Category Archives: Church

Just Jesus

During our kids’ service at church yesterday, I was scheduled to emcee as usual. For the most part, that involves introducing an entertaining video that has been an effective way to engage the youngsters in the Word before going to a small group setting for more intimate learning. Circumstance had a different plan though. The video was no where to be found. The Adventures of Johnny Rogers has been canceled, at least for this week.

Big deal, right? If you’re picturing a handful of preoccupied kids “watching” a VHS on a 26 inch TV strapped to a rolling cart, try this on for size: 40+ high-energy first through fifth graders with their eyes fixed on a propped out, pimped out stage with over a half dozen accent/spotlights where I stand with my hands-free microphone projecting out of the bumpin’ sound system in front of two 10-foot hi-def projection screens displaying first-class custom media related to the day’s message; and this is the regular routine that most of these neophytes have come to be familiar with and even expect. (That’s just how we do church at Elevation). Therein lies the problem though, or part of it anyway. They are expecting all the bells and whistles that they are accustomed to.

The other part. We need to be on our game; how we play is crucial, especially this week. This is a “must-win” for a play-off berth. From holiday travelers to C.E.O.’s (Christmas and Easter Only visitors) to hearts that just seem softer around this time of the year, the Christmas season tends to bring added opportunities to reach the lost. Now is not the time to fumble the ball; it’s time to throw a touchdown pass.

With the intention of killing time while an alternate video (or plan) was found, I hopped back onto the stage when it hit me. (And this is what I tried to convey to the kids, I think successfully). The Lord often speaks to us through rather ordinary circumstances. There were no videos during Jesus’ times, just Jesus. It seems that a tool that we routinely use to present the Gospel can also divert us from that same Gospel. But not today, not when the message must be clear, concise, and undiluted. Jesus needs no video to capture hearts nor do we to meet Him. He needs no embellishments. He’s Jesus and He is all we need. And that’s what the message was about. I guess you can say it was a pretty good Christmas message!

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The Great Omission?

I was once trying to witness to a guy who had a lot of personal pain. It was easy to see his hurt when he started opening up to me. We had several long conversations over the course of the next couple of weeks and I sensed that I was getting in over my head. He had issues that was beyond my ability to help in any practical way so I continually insisted that he come to church. I knew that if I could at least get him to church, it would be a good first step in pointing him in the direction of some real help. I finally had to get emphatic and insistent saying, “You say you want help but I’m not seeing it. I’ve been inviting you to church and you have yet to come.” He later divulged the reason for: Our church meets in local high school auditoriums and he is restricted as a registered sexual offender from coming within 1,000 feet of a school. Had our services been held in a traditional church setting, there would have been no legal restrictions to him coming. Having an 11 year-old daughter, I must admit that it was a little bit of a struggle to remain objective and non-judgemental. I mean, he absolutely needs Christ, maybe even more than the next guy, but do I want him sitting next to my daughter in service? What are your thoughts?

Does your pursuit of reaching the lost for Christ have limits?

How comfortable are you knowing that there could be sexual offenders going to the same church as your family? If you became aware of an offender attending your church, would you act differently toward the person or would it even matter?

Stinkin’ Thinkin’

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As you walk into the worship experience at my church on Sundays, they hand you an ink pen along with the worship guide (bulletin) with which to take notes during the service, write prayer requests, etc. Two weeks ago, Tina got a faulty pen. You could click the pen open but you couldn’t click it closed. The only way to close it was to press the tip against something. At one point, she actually pressed the tip of the pen into the cover of my Bible to get it closed (for that, she’s going to hell I’m sure).

Well this week, I was the victim. After taking my first note, wouldn’t you know it, the pen wouldn’t close. With a couple of thousand people coming through two different entrances at two different services each week, I quickly dismissed the possibility that I got the same ink pen as my wife did the previous week. So as the pastor was preaching on debt and how blessed we are, I couldn’t keep my mind from wandering to how cheap these pens must have been. As I continued to play with the pen during the sermon, I got it to close (on accident of course). It turns out that the pen closes when the pocket clip is pressed. It was then that I realized that it wasn’t the pen that was broken, but my thinking; my perspective was second-rate, not the ink pen.

Have you ever done that? Do you sometimes have stinkin’ thinkin’? Do you count your costs when you should be counting your blessings? Is there an area in your life that might appear to be a burden but is actually a blessing if you examine it more closely or look at it from a different angle?

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. ~Romans 12:2

Who has more balls?

Open mouth, insert foot. That’s what I needed to do Sunday at church. I volunteer as an MC for the children’s program (grades 1 thru 5). My job is basically to introduce the video lesson that gets projected onto a huge screen and then to quiz the kids when the video is over. The kids are divided into teams and each team is given points, awarded with plastic balls, for each question answered correctly. When it came time to tally up the points and find a winner, this is what I said, “Being on God’s Team, we are all winners but let’s see which team here has more balls.” Apparently, kids aren’t the only ones that “say the darnedest things.” The moment it came out of my mouth, I knew I made a boo-boo; and that was confirmed by the expression of silent chuckles on the faces of all the adults in the room. Thankfully, I don’t think any of the kids are familiar enough with the lewd figure of speech to understand it. Thankfully, God has a sense of humor (I’m proof). Most importantly, God is a God of second chances so they may still let me work with the kids again next week.

Love and Marriage (oh, and Sex too)

Sunday’s message was the start of what’s sure to be one of my fav’s. Coming off a spellbinding and soul-finding series called The Gospel, where we saw over 900 people come to Christ and record attendance of over 4,500 people in the short life of our church, this week begins a series on what I believe to be one of the most important issues of the day concerning the proliferation of the life-changing gospel (talk about a run-on sentence). Visionary Love, Dream Sex, believe it or not, is about family. More specifically, it’s about the relationships that embody family like finding the right partner with which to start a family, dating, maintaining purity prior to marriage, nurturing your relationship, and how to be the best spouse you can be.

The deterioration of the family unit is a cause of many of today’s social issues. With divorce at an all time high, even in the church, you have fatherless homes like never before, increased pressure on single parent families, a rise in teenage pregnancy, more people finding fulfillment in illegal substances, sexual immorality that is off the chart, and a resulting stress on our social programs and subsequent effects on the economy. Personally, I’m a divorcee who’s been both a victim and offender of infidelity so I have seen some of this first hand. With courage and God’s grace, I am now a victor and that’s much better. Love, marriage, and where they intersect with sex are a big deal.

This series has a message for all stages of life and all but the youngest of ages. While other churches find speaking of sex to be taboo or tip-toe around it when they do, Elevation Church shoots straight; instead of running from the culture, they speak into it. And Pastor Steven Furtick has a brazen, take no prisoners style that allows him to deliver the message with a conviction that will grab hold of anyone who listens. I thank God for him and Elevation.

Listen to the message in its entirety right here:

Cool Pastor, Hot Church

Also, Elevation made the front page of the Charlotte Observer for the second time this year. Not for scandal or heresy, but for dominating the city of Charlotte with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Praise God!

Universal

I bought a Universal Keypad for entry into the house through the garage. I found out that “Universal” is not that universal at all. It turns out that my garage door opener is too old for the current technology. It doesn’t matter that I can program the code because without a keypad that is universal and able to “connect” to my garage door opener, the code is useless.

One thing that never changes and is truly universal is the Savior of the World, Jesus Christ. He died once and for all. It’s hopeless to have the “door,” though, if you don’t know the code to open it. While Christ is the gate to an eternity in Heaven with Father God, you must develop a relationship with Christ (know Him) to enter. Your salvation, then, is universal but only if you know the “code.”

Unfortunately, we have come to assume that because our Savior is universal, then there must be a universal or “one size fits all” approach to developing that relationship with Christ. Whether you have a service that is traditional or “yesterday” or contemporary, whether you sing hymns or bellow out harmonious gospel songs or rock down the house, whether you wear some sort of holy wardrobes or formal attire or jeans and a t-shirt, whether you have a pastor that is old and studied or middle-aged and polished or young and hip, whether you read scrolls or the King James Version or the Message Bible, and whether you meet in a church under the steeple or in someone’s house or in an amphitheater full of people, the only centrality is Christ. If you are growing in your relationship with Christ, then the style or delivery of the message is irrelevant. One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God, one message, a variety of strategies. Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty!

Cleanliness is Next to Godliness

Well, I don’t know if I can support this Biblically, but it sure is practical. Nurses often have the reputation of being clean freaks and this nurse is no different. For the second time in the last several months, I have witnessed fellow church volunteers use the bathroom and then walk out without washing their hands. GROSS!!!

No, I’m not some kind of bathroom monitor, but over a decade and half in health care makes it difficult not to notice. And sadly, I find it all too common. In fact, in a busy public restroom like at a movie theater or at a sports stadium, I have witnessed this several times within a matter of minutes. If you’re under the impression that I’m just referring to men, you’re wrong. Ask my wife about the woman at the movie theater who was biting her fingernails and eating popcorn afterwards.

Besides just being poor hygiene and a violation of the most basic infection control practices, this is just disgusting! I expect more out of human beings and even hold church volunteers/ministers to a higher level. If your going to be shaking hands, placing your hands on equipment, and loving on people in general, it is imperative that you wash your hands. Nobody wants your “private” life made public. Excellence in ministry goes beyond what you do when in plain sight of others. When your representing the Gospel, everything you do should reflect that responsibility, yes, even what you do behind closed doors.

Whether you’re of average Joe or Mother Teresa caliber, you are not exempt. Wash your hands after using the bathroom. Or at the very least, keep your hands to yourself.