Archive for the 'Church' Category

Sunday Morning Notes

Notes on Exodus 20

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Church Marketing Rocks

Yesterday, I dissed on church marketing a bit, but I’m still a huge fan.

For example: buisiness cards.

I love business cards. They work.

Today I finally got an Alabama Driver’s license. I went to the county office, waited for about 2 hours, went through 15 minutes of questions, a photo, and bam, I was done.

When it came my turn I smiled and asked the woman how her holiday was. She said it was exciting to give her husband an iPod Touch for Christmas. I said that my wife gave me a hat, which was the perfect give to keep a shaved head warm.

(On Christmas Eve we worshiped with Sojourn Church. My pal John made sure I was stocked up on churchinabrewery.com business cards to promote their launch in the brewery on Jan. 11th.)

When I reached into my wallet to pull out my debit card to pay, I pulled out a churchinabrewery.com card as well. I laid it down and said,

“I worshiped with these guys on Christmas Eve.”

She said she’d never heard of Church in a Brewery but that she really enjoyed the Christmas Eve service at Grace UMC. She asked to keep the card. (My vibe was that Grace is the right place for her – but I’m suspecting she might have a friend to pass the card along to who would find a great home at Sojourn.)

Business Cards with a web addresses just work. In a situation where it’d be awkward to try to start up a conversation about going to church while there are 300 other people waiting for driver’s liscneses it’s simple and gets you to the point quick.

Great Worship Leaves You Uneasy

Church messed me up today.

We worshiped at The Brook with Jan. It was great to be there. Jan is a pro and I was impressed with how quickly we just dove into worship with only three songs.

The set was short to make space in the service for the 50 min. Fransic Chan video.

The video sermon messed me up.

Seriously, buy a copy of the mp3 from Youth Specialties for 6 bucks or email Jan and asked to borrow the DVD – it’ll mess you up too.

There were two aspects that hit me hard.

1. Sign or No Sign?

As I dream about one day planting a church this question hits me hard. When Rob Bell planted Mars Hill his friends got a sign for the church. He was appalled and made them take it down. I love the kinda guts it takes to have that attitude about church.

The notion is that people have to want to be there.

We beg and plead for people to come to church. We put up billboards, reserve special parking spaces for visitors and make sure there’s coffee and donuts. It’s kinda like we’re saying, “Jesus isn’t enough of a reason for you to be here – we need to add all this extra crap to try and entice you.”

So part of me says, “Sign?! Church can’t have a Sign!”

Chan indirectly hit on this point today. He talked about how as pastors we want to build big churches, but Jesus didn’t do this. When Jesus got a big crowd instead of being “welcoming” he said, “Hate your mother, hate your father, hate your kids, hate your family, pick a cross and follow me.”

We can’t have a sign – people have to want to follow Jesus.

On the other hand I place a super high value on things like signs and websites. I recently saw a business card advertising a sermon series and I commented to Sarah on how intelligent it was to put a map right on the card to make it easy. I have this strong desire to “let my light shine like a City on a hill” But when do we make it so easy for people to follow Jesus they aren’t really following Jesus at all?

Following Jesus is hard.

2. Where’s the Gospel?

Chan spoke about the parable of the good soil – how some people are rocky soil and some have thorns and some is good soil. Chan said that Jesus didn’t waste his time cultivating the rocky soil. He didn’t fertilize the thorns. He only focused on the good soil.

On the one hand this hit me hard – It breaks my heart to see churches bend over backwards trying to appease lukewarm Christians. They make sure the coffee is hot, and the music’s not too loud, and the words have to be on the screen at exactly the right time otherwise it’s too “distracting” to worship God. Gimme a freaking break. If you are so spiritually impoverished that you can’t worship God because you were “distracted” then you need to take a trip to China or Africa where the real Christians live. Where you can get murdered and tortured for your faith. I have no desire to try and appease lukewarm Christians.

It’s just like fertilizing the thorns.

On the other hand I think Chan is misinterpreting the parable. The point of the parable is that the sower is crazy irresponsible!! A smart sower would not only refrain from fertilizing the rocks – he simply wouldn’t sow seed there in the first place!

I thank God that’s He’s so generous and irresponsible. I was once some pretty rocky soil before God cultivated my heart.

Isn’t the Gospel the fact that we are ALL rocky soil? We were all sinners in need of a savior? Isn’t the point that we can’t do it? – that the church isn’t perfect, that we’re all broken, that we need Jesus to save us?

Chan never got there. The whole appeal seemed to say, “Christians – step up and start living better.”

I never heard – “Oh and by the way – you can’t do it. No matter how hard you try you are completely incapable. But don’t worry – God can. He is capable. It is He who wills and works in you. Trust in Him.”

Leave a comment

If you understood a bit of the struggle I rambled about above then drop a comment. Do you wrestle with this too? Have you found any insight?

You can also check out Jan’s take on today’s service.

Beginning a Search

Today we worshiped with Buliding Church. It surprised me how refreshing it was to just go somewhere and worship God. Not show up several hours early and do a bunch of set up and lead a sound check and various other distractions from God’s presence, but just show up and worship.

After the service I talked briefly with Pastor David about being an ex-church staffer trying to find a place to plug in. He said, “I know it can be awkward.”

Man, it totally is.

The pull is to critique everything. When you’re a church professional trying to find a church it’s like John Madden trying to simply enjoy a football game. Rather than focus on a “What impressed me? – What did I enjoy?” attitude I tried to have a “How could God use me in this community? Is God calling my family here?” attitude.

I will say I really enjoyed the worship and teaching. The welcome team was on point!

We sang –

  • O Come All Ye Faithful
  • Joy to the World
  • Angles We Have Heard on High
  • The First Noel
  • Another song I’d never heard before
  • Run, Run Rudolph (walk out song)

Check out other Churches’ Sunday morning set lists on Fred’s blog.

The Building Church worship pastor only led one song. It was cool to see a guy who empowers his team. I’m not a big fan of Christmas carols for Sunday morning services, but O Come All Ye Faithful and Angles we have heard on High were rockin’. Seriously, some of the most worshipful arrangements of those I’ve heard.

In terms of the big 4

Solid Preaching: Check. David spoke about how Christians don’t search for peace – they HAVE peace, they don’t search for Joy, they HAVE joy. In a culture where it’s super hip and trendy to be “seeking” and very nerdy to be “found” I really appreciated the good theology.

Another thing that struck me that was HUGE was how much vision was just littered through the message. Getting into a small group as well as going through the “growth track” classes were both plugged during the sermon.

Love Huntsville: Check. We prayed over some build-a-bears (“Building Bears”) that were being sent to Children who were spending Christmas in Huntsville Hospital.

Love the World: Check. The put a picture on the screen of the orphans in Venezuela who they were helping. The Pastor and his wife served as missionaries before become church planters.

Passionate about church planting: Big Check. What really impressed me the most was the confidence that folks had about being called to Huntsville. Pat, an associate pastor, shared with wild excitement about how he’d left a paying job to raise support, take on a part-time job and help plant Building Church. They are only a little over a year old and are looking open another campus in Madison in February.

With all this I didn’t hear the whisper of God saying, “This is the place.” I have a feeling like it’s probably not gonna happen that way. I envision it more like us visiting several places and then praying in light of those experiences about where to go.

You can check out Sarah’s take on visiting Building Church.

The Most Important Aspect When Looking for a Church

What is the most important aspect when looking for a church?

For the first time in our marriage Sarah and I and in a situation where need to go out and find a church. “Church shopping” makes me want to throw up in my mouth, and yethere we are. The notion of “shopping” for a church is nauseating because it takes some thing beautiful and destroys it. Church shopping takes the Holy and Righteous Bride of Christ and treats her like she’s no more important than a Startbucks cup of coffee.

Is church just a product to be consumed or something more?

The Bible says the Church is the “fullness of Christ.” (Eph. 1:22-23) You don’t get the fullness of Christ without church – it’s thatimportant. Without getting too deep into theologies of the Universal Church vs the City Church vs local church, I believe it is ablsolute vital to faith in Jesus Christ to experience that faith in the community of a local church. For that reason the most important aspect of finding a church will be finding a community where we can SERVE. A communtiy where our unique gifts, talents and calling can be fully exploited and leveraged for the sake of the Gospel.

It’s not about what you get out of church, but what give to your Savior and others.

Yes, Sarah and I are hoping to serve in some way. My family has been pretty beat up by the transtion and we need a place to heal, but we don’t plan on taking a break from ministry. Healing doesn’t happen when you take a break from you mission. In fact, “taking time off” to heal can be the most damaging thing to faith. True spiritual healing happens when you get actively invovled in giving your entire life to Jesus and serving him with all that you’ve got. I’m not saying we want to jump immeditately into leadership – we just need some good community where we can plug into service.

So what kind of church are we looking for?

Sarah and I have come up with 4 elements we are hoping to find in the local church we want to plug into:

1. Solid Bibilical Teaching – This is the most important thing. If we are going to grow in our faith we need to find a teach who can teach us.

2. They tagibly love Huntsville– What is the church doing to actively make a difference in the city? Are all the bulletin announcement for Bible Studies and potlucks or are they getting outside their own four walls to actually love their neighbors? I’ve grown up in the church and honestly I kinda suck and loving my city. I need to find a communtiy that’s doing it and can teach me how.

3. They send missionaries all around the world – Missions in the back yard are important and so are Global missions. Do they send out people on short term missions? Do they support full-time missionaries? Bonus points are awarded if the church does sustainable ministry by sending the short-term missionaries to the same places year after year and connect with long-term missionaries in those locals.

4. They are passionate about church planting – I believe church planting is the most effective way to reach the lost and revitalize existing churches. My goal is to one day be a church planter.

Those are the big four, but bonus point are awarded for

  • The Pastor has a blog and twitter
  • Others in the church blog and twitter
  • Loud guitars with distrotion.
  • Podcasts/RSS feeds of audio and video content
  • Cool graphics on the website (shallow, and I’m just being honest.)
  • A rockin’ kids ministry (Service is the most important – I don’t care about your “kids ministry” as long as your invovling my daughters in serving Jesus. But a fun and safe Sundy morning evirionment where they look forward to going doesn’t hurt.)
  • Candles
  • Dark, dark, turn off all the lights worship.
  • Cool set design (see note on: graphics)

What do you think?

What kinds of things should we look for was we try to find a church home?

Leaving Chase Valley Church

I’m writing this post with a morose, but peaceful heart. Today was my last Sunday as the Worship Arts Pastor at Chase Valley. One week earlier I turned in a letter of resignation to the leadership. I didn’t want to but out of obedience to God I had to. I know I am following God’s will in this. It doesn’t make it hurt any less.

Chase Valley has gone through a lot of painful staff changes. I said that it was my goal to leave with the least amount of hurt and that I was willing to do anything to help transition the ministry. The leadership felt that it would be best if I made today my last Sunday. I submitted to their decision. 

My final setlist for Chase Valley was

  • I Am Free – Egan
  • Adonai – Badham, Fieldes
  • O Come Emmanuel – Chia
  • God of Wonders – Byrd
  • Once Again – Redman
  • All Creatures of Our God and King – Crowder

I didn’t plan for this to be my last Sunday – these just happen to be the songs I already had scheduled this week. You can see more setlists from other worship leaders at my friend Fred’s blog.

Why I’m Not Leaving

If you’ve read my blog or attended Chase Valley you know things have been rough. There has been interpersonal conflict and financial struggle. None of those reasons are why I have chosen to resign. In fact conflict and struggle are what I signed up for. I knew Chase Valley was facing hurt and hardship before I arrived. A huge reason why I came was because I wanted to minister in this situation. I felt called and equipped to do so. 

I love the people of Chase Valley. I love my worship team. I love my ministry. 

So What’s the Problem?

I have a high ethic of supporting leadership fully. The fact is that the senior pastors have a vision for the church that I cannot in good conscience support. I would be disobedient to God if I did. It’s not a bad vision. They have a Godly vision that authentically matches their gifts, talents, experiences and calling. Unfortunately it runs contrary to what God has gifted, equipped and called me to do. 

Two visions – both good, but both very different. 

The moral choice was to step aside and let them lead the church where they believe Christ wants it to go. 

The Masses vs The Margins

These differences in vision logically breed separate philosophies of worship. The senior pastors are called to the masses – to “cast as wide a net as possible.” The ethic here is to format a worship service that has the absolute broadest appeal and “offers something for everyone.” It’s not a bad philosophy and many churches are successful using it.

My calling on the other hand is to create new, innovative and different forms of worship. Rather than appeal to the masses, my goal is to reach out to the margins – the people no one else is reaching. If you want to reach the people no one else is reaching you need to do what no one else is doing.

A call to the masses vs a call to the margins – one does what is most popular, one does what is least popular. One seeks to follow in what is tried and proven while the other seeks to lead into uncharted territory. The world needs both kinds of churches.

The Next Step

I really don’t have any plans at this point. God told me to resign and I followed in obedience without knowing what the path would look like. Sarah and I have discussed other churches in town we’d like to visit in order to find one where we could serve Christ wholeheartedly. I’ll be posting later on the process of finding a church.

For now my hope is for the full success of Chase Valley. The Senior Pastors have assured me of their confidence in their vision – that they fully and confidently believe the church will make a turn to become a growing chruch again.

Repentance and Forgiveness

I just got back from a meeting where the recent turmoil was discussed. Some truth made it’s way out tonight and misunderstandings were clarified. Some apologies were made, forgiveness was granted and things worked the way the Church is supposed to work.

I’m feeling a deeper sense of peace about God’s plan and Chase Valley than I’ve ever felt.

I believe this is because of you. The person reading this blog. The people who have been reading and praying for Chase Valley. Your prayers are powerful and effective.

There are still things left to resolve. But we are moving toward them.

The last year has felt like a foggy cloud of ambiguity. I feel like tonight many steps were taken forward clarity and understanding.


 

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