Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Diana is 30!

My beautiful wife is now the big 30! Most people would say she still looks like she is 23. People say I look like I am forty three and want to know why Diana is holding hands with her dad! Just kidding. The 30 milestone was a milestone I hit about a year and a half ago. We celebrated Diana's turning 30 at the Old Town Steak and Seafood last night. It was great!!

Diana and I first met at Randolph-Macon College when she was just 18 and we were engaged in three months and married about five years later (though initially she relentlessly pursued me after a while she kept kicking me to the curb and I kept showing up so she finally decided she just had to marry me). Back when we first met we knew everything and now age and wisdom has taught us we know little.

Happy birthday Diana it has been a good twelve years and a blessing to be part of your life.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Church Marketing 101

I just finished Richard Reising's Church Marketing 101 and wanted to share some highlight followed by comments. Quotes are in italics, my comments in regular type.

p. 13 You cannot find the answer to growth for your church in mimicking what growing churches do- you are more likely to find it in what they are.
This has been said time and time again by different people and is of course true. But I like how he puts it. It is not by copying methods but by mimicking values, vision, and spiritual DNA that growing churches should be emulated.

p. 23 Marketing is the management of perception.
This is a simple definition of what marketing is. If we are going to introduce people to Jesus Christ then we need to change the perception many have of the church (boring, after your money, irrelevant etc) so that the church is not a stumbling block only the gospel.

p. 36 What is it about you that would make them think that you have the answer and would welcome them in? What sets your church apart?
This fits in to one of the questions Adam Hamilton says to ask yourself and answer. Why do people need this church? The other two- why do people need Jesus and why do people need the church?

p. 100 Chances are, every church in your community could double in size and you would still find less than 20% population in church on Sunday. Avoid the temptation of being stingy with souls. They don't belong to your church, they are God's.
Amen! We need to be building the kingdom and not fiefdoms! Instead of worrying about the church down the road reaching all the people you can't or won't reach and stealing your people know that the harvest is plentiful.

p. 143 Know the difference between true needs and felt needs. The real bottom line need is belonging to Christ, but people's perceived need is always something less spiritual.
Sometimes we have to gain an entrance and an audience by addressing felt needs first. Even then the Gospel has something to say to felt needs- handling money, a better marriage, more fruitful relationships. In the end though we keep our eye on helping persons address their greatest need- Jesus Christ.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

A Classic Duel Between Good and Evil

It is not Armageddon and it is not the allies versus the axis- it is the good guy Boston Red Sox versus those other guys from New York.

Those over priced underachievers from New York will make their way to Fenway Park for three games including a double header on Friday. Come Tuesday the Red Sox will hopefully be back in first place as they erase New York's two game lead in the AL East. The Sox remain two back in the wildcard race too.

Will New York be able to buy themselves another World Series this year? Or, will they continue to underachieve like in recent years? I will root for the good guy underdogs. If the Sox don't make it this year I will root for ABNY (Anybody But New York).

Now, don't get me wrong Jesus even loves the Yankees and their fans.

Here is a shout for the good guys!! Go Sox!!!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Learning to Ride a Bike and Following God

A little less than a week ago Robert our 4 year old said he wanted the training wheels off his bike. So, I have been trying to teach him how to ride without training wheels. He is not there yet but soon will be.

I was reminded in one of our practice sessions how much learning to ride a bike is like following Jesus.

  1. There comes a time when we have to take the training wheels off and begin to practice big boy/ girl faith and move beyond "I follow Jesus because it makes my life better" to "I follow Jesus because he is the way that makes the most sense out of this world and because of the challenge he lays on my life."
  2. It is not enough to just take the training wheels off. You have to try to ride. I am continuing to unfold just how utterly ridiculous we Christians have been in thinking if someone just prays the magic formula (sinners prayer/ Romans Road, 4 Spiritual Laws) that this is the end of it. While all those things are O.K. at the proper time and are necessary they are not the end but the beginning.
  3. Sometimes we will fall off. We will have times when we follow Jesus and we fall flat on our faces. But just as we learn not to turn the handlebars too fast one way and to watch where we are going when riding a bike so we learn in these times of our faith to trust God and keep our eye on him.
  4. There will be times in our faith when we feel like we can ride for miles and miles with no hands. These are the seasons of fruit. Still, we have to watch for the pothole in the road of life or the bus running the stop sign or we might become the roadkill of a peace and prosperity Gospel. Even in the good times we have to trust, stay focused, and know who holds our future.
  5. We need mentors to teach us how to ride a bike and what it means to follow Jesus. Yes, some to keep us from falling, to keep us steady, to give us a push when we need it and someone to dust off our blessed assurances when we fall and encourage us to get back on.

Are you ready for the Tour de Faith?

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Milk Shake Update

Since I am becoming the milk shake aficionado of Fredericksburg I found another good shake! Try Arby's new creamsicle shake. If you like creamsicles then you will love this shake. When I let Robert have a try he did not want to give it back!!

Monday, August 14, 2006

God's Will

Having been trained at a Presbyterian Seminary there was much talk about God's will. Or, as they called it God's providence. It seems to me that one of our struggles is to operate within God's will. But how?

An easy answer to how to be in God's will is to say live by the Bible. But the Bible is not an owners manual but rather a book open to interpretations. For sure we can all agree that there are black and white things in the Bible that are clearly within or outside of God's will. For example, it is God's will that persons would love God and their neighbor. That is a pretty safe statement. Or, it is God's will that we would not murder. For then we would be outside of God's will. I think we can agree on that.

What about when it comes those issues of everyday life though and determining God's direction (will) for one's life? Questions like should I take the new job? Should I move my family? Do I get the new car or the new used car? Do I take my boyfriend back again after he has cheated on me? Do I tell someone the truth though it will hurt them?

We can bring scripture to bear on some of these questions. Of course, we would have to know what the scripture says about some of these issues or at least where to look. We might pray and ask for God's direction (doors to open or close, the whisper of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, what others are saying ((community)), whether it will bring honor to God?).

In the end, trying to figure out God's will is like most of this journey that we are on with Jesus- it is a challenge. We will know whether we have gone the right way by the fruit produced. Or, maybe there are different paths to be taken that all could be part of God's will. But, that is for another post.

So, go make sense out of and follow God's will for your life.

Friday, August 04, 2006

The Oprah"ization" of Church

Have we turned church into a glorified Oprah Winfrey show only leaving out the special gift under the seat or the new car giveaways?

If you look out Oprah's audience you mostly see women. I guess this is expected since women are Oprah's bread and butter- her demographic. Because women are who Oprah is trying to reach the show is feminized. Oprah used to have the innocuous "Get in Touch with Your Spirit" segment and she loves to feature touchy feely novels for her book club like "The Notebook" and other such books that make us men just cringe. And this is all good for Oprah. She ain't no dummy!

But have we Oprah"ized" church? Have we made it uncomfortable for men. In all three churches where I have served I have watched as women sat in the worship space while their husbands stayed home. Why?

I don't pretend to have all the answers but maybe it is because we have feminized church to the point that we have made it uncomfortable for men and it is now man law that men will not come to a sissy church.

Here are a few examples:
  • We love to talk about having a relationship with Jesus. I know very few men who are digging the hard work and baggage of another relationship- much less with another dude. But men love the challenge of a journey.
  • We decorate our churches with pink and lavender curtains and plush and frilly furniture with mauve carpet. Yeah, that is real inviting for a man.
  • Then we gather around the fellowship hall or the morning circle and we say "o.k. we are going to pray now. Hold the hand of the person next to you." Yuck! Who wants to hold the hand the big hairy hand of the old guy next to you or the little hand of the piano player. This is sometimes hard for a man who has trouble holding his wife's hand on a regular basis.

Oh well you get the picture. I have been guilty of making men do some of these things. I repent today men. In our effort to reach the lost let us remember the men.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Hand Spun Milk Shakes

Has anyone tried the new hand spun milk shakes at Chick-Fil-A? Diana got the cookies and cream one a week ago or so and it was really, really good. They even have whip cream and a cherry on top. Last night we ate at Chick-Fil-A and we got a cookies and cream milk shake and a chocolate one. While the chocoloate was very good the cookies and cream was still the best.

And about Chick-Fil-A. Ain't that a good business model. It is clean. It is fast. The people that help you are courteous. The food is good and is different (not a nasty old burger from under the heat lamp). I think Chick-Fil-A also creates an environment that is family friendly and while it could make a gajillion if it stayed open on Sundays it doesn't.

It seems to me the church can learn something from Chick-Fil-A. We can take away some principles (cleanliness, hospitality, offering good soul food, being different ((an alternative to the thinking of the world)), and an environement for people to be fed by God's Spirit so that people want to come back and kids throw temper tantrums when they can't go to church!)