Out Here Hope Remains

There is hope for the helpless ... Cry Out To Jesus. -- Third Day

Sunday, July 31, 2005

My Name is John, I Am A Dork.

So today I used this big image during my entire message about Air Traffic Controllers. It could be a good point, except that I incorrectly thought that the Air Traffic Controllers were the ones on the airstrip, with the funny flashlights, directing traffic. This goof up probably had people rolling their eyes the whole time, distracting from my message. Geez Louize I feel dumb. lol Air Traffic Controller : NOT AN AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER: So now would be a good time, in my estimation, to hear some other preacher dork stories ... you know ... the dumb things preachers have said. Make me feel better. Relieve my pain.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Praising in the Park Report

Band of Faith Rocks Beach Park I had given up. The torrential rains lasted long enough to flood some local roads. The park would be a mess. It was sprinkling all the way up to an hour before it was supposed to start. And then the clouds broke, the sun started shining, and people started arriving. PITP3 was a great event all around. We had people from Long Beach, Ocean Springs, Pascagoula, and even Daphne, AL. I had several people ask me about our church. I also met a few people who knew me from my radio program. The afternoon was just a great blessing. Kenny, thanks for coming over with your daughter. It was a joy to see you. The band you asked about is the Brett McLaughlin band. They are the praise band for Fellowship Church in Ocean Springs. Very talented. Brett McLaughlin Band Invites Rochelle Harper to join them on stage. Band of Faith was awesome as usual. I think the weather could have kept some people away, but we had a good crowd. And a very diverse crowd...teens to senior citizens. Central had a table where we gave away bottled water and Bibles. I think we gave away about 15 Bibles. Looking forward to PITP4 ... I'll tell you about it when I know the details! Below are a few select pictures. All of the pictures I took can be found HERE. Me and Krazy Kenny (now K2)! United Methodist Muleskinner Association Deals Out Some Gospel Bluegrass

Friday, July 29, 2005

Praising In The Park III

PRAISING IN THE PARK A Free Christian Celebration Saturday, July 30th Beach Park, Pascagoula 4:00 - 8:00 pm Entertainment and Encouragement From Four Local Christian Bands: Jacob Blue (pop/rock) Band of Faith (folk/rock) United Methodist Bluegrass Association (bluegrass) The Brett McLaughlin Band (rock) Bring a picnic, chairs, bug spray, and a friend! Bring the kids! They can play on the playground! Bring a camera! Take some pics of the Gulf and Friends! Look for Central's free water table! Links: Praising In The Park Band of Faith

Thursday, July 28, 2005

The Golden Ticket

I didn't want to like it, please believe me. I only went because my seven year old granddaughter wanted to go. I do a lot of things because my granddaughter wants to do them. So this was no surprise. And I don't like the star of the movie very much. I didn't like the original version of this remake either! So when the movie started, I was all set not to like it. But the first thirty minutes drew me in. I began to care about Charlie. I knew I was in trouble. There was a place in the movie where I thought I would be vindicated, but then those little people started singing these really groovy songs and I hated myself as I started to groove along with them. In spite of everything, I really liked that movie. At the ticket counter I asked for tickets to "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" (which is not the name of the current movie)... but she knew what I meant. "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" has a lot of layers to consider. Ultimately, though, it is about the one kid with a good heart who had one chance in life to do something really special. And he got the golden ticket. My readers know me... I can't help but get all churchy on this ... but really ... aren't there people who come to visit our assembly who are ready not to like it? They've been talked into it by a friend or maybe they're here to make a parent happy. They're prepared to hate religion (good thing), but then they encounter Jesus Christ. Some of them are spoiled by the things of this life and they end up suffering the ill effects of thier misplaced love. I think there are a lot of "Charlie"s out there, though. People who don't have a thing to hold onto. People who have been down and out for so long that there seems no other way. And when they see Jesus with their hearts they realize they've found the golden ticket. The ticket to a new life with all new dimensions. Well... I didn't mean to like it. And for the record, Johnny Depp is weird and really creepy in this movie. But I might have to learn some of those moves the oompa-loompas were laying down. You never know when you might end up in a charismatic church where you can put those to good use.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Urban Legends of Grace

If you have been online for more than a month, you have received in your e-mail some story passed on in ignorance that is simply untrue. These e-mail forwards take on a life of their own. Soon people from coast to coast are reading about people waking up in bathtubs full of ice missing a kidney, how flashing your headlights at a car can get you gunned down by a gang, or Proctor and Gamble is actually a front company for the Church of Satan (a rumor that pre-dates public internet). These are called Urban Legends. You should have bookmarked a few sites that deal with Urban Legends so you can know whether or not to pass along the latest notice that Penny Brown is missing or that Pepsi is against God. Check the SNOPES website for probably the best and most up-to-date listing. They even have a TOP 25 URBAN LEGENDS that is fun to look at. We have our own urban legends in the church, and none are more disturbing than the ones that surround the subject of grace. I recommend you keep up with a discussion on Danny Sims' blog that he is beginning on the subject of grace. When we say the word GRACE in the pulpit, several things are set in motion. *Some want us to focus on what grace does NOT cover. *Some want us to affirm that grace gives us a free ride in the world. *Some hear only what they want to hear. *Some can't believe that we have gone this far into apostasy! *Some weep with gratitude when they know God's grace. I never received more criticism than when I preached through the book of Galatians and presented the material as it is written, and without any spin to cover our own misunderstandings. The Urban Legends of Grace ... I bet you could name a few. Feel free to do that, by the way, in the comments section! *Grace Will Not Be Available At The Day of Judgment. In an e-mail exchange a brother would not let go of this urban legend. I kept asking him, if there is no grace on that day, then what good is it on any other day? Thankfully, I have heard of very few accepting this legend. *Jesus Never Used The Word 'Grace'. This little tidbit might catch some of us off-guard. After all, if Jesus never talked about it, why should we? Actually, Jesus talked about Grace all the time. That he never used that WORD is inconsequential. If you missed grace when you read the Gospels, you missed something that John the Baptist pointed to in the very beginning: Jesus Christ is full of grace and truth. *Grace Is God's Half, Works Are My Half of Salvation. Truly this sounds pretty good. After all, I'm going to do all I can, and whatever I can't get done, God can see to that part. This ignores what Jesus said in John 15: Without Me You Can Do Nothing. This Urban Legend supposes that you can do things (i.e. good works) to earn part of God's approval. Luke 17:10 affirms that even when doing all we can do, we are still unprofitable servants. A brother was upset with me once for saying that I would not want to bring my 5% to God and ask for his 95% to complete my salvation. Folks, I bring nothing to the table. He gives me whatever I have. *God Will Have to Save Everyone. Ah, if God is not guilty of favoritism, and if He has enough grace to save everyone, and if we have to do nothing to receive this grace, then we are preaching Universalism. Another Urban Legend of Grace built upon a false premise: I did not say that we have nothing to do in order to receive grace. We must receive God's gift in the ways that God has asked us to. However, even the obedience to one of His commands is grace! *It Is Easy To Fall From Grace. Some seem to believe that they fall in and out of grace as if they are sitting on God's dunking booth. There is a fear that one unconfessed sin will send them straight to the fiery pit if they should suddenly pass from this life. Friends, I believe it is hard to fall from Grace. If Romans 8 teaches us anything, it teaches us that God holds on to his children and He doesn't let go. *Grace Makes Light of Sin. Or rather, 'the way you teach things', grace makes light of sin. If anything ever made light of sin, it is our belief that our works somehow make up for our weakness. The grace of God is given to us at great cost. I do not think God counts any of this lightly. Maybe there are more, or you'd like to elaborate on these ... even disagree with me if you like. Maybe I need to learn something about grace! I would welcome any knowledge of this wonderful subject. But I hope that we can clear the water a bit by eliminating some of these urban legends of grace. Still, I know how these things are passed around. Just when you think you have seen them for the last time, you hear them repeated from a new source who thinks they have found the truth!

Sunday, July 24, 2005

May A Severe Bout of Stomach Cramps Come Upon You In Traffic

David did it. I don't want to do everything David did, but I do want to do this. He prayed against his enemies. He cursed them. Not only that, he cursed them with some pretty horrific things. I'm not that mean, but I am mean.

My curses run along the line of the title of this post: May a severe bout of stomach cramps come upon you in traffic. Of course I get more creative, but not all are printable, even on my own blog.

I'm trying to reserve it for specific occasions, but what else are we to do with inconsiderate people who make life miserable for the rest of us? I feel a bit guilty about it ... how does one embrace the Golden Rule and embrace flinging a curse upon some poor soul? I am conflicted, I admit. However, some deeds deserve a rip-roaring case of flatulence in a crowd of dignitaries.

Number One on my list are people who carelessly spit their gum out on the parking lots and sidewalks. My feet always find these wads of gum. I don't even like to chew gum. Swallow the gum, for goodness sake. Find a gargbage bin. I hate it when I step on gum next to a garbage can - that brings a double curse that usually involves a long bout with hemorrhoids.

There are numerous traffic-related curses. The people who pass me up and then slow down on the highway. The people who pull out in front of me and then poke along. And the worst ... the people who are going slow until I decide to pass - at which time they speed up. These usually involve curses of teeth rotting, long bristly ear hair, severe tonail fungus, or a tongue piercing gone bad.

People who bump into you and push you around in Wal-Mart as if you are standing between them and the goose that laid the golden egg get to suffer ankles that grow together in the night, and maybe a case of super-itchy rash right in the spot on their back that they can't reach.

Attention pet owners: letting your dog poop in my yard is not acceptable. Come on! Why should I have to watch where I step in my own little yard? I don't have a dog. I love dogs, but I do not want my yard filled up with poop. So when I walk into my house and get a whiff of you-know-what, it gets dangerous. You brought the flea-infestation from hell upon yourself!

I know these sound severe, but they are earned. I hope I can be forgiven for such thoughts ... and I hope that people of the world can straighten up and fly right. This is America, by George, and you have the right to be courteous, civil, and speak English or ... well ... you will be mystified at the grapefruit sized wart growing at the tip of your nose.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Goodbye, Scotty

None of my regular blog reads are acknowledging the loss of of syndication superstar, James Doohan this week. Not even self-described Trekkie Keith Brenton mentions his passing on his blog. So I shall give a blogger salute to the icon who gave us a culturally recognized symbol of frustration: "Beam Me Up, Scotty!" Yes, it was Captain Kirk who often said that, but if there were no Scotty, what would he have said? "Beam Me Up, Fred?" or "Beam Me Up, Jake?" No, it has to be Scotty. Plus Scotty has been fodder for many Saturday Night Live skits and other comedic endeavors. Why? Because he was so endearing to our hearts. He was "giving all she's got, Captain" all the way to the end. He was at once the realist ("I don't think she's going to make it") and the hopeful ("we'll do our best"). His accent was not genuine, but you wouldn't know that. As Scotty makes his way on one last journey to the final frontier, I hope that in the Captain's Log there is a notation that he gave it all he had, and perhaps escaped that one last enemy.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Coffee Woes

The best coffee I have ever bought and made at home was Community Coffee, Medium Roast. It is an awesome tasting coffee. Very rich, but it does not bite. Community Coffee is from New Orleans, which makes it a great coffee. Community Coffee costs a bit more than some of the other kinds, but it's quality is so surpassing that I do not mind. I got a free travel mug from Community Coffee a few weeks ago. I like that. I like their coffee. I do not like those other mainline coffee brands. Folgers and Maxwell House taste like chemicals to me. I don't know why. But last week in Wal-Mart (home of bargains!) of all places, I found that my precious Community Coffee had shot up in price... by a couple of dollars. A bag of Community Coffee is not even an entire pound. It was now up close to $5. This is compared to a can of Folgers or Maxwell House for $2 or $3. So I figured I'd go to my friendly neighborhood grocer where I have been buying Community Coffee for years. It's bounced up in price there as well! I relented and bought one of those other brands. I've now made my way through a can of Folgers. Shiver. I used to look forward to making coffee every morning, but now I just do it out of habit. No joy at all. Even with Hazelnut Creamer, it's not as good as it was. Then I ran out of Folgers. This is a crisis, people. Searching through the cabinet I saw a small can. I had faint memories of the contents of that can, and picked it up. Hmm... Vanilla Hazelnut flavored coffee. Well... it is coffee. It has been opened, but there's still some in there. This is left over from Christmas. I fell to my knees and began to weep. Has it really come to this? A tiny can of 6 month old coffee that's been opened and is flavored? Oh how the mighty have fallen. I placed the old stale coffee in the filter, closed the machine, poured in the water, and began to wait. I feel so deprived ... so desperate...so dirty. I gulped down the coffee-like substance and made a vow that I would so live that my children would never have to lower themselves to this. "As God as my witness....as God as my witness they're not going to lick me. I'm going to live through this and when it's all over, I'll never lack coffee again. No, nor any of my folk. If I have to lie, steal, cheat, or kill, as God as my witness, I'll never lack coffee again." --Scarlett O'Hara, Gone With The Wind (Adapted)

Thursday, July 21, 2005

I Was...

I was going to blog, but my grand-daughter wants to play Skipbo. So, you'll understand if my next post is delayed. blessings

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Seeking God in the Sea

Today I drove down to the beach and walked around for a while. I sought the Lord's will for my life. I watched the waves come and go. I could see that the waves were unalike. Some surged a little further up on shore, some broke just before the previous watermark. Some seemed to not be waves at all, just a current coming to an end. After a larger wave I saw the pattern of the water dragging sand with it down back into the salty sea. I knew that there was much change in the landscape of the edge of the ocean, and yet it remained mostly the same. I thought that maybe my life could make a difference in some small way, but in the large scale of things, no. I looked into the sky and saw a cloud formation that reminded me of a donut. (Hey, my mind is never far from a donut!) Through the hole I could see the bright blue sky. I said, 'Yes, Lord, that is what I want ... in my clouded thinking I want to see the clearness of your will.' But the clouds drifted and offered nothing more than the figures my imagination could make of them. There was a wind surfer skirting the surface of the tides. The power of the wind in his sail drove him back and forth. Sometimes on the wings of a strong breeze he was able to turn a flip. He had real style and I was a bit envious as I stood on the shore in my dress pants and rolled up sleeves. (I hadn't planned on stopping at the beach.) Ah ... the Lord is carrying me on the winds of His will, I thought. And it is my duty to follow the leading. But the boy just went back and forth and never really did much more than have a good time. There was no journey. A pelican was diving swiftly into the water, no less the predator than an eagle swooping down to snare his prey. Down into the water it went, completely submerged, arriving back to the surface with his prize. He didn't seem to care about the waves, the clouds, or the wind surfer. Survival was at stake. Yes, Lord, survival. Perhaps that's your message for me. Do what needs to be done, not necessarily what I want to do. See to the details, avoid being sidetracked. Walking back to my truck, I saw my footprints in the sand. One set going toward the water, one set coming back. No clue is given here either. When all was said and done, nothing was changed. Nothing was clearer. My observations nothing more than existential ponderings, as temporary as the the sandy tracks that would soon be eliminated by the brisk winds. Seeking God in the sea was folly. But the prayers I spoke, the concerns I shared, and the requests I made could very well shake the foundations of the earth. For my Father listens that intently.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Eighteen Years Ago

Eighteen Years Ago Today I woke up surrounded by my best friends, nervously ate some breakfast, and put on a suit. Eighteen Years Ago Today I drove my little Pontiac 1000 to the Cleveland (Mississippi) Church of Christ. Eighteen Years Ago Today I went inside the building, greeted more friends, posed for pictures, tried to act cool. Eighteen Years Ago Today I sat in a side room with Eddie Lewis, a mentor and friend. My preacher. He tried to make me laugh. Eighteen Years Ago Today I heard that song that was our cue to walk into the auditorium and stand while I watched beautiful bridesmaids and handsome groomsmen make their way to join me. Eighteen Years Ago Today the doors at the back of the auditorium opened grandly, and the love of my life was escorted down the aisle by her father. He would become my father as our families merged in this moment of great transition. She walked past our friends, family members, and everyone stood. Eighteen Years Ago Today I sang a love song in front of everyone to the woman who would say "I do". Eighteen Years Ago Today while we were all playing our parts so well for the ceremony, the top layer of our wedding cake slid to the floor in the fellowship hall. Eighteen Years Ago Today a lady took what seemed to me to be 1,000 pictures. She used a camera in which the batteries were low. So there was a long wait between each of those 1,000 pictures. Eighteen Years Ago Today we exchanged rings and I kissed the bride. Eighteen Years Ago Today I tried to get into a car that had string around the doors, watermelons under the wheels, shaving cream on the windshield, and crickets inside. Thankfully, it was a hot July day and all the crickets perished, or my bride would not have entered the car. Eighteen Years Ago Today I started a new life and I am so thankful for all of the gifts God has given me through my family. "Love is something like the clouds that were in the sky before the sun came out. You cannot touch the clouds, you know; but you feel the rain and know how glad the flowers and the thirsty earth are to have it after a hot day. You cannot touch love either; but you feel the sweetness that it pours into everything." -- Annie Sullivan

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Breaking The Spell

Today a woman in the hospital asked me to pray for her. She desires the strength to stop smoking. One part of me wanted to quote Glenda the Good Witch, "Why, you've always had the power my dear." Then I looked down at my belly and realized that having the power and using the power are different things. And the truth is that we do what we really want to do, most of the time. Changing the want is how we break the spell. I hope I'm not going out on a limb here. You do know what I mean by "the spell"? It is the whore who places the young man under her spell in Proverbs. "Don't fool around with a woman like that; don't even stroll through her neighborhood. Countless victims come under her spell; she's the death of many a poor man." [Proverbs 7:25-26, The Message] Have you felt the spell? It can come in any form. It is the feeling that some feel when facing the buffet line with an empty plate. It is the purposeful forgetfulness of all that one knows as the liquor bottle is turned bottom side up. It is the blindness of stinging words or physical violence when anger reigns in our hearts. It is the mental numbness that is felt when one clicks his way to a lurid internet site or through the menu of an ill-advised DVD. It is the lack of control of the tongue as gossip flows like destructive lava from a volcano of mistrust. It is the feeling of helplessness as one rushes into sin knowingly. I think it's a "spell" because it's something from which we wake up! Of the prodigal it is said, "When he came to his senses..." [Luke 15:17] Didn't he know his predicament the day before? Intellectually, perhaps. He could have passed a quiz on the dangers of being wasteful with an inheritance. He knew it, but he wouldn't know it. He refused to know what he knew. Until he was bankrupt and friendless. The ride was over and it was time to face the truth. The spell is nothing more than the deception. The element that breaks the spell is truth. The Deceiver, however, is diligently at work to keep us in our state of deception. I think the answer is simple, but not easy. I think that the Spirit of God has already given us the power to overcome whatever spell we personally deal with. The truth of God is given to us clearly in the Word. As Satan spun his web of deception in the presence of the Anointed, he heard the one thing that kept him from his prey: the truth. "It is written". And so perhaps this seems too simple. Breaking the spell means: *We must know the truth. *We must love the truth. *We must think on true things. *We must speak the truth - even aloud. *We must trust the deliverer of truth. *We must want to be men and women of truth. The spell is not some magician-at-a-party hat trick. The spell is not some wave of Harry Potter's magic wand. It is not even Endora turning Darrin into a toad. It is the appeal to our basic human nature that attempts to cloud the truth that we have been reborn into a powerful kingdom. Been living under the spell in your life? Well, what do you want for yourself?

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Angst or Apathy

Many Christians seem to bounce between two equally unhappy poles: Angst and Apathy. I know that I've had my bouts with both of them. Why do Christians veer toward either of these states of mind? Angst. An acute but unspecific feeling of anxiety; usually reserved for philosophical anxiety about the world or about personal freedom. Now how can anyone feel good about an "unspecific feeling of anxiety"? Apostle Paul was certainly not one to shy away from expressing some existential angst related to his earnest yearning to see Kingdom realities come to life. But we mostly have angst due to the cynicism of our age and the inability to make any significant difference in the world. By looking away from the impact of our personal interactions within our personal world, we can feel overwhelmed by the dreadful self-destruction of our culture. We can't live in angst... or we shouldn't try to. Apathy. Lack of interest or concern, especially regarding matters of general importance or appeal; indifference. I think this comes after a season of angst! You can only stand the turmoil for so long, so it's easier to just shut it off. All of it. Do the minimum. Just make it through the day, and don't trouble yourself - what good would it do anyway? And actually, the truly apathetic do not even philosophize about being apathetic. It's too bothersome. Fill your time with the inane and inconsequential. Let others take the lead in important and cumbersome details of life. Who really cares? It is Spiritual anesthesia for those who prefer numbness to painful (and often failing) attempts at significance. Christians cannot live in these two states because they both destroy the soul and cause us to be submissive to a spirit that feels defeated. Neither of them recognize the place of faith, diminishing it to some subset of beliefs rather than TRUST. Trust what? Whom? If we trust God (the God as described in the Bible), then how could we be filled with angst at what we cannot accomplish? Isn't the theme of the Bible "Our God Can Do Anything"? And how could be be filled with apathy if we adopt the Kingdom view of life and existence? Angst and Apathy are trust problems. Can we really TRUST God? In Sunday School we learned the correct answer. Did our brain ever inform our heart of that information? Job bravely said, "Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him." Yes, Job dealt with some angst in his spirit - but not the kind we deal with today. Job was focused on his plight and his relationship with God, but he was not self-absorbed enough to curse God and die. Mrs. Job focused on self, Mr. Job focused on God in his pain. And that is where our angst and apathy need to go ... before the gaze of the Father. Would you really bring your self-loathing angst into the throneroom of God and say to Him what you often say to yourself? I think it would be hard to do because in His presence you would begin to know the reality of His power and what he has already done in your life. Angst and Apathy are graceless ... and we must reject them ... and eject them ... and we will only do that through our realization of the ever-present God we serve.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Tropical Tag

OK, Emily, you're IT. Dennis made a pass by this direction, but I was too fast. Family is home safe and sound, thank the Lord. Now we turn our eyes to Emily and wonder what she has in mind. I know by heart the path to North Mississippi. If she gets close, she'll have to work hard to catch me. My property ... well...that's another story ... it has the disadvantage of being connected to the earth. I hope my buddys Kenny and Chris fared well with their property. I'm thankful that Dennis wasn't what he could have been. I hope John Alan did well in Atlanta - which was socked pretty good by Dennis as well. I have talked with many friends and know that they are well. Tell us about your Hurricane Dennis experience if you had one! Right now I need to go unpack.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

To Go

The church is a going place, that needs going leaders who clearly explain to the body of believers where the group is going and how it is to go. In this, my final expansion of my first thought (the church is a going place), I want to toss out some subjective practicalities for us to consider on how to go. These may not fit every body of believers ... and clearly they are not THE SOLUTION (did someone put that somewhere? I can't find it.). Nor can I point to my church and say, "See, this is how you do it." So why should you read my list? (1) It is free. (2) You came here voluntarily (even if you hit 'next blog'). (3) These could spark some ideas of your own, which I invite you to share with us! To Go.... 1. Establish a Bible study in your home for six weeks. As far as I know you do not need a church sanction to do this. Make sure the study is for building up, not tearing down. 2. Walk around your neighborhood. Talk to your neighbors when you see them. Help them with whatever they're doing. Hey... why not invite them to your house for the Bible study. 3. Put this sign on the church door next Sunday: We are worshiping at the park. Bring a picnic luch, with extra to share. See you in an hour. 4. Hang out at Wal-Mart. Yeah... for like ... two hours. Wander up and down the aisles with a basket. Don't look for sales ... look for people you know. Talk to them. Do not hand them a tract. Invite them to your home for Bible study, or to the park for worship, or to church at the church building if that's what you've got. 5. Have a concert in the park ... call it ... I don't know... Praising in the Park or something ... let it be free, let it be loud, let it rock the park, let it be a time to talk to people you don't know. Give people a cup of cold water on a hot summer day in the park. 6. Buy a dozen cheap umbrellas and the next rainy afternoon go drive around and give them to people walking without an umbrella. Tell them you are giving them this in the name of Jesus. 7. Get with two other people in your church. Pray together for a season about how God wants you to go. Well... then as a trio you go as God directs. 8. Hold up a "John 3:16" sign at a ball game. (OK, I'm kidding) 9. At Church, never sit in your same seat. What...you want people to come to you? GO sit with anyone you don't know and get to know them. 10. Volunteer....somewhere. Habitat for Humanity, the hospital, the soup kitchen, the homeless shelter, boys club / girls club, children's home... somebody in your community needs help so they can help others. Church Leaders.... *Make sure that you do all you can to make visitors to the assembly know that they are welcomed, and welcomed to return, but with no pressure to conform to the rituals. (One form of 'going' is to be open to those who have come directly to you!) *Have a friend attend worship and sit with your family. Good examples speak loudly. *Encourage more things to happen off of the church property. *Release your preacher from some of his tasks, and ask him to spend some time walking downtown once a week, just greeting and talking to people. *Think about what you can do to help the church develop more relationally. Read the books, they have bunches of ideas. Get rid of pews and get round tables. Do not be afraid of small groups. Have more FAMILY activities instead of children/youth/young marrieds/seniors all going in different directions. *Have serious discipleship opportunities provided to the church. *Help people find positive expression for their spiritual gifts. *Open yourself up to all things connective ... reach out to our culture ... make yourself uncomfortable. Light a bunch of candles next Sunday and turn out the lights. Sing and pray to candlelight like your first century brothers. Use movie clips, if someone has a song let them sing it (got Bible for that one!), even go 'unplugged' some Sunday just to shake things up. Sponsor a coffee house at your building and invite the public to hear some Christian music, have some free coffee, and conversation. Better yet, go sit at the coffee house in your community and talk to some lost people (I know some of you just fainted). Forgo formality, embrace ritual. (Formality pretends we do not know we are sinners; ritual turns our eyes to God who forgives us and gives us life.) Rituals in worship include communion, scripture reading, prayer, responsive readings, and greeting/invitation rituals. For the more creative, prayer stations - readings - testimonials - and art. *Be strong and clear on moral issues as directed in Scripture; Be clear about the basics of our faith; be clear about who we are and where we are going and how to go. Express these things often. Remind. Convict. I'm just tossing these things out as they come to my mind. Perhaps you are disappointed? I am too. For all my talk about being a going people, my ideas seem pretty elementary. Still, if I am not going currently, taking one of these and running with them for a bit may push me out of my comfort zone, into a place where new ideas can propel me further into the world with His light. Your ideas / remarks / reactions are solicited.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005


A church is a going place that needs going leaders. So how do we "Go"? What seems to be an obvious and simple question is really the catalyst to quagmire! I cannot offer all the answers, but I will press on with my thoughts and solicit your input as we journey on together trying to be people who GO. I do think that "going" is as much attitude as it is action. Before anyone goes about fulfilling the calling of Christ, they must have that calling in their mind. It must compel them to march into live realities. We often think of it as sweet, but let's remember the definition of love that is far from easy to live up to: "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres" (1 Corinthians 13:4-7). This is not attitude for good times or for when we are getting our way. It is for times when we are tempted to be unkind, when we want to boast, when we have a quip or a barb for someone whom we regard with anger. It is for times when are willing to injure others with our words or inattention. It is for times when we no longer trust or hope or want to persevere in the calling. It is for times when we no long believe the best in the other person. Going people are loving people. Love moves us to GO, and no other motive will allow us to move beyond self gratification. Leaders must lead, and they must do so from the platform of love. A decision has to be made. Is this a 'going' church, or is it a hospice? If we are here to go to our community, then steps must be made in that direction. The leaders will set the pace. They will communicate clearly to the Family that this is who we are, and where we are going. And every person is needed as we do and be what God has called us to do and be. I'm sure some heavy discussions are needed among elders and preachers and deacons and others about this and what it all means, but the leaders must lead the way. Elders and Preachers must work together as a team, not working at odds with one another. Mature Christians will signal the way to weaker Christians as they join in with the going. When there is no consensus on where we are going ... and no clear word from the leaders, chaos rules. Inevitably there will be some who will not follow, who will only criticize, and who feel very threatened by all of this going. We should expect it. After all, we have spent many many years tending to our own needs and attempting to make everyone happy. We are poor students because for all of our studying about how to make everyone happy, we have yet to pass the test. When we realize that this is not our calling, and we answer the true calling of Christ, some will stumble. In love, we will try to bring them along. But if we are going, they must choose to come along, or be left behind. I have some suggestions for us to consider in terms of a protocol for going leaders, but I will save those for another post.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Going Leaders

A Church is a Going Place, and A Going Place Needs Going Leaders. I'm going to go in about five different directions with this ... so hang on. *I think there is some leadership confusion in the churches of Christ today. Elders in various churches run the range from Domineering Tyrants to Laissez Faire hands-off counselors. Preachers are trying to function as Pastors without the authority to do so. Some elders wnat the preacher to be the pastor, while others do not want him to exercise any leadership at all. *There is a backlog of 50 things we've all tried to do to grow the church, but after the failure / near failure of most of them we have no more rabbits to pull out of our hats. The preachers and elders are looking at each other shrugging their shoulders, not sure what to do now. Or else they decide to have a gospel meeting. *The one thing no one is willing to do is engage the community. We will fill 4 tables full of food at at pot-luck dinner. We will fold bulletins and we will donate can drinks to church events. We will give a little extra for a big event. We will welcome visitors who venture into our sanctuary. We are willing to tweak our services toward the contemporary elements. But we will not encounter the unsaved on his own turf. He must come to us. *People follow their leaders. Churches often develop personalities that match their preachers over time (I just heard my blog readers shudder all at once... it was a cosmic shift in the force). A leader who is a going leader can get other people going. A leader who will not go cannot talk a follower into going. *Leaders are people. They are often people who have grown up in the very church that is / isn't a going church. It is hard for them to become something else. *Leaders are overwhelmed. They feel pressed in and covered up with administrative trivia, trying to keep all the plates spinning, assuming the workload of ten Christians. They come to view leadership as decision-making, rather than disciple-making. Many of the statements above are a bit tilted, and somewhat unfair generalizations. But if the church is a going place that needs going leaders, how shall we go? How do we escape the endless routines and time-traps we have set for ourselves? How do we break out of the order and predictability (which we can worship) and fall into the chaos of the world. Maybe we need to ask ourselves if we even want to. And I'm not talking about adding something else to our already frantic schedule ... I'm talking about a shift in perception of who we are in the Kingdom. My mind is swimming in this pool for a bit ... I feel sure I'll have more to say on the matter.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

A Going Place

The Church is a going place. That's a thought I had this morning that I would like to pursue a bit with you. As a local group of believers, we are going somewhere. Even if the battlecry of some is "we're going to always be just what we are now", there is a still a goingness to that chosen identity. Even if we say that nothing will change, individuals change and thus groups (church) change. And some people want to trumpet how much they are changing and how far they are going. Sometimes they're not going where they think they are. But in all, the church is a going place. Where are you going? It's easier for me to ask you than for me to address that question for myself. But I must. Where is my church going? Churches work hard on mission and vision statements. Unless an intentional effort is made, these statments are lost in the cobwebs of good intentions and seldom really redirect the church into a new path. What do you look at to determine where a church is going? One approach is to look at averages. Average attendance. Average contribution. Average conversions. Average transfers. Numbers, numbers, and numbers make me numb-er. Is our message that our church is going toward bigness? Supersize us please. I'm not a big critic of this, for each number does represent a person. But you know how these persons are replaced by the numbers over time. Panic sets in if the numbers crumble. In a book I read recently a piercing question took center stage: If your church disappeared tomorrow, would your community care? Jesus was not a synagogue homebody. When he arrived on the scene, people cared. While he was there, people marveled. When he left, people wondered where he went. So should it be with our churches. A church of ten people who are feeding a hungry family is more the church of Christ than a church of a 1,000 attenders from a regional area who mostly care how the praise team sounded this morning. Two extremes, for sure. It's a bit of an unfair statement ... but it is re-directing us away from our ledgers and toward people. So who would care if my church disappeared (aside from the members)? It's not an easy question to answer, but I do think I know some people. How many? Not enough. Really a good guage for being a church of Christ has less to do with conformity to our traditional heritage and more to do with our love for the weak and defenseless. The church is a going place. Going into the marketplace. Going to those who need us. Going with water, and with water that will quench eternal spiritual thirst. A going place, though, needs going people. Going people need going leaders. More later.

Best Unknown Blog

I know some of you are reading blogs that very few people are reading. I hope you leave comments ... to encourage the writer. Not everyone can be like Mike Cope and have 36 comments per post. I remember when I was first starting out and I wondered if anybody was reading my posts. Not that I have ascended to the heights, but I do appreciate those who post at my blog. I have a big ole list of blogs for you if you are unfamiliar with the blog world! Click HERE to see it. Still ... there are those really great blogs to which no one responds much. Here's your chance to highlight GOOD blogs that FEW PEOPLE are reading! Keep your quality level high! I'll start with two! Although not very personal, there are some good devotional articles to be found on Richard May's blog. (HERE) The blog that doesn't have many comments but offers up excellent introspective talk that takes aim at the heart is Jim Martin's blog. (HERE) Ok, Give 'em up! Your award for the best unknown blog is.....