I'm headed to Europe (sort of)
C-Man Fun at the Market
Last weekend we took some time to hang out as a family at the Virginia Beach Farmer's Market. Caleb loved the homemade icecream, seeing the cow next to the organic store, dancing on the stage and playing at the playground. Below are a few snapshots from the fun.
I'm going. Are you going to see me there?
(Ben is Ben Arment for those of you who have never read a blog)
Today I enjoyed a great day with my son. In addition to lunch, getting his hair cut and hitting up the store we went to Lowe's to get some supplies for some honey-do projects I've been putting off.
My son decided that our loft would be a good place to demonstrate his new interest in Van Gough. Demonstrating Van Gough's style, Caleb decided to take some markers and do a work on the wall. Hence why I purchased paint and all the tools needed to knock out a room.
The second project comes from a more recent experience where my son and his little buddy decided to use various objects (T-ball stand, vacuum cleaner tubes, etc) as battering rams to attack the screen on Caleb's bedroom window. Upon noticing the hole that was nearly two feet in diameter I realized I'd need to work on that as well.
So today I found myself at Lowe's and subsequently repairing screens and painting my loft.
Let me just tell ya... a man gets to thinking when he's painting a room. I'm not going to say that a person can get intoxicated by the fumes (I'm Baptist after all), but the theta waves start to rockin' in that moment.
So I thought... Good leaders use blue masking tape.
To illustrate what I mean let me tell you about the painter we hired when we first purchased our home. (He painted the largest room while friends and I tackled some side rooms). The friend who referred him told me that he was meticulous. I was told that he wasn't cheap but he would give us a fantastic final product. True to his reputation I found him to take his time but I would soon find out why. This guy understood the value of blue masking tape.
He took time to do a LOT of prep-work before he ever actually pulled out a paint brush.
Leaders know the value of blue masking tape. Leaders know the value of Spackle. Leaders know the value of laying down a drop cloth and they know the value of removing outlet covers all before painting. These processes aren't fun. They aren't going to get you any recognition and if you don't have the proper perspective they seem to be stumbling blocks to the "real" task of adding color.
As a church planter who started out too early, I learned the value of laying a foundation the hard way. Over the next few years I've learned the value of taking time to build within your team a vision for the foundation as well. So often times we overlook the planning and preparation process.
One of my joys over the last 12 months was seeing my friend Tadd Grandstaff and his team launch Pine Ridge Church so well. I'm looking forward to the rest of the Pastoring world learning more about how long he took and how much work he put in long before one advertisement ever went out to his community. Teams were formed, visits were made and detailed examination of his core was done before the first baby was checked into nursery. He understood the value of blue masking tape.
If you have influence over another person you are a leader. In the area of your leadership let me ask you these simple questions: Are you taking time to prep before you paint? Do you understand the value of blue masking tape? If you understand this principle you will find that your results are far greater than any you've had before.
** By the way if you're free this weekend and want to help me paint, drop me an email ;)
Just A Call Away
Several years ago I visited with an older Pastor who was doing a phenomenal work in regards to planting churches. His heart was to plant 20 churches in just a few years. He had moved to a new ministry and I wanted to catch up and spend some time with him. I love learning and I especially love to learn from people who've been before me and are still making it happen every day.
As with most lifelong learners he started peppering me with questions of life and culture (great men of God will try to learn from everyone... even a rookie). Specifically he was having a space problem and wanted to know if anyone was doing anything 'cutting edge' in regards to growing ministries. This was back before multi-site was cool. We got into a discussion about multi-site churches and how they were done effectively.
He was curious about what he was hearing so he picked up his cell phone. He called a friend who happened to be the leader of a large denominational entity. He simply referenced our conversation and asked if it was true. The gentleman on the other side of the phone confirmed that a few larger churches had started to do these things called 'video venues'. After some small talk they hung up the phone and we continued our conversation.
About 10 minutes later my Pastor friend's phone rings. This time he apologizes to me as he quickly answers. I sat and observed a daddy (my Pastor friend) talking to his son (calling from Afghanistan). His son was calling while he had a break from his duties as a leader of a unit at war. He just wanted to tell dad he was safe and not to worry about what would surely be on the news later.
I just happened to think today about some things and I was reminded of two quick thoughts:
1. In our day of technology... anyone we need is just a connection away. (Through blogging friends in Orlando I've watched several great leaders interviewed for free over the last few days.)
2. My Heavenly daddy is just a call away. He tells me over and over to call on him... for salvation, for forgiveness, in times of trouble, when I'm worried... on and on. My God is just a call away.
Theologically speaking this is HUGE. If the God who made time and then stepped in it is just a call away... then there is not a need I could have on the planet that can not be filled in a moment's notice. It's a pretty cool and calming thought.
Red Letter Obedience
Recently I've been studying the Red Letters of Jesus. While I've often read through the gospels and the book of Acts I wanted to take a different approach.
I wanted to read, stop, study and apply simply the words of Christ. What I've chosen to do is read the scene and take time to ponder how the words of Jesus not only affected that moment but seek out the principle that can translate to my own life. Typically I end up spending a half hour or so per verse so I'm intentional about thinking and praying through it. (BTW: This is descriptive not prescriptive... I read the bible many ways over time.)
I figured I'd share with you a glimpse of one recent read of the red letters:
You don't get very far into the book of Matthew before you encounter the temptation of Jesus by Satan. The first temptation is for Jesus to make his own food. The second temptation is for Jesus to jump off of a high place so that God will send his angels to keep him safe. Both temptations begin with "If you are the son of God..."
Side note: If I were Jesus (its a great thing I wasn't) I'd be like "What punk? I'll crush you!" I'd be all about proving who I am and destroying this dude screwing up the Father's plan. Ultimately that's what Jesus will do but Jesus was much more obedient and patient. That's one of the things I learned here...
Jesus' Red Letter words are "It is also written: Do not put the Lord your God to the test."
Some of my Red Letter thoughts:
1. Satan knows scripture- I'm over hearing people talk who know just enough of the bible to make them dangerous. Satan himself knows the word of God. Simply knowing a few verses and using them to manipulate the behavior of people doesn't cut it with me. The way Jesus was able to combat this temptation was that he knew the full context.
2. The 'temptation' wasn't evil in-and-of itself- The proposition was for Jesus to cause the Father to act. Would God have come through? Sure. Was that the time? No. Just because someone brings me some proposition with a verse attached doesn't mean its from God for that time. It's up to the leading of the Holy Spirit in my life to confirm that action as instruction from God or not. Not all of our temptations will come on a platter with horns. Some will be more subtle.
3. We all test God too much- Living under grace causes us to test God far more than we should. I'm convinced that much of our behavior and liberty we take with scripture comes as a result of relying on Grace as a hammock and not a safety net. Grace is there to catch us but I think we test God when we knowingly use Grace to allow us to walk out of obedience for brief times. We excuse ourselves because we know God will catch us. A more extreme example is when people refuse to apply biblical principles to their family life they run to God when hell breaks loose and say "God, catch us." Or when people spend way more money than they bring home they run to God and say "God, catch us." Some other people may find that they don't raise their children with God as the center of the home and when the kid is a teenager they say (after yelling at the youth pastor) "God, catch us." We put God to the test as if it becomes his job to catch us after we've jumped off the cliff.
Would the Father have protected Jesus? Yes. Should Jesus have put the Father in that position? No.
4. Love and freedom in the law- In studying these red letters I was able to re-read Deuteronomy 6-8 again. Once again I'm reminded how much love is in the law. I'm reminded again that obedience adds so much value, love and relationship between myself and God.
The Red Letters are packing a pretty cool punch for me right now. Hopefully this little insight inspires you to check 'em out anew.
My Liberty University Experience
People who hear that I attended LU ask me what my experience was like. I talk about the amazing vision. I talk about standing on a mountain and being able to see what God does when one man lights himself on fire. I talk about the community that exists and how much the people of Liberty University care.
This morning I came across this article that honestly describes what I got to see up close for 4 years. The atmosphere created at Liberty provides examples of what people of God can look like in today's culture. Check out the link below.
Read about The Donut Shop
As I look forward to our next phase of ministry I continually find that I'm passionate about redemption. At the core of our faith is the practice of redemption. I'm finding that so many places, people and organizations are in need of redemption.
I know that its far easier to wipe the slate clean... but I find incredible value in transformation and change. Brokenness to beauty is more appealing to me than simply creating beauty from a clean slate. Both have value but there is a history, a story, an appealing attribute about taking what was once tossed aside and seeing new life breathed into it.
I think that's what draws me to cities. Cities have the marks of wear and tear. As you walk around a city in areas yet to be redeemed you can see stories. Stories of what once was, stories of pain, stories of hope. As I walk through a neighborhood I'm reminded of the thousands of overlapping stories that exist.
Another thing that keeps my heart beating for the redemption of cities is that there are people who are actively and quietly working to make their part of the landscape a little bit better. These are ministries you will never hear about and they work in places you would never ever take your family but they are our brothers and sisters in Christ. They are missionaries sent by God to transform their community. They bring hope, they bring Jesus.
My heart beats for these heroes of God. I long to see the redemption song sweep through their communities.
Some have asked me why I don't personally go and set up shop inside a city community. Honestly its because I don't see myself being the most effective there. I believe God has prepared me to be an advocate, an awareness-raiser, a fund-raiser, strategist and servant to my heroes doing the work. I wouldn't be as effective as I could be by copying someone else's work. I have found my uniqueness.
My passion is for redemption. My passion is for the Red Letters of Jesus. My passion is to build a ministry that will intentionally spur on the redemption and transformation of our nation's cities. It will come to pass.
Please continue to pray for me, pray for my heroes in the city and pray for our future as we continue to listen to God's voice.
Anyone else visit her church?
My Inner Geek Speaks
So you may not know this... but I have an inner geek.
Yes, I admit it. I know more than I need to about tech stuff and I have ADD when it comes to the latest tech stuff. I see it and I want to figure it out. The only thing that kept me from becoming a computer programmer was that I don't have the patience to troubleshoot every day of my life. Praise God for those of you who can do that for the rest of the world. I celebrate with awe both your brain and your patience.
Every once in a while however I see something tech-related and say "I'm going to do that."
It starts innocently enough but if I hit a few hurdles the project turns from child's play to celebrity death match... Tally vs. Technology.
This is the latest example of why I'm a glutton for tech punishment.
|-RSS friends, there is a video here -|
Basically I came across Qik.com (which is AMAZING btw!) from following Bobby Gruenewald of LifeChurch.tv on Twitter and then while surfing around Qik I found Scoble talking about a cool little program put together by his friend Dave Winer. The software enables a Mac to download an image feed (RSS) and display it as a rotating screen saver.
Scoble mentioned that on an HDTV you could turn your TV into an art gallery by grabbing feeds of great photographers like those of Associated Press, yourself or your friends. He talks about how having a rotating display of great photography in his home serves as art, a conversation piece and insight into the happenings around the world.
This intrigued me for a few reasons:
1. Perspective. I really enjoy the idea of getting a feed from around the world of stunning photos that tell stories.
2. Family & Community. I can 'subscribe' to feeds of family and friends *** IF YOU HAVE A FLICKR ACCOUNT WITH COOL PICS LET ME KNOW, I"LL FOLLOW YOU TOO***.
3. Conversation. I love the idea that this simple feed can rotate on my TV and bring up ideas, thoughts and conversations that I wouldn't have otherwise.
So true to form I spent several hours on this simple project (I had to move my router downstairs because my old MacMini didn't have a built in wireless device) but eventually conquered the beast and set this puppy up. I'm loving it thus far and it's making use of an otherwise wasted MacMini.
Don't forget.. if you have a Flickr feed of interesting photos, drop a comment and let the world know. I'd love to see your story on my TV too!
<--End of Geek Transmission-->
Over the last few months I've had some terrific conversations with God and friends. Most of these conversations have centered around who God has made me and what my responsibility to Him is regarding the life He's given.
In one such conversation a few weeks ago I had a dear friend tell me "Tally... well this all makes sense as it relates to the people who have brought you so-called problems in the past. You don't have much desire to tolerate people who complain when they have so much more than they realize. Your life has seen up close the people who have real problems..."
We continued our discussion but that line has bounced around in the chambers of my mind since that phone call. He was absolutely right. I have just about zero tolerance for people who claim to know the Living God but who show no real evidence of it in their lives. They are apathetic.
Apathy. It affects just about every church in the West and some Pastors are actually aware and are looking for a cure. The only cure I have found is to place the disciple front and center with "the least of these".
The problem with apathy is more than a problem of morale or excitement. Its more than an issue of how many people show up to a given 'event'. Apathy tends to run much deeper. An apathetic person can often times be the person who sets up chairs for the portable church, runs the sound board or leads your band on Sunday. Apathy can creep into the pulpit and elder meetings just as quickly.
According to Matthew 25 however, God doesn't show us that what matters is what you do around your Pastor or how you 'help the church' on the weekend. God looks at how we are when we feel like no one else is looking. As Pastors we give a hall pass to the immature simply because they will serve for or around us. Assuming a person's heart based on what they do for the Sunday organization can often lead to ignoring spirutal cancer right in front of our eyes.
Look at Matthew 25:
The first illustration asks: What is your sense of urgency in your diligence for the Lord knowing that He could return at any moment?
The second illustration asks not only how eager you are working but also: How are you leveraging all that God has given for His benefit?
The last illustration in this passage appears to sum up some of the aspects above as it relates to real people in real life situations. Do you know if you're apathetic? What are you doing for the poor, the thirsty, the down-trodden, homeless, etc.? When the rubber meets the road how has the gospel changed your outlook and actions toward others around you?
I found it interesting that neither group knew what the Lord was talking about regarding their actions. This shows me that their motive was not 'works based'. Their motive wasn't "Let me find someone beneath me so that the Lord will see my work and think I'm a better follower." The motive was a transformed life.
Both groups ask the same basic question: 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'
Apathy leads us to become that group of people who view our faith in terms of what we say in a so-called 'prayer' that really wasn't from the heart to begin with. Apathy is what leads us to being people whom God observes from afar and sees us with a HUGE disconnect between what we verbalize before one another but we practice with no one whom we don't know.
So again... what is the cure for apathy? I believe the cure is to place yourself on a regular basis around the 'least of these' in our world.
The point is not to change a pattern of behavior in hopes to get a gold star from God... The point is our behavior is tranformed when we sincerely view ourselves as a 'living sacrafice, holy and pleasing to God." We in Christendom must determine to become consumed by the Spirit of God and give your being over to His will. There is nothing apathetic found in the Spirit of the Living God who is actively working out his plan for creation and seeing people come to Him all over the world.
'Thy Kingdom come on earth as it is in Heaven."
Race, Poverty and the Church
This weekend I had the opportunity to watch several specials on Dr. Martin Luther King. I have always been fascinated by one man who in a matter of effectively 12 years helped frame and shape the debate over segregation in our nation.
I'm often amazed at how little white Americans actually understand about the history of racism in our country. Much of what I hear today among my suburban Caucasian friends as it relates to race actually is little more than soundbites from the dinner tables of racist parents or grand parents. Those who have actually studied the issue understand that we're barely 45 years removed from Dr. King's speech at the March on Washington, bombings of black churches and fire hoses unleashed on citizens. Those who actually take time to ask what is wrong in America's urban centers will see that many of our African American brothers and sisters have never had an example of a productive nuclear family in their neighborhood. We are sitting by while generations of children are learning that there is no hope.
I'm completely convinced that poverty is a vicious tool of the enemy to keep generations of people hopeless, hurting and angry. Since segregation in America we have had a trend where we've seen a migration of the two-parent family from the city to the suburbs. Those who can make it get out and the rest are forced to live with the results of Darwin's theory in action.
I have people ask me on a regular basis why I was able to make it out. There are many reasons including the determination of my young mother who decided that she was going to do whatever it took to get us out of that environment. She got her GED, Associates Degree and a good job with the state of Maryland. By sheer determination she worked hard and earned enough to pull us out of the poverty-rich environment of the city.
In addition to my mother's determination I was blessed to have around me several mentors who took a liking to me at one point or another. Something inside propelled me to learn and grow from those few lights I could find in the dark world. Finally one other aspect of my success has been the fact that I am white. Not admitting that race had something to do with my mentors desire to guide me would be foolish. Let's face it... it's easier to help people who look like yourself. I know for a fact that several of those who helped me over time were still dealing with the residue of racism on their own pallet and I don't recall them helping others with a different skin tone.
But where are we now? Are we in a better place? Where can we go in hopes to change America and fulfill the dream of Dr. King?
I believe that by and large there is progress. No one can deny that the amount of opportunity for minorities in America has grown exponentially. The last several Presidential administrations have had cabinet positions occupied by people of color and many states and towns across the nation have embraced minority leadership to some degree.
Lets also view these changes with sober judgement. We are at the very front of what needs to happen in America if we sincerely want to have equality. Equality does not mean that we will live in Utopia where we all have the same income but it should mean that a child's family line, neighborhood or race is not a factor in your success or failure.
I believe America and especially her Christian influence need to act soon because for every minority in the White House there are 10,000 children believing that they can never get a job that can lead them to owning a house. To many suburban whites desegregation should have fixed everything. Minorities should simply make better choices. Let me remind my friends... when a person doesn't have hope or an example to follow then that person will not have perspective of what 'should' be done. Instead many of our inner-city young people turn to drugs, gangs and violence for self-preservation. Those of us who are blessed must take a new view of things. We must see our blessings as a way to reach into poverty and grab the enemy by his throat.
What are some ways to do this?
1. Educate yourself- Become familiar with poverty in your city/town. Find out which areas have the need for you and your network of friends. Find out what opportunities exist for education, recreation, entertainment, etc. . Get to know the political players, budgets, police protection, etc. Find out what is already being done by the government and non-profit sector (especially church related). What you will find is that the government resources are strapped and/or apathetic. You will find that the ministries doing great work need some structure, volunteers and cash. They don't need your ministry philosophy... leave that in the suburbs.
2. Get active- Contact some of the players named above. Develop relationships with those already doing the work. Again your goal isn't to be superman... it's to become an advocate withing your social network.
3. Get Others Involved- Make a list of action items and run it by the people you want to help. Remember... they've been at this a while. Your list may be great for your suburban ministry but horrible for their environment. Make sure what you want to offer actually meets a need.
4. Follow Through- Speak to someone dealing in areas of poverty and they will tell you how depressing it is for people to claim they want to change the world but can't even show up to a prearranged work day. Don't promise what you can't deliver. If you say you will have 10 people to help clean up a facility... be sure you can follow through on that.
5. Stick Around- In order to make long-term change and provide examples that kids can follow we must develop relationships for the long haul. You have to get these kids in new environments with new perspectives on life. Please do not make the same commitment to this as you did your white ONE Campaign bracelet. We are talking about changing a culture of poverty, not raising money for a one-time campaign.
Racism is real and our churches are silent partners in keeping people down. Let's not accept this any longer. Let's start opening our hearts and providing hope to the least of these. One of Dr. King's greatest lines was this: "I have a dream ... one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers."
In the American Church I believe we should still champion this dream. We must ask ourselves how we're doing in teaching our people to embrace those of different colors, backgrounds and socioeconomic conditions. We have to stomp out the ignorance of the past and embrace a biblical view of the future. Heaven is not homogeneous and I for one want people to be comfortable when they get there. How about you?
I continue to pray: "Thy Kingdom come on earth as it is in Heaven."
LifeChurch.tv on the Grid?
I'm just counting the seconds until I get a tweet announcing that Terry, Bobby and the guys at LifeChurch.tv have a campus linked to "the Grid" complete with holographic images of participants... and... smell-o-vision.
This will seriously change everything.
In church planting I've found a severe lack of vision.
When I say "vision" I'm not saying that there are a lack of vision or mission 'statements' ... everyone has one... it's a trend. What I'm talking about is the lack of Generational Vision and Kingdom Vision. Many of our churches never reproduce and never lead anyone to Christ. The vision for most of our churches is self-preservation. There are a few (less than 10% of churches that reproduce) but even then many of those new churches only think about how to get 100 people in a room.
To me it seems that a vision that comes from God would align with God's agenda, not just ours.
God's agenda is world-wide and multi-generational (100 years from now).
I have to interject here and confess. When we launched our church I was a victim of this mentality. It wasn't until I saw what a church looked like when getting a crowd in a room was the primary goal. It looked good from the outside (and I was encouraged by our success early on) but the attitude of that church wasn't concerned with generations to come. The people of our church weren't even thinking about 10 years from that moment. It was ugly and I knew it wasn't what God wanted.
Well, back to Generational and Kingdom vision.
I think its vital that we consider what we are building for the long haul and for the big picture. In some areas one large church could effectively reach a community through extension ministries but in other places it will take hundreds of smaller churches to have that same effect. The key is for our churches to consider our part in the greater work as opposed to believing that our work IS the greater work.
Thinking Generational and Kingdom will lead us to ask "God, what do you want for these people of this generation of this location in context with what you're doing around the world and among generations? How can I join you in drawing them to you?" This is opposed to what I hear far too often "God, show me how to draw people to our particular church service." I'm so guilty of the second type of prayer. I've been repenting.
When we ask God how HE wants to church a city/state/nation/world the answer may come back that we aren't to be the main draw at the moment but rather we are to spend time investing in others who are doing the work. Have we ever considered that we're blessed for the moment in order to be a blessing to something God is doing right now somewhere else that needs the resources more than we do?
When we ask God how HE wants to church a city/state/nation/world we may find that part of that answer involves giving sacrificially for a work God is doing at the moment somewhere else.
I once heard a story about West Ridge Church in Dallas, GA (outside of ATL). As I recall the story Brian Bloye, the planting Pastor had come back from a foreign mission trip and he felt impressed by God to give a very significant amount of money to this ministry overseas. As he prayed he felt God telling him to give away a large sum of money to this ministry. The amount would nearly wipe out the bank account of this fledgling church. Brain went to the staff (many of whom weren't paid to be on staff at this point) and shared what God impressed on his heart. The staff agreed and the check was sent. That is Kingdom thinking with a Generational Mindset. What dominated his frontal lobe was for a people far away who couldn't pay WestRidge back. Generations of people would be blessed for this gift. Ultimately West Ridge was blessed many times over for this act of obedience.
Making this principle personal I've been thinking about my own life. I'm richly blessed. Honestly. I'm a guy who (as a kid) stood in line for government cheese in a neighborhood of Baltimore City where today bulldozers are demolishing the projects because crime is so bad the only way to fix it is to start over.
As I sit approaching my 30th birthday on June 5th I think at how far God has brought me. If I am to think for myself I will focus on praising God for what I've been given up until now and spend the rest of my existence trying to make my son's life better than my own. That will be good for one family... mine. I'd consider that a waste.
Did God bring me out of poverty just so I can look out for my family line or did God bring me out so that I can bring others out? Did God bring me out of spiritual poverty so that I can celebrate my own victory and then spend my life debating theology or did God bring me out of spiritual poverty so that I could join Him in bringing others out? Kingdom and Generational.
Friends... as we work and serve in our ministry areas I have to ask. Do we have a generational mindset? Is our passion to fill up our particular ministries or is it to change cities/states/nations and generations?
Church planters: Are you planting a church or are you trying to join God in churching a city, a state, a nation? Are you thinking about the here and now or do you have a generational and kingdom mindset? I'm just asking.
My Local Church Visit
This morning I visited a local near-mega church (runs about 1600). I hadn't actually been to a Sunday service there before although I had been there for various youth ministry functions when I was a YP. Sadly, after my visit today, I will likely return any time soon.
I'll try to give some bad, good and optimism.
Some of the Lowlights:
Parking- They overlap services so the earlier service people are leaving and I'm trying to park... makes for fun in the lot when no one is helping the situation and the services aren't spread out very far apart.
Directions- While there were people periodically spread out holding bulletins they were not trained to talk to me. I come in carrying my son and I was truly confused. It is an old-time building with lots of painted cinder block and small hallways.
Signage- Along with not having people positioned to give directions I could find no signage. While everyone there apparently knew each other I felt like the 3rd wheel on a bicycle. I almost felt like I was the one with the problem for having to interrupt someones conversation to find out where to go. It wasn't like this was a huge lobby either... this was like a maze. Apparently the regulars knew exactly where they were... I'm not a regular.
Children's Check In- Sweet lady running a very inefficient operation. When you have to find a passer by to walk a parent down 4 hallways to get to a kids room... that's not a good sign.
Music- The songs were from the early 90's but were actually made to sound older... much older. Something like 7 up front singers, a mini-orchestra and about 100 people in the choir. The mix was bad so all I could here was the lead singer (who had to stare at the back wall to read the lyrics... booo). Another thing... if you're going to sing "I could sing of your love forever" make sure your people raise their hands when the song says so... or dance when they get to "dance with joy like we're dancing now".
Dress- While most of the up front people seem to have recently gotten a copy of Purpose Driven Church, the rest of the congregation looked like they were obligated to dress 'up'. I'm cool if it fits the community profile... but honestly I didn't get that sense... it just seemed kinda forced. Like that's what is 'expected' there. I wouldn't be comfortable... and I don't mind throwing on a tie.
Message- Today's talk was alright... the content was good but way too much time on stories about stories. For instance he spent time talking about commercials and describing them... I have an idea... how about we show the commercial? Wow.... then we could get the point and move on.... but instead he had to rush in the scripture notes in the last 10 minutes to get wrapped up.
WHAT I DID LIKE:
Signs of Outreach- I could tell that they were trying to get their people to think about the community more. The bulletin had a few opportunities coming up for some outreach.
Instructions for Members- This church is looking for a Senior Pastor right now. I like how the Associate Pastor instructed the crowd. He basically said that the elders don't give a rip about your opinion unless it was made after you got right with God and prayed. (Those are my words but I got the point.)
Friendly- When I say friendly I mean from the stage. The people were so-so but I could tell the staff seemed to be a friendly group. The only thing was that I wasn't a target for the humor. That didn't bother me though because the humor is directed at this demographic and I didn't fit. I was younger.
This place will have a new Pastor in a few months (based on what I understood about where they are right now in the process). I wouldn't be good for this job. I don't know who in their right mind would want this job unless they got a lot of concessions about future changes. I read over the job description online and it seemed like they want Superman to come in and do nothing but let them continue to be comfy. It's sad because they have a ton of potential if the right leader were able to lead.
Hopefully they will get someone they can trust who will be able to make this church rock again. I feel kinda bad for this congregation because they've been through a few different Pastors recently. I pray God's best on them and their future. Our community needs them to be a strong church again. There are lots of people who need Christ and this place could become a good place to reach them if the new Pastor has a vision and permission to do so.
The Light AND Salt pt 2
So (as I was asking)... do elections mater? Do our communities matter? Do policies which affect those we're claiming to love with the love of Jesus matter?
Elections happen to matter because the "church" is a collective of people made in God's image and we're supposed to love our neighbors. If my neighbors are being shot up on the street corners or if 64% of my "neighbors" are not getting an education... I'd say everything that affects that reality should matter. But instead we insulate and isolate ourselves from the realities of people's lives.
It should matter if we care about our fellow man. It should matter that we care about every aspect of what makes a person's life livable. I say it matters unless we throw out half of our bible. Are elections alone the solution? No. Are politicians to be compared with a savior? No. Are pulpits to be used as campaign platforms? No. But should we as Christians be involved in any and every avenue in society we can use to bring about the change we pray for? Yes.
Government, Business, Athletics, Music... all of it can and should be an opportunity to spread the hope and message of Christ that we proclaim on Sundays. It is my faith that tells me that the entirety of my being is to be surrendered to the truth of scripture. The OT law is filled with concern for the poor, for punishing criminals, for hygiene and health. God the father OBVIOUSLY cares about these things because they affect people MADE IN HIS IMAGE. Our entire communities should be transformed when disciples are unleashed to make a difference in their world (with or without an organized church campaign).
My concern is that the church here in the West continues to live under voluntary segregation from the people we're trying to reach. Our music and some presentation in our best churches has come a long way but we have a way to go. I believe the average person in the auditorium still needs to understand that we have to get to a point where we are broken for the people in our communities. That is incarnational ministry. This is one of the most amazing aspects of Christ... "And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth." ~John 1:14
So it is that I have a hard time understanding how the modern church views our role as only to preach salvation for when we die but little transformation in the communities in which we live.
I went on a 'mission trip' in NYC in July of 2001 just before 9/11. The trip was already arranged before I came on staff so I inherited the experience. Effectively the ministry was 400 white teens invading NYC for a week to "preach the gospel". Our assignment every day was to go to a different borough of the city and try to cold-turkey evangelize the 'lost'. Can you see the picture? Groups of 30 white kids getting off of the subway and walking into Harlem to tell them that their lives would be all better if they'd read a piece of paper and pray a prayer. Then we'd all walk back to the subway and make our way back to a nice hotel across from Madison Square Garden while the people we were 'ministering to' remained in the same communities hearing the same gun shots and their kids played in the same glass and drug infested playgrounds. That's ultimately what we do when we focus solely on the verbal aspect of the gospel and ignore the communities around us and the avenues under which we could make a difference.
What about where our 'neighbors' live? Will their kids have any food? Will they be the victim of a drive-by shooting? Will a husband beat his wife? Are the children receiving an education? Does anyone care? Are the systems set up to help or hurt our communities? Maybe not where you are from... but where I'm from these are realities. I bet where you're from there are policies that hurt people as well. Our cities (and rural communities) are falling apart folks. If we care, everything matters. Every action, addiction or behavior that causes people to experience hell on earth should be confronted. Jesus matters. His Salvation and his Kingdom matters.
We were taught to pray "Your Kingdom Come" but we act like "Your Kingdom can Wait."
Please understand, I am not preaching a social gospel. I'm preaching the gospel of Jesus being carried out with every breath by every follower of Christ. If our people could see that "church" isn't a place or activity... but truly the people of God on earth, they'd see that the tracts they are leaving cannot be read because in places like Baltimore kids don't get educated and most adults have a 9th grade education. If our people were taught to allow Jesus to work through varied avenues in society they'd see that when a kid goes to bed hungry or hurting they find it pretty hard to believe in Jesus. When a kid is afraid of going to school where is Jesus? When there is domestic violence in the home or drugs in the neighborhood... how can they see Jesus?
Shouldn't they be able to see Jesus in us? If Jesus flipped out over tables in the temple because people allowed it to become a den of thieves... I wonder what he'd think about His church becoming a silent partner in the drug trade or poverty or political corruption. I wonder if in His eyes it is noble to ignore the avenues of social networks that already exist.
Maybe all that matters is growing a huge church and seeing people accept Christ but what if the church was the starting point to seeing cities transformed by what the gospel does to a people when the Holy Spirit is present in hundreds or thousands of people all at one time?
Ohh yeah... we saw what happened in Acts...
I think if we were to commission the layperson as a missionary within their social network (government, job, kids sports, etc.) that we'd start to see transformation which makes an environment more conducive for people to see the effects of the gospel on a society. I also think this type of transformational living would cause a lot more of the world to ask what our hope is all about.
"15But 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." ~1 Peter 3:15-16
Why do I care? Why am I so passionate about this?
I suppose at the end of the day I just sincerely hope we don't continue to react to the previous generation or the social gospel theology... but find the middle ground where the people of Jesus take the message of Jesus with them into every avenue of their lives and see their community transformed as a result of having a very real and very doctrinally sound relationship with the living God.
Its Light AND Salt
I guess I'm different. I suppose I don't think normally. Maybe its where I come from. Maybe its where I'm going. I could be behind the times of what is considered 'cool' or I could be ahead of the times in what is considered right. I don't know.
What I do know is that I have an undying passion to see the people created in the image of God fall in love with their Father in Heaven. In the same breath I also care about those same people and their lives before and after that moment when they encounter Jesus.
I grew up in the public housing projects of O'Donnell Heights in
The second disclosure is that I attended
14What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? 15Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? 17In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. James 2:14-17
In an effort to be both salt and light on a while new level Dr. Falwell decided that he'd take the gospel (both salt and light) into the public arena in every way possible. In America, one of those places is by participating in government and public policy discussions.
I must say that right now I'm concerned with us in Christendom. It seems each generation of great Christian leaders reacts toward the perceived mistakes of the prior. Even among the Protestants we've divided and sub-divided so much we have to celebrate the world over when God's leaders are actually able to cooperate to teach the gospel. I rejoice with my friends and am pumped about the unity but it breaks my heart that we are just now setting the tone for cooperation within the church.
Lately I've observed a trend that Pastors believe they must be either for social involvement OR they are for the gospel. It's a line that I don't see it in scripture. It appears that this is reactionary behavior to a straw-man argument.
The present-day premise appears to be that churches are "too involved" in politics and they need to get back to their first love in Jesus. While I concede that SOME churches have a history of being more of a campaign headquarters than an avenue for people to meet Jesus I believe the reaction is way overboard. The reality is that our hope and salvation is noticed when we actually do something with it. When people are transformed by the power of Jesus Christ it is the churches responsibility to teach what Jesus commanded. We are supposed to make disciples by teaching them to obey the commands of Jesus. Salvation is assured once and for all at the moment that person believes but the trend is to stop with that. As a consequence many churches sit in communities where the people of God are only noticed as being slow drivers on Sundays and tax burdens on communities.
It is my contention that our churches and the church leaders should do something to help the conditions of the least of these via every method available. We can walk and chew gum at the same time. In fact a better illustration is that we have two legs to walk... instead we seem to be hopping.
The answer to community involvement which most of us have been trained to point towards is to do a hit-and-run event put on by the church leadership. The church organizes a big day, does something cool and then fades to black and we return to our normally scheduled Sunday morning.
On the other hand we have churches that have 1,000 ministries run by the same 2 people. The churches are small because the church preaches a social gospel. To these folks Jesus isn't the risen savior so much as an example of a meek UN worker. Neither approach is working.
I guess when I read my bible I see that the church mattered in its community. Paul gave out instructions for the church to care for the widows, Paul taught the family to meet needs in their own family first, etc. The church actually benefited the communities in which they lived because the star of the show was the disciple.
Bob Roberts pointed this out last week at the conference I attended. He said that in the East the church is secondary to the disciple. People are told about Jesus and to give their WHOLE LIVES to Him so the church is formed from people who have been transformed. As a result entire communities are being changed because the gospel isn't dependant on a rock star Pastor or cool service. The gospel is born into all of the people and the idea of loving their neighbor and serving humanity come right along next to receiving Christ as Lord and Savior. It's such the norm that an argument about whether Christians should "be involved in society" is a foolish conversation. We really have screwed up the whole "in" but not "of" discussion.
I read a story today from a new friend in
"It became a reality tonight that the gangs really are moving into our territory, the only thing we can do is educate ourselves, our kids and pray. Next week we are having a gang talk with our kids, not something we want to do, but something we MUST do. A few weeks ago one of our officers said to me, "Make sure that you are your staff are wearing the right colors, if you're not it could be bad." The sad part, it's true.
I ask for you to join me in prayer for my kids, that they'd stand apart, that they'd be called out to share Jesus with the people around them, for protection from the world and the horrible ways of it, from Satan’s attacks, from drugs, gangs, poverty etc. I love each and everyone of them and as I begin to think about the summer and how violence becomes more of an issue as the weather gets warmer, my heart breaks for them, I pray that they'll be hedges of angels around each and everyone of them."
Also yesterday I read several articles about education among our nation's cities. To say that the findings are troubling would be a pathetic understatement.
"Slightly more than a third of students in
That difference is the greatest for any city in the nation, the report says. Baltimore's suburban counties have graduation rates well above the national average, and the city has the fourth-lowest rate, the group found."
So with these things in mind... do elections mater?
Part 2 coming in a future post.
Kinetic Church in Charlotte, NC is led by Pastor Dave Milan. They had their church trailer stolen about a month ago. I absolutely LOVE what they did with this experience. They didn't whine or cry (well maybe at first)... what they did is going to touch a lot of lives at the end of the day and I believe will be the milepost where God decided to pour himself out to this gathering in ways not before seen.
Check out this video... I love it. Bravo!
Tonight I did a little cleaning on the site. Over the next few months I anticipate a lot of activity here and into the future. I'll be using the blog a lot more in relation to what God has in store for us.
If you're on a reader, feel free to stop by. If you don't know what a feed reader is... I want to make life easy for you. Click that link to the right that says "Subscribe in a Reader". You can also drop yoru email in that form and get updates emailed to you.
I'm looking forward to sharing the journey with you.
I'm at a strange place right now. I'm without a true mentor. I'm a mentor to others but I am without one or two for myself. I'd like to see that change so I'm praying for a mentor.
As I reflect back on where I've been and look forward to where I am compelled to go I realize that now is a pivotal moment. I'm about to embark on the greatest part of my journey to date without that trainer in my ear reminding me to eat right, look out for the left hook and to stay focused.
When I was a kid I always ran with guys 3-4 years older than I. When we'd run the streets or play ball or go to parties I always had people looking after me. These guys would watch to keep me in line as well as protect me against problems I may not knew I was walking into.
As a teen I was mentored in Christ by a man who took hours upon hours each week to study God's word and teach me verse by verse what God's word meant. I didn't know that I was being taught exegeticaly but I did know that I was learning who God was and how I could go to him through the reading of the scriptures.
In college I found several mentors. I had a few mentors who were my elders by only a year or two. I had a few mentors who were associated with the University. During most of my sophomore year a VP of the school met with me once a week and had me bring her coffee and a donut on Mondays at 7 a.m. just before she kicked my rear about keeping up with my studies. I had mentors in my ministry roles who focused in on those areas and I had mentors in life who (while they may not have known it) modeled for me the type of man I should become if I wanted to honor God.
When I was a Youth Pastor for the first time I had a man I respected in the ministry really act like a major league aspirin and it kinda set me back. Instead of mentoring me he chose to blame everyone but himself for any shortfalls and as a young guy fresh out of undergrad I took a beating emotionally. At my next stop in ministry I was open to mentorship but found that no one around was far enough ahead to handle it. In Maxwell's terms I found myself hampered by the Law of the Lid. The lid I was under wasn't high enough for me to grow. I was cramped.
In the last few years I've had a mentor or two on paper as assigned by denominational leaders. None have been sufficient for what I need. So I've tended to rely on reading others (blogs, books, tweets) and picking up the phone to call my peers from time to time. While it's been great to talk shop I haven't had that mentor-type of person in my life recently.
Over the last year generically and the last few months specifically I have found clarity to that mission I will be giving the rest of my life to. While I've been doing one aspect of it for the last few years I think I'm finally ready to gear up and tackle the monster head on. It's going to take everything that's in me but that's why God is doing what he's doing.
So at the end of the day I wanted you to know that I'm praying for a top-notch mentor or mentors. I'd love to have you pray for that with me.
...of why I don't respect Christians ignorant of government and public policy. I commend this kids' Pastor for being there with and for him.
Student gets failing grade because of the Cross
I've been blogging on a pretty consistent pace over the last 5 years. During that time I've not delved too much into the whole propositional truth discussion frankly because it doesn't excite me too much. Many of my suburban educated friends in the church world get pumped about the debate but I've tended to consider the discussion pretty non-germane to my life. Do I have a decent understanding of the framework of the non-conversation conversation? Yeah. Do I think both sides understand each other? Not really.
This week however I was reminded of one place even my pomo friends would probably agree that propositional truth is active or at least worthwhile... the inner city. When I talk of inner-city I'm not speaking of very educated white people who grew up in the 'burbs and just purchased a renovated warehouse-condo. I'm speaking about the people for whom the church has all but ignored.
Let me share a little story to help you appreciate where I'm coming from:
My best friend and I made a trip to my childhood home of Baltimore about 6 months ago. This was the second trip we've made together but the first where I'd introduce him to Mr. Don. Mr. Don is the man God used to bring me to faith in Christ. Mr. Don filled the role of mentor and Sunday School teacher from the time I was 13 until about 17yrs old.
After my friend and I drove away from Mr. Don's home and that visit my friend said that he wouldn't have pictured that a guy like Mr. Don would have made such an impact on the guy he knows as Tally.
Why did he feel that way? Propositional truth.
Now that I'm educated and have been around the block I don't often let people get away with half-baked statements. I most certainly don't follow people who appear to be confident but make no logical sense to what they are saying. Unfortunately this type of yapping is what most of the world sees as "propositional truth". Most of my educated peers look to a truth statement and ask "In every case would this be true?" Most of the time they come to the conclusion that what is being proposed only works within a certain framework but not within every framework. So it is that the educated among my generation (and the uneducated for that matter) are able to hold two or three opposing views at the same time. Contradiction is embraced and the need to logically connect opposing belief systems doesn't exist.
Now back to the point of my post. I'm aware of one place where propositional truths still work pretty well. The Inner City.
This past week when I checked out some great ministry being done in the heart of Baltimore I observed it everywhere... Propositional truth in action. Some of that 'truth' was not much more than old-school phrases we've all heard. The phrase itself may be theologically shaky but the point is there.
For instance... a phrase we've all heard "This is the house of God".
A student tossed a piece of candy wrapper to the side and I heard the Pastor say to him "Clean up your mess son... you can dirty up your house but we're not going to do that to the house of God."
The boy went and cleaned up his mess. Life moved on. If you think about it, propositional truth works in an environment where the power of the gun and the mighty dollar do most of the talking. The use of the phrase "God's house" is one that marks off 'turf'. People in the city get that concept. Is it 100% accurate? No. But does it matter? No.
Do you want to know another reason why the propositional statement works among the roughest groups of people? The narrative. Yes, a narrative. The same Pastor who stood on a propositional truth statement also has a relationship with his community. He loves the people and they know it. They know it when their mom picks up food from the church basement once a week or when they see the Pastor give medicine to a drug addict. There is a beautiful narrative at work that isn't written in propositional truth statements. The propositional truth is backed with the narrative and they lead to an amazing marriage where a middle-aged white man is able to walk up and down the city block ministering to the poorest among us.
To my friends on both sides of this discussion I urge you... quit talking theory and live in practice. My propositional truth friends... it means nothing if you don't back it up with a story of love. Go love someone, don't just tell them. My friends on the other side of the discussion, go love someone and come back writing poems about it... it doesn't matter to me... just get the truth of the gospel to the people who need it most.