August 2010

NCMO can build generous heart

August 24 2010 by Norman Jameson, BR Editor

My son kneeled by his son, who zealously guarded his freshly minted ice cream cone, and asked for a taste. Caleb declined the request and pulled the cone closer to himself.

Nathan said, “Caleb, I want you to have a generous heart. May I have a taste?”

Caleb offered the cone to his dad, who then offered Caleb a taste of his own cone.

A generous heart can be cultivated and nurtured and the best way to do it is to give. It is easy to give to those you love, and for causes you believe in. Plan now to receive in your church the North Carolina Missions Offering in September. It supports causes you can believe in and giving will nurture a generous heart.
8/24/2010 4:48:00 AM by Norman Jameson, BR Editor | with 0 comments

Build a mosque in Manhattan?

August 23 2010 by Norman Jameson, BR Editor

What is the issue for Christians in the American debate about whether or not Muslims should be “allowed” to build a mosque in Manhattan?

Such a mosque would not be the first in Manhattan. There already are several and in 1991 a mosque opened at 1711 Third Ave. in upper Manhattan built with money from the governments of Kuwait, Libya and Saudi Arabia

The proposed cultural center/mosque would serve Muslims in lower Manhattan. It would rise 13 stories on the site of what is now an old building that was damaged Sept. 11, 2001 when Muslim extremists flew jets into the World Trade Center towers, killing 3,000 people of many nationalities, races and religions.

That atrocity threw our country into a funk from which a stink cloud still rises. Because we could not bear the insult we justified a pending invasion of Afghanistan and later invaded Iraq.

American response has cost many times more lives than were lost on 9/11 and the long term human toll will color our psyche and our economy for many years. It apparently also is causing Americans to consider disregarding the very principles of our nation’s founding in favor of another dip in the pool of self pity.

Although Christian ethic and morals form the basis of our laws, America is not a “Christian” nation. We do not have a state church and the apparatus of government does not defend or support the church.

If we were a “Christian nation” in the way we think of “Muslim” nations birth certificates would automatically indicate “Christian” as the “faith of birth.”

It would be illegal to convert to another faith. Jews, Native American religions, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Mormons and atheists would be unwelcome. They would need to practice their faith covertly, at great risk of discovery and penalties unto death.

That’s the way it is when a nation defines itself by the predominant faith of its people.

That’s the way it was for Baptists 400 years ago in Europe when they stood for freedom of conscience against the state church and in some cases were chained together and thrown into the river to be “baptized” by immersion.

That’s why our ancestors fled Europe. That’s why Roger Williams eventually had to flee Massachusetts Bay Colony and establish Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.

Baptists must stand for the freedom of conscience for all for which our ancestors died.

Any question of this mosque in New York City is not about the First Amendment’s precious words that the “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...” 

The issue surrounding this mosque has everything to do with it being manipulated for political positioning among self-absorbed Americans nourishing our pain from 9/11 and continuing to look for someone to blame, for someone to pay, for something to make us feel alright again.

Because the radicalized terrorists who struck at our heart were Muslim, we somehow think that to deny unrelated American Muslims the opportunity to build a worship center close to where the World Trade Center towers once stood is to strike some kind of defiant blow against terrorism.

We think it will raise freedom’s torch higher because we’ve defended the memories of those who died by denying a place to read, swim, meet and worship to people who claim the same faith as the terrorists.

I’m glad that standard doesn’t hold in North Carolina, where more prisoners indicate their faith of choice is “Baptist” than any other faith. As a Baptist, I would be held accountable for their crimes. 

Americans have an irritating penchant for memorializing tragedy. We want to lay wreaths on dangerous highways where fatal accidents occurred.

We put plaques at the site of mass killings. We restore buildings once blown up and put parks around them so people can come and see and remember how awful it was.

A commission argued for months about an “appropriate” memorial for the site of the 9/11 tragedy and a major concern was, “How will the families of the victims feel?”

I’m sorry for those who lost loved ones that day nine years ago. The truth is thousands of families have lost loved ones tragically since that day — not in the same way, but the death is as permanent, the pain as searing.

I’m proud of those families who hold pictures of their loved ones and remember them fondly, bearing no grudge and recognizing that life goes on. If every nation nursed, nourished and fed their injuries like America, the world would come to a grinding halt because human tragedies strike daily: terrorist attacks in markets, suicide bombers in restaurants, murderous horsemen in Sudan and Darfur, genocides, raids on villages to conscript children for the army, train wrecks in India, capsized ferries in Indonesia and the list goes on endlessly.

To be true to our principles as Christians and for other Americans to be true to the Constitution we cannot let the painful memory of a terrorist attack and sympathetic acquiescence to those families whose identity was arrested by the events of that day dictate our responses in the future to situations that — were they unrelated to that day — would be totally unremarkable.
8/23/2010 7:46:00 AM by Norman Jameson, BR Editor | with 22 comments

Learn church marketing lessons from Iowa bicycle ride

August 9 2010 by Norman Jameson, BR Editor

When 10,000 bicycle riders take off from the Missouri River on Iowa’s western edge to ride nearly 500 miles to the Mississippi River on the eastern edge, every driveway entrepreneur and business on the route oils its cash register drawer. The whisk of wheels and soft grinding of chains on bikes that number 20,000 some days is the sound of a fiscal funnel pouring into the small towns the swarm will pass through like hungry, thirsty locusts.

While riding in July in the Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI) I noted the differences between those who successfully market their products to stand out in a sea of similarity and those poor souls who could only watch the swarm swish past with few riders peeling off to purchase their wares. These observations may be helpful as you consider how your church can gain notice and ride the crest of the wave instead of being washed away in anonymity.

Of course, the comments that follow assume you are tending to the main purpose of proclaiming Christ from your pulpit and urging your members to live for Christ in their daily lives. But to those who live around us, zooming past our church houses and cute, quippy signs asking what is missing in CH_ _CH, we are as anonymous as the pavement on which they drive.

1. First, know your target audience’s real and felt needs.

Yes, they need Jesus, but they are not going to find Him driving past your church, no matter how insightful your sign or how colorful your inflatable playground.

At RAGBRAI, several consistent food vendors carefully set up their shops at strategic, timely locations. We could always find Farm Boy Breakfast Burritos about 15 miles out from our overnight town; just the right distance to stop for breakfast after an early start.

Around noon, we always came to a farm where Tender Tom’s Turkey had set up for lunch. By late afternoon when we were starting to wonder if we could make the next overnight town, the Pavlovian chug of the engine churning Beekman’s homemade ice cream could be heard over the next hill.

Stopovers for water, power drinks, bananas and snacks were spaced at frequent intervals. Why? Because some riders needed these things. All riders didn’t need them every time, but with so many riders, someone stopped at every offering.

If you are going to offer a service, be consistent. If you’ve tested your idea and you believe it is good, don’t worry if no one shows up the first time. You have to offer it several more times before you know if it was a mistake. There are lots of people out there. Everyone will not like your idea, but some will.

At one town a line of customers stretched before every food vendor except the funnel cake truck. Someone who knew that funnel cakes sold well at the county fair mistakenly assumed cyclists were the same audience, and they offered something health conscious cyclists avoided.

2. As in real estate, location is everything.

Those driveway entrepreneurs who set up their wares at the bottom of a hill were lucky to sell a single cookie. No one is going to stop when they have momentum. Accumulated speed is too important and must be nourished to carry them up the next hill.

It is tough for your church to gain the attention of people on a roll. Steaming downhill, wheels spinning, momentum on their side, most people think they’ve got life by the handlebars and are in control. It’s when their momentum slows at the top of steep hills they didn’t expect, when it seems impossible to press the crank one more turn, when wind, sun and weariness beat them into despair that they are glad to see homemade ice cream — or a loving Christian church offering a cup of cold water in Jesus’ name.

3. Adjust your offerings to changing circumstances.

On the day a cold rain soaked riders we wanted only to get to the overnight town and into a dry tent and dry clothes. Signs that offered ice cold drinks, shade, air conditioned rooms and ice cream were oddly out of place and pathetic.

On the other hand, the gas station with an endless supply of hot coffee had a line looping around the entire store. Can you change your plans to accommodate changing circumstances? If not, you may seem strangely pathetic to the observers you are trying to reach.

4. Tout your identity.

The famous cereal box philosopher Cornfucious said, “He who tooteth not his own horn, the same horn shall go untooted.” People passed out free drinks, bananas and fruit roll ups as we rode, but for the life of me I don’t know who they were or who they represented. If you’re going to give water to people who walk their dogs in front of your church on Sunday mornings, invest in a sticker that says who is giving the water.

Better yet, be sure and speak and smile to the person.

Think ahead, too. One group held out icy pops for riders to grab as we rode by. They had thoughtfully cut the top off the plastic wrapper and had trash cans set up a half mile down the road.

5. Broadcast your message.

The most successful vendors had someone barking out their offerings a hundred yards down the road. People are moving. Keep your billboard message to seven words.

One little girl told riders cookies were available at the next corner. “What kind?” I shouted as I went past. She shouted “Chocolate chip.” Had I known that a few seconds earlier, I would have stopped.

Shout it out. Use media, posters, calling cards, email blasts, your web site, social media, sandwich boards, and signs on your buses. Tell folks what you are doing. Don’t be shy.

6. How are you different?

You are not unique because you say you are one of a kind. You are unique and exceptional because of something you do that’s unique and exceptional. What is it?

On RAGBRAI everyone has Gatorade and water. What do you have? If you have Gatorade and water, why should I choose yours over another? Price? Flavors? Yours is colder? Easier access?

It’s a crowded, jumbled world; seldom more so than when 20,000 cyclists are vying for the same 8-foot wide swath of pavement. To make sure part of the searching, teeming crowd passing your church every day knows you are there and that you offer something they need, you would do well to heed the messages from the vendors who try to stand out at RAGBRAI.
8/9/2010 9:29:00 AM by Norman Jameson, BR Editor | with 1 comments