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3/30/2006

NO LGBT OPPRESSION AT BETHEL COLLEGE

Bethel College apparently hosts an American Idol styled talent competition for its students called Bethel Idol. And the most recent winner, I was told, won by singing my song "Welcome Home." I'm honored. How'd those high notes treat ya? Me too.

Anyway, the Bethel Idol Champion - whose name I never got - opened for me on my visit to Bethel's chapel service a few days ago...sort of.

He and a small herd of Bethel men danced the tango together while wearing knickers, leggings, frilly shirts and long curly wigs. They said it was to promote their upcoming performance of Peter Pan, but needless to say I'm a tad skeptical.

Bethel obviously has no ban on students' public transgendered behavior. Heck, they even make time in chapel for it. Perhaps this kind of transgender acceptance is the reason Bethel College hasn't yet made Equality Ride's hit list.

Equality Ride: A group of young lesbian, gay, transgendered and bisexual twenty-somethings who see the religion based policies and views of various colleges and universities regarding LGTB students as discriminatory and unbiblical, calling it "religion based oppression." The Equality Riders compare the discrimination against LGTB students at these colleges to the discrimination against racial minorities that took place in America before the civil rights movement of the sixties in America. The Equality Ride is a collection of LGTBs (some Christian) riding in a bus, donned with their slogans and images of Martin Luther King Jr and Ghandi, to institutions of higher learning he riders deem discriminatory - a ride they compare to the freedom rides of the civil rights movement and to King's march on Washington.

Among the nineteen schools being visited over the 51 day ride against oppression are Christian campuses Liberty University and Wheaton and military school West Point.

So far the riders have been very unwelcomed by Pat Roberton's Regent University and Jerry Falwell's Liberty University - all of which arrested riders for trespassing or other minor offenses. While at Wheaton last week I learned a great deal about Wheaton's more thoughtful, constructive, kind and educational approach to the visiting riders. The riders demanded time to address students without rebuttal or discussion by faculty or campus representatives. Wheaton refused kindly and countered with a generous proposal for open discussions and a handful of public question and answer sessions, as well as meetings with administrators to discuss the riders' specific problems with Wheaton policies regarding sexuality. At these public discussions, to be held on Wheaton's campus April 20th, Equality Ride representatives will be allowed to speak their minds, show two videos of their own making and will be given more stage time than those rebutting on behalf of Wheaton. Wheaton professors are also encouraged to use the visit as a teaching tool - encouraged to invite riders to their classes for further philosophical, religious and social discussion.

Stanton L. Jones, provost at Wheaton, wrote these words to the student body after deciding to welcome the Equality Riders to campus:

“He (God) commands us to love our neighbors as ourselves” and concluded that “we will extend to our visitors courtesy and hospitality as an extension of our commitment to live as Jesus lived...We would be failing you, our students, if we did not view this visit as an opportunity for each of us to grow in our understanding of the many complex issues surrounding the morality of homosexual conduct. We hope this visit will be an educational opportunity for our entire community that will bear fruit for the Church, the Church you will soon be called to lead. We will seek to ensure that the Equality Ride visit is a learning opportunity for students in keeping with our mission as a Christian liberal arts institution."

A welcome is a reasonable thing to ask for. And a welcome, we Christians would do well to remember, is not an adoption of our visitors' views anymore than dressing in knickers and tights is an adoption of...Well, but you get the point.

3/29/2006

DEATH CAB'S DIRECTIONS

Death Cab For Cutie, leader of the nerd rock movement, has gone and done an ingenious thing: creating a video album. The band contracted avant-garde film makers to create videos, short films really, for each of the eleven songs on their critically acclaimed 2005 released album "Plans. The video album called "Directions" is diverse, beautiful, worth the cash at $1.99 per video and available only through iTunes here. For more about the film project check out Death Cab's special "Directions" site.

My kids' favorite is Crooked Teeth. It's never too early to nerd rock.

AIDING THE ENEMY FOLLOW UP

Under pressure from the US, the Vatican, and other Western leaders, Afghanistan's fledgling democracy Sunday sidestepped a politically charged case in which prosecutors had sought the death penalty for a Muslim man who converted to Christianity.
Rather than pass judgment on Abdul Rahman, an Afghan who converted while living abroad 16 years ago, the court declared him mentally unfit for trial Sunday. "He is a sick person," said Mohammed Eshaq Aloko, Afghanistan's deputy attorney general. Afghan officials said Mr. Rahman would be transferred to a hospital for psychiatric evaluation.

Read the rest of the follow up to Aiding The Enemy here.

A brief commentary on the whole ordeal. This tale reminds me of the first well-known public attacker of Christianity and his claims that, well, basically Christians were not well mentally. He couldn't understand why anyone would follow a poor man, a poor JEW, and not the more noble successful gods of the Roman empire.

"I speak bitterly about this," says Celsus, "because I feel bitterly. When we are invited to the Mysteries the masters use another tone. They say, ' Come to us ye who are of clean hands and pure speech, ye who are unstained by crime, who have a good conscience towards God, who have done justly and lived uprightly.' The Jews say, ' Come to us ye who are sinners, ye who are fools or children, ye who are miserable, and ye shall enter into the kingdom of Heaven.' The rogue, the thief, the burglar, the poisoner, the spoiler of temples and tombs, these are their proselytes. Jesus, they say, was sent to save sinners; was he not sent to help those who have kept themselves free from sin? They pretend that God will save the unjust man if he repents and humbles himself...Above all Christians are disloyal, and every church is an illicit collegium, an insinuation deadly at any time, but especially so under Marcus Aurelius. Why cannot Christians attach themselves to the great philosophic and
political authorities of the world? A properly understood worship of gods and demons is quite compatible with a purified monotheism, and they might as well give up the mad idea of winning the authorities over to their faith, or of hoping to attain anything like universal agreement on divine things. "

Celsus thought Christians were unpatriotic crazies. They earned that label. Have I? Should I?

LETTERS TO WAR

On April 8th IKONers are invited to the IKON room at The People's Church to assemble care packages that will be sent to U.S. Soldiers in Iraq who are not receiving mail from anyone back home. These soldiers are possibly lonely, surely would like some good old saturate fat from a U.S. grocery store and may just like to know someone cares about them. We're aiming to meet all those needs together. One of our IKONers has a brother stationed in Iraq who alerted us to this need and will be helping us get the packages to the right people the right way. Again, April 8th, 5:30PM in the IKON room. E-mail Katye to reserve a spot for yourself and to find out what supplies we need if you'd like to make a donation to this cause.

This is one of the many "GO" opportunities provided for folks at IKON (Thanks to Katye, our volunteer Go Coordinator this semester for bringing us this opportunity.) IKON is a twenty-something community led by me and Brian Seay meeting at The People's Church in Franklin, TN every Tuesday at 8PM. Our goal is to represent God on earth by learning, going, giving, praying and just being together in community. Visit us on-line at IKONCOMMUNITY.COM or call 615.794.2812 for more info.

3/27/2006

HOME AGAIN

I'm home again - 2136 miles later. I only play 6-8 shows each month because I'd like my wife to like me and my kids to remember who I am. This month all of those shows happened to hit all at once - a rare thing. We've been gone for the last several days, our wives doing all the parenting alone. So, give me some time to recoup, hang out with my kids and give my wife a break and I'll be back here to post pictures from our run of shows this week soon.

A teaser: Captain Hook opened for me at Bethel College. Yea, wig, knickers, the whole deal. You betcha I got pictures.

SG

3/26/2006

THIS WEEK AT IKON 3.28.06: NOW, ABOUT VIRGINS...


Last week at ikon Brian taught from the first half of 1Corinthians 7 where Paul is answering questions from the new Christians in Corinth about relationships. Paul was fielding questions like a first century Dr.Phil or Dear Abbie:

Should I avoid the opposite sex altogether?

I'm married, should I stop having sex with my spouse now that I'm a Christian?

I'm single, should I stay that way?

Can I leave my spouse because he/she is not a Christian like me?

This week Paul answers questions about virgins and tells us if it's better to be married or single:

1Corinthians 7:25-34 (NIV) Now about virgins: I have no command from the Lord, but I give a judgment as one who by the Lord's mercy is trustworthy. 26Because of the present crisis, I think that it is good for you to remain as you are. 27Are you married? Do not seek a divorce. Are you unmarried? Do not look for a wife. 28But if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this.

29What I mean, brothers, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they had none; 30those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; 31those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.

32I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord's affairs—how he can please the Lord. 33But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife— 34and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord's affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband. 35I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.




See you there.

BETHEL COLLEGE CLEPTO

I'm somewhere in Indiana tonight sleeping in a mobile home on campus and working on one of only four Macs in the campus' computer lab. (Come on. FOUR?) No wireless in the mobile home. Boo. But it has a jumbo bathtub with jacuzzi jets...if you're into that sort of thing.

Anyway, we played at Quest Community church in Lexington, Kentucky this morning and then drove the many hours to Mishawaka, Indiana so we can play Bethel's chapel service in the morning. I talked to Becky and the kids this evening and they're doing well but wishing I could be home. Me too. It's been five days away - a rare thing for me.

Change of subject. I'm debating whether to bring this up in the morning or not: I just overheard the student sitting across from me right now talking to another female student talking about a DVD. The DVD was handed off from one girl to the other and then...

"Do you care if I burn it?"

"Nooo," came the answer with a why-on-earth-would-I look.

"Some people are weird about that you know?"

"Whatever, I don't care." And the "sharing" friend walked away leaving just me, my justice complex and the clepto sitting here together now.

And that's dangerous because I'm wondering if I should talk to her about that little exchange right now or tell the story tomorrow morning at chapel since all students at Bethel have to be there. And I'm wondering how many students are required in Christian schools these days to take a class in Christian ethics, and wondering if I should suggest this student sign up for one? Decisions, decisions.

Hey, I was just checking my mail.

3/25/2006

WHAT'S WRONG WITH THIS WORLD TOUR: GERMANY

The WHAT'S WRONG WITH THIS WORLD TOUR is officially on. With other dates in the works we just finalized our first two offers:

OCT. 28 Witten, Germany - Witten Baptist Church
OCT. 29 Stuttgart, Germany - Liederhalle

Ireland dates and more coming soon. See you there.

3/24/2006

A TRIP TO WHEATON AND NARNIA


Brian and I drove from northern Indiana to the Chicago area late last night so I could speak and sing at Wheaton College's chapel service this morning. Wheaton's 2400 students are required to attend chapel services held three times a week - well, they can skip nine a semester. So, since attendance I expected folks to nap, read a magazine or talk on their cell phone - that's what other schools' chapels are often like anyway.


But Wheaton's students leaned in and listened whie I taught and sang about why they're in college, why we're here, what it means to be "For Christ and His kingdom" as Wheaton's sign out front says. They sang along and laughed and did that furrowed eyebrow I'm-thinking-about-what-you-just-said thing that teachers love to see on faces and even found me afterward to say thanks. If I could do nothing but play chapels and have them be chocked full of students like Wheaton's I'd do it. Thanks to Wheaton's chaplain Dr.Kellough, his assistant Marilyn and everyone at chapel this morning for letting me do what I love. And for not reading magazines while I did it.


After chapel we headed over to Wheaton's radio studio for an interview with Joy Curry, who apparently reads SHLOG.


Then we did something we never make time to do: we became tourists. The great thing about this job is that I get to see three or more cities every week. The bad news? I see them from a stage and a hotel room and a rental car. We never have time to relax and site see. But today we made time to visit the Marion E. Wade Center, a museum on Wheaton's campus housing a research collection of books and papers from seven British authors: Owen Barfield, G.K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, George MacDonald, Dorothy L. Sayers, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Charles Williams. Pretty cool stuff.


A map of Narnia drawn by C.S.Lewis.


The wardrobe some believe inspired Lewis' Narnia stories.


The plaque posted beside it tells the story of the wardrobe. (Click to enlarge and read.)


It doesn't work, by the way. Yea, I was bummed about that too.

Instead of Narnia I'm at Cumberland College in Williamsburg, Kentucky tonight and playing here in the morning. More from the road tomorrow.

FROM THE ROAD

Greenville College in Illinois two nights ago. A church plant in Portage, Indiana last night. Wheaton College chapel services in Chicago today. Pictures and tales to come.

3/23/2006

AIDING THE ENEMY

On March 14 2004 President Bush declared that allied forces had succeeded in creating an Afghanistan free from terror. In his address he announced, "Today, that nation (Afghanistan) has a democratic government and many allies -- and all of us are proud to be friends of the Afghan people." He went on to declare Afghanis free and democratic and to hold Afghanistan up as the kind of nation Iraq could become if the War on Terror continued unhindered. Let's hope Iraq fares better.

There's no doubt that Afghanistan's citizens are better off today than they were before the work of allied forces began. But Christianity is not. And while this is not Bush's or Blair's fault and was certainly not their intention, it is a sobering reality, a reminder of the limitations and short-sidedness of governments and armies throughout history. Allied forces have effectively freed Afghanis from the terror of the Taliban only to aid them in establishing a terror of their a own: a theocracy based on Islamic law which requires converts to Christianity to be executed. One nation under God has inadvertently established a nation opposed to it's God and it's God's followers.

The Associated press reports today that Senior Muslim clerics in Afghanistan are right now demanding that a citizen on trial for converting from Islam to Christianity receive the death penalty. If the courts do not execute him clerics are warning that they will rally the now liberated democratic people of Afghanistan to "pull him into pieces." The 41-year-old Rahman, a former medical aid worker, broke Afghanistan's theocratic Islamic laws against becoming a Christian.

"Rejecting Islam is insulting God. We will not allow God to be humiliated. This man must die," said cleric Abdul Raoulf, who is considered a moderate and was jailed three times for opposing the Taliban before the hard-line regime was ousted in 2001. He is a supporter of the War on Terror. He is an ally but an enemy of my King.

Pressured by Western leaders the courts in Afghanistan are frantically searching for ways to free the Christian convert without going against their own laws forbidding conversion. One out is for Rahman to claim insanity and another would be for him to be exiled to the West. But Said Mirhossain Nasri, a top cleric at the Hossainia Mosque in Kabul, said the convert should not be allowed to leave the country. "If he is allowed to live in the West, then others will claim to be Christian so they can, too," he said. "We must set an example. ... He must be hanged."

The clerics are angry with the United States for pushing for the convert's freedom. "We are a small country and we welcome the help the outside world is giving us. But please don't interfere in this issue," Nasri said. "We are Muslims and these are our beliefs."

So, should Christians support (however that's defined) U.S. government actions establishing new governments and nations if those nations are at their core opposed to Christ and Christianity? What do you think?

3/22/2006

UPDATED LAST EYEWITNESS TOUR SCHEDULE

A new date has been added the THE LAST EYEWITNESS tour schedule: April 12 in Snellville, GA. There will be no more shows added so make your plans now to attend one of these nights of this one time only event featuring Rob Pepper, music from Robbie Seay Band and Don and Lori Chaffer of Waterdeep, and experiential teaching from author/pastor Chris Seay.

  • April 7 - Toronto, Ontario – Tyndale College - 7:00pm - free - www.tyndale.ca


  • April 8 - S Barrington Hills, IL - Willow Creek Community Church - 5:30pm – free - www.generationaxis.com


  • April 9 – S. Barrington Hills, IL – Willow Creek Community Church – 11:00am – free – www.generationaxis.com


  • April 9 – Chesterfield, MO – Windsor Crossing Community Church – 7:00pm – free – www.windsorcrossing.org


  • April 11 – Franklin, TN – The People’s Church – 7:00pm – free – "http://www.ikoncommunity.com">www.ikoncommunity.com


  • April 12 - Snellville, GA - The Point - 7:00pm - free - www.the-point.org


  • April 13 – Lexington, KY – The University of Kentucky – 7:00pm – free – www.ukcsf.org


  • April 14 – Pine Bluff, AR – First Presbyterian Church – 7:00pm – $10 – www.1stchurchpb.org

  • IT'S CALLED FICTION FOR A REASON

    Fiction: (n) a literary work based on the imagination and not necessarily on fact.

    Despite the fact that novel The Da Vinci Code is filed under fiction everywhere it can be purchased, thousands of folks, many of whom are Christians, are wondering if much of it's plot line is fact. And because this plot line insists that Jesus was not divine and that the Church was a creation of Emperor Constantine and that murders were perpetrated by clergy took, and maybe still are, to keep the lie alive and the truth secret, well, this understandably troubles more than a few folks.

    "One reason it works so well on readers is that he tends to begin with a kernel of something historical and then quickly spins off into fiction - or you could say falsehood, since he represents it as something researched," says Timothy Beal, professor of religion at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. (From CSM)

    Scholars worry that the sudo-scholarship/fiction now validated by a Hollywood version of the Da Vinci Code undermines the decades and even centuries of science and scholarship they and their colleagues have dedicated their lives to - scholarship, in other words, is given less weight and attention than the conspiracy theories of a block buster film and book. Religious scholars and clergy also realize the potential harm of the Code's popularity because church history is not something taught in churches these days and so a fictitious version of events could very well be believed by congregants because it is the ONLY version of events modern Christians have been told.

    But instead of boycotts and petitions and protests Christians are getting smart...literally. They're getting educated about their history and educating others. Sony Pictures has opened a website for discussion to take place about the film as well and many Christians are taking them up on the offer, kindly and rationally dialoguing about the book and film and how they differ from what we believe to be the true story of our faith.

    In related news: The author of The Da Vinci Code, Brown, was recently sued for plagiarism in British court, accused of stealing not kernels of historical fact and reworking them into his 40 million selling book, but of stealing another author's work. Verdict in the next three weeks.

    ILLUSTRATOR CHRIS KOELLE

    I started out life (or elementary school actually) as a visual artist who bailed out of guitar lessons on account of my second grade hands not being able to keep the strings down. I was that that kid who sat on the back row of risers in choir every Sunday night doodling on a scrap of discarded bulletin, more interested in scribbling to life monsters and army men living in my brain with one of those tiny church pencils than I was in learning how to sing songs from "Down By The Creek Bank." Basically, I liked to draw. All the time.

    And while I'm not very good at it anymore on account of all my soft rocking leaving little time over the last few years to stay practiced up, I still love discovering new artists and art and living vicariously through their brushstrokes. It makes me want to rent a cabin the woods somewhere, buy up all the paints and canvas I can and go at it.

    Thanks to Andrew Osenga's blog I stumbled onto another artist (and a his friends) who's inspired me to paint again and dumbfounded me with his brand of often grunge-ish almost always dark illustration. Chris Koelle's work is flat out beautiful. See for yourself and then visit Chris' blog, the Portland Studios artists he works with and his personal on-line gallery.

    (All images are completely ripped off from Chris' various sites and will be removed from this post if he gets really really angry)














    3/21/2006

    ANGEL OF DEATH: 2 - GUITARS: 0

    WARNING: THIS POST WILL ONLY BE OF INTEREST TO AND CAUSE HEART ACHE FOR GUITAR PLAYERS. EVERYONE ELSE MAY MOVE ALONG NOW.

    So, I explained a couple posts ago that my guitar was stolen from my garage recently - or borrowed. I'm still hoping. Well, today I took my back up guitar (a blonde version of my stolen one) to the shop. It needed a new input jack and some setting up before I could take it on the road this week.

    My usual guitar doctor wasn't able to squeeze me in today (its' Nashville. Every waiter and house painter has a freaking guitar) so I tried this new guy close by. The guitar didn't need major work so what I cared about was fast, not good. Problem wasn't sure he could fix my "geetar" and asked me to check back with him" after while" when his "buddy" got back from lunch. "Sure," I said and scooted out the door to grab some lunch myself.

    After consuming a #1 combo from Chick-fil-A I scooted back to the shop. "What's the verdict?" I asked. "I've got some bad news about that geetar of yours, man," he said motioning me behind his counter.

    I stepped into the back room and saw my geetar laying there beheaded - the neck split clean in two pieces - the strings still holding on like in ribbon in the hair of a stiffened corpse.

    He explained that when I left him last he'd leaned my guitar - sorry, my geetar - up against his desk and somehow bumped it moments later when turning to help a customer. It fell and split in two. In two! T-W-freaking O!

    He thought I'd be ticked and started asking me not to sue him or make a scene. "I'll make it right," he said. "It's just stuff," I told him. What he didn't know was that I just spoke last week at ikon about how we Christians aren't supposed to sue people - especially since the stuff we sue over is only physical and temporary. Doh! Why'd I do that?

    Yea, I taught that we're supposed to choose to lose rather than cause loss to others - even if they deserve it for doing a bone head thing like leaning my only remaining child against a desk.

    Seriously, I got hooked up with a pretty good Taylor, black, with a less incredible but doable pickup in it. (Can you say "snob"?) He loaned it to me, his personal guitar, for a week along with a coupe cables, some strings and his very own tuner. None of it feels like home, like my Yamaha's do, but it'll get the job done. And he's kindly decided to have someone ELSE glue my guitar back together and paint it.

    Oh, and he said the repair on the jack is on the house. Good. I'm all good. What's done is done. No big deal. Moving on.

    By the way, anybody know a secluded place where a guy could, oh, I don't know, take something of his - like maybe a guitar for example and, you know, maybe put it's headstock in a vice and chew it's body in half with a chain-saw without being noticed? Some place like that? I mean, I'm just, uh...I'm just asking...if you know that kind of place.

    GOOGLEIDOL

    That's right, yet another parody of American Idol. This time Google's video hosting service is making the world's best (and probably only) on-line videographed talent competition a reality: "unearthing the world's talent". Watch and vote at Googleidol.com.

    I hate to influence the voting in the least but here's my favorite of the finalists:

    THIS WEEK AT IKON 3.21.06: MARRIAGE?

    We're still in our series on 1 Corinthians at ikon called "A Letter To Sin City." If you're in the area (the people's church in franklin, tn.) stop by. Here's just a little bit of what Brian will be teaching from this Tuesday March 21.

    1 Corinthians 7:7-9 Sometimes I wish everyone were single like me--a simpler life in many ways! But celibacy is not for everyone any more than marriage is. God gives the gift of the single life to some, the gift of the married life to others. I do, though, tell the unmarried and widows that singleness might well be the best thing for them, as it has been for me. But if they can't manage their desires and emotions, they should by all means go ahead and get married. The difficulties of marriage are preferable by far to a sexually tortured life as a single.



    It's not enough to call marriage difficult huh Paul? You just had to call singles tortured too. Um, Mr.Sunshine, is there anything you DO like?

    3/20/2006

    PURITY OF HEART

    Soren Kierkegard believed purity of heart was to "will one thing." The pure of heart are those whose hands and mouth and heart are in agreement. One.

    I've explained purity of heart dozens of times over the last nine months that White Flag, my album based around the beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12) has been on store shelves. I've written articles and wrestled the writing of a book about these eight blessings of Jesus' too. I've understood intellectually what it means to be pure. I can explain what a pure mind and spirit unhindered, undivided, allegiant to God alone over nation, family, my desire for fame, fortune, approval, comfort or happiness looks like. I even taught purity of heart to a group of women this morning gathered for a weekly bible study my wife attends every Monday. They asked me to teach them about the beatitudes and I did so confident that while I don't have the beatitudes mastered yet I have purity down pat. I thought I did.

    Many weeks ago a friend of mine, a mentor, asked me to join him and his family in Rome - to be a missionary there with him. I pondered it and felt confident that it wasn't the right move for me. There was too much I questioned about the methods and philosophy of the movement he wanted me to join. I didn't think the plan he was following would work.

    Tonight he and his wife and kids came for a visit. They're in town meeting with people who will fund them, pray for them and advise them when they move to Rome in a few months. Over heaping helpings of Tex-Mex, with our kids destroying everything in the next room, we talked. And the questions and concerns I'd had weeks ago evaporated one by one. So many pieces began fitting for me: There's strategic need for musicians and artists who can teach. I have a degree in music composition with an emphasis in world music. They need house church pastors to lead small groups of Christians primarily ages 18-25. I've been pastoring 18-25 year olds for the last couple years at ikon. The emphasis of my friend's strategy has shifted away from proclamation evangelism to relational organic discipleship. That's what I believe in as well and am good at. I've been drawn back for a few years now toward a model of church that more closely resembles the almost commune-like small church of the first two centuries. That's what my friend is planting.

    I believe the church changed for the worse when Rome began making her over in it's government's image in 325AD under the leadership of Constantine and that this happened because she's a strategic important city to Christianity. Rome is strategic today because it is the home to tens of thousands of university students from around the world. It is a tourism hot spot. It has the largest mosque and one of the densest Muslim populations in the world. It is a gateway city to Northern Africa also dominated by Islam and home to a large population in tremendous physical and spiritual need.

    And I'm suddenly aware of my impurity, of the divided loyalty of my heart. If Rome turns out to be what's next for me and mine I won't hesitate because of my love for my home or comfort or America. But people, my best friends, will keep me here. It's my love for friends that divides me; not debt (it's all gone), not career (I can do what I do anywhere), not extended family (planes fly from Italy to Texas I think), not fear of having to learn a language (if it's on a CD I can learn it). Friends have my allegiance, not God. I think I need to be seeing these people every day, to have my kids play with theirs and to have them to laugh with and talk to and just be comfortable together. My love for friends has me willing two things and not one: to be obedient to God and to stay put right here just down the street from the best friends I may have ever had.

    If God showed up at your kitchen table tomorrow, I mean with the white beard and the booming baritone voice and the toga, and He gave you orders to do the daring, move to the ends of the earth or just the middle of Italy, what would anchor you to your kitchen chair? What divides your heart? What keeps you from willing one thing: obedience to God?

    I guess we never really know until He shows up over a plate of Tex-Mex. (Make that two things dividing my heart: I'm almost positive Rome has bad Mexican food.)

    DEAR GUITAR THEIF

    Dear guitar thief,

    I'm writing in hopes that you return my beautiful Yamaha CPX15 West acoustic/electric guitar to me pictured here. And if you could do that before my string of gigs that start Wednesday, I'd be even more appreciative. I'm hoping I guess that you just borrowed her, just to write a song or hang on your wall so your date Saturday would think you wrote songs or something, and maybe you just forgot to bring her back when your date was over or your song or whatever it was you were doing with her. I don't want to know. Anyway, I'm reminding you to return her now.

    She belongs here with me. She was given to me by Yamaha a few years ago and since then we've seen just about all of this great nation and much of the world together. I'm not co-dependent or anything. I mean, I know I don't NEED her, I'm still a whole man without her you know but there's still a small acoustic guitar shaped hole in me now that I fear will never be filled again. Yea, Yamaha could probably send me a new one or I can play her twin sister the CPX15 North (though her input jack is busted and she's not as pretty) and my insurance company would gladly "replace" her but can something so close to a man ever truly be replaced?

    And, man, what did we ever do to you? We were just minding our own business, playing together in the front yard while the neighbor kids sang along and danced. Then we took a little break for dinner - I went in the house and she stayed in her case propped against the wall of our garage, in the shade...in the safe cool shade. And you, sometime later when I was inside eating with my family or giving my kids a bath, before I closed the garage door and locked her up tight for the night, crept out of the shadows and kidnapped her. Jerk. Big fat jerk. Big fat probably Alvarez playing jerk.

    OK, wait a minute, I didn't mean to call you that. I'm sure you had your reasons for doing what you did. I just need to calm down I guess. Maybe you just wondered what it would be like to hold something so beautiful and run your fingers down her neck. I can't really blame you for that. Can I? Maybe you had an empty place you thought she could fill but, man, no matter what you tell yourself you've got to know deep down inside that she'll never truly be yours. She can't be. She's mine. Love like hers can't be stolen, it can only be begged for by professional rock stars like me and then given to us for free in exchange for publicity photos with her and a short personally written endorsement to be placed in advertisements.

    So, come to your senses. Maybe I could talk to Yamaha for you and help you get a beauty of your own. What do you say? Can I have her back now?

    Yours truly,
    Shaun Groves

    LEGISLATING THE GENIE BACK INTO THE BOTTLE?

    This week, the Christian Music Trade Association (CMTA), a sister organization to the Gospel Music Association (GMA) which specifically represent the interests of record companies, has issued official resolutions to the Commerce and Judiciary Committees of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, as well as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), urging their support in recognizing the importance of protecting music transmitted over digital broadcast radio, announced John W. Styll, president of the CMTA and GMA.

    The resolutions specifically petition for the advancement of HR 4861, a bill which would revise Section 114 of the Copyright Act, granting the FCC limited authority to protect digital audio broadcasts from illegal copying and redistribution over digital networks. The bill was introduced by Representative Mike Ferguson and co-sponsored by Rep. Marsha Blackburn, Rep. Bart Gordon, Rep. Edolphus Towns and Rep. Mary Bono.

    “Digital piracy has wreaked economic harm at all levels of the music business, including the gospel music industry. Now, with new recording devices capable of recording satellite radio broadcasts and digital broadcasts from terrestrial radio stations, we are concerned that further damage will be inflicted on copyright owners and in turn, the record labels, musicians, recording artists, recording engineers, record store owners and others employed in gospel music. As part of our advocacy responsibility, the CMTA was compelled to make these direct appeals to our legislators and the appropriate regulatory authority,” said Styll.

    From New Music Tuesday.


    Will this work? What do think?

    3/19/2006

    BLINK

    Watch Malcolm Gladwell, the author of "The Tipping Point: How Little Things Make A Big Difference" reveal the basic principles in his latest book about snap judgments called "Blink" below. The greatest insight came last for me as he explained when less information can actually make us better decision makers and why. "Frugality matters," he says. Not good news for us information gluttons. But food for thought.



    (HT:PRM)

    CALVINISM: TRUE OR FALSE? PT3 (LIMITED ATONEMENT)

    Christians believe the wrong doings, the inadequacies, the failure of man to be perfect is an offense which God has decided will earn mankind the death penalty. This wrongness of ours is called "sin." Sin is something we've all got on our wrap sheet. And death then is something we all have in our future. Or HAD in our future. God decided to allow someone else to sit in the electric chair for us.

    The shirtless guy in the end zone holding up "JOHN 3:16" every Sunday the NFL has a game is telling the story, oddly, of how Jesus came to earth as man because God loved mankind, and how Jesus died and how if we believe this is true - that we have debt we can't pay and that Jesus paid it for us by dying in our place - we won't have to die. The apostle Paul told his jailer who asked how he could be "saved" simply "believe." Jesus has already died for "the world" and our simply believing it somehow crosses us over, Paul says, "from death to life." This act of dying so that mankind doesn't have to, this taking our place on the executioners platform and effectively paying for our sin with His life, is called "atonement."

    But Calvin (and before him Augustine) said, "Wait a minute!" (Or, because he was German, "Ein minuten bitte.") "'World' doesn't mean everybody in the world, on this planet," Calvin hypothetically continues, "Just certain somebodies God loves more than the rest of the somebodies: only the 'elect' in the world were died for, had their debt paid, and are "saved" from death."

    Other Calvinists have said it this way:
    “It was just because God so loved the world of elect sinners that He sent His only begotten Son...” (Edwin H. Palmer, "The Five Points of Calvinism" p.44)

    "The Biblical or Calvinistic position is that Christ intended that His death should atone only for the elect and not for others. According to this position, man is totally depraved, and God, loving some with a great love, elected them, or in other words, determined that they should be saved. He sent Christ to die for them and them alone, thereby saving them. Thus, the atonement of Christ is limited to some and is not intended for all. Hence, the name 'limited atonement'" (Dr. Edwin H. Palmer, "The Five Points of Calvinism" p. 35).

    "Historical or mainline Calvinism has consistently maintained that Christ's redeeming work .... was intended to render complete satisfaction for certain specified sinners and that it actually secured salvation for these individuals and for no one else....Thus, Christ's saving work was limited in that it was designed to save some and not others..." (Steele & Thomas, "The Five Points of Calvinism", p. 39).

    "For this was the sovereign counsel and most gracious will and purpose of God the Father that the quickening and saving efficacy of the most precious death of His Son should extend to all the elect, for bestowing upon them alone the gift of justifying faith...it was the will of God that Christ by the blood of the cross...should effectually redeem out of every people, tribe, nation, and language, all those, and those only, who were from eternity chosen to salvation and given to Him by the Father; that He should confer upon them faith..." (Canons of Dordt (2nd Head of Doctrine -- Article 8)

    Atonement is a mysterious thing and I'm not confident that I have it fully figured out, can or ever will, BUT the Calvinist view seems to me to be worth questioning. Doesn't mean its wrong, just that either I'm not predestined to understand it (little Cavinist humor there, sorry) or it does in fact contradict some pretty familiar words in the bible beginning with John 3:16 which has already been mentioned. Then there are these:

    I John 2:2 "He Himself (Jesus Christ) is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world."

    Hebrews 2:9 By the grace of God, Jesus "tasted death for everyone." "So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men" (Romans 5:18).

    2 Corinthians 5:14-15 "For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again."

    Luke 19:10: "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost. (Not just some of what was lost)

    Romans 5:6: "You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly." (Not just some of the ungodly)

    It's also taught by Paul in the bible that sin entered nature and man's mind and heart through one man: Adam. One man sinned and so ALL men became sinners. And Paul goes on to say that sin was paid for by one God/man: Jesus. One God/man died and ALL sin was paid for. He makes this point very clear when he says, "Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men."

    So, again, teach me. I am only skimming the surface of Calvinism here but I'm doing it this way because, honestly, it's the little I know. In other words, I'm not being shallow on purpose. This is the deepest depth of my knowledge of Cavinism. I'm hoping somebody can teach me more here, take me deeper.

    I'm listening.

    3/18/2006

    PUT YOUR MIND TO THIS

    Randy Elrod, a creative and wise friend of mine, posted on his blog recently about an intriguing conference for artists hosted by International Arts Movement (IAM) aimed at mobilizing artists to be persons of reconciliation, creators of shalom on earth. It was on IAM's site that this quote struck me and has been rattling inside my brain for hours:

    "If a democracy rests on any principle at all, it is the realization that we can create the society we want to live in if people in this single morning and this single room, if they put their minds to it. You have enough energy, and you have enough creativity to change America."
    - Dana Gioia, Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, Keynote speech at International Arts Movement's "Artist as Reconcilers" conference, February 23, 2006, Cooper Union University, New York City.

    Is this true? Can we create the society we want, whether we're artists, students, politicians or house painters, by putting our minds to it and expending "energy" and "creativity"?

    Hear audio from the IAM conference by clicking the iTunes button:
    Unknown - International Arts Movement - International Arts Movement

    3/17/2006

    LAST EYEWITNESS TOUR SCHEDULE

    Due to the many requests after yesterday's post about THE LAST EYEWITNESS tour, here is the schedule of tour stops as it stands today:

  • April 7 - Toronto, Ontario – Tyndale College - 7:00pm - free - www.tyndale.ca


  • April 8 - S Barrington Hills, IL - Willow Creek Community Church - 5:30pm – free - www.generationaxis.com


  • April 9 – S. Barrington Hills, IL – Willow Creek Community Church – 11:00am – free – www.generationaxis.com


  • April 9 – Chesterfield, MO – Windsor Crossing Community Church – 7:00pm – free – www.windsorcrossing.org


  • April 11 – Franklin, TN – The People’s Church – 7:00pm – free – "http://www.ikoncommunity.com">www.ikoncommunity.com


  • April 13 – Lexington, KY – The University of Kentucky – 7:00pm – free – www.ukcsf.org


  • April 14 – Pine Bluff, AR – First Presbyterian Church – 7:00pm – $10 – www.1stchurchpb.org

    The Hummingbird Agency (the booking company Brian and I began together a few years ago) is booking this tour and still looking for a place to take it on April 12. Ideally, this would be a city within driving distance of Nashville - the stop the night before. If you're interested in booking THE LAST EYEWITNESS on April 12 contact Brian or fill out a submission form at thehummingbirdagency.com. Be sure to select "LAST EYE WITNESS" in the artist pull down menu.

  • 3/16/2006

    THE LAST EYEWITNESS COMES TO NASHVILLE

    On Tuesday, April 11th IKON will host THE LAST EYEWITNESS in the main worship center at The People's Church in Franklin, TN. THE LAST EYEWITNESS is an alternative worship experience telling the story of Jesus through scenes from the Gospel of John. During the night, communication will take the form of art from UK visual artist Rob Pepper, music from Robbie Seay Band and Don and Lori Chaffer of Waterdeep, and experiential teaching from author/pastor Chris Seay (brother of Robbie Seay and IKON's Brian Seay - See how incestuous it all is?).

    All of these artists/communicators have been collaborating for some time now on THE VOICE, a paraphrase bible project of sorts that aims to present the whole of scripture as one grand story. This evening in the Gospel of John is a preview of that project in a sense. Other contributors to this bible project THE VOICE are Donald Miller, Brian McClaren, Lauren Winner, and many others. THE VOICE will be available in 2007. Come see THE LAST EYEWITNESS April 11th. It's free.

    (HT:BS)

    3/15/2006

    CREATIVE CONSTIPATION

    I'm constipated right now. Creatively speaking. I don't get "writer's block". You can build with a block, stack a block, stand on the stack and reach the hit song on the top shelf. I'm not a complete idiot: I know "block" in this particular metaphor is more about being clogged, stopped up, unable to flow. But it's still open to a positive interpretation - it still has a bright side (that word "block" and it's other meaning) - but having it, having writer's block, isn't at all positive.

    So I prefer constipation as the metaphor. That's how "writer's block" really feels. It feels like there's something that truly needs to come out - it would be very healthy, I think to myself, for this to come out of me, I need it to come out or I might be sick and even possibly die - but it won't. It sits there stubbornly lodged in the large intestine of my mind, or fingers or wherever it is good ideas hide out while they're being processed.

    This constipation leads to irritation which would lead to eradication (of myself) if I thought that I, a song writer/article writer/sermon writer by trade, would never, you know, "go" ever again. But I always get unclogged somehow...eventually. Something always comes along and acts as the metaphoric bran muffin to get me making musical number twos good enough to be number one on some chart somewhere. Suddenly I run to the piano or to a napkin with pen in hand and a mind swarming with a buzzing cloud of bee-like bits of melody and rhyme. And I take dictation feverishly. Eventually the brainstorm ends, usually in a matter of minutes, and I'm left in awe of this thing that just shot out of me, out of nothingness, out of the total wasteland that was my head. Amazing.

    Do it again, I plea with the unseen thing that must have triggered this burst of productivity. Do it again! But it rarely obeys.

    Rarely have I been able to coax inspiration into playing nice with my deadlines and desires. Inspiration is stubborn like that..and sneaky. You see he hides out somewhere until the wrong moment. He waits until I'm in a shower with no instrument or pen. He lurks until three in the morning. He plays dead until family comes to visit, the car needs to be taken to the shop, the kids are all sick and it's my turn to cook dinner. THEN he leaps into the room and screams, "Play with me!"

    I was stripping wallpaper in a bathroom when "Welcome Home" pounced on me. I was studying for final exams when "Abba Father" jolted me awake. I was selling hot dogs in a concession stand at Sam's Wholesale when "Two Cents" hopped up on the counter and started singing almost faster than I could scribble on a box of buns.

    Constipation to diarrhea and back again. I just want to be regular.

    But I never will be - at least not by my own doing. And that might be inspiration's point - God's point. Psychoanalyst Adam Phillips has been researching inspiration and writes that "It is the kind of magic that people like to believe in, perhaps especially now, in a culture where money can buy virtually everything else of value, and science and technology can create or invent the things we most need. Inspiration, in other words, is a kind of God-term; it refers to something we think of as essential but that we can't, or may not want to, understand. As [T.S.] Eliot suggests, it is like a visitation from something profound and incomprehensible. It reassures us, or at least reminds us, that some of the best things about us are beyond our control."

    I get it. I'm not running the show. You're in charge. I'm just your secretary - a constipated secretary.

    OK? Lesson's learned. Can I have a melody now?

    (HT:RE)

    3/14/2006

    WORDS THAT MAKE US

    As part of the National Education Association's Read Across America program, the pre-school two of my kids go to twice a week for a few hours is having parents read their favorite book to their child's class.

    So this morning I'm off to Mrs.Barbara's classroom with "It's Hard To Be Five" by Jamie Lee Curtis and "The Peace Book" by Todd Parr in my backpack. These are Gabriella's favorites though (she's five). And they're pretty good. But my favorite books when I first started enjoying to read, somewhere around third grade I think, were poetry books by Shel Silverstein like "A Light In The Attic" and "Where The Sidewalk Ends" and his opus tale of sacrificial love "The Giving Tree."

    I still have parts of his prose memorized. And I can't help but wonder if what I read way back then had something to do with making me who I am today. And this makes me wonder if reading "Everybody Poops" and "The Gas We Pass:The Story Of Farts" to my son every night is really such a good idea.

    What words made you?

    3/13/2006

    WHY KNOT

    Granny knot. Then make a tree. Then run the rabbit around the tree and through the hole. Done. Shoes tied. For the millionth time.

    I've used this method since Mrs. Heilman taught it to me in kindergarten. Before that I used mom, dad or strangers who looked like they needed something to do. You probably learned how to tie your shoelaces from a teacher too. Or from a father who learned from his father who learned from his father who...

    And so you and I and millions more walk around with trees circled by rabbits on our big boy shoes to this day. It works for me. I've never questioned it. Have you?

    But did you know there's more than one way to secure laces. There are at least sixteen. And I've decided to try them all. Not because the rabbit approach hasn't served me well but because doing something as simply subversive as tying my shoes differently is a challenge to the status quo and my own patterns of thinking and habitual unquestioned living. It's a tiny reminder that there might be a different way than what I've always known - a different way to think about almost everything. And that way just might be better, faster, more beautiful or more fun in the end.

    And maybe knot.

    3/12/2006

    CHURCH VERSUS STATE

    If Jerry Falwell were to have his way - If every line of U.S. Law and Constitution were made up entirely of God's Law and nothing else, would we have justice in America? Would it result in utopia. Would every conflict be settled fairly as if God Himself were on the bench and in the White House?

    Here's another bunch of related questions: Should Christians look to the nation's laws and courts for justice at all? How important is the law of the land in the Christian's life? When she's wronged should she exercise her rights as a citizen and press charges? Should she sue if she's taken advantage of? Can Christians be lawyers? Judges?

    These are just some of the questions I've been wrestling while studying 1 Corinthians chapter 6 for this Tuesday's ikon. William Barclay gives this partial answer in his commentary on Paul's letters to Corinthian Christians:

    "To go to the law at all, and especially to go to the law with a fellow Christian, is to fall far below the Christian standard of behavior. Long ago, Plato had laid it down that the good will always choose to suffer wrong than to do wrong. If Christians have even the remotest tinge of the love of Christ within their hearts, they will prefer to suffer insult and loss and injury rather than try to inflict them on someone else - still more so if that person is a fellow Christian... [Christians arrange their dealings] according to the spirit of love, and the spirit of love will insist that they live at peace with one another, and will forbid them to demean themselves by going to the law."

    What do you think? Come talk about it with us at ikon this Tuesday around 8PM at the people's church in Franklin, TN.

    3/10/2006

    CLEAR CHANNEL HELPS THE LITTLE GUY?

    CMJ writes:

    Due to "high demand," Clear Channel is programming stations that cater to the "best unsigned artists across the globe." The largest radio conglomerate on the planet, which owns about 1,200 stations in the US, has launched several HD stations across the nation with more to follow. The Clear Channel NEW Music Network, or NEW!, aims to bring unsigned and up-and-coming artists to a hungry-for-new-music audience. Early last year, Clear Channel launched a website in association with garageband.com that aimed to achieve the same goal. The latest move is a step to provide listeners with subscription-free new music in high-definition sound.

    To learn more visit Clear Channel's new music indie website.

    BURNLOUNGE (AND EVERYONE ELSE IN APPLE'S WAY) IS DEAD

    I wrote yesterday about the important lessons Burnlounge is teaching the music industry. Today I discovered that while the music labels haven't been listening Steve Jobs has: Apple has launched an "affiliate program" in which YOU the customer can make money while helping Apple and the labels make money. Here's the rundown of the program from Apple itself:

    As an iTunes Affiliate, you can:

  • Make money. Earn 5% commission on all qualifying revenue generated by links to iTunes on your website and in email (terms apply).

  • Link to music, audiobooks and podcasts. iTunes has over 2 million tracks from all four major labels and 1,000 independents, plus 11,000 audiobooks and over 15,000 podcasts.

  • Enhance your website. Access Apple-designed marketing materials for use on the web, in email, and in online promotions.

  • Be in the know. The iTunes Affiliates newsletter will keep you up to date on new releases, special promotions, and more.

    There you have it:

    Steve Jobs = infinity
    Competition = zilch

    Bye-bye Burnlounge. I just signed with Apple.

  • DANIELSON: A FAMILY MOVIE

    I'm seeing this film when it comes out - if it comes out. The trailer alone leaves me wondering if it's comedy a la A Mighty Wind or a sincerely seriously badly shot film about a talented experimental musician and his family who are accidentally hilarious. Who cares? It's interesting. At it's core the film seems to revolve around a group of musicians who happen to believe the story of Jesus is true but who, in spite of making music accepted by Rolling Stone, Paste and others are shunned by the Christian music subculture. That's more intriguing than anything in theaters is to me these days.

    Here's the overview from the film's website:

    Danielson: a Family Movie is a documentary about unbridled creativity vs. accessibility, Christian faith vs. popular culture, underground music vs. survival, and family vs. individuality. The film follows Daniel Smith, an eccentric musician and visual artist, as he leads his four siblings and best friend to indie-rock stardom. Beginning in 1995 when the youngest band member was 11 years old, the Danielson Famile performs in white, vintage nurse costumes to symbolize the healing power of the Good News, a recurring subject matter. Though tepidly received by the Christian music world, the South Jersey farmland-bred clan is widely embraced by the mainstream independent music community, written about in Rolling Stone, Spin, the New York Times and elsewhere as an outsider curiosity backed up by innovative, experimental music.

    But as with other family acts, and particularly those that don't make much money, members of the band begin to seek out their own paths as they go through college and Daniel eventually faces the struggle to become viable as a solo act. Along the way he mentors an unknown singer-songwriter named Sufjan Stevens whose own subsequent success stands in stark contrast to the music world's uneasy reception of Danielson just a few years prior. With production starting in 2002, at a high water mark for the band, all the drama is played out before the camera making Danielson: a Family Movie both engaging and entertaining. Collage, direct cinema, animation and memorable performances all contribute to this thoughtful and thought-provoking spectacle.

    The film was made with no capital investment from the Danielson Famile, its record label or any other third party.


    Watch clips from Danielson: A Family Movie here and see the trailer over here.

    SMALL IS THE NEW BIG

    I met with an older wiser pastor friend recently who questioned whether Brian and I were doing everything "right" since ikon isn't massive yet, isn't growing quickly but is still growing and definitely isn't as big as WIllow Creek's version of a twenty-something bible study.

    I listened. I paused, leaned back and pondered. I examined what we're doing well, not well, the aspects we could improve. I imagined us doing everything "right" and doing it for a long time. Then I pictured what we'd become in the end. I realized, we still might be small - we'd probably be small. And I was OK with that.

    I explained to the wiser man sipping sweet tea across from me that I believe doing what is "right" when you're a minister won't always result in measurable growth, won't always look successful on the outside. I confessed that there is room for improvement at ikon and admitted that Peter sure enough grew his church by thousands each week doing right. But I also refreshed his memory about Jesus, the perfect minister, who, after three years of perfect ministering, healing, feeding thousands and appearing to five hundred with holes in his newly resurrected hands and feet STILL had less than, it's been estimated, two hundred followers on the day of Pentecost shortly after his ascension.

    "Besides," I said, "I know every name and every face in the crowd at this size and they can find me and talk to me face to face right now too. We can discuss - I don't have to just lecture. They can interrupt me when I'm speaking and ask questions and we notice when a regular isn't there. People like to be noticed, to be missed."

    Then HE looked puzzled. He paused, leaned back in his seat and pondered. "Yea, I see where you're coming from but I bet you can get those numbers up..."

    I went home, hopped on my laptop and reread these words from Seth Godin, marketing preacher to the numbers obsessed business world, and I dreamt of the day when pastors get what CEOs are beginning to: Small is big sometimes.

    ...Small means the founder makes a far greater percentage of the customer interactions. Small means the founder is close to the decisions that matter and can make them, quickly.

    Small is the new big because small gives you the flexibility to change the business model when your competition changes theirs.

    Small means you can tell the truth on your blog.

    Small means that you can answer email from your customers.

    ...A small restaurant has an owner who greets you by name.

    ...A small church has a minister with the time to visit you in the hospital when you’re sick.


    Read the rest of Seth Godin's thoughts on the greatness of small here.

    3/09/2006

    WHAT EVANGELICALS BELIEVE AND A MASTER LIST OF WHO'S GOING TO HELL

    "Evangelicals believe in many things: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, church attendance, homeschooling, Fox News, abstinence, personal holiness, toupees, leisure suits, mission work, Dockers, golf, spanking, and dinner, early and often. But the natural starting point for identifying evangelicals by their beliefs is with their best known doctrine: hell" From the hilariously true new book "A Field Guide To Evangelicals And Their Habitat"

    The author Joel Kilpatrick, creator of Lark News, goes on to explain that this belief in hell and the imminent return of Jesus drives evangelicals to engage in tract distribution, televangelizing and other behaviors in an effort to "rescue" people from hell. He admits this "fixation" with hell can seem a bit violent to outsiders but explains:

    "...from a sociological point of view, believing in hell is thought to be less violence-inducing than believing in heaven. Members of some religions go on suicide runs, thinking they will earn a vaunted position in heaven, including dozens of "extra virgins." In contrast, evangelicals don't want anyone to die until they have received Jesus [except, he notes later, "perhaps death row inmates, abortionists, truculent Arabs, Democrats, homosexuals and ACLU members"]. There is no reward in evangelical theology for killing other people, and there hasn't been since about 1270 A.D. (The reward for enslaving people also ran out, in about 1865, and in some southern states in 1972.)"

    And in case you're not clear on who's going and who's not, a chart (click to enlarge):


    Read more from "A Field Guide To Evangelicals And Their Habitat" right here. Or just buy it.

    (HT:BS)

    MUSIC BUSINESS: BURNED OR BORN AGAIN?

    Burnlounge is a novel approach to music distribution and marketing based on consumer empowerment and reward: After signing up in minutes, paid members of Burnlounge set up on-line searchable digital music stores stocked with music they choose. And the best part? Members make money from every download sold.

    The downsides to Burnlounge are myriad though. For starters, it requires Internet Explorer - not a technologically forward-thinking move likely to be popular with it's forward-thinking target audience. Secondly, the catalog of music available while Burnlounge is still beta is miniscule in comparison to other catalogs from digital music powerhouses like Rhapsody and iTunes. And indie music is, as is the case with it's competitors too, left out altogether.

    But Burnlounge is doing a lot right. And it's serving a purpose in the evolution of the music business I believe. It's the ghost of music future. It is sending a message to Nashville, LA and New York that consumers are willing to work for labels - marketing and selling - if they're rewarded for it. I hope my friends in the music business are listening: Some rabid music fans happen to like money so much that they will do whatever is necessary to make you money if you'll just share a little with them.

    Instead of listening though, labels are in a slugfest with Apple over royalties for iTunes and other issues and have threatened to deny Apple permission to sell their wares in Apple's popular music store in the future - denying fans a service they apparently love. And, in another short-sighted move, labels like Warner are starting purely digital labels: Labels signing a plethora of artists who then release "clusters" of two or three songs every few months to the company's on-line store.

    It's more of the same old me-first thinking that contributed to industry shortfalls in the first place. A plummet in service quality and musical quality. No profit participation for fans. No collaboration by fans. It's still the "Just buy what we're selling and be happy" model we consumers have already rebelled against.

    Burnlounge has preached, "Share and you'll make more." The organ is playing. Softly and tenderly the future is calling. Every label head bowed and business textbook closed. What will you choose today Mr.Music Label President? Will you get burned by your own worn out selfish ways once again? Or will you be born again in the likeness of Burnlounge? Consumers will serve you when you serve them. That's the truth. The truth that will set you free.

    3/08/2006

    CAN BUDDHA BOBBLE AHEAD OF JESUS IN CHINA?

    There are 100 million Buddhists in China. That's a lot of mints and t-shirts.

    Let me back up. There are, it's been estimated, as many as 80 million Christians in the officially atheist nation - and that number is on the rise. That's a problem for Buddhists who've long held sway over China's religious citizens. It's created a competition of sorts for souls and influence in the red country, leading the Buddhist establishment to seek contributions from outside it's nation's faithful in order to step up the spread of it's message and the remodeling of it's ancient temples. Many of these donations are coming from Taiwan and other more Westernized "liberal" societies.

    Chinese monks in turn allow capitalist donors a certain amount of influence within Chinese temples. This influence has resulted in "religious business enterprises," according to Chiang Tsan-teng, professor of religious studies at Taiwan's National Tsing-Hua University. Mini-malls set up in temples are selling congregates statues, prayer beads and other religious paraphernalia. Chiang calls the trend "department store Buddhism." We'd call it "mega-church."

    But monks charged with preserving the values and teachings of Buddha don't seem to mind the trend - or the cash. Buddha kitsch is making them rich. Well, some of them. Their lifestyles are becoming "more secular." Some monks now carry top of the line cell-phones, drive motor scooters, and in more extreme cases, lead a lifestyle previously reserved for China's wealthy class.

    Hey, Buddhists. Truce for a minute. Listen to me. I've seen your future. I'm IN your future. Your future is littered with bobble head dolls and Precious Moments. So quick - go pull your drab togas and sandals out of the Goodwill pile fast and throw that "Do the Bu" t-shirt in the trash. It's not too late for you guys. But it will be soon. Soon you'll wake up in a China littered with Family Buddha Stores and - Buddha forbid - a BMA will form to promote an industry of contemporary Buddhist singers sporting the same three haircuts and starting their own blogs.

    (HT:CSM)

    "WHAT'S WRONG WITH THIS WORLD" TOUR

    Brian and I are booking a small "tour" of the UK right now - so far we're working on Stuttgart, Hamburg and somewhere in Ireland (Belfast perhaps). But there's so much more land to cover.

    According to my clusters map (the world map to the right) there are many Shloggers in the UK and so I'm wondering if there are any pastors, promoters, radio station folks or anyone else among them with any interest in bringing me over to speak or sing for a church, school, pub or community. If you're interested in booking a night of our UK "tour" contact Brian or fill out the request form at TheHummingbirdAgency.com.

    CHRISTIAN NON-VIOLENCE IN IRAQ

    Members of Christian Peacemaker Teams are held hostage by Swords of Righteousness in Iraq today. According to The Christian Science Monitor:

    More than 100 days after the abduction of four of their peace activists in Iraq, Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) says no contact has been made with the group holding them, and no communication from the hostages has reached their families. A silent videotape showing three of the four members aired on Al Jazeera TV Tuesday. "We are not aware of any contact made with those who are holding our four team members. We continue to pray that the four are released soon and brought home to their families," says Jessica Phillips, of the CPT Chicago office.

    Formed by Mennonites, Brethren, and Quakers in 1984, CPT devotes "the same discipline and self-sacrifice to nonviolent peacemaking that armies devote to war." It trains international teams to support local peacemaking efforts around the world.

    Visit the blog maintained by CPT members reporting from Iraq here.

    MATISYAHU: JEWLICIOUS REGGAE FUSION

    Hasidic Jew Matisyahu's debut disc "Youth" dropped yesterday to much attention and mixed reviews. The attention comes from the sideshow spectacle that a pale skinned Jewish reggae singer is bound to be. Draws a crowd.

    The mixed reviews come as the predictable result of critics and fans used to feasting on the predictable sitting down to a feast of the the unique - a musical fusion made possible by shared struggle. Matisyahu's renditions of Jewish scriptures sung in Jamaican dialect over reggae grooves are an acquired taste no doubt but not a completely nonsensical concoction considering that the two legacies coming together in his music - Jamaican and Jewish - have as much in common as not.

    Sure Marley never celebrated Chanukah and Matisyahu doesn't wait for the Rastafarian Messiah to come out of Africa, but both reggae's newcomer and the king of the genre descend from peoples burdened and inspired by persecution and enslavement of similar kinds, though not magnitudes. Both peoples struggled under the weight of oppressive governments and poverty and found themselves the minority in their lands and in the world at large. They found their faiths laughed at and their rulers corrupt. From this common history, one of slavery and strife and seeming powerlessness, is birthed today the hopeful and truthful new fusion of Hasidic Reggae found on "Youth".

    Faith forms the foundation of most music from oppressed peoples throughout history. And it's what holds "Youth"'s fusion of Jamaican and Jewish together. It's what Marley and Matisyahu have in common. "I don't stand for the black man's side, I don't stand for the white man's side. I stand for God's side," said Marley. Now It's Matisyahu's turn to stand.

    Read Rolling Stone's review of "Youth" here. And watch Matisyahu perform "King Without A Crown" live at Stubbs in Austin below.


    3/07/2006

    FREE BOOK FOR BLOGGING

    Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle blogs:

    My latest book, Confessions of a Reformission Rev., is scheduled for release in early May, 2006. It chronicles the painful seasons of Mars Hill Church, which I founded in 1996 in Seattle. If you are a blogger and are willing to write a review of the book, Zondervan will send a free copy to the first seventy-five bloggers who ask. Your review does not need to be favorable and this may be a good way for some of you to take a good whack at me free of charge. So, if you want a free pre-release copy and are a blogger willing to write a review, please email my research assistant Crystal (crystal@marshillchurch.org) and she will add you to the list.