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 ūüôā

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 Рlike ALL of us Рthey 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 Рin 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.


Monday Morning Quarterback

I am posting this on Sunday night instead of Monday morning because I will be on my way to WV on Monday morning to pick up Max.  Sydney is going with me and it will be good to have the company of my little girl!

What a great day it has been.  When the second worship gathering at GCF was over today I was really grateful to God that he honored my struggles with John 16.16-24 by giving me a sermon that really challenged and encouraged many people.  Mike Krejci was great on the song Give me Jesus and, as always, my thanks to Uday for listening to the Lord as he was thinking through music and our worship order last week.  Working with him has been one of the big privileges of my life so far.

About 20 or so of us from GCF¬†went to the Lexington Legends game this afternoon.¬† What a good time.¬† It was really relaxed and we enjoyed the game on the shady side of the ball park¬† whiel hanging out together.¬† It’s something we’ll need to do again sometime.

I also learned today that our plans are well underway to have roast goat for our international potluck at the conclusion of this coming weekend’s Spring into Missions activities.¬† I also took note of all of the faces that looked a bit relieved when I announced this morning that we’d also have ham or fried chicken for those who are afraid of goat.¬† Although it did strike me as I was eating a hotdog at the ballpark today that at least I’ll know what’s in my roast goat – just goat.¬† I seldom feel that certain about the contents of a weiner ūüôā

Here’s the challenge for the week:¬† seek the things of God’s kingdom in the name of Jesus; expecting to be hated by the powers of darkness and expecting to be completely irresistable to the Father!

Back from Them Thar Hills

Well, I’m back from West Virginia.¬† Had a nice couple of days there.¬† Max and I had a good time together.¬† He listened to The Magic Tree House, Just So Stories (Rudyard Kipling), Geronimo Stilton and Stink (Junie B. Jones little brother) on his I-Pod.¬† Apparently¬† he spent most of his time with The Magic Tree House because the trip was peppered with little gems of real wisdom and knowledge that he was learning . . . like the definition of patriots, how firemen tried to stop the great San Francisco fire after the 1906 earthquake and how the Titanic sank.

For my part, I spent some time worshiping and listening to some sermons by John Weece (Southland Christian Church in Lexington) and Mark Driscoll (Mars Hill Church in Seattle).  Boy, Driscoll preaches for a long time . . . usually talking for anywhere from 50 minutes to an hour and fifteen minutes.

On Friday morning I got up early and went to Pipestem State Park and hiked a ways into the woods where I read and chanted several Psalms out loud and dug into a full reading of the Gospel of Matthew.¬† Later in the day Max and I went and walked around Sandstone Falls and then grabbed some hot dogs at the Dairy Queen in Hinton, WV – undoubtedly the world’s best chili and slaw dogs!

I slaved a way for a good part of Friday on tomorrow’ sermon; the second in a series on joy.¬† Let me tell you, I really struggled with the passage (John 16.16-24).¬† I am praying that God will use my study and my work tomorrow morning to do what he wants to do with it.¬† I began to wonder if some of my difficulty with the passage arose from just how much the enemy does not want¬†his people¬†to ask for Kingdom things in Jesus’ name.¬† Afterall,¬†Jesus promises that¬†if we pray for kingdom things in Jesus’ name,¬†God will give us what we asked for.¬† Pretty awesome!¬† ¬†All the way home, I found myself praying for things in Jesus’ name.¬† I’ve always done this, but after working on the passage all week I think I had a deeper understanding of why I was praying in Jesus’ name.

BTW – Mark Driscoll’s sermon on the cross – from his Doctrine Series – was fabulous . . . go to I-Tunes or the Mars Hill website and give it a listen (or a view).

I just heard from my mom.  Max is still with them and he had a great time at the Virginia Tech scrimmage game and a lot of the players signed his football and his baseball cap.

I was intrigued to read an article in Revmagazine this week about our sociological need for three kinds of space.  People, its seems, move on a continuum from public space to social space to private space.  As the article points out, this should have churches thinking because we do really well at providing public space, somewhat well at providing for private spaces and we tend to absolutely stink at providing social spaces.

let’s use the average home to think about these spaces.¬† Your foyer or entry area is public space.¬† Its a space where just about anyone who comes to do your door might stand.¬† Conversations in this kind of public space are usually short and never go beneath the surface.¬† Your family room or kitchen would be social space.¬† If you invite someone into one of these rooms, then it means that you are going to be “social” for a while and hang out together.¬† Your bedroom, on the other hand, is a very private space.¬† Intimate conversations and intimate things (don’t read too much into this) happen in bedrooms.¬† Its a place where husbands and wives talk about stuff that you can’t really talk about in the foyer or the family room or the kitchen.

Sunday worship gatherings are public spaces for churches.¬† They are a place where people feel welcome (if the church has a knack for hospitality), but they are not conducive to “hanging out” or “socializing” for a while.¬† Small groups, women’s Bible studies, prayer meetings, team (committee) meetings, etc. are private spaces.¬† These conversations are more intimate and are not the kinds of things you’d talk about in a public setting.

The problem, as the article points out, is that churches don’t really provide “social” spaces where people can go beyond the banter of public spaces without having to rush right into the intimacy of private spaces.¬† When we try to move folks who are new to our churches from public space (worship) to private space (a small group), it is like inviting a door to door salesman from the foyer to your bedroom!

Within the last couple of months, we have started working harder at GCF to provide these kind of social spaces.  Without these in-between social spaces, the move from worship to more intimate community may happen, but it will feel contrived and often proves to have some fleeting short-term impact but no lasting, long-term impact.  In social settings, people get to hang-out and relationships can form naturally.  People can move into more intimate settings having formed relationships that will last and that will also encourage accountability and intimacy with God.

Get the Joy Out

The discipleship team at GCF recently decided that during the Easter Season (between yesterday and Pentecost Sunday at the end of May) that we would focus on joy as a church-wide theme.

I just finished doing a bit of searching at Amazon.com to find out what books on joy are floating around out in the world.¬† After parousing several pages at Amazon, I was horrified to find that I turned up at least 20 books on the topic of joy written by Buddhists or followers of other eastern religions.¬† There were also a large number of books on joy written by pop-culture, post-modern spiritual gurus.¬† I found only 3 books on joy by Christian writers.¬† One was a book that described the use of cognitive-behavioral therapy as a tool for discovering joy.¬† On May 1 of this year, Calvin Miller will release a book on joy in his “fruits of the spirit” series and, of course, there was C.S. Lewis’ Surprised by Joy which is an autobiographical book of his early spiritual journey into the Christian faith.

Something is wrong here.

While working with Uday, our worship pastor at GCF, last week to pick out a few hymns for the Wilmore Community Sunrise Service, I came across a hymn I could remember from my kid-hood days:¬† Easter People Raise Your Voices.¬† Shouldn’t there be more than 3 joy-exploring books written by a group that refers to itself as “Easter People”?

As of yet, I don’t know how our teachings over the next several Sundays will explore joy or where they’ll go, but I think we owe it to ourselves and to our Lord to get the joy out.

Half-time Worship

At our Monday staff meeting at GCF we were looking at some responses to a survey about what people were experiencing during worship¬†this past¬†Sunday.¬†¬†One member of the staff asked, “what do we expect to happen in worship?”

This lead to a lengthy discussion in the meeting that¬†became a long train of thought for me throughout the next 24 hours.¬† For fear of using too much theological jargon, I began to search for an analogy or metaphor that would help ground my expectations for worship.¬† When pressed too far, all analogies or metaphors fall apart, so don’t press this one too far.¬† Just let it be what it is.

I like to think of GCF as a team of people who go out into the world every week to do ministry in the name of Jesus.  Since we are a team representing the Kingdom of God in the world, perhaps we could think of our Sunday worship gatherings as the half-time locker room meeting.

What goes on in a half-time locker room meeting?  Four things . . .

First, the team gets refocused or increases its focus on the main thing.  The main thing for the team is winning.  The main thing for GCF is putting our focus on the grace, glory and power of God.  Singing, scripture reading, times for reflection, times for prayer, teaching, the offering and even announcements all call us to set aside whatever else is going on in life so that we can focus on who God is, what he has done, what he is doing, and what he is calling us to do.

Second, the team focuses on what it is doing well.¬† If there have been some great play calls or some excellent rushing then those things are highlighted.¬† The good work that the team is doing is accentuated.¬† Worship gatherings on Sundays give us a chance to look at what God is doing so well right in our own lives.¬† We saw this so clearly on Sunday¬†as one GCF’er shared how God had been at work in her life during her two month stay at a Chinese orphanage last summer.¬† It was also very evident this past Sunday as another GCF’er shared about what God was doing to keep her hope alive during some difficult times.

Third, the team will make some readjustments.¬†¬†It is unlikely that all things¬†have been perfect¬†in the first half, so the coach will point out some areas where some things need to be adjusted a bit.¬† One of our surveys from Sunday noted that the lyrics of the song Inside Out had been particularly meaningful, causing him/her to ask some questions about the shape of¬†his/her own interior life.¬† Worship helps us make the adjustments that prepare us to better embody God’s kingdom in the world when we leave.¬† Teachings also help us do this.¬† The second of two application questions in Sunday’s teaching asked us to consider whether or not we are more familiar with the language of complaining or the language of hope?¬† Making an adjustment to speaking the language of hope in Christ rather than complaining is another way to “adjust” to better embodying God’s kingdom in the world.

Fourth, the half-time meeting is about energizing the team for the next round.  Having focused on readjustments, positives and the main thing, the team is energized to head back to the field for the second half.  Of course, the whole worship experience contributes to this, but our closing song(s) at GCF come to mind because they are intended to get our blood pumping to go back into the world to carry the victorious, life-giving, freedom-creating good news of Jesus to a lot of people who need to know it, touch it and claim it as their own.

One last thought . . . what goes in the half-time gathering has a lot to do with what went on in the first half.¬† Everything, and I mean absolutely everything, that happened is fair game for discussion at half time.¬† And this means that there is some preparation that each of us have to do – as individuals – when we come into our half-time worship gathering.¬† We’ve got to be prepared to lay everything on the table so that nothing is standing in the way of focusing on the main thing so that God can give us some guidance about what we are doing well, where need to make some minor or major adjustments, and get us energized to go back into the world in his name.

As you think about our worship gathering this Sunday, will you be ready to lay everything on the table?

The Friday E-Letter

Here’s this week’s copy of the e-letter that will go out to all GCF’ers on Friday morning . . .

Goodmorning GCF’ers,

My parents are arriving today for a quick visit before heading back to West Virginia late tomorrow.  My Dad is going to work with me tomorrow on cleaning out about five Japanese Honey Suckle shrubs (not to be confused with the Honey Suckle vine that smells so sweet) that have taken over the fence between our house and the adjacent farm.  The stuff grows with a vengeance.

Japanese Honey Suckle is so dangerous to other species of trees and shrubs and yet so resilient that the Raven’s Run Nature Preserve in Fayette County is spending a $1,000 per shot for a chemical that can be injected into the stump of a Japanese Honey Suckle shrub to destroy the root system.

 Sin, injustice and unrighteousness run deep in this world.  So deep, in fact, that we can even see it at work in the nature around us (see Romans 8.22):  Japanese Honey Suckle overcoming native species, various types of moss feasting upon trees until the trees have no nutrients of their own, and Dutch Elm disease (a fungus) killing some 20 million Elm trees in the United States since 1960.

 Like nature around us, we are also faced daily with the wages of sin and injustice in our world.  Anger drives us to contempt.  Lust drives us to relational brokenness.  Greed drives us to injustice.  And so it goes.

¬†But, just as a $1000 shot can destroy the root system of the Japanese Honey Suckle, there is also a ‚Äúcure‚ÄĚ for the wages of sin in our lives.

¬†There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.¬† For the law of the Spirit of Life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. ‚Äď Romans 8.1-2

 Here are a few things I want to cover in this e-letter:

¬†(1)¬†¬†¬†¬† Bonfire ‚Äď April 4 @ 7pm

(2)     1-1-1

(3)     The Final Anchor

(4)¬†¬†¬†¬† comMISSION ‚Äė09

¬†Bonfire ‚Äď April 4 @ 7pm:¬† Max started playing t-ball on Monday of this week.¬† While I was talking to Max through the fence at Sim‚Äôs Field here in Wilmore, Kyra called for me.¬† She asked me if I had a GCF business card in my wallet.¬† She had just met a family that was new to the area and had attended a couple of churches, but were having trouble finding one they liked.¬† Kyra used the opportunity to invite this family to come to our GCF bonfire on Saturday, April 4.¬† As you think about the bonfire on April 4, you might also think about inviting a friend or family member who does not have a church home to come with you.¬† We‚Äôll roast wieners, marshmallows, play flag football, volleyball and close the evening with some worship around the bonfire.

¬†1-1-1:¬† Are you praying?¬† I have kept my 1-1-1 card on my desk this week and have been praying at least ONE time a day for the family that we are going to invite to join us at GCF for the bonfire on April 4 and for worship on Easter Sunday.¬† Deep in my gut, I cannot escape the feeling that as we pray Biblical prayers for the people that we want to invite to GCF, that the Father ‚Äď as we invite them ‚Äď will lead many people to GCF and to Jesus!

 The Final Anchor:  I am excited about worship this Sunday (9am and 10.45am).  Bekah Witzer, an AC student who was in China this past summer working at an orphanage will be sharing some about her time there.  We’ll also wrap up our five part-series on hope, called The Anchor.  This series on hope has been pretty life-changing for me and I hope that it has been the same for you.

¬†comMISSION ‚Äė09:¬† I really enjoyed having the Rapach family with us in worship on Sunday.¬† I asked Matt if he wanted to do the announcements during worship, for old-time sake, but he turned me down on the offer.¬† The video clip of the work that the Rapaches did with the YWAM team in Brazil and Peru gave a terrific snapshot of what the team going to Mexico Missions (in Cancun) will be doing this summer.¬† There will be VBS in the mornings and evangelism events at night.¬† We need at least 8 people (and preferably 10) for the work we‚Äôll do in Cancun.¬† So far, we have only 3 people signed up to go.¬† It may be that you are one of the five (or seven) other folks that God is calling to Mexico.¬† If you are one of the ones, then let me know ASAP.

 See you Sunday morning,

Pastor Jason