Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Finding Money

When I buy books at a charity second-hand book sale, I'm not expecting financial gain. But that's what happened at the Lifeline Bookfest.

I picked up about 10 books that day, and was flicking through my purchases, and discovered $35 in one of the books (Radical by David Platt).

What to do? I checked the inside front cover for the previous owner's details - to return the money to them. The only words were "P.121 Just giving stuff away". Page 121 had some interesting words on Jesus...

"What if he told you and me to sell everything we have? What if he told us to sell our houses for simpler living arrangements? What if he told us to sell our cars for more modest ones - or for no cars at all? What if he told us to give away all but a couple of sets of clothes? What if ..."

A few pages earlier, the author mentioned that if we have shelter, clothes food and transport (even public transport) we are in the top 15 percent of wealthiest people.

I wonder if the money was intentional. As well as giving the books to support Lifeline's work with those in need, perhaps the money inside was a gift to the person buying this book. The previous owner's way of paying it forward.

It reminded me that part of why I buy books at Bookfest is to rescue great books and share them around. So if you know me personally, check out my library on Shared Bookshelves - and feel free to borrow any of these books from me. I'll add more as I read them.

If you're a far away reader, why not start a similar thing yourself? Put a list of your books on your church notice board - or on Shared Bookshelves - or on facebook for your Christian friends. It could be a real blessing to someone else.

PS. You probably won't find money in books you buy at Lifeline Bookfest, but you may get something even more valuable by reading these books. There are great Christian books available at a bargain price.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Websites of Straw

Well-worded comment about church websites:

If your website looks like it was assembled with wheat straw and baling wire, you may lose guests before they ever step foot on your campus

When people look for a church, they use Google. "If the site is out of date they will assume the same thing about your church." says Ed Stetzer.

He advises that your website really should be:
  • visually appealing and easy to navigate
  • oriented toward non-members rather than members
  • mobile friendly.

We've all seen sites of "straw and wire". These days, there's no reason not to do better.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Male Bonding?

Brilliant cartoon. Like the man in the tie, sometimes church is completely unaware of its man-repelling actions. While we earnestly wish for more men to join, the very things church does can have the opposite effect.

Man asks fellow male church member to hold hands and pray for more men to attend church

As a side note, the cartoon uses holding hands as an extreme and obvious example of something to NOT do. Whilst there are also other things to also look out for, if you're a church that forces men to hold hands, please stop now.

I once attended a service where the church all held hands for the final song. As a (then) young single man, there is almost no-one it is appropriate to hold hands with for 3 minutes. Definitely not the grandfatherly figure who sat on my left, or the 12-year old girl on my right.

Looking back, I wonder what it was like for married folk. Apart from having your 12-year old daughter hold hands with an unknown man (me) you're holding your spouse with one hand - and someone else's spouse with the other.

No-one benefits from this situation. Except may be the music team. Musicians avoid the awkwardness by playing an instrument. For those 3 minutes they are the envy of all the men in the congregation.

Monday, 10 November 2014

How to turn away 8 in 10 visitors

We know a church's website is important - if the church is looking to connect with the community. Now we know exactly how important it is.

8 out of 10 people visit your website before attending. They decide in 7 seconds whether or not to stay on your site.

8 out of 10 people visit your website before attending
Some churches work on 'greeting' newcomers that arrive on a Sunday - and that's fine. But if a church really wants to create a good first impression, the website is even more crucial. For 80% of people, the first greeter is not the person at the door - it's that page on your website.

In 7 seconds they decide to stay or go
At first this stat surprised me. 7 seconds seems so short. But then I thought of my own browsing experience. Particularly when googling something. From a list of search results, there might be a few that look interesting. We'll click on one, have a quick look, and either stay for longer, or go back to the google page and click something else.

Some of our church websites could do with improvement in these areas. Firstly, to have a site that doesn't repel people in under 7 seconds. Secondly, to make it simple and intuitive with relevant information easy to find.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

God is not...

This song, God is not a white man, looks at how we try to fashion God into what we want we want - which can often be just a more holy version of ourselves.

But apart from all that - it's just fun to listen to.

It's good to remember - that God is not white and American - or owned by a political party or church. It's also a good challenge to remember that God also loves a whole bunch of people that we sometimes don't. Perhaps if we are going to continue to call ourselves Christ-followers, we should work on that.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Church - Is it people or a building?

Pagan Christianity book coverIn theory we know the answer to this one. It's people, right? But that's not how we act. It seems every church needs its own building. We talk about meeting "at the church". Some church websites even have the building as the main image.

But the idea of Christians having a special meeting place didn't come about until centuries after Jesus - and the reasons were more cultural than biblical. That in itself, isn't bad but what do these buildings do to church?

The authors describe the effect of church design as turning "fully functioning Christians into 'pew potatoes'".

The arrangement and mood of the building conditions the congregation towards passivity. The pulpit platform acts like a stage, and the congregation occupies the theatre.

As an aside, they also mention the huge cost of our building fetish. In the United States $230 billion is tied up in church real estate - costing billions more each year in debt and maintenance.

This chapter challenges us to stop referring to a building as a church, notice how the building hinders the church, and realise that the building should not be treated as sacred.

Perhaps the biggest challenge is to question the assumption that every church needs a building, and discern whether your church would be better without one.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Lyrics to keep men away from church

I recently experienced one of the more man-excluding "worship" songs I've heard in some time.
Beautiful one I love you
Beautiful one I adore
Beautiful one my soul must sing...

Do we really think this helps men worship Jesus? That it's natural for men to speak this way to another male being? Or that beautiful is even a biblically valid term for Jesus? (The answer to that last one is "no" - in the bible that word describes things other than God).

While worship music is not the sole reason for the lack of men in the church today, it certainly does its fair share in making men feel like a fish out of water.

Here's the Murrow test
If you're a man, try singing (or even saying) these lyrics to another man. Your brother, dad or best mate - someone you love, but in a non-sexual way.

Chances are you'll get a weird look in return. This is not a normal way for men to express non-sexual love. The more church sings to God like this, the more men will stay away from church, and from God.

PS. I looked up the full lyrics on the web. The page included a computer-generated Google ad - based on the frequent words in the page. Based on these lyrics, Google chose "Beauty courses" as the most relevant ad. I think that tells us something.