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Posts from September 2009

Coming Down the Mountain

It inevitably happens this way.  When a spiritual high moment occurs in life, those "mountaintop" experiences, the days following are often treacherous.  I have read where up to 80% of those who die while climbing Mt. Everest do so on the descent.  Amazing.  All that work to reach the summit.  The celebration and excitement that occurs there at the peak is often short-lived as the dangers of the descent become very real.

In the spiritual life, this is often the case as well.  When a believer experiences a "mountaintop" spiritual event, whether at a camp, retreat, worship service, conference, or any number of things, the days following are many times treacherous.  The Enemy comes at the believer with guns blazing, so to speak.

In the past few months, many in our church have had opportunities that could be categorized as "mountaintop" experiences.  Our students attended youth camp and then MissionLab in New Orleans.  Our children attended Kidz Camp.  Our women participated in Beth Moore's Living Proof Live Conference via simulcast.  Our men spent last weekend at Battle Ready in the mountains of Tennessee.  Each of these groups, and others, had a time on the "mountain."  Yet, it's clear in Scripture, we were not intended to stay on the mountain.  We have to come back down.  There's much left to do.

We must be always ready and alert.  In truth, we cannot afford to let our guard down.  I have done this, as have most all of you and the results are always tragic.  Initially, the results are of allowing sin to creep back into one's lifestyle.  The overwhelming guilt.  The need for repentance.  The suffering of distance from God that seems so strange since you were just on that mountain with him.  Yet, it happens.  As Joshua was told in the first few chapters of the book bearing his name - be strong and courageous.  You will need to be.

"Take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."  2 Corinthians 10:5b

Renew your mind and your actions will follow.


Being the Church for the Community

Last night I was at the Orange Park Town Council meeting, as were many others in our community, to speak about the proposed fire assessment fee that was to be charged to every resident, business and non-profit in the town limits.  I was and am against this due to the fact that even though it is called a fee it works as a tax and once non-profits are taxed, the lid to Pandora's Box will be open.  Also, for our church it would have cost close to $11,000 annually to begin with.

I heard all the comments from angry residents, business owners and church representatives.  I truly feel for the men who serve on the Town Council and have to discover ways to meet budget in these days.  My father is the Town Manager back home in Tennessee, so in a very real way, I see how this pressure affects these gentlemen (and ladies at times, though no ladies at this time serve on our council.)

I also believe that even though many stated the good deeds done by local churches in our community, perhaps we have just not done all we should to fulfill the Great Commandment to love God and people.  This keeps resonating with me.

I'm praying God will reveal to us ways that we can impact more in our community for Christ as well as assist those who serve our community (the OP Police Department, OP Fire Department, etc.)

We have said we are a missional church.  "Missional" is the latest buzz word.  It's not new, but new enough we can still use it.  Basically, it's a word describing a movement among churches, especially in North America, toward a new way of thinking and doing ministry.  Reggie McNeal calls it a Missional  Renaissance.

Here are some things that are happening and must happen for churches to be the impact we must:

  • Shift from an internal focus in the church to an external focus (always following an upward focus on Christ)
  • Shift from program development within the church to people development in terms of core activity
  • Shift from church-based to kingdom-based in terms of leadership agenda.

I'm reading Reggie's book addressing this.  I'm not through yet, but I find myself highlighting just about every other sentence. 

Here are some great quotes:

  • "The current scorecard rewards church activity and can be filled in without any reference to the church's impact beyond itself."
  • "We must develop a scorecard that supports the other side of the shifts:  externally focused ministry, people development efforts, and a kingdom-oriented leadership agenda."
  • "The way forward for churches that want to redefine their position in the community will be through service and sacrifice."
  • "Externally focused ministry leaders take their cues from the environment around them in terms of needs and opportunities.  The look for ways to bless and to serve the communities where they are located.  Much of their calendar space, financial resources, and organizational energy is spent on people who are not part of their organization."
  • "Donors want impact - in people terms."
  • "There is no such thing as spiritual growth apart from relationship health and other life factors."
  • "Leaders will have to travel a steep unlearning curve to move away from the activities and behaviors that support the program-driven model."
  • "Achieving abundant life will require intentional personal development."
  • "North American church attendees lack the caliber and character of disciples that we see in many other parts of the world where the movement started by Jesus is exploding, where the focus is on developing people (disciples) not just processing them."  Ouch.  That one stung.

I'm just getting started in this book, but already God is using it and Reggie's wisdom to speak to me.  If you're interested in reading the book, Missional Renaissance, click the store option in the left column and you can purchase your own from Amazon.

As for what this means for our church in Orange Park?  Externally focused - that's a key.  Last night showed me that much needs to be done to reach this town.  The church that serves God by serving people.  That is what we must be.