Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Sermon Recap - What to Mimic

In John 13:1-17 Jesus' washes his disciples feet.  This is the ultimate act of humility.  It is a foreshadowing of what Jesus would do for his disciples on the cross.  He cleanses them physically in this text only later to cleanse them spiritually.

My favorite part of this story is Jesus' interaction with Peter.  After Peter emphatically declares "you shall never wash my feet" (this is out of respect for who Jesus is) Jesus says in verse 8 "Unless I wash you, you have no part with me."  Peter still doesn't quite get it proving Jesus words just before this that he wouldn't understand what he was doing until later on.

The message centered around this main idea: "Humility is our way to God, because it's God's way to us."

This act of washing His disciples feet was an act of humility for Jesus and for the disciples.  Jesus disarms His disciples with this act and invites them into a new kind of relationship based on mutual servanthood.

At the end of the story Jesus tells his disciples to do for each other what he has done for them and that if they do that, they will be blessed.

May you be the kind of person who cultivates Christ-like humility and finds closeness with God and closeness with the other relationships that matter most in your life because of it.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Sermon Recap - Family Matters

On Sunday I had several one-liners that I need to be reminded of.

The first one was this: Proximity does not equal intimacy.

You can live in the same household together and fail miserably at intimacy.  For intimacy to happen in a relationship there has to be intentional connection.

The congregation seemed to like the video I showed, here's the full version.

That one-liner led to this one-liner: Busy-ness is the enemy of intimacy.

Joshua warns the Israelite's of distractions and temptations from the culture around them in his final speech found in chapters 23 and 24. He then makes this declaration "As for me and my house we will serve the Lord."  Serving the Lord means being intentional about building intimacy with Him and with the relationships He has placed in our care.  

The final one-liner (with children in mind): When experiences outweigh connections we are relationally impoverished.

I have seen this in my own family in the family's of friends around me.  We try to give our children opportunities and experiences that will help them become "well rounded" and before we know it we have them in so many activities that connection, intimacy and real relationships suffer.  What our children need more than experiences, is healthy relationships.  This is a call for us to slow down and make connections a higher priority than experiences.

For the full sermon go here.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Why I Don't Like the Phrase "Happy Wife, Happy Life"

This Sunday we continue the series Culture Creators at Covenant Community Church.  We will zoom in specifically on what it looks like for a family to proclaim with Joshua "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."  

A part of the message involves the problems I have with the phrase "Happy Wife, Happy Life."  I don't want to reveal too much before Sunday morning.  

All I will say for now is that the phrase sounds a lot like a one-sided relationship.  And marriage is anything but a one-sided relationship.  

I'll post more after Sunday.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Simba Syndrome - Sermon Recap

This Sunday I used the movie The Lion King as a way to talk about our identity in Christ. Here's a brief synopsis:

The heart of the movie centers around Simba wrestling with his identity. He is king of pride rock, but after believing he is responsible for his father's death, he runs away. The reality is that he is still the king, he's just not living into his kingship.

Along his journey there are several people who remind of who he is because of whose he his. He is the rightful king because his father Mufasa was the king. There is a distance for Simba between who he actually is (the king) and how he is living his life (not as a king).

It reminds me of how some of us who claim to be Jesus followers often find ourselves living. The reality is: if you have said yes to Jesus as your Lord and your Savior, you are a redeemed, reconciled, victorious, holy, loved and claimed new creation in Christ. That’s who you are because of whose you are.    

You are who you are because of whose you are. 

Yet we often live believing that we are something we are not. We often live defeated. We often live like we are alone. We often live like we can't do anything about our circumstances. We often live in guilt and shame. We live like we just have to let life happen to us instead of for us. And I’m here to tell you that you are your own Culture Creator. You have influence right where you are.  You are who you are because of whose you are and nothing can change that.

Paul reminds us in Colossians 3:12 "Therefore as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience."

We are God's chosen people, claimed by him, loved by Him and made righteous/holy by him. That's who you are and whose you are. Paul says with that truth in mind, be intentional about putting on love. Be intentional about being the kind of person who loves like Jesus loved.

That was the heart of the message, I also talk about the splachna...if your curious you can watch the full message here.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Culture Creators

I'm really excited about our new series starting this Sunday called:

I have this belief that if we live for Jesus we can create the kind of lives that He wants for us and that we want for ourselves.

My temptation is just to let life happen to me and I think Jesus calls me to be more proactive. I think I am called create the kind of life He wants for me.

I believe a Culture Creator is someone who is:

intentional about who they are

where they are because they know

whose they are.

Who you are is found in Christ..you are loved, claimed, saved and holy.

Where you are is literally where you are at any given moment.

Whose you are: you are claimed by a faithful, loving, just and gracious God.

When you can rest in whose you are, you can be intentional about who you are, no matter where you are and that's when become a Culture Creator.

I look forward to exploring the idea with Covenant Community Church over the next few weeks.

Friday, May 13, 2016

I was once a "Fish"

This past Sunday I invited the church to write a letter to the person(s) who "fished" for them.  Here's mine:

To my Parents and Eddie Black,
              In Matthew 4 Jesus calls His first disciples with these words “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men (and women).”  I gave a sermon this past Sunday about the importance of living into this call of Jesus.  In the message I talked about how we were once fish and someone “fished” for us.  Mom and Stan and Eddie, you are the ones who “fished” for me and for that I am literally eternally thankful.

                Mom and Stan, you raised me in a home where I knew I was loved and cared for and provided for.  You made it a point to take us to church and teach us about God in a several different ways.  Eddie, you were the Methodist preacher I remember the most in my childhood because of your call to salvation at an evening service.  I want to address each one of you.

Mom: What I remember most about you teaching me about God was through nature.  You were always one to take us outside and appreciate God’s beauty through creation.  His creation is truly a masterful work of art and you instilled that appreciation within me.  I’m thankful for the mom you were and are and I am especially thankful for how you pointed me to God through His creation.

Stan: What I remember most about you teaching me about God was and is through generosity and hard work.  It’s still amazing to me that you married my mom knowing she came with three young children.  Generosity involves sacrifice, you sacrificed a life without having to provide for a large family to take us in and be a Father to us.  You have also modeled generosity in your time and effort by how you (and Mom) took care of Mikayla and Bayley for us at least a full day a week for ten years.  Our God is a generous God and I have seen you model that for me.  Also, you have modeled hard work and the fruits of that labor.  I know we are saved by grace alone, but we are called to partner with God and are created as God’s workmanship, in Christ Jesus to do good works.  Thank you for modeling hard work.

Eddie: I remember sitting in my bed one night and asking Jesus to be my savior because of a sermon you gave at an evening service.  Up to that point in my life I had heard about God and many of the Bible stories, but I had never intentionally entered into a saving relationship with Jesus.  I thank you for your boldness that night to proclaim the gospel in a clear enough way for a ten year old to make Jesus his Lord and Savior laying in his bed that evening.

         I am now a United Methodist preacher serving at an amazing church in Asheville, NC.  Without the foundation each of you established for me, without you intentionally “fishing” for me, I would not be where I am today.  Thank you for your part to play in who I am and what I’m doing today.  I love being a pastor and take it as an honor and a privilege to share Jesus with a large group of people on a weekly basis.

Monday, May 9, 2016

The Best of the Best

Last week I attended two different leadership conferences (Regroup and Leader Cast) which included talks from eight different public speakers.  Some of the speakers are known for their communication skills (Andy Stanley) others are known for their leadership in another profession (SEC football coach, psychologist, successful business woman, etc).  

I thought it would be helpful to break down the qualities of the most successful messages and ask the question: what did they have in common?

Here's five qualities I ended up with:

1. Clarity

2. Simplicity

3. Content (including illustrations/stories)

4. Humor

5. Preparation

The two most noteworthy communicators were Andy Stanley and Clay Scroggins (and I'm not just saying that because they are both preachers).  

I'm going to use these 5 qualities to unpack the difference between the messages of Andy Stanley and Nick Saban at Leadercast.  

In case you don't know, Nick Saban is the head football coach at Alabama and he's one of the most successful college football coaches ever. However, the three of us who attended the conference agreed that he was not a very effective communicator.  

I know comparing the message of a professional communicator and a professional football coach is a bit like comparing apples to oranges, however, it helps me improve as a communicator when I think about the differences in their talks, so here it goes:

1. Clarity
-Andy was absolutely clear and on point from the beginning of his message to the end.  Everyone knew he was talking about "making vision stick."

-Nick talked about being a winner and discipline and teamwork and intensity and work...all good things, there just wasn't clarity/focus around any single one.

2. Simplicity
-Andy's point throughout his message was (in my own words) "a clear vision is important" and he unpacked "why."

-Nick's point was...well...it was all over the place.  He had some decent one liners like "work isn't about spending time, it's about investing time" but I couldn't tell you his main point.

3. Content
-Andy's content incorporated personal stories, cultural stories, visual aids, memorable one liner's and an easy to follow flow.

-I will say that Nick had some pretty good content, it just wasn't organized in way that was easy to receive.  

4. Humor
-Andy is not a comedian and I don't actually remember laughing much in this particular talk, but I don't remember laughing at all while listening to Nick Saban.

5. Preparation
-While neither Andy nor Nick used notes (that we could see), Andy's preparation had an easy to follow flow and included slides that helped make his message stick.  It seemed as though Nick was "shooting from the hip" regarding what he's learned about leadership as a head coach.


I am now thinking about how others would evaluate my messages using these five qualities.  It's one thing to evaluate myself, but what if I actually invited others to evaluate me as well.  I think this blog has encouraged me to find a couple of people I trust to evaluate me so that I can improve as a communicator.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Questions are Better than Answers

One common "theme" at Northpoint is the idea that questions are better (more relational) than answers. All of their training is moving closer towards "relational connection" as opposed to "content transferal."

Here's an incredible Fact they shared (I don't remember the book it's from):
Jesus was asked 183 questions. He only answered three of them. Jesus asked over 300 questions.

So here are a few questions the leadership of Covenant will be exploring together in the coming months (maybe even years):

1. Do we create the same "on-ramp" as Northpoint for getting people in small groups? If so how does it look different?  If not what does it look like?

2. What would it look like for us to move from a church "with" small groups to a church "of" small groups?

3. What common language will help us be the best Covenant Community Church we can be?

4. Northpoint has both "internal" and "external" values, goals and statements...what are those for us?

5. How do we make our vision our process and our process our vision?

6. How do we resist the temptation of allowing the pursuit of "making things better" become more important than relationships.

7. Covenant has a more intimate "feel" than NorthPoint...what does it look like to combine NorthPoint's strategies with that strength?

8. What are the steps we need to take to apply what we've learned in our context?

9. How do we make sure we aren't telling God what we want then asking Him to bless it?

10. Are we truly seeking the guidance and authority of the Holy Spirit to guide us and open our eyes to what we might be missing?

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

reGroup Takeaways

The past two days I had the privilege of attending NorthPoint Community Church's reGroup conference with 3 other incredible leaders from Covenant. 

There were many "aha" moments and the "wow" factor at the Buckhead Campus is off the charts. I will be blogging about the conference for the next week or two, i'll start with several key takeaways from a "bird's eye view."

1. Everything they do, they do with clarity, intentionality, simplicity and focus.

-Our team was absolutely amazed at how everyone was "on the same page" and all about their mission and vision.

2. Having a common language is the key to clarity and simplicity.

-Every person on our team attended a different breakout session.  We heard the same terminology, processes and strategies regardless of the content.

3. The only numeric goal Northpoint/Andy Stanley has ever set is "how many people are in a small group?"

-Not attendance, not membership, not giving, not serving...their goal is getting people in small groups and everything they do points towards that goal.

4. Statements like "Life is better connected" and "Circles are better than rows" were communicated in various ways over and over and over again.

-We saw and heard those two statements both explicitly and implicitly. Clarity and simplicity modeled with excellence.

5. They are making it a point to "get better," but not at the expense of relationships.

-Clay Scroggins ended the conference main session with the connection between two phrases they keep in front of their staff members: "take it personally" and "make it better."  He confessed that they have had a tendency to drift towards "make it better" at the expense of "take it personally."  He is being intentional in his leadership to shift the momentum back towards "take it personally" but not at the expense of "make it better."

Final Thoughts

It's easy as a pastor to be jealous of what they have and what they are doing. I was reminded in different ways over and over again that I am called to Covenant and of what a privilege and honor it is to be the pastor of this incredible church. I am blessed beyond what I deserve. I'm so excited to explore new ideas at Covenant for the purpose of "inviting people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ."

Sunday, May 1, 2016

The Greatest Commandment

Matthew 22:36-40
36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
One of the Pharisees tested Jesus with the question in verse 36. It was to try discount Jesus' authority of having any say in what was considered their area of expertise.  And Jesus silences them with His answer.
Jesus exemplified the life of Loving God and Loving Others. He fulfilled the law not just by taking the punishment of the law, but by showing us how the heart of the law is to be lived out.
This love God calls us to is not based on emotions, it's based on commitment and action.  It is a covenant kind of love. This love is the love God has shown us and that we are to show God. We are to mimic His sacrificial, faithful and steadfast love with the same consistency He does.
To love others as we love ourselves simply means we extend to others the same kind of personal concern that we have for ourselves. We are willing "put ourselves in their shoes" and love them where they are as if we were there ourselves.
I don't know about you, but I have a long way to go in loving God this way and loving others this way.  It's called the greatest commandment, not the easiest.