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4/12/09

BUNNIES, BOUNCING & BAIT

Yesterday was the day before Easter. A few months ago, in a moment of insanity or inspiration, I'm still not sure which, I mentioned in a staff meeting that we should rent the local football stadium, hire a helicopter and drop a few thousand Easter eggs out of it. Yesterday we did it...with a few exceptions. We dropped 30,000 eggs. We had 15 inflatables. We had games, face-painting, popcorn & cotton candy. We gave away thousands of dollars of prizes. And it was all free.
We really didn't have any idea what to expect. I mean, we'd never done this before. Initially, we thought if 1,000 people showed up it would be a success. Then we reassessed and revised our expectations. We hoped for 1500.
I don't know how many people showed up yesterday. I know that after the parking team had parked 5000 cars they quit counting. I know that we caused such a traffic jam in Pearland that the Pearland PD had to dispatch 5 units to handle the traffic backups we caused for miles. (sorry!) I know there were people everywhere.
There were bleeps and blunders and things we would do differently. Like I told the guy from the Chronicle when he asked me if this was the First Annual Great Pearland Egg Drop, this was the first. Whether or not it's annual will be determined later.
What happened? We gave a gift to the community. Free...absolutely no strings attached. We invited them to join us to celebrate Easter in one of our 4 services, but we gave. At Easter, when we celebrated the greatest gift ever that was freely given to us with no strings attached, what else could we do, but give freely in return?

4/8/09

DAMN!

Whoa! Does that say what I think it says? Yep. That's what I told my folks Sunday morning. The reason we aren't more poassionate about reaching people for Jesus is that we JUST DON'T GIVE A DAMN! I'm sure many were surprised, shocked, offended, disappointed, just to mention a few responses.
Just out of curiosity, what's your response? No one walked out, but you could have heard a pin drop.
My purpose? To point out that most of us are more offended at the pastor using the word DAMN than we are that our neighbors are lost, dying and being damned to hell for eternity. We're more offended that the pastor cursed than we are that those that we call friends and family are living CURSED lives far from God. Kinda whacked, don't you think?
One more thing to think about...who's more offended? You, that I said DAMN, or God, that we just don't give one?
Ask God to give you HIS passion for your neighbors and friends and family and work associates and teamates that he loved enough to die for.

3/15/09

HELICOPTERS AND EMPTY TOMBS

What do helicopters and empty tombs have to do with one another? Seemingly, nothing. So, why would we want to spend thousands of dollars and thousands of man-hours on helicopters, Easter eggs, football stadiums, cotton candy and blow-up bouncy things? (even a mechanical bucking bunny!)
That's a great question. One that requires and demands more than one answer. First, we're doing it because we have a mission. Our mission is to introduce real people to a real God. In order to fulfill that mission, we have to meet people where they live. We have to think like they think and be interested in what they are interested in. Lost people in Pearland care about their kids and want the best for them. If we are to fulfill our mission, this is one opportunity to reach them.
Another reason we're doing this is because of who our competition is. Our competition is not the church down the street, (although in many of our minds, that's exactly who our competition is) but the world. We can't compete for the souls of the people of Pearland with the second-rate and the second-hand. We should be unapologetic in doing whatever we do with audacious gusto. The church should adopt a first-class or pass mentality. We can't throw out a bag of oreos and a pitcher of Koolaid and call it the party to end all partys. The world just isn't buying it.
Here's another reason for you. It's Easter. For Christians, it's the biggest...the holiest...the most powerful and important day of the year. The Church of Jesus Christ (the savior who left the tomb empty and the stone rolled away) has every right...no, change that, the mandate to party like it's never partied before. The tomb is empty. The Lord is risen. He is risen indeed! That's not time to sit in a circle and sing Kum-ba-ya to one another. It's time to celebrate!
And celebrate we will! Hope you can join us for the GREAT PEARLAND EGG DROP. 20,000 Easter eggs dropped from a helicopter onto the floor of the Rig (Pearland ISD Football Stadium), cotton candy and popcorn, pictures of your child with the Easter Bunny, and games, games, games. Did I mention the giveawys....bunches of great giveaways. You could win a Wii or an iPod. Everyone will have a great time. Hope you join us!

2/10/09

Who's Your Coach?

Ever play on a team without a coach? I have. You know, a church-league basketball team. Softball league. Flag football. It's not exactly the same as the sports experiences you remember from your earlier years. Back in High School, everyone knew exactly who was in charge. Everyone knew who was calling the shots, determining the strategy and calling the plays on gameday. But, even before that, every day you knew who was in charge of practice. And you knew what his purpose was. Sure, to win games, but also, to make you the best player you could be. After all, that's what makes it possible for him to win games.
My playing days are over, but recently I got myself a coach anyway. Not to help me with my jumpshot or put a few more MPHs on my fastball, but to help me be a better pastor. For the past six months, I've been part of a coaching network, along with some other pastors from accross the U.S. and a few other countries. We have a coach whose sole purpose is to make us better at what we do. He talks a lot, assigns us MP3s to listen to, makes us take notes and send him copies, makes us read books and write about them, and so on and so on. Lot's of extra work. But, I think it's working. I think I'm better. A better leader. A better pastor. A better visionary. After all, that's what he's supposed to do, make me better.
This week I'm flying to Tampa to meet with my coach in person. I'm pretty excited about it. First time to meet in person. Halfway mark of this coaching network commitment. Trip to Florida in February isn't so bad either.
Like any good basketball team (or any other team, but, hey it's basketball season) you need a good coach to be a good player on a good team. Whether you want to be a good ball player or a good math student or a good pastor, you need a good coach to help you get there. In the same way, if you want to be a godly man, a great wife, an awesome grandfather or just a great christian friend, you need a coach to help you get there.
So, who's coaching you? Who's helping you become the best whatever you want to be? You don't want to be playing out your life in the church-leagues. Oh, that's fine for the Friday Night Softball League, but not for your life. For that, you want to play in the Big League. For that, you'll need some coaching. So, do what I did, go out and find one. Just find someone who's got some experience and success at what you want to do well and ask. Take them to lunch. Have coffee. Spend a little time together. Ask questions and listen. Get coached. Everybody needs one.

2/9/09

All Atwitter!

That pretty much sums me up. Why, you ask? Because this week is Valentines Day. I'm pumped! Can you sense the sincerity in my voice?!?! Not!
OK, so, as a typical male, I consider VD (I like to call it by it's initials) a plague on our culture. I truly think it is a communist plot foisted on an unwitting American populace by by Lenin, Stalin, Marx and someone named Hallmark.
Face it! We've been duped. We bit the apple. We swallowed the hook. We.....well, I could go on and on ad nauseum. But, I'll restrain myself.
Here's my question: Why does the calendar or the florist or the card shop or anyone else, for that matter, have the right to tell us we should be romantic towards our mates this one day a year? Why? Who gives them the right? Of all the unmitigaed gaul. Seriously, someone give me an answer.
Well, try this one. Maybe it's because we've failed to do it the other 364 days of the year. Just a thought. Maybe, not even a good one. But, it's a thought.
Possibly one answer might be to whine and moan a little less about VD, and bring home flowers on, say, April 12th. Or, leave a card on the bathroom counter next to her toothbrush on, say, September 22nd. Or here's a good one, take her to dinner (you pick the place, don't just say the usual, "I don't care, wherever you want to go")and a movie for absolutely no apparent reason. Just because.
Want to mess up the entire system and really mess with her mind? Plan a date night EVERY WEEK! OK, I may have overstepped my boundaries. If this is too revolutionary a thought, simply back up a sentence and read no further. But, for those of you ready to start living on the edge, go crazy.
Trust me, it's cheaper than marriage counseling and takes a lot of the dread off VD. (I still think it's a plot!)

2/2/09

ISOLATION OR INSULATION?

I would rather my children die following God's will, than live rejecting His will.
To some that will sound rather harsh and heartless. Nothing could further from the truth. As parents, our role initially, is the protection of our children. "Don't touch that." "Don't run with the scissors in your hands." Don't put that in your mouth. You don't know where that's been!" "Don't play in the street." "Don't hang around with those kids." "Don't drive so fast!" "Don't...Don't...Don't!" "Please be careful!"
So, since it seems like our entire function as a parent has been to prtect our children from harm, is there a point where we release them to God to hear his voice for themselves and follow His will for their lives? If this wasn't confusing enough, God seemingly muddies up the waters by telling us things like, "Without faith, it is possible to please Me". Impossible. Big word.
Our words to our kids are "Be careful. Be safe. Don't take any unnecessary risks." You'd think God would have our backs, but no. Here he comes with this faith stuff. Faith is all about risk. It's totally and completely risky business oriented. Thanks a load, God.
So, how do we sync protecting our kids with God's requirement of faith on their part? I think we have to do several things:

1. We check our motives. Many times we, as parents, say something like, "Please be careful. I don't know what I would do if something happened to you." That's revealing. Oftentimes our children's protection, although important, is more about us than them. In all honesty, we're saying "I don't want anything to happen to you because of what it would do to me." Ouch! Sometimes this honesty stuff sucks!

2. We check our methods. Someone has suggested there are two ways to protect our kids. Isolation and Insulation. One is based on just keeping our kids away from any possibility of anything bad. The latter is more difficult, but much more practical. It places the child in the world, while teaching him how not to become part of the world. Rather than removing every possible bad choice and source of pain, it teaches the chiuld how to deal with possible bad choices and entrusts the child to the protection of a Heavenly Father.

3. We check our faith. Bottom line, do we trust our kids, or our spose or even ourselves to the care of our Heavenly Father? Can He really be trusted?

Let me share the words of a great song by a great man of God, Keith Green:

Well, I pledge my head to heaven for the gospel,
And i ask no man on earth to fill my needs.
Like the sparrow up above, I am enveloped in His love,
And I trust Him, like those little ones He feeds.

Well, I pledge my wife to heaven for the gospel,
Though our love each passing day just seems to grow.
As I told her when we wed, I'd surely rather be found dead,
Than to love her more than the one who saved my soul.

Well, I pledge my son to heaven for the gospel,
Though he's kicked and beaten, ridiculed and scorned.
I will teach him to rejoice, and lift a thankful praising voice,
And be like Him who bore the nails and crown of thorns.

Well, I pledge my son, I pledge my wife, I pledge my head to heaven.
I pledge my son, I pledge my wife, I pledge my head to heaven for the gospel.

1/22/09

DISCIPLE

To most Christians, that may be the scariest word in the English language. What thoughts are conjured up in your mind when you hear that word? Memorizing scripture? Reading chapter after chapter after chapter of the Bible? Sitting in a circle with a small group of individuals and studying like you never thought you would? Workbooks? Theology? Digging, digging, digging? Maybe a little Greek and Hebrew? Brain cells screaming for mercy?

If so, I think you’re in good company. That’s most of our pictures of what discipleship looks like. Now, I want to challenge your thinking. Don’t misunderstand me, those are all good things. I’ve done them all. I’m all for them. They have their place. But, here’s my question for you…Did Jesus make disciples? Duh, that’s an easy one. Next question…Is that how he did it? Uh, well, not exactly. I’m sure they sat around in a little circle from time to time and I know Jesus quoted scripture to them (since he wrote it, I guess that was to be expected). But, what was Jesus’ methods for making disciples? Ready? I’m going to map it all out for you. Here we go….

Jesus did and the disciples watched
The disciples did and Jesus watched
The disciples did it on their own

Is that it? Yep, that was it. Nothing at all like our concept of disciple-making, is it? So, where’s the disconnect? Simply put, our concept of discipleship centers solely on how much a person KNOWS. Jesus’ concept of discipleship centered on what a person DID. How well was he equipped. How much of a difference was he making? Our emphasis is EDUCATION. Jesus’ emphasis was APPLICATION. There’s the disconnect.

Listen to what Bill Easum writes in his book, Go Big!.
“Maturity is not measured on your words, but your deeds. Maturing Christians don’t need another course or Bible study. Instead, they need to apply what they already know. People tend to think of discipleship as going deeper in knowledge. An educator can tell you the highest form of learning is application, so put them to work serving, the more the better. If the so-called mature are not willing to serve, don’t let them mentor anyone else or be in a power position, because you don’t want bad DNA embedded into others.”

So, here are my final questions: By that definition, are you a disciple? By that definition, are you making disciples?