Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Ready Or Not...

I recently walked into a restaurant very early in the lunch hour. Looking around the room I saw... well, nothing. Lots of open tables. But still I was told "give me just a couple of minutes and we'll have a table for you." I could see at least 100 seating options... but still I waited.

As I sat down I wiped bread crumbs from the table into the floor and thought "This doesn't make sense. There's no way there have been other customers in here for lunch already." Of course, the crumbs had to have been left over from the night before... which meant the tables hadn't been wiped off. I then learned that the tea was still brewing and the rolls were not warm enough to serve yet.

The bottom-line: The restaurant and its staff were not ready for me. They weren't expecting customers... at least, not a customer arriving as early as I did.

I'm thinking there's a pretty solid application here to church? Is it apparent that when we open the doors of our church buildings we are expecting new people? Here are some simple ways to communicate "Welcome! We've been expecting you!"

+ Leave the most convenient parking spaces for guests.

+ Move to the center of the row, leaving the aisle seats open.

Greet people around you... even if you're not an "official" greeter.

When a church's guests show up will they think: "Yikes! I've
crashed a party I wasn't invited to attend." Or will it be: "Wow! They act like they are expecting me... and they seem glad I'm here."

Friday, August 27, 2010

Putting A Lid On Gossip...

Ron Edmondson had a great post recently regarding seven suggestions for putting a stop to gossip. Knowing how destructive gossip can be in lives and relationships, I felt Ron's thoughts were worth repeating.

In my job, I hear far more junk than I care to hear. The larger our church gets, the more mess we encounter among the people to whom we minister. We have designed our church to reach hurting people, so we are simply reaching our target audience, but some days it is more difficult than others to hear such sad stories.

One part of the drama of messiness that always frustrates me is how gossip begins about other people’s problems. As if dealing with the consequences of sin is not enough, many times some of the hardest repercussion is the gossip that occurs about the people involved and the situation that occurred. I have been the victim of unfair gossip and I know the pain it can cause. I have never found gossip to be helpful to the people involved or to the Kingdom of God. I have literally become a hater of gossip because I have seen it destroy so many people! Gossip hurts innocent people who are caught in the middle, it exaggerates the situation, and it keeps the one who did wrong loaded with guilt and frustration, and from experiencing the fullness of God’s grace. (Consider these passages: Proverbs 11:13, Proverbs 16:28, Proverbs 20:19, Proverbs 26:20, Romans 1:29, 2 Corinthians 12:20, 1 Timothy 5:13... the Bible talks a great deal about this...)

With that in mind, here are seven suggestions for how to stop, or at least slow, the spread of gossip. Will you consider each and take them personal? If the shoe fits will you wear it? Together, perhaps we can help stop the deadly spread of this harmful virus!

1) Don’t repeat something you don’t know is true firsthand... secondhand knowledge is not enough to justify repeating. You will get something wrong and it will hurt others.

2) Don’t repeat unless its helpful to do so and you have a vested interest in the situation, the people involved, and permission to share... doing so in the name of a prayer request is not a good excuse...

3) Don’t “confess” other people’s sins. Even if the wrong included you and you feel the need to confess, share your story, but not someone else's.

4) If you must tell, and have passed the test on the first three suggestions, tell only what happened and not your commentary or "I think this is probably what happened" or why you think it happened...

5) Choose to pray for others every time you are tempted to tell their story... instead of telling their story...

6) When someone tells you something you don’t need to know, don’t allow curiosity to be your guide... follow your heart. Stop the person and tell them you don’t want to know! Remember, if they will spread gossip about others they will spread it about you!

7) Keep the circle of confession limited to the people involved or to no more than needed for accountability purposes. The wider the circle and the more the story is repeated the more likely things will turn into gossip.

If my tone seems intent it’s because I am. I have little patience for gossips. My desire is to see people who live in holy and healthy community together. Gossip is a betrayer of this becoming reality.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Five Years After Hurricane Katrina...

This Sunday, August 29, is my sweet wife's birthday. It will be a day of celebration!

Sunday will also mark the 5th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina making landfall on the Gulf Coast. And five years after Katrina there will also be cause for celebration.

Realizing that a huge swath of Mississippi and Louisiana felt the devastating effects of Katrina, the Storm (as its come to be know) had a personal effect on me due to my ties to the city of New Orleans. While growing up I had lived in the city for five years, and as a youth minister in Atlanta I'd led several mission teams to New Orleans over a period of several years to serve alongside the Carrollton Avenue church. Additionally, some of our my dearest friends live in New Orleans.

Therefore, when the news reports five years ago began to describe the catastrophe that had befallen New Orleans, I felt a heavy heart-tug toward the city and its residents. I've told people that when my family moved from New Orleans I was ready to leave the city-- I had fallen out of love with New Orleans. But seeing the images of the devastation the Storm had wrought on the city... well, for me it was like seeing a crazy relative you didn't particularly like sprawled on the floor after taking a nasty fall. Your heart aches for them, and you see them in a very different way. The Storm helped me rediscover my love for New Orleans.

Now, five years after the Storm, my love affair with the city and its people has blossomed. And a big part of that heart revival on my part has been spurred by the Carrollton Avenue church and its resurgence.

I remain deeply grateful that my elders at Southern Hills immediately responded to the devastation Katrina wracked on New Orleans by making a two-year commitment to stand alongside Carrollton Avenue church in providing resources... reflecting both people and financial support. I'm especially indebted to the many ACU students who've traveled with me to New Orleans over the past five years, and who've served the people of the city so selflessly.

And I celebrate, five years after the Storm, the rebirth and revival of the Carrollton Avenue church... and its offspring, the Holly Grove church. Hurricane Katrina wrecked a church building, but God re-built a church in New Orleans. I've been overwhelmed by both the faith of the Carrollton Avenue church, and even more so by the faithfulness of God.
Great things have been done in that city... and great things are still to be done.

So... this Sunday, as I celebrate sweet Susan's birthday, I'll be celebrating another anniversary. And both will indeed be celebrations, for both have been to me great gifts from our good God!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Baptizing vs. Making Followers...

Having grown up within the faith tradition of Churches of Christ, I've been nurtured on the imperative to teach people about Jesus and to rejoice as they seal that relationship with him in the waters of baptism. I believe that imperative is biblical and fundamental to our living as Christ-followers.

What gives me pause is my sense that we often feel (or act) as if our responsibility has ended when the new Christian steps dripping out of the waters of baptism. Walking alongside the newly minted believer, encouraging them in their walk with Jesus... especially as they encounter the inevitable bumps on the road of that journey, and continuing to mentor and teach them--well, that's hard work. And it involves significant commitment on the part of older, more mature Christian brothers and sisters.

It's been my observation we consider this
"disciple making" will somehow happen routinely in the on-going of the new believer's relationship with church. But from my vantage point over the several years I've spent in church world, this often doesn't happen.

More often than not, when we leave baby Christ-followers to fend for themselves, they don't fend very well. And before too many months have passed, many of these new Christians who are still noted in the church's statistical record have been reclaimed by the world.

The bottom line: we are called not just to baptize people, but to walk alongside them and help them grow into followers/disciples of Jesus. Isn't that the Kingdom imperative Jesus is commissioning us with in Matthew: 28:19-20?

"So go and make f
ollowers of all people in the world. Baptize them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach them to obey everything that I have taught you..."

Don't misunderstand... I'm not suggesting we stop baptizing people. I'm just referencing the words of Jesus and being re-convicted that he is calling us to more than just getting people into the water of baptism. Jesus expects us to commit to the long walk of disciple-making as new believers step out of the water and back into the world.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Visual Poetry...

Every picture paints a word... and every word paints a picture.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Some Things Seem Obvious...

Maybe it's just me... but I thought driving a car and keeping one's eyes open went together like peanut butter and jelly. Apparently, the folks who felt the need for this sign do not see things that way.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Twenty Five Hours...

I borrowed much of this post from Pete Wilson... editing Pete's words to better fit my current season of life.

Does anyone else feel like they need just one more hour in the day?

Ever wish that there were more hours in a day and more days in a week? I’m sure you know the feeling. I sure do.

It astonishes me how quickly time passes and I’m often left wondering, "Where did that day go?"

I've found myself recently, on more than one occasion, telling different people in my life "I wish I just had one more hour in my day."

So I thought it would be fun to ask you: "If you had one extra hour every day... how would you spend it?"

Me? Easy. I would
clean out our backyard pond every day. (Just kidding.)

With one extra hour I would invest it in my relationship with Susan. I’m blown away by how many changes we're dealing with at the moment, and all that we've got going on. I’m in one of the busiest seasons of my life and I just don’t want to shortchange the investment I want to be making in my wife, the love of my life. That’s what I would do with my extra hour.

So... what would you do with your extra hour?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Permanent Solutions To Temporary Problems...

I was challenged by this passage and the wisdom behind it from a recent post by Todd Henry:

"The more structures we have to navigate in order to do our work, the more difficult it is to do our best work. When we are required to resolve the dissonance of complex systems, reporting relationships and accountability structures just in order to get our objectives and check off our direction we will begin to lose our drive to do brilliant work. Over time, this complexity only pulls entire organizations toward systematic mediocrity