Monday, January 31, 2011


A while back my Elders at the Church of God of Landisville proposed a special Staff Appreciation Day.  It was during the planning of our annual Pastor Appreciation Sunday (a well-established tradition for us, thankfully). It was also after staff reviews and annual budget talks intersected and it became obvious that despite an A-Prime Staff, no raises were going to be given in 2011.  The elders felt that the church should focus on those staff members (all part-timers with us) who are integral to our work and critical to our success as a church.  (I say as Lead Pastor, "They make me look better than I am.")  Someone, however, felt that was inappropriate, especially when the suggestion was made that encourage congregation members to feel free to give gifts of appreciation if they felt prompted by God.  The worriers worried that not everyone would get the same gift(s) (Barry and I never even know what the other received during Pastor Appreciation.) The zealots declared, "We should all just do our work without any appreciation or expectation of it. After all, we are just doing this to the glory of God."  The Lead Pastor, mindful how hard they work and how often they do not even received a word of thanks or are included in someone's prayer, was exasperated.  The elders were firm.  In January we held a Staff Appreciation Sunday.

The staff appreciated it.

The members appreciated the reminder that we are a culture of affirmation.

I think some gifts were given.

God was glorified.

Sunday, January 30, 2011


Felicity Dale regularly blogs at SIMPLY CHURCH

Hear is a post from Felicity by way of AMP Planting's blog FUEL. (AMP is a ministry of church planting and extension sponsored by the Eastern Regional Conference of the Churches of God. Justin Meier is its director.)

The church landscape in this country is changing. According to the Pew Forum, 9% of Protestants "attend services" in a home. This figure varies according to the definition of house church, and some helpful math by Ed Stetzer brings the number to around 4 million Americans who attend only this kind of church--a significant number. Many more would say their primary form of spiritual or religious gathering occurs in a group of 20 or less, as they attend both simple/organic church and legacy church. Even the secular media is taking notice of the social impact.
It appears that the Holy Spirit is the initiator of this current move--there is no center one can visit, no superstar's conferences to attend. Rather, all over the country, intentionally small churches are starting in homes, coffee shops, schools, everywhere life happens.
What's going on is far from perfect--some simple churches have started out of reaction to perceived hurts or injustice by the traditional church. Many more are doing "Honey I shrunk the church"--exchanging the pew for a sofa but failing to change their DNA. (Neil Cole defines organic church DNA as Divine truth, Nurturing relationships and Apostolic mission.) However, there are increasingly large numbers of healthy simple/organic churches focused on making disciples in the harvest.
God is leading His people in similar ways right across His body. Some traditional (legacy) churches are adopting more organic ways of being church. Mega-churches, such as Austin Stone here in our city, are deliberately sending out their members to start missional communities (small groups that function as simple churches) to reach out into the community. Other legacy churches are seeking to liberate themselves from institutionalism, and focusing on many of the same principles as organic church.
Here are some simple/organic church principles:
  • Church is relational: People frequently refer to church as either a building or an event, as in, "I'm going to church." One of the main pictures of church in the New Testament is that of family. You don't go to family--it's something you are. Obviously, healthy families get together frequently, but that isn't what defines them. In the same way, church isn't defined by meetings but by relationship together with Jesus at the center. "Where two or three are gathered in my name there am I in the midst (Matthew 18:20)."
  • Jesus is King of His Kingdom and Head of His church: The core skill within simple/organic church is that of listening to God and responding to what He says. (The Word is our yardstick here.) Christians often live as though Jesus is a constitutional monarch--head in name only. God delights to communicate with us, and our response is obedience. As we listen to Him, both individually and corporately, community and mission will result.
  • Church is missional: For centuries, church has been attractional ("Come to my church!" "Come and hear our special speaker!") But God has always intended for church to be missional--we go to the world with the Good News of the Kingdom. We can reach into every crack and crevice of society this way. Jesus told us to make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20), and He would build his church (Matthew 16:18).
  • Ordinary people can make disciples and gather them together: Jesus was content to entrust the expansion of His Kingdom to ordinary, untrained people (Acts 4:13). People with no formal Bible school or seminary training are able to gather a few people over a meal to share life together, to delve into the Word of God, to pray for one another (Acts 2:42) and to seek to make disciples of those they come in contact with.
  • Luke 10 provides principles for reaching out. In many nations, rapidly multiplying, intentionally small churches led by "lay people" are having a major impact (church planting movements). They use Luke 10:1-9 as their pattern for crossing cultures and making an impact for the Kingdom. Finding a person of peace and starting church in their home rather than inviting that person to join our church, enables us to influence a new circle of people with the Gospel.
  • Simple is reproducible: Multiplication is more effective than addition but things need to be simple--simple is reproducible, complex is not. We can start a church by working with not-yet-believers, making disciples from the harvest. If these groups are to multiply, they need to be based on simple patterns.
  • Church is participatory: First Corinthians 14:26 states that when we come together, each person has a contribution to make. All of us are important to the functioning of a healthy body. If every member is to take part, we need to model simplicity, whether in our prayers, our pattern of teaching (participatory Bible study is a very effective way of learning and applying truth) or our meals.
  • Kingdom is a 24/7 lifestyle: God has written his laws on our hearts (Hebrews 8:10), so living in the Kingdom means living from the Life within rather than according to a rulebook. There is no sacred/secular divide. All of us are meant to be full time in the Kingdom; it is often easier to be effective in reaching out from a secular position.
  • Christ modeled servant leadership. Jesus said that we are not to use the world's hierarchical models of leadership that lord over others, but we're to live as servants (Matthew 20:25-28). The CEO model of church leadership is not biblical; church is not a business. The function of Ephesians 4 leadership is to equip others to do the work of ministry.
God is working across His whole body. My prayer is that God will increasingly lead all of us, both legacy and simple/organic churches, to work together for the sake of the Kingdom.

Saturday, January 29, 2011


Productivity expert Laura Stack entitled SuperCompetent.  Laura has identified six key attitudes or mindsets of people she says are 'supercompetent'. I have been learning and re-learning these lessons for more than 35 years in ministry.  For the leaders of outward-focused churches, these are an excellent reminder. - Steve

Key 1: Activity. They are driven by intense focus on priorities and have a clear sense of direction.
Action: You need to determine what you should be working on.

Key 2: Availability. They control their schedules.
Action: You need to make time for it.

Key 3: Attention. They develop the ability to pay attention to the task at hand.
Action: You need to focus on those tasks.

Key 4: Accessibility. They are organized and can locate the information they need to support their activities.
Action: You need to organize the information you need to complete your tasks.

Key 5: Accountability. They are self-disciplined and don’t blame others.
Action: You need to be responsible for your results.

Key 6: Attitude. They do what needs to be done to make things happen. They are proactive decisive and fast.
Action: You never give up.

Read more ...

Thursday, January 27, 2011


LifeWay Research finds churches divided on website usage

Written by David Roach
NASHVILLE, Tenn., 1/21/2011 – Though most churches have a website, there is a divide between congregations that use their sites only for one-way communication and those that maximize their online presence with interactive technology.

That is the finding of a new LifeWay Research study sponsored by Axletree Media, one of LifeWay’s partners in the Digital Church initiative.

The survey of 1,003 Protestant churches found that while 78 percent have a website, less than half of those congregations use their sites for interactive purposes like obtaining and distributing prayer requests (43 percent), registering people for events and activities (39 percent) and automating more church processes (30 percent).

A majority of congregations with a website use it for one-way communication, the survey revealed. A full 91 percent provide information to potential visitors online and 79 percent provide information to the congregation. Fifty-seven percent encourage increased attendance and involvement among the congregation and 52 percent solicit interest in ministry or volunteer opportunities.

“Many churches are using their website like a Yellow Pages ad characterized by basic information and infrequent updates,” said Scott McConnell, director of LifeWay Research. “This is in sharp contrast with churches that use their website like a bustling church receptionist registering people for upcoming events, collecting prayer requests and obtaining volunteers.

“There is nothing wrong with using a church website to simply give directions to the church or state the church’s beliefs,” McConnell added. “However, we must realize that more and more people expect to be able to interact online without having to drive or make a phone call to the church.”

Larger churches are more likely than their smaller counterparts to use their websites interactively. Among churches with a website, 69 percent of churches with 500 or more in average worship attendance register people for events or activities online, but only 25 percent of churches with one to 49 attendees do the same. Fifty-two percent of congregations with 500 or more attendees seek to use their website to “allow more processes at (their) church to be automated,” compared with 15 percent of churches with one to 49 attendees.

In contrast, large and small churches are about equally as likely to use their websites to provide information to potential visitors. There is also little difference between large and small churches using their websites to provide information to their congregation.

The study also found differences in the frequency of website usage. Forty percent of churches with websites update their sites once a week and 15 percent update more than once a week. But nearly half of churches with websites (42%) update them once a month or less. That includes 7 percent that update once a year or less.
Among the factors that keep churches from providing more content and services online are limited time among church staff (46%), limited financial resources (41%), limited time among volunteers (39%) and little interest expressed by the congregation for more online content or services (35%).

Bill Nix, CEO of Axletree Media, lamented that more churches do not take advantage of online ministry resources.

“With the low cost of online technology today, any size congregation can build and maintain a helpful website,” Nix said. “Plus, updating a website has become so easy that no church needs to feel like it lacks the technological savvy to have a presence on the Internet.”

Digital photos are the most common technology utilized among churches with websites and the only technology used by a majority of those congregations. Eighty-two percent use digital photos in their online ministries, 47 percent use digital audio files or podcasts, 31 percent utilize digital video files, 26 percent use text messaging, and 26 percent of congregations use blogs.

Methodology: LifeWay Research conducted a phone survey among a stratified, random sample of Protestant churches Sept. 8-20, 2010, interviewing 1,003 staff members most responsible for making decisions about the technology used in their church. Responses were weighted to reflect the natural size distribution of churches. The sample provides 95 percent confidence that the sampling error does not exceed ±3.2 percent.

Check out the Ed Stetzer link in our Blogroll for more Lifeway Research.
The School of Evangelism operated by the Eastern Regional Conference of the Churches of God has an elective course called "Internet Evangelism and Social Networking Tools" which addresses some of these issues. Go toe the website ercevangelism for details and to register. Class is February 19,2011 in Harrisburg PA. 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


From Todd Hunter of Monday Morning Insights comes this excellent counsel from Reggie McNeal.

Ever feel totally brain-dead? Tired? Frustrated? Incapable of making a decision? In his book, "Practicing Greatness," Reggie McNeal describes three "brain killers" that deserve special attention for each and every pastor and church leader...

1) Negative people. Leaders need to be aware that when they allow themselves to be consumed by negative people (who seem so often inclined to seek them out), they allow precious mental, emotional, and spiritual energy to be drained off from other leadership pursuits. Obviously, leaders can’t totally avoid negative people, but they can deflect their negativity by creating a mental boundary. So acknowledge their destructive, energy-sapping perspective, but stay on your side of the wall. And adopt a strategy of surrounding yourself with positive people as a proactive strategy.

2) Disorganization. Disorganization is a major brain drain. Not only does it consume time ("It’s right here—somewhere") but it also raises anxiety ("What am I forgetting?"), which is another major cause of brain drain. Even leaders who don’t count administration as a strength can make sure they don’t sabotage their efforts through a lack of organization. They do this by recruiting someone to help them, by availing themselves of technology, and by deciding to expend enough personal effort to get sufficiently organized.

This discussion is not intended to make you feel guilty for finding organization to be a challenge—you just want to defend against having a level of disorganization that creates a brain drain. Of course, some disorganized people don’t even know this is a problem. Their way of life just feels normal to them. You can check this by asking your administrative assistant or a coworker who has exposure to your work habits to tell you if disorganization is something you should work on.

3) Tendency to second-guess decisions. Some spiritual leaders waste energy when they allow nagging doubts, compounded by self-blame, to dog them if things don’t go the way they anticipated when they made a decision. Depending on personality and cognitive style, leaders need differing amounts of information and lead times in order to make decisions. But once decisions are made, the best leaders practice little second-guessing. “Would I have made the same decision with the same information I had at the time?” is a good question for leaders to ask themselves when tempted to second-guess. If the answer is yes, then the leader can move on. If the answer is no, then the issues is to find a better way to make decisions (which McNeal talks about later in the book)…

Monday, January 24, 2011


“It is a common experience that a problem difficult at night is resolved in the morning after the committee of sleep has worked on it.”

~John Steinbeck

Monday, January 17, 2011


 From Brian Dodd, leadership and stewardship consultant, comes these observations ....

Are there indicators that your church may be ready for a period of sustained growth? After speaking with literally thousands of church leaders, I have discovered some common threads among fast growing churches.
Some on this list are self-explanatory while others have supporting comments.
  1. Fast Growing Churches Are Unashamed To Preach Jesus - It is a common misconception that large churches water down the gospel.   
  2. Fast Growing Churches Have A Great Senior/Lead Pastor
  3. Fast Growing Churches Are Staff Led - This is necessary for making quick decisions that are transformational, not simply transactional.
  4. Fast Growing Churches Have Stable, Unified Senior Leadership
  5. Fast Growing Churches Have A Volunteer Culture - The ability to integrate, equip, resource, and cheer on volunteers is critical to church health.
  6. Fast Growing Churches Reach Young Families
  7. Fast Growing Churches Have Incredible Children and Youth Departments – Most parents will put up with a lot if their children are happy.  Been to a recital or baseball field lately?
  8. Fast Growing Churches Have Ministry Needs That Outpace Ministry Resources – Another common false belief is that churches only want your money.  Many young families come to a church with a house note that stretches them, two car payments, and credit card debt.
  9. Fast Growing Churches Are Clear On Vision and Strongly Defend It – Clarity on why we exist and what we are about is critical for creating ownership.
  10. Fast Growing Churches Connect Every Ministry Activity Back To The Overall Vision – Successful ministries tie everything back to the big picture for their people.  Mistakes can be made when the various elements of ministry seem disconnected and autonomous.
  11. Fast Growing Churches Struggle With Connecting People Into Community – Growth is happening so fast  that making sure everyone is in a small group is extremely difficult.
  12. Fast Growing Churches Preach About Money - Churches must answer the questions that people are asking.  Jesus preached more on money and possessions than love and prayer.  Get the picture.
  13. Fast Growing Churches Develop Financial Leaders Spiritually – Wealthy people can provide significant fuel to the ministry.  Great pastors know who their wealthy people are and disciple them accordingly.  See 1 Timothy 6:17-21.
  14. Fast Growing Churches Have A Congregation That Trusts The Leadership
  15. Fast Growing Churches Are Multi-Generational - The third misconception is that there is no place for older people in these new, fast growing environments.  While the large percentage of the audience is younger, fast growing churches have a strong portion of their faith community that is seasoned and experienced.
  16. Fast Growing Churches Are Passionate About Unchurched People - No perfect people are allowed at fast growing churches!
  17. Fast Growing Churches Serve The Poor, Marginalized, and Under-Resourced - Young people especially are passionate about joining movements and faith communities that address social justice issues.
It’s Christmas and I am in the giving mood.  The following are some quotes you will NEVER hear in fast growing churches:
  1. “Pastor, now we don’t want to get ahead of God.”
  2. “Can we sing that fifth verse again?”
  3. “We let the preacher preach and we handle everything else.”
  4. “Son, now that’s not how we do things around here.”
  5. “Pastor, you want that slooooooow growth.  You don’t want that fast growth.”
  6. “I wish he would wear a tie.”
  7. “All we hear about is lost people.”
For more insights from Brian 

Thursday, January 13, 2011


By Sheryl Young of Yahoo News Service
ANALYSIS | For the last decade, churches in America have felt the pinch of young people exiting faster than you can say "Welcome to Sunday Morning Service." Why do our young people want out?

At a glance, it's no puzzlement to the man on the street. As discussed in my recent article, "New Organization, Book Explores Reversing the Church's Bad Reputation," numerous controversial issues have been handled ungracefully while trying to tell the rest of the world about Jesus and His love.

But for Christians who wish to return America to a more Bible-friendly atmosphere, there are even deeper conflicts and symptoms to be recognized.

Starting from kids on up, a great variety of reasons for the exodus exists. The following are gathered and generalized from well-informed sources: "Generation Ex-Christian: Why Young Adults Are Leaving the Faith ...and How to Bring Them Back," (Drew Dyck, Moody Publishing, Oct 2010), "Already Gone: Why your kids will quit church and what you can do to stop it" (Ken Ham & Britt Beemer, Todd Hillard, New Leaf, Aug 2009); "The Last Christian Generation" (McDowell, Green Key, 2006); and Lifeway Christian Resource Surveys from 2007 and 2010.

* Churched kids and teens spend six of seven days each week hearing other people say how judgmental Christianity is, and that the Bible should be taboo.

* Churches use outdated methods of Sunday School, rotating the same Bible stories year-in and year-out without relating the morals to daily living. When kids want to know why someone like Gabrielle Giffords was shot, they don't need another lesson on Noah's Ark.

* Teens can only eat so much pizza at church social events before they see through this thinly veiled attempt at keeping them occupied and out of trouble.

* Those surveyed say there aren't enough good reasons given for holding Bible beliefs other than "the preacher says so..." or "your parents say so."

* Sometimes kids are routinely kept out of "grown-up church." From infancy to four years old, they're in nursery. Then they get "children's church" with a short Bible lesson, crafts and refreshments. For teens, a separate youth service geared to "their" music. By eighteen, they've never been expected to sit through a whole Sunday service. It's culture shock.

* Young people can see that the Church in general hasn't yet been able to conquer racial reconciliation, domestic abuse and the rampant church divorce rate...sometimes in their own families.

* Older generations won't blend a moderate amount of contemporary music with traditional hymns, to show young people that newer ideas are respected.

* Or, the Church feels pressured to impress their younger members with new technological avenues. So they discard all the old hymns that were written out of peoples' struggles with life, pride and suffering. Thus, the newer generations don't hear about how God can help them through hard times.

* Parents are expecting the church to teach what may fall within their own responsibility.

* But then, young parents raised in the last twenty years have themselves grown up under the new pop psychology of never receiving or deserving any discipline or criticism. They've seen church become irrelevant. Now, as parents, they're hesitant to make (or even ask) their kids to go to church or develop a backbone in faith.

* Lastly, everyone's too busy for church. There are too many other attractions in life.

Many church leaders may pick up these books and surveys only to find the suggested answers to the problems are things their church already tried. Others may not have the means or congregational support to implement changes.

And still more will find it such a daunting task that they just throw up their hands. Maybe it's time to do just that -- throw hands up and pray, rather than create more programs -- and leave the rest up to God.

Sheryl Young has been freelance writing for newspapers, magazines, organizations and websites since 1997. Her specialty is American politics, education and society as they intersect with religion. Credits include Community Columnist for the Tampa Tribune Newspaper, Interview Columnist with Light & Life Magazine, and a National First Place "Roaring Lambs" Writing Award from the Amy Foundation.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


From the archives of Ed Stetzer's blog comes this thoughtful article.

I recently wrote an article called "The Blessings of the New Media" for Tabletalk Magazine. I shared four ways that social media can assist churches and leaders.
The first way is community:
Those who attempt to find community exclusively online will miss out on the fullness and authenticity of relationships God intends for us to have face to face. Gathering together (Heb. 10:25) requires feet and faces, not just electrons and avatars. Therefore, when a Christian seeks to be a part of a local church only by live streaming the worship service and conversing on message boards, he is short-circuiting the fellowship of the saints and his own spiritual growth. Yet, I do not believe that virtual community and real community are enemies. I see them more as friends, the former as a help to the latter. Unfortunately, for too many theologically-minded pastors, their aversion to the abuses of social media has distracted them from the opportunity they provide.
While social media cannot replace real-life interpersonal relationships, they can assist in building real community by connecting people in ways that allow them to share both the big and small things of life. Web services such as Facebook allow people who might see one another only during church on Sunday, or midweek in smaller community groups, to continue to share aspects of life they would not otherwise. This allows friends to look into the parts of life we share and respond with encouragement or exhortation.
The second way is communication. As I said in the article, the age of the bulletin may not have completely passed, but these days people rely on so many other forms of communication to stay abreast of current events. The speed with which news can travel using social media is nothing short of amazing. For example, when my friend Matt Chandler had a seizure last year and I sent a tweet asking for prayers, the "re-tweet" function had the request going out to huge numbers of people within minutes. Matt was a trending topic on Twitter that day, which means that he was one of the ten most mentioned phrases or words in all of Twitter. People all over the world knew about his situation and prayed for Matt thanks to Twitter (note his name in the lower right corner).
Matt Chandler Twitter Circle.JPG
The final two ways listed are inspiration and better introductions. Blogs, Facebook and Twitter all provide ways to share inspiring thoughts and gospel-centered messages (often in 140 characters or less!). And social media also allows people to share things about themselves more fully and with a broader group of people. We are actually getting to know each other better in some ways through the use of electronic media.
These things can never take the place of human contact, but to ignore them and the role they can play in fostering community is unwise. They are helpful tools that the world is using, and that the church can benefit from.
As I consider social media in the twenty-first century, I can't help but think of the spread of the gospel and the church's growth in the first century. Communication was greatly aided then by the common language of Koine Greek. Since the New Testament was written in a language accessible to so many, the Word of God was able to penetrate different cultures rapidly. Perhaps today the new media will be the "common language" for the masses to hear the gospel.

Tabletalk is a publication of Ligonier Ministries.

Monday, January 10, 2011


This came to me via Glenn Smith of NEW CHURCH INITIATIVES. It's a blog post by Dan Zarrella called "When's the Best Time to Publish a Blog?" For those of us who use blogging as a means of outreach and dialogue with our community, it has some helpful thoughts.  Here are just a few, - Steve

First, while major news sites and blogs publish articles during the work week, articles that are published on Saturday and Sunday tend to be shared on Facebook more than those published during the week. Perhaps one reason for this is that (as Wired reported), more than 50% of American companies block Facebook at work ...

The best timing advice, however, may actually be around frequency. Last week, I analyzed 1000 of the most popular blogs on the web, according to Technorati. I compared their posting frequency with the number of incoming links and visitors they had attracted (according to Yahoo and Compete). I found that among very popular blogs, publishing multiple times per day led to a huge increase in a blog’s success. This tells us that rather than focusing one perfect day or time, we should aim to publish at many times, and on many days ....

To read the rest of this excellent post go to HUB SPOT

Sunday, January 9, 2011


 Note from Steve: As we begin this new \year, outward-focused churches need to do some culyutal exegesis.  Andy Crouch provides these thoughts on Q-IDEAS THAT CREATE A BETTER WORLD.

Editor's Note: Because there is no year 0, a decade runs from 01/01 - 12/10 . As we enter the second decade of the second millennium AD, Q is pausing to consider the most significant changes and cultural goods of the last ten years.  Other contributors to this series include Margaret Feinberg, Brett McCracken and Josh Jackson.

Ten years is a very short time. As I reflect on the world in 2011 compared to the world in 2001, I’m less struck by how much has changed than by how much is the same. Terror, war, new technology, economic boom and bust, surprising political triumphs followed by sudden changes of fortune—yup, sounds like the 1990s, 1980s, 1970s, and 1960s to me. It’s almost axiomatic that any change big enough to shape an entire nation or society happens in long waves spanning generations, not a mere ten years.

Indeed, when I reflect on the most significant developments of the never-adequately-named 2000s (the aughts? the aughties? the naughties?), it seems that almost all of them were well under way in 1999, or even 1989. At the same time, in the last ten years some long-wave trends accelerated in notable ways. Acceleration matters. In one sense, walking, riding a horse, driving a car, and traveling by plane are simply variations on the millennia-old human theme of mobility, tracing back literally to the earliest signs of our restless race. But the difference between five miles an hour and 500 miles an hour is not just a quantitative matter of speed, but a qualitative change in the horizons of possibility.

Here are ten significant trends in North American culture that accelerated dramatically in the 2000s—almost always for better and for worse at the same time.

One | Connection

By far the most significant acceleration was in our technologies of connection. In June 2000, 97 million mobile phone subscribers existed in the United States; in June 2010, the number rose to 293 million. Urban and suburban Americans swim in a sea of WiFi (sitting in my living room on a quiet side street I can see 8 wireless networks)—and in the middle of Nebraska, you can get online at McDonald’s.

What did not take off in the 2000s was “virtual reality”—a world constructed entirely of disembodied bits, populated by avatars and existing only in the realm of the ideal. As the 2000s ended, the virtual-reality world Second Life was on virtual life support.

Instead, we used technology to reinforce our embodied relationships. Facebook was the highest trafficked website in 2010 (US subscribers in 2000: zero; in 2010: 116 million). Look at your Facebook friends—unless you are a celebrity, the vast majority of them are people you have met in the flesh. Same with the recents on your cell phone. Rather than replacing embodied connection, our devices supplemented and extended it, an electromagnetic nervous system to match the physical infrastructure of transport built in the twentieth century.

Two | Place

Therefore, oddly enough after a decade of wild growth in invisible telecommunications, place mattered more in 2010 than it did in 2000. Travel and transport remained basically flat throughout the decade. Total vehicle miles driven, while an impressive 3 billion miles in 2010, were only up from 2.7 billion miles in 2000, a period during which the population increased from 288 to 318 million—meaning the average American drove less in 2010 than in 2000. At 9:45 tomorrow morning there will be roughly 4,500 commercial flights in the air, just as there were on 9:45 the morning of 11 September 2001—no change despite a decade of economic and population growth. And mobility, the hallmark of twentieth-century United States culture, declined throughout the decade and reached a post-war low in 2010, with less than 10% of American households changing their address.

At the Q gathering in 2010, urbanologist Richard Florida observed that young adults meeting one another no longer ask, “What do you do?” They ask, “Where do you live?” More and more people will change careers in order to stay in a place—connected to family, friends, and local culture—than will change place to stay in a career. The 20th-century American dream was to move out and move up; the 21st-century dream seems to be to put down deeper roots. This quest for local, embodied, physical presence may well be driven by the omnipresence of the virtual and a dawning awareness of the thinness of disembodied life.

Three | Cities

Cities, the places where both connection and local presence can thrive simultaneously, had an extraordinary renaissance in the 2000s. The revival of American cities was underway already in 2000, but it reached its full flowering by 2010. Of course not every single American city flourished in the last decade, but those of us old enough to remember New York, Chicago, Atlanta, or Houston circa 1990—not to mention Portland, Columbus, or Phoenix—can only be astonished at the way economically fading and often crime-ridden city centers revived as centers of commerce and creativity.

The challenges often associated with urban life, meanwhile, began a movement to the suburbs that may well accelerate in the 2010s. The frontiers of justice, mercy, compassion, and reconciliation are now in the suburbs—places where connections are harder to sustain and local culture is thinner and less appealing than the cities. Some suburban environments will reinvent themselves, but multi-generational poverty, crime, and gangs that provide a substitute social network where others have failed are already as common in Westchester County as in the Bronx, in the San Fernando Valley as in Compton. The really radical and difficult place to raise a family by 2020 will be . . . the suburbs.

[See Tim Keller's Q talk on "Grace and the City" and Joel Kotkin's on "The Future of the Suburbs."]

Four | The End of the Majority

Everywhere in the 2000s, cultural majorities collapsed. Predominantly black neighborhoods became half Hispanic. White rural communities saw dramatic immigration from Asia and Latin America. City centers became internationalized. Mercados and Asian food markets sprung up in suburbia and in exurbia (drive down a thoroughfare well beyond the 285 beltway in Atlanta, and you will see shop signs in a dozen different languages). White Americans were still a bare majority of the population by the end of the decade, but in delivery rooms they were already only a plurality (the largest of many minorities).

We are all minorities now. Evangelical Christians are a minority, as are liberal Protestants, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, agnostics, and atheists. The establishment of Will Herberg’s 1955 book Protestant—Catholic—Jew is now a minority. Barack Obama is a minority, but so is Sarah Palin. Republicans are a minority—so are Democrats, and so are independents.

There may never have been a society in history that was as culturally, religiously, and politically diverse as the United States is today—except perhaps the Roman Empire. There are few models for how such a diverse community can sustain itself, and plenty of models for failure. Perhaps the most hopeful model is a community that arose at the edges of that Empire and eventually spread to its heart, among whom there was neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, male nor female.

Five | Polarity

We used the technologies of connection and the commitment to place to sort ourselves into more and more tightly homogenous subcultures, refuges both virtual and real from the heterogeneity of our society. Republicans became more Republican; Democrats became more Democratic. Salon lost ground to the Huffington Post—CNN lost ground to Fox News. A president elected on the premise of unity presided over two years of ever-sharper rhetoric of division and seemed unable to change the game. Hipsters got more extremely hip. The Reformed became truly Reformed.

It was not at all clear, as polarization accelerated, that anyone could convince any large number of Americans that they had anything crucial in common.

Six | The Self Shot

When movie directors in the 2030s are trying to convey in a single glance that their scene is set in the 2000s, they will use the self shot—the self-portrait shot from a digital camera or cell phone held by one hand extended away from the subject. We look out at our own hand, perhaps squeezing another friend into the frame, composing our face in a smile or a laugh. We are shooting ourselves.
The visual presentation of the self accelerated in the 2000s. Previous generations saw themselves most often in mirrors. But mirrors do not show us what others see—they show us a mirror image with right and left reversed. The difference is subtle but real, and symbolic of a deeper reality. Now most 20-year-olds have seen thousands of images of themselves as others see them. In the 2000s we learned to shape and groom our image for public consumption. Body modification—augmentation, reduction, smoothing, straightening, whitening, tanning, not to mention tattooing—became normative. The closing years of the decade gave us the word “manscaping.” Enough said.

Seven | Pornography

Underneath it all was porn. Pornography is as old as visual art, but in the 2000s it was more ubiquitous than it had been since the ancient Greeks erected herms at every crossroads. Superimposed on every image of our own bodies, and the bodies of our friends and lovers, were the idealized bodies of pornography and its close cousin, advertising and popular culture, which differ from porn only in not consummating the voyeuristic impulses they arouse.

And yet as omnipresent as porn was, it remained underground—a subject of shame even among the most secular and urbane. Our culture seemed to draw back from the brink at the same time as it plunged into the abyss. The bestselling memoir was titled Eat, Pray, Love, not, Eat, Pray, F@#k. No one really wanted the culture of porn to become a runaway train. But neither was anyone sure how to stop it.

Eight | Informality

Men untucked their shirts. Billionaires wore jeans. The most powerful CEO in America was universally known as “Steve.” Indeed, informality was now a sign of privilege—only low-status workers wore uniforms. And the ubiquity of the camera meant that everyone—including celebrities, politicians, business leaders, people who in past decades would have been insulated by privilege—was caught off guard, meaning that status now accrued to those who could be most artfully informal, rather than those who could protect themselves from view.

Most institutions, with layers of tradition and deference accumulated over years, struggled to stay relevant to an informal culture. Tie-wearing network news anchors were eclipsed by cable-channel comedians with open collars. Journalistic codes of integrity and objectivity looked simply foolish next to the raw data of The Smoking Gun and Wikileaks. Marriage, with its vows and formal attire, became for many young people a distant aspiration far on the horizon, while cohabitation became the accepted gateway to adult relationships. A crippling blow was dealt to the cultural legitimacy of the oldest institution of all, the Roman Catholic Church, not by sexual abuse per se (almost all the cases reported had happened at least a decade earlier) but by the realization of how its hierarchy had covered up the scandal. The most informal and anti-institutional demographic cohort in a century, Generation X, moved uneasily and unsteadily into adulthood—symbolized neatly by its most celebrated religious movement, the emerging church, refusing to institutionalize at all and naming the leader of its most prominent organization a “coordinator.”

Nine | Liquidity

Wealth was ever more disconnected from real assets. Countries that pumped one particular liquid from the ground acquired vast resources of sovereign wealth that went looking for high returns. The most storied and prominent financial firm, Goldman Sachs, ended its century-long system of limited partnership and become a publicly traded company. Hedge funds made billions by trading not shares, but shares of bets on the future price of shares (and derivatives far more exotic). Your mortgage, once the most boring and staid of financial instruments, was sliced and diced into tranches of risk.

Money sloshed around the globe like quicksilver (the title of Neal Stephenson’s epic 2003 novel about the earliest moments of modernity). It sloshed beyond the borders of nations, of national regulators and politicians, quickly breaching the levees of international financial standards like Basel 1 (replaced by Basel 2, soon to be replaced by the soon-to-be-swamped Basel 3). Anyone unwilling to swim in the sea of liquidity drowned (or, as one Wall Street executive said, as long as the music was playing you had to keep dancing). As money sloshed, prices of oil, food, housing, and labor spiked, then collapsed, then threatened to spike again. Those who could trade on volatility often made untold fortunes; those actually needing to buy and sell real goods often suffered.

Ten | Complexity

There was a bull market in oversimplification, and no shortage of attempts to find someone to blame or, more hopefully, some way to make a difference. At the close of the decade some Christians were especially excited about the potential for cultural elites to change the world—just at the moment when elites everywhere were waking up to how little they could do to change anything at all. If there ever had been reliable levers of power—the Federal Funds Rate, Fashion Week, the New York Times bestseller list, the Nobel Peace Prize—they no longer carried much leverage in a world of countless connections, devolved into countless particular locations and conurbations, filled with fractious and fissiparous minorities, and ceaseless self-preoccupied informality. It was not a good time, to say the least, to be a central planner.

Yet all this complexity also contained the seed of certain kinds of promise. The human brain, after all, is also complex, interconnected, embodied, improvisational, constantly being rewired—simply put, the most complex system known in our universe. The culture of North America in the 2000s took several not inconsiderable steps toward having those same qualities. Not without risks, not without loss, and with every expectation of grave difficulty ahead. And yet in the most surprising places what was emerging could be called intelligence. Of course, intelligence needs to be married to wisdom—and in surveying the history of that most elusive of all cultural goods, we can only conclude that the 2000s left us neither worse nor better off than human beings have ever been.

In your opinion, did Andy miss something? What would be on your list?