Tuesday, June 28, 2011

No Sale Evangelism - Jim Drake's On the Right Track

Great article by Jim Drake.

A sample:
For follow up this year, we have ADOPTED the kids that came to camp. We are bridging and building relationships with them through cards, birthday’s, events and an introduction to care. We have signed up for one little girl who has expressed a desire to know Christ, but there will be some obstacles (no church relationships here, etc)
Do we give up? No way! We have to be creative how to make a relationship with someone who needs the savior and needs to know love. You think my eyes will be attentive toward the paper now when I see awards and programs? You bet–I have a name on my heart to pray for and to ask the Holy Spirit to give divine interaction. That’s thinking RELATIONSHIP before the sale!
Read it all folks. It's really good.

It's time to admit we can't save anyone and let the Holy Spirit do what only He can do, while we love every single person we come in contact with like they were Jesus.  

Stop Funding Church Plants? David Fitch Stirs the Pot

I have friends who have invested their lives into bringing Jesus' message to people who don't know what it means to be part of a community of people who are loving God and each other and caring for their neighbors - in other words, a church. These friends are real heroes to me. They are church planters. (I'm looking at you Tim Fowler and Joe Gnatek) Bunny and I were involved in a church splant early in our ministry with a group of people called Grace Baptist Church in Juliette Georgia. It was the best of times and the worst of times, but those people were awesome and things happened among us that still give me goosebumps.

So when I share this article from David Fitch, I am not anti-planting. Planting works... when it works. Tim and Joe have proven that as have many others.

But I do think that we need to step back and look at what we are doing and what the real costs and benefits are. Here at New Hope, we run the leanest we can, and will get leaner still when I am teaching. I think we'll do more ministry then, meeting more people and being able to help more. I like the idea he puts forth of teams of people rather than one family, and I like the idea of people working in the community alongside the folks they would do life with in a church.

So I guess I would give Fitch more a listen than most. Click over and check the article out.

STOP FUNDING CHURCH PLANTS and Start Funding Missionaries: A Plea to Denominations

Ed Stetzer On Small Churches

Ed Stetzer writes in Outreach Magazine:
Church leaders in America also tend to think big is good and bigger is better, but Jesus says that small is reflective of the kingdom of God. It starts as something small, but it will not stay small and, ultimately, it will change everything. A revolutionary movement begins with only a handful of subversives, but eventually expands so widely that it can overthrow a king with an army. The subversive kingdom starts small, but ultimately overwhelms the Devil and his minions when Jesus returns as reigning King, replacing the deepest darkness with brilliant light.

Jesus is unembarrassed, unashamed and unperturbed by describing the Kingdom using small things. That is His point. He says the mustard seed "is the smallest of all the seeds." He is emphasizing the smallness of the kingdom of God. But more to the point, He is describing how small can be subversive.
from this excellent article

At New Hope Valparaiso, we're small. But the impact that we are having in our community would have you think we are bigger than we are. There's no way we should be here. No way we should do what we do. Except God is in it. I could tell you story after story of how He's led, He's provided, He's opened doors for us to be His hands and His feet.

Don't misunderstand. We want to grow. We work hard to let people know and encourage them to come and join us on the journey. We hope to see this mission spread to other people captivated by Jesus' call to follow.

But we're not measuring ourselves against other churches. We're only looking to see how faithful we are to the call. If you are interested in joining a group of people who see God at work every week, come and see us. We'll make room. :)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Eating for Missions :)

A local restaurant, Cafe Bienville gives its patrons churches a rebate of a percentage of the meal's cost when the customer brings in the Sunday worship bulletin. We love the restaurant anyway so when a bunch of folks from New Hope went there after church a couple weeks ago, it wasn't like we were sacrificing. Baptists like to eat. It's one of our spiritual distinctives.

I actually forgot about our trip until the check came in. Lo and behold it was enough to pay for the food I bought to feed our folks and do 50 take out meals to deliver to the community. So that's what we did. Cafe Bienville fed a bunch more people than they knew they had.

I love that! Local folks help a local business, get blessed by their hospitality and food, and then that local business helps those folks - bless folks with the food they need to make it. May God bless the generous folks at Cafe Bienville.

God's work through New Hope - come join it!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Friday Night Thoughts

This quote got me thinking...

"I don’t know why life isn’t constructed to be seamless and safe, why we make such glaring mistakes, things fall so short of our expectations, and our hearts get broken and out kids do scary things and our parents get old and don’t always remember to put pants on before they go out for a stroll. I don’t know why it’s not more like it is in the movies, why things don’t come out neatly and lessons can’t be learned when you’re in the mood for learning them, why love and grace often come in such motley packaging."
— Anne Lamott (Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith)

Our friend Allan had a birthday this week. His 29th. 

And in a luminous pair of nights, his friends at New Hope made sure he'll never forget that he's loved. First, on his birthday Tuesday, Pam and JC Roberts made some of Allan's birthday wishes come true by taking him out to dinner at Ruby Tuesday's, and then they all went to the rack and rode the Karts. Allan had a blast as did everyone involved.

Then the next night as part of our Wednesday fellowship meal, we had a cake with 29 candles and some gifts.
Yep, I did place those candles too close together. :)

The world would see Allan as "motley packaging" in that he's developmentally disabled. And yet...not only does Allan frequently provide those moments of joy and laughter, but in loving him we learn more about what love really is. New Hope loves Allan deeply.

And that same world might look at New Hope and see a smaller church with less. But on days like today, when I'm looking back and seeing how large the hearts are of many of the people in this church... 

Sometimes God wraps His best gifts in "motley packaging."

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

If you are looking for his monument...

Sunday's message as we walked through Paul's second letter to the church at Corinth, centered on just what God would have us understand "success" to be. As always, the one who delivers the message never really knows what the ultimate effect of it will be. I can hope that it will affect someone's heart and direct them to a closer walk with God. But I really won't know. I'm just a tradesman, an architect using God's blueprints to help people build lives that will stand the test of time.

The picture above is of St Paul's Cathedral in London. It was taken during the Nazi "blitz" bombings of that great city. I do not overstate when I state that picture above had a galvanizing effect on the English people and their friends around the world during a very dark and bleak time in history. Through the gloom, through the dust and terror of bombs falling - St Paul's stood - as did England. It still stands firm today, in  its 200th anniversary year.

The architect of that magnificent structure was Christopher Wren. 

Wren received the last contractor's payment in 1711, on Christmas Day.

Years later, he was buried in the cathedral, not in one of the ornate areas, but in a plain grave. On it is inscribed in Latin, this phrase: "If you seek his monument, look around you."

It's fitting for that to be written on Wren's grave, in St. Paul's. For in last Sunday's text, we read much the same sentiment. Just as Wren's grave encourages people to look around them to see what his life was about, Paul suggested anyone who wanted to know about his life's work to look at the people he had ministered to.

You yourselves are all the endorsement we need. Your very lives are a letter that anyone can read by just looking at you. Christ himself wrote it— not with ink, but with God's living Spirit; not chiseled into stone, but carved into human lives— and we publish it. 2 Corinthians 3: 2-3

We who "publish" know in our hearts that we cannot change anyone.

Still, we "architects" rejoice when we see what God has done in people's lives around us, and yes, it hurts when people we've poured our lives into seem to falter or walk away from God's plan. The prayer of every pastor I know is that when our work is done, God will be able to direct us to "look around you" and we will see how what we did mattered.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Going To the Source

From A Glimpse of New Hope!

Most of you know by now that I'm back in school working on getting my Florida teaching credentials. Yes, I'm still a pastor and will remain one, but to help New Hope reach more people with the love of Christ, to be more effective myself as a missionary, and to better provide for my family, I believe God has led me down this road. Email me and I'll tell you more of the story.

Anyway, I enrolled in what I'd call "teacher Ranger school." I'd say "boot camp", but it's way beyond that, squeezing two years of education courses into SIX MONTHS. It's intense. Parts of it have been the hardest work I've done in a class anywhere, including Mercer University, New Orleans Baptist Seminary, and Rockbridge Seminary. Yes, I've been in school a lot. Send money and I'll keep the dream alive. :)

So it's the final term, and I'm struggling with probably the key to teaching - classroom management. When you read that, depending on your age, you think "paddle" or "detention", or some combination. That's not it at all, in fact that's what happens when your classroom management plan fails. A well executed plan has the students prepped, ready, and able to learn with minimal input from the teacher. In my student teaching, at first I had problems but improved dramatically every day (according to my mentor) by using better strategies and setting a better tone for the classroom from the moment the first child showed up.

Still, in this Classroom Management class - I was struggling.

So I'm reading the textbook, which is an awesome guide loved by teachers all over the world. It's written by a man named Harry Wong. He is the guru of classroom management. No one is more respected or listened to. No one.

An idea popped into my head. "Ask Harry."

After checking to make sure no one else was in the room, and it was just my normal voices inside my head, I wrote an email to Harry. I explained who I was, what I was trying to do, and asked his advice.

Even though he was on the other side of the world in China - he answered, and what he said really help me grasp the concepts.

My pastor hat on now, I could make the comparison to what the Source of all knowledge and wisdom told everyone who follows Christ to do.

God will give us wisdom if we ask for it (James 1:5) If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.

So friends, next time you need advice, remember that God wants to help you Himself. Go to the Source.

Monday, June 20, 2011


"It's funny: I always imagined when I was a kid that adults had some kind of inner toolbox full of shiny tools: the saw of discernment, the hammer of wisdom, the sandpaper of patience. But then when I grew up I found that life handed you these rusty bent old tools - friendships, prayer, conscience, honesty - and said 'do the best you can with these, they will have to do'. And mostly, against all odds, they do. "
— Anne Lamott (Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith)

Mostly, they do. But sometimes they don't.

Hard weekend.

Tough trip to Macon to see Curtis Clinard, one of the finest Christian men I have ever known. Not a perfect man, there was only one of those and we nailed him to a cross. But a forgiven man, who in response to that great act of God's grace, has tried for nigh onto 84 years to live it out. And yes, he's old now, but he wasn't that old when we saw him last. It's as if age all of a sudden caught up. 

And it broke my beloved's heart and it broke mine. 

He's in the house that was made a home by the presence of his bride, Dot. It's obvious from the moment you enter it now that she's not there. And Curtis can only live with her memory, and that's both comfort and pain. Bunny showed him some pictures of family on her laptop Friday night and he was interested and engaged. But when one of his beloved Dot came on the screen, his eyes instantly filled with tears and this man who had a will of steel for so many years, began to sob. 

We'd give everything we have to make it right for him. We'd take him in down here and honor him for the rest of our lives with whatever he needed because in doing it, we could partially return what he so freely shared with us. 

And he won't leave his memories. So we came home. Shaken.

It was a tough trip.

We left him wanting us to stay longer to come back to the place we left Macon almost twelve years ago for and the church we love and serve. Had a tough night sleep from the emotional toil and physical problems brought on by it. Then got up and went to church to be among friends - to be with family. 

But it was a tough day there too. A lot of the family was missing.

So I'm writing this to close the book on the week that was, and praying that God will lead Bunny and me into the week He has prepared for us. I'm praying it's filled with joy. We could use some joy right about now.

"...most of the time, all you have is the moment, and the imperfect love of the people around you."
— Anne Lamott (Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith)

Saturday, June 11, 2011

There's Something Special About Boys Being Boys

Last night I watched a man teach boys how to open and close a pocket knife, sharpen an axe, tie a boat to a dock, make a rope longer by joining two together, and how to handle a bb gun (any firearm really, but in this case Red Ryders) safely.

I saw boys in serious competition with each other tossing rope quoits, and racing wooden turtles on strings. It was as hotly contested as anything the Mavs and Heat are doing lately. (Even more if you are LeBron in the 4th qtr)

It was horribly politically incorrect and part of EXACTLY what boys need to experience as they grow up to be men. Two men who are spending their lives pouring experiences and love into neighborhood boys around New Hope (Joe Stoy and John Anderson)were in their element last night as the RA (Royal Ambassadors) had a lock-in.

Mixed in with the dangerous boy stuff was even more dangerous (if you are rigidly secular) instruction. Joe Stoy told the boys they were here on earth for a purpose, and that purpose could only be found through a relationship with Jesus Christ. He related how 41 years ago, God showed him that his purpose would be to work with boys and teach them to become men. Joe has lived that out ever since. John has worked with boys for years now too, and has raised a fine one in his son Ian.

Seeing those boys last night as they worked hard to learn, helped each other when one struggled with something - and were 100% BOYS!!!!! made me smile - a LOT!

But seeing Joe and John made me thank God for them, for their hearts for Jesus and for those boys...

and for a place called New Hope where boys can grow up to be boys.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

My Next Book To Read

One of the things I have loved about my dive into elementary education has been the rediscovery of children's books. I LOVE THEM! Since it's been a while since Sean was listening to me or Bunny read to him, and since no other munchkins are around us much, I haven't had a chance to read anything other than adult materials. But now that I'm back into the lives of children, I get to read some awesome books. I think "What Are You So Grumpy About?" by Tom Lichtenheld will prove to be one of them

Well, this one may be helpful not just for the child, but for the adult who reads it to them.

And particularly for crabby folks like me. 

The author writes: "Every day can be a good day if you know what you are grumpy about." Know your problem. That seems to be wise counsel. Then the appendix lists "Sure cures for grumpiness." $11.19 sure seems cheaper than anger management therapy. :) Just looking at the illustrations makes me smile. For teachers, there is a pdf available with ideas for using the book in the classroom that got me excited just thinking about the kid's reactions. The author believes that telling a good story with a moral lesson woven in it is the key to reaching kids. 

“… any ‘moral’ in my books is the by-product of an interesting story. My goal is to do books that kids are naturally attracted to, because kids can sniff-out a lecture a mile away and it sends them running. So, I try not to do books that are blatantly message-driven.” 

For children of all ages (including crabby pastors), this book seems like a winner. 

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Forgiveness - video I wanted to play this morning

It's hard. Hard to forgive people who hurt you, who hurt your family, your loved ones, your church family. But as Ann Lamott so aptly put it, NOT forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rats to die.

If there is no hope of forgiveness for the worst of sinners, then there is no hope for any of us.

Jesus makes it plain. "I am warning you! If another believer sins, rebuke him; then if he repents, forgive him. 4 Even if he wrongs you seven times a day and each time turns again and asks forgiveness, forgive him."
Luke 17:3-4 (NLT)

From Christ - To Us - To others.

Since we have been forgiven so much, we should be outrageous in our desire to forgive. People should walk away shaking their heads and muttering about how foolish we are to believe that God can change people. Friends, each time we let go of our bitterness and anger in favor of sharing the mercy and grace of  Jesus, we find ourselves a little more like Jesus when all is said and done.

And that's what we live for, to be more like Christ. Isn't it?

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Going and Growing

From It's Like Herding Cats

We've been here at New Hope almost 12 years now, and have (I hope) learned a lot about how to live in community. Most of the years have been good ones in terms of seeing the people and the church grow. But the perfect storm hit last year and it really kind of knocked us all for a loop. Military, contractor, and other moves caused us to lose as many people in one year as we had in all the other years combined. Believe me there has been a tremendous amount of soul searching over this unwelcome development.

And yet, I'm beginning to think God is up to something pretty special.

We've been working with other churches to deliver meals on Saturday and then expanded that to do it again ourselves on Wednesday. We've met a lot of people we never would have, and made some inroads. Last Saturday, we showed a free movie with all the movie fixings free too - hot dogs, popcorn, etc. One elderly couple in Valparaiso we deliver to both times walked six tenths of a mile to come. I was outside and saw them - he with his cane, and her with the bright colored flyer in her hand - coming up the street. We welcomed them in with cold bottles of water and made sure they were cared for. Sitting near them was Danielle Chandler and her dad John.

Well we finished the movie and I asked the woman how she liked it. In her limited English she said "We loved it!" We gave them a ride home. As they left the van she said "see you Wednesday."

Monday night I got a call from Bunny just as I dropped Allan off at his house after supper. "Can you meet Danielle Chandler over on Okaloosa? She's trying to deliver some food to the couple who came to the movie and can't find their house."

I did, and walked up to the door with Danielle as she dropped off some Memorial Day burgers. Folks, I've knocked on doors in this neighborhood and people don't greet you like we're greeted now. :)

Seeing Danielle's heart seem to swell as she gave them the food made me smile.

I'll bet God smiled too.