8Jun

Defining Success

“…each one must be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than what is being laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw, each builder’s  work will be plainly seen, for the Day will make it clear, because it will be revealed by fire. And the fire will test what kind of work each has done. If what someone has built survives, he will receive a reward. If someone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss. He himself will be saved, but only as through fire.” 1 Corinthians 3:10-16 (NET)

Strong families, teams, corporations, small businesses, governments, organizations, militaries, clubs, and the like all have something in common; a clear understanding of what success is for them. Well-mannered kids, a certain number of wins, profits, a target GDP, and battles won are examples of quantifiable success. Measuring success as a church can be a little bit trickier.

Spiritual achievement is often in the eye of the beholder and is less tangible. Is it a certain level of enthusiasm in worship, numeric growth, longevity, loving relationships, fidelity until the end, or level of financial sacrifice for the poor and the mission? Is it  people and nations reached, churches planted, leaders trained, Christ-like transformation in the individuals and collective lives of the members, all or some of the above, etc, or something else? And who’s the decider that defines it?

Our church is a growing, spiritually sensitive, and emotionally close-knit community. We’re going through the process of asking our members what success as a church family looks like to them. We all have a general idea of what it is but want to drill down further. To this end, the thoughts of those who are stakeholders with skin in the game are invaluable.

It’ll be inspiring to see where God leads us and where we land. We refuse to be the “it’s never enough church” but we also refuse to be the “less than our best is okay church,” either. Our hope is to get better at being Jesus’ hands and feet. Let’s go get it!

2May

Religion – A Good Thing?

Often, the institution of religion gets a bad rap.  While it is true that myriad atrocities and injustices have been visited upon humanity through godless religion, there is more to the story. Did you know that churches and Christian organizations established most of the world’s hospitals, benevolent organizations, colleges, universities, and schools? It’s interesting, isn’t it?  Both good and bad have been done in the name of religion. So is religion good or bad? I sense another shade of “gray” coming on.

In James 1:27, the brother of Jesus, wrote the following commentary on religion: Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you. Then as now, honest God-filled religion heals and gives life.

Recently, Jay and Traci Minor heroically joined other TP couples by adopted two young children. Another couple has begun caring for a widow full time. More of our members are hearing the voice of God calling them to action in these areas.

Debates about what’s most important to God and what should be most important to the church abound in Christendom. In this milieu, God’s call to care for orphans and widows and to resist worldliness isn’t debatable. Having compassion for the weakest and most vulnerable among us is non-negotiable. We’re trying to grow in this area as a church and are looking to imitate those that are farther down this road than we are. It is nice to address an area that isn’t “gray.” This is pretty “black and white,” don’t you think?

 

4Apr

Conflict…Argh!

After six years of grad school, I turned in my last required assignment on Thursday March 29th! I’d completed all my biblical, theological, historical, and practical coursework before this semester. That left me free to choose a ministry elective for my last course. I chose Communication and Conflict Management in Churches and Christian Organizations. Wow…

Twenty-four lectures on conflict were given by professors Kenneth O. Gangel and Samuel L. Canine. Something that struck me was how universal this kind of difficulty is in the Christian community and yet how caught off guard most of are by it, including me. It is, after all, throughout both the Old and New Testaments.

In seeking to define conflict, Gangel and Canine addressed two common misconceptions about it.  The first is that conflict is abnormal. With this mindset, those at odds can think that something is wrong with them since “normal people don’t have conflict.” This proves to be untrue as conflict is common in almost every social setting. It is unrealistic to expect otherwise.  Perhaps the presence of conflict isn’t what’s at issue but rather how we choose to deal with it. 

 

Second is the view is that the presence of “conflict is the admission of failure.” This implies that all conflict is bad or wrong. People with this view try to ignore or downplay relational rifts. Much of our dysfunctional comes from this kind of reaction. Though some conflict is the result of sinful attitudes (James 4:1), this is not always the case. Sometimes it serves a good purpose (1 Corinthians 11:19).

Gangel and Canine’s working definition of conflict is “a situation in which two or more human beings desire goals which they perceive as being attainable by one or the other, but not by both.” This push and pull affects the church at every level, both as an organization and as an organism. The miracle of being in a functional church is that we actually do get along with each other as well as we do. Thank God that conflict, even though it does occur, does not dominate the atmosphere in which we live.

Jesus’ said “Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.” – John 13:34-35 (Msg.). Let’s hold onto this command as we work things out.

Even though Jesus prayed for unity, the history of the Christian church is one of division. Maybe, by the grace of God, we can be a small exception. Maybe we can “agreeably disagree” on small stuff but stick together around and fight for the big ideas for which Jesus gave his life.

29Feb

Dream Team

Some of my fondest memories are of teams, bands, and clubs that I was a member of growing up. Chances are that you have similar experiences too. We all want to feel that we belong somewhere and that we matter to someone.

A dream team is not based primarily on talent. It’s based on everyone on the team being able to fulfill a role that fits them. Someone said that the happiest place on earth is where your talent and God’s will intersect. Part of the joy in helping build a church is helping people find where they fit based on whom God uniquely designed them to be. Though it doesn’t always work out perfectly and isn’t easy, there are few things like it, when it does.

Below is a short video introduction to Patrick Lencioni’s book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. It’s a great read because it unpacks why some teams work and some don’t. I highly recommend it. May we all find where we fit and make the most of it.

1Feb

Battle Lines

Sidone Holland is a dear friend of mine. She emailed a link to an online article entitled How Will The Shocking Decline of Christianity in America Affect the Future of this Nation?. Talk about a sobering read. It contains statistics and facts that show that discipleship is in decline in the USA and that it’s pretty much a lost cause, especially among 18-29 year olds.

On the other hand, there are hundreds of American churches with attendance in the thousands and deep conviction about reaching this generation. In addition, the spoken word video below, entitled Why I Hate Religion but Love Jesus, was written and performed by a 22-year-old named Jefferson Bethke. It’s had nearly 18,000,000 hits on YouTube to date. Apparently, young people are still interested in Jesus’ message. Every generation has to fight to gain, keep, and spread their faith.  What a calling for which to live! What a cause for which to fight! Our church is ALL IN and the new Millennial Generation Initiative (MGI) has gotten of to jaw-dropping start. It’s been great to see so many Millennials seeking and finding God. I’m really thankful to be witnessing it.

The battle lines are drawn; the odds long. Come to think of it, that’s how it’s always been. As Rob Bell wrote in Velvet Elvis, Jesus message and church are “still going after all this time. After the Crusades, the Inquisition, and Christian cable television…She (the church) will continue to roll across the ages, serving and giving and connecting people with God and each other. And people will abuse her and manipulate her and try to control her, but they’ll pass on. And she will keep going.”

31Dec

Seminary for Dummies

“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”  2 Timothy 2:15 (NIV)

After 6 years, 18 courses, 54 unit hours, hundreds of books and articles read, and dozens of papers written, etc, I’m scheduled to graduate in May of 2012 with a Master of Arts in Christian Ministry degree , from the Harding School of Theology in Memphis TN.  I’ve also taken some of the courses toward this degree at Azusa Pacific University, Abilene Christian University, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and have done research at Fuller Theological Seminary. My file with all the course work done is 160 MB 🙂 

The Spirit has put on my heart the desire to teach a Master’s in Theology Overview Class for Turing Point beginning on Wednesday January 4th at the Burbank Worship Center. The hope is for this to be a “seminary for dummies” of sorts.

As I always say, I’m not a scholar or an expert but I am an avid student. I know that many of you have done more study or similar study. I can’t fill your cup but I do want to empty mine into yours. What I look forward to most is being able to “upload” the highlights and best information from these studies onto your hard drives! I hope that our roots will grow deeper, our spiritual foundation will broaden, and our toolbox of spiritual resources will expand as a result.

 

We envision a schedule sort of like an academic calendar with four quarters in 2012 with the following tentative schedule: Winter quarter: Systematic Theology (what the heck is theology anyway?); Spring Quarter: Advanced Old Testament Overview and Study, Summer Quarter; Advanced New Testament Overview and Study; Fall Quarter: Church History and Christianity in Europe and America. We’d also like to give out certificates of completion at the end of the year to those who participate. More details are to come but I just wanted to put this on your radar. Hello 2012 & Happy New Year to all of you!

 

30Nov

MGI

During a message on Sunday November 13th, I asked all of the members of our church to give the next year of their lives to reaching the Millennial Generation for Christ. In addition, I asked all those who would volunteer to be a part of a special mission team/task force to focus intently on engaging this emerging generation. We are calling it the Millennial Generation Initiative (MGI) and can’t wait to see what God does with it in 2012!

TP 2012 Millennial Generation Initiative Video from TurningPoint Church on Vimeo.

30Oct

All In

In every endeavor of life, there are those that are marginally committed and those that are all in. Sometimes you can’t tell the difference at the beginning. Nevertheless, time and adversity eventually separate the two.  

If there is any cause that deserves an All In devotion, it’s following Jesus.  

Being all in is not a onetime event but a day-to-day choice. That’s what we as a church are going to recommit to in 2012; being All In, all the time.

  

29Sep

Transformers

A while back, Jay Torres recalled something that caught his attention and motivated him to focus more intently on pursuing his relationship with God. He said that seeing the personal transformation in the lives of his sister in law and her husband, Fei and Michael Baumgart, changed him. Jay was baptized earlier this year. His wife Shimooi became a Christian last year. The Torres family and countless others first witnessed transformation; then they experienced it for themselves.

Each Sunday in October, our worship services will feature two members of our church family sharing their stories of how God has radically changed their lives for the better. It’ll be a great way to honor him and to illustrate what following Jesus looks like day in and day out. As it fitting, we’re calling this new Sunday message series Transformers! It promises to be a great time. See you there!

Transformation 9-28-11 from TurningPoint Church on Vimeo.

2Sep

Sowing and Reaping

One of the inescapable truths in life is that you reap what you sow. In addition, you reap in a season later than you sow, and you reap more than you sow. What’s tough about this is that we’re wired to seek instant gratification. We want to reap right after we sow. That desire has led all of us to take some shortcuts that ended up being dead ends.

Occasionally you get to see someone enjoy a season of reaping after many years of seemingly unrewarded sowing. Sometimes there are happy endings. The video below documents some happy “middles.”

Our teens were interviewed and asked how being raised in a Christian home has made a difference in their lives. These families are far from being perfect but they are really trying to live as Christ followers. What’s amazing is seeing some of these young adults you’ve known since they were three months old respond as mature college bound disciples. God only knows how much their parents, KidsPoint teachers, teen leaders, siblings, and friends have sown into their hearts, minds, and lives. One thing that is clear is that seeing a young life fully devoted to God is breathtaking. Is it worth it? I think so. I hope this encourages us to keep sowing the best seed we can, knowing that God is faithful and that a harvest is coming. Enjoy…

 

Teen Legacy – 8/14/11 from TurningPoint Church on Vimeo.

 

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