the world in 10 years
Friday May 05th 2006, 10:12 am
Filed under: youth ministry, church, books, emerging church, youth work

at the youth ministry exec council this week, in washington, dc, we had an interesting morning chat around the subject of “the future of youth ministry”. it wasn’t overly deep or profound — just a healthy discussion with lots of great questi0ns. the organizers wanted to kick-start the discussion with three short presentation on the next 10 years:
the future of the word (me)
the future of the church (richard ross)
the future of youth ministry (dave curtiss)

it was a bit of a daunting task, to share some kind of reasonable discussion-bearing fodder about the future of the world, in 5 minutes, to 40 of the key leaders (who i assume are all as well read or moreso than me) in evangelicalism. anyhow, here’s a summary of what i said…

The world in 10 years
(a ridiculously subjective summary by Mark Oestreicher)

Daniel Pink’s book (one of the best books I read last year) is primarily about the change in culture that will demand more right-brained thinking than the dominant left-brain thinking of the past few decades. He talks about the need for leaders to be creatives and empathizers, more than (the former) logicians and knowledge workers.

In one short chapter, Pink offers a three-part summary of the primary change we’ll experience in the next 10 years (of course, Pink’s book is written to business leaders, so keep that in mind):


A few facts from the book:

- Each year, universities and colleges in India produce 350,000 new engineering graduates.
- Half of the Fortune 500 companies now outsource to India.
- 1 out of 10 IT job will move overseas (to Asia) in the next 2 years; 1 out of 4 by 2010.

Our issue isn’t the outsourcing of jobs, of course.

But what will it mean for our affluent and resourced churches and youth ministries when our country, religiously, looks more like Europe, and the thriving, model-creating influence in the church is coming from Asia? Will be have the humility to learn and grow?


Quote from the book: “The result [of massive automation]: as the scut work gets off-loaded, engineers and programmers [think youth workers!] will have to master different aptitudes, relying more on creativity than competence, more on tacit knowledge than technical manuals, and more on fashioning the big picture than sweating the details.”

Nobody predicted that Western teenagers would so quickly skip over the already slow and tedious technology of email and so fully embrace the instant real-time social technologies of IM, texting, and MySpace.

MySpace has already replaced the mall, and is THE place for teenage social networks. But all we’re doing so far is talking about the dangers.


A few facts from the book:

- the U.S. has more cars than licensed drivers
- self-storage is a $17 Billion industry in the U.S. alone
- the U.S. spends more on trash bags annually than nearly half the nations of the world spend on ALL goods.

The impact: the search for empathy, beauty, play and meaning.

Columbia University’s Andrew Delbanco: “The most striking feature of contemporary culture is in the unslaked craving for transcendence.”

This is our story! Empathy, beauty, play, meaning and transcendence? That’s our stuff! And we know the inventor of those things!

One more thought, NOT from the book

Many sociologist and culture writers are talking about a major shift in identity, from…

An identity rooted in individual and national (I am autonomous, I am how I define myself. “I did it my way”. The Marlboro Man. Anything larger than me is a nationalistic connection.)


An identity rooted in local and global, or what some emerging leaders are cutely calling “glocal” (I am defined as part of a ‘local’ community – but local isn’t geographic, it’s however I define my community; and, I see my identity more rooted in being a citizen of the world than in being a citizen of my country.)

Obviously, this has massive implications for us in church leadership and youth ministry leadership, as most of our theologies, approaches, assumptions and methods are built on individual/national identity frameworks.

it’s my one-year blog anniversary
Tuesday April 25th 2006, 12:31 pm
Filed under: youth ministry, faith, church, youth specialties, personal, thinking..., blogs, emerging church, youth work

one year ago today i started blogging. i had resisted for over a year, worried that i would either alienate ys customers (if my blog was really honest) or allow it to become a cheap marketing piece, disguised as a blog. but i chose to launch out. my first post said this:

so. people have been bugging me about blogging for a year or more. and i’ve wanted to. i’ve almost started many times. here’s been my two primary concerns: i don’t want a cheesy blog that’s just a marketing front for Youth Specialties. i keep seeing organizational leaders are starting blogs simply for this reasons (of course, there are great exceptions). i could easily write laundered, sanitized, and even occaisionally fiesty-but-well-aimed thoughts in a organizationally-promoting way. not interested (as much as i love promoting YS).

But the rub has been this (and my 2nd reason for a year of hesitancy): if i blog about what i’m really thinking, i stand to alienate a reasonable portion of the YS crowd! i don’t really want to do that either.

so, i sat and stewed about it for a year.

about a month ago, i decided, “crap, i have to do this.” then, this past weekend, i was reading (WAY overdue reading, i might add) Kenda Dean’s Practicing Passion (the link goes to Jonny Baker’s review of the book, because it’s such a great summary) on a plane, and kept thinking, “ooh, i wish i could blog about that!”

i want to do this as a sort of spiritual discipline. i know this will help me work things out — whether they be personal issues, faith issues, church issues, youth ministry issues, whatever. if you choose to read, so be it.

here we go!

so here i am, 505 posts and 3489 comments later. about 600 people visit this blog on an average weekday (about half that on weekends), approximately 80% from the u.s., a good amount from canada and the u.k., and a wonderful growing assortment from a dozen or more other countries all over the world. technorati (the blog search engine) ranks ysmarko as 8634 in the blogosphere, #2 in “youth ministry” and “youth work” (behind the uber-blogger jonny baker), and #10 in “emerging church. it’s #26 in “church” and #24 in “faith”.

but at the end of the day, my blog isn’t about ranking or readers (i’m glad you read, though). my blog has been a way for me to be honest: with myself, with god, and with, well, others. it’s provided me accountability and processing-space, thinking fodder and a journaling niche. i love blogging; i love what it’s done for me and in me, and how it has become a spiritual discipline for me, a guy who doesn’t naturally take to most things with the word “discipline” attached to them.

i raise my starbucks cup (it’s actually a bit cold, and only has the bottom half-inch of coffee in it right now — so it’s not much of a toast) to year two!

books read in the last few weeks
Tuesday April 25th 2006, 11:37 am
Filed under: youth ministry, thinking..., books, emerging church, youth work

, by jonathan safran foer. i’d read foer’s second book, , and thought it was beyond fantastic. a friend had raved about this one, so i thought i’d give it a turn (a page turn, that is!). really, foer is an exceptionally creative writer. when i’m reading his books, i regularly stop to ask, “how did he come up with this?” jewish history, ukranian history, fantasy, wise-cracking but earnest teenage translator, pain and loss, farting dogs, pretention and honesty, and, wow — this book covers a lot of territory. i can’t visualize how they made it into a movie (starring elijah wood), but i’ll have to rent it and see. highly, highly recommended for readers of creative fiction.

, by alan moore and david lloyd. this is the illustrated book that spawned the movie. originally written as four comic books, it’s been re-released as one fairly long graphic novel. i enjoyed the read — but this is a rare case where i liked the movie better than the book (which is interesting, because the author of the book sued the wachowski brothers to have his name removed from the movie after he didn’t like the differences). the book dragged along for me at points — which is hard to do with an illustrated book! and the illustration style left me cold. i guess — for me — the characters in the movie were more believable; and the same characters in the book were a bit — well — two-dimensional (and i’m not only talking about the fact that they lay in two dimensions on the page!).

, by mike king. mike’s book doesn’t come out until october of this year, but i was asked to read it and write an endorsement. it’s a great book. more than once i found myself chuckling with a low laugh, thinking, “wow, i can’t believe you had the guts to say THAT in a book, and that the publisher had the guts to leave it in!” this book will beautifully and gloriously get mike black-listed from the few most-conservative church circles where he hasn’t already been banned. i actually enjoyed the first half of the book better (the stomping-mad, name-calling, saying it like it is, call to change 1/2 of the book). but i expect many in-the-trenches youth workers will find the second half (the practical stuff of moving toward spiritual formation in youth ministry) more helpful. mike actually proposed this book to ys — and we ONLY passed because we already had mark yaconelli’s book, , in development, and there is a lot of similarity in the two books. but i’m glad mike’s book is seeing the light of day — and very soon!

, by danny holland. this book releases in august, and i was asked to read it and write an endorsement. (btw, did you know it’s common practice for endorsers to not even read the book they endorse? did you know it’s common practice for publishers, or assistants to the author, to draft the endorsement on behalf of the endorser, and they only have to agree to it or tweak it? i find this practice hideous — especially in the christian bookselling world. ys does NOT do this. and i will never, personally, write an endorsement for a book i didn’t read.) so… i’m not writing an endorsement for this book, and i DID read it. it’s not a terrible book, by any stretch of the imagination. i just found it to be less than “endorse-able”.

useage history on “emerging church” and “emergent”
Friday April 21st 2006, 8:53 pm
Filed under: youth specialties, emerging church, emergent

the other day i posted about the botanical metaphor used in the name of the ‘friendship’ called emergent. i mentioned that it would be great if someone would do a bit of a history as to how the two terms (emergent, and emerging church) came into wide useage. and good ol’ dan kimball has effectively taken up the challenge, with two hlepful posts:

the history of the useage of emerging church

the history of the useage of emergent

the wrath of god
Wednesday April 19th 2006, 1:35 pm
Filed under: faith, thinking..., emerging church

in my quest to broaden and deepen and stretch and evolve my understanding (and descriptions) of the gospel and atonement, i found these two sections (from two different posts) of scot mcknight’s still-developing series on penal substitution to be very helpful.

first, on the wrath of god

The wrath of God came under severe review in England decades back. First, CH Dodd wrote a chapter that argued a case for wrath being impersonal, and it was Dodd whose view became famous. But, for my read of the idea, it was AT Hanson’s book on the wrath of God in the Bible, which argued over and over that wrath is impersonal, that really set the tone for this viewpoint (it is the way God has made that world that bad deeds result in bad consequences; that is wrath; but wrath should not be understood for Christians as an emotion on God’s part but the impersonal and inevitable result of doing bad things). Leon Morris countered the work of Dodd and Hanson with his dissertation, The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross, as well as few other publications, and argued that wrath is both personal and central to the concept of propitiation in the NT and, therefore, wrath is central to atonement. Many evangelicals have followed Morris; many have not, and the first group of “many” often don’t know about the others, and the first group of “many” sometimes ignore the studies of the latter.

Most anchor all statements of wrath in the justice of God; this is a mistake if that is all that is done. Wrath derives from the love of God who is Jealous; the love of God who is jealous to protect the sanctity and integrity of love and relationship. Justice preserves wrath. Here again we have to be careful not to divide attributes within God.

and on individualistic terminology limiting and defining our theology of atonement

Here’s my contention with you today: most define the problem in exclusively individualistic terms. To define the problem (sin) in exclusively individualistic terms results in an individualistic atonement theory and an individualistic redemption. And we are tempted over and over to define sin narrowly as individual act, but sin (as we will begin to see tomorrow) is a term for a spectrum of deed and state and consequences.

Now we are face-to-face with our problem: if the problem is hyper-relational distortion, then atonement “fixes” that hyper-relational distortion. If sin is relational, so also is atonement. If we define sin as nothing more than offense of the Law, then atonement is nothing more than wiping the offense clean. But, will this do? I don’t think the Bible lets us reduce the problem to offense and therefore it does not let us reduce atonement to offense-rectification.

It’s bigger than that, but we only figure this out if we realize that the problem is the problem, and we’ve got to figure out just what this problem is.

this is emergent
Wednesday April 19th 2006, 9:44 am
Filed under: faith, church, emerging church, emergent

for those who hang or lurk or associate around the emergent discussion (for engagement or policing or whatever), this is nothing new — just a restatement. in fact, when i was walking through glacier national park last week, and thought about this, my first response was:

who am i to write about what emergent is? i can’t speak for emergent.

then, my second thought was:

well, now that i’m a board member, i suppose — technically — i can speak and should speak for emergent.

then, i finally came around to:

really, just about anyone can and should speak for emergent — at least anyone who is in relationship with others in emergent. because — i know you’ve all heard this language — no one’s spinning things or offering up a marketing line when we say that emergent is a friendship.

i was there on day two (literally) of emergent existing in its current incarnation (post-leadership network). this is important: no one was using the term “emerging church” at that time. or, if anyone was, it certainly wasn’t in wide use. it would be very interesting to have an anthropologist/language historian tell us all if either “the emerging church” nomenclature influenced the language of “emergent”, or the other way around, or if the two rose up independant of one another. i spent a decent amount of energy early on (as did many others) trying to explain the difference between “the emerging church” and “emergent”. whatever. suffice it to say that emergent is one componant of the world-wide expression and exploration called the emerging church.

the problem is (and has been) that, while the words are almost identical, their meaning is completely different — compatible, but different.

“the emerging church”, and the common use these days in most discussions of what emerging/emergent means, is “to come out of” or “to emerge”. and when coupled with “church”, the implication is clearly that this thing is calling itself or being called “the new church”. it’s not a perfect name, of course, and has a real ring of arrogance to it. but i think we’re stuck with it.

emergent, on the other hand, was chosen as a metaphor, from it’s botanical useage. that’s why the new-ish emergent logo has a leaf on it. it’s referring to the new growth that occurs in an old forest, the hyper-green and extra-fragile stuff that grows down near the forest floor, well below the towering trees around and over it.

why am i writing about this now (when it’s been written about so many times by so many people)? well, because i was struck by it last week while hiking in glacier national park in montana with my family. here’s a couple pictures of the visuals that captivated me:

here’s what i noticed:

- emergent growth is humble. yes, it’s beautiful; but it’s rather powerless. and from a helicopter view, you’d never even catch sight of it. it doesn’t choke out the powerful old growth. it merely flourishes in the space it has.

- emergent growth is patient. these little saplings and shoots wait. in an area where an older tree has fallen or died, the emergent growth takes off, and fills the void, reaching for the sky, becoming a full-functioning part of the forest ceiling.

- emergent growth is fragile. much of this stuff dies off each year in the snow (at least in glacier national park!). but it re-emerges, or new stuff emerges, the next spring. even that which doesn’t die off is highly fragile, green, bendable, easy to trample or snap. certainly, any time an old tree falls over, it crushes some of the emergent growth at it’s feet.

- emergent growth is experimental. look at the old trees in the pictures. they’re orderly. there’s only enough room for one of them in any given space. and in this forest, each section had one kind of tree (multiplied a thousand times over). but the emergent growth takes all kinds of wild forms — ferns and sapplings and moss and more. they grow pell-mell wherever, with no apparent rhyme or reason, only sequestering a fraction of the biological needs and demands the older trees insist on.

- emergent growth is essential. without the emergent growth, my hike would have been substantially less beautiful. without the emergent growth, the forest would be weaker — as it would not have a way of replenishing itself. without the emergent growth, the older trees would lack many of the nutrients they need.

- emergent growth is dependant. this is an interesting one to consider applying to the emerging church: without the older trees, the emergent growth wouldn’t exist. without the older trees and the protection they offer, the emergent growth would quickly be snuffed out.

no, i’m not saying that the ‘generative friendship’ called emergent has always been all these things (well, it’s been fragile and experimental, to be sure, but not always humble and patient, and not always aware of its dependance on the old growth church). but i can and should say this: emergent growth is a beautiful and right metaphor, a worthy model, and a noble aim.

good readin’ at the riddle blog
Wednesday April 19th 2006, 9:43 am
Filed under: youth ministry, blogs, emerging church, youth work

my friend mark riddle is posting a series on re-thinking youth ministry, gleaning from the discussions and guest speakers for the etrek course he just finished hosting on youth ministry. three parts so far — more to come. good reading for all youth workers, and emerging church peeps.

part 1
part 2
part 3

you’ll have to return to his blog for the further installments.

massive web resource
Tuesday April 04th 2006, 1:30 pm
Filed under: church, blogs, emerging church

holy cow — how have i not heard of this before stumbling onto it today through an incoming feed to my blog? is a MASSIVE list of links to everything even slightly alt.christian (they call it “sites unseen: the best jesus-infused sites you never heard of”). emerging church, neo-monasticism, justice, left and right political commentary, blog-heaven, and clearly a special love for the house church movement. just scrolling through the list of links and looking at the categories (let alone the quantity of links) left me feeling appreciative for the two hosts labor of love.

juicy communion
Monday March 20th 2006, 3:06 pm
Filed under: youth ministry, faith, emerging church

my good friend renee altson spoke at a youth ministry gathering in oh-canada this past weekend. i’m so proud of her — this was a huge step for her. i LOVED this bit of her email, along with these great photos, taken by her friend jen.

We wrote words on rocks and set them up on the stage steps, and had people
pick them after ‘feasting’ on the “lavish love of God” — and it was a great
time with folks from the college writing the words on the rocks. And the
youth department assistant guy was looking them over after the session ended
and picked up one that said “Juicy” and said to me, “Did you write this?”
And when I smiled and nodded he said, “no one else would have dared.”




the history and theology of pews
Friday March 10th 2006, 7:12 pm
Filed under: church, emerging church

dan kimball has a great new post on the history and theology of pews in churches, based on his current quandry of moving his church, vintage faith, into an old church full of ‘em (and how counter they are to his church’s understanding and practice of worship).

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