Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Rediscovering Hope in 2006

I probably haven't mentioned anything about an upcoming event at Hannaford this September. Each year we host a Fall conference to bring Christian speakers from across the country to Helena, Montana.

This alone is a feat in itself. While there are general sessions with the keynote speakers and worship, we perform a free special service to pastors and church leaders - we have two days of workshops especially for pastors in the Northwest.

This year, we're putting on the finishing touches on the 2006 conference planning. With a theme of Rediscovering Hope, we're excited to have as our keynote speaker, Bob Russell, former Senior Pastor of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky. Over 22,000 people attend Southeast each weekend and the church has been named the 6th most influential church in America by Church Report magazine.

We are also excited to have Doug Schmidt, Senior Pastor of Woodside Bible Church in Troy, Michigan, and performer/comedian Jeff Smith, Director of Salt & Light Ministries in Richmond, Virginia. Finally, I am especially looking forward to having Martin Allen of Worship Foundations International lead worship and conduct two workshops. It will be the first year the conference has had a worship component.

Quotable Quips - Why Waste People's Time?

"Believe it or not–I have STRONG political opinions–STRONG ONES! AND…I love to discuss politics with people in a one on one conversation OR in a small group. However, while I will use sermon illustrations that include people in politics…I will never use the platform God has given me to support a political candidate or party…why would I waste people’s time on a Sunday talking about the government when I can tell them about Jesus?"

Perry Noble, Senior Pastor or NewSpring Church in Anderson, South Carolina - as quoted from his blog at (August 29, 2006)

What other things do waste people's time with on Sundays when we could be telling them about Jesus?

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Montana Facts Potpourri

Since we've moved to Montana, we've started noticing how many times our state comes up in conversations, movies, and television. So we have decided to keep a running list. We'll update it whenever we run across another reference to Montana and you can check back by checking the link in the sidebar under "Montana Facts Potpourri"
  • American stuntman Evel Knievel (Robert Craig Knievel, Jr.) was born October 17, 1938 in Butte, Montana.
  • In 1888 Helena had more millionaires per capita than any other city in the world.
  • The 1992 movie A River Runs Through It is set in Montana and was filmed in Bozeman and Livingston, Montana.
  • In the 1971 movie Willie Wonka & Chocolate Factory, the character Violet Beauregarde is from Miles City, Montana.
  • The infamous Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski (Theodore John Kaczynski) was arrested on April 3, 1996, at his remote cabin outside Lincoln, Montana.
  • The U.S.-Canadian border scene of the 1987 movie The Untouchables was filmed at the old Hardy Creek Bridge over the Missouri River, just south of Great Falls, Montana.
  • The 1992 Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman movie Far and Away was filmed in Billings and Bozeman, Montana.
  • Drinking while driving in Montana only became illegal on October 1, 2005
  • Dana Carvey is from Missoula, Montana
  • Montana is the fourth largest state in the U.S. right behind Alaska, Texas, and California. As far as population, however, Montana ranks 44 out of 50.
  • In the computer-animated 2007 Disney movie Meet The Robinsons, the main character, Lewis, travels to the future to meet his family and finds out that modern-day Montana will become South Montana and Canada will become North Montana
  • The character Peggy Hill from the animated television show King Of The Hill grew up in Missoula, Montana
Email me if you have an interesting tidbit about Montana that I've missed.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

God in the Movies - Galaxy Quest

Okay, so here's a movie I saw a long time ago. We just rented it on DVD and saw it again. It stars Tim Allen (a.k.a. Tim "the tool-man" Taylor), Sigourney Weaver ("Alien" movies), and that guy who plays "Monk" on USA. Galaxy Quest is a comedy that is founded on spoofing those Star Trek Conventions where nutty people (no offense - we're all a little "nutty" about something) dress up like Klingons and stuff. These people live and breathe Star Trek. But Galaxy Quest takes the spoof and makes a funny, but interesting movie.

In the movie, the television show Galaxy Quest ended years ago and the actors can only get decent jobs "working" the conventions. Meanwhile, a race of aliens have been watching the tv show and believe it is real. Having been oppressed by another evil alien race, representatives from the first alien race come to a Galaxy Quest convention on Earth to enlist the crew's help. The aliens have no idea that the crew (actors) are not the real thing.

I could go on, but this much sets up my comments well. Quite honestly, I'm not sure where all the spiritual themes are. Of course, as mentions, there is the examination between reality and myth. But I was looking deeper.

What fascinates me in the story is the first alien race's innocence and naivety. They truly believe in the Galaxy Quest crew. At first, it is comical but later becomes heartbreaking. Things eventually get really bad - the crew is forced to tell the aliens that they are "pretending and lying" on tv. The aliens then struggle with experiencing the same characteristics from the crew as with their enemy.

As I recall my thoughts regarding The Church and faith lately, I can't help but see the parallel with churches. It is difficult enough for people to find Jesus at many churches, but when they do they are presented with a fake Christianity. One that is made up, and it has had disastrous consequences on the church in America.

So, I'd like to open up this discussion. What do you think? Have you seen the movie? What do you think are some of the spiritual themes or parallels here?

Why Church?

I have been thinking about the reasons I belong to a church. Often, my calling to lead others in a life of worship makes me stay somewhere a lot longer than I probably should - especially as I try to discern what God wants me to do. When a particular church falls short of these things I start to wonder if I or my family belong there. I think to myself, "if I were not in leadership, would I stay?" Often the answer is no.

Keep in mind that while these are not comprehensive, they all contain the key ingredient of the church: other people. One person is not a church or THE Church - and one person cannot adequately grow, worship, or serve without the proper influence of a community of believers.

BELONGING - Churches exists so that people can belong, interact, and bond with others. We are adopted by God and we are to adopt others in His name.

WORSHIP - Church must put Jesus first. He will be who we talk about, who we sing about, and who we think about. We will meet with Him as a community because scripture promises His blessing when two or more are gathered in His name. All we do is for Him.

LIFESTYLE - Churches exists so that in community, lifestyles can be transformed by Jesus through others. We grow closer to each other and to Jesus when we are in true community.

ACTS OF SERVICE - Jesus prayed for things to be on earth as it is in heaven. We must serve our community outside the church. As THE Church continues the ministry of Jesus as His body, we do so through acts of service with our fellow believers in a local church.

SHARING - We have been given life through Jesus - a wonderful gift. It is only natural (or supernatural) that we would want to share that life with others. It is not just for us. A church has no right to exist if it hoards Jesus and hides from the world. Much like a gardener we can plant and tend, but it is God who causes the growth. Let us share Jesus, let us remain "in Him," and he will produce the fruit.

Having called these elements out. I often wonder how much we have added to "church." I am sure I cannot count the number of "traditions" we have burdened people with, in order for them to be a part of a local community. Have we forgotten Jesus? Did we miss our purpose?

"These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far away. Their worship is a farce, for they replace God's commands with their own man-made teachings." -Mark 7:7

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Quotable Quips - Why Blame The Dark?

"We reclaim the church as a blessing machine not only because that is what Jesus intended from the beginning but also because serving people is the only way their perceptions of church are ever going to change.

This is why it is so toxic for the gospel when Christians picket and boycott and complain about how bad the world is. This behavior doesn't help. It makes it worse. It isn't the kind of voice Jesus wants his followers to have in the world. Why blame the dark for being dark? It is far more helpful to ask why the light isn't as bright as it could be."

Rob Bell, Pastor of Mars Hill Church in Grandville, Michigan - as quoted from his book Velvet Elvis

Monday, August 14, 2006

Looking Deep Into Who I Am...

Recently, I've been examining the things I value as related to the church community and leadership. It's important to do so from time to time because 1) our values develop over time and 2) we take them for granted so they tend to be difficult to identify. This is not an exhaustive list of values, but rather specific values that I have found to be at odds with those of other church leaders I have worked with. These values also seem to be at odds with what is taught in seminaries. I am curious what you think?

Jesus (the foundation, the root, the rock)
We need to offer people something they can't get anywhere else in the world - Jesus. Jesus needs to be at the core of our every breath, thought, word, and action. We need to constantly ask "How does this relate to Jesus?" He is often not mentioned in most that we say and do. We mention God, but that is not enough. Jesus is personal - He is the personification of the love, grace, and mercy of God. And without love, grace, and mercy there is no salvation, no faith, and no church. People are much more interested in following Jesus than any religion, institution, doctrine, organization, or personality.

Spirituality & Faith
People are hungry for the deeper, spiritual things of life. An abundance of surface level information is what the world offers. We need to offer more. We need to embrace mysteries of God - not having to explain everything scientifically. (Because we can't, why do we try?) This also means embracing the work of the Holy Spirit along with faith itself because it is only in surrendering to the Spirit that we can be empowered to live our life in Christ. We aren't brought to God by the strongest rational case for His existence, only by experiencing Him, only by His personal influence.

Experience & Passion
Experience is personal. It's related to telling (and listening to) stories, art, senses, audio/visual. Experience can often be subjective, but it is not unimportant. It is heart-knowledge in addition to head-knowledge that gets people's attention. "People don't care how much you know, until they know how much you care." It is from personal experience that passion grows, and from passion comes commitment (because you can't force commitment).

Native Communication
We need to tell stories. People are captivated by other's stories. Stories are more convincing real, authentic, and personal than data. We also need to listen to others and be respectful. We should not make fun of other beliefs but show that ours are true. We need to communicate to people using a variety of cultural languages including art, music, literature, film, drama, and technology. This is the way people are being communicated to all the time. It is their (our) language.

Community & Belonging
In a genuine community, we focus on what draws us together rather than on what separates us - And that is Christ. The body of Christ is essentially a group of people called out by God to continue the ministry of Jesus to "seek out and save" what was lost. WE (the Church) are ushering a dying world into the Kingdom of God. Togetherness and belonging are a rare, precious, and elusive experience in today's world. Therefore, community is more important than denominations, organizational structures, and physical buildings.

Like I said, I would love to hear your comments...

Friday, August 11, 2006

New Photos!

First of all, I've put up a new Featured Photo on the main blog page here.

Also, I just set up three new photo galleries in the e|Photos section. The first is photos of our road trip down to California last july. The second is photos I took of Saddleback Church while Andrea and I were at the Purpose Driven Worship Conference. And finally, I have a potpourri of photos taken with my new phone camera thoughout this Summer.

The galleries can all be found here.

Monday, August 07, 2006

More Evil Dancing

Well, since I've been doing some posts on dancing lately, I thought this one might fit. (begin sarcastic voice) After viewing this video, I think we can all see how 'evil' dancing truly is. (end sarcastic voice)

Really, I thought these guys did a pretty cool thing. Notice that there are no cuts - they did the whole thing all the way through. Can we do this sort of thing for the glory of God?

Friday, August 04, 2006

Is Your Church Playing It Safe?

I think we grossly underestimate just how unconventional Jesus was. And the question is this: are we following in his leadership footsteps?

Check out this whole article here.

Short, But Profound Story

I really don't know Richard Foster and his material very well. Some of his books were on the reading list when I was getting my M.A. at Hope International, but I only ended up reading one.

Anyway, I came across an excerpt from an article with him and Henri Nouwen from Christianity Today. This is a short, but amazing story...

Back in my earlier years of coming to God, I was very intense. I once spent three days fasting and praying. After doing so, I felt an urging to call a man I had confidence in for his spiritual guidance. He lived quite a distance, but I called and asked him if he would come and pray for me. He came, and I was all ready to place myself before him and let him minister to me. Instead, he sat down in front of me and started confessing his sins. I thought, I'm supposed to do that to you. After he finished, and I had prayed forgiveness for him, he said, "Now, do you still want me to pray for you?" (read the whole interview here)

It would do us good to remember that we are all equal at the foot of the cross.