Wednesday, December 12, 2012 

One week out...

It's been a week since I left the retreat.  Life is starting up and I'm beginning to enter my routine.  I didn't preach last week, so I'm trying to get re-engaged this week.  I left thinking about the importance of rhythm and how I needed to make sure that rhythm was still in my life.  One week later and I'm discovering that keeping rhythm is harder then I thought.

We did a Sabbath on Monday.  We turned off all of our devices - our phone, our computers and our TV.  It was a lot harder then I thought it would be (especially for the kids).  Doing the office this week has been spotty at best - mostly because our schedules as a family have not come into line.  I think my kids think mom and dad are just being weird and that we will get over it.  I'm hoping that we create something that will take them forward into the rest of their lives.  The true test of all this will be on Friday when Emily comes home from school.  I'm not sure how she is going to handle Mondays - her phone is permanently attached to her!

So I'm sitting here in Starbucks this morning thinking about where we go from here.  I have fresh vision for both the church and my family - but some of the same anxieties and insecurities are creeping back in.  I can see the long term plan, it's just how to get there that is frightening to me.  So what do I do next?  I need to preach this week, but it's not all there yet.  What do I say to them?  How do I articulate what God has done for me?  How does one explain rhythm?

Saturday, December 08, 2012 

Attractional vs Incarnational

Ponder this for a moment:
Nonetheless, when we say it is a flaw for the church to be attractional, we refer more to the stance the church takes in its community.  By anticipation that if they get their internal features right, people will flock to the services, the church betrays its belief in attractionalism.  It's like the Kevin Costner character in the film Field of Dreams being told by the disembodied voice, "If you build it, they will come."  How much of the traditional church's energy goes into adjusting their programs and their public meetings to cater to an unseen constituency?  If we get our seating, our parking, our children's program, our preaching, and our music right, they will come.  This assumes that we have a place in our society and that people don't join our churches because, though they want to be Christians, they're unhappy with the product.  The missional church recognizes that it does not hold a place of honor in its host community and that its missional imperative compels it to move out from itself into the host community as salt and light. (Shaping of Things to Come, The Innovation and Mission for the 21st-Century Church.  Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch)
I've been told that if I only get my systems right, we would grow and be relevant.  The assumption is that we are small because we don't know what we are doing.  The reality is that we are small because we do not have the budget / staff / facility / programs that the one large church in our town has so as to successfully compete for the discerning Christian consumer.  But is that who we are supposed to grow a church with?  My soccer friends don't care about our systems.  They think the church is hypocritical and bigoted.  So to reach them do I need to do the same thing that all the churches do - the things that they don't care about?  Or instead, do I need to figure out a way to be salt and light to them?  The same hard truth hits us here in DeKalb.  Most of the people in this town don't care for anything that the church has to offer.  If they did, then they would be in church.  Our witness is irrelevant to them.  Because of that, we have made Jesus irrelevant to them.  An irrelevant Jesus - that is a pretty scary thought.

If we really wanted to be followers of Jesus, we would go to the place that he hung out at.  We would do the things that he did.  Jesus went to where the people were - he didn't wait for them to come to him.  Think about how Paul describes Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage  rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death - even death on a cross!  (Philippians 2:6-8 NIV)
So what would it look like if we took the same attitude about the lost?  We find comfort in the church.  We like the safe comfortable culture that we are apart of.  But what if we were willing to become uncomfortable so that others might find Jesus.  What if we became uncomfortable so as to became salt and light?  What would our lives look like?  What who the church look like?  Now that's something to really ponder...

Friday, December 07, 2012 


It's been quiet around here for the past two weeks.  Cindy and I have been away on retreat.  We spent ten days in the Texas hill country at a retreat center with several other Vineyard pastors and leaders.  The place was remote - so remote that the nearest "town" was about 20 miles away.  So remote that we were about an hour away form the nearest cell tower.  Talk about unplugging.  Ten days without a phone.  Ten days with limited e-mail.  Ten days with little contact to the outside world.  In an environment like that, things finally start to quiet down in your mind and you can start to hear God again.

The days were simple.  Wake up at seven.  Get showered and dressed.  Grab a cup of coffee and head to morning prayer.  A small group of us would pray the office every morning at eight.  At eight fifteen, the bell would ring and we would eat breakfast as a community.  Worship at nine, a teaching and then a story.  The bell would ring at noon - lunch as a community.  A time of solitude and silence from one till one thirty.  The rest of the afternoon was free - meet with someone or not.  Read, walk, canoe, sleep... whatever.  At Five forty five the bell would ring again - dinner as a community.  Another story at seven and then evening prayer at nine thirty with the same small group as in the morning.  After that - perhaps a fire, or to sleep.  Then repeat.  Sunday was free to do whatever.

After a while, a rhythm begins.  And within that rhythm God speaks, ministers and heals.  As the week went on I began to realize how out of rhythm I had become and that it was affecting every area of my life. My marriage, my family, my entire life.  Ten days later and the rhythm seems to be back, at least in Cindy and I.

We picked the kids up yesterday.  By the end of the day I was longing for that thirty minutes of solitude and silence.  They are not in rhythm.  I'm guessing that the church isn't in rhythm either.  I figure I have a choice.  I can either throw away these past ten days and return to what I was or I can teach what I have learned and try to get the other areas in my life into God's rhythm.  Needless to say, I'm going to do the later.

So what is that going to look like?  Our family is going to start praying the office together daily - morning and evening.  We will do times of silence and solitude.  And we will keep a true Sabbath (Mondays).  No phones, no computers.  Some time with God in the morning and then time together as a family.  Extended time off once a year and a true short retreat for Cindy and I once a year as well.  The church is a little more complicated - but God is faithful.  I figure it will take some time, but I think it will be well worth it.

I'm going to try and journal this journey into rhythm here.  I know that part of the temptation as a reader of blogs is to read and move on. I want to challenge all of you out there to take some time and find God's rhythm in your life.  Stop everything for a moment and be still - you will be amazed and what God wants to say.

Thursday, November 22, 2012 

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

A Thanksgiving gift for you.....

"As God as my witness, I thought turkeys could fly....."

Have a safe and Happy Thanksgiving!


Thursday, November 15, 2012 

Tech Support

Couple of interesting computer articles in New Zealand PC World this evening:

First, 28 pieces of computing advice that stands the test of time:
But just because computers are one big exercise in evolutionary progress, that doesn't mean certain computing maxims ever go out of style. Take, for example, the nuggets of wisdom in the following list. All of these things are as true today as they were 2, 5, and in some cases even 10 or 20 years ago.
Second, How (and why) to surf the web in secret:
They say no one can hear you scream in space, but if you so much as whisper on the web, you can be tracked by a dozen different organisations and recorded for posterity. Simply visiting a website can allow its operators to figure out your general physical location, identify details about your device information, and install advertising cookies that can track your movements around the web. (Don't believe me? Check this out.)



Pop Christian

I'm thinking about starting a new feature here on this blog celebrating (well, perhaps not celebrating) Pop Christianity.

So, what do you do when the you know that the tithe is down and you need to preach on giving?  You make a video!

Hmmmm...words really can't describe it....

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Privacy on the internet

Interesting article this morning over at CNN.  The General Petraeus scandal has many of us intrigued by the made for TV movie of it all, but there is one thing that we all are missing.  As the article asks, "When the CIA director cannot hide his activities online, what hope is there for the rest of us?"  Here is the quote that got me:

Still, search engines may pose the biggest privacy threat: It's worth noting that when you send an e-mail or post something on Facebook, you usually expect someone else to see it, although maybe not everyone, and probably not the FBI. As John Herrman writes for BuzzFeed, however, search engines such as Google are the ones that know your "real secrets" since it doesn't feel like anyone else would see what you're searching for.
But, because of search, Google "knows the things you wouldn't ask your friends. It knows things you can't ask your spouse. It knows the things you haven't asked your doctor yet. It knows things that you can't ask anyone else and that might not have been asked at all before Google existed," he writes. "Google's servers are a repository of the developed world's darkest and most heartbreaking secrets, a vast closet lined with millions of digital skeletons that, should they escape, would spare nobody."
I guess Big Brother really is watching!


Wednesday, November 14, 2012 

Stylish Baptism

Sometimes I think I rant too much about how we are missing it in the church. I asked in my last post what the goal of our faith should be.  I wondered after I posted it if I was just complaining to complain.  But then I saw this:

Boobalicious Baptism - now those are two words that I never thought I would hear together...

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Goal of our faith

Cindy and I do discipleship with another couple every Tuesday night via Skype. We use Greg Ogden's book Discipleship Essentials as a spine for our discussion.  Last night we were talking about the Holy Spirit and a quote from the book spurred an interesting conversation:
He (the Holy Spirit) constantly turns the spotlight off himself and on the God-man.  Any moving of the Spirit, therefore, that does not lead people to Christ is not the moving of the Spirit of God.  The passion of the Spirit of God is to make the living Christ the center of our lives.
When something is of the Holy Spirit, it should always point to Jesus.  John reminds us of this in 1John 4.  Yet, we discussed, that many times we have been a part of things that we assumed were Spirit-filled but did not necessary point to Jesus.  They pointed to the gifts, they pointed to a ministry, they pointed to our nation, they pointed to the lost, they pointed to political issues, but not always to Jesus.  It was somewhat of a big revelation to our friends that they had been a part of churches where other things then Jesus were the focus.  So, what does it mean to have Jesus at the center of our lives, at the center of our churches?

I think somewhere along the way, we have lost focus of what the goal of our faith is supposed to be.  If you ask many, they would say the goal of our faith is heaven.  Yes, Jesus is in there, we need to cross to get our sins forgiven, but the actual goal is heaven.  I've heard people talk about how they will have a country house and a city house in heaven, but never about being with Jesus.  But is heaven the goal or are we missing something.

Here is the interesting thing, Jesus didn't talk a lot about heaven.  He mentioned it from time to time in different parables, but it wasn't the focus of his preaching.  Instead, he was the focus of his preaching.  "Come follow me".  Even in the end, Jesus' last orders to his disciples were simple - make disciples, be my witnesses, tell them about me.  Paul said that all he wanted was to know Christ and the power of his resurrection.  Heaven was there, but Jesus was more important.

But what is true for us?  What do we ask people we are trying to "lead to the Lord"?  Don't we ask them where they are going to go when they die?  Isn't it all about the afterlife?  "If you don't pray the prayer now, you will burn in hell."  Jesus is in there, but he is simply the way to the means - the stairway to heaven.  Somewhere along the way, heaven became the goal.  Don't believe me?  Why then is the fact that we will be worshiping 24/7 something that most people don't look forward to.  We preachers threaten our flock that they need to get used to worship here, because we will be doing a lot of it later.  If Jesus were the goal of our faith, worship would be a given, not a chore.

Heaven was never meant to be the goal of our faith, Jesus was.  Heaven is a distant reality.  Because of that we are able to put it off for a bit.  Heaven is in the future but my job, my family, my marriage, my stuff, myself - this is all in the present.  So we give heaven some time (usually 90 minutes on Sunday) and focus on what is here an now.  If our goal is in the distance, it won't become a factor in our present until it becomes closer (why do you think people get serious about their faith during times of illness and death). But Jesus is not a future realty, he is here now in the present.  And if Jesus is meant to be the focus of our life and the goal of our faith, then Jesus is supposed to be in my job, in my family, in my marriage, in my stuff, in my life.  My friend hit the nail on the head last night about why this is. He said that heaven sells, but Jesus, not so much.

So what would our lives looked like if Jesus, not heaven, were the center of it?  What would our churches looked like if we preached Jesus here and now, not heaven in the by and by?  I think things would be extremely different - Acts 3:42-47 stuff.  And I think people would be interested.  Heaven may sell, but it has a limited market and a quick expiration date.  Jesus on the other hand, is continually fresh and is relevant everywhere.  We just need to chose for ourselves what the goal of our faith is.  Heaven or Jesus.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012 


I saw this quote from Andrew Jones a few months ago and it has really stuck with me:
A lot of new church plants wait until they can run a good worship service before they open up to the public. There is little talk about whether the community has the spiritual depth to receive and disciple newcomers.
It reminded me of some other voices in my life:
One is Bobby Clinton who taught Leadership Theory and Change Dynamics at Fuller Seminary. He said that if you want to figure out how long it will take to bring change in your community, you take your estimate and then double it. And double it again. And that's how long it takes.
Another is my German friend Hans Peter Pache who asks how to build a cathedral. The answer is that you plant an oak grove and in a hundred years you have enough wood to build your cathedral. The rest is simple.
I think that we as pastors need to put stuff into a little context.  We tend to feel that success means numbers and growth.  I agree that we need to be fruitful, that we need to do something with the talents that Jesus has given us, but I think we miss the concept of time.  It doesn't take much time to gather a crowd but it takes time to make disciples.  We look at our churches and begin to question ourselves with unrealistic expectations.  I remember speaking to a pastor of a new church plant last summer who was apologizing to me that they had only grown to 120 in the past year.  I was shocked - only 120?  It took Jesus three years to get to 120 and I figure he was probably a bit more gifted then we are!  (Heck, one of my favorite passages in the bible is when Jesus preaches a hard message and everyone except the twelve leave (John 6:60-71) - I can relate to that!)

What we need to remember that we are not called to gather a crowd, but to make disciples.  That quote above from Hans Peter Pache is spot on.  We are not supposed to build a mega church, we are supposed to build a cathedral.  Now before you think I'm speaking out of both sides on my mouth, let me explain.  A cathedral is big, so big that they are noticeable in the community, they tend to dominate the landscape.  In many towns, the cathedral gives that town a sense of identity.  As disciples of Jesus, we are supposed to be making a difference in our community.  We are supposed to be salt and light.  We should be an intrical part of the community, a part of the community's identity - it's DNA.  That doesn't happen overnight.  That takes time.  It is not because of a large gathering, it is because there has been a "transformation of the mind" (Romans 12:2).  The cathedral is not about building a big building, a big budget or big numbers.  It is about building people, disciplining people, transforming them into "Gospel Planters" that will in turn transform those around them.  It's about being salt and light and that takes time.

We had a planning meeting for the church last Sunday that we opened up to the entire church.  Our goal was simple, we wanted to get some stuff on the calendar for the next few months (at least until Easter).  I didn't know what was going to happen, but I gave them all some guidelines.  First, I felt that we needed to focus on five things - prayer, small groups, discipleship, outreach and community.  Secondly, there was no budget, whatever we were going to do would have to be done on the cheep.  I was hoping for some discussion in each area, but I feared that we would only plan "community" things.   I wasn't prepared for what actually happened.  Prayer started first.  They wanted to bring back the prayer labyrinth and they wanted to do another 24/7 prayer but with multiple churches involved.  Someone actually suggested that we do a Daniel fast in January (and the group approved of it.)  I was in shock - I hadn't seen this much interest in prayer in a long time.  Small groups then multiplied (from one to three) and there was an excitement about doing more discipleship groups.  Our youth want to go and scrub toilets for a servant evangelism outreach (as suggested from a youth) and people want to go downtown once a month and pray for people.  The one thing we didn't figure out was the community side - but since we are going to be doing all this praying, and discipling and ministering, I guess we will have to do it as a community!

This is what I mean by transformation.  Amazingly, the only thing that I have to do is talk to the other churches about praying with us.  Everyone else is doing the rest of the ministry. This would not have happened twelve months ago.   Twelve months ago it would ave been all one me.

Here is the interesting thing: there were only 17 people in this meeting, about half the church.  What difference can 17 people make?  Well, the way I look at it, we've planted an Oak Grove with these 17 people.  Give it time.  We should have enough to build a cathedral in a couple of decades.  It's the way God does things - once person at a time.  I'm willing to wait, are you?

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