Friday, December 19, 2008

New Connect Church Promo Video

Here is a video I recently filmed and created as a promo for our church plant. This is only my second video to create so understand that it may not be the best quality. Hopefully you will also enjoy the small snowstorm that occurred while filming.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Church Buildings and Wax Museums

Last month my wife and I took a brief trip to Victoria, British Columbia for our anniversary. As we toured around the city I noticed several large church buildings scattered throughout the city. Each of these were beautifully constructed and maintained. Some of them boasted large auditoriums that could seat several hundred people.

However, like many churches of this style and location they were virtually empty. I quickly realized that these buildings had more in common with a local wax museum tourist attraction than a scriptural body of Christ. Like the people in a wax museum they looked real but they were hollow and lifeless. These churches had probably not made a lasting impact on the community in years. The buildings serve as nothing more than a reminder of a once apparent fruitful ministry.

Unfortunately this is true of many buildings scattered throughout the world. These buildings continue to take up space and money that I believe could be more effectively used for the kingdom of God.

As we continue the process of planting Connect Church I am reminded of the importance of not tying down a church to an overly expensive and ornate building. It confirms my desire to start a church that is more focused on people than expensive buildings. Our church has the desire to funnel its resources into life changing ministries instead of a building that can eventually become nothing more than a monument of past ministry.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

It's Just a Drink!

"I would like a triple grande, 180 degree, nonfat, no foam, double cupped, stirred, hazelnut latte." This is the type of language I have learned while working at Starbucks. The world of coffee has proven to be a very new experience for me. I can honestly say that I have enjoyed my time working at a local coffee shop for the past three months. However, I was recently very dissappointed with the experience a fellow barista dealt with shortly before my shift.

Apparently a customer did not have a satisfactory experience while visiting our store. As a result this person proceeded to cause quite a scene while she passionately complained to one of the employees. The part of this incident that stood out the most was that the person noted that they were on their way to church! Now I can understand that is normal to be frustrated when your order is not taken correctly or your food is cold. I have personally had many experiences with the onions left on a burger when I requested them to be removed. However, this situation reminded me of a few important lessons.

One: Christians need to act like Christians at all times. This person (if she was a Christian) did not do anything to promote the kingdom of God by her actions. By overreacting to the situation and then noting that she was on her way to church she did a great job of furthering the idea that Christians are nothing but a bunch of hypocrites. It is imperative that believers seek to live their lives in such a way that we point people to the reality of a gracious and sovereign God (Matthew 5:16).

Two: It struck me that I live in a culture that causes a scene over an incorrect order when there are people that do not have enough food to eat. We tend to bemoan our difficulties in America when Christians in other countries are being killed because of their faith in Jesus Christ. I was reminded of the need for me to personally try to keep things in perspective.

So, next time you go to Starbucks, give the person a break. Try smiling and acting in a way that will honor Jesus Christ. And then if your drink is made incorrectly, try to keep it all in perspective. Try being thankful for the millions of other blessings God has given to you already. I know that this does not come naturally for me but I pray that I can learn to be obedient in small things such as this.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

They Don't Care

Lately I have been thinking about the content of the worship services for our new church plant in the Seattle area. I am reminded of all of the books, seminars, and sermons that have addressed the topic of church worship. There are a multitude of opinions on how a worship service should look or feel. Many ideas are directed towards attracting non-Christians to our services. The thought process goes something like this. If we make our church service “cool” and relevant then people will be more likely to come to church. In addition, the reason more people are not coming to our church is because we are not relevant or trendy enough.
However, there is a huge problem with this line of thinking. Most non-Christians don’t care what we do on a Sunday morning. Very few non-Christians wake up on a Sunday and think, “I would go to the church down the street today if they were simply more trendy in their worship and preaching.” So for us to spend so much time and trying to make our worship services more attractive to a person that does not know Christ is silly.

I am not saying that we should not try to be relevant in the way we present the gospel. Nor am I saying that we should not seek to worship God with excellence. I am very passionate about both of these things. However, as I plan a worship service m first priority is to build up the saints for ministry (Ephesians 4). Furthermore, I believe that a room or building full of believers who are truly worshipping Jesus is very “attractive” to a non-Christian. See 1 Corinthians 14:24-25.

The key to growing a body of believers is not in how we do worship. It is how we train believers to share their faith. If we disciple people to be missionaries to their families, friends, and co-workers church growth will automatically take place. We can then make worship about challenging and encouraging people in their walk with Christ. And hopefully many worship services will be able to regain the depth and substance they are lacking.

Our Response

Recently I drove by a church that had erected a monument in memory of the people affected by a tornado that struck a section of Nashville. On this memorial were inscribed the words, “God was not in the tornado, but in our response.” Although these words may seem clever and maybe even comforting I think they are biblically inaccurate.

This is often man’s way of trying to deal with tragedy. It is an attempt to try and defend God from His accusers who say, “if God is good then why would He allow something like a tornado to destroy our city?” However, the words spoken by this pastor do not defend God. They only serve to rob Him of His sovereignty. All throughout Scripture we see a God who is in control of every aspect of our lives. He provides for our needs, defends us from our enemies, and often heals us. God also does allow hardship and suffering into our lives. As we look at the lives of Old Testament men such as Job and Habakkuk, we see God allowed trials and suffering. In the New Testament we see the ultimate act of suffering allowed by God when His Son is nailed to a cross and crucified. All throughout modern history Christians have experienced hardships, trials, and even death because of their faith in Christ.

So what do we say to this? The answer is not that God was not in these events. To say this would mean that we serve a God that is not all-powerful and sovereign over our lives. This is a frightening thought. I believe Paul answers this best in Romans 8 when He declares that God causes all things to work together for the good of those who love Him. We must trust that God is good and that He is sovereign. Everything that happens in our lives is for a purpose.

So the key to all of this actually is in our response. Will we curse God’s name when adversity comes? Or will we praise Him like Job and trust that He loves us and will work all things together for His glory and our good?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Healthy Churches

How do you determine the success of a church? Is it the size of the congregation or the budget? Too often I think these two factors are what determines the health of a church. Although there are many good churches with a large membership and budget I don’t think this should be the determining factor of the health of a body of believers.

As we look in the Old Testament we see a principle at work that is established by God for His people. He says that if the nation of Israel obeys His commands they will prosper. If they disobey they will experience hardship and difficulty. Over time we see that some of the Jewish leaders began to distort this principle. The idea was changed to say that if you were prospering then God was pleased with you. If you were experiencing difficulty and hardship then God was angry with you. Obviously this is not true. The book of Job highlights that a devout believer can experience trials and suffering and still be devoted to God. In the New Testament this is repeatedly demonstrated by Jesus and the apostles whose lives highlight the fact that believers who are passionately pursuing God will experience persecution.

Could it be that we have used this perversion of the principles found in Deuteronomy to determine the health of a church? It is tempting to think that a large church is healthy and pleasing to God and the small church is obviously not experiencing the Lord’s favor. However, just because large amounts of people show up each Sunday does not mean a church is honoring God. Nor does a lack of thousands each Sunday in worship mean a church is not following Christ. I have seen just the opposite. I have witnessed churches filled with thousands of people who gather to hear the preacher barely reference Scripture on a continual basis. At other times I have seen people gather to hear preachers who advocate outright heresy from the pulpit. On the other hand, I have seen churches whose attendance is substantially less, preach the Word with integrity. These churches are filled with people who are loving and serving God with their whole heart.

So if size is not the determining factor of the health of a church what is? Here are a few possibilities…
• The Word is preached consistently and thoroughly
• The leadership possesses a mature and authentic faith
• The congregation is full of regenerate believers
• The membership is active in sharing their faith and serving
• The church is involved in the community
• The church is involved in local and global missions

These suggestions have nothing to do with the size of the church. A church of 50 can fit these requirements just as easily as a church of 5000. My hope is that ministers who lead the various churches across our nation will not fall into the trap that the size of their church determines its health. Instead I hope that pastors will look to the standards found in Scripture such as the ones previously listed to determine the success of their congregation.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Expensive Pants

Recently I was forced to lie on my back for a few days because I caught a case of the flu. I was forced to watch the Today Show one morning because ESPN and Fox News were out on my cable. I listened to one story in which the main theme was the supposed effect the economy was having on people. One of the hosts of the show interviewed a financial "expert" on ways that Americans can get through these "difficult" times financially in America.

All of that was palatable. What was so annoying was the story that immediately followed. It was a fashion segment giving advice on what type of clothes people should buy in order to look good. The irony of this segment was the price tag on all of these clothes. Each of the outfits displayed totaled close to or over $1000! I think I have some advice for their next financial segment. If you are in financial distress in our current economy, quit spending $1000 on one set of clothes!

This just highlights how out of touch many people in the media are with average America. I don't think I have spent $1000 on clothes over the past several years combined much less one outfit.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

What if God Wants You to Fail?

This is the exact opposite of most messages that you will hear from pulpits today. I often hear pastors preach themes such as “God wants You to Succeed” or “God Wants You to Conquer.” But what if He doesn’t? What if the purpose of your life is not to be healthy, wealthy, and famous? What if you are called to be an utter failure in the eyes of the world?

These questions have been on my mind as of late. As I continue to prepare to move my family across the country to plant a church I think about the possibility of failure. I realize that it is possible that our church plant will fail and we will have to move in a different direction. If this happens does this mean that we were not following God’s plan for our lives? Possibly. But maybe we were following God’s plan and His plan was not for us to succeed as we thought we should.

Maybe it is possible that God calls some of us to failure. There are several examples of this in Scripture. Look at the life of Isaiah. Following his call to ministry in Isaiah 6 Isaiah is told that all of his preaching will fall on deaf ears. He is told that no one will listen and head the call to repentance. Look at the life of Job. He endured horrible suffering and hardship despite having a sound faith in God. Even Jesus experienced failure with His disciples. After pouring three years of His life into the twelve all of them deserted them during his arrest and crucifixion.

There are several present day examples as well. The most noticeable for me is the life of Jim Elliot. As a missionary to a tribal group in Ecuador he seemed to be making progress. But then something happened and the tribe turned on him and his companions. The last thing Jim witnessed before his death was a man stabbing and killing him.

To the world these men seemed to fail. Isaiah’s church never grew. He did not lead the state convention in baptisms. Job obviously was not displaying the faith that the health and wealth preachers call for. Jesus’ disciples bailed on Him in His darkest hour. And Jim Elliot did not have a single convert before dying on the mission field as a martyr.

However, we know the rest of the story. We know that Isaiah’s preaching would be recorded and placed into Scripture as God’s Word. God has used the book of Isaiah to call many to repentance. Job’s faith has served as a source of comfort and encouragement for countless believers experiencing hardship. Following Christ’s resurrection the disciples are empowered by the Holy Spirit to preach the gospel throughout the world. And as you probably know a second missionary effort was put together following Jim Elliot’s death which resulted in the conversion of the majority of the tribe. Furthermore, in his death he has impacted the lives of many Christians including myself.

So maybe it is possible that God calls some of us to fail in the eyes of the world. But in truth we are successful in accomplishing His goals. I think it is time we redefine what it means to be successful in ministry. It does not mean having the most baptisms or the largest church budget, or the newest church building. I think success is defined by obedience. The man or woman of God who is obedient to God’s call on their lives is successful no matter how they may appear to the world.

So what does this mean for me? Don’t get me wrong. I am not hoping that my church will fail. I pray that God will bless Connect Church in an incredible way. I pray that He will use this church to start multiple churches who in turn start more churches. The result being that we see the Northwest transformed for the Kingdom of God in my lifetime.

But I cannot measure my success by that standard. I pray that I will have the faith to accept God’s plan if it is not “successful” as I define success. I pray that I will leave my children with an example of success as being obedient to Jesus Christ. In all of this I must remember something that is very counter intuitive. Obedience to God will always bring more joy and satisfaction than anything else this world can offer. Even if that obedience does not result in a “successful life.”

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

In the Name of God

I have to admit that I do sometimes enjoy the politics that are occurring at this time of the year. I am thankful to live in a country that allows for so many freedoms and also allows for leadership change without military violence. I will actually be watching the results of the New Hampshire caucuses tonight with some interest.

However, I am already a little tired of the political use of the Christian theology that I hold so dear. It seems candidates on both sides have discovered the power of the "evangelical/conservative" movement. As a result presidential candidates are tripping over themselves to display their vast knowledge of Scripture as it relates to their political platform and motives.

For example, I have heard many use the Bible to support their views by saying Scripture calls us to help the poor and oppressed and to provide aid and care for those in need. I could not agree more. But I have two problems with this. First, these commands were given to the church and to believers, not to a government. Although it is good for a government to help those in need I think this primarily is a responsibility of the church that we have often neglected. Second, some of those who quote the previously mentioned verses are also the ones who support the killing of babies through abortion. This is the most unrepresented minority in our country. They might want to read the passage about removing the plank from their own eye before trying to remove the speck from someone else.

I feel that I am being treated like an idiot. Am I supposed to start jumping up and down with excitement because a political candidate quoted the Bible? Am I supposed to just blindly follow them because they have now quoted from the book that I use to guide my life? I would simply ask that the candidates running for president stop patronizing me and many other believers who have read the Bible and take it seriously. Just because you quote it does not mean I think you actually believe it or are seeking to live by it. Instead why don't you take the advice found in the book of James. Prove the authenticity of your faith by your actions.

I guess I should be encouraged that the candidates will at least have to read the Bible when they quote it in their speeches. After all the Word is being proclaimed, although it may be coming from the mouth of a donkey (no political pun intended, I was thinking more of the donkey owned by Balaam in the Old Testament and not the symbol for the Democratic party). Maybe God will use this proclamation of His Word through politicians to actually convict and change hearts.

I Am A Little Confused

Over the past several years in ministry I have often been confronted with a worldview that basically states it really doesn't matter what you believe as long as you are sincere. This often takes shape in the Oprah Winfrey theology of our time that believes there are many ways to get to God. We are no longer allowed to say that any other religion is wrong. Instead they are just different and seeking God in their own way. Bottom line, all of this is a belief system that denies the existence of absolute truth.

However, I also hear the same people lament the horrible tragedy that occurred in our country on September 11, 2001. These people will become angry at the mention of the terrorists who killed so many Americans on that day in the name of their god.

But isn't this a huge contradiction? Were not these terrorists seeking to secure a place in heaven according to their belief system? Were they not simply living out their faith with sincerity and passion? Do we have the right to say that what they did was wrong?

I believe that you cannot have it both ways. You cannot say that all religions lead to heaven and then say what the terrorists did on 911 is wrong. Simply because they were doing what they thought their religion taught.

I believe that 911 and similar tragedies like it such as the genocide that occurred under the Nazi regime pose the biggest problem for one who wants to support the idea that there is no absolute truth. You cannot make statements like "all religions are correct," "don't judge me," or "I'll do what works for me and you do what works for you" and still say these atrocities in our history are wrong.

I don't know what frightens me the most. That we live in a society that allows for such glaring inconsistencies or that one day people may actually say that 911 or the Nazi regime were not tragedies but instead they were simply cultures trying to live out their beliefs. When my daughters go to school I think I will allow them to answer test questions according to what they personally "believe" or "feel" and tell the teachers that they cannot mark their answers incorrect since their is no absolute truth.