Isn't She Beautiful RE:post...

Well i have been bloging on all week about the isn't she beautiful conference. But i decided to re:post the conversation here for those of you who are to lazy to click the link and go to the community planting blog. So you can read the entire conversation right here, just read the extension to this post.
(i didn't import all the links, you might still want to go the community planting site and read the conversation.)

I also have posted some pics from the conference, click the Isn't She Beautiful photo album to left to check em out.

Enjoy! & let me know what you think...


Isn’t She Beautiful -- Top 5 observations…

This week I am going to post my top 5 observations from the Isn’t She Beautiful Conference that I attended last week. This conference was hosted at Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville MI (pretty much Grand Rapids). The main speaker was the pastor of Mars Hill, Rob Bell. In short the conference was amazing and in long… well that’s what I will write about in my posts.


Observation #1. NO SIGNS…

There are no signs around the church, no way for people to find the place other than wandering around or someone showing them. It’s a cool concept, its idea that if you want to find the church you really have to look, you almost have to be shown where it is. It’s almost underground or something.

I like the concept but there is a definite lack of convenience. Why not at least have some simple signs pointing out the location instead of having people wondering around? Then again, are we to be about convenience?

I do think there is a little pride about this issue. They kinda pride themselves on the fact they have never had a sign, they have never advertised or done any church marketing and they keep growing anyway. They must not need a sign to much, they have grown to 10,000 +. 

So I wonder… is this the way to do it? The no sign way? They kinda make people feel that way. Should the church grow by word of mouth, by friends inviting friends? Should we put mass mailings and nice church signage on the black list, on the what not to do to grow a huge, uber cool, community of Jesus followers list? 

If you asked Rob Bell it seems like that’s what he would say.

Just one observation…
So what you do you? Sign or no sign?  Hmmm…


PS: Here is the itinerary for the rest of the week;

Observation #2. Depth and community…
Observation #3. Low Key…
Observation #4. Here’s to the hipsters…
Observation #5. The man, Rob Bell…

Each day this week I will toss another observation up, let me know what you think.


Observation #2. Depth and community…

My second observation of Mars Hill and the Isn’t She Beautiful conference has to do with the teaching and the focus, depth and community.

The depth of the teaching at Mars Hill is amazing, Rob teaches for 45 min to an hour fairly often and doesn’t dumb anything down. He dives into the scriptures and pulls out amazing insights and formative application. Many churches today try and make everything fast food; basic, fast, easy, convenient, friendly and cheap. Mars Hill doesn’t seem to do that at all. I really appreciate the depth to which they go. In doing this they are cultivating a community that goes deep and even expects depth, that’s the kind of thing you want to cultivate if you’re a pastor.

I really think the church will end up wanting what the leaders gives, they will go where the leaders lead, they will grow what the leaders cultivate. I think that is generally true. The leaders at Mars Hill seems to be cultivating a church culture that is very socially aware, that is very minimalistic (we will talk more about that), that is very story centered, that wants to “go there” as Rob would say (they want to go to the hard places, ask the hard questions), among other things these are some of  the  things that the leaders have cultivated in their people. Another thing that the leaders have cultivated is the desire for community / connection.

I had some friends go to Mars Hill for a typical Sunday for service. As these guys were going to the bathroom some dude began to accost them, asking them question like, “do you have a community… community this, community that…” This dude was making sure that my friends were set up, that they had a community of people whom they were connecting with.

There is a strong emphasis on community at Mars for sure. But I wonder if when we start to over use the word if it then lacks the weight it originally had? Can we use it so much that it becomes a trendy platitude and everything ends up being “community” and guys bushwhack you in the bathroom to make sure you have “community”, probably with the best of intentions of course. 

Now I hope to cultivate this desire for community among the people whom I lead as well. And I don’t know how to make that organic and not forced but my hope is that somehow that will happen… just another thing on a LONG list of things to think about.

Another observation…

Be Peace


Observation #3. Low Key…

One of the things that is hard to miss at Mars Hill is the low Keyness of it all. It’s a pretty minimalist church to say the least. I say that in a good way though, I greatly appreciate their lack of show. I do feel like they highlight the lack of bells and whistles quite a bit though. And I wonder if that is almost like having “bell” (no pun intended, actually I did intend it but don’t want to claim it because it’s a poor pun) --- like having “bell” and whistles of a different kind. Like their bells and whistles are the lack of, as though they have went so far to the opposite end of the showy spectrum that they create their own show, it’s just a show for the minimalist or something.

But nonetheless, it is pretty refreshing to not have the lights, the camera and the action but instead to focus on the spoken word, creativity & imagination, relationships, and service to the world.

One of the things I take from this lack of show is that they kind of turn the show to a different platform. Where the typical mega church has their show on Sundays and maybe Wednesdays, Thursday and Saturdays if your as big as Williow Creek and then a major show on the web if your like Life Church .TV in Oklahoma. But Mars Hill seems to make the platform for their “show” the world that is in need. They write poetry in the streets and paint beautiful portraits in the slums, their pen is God’s mercy and their paint is God’s love, their “show” or their art happens in the places where their efforts meet God’s grace and redemption happens and hope is given. That’s the kind of show I want to be apart of and I think that is the kind of show Mars Hill is really trying to point their people toward. Very cool!

I don’t know if they do this intentionally or not but their one “church service” that is really low key / minimalist seems to really encourage their people to have the majority of their worship and majority of their community out side the walls of their building. Maybe they are really encouraging their “church” to be the “Church” and from my opinion they are very much on track.

My hope is to someday cultivate a community that meets more out side of the walls of the church building, that does it’s service and liturgy (work of the people) largely in our neighborhoods, coffee shops, and at our kitchen tables. Maybe a way to inspire that rhythm is to not make Sunday such a big show. But then again what do I know, I don’t pastor a church of 10,000+, you know the mega kind, the super sized kind.

Pondering low-keyness, minimalism, and liturgy…


Observation #4. Here’s to the hipsters…

Hipster; One who possesses tastes, social attitudes, and opinions deemed cool by the cool. (Note: it is no longer recommended that one use the term "cool"; a Hipster would instead say "deck.") The Hipster walks among the masses in daily life but is not a part of them and shuns or reduces to kitsch anything held dear by the mainstream. A Hipster ideally possesses no more than 2% body fat.

This is according to, a very cool… sorry, very deck little website.

Also check out the word hipster on, good stuff  ;-)

SO yea, there were a lot of hipsters at this conference. I have to admit that the Church was well represented, there were people from all over and of all kinds. I saw youth pastors I know with gage earrings and I saw pastors I know who wear suit and ties every Sunday but there were a large amount of hipsters at this place for sure. And as I met some folks from Mars Hill I would probably say this place leans the hipster way. It’s as if there are certain communities that are magnets for the cool, the “deck”. These hipster magnets in my opinion often end up being more about the fashion show and the social hour then about Jesus. It doesn’t seem that Mars Hill is falling into that trap. 

Churches often end up being bla, bland, monochromatic or something…

How do we, when planting a church, encourage or cultivate a more colorful array? I mean that racially but also socially, culturally… age, economic status, the whole range. I want the church to be the Church not some homogeneous social club.

I think Mars Hill does this well. They seem to have all kinds. They might lean toward the hipster kind (and maybe leaning is inevitable) but still have a very good cross section of the world represented. And I believe “God so love the WOLRD”. Maybe our churches should look like that verse. But lets not where rainbow wigs and hold up John 3:16 signs, ok!

But should we follow all the church plating books and have a “target”? Do we gain something by targeting certain people or do we lose some very valuable by targeting certain kinds of people. Like I said, maybe leaning or attracting a certain kind of people is a little inevitable but shouldn’t we aim to read the World, all people, tongues and tribes?

How do we avoid being monochromatic and homogeneous?
Should we even try and avoid this?

Rob Bell quote;
“People always ask me, ‘what’s your target audience’ I always say (humorous pause) … people.” 

Thinking about all the colors!


Observation #5. The man, Rob Bell…

My last observation is that Rob Bell is a stud! But this fact brings up a couple thoughts / questions.

#1. What would the church be without him?

#2. What would happen if he left?

#3.  Is it dangerous to build a church on the shoulders of one person?

#4.  How does a church with a strong leader / leader avoid this?
       Or should they even try to avoid this?

#5.  How much does the growth, heath, and sustenance depend on a person / leader?
       (this is not to take away the work of the Spirit but we all understand that women & men have a lot to do with it all. I think God kinda made it this way and some times we take advantage, in a bad way, of this fact.)

So that’s my last observation. It’s a short one but the questions kind say it all. There are another 10+ question I could add to that list but I thought to end with a Top 5 was fitting!

Dreaming of a community!



A Isn't She Beautiful collage...