The Iron Curtain

February 29, 2008

As I write this, I want you to know that I’m not angry and I’m not bitter at any particular Christian sect or group.  How’s that for a starter?

I wanted to write today about a phenomenon that exists in American Christianity of which I have thought about frequently and am attempting to change.  It’s an iron curtain, but not one of guns and hatred, but one of comfort.  This iron curtain is a spiritual one and rests not in Europe, Asia, or Africa, but just south of New York.  The curtain divides the northeast (and specifically New England) from the rest of the United States.

I moved here 10 years ago, being born in Northwest Ohio, going to college in Florida, and living for short periods of time in Tucson and Atlanta.  Almost immediately God gave me a passion for this area and for the people in Massachusetts. 

Outside of this place, the Northeast is looked at as a place that could do with or without God, a place that is cold to the gospel, and a place filled with rude people who drive as arrogantly as they talk (so 1 out of 3 ain’t bad).  But since I moved here, what I’ve found is people in love with the truth.  Not what they’ve been taught.  Not what they’ve been told.  Not necessarily with the traditions they’ve grown up with (though they have them too).  But the truth.

So here’s the thing I’m trying to figure out.  If this place is so cold to the gospel, then why would more people from this beloved “Christian culture Bible belt thing” we have going on from Florida to Idaho, not be moving their families away from this subculture in our society – one of affluence and comfort, to a very difficult place where it’s gonna take 5 years to see any kind of fruit?

I love going to conferences like Catalyst and C3 and other such venues to get fired up about what God is doing, but when I do, I wonder how many of these pastors or leaders or lawyers or teachers or whoever would be a great asset to our difficult task of reaching people with the gospel in the Northeast.

There are people going to the Middle East and Asia and the Philippines and third world countries by the scores.  And tons and tons of Christ followers are moving to some super-growing cities like Charlotte or Columbus (Ohio, not Gerorgia) to start churches.  But I don’t exactly see people lining up to make their way into New England (one of the great technology areas in the US, by the way).

And so we try to place a band-aid on a bullet wound.  The southern baptists, who I respect in a great way and believe are doing some great things, send their college students on yearly mission trips to New England colleges.  By the time the college grads are finished, many of them hate the winter,and despise working so hard to have 30 students come to their things when back home there was 100.  So in the end, they are seduced by the community back home.

What we need up here is talented men and women, the best and most creative people that places like California, Florida, and Texas have to offer(preferably people who are not cry babies when it’s cold), who will come and utilize those gifts here, even though they would probably be leaving their family and friends for a place not quite as cozy as home.  (But I do believe I recall Christ calling people that direction in Scripture)

People like Steve, who has brought his family here from Missouri, and worked through a lot of hard times in the process.  Or Anthony, who left the comforts of Pennsylvania in the late 90’s and who has now started 4 other churches besides the successful one he pastors now.  Or this church in Boston, which originated from a group of people that were sent from this church in Chicago because of the vision of this pastor and have done quite nicely for themselves.

I say all this today because I believe that the iron curtain that divides New England from the rest of the country is one-sided.  This area is ready for the gospel.  Not a subculture.  Not a conference. Not a political ideology.  Not even a Christian radio station (we can check that out on the internet if we really want to).  But the gospel.

And if there’s anything I can do to make your stay here more comfortable, just say the word.

Until next time…

The Transformation project

February 28, 2008

Sorry, no video today. 

But a request.  I’m looking for someone locally (Massachusetts) who has been given a passion by God in the past, but has not taken any steps toward accomplishing that vision.  It could be starting a ministry or a non-profit organization of doing a certain task, and it has bothered you because you know that you are supposed to be doing it but just have not. 

The person I need should have a strong desire now to jump in and take steps to begin this vision in the near future (specifically around Easter time and after) and want to be held accountable (as if) for whether they do take those steps or not.  If you’re interested, please email me at marty@fellowshipholden.com.

Looking forward to talking about it!

Dysfunction anyone?

February 20, 2008

I’ve been thinking about this book I read this summer/fall called, “The five dysfuctions of a team” by Patrick Lencioni. In it he spells out 5 major problems teams have in really wroking together the way a team should work together.  I’ll give you the 5 dysfunctions right here on my blog.

1.  Absence of trust
2.  Fear of conflict
3.  Lack of commitment
4.  Avoidance of Accountability
5.  Inattention to results

My initial feeling was that overcoming these obstacles would be easy. But they are not.  Not in any situation when our ego comes into play.

I was talking to a mentor of mine this week who was instructing me on all matters “team,” and he said that when one offers an environment of openness, he or she provides an opportunity to let people say what they think.  And what they think is their perception and that is real.

He then went on to joke about openness and said that “when one asks for what people think, they are getting free advice, and you get what you pay for.”

I’m working on all this at Fellowship Church because I want to be the best church in the history of New England and the US.  Along the way, there is going to need to be a lot of improvement in the way we do things,and this is going to take a lot of trust among our team – Jay, Steve, Al, Billy, Jeff, yours truly,and one person God has yet to be determined.

It’s also going to take getting over a fear of conflict and just saying what we think in a respectful, moving-forward way.  It will take commitment and a return to accountability.  And it will take attention to results.

I’m totally committed to this and to the future of “the FC” – my new personal nickname for our church.  (Let the bashing begin)  And along the way, there are going to be some uncomfortable moments, but that’s what the leader must go through some times – uncomfortable moments.

I believe the results will speak for themselves.

Until next time…