Receiving Undeserved Love: Ecuador Day 3

If you’ve been following my blog this week, I’m in Ecuador with a group of pastors on behalf of Compassion International.

We were blown away today as we entered a village in the mountains of Ecuador. It took an hour to drive the curvy dirt road, our bus got stuck, and we walked a short distance to the village. Upon rounding a corner, we saw a crowd waiting for us. Hundreds of children from the village had formed a receiving line where they gave us a rose (Ecuador is famous for their roses) and a homemade card welcoming us to their village. It was slightly overwhelming.

Have you ever received an overwhelming undeserved show of affection?

I was reminded that I receive that kind of love everyday from God!

I can’t help but share this picture. This little boy warmed my heart (as did many others). I’m not sure he knew how cute he is!

Friday Discussion: Spiritual Growth

It’s Friday discussion time!

Let’s discuss spiritual growth…specifically yours.

I’m always interested in spiritual growth, because…well…that’s kind of what I do!

Help me by telling me some of your spiritual growth process.

To help you think, consider answering some or all of these questions:

  • Are you closer to God today than you were a year ago?
  • If not, what changed?
  • Is yes, what did you do differently?
  • What helps you most to grow spiritually?
  • Was there a time in your life where you felt the closest to God?
  • Who is mostly responsible, in your opinion, for your spiritual growth?
  • Do you practice any spiritual disciplines, such as Bible reading, prayer, fasting, tithing, etc.? If so, what do you do?
  • What changes would you need to make to grow more spiritually?

Help me out…tell me about your spiritual growth…


Where I’m At This Week!

This week I’m in Ecuador with a group of pastors and ministry leaders, including our family pastor Michael Bayne, and my good friend Casey Graham.

We are here on behalf of Compassion International seeing the work they do to improve the life of children around the world.

We will see first hand where an individual’s monthly dollars to support Compassion children goes. I look forward to reporting to you what I see. I’ve never been to Ecuador, but so far it looks much like countries I have seen, such as Costa Rica, Brazil, and Mexico. I have learned, however, that there is a rich uniqueness about each people group. We just arrived late last night, so I’m excited to explore this great country and it’s culture and people.

Please pray for our team and check out the ministry of Compassion International.

Have you ever been to Ecuador?

Are you familiar with the ministry of Compassion?

4 Things I like and 4 Things I Don’t like about Facebook

Like many of you, I use my Facebook account every day. There are some things I like and some things I don’t like about this means of social media.

Let me share first what I like:

It’s the easiest and most used way my church connects with me.  I get 3 to 1 the number of emails from Facebook as I get from my church email address from people inside the church.

Facebook makes me appear real, which I am by the way. I probably use Twitter more, but I don’t put everything I Tweet on Facebook. (I know that surprises some…but I really don’t.) I put things that help people connect with me. Sometimes that’s serious, sometimes funny, sometimes even a bit weird, but who you see on Facebook really is who I am.

It makes us seem more of a community. We are a large church. Someone recently called us a “mega church”. I guess technically we are, but our intent is to feel otherwise. Facebook helps us connect throughout the week as a church.

I get to connect with new friends and reconnect with old friends. I have met so many people through Facebook.  I’ve also reconnected with dozens of friends from high school and college. It’s great to see their families and catch up with where life has taken them.

The top news feature is helpful. I really don’t have a ton of time to spend on Facebook.  I’ve tried to automate enough things and use Twitter features where it looks as if I’m online more. Having the top status updates shows me the ones people are talking about most recently and most frequently.

Now, here is what I don’t like:

Having to go to Facebook to reply to emails. I get emails on my phone at my regular email address, but I have to login to Facebook to answer them. This is an extra step that seems unnecessary for me.  I realize Facebook wants me to return frequently in hopes I’ll see an advertiser, but to respond to emails I only want to respond to emails…so that reasoning doesn’t work for me.

Facebook apps are unreliable. I’ve been told Facebook doesn’t even like apps, possibly for the reason I just mentioned…advertising, but I wish they would work on their application functions.  It’s the world in which we live.  My Facebook app crashes often. It doesn’t do certain things. It’s cumbersome. (Does anyone else agree?)

The number of “friends” I can have is limited. I know…I know…there is no way I can “know” all of them, but I am responsive and hate the idea of turning people away. I’m nearing the 5,000 mark soon and that means I have to consider changes. Uggh!

The mindless activity apps…such as Farmville and Give a Hug (or whatever it’s called). I’ve tried to block as many of those type things as I can from receiving them or posting on my wall, but I haven’t figured out how to stop them all together.  I realize some must enjoy them, but not me.

Facebook serves a strategic purpose in my line of work. I’m in the people business and Facebook gives me a great resource to connect with people. I have heard of churches limiting their staffs use of Facebook, Twitter and blogging during the work day, but in my opinion, those three, including Facebook ARE a part of my work day. It’s where a bulk of the people are.

What do you like or not like about Facebook?

That Inner Nervous Energy…Some of Us Thrive On It

Do you know that nervous energy you get when you face the uncertainty of life?

You feel it when you assume a overwhelming risk…

It’s that emotion…that adrenaline rush…almost an inner fear…

Yet something inside prompts you to proceed in spite of the nervousness…

You feel it deep in your gut…

Ever felt it?

Well here’s the reality…

Some of us…as awkward, difficult, stressful, and even painful as it can be…

Live for that emotion…

You’ll find it in entrepreneurs…
You’ll find it in church planters…
You’ll find it among risk-takers…
You’ll find it in extreme sports enthusiasts…

I think the Apostle Paul must have had it…

It’s an inner drive to achieve, to accomplish, to pursue big dreams, conquer huge obstacles…

And achieve what others will not attempt…

I think it can be a God-given emotion…

It can be abused…

It must be used carefully…

But it shouldn’t be wasted…

Can anyone identify with that emotion I’m describing?

When’s the last time you felt that nervous energy?

(Share other examples of people who seem to enjoy this emotion.)

7 Things We’ve Learned about Reaching Today’s Youth

The statistics are staggering. The older a child gets today, the greater his or her chances are of disappearing from the church. The church must intentionally plan to reverse this trend.

Grace Community Church is built around a desire to reach people who may not have previously been interested in church. We love when people bring their friends. This vision extends to reaching the youth of our community. Along the way, we’ve learned a few things.

If the church wants to reach young people these days, here are 7 things we must do:

Love them – Young people today seem to crave genuine, no strings attached, healthy love from other adults…and they want it to be unconditional love…through the good times of their life and the times they mess up.

Be biblically true – Young people today don’t seem to want fluff. They want an authentic, honest approach to the Bible. Whether they believe all of it yet or not, they want people who say they believe it to teach what they believe…and be willing to discuss it with them if needed.

Be culturally relevant – Young people today have been exposed to the problems, challenges, and changes in the world today. They are more socially conscious than in years past. They want the church to be addressing the needs they see in the world around them.

Give them a place to serve and support them in their pursuits – Young people today want to make a difference. They want to be a part of change. They want to serve somewhere they believe is doing good work and makes a positive impact on the world and they may even want to help lead the effort.

Value their ideas and input – You have to allow young people to do things their way…with technology…within groups of friends…sometimes unscripted…etc. A church that is bent on protecting the past over creating the future turns young people away from the church.

Be genuine/transparent with them – Young people today want to learn from the mistakes of those older than them. Pretending as if we’ve always been wonderful doesn’t help them deal with the issues they are dealing with today. They need living examples of battling life’s temptations, struggles, and fears.

Guide them – Young people today want direction. They want help making life’s decisions, but they want it done in a way that helps them understand wise choices, but gives them freedom to choose their own path. Young people today need adults who will walk with them through the obstacles they face on a daily basis.

What would you add to my list? How is your church reaching the youth of today?

BTW, notice I didn’t say anything about music. It’s a bonus if you give them worship styles they enjoy, but I’m not convinced it’s a necessity if the others on this list are kept.

Connecting with our Community…Partnering with our Schools

I love the passion Grace Community Church has to impact our community. Our people serve their community throughout the year. The largest project, and the one that draws the most attention, is our annual Operation Serve held each fall where hundreds of volunteers serve in a one (sometimes two) day blitz of community needs. I’ve written about it several times before HERE. This past year over 1,300 people logged some 10,000 hours of service to our community meeting all kinds of practical needs.

Well, another project is stirring interest. Our community, like many others nationwide, have experienced struggles adequately funding school systems.  How can a church respond in times like these?

Introducing Operation Serve School Edition.

April 9th we hope to have hundreds of people volunteering in all 35 schools in our public school district. Operations Serve School Edition invites the community to participate with our church in landscaping, painting, cleaning, and completing other things the school needs done, but the budget simply can’t provide. The schools are compiling lists now and materials are being acquired.

To accomplish such a large task, we are also partnering with 5 Star Radio Group. They are providing publicity to recruit volunteers and providing tremendous moral support the day of the event with live remotes.

It’s catching on already. What we are finding is that whether a person attends church or not, they have an interest in educating children. Here are a few articles already talking about Operation Serve School Edition:

Besides the fact that we meet in a school…actually two schools…and doing a church our size and age would be very difficult without this partnership with our school system, it makes sense to invest in our schools this way because:

We love our schools. Our church and community are blessed with teachers, administrators and support staff who love the children and youth of our community. They are helping to build the future of our community. They need our support.

We love our community. Our church exists because the community exists. Everyone in our community may not all come to our church, but all our church lives among this community. We want to do anything we can do to support the community in which we live.

We love families. Families are a large part of who we are at Grace and the bulk of families in our community attend public schools.

We love God and others. We are called to be in the world, meeting real needs where we find them. That’s the example of Jesus.

Come join us in Operation Serve School Edition. If you live in the area, you can sign up HERE.

What are some creative ways you’re seeing churches connect with their community these days?

What Do You Do to Relax?

I’m away for a few days relaxing with Cheryl and another couple.  We are at a beach, eating well, and doing basically nothing.  I will spend some time reading, running, and writing…because that’s relaxing to me.

I thought I’d use this as an opportunity to ask the question:

What do you do to relax?

What’s a normal relaxation experience like…the kind you do often (hopefully)?

What is a dream relaxation experience (the kind you plan and budget for)?

Go!  Share!

A Theory: Speed of Growth Determines Speed of Decline

Theory: The rate of increase, often determines the rate of decline.

In my early twenties, I was working in retail and this theory developed in my mind as I watched dozens of items gather immediate interest, grow rapidly in popularity, quickly rack up sales, but then as a fad changed, the item sales just as quickly decline.  I called it my “fad theory”.  Other items grew slower, but styles changed gradually and so they slowly began to decline in sales.

Let me give you two classic examples I observed firsthand:

Item One: Michael Jackson “Thriller” jackets – Do you remember the red, multi-zippered jackets made popular from the music videos? When that video came out, the song and the jacket became an overnight success. We couldn’t get the jacket fast enough. Every order we received sold out within hours.  They couldn’t make enough of them. Then one day…right after we received a huge shipment of jackets…another overnight success happened in the music industry. I don’t remember the song, but I do remember no one wanted a Michael Jackson “Thriller” jacket.  We had racks of them remaining, but sold some for $1.88 in a Moonlight Madness sale and gave many of them away to charity.  We lost all our profits from the rapid sales in the rapid decline.

Item Two: Penny Loafers – Do you remember the leather loafer that had a slot for a “penny” in the front?  Although loafers had been around for years, and continue to be worn today, in the 1980’s Michael Jackson gave them attention again, as he was continually seen wearing them.  The growth, however, was gradual.  It took a couple seasons for their popularity to spread through the culture, but soon our retail shelves were full of them.  They remained popular for several years, but gradually, as new styles were introduced, their sales began to slowly fade.

I wondered at the time (and still do), that if we could somehow measure the rate of growth, if we could better predict the rate of decline.

I have continued to observe this theory outside of the retail environment, so many times that I’d almost call it a principle.  I’ve seen it in business, in churches, and even in relationships.  The speed of the growth will greatly play a part in the speed of decline.

Please understand, I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with fast growth…I kind of like it…but we should know that the rate of decline, should decline occur, may be swift.  Additionally, this is not a theory that reinforces the saying “what goes up must come down”.  I’m not completely sure I agree with that one.  This is a theory about velocity…that if something does begin to decline, it will decline at a similar speed in which it grew.

As a closing application example, in my current church, I have continually reminded our staff that because we have experienced rapid growth, what we have is more tender…our people don’t have as deep of roots and we don’t have the solid financial base of an established church, etc. I’m not hoping for, predicting, or expecting a decline anytime soon, but what it does remind me is that if we ever had something dramatic occur in the life of our church, such as a moral failure of a key pastor, that our rate of decline could be as fast as our rate of growth has been.

There’s my theory…apply as needed.

Does this theory make sense to you? Have you seen an example you could share with us here?