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Posts from January 2008

Rethinking Church

As we plan for the opening of our South Campus on Easter, we have been forced to rethink how we "do" church.  It's so difficult for believers, and pastors, especially to imagine what an unchurched person thinks and what would draw them into a church.

I was reading an article from Granger Church in Indiana that addressed this somewhat.  The article is called "Still Doing Church Like It's 1987?"  That caught my attention.  You see, those in pastoral or church leadership positions always complain that we're still doing church like the 1950s, but for my generation, it's easy to think your relevant yet be trapped in the 1980s.

According to a few years ago Pepsi attempted to translate their slogan "Come Alive:  You're in the Pepsi Generation" into Chinese for that market.  The result was a translation that meant "Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the dead."  Not the desired result.

Microsoft's new operating system has a catchy name - Vista, that works pretty well in the West.  However, in Latvia, the word "vista" means "frumpy old woman in Latvia."  Pays to investigate the meaning of words I guess.

So, here's the dilemma.  In the church culture we become cursed with knowledge.  We know what we mean regarding biblical examples.  We know what we're trying to do regarding ministry.  The question is "Are we conveying that message clearly to those who aren't in the church?"

In the next few weeks a mailer from our church will hit over 7000 homes near our new campus at Swimming Pen Creek Elementary.  That alone, isn't enough to get the word out, but it's a start.  The mailer intentionally does not look like a church.  We try to make it appealing and at least hope it's read as people throw it away, trusting that someone will be drawn to what we offer.  What are we offering?  A church that refuses to preach that Jesus is the "get out of hell free" card, but that He is the key to life.  A church where the music is modern, contemporary (I hate that word, but I can't think of another) and exciting.  A fresh environment with relevant teaching in an atmosphere that is comfortable and casual. 

The theme is "A New Blend" and that's what it is.  We pray folks just give it a try.

Check Your Connections

When you focus on why we’re here – to bring glory to God through fulfilling his purpose in our lives, we must make sure our connections are secure.

Our first and most important connection is that to Him.

Now, we’ve talked about this in the previous three weeks as we looked at the need to set our minds and hearts on things above – Christ and His heart.

We state our purpose with an acrostic to help us remember.

We are real.

Reach others

Enable growth

Active ministry, and

Love God and others

With a computer, if your printer connection isn’t there, it becomes frustrating when you cannot print what you want. 

In life, if your connections aren’t right, it can also be very frustrating.

Download 01_4_check_your_connections.mp3 

Reconnecting with Old Friends

As you may have noticed, I have a "LinkedIn" icon on the sidebar of my blog.  I've been registered with LinkedIn for a little while, but really never did much with it.  Then, about a week ago, I saw that one of my friends in the church had asked me to "link" to him.  I did.  It was also this week when I received my latest issue of "The North Texan" - the alumni magazine from the University of North Texas.  They were promoting their alumni group on LinkedIn.  So, I added that group as well and the more I looked into this site, the more potential for ministry I saw.  I

Not only can folks in our church connect with each other, but the possibility of reconnecting with friends from former jobs, schools and groups is great.

My wife said it looked like a MySpace for professionals.  Maybe so.

One of the fun things is reconnecting with old classmates and friends.  I reconnected with a number of guys I played basketball with at Texas Wesleyan College (now University.)  Seems that out of this group, many are doing great.  One now has his doctorate and is a professor of counseling at Dallas Theological Seminary.  One owns his own business in the Houston area.  One is an artist and one of the most creative guys I know and has his own business in Dallas.  Another is involved in politics out in West Texas and is working on one of the Republican candidates presidential campaigns.  One is successful in business and family, etc.  It's been great catching up with these guys and seeing what's been going on in their lives.  They all are telling me how long they've been married and how many kids they now have, and apparently some of them still get together and play some hoops.  I wish I could do that with them now.  I saw where a 70+ league had a tournament here in Jacksonville.  Maybe in about 30 years, I can reconnect and play ball with them again.

I found a good friend from my church in Texas with whom I had lost contact.  So good to hear from him.

Then, there's the guy I went to junior high and 9th grade with in Ohio.  He's a leader in the Ohio Republican Party now and I didn't know if he'd remember me.  He did.  Here's what Kevin wrote me back. . .

Pastor at a Baptist Church in Florida?  You've come a long way from your chalk-tossing days in Mr. Engelbrecht's science class.

Hmmm, I didn't remember doing that until he brought it up.  I think I was mad at the teacher.  Junior high and 9th grade were challenging years.  Looks like I made a lasting impression on my former classmate.  Guess that's why God hasn't put me in a church in Ohio.  Might run into Mr. Engelbrecht.  I guess "your sins will find you out" came true.

Nevertheless, it's been fun trying to find old friends.  New ones, too.  If you haven't yet done so, click on the LinkedIn banner int he sidebar and link to me.  Otherwise, I may throw some chalk at you.

Give us a shot

A new church meeting in the Charlotte, NC area is getting a lot of notice due to an outrech to local bars.  They are taking shot glasses into the bars and giving them to patrons.  The shot glasses have the church logo printed on them as well as the statement "Give us a shot."  Very creative, but as you can figure out, controversial.  I like what the pastors stated in this YouTube video describing the outreach.  They said the only people having the issue with it are the already connected believers in churches.  They're goal is to be like Christ and to go the disconnected people.

Are we going to do this?  Probably not, but I think we must get to the point where we're willing to do whatever it takes to reach people for Christ.  Remember, without Him, there's no chance.  Check out the video for the pastors' explanation of the outreach.

Good Advice

I'm sitting here while Upward basketball is going on.  It's another very busy Saturday.  I arrived at the church around 6:30am.  I'm here until around 9pm.  I ref games, coach my team and make myself available for the folks working here and coming in to watch their kids. 

During this break from the action, I'm working on my presentation for tomorrow night's Ministry Meeting.  This quarterly meeting will be for the entire church with a meal and discussion about our future.  It's kind of a state of the union address for the church.

This year, as I've said to many in the church, is a key year in the existence of this church.  We are stepping out in faith in order to do what we feel God is calling us to - fulfill the Great Commission and Great Commandment.  The great challenge right now is helping the members of our church understand this vision.  We have a great church made up of great people, but the reality is that many have just "done church" the same way for so long they actually believe we are doing all we were placed here to do.  That's the kind of thinking the Laodicean church had in the Book of Revelation.  Remember them?  They were so lukewarm, it sickened God.  We don't ever want to drift there.

Part of our vision includes the expansion to the South Campus and the calling of Brandon Phillips as our new Worship Leader/Single Adult Pastor.  You can read about Brandon at  I believe so strongly that he is the man for this vital position.

I was reading some blogs from other pastors and leaders and came across Perry Noble's.  I love what he wrote here regarding advice for moving ahead as a leader and a church.  I think we can take this to heart (me as pastor, all of us as the church.)

Perry was writing about seven things that will kill one's joy in ministry.  Read this, my comments are in red.

#1 - Comparison - If you compare yourself to other churches then you will always be in some sort of depressed mode–there is always someone else out there who is seemingly growing faster or being more creative.  Compare yourself ONLY to the vision God gave you.  (Man, I'm so guilty of this and so are many of our church members.  I always hear how First Baptist Middleburg, Hibernia and Celebration Churches are doing.  So many people in our community church hop and so many former members here now attend these other churches, that you cannot help but hear what others are doing.  The problem is when you cannot rejoice that other churches are reaching people, rather you stay angry because you fall into the trap of comparison.  It's a bad thing that leads to death in a church.  We have to avoid this.)

#2 - Critics - If you hyper focus on them they can seem larger than the world…my advice, don’t swim with the sharks, don’t eat yellow snow and don’t listen to people who don’t love you and desire nothing more than to tear you down!  (I get this often, and I'm sure all our pastors and volunteers do as well.  We can come off the greatest worship experience of the year and someone will come up and blast me or one of the other guys for not making enough hospital visits or not saying "hi" to someone, etc.  I guess it's just about discerning where to swim, what to eat and who to listen to.  A contant challenge.)

#3 - Being Busy - There are so many pastors/church leaders out there who feel like all they do is spin plates…and that one day things “will just get better.”  To make matters worse–we now have devices that we carry that make sure our schedule is always in front of us AND that we are always accessible. (OK, I'm depressed now.  I'm three for three on this list.  Don't know if I should have told you this, but I hear honesty is good for the soul.  At least you know how to pray for me.  I will say that over Christmas break, I took two weeks off.  We didn't go anywhere, but I also didn't come into the office or do any work.  That was a good thing.  I think I get three weeks of vacation a year.  So far, over my 14 years here, I've averaged losing two weeks because I didn't take it.  That's not happening anymore.  I'm getting smarter in this area.)

#4 - Pride - Daniel 4:37 is so true!  Trust me, I know!  Anytime I’ve ever thought, “Dang I’m good,” God always brings me down a level…OR FOUR!  (AMEN)

#5 - Loss of Perspective - Whenever I think that I am more concerned about the church than Jesus it always causes stress and anxiety, which negates joy!  Remember–it is HIS church!  (Great reminder.  I needed to hear this.  Maybe you did too.)

#6 - Lack of Faith - Whenever I desire comfort more than obedience I always know that something is not right!  Hebrews 11:6 is SO true!  (Well, the new campus and new ministries definitely aren't comfortable.  It is about obedience.)

#7 - No Growth - Whenever I stop reading, listening to other teachers and don’t network with other leaders I both feel alone AND I rob NewSpring (This is Perry Noble's church) of the collective wisdom of other people who are much wiser than me.  When I feel the pressure of having to come up with every new idea–it ALWAYS robs me of joy!

You may need this advice as much as I did.  Hope to see you Sunday.

Epicenter and Joel C. Rosenberg

Last night I was pleasantly surprised by the large number of folks who attended our service to see the documentary "Epicenter" by Joel C. Rosenberg.  Rosenberg's take on current events as they relate to biblical prophecy are intriguing.  I'm not one who watches all the prophecy shows or who is so caught up in the end times (which I do believe we're living in) that I become fanatic about them.  However, after reading Rosenberg's novels and getting his weekly Flash Traffic news updates, I must say I believe he's right on in his take.

Many of you have asked about his books.  I read his first novel "The Last Jihad" a number of years ago.  I corresponded with Rosenberg a few times via e-mail and was impressed by his accessibility and creativity.  I love to read.  I read books on church growth, spritual emphases, biographies, etc. Sometimes I need a good suspenseful story.  That's when I picked up "The Last Jihad."  I didn't know it was what is now called Christian fiction.  In fact, I had never heard of Rosenberg and didn't know he was a believer.  After communicating with him and reading his books, it's evident that this man knows the Lord and is outspoken about it.

If you choose to read the fiction, do so in this order. . .

The Last Jihad

The Last Days

The Ezekiel Option

The Copper Scroll

His new chapter in this series comes out this fall.

As for the non-fiction, I have not yet read Epicenter, but I have viewed the documentary based upon it.  It's unbelievable, and frigtening too.  We will have a copy of the film available in the church library soon, but you can get one yourself online at

2 - Don't Click the Pop-Up Ads

In this series titled “Reboot” we are using some computer terms to help us understand some things about life.

Have you ever been working or searching on the internet and all of a sudden a new window opens up advertising some product?

This can be so irritating.  Now, there’s software out there designed to stop these advertising pages.

These annoying little ads are called “pop-up ads” because they pop up when you least expect them or want them.

You know how irritated people get when telemarketers call their home?

The pop up ad is like a telemarketer on your computer.

Some folks just have a hard time ignoring these ads.  You know, that’s what advertisers want.  They want you to pay attention and read their promotional.  Whether it’s on TV, the computer or in print.  The desire is to grab your attention and keep it.

I don’t recommend that you click these ads.  It seems that often when you click an ad for a product you may truly be interested in, that you may find yourself on the internet in a place you don’t want to be, or worse with unwanted things installed on your computer.

So, just as last week when we have operating system issues on our computers, we may need to call a computer consultant, we may need that consultant to help us understand and determine how to get rid of these pop ups.

In life we desire to live right, maybe even holy.  As believers we want to honor God and live to fulfill our purpose.  But, you have to remember, there are many, many voices out there telling us what to do, how to live, etc.  This even creeps into the church.  Hearing how church should be, what it should do, what the Bible is about, how to live as a Christian, etc.

Some of these may be true, but many or not.  The result is a confused person and confused church.

Download 01_2_dont_click_the_pop_up_ads.mp3

1 - Check the Operating System

Most of us have at one point or other had problems with our computers.  I've had to rebuild my home system a number of times.  Sometimes the problem is centered on a corrupt, or wrongly installed operating system.

The same is true in life.  What's your operating system for life?  Paul was a consultant of sorts, for life.  He wrote his letter to the Colossian church with the intent of helping these new believers "get it" and have the right operating system for life.  We can learn from this as well.

Download 01_1_check_the_operating_system.mp3