Archive for the ‘Church’ Category

Yesterday morning we had a baptism celebration.  We baptized a dozen people (that is actually a preacher’s count…the true number was 11…preachers always round-up) in front of a crowd of 4657 (see what I did there?  that is a big round-up).

It was a great morning.  You can check out the video testimonies of most of those who got baptized yesterday morning:

We like to have our children, who normally are back in Kid’s Kanyon for the entire service, join us to witness the baptisms.  I had just finished a message on baptism explaining the what and whys of baptism when our children entered the room.

And then yesterday evening I got this Facebook notification:

I started to think about how terrifying it might be for a kid to watch the preacher dunk people in water without any explanation!!!  And then watch as everyone in the audience applauds and adds their approval!!

Note to self:  it might be a good idea to explain to children what you are doing in baptism before they see it.

To the Medors – should there be any need for therapy sessions for poor Seth to overcome his trauma, you can send the bill to the Living Stones Church.  OR – if he grows up with an aversion to getting baptized, when he meets God – I’ll step forward and take the blame for it! 🙂  Just be thankful this is his issue.  It could be worse.  Rumor has it that our Children’s Minister’s [yea…I’m looking at you Amy Osterhout] child, after Doug Harsch invited everyone to stand and worship, yelled at the top of her lungs – “I DON’T WANT TO!!” 🙂

Years ago I was with a group of pastors when one of them started to share a story about something they did with the kids at a church camp to make a point.  He went on to share that at the evening campfire, all the kids were gathered around, they had just spent time worshiping, and then he got up and announced that one of their favorite and greatly loved camp counselors had been diagnosed with terminal cancer and wasn’t expected to live much longer.  Well…as you might expect – especially at a church camp, with tired and exhausted campers, at night, during a campfire, after worship – they were emotionally affected by this announcement.  They cried and were upset, etc.  BUTnone of it was true.  Their beloved counselor didn’t have cancer!!  They were just trying to make a point about emotionalism!!!  They thought, through this experience, they could show the kids how easy it is to fall into emotionalism!!!

I thought – you didn’t prove anything other than a bunch of kids really love their counselor and that adults can be mean manipulative jerks!!!!

The last thing we want as adults is to be manipulated.  But when it comes to teens…for some reason there are churches that think they are fair game.

Take for example this story in the news from the Glad Tidings Assembly of God Church in Pennsylvania.  To make a point about what foreign missionaries may have to undergo by way of persecution, they staged an “armed raid” complete with the kidnapping of a teenager.  Yea.  This is a great idea!!! *sarcasm*  In our day and age where a shooting in a church isn’t unheard of, let’s get all of our kids in a room and without telling them what is going on, stage a seemingly real raid complete with pillowcases over their heads and hands being bound behind their back!  That’s brilliant!!  Pfft.

Read any book on “healthy churches” and there will be a chapter on the importance of small groups.  I feel like I’ve read every one of them.  And when I hear “small groups”, this is what I hear – “blah blah blah blah.”  This is my pastoral confession.  I believe that every Pastor knows they are important, and the hidden secret is that a lot of Pastor’s hate them.

At the Living Stones Church (and even previously as the Donmoyer Ave. Church of Christ) we have tried to do small groups with every known method to man!  We’ve done classic Bible studies, groups based on demographics, groups based on your geographical location, gender-specific accountability groups, the cell-group model (and the cell-group model that was rolled out every year at a conference to be the “new and improved” cell-based model), the semester-based/short-term growth group model, etc.

There are pros and cons to all of those methods.  But in November of 2011 when we had a leadership meeting and we began discussing our small group ministry, I personally felt apathetic, and I didn’t sense a whole lot of excitement in the room of among the other leaders at LSC.


We started applying some principles we had read in a series of blog posts that challenged how churches typically structure themselves for spiritual growth and transformation.  And by the time we were done talking, dreaming, and planning – the whole room lit up with excitement about a new way of thinking and experiencing small groups at Living Stones Church.

Over the next two weeks I want to share that discussion with you and tell you about our plans for small groups and how they are intertwined with spiritual transformation and community (two topics we have talked about for a very long time).

As a hint – the author of the blogs we read, who happens to be a diehard CrossFit coach – used CrossFit as a working analogy and paradigm for the spiritual realm.  I’ll tell you more about it on Sunday!  I’m very excited about it…like uber-excited!

Church discipline is a difficult thing.  I know the Bible has teaching regarding its necessity.  The foundational assumptions of community and fellowship in our present experience of “church” in 2012 as contrasted to that in the 1st century are very problematic for me.  So, I confess my own concerns, questions, insecurities, hesitancies (or whatever other word you want to you) when it comes to the application of the biblical principle of church discipline.  The following is a “church discipline contract” sent to a member of the Mars Hill Church in Seattle, WA (where Mark Driscoll is the Pastor).  Just reading it makes me go… “Whoah” (in a shocked and not sure what to do with it tone).  And then I read the back story.  You can too…here and here…and then it made me go – “Oh no!!!  Dear Jesus no!

What do you think?  Would you sign this?  Is this healthy?  Right?  Biblical?

Going Down With the Ship

Posted: January 18, 2012 in Church, Leadership, Ministry, vision

Costa Concordia Captain Francesco Schettino

Sucks to be this guy right now!

He broke one of the maritime laws and expectationsthe Captain goes down with the ship (OK…actually the law doesn’t state that the Captain has to go down with the ship but it does state that he has to be the last one off the vessel)!  And what did Captain Schettino of the Costa Concordia do?  He abandoned ship while 1000s were left on board a sinking vessel!

-De Falco: “You go aboard. It is an order. Don’t make any more excuses. You have declared ‘abandon ship.’ Now I am in charge. You go on board! Is that clear? Do you hear me? Go, and call me when you are aboard. My air rescue crew is there.”

-Schettino: “Where are your rescuers?”

-De Falco: “My air rescue is on the prow. Go. There are already bodies, Schettino.”

-Schettino: “How many bodies are there?”

-De Falco: “I don’t know. I have heard of one. You are the one who has to tell me how many there are. Christ.”

-Schettino: “But do you realize it is dark and here we can’t see anything…”

-De Falco: “And so what? You want go home, Schettino? It is dark and you want to go home? Get on that prow of the boat using the pilot ladder and tell me what can be done, how many people there are and what their needs are. Now!”

-Schettino: “…I am with my second in command.”

-De Falco: “So both of you go up then … You and your second go on board now. Is that clear?”

We now know that Captain Schettino never went back on board of the sinking ship.  And, the cause of the sinking ship?  Captain Schettino’s error.  He disregarded the charted and approved course and in an attempt at a little show-boating – he ran into a large rock.  And then…he stood on the safety of the shore watching over 4000 individuals (some of whom did not survive) scramble to survival…women, children, elderly, etc.  Coward.

I couldn’t help but wonder how often this happens in ministry.  I know there isn’t some universal code where a Pastor promises to “go down with the ship [church]” but I wonder if there should be.

How many times does a Pastor enter into a congregation and begin to make changes – sets a new course, alters a previous vision/mission, ruffles some feathers of those who are either in leadership or long-standing members?  I’m not saying this is necessarily a bad thing.  Sometimes, it is the VERY thing a dying or plateaued congregation needs and God is calling for.  BUT – when it happens, the ship may begin to sink.  It may “take on water.”  Attendance sinks.  Giving sinks.  Bank accounts/finances are exhausted.  Congregational morale sinks.  Increased conflict occurs.  Tension and difficulty arises.  And what does the Pastor do?  Often, they leave and move on to another church.  One that doesn’t feel like it is sinking.  And in so doing, they have “abandoned ship” and left a mess for some poor overly loyal staff member to clean up, or a lay team to figure out how to rescue any remaining survivors.  Meanwhile, he/she is off to a new assignment sipping coffee on the deck of a new boat far removed from the disaster he created.

If you want to be bold and proclaim a new direction/vision in the “name of God” I’m cool with that.  But then you need to commit that you aren’t going to “abandon ship” when it looks like things may be sinking.

The only exceptions I would commend are two:  1) is if the rescue effort, or the righting of the ship, cannot occur because of the inept presence of the Captain.  In that case, for the sake of the ship [church] – the Captain needs to leave the ship. 2) Because of the congregational polity – you were never considered the Captain to begin with.  From the beginning you were a “hired hand” and not the leader of the boat.

(left) Captain Smith of the Titanic (right) Bernard Hill playing Captain Smith in the movie Titanic

Is Lady Gaga Schooling the Church?

Posted: September 29, 2011 in Church, Culture

Richard Beck is an author, blogger, and professor of psychology at Abilene Christian University.  He posted a blog today about the Gospel According to Lady Gaga.  I thought it was brilliant and convicting.

I think it will be well worth your time to read.  And then I would love to hear your thoughts and reflections on it.

You can find it here.

A few evenings ago, a Suburban drove down our cul-de-sac and two teenagers jumped out and approached my (in a few days) 15 year old son, Isaac, and one of his friends, Dean.  They handed them a postcard invitation (see below) to their youth group which is in our neighborhood and extended a verbal invitation to their youth gathering.

To begin I have to say, I think it is no small deal that teenagers would be committed to going out into the neighborhood and inviting other teenagers to their youth group.  Whether this door-to-door campaign works, which I have some opinions on, is one thing.  But at the very least I commend these teens for reaching out.

But my question is, what happens next?  What if Isaac and Dean go?  Will they be accepted?  Will they be received, for who they are?

And I ask because we have some association with this church that is doing the inviting.  So as not to reveal who it is I’ll use some encryption here.  It is the C*mmunity Bapt*st Chu*ch.  We actually sent all three of our kids to their school.  And then, as Isaac was finishing up his 6th grade year he got kicked out of the school.  “Why?” you ask.  Oh…don’t worry he didn’t do anything wrong.  He made straight “A’s.”  He had never been in trouble.  He lived up to every expectation the school had, except one.  We weren’t Independent Fundamentalist Baptist enough for them.  And it’s true.  We aren’t.  But we knew where we were and I always tried to teach my kids to obey and respect the rules of the house we’re in…including if the house was IFB.  But, we still got kicked out.

So my question is, what happens to Isaac and Dean if they showed up to hear “good news?”  If they aren’t like you, will you kick them out (again)?  Because if so, what you are saying might be good news, but you are ultimately bad news.  It’s hard to hear good news from someone who is bad news.

Disclaimer:  I know their previous Pastor left a few years ago and they have a new one.  Maybe things have changed.  Even the postcard/graphic/logo seems hard to conceive of with the previous Pastor.  Do they accept drums yet?  (The IFB is against any music with a backbeat).  Because Isaac is now into those (as proof see above post).