Sunday, February 13, 2011

Game Day Thoughts

Sunday is Game Day.  Not because of the NFL or NBA or any other sports. But as a Pastor, it's the day the church convenes for worship.  It's the day our staff plans for all week.  It's the day our teams at Grace are on high alert and in full-service mode.  It's game day. Here are a few of my highlights from today:

    1. Baptizing my son Chase - What an honor it was to baptize my 9 year old. He started asking some deep faith questions over the summer - and decided it was time to take the plunge.  I wish you all could have been in my office before the services this morning as we prayed together.  I prayed that God would use this moment and this experience to breathe faith and love into Chase. That no matter what he will go through in his life - the highs and lows, the disappointments and victories - that he would be able to point back to this day as a marker and a reminder of God's love and faithfulness to him.  I'm excited to see what God has in store for his life - he's such a cool and unique kid. Here's the video.  
    2. Next Step Coaches at work - We had a really cool response after both services today.  Lots of people came forward to take a step in their relationship with God. I'm already getting some intense emails of God at work.  After 11:00 in particular it was so cool to see some of our leaders and Next Step Coaches kick into action having conversations with the folks who came forward to do business. These coaches are part of a new initiative at Grace designed to help personalize the discipleship process for people.  We recognized a while ago that the spiritual journey is an individual one and that God is a hand-crafter and not a mass producer.  We want to provide coaches or personal spiritual advisors at every step of the journey for people.  We need more coaches - if you're interested in serving in this role you can contact Doris for more info.  There is an informational/training meeting coming up this weekend.  This is one of the most important ministries in the church right now.  As we continue to grow as a church - this will help to personalize people's experience at Grace - and help them to progress in their faith journey in a way that makes sense for them.
    3. Multi-Site Team lunch meeting - following the service today we had a meeting with all the Grace Harborcreek team leaders and their ministry counterparts at Grace McKean.  I presented some information about the ways in which the two campuses will stay connected at the ministry level and how each ministry (kids, youth, small groups, communications, etc) possesses constants that will keep our ministries on track when we're in two locations and will assure that each campus will still feel like Grace even if there are some differences in how we do things.  It was awesome then to hear the chatter around tables as these leaders interacted and began the collaborative process of starting a new campus at the most basic level.  I'm so pumped for Easter when we launch Grace Harborcreek. The stage is being set for a solid new body of believers who are passionate about doing the work of Christ in this world. 
On to a new week - will be sermon prepping on Monday and Tuesday.  I'm preaching on the Parable of the Sower this weekend.  Sometimes the familiar passages are the hardest ones to preach.  This one has a very difficult section about Jesus teaching in parables in order to cause confusion and not understanding - it will be a challenge to bring meaning and understanding to that concept.  

If you were at Grace this weekend- what were some of your highlights?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Things you should never reveal on Facebook

Yes... Facebook is huge.  Most of you are reading this right now because you followed a link from Facebook.  I have found it to be an unbelievable way to connect with people and a great tool for ministry purposes.  I ran across an article by Kathy Kristof over at CBS's Moneywatch that includes some no-no's when it comes to posting things on Facebook.  I picked what I found to be the most interesting 3 things to never reveal: 
  1. Vacation plans. There may be no better way to say “Rob me, please” than posting where you're headed and how long you'll be gone. Post the photos when you return. 
  2. Confessionals. You may hate your job; lie on your taxes; or be a recreational user of illicit drugs, but this is no place to confess. Employers are now frequently checking social networking sites to determine who to hire — and, sometimes, who to fire. 
  3. Risky behaviors. You take your classic Camaro out for street racing, soar above the hills in a hang glider, or smoke like a chimney? Insurers are increasingly turning to the web to figure out whether their applicants and customers are putting their lives or property at risk, according to
There are some other obvious one's in the article.  But what are some of the more dangerous revelations that you've seen on Facebook?

Monday, February 07, 2011

Stages of following Jesus

Pastor Al's sermon yesterday reminded me of this truth.  In his ministry on earth Jesus called his disciples to three successive stages of followership.  The stages increased in intensity the more time they spent with him. I think the stages are still relevant today...
  1. Come and see ... who I am.
  2. Come and abide ... with me.
  3. Come and die ... to yourself. 
Churches need to understand that there are people in their church at all these different stages and create opportunities for people at each stage. 

Friday, February 04, 2011

Which looks goofiest?




Please vote 1, 2, or 3... I have a feeling it's going to be a landslide.

Grace Values 7, 8, 9

As we have embarked on launching Grace Harborcreek - one of the exercises that has been very valuable for our leaders is re-clarifying our values as a church. These are the things that define us, that carry our DNA, that ensure that whether you walk into Grace McKean, Grace Harborcreek, or any of our future campuses that you will recognize the church as distinctly Grace. In my State of the Church sermon I talked through these 9 values and will briefly outline them in this 3 part series of blog posts.  You can read part 1 here and part 2 here.

7.  We gather in groups because we're better together

  • Acts 2:42ff paints a picture of the early church meeting in the temple courts and also meeting from house to house – there were both large group gatherings and small group gatherings.
  • Just going to a worship service is not enough - it's too easy to be anonymous.  
  • True life change happens in smaller groups - whether they're groups of 25, 12, or 2.
  • At Grace we are investing tremendous time and energy to provide resources that go along with our weekend services so that groups can meet during the week to discuss what they are learning on the weekend.  Check out these resources at our sermon series archives (click on the 'details' button to see the resources). 

8. We will do anything short of sin to reach people with the gospel
  • Some say Grace is too outreach oriented – I’m not sure that’s possible when we think of the stakes.   
  • Of all the things that a church does, reaching people with the gospel is the one thing that we won’t be able to do when we get to heaven.  We’ll be able to grow in intimacy with God, fellowship with other believers, serve others, worship God, but we won’t be able to reach the lost.
  • As a church we will always walk in a healthy tension between growing up those who are here and reaching out to those who aren't here yet.
  • The 3rd Largest Mission Field in the world is the US. (next to India and China) with 200 million people who are unreached.
  • Over the past 30 years an average of 4,000 churches close their doors per year while only 1,500 new churches start.  Christianity is losing ground in America.
  • The church must maintain a very sharp outreach edge and must refuse to get comfortable.

9. We're real people, no masks, no games. 
  • Finally, we just really value being authentic.
  • We’re committed to shooting straight - using real language to talk about faith, not hiding our faults, apologizing when we do dumb things, taking on real subjects head on, etc. 
  • Our Pastors will not preach from a pedestal but will relate as fellow travelers on the journey.  Always willing to preach the hard truths of the scriptures but bringing ourselves to the table too.  
  • We refuse to play the game of putting on our Sunday best and pretending that everything is OK. So, it is important for the people of Grace to be open to share real stories of struggle and triumph, sadness and joy, despair and hope. 

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Grace Values 4, 5, 6

As we have embarked on launching Grace Harborcreek - one of the exercises that has been very valuable for our leaders is re-clarifying our values as a church. These are the things that define us, that carry our DNA, that ensure that whether you walk into Grace McKean, Grace Harborcreek, or any of our future campuses that you will recognize the church as distinctly Grace. In my State of the Church sermon I talked through these 9 values and will briefly outline them in this 3 part series of blog posts.  You can read part 1 here and part 3 here.

4. We participate. We're not just spectators.
  • Church is not a spectator sport.
  • Many churches have the 80-20 rule - where 20% of the people do 80% of the work.  This is completely unacceptable.
  • Christians don’t go to church – they are the church.  And they bring the church with them wherever they go.
  • Role of a church staff is not to do all the work of ministry but to prepare God’s people to do ministry. (Eph. 4:12)
  • You were created for ministry, and if you miss your ministry, you miss the reason for which you were created.
  • Serving is far more satisfying than sitting.

5. We give because Jesus is radically generous.
  • The early church mirrored the generosity of Jesus (Acts 2:42ff) and so should the modern church.  
  • In general, Christians are no more generous than their non-religious counterparts. This should never be.
  • A lack of generosity is not a money issue, it's a heart issue.  It's a sure indication that hearts are not being changed by the gospel. 
  • Strategic, systematic generosity is the answer to greed.
  • Jesus is not a killjoy when it comes to money, He simply says that there’s a better way to live.  A way that leads to peace and joy and not this crazy turmoil that so many people are in trying to play the game that says 'accumulate and consume, accumulate and consume.'
  • God's design was for His ministry in the world to be funded by the overflowing generosity of his people as their hearts are being changed, so we will never resort to gimmicky shortcuts like spaghetti dinners and raffles. 

6. We serve our community, expecting nothing in return.
  • Would our community care if our church didn’t exist anymore? 
  • The church exists for the community and not the other way around.
  • Jesus said throughout his teaching that one of the things that will distinguish his followers from the non-followers, is that their hearts are going to beat fast for people in need. Their hands are going to be busy trying to do something about it. Their wallets are going to reflect a willingness to stretch and sacrifice for those who continually live with less. 
  • We hope to focus our efforts in the coming years on defining and getting after the 3-5 unacceptable realities in Erie... those 3 to 5 issues that the church can't just sit back and allow to continue.  Not on our watch.