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Target: Bring Your A-Game or Go Home-They’re Going Home

The big news this week in Canada was the closing of ALL 133 Target stores. This means over 17,000 people will lose their jobs. It means there are fewer retailers aimed at the market.

However, this is pretty much all on Target (haha). We went to the Target near us several times and noticed immediately the selection was somewhat different and less (choice, product, etc). The prices were higher and the store was not very busy. Being new - we thought - hmm that's strange? Do they feel/know if Canadians want to pay more for this experience? I personally did not. Initially I thought out-loud, "well Target does it's marketing well - it must know better than we "new Canadians?" Immediately after first visit and seeing that it is was not like the US stores -I mentioned to Anne, "We'll just have to find the Canadian stores with similar products (as US Target)."

Target a Case for What Retailers Shouldn't Do/

In retrospect if I was a market researcher - that is one sentence I would not want to hear come out of the mouth of someone who was fairly frequenter of the store (in the US) say. That is a huge red flag.

Or to put in Canadian terms, from http://business.financialpost.com/2015/01/15/theresa-tedesco-pride-took-down-a-giant-how-targets-corporate-hubris-was-its-canadian-undoing/

"Such a needless waste. Rarely has there been a company to enter this country with more brand recognition than Target had. Canadian shoppers accustomed to cross-border shopping waited with great anticipation for its arrival in March 2013. All we wanted were U.S.-style Target stores in Canada, slightly retrofitted to adapt to our national idiosyncrasies, namely frugality and politeness. Instead, what we got were empty shelves, higher prices, sketchy customer service, and apologies."

So Target really missed the boat, the article put this well,

"Treat us like Americans — or else. That’s what Canadians kept telling U.S. retailer Target Corp., by staying away from its sparsely stocked and overpriced stores for almost two years."

I of course am American living and working in and with my Canadian friends - and expected it to be more like the US stores - just with more maple leafs - already got the red-hues down. Maybe with a few cultural shifts (see the first quote above). In fact at Christmas time we were looking for certain gifts and decided to go look online Amazon.ca and target - only to find out apparently an almost 40 Million population place does get a working retail website (Whaaat)? Yes Oh Canadians are not as much into online retailed as we are (yet) but NO retail website? Seriously?

“I don’t think they brought their ‘A game’ to Canada,” said Michael Mulvey, assistant professor of marketing research at the University of Ottawa. “They compromised who they were. Canadian shoppers figured it out and punished them for it.”

So long and the short of it - you failed me Minneapolis, ney, you failed one of the easiest foreign markets you already had in the bag (based on Canadians already shopping at your stores often when traveling in the US).

So bring your a-game or go home - Target is going home.

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Why You Dont Read The Whole Bible

This might help ya out in the New Year Bible reading dept...http://www.christianitytoday.com/amyjuliabecker/2015/january/why-you-dont-read-whole-bible.html?&visit_source=twitter

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Pentecostal/Charismatic and Episcopal/Anglican/Catholic/E.Orthodox Worship

I was having a discussion after worship on Sunday and this article by J. Martin popped up and reminded me of it today (https://medium.com/@theboyonthebike/on-going-to-an-episcopal-church-428781564139).

Eucharist and Prayer Ministry - not preaching are the focus in most non-evangelical church worship gatherings.
I maintain that the highest point of worship in the P/C context is the prayer ministry (the altar is the place where people gather to receive directly, often through laying on of hands, prophetic words, or simple prayers in weakness the ministry of Christ's Spirit) following the sermon. This is where the worship, teaching, earlier prayers/gifts of the spirit, giving all manifest in the ministry of the Body of Christ gathered to the body of Christ and to those who are being drawn in.

The Eucharist in the P/C context is the living body in the people manifesting the Spirit for the common Good. This does not replace the bread and wine but it is the point of the bread and wine.

The high point in more traditional (not necessarily ancient form - e.g. do not assume these reflect in their euro-centered aesthetics the first centuries of the church) is the communion/Lord's supper mediated through a set-apart ministry-class of people.

Another similarity is the use of embodied practices.
High liturgy (for lack of a better word) and Pentecostal/Charismatic worship practices all call the WHOLE people (not simply the show on the platform) into using their voice, body, and interactions with one another and the leaders of the gathering into the play/worship.

Whether encouraging kneeling, hands raised, movement, shared prayers, creeds, confessions, visual, instrumental, arts, etc. or simply singing together - the use of the senses is a huge part and shared part of non-evangelical worship in Pentecostal/Charismatic and higher liturgy churches. What you do together shapes you more than a sermon alone (even if the sermon uses video, smoke machines, etc). What move you beyond being entertained as a spectator into action in worship and response - shaped you more deeply.

That is probably why many people fear engagement in worship -they know deep down it does more than calls them to change - it actually starts to re-wire and change their experience of life, self, others and God!

This is an ongoing area of interest to me. I believe the most important theological word (other than love) as regards Jesus is the Play of the Holy Spirit. Or simply put play.

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The Power of Public Confession in Worship

when I was involved in crafting pragmatic worship in a neo-anabaptist context we brought back creeds (and some modern ones adding the life and teachings of Jesus), out-loud prayer (a safe way to get participation/embodied worship beyond songs), and this included varied public confessions of sin/declarations of grace. Jamie's article here makes a case for this...

But what if the opportunity to confess is precisely what we long for? What if an invitation to confess our sins is actually the answer to our seeking? What if we want to confess our sins and didn’t even realize it until we were given the opportunity? In other words, what if confession is, unwittingly, the desire of every heart? In that case, extending an invitation to confession would be the most “sensitive” thing we could do, a gift to seeking souls. Oddly enough, contemporary television seems to appreciate this truth. I can think of two stark examples that illustrate just this point.

Read the rest here: http://augustinecollective.org/augustine/the-gift-of-confession

This desire to confess may seem counter-intuitive. Obviously the seeker-sensitive movement assumed this was the last thing non-Christians wanted to do. The assumption seemed to be that the last thing sinners want to be confronted with is their sin. But I wonder if these artifacts of popular culture actually suggest the opposite is true: that deep down we already know what’s true about our faults and brokenness. If that’s the case, rituals that invite us to confess our sins are actually gifts. The rites of confession have their own evangelistic power.

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Merry Christmas!

To all my friends and family - wishing you the best this Christmas and also the New Year! Seek to grab onto that which has caught hold of you.

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How God Moves Us Into New Things

8 Reasons for Leaders to Give God a Blank Check

Shel: Great sermon clip (same thing on following God/leading from a freewill then a more reformed perspective) and article below, Before the last two ministry changes in my life the Lord had nudged me for a while to get me to go and be "a blank check" to go invest the "talents"He's given in a faith risking way. I should also say Greg Boyd's sermon series1 on Spiritual gifts and not resting on yesterday's faith with facts and people who change was also important . Again, the Parable of the Talents continues to challenge and inform my personal risk-taking for the Kingdom.

1 http://whchurch.org/sermons-media/sermon/mystery-of-the-miraculous Boyd's particular teaching that reinforced the gift of faith God has given to me from time to time - and knowing when a season is over:

One thing I will say about it is this. It’s important when you are in a ministry or task or relationship that you need persistence against all odds that you keep checking in with the Holy Spirit.

Here’s why.
People make decisions, angels make decisions that effect things that come to pass and sometimes circumstances change windows of opportunity can close.

[NOTE: In the sermon Boyd makes a strong point of persistence in the face of obstacles - even impossible ones if God has given a gift of faith for that. No willy-nilly jump ship teaching here. However, he adds they important of ongoing listening/checking-in with the Spirit because things might have changed - listen or read the sermon!]

So it can happen that a plan that God has to move you this way gets closed because of decisions that people or angels or other things make and so now God wants to reassign you something.

If you are not listening to the Spirit, you will keep following last year’s call and you may find yourself stubbornly hitting your head against the wall where God knows that wall is not going to move and He’s trying to tell you but if you’re not listening then you’ll just keep on doing it.

Just because God called you to something last year doesn’t mean He’s calling you to it this year.

That doesn’t mean you heard wrongly when He changes the plan, He does it in the bible, all of bible. God changes His mind on certain things because circumstances change.

This was feasible but is no longer feasible because people made this decision so lets move in this direction, that door closes let’s go in this direction.

Folks, following the Spirit isn’t about coasting on something He told you to do 5 years ago, it’s listening to the Spirit today, moment by moment. We need to be walking in step with the Spirit because God knows all the things, all the variables; He knows the best place for you to put your time, energy and persistence to.

He doesn’t want you wasting your time on things that are no longer a possibility. This is why God may call you to pursue something, something like this building, but it may not turn out.

It doesn’t mean that we heard God wrongly; it just means that people made decisions or angels made decisions that changed the circumstances. What would happen if these 3 owners had not got in a fight? A lot of things could happen that would change the plan but God saw that this was possible, maybe even feasible and so he pushes in this direction and worked behind the scenes to bring it about.

So stay in touch with the Spirit, always be checking in on what’s going on today.

Don’t coast on yesterday’s calling...

Here is a more conservative take on the same thing by Chuck Lawless 8-Reasons Leaders Give God a Blank Check (cheque)


I will simply state up front what you will likely realize: I write this blog as a Southern Baptist, but I trust its application is clear for all Christians. Twice now within the past several months – first from International Mission Board president David Platt, and most recently from my president at Southeastern Seminary, Danny Akin – I have heard a similar challenge. “What we must do,” they have said in different contexts, “is give God a blank check. Give Him the check, and let Him fill in the blanks.”

I have been a follower of Jesus for a long time, but the “blank check” image is still stretching me. In fact, few exhortations have been as thought provoking to me. Below are eight reasons why the “blank check” call is both necessary and challenging for me as I strive to be a leader in God’s work. Perhaps the image will likewise challenge you.

It forces me to recognize the idolatry of my comfort. If I’m honest, I can easily get comfortable where I am. The routine may be monotonous at times, but it’s safe . . . convenient . . . familiar . . . reassuring. If I agree to follow God but only within my comfort zone, though, my ease has become my idol.

It requires me to evaluate how deeply my faith affects my daily living. Do I, for example, really believe my life is not my own? If I have given my life to Jesus, my yesterdays are forgiven, my todays rest in His hands, and my tomorrows are entirely His. The blank check about tomorrow should not alarm me today if I trust that God is holy, loving, and sovereign.

It reminds me that the Christian life really is about faith. Living by faith means trusting God as He unrolls the scroll of our lives. We follow Him obediently each day, not knowing what each further roll – that is, the blank check – will bring, yet believing the fully unrolled scroll will reflect His glory and wisdom.

It reinforces the truth that God’s plan might be costly for me. God alone has the right to fill in the blank check. He may use us to conquer kingdoms . . . or He may send us to persecution and death (Heb. 11:32-38). I proclaim this reality, but seldom do I deeply consider the truth that death could fill the line on my blank check. That thought is, to be honest, almost too heavy to ponder.

It calls me to ask if I truly believe God is all-wise. It’s easy to preach about His wisdom in the relative safety of my North American seminary classroom or local church pulpit. I don’t know if it would be as easy, however, if His calling were to require moving my family to a center of Islam . . . or leaving a mega-church to plant an urban congregation . . . or downsizing to provide more dollars for His work . . . or suffering in the midst of telling the gospel.

It prompts me to consider my burden over the lostness of the world and the reality of hell. Both David Platt and Danny Akin are driven by a theological urgency to get the good news to people who do not know Jesus. My level of willingness to give God a blank check may well be a reflection of whether I share that urgency. Frankly, that assessment stings a bit.

It fractures any belief that I am Christ-like. Jesus, of course, knew what obedience to the Father would cost Him. With “cross” written on the check, Jesus said, “not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42). Until I am willing to have the ultimate cost written on my blank check so others might be saved, I do not yet fully reflect the heart of Christ.

It drives me to deep self-reflection. No matter how long I have been a Jesus follower, I still need Holy Spirit-led personal reflection in the light of God’s Word. I need men of God who challenge me to a level of holy discomfort, who unreservedly call me to give God a blank check.

I have a long way to go. Please pray for me.

Chuck Lawless currently serves as Professor of Evangelism and Missions and Dean of Graduate Studies at Southeastern Seminary. You can connect with Dr. Lawless on both Twitter and Facebook.

FYI Here's another one - I remember years ago confronting a leader on this one: http://thomrainer.com/2014/12/17/one-sentence-pastors-church-staff-hate-hear/

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Ben W: The Nonsense of Christmas

Shel: I've been enjoying these great summary posts. Much of this stuff I've taught over the years:



The comments and BW3's responses are great...

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Great Post: 5 Things That Give Pastors A Bad Name With Unchurched People


By Carey Nieuwhof

I’ve been a pastor since I was 30 years old, but even now, I still don’t really like telling people what I do.

I have a heart for unchurched people and am always trying to find a way to build bridges and tear down barriers. But I feel like telling people I’m a pastor or lead a church almost automatically creates a barrier—a barrier that seems to grow with every passing year.

Maybe it’s just me, but I always feel there’s a funk associated with the idea of being a pastor that might be a combination of

Confusion…I’ve never actually met anyone who works at a church (that’s especially true in an unchurched country like Canada, where I live).

Suspicion…So what’s the deal with all those church scandals and are you in any way related to them?

Irrelevance…So what exactly would you do all day or why on earth would your organization exist?

Pity..You really couldn’t do anything else with your life?

It’s easy to point your finger at high profile pastors who fell or who have given the church a bad name, but that lets the rest of us off the hook too easily.

Sure, we can use the negative association to vision cast and correct assumptions (and I try to do that), but what if pastors had a good name in most communities?

So let me ask a pointed question: Is there anything you or I do–as regular, average pastors–that hurts rather than helps the cause of the local church?

I think so. This matters because the more we become aware of them and address them, the better we’ll become at fulfilling our mission.

What gives pastors a bad name
5 Things That Give Pastors a Bad Name

Please hear that I love the local church. And I love local church pastors.

The vast majority are hard working, mostly underpaid, sincere people who really love Jesus and want to make a difference.

But our blind spots can be our worst enemies. Identify them, and suddenly you can be more effective.

So here are 5 traps I try to avoid as a local pastor who loves the church and loves the people we’re trying to reach.
1. Speaking weird

I started to fall into this trap early in my ministry, and realized I had to correct it right away.

If you speak in code, you’ll have a hard time connecting with unchurched people.

If you find yourself saying brother, sister, amen, fellowship, tribulation and the like, it tends to bring less credibility to what you do.

Sure, that might work in your church circles, but if you’re trying to reach your community, it’s a barrier.

I also think the more titles you have, the weirder it gets. People ask all the time what to call me. I say Carey. I don’t even list my degrees anywhere (although I have three of them). I realize traditions differ, but I’m trying to connect with people who don’t go to church.

Here’s my rule. If you can’t talk to someone on the street the way you talk in church, you have a problem with the way you talk.

So don’t speak weird.
If you can’t talk to someone on the street the way you talk in church, you have a problem.

2. Pretending to be something we’re not

Unchurched people are tired of the hypocrisy. And, honestly, church people are weary of thinking of their pastor as someone who has it all together.

A pastor’s prayers don’t go directly to heaven. You struggle as a pastor spiritually. So do I. Sometimes we feel close to God. Sometimes we don’t.

Few of us have perfect marriages. And we need to say sorry as often as the next person.

What would happen if pastors were simply more authentic? Not as in super-raw authentic, but appropriately transparent. (I wrote about my personal rules about what to share and what not to share publicly in this post.)

Churches spent the ’90s and 2000s trying to be relevant.

Authenticity is the new relevance. Cool church isn’t nearly as powerful as authentic church.

So be honest. Talk about your struggles (appropriately).
Cool church isn’t nearly as powerful as authentic church.

3. Being known for what we’re against, not what we’re for

Many pastors—famous and not famous— have become known for ranting against the world.

Yes, there’s much to wring our hands over.

But I believe the general thrust of the of the Gospel is that Jesus loves the world and died for the world as an outpouring of that love.

You can think through that theologically, but also practically (most theology is practical in the end anyway).

Who would you rather hang out with? Someone who hates you, or someone who loves you, (even if they disagree with you)?

That’s a no brainer for all of us.

People gravitate toward love. You do. I do.

So…what if instead of being known for what we’re against, the local church was known for what we’re for?

I am tremendously inspired by what Jeff Henderson and the people of Gwinnett Church have done with their #ForGwinnett campaign.

They want to make significant inroads into their community, and they want to be known for what they’re for as a local church, not what they’re against.

You can check out their Facebook page to see the highlights of their #ForGwinnett campaign.
Are you known for what you’re for, or what you’re against?

4. Being Experts on Things We’re Not Experts On

Local pastors are always being asked “What’s your opinion on [fill in the blank]?”

Many of us are scared to say “I’m not sure”. So we’re tempted to offer an ill-considered viewpoint on something we don’t fully understand. Even worse, some of us can gain social media traction through those ill-considered opinions.

I may have spent thousands of hours reading the scripture and studying theology, but that doesn’t make me an expert on everything except maybe coming to faith and growing in faith. I think I can speak into that.

I’ve also spent lots of personal time studying leadership, change and parenting. While I’ve got a lot left to learn, I can speak with a bit of expertise into those areas.

But I’m not an expert on the vast majority of issues. Do I have opinions? Sure.

But I’m not sure those opinions are helpful to the average person.

Increasingly before speaking into any issue I ask myself “Will this help move a person closer to Jesus or further away from Jesus?”

Many of our half-thought-through and even deeply held ‘opinions’ in all likelihood move Christians and non-Christians further away from Jesus.

So why offer them at all if they’re not core to the scripture or the Gospel?

Instead, why don’t we all get comfortable saying “I’m not sure” or even better, “What do you think?”

Then just listen.

You’ll be amazed at what you learn, and how you listening might actually help move someone closer to Jesus.

5. Claiming Privilege

Sometimes there’s a really good reason you need a reserved parking spot. But often there’s not.

You just want it.

Or worse, you think you deserve it.

Right now I have the smallest office of any staff who have an office. In the new facility we’re building, I have an office but it’s not the biggest one.

Jesus came to serve, not to be served. The more I claim privilege, the less I’m like Jesus.

The challenge of course, is that many of us are privileged economically or socially. So it will be a daily struggle.

But sharing what you have with others, taking the low place and serving alongside others can make a big difference, even if after it’s over, you retreat to an office to write your message in silence.
Sometimes there’s a really good reason you need a reserved parking spot. But often, there’s not….

What Would You Add?

These are 5 things I see that give local pastors a bad name with unchurched people.

What would you add to this list? I’d love to hear what you’re learning.

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The Nonsense of Christmas Pt. 1 – The Idolarty of the Physical Family against the Spiritual Family

Shel: For years I have made mention that the church is a spiritual family - which trumps and also protects the physical family at the same time.

Your marriage, your children, your physical (dna, adoption, etc.) family is stronger when it is not the center - but Jesus is. In some ways our family is our "first ministry" but in other ways if that is not checked by Jesus being our "first ministry" it is actually in danger of becoming an idol.

Ben Witherington III is writing a great little reminder on his blog:

The Nonsense of Christmas— Part One December 6, 2014 by Ben Witherington

Risking the possibility that I might be called Scrooge, I am going to muster up my courage and hope that it might be useful to do some demythologizing of Christmas. Christmas today is of course a time off from work where one tends to spend time with one’s birth family or extended birth family, having done far too much shopping, and then far too much eating, while spending time with those who are supposed to be our loved ones, and sometimes are.

That is what normally happens for many folks, though the boomerang effect of that approach is that: 1) those who have no family; or 2) those who have had abusive families; or 3) those who really don’t like or get along with their families, or 4) those (now a majority in the U.S) who are single and have no mate to celebrate Christmas with, find Christmas to be the most intolerable time of year. It is the time of year when you are reminded once again that broken relationships or no intimate relationships have ruled your past, and continue to haunt you. There is no Christmas cheer for those sorts of folks at Christmas, quite the opposite. But what if it is the case that we have made Christmas what it is not? What if Christmas is really not about over-spending and over-celebrating and over-eating with one’s physical family? What if Christmas is really about something else.

What if Christmas really is about the Incarnation, and the beginnings of the story of the family of faith, rather than the reaffirming of the stories about physical families? What if Christmas is not about sharing the offspring you have had in the last year but about sharing the Offspring which Mary had long ago? What if Christmas is meant to focus on Christ and indeed in a Godward direction in general? What if Christmas is primarily about celebratory worship and not primarily about physical family reunions? I would venture to say that if we celebrated the birth of Christ in a way that did indeed focus on what the NT says that is all about, then people who often feel alone, or lonely, or left out or reminded of past family failures would not need to feel those ways any more.

If the body of Christ really was a family, then physical family problems and dysfunctionality, while not disappearing, could take a back seat to the celebration of the forever family of the Lord. In other words, the nonsense that Christmas has evolved into— a time when we give ourselves all sorts of lavish gifts and hardly give Jesus and his people the time of day, except maybe on Christmas Eve, is not what Christmas is really all about. We will say more about this in our next post.

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A pastor-theologian who loves the questions…