Magic, Marketing, and Jesus

The Decisive Ball - Magic 8 For Organizations

The Decisive Ball – Magic 8 For Organizations

Impressed!  Which is a rare feeling for me.  I walked into my office this morning and discovered two very cool pieces of marketing on my desk.  The first was this sort of Magic 8 Ball for Businesses and Organizations.  Decisive is a new book by Chip and Dan Heath who also wrote Made to Stick and  Switch – two incredible books that every leader needs to read.  

Decisive is exactly what the title says… it helps people figure out who to make decisions effectively.  In outlines wonderful tools that any group or organization can use.  The Decisive Magic 8 Ball provides a wide variety of these principles and tools to help make decisions.  Truly, from a marketing standpoint, this ball is MAGIC!  What a cool toy and I got it for free!

Fantastic book marketing

Fantastic book marketing

The second piece of marketing that impressed me this morning was David Kinnaman’s new book You Lost Me.    Packaging was tremendous.  It included an invitation to a live signing event.  I can sign up for the event via EventBrite.  

This too was MAGIC!  I disagree with Kinnaman on a lot of things – but his organization gets marketing.  They do it really well.  

Most churches, on the other hand, do NOT do marketing all that well.  Obviously, there are some that do, but most do not.  I think the reason is this – most churches forget that people need MAGIC.  In a world full of advertising and messages, people want to enter into an experience that lifts them out of their lives, provides a message relevant to everyday life, and that provides them power and inspiration to go back to their lives with something they did not have before.  In other words – M A G I C !  

I had about 10 different tasks to do as soon as I arrived in the office – I put them all on hold to open these packages.  What MAGIC will we allow people to experience so that they will put their lives on hold to hear about a life and world transforming message?


Sovereignty, Predestination, and the Unscripted Life

Are some predestined to for salvation? Did God fore-ordain and elect some before the beginning of the world? Are some predestined to damnation? Do we have free-will? Is God in control of everything? Are we just robots in some cosmic game? These and other similar questions bubble to the surface in Christian conversations, especially in Reformed circles. Usually the conversations take place in abstract and ethereal ways with many hypothetical cases and dependent hypotheses. Rarely do such questions and conversations ever “get-real.”

As a guest speaker last week for a class on the Quarterlife Crisis, I spoke on the topic of “Vocational Crisis.” In it, I addressed the American desire and ambition to script out the future of our lives. In fact, such an idea is so ingrained in our culture that one is considered to be irresponsible and foolish not to script out, plan out, and spend an inordinate amount of time stressing about the future. We are told that if we wish to be responsible and successful (a.k.a. “moral” in an American sense), then we must be self-made and script our lives. This involves what clubs, sports, and classes you take school as children, what universities we attend,what corporations one works for during summer and after graduation, when and who one marries, and where and what type of housing one chooses. It’s all scripted.

The “scripted life” is one that does not acknowledge a Sovereign God. The scripted life is one where “I” am in control of my life and future. The scripted life is one where God is not needed, where I am the salvation of my own world.

To believe in a Sovereign God, to believe in the predestined existence, is to have an unscripted life. It is a life where I am not in control of my future or destination. It is one where I am not self-made. Instead, I am formed by Another. I am created for Another’s good will, pleasure, and purpose. It is a life where “I belong to God.” It is the counter-cultural life. A life that is very “un-American.” It is a life that exposes the fallacy and illusion that we have control. The unscripted life is the only way we as followers of Jesus Christ can truly be faithful.


So I saw an advertisement today for a whole new way of being church that is both post-modern and post-missional! Really? I mean, really? I am certainly someone who has defended the use of the “post-” reality world, but are we really going to talk about being post-missional? Isn’t that akin to being post-purposeful or post-worshipful? I guess the “missional” seminars and cookie-programs have run their course, so to sell new seminars and books we had to create a “post-missional” mandate.

And Darkness Was Over The Face of the Deep


The unknown shrouded in mystery.
The universe is shrouded in a perpetual darkness. The more we see, the more we don’t see. The more we learn and know, the more we realize just how much we are ignorant. We expand farther and farther outward gazing at the cosmos, while examining deeper and deeper discovering every quark or nuance of matter and energy. Each step brings with it a revelation of a much larger world, a whole existence that we are unaware, a reality that is at once close and yet so distant. In the midst of such darkness, God breathed. Revelation occurred. Life emerged. Light broke forth.

What is Government?

Two blog posts in the past month from very different voices (Tony Jones and Travis Gilbert) have me thinking a lot about the nature of government the past few days. Over my life, I have given much thought to the idea of government, what is considered a legitimate government, and how Christians are to respond to government(s).

Americans tend to assume that government refers to the nation-state. Thus, the government is the United States of America or Great Britian or Russia or Iran. We remember that other types of governments used to exist such as the city-state of the ancient world, but for the most part government has come to mean nation-state. We understand that local government do exist, but believe in a hierarchy of government where the city is in a county, and a county in a state/province/district, and a state in a nation.

However, I have always seen government in terms of power. Who is in charge? Who is ruling this place? Because of this, I see many types of government in our lives everyday– sometimes in cooperation with one another; often in conflict and in competition with one another.

Anyone living in the inner-city knows that there are at least two forms of government: 1) is the local gang or mafia; 2) is the supposedly “legitimate” government of the city in the form of police, judges, and jailors.

When I was a child in school, I knew that several authorities or governments existed when I was at school. One was the principal and teachers. Second was the very powerful peer groups. Third was the bullies on the playground and in the locker room.

Today, I watch and feel the power of corporations on my life. I am governed and ruled by Verizon, AT&T, the electric company, etc. Sometimes these various companies cooperate with the United States government and even with one another. Sometimes they are at odds with the US government and with one another. But these companies often have more power, rule, and control over me than any nation-state or local government.

In addition to all of this is the question of what makes a government legitimate. If my government doesn’t recognize your government and I’m theoretically supposed to submit to my government and you are to submit to your government, then what are we to do? I dwell on this because my friend Travis brings up the argument that we are to submit to all earthly authorities except when their authority is in opposition to God. This creates for a very complex situation. First, when will any government not be in opposition to God in some way? Every government is always asking its citizens to do something that opposes the ways of God. Second, how are we to respond when we do feel like we should resist or disobey? Is this an active disobedience that results in some sort of action against the government (perhaps violence)? Or is this a peaceful resistance or non-participation? Something in between?

Finally, if you are a Christian who believes violence can be okay and even God’s will for a particular moment, then how do you respond to the revolutionary war, or the civil war here in the United States? One could make the case that Christians should not have rebelled against England because it was the legitimate government. However, at what point did the colonialists become a legitimate government that Christians should submit to? Also, if the colonial powers did become legitimate, were Christians supposed to submit and against the English army and the Christians in that army? Were Christians from England then supposed to submit to their government and kill Americans? (Questions adapted from blog reply to Travis.)

The nature of government is very complex. Even more complex is the Christian’s relationship to government. The Bible presents very different voices on this relationship. Jesus seemingly cooperates with government while also using rhetoric that questions the legitimacy of these human governments (essentially asking, “Are they real?”), Paul seems to support submission to government in Romans 13, uses his Romans citizenship in Acts, but also makes trouble with various local governments. Peter tells us to submit to earthly authorities and to honor the king. John’s Revelation is a stark contrast that places the kingdoms of this world in sharp opposition with the kingdom of God. Even participation in the economy of Babylon makes one a follower of the beast.

Very complex indeed!

The Truth of God

This is a quote from Debra Dean Murphy in her book Teaching That Transforms: Worship as the Heart of Christian Education (a book I highly recommend and am reading again since two years ago):

The truth of God– what catechesis seeks to impart– is not a thing to be grasped but a way of life to be embodied. This way of life– living true to the cruciform pattern of Jesus’ own life– is a doxological practice, learned over time in the worshipping body gathered regularly for prayer and praise.

Pendulums, Converts, and Robust Faith

Growing up in a fundamentalist, evangelical Baptist congregation in rural Indiana, my congregation had a constant in-flow of “new converts” from liberal, mainline Protestant congregations and from the Roman Catholic Church. These new members would hear the message of individual repentence and the hope of being “saved.” Often, these converts were middle-aged adults who had stopped going to church after high school. They would talk very negatively about their past church experiences as dead ritual, as places that produced a lot of guilt, and as places that believed you “work your way to heaven.”

As an adult, I have found so many people like myself who grew up in a fundamentalist, evangelical, conservative background who have “converted” to these more liturgical based denominations– often liberal Protestant, Catholic, or Orthodox. We long for a worship that does not depend on me and my experience and what I can get out of church/God. We want a faith that is about the community and world rather than the individual. We long for rituals that will create space for worship, and we want a faith that seeks to do God’s will here on Earth just as it is in heaven. These former evangelicals, including myself, often talk negatively about our conservative backgrounds.

In some ways, these two groups represent two seperate faiths. But I always believe they were meant to be one faith that is balanced. Each strand by itself is a fallacy. Together they make up the truth of the Christian faith. God wants to change me, convert me, and save me. God also is greatly concerned with communities, social justice, the ritual of worship. God cannot be bound by ritual and thus speaks openly and newly to us. We cannot just have such a casual relationship either, thus we have orders of worship that story us in the ways and nature of God. I have the hope of being changed because I am part of a greater community. That community as a chance of being renewed and becoming God’s kingdom because God has changed me.