Saturday, December 30, 2006

The List

2006 is almost over and i'm feeling...well, pretty grateful. i'm not nostalgic or weepy or sappy or particularly reflective. just grateful. here are a handful of reasons why:
  • a new season of 24 is getting ready to begin.
  • stellar year for my beloved chargers.
  • my son got married. my son got married. my son got married. sheesh.
  • i have a daughter-in-law. i couldn't have picked a better partner for my son.
  • the grass in my front yard is almost all the way back.
  • the leaves are almost all picked up. almost.
  • i read about 15 really good books this year. really good books.
  • i still get to watch my other son play baseball. i love bleachers and seeds.
  • i needed to sell my old truck. i have another one now and it runs better. it's amazing how 235k miles can still run well.
  • fall arrived again.
  • 32 years of marriage.
  • 35 years of ministry.
  • 25 years of parenting.
  • 42 years of being a padre fan.
  • i own a house.
  • my dad always bought a real christmas tree every year. so do i. you can't beat the smell.
  • color television.
  • the internet. i am blown away by the access i have to books, resources, study helps, commentaries, and historical documents for sermon and lesson building...all at my fingertips.
  • my ankles work reasonably well. the surgeries are holding. i still can't dunk a basketball, but i don't think bad ankles are the problem.
  • i pastor at a church that doesn't place me in a box.
  • i got to go to colorado again this year to help mentor young youth ministers. i love staying connected to my roots.
  • baja fresh and cabana. fresh mex. tex mex.
  • the drive to tyler, instead of the drive to vernon.
  • the church building renovation is finished. well, almost.
  • our staff at north point. loyalty, friendship, devotion, camaraderie, openness, and shared vision are priceless.
  • the awareness that i have a life partner that is steadfast, faithful, and full of more integrity than anyone i have ever met. marriage is still fun, fulfilling, satisfying, and purposeful. wow.
  • the bowl season.
  • music. loud and raucous. quiet and contemplative.
  • my recliner. i wonder how they got them all into the upper room...
  • a consistent salary and more than enough money to do everything and have everything we could ever need...and most everything we could ever want.
  • contentment, joy, peace, hope, security, significance, purpose, confidence, gratitude and love.

really...who could ask for more?

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

It's time for a change

again, tony morgan writes another question that growing churches should be asking...

#6 – Do people accept change as normal? Believe it or not, even churches can develop a culture where change is both expected and embraced. This is important as change is most critical in a culture that is continually “morphing”.

why is change so difficult for people...especially adults. children learn, at an early age, that they are not the controllers of their own destiny. heck, they don't control their bedtime, their choice of friends, their menu, their finances, their wardrobe, or the music that's played in the family car. they have to accept that others make decisions for them and they must learn to adjust on the fly...or be frustrated with life pretty much all the time.

then, somewhere along the path, children grow up to be adults. and adults are the controllers of their worlds and the masters of their own universe. as adults, we make our own decisions and assume full responsibility for the outcome. we know what's best for our lives and, if asked, we probably know what's best for our neighbors, our schools, and our favorite athletic team. honestly, if the president would just ask, most of us have the answer for poverty, aids, the national deficit and world peace. he just needs to ask.

and there's the problem. since we know what's just about any area...change is tough. i like what i like and if someone comes along and messes with it, well...they're probably wrong. most of us have opinions about the way church is supposed to be done. strong ones. opinions about music and preaching and money and buildings and sunday school and leadership and marriage and biblical inerrancy and hundreds of other areas...some really important and others that probably don't amount to a hill of t.o.'s sound bites...

here, let me say it...we need to get off our high horses and admit that we don't often know what's best when it comes to church. there are many "right" ways to do it. there are countless ideas, strategies, programs, and possibilities. we need to swallow our fear of change. if something is not working, we need to change it. if something can be done better, we need to change it. if there is the possibility of becoming more effective, more relevant, more faithful, more influential...we need to take the risk

Friday, December 22, 2006

Are we having fun?

here's another question that growing churches should be asking:

#4 – Are people having fun? We have to give people hope, encouragement, and the chance to laugh. We live in a fast-paced and stressful culture. If people can’t find health and balance in our church, they will find it somewhere else.

there was a poster that everyone had back in the 80's. it said, "are we having fun, yet?". that was the question of a generation. and it didn't end. the pursuit of fun got deeper and more profound in the 90's. it certainly isn't any different here in the 21st century. just more technologically sophisticated. bottom line? fun is still fun and we are all looking for it.

fun is not evil. in the midst of the most serious issue of life...what happens when you die...the pursuit of enjoyment is powerful. i have some friends of mine who used to refer to their church as kurt and ken's church of fun. i can remember the first time some of my more conservative church friends heard about it. their collective gasp still resonates in my memory! and i think my belly still hurts from laughing about it...

there is a lot of pain in life. it's difficult. it's confusing. it's full of suffering and failure and misery and dying. it's that way for everybody. some more than others. but sooner or later, we all walk the road of sorrow. where do we find the balance? where do we find relief? where do we experience balance? where is it ok to laugh and joke and feel pleasure and enjoyment and merriment and amusement?

you really want to know where? church. that's right, church. i believe it with my whole heart. in the midst of all the important things we need to be doing, having fun is right up there with worshipping and fasting and saving souls. so get out there and get busy. have some fun!
here's another question that growing churches should be asking:

#4 – Are people having fun? We have to give people hope, encouragement, and the chance to laugh. We live in a fast-paced and stressful culture. If people can’t find health and balance in our church, they will find it somewhere else.

Sunday, December 17, 2006 to godliness?

here's another question that tony morgan suggests that growing churches should be asking:

#3 – Do we exceed the expectations of our first-time guests? Whether we like it or not, our guests are “consumers” before they become convinced that they should be learners, worshippers, or servants. That means that they are walking into our doors for the first time and expecting an experience that meets or exceeds what they are getting at the theater, the restaurant, or the mall.

i don't know if i completely buy into the whole "consumer" mentality of today's church shoppers, nor am i convinced that we should be catering to the consumer experience that expects to be wowed into coming back the next week. i'm curious what you think...

more importantly, tho, why do you think it is so hard for most of us to invest our lives in someone we don't know? why is it so difficult to be friendly and interested in someone who is taking time to investigate our church family or, more importantly, the claims of the one we call our leader?

honestly, it amazes me to watch how easy it is to walk right past people we don't find a friend or quickly get our favorite seat in the auditorium. i'm not throwing stones here. i share the same kind of uneasiness when i am forced out of my comfort zone and into the life story of another person.

but if i truly want to be like christ, my commitment to love god and love others needs to be more than a catchy slogan on the front page of a church web page.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Owning ministry

here's another question from tony morgan's list of questions that growing churches ask:

#2 – Do volunteers “own” the ministry of our church? We simply can’t hire enough staff to accomplish all of the ministry that needs to be accomplished in a growing church. With that in mind, we need to create a culture here where the volunteers expect to do it before staff can get to it!

this whole concept of "owning" ministry is a good one, but it seems like there are some fundamental difficulties in making it happen. the first is time. how can someone really "own" a project or a ministry or a program without putting adequate time into it? we are all living in such a complicated world with time demands that stretch us beyond our limits...and the thought of adding another commitment is just too overwhelming. it's just easier to let someone else do it.

another reason that i hear from people is that they just don't feel qualified or equipped enough to take on a task as important as a "ministry"! that's fine. even moses spent a bunch of time trying to talk god out of using him because he didn't feel qualified (for the record, don't try to bargain with god on this one...he always wins). the bottom line, though, is whether or not we will trust god to provide if we decide to take the responsibility. it's not any more complicated than that.

i spend a lot of time wondering what it will take to help people feel passionately about the things of god, because, really, it's all about what we believe strongly enough to invest ourselves in. there will never be enough time. there will never be enough training. there will never be enough ability or even self-confidence.

there will always be enough god, though. and with god, all things are do-able. the question is whether or not we believe least enough to do something about it!

Monday, December 11, 2006

What's the buzz?

this guy named tony morgan wrote an article that was titled, "questions that growing churches should ask." i thought i'd respond to some of them in my next few posts...

#1 – is your ministry strategy creating a “buzz” in your community? if people aren’t talking about what’s happening at your church, they are not inviting their friends. what are we doing to create dialogue and make people think, “i need to check that out and see for myself!”?

i wonder sometimes whether anybody in the community is even looking at the church. i don't mean to be negative...quite the opposite. it just seems to me that the things that are creating "buzzes" in the community these days are things the church can't (or shouldn't) compete with. is it possible for us (the church) to love and care and serve enough to create a buzz?

there is deep truth in saying that if our people aren't talking about what's happening at our church, they are probably not inviting their friends. are our people excited about what we are doing? do our people know what we are doing? do our people know why we are doing what we are doing? if they were so inclined, would our people know what they were inviting their friends to join in on? just wondering...
while we're on the subject, if someone doesn't care enough to invite a friend, why are they coming in the first place? that sounds awfully harsh...

if you're a north pointer, what's the buzz for you in our church family? just asking...

Friday, December 08, 2006

It's beginning to look a lot like christmas

finally put up the christmas tree tonight...still have a lot more work to do, though. doing the christmas thing is different now that our boys are grown and out of the house. not that they helped very much when they were here!

i think a lot during this time of the year. i remember my parents. my mom loved christmas. she was pretty festive. my dad loved the surprise. he was a gift-giver and surprising me with something really cool was what he was all about. even at 52, it's still good to remember.

i'm a lot like my parents. i've grown to be a festive kind of guy. i like when our home is decorated and the smell of the douglas fir tree fills the entire house. we've collected a bunch of tree ornaments through the years. many of them have a story. i like to remember those stories.

just like my dad, i love the surprise. i still work at trying to figure out ways to surprise my boys. i wonder if it's going to be wierd to try to surprise them when i'm 70. maybe it will be time for them to surprise me...

i think that's the best part of christmas...the surprise. it reminds me that there are still surprises in the world...that i don't know everything and that god remains in the business of breathing and moving and blowing fresh air through my life...much like the smell of the fir tree in my living room.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

A question

here's a great no win question...

what's worse... a liberal, tolerant believer who won't make a stand for the authoritative truth of God... or a narrow, judgmental prude who won't reach out to a corrupt and dying world?

how about liberal, tolerant believers who still stand for the authoritative truth of God and are not afraid to get their hands dirty in a messy world? is this possible? i think we can win with this one!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

A new day spa

i was watching the news tonight and it was giving a report on a new whole foods market in dallas where you can give the "concierge" your shopping list and let him shop for you...while you go to the market's day spa and get your massage and other spa amenities. as you wander through the market, you can even listen to the opera singer announce when the fresh bread is ready!

ok, so i'm much does this cost? better yet, what kind of person is going to take advantage of this "service"? and, more importantly, who would ever admit to this kind of opulent lifestyle?

i know this is pretty judgmental on the rich and famous, but in a day and age when the number of the world's poor and needy continues to escalate in ways we cannot even come close to comprehending...shouldn't we be standing up and saying "enough, already"?

Monday, December 04, 2006

Worship wars

i've been reading some discussions about worship this morning. the conflict over what goes on in a worship service still goes on! amazing. hymns, choruses, guitars, pianos, loud, reflective, traditional, comntemporary, what young people want, what older people want, the length of the sermon, the style of the sermon, the topioc of the sermon, the regularity of communion, the placement of communion, who serves communion, too much emphasis on the offering, not enough emphasis on the offering, clapping, no clapping, raising hands...i even read this morning about a pastor that was having conflict over where he wanted to place his gotta be kidding me!

here's my thought on worship today: if we spent more time on the quality and content of our worship on monday morning, rather than criticizing what happens on sunday morning, i think we would be a lot better off...

for the record, i'm grateful to be in a church family that doesn't major in minors when it comes to sunday mornings!