Thursday, November 30, 2006
Registering to this Blog
1) BlogReader: receiving the news feed on your "aggregator", a barbarious name meaning your personalized internet news page (example : www.bloglines.com).
2) Email: receiving emails in your inbox, to subscribe simply enter your email address in the subscription form from FeedBlitz. It is possible to unsubscribe from any email titled "[FeedBlitz]" received in your email inbox.
Happy reading !
(translated from French)
Monday, November 13, 2006
Church Project, Church Initiative, Church Plant
Prior to being considered a mature or standalone church, a church typically goes through the various stages listed above.
Disclaimer: While this (Church) Project is not affiliated officially with any Vineyard church in the world, we are products of the Vineyard Church of Columbus in Ohio, USA, and would apply to become part of the worldwide association of Vineyard churches.
Friday, November 10, 2006
Church Planting in France: a Challenge
In this high context culture, a lot of things are not responded to like in a younger non-latin culture as the USA. It is up to God's workers to turn this handicap into a challenge, and pray to God He gives us the keys to help unlock the hearts of the French.
A post-Christian nation, France has had a long Christian heritage, both mixing the good and the bad. Secular since the French Revolution in 1789, with further legislation in 1905 in regards to church legal activity, French society incorporates much of the Christian ethics, but is unable and unwilling today to recognize this religious heritage, possibly as a way to remind the church the French Republic now is sovereign over French matters--and no longer the church which meddled with politics for many centuries.
Marketing the church
Therefore, the local church must be in constant or regular self-awareness to how it is perceived from the "outside world", in order to stay relevant as an effective actor of change for the Kingdom of God.
We have reworked Marcus Neto's 18 Word of Mouth Marketing Tips for Churches to highlight which ones may or may not work in French culture, and under which conditions:
1) Make it easy for people to find you: If people come across your website, yellow pages, or start a conversation with you, make sure to make them wonder about what your church is about, get them curious to ask questions, or to want to come check it out! Actually, just do church right there right then, as you never get a 2nd chance to make a good 1st impression.
2) Use communication tools as necessary to get the message out: From ringing church bells (legislated by the townhall) to blogging on the internet :-)
3) Leverage provocative content to make it talk-worthy: Who wants boring?
4) Keep the Jesus' story always fresh with today's issues: How is Jesus' message relevant today?
5) Tell people about you: Caution must be used here in France as any pushy (or even simply enthusiastic) talking may raise eyebrows and make people wonder whether you are part of a cult! You will need to hone your communication skills for French environment, but remember the soapbox approach will probably scare people away.
6) Truly engage others with relationship-building intent: Do not lecture or monologue, the person might just want to escape...
7) Use interesting stories to bring your word-of-mouth topics to life: Nothing like true stories to get to people's guts!
8) Do something unexpected and generous: Giving something free to someone in France might quite easily get rejected. French people are terribly proud in all kinds of ways, the idea of getting something for free is often perceived as degrading, demeaning, devaluing their persona. On the other hand, people feel valued if you ask them for a favor, like helping them get rid of something... be creative and do not look too nice!
9) Identify socially-adept people in the community: Making worthwhile allies can get you going a long way.
10) Allow people to experience what is the Christian life: Making it tangible, to address people felt needs, being real and natural, etc.
11) Ask people about their impressions and feedback: Informal polling can prove highly beneficial.
12) Give opportunities for people to respond to your message: An old folk story says importing of the potatoe to European kitchens proved quite difficult. Challenged by people's disinterest, a lord placed guards around his potatoe field; soon enough people came to steal the prized vegetables... and the rest is history!
13) Recruit workers that are interested to partake in your vision: Delegation and participation are great ways to create a snowball effect!
14) Create a market advisory council: Keep on top of how folks perceive your church! Keep it alive!
15) Encourage people to tell two friends about you, not just one: As God leads and enables
16) Engage people to share your vision and roll up their sleeves: They will bring new blood and new life into your endeavor! (I remember this famous Vineyard Church UK worship leader who started playing in streets with the ministry team before being a Christian, or even before considering becoming a Christian!!)
17) Be an encouragement to others about marketing: Marketing is also/mainly about getting the message of Jesus out...
18) Train and equip folks with life-impacting skills: Give something of value with exponential potential.
19) Make it safe to "do" church for people: How do you become a truly disciple otherwise?
20) Press on where God is working: Be opportunist as God shows you who He is blessing
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Narrow Boundaries of Religious Expression
"Religious freedom is pivotal to a free society. Thomas Jefferson called it the “first freedom.” It is enshrined in the first clause of the first amendment of the U.S. Constitution. And it is first in another sense: freedom of thought, conscience and religion is the prerequisite for the exercise of all other basic human rights. In theory and practice, free expression, freedom of press and freedom of association depend on the prior guarantee of a free conscience. The historical reality is that where religious freedom is denied, so too are other basic human rights.
Religious freedom has two dimensions. It belongs to individuals and also to religious groups. It includes a person’s right to walk down the street wearing a cross, a yarmulke or a headscarf, or not to do so, and to express and live out one’s beliefs in society. It also includes the rights of groups to worship God as they wish in community, to run schools, hospitals and other institutions, to publish and possess sacred literature, and order their internal affairs.
In recent decades, the institutional dimension of religious freedom has proved crucial in opening up social space..."
As appearing in bold (our emphasis), these concepts hold specific meanings and fields of application in French society.
By and large, French society is highly fragmented. People often talk about the "public sphere" and the "private sphere", with the two having little communication. Religious freedom is seen by most Frenchmen as belonging exclusively to the private sphere, thus, making it very difficult for people to express their faith in public venues : education, work, public meetings, etc.
Also, worship is commonly understood (and legislated) to be limited to the religious facility, thus making it difficult for religious organizations to engage the society; tax-exempt and tax-deductible status is not granted to organizations engaging in activities other than the narrowly defined French meaning of worship.
While French authorities do not generally prosecute religious organizations that do not scrupulously follow the legal guidelines for religious activity, churches often are in violation of the law (e.g. a 2002 finance law reform requires all organizations to have a large amount of cash in treasury to have someone on staff, a stringent requirement which most churches cannot meet), and may be wrongfully associated to cults--as a striking example, my request of renting a hall in a Catholic spiritual center for a Thanksgiving meal was temporarily thought of as a cult simply because we give thanks to God!
(You can read a 2006 in-depth analysis of the religious freedom in France by the US Department of State)
Limitation of Religious Expression Denounced
While this is somewhat minor in comparison with religious persecution in other countries as reported by the Center for Religious Freedom, it brings questions as to the reasons and fears that motivated French society to limit the expression of religious faith in such a way.
Could the suppressing of this expression, politically motivated in part to denounce the struggling integration of (mostly Islamic culture) immigrants, might have provoked the urban chaos of 2005?
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
Bulwark or Bulldozer?
By Rich Nathan, senior pastor of Vineyard Columbus, Ohio
It has now been more than two decades since I had the conversation which entirely changed the direction of my life and the direction of our church. I was in England participating on a prayer ministry team at a John Wimber Healing Conference. For those of you who are unfamiliar with John, he was the late founder of the Vineyard Movement.
At the time, our church was an independent, non-denominational church with about 150 attenders. We felt God stirring us to be part of something larger than ourselves. The two most obvious options for our little church were an ecumenical movement based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with whom we had had a historical relationship; the other was the Vineyard. The two movements couldn’t have been more different. The leaders of the ecumenical movement were very conservative; the leaders of the Vineyard were radical. The leaders of the ecumenical movement wouldn’t try anything new unless it had been weighed and sifted a thousand times; the leaders of the Vineyard, sometimes to a fault, were open to everything new.
But the main difference had to do with the metaphor that the ecumenical movement used to describe itself. They said that their reason for being was to be a “bulwark against the world.” A bulwark can be defined as a fortress or stronghold. But it is often used to describe a series of barriers constructed along a shoreline that keep the beach from being eroded by the successive pounding of ocean waves. Called to be a bulwark! This was an entirely defensive metaphor. It meant simply holding the ground, trying to preserve whatever Christian heritage still remained, protecting and defending the faith.
As I walked around an English park discussing the two possible options for us as a church, God gave me a moment of prophetic clarity. I said to my friend, “If we join this ecumenical movement, I need to resign as the leader of the church. In fact, I will probably be forced to go start something else because God has not called me to be a bulwark. God has called me to be a bulldozer.”
Have you ever spoken words that were inspired by the Holy Spirit which helped to define the course of your life? Perhaps it was a phrase, a sentence, or a paragraph that you had not previously considered, but that you spontaneously spoke under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit? Those moments are normally rare in a person’s life, but they can help to define what the course of our lives will be.
In some ways the choice between being a bulwark and being a bulldozer is the line of separation between Bible-believing churches today. On the one hand, the mass of Bible-believing churches believe their fundamental calling is to “hold the line” against the ravaging tides of secularism and modernism. Their basic approach to American culture is to go to war against the culture. In bulwark churches, all the kids are pulled out of public schools and sent to conservative Christian schools for the sake of protection. In bulwark churches, young adults are warned to avoid various academic disciplines when they attend universities such as the sciences, philosophy, the arts, dance, theatre, and liberal arts. Bulwark churches communicate to their members that the world is hopelessly fallen and cannot be changed. Therefore, it is a waste of time to work for justice, or to engage in social action or political efforts. The singular purpose of life in bulwark churches is to evangelize as many people as possible, so that we can rescue folks from a world that will ultimately be destroyed.
Bulldozer churches are very different. We are not naïve regarding the depth of sin that exists in the world. Nor are we naïve about the difficulty in changing people or in changing the world. Nevertheless, we believe that like bulldozers, we are called upon to change the landscape of the communities into which God has placed us. Bulldozer churches do not see their primary calling as merely holding the line. Bulldozer churches want to move the line through the demonstration and proclamation of the kingdom of God. Bulldozer churches celebrate people who have heroically changed the landscape: people like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and William Wilberforce, the 19th century English Christian member of Parliament who led the movement that ended slavery throughout the British Empire. Bulldozer churches teach young adults to penetrate every academic discipline, again, not with naiveté, but with courage, believing in our calling to be salt and light everywhere in the world. Bulldozer churches are not afraid of truth wherever it may be found. Bulldozer churches are not afraid to think outside of the box, or to violate convention so long as we remain ruthlessly committed to scripture and to the leading of God’s Spirit.
Ultimately, bulldozer churches are churches that have a high degree of confidence in the promise contained in 1 John 5:4, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
English/Anglais or/ou French/Français
On one side, most of the history and development of Vineyard churches in the USA and across the world are predominantly based in English. On the other, a church plant in France must acquire and build its identity using the indigenous language: French.
Similarly, most of our links to the Vineyard tribe are based in English, and most of our friends and acquaintances are still bathed in the English language.
Therefore, on one hand I wanted to acknowledge quickly the fact that a successful Vineyard plant would necessarily use the French language as main medium, yet I did not want to cut myself too quickly from my largely English-speaking support base.
For this and other practical reasons, it seemed reasonable to start off with two mirror blogs
Why plant a church? Why not?
The Church of Jesus-Christ is made up of men and women of all ages, social standing, ethnic groups and languages. According to his bottomless Love, God wished his Church to hold all of humankind in its entirety, and it is up to his Church to become what it has been called to be.
Often, we encounter opposition to starting a new church due to the fact there are other churches in the area. We wonder whether this would create confusion amongst the other churches.But this is not a valid argument, it is better to think about the people that still do not recognize God's blessings in their life; for these people, typically balloted by circumstances they endure, it is well worth to give them the chance to know their Savior and Lord just as was offered to us, in their own culture and personal situation, wherever they are.
Because Jesus has not raised us to heaven, but instead came down from heaven to earth to meet us.
Have you met him yet?
(translated from French)