I CAN’T BELIEVE THEY LET ME WRITE THIS ARTICLE . . .

I CAN’T BELIEVE THEY LET ME WRITE THIS ARTICLE . . .

There is documented proof that, in fact, I was the last person in early 1996 to stop ‘tight-rolling’ my jeans. How did everyone else find out that ‘tight rolling’ one’s jeans was considered fashionably ‘out’? Did I miss a public service announcement of some sort? Who decides these things for all of us? It was as if Michael J. Fox did an after school special with this important information and I missed it completely. It was my girlfriend Jen at the time, who later became my beautiful wife, who broke the news to me . . . gently.

Our whole family laughed at the dinner table when I told them I was writing an article on the issue of ‘looking & feeling great for the holidays’. My fashion sense has a historical Facebook evidence trail of bad decisions. This ‘issue’ has continued in my life to this day. On a weekly basis Jen will ask me, “Are you planning on wearing that?” My quick and reflexive response always, “Nope, just hanging it here on myself . . . for a while.”

Gratefully, I’ve learned to ask all the fashion police in my life before grabbing the keys and making my way down state RD 54 to my own embarrassment . . . but we all instinctively know looking and feeling great has so many more nuances than whether to tuck or not tuck! The complexities of our appearance and our inner feelings are interwoven in ways we don’t completely understand. Perhaps this is because we can all think of a time when we felt great and looked a bit off or we were struggling with how we felt but knew we looked pretty good. Everyone wants to walk in the balance of looking and feeling our best.

During this special season of community gatherings here are some tips to both LOOK and FEEL great!

Get Feeling Great . . .

The best advice is usually the oldest advice and that is especially true in this case. God was actually the very first counselor to give advice on feeling better. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast?  If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” Genesis 4:6-7.

This is amazing advice that directly impacts how we ‘feel’. When we do something right, something we know we are supposed to do, it stops the path of anger and the other emotions that come from it: depression, anxiety, self-absorption, selfishness, pride, hatred. All of these things stem from anger and can be stopped by serving others. One true statement we say in our family is that, “The heart follows the hand”. We all understand NOT wanting to do something, but in obedience, doing it anyway. When that happens, we start to notice that our feelings change through the ACTION process. We can literally tell our feelings what to become by doing what is right.

This might seem too simple to be true; most true things are simple to understand but still hard to do. Of all the advice I could possibly give someone during this season, I can’t imagine topping the first advice ever given. It was God Himself who looked down and said to Cain, “Just do what is right, and then the bad news and feelings that are trying to overcome you will be gone”

It is a great mystery how the power of looking outside of oneself actually brings life to the giver in powerful ways. You will get a healthy glow, you will have a resilience inside that returns! Our countenance is impacted by how we are feeling at the deepest levels of who we are. This dynamic idea is best explained in 1 Peter 3:3-4, “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”

Here are some ways you can directly improve how you feel at the deepest level:

  • Give an unexpected gift
  • Serve
  • Volunteer for a short-term holiday project during this season

 Get Looking Great . . . 

The beauty industry is a $445 Billion worldwide market so there’s lots of information on how to look better in exchange for dollars every place you look. Again, I am driven to the great wisdom of my wife. “You don’t have to care lots, just a little bit will go a long way.” Who hasn’t spent money on an empty promise of looking better? After scouring all types of sources for the best advice in LOOKING better here’s the condensed version with my own preacher-man twist.

Helpful tips as you get ready for that office party:

  • Try just a little bit . . . it doesn’t take a huge makeover.
    • Don’t spend lots of money on an entire outfit when in fact it’s just the scarf that you love and makes your eyes pop!
  • Don’t try so hard that it gets awkward.
    • Moderations are key! Before you try the quick and expensive weight loss technique that might be dangerous anyway, just get a new haircut or manicure. People may not notice exactly what you did, but the overall effect will shine through and you will feel the extra confidence.
  • Smile!
    • This was the best advice grandma ever gave me. I would rather see a smile than a new outfit anyway. Make it a real smile with real love and people won’t have time to notice anything else!
  • Don’t be afraid to have your own style!
    • There’s something special about you being the only you that ever was, don’t hide that away. Personal style is scientifically shown to be the best marker of beauty, from a hat that only you would wear to a signature accent piece that sets you apart. People are drawn to those who step out in courage. If you are going to wear it, love it yourself first!
  • If in doubt, be classy.
    • I know it’s easier to wear the favorite jeans and sweater from college. I am wearing that right now as I type! Rarely do I regret going the extra mile to dress up a bit more. If you have to choose between being overdressed and under-dressed, choose to be classy!

I’ve done the research for you on the best tips for LOOKING great this Holiday season, but of all the things I could tell you to ‘put on’, these are the best:

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Colossians 3:12-14

What I’m REALLY Thinking…

 

What I’m REALLY Thinking…

And asking you to think about. 

I’ve really been struggling with something. You actually know it and can feel it I think. It’s evident in some things we are trying together recently. I even mentioned the genesis of this recent angst a few weeks ago in a sermon. I believe we are being called to intentionally shift towards culture, not in our message, but in our strategy, to keep on mission. Some of those shifts will impact your comfort and the short version is I’m asking all of us to prayerfully consider what Jesus is asking us to yield to in order that He might be lifted up. You can skip here and get the cliff notes/bottom line/ new things that might impact you.

I put a quote on the screens about the failure of most churches in America. The reality has hit home hard and I’ve been asking so many questions about who God is calling GCC to be after reading that quote. You might remember it better if I remind you that I had a deck of cards in my hand to help illustrate the point It came from Jim Putnam’s book, “Church is a team sport”. The staggering quote was,

“Only 15% of churches in America are growing, of those, only 3% are growing with new people. That means that most church ‘growth’ is just reshuffling the same 52 cards in the deck in a different order.”

This snapshot of the American church has been on my mind and so I’ve been reading, visiting with other pastors around the country who are in the 3% that are growing, listening to you, working with consultants (Thanks for taking the survey) and praying. I’ve uncovered some insights and formed, with some great help a complex answer to that question. BUT, I have boiled it down to the a more simple basic answer I want to put in front of us. Many churches are not connecting people to Jesus because . . . they don’t want to. Sound harsh? It’s not that people don’t want others to know about Jesus?, they just want other things more. Not a lot more, it only takes a little bit more desire for something to see our main goal snuffed out. The hardest thing about this contemplative journey I’ve been on is that I’ve discovered I’m the worst! Okay, it’s confession time, here are the things I’ve done that hurt our main goal:

  • Announcements that non-believers don’t care about
  • Talking insider language (things that make people feel uninvited or on the outside)
  • Asking people to make a decision to connect to Jesus but not making time for them to process it and take a first step

I believe in the importance of the gathering of believers for edification, the communion meal and fellowship. We all get to enjoy our corporate times of worship together but a tension does exist on what we do and how. What normally gets hurt as we accommodate our personal preferences is the mission. There is a clear New Testament practice of non-believers in the midst of the gathering and Jesus, Acts 2:47 “praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” How can we get closer to that description of the church?

If you are new to Generations Christian Church you might not know some of the history. In fact, Generations has a long history of being the church for people who are unchurched, hurt by church or against church in general. Former GCC pastor Greg Johnson has regularly said to me, ‘there are plenty of churches for people who believe already, I wanted to be a church for those farthest from Jesus.” Thankfully, GCC has been ‘connecting people to Jesus’ with that mindset for a long time. How can we continue this and be more effective?

Bring A Friend Weekend

The ‘Bring A Friend Weekend’ tactic is an effort to help all of us take a step towards being in the 3%. Remember the startling quote about failing churches? There are churches that are growing by connecting new people to Jesus, people who are new cards in the deck! This is exciting to experience and it’s happening right here at our church. Let’s all be working towards the same goal! Does inviting someone to church mean we are connecting them to Christ? Not always, but, Romans 10:17 says, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Our commitment is to clearly tell people about Jesus and let them make a decision to connect to Him that weekend. What a great step towards being in the 3%.

  • Optimal times
  • If one third of us who attend 2nd and 3rd service invite a friend we will be out of seats. Will some of you plan to attend and bring someone on Saturday Night or Sunday and let us know! We don’t want Sunday services empty; but we want visitors to have a great experience too. Help out the process by thinking about attending a less prime time service.
  • Optimal Length. We always need a few extra minutes to process what God is doing in our midst and just be in His presence. Because we believe that we should have communion every weekend in our service our one hour box can get a bit tight and we don’t want to rush any important element of our worship.
  • Grab some of our small invite square cards and pass them out/ they are no good after BAFW because the times are special!
  • No OFFERING: We are not going to pass for an offering on Bring A Friend Weekend (November 23-24th). We are going to talk about our mission and the things we do with Kingdom resources! We just are not going to ask your friends to give.
  • The bags are usually empty because many of us give online. Some get the impression that we all are not “in” on the mission or that the church has nobody giving at all. Neither is true. Over 50% of those who consistently tithe give on-line automatically. May we all give generously online this week and show your support for our decision to not pass the offering bags on this weekend. Here’s how you can give online:
  • http://www.generationscc.com/give Click on “Give Here”
  • Underneath is even a video to show you how to set it up if you need help. Text to give: 84321

 Here’s How You Can Choose Adventure

We have to point our hearts where we want them to go. If we don’t, our own desires will, by default, lead us to selfishness. Jesus came to serve. He is our ultimate example. It is at times like these that those who are most mature in Christ have the opportunity to truly lead by serving. Sometimes we don’t need another class or bible study, we need something to do for somebody else. Transformation comes through putting our Bible knowledge into actions and here are two things we can all DO to be on the adventure together:

PRAYER: Let’s all Join together Tuesday Night at 7pm for a dedicated service of prayer and worship for Bring A Friend Weekend. We will be handing out shirts to everyone who signs up to serve in an area on Bring A Friend Weekend. We will be doing baptisms and have brand new baptism shirts for people!

SERVE: Okay, here’s the truth. We don’t NEED another volunteer to pull this off. Seriously. Have you ever heard a church say that? We don’t need another car parker or kids worker to pull it off. The same people who always do it will do it. But it won’t have the excellence and impact it could have. Imagine a team of people cheering kids and helping parents fill out paperwork! Imagine more car attendants than we really need, all wearing new GCC shirts and greeting people over and over again as they walk in. THIS IS WHAT makes people start to believe that Jesus really can help them with their “This Is Your Time” moment.

 

Cliff Notes

  • We are trying some different service times.
  • We are not collecting offering that weekend. We are giving online and crushing our weekly budgetary need cheerfully.
  • We are doing spontaneous baptisms that weekend.
  • Prayer/Worship Service 11/19 7PM / Volunteer T-shirt handout.
  • We don’t need any more servers in any area . . . unless they want to party! 

IT TAKES A SHEPHERD

IT TAKES A SHEPHERD

There is an escalating debate concerning church governance methods. I’m not sure if it’s a growing disenfranchisement with the megachurch model or if that has always existed. Perhaps it flares up during lead pastor transitions, such as I have been in since October 1, 2017.

This is an especially difficult week as news broke of a second pastor just this month who has taken his own life. I am grieved by this, but also understand the loneliness such an undertaking that shepherding can be. This week, one of my friends likened the calling of shepherding a church to requiring the CEO abilities of John Maxwell, the depth of scripture insight of C. S. Lewis, and the speaking ability of Ronald Reagan. All of these faculties need to be able to be drawn upon in a moment’s notice. As I look at the state of the church in America, where I live and serve, there are a number of things I would want to say to our church about how we function. I fully believe that the Lord has angel armies protecting those who do His work in His name and to the best of their abilities, in His ways. This is not an apology for church leadership as much as it is a group of essays for our church. The questions noted below may be part of ongoing conversations.

  • How do we organize ourselves?
  • Who makes the decisions?
  • What is the process by which church business is done?
  • What exactly does God’s Word say or not say about all of this?

These are some of the questions that start to rise to the top and especially when the senior teaching pastor changes. We have some guardrails and clear direction about how the church was set up and how it ran in the New Testament, while at the same time, a certain amount of flexibility in structure and methods can actually be quite wide. I thought it would be beneficial for our church to focus on some passages that offer clarity. There are other sources that speak to these questions with more experience and greater intellect, no doubt. One of the purposes for me to personally set about stating some convictions and teaching on the subject would be to specifically help Generations Christian Church staff, leadership, and body understand my heart on such matters.

Two Different Experiences

We really learn the most by what we live. It’s only then we can apply the knowledge from the text (books) more accurately. Jen and I experienced the craziest polar opposite in our church models at formative ages. Here is one context we found ourselves in. Even before we were married, Sundays would start with me loading up the guitar and picking Jen up at her dorm on campus at Cincinnati Christian University. We would drive for about an hour and a half to Orange, Indiana. The building had no air conditioning and was over 100 years old. We had the opportunity to organize our first youth trips, church picnics, and pretty much try everything we were learning about in school at the time. For a short time while serving at Orange Christian Church, we would lead worship on Sunday mornings, teach Sunday school, preach in big church, and then hold youth meetings on Sunday afternoons. I remember our highest attendance was an Easter Sunday service with 150 people. As we look back on that time, we fondly remember relationships that are strong to this day and kingdom fruit. We were called to be shepherds and serve at that church. We were clueless and made many mistakes, but God was so good and His plan for the local church worked!

The dichotomy of our church experience at that time was actually the broadest it could possibly be. While we were ministering at this small country church in rural Indiana, Jen and I had also started a worship band at our school. We led weekly services for the students on campus and had some opportunities to travel and do some larger events. As the band had some success, we attracted some talented players whose weekend ministry experiences were quite different than what Jen and I were accustomed to. Our drummer and electric guitar players were interns at Southeast Christian Church. In the mid-to-late 90s, the worship center at Southeast was still new and so large that it held the North American Christian Convention at one time. We even recorded a CD in the middle of the night on the main stage. When our guitar player, Matt Davidson, got married I remember spending the weekend with my friend’s boss, Greg Allen, who was the Worship Pastor at Southeast. Jen and I interviewed for a college-age teaching position in 1997 and ended up recruiting four more players from Southeast over the next ten years. Our tour bus had a regular stop in Louisville. For a long season, Jen and I had a window into the lives touched by this massive church, and we were friends with kids who sat in meetings with leadership, and what developed for us was a profound respect and love for the kingdom work God was doing through this megachurch of megachurches. We never attended a Sunday, but our closest friends were being personally discipled by key figures in leadership there. What we gleaned more than anything was a sense that there were shepherds. Our friends were being cared for and nurtured. We no longer saw a huge parking lot and an overwhelming stage. Our focus was on the shepherding that was happening in the lives of our friends.

How different could these two worlds be that we had experienced? We would be dropping a bass player off in the parking lot of one of the largest churches in the world and then rushing back to Orange, Indiana to preach to 45 people. The pastoral staff meeting at Southeast was ten times larger than our whole church! How beautiful is the design that the living Word of God gave clear direction to these two separate and very different expressions of Christ in their complexity and scale. God knew all of this. God constructed guardrails for church governance that would work for a situation with a single church planter in his own living room to a movement of churches across a large suburban area. I see the power and deity of our Lord even in the forethought of how His instructions, and our need for them, could last for 2,000 years. The following are a reflection of what my personal experience has shown me.

  • God is in control.
  • We have all we need to love, teach, lead, and serve the Bride.
  • The church can operate and have success in many different contexts.
  • We are each responsible only for our own context God has placed us in.

The Greatest Shepherd

The highest binding truths of our faith are centered on the work of Christ, Who He is, and the perfect example He sets for us. In the model of Christ’s three-year ministry, many, including non-believers, would argue that He is the greatest leader in the entire course of human history. Yet, Jesus never taught leadership classes in the sense we teach them. We can’t find an account where Jesus talks about seven ways to be more successful in the thriving but arduous fish market of Galilee. It can be as simple as semantics. The principles Jesus taught were the greatest leadership principles ever taught, because He is God. His every lesson was profound. Maybe the best way anyone has described what Jesus perfectly modeled for us is servant leadership.

Jesus modeled this perfect leadership, and He calls all His followers to practice His example. What further explanation can we find to emphasize this model? Jesus identifies Himself on multiple occasions as the Good Shepherd. He also asks Peter to continue this work and to feed His sheep. Think of the illustration drawn of the shepherd leading the sheep up the mountain to escape flooding in the valley or escape predators. Just when the time is right, the shepherd leads the sheep on a narrow path through treacherous ground that only he knows to a hidden water source. I imagine that the terrain is perfect for the shepherd to watch all the sheep and guard against enemies while they unknowingly and peacefully drink. Way before the mountain storm is noticed by the sheep, the good shepherd guides his flock down to a valley place. Even though they don’t want to lie down, they obey his direction, because he knows what tomorrow brings. This is the backdrop painted for the reader of Psalm 23. The good shepherd constantly thinks of his sheep first and goes to whatever length necessary to serve the sheep. How awkward would it be for one of the sheep in Psalm 23 to say, “I had some questions on what authority you have to make all the decisions around here.” It is absurd, because it just never happens. When people are served, they are grateful. Jesus tells us in John 10:27 “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” This is the model He calls pastors to strive towards.

This is hardly a comprehensive philosophy on Who Christ is and how we are to organize ourselves and carry out the Great Commission until His return. It is, however; a start to a conversation about those things. Jesus commands us to make disciples, teaching them to obey all that He has commanded. Therefore, as a starting point, I believe it is in His design to appoint and uphold teachers. Teachers should be on a path to become more like Jesus. The starting place should be the same that Christ had, submission to the will of the Father and servant-hood towards others. This was the posture of Christ’s heart. I have seen this take place in home churches and I have seen this happen across denominational lines. I have seen this Great Commission carried out on college campuses with short-term relationships. I have seen this happen in country churches. I have seen this happen in the largest churches in our nation. At the end of the day, it takes a shepherd.

It is my prayer that this group of essays continues to build the biblical knowledge of our church. May our confidence in the strategies we have chosen be based on the text that guides us. May our eyes be opened to the Holy Spirit as His work is done in accordance with 1 Corinthians 12.

Essays:

  • Jesus and Church Polity
  • Two young Pastors and the instruction they get: Timothy & Titus
  • The Seven stars that Jesus holds in His hands: A look at the church in Revelation
  • What implications does the Old Testament model have for us on church polity today?
  • What is the case for vocational leadership in today’s world? Double Honor.
  • What are Deacons and are they necessary for church governance today?
  • What North American Governance lens are we projecting onto the text unknowingly?
 

THIS IS YOUR TIME!

THIS IS YOUR TIME!

We are excited to tell you about a very special weekend for all of us! We are going to be looking at the calling of Moses and how God communicated to Moses, “This is your time.” It’s not about Moses. It was about Moses being obedient to worship, serve, and grow. The mission of Generations echoes the sentiment and commandment of Jesus when He said to go and make disciples. This is why the galvanizing thrust of our main efforts have been, and will always continue to be, connecting people to Christ. By connecting people to Christ, we have completed the first step in the instructions from our Lord to make disciples. 

Recently, a beloved member of our church told me that they don’t like terming unbelievers in Christ as lost. I couldn’t help but think about that statement over the days following our conversation. As a pastor who never wants to sugarcoat or change God’s Word, I know that if someone doesn’t know Jesus, they are lost. However, the posture of this member’s heart in saying those words to me started to help me see their optimism for evangelism in an exciting way. Jesus didn’t yell at people for what they didn’t know. He was kind and patient with people, such as Zacchaeus. It is the kindness of Jesus that leads everyone to repentance. With the attitude of our Lord, we should ask ourselves what we are to say to someone who doesn’t yet know or even care about connecting to Christ. We should speak words that are most compelling which are true, exciting, and what they need most. This led us to a place where we decided that we need to help people with their first step in connecting to Christ, by meeting them exactly where they are in this season of life. 

No matter where a person is in their life, if they don’t know Christ, this is their time to get to know Him! We will be adding a tagline to inspire motivation and promise to reach people who do not yet know Jesus as their Lord and Savior. When someone sees the Generations unique identifying mark, they will see a potential and promise from our family. The tagline associated with our Generations ‘G’ will be “this is your time.” 

This is your time to Worship . . .
This is your time to Serve . . .
This is your time to Grow . . .  

This rings appropriately true to the name of our church, because no matter what season of life one is in, it is Christ alone and connecting to Him that can help a person. 

This weekend, we are not only celebrating a new tagline, but we are also launching a new logo mark for our church to rally behind. It has been a blessing to work with the Christian Church Marketing Firm, Prodonos, in completing the regional survey and unique brand groundwork that made our new tagline and distinguishing mark possible. Prodonos has been meeting with staff, studying local businesses, and churches to make sure our mark was contemporary, relevant, and intentionally identifying with who we are as a church. 

We want to thank the large group of contributors from the body, elders, and staff that all spoke into multiple rounds and versions of this logo as it took shape. 

Please come out this weekend, because we are celebrating by giving away window decals of the new logo. We hope you are excited to proudly display this decal on a car or office window. We wanted to let our church family celebrate and understand the work that has gone into this before we share this with the community at Trinity Fest. We have been given this treasure of knowing Who Jesus is, you could actually say, we are indeed connected. So, to those in our community, who do not yet know Jesus, join me in telling them, “This is your time.”

STILL HAVE QUESTIONS?

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