Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Halfway through my two weeks here in Birmingham for my Doctor of Ministry course, Biblical Theology for Ministry.  The class has been good, but today certainly marked the high water mark of the trip.

This morning, I visited the Church at Brook Hills.  Listening to David Platt speak was like listening to a kindred spirit.  Those of you who know my journey of redemption from church growth strategies and their subsequent pressures, will appreciate the story that David shared.   When he first became the pastor at Brook Hills, he poured through all of his church growth books which encouraged him and his team to pinpoint “Brook Hills Bob”, the emblem of their “target audience.”  The Brook Hills team rejected this kind of thinking and decided to go after “Brook Hills Burudi” – a non-Christian man living in a region of North Africa closed to to the Gospel.  I loved it when Platt added that he no longer reads those church growth books.  They are preaching and living the whole Gospel for the whole world – not just a target audience.  Now here’s what’s really cool.  As Platt told it, one of their Brook Hills Bobs, a typical upper middle class Birmingham businessman, and his wife,  started a small group two years ago because God was calling him to invest his life in other couples.  This morning in their worship service, they commissioned a young couple from that small group will be moving to a remote region of North Africa to plant a church for Brook Hills Burudi – all of those people who have never heard the Gospel.  This resonates so much with what I have sensed the Lord doing in me over the last 18 months – stepping away from all of that “cool church” jazz to just be the church, living in the world as a witness to Jesus Christ. 

On a side-note, I was amazed that probably 99% of the 2000 people I worshiped with this morning carried their Bibles into church!  Awesome, awesome!

Following worship, I went to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.  The museum was amazingly sobering.  The tour begins with exhibits describing life in Birmingham before the Civil Rights movement and then begins the Civil Rights struggle with Rosa Park’s and the Montgomery Bus boycott and follows it through the late 1960’s.  Two highlights of the museum for me. 

First, the exhibit on the Freedom Riders.  They have the burned out shell of an old grey hound bus (not sure if it is one actually involved in the ride, or not) and old footage of the freedom riders talking about what they did and why they did it.  I kept wondering if I would have had the chutzpa to have been one of them.  Only time would have told and only time will tell if I rise to those kinds of challenges in my own time.

Second, looking at two water fountains that were actually marked “white” and “colored” was mind-boggling.  It is hard to believe that this happened in an America not much older than my generation.

Walking down the street to go into the museum, I was just across the street from the famous 16th Street Baptist Church, which was very much at the center of the Civil Rights movement.  In September of 1963, the church was bombed and four little girls were killed in the bombing.  I also learned that on that same day, two African American boys, were also shot by white assailants in Birmingham while out riding their bikes.

While I am not a fan of many of President Obama’s policies, I gained a deeper appreciation for what his election means for our country – the healing of so many wounds – and why it is so momentous for so many of our fellow Americans.  I won’t add much more because, like I said, it was really very sobering.


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As I was traveling over the weekend I listened to a few sermons from a wide variety of pastors:  Charles Stanley, Jon Weece (Southland Christian Church) and Mark Driscoll.

Driscoll had an excellent sermon on the Cross from his doctrine series – if you don’t mind the fact that he used the phrase “I don’t give a damn” in the sermon 🙂

When I got home, I took a look at Driscoll’s blog and ended up linking to a whole train of posts in response to a speech about “manly” preachers that Driscoll gave at a conference (probably more than one) some time ago.  Depending on what you think about the legitimacy of the blogs, Driscoll was trying to be funny OR was way over the top.

No matter.  If you are reading this blog to find a critique of Mark Driscoll, Mark Batterson or any other megachurch pastor, you’ll have to go elsewhere.  I’ve long sinced learned that the “most read” blogs that I write will always be those that mention the name of a megachurch or its pastor!

Driscoll, Batterson, Perry Noble, Ed Young and others are all gifted leaders.  God has used them to accomplish some awesome things and – like ALL of us – they remain imperfect and sometimes over-the-top.  My grandmother, if she were alive and listened to some of their sermons, would note that they are also occasionally full of themselves which she also sometimes said about me!

This post is intended to encourage us to consider whether or not God has called us to be who we are in Jesus Christ or whether or not God has called us to be who Mark Driscoll, Batterson, Noble or Young are in Jesus Christ.

God smacked me in the face with this thought in the car on the way home Saturday.  I began to feel the pressure to do things in the same way that these guys do them so that I can be successful, so that I can be a good leader, so that, so that, so that . . .

But I am not them.  I am Jason and God wants me to be me – in Jesus!  I can’t be who these other guys are in Jesus.

Jesus works in me to give me gifts, to give me leadership and to call me to obedience in my life, my family, my church and my community.  The one thing that we all have in common with these mega-church guys (or at least should have in common) is a passion for Jesus Christ and the expansion of his Kingdom! 

But in that passionate pursuit of Jesus and his kingdom, we will discover that Jesus does not call us to be Driscoll, Batterson, Noble or Young, but intead he calls us to be us – in him!  And there is no one more or less that I can be than the me I am in Jesus.  And the me that I am in Jesus is the best person I can be for my family, my church, my community and the Kingdom of God.

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A few years ago there was a relatively well-known commercial for Special-K cereal.  The add featured blue-collar, middle class men saying things like, “Do these jeans make my hips look big?”  The idea behind the add was that men don’t talk about things like that.  Consequently, if women would only buy and eat Special K for breakfast they wouldn’t have to worry about it either.

Well, I’m going to break the pattern of men not talking about weight.  I have struggled with my weight since I was in the third grade.  About five years ago – for several reasons – Iwas motivated to do something about it.  I started eating really healthy and started running.  How well I remember those first runs.  At 287 pounds (I had weighed 320 at my biggest – I lost 30 pounds over a year or two by simply switching to Diet Soda), it was all I could do to make it a third of the way around a 1 mile track.  In fact, I had to teach myself that it was a real accomplishment for me to get up every morning at 6am and go run 1/3 of a mile.  Within about a year, I had lost 120 pounds and weighed 167 pounds.  I was running about 4 miles a day, four to five days a week.  I felt great.  That summer I took part in my first-ever sporting event and ran a 10K.

Several transitions then took place.  We bought a house and I changed jobs.  Through that change of routine and stress, I slowly began to slack up on my healthy eating and exercise habits.

As of last Thursday – nearly 3 years after changing jobs and 4 years after the purchase of our home, I had officially gained back 77 pounds – more than half of what I had lost.  I weighed 244.4 pounds.

Thanks to a good friend at church, I have been coaxed and prodded into getting healthy again.  Since last Thursday morning, I have not consumed more than 1500 calories a day (all healthy stuff) and I have been running again.  It has been great despite the fact that I have had to get over the disappointment of being taxed after running only a mile or so.  At any rate, as of yesterday morning I weighed 241.2 pounds.

And I am going to keep going.  Weight loss is one thing, but my bigger motivation at this time is to feel good again.  I simply  do not feel as good or have as much energy at 241 pounds as I did at 167 pounds and running 16 to 20 miles a week.

Posting this here is sort of like my public accountability mechanism.  At least once a week, I am going to post my progress and hope that it will not only keep me accountable but also encourage others who may need to start (or re-start) this same journey with me.

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Reminder:  the posts at this blog do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the church where I serve as Pastor.

On Inauguration Day, I sat with my 5 year old son at home watching Barak Obama become the first African-American President of the United States.  While many of the President’s political policies do not reflect my own sentiments or principles, I was hopeful on that day for two reasons:  (1) we had taken a step closer to what the pundits and pop-culture sociologists refer to as a “post-racial” society and (2) I genuinely want President Obama to be a successful President.

After hearing President Obama speak so eloquently about hope, I listened to the inaugural address wondering who had absconded with his hope.  I then took a glance at his op/ed piece today in the Washington Post and found the President of “hope and change” beating the same “doom and gloom” drum.  I believe the phrase from the op/ed piece was that without this stimulus bill, the American economy might be irrecovably damaged; meaning that without this particular stimulus bill and this particular effort by the federal government, America will fall a part.

This kind of rhetoric annoys me.  It is not the federal government that has made America an exceptional nation.  It is the blood and sweat of hardworking, dedicated, honest Americans that have made this an exceptional nation.  Our rescue from the jaws of economic disaster will have little to do with President Obama, our elected officials and the trillions of dollars worth of useless bills they seem more than ready to print at the drop of a hat. 

Rescue from the jaws of the so-called impending economic disaster will come from the hearts and hands of the everyday bread makers and bread winners who will double down and roll with the financial punches so that the American (and subsequently the global) economy will again flourish.

President Obama would do well to encourage us to double down, roll with the punches and do what Americans have always done:  slap some old-fashioned Yankee ingenuity and elbow grease to the problems that ail our national economy.  Instead, the new President has successfully convinced us that we are a weak and misguided people who have no real capacity to make it through times like these.   He continues to convince us – if not by his words, by the substance of his policies, that the federal government, and an increase of its powers and influence, are the only things that can pull the weak, poor, misguided American masses into a new age of enlightenment.

I was trained as a counselor and it seems to me that a quick glance at some time-tested principles of family systems therapy highlight one of the gross flaws in the President’s philosophy and the policies he is basing on that philosophy.

Without a doubt, humans are shaped by the communal networks (systems) in which they are involved.  We are all a product – to some greater or lesser degree – of the relational systems in which we are involved. 

A government of the people, by the people and for the people that forsakes those who are in trouble is a system that will fall apart. 

At the same time, we know that one of the key ingredients of a healthy relational system is the ability of the individual members in that system to self-differentiate.  Self-differentiation is the process by which members of a relational system develop an individual identity that is strong, confident and secure a part from the relational system. 

Self-differentiation of an individual member within a relational system usually happens when others in that system cease to “carry” that individual and instead behave and act in such a way  that the individual is forced to build his or her own identity with a healthy deference to the relational system. 

This process is what happens when a 16 year old gets a driver’s lisence.  Because he can now drive himself around – and no longer has to rely on his parents to do so, the 16 year old builds an identity apart from his parents.  It is the development of this identity that helps create a strong and confident individual who will then benefit the relational systems in which he or she is involved rather than draining those systems.

President Obama’s policies go well beyond the kind of steps that will create confident individuals who will benefit our national relational system.  Instead, these policies will create codependent individuals that will erode the national relational system.

President Obama, with his oratorical skills and the current goodwill of the American people, has a “once-in-a-couple-of-generations” opportunity to signficantly move America away from an increasingly dysfunctional way of being a national community toward the very kind of national community that founded, built and has sustained America for more than 2 centuries.

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If you’re from somewhere further north than Lexington, Kentucky feel free to ridicule and laugh as you read on . . .

Seldom do we have a serious snow fall here in central Kentucky.  I’ve lived here for 10 years and have seen nothing like the snowfalls I can remember growing up in West Virginia.  We got at least a good 6 to 10 inches a couple of times during the winter.

But here in central Kentucky, we get something I don’t remember having quite so much of while growing up in West Virginia:  ICE, ICE and more ICE.

So I think there are about 2 to 3 inches of ice on the ground.  Nothing like the huge lake-effect snow storms that folks near Eerie, PA or western New York get, but its enough to bring down the power lines, start snapping the trees and otherwise bringing this region to a near standstill.

And of course, school has been closed for three days.  And it will go to four days tomorrow.

My kids (and their parents) had cabin fever today.  After clearing off the sidewalk and a path down the driveway, (NOTE TO SELF:  consider NOT buying a house on a hillside the next time), I got the family in the car and we went out for lunch and to explore what damage the ice had done in other neighborhoods.

Following lunch, we came home and I tried to teach the kids how to use a snow shovel to sled down the front yard.  Too bad – no matter how hard I tried to show them, they couldn’t get the hang of it.  With numb fingers, red noses and wet clothes, they came inside and, well, it was back to cabin fever again.  Maybe we’ll try again tomorrow.

As I write the snow is falling again.  I have a lot to do this week and a lot of it has not gotten done yesterday or today.  I’ve created some projects that can be done from home; some of which were long overdue in getting to, but nonetheless, I don’t like cabin fever. 

I think we get cabin fever in our relationship with God.  Two days of being locked up in my house and I can’t wait to get my hands on something and get it done.  I face the same thing in my relationship with God.  It’s hard to set still and just let him pour over me and start digging around inside of my heart.  I think I’ll take some time to be locked up in the cabin with God tomorrow!


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NPR and Sick Leave

At the recommendation of a friend, I began iGoogling while on vacation.  The custmoized home pages that iGoogle creates for you are a lot of fun.  I usually spend some time checking out stories and other interesting stuff each day . . . looking for sermon illustrations.

On my iGoogle news page today I checked out a story from NPR about sick leave.  NPR, along with two other organizations, had conducted polls in Ohio and Florida to find out how many people call in sick to work, how many do not and why people – who have paid sick leave – do not often use their sick leave.

NPR surmised two reasons why people with sick leave do not make full use of that leave time:  (1) they are afraid of their bosses or (2) the economy is so bad that they can’t afford to take sick leave.  NPR failed to note that the failure to use this sick time might imply that a majority of Americans don’t get sick enough to use the time or just have a good work ethic!

Before I continue, let me tell everyone right up front that my opinions about this will be conservantive and largely shaped by having spent six years in management of 45 employees; all of whom (including part-time employees) had paid sick leave, as well as paid personal leave, paid vacation and paid leave for bereavement (and it was a relatively small business).

As to NPR’s reason #2:  most sick leave is paid.  That’s why they are called sick days.  People can miss work without penalty.  The same cannot be said for the company that offers sick leave or the other employees who show up at work.  The company loses money and productivity while the employee stays home to recuperate and still makes money.

As to reason # 1:  there are mean employers and bad managers; people who don’t have a sympathetic bone in their bodies, but for each employer who is like that there must be at least five employees who decide to call in sick for work at the first sound of a sneeze or the first sign of a hang-nail.  More than once I have watched employees waste paid sick time for trivial causes only to turn around and not have that sick time available at a time when it was really needed.

This does not excuse the companies and organizations that are simply cruel.  My wife was telling me just last week of a woman whose child was diagnosed with cancer and she was fired for having to take too many days off for the child’s treatments.  Shame on that company AND shame on all on all of those employees whose abuse of sickleave policies force companies to come up with such drastic, across the board sick-leave policies that end up punishing the people who really need some leniency and some help.

Simply put:  I don’t buy it.  Those of us who have paid sick leave should use it wisely and appreciate it rather than dreaming up ludicrous and whining stories to tell NPR.  On the rare occasion that I am sick (I have never taken more than 8 days of “sick-leave” in the entire 15 years that I have been working), I am often reminded of many of the folks I know who run small businesses or are self-employed.  When they get sick, they just don’t get paid . . . consequently most small business people are some of the hardest working people in our nation.

Bottom line:  if you’ve got sick leave, treat it with respect, use it wisely and be grateful for it.  Enough whining, already!

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A few upcoming events and on-going things here at GCF that I am excited about . . .

Cancun Mission Trip . . . 11 GCF’ers are going to Cancun in two weeks to do ministry and mission there for a week.  This is my first international mission trip and I am incredibly excited about it.  I am already working on lining out three trips for GCF next summer (one for each month).  Our goal is to have the bulk of our body regularly involved in short-term missions.

Nehemiah Weekend . . . our first annual fall leadership retreat is coming up on October 10, 11, 12 at Kavanaugh Life Enrichment Center (near Louisville – in Oldham County).  The weekend will have some teaching and worship and give our team leaders, staff and elders a chance to get to know one another better and “gel”.  I am already working on teachings for the weekend which – in our first ever go-round for the leadership retreat – will be coming from Nehemiah.  We are hoping to repeat this each year with a different guest speaker(s)/leader(s) coming along with us!

SLP Team . . . our community service team is coordinating a whole day of snacks and food for the teachers at the Jessamine Early Learning Village here in Wilmore.  Due to budget cuts in Kentucky all schools had to cut back funding for continuing education so the SLP-Team decided to help out by coordinating GCF in an effort to show the teachers at the Village just how much we appreciate what they do and that we support them in their efforts to get all of Jessamine County’s youngest children off to a good educational start!

Connections Pastor . . . we are in a real period of transition right now in regards to staffing.  Our new worship leader officially begins his time with us this coming Sunday (after 1 1/2 months of transition with our out-going worship leader).  Matt Rapach, our Connections Pastor, is also leaving at the end of August.  The Elder Council approved a recommendation from the GCF Staff that a new Connections Pastor be hired who would focus almost entirely on developing our network of Community (small) groups and continuing to work with the First Impact Team on Sunday mornings.  The hiring team will be interviewing several candidates next week.

Building Design Team . . . the Elder Council is also in the process of visioning and thinking about a new worship facility.  The EC appointed a Building Design and Property Layout Team that has been meeting this summer.  In August, this team will begin the process of meeting with those who serve in various areas of ministry at GCF to solicit their advice and suggestions for building design.

VIsion Weekend . . . we don’t have a nice name for this yet, but if all goes well with the building design process, we will be having a vision weekend in November to pull the body together and celebrate GCF’s future!

As you can tell, I’ve got a lot to work on, so I’m going to stop writing now and get to work!

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