Showing posts with label church. Show all posts
Showing posts with label church. Show all posts

Feb 8, 2011

this one is a keeper

I wasn't sure which of my blogs to write this on, but I chose this one since it's more personal than it is professional. I wanted to pour out how much I really enjoyed a great meeting last night with our church leadership team. One of the things that came up were the different strengths and weaknesses we all have that somehow come together to do something great for God.

It got me thinking about this song by Rich Mullins:

The lyrics are as follows:

Now the plummer's got a drip in his spigot
The mechanic's got a clank in his car
And the preacher's thinking thoughts that are wicked
And the lover's got a lonely heart
My friends ain't the way I wish they were
They are just the way they are

And I will be my brother's keeper
Not the one who judges him
I won't despise him for his weakness
I won't regard him for his strength
I won't take away his freedom
I will help him learn to stand
And I will ~ I will be my brother's keeper

Now this roof has got a few missing shingles
But at least we got ourselves a roof
And they say that she's a fallen angel
I wonder if she recalls when she last flew
There's no point in pointing fingers
Unless you're pointing to the truth

And I will be my brother's keeper
Not the one who judges him
I won't despise him for his weakness
I won't regard him for his strength
I won't take away his freedom
I will help him learn to stand
And I will ~ I will be my brother's keeper

I will be my brother's keeper
Not the one who judges him
I won't despise him for his weakness
I won't regard him for his strength
I won't take away his freedom
I will help him learn to stand
And I will ~ I will be my brother's keeper

I've been in way too many circles, both inside and outside of churches, where things can become reactionary and petty. Someone gets on someone else's nerves, or everyone tries to avoid tension. Several times last night we wrestled over some great stuff that was full of passion.

I was reminded again, though, through these amazing people how special it is to come back to Jesus. Instead of us drawing lines in the sand, we drew arrows to Him. There's something redeeming about deciding to not give up on one another because we're a part of something way more important than the moment. That's something I hope Connection Church never loses.

I will be my brother's (and sister's) keeper, and hope they'll continue to be mine.
"Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble." (1 Peter 3:8)

Oct 1, 2010

maximizing audio through a church sound booth

Do you work in church ministry? Ever wondered how to maximize your presentations on an audio level? 

Check out this article I wrote on church sound booths when you get a chance.

Jan 13, 2010

i tried to take a day off yesterday...

I tried to take a day off yesterday.

Keep in mind, it's not that I'm complaining in this post.  Rather, I'm simply attempting to share that yesterday I tried to take a day off yesterday.  And I failed.  So much happened in so many people's lives all at once, and I had the sense I needed to help where I could.

After all, I'm quite grateful for the opportunity I have to work.  Because of that opportunity, I attempt to pour myself out with fierce commitment and gentle handling of the lives I've been entrusted to invest into, so that they in turn can invest themselves into those around them.  And so on.  It is a tremendous, tremendous blessing to do what I do, as hard as it is.
"Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men." (Ephesians 6:7)

But for reasons I don't need to go into, I'm finding that while I give my best possible burst throughout the week at various hours all throughout each day, the one day off a week I try to take to recharge - "Sabbath" with my God, myself, my wife, and my kids - is becoming more about that "one thing" that someone needs me to do.  It would be one thing if I only received only one phone call that began with, "I know it's your day off today, but..." - only when I receive 8-10 of those before noon, you can see how it's difficult it can be to move forward into rest.

Part of it is my fault.... I keep my cell phone on in case a friend or family member needs to reach me.  And I don't have a traditional secretary... most people don't think that instead of calling me they could call our church office number to schedule an appointment with me. Instead, the common idea is to call me, or text me, or email me, or Facebook note me directly.  In some ways that is effective because in our culture everyone likes to go directly to the source... after all, don't we all press "0" to get a live person when we call a business and their automatic voicemail menu kicks in? 

But in other ways the idea of calling me directly is ineffective.  For one, it keeps our infrastructure small and assumes "one pastor does it all," thereby preventing us from growing beyond the current church model we're presently in.  The other (and perhaps more obvious) issue is that I have no one to say, "He'll get back to you when he's back in the office."  People expect me to be reachable for an emergency or question not just from 9-5, but the 24 hours of 12-12.

Which creates another problem - I have 1300 + friends and contacts on Facebook.  These are legitimate connections I've made over the years, and I'm quite grateful for them.  But that means I may not catch every person's status updates or cries for help.  Meaning, because you see my status updates regularly doesn't mean that the Facebook filter shows me yours.  So I apologize if I don't catch everything.  You may have to let me know what I missed.

And I know that if you're in crisis about something right now, you want my help on it right now.  The problem is that often others are going through something just as fierce, and I may have to ask you to wait a moment or two.  It's not to say your cry for help isn't important, but that it's not the only one.

Again, I'm not complaining.  I want to serve God by serving you, so by no means take this as an ask to back away from allowing me to be a part of the journey you're on.  So don't start assuming that because I wrote this that I don't want you to reach out for help, guidance, or community as you need it.

What I am asking is that if you're trying to reach me...
  • ...on my normal Tuesday off or a regular day in the week...
  • ...during standard office hours or odd hours of the day/night...
  • ...through the church phone number (330-461-3964) or my own cell phone...
  • sending a TXT because you realize it was more efficient than a phone call...
  • phone because you realized a TXT conversation would last beyond a quick exchange...
  • an email or Facebook note...
  • ...when I'm available to the world or when I'm only planning to be available to my family...

I'm asking that you allow me the breath I need before I attempt to help you find yours.

I might need to ask you to wait before I respond to you while I'm engrossed in something else important

If I need to make an occasional, rare exception and break my Sabbath day or rest to help offer healing in your life, I will.
"Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, "Stand up in front of everyone."  Then Jesus asked them, "Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?" But they remained silent" (Mark 3:2-4) 

But if I don't need to... if you can truly wait and find a better window for us to connect, that would be an incredible blessing.  I think perhaps to us both... and maybe your family and mine as well.

Thank you for hearing me.
"Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates." (Exodus 20:9-10)

Dec 11, 2009

sizing up your community

I was walking through Wal-Mart last night, which recently has become a "Super-Wal-Mart" (just in time for Christmas).

First off, I like Wal-Mart. I've not only worked for one in the past, but several of my friends have been as well. I know many of its values from the inside, and have appreciated it as a customer as well.

That said, Wal-mart is but a stone's throw away from becoming it's own nation. They already have food, global communication, housewares, free video games to play, all the wit and wisdom of old greeters as you enter the village, and a lot of cheap guns in the back. If there were showers in the bathroom, I'm quite sure you could live there indefinitely.

I'm glad it's been enlarged, especially since last night my date (a.k.a. my wife) and I went in for some household items and thought, "We need eggs." And we could get these eggs after a hike from one time zone of the store to the other.

Check this out:

I know many people don't like Wal-Mart for this reason. It's too big, they reason, and steals away from the "Mom and Pop" stores where relationships are formed with a consistent group of people over time. We actually enjoy the option of one-stop shopping, but do understand we need to also support local businesses as well.

While this post can turn into a debate that way, let's not go there. Instead, I'm just using this as a springboard to talk about community.

Are you aware of what your preference is when it comes to your favorite size of community? And not only that, but to what lengths you're willing to go to promote that?

Sometimes people I come into contact with tell me about their preference of the size of a church they'd like to take part in. They'll say things like, "I want a small church because it makes me feel like I know everybody," or "You know, a medium-sized church would be great because then we would have resources and yet still maintain face-to-face recognition," or "What is really awesome is a large church because you can pretty much do anything and serve everyone."

I'm been a part of churches of all sizes - 10, 40, 80, 150, 450, 800, 2000, 18000. I've been amazed at how in each community there is a sense of comfort and discomfort... be it from those who want things to decrease, others who want things to increase, and those who don't give much thought to it "as long as it stays the same."

What we fail to recognize is that the past, present, or future size of a church isn't as important as if it's the "right" size. Meaning, is a church the size God wants it to be - does He want it bigger, and its people are slacking off at inviting or are being internally unfaithful to Him (thereby not giving Him any cause to bless them)? Or does He want to "grow down" a very large flagship church because it's a mile wide and an inch deep?

Notice that none of these questions have anything to do with our personal comforts or desires. And yet while we know this is the best approach, we still lead with what "we're" looking for.
  • "What can this church offer me?"
  • "Is there a program for _____? If not, start one now,"
  • "Why do we have so many programs? Let's just hang out like we used to."
  • "Will you promise to not talk about the topic of _______? Because I don't think that's a topic we should ever talk about."
  • "When will you start talking about _______? Because as we all know it's the most important thing to talk about."
Last night when I got my eggs, I was reminded that I could have bumped into someone I knew at any given moment. I've been around this community for a few years now, and it's common to see people I know around town. In fact, last night at the movie theater a kid recognized me from reffing football this past season for his younger brother.

Maybe that's the real issue. Maybe it's not an issue of how big or small we like things, but if we're willing to stick around long enough to be a part of the community for the long haul. That way you'll find those 1-2 friends you're looking for, or maybe the 8-10 card players you yearn to hang with, or the 20-50 peeps you'd like to have over for a house party.

Because where two or three are gathered in the name of God, He's there. So let Him decide how big the group can get, and you just hang on for the ride.
"And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved." (Acts 2:47b)

Nov 6, 2009

what you may be missing out on

Watching the news, I am reminded that pain's biggest deception is that it causes us to think we're the only one's hurting...

even though we're not.

It's odd how the trickle of blood we experience seems to block out our awareness of the massive hemorrhaging of those around us.

I was listening to a CD recently of songs I made during a hard season of life... songs meant to remind me that other lives were on the same journey I was and looking for the Ultimate Anchor. Or as one wordsmith put it:
So hold me Jesus,
'cause I'm shaking like a leaf
You have been King of my glory
won't You be my Prince of Peace?

When was the last time you stopped and asked, "What am I missing out on?"

Normally when we ask a question like that it's because our motive is pleasure. We feel boxed in by our lives and have a sense of rebelliousness, wondering if the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. This is where affairs happen, gambling addictions begin, and discontent with everything familiar builds.

But what about the other side of that? What about slowing down and asking how the individuals, people, and groups around you are trying to sort out some of life's hardest challenges?

Have you ever felt yourself becoming broken... but consciously decided to recognize and remember that other people around you were already shattered into pieces?

Have you ever in fear held tight all your resources... without realizing you were depriving others of a needed blessing?

Have you ever considered what the gift of a block on time on your calendar could do if you gave it... instead of became mechanically protective of it?

When was the last time you stopped and asked, "What am I missing out on?"

That's why the Church in its truest form is so important. It reminds us to pick our heads up and stop living in our own little story. More than religion or scratching our own itches, it is intended to bring a change unlike any other into this world if its people would rise up and assume the role of servant-leaders that God has said each of us are capable of being.

My sons and I were reading a book this past week that illustrated in comic form what a kid on his way to a church service might think he's about to experience. It's in the genre of the "Teacher From The Black Lagoon" series, where by the end the boy has realized it actually quite better than he'd prejudged. My oldest son immediately commented, "That's just like how it is in real life. People think church is going to be boring or rough, but once you've experienced the real deal you realize it's way cool!'

(I wrote that down, by the way, because I wanted to remember how he said it so purely)

The Church is meant to be a "real-deal" community of people who care about each other. Even hearing of the struggles others are going through reminds me that we're all taking part in something awesome and amazing that will one Day be reconciled by God Himself. Which is why I am floored to hear about stories like these:
  • Households who are experiencing challenges on everyday levels, and suddenly other people in our church moving in with love through meals, home care, babysitting, and counsel.
  • People who are new to understanding the powerful truths of God, and are being mentored and invested into by others who believe helping someone grow in their relationship with the Lord is one of the most important tasks we can take part in.
  • Skills that normally cost "$x" in the marketplace being gifted into the church for less than that - often free - so that others may experience care and resources they otherwise couldn't afford.
  • Guys who are - even as I write this - taking turns filling a pool because in just a couple of days someone is going to proclaim their love with God through baptism.
When was the last time you stopped and asked, "What am I missing out on?"

It's so very sad when "church" becomes about "going to a building on Sunday morning when we feel awake enough to do so." That's like saying the point of sitting down to a hot, juicy New York Strip steak is to appreciate the plate! Check out what Hebrews 10:24-25 says about how it all works:
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Are you up for that? Living in a bigger Story?

And not giving up on gathering with others (as some are in the habit of doing) in order to remember the Plot is communal and not individual?

And doing it all so that we might encourage one another as the Day is approaching?

Because that sounds freaking awesome.

We all have this need to "know and be known," as if it's hardwired into our souls. It's planted there so that we would yearn for our Creator and long to know Him, but also so we would choose to pursue relationships with those around us and stop living in our own subplot.

We all want our lives to matter... but to do so requires that we let the lives around us matter more than we often allow them to.

When was the last time you stopped and asked, "What am I missing out on?"

Jul 18, 2009

church remixed

I wrote this little diddy and taught this one to our church this past Sunday. Nothing like clarifying that the church is *not* a building... because when you think it is you assume that's the only place you can connect with God. Granted, it is a great place for community and growing "in Spirit and in Truth."

But a church isn't a holy huddle or an environment to feel superior.

It's not a place where you need to button up your collar but a community where you can unbuckle your belt.

It is not a destination (i.e. "We went to church today.") but a mixing bowl meant to pour out (i.e. "We gathered with the Church today" and "We are the Church!")

So may you forget whatever version you learned of this in the past and embrace the remix (that is actually more of a remembering).

Dec 22, 2008

first reaction

Take a look at this article about a situation of a church and a congregation member: CLICK HERE

After you do, consider your first reaction. Not necessarily what it is, but why it is your first reaction.

Nov 26, 2008

a thanksgiving thought for my church family

If you have a moment, there are three pictures I'd like you to look at.

You may not understand what it is right away, but don't worry... I'll tell you.

And more importantly, I'll tell you what it means.

We've been in our new building for about nine weeks now, which means that it is fresh and beautiful and ready for guests. One of the places we spent some time getting pretty was the Tween/Conference room... it's one of the first rooms people see when they walk in and so it only makes sense that we'd want to have that looking nice.

Here are a few pictures I took on Monday of the walls in that room.

This is a picture of an area close to one of our couches. Just enough for a chair to have sat in, like if a kid wanted to sit by their friend who was on the couch, only there wasn't any more room on the couch. So that kid put a chair next to it that rubbed against the wall.

This is a close up of that picture - you can see how it's not only a mark, but a dent in the wall, too.

Then there is this one - it looks like Dracula bit the wall... but it isn't. It's where a tween would have rocked back into the wall and made dents into it with his/her chair. Real good ones, too.

Now... let me tell you what this means.

It means we're doing something right.

How awesome is it that in a new building we have dents in the wall, marks on the paint, and paint on the floor (I didn't show you a picture of that, but trust me - we do)! It took us only two months to create some new work projects, even though some of our original projects aren't even done yet. That is so awesome!

You see, God has provided us with adults and tweens and teens and kids to take care of, invest into, and let them grow up in the faith. And being in the God business means we value people more than things... this building isn't the Church... people and God are.

Sure, we want to take care of this building and make sure that we're not sloppy on purpose. But will smears happen on accident? Absolutely - and if it doesn't, something is absolutely wrong.

Can you picture a Christianity in your life and mine that is just like that? Can you imagine what it would look like to not worry if you made a smear on the wall of your life because in the process of letting God give your life color you accidentally messed it up?

Sure, you want to take care of your faith and make sure that you're not sloppy on purpose. But will smears happen on accident? Absolutely - and if it doesn't, something is absolutely wrong.

It's easy to mistake such grace as license to not care, but obviously our choices do affect other people. But to realize that faith is spelled R-I-S-K and T-R-U-S-T and F-O-R-E-S-I-G-H-T takes risk, trust, and foresight,

So this Thanksgiving I am thankful for smears, dents, and spilled paint... both in the place the Church meets in weekly as well as in my own walk with God.

May this building and our Christianity never become a clean museum where masks are worn but always remain a well-used color palate that God keeps dabbing into to paint the world the colors it's really supposed to be. Because there are people who will walk through the doors of both, hoping that the dents and spills they've experienced can be remade and filled in by the Carpenter Savior we call Jesus Christ.

Nov 5, 2008

separation anxiety

Some days it feels like our hands hold the power of the world, and yet other days it seems impossible to get a grip on life. From pushing buttons to vote for a President to squeezing the nozzle at the gas station, our fingers grasp for something solid... and yet often slide right off whatever they grab.

Many suggest that we are living in confusing times, for a lot of everyday people find themselves in challenging situations. Perhaps this is why the cadence that both the Republican and Democratic candidates called out was one of "change" (and why "Joe the Plumber" became so iconic). The tension is clear - those who believe our hope is found in government have either been tremendously happy or exceedingly disappointed at the revelation of who our next president will be.

Here's the catch - no politician will ever be equipped to offer the hope that an entire nation seeks, let alone the global community. He might be able to fix a few matters here and there but our holes have been dug by or own hands... and the irony is that we keep digging more holes everyday. We believe the answer is "change," and yet that is a short-sighted reaction to a deeper matter altogether - we are separated from the Answer that is right in front of us.

Whether or not you believe in God, you have to admit that there is a great sickness we live with everyday. Its origins are in our rebellious hearts and its culmination is in our disconnection with our Creator, each other, and all of creation. The weeds in our lives are of our own making, and they can't be pruned by the leader of a country or in the passing of laws.

Only a Gardener can tend to the overgrown issues of the Garden...
"I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener." (John 15:1)

only a Healer can cure the sickness of our self-centeredness forever...
And the people all tried to touch him, because power was coming from him and healing them all. (Luke 6:19)

only a Savior can pick us up out of our lifeless prisons and offer us an epic adventure unlike any other.
a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord (Luke 2:11b)
Yes, today is a day to celebrate that there are presidents and policemen and soldiers - external roles and structures in place to help us manage the logistics of living on planet earth. But let's rejoice even more that internal change can come about by the One who loves us most! Thankfully, His term is longer than 4-8 years... for only in Him does the matter of change become a permanent one.

For only in Him does separation get resolved.
"Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's." (Matthew 22:15-22)

Jul 28, 2008

family matters

Today is the last full day we have my nephew Nathan with us as a regular part of our household. It's been so much fun for us, and the lessons we've taken away have been unexpected - and perhaps may bless you with some valuable insights as well - especially if you've ever struggled with change.

If you don't know the backstory, Nathan joined us in late June as a way to give him a little vacation while my sister (his mom) moved from one place in Illinois to another. She's been setting up shop, finding a job, looking into school for her and him, and so on. Meanwhile, he's been jumping on our trampoline, riding a Batman bike, sleeping in a car bed, and losing his two front teeth.

Then there was a few weeks ago when my oldest son Joshua told him about becoming "one of God's knights." We use this sort of metaphor around our house so the boys can understand God as our King and the epic adventure He invites us into. The next day we had a great family chat during lunch and Nathan said he wanted to ask Jesus into his heart, too.

All through osmosis, he picked up that we had something going on he didn't yet. And he wanted it. That is just awesome!

The interesting lesson, though, has been how challenging it can be when the birth order is changed in a household. We didn't really do any major overhauls of how our household works, but simply by adding a new person into the mix it seemed like everything changed. The truth is that what has changed is the boys' understanding of their "place":
  • Joshua (7) went from being the oldest of two to the oldest of three. And the next kid down could keep up with him, which meant possibly run faster, possibly bike farther, possibly throw better, and... you get the picture.

  • Nathan (6) went from being an only child to a band of brothers. Likewise, he lept from a one parent household to a two-parent household.

  • Daniel (4) went from being the little guy to Joshua's "wingman," because they both know how the rules were before Nathan was around and how they're "supposed to be maintained."

As you can imagine, a lot of boy energy also created hurdles for my wife and I. And yet the crazy thing is not a lot has really changed... all that's happened is someone new came in.

It's been my experience that this can be a similar hurdle in a church. A group of people enjoy the way things are, and then when a new person or group of people come in things can get confusing. Nothing has really changed, and yet because now that things are to be spread out and shared more it can oddly feel unfamiliar.

Around our church, we do a pretty good job of letting anyone step in who'd like to be a part of the family. And yet while we value that I often find that the longer someone's been around the church the more grace they have to give for this to keep happening. Like a kid, a church can't stay at one age or phase forever... it has to keep maturing. We can enjoy the pictures of yesterday, but today real growth is happening before our very eyes... and tomorrow differences will be noticed.

As you can imagine, there have been some challenges this summer in our household. But don't misread that - they have been absolutely worth it so we can be a blessing, experience a blessing, and help usher someone into eternity. If the trade off to that means some extra grace and directional love on our part, then everyone wins.

So how about it?

  • Where in your life are you afraid of change?

  • How might you have mislabeled a situation or group of people as negative when it was merely a "birth order" sort of shift?

  • Are you willing to trade yesterday's 2-dimensional photographs for today's 3-dimensional living?

  • Will you labor to see the value in being uncomfortable so that great growth can happen in your life and through your life?

Mar 12, 2008

totally tuned in

"Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow.
So one hundred worshippers meeting together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be were they to become ‘unity’ conscious and turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship.
Social religion is perfected when private religion is purified. The body becomes stronger as its members become healthier. The whole church of God gains when the members that compose it begin to seek a better and a higher life."

- A.W. Tozer

Apr 21, 2007

a visitor's nightmare

As many of us prepare to gather with the Church tomorrow, I thought I'd highlight this video that captures the fears of a visitor.

Mar 29, 2007

teenagers and faith

Some good downloads to the timely question of the "Where Youth Ministry Must Go" discussion in Grand Rapids, Michigan:

Also, Time Magazine hit a whammy on this one about the Bible being able to be taught in school "in the right context":,9171,1601845,00.html

Mar 19, 2007

being mindful of mind games

So it's been over 12 hours since I finished my message and I find myself with this nagging question mark about what I shared.

"Did I share what I was supposed to?"

"How did my presentation help or hinder the truth?"

"Was the overall service truly a healthy time for people to engage with God?"

"Did I give my 100% for the glory of God?"
And so on... you catch the drift. It may partly be because I've had little sleep this weekend and often find it hard to gauge if I was on track with where our people are at. Or it may be something more... a supernatural issue related to the ongoing war a very real satan is attempting to wage against an even more real God.

Here's the tension...

  • Because I love God I desire to put out the perfect message every week and hope the final product pleases Him.

  • Because God loves me I recognize I will put out an imperfect message every week and He will be pleased simply by my faithfulness.
It's odd what can play with your sense of self when you are in ministry. The average pastor probably has experienced some issue with this, especially when you consider that every message presented every week involves something sacred being shared through a very flawed person. If he/she is a creative personality on top of it you can really have a good recipe for potential disaster - both to that individual as well as anyone he/she leads - if not kept in check. It's odd, but often the way a leader sees himself will create ripples all throughout the entire organization that no one may become aware of until it's too late.

In many ways ministry can really become the very thing that the enemy uses to take you out... and I get the sense he's quite good at it.

Jesus said it this way:

"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly." (John 10:10)

Here's how I see this breaking down in my life these days...

  • The enemy steals, kills, and destroys:

    These days I don't find myself directly experiencing any direct attacks from the enemy (that I'm aware of, at least). In fact, what I do find is that if there is any "stealing, killing, and destroying" going on it's in how some people can try to be your buddy by telling how much you're not like the "last guy." From day one I've not allowed this to happen in a conversation without quickly saying, "You should know that he and I are friends." That usually cuts it out, and when it's more than that I'll say, "It sounds like you have some unresolved issues with him... I'm going to challenge you to take those to him."

    Sounds good, right? Here's the kill, though... every time I hear those conversations and respond as I just said, there is a little, small, tiny, eensy-weensy part of me that says, "I think this person likes me better than they liked him... that feels nice."

    You know where that ends up, right? Pretty soon I'm looking for strokes from the people for my worth instead of God... and once I give them power over my self-esteem through affirmation then it's only a matter of time before I tick someone off and they use that good power to take me out... by stealing, killing, and destroying that sense of God-breathed worth.

    Do you see this in your life? Have you given a boss unhealthy power over you by craving his/her encouragement? Do your kids speak into your sense of self-worth when they hug you or when they pull back and tell you they don't want to be around you? How about if you see a certain set of numbers on a piece of paper that seems to be better this week than last week? Is there a voice in your past that you allow to keep visiting your mind in the present?

    When their voices matter more than God's we have allowed the enemy of our lives to steal a space in our life, kill any sense of true worth, and incrementally destroy our perception of life and God.

  • Jesus Christ gives life, and even more life than we realize:

    A fully-alive life begins when we begin an authentic relationship with the Lord, made possible through the willing death on a cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This relationship needs to deepen, though, through daily trust in Him like a child might trust a parent... dying to our own agenda for life in order to experience what we have have yet to learn from our Father. As a result we'll not only experience heaven when our bodies die but will catch glimpses of it in all its authentic beauty as the Kingdom of God is revealed through our lives.

    I think this is the aspect of Christianity we often forget to talk about as we settle into a way of life that has the appearance of faith while lacking in its power. The question we need to ask is if we are pursuing spiritual happiness or spiritual fullness - the former depends on Christian habits whereas the latter depends on Christ. It's the classic issue of tradition and religion versus relationship and movement.

    One way I've tried to be PROACTIVE about it is to look for and engage in at least one thing the Lord is doing to restore the people and world all around us. It's absolutely absurd from our perspective, but He actually invites us to join Him in all of this. The Bible teaches that loving and serving people of all backgrounds in the name of Jesus isn’t an option for a Christ-follower — it’s the natural consequence of a relationship with him and evidence of our faith. Not only do we take part in the mission of healing a broken world but grow deeper spiritually as we see one life at a time changed forever through our imperfect lives.

Which brings me back to where I started.

My life is imperfect, and I shouldn't expect to always get it right. Sometimes even my best attempt at faithfulness will get smeared because I'm a clumsy oaf handling the most delicate container of truth in a world full of banana peels. While that can seem intimidating, I must press on and keep walking forward... there are people in the world who I would rather see alive through my feeble attempts to join Jesus in ministering to them than dead because I decided to wait until "my sermon" was "just right." Sometimes when you walk you fall... but you fall forward as the Father catches you and helps you back up.

An abundant life may be anything but simple, but it’s the only kind worth living.

The kingdom cannot afford to lose one leader... and that includes you. Yes, YOU - YOU are the light of the world along with me. Don't hide behind your own shortcomings or let the enemy have his way in your mind... make the adjustments and tough calls even if it means disappointing a few.

Do what you need to do to protect the flame of faith in your heart and allow the Lord to fan it hotter than its ever been.

You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16)

Feb 20, 2007

being revolutionary versus being cool

Don't know if you guys are familiar with Blue Like Jazz writer Donald Miller. Check out one of his quotes from an interview:

"I attended the Dove Awards and was brokenhearted. I saw all these beautiful Christians, wonderful people, with this wonderful, revolutionary message of Jesus, who, instead of saying, "Look, fashion doesn't matter, hip doesn't matter," were saying "World, please accept us, we can be just as hip as you, just as fashionable, only in a religious way."
Interesting insights. Having started my journey with Christ through a seeker-sensitive church, I received a number of philosophical seeds about how we need to provide a "culturally-relevant" alternative to the traditional church. Over the years my journey has drifted away from that into conservative/holiness waters, then postmodern concepts that rethink it all, a summer home in the Emergent Village, and somewhere back toward the basic tenets of the Apostle's Creed. In all that time I have asked the same question - is it possible that we are on the verge of seeing something healthier in the Church than what we're currently doing?

Specifically related to Miller's thoughts, what does the Gospel look like for people who are tired of trying to be cool inside the church community? How do we reach those who are tired of trying to fit into the alterative ultra-hip mold we've created in the church (or at least the one we think we've created)? Is it time to become a traditional, KJV only type church? Or are we swinging around back to the kum-ba-yah style of music?

Or maybe... just maybe... we can all be who we are while we journey together toward discovering who we really are.

Science says you can stretch the DNA of an animal - merge one version of a dog with another and you get a "mutt." What you can't do, though, quite so easily is change the DNA of something - even that "mutt" is still a dog. It takes an outside source that has enough of an "in" to your current DNA with enough "out" - the difference to be something else - to begin creating new variations of life.

Maybe the local church needs to stop stretching to be cool and realize the best way to be relevant is to be authentic...

maybe it starts with us realizing the divine DNA buried beneath the layers of trendy clothes we keep piling on.

That sounds like a revolution to me.
"Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."(1 Samuel 16:7b)

Feb 3, 2007

a confession

Some friends of mine were recently asked to resign their roles at a church they are both on staff with.

There is no sin on their part, nor any scandal. In fact, each has had a tremendous ministry that has deepened the church in many ways.

They're just different... different from the style of leadership the church is running with.

Just... different.

And so they "must leave."

This will no doubt happen quickly to avoid any dips in the church's momentum and no one will think much of it because the church is doing well numerically. "Why rock the boat?" the local network might think, "because this is a flagship church." Perhaps a congregation member will wonder, "This is wrong but who am I to step up and say so?" Then there are the other staff members who live in fear of their own jobs and will think, "I should be quiet about this... I don't want to appear as if I'm taking sides so I'll stay in my own space."

I know all of this because I've been in each of those roles in the past.

Nevermind this is yet another house cleaning done in the name of ministry while we act very much unlike the name of Jesus. Instead of saying, "You're different than I am which makes you valuable" we run with questions like, "So when will you be clearing out your desk?"



And now... a confession.

There is this small part of me that wants to have a church that is bursting at the seams with people. Not because I value any of that on a numerical level but so that I can get invited to some big conference and tell everyone all these absurd ideas behind how it all happened...

  • like assisting my staff in their passions instead of demanding they follow mine alone - choosing the risk of being friends so that we can return to the kind of community where we love each other enough to speak the truth in love when needed because the culture is such where we long for eac other to become all that od longs for them to be...

  • like taking a sabbath a day a week, and every seventh week not teaching - modeling that the church doesn't run on human energy but on God's...

  • like creating layers of space away from people to stay healthy while simultaneously providing open doors of contact for people in the church to have access to me...

  • like asking that we remove the numerical information from our weekly reports so that when people ask me "How big is your church?" I can answer "Healthy." And then when they say, "No really, how big is it?" I can say "As big as God is, since our church is a part of His Church." And then when they press me and say, "Seriously, what's the number? 100? 200? You have five people on staff so it has to be over a certain size, right?" I can say, "Honestly, I don't know... on purpose. Is that okay? Why are you asking? Because I'd really like to tell you some stories about life change instead."
I'd really enjoy the chance to follow John Maxwell or one of those other simply strategic guys and clap my hands to celebrate their contribution, but then to make one of my own that is backwards and upside-down in it's own freakshow way. I'd say things like, "Stop treating your staff like staff and start loving them like people" or "Be sure to not worry about technical problems in your service because people will need to know when a service is messy you can still celebrate God... because life is messy and imperfect and so a video is not working gives you the chance to model proper priorties and is the best thing you could ever pray for."

And when people raise their eyebrows and wait for Sandman Sims to come out to chase me off the stage of what they perceive to be Amateur Night at the Apollo, I'd say, "Yes, yes... but we've proven this works because look at our numbers."

And then everyone would applaud and buy my books and ask for my autograph or want to sit with me at the cool table during lunch because I'd be a minor Christian celebrity.

And then I'd catch myself in the mirror...

and then I'd slap myself.


Thank you for hearing my confession of temptation... now back to what really matters again.


Nov 17, 2006

nywc06: friday pm - pt. 5

Now what can I say about Dave The Horn Guy?




During the second General Session we saw some more of Jared Hall (an illusionist), yelled out praises with David Crowder, jammed with Building 429, watched "The Jesus Painter" create an amazing piece of art in real time, and even managed to learn about how abstinence and the spin cycle on a washing machine have a lot in common. The speaker was author Donald Miller, which is one I'd been looking forward to. We even had some good seats in the fourth row, thanks for the generous effort Scott and Brian put into helping set up the room.

By the way, this is what is left over from a balloon I popped after it hit me one too many times in the head.

Donald Miller made some great points tonight about what it means to prepare a generation to follow Christ:

  • Before the printing press, churches were built in the shape of liturgy (i.e. crosses) and iconic because people who couldn't read needed to understand the truth. One church went as far to make itself into the shape of the cross while making towers that resembled the castle nearby. In a sense we said, "We're like the kingdom of God... and we're like you, too."

  • During the Enlightenment Era, we began to present the kingdom of God as truth to be understood and agreed with. The sermons became longer as we wrestled over ideas and concepts just like the culture was. In a sense we said, "We're like the kingdom of God... and we're like you, too."

  • During the Industrial Revolution, the average lifespan of a man decreased as they left their homes and started building cars. Motivational gurus came in to businesses and tried to compare hanging a bumper on a machine to being a part of a team or family. Within the church we began to tell people that we wanted to help them become "profitable for the kingdom." God became a boss, the pastor became a CEO, and sermons became self-help talks to teach us how to become more efficient at living. In a sense we said, "We're like the kingdom of God... and we're like you, too."

  • We used to meet in a cross, then a classroom, then a hall, then a conference center, and now in nightclubs. This is not progress.

  • The breakdown of the family didn't come about because of hip-hop music and the choices of some Supreme Court Justices. It broke down because we broke our connection with God.

  • Why did we start to present Jesus as a product who could fix our lives and fill a hole in our heart that nothing else could fill? Christians still have bad days, and so it would seem the "product" doesn't work as intended or we don't understand it.

  • "Authority" and "love" will not always going to give me what I want. At times God will allow me to be in pain in order to grow me toward maturity. Meanwhile, Satan comes along and says, "God doesn't work. What you need to do is try harder. Start doing this list of three things..."

  • We need to raise a generation of prophets who define life as more than what commercials (inside and outside the church) tell them.

  • Acts 17 : Paul starts at their meeting place... he went to them. Then he begins with a compliment while we tend to take a Darwinian approach to try and starve out the "sin" and the "sinners."

  • Evangelism is easy because no one is doing it. The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few... because they are waiting in their farmhouses for the wheat to come to them.

  • We have a million programs to strengthen marriage but not any to minister to 40,000 boys without a dad.

  • One of the most important aspects of the Gospel is listening.

  • I don't like saying that Jesus is exclusive, but it's interesting how the more intimate a relationship is the more exclusive it becomes. We understand Christianity from a propositional grid where our conclusions are right and others are wrong. The Bible presents relational Christianity - the nature of which is an intimate relationship.

My takeaway questions:

  • How is my perception of God and the church shaped by the culture I live in?
  • How does a church community help foster a healthier future by collectively investing into the emerging generation beyond adding a nice youth program off in the corner somewhere?

Aug 24, 2006

jaded hope

I'm hearing a common word in a lot of conversations I have with people these days about the church.

(Yes... this is another post about the church. Sue me, but I am passionate for it in all its flawed beauty.)

The word I hear a lot is "jaded."

It's a good word to describe a number of things, from hard experiences we may have been through to the cynicism we all can feel for very legitimate reasons. It's so odd how often I hear this language used when people are trying to articulate where they are now... and yet they don't really want to stay there..

Honestly, I can probably use this word, too.

So this post isn't a criticism in any way, but rather a small slice of perspective. One of my favorite authors/speakers/thinkers is the late Mike Yaconelli. Check out one of his thoughts on this matter:

"The power of the Church is not a parade of flawless people, but of a flawless Christ who embraces our flaws. The Church is not made up of the whole people, rather of the broken people who find wholeness in a Christ who was broken for us."
- Mike Yaconelli
Good call. We don't live in a perfect world.

At least, not yet. That's the thing we have to remember.

The wounds may seem real, but in the end God is "more Real" than the wounds. Most of the negative thinking that people have about Jesus is often never because of Jesus but because of those who claim to follow him. Heaven is when "church gets it right" and we get to enjoy our Creator and each other in a context we currently have to labor for. In the meantime we're constantly working our way to that moment and shouldn't expect a full on heavenly perspective to happen just yet.

Perhaps glimpses, but never perfection.

At least, not yet.
And so here I am, preaching and writing about things that are way over my head, the inexhaustible riches and generosity of Christ. My task is to bring out in the open and make plain what God, who created
all this in the first place, has been doing in secret and behind thescenes all along. Through followers of Jesus like yourselves gathered in churches, this extraordinary plan of God is becoming known and talked about even among the angels! (Ephesians 3:8-10, MSG)

Aug 16, 2006

engaging the church

Speaking of a post from last week, I've been thinking quite a bit over the past year regarding the church.

A month or so ago I was speaking with someone whose story echoed mine in that we have both experienced amazing joy and gut-wrenching hurt through the various congregations we've been a part of. We recognized that the catch to navigating through it is in remembering that the hurt that can come from other Christians isn't the ultimate way God intends us to live nor the way the church is supposed to operate. In ironic contrast, though, any joy we experience is a taste of what heaven is all about.

There's the "church," and then there's the "Church." Both are God's "plan A," with the former being the imperfect representation of the perfect latter in a broken world. At times it functions in the way it was designed, while on other occasions it may seem a bit off base (kind of like each of us). This is the product of of flawed people connecting with a flawless God.

That's what the church is, by the way... a redeemed and supernatural union of the Creator and his creation. Church is not something you attend, go to, or pencil in (i.e. "See you at church on Sunday!"). Rather, the church is intended to be who we are.

That doesn't discount the hurt it can sometime cause or make its faults any less real, though. Instead, it creates an interesting tension of theology: Why did Jesus entrust the church into the hands of his disciples (including us) when he knew how wacked we are and can be?

Then again... the church is not really in our hands alone. Jesus said that He would build the church upon the foundation of people like us. Our part is to care for it and its people, whether they are inside or outside the four walls of a building we've designated as sacred space.

Sometimes, though, we end up messing up on our end.

It's not an easy task to wrestle with this due to the subjective way we see ourselves when compared to others. When we are wounded we might begin to compare our better points with the worst points of those who have hurt us, slamming their "lack of spirituality" while we believe we have been the "model example." We may not ever articulate this out loud or even in our brains, and yet in our discouragement we often forget our contribution to the chaos that exists. As Brian McClaren put it, "We should stop comparing our best with their worst and feeling smug about it."

The church is messy, made up of a union of the divine with the warped... the infinite with the finite... the perfect with the imperfect. As such, the church has great days and hard days with it many times being a mixture of both. Often we get it wrong and start to build personal castles instead of investing in the unseen Kingdom. Consequently, people walk away, pastors get burnt out, and agonostics find one more reason to keep on asking their questions.

Then again, there is no such thing as the perfect marriage, either. The 12-year union my wife and I share as husband and wife has had great days and hard days - and sometimes a mixture of both. Yet we press on... building what we can, and addressing the issues as they arise in a spirit of grace.

Maybe there's a reason Jesus calls the Church His Bride.

Like healthy dating and courting, maybe it's less about "finding the right one" and more about "becoming the right one." If we want the union to be a healthy one, a large share of that rests on our shoulders. The other part rests on God's, and he is constantly doing more than we expect him, too.

If you've been hurt by the church, don't give up. If you haven't been hurt by the church, be sure you're not unintentionally wounding another. The crazy thing about all of this is that Jesus Christ knew how messed up we'd make things and yet he still chose to pass the baton our way. If he has faith in the church (and each of us), maybe we should, too.

Hope you choose the "engagement."

(I hear the Bride will one day look pretty awesome.)
One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, "Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb." And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. (Revelation 21:9-11)

Aug 7, 2006

(un)limited supply

Today I went to two different church services. The first was to cover a story for the newspaper... because (again, I love saying this) I am a "mild mannered (freelance) reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper." The second was the local congregation my family and I are a part of.

In any event, at the first service I had a chance to participate in communion. Although I also had this opportunity at the latter service, I thought it might be kind of cool to connect with another group of Christians via this ancient practice. And so even though I was there "on assignment," I took part in receiving the passing of the elements.

The first one to come by was a tray of bread. Actually, they were the mini-crackers that look like someone pumped up some air into them. I snagged one and waited for the cup to come by.

Only... when the tray of juice came around it was empty. The dude next to me grabbed the last one, creating a communion confusion for me. At least, until the usher came back a minute later with a cup from another tray.

During those 60 seconds, though, I got to thinking about the blood of Christ and how we often wonder if it will ever run out for us. Whether it's a pattern of selfishness or a particular sin we find ourselves drawn to, we can sometimes drive ourselves crazy wondering if we've tapped out the assumed portion of grace that we believe we've been given. "After all," we reason, "I couldn't go on sinning without at some point exhausting the supply of forgiveness God is willing to offer me through Jesus."

Here's where whatever your own brand of theology kicks in. For some this seems like a non-issue because it's all about the "once saved, always saved" ideal. Others fear that if they make a bad call in life of any measure that their salvation is severely in jeopordy. Then there are those who haven't yet embraced a relationship with Jesus Christ and figure, "It's all bunk anyway because there is no way I could ever outdo all of my bad choices with good choices."

Take your pick, but the bottom line for all three is that every one of them needs Jesus Christ. Thankfully, he's still in the business of offering himself to anyone who would receive him.

And so just when I though the "blood of Jesus" had run out for me today... I ended up getting it after all.

Maybe that's just a symbolic experience of communion.

Or maybe it's a communal experience of something more.
In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. (Luke 22:20)

How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, $cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he
has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant. (Hebrews 9:14-15)