Monday, June 29, 2009

Sunday Blitz

> Contrary to how it feels, our attendance is actually up a bit from June of last feels down because we know that tourism here is down, but the enthusiasm of the worshippers and the numbers, especially the kids, speak for themselves. July will be the real test, as it's always the busiest month here at NHC.

> 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!

Rock on!


Monday, June 22, 2009

Sunday Blitz

> Matt the Intern played bass with us for the first time yesterday...he blogs about it a bit Here. I especially enjoyed his friendly argument with our sound tech about his guitar "fretting out"...

> 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

Step Up

I've talked about this a bit of the greatest joys as a worship leader is watching the infectious nature of joyful worship take over a room. Leading worship doesn't just happen on the stage...any one person in a crowd of people (the congregation) can change the entire atmosphere and attitude of the crowd by stepping up and leading worship.

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

A Few More Thoughts About That

I've been thinking about That all day...not like every second, because I did have a great day with my wife and daughter...but it's been, at least, on the back of my mind all day. Maybe getting a few more thoughts down on paper may help me to move on and focus. Again, although this is related to the particular situation that went down this past weekend, I'm trying to think and write in generalities that will help me keep my nose clean.

> 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

Sunday Blitz

> Yesterday was one of the best Sundays ever at NHC. Here's a few reasons why...

> 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!


It Could Have Been Me

This post is about me...not about anyone else, although I will express a few opinions about others so that you can better understand why this is about me. Also, I seriously doubt anyone I know who has dealt personally with their own public moral failure of this kind is reading this blog, so don't think that I'm thinking of you as I wrote this.

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 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

"Hello Love" Revisited

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 your church using any songs from this album? Tell us about it!