Monday, June 30, 2008

What Does a Disciple Look Like?

Our stated mission at New Season Church is to make and empower radical followers of Jesus. I think when we take a look around at other church’s mission statements they all say something very similar. They all have something to do with reaching out and then helping people to grow in their faith once they become followers of Jesus and are connected to the church. It makes sense that most churches would have similar mission statements because they all revolve around some of Jesus’ final words that we have come to call the Great Commission: “Go! Therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded. And, lo, I am with you always even to the end of the age.” -- Matthew 28:18-20

What does a radical follower of Jesus look like though? If New Season Church says that part of its mission is to make and empower radical followers of Jesus what do those people look like? What kinds of things do they do or not do? What are their inward and outward characteristics?

It is important to begin to define what a radical follower of Jesus looks like. If we do not define what such growth looks like how can we help people grow towards being one? How do we know what things to do or not do and how to create an environment where people can grow to be radical followers of Jesus Christ? How can we move from just “hoping” that people get it to having a systematic way for people to grow to become more like Christ?

And then, beyond naming traits and characteristics the question is how do we measure those things? How do we determine how a person is doing and thus how we are doing as a church in “making disciples” as the Great Commission suggests?

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Value of Personal Experience

We are getting ready to do a series on sharing faith called "Stingy with My Faith No More."

As I have been preparing for it I have been gaining a new appreciation for the role of experience in sharing faith. In our world today, whether we like it or not, experience is highly valued. The world says everybody's experience is unique to them and to be equally valued. How do we redeem this postmodern thinking to work to spread the Gospel of Jesus?

Easy- we help people name and give voice to their experience of how Christ has worked in their life. We help people to tell their story. In the old days they called it testimony. See you do not have to know the four spiritual laws, or be able to bring someone down the Romans Road, or quote scripture from memory, all you have to do is share what God has done in your life and that is a huge witness.

One of our next steps on our communication card this week will be to ask people to write out their story.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Auctioning Your Life

Have you seen the Australian man (originally from the UK) who is auctioning his life- all that he has. You can see the story here.

I am kind of struck by the religious overtones of it all. I am not sure there is something that directly fits but here is what has been in my mind about this:

  • Followers of Christ do not auction but give their whole life including house, job, and family to Christ because they are his to begin with.
  • I think of the rich young ruler who was unable to give part of his life away and was unable to follow Jesus.
  • I think of Jesus who gave his life for all people. This was at great price- in fact, a price that we cannot even comprehend.
  • I think this man could gain more if instead of auctioning his life to the highest bidder on EBay he would give his life to Christ.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Finishing Buttons Strong

Tomorrow we finish the "Don't Push My Buttons" series by looking at how to deal with littlest of button pushers in our lives- children. This has been a really great series and I have enjoyed preparing for it and bringing the messages.

I think parenting is one of, if not the most difficult jobs on the face of the earth. How we respond to our children when they push our buttons should be informed by what the Bible has to say about discipline and how to respond in an appropriate and loving way that actualy disciples (teaches).

If you have kids in your life (either your own, grandkids, nieces, nephews or any other) you will want to be sure to be there tomorrow.

A Gift

A few women from one of our women's small groups came and babysat for Diana and I last night so we could have a date night. We are so very thankful. We actually went to a nice restaurant, enjoyed good food and adult conversation. We were celebrating Father's Day. I know it was last week but we use the Orthodox calendar. No, actually Diana was away last week and coming home on the day I left for Annual Conference so we were like two ships passing in the night and did not have a chance to celebrate Father's Day.

Thanks Tracy, Katherine and Sue- you guys (girls) are the best!

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Audience of One

In the post below I talked about the "audience of one"- God.

We try to remind persons often at New Season about the audience of one on a regular basis. We find that it is so easy for worship to become a performance for those sitting in the seats. This is especially true when we consider our style of worship and our place of worship. With screens, looping backgrounds, guitars and sometimes drums it might be easy for a worshipper to perceive worship as a performance for them. Throw on top of this the fact that our music people are on a "stage" in an auditorium and you have the recipe for worship as performance.

We like to remind people that worship is a performance in some respect- a performance for God. God is the audience for our worship and the object of our worship. We are always seeking ways to involve people in worship so they do not become mere spectators. Just naming that in worship to those gathered just like I did above goes a long way to dispel notions that the people in the seats are the audience.

Annual Conference Round Up

I have just returned from three days at our Annual Conference (the yearly gathering of United Methodist clergy and laity in the state of Virginia where we worship, pray, celebrate, debate, and order our life together).

I have been going for ten years and this was the best one yet I must say. In the past, these three day events can drag and be boring. While there was nothing earth shattering in terms of the items debated this year the music was awesome this year. The focus of the three days was ministry with young people so we actually sang quite a few Tomlin songs and other top 25 favorites. We had some younger people to share messages that were really good.

I know the music and style of worship ruffled some feathers and so that is good. One woman who was walking behind me coming into the civic center was talking to her friends and about how she was going to write a letter to the Bishop complaining about the ear splitting music- blah-blah-blah. I just shook my head.

What I should have done if I thought about it at that time was tell the women that while her opinion was valid she was not the audience for the music- God was. Too many times we get caught up in our preferences in worship and forget we are not the audience so in the end it really doesn't matter whether we "like" the music or not. What this woman was voicing was the consumer mentality that has beset those in the pews in our churches. I am sure this woman was from the kind of church that would bemoan the consumer nature of all those "new churches". Hmm, who is consumerist?

Kudos to those who planned and executed the worship at Annual Conference. A job well done!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Nelson Searcy

Nelson Searcy, one of the great brains and practitioners who leads Church Leader Insights is now blogging. If you are a church leader and are not yet familiar with Nelson and the wonderful resources he offers to help churches and their leaders go right now to Church Leader Insights. I have used some of their resources for assimilation, preaching calendar, for engaging people in the summer and more.

The fact that Nelson is blogging (and he may have been blogging for a long time and I am just waking up to it now) is a gift for all of us. Check out his blog here.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Only so much...

Everybody is quite aware of the high gas prices! Recently I have been to a couple of gas stations and filling my tank when the pump just shuts off. Apparently nobody can pump more than $50 worth of gas even when you pay with your credit card. I guess the only way would be to go inside and pay cash and have the clerk override the pump. I guess the stations are afraid that the card will not go through or something and so they limit the amount of gas one may obtain.

I wonder how many times I limit the work of God in my life? I wonder how many times I limit the grace God wants to shed abroad in my heart or limit the ways God wants to use me? If I am honest, I guess it is because either implicitly or explicitly I am afraid (like the stations) of losing: losing control, losing my own perceived value, losing wealth and privilege and standing. Yet, I am convicted, Jesus calls me (and you and everyone else) to lose myself to gain him. I hope I can become a better loser.

Caffeine for the Church Planter's Soul

Here is some caffeine for the church planters soul and for every follower of Christ for that matter. I love William Booth and his ideas of the church militant. After praying for a heart like Jesus for the lost and the least I will often pray for the fire and desire for transformation of a William Booth. I often make this quote part of my morning time with God.

"While women weep, as they do now, I'll fight; while children go hungry, as they do now, I'll fight; while men go to prison, in and out, in and out, as they do now, I'll fight; while there is a drunkard left, while there is a poor lost girl upon the streets, while there remains one dark soul with out the light of God, I'll fight, I'll fight to the very end!"
---William Booth
Former Methodist and founder of the Salvation Army

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Worship Leaders at New Season

In the weeks ahead you will see some familiar faces up front leading worship at New Season. A group of skilled and trained worship leaders will be taking a larger role in providing worship leadership through giving the welcome, reading scripture, leading prayer and more. The participation of such worship leaders reminds us that worship leadership and worship itself is a shared experience among us all and is never dependent on one person. Please give your support to those from New Season who will be stepping up to help lead worship.

This is my effort to begin to reproduce myself in helping others to use their gifts to do things I normally do. This was the first Sunday I only did the message and presided at communion and Jimmy Mills did a great job leading. It was nice to give myself over to worshipping God more fully not having to worry about the next element coming up.


The last week or so I have not done much blogging as I have been taking the last class for my DMin (Doctor of Ministry) studies down at Union Theological Seminary in Richmond. After this class I will start my final project. My anticipated project is going to about churches planting churches and helping our Annual Conference come up with a plan to do so. I am looking forward to this since I believe that the most effective way to make disciples of Jesus is to plant churches. And, the most effective ways to plant churches is through existing churches giving birth to new churches. It is easy to work on what you are passionate about. Please pray for me.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Coming Home

I am really excited about the opportunity to return home to one of the first churches I served. At age 23 I went to serve my first appointment at the Caroline Charge (St. Paul's UMC and Mt. Vernon UMC). Interestingly, the previous pastor to me was 83! Talk about a change!! Today I get to go back and preach at Mt. Vernon's homecoming and enjoy some of the best eating known to man.

The folks at these churches had so much patience, demonstrated so much care, love and nurture that they have had great influence on my life, my ministry, and my family. I give God thanks for them and am just really treasuring the time to be with them.

Yet, just like returning home to the places we grew up, things change. Mostly that means that people I served, served with, cared for and loved in the three years I served at these churches are not around anymore. That stinks! But, that is part of what we celebrate today- God's faithfulness through these and other persons' witness and how their witness will help to shape the future. May God be praised!