Wednesday, October 31, 2007

No Good Reason to Get Married

We were having a good conversation with some cohabiting single friends of ours recently, and it reminded me of this video. As usual, any video from lifechurch.tv is fun and entertaining.

Why should you bother to get married, anyways?


Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Pastoral Cribs - Ed Young Jr. @ Fellowship Church

This is a trip. It is fun to see how the other half lives.


Monday, October 29, 2007

No Good Reason To Go To Church

Shaun Groves wrote an article called, No Good Reason to Go to Church. It was thought-provoking, to say the least.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Calvary Chapel Jupiter

Church Field Trip #17

The drive to get to Calvary Chapel Jupiter took about an hour. They meet at Jupiter High School, but they are presently building a church in Jupiter Farms which they will move into sometime in the spring of 2008. We parked our vehicle and then embarked on what seemed like a 1/4 mile winding journey through the school campus until we finally found the auditorium. Sometimes, in order to have a worship service, you do what you have to do. Because of this long walk, we received about 8 standard greetings from all of the greeters who were stationed along the way. Their attendance runs at about 500.

According to the Worship Pastor, Jeff Thompson, this week's worship was stripped down and acoustic. Though stripped down, it was still pretty high-energy. I don't know quite how to explain it, but sometimes I have fun during worship because the atmosphere is "helping me along" (Church by the Glades and Lifechurch.tv come to mind.) At other times, that sense of worship seems to come from somewhere inside of me with a sense of it being more raw (CC Jupiter and Oasis church come to mind.) I wouldn't say that either of these worship experiences is better than the other, just different. Jeff promised that next week, they would be back to their usual "plugged in" experience which also includes a DJ. Big props on using a DJ, Jeff. As I've mentioned before, the heavy participation by the audience during worship at CCJ was a big influence on my worship experience.

Pastor Dan Plourde founded the church 10 years ago. A few years back, he determined that his church of upper class homeschoolers had become too comfortable in their own Christian culture bubble, and they were no longer reaching the unchurched community. So he decided to change their atmosphere by bringing in Jeff with a fresh take on worship.

Plourde puts a high priority on expository preaching. So much so that the slogan for the church written on all of their materials is: Chapter by Chapter...Verse by Verse. Presently, Plourde is working his way through the Book of Genesis. Specifically, he taught through Genesis 41, the story of Joseph's rise to power.

He began the teaching by asking the congregation this question: "How many of you here are believers? If you are a believer, please raise your hand. This message today is for you: You should be absolutely convinced, as Joseph was, that God is with you." It is ironic, how often we have attended these churches only to find that the message was solely intended for the church family and not the unchurched who might be visiting.

He went on to say that this was "the great promise of the Bible: That God is always with us." To illustrate this, he referenced Isaiah 41:10, Hebrews 13:5-6, and Matthew 28:20.

Pastor Dan was convinced that the story of Joseph had special meaning for this congregation in particular, because they are a congregation that is "blessed when it comes to the corporate ladder." "Many of us in this room would be considered the rising stars of the business world, much like Joseph." "There are CEO's here, you've done very well, you're very successful. "This congregation could be considered well-off." "So this might be the most appropriate teaching for this congregation - Joseph's rise to power."

Mid-way through the teaching, he related a story about a motivational/infomercial speaker, Stephen K. Scott, who ended his series of motivational tapes by telling the listener that he was a Christian. The motivational speaker said that "he wouldn't be doing his job, if he didn't tell people the Gospel of Jesus." Unfortunately, Pastor Dan's only mention of Jesus at all was in this quote of the motivational speaker. And the quote itself was almost self-condemning of Pastor Dan's own failure to tell those congregants whose hands were not raised anything at all about Jesus.

He pointed out that he would be available to speak to visitors at the connections table outside in the courtyard (reminiscent of the Ten Minute Party at Calvary Fellowship). I like this because it sends the message that the pastor places a priority on meeting new people. We were given a gift bag with a variety of informational pamphlets, including a doctrinal belief statement. It also included a sermon CD entitled "The Gospel" and a small booklet by Josh McDowell, More than a Carpenter. One of our group asked the pastor how many hands were not raised when he asked the believers to raise their hands. He explained that, "on a typical Sunday, probably 20% of the congregation would indicate that they are not believers. And another 20% probably think that they are even though they are most likely not."

Follow-up: Jeff, the worship leader, asked us to join him for lunch. In 16 church visits, this would be a first. We accepted, ate BBQ, and talked for almost two hours. It was an enlightening conversation.
Follow-up: We received a hand-written note from the "Calvary Jupiter Staff" including an invitation to their Newcomers Night.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Heretics

A beloved friend of mine has become engrossed with a couple of sites that fancy themselves "Heretic Hunters". I waded through these sites and compiled a list of these heretics. After seeing many of the names on the list, I went ahead and added my own name to the list just to be on the safe side. We'll see if I lose any sleep over it. Feel free to submit your own name if you'd like me to add you to the list. The sites are Lighthouse Trails and Apprising Ministries, but I like to call them Load of Crap 1 and Load of Crap 2. The list includes, not only individuals, but also organizations and denominations as well that are labeled as heretical.

It's a bit long, but here's the list of heretics (recognize anyone?):

Alpha Course
Rick Warren
Awana
Bruce Wilkinson
Youth Specialties
Brennan Manning
Rob Bell
The Pope
Catholicism
Brian Mclaren
Dan Kimball
Tony Jones
Erwin McManus
Mark Driscoll
Zondervan
Doug Pagitt
Bill Hybels
Moody Bible Institute
Eugene Peterson
Bob Coy
David Crowder
Billy Graham
Mennonites
Beth Moore
Max Lucado
Donald Miller
Tony Campolo
Campus Crusade
Michael W. Smith
Newsboys
Jeremy Camp
Delirious
Phil Keagy
Rich Mullins
Baylor University
J.K. Rowling
Tim Lahaye
Chuck Swindoll
David Jeremiah
Kay Arthur
World Vision
Leonard Sweet
Phillip Yancey
Josh McDowell
Luis Palua
Greg Laurie
NavPress
Intervarsity
Christianity Today
Relevant Magazine
Lutherans
Episcopalians
American Baptists
Presbyterians
Methodists
Women of Faith
Oprah Winfrey
Emerging Church Movement
Emergent Church Village
Joel Osteen
T.D. Jakes
Ed Young Jr.
Southern Baptist Convention
Lifeway Stores
Mother Theresa
Quakers
TBN
Bono of U2
N.T. Wright
“Christ-Followers”
Rick Mckinley
Craig Groeschel
Andy Stanley
Mark Beeson
Lew Graff
Chris G.
Ryan C.
Matt E.
Matt B.
Fred U.
Shane B.



Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The 4-Hour Workweek

I heard Tim Ferris, the 29 year old author, give an interview on Paul and Young Ron recently and my interest was piqued. Surprisingly, this book was really great! I don't usually go for "business/self-help/travel/get-rich/time management" books, but this one had many redeeming qualities. There are quite a few useful tidbits that I will take away from this book, not the least of which is speed-reading.

That said, I should also point out that Ferris and I don't always see eye to eye. My Christian, pastoral, family, dog-loving, South Florida lifestyle doesn't lend itself easily to the lifestyle that he prescribes in his book. Nonetheless, there were many small pieces of advice that he gives which I find to be invaluable, especially coming from a 29 year old vagabond.

Here are some excerpts that really jumped out at me:

  • Tim "cheats the system" and becomes the Chinese National Champion in Kickboxing by pushing his opponents off of the platform for TKO's. In this illustration, he shows not only his genius, but also his complete lack of morals and respect for their sport.
  • Some of Tim's best stories are about other people. Like Jean-Marc, who was stranded in Ghana (West Africa) for four months surviving on a mush-like concoction of corn meal and spinach. "The most basic of foods and good friends proved to be the only real necessities, giving him the most life-affirming epiphany: The worst really isn't that bad. To enjoy life, you don't need fancy nonsense."
  • "I hope you're sitting down. I'm going to tell you something that upsets a lot of people. I never watch the news and I don't read the newspaper. I cultivate selective ignorance for my own good. I read the headlines through the newspaper machines and nothing more."
  • He teaches you how to read 200% faster in less than 10 minutes. I'm already somewhat of a speedreader, but this was the first time I'd seen anyone lay it out so simply and so quickly.
  • He identifies time wasters and shows you how to ease them out of your system: television, reading and watching the news, all non-fiction reading and most fiction reading, email, internet, etc. You see where this is going yet?
  • He tells great stories about the wonders of global outsourcing and currency exchanges. I won't go into detail here, but it is pretty crazy what can be done in our new global economy.
  • The criticism sandwich was a great illustration that I'd never heard before: first, you praise a person for something, then you deliver the criticism, and then close with a topic-shifting praise to exit the sensitive topic.
  • "I have quit three jobs and been fired from all the rest. Getting fired, despite sometimes coming as a surprise and leaving you scrambling to recover, is often a Godsend: Someone else makes the decision for you, and it's impossible to sit in the wrong job for the rest of your life. Most people aren't lucky enough to get fired and die a slow spiritual death over 30-40 years."
  • He tells the story of the rich, successful, Harvard M.B.A. American and the Mexican fisherman who "sleeps late, fishes a little, plays with his children, takes siestas with his wife, and strolls into the village every evening to sip wine and play guitar with his friends." Who is better off - the rich American or the well-rested fisherman?
  • "Whether you're aware of it or not, material possessions create indecision and distractions, consuming attention and making unfettered happiness a real chore. It is impossible to realize how distracting all this crap is until you get rid of it."
Unfortunately, if I take Tim's advice, I'll be spending a lot less time on the internet as well as a lot less time reading. (With the exception of my Bible, of course). We'll see.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Photos of our Gatherings

Our group of friends try to get together as often as possible. A few of us have been known to throw parties at our homes. Sometimes we go out to the bar, or we go bowling, play billiards or throw darts. And sometimes we just gather and hang out around a bonfire. For the past couple years, we've managed to have these gatherings at least once or twice a month.

We've grown to love each other, depend on each other, and we've met some great new people too. Depending on the circumstances, our numbers have ranged anywhere from 8 to 45 people. There is now a link on the right-hand side of this site which is labeled "Photos of our Gatherings". This link will continue to catalog some of the pictorial highlights from our gatherings.


Friday, October 19, 2007

Sex Sells

Oakleaf Church, in Cartersville Georgia, did a series last spring about Sex. Like many churches, they got this idea, as well as the promotional materials from Granger Church. So what makes Oakleaf stand out from the crowd?

How about the fact that the pastor recorded the calls that he recieved from angry community members and compiled them into an audio mix. For your listening pleasure, I present that mix here:

Oakleaf Voice Mails

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Among the People

"I honestly can’t remember the last time I went into a Starbucks and there wasn’t a pastor in there feeling good about himself because he was 'among the lost.' Nothing wrong with Starbucks and nothing wrong with hanging out there, but it does make me laugh that it is more filled with Christian workers than it is with disconnected people." - Gary Lamb



"Christians hang out at Starbucks…. disconnected people hang out in bars." -Chris Elrod


This must me why I prefer to pay four bucks for a pint of Guinness rather than a cup of coffee.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Ask Anything

Mark Driscoll (Mars Hill Church in Seattle) has launched a site called Ask Anything that allows you to ask him any question that may come to your mind. You can then vote on the questions that others have submitted to the site. On November 1, they will end the voting process. In January 2008, Driscoll will begin a 9 week teaching series addressing the top 9 questions from the site.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

State of the Pulpit - Mark Driscoll on Joel Osteen

Mark Driscoll is on a roll lately. At the Convergent Conference last month, he pretty much "called out" Brian McLaren, Rob Bell, and Doug Pagitt on their faulty theology.

Last week, at his own church, he treated the congregation to 3.5 minutes of Joel Osteen, and then spent 5 minutes critiquing the clip.

Monday, October 15, 2007

LifeChurch.tv Wellington

Church Field Trip #16

It was only a matter of time before we made it up to the Wellington campus of LifeChurch.tv. They hold their services in a high school auditorium, but don't be fooled, because it was tricked out. This is actually a pre-existing congregation that has been in Wellington for 16 years. Last February, they decided to become a campus of Lifechurch.tv "before someone else in South Florida beat them to it," according to the campus pastor, Larry Mayer.

We arrived about 15 minutes early and milled about in the lobby. At least 4 different people engaged us in genuine conversation. Larry recognized new faces and introduced himself. He then spent about 10 minutes before and also after the service talking to us about their transition, their vision, and their progress. I want to note that every person that spoke to me at this church asked me for my name. For this reason alone, I could have left satisfied. THIS IS HUGE!

This church is currently running two services with almost 500 in attendance. While we were out in the lobby talking, I noticed that the band was already playing inside the amphitheater. Pastor Larry told us that the band plays cover-songs during the pre-service time, so we went inside. Upon entry the band was "blasting" out Black Hole Sun by Soundgarden. At 11 am. That will wake you up for sure.

This was the loudest worship experience we've had. The band tore the roof off of that place. If you were in that crowd and you weren't worshipping and jamming to the music, you didn't have a pulse. I think that I've now determined, after visiting 15 churches, that I am personally not a fan of the "praise team." The "praise team" usually consists of 3 or 4 singers (usually pretty women) singing "parts." I've been to a lot of rock concerts in my life, at least 100, and the phenomenon of the "praise team" seems to be exclusive to the church world. I realize that this is just a personal preference on my part, but I just seem to be more into the worship when I'm not looking at a bunch of pretty girls standing up there without instruments.

When the band finished playing four songs, I wanted them to play four more, but they immediately moved into the teaching by Craig Groeschel via satellite. This was my second experience with live teaching being fed in via video. The first was Flamingo Road Church Sawgrass. Now I don't want to compare these two satellite experiences directly, but it is practically inevitable. The experience at FRC Sawgrass was satisfactory, but LifeChurch.tv are not only the authors, but quite possibly the masters of this new form of church experience.

Craig has mastered this form of teaching. At least 70% of time, he was looking directly into the cameras. They seamlessly switched the feed to whichever camera he happened to be looking at. They kept the shot tight on Craig so that he filled most of the three large screens in our auditorium. Craig addressed the campuses directly and intentionally. And, like the music, the audio feed was loud. All of these elements combined to successfully give the impression that Craig was actually in the room. They nailed it. This success was especially evident when he prodded the audience to participate by reading portions of Bible verses aloud. The entire audience participated just like he was in the room with us.

Since I'm devoting so much of this post to the overall experience, I'm not going to go into depth on the content of Groeschel's teaching. It was theologically sound. It was moving. It was convicting. And he delivered the Gospel in a clear and convicting manner. They just started a series called "Supernatural." You can watch the teaching on their website if you'd like. The teaching time for LifeChurch.tv usually runs about 30-35 minutes on the dot. During his teaching, they inserted at least 4 different video vignettes. We found this to be both unique and refreshing. The video capabilities of this church are off the chain. Rather than put together a 30 second video and tack it onto the beginning or end of the sermon, as many churches do, they actually produced 4 videos of varying lengths, 30 seconds to 4 minutes, and interspersed them throughout the teaching time.

At the close of the service, Pastor Craig led us in at least 5 minutes of prayer time. With my eyes closed and an ethereal music floating through the room, I was at last convinced that Craig was indeed in the room with us. I think that may be the longest period of time that I've spent in prayer in a church, another first. Want one more unique trademark of this church? They had the Communion elements available during the entire service at the side of the auditorium, for those who wanted to partake of them. I think I like that.

After the service, I asked Pastor Larry if LifeChurch.tv had any plans for more campuses in South Florida. He answered, "Orlando would probably be next because we already have a LifeGroup (their version of a small group) up there with 45 people." You see, LifeChurch.tv has stumbled onto another interesting phenomenon with their groundbreaking version of church. They've found that people are using their materials (which are freely available online) and their streaming video of worship and teaching to essentially hold their own versions of the church wherever they live. So, in essence, LifeChurch.tv already has a presence in Orlando, they just have to fill in the blanks. Wow.

If there was a curve, I do believe that this church just set it. Good thing there isn't one.

Follow-up: We received a personally written email from Pastor Mayer on Monday morning.

video

Sunday, October 14, 2007

A Month of Sundays

A newspaper in Seattle sent 31 writers to 31 houses of worship in one weekend. This article, A Month of Sundays, is a keeper. Let's face it, when I am doing my church field trips, I am looking to worship God in the church that I am visiting. Not so with these reporters. And it gives them a unique perspective on the 31 houses of worship that they visit.

A Month of Sundays

For those of you who are easily offended, (we need to talk sometime), I should warn you that 5 out of the 31 writers have potty-mouths.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

No Perfect People Allowed

Church by the Glades is doing a series called, No Perfect People Allowed. Pastor Dave uses a phrase that describes the makeup of the church as people who were and are "messed up, shacked up, and jacked up."

Too often, people outside of the church see it being made up of a bunch of moral police, pharisees if you will, who are proudly addicted to their own morality and their attempts to look like good people. And too often, they are exactly right. There are too many of those people inside the church. If you are lucky, you can find a church that is full of people who are continually confessing their addiction to morality and the appearances of godliness, instead looking to transform their hearts and lives from the inside out.

Either out of sheer laziness or just plain flippancy, I find myself being drawn toward the light of transparent authenticity. Translation: I like to just be myself. I also find that this comes quite naturally. But I think that this transparent authenticity is a struggle for many who are trying to follow Jesus. Inevitably, the church breeds those who would strive for the appearance of perfection. And it also breeds conformity, and not the good kind.

There are certain issues that I like to hear preachers address and this would be one of them. Often, people love Jesus and they mean well, but they just don't see their own addiction to the appearances of morality. They like to quote the Bible verses that best serve their purposes and then proceed to chuck those verses at everyone else. Rather than a topic for a four-week series, I'd love to walk into a church where these words hung permanently above the entrance, No Perfect People Allowed.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Dumb and Dumber

Lately, I have involved myself on two different forums of conversation in which I find myself caught in the middle. One forum is populated by conservative, legalistic "watchdogs" who enjoy decrying anything and everything that is foreign to them as heresy. By my mere mention of them with this description, they will undoubtedly label me a heretic as well. Any bets on whether I'll lose any sleep over it?

On the other hand, I've found myself involved in another forum with a bunch of post-modern "question everything" smart-alacks who have a snide retort for anything and everything. I find their commitment to the mentality which requires one to throw common sense out the window absolutely astounding. I've actually been struck speechless on more than one occasion by their comments.

If you put these two groups of individuals together in a room, they might very well bear arms and kill each other. If I could only be so lucky. I find it interesting that both of these groups of supposed Jesus-followers irritate me equally. I'm amazed at the ease with which those who declare allegiance to Jesus can declare hostility on each other.

It really doesn't matter which of them is Dumb, and which of them is Dumber. I find them to be equally stupid.

And concerning my "being caught in the middle". If someone quotes me the Bible verse about being "lukewarm", you might as well include your home address, because I will come over and kick your teeth in.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Church Field Trip Evolution

I had a certain purpose and vision in mind when I began the Church Field Trips. That purpose and vision is in the process of evolving due to outside influence.

  • There seems to be genuine interest in hearing about these "Church Worship Experiences". Let's face it, half of us already attend a church regularly and don't get much opportunity to experience other churches. And the other half of us don't want to go to church at all, period. (I will say that if you find yourself in this second group, you could check out the "Internet campuses" for Flamingo Road Church, and Lifechurch.tv for at least a visual experience, albeit somewhat removed.)

  • Some people have requested that we visit "churches" that are not Jesus-centered and Bible-based. I.E., Hindu, Jehovah's Witness, Mormon, Universalist, etc. I will admit that the jury is still out on that one, and I'd appreciate input.

  • I've had requests from as far away as 80 miles from churches that would like us to visit their church and give a report on the experience.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Porn Sunday

I watched the Porn Sunday Simulcast on the Lifechurch.tv Internet campus. It was powerful. It's interesting that there were over 200 people signed in on the Internet campus and more than 60 of them responded at the end of the simulcast that they struggle with porn and that they want help. Also, more than 20 responded that they wanted to begin a relationship with Jesus. The message by Craig Gross was awesome.
And concerning one of the comments I received this week, Gross said that 1/3 of the people who struggle with pornography are women.



The promo video for their next series, Supernatural, was downright creepy. In a good way.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Bible Fight




Credit for this one goes to Shane. As a matter of fact, I can't word it any better than he did:
"There will be exactly one-half of you that will thank me for passing along this little nugget. And then there’s exactly one-half of you that will probably hate me for it.
What can I say… I walk the line.
"

Here is the link to the game, Bible Fight.




Thursday, October 4, 2007

XXX Church - #1 Christian Porn Site

It appears that I must clarify my relation to the site xxxchurch.com, or least I need to describe their nature and purpose so that my relationship with them becomes clear. As a couple people have commented, "What are you doing with a link to a porn site on your blog?"

xxxchurch is a site run by two pastors in an effort to educate people about the porn industry and its effect on our culture. They also have support for those trying to overcome their porn habits, as well as support for those actors/actresses who are trying to get out of the porn industry.

I don't really spend much time on their website, though I do use their X3 watch software (it's free.) I do listen to their podcast every week. Each week, they talk about what they're up to in their ministry: live debates with Ron Jeremy, handing out thousands of Jesus Loves Porn Stars Bibles at porn conventions, interviews with actors/actresses who have left the industry as well as those who are still in the industry, interviews with website operators in the industry, and interviews with pastors who are willing to be seen talking to xxxchurch - few and far between.
Everything that they do has a certain tongue-in-cheek sarcastic flare. This is primarily why the religious types don't like them. Need an example? Here's an excerpt from the site:

Men...Here are the facts:

1. We all love to look at nude women.

2. We have all looked at nude women.

3. We all know where we can find pictures of nude women.

By the way, this weekend is their National Porn Sunday. A day of awareness in the church about the porn problem. How many churches in south Florida are participating, you ask? None. Unless you count the Wellington campus of Lifechurch.tv, which is a big supporter of the ministry. I guess it really is one of the elephants in the pew after all.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Pub Theology

Rather than host our usual Dinner and Discussion at our home this week, we decided to take it on the road and inaugurate Pub Theology. We went to Ye Olde Falcon Pub in Davie. They let us use their now defunct cigar room, so it was actually quite conducive to our purposes. Ye Olde Falcon Pub has one of the best beer selections in town (33 taps and over 130 bottles) and they also have some killer authentic dishes like Shepard's pie, bangers and mash, and the Scottish meat pie. In the mood for some Pumpkin Ale? They had two different selections available. That is my kind of pub, though I went for the Anchor Steam, because I've already got some Shipyard Pumpkin Ale at home.



Exodus 40 - Leviticus 2

At the end of the book of Exodus, Moses inspects the completed work of the building of the tabernacle according to God's plans. Upon completion, God moves into the Tabernacle in the form of a cloud.

Leviticus begins with about 9 chapters dealing with the 5 different types of offerings as well as the sins which necessitate those offerings. We covered the burnt offering and the grain offering. Apparently, God does not like honey and yeast, but He does like olive oil and salt, go figure. Also, the business of the burnt offering is pretty nasty to our 21st century "cultured" tastes, unless we've been watching Bear Grylls kill animals with his bare hands. After reading only the first two chapters of Leviticus, I have only this to say: "Thank you Jesus for making yourself a once-for-all sacrifice in payment for our sins."

Our next Dinner and Discussion will be on October 14 at 6 pm. We will attempt cover Leviticus 3 through 9. The next bit of entertaining narrative reading begins in Chapter 10 when Aaron's sons get fried.

Interesting Trivia: The Broward Atheists meet at Ye Olde Falcon Pub every week.

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