Get out of town!

Just got back last week from a trip to Peru with Compassion International.  This was my 11th short-term trip and a great highlight was getting to meet the Compassion child we’ve sponsored for over 7 years.  She’s 16 now, about to graduate high school soon, and feels like she can pursue her dreams, which is so amazingly uplifting to hear.

My purpose in this post though is to encourage any of you who read it to say “yes” to an opportunity to go see God at work anywhere outside of your church, community, and, hopefully even, your country.  It is one of the healthiest things you can do for your soul.  There’s just something so clarifying about the love and power of our great God that you just can’t see until you get out of your own context.

I know a long list of hesitations, objections and what-if’s may emerge as you consider anything like this.  I say you should only be encouraged that you must be on the cusp of one amazing experience and to push through it.  Think of how threatening what you’re pondering must be to a certain someone who really wants you to keep God in a little box!  To borrow Nike’s tagline: Just do it!  You will only be grateful for the experience.

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Church Communication Filter – aka “For” or “Against”

Short little diddy here on the words we communicate individually and corporately as the Church.  Have really enjoyed reading “UnChristian” and “They Like Jesus, But Not the Church” in the past few months.  Lots of great commentary on the perceptions held of the Church by those outside it.  Basically, I think their opinions of the Church are almost perfectly accurate.  What saddens me most is that these perceptions don’t at all reflect the character of God or Jesus.

What’s the problem?  Easy, it’s us.  We darn humans keep messing it up.  One of the biggest ways we do this is constantly railing “against” things.  We’re so fixated on cleaning up everyone’s behavior that we just keep falling into the trap of “better stop that”, “God hates that”, “we’d welcome you, but not until you change that”.

Here’s my one-liner: Too many people don’t know God is for them, because the Church always seems to be against them.

Next time you open your mouth to represent your church or your beliefs, ask yourself, “Are my words going to bring life to this person?”  Adults don’t listen when you start talking against their behaviors.  It’s the reason we all started rebelling and pulling away from our parents as teenagers. And it’s so often the same reason adults stay away from the Church.  As I said in the “About” section when I started this blog, we have the best message in the world, but have consistently used some of the worst communication methods ever to demonstrate it.

Start your own individual revolution, be about what God wants for people.  After all, it was a taste of “life to the fullest” that captured you to begin with.

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The Real Meaning Behind “Your Teaching Isn’t Deep Enough”

Thanks for the tip from my buddy Jeff Henderson (http://blog.buckheadchurch.org/) on this fantastic post by Perry Noble – http://www.perrynoble.com/2008/12/10/five-arguments-you-just-cant-win-part-two/

We hear this on occasion at North Point, and especially from those opposed to using video messages in church.  Simple fact of the matter is Christ wants to be understood by everyone.  When He did teach, He always took care to put his words and examples in contexts that could be understood by his audience.

Besides, the next time someone asks you about going deeper, here’s a good question for them:  “Can you tell me someone you’re investing in who’s not a Christian or just recently crossed the line of faith?”  I usually find that the folks clamoring to go “deep” aren’t in close proximity to anyone relationally who is actually trying to figure out who God is or are seeking Him.

You want to go “deep”?  You can’t go any deeper than having the pleasure of explaining the reality of Christ in your own life or helping someone else discover it for themselves.  That’ll activate your faith like nothing else.

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Got a good thing coming your way Denver!

I’ve got three friends of mine from staff here at North Point, who are moving out to Denver to launch a church in 2009.  Their Lead Pastor, Stephen Redden, and I have a friendship that extends all the way back to 5th grade (that means 25+ years, wish that was in dog years :-).  In many ways, we’re really more like brothers than anything else.

Anyway, in his last month on staff at North Point, he’s blogging about his gratitude for the things he’s learned and experienced at North Point.  I wanted to point you to his posts because if you’re in the Denver area, you’re about to get 3 great guys in your community, and in a lot of ways, Stephen’s thoughts reflect my journey here at North Point too.  Do yourself a favor and visit their blog – http://newdenverchurch.org/blog/

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What God Cares Most About

Some days, I just feel waves of gratitude wash over me.  Why?  Because of the people I work with.  Our team at North Point, the Lead Pastors of our Partners and their staffs, and the amazing volunteers who help with 15, mostly setup/teardown churches.  I honestly cannot believe I get to do what I get to do, and it all contain so much meaning and sheer joy.  I’ve laughed and celebrated more over the last 7 years on staff than my previous 30 years of life.

Can you say the same?  Do you really appreciate the people around you?  Especially, if you’re involved in the church?  Do you laugh, celebrate and cheer on your peers?  The people you lead?  The people who lead you?

Guess what?  If you can’t honestly say that you do, or argue that your work is full of important tasks or that what you’re striving for matters more to God than those people you make the journey with, you are missing the entire point!  God gave everything for relationships – ours to Him and us to others.  When it’s all said and done for you and I, the measure of our worth isn’t in tasks or accomplishments, but in the impact we made upon the lives of those around us.  Make sure you’re pouring your best efforts into the thing God cares most about.

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Pulpit & Politics

You may have heard about the handful of pastors over the weekend who decided to defy IRS regulations and use their pulpits to publicly endorse candidates

http://elections.foxnews.com/2008/09/29/pub-pastors-participate-pulpit-freedom-sunday/

For those unfamiliar with what this can do to a church, it has been IRS policy that a church risks losing its tax-exempt status if the pulpit is used for this purpose.  I’ve typically been of the mindset that the Church has too embedded itself into politics in general, believing in effect that we unwittingly communicate a message that our faith is more based upon legislating morality and values through politics than making known the life-changing truth of Jesus and the character of God.  (See my earlier post on the Church and politics, if you’re interested.)

What do you think about this stance over the weekend?  I can see some valid arguments from both sides, but I’m curious as to how you see it.

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Proximity?

In Dan Kimball’s book, They Like Jesus, But Not The Church, he has this great question – If Jesus sent us on a mission to be his salt and light to others, why is it that we have basically set up our church systems and subcultures to remove maturing people from relationships with people outside the church?

Love it!  Love it!  Love it!  And, I even feel convicted by it, so I’m not railing against anyone.  I know that after 7 years on a church staff, I have way fewer, WAY FEWER, relationships with non-believers and the unchurched than I did years ago.  Now, I would argue culturally that church folks aren’t unlike everyone else in this regard – we naturally gravitate towards those who share similar values and interests.  But, in my post from months ago, “The Responsibility That Comes With Our Tribe”, I mentioned that as Christians we really aren’t afforded the opportunity to just sit back and surround ourselves with everyone who agrees with us.  We have to go out. But the great thing about Dan’s question is that is recognizes that in most churches, the “spiritually mature” are sequestered in church business meetings, elders meetings, Christian education classes, etc.  They’re not often on the front lines in close proximity to very folks Jesus hung out with.  And most of the “spiritually mature” get very angry and defensive when they get within 10 feet of someone who doesn’t profess Jesus as Lord.  Heck, all they really need is a handed down story to condemn someone as “that poor lost sinner”.  Makes you wonder how “spiritually mature” they really are?

Anyway, I’m looking at my hobbies and interests as a way to fight back and get closer to those outside the Church.  I’m playing softball again.  In a city league, not a church league.  I’m thinking about some photography classes to accompany my new digital SLR, and my wife’s an artist, so we have great opportunities there.  For those of you buried in church staffs and activities, I hope you too will think of ways to intentionally put yourself in situations where you can make friendships with those outside the church.  It will be so rewarding.

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