Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Still in Nashville, having good conversations and enjoying time with family.

I mentioned yesterday that Clark's aunt and uncle were part of a church plant that launched about seven years ago. Their church is called Midtown Fellowship and it's in the heart of Nashville. You can check out their website at www.midtownfellowship.org, especially take a look at their church planting vision page. They are an urban plant, which differs from Ashley Ridge, but I love that they planted with a vision to be a multi-site church. I'm especially impressed by how they've thought through the differing identities of a multi-site set-up while maintaining a unified vision. They remind me of Community Christian Church in Chicago.

People often ask why we need to plant churches when there are so many dying churches already in existence. The simple answer is forget the dying churches, there are thousands and thousands and thousands of people in all of our communities across the United States that do not know Jesus Christ and do not have a church home. We ought to be continually creating new communities that are going out into the world to invite people into a life-saving, life-giving relationship with Jesus. The church has no business retreating at any point in time no matter what is going on (i.e. denominational confusion, bad economies, you name it). The Church of Jesus Christ will go on and we must go forward in faith doing all we can to bring glory to God.

So, as we gear up to plant Ashley Ridge, I hope we have a mentality that says Ashley Ridge will be a church that not only thrives and grows as Ashley Ridge, but also goes out and plants new communities of faith all over the greater Charleston area and beyond. Greater things...

Monday, June 29, 2009

Yesterday our family worshiped at East Cooper Baptist Church with their pastor, Buster Brown. It made me happy just to be worshiping with someone named Buster Brown. I first heard about ECBC when some of the college students from Bethany started going there while attending College of Charleston. ECBC was a church plant in 1974/75 and their mother church was First Baptist in downtown Charleston. They moved east of the Cooper River when there wasn't a whole lot there...yet. Is any of this sounding familiar?

Today ECBC is a thriving church with simultaneous traditional and contemporary services. They use a video feed to show the sermon in the contemporary service. We noticed that the set-up created some awkwardness in the flow of the contemporary service, but it is obviously working for them.

Right now, we're in Nashville visiting Clark's family. Clark's grandfather was very eager to meet his first great-grandson. It will be a quick visit, but we're glad to be here. The added bonus is that Clark's aunt and uncle were part of 30 people who helped plant a church in Nashville 7 years ago. It was also a mother-daughter church plant so I'm looking forward to picking their brains about the experience. More to come...

Friday, June 26, 2009

For someone who never listens to talk radio, I have become a serious podcast junkie in the last two years. I subscribe to the Catalyst podcast, LifeisSport (great interviews w/ sporting heroes like Coack K about life) and some church planting stuff, but I primarily listen to sermons from Andy Stanley, Craig Groeschel, Perry Noble, Steven Furtick and Rick McKinley. You see, for most people one sermon a week is sufficient, but I need to hear at least one a day. I can't seem to get enough. Maybe it's a sickness, but strong biblical preaching and teaching gets me fired up and motivated. Plus, I need a good kick in the pants everyday to keep me on track.

This morning, I listened to part three of Andy Stanley's "Defining Moments" series. He was talking about Jesus' conversation with the rich young ruler who wanted to know what he needed to do to secure eternal life. Jesus told him to sell everything he had, give all the proceeds to the poor and come follow him - not so much the answer he was looking for. In his sermon Andy made the point that God wants to know whose we are. Money/possessions are the number one thing that competes with our relationship with God and God needs to know who and what we belong to. The amounts and the dollar figures are never the point, the question is whose we are.

Growing up, my dad would drop my sister and me off at school in the morning and the last thing he would say was "remember who you are and whose you are." It's easy to get distracted and wrapped up in all kinds of things - even really good things - but if we're not fully committed to following God then we've missed the point.

The same is true for ARC - will it be our church or will it be God's church? Who does the church belong to? Knowing the answer to that question gives me a lot of clarity about our purpose, courage to keep walking and humility to know it sure as heck doesn't belong to me. The Church at all times and all places belongs to God. And so, I leave you with this quote from Reggie McNeal that I read this morning, "Unfortunately it [the church growth movement] fell victim to an idolatry as old as the Tower of Babel, the belief that we are the architects of the work of God. As a result we have the best churches men can build, but are still waiting for the church that only God can get the credit for." Let's be that church.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Confession: my whole life I have been a church insider - first as a pastor’s kid and now as a pastor. I’m used to being on the inside, knowing the underside, seeing behind the scenes. And so, it is an incredibly strange, out-of-body experience for me to visit churches, which will be my lot for the next few months.

Yesterday, Clark and Jake and I went to the Summerville campus of Seacoast. From the moment we pulled onto their parking lot, there were people directing us to a parking spot, smiling and saying hello. When we walked in the door, we were directed to the first time registration table for Kidscoast where we registered Jake for the 0-12 month class before being escorted to the class and introduced to the childcare volunteers. It was a wonderful experience…and the whole time I was thinking about what the people on the inside were thinking as they looked at us: “There’s a young couple with a baby, I wonder if they’re new in town,” or “That family looks nice, I hope they have a good experience and want to join our church,” or “I wonder what they do for a living and if they would like to tithe here.” My insider voice can be very distracting.

Nevertheless, we had a great morning. The worship team was excellent and the preaching was powerful. Craig Groeschel, the pastor of lifechurch.tv, talked about the prodigal son and what it means to know God as Father. He talked about God as a patient Father, a forgiving Father and an intimate Father, and ultimately he extended the invitation for all of us to come home to our Father. Clark and I so rarely have the chance to worship together and it means so much to us. In fact, most of the times when we do worship together I have the thought at least once that I should quit my job so we can worship together weekly. The truth is that we do, but simply in a less traditional fashion.

So what did I learn this week…sometimes it’s good not to be an insider and simply worship, but, in fact, God invites all of us to be insiders, to claim the church as our home and pray for its strength at all times and in all places.