Thursday, September 29, 2005

putting the new humanity on display

I know that I should be starting my morning with some devotions in the Bible, but I feel like I already did with my Ipod. On my way to the coffee shop today I was listening to Rob Bell's latest message "Directions 2.0 Pt. III." You have to download this message right now. Stop reading and click here to download it for free.

With Ephesians 2:14-22 as a backdrop Bell talks about how it is the call of the Christian church to put a new humanity on display for the world. "The church is called to put on display how everyone was created to live. It is for everybody."

Halfway through the message a South African Pastor shares his testimony and talks about the adoption of a child who no one else wanted and who was sick and dying of AIDS. (this story makes the whole message - it deeply touched my heart and brought me to tears) At one point the man says, "She [his wife] said to me [because he was at first hestitant to bring the child into his home] 'We can only love God to the extent that we love those in our lives who we love the least.'"

'We can only love God to the extent that we love those in our lives who we love the least.'

Wow. Powerful. Convicting. Take a second and read that again, and again, and again until it hits you. That is the call of the church. Rob describes the new humanity like this, "Them has a face, and they have a name, and those become us."

Radical, revolutionary, subversive love...poured out equally and without judgment on everyone. The new humanity is a picture of equality and love set forth by the reconciling work of Jesus Christ on the cross.

It is the job of the church to bring the love of God to this world, with no concern for the cost. In the eyes of God all people are equally valuable and loved. There is no wall of division, no picking and choosing, no 'in' and 'out.'

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

thanks anyway Tony

Tony Morgan is a cool guy, and not just because he named Qurry 'Cool Church of the Week.' He was trying to help me make it to the Innovative Church Conference. Unfortunately, Stephanie cares enough about me to not let me drive to Indiana tonight at 8:30 pm and she also thinks sleeping in my truck is not that good of an idea.

I think it sounds like an adventure of epic-Donald Miller proportions (read Through Painted Deserts) but its all good. I am totally pumped to see Erwin and Andy at the A2 conference in a couple weeks anyway. God is bringing together and awesome team of people to go. I can't wait to be motivated and inspired, and to spend time with our team dreaming about what God is doing at this little kingdom beach head we call Quarry Church.

Monday, September 26, 2005

emptying out my head

Its a wonderful thing to have an outlet for the mind. Many times people will keep a diary or a journal as a place to air out their brains. Blogs are increasingly becoming the place where thoughts and feelings are poured out and processed (though the blogosphere is an incredibly delicate place to do this because of the public nature of blogs). Other times we empty out our brains in conversations with people, sitting in a cafe or Caribou drinking latte's and trying to put the pieces together to make sense of it all.

I went with Stephanie and another couple to see the movie Just Like Heaven last night. It was a cute movie (yes I did say cute, and yes I would wear pink, and yes I like hand lotion - so what!). At one point in the film one character is having coffee with a psychologist friend of his who makes the statement, "See that...that is the world man. You need to join it. Stop swimming around by yourself in there[his head] all the time. That is a dangerous thing to do."

Sometimes we need to be quiet and alone so that we can process thoughts and feelings. But other times we need to get them out. Write them down, pray about them, share them with a friend. If we don't, if we choose instead to just withhold and stuff, eventually the weight will become so much that it will crush our spirits. This is something that I am learning. It is much easier to stuff than to share. But in the long wrong we will pay a price much higher than if we would have just laid it out there in the beginning.

Quarry Church - cool church of the week

I was pretty excited on Sunday morning to check out my Bloglines subscriptions and see that Tony Morgan had named Quarry Community Church "Cool Church of the Week". Tony is a pastor at Granger Community Church and he has a great blog.

Thanks for taking the time to check us out and mention us Tony. I love reading your stuff, its humorous, insightful, and encouraging. I'm glad that South Bend and the surrounding area has people like you who love God and are working to reach out in relevant, innovative, creative and excellent ways.

In case you read there anyway you can hook me up with a Innovative Church Conference pass? I'd love to be there, but its just not in the budget. Keep it up man and thanks again for the mention.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

faith worth the wager

We finished up our series Faith Worth the Wager today.

I gave a message called living an "All in Life." The main point of the message was that if we want to life 'all in' for God then we have to intentionally point our feet in his direction and start walking. The text that I focused on was Philippians 3:12-14:

12I'm not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. 13Friends, don't get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I've got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward--to Jesus. 14I'm off and running, and I'm not turning back.

During offering we played 'Dead Man's Rope' by Sting and we concluded the service with 'This Is Your Life' by Switchfoot. It was a great Sunday.

I think all the services in the series went well for us. Our music and drama people did a good job and each message was compelling and relevant to the stuff people are dealing with in their lives. Way to go Quarry team.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

the apprentice is back

I don't watch a lot of TV but one show that I really like is The Apprentice. The new season started tonight and the show is already intense. I don't know if it is because of my competitiveness or my business background or what, but something about the show really gets me.

Which makes me think: What kind of a leader am I? Do people want to be around me and follow me? What kind of attitude and aura do I put out there? How do I balance love and kindness, with demanding the best from people and calling them to something greater (esp. because in church work you deal with volunteers who can pretty much bail at anytime)?

Who would have thought I could get such a good leadership development moment from a reality show?

PS- The PM from the winning team is gone for sure. He doesn't have the ability to speak in tight, coherent sentences and I doubt Trump has time for that. I knew that Melissa had to go right away. She was negative and demeaning and would have been horrible to be around.

donald miller makes me think

I love reading Donald Miller's books. I have read Blue Like Jazz and Searching for God Knows What. His style and sense of humor makes his books easy and fun to read. The way he sees God and describes faith is complelling and free from religious language. Donald Miller makes me want to know God more completely, free from academia and systematization. I am currently reading his re-released book Through Painted Deserts.

Here are a couple quotes that I have enjoyed:
- Its interesting how you sometimes have to leave home before you can ask difficult questions...its funny how you can't ask difficult questions in a familiar place (pg. 24)

- Trouble leads to question and question leads to prayer. Its funny how I usually don't care about faith until life falls apart, until I find myself in the middle of some jam. (pg. 70)

- And maybe this is why he [Paul] seems so different to me, because he has become a human who no longer believes the commercials are true, which, perhaps, is what a human was designed to be. (pg. 76)

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

try a new worship venue

I was checking out the show notes from Terry Storch's Blogging Church podcast interview with Scott Hodge on Monday and found something pretty cool on Jordan Cooper's blog.

It looks like Saddleback Church is pioneering some pretty cool stuff to keep people connecting and interested in checking out the church. I guess this pretty much solves the question: what type of music should we do? Check it out, here.

weird wednesday rant

I feel off today. Sort of unsettled. Like I had bad food last night, but I know I didn't. I had mini corn dogs and I love those. I don't even know why I'm posting this I guess. Its not too much coffee either; I probably need more of that. I sort of just feel out there, like things were one way yesterday and today they're different. And I don't really know why. I don't like this. I like having it all worked out, together, polished and packaged. Having things feel all tossed around doesn't work for me. But I have to deal with it now. Thanks for listening...I mean, reading.

PS- This is not a plea for counsel or for people to start asking me how I'm doing. I just needed to spit some things up. I will be fine.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

i like my life

Tonight I had a big meeting with some of the small group leaders at our church. The reason for the meeting was to cast vision about what our small group ministry could look like in the future. We are dreaming of going to a more organic, neighborhood based model and using less curriculum as a driver and more as a supplement. The gathering went well.

Then, after I went to pick up my kids (Stephanie had a Tupperware party), and as I was driving home, with two car seats across the bench seat in my S10 pick-up, Free Bird came on the radio and I was just listening thinking, "Man I love my life. My kids are funny and sweet, my wife is caring and beautiful, my church is filled with people who love God, my closest friends are better than I could dream. God is good."

where are you drifting to

This morning on my way to work (read Caribou) I was listening to a message by Mark Beeson, the lead pastor at Granger Community Church. In his message he was making the point that people rarely just drift towards anything great. You don't just drift into a promotion at work, or making the Varsity hockey team. You have to work at it. And the same is true in our walk with God. We do not drift into intimacy with our heavenly Father. Walking with God and becoming close to him is something that we have to be intentional about. It takes time and energy and sacrifice, but when it is experienced it is worth every price paid to get there.

What are you doing to move towards God and Christlikeness? Or are you just drifting away?

Monday, September 19, 2005

more starbucks to think about

Man...drinking coffee at Starbucks really does stimulate the brain (and it's not only because of the coffee).

I was checking things out this morning on Ben Arment's blog History in the Making and I found something thought provoking over on Steve McCoy's blog Reformissionary.

In his post Starbucks: The Way I See It McCoy discusses a quote that Starbucks has printed on the site of their cups that some people are upset about because they feel Starbucks is pushing a homosexual agenda. His counter to the oft-Christian complaint about such a thing is this:

Don't we look fearful? We look like we are afraid of the open discussion of ideas. These quotes are meant to be conversational, and coffee shops are perfect places to list racy quotes worthy of discussion. We [Christians] believe that in the world of ideas the redemption Story stands supreme as the best and most beautiful explanation of reality and truth. We shouldn't fear other ideas out there.

Something to ponder on Monday I guess (what else are you going to do - no one wnats to be working today anyway).

Saturday, September 17, 2005

crash - into me

Tonight Stephanie and some friends and I all watched the movie Crash. Usually when we start movies as late as we did this one at least one or two of us falls asleep. But not tonight.

Crash was an intense movie that wove a story about racial prejudice and profiling around different peoples lives in Los Angeles. I think the story was told well and it really forces you to stop and think about race and prejudice. There were sad parts, inspiring parts, and confusing parts.

Racism still exists today and the church should be on the front lines putting a stop to it and honoring all people as God's created children. What is my role? What is yours?

Thursday, September 15, 2005

good is the enemy of great

"Good is the enemy of great." That is the first line of Jim Collins book Good to Great. I have been thinking a lot about this concept the last couple days and so I thought I would post on it.

Good really is the enemy of great, especially in the church.

What this means is that when the church does things good (e.g. good music, good preaching, good children's ministry) most of the time people just leave it at that. Apparently expectations aren't all that high, so when we reach the point of doing something good we just sit on it and pat ourselves on the back for being good. This is why good is the enemy of great.

When we are content with just being good we will never achieve being great. Don't misread me or put words in my mouth. Being good is important and it should be acknowledged and celebrated, but never as an end - being good is merely a necessary stepping stone to being great.

"But church isn't about performance and being great," people will say. I think this is such an insider mentality. People who are far from God are not going to wonder through the doors of a church that is just 'good' (and I hate to even think about churches that are content with something less than good). If we say we have a message that can change people's lives, and if we believe that the local church really is the hope of the world, then we must fight with all our strength the temptation of contentment with just being good.

We must strive to be great. Because this whole deal is not about us, it is about glorifying God and bringing others to him, and the stakes are too high to settle for anything else.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

will Randy Frazee respond?

One of the best books I have read recently is The Connecting Church by Randy Frazee. Randy was the pastor at Pantego Bible Church before recently taking a position at Willow Creek. This book has changed the entire way I look at small groups and living in community with other Christians.

In about a month some leaders from the Quarry will be traveling down to Willow for their Acts 2 conference. I emailed Randy today hoping to get some time to have coffee with him. We'll see I guess. Maybe he'll even start reading my blog! How cool would that be.

spirit of service

Am I a lump of clay willing to be shaped and used by God for his purposes, or am I a self-seeking hot air balloon that wants to be seen and recognized by the world around me?

Monday, September 12, 2005

we are selling the experience

I have no idea what these quotes mean for church in America, but I feel like it must mean something. There is an experience that people are longing for in their life and that is revealing itself in the rage of custom built neighborhoods. Just reading some of this article makes me want to me into one.

"We want a place where people can walk from their homes in Meriam Park ... and just enjoy the experience," said Karl Ehrlich, a retail consultant with Madison HGCD. "Just to sit down at a cafe and have a cup of coffee and just be."

Restaurants in the area wouldn't be the kind with drive-through windows, however.
"We're not talking about fast food here. We're talking about slow food sit down and enjoy the environment," Ehrlich said. "The experience is what we're selling."

To read the whole article click, here

Saturday, September 10, 2005

only God! - Quarry Family Fest

I am tired. Actually exhausted. It is only 5 pm on Saturday and all I want to do is sit on the couch.

Today was the "Quarry Family Fest." Yesterday my wife and kids and I walked around our neighborhood for 2 hours handing out a hundred door hangers, (6 other Quarry families did the same thing in their neighborhoods) and today I spent 2 hours in a dunk tank, along with many more hours coordinating all the festivities of our park party. But being tired is all worth it when the revolution happens!

Our Family Fest went almost as well as we could have hoped. The weather rocked. Praise God. The Youth Ministry team sold food and told me at the end of the day that they had sold over 400 hotdogs! That is awesome. Also, I know that I saw many more faces I didn't recognize, then those that I did. We had a great response from people who were interested in our church and expressed the desire to come and check us out on Sunday (it doesn't hurt that we're giving an Ipod away...).

Doing ministry is so fun, especially when you experience a win like we did today. So many people played big roles in pulling today off and I want to thank you all by saying "Way to Go!" Special thank yous and props to Brandt, Steph, John, Mesha, Michael, Jesse, Andrea, Dave, Chris, Jason, Peter, Kenny, Sara, Mandy, Kim, Uncle Pete (the petting zoo guy) and Montreal (the band guys). I love serving the Kingdom of God and I love doing it with like minded brothers and sisters.

We'll see what happens tomorrow as we launch 'Fath Worth the Wager.' How fun is it to be used by God? And how lucky are we to be used by him? I walked away from the park thinking about something Bill Hybels recently wrote in an email - 'only God.' Amen.

By the way, congrats to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. 2-0. Nice start! (I am getting sucked in as a fan - why???)

Thursday, September 08, 2005

boring churches should only be found in Oregon

I saw this over on Tony Morgan's blog and I had to copy it here. The list is somewhat sarcastic (ok, it is saturated with sarcasm) but I think he hits the nail on the head in many places. Check it out.

One of the most frequent reasons cited for someone not attending church is because the services are boring. I think the only place there should be boring churches is in Boring, Oregon where I've identified, with the help of Google, that there are actually 25 Boring churches.

If I was intentionally setting out to create another boring church, though, this is how I might do it. Here are the:

10 Easy Ways to Make Your Church Services More Boring

1. Don’t worry about when you finish. I’m sure no one has plans after the service.
2. Straight Scriptures. No stories. Jesus didn’t teach that way, but you’re a better communicator than Jesus, right?
3. Television. Movies. It’s just a phase. People don’t really need visual stimulation. They prefer talking heads.
4. Use the same service order…every week…no exceptions…ever.
5. Make more announcements.
6. Encourage your elementary school kids to sit through your services. They love lively 45-minute sermons. It’s good for them. It builds character.
7. Talk more about the past and the less about the future.
8. Play the same Chris Tomlin song every week. And, try the chorus one more time.
9. Use lots of big words that no one uses in normal, everyday life.
10. Forget relevant topics and life application. People are really only interested in hearing what you think, not why it matters to them.

Ok, you probably get the point. The question is this: What are you doing to make your services memorable and impactful? Or, do you believe unchurched people, people who aren't in a relationship with Jesus, should just be expected to show up and put up with something they perceive as boring?

Thoughts, reactions, agree, disagree?

poker chips at church?

Once again I have to say that Quarry Church is one of the coolest churches I know of. For our upcoming fall kickoff we are doing a series called Faith Worth the Wager. The goal is to capitalize on the Texas Hold 'Em craze and make our services an easy invite for the people in our community. We are doing messages titled:

1. Playing the Hand You're Dealt
2. Is God Bluffing?
3. Living an 'All In' Life

As part of the series promotion we are handing out poker chips in the community with our church logo, name and web address on them, as well as the series title. Check them out (sorry the image is kind of blurry):

It is great to be part of a church that is not afraid to take some risks for the sake of reaching lost people and being a part of bringing God's kingdom to Monticello. Way to go Quarry.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

introducing: the iPod nano

Check this baby out! I'm pretty sure it just hit Apple today.

I think I am posting before Terry Storch on this one and I'm feeling pretty good about it. I have to give props to Scott Hodge for hooking me up with the link. I am pretty excited about it, but I doubt my wife will be that supportive of me buying it, especially considering she just bought me a 4 GB mini.

But a guy can always look and dream right?

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

"family fest" party in the park

On Saturday September 10 Quarry Church will be hosting a big gathering at West Bridge Park in Monticello from 11 am - 3 pm. This will be a great event for reaching out to your neighbors and bringing them to something fun and meaningful for the whole family.

The agenda includes: bingo, a petting zoo, a dunk tank, a live band, games with eggs and water balloons, basketball, face painting and more.

I am really looking forward to this event. The weather is supposed to be great and it will be fun to meet new families and people from this community. Please make sure that you are there and that you bring a neighbor. You can bribe them by telling them that they could win a free ipod mini (they actually can - we're giving one away at church the next day!).

Make sure to go the Quarry website and vote for Pastor Michael to go in the dunk tank!

what do great church leaders think about

Sarge has a great blog series going right now. He is interviewing some pastors from many of the largest churches around the country. Go over there today and read some of the stuff he is putting up.

Way to go Sarge. Thanks.

missed church, download it!

Here was a great article in the NY Times recently called Missed Church? No Worries. Download It to Your IPod. which highlighted the impact that podcasting is having on the church. It is something that I really want to get going at the Quarry. It is such an easy way to get the message out to people on a regular basis. There is great line in the article that calls podcasts and blogs, supplements not substitutes for going to church. Isn't that what most people need between service? A little supplement to get them through the week? That is what churches can offer through podcasting and blogging. To read the article click, here