Month: June 2012

Off to Camp…

What a week! I am so ashamed my blogging has not been consistent this past week. I have so many more thoughts to write about the Church and to finish my Losing a friend series. I also can’t wait to blog about a new community that I am helping launch in the fall called Thrive!

But, till then, I have to get ready for summer camp. This morning our family is packing up and heading to Miracle Camp for a week of summer camp where I’ll be teaching a great group of middle school students.

Our family has traveled to dozens to camps and I have spoke at summer camps since 1998 and I still love it!

I believe in camp! I am a HUGE proponent of camp and know that God uses these experiences to be incredible catalysts in students lives.

It’s an honor to be a part of this week and I can’t wait to see what God does in these students lives.

Off to camp!

The Church pt. 2

I grew up in a very traditional Church. We had a HUGE organ. Our Pastors wore robes. Everybody wore their Sunday best. We sang hymns. We said prayers that I didn’t understand. There was always donuts. There were kneelers. The wine was REAL!!

We did the same thing every week…

One day it dawned on me that no one looked like they wanted to be there. I started paying attention to people as they sang and said those prayers. I paid attention to people as they talked to each other. I listened closely to the Pastor as he taught and I really paid attention to the adults to see if they were paying attention.

Then I noticed something…no one seemed to be passionate or excited about what was happening.

Now, don’t get me wrong. That is a very broad generalization. But, I did notice when people did get excited and I realized that happened whenever anybody tried to change something!

Gosh, I remember sitting outside of meetings that my parents were a part of and hearing people yell about the smallest things. I remember when our Pastor started to play his guitar during the service…WHOA…you would have thought that he had welcomed in Satan himself.

I was 13 years old

It was during those years that I started to sense that I had a deep longing to love God and to love people. I know that sounds so simplistic to say. But, I can still remember the middle school retreat when God  became real to me. It was like a light bulb went off.

[MOM & DADS...that's why we need to get our kids on retreats!]

That’s when my relationship with God became real. It became passionate. It became exciting! 

Then the floor dropped out from underneath me…that’s when everything seemingly came crashing down. You see, many people in that Church didn’t like some of the changes that were being made. That’s when I started to see the community of God at it’s worse. And really, it all stemmed from a…

Lack of Genuine Community

AND

The Fear to Change

Not much has changed since then. Churches still lack a genuine focus around these two incredibly foundational areas. Churches spend so much time, energy, and money chasing after programs and events that they eventually find themselves in a rut because those programs and events have become the focus of the Church. Then, when anybody suggests change, sometimes…you see community at it’s worse.

It is my belief and I believe it to my core that Churches are suffering from a lack of genuine community and the fear to change. I believe it’s these elements that helped drive the early Church to explosive growth and incredible community. This is laid out in Acts 2:41-47…

That day about three thousand took him at his word, were baptized and were signed up. They committed themselves to the teaching of the apostles, the life together, the common meal, and the prayers.Everyone around was in awe—all those wonders and signs done through the apostles! And all the believers lived in a wonderful harmony, holding everything in common. They sold whatever they owned and pooled their resources so that each person’s need was met.They followed a daily discipline of worship in the Temple followed by meals at home, every meal a celebration, exuberant and joyful, as they praised God. People in general liked what they saw. Every day their number grew as God added those who were saved”

Community and Change are two elements that I believe the Church has to embrace and has to love.

In tomorrow’s post I’ll unpack exactly what I think that looks like…yikes!

The Church pt. 1

For 17 years I served the local Church with great amounts passion and energy. I believe to my core that I gave the Church the best of what I had to give. I was taught a strong work ethic as a child and I believe I brought that to the Churches I served at. And…it wasn’t hard to do because…

I love the Church.

I believe with everything that I am that the local Church is the hope of the world. I absolutely agree with the author and vision caster of that statement, Bill Hybels. When I worked at Willow Creek Church, it never got old hearing Bill say those words. It never did because he was so incredibly passionate about them and he believed it to his core.

The funny thing is, I actually never wanted to work at a Church when I was growing up. People told me all the time as a kid that I would be a pastor someday. My parents, my Pastors, my teachers and even my friends. But, I refused. I was going to be a music teacher. But, that all changed in July of 1994. I was at a Sunday school convention and I heard the whisper of the Holy Spirit on my heart and I knew that God was calling me to be a Pastor.

So, I changed schools. Transferred from Eastern Michigan University to William Tyndale Bible College and started to work on a degree in Pastoral Studies. Then, I noticed an ad on the job board for a youth pastor and it was a Church in my own neighborhood. I applied and long story short, I got the job.

That started my love for the Church!

From that point I gave the Church everything I had. I loved her and I believed that there was nothing more important in life than the Kingdom. There was and is nothing better than seeing the light bulb come on inside someone’s heart and life when they become passionately in love with Jesus.

That was 17 years ago and I’m still as passionate, if not more, about the Church today.

The Church has been a great love of mine over the years. Honestly speaking, too much at times. There were seasons in my life that I loved the Church more than I loved my wife. There were many seasons that I gave the Church my best time, my best energy, my best thoughts and my family got the scraps.

There have been seasons where I was so angry and frustrated at the people who made the decisions for the Church, that I almost walked away from the Church. There have been seasons where I experienced so much joy from the people who made up the Church because of their amazing hearts and their passion to reach people.

At my core, after 17 years of serving and working for the ‘Church’ and spending my entire life growing up in a Church, I whole-heartedly agree with Billy Hybels that…

The local Church is the hope of the world…when it is working right.

How to be a great friend…

It’s no secret that I love my friends!It’s no secret that I believe friendships and relationships are one of the most important parts of life.

I love relationships. I love starting new ones and I love building into old ones.

I believe that God created us to be in community with each other and because of that, we should put GREAT energy and effort into building our relationships.

I’m shocked when I talk with people who share that they just don’t have time to pour into new relationships or their old ones. It really makes me scratch my head and makes me wonder how they do life operating that way.

The reality is…we really won’t get anywhere as human beings if we don’t make our relationships a priority. It’s no wonder that some of the same people who complain about life are the ones who spend no time pouring into others. So, I’ve been thinking about how I can be a great friend and here are some of my simple thoughts.

Here are a few thoughts on how to be a great friend…

1. Always answer the phone. Simple. Nothing is worse than continually getting a close friend’s voicemail. Or, if you call me, just hearing the phone ring and ring. Let me explain that. When I went with the cheapest cell phone known to man, I couldn’t figure out how to set up the voicemail and even the people at AT & T couldn’t help. So, I have no voicemail. I have one through my google voice number, but I need to get it set up on my phone.

Here’s my thought on answering the phone. If the person is a close friend and they’re in your core relationships…ANSWER!! If you’re busy, answer and ask if you can call them back or text them. It means a ton when your friend knows your available to them.

2. Send Thank You cards! Remind your friends over and over with the power of the written word! Now, not everyone loves getting a card in the mail, but most do! If someone gives you great advice, thank them! If someone gives you something, thank them! You get the hint.

3. Pray for them everyday! Slow down long enough to pray! Period. Stop making excuses and go to God on behalf of your friends and ask God for His blessing on their life.

4. Speak the truth. This one is tough! There are times when our friends need someone who will say the things that no one else is saying. There are times when our friends need someone to ask the hard questions. DO IT! But…do it in a way that honors and loves your friend. They may not like it at the time, but eventually they will.

Be a great friend!