Advent devotional dropped to your inbox

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Looking for a great, spiritual, and thought provoking Advent devotional dropped into your inbox daily?

Look no further than the folks at Blue Truck Publishing to give you what you want!  Each daily devotional are emailed daily. The daily devotionals draw from the rich Biblical texts surrounding the birth of Jesus, as well as the prophecy of his coming. Not only are the devotionals useful for personal growth but could also be used with:

  • Interesting opening to lead a class or small group.
  • Quick ideas for public speaking.
  • Sermon starter
  • Friends & family gifts

What’s great about Blue Truck content is that it is very affordable and usable. Blue Truck Publishing writers are leaders, speakers, pastors, and authors who specialize creating content and devotionals that address contemporary topics. This Advent devotional is only $1.99, which is delivered daily for the season of Advent. This is a great price for a devotional sent to you for the Advent season.

Check a sample:

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Thanksgivingization

It seems every year retailers are pushing holiday seasons earlier and earlier. I walked through the home improvement giant, Lowe’s the day after Halloween and saw Christmas decorations, holiday goodies, and Christmas lights already on sale. Was that too early or is it just me?

This year, maybe my anecdotal evidence is backed up with fact. The Associate Press published an article entitled, “All Day Shopping Frenzy on Thanksgiving?”. The article reports on how retailers are trending to open  stories on Thanksgiving instead of the day after:

It’s a break with tradition. Black Friday, which typically is the year’s biggest shopping day, for a decade has been considered the official start to the busy holiday buying season… Meanwhile, Thanksgiving and Christmas remained the only two days a year that stores were closed.

Now Thanksgiving is slowly becoming just another shopping day. Over the past few years, major retailers, including Target and Toys R Us, slowly have pushed opening times into Thanksgiving night to one-up each other and compete for holiday dollars.

This year, more than a dozen major retailers are opening on Thanksgiving, including a handful like Macy’s, J.C. Penney and Staples that are doing it for the first time… Indeed, retailers say they’re just doing what shoppers want… That’s an important opportunity for chains, which can make up to 40 percent of their annual revenue during the last two months of the year.

Based on this evidence, retailers are pushing up holidays to sell goods. More and more, our holidays (both religious and non-religious) are turning into opportunities for retailers to draw in consumers to buy and well, consume. Thanksgiving is now no different. What remained as the last holiday were retailers did not make their employees work, has now turned Thanksgiving into another shopping mecca.

This is what I call Thanksgivingization[Read more...]

Using social media during crisis

Churches and organizations will face an opportunity where social media can greatly impact how you respond to a crisis. Whether the crisis is a natural disaster, community problem, or an internal church conflict, how a message is crafted can produce positive results if done correctly.

During the recent #chsocm chat that I moderated, our church social media group discussed the best practices for using social media during a crisis. Here are my 4 topic/questions that we discussed:

  • T1: Name a crisis that emerged in a ministry community and how could it have been improved by social media? Could be your church or another.
  • T2: What tools or strategies can churches use during a crisis to improve communication & trust?
  • T3: How should an external community crisis be handled differently than an internal church crisis via social media?
  • T4: What can be shared via social media from a crisis that reveals a greater truth about God?

Here were some good ideas and responses to the topic of using social media during crisis:

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I’m moderating #chsocm tonight

I’m moderating #chsocm on Twitter tonight @ 9:00 p.m. If you are a church-ie social media type, just join in on Twitter with the search and hashtag #chsocm. It’s pretty easy to join in. Just keep #chsocm in your search on Twitter and follow the conversation.

My topic tonight will be centered around handling crisis within the church using social media. 

A lot of you are wondering, “What the heck is #chsom?” It’s Church socialmedia. #ChSocM (ch-sock-em) is a weekly Twitter-based chat about using social media to build church and faith. Welcoming, informative, ecumenical. Tuesdays, 9PM, ET. Commentary, interviews, transcripts, and fun stuff on the blog.

My good Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest friend Meredith Gould started the Twitter chat topic/community about 2 years ago. Since then, it has grown into a weekly meet up for lay people, pastors, seminarians, and social media church geeks (that includes me).

Don’t be a non-participate observer! Join in! (I loath the word “Lurker” or “lurking” for social media listening. It’s too creep-stalker-ish. See you tonight on #chsocm!

FREE EthicsDaily.com netcast for small churches

Tomorrow, EthicsDaily.com will host a free netcast on their website focusing on small-church expectations of pastors, avoiding burnout in the small-church pastorate, and advice for those ministers working in a small-church environment. The streaming netcast  Oct. 22 begins at 11 a.m. ET.

Zach Dawes, former small-church pastor and now managing editor of EthicsDaily.com, and Chuck Warnock, pastor of Chatham Baptist Church in Chatham, Va., will join EthicsDaily.com’s media producer, Cliff Vaughn, online for the conversation. Using  Google Hangouts, EthicsDaily.com will broadcast live on their site.

Anyone can watch the netcast on the main page of EthicsDaily.com, in the video hub (near the bottom-right of the page). After the netcast, the content will be available as a recorded video.

Ethics Daily now features 60 Skype interviews on their Vimeo channel. The expert discussions feature topics like prison ministry, beauty pageants, the Korean church, Thomas Jefferson, the church and technology, and much more.

 

How N.T. Wright changed my faith

Greg Mamula is an ordained minister and the Associate Executive Minister of American Baptist Churches of Nebraska.

“Despite what many people think, within the Christian family and outside it, the point of Christianity isn’t ‘to go to heaven when you die.'”

–Simply Christian,  N.T. Wright

I did not grow up going to church on a regular basis, but went often enough to catch the same glimpses of faith many people see with only a cursory glance at Christianity.  Like many people I was taught that Jesus was my personal helper in time of need and the gate keeper into heaven. So when I prayed for something like my dad not to leave for months on end for work or to not have to move over and over again and God didn’t deliver I questioned his power and existence.

I believed that the Christian faith was ultimately about going to some ethereal heaven someday.  I believed I had to intellectually assent to the reality that Jesus died only for my individual sins, and simply admit that I was a worthless sinner and ask for forgiveness. I struggled with the purpose of Christianity even as I felt a call into vocational ministry. What is the point of belief in God if he seems to be a failed helper?  Is the only purpose of Christ to get us into heaven so I don’t burn in hell?  That seemed like a very unfulfilling and vindictive God.

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How often and when should I post to Facebook?

For many who want to plunge into the world of Facebook with their brand, product, organization or business, posting frequency on Facebook can be a conundrum. People often ask:

How often and when should I post to Facebook?

Blue Truck What, a company that builds websites for small businesses, churches, and non-profits, offers the following 4 points of guidance.

5:1 Rule of Thumb – post five pieces of content of interest to your followers for every one piece of content specifically promoting your business.

9:00 a.m. & 9:00 p.m. – most business Facebook pages see traffic spikes on the 9′s. Some sites vary depending on the nature of your business and your followers. Follow your stats and then make your posts at key times when your followers are more likely to engage your content.

Post 4-7 days per week. A day you’re not visible is a day you lose ground. Consistency is the name of the game.

No more than 4 – Post no more than 4 times per day.  Over sharing can create disinterest in your audience. It really does drive your reach down.

Blue Truck What offers social media marketing packages starting at $38.99 a month for business and $18 for churches. Don’t hesitate to call to ask questions or learn about how Blue Truck can benefit your business.  828-508-1586 or email info@bluetruckpublishing.com

Real Preachers of L.A. – Yes, for real

As if we didn’t need another “Real (fill in the blank) of (fill in the blank)” reality show, the Oxygen Network premiered “Real Preachers of L.A.“. I suppose it was only a matter of time that preachers/ministers would get their own reality show since everyone from gold miners to Kevin Hart has one.

What shall I say about this show and it’s premise? Well, for one it is entertainment. No producer would bring a reality show to TV if it wasn’t controversial. I can’t imagine a show with a bunch of preachers in middle America going to air – unless they were zombie preachers!

Kate Bower at the CNN Belief blog describes it as:

a chaotic mix of prayer, “house porn,” and neatly orchestrated dust-ups between senior pastors and their “first ladies.” In some ways, the combination of the prosperity gospel with the “Real Housewives” format is a match made in Oprah-produced heaven. Men of the cloth cruise Southern California in lavish cars weighed down by their gold watches and tiny dogs.

The show centers around a group of mega church well to do hipster preachers with family, cars, parties, and other celebrities. The display of semi-lavish living is opening flaunted on the show. Ron Gibson, one of the show’s preachers, explains the lavish living as:

“P. Diddy, Jay Z. They’re not the only ones who should be driving Ferraris and living in large houses.”

Much of the show’s under current is a popular and controversial Christian movement known as Prosperity Gospel or Prosperity Theology. The Jimmy Swaggers and Jim Bakers of the world brought this movement to television. Basically, the thinking goes, if you are faithful and give abundantly to a church or ministry, God will bless you with wealth and happiness. In turn, preachers get to live in multiple houses and live a lifestyle fit for King Solomon.

Unfortunately, shows like this reinforce a stereotype of preachers who are greedy and profit from their ministry. These ministers exist but the vast majority of ministers don’t make anywhere need the type of money the “Real Preachers of L.A.” are making. Many pastors small churches and are bivocational.

So, there you have it. You judge if these Real Preachers of L.A. are the real deal or just all show.

New York Times gets Senate prayer wrong

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Unless you have been sleeping under a rock, our government is at a budget impasse and everyone is mad as hell. Senate Chaplain Rev. Barry Black, a retired Navy rear admiral, gave a Senate prayer that the  New York Times reported as “scolding”:

The disapproval comes from angry constituents, baffled party elders and colleagues on the other side of the Capitol. But nowhere have senators found criticism more personal or immediate than right inside their own chamber every morning when the chaplain delivers the opening prayer.

The New York Times entitled the article, “Give Us This Day, Our Daily Senate Scolding” – written by Jeremy W. Peters – highlighted Rev. Black’s prayer as some sort of religious finger shaking.  When you read and watch the prayer, one immediately can connect to the honesty of the situation:

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I gave up fantasy football for my family

Way back in 2003, I was an unmarried rabid fantasy football and baseball fan. I spent anywhere between 10-20 hours a week tracking, reading, and researching statistics to build the ultimate fantasy football team. Sometimes, I would manage 3 or 4 teams at once. I’d read and research on my smartphone, computer, and read the newspaper for all the inside tips.

The more time I put into fantasy football, the more my teams won.

The pursuit of fantasy football success and points for my players was almost an addiction.  It was exciting going head to head with other fantasy teams each week. Trash talking friends and strangers about how good my team was and how much their team sucked was fun. I almost never played fantasy leagues that charged money. It was about the winning and bragging rights. Managing a fantasy football team was a 7 day a week job and it was enjoyable.

But, was it?

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Don’t forget about associate pastors

 

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Last week I spoke to a group of associate pastors at a continuing education program with the  American Baptist Churches of New Jersey. This group of associates was very diverse demographically, but they all shared the same challenges.

I started on the topics of identity, calling, and roll of the associate pastor. Then, several folks brought up other associates books, “Leading from the Second Chair” or “Second Chair, Not Second Best”. Though I’m pretty enamored with “The Work of the Associate Pastor“,  I spoke about how those other books fail to see one thing: the power dynamic in the analogy of “second chair” is fundamentally flawed.

As I shared with this group of associate pastors that the power dynamics of #1 verse #2 pastor is not helpful. Ordering pastors with numbers frustrates associates into seeing themselves as lesser instead of seeing themselves into a different calling than their senior pastors. The relationship between the senior and associate pastor should be one of mutuality. Obviously, there is a supervisory role that the senior pastor must take, but that doesn’t mean that pastors cannot treat one another as equals.

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