Tuesday, January 25, 2011

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Monday, January 24, 2011

Why We Don't Invite

Tonight, our president will deliver his State of the Union Address. The Constitution of the United States mandates such an address in Article 2, Section 3:

“He shall from time to time give to Congress information of the State of the Union and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.”

A few weeks ago I delivered my annual State of the Church Address here at Grand. This is something I have done each year in my role as the lead pastor. The goal is very similar to the State of the Union Address to our nation, to provide information on how our church is doing and to make recommendations that I see as necessary and expedient for the future growth and health of the church.

This year at Grand we are focusing with laser-like intensity on developing a culture of “invite” among our friends and family, our co-workers and colleagues. We are calling this emphasis for 2011, My Jerusalem. Jesus said we should be his witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the earth. We do a pretty good job with the national and global emphases at Grand but we can do better with the local emphasis, our Jerusalem.

In this vain, I wanted to get our people think about why “we” don’t invite others to church. By the way, I don’t think this is an issue isolated to my church, I think many, many churches fail when it comes to “invite.” There will be hundreds of churches that die this year in our country. There may be many reasons for their deaths but I can promise you that somewhere buried in the list will be a failure to invite.

Here is the list of reasons why we don’t invite:

1. Because that is what we pay the staff to do.

2. Because my church is embarrassing. This is the idea that I like my church for me but I don’t think my friends would like it.

3. Because we don’t care (apathy). If people go to hell. If people are blessed by God.

4. Because we are selfish. We don’t want new people because they will “mess” my church up.

5. Because we are afraid they will say “no.” The coward’s answer.

6. “I don’t want to go. So why would I invite anyone else?”

7. Because we just don’t think about it. We ASSUME the church will just grow.

What are others reasons that you can think of for why we don’t invite?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Evaluation Time

The New Year is just over two weeks old. So how are you doing with your "resolutions?" So much of knowing where to go is tied into knowing where you have been. The Bible provides a wealth of principles to guide us in evaluating our lives and setting new directions for our future. With that in mind let me share with you just four of these principles that I recently shared with a group of men in our church.

Biblical Life Evaluation

1. Measure the times.

1 Chronicles 12:32 (ESV)

Of Issachar, men who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do, 200 chiefs, and all their kinsmen under their command.

2. Measure your friends.

Proverbs 19:20 (ESV)

Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.

3. Measure the cost.

Luke 14:28–29 (ESV)

28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him,

4. Measure your devotion.

Jeremiah 17:7–8 (ESV)

7 “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,

whose trust is the Lord.

8 He is like a tree planted by water,

that sends out its roots by the stream,

and does not fear when heat comes,

for its leaves remain green,

and is not anxious in the year of drought,

for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

I would note that principle 4, Measure Your Devotion, is the heart of the matter. Do you trust in God? About everything? All the time? The picture is of a person who is like a lush growing tree. When the heat of summer comes and everything turns brown, this person remains green. I promise that at some point in 2011 you will feel the heat. And you'll either wither or thrive and it will all be based on your devotion to God. And here's the cool part. When you bear fruit, you're not the only one that benefits. Fruit is for the enjoyment of others. When you trust in God, others will be blessed because of you. Your spouse will thrive, your kids will be blessed. See how it works?

So two plus weeks in to 2011, it's not too late to plant yourself next to the River.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The "Gus Bus"

I first met Gus Malzahn in the fall of 1996. He was in his second year as the head football coach of Shiloh Christian School and I had just joined the staff as the school’s Campus Pastor and head Bible teacher. Gus and I are both from Fort Smith but he’s a few years older than I am and we didn’t really run in the same circles growing up. He did, however, go on to marry Kristi Otwell who was in my youth group and who I did run around with, so there was an informal connection, although distant. Kristi’s parents, and Gus’ in-laws, are in my church today and so I am able to keep up with all things Gus on a pretty close level.

Gus and I became good friends over the course of the next three years. Being around Gus as a colleague on a day-to-day basis, I can say that I got to know the man better than most. In short, Gus is a devout believer in Christ and a consummate professional. If you know anything about Christian school education you know that the pay is not the greatest (compared to the public system) and everyone on staff ends up doing a host of other things besides what they were “hired” to do. In addition to coaching Shiloh to state runner-ups and then to back-to-back championships, he also served as the school’s Dean of Students. That means he was in charge of discipline. Not exactly the most “fun” job on the planet for sure, dealing with dress code violation, truancy, disrespect to teachers, etc. Gus was also the number one cafeteria monitor. Each and every day, he would stand watch, making sure food fights didn’t break out, seeing that kids threw their trash away etc. And…Gus was also the transportation coordinator for the school. He made sure buses were gassed up and ready to go. He coordinated travel plans for students and teachers grades K -12.

Most people know Gus as a coach. I know Gus as a professional. In everything he does, he does it with precision, expertise, class, and godliness.

Gus Malzahn is a man who loves the Lord, prays and seeks God’s wisdom, and is unashamed of his faith with his players and media alike. He is a rare breed today. You could even say he is unique.

So I watched with great pride and joy last night as the Gus Bus rode all the way to a National Championship. Congratulations Gus (and Kristi), you deserve it!

I also had the distinct feeling that this may only be the first stop on the “Bus” tour.

Monday, January 10, 2011

New Logo

We rolled out a new logo for Grand yesterday, all part of a rebranding of our church graphically. We will use the new logo on everything – letterhead, hoodies, website, coffee mugs, mouse pads, posters, etc. I’m even considering getting the new logo tattooed on my chest. As we had our discussions about what the new logo for our church should look like we soon discovered that it would be no easy task. In fact, something so simple as a logo is really hard to decide upon. There’s just a lot to consider. And when you talk about church logos the stakes it seems are even higher. Scott Ward, our mission and media pastor, ran across a church logo guide from StuffChristiansLike.net that was a huge help to us all. I wanted to share it with you here for your own edification.

Stuff Christians Like Church Logo Holiness Guide:

1. You have a sun rising over a horizon, possibly spreading light through the “O” in the name of your church = + 3 points

2. A dove is flying gracefully through your logo = +1 point

3. A dove is flying gracefully through your logo with an olive branch in its mouth = +2 points

4. A dove is flying gracefully through your logo with an olive branch in its mouth and a “Jesus loves you” tattoo on one of its wings = +3 points

5. A swirl of flame is erupting somewhere on your logo = +1 point

6. There is an open Bible in your logo = +1 point

7. There is an open Bible in your logo and in tiny print you can actually see the words to John 3:16 on the page. = +2 points

8. A lion and a lamb are hanging out together on your logo = +1 point

9. A lion and a lamb are playing Frisbee golf together on your logo = +2 points

10. Crown of thorns = +2 points

11. Bedazzled crown befitting the King of Kings = +2 points

12. A worship eagle is high fiving a dove mid air = +5 points

13. There is a cluster of grapes or collection of wheat = +3 points

14. There is a chalice on the logo = +1 point

15. The chalice is encrusted with bling better suited to lil Jon, not Sweet Baby Jesus = – 3 points

16. A big blue globe is floating somewhere in the background = +1 point

17. The scene were Elisha calls the bears down on some teenagers is somehow worked into your logo = +10 points

18. Ichthus or Jesus Fish is present = + 2 points for each

19. Instead of the letter A, you used an Icthus that kind of looks like it is walking on its tail in your church name = +3 points

So how do you think we scored with our new logo? What about your church’s logo?

Sunday, January 2, 2011

2011 - The Undiscovered Country

I’m a Star Trek fan, have been ever since I was a kid. I loved the original series, the Next Generation, all the movies, etc. The sixth Star Trek feature film was called The Undiscovered Country. It was an intriguing title. We find out toward the end of the film, in a heart wrenching speech given by Captain Kirk, that the Undiscovered Country is the future. Many people don’t like the future, it scares them. Others embrace the future and the change it promises as an adventurer setting sail for, well…an undiscovered country.

In many ways, 2011 is an undiscovered country. I have no idea what the next 12 months will bring. There are certain things I am looking forward to and certain things I am not. My wife and I are planning on attending another NASCAR race in the spring and maybe an NFL game in the fall. We are making family vacation plans for the summer because we need to get things booked. My two teenagers are going on mission to the metroplex over Spring Break and I am excited for them. And our church is just five months away from a major renovation of our worship center. I am so excited about all of these things.

But then there are the things I am not looking forward to in 2011. I am not looking forward to the radiation and chemotherapy that my dad will begin tomorrow for his cancer. 2011 will be the biggest challenge of his life and none of us know for sure how things will ultimately go. I am not looking forward to my kids getting older and a year closer to leaving home. There are so many things that are uncertain as I look at the undiscovered country called 2011, but I am certain of two things: 1) there will be surprises, and 2) God is in control.

Surprises equal the joys, sorrows, fears, laughs, pain, and spice of life. God equals hope, comfort, and salvation in all circumstances. I rest knowing that God is out in front of me. He has arrived in the undiscovered country before I have even left the harbor…

So with that knowledge, I am ready to set sail. How about you?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Last Minute Christmas Shopping Ideas: My Favorite Bible Study Tools

If your looking for some last minute Christmas gifts for yourself, a friend, or even your pastor, consider this short list of my own favorite Bible study tools. There’s nothing like giving the gift of a better understanding of God’s Word, especially with the New Year upon us!

1. Favorite Study Bible: A tie between the HCSB Study Bible and ESV Study Bible. Both are excellent and comprehensive tools. One stop shopping for the serious Bible student.

2. Favorite Bible Software: Logos 4 for Mac. This more than anything has revolutionized my own Bible study the past 6 months. There is a PC version as well. SO glad I found Logos!

3. Favorite Bible Encyclopedia: The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. The four volume ISBE is beyond compare to any other Bible study tool.

4. Favorite Commentary: The New American Commentary. Still not complete, this commentary set is great for both laypeople and scholars.

5. Favorite Theology Text: Christian Theology by Millard J. Erickson. This is the standard in seminary. What once was the bane of my existence is now one of my best friends.

6. Favorite Bible Overview: Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines of the OT / NT. You cannot beat anything written by Wiersbe.

7. Favorite Concordance: The Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance. This is a staple for every Bible study student.

8. Favorite Miscellaneous Bible Aide: Everyone in the Bible by William P. Barker. I cannot count the number of times I have turned to this quick reference for bio information on anybody and everybody listed in the Bible.

Happy shopping and Merry Christmas!