Meetings, friends and draw-ings
I'm not a big fan of meetings. That said, I enjoy hanging out with Matt and Ben from History Church. As you can tell from the pictures Matt took with his Treo... Ben and I were faithful in paying attention at all times. Well, I was. Ben was practicing for his back-up job if this church planting thing doesn't work out.
Idol made me mad!
Okay. I'm ticked at Idol tonight.
First off, the singers for the most part sucked.
Secondly (and the thing I'm most upset with) is the ignorance they propagate on the show. I'm not a 'sky is falling' type of guy (Kevin reference) but I turned off my DVR in disgust after tonight's show.
Here's what has me fumin' mad.
Up until her song, the show was pathetic. The audience clearly had a 180 degree turn around during Mandisa's performance. She performed the song "Shackles" by Mary Mary. I grew up in Baltimore, MD and listened to Rap all my life. When I started listening to Christian music, this cd was one of only maybe 3 that I felt were comparable in quality to the secular world. There is NO REASON in my mind that this song should have gotten looked down upon. Not to mention the fact that the crowd went nuts. Do you know what each of the judges said?
Randy: "It didn't do it for me."
Paula: "You now have a new religion called the church of Mandisa."
Simon: "I didn't get it."
Even Seacrest added "It's a personal song."
No! It wasn't a "personal song". It was a great vocal performance for her. This song showed the most of her personality of ANY song she's done on this show. It was obvious that she was pumped! I thought this show was about singing ability and connecting with the audience. She did both of these things 1,000 times better than anyone else on the show tonight. It was a sorry show and she shined. Instead of acknowleding this they can't seem to get past the message behind the song. I bet if her shirt were lower and she tried to talk about giving her body away the judges would have said "go girl".
Also, can someone please tell Simon Cowell that last year's winner has a song out right now that is one of her most popular. It's not called 'rely on myself' (see Katharine's song below) but rather it's a song called "Jesus, take the wheel". I firmly believe that the world is open to the gospel... they are just sometimes turned off by the packaging. Mandisa did a great job and Carrie Underwood is doing the same thing.
Okay... then to top it off I observed the next few singers.
- Chris: Good but boring. I actually agreed with Simon. Last week I told my wife that Chris is nice for what he does but he's starting to tick me off by making every song sound the same. Yes it's cute and yes he can do that but even rock stars sing different ways. Most every great rocker I can think of has great hits of various speeds, moods, etc. Chris to me is turning into a one trick pony.
- Katharine: She sings a song (horribly I may add) by Christina Agulara talking about 'believe in yourself' and the judges drewl over her. The song stunk and it was rather boring. I still have her going to the final 2. To me the judges seem to know who they want in the final (Chris and Katharine) so they do favor them on off nights (today was an off night for Katharine).
- Paris: Okay... Thanks Simon for what should have been pointed out by everyone and not applauded. She came off to me as a tramp. Again... she's applauded. Mandisa is told "I don't get it" when she sings a positive upbeat song about freedom. Paris is celebrated by acting like a hoochie in a club. Her mom was in the crowd celebrating her singing a song saying "A brotha got to work it." What in the world?
Anyway... My frustration only fuels my passion to provide an alternative to this world. For far too long we've done a terrible job presenting the gospel as the answer. People are filling themselves with temporary highs and celebrating debauchery at unprecedented levels. All the while their Savior stands at the door and knocks.
On a positive note I was very excited for Mandisa. I think she solidified her Christian audience tonight if she ever goes that route. A few former Idols have made the cross over into the "Christian" market. She'd do very well. No matter what I applaud her for seizing her moment. She may never again have the opportunity to speak so boldly to so many people. She made it known to the world that she's not ashamed!
Thanks for letting me vent. I feel better already.
You remember Erkel?
Have you ever done something and said "oops, Did I do that?"
Below is a portion of text from an announcement I emailed this morning concerning a bible study and prayer group forming this Saturday. Do you notice anything wrong with the wording?
"This is an adults-only function. Students in 10th grade or above are welcomed to join us but please only come if you have childcare or your spouse will keep the children."
This weekend we used the baptistery of Coastlands Community Church for our Baptism, Communion and Pot-Luck.
On Sunday as we were leaving their facility, their Pastor (Durant) invited me to coffee with him today at 5:30 a.m. Yes, I said 5:30 a.m. The coffee wasn't just for he and I, rather it is a weekly time of bible study and prayer with about 7 other people from his church. They have 3 (THREE!) of these a week. An associate does two of them and Durant does one.
First I have to tell you that 4:45 a.m. does exist on my alarm clock. I wasn't sure until today but it does in fact exist. Anyway the coolest thing was that I hopped right out of bed. In fact, because I knew I was trying this ungodly act of going to a prayer meeting at 5:30 a.m., I slept a whole lot lighter than normal. I woke up at 4 a.m. at the sound of my son making a little noise in his sleep. Anyway, back to this morning. IT WAS GREAT!
A few observations about this entire experience thus far:
1. Coastlands is a Pentecostal Church. Our background is Baptist.
Not just any baptist... Southern Baptist. I LOVE the fact that Durant and I have built a good relationship even though our churches are just about 2 miles from each other and theologically diverse. If the cross is the center of the dart board, our theology is one or two rings out from center from each other. It's not a big deal but so many people make it into a big deal. I'm glad we don't. Durant is a humble man with a big heart and Jesus is evident in his life. I get so sick of the denominational dog-fights that it gets me ecstatic when I know that I have friendships from across the kaleidoscope of Christianity. I used to think it was only my denom that thought they had an inside track to God's throne, but I've come to realize that it's a cross-pollinating outbreak. The reality is that many of the people who call Focal Point home wouldn't know what to tell you if you asked what denomination they were. They'd likely say "denomination?" and then after you explained it they'd say "ohh, I'm Christian". My denom wouldn't like that, but I do. Jesus first. (let me get off of my soap box now)
2. This wasn't like most 'bible studys' or 'men's prayer breakfasts' that I've seen.
I have come to HATE prayer breakfast because they are more about breakfast than prayer. I have a hard time with many bible studies because they are more about 'hanging out' and less about studying the bible. Durant has done a great job with this group. As soon as we all sat down (in fact before some orders were filled) he said "Okay guys... today we're in...." Immediately we each read and started our time together. I loved that!
3. Open Source.
I'll post another post about this but I've decided to make the next 6 weeks or so "Open Source" at Focal Point. (By the way, if you haven't checked out LifeChurch.tv's new site, go check it out when you're done this post) Anyway... today in the bible study it was properly facilitated. Durant didn't come off as the all-knowing God-guru. He came off as a shepard. He used the Socratic method a few times but apart from that he gently guided the conversation. He's teaching his people to THINK for themselves and showing them how to approach the text. Again, something most small groups fail in. Many small groups become a one-man band. We forget that if the Holy Spirit is in someone's life, he will help them understand the word. Sure, new or young believers may not have the church lingo... but they have enough to say "God's working on my life...and this verse is one of the ways..." Open Source bible studies.... I like 'em!
4. Prayer was genuine.
One of the gaps that exist in our two denominations is over prayer-languages. I got news for you. When it came to prayer today we all shared english and it was FANTASTIC. What I mean is not the issue over glossolalia, but rather it was fantastic because each need mattered. Durant has a great gift of prayer. I can't tell you how many times we've been talking and Durant just puts his hand on my shoulder and begins to pray for me. He doesn't make a scene, we don't have a lot of conversation about it... he doesn't pretend to have special revelation for my life... he just humbly lifts me up. Today was no exception. Many times in our bible studies we use prayer as the bookends of our time. We pray at the beginning and the end of the service, event, meeting. Today for prayer as each person shared, we prayed. It seems simple but I honestly can say that it makes two things happen: 1. We focused on the individual request, not long-winded spiritual hoops. Just the request. and 2. If you were prayed for, you knew everyone at the table was speaking to God on your behalf at that moment. There is a certain confidence from knowing that your brothers and sisters in Christ DID lift you up. It wasn't a part of a spiritual grocery list.
5. We're going to do this at Focal Point!
I'm inspired. I sincerely believe that one thing missing in our church is this spiritual foundation of prayer and study. Sure we pray and sure we have study but honestly they are never the entire focus of our hearts for the time we're together. I don't have a group of people TODAY in my life who focus any 1 hour a week for prayer and study with me. That's pathetic! I honestly feel like as the Pastor of this church I have to step it up there. So... you know what? We are. Today I'm going into recruit mode. I already spoke with Lyle this morning and he's down for it. We're going to do a 6 a.m. deal on Saturday mornings or a 5:30 a.m. deal on Wednesdays. I know that several of our church family read this so my prayer is that they will make the sacrifice to wake up a little earlier and seriously give that time to God. If you're one of my friends (known or unknown) who read this blog, please pray for a remnant within our body to rise up and partner with me in this effort. Not for the sake of a meeting but for the sake of a solid spiritual foundation at Focal Point Church. We're asking God to move mountains... It's only right that we grab a shovel and a wheel barrel and get started.
Have a great day friends.
This week I finished up a series we called "Boulders and Backpacks". It's basically a series on personal responsibility.
Week 1: overview (via video)
Week 2: our Spiritual Lives
Week 3: Time
Week 4: Confrontation
It was a helpful series for many of our people. I got regular comments during this series about how people have a hard time knowing as a Christian what is their obligation. Much of this series I talked about our obligation to carry our own 'backpack'. The boulders in life will come and when they do the church is there to help you but many people mistake boulders for backpacks. It was good for many of our folks.
Ben Arment stopped by today with his family. I just about fainted. Today we had quite possibly our worst attendance since we've been in the theater. Several of our regular families weren't there and we only had 2 families return from the direct mail so it was Focal Point Lite yesterday. I thought to myself 'It never fails..." :)
Ben is cool though. He knows what it's like. He and Ainsley have been working the dry ground in Northern Virginia for a few years now. They know that it takes time to establish yourself in these established communities. They've done a fantastic job and I'm certain that they are on the edge of a breakthrough up there. Thanks for stopping by Ben. You're a big encouragement to me.
Baptism, Communion and Pot Luck
Well, I broke down and had a Pot Luck at the church last night. We combined Communion and Baptism as well. One of our guys, Steve Hansen, was baptized and the church shared in communion. I realized last night that I genuinely enjoy everyone in our church right now. I wouldn't mind hanging out with any of or 'core' people. They're all pretty down to earth people and just about all of them have a sense of humor and 'get it' with regard to what we're trying to do here. It's taken a while but I'm excited to see the people we have now... Now the next step is getting that momentum built up.
Tagged: responding a little late
I'm honored to have been tagged. I'm embarrased it's taken me this long to respond. Today my wife had her wisdom teeth taken out so I've planned all week to chill. I finally got to start chillin' about an hour ago... so I have a little time to kick back and be a kind member of the blogging community.
Thanks for the tag: Kevin and Jarrett
1. Four Jobs I've Had:
- Waiter: When I was 15 it was my first real job
- McDonalds: I think my 2nd real job at 16yrs old
- Delivery guy for JC Penney's when I was 18
- Referee for Baseball -also at 18
I have other jobs outside of ministry but basically since I got to college it's been ministry related.
2. Four Movies I can watch over and over:
None. I don't like to watch movies once I've seen them. If I'm pressed, the only one that comes to mind is Monty Python: The Holy Grail (1975)
3. Four Places I Have Lived: (I'll do 5)
-Corpus Christi, TX
4. Four Shows I Like to Watch: 24, Bones, The West Wing, Boston Legal
5. Four Foods I Like: Lasagna, All chocolates, Cheese Steaks, Starbucks (is that in the food pyramid)
6. 4 Websites I Visit Daily: Bloglines, FoxNews.com, ESPN.com, My Utmost for his Highest
7. Four Things I Want to Do Before I Die: Baptise my son, Tour Israel, Grow a great church, get an M.B.A.
8. Four Bloggers I'm Tagging: No one. I'm going to be a cul-de-sac.
I read this article today over at MTV.com about the "Equality Ride" put on by members of Soul Force. They are an organization promoting tolerance of homosexuals in all aspects of life. They are led by former evangelical preacher and ghost writer, Mel White.
Photo: MTV News
Here is an excerpt from a reply I wrote to MTV.com:
"The third assumption is that tolerance is the highest end. Christianity (and thereby
In the interest of ?tolerance and love?, I would hope that outlets such as MTV would take the time to sit down and truly understand where many conservative young people are coming from. There is a national movement among young evangelical Christians to better articulate their views and demonstrate love to all people at all levels while maintaining their belief in scripture. There are many homosexuals who attend conservative evangelical churches and they remain because the sexual issue is only one part of who they are. Homosexuals should not only be defined by their sexuality and conservative evangelicals should not only be defined by their belief in this one issue either. There is much more common ground than there is division. It is possible to disagree without being disagreeable."Tolerance sounds like a wonderful word but it is nothing when compared to love. It was in fact out of a LACK OF TOLERANCE FOR SIN that Jesus demonstrated the ULTIMATE ACT OF LOVE. In that case I'm very glad that tolerance wasn't the highest standard.
I have family members who are alcoholics, drug users, prisoners, you name it... but I cannot in honest faith say that tolerance is how I approach them. I don't. I do not tolerate self-destructive behavior. In fact it is out of love that at times I am very forthright and stern in expressing my concern over various self-destructive issues... the issues outside the realm of mere opinion.
It appears to me that Christians have allowed themselves to be painted into a corner because of the vocal minority on both sides of these divisive issues. The silent majority just gets pushed around and leaves their critical thinking caps at the door in favor of trying to appease everyone. On one hand we have our denominational leaders we don't want to tick off and on the other hand we have our missional hearts that want to speak Jesus' love so we ignore what may seem offensive. Being confident in God's word and being a loving communicator of that word are not mutually exclusive.
I for one believe that we should follow the fantastic advice found in 1 Peter:
"But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander."
So... Tolerance or Love?
For reasons like this...
It's for reasons like this that we should tell a ton of the people in our churches to put a cork in it.
Headline today: "Clerics Call for Christian Convert's Death Despite Western Outrage"
We need to put a cork in:
-Pastors taking heat all of the time for the stupidest things.
-Pastors having to have kid gloves when dealing with 'certain' families.
-Church members who bounce around like ping pong balls.
-Christians who are on the 'all you can eat' diet with no spiritual exercise.
-Pastors who bash other denominations from the pulpit (or stage).
-The modern/postmodern/whatsamodern? debate.
-Justification for sin.
-Ignorance of scripture.
-Lack of the understanding that it's not just your church/denomination/race that will be in heaven.
-Gossip disguised as 'discussion'.
-Attacks from Christians on blogs.
-Pretending that giving 1% of our church budget for missions is what it takes to really help 'those people over there'.
-Christians who have 1 track minds, blinders, and excess pride to boot.
-Hearing "Ohh, I don't read."
I'm sure I could go on and on... but I'm one of the people that needs to put a cork in things at times. It's so often that we get caught up in our little world. We forget that people who claim the Name of Christ (thereby becoming our brother or sister in the Lord) are being killed for the same proclamation that we so flippanlty make every day. It saddens me to think that here in the most wealthy of lands we have so many who use the name of Jesus as a platform to lift up themselves and show how smart or powerful or cool they are. To many, Jesus is nothing more than a business model. They could replace their 'relationship' with Jesus with the term 'widgets' (economics 101 term) and you wouldn't know the difference.
Friends, I'm not preaching to the choir. I'm just expressing what comes to mind for me when I see these type of headlines. The reality is for many of us we will forget about this in a week and go back to our corner offices only to use this guy as a sermon illustration. I hope it isn't so. I pray that the American church will rise up with a new awakening in the next 20 years. The power of the internet (and now proliferation of Pastors who understand the medium) will provide ways for us to bring down the walls that have kept our forefathers divided. I do see the day in our time when the "American Church" is less about our differences and more about Jesus.
I'm praying for God to spare this man but if he doesn't I pray his story helps spark a change in our American Church. It begins with me (and you).
Virtual Creative Team
Hey Guys and Gals,
I'm calling on you to enlighten me with some creative energy...
I'm pondering what I want to do for two special services in May. Mother's Day and Memorial Day.
Each of the last two years we've done a Breakfast Service where the men cook the food and wait on the women. We've decorated everything and made the service feel like a restaurant while serving the women breakfast. They were allowed to eat during the message and then at they were given flowers as they entered the service, etc. It was nice.
This year I'd like something a little different. I'm open for any aspect. My message has been "A Tribute to the woman" and I've taken the angle of uplifting all women/girls on this day. I'm interested to hear some new ideas about how to uplift the mother's on that day.
We live in a heavily populated military town. Norfolk Naval Base is billed as the largest naval installment in the world. A TON of our congregation is in some way connected to the various military branches. We have Coast Guard, Navy and Marines for sure. I'm pretty sure we have one or two from the Army as well. At any rate, a memorial day Sunday Service would minister to a TON of people in our community if we billed it up right and really showed these folks that we appreciate their sacrifice. This is a segment of our city that not many churches are paying attention to. Although we're about 30 minutes from the actual base, many of the people who work with the base live on our side of town.
Ideas for Memorial Day at this point are the basics... A color guard, a choir (I'd have to get one) to sing the songs of each branch, etc.
When I was at Liberty, they had a service where special forces guys interrupted the service and the lights went out, strobe lights came on and the guys came in and threw noise bombs and came down on ropes from the ceiling, down the isles, etc. I don't know if we can pull that off... We may give some people heart attacks.
So let's brainstorm... What are some good ideas? What will you do? What would you do if money wasn't an object and no one would complain?
The Truth doesn't need a Salesman,
Before I get hate-mail...
What I'm about to say does not in any way put down Romans 10:14-15. That passage talks about people who go. I'm talking about HOW people go. Okay, back to my thought...
I do not believe that truth in any form needs a salesman. The truth sells itself. For far too long I've seen Christians act irrationally. They act as if their faith NEEDS them. They act as though God will not accomplish his task without them. What really bothers me is when leaders highlight these people as ambassadors of the proper mode of evangelism. It gets me going bonkers. You see, Christ doesn't NEED me. He wants me but doesn't NEED me. He's God. He's not needy in ANY way. Remember the whole "Alpha and Omega" stuff? C'mon. His job description can only be filled by HIM. I personally believe that's the attractiveness to the whole program. God doesn't Need me to do anything. In fact, my WHOLE responsibility is to get the heck out of the way when the Holy Spirit wants to work.
Philippians 2:13 says "[because] it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose."
Let me get this straight. I'm a sinner. If I'm on a bus it has "hell" written in the marquee. Jesus offers me a pass to get onto His bus marked "Heaven". I accept his free ticket and when I get on the bus he gives me the gift of the Holy Spirit. So not only does he give me an eternal destiny unlike anything I could ask, hope, think or imagine... He gives me a comforter, decision maker, guide, rock of salvation to live in me to point me in the right direction? WOW! And the best part is for compensation he wants NOTHING but for me to sit down and let him move in and through me? AMAZING. How many people wouldn't take that job description? What a benefits package for simply not screwing up the bosses plan.
So this brings me to my statement about Truth not needing a Salesman. With a bargain like that who really needs to be 'sold'? Told but not sold. Compelled, not yelled.
Truth just needs to be shared in love. Remember the whole "gentleness and respect" clause of evangelism? This isn't only true from Christianity's stand-point. Truth is truth. The marketplace already 'gets it'. That's why there is no pressure from a friend who says "Dude, You've gotta try _____ product!" That's the brilliance behind so many companies like Mary Kay, Shaklee,
In the church however we have a tendency to focus so much on the 'win' that we forget that what we're doing isn't a game. We treat people as if they are some trophy to get on the shelf or a notch to get in a belt. In our passion to 'save' them we ignore the fact that the Holy Spirit is the one that prompts and ultimately rescues. Now again, don't get me wrong... we have a responsibility, a calling to share the truth in love. But we don't have to do it acting as if we ourselves are God. That corner office is already taken.
As each of us fall in love with Jesus and tell others of the greatness he's brought to our lives and truly demonstrate his love we will see lives changed and salvation around us. We must be evangelistically minded and Christ-hearted at the same time. They are not mutually exclusive.
The truth doesn't NEED you as a Salesman.
You are the greatest marketing piece your church has. In addition, those whom you disciple will be nearly as powerful.
This is a truth I've had to learn and a truth I was reminded of today.
As a pastor but especially as a church planter you must engage with your neighbors. As Mark Batterson says, "The church should be in the middle of the marketplace." I'm certain he's speaking of physical location but he's also referring to personal location. Far too many of us spend far too much of our time on busy work, book work and that all important task of butt-impression on our office chair. We have to instead spend time around and among the people of our community.
Acts 17 (click if you want a refresher)
22Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: "Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.Paul took time "and looked carefully at your objects of worship".
Paul probably saw some things and some behavior that he would not participate in personally. To an extent I'm certain that Paul appreciated their honest desire to worship. Remember he was sincere about a faith other than Jesus not too far in the distant past. These are two vital areas [(in,not of) and (appreciate their desire)] of the Christian walk that MANY MANY Christians are missing today. The ability to be in the world but not of the world has been severely diminished in Christian circles for a long time now. In our fight for Truth with a capital T we have accepted a truth with a lowercase t. We've aligned behavior with belief in a way that was never intended in scripture. The outlawed behavior being observation (not participation.) We've allowed church leaders who claim to hold THE propositional truth to take us down paths of capital-T Truth only to lead us at the last minute to walled-off corridors of a similar-yet-poor imitation of our faith. So close yet so far away.
Jesus made a path. The church wants to so protect that path and the "religious leaders" (read: Pastors) so wanted to protect that path and (for all the right reasons) wanted to guide people down that path that they marked off the path and built institutionalized walls on either side of the path. All this done to "be certain that the sinner becomes a saint."
The concept and even passion is a good one. The method (and attached theology) however I believe is terribly wrong. If a person ever gets to the place where they feel coerced or forced to become something... they will wonder where the 'someone' went. They will wonder if it all was just a manipulation ploy. People outside of Christ have to make the decision for Christ apart from our prodding and wall-building. They have to 'taste and see that the Lord is good." We ask them to "buy a membership to Sam's club and trust US, the grapes are good." We want people to act like believers before actually becoming belivers. We want them to buy into a system, a way of life, a new culture before they can shop at our supermarket.
Why am I passionate about this today? Well, because I just got my hair cut.
Yes. A haircut.
I hardly go to any one salon or any one stylist. Since I was 13 years old I've cut my own hair (insert joke here) and it was only within this last year that I've gotten interested (read: lazy) enough in actually go to a salon. One thing you should know about me is that I always talk with the staff I'm around no matter the store. Also I purposely tip very well. Just a few weeks ago I bought extra Apple because the person taking orders at the drive-thru seemed to be anxious for me to buy a pie. I asked "Is this some competition?" She said "Yeah, but we're not supposed to tell anyone." I asked who was winning and she said that the guy at the counter was winning. So I took two pies and left my church business card with her. Side note: One thing I hate is when Christians don't tip well but they leave tracts. Okay, back to my story...
So today I meet my tattooed stylist and we begin our conversation. Within a few minutes I know about her family, education, previous job experience, etc. She then returns the favor and in normal conversation begins to get to know me a little. We get to the "So what do YOU do?" question and I smile and say "Actually, I'm a Pastor." (Why I have to say 'actually' is another story that I may have to get over.) Anyway it gets quiet so I follow up... "Yeah, most people are surprised when they hear that. She said "Yeah, I'd imagine so. You're definitely not the Pastor type." ---BINGO!
So, we continue and I assure her that I do not hold about 85% of the views that make up her connotation of the term "pastor". We talk more and I find out about how she's been put off by the church. Starting from the age of 14 she's met some over-zealous Christians. She described story after story of people who interrupt her meals, conversations or even walks home when they come up to her and try to 'save' her. She told me of one time when she and a guy (whom she did not know) in a suit were walking down the street. She was a few feet beside him and behind him and this woman stares at her from a distance as they walk past.
She said "you know when you feel like someone is staring at you so hard they're burning holes in you with their eyes?" I said 'yep'. She continued to tell me that this woman began handing her "religious material" (a.k.a. tracts) and so she was so frustrated that she asked this woman "Maam. Why is it that you didn't stop that guy in front of me?" The woman replied "Well, YOU look like you need it."
Okay. So here's my deal and I'll shutup.
This woman is wide-open spiritually. In fact she was cool with talking to me and sharing some of her beliefs. She even talked to me about her husband's experiences with churches in my denomination. Okay I have to share this one: His family quits attending this unnamed church. The church sent offering envelopes anyway after the family let it be known that they were no longer going to attend. So, the guy's dad mails the church the tithe envelopes back hoping that someone else could use them. What does the church do? They send this family a BILL FOR THE UNUSED ENVELOPES!!! Again I say GGGRRRRRR!
Well, ultimately we had a great conversation and she made me look more attractive (it wasn't very hard) and we had some relaxed conversation as I paid. She gave me her card and I said "can we trade?" she said "absolutely" and assured me that she'd check out the church online. She said "Now, you're the kind of person with whom I feel like I could talk about God." I thanked her for the cut and I was out.
So in conclusion dear Pastor friend and church member, please remember that YOU are the best opportunity to "market" your church. You are a living, breathing, walking, talking, billboard all day long. I'm absolutely convinced that people would LOVE Jesus. The average religious person would be ticked off by him... but those outside of the faith would enjoy his company. He's a cool guy. He understands and wants to improve the lives of everyday people so much that he wants to give them an abundant eternal life. Eternal means now and forever. I can't help but to think that Truth doesn't need a salesman.
Yesterday was another successful weekend with regards to guests. I haven't gotten our report yet as Calvin is traveling for business but I believe we had about 18 new folks this week. Our nursery was filled and some more kids were there this week as well. It was a good week for guests.
Calvin and the band did a good job with a Hootie and the Blowfish tune "Time". The message was about Time Management in regards to how to pull of Ephesians 5:16 "Make the most of every opportunity." We showed a clip of 24 (the one from a few weeks back when Jack nearly got blown up by the Doctor who locked him in an office with a hard drive-type device). I shared how we've all grown accustomed to this hurryupandmeetthedeadline type of life!
All in all we had a very good week. We had 1 family from last week return. I hope to see some of our previous guests return but they may not. The majority of our guests the first week were African American and I'm not sure if we clicked with them or not. We'll see.
Our team is gearing up for our Easter Egg Hunt on April 8th. We have a very basic site up at EasterInChesapeake.com for registration and info about the hunt.
It looks to be another busy week. I love ministry and I love church planting. It's tough work but I'd take this over being bored or frustrated with vision any day.
Our relationship with the Cinema Cafe has been a very good one thus far. They've allowed us ample storage space, use of their audio and video throughout the building (including T.V.'s in the foyer) and basically anything else we've needed. Early on I asked if we could display a small plastic sign with some business cards on an existing table in the foyer (about the size of a file folder). The manager not only agreed but said "Hey, you can put up something like that if you want." He was pointing to a display for a sweepstakes entry. I took down the manufacturer information to match it up identically and a few weeks later and here we are.
Today Mikael (our former intern who's here visiting his girlfriend) and I went and set it up. I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out. Now, anyone who comes to a movie in the theater where we meet will walk past a display from our church! Best of all, it's FREE! All we paid for was the display case and printing. Add in some of our advertising pieces as well as our business cards and "Bam!" instant advertising. Just add a weekend crowd headed to the movies!
At some point in the future we're going to use this display to raffle off ipods. I'm likely to go with GodiPod.com and provide some great content to go with the winning prize.
Okay. I wrote a long thought out post about the situation going on at Calvary Church of Albuquerque. I've deleted it and replaced with this shorter and less vocal post.
I'll just say that I'm extremely disappointed in how this is being handled and I'm personally surprised at a few prominant leaders who are allowing their names to remain attached to this. I will be surprised (though in a small way) if at least one or two of these Board members do not resign next week. I don't expect it but a glimmer of hope remains.
1. Skip's resignation will be accepted.
2. Skip will be asked to return as Senior Pastor of CCA.
3. Some of these board members will let this die down and then they will resign from this board and be replaced with actual members of the church.
4. CCA will sustain an attendance decline.
5. CCA will adopt Calvary of Ocean Hills as a multi-site campus (a la Life Church).
I'm saddened with how this whole thing has been handled. I have many thoughts on this but I will not post them publically.
We should all pray for CCA and those who need Christ in their community.
"Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth- everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.""
"So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God."
I Corinthians 10:31
Life Change is cool
I was reading my brother-in-law's blog today and came across this post. It's cool to see how God works.
"Last year, on Feb. 6th I was attending Focal Point Church in Chesapeake, VA, where my now brother-in-law is the lead pastor. At the end of the service, which was still held in the Skating Rink, Tally(Tall-E, that is how you pronounce his name) asked us to bow our head in prayer. As he began to pray, he asked all of us unsaved persons to quietly raise our hand, if you wished to have Jesus Christ become your personal savior. **Sidebar** I had been contemplating this decision for a while before I met the Wilgis', until my Granny was taken from me at such a young age. I lost my faith, or lack there of, and began to not believe in anything at all. After a few talks with my wife (fiance at the time), Tally, and Mary (my now Mother-in-law), I began to pray. I just prayed. **Sidebar End** I quietly raised my hand and allowed Tally to lead my heart in pray asking Jesus Chirst to be my one and only true Lord. I know some people like to think that I am supposed to feel this great power raise through me or be lifted off my seat or some other nonsense like that. That was not the case at all, I felt relieved. I felt open. I felt like a new spirit. Most of all, I felt loved.
To sum things up, whether you like to believe me or not, I am a changed person. I am a new man because I have accepted the Lord as my Savior. For that reason alone, I will pray for those whom do not know Him and continue to spread His good word.
I love my two girls. Good night to all."
This is what it's all about!!!
A bit of transparency for you on this our 2-year anniversary.
Well, today makes 2 years that Focal Point Church has been around. We've overcome many obstacles and we're beating the odds when it comes to church planting. If I am to be honest, we're not where I expected us to be at this point but I suppose I didn't expect a lot of things along the way.
We've had what I would describe as three distinct congregations since we started the church.
1st Congregation: The Planting Congregation
This was the group who stepped out with us from our mother church. These were the total of 21 people (14 adults and 7 kids). This "core" was vital to our initial launch. They were the people God used to help create what would become Focal Point Church. We met initially on Sunday evenings while we all attended church in the morning at our parent church. I was 25 years old with two church plants under my belt as the Youth Pastor and these are the initial group who felt God was calling them to come with me to start something new in our area. I made a LOT of mistakes then but I did learn a ton as we went. Obviously these folks had church background and no matter how much we talked, it wasn't until we got going did many of them 'see' where we were headed. It took a lot of faith for that initial group to get going with us. Only four people from this group is currently active in our church. My wife, myself a single dad and his daughter.
2nd Congregation: The Overlap Congregation
The second congregation we had was basically new converts and transfer growth. By the time much of our core had gone, we had already attracted our share of church-shoppers. These are the 15-year Christian vets who wanted a church for themselves. The good thing about this group is that they usually are committed to tithing and serving so you don't have to teach this... the down side is that they have a 'way' they want things done. SO many conversations about vision and sticking to our distinctness... saying "no" a lot. Trying to teach boundaries and keep my own was a big deal. The other half of this group was our newcomers. These were the unchurched and/or de-churched who started to attend. At the time we were meeting in a roller skating rink so it also took a lot for this group to come. The thing I liked about the newer people was that since their lives were changed at Focal Point, they believed in what we were doing. So on one hand I was trying to tone down the veteran Christians (wiped a lot of noses and doing a ton of unnecessary explaining as to why we weren't going to do their favorite program). In many cases I'd even say my mistakes here were not to spend more time with the new folks in our church. It took a little while before I realized that I had to stop it. This was also a period of recovery as I was having difficulty trusting since the departure of many of our "core" team the previous October. It was definitely a 'perserverance' stage for me.
3rd Congregation: The Present Congregation
Well, on November 13, 2005 I had come to the end of my proverbial rope. I felt frustrated, hurt and in many cases abandoned. You see, we had gone for months with this lackluster attitude. We experienced some highs in attendance and a move (to a high school) but then it seemed as if our momentum was gone. I had people dishing out gossip, people dropping the ball left and right and it seemed like no who was passionate about truly reaching people for Jesus. Our finances were okay but aside from that it seemed like we had become stagnant. We weren't moving. So, what did I do? I challenged our people in the most basic, bottom line way I could. I explained who we were and where we were going and I said "If you cannot give your 100% to this vision or to me as your Pastor, please do not come back next week. This church will love like it's never loved, serve like it's never served and give like it's never given."
Well, that week I spoke to 4 families who had decided that it wasn't for them. I had some people say to my face "We don't want to have to worry about doing anything on Sundays. We just want to come in and enjoy ourselves." Wow! Some of the long-term Christ followers. What a statement. We had others talk about how they were concerned about things... then everytime I asked what the concerns were we came to the place where it was in fact their lack of boundaries and wanting to 'fix' people. It wasn't that there were legit problems... it was a Chicken-Little approach to life and wanting to make everyone perfect. Two other families didn't even bother to sit down with me. They admitted that they had no problem with me or the church... they just had never felt completely at peace (two more long-term Christian couples). I responded gracefully to both of them. Neither of them had been involved in serving or fully tithing to the church.
Quite honestly... that message had it's intended effect. For the most part we didn't have to replace hardly anyone in areas of service. What we did lose was half of our budget. You see, the two couples who sat down with me were the top two givers in the church. I knew this going in. We lost just about 1/2 of our monthly tithes when they departed. It was tough. But it was a must.
I will never forget sitting at lunch with a young couple in our church (who reads this blog) one day after that. The guy said "Tally, we were talking the other day on the way home about how tough that was for you to say what you said knowing that the church would lose a lot of money. We want you to know that we appreciate that you are willing to do it anyway. We've never met a Pastor who would have been willing to do that." I can't tell you how much those words ministered to me.
Since that day we've seen a TON happen in our church. We moved basically two weeks later from a high school into a Girl Scout building to save money. We spent the month of December as a core group again. After much prayer God provided a way for us to get out of our church office. We were locked out of the Girl Scout building on New Years day after the custodian decided not to show up. That next week we had an agreement with our current location "The Cinema Cafe" to hold services in their facility. We've seen a huge attitude adjustment within our church. Most of our people are serving, most are now giving (we had couples go from $20/week to $95 and one couple went from $100/month to nearly $500.... these are twenty-somethings). We haven't made up the difference just yet but we're on our way!
So as I look back on our first two years I say "No, we're no where near where I thought we'd be by now." But I also have to be honest and say that I've never felt more excited about this opportunity to lead this church. We are doing the right things and working hard. As we look forward over these next few months I'm begging God for an increase of people. I'm asking God to pour out his blessing on this body. Focal Point IS the right church for this community. The community just needs to experience it and I'm certain they'd agree.
The challenge we face today is what I call alphabet soup. If you pour a bowl of alphabet soup and you only look for the p's... you have to wade through a lot of other letters. At some point it may even get frustrating. You see, that's the position we're in with our community. We have the right atmosphere and message but we're surrounded with other church plants that are flash-pan plants. They come and go without the leadership and structure to sustain them. We have that... but not the 'buzz' just yet. We're attempting to change that right now.
We're doing 30,000 mailers (10,000 homes- three different dates [last week, April 1st and May 1st]) We're also doing an Easter Egg Hunt and Carnival on April 8th. We're advertising that all over including with the preschools in our area. We're doing Free movie days at the Cinema Cafe'. We're setting up an advertisement stand at the mall in the cafe where we meet where we will auction off ipods as a way to get attention to the fact that we're meeting there each week.
The quality of our service is much-improved. The attitude of our church is very good and morale is high. We're praying now for the increase.
If you think about it today please toss one up for us. I'm excited about what the future has now that we're on this side of our storms. I believe God is going to unload his blessing on us and bring people this way... it should be an exciting few months.
Liberty Wins!! (and Liberty Wins again)
Thanks to those of you who took the time to vote. This Friday on CBS Evening news, the Liberty University Debate team will be on for the Assignment America segment!
From the CBS News site:
his week's winning story pitch is:
Meet America's top-ranked college debate team. Move over Harvard, here comes Liberty University.
Watch Friday's CBS Evening News with Bob Schieffer to see Steve's report.
LIBERTY WINS AGAIN!
Fasnacht’s Jumper with 14.9 Seconds Left Lifts Liberty to 10th-straight Title
March 11, 2006 · Lynchburg, Va.Liberty’s Allyson Fasnacht hit a 13-foot jump shot with 14.9 seconds left to seal the Lady Flames’ 53-50 win over High Point in the title game of the 2006 Advance Auto Parts Big South Women’s Basketball Championship.
Liberty (25-5) earns the Conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, its 10th-straight appearance in the Big Dance. High Point’s season ends at 20-10.
10 time defending Big South Champion Liberty Flames!
Direct Mail Update
Today we had about 20 people come from our most recent direct mailing (hit homes on Friday). This fits about what we've had in the past. The next 2 weeks we'll still likely get people off of this piece.
We sent out 10,000 cards. Statistically we're told we could get around 1/2 of 1 percent response. That would put us at 50 homes or around 150 people. There are other factors including repetition of the cards, awareness and call to action (what do we want them to do).
Our website saw a bump up on Friday as well.
So far so good... We'll see how the next few weeks go.
As a side note about the message today... I wasn't pleased with my delivery today but I got a ton of feedback saying that people loved it. Isn't that the craziest thing? Ever been there?
Vote for Liberty!!!!
(The following is taken from a LU email sent out today to Alumni, Friends and Students of Liberty University)
GIVE A VOTE FOR LIBERTY DEBATE
My topic today is a bit unusual.
In fact, I’d like to ask you to do me a favor.
The Liberty University Debate Team — which has become a dynasty in the world of college debate by winning 15 national championships — has been nominated to be spotlighted during the “CBS Evening News with Bob Schieffer” Friday feature known as “Assignment America.” Each Friday, CBS previews three stories, with the Liberty Debate Team scheduled to be one of those three “story pitches” on tonight’s broadcast.
After the Friday broadcast, viewers are invited to visit the CBS News website ( http://www.cbsnews.com ) to vote on which of the three story pitches they want to see covered by CBS News correspondent Steve Hartman, who travels across the country to cover the chosen stories.
Whichever story gets the most votes by 2:00 p.m. ET on Monday is the winner.
So, here’s the favor I’d like to request.
I would love for Liberty’s Debate Team to get this national exposure. It would be a great promotion for Liberty and a wonderful way for viewers to see these Christian college students who are at the pinnacle of the highly competitive college debate world.
So, I am asking you to take a moment to visit the CBS News website ( http://www.cbsnews.com ) after tonight’s (Friday’s) CBS News broadcast and cast a vote for Liberty Debate.
So if you would, take a few seconds and pretend you're voting for Chris to win American Idol... instead, vote for LU to get some big-time national exposure. Thanks!
LU Debate site: http://www.liberty.edu/academics/communications/debate/
CBS VOTE SITE: cbsnews.com
FX is coming out with a new show called "Black. White."
It's 'Wife Swap' on steroids. Basically this show is about following two families who will be completely made up to resemble people of another race (in this case, African American and Anglo American = Black. White.) The premise of the show is centered around the stereotypes and subcultures that exist in every context. Of course the show is about ratings so they will highlight the drama that goes on as well as the faults that lie behind the facade of each individual.
I've attended a lot of "Christian" meetings in my day. I'll continue to attend these very large gatherings. For all of the talk at these gatherings about being 'next generation this' and 'emerging that' and 'relevant blah blah'... I seem to see the same thing... a very poor representation of our society at large.
What tends to happen is a bunch of white guys get together and pat each other on the back (I'm not knocking the training at these events, just the demographic of which I am a part). We have the kumbyah moments and then we leave like the last day of summer camp, promising to keep in touch. In place of shreds of paper or ink stained hands with numbers on them we have a handful of business cards.
Recently I attended another such event. For all of the statistics I heard about multi-cultural blah blah... I felt like I was sitting on a styrophome plate of rice covered in milk. Well over 100 people and I'd bet maybe 5 were black and 2 or 3 Hispanic. I'm sorry but our country is a LITTLE more diverse than this. Mind you, this wasn't a regional meeting. There were people from nearly 25 states. Do you know who was selected to share in the big events open to the public? Yup. A Frenchman and a Hispanic gentleman. I'm glad they were able to speak but it just seems like there is a "white" elephant in the room no one wants to talk about.
I'm concerned that our churches aren't doing much to reach those who don't look like we do. I'm concerned that the latest and greatest methods and tools are being implemented in a large part to reach 1 race. I'm concerned that (in general) the inner cities of our country are being shunned for church planters looking to find the next booming suburb. Maybe it's just me. Maybe I need to get out more but growing up in the inner city of Baltimore I saw a TON of church buildings but very little of the Church.
For many in the church world, the cities in our country become nothing more than a backdrop to where most of us attend ball games and maybe an occasional trip to some nice shopping. It's convenient that the highways take us over the 'bad parts' of town and drop us right in front of Nordstrom. It's great that I can drive into most down-town districts, see my game and turn around and head back to my safe home without ever interacting with 'those people'. In my denomination most of the 'diversity' comes from the Asian community or European crowd. In the books it sounds good "We have ___% of minorities." A look a little deeper however gives a sad account for how we're doing among African Americans and Hispanics.
"More like Heaven and Less like our mirror." is quickly becoming the cry of our church. Much of my frustration I'm certain comes from God's leading in my own life and not a frustration with other people. I've often heard two lines that have pressed me for change in life... "A need seen is an assignment given" and "Those things which bother you the most are likely those things you are called to change."
For several years now I've felt uniquely designed to bridge the gap of diversity that exists in the circles in which I run. My passion is to build a church on the OUTSIDE of a city that can be a life-giver to quality churches INSIDE the city. I'll share more about this in a future post...
If you appreciate good marketing... check out Scott's Post from today!
I'm looking for insight. Does anyone know of some solid churches who are intentionally multi-cultural?
Due to the fact that I would be out of town this past weekend, I decided to record the message for use this Sunday in my absence. I've started a new series called "Boulders and Backpacks" which deals with issues of boundaries in our lives.
Many people struggle with being able to know how and when to say "no". Too many people have a hard time observing the boundaries of others. As a result a lot of people are left to anarchy in their relational lives. We hope to address this. The premise is basically (as in hiking) that we're all going up the mountain and we all have our own backpacks (personal responsibilities) that we must carry. We all also must be aware of the boulders in life.
A boulder is an obstacle that can come down to cause harm to a climber. If a boulder does trap someone on our climbing team, we're all right there to help out. Boulders are actual burdens in life that do come from time to time. This is in essence the church being 'the church'.
The feedback I got so far has been great. This is the first time we've used video as the main message. I wasn't sure how it would go over. Several people commented that my style was more laid back due to the fact there was no audience. That was an interesting observation. I see what they mean. I'll have to compare the two sets of footage to see how drastic the shift was. In addition, a 20-something in our congregation Text-Messaged me DURING the message on Sunday (about 10:30a.m.) and said something like "Tally, great video.. have a safe trip." I wrote back "Thanks, now pay attention!"
I also received an email this week from another attendee who said that this message impacted him like no other in nearly a year. He assured me that me being 3 states away had nothing to do with it :)
So, all in all this experiment went well. I think were going to video some intro messages for the web and DVD which will allow us to give a heads up to those checking us out. Stay tuned... it should be fun.