Friday, February 26, 2010
We . . . don't want to give away too many details, but please know that we are combining colors, lights, and fabric to create an environment that is at the same time thoroughly modern and warmly welcoming.
We . . . believe and pray that the new design will enhance our worship of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
We . . . are confident God will continue to move us outside of the Christian bubble in which we sometimes find ourselves.
Sunday. 8:30 10. 11:30.
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
And that got me thinking about other things that would never even enter my mind if was single; things I believe I share with most other males of the species . . .
- Sending my family birthday cards;
- Having personalized Christmas cards made up;
- Putting up and decorating a Christmas tree;
- Making the bed in the morning;
- Putting the top of the toothpaste tube back on;
- Marking February 14 on my calendar;
- Owning one cat, much less two;
- Talking about my feelings;
- Making sure the color of my shoes match the rest of what I'm wearing;
- Writing this post.
So we got a new logo.
It went through focus groups, staff dissection, volunteer input, and then final, enthusiastic approval.
Our previous logo -- a stylized shepherd holding a lamb -- had become dated towards the end of its fourteen year run.
This one conveys Walking Together: the starting point is lightly shaded, suggesting we all start our journeys from different places. But the arrow signifies a unity of purpose. We're walking towards who Jesus is and what Jesus is about.
Plus, the logo has a clean, modern look that's easily transferrable onto T-shirts, bulletins, hats, banners, and tennis racket strings.
Just kidding on the last one.
If you've seen the glass doors of the church recently, you've seen the G that's virtually impossible to miss.
It looks how we want it to look and says what we want it to say.
And . . . just wait until you see the Worship Center platform on Sunday.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
In worship design, we consider predictability to be sinful. Why?
Because familiarity lessens impact. If you know what element is coming next, then that element has already been robbed of some of its power.
For example, we showed this video at the end of Sunday's sermon as a way of driving home the point from 2 Samuel 9 that "we most resemble God when we invite the outcast into our inner circle":
About half way through the video, a couple of us invited people in the congregation to join us by standing and holding hands. The movement caught on, and in short order everyone in the room was standing & holding hands with their neighbors.
It became a WE moment.
And because no one knew it was coming, it had power.
If predictability is sinful, surprise is an act of grace.
Monday, February 22, 2010
As usual, the funerals commanded a lot of attention and people power.
But they reminded me again of what I see as the two-fold purpose of funerals and memorial services: to give expression and permission.
By expression I mean that those leading a funeral need to give language to emotions that the grieving family members and friends feel but cannot articulate. Preachers do that by the way they describe the person who has died and in the manner in which they convey the hope of God. One of the highest compliments I can receive after a funeral is "you were spot on in how you talked about him (or her). You must have know him well." People in grief need language to express the depth of their emotion, and it is the preacher's task to help them in that path.
By permission I mean that pastors need to let the community gathered for a funeral know that grief is good. Many people are under the mistaken assumption that they need to "be strong" or to "hold it in." That's nonsense.
When someone we love deeply dies, grief is what God gives us to get us through. I say something like at every funeral . . . because it needs to be said at every funeral. And sadly, clergy throughout the years have instead uttered trite phrases like "Don't be sad now, your loved one is in a better place" and "Your loved wouldn't want you to cry for them if you knew the joy in heaven they have now."
Please. While both those statements might be in a sense true, they are not appropriate for a time of grief. We at Good Shepherd are passionate about giving Jesus' promise in Matthew 5:4 an opportunity to impact people's lives: "blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted."
Permission and expression. It's why we do what we do.
Thursday, February 18, 2010
As part of a denomination which has in my view suffered at the hands of theological liberalism, I am not ashamed of my beliefs regarding the divinity of Christ, authority of Scripture, the reality of both eternal gain and eternal loss, and the urgency of gospel proclamation. Certainly not a fundamentalist, but clearly evangelical.
Yet there is a danger in this designation; there is a sickness in the "camp."
It's this: sometimes we are so concerned with being right that we forget to be nice.
I see this in myself all the time. In those debates within the United Methodist Church, I rely on sarcasm and arrogance to make my points. I surround myself with people just like me who serve churches just like ours. There are folks within the denomination I simply ignore because their label is wrong.
In my desire for truth, I've neglected love.
Jesus never said, "By this all men will know you are my disciples, if you take strong stands on divisive issues."
Instead: "By this all men will know you are my disciples, if you love one another."
Perhaps being nice is the best way to be right.
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.
We usually feel like we have to wait for the other side of the grave to "cross over from death to life."
But I believe Jesus was talking about something much more immediate.
As in now.
What if, because of the words of Jesus, our marriages crossed over from death to life?
What if, because of the words of Jesus, our levels of anxiety crossed over from death to life?
What if, because of the words of Jesus, our expectations of the future crossed over from death to life?
What if, because of the words of Jesus, our levels of selfishness crossed over from death to life?
And what if, because of the words of Jesus, our churches crossed over from death to life?
Jesus is the ultimate Life Giver. Not just then, after we die. But now, while we're alive.
I want to live today as one who crosses over. Will you?
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Usually, these books are on the order of "how I did it and how you can do it too." They tell stories of phenomenal growth and influence and give readers a model they can implement for the same results in their churches.
These books have titles like Leading Beyond The Walls, It, Seven Practices Of Effective Ministry, and, of course, The Purpose Driven Church.
I have received help from reading just such books.
But I think the best book I could write would be about all the ways I've gotten it wrong and all the mistakes I've made. Instead of "here's how I did it," I think I could fill some pages with "avoid these mistakes at all costs."
I've even thought of some chapter titles.
- Losing Sleep Over Things That Really Don't Matter
- Judging Your Self-Worth Based On Sunday Attendance
- Avoiding Necessary Conflict Through Skillful Passive-Aggression
- Neglect Your Own Prayer Life!
- Always Compare Yourself With Other Preachers
- Saying "Yes" When "No" Would Be Wiser
- Let Emotions Color Decisions
- How To Confuse Being Liked With Being Controlled
- Be Anxious For Everything
I could go on.
What would your "book of mistakes" look like?
More to the point, would that book be full of mistakes you've made repeatedly? Or have you by God's grace been empowered to break unhealthy cycles in ministry and leadership?
Because that subject would be a good second book.
Monday, February 15, 2010
A remarkable way to capture a remarkable day.
It also helped me to "preach the announcements" . . . it was much more effective to put that video in the message itself as a main point of emphasis rather than simply to stand up at the beginning of church and drone on about 30,000 meals and $57,000.
Thanks to Joe Jackson for producing the spot and the staff team here at Good Shepherd for dreaming it up.
And how bout them hair nets!
Friday, February 12, 2010
Thursday, February 11, 2010
I'm so glad that many people at Good Shepherd have grabbed their shovels and gone to work.
We launched our Passage School last night with over 100 people showing up for classes ranging from Financial Peace University to SoulCare to Apocalypse Now? The rooms were full and we ran out of books.
Combined with our two Thursday morning classes and four more on Sunday morning, we have well over 200 people digging deep.
It's all part of Walking Together: we want to be faithful in providing space for people to grow and then trust God to move in their hearts to get them to show up. And so far, people have done just that. In droves.
So it's a good start. And you can still be part of understanding God better. Check out our Passage School here.
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
In earlier seasons of this church's life, we seemed to get a lot of people who were looking for "a better church" than the one they were currently attending. I think some of my ministry style at the time -- as well as my still-unredeemed competitive nature -- fed into that.
There are two huge drawbacks to that kind of growth, however. First, Jesus calls us not to be traders of sheep but fishers of men. Second, it's usually not long before before those same folks are off in search of their next "better church."
These days, I get these sense that we have more broken people coming through our doors and then staying involved in the church who are in search of a "better life." My hope in preaching is that they will sense they are neither alone nor judged in their brokenness, but that they are part of a community now walking together towards hope and healing.
So I preach less doctrine for its own sake. Now: doctrine matters. A lot. I want to get it right. The bible is still authoritative and Jesus is still decisive.
But I want the doctrine I preach to connect with the lives people lead.
So that they don't leave church on a Sunday morning thinking, "man, my last church didn't preach doctrine that way."
But that they go home with this in their minds: "I am not alone. I am loved. There is hope."
If we get it right, people in search of a better life will find the answers they need.
And people in search of a better church might just stick it out and work hard and well to make the church they attend into that better place. Including Good Shepherd.
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
But it's true nonetheless.
Addition By Subtraction.
On many occasions, the best way to strengthen a church's impact & effectiveness is to lessen the number of things a church actually does.
When a church forgoes ancillary ministries, it is then better able to focus all of its energy and creativity on those ministries that are central to its purpose.
And here's the truth: it's much easier to start a church with this mindset than it is to transition a church into it. People devote their time and resources into certain areas of ministry, and it can be frankly painful to discover those ministries are no longer core to the mission of the church.
One of my favorite analogies is this: you can't buy a hamburger at Chick Fil-A. They do what they do and they do it (in my opinion) brilliantly. But they don't do what they don't do.
So at our church we try to be diligent in harnessing our energy and creativity towards those things that really are central to Walking Together: worship, relationships, and mission. By God's grace, as we've become slightly less "busy," we've become slightly more effective.
It's ministry math.
Addition by subtraction.
Monday, February 8, 2010
Almost every September, I vow to myself: "This year's going to be different. Football has too many injuries and I spend too much time watching it anyway. I'll spend my time more productively than parked in front of the TV."
And every year I break my vow.
What is it about this sport that captures our attention in such a unique way?
Why would I -- a self-avowed, practicing tennis player -- rather watch a good football game than a great tennis match?
Why did I watch last night's Super Bowl between two teams I care little about?
Sal Paolontonio's How Football Explains America answers those questions in terms of our national identity and constant need for heroes. It's a good, provocative read that feels more like its author is a college professor than a sports writer for a big city newspaper.
Yet, for many of us the answer to that question has less to do with Manifest Destiny and more to do with personal nostalgia.
Little boys love to dress up. And what better costume is there than a football player? We love to spend time with our dads and/or older brothers. And what more universal activity is there than throwing a football in the backyard? And we love our heroes larger-than-life -- for me as a kid, who was bigger or better than Roger Staubach?
So for a lot of folks, football's hold has to do with its place in our past. The memories it makes and the nostalgia it shapes.
Which is why you hope that Baylen Brees will somehow "remember" his dad holding him in the middle of the din of a once-in-a-lifetime Super Bowl celebration.
Friday, February 5, 2010
If You Think God's Really Hard To Understand . . . There's An App For That.
We got snowed out last week.
But not this time.
It will be the ideal way to end There's An App For That as well as to launch into our Passage School Of Theology.
Sunday. 8:30. 10. 11:30.
Thursday, February 4, 2010
One is in a North Carolina prison. The other is in the Mecklenburg County jail. Both have connections to Good Shepherd.
What is most interesting about these pens pals is the speed at which they reply to a letter. It's almost as if I receive one as soon as I send one.
Which goes to show how hungry they are for communication and support.
And I'll confess: when I see an envelope in my in-box with either name in the return address line, my first thought is, "Not again. I'm too busy for this."
But that's when God steps in with a reminder: "What could be a more important use of your time than this that I've given you to do?"
(God usually speaks to me a sentence at a time.)
What is that God has given you to do that seems inconvenient or unproductive?
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
"It's not what you do; it's what you do with what you do."
In other words, it's not enough simply to pull off a big event -- that's what you do.
The heart of ministry lies in the follow up to that event -- that's what you do with what you do.
Whether it's a rally for students, a party for kids, a seminar for adults, or even a Sunday worship service, the key to effective ministry is all in the next steps. Thanking volunteers. Calling first time guests. Providing discipleship material for those who make commitments of faith.
I confess: after we host a large event at Good Shepherd, I'm usually so glad it's over that I rarely take the initiative to have excellent follow through.
But as I travel home today, I do so with a personal challenge to do more with what we've already done.
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
It's part of a year-long leadership development program sponsored by the Royce & Jane Reynolds Foundation in North Carolina.
Christ Fellowship is a pretty remarkable place: a 25-year-old congregation with 20,000 weekly worshippers in five different locations throughout south Florida.
Most unusual about its story? For the first five years of its existence, the church hovered at around 100 people in worship.
In general, when churches stay that size for that long in their early days, they never progress any further. United Methodism has scores of churches that long ago settled at 100 people or so in worship.
But I love the explanation given by Tom Mullins, Christ Fellowship's founding-and-still pastor.
"God was seeing if I could be trusted with a little," he said, "before he trusted me with a lot."
Evidently he could be trusted with both.
Could you? Can I?
Monday, February 1, 2010
All of which gets me thinking about preachers and weather. I never dreamed when I entered ministry in 1990 that I'd waste so much emotional energy worrying about weather on Sundays.
But I have.
What kind of weather do we want on Sundays?
Weather that's not too good -- because if it's too nice, people will go to the beach or the mountains.
Weather that's not too bad either -- because if it's raining or storming or that dreaded "wintry mix" they'll stay home instead of venturing out.
The worst is weather that's threatening but not so bad you have to cancel. That way, you have services but about 50% of the people come. We've had one Sunday like that per year for the last few years. If you've got your best stuff prepared, you want the most people possible to experience it.
So the best weather for a preacher is about 50 degrees, overcast-but-no-precipitation, and not workable for either the sunning on the beach or hiking in the mountains. In other words, like we have in Charlotte a lot between December and February.
This past Saturday evening, when the roads were covered with ice and the forecast for Sunday morning was nine degrees, it was actually a pretty easy call. It wasn't safe for anyone, as proven by all the folks who spun out on the little road our house is on.
So what's the forecast for next Sunday? 50 degrees, cloudy, and dry.