#rlc1st100- What are we not seeing?

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This is a critical question. I know I could spend lots of time on the Why we exist and I may come back to it, however I want to also look at some nuts and bolts of our experience.

What are we not seeing?

Guest and their perspective make me smile. A new fresh pair of eyes can see that chipped paint, bad signage, or poor quality a mile away. We may have excused it away or even not see something.

Yesterday I needed a Kleenex. I looked over where my wife Lori was sitting and then all around the room. I didn’t see the box so I got up and looked in the kitchen and walked around and finally went to the bathroom and grabbed some toilet tissue. I went back to my chair and as soon as my butt hit the cushion I again looked at my wife and saw this big box of Kleenex sitting next to her. I have no explaination to why I missed it but I did.

What are we missing in our Kairos. Merriam Webster says: a time when conditions are right for the accomplishment of a crucial action :  the opportune and decisive moment

Got Questions.org The word kairos was an ancient Greek word meaning “opportunity,” “season,” or “fitting time.” Another Greek word for “time” was chronos. A sequence of moments was expressed as chronos, emphasizing the duration of the time; an appointed time was expressed as kairos, with no regard for the length of the time. Thus, chronos was more linear and quantitative, and kairos was more nonlinear and qualitative. 

This Time with God is crucial. The Post-Modern church is all about the concert effect. I have noticed that in myself and with the current culture that this though awe inspiring can leave one with a sense of insincerity. Our new eyes have caused us to look at worship, discussion groups, greeting and hospitality, and the sharing of the Word. We are even looking at our space and what does it communicate to someone who has never been here.

Worship experience– Our Lead Worshiper has decided to strip down the music. Lets go more acoustic on purpose. This allows us to hear everything. To give God our best, we need to not hide behind the noise. I have been in several bands and learned that I at elevated volume can hide my mistakes, but one we turn everything down they are all blatantly exposed. It is uncomfortable but doesn’t God deserve our best?

We are also relooking at the space. Does it need to be less cluttered?

Are there any little things that can enhance someones experience or be less of a distraction. These little attentions to detail speak volumes about who we are and what we think about what we are doing.

It is a very hard task to train not just yourself but your team to see what we normally may overlook. The brain purposefully jumps over things and tries to help us process our environment. We have to slow down and try and look with new eyes.

My second most painful observation is flow. Does the time we experience together flow well or is it a disjointed mess. Each and every person has a responsibility to help with flow. Are we giving enough time and space for the movement needed on the platform? Maybe positioning a microphone in a different place would help. At we thinking through every detail or have we just decided to let everything go. It sounds crazy but we expect in every other area of our life to have an easy time navigating through stores, the web, and events. We especially in the metro area have a higher expectation for everything. I am not saying we should loose our minds over this. We have to evaluate on any given Sunday what is important and learn to be flexible, but we must like a strong team after excellence look and reevaluate everything.

Doesn’t God deserve our best?

Don’t the people who take time to experience God with us deserve our best?

Looking at flow helps us also sync into the flow of the Holy Spirit in Worship:

I as the pastor have a say in the order of service. I have to be painfully aware that I am not so focused on the planned activities that I miss an opportunity for God to speak. We may need to stay and soak in a particular place for awhile. I need to also trust my team and if the Lead Worshiper is sensing God to cut or add songs then I need to be open to this.

Think about it. My frustration or control can be sensed and seen. I cannot hide my expressions very well. If the people see I am ok with the changes then they will be ok with them. The reality is usually they do not know that there is a change till they see my reaction. How many pastors are guilty of pushing the Spirit of God out of the way because they had something they felt was important to do or say.

Trust me I hate the uncomfortable moments when I am just there not knowing what God wants to do. It is best to breath and just let go. Stay in a state of prayer until I know where God is directing us.

The service may go long or short but the result is what happened the other day. A guest came and said she so enjoyed the service and had no idea it was 12:30pm. She was delighted that such an openness to God’s guidance was part of who we are.

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The first 100 days

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The first 100 days of every Presidents first term sets the tone for their 4 years. We as a church have been hit hard and have come to a new reality of starting over, hence the title  of this new blog series:

It has been a few weeks since I have written. Let me fill you in on the details.

We where hip deep into rebuilding Renewed Life church at our new location in Mansfield, Texas. We had partnered with a sister church. We provided some muscle to help fix up the building and they provided us some space to do the outreach ministries that are deep in our hearts.

Christmas morning I received a call that our church was on fire. Later we found out that it was arson. The person who set the fire did so because in their words “I wanted to see the reaction on their faces”.

We still had service beside the road and praised God. We have long realized we were the church and that the church was not the building. Now we were on a new adventure again. We went from “Burned to Barbeque”. Spring Creek BBQ opened up their space to us. After a week Mansfield First relocated to a Seventh Day Adventist church deeper in Mansfield. We however were and are an Arlington church. I felt we needed to stay at the BBQ till God opened a door.

I have to say this was a very hard month for the church. 2 moves in less than a few months is hard on any church and I wondered if the people would hang in there. I knew God had called us and that we had a purpose to still exist, but in todays consumer client mentality we pastors often wonder if the people we minister to will remain faithful to the church they are in.

Another sister church reached out to us and it just felt right. Arlington First saw us and said they would make space for us. So we were on the move again. It is a miracle that 3 moves in 6 months that we are still in existence much less seeing progress.

Moving forward after literally loosing everything is the quintessential idea of restarting. At the BBQ we had a small borrowed sound system and had to turn one chair over on another to make a music stand. (O, I also failed to mention that previous to this God had called away our young worship leader. In the same season months earlier God was calling back one of our previous worship leaders. He had no idea he would be stepping back in when he first started coming back to the church). Let’s just say God has a sense of humor and has timing that is perfect.

I have learned that I need to trust God. He always is 5 steps ahead of what our present circumstances are revealing to us. He is working in the hearts of His people to accomplish something greater than ourselves.

As I write this we are a few weeks into our new reality. We still have a few old things that are part of our DNA:

No Panic policy– We just learn to be flexible and keep moving forward.

Change is the only Constant at Renewed Life Church- This helps us live in a state of trust rather than comfort.

Never stop reaching out– Death is in protection. As general Patton once said “He did not like to pay for the same real estate twice.” To stop living out the great commission is to begin the slow march towards the death of your church.

As we move into our new reality we are also having to reevaluate EVERYTHING.

This honestly is an awesome place to be. If you approach this with a positive perspective then you can see the opportunities for growth. If you choose to be pessimistic then all you can see is what is wrong and solutions will always be beyond your grasp.

We have a lot of work to do. The next few post will be about this work. How we are taking a church from near death because of a steady onslaught of the enemies attacks into not just surviving but thriving. 

1: Why do we exist?

I have taught for over 1 month now over Matthew 28:16-20 the Great Commission. The same passage every week, highlighting a different aspect. The key is to move from hearing to doing. We cannot do if we do not know why we exist.

We exist to be Transformed by God– This Transformation brings us back into relationship with God. This New Reality redefines Normal. What we think and felt prior, what we perceived as normal was actually a fallen mind and way of life. A life of separation from God that brought us chaos, and eventually death of our physical, mental, emotional and worst of all our spiritual selves.

I hope you will walk with me through this journey.

Please subscribe or at least like and share this post if it has in any way touched your life or encouraged you.

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The Great Rebuild-relevance

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I am in another cycle of rebuilding the church I planted several years ago. I have learned many things since that first service in Feb 11 2001. Then we were in a rock and roll club in Arlington, Texas. I reached out to the lost runaways who found a safe place to live. One of my goals was to do church that was relevant and different. The difference was so that all excuses would be taken away that non-Christians might use to stay away.

Over the years what I did then which was considered cutting edge became the new standard for how church “happens” in our area. Since that time we have changed location several times, planted another church, we have grown in the ups and downs of being a church. I have made several mistakes in leadership along the way.

As I seek God again for direction I think back to the journey we have been on as the church. An old tattered sign is soon to be replaced. On it the words “Making Christianity relevant” are displayed.

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My inclination is to take all my research and again go to the next level of “Church”. I can read trends well and know how to create a great, safe exciting environment for people to experience God. However should I still be on the mission of making Christianity relevant? Should this be my starting point?

My answer now as then is a resounding Yes / NO!?!

I didn’t set out to create a cool church then. I set out first seeking God. My biggest question was at that timeAre You calling me to do this“? And if so my New Start planting coaches then asked me “Does Arlington, Texas Need another church“?

The questions have not changed today. If these first two are not answered correctly then everything I do is from my own efforts and even if it grows it has failed. I know my Nazarene brothers and sisters may not understand this philosophy. We gauge God’s stamp of approval by numbers. We are driven by this and shamed into programs that “produce”. I get the heart behind this thinking and could even find scripture to support growth. I could teach the seminar on how healthy things grow and yet…

Yet today I am challenged with these old questions as we move forward. I am challenged because our context has changed. We are now in a partnership with an older church in an older traditional styled building. Now hear me please, I am thankful for this partnership. We now can move from nomadic and struggling to find space to do the ministries God has called us to do; to having space to do whatever our little minds can create, and yet…

Yet today before we move forward and go into decorations, colors, styles of worship we need to pause. My main focus should not be how to make people comfortable. My main focus is not apologetics. My main focus is not how to create an environment that the world feels comfortable coming into. My main focus will start with myself.

Am I experiencing the Transformational renewing power and presence of God in my own life?

I can only lead people to the depths of what I have experienced. I can do all the above with great conviction and be completely in His will… These other things are important as window dressing. They are important as tools. The post-modern church has put the proverbial cart before the horse. Honestly we have been doing this as long as I have been in church. Pastors run after programs, read books and try new things all in the name of reaching others (ego and getting a bigger and better assignment are the real core of their efforts). My desire to do something different wasn’t about the books but a passion for my lost friends, family and community. I didn’t want band-aid solutions. The change fundamentally had to be spiritual which then played itself out in our praxis of everyday life.

Christianity is never relevant to the world.

Christianity is never cool and trendy.

Christianity is counterculture, messy, and frustrating.

Christianity stands for Holiness, truth and love.

You would think this would be attractive but honestly it scares people to death. It causes them to run away at full speed. So my desire to create relevance is not from God. My desire to create a safe space where distraction is removed is from God. I need to continue studying the current culture and understand how they think, feel and function but not as a means to manipulate. I need to do this as a way to honestly know how to love, inspire and truthfully speak to their fears, hurts and wounds.

So I guess the old phrase stays because in doing this we as the church are always helping those outside see how we are reframing what they have perceived about our faith and constantly moving forward in “Making Christianity Relevant”!

#renewalisNOW

yourrenewal.org

 

Real Man of God?

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I have this life verse that guides me. My verse or verses stuck out to me in a very hard time in my life. I was struggling with fully living out my call to be a pastor and like a bolt of lightning this verse hit me.

Jeremiah 29: 11-14

11 For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. 12 Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. 13 When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, 14 I will let you find me, says the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.

This changed me as a person. I realized that the on the fence life of faith was always going to leave me in confusion. That to be a real man of God I had to KNOW God, not just about God. I had to Know Him in a way that all my doubts and hence fears would be removed. This had to be done regardless of if anyone else believed or not. My quest had to be to find God, experience God and then share what I learned.

Now I want to point out the sharing had nothing to do with being a pastor. The sharing was the basic requirement of anyone who call’s themselves a Christian. And the basic requirement of sharing HAS to begin with those in my home!

This cool passage in Deuteronomy 6 really drives this home.

Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

So in every area of my life starting with my family I am to be the main teacher.

1: To be a man of God I have to reclaim this role of Spiritual Leader.

We as men have surrendered our roles as leaders in our homes. We have bought into the lie that if Mama’s not happy no one is happy. The reality is: if God is not happy No one is happy!!

Mama will be happy when she has a “Man” in her life. Now redefining this will be key because immediately the feminist have begun gathering wood to burn me in effigy. This is sad because the Great Emasculation of the American Male has lead to great confusion in our children and society. Honestly guys it is our fault. We need to reclaim our position not by demands but like true men of God by “Servant Leadership“.

If you walk in and demand respect and say I am the man you have to follow me, then you will fail and miss my point. You have to begin by following the greatest commandment of Loving the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind….

Until We get this part right we will never get the rest right.

My personal mission statement is:

Transformed by God to Transform the world.

We cannot transform anything till we first have been transformed. We cannot be transformed till WE have a real relationship with God.

God will not have a real relationship with someone who is fake, posing, and half way going after Him. If you look at the original verse I shared it talked about Finding God, God hearing us, God answering us but only after we seek Him with ALL Our Hearts.

So the beginning of Real Manhood begins with a Quest.

Start Now. Start Today. Let’s go on a journey to deconstruct what we think we know and allow God to Reconstruct who he really is, and then who we are to be. In the process we will Find God, Find ourselves and re-find the role of leader in our families.

The Great Rebuilding

rlc-bannerI have been on a small sabbatical from writing my personal journey’s. The reason is that I have focused all attention on moving Renewed Life Church from transient to a partnership with a sister church.

Doing this has seen me also transition to being bi-v0cational. This does not mean I haven’t been active in my reflection time but that I just have not taken the time to share my journey.

With this transition I knew there would be challenges. Whenever you take a church from one location to another there is always collateral damage. People who otherwise would have stayed see this as an excuse to now not be a part of the community. The funny thing is you could move right next door and these same people would find a reason to not attend.

Our move was not across town but it did place us further away for some. The distance not only being a change but we also had to adjust the time we met. We landed at 11:30am. Yes I know it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that the Cowboy’s even in a bad season would cause a loss in attendance much less a great season like they are having this year. There is also the mental jump that half the day is gone by the time we even let you out for lunch. I havent even mentioned the diabolical children’s sports programs that already are reeking havoc on church attendance.

With all this said it was still worth the move.

1: We all unanimously agreed and voted that this was what God wanted. (I guess voting and living out your vote may not be the same thing).

2: It was a win/win for both churches. My goal then and still today is that all those who thought our service was to late could at least attend the other churches service at 10:15. I mean you would get out 30 minutes earlier and get home for the noon kick off!!!

3: It gave us opportunity to do the ministries we were called to do from the beginning.

What are these ministries you may ask?

Well kids let me tell you.

A: We have set classrooms for our kids and adults. For you who have never been in a travel church this is something you take for granted. It gives greater consistency for our students hence we have a greater chance to create better learning environments.

B: We can offer things that not only help us as a local church grow but can be things that benefit the greater community at large.

This has always been the vision and passion of my heart. I see the building as a place where even an atheist would want to come and join the things we are doing to impact our community.

January 9th we will start a program called Grief Share. We as a church have experienced a lot of loss the past few years. We have not only lost family and friends in death but relationships have been strained and the community as a whole has had to several times work through grief.

We will also start a recovery program called Overcomers. This is a Biblically based 12 step group. It is approved by Tarrant County parole and also is very open to work with other 12 step organizations. It sees itself as a partner in the greater effort to help lives ripped apart by addiction to be restored and made whole again. We just realize like the founders of AA that without God this is not possible.

Other groups will also be forming as we enter 2017. Financial Peace, Mercy Heart and Rengage, a Living Hope group are a few.

There has also been New Minister training going on in the building. I have had a chance to walk with 3 people through exploring Holiness. I also am connected to 5 other individuals exploring their call or continued call in ministry. I can’t forget 2 ministers who also see us as their church home. This next year will see discipleship of people called into ministry at an all time high.

With all this you would think we would be busting at the seems. I can’t help but scratch my head when I look and think of all the living and transformed lives that are a part of our church and yet the people who should be here that just won’t come. But isn’t this every pastors struggle? We know and see everyday God active in our world not because we are pastors, but because we earnestly seek to live out life as God asks everyone to live.

My challenge this year will be to not try and convince people to come to Renewed Life. If they can’t see that then my words will never get them to be a part of our community. My goal is for God to touch peoples hearts and realize that the emptiness they feel and the void in their life can be literally filled. There is no hype just life that God offers.

I have had some tremendous struggles this year alone and in the midst God has NEVER let me down. So why would I quit? The only way I will ever leave is if God tells me or the people loose the vision. And even if they loose the vision I will keep going as long as God says stay the course.

50 Today !!! What have I learned??

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Jeremiah 29: 11-14

11 For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. 12 Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. 13 When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, 14 I will let you find me, says the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.

This is still my favorite verse. It speaks of my struggle with God. At 50 I can say I have found Him, only because I have searched for Him with all my heart.

I have learned God has never failed me. He may have seemed absent, quiet, but in the end with hind sight I have come to realize He has always been there. It was usually my sin, rebellion, or lack of just general faithfulness that caused me to be unable to hear His voice or experience His presence.

Real friends are rare. Many use the term but few stand by you. Fewer still will speak truth in love and still stay on the journey with you.

Loving my Wife has taught me what it means to love my neighbor as myself. Loving someone requires you to be selfless. To be a better person than you want to be. It requires you to seek God in His Holiness to understand what not only love is but what it means to love another person. It perfects you because you have to see the ugly in yourself and submit that to God. As you allow God to purify you then you can better love others. She makes me a better man. She also love God more than me which inspires me for that same kind of relationship with the Father.

Tenacity is key to ministry. All the biggest blessings I have ever received came from not giving up. In this discipline you are forced to understand others, to hear and see them. To step outside yourself and meet people where they are. You also have to be sure of your Calling and know your core values. With these in tact you can with strength proceed even if it is alone.

Fight for the underdog. Be the voice of the voiceless. Be the helping hand of the weak, widows, sick and poor. This is the highest measure and expretion of true faith and Godly love.

Boundaries. I can not want your Best life more than you do. Learning where I end and you begin is critical to longevity and avoiding burnout.

There is always more I can learn. I have not achieved my academic goals yet but I strive to know more from God, professors, pastors, books and others. Every moment is a teachable moment. I may not have the letters behind my name but I have learned so much over the past half century.

My Crazy Loving Family. I have an amazing heritage. They have stuck with me through some tough times and we have celebrated some great time. Thanks Mom for always being a positive influence. Thanks Sis for being there and helping me keep my sanity. Thanks bro for believing in me and standing by me.

Giving. Never let hurts or disappointments keep you from giving. Give without expecting anything in return. Give even if it doesn’t always make sense. Always Give God more than He ask because I don’t deserve what He has given me.

Church. It is a messy, crazy group of people but we need each other. I honestly cannot imagine going through everything I have experienced without the prayers, encouragement, support and even the trials. We are far better together than apart.

Music. It has been my escape, comfort and voice. I have again not accomplished what I have wanted to but I have played with some amazing people. And I had a chance to share this part of my life with my Brother which has meant the world to me.

Forgiveness. Always forgive. Always work through your pain and with God’s help find a way to the other side. I am still working on this with a few people but with God’s help I have not allowed my pain to make me a bitter, callous man. I have learned to pray blessings over those who have hurt me and find a path into forgiveness even for those who have given me no voice.

People are valuable so treat them as such. Even the stranger is created in God’s image. I must view everyone I meet as His child. They may be marred with sin and pain but underneath everything there is a child of God waiting to be loved, encouraged, and to rise into their God ordained purpose.

Books. I have been all over the world and in the minds of every type of person. They have been my teacher, my companion, and my escape.

Motorcycle. My wind therapy. My time in prayer when I thought my life was over came on the back of a bike. Some of my greatest healing and resolve to carry on has happened while riding. I have also witnessed the wonders of being exposed in creation as God and I have toured this great nation together.

Prayer. Just being in the presence of God and hearing His voice has brought the most transformation and healing to my soul. Along with fasting and meditation the trinity of spiritual formation I have been molded like clay in the hands of the Great Potter.

The Bible. God has met me and changed my paradigms with the words of this book. It is always fresh and alive. Without the Holy Spirit in my soul it would just be another book, but with God’s guidance the words come alive and great excitement fills me as we journey to my Renewed Mind.

My 5 senses. Thank you God for each and how they all enhance this mortal coils experience.

This is not an exhaustive list nor is it in any proper order. I honestly dreaded this day. I believed I would be depressed. I however woke up feeling no pain in my body, my mind alert, and ready to conquer the world just like I was in my 20’s. I am a little wiser but no less resolved to use my life as an agent of Transformation to a lost and dying world.

I still believe  will plant 10 more churches.

I still believe I will write at least 30-50 books.

I still believe I will record music from my soul and experiences.

I still believe I will live to 120.

I still believe that with God I can do all things.

I still believe people CAN CHANGE.

I still BELIEVE That Jesus Christ has saved me, the Holy Spirit has Sanctified me, and God has called me. 

Lent- Fasting

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The journey of Lent is a time to connect to the suffering and passion of Christ. Immediately upon His baptism the first thing He did was to go into the wilderness for 40 days.

Many of us would have launched a P.R. campaign, a sermon series, bought billboards, radio or TV time to get the word out. Not Jesus, He withdrew.

Matthew 4: Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished.

Two things we should note. Jesus was led by the Spirit. This was part of God’s plan. The first thing needed was to be able to understand mankind. What better way than to weaken yourself and go through temptation. For Jesus to fully relate to our humanity He needed to experience our weakness and what that would be like. I believe the temptations were real but He being also God had insider and first hand information of His Divinity we do not have. However He had never before been clothed and experienced human frailty in this way.

The second thing is that The devil waited till Jesus humanity was at His weakest point. The enemy never attacks us when we are prepared and at our strongest. He waits for either our worst moment or when pride fills us at our best moment. Both are times when we as humans may lean more on ourselves than the God who sustains us.

Lent is our time to be humbled before God. Our time to break from our reliance on ourselves and the physical world. Our true strength comes from our spiritual side. The spiritual side gives us understanding and resolve we can never attain in our flesh.

I remember my Mom as a child having me be quiet during noon on good Friday. She was contemplating the crucifixion and wanted me to at least respect that time. That respect and reverence has never left me to this day.

Take some time during your fast and shift the focus from your struggles and minor uncomfortable experience. Try and imagine what Christ went through. What was He thinking. Can you imagine the emotions and the rejection He must have felt. Even with the knowledge He would rise again the reality of the beatings and crucifixion must have been more than we can even comprehend.

Thank you God for going through this experience so that we can have a life we do not deserve and a relationship that we have to often undervalued.