My new gay friend

Published by hardlynormal, September 16th, 2008 in Change, Character, Church, Life's Lessons  6 Comments  

For the last two months I have been visiting a local store several times a week and made friends with the kid at the front counter. We have openly talked about church, Jesus, his family, my family and life in LA! The first time I walked into the store I felt like I should share my testimony, which I did. I did so as conversation and was not confrontational. We talk about church and ministry every time I am there.

Here is the interesting part. The store is frequented by lots of beautiful women and last week I commented that it must drive him crazy. He looked me right in the eyes and said, “it does not bother me a bit, I’m gay” WHAT? For almost two months now I have been talking about church and he never once judged me. I was shocked. Not that he is gay, but that he was so cool.

We still talk about church, ministry, marketing and life in LA. He is a good kid and fun to talk to. He is also a great salesperson and besides genuinely befriending everyone he does an amazing job of upselling. Just because he is gay I didn’t start treating him any different and just because I am a Christian he never once treated me any different.

I don’t agree with his lifestyle yet I don’t have an agenda to “convert” him either. In fact, that is what is wrong with most Christians today. We point our finger condemning people as “sinners” which only continues to reinforce the tainted view people have of us, or we separate ourselves because we feel uncomfortable around people not exactly like us. Not just gays but homeless, handicapped, gutter punk kids and others.

In reality my new friend taught me a few very important lessons. Mainly to not judge people and allow them to be themselves. Although this sounds simple to most of us, me included, we have to fight past stereotypes and negative predispositions to truly love everyone. Too me, if Christians just started to be friendly instead of weird it would be a huge step in the right direction.

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Blogging is work rant.

Published by hardlynormal, September 15th, 2008 in Blogs, Change, Learning, Life's Lessons, Marketing  Comments Off on Blogging is work rant.  

Don’t let anyone tell you different. Blogging is work. As far as work goes, though, it leans to the more enjoyable side. My issues are 1) I just hate to write 2) finding the time 3) remembering all the cool ideas I had during the week

For those of you that subscribe or stop by often you’ll notice that I have not posted in a few weeks. For those of you that actually enjoy my rants please forgive me. And those of you who have been sending me emails asking for new “stuff” – thanks for giving me a kick.

Part of this is a result of having a life again. Pinch me! I still work in fulltime ministry and my employer makes it a priority that people have a life outside of work. I get to be like normal folks and I now have the time to “do things” – which I am! I started to play drums every week with a cool worship team and I am taking classes. Besides that I am catching up with old friends I have not seen in years. And let’s be real. Los Angeles has so much fun stuff to do I am always going. I am moving so fast just yesterday I had to look at a calendar to schedule laundry days.

I believe Seth once wrote about the hardest part of blogging is trying to figure out what not to post. I completely agree because I do my best to post only what I feel will help others. I know some probably think I am negative but I am the exact opposite. Lots of people go through the same madness and for whatever reason keep quiet. By reading about somebody else going through the same “junk” it helps with understanding and eventually healing. Just read the comments to my post Real Faith Is… to see that in action. One person commented about my blog saying they loved it because it was “insightful and vulnerable”. Their words not mine.  Another blogger who I didn’t know linked to me with the comment –learn how to be a good weird and make a difference – THAT IS AWESOME! And still to this date the #1 entry search word is “breathalyzer” that takes people to a post I did about being honest with yourself, which you can read here. If you are searching to beat a breath test you have a problem! It is so cool they land on this post.

Throughout the week I get hit with ideas I want to post. It seems that a new idea pushes out the old ones and so on. I forget lots of great stuff and then when I sit-down to type, like I am now, I end up ranting about something completely different, like I am now.

Blogging takes a lot of discipline, courage and time. The actual time writing is minimal yet the backend energy required to be vulnerable and come up with the “right” posts can be exhausting. In hindsight if I knew what it takes to be a blogger I may have never started. One of the great benefits now is that before I recommend a client blog as a marketing strategy I can be really honest about the logistics. Nonetheless if I can help just one person become self-aware and change it is well worth it.

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We can end homelessness. It is doable!

Published by hardlynormal, September 1st, 2008 in My Big Mouth  3 Comments  

This thought kind of just happened by accident through two events.

I was working on a marketing strategy for a retreat and conference center on the East Coast in a very rural city and I happened to put the address into google maps and did a search on how many churches there are nearby. The results shocked me!

Then last Thursday Pastor Matthew stated he had heard that if every church took in just 2 homeless people the problem will be solved. Hmm…I started thinking about that I went back to google maps.

Let’s play a little game. Go to google maps and enter your church address. When the box appears click on “Search nearby”. Type in the word “church” and hit enter. Then on the left menu column you’ll see the option to “refine by:” Click on “distance” and look at the number. Now click on “15 miles”. Take that number and multiply by 2. If the churches in your area just helped 2 people each that would be the total amount of people helped and the end of homelessness or poverty is doable. Very doable!

Now I am not talking helping people by leading them into the “sinner’s prayer” and leaving them with toothpaste and a bottle of water. I mean really extending yourself and actually helping just 2 people out of poverty! Every church can help 2 people, can’t they?

As an example I didn’t want to use Los Angeles just because it is a large metropolitan area. The number is so huge it freaks me out! So this example will be more real I used my last physical address in Missouri. Within 15 miles of my old address there are 2,580 churches. Within 45 miles there are 9,243 churches. If each church helped just 2 people (a month? a year?) that would be 18,486 people helped out of poverty in St Louis. I might be wrong here but I believe the number of homeless in the St Louis area is less than 500 on any given night.

So I realized two things here. Solving homelessness is doable and the Body of Christ can actually make a serious impact if we just put our words into action. Also, as is right now, the church is selfish and blind. We believe we are helping people but if we just step back and see the real truth we would be aware of how little effect most churches have on the world.

I sure hope this is a wakeup call for someone!

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Jesus for sale – and He saves!

Published by hardlynormal, August 28th, 2008 in My Big Mouth  Comments Off on Jesus for sale – and He saves!  

Yesterday I saw the best username on twitter @jesusforsale. Dang I wish I had thought of that one and it really is the church today. Do we have to give Jesus the hard sale?

Also yesterday I received an eblast from a major worldwide ministry offering a Master’s Debt Free Card for anyone who sowed a seed and listed their debts. I really never understood the theory behind giving someone else your money to get out of debt but having one of those fancy cards in my wallet is awful tempting.

I already posted my thoughts about another church that is offering a Church Value Card and part of the pitch is what a great witnessing tool it will make as you hand it to your waitress. Nothing says come visit our church like a discount offer!

The thought hit me, if I had both of these cards in my wallet I would literally have proof that Jesus really does save…money! Thank goodness Jesus is for sale. Someday He may even be bigger than Wal-Mart!

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OBEY! My first public sighting!

Published by hardlynormal, August 25th, 2008 in Design, Marketing, My Big Mouth  2 Comments  

I don’t know if it is because I just love the NYHC punk rebellion of it, the gorilla marketing aspects, the raw designs, or because it is so different but when the art director at work turned me on to “Obey: Supply & Demand : The Art of Shepard Fairey” I was hooked. If you are into art, design, marketing, or just a lover of all things eclectic this book is a must.

Andre the Giant Has a Posse started in 1986 as a street art campaign by artist Frank Shepard Fairey and the Obey Giant has now literally affected pop culture around the world. From one “skater” kid putting stickers on walls in North Carolina to now being seen in every major city, TV appearances, a clothing line and even the Obama poster – Obey is not just a sticker design that caught on; it is propaganda on fire.

my first Obey Giant in publicAfter reading the book I had a passion to see an Obey Giant in public. As a drove around LA I looked and looked and looked. Because it is street art a Giant can be anywhere and they blend in with all the madness. The book is filled with all kinds of cool photos of Andre sightings. The art director was even going to print one and plant it someplace to make me happy. Well, I was at Starbucks on Sunset near Alvarado. The one with the Subway and laundromat which is so LA and bam, across the street on the awning of an old theatre were three giants looking right at me! I probably looked right at them a countless amount of times and did not notice.

So keep an eye out in your hood. The Obey Giant is everywhere. Now I have to figure out how to make a Giant wallpaper for my iPhone 🙂

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Real faith is…

Published by hardlynormal, August 18th, 2008 in Change, Character, Church, My Big Mouth  9 Comments  

Again I need to give you a disclaimer. I am not a bible scholar and I am not a theologian. Agree or disagree these are my views on a subject matter that I feel has been greatly abused.

Writing down the make and model of the new car you want to receive and then placing the piece of paper in the center of a room for people to circle around and pray over is not faith – it is magic! For a few years now I have been really confused and frustrated because I see people being taught rituals and not truth. Tithe, pray facing west, fast, make a collage of all the material junk you want, add some scripture, and presto chango God will honor your WORKS.

This type of teaching gives people false hope. For one, if we don’t receive the miracle we are praying for we blame ourselves thinking we did the ritual wrong. We then try and correct our wrong searching for a new ritual instead of resting in Him. People also get hurt because their neighbor was blessed doing the ritual, why not them? Yes, there are testimonies of the “miracle check in the mailbox” that basically result from the law of averages. But the majority of these type “miracle” testimonies are exaggerated, evangelistically speaking that is, to prove to us the rituals work.

I also find it interesting the people that teach these “faith” rituals that borderline on magic are the first to speak out against Harry Potter, or have a medicine cabinet filled with drugs quickly prescribing meds to people for any ailment, or are overly scared of legal action to the point of paranoia. Behind the scenes most demonstrate little faith as if their teachings are all a charade.

When I was homeless I didn’t tithe nor did I pray yet I was delivered from living in a park and homeless shelters to a good paying job and new car. From April 07 to early 08 I had crisis after crisis in my life that made homelessness seem like Disneyland. I not only tithed my offerings were another 10% making my total giving a little more than 20%. I fasted, I prayed, I believed with EXTREME faith, I wrote my needs on paper for others to pray over, I even had the collage on the wall with scriptures just like I was taught, I spoke the right words and believed for the very best. More importantly I became passive, I started to work harder and harder, I did my best to keep my mouth shut yet my circumstances kept getting worse. I was doing everything right yet wrong kept on happening. I became more confused. Why was the magic faith not working? I tried it both ways and life keeps coming at me! Could it be rain falls on the just and the unjust?

My eyes opened this spring while I was dining with a friend at a Chinese buffet in Columbus Ohio. Another opportunity had just fallen through and for the most part I was beat down hard. No money, no food, and it looked like things were going to get worse, which they did! In that moment of clarity I knew God loved me and that as long as I persevered He would take care of me. I might not get the car I wanted, but He had something better, which he did as I type this from Los Angeles, my home, the place where I belong! I never prayed to move back here nor did I sow a seed. The more I surrendered giving up my WANTS and desires the more He gave me just what I needed. That simple and no magic! Just rest in Him!

Please know I am all about positive thinking. Positive thinking, especially changing my self-talk, is what made all the difference in my recovery. Positive thinking is great and needs to be encouraged yet we can go too far and remove reality. We are also not healed by works. Miracles don’t happen because we prayed a certain way or claimed our seed on the offering envelope. All this crap does is mess people up, alienate unbelievers and sell warehouses full of product.

Let’s be honest here. All this faith ritual magic is selfish. People don’t sow a seed for that drug addict or prostitute; they give money in the hopes of receiving a new house, car or other material possession – selfish! I believe that the church will continue to be without any real power and continue to lose people as long as the church focuses on receiving and not genuinely helping others.

Real faith is not magic. Real faith is knowing that God truly loves you no matter how bad your circumstances seem.

 

 

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Why church marketing sucks!

Published by hardlynormal, August 15th, 2008 in My Big Mouth  2 Comments  

Years ago when I first started to work in church communications I was bothered by the lack of quality and excellence. Vocals out of tune, drums and bass a little off, web pages were more for vanity than any other purpose and the print materials…yuck!

There has been great improvement in the area of excellence yet now I am disgusted, yes disgusted is a good word, because we have gone too far. Church lobbies look no different than a swap meet with EVERY ministry trying to pitch their stuff. People are given handbills at the main door and then again at all the other doorways. Lord knows we can’t miss even one person with our marketing materials. Flat screen TVs at every angle, video announcements, pre and post service slides, and yes, ads on the bathroom walls! The very same marketing tactics that are used at a baseball stadium are used in our places of worship.

I hope you watch the video in the post below this because it is a good example of what the world thinks of us. Does an external impression matter or is it more important to fill seats and raise money? Funny because when we use these gimmicks we are doing far more harm than good and it actually has the opposite effect.

Today I received an email from a church pitching a church “value card” as an invite tool. There is a picture of the card and it is modeled after a credit card with a big $10 graphic. It also says “unlimited use” so that $10 must really go a long way.

Here is some of the copy. I just cut and paste as is. The bold text is their doing and just perfect:

Promote your church and save money at the same time with our new value cards! Present this card at some of your favorite local restaurants and receive tons of incredible deals! Plus it’s a great witnessing tool. Each time you hand out your card, you’re inviting your server or cashier to church. Buy one for your family, or give them out as gifts! Value cards go on sale this week, August 17th, for only $10, so make sure to get yours soon!

Think about this for a second. You are a waiter. Already Christians are known to be cheap and horrible tippers. A party of 4 comes into your restaurant. At the end of the meal they hand you this card and say “we get a discount. by the way, come visit our church”. INSANE!

Gimmicks like this suck and damage the perceptions people have about Jesus. An invite card with a fat $10 on it! Jesus must be about money – right? Invite people and save money. Wow! Gimmicks like this are why church marketing sucks!

And you wonder why your church is not growing! Next time before implementing a gimmick think of the big picture and the long term effect! A debt campaign (give us your money to get out of debt – whacked) may have immediate financial increase yet playing a video before, between and after service, along with talking about it and handing out print materials at every door will have a long-term negative effect causing great loss.

Gimmicks are mainly used by companies or organizations that don’t have integrity or are desperate. Do we have to give Jesus the hard sale? Today people are not only aware of tricks they are sick of them. The very best marketing tactic to help fill your building is to simply love on people just the way they are. Try being real and authentic and teach your people compassion instead of how to save a penny.

Let’s all start thinking about how we really portray Christianity.  Jesus is not the “Crazy Larry” guy on TV slashing prices yet that is how we represent Him when we use gimmicks. The church is entrenched in religion, rituals, pride, arrogance, ignorance, and….MONEY – so I understand this change will not be easy. But we have to start someplace and it has to happen now.  The world hates us and for good reason.  I am still an optimist and believe we can change and that change starts with you.

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Change anyone?

Published by hardlynormal, August 14th, 2008 in My Big Mouth  2 Comments  

Watch this video and then buy Pagan Christianity? This is what we look like to people on the outside. We do far more harm than good. Even though this is focused on Christian TV, it is how we act in public and inside our buildings. We are perceived as freaks and all of our rituals are artificial and not bible. Read “Pagan Christianity?: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices” – it is the book your pastor does not want you to read because it tells the real truth. Jesus never wanted the church as it is today. The church was never meant to be about building campaigns but about people. We have it all messed up!

Let’s start doing church right. Change anyone?

thanks Holy Cow. my brother from another utter!

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Changing my prayer life changed me.

Published by hardlynormal, August 13th, 2008 in My Big Mouth  8 Comments  

I need to start with a disclaimer. I am not a bible scholar nor am I a theologian.  This change evolved because of circumstances in my life. It also started unintentionally and just kind of happened. Agree or disagree this is where I am at right now and I have noticed a dramatic growth.
 
A little over 4 months ago I stopped praying to receive anything material. New car, new house, new watch, bigger TV, more money – none of that. Oh, I’ll pray for your new house and for you to receive more money, but not for me to personally receive anything material.
 
For the last several years I have been actively involved in ministries that were focused on prosperity, and, even though I do believe God wants us to prosper, I have seen the collateral damage that results from always focusing on receiving instead of giving.

What I have noticed is that although people may have good intentions a giving heart cannot grow when a person is primarily praying to receive. Words about giving and helping others are said yet there is rarely any real follow-through. Since we are training our hearts and minds to be selfish giving to others only happens if there is no REAL sacrifice required.

The only things I ask to receive are help, strength, wisdom and courage!

Changes I have noticed:

  • I care more about others
  • I pray more for others
  • I am more aware of relationships
  • My needs are much simpler
  • I am happy with what I get because I don’t expect a thing
  • I am conscious about money yet money is no longer a priority
  • I feel closer to a REAL and loving God who will supply ALL of my needs
  • I have peace beyond comprehension

Try it. I dare you to go 30 days without praying for anything material.

Probably one of the best choices I have made.
 

 

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Bad choice, no translator, confusion – see ya!!!

Published by hardlynormal, August 12th, 2008 in My Big Mouth  Comments Off on Bad choice, no translator, confusion – see ya!!!  

I had a few errands to run during lunchtime today and one of them was a carwash. My first stop took longer than expected so I was rushing and after pulling into the carwash lot I made a mistake and ended up in the express lane. I read the signs, but I still pulled forward because the lane was empty.

Well, the express lane is…different! I have been to this carwash many times yet I always get out of my car and let the worker take my car through. In the express lane you stay in your car. The guy waved me to move forward. Too me this was scary because it was so new. And truthfully it is not what I had in mind. The guy walked up, I rolled down my window and stated “I think I got in the wrong lane. How does this work?” Unfortunately after 5 years in the Midwest I now only speak gringo so even though I had a simple question there was a huge language issue. It was not until the third person came up to my car that I was able to communicate. They of course, were able to talk to each other. But not with me! Partly because I was in a hurry, partly because I was frustrated with myself for making the wrong choice, and partly because no habla espanol I felt really uncomfortable. So much so I wanted to flee and if there was a way that I could have easily drove through without causing trouble I probably would have.

I started to think about first time visitors. Many find church because of circumstances that resulted from one bad choice after another. I know I can speak christianease and I always feel a little uncomfortable walking into a new church. Imagine someone brand spanking new walking in and not knowing the language. It has to be crazy scary. And even though they are scared and want to run they will go through with the ceremony out of social pressure.

When I had a music ministry that played all the clubs on the Sunset Strip it was a great outreach for people who might never walk into a church. I would invite friends from college and AA meetings yet many never showed. When I asked they said “we tried but the pamphlet people scared us away”, and I could not stop the people who were “over saved” from standing outside trying to get a sales quota of salvations. Even at a cool outreach and a cool location we freak people out, and they run!

I don’t have any answers, but this I know! People dressed in really bad Batman and Spiderman costumes standing in front of Mann’s Chinese on Hollywood Blvd draw more new visitors on Sunday morning than most churches.

If you think your church is making an impact. Wake up! We are not even coming close!

I know this is somewhat of a repeat but if a first time visitor does not feel welcome, they may add to your salvation count, but they will not truthfully experience Jesus. God is so much more than a sinner’s prayer, a free bible, a free pastry while meeting the pastor’s wife, and a superficial commitment of love.

The way we did church yesterday is clearly no longer working today yet we are so stuck on past rituals and protocol we can’t change. Or should I say – WON’T CHANGE!

As long as we make people feel uncomfortable and continue breading “over saved” Christians we will continue to drive people away!

 

 

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