Once A Month Church Experiment Ends

There are two kinds of explorers, those who return saying “you should have seen what I saw” and those who return with a map. John Fremont was the latter, which is largely why a city in California is named after him and we still remember him.

When he explored California, Fremont took a cartographer along. The map they produced turned an exploration experienced by few into a travel destination for many.

Most people don’t like taking the risks associated with exploring but if you hand them a map they’ll consider traveling.

While I don’t explore mountains or rivers, I do explore ideas. For the past 1.5 years a group of friends and I have been researching an idea called Once A Month Church.

Here’s our map

Church is church

Context is everything. Regardless of what you may want the word church to mean, the fact remains that when you say church people think church service. Meaning, you can do whatever cool things you want to do as in being the church but you better not forget to do church somewhere along the line or people (church people that is) wont come along for the rest of the ride. This turned out to be the deal killer for me. I realized somewhere along the line that I’m fresh out of church service coupons. They got used up somewhere in the 80s and 90s.

I mean no judgey-ness. It is what it is. Church is largely a “service” for people who were raised in church. If you have positive childhood memories associated with Sunday school then “going to church” will on balance be something you want more of and want your children to have. Of course given the growing number of “nones” and “dones” the trend lines don’t offer much hope but at least for the next 50 years some version church services will remain in demand.

All that to say that I think Once A Month Church could provide an existing large church with declining attendance an alternative church service choice for the increasing number of people who are already attending once a month anyway. Don’t fight them. Surprise them with your leadership and service. Be authentic. Tell them you understand that they’re busy etc. Provide them a killer church service once a month. They will bring their non church going friends along just to show them how cool their church is and you’ll get the opportunity to meet people who otherwise would never consider darkening the door of your building.

Once a Month Church as a Church Planting Strategy Does Not Work

Merely providing a killer church service once a month for a brand new group as a starter strategy is a non-starter. If that’s all you’re providing for people then it’s simply too infrequent for people to stay connected. They’ll find a “real” church that provides the support services they’re accustomed to and then break away from that group once a month to hang out with you and your friends.

People Want Small Groups

I’m not saying they want to attend groups, I’m saying they want a choice of groups to attend when it fits their schedule. Actually all of us are like that, unless we’re either leading or  lonely, we automatically revert to being the consumers our culture has trained us to be and which the church clearly models itself after.

If you have a cadre of small group leaders who want “just enough church” then OAMC could be a very effective model. If you are the “pastor” of OAMC you get to give these leaders permission to lead. Your job then becomes consistently meeting with those leaders one on one and leading a once a month church service. They develop people and you develop them. You provide the monthly ritual and they have something they can bring their friends to that isn’t small and intimate. These highly motivated innovators will hustle to grow their groups and to stay connected with people. This is where the real action is. OAMC is a powerful adjunct to this model of church. The OAMC church service is the symbolic centerpiece but not the actual centerpiece.

Money

Leading a once a month church service and meeting one on one with small group innovators does not require a paid professional. I think a network of groups that gathered once a month could grow to about 150 in attendance without any paid people (excepting for child care and an online admin). The most important person to not be paid is whoever is thought of or called Pastor. Once that person gets money a symbolic social transaction has occurred that permanently changes the experience. Its not that money is bad or that the person couldn’t use the money its simply that given that the majority of people who attend church were raised in church they naturally associate payment for an exchange of services. This transaction numbs them and they begin to think like consumers. You can avoid all this simply by not being paid.

 Thats it…

 

Why Trump Won’t Make it to the Election

I couldn’t believe it when I heard Bill Clinton had sex with an intern right inside the White House. I knew he was a womanizer but certainly after becoming President he would at least have the presence of mind to “get a room”. But no, Clinton was shameless in his abuse of power over a young woman and then he continued the cover up by lying on national TV “I never had sex with that woman” only to come back later and admit “well I guess I did”. Congress tried to impeach him but the economy was on his side and hey “who’s perfect anyway”.

Men with NPD love the risk of being one step ahead of the people they’re using. In fact they cant stop themselves from upping the ante – even if its right inside the White House. They’re on a constant search for a stronger dose- it centers them – makes them feel all is well – at least temporarily.

Trump is our newest national NPD devotee. There is no more doubt left to pick up. He’s losing those who are supposed to be his closest allies and taunting them like a school yard bully as they walk away from him. He finds it impossible to say the words “Im sorry” as if uttering them would make him the biggest loser in his own mind game. He cant even bring himself to utter the non apology apology perfected by another famous NPD practitioner named Driscoll “If what I said offended anyone I’m sorry” (translated- those who criticize me are full of shit so I wont apologize to them directly instead  I’ll blame them for being offended by my bigotry, misogyny and straight up meanness and package as if it was an apology) At least Driscoll got that one down. Trump cant even bring himself to play that game.

Mr Khan! You already know who Im talking about don’t you. He the unknown muslim lawyer with the hijab wearing silent wife who lost a son in one of our recent wars. The Khans are  “gold star” parents. Since most of us are not, we rarely hear about this distinction. Its a club no one wants to belong to. Mr Khan brought the gravitas, passion. equanimity. leadership, intelligence and dignity that Trump is completely, totally and utterly devoid of. Trump has spent his whole life desperately trying to be a “winner” in his own eyes. He has had no time to actually develop a character with any depth. And now his faux character is beginning to catch up with him. And like the Chinese sage said “character is fate” Mr Khan is America at its best. Standing in his shadow Trump is exposed for the shallow self focused person he actually is. It is powerful theater and Trump is going to get the hook soon.

Here is what I predict

  1. Trump quits – he clearly does not want to be The President of The United States of America-  He is too lazy to learn, to self focused to listen and too heartless to change (Dude is 70 – its over)
  2. Christians celebrate since for them Trump is clearly a placeholder. For them the ticket may as well read PENCE-trump. They know in their hearts (god may have even given one of them a prophecy already) that Trump won’t make it to the election because “God will not be mocked” – God will do something to make sure the real man of God is placed in the sacred office- oops I meant the secular office
  3. My timing is off and Trump does get elected (which is becoming an almost statistical impossibility but hey “With god all things are possible” I mean look at what Wayne Grudem said 🙂 In this scenario Trump makes it into office and then in the first 100 days he is impeached for – well… for being his narccissistic, delusional, “I alone can fix it” self – Now Christians really celebrate. They got their cake and get to eat it too. Pence steps up and Ryan becomes VP. Praise the Lord and lets head back to the 50s.
  4. Dobson, Graham and Robertson all admit that they actually knew this was what god wanted all along and anoint Pence gods man- No help needed now from Nebuchadnezzar.
  5. Either way Trump is gone quickly and he returns to reality TV to launch his new Trump network headed by Roger Ailes where millions of his followers can tune in everyday to hear him talk about how the USA is a bunch of losers.

 

Stop Religious Racism

TV producers don’t care if your think they’re rude. They’ll happily throw cold water on any idea that doesn’t pass their “sniff” test.

I’ve developed a concept for a religious reality show called Save Me. It’s like Big Brother gets religion. A group of people each of whom thinks their religion is the “right” one live together for a few weeks. You can imagine what follows

I’ve pitched this idea to producers several times. You know what they typically say to me, “That would be a train wreck”. Anyone who’s observed religions’ lusty affair with politics  over the past 40 years understands how religion earned this reputation the hard way.

Bottom Line: My TV producer friends (and a growing majority of people) first impression is  Religion = DANGEROUS

Donald Trump is one of two people who have a shot at being the next President of the US. He’s upended the political process in several ways and used his experience as an entertainer to keep the narrative focused on himself. He is also the most dangerous politician to come along since the 1950s. His invectives, threats and innuendo are creating a caustic environment that must be resisted, challenged and stopped. His braggadocio is giving people permission to insult people of different ethnicities and making America dangerous.

He is inciting religious racism – giving it permission to express itself as an American value. It shows up everyday in stories like this one about a Muslim being arrested in Ohio because of how he was dressed. Imagine if that happened to Jews, or Pentecostals for raising their hands in worship or the Amish for their bonnets or Catholic Nuns for their veils or Orthodox priests for their robes or Indian Women for their Saris ( you get the idea)

Three clergymen from Peoria Illinois, the heartland of America, have forged a friendship that challenges this narrative. A Zionist Rabbi, Muslim Imam and Evangelical Preacher have spent the past 5 years listening to each other, discussing differences and finding common ground. Nothing has changed in their beliefs but everything has changed in their hearts.

They want people to hear their story – that if they can find a way to like each other inside  religion, perhaps the most polarized business of all – then people from all kinds of difference can too.

Jim Henderson Presents is currently in production on a documentary, book and tour for these three gentlemen.

Through the furnace of experience, they’ve discovered some simple practices that enable them to truly listen, hear and connect with each other and they want to share those with people.

The evangelical and the Jew have teamed up to protect their Muslim friend. They have his back. They’ve suspended their judgments of each other and decided to co belligerate around the values we celebrate as Americans.

Maybe we can help stop religious racism before it gets a beachhead in America

Stay tuned

 

Otherlyness the spirituality of serving others

No religion elevates serving others above its’ beliefs

That’s why we recite The Apostles Creed not The Apostles Deeds

When it comes to religion, practices are optional while beliefs are critical.

  • Propositions trump practice
  • Orthodoxy trumps orthopraxy
  • Certainty trumps curiosity

We consider it rude to ask others what they’re doing about their beliefs.

Instead we ask what they believe and then decide if we can fellowship with them.

“It is less important to ask a Christian what he or she believes about the Bible than it is to inquire what he or she does with it” Leslie Newbigen – Proper Confidence

I no longer think of God as a religious being – interested in rituals, bells, smells, hats and buildings.

I have come to believe that God has never paid the tiniest bit of attention to any religion ever, especially the ones (and there are many) that claim an exclusive relationship with God.

Many of us find ourselves defending a religion we don’t identify with. We feel trapped in a historical convergence. The only thing we know for sure is that we believe in Jesus, his story and we want others to experience him, as well. We feel no need to defend the “historic claims of Christianity,” but we do feel passionate about trying to live a life that attempts to imitate the values and practices of the founder of our movement. We want his story to be told through us.

The desire to tell this story in public has led us to form a new movement called Otherlyness – the spiritual practice of serving. This work resonates with us on the deepest level. It energizes us and pulls us into a future that will make the way of Jesus publicly known.

Otherlyness is revolutionary not evolutionary.

Otherlyness provides the common ground where religious and non-religious people can meet. Because is has no beliefs anyone can participate. It is designed to respond to the innate way humans learn “We do what we see not what you say”

Many Christians and non-Christians already participate in Otherlyness without calling it that. They serve in big as well as small ways. We simply want to encourage more of this behavior. We want followers of Jesus to be well known for practicing Otherlyness. We want them invite others to intentionally practice the spirituality of serving others

Providing a framework called Otherlyness, encourages people to do more of what they’re already doing. It makes serving others in small doable ways concrete and legitimate – not a side project

Following in the way of Jesus does not require belief in Jesus or God. You don’t need a higher power to practice Otherlyness. Many of us however have developed a confidence in and dependence upon the God who is Otherly. We attempt to live as if it’s true.

What do practitioners of Otherlyness do?

Three Practices

  1. Practice being unusually interested in others
  2. Practice staying in the room with difference
  3. Stop comparing your best with their worst