Monday, March 30, 2009

My wife probably would not approve of me bragging about her in a public space like this, but I'm afraid that there is just no other option. She and Chris Falzone have just completed a major overhaul to Grace Church's website I am absolutely in love with the redesign. It is sleek, sharp, and sexy (can a church website be sexy?). Great job, guys. It looks fantastic.

One of the things I am most excited about is that finally has the functionality to play videos directly on the site. Last summer, I asked a question on this blog as to whether people would prefer Vimeo or YouTube as a host site for the videos that we create at Grace. Although opinions were divided more or less right down the middle, I decided to abandon YouTube and switch completely over to Vimeo. I believe the quality is better on uploaded videos at Vimeo, and the interface is definitely nicer as well (it's grown on me). You can see the videos yourself by going to, clicking on "connect" on the left side of the page, and then clicking on "Vimeo".

Another thing I like about Vimeo is that a Plus membership allows you to create a personalized channel for your videos. In fact, the Grace Church channel is the page that is linked directly off of the front page on the

Finally, directly underneath the connect button on the front page is a button for "The 411". The 411 is what we have begun calling our weekly video announcements at Grace. We have been showing video announcements in our weekend services at Grace since 2005. Now, if you miss them, you will be able to view the video on Although there have been cosmetic changes to the announcement video format over the last four years, there has never been a major overhaul on the way we do them. Starting earlier this month with the countdown [it's all part of the package], we are in the beginning stages of a brand new way of doing video announcements at Grace. I think that the people of Grace will be very pleased with The 411. I am working with the communications team as we speak and am so excited to unveil the new format sometime over the next few weeks.

Grace may be over 110 years old now, but I believe we're as cutting-edge as ever. As time goes by, the message always always stays the same, but the methods of delivering that message can and should change. At Grace, we are 100% convinced that Jesus Christ is the hope of the world. But shame on us if we think that the methods used for communicating this Hope in the church of yesterday will work in the church of today. Yes, He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. But that doesn't mean that we should sit idly by as we watch technology, time, and relevance pass the church by.

So check out, check out our new Vimeo channel, and get excited by what God is doing at Grace Church in Erie, Pennsylvania!! Oh, and if you happen to be reading this and don't currently have a church home, I encourage you to check Grace out "in person". :-)

Monday, March 23, 2009


Gosh, where is this month GOING?! It's already the 23rd. That means that my love turns 30 this week!! How exciting! Here's what else has been going on.

  • Speaking of Danielle's birthday, if you haven't been reading her blog lately, you've been missing out. She has been writing an excellent series called "30til30". Check it out. She's amazing. I have learned a lot about my wife through this blog series.
  • Work is going well. Starting a new job has been a huge adjustment, and at times it has been very difficult, but I can't really complain.
  • Church at Grace has been incredible as of late. I can't remember the last time I have been so moved in church week after week after week. There hasn't been a time in the last four weeks that I haven't shed tears. Our current series, "Lift Your Eyes", has been amazing. Al and Derek have done an amazing job so far and I look forward to what Mike brings to us next weekend. All I know is that God has been moving in a mighty way at Grace lately...and I'm not sure what's different or what's changed...but I truly believe that He is changing peoples' hearts there. Today, for instance, there was a moment in worship during the response time where I thought the roof was going to be blown off. The joy and the presence of God in that room this morning was palpable. I needed to meet God there this morning, and He didn't fail. God is moving, hearts are changing, a movement is happening. I can feel it. I think anybody who calls Grace home feels it.
  • Danielle and I sat down today to watch Kings, which we had saved on our DVR from last weekend. I have to say: I am glad we saved it. It was awesome. I highly recommend it, especially if you are a Christian (I still think it's an awesome show, though, even if you're not). The show is a modern-day twist on the story of King David, and from all I've seen and read, the series is pretty much spot on in it's parallel to David's story in the Old Testament. I highly recommend going onto NBC's website and getting caught up. I can't wait to watch this week's episode!

  • It's late. Morning comes too quickly these days. Gotta go sleep;.
  • Peace.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

the (fragile?) state of evangelicalism

This article definitely made me think. It also scared me and made me concerned as to whether this could actually happen; although, it's hard to see that it's already sort of happening all around us. I believe, and have believed for some time, that it's only a matter of time until the church is looked upon as "the bad guy". Let me know what you think about it.

From The Christian Science Monitor on March 10, 2009.

The coming evangelical collapse

An anti-Christian chapter in Western history is about to begin. But out of the ruins, a new vitality and integrity will rise.

We are on the verge – within 10 years – of a major collapse of evangelical Christianity. This breakdown will follow the deterioration of the mainline Protestant world and it will fundamentally alter the religious and cultural environment in the West.

Within two generations, evangelicalism will be a house deserted of half its occupants. (Between 25 and 35 percent of Americans today are Evangelicals.) In the "Protestant" 20th century, Evangelicals flourished. But they will soon be living in a very secular and religiously antagonistic 21st century.

This collapse will herald the arrival of an anti-Christian chapter of the post-Christian West. Intolerance of Christianity will rise to levels many of us have not believed possible in our lifetimes, and public policy will become hostile toward evangelical Christianity, seeing it as the opponent of the common good.

Millions of Evangelicals will quit. Thousands of ministries will end. Christian media will be reduced, if not eliminated. Many Christian schools will go into rapid decline. I'm convinced the grace and mission of God will reach to the ends of the earth. But the end of evangelicalism as we know it is close.

Why is this going to happen?

1. Evangelicals have identified their movement with the culture war and with political conservatism. This will prove to be a very costly mistake. Evangelicals will increasingly be seen as a threat to cultural progress. Public leaders will consider us bad for America, bad for education, bad for children, and bad for society.

The evangelical investment in moral, social, and political issues has depleted our resources and exposed our weaknesses. Being against gay marriage and being rhetorically pro-life will not make up for the fact that massive majorities of Evangelicals can't articulate the Gospel with any coherence. We fell for the trap of believing in a cause more than a faith.

2. We Evangelicals have failed to pass on to our young people an orthodox form of faith that can take root and survive the secular onslaught. Ironically, the billions of dollars we've spent on youth ministers, Christian music, publishing, and media has produced a culture of young Christians who know next to nothing about their own faith except how they feel about it. Our young people have deep beliefs about the culture war, but do not know why they should obey scripture, the essentials of theology, or the experience of spiritual discipline and community. Coming generations of Christians are going to be monumentally ignorant and unprepared for culture-wide pressures.

3. There are three kinds of evangelical churches today: consumer-driven megachurches, dying churches, and new churches whose future is fragile. Denominations will shrink, even vanish, while fewer and fewer evangelical churches will survive and thrive.

4. Despite some very successful developments in the past 25 years, Christian education has not produced a product that can withstand the rising tide of secularism. Evangelicalism has used its educational system primarily to staff its own needs and talk to itself.

5. The confrontation between cultural secularism and the faith at the core of evangelical efforts to "do good" is rapidly approaching. We will soon see that the good Evangelicals want to do will be viewed as bad by so many, and much of that work will not be done. Look for ministries to take on a less and less distinctively Christian face in order to survive.

6. Even in areas where Evangelicals imagine themselves strong (like the Bible Belt), we will find a great inability to pass on to our children a vital evangelical confidence in the Bible and the importance of the faith.

7. The money will dry up.

What will be left?

•Expect evangelicalism to look more like the pragmatic, therapeutic, church-growth oriented megachurches that have defined success. Emphasis will shift from doctrine to relevance, motivation, and personal success – resulting in churches further compromised and weakened in their ability to pass on the faith.

•Two of the beneficiaries will be the Roman Catholic and Orthodox communions. Evangelicals have been entering these churches in recent decades and that trend will continue, with more efforts aimed at the "conversion" of Evangelicals to the Catholic and Orthodox traditions.

•A small band will work hard to rescue the movement from its demise through theological renewal. This is an attractive, innovative, and tireless community with outstanding media, publishing, and leadership development. Nonetheless, I believe the coming evangelical collapse will not result in a second reformation, though it may result in benefits for many churches and the beginnings of new churches.

•The emerging church will largely vanish from the evangelical landscape, becoming part of the small segment of progressive mainline Protestants that remain true to the liberal vision.

•Aggressively evangelistic fundamentalist churches will begin to disappear.

•Charismatic-Pentecostal Christianity will become the majority report in evangelicalism. Can this community withstand heresy, relativism, and confusion? To do so, it must make a priority of biblical authority, responsible leadership, and a reemergence of orthodoxy.

•Evangelicalism needs a "rescue mission" from the world Christian community. It is time for missionaries to come to America from Asia and Africa. Will they come? Will they be able to bring to our culture a more vital form of Christianity?

•Expect a fragmented response to the culture war. Some Evangelicals will work to create their own countercultures, rather than try to change the culture at large. Some will continue to see conservatism and Christianity through one lens and will engage the culture war much as before – a status quo the media will be all too happy to perpetuate. A significant number, however, may give up political engagement for a discipleship of deeper impact.

Is all of this a bad thing?

Evangelicalism doesn't need a bailout. Much of it needs a funeral. But what about what remains?

Is it a good thing that denominations are going to become largely irrelevant? Only if the networks that replace them are able to marshal resources, training, and vision to the mission field and into the planting and equipping of churches.

Is it a good thing that many marginal believers will depart? Possibly, if churches begin and continue the work of renewing serious church membership. We must change the conversation from the maintenance of traditional churches to developing new and culturally appropriate ones.

The ascendency of Charismatic-Pentecostal-influenced worship around the world can be a major positive for the evangelical movement if reformation can reach those churches and if it is joined with the calling, training, and mentoring of leaders. If American churches come under more of the influence of the movement of the Holy Spirit in Africa and Asia, this will be a good thing.

Will the evangelicalizing of Catholic and Orthodox communions be a good development? One can hope for greater unity and appreciation, but the history of these developments seems to be much more about a renewed vigor to "evangelize" Protestantism in the name of unity.

Will the coming collapse get Evangelicals past the pragmatism and shallowness that has brought about the loss of substance and power? Probably not. The purveyors of the evangelical circus will be in fine form, selling their wares as the promised solution to every church's problems. I expect the landscape of megachurch vacuity to be around for a very long time.

Will it shake lose the prosperity Gospel from its parasitical place on the evangelical body of Christ? Evidence from similar periods is not encouraging. American Christians seldom seem to be able to separate their theology from an overall idea of personal affluence and success.

The loss of their political clout may impel many Evangelicals to reconsider the wisdom of trying to create a "godly society." That doesn't mean they'll focus solely on saving souls, but the increasing concern will be how to keep secularism out of church, not stop it altogether. The integrity of the church as a countercultural movement with a message of "empire subversion" will increasingly replace a message of cultural and political entitlement.

Despite all of these challenges, it is impossible not to be hopeful. As one commenter has already said, "Christianity loves a crumbling empire."

We can rejoice that in the ruins, new forms of Christian vitality and ministry will be born. I expect to see a vital and growing house church movement. This cannot help but be good for an evangelicalism that has made buildings, numbers, and paid staff its drugs for half a century.

We need new evangelicalism that learns from the past and listens more carefully to what God says about being His people in the midst of a powerful, idolatrous culture.

I'm not a prophet. My view of evangelicalism is not authoritative or infallible. I am certainly wrong in some of these predictions. But is there anyone who is observing evangelicalism in these times who does not sense that the future of our movement holds many dangers and much potential?

Michael Spencer is a writer and communicator living and working in a Christian community in Kentucky. He describes himself as "a postevangelical reformation Christian in search of a Jesus-shaped spirituality." This essay is adapted from a series on his blog, .

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Awesome picture

The National Weather Service in Buffalo has an amazing feature on their website showing the evolution of ice on Lake Erie over the winter using satellite images. They can only capture images when there are no clouds, so as one would imagine, getting a satellite image is pretty tough in these parts. The latest image, taken on March 4, is fascinating to me. You can clearly see that Lake Erie is completely frozen over (with the exception of some open water hugging the shoreline off of Canada). Lake St.Clair and Lake Huron are also ice covered. Lake Ontario, however, is not. That is because Lake Ontario is an extremely deep lake (Lake Erie is the shallowest) and does not freeze over very often, if ever.

Some other cool things to note on this image are the smaller frozen lakes and rivers dotting the landscape. You can clearly pick out Pymatuning Reservoir, as well as Chautauqua Lake and the Allegheny Reservoir. Also, note the sediment pouring into Lake Ontario from the Niagara River. Call me a nerd if you'd like, but I find this image utterly fascinating!

Also, if anyone thought that this winter was especially cold, you're not alone. In fact, the globe cooled more last year than at any time since 1950. There was a very good article in the Boston Globe today about how the media is choosing not to talk about the bitter cold winter of 2008-2009. But they examine how, if it were the exact opposite (a record warm winter), the media would be all over it. A very interesting read indeed...check it out.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009


I'm still alive, in case anybody was wondering. I apologize for being MIA lately. I have several blog posts written, but each one of them still need a little bit of tweaking and I just don't have time for that this week.

I am extremely busy with video projects at Grace right now. I have six separate videos that need to be ready for this weekend. I have made great progress so far this week, but I still have a bunch to do. Unfortunately, I am not going to be here Thursday and Friday, so that puts a huge pressure factor to get these things done today.

I start a new job tomorrow. As a result, finding the balance between the video ministry - a job that is (at times) more than full-time already - and a new job that is pretty much full-time, is going to be quite a challenge. I'm grateful that I have this new job, but it is bittersweet because I will not be able to devote 100% of my time to ministry and that is absolutely killing me inside.