Thursday, December 27, 2007

Seeing Gray

This is an interesting way for a pastor to get feedback on certain subjects as a part of a sermon series. Watch the video for details.

While I don't know what direction he'll take this, it is an unique approach.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Come! Join The Club!

I recently heard someone commenting that the church has a tendency to list the requirements of its membership but never give its members benefits.


What I heard was "the church should be a place where the perks should be highlighted and the requirements should be lessened." What do people like this think the church is, a country club? What in the world is this person thinking?

Maybe the problem is we need to disband membership and start a partnership. Too often membership is treated like "I pay my fines and then I get all the benefits" and sadly in church that frequently means "I walked down an isle and said I believe in Christ so what do I get now" (and they don't even tithe).

This mentality needs to change. I say get rid of membership and move to partnership.

Discipleship: Using Our Resources Wisely, Part 3

Make sure you read part one and part two first.

Why do some choose to be option-#1-minded, desiring to give of their resources all at once rather than careful investments? As a whole, being option-#1-minded is a bad thing. It says, of even the best intending person (usually some and not all of these):
  1. I'm impatient. "I'd rather just do it right the first time myself and investments can take too much long-term time and energy."
  2. I'm unwilling to invest in the lives of others. "I'd rather just give the man a fish than teach him how to fish for himself."
  3. I'm easily disappointed in others. "Seems like everyone one in twelve, or so, seems to not make the cut and fall away."
  4. I'm untrusting of others with my stuff. "Will they really take what I give them and use it well? Will they take care of what I give them? Will they use it like I would use it?"
We have to be cautious to not be the guy who doesn't do anything to multiply his resources (Matthew 25:14-30). We can't be the kind of people who would rather play it safe and think our heavenly Father is going to be happy with how we've used what we've been given. At the end of our life there will be those who will stand alone with a list of their person "works" and there will be those who will stand with an army of people and many lists of "works". Each list might be much shorter than the man that stand alone, but I believe God will delight in them more and there will be many more crowns given to that crowd.

Note: in an attempt to keep my posts shorter I've split this topic into multiple parts. I'll release them one at a time a few days apart.

After Youth Christmas Party Fun

The favorite gift of the night was this nerf-like gun. It was stolen a lot during "Dirty Santa".

Thursday, December 20, 2007


"A fiddler on the roof...Sounds crazy, no? But here, in our little village of Anatevka, you might say every one of us is a fiddler on the roof. Trying to scratch out a pleasant, simple tune without breaking his neck. It isn't easy. You may ask, why do we stay up there if it's so dangerous? Well, we stay because Anatevka is our home. And how do we keep our balance? That I can tell you in one word! Tradition!"
- Tevye, Fiddler On The Roof

Tradition! It's the act of doing something in repetition, trusting that it's beneficial in some way. I believe that church tradition probably started with trying to devise ways we could draw closer to God, be more like Christ, and serve the church. For example, when someone wanted to know how to "keep the Sabbath holy" someone gave a good answer and it became tradition. I believe most traditions in the church started from the desire to bring people closer to God, to give the masses some direct application of God's Word. The intent of tradition was good.

. . .but some people treat tradition as if it was the very Word of God. . . some go so far as to hold it above God's Word (maybe because of their ignorance of what God's Word really says). . .

If a tradition was created, maybe a hundred years ago (and many people don't realize that their traditions are not as old as the New Testament itself), to help us draw close to God, be more like Christ, and serve the church does it still serve that same purpose today?

Just be sure that the church traditions you're following aren't a dead horse taking you and everyone around you nowhere. Remember, something needs to be pulling the wagon the church is riding and it better be Christ and His Word alone. . .not tradition.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Discipleship: Using Our Resources Wisely, Part 2

Make sure you read part one first.

Would your decision be altered, or become clearer, if you found out that in option #2 many of the people you gave the $50,000 to each year would also end up multiplying their money instead of using it up all at once?

When looking at a ministry of the the church, whether we're talking about youth ministry, the evangelistic efforts of a church, a worship team, or any other part, we should find ourselves asking the same question "should I go with option #1 or should I go with option #2?" The pros and cons change a little and dollars become "our resources" (everything we have at our disposal).

Option #1: Give It All Away
The focus here is to have a string of events that demands a lot of the resources you already have available to you in the church. It sort of takes what the church already has and tries to produce the most it can from those resources. Part of those resources are the people, those who are already willing to volunteer their time and are already fairly capable. Pros: People do get reached and they do get helped, at least temporarily; the first time the church tries something it might look pretty good and impress the rest of the church. Cons: There's a high risk of burning individuals out; the same small handful of people are always doing all the work; no one knows how to pass on what they do (or no one is willing); the work of the individual will die with that individual.

Option #2: Try To Multiply The Resources
The focus here is less on what you have and more on what you hope to have. The hope that more can be achieved drives the person to take necessary risks and challenges. Those that are already volunteers and already fairly capable are not seen as the only resource. The questions is "how can I turn these other people into resources?" Pros: The work seems to increasingly get divided up as the years go by; if an individual steps away from the work someone else is able to pick it up; individuals are far less likely to suffer from burn out; more people are impacted (and the impact on people is longer lasting). Cons: A lot more mistakes are made as you trust unskilled individuals to learn.

Read Matthew 25:14-30 and you'll see a clear case for how God desires for us to take the resources He has given us and multiply it (and He wasn't just talking about money).

In part three I'll talk about why we get stuck being, or choose to be, option-#1-minded in unhealthy ways and the fear of trusting others with our resources (why so many find option #2 to be scary).

Also read part three.

Note: in an attempt to keep my posts shorter I've split this topic into multiple parts. I'll release them one at a time a few days apart.

Also read part three.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Jesus. . .The Good Guy?

Once, I asked my youth, "have you ever seen Jesus in the life of someone else? Who was it and what Christ-like qualities did you see in their life?" As I began to listen to their answers it didn't take long before I noticed a trend forming.

Their answers were things along the lines of "they're really nice", "they treat everyone fairly", and "they are generous with their money". As I heard these answers I began asking myself do they really know what Christ-like qualities are? God isn't nice, He's holy. God isn't fair, He's just. God doesn't just give us what we want, He blesses us with what we need. The problem I saw was that there was a big mix up, some confusion, concerning their understanding of what "Christ-like qualities" were. Let me explain. . .

Most people have some understanding of what is good and what is evil that would be universally agreed upon (another words, no matter who you asked they would agree that it's good or evil). For example, few would argue against the consensus that murder is evil and few would argue against the consensus that rape is evil. But there are tons of things out there that people will never be at a consensus as to whether certain things are good or evil.

So how do we know what's good and what's evil?

Most people use the "what feels right at the moment" method. Some people use the "what's good for me might be bad for you and what's bad for me might be good for you" method. People have all kinds of ways to determine what they think is good and evil.

God's people aren't supposed to look at good and evil like this because there's a difference between what the world calls "good" and "evil" and what God says is good and evil. And the methods of figuring out what is good and evil, between the world's way and God's way, are vastly different. With God's way, it's simply whatever God says. If He says it's good then it is and if He says it's evil then it is.

Going back to my youth group. . .their problem was that when they were asked "what Christ-like qualities do you see in the lives of others" what they really heard was "what 'good' qualities do you see in the lives of others" and so their answers were all about "good" things according to the world's standards. I asked my youth, "Can you find any of the qualities you gave me, as being Christ-like, in the Bible?" I think they began to get my point.

In order for us to be Christ-like we can't just be "good" people. We have to be like Christ. That is what makes us stand out in the world. That is how people will see Jesus living in us.

If a person doesn't truly understand, or know, what Christ-like qualities are then how will they. . .
  1. . . .see these qualities in other people?
  2. . . .be able to exam their own behavior?
  3. . . .keep their brothers and sisters in Christ accountable?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Discipleship: Using Our Resources Wisely, Part 1

Imagine, for a moment, that you were blessed with a million dollars. You then determined that God had already blessed you so much financially that you wanted to do something special with this "extra" wealth.

With this wealth you decided to help those who are less fortunate financially and wanted to assist as many people as you could.

Option #1: Give It All Away
You could give all of your money away in one shot. Pros: It would help a tremendous number of people; for only one year it would require an intense amount of work. Cons: You would never be able to help people like that again; it would require an intense amount of work (which means you would most likely burn out by the end of the year).

Option #2: Try To Multiply The Money
You make wise investments and give away all that you profit. For example, let's say you were able to profit 5% of of the million annually, then that would be $50,000 you could give away each year. It would take you 20 years to give $1 million away but you would be able to keep giving year after year because you would always have the original million to keep multiplying. Pros: You would help more people in a life time; you are far less likely to burn yourself out on the workload. Cons: You would help less people in a year; you would have to do the work every year.

If you had to pick between the two options, which one would you pick? Why?

Also read part two and part three.

Note: in an attempt to keep my posts shorter I've split this topic into multiple parts. I'll release them one at a time a few days apart.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Golden Compass Review, Part 3

What do John Lennon and Nietzsche have to do with the recent Christian "up-in-arms" over the "Golden Compass" movie? Check out Thoughts on the Golden Compass over at Experiential Youth Ministry.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

21 Steps to Church Health

I found this at Cerulean Sanctum by Dan Edelen and found it to be an interesting read. What caught my attention the most was #10, when Dan explains how youth pastors should really be the pastor of parents of the youth. The titles don't always explain the meaning very well but if you click on the link and read them, it's rather clear and Dan makes some really good points.

This is a top 21 going from lesser to most important.
21. Two-way sermons can increase biblical understanding.
20. Leaders should seek out the gifted.
19. Leaders should primarily come from within a congregation, not from the outside.
18. Christian intellectuals must be honored.
17. A church's core values should be obvious.
16. Deal with offenses swiftly.
15. Not more church plants, but more connections to existing churches.
14. Think like a visitor.
13. Our neighbors matter to Jesus.
12. Be a church for all kinds of people.
11. Conduct a proper self-examination.
10. Fire the youth pastor. . .then rehire him for his true purpose.
9. Be hospitable.
8. Rethink how we use our time.
7. Strive toward true community.
6. Develop a holistic Christian world view.
5. Restore the importance of the Scriptures.
4. Make the church for believers.
3. Recover prayer & fasting-especially to repentance.
2. Live by The Golden Rule.
1. Show people Jesus.

Late Addition: Dan makes some good points on some of these, but some I slightly to totally disagree with him on. The point is to get you thinking (that's why it's under "Thought Provoking".

Random Findings

Here are a few links to some articles/blog postings I found to be very insightful.
  1. Everything I Know About Presentations, I Learned in Theatre School
  2. Dangers to Your Christian Walk
  3. Seven Ways I’d Love to See Youth Ministry Change
I hope you enjoy them too!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

The Golden Compass Review, Part 2

My brother-in-law made a post about the movie as well. He makes some good points about boycotting and reviews how the movie stands up to other fantasy.

Friday, December 7, 2007

The Golden Compass Review

As I watched the movie I found myself looking for anti-Christian imagery or dialog and I had a hard time spotting anything.
  1. Now I know the Magisterium is supposed to represent the church but I could just as easily use it as an illustration in one of the lessons as the gay-rights agenda, church liberals, or any other group that is fighting to have what they want at any cost; I could even label the Magisterium as representing atheists. I wonder how Phillip Pullman would like that?
  2. According to Pullman the mysterious "dust" is supposed to represent sin and he contrasts Adam and Eve not as a great fall but as liberation, which means "dust" (or sin) is a good thing. But by watching the movie there's no clue given that dust and sin are the same thing. It's just made clear that something about the mysterious dust holds the key to something important.
  3. I find it rather interesting that the author who claims to be an atheist and who wrote "His Dark Materials" out of his hatred for God (the one true God; the father of Jesus) would pull from other religions (mostly cults actually) for inspiration for his fantasy, whether it was intentional or not.
Maybe the fact that I haven't read the book is where I'm missing some important information. Or perhaps it's because Pullman's agenda for "killing God in the eyes of children" doesn't begin to really appear until the second book (as I've read from many reviews) that this first movie doesn't truly have an anti-Christian feel to it.

What I do know is this. . .
  1. Those of us who are Christians need to learn that it's okay to have faith and ask questions.
  2. That authors such as Pullman are most likely less dangerous than a high school teacher that loves Walt Whitman and teaches Whitman's personal philosophies; or countless other authors that are being held in high regard and taught in high schools across our country.
  3. If Christians start banning the Golden Compass (as I've read the Catholic League is demanding of Catholics and many evangelical churches are suggesting to their congregations) then they are actually sounding a good bit like the Magisterium from the movie. No wonder some of the un-churched see the church as totalitarian dictator over the souls of people condemning them to hell for any wrong action.
  4. Christians need to stop being so loud about what they're against, because most people don't really know what we're for.
Lastly. . .it wasn't all that great of a movie.

Thoughts, Concerns, and Prayer Requests

These are really random, in no particular order, and just many of the things that have been running through my head:
  1. Youth ministry needs to make a shift to helping parents become better parents. There must be a shift from the expectation that the church is to raise their children and teach them "good morales" to the parents realizing it is their God-given duty to raise their children, and they do need help.
  2. Are there conferences out there designed for youth pastors to learn more about how to be an effective discipler of parents so they can be a better discipler of their children?
  3. Making sure the youth here at Kitty Hawk Baptist know I love them, I'll just be a phone call away, and I'm not disappearing from their life completely.
  4. Finding strong and healthy youth events to take youth to (I know Student Life is in the area, but no more WinterFest or The Call).
  5. Getting into the schools in Vero Beach. My father-in-law recommended becoming a substitute teacher to get plugged in to the schools. Sounds like a good plan to me.
  6. My sister-in-law is pregnant, but she has CF. So as much as a child being brought into the world is exciting news, there are really big, life-threatening, risks because of Tricia's CF. She really needs a double lung transplant but that's on hold for the baby. It sounds like she'll be put on the waiting list for lungs as soon as the baby is born.
  7. Tricia and Nathan (Tricia's husband) will most likely not be home for Christmas because of Tricia's weakened state, and that really saddens me.
  8. My wife and I are moving and that includes a lot: physically moving, asking friends to help us with the move, starting a new ministry (pretty much from scratch), making new friends, getting licensed to preach, training new volunteers and not having an experienced core group to start with.
  9. My wife being able to find a job in Vero Beach. One that pays pretty good money. Benefits would be really nice. She put her resume together this week and has sent it to 6 or 7 places so far. Most of the job listings we're finding are retail jobs and they're just not going to have the pay or benefits we are hoping for.
  10. My mom and dad just moved. My dad starts going to a bible college in Jan. and they're taking a really big leap of faith with their finances. Well they had someone who was buying their own house and the signing of the deal was this week but the buyer backed out. They have about 2 months worth of money which means they have 2 months to sell their old house and land before they're in really big trouble.
If you could take a moment to pray for one of these that would be more than greatly appreciated.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Do You Rescue Like Jesus Does? (Part 2)

Read Part 1 first or this really won't make sense.

This topic was split from part 1 on Dec. 5, 2007 because of it's length. If you read Part 1 before Dec. 4th then you have already read this portion.

Lots of Christians seem to hold to the first view—the world is a bad place and Jesus rescues us out of it to somewhere safe (heaven). But there are many Jesus-followers who hold to the second rescue definition. Christ has come to rescue the creation itself by transforming it so ultimately it will be freed from evil and God will live with his people in the new—or renewed—earth and heavens.

Now here's the tricky part. . .Jesus didn't just give us a gift and then abandon us. Those of us who are true followers of Christ have been given a gift and then He left us with a mission. He passed His work on to us so that now, we become the rescuers. The truth is, Christ spent far more time talking about rescuing by transformation than He did about escape. It wasn't just about one day being in heaven; it was also about being a transformed vessel that in turn becomes a vessel of transformation for our community and world. We're supposed to be in the work of helping lives to be transformed (God does the actual transforming but we get to be a part of the process, which ends up transforming us even more).

Are you ready to be a rescuer? Someone who will join Jesus in transforming the world? We don’t have to wait around for the final rescue (going to heaven). We can begin acts of transformation now.

If you pressed most people on what their dream is, it would be to see the world free from suffering, pain, and injustice—a creation healed. This is precisely the Christian vision of hope for the future and the kind of rescue Christ came to bring. It’s time to start getting people to know and be involved in the rescue plan.
  1. Which rescue by Jesus have you grown up believing? What does your church say?
  2. What kind of salvation did Jesus bring if it's only about rescue by escape?
  3. What kind of salvation did Jesus bring if it's only about rescue by transformation?
  4. Do you think it’s possible that the truth about salvation is somewhere in the middle? Or a combination of the two ideas?
  5. If rescue by escape is all about who's getting to go to heaven, then in what ways would rescue by transformation make Christianity more relevant for your friends?
  6. If our message to the un-churched is all about heaven and hell, who's in and who isn't, then doesn't the church become more like a social club?
  7. What if our message to the un-churched is Christ came to transform us in a world full of hurt and pain, and then to use us to help transform the lives of others?

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

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Do You Rescue Like Jesus Does?

This topic was split because of it's length.

Why did Jesus come into the world? What was the goal of his mission?

Lots of words are used to describe Jesus and what he came to do. But the one I want you to think about is Jesus coming to be a rescuer. Nearly every hero is involved in some type of rescue, and these rescues fall into two main types: rescue by escape and rescue by transformation.

Rescue by escape involves saving people from a bad or dangerous place to a place of safety. It's like a fireman that saves the child from a burning building. The fireman has rescued the child from taking him from the burning building.

Rescue by transformation involves changing peoples’ surroundings from bad or dangerous to good or safe. This rescue doesn’t involve physically taking people from a bad place to a good place—they end up being rescued, but they're still in the same place. This is like Batman trying to clean up Gotham City by striking fear into criminals. Batman hopes to rescue the city by transforming it into a better place. When we look around at the world we live in, I think we would all agree that there's a great need for us to be rescued (injustice, hatred, greed, racism, war, violence, environmental disasters, gossip, etc.).

Christians know Jesus is our rescuer, but which kind of rescue has he come to make? Is it rescue by escape—meaning he has primarily come to rescue us away from a dangerous place (earth) to somewhere safe (heaven)? Or is it rescue by transformation—meaning Jesus has come to rescue us by driving out the baddies (the devil and all types of evil) and transforming the world into a good and safe place so we can live again in peace?

Continuing reading in Part 2.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Kayaking on the Alligator River

Sarah and I got up at 5:45am to go kayaking with some of her co-workers at Kitty Hawk Kites to go kayaking on the Alligator River. I wasn't looking forward to it all that much. I'll be honest, I'm not much of a morning person. In fact, I fell asleep in the shower once trying to make it to a 6am meeting. Also, I was expecting it to be cold and the forecast was calling for rain.

When we woke up it was a little cold and it was barely raining outside. By the time we arrived at our location though it had warmed up considerably and the rain had stopped, and I was starting to wake up.

We kayaked for a little more than 2 hours and it was awesome! It was peaceful out there and beautiful! I love that I have a wife that enjoys this kind of stuff. . .and she get me to do this stuff when I'm feeling lazy.

Still Making Memories At Kitty Hawk Baptist

So a few weeks ago Sarah and I made it public that we're leaving Kitty Hawk Baptist Church and I had taken a position in Vero Beach, Florida as a youth pastor. We've been wondering if there would be a "fall-out" or some other complication with us leaving. One of our dear friends at the church said to Sarah and I this, "well those who love you are excited for you and think this a great opportunity for you, but those who didn't like you are happy too because you're leaving; either way, you win". And he is right. But what I'm loving is the love we're being shown.

Last night was youth group. The lesson went really well and it got the kids really thinking about how Christ come to be an agent of transformation in our life and that we in turn are to be an agent of transformation in the lives of others around us. We get to be heroes. The kids got it which shows me the news of me leaving isn't distracting them from the message.

But here's where it was really awesome. . .

After the lesson was over and small groups were done I looked to Sarah and just asked her if she was okay with us going out to eat. With her saying yes I asked, who wanted to go out to eat. After goofing off and joking around for a while we finally came to the decision to go to Five Guys (a great burger place).

The conversations we had were a mixture of what's next for the youth group to some of them wanting to come down and visit for spring break. A lot of the questions for what's going to happen next with youth group I couldn't answer, but the questions they were asking were important ones and it bothered me that I don't know what's going to happen and a big part of me is afraid for them (something I would rather not go into detail about right now).

They were asking about what the church was like. One youth was talking about how she would plan her spring break to come see us and asked us if it would be okay. We told all the youth to come, which I would LOVE! They were talking about Sarah and I still trying to go to Honduras on the mission trip I had been planning for them, but we have others stepping in to do that (we will need to place all of our focus on the new ministry God has put us in). They were even trying to talk us into taking whatever youth group I have in Florida and joining them. Of course we don't know what we can and can't do yet, or what will be best to do, but that's not what I was hearing from them. I was hearing, "Sarah and Terry, we love you and we're really going to miss you."

I love them too! And I going to miss them.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

A Special Christmas

Life has been extremely busy lately, especially since my announcement to the church that I have taken another position in Florida. But yesterday I think it finally hit me. . .Christmas is here.

I think a build up of emotions, stress, and too much to do sort of numbed my excitement, but two nights ago Sarah and I went to "The Festival of Trees", a local charity event. There we saw the Mile Post 13 band (the worship band at Nags Head Church) and that really got me into the holiday mood. Check out the videos, on my bother-in-law's blog, of them playing (he's their leader). These guys did such a phenomenal job! It was beautiful!

I think what also helped the spirit of Christmas "hit me" was I spent some time yesterday sneaking around getting gifts for Sarah (my wife on the right with our dog). That was fun!

I'm really looking forward to this Christmas. It will be the first Christmas Sarah and I share together. It will be the first time since I was a teenager that I will be with a larger family for Christmas (the Lawrensons). Exchanging gifts with the Lawrensons. Food!

I think what is exciting me most of all is that I now have a family, Sarah. And I get to share this wonderful time of year with her. She has made Christmas so fun! She's been putting together homemade advent calendars for the youth. She decorated the tree very unlike what I'm used to. I'm used to throwing everything but the kitchen sink on it. When I look at our tree it feels warm and inviting. Sarah has made our place look like a home. Sarah has also been saying "you're not allowed to ask questions this time of year" to me a lot. . .which is fun. PRESENTS!!