Fear Of Whales

Archive for November, 2010

A Prophet Out Of His Hometown

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In Kansas I expected cold, and weather, I expected cultural differences, I expected bad ethnic food, and good ol’ boys in pick up trucks. I mentally prepared myself to adjust to these changes, but I never predicted that I would need to adjust to being taken as a spiritual leader.

…After all I was already a pastor in California, that sounds pretty impressive even compared to CSM for InterVarsity. And even before that I’d been in professional ministry since 2005 with extensive volunteer experience but always in and around people who knew me when I wasn’t.

In Kansas that sounds impressive. In California nobody even really knows that about me, and those that do don’t think of it that way, They knew me in high school, and I was a Jesus Freak then, and I’m a Jesus Freak now, apparently at some point along the line somebody started paying me for it.

Now I’m Ryan The InterVarsity Guy. And that’s it, nobody knows me outside of a professional ministry context. It’s crazy!

Pastors want to meet with me, and they do so as peers, people want to get to know me as a missionary, and everybody who meets me in this entire state is meeting a minister first, and any modifier of “strange”, or “intelligent”, or “handsome”, or “neurotic” or “heretical” gets added onto that base noun “minister”

Whereas in California “minister” was typically an adjective modifying something or somebody else people knew me as “handsome guy, who is also a minister”

I don’t have a point to make. That’s the story, I just thought I’d share. It’s an interesting contraposotive of Mark 6:4 of course, but you got that from the title.

Please be in prayer for me as I strive to be deserving of this reputation.

Written by RyanGaffney

November 27th, 2010 at 2:00 am

How To Get Me To Come To Your Church

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I had a phone conversation recently with a sweet old lady (I meet a lot of sweet old ladies out here) and discussed a subject which seems to be on the hearts and minds of a great deal of people in older churches.

These old churches are universally in fear of closing their doors, as their congregants get older and die their membership shrinks and if no new blood enters the church goes up for sale. So the question becomes “how do we bring in young people” with the answer inevitably being “we need to become more ‘modern’” which leads to all sorts of discussions about PowerPoint, and cool music as if those were the essential elements of the ubersuccesful churches like Saddleback and Willow Creek

I worked at an old church for 2 years where I planted a successful young adult ministry, meanwhile attending a popular young church after having been raised in a much emulated Megachurch… And I’m in my 20s… so I figure I’m about as much an expert as anyone on how to get 20 somethings into your churches. Here’s my advice:

Dear Old Churches,

Stop it! You’re going to ruin everything.

There is one thing you have going for you, and it’s that you are a cool old church with a rich history and stained glass windows, We 20 somethings might not understand what the heck you’re doing with a “Paschal Candle” but we’re willing to learn… Seriously, most of us are Professional Students, learning is one of the only things we’re good at.

That might not seem like much, but if you trade that in to become “Purpose Driven” you’ll have nothing. You suck at being purpose driven.

I know old churches don’t like terms like “suck” but that’s the technical term. I can’t count the number of ways I don’t want to hear your choir trying to sing “Every Move I Make” when I can hear it done better at the church up the street, but more importantly, even if you did do it well, I wouldn’t want to come. You know why? Because the 90s ended, and I’m not 10 anymore!

At best, If you managed to catch up with the times and become an exemplary modern church (which you won’t) you would manage to attract my mothers generation.

People in their 80s like what you’re doing, people in their 50s like what you’re trying to do. They like PowerPoint, and acoustic worship bands with three point sermons that alliterate, they think that’s neato.

But people in their 40s are already starting to yawn

If you want to attract people in their 40s you can’t read books on what churches did 10 years ago to become successful you have to do what churches are doing right now. And if you want people in their 30s you have to look at what churches are just starting to do.

But what you want is the people in their 20s, the EchoBoomers, the Up And Comers, the folks that can meet at your church and have babies and stay for the next 100 years.

To get people in their 20s you are going to have to do what churches are going to start doing 10 years from now.


So if you haven’t given up and decided that I must be wrong because what I’m proposing is too hard, you’ll be asking “Okay Hot Shot, So what’s that?” and you’ll get the obvious answer “Well I don’t know of course, It’s not here yet” but if I were you I would take refuge in Solomon’s declaration that there is “nothing new under the sun” you’ve been around for about a century, you know the trends always come back. Kids my age are wearing Horn Rimmed Glasses and Fedoras again. Do you really believe that the Organ has less staying power than Hush Puppies?

Now that’s not to say you can keep doing what you’ve always done (that’s clearly not working) but doing that would be better than doing megachurch badly. What I am saying is leverage what you know, and invite us to experiment with you.

-So you do hymns, that’s chill, We know like three of those that have been transposed to guitar. What if we brought some of the music that was added there back into the choir? Would that be horrible? I have no idea.

-What does “A Mighty Fortress” sound like in electric cello?

-This call and response business is kind of interesting, Like a football game right? Except why does everybody who’s doing it sound like their cat just died?

-Say what ever happened to what was cool in churches 20 and 30 years ago? What’s with the gap, between the 60s and the 90s? Doesn’t anybody in church still know how to rock the tambourine?

-I get that there’s a church calendar. But other than the fact that Melba brings different flowers and everybody thinks about wearing red on Pentecost… What’s it for?

-Wait Lent? Seriously? I thought that was a catholic thing…

-I came to check out your church and there’s all sorts of cool old people here. Before I came here to college I went to a church that had nobody over 40. It would be awesome to get mentored by some old Myagi-like dude! Why won’t any of them talk to me?

Written by RyanGaffney

November 23rd, 2010 at 3:06 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Emo Blogging

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Do you ever notice how blogs tend to be filled with angsty prose about how nobody understands the author? I’ve always wondered why that is.

Some of you who are my more consistent readers may have noticed that I’m having trouble keeping up the regularity of this blog. Or maybe (I hope) not. But it’s true. Since I’ve arrived in Kansas I just haven’t had the drive to type I had previously.

So I got to thinking tonight. “I wonder if that’s because I’m happy”

Kansas is beautiful right now, the weather is great, I have a homeish home for the first time in years and the ministry is going really well. Last night I was able to sit in on out IV bible study for the first time and it was incredible, About a third of the group hadn’t made up their minds about Christ but were interested if figuring it out, and all of us from all of our different backgrounds were able to peacefully exegete the passage together.

Earlier tonight I was at a Crew meeting as part of my research in “spying out the land” which was also crazy fun, and everyone’s been generally accepting of me both as a friend and a spiritual leader.

Previously I was writing while in the middle of fund raising in between work as a Youth Pastor and a Campus Minister, and before that in 2008, I had an active blog while between work as a volunteer and a youth pastor. Both times I lacked a church, and had been ousted from my previous community. I wonder If I just needed an outlet, and now that people are listening to me in the meatworld again, I don’t need that outlet so much.

Wouldn’t that be strange? That an entire form of mass communication caters to authors in a particular emotional state? It would certainly explain some things though…

I’m going to try to prevent this blog from atrophying due to my happiness. But I wanted to let you know about it for  three reasons:

1: I think it’s really interesting and I want to hear your comments

2: I may decide to change the format shortly and talk more about my life, or about the subject of this weeks bible study or a chapter of some book I’m writing, and I want you to know why

3: Hey, at least it’s something to say right?

Written by RyanGaffney

November 12th, 2010 at 2:31 am


without comments

Today as I was unpacking my books to shelve them in my new home I came across an oddity. It was a 1,000 page full A+ Certification Guide for the “New and Updated” 1998 exam.

A+, in case you don’t know is an exam for computer technicians so obviously in 2010 the book is a useless relic. There simply isn’t much in that field that’s stayed the same since the days when about a third of American households had internet access, and those that did, did it through AOL with Windows 95 on their Pentium IBMs (if they were rich).

You may be wondering how or why I hung onto a large and useless book for so long. But the smartest of you will wonder at the even more perplexing question “What on earth was a 12 year old doing with a book like that?!?!?

The truth of the matter is, I am a nerd.

And I have been for some time.

At some point in my life previously I was convinced that when I grew up I wanted to be a computer technician. and as a result I filled my bedroom with computers to practice on, met with an older experienced technician, and read pages and pages of material about how to fix computers. For really no good reason other than I was passionate about it, it interested me.

You see the connection of course. This isn’t the only book I read. It’s the most comically outdated, but I have others. All of them over 500 pages. And I believe everyone, or at lease every big reader, has some subject of books that they have read upwards of 10,000 pages about single spaced, no pictures. It could be Marketing or Psychology, or Harry Potter, whatever.

How many of us have read the bible all the way through?

I think very few. and those that do, generally do it bit by bit every morning supplemented with large doses of feely devotional material, as if it were some kind of rancid meat that needed to be forced down with plenty of water.

But I’m not going where you think I am with this…

The obvious place to go is to say “So read your Bibles! because God is more important than computers” but that’s not the realization I came to tonight.

The realization I came to is that we don’t need to be told that.

Not only do we not need to be told that because it’s a common message and we in the church don’t suffer for lack of a pastor telling us to read the Bible more, but on top of that it’s simply not something we need to be told.

I didn’t need anyone to tell me “Listen Ryan, if you want to say you’re into computers and you don’t want to be a hypocrite you really need to read this book” all I needed was to know “This book will help you know about computers” and I read the thing. because after all, I wanted to know about computers.

Imagine with me for a second that Batman was real, and he wrote a book. Woulden’t you read Batman’s book? I would!

Now Imagine God is real. If he wrote a book… Wouldn’t you read it?

I believe you would. Without insistence, without urging, without accountability or discipleship I believe that if you knew of a book written by God you would read the thing cover to cover.

But many of us haven’t…

So then… If that’s true, then if you haven’t read the Bible, it means you don’t really believe what you think you do.

Either you don’t really want to know about God, You don’t really think the Bible is the source for that, or you don’t really believe in God at all… Because if you did you’d read it, and you wouldn’t need me to tell you to.

If we as the church, believed in God, we would be desperate to read and understand more of any source of knowledge from him but for some reason we see ministers begging and pleading to get more of the Bible into us.

“Us” being the same people who will power through the first Twilight book unprompted just “to see what all the fuss was about”

… this of course raises all sorts of questions about what it is we call “evangelism” and “conversion” but that’s fodder for another post.

Written by RyanGaffney

November 5th, 2010 at 2:44 am