Archive for the ‘ministry’ Category

How’s Your Customer Service?

In this day and age of socially networked consumers we need to ensure that we are creating great experiences for people.  Whether you are a business owner, manager or employee you have much to lose in this new world order.  Companies now crumble due to negative experiences that are shared with the world via Twitter, blogs and YouTube.  I realize that in my realm of responsibility in the church world is not a corporate environment but that does not mean that a negative experience at my church will not be shared for all the world to learn of.

Case in point, Dave Carroll, part of the band Sons of Maxwell, was traveling on United Airlines for a week-long tour in Nebraska when his Taylor guitar was damaged by the baggage handlers.  He brought his issue to the customer service department and was brushed off with indifference to his plight.  The saga of the broken guitar continued for many months and in an act of final desperation made a vow to the final person he spoke with that he would write and produce three songs about his experience with United Airlines and make videos for each to be viewed online by anyone in the world.  Here’s video number one:

Let’s be sure to create great experiences for people in each of our churches.  I would hate to think that there are any videos out there sharing a negative encounter that someone had with me…

New Creations

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If there is one thing that brings me more joy than most events it is when we baptize people at GCC.  This past Sunday we got outside and into the river.  The storm clouds held off long enough for us to get into the river and do some dunking.  It was a very special time for me as we baptized two teens, one that has been coming to Impact for years and another who has only been attending for about a month now.  I was brought to tears several times as people shared their testimonies of what God has brought them through so far in their lives.

An exclamation point was put on the day when a young man, Jason, who attended GCC for the first time that day and had given his life to the Lord that morning asked if he could also be baptized.  Jason didn’t come prepared to be baptized, or to even get wet for that matter.  He was dressed in jeans and a polo shirt – but that didn’t stop him.  Jeans and all Jason went into the river with us and came out a new creation!

Thank you Jesus for grace that is available to all.

Naked and no shame

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This morning Dan Fontaine, missionary to Quebec, spoke on the importance of being open about our lives.  He referenced one of my favorite portions of Scripture in the book of Genesis.  Honestly, I think I could preach from the creation account for months and not feel like I was repeating myself – such incredible stuff right there!  Dan asked a question after reading from chapter three

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden.  But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?”  He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”   verses 8-11

The question was this, “Who told you that you were naked?”  It’s the same question that God asked Adam and Eve.  They were never told that they were naked.  They discovered that they were naked when they acted in disobedience to what God had asked of them.  Rather than walking around in their nakedness they made clothing of fig leaves to hide their stuff.  And nothing has changed in the years that have passed since this time.

We have been hurt and we hide in order to keep from being hurt again.  We have failed to we hide in order to avoid being asked to try again.  We have words spoken over us that are negative so we put on the clothing of over-doing it to compensate for that negativity – because we HAVE to prove those words wrong.  

It is our failure to stand in our nakedness and say, “here I am, this is the real me.”  that keeps us from being real with people.  Because of the barriers that we build up around us for protection we push people away and we lose the community that we were meant to be a part of.  We were created for community.  Relationship with God and others.  That is why we exist.  When we fail to connect with others we lose the ability to be whole and healthy.  Isolation keeps us from living lives of purpose and stops us from being free.

I believe in small groups.  As a member of a small group at my church for the past twelve years I will say that I could not do life without having people actively involved in my life.  I need people who will speak words of encouragement, correction, life and hope into me.  I need to do the same for others.  

If you attend Grace Capital Church and have not gotten connected into a small group let me challenge you right now, get started.  Drop the excuses and get involved.  There are people who need you just as much as you need them.  For those of you who have been involved in a small group and have taken a break for a while, let me encourage you to get back in the game.  Maybe you don’t feel like you get anything out of the group.  Can I ask you to change your thinking?  Try another small group, but this time go with the mindset that you are bringing something to share with someone else.  I would go one further and challenge you to pray this prayer, “Lord, use me to help someone else.”

We need to be open about our lives.  Getting involved with a small group is a great way to do this.  

I pray that you will allow yourself to be naked and have no shame.

Lessons From The Run

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I’ll be posting a complete series this week called Lessons From The Run.  These will be observations that I have made while reflecting on Saturday’s half-marathon that I ran.  This series will begin Tuesday and go through Friday.  

Check back often and feel free to comment.

You Belong

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I’ve spent a few years on a treadmill reading these words on the wall in front of me at Planet Fitness.  I think about their philosophy and how it can translate to the church.  

A place where anyone can be comfortable.  A diverse community of people who are engaged together for a common goal.  A place where a lifestyle can be developed and matured.  

I’m not so sure that I would say it’s all about you.  Ultimately it’s all about God.  It’s often when we take on that attitude that things get all messed up.  But I love the line that says, “we are not here to kiss your butt, only to kick it if that’ what you need.”  We need to be available to speak into peoples lives.  We need to speak the truth in love and help people in their times of need.  Sometimes that involves a little butt-kickin’…

Overall I believe the church is the place where all people belong.  We need to create an environment where people of all walks can come together to find the true hope that comes through a relationship with Jesus.

Do you feel like you belong?  Why or why not?

Leaving For Jamaica

After man long months of training, preparation and fund raising we are ready to go.  Tomorrow we will board a plane and head to Jamaica to minister to many children and families.  Please pray for our team as we go to minister to people in schools, villages and churches.

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The blog will be quiet this week unless I can find some wifi near our base camp.  If I do find a hotspot I’ll provide updates here and through twitter.

Love Is A Verb

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I spent my morning at the NH State Capital building.  I was joined by a few hundred people from both sides of the debate regarding same sex marriage.  As I stood outside this morning and listened to both sides of the argument I was struck by the question of love.  Do I show love in all that I do?  This can be a loaded question to some but for me as I stood in the midst of many people who were searching for love and finding only dirty looks and expressions of hatred I was troubled with how I respond to people.

The answer to the same sex marriage seems very simple.  I know what the Bible says regarding homosexuality and what it also says in regards to marriage.  As one who has been married to one woman for over 14 years I would say that I hold the institution of marriage in high esteem.  The issue that troubles me is in how I communicate my position to those who may desire to be joined in a same sex marriage.  It is a difficult conversation to have and one that I am wrestling with.

There were many signs that were held by both sides this morning.  “Love for all”  “1 Man + 1 Woman = Marriage”  “End the Democratic homosexual agenda”  Equality is Marriage”  Each signs carried a message.  There came a point when I wondered if I should be there.  There was a time when I wanted to go to those who identified themselves with the homosexual crowd and apologize for the words that were being spoken about their desire for equality in the realm of marriage.  Not so much because I had changed my mind, but because I could sense the hurt that they were experiencing.

It’s one thing to say that we love all people and to acknowledge that God loves everyone (we all know that John 3:16 refers to ALL people) but it is another to live that out.  I do not believe that any one of the many homosexuals who were at the NH State House this morning felt truly loved by the Christian community that was there.  We can say that we love them but our words feel empty.  We can express that God loves them but how are those words received?

I have neighbors who are homosexuals.  I consider them friends of my family.  I noticed one of them at the State House during the hearing.  I wondered what he may have thought about me being there.  I wondered how he may have felt as though I was against him.  My true desire is to express the love of God to all people but at the same time I want to do it in a way that is Biblical.  I struggle with what is the right way.  I am sure that I will make many mistakes in the coming months and years.  This issue is not going to just be swept under a rug.  It is not going away.  I must be able to reconcile my Biblical values and beliefs and at the same time be able to reach out to my neighbors.  I do not want to make them feel alienated in any way by what I do or say.  I want to be able to communicate to each of them just how much God loves them and how Jesus’ greatest sacrifice was for them as well.

Love needs to be an action.  Love needs to be a verb.  It is easy to view this issue in black and white but that viewpoint can also lead to much pain and heartache.  I don’t believe that is what God wants for any of His children.  I know it sounds cliche to ask the question “What Would Jesus Do?”  but that is what I am left with.  This morning, where would Jesus have been in the crowds?  Would He have been leading the rally for marriage as 1 man and 1 woman or would He have been comforting those who felt sidelined and ostracized for their sexual expression?

What do you think?  Where would Jesus have been?

It’s The Fight

I know most people who read this blog have probably seen this video before.  There was a time months ago when I received links via email from just about everyone I knew who were telling me I HAD to see this video.  I have seen it.  I’ve watched this many times before.  It’s powerful.  The struggle that the girl goes through at the end to get free from all that she has allowed into her life gets me every time I watch it.

About a week ago I was added on to our Youth Mission Team.  We will be heading to Jamaica from April 18 – 25 to minister to children and families outside of Kingston, Jamaica.  I say I was added to the team because we had a leader who needed to step back due to some serious back pain which led to surgery yesterday.  Tonight I attended my first meeting as an official team member.  They have been working very hard over the past few months on an amazing dance as well as the above drama.  It broke me each time I watched them rehearse the end of this skit.  Each time I watched the girl struggle to get free I was reminded of so many people who are battling addictions.  I am moved with compassion for people who are trying so hard to find freedom from these addictions.

This video reminds me over and over again that it is the fight that matters and WHO fights for us.  We can try and find freedom on our own.  We can try to break through the shackles of addiction but the chains don’t seem to snap.  Only Jesus is able to help us find true victory over the darkness that has a hold on us.  I know that some of you still can’t seem to find a way out of the struggle that you are facing.  I challenge you to give up and allow Jesus to fight on your behalf.  He will help you find true, lasting freedom.  Don’t stop fighting, just get a better coach…

Swinging For The Fences

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A hard lesson that I learned many years ago was in regards to trying too hard.  This came about when I preached one of my first messages.  It was a horrible experience.  The message had 5 main points, 3 sub-points per point, and 5 examples per point.  I honestly don’t understand why people remained in their seats.  I was all over the place and quite sure that more people left with questions than answers that day.  After debriefing the experience with my Senior Pastor he gave me an analogy that helped me realize what I had done.

I was swinging for the fences.  I had the chance to deliver a great message to an eager audience and in my haste to cover all the bases, I struck out.  I was striving for a home run rather than playing it safe with a base hit.  Rather than realize that one single message would not become a life-changing experience for each listener I pulled out all the stops and ended up sitting on the bench.  I had it within me to serve up a great message that would have impacted someone’s life that morning and could have potentially helped others along on their journey to connect with a loving God.  Instead, I thought that I would be saving the world with my words.

Far too often we become far too full of ourselves and we forget that the life change that can happen when we speak comes not from us, but through the work of the Holy Spirit in us.  This was a valuable lesson for me to learn.  My prayer is that many others will learn through my experience rather than have to live through the same.  Babe Ruth may have set the record for the most home runs but he also led the league in the most strike outs.  (career home runs 714 – career strike outs 1330)  The message that we proclaim week after week is far too important to strike out on.  When proclaiming the Gospel we need to be clear, precise, and focused.  I now understand the idea of settling for a base hit when it comes to communicating truth to people.  

The same goes for anything that you do.  Yes, do all that you do with excellence, but understand that all that is needed to make the world go around is not dependent solely on you.  Trying too hard can be, not only your own undoing, but many others as well.  I would much rather prefer to have someone move from base to base as they journey towards home than to swing for the fences and strike out week after week.  An RBI still ends with a score.  

Too many strikes and they don’t let you swing any more…

Can you settle for base hits when you understand that they bring forward progress?

What Were You Thinking?

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We’ve all asked this question of someone.  Today I found myself asking my five year old daughter this very question as she proceeded to walk out of the house in her bathing suit.  Keep in mind, here in New Hampshire it was 26 degrees today!  Over the past ten plus years in youth ministry I have asked this particular question more than any other. 

When I walked into the bathroom to find two sixth graders, each with a can of air freshener in hand, spraying each other – “What were you guys thinking?”  When the young man who just got his license came tearing into the church parking lot at 40 miles per hour only to slide sideways into a parking spot – “What were you thinking?”  When the three teenage girls decided to draw in permanent marker on another girls face at a winter retreat – “Seriously, what were you girls thinking?”

Well, rest assured, the research is in and the answer is clear.  They were not thinking at all.  Scientists have been studying the human brain using MRI’s to follow the portions of the brain that are used in decision making in adolescents.  The frontal lobe of the brain, which is also known as the reason center of the brain, is still under development in teenagers and doesn’t fully develop until the mid-twenties.  This explains why teenagers typically will pursue high risk activities -they don’t make the connection between their choices and the potential consequences.  The point is that all youths lack the judgement that can come with age and experience.

That is why an adult presence in the life of every teenager is so vital to helping them develop the discipline needed to make wise choices.

What are you doing to help a teenager learn how to make wise choices?