We linger in courtyards. We pray in courtyards. We have conversations in courtyards. We talk about life in courtyards and exchange the news of the day. Psalm 84:10 says that one day in God's courtyard is better than a thousand days anywhere else. Join me as I hangout at God's doorstep.
Thursday, July 30, 2009
We are a community of people passionately pursuing God and participating in God's passion for reaching people with the love of Jesus Christ.
"It is important people perceive our church to be..."
Yesterday I filled out an online questionnaire for our web designer in preparation for tomorrow's design meeting. One of the things they asked was for me to complete the sentence, "It is important people perceive our church to be" The first word that came to my mind was genuine. I want people to have no doubt that we are genuine in our faith, our passion and our commitment to live for Jesus every day and in every way.
Now I'm not a web designer, but my guess is that it's hard for a website to communicate "genuine." That's almost like asking an ATM to communicate a bank is friendly. Church's can have the best website in the world and that website can do an incredible job of connecting people to your church and encouraging them to check it out, but if they show up and realize it was just a fancy design, it loses all meaning.
In other words, genuine is not a perception you can fake. People will know we are genuine as we take our faith and our relationship with Jesus and let it truly transform the way we live and care for our family at home, the integrity we exhibit at work, the patience we show in line at the grocery store, the calm and reassurance we provide in crisis...you get the idea.
In my Bible study right now we're talking about friendships and one of the things we've talked about is the difference between a fake friendship and the real deal. We all know the difference and we can all tell immediately the people who are interested in the real thing. As a church (you and me), people can tell when we're genuinely interested in them just like they can tell when we're genuine about our relationship with Jesus.
Let's get real in our walk with God and let's get real in our current relationships so we have the kind of support and accountability that will keep us genuine as a community of faith.
Clark and Jake and I just spent a week of vacation with my parents and my sister's family - it was a great week filled with all of the energy, joy and busyness that a 5-year old, a 2-year old, a 1-year old and a 5-month old bring to the table! I don't know if Andy Stanley coined the phrase, but on more than one occasion I've heard him talk about creating "irresistible environments." I've always bought into the theory, but I had a chance to observe it in action with the kids one morning. We had been running like crazy keeping up with all four of them out at the beach as they went in different directions to play (one to the water, another to dig in the sand, another chasing a sea gull - you get the idea), so I decided to venture out on my own and see who would follow. I went down to the water's edge and begin to dig an enormous hole that would fill with water. On the edge of the hole I began piling my sand to be the base for a huge drip castle. As I worked, sure enough the kids found their way to me - first the 5-year old (Liza Jane) who wanted the hole to be big enough for a whale and immediately began to assist my digging efforts, then the 2-year old (Max) who wanted to use the shells he found as kayaks and motor boats to speed around the "lake", and then the 1-year old (Ruthie) who was curious to see what her big brother and sister were up to. The 1-year old is afraid of water and when she noticed the hole filling with water, she kept a safe distance, but didn't want to walk away so she stood by, continuing to observe, building up her nerve to be part of whatever this excitement was that had so engaged the big kids. Not long after, some of the kids from families nearby came over to see what was going on and before long the kids had made some new friends and had help building the "lake" and the drip castle.
The theory isn't profound, but it's absolutely true. With ARC, we are trying to create an irresistible environment where people not only want to come and see what's going on, but also a place where people want to bring everyone they know. Some may be hesitant at first (like Ruthie), but if we continue to be faithful and passionate about what we're doing, they won't be able to resist joining in, which means coming to know Jesus Christ as part of their life and worshiping God together.
Jesus said, "let the little children come to me" - what an opportunity to create that environment!
On Thursday nights through the summer we've been meeting with the college students at Bethany and talking about relationships. Our pastor for student ministry has led great conversations on covenants and Christian marriage and tonight we made it to a discussion on homosexuality. I've been part of several conversations on this topic, but I was incredibly impressed with the direction these students went with it. We spent much more time talking about what it means to be judgmental than we did on our aversion to homosexual practice. There were great questions asked about how we interpret Scripture and what does it mean to live in a fallen world and what does reconciliation to Christ look like for all of us.
Homosexuality is an incredibly divisive issue in the body of Christ and I will be the first to say that I have definite thoughts about what I think Scripture has to say about it and how we should respond in the church, but I also think it's a shame that we have given the world the impression that the most important thing on the church's agenda is a stance on homosexuality. I think it's time we get back to showing the world that the most important thing on our agenda is proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ - no sidetracks, no exceptions.
What Unifies is More Important than that which Divides
Rick Warren had a great tweet this morning, saying "I believe in the absolute inerrancy of Scripture, I do not believe in the inerrancy of my interpretation - or yours either." Jesus prayed for all of the believers in John 17:22-23, saying, "I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me."
Jesus' desire was for all of those who follow Him to be one - one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all. Too often we waste time at odds with one another trying to clarify our definition of inerrancy when the truth is we should all believe the Bible is God's Word, given to us without error. The problem is we are imperfect people who have trouble receiving without error. Paul said in I Corinthians 13 that on this side of heaven we know in part, see in part and prophesy in part. In other words, we do our best to understand the perfect Word of God, but we still acknowledge that we aren't perfect and we don't always get it right.
Instead of engaging or dismissing parts of the body of Christ based on different interpretations of Scripture, I like to ask the question, "Are we all pursuing God to the best of our ability and trying our best to be faithful to Him?" If the answer is yes, than we need to be willing to put our differences aside, or at least be open to good discussion, prayer and ongoing discernment instead of putting each other down and encouraging division in the body.
I've been asked recently why the new church is called Ashley Ridge Church instead of Ashley Ridge United Methodist Church, and the answer is that, bottom line, we are a Church that believes Jesus is Lord, and that's what we're all about. That's why there is a large cross right in the middle of our logo beside the word "church." Paul also said, "For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified."
My church history professor always told us, "agreement on the essentials makes us free to disagree on the non-essentials."
So, the current priority numero uno for Ashley Ridge is finding the right worship leader. Easy? Afraid not. Worship leaders are difficult to find for several reasons, the first of which is that it is a very specific and highly specialized field. Worship leaders need excellent musical ability, communication skills, organizational skills, creativity, and more. They need to be relational and genuine, flexible and structured, passionate and disciplined, confident and humble - are you starting to see why they're so hard to find? And to top it all off, they need to be 100% sold-out, on-fire, and crazy passionate about living for Jesus and leading others into the presence of God. Speaking of which, check out this blogpost on Seven Keys to Being an Effective Worship Leader.
With all of these expectations, you might be asking, aren't our expectations a little too high? The answer - absolutely, but don't think for a second that we should be willing to compromise. We were made to worship God and it is the most important thing we do day in and day out. God deserves our very best, which is why we are begging God (my thanks to Perry Noble for asking the question, "What big things are you begging God to do in your church this fall?) for an amazing worship leader to guide us and direct us toward God on Sunday mornings at Ashley Ridge.
God, we pray for the person you are preparing right now to be the worship leader at Ashley Ridge Church. Please give us the wisdom to look in the right places and ask the right questions. And while we search, please work within us that we might be 100% sold-out, on-fire, and crazy passionate about living for Jesusalways and everywhere.
I noticed as I've read more blogs recently that often people will post links to posts and articles from other people that they found interesting. I've learned a lot as I've followed some of these links so I may follow suit from time to time. For now, let me simply point you to some of the blogs I frequent as well as a few websites worth exploring:
www.perrynoble.com www.stevenfurtick.com evotional.com (Mark Batterson's blog) www.new-song.org (a church plant in New Bern, NC) www.flowing-grace.com (a church plant in Chicagoland, Batavia UMC is the mother church) www.communitychristian.org (a church plant committed to planting churches, led by Dave Ferguson, a guy who is huge in the church planting world)
And, as always, I highly recommend a little book called the Bible - some crazy relevant stuff in there, don't miss it!
speaking the truth in love does not equal being nice all the time
Have you ever found that the quest to be nice can get in the way of being honest? Don't misunderstand me, I'm not advocating being a jerk. I'm sure as Jake gets older I'll find myself often saying "Be nice." It's a good rule to live by, but if there is a rule that trumps it (like paper beating rock in rock-paper-scissors) then that rule is "Be honest."
I suppose there wouldn't be a need for these two rules to conflict if we didn't translate being nice in our minds and lives as a means to making sure people like us. I find myself using the "be nice" rule as an excuse to say things that will make people happy, but aren't 100% truthful.
Think how much simpler our lives would be at home and at work and at school if everyone one was completely honest. Little things like "where do you want to go eat?" would not turn into monumental decisions because people would say where they wanted to eat first and then be nice second by choosing to eat where someone else wanted to go as a gesture of hospitality. It's amazing how being honest first can open the door to opportunities for being genuinely nice.
When Jesus threw the people out of the Temple for turning it into "a den of thieves" he actually made a whip to drive them out. That wasn't very nice. However, Jesus was completely honest about what was going on and how he felt about it. In turn, Jesus gave his life so that everyone could come to the "temple" and know Him and receive eternal life without having to wade through a bunch of junk. What a nice thing to do!
I don't care how organized or self-disciplined you may be, we all need accountability. We all need people who are going to walk with us, help us stay focused, challenge our weaknesses and encourage us to stay on track. Last week I submitted a list of accountability questions to my husband. These are questions I would like him to ask me from time to time to hold me accountable. Some of the questions are:
Have you had your quiet time today? Have you exercised this week, how much? Are you caught up with return phone calls? (I'm terrible about listening to voicemails and returning calls - I need to work on this, but in the meantime know that you'll almost always hear back from me quicker on e-mail). Have you been packing your lunch at least 3x a week or are you going out to eat a lot?
Let me challenge you to think of a list of accountability questions that would help you stay on track and give them to someone you trust, maybe its your spouse, maybe its a good friend or maybe its a parent. We all need help from time to time - don't let your pride get in the way.
I've tried for too long to be perfect on my own, and when that failed, I spent precious time and energy trying to put forth the illusion of perfection. The gig is up - I am extremely imperfect (not that this is news to anyone). The good news is that God still loves me and promises to bring to completion the good work He has begun in me. So, I'm asking God every day to make me new and I'm asking my husband and my friends to hold me accountable.