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Friday Thoughts – Idols

Fri ,16/01/2009

American Idol started this week and I can’t be more excited. Yes – Sarah Beth and I are Idol junkies. We love to watch people succeed and we love to cringe when people mess up. I’ve got my favorite American Idols – Carrie Underwood and Daughtry, as well as my least favorite – that “Soul Patrol” guy. But all in all – I really, really, really like American Idol. In fact before we got DVR we wouldn’t answer our phones during that sacred hour. Now I know what you’re thinking: Chip is about to write about how we idolize people and we should be prioritizing Christ. No – that isn’t it at all, but I do want to reflect on some of the major idols that the church deals with.

If you watch American Idol there are several critiques that the judges give that they think will help the “star-wanna-be” better. 1) You must be able to sing, but the best singer doesn’t always win. 2) You must “look” the part, this is a big deal. 3) There must be the “x” factor, something about the person that is like-able – Kelly Clarkston was a great example of that. She wasnt’ the best singer (in my opinion), but she did have that “x” factor. All of this combined will hopefully propel this person to success. Here is my point: The church tends to be the same way in its desire to discover “success” or become “successful.”

For the last few weeks I’ve been wrestling with the “idols” that the church has erected in order to be “successful.” So here are a few thoughts:

1) The Idol Of Nickels and Noses – If you have a lot of people, and you have a big budget then you must be a great church. Well let’s back up for a moment. I do believe that a healthy church is a growing church, but unhealthy churches attract people as well. There are churches everywhere that don’t teach the gospel, but attract large crowds. One prominent preacher stands up every week in his coliseum out west and never speaks of repentance, forgiveness and holiness – but there is a lot of positivity going on. We have to be very careful because this is the idol that we tend to buy into the most.

2) The Idol Of Programs – Now this is something that may make you a little uncomfortable, but it is so true. Many see that a churches success is built upon the number of “programs” that they have. I recently read of a church that had about 400 people in weekly attendance and over 150 different programs. Guess what was happening to that church? It was losing more and more people each year. Programs are relatively new thing to Christianity – in fact the word “youth minister” or “childrens minister” did not exist 75 years ago. Programs are important and good, but they don’t make a church a “good” church.

3) The Idol Of Being Trendy – If we wear our jeans, have a kicking worship team, serve coffee before worship, and multi-media in our service (and anything else creative that you can think of) then it must be a “good” church (sounds a lot like our church). Do you know that worship music is only about 500-600 years old in the local church, that the hymns that we deem as old and traditional were probably set to bar tunes in order to better relate to those who had come out of the bars and into church, and that the music that was cutting edge in 1995 is now seen as “old”. Think about it: how many people still wear the “wwjd” bracelet, when was the last time you saw a bumper sticker that said “Jesus is my co-pilot” and whatever happened to “DC Talk”? Trends come and go, so there has to be something more.

4) The Idol Of Evangelism Programs – What do I mean by this? We send out thousands of postcards every year. Next week we’ll be sending out 20,000 to invite people to church. There are business cards at the welcome center that you can take and give to your friends to invite them to church, our website is very user friendly for those who may want to visit, and I love what our greeters do for first time guests each week. Not only that, there are thousands of books, programs and seminars to teach people how to share their faith – I just read of a new one yesterday called the “evangecube” for kids. These are all very, very, important things – and we will do them because people matter to us, but I want to remind you as a leader and as a church member of one important thought: the means of expressing Christ is important, but the message of Christ is more important. We cannot count on a postcard to bring people to church – we must depend upon Christ, and act accordingly. The Bible tells us that “blessed are the feet who bring good news” – so bring good news to people. Christ works through you – we are his instruments. Don’t depend on the program too much.

Idols can be set up easily and quickly. We see success through the use of certain tools, we feel comfortable with certain trends, or specific programs are helpful – so that means it must be successful, right? The means of conveying the message of Christ is not the measure of success – it is Jesus. So as we walk together through the next month, year, 20 years – no matter what the size, program, trend or technique used to bring truth and people together – there must be a foundational commitment to the power of Christ (read Ephesians 1:17-22) moving through His people.

Sunday Reflections

Mon ,08/12/2008

Grichmas started yesterday – and it was a lot of fun. How many times do you get to see the Grinch at church? Here are a few thoughts from yesterday:

1) Our worship team is off the hook. They are growing every week and I’m so grateful that they’re here. Seriously – you don’t want to miss what they have planned for our Christmas service on December 21.

2) Our Kid’s Connection and Nursery are growing. We need more help in these areas – so if you’re willing to serve once every eight weeks – and you aren’t serving currently – please let us know. By the way the kids will be singing in the morning worship service on December 21.

3) I’m super pumped about our new small groups that are starting in January. If you haven’t expressed an interest – let me know.

4) Thank you so much for you continued faithfulness in our 90 day challenge. God is doing some great things through this – and this will enhance our ministry even more.

5) I’m excited to see how many friends and family you bring on December 21 – we’re challenging everyone to bring three friends.

6) I still hate the Florida Gators.

7) God showed up in some neat ways yesterday – and the key phrase that we all need to cling to out of the message yesterday is this: the way we perceive is the way we receive. That has been kicking my butt all weekend – I really needed to hear it.

8) Through your purchasing of “Trade As One” Christmas gifts – our church provided over 116 hours of work for people overseas.

9) Bring all the toys and gifts for kids that you can during the next two weeks – we’re donating them to the YMCA and they will be distributing them to local children.

10) Thanks so much for dealing with all the construction that is occurring at the YMCA. Our new worship space is almost done and our new office is near completion.

I love River Hills Church – have a great week.

Sunday Reflections

Mon ,04/08/2008

This Sunday was awesome!!! People are back in town, and I’m really getting a lot out of our “Authentic” series. What really pumped me up yesterday was after church during our first ever “Vision Meeting.” If you weren’t able to be there – here’s what happened:

1) We talked about where we’ve come from as a church. Do you realize that since we started planting River Hills Church on April 1, 2007 (we didn’t have our first worship service until September 9) we’ve grown almost 1400%? That is amazing – and although we don’t see some of the faces that were here 9 months ago – the church is doing great, we’re very normal for a new church and we’ve got a lot of momentum.

2) We talked about what our future leadership structure will look like, our financial situation and the strategy behind our church. What was most important was the foundation of our church (Acts 2:42-47) and the core values that we draw out of the text: Truth, Other People, Authenticity, and Community – all of which are things that we value and do as a church.

3) We talked about what the future will look like for our church: Social ministries, outreach, small groups, church plants – and even where we want to build one day – it gave me goose bumps.

4) We discussed the three goals for 2008-2009: 1) Becoming a church of prayer, 2) Connecting with our community, and                 3) Building a culture of small groups within our church.

5) There were tears. This wasn’t planned – but it is what made this meeting so awesome. To hear about how much God is using River Hills to touch lives is both humbling and exciting. People shared how much the community of River Hill had ministered to them – and the authenticity that was felt, was amazing. I left completely encouraged and excited.

 I am so thankful to be your pastor and super pumped about the future. Don’t forget -August 17 – be there and bring friends – its gonna rock.

Summer Is Almost Over…

Tue ,29/07/2008

This past Sunday was great. Many of you were back in town after a summers worth of vacation and it seems that most of us are gearing up for the school year. I know most of you love summer – but personally I prefer autumn. Here’s why:

1) College Football Begins – For those of us who cheer for the bulldawgs it is a sacred time.

2) It’s Cooler – need I say more.

3) I Don’t Have To Mow My Lawn – I truly hate cutting grass.

4) Autumn Gets People Back Into Their Routine – Which Is A Great Time To Invite People To Church.

On September 9 we will be a year old, and to celebrate all that God has done and to emphasize our desire to connect with the community we are having a huge end of the summer worship service on August 17. The band will be back to lead worship, kids connection will be back on track (pre-school and older kids), small groups are gearing up and our student ministry is taking a giant leap forward. We’re going to seize this day as an opportunity to invite as many people as possible to our worship service. Here is the plan: 1) a mission team from TN will be here to help publicize the event. It is very difficult for most of you to do this type of mission work during the work week – so they are going to help us out. We would love to have you join us – just let us know which day you are available. 2) we’re mailing out 20,000 – 40,000 postcards inviting people to our worship service. August 17 kicks off our “Mythbusters” sermon series and we want people to hear about it. 3) We’re asking that everyone pray for this worship service – I really believe that this will act as a catalyst into 2009, 4) Finally, we’re asking that each of you (us) invite neighbors, friends or family to come and experience River Hills Church.

I am so thankful to be your pastor and I’m excited about what God is doing and going to do in the future. Have a great week.

Treasure To Tool

Tue ,01/07/2008

This Sunday was great – we talked about Matthew 6:19-24 where Jesus explains that blessing is not found in wealth because our treasure should be Christ. I’ve really been pondering that passage and the implications that it has for my family and our church. Here are a few thoughts:

 1) As our church grows we will have more resources. We need to view those resources as something to invest in the lives of people in our community, state, nation and world. These “treasures” that we have need to be used as tools to express God’s love to others.

2) We can’t allow money to define who we are. Sarah Beth and I have had some really “lean” years, but we’ve also had periods of abundance. My prayer for my family and for our church is that we are faithful in managing and giving our treasure with the Biblical guidelines that he lays out – no matter what season of life we may be in.

3) “Love of money is the root of all kind of evils” (I Timothy 6:10) – its not wrong to have money, but it is wrong to love it. We all want to be those people who don’t love money, but have a lot of it – but the reality is that we can’t let it consume us as individuals or as a church. 

4) God’s provision is greater that man’s wealth. The provision of joy, contentment, peace, hope and spiritual life is far greater than what our wealth can provide. So we have to use this “treasure” as a “tool.”

I am so thankful for each of you and I pray that the “treasure” that you were given on Sunday will be used as a “tool” to demonstrate Christ – I’m already getting reports from people and I must say I am so thankful to be your pastor.   

Relational Intentionality

Fri ,20/06/2008

Relationships are the greatest assimilation and evangelism tool that the church has. Advertisers and marketers tell us that “word of mouth” is the best means of advertising. In fact, the owner at the place where I get my haircut refuses to advertise because her “clients are her billboards.” Within the context of church planting – and evangelism as a whole, relationships are the key to effective and permanent church growth. The problem is that people can “smell” your intentions a mile away. So how do we become intentional about Christ in our relationships?

I think there are several keys:

1) Truly care for the people that you know – Matthew 22:39 “Love your neighbor as  yourself.” Because of one’s love for God – the outpouring element of that relationships is the love one shows to others. In our relationships – we have to truly care.

2) Prayer is a big part of these relationships with intention. I John 5:14 “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask according to his will he hears us.” We need to learn to pray for openness to the gospel among those we have a relationship with.

3) Don’t speak too soon. Spend time with people before dropping the gospel card. I’m not saying that you should hide the fact that you are a Christian, but for me (mainly because people know that I’m a minister) they are expecting that I talk about God immediately.

4) Look for opportunities to share as soon as possible. Now I know that contradicts my prior statement – but many times you’ll find an open door. I am a minister – obviously – and people expect me to talk about Jesus – so let’s talk about him. The barrier is disengaging awkwardness or feelings of resentment toward you and the conversation. This goes back to the first point – disengage them because you care – they will know that you care for them.

5) Share, share, share, share – if you are a Christian and you seek to be obedient to Scripture, specifically on the issues of evangelism, the natural outpouring of Christ is natural – thus every relationship becomes intentional.

For many people who have been burnt because of the zeal of some Christians who share their faith in a “wrong way” – in my mind there are two probable reasons: 1) They are very resistant to the gospel and no matter what you do – they’re going to reject it, and 2) They have just been “attacked” by a very immature Christian who either hasn’t learned to balance zeal with good interpersonal skills – or they aren’t concerned with the person, rather they are concernde with the “notch” on the gospel gun belt.

Be intentional – but be relational as well. Don’t hide anything – and always present yourself as one who has been changed by God’s grace.

What Is Church Membership?

Wed ,18/06/2008

What does it mean to join a church? Why is it important to “join” a church? So many times when people think about church membership – or the idea of “joining” a church – they think in terms of joining a country club or some kind of organization. Unfortunately this is the mentality of many people and it hinders what could be a healthy relationship between a church and an individual. So let’s answer the question of “What is church membership?”.

First of all church membership is not the acceptance into an elite club or organization. Church membership is the commitment to a local church with the intention of being involved on a level of leadership, servant-hood, contribution and prayer. Churches should have their doors open to everyone, and for a person who wants to be committed to the church – then they should “join” for the purpose of expanding and strengthening that church – as well as growing spiritually within the church and being ministered to by the body of that local church. There are basically five reasons to “join” a church:

1) To Serve Through A Local Church

2) To Use Gifts (personal talents, finances, time) to expand the mission of the Church.

3) To Provide and Receive Spiritual Accountability.

4) To Participate In Decision Making Processes Of The Local Church

5) To Partner With Other Christians 

Many people have asked “How can I join River Hills Church?” We have three steps for church membership at our church: 1) Know Christ Personally – Be A Christian, 2) Express The Confession Of Knowing Christ Through Baptism, 3) Participate In Our New Member Class. We will be having a New Member Class in the fall for those who wish to join or for those who want to find out more information about our church.                                                                                                                                                                                                        

What Is Baptism?

Wed ,11/06/2008

Recently our church celebrated its first baptism. This was an incredible time of commitment, obedience and joy as we celebrated the new life that Christ had given Jeff and Whitney. On July 27 we will be celebrating our next baptism – but before we do that I want to answer some questions you may have about baptism. Questions like: Why should I do it? What does it mean? What if I was baptized as a baby or from another church? How long will you hold me under? All very good questions. So let’s start with the first one:

Why should someone be baptized?

This is a great question that can be summed up in one phrase: The Bible tells us to. Baptism has been a major part of the church from the beginning – in fact even Jesus was baptized. The Jews baptized people who were non-Jewish to symbolize that they were now “in” God’s people. John the Baptist (no he didn’t start the baptist denomination) was sent by God to pave the way for Jesus – calling people to turn from their wickedness and be baptized as a symbol of them being “clean” from sin. Jesus participated in this baptism and before his ascension into heave commanded the church to “baptize” people.

What does baptism mean?

Baptism means that those who were once dead in their sins are now alive in Christ. The symbol of baptism illustrates that when Christ comes into a person’s life – they are “washed” and “made alive” through him. The word baptize literally means to “be immersed.” In the book of Acts it is used to describe two different but very important things: 1) When Christ comes into your life you are “baptized” into his body – you are brought into Him – you are His – you are in the “church.” 2) As a symbol of that spiritual baptism we are physically baptized to state to the world that we are in Christ and we are obedient to him by being baptized.

What if I was baptized by another church?

That is fine – as long as that church baptized you in a Biblical way. Staring in the middle ages the church began to forsake the meaning of the baptism by baptizing infants, sprinkling or pouring – and some have gone as far as to say that baptism is what saves a person. Every Biblical account of baptism involves a person being completely immersed into the water as a symbol – and that person is someone who is old enough to understand what they are doing. Those who were baptized as infants had no idea what they were doing – and baptism is always post-conversion, and those who were baptized because they wanted to be “saved” were baptized into a wrong theology – their baptism, from a Biblical point of view, is not valid. For those who sincerely made a decision but were baptized other than by immersion – I want you to know that we respect your sincere confession and step of obedience – and if you wish to be baptized in the Biblical way – let us know.

How long will you hold me under?

That may sound like a joke – and it kind of is – but in reality that is a question I get all the time. You need to know that you will only be held under for seconds and modesty is something that we take seriously.

If you haven’t been baptized or if you feel the need to be re-baptized  – please let me know. I know for me it was one of the greatest personal steps of obedience and illustrated my new life in Christ. Next week we’ll deal with “What is church membership” – something we get asked a lot about.