That Time I Preached

ThatTimeIPreached

So this happened… During our At the Movies series this past summer I was asked to preach for the first time (well technically the second but you’ll see).

*no copyright infringement intended. I do not own the rights to the movie clips or songs used. Without the clips from the movie half of the message would have been missed.

What If I Treated Every Sunday As Easter?

Can I just be honest for a second; I don’t.

I don’t spend the time in preparation for other weekends as I do for Easter.
I don’t put the same energy into the creative planning for a random weekend in August as I do when Easter rolls around.
I don’t approach every weekend service as if it was Easter – a day I know when more people who don’t know Jesus come to church.

But what if I did?  
What if we did?

Any church who keeps attendance records, uses church management software, or tries in any way to track data knows there are better attended Sundays than others.  Historically this coming Sunday, the one following Easter tends to be a lower attended day.  Holidays, School breaks, and more trend lower as well.

Have you ever been guilty of not planning as much for those weekends as you do for others?
I have.

Have you ever held onto creative elements to use for better attended Sundays?
I have.

Have you ever even once scheduled people, band members, tech crews, or others differently because of the projected attendance of a weekend?
I’m not proud of it but I have.

But what if we approached every weekend service like we do Easter?  Or Christmas? Or Canadian Boxing Day? (I assume that’s a big day?)

What if we pushed ourselves to approach those days in the same manner we do the “big days.”  Every weekend we meet there are people that need to experience the powerful Love of God.  There are people who are searching.  There are people who are hurting.  There are people who don’t know what they believe.

What if we challenged ourselves to always push for more. To always be creative.  To always seek to prayerfully consider how we plan our services and service elements – because someones life may depend on it, their hope may depend on it, their peace may depend on it.

I am certain I will be guilty of maybe planning less on a weekend than I could. Or even saving something for a different week because it’s SO GOOD! But my prayer now is that I will start to approach every week as if the people who walk through the doors of the church are lost, hurting, hungry, and just as important as the ones from any other weekend.

 

Serve Don’t Cater

BLT Lunchtime

If you are in ministry you know that one of the main purposes of the church is to serve the people that collectively make up the church. We do our best to meet their needs, to help them deeper experience the love of God, and to teach and encourage them as well. But there is a difference between serving out people and catering to them.

I spent a lot of time serving in many restaurants as well as working for a few catering companies so indulge me if you will for all analogies and metaphors break down at some point.

As a minister you have a vision God has given you for how your ministry will serve and function; for where it’s heading and how you will get there. Some will move fast. Some will move slow. For other God is calling you to honestly just be where you are. But in any case God has given you the vision and direction. You serve your people based on that direction. Without being too cheesy God plans the menu from which you serve your people. And like any good restaurant there is a little creative freedom within that menu to best serve your customer. But if you are an In-N-Out Burger and someone orders a chicken fried steak you probably can’t accommodate them.

But when you cater, you are allowing someone else control over what is served, how things will function and the like. Yes you still have some control but you are turning over a good portion of that control to meet the clients needs. If a client desired deep fried Oreos the caterer shouldn’t just show up with carrots and celery and suggest this is better for them. The client get’s what the client wants regardless of how good or bad it is for them, they are in control for the most part.

When we serve our people we do everything we can to meet their needs within the framework of the vision God has given us. When we cater to our people we are allowing the tail to wag the dog so to speak. When we cater we will be spending too much time trying to make everyone happy at the expense of the vision God gave us.

At the expense of sounding bad, our job isn’t defined by making people happy or satisfying a certain person or groups desires for how they see church but to help people experience God’s saving grace and love. (Ministry secret – following God’s vision doesn’t always make everyone happy)

Now apparently I need to go to lunch cause I am writing a lot about food.

Do We Understand Suffering?

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When you talk to just about any teenager you will inevitably at some point get a run down of how horrible their life is. My parents won’t let me have a cell phone. We only have DSL at our house and it is so slow. And so on. And honestly talk to any adult and you will get the same things maybe stated a little differently. My car costs too much to fill up. My job is stressful. (you know the difference between teenagers and adults? A few years.)

We are privileged that is for certain.

A few weeks back we began talking about the idea of suffering in our small group. It was supposed to be a simple question; What does it mean to you to suffer for the gospel? The room actually grew deafeningly quiet (which is big for a bunch of 20 and 30 somethings). After a little generally predictable conversation about the idea of how we suffer form the gospel a voice chimed in and said; I honestly don’t know a thing about suffering.

I honestly don’t know a thing about suffering.

That led to a great honest conversation about our lives. We really don’t have much of a grasp on the idea of suffering. Especially for the gospel.

We get upset if we have to wait too long for our dinner. And what a travesty if Starbucks runs out of soy milk.
Some people eat once every couple days.
We get made fun of for following Jesus.
Some people get tortured.
We think it’s sacrificial to give up television time to read our bibles.
Some people aren’t allowed to even own a bible.
We hold back on our tithe and offering tom the church because the economic downturn has potentially hindered our retirement plan.
Some people sell their own children into sex slavery just to have a few meals.

Yes there are some of us privileged folk who do understand suffering better than others. But for an overwhelmingly vast majority of us our problems can’t begin to compare to others around the world especially when it comes to following Jesus.

May We Never Stop Asking Why

I am all for progress in the church. I am all for new. I think that the church needs new and creative ideas to continue to survive. We can’t continue to recycle things that we have done ad nauseum.

We need the new to continue to feed life to the powerful story we are telling.

But we have to remember not to just do new things to do them.  We can’t fall in the trap of trying to stay relevant without asking why.  We can’t continue to move forward with new and creative ideas if we don’t stop to ask why we are doing them.  New ideas are great.  New ideas are cool and they can attract people.  But new ideas played out without any reason behind them quickly become empty.

The new without the why is empty!

So as we plan new ideas, songs, videos, service elements and more let’s remember to stop and take the time to ask why we are doing them.  Let’s ask how they will impact the lives of those who experience them.  Let’s pray about these new ideas; pray that they are filled with God’s Holy Spirit and not our attempts just to do something new.

Cool is great.  Relevant is awesome. But meaningful is powerful.

Jesus Calls Us

Jesus not only to loved the broken and hurting, the outcast and the beggar, the prostitute and tax collector but then challenged them to live a better life. He calls us to do the same. As pastors and ministers we are meant to love those around us and challenge them to live a holy life.

Overcoming Obstacles

It’s easy to let things get in the way of our goals, our hopes, our dreams. When insurmountable odds are stacked against us we just as soon bow out than continue the course. Below is the true story of a group of children who wanted to play football. They saw what no one else did and persevered in the midst of unbelievable odds to achieve their goal (pun intended). Don’t let anything get in your way today. Be bold and go big. Always be winning.

They Will Know Him By Our Love: Not Our Agenda

By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another (John 13:35).

Sometimes I think we get too caught up in the almost militant mission to convert people.  We just assume this should be a light bulb moment rather than a process (remember even Saul’s conversion happened over a few days).

When that takes priority over loving people and walking with them, this (photo above) can become how we are seen and understood, how Christianity is seen and understood.  Proselytizing or providing for a hurting nation, not mutually exclusive sometimes a choice between the two needs to be made.

My prayer today is that we show God’s love by our response and our love.

How Should We Respond?

I came across this video on youtube and had to literally pick my jaw up off of the floor after watching it. It amazing to me how people can rationalize and justify just about any belief with biblical teaching – even hatred. It’s a shocking response to say the least. I wanted to share it with you and get your take on the video.

How would you respond to this video? Is there truth in it? Or is she just a product of the Pat Robertson School of Natural Disaster Response? It reminded me of a book I recently read called Jesus Loves You This I Know by Craig Gross and Jason Harper. I was championing every point of the book with great enthusiasm till I got to the last chapter “Jesus Loves the Religious.” So what’s your reaction to seeing something like this?