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January 31, 2008


Shaun King

Hey Dave!

Love your work and love what Shane does.

It appears to me that Shane is doing what we should all try hard not to do. Shane has basically crafted a theology and ministry philosophy based on what works for him and is now critical of things that fall outside of this worldview. And it works and works well for him. My beef is that other ways work for us and work just as well for us in our context as they do for Shane or you in your context.

We need more women and men like Shane to balance what is very honestly an imbalanced ministry that is leaving behind the marginalized of our world. However, in my opinion, one of the best ways to reach the downtrodden and marginalized is through well-established churches with a good financial base.

Also - it is easy to critique what you don't know or understand and Shane has not experienced the type of organic church growth like many of us have.

What do you think?

Desiree Guzman


I wish I could have been a fly on the wall or a volunteer refilling the coffee in the back so I could have listened in on Shane's call. We can't keep his book on the shelves in campus ministry at North Central. Students here have really connected with his message. I had a few thoughts related to your post.

1. I think reliance on cars is less dramatic in urban than in suburban settings. Plus there are already enough urban churches with white populations who don't live in the neighborhood of the church, but drive in on Sundays. I think it would be especially important for Urban churches to be neighborhood churches. Because of racial segregation, it will probably be fairly obvious if they are not.

2. Political neutrality -- churches that kept silent during the civil rights movement were irrelevant to the black community. Churches who keep silent on immigration will be irrelevant to the immigrant community. Poverty, human rights, and social justice are political issues, but they are also Jesus issues. If the church talks about about those things only as generalities, but never actually applies them to real issues, then it will be irrelevant to people outside the comfortable white suburbs.

3. I think big can be fine, but maybe more smaller campuses are better than fewer bigger ones. Young people seem less and less impressed with spectacle, and I think many would rather see churches spend their money on caring for the poor than on acquiring bigger and better buildings and technology. They are really hungry for the kind of life and community that Shane describes.

Chris Marlow


I love the fact that you are willing to struggle with these questions. I think this is vital in our new "flat" world. It's doubtful you will conquer them or your ministry will look like Shane's, but it's great when we can have legit dialog that causes us to learn as opposed to the "us vs them" mentality.

Doug Foltz

My only thought is takes all kinds of churches, campuses and leaders to reach all kinds of different people. I thank God for Shane's unique perspective and the people he will reach just as I thank God for CCC and its unique ministry. On a side note, Jesus transforms community not politics. Its why I'm a pastor and not a politician.


Do we need a political ideology if we focus on Kingdom beliefs and values? Won't our faith inform both our yearning/participation in justice and our yearning/participation in spreading the Gospel? Beware of Kingdom neutrality...losing a passion for the lost and the call to be the hands of Jesus in this world regardless of the political.

Big or small? Remember the beauty of AND!

Peter Barsch

I kind of think Shane's third point helps with his second. I think churches do well to inform the hearts and cares of their members. The church can present us with Jesus's priorities. The church can guide us in our private-sphere giving of our time and treasure. Give people a chance to work with the poor. Make people see and know up close and personal. Talk about how the community of apostles lived out Jesus's principles.
I find it troubling, though when a church takes a tactical position on a political issue. Which approach helps the poor, Keynesian economics or Laffer/Friedman? Will we help the poor by cutting taxes and encouraging job growth, or by raising them and supporting anti-poverty programs? The Bible doesn't tell us, and churches shouldn't either. Keep it small, personal. Keep our political stance at the dining-room table level. Help us keep our eyes open to Biblical priorities, and leave it at that.

Alex Diaz

What a great post! I really appreciate your honesty and the invitation you extend through this blog to the rest of us to wrestle with these issues. It's important that we maintain a mentality of adaptability to change because societies evolve. Having said that, this is what I think about the specific points that S.C. presented.

The transportation issue is one where I feel I need to compromise. For example, there is a guy who lives in the same street where we live who drives his car when he comes to small group because it's quicker. At the same time, we have a couple of families commuting more than thirty minutes to come to church (we also go to them for different occasions). My point is, we absolutely need to reach each community through small groups, and churches (and that is a major strategy of our church), and we should also anticipate people driving short and long distances.

I don't think churches should be involved in politics. I do think their members should do so, and churches should be supportive of their roles as long as their activities do not contradict the Gospel and provide a service to the community. I feel that, if churches get involved in politics, they will reject political diversity and compartmentalize its community. In my own case, if I were to push our church to take an official position regarding the unstable politics of my home country, I would be creating a barrier for those with opposite views.

I am not afraid of small groups, even in churches that are not necessarily "mega." A small group provides intentional and purposeful spiritual development. It provides an environment where people can learn to lead. It provides an environment where people can feel safe to talk about God, or their own struggles. Having said that, I am learning that intentionality is necessary even outside of small group, but that should also be paired with authenticity.

Just my two cents.


Gotta love Claiborne. He seems to have a way to keep us asking all of the right questions.

Clayton Bell


So many things have been said here already, but I would have to echo what Shaun King said at the top. Specifically about size, should Peter be apologetic because his first service was 3000 people? The NT and early church is repleted with churches in the multiple thousands.

I don't know his background, but I think it's also hard to critique was you don't know. YOU, Dave, know what it's like to struggle through the 5K people. You know how much you can accomplish with those resources and that momentum behind it. After Katrina, Lakewood fed everyone displaced to Houston for a month, BY THEMSELVES!!! A house church couldn't do that. A loose collections of friendly small groups couldn't do that.

More and more that I've heard of Shane (I've never personally heard him, disclaimer), he seems to be saying "This is how is should be" instead of "consider the implication of living this way, here's what it's produced for us." One of the great joys I have in the church today is the spirit of appreciation of different methodologies while maintaining the same Christology. I could be wrong, but it does not appear that Shane shares that same spirit.

Dave Lewis

Hey Dave,

1. I like the parish mentality idea, which would work well in large urban areas like NYC, where driving through downtown areas might not be favorable; but then you have the subway which people seem to get around pretty good with. The parish/walking idea works well for us because we are targeting a mostly poor and marginalized community where many of the people don't drive, simply because they don't own vehicles. Everyone who attends our gatherings lives within walking distance to our church building, except our assoc. pastor who drives ten minutes to get to us. There is also some merit to your question re: automobiles. Most people will drive a half hour to their job, the movies, favorite restaurants, etc. Many do, and don't mind driving that long to go to church. It really comes down to relationships. People tend to go where they fit in and find friendship. Most of the visitors who come to our gatherings are invited by someone who is a regular. If we can develop and maintain a friendly, come as you are environment, then people will come, whether they live a block away, or twenty miles away.

2. re: the political neutrality: I personally don't have time to get caught up with politics. I readthe papers and watch evening news like most people.I am an informed citizen and I encourage people to vote and be involved, at least, at that level. If they choose to be more involved, that's a personal choice. I would rather spend my time meeting people and building relationships and changing peoples lives through the power of the gospel.

3: re: celebrating small. We have to do that, because every person matters to God. Also, the size of a congregation is not as important as how well they are being fed and equipped for service in God's kingdom.I would rather have 50 people who are growing in a committed, deepening relationship with Christ,than to have a packed house every Sunday, with people who are just there for the experience, or because we are the newest show in town. I'm not against numbers or mega-church structures. However, I'm more of a relational guy.I like to know all of the people who take the time to get out of bed on Sunday morning to join us for fellowship, teaching, breaking bread and prayer, and then are out there the rest of the week sharing their God story with the people in their lives as they live out their lives as citizens of God's kingdom.


After reading this post I really wish I could have heard what was shared at the forum! This sounds like a lot of the things I'm thinking and praying about as we are in the beginning stages of church planting in Paris...my initial response is that in theory I agree with what it sounds like Shane shared, but I share some of your questions in practicality. I'm glad God is in control and He moves and blesses beyond our understanding :)


Thank you for sharing what Shane had to say. He is a great guy, and the work that he is doing is making an impact not only in his community but in many other communities as well.

All of the issues that you mentioned are things that every church, and every church leader should wrestle with. I don't think that there is any one way that is the right way to do church. Every community has different needs and a different dynamic. Some people thrive in an smaller environment; some in a larger environment. Some people are willing to drive an hour to a church to which they have connected. Some people aren't willing to drive 5 minutes to work.

There is no formula on how to do church that will work in every situation. The most important thing is to keep your relationship tight with Jesus. The church that you lead is His bride. He will guide you in all of the decisions that you have to make.

Thank you for your blog...it is challenging to me. God has blessed me by introducing me to your blog. Thank you for all that you are doing. You guys are setting the bar pretty high :)

Carter M

Wow, this is great dialogue, I love your questions to Shane's ideas, and all of the discussion here.

Just to chime in with my 2.5 cents, here you go:
1) Parish churches look and sound so nice on paper--I just can't tell yet whether they work in 2008. Is it just another barrier to people, another way we have to "re-train" them? Perhaps it does work in urban settings--I haven't lived there yet, so I can't speak to that. But when we tried it in our suburban setting (i.e. Hometown) it was hard to see people choosing it simply because they could walk there.
2) I know I need to care more about politics than I do, but I just don't. Why? Lots of reasons, but here's the main one: "The local church is the hope of the world." Not the government. I agree with Desiree that the issues that have become "political" are important for the church to address, in order to stay relevant and make a real impact. But I DISAGREE with Claiborne that we have to choose a specific idealogy and support it. When have we ever seen church mixing with politics turn to out to be a good thing? In fact, that was the most disappointing part of his book to me--when he snuck into the Bush rally to make a scene. All those great revolutionary things he does, and then a stunt like that just re-affirms what the un-believing world thinks church is about.
3) Big OR Small? That's a tough one. Maybe this is where we apply your "genious of the AND." I hear so many people that choose our smaller campuses over the big ones, because they love the "small, family feel." And I know so many people that choose the big campuses because they need to feel anonymous at first, or they love the experience. What if that's part of the genious of multi-site, that we can offer BOTH?

Terrace Crawford

Good stuff! I love this guy.

Desiree Guzman

I agree with Carter too. When I say the Church should be involved in politics I certainly don't mean by supporting particular parties or candidates, but by holding all parties and all candidates accountable for policies that line up with Jesus' heart for social justice issues. I think Sojourners usually does a good job of this kind of advocacy. Churches should never be about telling people who to vote for, but they should empower people to hold our politicians accountable to the values Jesus taught. I can't wait to read Shane's next book, "Jesus for President." I'm very interested to read a more thorough account of his perspective on the Church and politics. I can guarantee you that when that book comes out in March my students at North Central will be begging us to get them copies to pass around campus. Shane's message has electrified Christ-followers at NCC who want to take following Jesus seriously. They've started a Simplicity Movement where students are giving away their clothes and wearing only jeans and white t-shirts to show solidarity with the poor. These students want something much more real than most churches are offering them. And they also want a government that is responsive to the needs of the poor.

Peter Barsch

I came across this quote regarding political action.
"Wherever politics tries to be redemptive, it is promising too much. Where it wishes to do the work of God, it becomes not divine, but demonic." Pope Benedict XVI

Granted, he's talking more from the other direction: not 'should our churches be political?' but 'should government enforce our faith?'. Either way, I think he makes an important warning about trying to use the coercive power of government to create the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth. It's been tried, and it hasn't turned out well.

Desiree Guzman

I understand your point of view, Peter, but things like the abolition of slavery and the civil rights movement wouldn't have happened without the Church and politics intersecting in some way. It's certainly a complicated topic, but I don't think that the Church ignoring politics is an acceptable solution. If we really believed that people of faith should have nothing to say to governments, then the Israelites would still be slaves in Egypt and black people still couldn't sit at lunch counters. Many privileged Christians agreed with you during the civil rights movement. They kept out of it because it was too political. But how do people look back on those churches now? How will people look back on us? Dr. King said, "There comes a time when silence is betrayal." I'm not sure how a church could care about social justice and also keep itself completely separate from politics. There has to be some middle place between churches entrenching themselves in a particular political ideology and churches ignoring politics completely. Both of those approaches have been tried and have not worked out well.

Scott Cottingham

I agree with Desiree. Faith without action is useless. If one expects to accomplish anything by faith he or she must be prepared to act.

The church can not turn a blind eye to intolerance, cruelty or atrocity. The changes Desiree describes were made through politics.

Non-believers judge us by how we care for others.


wow...I almost didn't read this, thinking I would disagree with everything Claiborne, but actually was pleased with his parish stance. However, while believing strongly that every citizen of every nation should be involved politically, but believe that churches, whether sacred or not, should refrain from delving out advice. The gospel, a black and white document, should, if correctly presented save any church leader the trouble. Some issues that are intwined in politics (i.e. civil rights movement, abortion) are also intwined in the fabric of society, of which the church is a part of, and thus a church leader may speak out on such issues without crossing the lines of partisanship. I appreciated the quote from Pope Benedict.
Also, if "community" is so essential to the New Testament church, so much so without it the church is rendered useless (as I am sure claiborne would posit), then obviously community exists in some form or another in "megachurches." (sorry for the pragmatism) While I have never attended a "megachurch," I am irritated at Claibornes insensitivity in "laughing" at megachurch community methodology.

Great post, thanks!

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