Friday, September 06, 2013

After a longish and apparently unplanned hiatus Orthocuban is back up

Sure, maybe you won't remember Orthocuban, dear reader. Wenatchee The Hatchet is pleased to see that Fr. Obregon is back at the blog and things are up and working again.  We've missed his blog being around! 

Mars Hill sermon series coming up: The Ten Commandments (Lutherans, you may want to reach for your heart medication :) )

Lutheran brothers and sisters, grab the nitro pills before you watch this trailer! ;)

What this series will have to do with the first, second or even third use of the law remains to be seen but we can guess our Lutheran friends will be bracing themselves. 

"It's all about the numbers?", How to get over fear of inviting people to church, and a parking lot community group--Mars Hill in a time of numeric decline
By Pastor Mark Driscoll
On September 12th, Outreach magazine will release its annual issue listing the 100 largest and fastest-growing churches in the nation. For the first time in a number of years, you won’t see Mars Hill Church listed.

... We will continue to count things at Mars Hill, such as how many people we have on Sundays, how many people are baptized every year, how many people are in Community Groups, how many elders we have to lovingly lead our people, how many people are giving financially, how many dollars we are bringing in and sending out, how many locations and services we have, etc. But, we will use that data internally for our church and not be publishing it much externally. [emphasis added]
by Pastor Matt Rogers

... This next stat is a tough pill to swallow: about 1 in 5 of us churchgoers invites anybody to church in the course of a year, per Rainer. We might have someone who could be totally up for it right in front of us, practically beckoning us to invite them, and instead we hesitate and hem and haw and sometimes don’t even get the words out of our mouths.
As of today, Mars Hill Albuquerque has a new Community Group in the parking lot. I hope to engage with this group every time I see them. I’ll let you know when we replicate.

In a comment from August 12, 2013 a Jeremiah Kendrick wrote the following:
Jeremiah Kendrick said...

Andrew; no I'm not alone in leaving Mars Hills was around 14,000 people a Sunday at the end of 2012 and now is around 11,600. Most of the pastors who left did leave over the corporation management style that took full effect about 18 months ago, moving for a 5 day work week at 10 to 12 hours a day, to 6 day work week at 12 to 18 hours a day. And when you question this as a pastor or member like I did and many ex-pastors you are told to resign and leave Mars Hill for not being in full submission to Mars Hill's 3 executive pastors, Mark Driscoll, Dave Bruskas and Sutton. Turner. Most of the ex-pastors are bond by non-disclosure agreements and will be sued by Mars Hill for ever thing they have if they talk about it in public. I pray for a heart change form the 3 executive pastors and for all the ex-pastors and ex-members forced out of Mars Hill to land in a Christ centered church.

... and then there's this update from Pastor Sutton Turner posted ... somewhere. 

Monthly Stewardship Update
Pastor Sutton Turner
From Pastor Sutton Turner:
Mars Hill Family,
Each month we provide a financial health update to give everyone at the church a basic awareness of how we’re doing in this critical area. Normally, this update comes in the form of a letter from me and Kerry Dodd (our Chief Financial Officer), as well as a quick update from Pastor Mark during a sermon.
This month looks a little different: guest preachers are in the pulpit and I just returned from Ethiopia to visit the twenty pastors that you’re supporting over there. It was an amazing trip. We hosted a national conference for hundreds of Christian pastors and their wives, and some traveled for days in order to attend from all corners of the country.
We printed 1,000 Bibles in Amharic and gave them away to the pastors as a gift. Until now, most have had to share and trade individual books of the Bible with other pastors they know, so full access to the Word of God is a significant gift to their ministry. Here’s a photo of the group:
I look forward to sharing more with you in the coming weeks. Thank you to all who have prayed for this journey! 
July Recap
All that to say, here is a summary of our July numbers—the first month of our new fiscal year:
  • Average weekly attendance: 11,151 (8,959 adults and 2,191 kids)  [emphasis added]
  • Contributing households: 3,394 (an estimated 32% of adults at Mars Hill Church gave during July)
  • Average giving per adult: $38.33 (higher than projected)
  • Total giving: $1.61M (target: $1.48M)
Bottom line: Good start to the fiscal year, with positive variances overall. 
Tacoma & Everett Fundraising
Tacoma and Everett continue to make progress raising money for their buildings. Tacoma has $132,000 left to raise, and Everett needs another $360,000. Both churches are praying to finish fundraising and full occupy their new buildings by January 1.  
Please Pray
Next week is filled with strategic meetings that will affect the course of our church in the next season:
  • Tuesday: the entire staff will gather together for training and fellowship.
  • Wednesday: the Executive Elders will meet with the Board of Advisors and Accountability to review last year and make plans for next. [WtH if you'd like to compare the Governance page in 2013 to what it was in 2012 go here and here]
  • Thursday & Friday: the Full Council of Elders (all of the pastors at Mars Hill) and our wives will gather in person for the first time since we expanded to multiple states.
Big week, please pray. Enjoy the remaining weeks of the Best Sermon Ever series, and get ready for The Ten Commandments, come September.

So it would appear that based on the update posted by Pastor Sutton Turner and Kerry Dodd that Jeremiah Kendrick's mention of numeric decline has at least some plausibility to it.  Numeric decline could explain the new emphasis in how it's-not-about-the-numbers-even-though-we-still-plan-to-keep-growing-because-living-things-grow stuff that we've seen shared before. 

Driscoll has shared that Mars Hill will not be sharing numbers quite so much externally.  A new fiscal year kicked off recently at Mars Hill and new sites are in waiting but it may be that commenter Jeremiah Kendrick was right in pointing out that in terms of numbers Mars Hill has faced a decline.  It wouldn't be the first or last time numbers have fluctuated.  It's worth proposing that when three posts in a row have Driscoll on numbers, another guy on how laity should get over a fear of inviting people to church, and a campus pastor writes a personal story of hanging with Native Americans a common thread may be that if growth is going to return people need a direct, personal, and communal incentive beyond the expansion of a Mars Hill that has in the last few years come across more and more as a corporate brand, not least when it waded into trademark and logo issues back in 2011. 

1.6 million sure seems like a good sum of money but, let's remember, Mark Driscoll has said about Mars Hill "We're not a wealthy church".  Because Driscoll has said that numbers matter and there are people who count things it might be worth noting that the single most read post at Wenatchee The Hatchet is currently this one, in which Driscoll's claim "We're not a wealthy church." apparently made available at one point on The City as an internal message was set alongside the externally released FY2012 annual report to see how not-wealthy they were in FY2012.  If you'd like to go look directly at the report yourself, go here.

As for the Ten Commandments sermon series kicking off in September, Lutherans will want to take their heart medications where applicable, most likely.  :)

POSTSCRIPT: 09-7-2013

for those who read the FY2012 annual report you'll have noticed the average attendance was listed as a number closer to ... (btw each dot represents one person and 2796 were the blue dots representing new people) ...

Presented in its original size.
Subtle, yes?  13,173 as a simple font might have been, you know, simpler.

So the 14k number Kendrick listed may have been a bit on the high side.  People who can confirm that the number was closer to 14k than 13k are welcome to provide some documentation. 

POSTSCRIPT 2: 09-07-2013
These figures were from the May 2012 update Mark Driscoll gave last year.

April vs March 2012
             Adults that gave  weekly giving per A.  Giving Households  Weekly attendance
April     42%                    $29.13                         5,490                       14,059
March   41%                    $32.79                         4,838                       13,125

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

another HT to Alastair Roberts: a review of The Dark Ages Myth over at Strange Notions

An atheist with an interest in medieval history and science spends a bit of time discussing how science actually existed in the medieval period, contra popular narratives suggesting science was oppressed.  A relatively brief sampler:

... I love to totally stump these propagators by asking them to present me with the name of one - just one - scientist burned, persecuted, or oppressed for their science in the Middle Ages. They always fail to come up with any. They usually try to crowbar Galileo back into the Middle Ages, which is amusing considering he was a contemporary of Descartes. When asked why they have failed to produce any such scientists given the Church was apparently so busily oppressing them, they often resort to claiming that the Evil Old Church did such a good job of oppression that everyone was too scared to practice science. By the time I produce a laundry list of Medieval scientists - like Albertus Magnus, Robert Grosseteste, Roger Bacon, John Peckham, Duns Scotus, Thomas Bradwardine, Walter Burley, William Heytesbury, Richard Swineshead, John Dumbleton, Richard of Wallingford, Nicholas Oresme, Jean Buridan and Nicholas of Cusa - and ask why these men were happily pursuing science in the Middle Ages without molestation from the Church, my opponents usually scratch their heads in puzzlement at what just went wrong.

There's quite a bit more but I've settled for a short sampler to, I hope, spark your interest. 

POSTSCRIPT: 09-05-2013, as HUG pointed out, a link sure would be handy!

Shortpacked on how a cartoonist has depicted parts of Bill Watterson's 20-year old Kenyon address

You may have already seen the earlier cartoon depicting part of Bill Watterson's Kenyon address. 

Read the comments, some of the discussion gets lively.  Watterson liked what he did enough to do it for a decade but he also retired the strip.  The delicate balance of making a living doing something you're good at and that people enjoy alongside the realization that running on fumes and forsaking artistic challenges for the sake of a relatively certain income isn't a problem everyone will face, or even that many people.  Let's keep in mind that even John Lennon once said that selling out was, initially, pretty much the whole point.  The goal was to, if possible, get bigger than Elvis.

Andi Watson once said in an interview that there are some people who seem to think that "sell out" means you actually pay the bills by the revenue from your art rather than from unemployment checks.  As lively as intra-cartoonist debate about what to make of Watterson's 20-year old speech may be there's a sense in which the self-labeled fans may need these Shortpacked-style correctives more. 

HT to Alastair Roberts, btw

Monday, September 02, 2013

meow! D. G. Hart zings the Bayly brothers and Doug Wilson on Labor Day

There's nothing quite so intriguing about the Christian blogosphere as its capacity for rants and cyber-battles about ideas and ideals.  :)  It's what makes so many of us so very, very American.  Which makes it fitting on Labor Day that, among other things, D. G. Hart decided to zing the Brothers Bayly and Doug Wilson about their postmillennialism (Hart's gotta speak up for two-kingdom theology, of course).  Presented for brief consideration, the following:

... In other words, is Christendom a creation or is it heaven on earth? Does [Doug] Wilson violate every canon of Christian and conservative conviction by immanentizing the eschaton? It sure looks like his postmillenniaism and repeated briefs on behalf of Christendom has a lot of immanentizing going on. Then again, it’s a slippery Christendom and a libertarian theocracy he advocates (oxymoron intended).
In point of fact, Wilson does not acknowledge that Christians are aliens and strangers. His model for Christian political and cultural engagement is Christendom (minus the Crusades, papacy, Index of Books, Jewish ghettos). ...

and a bit more: 

Of course, the image of Christians as persecuted and martyrs doesn’t play well among folks who like to hurl “sissy” as an epithet. Turning the other cheek is not a model for cultural domination or for Mere Christendom — not sure it works for cultural engagement, actually.

Of course two-kingdom theology could and did become handy in the antebellum South as a reason not to get too swift in addressing slavery, just as two-kingdom theology could and did become handy in Weimar years when it was easier to let some things happen than to make some objections.  Any systematic applied across the board is going to lead to an atrocity of some kind when wielded by flesh and blood.  The history of the internet, and of the sorts of humans who invented it (i.e. the human race) is that we've got a long history of convincing ourselves our ideas won't have the same consequences as the ideas of those other people even if history could be shown to have proven otherwise. 

Or as some author of some book put it, there is none who is righteous, not even one.  But we peoples have a habit of thinking that quote is supposed to apply to you and never quite come around to applying to me.

A little music for Labor Day: Radamas Gnattali's Sonata for Cello and Guitar

Radames Gnattali, Sonata for Cello & Guitar
Andre Rodrigues (guitar)
Raphael Buratto (cello)

The whole three-movement thing, which is a charmer.  :)

A little music for Labor Day: Ferdinand Rebay's Sonata for flute and guitar No. 2

Ferdinand Rebay: Sonata for flute and guitar No 2 in D
movement 1
movement 2
movement 3
movement 4