I have a love hate affair with my hair. Oh yeah, I'm a poet. I can't ever decide what to do with it. Grow it out, 3 guard it, style it. So I'm turning to you. What in the world should I do with my hair?
This is the first in what I expect to be an ongoing series over time called Christian Ghetto. I've seen two things this week that have just got on my nerves. As a former employee at Lifeway Christian bookstore I had the privilege of seeing both the great products and the ridiculous products being sold. The reason I'm calling this Christian Ghetto is because over the last fifteen years there is a sub-group of the American Christian Church that has been slowly pulling out of the world. They've been creating systems, organizations, products and services to replace the "worldly" things in life. I'll try to keep this brief and just vent on the two items I've most recently seen. The Bible says we're to be "in the world and not of." What happens when we stop being "in" the world?
The poplular game Guitar Hero now has competition from more than just Rock Band. Watch out for the quck rise of Guitar Praise. Yes, you too can play the four chords that every Christian song in the world repeats. Soon you'll be an ace at chords G, C, D & Em and you'll be posting high scores on your Wii or Xbox. Your parents, Pastor, Youth Minister and Sunday School teachers will be so proud.
Speaking of Sunday School, now those Wildcats won't be the only ones dancing their way to success and long term friendship. Coming soon to a clearence shelf near you is Sunday School Musical. Now you can stop pretending to be "All in this together" and be "All in THIS building together or you're not a real Christian" as you were meant to be. In no time you'll be winning sword drills and winning wooden car track races. It's fun for the whole family too. Next time you sit down for your Sadar meal you can pop this fine peice of cinema in the VCR (because you're still not sure about the eternal implications of DVD) and enjoy a movie night with the whole family.
I'd like to introduce you to AJ Rankin. AJ and his fiance Allison are getting married next June. I'm very excited for them. I'm also excited because AJ has just begun his new job with us here at Northwood Student Ministry. For a while now AJ has been functioning as an intern, part time student staff and other areas of service at the church. I believe he has the passion and ability to be help us not only meet our goals but break through them. AJ is our new Groups Director. Along with Kevin Harris (our Middle School Pastor) and myself, AJ will be focusing on our small group leaders and making sure we keep groups at the front of our planning and purposes.
I'm so thankful for our church. With this hire our church leadership has given us a huge endorsement and challenge to take student ministry to the level that it belongs. Our Studnet Ministry team is really starting to move as one. I have seen so much growth and connection happen and I couldn't be more proud. Thank you Kevin, Sarah, AJ, Brian and Billy. Thank you Pastor and Elders. Thank you parents and volunteers. I believe we're about to see God do something amazing!
I’ve found the goodness that is istockphoto.com. Thanks to them, we came up with a great bumper for our two week series on influence. Enjoy the video.
Double click to play.
More questions equals more answers. Today's questions come from our some what adopted daughter (at least for six months) in Charlotte Kelly McNamara. She's a student at Winthrop and a very talented worship leader at Elevation Church. Here we go…
Do you have an awesome new group of kids that you've picked out to replace us? ones that you will view the Office and Lost with in the future?
There's of course no way to replace "the kids." I'm hopeful that we'll have new regulars here at the McCart home. SOOOOOOO excited about September and the return of The Office and still irritated that we have to wait till next year for LOST. Thank God for HEROES. Just like in Charlotte, it's taking some time for people to believe that we really do want people to come and hang out. Most people who say that don't mean it. We do. Come on over Charleston people.
You've worked at several different churches, but since you seem to really be settling in well at this church, what are some of the pros and cons of working in a church like this one compared to a church like Elevation?
Well this one could get sticky. Please understand that I'm going to give MY opinion on the pros and cons based on my four short months on staff at Elevation verses the other churches I've worked or am working at. I've been on five church staffs in a little of ten years. That's three more than I thought I would. I've worked at three Southern Baptist churches and two non-denominational churches. Elevation is a Southern Baptist church for those that didn't know. My first two churches are very traditional, old, stubborn and unhealthy. They have way too much history to make a significant change for the better and unfortunately will probably close their doors in the next thirty years.
That leaves North Point Community, Elevation and Northwood churches. North Point was my dream job and I never thought I'd leave. I worked there for three and a half years and learned, grew and was challenged more than I ever thought possible. People used to ask me (people from backgrounds like my first two churches) "what's the dirty behind the scenes stuff like at North Point?" Honestly, there isn't one. It's the healthiest place I've ever known. They have a high level of excellence, work ethic, commitment and trust at every level of the church that I was involved.
Elevation is a young church with a young staff. Even though some of their staff members are older than me they are still learning the lessons of ministry that we all have to and that I'm still learning. I do believe God called me to Elevation. Elevation is the most intense work environment I've ever experienced. They do a lot to try and release the tension. I believe in the future the leadership will do what is needed for the long term health of the staff. Elevation does have an incredible work ethic and expectation of excellence. The worship experience at Elevation is in the upper tier of churches in the world in my opinion. Steven and I were friends at one time and I knew when I met him he would stop at nothing to see God do the extraordinary in his life. That is happening. I still care a great deal for Elevation and many of the people there but I'm know convinced that God took us to Elevation in order to bring us to Northwood.
Northwood is the smaller of the three churches and I would have never considered being here had it not been for the experiences we've been through in the last year. There is an almost unbalanced level of trust here. I've never worked somewhere that meant "If the job is done, go home" to this degree. Our Pastor has been doing this for a long time and has created a very open atmosphere as it relates to getting the job done. The next two years will be possibly the most challenging years this church has ever seen as we relocate our church and school. Our leadership is making sure we are preparing for that season now. Our calling as members of our family is far more important than the job we have at the church. I believe God is going to use me in a major way here in Charleston and I'm here to stay as long as that's God's plan.
Sorry if any of that seemed harsh or judgmental. Again, I have only been here for two months, at Elevation for four and North Point for three and a half years. I'm sure I still have many lessons to learn and my life will be different as I grow and look back on this very difficult year in my life. I honestly believe that you have to be willing to be wherever God needs you. Sometimes you're in a place for Him, sometimes He has you there for your development. I'm grateful for everything I've been through. It's made me a better person, servant, leader, friend, father and husband.
The first set of questions comes from my great friend Steve. Steve and his wife Rachel were in our small group in Georgia. We developed a great friendship and miss them very much. Steve asks…
How are you adjusting to SG being in school now?
Savannah Grace is doing great in school. She loves being in class and hasn't gotten in too much trouble yet. Anita is doing a much better job of giving updates on SG's school progress.
Has she fallen down off of her bicycle and gotten a skinned knee yet?
Savannah Grace did a great job with riding her bike without training wheels but I've put them back on while I'm not home so the ladies can all ride together. She never fell and hurt herself. She had some great timing at jumping off the bike as it was going down. I'm planning on spending some time this week and maybe by next week we'll put those training wheels in storage until Rylee's ready to ride.
Will Notre Dame lose any games this year and if so, who will they lose to?
Yes, Notre Dame will lose games this season. I'm hoping for a 6-6 or better season this year. Here's how it will probably go…
San Diego State – W
Michigan – W
Michigan State – W
Purdue – L
Stanford – W
North Carolina – W
Washington – L
Pittsburgh – W
Boston College – L
Navy – W
Syracuse – W
USC – L
Do you think your old softball team (still my current team) will win any games this year? And if so, will it be because the other team didn't have enough players?
I'm gonna have to say no. Even though the team is in the weaker league it's gonna be hard to close that defensive door. Plus you're missing your star left fielder and strong bat in Phillip McCart this year. Sorry but you're more than welcome to move to Charleston and experience a win next season with Northwood Church. Apparently we're awesome.
First of all, thanks to the four people who gave me some questions to write about. Those answers will be coming soon. Tonight I want to tell you about a little tradition that's developed over the last week or so. When we moved to Charleston Anita and I decided to have the girls share a room. We did this for their benefit, not because we didn't have room. God has blessed us with a nice house to live in with plenty of room for our little family. We did this because there are some great lessons to learn from sharing a room without having to intentionally teach.
So Things started out easy enough but as we neared school time for Savannah Grace the girls started getting to sleep later and later. They would stay up laughing and talking with each other. While I love that they are playing together so well, Savannah Grace needs consistent sleep each night now that she's a bona fide student. Rylee goes to sleep in their room and Savannah Grace goes to sleep in ours; both at 8PM. This has been working out great and has lead to our new little tradition.
Each night as Anita and I transfer SG to her room and her bed I spend some extra time praying over her. I've never been great at consistent spiritual disciplines. Bible study, prayer, tithing, fasting, worship; these have always been things I enjoy doing but haven't been great about self motivating myself to do. (I may be a terrible Christian but at least I'm an honest one.) I've read or heard about people who have "been praying for my children since before I was married," or "been praying for my children's future spouse since they were born." I wish I was that kind of guy but in reality I've been praying that I don't screw up in some huge way in the next hour and ruin my family's life.
Well, I've had these little moments over the last week as I take SG from our bed to hers. I found myself praying for her, for her future husband, her influence, her salvation, her job, her teachers, her mother, her sister, her future brother(please, God, please)…(no, that's not an announcement) and praying for our relationship. She has no idea and may never know. I don't do this out of some feeling of guilt. I do this because I love my little girl and I want her to embrace and be fully embraced by God. I pray for my daughter because she is amazing and I want her to use her unique gifts for Christ. I'm praying for my daughter because there I am faced with the most daunting task on this planet. I am the first and most influential image of God she will ever have and if I'm not praying and praying hard then I WILL SCREW THIS UP! If you think about it, will you please pray for me. I could use it.
After all the hub bub of the last year and the many, many blog posts and random thoughts I'm starting to feel a little writer's block. I've thrown myself into my new job and things are settling down with our family. I keep watching my readership on this blog dwindle and I get discouraged. I didn't start doing this to get famous or to build a fan base. I started it because I wanted to have an outlet for my thoughts and opinions and hoped a little that my journey might encourage or challenge someone else.
I want to thank the faithful readers who despite the slower pace of posts lately have continued to check in. So I'm giving it to you. What do you want to hear about? You can ask any question you want. About me, my family, ministry, my opinions on life and faith, favorite movies, singers, cities. No question is out of bounds. Let's hear some good ones. I'm hoping this will unblock me. Kind of like a mental laxative.
A very wise and talented man once asked me if I really wanted to be the leader of a mega-church student ministry. My gut answer was, "of course." After a few minutes of conversation I was second guessing myself and my abilities as a leader. I do like being the one who has the last say. I think most people do. I enjoy having the pressure to make the right decision when the pressure is on. However, I don't like the tedious minutia that comes with being the leader.
I don't enjoy having to continually draw attention to the details; details that should be second nature to be done. I don't enjoy having tough conversations that usually leave people I care about being frustrated or upset with me. At my core I'm a people pleaser. People pleasers aren't usually great leaders. That's why I'm trying to focus hard on learning how to be a better leader.
Two months in to my position here at Northwood Church I'm glad to report things are "so far, so good." Then again….two months into my last job I thought things were going pretty well too. Another two months and I was out on the job trail for the first time in four years.
After a very good leader recruitment and vision casting meeting on Sunday, I'm starting to see people connect with the direction I feel God is taking us. I think (and hope) my staff team is trusting me more and more each week. Sure we have our days and disagreements but on the whole I believe we're learning how to work well with each other.
The next few weeks and months will bring not only a new direction and purpose for Northwood Student Ministry but almost everything from names of environments to our camps and retreat schedule will be different. This is an exciting time at Northwood and I'm so thankful that God has allowed me to be a small part of what He's doing. Please continue to pray for our church and leadership as we make HUGE decisions over the next few weeks. I still can't believe I get to do this for a living!
Yesterday was a long day. To start things off, I think I may have gotten five hours of sleep. The girls had a rough night with sleep; thus, mommy and daddy had a rough night with sleep. Pastor Fred gave his annual big vision-casting message and drew some attention to our need for quality volunteers in student ministry. I'm so excited about what God is doing with our church. The next few years will be busy and fast paced with leading to incredible life change in the lives of hundreds of people. I had the opportunity to address our attenders at our "Link" service. The Link is a worship environment that while providing some additional seats at 10 o'clock service, also offers a different music style and video teaching. We didn't see the number of people we had hoped would sign up with interest in serving in student ministry but at 4 o'clock we took a big step in the right direction.
My team sacrificed half of their Sunday afternoon to set up our meeting for current and potential volunteers. We had a better turn out than I expected considering for most of the afternoon it poured down rain. Along with AJ Rankin, our Student Ministry Groups Director, I shared to direction and purpose we feel God leading Northwood Student Ministry. We ended on time and had some great conversation with several of the potential volunteers afterward.
At the end of the night (after the Gate – high school service) AJ, Kevin and I looked through the info cards of the people who attended our meeting. I'm pleased to say that in high school groups world we are looking good. We still need quite a lot of help in middle school groups world but I believe we are on the right track. I'm excited to see things start to take shape. Please pray for us as we prepare for our Parent meeting this coming Sunday and our new groups strategy launch on September 7th.
Thank you Kevin, Sarah, AJ, Brian, Billy, Kyle and Jeffrey for your help yesterday. Thank you to Christina and Anita for supporting Kevin and me. Thank you Pastor Fred for believing in what we're doing and supporting us publicly. Thank you to the childcare team that makes it possible for adults with children to pour into the lives of students. I truly believe that this is the beginning of a great work of God.