Thursday, December 10, 2009
We began a new series titled "Christmas In Our Hearts" (thanks Downhere). We're focusing on a few of our most treasured US Christmas traditions and refocusing them on Christ. Here is the teaser that we showed the Sunday before the series began.
But, I've been pleasantly surprised by this experience with The Contagious Band. I decided, instead of helping to lead on stage with a guitar and a mic, I was only going to coach, which has been a great decision. Our band, keys, drummer, electric guitar, bass and two vocals (one male and one female) is made up entirely of students, except for our bass player who is one of our adult youth leaders (and we'll gladly replace him if we find a student who's got what it takes).
And, no joke, these kids are really good. They're still working out the kinks that come with leading worship for the first time, but they've done a great job and it's been a lot of fun to work with them.
Here are a few videos.
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Willow Arts, a ministry of the Willow Creek Association, is running an event for artists and creative type people who serve in the local church called The Green Room. This one-day event will take place on Friday, February 19, 2010.
We're very stoked that Nags Head Church will be one of the satellite host churches for this event. We are looking forward to gathering together artists other churches in northeastern North Carolina and southeastern Virginia to learn together.
If you're a creative person in a local church and are interested in attending this event in Nags Head, pleaser leave me a comment or shoot me an email to inquire about a few super-cheap tickets I have in my possession. Visit The Green Room website to check out the schedule and other information.
Here's our (maybe) finalized setlist for our Christmas Concert on Friday night. If you're reading this and planning on coming to Unspeakable Joy on Friday, you may want to stop yourself here just so you can enjoy the fun without knowing what to expect! (songs are italicized)
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
Scripture – Isaiah 9:6,7
O Come Let Us Adore Him
My Soul Magnifies The Lord (a new one from Chris Tomlin)
Scripture – Luke 2:8-20
Glory In The Highest (an NHC favorite from Chris Tomlin)
Scripture – Philippians 2:6-11
Hark The Herald Angels
O Holy Night
Christmas Time Is Here (the Vince Guaraldi classic)
Joy To The World
Scripture – Philippians 4:4-9
Rejoice (another NHC favorite from Chris Tomlin)
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
But, it’s important that we also remember that God coming to earth was not necessarily as serene as we might like to think.
The Message translation of Philippians 2 describes Jesus’ descension to earth this way:
He had equal status with God but didn't think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what.
Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human.
It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn't claim special privileges.
Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.
To truly appreciate Christmas we must understand the entire story of Christmas, the beautiful and the ugly. Although it was certainly a holy night, it probably wasn’t quiet, being born in a stable with farm animals. It definitely wasn’t clean, and it probably didn’t smell very nice either. The baby Jesus more than likely spent just as much time crying as he did asleep in the hay.
For Christ to humble Himself to become human, born to homeless parents, placed in the feeding trough of filthy animals, acknowledged only by the lowliest outcasts of society, pursued as a criminal to be put to death...it required an incredibly amount of sacrifice and humility, poured out from a heart of love and mercy.
How many kings have stepped down from their thrones, how many lords have abandoned their homes, how many greats have become the least for you and me? Only one did that for me.*
As we share the story of Christmas with others this year, as we paint the picture of that nativity scene, let’s not forget to tell of the sacrifice that the God of the universe made for us.
*Borrowed from the song, "How Many Kings" by Downhere.
Sunday, December 6, 2009
Title PPT graphic for a recent sermon series on Holiness.
Monday, November 16, 2009
Thursday, October 29, 2009
But, I’m sharing this with you because I have had a few people ask me why we celebrate Halloween.
First, let me share with you my history with Halloween. When I was very young, my parents would take my sisters and I out every year trick or treating (totting). I remember Halloween as lots of fun...my mom would even make our costumes (before the days of Wal-Mart). One year, I was Kermit the frog...another year, all three of us were the pink panther [those were some HOT (not sexy hot, but sweaty/stinky hot) costumes...].
The biggest thing I remember about those early years of totting (beyond the requisite candy-trading with my sisters at the end of the bountiful evening) was a very real fear of dying from eating a poisoned or razor blade embedded piece of candy...I don't know why my parents thought it was OK to warn me about such things... So, from early on, I was taught that Halloween was not all fun and games.
When I was about 7, my parents made the decision to stop allowing us to participate in traditional Halloween festivities...namely the evil and dangerous totting. I'm guessing that this decision had as much to do with the fact that my father was a pastor of some “convicted” people as it had to do with my parents’ own convictions, but regardless, pink panther was long gone.
In it's place, we began having the wonderful Baptist (although I hear it's not contained to one denomination) alternative called, "Harvest Party". If you've never been to a harvest party, think of it as the alternative prom...the one that all the lame people who didn't want to have any fun went to. I'm not saying our harvest parties weren't any fun...I have some good memories of all of the Bible characters I dressed up as and all of the sword drills I won for candy. But, Halloween for us was definitely not the same as Halloween for the rest of the known world.
Fast forward to present day. Harvest Parties are long gone at our church. I haven't done a sword drill in years. In a few days, my dad is going to be grilling hundreds of hotdogs for a few thousand unchurched guests (about 500 families) who come through NHC's TRUNKorTREAT. My mom is going to be trying to up her costume from last year (see pics below). I have been plotting my own costume since last spring. About 80% of our church is going to be volunteering to pass out candy, man our giant inflatable games, serve food and drinks, etc.
At some point, my parents finally saw the light...and, I got past my deadly fears as well.
All that to say, here's what we believe about Halloween:
> There is nothing evil about October 31 in and of itself. Nor is their necessarily anything evil about dressing up, buying candy, passing out candy, receiving candy, eating candy, hanging out with friends, carving a pumpkin, etc.
> There are people in the past and in the present who choose to use October 31 as a day for evil. Vandalism, substance abuse, sexual "fun" (have you seen some of the costumes these days?), imitation of blood and violence have all, among certain groups, become closely associated with Halloween.
> There are also people who choose to use October 31 for neutral reasons…hanging out with friends, eating candy, staying home to watch the World Series, etc.
> There are some people who choose to isolate and insulate themselves from everything related to Halloween, fearing the possible evils and harm that could come their way if they were to participate in the day.
> And, there are people who choose to use October 31 for God-centered purposes.
We choose to use Halloween as an opportunity to reach out to our community and show them, not that there is an alternative to Halloween, but that there is an alternative to life. While we do stay away from using witches and ghosts and axe murderers in our Halloween celebration, we don't put Halloween or those who celebrate it differently than us down in any way. Instead, we invite people to come and celebrate October 31 with us (even if they dress up as a witch), hoping that they'll see and hear about our alternative way of life.
I realize that a lot of people disagree with how we view Halloween, and that's OK with us...most of those people are not who we are trying to reach. In fact the cool thing about ToT is that, because so many other churches/Christians disagree with our view about October 31, we almost exclusively attract unchurched people in our community with this event. I also understand that Halloween is celebrated very differently in other cultures (even in the states), which makes what we do a little easier. We see very little of the violence and vandalism that many other cities and towns deal with on October 31...we see less neighborhood totting as well. TRUNKorTREAT is actually not just another stop for our community on October 31, it has become the place to be...this year we're expecting upwards of 2500 people.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Ministry should be fun. Maybe every single second isn't a party, but in general, I should find joy in serving my church.
If you're a ministry leader, ask yourselves these questions:
“Do people on my ministry team love serving, in part, because we have fun?”
“What am I doing as a team leader to make our ministry team fun?”
“Can I identify any menial, boring, difficult or frustrating things about our ministry team that need to be eliminated or re-evaluated?
“Is there anyone on my team who is not enjoying their ministry...how can I help this person rediscover the joy of serving others?”
By definition, serving others should be a joyful, fun experience. If it's not, there's something wrong...
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
> The MilePost13 Band didn't miss a beat without me for two weeks...the past two Sunday are actually the first time I've ever not been on stage when our band was leading. Other worship leaders will know what I mean when I say it's awesome to be surrounded by talented people who can hit the bar with or without you!
> The Contagious Band (our new youth band) led worship for the first time this Sunday night, and they are really, really good. They should be since they've been practicing since June... I'm hoping that the entire youth group learns more about God and worship of Him with their help!
> Our new Kids Zone is nearly complete! We're just waiting for lights, a bit of electrical work, flat screen tvs, and some decor, and they're ready to roll! Their sound system sounds better than the auditorium's system, and I guarantee the kids and their adult leaders are going to have a great time engaging with God in that space!
> We always love to see old friends, especially former partners who have moved away and are back to visit. We miss everyone who relocates, but we know that God is willing and able to use their talents and passions for Him in another local church.
> October brings two big, fun events for NHC...our annual Ministry Fair and TRUNKorTREAT! We're looking forward to reaching people to discover life in Christ through these two amazing events!
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
I don't know of any easy way to upload MP3's to blogger, so I share this to you via video. Please excuse my vocals and cut me some slack...I am only two weeks out from a tonsillectomy...
"Viva La Blessed"
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Monday, September 14, 2009
> The message was about crippled feet...how God loves to love those with crippled feet. We all have messed up lives in one way or another, and He wants to use us to bless others.
> The band learned "Carried To The Table" by Leeland, which, I'm pretty sure, was written out of II Samuel 9...fit incredibly perfect with Sam's message, and was a lot of fun to play and sing.
> We're gearing up for TRUNKorTREAT at NHC! I'm currently writing a post all about how we do ToT for anyone who is interested.
> I love sitting with my wife in church, which is something I haven't always been able to do because of her health. I also love picking up my daughter from the nursery and hanging with her between our worship gatherings...she was especially fun to show off this Sunday wearing her Redskins uniform!
> Speaking of which, we won't talk about the game....
> I'm having my tonsils removed this Monday, which means I'll be MIA for at least a week. The MP13 Band always rocks on without me, from what I hear (because I'm usually out of town when they do), so I'm hoping to at least be at church this Sunday to hear it for myself!
Friday, September 4, 2009
How does your church show her community that people matter?
Thursday, September 3, 2009
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
> Worship was rocking on Sunday! We introduced two new songs...one was a "performance" song that utilized Larry Z. on the sax ("In Christ" by Big Daddy Weave), and the other was an older song, but new to our church that fit perfectly with the message about idolatry ("You Are God Alone" by Billy and Cindy Foote).
> We've got the first coat of paint rolled in the Kid's Zone! It should be ready for use in just a few more weeks!!!
Thursday, August 27, 2009
This post is not about Obama or politics...it is about knowing what is and is not in my realm of responsibility as a leader. I've heard and read way too many worship leaders recently say something like, "who am I to judge a person?" when referring to the decision of allowing a person of questionable intentions, attitude or character lead worship.
This post is also not about what kind of people (maturity) we should allow to participate in the ministry of leading worship...I'll leave that decision to each church and that debate for another blog. This is about those of us in leadership recognizing that we have been given the responsibility to discern the intentions, attitudes and character of those who call themselves believers and help determine if God would be glorified through their participation.
I know of some church bands that do not have auditions for musicians because, "who are we to judge a person's gifts and calling?" I've heard of some worship leaders who do not set up spiritual values for their band members because, "who are we to judge what's going on in a person's heart?" Seriously? That just blows my mind...
It's not always easy, and it certainly is not always the popular decision, but having standards in ministry and sticking to them is about giving priority to God and others. There are too many church people serving in a ministry that they are neither skilled or spiritually qualified for...by allowing this to take place, church leaders are not helping their church give their best to God, are devaluing the unique gifts and calling God has given each of us, and are giving people an easy opportunity to get bored and frustrated with church.
I believe that every member of God's family has been uniquely shaped to serve the church and the world in an excellent way, and that every church should have opportunities for those who do not yet know God personally to jump in and partner and serve. I also believe that people are given the best opportunity to grow spiritually when they are serving God and others in ways that God has created them for.
If we sincerely love God and value people, we will be willing to be a leader, rise to our "pay grade", make some tough decisions and help people truly experience all that God wants for their lives.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
> The past two Sundays have reflected the end of the busiest part of our tourist season...the out-of-town numbers are down, but the locals continue to check us out. Word is we have about 10 new partners (members) getting ready to call NHC their church home!
> Operation Backpack was a HUGE success this year! We gave free school supplies to about 160 elementary school students...we're already planning to make next year bigger and better!
> F1RST Wednesday reboots in September after taking the past two months off. It's been great to have a break from planning, and to observe the Lord's Supper on Sunday mornings with so many people, but I'm really stoked about gearing up again!
> Matt the Intern has gone back to school...he was a great addition to our staff and church family, doing a ton of stuff, a lot of which nobody else could or wanted to do. We'll miss you Matt...come back and visit (and bring your gear with you)!
> I'll be out of town this coming weekend for a wedding...I'll miss the final message in our holiness series (Our Holy Mission), but will catch up thanks to our handy dandy podcast!
> Which means, Tricia and I should be worshipping with our friend at C3! Always love the chance to just participate (without preparing/leading) during worship!
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
A “visitor” is typically somebody who comes and goes without much preparation on our part or much thought afterward. Most of the time, a visitor is a consumer only...a person who is simply looking for a specific service or product. A visitor is only interested in investing whatever (time, energy, money) is necessary to to get what they want out of their stop.
Hospitals have visitors. Museums have visitors. Grocery stores have visitors. Usually, some amount of effort is made to prepare for visitors, to make them feel welcome, to clean the floor, to have the service or product hot and ready. But, the primary purpose of preparing for a visitor is to serve their consumer mentality...do just enough to entice them to buy into a certain product or service, with the hope that maybe they'll exit quickly to make room for another consumer and return when they need that same product or service again. The bottom line when focusing on visitors is about getting as many satisfied people in and out the door as possible.
A “guest”, in comparison, is typically a person who is cared for and has been intentionally invited. Most of the time, a guest is somebody who is a participant...a person who looking for a specific experience. A guest is often interested in investing in the greater purpose of the group.
Homes have guests. Elementary classrooms have guests. And, churches should have guests. A guest is somebody you’ve dusted every nook and cranny for, put out your best china for, prepared a certain meal for. You wait for them at the door, offer them your favorite chair, spend time getting to know them, and invite them to be an active participant in what you are doing. The primary purpose of preparing for a guest is to serve their felt needs...do everything possible to offer them the opportunity to experience change, with the hope that maybe they'll have a desire to enter into a deeper relationship. The bottom line when focusing on guests is about being ready to have a life-altering connection with every person who comes through the doors.
I don't know about you, but I want to see people as guests and not visitors. I want people to see the church as a community, not a retail store. I want the members of my church to realize that their interaction with our guests, whether a quick "hello" or an extended conversation, could have an eternal impact. I want our guests to come to my church hoping for something more than friendly people, a positive message and some feel-good music.
What about you? Are you serving visitors or are you serving guests on Sunday morning? Does it really matter? If so, what would it take to change the focus of your church?
Monday, August 10, 2009
> Operation Backpack, an outreach event that offers free school supplies to local families is ready to roll this week. We've changed the event from one day to three this year. This Sunday was Backpack Sunday...we encouraged everyone to wear the backpacks and school supplies they bought to the church.
> It was Matt French's last Sunday at NHC as our summer intern. He's done a great job, been a lot of fun to work with, and has made some life-long friends with many of our locals. We sent him off with a few pocket-fulls of cash...at least enough gas money to get him back to school this week.
> Our second week in our "Holier Than Thou?" series, and our second week of tag-team preaching from our pastor and Matt Glock. It's been a great series so far, and I'm really looking forward to hearing Matt go solo next week, talking about what corporate holiness looks like.
> We also remembered the Lord's Supper, which fit in perfectly with the message about personal holiness. Next month, we restart our F1RST Wednesday worship gathering, but it's been enjoyable to do Communion on Sunday mornings the past few months.
> The numbers were down this week, which is a sign that people are headed back to school and back to work. It also means that the fun and craziness of doing summer church at NHC is coming to a close.
> The band only did two songs together yesterday, which, is probably the least number of songs we've done as a full band since I arrived here a few years ago. George (harmonica), Rachel (vocals) and I (acoustic guitar) did a trimmed down version of "What Do I Know Of Holy" and Rachel and I were the only ones leading "By His Wounds" during Communion. It's fun to shake things up, but I'm looking forward to rocking hard again next week.
> I peeked in on our Discovering NHC class during the afternoon, and only recognized about half of the faces...of the faces I did recognize, half of them are new believers. All of that is a great thing!
Sunday, August 9, 2009
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
> We've started a new, four-week series called "Holier Than Thou?". Our pastor and one of our missionaries are doing a tag-team teaching approach each Sunday...the message on God's holiness was very good this week, and we're looking forward to the remaining three weeks.
> We introduced a new song, "What Do I Know of Holy" by Addison Road as our theme song for this new series. Beautiful song, with some very honest, introspective lyrics...we'll be using it again, maybe every week...it's that good, so give it a listen.
> There are just some Sundays where the music seems to click on a higher level with the hearts of people...this was one of those Sundays. Maybe it was the fact that we did one more song than we normally do, but everyone seemed prepared to worship from the start.
> This was Amber Elwood's last Sunday at NHC...she'd the local artist who has been helping us illustrate our Moses series...which reminds me...I need to post some more of her paintings for you to see. Thanks for using your gifts, Amber!
> The heartbeat of NHC is our connection groups, and we're taking the month of August off to give our groups a groups a break and give people the opportunity to change groups or try them out for the first time. We've got a new ad campaign for our groups...our Sunday morning crowd is enjoying it, and I think you will too...more to come shortly...
> A big announcement was made this past week...I and the rest of our full-time staff will be going bi-vocational for a season. I'll be working about 20 hours for the church and 20 hours elsewhere, and will be job hunting over the next few weeks. I'd appreciate your prayer!
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Monday, July 27, 2009
> Not to mention the tons of new local guests who are checking us out...is so encouraging to see local people who are still seeking come back for a second and third time.
> Speaking of...yesterday's message was all about having a relationship with God...here's hoping our guests were hearing it.
> We're into the story of the ten commandments in our journey with the life of Moses...a timely message about relationships vs. rules this Sunday, and we're taking the next four Sundays to talk about what holiness looks like.
> Word is that one of our kids rooms was full to capacity no less than 10 minutes before one of our worship gatherings began...the space upstairs is getting closer and closer to being done, which should eliminate that problem, for now...
> Check out my dad's blog for a cool story from Sunday...
> Been working with our new youth band on Sunday afternoons...they've got one song nailed and will start working on another one this week...amazing some of the talent these kids have so early on.
> This week is crazy busy for me...I have two big projects to complete, and I'm leading worship (with the band) every morning and Friday evening for Impact Outer Banks. Gotta run and get some stuff taken care of now...
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
This is why we stopped calling our band the "worship team"...they are NOT the only team in church that worships or even "leads" worship. This is why we don't call our auditorium the "worship center"...a room in the church building should NOT be the center of our worship lives. This is why we no longer call the music part of our gatherings "worship", but instead refer to it as the "music" or the "musical worship"...worship can and should be every element of our worship gatherings. This is why we've developed a discipleship class that covers foundational Biblical worship that every member of our church is required to take...we want to give people the tools to dig in and learn more on their own about true Biblical worship.
No matter how clearly we communicate, no matter how many barriers we remove, there are still people who just don't get it. But, it's so worth it for the people who do get it and are freed from thinking that it's my job as a "worship leader" to tell them exactly when and how to worship. I constantly remind the band (and anyone who will listen) that it's our purpose to get the corporate ball rolling and then step out of the way and allow space for people to worship together freely in their own unique ways. It's a blessing to watch people do just that, and frustrating to watch those who are always waiting for their cues.
I'm not saying that our corporate worship times should be a free-for-all and unorganized...God speaks strongly about corporate worship being focused and set up with holy boundaries. But, too many people can't get past the great divide in their minds that keeps them boxed in to whatever they're told to do.
How does your church address this great divide in your worship gatherings? Where do you see this misconception of worship show itself in the things that people say and do?
If you enjoyed this post, you may want to read the blog series titled "Rethinking Worship".
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
We Christians love to come to church with expectations...whether our own church, or a church we're visiting for the first time, we feel like we should be able to read the name of a church and automatically know what to expect from our experience on Sunday morning. We expect a certain style of music. We expect that the preacher will and won't say certain things. We expect that we'll be allowed to do certain things with our kids and not allowed to do other things with the way we dress. I'll be the first to admit that I've done my fair share of Christian complaining and whining.
But, at Nags Head Church, although it's not our top priority to simply be different, it seems that our desire to "reach people to discover life in Christ" leads us to throw a lot of the normal Christian expectations out the window. Our music and preaching style is not very "baptist"-like, although we are a baptist church. Our building and facilities are modern and brand new, although our church is actually over 50 years old. Our ministry philosophy and systems are forward thinking, even though we hold to centuries-old, traditional church and family values. We do try to communicate who we are to people before we come, but most people like to trust their own experience about church more than what we try to communicate.
And, although we have a very good reason (I would argue, the most important reason in all the world) to do things differently, many people can't see past their own Christian church expectations to realize that we're not randomly doing things just to make their church experience unfamiliar and uncomfortable.
Take the young family of tourists who arrives 15 minutes late to our 11am worship gathering and gets upset with us because we won't allow their kids to go to Kids Church and our Nursery...they even say to us, "I would expect your church to value families enough to keep your kids stuff open for us tourists who come late..."
Yeah, well...actually, we value families so much, that we won't allow a single kid to walk in more than a few minutes late and interrupt the flow of 20 other kids who are totally engulfed in Kids Church, or allow a single baby to go to the nursery more than a few minutes late and cause 10 other babies to start crying because they think it's mommy coming to get them. We value families so much that we give "perks" to those people who actually show up on time (you can even get some coffee and donuts if you come a little early). It's cool with us that you think we're selfish jerks who don't care enough about families, and we sincerely hope you find a better place to care for your kids. Unfortunately, we don't have time to explain that to everyone...
Take the older couple who arrives early, takes the time to check out our building, grabs a seat before the gathering begins, observes our modern auditorium, stage lighting, rock band set-up, heavy-duty sound system and then gets up and leaves half-way through the third song, only to call and leave a message on our answering machine later that morning to ask, "Do you have a rock concert every Sunday?"
Yeah, well...actually, we have a room full of about 200-300 people (times two) every Sunday who are offered an engaging and relevant worship environment and invited to freely express their worship to God, most of whom take us up on that invitation on some level. We believe that God enjoys music and singing that come from a heart of worship and that He wants the church to be a place of life and joy and creativity, and we make certain that our website, our building, our parking lot, our lobby, and everything else about us screams who we are loud and clear so that those who think church is best done as a black and white funeral service can decide quickly and quietly to attend elsewhere. It's cool with us if you don't like our style, and we sincerely hope you can find a better place to worship. Unfortunately, we don't have time to explain that to everyone...
We don't have time to explain to everyone who doesn't like us why they should. We can't afford to use time and energy convincing people who already know God when we've been called to reach those who are far from God. It's hard to get past the whining and criticisms...it's hard not to take it personally.
Whining and nitpicking and complaining, especially coming from those who should know better, is such a downer. We've been walking through the story of Moses on Sunday mornings, and we're currently in the middle of the desert with the nation of Israel...oh, how they love to complain and whine about everything. How completely they forget their miraculous exodus from slavery and poverty in Egypt. How quickly their hearts turn time and again from the God who has kept the safe and fed in the middle of a desert. We should have much to learn from the story of Moses and the exodus...
I'll be honest, if left to my own personal preferences, even some things in my own church would look and feel and sound different. But, life is too short and our mission too great for us to spend so much time complaining about how unfamiliar and uncomfortable a one hour church service is. It's not about me...it's about loving God and loving people. The people who come to church on Sunday mornings to give (worship to God and encouragement to others) are always the ones who walk away having received the most.
There are some obvious reasons why we love unchurched guests and children so much at NHC. There is also a secret reason...they never complain...
Monday, July 13, 2009
> Having said that, God isn't bound by our imperfections...He was still there and moving in the hearts and lives of people. And, 11am was smooth sailing.
> Funny thing, I was kind of expecting some bumps in the road yesterday...we were playing with a new drummer, which can always be an adventure...but, he played incredibly well, and the few mistakes he did make were only detectable by the band. Good job, Alex!
> Instead of a sermon/message, we had an on stage interview with Matt and Sylvie Glock, part of our global team in France. Whether it's with foreign missionaries or our own people, I love when we do these live interviews, because it shakes things up a bit and gives people a very real and tangible view of who God is and what He is up to.
> Matt the Intern filled in well for us on the bass, and it was fun to have double electrics rocking again for the second strait week.
> Our set list included "Give Love Away" (Exodus) and "The Power of Your Name" (Lincoln Brewster), helping us focus on the missional theme of the day.
> Along with Sunday morning, I had a busy weekend, including a wedding on Friday night, teaching my Worship Class on Saturday morning, and working with our youth band on Sunday afternoon. I'm looking forward to my day off today, spending quality time with my family.
> A young family who attended our 4th of July event were in church for the first time yesterday morning...their daughter enjoyed Kid's Church and they both seemed to enjoy our worship gathering and want to come back again. That's what it's all about!
Thursday, July 9, 2009
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
> Because we're taking a few months off from our F1RST Wednesday gathering, we also worshipped through communion (the Lord's Supper) for the first time on a Sunday morning in several years. Serving the elements to nearly 600 people is no easy task, but our First Impressions team (with a few extra hands) made it seem like we do it every week.
> The Kid's Zone upstairs is getting closer and closer to the finish line, which means, soon, the offices space will be available for the band to use as our "green room" before and after and during the worship gatherings...we're really looking forward to that!
> I'll be honest, with the business of yesterday, I actually missed the message during both gatherings, and although I get a sneak peak every week reading through our pastor's notes, I'm looking forward to downloading our podcast in a little while and catching up on what I missed.
> My wife tells me every week how fun and engaging her time is leading our preschoolers in worship...are church is booming with young families!
> Our 4th of July outreach event on Saturday night went very well. We opened up our parking lot for free parking for the local fireworks...we also gave away free hotdogs and sausages, free drinks and free slushies, and we had our two big moon bounces for kids. Hopefully this event will grow in years to come.
> During the event, I was able to give a tour of our church building to a young family...they were attracted to the fact that we have a modern rock band, and were impressed with our kid space. They guy also looked at me suspiciosuly when I told him most people come to church in the summer dressed just like they were dressed...in shorts and t-shirts.
> We got a few of our new, home made acoustic pannels up on the back of the stage behind the drum kit to try out...the difference was great, and our sound tech loves having more control in producing better sound quality. We'll get a few more finished this week and have the entire back wall of the stage covered.
> Looking forward to bringing in a new drummer (the son of our regular drummer) this week...he's played with us a few times, but in a long while...hoping to get him into the rotation soon.
Monday, July 6, 2009
Saturday, July 4, 2009
My argument is, if there is a place for patriotism in your personal life, then there can be a place for patriotism in a corporate church worship gathering. It may not always be profitable, but it is possible.
Too often, we like to compartmentalize our lives, believing the lie that says that the worship that happens on Sunday mornings is more holy and important that the worship that happens during the rest of our week...the lie that says we must be more careful about the things we say and do in church than the things we say and do outside of church. But, if my entire life, every second of every day is purposed to be an act of worship to God, how can showing patriotism at a baseball game with thousands, in an elementary school with hundreds, and at my family cookout this Saturday with a few be more OK than showing patriotism in church?
For the record, I understand how blessed I am to live in a free country, I say "thank you" to those who have served in our military, I cheer loudly during the Olympics, I salute the flag and I hold my hand over my heart during the pledge. None of those things in and of themselves make me patriotic, but I do have a love for and devotion to my country, and I'm OK with expressing my patriotism at the appropriate times.
What say you? Is there a place for patriotism in a church worship service? Can we sing the songs and acknowledge the flag while still bringing glory and honor to God?
I certainly hope so.
Friday, July 3, 2009
Here's a little OBX secret...the absolute best place to watch fireworks is on top of Jockey's Ridge...not only do you not have to fight the traffic and the crowds that invade the beaches that night, you can easily see not one, not two, but three different fireworks displays from the biggest sand dunes on the East Coast! Here's another secret...the best place to park and walk up the dunes is at Nags Head Church.
Along with free parking, there will also be free Boar’s Head hotdogs (seriously some of the best dogs ever), free Seafreeze Slushies (nothing better than something ice cold in the middle of summer) and some awesome free activities for kids (can you say two moon bounces?). Did I mention that everything is free?!?
If you're wondering where I'll be tomorrow evening, you can find me in the parking lot of Nags Head Church.
Hope to see you there!
Parking is limited, so don't be late!
Monday, June 29, 2009
> After a few weeks of rough starts for the band, yesterday morning flowed really well from start to finish. A few minor bumps, as always, but no major frustrations like we've been having the past few weeks.
> Great message about leaders...being a good leader and praying for and supporting those who lead us...can never hear about that stuff too often.
> Our First Impressions Team may have the toughest assignment each week...while our other teams have a plan in place with little variations, the FI Team is basically always adjusting and reacting to what comes at them...big crowds, small crowds, late-comers, cranky tourists, bad weather, small parking lot, etc....they do an incredible job of meeting the challenges of a growing church during tourist season.
> Speaking of cranky tourists (and, just in case you're coming to our church soon from out of town), I really wish there was a way to explain to our out of town guests why we do everything we do...some people come to church thinking that we're here to cater to their every need, putting aside the needs of everyone else, and that's just not the case. We do everything we do for a very specific reason, and although we love our out of town guests, our target is our local, unchurched guests, and we will make the most sacrifices for them and our regular attenders. Although, we will do it with a smile on our face, even when people are cranky...
> We've yet (knock on wood) to have a bad weather Sunday this summer! Nothing better than walking out of the church building on Sunday afternoon with nothing to do and blue skys! Yesterday, we spent some time with family and friends at the beach...first time my wife and I have been in the ocean together in a few years!
> It was just one of those gatherings yesterday at 9am...a ton of little children in the auditorium (somebody explain to me why so many parents don't send their kids to do their own thing?)...which also meant a ton of distractions...once we've got our Kids Zone finished and can shuffle some things around, I'm hoping those distractions will be minimized.
> Speaking of kids, my daughter may be experiencing her first bit of separation anxiety...the past two Sundays, at 11am, when I hand her off to our awesome nursery team, she's cried. She never crys...I'm hoping it's just a combination of hunger, nap time, etc. and not real separation anxiety (although it does make my heart melt).
> Stoked to have my great friends Matt and Sylvie Glock (and family) in town with us over the next few months...I love all of our missionaries, but especially Matt and fam. Matt was in town from France a few years ago and we went and saw the Transformers movie together...hoping to see the sequal with him sometime soon.
> Now it's time for me to chord out a few new songs for the band, finalize plans for our 4th of July outreach event, and find some lunch!
Monday, June 22, 2009
> Great message yesterday to fathers about instructing and modeling holiness to our children. Especially enjoyed the passage from the first part of Proverbs 4.
> Speaking of which, it was my second father's day, and a great one spent worshipping with friends and hanging out with family. You can read a few of my father's day thoughts Here.
> Tourism is down this summer, and it's being reflected at church...normally, this Sunday should have been our first huge Sunday of the year, with well over 200 in each worship gathering, but not so. That's OK with us, because we're still getting a lot of local guests, which is our target anyway.
> The band has had rough starts each of the past two Sundays during the 9am gathering...going to work on a few things this week to help us "fix" that, because it's frustrating for us all, even if nobody else notices.
> The band did a sweet, men-only cover of DCTalk's "What if I Stumble" yesterday...a great and timely reminder to us fathers and husbands (and future fathers and husbands) that our bad decisions affect those around us.
> We have a new check-in system for all of our kids...some kind of scanner thing that spits out a name tag and records who is there each Sunday...should help us better serve and reach families.
> Word is that our first Kayak Camp of the summer went well on Saturday, and our first Hukilau Surf Camp of the summer this coming Saturday is filling up fast!
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
We have several people in our church who, every Sunday, I can count on to be the first to stand in praise, raise their hands, jump, shout, whatever...and watching others around them follow their lead and step up with them is such an awesome thing.
Check out this video (there may be a bit of language in the song lyrics)...wouldn't it be cool if your church had this kind of attitude and infectious nature when coming together to worship (maybe minus the bikinis and alcohol)?!
How infectious is the worship at your church Sunday to Sunday?
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
> I have no idea why any man in church leadership (or in any leadership outside the church, for that matter) would invite a woman to be his "personal assistant". If a pastor absolutely needs a personal assistant, isn't the obvious choice to invite a guy? Beyond all of the sexual crap that can be avoided, church leaders should be looking for opportunities to mentor younger men, and what better way to do so than to have a personal assistant (maybe that's what we used to call "disciples"?) at your side? Not to mention, I couldn't imagine having the guts to tell my wife that I'd just hired a woman to spend hours a week "assisting" me in my ministry...yikes!
> I must be so careful how I communicate with the opposite sex, especially via the internet. Again, big screw ups don't happen overnight, and often, in this modern culture, they begin and are fueled via online communication. Whether email, twitter, facebook, texting, etc., I've got to be willing to limit who I communicate with on a very personal level and how I communicate with them. I know some church leaders who even have a personal policy not to have any facebook friends who are young, single females, just to avoid all appearances and temptations of evil. As a former, single, college student, I know how easy it is to flirt, even "innocently", with the opposite sex online...not something I want to even come close to as a married man. If my wife wants to look at my facebook private messages, I shouldn't have anything to hide.
> I must be incredibly careful how I talk about the opposite sex, especially via the internet. Living "above reproach" means that I don't give anyone any reason to doubt my character should a rumor or slanderous piece of gossip start going around about me. If I'm ever accused of anything morally questionable, I never want anyone to be able to say in honesty that they heard or read me say/write something innappropriate about a woman. If you ever hear me say that any woman is "hot", I'd better be talking about my wife.
> I have got to learn how to kill (ie. let God kill) my ego if I'm going to be in ministry. Again, if I'm ever accused of anything, I don't want arrogant and insensitive things I've said and written (and the stuff I say and write comes out of my heart and mind) to come back and give people reason to question me further. From emails, to twitter updates, to blog comments, I've got to learn to say everything with love and grace and encouragement, even if what I'm saying comes from great conviction. Transparency can be a good thing, but not if my heart is always filled with ego and pride.
Thanks for listening...I think I can get to sleep now...
Monday, June 8, 2009
> It marked our first HUGE attendance Sunday of the summer, with well over 200 people at each of our gatherings (lots of touristy guests from here until mid-August). Anytime you get that many people together for one purpose, there's going to be some energy. Plus, I think our own folks are really stoked about the buzz that summer brings to NHC.
> The singing and authentic participation in worship during both gatherings was incredible. It's been a while since that many people came worshipping to church (which is different than when people come to church to worship), ready to join their lives and voices together. I seriously haven't heard the people off the stage any louder than during the chorus of "All Because Of Jesus" yesterday!
> The message was a great one about trusting God and trusting God's leaders...Moses and the nation of Israel still have a lot to learn as they're just beginning their 40 years in the desert...
> The new Kid's Zone shirts that all of our Lil K and Kidmo leaders were wearing today looked great. And, as a parent, it will be helpful to more easily identify the team members that will soon be teaching my daughter.
> The band was just dead on today. A few minor, undetectable (by most people) mistakes as usual, but the overall feel and sound was just great...just one of those days when everything comes together.
> Tricia and I met at least three families who follow my other blog and have been praying for us over the past few years. It's a blessing to meet these people, just as much for us as it is for them.
> Kurt Beach, a recent liver transplant recipient was sitting on the front row this morning, and you could tell from his face and his hands and his jump and dance that he knew better than the rest of us when we were singing "I am alive because I'm alive in Him"... I'll admit I had a tear or two as I worshipped with him.
> And, the best part of the NHC day...baptizing about 12 new believers in the Atlantic ocean at 12:30. A couple of cool things about this. First, I'm pretty sure that everyone we baptised today was a brand new believer, and most were adults...God is helping us reach our target! Second, we don't baptise in the ocean often...a few of the people specifically wanted it, so we made the plans and prayed for good weather and warm waters, and that's exaclty what we got! Third, I think more people from the church came out to watch this baptism than ever before... Which meant that, Fourth, we attracted a lot of attention from the hundreds of people doing their beach thing...what a great witness (a few people asked me what was going on), and I hear that the lifeguards were even asking questions about it later that night.
> After church, the Lawrenson family plus a few friends ate some leftover wedding food (congrats to Rich and Lauren, and thanks for the crab dip!) at my parents' house and then all headed out to the beach for a few hours. The ocean was finally warm enough to get in and enjoy, and I introduced my daughter to her first ocean dip.
> We finished out the day with a trip to John's for the best milkshakes in the world. Chocolate Peanut Butter is always my choice.
> And, I'm looking forward to participating in our Hair Cut-A-Thon this Wednesday! We're raising money for a few things for our new Kid's Zone, and I've been holding out on a hair cut just for this day. I helped Steve bring his authentic (and comfortable) barber chair into the church building last night!
I heard the news today
That another soldier tumbled
A fragile warrior slipped and fell from grace
The vultures swooped to tear his heart
And pin him to the ground
And from the shadows someone took his place
I won't name names or link blogs, although some, if not many of you reading this will know who and what I'm thinking about as I write this. Another pastor, a pastor that many would call a "Christian celebrity", has resigned from his church by admitting to a sexual sin. I heard about it yesterday afternoon, just a few hours after the "story broke", and, as usual, it has left me with a sick feeling in my stomach...but this time, it feels a little sicker.
Today we talk amongst ourselves
We never bought his words
We say we've seen the madness in his eyes
Tomorrow he's forgotten as
We've scrubbed him from our hearts
And as he bleeds we slowly turn our eyes
To be honest, I haven't had much of a liking for this particular pastor. I have followed his blog and his church website for a few years, and have had some personal interaction with him via the internet, which may or may not give me a better idea of what he is really like. The church he has led is doing amazing things to connect people with God (mostly for the first time in their lives), and I really believe that God has been glorified through their mission. And, because of that, I have chosen to never bash him or his ministry. But, I have never felt right in my heart about his personality and the way he communicates his passion for reaching those who are far from God.
So, to be honest some more, one of my first thoughts when I read about his confession yesterday was, "I'm not all that surprised."
Then, I quickly was reminded, for several reasons, how disgusting and shameful a thought like that is.
Firstly, no matter how much or little I knew or liked about this pastor, I never had any real reason to doubt his authenticity or character. Yes, sexual sin is not something that just comes out of nowhere...it is, indeed, often a "slow fade", and one that always begins with a choice to pervert priorities. But, I've heard almost nothing but great things about this guy from others, including from several pastors who I do greatly respect. Just because he says some stuff that makes me cock my head to the side doesn't give me any real reason to be able to rightly judge his character as a third party over the internet. He is my brother, one whom God knows as a son, and I can and should love him without having to love everything about him.
I'll be the first in line to acknowledge that I say and do (publicly, privately, etc.) some pretty crappy things, on a fairly regular basis. And, I have no doubt that, when I say/do something that seems flawed, there are some who would have reason in their own mind to not be surprised by my words and actions. I'm thankful for grace, and forgiveness, and for the wisdom to realize that I'm as imperfect and as capable of the lowest of the low as the next guy.
But, what gets me the most...what really gives me that extra sick feeling in my stomach today and makes me stop and question my own priorities is the thought that, it could have been me....
But it could've been me
I could've been the one to lose my grip and fall
It could've been me
The one who's always standing tall
For unless you hold me tightly, Lord
And I can hold on too
Then tomorrow in the news
It could be me, it could be me...
I'm not saying that I'm contemplating having an affair, or that I've got a list of x rated websites hidden away somewhere. I am saying that, unless I'm constantly checking my priorities and motives and habits, seeking to love God in all I do, and allowing others to do the same for me, I'm really not much further from a big failure than if I were already committing it. I'm guessing that every decision that leads to the fall is a "big" screw up in hindsight...again, these failures don't happen over night, and are always preceded by wrong, "small" choices.
And in our hearts we fear the ones
Whose lives are like our own
Whose shadows dance like
Demons in our minds
We think to push them far away
We exercise our souls
We make them play the tune for all mankind
Perhaps, when we hear of stories like this one, the greatest danger for church pastors and leaders is to not realize that it really is not a far fetched thought that, it really could have been me. Anyone in ministry leadership who believes they are further than one quick decision away from falling hard is insane. If we were to have asked this pastor, just a few months ago, about his commitment to sexual morality, I'm guessing he would have had no idea he'd be in this spot now.
So, today, I'm asking myself...
Are there thoughts I'm thinking that are not of pure and holy things?
Are there words I'm speaking that are breaking down my fellowship with God and others?
Are there things I'm doing that are leading me away from God?
Are my motives about God, or about serving myself?
Are my passions for the things that make God happy?
More than just about anything else, the thing that keeps me wanting to know and love God more is the healthy fear of falling hard and crushing my God, my family, my friends, my ministry and my reputation in front of those who are far from God. I know, from past mistakes, what I'm capable of, and I know how much I can hurt other people (my wife, foremost) when I say or do something even sightly embarrassing and questionable.
And I've seen enough of our "Christian celebrities" and even a few personal friends publicly screw up huge to know that, even in my small realm of influence, my failure would have a huge impact on others.
I believe there is a place
Where (I) can run and hide
When (I) know that (I) can't stand
For one more day
And I believe You're waiting, Lord
To hold me very close
For You know without Your love
I'd lose my way
I pray for humility to acknowledge and confess my shortcomings. For wisdom to see the future consequences of my words and deeds. For discernment to pause and check the smallest of decisions with God's Word. The blessing of having others who love and care for me enough to ask the tough questions. For love and grace and forgiveness to help me get up and and dust off and keep moving forward.
The lyrics above (in italics) are from the song "It Could Have Been Me" by Phil Keaggy.
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
About ten months ago (wow...doesn't seem that long) I wrote My Review of Chris Tomlin's "Hello Love"...I thought I'd revisit the review and tell you how we're using this album in worship at NHC now...
As I mentioned before, although I wasn't crazy about "I Will Rise" to begin with, it has definitely grown on me. I've also noticed that many who have purchased this album have identified this song as their favorite from this album, and I can understand why it is connecting with so many people...there are very few things about our faith that people connect with more than Christ's victory over the grave. I almost used this song a few months ago, but decided to go with another song of a similar theme. There's still a strong possibility that we may use "I Will Rise" as well as "Praise The Father, Praise The Son" at some point...the only thing I don't like about "Praise The Father..." is that it never mentions specifically what "the name above all other names" is...
Although we stick close to the live Passion version, "God Of This City" has become one of our church's favorite anthems. And, considering that we're a church that spends a lot of time focusing on vision and reaching our community for God, the lyrics make this a song that we could use nearly every week if we wanted to. Our band has taken a few liberties with the arrangement, while keeping the basic structure of the song the same. If your church has a passion for reaching her community, this is a song you need to be using in worship!
"Exalted" is another song that has become a favorite at our church. It doesn't hurt that our church is currently going through a series focused on the life of Moses, whose God is known as "Yahweh". I felt that this song would sound much sweeter for us if the lead vocal were female, s we moved the key up about 4 full steps so that our two alto vocalists could sing lead, and it definitely sounds great. Our worship choir learned this one as well and it really rocks.
One of the first songs we learned off of this album is "You Lifted Me Out". We had some trouble at first finding the right key so that people in the congregation could sing along comfortably, but finally settled on the key of A with a guy singing lead. The theme of this song is hitting home with a lot of our folks who have either come out of or are going through some rough times right now. Plus, it's a lot of fun to play.
The latest song that we literally just started using about 3 weeks ago is "My Deliverer". We probably wouldn't have given this song a second glance (I didn't even mention it in my review), but it fit so perfectly with the story of the Exodus and the Red Sea that we had to use it...and, it went over so well (it's a super easy song to learn) that we're adding it to our repertoire. Plus, the band loves to play the simple and groovy intro/outro...our percussion section especially has a fun time. Our worship choir learned the chorus and bridge (singing in unison) in about ten minutes, and totally rocked it a few Sundays ago.
How about you...is your church using any songs from this album? Tell us about it!
Sunday, May 31, 2009
> Thanks to Camas for filling in on electric guitar today...he's got a very different style and sound than our normal guys, but it fit really well with our song selection today!
> Also great to have Chad H. back from school and leading with us through the summer...he brings some great talent to the stage and give me a chance to sing some more BGVs.
> It's great fun to be able to see more of our nursery team in action now that my daughter is a regular in the infant room...I keep getting reports that she's a great baby, so I guess we'll keep sending her back there.
> Also great to know that my wife is serving in consistent ministry after a few years away due to her health issues...and I don't mind at all being able to ride home with my family after church instead of thumbing for a lift.
> Our church finally got the permit to begin finishing out the Kid Zone area upstairs...just in time too, as our kids from infants to middle school are multiplying like rabbits!
> It was nice to have a snack to munch on during the second worship gathering...hopefully our people will continue to remember that the food we serve on Sunday mornings is more about creating a welcoming atmosphere for our guests than it is providing breakfast for our regular attenders.
> Our last F1RST Wednesday of the year is coming up this week...we're taking a two month break to catch our breath and re-evaluate...it will be back in September!
> I hear we may have nearly 10 new partners (members) to add to our church in the next few weeks! I love that our church is growing with every age group, and mostly with new believers!
> After a few hours at the YMCA outdoor pool, a nice visit with my girlfriend Rita and a quick nap at my parents' house, it was a great ending to the day to watch the U of Florida's softball team make it to the world series finals by knocking a game-winning grand slam out of the park with two outs in the bottom of the last inning...that's fun stuff!