Monday, June 30, 2008

Ed and Edith out for Sunday Dinner

If you haven't met Ed and Edith yet, you might want to read my previous posts about them first.
Ed and Edith
More on Ed and Edith
Ed and Edith at the Franklin Graham Crusade
Ed and Edith are in The Present Future

On any given Sunday...
Bad news today. There was a missionary speaker from Outer Mongolia or somewhere and the clock in the back of the sanctuary meant nothing to him. Noon came and went. Finally at 12:07 the benediction was given. "Every time the pastor has someone else speak this happens. Next time there's a guest speaker let's just stay home. If they don't respect our time why do we even bother coming?"

After church every Sunday Ed and Edith are quick to make it out of the parking lot so they can beat the Sunday church crowd to their favorite restaurant. They hate the long lines, so if someone at church corners them in conversation (some might call that "fellowship") they get real fidgety. Church is over! It's 12:08! Let's get out of here!! They've even figured out that if they park by the side entrance they can escape faster and not have to talk to anyone.

Meanwhile first time guests file out without a greeting or an invitation to come back or (could you imagine?) a "Why don't you join us for lunch?" Ed and Edith are oblivious to anyone else.

At the restaurant it seems the other church in the neighborhood didn't have a missionary speaker today. And their pastor got them out "on time". So there they are, that other church getting the tables and service and food while Ed and Edith have to put their names on a waiting list. Their stomach's are growling. Then to make matters worse, who comes in the door but the pastor and the missionary! "It's their fault we're waiting! I'm not happy with either of them right now, so I hope they don't see us and want to talk."

"Ed and Edith. Your table is ready." Saved by the bell. Now, Ed and Edith's table has four chairs and there are just two of them. Maybe they'll ask another couple from their church to join them? Or how about the pastor and the missionary? Wouldn't they like to hear about reaching the Outer Mongolians? But Ed and Edith are oblivious to anyone else.

After ordering their beverages the waitress (who is covering for another table or two because someone didn't show up for work) is a bit slow bringing them out and instead of a diet Coke she brings Edith a sweet tea. "Honey. That's NOT what I asked for. And the service here today is slower than usual."

In a hurry, the tea is exchanged for a diet Coke. Soon their meals are brought out and without a kind word or thanks to the waitress they have their lunch. In their conversation a comment is made about how people who work in restaurants on Sundays never go to church and must be essentially godless.

The check is brought to the table with a smile and a "have a nice day" from the young lady. But Edith is too busy examining the charges to respond. A tip, if you can call it that, is left on the table. It comes to 10% of the meals total ("That's generous considering how long we had to wait and that she got my drink wrong") and is tucked inside a Gospel tract that looks like a five dollar bill. That's to help with the "godless" part.

I eat out often, and in my conversations with restaurant wait staff I've discovered that "church people" on Sundays come across as rude, demanding and cheap.

How is it that we can "worship God" between 11 and 12 and then treat those He loves like they don't exist between 12 and 2? Can we really be that oblivious to anyone else?

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Sunday Flashback

"What if I Had It All Together?" Today I talked about the self-control that comes with maturing spiritually in Christ. Just as Jesus was under control when he exhibited anger in turning over the money changers' tables in the Temple and when he refused to answer the false accusations against him prior to His crucifixion we're to be under control.

I used the illustration of a three stranded cord being tough to break from Ecclesiastes 4:12. "Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken". The 3 "strands for self-control are:

1. Giving God control of your life.
2. Taking personal responsibility for your life.
3. Being accountable to another believer.

As usual the MP 13 Band did an awesome job. That new song "Glorious One" is great. When as many as 50% of the congregation is made up of guests it can be a challenge getting them to cut loose and sing. But usually our guests jump right in and the worship comes together like it did today.

Next Sunday three of our other pastors (Tom, Burnie and Steve) are tag-teaming a message on being free from life's tyrants. I'm looking forward to it!

Gwyneth and her parents were dedicated today. Thanks to Steve for leading that part of the gathering so I could join the family. She did well at first but then decided she needed to be heard.

Although I don't get to peek in on them and see what's happening often, our volunteers in our nursery and children's ministry play a huge part in a great Sunday at NHC. They're the best!
Next weekend connects with July 4 and typically fills the place up. Looking forward to it!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

The news just got worse

An update on the last post...

The second child passed away this morning. Because I'm the only minister the family has had any contact with, I've been asked to conduct the funeral for both girls this coming Wednesday.

Tomorrow evening I'll be participating in a Critical Incident Stress Management debriefing for any of the public safety personnel who were involved yesterday. CISM is a wonderful tool to help those who are confronted with handling criticial incidents while at the same time they're doing their job. I'm actually on the CISM team, but tomorrow evening I'll be among those being debriefed.

If you're a praying person, please remember the family and the first responders (firefighters, EMS, law enforcement) and the hospital staff in the ER who are hurting with this tragedy. Pray also that I'll be able to use this opportunity to point someone to Christ.

I have no answers to the "why?" questions, only hope.

Friday, June 27, 2008

...but somebody's gotta do it.

I was hanging out this afternoon with the guys on C shift at Station 21. Giving back to my community for me comes in the shape of being a chaplain with our fire department.

When my department's tones were sounded on my pager the words that followed weren't good. "Chaplain 16 [that's me] please call Station 16." The phone call said that I was needed at the hospital.

Two little girls - sisters - somehow got into an abandoned car in their neighborhood and couldn't get out. When their mother realized they were gone a search began to find them.

I arrived at the hospital in time to hear the attending physician explain to the mother that the younger sister (18 months) was unresponsive and she was gone. I went with her into the room and watched as they discontinued the CPR and made the pronouncement. Then I stayed with her for quite a while as she held the lifeless body of her baby. All the while, in the very next room her other daughter (not yet 3) was being intubated and being prepared for transport to CHKD in Norfolk. Later I walked the father in to say goodbye to his daughter.

The story is on tonight's news.

As much as I grieve for the parents, it's the emergency responders and hospital staff I'm most concerned about. I've already recieved a call at home tonight from a paramedic who worked the call and was in tears. The cops who met me at the emergency room were sullen. The ER staff was obviously struggling to do their jobs. The firefighters who frantically searched the neighborhood and sound waters have to be devastated. These kinds of calls take their toll, even on the most experienced. Especially when children are involved.

Its' a tough job.

Church Sign "Evangelism"

I'm tagging off of Nathan's worship blog post.

The subject has been a peeve of mine for a long time. Fortunately I haven't been part of a church that felt compelled to put out "cute" sayings on their sign as a way of attracting the community into their doors.

But I've read some doozies. You probably have, too. Here are a couple of my "favorites" from local churches.

"Sinners welcome here". (I'll bet the cars were lined up to get in on Sunday morning...)

"Keep Christ in Christmas....Xmas Eve Service 7PM" (I'm not kidding.)

How about you? Got a real church sign zinger that made you just shake your head?

Happy Anniversary Nathan and Tricia!

A most amazing wedding (who didn't cry?) followed by four incomparable years.

Here's to many more!


(The guy in the background saying "Mawage is what bwings us togethuh")

Monday, June 23, 2008

Leadership Issues - Church Hop #4

I serve a church that is affiliated with a denomination notorious for both church hopping and short-term pastorates. If a scientific study were conducted, my hunch is that there is a correlation between the two. IE, churches that are constantly in the "pastor search" mode are also churches where the back door opens just as frequently as the front.

Leadership in the church is no less crucial its health and growth than it is in any institution. Everything rises and falls on leadership. That may sound very "secular", but check out the many instances in the Bible of how leaders impacted their nations, churches and families both in positive and negative ways.

For reasons perhaps only He knows, God's design is for there to be human leadership in those institutions.

Yet here are some realities in the church:
  1. Not everyone in a leadership position is either gifted or called to lead. I've met lots of square pegs in round holes. Just because someone has the title doesn't mean he can. And if he can't, that poses a genuine threat to the future of the church.
  2. Some who are called and gifted but are in churches where they've been hog-tied. They want to lead. God's given them vision. But there's a refusal among the sheep (or the deacons) to follow a shepherd. Rural churches often are plagued by this. I've tried pastoring a church where there was a small control group who battled me. Those kind of churches are legion in my denomination.
  3. Some leaders have no clue what it means to lead like a shepherd. Sheep are led from the front and follow the shepherd. They scatter when a shepherd tries to push them from the rear. They see themselves as the 4th person of the Trinity and never know what it means to love those they are called to serve. Those kind of pastors are common in many churches. Shepherds "serve" and are willing to give their lives for the sheep.
  4. Other pastors see themselves as hired staff with a temporary position and their current church as a stepping stone to something bigger and better. So they really never bond with their congregation and always have their resumes out. With every pastor the church takes a step forward, and with his exit two steps back.
  5. Some pastors are just plain lazy. Maybe they've got a comfy job and are satisfied with the status quo. Maybe they've got just a few years left until retirement, so they're short-timers mentally and spiritually. In any case, they need to move on if they're not going to lead.
  6. Some have outlived their effectiveness. That's a snare for older pastors. Personal growth hasn't been a priority. They remember how it was in the old days and think nothing has changed. So the church stagnates while the culture moves on by.

So what to do when there is a real problem (as opposed to perceived) leadership stalemate or vacuum? Do you leave and find another flock? Maybe. But first I'd ask some questions.

  1. Is this the historical pattern for this church? Is there a constant power struggle that never ends? Do we change pastors more often than what seems right? If so, why is that, and am I part of the problem or part of the solution? (Maybe that last one isn't such a good question because it's rarely answered objectively.) Fact: some churches are never going to change. Power struggles are ingrained in their congregational structure and DNA.
  2. What's the vision the leadership has for the church? Where are we going? How are we going to accomplish our mission? (Note the use of the word "we", not "you".) Ask the pastor or elders or whoever leads. If you can't get a real answer guess what? You got your answer. Better yet, ask this question before you ever hook up with a church. It'll save a lot of heartache later.
  3. Is there a real chance things are going to change and get better? If not, then you should consider making a quiet exit. But if there is a chance, then pray and serve and encourage the leaders. The last thing the church needs is for people to bail when God's about to make a difference. Revivals are a God thing, and you don't want to miss out on it. But if you're part of the problem, maybe revival won't come until you leave.

I realize that some of my comments and suggestions put some in a quandary. You're in a denomination where the hierarchy moves pastors around every few years. The facts, however, don't lie. The healthiest churches have long-term pastorates. The good news is that some denominations are catching on to that and changing their policies.

But for you in independent, non-denominational or autonomous churches (like Baptists) the same holds true. Yet I doubt the average length of stay for a Baptist pastor is 3 years. That tells me there needs to be some real introspection regarding our views of leadership within the leaders and the congregations.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Sunday Flashback

"What if I really knew God?". Today those who hadn't yet found what they were searching for were challenged to put their faith in Christ. One young lady who has been coming, invited by her sister, did just that. We talked a little after about her learning what it means to have Christ as her Savior. She's very excited about the new life she has in Christ and that she's found our church.

It always wows me when unchurched people come to our worship gatherings and express how blown away they are by what we do. Many say they never realized church could be like that, and that they are definitely coming back. Each week I meet someone new just like that. It's pretty cool.

In both gatherings we did parent/child dedications. That's always a great witness and opportunity to share about the priority of family. One more to do next Sunday!

The MP 13 band was full today, and the music was outstanding. They introduced us to "Glorious One". What a great song! The message was followed up with a secular song that said, "He is everything you want; He is everything you need", pointing us all, whether we're Christ-followers or seekers to realize that Jesus is the answer. Then we sang "I Stand Amazed" as our benediction song and the place was full of song!

This afternoon Burnie taught a new class for us. "Developing My Leadership" is the first of our fledgling "Grad School" that follows up the five classes of NHCU. Especially great today was the leadership applications from the story of Moses and the twelve spies. Good stuff Burnie! Investing in leaders is something we value.

It's hard to believe that next Sunday starts the week that includes July 4. Wow. Summer is flying by.

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Girls of Gloucester

The high school at Gloucester, MA has an unusually high number of students who are pregnant. This story played on the news today.

What caught my attention is how all the talk is about the problem being the school's. Students are "making a pact" to have babies. They're supposedly sleeping with whomever just to have babies. What's the school going to do about it? What?

Hey. Since when did the school become their parents? Who gave the schools the authority to control the moral choices of the community's youth? Read the article and you'll notice that the responsibility of the girls' parents is virtually a non-issue. In defense of the school system, I think the news people are asking questions of the wrong people.

As Earl Pitts would say, "Wake Up America!". Your children belong to you, not to the schools.

Haley Palmer's Wish

Even though Haley died last week, her wish to promote Cystic Fibrosis awareness lives on. Here's a news video about her from KTUL in Tulsa.

Her mom also has posted a great follow up to yesterday's celebration.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Color me pink (on Thursday)

Normally you wouldn't catch me saying that or anything like it. But today is different.

Earlier I posted about Haley Palmer's death at age 12 from complications related to Cystic Fibrosis. Her story was one of courage and faith, and her life touched so many.

Her parents have asked that those attending her memorial celebration Thursday morning in Oklahoma to wear Haley's favorite color. What little girl doesn't love pink? I can't be there, and probably neither can you. But I can join in by wearing pink.

It's the least I can do.

So you'll find me today wearing the pink shirt picked out and given to me by my wife and daughter. They say it looks good on me. It last saw the light of day on Mothers Day. I prefer any other color. But today it's not about me.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...

June 18, 1977.

Happy anniversary Gail! You are the love of my life.

We were married in Gail's home church in Chesapeake, VA about a month after graduating from college. After a week long honeymoon we drove cross country to Southern California and the adventure began. Somehow we managed to get the top layer of our cake across country and into a freezer. It was consumed on our first anniversary 30 years ago this date.

Notes to our children:

No, the hair coloring wasn't touched up for the photo. I attribute my new natural highlights to having had three teenagers in the house at once. Somehow your mom has avoided turning gray.

Yes, that tux was very stylish at the time. Your mother chose the color ("to go with your eyes"). Go ahead and laugh. One day your kids will be blowing milk out of their noses while looking at your wedding photos.

Your mom and I saw Star Wars, the surprise hit movie of the summer in 1977, for the first time at the same location where you saw Lord of the Rings for the first time in 2001. How's that for some trivia?

We existed our first year together without a TV. Heck, we didn't have a PC until 15 years later. Telephones were connected by wires to a box in the wall.

And for the rest of you, I know what you're thinking as you look at that picture. So here's the answer: I got lucky.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

I now pronounce you...

In August I'll have the joy of officiating the wedding of a couple in California. Just so there's no confusion, they're a traditional couple - man and woman.

Today in California same sex weddings became legal. In preparation for this monumental change the state changed their wedding license wording from using the traditional "bride/groom" or "husband/wife" to "Party A/Party B".

So when I announce that Laura and Mario are wed, do I pronounce them husband and wife or Party A and Party B? I mean, I want it to be legal, you know. What's the official California pronouncement? Somebody help me.

How big is your picture?

Human nature is finite as is our natural comprehension of life and all that goes with it. When life throws us curves it is our natural tendency to react with anxiety and fear. That's normal.

This morning I'll sit at a table and peer out over the Atlantic Ocean. A relatively few miles away will be the extent of my ability to see. The horizon in my sight is the limit. But I know that the ocean goes much farther to my east - all the way to other lands in Europe and Africa. I just can't see them. It was that limited vision that brought our forefathers to the conclusion that the earth was flat, and that if you ever hit that edge of the world you would fall off.

How silly is that theory to us today? But it was a real, natural conclusion because of their limited sight and experience. Then one day a "new world" was discovered and the fear of falling from a flat earth was vanquished by new vision and the experience of standing on a previously unseen soil.

How is it that Nathan and Tricia can hear the words "cancer" and "lymphoma" and not have their spirits plummet into angst? When people ask me and I tell them and then say, "But this is just a bump in their road", they look at me like I'm nuts. It's the "C word for Pete's sake!".

That depends on the size of your picture; on whether or not you think the boundaries of your ability to see are the edge of your world or that there are new worlds to discover. Tricia and Nathan's picture has been greatly enlarged by two factors: faith and experience. They've gone over the horizon more than once, trusting in Someone whose vision is infinite to lead them. And they've discovered that however fearful that next step may be, there is a new world beyond what they can see.

Don't let the horizons in your sight fool you. Hoist the sails, take the risks and turn over the wheel to the Pilot who sees eternally.

The picture is bigger than you think.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Is your church "unusual"?

Just got off the phone with a lady from out of town calling to find out our Sunday times for worship. That's not unusual. Being in a resort community means we get lots of out of town guests every week.

"What time is your Sunday morning service?"
"We have two: 9 and 11:00."

"Are you a relatively large church?"
"Relatively large is a relative term!"
"How many attend a service?"
"Between 2 and 3 hundred." (To some that's big. To other's that's tiny.)

"Are you having a Bible school this summer?"

"What time is your Sunday evening service?"
"We don't have one."
"You don't have one?"
"No, ma'am."

"How about a midweek service?"
"We don't have one of those either."

She was struggling with the curveballs I had just thrown her way.

"That's unusual for a Baptist church. I would have expected it from a (another denomination judged by some as being full of lifeless churches) church."
"We're an 'unusual' Baptist church!"

You know what she was implying? Me, too. People and their stereotypes. Does the number of times a church has some kind of "service" necessarily indicate the depth or breadth of their ministry?

I think I'd rather our church be "unusual". It seems to be working wonders in peoples' lives here.

Oh, yeah. She said, "I'll see you Sunday." Why am I skeptical about that?

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Sunday Flashback

Father's Day!

It's important to our vision and purpose at NHC to build up godly men. So today's message was a challenge to dads to be men who emulate the heavenly Father.

After two Sundays of an A/C unit malfunctioning our Kidmo room was plenty cool today. Let's hope the problem is fixed.

We added another row of chairs up front today and will keep it there for the summer. Unlike most locales, we grow in attendance during the summer months with vacationers. And they're such an appreciative crowd. I have to admit that I'm impressed with people who will seek out a church while away on vacation. That first visit to an unknown church has to be a gamble. So I tip my hat to them. And for us it's usually between 100 and 200 every Sunday!

Here's the outline of the message, "How to Be a Dad Who Rocks"
  • Give your children your time
  • Teach your children how to deal with life
  • Be unashamedly Christian through and through
  • Model patience before your kids
  • Love your children (it isn't just for moms)

The audio should be up on our podcast soon.

We welcomed 7 new partners to our fellowship today. Great to have you Chad, Jodi, Steve, Brenda, Cathy, Tina and Kit!

And I'm so thankful and proud of Mike, Barbara, Elaine, Ellen, Brenda, Greg and Cathy for giving your time to serve the firefighters at the Evans Road wildfire. They worked with NC Baptist Men's Disaster Relief team providing clean shower facilities, meals, laundry and whatever needed to be done. If I can manage it, I may slip off for a 24 hour shift later this week with a crew from Nags Head Fire and Rescue.

Tomorrow our youth leave for Student Life Camp at Wake Forest University. Student Life must be the premier youth camps across the nation. We'll be able to watch the Tues - Thurs night worship times live. Go to for the links.

Next Sunday we get back to the series "What If?" and "What If I Really Knew God?". There are also some parent/child dedications planned, including one I'm especially thankful for.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Love your kids (it isn't just a Mom thing)

(This originally appeared this week in the Outer Banks Sentinel.)

What seems like a lifetime ago I was working on the construction of the Nags Head Inn. Somehow the conversation came up about fathers loving their children. I was at the time a young father with three small children at home, so I listened in on the talk among the men. What I heard one man say totally took me by surprise. He was an “older” man, probably in his 50’s, and said he didn’t love his children. He liked them, but didn’t love them. In fact, the idea of a father loving his children seemed like a new concept to him.

As I tried to figure out why any father would deny loving his children, it occurred to me that perhaps this fellow’s definition of “love” was rather short-sighted. My guess was that “love” in his understanding was something reserved for a man and a woman, not for a man and his children.

How sad! I’ll bet he loved his children. He just didn’t know that’s what love meant. But what does it mean for a father to love his children?

I asked my church to give their thoughts on their own dads. I cloaked it in the phrase, “My dad rocks because...” And in the responses, I came up with five aspects of fatherly love.

Fatherly love is sacrificial. “My dad rocks because he puts his kids first!” “My dad rocks because he is always self-sacrificing for the family. He is always willing to serve us. He has a steady quiet spirit that I have grown to appreciate.”

Fatherly love is disciplinary. “My dad was a strict disciplinarian when I was growing up. He did what was best for the family, even if we didn't see it at the time.”

Fatherly love listens. “My father was my very best friend; I could talk to him about anything.”

Fatherly love is shown in actions. “Because my Daddy gives me hugs and kisses, tells me he loves me, picks me up from preschool and takes me for rides on the lawnmower.” One mother wrote, “My children's father rocks because he is very supportive of his children and he has the best hugs.”

Fatherly love is unconditional. “My dad never failed to love me even when I was wild and rebellious his love was constant.” “He was the most kind and compassionate man I have ever known.” “My Dad was there to listen, encourage and correct with unconditional love. He was my example; I always wanted to be like him.”

Our great example as fathers is, of course, the love our Heavenly Father shows to us. And in a story Jesus told, the father of the prodigal son exemplified God’s love, even to a wayward son.

The expression “just like mother’s love” carries a very wonderful meaning. And without her love what would childhood be? Yet a father who loves his children and is unashamed to do so can have just as great, if not greater impact on a child’s life.

So as we approach Father’s Day, perhaps we dads can do a bit of self-evaluation and ask ourselves about the quantity and the quality of our love for the children God has placed in our quivers as arrows. Sacrifice. Discipline. Listening. Actions, not just words. And without condition. Love your children.

Rick Lawrenson is the Lead Pastor of Nags Head Church
© 2008 Rick Lawrenson

Friday, June 13, 2008

Breathe deeply, Haley

Haley Palmer lost her battle to stay alive today.

How I hurt for her parents, family and friends.

Thanks for your prayers on their behalf.

Cystic Fibrosis, while a horrible disease, somehow works to fashion the most incredible people we'll ever meet.

Dance for joy Haley. I want you to teach me how one day.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Where's the reunion? (Not that I would remember you...)

I don't remember the actual date, but 35 years ago around this time in June I graduated from Mt. Vernon High School in Alexandria, VA. Our baccalaureate was held at National Cathedral and our graduation at Constitution Hall in DC. The class of '73 closed down the old school, and the next year they moved to a new location.

The old school is still being used, however. And in fact, has made the news recently. You might have heard or read the story. Our old principal, Melvin B. Landes (who retired with the school after 30 + years), and an ordained Brethren minister as I recall, would be, shall I say, unhappy.

He was old-school strict. But he was loved nonetheless. He died in 2004 at 96.

I'm 3 times older than I was then. Plus a year.

What a depressing thought!

A Miracle is Needed For Haley Palmer

Haley is a 12 year old with CF. Her situation is very critical right now in St. Louis Children's Hospital. Doctors are doing what they can to sustain her life, but short of a miracle they say she may only have days left.

You can read her story here. Please pray for Haley and her parents.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Join Us in Prayer Wednesday morning

A great suggestion was made to Nathan's last post about dedicating the hours of 7-10AM EDST tomorrow, Wednesday, June 11 to pray specifically for Tricia's tests and her health.

I've asked my church to join in and now am asking you to be a part of a huge breath of prayer ascending to the throne of God on her behalf.If you can and will find a quiet time during those three hours, please do so. I'm seeing to it that our church will be open for those who want to come here and pray as well, although your location isn't important.

Thanks for all the support you have given thus far. Their journey isn't over and you're needed again.

Open Letter to a Church Hopper

Read the "letter" here.

One of our ministry team leaders sent me this link. First, the post is muy excelente. Second, Tim Stevens is the co-author of several of my very favorite books on church stuff. Outstanding stuff. Third, that one of our volunteer ministry leaders is reading his blog encourages me off the charts. (I'll bet she's read at least one of Tim's books.)

I read the "letter" and just said, "Amen!". I think Ed and Edith are now in Orlando.

(Thanks Tina.)

Monday, June 9, 2008

When a church loses its direction - church hop #3

(If you're dropping by for the first time, I'd encourage you to read the first two of this series here and here.)

Let me just cut to it. Some churches don't have a clue to their purpose or mission. They just do what they do because they've always done it that way. Yet they are spinning their wheels and going nowhere; doing nothing to impact their culture and community; and likely are dying a slow death. And if someone (usually someone newer or someone who has experienced his/her own revival) suggests something to jump start the battery they're stonewalled.

Yet across town is a church that is healthy, growing and has a great vision to reach and touch their community. Should you stick with the sick, status quo crowd sinking fast, or jump ship?

Many churches like the ones described above actually began with great enthusiasm and with passion for the Great Commission. But for whatever reasons, that is hard to sustain. Christians get lazy. Congregations become ingrown and forget they are to be a shining city on a hill. And before long, the original mission is forgotten and replaced with something far inferior.

Can those churches be awakened and revived? Absolutely! But there has to be leadership willing to pay the price and willing to let the old satisfied and apathetic "It's all about me" crowd leave. And that rarely happens.

So if a Christian is in a church that has lost its way and is in decline and time has proven it won't take drastic measures to turn the ship around, I would say that Christian should, with much prayer and Spirit led guidance, find a new church. Life's too short and eternity too long to sit around twiddling our thumbs and ignoring the malaise around us.

I also believe that God lets such churches fade away. But He always replaces them with churches willing to be all they can be and rock their world. And if there is no church like that in your community? Then ask God if He will let you start one.

Please just don't tell me when you check out our church that at your church you're "not being fed".

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Sunday Flashback

The wildfire that is burning approx. 100 miles to our west has really brought us a lot of smoke. This morning as I drove into Nags Head it was worse than any smog I ever saw in the LA basin of the 70's. And it affected the air quality in our building, because our AC system pulls "fresh" air from outside throught the system. But as the winds picked up (thanks God) from the NW it cleared the air and gradually cleared our air indoors as well.

The 9AM gathering was easily our biggest crowd since Easter's blow out. 11AM was not so packed but still a good crowd. You can see the video of the 11:00 gathering here.

I asked Nathan to share their story with the church. It was their first Sunday back together since before Christmas, and a lot has transpired in their lives. Simply put, both were powerful worship times. The icing on the cake was when Tricia and Gwyneth came up on the platform and joined Nathan at the end of each talk. You had to be there!

It never ceases to amaze me how NHC is impacting lives. We're in a unique postition to influence many outside our community because of our location in a resort town. Our presence on the internet also connects with so many. And when I think of where we were just a few years ago I'm blow away. God is good!

Andy got to introduce our bumper crop of high school grads this morning. It's exciting to see these young people pass this milestone and move on in life. Our goal and prayer is that they'll grow in God's grace and not drop out like so many typically do at this stage. NHC works hard to give them a strong foundation.

After the 11:00 gathering was done we got to have lunch with and interview 7 adults who want in on being part of the fellowship. We're excited to welcome them to the family. That's always a great day.

Wish I could show you the photo I took with my phone of the thermometer in my truck while driving home. 100. So I'm enjoying the AC and ceiling fan in my family room with Nate and Tric on their laptops and Sue Burns feeding Gwyneth.

Next Sunday: "How to Be a Dad Who Rocks!".

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Who's missing the point?

I listened to what I could of Sen. Clinton's speech today suspending her campaign and endorsing Sen. Obama. During the speech I was busy but caught a good portion of it. But I think she missed the point of the whole idea of why we have primaries and nominate candidates.

My concept of a presidential candidate worth selecting is one who has the proven qualifications to lead our nation through these difficult economic times; appoint justices to the SCOTUS who understand the role of the court is not the same as the role of Congress; and be the Commander in Chief of the military. That kind of sums it up for me.

But listening to her today made me realize that in her mind, this whole primary and nomination process has been about race and sex. Over and again she pointed out that a black man or a woman can be nominated for the highest office in the land. And that was what this was all about.

Jeepers. Heck. I bet most of America (including your's truly) would be glad to have a black man or woman as president as long as he or she could do the job. Surely there are many who could. In fact, not only would we go for a black man or a woman, we'd go for a red, brown or any color imaginable.

But was that really what the last months have been about? If so, our economy, our environment, the war, you name it, have dark days ahead. I'm just kinda tired of the race/gender card being pulled all the time. Let's get down to issues and qualifications and experience.

Is it me? Am I missing something here?

Friday, June 6, 2008

Annual checkup

One of the benefits of being a firefighter* is the requirement to have a complete physical done annually. It was that first physical 5 years ago that alerted me to a significant problem I had developed and put me on a diet and exercise routine that turned things around.

Today was my day to face the music again. Two weeks ago I had the batter of blood work and x-rays our doc calls for that speak volumes about lifestyle. I confess, I've been somewhat lax on the diet and since January haven't been doing any exercising. (Other things have taken priority.) But I haven't strayed too far on the diet.

And the result was good news. I'm both excited and relieved.

The Bible tells us that our bodies are God's temple. And while Bible bangers like me don't typically indulge in the "really bad stuff", we are frequently guilty of overworking that stomach muscle, which leads to all other kinds of physical malaise, and ultimate destruction of God's temple.

And the older I get, the more appreciation I have for physical fitness. Who likes aches and pains?

I think I'll celebrate with a big salad for lunch.

(*I use that term loosely. My main function with the department is as their chaplain.)

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

They're on their way!

And we're ready at the church to have them back.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Doing the Church Hop (part 2)

It's my opinion and experience that most people change churches for reasons that hold no biblical water. I think having so many choices only serves to dilute commitment and circumvent healthy communication and reconciliation. In other words, if Sister Flapjaws offended me by something she said I'll just leave and find another church.

In my first post on this subject I suggested that one legitimate reason for changing churches is unchecked immorality in the congregation. Immoral behavior, as described by Paul in 1 Corinthians 5 not only silences a church's voice to the world, but creates something very un-Christlike in a body created to reflect His moral excellence. And Paul instructs the church to deal with it. Don't sweep it under the carpet or turn your head and pretend it isn't there. So if there is real (not simply suspected or rumored) immorality among the congregation and no one - including leadership - initiates steps to confront it, that church has ceased to function as a church.

A second reason would be a church enabling or accepting doctrinal heresy. Every church/denomination has a set of doctrines - a statement of faith - that says "Here's what we believe". A church's beliefs are it's foundation. We do according to what we believe. Beliefs precede purpose and vision.

Change is often good, especially if it enables a church to better accomplish her mission and purposes. Our church has changed radically over the past 17 years that I've been a part of it. How we "do church" looks very different, and as a result our congregation looks very different and has grown exponentially. Heck, we even changed our name, then built a new building and tore down the old. We've changed to reach our changing culture and community.

But what has not changed is our belief system. It's our anchor because it spells out who we believe God is and how He has entered our world and communicated with us. and to a large extent how we're to live. However, some churches change their beliefs. Perhaps a new pastor comes in who has a different take on some particular doctrine and begins teaching something very different. Maybe it's not a pastor but a church member who has been combing over the internet (!) and has found some kind of new revelation. Who knows. But churches are known to move from one belief to another.

The Bible gives plenty of warning to the church about guarding our beliefs. False teachers are to be noted and refused. Why? Because they divide. So what do you do if your church has changed something in its core beliefs? Well, if you think the change is wrong, you leave and find a church with beliefs that line up with what you believe to be true.

That means that before you ever join a church you should ask the right questions about its beliefs. Don't assume anything. Ask the leadership. Even churches within the same denomination can have variances. And if the church you're considering is "non-denominational/inter-denominational" that is even more important. Request their beliefs in writing. Once things are written down they're not as easily changed. Ours are found in our church's constitution. Every prospective member is given a copy and an explanation of what we believe.

And I also strongly believe that a church's doctrine is more important than its methods or worship style. In other words, choose a church on what it believes first. Then consider its other distinctives. I'm flabbergasted when people tell me they chose a church because it was "close to our home". Hello. In our culture most of us can travel beyond our own neighborhoods without problem.

But before you exit a church for any reason sit down with its leadership and be sure what you are concerned with is what actually is happening. Sometimes perceptions aren't accurate.

And one more thing (and this is a no-brainer). Know what you believe. Be able to articulate your beliefs. Yeah, you. Don't leave it up to the clergy to tell you what you believe. But that requires study and discipline in God's Word doesn't it?

Later I'll talk about other changes that might prompt you to consider staying or leaving.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Get Set to Get Wet!

Sunday afternoon we had another baptism at NHC. Because we have no baptistry in our church facility we find other venues to celebrate the new life Christ gives. This year we've had baptisms in the pool at the YMCA, in the frigid Atlantic and in the warm and serene Roanoke Sound.

One of neat things at NHC is that we encourage dads to baptize their children who have become believers. So yesterday Dale baptized Emily and Juan baptized Dylan and Analyse. Steve and Brenda were also baptized and after dunking Steve, I assisted him in baptizing Brenda. Do you think those dads, kids and spouses will ever forget that moment?

A good crowd assembled to witness the public profession of these believers' faith. There's always lots of applause and hugs. Having out in a public place also invites others who happen to be there to stop and observe what we're doing.
We didn't hit 3,000 like the church's first ever baptism (Acts 2), but we nonetheless had a great time.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Sunday Flashback

It's the greatest feeling knowing that the pastor doesn't have to be there to "oversee", lead or even participate in every thing that happens at church. That happens when the church is equipped to do ministry and leaders rise to the occasion. More and more our church is living out what it means to be a team. I love it!

This morning I talked about adding "moral excellence" (2 Peter 1:5 NLT) to our faith and how Jesus set the standard we're striving to achieve in life. He dared go against the grain of His culture to demonstrate true goodness, and buck the trend of the religious legalists who controlled culture. Today, we're at the opposite end of the spectrum in our culture: rules are seen as unnecessary; live and let live. So moral goodness is fast becoming a thing of the past. We as Christ-followers have to buck that trend and swim upstream and look to Christ as our standard for living.

The music fit in so well with the message. Thanks Nate! It's going to be so great having you back. One guest told me afterward that our band sounded "almost professional". I understood what he meant.

Today was the first "hot" day we've had this year. Maybe summer is here for real?

A great group gathered later this afternoon to find out how to get involved in our Hukilau Surf Camps. This is our 9th year to use surf camps as an outreach to the youth of our community. Looks like a great team is being formed!

Tonight was our monthly Communion Fellowship. Thanks Burnie for leading us back to the cross. We heard some good testimonies of thankfulness, too. And as always, there was a great meal! Our fellowship team rocks! The youth group split a bit early to head out to Rita's for some fun and whatever stuff they serve there. (I haven't yet been, but I hear it's most excellent.) It was great to see some of the kids who attend our youth group come for our communion fellowship tonight.

Before we left our elders gathered with one of our couples who are both undergoing serious physical challenges. Their faith is humbling to me, and they asked us to meet with them and pray for them. What a privilege.