Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Think and Let Think

It amazes me how much time we waste in the church over matters of opinion and not the core of the Christian faith. What if we spent more time trying to make disciples of Jesus Christ instead of arguing about what color the carpet should be in the worship space, whether to have a Christmas Eve Service and a Christmas Service when Christmas falls on Sunday, whether gay people should be pastors or even members of the church, whether megachurches are the best form for doing church or whether we should have house churches, whether we refer to God as he, she or it. Just imagine if all the energy spent on these types of issues was spent feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and helping persons to have a heart changing encounter with Jesus Christ. Praise God that He still uses us to do great things!! He is an awesome God!!!

I like what John Wesley had to say about controversies like the ones above. Wesley said quoting Augustine, "In Essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty. In all things, love." This doesn't mean an "accept every thought" type of thinking. Instead, it displays a willingness to be open to ,and to work closely with, those whom differ on such matters as worship and teaching that don't affect the essence of Christian belief. The essence of Christian belief would include such things as doctrines about the Trinity, who Christ was and what he did, the human need for God's grace and more. The non-essentials are things like those listed above.

Wesley was responding in his time, at the earliest stages of the Enlightenment, to the bloodshed caused by the wars of religion. I think we do well to hear these words again ourselves in Christianity. While we are not killing each other on the battlefield over opinions, we continue to wage bloody wars of words (on all sides!) that do advance the cause of Christ while people are perishing. Lord, have mercy.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Reaching Up: To Become a More Radical Difference Maker

Here is last week's message.

This is the last message in the series Reach: How Radical Followers of Jesus Make a Difference. This Sunday we begin Pardon the Interruption: Life Lessons from the Characters of the Christmas Story. Enjoy.

If Only...

Well, here it is Black Friday and the hordes of people are frantically living out the consumeristic values of a culture that has lost its way (I know that sounds cynical and anti-capitalist but I am actually a strident defender of capitalism as the imperfect economic system that brings the most good for the most people).

Even before Black Friday though, you may have seen on the news the scenes that played out with the release of the new XBox 360 video gaming device. Persons camped outside stores in order to get the coveted $400 video game system. Persons endured hanging out at the McDonalds in a Wal-Mart and played Uno for hours on hours. And, unfortunately, some shoved and pushed and even robbed others when the eschaton arrived and the games were put on the shelf and sold. Just amazing!

One thing you have to admire here- the passion. As misguided as it is, there is no doubting the strength of the passion among these people. Why isn't there that same passion for Jesus in our world? Why aren't people waiting to get inside to worship Christ? Once people do get inside our places of worship why does it seem more like a mortuary than a glimpse of heaven (at one church I served I used to walk in the worship space with the choir and one day it was so quiet when we walked in I asked "Who died?")?

Is there something to be learned from the makers and marketers of XBox? We in the church have the greatest offering of all time- Jesus Christ- yet we rarely see the passion like with the release of XBox, Tickle Me Elmo or the Cabbage Patch Kids. These people are going to go home and play their XBoxes for hours on hours into the wee hours of the morning. Imagine if people were having a life changing encounter with Christ in our churches where they returned home and spent hours reading the scriptures, praying, and soaking in Jesus.

While I know this passion is out there and on display in different parts of our world, if only it was a worldwide phenomenon. If only this passion (sans the robbing, beating and pillaging) was a common occurrence instead of the exception in Christendom.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The Perils of the Occupation

This poor guy. He was giving an altar call when all of a sudden shazam he was punched in the face. He continued to preach even after being hit. If there had not been so much blood I would have said they were trying to follow Seth Godin's advice and were being "remarkable". Here is the full story.
Top Ten for Church Planters

Mark Batterson, Lead Pastor of the National Community Church in Washington D.C., over at evotional.com has listed his 10 Tips for Church Planters. Mark and NCC are the doing some really great things doing multi-site church in theaters. There is a lot of truth in this list and it is a good reminder to those who are planting and their teams.

Also check out their upcoming Buzz Conference in 2006!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


What is godcasting. Godcasting is the same as podcasting but is named differently to reflect the content of the material available for download to your mp3 player or other software. Godcasting usually includes messages, devotions, and even worship music. At New Season Church we are still perfecting the art of recording and editing the messages and we have our good weeks and bad weeks. We are currently using Steve Kropp's Hp laptop and a program called Audacity to record. Below are two godcasts from two messages from our latest series "Reach: How Radical Followers of Jesus Make a Difference".

Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up

Reaching in To Radically Help Each Other

For more information about podcasting here is a link to a good description of the steps to take in order to be able to download these messages to your mp3 player or other software from our friends at Ginghmasburg Church. Enjoy.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Knee Jerk Church Planting

One of the things in this world that is truly bothersome is knee jerk church planting. What is knee jerk church planting?

Knee jerk church planting goes like this: A denominational executive, or independent church planter with a call to plant a church, gets their hands on some demographic info that lists the fastest fifty growing counties in the United States. The independent church planter who engages in knee jerk church planting chooses the county that fits him/her and their family the best and moves there and seeks to begin a church (along with the other 25 people who have felt called by God to start a church plus the 15 denominational church planters there). The denominational executive takes a look around the area to see if there are any churches from his/ her tribe serving that area, and if not, decides that we really need a church in Kalamazoo.

Apart from the necessity to get on one's face before God in sustained prayer before starting to plant a church, there are other major problems with this type of church planting strategy. Instead of asking what the fastest growing counties are in the nation and using that as the sole basis for beginning new churches, it might be better to see which counties are most underserved, most in need, and most importantly most prechurched. The days of starting churches based solely on population demographics must come to a close. For the denominationalists, it should never be a question of whether my denomination has a presence in an area but whether or not the area is effectively being reached for Christ regardless of what tribe is doing the reaching.

I am a big proponent of holistic church planting that starts with a commitment to discernment in prayer, searching the scriptures and fasting. This would be a system that takes into account population trends but does not let them be the sole basis for the decision to plant or not plant. In fact, there is something to be said for planting in areas without a "through the roof" population boon. This can be particularly effective if one is the first to plant a church that is a fresh expression of Christianity in a particular area and be the first to do it well.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Wesley Covenant Prayer

This past Sunday in our worship celebration experience we prayed the Wesley Covenant Prayer together and gave each person their own personal copy to use in their own devotion time. What is known generally as the Wesley Covenant Prayer or A Covenant Prayer in the Wesleyan Tradition is a pietist prayer adapted by John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, for use in Watch Night dedication services. The prayer is often used, particularly by Methodists, to re-dedicate oneself to God. While the prayer is most often associated with the Watch Night worship ushering in the new year, the prayer also serves as a daily reminder of who we are and whose we are. A friend of mine gave me a framed version of the prayer that hangs in the New Season offices today. As you look at the words and really think about what they are saying they are some pretty powerful words. I invite you to make the prayer a part of your daily life and I invite you to join me and other Jesus journeyers as we always seek and struggle to live out the prayer in action and in our hearts.

The Prayer
I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed by thee or laid aside for thee, exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, thou art mine, and I am thine.
So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Getting Comfortable

One of the things we encourage people to do at New Season is to be comfortable as they worship. We invite them both in our worship program and in our time of welcome to just relax and let go of some of the trash that has been part of life the past week and turn their focus on God. This "culture of comfortability" is played out in the casual dress of worshippers and our ancient future style of worship as well. This is all cultivated of course so that people can give their full attention to worshipping the great God of us all. And of course, it is a reaction to the fact that for so long coming together to worship was an uncomfortable experience.

Lately, I have been rethinking this idea of being comfortable. I still believe that we need to remove as many barriers as possible to the end that people might experience the risen Christ and be transformed and grow into being radical followers of Jesus. But, perhaps the greatest purpose of helping people to be physically and mentally comfortable is so that the Holy Spirit can move to make them spiritually uncomfortable. The Holy Spirit makes us uncomfortable through the faithful preaching and teaching of the scripture, in music, and through community. In the end, church is supposed to be uncomfortable spiritually as we are convicted of sin, called out of the safe places, and confronted with our lackluster response to injustice and oppression in the world. We cannot stay comfortable. This is what differentiates the church from a country club. I think it has something to do with what we call "comforting the disturbed and disturbing the comfortable."

Friday, November 04, 2005

Blog Round Up

I like to read a number of different blogs of people who are smarter, funnier, and better at leadership than I am. One of those blogs is Perry Noble's Blog. Perry is the pastor of New Spring Church in Anderson, SC. There was one thing in Perry's blog that struck me this past week.

It had to do with some of his thoughts on leaving the safe places as Christians. It reminded me of our current series at New Season, Reach: How Radical Followers of Jesus Make a Difference. As Perry reminds us, radical followers of the radical Jesus move out of safe places. I like to say to the churches that I have served "if we are not willing to do everything we can within the bounds of the Gospel to help people come to know Christ then we are basically telling people in our community they can go to hell." Perry put it even better with these words:

"Churches are called to reach beyond their walls to people who do not know Christ--BUT many refuse because this is unsafe. "Those people don't know the rules--they don't dress like us, they wear NASCAR t-shirts and believe that wrestling is real!" Nope--many churches want a church full of people JUST LIKE THEM--this is safe, it's COMPLETELY UNBIBLICAL--but safe. And so every week people show up at their stained glass fortressed and give their community the middle finger and tell them to go to hell because reaching them would take some serious changing...and that would just not be safe!"

Are we willing to change and move out of safe places? Are we willing to give up buildings, our sacred worship times, our favorite pews/ chars, and whatever else for the sake of making and empowering radical followers of Jesus Christ? Seems to me that as we move toward Christmas and celebrate the birth of Christ we are celebrating the One who left the safe place of heaevn and came to us that we might be saved. Might we as His radical followers leave our safe places that some might be saved.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

God's Wonderful Sense of Humor

God has a wonderful sense of humor He keeps demonstrating day after day. I have especially sensed God's sense of humor starting a new faith community. If there is one thing that planting a church will teach and reinforce for you it is that God is in control. I do not have enough fingers and toes to count the number of times God has thrown me and the people around me on our faces to let us know He is in control.

One such instance occurred this past Sunday. We usually have our worship celebration experience in the auditorium of our local high school. However, upon arriving at 8:00 a.m. to begin set up, Bill- the school's head custodian and the best custodian in the country by the way- informed me that the main house lights in the auditorium had gone out since the board used to control the stage lights had been taken away for repair. I would of thought that the house lights would have still worked but they didn't no matter what we tried.

So, it was to the school library we went. At first look it seemed impossible to set up in there (and it was impossible for us but not for God). There were big wooden tables and wooden chairs all over the place and flags hanging from the ceiling. The first thing we did was just stop and pray and ask for the Spirit's guidance, wisdom, and help. We got the room set up the best we could by moving a lot of furniture, getting chairs arranged, and setting up a makeshift screen, all before 10:00 a.m.

The great thing about it all was that it was some of the best worship yet. The Holy Spirit seemed to be moving in some great ways. Christ was exalted. Because we were in a smaller space there was a community feel. All in all, it was a great day of worshipping God.

We won't go back to the library again unless we have to but it was good to be shaken out of our routine. I am so glad God has a sense of humor.