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Posts from October 2011

Missed Opportunities

I have been thinking about missed opportunities lately.

P-30094-bill-buckner-mookie-wilson-1986-world-series-16x20-photo-ssg-ubw-16aSports teams and athletes are graded on these at times. Honestly, can a World Series be played without at least one reference to Bill Buckner's flub of the Series ending ground ball back in 1986?

Will Chris Webber forever be known as the Wolverine who called a time out when there were none to be called in the 1993 NCAA Championship game? 

It remains to be seen if the 2011 American League Championship Series hero for the Texas Rangers, Nelson Cruz, will ever be able to escape his error in this year's World Series.

Sports can be brutal and legacies are made or broken often with just one play - one missed opportunity.

Yet, beyond the sporting world, there are more important and deeper missed opportunities.

Perhaps I carry a fear of having far too many of these in my history.

Funerals bring this to mind. As I hear family members and friends share of their recently deceased loved one, I often hear a whisper of regret in their voices. In many times, this whisper echoes larger regrets. Things left undone or unsaid. Regret of missed opportunities.

Dr. Frank Page, the president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee recently spoke of missed opportunities in messages at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He uses the term "irrecoverable moments" borrowed from Billy Graham's autobiography Just As I Am.

T. Patrick Hudson and Frank Michael McCormick wrote of Page's messages recently for Baptist Press. Here are some outtakes:

At Midwestern, Page said God sometimes provides irrecoverable moments when believers have opportunities to accomplish Kingdom tasks -- and they can either get it right or get it wrong. The results of their decisions will impact life either positively or negatively forever, Page said, noting that such times come for nations, families, marriages, churches and individuals.

"The call comes for many reasons. We know that God calls to salvation, and He initiates the act of salvation," Page said in his Midwestern chapel message in mid-September.

God calls people to suffering and to service, Page continued. "We don't hear that talked about a great deal. That's not on our Top 10 list -- 'I want to suffer for Jesus,'" Page said. "In that suffering, God does something mighty special in teaching, training, edification, sanctification and growth. In the midst of that calling to suffering, He calls to offer us His loving care. Don't ever forget that."

"Is the Word of God rare now? Is God struggling to find men and women who will listen to His call and instruction?" Page asked. "We are in the most individualistic age I've ever imagined. We think we can perceive better than anyone else. It's that kind of intransient spirit that God struggles to get through. We need prepared hearts that are open and responsive to the call. Humble your hearts, be available and listen to God."

"Your irrecoverable moment is coming," Page said. "Just maybe God is doing a work in your life now that could be considered an irrecoverable moment. If you'll make a decision and you'll allow Him to do what He wants to do, He can change your life forever and the Kingdom of God will be blessed."

Dr. Page's message was targeted to seminary students, but it rings true for all believers. Moments come and moments go. Opportunities arise and are often missed. Once gone. . .they're gone.

It is through discernment we recognize the moments, the opportunites. Unlike a sporting event where a certain play or mental mistake may cost a game, a spirtual miss or inability to recognize a "God moment" is much more tragic.

May we be alert, aware and in tune with the Spirit of God so that we do not become categorized as another who missed a great opportunity.

 



The Cooperative Program & Missional Living

Earlier this week I wrote about our church's increased giving to the Cooperative Program through undesignated gifts. This has spurred some interesting conversations. 

One question asked was "How does an individual's giving through CP help connect them to the field?"


It's a great question and deserves more than a simple "It just does!" answer.

In fact, even an answer that sounds more like "Well, that's what we're supposed to do as Southern Baptists," isn't valid.

As a church who has intentionally and strategically shifted focus to living missionally, the traditional CP gift must also be explained and understood. As one pastor shared "It's a new conversation." This new conversation must clearly explain and define how CP giving and all that entails the Cooperative Program equates to living missionally.

So, how does CP giving connect people to the field? In a broad sense, through the funding of missionaries and other ministries, the field workers can actually stay on the field longer. In this sense, the giver (i.e. the local chuch member) is connected to the field through support. Of course, portions of CP monies go toward theological education and denominational budgets, but these must be viewed as essential as well. No one desires to see a top-heavy beaurocracy develop that keeps funds from the field. I imagine that the denomination-wide Great Commission Resurgence has brought this to everyone's attention. Our (Southern Baptists) desire to be good stewards of God's resources.

Though I espoused support of CP and even shared why we as a church are increasing our percentage giving, just giving to CP is not necessarily missional. It can be, and in our case is, a portion of our missional strategy.

BB2I love basketball, and one of the most popular and effective basketball plays of all time is the "give and go." I won't go into the finer points of the give and go here, but I do believe this is a good strategy for the local church and for leading into missionality.

Give and Go!

To give financially and do nothing else is inefficient and ineffective. Sure, the finances can be used for Kingdom work, but a deeper connectivity of the individual to Kingdom work is forsaken.

Our strategy is to lead God's people to "give" generously and cheerfully as an expression of worship. While doing this, we are to be "going" to the field and serving Him there.

The Great Commission reminds us that as Christians, we are to go. As we go, we are to make disciples. This is not up for a vote. It's our mandate.

Matthew 28:19-20(ESV)
19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in£ the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
20teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

We believe that all Christians are to be on mission and serving missionally in our community and on the field. For some, this means participating in a global mission trip. For others, it may be volunteering at one of our local schools as a mentor. It may be numerous other missional activities such as disaster relief, serving at the Clothes Closet, even raking a neighbors yard. For the few who are truly homebound, their act of service may be writing cards, making phone calls and as with all other believers, praying earnestly for the lives and eternal destinations of those in our community and world. All this work, which is an outgrowth of our faith, is done solely for the glory of God and with a Kingdom focus.

It's my belief that each Christian must not only give faithfully and generously, but go as well to the field.

To go without giving is incomplete.

To give without going is ineffective.

 


Why We Are Increasing Our Giving to the Cooperative Program

In Southern Baptist life, the Cooperative Program has been a mainstay for decades. From our beginning as Southern Baptists, the idea of being "on mission" and fulfilling the Great Commission together has existed. It wasn't until 1925 that the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) launched a concerted giving partnership to fund missions, education and denominational work. This effort was, and is called the Cooperative Program (CP).

2011-2012-CPBudgetThrough the collaboration of donated gifts from SBC churches, the CP funds missions through the International and North American Mission Boards (72.99 percent) theological education through the six SBC seminaries and historical archives (22.16 percent) the operating budget of the SBC (3.2 percent) and Christian Ethics and Religious Liberty ministries (percent)* CP also funds the missions and ministries of the Florida Baptist State Convention, including church planting, theological education, compassionate ministries and other efforts of Florida Baptists.

I have been a Southern Baptist all my life. While growing up, my family claimed membership in numerous Southern Baptist churches. Oh, we were not church hoppers. My father was in the military and so our moves were determined by the Department of the Air Force. However, regardless where my father was stationed, we would find a Southern Baptist church to unite with and serve in.

In those days, most Southern Baptist churches were similar. Whether we were in Alaska or Alabama, Texas or Tennessee, the SBC churches we united with had similar floor plans (from the Architectural Department of the then Baptist Sunday School Board,) the same bulletins (complete with the image on the front, devotional story on the back and the little missionary picture and bio as well which we. . .well I. . .used to embellish with added sunglasses and mustaches.) We even had the same hymnbooks - The Baptist Hymnal (though there was the radical change from the older blue ones to the newer 1975 maroon editions.) 

The aesthetic similarities were there, but more importantly, each church we united with was an active giver to the Cooperative Program.

Times have changed, and I'm not complaining. I actually like the new, creative floor plans that many churches have. The "cookie-cutter" churches weren't very creative. I'm even a fan of churches that meet in schools, theaters, homes and strip-centers. I've never really been enamored with facilities. Church bulletins are more announcement sheets now and hymnals? Well, we have them in the worship center, but we don't use them. Our songs are projected on the screen. I'm sure some don't like this, but I love it. People sing louder and better when they're looking up rather than staring down into a book.

However, not all changes have been good or progressive.

It seems that there are more SBC churches who have chosen to decrease their Cooperative Program efforts. In Florida alone, CP giving has decreased from a peak of $39.6 million four years ago to $32.6 million in 2010, with a budget of $31 million for 2011.

While there is no biblical mandate for the church to "tithe" to the Cooperative Program in giving, I believe it is a great model for good and proper stewardship.

As a church, we have consistently given 10 percent of undesignated receipts to the Cooperative Program for years. I remember a discussion within the church years ago about reducing this percentage. That discussion was quickly squelched. It seemed then that 10 percent would be the floor for our giving through CP.

I am proud to share that pending approval of the 2012 budget this coming Sunday, First Baptist Church of Orange Park will be increasing our giving to CP to 10.25 percent of undesignated receipts. Our intent is to systematically increase by one quarter of one percent over the next four years so that by 2015 we will be giving 11% of undesignated gifts to CP.  However, I don't want to make it seem that even 11 percent is the ceiling. Our giving may increase beyond that. I just don't know, but am seeking God's lead in this.

We are also increasing our giving to Jacksonville Baptist Association missions. 

The truth of the matter is that you cannot out-give God. 

As Southern Baptists, I pray we do not forsake the unique cooperative efforts of the CP. I fear that many Southern Baptists have no idea what the Cooperative Program is or what it does.

I know many churches have shifted funds for numerous reasons. Some reasons are based on economics. Some are based on wanting to fund church plants, satellite campuses and provide support for individual missionaries and mission efforts. Regardless the reason, I'm just not convinced they're good enough.

As a pastor and church, we have had to make some hard decisions regarding church finances. The economy affects all organizations.

We believe in supporting church planters and missionaries as well as mission trips, mission efforts and missional expressions locally. Each requires funding and we have committed to do these at different levels.

However, we have decided that at this point, Cooperative Program giving is an "untouchable" line item in our budget when it comes to decreasing. 

This is not a gimmick. It's not a game. It's about being faithful and trusting God. 

Throughout the state of Florida, SBC pastors and churches are being challenged to recommit their efforts of giving to CP. We have taken the challenge (Actually, we made the decision to increase our giving before we knew of the state-wide challenge. It's good to be early adopters. ) and are committed to the cooperative efforts of Southern Baptist churches and entities.

I would encourage all Florida Southern Baptist churches to take the challenge to increase CP giving. You can pledge to do this here.

Why do this?

Not to brag about the SBC.

Not to draw attention to our church.

Give because together we can reach more men, women, boys and girls throughout the world in the name of Jesus Christ. We do not want to miss what God is doing in His Kingdom.

As one friend told me, "We can run faster alone, but further together."

This is Kingdom work. It's a marathon, not a sprint.

*These are percentages for the 2011-2012 Cooperative Program Allocation Budget.


"Great Scott!" Einstein's Theory May Be Wrong!

The latest news from the CERN laboratory in Geneva could change everything. . .at least that's what we hear. While I don't visit the CERN website all that often (today's click marks my first visit) I find their latest discovery pretty amazing. 

There have been many more newsworthy items, such as the release of the "Footloose" remake and the Kardashian wedding, recently that have pushed this story to the back page of the newspaper (For clarification - newspapers are an ancient form of transferring worthy items of information to the masses. They still exist, but they are smaller and harder to find. The "back page" refers to the fact other items trended higher and therefore, in this case, the story has been mostly relegated to technology blogs and websites.) 

The Week magazine headline is this "A surprising threat to Einstien's theory." 

That's pretty newsworthy.

EinsteinIt seems there exist tiny, microscopic, subatomic particles called neutrinos. They have the power to move through solid objects. We're not talking objects like a piece of wood or a spoon. The objects these particles can slide through are things like. . .oh, mountains.

Anyway, these super-fast, super tiny particles have challenged scientists since their discovery. 

Here's the latest. . .

Physicists at the CERN laboratory in Geneva said last week they had clocked subatomic particles called neutrinos moving faster than the speed of light. Albert Einstein's special theory of relativity, which established the foundation of modern physics in 1905, holds that nothing int he cosmos can outrun light, which travels at 186,282 miles per second. If neutrinos can move faster than that, they could, in theory arrive at a destination before they had even left, opening the prospect of time travel. That idea is so shocking that most physicists can't believe the results are correct.

"We wanted to find a mistake" in the study that would leave Einstein's theory intact, but "we didn't," says lead researcher Antonio Ereditato. He and his colleages did not set out to test relativity; they only wanted to learn more about neutrinos - ghostly particles that can travel through most types of matter. But when they shot the neutrinos from Geneva through the Earth to a lab beneath Italy's Gran Sasso mountain, about 454 miles away, the particles consistently arrived about 60 nanoseconds faster than a beam of light could. (The Week, October 14, 2011, p. 24)

What does this really mean?

Does it mean that we are just a few years away from a "Great Scott!" moment with Doc Brown, a flux capacitor and a flying DeLorean?

Probably not.

DocbrownHowever, I know many who would like to go back in time and fix some things, especially in their junior high years. Again, probably not going to happen, though it continues to make a good storyline for movies. The salvation experiences of believers are set at certain times. Eternal destinations are determined at these junctures, by God's design and for His glory. My mind is already hurting trying to comprehend this aspect of life with time travel. Anyway, I digress.

What we do see happening now is something that was considered by the scientific world to be a foundation stone of physics - unchangeable and right, being called into question.

Non-believing scientists are now having to admit perhaps there is some dimension beyond that defined by linear time.

One blogger put it this way:

We have non-Christian biased scientists talking about a reality that would expand our thinking beyond linear time. Those of the white lab coat (scientists) not those of the black robe (clergy) are excited to consider this possibility. Christians have always believed that God existed outside of time.

If there is matter (notice the spiritual component has not entered the logic train) that can travel outside of the present tense, then there must be an “unseen realm” in which time resides. This is similar to the logic (although now introducing spirituality) that the mind (that little voice in your head) implies that we are more than physical beings.

If time sets in something which could be feasibly be traversed, then the notion of a God who exists outside of time moves from something that is by empirical standards a fairy tale to something that is at least empirically reasonable (maybe even probable or necessary… I am not qualified to make that assessment).

We (als0) have non-Christian biased scientists questioning the validity of the absolute nature of the law of cause and effect. Miracles now become scientifically possible. If the scientist did not recognize their findings could not explain all of reality, this claim would not be entertained. If there is a reality outside of the present tense, and travel between tenses were possible, then empirically unexplainable events could occur without having to be written off as “make believe stories.”

I want to be careful that I do not imply that the existence of God has been scientifically proven by neutrinos (as if this is the newest and best apologetic for God). (Brad Hambrick - October 7, 2011)

No, God does not need to be "proven" by neutrinos. I do, however, believe that God smiles as scientific findings continue to do more to give credence to a non-believing world in the existence of a Creator.

As a believer, I am intrigued by the neutrino story. I believe in the supernatural (though not the hyped-up Hollywood version) as revealed in Scripture. God is the Creator of all. Everything that exists was created through the Word (John 1) and consequently, nothing, not even recently discovered attributes of sub-atomic particles exist apart from His knowledge or plan.

Once again, I am amazed by the AWESOMENESS of our God!

(Oh, and I realize that while other guys are watching football games, I'm reading about neutrinos. That's why my kids call me a nerd. However, I do like to watch football games, too.)


The Revolutionary Power of Forgiveness

 01 Right Choices & the Power of Forg

 "Forgiveness is not saying that what you (the offender) did is OK?" - Renee Napier

Napier smallridgeWe hosted Renee Napier and Eric Smallridge once again last night. Our desire was to provide an opportunity for even more people to hear the message covering the warnings of driving under the influence and more importantly, the power of true forgiveness. 

If you haven't already, take the time to read yesterday's post that shares more detail about Renee and Eric's story. 

The presentation was spot on last night as well. Unfortunately, we did not have time for Q & A as we did on Tuesday. During the Q & A time, some really deep questions were asked and other tidbits about their journey were shared. Some of the questions, as I remember them were:

To Eric:

  • "What are your plans after you get out of prison?" (Eric): I have been taking A/C tech classes while in prison and hope to be able to find a job in this area, or whatever else God has planned for me. I remember what my mom always said "If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans," so I try not to plan too far out.
  • "What about your girlfriend and her daughter that you mentioned? Are you still in touch? Will you get back together when you get out?" (Eric): Well, she is married now. It's OK, though. It's a reminder to all of us that one bad choice can result in losing so many things.
  • "What about your friend Mike who almost stopped you that night?" (Eric): When I went to trial, Mike was brought up as a witness. The lawyer asked him, while pointing at me, "Do you know this man?" Mike said, "Yes, he's my friend Eric." I was suprised and pleased. He still considered me a friend. Then, he asked Mike if he knew the two young ladies in the car that were killed (Meagan and Lisa,) and Mike said "Yes, I've known them for years. They're like little sisters to me." This was horrible. Mike knew all of us involved. I know he carries a burden of wondering if he could have stopped me that night. It's something he's carried with him and probably will continue to. I saw him a couple of years ago when we started this journey of telling our story. I told him that he was not to blame at all. I told him that it was all on me, that I made the decision, that I drove the car. Still, he hurts.
  • Have you forgiven yourself? (Eric): That's really hard. There are times I struggle with this. I know God has forgiven me. I know Renee and her family has forgiven me. Forgiving myself is hard.

To Renee:

  • "What about Lisa's family?" (Renee:) Lisa's family has forgiven Eric as well. This was hard for me, for them, for my children. Each had to come to this on their own. 
  • "Has your story been put in book form?" (Renee:) Not completely, but it is featured in a new book by Matthew West and Angela Thomas called The Story of Your Life. This is a compilation of over fifty stories submitted to Matthew over a year ago. He chose our story and featured it as one of the devotionals. My disclaimer is that I mentioned my son in the submitted story, but for some reason that sentence was edited out. I contacted my son immediately and showed him the original submission. He laughed about it and said, "Mom, that's the story of my life." He's a great man. 
  • "Have you been able to travel outside the state of Florida together?" (Renee:) No, that's not allowed. In fact, it's pretty miraculous that we're able to do this. (Eric:) Florida has a policy of never allowing offenders and offendees to be together, so this is unique.
  • "You seem really close to Eric?" (Renee:) I love him like a son. In fact, when we finish talking on the phone, we always end with "I love you." 

There were more questions, but these are the ones that come to mind right now. I wish I had recorded the Q & A. 

Regardless, I hope you can get a more complete picture of this story through this posting. Renee and Eric are speaking at Clay High School in Green Cove Springs this morning and then at Oakleaf High School on Friday. Pray for them as they wind down this three-week tour. They will be on the road again soon. They may be able to come back to Clay County or the Jacksonville area next Spring. If so, we will be involved as much as we can.

Never forget - forgiveness is powerful and freeing.

Forgive-bible-quotes

"To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you." - Lewis B. Smedes

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. - Ephesians 4:32 ESV

 

 

 

I want to offer a special thank you to Sheriff Rick Beseler and the Clay County Sheriff's Office for bringing Renee and Eric to our county and for allowing us the opportunity to partner with them.


"I Forgive You for Killing My Daughter" - R. Napier

Sometimes events and opportunities seemingly come out of nowhere. I do, however, fully acknowledge that while certain things seem to just happen, that there is no such thing as coincidence in God's economy.

About three weeks ago I received an e-mail from the Clay County Sheriff's Office. They were hosting a woman who is traveling throughout the state sharing of the dangers of drunk driving.  The reason for the contact to the church was to see if we would be able to help with some of the costs of housing this woman during her stay in the county.

Our response was to cover the entire hotel cost this week just to ensure that she would be able to come and those in the community could hear the story. After committing to this, we were also offered the opportunity to host her here at the church one evening for a community assembly (much like what was to happen in the schools.) We agreed.

Well, after scheduling this event to be held in our church facility for the community, I began to read more about this woman. Her name is Renee Napier. She used to live in Pensacola and now lives in St. Petersburg. In 2002, her daughter Meagan and Meagan's friend Lisa were driving home from a night at the beach when their vehicle was hit at high speed by a Jeep driven by 24 year old Eric Smallridge.

Eric's blood-alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit.

Vehicles02Meagan and Lisa were killed instantly as their car was hit and subsequently wrapped around a tree.

It was May 11, 2002. This was Mother's Day weekend.

The story is terrible and the trial that was to follow put all the details in the forefront for the family members of Meagan, Lisa and Eric to re-live over and again.

About 18 months later, Eric was sentenced to two 11 year sentences in prison, to be served one after the other,  for DUI Manslaughter. That sentence was changed to two 11 year sentences to be served consecutively following the request of the families of Meagan and Lisa at a later hearing.

I read all about this on Renee's website (www.duipromise.com or www.themeagannapierfoundaton.com) and noticed one word that was prominent on the site. That word was "FORGIVENESS." This piqued my interest.

Meagan01I had Renee's email address from the Sheriff's office, so I wrote her an email explaining that we were so proud to host her, but asking about this concept of forgiveness. I mentioned that as believers, we understand forgiveness (or at least say we do) and that I have preached about the revolutionary power of it. I asked if she had a faith background and wondered if that led her to be able to promote forgiveness in such a way.

It wasn't long before my phone rang. Renee had called me. She said she was writing an email response and decided that a phone call would be better. We talked for quite some time and she shared how her faith in Jesus Christ was what enabled and empowered her to forgive Eric. I was so encouraged and overwhelmed by this. To hear a mother that had lost one of her children in such a way offer true forgiveness was incredible.

The story does not end there. 

Onamission10Forgiveness is contagious. Lisa's family offered this as well. Renee's other children did too. Yet, I don't want you to think it was easy. As Renee shares, each person came to be able to do this in their own time. It meant burying the bitterness and removing the anger and letting God empower them. Apart from Jesus Christ, this story of forgiveness would not happen.

Renee was so excited to come here to Orange Park. They had been trying to figure out how to get their message into the churches, knowing they would have more freedom to share about Jesus in these venues. 

It's funny. Apparently Baptist churches and DUI stories don't seem to connect. Apparently, some churches don't want anything to do with the message of alcohol or DUI awareness. Maybe some just don't want to admit that many in their congregation may drink grape juice for the Lord's Supper, but drink the harder stuff in their living rooms.

I am not that naive.

I knew our teenagers (yes, our good Baptist teenagers) face the temptations of drinking and partying all too often and need to be reminded of these dangers. Even if the message is to plan ahead and have a designated driver, it may just save a life. Oh, and I readily admit this message is not just for teenagers.

However, deeper than the DUI message is one that simply must be heard by all. The revolutionary power of forgiveness. Forgiveness is so mis-defined today. Forgiveness is not saying to another person "What you did to me is OK." It's not. It's not OK that Eric Smallridge drove drunk and killed two young ladies. That's never going to be OK. 

Forgiveness goes much deeper. It's being able to say "What you did is not OK, but I choose not to hold it against you." 

Wow.

Lives have been changed through Renee's and others' forgiveness in this story. Eric has come to know Christ personally as well. He will be the first to tell you that there are many "chain-gang conversions" in jail. Yet, after spending time with him and t alking to the deputies assigned to him this week, it seems that Eric is the real deal.

We hosted our community event last night. Oh, I didn't mention that Eric is here as well. He's still in prison, but has been released to the CCSO for this week. It's powerful to see Renee and Eric stand together on stage. Eric wears his jail jumpsuit and is in handcuffs and ankle restraints. The visual is enough to shock you to listen. Then, the story unfolds. There was a group of about 100 here. Not bad, but afterward, I couldn't get out of my head that more in our area need to hear this. The CCSO had been looking for a venue to host another community event on Wednesday night (tonight) but had come up empty. At that point, I asked if they wanted to come back. 

Renee and Eric were excited about being able to share again. I know that most of the 100 will be here again, but hopefully, being Wednesday and a "regular church night" for us, even more will be here.

We've hit Facebook and Twitter and the word is out. This is a unique opportunity. It's more than a M.A.D.D. message about drunk driving. Those messages are needed and vital, yet this one goes deeper. 

It will be to your advantage to attend tonight if possible. Here are the details:

DUI Awareness & Forgiveness Event
First Baptist Church of Orange Park
1140 Kingsley Avenue
Orange Park, FL 32073
6pm - 7:15pm
FREE!!!!


What the Church Can Learn From Netflix

Sometimes business decisions are made in board rooms that sound so very right, but when announced to the public become so very wrong. 

Netflix-Price-Hike Now, I have never sat in on a planning meeting or vision casting session with the CEO or board of Netflix, but just by watching the reaction of industry monitors and reading customer reactions on social media sites, it appears (at least to me) that Netflix made some very risky decisions recently.

In case you have had your head in the sand for the past six months, here's a recap:

  • Netflix is the number one provider of on-demand streaming media in the United States as well as flat-rate DVD by mail provider. Virtually on their own, Netflix moved Blockbuster video to the brink of extinction and redefined how Americans procured DVD films for home viewing.
  • In April 2011, Netflix announced they had accrued 23.6 million subscribers and expressed plans to expand to Europe in 2012.
  • In July 2011, Netflix announced a plan to separate its current subscription plans into streaming and by-mail DVD rental. This was not such a big deal until it became obvious this meant a price hike for subscribers. This was not met with positive results.
  • Social media sites were flooded with negative comments about Netflix's plans.
  • In early September 2011, Starz announced it's plans to remove Netflix streaming from its plans in February 2012.
  • Later in September 2011, Netflix announced the creation of Quickster. According to CEO and Co-Founder Reed Hastings, Quickster would be the name of the DVD section of the company and would also include the rental of video games. This in and of itself seemed like a good plan in that customers had been asking for video game rental for years. However, the public and industry reaction to "Quickster" was anything but positive.
  • Yesterday, October 10, 2011, Hastings announced the cancellation of Quickster and said that DVD-by-mail service would remain part of Netflix.

What?

This sounds like the "New Coke" strategy of 1985. That one also resulted in negative PR, though some still say it was an orchestrated plan to drive the stock of Coca-Cola back up after the re-release of Coca-Cola Classic. Who knows?

So, what can the church learn from this fiasco?

I meet with numerous pastors around our community. Some are in thriving churches and great things are happening almost weekly. Hearing their stories are encouraging and moving. However, many are frustrated. These men are in churches that are struggling financially. Some are close to foreclosure on their facilities and battling spiritually daily with church members (and in some cases other churches.) They are drained and burned out. It's heart-breaking. 

I was talking with one pastor recently and he shared how those in his church are constantly seeking the "secret sauce" to fix everything. This is dangerous and ultimately fruitless.

They seek a "fix" that will bring people into their fellowship. It may be a new building project, a community event, a new staff position or the replacement of a staff member, or any number of things except THE THING that is needed.

There are also those serving in churches that seemingly are running on all cylinders. They are seeing people come to Christ regularly. They are honoring the Lord through their worship and impacting the community, but they're restless. This restlessness leads to recklessness.

Since we live in a changing culture, I believe methodology must continually change and morph to best impact the community and world we are in with the Gospel. I do not believe the Gospel or the message should ever change or be compromised. To live missionally means that we understand the community around us, as missionaries are to do, and adjust methods to result in the greatest impact for the Gospel.

What Netflix did is what many churches do. They changed, seemingly, just for the sake of change. While there may have been good reason to change, apparently, they did not sell it well to their customer base. That's why they're backpedaling now.

One of the greatest and most difficult things we deal with as pastors and church leaders, is communicating the "why" of change within the church when it's necessary. I do not pretend to have this figured out, but I have learned that there is no "buy in" to the Kingdom movement if the people are not led to understand it. 

In George G. Hunter III's book The Celtic Way of Evangelism, he describes Patrick's journey to the Celtic people of Ireland. The Celtic Way, amazingly is the missional way being espoused today. There is much to be learned here. This paragraph really grabbed my attention:

Indeed, the fact that Patrick understood the peole and their language, their issues, and their ways serves as the most strategically significant insight that was to drive the wider expansion of Celtic Christianity and stands as perhaps our greatest single learning from this movement. There is no shortcut to understanding the people. When you understand the people, you often know what to say and do and how. When the people know that the Christians understand them, they infer that maybe Christianity's High God understands them too. (p. 8)

It seems that Netflix leaders forgot the people. They didn't fully understand the customer base. They led to some possibly great changes, but left the people behind.

Churches sometimes do this as well. It's about understanding the lost around the church and reaching them with the Gospel. It's also about understanding the saved within the fellowship and leading them to be missional.

I'm all for change. My nature drives me to change. I get bored easily and the same-ole, same-ole drives me crazy. Yet, change for the sake of change is a waste of time and energy. Change when needed, communicated well and for the growth of the Kingdom is powerful. May we learn from Netflix and others. May this remind us that we are the church, not another corporate entity.


"Is Steve Jobs in Heaven?"

Jobs When Steve Jobs' death was announced, though expected, it still shocked many. Jobs was a unique man. Some have called him a visionary. He's been described as the "Edison of our time." Apple stores now double as memorial sites as flowers and cards are left at the doors. I've seen "iSad" on numerous signs and Facebook postings lamenting his death. He certainly was very intelligent and creative.

I hope you will join me in praying for the family of Steve Jobs, his wife and children especially. Pray for the dear friends who have lost a loved one.

I posted earlier in the week a simple link to Facebook from the Apple website that stated "Steve Jobs 1955-2011."

I put no other statement, comment or link with this other than the link to the Apple website. I found it interesting that within just a few hours a dialog had begun in the comment section about the impact, humanity and spirituality of Steve Jobs. Some clearly stated that he was not a believer in Christ. Others were offended that someone would dare judge someone as not being a Christian whom they had never met. The dialog was getting . . . well, nowhere productive, so I ended up deleting the post completely.

On Friday morning at one of our local junior high schools, the question of legacy and life and death came up, so Steve Jobs came up once again. One of the junior high boys asked point blank, "So, is Steve Jobs in heaven?"

Hmmm. Great question. This led to a wonderful discussion.

Steve Jobs is going to be greatly missed in this world. He brought many computer innovations, not to mention the entertainment of Pixar films, to the world. I worked at IBM for a number of years and our theme was based on Thomas Watson's message of "Think." We all had little signs in our offices with the "Think" plaque attached. I still have mine.

Jobs, and Apple came along and introduced a similar, but different theme of "Think Different."

I'm not sure how many outside the computer industry caught that as a response to IBM and the PC, but we did.

Jobs and Apple pushed the envelope. The Macintosh was so different than the PC-DOS based systems out there. Computer mouse? What's the use of that? GUI (Graphical User Interface) was another innovation. Now, these are standard.

When I was at IBM, Jobs was not at Apple. He had been fired. That seems crazy nowadays to even imagine. Apple fired Steve Jobs! They hired a CEO from Pepsi named John Sculley. Under Sculley and subsequent leaders, Apple almost faded away. It's hard to imagine that Apple was at one time headed down the same path as Compaq and Gateway and a host of other computer companies that were poised for greatness only to be relegated to the class of "also-rans." Here's a good article from Bloomberg BusinessWeek on the Sculley-Jobs relationship. (Note the suspenders and bow tie that Jobs is wearing. Obviously before he determined the black shirts and jeans would be his trademark uniform.)

117px-NeXT_logo.svg During this time, Jobs founded NeXT Computers. This was an interesting company. It partnered Jobs with Ross Perot (yes, that Ross Perot) as Director. Though short-lived, NeXT had profound impact on the computer industry. 

Of course, most of you know that Jobs was brought back as CEO of Apple and under his visionary leadership led Apple to become one of the strongest corporations in the world. Even in a world facing economic downturn, Apple is growing. 

It's also interesting to note that many of the Wall Street protestors against corporations have stated that Apple "is different" and they like Apple and Jobs. 

Anyway, back to the question from the junior high boy and the comments on Facebook. With all that Jobs has done for technology and entertainment, the question remains about eternity.

Many have viewed Jobs commencement address at Stanford University back in 2005. Knowing that his time on earth was coming to a close, he sounds prophetic regarding life and living it to the fullest. 

One of the most repeated quotes from Jobs is this:

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart. … Stay hungry. Stay foolish.”

It echoes the statement from Solomon as recorded in Ecclesiastes 7:2

It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart.

Funerals and death are great reminders of what matters in life. The parties, feastings, fear of embarrassment and failure, etc. melt in the presence of a casket. Death is the destiny of all. The living should take it to heart.

While I pray that Jobs came to understand that life is eternally available only through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, I have seen no indication publicly that he ever accepted this. Jobs was a very private man, so perhaps he did come to Christ. However, there are numerous stories that lead one to believe he held more a New Age or Buddhist view of life and eternity. Still, we will not know this side of heaven.

This we do know.

The life God gives us here on earth is short. Whether 20 years, 56 years or maybe even 100, is so very short when compared to eternity.

The things we do in this life matter. I appreciate Jobs and the things he was able to do. As I write on my iPad, listen to music on my iPod and watch Toy Story, I am reminded of his giftedness and innovative mind.

Yet, just as other great innovators left some wonderful toys and tools for generations to come, the truth of the matter is that a man is not defined by the stuff of this world. He is defined through a relationship with the Creator of it all. The greatest Innovator and Creative Mind ever. 

Simply put, what one does with Jesus Christ is what really matters.

So, as my young friend asked "Is Steve Jobs in heaven?" The answer for Jobs is the same as it is for everyone else, "Only if he received Jesus Christ's sacrifice as payment for his sin and became a child of God."

Not sure how to do this? I was going to link you to a site called "The Kristo" but it requires a Flash plug-in. Since Jobs did not like Flash and iPhones and iPads do not run the software, I thought better of it. Therefore, check out this site here. Take the time to read this and if you have any questions, feel free to contact me. 


Why We Still Give to Lottie

Those, like me, who grew up in a Southern Baptist church have heard of Lottie Moon. She was an indredible woman who served God as a missionary in China years ago.

Imb globe The world has changed.

The mission has not.

In our church, we collect funds throughout the year for Global Missions. A large portion of this is sent throughout the year to the Intenational Mission Board for this "Christmas" offering. Many will give extra, as is their habit, for this offering over the next few months.

I encourage you to watch this video. Pray about how you can be His hands and His voice to a lost and dying world.

Your gifts through our "Global Mission Fund" go to missionaries throughout the world to impact this planet for the Kingdom.

Sometimes, we (me included) just need a simple reminder.

 


Our App Launches Today

Apple-vs-android2 With the millions of people using iPads, iPhones and Android phones, we felt the timing was right to launch an app for our church on these platforms.

The app will evolve over time, but as of now, the following features are available:

  • Sermons (audio only at this time)
  • Bible ready plans - with the option of an audio version
  • Link to this blog and updates
  • Calendar of events
  • Links to other options and FBC connections.

If you have use either the iTunes App or Android Marketplace platforms, download our app and tell others about it.

Click here for the link to the Android Market version.

Click here for the link to the iTunes App version.