Panel discussion at Advance '09. Lengthy, but worth a watch.
Posts from June 2009
There's much talk about church growth. However, church health is something that should be considered. In fact, since the church is a living organism, not an organization, a healthy church should naturally grow - especially in our community.
This is the final sermon in the "1:eight" series. In looking at the characteristics of the healthy church as outlined in Acts 13, I pray that we will strive to have these same characteristics.
My friend Ron Henson, pastor of MissionWay Church made the front page of the Florida Times-Union. Jeff Brumley wrote an article that included information we have been sharing to the members of our church for the past few years. I'm encouraged that even though statistics nationally are down, we in Florida are committed to fulfill the Great Commission.
One of the reasons we started the CreekChurch was to reach those who are just not being reached through current methods. God has blessed. Each week up to 100 people attend CreekChurch and this week, we have had over 60 kids involved in Vacation Bible School. You know, it's worth everything we're doing to reach people who otherwise would not know Jesus Christ.
Take a moment and read Brumley's article. Pray for our church (both campuses) and all ministries we are involved in so that we can be the Acts 1:8 church God has called us to be.
In a world with trouble, starvation, genocide, poverty, AIDS, etc. the question comes to mind "Where's God in all this?" The answer is that He's where He promised to be - in the hearts of His people. As believers, it is our calling, our challenge, our commission, to take the message of Jesus Christ to all. To be an Acts 1:8 church means we must move from talking about reaching out to actually doing it. I think we tend to make evangelism harder than it should be.
We're experiencing the second day of Summer Jam here at our church. Summer Jam is basically a new name for Vacation Bible School. We just figured it sounded "cooler." It does sound better than VBS, but I find myself telling everyone "It's VBS." Guess we still have a lot of people who grew up being carted around to every church in the community for Vacation Bible School as a kid. Makes for very affordable child-care for some families.
I'm excited to see all these kids around the church campus. I guess anytime as pastor you see hundreds of people at the church for hours having fun and smiling (I'm talking about the kids) it's a good thing.
Here's my list for today. Ten things that make Summer Jam (or VBS) great!
- You get to sing loud, exciting songs at 9am.
- You get to act like you know everyone's name because they wear nametags. (Kinda like Cheers - "Where everyone knows your name.")
- It's amazing how much fun you can have working on a craft that cost $2.
- It may be terribly hot, but recreation (or recess) can still be the highlight of the day. I think we should have recess at work every day.
- Adults get an excuse to dress in costume, or at least to tie in to the theme. This year everyone looks like Crocodile Dundee (or for you younger people - Bindi the Jungle Girl).
- Great time to practice those pledges (especially to the Christian flag and the Bible. . .I think VBS is the only time I ever said these pledges. Good thing they put the words on screen.)
- You get to see stories about real missionaries living overseas. This is always cool.
- Dress code is pretty simple - buy a Summer JAM T-shirt and wear it every day. (BTW - I have from a pretty good source that many of these don't get washed each night.)
- Kids get to hear how to know Jesus personally. This is the best thing about JAM.
For the past two years, Nicole Evans worked in the mountains of Central Asia as a Journeyman. On this Sunday morning, I interviewed her about her her experiences. Very challenging to all. She lived out the "1:eight" mandate and continues to.
Just about every Sunday I drive by this guy on the corner of Kingsley and Park. Sometimes he's alone, other times there is a woman with him. Now I've noticed that she's alone at times. It's been over a year since I first saw them, maybe two. They stand there with a portable sound system and preach.
They're preaching salvation and Jesus to people who are either trapped at the red light or driving by at 40 mph. I often wondered what led them to do this.
I've heard cars honk at them. I've seen people stare straight ahead at the red light, yet roll down their windows to hear what they're saying. OK, that's what I do.
It still seems strange to me.
Then it hit me today. What I'm doing from the pulpit down the street may not be that different. Here's some random thoughts I had about how similar we are.
- We both believe our message is important, valuable and life changing.
- We both get loud at times, just hoping someone will take notice.
- Many people are there, just not seeming to listen.
- The "new" strategy is old now.
- We both have a parking problem.
- People think we're kind of strange.
- Most people drive by and never notice us.
- The message is life-changing, but the strategy for sharing it isn't the greatest for either of us.
- Sometimes he's singing, but I don't know the words to his songs. We do the same thing in the building.
- There are times it seems that light will never change and that sermon just keeps going on and on.
Maybe we're not so different after all. It's got me thinking. I still think it's strange to preach on the street corner in Orange Park (it's not like a big city with a lot of pedestrians) but after this comparison, it seems our strategy as a church may be just as outdated and strange.
Food for thought.
I'm reading Tony Morgan's new book Killing Cockroaches. I've never met Tony, but have read his blog and love this new book. Seems his spiritual gift of sarcasm is the same as mine. I, like most pastors, get caught up in the trap of always trying to do the next program or creative thing as a church. Tony says it like it is.
Now, I'm not through with the book yet, but so far, here are some of my favorite quotes.
- But we learned long ago that to try to make everyone happy, you have to be comfortable with mediocrity. It's a place where there are few critics. It's also a place where few people become really passionate about ministry and their relationships with Christ.
- Under the heading "10 Easy Ways to Keep Me from Visiting Your Church Because I Visited Your Web Site"
- Avoid telling me what's going to happen at your church this weekend.
- List every single ministry you have at your church.
- Put a picture of your pastor with his wife on the main page.
- Try to sell your church rather than telling me how I will benefit from the experience.
- If your church shut its doors today, would your community know it?
- Under the heading "10 Easy Ways To Make Church Services More Boring"
- Don't worry about when you finish.
- Straight Scriptures, no stories.
- No television, no movies. It's just a phase. People don't really need visual stimulation. They prefer talking heads.
- Use the same service order every week.
- Make more announcements.
- Encourage elementary school kids to sit through your services. They love lively 45 minute sermons. It's good for them. It builds character.
- Talk more about the past and less about the future.
- Use the same song every week (we have just shelved "Come Just as You Are")
- Use lots of big words.
- Forget relevant topics and life application.
- Real faith is dynamic. It's controversial. It's dangerous. It's constantly growing. It asks challenging questions. It involves mystery. You can't put it in a box. You can't keep it quiet. You can't outgrow it. You can't out-dream it. It's more focused on others than it is on itself. Real faith gives me peace but makes me discontent to let things stay the same.
- If you have to manufacture excitement, it's probably something you should stop doing.
- Your attitude is your decision.
- Your competition isn't other churches. Instead it's everything that's competing for someone's time and attention. It's the Sunday newspaper, a shopping trip, a tee time, the pillow after a night out with friends.
- Great speaking comes from the overflow of preparation.
- People will give their time and money to a big vision. If you're finding it a challenge to attract either in your ministry, you may have to revisit your vision for the future.
- Church can learn a lot from Disney. Here's Tony's list of "10 Things I'll Remember After Visiting Disney"
- The experience begins in the parking lot.
- We will invest a lot of money to make dreams come true.
- It helps to have someone with you who's been there before.
- The value and excellence transcends socioeconomic and cultural barriers.
- It's hard to communicate with people who wear masks.
- The journey is more fun when you're on it with friends.
- The world is small.
- Lots of people fulfilling the same mission can achieve great results.
- It's possible to leave behind a lasting legacy for future generations.
- We remember the fireworks at the end.
There's much more, but you get the idea. Tony's book is nailing me on some things and encouraging with others. The title Killing Cockroaches is great. Buy the book and read page 5. He explains it there.
Our calling as a church is to go, or better yet, as we go, to make disciples. This series is based on Acts 1:8 where we are called to go to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth. This has not changed since the first century. The city names may be different, but our command is the same.
Do we have a burden for lost people? We must.
Missions must not be a church program, but part of the DNA of who we are. We can no longer justify our ignoring the call.
From "Lowering the Bar" blog. . .
Reasonable Consumer Would Know "Crunchberries" Are Not Real, Judge Rules
There are days every now and then when my actual legal work directly intersects with my blog work. This is one of those days.
On May 21, a judge of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California dismissed a complaint filed by a woman who said she had purchased "Cap'n Crunch with Crunchberries" because she believed "crunchberries" were real fruit. The plaintiff, Janine Sugawara, alleged that she had only recently learned to her dismay that said "berries" were in fact simply brightly-colored cereal balls, and that although the product did contain some strawberry fruit concentrate, it was not otherwise redeemed by fruit. She sued, on behalf of herself and all similarly situated consumers who also apparently believed that there are fields somewhere in our land thronged by crunchberry bushes.
According to the complaint, Sugawara and other consumers were misled not only by the use of the word "berries" in the name, but also by the front of the box, which features the product's namesake, Cap'n Crunch, aggressively "thrusting a spoonful of 'Crunchberries' at the prospective buyer." Plaintiff claimed that this message was reinforced by other marketing representing the product as a "combination of Crunch biscuits and colorful red, purple, teal and green berries." Yet in actuality, the product contained "no berries of any kind." Plaintiff brought claims for fraud, breach of warranty, and our notorious and ever-popular California Unfair Competition Law and Consumer Legal Remedies Act.
Under the UCL, courts have held that a plaintiff must show that a representation was "likely to deceive a reasonable consumer." [As a disclaimer, I should tell you that my firm represents defendants in UCL cases (among others).] Actual fraud claims, and warranty claims, are harder to prove, so if Sugawara didn't win on the UCL claims, she would be leaving without even any lovely parting gifts. And she did not:
In this case . . . while the challenged packaging contains the word "berries" it does so only in conjunction with the descriptive term "crunch." This Court is not aware of, nor has Plaintiff alleged the existence of, any actual fruit referred to as a "crunchberry." Furthermore, the "Crunchberries" depicted on the [box] are round, crunchy, brightly-colored cereal balls, and the [box] clearly states both that the Product contains "sweetened corn & oat cereal" and that the cereal is "enlarged to show texture." Thus, a reasonable consumer would not be deceived into believing that the Product in the instant case contained a fruit that does not exist. . . . So far as this Court has been made aware, there is no such fruit growing in the wild or occurring naturally in any part of the world.
The court, Judge Morrison England, Jr., also pointed out that the plaintiff acknowledged in her opposition to the motion to dismiss that "[c]lose inspection [of the box] reveals that Crunchberries . . . are not really berries." Plaintiff did not explain why she could not reasonably have figured this out at any point during the four years she alleged she bought Cap'n Crunch with Crunchberries in reliance on defendant's fraud.
Finally, the court held that while a first-time loser on a motion to dismiss would typically get a chance to amend the complaint, this one wouldn't:
In this case, . . . it is simply impossible for Plaintiff to file an amended complaint stating a claim based upon these facts. The survival of the instant claim would require this Court to ignore all concepts of personal responsibility and common sense. The Court has no intention of allowing that to happen.
Judge England also noted another federal court had "previously rejected substantially similar claims directed against the packaging of Fruit Loops [sic] cereal, and brought by these same Plaintiff attorneys." He found that their attack on "Crunchberries" should fare no better than their prior claims that "Froot Loops" did not contain real froot.