Friday, October 31, 2008

Amens all around

"The happy result of a theological understanding of people as sinners is that the pastor is saved from continual surprise that they are in fact sinners. It enables us to heed Bonhoeffer's admonition: 'A pastor should not complain about his congregation, certainly never to other people, but also not to God. A congregation has not been entrusted to him in order that he should become its accuser before God and men.'"
- Eugene Peterson, The Contemplative Pastor (via Bob Hyatt and shamelessly posted here)

It's like... herding cats. :)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Okay Forget the Kazoo Band, Let's Go Organic


On a night where I was teaching out of Ephesians 2 - "He is our peace", He has made peace", I found myself drawn into a conversation about how far any teacher at church should go in the direction away from the principles applied from Scripture and to or from a particular candidate.

Somewhere in the gathering darkness, I heard "divide and conquer" hissed.

Friends, we can seek God's will and act on it as we understand it when it comes to who to vote for, and for a believer that is the centering point.

And we can differ on what we understand that will to be.

Here's the one thing we must agree on.

That we love one another.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Smaller church, buildings too small, mortgaged and located in an area with high insurance rates, high cost of living.


I hates it.

We're a church that does more with less than any church I have ever known. We don't waste anything, aren't extravagant - just the opposite. But rare is the month that I don't have the admin guy drop a printout on my desk with accompanying verbiage about reserve funds being dry, people not understanding, how are we going to make it, etc.

While I know overhead is a fact of life, I also know that people give to vision, not to Gulf Power. For example, we decided to do a movie outreach for Halloween, and do it outside. Within a week a group of our folks had purchased a portable projector off ebay so we would have everything we needed.

So forgive me for griping, but I'm reminding myself again - it isn't about buildings.

It's about Jesus.

I'm tempted to celebrate the fact that since our reserve is gone, we're ALL IN and have to really trust God to provide for everything.

What a concept.

Yeah I know, I'm a silly visionary. But I seem to recall someone saying that "God's work, done God's way, will never want for God's supply."

So just maybe it's about the work we do for Him and not where we do it.


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

There are cats and there are cats

Just saying that sometimes life comes at the pastor and his family at high speed.

Right now we're waiting for word from Macon about Bunny's mom who had to be admitted again to the hospital through the ER today. Our niece Abby continues her courageous fight against cancer as she begins another round of chemo soon. The probate case concerning my father's will hasn't finished. I'm in my final term at Rockbridge Seminary and gathering materials to make my case for a diploma in February. Bunny's struggling with some physical issues.

That overlays all the "normal" ebbs and flows of a "typical" week in the smaller church. We have worship practice, bible study and prayer tomorrow night. One of our deacons is in the hospital. Friday night we'll host the neighborhood for a movie and treats. Then Sunday is Sunday and requires preparation and time to reflect on what God is saying.

So when you think about those cats I'm herding, don't think tabby or persian. Just remember the picture above. :)

Lord Have Mercy

"Nearly half of all African American pregnancies end in abortion."

The report from the Guttmacher Institute is exhaustive. And there is some encouraging news overall, as abortions have hit a 30 year low.

But I could not get over that quote above.

Do we really want to elect someone who will remove all restrictions to abortion?

The report seems to indicate that we're on the right track. We ARE reducing abortions. Signing the Freedom of Choice Act, as Obama has pledged to do on his first day in office will not reduce the deaths of innocents - just the opposite.

As a side note - LBJ's "War On Poverty" - was a well intentioned attempt to help the poor. What it has done is capture them in a cycle of dependence on government, separate fathers from wives, and cast young mothers into peril.

And the "collateral damage" was devastating to millions of the unborn, and continues to this day.

Lord have mercy on us. Christ lead us in Your way and away from the world's solutions. Church stand up and live out your calling to be lovers of the needy.

If I didn't have the hope through Jesus Christ that He will right these wrongs...

What can the predominately anglo churches do to help our brothers and sisters reverse these great iniquities within their communities?

Right now, the most impactful thing you can do is vote against Obama.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Google Apps for Education Comes To Rockbridge

Just received an email from Brian at Rockbridge saying that along with the rollout of student emails (still not the coveted "edu" unfortunately) we are in the process also going to receive the full "Google Apps for Education" suite.

From what I can tell, on my side, there's nothing there I don't already use. I was just having a discussion inside my head today about getting a netbook instead of a laptop next time. Since I'm connected almost all the time to the web, why not just work with Google, Google Apps, and online storage sites instead of toting the load on a hard drive? Less aggravation, less cost. Just makes sense. But I'm still ahead of the seminary I guess.

But it is great to be a participant in education with a seminary that is technology forward in their approach. I can remember vividly a discussion I had with an NOBTS prof years ago when I suggested instead of faxing him a paper I could just email a pdf. He literally had no idea what a pdf was. Now they've come a long way since that event, but they still are mired in bricks and mortar.

Now if Rockbridge will just fix the mess that is the Capstone.

Great Book I Am Reading

"Lee - The Last Years" written by Charles Bracelen Flood deals with the years defeated Confederate General Robert E. Lee lived post Civil War.

What makes it special are the glimpses into the personal thoughts and life of Lee, a very private man. This warrior beloved by his fellows and respected by his foes morphed into a man of peace who as much as anyone alive at the time sowed reconciliation among his beloved South.

The times they were a changin' when I went through school in Macon Georgia. Very rapidly the advance of civil rights put paid to some of the promises the civil war made to people of color. But with those advances, some of the lessons from that war were lost. One of those lessons was how to lose with grace, dignity, and integrity.

Lee exemplified the good Christian man for generations of young men of the South. His humility was the stuff of legend, and this book gave me even more examples of how this man tried to live out his faith.

I was surprised to learn just how innovative he was as the president of what was then Washington College (obviously now Washington and Lee University). He was an early proponent of the elective system, and an enthusiastic supporter of students learning Spanish and studying the countries of Latin America.

By no means is the book void of areas where Lee fell short. His relationship with his daughters and the effect his possessiveness had on their lives is explored.

Still, reading the book gives you again an understanding of why his men would put their lives on the line for him again and again and again.

What Is the Key To Surviving As A Pastor?

Matt Chandler
speaks truth when he points to Jesus.

"If your hope is set on anything other than Him, how do you survive when it goes bad? How do you remain passionate and vibrant when no one comes or the baptismal waters are still for long stretches?

How do you maintain doctrinal integrity or teach hard things if He isn’t the treasure?

How do you worship when your wife gets sick or your son goes for a ride in an ambulance?

If He is the goal, the treasure, the pursuit, then those things are fuel that presses you into His goodness and grace all that much more. I am not saying they are pleasant or enjoyable but only that if He is your goal you will find your faith sustained.

May God bless you and keep you. May you see that He is the treasure, He is the pursuit, He is the goal…and may you press on toward the goal for the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."

That's it. The key is Jesus. The praise of men is fleeting at best. Measuring your worth by nickles and noses will fail you. Checking to see what the "brights" of pastoral ministry do as a way of discerning your abilities is a losing game.

There are days where you come home on Sunday barely touching the ground. And there are days when you don't feel the need to open the door - you could just slither under it.

It has to be Jesus.

He is the goal. His approval is what we seek. His grace is what we live through.

Thanks Matt,for reminding all of us who are privileged to serve Jesus through His Church what we should be looking to.

I Voted

I voted today. It's at times like that I remember just how special this grand experiment in democracy really is. People of all ages, all races, civilian and military alike lined up and worked through the process to make their voice heard in our political process. No one pressured anyone. There wasn't a hint of scandal. The poll workers were efficient and friendly. The room broke into applause when a first time voter signed in. It was grand. It was glorious.

It was America.

Yes, I know it is fashionable to push away from any hint of pride in the place of one's birth. And for some that is couched in Christian piety. The feeling I get is that we aren't supposed to care about what happens in elections because our allegiance ultimately is to God. Funny, Jesus had no problem figuring out the duties of a citizen. All that "render unto Caesar..." stuff didn't seem that complicated.

So sorry. I love America. Days like today thrill me.

For me, it is an immeasurable blessing that God placed us here at this time in history among these people. I live and work alongside those who have placed their lives on the line again and again so that my family might stroll up to the voting booth and drive away with a smile. Some who lived here have given that "last full measure of devotion."

I may disagree with the way you vote (or have voted if you are an early bird too), but I hope we can agree that though flawed, God has shed His grace on our America.

Pray that God's will is done.

Pray that we're willing to do it as much as it is up to us.

May God Bless America again.

For All the Other Black Thumbed People Out There

Well technology may save a few more plants from hitting the trash bin. And speaking as a charter member of the "Black Thumbed Club" (a title given to all of us who kill more plants than most) this tech toy couldn't come too soon.

See the excellent Engadget site for more.

Jonny Lang's Gear

I found this new website called Guitar Geek. How cool is this?

And what does the man do with all those tools?

New Hope @ Worship 26 Oct 2008


Our God Saves rocks! Picture if you can, Baptists worshiping in the Spirit. Yep. The song went so well in the first time we had ever done it that we repeated it again.

Our God Saves
All the Earth Will Sing Your Praises
How Can I Keep From Singing
Our God Saves
Just As I Am

Just great!

So then I get up and launch into a doctrinal sermon. Seriously. Yesterday's message was on the Trinity or as I called it "Tri-Unity". This is part of a desire to help our folks become "rooted and established in love." Thing is, people hear the word doctrine and they freak. Yet the Trinity provides so much for us as an example of how God-centered relationships ought to function. I tried to mix the straight doctrinal with the practical working out of how what we observed within the Trinity would help us in the everyday.

I actually added three slides to what you see here to address the errors of Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses and Oneness Pentecostals. When I got to the church I felt that the sermon needed that reinforcement.

We had one person commit their life to Christ and present as a candidate for baptism.


Our God Saves!

How Would Jesus Vote?

I finished the book this afternoon, and come here to recommend it to anyone who would like a cogent and well written guide to the issues that American Christians are grappling with today. Like all of Dr Kennedy's books that I have read over the years, it is very well researched, and laid out in a manageable and accessible style.

The book is divided into three parts:

Part one - Jesus and Politics
Part two - The Issues
Part three - Final Thoughts

In part one, the author makes the case of Christian social engagement in the public square, hearkening back to NT days and racing forward to the present day.

Part two presents a list of the hot button issues of our day along with a reasoned and thoughtful understanding of what the Bible says and how that should be reflected in our everyday lives, not just at the ballot box.

Part three sums it all up with again a look back and a look ahead.

As a pastor, the book caused me to want to be far more effective in helping people live within a biblical worldview. It spurred me to present some upcoming messages on Christian social responsibility.

I'd recommend it to anyone who is seeking to understand a Christian's duty as a citizen.

Sunday, October 26, 2008


The question before each of us is not “Can someone lead a good life without Christianity?” The question is, “Can I?” C.S. Lewis

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Cue the Wayback Machine! "When One Person Cares"

I just heard from the best math teacher I ever had, Hazel Struby. She was googling and found a devotional I wrote. In her honor, I'll copy and paste another.

When One Person Cares

All the pieces for a disastrous fourth grade experience were there for me.

My appearance - only a Mother could love (since she pretty much decided how I'd look) that geeky boy with glasses, wierd wavy hair and hand me down clothes.

My point of origin - we were new in the community, just having moved out from the city into a rural area.

My timing - it's better to be new when everyone else is too. We didn't move until a month into the 4th grade. So everyone had picked their friends and the new had worn off everyone - except me.

My personality - didn't have one. I did though have horrible allergies that would cause me to break out into hives that made my skin look like a 3-D map of the world, swell my lip up until it turned inside out, and cause my eyes to close.

So if you were looking for someone to pick on, I was your huckleberry.

All those factors were crushed by one person's care. My home room teacher, Mrs. Pyles cared about me.

Somehow, without ever raising her voice, or making me a teacher's pet, she helped me find a place there, helped me when my allergies took hold, just helped me. She was only one person. But she was more than enough.

Later, much later, I was stuck in a dead end job, having thrown away my chance to get a college degree. I had bills, a young family, and a crushing need to do better. But it had been so long since I was in high school, I knew there was no way I could pass Math.

That was before I met Hazel Struby. She was a math teacher who would not allow me to fail. Shoot - she wouldn't allow me to make a B.

On the eve of back to school frenzy across the street at Valparaiso Elementary tomorrow, I think about those teachers God placed in my life at just the right time and just the right place to do for me what no one else could have done.

Friend, you'll never convince me God doesn't care.

Thing is, He works best through people.

You might be the one He's chosen for someone.

Or someone you know might have been placed within your circle of people just for you.

I'll never be able to repay everyone who has helped me.

But I know Who to thank. When I look back, I feel like this:

2 Samuel 22:24 (Msg)
I feel put back together,
and I'm watching my step.
God rewrote the text of my life
when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes.

Do this for me today - open the book of your heart to God's eyes. Maybe there's a secret hurt, an unfulfilled longing that you've suffered for too long. If you give it to your loving Father, He'll take the fragments of your life story and rewrite it into His masterpiece.

When one person cares, it makes a difference. When that person is God, He makes all the difference - forever.



Friday, October 24, 2008

Dogs Rule!

That dog always makes me sad. He's chained up in a back yard and no one ever comes to play with him. But despite that, several times he's showed the other animals just what being a dog means.

This time, he saved the life of the zeeba.

Dogs Rule!

Wow... what an ad

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Too Big To Wrap Your Brain Around

I've spent a few hours over the last couple of weeks reading and thinking about the Trinity. Beginning with the Scriptures, I've traced the concept through to the end of the Bible. Then I picked it up in the history of the early church and finally read the creeds and commentaries down through the ages to the present day.

As I write this, I am fully prepared to inform people about the Trinity from Scripture, and I can educate them as to what the relationship between God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit means for us.

But I can't explain it. I can't give the "why's" their due, or even go very far down the "how" road. All I can do is describe what I see in Scripture and what others have seen.

And that my friends is fine with me.

One thing that dawned on me was that a God Who could speak the universe into existence was certainly capable of dealing in ways too complex for my brain to comprehend.

Billy Graham was quoted as saying:

"When I first began to study the Bible many years ago, the doctrine of the Trinity was one of the most complex problems I had to encounter. I have never fully resolved it, for it contains an aspect of mystery. Though I do not totally understand it to this day, I accept it as a revelation of God."

I feel better. :)


So I'm cleaning up my office. I pause there for the NewHopeians who read this to recover from the shock. And no, that doesn't just mean I'm moving the books around.

And I find a book, or rather "The Book of Questions."

The stated goal is "an enjoyable way to find out more about yourself and others and to confront ethical dilemmas in a concrete rather than in an abstract form."

There are 200 questions in the book.

Questions like:

#22 "If you could use a voodoo doll to hurt anyone you chose, would you?"

#26 "If you could end hunger in the world but to accomplish that you would have to murder one innocent person, would it be worth it?"

#136 "If you knew the child you were carrying would be born severely retarded and would most likely die before the age of five, would you abort it?"

This is obviously not a party game sort of book.

But you know what? Neither is the Bible.

And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul? Mark 8:36-37

When I thought about that verse today, it was as if God led me to consider what my actions are in light of Who He is and what He values.


I can vote my pocketbook, or I can vote God's heart.

So here's a question. Call it number 201, but for me it is number 1.

If you believed a candidate would be better for your pocketbook, but his election would cost the lives of additional thousands, even millions of babies, how would you vote?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Our God Saves

Sometimes God is so present. He was tonight as we rehearsed (hate to use that word when it comes to worship - insert a better one for me) a new song by Paul Baloche named "Our God Saves."

Here's Paul telling the story behind it.

I'm going to say this again for the hymn-starved "let's sing more songs from the hymnbook" crowd.

This song, my friends, IS A HYMN.

We were rocking New Hope tonight singing praises to our God and presenting ourselves as an offering of praise.

Awesome. Hated to leave.

It's called worship.

Catch it.

Almost There


I've completed all the courses for the Masters In Ministry Leadership now, except for the "Capstone" course "Practicing the Focused Life." In the course, we're asked to collect documents such as our mentor reports, projects, etc. that tell the story of how we have grown during our time at Rockbridge.

We are measured against 35 Competencies:

“Worship” Skills

* Leads and/or works with other people in planning and facilitating worship.
* Performs baptisms, weddings, funerals and other ordinances of the church in an appropriate manner.
* Designs creative worship experiences that involve music, media, and the arts.
* Educates the congregation in personal, family, and corporate worship.
* Communicates Scripture in a way that leads an intended audience to worship and to experience life transformation.
* Leads a congregation in prayer and a prayer ministry.
* Practices and leads the church in practicing worship through stewardship of life and resources.

“Fellowship” Skills

* Builds and maintains healthy relationships with others.
* Sensitive to the needs and feelings of others.
* Develops relationships within and external to the ministry organization for accountability and personal support.
* Functions effectively with professional staff and church members and works with others in resolving conflict in the body of Christ.
* Listens and responds in ways that let people know they have been heard.
* Develops small groups and leads them to birth new groups.
* Leads the church in developing a process for connecting new members into the life and purposes of the church.

“Discipleship” Skills

* Interprets the biblical text and applies its truth to life situations.
* Effectively employs Bible study tools and basic biblical language skills for personal Bible study and Bible teaching.
* Evaluates current ministry programs and issues in light of church history and theology.
* Leads the church in planning, conducting, and evaluating a comprehensive program of discipleship and Christian maturity.
* Demonstrates a vibrant spiritual life through the implementation of spiritual disciplines including prayer, Bible study, holiness of life and communion with God.
* Models the role of an effective teacher and communicator.
* Leads in developing, evaluating, and administering curriculum plans; functions as resource person in discipleship curriculum.

“Ministry” Skills

* Exercises the administrative skills of strategic planning, organizing, leading and evaluating the work of ministry that leads to achievement of defined goals and the mission of the New Testament church.
* Provides spiritual guidance in helping others analyze how God has shaped them for ministry through spiritual gifts, heart for ministry, abilities, personality, and experiences.
* Recruits, trains, and supervises individuals to fulfill the purposes of the church.
* Assesses the needs of the ministry community, designs appropriate actions to meet those needs, and effectively markets the church’s ministry in the community.
* Develops and administers budgets for ministry programs and organizations; reads and prepares financial reports.
* Provides pastoral care and counseling for the sick, hurting, and grieving, and makes appropriate referrals to other sources of professional help.
* Demonstrates godly humility and sacrificial love for those in the church.

“Evangelism” Skills

* Communicates biblical truth through preaching, personal witness, teaching, speaking, writing, music, and other ways as may be appropriate to fulfill the Great Commission.
* Leads the church in an effective program of evangelism; plans and conducts a program of community witness.
* Leads the church in planning and conducting cross-cultural missions.
* Builds relationships with unbelievers that lead to opportunities to share the gospel.
* Interprets the culture and plans appropriate strategies for sharing the gospel in that culture.
* Respects persons of different cultural, social and religious backgrounds.
* Articulates the Christian message and contrasts that message with other worldviews and major world religions.

These have to be expressed through the projects we have done along the way, and VERIFIED by people. That last little bit was an unexpected part of the information dump I received as the Capstone opened yesterday. I'm asking for clarification to see if my professors and mentors can serve to verify the projects I have done or whether I will have to go outside that.

So dear reader, take a look at the list of competencies. If you think you can verify that I have on occasion accomplished one or more with competence, I may have to get back to you. :)

Over the last 17 years and 109 hours of seminary plus 20 hours of other Masters level coursework I've learned a lot. But Rockbridge's focus is right on - what do you do with what you have learned?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Ugh, what a waste of bandwidth

I had forgotten how truly atrocious a movie "Starship Troopers" was. I was looking for something to watch while Bunny's "Dancing With the Stars" was on, so I fired up Joost and started watching. Fortunately, you can fast forward. But even with that, compressing a two hour movie into 30 minutes - it still stunk.

Next up?

So what if we had a New Hope kazoo marching band in the Christmas parade?

If we could get some cool uniforms...

These folks had 5200 people kazooing. (is that a word?)

You may say I'm a dreamer,

but I'm not the only one.

And no, we wouldn't do Amazing Grace. Everybody knows that's a bagpipe song.

I'm thinking "Smoke on the Water"

Okay, "Good Christian Men Rejoice" then.

Or "We Three Kings"

Can't you just hear it?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Seeding the Community for Christ

We're a church off the beaten path. Unless you live and work in Valparaiso, and even then only near City Hall or Valparaiso Elementary, there's no reason for you to have ever seen New Hope Baptist Church. Very few people take the scenic drive (this is where you laugh) through downtown Valparaiso, choosing instead to take Bayshore, where they are confronted with all that yucky nature stuff.

So we're invisible, and no one is looking to find us.

There are ways to attack that problem. We can create opportunities for people to notice us. Each week, a small group of New Hope folks puts out road signs in key points around the area on Friday evening and takes them up on Sunday night. Cheap and effective. But you still have to take the initiative and hunt us up after seeing the sign. If you are not looking for a church, you won't.

So we have begun to accelerate our "Takin' It To the Streets" campaign. We've done backyard Bible club events, movies in the park next to the museum, sno cones in the bayside park, sno cones at the Relay for Life events, and lots of activities on the church campus. We're doing one for Halloween there.

Soon it will be block party time.

We're going to take the best of everything we have done, and go into the neighborhoods of some of our members with puppets, snacks, and a movie for the kids. I found some training for block parties through a Director of Missions up in Michigan named Bobby Gilstrap. We'll go through that, develop a checklist we'll consult each time to minimize confusion and maximize impact - and off we'll go. Plans are to possibly do them on Sunday nights so we can step into the world of the unchurched even deeper.

Our hope is to introduce ourselves to the community as good neighbors, and build bridges that the gospel can travel over. As time passes, more people may just take that scenic drive to Valparaiso to see what God is doing at New Hope. :)

Before there was "Joe Plumber"...


All That Glitters

When you become a pastor of a smaller church, it is not like taking another job. It is more like taking on and being taken into a family. You know how it is with family - things that other people dismiss out of hand are actually very precious to you.

So it is with glitter.

I walked into the sanctuary Sunday morning, and the sun was streaming in the windows that make up one whole side of our worship space. The sky was blue, and butterflies were flying by on their way to the next flower. It was then I noticed the glitter shining all along the floor.

In some places, a pastor would have immediately been upset that the congregation's house of worship had not been cleaned effectively prior to the Sunday morning gathering. Not this pastor. Through that glitter I could see a host of little girl's faces the Wednesday night before, making crafts and learning about Jesus. With each sparkle I remembered the girls who had come to know Christ over the years through that ministry.

It made me smile, and think that God did too. To have the opportunity to work with Him and see His grace poured out. Maybe it's true that all that glitters isn't gold.

Or maybe sometimes all that glitters is far more precious.

More Cowbell!

The management at "It's Like Herding Cats" offers this immensely entertaining and productivity draining site for your benefit. Any job losses that may occur are solely the surfers responsibility and in no way may be construed as being this site's fault.

Add More Cowbell to ANY MP3

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Theological Heroes

I participate in a closed pastor's forum where we are able to really invest in each other's lives and development as servants of God. The question arose today from my Lutheran pastor friend Troy Neujahr "who are your theological heroes." He was primarily asking for heroes within each person's denominational or faith tradition. The question really made me think.

As a Southern Baptist, we are a product of multiple "streams" within the greater Non-Catholic side of Christendom. We have no Calvin, Wesley, Luther and the like. To be sure, there are SBC figures who have made an impact outside the denominational boundaries. The question though, was who has contributed to the development of your personal theological outlook. So here we go, in no order of prominence and spread across several denominations.

People who have affected my preaching:
Vance Havner - he had humor, wit, and a love of God and the people God called him to preach to
Chuck Swindoll - Great sense of humor, and a love for the Scriptures. Great ability to apply the text
Charles Stanley - "listen", and application rich preaching
Joel Gregory - his latter work, born out of pain is really affecting
John Claypool - he tells the story from again the point of view of someone who has lived life in all it's fullness
Fred Craddock - great, great storyteller
Calvin Miller - thinker, writer, storyteller
Billy Graham - ask for a decision, don't shy away from that
Erwin Lutzer - gravity, seriousness when the text demands it
William Willimon - scholar, culturally aware

People who affected the way I look at the text:
Eugene Peterson - a pastor-theologian of the first magnitude who loves God's Word
Ray Steadman - great expositor
John Ortberg - modern but faithful
Lloyd Ogilvie - presses hard to stay close to the text's meaning as it is
Stuart Briscoe - likewise
Kent Hughes - modern, accessible, application oriented
Warren Weirsbe - maybe the first that made me understand what the Bible was saying
Rob Bell - makes me have to consult the sources and not just the NIV footnotes emoticon

People who made me think more theologically:
Lee Strobel - well, duh
Ravi Zacharias - if I only had his brain
Tim Keller - as good a modern theologian pastor as I know
J. Packer - "Knowing God" nuff said
A.W. Tozer - Knowledge of the Holy

People who caused me to question my assumptions:
Francis Schaeffer - culture v Scripture
C.S. Lewis - Mere Christianity alone is worth knowing his work
Clarence Jordan - great scholar, pacifist, who lived his faith without concern for the cost
Philip Yancey - yeah he's liberal, but he's passionate and writes well
Ed Stetzer - about as good now as an SBC guy gets on culture
Reggie McNeal - likewise
Rick Warren - I used to be happy with church until RW came along

People who made me care:
Bill Hybels - the man loves lost people
Donald Miller - speaks the language of God in a way lost people can access
Oscar Thompson - Concentric Circles of Concern is a must read about community
Shane Claiborne - ok, radical +, but uncomfortably right at times about what Jesus would have us do

Saturday, October 18, 2008

It's not always this easy...

...To tell who is a member of your organization.

Here at New Hope, we've added quite a bit of structure to the membership process over the years. If a person wants to become a member of New Hope, they must complete the "New Hope 101" class, go through a pastoral interview, sign the membership covenant, and then be voted in by the congregation.

The New Hope 101 class is taught by yours truly, and is an overview of our past, our present, and our future. It's an opportunity to present what God is leading us to do, and what He can do for them. Over the years we've had a couple of people come to trust Jesus during them.

The pastoral interview gives me a chance to nail down some theological loose planks if there are any. I ask the person to give their testimony and describe their growth in Jesus (this assumes a believer), and sound them out on areas in which we might hold to a different belief or practice than other churches. We pray together and I offer them the membership covenant to pray over and return when they are ready to become a member.

Then I'm able to recommend to our church family someone who understands who we are in Christ, who we are as a church, and is ready and committed to help us.

Has it cut down on the number of people who have joined? I don't think so. If it has, then I do think it has headed off some possible conflicts. People come from other churches with patterns of belief and behavior that may be outside the norms here. We do not apologize for being different, and we offer alternatives to them if they express reservations about our New Hope way. They can remain as our friends and guests. We can help them learn more about why we do what we do. Or if we cannot come to agreement, we can help them find a place where they can serve God in harmony.

If more churches would be "tighter" on the front door, I don't think the back door would stay so wide open.


There are some places in the Scriptures in which I just want to step back and say, "Thank you, God." It seems Eugene Peterson got there too.

14 My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, 15 this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. 16 I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength— 17 that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, 18 you'll be able to take in with all Christians the extravagant dimensions of Christ's love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! 19 Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.
20 God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.

21 Glory to God in the church!

Glory to God in the Messiah, in Jesus!

Glory down all the generations!

Glory through all millennia! Oh, yes!
Eph 3:14-21 (MSG)

I'm going to be working through that text tomorrow from the personal to the corporate or church point of view.

So many of us - so many people and so many churches, need to humble ourselves and admit that if we are to succeed in expanding the kingdom of God - it will be through the power of the Holy Spirit, not the next big thing.

We need to focus on growing - growing deeper in Christ and doing everything we can to bring others deeper into Him.

We need to live lives of extravagant grace and generosity, all the while pointing back to the source of our power and giving Him the glory for everything.


Thursday, October 16, 2008

25 Years

One of the greatest honors I have ever been given is to have been called "Daddy."

To be able to work In God's vineyard of "training up a child" has been a great challenge and a greater opportunity. To capture all the joy that Sean and his big brother Adam have given me would be impossible to contain on internet pages.

My heart will only barely succeed.

And at times... I am unable to hold back the emotions.

My hope and prayer is that as Sean continues on his journey, he will develop even more as a man who knows the truth of God's love for him and lives in the light of it.

Oh and this just in telepathically from Bunny...


Yeah, an older picture. We're both even better looking now. :)

Stream of Conscience-ness

Just some quotes I've been reading and rereading this week.

It’s extraordinary to me that the United States can find $700 billion to save Wall Street and the entire G8 can’t find $25 billion dollars to save 25,000 children who die every day from preventable diseases…Bankruptcy is a serious business and we all know people who have lost their jobs…but this is moral bankruptcy. - Bono

For years we have tolerated incompetence, corruption, dishonesty — and yes, greed — in government while looking the other way. On those rare occasions when politicians have made principled stands, we have rewarded them with a firestorm of political assault, full-throated media ridicule and criticism, and enormous financial pressure from lobbyists pouring money into the pockets of those who purport to represent the people. We have elected a government of the people, in the most literal and disgraceful sense: we have elected, and kept in office, those who share our desire for self-gratification and materialistic acquisition at the expense of character, moral integrity, honesty, and prudence. The cesspool which is our current Congress is what we have reaped by our own actions — or perhaps more accurately, by our inaction. We have elected those politicians who are like us in every way — and we hate them for it. They are, after all, created in our own image. - from The Doctor Is In by Dr Bob

It is certainly a bad thing to promise something good, then not carry out your promise, as some Republican politicians have done in the prolife arena. (But though I don't always agree with him, George Bush—dare I even bring up his name?—did appoint two Supreme Court judges who have shown a respect for prolife issues.)

But it is even worse to promise something bad, something that is in fact evil—the furthering of the shedding of innocent blood—and then keep your promise.

We may want to show the world that we Christians are cool enough to support the coolest political candidate who’s come along in decades. I really wanted to. But I just can’t get past child-killing. That's a price for coolness that's just too high. Randy Alcorn

"Do this so that innocent blood will not be shed in your land, which the LORD your God is giving you as your inheritance, and so that you will not be guilty of bloodshed." (Deuteronomy 19:10)

"Therefore as surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I will give you over to bloodshed and it will pursue you. Since you did not hate bloodshed, bloodshed will pursue you." (Ezekiel 35:6)

"For God will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help. He will take pity on the weak and the needy and save the needy from death. He will rescue them from oppression and violence, for precious is their blood in his sight." (Psalm 72:12-14)

Through us. Through us.

There are several different ways to be bankrupt in God's eyes. Being indifferent and uncaring about the plight of the poor is one of them. We've participated as a church over the years with several programs that don't just meet immediate needs, but provide a way for people to escape poverty. (Kava loans, Compassion's "give a goat")

In those ways, no CEO leaves with $26 million buyouts. And our love for God and our neighbors grows every time we let God's love flow through us.

On abortion - I echo the call of Mother Teresa - "give them to us." You have one choice for president and vice president that gets that. The McCains have adopted a third world infant. The Palins brought a Down's baby to term.

No candidate is perfect. No party is the party of God. They are all sinners. But look for what matters to God, not what makes you feel good.

If It Only Came In Huge

This would be perfect for Henley's Howlaween costume.

Hmmm... did subliminal advertising cause me to purchase an Element?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Not A Chance

I received a postcard in the mail today from a group called "Alliance for Churches VS IRS"in Mossy Head, FL. The postcard was stamped with a message on the back.

Friends, I'm up to date on the laws regarding the limits of church and state. Personally, I can endorse and attempt to persuade others on issues and for candidates. From the pulpit I can do all God calls me to do - and will. There's not a chance a postcard or the whole federal government will change my determination to carry out the will of God.

Politics isn't what matters to me. The spiritual lives and health of the people God has placed me here to serve matter. If God calls me to speak a word about how a particular issue relates to His will expressed through the Scripture, then I'll do it every single time as long as I have breath.

/rant off

The End Is Near

This email confirms your registration for the October term which begins Tuesday, October 21. You will not have access to your classroom until Tuesday. Your registration will appear after the rosters are built Friday the 17th or Monday, October 20th.

This term represents a record enrollment and we truly appreciate you continuing or beginning your studies at Rockbridge.


Linda LaRussa
Student Advisor

My last class at Rockbridge Seminary - The Capstone Course

In this course you will build a ministry portfolio that demonstrates your accomplishment of learning goals which you set at the beginning of your seminary program.

To demonstrate learning, you will:

• Describe your learning journey during the time you have been enrolled in your Rockbridge Seminary degree program
• Analyze how your ministry competency inventory has changed from the beginning of your Rockbridge Seminary studies until now and where your development horizons are moving forward
• Present a digital Ministry Portfolio documenting your achievement of 35 ministry competencies

I can see the end of this phase approaching, and I am glad.

Songs We Need To Learn and Use In Worship

I'm collecting some videos here for the New Hope folks so that you can see and listen to some songs we need to learn and use in worship.

Tim Hughes - He's Got the Whole World In His Hands - for next week

David Crowder O Praise Him

David Crowder - Here Is Our King

Paul Baloche - Our God Saves

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


In recent days, I've read attempts by some to try and spin Sen. Obama's record and opinions on abortion. Dr. Robert George utterly and completely destroys those arguements and makes a comprehensive and compelling case for why a vote for Obama will cost lives.

Read his article by clicking here

Just for background, I grew up the beneficiary of the work of FDR. As a young man I participated in Democratic party politics because of their work on civil rights and the feeling my family always had that they were the party of the little man.

But abortion is murder. It has always been that shining line that I could not cross to return to my Democratic roots. Lord knows we could use some health insurance around here. The thought of Wall Street fat cats raking in millions and getting a free pass makes me ill. And once you have come to know and love the people who make up America's military you are far less likely to root for war.

Life. It is precious. It is a gift from God. I cannot vote for Obama, and I will vote as a civic duty and in faithfulness to what I understand as my duty to God. Please read the article and consider your vote in light of Scripture's clear statements.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Life Is A Test

I'm telling you,people are always picking on me. :)

"The difference between school and life?
In school, you are taught a lesson and then given a test.
In life, you are given a test that teaches you a lesson." - Tom Bodett

Sometimes, You Just Have To Laugh

Yesterday, I started the message with two video clips. The first was Drive Through Church. The premise of the clip is all about people with preferences requiring them of a church, and that church pandering to their wishes. I thought it would be fairly effective in helping some to realize how silly it is to focus on anything other than worship of the Living God.

When I reached church to get ready for Sunday night large group Bible study, in my cubbyhole was this:

So maybe it wasn't as effective as I had hoped. LOL

Sunday, October 12, 2008

New Hope @ Worship 12 Oct 2008

Better Is One Day - Redman
Hosanna - Baloche
Amazed (Lord I'm Amazed By You)
Made Me Glad (He Has Made Me) - Hillsong
Offering - Baloche

The basic impetus for the direction I asked everyone to head this morning was to begin a journey of discovery and recommitment. For some, it would be a discovery of what foundational truths hold up Christianity. For others, it would be an opportunity to clear the cobwebs and rediscover the trail.

I've also been praying about the election, our political process, and our role as Christians in it. So when the phrase "We hold these truths to be self-evident..." popped into my mind, I used that to lead into the message.

Yes, it is doctrine. We need to hold these truths as self-evident.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

So We're Looking For Movies To Show On Halloween

And naturally the slash and gore ones are out. But Monsters aren't. We might have to put up some warning signs, and if so, I am ready.

God Is In Control

Friday, October 10, 2008


When led by the Spirit,
the child of God must be as ready to wait as to go,
as prepared to be silent
as to speak.
– Lewis Sperry Chafer

Thursday, October 09, 2008

This Just In for Review

Just arrived via Franklin, our postal carrier.

I'll be reading this tonight and writing a review of it for Waterbook Press.

Very timely.

If you'd like to get a copy, it's available at Amazon.

In the Details

It's just one key.

No way you'll really notice it being gone.

I mean how many times do you use words with "k" in them anyway?

If you've ever had this occur, you know how annoying - even frustrating it can be. Like a paper cut on your finger, or a nick on the side of your tongue, all you can feel is that one annoying spot, and it seems everything you do winds up there or happens to trip over it.

It's such a little thing. But is it?

I'm sitting here thinking about churches. Big surprise, that. I just got finished reading Outreach magazines' Top Churches of the Year issue. We weren't in it, again. They measure differently than I would, but it's hard to argue with some of those churches given the impact they are having for the Kingdom of God.

Also in the issue is a series of interviews with pastors of those churches asking two vitally important questions: What have you learned? What would you do differently?

One of them said, "I have learned that after 9 years, all churches forget why they started in the first place. It's inevitable. And from that point on, they are dying, and just don't know it."

Wow. Jolt of reality, huh. It does fit with what I read recently though.

Pastor Mark Driscoll, of the Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington, says that churches have four phases:

Phase 1 - Creative, the dream stage The creative phase is the beginning of a new church or a new project within the church. This phase is marked by enthusiasm, hope, and numerous ideas that are considered for implementation, which causes momentum

Phase 2 - Management, the reality stage In the management phase, the ministry project becomes a reality and requires a great deal of organization, management, and problem solving to make it successful. This phase can be a lot of hard work and is not as enthusiastically pursued because it is tedious and difficult.

But without managing the creative ideas, success is not possible. The hope for every church is that they work through their management issues, thereby enabling them to return to the creative phase, where they dream up a new project and enthusiastically undertake it and raise a whole new set of management issues to overcome.

Therefore, the goal of the management phase is not to get the church organized or under control. Rather, the management phase is needed to eliminate the inefficiencies and barriers that are keeping the church from refocusing back on the creative phase and creating a whole new set of problems to manage.

Phase 3 - Defensive justification, the failure stage In the defensive justification phase, something has gone terribly wrong and has failed at the management stage. Or the church succeeded at the management stage but never returned to the creative phase and got stuck with a bunch of well-organized managers running the church but no creative and visionary new ideas to move the church forward.

When this phase sets in, the church begins to stall, plateau, and slowly decline. People are less motivated to serve, money is less generously given, and a cloud of lethargy and complaint begins to settle in. This is because some leaders in the church start to act defensively and justify their failures rather than finding creative or management ways to overcome them.

In this phase, time, money, and energy are used to explain problems rather than to fix them, which is the primary clue that organizational death is on the horizon unless changes are made. Because the church is in a defensive posture, people start to leave the church, and the best and brightest people are no longer attracted to the church because it has lost sight of any risky mission that calls people to rise up in faith.

The peculiar truth of the defensive justification phase is that many of the excuses provided in this season are in fact valid. But whether or not they are valid, the fact remains that they need to be overcome.

Phase 4 - Blaming, the death stage An organization that remains stuck in the defensive justification phase for too long inevitably then declines to the blaming phase. In the blaming phase, it is obvious that the church or ministry is going to die, and excuses and explanations for the death have been devised.

This does not necessarily mean that the church will be closing its doors; effectively dead churches have been known to keep the doors open on Sundays for many years to welcome a handful of people who have no mission.

In this phase, the focus of the church is determining who will be blamed for the failure so that another group of people can escape responsibility for the failure. Some churches blame the pastor and fire him, others blame Satan and spiritualize everything, and still others blame the outside culture as being too hard for a church to thrive.

Rarely does the leadership of a church in this phase rise up to repent of the things that are preventing the church from returning to the life-giving creative phase, and eventually the church dies.

Great insight.

Where's your church in that scenario?

Friends, it's not enough to remember the past successes fondly and point to them as what your church is today. That's a lie. A comfortable lie, to be sure, like using an old picture for your online profile. But when someone shows up on-site, they're going to know really quickly there are not 400 of you there, and there's a lot less hair or your head or a lot more of you to go around than that picture let on.

We have to keep dreaming.

We have to keep looking outside and thinking of ways to get people from the world to the fringe, from the fringe to the congregation, and from the congregation to the core.

This is not optional.

It is breath.

Stop doing it, and people might say "doesn't he look natural", but that detail they neglected to mention - that "he's not breathing" part - means a whole lot.

What are you doing to birth the next dream for your congregation?

Slight Rant At Micro$oft

Listen, I know you don't want to hear this. From what I can tell you guys are taking a lot of heat lately with that Vista thing, so much so you are striking back in a less than good natured way. But I have to let you know

Yes, you have provided us with a lot of tools over the years - not perfect tools, but those of us who have been with you from DOS 2 want you to know that we appreciate the effort it must have taken to get us to this point.

So much progress since then.


But I added more RAM to my Thinkpad last night, and now you want me to reactivate Microsoft Office? The copy I bought 7 YEARS ago? Whose CD is uh... somewhere here?

This is why people leave you. This is why Open Office is steadily building share. No it's not Office. But... it's not Micro$oft either. I have been ignoring all the times your product crashes with every single helpful answer being "Upgrade".

However, you are at my tipping point.

If I can find the CD, I'll hang in a while longer. If a thirty minute search doesn't turn it up, then you're toast.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Big and Little

So we're coming up on Halloween. I know, some of you ignore it. Some try to make it a Harvest festival. We just happen to love two of the essential ingredients for Halloween - kids and candy. So we have since the first year I have been here had some sort of outreach/fellowship activity for the neighborhood kids.

The first year it was setting up two tables in the parking lot and having a "costume contest" where we took Polaroid (yes, it was 9 years ago -pre-digital)pictures and oohed and aahed over the cute kids and gave massive amounts of candy away. When they got their pictures taken, they also registered to win a Veggie Tales video. Such was outreach 1999. At the time, we were about it. No other church really wanted to touch Halloween with a ten foot pole.

Now "Orange Night" takes place in the city next door between the ginormous Methodist franchised mega church and the not too shabby sized First Baptist across the street. The production befits the size of the churches, and they manage to get some of the other smaller local churches to combine their efforts too. They'll have a couple thousand or more over there.

But we're still going to do our own thing.


Not everybody likes big.

Big is loud. Big is hard to park at. Big means worrying about your kid getting lost or eating something you'd they'd rather not. Big is great if you like it. But not everyone likes it. Bunny had a Mom ask her today "Are Y'all doing anything for Halloween?" Bunny mentioned we were going to show Monsters Inc outside and roast hot dogs and give away popcorn, sno cones, and candy.

"That sounds nice."

There's a place for all size churches friends. Just like there's a place for chihuahuas and Great Danes. Here's our friend Henley. :)

That'd Be A "No"

Monday, October 06, 2008

Too Good Not To Share

I wish I could remember which church had this on their website. It is as clear an introduction and declaration of what we should hold as convictions as any I have ever seen. My hats off to you, whoever you are. :)

New Hope @ Worship 5 Oct 2008

I'd have to say it has been such a whirlwind of events the last few weeks that having a somewhat normal Sunday felt odd. The whole family was together, no one was sick, and I didn't have to get back in the car and drive anywhere except home.

My main focus in preparation was the backdrop of fear, uncertainty and doubt that our nation and our congregation is going through. I do not have first hand knowledge of anyone's finances, but I do know that people are anxious. My job in times like these is to remind people of Who God is and what He has promised the believer. To tell the story of the God Who cares, and Who is in control.

So the music led in that direction.

Better Is One Day
God of Wonders
How Great Is Our God
Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)

Saturday, October 04, 2008

They Just Don't Make Toys Like They Used To

In 1951, A.C. Gilbert introduced his U-238 Atomic Energy Lab, a radioactive learning set we can only assume was fun for the whole class or family. Gilbert, who was "often compared to Walt Disney for his creative genius," had a dream that nuclear power could capture the imaginations of kids everywhere. For a mere $49.50, the kit came complete with three "low-level" radioactive sources, a Geiger-Mueller radiation counter, a Wilson Cloud Chamber (to see paths of alpha particles), a Spinthariscope (to see "live" radioactive disintegration), four samples of Uranium-bearing ores, and an Electroscope to measure radioactivity. And what nuclear lab for kids would be complete without an Atomic Energy Manual and Learn How Dagwood Splits the Atom book? written with the help of General Leslie Groves, director of the Manhattan Project. Junior physicists had everything they needed, except a hazmat suit. Sadly, the toy was only sold for one year... HT:

Fighting FUD

Tomorrow we'll be looking at Romans 8. It's possibly the best chapter in the Bible when it comes to fighting FUD.

That's Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt in case you were wondering. :)

The events of the last few weeks for our nation have left us shaken. It's time to react in courage born from faith.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Things Aren't Always What They Seem

"At some point in the life of most local churches a critical point is reached when the core fellowship of those committed to gospel vision are outnumbered by a fringe who are there for quite different reasons, be it spiritual comfort, kids activities, personal support, or whatever.

Regardless of the particular type of church government, all fellowships struggle to maintain focus around core vision when the fringe, be they believers or not, outnumber the gospel-oriented core.

It is very hard to maintain focus, or alter any aspect of church life to reflect the gospel needs of a fresh generation, when the majority are committed to maintaining their comfort.

When this happens "Christians" have been replaced with "churchgoers" who assume they are Christians." Marcus Honeysett

The reason that new church plants succeed in reaching more unchurched people than do churches 5 years old or older is just what Honeysett outlines here. Gradually the organization becomes the focus. The number of people who are involved in the core mission shrinks, while the organizational work gets done. The ministries starve for lack of funding, but the buildings get taken care of.

Churches like that may max out on Lottie Moon offerings and the like, but they are practicing missions by proxy. The greatest change agent we have to bring to bear on the human soul is the love of Jesus Christ flowing through them as they do work for His glory. It's not information they need - it's inspiration - God's Holy Spirit working through them.

When that doesn't happen - when the leadership isn't clued into missional attitudes and practice - the church is dead. It may look thriving from the street, may draw a crowd, but once the cultural "Christians" outnumber the disciples, decline has begun and save radical intervention, someone should call a code.

I'm thinking about dressing up like one of these for Halloween this year

All of Valparaiso's leadership will run screaming in terror!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

I'm Wondering...

What if we weren't given one more piece of information about God for the next year? What if there were no churches, or TV evangelists?
What if all our Bibles got stolen?

Where would we find God?

And how would we know how to live so we would make Him smile?

Saturday night we wound up going back to the nursing home where my Mother-in-Love, Dot Clinard is recovering from an illness in. Her bed had malfunctioned, and her roommate called the house to let Dot's family know. The staff blew it off so we headed over to check and make sure Dot was okay.

When they were taking care of Dot I had to leave the room for a minute. I sat down in a chair in the corner across from Dot's room. In just a minute another resident named Sophie wheeled up. (Her name was embroidered on her sweater) Sophie looked to be in her eighties, and she was repeating "mama, mama" over and over. People like Sophie are part of the hard reality of life. I was thinking about that, and how terrible it was that she was in that condition when I started to pray silently for God to bless her.

Sophie looked right at me and said "Mama loves Jesus."

I was stunned. But I managed to say "and Jesus loves you too Sophie."

She wheeled away.

I'm wondering.

Dog Tired

The events of the last few weeks have suddenly caught up to me. I am dog tired. Not just sleepy, but tired to the point of not really wanting to do much of anything. Mentally drained.

Unfortunately, it is Wednesday night, and we have worship team practice and then small group prayer and Bible study. After last week's effort, there's a baseline below which no one can fall. I'm not sure what I was thinking when I tried to drop back into time and dust off something I had used 8 years ago.

Perhaps that was a clue that I was tired then too.

So pray that I will (even more than usual) be sustained and carried by the Holy Spirit's power and wisdom tonight. Because I'm running on fumes here.

Good Advice From Someone Who Knows the Score

Lifeway research has an interview with Perry Noble (pastor at Newspring Church in South Carolina) out today, in which Noble is asked this question:

What advice would you give to churches in America? What elements would you say are a must in any church?

Noble: I would say two things.

Number one, you must keep your focus on Jesus.

Don't lose sight of the gospel. Don't lose sight of the fact that people are dying and going to go to hell unless they know Jesus. If the church loses the centrality and the urgency of that message, I think the church dies.

And I think the reason that churches all over America today are closing their doors and shutting down is because they forget the gospel. They have forgotten that Jesus Christ died on a cross not so we could have a holy huddle or a stained glass fortress or us four and no more. He died on a cross so that we could reach the world. They have got sin in their lives. And because of that they are separated from God. They go to hell. That is not necessary. Jesus died on the cross to make forgiveness and redemption completely possible.

Number two, don't try to be anything except who God called you to be.

Maybe God didn't call you to go multi-site. Maybe God called you to one location. You need to be completely content with that. Maybe God called you to go plant churches instead of doing video venues. You need to do that. Maybe God told you to do video venues and plant churches. You need to do that.

You don't ever, ever need to feel pressure because another church somewhere else in America or somewhere else in the world is doing something to think, "Oh, wow, we have got do that." Our call as a church is to do exactly what God called us to do.

In the book of Revelation chapter two and chapter three Jesus gives seven different messages to seven different churches. If he wanted every church to be the same he would have just said, "All right. Here is my message to every church and it is just the same." But he addressed seven churches specifically and said, "Here is what is going on with you. Here is what is going on with you. Here is what is going on with you." I just think that each church has a unique DNA that it needs to focus on. The gospel should be central, but the strategy and the structure of the church should be completely open to the leadership of the Holy Spirit.

Churches who get those two principles are on track. That doesn't mean they are guaranteed to grow, but it does mean that they are honoring Jesus and living out their unique reason for being where they are. Not every church in every area, at every time is going to show the kind of numerical growth that Newspring has. God has His reasons for blessing in one way or choosing another. But if our focus is on Jesus and His heart for people far from God, we are walking with Him.

There's not one church in this area I'd want New Hope to turn into. We're a unique collection of people placed here on this corner to do the works God prepared in advance for us. Can we learn from Saddleback, Willow Creek, Granger, even Newspring? Absolutely. And we should.

However we need to be the local experts on our culture and the needs of the people here. The expression of Church here then will reflect that culture as we seek to bring people into a relationship with Jesus Christ.

So hats off to Perry Noble and may his tribe increase.