Each week the local paper lets a local pastor write a small article for the religion section. It’s way way in the back of the paper. This week I got the chance. You only get 150-200 words, but there really is no limit on what you can write. I’ve never read what any of the other pastors have written so I have no idea what to make. The general rule for me is if god gives you a platform, give it back to Him. So I wrote about Jesus and I’m hoping that it encourages people to consider Jesus this Christmas. I hope you’ll join me in praying the same way.
Here’s what I handed in, when it gets published we’ll put a link up:
I don’t sleep much on Christmas Eve. When I was a child it was in anticipation for the gifts under the tree that would have my name on them. Today it’s in anticipation of the reaction my kids will have when they open the gifts with their names on them. In giving to others I am blessed with a joy and a peace that can only be from God.
I wonder if this is what God felt like on the first Christmas Eve. As Mary and Joseph searched Bethlehem for a place to stay, was God giddy with excitement because he knew the gift they were about to receive? This most amazing gift of God was the birth of his son, Jesus. God expressed unmeasurable love for us by sending us his Son, that we would be able to know God and have a relationship with him.
As we turn our collective attention toward the holidays this year, I hope that you find joy in giving to others and in so doing, experience even a small measure of the love that God has for you in Jesus.
two videos in a row! I must be busy lol.
Here’s an early Christmas present for you.
Don’t you want a tiny monkey to cook you smores?
I read this week that scientific studies show how people working together in co-operation makes them feel better about themselves, their team/group and the goal/task/project. This video shows how one school group improved their school by tackling a large task and having a great time! I bet you smile!
The very latest book from Nelson Searcy is called Ignite: How to Spark Immediate Growth in your Church. In classic Searcy fashion this book is heavy on practical issues and gives a pragmatic way to increase the impact of your church by increasing the crowd gathering on Sunday mornings. Obviously a large crowd on Sunday morning is not the complete mission of the church, which Searcy acknowledges.
I read this book because I am in a tele-coaching network with Searcy. Otherwise I probably would not have read it. The whole, “Bring your friends to church so that the professional witnesser (the pastor) can tell them about Jesus” style seems so wrong to me. However, this book helped me to frame my thinking to be more along the lines of, “If this church is a great community for you, why not invite people you know you don’t have any sense of community – then, hopefully, they will see that Christ is the key to the community we experience and they will seek Him.” So the focus comes off the guy with the microphone and goes on to the way that the whole community lives in a Jesus way together. That’s the kind of thing I can get behind.
Here’s my take-aways from the book, (we’re supposed to come up with 10 for the coaching network):
- Effective follow-up: this is key. Too many church leaders set up some fantastic program and give no consideration to the continued work of effective follow-up. The work does not end with the event – events are beginnings for people.
- Most churches face growth barriers around the 65, 125, 250, 500, 1000 and 2500 size.
- Searcy suggests “big days” as effective ways to break through these barriers.
- 60-80% of first time guests at a church are there because a friend invited them.
- Searcy claims that only about 5% of Christians have the gift of evangelism. (He then says that he requires all his staff to be doing evangelism regularly – which lets us know the gift mix that he looks for in staff.) I wonder if this is truly a “gifting” issue or if it is the effect of multiple generations being taught to “bring their friends to church” instead of training the people to know what they actually believe in a comprehensible way.
- The book also suggests intentionally developing friendships with the intent of inviting people to church. This is weird to me. So, the goal of the friendship is to get them to do a specific behavior we’ve preconceived? I think this line of thinking is so strange. I think it comes from Christians gradually isolating themselves into “Christian only” lives – where they only hang with believers, read Christian books, listen to Christian radio, watch Christian TV and movies, attending Christian events, celebrating Christian pseudo-holidays (like “Harvest Festivals”). This is why it is such an advantage to like in the wildly unChristian Pacific Northwest. It really takes effort to ghetto-ize your faith here because there is so little Christian consumer influence and such a grand openness to spirituality. (and yes, that was a little rant-y)
- Relevant church means knowing your culture. If your church sings songs that were written in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s you are relevant to the culture that was under 25 in those times. So don’t be surprised if your “contemporary” style of worship attracts people who are 35, 45 and 55. If you want to impact younger generations understand the culture of now. This actually takes work.
- Pray and fast for unbelievers. And for the unchurched. Most people around here believe in God, they probably even pray. But they have no significant relationship with Jesus. They may even like Jesus as a guy, but they need the conviction of the Holy Spirit to show them the extent of god’s love for them.
- 1 in 4 people will visit your church the first time you ask them. 3 of 4 will visit if you ask a couple times. People want peace and salvation and hope. They are just scared of Christians. Individual Christians are the key to gospel impact – way way way more than super duper pastors.
- If your church is making a significant impact for the gospel – reaching and saving prisoners of the epic war – then the devil will likely notice and try to rain on your parade. Don’t quit – don’t quit – don’t quit. It’s worth it. Obey God and repent – the rest is details.
pages read= 200 ~ year to date= 6194 ~ 2009 goal=9,000 ~ (69%)
Another great week at The Grove! It’s so much fun to see new faces every week and begin to see some familiar faces too. Our little church is really starting to get in a groove… looking forward to a great Christmas season and an amazing season on growth in 2010!
Here’s some highlights from today:
- The first announcement for the women’s retreat was today. The women are always so energetic – I would go to the retreat if I was a woman just based on how excited the ladies who’ve been are. There must be something awesome going on if everybody comes back so amped!
- We’re joining with South Albany for the women’s retreat this year. We’re not sure if this is a permanent thing or not, but I’m happy that old friends will be able to re-connect and share in the great stories of God’s work in planting The Grove.
- The band was off the chain this week. This is my first official off the chain of the band. They are going to force us to get some decent recording equipment and write some songs so we can share the joy with others.
- I don’t know if it was just me noticing, but there were a lot of young people helping put away chairs this week. How cool is it when elementary aged kids can participate in such an important way. I loved it!
- We had a little more than 200 people again! Who would have thought we could double up the launch team! I know it was a goal of mine, but to see it really happen reinforces the convictions and calling that God has given to The Grove.
- There were 50 kids elementary age and under that checked in today! What an amazing privilege we have to help shape the future of the church in these kids; we’ve got to continue to pray for rising generations, that God will work through them in even greater ways than we can imagine!
- The Grove collected about 30 boxes for Samaritan’s Purse Christmas Child gifts! I couldn’t believe my eyes to see the huge pile of shoe boxes at the front today. I heard one family even rushed out of church because they forgot their box and wanted to make sure it was included. The Grove is so motivated to contribute to the gospel all over the world – watch out world!
- Preached on humility today from Philippians 2:1-11. This passage is so layered in theology that it’s easy to want to do 17 sermons for these 11 verses. I really tried to move us in a direction of understanding how to live The Good Life, which is a humble life.
- In the original greek the word “bowels” appears in the passage. I decided to omit that because too many Grovers would giggle. And would only be able to think about bowels whenever I mentioned being humble. Nevertheless, I also pray that Grovers will have humble bowels this week.
- Don’t you love being around people who make you feel important? I hope that people begin to feel that way about being a part of The Grove. Not in a fake smile and handshake way – but in a real, genuine expression of love. I pray that The Grove will be blessed with people who are able to live radically humble lives!
- This week coming up I’ve got basketball, doctor appointments, meetings and more! Should be another full week.
- Looking forward to going to the Beaver Basketball game next Saturday – compliments of the awesome Tina and Cory. I think LJ is looking forward to it like it’s Christmas!
Larry Shelton, a Theology Professor at George Fox, has written a thorough examination of atonement theories in light of the biblical theme of covenant which leads into an assessment of Wesleyan developments in atonement theology. This book nearly kicked my butt. It was like every other chapter was super exciting theology. The problem was all the other chapters that were tedious scholarly examinations of doctrine and theology. It was a little tough. It was all good work and helpful, but hard for me to make it through many pages in one sitting.
I did really appreciate Shelton’s motivation in writing as he saw his students struggle more and more with modernist theories of the atonement. He felt a conviction to continue to explain the work of Christ’s life, death and resurrection in a way that makes sense and works itself out in practical ways.
Here’s some interesting thoughts from the book:
- p.xvii, “My students were becoming more disturbed and less impressed by the traditional theologies of Christ’s death as the necessary penalty God required from humanity in order to reconcile them to divine fellowship…The use of legal models to explain God’s nature as justice has become less compelling for the telling of Jesus’ story of redemption to this generation.”
- p.3, “The postmodern culture is profoundly concerned, however, to address the existential alienation of separation from the foundations of meaning in their lives.”
- p.22, “Henry Spaulding II is undoubtedly correct in noting that Wesleyan-holiness theology after John Wesley, for example, has been notoriously deficient in reflecting on a Trinitarian ontology other than in ‘purely experiential-expressive ways.”
- p.25, “We learn who we are by the response of others toward us. When that Other is God, and when that appraisal is ‘very good,’ humanity is blessed with a secure self-image patterned after God’s own character.”
- p.49, “Sin to the Israelite was unhealthy, for it rendered one incapable of living with others or with Yahweh.”
- p.155, “The theological systems and ecclesiastical institutions devised in the past should not define the Christian tradition. Rather, it should be defined by its radical passion that sacrificially steps out into the mainstream of the world and with all its might uses every technique at its disposal to fulfill the Great Commission in every age.”
- p.193, “Had Wesley also developed the recapitulation and identification emphases of Irenaeus, he might have avoided the theological dilemma he faced in failing to resolve the imputation/impartation issue.”
pages read= 225 ~ year to date= 5994 ~ 2009 goal=9,000 ~ (67%)
The debate over how to reform helathcare in the United States is evoking a lot of different opinions and emotions. Over all of the noise we have got to know that the state of national healthcare really does matter. It doesn’t matter to me how it is fixed, it just needs to be taken care of for the overall health of this country.
This video from TED explains why I think this way. It’s not a partisan political issue as much as it is an issue of America being able to contribute to the world in a beneficial way. The second to last chart about the emergence of China simultaneous to American stagnation is amazing.