Friday, November 30, 2007

Lessons from a Cristy Lane CD

At a recent regional denominational youth event participating churches were asked to donate items to give away as door prizes. One church gave a Cristy Lane (real name: Eleanor Stoller) CD.
1. Don't work with youth if you think Cristy Lane is what they would enjoy listening to.
2. Don't ask them to sing along with "One Day at a Time". And they don't remember Kristofferson, either, so it still won't work.
3. Don't ask "I wonder why we just can't get our youth excited about Jesus" if you think Cristy Lane is what they would enjoy.
4. If you invite Cristy to come and perform for your church (is she still alive?) don't be surprised if your youth choose to stay in the church basement and play pong in your youth room. However, be ready for your parking lot to be filled with Oldsmobiles.
5. Don't be surprised if the church down the road has a growing youth group while your's is populated by the pastor's and deacons' kids who would rather be down the road.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Say what?

I was talking with a member of another local church in the area recently. We've known each other for several years, but not really well until the last year or so. He always knew my role in my church. And he had heard some things from people in his church about us that made him form a very negative opinion of both me and the flock I shepherd.

Funny thing is, there's not an ounce of truth to what he heard. He knows that now because he's been around me and people from our church enough to have figured out on his own that the rumors were unfounded.

What makes Christians want to bash other Christians like that? I've got some ideas about it. Primarily I think it comes from ignorance and jealousy. Fact is, we're the only church in our denomination and in our area that is growing. The others are either in decline or on a long term plateau. Some are sincerely trying to move ahead. Others are content like they are. And for that I'm sad.

So do Christians think that if their church is struggling while the one down the road is healthy and growing that they need to "level the playing field" by knocking the other church? Is that what the Kingdom is about? I hope not.

I'm pulling for them to reach our community for the Kingdom. I see them as team members, not competitors, even if they do church differently than we do. That's OK. Just do it.

When I heard some of the stories being told about us, I didn't get mad. In fact I chuckled. How ridiculous can people be? How petty?

Just think. If some of those folks spent as much time and effort talking to people about Jesus rather than talking about another church, we might be talking about them!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Sunday Flashback

It was a cool rainy day today. Don't know if the weather had anything to do with it or not, but the 9AM gathering had a tough time getting up any steam. I found it tough to worship and felt like I was just singing the songs. For me it was probably due to my one mental distractions. I'm going to ask the hospitality team to find a coffee with more caffeine or something.

The 11AM gathering was more like it. And while the earlier gathering was well attended, the 11 was really full. We set out two more tables with chairs, making 4 now and they were used.

The band, sans Nathan, did really well. So did today's tech team of Steve and Matt.

Lots of guests today. Some were here for the holiday weekend, but many are locals checking us out. From the few comments I got, the message was "intense" and really connected (with some, at least). I talked today about "Dirty Jobs" and following Jesus into the dark places.

To top the day off, our annual Vison Conference when we ask the congregation to confirm the next year's budget when super well tonight. Those who attended were our core and they get it. It's another big step of faith for us, but God keeps making it all possible. So we vote to go with God!

One word about the Redskins game. Turnovers kill. But the decision to go for a 4th and a foot rather than the 3 points from the 5 yard line was unexplainable that early in the game and behind by 6 points. It made the difference. Those 3 points would have taken them into OT, and the way their defense was shutting down the other team, and the fact that their offense was driving the field... A bonehead call, Joe. Sorry, but true. Either he's lost it, or he's listening to bad advice.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

My mission gets some press

This article appeared in today's local paper. The writer got it "mostly" right. (Do you believe everything you read in the paper?)

Several years ago a pastor friend told me that his church staff (at a mega church in the Atlanta area) all volunteered one work day a week in the community. It got the pastors out of the bubble and into the field. I wondered where I could be used by God for His kingdom and useful to the community, and he placed me in the fire department.

Every little boy's dream is to wear bunker gear, a helmet and ride on a fire engine with sirens screaming. Sometimes I get to do that, too.

Every believer needs a ministry to the church and a mission in the world. What's your mission? (I think I've asked that before on this blog.)

Merry Christmas!

I might as well get started sending out greetings early.
Here's a greeting from the staff of Nags Head Church.

Friday, November 23, 2007

The trees are up

'Tis the season around here.

Earlier this week I filled up the back of my truck twice with Christmas decorations and bought a live tree. I think Gail is the queen of Christmas decor. This year we're setting trees up in our living room and family room. One live; one not. Plus we have two trees out on our front porch.

When Gail comes home this evening she wants me to help her decorate one of them. The kids used to have that job. Guess I better make a pot of high test. It's going to be a long evening.

But it sure smells good in here with that tree! Now, if I can get that fireplace lit!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving Eve Flashback

Wednesday night's gathering was exceptional. The only negative was it went a little long (especially for the ladies and babies in the nursery!). There was a great spirit, which doesn't always come easy when you have three different congregations coming together, and two aren't really sure what to expect.

We did a number of reponsive readings from Psalms that related to the songs we were singing. Rarely do we do responsive readings, so that was a change for us. But we do often read scriptures aloud together.

Two videos were seen. One we bought from Bluefish about a little girl's prayer at the family Thanksgiving meal. Pretty funny! The other was one we did in house of the testimony of a guy from one of the other churches present. Very powerful!

And from the third church a gifted artist painted a Thanksgiving themed painting the entire time we were worshipping. For our church that was something new, and he did a great job.

Our band has put in a lot of hours lately getting ready for this and for the upcoming Festival of Trees next week. They're so devoted to their ministry and they're also very good. I think our guests were blown away by their contribution to the worship.

The offering received was of non-perishable food items, which will go to our local food bank to replenish what I'm sure they've given out this week.

A fun thing we started was to have everyone present sign one of our promo posters. We'll get it framed, and start a collection like it of special events NHC hosts and use them in our decor around the building.

Can't wait until next year!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thanksgiving Top Ten

The Bible tells us many times in many ways to give thanks. I’m sure that means first to God, but if you’re like me, there are lots of people to thank and lots of things for which to be thankful. So please humor me as I share some.

Ala David Letterman’s Top Ten, here are some things that come to my mind for which I am thankful this year.

10. In June, with my pastor Burnie and my son Nathan I went to a ballgame at Wrigley Field. I’m no Cubs fan, but I love the game, and Wrigley is one of the game’s shrines. Next year I hope to go to a Nationals game in their new stadium in DC.

9. Working with younger guys who stretch me and make me see different and new ways of doing things. For example, I’ve started blogging this year. And a couple of times this summer I wore sandals to church. (Hey, Jesus wore them!) I don’t want to be one of those old guys who never changes because he thinks the old days were better. As I grow older I still want to think young.

8. I’m about to occupy a brand new office. A year ago our church vacated our old building, and with it went a real office. So for a year now our staff has worked wherever we could find a space. And that’s OK. But I’m looking forward to a regular place to come to work with familiar pictures on the wall.

7. How can I not include the fact that I live on the Outer Banks? Since 1986 this has been our home, and I can’t imagine any place better to live and raise a family. And to top it off, we just passed through another hurricane season unscathed!

6. God has given me more friends than I deserve. Every one of them enriches my life and teaches me. A lot of new ones came into my life in the last year. And one thing I really like about my friends is that they don’t treat me like a preacher.

5. Surrounding my life is an incredible church family. Their passion for the Lord, for one another and for the community makes my job as one of their pastors a joy (almost all the time!) They held together through a big building project that included demolishing their old home. Every day I’m grateful to God for them.

4. At 52 I feel better than at 42. I know. Looks can be deceiving. My doc and my racquetball partner, see to it that I don’t totally neglect taking care of this temple. I’m at the stage of the game now when health is something I have to work on. I’ve got more aches and pains than at 42, but still I feel great!

3. God has given us three fantastic kids. If you know them, you know how blessed I am as a father. All three, along with their spouses love one another and love the Lord. This year has been an exciting one for our kids. Both of my daughters got married. (I don’t recommend that, by the way.) Our son’s wife is preparing for a double lung transplant, and that’s exciting in a different way. It sure seems quiet around the house with all of them gone.

2. My wife Gail and I celebrated 30 years of marital bliss this year! She’s the constant in my life and has loved me for even longer. We’re now looking forward to some grandkids in the future!

1. To be able to have a personal relationship with the Almighty God. To realize that He resides within me and cares about every detail of my life is still most amazing. Knowing Him and being able to communicate through prayer and by reading His Word are privileges for which I can’t thank Him enough.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Thanksgiving Worship Gathering

For a number of years we've had a Thanksgiving Eve worship gathering at our church. It began when we still did a Wednesday night Bible study every week. In the early days we invited another church (of another flavor) to join us, but eventually we outgrew the ability to do that, so we just did the gathering with us.

Now that we're in our new facility with more space we've invited a couple of local churches (again, different flavors) who meet in rented facilities on Sundays and have no place like this through the week. Both have similar worship styles as us, so it should be a great time together.

I'm not the greatest proponent of "ecumenicalism". But, as the old preacher used to say, "I'm friends of the friends of Jesus". It's a Kingdom thing, isn't it?

Lots of great music. Lots of scripture. A great testimony and an artist doing his thing on a canvas on stage. Hope to see you here on Wednesday night.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Talkin' 'bout my generation

This morning at First Appointment* I divided one of our groups. I've been talking about it for a few weeks, so this morning I made an executive decision. "Set up an extra table".

This one particular group - The Old Guys - has grown to the point where it was time to "give birth" to a new group. They've had a great group going on. They even all got "Old Guys Rule" coffee mugs (and honored me with one! - not that I'm old, mind you). So you might think they would react adversely to being split up.

Not so. These guys are maturing disciples who get it. They know that a major purpose of a small group in our church is to grow and procreate - begin new groups. And they're setting the example to the rest of the guys in FA. So, today instead of one group with 11 guys trying to get a word in edge-wise, there were two groups with plenty of opportunity for everyone to participate.

All this at 6AM, too. Gotta love men who love God that much!

*A gathering of men in small groups for fellowship, prayer, Bible study, outreach and accountability. We meet from 6-7AM every Monday morning. I got the idea from Chuck Bayless at Coast Hills Church.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Football's not rocket science

If you can't stop a guy from catching passes or keep him out of the end zone, you can't win. It's that simple.

I should be a defensive coordinator.

Sunday Flashback

We're continuing to talk about our vision and mission as a church, and today we got to the nitty gritty of being a Jesus follower: servanthood and submission. I think they're the big steps every disciple has to take to really follow Jesus, especially when He leads into some hard places.

Today we did a little "experiment" with the seating, putting out a couple of round tables and chairs. Let's see if they catch on. This time of year we've got extra space and can do it.

Great attendance today! Lots of guests, including a couple of ladies who work at the Chamber of Commerce. Wednesday we hosted a Chamber open house at NHC. These two ladies both work for the Chamber, and one invited her sister to come along to day. Apparently they saw something Wednesday that invited them to try us out.

Great music and sound this morning, too. Our band works hard. In fact, they're practicing this evening and Tuesday night, getting ready for the Christmas season.

I sat in the lobby between gatherings, just observing. One of our out of town guests came and spent a few minutes with me. He said there was "buzz" going on in our church that showed people really enjoyed being there with one another. And that I "told it like it was" in the sermon - something he said was missing in his home church. We were "a breath of fresh air", he said.

We don't take lightly the fact that we get so many guests visiting the Outer Banks, and we hope that we are an encouragement to them.

I was told we collected 99 boxes for Operation Christmas Child! I'm sure that's our most ever. But I'm confident that next year we'll topple that mark.

After the second gathering we hurried to the Y for a baptism. Two young ladies followed Christ and made their faith public. It was especially great to watch a dad baptize his oldest daughter after he and mom led her to Christ.
Great Day!

I'm afraid, however, the upcoming game between the Skins and the dreaded Cowboys will be less positive than the rest of the day. The Redskins play hasn't given me a great deal of confidence. But maybe old Joe can get 'em up for the 'Boys.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Eat your hearts out

The picture was taken Sunday morning, 11-4-07 at sunrise on the beach here in Nags Head by Frank Brown, III. He was in church that Sunday, came back Sunday night for communion and had this photo in a frame for us.

"Praise his glorious name! It is far greater than we can think or say. You alone are the LORD. You made the skies and the heavens and all the stars. You made the earth and the seas and everything in them. You preserve and give life to everything, and all the angels of heaven worship you." (Neh. 9:5-6 NLT)

And to think I could see this every day if I just got up early enough! (BTW, our sunsets over the sound are just as amazing!)

Sprucing up

It's been a hopping place the last couple of days at our church. Tomorrow the OBX Chamber of Commerce is having a ribbon cutting and open house here to welcome us into their community. So we want the house to look great!

Randy has done an amazing job organizing the 20 or so different folks who have volunteered their time to do everything from dusting to installing blinds to tweaking the much and flower beds.

Growing from a tiny facility to one 5 times the size underscores the fact that caring for the church's house is a stewardship that can and should involve the care of every member. Why? Before they know anything about us, they judge us (right or wrong) by how we care for our house. It's the visible representation of who we are in many ways.

So thanks to you all for your ministry and mission in sweeping, mopping, planting, painting...
Jewels added to your crowns!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Sunday Flashback

I was right.
Today started at 6AM with the OBX Marathon - it was a great way to reach out to our community and we had a blast doing it - and I got home to stay at 10:00, only to have to finish my stuff for First Appointment, which is at 6AM tomorrow!

Because of the marathon we only did one worship gathering. The race's course goes right down our street, making getting to church early almost impossible due to the 4,000 runners. We began with a couple of great songs, then showed a video reminding us to pray for our military personnel. I asked all the vets to stand and as they stood the church gave them a real ovation.

I should also mention that yesterday was the birthday of the USMC. Having given the first 17 years of my life to the Corps, I feel an affinity for them, though I never wore the uniform. Ooorah.

Before my message we did a video interview with two of our oldest members, George R. and Marilyn D., asking them about the changes they've seen over the years in the church and their reaction to them. It hammered home the point of what I then taught: our methods change constantly but our message can't.

A third animated clip Nate found illustrated the highlights of the Bible in about 2 minutes. Very cool. And two trusted Christ today. Even cooler.

Every week I'm repeatedly amazed and thankful for the team of volunteers who make Sunday's so special at NHC.

There was a group from out of town today on a marriage retreat. In their words, they're from a church "with 200 years of history unimpeded by progress". So when they gathered up front for a group photo, I suggested they all get up on the platform and each one either strap on a guitar, sit at the drums or grab a mic for the picture. Mind you, they weren't gen Xers. They had a blast pretending they were rock stars! I think they found out church can also be fun.

I'm even glad I spent most of the afternoon at my mother-in-law's new digs, moving furniture, etc. Her TV wasn't hooked up yet, so I didn't have to suffer through another disappointment from the Redskins.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Killer week almost over

It's 8:34 Saturday night and I'm in my "office" wrapping up a few loose ends before tomorrow morning. Typically you won't find me in my office on Saturday because I try to get everything necessary for Sunday done by Thursday night. But this has been some week. To prove my point I never got to the raquetball court. Not once.

It's all good, but a lot of extra stuff piled on, including both my son and daughter in law and my mother in law moving. And tomorrow morning I'll be here at the church at 6AM with the volunteer team serving the OBX Marathon.

Friday afternoon I got to lead a young lady to faith in Christ. She plans to be baptized next Sunday. So, despite going non-stop, I'm glad there was at least one "divine appointment" for me this week!

What scares me is that I have a hunch next week is going to be a repeat of this one.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Apocolypse Ended!

This morning I discovered our server is back up and we're back on at Nags Head Church.
I guess since it started Saturday and ended sometime Tuesday it must be a mid-trib thing.
Now I'll have to rethink my eschatology.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Apocolypse Now!

You would think the world is coming to an end. Our web site server has been down for 4 days. Pandemonium is everywhere!

Geez. How did we even survive a few years ago? The young guys on staff are freaking.

If you're trying to reach our church web site, don't try right now. If you've emailed me since Friday, I didn't get it. But you can email me here if you need to because my old email address is temporarily non-functioning.

At least when I get in my truck I can turn on the oldies station and retain some sanity.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Happy Aniversary!

Today is my parents' 53rd wedding anniversary. Since they don't own a computer, they can't/won't see this. But today's a special day for them. Nine months and 3 days after their wedding I arrived. I say, "Thank God for those 3 days". Otherwise, in 1955 I would have been the subject of gossip, don't you know?

My guess is that in 53 years they've lived in 25 different houses/apartments. Sometimes they're just hard to find. Gail and I visited them a couple of weeks ago for a couple of days. It was our first visit to their current home, and we never got to see them at the last one.

Dad's been out of the Corps for 35 years, but I guess the Corps, with all its transfers never got out of him.

I hope they enjoy their anniversary. Heck, I hope they remember it.

Sunday Flashback

Typically I write this on Sunday evening, but our Sunday was long and full yesterday. And it was good!

Sunday morning we commissioned 120+ who committed themselves to engaging their cultures as missionaries. I've just read through most of the cards and am excited about the potential to reach our community "wherever we go". Of those who came forward (our first public "invitation" in years) 16 are in our "community" - attenders but not yet committed to the fellowship and another 16 were middle and high school youth.

I've challenged them to form "mission teams" with others who work in their same field, or who have similar passions. For example, several said they want to reach the surfing community. Several moms want to reach other moms. My dream is for them to team up and make a difference together. It could happen!

We used several videos yesterday of stories of how to and one of how not to reach your community. It was stuff everyone can do, and I think we got it. Everyone who has been adopted by Jesus is called by Him to be a missionary.

The band did some songs that relate to the whole outreach theme. I asked Nate to include Geoff Moore's "In My Own Backyard", which they played/sang as the "missionaries" were making their commitments.

One couple (that I know of) came for the first time as a result of Trunk or Treat. I met some other brand new folks seeking.

One of our pastors, who has been here almost as long as me, said it was the the most "moving" worship gathering we've ever had. I'm encouraged, and time will tell. Our job now as leaders is to continue to lead and direct them into ways to reach their cultures in their generation.

Another step to becoming a missional church and being balanced in all 5 purposes of the church.

Sunday evening we returned for our monthly Communion gathering. Steve did a great job teaching about the things that remind us of the cross. Nate led us in a new (to us) rendition of "Nothing But the Blood". So many positive comments about how we're able now to have Communion all together with the meal. Last night we fit about 140 in. And the food - "Thankgiving Feast" was over the top good and plenty!

Gail and I ate with a first time couple to our Lord's Supper gathering, which we seem to do often. That's a good thing for us. They brought a couple of their teenage son's friends with them to church Sunday morning. These kids did not want to go. But when it was over they said they wanted to come back.

We also welcomed 3 new members into the fellowship, which is always fun! I'm not sure what it is, but the last couple of months we seem to be on a constant crescendo from Sunday to Sunday. My guess is that's how it's supposed to be.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Trunk or Treat Debrief

We set our goal at 600 - double the 300 who came last year. Our best guesstimate is there were 1000 Wednesday night! At one point there must have been 400-500 there at one time. The place was wall to wall kids and parents.

I could give you the numbers of hot dogs, pounds of candy, bags of pop corn, cotton candy....which were all amazing to us. But the numbers that count are these:
  • Over 400 pieces of Gospel literature were given out to kids and adults.
  • 41 parents asked for more info about NHC ministries to children and youth.
  • So many who said, "Thank you! This is a great thing your church is doing."
  • 100 volunteers from our church community made it happen.

When I get some pictures I'll put some up. Here's the link to a video on Youtube.