Friday, April 30, 2010
Facebook Page: Ready.
Post Cards: Ready.
Prayer Support: Ready.
Michael Scott clips: Ready.
Actually, I think it's ready.
Week One of The Office launches with a message called "Taking Care Of Business."
8:30. 10. 11:30.
Thursday, April 29, 2010
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Today I'm taking the staff for a "field trip" to Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens in Belmont.
We do these types of outings several times a year.
In the past, we've run the gamut from high culture to low -- Charlotte's Mint Museum one time; a morning at the bowling alley another time.
It's all to let the people who work here breathe together. Take some time away from the office, socialize with one another apart from work, and, hopefully return to our tasks with some new energy.
It seems like Daniel Stowe is indeed one of those nice places to take some deep breaths.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
That sounds counter-intuitive, doesn't it? We think of preparation as . . . drudgery. Monotony. Repetition. Whether it's preparing a sermon, report, or song, the work of getting ready is filled with discipline and sacrifice. All of which sounds like the opposite of freedom.
Except for this truth: a lack of preparation makes you a captive of the moment. There are few things more paralyzing than to be giving remarks for which you are unprepared -- you know it and the people you address know it as well. You're trapped.
I suspect the same is true in singing a song, writing a report, or making a sales presentation.
And the reverse is equally apt. Spontaneity happens best in the middle of a message that has been carefully crafted. It's as if when you do your part, the Spirit pours out surprises by doing his part. Many Sundays, some of the "best" things I say are not part of the plan . . . yet delivered while in the middle of sticking to the plan!
So in preaching, singing, selling, writing: there is freedom in preparation.
Monday, April 26, 2010
We have several ways we are getting the conversation going when it comes to this series:
1. A special interactive website: http://www.myworksecrets.com/
2. Teaser billboards throughout our community that invite people into the website, conversation, and church itself. You can see the boards near the I-77/I-85 interchange, on Hwy. 21 in Fort Mill, and on Hwy. 160 near the Baxter community, also in Fort Mill.
3. A special Facebook page just for the series.
4. But most of all . . . you. All the media presence we can muster will never replace the value of word of mouth. So if Good Shepherd is your home and you have friends or family who struggle with work, you now have six days worth of inviting time.
Friday, April 23, 2010
Normally, the series we do after Easter have been . . . gentle. Horizontal. Focused on relationships, based on human interest.
The services in Disruption have been more "in your face." Inviting people to consider seriously the direction of their lives in comparison to the direction Jesus wants to take them.
I'm glad we did it this way.
So we wind up the series this Sunday with a look at what Jesus does when you just want to be left alone. How he disrupts us when our spirituality centers on our comfort & convenience.
I like how we're concluding. It's probably something that's long overdue.
8:30. 10. 11:30.
Thursday, April 22, 2010
This week, I heard about a bumper sticker making the rounds in New York City:
The Truth Will Set You Free.
But First It Will Piss You Off.
I find that painfully true.
I find it theologically true.
It's why in Luke 3, John the Baptitst declares to his audience: "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? . . . he (the coming Messiah) will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire." (3:7, 17)
And then Luke describes that diatribe in this way: "And with many other words John exhorted the people and preached the good news to them." (3:18)
Before it's good news, it's bad news.
A vital part of the good news about God is accepting the bad news about ourselves.
That we are broken, selfish, and . . . sinful. I know that's not politically correct in the 21st Century, but it's still true.
It's the kind of self-awareness that really will piss us off.
Before it sets us free.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
I've collected some of the most salient ones. I'll leave it to you to decide which ones I followed her on . . . or not.
1. Don't chew gum in public.
2. Vote Democratic.
3. Buy store brands rather than name brands.
4. Pack a lunch for a long trip instead of stopping for fast food.
5. Reading is always better than watching TV.
6. Look twice before you back out of any parking space.
7. Vote Democratic. Again.
8. Always root for the underdog.
9. Go to Princeton.
10. Don't let your shoulders sag when you're upset.
11. Look adults in the eye when you talk to them.
12. Write thank you notes.
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
is a church gathering for therapy or for doxology?
In other words, is the purpose of preaching and worship to help bring healing to the deepest wounds of the soul many people have? Almost like mass group therapy?
Or is the role of a Sunday gathering simply to give honor and praise to God's name (that's doxology) and whatever thereapeutic & spiritual benefits emerge from that are icing on the cake?
Should the flashpoint of a pastor's sermon be a human need or struggle?
Or should it be the greatness and glory of God's character?
(To be even more specific, should we try to preach like Andy Stanley or like John Piper?!)
Or . . . is it an either/or kind of question anyway? Perhaps by preaching doxology we accomplish divine therapy. And as we design worship experiences that bring healing we are also engaged in praising the God known in Hebrew as El Rophe -- the Lord Heals.
What do you think?
Monday, April 19, 2010
2. Snacks galore.
3. Each Sunday I see pockets of people socializing at Good Shepherd. When I ask them how they met, the answer usually comes, "oh, we were in Pathfinders together."
4. It's a healthy way of doing group ministry in church.
5. One night. Many surprises. New friends. Old friends. Discover personal trivia about some of your pastors.
You can sign up for Pathfinders here.
See you at 7 p.m. tonight.
Friday, April 16, 2010
In it, Mick Jagger sings of the irony that the band is now "respectable" in high society.
Yet he quickly points 0ut that they are not so respectable that Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau actually wants them to party with his glamorous wife Margaret.
Well, Mick doesn't sing those exact words, but that's what they mean. If you remember 1978, you know what I'm saying.
Anyway, I thought of that song a lot as I prepared the message that's coming this Sunday.
(And no, the band's not playing it in church.)
But the notions of respectability and the pats on the back we expect from God go the the very heart of Jesus' disruption of a young man's life that Mark describes in chapter 10 of his gospel. You can read the story here.
To see how all these disparate elements come together, venture out to Disruption this Sunday.
8:30. 10. 11:30.
Thursday, April 15, 2010
It's one of the things that can get us in some ecclesiastical trouble. If we knowingly baptize someone who was baptized as an infant or child, we are likely to hear from Methodist higher ups.
The history behind the "rebaptism controversy" is quite long (you can read some here) and much broader than just the Methodist movement. Yet the driving distinction between those who re-baptize and those who don't revolves around who is the main actor in a baptism. Is baptism something God does or is it the volitional choice of the person being baptized?
Historically, Methodists have believed baptism is what God does -- so we don't "re-do" what God has already done.
Our Baptist friends, among others, contend that the person being baptized is the central figure in the sacrament -- that's why in their view an infant baptism is not valid. What infant can decide from himself or herself to follow Christ? So they will eagerly re-baptized people.
Yet as I have wrestled with the issue, two other items come to mind. First, baptism in the New Testament seems to be an exclusively "after" event: it is observed "after" a person comes to faith in Christ. (Yes, Acts 16:16 and 16:33 suggest "family wide" baptisms, but those references are imprecise at best.)
The bigger argument against a firm "no rebaptism" policy is Acts 19:1-7 which I include below:
1While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples 2and asked them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when[a] you believed?"
They answered, "No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit."
3So Paul asked, "Then what baptism did you receive?"
"John's baptism," they replied.
4Paul said, "John's baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus." 5On hearing this, they were baptized into[b] the name of the Lord Jesus. 6When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues[c] and prophesied. 7There were about twelve men in all.
What does the story describe?
A re-baptism . . . because the converts did not fully comprehend the nature of their first baptism. Once they had received full teaching about Christ and his Holy Spirit, they received it with joy and were baptized into the faith. A volitional choice made after conversion.
Hmmmm. A biblical second baptism.
Infant baptism is certainly different that "John's baptism" (19:3) . . . yet both involve incomplete or absent knowledge & awareness.
And just like the converts in Acts 19, those who have been baptized as infants need to receive the urgent news of what Christ has done for them so they too can make a volitional choice for faith.
And after that? That's a matter for more prayer. And conversation.
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Jesus' resurrected body? These days, invisible. The Holy Spirit? Invisible. The promise of life after life? Invisible.
No wonder people often struggle to accept what preachers say and what churches teach. No wonder I often struggle to accept what preachers say and what churches teach.
In a world that values empirical data, in a culture built on images on-screen, we in the church face an uphill climb.
It's a never-ending journey to make the invisible . . . tangible. Tactile. Dare I say it? Even visible.
It's also a good time to remember the God-breathed words of 2 Corinthians 4:18:
So we fix our eyes not on what is see, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Monday, April 12, 2010
My prayer is that the video and the sermon from John 4:4-26 that preceded it achieved a balance between the exclusivity of Jesus' Lordship and the inclusivity of his love.
Everyone in the video comes from the Good Shepherd family; our lobby mural forms the background for the shoot.
We followed the images with a boisterous celebration of the Newsboys' "He Reigns."
There are many times when I have to pinch myself over my good fortune (or rather, my level of blessing) at being able to serve a church with both racial diversity and artistic talent.
Yesterday was one of those times.
Friday, April 9, 2010
Is it wrong to be more excited about a sermon for the Sunday after Easter than the one given on Easter?
I hope not. Because I am.
Not that I wasn't excited about Easter's message. I was.
It's just that I love what's going to happen this coming Sunday. I believe it's one of Jesus' best disruptions of them all.
To get ready, read John 4:4-26. And don't stop at 4:24 -- that's the verse people mistakenly believe is the point of the story.
We'll see that it's not.
8:30. 10. 11:30.
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Correspondence signed simply, "concerned."
All preachers have received them. I've had a handful through the years. And believe me, they are never notes of encouragement.
What are they then? Honest attempts at constructive criticism? Perhaps. Latent passive-aggression? Probably. Signs of cowardice? Possibly.
One thing they are not: helpful.
Most of us preachers don't mind if people disagree with a decision the church makes or a direction it takes. And we also don't mind engaging in conversation about exactly those issues.
But of course you can't dialog with those who don't identify themselves.
So whether you are dealing with someone in pastoral ministry at your church or in upper management at your job, if you have an idea worth sharing, you have a name worth providing.
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
So this week I'm helping out John Pavlovitz, Amie Berryhill and the rest of the Student Ministry Team with Spring Breakthrough 2010.
What is it?
Pretty incredible, actually.
It's 100 students from Charlotte, Fort Mill, and Lake Wylie spending their spring break in a most unconventional manner: serving people in need.
Instead of a trip to Myrtle Beach, the students are tutoring at-risk children, serving lunch to men in early stages of drug recovery, painting the warehouse of one of the church's ministry partners, prayer walking the streets of uptown Charlotte, among others.
They're bunking together at Camp Thunderbird on Lake Wylie and then jumping into vans early each morning to drive to the various ministry sites.
That's where I come in. Van driver.
It's a student ministry of which the people of Good Shepherd can be justifiably proud.
Friday, April 2, 2010
We're doing something different this year at Easter.
This time, we're starting a new message series on Resurrection Sunday.
(Usually, Easter is the culmination of a sermon series and we use that Sunday in part to promote the next collection of messages.)
But this year, Easter Sunday is the jumping off point for a four-Sunday series called Disruption.
Disruptions come at the most inconvenient times: The fender bender on the way to an important meeting, the ring of a cell phone as you begin a deep conversation, or the cry of a hungry newborn just as you've entered into the bliss of REM sleep.
Disruptions: We're looking one way, and suddenly, our attention is diverted somewhere else.
We believe that God works that way too. In fact, we believe the most disruptive force in the history of planet Earth happened on that first Easter. We believe that Jesus came to disrupt us and that the disruptions have kept coming ever since.
We pray this weekend will disrupt people out of bondage and into grace.
Here's the schedule:
Friday, April 2 at 7:00 p.m. -- Good Friday Remembrance In Worship Center
Easter Sunday, April 4 at 7:00 a.m. -- Sunrise Worship at the Corner Campus
Easter Sunday, April 4 at 8:30, 10, and 11:30 -- Easter Celebration In Worship Center And Backstage
Be prepared to be disrupted.
Thursday, April 1, 2010
For a long list of reasons, I have generally held to the simpler amillenial understanding of Jesus' Second Coming in which there is no secret rapture, no escape from tribulation, and no literal thousand year reign of Christ on earth.
I posted on it here.
But that's changing.
After careful reflection and study of primary sources, I am now coming to believe that I Thessalonians 4:13-17 does in fact describe the exodus of the church from planet earth; that the material in Revelation 4-19 really does describe the years of tribulation with Christians absent from the scene; and that there are in a sense three Second Comings -- one at the rapture, the second to establish the millenial kingdom, and the third at the end of the kingdom to inaugurate the new heavens and new earth once and for all.
As I progress in this new thinking, it will take some new training, perhaps starting with Dallas Seminary in the town where I grew up.
I'll need a new list of theological heroes, from C.I. Scofield to John Hagee to Jimmy DeYoung and of course, Tim LaHaye himself.
Talbot Davis, Rapture-ready dispensationalist.
God works in mysterious ways, doesn't he?