Monday, December 20, 2010

The L O S T Trend in Outreach

Who's on an island with a Shepherd, a bunch of Others and wants to be rescued? Wrecked, hard luck passengers from Oceanic flight 815? No.

Apparently much of the church in the US is wrecked on an island.

Outreach appears to be fading along with theological literacy. So in this second of six discussions of Barna's Megatrends in the US Church, I want to show you how the vision and mission of Crosspoint and Encuentro engages this problem and suggest ways to grow a healthy church that fight the trends.   

Outreach isn't a program, its the fruit of a healthy gospel-centered church. As a student and Jr Hi pastor in the 70s, 80s and 90s, it seems to me, the American church emphasized skill development, programs and motivational speeches to get the faithful to reach out to its primarily homogeneous neighborhood. 

Skills are important but its sort of like training with a knife when you're going into a sword fight. The outcome is a church in the 21st century withdrawing rather than advancing.
Barna notes: Despite technological advances that make communications instant and far-reaching, Christians are becoming more spiritually isolated from non-Christians than was true a decade ago. Examples of this tendency include the fact that 
  • less than one-third of born again Christians planned to invite anyone to join them at a church event during the Easter season; 
  • teenagers are less inclined to discuss Christianity with their friends than was true in the past; 
  • most of the people who become Christians these days do so in response to a personal crisis or the fear of death (particularly among older Americans); 
  • and most Americans are unimpressed with the contributions Christians and churches have made to society over the past few years. 
As young adults have children, the prospect of them seeking a Christian church is diminishing--especially given the absence of faith talk in their conversations with the people they most trust. With atheists becoming more strategic in championing their godless worldview, as well as the increased religious plurality driven by education and immigration, the increasing reticence of Christians to engage in faith-oriented conversations assumes heightened significance.
It is challenging to reach out so are church attenders giving up? Changes challenge 70s-90s modern outreach strategies:
  • Our neighborhoods are more diverse socially, racially, economically and spiritually here in the greater Smyrna area. Myriad options get plenty of screen time.
  • The gospel contains Bad News few want to admit. Even fewer want to hear it even from a kind and concerned person. The potential for a social snub is way higher now. 
  • Societal norms demand privatization of religion and tolerance of all viewpoints. No matter how contradictory or down-right stupid. 
  • Attractional mega-churches, Mass, TV preachers and my Grandma's old church color most people's presuppositions about what people think they are being invited to.
  • The internet removes all mystery and makes everyone a psuedo-expert on religious matters. So why actually go to a church? "I can download whatever I need if/when I need it."
  • Professional Christians on the internet inundate theologically weak Christians with piles of resources. The regular guys don't have to learn anything because they can (wrongly) assume their friends will find faith in Jesus via a Google search. 
It appears no one really 'needs' to do awkward personal outreach anymore, right?

People's exposure to church in most cases isn't good news. But can a living faith in God be transferred without personal real-life interaction? A living faith in Christ can not happen outside connection to the real-life body of Christ. Anything other else in my opinion, is manipulation based on legalism, moralism, therapy or a circus atmosphere. 

So do we Christians throw up our hands and all escape to comfy mega-churches? No. 

Crosspoint/Encuentro and other church plants are lean, not-so-mean humility machines. Okay, so machine isn't the right word, but 'family of humbled sinners saved by grace alone by faith alone in Christ alone' doesn't rhyme with lean and mean. 

Seriously, our 'outreach program' is interpersonal humble interaction among sinners, dependently praying (only God saves, remember?) and patiently answering good questions with good answers about the bad news and good news of the gospel. 

Our lives together become outreach. Our words and actions are one of many presentations of the gospel.

The How-To is stay simple and enter into (incarnate) people's livesWe remain lean. We focus on people, not programs. Our facility and budget reflect serving people where they live, work and play.

We are not-so-mean and humble. The single most compelling outreach tactic (if you can call it a tactic) is humility. We admit we are sinners. We ARE no better than anyone else. We aren't trying to impress anyone or prove anything first. We welcome folks no matter what. The worship services are not slick, personality-driven, video light shows - on purpose.

The main goal is not to get 'more butts in seats' but to introduce people to Christ's awesomeness. We want Jesus to be more famous than our worship service, our programs or our church or our pastor.

This means we all, from pastor to most successful businessperson to youngest teenager, approach our friends, neighbors and co-workers humbly. We lead into 'outreach' admitting out loud that they have every reason to be skeptical and unsure about us, our church and the message we purport to believe.

This approach is both an expression of freedom in the gospel and an invitation into the community of the gospel.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Homer Simpson Trend in Theology

(Thanks to Robin C in Alpharetta for this important link.)

"Doh!" appears to be the operative word in the Protestant church in the USA where theology is concerned.   Barna is reporting trends I saw early as a youth pastor to Baby Busters in the 90s.

In this first of six discussions of harmful and dangerous trends in the church, I'm going to let you know how the vision and mission of Crosspoint and Encuentro prepares to grow a healthy church, fight the trends and suggest these are ways other churches can too.

Theologically trained disciples led by theologically astute elders, deacons and leaders. The battle to be theologically literate starts and ends with church leadership. In this respect, we are purposefully counter-cultural and apparently rebels. Kinda funny. Theological training is retro? Oh well.

Crosspoint and Encuentro also value multi-generational ministry. We get a broader tapestry of wisdom, depth and knowledge as older men and women teach younger men and women. We aren't totally dependent on the charms of our photo-genetic pastor either. (Which is a good thing for more than one reason...)

Barna's report notes...
"What used to be basic, universally-known truths about Christianity are now unknown mysteries to a large and growing share of Americans--especially young adults. For instance, Barna Group studies in 2010 showed that while most people regard Easter as a religious holiday, only a minority of adults associate Easter with the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Other examples include the finding that few adults believe that their faith is meant to be the focal point of their life or to be integrated into every aspect of their existence
Further, a growing majority believe the Holy Spirit is a symbol of God's presence or power, but not a living entity. As the two younger generations (Busters and Mosaics) ascend to numerical and positional supremacy in churches across the nation, the data suggest that biblical literacy is likely to decline significantly. The theological free-for-all that is encroaching in Protestant churches nationwide suggests the coming decade will be a time of unparalleled theological diversity and inconsistency."

Crosspoint/Encuentro bucks this trend other ways too. We preach through books of the Bible so the theological concepts get taught. Though we speak in everyday language, we use and explain those big, theologically rich words like 'justification' and 'sanctification' so people learn theology. Two of our seven elders learned theology through our Theology for Ministry training module taught in small groups.

Here's a surprise maybe. People who have been in churches that do not teach theology want to know the details! I'm finding folks are hungry to know how things fit together. Offering the training to hungry people in non-traditional formats requires some changes in delivery methods, but the outcome is tremendous.

We are not the only ones working for theological literacy by any stretch. Our denomination (PCA) vigorously plants churches that are theologically grounded. So does Acts 29. Seminaries we love, like Reformed Theological Seminary, Covenant, Westminster and even many of the Southern Baptist Seminaries teach men and women well. And I should not forget that several campus ministries are quite theologically robust. RUF (Reformed University Fellowship), CRU (Campus Crusade for Christ) and Campus Outreach graduate some sharp theologically trained students.

There is hope as leaders are trained that we can lead the church to theological literacy (and even vibrancy) in the future.

The question this raises in my mind isn't 'Are there enough theologically astute people in the Protestant churches in the USA?' The bigger question is this: Are there accountability structures that will weed out false teachers in the pulpits of our churches?

Trust me. If I (or any elder or pastor in our denomination) stray for orthodox Christian doctrines, I will be corrected and if I refuse to be corrected I'll be disciplined and removed from the ministry.

Accountability is the answer to this problem in the church. We don't need pastors who go free-lancing on theology.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Why You Should NOT Buy an NIV Bible

If it is the new 2010 NIV 'version', you have an impostor in your hands!

I have been using the New International Version copyrighted in1984 since 1999 because it is an accurate and very readable translation. It is a great translation for beginning Bible readers. Several of my seminary professors worked on the original 1984 translation.

However, in my sermon prep a few weeks ago, I went to BibleGateway to copy the text to start my studies, as I have many times. What I got shocked me!

Galatians 3 was different! I had unknowingly copied and pasted the NEW 2010 edition of the New International Version (NIV). There are significant editorial changes that are NOT in the original language nor in the original 1984 translation. This is wrong and misleading! 

For example, the original language says in verse 26, 'You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.' However the new edition for 2010 mistranslates the verse 'You are all children of God...'

Do These Changes Matter? 
Yes! This is a key verse in the doctrine of adoption. The original word choice is not only revealed from heaven, it has significant meaning! In ancient times, only sons received an inheritance. God, through Paul the writer, was making a very radical, pro-female statement in saying that by faith in Christ Jesus all who believe are His sons.

To say we become 'children' of God is just not what the original language or the original translation of the Scripture into English says at all.

(I will withhold my guesses as to any agenda the editors of the NIV2010 are trying to accomplish.)

And for sake of space, I will not offer an exhaustive list. One change of this caliber is enough. If you want more examples, ask for follow-up.

So do NOT buy a new NIV (c)2010.

Misleading to Keep the 'NIV' Label
What really bugs me is this: the NIV 1984 is a great translation and the NIV 2010 is a different editing job of that translation using the same respected label for an inferior work.

Honestly I wonder how the professors who worked so hard to give us the original NIV must feel? Their work now hacked up and changed beyond recognition...

So, Here is Your Christmas List!
Buy an English Standard Version for each reader in your family and circle of friends. That is what we will be using in the Crosspoint English-speaking congregation* beginning in 2011. 

Part of  my calling as your pastor is to protect you from false doctrine. Our Bibles are the starting point. I want you all to be reading and studying a reliable and accurate translation of the original language. The NIV2010 is simply not reliable or accurate. And it is too confusing to try to keep using the 1984 edition.

Time to Make a Change for Our English-speaking Church. 
Get an English Standard Version (ESV). Or if you have an older New American Standard Bible (NASB) you are reading an accurate and reliable translation.

I'll keep you posted if we need to make adjustments for our Spanish-speaking congregation.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Three Reasons We Welcome Aliens

1. There are at least 10 verses in Scripture that command God's people to love, care for, treat justly and remember that He defends aliens. Don't believe me? Do a search on the text of the NIV for 'aliens' or in other versions for 'sojourners' and you'll see it clearly.

There are a few other moral reasons Crosspoint/Encuentro welcomes people (especially Mexicans) regardless of their legal status.

2. Rising fear from drug violence and weak protection from their own government. I am no policy expert but it doesn't take much to recognize that this kind of violence would make any sane person seek a safe place to live - even if it isn't legal. In June 2010, hundreds of people in border towns were executed by drug cartels.

This is the results from a search on the words 'Mexico' and 'Violence' on Yahoo!

3. Persecution for being a Christian. Voice of the Martyrs include the state of Chiapas as a 'hostile' area where Christians are persecuted. This is more than just being snubbed for converting. Pastor Hector Guzman has friends bringing in basic supplies to families who have lost everything.

Granted not everyone coming to the US without status is a Christian, but no matter the reason for their arrival, shouldn't the church and the people of God seek both mercy and justice for fellow image bearers? Shouldn't we leverage this time of unrest that is sending refugees and immigrants to our nation as an opportunity to advance the gospel?

Bonus Reason: Our allegiance is first to Christ, then to our nation (Galatians 3:26ff) If I'm making you uncomfortable, it's on purpose. Reason #1 is the only reason we need to welcome aliens. God says He is their God. We are His people. If Arizona or Georgia or any other state makes a law that violates God's law, then morally who should we obey?

Think about that.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Excited about Church Planting Momentum in the Atlanta Area

Crosspoint/Encuentro is part of some significant Kingdom expansion work you would seldom see. Today I went to our monthly Church Planters Network (CPN) meeting and there were 40 church planters, coaches and visitors. This represents almost 20 church plants in Georgia, Minnesota, North Carolina, London and Bucharest. We are usually mostly white, middle-aged and Presbyterian, but today I looked around the room and saw five racial backgrounds, young guys and old guys. 40!

Several men from Bethlehem Baptist Church Minneapolis (where John Piper is the pastor) checked out what we are doing here. We had visitors from the London Church Planters' Network some of our men helped start and even a church planter from Romania! It was so cool to hear him say straight up that he and a few other pastors from the International Presbyterian Church in Romania are making plans to change their whole country through church planting. Seriously. I believe it.

Ten months out of the year, though you may not know it, I spend a day (630am-230pm) in Atlanta with this network. Pastor Hector too. I used to go to receive, now I go to give back. I coach other church planters who have started churches on the Atlanta Westside, in Vinings and East Atlanta.

Every month there is peer-coaching, prayer and training. This month's training and prayer time inter-weaved as Dr. Tom Wood and Alex Villasana led us in strong, gospel-centered life-changing interaction. I'm so proud of Tom and Alex, he's the guy that recruited, trained and still mentors me. And Alex just preached at Sunday night at the Regional Hispanic Worship Gathering for the four Hispanic churches in our area.

And I heard that J. Allen Thompson, the church planting guru of the PCA and Redeemer NYC is moving back here. My guess is so he can be closer to family and Cuba where he frequently travels to train church planters and church leaders where he was born, raised, planted churches and got kicked out in 1960.

Why tell you all this? A lot of reasons:
It's personal. Crosspoint/Encuentro is one of the first three church plants from this network.Without these men and this training I would have flopped more than once at church planting.
It's spiritual. This is the kind of momentum we have been asking the Lord of the harvest for and working towards for ten years.
It's missional. Our church vision has always been to multiply churches for all the nations because it is God's ordained method to saturate the world, Atlanta and Smyrna with the gospel.
It's eternal. Alongside godly people doing ground-breaking work in the 21st century, we will have continuing impact long after we pass into eternity.
It's global. This behind-the-scenes work is the greatest opportunity for the most people in the most places to worship King Jesus.

We are so honored to take part in this world-changing enterprise!

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Overwhelmed! One Reason I Need Prayer

As a broken pastor, how often do I forget the army of the Lord? Often. I'm sitting here overwhelmed with some opportunities before us. Feeling alone. Man, I'm such a dope sometimes.

As a broken pastor, I need prayer. And I know it. Sometimes I even remember! Because I am broken, our elders, deacons, members and those who are yet-to believe need prayer too. Especially because I am their pastor but specifically for some options before us

Would you pray for us? We are considering BOTH a better temporary facility for 2011 and at the same time raising funds for a better permanent facility for beyond.

After 8 years of faithful growth through evangelism and mercy, our church has the opportunity to upgrade for a year while we raise funds for a faciliity to serve the church and the community as a resource center for training and community development. Crazy that we have these opportunities. 

Pray like this:
For wisdom.
Our vision for a facility is to find a location that increases our reach to those that are unreached with the Gospel and with practical help. The elders and I have some key decisions to make.

For faith. As one of my mentors Randy Pope says, we are indeed at the point where if God isn't in this, we will fail. Pray for fearlessness.

For persevering leadership. I am stretched. Doing things I have no experience with and often doubt God's faithfulness and my ability. O me of little faith!

PS - For those of you who've known us and prayed for me for a long time, do you hear God chuckling at the irony of His power and plans? I do!

Acts 4:13 comes to mind, '...they realized that they were unschooled ordinary men... astonished and took note that these men had been with Jesus.'
We're proof that Jesus will build His church and use ordinary broken people to gain the fame He deserves.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Parenting Wisdom Resource

My Mom's Wise
Mom always learns and always follows Jesus. And she writes about what she has learned as a resource for the next generations.

After growing up in the 'top-secret city' of Oak Ridge TN during the war, marrying at 18 and starting a family at 20, she and my dad raised the four of us in the church and in that old-school small-town way people do in Appalachia.

In addition to the expected discipline, respect for elders and 'knowing your place' my mom was counter-cultural. She taught us to be curious, studious and to challenge conventional thinking. She was a liberal Christian in Knoxville in the 70s. (And I mean that in the best way possible.)

She lived Dr. King's views on race. We took in foster children. Though we didn't have much, we helped the poor. Like her sister had done, we made plans to adopt an unwanted racially-mixed sister after abortion was made legal. My parents taught us to live by faith. And put that faith into action.

All that to introduce her parenting resource
After watching many young parents struggle, Mom researched child development and combined it with biblical principles and some old-school know how and wrote a book about parenting. 

Now she posts daily parenting tips on her new blog Joyful Musings.

A most vital and important work

Mom has continued to teach Elizabeth and me how to raise our children well. The fruit of their godly parenting is evident in our children who are now 20, 18 and 15, and all our extended family (pictured above). I hope such biblical wisdom impacts the churches in which we serve and pastor.

It is the biggest joy and deepest honor to be loved and to love well. Isn't that what we all want for our children?

I hope you will follow her blogAt least until she learns how to work Twitter...

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Pressure on Pastor Planning to Burn Qurans is Absurd and Wrong-headed

Well I'm back and I'm a little ticked off. It's amazing to me that one pastor in a remote corner of Florida USA can garner so much attention over what amounts to a gimmick. It's foolishness.

This article is the #1 Top New Story on Yahoo! News on September 7th, 2010. Four more days and it's an all out assault, an enormous nation-wide and world-wide media pressure to get a pastor to stop doing what he thinks God is telling him to do.

Since when does the US government get to pressure citizens about their religious beliefs?

He wants to burn Qurans. He wants to offend Muslims. He wants to take a stand. So? LET HIM. Can't Muslims take some criticism like big boys?

Over 100 people have threatened to kill this pastor for his convictions? Over 100 death threats?! Yet he won't back down on his sincere convictions. I can respect that part. Immensely.

The US State Department has aligned themselves with Muslims on an one church event that left to itself would have been ignored by 99.999% of the world. I can't get it... the State Department meddling in a slightly quirky publicity stunt? Seriously?

I don't know Pastor Jones. But I'd pray with him, listen to him. Probably find a lot of common ground and common concerns. But I'd encourage him to do something different and more effective in fighting the battle against evil. Something like preaching the gospel, praying and fasting, befriending a Muslim who needs Jesus.

What's the Truth?
But at the root what sticks in my windpipe is this: he's a pastor, part of what he is saying is legitimate and biblical.

We are in a spiritual battle. Islam is a false religion and according to Scripture will deceive millions into a Christ-less eternity. I'd say that is evil. He is a pastor with spiritual and moral authority.

And his response if the shoe were on the other foot?
... if Muslims wanted to burn Bibles in the front yard of a mosque. "Of course, I would not like it," Jones said. But "I definitely would not threaten to kill them, as we have been threatened."
That seems more sane and reasonable than demonstrations, threats of violence and a media smear campaign..

And it feels good to be back in the blogosphere.

Monday, June 21, 2010

R&R - Rest and Re-Connect with God (and Family)

Not that I've ever set a blistering blogging pace, but I'm taking some time off from my weekly posting.

Just finished a preaching series about rest and reconnecting with God by taking up His yoke and learning from Jesus, so I'm going to take the Lord's command seriously. And I'm enjoying it.

I'm enjoying my 23rd wedding anniversary trip to Pigeon Forge compliments of some dear friends. Enjoying hearing others preach at Crosspoint and looking forward to time with my extended family at North Myrtle Beach in July. Then we'll be ready to send two of my children off to Athens (Jake got notice that his transfer application was accepted) and gear up for another ministry year.

Enjoy your summer.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

'Jesus Never Fails' - Reviewing My Mom's Book

My mom just wrote a book. Well this one's been in the works for 35 years. It's about my parents risking everything they had to follow Jesus' call into full-time ministry with Campus Crusade back in the late 70s.

Now as an adult (and pastor) I think they were crazy! But as an 11-15 year-old I didn't know.

They were just my heroes following their Hero.

Last month I read the rough draft of mom's journal notes and stories taking shape into this book. I was struck hard by the intensity. Often I choked back tears at the behind-the-scenes confessions and prayers of what my parents went through learning to trust Jesus to put food on the table, clothes and shoes on four growing kids and let Him shape their young hearts. My, how it shaped us all.

I am emotional still as I think of the legacy they passed on to me in their own broken but faithful way.

Mom tells the stories straight: the good, the bad and the ugly. It's a real story of a real family struggling and celebrating God's faithfulness. The journey has been hard and with much heartache along the way.

But it's totally worth it. For God's glory and fame!

O that more of us would live stories of deep and even crazy trust. These stories are priceless and I'm honored to have been raised by parents that were willing to risk everything to follow Jesus. May the Lord raise up more of us who will trust Him and find out Jesus Never Fails. For our benefit and our children.

I'm helping her get the word out. If you could order one directly from her for $12, she can save you $5 off the publisher's price. I think its worth it to challenge more folks to trust Jesus with their lives in a practical way. Thanks for considering it.
from my mom Barbara Moon
Jesus Never Fails:Stories of God's Faithfulness illustrate through story after story both the difficulties and joys of living by faith and seeing God provide. These stories are taken from my  personal experiences, a diary I kept while we raised support, and newsletters we sent to friends, family and supporters after joining a faith-based ministry.

Whether you’re learning to live on a budget, struggling to trust God with your finances or a missionary, campus minister or church planter raising support, this short 93-page book will help you see God’s faithfulness. I’m excited about the potential for people to see God’s creative provision when learning to trust Him.

1. Could you help me get in 60 paid for direct-orders? I want to get Jesus Never Fails into the hands of people who could use a break. The retail price is $17 with shipping. But if we can get 60 orders paid at $12 then I can use my author’s discount and ship them at no extra charge!
2. I have no advertising budget. Could you spread the word via email, Facebook or Twitter to people who might want to buy a copy for friends or family members who would benefit from these real-life encouraging stories? Thanks!

To direct-order from me, send a Facebook message--or email to and I’ll tell you how to send a check. Thanks so much!
Jesus Never Fails Indeed.

Monday, May 24, 2010

L O S T not a Loss for this Father

L O S T is over.

And I have a few comments. As a fan, as a student of philosophy.And as a father. Mostly as a father.
  • I watched this show with my teenagers. When we started they were 14, 12 and 9 and now they are 20, 18 and 15. And it was worth it. I got a glimpse into the world in which I am sending them to navigate. I also got to see their hearts, share in some drama and philosophy. And it was fun.
  • Reincarnation makes for a sweet 'heaven' ending for a TV show, but it's depressing. Everything in that story we cared about is an illusion? Seriously? Compared to the incomparable, real, actual inheritance of the heaven of the Bible, that was 'making mud pies in the sewer when a day at the beach is offered.' I'm pretty sure my children get that difference and distinction.
  • People who claim that all religions are equal or the same (as apparently do the writers of L O S T) are ignorant or stupid. Putting symbols of world religions in a church building does not mean they agree. The major religions of the world make mutually exclusive truth claims. Don't be naive.
Do I think watching this show L O S T was a loss? No. Am I going to rant about it and preach against it. No. Will I make a point to watch all 6 seasons with my future grandchildren. Probably not.

Those who watch it will enjoy a delightfully complex story. At the end, a thinking person will have a very compelling and memorable view of the meta-narrative of 21st century secular religion. And hopefully we'll be able to kindly, firmly and truthfully critique it and compare it to the meta-narrative of the Grand Story of Redemption.

That is part of what makes L O S T not a loss. I'm raising thinking people. They get it. Jesus' sacrificial redemption is real and effective and not an illusion. Thank God.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Porn and the Dark Side of Christian Conferences

The uptick in porn usage during Christian conferences is depressing. But its real.

And I think I know why. But I'm not sure we want to admit it.

Dark Side of Success
As a pastor, when you go to a conference, you are wishing and hoping your ministry would be more successful. Or if you aren't in ministry, you are hoping your life or marriage or children will be more successful.

All the cool people on Facebook or on Twitter or in your denom or your church talk up this *awesome* conference with all these big name successful speakers. You pay the big bucks to go. You get there and about halfway through the third session from a highly successful Christian, you start to feel depressed.

Why? Because your ministry or life or marriage or whatever will never be as successful as him or her.

Denying the Dark Side
Oh but you keep up appearances, rave about content, joke and chat in the hallway and buy some books you won't read when you get home. Then you go to your room and the facade can finally drop.

You paid all this money to hear the same stuff again and YOU ARE STILL A LOSER. You're a loser Christian or loser pastor that nobody knows and nobody wants to know. So you justify watching some skin on the small screen, maybe cuss. Or cry. But you are still a loser.

Why I'm Leery of Conferences
Christian conferences are like porn. They flash temptations of sexy ministry success. And no I'm not talking to prosperity preachers. I'm talking to evangelical and reformed people. Keller and Piper and Sproul and Childers and Stezer and Chan and Hybels just keep putting out the temptations and nobody ever tells you to stop lusting after successful ministry.

Christians and pastors, we worship the idol of success. It's a pagan fertility ritual wrapped sensually in acceptable Christian clothes.

And it is killing us and giving the church a black-eye. You know why? We want ministry or life success more than we want what the Sovereign God has given us.

So I don't go to conferences like I used to. Keller and Piper et al cause me to cheat on the Lord's call for me. I can't keep from being tempted.

But I'm learning that Jesus loves me - even though I cheated on Him. And being broken and a loser is better than I thought...

PS - Now please sign up for my 'Loser Pastor' conference, okay?

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Cancer Fighter Realities - Really Helping

More on how to help from a friend who went through cancer fighting...

How do cancer fighters feel about visits? It really depends on the chemicals they are using. What kind of cancer? For me I had 6 rounds 21 days apart. (Karen will have 4 rounds 21 days apart). The hair falls out on day 17....I had mine shaved ahead of time.

I would have treatment on Tuesday (Karen's will be Wednesdays), by Thursday I started to feel bad. Friday was the worst day then by Saturday I would feel better. Mine caused a great deal of bone pain...kind of like the flu...just achy all over.

Over time your white blood cell count or your 'numbers' goes down so the more treatments the more tired and run down you feel and the longer it takes to bounce back. I worked as a school teacher during my treatments except for the week of treatment.

As far as visitors go, I didn't mind fact the day before treatment I LOVED having a small group come and worship and pray over me. It brought great peace and allowed them to feel a vital part of my treatment...which they were.

The only days I really didn't like company were the bad days when my bones hurt so badly. Later in treatment I also had a hard time because I could barely walk across a room without being out of breath. It is hard to have a conversation at that point, but I had a transfusion and was much better.

My symptoms were manageable for the most part. I had stomach issues the same time as my bone pain...I never threw up but I had other issues. So having certain things to eat or drink was helpful.
Smoothies were the only thing that tasted good for the first few days. So taking some fruit or yogurt from time to time might be helpful.

One thing that Bill [her husband] did for me that helped a ton, was take me for rides through the mountains on my bad days. His theory was we know its not the flu and laying in bed just makes it we would get in the car and ride. I'm not sure I would have wanted to do that with anybody else, but it was wonderful for the two of down and fresh air.

One thing to consider is that her immune system will be low and too many people also brings many germs. I had two infections that prevented me from having chemo so it delayed my treatment. The longer she goes the weaker she will be. With chemo many times it is the complications that cause the difficulty...not always the cancer itself.

For me was my blood counts were too low and I had several infections which can be very dangerous. It is like a domino effect and one body system affects all the others.

I am glad Karen has a good support system. It really helps more than you would know to have many in your corner pulling for you.
Praying for courage is a critical at the beginning, at least until she gets to her new normal.
So Crosspoint, let's keep praying, serving and loving.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Five Reasons Crosspoint Welcomes Illegals

Five reasons Crosspoint/Encuentro welcomes and accepts people without legal status.

1. Aliens are people too. God created each one in His image. A person's status with any government does nothing to change God's view of them as His creation - worthy of dignity, respect and an opportunity to receive the gospel. Scripture is the higher law in these cases.

2. God's people are aliens.God commands us to not mistreat an alien and remember that we too were aliens in Egypt (Exodus 22:21 and 23:9). Our citizenship is first in heaven (Philippians 3:20).

3. Articles like this one in the US media tell only a glimpse of the fear, intimidation and terror that brings Mexicans here to the US without status. People in our church don't just come to 'steal American jobs' but rather they are refugees escaping fear, injustice and intimidation from many fronts.

4. We are missionaries of the gospel of God's grace through Christ alone. If our church members who do not have proper status get arrested (and many have) and deported (and some are), then we send them back as missionaries. The gospel of grace is foreign in the religious landscape south of the border.

5. It is not only a biblical value. As a serious student of American history, a descendant of immigrants from many nations including Native Americans, I recall these words are engraved on our Statue of Liberty.

"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, 'The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Beg the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field."

Monday, March 29, 2010

'If You Need Anything Call Me' - Not Helpful

How many times have I said to someone who was struggling, 'Let me know if you need any help. Really. I mean it.' Hundreds? At least. Turns out that is NOT actually helping those who suffer.

I am not a naturally empathetic person around the sick, suffering or hurting. More like 'concerned but awkward'. So this post by Ed Welch on CCEF's webpage really helped me deeply.

I need this prescription. Hope it spurs you on to go on and simply help people who are suffering rather than thinking they will ask.

"Here is something that I have heard a number of times on the “Not Helpful” list. I have heard it often enough that it deserves to become part of our body of pastoral wisdom.
“If you need anything, please call me—anytime.”
"Sufferers are usually gracious and give us a lot of slack for thoughtless remarks, so I was surprised when this became a theme. Those who mentioned it didn’t say that the comment was meaningless to them, though it was. They said that it was actually unhelpful. Why? I usually don’t ask that question, but I can piece together some of the answers.
  • If “comforters” knew anything about real hardship, they would know that sufferers usually don’t know what they want or need.[surprising to me but makes sense]
  • If comforters knew anything about the sufferer, they would know what the sufferer wants or needs. [guilty of not looking too hard]
  • If comforters really knew the sufferer, they would know that he or she would never make the call. Never.
"The speaker is not giving any real thought to the comforter’s needs and circumstances, and the suffering person knows it.

"That’s the bad news. The good news, of course, is that the same people who have heard the “call me” comment have also been blessed by friends who do the opposite: these friends don’t wait to be called, they just figure out what needs to be done and they do it. [Wow! That is smart and kind!]

"First, they listen and understand the suffering person. They pick up on to-do lists that are growing and impossible. They identify tasks that are especially important. They don’t barge in and do trivial work or serve in ways that leave more disarray....  A good friend can identify what would be truly helpful.

"Next, they do it. They get the dog groomed, do the dishes, drop off a meal, cut the grass, baby sit the kids, bring a meal over and eat it together, clean the house, give a ride to small group, drop off a note of encouragement and then another and another, arrange for a hair cut, and so on.

"Any of these acts of love and service make life easier for the suffering person. That certainly helps. But a meal is never just a meal; maid-service is never merely maid-service. These say to the suffering person, “I remember you,” “I think about you often,” “you are not forgotten, you are on my heart,” “I love you.” That, as they say, is priceless.

"When in doubt, and you are concerned that you might unknowingly rearrange the library; you can get ideas from those who know the sufferer best. There is nothing wrong with the direct approach and ask the suffering person, “Would it help if I ______?” That’s great, but realize that he or she will demur.

"What commends the approach in which you ask friends and family is that you give even more thought to the suffering person’s interests and needs. It is the time you give to creative strategizing that is the power behind these acts. That is unmistakable love that mimics the strategic planning of the triune God’s rescue mission. He planned and acted even before we knew our real needs. [Wow.]

"We can say that there is indeed more misery around us than we know, but may those who experience misery be able to say that there is more comfort available than they imagined, and may they say that God often uses people as angels of comfort."

That is actually helpful.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Praying for Families and Churches of Cancer Fighters

More from my other cancer fighting friend.
Pray for her family. If there are kids particularly pray for them no matter the ages. My kids had to watch me become weaker and weaker. I could not do all the mom things I had always done so they picked them all up. Hard for me to watch, but I have never been prouder of them.
It was also scary for them to watch me sick and bald, yet at the same time we grew closer than ever. Protection for the kids from having to watch the worst moments.

Pray the church family and friends will help without having to ask. When people ask it is hard to come up with ways to help...and awkward to ask. I had people call and tell Bill [ed. her husband, the best man in our wedding] when they were coming to clean the house. It is very humbling when someone comes and cleans your toilets.
People would take the kids to their events for us and have them over to spend the night so they could forget the cancer for a bit. They brought food. They sent cards which were a great encouragement to me. I still have them all. Some shopped for us and just showed up with stuff. I was amazed and completely humbled by it all.
Most of all pray for her to find the place where you totally commune with God even when they are stealing your life with chemicals. It is a place that God holds your hand and gives you peace in the midst of the trial. It is a place where your spirit thrives and grows closer to God. It is a place like no other. It takes you deep.

Pray she will draw close to him and allow him to hold her up during the weak moments. I would never wish a cancer journey on anyone, but if you are in one it can be a time of tremendous spiritual growth which will deepen your relationships with family, friends and Christ.

Also I have a blog that I wrote throughout my journey. It is quiet raw with emotion but it might help her to read it. She will have to go back in the archives to the beginning...I started it right after my surgery.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

More Cancer Fighter Prayer Requests

Another cancer fighter friend of mine sent my wife some wise prayer requests. Thought they might help you all know better how to pray for Karen D and anyone else who is fighting.
The needle thing is a very real request for someone who hates needles. There are a ton of needles involved. Not just the chemo, but also blood work seems like every day as they watch your 'numbers', then shots to regulate yous and if you have to have a transfusion even more.

Courage is a great prayer as well, because it is like being dropped in a foreign country and not speaking the language. You learn by immersion. Everyone seems to know what is going on but you and you are constantly behind the curve. They explain it but your brain doesn't comprehend what they are talking about you and your body. It is like culture shock. Eventually you learn what all the numbers have to be but even then it is hard, because you also know what low numbers mean and it can get scary to watch them drop.

Pray for the caretakers. If I had not had my husband Bill to hold me up in my frightened moments I don't think I would have survived. He learned things faster because he wasn't in the brain fog. He cleaned up after me and held my hand every time they had to find a vein. If she doesn't have someone to do these things for her, find her someone...or multiple someones. The caretaker is pray for his/her strength and wisdom since many decisions rest with them.

Pray for finances. Cancer is expensive. My treatments were $6,000 per chemical and I got three bags each time. The shots were $2,000 each to keep my blood holding strong, each time I had 2 between treatments. I had scans and still have scans regularly. I now have a host of doctors that I have to visit regularly. Just because I am cancer free doesn't mean it no longer is an expensive thing.

Pray for her brain. Chemo kills all fast growing cells...hence the hair loss. But also brain cells. I still have chemo brain. I cannot remember things. I have a hard time finding the right words. I continually mess up schedules by showing up at the wrong doctors office or the wrong soccer game. It is frustrating, and annoying.

It gets better over time but it has been three years since my last your friend will need understanding from friends and family members if it happens to her.

more later...

Friday, March 12, 2010

Annoying in Our Courage Together

Brothers Encourage one another through arguing, annoying and fighting.... What?

Yes, here's why I say so. Any of you have siblings?
'holy brothers... fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest'
'See to it, brothers... encourage one another daily.'
My siblings and I annoy, argue and fight with each other but we are fiercely loyal and real with each other.

Real. When I lived at home I tried to fake out my mom and dad (didn't work much), but I knew it was harder to pull anything over on brothers and sister. I can't point to a verse to prove this, but I see hints of it with Jesus' disciples.

As we live together as family, increasingly our Older Brother Jesus and our churchly brothers and sisters will and should call us to be honest and real.

Yep, in the process of being church family, we'll fight, argue and annoy. But in the end, by the grace of God, we'll be loyal and real.

That's why we fix our thoughts on Jesus our Brother and courage each other each day. It matters that we are real. Brothers and sisters make you real.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Curious about a Valuable Life

What else does en-couragement look like? Sharing In and About a Heavenly Calling

Sharing Important Details. Foundationally, we are 'holy brothers who share in the heavenly calling.' That is not sharing in theory. It's not future sharing. It's now sharing.

Your brother/sister in Christ has a heavenly calling. A God-given, detailed life so valuable Christ Jesus redeemed them. Wow. That is worth more than gold.
True or False: I like it when someone shows a genuine curiosity about the important details of my life. True? True!

Sharing life starts with simple curiosity in someone who's eternally valuable.

And being known well protects best from the danger of hard-heartedness (v.13b). It is an honor and a joy to KNOW and to be KNOWN!

So, who are you curious about now? 

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Celebrating Our Small (or Large) Successes

What else does en-couragement look like? Yesterday we mentioned affirmations. Noticing something good someone did - and telling them. Out loud or in writing. Here's another part:
Celebrating Our Small (or Large) Successes. 'See to it (you all) that none of you (individuals) has a heart that turns away from the living God' Hebrews 3:12. Celebrating the little (and big) things together keeps us focused on God's great kindness.

Now, there are a million ways to celebrate - but the ones that mean the most are when someone who KNOWS you celebrates WITH YOU. They give you courage to keep on going.

We face real dangers, battles with unbelieving hearts, an adversary who seeks to discourage. So...

KNOW each other. Then give away some high fives or a YES! or a hug or a fist bump. Each is part of a celebration. If you can't be there, a call, a text or email works too. Be creative!

Tune your ears to what small hurdles we face and ask, 'How did it go?' Then do a victory jig, play a banjo, dance or if you are as cool as William Rodriguez, you can say 'That's cool.' And it feels like you scored a goal. BOOM!

We are in this TOGETHER. Find a YES! to celebrate with someone today.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Hold Fast to Our Courage Together

We are on a multi-week-long course to encourage one another each day in the battle against unbelief (Hebrews 3). 

So what does en-couragement look like? It's 'holding on' to OUR courage in the battle (Heb. 3:6). Christ our Mediator has accomplished the most awesome vicotry ever imaginable (v.1-6). This grants us courage we didn't earn, but we have to keep the courage TOGETHER. How do we do courage together?

Passing around Personal Affirmations. Noticing something good someone did - and telling them. Ideally face to face, but a note, text, email is good. Especially if it is personal and specific. Little affirmations go a long way.

I think encouragement is the missing fuel for the emotional tank in Crosspoint. Wow. I'm guilty keeping my thoughts to myself. I just assume so much! Like I assume that Danialle knows I appreciate her jumping in to run Kidspoint for Karen. I should have told her that already. (I'm picking up the phone in a minute...)

Let's pass along an affirmation to each other. Why? Because that is how your brothers and sisters in Christ experience an 'intense sensory perception' ('fix our thoughts' Heb 3:1) of Jesus - through His church, His household. We can't get affirmed from ourselves. And there isn't much affirmation in everyday life. So we have to count on the church to en-courage.

Who's emotional tank are you going to pour into each today? this week?

Be encouraged! (Wait, that involves someone en-couraging you. See! We need each other?!)

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Praying Tips from a Cancer Fighter

Karen D, the wife of one of our elders had surgery and starts chemo tomorrow. Being a young church, this is new for a lot of us at Crosspoint.

Here's What She Asked Us
Since we may not know what to pray, here's what she asked us to pray. (And for other cancer fighters you may know too.)
  1. Pray for peace and courage during the actual treatments. She gets nervous around needles. Her blood pressure can get high. Pray for peace.
  2. Pray she will not have any allergic reactions to the chemo.
  3. Pray that she will not get any infections. Her immune system will be really weakened. We don't think about how hard it would be to fight off a cold or flu. She will have to monitor her temperature all the time.
  4. Pray that the chemo kills the bad cells and leaves the healthy ones. I thought this one the most interesting way to pray for a cancer fighter.

So pray that God guards His her heart and mind while healing her body. "Do not be anxious about anything but by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." (Phil. 4:6-7)  

And Pray that God Annihilates the (Cellular) Enemy
Another family in Crosspoint that faced cancer years ago prayed that the Holy Spirit would directly guide the chemo to the cells where it would be kill the cancer. And they prayed that the Spirit would protect the healthy cells.

Makes sense to pray on a cellular level, right? God sovereignly controls every atom.

Karen too has been praying against her enemies, the cancer cells, like Asaph prayed against national enemies in Psalm 83. 'With cunning they conspire against your people; they plot against those you cheirsh.... Make them like tumbleweed, O my God, like chaff before the wind. As fire consumes the forest... so pursue them with your tempest.'

Karen is one whom the LORD cherishes because of Christ Jesus. She's not claiming to deserve to be healed or to be fighting a national enemy, but she's asking the LORD to pursue her cancer enemy and destroy it. He is LORD over all things.

Practical Help and Support

This is going to be painful and potentially lonely season for Karen. Chemo causes muscle aches, cramps and sometimes mouth sores. She's going to lose her hair quickly ("Just when I got a hair-style I liked!") which will be kind of freaky. She won't be at church as much. And David has tax season and works long hours.

So call, email and visit too. She may not feel like talking long, but it will help her fight loneliness. Visit if you are healthy. Plan to stay for just a little while. Check about bringing food too.

How do you know if you should try to visit? If the thought, 'I wonder if I should go see Karen?' goes through your mind, take that as a prompt from the Holy Spirit. Pick up the phone and see if you can come by for a minute. If there's no answer, leave a message. Pray for her out loud on the message.

Keep Her In the (Prayer) Loop
The loneliness can be compounded by the idea that she's not 'doing anything' so she asked us to send her prayer requests. She said, 'I'm going to have lots of time to pray, so let me know what you need prayer for.'

Fighting the emotional battle means keeping a focus on glorifying God in the midst of trials. Praying for others is her plan to stay worshipful and missional. Even if she feels really bad.

So Crosspoint and Church, let's have faith together that God can do big things in Karen and other cancer fighters. And in us. And in the people we meet because of this fight. Let's pray big that God will become more famous for His awesome healing power and His great love for sinners.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Five Things that Will Make You Happier

Scientists prove (part) of what Scripture teaches. This article lists 5 things that are proven to make you happier.
A psychologist from the University of California at Riverside speaking at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science said she and colleagues reviewed 51 studies that tested attempts to increase happiness. The results were published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology. Here they are with some more biblical terminology.
  1. Be Grateful (Okay, that one's biblical)
  2. Be Optimistic (Be Hopeful)
  3. Count Your Blessings (Rejoice)
  4. Use your strengths (Use your God-given gifts)
  5. Commit acts of kindness (Give generously)
 Granted the gospel of Jesus Christ will bring these effects (plus guaranteed suffering and trials) but it's cool to me that general revelation confirms what special revelation stated millenia ago. I'm going to count my blessings! Ching!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Jazz in My Soul

I thought I wanted my soul to be a rock song. Four-four quick tempo, four chords, a good hook in the chorus cranked up through some ear-bleeding amps. Chorus, verse chorus repeat solo chorus chorus. Big finish, accept applause and then start tearing down.

Now I want my whole life to be jazz. Still steady time, but slower tempo. The chords and solos require more nuance and subtlety. For a season I hated the transitions, but now revel in the change of structure and instrumentation. It gets deep into me. Real analog instruments, less amplification, various forms and far more tasty. Less about how I finish or the applause and more about the Song.