Friday, August 31, 2007

Ozzfest Recap

We went to Ozzfest 2007 and we had a great time. We spent the first couple hours hanging out in the parking lot with a bunch of metal heads playing hacky sack. It's been a long time since I've had the chance to play hacky sack and listen to metal with like-minded individuals. At 32, I think I was the elder of the bunch, so I regaled them with tales of concert experiences from the past 14 years.

During Static-X, the mosh pit was pretty weak, but our new friends from the parking lot did their best to keep it going. Budweiser was nice enough to buy me a water and a hot dog for my pledge of sobriety through their Designated Driver Program. Despite my extensive experience in concerts and mosh pits, this was a night of firsts for me. I don't think I've ever moshed to a band as heavy as Lamb of God before. This was my first time in a circle pit. And this was my first attempt at the dreaded wall of death.

I had an awesome time. If you're not into metal, mosh pits, sweat, and adrenaline, then there really isn't anything I could say that would make you understand.

I'll tell you what upsets me though, I didn't see Jesus there at Ozzfest.

When I go to a "christian festival", there are plenty of "ministries" reaching out to the crowd; there are plenty of "christian" t-shirts to go around. Christians trying to reach each other. But when I go to Ozzfest and Family Values, Jesus is nowhere to be found. Apparently no one wants to reach this sub-culture. Even in the parking lot. (Except our friends at of course.)

As you can see, it's hard to shoot a decent video in a pit. By the way, this was the weak pit. By the time the good pits were going, it was too dark to shoot video.

Exodus 23:20 - 30

During our last Dinner & Discussion, we only actually covered Exodus 23:20 through Exodus 27:21. But in the interest of time and our sanity, we agreed to move through chapters 28, 29, and 30 between meetings, bringing anything of relevance to the table at our next gathering. So at our next Dinner & Discussion, we will pick up in Exodus 31.

Topics discussed last week:

Discussed the "mysterious" angel that bears God's name and has the power to forgive sin. (A Christophany?) 23:20-23

Discussed the idea of fertility as a blessing. 23:26

Discussed whether the hornets of 23:27 & 28 were metaphorical or literal.

Learned that purification by blood enabled the leaders to "meet with God". 24:8

Discussed what the 74 leaders were actually able/allowed to see when they had dinner with God. 24:9-11 (in light of the scriptures in 33:19-23).

We read through all of the building plans for the tabernacle, altar, and ark of the covenant.

Next time, we get to read through the infamous story of the "golden calf", a story which I find quite full of humor.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

St. Bonaventure

Field Trip #12 - The Double Header

While driving to Sawgrass Community Church, we passed St. Bonaventure, which was running a packed house according to the property that was covered and crawling with vehicles. Upon return from SCC, we again saw the massive crowds at the catholic church and also noticed that there was a noon mass. Why not hit two churches in one morning? I've only been to a catholic church twice before - once for Christmas midnight mass a couple years ago, and once during high school. I am well-read on Catholic Theology (I don't mean Jack Chick Conspiracy Tracts, but the actual Catechism itself) and I disagree with much of it. But for the purposes of this post, I will leave those theological beliefs aside and focus on the experience itself.

The church was beautiful and the service was serene. The priest, Ed Prendergast had a calm, peaceful drone reminiscent of Hannibal in Silence of the Lambs . The church, which had to seat at least 800, was packed, with many people standing in the back. I realize that a catholic mass is very ritualized, memorized, and habitual, but I do think that there are some advantages to this form of worship if one engages in them sincerely with a heart for God.

We sang "Holy, Holy, Holy", read from Isaiah 66:18-21, Psalm 117:1-2, Hebrews 12:5-13, John 14:6, and Luke 13:22-30. We also recited the Nicene Creed. I'd say we spent about 15 minutes with the opening aspects of the service, another 15 on the sermon, and another 15 on giving communion to almost 1000 people. The sermon was o.k. despite the monotone nature of its delivery. He told us that "the very fact that we are Catholic or baptized doesn't guarantee that we are saved. We must be born again with a personal relationship with Jesus. We must allow Jesus to transform and change us daily." I must say that, setting aside my personal knowledge of Catholic Theology, this priest did a better job of delivering the Gospel than half of the Protestant churches that I've been to in recent months. I find it intriguing that so much of the congregation has the basics of theology literally memorized, and the only question remaining is whether it is put into use throughout the week.

Once a month they have the couples who are celebrating an anniversary that month stand and renew their marital vows before the entire congregation. I thought that was very cool, and romantic even. They also had a $4 Pancake & Eggs breakfast on site that included a pastry bar and Champagne Mimosas. One other thing, there was a noticeable presence of children during the mass. I'm not inclined to offer an opinion on this, I just thought I would mention it.
If last week's experience at Church by the Glades could be described as fun, then this experience at St. Bonaventure could be described as mind-numbingly boring. Peaceful, beautiful, and serene - yes. But boring too.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Sawgrass Community Church

Church Field Trip #11

If first impressions are derived from the website experience, then this might be the worst yet. It was all I could go to figure out when the service time was, from the website that seems like it is set up for church members only. The church is located in a corporate park, much like Solera, and was almost impossible to find. If there was ever a church that needed a parking team, this was it; they didn't have one. They are in the Shenandoah area of Davie.

The worship was classic 90's contemporary, with a slight feminine flare. I'm not one of those conspiracy theorists who believe that the modern church has been overrun by feminine taste - but if I were, this church could be at the top of the heap. It might've had something to do with the abundance of fresh flowers, the pink silk backdrop, or the ankle-length pink-flowered dresses on the 3 women leading worship. During the offering, the band performed "Welcome Home" without the 3 singers and there was a noticed improvement, at least for my tastes. It was almost painful watching the women prod the congregation to clap along with the music to no avail.

Sawgrass Community Church has been in existence since 1989, Terry Bernard has been the pastor there since 1998, and the church has been in the corporate park for the past three years.

Like Plantation Baptist, the Pastor managed to deliver the Gospel during the opening prayer, and then proceeded to drill it in throughout the entire sermon. They are mid-way through a year-long walk through the four Gospels. He referenced Luke 4:16-21, as well as Isaiah 61:1 and Leviticus 25:8-10.

Here are some notable excerpts from the sermon:

"The Gospel is the fulfillment of Old Testament scripture."

"We are all poor, blind, oppressed, and imprisoned, but we aren't willing to admit it."

"Salvation only begins when you understand that you are a sinner - that you are spiritually poor, blind, oppressed and imprisoned."

"Jesus came to free you from bondage and captivity."

"We are blind to the truth of how ugly our sin is to a Holy God."

"Most of us believe, deep down, that mankind is basically good, and that we can earn our way into heaven."

"I don't see anyone telling us about our need for a saviour. That is not a popular message."

A gift bag was given to first time visitors that included a coffee mug, a magnet, a few chocolates, a cross pin, a pocket New Testament, and a $5 Starbucks gift card.

But wait, there's more! On our way home, we decided to pull a double header and hit one more church that day. So stay tuned to the next post....

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


Superbad was the funniest and filthiest movie that I've seen since Borat. I should clarify that there was no nudity and no sex, but the language was below gutter-level. If you liked Apatow's other movies - 40-year Old Virgin, Anchorman, Talledega Nights, and Knocked Up - then you will love this movie.

These five movies hinge on the actors' ability to improv entire scenes with hilarious dialogue that leave tons of extras to throw onto a DVD version. Superbad excels at this improv dialogue and it will produce a bevy of one-liners that will be unsuitable for public use.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Ted Haggard - Get a J-O-B!!!

It was recently reported that Ted Haggard, the former president of the National Association of Evangelicals and megachurch pastor who was found last year to have been taking meth and having sex with a male prostitute is now asking for financial support. He is asking for support so that he and his wife can go back to school and get degrees in counseling so they that they can continue to minister to others through counseling.

"It looks as though it will take two years for us to have adequate earning power again, so we are looking for people who will help us monthly for two years," Haggard said.

I have three words for this jerk-off who is responsible for giving pastors everywhere a bad name and setting us back, yet again, to the Swaggart-Baker era: GET A JOB!

At the end of "Office Space", Peter ends up with a job in construction because he is tired of the cubicle lifestyle - well, that is exactly what Haggard needs. He needs to surround himself with construction workers who are going to kick his butt for being such a wuss. GET A JOB!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Ozzfest 2007

Ozzfest tickets were free this year, I just had to jump through a couple hoops to get them; I scored three. I have never actually been to Ozzfest before. Cost was usually a factor, as well as the lineup just never seemed that outstanding to me. Unfortunately, I'd say that the lineup this year is the worst yet, but considering the cost of the tickets, I'm not surprised.

I am looking forward to seeing Lamb of God and their Wall of Death without actually financially supporting their endeavours. I'm sure that I will also enjoy Static-X, as well as Lordi (a distant cousin of Gwar). The rest of the bands are a bunch of no-namers that will suffice as background music as I enjoy observing and interacting with the crowd. At events like this, the crowd is usually more entertaining than the show itself, with somewhat of a carnival atmosphere.

I've already seen Ozzy once, about 10 years ago with Korn & the Deftones, and I don't really care to see him again. He's old, funny to watch him hobble about yelling at the crowd, but he's old. I'll use that to my advantage to leave early and beat the traffic.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Cheney in 1994 on Iraq

I'm not into politics, but I couldn't resist this one.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Gospel According to The Simpsons

Can't resist a book with the title, The Gospel According to The Simpsons. This book was a quick, easy read. It was light on theology and heavy on cultural observation. I like that. Why try to read more into a subject than there really is?

Any fan of The Simpsons will find this book a delight, as many scenes are recalled throughout the book; I found myself laughing out loud quite often as I remembered the scenes being discussed in the book.

Of course, the author's outlook on Flanders and the Rev. Lovejoy was probably my favorite portion, though his behind the scenes quotes from the actors who voice the characters as well as the show creators themselves were really priceless. It was an interesting look into the amount of thought that is put into the series.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Church by the Glades

Church Field Trip #10

Technically, this wasn't a field trip because this would be considered our "home" church. If you'll remember, my wife is a teacher at their school, Glades Christian Academy. But I'll still do my due diligence, and report on our worship experience at the church.

I find it humorous that many people have to be persuaded and coerced into attending church on a Saturday night, rather than a Sunday morning. As far as we're concerned, when given the option, we will always opt for sleeping in. So it goes without saying that we attended the 6:30 pm Saturday service (they also have a 5 pm service, and 4 more on Sunday morning). Upon arrival about 20 minutes early we milled about and spoke to some familiar faces in the outdoor Starbucks coffee cafe. I think it's called the CBG Grind Cafe, but they serve Starbucks, which is all that matters to most. As we entered the 800? seat auditorium (which almost filled to capacity), we received one standard greeting.

The worship music was high-energy and very professional. I would describe the music as being standard "new-school" contemporary - Lakewood, Hillsong, Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, David Crowder, etc. They had a guitarist that was definitely sporting an edgier look than the sound, with tats and piercings. I like the presence of "street cred" in a band. The worship leader, Justin, also sports a forearm tattoo and a rocker 'fro. (I believe the first time I saw him, he was sporting a faux-hawk.) Pastor David Hughes explained that they were experiencing technical difficulties for the night, but it wasn't obvious, as this was easily the most high-tech worship experience that we've seen to date. (I wonder what we missed.)

The Message Series, that began this week, is titled, "i - Living in a Self-Absorbed World". During the series, first time guests will be given $15 gift cards to i-Tunes, and an i-Phone will be given away as well. Pastor Dave told us that the Palm Beach Post printed an article giving him a hard time for "using a gimmick to bring people into church". (PBP article, Money Times article, United Press article, Engadget article, Switched article, Gizmodo article, iPhone Matters article, Jacksonville News article, as well as more than a dozen blogs already commenting on the matter) Dave is a self-admitted evangelist and has always made it clear that his primary concern is bringing people into a real relationship with Jesus.
Some notable quotes from the sermon:

"Your 'calling' isn't always by compulsion, it usually involves choice"

"God wants to renovate your life. It will cost you, it may be painful, but the outcome will be spectacular."

"Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God. He will engage you in relationship, set you free, and He will save you."

"Our core beliefs drive our choices and our choices have consequences."

Pastor Dave referenced Romans 12:2 (NASB) as well as Proverbs 3:5-6. I should point out that he excels at audience participation probably better than any other preacher I've heard. He consistently involves the audience by asking questions which are sometimes rhetorical and sometimes require one to raise your hand and even sometimes respond audibly (quite a feat in a room with almost a thousand people - most preachers wouldn't bother). Dave also consistently has the congregation read along with the scripture passages as well.

He finished off by telling us that "God will forgive you and accept you. You can give your heart to Christ. Come to Christ so He can change and transform your life. You only get one chance at this life, there are no do-overs."

After the service, Pastor Dave and his wife, Lisa spent about 15 minutes speaking to us and encouraging us concerning our recent travels. I can remember 7 years ago when Pastor Dave used a "gimmick" - clips of Mel Gibson's Braveheart & The Patriot - that brought my wife into a relationship with Jesus and brought my relationship with her to a whole new level. This is the church that taught us that church can be fun, and 7 years later, we still had fun at Church by the Glades.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Natural Cures "They" don't want you to know about

"Natural Cures 'They' don't want you to know about" is a great book for conspiracy theorists and suckers alike. Alas, I am neither. (thank you, public library. Please, like I'd give this guy any of my hard-earned money.) Either way, it was an enjoyable, quick read. I'm not a conspiracy theorist, but I do find the basic premise of this book very believable - Money makes the world go round. Unfortunately, I believe the same probably holds true for Trudeau himself as well. Sure, I don't trust my government, (the FDA/FTC). I also don't trust drug companies, food manufacturers, fast-food restaurants, or any of the other faceless corporations that essentially run our lives. But that is about the extant of it. There isn't a whole lot I can do about it, though there are some small things that can be done on a personal level, to be sure. (Just like Al Gore suggests for fuel consumption)

An example of this premise in action:

During college, my wife (then fiance) announced to me that she was going to be a vegetarian (thank you very much, PETA). I was a bit put off, mostly because there was no warning given for such a drastic lifestyle change. (Unlike most men, I went along and became a vegetarian myself). Rather than start eating garbage like tofu, couscous, and bean sprouts; we simply removed the meat from our existing recipes - fajitas(no meat), spaghetti(no meat), pizza(no meat), etc. And by "meat", I mean beef, pork, AND CHICKEN (to all you girls out there that think that chicken isn't meat, try educating yourself to the fact that the beef industry actually treats their animals better than the poultry industry. And that isn't saying much.) After about 5 years, we decided (consciously) to begin to let limited amounts of meat back into our diet. (Being vegetarian had proven to be too difficult and restricting amidst our level of cultural immersion, but we still believed in the basic premise that our culture consumes WAY TOO MUCH MEAT in a way that overloads the system and forces it to produce meat in a manner that is both unthinkable and inhumane. We still make most of our recipes without meat, and really only eat meat when "eating out" for social ease. (about once a week)
I've already seen the documentary "Super-Size Me" (it was awesome!) and I'm about to start reading "Fast Food Nation".

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Girl Talk - Night Ripper

A friend of mine, Victor over at My Living Mind, gave me a CD this week called Night Ripper by a DJ named Girl Talk. Apparently this guy, his real name is Greg Gillis, takes a bunch of different songs, and mashes them up into a new song. He uses at least a dozen songs for each one of the tracks. I don't know if what he is doing is legal, probably not (because the rich always get richer), but I loved it. This type of "music" was made for me. He deftly crossed the boundaries of both genre and time, covering the last three decades worth of hip-hop, dance, pop, rock, retro, grunge, etc. I popped it in for the first time and listened to it all the way through.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Ultimate Beer

Ultimate Beer is a Dorling Kindersley book, and therefore, irresistible. If I could own every DK book that is out there, I would. And for them to put out a book about beer from the "beer hunter" himself, Michael Jackson; I couldn't pass it up.

Jackson does a great job of giving a thorough explanation of the brewing process and brewing history, especially regional geographic brewing history. He weighs heavily on Germany, Belgium, and England/Scotland, as well as the Pacific Northwest/U.S.

I learned a lot. I discovered a few new beers that I'd like to try, and read about some that I've already had. He did an o.k. job of "spreading it out" and mentioning a number of different breweries, including some favorites of my own, like Kalamazoo Brewing Co. (Bell's)

I only have one problem with this book: we can't all be world travelers like Mr. Jackson. Many of the beers that he touts are some that I will never have the opportunity to experience. What I need, is a lexicon similar to this, but limited to beers that are actually available in the United States.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Think Like Jesus

This would be my second favorite book by George Barna, Think Like Jesus. This book has two "tests" that make it quite interesting. (And don't harp on me about the idea of "testing" a spiritual condition - I didn't write the book.) Barna has one test to determine, for statistical purposes, whether or not one is a "born-again Christian". Why would such a test be neccessary, one might ask - because in the United States, being "christian" is synonomous with being American. The term and its distinction has been watered down, so Barna raised the bar by using a test to determine whether or not one was born-again, for statistical purposes.

"Born again Christians" are defined as people who said they have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life today and who also indicated they believe that when they die they will go to Heaven because they had confessed their sins and had accepted Jesus Christ as their savior."

Once he had established one's spiritual designation as "born-again christian" or "not born-again christian", he could implement a second test upon the "born-again christians." This test would determine whether or not they had a "Biblical worldview".

His definition of a Biblical Worldview:
"Those saying their faith is very important in their life today; believing they have a personal responsibility to share their religious beliefs about Christ with non-Christians; believing that Satan exists; believing that eternal salvation is possible only through grace, not works; believing that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth; asserting that the Bible is accurate in all that it teaches; and describing God as the all-knowing, all-powerful, perfect deity who created the universe and still rules it today. This is not dependent upon church attendance or the denominational affiliation of the church attended."

He then goes on to show, statistically, that those who are "born-again" without a "Biblical worldview" live their lives almost identically to those who are non-believers. He uses these statistics to illustrate that the dividing line that determines how one lives their life, is not whether or not they are "born again", but whether or not they have a "Biblical worldview."

Now, I wouldn't take the conclusions of this book and run with them, but nonetheless, they are highly intriguing and also disturbing in the sense that our churches are filled with people whose lives look no different than those outside the church.

Oh well, take it for what you will....

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

How should a pastor view their ministry?

In what ways should a pastor view their ministry?

  • Ministry is your fourth priority after being a Christian, husband, and father.
  • Ministry is your job, not your life.
  • God rewards faithfulness, not just fruitfulness.
  • Your salvation and righteousness are gifts from Jesus and not contingent upon your performance.
  • If you do not Sabbath (rest), God will impose a Sabbath upon you.
  • A series of sprints, with nine natural breaks out of the pulpit, rather than a marathon.
  1. First Sunday of the Year (January)
  2. Daylight Savings Day (March)
  3. Mother's Day (May)
  4. Memorial Day (May)
  5. Father's Day (June)
  6. Fourth of July (July)
  7. Labor Day Weekend (September)
  8. Thanksgiving (November)
  9. Week after Christmas (December)
  • Jesus is the Senior Pastor and the church is His
This was posted on Mark Driscoll's blog recently as part of a series called, "Death by Ministry", where he advises pastors on how to keep ministry from killing them and their families. To some pastors, much of this list would seem downright blasphemous to their way of thinking.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Exodus 21 - 22

On Aug. 5, we hosted our third Dinner & Discussion, basing our studies on Exodus 20:22 - 23:19.

Topics discussed included:

  • altars of worship/modern day houses of worship
  • slaves' rights; fetus' rights
  • the death penalty as a deterrent for future crime
  • the price of a life/the price of Jesus' life
  • personal liability/property liability
  • sexual responsibility - "keep it in your pants"
  • interest rates
  • occultism
  • orphans and widows
  • festivals - "getting together to party"

In our next Dinner & Discussion, Aug. 19 at 6 pm, we will pick up in Exodus 23:20 and probably cover at least a few more chapters.

An interesting question was raised during our time of discussion, which prompted much debate. My "church field trips" began two months ago with a singular self-serving purpose: there were a half dozen churches nearby that I felt would be interesting to check out as an educational experience. For my own personal purposes, I'm attempting to "see what's out there" in my local community as it concerns how people come together to worship God.

Initially, my subjects were limited to a mere six or ten churches which were on my radar, having shown some particular interest to me in one way or another. (As you can see, we've covered quite a broad spectrum already.)

A friend of mine asked me if I had considered going to a Hindu or Buddhist temple (both of which are nearby). I answered that such a field trip had not occurred to me, that I wouldn't be opposed to it, but I honestly wouldn't know where to begin, because it is so far out of my "comfort zone." Someone else asked if the Mormon, Jehovah's Witness, Mosque, etc. would be something I would also include in my field trips. Now I have to be honest and say that, personally, these "churches" don't interest me and my initial purposes, but neither would I object to such a field trip.

Someone raised the objection that a "christian" ought not to visit a place where Jesus is not worshipped in the light of the truth of Scripture. I don't think I would agree with this statement, because, historically, there isn't really anything that I'm "afraid of". I'm not really your typical paranoid christian, who's afraid to leave the house for fear that I might offend someone, offend myself, or offend God.

What are your thoughts?

Should our Church Field Trips include those places of worship that are not considered, by popular opinion, to be Bible-based Christ-centered places of worship?

Monday, August 13, 2007

Calvary Fellowship

Church Field Trip #9
Calvary Fellowship

This is one of the first churches that I put on my list for field trips, and we finally hit it this week. Pastor Bob Franquiz (33) started this church a few years ago with a half dozen people (2 of them left after the very first week, he told us), and Calvary Fellowship has now grown to over 500 people in worship every week. He has been sought after by pastors/conferences for counsel on "How to do portable church in a movie theater successfully", but he guards his time jealously, reserving it for his family. "Some pastors give in to their egos, and the enticement can be very alluring, but it just isn't for me", he says.

Upon arrival at the theater, minutes early, we received three standard greetings. The set-up in the lobby was pretty cool, though being in a theater has its advantages. They had a bunch of books and media for sale (NOOMA videos, Every Man's Marriage, Elements:Starting a Revolution, as well as a couple of t-shirts, one of which read "Not Your Grandma's Church"). They also had a refreshment area with a few cappuccino machines, and Cuban bread. There were quite a few people milling around and hanging out.

The worship music was rockin, led by Mark Rodriguez (29). This was the hardest rocking set we've heard yet, done in the style of Passion (David Crowder, Matt Redman, Chris Tomlin, Jeremy Camp) - palatable rock. I especially enjoyed the short instrumental improv jam given while we were encouraged to take a minute to fill out our guest cards. The bulletin noted that "the services are rated PG-13, children are not permitted in the main sanctuary."

The intro video for the sermon series "Supernatural: Rediscovering the Real Jesus" was very well done, using a clip of Audioslave's "Show Me How to Live" which got the blood pumping. Pastor Bob's sermon was titled "Inside Out" - referencing Mark 7:1-23 (NKJV). He talked about the "christian culture" and "grumpy Christians" who perpetuate such myths as "secular music is the devil." Bob was funny, entertaining, and more important, he was very down-to-earth. Here are some notable quotes from the sermon:

  • "what matters, is not what goes into your mouth, but what comes out of your heart"

  • "people like Jesus, but often, they don't like Christians"

  • "God is concerned with your heart"

  • "Christians/religious leaders make rules to control external actions/behavior"

  • "Jesus breaks those rules, to change the heart, and free us from rules"

  • "making 'my rules' into rules for everyone"

  • "'traditions of the elders' = our opinions"

  • "religious leaders make excuses, rules, and justifications"

  • "spiritual growth is not automatic, it takes effort"

  • "Corban (an excuse) is a gift dedicated to God in name only, but not in action."

  • "Jesus died for us so we can be forgiven"
James 2:19 was the verse that led to Bob's salvation, making him realize that "belief in God" isn't enough.

  • "make a decision/make a commitment to follow Jesus, from your heart, not just your lips"

  • "turn away/walk away from a life of excuses"

  • "Jesus came to give us life"
He also pushed a four-week class they host, called "Starting Point" for new believers. I think I actually heard a sigh of relief from my wife as he closed by delivering the Gospel. After two months, I suppose it has come to that. After the service we went to the "Ten Minute Party" (a chance for newcomers to get to know the pastors) where we spent some time talking with Pastor Bob, and we were given a gift - "Elements:Starting a Revolution in Your World." I've already finished it (took less than 2 hours), it was a great book with a lot of keepers; I'll review it later in a separate post (I actually had to bust out my highlighter for this book).

Follow-up: We received a hand-written note from Pastor Bob, the very next day. (Not a note where he fills in our names, nor a note where he fills in his name. But a note that was completely hand-written, kudos. I like that kind of effort and personal attention.)
Continuing Follow-up: We received a one month anniversary letter from the church encouraging us to come back to visit them. If we bring the letter to their service, they'll give us a free gift, Life's Toughest Questions.

I have to say this. Between the Ten-Minute Party, which guarantees face-time with the pastors to new-comers, the hand-written note from Bob on the subsequent day of our visit, and the one-month removed invite back to the church; this church has pretty much whooped all the other churches in the category of .... well, I can't think of the category, but these guys are killin it!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Go Big!

A few months ago, I was given a book, "Go Big!". This isn't really my type of book, as I'm not one of those pastors consumed with the idea of church growth at ridiculous exponential rates. But there were a couple of portions that really stood out to me; I shall relate them to you:

The Small-Church Comfort Factor
Pastoral Leadership Style
"With less than 200 people, the church grows by a relational connection to the pastor. Everyone is connected to the pastor and spouse. People come to the church because they love the pastor. That's a nice thing and it makes you feel good and important. But it also causes a problem. You will fall victim to feeling as if you should try to be everything to everyone - that is the beginning of the end."

"To break this barrier, the pastor has to focus on reaching out, spending more time outside the church with the unchurched than inside the church with the members."

"No one grows a church by sitting in his or her office."

"In a church with less than 200 people, the pastor can single-handedly bring in enough people to grow it past the 200 barrier."

"The pastor should focus on making phone calls to visitors every week, meeting with them, and building relationships with non-Christians."

"With less than 200 people, most of the growth is the result of the pastor's effort."

"What matters most is that you spend time doing whatever it takes to bring people to worship. The pastor needs to be constantly bringing people to church."

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Emerging Church Motivational Posters

this site by Team Pyro has a collection of "Emerging Church Motivational Posters" that are too funny, and sometimes too true also. It is a good illustration of making sure that you don't go to any extreme during your walk of faith. Here's a sample of the 20 posters that are shown on the site.

Friday, August 10, 2007

"Rock & Roll Jesus"

As a sign of my age, I'm not procuring albums at the high rate that I used to. Now, as a 30-something, I've narrowed my selections down to those that I can trust to put forth a good effort every time. (This same reasoning goes for concert attendance as well, as Kid Rock, Clutch, and Toby Mac have accounted for 9 of the last 12 concerts I've been to in the last few years.)

So I've been anticipating the new album from Kid Rock for some time now. He has titled it, "Rock & Roll Jesus". I don't even want to know. Seriously, I don't want to know. In my book, Kid Rock can do no wrong, so I'm ready.
Oh, and I also can't wait to see him again, he gets better every time.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Harbour Church

Church Field Trip #8

Harbour Church is a little more complicated to describe than the past churches we've visited, here's why: Three Sundays each month they meet in various home fellowships spread out over the tri-county area. The first Sunday of each month, these fellowships gather at their location in Pompano Beach for a worship service (maybe 150 people?). Every Friday night, they also have a worship service (This is the service that we attended. We're going to attend the Plantation home fellowship one of these coming Sundays.) Some would call this a cell-church, or a house-church network. They also have common ground groups that meet at a variety of times for a variety of reasons.

When we arrived, we received two standard greetings, and then we proceeded to stand around for 20 minutes, during which not a single person spoke to us. The service began 15 minutes late (which wouldn't have mattered until we discovered that the service actually lasted more than two hours. The worship lasted more than an hour, as did the sermon.) I would describe the congregation as mostly white, in their 20's, 30's, and 40's.

The worship was awesome! I feel like I should have paid a cover charge for the experience. The band wrote their own songs, improv-jammed for almost an hour, and even spit lyrics on the fly right out of the Bible. Their sound could be described as U2, with a Dave Matthews flare for improv, and a female singer who could belt it out like Amy Lee of Evanescence. Seriously, this girl was talented. And her energy level was something I haven't seen in church before, I thought she was going to start a mosh pit at one point.

The pastor, Darren Davis, was, by far, the most enthusiastic worshipper of the bunch, even exclaiming, "I feel like I'm going to explode during worship." Darren started off by recommending the book, "Red Moon Rising". The book illustrates the idea of having a 24-7 prayer room available to Christians, and expecting those Christians to actually use it. Of course, Harbour has a prayer room. Darren is also the founder and director of Light International.

The title of Darren's sermon was "End Times Survival Techniques". He talked about the Spirit of Rebellion (think complaining church-goers), referencing Exodus 17 (NKJV); the Spirit of Religion - which keeps the kingdom from advancing because of pride (think ego-driven pastors), referencing Joshua 7:1-13 (NKJV); and the Spirit of Jezebel -"making money off perversion" (think porno, strip clubs, etc.), referencing Acts 16:17-26, where Paul and Barnabas were punished for having an adverse effect on the local economy by their preaching.

Some notable excerpts:

"during times of trouble, are we praying and singing, or are we grumbling and complaining?"
"Satan is out to destroy pioneering callings from God"
"you can never be good enough"
"you have to tear your heart open and let Jesus in"
"though we're a mess, Jesus still chooses us"
"Jesus is the source of Truth"

I'll give Darren credit for telling us that "we can never be good enough" and "you have to tear your heart open and let Jesus in", but considering that the Friday night service is their seeker service (by his own admission), I'd have hoped to hear the Gospel a little more clearly. Darren was so fired up in his preaching, that I kept waiting for Vince McMahon, Ric Flair, and the Hulkster to bust into the room. I kept waiting to hear, "What are you gonna do, brother, when Harbour church comes down on you!?" (I hope you see the humor in this, as I grew up on WWF)

One member of our posse said it best this way, "I can appreciate that they're fired up for the Lord, I had fun, but if I invited my parents to this church, it would scare the crap out of them."

Darren is a bit out there with his penchant for "prophesying", but we were definitely drawn to their "out of the box" approach to church as a whole, as well as a time of worship that could be described as nothing less than powerful and authentic. After the service, they had a time of fellowship in their upstairs lounge (plush couches, popcorn, gourmet coffee, etc.), and we got a chance to talk to Darren for about 15 minutes about his vision for the church and south Florida. As I said, we are definitely going to check out the Plantation home fellowship, as Darren told us that the home fellowships had excellent child care, awesome worship, and food.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Solera Church

Church Field Trip Report #7

A friend of ours found the website for Solera church and was struck by it's apparent diversity. We decided to check it out, especially since it is very close geographically (apparently they've been here for 20 years, but have only recently changed their name to Solera).

First off, they definitely lived up to the hype - easily the most diverse church I've seen (age, race, and class), they were very friendly (introductions by name/conversational), and also lively. Upon entry, we were greeted numerous times and given a gift - "In His Steps", a book by Charles Sheldon. Interestingly, they've taken two buildings in an office/warehouse area and transformed them into a church. Without the signage, you could drive by it and never know it was there.

Their statement of faith leans towards Pentecostalism but in practice, they seemed more charismatic (i.e. there was no outward evidence of "speaking in tongues"). Though non-denominational, they are a part of a networking/covenant group called "7000 more".

The Senior Pastor, Jimmy Mas was leading by example during worship (he has been the pastor for more than 20 years). His wife, Pastor Terrie, spoke with us briefly before and after the service (she is the executive pastor as well as the chief financial officer). The worship was energetic and contemporary, and the most refreshing aspect was the level of audience participation - this was a congregation who were there to worship. Also, it was loud, and I happen to like loud. During worship, Pastor Jimmy spoke to us about worshipping with passion and liberty - comparing our heavenly adoption to U.S. citizenship, "realize your freedom and the price that was paid for it."

His sermon, titled "Getting your ear to the ground" was based on Matthew 24. All of his scripture references were given in the New Living Translation, a "more modern version" as he described it. He walked us through the chapter, telling us , as Jesus did, to recognize the "signs of the times." He complained that too many Christians "don't read their Bible, don't worship effectively, don't fast, don't pray, and don't even get together regularly." Adding, "If you haven't been here in over a month, I'm not your pastor, I'm just your friend.

During the sermon, which lasted well over an hour (I'm not complaining, mind you) he also referenced Matt. 16:1-4, Ephes. 5:15-17, I Cor. 15:58, and Acts 20:24. I have to tell you right now that this guy was not just humorous, he was uproariously funny, and also sarcastic.

He spoke of the hope that we Christians live for - the return of Jesus. He spoke of false prophets, particularly those who get the media's attention. (He specifically referenced Carlton Pearson. Last year, I listened to a great podcast story about Pearson's heresy and downfall.)

Some notable excerpts from his sermon:

  • famine and AIDS in Africa kill over 11 million people every day

  • Mas leans toward a doctrine of "eternal security", but he's not convinced, saying, "people are dumb, if they want to walk away from God, I believe that they are able."

  • He spoke of those who have the audacity to "Grade the Pastor" ("good sermon today, pastor" or "I don't like what you said today, pastor"), and he said that he always has the same response, "I DON'T CARE WHAT YOU THINK." (I can appreciate that, duly noted.)

  • called us a Malachi generation and told us to read Malachi

  • "don't live with your head in the clouds, just be alert"

  • "repent, because everyone will face judgement before Jesus"

  • "I believe in full, full, full freedom"

  • "when this church first began, a salvation message was preached every Sunday, but we didn't get fed" - (I guess you know what this means, right? No-show on the Gospel once again. I give up. I guess I just have evangelist leanings and I'll leave it at that.)

At the close of service we were led by Pastor Jimmy in a time (10 minutes or so) of "Open Worship" - I'm not sure how to describe it, really. The best word I can think of would be "chaotic", though more serene and meaningful than the pentecostal version we experienced a few weeks ago. He prayed, sang/spoke "on the fly" and he encouraged the entire congregation to do the same (pray out loud, sing out loud - no particular song). Whenever it would start to get quiet, he would encourage/goad the congregation to "shout/sing" to the Lord a new song from their heart. (This is the part where I was surprised to hear no tongues.) It was a little weird, a bit awkward, but hey, to each his own, and whatever floats their boat. I've claimed to be down with the charisma after all, so I might as well get used to it. Ironically, Jimmy make a crack on Baptists by saying that if they could have it their way, "sex with your wife would consist of nothing more than a handshake."

We'll probably go back to Solera next month to check out their "Rock Wednesdays" - a time of "Open Ended Worship". (Wait, you mean more open ended than what I already experienced - I'm there.)

Follow-up: We were having such a good time at this church, that we forgot to fill out a visitor card, so there'll be no follow-up of course.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Save Me From Myself

My wife and I have been fans of Korn for 13 years now, since 1994's first album blew our minds. We've enjoyed every album since, and my wife and I have seen them live at least a dozen times - first in 1994, and most recently last year. (I'm hoping to catch them again next week, as their live show has only improved with the years.)

As can be expected, I was intrigued when Brian "Head" Welch became a christian and left Korn to pursue a new life and purpose. I've been waiting patiently for his new album, "It's Time for Religion to Die", and I wasted no time getting my hands on his new book, "Save Me from Myself."

This book was an excellent read, and it only took me 3 hours to tear through it. Brian gives an excellent testimony of his conversion to Christianity, as well as a myriad of details concerning the genesis, history, and backstage debauchery of Korn. He also tells of his life since his conversion and the ways that God has used him to reach others for Jesus. I would recommend this book to anyone, whether a fan of Korn or not. It was fast-paced, entertaining, there was plenty that I could identify with, and it even left me in tears once or twice. (yes, I know that'll cost me a man-card.)

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Authentic Community #3

The third community that we are a part of is our church family. Now this concept of a "church family" becomes all the more interesting considering that we left our "church" over two months ago. Our current "church family" consists of individuals who participate in a handful of various "churches" and some who currently aren't taking part in the "institutional church" at all. For a great illustration/discussion of how this works, read this book. This community gets together informally every two weeks on a Friday night for a social gathering (bars, pool halls, bowling, darts, clubs, restaurants, our own homes, the beach, etc.) They also spread out and participate in a handful of various Bible studies held in various people's homes, praying for each other, and sometimes even worshipping in song. (Like the Dinner & Discussion that we host every two weeks. Have I mentioned that you're invited? Of course, you're also invited to any of the social gatherings as well.)

I would describe this group as "tightly knit", despite the fact that they probably don't see each other as often as they'd like to. Regular communication takes place via phone, email, myspace, etc.

When my wife and I went to Michigan last month for my father's funeral, we returned to find that this group had gotten together and collected money to give to us - they presented us with a great sympathy card with messages from everyone and an envelope stuffed with almost a thousand dollars in cash. Unbelievable.

Our common denominator: Our love for Jesus and our dedication to be on mission with Him in the community in which He has placed us.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Authentic Community # 2

Community #2

The second community that we are a part of is the Markham Park Dog Park Crew.

We got Memphis, our Bluetick Coonhound, a little over two years ago. We almost immediately began taking her to the dog park at least once a week. For six months, we were taking her into the "small dog park", until she graduated in size to the "big dog" park - separated by a fence.

From day one, we noticed something unusual about this park. People talked to each other. Having lived in South Florida for 7 years, this was unheard of for us. South Floridians are, for the most part, very anti-social. They keep to themselves, don't say hello/wave hello/honk hello/etc. They hide in their homes, and rarely speak to anyone, including their own immediate neighbors. For the first time, we found ourselves in constant conversation with complete strangers. There was only one problem: most of the conversation was dominated by talk of dogs. As a matter of fact, it seemed that everyone knew each other by their dog's name rather than the person's name. Example, "That's Memphis' mom and dad." Now obviously, there are exceptions to this rule, but at first glance, we definitely thought that it was the rule of thumb at the dog park: It is a Dog's World.
As we've spent time there, we've discovered that there are some people who actually go to the dog park almost every day. These are the people that eventually broke down our stereotype of the typical dog park encounter. They are a tight-knit community consisting of about a dozen people (about the same size as both of our two other communities). They spend plenty of time together outside of the park also, going out to eat, traveling together, going to the beach, movies, each other's homes, etc. This group is surprisingly dependant upon each other for relational support. It's interesting how someone can live directly across from a dog park and not realize the treasure trove of relational activity taking place within.

Let me tell you why this group is dear to us - because my wife and I only go to the dog park once or twice a week, but this group treats us as if we were there every day. If you're looking to meet some really great people, just go to Markham Park and look for the congregation of 2 great danes, 2 Rhodesian ridge backs, and 3 irish setters (you can't miss them).

Our common denominator is our love of dogs and our knowledge of a great place to meet other people in an authentic community, namely the dog park itself.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Authentic Community

Many people are searching for authentic community whether they know it or not. Many people are also a part of an authentic community, when they may not even realize it is so. I am going to relate three different communities that I am a part of, and I will let you decide whether or not you deem them as authentic. I will also let you judge for yourself their unique advantages and disadvantages.

Community #1
The Michigan Crew

These are mainly childhood friends that I've grown up with over the past 25 years. Though we haven't actually lived there among them in almost 15 years, it always seems as though we've never parted. Each time we get together, we jump right back in where we left off in our relational development. We maintain contact by phone and email and usually see each other once a year. We can count on them for just about anything. When my father passed away last month, they came through like champion friends, there to console, but more importantly, just there to hang out, reminisce, make fun of each other, and basically remind each other of why we are all still friends after all these years.

I often find myself jealous of the lifestyle that they live up in Michigan (despite the weather). They "drop in" at each others' houses, play softball together, belong to the local Moose Lodge, sit around bonfires together, boat/fish/hunt together, vacation together (Florida, Mexico, Carri bean, and the U.P.), and each of their respective families considers them family. There are times when they see more and less of each other, but then again, in the winter, its easy for everyone to go into hibernation mode.

Whenever we go up to Michigan and spend time with them, life just seems simpler. Their lifestyle just doesn't seem to be so fast-paced and chaotic. (Though, admittedly, this could simply be a case of "greener grass".)

Our common denominator is life experience, dating all the way back to childhood.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Would Jesus be allowed to be a Southern Baptist pastor?

Would Jesus be allowed to be a Southern Baptist pastor?
by Dan Kimball

Could Jesus be a Southern Baptist pastor? Part II
by Dan Kimball

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