Thursday, October 15, 2009
Monday, October 12, 2009
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
I'm still not really sure if I found the new opportunity, or if the new opportunity found me...but however it happened, I'm really glad it did. I start work on Monday with the Grand Rapids Housing Commission. I'm certain that God's hand has been all over this. When I first saw the job posting, I didn't think I had a shot at it, but I submitted my resume anyway. Two days after I submitted my resume, there was interview scheduled. About a week and a half after the interview (mixed with a few phone calls regarding references, etc.) I was offered the position. The position offers better pay and better benefits, but beyond that I believe it lines up more with my heart to care for those who are less fortunate than I. So, I'm anxiously awaiting Monday morning when I get to dive into a brand new opportunity pregnant with new challenges and new rewards.
Sunday, July 12, 2009
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Saturday, May 9, 2009
Monday, May 4, 2009
17 weeks ago I started a journey through the book of Psalms. I’m taking one Psalm each week and reading it, meditating on it, and memorizing (at least parts) of it. It is a slow, sometimes painful process, but it has given me a new heart and passion to worship God in spirit and in truth. There were a few things that made me decide to do this. The first was that I have been leading worship for about 15 years, and I have spent very little time reading the Psalms. In recent years, I’ve been writing music to be used in worship settings, and what better influence is there than the Psalmists? So, why one Psalm a week? The answer is simple. I’m trying to run a marathon here, not a sprint. My whole life has consisted of sprints up to this point. I will go weeks or months without reading scripture or spending any significant time in prayer, and then I will feel empty and tired and drained and pick up the Bible and read through as much as I can for short period of time…enough to get filled up and give me a boost. And then, it’s back to running on fumes for awhile. I need to study and pray and seek God for the 26.2 of life, not the 100-yeard dash of fifth grade field day. One more thing has driven me to do this, and that is that we started attending a new church about a year and a half ago. When we started going there, they were in a preaching series going through the book of Mark. When we started they were somewhere around Mark 6 (give or take a chapter or two). I remember thinking, “oh cool…this should be a good four or five-week series.” And then about a year later I realized we were still in the book of Mark. It was really good for me to see a church and a pastor who weren’t afraid to hang in one section of scripture for a very long time. As we took an expository journey through the book of Mark, I felt like the story of Christ became fresh for me again in a time when ministry had burned me out.
Speaking of ministry, this past week has been really good for me. Just two years ago I was co-pastoring a church plant. I was pouring myself into people, leading worship, preaching. I felt that I was doing exactly what God had formed me for, and I loved every bit of it. I loved challenging those who were leading with me…I loved challenging those I was serving. I loved having all the time in the world to sit down and disciple people. As God let me out of that for what has seemed like a very long, dry season, I’ve really wrestled with it. It has been a very difficult transition, and one that I don’t ever want to have to experience again. The most difficult part has not been going from a job in ministry (high flexibility, low supervision) to a job in the business world (low flexibility, high supervision) because honestly, it’s nice to be able to leave work at work sometimes. When ministry is your job, it takes a lot of discipline to stop working. When I punch out from work now, I’m done with work…it is a very nice thing. The most difficult part, however, has been that it often seems that I don’t have as much time and energy to pour into others…something that I want to do whether I have a job in ministry or not. This past week, however, I have had a few great conversations with friends and family that have thrown me right back in the process of discipleship. And it has been good. I was starting to get the feeling that I had lost my voice…that the people who looked at me before as someone who could preach and teach and challenge were forgetting about me…like I was slipping into oblivion…like ministry in my life was dead. And then last week, in my 16th week of journeying through the Psalms, I read this: “Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay.”
So now, I feel like I am in the best place I’ve been on a spiritual and emotional level in a very long time…actually, I think I’m in the best place I’ve been my whole life.
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
“How do we get our name out there?” I heard this question over and over gain for about a year when I was involved in planting a church. I grew sick of this question. To go along with previous posts of mine regarding church marketing and being relevant, I will continue in that direction today.
When we planted that church, we started asking the innocent question, “how do we get our name out there?” At least it started innocent. I remember those beginning days, there was excitement, there was momentum, there was anticipation in the air. We were excited to be together, we knew that we had something special there. We felt the Lord leading us, and there was nothing that could stop us. But then, as time went on, the newness of it started to wane. There was no longer new people coming as regularly, we grew tired of the setting up and tearing down, and we were having a very difficult time financially. We started to realize that things weren’t going well. My theory (though many who were on the leadership team at that church would disagree) is that we lost our first love. We didn’t remain true to the calling God had given us and we didn’t remain true to our stated mission and big vision. About six months into this church plant, we were failing.
So, our discussion at leadership meetings transitioned from dreaming about what could be (vision) to talking about what to do to survive (maintenance). Here’s the thing…it isn’t just this church plant that slips into self-preservation mode. It’s not just the small churches in Grand Rapids suburbs. It’s also the large churches in big cities and the rural churches in the middle nowhere. It’s so easy to forget our calling…our mission…our vision (especially in these difficult economic times) and begin to do things in order to preserve and maintain instead of blaze ahead into uncharted territory. The question “how do we get our name out there?” is indicative of a church that is focused on themselves. Why would anyone want to get their name out there? Why would any church want to get their name out there? Don’t we realize that we are all…all…broken and bruised and sinful. We are all on a level playing field. I am no better than the prostitute I drove by on the corner of Division and Burton last night. Megachurch pastor with a toothy grin is no better than porn shop owner. And we want to get our name out there? Isn’t that what most of our churches are? A reflection of the personalities that pastor/lead/preach/lead worship? So, if our focus is to get the name of our church out there, then we ultimately are getting the name of our personalities out there. And I will boldly say (not that it’s news to anyone) that personalities will fail us every time. Before long a personality will fall to sexual immorality, drug addiction, alcoholism, idolization, money…you name it.
Seems to me the only safe thing to do is radically dangerous. To no longer market our churches and our pastors and our worship leaders. To quit investing money in flashy websites (sorry to all of you web designers out there) and huge marketing campaigns, and starting putting God in the forefront. See, when we put God at the forefront, we can be assured that people are buying into something that will not fail. God is so much more than just a personality, but if he was only a personality it would be a personality that doesn’t fall…that doesn’t let us down. So, why would we not place him at the forefront?
Forget asking ourselves, “how do we get our name out there?” Our name will fail. Let’s begin to ask the question, “how do we get the name of God out there?” I think Paul answers it in saying this: “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” How do we get the name of God out there? We tell the world how messed up we are and how God is redeeming and restoring us!
Thursday, April 23, 2009
One of the greatest tragedies the Christian Church has faced recently is our quest to become relevant. My sense is that it started sometime around the seeker-sensitive movement in the 90’s. We decided that in order to reach the broader culture we had to make the message one that encouraged and tickled the ears of our listeners. What resulted was a watered down version of Christianity that failed to transform the culture it presented itself to (not to mention the countless crappy dramas and skits, “secular” songs with lyrical changes, and horribly produced films that have popped up over the past several years). What I’m trying to say is that the Church has tried to engage culture by becoming like culture and it’s not working.
Last night I had the chance to speak to our college students at Crossroads Bible Church. I’ve been leading worship for these monthly gatherings over the last few months, and I love these students. They are passionate about following Christ. They are passionate about worship. My sense is that God is starting to do some great things in and through this college group. As I was praying and studying for this talk, God was directing me to the Sermon on the Mount. I’ve preached on this text before, but this time I zeroed in on Matthew 5:5, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” The take-away for our college students is that God required humility on two levels: personally (which I will elaborate on in the rest of this entry) and corporately. I told them, whenever there is a great move of God, it faces the possibility that we, mere men, will mess it up by becoming arrogant and proud of what we're involved in. We start to take the glory for ourselves, and just as quickly as God started to move, he quickly stops. The words I spoke were a warning that just because God is moving in our midst right now, he doesn't have to continue to do so...if we become prideful and arrogant...if we lose our humility and meekness, then surely he will not continue to move in power.
What fascinates me about this text, though…and Jesus whole message…is that the ones who are blessed are the ones who the world (culture) sees as undesirable and weak. Just think about it…”Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, those who are persecuted.” None of these are highly esteemed in the world’s eyes. Most look at the poor as a drain on society, if someone is mourning the loss of a loved one we give them a day off work, the meek and humble are looked at as weak, depravity…not righteousness…is honored by the human race (Psalm 12:8), the merciful are mocked because of their forgiving spirits, the pure in heart are looked at as naïve, the peacemakers are thought to be unpatriotic, and the persecuted are said to have it coming to them. And yet, Jesus gives his Kingdom to such as these.
Lately, the corporate world has received a lot of press…Wall Street bailouts, bankruptcies, companies closing their doors. All of the financial trouble these big companies are in is driven by selfishness. In the corporate world, we are told to climb our way (read fight, steal, claw) to the top of the chain. Success is making more money, and to make more money you’ve got to be at the top. So, we start at the bottom and we are to sacrifice family and relationships and passions and desires to make it up that ladder. And so many people…Christian and non-Christian alike…buy into the idea that if we have more money and more things we will finally be happy. As a result we start to lose our humility. Pride and arrogance step in and we begin to justify the means by what comes at the end.
Jesus message turns the whole way culture works on its head. It is time for Christians to stop trying so hard to be relevant. Jesus was irrelevant. The Pharisees of the day hated his message because they thought if they could just abolish sin (prostitutes, tax collectors, etc.) then Messiah would come. Messiah came and offered hope for the prostitute and tax collector and other sinners. The Pharisees were angry because they thought Jesus was getting in the way of Messiah coming. And yet Jesus continued to preach a message that was counter-cultural. Christians need to do this more today. We need to stop buying in to the American Dream. We need to stop trying to climb corporate ladders and make life work for us. Instead we need to boldly proclaim the hope that Jesus offers…the Gospel that says we are all sinners and because of Christ’s death we can come to God…and because of his resurrection we are no longer slaves to sin or the world’s systems of living. We need to contrast the hope that Jesus offers with the hope that politicians offer…because I assure you it is not the same.
If you want to inherit the Kingdom of God, you must be meek. “And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” That is a message that counters the message the world sends us. That is what it means to be reverently irrelevant.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
7. XYZ church is more jeans than suits & ties - So, if someone shows up in a suit and tie to a jeans church, are they made to feel as uncomfortable as someone who shows up in jeans to a suit and tie church?
3. XYZ church is more Veggietales than Simpsons - Now, Veggietales are cool and all, but I've probably learned more about God, family, and culture from tuning into the Simpsons.
So, there you have it...a bit of cynicism on this Thursday evening. Now, if you don't mind, I need to go send some "knee mail" to God...and I think just to cover all my bases, I'll cc: Jesus and the Holy Spirit.