Tuesday, October 30, 2007

What the Detroit Lions Have Taught Me

I have a confession to make this morning. I'm a "die-hard" Detroit Lions fan. I always have been, from my earliest recollections as a kid. And "no," I'm not one of those fair-weather Lions fans who shuns them until there is at least some measure of competitive spirit in their game. I've watched them nearly every Sunday afternoon for over 30 years and like the apostle Paul, I've learned how to be content in all situations-whether they are good or bad.

So, this year I'm happy to say that my Lions are actually playing well. They aren't flashy and they aren't setting any records for most points scored (except for in the 4th Quarter against the Bears) but they are starting to win games that they would normally lose. They are starting to believe in themselves, their coaches, and the system that has been put in place.

I wonder how much more effective we could be as Christians if we truly "bought in" to the Christian life that we say we are following. Many Christians never learn to "win" on a regular basis because they fail to draw strength from their one true source. Paul tells us in 1 Timothy 4:7 to "train yourself to be godly." How much time do we really spend training ourselves to live the wonderful spirit-filled life that he wants all of us to live. As a pastor, I'm not saying this is easy. Even I have a tough time placing enough solid time in my schedule for this training. However, as a pastor, I will say it is necessary. Much like the Detroit Lions, who would never be where they are today (5-2) without proper workouts, training and practice, we too need to study our playbook (The Bible). Then and only then, will we start "winning" more often. So, if your reading this blog, please start reading your Bible instead.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Church Planting

I'm back! After three fun filled days of assessing potential church planters, I've made it back with little time to spare in preparation for Sunday. Thankfully I have a great team in place that has made my Sunday mornings a lot easier of late.

After being assessed myself only five months ago, it was a bit surreal being on the other side as an assessor. As I sat there, I suddenly realized the immensity of the task that we were called to perform - in the end to tell the candidates whether or not they could be a church planter based on what we (the assessors) saw during the course of the three days. It was an awesome responsibility and it was great to hear about their life stories and how it is they made it to this point in their life where they were willing to step out in faith as potential church planters. As God's word states, the harvest is plenty, but the workers are few. We need more and more people to step out in faith and follow after God's leading.

Overall, it was a great movement to be part of and I look forward to doing it again.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Kitchen Nightmares

Chef Gordon Ramsey and his show, Kitchen Nightmares, has become a regularly watched show in our house once our children are in bed. Now, let me make it clear that I don't appreciate nor do I condone the profanity that seems to come out of his mouth on a regular basis. If you haven't seen the show before, let's just say that he has a potty mouth. Better yet, you could probably say that he curses like a sailor. Nevertheless, behind all of this lies a complete restaurant makeover that I'd like to comment about.

The premise behind the show is that "world famous" chef Ramsey goes to a restaurant that is floundering, that is struggling to stay in business. Their glory days are gone and they are on the verge of closing the doors unless something changes. Just last night, such was the case with The Old Stone Mill, 45 minutes north of Manhattan. While the outside of the restaurant was mostly presentable, the inside was another story. Most notably, the food was really bad! After a few days of observing the restaurant, watching the staff and chef work, and even eating the food, Ramsey offers his rather startling conclusions-the need to change the menu and offer something that people will come back to. In this case, after a quick survey of the restaurants nearby, Ramsey concludes that there really are no Steakhouses. Therefore, his conclusion is that The Old Stone Mill needs to become the one Steakhouse in town that people will be drawn to. After closing the restaurant down for a few days, the makeover is done and they relaunch the place as an upscale Steakhouse. In the end, it's a hit and the steakhouse really starts to take off. A fairy tale ending you might say.

What struck me about this show is how much this has been like our experience at Wilson Ave. Wesleyan Community Church which has now been reopened or relaunched as The Voyage Church. When something is obviously not working, churches (like the Old Stone Mill) need to be willing to change what they are doing. As someone once said, we don't need more churches like the kinds of churches that people are already not going to. Churches need to be culturally relevant and what's culturally relevant in one town, one place, may not be in another. It just depends. You wouldn't want to open up a Steakhouse in every town, but in that particular instance highlighted above, it made sense. Likewise, churches can't nor should they, duplicate each other and somehow think that it will work. Each situation calls for its own unique solution.
And churches need to be constantly looking at how the culture around them is changing and be willling to change along with it. Otherwise, churches will quickly lose their relevancy and will look nothing like the community that surrounds them.

I say all of this to highlight the fact that The Voyage Church must continue to keep in step with the community we are trying to reach. While we could easily get caught up in what we like or our creature comforts, we need to we students of our culture and be in tune with what's changing. Change is inevitable-it's going to happen. The question is whether or not churches will be willing to change too. Even if it means closing our doors for a time, maybe that's not a bad thing in order to reinvent ourselves and to make church the city on a hill that will shine for all the world to see.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Off and Running!

I'm excited to tell you that The Voyage Church is off and running!

Our goals were met (75 or more) with 86 present for our first ever service! It's amazing what God can do if we will just believe. I can remember praying that prayer the day before-you know, the words that Thomas spoke, "Lord, help my unbelief." Even though I went out of my way to tell several people that we'd have the 75 or more, there were still doubts in the back of my mind that needed to be eased.

We have a lot of work to do, but I'm really jazzed by how God answers the prayers of his saints. I'm also wrestling with the possibility that maybe we don't ask enough of God. Perhaps praying for 75 wasn't enough of a challenge for God. As we continue pressing on, I'm praying that we hit the 100 mark sooner rather than later and that the momentum we've created can be sustained well into the future.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Anxious Moments

On the eve of the eve of our launch as The Voyage Church, the nerves are starting to get the best of me. There is so much to do and our time is growing rather short. We don't have everything in place and we most certainly don't have it all figured out. We'll be setting up on Saturday night (which should help relieve the tension some) but we'll also have another team of people doing outreach at a local community event. I'm bound to forget something or at least have the feeling that we could have done something more or better. This is when the perfectionist in me tends to speak the loudest.

However, today I'm also reminded of Paul's words (but my paraphrase) - Don't be anxious about stuff, but lift up this stuff to God and he will help you. Well, right now, I have a lot of stuff to lift up to God and maybe you do to. If life is getting the best of you, don't let it! Tell God what's bothering you and let him handle it. In fact, that's what I'm going to do right now.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Sitting in the Smoking Section

As I think about what church is, I like what one of my former professors at Asbury, Howard Snyder, has to say in his well known book, The Problem of Wineskins:

The gospel says, "Go," but our church buildings say, "Stay."

The gospel says, "Seek the lost," but our churches say, "Let the lost seek the church."

Or, as Neil Cole puts it:

"If you want to win the world to Christ, you are going to have to sit in the smoking section."

This is a reminder that church isn't just a once a week thing, but should make up the essence of our everyday lives which are spent "in the world." And it's in this world, in the smoking section, that we find the lost. Don't leave the world and try to shelter yourself from it. Instead, engage the world and by doing so, the power of the gospel through your witness will shine for all to see and the lost will be found.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Catch That Lion!

Courage is a crazy sort of thing. Sometimes I have it and sometimes I don't. I wish that I could say that as soon as one becomes a Christian, fear is immediately erased. Unfortunately, it isn't. In the words of Pastor Mark Batterson, sometimes I do feel like I could chase a lion into a pit on a snowy day while other days I feel like cowering in the corner somewhere because the pressures and decisions of this world get to be a bit too much.

Maybe you've had those same fears and maybe they have kept you from taking that leap of faith that you know God is calling you to take. Even though you can't see far enough ahead to know whether or not your leap will pan out, if it is God's will for you, you need to take it. Maybe it's a vocational decision. Maybe it's so big of a decision that it will completely turn your family inside out. Regardless, if God has called you to move in a different direction, don't hesitate too long lest you live a life of constant regret. I've seen that in my own family and it's painful to watch. I've even experienced it myself. Even though these HUGE decisions in life are scary, God will help you every step of the way. For he didn't give us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, love, and self discipline. May His power be with you!