I just got back from my morning workout. Today I ran close to 3 miles and did about 45 minutes of weight training. I'm buff. :)
Over the last few months I've been working out more often and playing basketball twice a week at the local YMCA. It's been good to get the blood flowing again. Until I got into the ministry I was very active usually playing a few sports at any given time. Once I got out of college and behind a desk I've seen my muscles get covered with fat tissue and my energy level drop unless I was on a Starbucks high. Recently I've been making lifestyle changes to course-correct.
I have a 2 year old son and later this year expect my wife and I to be pregnant again. I have a selfish goal that I've had since I was a 16 year old. I want to actively play sports with my children when they are in high school. Chanel surfing and Nintendo WII don't count. I refuse to be a part of my generation's "World of Warcraft" movement by becoming a man who does most of his work with his brain and then sits on his rear the rest of the time.
Okay... now that you know my motivation, here is an illustration.
Yesterday I was in my local Starbucks (don't laugh) and I was trying to learn more about my options so that I could drop down my caloric intake substantially. My normal Starbucks drink is about 470 calories. Yesterday (after studying my options) I got something similar that ended up being 220 calories. Actually I ended up only drinking a few sips but that's beside the point.
Since I'm there often, the barista noticed and said "I don't believe in diets." I politely said "Ohh yeah?" She continued "My mother was always on diets and she never lost a D*^m pound. Diets don't work. Every time she'd lose weight she'd try to stop smoking and then she'd gain weight again. Diets suck."
I said "It sounds like your mother has an addictive personality." She agreed and we had more small talk about how this girl was in rehab programs and failed the 9th grade 3 times.
Anyway... she's right. Diets suck. So do most people's view of discipleship. People who go from being overweight and out of shape and actually keep it off aren't "Dieters". When you get "ON" a diet what ultimately has to happen? Yep. You get "OFF" of the diet. Diets alone will never accomplish what you want for your life (especially if like me you too want to play sports with your kids in 15 years). If you're just on a diet... you've got to Die-it. (corny enough?)
What works is LIFESTYLE change. What works is learning about your body, learning about your habits, getting so ticked off at status quo that you decide to despise the things that kept you in bondage. Spiritually speaking you need to smash some un-bibilcal idols. You can't be cool with using an idol in those times of desperation. You've got to be willing to destroy the chains that bind.
So here's the deal. Let's not teach people to go on spiritual diets. Let's teach people to smash their stinkin' idols and look at them the way our God does. Discipleship isn't about the next conference or 'rah rah' session... Discipleship is looking to Jesus and then looking at self and chiseling off the things about self that don't reflect Jesus.
See Also: Perry's thoughts on not being fat anymore part 1, part 2
Philidelphia Inquirer and I
Today I was emailed a note telling me that my blog had been quoted in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Sure enough sections of my "Blog Maturity 101" post are included in a story talking about the need for bloggers to grow up. The reporter wrote the story after a councilman was caught making anonymous posts that disparaged the council president.
Philadelphia Inquirer Story
Serve and Love
Several years ago I had a teenager in our church come to me crying about how her life was unfulfilled and out of control. Upon investigation I found that she was greedy. Life was all about her. To get back on track I suggested that she serve others and even give away some of her fancy outfits to people who actually "need" basic clothing.
Serving is one of the best ways God's word has made sense to me. Days upon days when I served people who were less fortunate than myself helped me see Jesus words differently. You see... he was a servant at heart. His entire mission was self-less. He came to help people out.
I recently had a friend email me. This friend wants to 'Experience' God's love. I thought this friend had done some service project recently where they gave food to the homeless and I asked "Did you feel God's love in distributing food to the homeless?"
The reply I got back was a short email:
"I didnt give food to the homeless. But if you are equating serving with loving then perhaps I should try it."
I just wanted to put it on my blog for all the world to see... YES! I am all about seeing God's love through serving others. :)
We live in a conglomerate of many cities that make up "Hampton Roads". I live about 20 feet from the Virginia Beach line. Our city is called "Chesapeake". The thing about our area is that for the most part it's 1 city with a lot of flavors but the governments here don't want to give up power by consolidating although some things are on the move like a regional transportation authority.
Anyway as you look closer at our area of Chesapeake we meet in a part of town called "Greenbrier". The 5 miles surrounding our location in Greenbrier is about 48% black and 52% white with a population base of approximately 215,000 people.
I don't know of very many churches in our area who are growing rapidly. Even most of the successful ones here have plateaued for a while.
One of my passions has always been to have a multi-racial church. I grew up in Baltimore City and diversity wasn't a buzz word to me... it was reality. In fact for many of my experiences growing up I was in the minority. Schools, sports leagues, etc.
This Sunday we had a LOT of our regulars out. Just since Easter God has brought a LOT of African American families to our church. As I spoke Sunday I kept thinking about how God was answering prayers I prayed for well over a year. I've been asking God to make us diverse. We've changed nothing but all of a sudden we've seen a new wave of people come into the services week after week.
Tomorrow Kristy and I are hosting one of the new families for supper. I'm very humbled.
As I looked out yesterday, I saw a truly diverse congregation where most of the people did not look like me and I loved it!
I've said for years that we will not be like most churches in our area and "target" a group that tells people who don't look like us to go to hell. I believe God has brought us here in this place and while it is a challenge, He's called us to meet that challenge. We are still learning what it looks like to be a church in that context (most churches are homogeneous)... we're praying for strength and wisdom to fulfill our calling to our city. Thanks in advance for your prayers.
So yesterday evening I decided to go and get my haircut. I typically go to one of the nicer salons in the mall. My deal is this... I don't make appointments. I just walk up and take whomever they have open. As a result I've come to know the stories of about half of the stylists there. Just about every time I get to share my faith based on these two questions:
Q. So what do you do for a living?
A: I'm a Pastor
Q: (after the shock wears off) What made you become a Pastor?
A: (DING DING DING) The gospel gets explained.
So yesterday I walk in for my unannounced appointment and the receptionist says that there aren't any stylists available for another hour. The girl next to her whispers something and then the receptionist says "Well, we do have an assistant in training who can do it if you'd like. Her cuts are much less expensive."
I said to her in a joking manner "Can she do the messy look b/c that's all I need?" We both smiled and off I was with my new (and unexperienced) stylist for the day.
Basically what happened next was the longest haircut of my life. This poor girl was only on her 3rd day EVER. She had just completed beauty school and was a month or so away from taking her state boards. I had confidence however because in my mind 'surely they wouldn't have her here if she wasn't very good.' I was wrong.
Several problems developed. First it was that all of my hair was the same height (sides, back, top). It didn't look good so I asked her to trim down the sides and back. After about 5 minutes of watching her nervously cut the sides I said "You can use clippers if you want."
I must say that I cut my own hair and the hair of my friends from the time I was 13 until about a year or two ago. So I honestly had been cutting hair for close to 15 years. I felt horrible for this girl who was still learning.
For whatever reason I was in a good mood yesterday about all of this. I prayed silently "God, teach me some things and help me to be an encouragement and witness to her."
I started to have fun with it. I calmed her down and asked if they had taught her much about cutting mens hair. She admitted that she spent most of her time on perms and coloring as well as fancy women's styles. Not much on the basics of a mans trim. I then asked if she had ever used clippers. Again she said no. So here I was with a girl fresh out of school who hadn't used clippers HOLDING CLIPPERS next to my hair.
After several attempts at showing her how to use clippers I finally said to her "We have two options at this point. Either I have to finish the haircut or I need you to get someone here to help you finish... I'm running out of hair to fix."
As a "master" stylist came and repaired the job I took time to talk with my rookie stylist and assured her that we all make mistakes. I'm fine with her attempts and I know she'll get better. I even told her that when she gets her own haircut show that I hope she'll still do my cuts.
I thought about how we disciple in Christianity.
I thought about how we delegate in Leadership.
I thought about my own mistakes as a staff member.
In all of these things I recalled how important it is to be able to "Fail Safely". Maxwell has a book I read a number of years ago called "Failing Forward". He basically makes the point (well) that we all fail in life. The difference is that people who acheive make sure they 'fail forward'. When people around us fail, let's help them fail with dignity. Help them fail and learn a lesson or two. When people fail morally let's help "restore them gently" as scripture teaches. How I wish I had more people who helped me succeed in my failures when I was just getting started.
This young lady thanked me several times for my patience and understanding. She said "I can't tell you how many clients would have flipped out and made a scene for far less." That's sad. It's sad because I wonder how many clients are Christians who aren't representing the cross. I'm not saying that Christians should always get terrible service. I'm saying that we need to be willing to demonstrate for others a bit of that grace that was demonstrated for us on that cross and continues to be demonstrated every day when we fall short of God's glory.
By the way, my hair was repaired and looks fine. Just shorter than it has been. My wife likes it and as long as she thinks I'm hot I have nothing to worry about :)
Let it be said of me...
This past week I attended the greatest funeral I may ever attend.
Dr. Falwell was a giant among men for me and his funeral only reinforced who I knew him to be. We went with our friends John and Amber. They stood in line at 7 a.m. and we arrived at 8 a.m. (for a 1 p.m. service).
[Our friend Olivia (former founding member of Focal Point) came up huge for us by watching Caleb so we could break way for the day. Caleb LOVED his time with them and I'm thankful for friends that would be so kind on such short notice.]
We got in line at 8 a.m. and stood until 11 a.m. when the main doors opened. Because John and Amber were so early we were able to stand right near the front where the VIP entrance was. It was an Evangelical convention with the biggest names in Christianity. There were VIPs and then there were "VERY-VIP's". The "very" group got slipped in the back while the rest of the VIP's got to stand outside (albeit at a separate entrance). Basically if you think of evangelical Christianity... they were on hand.
We got our seats at about 11 a.m. and we were in the center about 15 rows back. The pre-service included a great video tribute down memory lane. Even in the tribute I noticed something that is NEVER reported and even something Dr. Falwell didn't talk much about.... his missions involvement to the poorest of the world. Video footage from his entire ministry showed him talking with, hugging and feeding some of the worlds most starved children. He was shown in India where LU has a long-established presence helping the poor. It showed him in Russia around the fall of the Soviet Union where he walked away from the escorts to chat with an 'average' citizen. There were also of course the many encounters with dignitaries, church members, family and students.
The service included stories from long-time friends, Franklin Graham, Dr. Jerry Vines and a message from the President. One of the most touching parts of the service was when his daughter spoke to us with her brother's flanking either side. She spoke of her brothers in light of her dad passing and requested that we pray for them to fulfill THEIR unique calling from God and not to expect them to be Jerry Falwell.
Dr. Graham hit me hard when he talked about the Liberty Students' reputation around the country. Before sending his children to LU he asked a Pastor friend about Liberty and they said "Send your kids there. There is something about that place... those students come out with a fire in their belly! It's a different school Franklin. Send your kids to Liberty." That about summed up my feeling of LU under Dr. Falwell's leadership. Students who came away ready to take on the world. Students with a 'fire in their belly'.
Dr. Falwell was honored on so many levels. He had the ability to get along with Presidents and custodians, the politician and the poor. Dr. Falwell was a fighter for morality but a lover of one woman for 50 plus years. He was the Pastor of one church and he never sought political office. He wasn't interested in being popular, he was interested in being purposeful. He's the only man who upon death can get hate from the far left because he didn't support homosexuals while at the same-time have his funeral protested by a group on the far right saying that he loved them. He was a man who fought Larry Flint for millions of dollars but became a friend and told him publically that he wanted to see him come to Christ so he could be Flint's Pastor.
He completely disagreed with Al Sharpton on just about everything but Sharpton gave one of the best descriptions about him and said "When you get to know Jerry, you have to like him personally." Dr. Falwell did not approve of alcohol consumption but he opened homes to the alcoholics so they can recover. He spoke out against abortion but opened up homes where unwed mothers could come on his dime and the dime of his ministry to receive top-notch prenatal care. J.C. Watts said it this way:
"These young women from around the country paid not one dime for their medical care. Not one dime for housing. Not one dime for food. And not one dime for Pampers. They were, in fact, pampered. Because of Jerry Falwell's compassion, thousands of young lives were saved, and thousands of childless couples experienced the joy of adoption."
The tone of the memorial service itself was a powerful testimony of why people should accept Christ. This was certainly a Christian memorial service. This was not the end.
Dr. Falwell always wore a lapel pin that said "Jesus First" and frankly that's the way the service was conducted. Jesus was first in Dr. Falwell's life and everything about the service put Jesus First in the mind and hearts of those who were in the building.
If you would like to see the service to get a feel for what I mean it is available online.
In addition if you wish to get a copy of the service and LU's commencement service, they are being shipped out for the cost of shipping. They are making no money on these DVD's. Jonathan and Jerry Jr. just wanted people to have the opportunity to share in the memorial of their father. You can get the DVD's here.
After all of this week's emotions, the one biggest take-away I had was yet again another challenge from Dr. Falwell to be a Champion for Christ.
Let it be said of me that I walked with Jesus. Let it be said of me that all who came in contact with me knew that is where my loyalties rest. Let it be said of me that a city was changed because I stood for the cause of Christ.
This morning I did some studying at B&N while Kristy and Caleb went to the store to pick up a few things.
Just before noon we took off and went to the local YMCA where the pool and kids water park opened today. It's a beautiful day today with temps in the low-to-mid 90's. Little C-man got dressed up in his outfit to go play in the water. We took this shot right before jumping in the car.
This kid loves the water. He's fearless. Swim lessons are on the docket this summer.
Now the wife and kid are both crashing and I'm about to grab some lunch. There's a big UFC fight on tonight but I don't know that I'll be paying the $40 for it. If someone local wants to go in on it though I could be tempted!
Have a great Saturday!
Dr. Falwell (1933-2007)
Dr. Falwell passed away today at the age of 73. I believe history will reflect a man who made even a greater impact than we can see today. I loved that man and his ministry.
It was not until I arrived at Liberty University and Thomas Road Baptist Church did I believe the local church could actually change the world. My view of church was very small and honestly my view of God was just as small. To this day I go over to Lynchburg, VA to get inspired. When you look around at all God has done through that man's ministry you can see the power of God. Throughout my entire time at Liberty and even working at Thomas Road and LCA (school) I couldn't believe the constant vision that came from this man. He never stopped moving the vision God had given him forward. He was truly larger than life.
People who only knew the Doc from his television appearances missed out on understanding the man. He was a pitbull when it came to fighting for what he believed but he was a gentle giant when it came to being around him in person.
He loved Jesus.
He always said that the smartest man in the world was the man who knew the bible best. He was thirsty for God's word. He taught all of the students at LU to rise early and be in God's word. He would tell us that he has read "My Utmost for His Highest" nearly every day of his life since his conversion.
He loved the church.
My sister-in-law passed away several years ago and it was Dr. Falwell who performed a Memorial service. He was extremely compassionate and loving to the family. His memory was as sharp as I'd ever seen. He wouldn't forget your name. During all of his years of national prominence he remained the Senior Pastor of T.R.B.C.
He loved Liberty University and it's students.
He's said over and over again that LU is his legacy. One of the biggest things I noticed as a student was that he sincerely loved us. He thought of us as grandchildren. You'd often see him interacting with students around campus or 4-wheeling in his Suburban across lawns or up the side of a hill from the baseball field to the Mansion where his office was. He loved Liberty University. Dr. Falwell had a few select lessons he preached every year. While to some it became a joke that he kept telling us about the founding of the church, how he met his wife or the founding of the University... he did it for days like today and tomorrow. When he wasn't there to tell us anymore.
He loved to laugh.
He had a handshake that would break down giants and during convocation he was known for bear hugging and picking up men larger than himself. More than once did he roll up behind me in his big S.U.V. with a huge smile on his face as he made you wish you had a diaper on. He was a jokester.
He loved his grand kids.
Many times around Thomas Road I would see him interact with his grand children. I remember seeing him come in for a fall harvest event where his grandchildren were jumping on the inflatable games we had brought in. He was so proud to sit next to the inflatables and play with his grandkids who were jumping around inside. They'd run out and jump up to grandpa's lap.
He loved his wife. He always said that Macel was his strength and that she kept him in line. His marriage is an amazing testimony. With all of the traveling and work she remained by his side and he to her. Dr. Falwell demonstrated a man who loved, respected and honored his wife. He gave guys like me an example of what could be if a man did it God's way.
He loved his children.
Dr. Falwell has three accomplished children. Jonathan and Jerry Jr. will take over TRBC and LU respectively while his third child, his daughter Jeannie is a Doctor. He often bragged about them and let them know publicly they were loved.
He loved humanity.
Dr. Falwell was a man who did something about injustices. While he may be known for controversial remarks on hot-button topics like homosexuality or abortion, Dr. Falwell is lesser known for being a man who started an inner-city ministry to the poor, a home for Alcoholics and drug addicts, a crisis pregnancy center for unwed (mostly teenage) mothers, an adoption agency, on and on. He came up in a time when conservatives needed a big time voice. Conservative Christians had lost their voice and allowed others to push forward an agenda contrary to scripture as Dr. Falwell saw it. He became a voice (a booming one at that) for those issues that were underrepresented in the public square.
He didn't run for office. He didn't go around naming buildings after himself. He leveraged his entire being to fighting injustices and spreading the cause of Christ. He leaves behind him a legacy that will not be fully known in the next 20 years. With the fastest growing Christian University (now over 10k on campus and 20k in distance learning) on the rise, the impact of Dr. Falwell will be known in the later part of this generation and in the future. While society will discuss Moral Majority and Dr. Falwell's entertaining quotes, people like me are impacted by how he loved his family and how he taught me that God can still use one man to change the world. Presidents were elected with the help of this man but I promise you janitors at Thomas Road have had their lives changed by him as well.
If I can be half the man that Dr. Falwell was, I would have been a great and God-honoring man.
Dr. Falwell has been rushed to the emergency room. It doesn't look good. As a graduate of LU I have come to respect this man in a way many around the country do not completely understand. Being in his ministry and serving in his church provided me with a view that others outside of Lynchburg rarely see. He's loved and respected. What God has done through him has been monumental.
The transaction of communicating God's Word through spoken word is a powerful one. Like electricity it has the power to light a city or destroy people's lives depending on the vessel of transportation.
Each week we have to clearly hear from God, articulate it to the people in a way they can understand and then the people have to be ready to receive and apply it.
For much of that transaction we can damage the goods if we're not careful. It's a powerful proposition when you think about it. Humbling.
My passion is that we are a church where salvation is a weekly norm, baptisms are a common occurrence, the orphan and widow are cared for and poverty is defeated wherever we see it. The next level for us is to be the church that our city cannot ignore. This church cannot ever be pleased with mere existence. We must rally one another to impact our city with the gospel of Christ.
I'm often guilty however of getting caught up with other things that do not make this passion a reality.
I've been in prayer since Sunday afternoon and I'm getting pumped at what God is speaking to me. If you think about it toss one up for me as I prep this week. Pray this God's Word is clearly understood by me, articulated to the church and received.
How to grow your church now!
That is the title of an email I got this morning. I love how every "Christian" company thinks they know how to grow churches. If they actually helped churches grow I would think after a few dozen years of operation these companies would be out of business because the 'secret' (that you can buy for $19.95) would have gotten out by now.
I'm actually offended by Christian marketing companies telling churches that they have the secret to share. I'm so turned off to this type of marketing that I delete the email as soon as it hits my in-box.
Do you know where Pastors should look for information on "How to grow your church now!"? We should look to scripture and to our peers. Those who are actually getting something done.
If I get an email from a very successful Pastor who offers to mentor me, I'll read that email. Until then I'll stay familiar with the 'delete' key.
Driscoll and Hybels: my take
I've held off for almost a week on this.
For those of you not aware, Mark Driscoll made a 9 minute video that was shown at last week's National New Church Conference in Orlando, FL. I went to this event last year but frankly wasn't impressed and chose not to go this year. I may reconsider going the next time around depending on conversations with guys (and gals) who went this year. I thought their survey process was great last year so they could have made huge improvements from my first impression... I digress.
Anyway, last year Driscoll who leads the Acts 29 network, spoke at this event. I thought he was the best speaker on the stage by far. This year he was invited back but chose not to attend. The good people at NNCC invited him to present a video instead. Check out Driscoll's blog for more detail.
During his video he spoke about the need for real men in church planting. This is one of Driscoll's main issues. I personally believe he's right. Well apparently after the video aired (I wasn't there so look at other blogs including TallSkinyKiwi for a blow-by-blow)... Bill Hybels makes a comment that women are valued in the church world too... there was laughter and applause.
Driscoll posted his thoughts and the video on his blog.
I have a few thoughts about this:
Does anyone offer biblical rationale behind a disagreement with Driscoll?
Did he say anything biblically wrong or are some just uncomfortable with it so they laugh and clap at Hybels breaking the tension? It's easier to laugh than think about the substance.
I don't know that I like Hybels using a serious challenge by Driscoll as an opportunity for an applause line. Driscoll has documented his need to take care of his body and limit his travel for health reasons. He's also documented his passion to plant churches and see people come to repentance and freedom in Christ. In an attempt to balance both passions, he and his crew spent time to film, edit, produce and burn 1800 copies of this DVD. In response to a challenging video that made some people uncomfortable, Hybels dismisses the point (and by extension Driscoll's efforts) by giving the audience the impression that Mark's comments were anti-women. They weren't. They were pro-men. I'd like to hear biblical discussion on Mark's points... not jabs at a video screen making light of a man whom you've never met.
Whether you agree with Mark or not you must admit he's one of the VERY FEW Pastors we have in our country who are open to actual discourse and debate over his theological convictions. I've listened to a debate he had on the issue of Women in Ministry and he's always been open to discussing this with others. In fact my understanding is that Mark is for women in every level of leadership apart from the role of Senior Pastor. He affirms women and their role in the church and he believes as Hybels does that women are valuable to the church. Unfortunately Hybels thought he'd get some humor at Driscoll's expense and dismiss the point of Driscoll's efforts. It's not the end of the world but I find it to be in poor taste.
While nit-picking and arguing with fellow Pastors is a waste of everyone's time and energy, I think it would be nice to have honest and open discussions on challenges we face in the culture today.
Regardless of what you think of Driscoll's view, strong masculine leadership is present at some of today's up and coming churches. Perry Noble at NewSpring, Steven Furtick at Elevation and Gary Lamb at Ridgestone are just a few examples. Hybels is from the era of drama and lighting while Driscoll is coming from an era in need of strong male leadership.
I think Driscoll's points should be discussed and not made to be something they weren't. Next Sunday take a look at your church audience and see if what he's saying holds weight. I know for our church this is a major issue that needs to be addressed and I appreciated Driscoll's reminder. In our current small group I was the only male in attendance last week. It's sad. I think Driscoll sees something that many Pastors are afraid to admit. I'd hope we could push through the nervous giggles and explore the truth behind the words.