Transformation. Personal. Cultural. Church.

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Check out Dick Staub’s new bookThe Culturally Savvy Christian.

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When I first started playing around with (or put more spiritually, “praying about”) the idea of our Kindlings Muse podcasts, I got some surprising advice from an unexpected source.

For me the appeal of podcasting is the ability to talk specifically about ideas that matter, while going global from local and connecting with a younger generation audience. I had grown weary of a 3-hour daily national radio show because in order to retain audience, I was spending more time than I liked talking about a broad range of interesting ideas and only a % of time talking about what I considered the most important ideas. I also wanted to speak more to the next generation and talk radio “skews” a bit older demographically. I was also becoming aware of the limitations of “disembodied” communication, which is what mass media is–a local live event taped for podcast seemed to address a lot of my concerns.

But then David McFadzean, co-creator/producer of the TV show “Home Improvement,” and a man whose experience in mass media exceeds my own, caught me off guard when he said, “I like the podcast idea, but have come to realize that media is extremely limited in personal transformation¢â‚¬¦real transformation comes locally, in relationship¢â‚¬¦in places like the local church.”

This provoked me. I started my career in the local church. I worked in student ministry in college (Peninsula Covenant Church in Redwood City, CA) and seminary (Park Street Church in Boston, MA) and then joined a pastoral staff, which due to the exit of the Senior Pastor left me as Senior Pastor. In a worst case scenario, I was too young and unseasoned for the job and did not really know it!

I share David’s belief about the importance of the local church. When functioning properly, lasting personal transformation happens through grassroots communities–in local churches. As a matter of fact, at this point in my career, my wife and I find ourselves drawn towards opening our hearts, minds and lives in greater service to a local fellowship of believers, as members of a local church, and perhaps, if God should so lead, professionally.

These thoughts flooded my mind when I received an e-mail this morning from a friend who commented about a conference he was attending.

“The conference is OK, but also depressing in some ways. Something’s missing. Mostly ‘paid clergy’ trying to find ways to impact culture. But paid clergy have rarely impacted culture – real, organic change happens at the business level, street level, media level, A&E level, etc. not within the four walls of a church building. There’s a fundamental disconnect between what’s being said here, and what these pastors (probably 90% of the attendees) can actually affect. And that’s the issue – to really make an impact in culture, a conference like this needs to talk with an entirely different demographic.”

In my new book, “The Culturally Savvy Christian” my chapter on transformation begins this way: “Like any child of the 1960s, there was a time when I wanted to change the world; now, I am content to simply ask God to change me.” No cultural transformation happens without deep personal transformation, and in my experience, personal transformation happens in community and is enhanced by local preaching/teaching/exhorting by someone who is seeped in Gods word, understands the world in which we live and who applies truth to our contemporary situations. Most importantly, this person embodies the living faith. When Paul advises Timothy, he tells him that the aim of his instruction is love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience and sincere faith.

I emailed my friend: “I was in seminary when the shift began that moved away from pastor as spiritual equipper to pastor as franchise operator & entrepreneur.”

What I was hinting at is the simple fact that most pastors who want to spend adequate time in the word and prayer, find themselves measured, not by the depth and health of their flock, but by how many people attend their services. Worse yet, the pastor who thrives in the “market-the-church model,” is usually not equipped or inclined to spend their days in contemplative reflection.

Our problems in this frantic and fallen age are systemic, but Jesus put at the heart of the system, a church, a called out community of believers. Paul reminds us that Jesus is the HEAD of this community and it is there that we are equipped for the work of the ministry.

We look a lot like the church at Laodicea, which lost its first love and in Paul’s words was “lukewarm, neither hot nor cold¢â‚¬¦For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.”

His advice is wrapped up in a metaphor addressed not to unbelievers (which is how it is commonly used in witnessing), but to apathetic believers, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.”

Jesus wants in¢â‚¬¦He wants in the culture¢â‚¬¦and he gets there when he gets in the church¢â‚¬¦through which he gets in the Christian.

Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

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    Posted in Staublog in April 26, 2007 by | No Comments »

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