My buddy Peter sent me this link today. I’ve read it a few times now and so should you.

We, unlike some of them, do not announce a Gospel of prosperity, but Christian realism. We do not announce miracles, as some do, but the sobriety of Christian life. We are convinced that all this sobriety and realism which announce a God Who became man (therefore a profoundly human God a God Who also suffers with us) give meaning to our own suffering. In this way, announcement has a broader horizon and a greater future. We also know that these sects are not very stable. … The announcement of prosperity, of miraculous healing, etc., may do good in the short term, but we soon see that life is difficult, that a human God, a God Who suffers with us, is more convincing, truer, and offers greater help for life.

What a humble & true statement. So many times we make the mistake of making “Christianity” about us – and it is so not. It’s the story of a God who became a man in order to bring man back into relationship with himself, the “us” part plays out that we might worship & enjoy him. I’m gonna try and not ruin the simplicity of that quote by saying any more.

Your thoughts?

Tagged as: Christianity, Pope Benedict
3 Comments

David
April 20, 2009 • 6:30 pm
Hey Alex. Been RSSing your blog for a while, but this is my first clickthrough 🙂

I appreciate what the Pope has said here, but at the same time…it’s not the whole story of the Gospel.

Just as those who preach an unbalanced everything’s hunky-dory, “your miracle and prosperity will be served at 10.15 at the next counter” brand of Christianity is also unbalanced.

Jesus came for so much more than just to be there in our suffering, He also came to empower us to do greater things than He did on earth. To be His conduit of love.

So in my view, what the Pope has said here is equally unbalanced…it focusses on the realism/sobriety, rather than dreaming/believing/hoping for a changed world that IS possible through total faith.

Not saying it’s easy though.

Davids last blog post..Worship : 19 April 2009

Peter
April 22, 2009 • 9:43 am
Yeah man I really loved this quote!
I do not find it to be unbalanced as David does. True it reflects more of a Christian realism, which at times can be very refreshing (in certain doses). Yet I feel he still gives merit to the proclamations of prosperity, healings, and empowerment that the Spirit brings.
Therefore I feel he has a very healthy view considering all whom he represents, which to me is very sober society.

Peters last blog post..Easter reigns supreme

David
April 22, 2009 • 3:07 pm
And don’t get me wrong – I think Pope Benedict is great. World Youth Day down here in Sydney last year was a powerful gathering and had churches joining together, which thrills my heart.

I know it’s not exactly been a big discussion here Alex (yet?), but I really want to thank you for posting this.

Davids last blog post..Transitional Phase

Today was a special day. It was a beautiful Southern California day, probably the best day all year.

Today we said goodbye to our Grandma. I say “our” Grandma, because Rudy was everyone’s Grandma – at least to the people my age. To others she was everyone’s mom, and to others, everyone’s friend.

At least 100 people showed up to pay their respects and celebrate the life of Ruth Green. Friends and family showed up from all over Southern California (inlcuding Catalina Island), New Mexico, Arizona, New Jersey, and of course, her church.

The service was perfect. Pastor Todd did a great job, as well as Glenda, Ron, Kevin, and my Dad – all who gave of their time and talent to honor Rudy.

I put together a little iPhoto slideshow, and spoke, er well – tried to speak. I botched it up a bit but was able to make it through. What I wanted to communicate most was that this life and all its offerings is just a taste of of true goodness & joy. So here’s what I wrote – and I kind of read through it and elaborated with more personal stories of Grandma Rudy:

From the beginning of time, we were created & designed to live in perfection with God, the people he created, and his creation – where there is no death, no pain, no suffering, and no goodbye’s. But we’ve been kind of tricked into believing that this is all there is. We’ve become so attached to this world and it’s offerings, that we think this is as good as it gets…

As good as they are, our experiences here in this life are only a glimpse, a taste, of what is good. The greatest experiences in life; the love of a wife, the care of a mother, the joy of a grandmother, the blessing of a friend – whatever we consider to be the best things in life – pale in comparison to what is to come. And so for a short time we were privileged to know Grandma Rudy – but that was just the beginning, just a taste…

Today we’re confident that Grandma Rudy is experiencing life the way it was intended – and so we celebrate her life here, and her continuing life with her heavenly father in perfection, where she knows no pain, only joy, and the completeness that comes with being reunited with God.

And so we’re going to close this time today by celebrating together the reunion that has taken place – God’s great plan of love & redemption, and the continuing life of Rudy Green…

We spent the rest of the day hanging out at the local Elk’s club, where we just reminisced and talked with family and friends. Miles and Macy were able to come and hang out – and they really shined today. There’s something so special about these kids, they just bring so much joy to people. They went around on their own & said hi to everyone and brought smiles to people’s faces. One highlight of the afternoon was just watching them play with their Grandpa Bob (Papa Bob, my dad). He played with them for at least 2 hours straight!

We’re so blessed to have a huge family & we all love each other so much – both my family and Jen’s family. In fact Grandma Rudy was one of my dad’s favorite people. He would always be the first person that I’d call when Rudy would go the hospital – and he always went to visit her. My dad is a pretty special guy & I’m so proud to be his son.

There’s so many stories I could share & people we could thank for today – I won’t because I’ll just forget someone… So, thanks to everyone who came out today & helped make it such a special day. Jen and I can’t say enough to share our gratitude to those who gave selflessly in honor of a woman who gave of herself to others her entire life.

Today I headed up to Riverside to Grove Community Church for the SouthWest Church Planter Forum. Normally we’ve been meeting at Oscar’s in Temecula – today was the first time we met in Riverside, a little inconvenient, but worth the drive. I love these gatherings for a number of reasons:

  • I believe in church planting (done right – although it’s messy)
  • There’s always a good group of people to network with
  • 2 words: Free Food
  • We always get a free book
  • It’s a good excuse to get out of the office

This is where I’ll be for the next few hours… on TwitPic Today was especially cool for me for two reasons, well three actually. (1) My wife came (love that). (2) My new boss, Pastor Scott from RCC was there. (3) I got to play drums in a quasi ‘all-star’ worship band. It was Eric on acousting & leading, Travis on electric, Vince on Bass, Emily (Travis’ wife & my sister) on vox, and a girl named Stephanie on keys & vox. We did four songs:

  1. Gravity (John Mayer) yup…
  2. From the Inside Out
  3. Some new song…
  4. Mighty to Save

It was cool to play with these people, and so much fun to be back on the skins! Plus, I was able to make the sound guy happy, which is always a good thing!

Our speaker is a dead giveaway for Tommy Lee Jones on TwitPic Dennis Keating (who is a dead look a like for Tommy Lee Jones) from Emannuel Faith in Escondido was our guest speaker today and he shared on 7 Leaks that will Drain Your Soul – here’s my notes:

1. Words without Practice. Just saying something doesn’t actualize it. Be a TREE not a PIPE.

2. Business without a Purpose. Just because ministry calls, doesn’t mean that ministry is calling. Why am I doing this? What am I good at?

3. Calendars without a Sabbath. It’s not the things you do in Ministry that kill you; it’s the things you don’t get done. A calendar that doesn’t have the time to fill you up will suck you dry. Rest, Reflection, & Exercise are no longer options.

4. Relationships without Mutual Nourishment. It’s easy in Ministry to be acquainted with too many People, but to be Known by too few. Take the risk of sharing in a reciprocal relationship honestly. Everyone needs a Titus.

5. Personality without Healthy Self-Examination. Ministry is easily Built on Unhealthy needs. I cannot play father to the world.

6. Discipline without Variety. We need to shock & awe ourselves every once in a while. Do something different; read a book, write a song, take a trip, meditate, anything different to break the routine.

7. Natural Giftedness without Spiritual Character. Pastors can go a Long way on “chutzpah“. Stay LOW before the Lord.

God’s power shows up best in dented people…

That was some pretty powerful stuff – I hope I can take it and get it deep in my soul. I want to plan on the long haul, ministry for a lifetime. One thing Dennis said was “Anyone can suck it up and do anything for a couple years”, he went on to say that you MUST view ministry as long term – something many people in ministry do not do.

What about you?

Going through my Google Reader and hit up Craig Groeschel’s blog. As usual he’s got some excellent content. He’s doing a series on ‘Successful Ministry’ right now, that is so basic that it’s ridiculous. But I assume they don’t teach this stuff in ‘Pastor School’. Check it out:

The size of your ministry does not determine the level of your success.

  • Too many pastors have led large ministries while tragically failing personally and morally.
  • Too many have sacrificed their families all in the name of church growth.
  • Too many have lost their personal passion for Jesus while leading His church.

 

Successful ministries are built on Christ by leaders who do the small things daily:

  • They return calls and emails promptly.
  • They show up on time.
  • They pray for God’s guidance.
  • They love and serve people.
  • They study hard and preach passionately.
  • They have a consistent and strong work ethic.
  • They follow through on commitments.

 

You are successful when you:

  • Live daily with integrity.
  • Pursue Christ with all your heart.
  • Preach your best sermon to a very small crowd.
  • Visit the sick in the hospital.
  • Cry with the parents who just lost a child.
  • Forgive the church member who wronged you.
  • Give privately to someone in need.

 

You and those closest to you will know:

  • The sacrifices you’ve made.
  • The pain you’ve endured.
  • The hard decisions you’ve faced.
  • The loneliness you’ve felt.
  • The fear you’ve overcome.
  • The weight you carry.

 

When working with pastors, many are often looking for a big win. They want to have a big community event, a big servants’ banquet, or a big series that runs attendance higher.

While all these can be effective, I encourage consistency in the small things daily.

I’ll compare it to football. Most championship teams win games on many four-yard, six-yard, and eleven-yard gains. They might win one game a season on a last second hail-Mary pass, but most games consistently succeeding at the basics.

To me, this all seems like common sense. But I’m surprised by the lack of these things I see in my own life and by some other leaders I know.

Time to re-focus.

satanLifechurch.tv, a cutting edge multi-site church based out of Oklahoma, has released it’s satanhateslife.com marketing campaign. Looks like they have secured the website along with using billboards with tag lines such as: “Lifechurch.tv is killing me”, “LifeChurch.tv makes me sick”, “LifeChurch.tv sucks”, etc – all signed with the name “-Satan”.

A pretty slick idea, a kind of fun insight into spiritual warfare (if you can use fun and spiritual warfare in the same breath). Get the real deal here – let me know what you think, leave a comment, I am sure this will be a hot one.

Religious mysticism surrounds U2’s frontman, Bono. When I was growing up u2’s music and lyrics had a profound effect on my life, and they have become one of the most popular and successful rock bands in the world. So it is interesting to hear their lead singer and writer comment on his faith:

“You see, at the center of all religions is the idea of Karma. You know, what you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physicsin physical lawsevery action is met by an equal or an opposite one. It s clear to me that Karma is at the very heart of the Universe. I m absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that As you reap, so will you sow stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I ve done a lot of stupid stuff. . . . I d be in big trouble if Karma was going to finally be my judge. It doesn t excuse my mistakes, but I m holding out for Grace. I m holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross, because I know who I am, and I hope I don t have to depend on my own religiosity.

Photo courtesy of Kenny Grill

In attempt to get back into blogging, I’m just gonna tell you all about a cool new addition to Rancho Community Church. It’s our “Coffee Shoppe”.

We opened it up two weeks ago and it was a HUGE hit. Apparently we’ve been planning on a coffee shop for years, it just never got traction until now. But we’ve got it open now and it’s amazing what is happening: People are connecting. There’s just something about having food or drink and a place to sit, an area to hang out that attracts people.

Photo courtesy of Kenny Grill

One of the strangest things that we noticed when we first came to Rancho Community was that the place seemed to “empty out” when the worship services ended. People just disappeared. At first, Jen and I thought maybe it was a fluke, or maybe we were weird, but after talking with people and staff members, we realized that this was really an issue. There was really nothing “to do” after church – nowhere to go or hang out. So people naturally filed out, picked up their kids and drove away.

Photo courtesy of Kenny Grill

This brings me to the point: I believe that people need a “place” to congregate, to connect. And I also believe that “if you build it, they will come”. Creating space designed for people to connect is crucial. I mean, it’s not as important as say, preaching the Gospel, or baptism – but it is an important piece of the puzzle when building a church and making connections, at least in our culture. We have this desire to connect, but we also have this thing about space and comfort levels – especially in Southern California where we don’t even talk to our neighbors. But…

When we create space for casual connections, such as a coffee shop, people are naturally drawn to it. Connections happen, which turn into conversations, which are the building blocks of relationships.

I’m excited to see that Rancho Community is embracing this idea, and I’m excited to see this little idea grow and be an anchor for connections at our church.

On a more technical level, here’s some of strategy behind the launch:

I used this amazing graphic as inspiration
I also used the “Coffee with a Cause” (great concept!) from that graphic. It was a last minute idea to help keep the “Global Impact / Missions” project in front of our congregation throughout the year.
We basically cut our outdoor “Info Center” in half using printed backdrops with the logo, color, and photos of our Peru missionaries.
The Coffee Shoppe proceeds go to support the work in Peru (church planting, missionary training, micro-businesses).
The shop serves Seattle’s Best Coffee (a Starbucks product), along with muffins & donuts.
Right now it’s open before and after all Sunday morning worship services (8, 9:10, and 10:45am) – with plans to open during many other services & events throughout the week and on the weekend.
Follow the Coffee Shoppe on Twitter @coffee_shoppe for updates and coupons
Join the Fan Page on Facebook

Special thanks to @Kenny_Grill of Kenny Grill Photography for some awesome photos (there’s more on Facebook).

Designed by Alex McLean for Rancho Community Church

Today’s message from @scotttreadway was powerful for us. We talked about it afterwords, how we really need to think through some of the points – just let it sink in. Blogging is one way for me to do that, so here’s my (somewhat scattered) notes:

Children are a Sacred Gift from God

They are of unspeakable value (the Earthly ministry of Christ: he loved children, Psalm 139)

13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.

15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,

16 your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.

17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!

They are given without cost to us (although children cost money, we payed nothing for them)
Their lives will have eternal consequences (not sure if I got this one right on the notes – point being the way they are raised will impact them them forever)
They will radically shape our lives (and we theirs)
They require a tremendous amount of effort (parenting is a job)
They come with a ton of help (God’s Word, his community – the church)
We have to give them back (they don’t belong to us)

Don’t Break the Gift

Divorce breaks children
Abuse breaks children
Harsh words break children
Ignoring them breaks children

Do this

Pray for your children

Idea for a prayer for your children (pray for them by name)
Lord, these children belong to you…
You love them more thank I do…
You know them more intimately than I do…
You gave them more than I can ever give them…
You’ve ordained me to pastor these children…
I need your help…

Spend time with them (lot’s of time)
Set a good example
Teach them (Prov. 22:6)

6 Train a child in the way he should go,
and when he is old he will not turn from it.

Pour your life into pastoring your children…

We are pastors, we are shepherds, they are our flock…

So, that was the message this Mother’s Day morning @ranchocommunity. Pretty heavy stuff. I know personally, I struggle with being a good parent. Ugh, I can’t even say it right – I, we want to be pastors to our kids, their shepherds. We want to raise them to know how valuable they are, so they make wise choices with their lives. We want to teach them about the love and grace of our loving father, who daily gives us mercy.

We know we’ve got a lot to learn, at the very least we are getting some good tools to use. I’ll close this post with this verse that we want to use to direct our family:

8 He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8

Some of you who might not know me might not know that I was a worship leader guy at one time. I had the priviledge of leading for a season at Life Church with some friends like Eric, Karl, supported by Chris and a bunch of other amazing musicians and tech people. I was just looking at old videos and came across this Worship Confessional – these videos were all the rage a few years back. I had a blast making them, and now I’m glad I did – pretty cool to go back and watch them years later. Check it out:

I’m reading “Fired Up or Burned Out: How to Reignite Your Team’s Passion, Creativity, and Productivity” and just sharing my reflections here. Part 1 is here Part 2 is here.

Chapter 2: The Science of Connection

In recent years, neuroscientists have discovered that positive human contact has a physiological effect on people… (pg. 9)

Other research establishes that connection improves mental and physical health… (pg. 10-11)

Layman’s terms: connection makes us feel good. Connection provides a sense of well-being, it minimizes stress, and it makes us more trusting.

We have deeply felt needs to be respected, to be recognized for our talents, to belong, to have autonomy or control over our work, to experience personal growth, and to do work that we feel has meaning and to do it in a way that we feel is ethical.

People want and need to be valued.

When people are shown respect in the workplace and their real talents and contributions are genuinely recognized, they become fired up. They put their hearts into their work.

People who over control us send the message that we are incompetent and that we are not trusted or respected.

Connection is enhanced when we experience personal growth… When we are in the right role and therefore more productive, people notice and affirm us. This also increases our sense of connection to the group. Finally we are motivated when we know our work is meaningful.

We need to remind people constantly how important what we are doing as an organization is. Celebrations, weekly updates of victories, stories, and opportunities to share “wins” should be the DNA of our meetings. We should hear what is happening in other departments, a win for them is a win for all of us.

So what? The findings of neuroscientists, psychiatrists, sociologists, and medical researchers support that a higher degree of connection improves our mental and physical performance. We ignore it at our peril.

This past week our School had the last faculty meeting of the year. Our new Superintendent and I were discussing the agenda of the meeting, and as we did we decided that we would spend the entire meeting just giving teachers kudos and giving them time to encourage one another. We had about ten teachers on the agenda to brag on. What happened was amazing. For the hour and a half that we met there was clapping, laughing, crying, and so much sharing that we had to actually stop people and move on.

I think this just goes to prove that people want and need to be valued – to hear that they are appreciated, making a difference, and growing in their roles.

I think the bottom line is this: Understand that there is a science to connection; an if then equation. If people feel connected, then they put their heart into their work and from that blossoms positivity, trust, innovation, etc.

Next: The Connection Culture (what does this look like?)