfortable to participate. My wife and I agreed later that this was by far the best part of the event.

We talked about what “church” meant and how that differed from traditional ideas and the difficulty in reaching the unchurched. Brian used a phrase that stuck in my mind, “Leadership By Anxiety,” to describe using the natural energy around an idea to push through making a change. It reminded me of Adam Hamiton’s “Decision by Nausea” concept, which he uses to discern which of many paths he should to choose. The path that God leads you down is often the most challenging, and frightening.

Over all it was good, but here is my constructive criticism: The buzzword “narrative” was used quite a bit through the discussion. I don’t understand why we as people take simple things and make them complex in order to feel more enlightened. Other than that minor criticism, the only unsettling thing about the discussion was a strange quietness about what to call what they were doing. People used phrases like, “where we are”, “what we are doing here,” “how we were led to this.” To be honest, it made me feel like I didn’t really know what was going on, like I was sitting in some sort of cult-ish or secretive meeting. Kind of weird.

Other than the morning discussion we had a morning of worship. The songs were chanted, and very meditative. So much so we almost fell asleep. After we finished, we had to leave early to attend our nieces birthday party.

Overall, still just ok. Swag was good. :-/

Published by Brian Slezak on 25 Apr 2008

DeepShift, Everything Must Change Tour – Day 1

This evening I attended the Everything Must Change Tour, presented (I supposed), by Deep Shift. I live-tweeted the event, if that’s what you call it, which was my first attempt at using Twitter. It was very one-directional, as I did it through my cell phone and didn’t have device updates on. New guy – my bad.

I registered for the event late last year after hearing of it somehow. My wife and I had heard Brian McLaren speak at one other occasion, knew he was associated with this, so we signed up. It wasn’t cheap – $75+ per person at early bird price, but if you got in on the early bird deal you got a copy of Everything Must Change, one of McLaren’s books. Oh, and it ended up you got a compact fluorescent after showing up. “Yeah. Check out my totally enviro-friendly bling, yo. 1200 lumens for only 20 watts dawg.” So you got swag for $75. Not all bad.

I had a creepy feeling about the event from the time I registered though because of some of the language surround the event. To be perfectly blunt, it felt very bleeding-heart, tree-hugger, all we need is love … ish. Oh well, at the very least it’ll be a good experience for my wife and I. This feeling was intensified after getting to our seats and thumbing through the handouts. Let me extend this feeling to you by way of quoting some of the material:

…. Therefore we will practice ‘listening one another into free speech,’ ‘building bridges of empathy,’ ‘creating safe spaces,’ and other strategies of revolutionary communication.

When I see or hear ___ I feel ___, because my need for ___ is/is not being met. Would you be willing to ___.

When you said ___, I felt ___. Can you understand why I would feel that way?

A short commentary: Umm – Wow. 1. Revolutionary? Really? Seriously? 2. I’m building my bridge of empathy to solitude, and I don’t care where your bridge goes. 3. If I “felt” that much all the time, I’d be in therapy, or I’d be a woman. (I do not mean any offense to women, I am just a guy that’s all. But if that made you feel ___ because it was ___, I would suggest ___. No ___ intended.)

During one of the discussion times, I met Al. Al asked me what I thought of this so far. (Thus far we had experienced good music, a Sierra Club video, and some speaking by Linnea Nilsen Capshaw.) I admitted I had little expectation, not doing any research about it beforehand, but felt “like it was a bunch of liberal stuff.” Al gave me a concerned look, a nod, and agreed.

Brian McLaren spoke. He’s a good presenter, and a good speaker, so you can’t go too wrong. One thing I like about Brian is that he loves circles. Two dimensional circles. The man can explain anything he needs using circles, usually three or four … and maybe a box. I didn’t agree with everything he said, but that was ok because I wasn’t supposed to. He told us that before he started, and I happened to agree with him about that, and some other things too.

We broke into another discussion time to talk about our thoughts and feelings, and Al turns around to me and states, “Yeah, I’m afraid you were right. He is off base, and just wrong about ….” Unfortunately, Al and I were on the same page. This wasn’t the McLaren we knew, and to my initial concern; McLaren was veering hard left toward the target audience.

Overall, the evening was OK. The music was great, McLaren wasn’t at his best, and the evening was much like a sub-standard worship service. If I didn’t get books and swag, I would have been very disappointed. My wife tolerated it. That is to say she didn’t go postal on me, but sternly said I owe her something in return that is better than ice cream. She and I agreed that the time progressed much like a mainline worship service. Singing, greeting, prayer, shake some hands, singing, listen to preaching, prayer, singing, benediction. There was more discussion thrown in than usual. Oh – we did miss communion, but it wasn’t the first weekend of the month. 😉

It may sound like I’m vehemently against the left, but I am really not. I have some liberal views that get me chastised, and I’m fine with that. I just take the extreme left less seriously. You kind of have to, because when they state in the materials that Brian will intentionally avoiding using male pronouns when referring to God because the bible reflects God in feminine images as well as masculine; you have to call that out. At what point were all those “He” references misleading? Did I miss it when Jesus pulled out, “whoops, I meant Mother, not Father. My bad.”

Regardless, we’re attending tomorrow’s morning session as well, and Pania (that’s my wife) is even going with me when I expected her to bail. If tomorrow is blog-worthy, I’ll post about my experience.

Published by Brian Slezak on 15 Feb 2008

Spiritual Health in Relation to The Dying Church

Yesterday in Resurrection’s staff chapel, the message was given by a congregant who detailed how he and his wife visited Resurrection, got connected, and started an amazing God-inspired journey. Without going into the detail of his entire story; it was quite good; one thing he said stuck me and got me thinking. When describing his first visit to Resurrection he stated, ” … and they seemed like they actually cared that we were there [that day].”

What struck me about that statement was the simplicity. Somebody cared that they were there. I immediately thought back through my journey of visiting churches. …. He’s right. At most churches my wife and I would visit, the people other than the “assigned greeter” and the staff did not care if we were visiting. By a very high majority, the other people of the church had come to church only for themselves, and were not interested, maybe even scared, of making us feel welcomed.

And I don’t let myself off the hook so easy either. I’m a confessed computer geek and introvert. I’d rather develop a web application than walk up to strangers and strike up a conversation. ;-( But sometimes when I walk into church, I need to forget myself, remember my assignment, and follow Christ.

So now I’m thinking the root problem with The Church is an epidemic spiritual decline. Too many churches are developing immature Christians who never grow into a state of following Christ. Primarily people start going to church to satisfy themselves, and it should be the job of that church to stimulate growth from that stage to the next – going to church for someone else. It seems ironic that a religion rooted in a truth that the life of Christ was not lived for himself but for everyone else, that we have such a hard time teaching Christians to live not only for themselves.

Although I have not read a word of Reveal, I have heard many Resurrection staff talking about its message. Time for me to do some reading perhaps.

Published by Brian Slezak on 07 Dec 2007

The Golden Compass – Last Statement

Thanks to those for their comments on my previous and related post.

Well, I posted on the topic for two reasons. 1. There is much disagreement about it, and 2. I hope readers will do their own research and reach their own decision. 🙂

I read Kim’s post that Bob referred to, and I’ll say that Kim is very well written.

In my heart, I still believe that paying money to see the movie is making a donation to the cause of an atheist who targets children in attempt to sway them away from God. If you pay your money to see the movie, keep in mind this may be exactly what your doing.

I think this world would be better served, if rather than seeing this movie, people donated $10 and one and three quarter hours to a local mission. Spend quality time with someone who desperately needs it.

I also think using an inherently atheist tool to teach anyone about who God is or is not seems a dangerous method. Go battle the materialistic idolatry of the world, not an image of God that represents those things. Let G-o-d be as He always is.

Lastly, I’ll say that my position on this was formed from the references I mentioned, and other additional resources. I hope you read the posts and their comments, do your own research, and feel better informed to make your own decision. 😉

Published by Brian Slezak on 27 Nov 2007

The Golden Compass

I’m assuming most of you have heard of movie ‘The Golden Compass’ by now, since it has made the morning news, at least here in Kansas City. My thanks go to Phillip Pullman for giving me something to blog about. 🙂

I first heard about this movie through a chain e-mail referencing snopes.com. Earlier this week my wife saw the trailer on television and said, “Ooo. We have to go see that!” I messed up and in a knee jerk reaction said, “No, we’re not.” Doh! Yeah … that doesn’t work with my wife. So I get the look, we “discuss,” and I try to explain how the writer is a devoted atheist who purportedly targets children in attempt to “kill God” in their minds. She argued that it was just a fantasy movie, and no worse than The Devinci Code, which we did watch. It’s just a movie. Hmm. I still disagree on some levels, but she has a point in whether or not we go watch the movie.

So after this morning’s newscast mentioning it, I was pushed to learn why an Archbishop would support the movie, which has been touted as “anti-Catholic.” Williams even goes so far as to say the book should be taught in schools! I found this online article. Wow. What a world we live in where educators are trying to throw religion out of schools, and Archbishops are trying to get atheism in them.

Now, little of this seems to be hearsay, if you believe the sources and the source’s sources. So why on earth would you condone and support a movie “watered down … so as not to offend faithful moviegoers in the United Kingdom and United States” thats center is in an anti-religious theme written by a professed atheist whos purpose in life is to convince children that God is false?!?!? All for the sake of keeping an open mind? Wha … bu … huh?

Ultimately, no one is going to affect whether or not people go see the movie. For the first time though, I find myself with pretty strong convictions to boycott this movie. It is just a movie, but I can’t rationalize away the guilt I’d feel by supporting it.