Monday, December 29, 2008

The 2008 Christmas Vacation Saga

We're in California now staying at Andrea's parent home. They are always so gracious to let us stay here when we visit - we are so thankful. But boy, what a trip down.

If you haven't been following our Facebook updates and Twitters, our van broke down in a snow storm in Idaho just about 300 miles out of Helena on Christmas Day.

A little better conditions than the snow storm our van stalled in

We were sitting in a snow bank with not a car in sight and we didn't know if we would get it re-started. I was a little nervous about that, but after about 30 minutes we got the van started and we limped to the town of Dubois, Idaho with about half power from our engine and the engine light on.

When we finally got to Pocatello, Idaho, we figured it would be wise to stay the night and have the van checked the next day. We got a discount at the hotel because of our sad story :-)

Us, stuck in motel in Pocatello on Christmas Day

Only place open on Christmas + lots of people = 3 hours at Denny's

After a few hours at the Dodge dealer on Friday, we found out that the parts we needed for the van wouldn't be there until the following Tuesday. After much calling to friends in Helena for mechanical advice, we weighed our options and then decided it would cost the same renting a car and continuing to California rather than staying in a motel in Pocatello all vacation. :-)

The car next to ours at the Dodge dealership - Pocatello got a lot of snow

We got a late start on Friday, and drove through the night to Fontana, California arriving about 7:00am. Whew! Andrea and I were tired.

Approaching Las Vegas about 3am - 34 degrees

Anyway, we're here in California now. Saturday, we took it easy and went to Vince's Spaghetti - hands down, the best spaghetti in the world.

We saw Andrea's grandmother in an Poway (San Diego) hospital yesterday. She is looking good, but has a logn road to recovery of she's ever going to get out of the hospital again.

Us and Andrea's grandpa visiting Grandma

Also, we visited the famed Killer Pizza from Mars restaurant in Escondido before we headed back up to Rancho Cucamonga. By the way, the Chargers killed the Broncos!

Fun photos from "Killer Pizza"

Today, we're gonna see several friends at Chili's and El Torrito. We're really looking forward to seeing them.

Tomorrow, we're going see my Mom. She has some major blockage in arteries through her neck and had two strokes in last two months. She lost sight in left eye first time - then during a medical procedure to determine the extent of the blockage, she had another stroke loosing some usage of her left hand.

We've gotta be back in Pocatello on Friday to turn in our rental and we're praying our van will be fixed. Funny thing - wasn't even a mechanical problem with the van - just the "computer." But it still cost us more than $1K with the rental and all.

Our rental - the "mini" version of our Dodge Grand Caravan

After all, we're still actually in a good mood. It was just a little set-back. We know that somehow through all of this, God has a plan. Can't see it yet, but we know things could have been worse. It's been a blessing to see family and friends and we definitely feel a bit refreshed.

This will be a Christmas to remember for years to come. And looking forward to 2009, we know it will be equally challenging and rewarding as we move forward to plant Encounter Church in Helena.

We could use all your prayers and thoughts - and we're looking to connect with many of you who don't yet know what Encounter is all about. Feel free to contact us and we'll get together to talk about it.

Have a blessed Christmas and hopeful New Year!

We'll be adding all of the photos of our trip here.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Being Attentive to God's Moving

In addition to ARC, I mentioned in a previous post about another established "network" of churches in Montana that has been seeking to partner with us in planting a high-impact church like the one we've outlined in our Launch Prospectus.

We had a follow-up meeting in Butte with a few other leaders in this network. During a deeper conversation, we discussed the expectations on both sides, and explored how such a partnership might work. We see it as a great benefit to partner with a network that knows and understands Montana culture, but also had a large infrastructure throughout the country to support us and our vision with resources and funds.

I have to tell you that Andrea and I are really excited about this opportunity, but It is a difficult decision that we must consider carefully. Can we join this Montana network, and also partner with ARC? It may be possible to draw from our ARC partnership financially and from the other resources and the relationships we've already formed with other ARC church planters.

We can't ignore how God has set upon our hearts to plant a missional, outward-focused, and relevant church community in Helena — while at the same time, He's led this network of churches to plant the same kind of churches in Montana's biggest cities. And then He's allowed our paths to cross. We must always be attentive to God's moving in our lives and circumstances. This is why we've pursued this opportunity in addition to the other partnerships that have emerged.

We ask that you pray for our wisdom in this decision of partnership. We want to be able to clearly hear and heed God's guidance as we consider which network partnerships will allow Encounter to effectively seek out God's vision for us.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

What Does It Mean to be Missional?

I've mentioned a few times that part of the core DNA of Encounter is being missional. But sometimes there is some confusion about what "missional" means. To be missional is much more than just to evangelize.

I came across the following in Dan Kimball's book, They Like Jesus But Not The Church. As I think of being missional as a church community, I feel these characteristics best describe our desire and approach to impact Helena.
  • Being missional means that the church sees itself as being missionaries, rather than having a missions department, and that we see ourselves as missionaries right where we live.
  • Being missional means that we see ourselves as representatives of Jesus "sent" into our community, and that the church aligns everything it does with the mission of God.
  • Being missional means we see the church not as a place we go only on Sunday, but as something we are throughout the week.
  • Being missional means that we understand we don't "bring Jesus" to people but that we realize that Jesus is active in culture and we join Him in what He is doing.
  • Being missional means that we are very much in the world and engaged in culture but are not conforming to the world.
  • Being missional means we serve our community, and that we build relationships with the people in them, rather than seeing them as evangelistic targets.
  • Being missional means being all the more dependent on Jesus and the Spirit through prayer, the Scriptures, and each other in community.
I'd love to hear which of these resonate with you and why. Please "comments" below this post.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

What's The Link? Looking at Hannaford Sponsorship and ARC

We still have a few more considerations before we can move forward with ARC. First, ARC requires us to secure a "sponsor" church to come alongside us. We've asked Hannaford to be our "sponsor" church through ARC. In this case, a sponsor church is expected to believe in our vision enough to vouch for us both spiritually AND financially.

The sponsor church must really be sensitive to where God is moving and trust that He will complete what He begins. Although ARC will match all the funds we raise dollar-for-dollar (up to $30,000), if the church plant fails,the "sponsor" church will commit to repay the funds that have been provided through ARC. Even if the church plant is successful, these fund must be reimbursed from the new ministry.

With that said, we submitted a proposal to Hannaford in September - and then I had an opportunity in early November to meet once with the elders to explain our passion and how Hannaford can be a part of reaching this un-reached group. Their response was cautious, but we are still waiting to hear more.

Hananford is a great church home for many, but like many churches in Helena it has been largely ineffective at reaching the unchurched and dechurched of this generation. For Hannaford itself to be effective in reaching this generation, there is a good chance it would need to abandon it's core. A specific, targeted approach is required to reach this generation and it would be difficult and possibly unwise for Hannaford to make the required changes.

This is why I have asked Hananford's leadership to partner with us so that we can work together to expand God's kingdom in this way. We are currently preparing a list of specific ways Hannaford can help launch this new ministry of Encounter and are praying they will see the benefit of sponsoring us through ARC.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Our Heart And Passion For This Generation

Andrea and I feel called to launch a new community of believers, specifically focused on reaching the unconnected of this generation. That especially refers to those unchurched and dechurched in their 20's and 30's who haven't found church to be relevant and essential to their lives.

So while we are creating a faith-community that is welcome to young and old, believers and nonbelievers alike, we will design our gatherings and events for a younger audience. Experiential, relevant, and technologically-enabled gatherings are more likely to reach a younger generation AND also reach older adults. But the reverse is not true. When we design our services for an older audience, the younger crowd will not show up.

These are environments where people can be excited about bringing their friends; where people will experience something so different, unique, and life-giving that they want to come back, whether they believe the teaching or not.

These are environments where people can experience God through "touchstones" in their life experience and culture; environments where things are done with excellence and where people will encounter a creative God as a result of everything we do. This is our passion and the embodiment of both our vision and strategy for this new church plant, Encounter Church.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Decorations or God's Light?

Amazing Christmas display with 176 channels and 45,000 lights! The show is so popular that it requires a crew of 3 people to manage the traffic. Very cool.

Many of us put up Christmas lights or have neighbors that do. While the light strung on homes or in our front yards may seem commonplace, they are still reserved for the Advent season.

As we see them, be reminded that they can be more than just pretty decorations. May they serve as symbols of God's great love, given to us through His son Jesus Christ - the great light of this world.

Another Possible Partner for Encounter

As one of our new church planting friends expressed it, we are beginning to burst through the doors that God is opening. Before our trip to Atlanta last week, we also had a meeting with another network of churches right here in Montana.

This network of churches is looking to plant new high-impact churches that are life-giving, missional, and relevant to this generation. And they are focusing on the seven largest cities (Helena is one) where 65% of our population lives.

In the next 24-26 months, they want to see a significant spiritual impact by planting a new church in each city. Here are some of the characteristics of the churches they will be planting:
  • Strong lead planter with planting team
  • Large launch: 150-200+
  • Utilizes media, music, and technology
  • Multiplication built into the DNA
  • Above average funding
  • Above average expectations
A local network and partnership intentionally focused on reaching the unchurched and dechurched of this generation could be a great benefit. This is an established network in this area that understands the culture of Montana.

In this network however, these new high-impact churches will be the front-runners of their existing churches in these cities. We would be blazing new ground without the benefit of sharing in the experience of churches that have already been successful with this type of approach (like we would with ARC). Right now, we need to learn more and we need to learn soon.

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas

Negative 1 degrees here in Helena today. Brrr.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

An Important Phone Call...

Been blogging a lot about starting a new faith community in Helena over at the Encounter Helena blog. (That's why there haven't been so many posts here at e|Something.)

We have a vision to provide an engaging and irresistible way for the unchurched and dechurched of this generation to enter into an authentic relationship with Jesus.

More specifically, I've been blogging about the ARC Church Planting Assessment we just attended last Monday and Tuesday. We just got an important phone call and I blogged about it here.

It's official, ARC wants to partner with us to plant Encounter Church here in Helena. God has great things in store!

By the way, please subscribe over at the Encounter Helena blog, too. :-)

Quotable Quips - Encounter

"The word ENCOUNTER carries a nuance of surprise with it. Encounters are not always planned; in fact the cliche 'chance encounter' is nearly redundant. Well it is simply a spiritual truth that encounters with God usually occur, not when they have been planned, but in unexpected places when God chooses to reveal Himself in a more personal way."

David M. Edwards, songwriter, worship leader, and editor of Worship Leader Magazine. Quoted from his book "Encountering God"

Encounter is a great word that is packed with meaning!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

ARC Assessment – Reflections

We arrived back home today, met with the kids, and headed out to Hannaford to help with some tech aspects of the Christmas production there. In addition to that, a dear friend's battle with cancer is getting more intense - and so have our prayers for him. It seems like there hasn't been a moment to breath since we flew into Helena this afternoon.

As I sit here tonight, I can't help but look back over the last few days in Georgia at the ARC Assessment. What an amazing experience of growth and encouragement! In addition to the obvious purpose of pursuing ARC's help to partner with Encounter, we've come back with so much more.

We spent nearly two days with 11 other couples who are on a similar journey. They are each taking the biggest risk of their lives, giving their all, and seeking to follow God and His specific plan for them. Each couple is stepping out in faith to see significant growth in God's Kingdom in their specific community. One plant is a downtown, urban church. One is already holding a worship gathering in a bar. Another is seeing people of different classes and races truly know Jesus for the first time - all in a community wrought with racism.

After hearing these stories, I am humbled to know a God that can start such exciting and bold endeavors. I also know that He will continue to radically supply the strength and provision to help these faith communities grow so that Jesus will be made famous through them.

Finally, I just feel blessed to have met, struggled, and discussed our passions with each couple. All day long in different airports and at home, I have already been connecting with these new friends, encouraging them, and in return being encouraged by them.

Another blessing we've come away with from the ARC Assessment is meeting the individuals of the assessment team itself. The team was comprised of pastors, planters, and ARC associates that were all there for one purpose - to see new life-giving churches come to life. We were blessed with words of wisdom, encouragement, and challenges all designed to make us more "successful" in fulfilling God's vision through Encounter.

Finally, Andrea and I were challenged. In participating in the exercises and in our private discussions with the ARC counselors, we were able to identify some key growth areas we need to work on. We were inspired by the vision of the other couples and realize that we, too, need to be able to clearly communicate Encounter's vision. We have realized that Andrea and I make a great ministry team, and should not be ashamed of, nor shy away from that blessing. We were challenged to clearly define the "win." But most of all, we realized that what we've been saying is really actually true: relationship and growing faith are the key to pursuing God's dream.

ARC is dedicated to seeing new life-giving churches planted. Every new church plant presented at the ARC Assessment was determined to reach the unchurched and the dechurched of this generation - which tells me several truths: 1) those are the types of dynamic and relevant churches that ARC plants, and 2) that is what is missing in many of our cities and towns across America.

I thank God for challenging Andrea and I with this vision, but now we also pray for others to come along side us and become a part of what God is doing in Helena. There is much to be done, there are many needed, and there will be funds required. Please pray whether God is calling you to this vision as well...and if so tell us.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

ARC Assessment – Day 2

Day two of the ARC Church Planting Assessment was intense, challenging, encouraging, and insightful. One thing I can say...we are exhausted!

The day began early with a devotional by pastor Chuck Angel, who hosted most of the day's activities. Angel encouraged us church planters to be as skilled in encouraging and building our relationships as we are in building a church, vision, and structure. Focusing only on the latter can be lonely. And we are most vulnerable when we are lonely.

Throughout the day then, we participated in mostly group simulations and exercises in which each individual planter's character qualities and job tasks were being observed by the ARC Assessment Team.

One exercise was an analysis of a church planting scenario. A potential scenario was presented and the attending church planters were divided into groups to determine the positives and negatives, as well as the pros and cons of the situation.

Another challenge was to create a comprehensive church plant proposal in a short amount of time. Divided into groups again, we were to choose a city from a preselected list, research demographics, develop a vision, strategy, ministry approach, and financial needs. Each group was then required to make the proposal in front of the panel of 15 ARC Assessors who played the role of potential partners and investors.

Comprised of pastors, pastors' spouses, church planters, counselors, and marketplace leaders experienced with church planting and ARC churches, the assessment team uses a predetermined grid of standards by which to record and measure their observations.

Each church planting couple had one more private interview to discuss the passion, vision, and strategy of their church plant. And then finally, there was a special time in which the ARC assessors prayed over each of the church planters for encouragement and God's blessing.

As I said, the day's events were exhausting. Not so much because of the time, but because of the effort and concentration put forth for each of the activities and assessments.

As hoped, Andrea and I were able to identify some of our unique strengths and also some weaknesses. The key now is to build upon our strengths and to intentionally complement our and/or improve our weaknesses.

We will now be looking for the panel to meet together to discuss, evaluate, and collate their observations and impressions from the two days and pre-assessment tests, and then to return one of three assessments:
  • Recommended for ARC church planting.
  • Conditionally recommended for ARC church planting
  • or not recommended for ARC church planting at this time.
The Assessment Team was very clear that ARC's determination does not necessarily reflect God's calling for us to plant a church, but merely whether we are a "fit" for the ARC life-giving model and methodology of church planting.

Andrea and I are assured of God's direction in planting Encounter here in Helena, whether ARC decides to officially partner with us or not. While we feel Encounter may be a good "fit" as a life-giving ARC church, ARC may not. And so that will move us on to our next step in securing the partnership that God has already prepared for this church plant.

Helena needs a faith community like Encounter - a faith community with a vision to engage this generation into a growing relationship with Jesus through an invest and invite culture, authentic small group opportunities, and excellent and irresistible worship gatherings.

Monday, December 01, 2008

ARC Assessment – Day 1 of 2

Today was the first day of our ARC Church Planting Assessment. Earlier in the afternoon, we participated in an individual couple interview answering personal questions about our marriage, life experiences, and ministry.

Later in the evening, we gathered with 12-14 other candidate couples. After an initial mixer and then dinner together, each couple was given ten minutes to share their story and vision for a church plant.

It was amazing to hear from the different couples and hear how God has led them down this path of church planting. There were some amazing stories. I wish I could share some right now, but I feel the need to keep some of the discussion confidential.

Each couple's sharing was also followed by an open Q&A time when ARC assessors asked direct questions regarding the couple's vision and life experiences. They had some very good and very difficult questions. Good stuff!

All I can say right now is wow! What an amazing group of people. It will be interesting to see how the day plays out tomorrow as we share more, break into groups, answer more interview assessment questions.

Until then, please keep praying for us!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Making Kingdom Connections

I talked before about the importance for Encounter to make Kingdom connections and partnerships. It reminds me of a conversation I had with someone about Kingdom-mindedness several weeks back. You know, having a stronger desire to see God's Kingdom move forward than our own kingdoms.

My conclusion from this conversation? There is no room for being territorial in the Kingdom of God. It's either God or you — one must subside. Even in my own thought process, I've been reminded that you can't have both. This week has been a great reminder of that truth.

Andrea and I met with a couple of guys from an established 'network' of churches here in Montana. It turns out that they are looking to plant a church like Encounter right here in Helena. They recognize that Helena needs a faith community that connects the unconnected of this generation with Jesus and the life He brings.

In our conversation, we began to discuss how a partnership might work and agreed to continue our talks. This is another example of how God has been opening doors for His vision through Encounter.

OVERWHELMED...This brings me to my point. One church in Helena from this network has heard of our 'need' to get to Atlanta for the ARC Assessment. I was humbled and Andrea was overwhelmed almost to tears when the elders of this church (who don't really even know us) presented a check to help us with our remaining needs.

This one church community is not looking at Encounter as competition. They are not worried that Encounter may steal people as a core group. They just want to see people enter into a growing relationship with Jesus ...

... and that is what it means to be Kingdom-minded.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Quotes That Have Messed Me Up!

I've been collecting quotes over a month or two from several of the blogs I follow. You can follow some of the original posts and my short comments on my Google Reader Shared Items Blog here. Recently, I've come across some that have absolutely messed me up!

Craig Groeschel [Swerve]
I believe one of the biggest ministry challenges in our day is small vision. Without intentional effort, most people tend to think small, play it safe, and avoid risks. Is God honored by the size of your vision?

To reach people that nobody else is reaching, you have to do things that nobody else is doing.

C.J. Mahaney
The proud person seeks to glorify himself and not God, thereby attempting in effect to deprive God of something only He is worthy to receive.

Dorothy Sayers
No crooked table legs or ill-fitted drawers, I daresay, ever came out of the Carpenter's shop in Nazareth. (Translation: excellence honors God.)

Mark Batterson [Evolutional]
Most people are bored with their faith. And as Soren Kierkegaard said, boredom is the root of evil. You cannot live by faith and be bored simultaneously

Francis Chan in Crazy Love
Having faith often means doing what others see as crazy. Something is wrong when our lives make sense to other believers.

Our greatest fear as individuals and as a church should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.

Tony Morgan [blog]
Direct mail won’t fix your problem. Billboards won’t fix your problem. Neither will platform announcements or bulletin ads or bumper stickers...until you answer the right questions, marketing could be what’s preventing your success.

I had a very wise man once ask me, ‘If I was new to the area would I go to the church that I was serving at?’ When I answered no, he gently let me know that I was stealing from that church and it was time to move on. (a comment from Ryan over on Tony's blog)

Troy Kennedy [NewWorship]
Is my heart broken for the things that break Jesus' heart? Does my heart rejoice over the things that Jesus rejoices over?

Bill Hybels in Axioms
Passion always leads.

Perry Noble [blog]
Your sin cost Jesus as much as that person's sin

An idol is anything we like more than Jesus.

For far too long, the Church has gotten mad at non-Christians for being non-Christians. I don’t get mad at a duck for quacking. It’s a duck. It quacks.

We need to accept people where they are. Meet them where the are. And take them to a place where they can meet Jesus.

A disciple isn’t someone who knows a lot of information. It’s someone who says, ‘Jesus, I will follow you.’

The early church was HEAVILY led by the Holy Spirit…they didn’t know what to do without Him! We don’t either!

People ask me how I hear the voice of God. How do you not hear the voice of the Lord? ... Where there is no expectation, there is seldom any revelation.

Let me know if any of these mess you up...

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Would You Go To Starbucks If...?

Another video I found over at Monday Morning Insight. What if Starbucks marketed itself like the church does? Funny, but sad and true.

Engaging The Senses

I think how we express the message of life matters. Especially new life and second chances. What does it look like to be a new creation?

I love the creativity of expression in the use of lighting, sound, and color to engage the senses in this video. It speaks volumes more than simply saying "we are a new creation." What do you think?

Friday, November 21, 2008

We're Going to Atlanta!

Andrea and I spent most of the day a few Sundays ago completing assessment tests. We prepared a spiritual gifts assessment, DISC and LEAD personality profiles, and some other things for the ARC church planter assessment on December 1-2. Then, we sent out the entire package via FedEx this week.

It was no suprise that my top spiritual gifts results included Worship Leading, Administration, and Leadership. But not all the tests were as straightforward. We're just praying for accurate results so that the assessors can help us correctly identify our weak areas. :-)

We have been humbled by the response to our prayers for help getting to Atlanta. After we paid the initial Assessment fee, we had 5 different people/organizations step forward with enough combined help to cover all the expenses for the trip. We are so grateful to God, our prayer partners, and those who were able to help.

We thought you might want to know more about the ARC Assessment itself so that you would be better equipped to pray. Basically, ARC will be assessing us in three areas:
  1. The strength and alignment of our marriage. How they feel Andrea and I will stand up against the challenges and struggles as church planters.
  2. Our possible strengths as church planters. How do our strengths and weaknesses line up with what they have found to be successful church planting situations.
  3. Our "fit" with ARC's vision as an organization. Are we the type of church planters they want to partner with? Is our vision a "fit"?
The ARC assessment is specifically focused on determining planters that ARC will provide financial help with start up funds and post-launch needs. At the Assessment in Atlanta, there will be those who are recommended and those who are not.

In their assessment invitation, ARC was clear in their intention to help church planters whether or not they invest financially. They wrote...

"Whether or not you are recommended to be an ARC sponsored church plant is not a conclusion about whether or not you are called. Nor does it diminish our desire to work and fellowship together."

Finally, we have seen the Lord opening new doors of opportunity as it comes to support, partners, and sponsorships. While I do not quite feel at liberty to go into detail yet, please be praying for His continued blessing as we seek to launch this new ministry in Helena to bring more people into His kingdom.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Proposal Meeting Update

On Monday, November 10, I was privileged to answer questions from the Hannaford Elder Board regarding our church plant proposal. We believe that this church plant is an opportunity to reach people they're not reaching, and to be a part of leading unsaved young people into growing relationships with Jesus. In addition to general congregational encouragement and prayer support, we're praying that Hannaford will partner with us as an ARC Sponsor Church.

Statistics show that new faith communities are six times more effective at bringing unchurched people into growing relationships with Jesus than established churches. We know that if God does want this partnership, He will help Hannaford step out of it's comfort zone and partner with us as a way of removing some of the barriers to reaching those who are turned off by traditional approaches to church.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

More News! Elder Proposal

It has been an interesting and inspiring week in the Powell world of ministry and church planting. Having recently met for prayer and encouragement with other church planters and leaders here in Helena, I am sure that God is moving His people to help our community to encounter the love and grace of Jesus like never before.

This week I was privileged to begin working with Hannaford to move them forward in their new efforts to better connect with young adults attending there. It is exciting to see that God's people all over Helena are recognizing the need to engage all age groups.

With everything else, I am also preparing to finally answer questions from the Hannaford elders about our Encounter church plant proposal I submitted nearly two months ago. I am very excited and nervous to be able to share my full passion with the elders and I am praying that the Spirit gives me the words to effectively communicate God's vision for Encounter. My heart breaks for those young people in Helena that do not know Jesus and who have been turned off by traditional approaches of church.

Please be praying this weekend that God's Spirit is already working in the hearts of the elders to see beyond what man can do, and to have faith in what God can and is already starting to do through us and Encounter.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Exciting News! ARC Assessment

We recently received some encouraging and exciting news ... ARC has invited us to be assessed as church planters (read more about ARC here and here and here and here).

This is a great opportunity that could open matching funds for every dollar we raise for the Encounter church plant. It will also help Encounter meet our budget within the first year after our initial launch.

In addition, statistics show that while church plants only have a 68% chance of surviving through the fourth year, ARC church plants have over a 90% survival rate. That's one of the reasons we feel that partnering with ARC is a great opportunity to help get this church plant off the ground.

When we first got the invitation, Andrea and were doubtful we would be able to gather the needed funds to travel to Atlanta, Georgia by December 1. But after making our need public, we've had several people step out to help - covering over half the cost of airfare.

While there is still more to raise, we are having faith that God will provide the rest of the funds before we go. Out of that faith, we have confirmed with ARC and will be completing the necessary pre-assessment applications and evaluations as soon as they arrive in the mail this weekend.

We know that things are difficult for many these days, so we are not asking for any one person to "sponsor" our entire assessment. But if we can gather another $400, we can fly to Atlanta and avoiding the hazardous driving in winter weather.

God's plan includes the efforts of more than one person, that is why we feel compelled to encourage each of you to get involved. So in addition to your prayers for God's work through Encounter, if you feel led to help sponsor our church planting assessment through ARC, please let us know as soon as possible.

Stay tuned. There is more to come...

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Quotable Quips - Sing Me Better Songs

"If they want me to believe in their God, they'll have to sing me better songs... I could only believe in a God who dances."

Frederich Nietzsche, German philosopher

Just an interesting thought. Never mind those who don't believe, do you think God is satisfied with the songs we sing to Him? How about the lackluster way we sing them? If we don't seem to believe what we sing, how will others? What do you think?

Long Time, No Blog Post

Hey everyone! It has been difficult to post, but I thought I'd check in and give you some updates with what has been going on personally and on the church-planting front.

First, we could use your prayers for Andrea's grandmother, Mabel. Having recently found out she has cancer, she was being prepped for surgery and there were complications with the anesthesia causing vessels to burst in her lung. Since that time, she has developed not one, but two serious infections: one airborne and one in her blood. All things considered, it is not looking good.

Andrea left early this week to drive down to Escondido (San Diego, California area) to help where she can. That also means things have been pretty busy for me as Mr. Mom here around the house. So we ask you to be in prayer for all of us. Thanks.

Of course, we had the 2008 Hannaford Fall Conference at the end of September. A lot of time an effort goes into that each year - this year was no exception. I can tell you that the worship was off the hook! Especially the second night.

If you want to find out more, check out the conference webpage here and the resources webpage here. You'll also find notes and an audio file for my workshop, Worship That Makes An Impact.

If you want to get regular updates regarding our new church planting efforts, I suggest you visit our Encounter Helena blog and subscribe there. For now, I just posted a couple updates on our progress: Potential Sponsorship and Next Steps.

I'm also struggling with how often to post here and there and where to post when. In other words, I think I may be pontificating over at the other blog more and give basic updates here. That's just another good reason to subscribe over there, too.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Potential Sponsorship For Encounter

I previously mentioned our desire to build some church-planting partnerships. One of the initial partnerships we've pursued is with my current church – Hannaford – where I've been serving as the Pastor of Worship Arts. God's call to plant a new church community here in Helena is a direct outgrowth of my ministry there. And as such, I believe planting a new church is an excellent opportunity to be able to change the lives of some people groups that this church has not been as effective at reaching, mainly non-Christians and the younger generation.

This is why after discussing this passion with our Senior Pastor at Hannaford, we have prepared a proposal for church-sponsorship. The elders (church board) have been looking over the proposal and we will soon get an opportunity to answer any questions they have. Andrea and I ask for your prayers regarding this issue - that the elders would approach this opportunity with wisdom. It is God’s desire to see His people working together to enlarge His Kingdom in Helena.

Regardless of how the proposal is received, moving forward is key. Knowing how, and to what extent our current church plans to partner with us will help us plan the next crucial steps in making Encounter a reality.

Monday, September 22, 2008

A Different Spirit

I recently had the opportunity to hear Steve Berger, a lead pastor from Leipers Fork, Tennesee. He talked about how churches and pastors need to have guts in the 21st century and I immediately saw the correlation for us as we plant Encounter.

Referring to Caleb in Numbers 14, God says "He has a different spirit; he follows me passionately." But this is important, because God continues to repeat it up to 6 times.

Caleb followed God fully, passionately. He had a different spirit about him.

In Numbers 13-14, it is the account of the Israelites coming upon the promised land. But as we know, most of the leaders sent in to survey the promised land while it was still inhabited by its native peoples — they were discouraged and convinced they couldn't take the land.

But God promised the land. And Caleb knew this. He quieted the people and reminded them, "we are well able to take the land." He believed God. Unlike the other leaders, he had a different spirit about him.

The others had a spirit of minimizing themselves and maximizing the enemy. They minimized their trust in God and maximized the challenge before them.

This directly relates to the challenge and risk set before us at Encounter. We need to believe in what God has placed before us — a city and region of people far from God who desperately need a growing relationship with Jesus.

Sure there is risk — there must be. Because God wants to put us in the position where if we don't rely on Him, we're going to fail. We must believe in the dream He has set before us — a church community where people will encounter Jesus Christ through intimacy with God, community with believers, and influence with outsiders. A community where people are led into growing, thriving, living relationships with Jesus.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

ARC Church Planting Roundtable

Thought I would let you know how the ARC Church Planters Roundtable went last week. Here are some reflections...
  • Colorado Springs is beautiful, even in the rain.
  • New Life Church is pretty awesome - great place for the roundtable.
  • Met Ross Parsley and Brady Boyd, New Life's new senior pastor. Boyd will be a great spiritual leader for the New Life family.
  • Met about 50 people who have a true passion for church planting.
  • Billy Hornsby introduced ARC as an organization dedicated to planting churches that look like Jesus - churches through which people can "encounter Jesus." No joke! Billy used the word "encounter" a number of times. Churches need to reflect the personality and attributes of Jesus - Did Billy read our Encounter Prospectus??!!!
  • I really resonate with ARC's passion — to plant life-giving churches.
  • Billy shared eight characteristics of life-giving churches:
  1. Empowering Leadership - Leadership empowers believers to follow God's plan.
  2. Gift-Oriented Ministry - Help believers identify and integrate their gifts.
  3. Passionate Spirituality - Faith lived out with commitment, fire, and enthusiasm.
  4. Functional Structures - Structures must help fulfill the purpose of the church. Cut the fluff.
  5. Inspiring Worship - Excellent worship that inspires people.
  6. Holistic Small Groups - Encourage groups where people can find intimate community, practical help, and intensive spiritual interaction.
  7. Need-oriented Evangelism - Address the questions and concerns of non-Christians.
  8. Loving Relationships - Form strong and genuine trust relationships.
I feel challenged by our next steps with ARC. A lot more was shared at the roundtable, including all the different ways they help and come alongside church planters. If you want to know more, just contact us and we'll talk. But here are the basic facts:
  1. To continue, we must submit an application - if approved, we must attend a church planter assessment in Atlanta, Georgia. The cost of the assessment is small, but the travel expenses will be difficult. I estimate it will cost nearly $2,100 to travel and stay there for the assessment. Of course, it could be cheaper if we could stay with someone, find some transportation there, or receive a donation of frequent flier miles.
  2. We must also secure a "sponsor" church to come alongside us. This sponsor church must believe in our vision enough to vouch for us financially. That means that although ARC will match all the funds we raise dollar-for-dollar (up to $30,000) - if the church plant falls through, the "sponsor" church will repay ARC for all funds provided.
We would like to pursue this partnership with ARC, but we're going to need some help. For now, we're praying for God's direction and working in this situation. If God is moving you to help with any of this, please let us know.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Steps Toward Partnership

Because of your help, we are going to Colorado Springs this week to attend the ARC Church Planters Roundtable (CPR) at New Life Church.

I mentioned the Association of Related Churches (ARC) on the Encounter website as one possible Encounter partner. ARC comes highly recommended by several people I've talked to recently as well as Craig Groeschel of (see his post here).

Just to let you know, ARC seeks to provide encouragement and coaching that includes close mentoring relationships and financial resources for new church planters. There are four components in everything they do - and those four components are what interested us in ARC.
  1. They Believe in a Big Start – They want to help us build up to a big start. They coach planters how to build a team, raise funds, develop a worship team and children's ministry, and open our doors with excellence and momentum. If we can start strong, we have a greater chance of growing strong.
  2. They are Focused on Reaching the Unchurched — They are focused on finding ways to cross the cultural wall and reach the lost. ARC is all about helping build churches that are culturally relevant with passionate worship, practical Bible-based teaching and dynamic family ministries.
  3. They Build Friendships and Do Life Together — They believe friendships and relationships are critical for being successful in life and ministry. As ARC churches expand around the country, there is a group of people that can help us, coach us, and be there for us as we plant Encounter in Helena.
  4. They Offer a Network of Practical Resources — ARC offers help on many levels including conferences & seminars, the ARC Intranet (resources for sermon series ideas, outlines, PowerPoint and media), Bible training, internships, missions opportunities, and much more.
This week, we'll be learning more about ARC, and they will be learning more about us. If it is God's will, we may be joining with them to plant Encounter as a life-giving church community in Helena. Please pray for our travel and for the kids as they stay here in Helena.

Monday, September 08, 2008

The Start of Something New

We wanted to update you on what's been going on. Since December, we've felt seriously nudged by God to get involved with a church plant (start a new church). More specifically, I've felt the desire to reach out to people that "traditional" churches are not effective at reaching - what I call "this generation" and "those who are far from God." Not knowing how this might take place, we've been praying and waiting for God to show us more.

The "more" came into clarity when we came into contact with representatives of North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Georgia. Some of you may know of the lead pastor there, Andy Stanley. While recently being listed as the third most influential church in America, North Point is a dynamic community near Atlanta that has proven effective at reaching this generation and leading them into a growing relationship with Jesus. That's our desire, too!

Recently, North Point has ramped up their initiative to launch "strategic partnership" churches throughout the country - and we have been talking about partnering with them as a Lead Pastor to start such a church. We are just in the beginning stages of this process, but need your prayer, support, and feedback.

We would love to discuss with each of you personally to tell you more, answer questions, and share concerns. For now, we've attached our vision for this church plant (pdf), which we are calling "Encounter". Please look it over to see how God might be using you to be a part of what He's doing in Helena.

Please pray for us and this process. Pray that we would have the boldness and clarity to effectively communicate the vision of Encounter. Please pray for direction and guidance as we seek to partner with North Point Ministries.

We ask that you pray for people, even yourself, to consider God's call to be a part of Encounter as either a founding member or support partner. And please pray that God would prepare the people of Helena, especially those who are far from God, for a new community like Encounter - and that we would be effective at leading them into a growing relationship with Jesus.

Thank you in advance. For those of you who are not here in Helena with us, we miss you guys.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

A Stirring Deep Within My Heart

Please excuse this long post, but I want to share with you something that has been on my heart.

For the past year, I feel that God has been moving me to take a risk on a passion that He’s planted deep within me. Not knowing what this risk might entail, Andrea and I have been praying and patiently waiting for God to show us more.

Some of that “more” has involved what Bill Hybels talks about in his book Holy Discontent. Hybels says that God places within us the ability to see “broken things” in areas that we are passionate about. God is not calling us to complain or fret over these “broken things,” but to let them serve as fuel for action based on His leading.

Having not grown up in the church, I have the ability to see what we do in ministry from the un-churched person’s point of view. I see the ways that our churches struggle to connect and share the life-giving message of Jesus with people who, for the most part, see church as irrelevant. I have also seen the way the church has had difficulty speaking into the lives of our young people. Essentially, our churches are effective at reaching certain groups of people, but with those I have the greatest heart for — our effectiveness is “broken.”

God has been calling me to step out and attend to this “broken” thing.

More specifically, God has given me the vision and desire to reach out to people that “traditional” churches in Helena are not effective at reaching; what I call “this generation” and “those who are far from God.” I desperately resonate and identify with those who are not familiar with or who do not connect with traditional church models — who see traditional church as lacking or irrelevant at best, and repelling at worst.

Through many small steps, Andrea and I have seen God directing and preparing us to follow His lead. And after much prayer and seeking His guidance, we feel strongly led to plant a new church here in Helena – for young people and for those who are far from God. We definitely know this is God's working because, frankly, a lot of things would be easier if we remained where we are comfortable.

We have been greatly blessed by serving in worship at Hannaford and feel we have a promising future there. We have made many friends and in many ways have just begun to build this ministry. Several times we have asked God why He has thrown us this “curve ball.” We’ve asked, “why prepare us in worship ministry for so many years and then ask us to change directions?”

Rick Warren says that “neither past nor future generations can serve God’s purpose in this generation.” What we’ve realized is that God has been preparing us for such a time as this. This is not so much a new direction, but a wider emphasis. Now God is asking me to encourage people to worship God not just with song, but with their whole lives.

As we have explored this calling, we’ve learned that planting a church would also be easier somewhere else other than Helena. Some church planting groups would be much more likely to foot the bill for this whole venture if we planted in a larger metro area like Southern California, Reno, or maybe even Billings.

But that is not where God has shown us a great need for a new church community to connect with the younger generation and those far from God. God is not calling us to plant where it is easy, but where there is a need, and specifically where I have a heart for the lost.

I often quote Craig Groeschel in saying "In order to reach people that no one is reaching, you have to do something that no one is doing." That is exactly what Andrea and I have been given a vision to do. We feel like this is such a large endeavor, we can't possible do it. And that really is the best situation to be in — one where you know you will fail UNLESS God makes it happen.

As God brought us closer to the realization of where He is leading us, we began to ask Him how. There have been a great many resources we have studied in coming to this point, but feel strongly that God’s direction right now is a direct outgrowth of Hannaford. It is God’s desire to see His people working together to enlarge His Kingdom.

We want to hear from and speak personally with as many of you as possible. And in that, we also know that God has been preparing some of your hearts as well. So we are looking for like-minded individuals to help us plant a church for young people in Helena.

To know more about the vision that God has given us, and to know more about our journey so far, we invite you to check out and possibly subscribe to our new blog over at If you feel led to partner with us in prayer or as someone who wants to help make this happen, please let us know immediately.

Thank you so much for allowing me to share this stirring that God has placed in my heart.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

What Makes People Run?

I visit the website Church Marketing Sucks from time to time. Contrary to how it sounds, they've got some real insightful articles over there about how the church needs to be the Church.

In a recent article here, guest writer Bob Lotich writes about what makes people run from a church. Here are his top five with my comments:
  1. When everything is mediocre – The word "Christian" is often used by some non-Christians as a word that means "mediocre." That is sad and it is wrong. If there is anything I know about God, He is not mediocre nor does He do anything that is not excellent. Simply take a look at this universe, this planet, or your very intricate, beautifully formed body - it is His excellent creation. He would not be glorified by anything less. The church should not settle for mediocre either.
  2. When a place is full of strife – I recently heard it said that of all places, the Church should be a safe place. Whether that is true or not, I can say that many churches are not safe. I have experienced more (or at least the same amount of) self-agendas, back-biting, hardship in churches than I have in many secular workplaces. Certainly the Church is called to be different.
  3. When there is an unwillingness to adapt – I'm not talking about the unchanging truths of the Gospel, I'm talking about wineskins here. In a world where most organizations are just barely keeping relevant to the world around them, many churches actually take pride in being irrelevant.
  4. When the goal is to tickle ears – While this conjures up thoughts of a watered-down Gospel, it is really much more than that. People need to be challenged in their faith journey. As Mark Batterson says, Jesus didn't die on the cross to make us safe, He died to make us dangerous. We are each meant to live a life of spiritual adventure planned for us by God. But many times, churches are too busy tickling the ears of the congregates, the tithers, the elders, or the established church-goers - when we should be listening to and following the vision of God Himself.
  5. When there is no passion in leadership — Having passion gets a bad rap sometimes. It can get you into trouble - and without spiritual discernment, it should. But we must remember that Jesus was passionate. He was passionate when He cried for Jerusalem. He was passionate when He overturned tables in the temple. His obedience upon the cross is even called "the passion of Jesus Christ." At the same time, there are leaders who repeat the truths of God as though they were just words off a page. When God's truth rocks your world and changes your life, it births true passion in your soul that is like a fire that cannot be contained.
When I see things like this in our churches, my heart breaks. I want to tell people to run as far and as fast as they can to a life-giving, Christ-centered community.

So, let me ask you. What has Bob left out? Are there some other things that should make people run? Why don't you add to the conversation here and leave a comment...

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

What It's All About

Sometimes when I have friends or family that don't understand why I do what I do, why I am sold out to Jesus, I wish I could clearly explain this...

Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! (2 Corinthians 5:17 - NLT)

Saturday, August 16, 2008

New Downpour Festival Pics

At the Downpour Festival in Great Falls. Rush of Fools!

Jeremy Camp on the stage.

Here are some more photos, courtesy of Mike!!! (click on the album below)
Downpour Festival Pics 2008

Friday, August 15, 2008

This Messed Me Up!

I read this on Matt Tulios' blog and it messed me up. How about you?

"i have been given a truly amazing gift. placed in a time of lavish luxury, comfortable couches, and tremendous technology. i don't have to worry about what to feed my children or whether my children will have to beg. my family has three cars, two tvs, climate controls and i live in a region where don't really fear. my trials don't include lack of clean water, religious persecution, false imprisonment, and fear of oppression and slavery.

And there will come a day when i will have to take account of what I did with all this freedom and extravagance. I will be asked how I used these gifts to feed, show mercy, create reconciliation and blessing for others.

Was I outraged by the hurt around the globe?
Did I sleep through times of opportunities?
Was I silent when I should have spoken?"

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

NWLC Notes: Day 4 (2 of 2)

"Creating a Culture of Worship" Workshop by Buddy Owens - Thursday afternoon July 24, 2008. My friend Buddy Owens led this workshop. Aside from contributing to my graduate classes at Hope International University, Owens is also the author of The Way of a Worshiper, and the Pastor of Spiritual Formation at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California. As usual, Buddy had some great stuff, but here just a portion specifically about the role of music:

  • How do I create a culture that values worship?
  • You can tell what a person worships by the way they love. People value what they worship.
  • How is the value we place on God reflected in our worship?
  • If you are bored with the music in your church, chances are God is too.
Music is Cohesive
  • Music has a "stick-together" quality to it. Think about before a baseball game. When the national anthem plays, people stand and hats come off. They've gone from being a crowd to being a congregation. They have one purpose. They are focused.
  • It is the same with music in worship. The way we start our services is important. It brings people together, unifies them, creates focus.
Music Captures Memories
  • Music takes us back to a memory. Songs have become sacred moments to people - they remind people of "God moments" in their life.
Music is Attached to People
  • You can tell what kind of audience you are trying to attract by the music you choose. People feel like we are devaluing them when we don't like their songs. A young person will say "that place isn't for me." An older person will say "this is no longer my home."
Music Documents God's Work Among His People
  • Whenever God moves throughout history, his poets and songwriters document His work. Therefore, look for and expect new songs if God is doing something in our midst.
  • We need to "repristinate" some things in the church. It means to take old things and make them look new again. Like the white post that has been in front of the church for 125 years. If you leave it alone, it turns grey. You've got to paint it from time to time to keep it looking like a white post.
  • We need to "repristinate" our music as well. It helps people understand why our songs were valuable in the first place. Then new people will discover the song's value for the first time.
Music is Sacramental
  • Music helps people experience God in a way that we cannot encounter Him when we are alone.
  • It puts words in our mouths - a common language of response. Much like a greeting card - we have a feeling, but the card give us the words to express what we're feeling.
  • After a great sermon, the right closing song is crucial to getting the point across. It reminds people of the truth. It gives people a common language to respond to the truth. People won't quote the sermon, but they will remember a song.
Music Teaches Doctrine
  • Songs of faith are as important as words of faith. Are our songs theologically sound? Are they true? We believe what we sing about.
Music is Enchanting
  • This can be good or bad. Music can blind us to truth. Think of the secular world - music can turn our eyes from a bad message or character.
  • Never confuse talent with annointing. Talent never set anyone free. It is the Spirit of God upon a man of God who speaks/sings words of God through the Spirit of God that brings Jesus transformation.

NWLC Notes: Day 4 (1 of 2)

"Above and Beyond the Common: Pastoring With Guts in the 21st Century" Workshop by Steve Berger - Thursday morning July 24, 2008. Steve Berger, is a church planter and lead pastor of Grace Chapel in Leipers Fork, Tennessee. His workshop focused on the courage that pastors in 21st century need to have. His workshop was outstanding and worth the whole conference. Here are my notes:
  • Being a pastor is getting more difficult. The life of a pastor is not for wimps. We are loosing 5,000 pastors a month in America. They're quitting, stopping, retiring. It takes backbone in the face of the furnace to stand up and be a pastor.
  • Caleb pastored people in difficult times. God says two things about Caleb in Numbers 14:24. God says "He has a different spirit; he follows me passionately." This is important, because God continues to repeat it up to 6 times. Caleb followed God fully, passionately. He had a different spirit about him.
  • In Numbers 13-15, it is the account of the Israelites coming upon the promised land. But as we know, most of the leaders sent in to survey the promised land while it was still inhabited by its native peoples - they were discouraged and convinced they couldn't take the land.
  • The others WERE in positions of leadership, yet they were negative, doubtful, and fearful. They had no guts in their leadership. They had a spirit of minimizing themselves and maximizing the enemy. They minimized their trust in God and maximized the challenge before them. If you surround yourself with negative, complaining people, it will destroy your ministry.
  • But God had promised the land. And Caleb knew this. He quieted the people and reminded them, "we are well able to take the land." Unlike the other leaders, Caleb had a different spirit about him. He believed God.
  • Pastors - believe the dream that God has placed in your heart that people have stolen. Believe in God. Don't worry what you will look like if things don't come through. There must be risk - it cannot be done without it. God has no problem putting you in the position where if you don't have Him, you are going to fail.
  • It's going to cost us something and we need to count the cost. We are called to something higher.
  1. Caleb was a TRUE leader.
    When Joshua and Caleb surveyed the promised land, they brought people that were known as leaders, but they were only leaders in title. Caleb had a different spirit about him. It showed up in his actions and lifestyle, as well as his title. The church doesn't need leaders in TITLE only, it needs leaders in ACTION. Leaders that are willing to step out and go for it.
  2. Caleb was a man of faith.
    In the midst of opposition, Caleb quieted the doubts of the people. He inspired action - not hype, but real faith. He displayed true leadership from vision and calling. He got peoples sight right. With the Spirit, we are able to hold on when everything is in chaos. If you are leading people, you have to give them opportunities to see God come through. If you are starting a church, you must do so with a serious faith DNA. Believe God for financial needs, giving people opportunities to give. Trusting God to come through unlocks faith.
  3. Caleb was a man of holy frustration.
    Numbers 14:6. They tore their clothes. God has trusted you to make the call that a common person would not. Sometime you need to make a whip and drive people out. You need backbone to do the right thing. Be a man of passion. Say the right thing. Speak the word that brings life.
  4. Caleb was a man of persistence.
    Numbers 14: 7-9. Caleb spoke to the congregation over and over. "The land is ours. The Lord is with us. Do not fear." We often say, "but I've said that before." But we need to continue to communicate the vision over and over. Do not get weary in well doing. Keep people's eyes on the prize, not the problem. Challenge people to greater heights.
  5. Caleb was a man of passion.
    Numbers 14:8-12. "I wholly followed the Lord, my God." At 85 years old, Caleb is ready to go in and take the mountain. It was a Braveheart moment. Who knows what might happen, what God might do, if we start passionately believing Him? Who knows what might happen if God moves? Believe! The church goes as the pastor goes! If the people don't see passion in you, they are not going to have it.
  6. Caleb was a man who left deposits in others.
    Numbers 15:14-20. Caleb left an inheritance for the next generation. He left a KINGDOM IMPRINT on others and helped them fulfill their destinies in Christ. He was a mentor.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

NWLC Notes: Day 3 (3 of 3)

NWLC General Session - Wednesday afternoon July 23, 2008 at 3:30pm. Worship was led by Rita Springer. I've seen Springer lead worship about five years ago at a SoulSurvivor event in Anaheim, California. I do believe she is anointed to lead worship, but I just don't connect with her - go figure :-)

The afternoon speaker was Gordon MacDonald, pastor and author of the book Who Stole My Church? I've been checking out his book at the bookstore and thinking about reading it. Most of his message was on multi-generational worship. Here are some of my notes:
  • Worship leaders have a pastoral ministry. (I would include all leaders of worship in that statement.) When we lead people into the presence of God, we better know where we're leading them. (In other words, we have to have been there ourselves.)
  • We suffer from inaccurate eyesight - it's all changed when we gather in worship.
  • When we truly enter into worship, when we come into the presence of God, it removes all the distortions of our vision. Our perspective in renewed.
  • We help people gain strength for going back into a dark world. (I would argue with, or perhaps clarify this statement - because I don't wholly agree with it because it is incomplete. Our worship is much more than an "us" time to prepare us for the "them" times.)
  • We need to make sure that no one ever leaves a sanctuary without hope (and I would add, without Jesus).
  • Know your congregation. What questions are people asking?