Monthly Archives: August 2010

Feeding The Hungry!


Jesus

It was an awesome night.  And by awesome, I mean one of those really cool God moments where people come together, using up their own personal time to do something for someone else.  I have to say, I am so excited to be working with the Haymarket Campus at New Life Christian Church.  I saw two life groups come together tonight to prepare a ministry we call, “Grab Your Groceries,” for the upcoming school year.  Let me give you a few more details.

New Life is a church with three campi (our word for multiple campuses).  All three campi collected non-perishable food items for Grab Your Groceries (GYG), which is a ministry of Passion 4 Community here at New Life.  This is how GYG works…

We are connected with social workers through the school systems in our area.  Through them we are able to reach the families who need help the most.  Each school has a representative and that person picks up boxes full of grocery relief for families.  They take the groceries to the schools and the schools pass along the groceries to those most in need.  It is one of my favorite things about New Life.

After collecting food from three campi across the New Life landscape, we have the shelves completely stocked and ready for the beginning of the school year.  It is so cool to watch this come together.  Two life groups tonight stuck around to unpack and stock the shelves for GYG.  In two days, more life groups will be back to prepare the groceries to be taken to the schools by packing them up into boxes.

I stood there tonight, in the pantry, with two life groups and we prayed for the food.  We prayed for the families that would be receiving the food throughout the school year and we prayed for the children who would be able to eat because of it.  It was truly one of those great moments.  I am in awe when I see people living for someone else.  I love to see people giving of their time and energy to make someone else’s life better.

Then to celebrate, we hit Foster’s Grille.  The ladies and I sat around a table, drank some soda, some had awesome burgers and we just talked.  It was a ton of fun and a great way to end the evening.  The ladies were so fun I’m thinking about joining their life group.  Wonder if that would fly?

So, thank you.

Thank you to the volunteers at New Life who don’t think church is about what they can consume, but realize it’s about what they can do for others.

Thank you to those who were there to help make it happen.

Thank you to our GYG Coordinator, Jodi N., who has taken this ministry to a whole new level.  She is awesome!

Thank you to our GYG volunteers who deliver food to the schools and who are literally the hands and feet of Jesus.

Thank you to New Life for helping create the environment where something like this can happen.

And most of all, thank  you to God who allows us to be a part of His work.

Proverbs 31:8, 9 – “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed.  Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice.”

Matthew 25:37, 40 – “Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you?  Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.”

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Tourist Destinations!


St Martin's Church, Exminster

Church of St. Martin

Our family has gone on a few vacations together.  For the most part, we don’t get too far from home, but we do enjoy getting out of town every now and then.  Have you ever noticed the types of places we plan to go for vacation?  They’re usually tropical, warm destinations.  Disney World.  Disney Land.  Sea World.  Bahamas.  Jamaica.  A cruise.  The beach.  Depending on your vacation, you will look for places to tour.  You might be a family that likes to walk around a historical museum or location.  Seeing a statue that was built in memory of someone can be a lot of fun.  We plan to go somewhere that we can tour and see things that we can’t see at home.

Want to know what one of the tourist stops in the United Kingdom is?  A church like this one near Exminster in Great Britain.  It is the Church of St. Martin and it dates back to the 14th Century.  You can even go online here and research much of the data on the church.  For instance, the history tells us about the Parish registers, dating back to 1562.  They even have published indexes covering baptisms, weddings, burials and christenings.

As our family was driving through one small town in Missouri, we stopped at a little park to have a picnic lunch.  Vacations on a budget is how we roll.  We sat eating our lunch and noticed a cute little building on the park grounds.  It sure looked like a church.  A really old church.  My wife wanted some pictures before we left town.  We started to walk around the building and we saw a sign in the front.  It was the town museum, formerly a church.  It had been remade to show off town history along with much of the history of the church.  It didn’t date back to 1562, but it was still a very old church building.

In terms of “religion,” the western world is following suit with much of that of Europe.  As Europe has moved away from Christianity, much of America is doing the same.  We could answer the question, “Are you a Christian” with the answer, “Yes,” while at the same time answering the question, “Do you believe Jesus is the Son of God” with the answer, “No.”  Simply stated, the church in America is dying.  More churches die per year than we replace with new churches.  According to one article I read, we need to plant 2900 more churches a year just to keep up with the population growth.

Let me say it this way, America has decided it no longer needs the church.  The church is no longer the center for spiritual needs to be met.  As Europe left the church behind, America is following close behind.

A very sad possibility is ahead of us.  That possibility is that churches could feasibly become tourist locations in America.

I for one, am not ready to concede.  I for one, am not ready to turn our churches over to the tourist industry.  The question is, how far are we willing to go to stop the bleeding?

How much are we willing to sacrifice to make the church of God thrive again?

Are we willing to engage the culture in new and risky ways?

I would like to share more on that question in a future post.  In the meantime, what are some of your thoughts?

How is your church engaging the culture around you in fresh ways?

What are some of your ideas for engaging the culture so that we don’t become a tourist attraction in America?

What do you think some of the key contributing factors are to this decline in the church in America?

Who’s Building The House?


One of the things I have been praying about recently is that God would show me what He wants to do with His church.  In my specific case, His campus.  My prayer has been simple; “God, who do you want us to be?  What do You want us to accomplish?  What can we do to bring You glory?”Traditional Church Building

As I was doing some reading and studying to try and prepare myself for what God might say, I found my way to 2 Samuel 7.  This was a big deal to me because for so long, I have been making the same mistake as David.  Prior to verse 5, David makes an assumption that he will be the one to build God a big, beautiful house.  He assumes that his plan is right and that God will bless it.  In fact, he was so confident, he told the prophet of God, Nathan, about his plan.  David has decided that because he lives in such a beautiful palace, there’s no reason why God should dwell in a tent.  He wants to build God’s house.

So often I have prayed that way.  Have you?  I have prayed, “God, bless what I’m doing.  We’re doing ‘this’ ministry, bless it.  Make it work for You.  I’ve read the demographics.  I’ve done the research.  I’ve prepped the team.  Please bless our efforts, so that You get the glory.”

We make the same mistake that David made.  He wanted God to bless his plans with the ulterior motive of bringing God glory.  He justified making his own plans by assuming God wanted his plan.  The church as a whole is in the middle of something similar.  Should we be attractional (let’s do a bunch of big events)?  Should we be missional (let’s have church in a coffee house)?  Can attractional and missional be blended?  Maybe we should be more traditional?  Maybe we should start house churches?  The internet and technology are there.  Let’s launch an internet church.  Or should we do video church?  So many questions, so little time.  So many “houses” to build.

Starbucks SpiritualityI believe those questions must be answered.  I believe those questions are legit and shouldn’t be ignored.

Here’s where I believe we get hung up.  2 Samuel 7:5 says, “Go and tell my servant David, `This is what the Lord has declared: Are you the one to build a house for me to live in?'”  In other words, we often think we are the ones with the master plan.  We read the books, go to the conferences and even wear the right clothes.  We begin to believe that we have the plan.  We will build God’s house.  We will make His name great.  He will bless our efforts.

That’s when we must hear the voice of God saying to us, “Are you really the one to build a house for me?”  God says, I have this planned out.  I know what I want my house to look like.  And I even know who I want to build the thing.  Our mistake is not that we work hard for God, our mistake is that we look to the wrong source for the plan.

How much different would church be if every single follower of Christ and church leader, went to God to find out what God wanted?

What if we asked God His opinion before we start to build?

How much greater would the effectiveness of the church be if “we” weren’t building God’s house, but we were allowing God to do the building?

How much stronger would the church be if church leaders and pastors were humbling themselves under the hand of God?  Fasting and praying for His lead?  Waiting on God to make the first move?  How much stronger would we be?

The question I want to ask you is this, “Who’s building the house?”

Are you building and hoping God blesses your plans?

Or are you allowing God to lead the way and working where He blesses.

Thoughts?

Eighty Years!


Originally posted by Church & Culture Blog.

In a recent interview, actress Cameron Diaz made it quite clear that she is content to be – and intent on being – a serial dater.Cameron Diaz

In an interview with the UK’s Stylist Magazine, she says, “I think the big misconception in our society is that we’re supposed to meet the one when we’re 18, and we’re supposed to get married to them and love them for the rest of our lives.  Bulls**t.”

(Okay, tell us how you really feel.)

“Who would want to be with the same person for 80 years?” she added.  “Why not break it up a bit…I think people get freaked out about getting married and spending 20 or 30 years sleeping with the same person.”

So what does Diaz intend to do?

“Have someone for five years and another person for another five years.  Life is long and lucky and yes, love might just last forever, but you don’t always live with the person you love forever.  You can have that love the rest of your life but you might love someone else along the way, and there’s nothing wrong with that.”

It’s hard to know where to begin.

But I know how I felt after reading her comments.  I wasn’t angry.  I wasn’t disgusted.  I was sad.  She would probably be incensed at the very thought of it, but it’s true.  I felt deeply, deeply sorry for her.

Not simply because she doesn’t hold out much hope for a relationship that would stand the test of time; not simply because she seemingly reduces such a relationship, if it were to have any kind of shelf life, to decent sex; but because she has no sense that a life lived in monogamy, over a lifetime, has any real value, much less beauty.

But it is beautiful, and fortunately others in Hollywood see it.

Consider the touching and tender aging sequence portrayed in the opening scenes of “Up,” or the moving images of the elderly couple in “Inception.”   It would seem that there are still those in Hollywood who know that there is value and beauty in a love that commits; a love that grows old together; a love that is far, far deeper than mere physical intimacy.

In the afterword of my new book, Christ Among the Dragons, I tell of a visit with Billy and Ruth Graham at their home in the Blue Ridge mountains of Montreat, North Carolina.  I was touched, as so many before me, by his humility and genuine grace.  But even more by his passionate love for Ruth, who sadly passed away just a few short months after our visit.

Following an hour or so of conversation, he walked us back to the bedroom where Ruth was confined to bed.  She had gamely prepared to receive us, and had been moved to a nearby chair, next to a low-lying bookshelf where notebooks containing books of the Bible had been prepared for her with oversized type so that she could read them despite her failing eyesight.

They talked of their nightly devotions with one another, how they prayed for their children, and how those who said there was no romance at their age were wrong.  “We have romance through our eyes,” Billy explained.

He was right.  They did.

My wife and I have only been married for twenty-five years, long by many standards – short by ours.  The richness of our relationship grows with time.  There is no one else who shares my life, my memories, my heart, more than she does.  There is no one I can talk to the way I talk to her.  She is my best friend.

So who wants to live with someone for eighty years?

I do.

-James Emery White

The God of “Me!”


It could be argued the we lived in the most selfish generation to ever walk the planet.  There have always been selfish people in the world, but it just seems to be getting worse.  We selfishly pursue career, money, fame and the perfect body thinking that all of this will bring purpose and fulfillment.  And that pursuit forces us to be in a bigger hurry than ever.  We are constantly connected to everyone around us through an iPhone or Blackberry.  Email never leaves our side.  There is always a meeting to be at, even if it’s online with someone in a foreign country.  Money buys us enhancements to our bodies that feed our desire for self-esteem.  Our lives are cluttered with our own selfish pursuits.  And those selfish pursuits often prevent us from seeing the things that are most important.  Simply stated;I love me

We worship the god of “me.”

Have you ever heard someone say, “How did we get here?  It’s just not like the old days anymore.”  While there are many variables that have led us to this place of being dubbed, “the most selfish generation to ever walk the planet,” I’m convinced they all boil down to one thing;

We are freaking, selfish people!

Are you starting to see where this is heading?  I think we’re kind of selfish.

And this goes for all of us.  Followers of Christ are no exception.  It seems some Christians have tried to distance themselves from the culture by saying things like, “This culture is going to hell in a hand basket.”  If you have ever said this, it may be a good time to stop and remind yourself that you are a part of the culture.  We are all selfish.  We are in a near perpetual state of worshiping the god of “me.”

I once heard a story about a pastor who was speaking at a conference.  Thousands of Christians were in attendance.  In his challenge to the listeners, this pastor said something to the effect of, “Thousands of children die every day because they don’t have food or clean water and you people don’t give a s*** about it.”

Now, ask yourself, what are you most offended by about that statement?  My guess is you are offended first that I would insinuate a swear word on this blog.  Maybe you’re offended that a pastor would use that kind of language in a sermon at a Christian conference.  Or, are you actually offended because thousands of children do in fact die every day because they don’t have the basic elements they need for survival and many Christians remain relatively silent on the issue?

Jesus chose not to remain silent on this issue.  On one occasion a religious leader approached and tested Him.  You can read the entire exchange in Luke 10:25-37, which I would highly encourage.  The entire law and the prophets are boiled down to two things by Jesus; love God and love people.  I find this exchange to be one of Jesus’ most fascinating.  Not only does He allow the religious leader to come to the right answer on his own, but Jesus doesn’t once give the idea that any of this life is about us.  He simply says,Love God

Love God.

Love people.

It’s a revolutionary kind of love.  It’s a love that reaches beyond the church walls.  It’s a love that bandages the hurting; cares for the broken; houses those with no where to stay; feeds the hungry; touches the sick; and dare I say, offers grace to the prostitute.  It’s revolutionary because it’s a game changer.  It’s a love that has no ulterior motives.  It’s a love that loves just for love’s sake.  It’s a love that says, “God is so important to me and He loves me so much, that I simply can’t help but share His love with you.”

It’s a love that screams, “IT’S NOT ABOUT ME!”

And a love like that, can change everything.

Are you looking for ways to love people in creative and revolutionary ways?

How do you serve the god of “me?”

What selfish attitudes do you need to sacrifice to God so that you can be freed up to love people?

Fantasy Church!


Fantasy FootballIt’s that time of year again when all the would-be athletes come out to play fantasy football.  I am not above this mess of online gaming.  I, along with everyone else, want to try my hand at being the GM (General Manager) of a football team.  It’s a very exciting time.  On a small side note: I’m looking to dominate in my league this year.

This somehow prompted a funny question in my mind.  The question that came to me was this, “If church was a fantasy league, who would I pick first?”  Okay, now I know this might be strange, but bear with me.  As you look out over the landscape of churches with all their mixes of colors, styles and sizes, who would you pick first?  Put yourself in the position of a church plant, management team.  You are in charge of picking a winning team.  Consider for yourself the style of church this will be and where it will be located.  You have to give this church the best chance to succeed.  Who are you picking?

Let’s get detailed.

Lead Pastor?

Worship Pastor?

Community Outreach Pastor?

Others?

Let me see what kind of “dream team” you would love to assemble to plant a church.  Don’t mess this up.  It’s only eternity that hangs in the balance.  =)

Incarnational Evangelism!


For a long time I have been a big fan of Alan Hirsch.  For me, he has a way of simplifying what we are supposed to be doing as followers of Christ.  I recently ran across a video of him, teaching about how we as the church, reach people.  To me, it was fascinating.  If you have an interest in reaching your friends for Jesus Christ, you will probably appreciate this video as well.Alan Hirsch

Before you watch the video, ask yourself, “How do I try to reach my friends with the message of Jesus?”  Do I go knocking on doors?  Do I hold up signs on the street corner warning of God’s wrath to come?  Evangelism – reaching people with the good news of Jesus Christ – is no easy task.  However, many of us were taught ways to evangelize that simply don’t work anymore and this has contributed to the church being pushed further and further to the outskirts of society, allowing us to reach less and less people.  This contributes to all the research that shows the Church in America is dying.

After the video is over, ask yourself more questions.  Questions like, “How can I be more incarnational in my faith?”  In other words, how can I simply be more like Jesus among my friends.  “How can I take what I know about Jesus to them, into their world, in a way that means something to them?”  After all, that’s exactly what Jesus did.  John 1:14 says that Jesus became flesh and dwelt among us.  He didn’t yell at us from heaven and then just hope that we could make the leap.  He came to earth, lived among us, loved us, died for us and simply gave us an example of how to do what some call “incarnational living.”  That is simply, living like Jesus where we are.

In my humble opinion, evangelism is not about hell fire and brimstone.  Nor is it about knocking on doors.  Nor is it about protest signs and hate speeches.  It is about living like Jesus; feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, aiding the widow, loving the orphan, bringing justice to those who have none.  This is the incarnational lifestyle we need to be living, no matter where we are.

Now that you have processed all that, watch the video, then comment what you think.  Is Alan crazy?  What ideas do you have for incarnational living or evangelism?  How are you doing this in your life now and/or in your current ministry?  Can’t wait to hear your thoughts.

The video here.

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