Jul 312008
 

We concluded our series “The Church” this past weekend.  I wrote a story/parable of 5 churches and shared it with Church at the Grove.  I want to offer a huge thank you to Tim Stevens and his book Pop Goes the Church from which I adapted the story of the 5 churches.  I recommend Tim’s book for churches wanting to engage culture for the purpose of leveraging it to share the hope and grace of Jesus. 

Richard Niebuhr’s book Christ and Culture has had a huge impact in shaping how Jesus and how the church addresses culture.  Jimmy Long’s Generating Hope also influenced me in how the church engages culture. 

Here is the story:

I would like to tell you a story of a small town here in America with five churches and how each of these churches responds to the culture around them. 

Somewhere, OK is a typical small town in America that has gone through a tough decade as they have seen many people lose jobs due to plant closings and changes in the economic landscape.  Other than that, it has developed a culture that reflects American society and what is generally important to people living in America.  Clothing and fashion, music and movies, sports and leisure, you name it, this small town reflects much of the cultural influence we all see in our culture. 

There is somewhat of a cloud hanging over this town until Hollywood calls and announces they are coming to town!  One of the huge motion picture companies announces they are coming to Somewhere, OK to film a new movie starring none other than Tom Cruise and Angelina Jolie.  They wanted to have a perfect setting of small-town America and chose “Somewhere, OK” to be the place they would spend over three months filming the new blockbuster!  Most people were thrilled, some were critical but more than anything, it injected a new energy and excitement into the life of the town that had not been seen for years.

It wasn’t long before some of the churches in town began to weigh in with their response to the news of Hollywood coming to their town.  Here is how five churches responded to this cultural invasion.

Pastor Bill at “Turn or Burn” first church quickly condemned the movie industry and asked the people in his church to voice their concerns and to avoid doing any business with any vendor in the town who was providing hotel rooms, meals or any other services for the film crew, company or any individuals in the casts.  He quickly provided a list of these businesses for his congregation to avoid.

Reverend Tom at “Us four and No More” Community fellowship began a series of messages on biblical separation.  He emphasized staying pure and fleeing from immorality.  He knew this film would be tempting people to go to the movie theater since it was filmed in a familiar location but challenged the people in his congregation to have nothing to do with the evil ways of the world!

Minister Bob at “Whatever makes you happy” Central Church began to work his contacts in the film industry to get as many cast members as possible to come speak to his congregation or be interviewed on his weekly church TV show.  He had been writing a series of sermons on new books from Oprah’s Book Club, but would be glad to interrupt this series of talks to see an increase in attendance with some potential Hollywood guest speakers.  He knew that it would be a fairly long interlude without a message referencing the Bible, but he was willing to sacrifice to have more people in his church.

Elder Melissa at “Tradition-R-Us” Temple in the middle of town had been at her church since the economic boom in the early 80’s.  She was old enough and wise enough not to be influenced or swayed by the daily headlines.  She had nurtured this flock for many years and wasn’t about to change any of her routine for anyone or anything.  She knew she needed to continue simply teaching the word, regardless of what went on around them.  For the entire year, she had been teaching through the book of Leviticus and wasn’t about the interrupt this expository study for some pop culture shenanigans.  She never planned to mention the movie production and several of her congregation thanked her for helping them find a haven away from the insanity that was outside the walls of the church building.

 

Paul Smith had only been the pastor of Mars Hill Community Church for a little over 2 years.  In that short time he led them to discover why they existed as a church.  He walked them through a delicate transition to change their name that reflected the mission of the church, which was to develop people to follow Jesus and Make Disciples. 

Soon after they heard the mayor of Smalltown, OK share the BIG news about the filming of the Tom Cruise/Angelina Jolie movie, pastor Paul gathered some of his leaders to pray about this huge opportunity for ministry and the potential they may have for leveraging this event in their town for sharing the hope found in Jesus.  The rippling impact could begin in this small town but ripple all the way to Hollywood. 

After two years of leading this group, pastor Paul sat back watched his team respond with the love and grace of Jesus!  He couldn’t have been more proud!  One of the leaders led the conversation by saying, “There are going to be six hundred people here from Hollywood who need to know how much they matter to God!”  One of the other leaders responded, “I’m not that excited about the theme of the movie—God knows it’s already hard enough to keep my kids from this stuff, but that’s not the point.  The entire community will be watching how this church responds to this.  Are we going to point our finger at them with judgment?  Or are we going to accept them right where they are?  Miss Nolan, one of the original members when the church began spoke up, “It sure is going to be hot here when they are outside filming, maybe we can simply provided some relief from the heat.”  With that, a plan was put together.  

Teams of volunteers began to give out bottles of water during the hot afternoons of what would become the hottest summer on record.  Each morning they distributed copies of the “LA Times” so the cast members had a little feeling of home.  They also arranged housing for some of the crew members after all the motel rooms in the town were full.  The coached the host-homes to simply love, accept, and listen to the crew members and resist the urge to “preach”. 

During this time, pastor Paul planned a series of messages of how “The Church” can engage the culture and leverage the culture in such a way to share the hope that is can result from a personal relationship with Jesus.  He titled the series; “Cruise Control” and taught through a series of passages from the Bible giving direction to how we can fully trust God with complete control of our life because He is primarily a loving Father that knows what is best for us. 

 Posted by at 5:33 pm
Jul 292008
 

Check out the pic below from our baptism Sunday night and Alli’s testimony below the picture! 

Baptism at the Grove

“As an infant I was baptized in the Catholic Church just as all of my siblings were. At such a young age I was unable to understand the meaning of having a relationship with Jesus or what a baptism symbolizes. The only time my family usually goes to church is for special occasions like weddings, holidays, and fore funerals because my parents have always worked on the weekends.

My journey with Church at the Grove began when I met Alyi Marie O’Neal. One day, in February of this year, she invited me to go bowling with her. I did not realize that i was going on an outing with a church until we had arrived at Oasis Bowl. I felt like the members of the youth group greeting me and made me feel welcome. While I was there I filled out an encounter card and within 2 days I received a letter in the mail inviting me to come to Wednesday night youth group. I have been attending and loving it ever since.

Since February, I have been influenced, by the older girls in the youth group that walk with Jesus, and I have been praying that I could have a passionate relationship with god. Just recently, June 10th-12th, I went on a lake retreat with the youth group. While there, I told the other girls how I envied their relationship with God and with the awesome support of ALL of the girls, I finally found and felt him. As we were praying, I was crying uncontrollably and Jesus came to me and told me that everything was going to be okay. Since this happened, I can now pray and talk to Jesus and feel like I am being heard but not just talking to hear myself talk.

Thank you to Mrs. Christi Spears and her family for all of your support in helping me to start my Journey. Also I thank everyone at Church at the Grove for your help and support as well. I have grown to love you all. I am still growing and I am sure that your support will be needed in the future.”

 Posted by at 10:21 am
Jul 292008
 

Okay, Okay, I know it is Tuesday and I am just now posting on my thoughts on the weekend.  Here is the deal.  I have made a transformation in my lifestyle and working out/exercise has become a priority.  After Craig’s message a couple of months ago during our “No Regrets”, I decided I needed to make the change.  I had been convicted about it for a while so I took the jump!  I started walking and have worked up to running.  I run at least a few times a week and 2 to 3 times a week I go to the gym and get on the stationary bike, tread mill, or the ecliptic machine for my cardio work and I am doing some circuit training with the weights for some muscle/cardio work. 

Something had to give.  If I am spending an hour (counting drive time on some days) in exercise, I had to take it from somewhere so my blogging and blog reading have taken a little backseat in the last month or so.  I am trying to adjust my schedule accordingly to the new lifestyle and hopefully will be disciplined enough to blog and keep up with a few blogs.  Anyway here are some thoughts on the weekend:

  • Josiah and I did a run together on Friday and it was a blast to run with my son.  He then went with me to pick our new weed trimmer at Social Circle Ace Hardware.  My friend Ted Callaway gave us a great deal on the trimmer.  I pulled a “Tim the toolman” and bought one that was a little more than we need but I couldn’t resist.  Who knows when I may need to trim some heavy brush?
  • Saturday was a relaxing day and I put the finishing touches on the sermon on Saturday evening.  Craig was gracious enough to pull another “MacGyver” and build the small church profiles we used Sunday in our message on Acts 17.
  • I have had great feedback on this whole series and on this past Sunday in particular.  If you missed it, you can go to our website www.churchatthegrove.com and click on the “listen online” link at the top left and listen or download the messages. 
  • We had a great time of worship Sunday morning.  Ric’s ability to discern God’s leading continues to grow.  I am proud of how he is growing as a worship leader.
  • I am so thankful for all our volunteers and especially grateful for our new schedule and the new people we have added.  From the parking lot to the seats is SO IMPORTANT!  Thank you to everyone who is helping us create this environment. 
  • Sunday night was awesome!  We had a blast at our Baptism/Fellowship at the home of Lynn and Barbara Bledsoe!  Thank you Lynn and Barbara for sharing your home and your gracious hospitality!  We had close to 90 people come and we baptized 4 people!  I love hearing their stories.  What a night!  I don’t think I have ever seen that many kids in a small space! WOW!
  • This coming month is HUGE!  We need to be praying for our teachers, students and all in the school systems this week because school starts back for many this week! 
  • We start our new series this coming Sunday “Its Personal”.  We are borrowing (stealing) an idea from Andy Stanley at Northpoint with this coming 4 week series.  It is going to be awesome! 
  • Be thinking of who you can invite this month.  It will be a perfect series for someone to hear how God wants a personal relationship with them!
 Posted by at 10:14 am
Jul 232008
 

I was running yesterday with a friend that should remain nameless (lets call him Troy).  In the last two months I have made a renewed commitment to exercise and fitness following Craig’s sermon a while back on consequences.  I have been doing fine by myself but I have run a couple of times with Troy to enjoy it with someone else.  You need to know that Troy is pretty much a professional runner.  He has been running for a long time, he actually enjoys it, and he is built and wired in a way that he is fast at distance running.  I am a short, fat, and slow long distance runner.  If I didn’t know it was good for me, I would not do it! 

Let’s get to the point;  Troy likes to talk when he runs.  The truth is that he is expending so much less energy while running slow with me that he has the capacity to carry on a conversation and run at the same time.  I give him one-word short responses that are hard to understand due to the heavy breathing.  I simply can’t run and talk at the same time!

After Craig’s message on relationships Sunday, I have been thinking about how hard it is in life to run and talk at the same time.  Remember, Craig’s teaching point was “God’s works most effectively in us and through us in the context of relationships with others”. 

It is simply hard to build relationships without talking and you can’t talk and RUN while living at such a fast-paced life.  It is impossible!

Stop the running!  Slow down enough to talk and build some meaningful relationships with people!  Because you can’t run and talk at the same time!  Believe me, I know! 

Thanks to Troy……..

 Posted by at 8:25 am