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8/31/14

WHY DO WE DO THAT? Part 5

Q:  Why doesn't Tom preach every Sunday?

Once again, I have to give it to you...you ask good questions.  There are a lot of pastors, I mean a lot, who preach 51 times a year.  They think they have to.  They think they need to.  They think it's their job.  They think they'd be letting their congregation down or shirking their duties or being lazy or...whatever, ...you fill in the blank...that they HAVE to preach every Sunday.

They do so with diligence, a tender heart toward their people and a true desire to be a faithful steward of what God has called them to do...preach.  But, what are the ramifications of that, good motives and all?

*They burn out early
*They see themselves as indispensable
*They sacrifice QUALITY on the altar of QUANTITY
*They never give their people the opportunity to hear another person with another perspective and possibly an important and pertinent message just for them
*They never allow themselves to be fed
*They never develop other communicators other than themselves
*They, unknowingly, see themselves as more important than they really are
*They model an unhealthy lifestyle to their people

I know this, because, for many years I was "it".  Their weren't any other guys to step up and step in and take my place.  I did it all because I had to do it all.

This year I made a commitment to my staff...I would, at least, take one Sunday between series to allow someone else to speak.  I would provide myself some down time to recharge my batteries, as well as hours to be preparing for the next series that I wouldn't have otherwise.  Not only that, but it would provide some much-needed time to attend to some of those other pastoral duties that got pushed to the sidelines for the sake of message preparation.

What's been the hardest part of this?  My ego.  Given the opportunity I'd speak 53 Sundays a year. (yes, I know there are only 52)  That's just me.  But, that's not what's best for me, for Crosspoint or for my staff.

So, you're mostly going to hear from me on Sundays.  However, when you don't, approach it this way:
*This means my pastor can do this longer
*This means my pastor can do this better
*This means my pastor is putting his ego in check
*This means my pastor is not just about being a great communicator, but about training others as well
*This means my pastor believes there are others who have something to say to his people other than himself
*This means my pastor has chosen the wise road over the road he prefers
*This means my pastor is still teachable (old dogs CAN learn new tricks)

8/28/14

WHY DO WE DO THAT? Part 4

Q:  Why does Pastor Tom teach using a TV?

When we moved from our temporary facilities at Turner High School to our permanent location, I was asked if there was anything that I personally wanted addressed as far as Audio/Visual components went.  I truly believe that they assumed my answer would be "no".  They were surprised when I said, "Absolutely.  I want a large screen TV on a stand that I can use as a teaching tool!".

They asked the same question as many of you...WHY?  Great question!  Here's my answer...

As a communicator I strive to do a number of things all at the same time:
*Be relevant
*Engage the audience
*Be true to the text I am using
*Relate to the crowd
*Make eye contact
*Be as independent as possible from any notes and speak passionately from the heart

Over the years, I've spoken from behind a pulpit, from behind a Bible (with notes inside), from behind an iPad, etc.  You see the constant here?  Always "BEHIND" something.  Always something between myself and my audience.  People love to be "behind" something, whatever it is.  We feel safe and protected and less vulnerable when we're "behind" something, whatever it is.  Go to a party where you don't know anyone and you feel naked.  But, put a red Solo cup in your hand and everything changes.  However, there's also something always "between" you and your audience.  Large or small, you're separated.

The TV allows me to have nothing between myself and the audience I'm speaking to.  It allows me to "read along with you" rather than "reading at you".  It allows me to be less dependent on any type of notes and just speak from the heart.  My hope is, it allows me to be a better communicator.

Love it or hate it, that's my reasoning.  I love it (when it works), and I hope by understanding my reasoning for it, you will too.

8/27/14

WHY DO WE DO THAT? Part 3

Q:  Why did we quit doing the welcome in our services...the part where everyone shakes everyone's hands around them?

A:  I'm like you.  I like shaking hands.  I like welcoming people.  I like saying "Good morning", "Welcome", "Glad to have you".

Sometime back I attended another church of a different ilk than ours.  At one point the guy in charge told everyone to welcome everyone around them.  It was, for me, the most awkward and uncomfortable moment of the entire experience.  These people had been sitting around me for the last 30 minutes and hadn't even acknowledged my existence.  Now, because someone publicly told them they had to, they did.  AWK...WARD!

I think that's exactly how guests feel when they get greeted on command.  There are basically two kinds of guests who visit our church:
     1.  The INCOGNITO GUEST.  They want to slip in and slip out without unduly being noticed or
                                                         fawned over.  Some remember the old days of church when guests
                                                         were made to STAND UP so someone could bring them a Visitor
                                                         Card, complete with a peel-off, stick-on lapel rose so everyone
                                                         would notice then, they'd stick out like a sore thumb, and
                                                         it would be apparent to everyone that they were different and
                                                         didn't actually BELONG here.

     2.  The I WANT TO SEE JUST HOW FRIENDLY YOU REALLY ARE GUEST.
                                                        These folk give no points for being welcomed on command.  They
                                                        have an internal scoring system that tallies up the number of folks
                                                        that somehow recognize they are new, approach them, introduce
                                                        themselves, and tell them how great it is to have them there.  If
                                                        they feel they were inadequately greeted and made to feel
                                                        welcome, they usually note that in response to my email I send to
                                                        them.  Usually with, "No one spoke to me".  "I felt unwelcome".

So, how do we handle both groups at the same time.  Here's our strategy:
1.  They are directed and welcomed in the parking lot at least once, sometimes twice (if they ride the cart)
2.  They are welcomed by an outside Greeter as they approach the building
3.  They are greeted by a Lobby Greeter once inside and given any directions they might need
4.  They are greeted at the Check-In if they have children
5.  They are greeted at the auditorium doors and handed a program when they enter
6.  They are greeted inside the auditorium by our ushers

OUR GOAL:  That every guest to Crosspoint Church receive 7 touches (verbal, physical,
                         emotional, etc.) before they leave.

OK, so I only counted 6 at best.  How do we get the 7th?  That's where you come in.  We're counting on you to say "Hello" to everyone you see.  I know what you're thinking, "But, I don't know who are guests and who are members".  Me neither.  So, I just try to speak to everyone.  "Hello, how are you?" works fine for either.  "I'm not sure if I've met you" is a good one.  "Hi, I'm _____________" is great as well.

BOTTOM LINE:  They all beat "Now shake hands and make to feel welcome all those around you whom you've ignored up to this point".  

I think BEING a friendly church actually trumps ACTING like a friendly church every time.  Now, YOU HAVE MY PERMISSION TO COMMENCE WELCOMING FOLKS.

8/20/14

WHY DO WE DO THAT? Part 2

Q:  Why is our music so loud?

That's another good question, and it doesn't have one simple answer.  However, I'll try to do the best I can to answer to the best of my abilities.  Several factors are at play...

1.  The System.  When we opened our new campus we went from an analog sound system to a digital system.  That's the gold standard in the sound world.  That's great.  Only problem is, we don't have anyone in our church that is trained to run a digital sound system.  THAT'S A PROBLEM.  We've got great servants who are working hard to learn the system, and we've had people come in to provide training for our volunteers.  And, they're doing a great job.  We've learned how to balance the system and bring it down.

2.  Music is loud.  Crosspoint is not a traditional church and we don't have traditional music.  We have rocking, moving contemporary music.  That kind of music is served up loud.  Not eardrum bursting loud, but loud.  Susan and I recently attended a concert at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion.  It was a lot louder.  I can hear you right now..."Yeah, but that was a rock concert!".  I also went to the Rodeo and stayed for the concert and it was much louder.  "Yeah, but that was Country music!".  OK, been to a Hillsong concert or Jesus Culture or Third Day or even sweet little Kari Jobe?  I could go on and on....  It's all loud.

We don't want to promote permanent hearing loss, but music today is loud.  Bottom line:  If you're looking for some sweet quiet hymns, a nice choir and some handbells....something out of 1965, then there are plenty of those churches on every corner.  Crosspoint's not going to be your church.  But, if you want something that's cutting edge, heart-pumping and celebrates Jesus in a loud way, you're gonna love it here!

8/19/14

WHY DO WE DO THAT?

Oftentimes people ask, or at least think to themselves, "Why do we do that at Crosspoint Church?".  Sometimes the questions come because we don't understand.  Sometimes they come because we disagree.  Whatever the reason, it's good to know the WHY behind the WHAT.  I'm going to try to answer a few of those.

Q:  Why do we play secular music before our Worship Services?

That's a great question.  As you walk up the sidewalk toward the main building on any given Sunday, you'll hear either a playlist selected to coincide with the current series (EX: During the ULTIMATE ROADTRIP series we had traveling songs) or you will hear simply a collection of Top 40 tunes.

But why?  Why not worship songs?  Why not songs glorifying God and preparing our hearts for worship?  Wouldn't that be more appropriate?

Sure, those songs would be appropriate.  But, they wouldn't be strategic.  We have made a conscious decision that we want to see lives transformed by the power of God.  We want to introduce real people to a real God.  And, most importantly, we want to be a church that unchurched people want to go to.

What keeps unchurched people from going to church?  They don't know anyone.  They don't know what to expect.  They don't know any of the songs we sing.  They don't know where to go.  They're afraid they'll do the wrong thing, stick out like a sore thumb and embarrass themselves.  Most of us have followed Christ and gone to church so long that we've totally forgotten (if we ever knew to begin with!) what it's like to be lost and unchurched and make that 100 ft walk up to that front door in absolute fear...fear of the unknown.

So, how can we say to them, "It's OK, you'll be fine, we're here to help you, everything won't be unknown to you?
1.  We can have great people in the parking lot that give them directions as to where to park and where to go
2.  We can have greeters that welcome them and direct them to the proper places they need to know about and go to
3.  We can have people at the Information Desk to answer any questions they have
4.  We can play music that they may have heard before.  In fact that may be the only thing they see or hear when they arrive that they are actually acquainted with

Recently, I had the opportunity to talk with a couple who had visited our church and who, ultimately, came to know Christ as Lord of their lives.  They'd never gone to church and were really fearful about their first visit.  What made the biggest impression on them?  One of them told me, "Any church that played Imagine Dragons before its services was a church I felt comfortable at and I decided right then I wanted to come back".

I know many of you will still say, "But, I'd prefer to hear worship music playing when I walk up to my church on Sunday morning".  That's fair and honest.  That's what you'd prefer and that would make your heart happy

A question for you: What makes God's heart happy?  The answer has nothing to do with what music we play before our services.  When lost people that Jesus died for get found and fall in love with their Creator...that's what makes God's heart happy.

So, a second question for you:  What's more important to you...what makes your heart happy, or what makes God's heart happy?

At Crosspoint Church, we're going to do everything short of sin to see as many as possible come to Christ.  PERIOD.  We will preach the gospel with power, sincerity and unwatered-down straightforwardness.  At the same time we will unapologetically cater to lost, unchurched, fearful people who give us one shot to show them God's love.

8/18/14

86

     Yesterday at Crosspoint Church we celebrated baptism.  It's not as though we never do it.  We celebrate those who've chosen to follow Christ and "Go Public" with their faith every month.
     But, this time was different.  We did it outside.  We did it in two pools we had set up right outside our auditorium.  We encouraged everyone who had made a commitment to Christ, but had never been obedient in baptism, to do so.
     People came ready to "Go Public".  But, then, I asked others to join them.  Those who wanted to follow Christ.  To decide right then...that day...in that moment... to follow Christ and be baptized.  Just like the Ethiopian Eunuch who wanted to follow Christ and be baptized as a expression of his commitment to Jesus.  Phillip told him, "Here's some water.  What's keeping you from doing it now?"    I asked them the same thing that day.
     And they did.  Some who had planned to.  Some who hadn't.  31 people who had no plans to follow Christ that day, did.  Some who had never been to Crosspoint Church before yesterday.  Some who'd never been to church before anywhere.  Husbands with their wives.  Fathers with their children.  86 people all together.
      I prayed and asked God if He could do a miracle and bring 50 people to follow Christ in baptism that day.  He said, "No".  He's bigger.  He had bigger plans.  He had plans for 86.  86 people will never be the same.  86 people followed Christ and "Went Public" with their faith.
     There were 1200 people watching them.  They'll never be the same either.

8/14/14

THE RUMOR MILL

     Rumors are funny things.  Sometimes they're just gossip (but, rumor sounds so much more palatable).  Sometimes we start them rolling without even knowing it.  Like a tiny snowball that starts rolling down a hill, picking up a little more snow as it goes, until it becomes a giant boulder of power leaving destruction in its path.
     OK, so I guess I started this one...innocently enough.  I recently mentioned about a succession plan I had for when I retire.  Retire?  No one puts together a succession plan for when they retire unless they're thinking about retiring...right?  Absolutely true.  I am thinking about it....in 10 or 11 years.  
     Here's what you need to know:

1.  I go to the gym most every day.  I don't go there because I like it (well, I'm starting to).  I go there because I want to keep my body in shape to do the job I love as long as is humanly possible.

2.  Most people, when they consider retirement think about what's best for them.  That enters into my thinking as well, but my #1 priority is what's best for Crosspoint.  I love this church more than any of you know.  I have no intentions of just leaving and hoping you figure it out and do good after I'm gone.  I'd like to see there be a smooth, seamless, well thought-out, well prayed-out plan in place for when I do hang it up where the wheel gets gradually and wisely handed over and Crosspoint never misses a beat.

3.  I don't want to outstay my welcome, but I don't want to leave a day before I need to either.

4.  Someday I'll step down from being the Lead Pastor of Crosspoint Church.  However, I have no intentions of ever retiring from ministry.  I believe that's a life-long calling.  I want to do that till I take my last breath.

So, for those of you who thought I was about done....tough break.  You're stuck with me.  I ain't going no where.  In fact, I think my best days are still ahead!

8/13/14

DISAPPOINTMENT

     Whether they are written on our calendars, on our Bucket Lists, discussed with those we love or just assumed somewhere back in the recesses of our minds, we all have PLANS.  PLANS of how parts and pieces of our lives will go.  When we will marry.  When and how many children we will have.  Where we will work, where we will live, how much money we will make...what our lives will look like.
     The problem is, seldom do they go that way.  Sometimes there are little detours along the way.  Sometimes we are totally sidetracked.  Sometimes they explode in our face and it seems as though EVERYTHING...EVERYTHING we planned has blown up.  Sometimes it's the "by this time we will" things that don't go as planned.  Sometimes it's devastating when the children we planned for don't come.  Health, finances, relationships, relocations outside our control, downsizing....all of these and more can adversely impact our plans and send us reeling.
     Some adjust better than others.  Some are incapable of adjusting at all.  The plan wasn't a dream or a hope...it was etched in stone.  Which one of those describes us determines, not whether or not we are DISAPPOINTED, but rather the depth of our DISAPPOINTMENT.
     The real problem we face is the assumption that OUR PLANS ARE GOD'S PLANS.  In reality, however, God's Word teaches us the absolute opposite.  God plainly states, "My thoughts are not your thoughts and my plans are not your plans".  It's right there in black and white.  Not much room for misinterpretation.  His plans for us are different than our plans for us.  The DISAPPOINTMENT comes from our assumption that either a) Our plans and God's plans are the same, b) Our plans are superior to God's plans or c) If God loves us and is a good God, He will make sure our plans come to fruition.  All three of those assumptions are wrong and lead to DISAPPOINTMENT when things don't go as we planned.
      What if we changed just one letter in that word... From DISAPPOINTMENT to HIS APPOINTMENT?  Small change...huge difference.  What if we determined the success of our lives and the ensuing happiness we derive less by how well they fulfill OUR PLANS and more by how well they fulfill HIS APPOINTMENT for our life?  When the detours and hardships and deviations of life come, what if we saw them less as our plans going down in flames and more as God having His way in spite of us?  Might it change DISAPPOINTMENT into HIS APPOINTMENT? Might we be moved from confusion to joy?  Might we think, "My plan was good, but I know God's is better". 
     Here's an absolutely crazy idea...what if part of our exalting Jesus to the position of LORD over our life included bringing all our plans, all our assumptions and all our preconceived notions and laying them down at his feet.  In essence saying, "Here's all my plans for my life...all my wants and dreams and expectations.  I bring them as a sacrifice to you.  I lay them down in lieu of your BETTER plans for me.  That way, since I have no expectations except that you would be glorified through me, I will have no DISAPPOINTMENTS along the way.  Do whatever brings you glory and I'll be happy with that."  
     Crazy idea, huh?

8/12/14

LESSONS FROM A LIFE

     Yesterday the world was shocked, saddened and totally caught off guard at the death of Robin Williams.  Not just his death...his death at his own hands.  How could that possibly happen?  How could someone so full of laughter and wit and humor and LIFE come to a place where they would take their own life?  And, in the middle of our sadness and confusion, is there anything we can take away with us from such an event.
     I think so.

1.  People are not always as they seem.  The cover is not necessarily the best indicator of the book.  There are a lot of smiling, laughing, sad people.

2.  As a culture, we have made great strides in understanding and accepting diseases.  Diseases of the brain are not necessarily one of those.  If Mr. Williams had cancer we would have understood.  We understood, somewhat, his battles with addictions.  We seem to understand and feel OK with diseases of any portion of the body other than the brain.  Mental illness is a term we are very uncomfortable with for so many reasons.  On a personal level, I remember with great clarity when I faced a battle with anxiety and depression.  I was OK until my wife called the doctor for some information and was told to refer to the phone number on the back of my insurance card for Mental Health.  I was doing OK until I heard that term.  Suddenly, it was as though all the wind went out of me and I thought to myself, "I'm mentally ill?  Will they put me in a rubber room?  Am I going to be institutionalized?  Will I be kept away from my grandkids?  What's going to happen to me?"  It was the most helpless and desperate moment of my life.

3.  The Church has to become comfortable with diseases of the brain.  Jesus was.  As his representatives on this planet, we must be as well.  We've made some progress, but we have a long way to go.  Support Groups for virtually every kind of disease known to mankind are springing up in churches everywhere.  Good job.  But, what about diseases of the brain?  I'm a proud pastor to know that Crosspoint Church has a Mental Health Support Group.  These are people who God loves and Jesus died for.  These are people like us who struggle with a disease.  They're not damaged goods.  They're not to be avoided or feared.  They are people like me, who have a disease of the brain.  If it was anywhere else we'd be a lot more comfortable with it.  Too bad.  Maybe we need to aim a little higher....like COMPASSION rather than COMFORT.