I’ve been thinking about politics lately. No, I’m not thinking of getting involved; actually just the opposite or close to it. I had a conversation with my niece a while back and I believe this train of thought got started from reading Steven’s or Rich’s or Larry’s blog.
I keep seeing “religious” groups fighting legislation or demonstrating against certain things. I hear of Pastors and other religious leaders speaking out against political directives. I’m pretty sure that this isn’t our job. And by our, I mean Christians. Before you stone me, let me explain.
The goal or mission of the “church” (body of believing Christians) is to simply make disciples and baptize them. You can’t argue that; it’s from Jesus’ mouth. The purpose of the political machine is to operate a government in the best interests of the voting majority of its citizens. The first amendment isn’t as confusing as we have argued. It simply stops the government from creating an official national religion and keeps the government from prohibiting its citizens to practice religion. So from looking at the missions of the to organizations, there is no conflict.
Our job is to present Christ and allow Him to change people. It is not to change legislation. If we do our job effectively then hopefully the values and beliefs of Christianity will be represented in the voting majority and then policies and legislation will change. Just my thoughts. Any arguments?
Have you ever made a decision that you’re really glad you made afterward but while you’re in it you think you were an idiot? I had such an experience last night.
After our whirlwind trip around South Carolina (over 1,000 miles traveled; not a lot in a trip but to have only been in one state and that state to be SC is a bit ridiculous) I decided that I needed to be in the office today. That required a trip home on Monday. We wanted to spend a little more time with the family so we made our plans to make the drive home after 8:00pm while the girls were sleeping.
We had a wonderful time downtown capped off by lunch at Sticky Fingers. After a bit of a nap we packed up and had dinner with the family at Wild Wings. Our trip home started from the Wild Wing parking lot at about 8:30pm. I felt good for the first couple of hours after Rylee finally fell asleep. But somewhere between Columbia and Greenville I started to feel like I had made a terrible decision. Anita woke up and talked a little to help me out. Good thing she did because I would have missed an exit that could have made the trip an hour or more longer.
Around 12:30am in Lavonia, Georgia, we stopped for gas. I realized what an incredible family God has built around me as I sat there at the Exxon in Lavonia. My girls both woke up. Savannah Grace was too cute walking in her slippers out of the store holding her little bag of Cheez-its. Rylee was content with her bottle in the truck and then my incredible wife insisted on driving the last leg of the trip. She knew I was tired and had to get up and come to work today. I am so thankful for what God has entrusted me with. I pray that as these little angels become angry and emotional sixteen year olds I will remember the lessons I learned at the Lavonia, Georgia, Exxon.
Today we went to church with my grandma. As a matter of fact, this was probably the first time since I was in High School that my parents, my sister and I have been in church together. My grandma goes to a traditional Baptist church. The very same church I attended as a teenager. Aside from a new gymnasium and some building upgrades, nothing has changed. They do however have a “contemporary” early service. I’m not blogging about my judgemental point of view on the service; I’m blogging about one individual I observed in the service.
I didn’t even notice him until we started singing. We were singing some old hymns that I seemed to remember vaguely. I heard him singing loudly behind me. Not annoyingly loud but loud. He started to sing the wrong words and didn’t stop. He was just singing proudly and enjoying every minute of it. You just knew by hearing him that this was one of his favorite things about the week. This young man had Down Syndrome. I wish I could sing like that. I wish I could behave in a manner that showed others that I just didn’t care about their approval. I wish our churches provided atmospheres where children grew up encouraging each other to worship, serve, live in a way that honored God alone. It was wonderful to hear someone singing not to be heard. It was great to hear the “noise” that God asks us for. It was an honor to hear a true worshipper.
My girls love the beach. We knew Savannah Grace loved the ocean but this was Rylee’s first real trip to the beach. I say “first real trip” because the only other time she’s been is when she was about two and a half months old. Not a lot you can do at that age. We had a great time this morning playing in the water and getting sand in every possible place imaginable. We were a little concerned about the weather but as we drove across the connector the clouds parted and we had perfect beach conditions.
Tonight Anita is throwing a jewelry party for all the girls in my family here in Charleston. Here’s hoping she does well so we’ll have gas money for the drive home. My dad and I will be on duty with the girls tonight. Big day tomorrow, beach with the fam and then cheering on the Charleston Battery with my dad and my boy Micheal. Thanks for taking the day off Mike. We’re still trying to figure out when we’re going to gorge ourselves on some Sticky Fingers while we’re here. Fun, fun, fun.
A quick word to explain where I’ve been; we are on…what I’m told many people call vacation. However, when you’re traveling more than one hour with a three year old and a ten month old, vacation isn’t exactly what comes to mind. We’ve finished one big part of our adventure. We went to Mullins, SC for the graduation of a student from my old Youth group. I’m sure it’s just a matter of chance that two girl from my youth group were the validictorians in two of the last three years. I’m positive it is because I’m quite sure I can’t even spell validictorian right. The wierd thing is that they’re both named Brittany and pursuing Pharmacy as a career path. So Congrats Brittany! I’m very proud of you. I hope my willingness to come back to that time warp of a town communicates how much I still care for you and all of the people we spent those two years with.
Now we’re in Charleston hoping for a nice week of relaxation. I’m going to try and get my mom to spend the night with the girls so Anita and I can go see the new Pirate’s movie. I think I’m going to get to see the Battery play on Saturday night too! With camp coming up soon and so much travel going on in the summer and fall it’s important that I disengage and focus on my time at home. I know people I work with might think I do that enough as it is but I would rather be pulled back by my boss asking me to spend a little more time in the office than by my wife or daughters after I’ve missed some major family moments. I’ve seen and know too many men and women who work in churches and ministry organizations that have burned themselves out and lost their families because of the habits they formed doing "the Lord’s work." If you haven’t read Choosing to Cheat, you need to. It doesn’t matter if you’re in ministry or the corporate world this book could change your life. If you don’t have the money to buy it, email me and I’ll get it to you somehow.
I felt a lot of responsibility this past weekend. Saturday we had our final soccer game with the U-8 boys team I’ve been coaching. We did our little ceremony before the game where I handed out awards and gave a little speech. I felt like I needed to give a testimony of sorts and explain that my life was centered on my faith. I wasn’t sure of the “spiritual condition” of the families of most of my boys. I went for it anyway. Turned out to be a great opportunity for some of the families to invite the others to church.
Sunday was a big day! First off I had to let two groups of people know that we were dissolving our Sixth Grade Ministry Environment, InnerMission. We told our band first which was difficult since some of them had been with us for almost the entire three years we’ve been doing InnerMission. They handled it well and seemed appreciative that we wanted to tell them specifically. We then had our Mock InnerMissiion where the upcoming sixth graders and parents come to a shortened version of what Middle School Ministry looks like at North Point. I was nervous about telling them that their student would only have two months of sixth grade specific ministry before being absorbed back into Xtreme with the seventh and eighth graders. That meeting went quite well also. I was impressed with the amount of trust that the parents extended to us.
Finally I officiated my first wedding last night. Talk about a feeling of responsibility! I had to wear a robe and everything. I didn’t think I would be nervous but I was a bit. The thing that surprised me is how much I enjoyed being in that role. As I was walking Tyler and Janai through the vows, I couldn’t help but get caught up in how amazing the idea of marriage is and the symbolism in our relationship with Christ. I am truly thankful that God would allow me to serve Him in such a place of honor.
As I said, I believe we as a church have stopped being intentional. Whether you find yourself at a liturgical, traditional, contemporary or some other label of church, if we assume people will jump in without explanation, we have missed the mark of church.
Here’s an example I observed today that I think explains my point. I was in McDonald’s enjoying the high-quality food and service. As I was making sure that my daughter didn’t get stuck and push any of the other children down the slides I saw an interesting conversation happening. You must understand that one of my favorite pastimes is people watching. I saw a man approach a woman and begin talking. He had a “to go” bag in hand and she was eating in. I thought it would be fun to watch him “hit” on this woman. As they finished speaking he turned and in the middle of the restaurant and proceeded to put the bag of food down his shirt. Yep, down his shirt. I watched him leave to see where this was going and saw that he was riding a motorcycle. A totally understandable explanation to why he put the food down his shirt. But in the middle of McDonald’s his behavior seemed very strange and without a possible explanation other than insane.
This is what I think many young students feel as they walk into worship services. “Why are they doing that? Don’t they know how strange it looks?” They see some people engaging physically, some emotionally, and some just simply observing or resisting. No one is telling them the purpose of the songs or music or worship in general. We must anticipate new people each time we hold a service. Not only in the event that someone new actually comes but to give purpose and context to each item on the production order and action in the room. For those of you at North Point serving with me in Middle School, please call us out if and when we do this. Let us know that we need to stop assuming. Help us give context by teaching your students in opportunities outside the service. Let’s begin giving our students a chance to understand, engage and enjoy what we know worship can be.
Here are some thoughts I’ve found myself saying in several conversations with some ministry buddies of mine. I’ve been noticing a similar occurrence in student ministry environments both at North Point and at many other churches in different parts of the country. We started addressing the issue here at North Point in the last six months or so. The issue is the apparent lack of involvement or enjoyment in worship for young students.
We’ve noticed a distinct difference in the “energy” or level of engagement from our students during regular Sunday morning service. I’m simply going to give you the reason I believe this is happening. I’m not saying it’s the only reason, but I do believe it’s a solid and major part of the problem.
As I watch our students during the music portion of our worship services lately, I’m seeing the same attitude and body language that I’ve observed in many traditional churches all my life. I think we’ve stopped being intentional about our explanation and leading of worship. Over the last ten to twelve years the “Modern Worship Movement” brought a fresh feel, sound and look to worship. Led by groups like Louie Giglio and Passion, Billy and Cindy Foote, Matt Redman, Vineyard and the barrage of Contemporary Christian bands like Third Day, Michael W. Smith doing worship albums. The younger generation found something they had unknowingly been craving in church: an emotional, mental and physical connection to faith.
I believe that the traditional hymns started with the same heart. Many of the hymns were written with strong personal reflections. Some were even rewritten pub songs to give the congregations a recognizable tune. It was fresh, new, and personal. Over time however, the church stopped being intentional. They stopped teaching and assumed that everyone who attended church understood what the songs were about and where they were birthed. The same has happened in just ten or so years after the first Passion meeting. Our younger students weren’t here for the dynamic shift in worship styles. They don’t feel the difference. Chris Tomlin and Lincoln Brewster are the new Gaithers. David Crowder and his unique point of view is for them the equivalent of Isaac Watts. We’ve stopped teaching; stopped explaining; stopped being intentional. We have assumed that they “get it.” We’ve asked them to catch up to us and our “spiritual depth” (sorry I haven’t figured out how to type sarcasm.)
Now that I’ve pushed you into a defensive uproar, I’ll leave this post to finish tomorrow. Any thoughts?
There is a distinct difference between attending and working at church. I’ve been working in churches for the last eight years. Since I now find myself at the first one that seems to be concerned with actually serving it’s staff, I thought I’d share some thoughts I’ve had as of late.
First off I cannot over state the importance of attending a corporate worship service on a regular basis. I believe this applies to everyone…even Pastors. Being able to unplug and enjoy God’s refuel is huge.
Second, it’s not just important for staff members. I know we ask a lot of our small group leaders but if you guys aren’t taking the time to join in worship with the body of believers and allow God to speak His truth into your heart you will burn out. Going to our student services aren’t enough.
I schedule myself at least one Sunday a month to go to church with my wife. There are reasons I don’t want to get into right now that keep me from attending each week. The point is I need that time in church. My wife needs me there as well. I am so grateful that I have a church that cares about my walk and my growth in Christ. If you find yourself unable or lacking in teaching from your church, find one to attend. Perhaps a different church that meets on a night you don’t have an activity. If you have to, schedule someone to fill your shoes every once in a while giving you the chance to do what’s best for you. I mean, even Jesus took the time to unplug and enjoy His father’s refueling.
In honor of Mother’s Day, let me tell you about my wife.
She’s a good lookin, good cookin, totally amazing woman of God. She’s 5’ 6” blonde hair, blue eyes; she’s my Irish Dream. Let me apologize to all the single gentlemen who might read my blog because I got the best woman and you will have to settle for the rest of your life.
Now, I’ve said that for six or so years when I speak of Anita in one of my talks. The truth is she’s so much more. Here are a few notables:
• Put herself through private university
• Stand out soprano in University Choir and Ensemble
• Member of Nation touring performance team in 1998
• Member of Alpha Chi (Honor Society)
• Graduated Cum Claude
• Member of Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus 2001/2002 Season
• Phenomenal volunteer Administrative Assistant in two South Carolina Churches
• Amazing helpmate and wife
• Mother of two beautiful daughters
• Hardworking Home maker
• And the list goes on…
Thanks for being an incredible woman. I love you so much!! Happy Mother’s Day!