Saturday, August 30, 2008

No one should...
Early this morning we got word that our next door neighbors son Taylor, their only son, the son they loved so fiercely, died. He was playing in the first football game of the year, and was struck in the side. I don't know what exactly happened.

Walking in the home this morning was surreal. People were standing around in shock. The boy's dad, a decorated SF major was still in ACUs, as he had been away at drill when the call came in the night before. I walked up to him and hugged him. We cried for a couple of seconds. We talked for a minute about how his wife was doing, how was he doing? That sort of thing. I let him know we were asking everyone to pray for him, his wife and their family. Then he led me into his office.

He asked me if I'd look over his son's obituary - to see if it was okay. He was due at the funeral home and had to leave in a minute. Here was a man who in the course of his service has probably had to write someone's family a letter, telling them that their son "died valiantly in the service of his country and the defense of freedom. That he was "a great soldier and a credit to the company/division/regiment whatever." But now he was concerned with making sure that his own son's life was summed up well.

I had already given him the benefit of my years of studying the Scriptures by crying with him. Now I gave him what I could from my years as a writer. "There's no way to say it all, today." Taylor was an incandescent spirit. He lived in a perpetual state of smile, it seemed to us next door. Unfailingly polite, frequently funny, one of those kids who just seemed to be headed for great things. "What you've written is good. Others will write a lot more." And he headed out to the funeral home, his son's obituary in his hand.

I hate it for him - for Kathy, Taylor's mother. I hate it happened. No one should ever have to write his 15 year old son's obituary. No one should.

So today we weep with those who weep, and mourn with those who mourn. We pray for our friends next door with an empty room for the first time in 15 years. We pray that the grace of Christ will flood in and cause the darkness to flee. We pray for everyone who hurts tonight, and since this is a small town, there's a lot of people hurting. And we remember again just how sin-sick this world is. Come quickly Lord Jesus.

Taylor Haugen, we'll miss you. But we will see you again.

Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. Romans 8:20-21 (NLT)

No one should

Early this morning we got word that our next door neighbors son Taylor, their only son, the son they loved so fiercely, died. He was playing in the first football game of the year, and was struck in the side. I don't know what exactly happened.

Walking in the home this morning was surreal. People were standing around in shock. The boy's dad, a decorated SF major was still in ACUs, as he had been away at drill when the call came in the night before. I walked up to him and hugged him. We cried for a couple of seconds. We talked for a minute about how his wife was doing, how was he doing? That sort of thing. I let him know we were asking everyone to pray for him, his wife and their family. Then he led me into his office.

He asked me if I'd look over his son's obituary - to see if it was okay. He was due at the funeral home and had to leave in a minute. Here was a man who in the course of his service has probably had to write someone's family a letter, telling them that their son "died valiantly in the service of his country and the defense of freedom. That he was "a great soldier and a credit to the company/division/regiment whatever." But now he was concerned with making sure that his own son's life was summed up well.

I had already given him the benefit of my years of studying the Scriptures by crying with him. Now I gave him what I could from my years as a writer. "There's no way to say it all, today." Taylor was an incandescent spirit. He lived in a perpetual state of smile, it seemed to us next door. Unfailingly polite, frequently funny, one of those kids who just seemed to be headed for great things. "What you've written is good. Others will write a lot more." And he headed out to the funeral home, his son's obituary in his hand.

I hate it for him - for Kathy, Taylor's mother. I hate it happened. No one should ever have to write his 15 year old son's obituary. No one should.

So today we weep with those who weep, and mourn with those who mourn. We pray for our friends next door with an empty room for the first time in 15 years. We pray that the grace of Christ will flood in and cause the darkness to flee. We pray for everyone who hurts tonight, and since this is a small town, there's a lot of people hurting. And we remember again just how sin-sick this world is. Come quickly Lord Jesus.

Taylor Haugen, we'll miss you. But we will see you again.

Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. Romans 8:20-21 (NLT)

Hey Pastor, Will You Do My Heart Work?



"But prayer is not a work that most pastor are often asked to do except in ceremonial ways. Most pastoral work actually erodes prayer. The reason is obvious: people are not comfortable with God in their lives. They prefer something less awesome and more informal. Something, in fact, like the pastor. Reassuring, accessible, easygoing. People would rather talk to the pastor than to God. And so it happens that without anyone actually intending it, prayer is pushed to the sidelines.

And so pastors, instead of practicing prayer, which brings people into the presence of God, enter into the practice of messiah: we will do the work of God for God, fix people up, tell them what to do, conspire in finding the shortcuts by which the long journey to the Cross can be bypassed since we all have such crowded schedules right now. People love us when we do this. It is flattering to be put in the place of God. It feels wonderful to be treated in this godlike way. and it is work we are generally quite good at..."

- Eugene Peterson, The Contemplative Pastor (HT - Bobby Hyatt)


I keep reading this and rereading it. The more I read it, the harsher it gets. I respect Eugene Peterson greatly. Several of his books sit on my shelves. If his accusation is true then those pastors who practice such selfish behaviors should be ashamed.

There's no one who can heal a hurt or right a wrong but Jesus. A pastor has no power unless the Spirit of the Living God chooses to work through him.

No pastor can do someone else's heart work.

We can cry with you. We can call out to God for you. We can point you to Him - even beg you to call out to Him.

But each person must carry their own cross.

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Perfect Storm

It's been three years ago today since Hurricane Katrina began to assail New Orleans. Having been to New Orleans several times for seminary, I had always wondered what bright individual built a city in a bowl below sea level. But when you think about it, did you start out to be where your life has taken you to?

Probably not.

I've received several emails from the seminary telling me what their plans are for Hurricane Gustav. From what I can tell, they've learned an awful lot since Katrina. They've evacuated, locked down, and have put their online course delivery system into place, so no one will even miss a class.

They learned from what happened last time. That's what you are supposed to do from mistakes, from failures - learn how not to fall into them again.

Dr Kelley and the administration at NOBTS should be commended on their prompt and decisive efforts.

Seeds of Changed Lives

How do you reach people today who have no need for "church"? How do you get on their radar screen at all? You can do vibrant worship (and you should), have awesome children's ministry (ditto), and teach biblical truth (amen) but they don't come.

So you try "events" (and you should), but they are of limited effect. First because Las Vegas and Disney do it better, and secondly because they don't really attach themselves to spiritual needs.

Nancy Ortberg, in this month's Rev. Magazine is helpful when she writes:

(emphasis mine)
We have to move beyond our own "defining moments" and live out authentic, biblical, God-centered community that becomes a magnetic apologetic for the gospel. I think this demands a new kind of leadership.

For nine years when my husband, John, and I lived in Chicago, we had neighbors who wouldn't come to church with us. It wasn't for lack of an invitation. In fact we'd mention when either of us was preaching that we'd love to have them join us. We even threw in a free lunch as a sort of consolation prize, but nothing. Then one spring day, the husband came bounding over to me in our front yard and asked when services were that weekend.

That week someone they worked with was the recipient of a free car that our church had given away to a single parent. It was a ministry that was a few years' old, which regularly gave scores of cars away each year. No strings attached. Our neighbors were absolutely blown away by this gesture and wanted to "check out" a church where people lived their lives in such a generous fashion. It wasn't a sermon, it wasn't even our friendship with them or a free lunch…it was the lifestyle of someone at our church that got their attention.

Leadership for this new age must focus on how we live. A dramatic moment may create suspicion at worst and a reaction at best; a lifestyle of generosity and selflessness that reflects Christ captures attention. We must strive to create biblical community, not just great weekend services.


If there's one thing I have learned over the past few years it is this - an authentic Christian lifestyle of compassion, generosity, kindness, and authenticity will open far more doors than the latest postcard from Outreach Specialties ever could.

As a church, we have to be constantly looking for opportunities to "fly", like the dandelion seed, into the soil of the neighborhoods around us. It's not enough to be at the baseball games, we need to serve in the concession stand, rake the field, coach. It;s not enough to be in the school PTO, we need to be on the principal's speed dial.

I laughed the other night when Amy Anderson, our embed at Valparaiso Elementary, said she was sitting in her classroom prior to Tropical Storm Fay's approach and a voice boomed over the intercom. "Mrs. Anderson?" Amy said she was pretty sure God would just call her Amy, but still...

"Yes?"

"Do you think that church of yours would have any sandbags?"

Amy said she managed to answer, "I don't think so" and the principal thanked her and ended the conversation. But then she thought "We're In! We're on his speed-dial! If he'll ask for such an odd thing from a church, he must genuinely think we'd do anything to help."

He's right.

Hey friends - who are the people in your neighborhood? What are the points of entry into the networks of school, daycare, scouts, little league, soccer etc.? Where does the Red Cross set up at? What other organization really could use the church's help?

Take a look around. We'll pick up this thread later.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

We Pick it up tomorrow morning- Update - not yet

When you have a dog that's the size of a small horse, not just any vehicle will do. Once we made the decision to have Great Danes (Henley is our second) that meant we made other decisions too. Some of them are silly, like accepting leans and slobbers, or never being able to just come home without a celebration. But others made a bigger impact. We don't kennel dogs. We don't leave them with friends. They are family and we treat them that way.

So with Henley, and the Kia Sportage we have had, our vacations were limited by the question "who is staying with Henley?"

Not any more.

Now we can flip up the seats, throw in his dog bed and get the big boy in and down. The floors are even rubber so we can blow them out and not worry about slobbers. Just wipe them down. Very unique and very functional. We scored a lifetime warranty good all over the nation too, so I'm picking it up and expecting to still have it 15 years from now.

So expect to see the Wilson's on the move more often and packing Henley to boot!

* Update * Local Honda Dealer who had quoted us a price and interest rate changed that when we got 1.5 hours into picking up the vehicle. So thanks but no thanks, Gary Smith Honda. Next???

I'm about to go to the car dealership






pray for me.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Soles4Souls


Sunday, we challenged our folks to bring some gently worn shoes to worship with them and at the close of the gathering, to turn it into a worship service by leaving their shoes behind.










Some left in stocking feet.









Some prettied their feet up before hand.









But what everyone that participated in it did was to realize that we are blessed with more than most of the people in this world could even imagine. That we were blessed, not to hoard and to keep, but to give.

The gospel is not wrapped up in a package that says "Thank God Jesus died for me, so now I can live for myself." We are here to make a difference. To be a legion of people who are dangerous to the status quo. Who seek to do hard things in dark places so that the light of the love of Jesus Christ might penetrate the darkness and overcome it.

I have no idea who will one day wear the size 12 Converse Chuck Taylors that I gave. Sean said that he hoped the guy was already a nerd, because putting them on was guaranteed to make him one. My hope is that whoever it is will wonder what possessed someone to give them the shoes off their feet.

Not a what

but a Who

Jesus

Light


call•ing \kô'lĭng\ noun 1 : a strong inner impulse toward a particular course of action especially when accompanied by conviction of divine influence

“When God is stirring in my life, everything familiar gets uncomfortable”
-- Ron Sylvia, Starting High Definition Churches

Yes it does.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

New Hope @ Worship 24 August 2008

Well, the tropical storm missed us and we enjoyed an awesomely beautiful morning. Our Soles4Souls collection overflowed the collection box as we left our shoes as an offering for those in need. I never realized just how white some of our deacon's feet are. :) The sight of seeing Evelyn Brown, one of our most senior saints, walking out in her stocking feet, was awesome.

Several visitors, two people checked the box to join New Hope and two others to go through New Hope 101. It was a good morning. Emily Shermer sang an old song from the beginning of Contemporary Music, an old Imperials' song - "Praise the Lord" and it was an offering. Jamie Roberts played the offertory and it was too.

What touched me about today was that it was the whole church involved through the Soles4Souls. I love what the young people on the praise team do and they are giving their best to God through praise, but to have people in the congregation leave feeling that they played their part in God's Big Story - that's special.

The Music we used today.

All the Earth Will Sing Your Praises
Thank You Lord
The Heart of Worship
Your Name
Praise the Lord - solo
Come Just As You Are



We look at the Olympic athletes and see them as above us. No way we could ever do what they do. I think most of us look at Abraham the same way. And yet it is possible to have that mountaintop faith by beginning a relationship with Jesus and giving Him everything - going All In.

Many of us have been sold a bill of goods when it comes to the Christian faith. If we place nice, show up on time and try to live a good life, everything will be fine. Yet over and over again in the Scriptures we see the examples we are given to follow as living dangerous, risky lives of adventure. They lived as if they had nothing to lose. As if they knew... God.

Why can't we live like that? Because we hold back. We play safe. We never give God all we have to give.

Personally, at this point in my life that is exactly what I believe God is calling me to do. To follow Him no matter where he leads and to place on the altar whatever it is He asks for.

Maybe you hear the same call.

Audio is here

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Do our efforts make Christianity complicated?

Ever wonder what I was doing all those years in marketing and sales? Well it wasn't this.

video

I'm sitting here on Saturday night. My son is in his room surrounded by guitars and computers. My wife is in the living room watching TV. Our Great Dane sleeps on the floor beside me. And as I type this, I am trying to follow Jesus.

That's it. Pretty simple in some ways, incredibly challenging in others.

Over the last few years it's become increasingly apparent to me that I know plenty about Jesus. I've known of Him almost all my life, and have followed Him as His disciple for over half that life. At times, it seems as if I can hear Him call me to hurry up, and at others He whispers, "slow down."

In the Old Testament, God gave the people of Israel a list and instructed them to follow it. The people took that list and subdivided it, fractionated it and over time, strangled the life out of their relationship with God.

In the New Testament, God gave them (and us) His Son and we were instructed to come and follow Him. That's what I'm trying to do.

Now.

And a moment from now.

And after.

Friday, August 22, 2008

With Fay Just Miles Away



We'll see how the storm affects our internet service tomorrow. Many times it seems like the first drop of rain here causes the DSL to go haywire. With a foot of rain on the way, it may be a while before I get back.

So we'll read and pray our way to Sunday. Maybe I'll dig out that DVD of Singing in the Rain and play it tomorrow night at 8PM just to spite the weather. :)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Fay? Say it isn't so. Please?


I remember the scene from the Star Trek movie where William Shatner realizes that Ricardo Montalban has gained the advantage. "Kahhhhhhnnnnnn!" was his cry of anguish.

Well, "Fayyyyyyyy!" just doesn't express how this tropical depression... depresses me.


Maybe "Singing in the Rain" is just asking for it.

Maybe we should show "Lawrence of Arabia" or "Sahara" with Humphrey Bogart, or even "Dune" - anything that shows a desert instead of rain.

We'll be praying tonight that all the computer models are wrong and Fay decides to visit Bermuda.

It's Human Billboard Time!

It's one thing to get everything in place to do a service or outreach event. It seems to be quite another to get free publicity for it, at least in this area. Our local free paper, which received our press release two weeks ago for our "Movies in the Park" service outreach and our "Soles4Souls" challenge, did not run either today. Since the Wednesday edition of the twice weekly paper is the one thrown into every yard in the area free, and the Saturday edition is by subscription only, my guess is we'll get no help from them this time.

So that whole "salt and light" marketing model that Jesus popularized? It's in for this weekend's events as well. We might get some help from the FWB paper's "Things to do this weekend" section on Friday. But we need to become instant publicity sources for this weekend. New Hope folks, break out those email lists, post on your MySpace and Facebook, bug your friends - be the human billboards I know you can be.:)

Like this guy.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Wild Goose Chase by Mark Batterson

Click here to go to Amazon to purchase a copy.

There are very few books I can say that I will always have around somewhere in my library or where I know I can find it. Few books rise to that level for me. There are a lot of books that are helpful, some that are inspiring, and occasionally one comes across that is all three. Wild Goose Chase is all that.

Batterson takes the reader into a whirlwind of self examination from the point of view of a Christianity that is not safe, but to paraphrase C.S. Lewis - but it is good. He deconstructs what many people see Christianity is - a train station you wait at on your way to heaven - an exposes a risk filled, passion driven, raw and adventure filled life.

Other writers have gone there, Erwin McManus' "Chasing Daylight" for example. But while I found McManus' prose to be difficult at times, Batterson is accessible. This is not a book for pastors to hoard, but one that can plant Holy Spirit seeds of another way of living in hearts of any believer willing to read and listen.

Mark has also created a website Chasethegoose.com where visitors can learn more and get information on how to find a set of life goals that would honor God and give them the life worth living. Excerpts of the book are also available. Tell me what you like about the book and its message. I'll randomize the comments and award one of the commenters a copy of Wild Goose Chase.

Highly recommended for personal reflection, for small group use, or as the basis of a sermon series. "Wild Goose Chase" gets five cats. :)

Be Careful Out There

Right now my wife Bunny is in Macon, Georgia spending 24/7 in a chilly hospital room with her mother Dot. Her Mom seems to be rallying somewhat since Bunny got there, but the strain on Bunny is fierce. I've been praying for her almost every waking minute and plan on heading up there as soon as I can.

In a little while I'll have a conference call with my brother and an attorney concerning what we hope might be a settlement in the probate of my father's will that has gone on since September 2006. I'm praying that my brother and I would see as Jesus sees, and see in unity so we can put this behind us. We are united to see my father's wishes be done.

This afternoon I have another call with my mentor for the Rockbridge class on worship that concludes today. We'll go over the class, what I learned, and he'll suggest ways I can continue to grow in that vital area. I'm praying for wisdom and discernment for both of us.

Then Bunny and I are trying to purchase a new vehicle. It's been 7 years and we've had a good run with our Kia, but our requirements are for a vehicle we can get into an expect to drive anywhere at anytime, even carrying our Great Dane with us if it looks like we will be there a while. Paperwork is rushing at me, dealers are calling me, and I need to get it done and get up to Macon. So I'm praying.

Then there's the future. We are praying about what God would have us do for Him, and how we can get more "life" in our life together as a couple and as a family. Being so deeply invested in a dream called New Hope brings awesome rewards and requires serious sacrifices. What does God want us to do with the rest of our time in ministry and beyond? I know I feel the call to pastor, to write, and to teach. I know I am passionately in love with my wife and can't imagine spending my life with anyone else. I know I love my sons fiercely, and want to continue to be a part of their lives as they move deeper into adulthood. So I pray.

Did I mention this is my day off? LOL

"Safe? Who said anything about safe? 'Course He's not safe. But He's good. He's the King, I tell you."

Yes He is. And in Him I place my trust.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Got guts? Take a risk!

Began the morning with:

Hosanna
Arise
God With Us (Mercy Me)
Shield About Me

Then moved into the message. My sense is that New Hope needs to cut the anchor cables and get ready for an adventure with God. We have the "Movie in the Park" coming up Saturday, and a challenge called Shoes4Souls where the aim is to leave our shoes behind as an offering next Sunday at the close of worship. No time for timidity.



Audio is here

Thursday, August 14, 2008

That Old Hermenutical Magic Got Me In Its Spell

So we're in Bible study tonight and we're looking intently at the text of Genesis 4 - Cain and Abel. I try to get the folks headed down the road of examinations - their lives and the lives of the people in the text.

What is worship? What makes it real? How do you know whether you are doing it right?

We look at the offerings of Cain and Abel and see that God accepted Abel's and rejected Cain's which started the "this is NOT going to turn out well" clock a ticking.

What made one offering better than the other? The word used for each person's was exactly the same in Hebrew. One of the people in the class was fixated on this:

3 When it was time for the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the Lord.4 Abel also brought a gift—the best of the firstborn lambs from his flock.
Gen 4:3-4 (NLT)

He looked at "some of" versus "the best of the firstborn" and decided based on what the Bible says later on about "first fruits" Abel's met God's requirements, putting the "cart" in this case the Law, before the "horse" or the text in Genesis 4.



Problem - the first fruits do not make an appearance until the book of Numbers.

So Cain would have had no way to break a law that didn't exist yet. In this case then, functionally the offerings were equal and it was the heart of Cain that God rejected.

You would not believe how hard that concept was to get across. I felt at one point like I was in an old Matlock rerun trying to explain why the evidence he was presenting was inadmissible. "Your honor he could not have possibly teleported in to commit the crime because teleportation has not been invented yet."

"But I know I saw it on TV."

And then that exasperated, "But your honor..." Andy Griffith used to do so well.

We finally got there, but I lost 5 minutes in the process.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Going on a "Wild Goose Chase"

Just received two copies of Wild Goose Chase, the new book from Mark Batterson. After reading his first book "In A Pit With A Lion On A Snowy Day", I am sure that as that one was, "Wild Goose Chase" will be challenging. Mark has begun posting excerpts on his blog. I'm going to review the book in the next couple of days and will be giving away a copy of the book to a commenter on that review or other "Wild Goose" posts.

What is most lacking in the church of Jesus Christ is not education or resources. Keep learning, but we are educated way beyond the level of our obedience. And keep giving, but we do not lack the resources to alleviate poverty or fight injustice or spread the gospel. We are the most resourced church in the most resourced country the world has ever known. You what is most lacking? Good old-fashioned guts.

The will of God is not an insurance plan. It's a daring plan. And more often than not, the will of God will involve a decision that seems unsafe or insane. Dare I suggest that the twenty-first century church needs more daring people with daring plans?

In the words of a daring twentieth century missionary, C.T. Studd: "Some want to live within the sound of church or chapel bell; I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of hell."

The church needs more Studds! And you can quote me on that.


I'd buy the book just for this quote alone "we are educated way beyond the level of our obedience."

Amen!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Looking back, Looking Forward



It's been a week of milestones remembered for me. August 6th marked the day I asked the lovely Bunny Clinard to be my wife. It was a typical hot August day in GA and we were riding down the road in her 1973 Chevy Vega when I realized that my life would forever be incomplete without her. I literally was struck by the thought that I could not imagine living without her. So words came out of my mouth because of what was overflowing in my heart. And she said YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!






August 11th marked the entry into the world of our oldest son David Adam Wilson. Upon his arrival, a couple became a family and I gained a coveted title - daddy. He was a joy as a child, and is a blessing today. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way he became a Bulldog fan. We have an intervention scheduled for the Saturday after Thanksgiving at Grant field.



And then it was nine years ago that I accepted the call to be the pastor of New Hope Baptist in Valparaiso. Before my interaction with the search committee, I had no idea where Valparaiso was. After my interaction with them and their full disclosure of the church's situation, I was not sure I wanted to know any more. But we came down to meet with the committee, praying all the while, and after a few days we knew that this was the place God was calling us to minister in His name. I agreed to come here because of what my heart told me God wanted me to do. It was a clear calling.

I think a lot of people misunderstand what a calling is. All believers receive a calling to come and follow Jesus. Their journeys may vary widely, though. One might live out her calling while caring for people as a nurse. Another might work in a machine shop, or sell cars. The pastor receives a calling to serve God as a leader of His people in a way that is clearly different.

Within me beats a constant reminder that I will be giving an account one day for how I cared for God's treasure - His Church. An individual is responsible for their singular walk, but I carry responsibility for the flock God has entrusted me. I am, if I am following Jesus' example, to lay down my life for the sheep.

A career is something I choose for myself - a calling is something I receive from God.

A career is something I do for myself - A calling is something I do for God.

A career can promise money, status, or power - A calling frequently promises difficulty and even some suffering - but gives the opportunity to be used by God.

A career is about moving on up - A calling leads down "He must increase, I must decrease."

A career may end with retirement - A calling isn't over until the day you die.

A career's rewards may be significant but temporary - A calling's rewards last for eternity.

Pharaoh had a career. Moses, that bumbling, can't talk, who me guy - he had a calling.

A calling is about God using the inadequate to do the impossible.

There are times in the lives of most pastors that it gets difficult to go on. We are not immune from any of the normal rips and tears in the fabric of life. Add to that the "it's like herding cats" aspects of being a pastor, and the stress levels in the house can rise.

It is at those precise moments that God draws near and reminds me of His love overflowing to me. "You are my child. I have set you apart for My purposes." That is a calling, friends. Without it, this would just be another social work job.

With it, I am God's instrument.



I have a calling.

New Hope @ Worship 10 August 2008

Well, after being gone last Sunday I was looking forward to worship this week. When we're gone, three (okay two real ones if you subtract me) are out of the mix and it limits what we can do. So I was excited to be able to do these.

O Worship the King - awesome, awesome song to open worship with
How Can I Keep From Singing - again, just great
True Worship Song - I like it, but I wish I had chosen another - too big a drop off
Shout to the Lord - a golden oldie

And then for commitment, in my never ending search for something different but meaningful, Bunny suggested -

Nothing But the Blood, Matt Redman version

As for the message: As lead pastor, I'm not the only source of vision in our church, but I am the guy who has to constantly align our practices with our values. We had a Sunday while I was gone where it seemed the focus shifted back inside to us and from the people who are "not here yet." That cannot be. The church as institution has failed. It's a dead horse. The church as movement is where we have to be. God leads us ever out to engage the culture through relationships. He wants to use us in His Big Story of reconciling the world to Himself through Jesus - but we cannot let ourselves get sucked into believing it is about us.

It is about Him.

So if you listen to the sermon, you'll have the context - a serious effort to make sure we stay true to our mission of reaching people far from Jesus, and to get people to remember Who we are partnering with.


Friday, August 08, 2008

He Doesn't Do Those Kind of Meetings


“…God doesn’t do consulting. Never has, never will.

He does God.

When we treat Him as a consultant, He simply stops showing up at the meetings.

We may think He’s there. But He’s not. And it gets worse.

God not only stops showing up to the meetings, He also pulls back some of the light He’s already given us.” Larry Osborne

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Using Secular Music In Worship

"The fact is that secular music speaks to people--seekers, unchurched, and churched alike ... because many secular songs articulate universal human needs. The reason so many songs are written about love is because it's a universal desire, and one that the Bible affirms when it tells us that God's very nature is love. A secular song in church is so attractive, then, because every attendee is likely to be familiar with it and comfortable listening to its truth ... Most people expect a teacher to use non-biblical stories to illustrate a biblical truth ... At Saddleback [we use] secular songs as illustrations pointing people to biblical truth."

-Rick Muchow

So how would that work? I did a set of worship plans recently for a Rockbridge class and here is how I could see us using secular music to illustrate biblical truth and help get the people attuned to where we are headed in a thematic way.

Here's a worship plan I wrote recently for a class at Rockbridge Seminary.

Today's service will focus our attention on the power of Almighty God to heal our hurts through the power of Christ.

How Long (U2) - Praise Band and team

During the time the congregation is filing in and preparing for worship, we'll set the tone for the service as well as connect the biblical theme to the culture by doing these warm-up songs.

Psalm 12 - Lay Reader

The idea again is to begin building the atmosphere for examination and reflection on today's theme.

Prayer - Associate Pastor

Blessed Be the Name - Congregation and praise team

Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone) – Congregation and team

Distribution of pottery shards to each attender. Sharpies are in each chair back. As the video of "Everybody Hurts" runs, we ask each member to write a hurt that they have had in their life on the shard of pottery.

Everybody Hurts (REM) - video (run until 4:52)

Message for today – iHurt – Hebrews 2

Call for response – congregation asked to come forward and bring their shard of pottery as they come. They exchange the shard for the unleavened bread and juice.

Potter's Hand - Praise Band

The artists take the shards and start placing them within a frame prepared for the purpose. Once everyone has come forward and returned to their seats after having taken communion, the arts pastor lifts the completed mosaic of a cross to show the congregation what God can do with their hurts.

Prayer of Thanksgiving by the pastor.

Offering and Announcements

I'm Trading My Sorrows – Congregation and Praise team (closing and dismissal)

Through the Eyes of A Guest - from "Behind the Leaf"






Michael has written an excellent post that can help any church evaluate first impressions. Normally you are supposed to just quote these, but I'm posting it all. His insight on how to reach the unchurched and the nuts and bolts of a modern church plant are a very valuable source of help. Bookmark it or even better, put it in your RSS reader. Behind the Leaf

Thanks so much Michael.

When a guest comes to your church, there are lots of areas that we have to make an impression. Most of us spend a lot of time evaluating our message and the music, but there are so many ways to connect with guests. All these things happen before the first song is sung or before they hear a word of the sermon.

  • They receive an invitation. Is it a personal invite? Do your printed materials reflect your personality? Are they interesting? Is the person inviting excited?
  • They drive to the building. Are there clear signs? Do they know where park? Do they feel welcome as they drive on the property?
  • They walk to the front door? Do they see the clear entrance or are there two of them?
  • They walk through the front door? Are they greeted? Is the greeter too excited? Not excited enough?
  • They check in their kids? Was the process smooth and clear? Do they know what will happen in the event they are needed? Do they know where and how to pick up their kids? Are they confident in your kids ministry?
  • They meet people? Are they getting a cup of coffee? Are people talking to them? Not just the staff or the volunteers, but the other people there? Do your people know how be friendly?
  • They enter the worship center? Do they get a handout? Does it have too much info? Too little? Are you asking for birthdays and address info when you don’t really need it? Is the room too dark? Can they find a seat?


Any other ideas or insight you guys might have?

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Catching Up


Just got back home from Savannah. Remember when you were a little kid and your parents took you on vacation? You got home and you were raring to go and couldn't understand why your mom and dad looked like zombies. Well, I know why.

This was on my doorstep when I arrived, so I did experience some little kid glee. All my begging has apparently paid off and Laura at Tyndale House has graced me with a copy of the brand new NLT Study Bible. I'll be diving in tomorrow for sure.

Lots of mail, including a newsletter from the city that rivals anything I have ever read in terms of prophesying doom and destruction. A real old testament beat down of the Air Force and a forecast of a bleak picture ahead for Valparaiso as a result of the F-35 training wing coming here. The headline - "Valparaiso - Paradise No More"

Wow.

Interesting Sunday at New Hope apparently as well as a pronouncement of death for one of our A/C units that cool the fellowship hall.

So I'm home, and I think I'll pray.