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Archive for May, 2007

I’m not sure exactly why this bothered me, but it did.  I was going through a pile of old mail that had accumulated here at the church in the absence of a minister and I came across an ad for one of those teams that put on shows featuring feats of strength.  You know what I’m talking about: muscle men come in and blow up water bottles with their breath, break bottles on their heads, twist tire irons into knots and break handcuffs off their wrists.  I’ve never seen one of these shows (though, like “Hell houses” and being in the studio audience of a TBN show, they are on my list of things to do).  I’m not really sure how they relate the Gospel to being a muscle man, though I don’t doubt their sincerity or their witness one bit.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad they do what they do and I’m not knocking their programs (can you tell that I’m afraid of being beat up?).

But, this particular ad bothered me.  It stated that 60% of the people who come to their show are unsaved.  OK, no problem there, that’s a simple statistical analysis.  But then it went on to say that 75% of those who come will get saved.

What?  How could they guarantee that?  How could they be sure.  Yeah, there was a picture of one of their shows that showed a bunch of kids “every head bowed and every eye closed” with hands raised.  I guess by that standard of conversion… a raised hand following an emotional program… then they might could say that 75% will get saved.

But by God’s standards of faith: belief, confession, repentance, and baptism, I doubt they could guarantee that.  Besides, we have no way of knowing how the Holy Spirit will interact with human will.

I know, it was just an ad and I’m sure that the claim was there to encourage you to see the evangelistic benefit of such a program, but it still bugged me.

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Sermon: Fellowship

This is the second sermon in my series based on Bob Russell’s “When God Builds a Church” points. So far, faith and fellowship. No, I’m not copying Bob Russell sermons, just using the points that he uses for chapters. It’s a good sermon series for a new start at a church.

Enjoy!

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Forging an Identity

Churches get reputations in their local community. This is something that most ministers know, but few parishoners really think about as they are absorbed in their congregation so much that sometimes they miss this crucial fact, like a fish might miss the fact that she is surrounded by water. Churches get reputations among ministers, because yes, we do talk. If a church chews up ministers and spits them out, we know about it. If a church treats the minister like a hireling, we know about it. Of course, there’s always SOMEONE desperate enough or out of the loop enough to come to your church when you write up a glowing job description, there are unfortunately no “truth in advertising” laws when it comes to churches.

But, my point in this post is to talk about the reputation that a church has in a community.

Some churches are known for their congregation. That’s the church that all the bigwigs in town go to. That’s the church where all the fundies go. That’s the church where all the rich folks go. That’s a friendly/unfriendly church.

Some churches are known for their worship style. That’s the rockin’ church. That’s the dead church. That’s the formal church. That’s the holy-roller church.

Some churches are known for their preacher. That’s Bob Russell’s church. That’s Mark Driscoll’s church.

Sadly, some churches are known for their bad behavior. That’s the church that fights all the time. That’s the church that is against X. That is the church that’s dead.

Starting at a new church, we are in a position to ask what our identity should be in this community. How exciting. We realize that since we are in a region with a lot of very big, very contemporary churches that we will not be able to be the “contemporary” church in the area. I’m glad our leaders realize that. Nothing is more painful than a little, traditional church trying to imitate the big contemporary church in the city. We also realize that we don’t want to be the So and So Family church, and don’t really have that controlling family here. Thank God.

So, we are looking at what is important to us. We are more biblically conservative than the average church in the area. No, not legalistic or hung up on nonessential things like how you should dress or what day communion can or can ‘t be served on. But, if you believe that the bible is the Word of God and should be the guide for the church you’re pretty much more conservative than the average church in America. Also, with all the seeker-friendly churches dumbing down the Gospel and avoiding using the bible or mentioning things like sin in the morning worship, we hope to be the kind of place that people will come to when they get tired of milk sermons. We are also a family church. Yes, I know, I just criticized family churches, but there’s a difference. A bad family church is one that’s run by one family FOR one family. A family church that is one that reaches all generations is a great thing, and becoming a rare thing. We don’t ‘target’ one demographic, which in most targeted churches is the 20-35 year olds. We have people from birth to 90 and are trying to reach all of them (not an easy task). Still, for those who are tired of Chuck E. Cheese Church, we will be a welcome sight. We are also trying very hard to be blended in our worship (again, not easy). We have a contemporary sound, but we play old and new songs and try very hard to accomodate all tastes without being hostage to any. And finally, since we are smaller, we would like to really accentuate that fact that we can provide more of a one-on-one ministry than a larger church. Of course, the goal is to make new disciples which means growing which means that hopefully down the road we will have to find new ways to still have that small church feel with more people.

Me, I’m just glad to be in a church that is seriously asking these questions. Too many churches are just drifting around with no real idea of who they are and don’t seem to care what their identity is in the community.

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Here is part one of my 10 sermon series based on Bob Russel’s book “When God Builds a Church”.  No, I don’t just preach from his book, I pretty much just use his 10 points on what a church needs to be a church that God builds.  The first one I did for this series at the new church is “Faith”.  I’m not 100% happy with this one, but couldn’t figure out what needed tweaking.  Probably less theoretical “why we need faith to be a Christian” and more practical “how to live as people of faith”.

Anyway, here it is.  Enjoy.  Or not.  Whatever.

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Made it through my first week, and my first 4 hour board meeting. And you know what? I feel GREAT. Oh, I know, you all are sitting back there, sipping your lattes, snickering a bit and getting foam all over your keyboards, thinking: “Welcome to the honeymoon, preacher-boy, they’ll be roasting your spleen before too long.” Yeah, yeah, I know. I say the same thing every time an idealistic minister starts a new ministry with hopes that THIS one will be different and that God will be glorified and great things will happen. For a few months all seems great (the proverbial “honeymoon”) and then the garbage starts and the guy is ready to pull his hair out. That’s why so many of us preachers are bald.

Still, hope springs eternal with each new ministry, and that’s where I am now and I’m going to enjoy it. Not ALL churches can be lousy, right? Have you ever gotten awestruck from looking at a new-born babe? You look at that little life and you know that that child has all the potential for great things without any of the baggage that comes from life. That child could be the next Mozart or the next Andrew Murray or the next Marie Curie. His life is starting new, full of nothing but vision and promise. Of course, you also realize that the child is already getting older, he may face disease, and he could very well grow up to be the next Hitler, Stalin, or Gilbert Gottfried.

That’s how I feel right now at this new church. It has all the potential, with very little of the baggage that comes from a church with some age on it. The 4 hour board meeting was refreshing because instead of wrangling over stupid stuff we were discussing how to reach our members to disciple them, how to reach the lost in our community to evangelize them, and how to stay true to the mission that God has given us in this community. Problem people were mentioned, and we discussed how to be sensitive to their concerns without being hostage to their demands. There is an excitement about all that God can do here. I’m praying that things stay that way. No, really, I am. I’ve made a commitment to pray for this congregation, that we remain radically dependent on God instead of relying on our own abilities, budget, programs, or personalities.

We’ll see how things turn out, but for now it’s good to be in a church that is honestly, prayerfully, searching for ways to find our identity in the community (ed. note: Of course, our main identity is of a Christ-honoring, biblically conservative, missionally outreaching church, but beyond that, who are we, and who do we want to be?  More on that later…).  Let’s hope and pray that the baby grows up to be Chysostom instead of Diotrephes!

The first Sunday went really well.  The congregation was glad to have a minister here after not having one for a while (they actually applauded when I got up to preach, never had that happen! and what was cool was that they were not applauding me, but the fact that they had a minister).  The dinner afterwards was great and the fellowship was wonderful.  I had a friend visiting who lives in the area and she remarked on how much she liked the church, that’s good objective feedback.

What a great time of hope and vision!  Thanks for all your prayers!

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Getting Settled

Yikes, sorry to be so silent for so long. But, this time I have excuses. Friday the 11th we drove to Kentucky to close on our house. Saturday we packed up our stuff in WV, drove it 2.5 hours here to our new home and unpacked it… all on the same day. We spent our first night in the new house, then got up EARLY to drive back to WV to preach my last Sunday at the old church. Pretty much uneventful, though very sad. Sunday we drove back here and began ministry. This week had all the makings of being a quiet week, but it wasn’t. In addition to all the unpacking and moving in stuff, I had a hospital call, a men’s fellowship, a youth worship service, a church clean-up day, and numerous trips to various stores to get stuff for the house. Very exhausting, but exciting.

Tomorrow is my first official sermon at the new church and I’m very much stoked. The church here seems very excited about getting their first full-time, located minister (right on the heels of getting their first located full-time youth minister). These are wonderful times, when everything is exciting and new and there is a feeling of anticipation in the air. Everything now is hope and vision, everyone is giving the benefit of the doubt, everyone is looking forward. Let’s hope it stays that way for a while!

Keep praying for us!

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jesus-lizard.jpgI’ll be honest, I’ve always kind of stayed out of the evolution debate. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I believe that God created the universe and that He has guided every detail of Creation.  I was just never sure how much room there was for varying theories of Godly Creation.  Could the view of 6 Day Creation exist along with a view of God-driven evolution, for example.  Could God have said “Let there be” and there was a Big Bang and then astrophysics took over?  I dunno.  My view on Creation has always just been, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”   I really look forward to Hamm’s new Creation Museum to open up in Kentucky.

But, my thoughts this morning have been one of scorn for evolutionists who don’t believe in God at all and deny that God has any part in creation.  The show I’m watching is called Totally Wild and it shows all the really weird things in Creation: fish that look just like coral sponges, lizards that walk on water, pink dolphins that have free floating vertebrae, salmon that have an insane drive to reproduce, etc.  They were showing all the ways that animals have learned to blend in with their environment, fish that look like leaves, bugs that look like sticks and so on.

Oh, I know, evolutionists will say that all these things happened over billions of years, but it seems to me that this kind of thinking takes a LOT more faith than to look at Creation and say, “Wow, God is really awesome… how cool is it that He created a lizard that can walk on water.”  It takes a much bigger myth and legend to make evolution work without an intelligent creator.  Some critter was blind until one mutant developed a light sensitive cell.  Fast forward a blujillion years and we have our sophisticated eyes.  Um, yeah, sure.  I’ll just stick with God creating our eyes, thankyouvermuch.

Don’t you just love nature shows?

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