Writer, Church leader, Eccentric Nut, Marketer

I'm Church Leader, Writer, Speaker, Marketer, Kindness Project Founder, Broadcaster and Superhero. But most important I'm a Husband, Father and a worshiper of Jesus.

25 February 2011

Simple ways the church can become relevant to a city again

I don't love the term "Relevant". It's overuse and misuse has given it a tired, trendy, cliche connotation. It is too often used as reason to distill real purpose for the sake of public acceptance. It kinda makes me want to punch myself a bit. But relevance IS important.

If what you're doing does not have bearing or connection on "the matter at hand"... then you're likely not doing much of importance or influence. The Church has struggled to maintain it's "relevance" in North American society in past years. In vain attempts, we merely mimic art & culture (poorly I might add) three steps behind the decision makers and wonder why we're looked at as the tag-along kid espousing an irrelevant rhetoric from the back of the pack.

Now for the good news:

I believe The Church and the Message of Christ is a necessary message that DOES have bearing on the health of world, modern society and our local culture. Nothing I'll say hasn't been said before... and it's easy.

1. Be around people

Make friends of prostitutes and politicians... bums and businessmen alike. Do life together. Have dinner with them. Go to movies with them. Discuss politics together. Pray for real people about their real life situations... as a NORMAL person functioning as a NORMAL part of your NORMAL life. Really care about others and intentionally build them up.

This is where some church folks will throw the "peculiar people" line at me. Don't worry, a Christian mingling NORMALLY with others... showing care, offering prayer and intentional kindness towards them IS peculiar in our culture. It shows Jesus. Trust me. I've recently had people find themselves shocked that all of a sudden they were (without warning) friends... with a Christian. It's fun to watch :)

2. Be creative with the methodology (Go where people are!)

People are in pubs... go there together.
People are in libraries... go read and learn there together.
People are at art shows... go be inspired and create together.
People are in BIA's... go join yours.
People are on Facebook... go engage online.
People are in parks ... go play with them.

And if those places aren't interesting enough... CREATE SPACE for people to flourish.

3. Be confident of your message

Christians are pretty bold within "safe walls" but seem to have to muster up courage to speak out loud the truth by which they live outside. And when we do, we don't have the confidence to be just a real person with it. We overcompensate with demonstrative soliloquies that engage no one. Walls go up instead of come down.

When we live the kind of life that Jesus asks us to live publicly... people will want to understand it. Don't be ashamed of it! If we ACTUALLY believe that God breathed life into man and woman... and we're ALL in the process of being wooed into his presence... then don't be surprised when prayer combined with life a gracious, good life, lived out loud, instigates people's queries and interest.

4. Don't be offended by people's reactions

I have never heard of a leader of anything say anything but, have a think skin. If you do ANYTHING even remotely relevant (having a bearing or consequence with the matter at hand) some people in your house will vehemently disagree with you... AND some people in the community with vehemently disagree with you. They will even make convincing arguments why you should stop being relevant. It's fun when articles are written about your work online and anonymous internet people click "thumbs down" on you... ha.

Don't be offended! Offense will rot ya. Start going down the offense rabbit hole and you'll find words like "resentment" and "indignation" towards the very people you're called to love creeping around. Don't let them slip in.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
Galatians 6:9

I think Bill S. Preston Esquire and Ted Theodore Logan summed it up...

Be Excellent to each other

24 February 2011

18 February 2011

Why do we do Frosty Fest? As Julian Smith says, "I made this for you"

This past week, thanks to the wonderful local media coverage we've had, I've told the Frosty Fest story quite a number of times. Here's the some bits and pieces (or the whole story here):

  • Brantford's 2nd Annual Winter Carnival
  • Last year drew 10,000 people over 3 days into the downtown
  • Organized and Staffed by primarily Freedom House volunteers totaling roughly 70 in partnership with the city of Brantford's Park's and Rec.
  • 16,000 Free ride vouchers were given to every elementary school student in the city & county.
  • 23 Community/Corporate partners of various sizes

Over the next 3 days, you'll find this is Downtown Brantford:

  • 5 Carnival rides along Dalhousie Street
  • 3 Professional Ice Carvers on the Harmony Square Stage
  • Horse Drawn Trolley Rides
  • Free Carnival Games, prizes and ice skating
  • Daily group Random Act of Kindness blitzes throughout Downtown Brantford
  • Funnel Cakes, Deep Fried Mars Bars, Snow Taffy, Sausages, Pulled Pork, Candy Floss, Candy Apples and more!

But that's just the stats. It's about more than that for Freedom House. Last night as we were loading hundreds of sausage buns and giant vats of sauerkraut into the church, a new security guard at the Freedom House City Center asked us why we were doing this. He discerned quickly what a Freedom Houser who is serving in India right now as a missionary wrote me this week as he was wishing he could be here. He wrote that this is a disproportionately-sized undertaking for the size of Freedom House. It is. But that's the beauty. Ordinary people can do extraordinary things.

I think Julian Smith's line in the "Hot Kool Aid" sketch communicates the reason why we do this the best.

"I made this for you (Brantford)"
Julian Smith (Dave)

One of the reasons Freedom House exists is to SERVE and GIVE what we have to the city of Brantford. We made Frosty Fest... for you. We looked around and found a hole, a need, the lack of something beneficial to many... and did it. This quite simply is one of the ways we've chosen to say to you... we love you and believe in you as a community and people. And the city has responded reciprocally. Because kindness DOES change a city BY good INTO good.

Some have said, "What a waste of time! You should xyz" Our answer is, "That sounds like a great project you have passion for. How can we help you accomplish your dreams." Everyone plays a role.

This week, we were guests on a half hour local show called, "Talk Local Brant". We used the term "Jesus needs new PR". We've thrown it around quite a bit over the years because, as someone who works in advertising/marketing/spin world... it's true. Christians have not communicated the love of Jesus very well at all in recent years (although I'm thrilled to say that things are changing). Just right now I went to the Google homepage and typed in "Christians are". Here's the suggestions.

Not great. But it's nothing I haven't heard before. Jesus was asked what the most important commandment was. In 3 of the 4 gospels, he said variations of this:

Rule 1: Love God
Rule 2: Love Others (or love your neighbor as yourself)

That's our job. On Sundays, Tuesdays, Mondays, Fridays... people from a church in a mall in downtown Brantford get together and spur each other to live life excellently while falling in love with God. But it doesn't stop there. That's only Rule #1. That part is only about ourselves. God's design is that we fall in love with Him, so that we're full of GOOD and personally FREE enough that we can help others find freedom too via that goodness poured out. That is communicated by loving others. Rule #2. Rule #2 is the out-flowing of #1.

You'd be flabbergasted at how much work goes into running a Winter Carnival for a tenth of the city. I know we were. But if I do say so myself... we've again done a great job and this weekend will be WONDERFUL. I hope you come. But it's not without HARD work and LONG hours. I can honestly say that it's all done because of Rule #2... inspired by Rule #1.

Hope to see you this weekend for Brantford's new Family Day tradition.

And Freedom House... I'm EXCEPTIONALLY proud to help lead a group of people like you.

PS... this is not an exclusive club... YOU are welcome to join in the fun too :)

15 February 2011

The irony of commitment

Nugget of St. Arbucks wisdom #76 is from Anne Morriss who describes herself as an organization builder, restless American citizen, optimist.

The irony of commitment is that it’s deeply liberating-in work, in play, in love, in faith. The act frees you from the tyranny of your internal critic, from the fear that likes to dress itself up and parade around as “rational hesitation”. To commit is to remove your head as the barrier to your life.

I just did a quick online life expectancy calculation and Mr. Internet tells me that I'm shooting at dying at the age of 78.15 years. That means I've lived roughly 44% of my life (should I not be impaled by a pitch fork in a religious lynching anytime soon). Of course none of the subsequent 56% are guaranteed days.

I think that we only get to have a couple of "things" in life that will mean anything at all. Our funeral (that will happen one day) will tell a story. There will be prose with some funny stories, off-hand anecdotes and seemingly obscure memories shared. But all these things will point to only a few "things" that our life was ABOUT. Commitment allows those "things" to be robust stories with depth.

I often think of the fabulous SNL Will Farrell "More Cowbell" sketch. Although it's parody in its finest form, Christopher Walken's "explore the space"line has always stuck with me. We're given a couple "things" in our limited time to really care about and make our life "about". The Blue Oyster Cult explored the studio space, rocked some serious cowbell, and came up with Don't Fear the Reaper. We're given the charge to explore the space too. Our own God-given space with the challenge to go deep and make that space mean something. Commitment to a cause brings freedom in the same way that marriage vows of "never leave or forsake" provide the context and safety to growth. It becomes a place to be honest, make mistakes and learn because you know your partner isn't going anywhere.

Mr. Holland's Opus is one of my favorite movies. It's the story of a man who wanted to compose the great American symphony. As he lives his life in a way that is RIGHT (not perfect but RIGHT) ... fate, destiny or maybe God makes it clear that his life is SUPPOSED TO see him committed to his passion as a high school music teacher. It's not what he expected but he plays his role. Tigger-bouncing around to something else would have just been... wrong somehow. And he knew it. He wonders privately what it all means as he becomes a wise, respected, experienced mentor to many.

It was only when he retired that he actually saw his living human opus (a musical composition or a collection of compositions by a particular composer). They all gathered together to play Mr. Holland's music and honor a man whose life MEANT something. There isn't a funeral scene in the movie, but you can be sure that people would know exactly what Mr. Holland's life was about because it was life long story told by a well dug deep.

"I've noticed something. I've never walked out of a meaningless movie thinking all movies are meaningless. I only thought the movie I walked out of was meaningless. I wonder then, if people say life is meaningless, what they really mean is THEIR lives are meaningless. I wonder if they've chosen to believe their whole existence is unremarkable, and are projecting their dreary life on the rest of us"
Don Miller

Your life only gets to say a couple of things.
Are you spending it telling THAT story?

11 February 2011

8 February 2011

Live from my living room

I was sick tonight... but through the magic of Al Gore's internet, I still co-hosted FHTV from my living room while Brian was in the studio. Oh the days we live in.

Lasers in the jungle somewhere.

Tougher Than The Rest (Piano 2005) Audio

Some girls they want a handsome Dan
Or some good-lookin’ Joe, on their arm
Some girls like a sweet-talkin’ Romeo
Well ’round here baby
I learned you get what you can get
So if you’re rough enough for love
Honey I’m tougher than the rest
Bruce Springsteen

5 February 2011

The Character of Sam

The character of Sam is a deep one.
Deeper than most know.
Fart jokes are funny... but there are leagues of depth behind the wind.

The character of Sam is a character who’s lived hope’s story.
Hope that “different is OK” was fleeting as lunch projectiles flew from the back of the bus.
“Different is different” seemed the more present reality,
And the foreseeable likelihood for the future too.
“There must be more” thought the character of Sam.

The character of Sam KNEW this was not what Sam was destined for.
Mustering up hope...the character of Sam found a team.
A team of puppeteers and roaming musicians who dressed publicly as vegetables and spoke in strange unintelligible ancient tongues that few could interpret.
They handed him a guitar and the character of Sam was home.

The character of Sam found freedom with these people.
Freedom to speak.
Freedom to feel in the public square.
Freedom to unearth real life.
Hope embers were stoked... and this was a good thing... because the character of Sam needed it’s warmth as nights were often cold.

The character of Sam could sense the stirrings of “greater purpose” along with his team.
Then one found destiny’s path winding down Northern roads.
Then another took a wife.
And another broke faith altogether.
The team was no more and the character of Sam stood alone...
… charged with the weight of destiny on his shoulders.
Both fortunately and not, the character of Sam’s shoulders where broad.
Like Atlas, he held up the world on them.

The character of Sam worked... and WAS WORKED by the Brawny Beattie Bear and the Big Eared Kid to build the big blue house.
The character of Sam was refined by fire,
By force,
And by friendship.
The character of Sam allowed himself to be cast in new roles as a prophet and a stalwart leader of men.
The character of Sam was molded and shaped until he became well-rounded.
But at night... an ache of loneliness came over the character of Sam.

The character of Sam suspected a few reasons why.
He suspected it might be the trade the Mohawks taught him that never seemed to work just right.
He suspected it might be the solitude he experienced while others went forth, were fruitful and multiplied.
He even suspected, in the darkest times, that the destiny he held in such esteem may have turned on him like a vixen.
Those were the longest nights.
But hope’s light continued to flicker.
It’s warmth, however faint, drew him onward another day.
For the character of Sam knew that man is neither wholly lost nor wholly saved.
Or so they said.

Then one day... The Character of Sam began write himself into a new story.
A whole new “once upon a time”.
He changed some context, some setting, some characters, some plot lines... and the well-rounded character of Sam became a little less round physically... but rounder spiritually.
He did it... for King and country.
Not for a damsel in distress.
Not for the Beattie Bear or the Big Eared Kid.
Not for the anything else... but being a righteous steward of the King’s property
For THIS is the character of Sam.

While scoffers mocked them as lore, primal Kingdom utterances that the character of Sam held as true like “obedience is success” … manifested themselves.
The long sought after fair maiden flocked to the arm of the character of Sam... unable to shake the golden depth of his soul from her spirit.

They wed.
The Kingdom rejoiced.

Many years have past since those days.
The character of Sam, fueled and empowered by a heavenly energy source, had many adventures far and wide.
As an old man, The character of Sam, pipe in hand, gathered his many children to tell them of these treasured trials and hardships that seemed rather glossy in the light of destiny and history.

The character of Sam could be heard saying, “Children, There are many beautiful things that we see, find, discover or even stumble upon on this earth. And many things that... aren’t so beautiful too. We can never make the mistake of holding too tightly to any of them and catch ourselves believing them to be THE END. For it’s never the end. They are all merely signposts... that point beyond... to God.

For this is the character of Sam.


Written by Dave Carrol... for Sam Vos on his wedding day
Oh and I also did this

1 February 2011

The Church asking for commitment? The nerve.

Steve Sjogren (whose initiative, innovation and forging into the world of servant evangelism and kindness as a city transformational tool has inspired us at Freedom House greatly) blogged today about The Church's hesitance to ask people for commitment.

It's an excellent challenge to those of us who actually believe The Church plays a legitimate & tangible (not just an ethereal and theoretical) role in the transformation of our cities BY good INTO good.

I was talking with a pastor friend this week about the changing face of commitment. The new reality in most of the USA is this: those who consider themselves committed to a local church will only attend once every two to three weeks. (When they aren’t present they aren’t out doing outreach!) Keep in mind, these are the committed ones. A small percentage of the highly committed will be present (and participate) on a weekly basis, but those are the rare birds. Realities like these can cause leaders to go a little crazy. My friend asked me what I made of it all. Here is a thought…

By and large, the Christian church in the US has been fearful of calling people to make commitments. I think this is because we fear being accused of not walking in grace. If we hope to make forward progress we need to get over this reluctance of defining as normal that people will be committed in their actions. The local church provides the impetus for vision in the Christian life. Until people buy into the vision of what God is doing in your church, little will be compelling in their Christian lives.

Stop apologizing. Make commitment the norm. Ask for a big commitment and you will receive a big response. Get over your shyness. Model commitment, walk it out, teach it, see what God does.

It's an excellent challenge to leaders.

On Sunday night, we held our 1st Annual "Volley Awards" to honor the volunteer team at Freedom House. Each award had a volleyball on it and we gave the volunteer of the year the "Golden Volley Award" (which was a yellow volleyball). But we went through and intentionally recognized publicly those who serve the church and city from within Freedom House. We again realized that we're blessed to have so many who "get" the call to both worship and work. We're a bit of a statistical anomaly in that manner. And make no mistake... if you don't like working... you won't much like Freedom House for very long because we believe that every member is a minister with sacred callings to step into.

But we've lost some over the years because of a high commitment-ask that they were not interested in making. Even though I rarely admit it, it absolutely does bother me to feel the rejection sting when people choose to bail on "the team". It's tough because this IS my life. Life and ministry are not separate entities. And life is about so much more than delighting our personal whimsies while the world is in need of the message we've been entrusted to go forth and share. Calling, doing and leading other to less... is foolish stewardship.

The high ask, as Sjorgen points out, gets a high response... and that leads to a healthy, fit body actually DOING SOMETHING effective and not just being a spiritual couch potato.

And on that note... onward to Frosty Fest we go. All aboard.

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