Friday, October 31, 2008

Are you wearing an apron or a bib?

Seems to me there are two kinds of followers of Jesus. There are ones who wear aprons and there are ones who wear bibs.

The bib wearers are the ones who like little babies have to be constantly be fed (and changed!). They are part of the church to be fed. They do not feed themselves in private worship, devotion or service. Bib wearers view the church and spiritual life as a commodity to be consumed in order to achieve and maintain some non-existent balance in life. Bib wearers are like little birds in the nest who move their beaks up and down, up and down and screech until mama (the church, the pastor) feeds them. You know what sometimes it is OK to be a bib wearer in the church when you are first starting out in the faith or when you have been deeply wounded. Sometimes you just need to be fed and soak in God's love.

But there comes a time when you need to put on the apron. Apron wearers are fed through the community of faith as well but they also know how to feed themselves through practicing the means of grace themselves and together with others outside the context of the church. They do not rely solely on the church or her pastor to feed them. They find nourishment for their life in the act of serving others. Apron wearers do not ask what is here for me and my kids to consume but how can I best serve God at this church.

So what will it be- bib or apron :)

The Stones Would Cry Out

As Jesus was making his triumphal entry into Jerusalem and the people cried "Hosanna" the Pharisees attacked the people for praising Jesus and told Jesus to rebuke those people. Jesus responds in Luke 19:40 "I tell you if they keep quiet the stones will cry out."

This fall I am reminded how the creation sings its song to the Creator. Brilliant oranges, reds and yellows color the trees, beautiful early evening sunsets, and crisp cleansing air all testify to the Creator and Redeemer of all creation.

I am reminded that every creature, every living thing, every thing in all the world is part of the great symphony of praise. Yes, indeed, even the stones (and everything else in all of creation) will cry out!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Embracing Uncertinaty

Here is the audio of Sunday's message "Embracing Uncertainty" from the Chase the Lion series. As always you can download the audio and manuscript at the New Season message vault here.

Founding Pastors and Catalytic Church Planters

There are two kinds of church planters in the world today. There is the founding pastor kind and the catalytic kind. Here is the difference.

The founding pastor is a great church planter in his own right. The founding pastor ends up staying at the church he has been privileged to plant for the majority of all of his/ her ministerial career. The founding pastor is often heard to say "I want to serve this church, these people, and reach this community for the rest of my life." Rick Warren is a good example of the founding pastor.

The catalytic church planter is a great church planter in his own right. A catalytic church planter stays somewhere 3-7 years doing a god job getting the church going. After this time frame though they become bored, they have an itch, they seek something new. When this is recognized they move on to a new work. The best example of this is the apostle Paul who stayed in no one place very long.

Here is the moral to this story. One kind of planter is not better than the other though admittedly we could name 15 founding pastors to every 1 catalytic church planter because catalytic church planters do not get the same "press" as the able founding pastors. In addition, it is important for denominational and judicatory officials to recognize this wiring and help utilize this person whether they be founding or catalytic by putting them in the best position to make disciples of Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Spiritual Cul-de-sacs

I am reading this book edited by H. Stanley Wood called "Extraordinary Leaders in Extraordinary Times" which is a book about this study of church planting pastors in mainline denominations that talks about their traits and characteristics etc.

One of the church planters who is anonymously quoted in their talks about how we have to as followers of Jesus avoid be "spiritual cul-de-sacs" or "end users of God's grace." I had not heard it put that way before and I really like the term.

Spiritual cul-de-sacs and end users of God's grace aptly describe followers of Jesus who make it all about them. Instead of receiving the love of God in Jesus and being transformed for the sake of turning around and sharing the love of God so that others and the community can be transformed, God's grace ends with them. Like a cul-de-sac there is no outlet.

It is easy for pastors and church people to bemoan the spiritual consumers among us whose primary question in visiting a church is what is here for me and my kids. Yet, as I have written about before the church's job is not only to count new conversions and help people experience Jesus for the first time (as important and absolutely essential as that is), the church is also then tasked with helping and equipping this transformed person to share God's love and transforming their mission fields (work, home, school) through the love of Christ. If we don't do that as the church we end up with a bunch of spiritual cul-de-sacs. If we only soak in God's love but never share it as followers of Jesus then we ourselves become spiritual cul-de-sacs.

SNA Update

We had an awesome time at our first Sunday Night Alive Youth Worship Service this past Sunday. Joe Torrence brought us a great message about how we can take off our masks and just be ourselves because we have a God that loves us and the Steve Kropp Band did an excellent job leading us in music and got the students present involved in worship. We had way more students than we expected.

We hope to worship God and share the love of Christ with more students for the next Sunday Night Alive which will be at our partner church's worship venue at Rocky Run Elementary School in Stafford on November 16th at 6PM. Kevin Connor, lead singer and guitarist of the band Brandishing Steel, will be speaking and the Steve Kropp Band will bring the music again.

If you are a student or a parent of a student make plans to be there and tell somebody else about it. If you are an adult know that we can always use your help. You can email if you want to help.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Sunday Night Alive

This coming Sunday night New Season and Harvest Churches are sponsoring a youth worship service called Sunday Night Alive.

The Steve Kropp Band will be providing music and Joe Torrence, youth minister at Good Shepherd UMC in Richmond, will be bringing an inspiring message.

Come dressed in a costume for this Halloween alternative as we give glory to God and spend time together.

Don't miss it- it will be off the hook! 6 PM At Lee Hill Elementary School. Email me for directions!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Overcoming Adversity

We continue to Chase the Lion at New Season Church and last Sunday's message was "Overcoming Adversity." You can listen to it here. You can always find our messages, at least in written form and sometimes the audio, at the New Season message vault.

We are having a great time with this series. If you haven't got the book we have a few left on the Info Table or you can order it from Amazon here.

Pumpkins and Hot Dogs

It is pretty hard to have traditions in a church that is only three years old and there are many times when there are some traditions we just assume not develop. They sometimes become sacred cows.

But one enjoyable tradition of New Season Church that has been happening every October is the church's trip to Snead's Farm to get pumpkins and then to mine and Diana's home for a hot dog roast, smores, and other great treats. The weather has always been great. It is so good to be able to talk to some of our fellow Jesus journeyers for more than a minute which often happens on Sundays.

We have been doing this event for four years now. The first year we had one family. The second year two families. Last year about 15 people. This year about 30 people. If this keeps up we will have to rent out Snead's Farm. Fun times!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Heavenly Sandpaper

It has been said that what does not kill you will make you stronger.

I am a big believer in what I like to term heavenly sandpaper. Just as sandpaper is used to smooth out the rough edges or to form something by using its grit to wear away that which is not useful, so I believe God has a variety of grades of heavenly sandpaper he uses in our lives to mold us, to take away the rough edges, to help us grow to be more like Christ and recover the image of God which we were created in.

Sometimes God uses the difficult people in our lives as heavenly sandpaper. Other times, he uses the difficult situations we face as heavenly sandpaper. Still other times, it is the challenges we face that God uses.

Just as no human being is beyond God's redemption, so no situation is beyond God's redemption. If we look what we see is that God often brings good out of the worse situations. Thank God for times when God uses his heavenly sandpaper in our lives.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Financial Crisis Over

Though the market had its biggest day ever yesterday, that is not the reason it is over. The reason the crisis is over is because today I am announcing the ALMY PLAN or the ALMY BAILOUT. It is a much more viable and certainly less expensive plan than that picture of socialism that came from the dunderheads in Congress.

Here is my plan...
If we all respond to all the spam email solicitations from overseas then we will solve America's financial crisis because we can pay off mortgages and other debt and still have millions to give away. We could even feed the poor and pay for all the programs proposed bu McCain and Obama!! Just think of it, if we just responded to the Saudi widow whose oil Sheik husband died and ordered her to give the money to us we would be rolling in it. Or, if we just would accept the money by handing over our social security number to the man representing the Tanzanian government whose government needs people to handle money for them we would have great liquidity in the market. Or, if we could hide the money of Barrister Roger McClellan from the UK whose great grandfather left him an inheritance with the stipulation that no bank in Great Britain could ever be the holder of the saving- man our financial crisis would be solved.

I get like ten of these things a week. If every American with an email address would just respond and do the American duty (kind of like paying taxes like Joe Biden says) then the crisis would be over and look at all the people overseas we would help.

Seriously though, who responds to these things? Someone must, that is why they keep sending them. I would love to respond with a link for them to my social security number and credit card number that actually opens up a big fat virus on their sorry butts and disables their email. I am trying to figure out though if such action would be against Jesus' teaching to turn the other cheek. Or perhaps such action would be more akin to overturning the tables of the money changers.

Vote for my plan in '08!

Collide Magazine

If you are not subscribing to Collide Magazine then you are really missing out. Collide is a magazine "where media and the church converge" that is filled with insightful articles that challenge the church to present the greatest message ever given (the Gospel) in ways that are creative and engaging. I think so much of the magazine that everybody on our Servant Leadership Team at New Season got a subscription. Scott McClellan, the editor, has done a great job bringing together resources for today's church.

To subscribe go here.

Read the Collide blog here.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Here's My Plans God, Now Bless Them

When I was asked/ selected/ appointed/ sent to begin a new faith community in the Massaponax area of Fredericksburg I was excited. After the initial wave of excitement I then had what I call the "OS" moment(s) (I will let you translate).

In response to this ministry God had called me to I sought to read everything I could get my hands on that would help me with the question "How do I start a church?" Thankfully, people had blazed this past before me and shared their wisdom and I learned a lot.

Out of this reading I sought to develop a plan for the new church. But perhaps instead of reading, reading, reading I should have prayed, prayed prayed to the most expert of church planters Jesus Christ who said, "I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it." (Matthew 16:18) Don't get me wrong I did a lot of praying. I sought the Lord's face in intentional ways. I believe ultimately it is God's vision and plan we are living into at New Season. But before I read the first word of the worldly experts of church planting, I should have spent extended time with the Lord. If I had to do it all over again, I would go away for a day or three to just pray and fast and immerse myself in his word and then journal seeking God's vision in an intense time of seeking his heart.

I don't think my quickness to "read" before "praying" is something that I alone am guilty of. I think we ask God so many times to bless our plans before we ask him what his plan is. We often times become the director instead of letting him direct our lives. This is true not only for church planting but for almost any aspect of our lives.

In 1 Chronicles 14:10-16a we see this principle laid out in David who had just become king. Before a major battle he does not rely on his battle strategy but "inquires" of God first. God tells him to go to battle and gives him the victory. Then he faces the same enemy again yet David does not rush into battle- he inquires of the Lord again. Once again David receives direction from the Lord and prevails.

Instead of asking God to bless my plans I am going to do my best to ask God what his plan is first. How about you?

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Developing Leaders Who Multiply

How can we develop leaders in the church that will multiply themselves, their ministries, and ultimately their churches?

Vital to any church planting movement is the ability to multiply. One church gives birth to another who in turn gives birth to another and so on so that the original mother church becomes a grandmother church and maybe one day a great-grandmother. In order for such multiplication to occur though there must be a mindset for multiplication amongst clergy and laity.

Clergy must be willing to let go of bigger buildings and building "my kingdom come" thinking to embracing an ethic of multiplication where it becomes about building "His Kingdom." Clergy must be willing to give away things and equip others to do what they do and thereby multiply their ministry effort. Laity must be willing to reproduce groups, other lay leaders for ministry, and ultimately the faith community to which they belong. Judicatories must be willing to celebrate that which they seek by lifting up multiplying churches and multiplying leaders.

Multiplication on any level is not easy and requires sacrifice and loss. But that is the difference between leaders and non-leaders. Leaders are willing to go through the discomfort of multiplication if it means helping others to discover a life in Christ and continue growing in that life. As has been said many times, everything rises and falls on leadership- including multiplication.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

The Benefit of Pain

In talking about the seemingly insurmountable odds that Benaiah the lion chaser faced I mentioned in this past Sunday's message that it is in the midst of such awful odds that God shows up. It is in the midst of such uneven odds after we have exhausted all of our human effort that God's miraculous provision is released. Such truth might cause us to approach those times when the odds are stacked against us differently. We might come to view those times when the odds are stacked against us not only as difficult times, but times where the Spirit of God is unleashed and we see the God of miracles at work.

What goes when the odds are against us also goes when we experience pain. Again, this is not a pleasant experience. Yet pain in this life is an opportunity to experience God in some profound ways as we grow in faith and receive his comfort in times of distress and as we learn how utterly dependant we are on him. Perhaps this is what Jesus was getting at when he said "take up your cross and follow me."

The cross is not only something to be worn around the neck. It is a symbol of pain. It is a symbol of having the odds stacked against you (Jesus did!) But thanks be to God it is in the end a symbol of redemption!!- a redemption though that is not possible until there is first pain.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Chasing the Lion at New Season

This past Sunday we began our Chase the Lion series and we are having a lot of fun with it. Mark Batterson has done a great job with the book and sharing resources to make this series available to others.

For those who have not gotten the book yet, we have an order that is on its way and you can get one next Sunday.

Here is the Lion Chasers Manifesto we recited in worship this past Sunday:

Quit living as if the purpose of life is to arrive safely at death. Grab life by the mane. Set God-sized goals. Pursue God-ordained passions. Go after a dream that is destined to fail without divine intervention. Keep asking questions. Keep making mistakes. Keep seeking God. Stop pointing out problems and become part of the solution. Stop repeating the past and start creating the future. Stop playing it safe and start taking risks. Expand your horizons. Accumulate experiences. Consider the lilies. Enjoy the journey. Find every excuse you can to celebrate everything you can. Live like today is the first day and last day of your life. Don't let what's wrong with you keep you from worshipping what's right with God. Burn sinful bridges. Blaze a new trail. Criticize by creating. Worry less about what people think and more about what God thinks. Don't try to be who you're not. Be yourself. Laugh at yourself. Quit holding out. Quit holding back. Quit running away. Chase the lion.

Website Cryptograms

Have you seen those website cryptogram things? You know, the things where you have to type in the letters that you see in the box in order to sign up for something. Websites use them so that those robots do not spam their sign ups.

The problem with those darn things is that they make them so convoluted you cannot even read them. I had one where I tried three times to type in the code in the box and never could get it so I gave up.

Sometimes the church is like a website cryptogram as we make it hard for people to "sign up." We speak a language that is often foreign to the person who has never been or stopped going to church, we forget what it was like to come the first time ourselves, we do not set up the structures necessary to properly welcome guests, we assume everyone knows what to do since we have always done it this way, we don't use good signage because after all, everybody knows where the bathroom is. The list can go on and on. How can we take the cryptology out of church so people just don't give up and go home?