Valuing Our Vision series #6: Empty Bleachers

message title: Empty Bleachers
message text: 1 Corinthians 12:12-26
message date: 07.25.10
Ownership matters. When I possess something as its owner I also possess the authority to determine the usage of that thing. This series will answer questions of ownership and management. It will look at the world, our lives, and our resources in light of the reality that God owns everything and therefore sets the parameters for our management of all we have and are. This final message in the series looks at our stewardship as the body of Christ. Since God’s family is made up of participants and not spectators how does that impact the way in which we manage our function within our local church?

 

empty bleachers outline 6

Good Samaritans

Perhaps you heard the story of Wesley Autrey from a few years ago. Autrey, a 50 year old construction worker from New York City was standing on the subway platform with his two daughters who were heading downtown to see their mother when a man dropped to the platform floor from a seizure. Autrey quickly ran for the help of a transit worker and then borrowed a pen from another rider. He forced the pen between the jaws of the young man, a 20 year old college student, and helped him through the seizure. The young man seemed to be fine, he got up from the floor of the platform and began walking around, but the ordeal was not yet over. As the next subway train was rolling into the station the young man had a relapse and stumbled onto the tracks. Autrey dove into the path of the oncoming train, grabbed the young man and rolled him into the trough between the tracks just in time for the train to pass just inches over his body saving himself and this young man.
I love stories like this one, I think most of us do. There is just something about a story with a hero and a happy ending that makes us feel warm and fuzzy. As I read the story last week from several different sources, I couldn’t help but find myself thinking, “I wanna be that guy.” But that quickly lead me to thoughts of how I would react in the same or a similar situation. I wonder if I would be one of the multitude of riders who stood on the platform and did nothing or would I be the one who came to the rescue of someone in need? What I’ve realized is it’s easy to say you would do something but it’s a lot different when you find yourself right in the middle of the crisis needing to make a quick decision. It’s one thing to know and discuss what’s right it’s quite another to do what’s right.
This whole event is like a modern day example of the parable of the Good Samaritan told by Jesus nearly 2000 years ago. Some of the details are a little different, but there are many similarities. A man is mugged and left for dead on the road between Jerusalem and Jericho, a road that made for dangerous travel during the days of Jesus. A priest just happens by as he is traveling home to Jericho from Jerusalem sees the man and passes by on the other side of the pass. A Levite then does the same a little later. Both men see the man left for dead and both men pass by on the other side pretending they never witnessed the man in need. It’s not until a Samaritan merchant passes by that the man left for dead finds the help he needs. He sees the man and is moved to do something so he goes to the man, binds and treats his wounds and takes him to a safe place to recover for as long as it takes. He then covers the entire bill for the man and rides off into the sunset, never to be heard of again, but always to be remembered.
Jesus tells this story in response to a question asked by someone in the crowd as he is teaching. The man was looking to test Jesus and seeking to justify his own actions, or lack thereof, by getting Jesus’ response to the question, “who is my neighbor?” The point of the question being who do I need to help when they are in need and who should I ignore, to put it bluntly. But the man does not receive the response he is looking for. He was hoping Jesus would simply say, like most of the other religious teachers of the day, love those who are like you and ignore those who are different. But instead of this simple answer Jesus tells the story which takes the man’s question and reverses so that it no longer focuses on the neighbor worthiness of others but the neighborliness of this man and everyone else in the crowd. By the time Jesus is done with the story he asks the question of the man, “who proved to be a neighbor?” a question with an obvious answer, the one who helped the man.
We may not be faced with a situation as dramatic and Wesley Autrey or the Samaritan merchant this week in which we are called upon to risk our lives for a total stranger, but each one of us has a whole host of opportunities to prove we are a neighbor to those around us whether we deem them neighbor worthy or not. Now that’s heroic.

Valuing Our Vision series #2: Management Matters

message title: Management Matters

message text: Matthew 25:14-30

message date: 06.06.10

Ownership matters.  When I possess something as its owner I also possess the authority to determine the usage of that thing.  This series will answer questions of ownership and management.  It will look at the world, our lives, and our resources in light of the reality that God owns everything and therefore sets the parameters for our management of all we have and are.  This message takes a look at our role as managers of God’s possessions and how as faitful stewards we are productive investors which keeps us ready for the return of Jesus Christ.

 

management matters outline 2

Cause for Excitement

This was my article for the church’s monthly newsletter this month.

I’ve been sitting here thinking about the summer months that lie ahead for MorningStar and I’ve got to tell you I’m just a little excited.  Here’s why:

1)      It looks very likely that we will be welcoming a new member to our pastoral staff sometime this summer to assume the role of Associate Pastor of Family ministry.  This is a process that began shortly after I arrived last summer.  We all have been praying and fasting for God’s direction in for nearly a year.  During this time we have discussed the needs of the church, the needs of the community, and the needs to accomplish our vision.  God has directed this process and provided us with an amazing search team who have prayerfully considered over 130 resumes.  They are now seeking God’s direction for which of two men, both amazingly godly and qualified individuals, God has appointed and anointed to serve here at MorningStar.  I am so excited to watch the remainder of this process unfold for God’s glory.

2)      Our Capital Stewardship Team is working diligently to finalize the details for the next phase in our Capital Stewardship Campaign.  It truly has been amazing to sit with them as they share their passion for this Campaign to emphasize the reality that we are not primarily concerned with paying down debt but with freeing resources to better embrace and accomplish our vision.  Their focus has been stewardship and the reality that the vision will only be fulfilled as each of us “value our role in our vision.”  All I can say right now is that if we get on board with what God is doing through this team this could be one of the most miraculous summer’s we’ve ever had!

3)      This is the year of Jubilee!  MorningStar is 50!  It has been the focus of the whole year but the summer will amp things up even more.  We are going to be having special speakers and artists joining us to highlight the celebration throughout the summer.  We are going to be focusing on our community on Sunday evenings and giving away our time and talents because God has so blessed us as His children.  And we are going to have one amazing shindig, yes – shindig, the weekend of August 27-29.  You will not want to miss it.  If you are vacationing that weekend I suggest you vacation hereJ  I genuinely believe that God is going to show up on that weekend in ways that we can only imagine and you will not want to miss it.

So as you can see, I’m pretty excited about this summer, and I hope you are too.  It’s going to be one to remember!  I hope you won’t miss it and you’ll plug in and help make it an amazing time of reflecting and building the kingdom of God here in Dayton.

“a must read” series #1: introduction: a message from the Almighty

message title:  Introduction: A Message from the Almighty

message text: Revelation 1

message date: 03.07.10

These days it seems that everyone has a strategy, opinion, plan, or formula for how the church should look and operate.  However, only one voice really matters, the voice of the one who gave His life for the church, Jesus Christ.  The book of Revelation contains 7 letters to 7 churches in which God tells us what His church should look like in order to reflect His image.  He shares what to avoid and what to embrace as we reveal the image or our glorious Groom, Jesus Christ.  This first message is a word of encouragement that Jesus Christ is presently standing among His church speaking and acting.  It is also a call for his followers to be sure to listen and heed his voice.

 

introduction a message from the almighty outline 1

50 forward series #3: Light

message title: Light

message text: John 8:12, 9

message date: 01.17.10

In this 50th year of ministry for MorningStar Baptist Church we are celebrating the fact that Jesus Christ has been our all-sufficient source and solidifying this reality for the years to come.  Jesus makes 7 sufficiency statements in the book of John.   This second sufficiency statement asserts that spiritual seeing comes through acknowledging our blindness and Jesus’ light.

 

light outline 3

missional series #2

missional graphicmessage title: joy in the city

message text: Acts 8:4-8

message date: 11.15.09

Our central mission as disciples of Jesus Christ is reproduction in others of what Jesus has produced in us.  When we do this by taking Jesus into our city great joy follows.

 

Journeys & Destinations

This was originally written specifically for the church I pastor but thought is might be helpful for all of us.  So I figured I’d share.

I had the privilege of hiking through Clifton Gorge earlier this week.  For those of you who have been there I’m sure you agree that it is a privilege, and with the foliage changing color it is nothing short of breathtaking.  We were all lighthearted as we started our little hike and the kids were joking around and laughing so in the spirit of things I jokingly said to Mackenzie and Ethan that there was no laughing or smiling allowed because we weren’t here to enjoy ourselves but to get this hike over with so we could say we did it and move on to our next destination.  Of course Mackenzie rolled her eyes because sclifton gorgehe knew I was kidding and just kept right on having fun, we all did. 

As we were driving home I was thinking about how much fun we had and remembered my sarcastic comment to the kids.  It got me thinking about how often we approach life with that mindset.  We focus so hard on the just getting things done and reaching the destination that we fail to see the joy of the journey.  We completely ignore the privilege of being right where we are at and how breathtaking God’s handiwork is all around us.  Being a goal setter I don’t want you to think I am saying that we settle in and don’t seek to move forward, we have to keep moving forward, but we also have to remember that, quite often, the destination isn’t nearly as sweet if we’re miserable when we get there. 

I hope you have been enjoying the journey here at MorningStar as much as I have.  It is such a privilege to be a part of this fellowship and sharing life together.  Your stories and your passion have taken my breath away countless times over the last several months.  And I’ve heard those stories and shared that passion as we’ve been journeying to our destination of being a multi-generational church that simply and clearly communicates the unchanging gospel in the ever changing culture around us.  I hope you are just as committed as I am to reaching that destination but I also hope that are having just as much fun getting there as I am.

Counting the Cost

…which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?tower
Have we lost the fine art of counting the cost in our lives? I certainly don’t believe we have lost the language of counting the cost. I hear it all the time from people, and I believe the intent behind that talk is genuine. But far too often the intent and the language are more out of impulse. So when the rubber meets the road so to speak the language changes, the intent shifts, and what we hear are things like, this is not what I signed up for.
Throughtout my years in ministry I have encountered this phenomenon a number of times. I honestly can’t fault people for it, because I genuinely believe that they genuinely believe they really want what they are saying they want. The problem comes when we begin considering expectations. When we think of ‘building our tower’, most of us have a preconcieved view of how that reality will play itself out. This reality is usually based on our past experiences, our preferences, and our expectations. We are the builders, we have a set of blueprints and if all goes according to plan than our tower will look exactly as we planned. When things start looking incredibly different than the blueprints we have in our minds and the tower starts looking more like a haunted castle to us than our beautiful tower we want plausible deniability. We want to know where things went wrong. We just want to forget this experiment that has gone horribly wrong, at least that’s what we think.
Have we lost the art of counting the cost in our lives? What if genuinely believe we have count the cost and the whole process deviates from the blueprints, are we willing to see the project through to completion? I believe this is one of the most critical question for established churches for the next several years, maybe even decades. The majority of established churches in America are experiencing the reality that their membership is getting older and older which also brings the reality that if something doesn’t change they will be closing their doors within the next 10-20 years unless these churches begin reaching younger generations, but experience has shown that reaching younger generations is not going to happen with the same methods that were used to reach people in the past. The same gospel will reach them, as it always has, but it must be presented in the language of their culture. And it doesn’t take much more than a passing glance to recognize and acknowledge that culture has changed significantly even in the past 15 years. It is safe to say that for most of us our own neighborhoods have become a foreign mission field and we must become students of that culture if we are to reach our neighbors. It reminds me of the sons of Issaachar who were praised for their commitment to understanding the times in which they lived so that they could formulate a plan for what their nation should do. And therein, I believe, is the key to counting the cost of building our towers today. Our blueprints must include an understanding of the times in which we live, and from that understanding our blueprints will reveal to us how to build the tower.
One final thought. It was Jesus who first shared these words about counting the cost. If anyone knew the high price of counting the cost it was Jesus. The cost to Him was a sacrifice beyond any we can imagine, with a reward far greater than any we can imagine. Paul’s letter to the Philippian church clearly lays out just how great a sacrifice Jesus made that we may have the hope of new life in Him. So, when we count the cost is it all about whether we are willing to make the sacrifices that it will, yes will, require, or is it more of a negotiation of terms? A statement of this far and no more rather than whatever it takes. Jesus’ intent was whatever it takes to complete the task. Whatever it takes to advance the kingdom of God for which Jesus died and rose again. It will be the greatest sacrifice we will ever make, but it will also reap the greatest reward we could ever hope or imagine. I think that’s exactly what we all signed up for.

Missionary Methodology

I have been intrigued lately by several studies I’ve been reading related to missions.  What has intrigued me most is the more and more I think about my role as a pastor the more and more I realize that I am a missionary.  When I began ministry a decade a half ago this wasn’t nearly as true as it is now.  The cultures and peoples I was seeking to reach were very much like me.  But as time has progressed I am realizing more and more that the people I am seeking to share the life saving message of Jesus Christ with are from a culture quite different from mine.  They are not as familiar with the Bible and its stories as I am and they don’t necessarily have a Judeo-Christian biblical framework to build upon.  What I’m realizing is that we no longer live in Mayberry.  I’m only 36 years old but what I am realizing is that the methods of evangelism that used to work aren’t as effective any longer.  It’s not that they are bad necessarily they just aren’t meeting people where they are.  It’s as if we are trying to do calculus with a newborn, so to speak.  I know I’ve written about something very similiar in the not too distant past, but my thoughts are going in a little different direction this time.  I’m just wondering how much of this God is allowing simply to shake the church out of a slumber of comfort and ease.  How much is God using this to get those of us who have tasted the life saving gospel of Jesus Christ to taste afresh again so that when we share it, rather than it being from a memorized program (which have their place) or a pre-printed tract (which have saved thousands) or simply taking someone to listen to someone with the gift of evangelism (still a very vital part of the church) we share from our own deep and abiding love for our Lord and desire to see others experience His grace as we have?  As I sit here alone in my office writing this blog entry for people I can’t see to hopefully read and be challenged I can’t help but think of how starved we are for face to face relationship and marvel at how the face of sharing the gospel is changing.  More and more I am reading about the importance of seeing evangelism as a process with many steps and phases that require we take the time to build relationships with people.  I recently read one author who said that evangelism usually takes place in the third or fourth conversation with people these days rather than the first, so if you are not planning on having a third or fourth conversation then you may as well not share the gospel.  That may not be an exact quote and it is using exaggeration to get the point across but it struck me with the realization that times they are a changin’.  Whether it is “invest and invite,” the “Alpha program,” servant evangelism, relational evangelism or evangelism of some other stripe what I notice is they are all treating our own back yards as mission field in which we are most concerned about sharing the gospel but doing it in a way that considers how the people who live in our backyard think, what their values are, what events have shaped their collective history, and what their needs and desires are.  What a great movement – a movement that is committed to making the most of every opportunity while taking the focus off of our own personal interests and comforts and placing the focus on getting individuals to the foot of the cross of Jesus Christ.