Wednesday, June 27, 2007

How To Get There

Jerry Clower, one of my favorite comedians of all time, once did a bit entitled, "Where Will You Be, When You Get Where You Are Going?" I think that is a great question for the church to ask itself, but since I know that many churches and church members will not ask themselves that question, please allow me the honor. Church, where will you be when you get where you're going?

If we are not careful, the church will get wherever it is going in its goals and discover that it has gotten nowhere. What a disappointment it would be as a church to look in the mirror 1,2,5,or 10 years down the road and realize that we've been doing nothing but spinning our tires. Its important to realize that the church is going exactly where the money and programs of the church take it. A careful look at the direction of the church will show the destination of the church. Step back, take a look, where is your church headed...where is our church headed?

Just remember, you are either growing or dying. There is no in between stage for the church. Some write about the "plateau" stage of growth, but remember that the other side of a plateau is a steep cliff...whew, scary!

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

What Got You Here Won't Take You There

I'm stealing the title for this blog from another guy who pastors a huge church in Charlotte, Steven Furtick at Elevation Church ( They are reaching people left and right, its pretty amazing to see all that God has done and is continuing to do in that church in less than two years now (if my math is right).

God is blessing their church and I pray for them regularly, but for now, I just have to give credit where credit is due as it concerns his blog post. He absolutely hit the nail on the head with this one. I read recently that a tree grows and changes as long as it lives, and the same is true for a church. If we are to grow, we must change. Change is inevitable...change is life.

I know that as the new guy on the block here, the young pastor fresh out of the blocks, I might not need to push too hard yet, but I can't help but get excited about what God could do through us if we allow him. But that means that we have to be willing to change, we can't just continue to do everything the same way we have always done things.

Just take me for instance, I'm fresh out of a seven year stint in Youth Ministry. If I tried to do everything as a pastor the way I did as a youth minister, I'm probably going to struggle to be completely relevant to everyone. Even more, if I try to do everything in my pastorate the same way that people pastored 25 years ago, I will absolutely lose my relevance for the current generation. The same is true of our church.

If we are to grow as a church, we absolutely must make a decision about what is most important. Is it most important to keep up with the status quo, or is it most important to reach the world for Jesus Christ. Or, if you would rather, is doing church the same way we did church 20 years ago or even 2 years ago as important as reaching the kid you sit beside in class or the man you share an office with for Christ? I'm hoping that everyone is getting the point here.

Malvern Hill is 75 years old, but one thing is absolutely certain. The things that got us here as a church are not the same things that will get us to the next level. We must continue to bend and flex and do all that we can to apply the Word of God to the church and to the lives of everyone we encounter. Paul was willing to become all things for all people so that he might save some of them...for him that meant going back on his Jewish roots and upbringing. Paul even started worshipping on Sundays instead of Saturdays (woah, this was huge). Are we as willing as Paul to do whatever it takes to reach the world with the gospel?

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Stem Cell Research

I know that I have written about Stem cell research here before and I don't want to jump on that train too much again. I don't want to use this as my bully pulpit for politics either, but I would like to direct your attention to a story on, Bush Set To Veto Stem Cell Research Bill. The title isn't completely accurate for the president is not opposed to stem cell research, only embryonic stem cell research.

This should be a hot issue for all Christians. Adult stem cells and stem cells taken from amniotic fluid show great promise for future cures for disease (see my post Hopes Falsely Tied to Embryonic Stem Cell Research). Whether you completely agree with our president or not, he needs to be supported in this issue. He is standing firm in his rightly held convictions though they are not popular. I thank our president for standing firm on this issue of serious concern in our world.

Who Rejects JFK?

In his book, The 360 Degree Leader, John Maxwell writes:

Author Bennet Cerf wrote that J. William Stanton, who served many years as a representative from Ohio in the United States Congress, treasured a letter he received from the Chamber of Commerce in Painesville, Ohio, dated 1949. The letter declined Stanton's offer to bring a new congressman as the featured speaker for a fund-raising dinner. The missive reades: "We feel that this year we really need a big-name speaker who'll be a drawing card so we're hoping to bag the head football coach at John Carroll University. Thanks anyhow for suggesting Representative John F. Kennedy." Do you have any idea who that coach might have been? I certainly dont.

And the moral of the story? Potential is what you "ain't done yet." No one knew who John F. Kennedy was because he had not yet become one of the most influential presidents in American History. Obviously if Kennedy knew about this rejection, he did not let it stop him from pursuing his dreams and living up to his potential. In due time, however, John F. Kennedy's potential would be realized.

Now, you probably aren't the next JFK, but who knows, you might be. The important thing for us as Christians, however, is to be certain that we live up to our potential individually and corporately as a church. As I said, for those of you MHBC members out there, this Sunday I'm going to lay out my vision for our church. God has great plans for us, he has given us great big goals and great big jobs to do. We have tons of potential, but right now, thats all it is..."what we ain't done yet." Wouldn't it be great for us to look back on this moment, to look back one day on This Sunday's sermon and say, "we are doing it!"

Hey, don't let rejection hold you down or the past negatively affect the future of your personal life, your business life, or the life of your church. The past is over and the future is yet to be embraced; let's make it happen!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


Where there is no prophetic vision, the people cast off restraint...
-Proverbs 29:18a
Though I love the ESV translation of the Bible, some other renderings of this verse are interesting. One translation renders this verse this way, where there is no vision, the people perish. Regardless of how it is translated, one thing stands out about this passage. Without vision, God's people are in a desperate state of affairs.

Based on that logic, we can also say that with vision, there is hope for the people of God. God's vision for the 21st Century is not a hidden vision. God has laid out his vision for his church in the Bible, we need to own it and narrow it down for our particular situations. Though prophecy has ceased, God still speaks through his word and his preachers.

This Sunday, I plan to lay out my vision for Malvern Hill Baptist Church. The vision is nothing new, but it is exciting! God needs not do a new thing, we as God's people need only get on board with God's plan. It will be exciting to see the new things that we will do when we invest in the age old plan that God has developed for his church.

Keep reading this week for more hints about Sundays service!!!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Excellence Does Matter

I am still very excited about Sunday morning's service. My excitement for Malvern Hill seems to grow every day. I am confident that God is going to do a great work through us as we endeavor to lead, learn, worship, and live all aspects of our lives with excellence. God is looking for more than our leftovers, let's all be sure that we give Him our very best. After all, he deserves it, desires it, and demands it!

On another note, I still think its a good thing that I "don't look like a pastor." I am so excited that God is using me to minister to everyone here, even if I don't look the part. Who knows, maybe thats just what Malvern Hill needs, a pastor who doesn't look like a pastor. Invite your friends, maybe thats just the kind of church they have been looking for and never knew existed.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

United Methodists Approve Transgendered Pastor

A recent article in Baptist Press carries disturbing news about the approval of a transgendered pastor in the St. John's United Methodist Church in Baltimore Maryland. The article, which can be seen here describes how the pastor underwent an operation a year ago to have her sex changed from female to male. She also legally changed her name from Ann Gordin to Drew Phoenix. On May 25th she was reassigned as pastor of St. John's Church.

Disturbingly, Phoenix, who is supposed to be a beacon of truth based on the Word of God, distorts the sovereignty and foreknowledge of God by saying, "The gender I was assigned at birth has never matched my own true authentic God-given gender identity, how I know myself," Phoenix, 48, said, according to The Baltimore Sun. "Fortunately today God's gift of medical science is enabling me to bring my physical body in alignment with my true gender."

It is worth repeating that the good news of Jesus Christ is the news of transformation, but not gender transformation. Romans 12:2 commands us, "do not conform any longer to the ways of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." The transformation is one of conforming to God's standards, not the world's standards. God is responsible for creation, and the Psalmist makes it very clear that God knew us as He knit us together in the womb. Our God is a God who does not make mistakes, the claim by pop-psychology and liberal theology is that gender is not biological, but that is not the true claim of the Scripture.

Erin Roach, the BP reporter covering this story summarizes the event well. Leaders in the United Methodist Church apparently have no problem with a transgender pastor leading one of their congregations, and in fact, they applauded the pastor's bravery in charting new territory within the denomination. Unfortunatly, Ms. Roach did not go quite far enough, for the heart-breaking issue is that in applauding this sinful action, UMC leaders have spat upon the Word of God.

Mark Tooley, director of a conservative UMC action group has spoken out against this action. "Once again, liberal church elites, presiding over dwindling churches, are making decisions without regard for historic Christian teaching or a wider consensus among the church's membership," Tooley said in a news release May 25. "Rev. Phoenix merits compassion for a lifelong struggle over gender identity issues, as related at the conference. But the church helps no one when it fails to faithfully transmit the Gospel of hope and transformation."

May it be that this situation causes us all to fall to our knees and pray for revival across our land.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Avoiding "Nature-Deficit Disorder" -- It's About Theology, Not Therapy

The post below is copied directly from for your reading enjoyment.

Welcome to summer 2007 and the latest diagnosis of a problem among the younger set -- "nature-deficit disorder." A generation of children is growing up without much contact with nature, or the outdoor world in general.
Leave it to Americans to explain this problem in therapeutic terms. The invention of "nature-deficit disorder" implies that the issue is basically one of psychology and therapy. But, in this case, the problem is kids who have little contact with the outdoor world. The therapeutic intervention is fairly simple -- turn off the Nintendo, the television, and the computer and send the kids outdoors.
Two years ago, Richard Louv addressed this problem in his book, Last Child in the Woods [see my review here]. "Our society is teaching young people to avoid direct experience in nature," Louv explained "That lesson is delivered in schools, families, even organizations devoted to the outdoors, and codified into the legal and regulatory structures of many of our communities."
More to the point, many parents allow their kids to stay indoors all day, with what precious free time many kids enjoy devoted to digital entertainment and electronic appliances. A generation of boys now knows more about video games than the local woods. Both girls and boys seem perplexed when confronted with nature and many know the outdoors only through participation in athletic or sporting activities on courts or playing fields. They never wander in the woods or sit by a creek watching tadpoles. What they know of nature they get from the Discovery Channel.
Today, a report in The Guardian [London] indicates that British children are experiencing the same alientation from nature. Stephen Moss writes:
Nowadays, not only has children's time become more pressured, but they are also expected to use it constructively: every pastime must have a purpose. But if everything in a child's life is organised, interactive and based on supervised "experiences", then there isn't much room left for spontaneous, unmediated activities such as fishing for tiddlers, building a den or simply mooching around aimlessly on the nearest bit of waste ground.
As Moss explains, "We have therefore severely restricted our children's access to the natural world, with serious consequences for their health and wellbeing."
There is a great loss here, and not just to a child's sense of wellbeing or knowledge of nature. Christians celebrate the fact that God created the cosmos as a display of His glory. A child who experiences the sense of wonder in the face of creation is learning, not only about nature, but about the glory of God.
Put simply, the child is not going to have that experience while sitting in front of a digital screen. No video game can replace the wonder of a mountain sunset, a cascading river, or a spider's web covered with morning dew. As the Psalmist declared, "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork" [Psalm 19:1].
In the closing chapters of the Book of Job, God speaks to Job about His Lordship over all the earth. The Creator exults in goats, donkeys, wild oxen, ostriches, and hawks. The Creator expresses His good pleasure in the fact that the "majestic snorting" of the horse is terrifying and in the eagle's ability to set its nest so far above the ground.
Children (and adults) who have no contact with the outdoor world are robbed of devotional knowledge, not just of natural interests.
The secular world increasingly sees "nature-deficit disorder" as a therapeutic problem. Christians should see it as a theological problem. Don't let the summer pass without spending some serious time in the natural world -- and teach your kids to see the supernatural meaning of nature all around them.
After warning against letting kids sit for hours in front of the television screen, let me suggest a couple of resources that are more than worthy of your time with the kids. Both of these series will captivate both children and adults, and the impression they leave is amazing. Christian parents can use both of these series to start great conversations with their children and to reach a deeper understanding of the glory of God in creation.
Blue Planet is an incredible BBC series that takes viewers into amazing underwater worlds most human beings will never see. Planet Earth, also a project of the BBC, does the same for the entire planet. Together, these two series redefine nature documentaries. Both offer great opportunties for parents to teach and explain the significance of creation to their children.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Sad Day For Public Education

World Net Daily, along with other outlets, is reporting on a forum held in a Boulder, Colorado high school that directed teenagers to 'Have sex, do drugs,' speaker tells students'Men with men, women and women, whatever combination you would like.' Nowhere in this secular presentation was abstinence even suggested. As a matter of fact, it seems as though even so called "safe sex" through the use of condoms was laughed at by the presenters at this high school.

There is really no need for me to say much about this, for anyone who knows my I believe that my opinion is already understood, but I do encourage all of you to read the article linked to above. It is pitiful.

Romans 1 says that God will give blatent sinners over to their sinful desires, I wonder if America is experiencing the wrath of God today.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Christianity...A Religion of Extremes

In his book, Orthodoxy (written around the turn of the Twentieth Century), G.K. Chesterton makes some claims about Christianity that are worth repeating today. In a church culture that seeks often to soften the edges of Christianity to make it more viable to an increasingly unchurched culture, Chesterton's views seem radical, but maybe it is this perspective that could resound as a fresh sound to secular America.

Rather than try to explain away the paradoxes that exist in Christianity, why not embrace them radically and excitedly. Christ and his religion is not one for the weak at heart, for it was Christ who introduced a new morality. Christianity has divided the criminal from the crime. "The Crimiinal we must forgive unto seventy time seven. The crime we must not forgive at all." It is this paradox in Christianity that makes it possible for Christians to speak truthfully about loving a sinner and at the same time hating the sin of which that person is a part.

So, though you are a sinner, I will love you and forgive you as often as you sin, but I will never erase the wrongness of your sin. In other words, I will love you excessively and hate your sin with a passion, and I will do it all in the glorious name of Christ so that you might experience His love and grace.

So, to those of you who may read this with utter disdain for Christianity, or to those who may know someone in that place in life I say this: "Let us love you for who you are even as we hate the sin that has made you to hate us." Give Christ a chance, He will love you more than you have ever been loved before and will fight with His own life against the sin that has enslaved you! What a God...What a Savior!