Monday, December 31, 2007

Gratuitous Bragging

Aaron Holmes organized a Fantasy Football league for some people in TFC. Aaron did a great job sending out weekly articles. The one he sent out last week, though, was the best one yet.

Rev. Donnie Miller and the Mustang Pride have claimed the 2007 Trinity Family Fantasy Football Championship with a 118-110 win over top regular season point scorer, Intentional Pounding. Donnie opened the season by selecting LaDainian Tomlinson with the first overall pick in our draft. Tomlinson also ended our season, clinching the title for Mustang Pride with a 17-yard touchdown run late in the first quarter of his Monday night game against the Broncos. The Pride peaked at the right point in the season. After reaching triple digits in points just once in the first 11 weeks of the season, Mustang Pride posted 100+ points in each of its last five contests. The Championship Game was only the second game this season in which each team scored 110 or more points (Intentional Pounding was also the loser in the other). Intentional Pounding had two wide receivers and a tight end catch multiple touchdown passes in order to build a Sunday afternoon lead. However, that lead was cut to8 points when Clinton Portis ran for a score (and passed forone) against the league's best run defense on Sunday night. What ground Portis couldn't make up was made up in the Monday night game by Tomlinson, securing an 8-point Mustang Pride victory. Congratulations to Rev. Donnie Miller and thank you for playing!

Yeah, that's what I'm talkin' 'bout!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

A History of Violence

I love history, I can’t seem to get enough. I’m enthralled with the rise and fall of tribes, languages, civilizations, systems of belief. Erin’s dad bought me a $50 gift card to Borders for Christmas and I’ve used it all on history books. During my stay at my parents over the Christmas holiday, I read one of the books I bought, “Days that Changed the World: The 50 defining events of world history” by Hywel Williams. It’s a fascinating book and he’s a great writer. Just for the heck of it, I’m going to list the 50 events he’s singled out. Williams is British and although he’s included some Far Eastern history, he’s looking at history through the perspective of a Westerner.

1) 28 September 480 BC (Brits write their dates backward): The Battle of Salamis
2) 15 March 44 BC: The Assassination of Julius Caesar
3) Good Friday c.30 AD: The Crucifixion of Jesus Christ
4) 11 May 330: The Dedication of Constantinople
5) 31 December 406: A Confederacy of German Tribes Crosses the Rhine
6) 7 December 632: The Death of Muhammad7) 11 October 732: The Battle of Tours
8) 25 December 800: The Coronation of Charlemagne
9) 27 November 1095: Pope Urban II Preaches the First Crusade
10) 25 August 1227: The Death of Genghis Khan11) 29 May 1453: The Fall of Constantinople
12) 12 October 1492: Columbus Makes Landfall in the Bahamas
13) 20 September 1519: Magellan Sets Sail for South America
14) 18 April 1521: Luther Defies Charles V at the Diet of Worms
15) 29 July 1588: The Defeat of the Spanish Armada
16) 21 October 1600: Tokugawa Ieyasu Wins the Battle of Sekigahar
17) 24 May 1607: The Foundation of Jamestown, Virginia
18) 24 May 1618: The Defenestration of Prague
19) 5 June 1661: Isaac Newton Matriculates at Cambridge University
20) 12 September 1683: The Ottomans Abandon the Siege of Vienna
21) 11 April 1713: The Peace of Utrecht
22) 26 August 1768: The Endeavor Leaves Plymouth
23) 4 July 1776: The US Declaration of Independence
24) 14 July 1789: The Fall of the Bastille
25) 18 June 1815: The Battle of Waterloo
26) 17 December 1819: Simon Bolivar Named President of Gran Columbia
27) 15 September 1830: Opening of the Liverpool-Manchester Railway
28) 23 August 1833: Parliament Passes the Emancipation Act
29) 8 July 1853: Commodore Perry Anchors in Tokyo Bay
30) 9 April 1865: Robert E. Lee Surrenders at Appomattox
31) 1 September 1870: The Battle of Sedan32) 7 March 1876: Alexander Graham Bell Develops the Telephone
33) 20 June 1900: The Boxer Rebellion
34) 30 June 1905: E=MC2: The Special Theory of Relativity
35) 28 June 1914: The Assignation of Franz Ferdinand at Sarajevo
36) 1 July 1916: The First Day on the Somme
37) 7 November 1917: The Storming of the Winter Palace
38) 22 June 1941: Operation Barbarossa
39) 7 December 1941: The Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor
40) 6 August 1945: The Bombing of Hiroshima
41) 25 March 1957: The Treaties of Rome
42) 28 October 1962: Krushchev Agrees to Remove Missiles from Cuba
43) 28 August 1963: ‘I Have a Dream’
44) 21 July 1969: ‘The Eagle has Landed’
45) 29 March 1973: The Last US Troops Leave Vietnam
46) 16 October 1973: OPEC Raises the Price of Oil
47) 3 February 1976: The Rise to Power of William Henry Gates III
48) 9 November 1989: The Breaching of the Berlin Wall
49) 11 February 1990: Nelson Mandela is Released from Prison
50) 11 September 2001: The Collapse of the World Trade Towers

What blows me away about this list is that only 6 historical events (19, 27, 32, 41, 43, 44 and 47) are not in some way associated with violence. Even the explorers quickly slaughtered those they “discovered,” Luther’s Protestant Reformation lead to centuries of religious wars and Einstein’s genius gave him a platform to first speak out against war and then to push for the development of the atomic bomb.

It seems that history always changes with one group of people violently defeating another group of people. The last of the Greek empire gives way to the Turks when Constantinople falls to the Ottomans. The Ottomans give way to the Austrians when they fail to take Vienna. World history has been determined by those who best wield their swords.

But there is one exception: the crucifixion of Jesus. Jesus Christ was the only one who conquered by willingly laying down his life. Of course, Good Friday did not seem like a victory to Jesus’ followers at the time, but the Resurrection three days later was Jesus’ moment of victory. The Resurrection demonstrated that neither the military power of Rome nor the political power of the Religious Right (the Jewish religious leaders) were any match for the Resurrection. Jesus willingly laying down his life and then God bringing him back to life sparked a movement that transformed the world. Christians took salvation to the far reaches of the Roman Empire and even beyond. Three hundred years of Christ-followers committed to nonviolence and self-giving love. Untold numbers of Christians were killed for their faith but the movement kept spreading. For as Tertullian (155-230) proclaimed, “In the blood of the martyrs lies the seed of the Church.”

But the Kingdom of Jesus was transplanted by the ideal of Christendom with the unfortunate (by my perspective) event of Constantine’s victory at the battle of Milvian bridge in 312. Constantine was one of several leaders vying for the Emperor’s seat. A few days before the battle, Constantine had a vision of a cross and heard a voice declaring, “by this sign you will conquer.” Constantine had the sign of the cross affixed to his soldier’s shields and his armies won the battle. Constantine eventually rose to become Emperor and declared Christianity to be the official and established religion of the Roman Empire. With this Edict of Milan, Christianity went from being the persecuted to the powerful. Nothing could’ve been worse for the Kingdom of Christ. Williams describes it this way, “After 330, surrounded by glory, Christianity in Europe entered into the mainstream and therefore lost what it had once had – the dissenting edge of an underground movement.” This linking of Christianity to political and military power is what prompted this entry into the journal of an unknown French Revolutionary in July of 1791, “When the last king is hanged with the bowels of the last priest, the human race can hope for happiness.”

There are a lot of people who convert to Christ but never really grasp or live out everything that Jesus taught. For some it’s because they’ve been away from Christ for so long that their time of following Christ isn’t long enough to facilitate a complete re-orientation of their lives to Jesus’ teaching. There are others who settle for having their “sins forgiven” but never get much deeper than that. I’m not sure what category Constantine fit into but while his conversion seemed to be legit, he missed the point of a lot of Jesus’ teachings. He did try, though. He passed laws to make Rome more “Christian.” He forbid work on Sunday, he established Saints Days and other Christian holiday (read my post on the “Christmas Wars”) and even fought for pure Christian doctrine at the Council of Nicea. But Constantine never grasped Jesus’ commitment to nonviolence and self-sacrifice. Williams described Constantine as a “sincere, if bloody, Christian.” Constantine used the sword to extend Rome’s territory as well as silencing those who differed with ‘official’ Christian doctrine, particularly Arianism.

With Constantine’s conversion, Christians picked up the sword in 313 AD and many of them have yet to put it down. Martin Luther’s Protestant Reformation in 1521 lead to two centuries of religious wars between Catholics, Calvinists and Lutherans. Modern American Christians were wielding the sword through efforts to “take America back for God” through political power or in the unconditional support of American Militarism.

But as Gregory Boyd teaches in his book “The Myth of a Christian Nation” the Kingdom of Jesus is not about picking up the sword but in picking up the cross. In fact, Boyd goes so far as to say the sword and the cross cannot co-exist. We either choose to live by the values of the kingdom of Jesus or the kingdoms of the world. The world “wins” by exercising power over, Christians “win” by exercising power under. A way we’re living this out in our church is through our Love Wins ministry. Rather than joining a recent movement to outlaw these clubs, as some pastors were recruiting me to join, we’ve instead discovered ways to serve the girls working in the sex industry.

A great example from history is in the life of William Wilberforce. Wilberforce spent decades fighting to convince Parliament to end England’s slave trade. But as always happens, political leaders chose what was financially viable over what was humanitarian. On Christmas night, we watched Wilberforce’s story in the movie, “Amazing Grace.” At one point in the movie, one of Wilberforce’s closest friends and strongest political advocates tries to convince Wilberforce to lead a military revolution. This friend’s rationale was that military violence is a small price to pay for a new world rid of economic oppression and slavery. If only Wilberforce would drink “the wine of revolution” they could start a new order. “The Americans pulled the cork out of the bottle, now the French share the wine… It’s a natural wave that’s flowing Wilber. First Boston, then Paris. Next, London.”
But unlike so many other leaders who honestly believe they’re fighting for freedom Wilberforce rejects the seduction of violence. He refused to use the evil of war to fight the evil of slavery. The ends, according to Wilberforce, do not justify the means.
Wilberforce’s (movie) response to his allies urging was “you must never speak of revolution in my presence again.”

Parliament abolished the slave trade in 1807 and emancipated the slaves in 1833. In the scene after the bill to abolish the slave trade has passed, John Fox gives this speech. “When people think of great men, they think of men like Napoleon. Men of violence. Rarely do they think of peaceful men. But contrast the reception when they return home from their battles. Napoleon will arrive in pomp and power. A man who’s achieved the very summit of earthly ambition. Yet his dreams will be haunted by the oppressions of war. William Wilberforce, however, will return to his family, lay his head on his pillow, and remember the slave trade is no more.” Ironically, this morning I read this quote from Napoleon, “My power proceeds from my reputation and my reputation from the victories I have won… Conquest has made me what I am; only conquest can maintain me.”

Another great example of a non-violent revolution is the Civil Rights Movement. According to the author, “A visit to India in 1959 confirmed [King’s] view that Mahatma Gandhi’s path of non-violence had been an effective way of ‘meeting physical force with soul force.’” This commitment to non-violence lead King to denounce the “black power” movement and to encourage his followers to react with peace even when beaten. In fact, it was the attack of the police dogs on Bloody Sunday in which Kings’ followers refused to fight back when unjustly beaten, that won over the country’s opinion to King’s side.

As Christians, our power comes not from our political or military might but in our knowledge that death is not the end of our story. Our power comes in our commitment to self-sacrifice and we’re able to lay down our lives for others because we worship the God of the Resurrection.


And as one final side note. Rome never completely gave up her worship of pagan gods. But since most Christian ‘conversions’ were done for political advancement rather than for love of Jesus, why would people forsake what they’d always known? Even when Constantine’s new “Christian” city of Constantinople was dedicated, a statue of the Greek goddess Tyche with the Christian cross attached to her forehead was paraded throughout the city. In “the more things change the more the stay the same” category, that reminded me of a popular picture of the Christian cross draped with the American flag. We’ve replaced the combination of Greek mythology and Christian theology with American militarism and consumerism with Christian teaching. Could we be so in love with Jesus that we willingly leave behind the false ‘gods’ of our American culture? Can we follow the teaching (Sermon on the Mount) of the One who was slaughtered but now reigns (Revelation 5) and who conquers his enemies not by shedding their blood but in the shedding of his own blood (Revelation 19:11-16).

The Way of Jesus

"As the Father has sent me, so I send you." - Jesus

Paying to shovel that snow was worth it

As I posted below, our Advisory Council spent some time asking whether it was worth paying $800 to the school district to shovel snow for our Christmas Sunday. We decided that since both Andy and I would be explaining what it means to give your life to Jesus, it was worth the money. I used the “bridge illustration” to explain what it means to turn from sin and take steps toward Jesus. Well, on Christmas afternoon, I received a text message from a friend of Erin’s whom she’s been talking with a lot and was at TFC for the second time on Sunday. Her message had this line at the end, “[thank you] for showing me my way to the greatest gift of all, Jesus. I took that step… no fear!”Yep, it was worth paying to have the snow removed on such an important Sunday. And your generosity allows us to pay bills like rent and snow removal. Thank you, Trinity Family!

The Best way to reach unchurched people

During a division chapel my senior year of college, the head of New Church Specialties shared stats about how planting a church is the best way to reach unchurched people. I knew right then that God was calling me to plant a church. I had no idea when or where I’d do it, but I knew God had prepared and called me for church planting. And now, 2 ½ years into this adventure of starting a new church, I know that I’m in the right place. I feel honored to be leading a church that is reaching unchurched people. Sometimes I get a bit frustrated that our numerical growth hasn’t been much but when I stop and think about the lives we are seeing changed, I realize we’re doing exactly the right thing. In fact, some other stats I’ve seen demonstrate that churches that grow by evangelism grow at a slower rate than churches that grow by sheep-stealing. Only 17% of churches in North America are growing and only 1% of the growing churches are growing through evangelism As a church-planter I worked with in West Shawnee, Dave Thornhill, used to say, “I want to be a 1% church.” Every church talks about growing by evangelism, but very few actually do so. The faster a church is growing, the less likely it is that they’re growing by reaching unchurched people. But now I’m finding out how much work it is to be a 1% church. People who have been away from God for a long time (or their entire lives) have a lot of baggage to work through, making spiritual growth a slow and difficult process. I’ve learned that small groups don’t work, because unchurched people aren’t used to small groups, just going to church is a difficult enough step. The only way I’ve been able to disciple new Christians is one-on-one conversations. And it takes the confidentiality of a one-on-one conversation to enable people to open up about the real issues going on in their lives.

It’s also a lot of work to retain the formerly unchurched; as difficult as it is to get into the habit of church it’s conversely as easy to fall back out of the habit. I’ve seen this so many times and it continues to break my heart. Even the most evangelistically effective churches only have a 50% retention rate of unchurched people.

When I stand in front of the church on a given Sunday morning, I’m looking at a handful of people who are making serious strides in their relationship with Christ as well as dealing with some serious issues. I can’t share details, out of respect for their privacy, but if I could let our church know anything, it’s that people who previously didn’t know Christ are having their lives transformed. You can’t tell it just by saying “hi” on Sunday morning or by looking around the congregation on a typical Sunday, but as a result of the ministry of this church there are people whose lives are being transformed from death to life! I really can’t think of anything better to which to give my life. This is the stuff that will still matter a million years from now.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christmas Sunday

I had a lot of questions this week. Would it really snow on Saturday? Why has it snowed four straight Saturdays? Is it worth paying the school district the $750 for snow removal if half the church was out of town? Should we just meet in a house or something. Are we going to be able to get the trailer out of the snow with our two-wheel drive?
Yes, the snow causes a lot of problems. We did pay the money to plow the snow and it was worth it because we had a wonderful Sunday. We were charged for the snow removal because the school district is on Christmas break. Our Advisory Council discussed whether we should pay for the snow removal and the general consensus was that since both Andy and I would be explaining what it means to know Christ, we'd pay whatever the district charged. And I'm glad we did!
I had trouble sleeping Saturday night, though. I kept waking up with nightmares of the trailer being stuck in the snow. We had another truck there in case we needed two trucks to pull it loose. But with some good maneuvering, Brian was able to pull it free from the ice. Way to go B-Rob!
Both kids church and "big" church were all about preaching Christ this Sunday. In the middle of my message, I explained what it means to turn from sin and follow Jesus. Between the music and the preaching, I believe we lifted up Christ this Sunday and I'm proud of our church.
I was also honored to have all three of Erin's sisters in church with us today. They had told us they'd be coming and it actually made me pretty nervous. I know this isn't the best thing to admit, but I was nervous about "performing" for them. I was nervous about them coming all week. Which I also have to admit that we had a bit of an 'off' Sunday, between some messed-up music transitions and me getting lost in the middle of my sermon.

I let off some steam to Nate about this afterwards and he called me out on it. "Donnie, we may have messed some stuff up but the Holy Spirit was working through us today." I am a perfectionist and I want us to do things well, but when something goes wrong in the middle of the service I can't allow it to take my perspective off what's really important. We've had Sundays where we did everything perfectly but there wasn't the same spirit that was present in worship today. Yes, we have a responsibility to lead worship well but ultimately it's about the movement of the Holy Spirit, not our performance. And the crazy thing is that my brother-in-law (who is pretty much thoroughly unchurched) told me afterwards, "that was awesome!" So, maybe he was sensing something happening that I was too stressed out to notice?
Yep, I'm glad we were able to gather for worship today.

To see more pictures of today's Christmas celebration, click here.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Love Wins - All throughout December

I got a call yesterday from a guy named Guido. Guido is the head of security and a manager at Bonita Flats. He called to tell me they'd raised $200 in a collection the other night and wanted to give it to a family in need. Just a few hours earlier, I'd received an email from a small group, asking if we could find a way to help a family in need. And what's really crazy is that Guido said they used to sponsor a family through a particular organization but that organization won't accept their money due to the nature of their business. I really don't get that.

My wife has been working her tail off this month, taking gifts to the clubs every Friday night during December. This Friday they brought some CD's we made, the cover of which is the picture in this email. But the hard work has been paying off, as they have had more conversation with dancers and managers than ever before. Here are some of Erin's thoughts on what has happened this month.

On Saturday evening, December 15, we went to the End zone to deliver treat bags and to pick up the club's gifts for the adopted family. When we got there, the door guy knew who we were and started to razz us a bit. To me, this means that he is getting used to our presence. We said that we had an appointment with Angela and he let us go right in.
I looked around the room and made eye contact with a couple of the ladies working. They had smiles as they saw us coming in. One of the ladies was there when we were decorating a couple of weeks ago. We didn't get to chat with her on this visit because she was working.
We found Angela and followed her into the office where she had the gifts. Piled in a corner, were several bags of all of the things that the adopted family had requested - shoes, coats, a radio, undergarments, other clothes, etc.
Before picking everything up, I decided to take the treat bags into the dressing room. There were a few girls chatting in there, so I introduced myself and we chitchatted a bit. They acknowledged the decorations and thanked me for the treats. One of the girls overheard and said, "Thanks. I don't know what's going on out there, but thanks." We had a great conversation with Angela before we left, but I think Jaymie will share more of that.

Next we were off to Bonita Flats. Since it was an early part of the shift, the door guys were not at the window when we arrived. So, we walked in and asked if we could come in and deliver treats. The bar is up close to the door, and sitting right at the entry were two ladies. When we said that we had gifts, one of the ladies got an incredulous look on her face and said, "You bring gifts to strippers?" Jaymie lost no time in replying, "Yep!" Then she replied, "Well that's great, because I'm hungry!"
As we set down the bag, the other lady said to her coworker, "Yeah. They're all over the place. Last week they were decorating the dressing room across the street." Another lady overheard all of this and was nodding the whole time. As we were leaving she thanked us for all that we do. We got a smile from one of the door guys and he greeted us as we left. Another evening of breaking down perceptions, another evening of God showing Himself to us and to others.

To give a little bit of theological reflection on the ministry, I firmly believe we're expanding the community of Trinity Family church to both Bonita Flats and The End Zone. Our church is not just about what happens among our small groups, in Madison Elementary but it's also happening in these two clubs. Pumps me up!

The Christmas War

I apologize in advance for the tone of this post, but I just got back from Crown Center and I need to vent all the frustrations that have been building up since the first Christmas commercial I saw last October.

I really get sick of hearing people complain about "happy holidays" vs. "Merry Christmas." I see very little connection between our culture's celebration of Christmas and the Kingdom Jesus was born to establish. And yet, we think we need to fight this "Christmas war."
On the news the other night, there was a story about a Christmas tree being taken down from the state capital in Madison, WI. Some groups of Christians will put up a big fight over a department store not saying "Merry Christmas" or a state building not have a Christmas tree, but they could care less that the average American family will spend $800 in gifts or that our government is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians. Why does that seem to be a complete reversal of the values of Jesus' kingdom? Nowhere in the gospels does Jesus call us to put up Christmas trees or condemn those who refuse to do so, but he did call us to love our enemies. But it's so much easier to get angry at "liberals" who take down Christmas trees than to ask tough questions about our governments use of military force.

I just read something in Robert Webber's book, Journey to Jesus that summarizes my frustration.
"We live in a time of the breakdown of Christian values. Values of personal morality and Christian virtue have been lost.
We live in a time when secular values of the American dream and of capitalism have been christianized. Ambition, success, thrift, wealth, being nice, dressing right and playing the political game are exonerated as characteristics of 'good' Christians."

There's a serious disconnect in the thinking of a lot of American Christians. We'll fight over things that really don't matter while completely ignoring Jesus' command to pick up our cross and follow him. It's a lot easier to think being a Christian is about saying "Merry Christmas" than to discipline ourselves to give to the poor. One of these doesn't matter at all, one seems to be the very criteria by which Jesus allows admittance into heaven (see Matthew 25).

For about 9 billion dollars, we could bring clean water to every person in this world. Americans spent 9 billion dollars shopping the day after Thanksgiving. And yet we put our energy into worrying about a Christmas tree, which was originally a pagan symbol anyway? This makes me so angry I'm not able to clearly articulate myself.

To follow the teachings of some dude named Jesus, you can support this organization. Instead of buying another piece of junk, how about loving Jesus? Yes, I got some pointless gifts for Christmas, but I was able to get some relatives to donate money to Water Partners rather than buying me gifts I don't need. It's not wrong to buy each other gifts, but there comes a point in which we must realize we're wasting resources on buying each other things we don't need while the majority of the world is struggling to survive each day.

You can blame some of these thoughts on this man. And his book will rock your world.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Why Financial Peace University worked for the Marty family

On Sunday, Bill Marty shared why the FPU class literally transformed his life.
Here's the outline of what he shared:

Step One - as always - is to admit you can use help. Money is how we size each other up in this country and it's also the easiest to fake. You can't fake being an athlete, and you can't fake being a rocket scientist, but you can fake financial success with debt. That path leads to trouble!
Understand that unless you got it from you parents, we aren't taught this in school - especially on our generation. When I look back over my education, I learned little to nothing of personal finance from school. I learned most it from advertisers. We almost all did, whether we'll admit to it or not. My parents put all the ideas in my head, but they didn't have near the focused and high powered attack that the "buy stuff" industry had. And I probably didn't listen very well all the time.
You have to TRULY BELIEVE that "stuff" won't make you happy. I always "knew" this and I always said it. I probably always believed it on some level, but I didn't ACT like it. After I went through the class, I was disgusted enough with how I'd been acting (and how often I've been sold something) that I finally fully integrated this into my spirit.
When people hear the word "budget," it has bad connotations. We automatically think we're being put on a financial "diet". The budget doesn't cause you to have any more or less money - it only causes you to take responsibility for it, and THAT is what really frightens people when it comes down to it.
Probably the number one thing - it's not too late! No matter how old you are, it may be too late to become a multi-millionaire or it may not be, but it is never too late to influence your children or other people in you life! If your kids really get the message when they are young, you have blessed them mightily.

Thanks, Bill. To register for the preview class on Jan. 7th, simply send me an email.

What could we do with this space?

Let's dream together for a minute or two. What could we do with this rental space in the middle of downtown, right on Main street? I'd love for this to become a "third space" for our church. A place besides home and work where people go to hang out. I'd love to see this building become a place where community is built and people are able to be together beyond Sunday mornings. I also love that this building is one of the most significant historical landmarks in Gardner. I also love its visibility. We could be communicating different messages on the windows for all the people who would be driving by.
We'd need a purpose, though. We'd probably also need whatever happens in this space to pay for the monthly rent. But the rent is only $1,000 a month, which isn't bad. What if we started a coffeehouse? We could start a franchise like this one or we could run our own.
I'd love to see something happen but I also know it's beyond me. Running a coffeehouse is not my gifting. Is is possible that God may be calling someone else to start a business like this?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Thoughts from Sunday

  • We just about went "naked" today as a church. We had trouble getting the padlocks open today because of the cold. We sprayed de-icer on one and was able to get it to turn but the other one wasn't budging. I put the key in and turned it hard, which caused the key to break and the tip was stuck inside the lock. That's bad news. As soon as it happened, the guys around me sprung into action. Chris headed to Wal-Mart to get bolt cutter, Brian went to his shop to get a blow torch, Philip ran to his car, I went after the custodian to find a pair of pliers and Mike stood and laughed at us! The locks are heavy duty, so bolt cutters wouldn't work, we would've needed a blow torch. But as we were running all around, Philip was calmly pulling the busted key tip out of the padlock. When he showed it to me, I about hugged him! With a little more de-icer, we got the padlock open and were still set up in enough time to give the band a half-hour's worth of practice time.
  • Church planting ain't for wimps!
  • It's amazing how fast tear-down happens when everyone pitches in. Just before the blessing, I told the congregation we needed help tearing stuff down before we could eat. It only took about 20 minutes to pack up the sanctuary. I think I need to ask people to stay and help every Sunday. I'm serious!
  • But Pastor Andy and Joe Kumor were back in the kids area finishing loading that stuff up until 12:30, so most of the food was gone by the time they got to eat. These guys are some heavy lifters.
  • I ate lunch with a lady who is pretty new to TFC. With a big smile on her face, she told me she's started reading the Gospel of Luke and that it's giving her a "tingling feeling." It's the first time she's ever read the Bible and we're the first church she's ever been a part of. That really is why we do what we do!
  • Bill Marty did an incredible job explaining Financial Peace University. I think I'm going to make a separate post of what he said today. But as he was talking about debt and consumerism, I (seriously) thought, "I ought to have this guy preach!"
  • If church has started at 10:30 since the day we opened two and a half years ago, why do most people not get there until 10:45? Am I wrong for letting that bother me?
  • Nate did a great job of leading music and the final prayer. I could tell that he was in tune with the Holy Spirit's leadership!
  • I introduced two people today that had never officially met. I realize that my role means I basically talk with everyone some time or another, but I still am shocked to realize that in a church of our size, two people could be at TFC for two years and never have met. That's probably why it's a good idea to have all-church functions like the meal we had today.
  • I think I did a good job explaining Advent Conspiracy today and our birthday gift to Jesus through Water Partners International. Yesterday I listened to an incredible message by the Pastor who started the Advent Conspiracy and I think his message inspired what I shared today. To hear the message, go to this link and download the message "Worship the Baby, Resist the Empire" by Chris Seay. Chris had a very blunt yet graceful way of challenging people to reject consumerism and share with those who truly have nothing.
    I know I talk a lot about consumerism and the antithesis of giving. I realize that sometimes I come across as pretty forceful and guilt-driven. But my heart is for our church to live above consumerism and to become generous people. I think that as I talked about rejecting the culture's view of Christmas and instead living for Jesus this Christmas, I was speaking less from my head and more from my heart and people really connected with what I was saying. I know I don't always communicate perfectly, but I want the best for our church.
  • As I was running errands for my sweet wife tonight, this thought kept running through my head, "repeat after me - your self worth is not determined by how many people were in church this morning." I've never shared this struggle publicly and it makes me very nervous to be doing so now, but I'm always beating myself up over our attendance numbers. I was sure that since worship was cancelled last week, we'd have a big Sunday today. But the opposite happened, we had a pretty small crowd. Now, if you were there, know how grateful for you being there, however I can't help but ask "what am I doing wrong? Why aren't we growing numerically?" We don't admit this often but Pastor's often judge their self-worth as a pastor by the size of their congregation. I do know, at least cognitively if not emotionally, that it's not really about me. I read an interesting article in REV magazine that said, "if we take our failures personally we'll also take our successes personally." And it's not about me!

    I will add, though that worship attendance numbers don't tell the whole story. Some churches with thousands of people aren't building the kingdom, they're just stealing sheep from smaller churches that can't 'compete.' The number that counts is how many formerly unchurched people are now being discipled through your church. I can point to several formerly unchurched families that were in church this morning. But that doesn't completely stop the self-doubt.

    So there you go. That's your pastor being much more vulnerable than is comfortable.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Gardner on Ice

We got hit by an ice storm the other night and two days later, the ice is still covering the town. I think it all looks pretty cool, so I went around taking pictures. I did wipe out and land flat on my back while walking along Center St. in front of the old Catholic church. Thankfully my camera landed on me and not the ice.
Pastor Dan Newberg of Gardner Nazarene drove by as I was taking pictures!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Our Birthday gift to Jesus!

In the 25th chapter of Matthew's gospel, Jesus tells us that whenever we feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty or clothe the naked, we're actually feeding, clothing and giving to Jesus himself. This is why we give a birthday gift to Jesus every year during the Christmas season. In 2005, we gave clothes to the homeless men of the Kansas City Rescue Mission. Last year we gathered presents for a family through the Angel Tree ministry.

This year we're giving to Water Partners
International. The people at Water Partners have told us that all the money raised will go to help their work in Ethiopia. I cannot imagine a better gift to give than helping the poorest of the world's poor to gain access to safe and clean drinking water.
We'll be collecting money all the way through January. Please make your check out to Trinity Family, putting "Water Partners" in the memo and we'll send one big check to Water Partners. You can check out their website at

It's amazing to see how God can use our church to not only impact our little corner of the world but other parts of our world as well. I'm so proud of our church's global perspective and Christian generosity.
I'm also excited that Life Stream Christian church in Gardner has chosen to partner with us in supporting Water Partners!

Advent Conspiracy Week 2 (Spend Less)

To read my first post on the Advent Conspiracy and about the week one them of Worship More, click on this link.

The AC's focus of week two is to Spend Less. Erin and I put aside money each month to prepare for Christmas and when we looked at the total in savings a couple weeks ago, we thought "we've got more than enough money to buy gifts for everyone." But when we started budgeting out the money we realized we'd be cutting it pretty close which actually made us pretty frustrated. My thought later was "that's just not what Christmas is all about." And this is why we're challenged TF to join the Advent Conspiracy. Here's some teaching from the AC website I was planning on sharing with you on Sunday.

When Christ was born the empire was threatened and as a result Herod, who was one of the more powerful kings of the day, ordered the killing of all the boys two years old and under who were in Bethlehem. The reason for this was that he hoped to take out the child-King that posed a threat to his kingdom.

While we are not living under Herod’s reign, there is another empire of consumerism and materialism that threatens our faithfulness to Jesus. Jesus brought with him such an extraordinary Kingdom that is counter-culture to the kingdoms of this world.

Part of saying “yes” to Jesus means that we say “no” to over-spending. We say “no” to over consumption. We say “no” to these things so we can create space to say “yes” to Jesus and His reign in our lives. The National Retail Federation was forecasting that Americans would spend approximately $457.4 billion at Christmas in 2006.1 The American Research group estimated an average of $907.00 per family to be spent at Christmas in 2006.2 After the Holiday we work for months to get out of debt, only to find that the presents we bought in the name of Christ furthered a consumerist mentality in us and our children and took our focus off of the greatness of Jesus. As Christ-followers, the Advent Conspiracy starts with us resisting a culture that tells us what to buy, wear and spend with no regard to bringing glory to Jesus.

I had also planned to read a great article from Newsweek with some good ideas on how to take away the financial stress of Christmas. I found it interesting that Newsweek acknowledged that financial pressure was robbing many of their readers of the joy of Christmas. I feel the same pain for TFC. These tips come from the article entitled "De-Stressing Christmas."

Give time, not things Take nieces and nephews on an outing to a museum or slaking rink, with an ice-cream or cocoa stop. Offer to cook, run errands, dog-walk or handle other chores for family members. Buy a bagful of compact fluorescent light bulbs for an elderly relative, go to his home and install them.

Skip gifts for adults Most folks can afford to buy themselves the $30 item you were going to buy them anyway. The extended family can pool their money and take a day trip or meet to decide which charity to give it to. Or gather and "shop" at, which lets you give targeted charitable presents - like a goat or bicycle for a poor African-village family - to friends and relatives.

Make a game of giving Instead of everyone buying multiple gifts for several relatives, draw names. That way, each relative buys just one present; it's cheaper and allows you more time to fuss over getting the right gift. You can go a step further and make it a minimalist contest by setting a $5 or $10 limit and seeing how creative everyone can be for less.

Pick and choose Analyze the holiday activities to decide which ones you really like and which are just a burden. Eliminate the burdens by baking with friends, making the holiday dinner a potluck and just skipping some altogether. Replace them with fun, like a family winter hike or multi-generational photo-labeling session. Unless, of course, that's your burden.

Our condolences to the Tinker family

We've gotten some bad news for our TF community; Trent Tinker’s dad, Tim passed away on Friday afternoon. With his mom passing away last June, this has been a tough 6 months for the Tinker family. Tim was my pastor when I was in second grade through sixth grade. Tim also had a strong impact on my life in my teen years through denominational activities. Please pray for the Tinker family.
The funeral will be held Tuesday the 11th at 2:00 at the Park Lawn Funeral Home in Liberty. Map

Here is the published memorial for Tim:

Rev. Timothy G. Tinker

Rev. Timothy G. Tinker, 60, a recent resident of Overland Park, Kan., and an 18 year resident of Des Moines, Iowa, passed away December 7, 2007. Visitation will begin at 1 p.m. followed by services at 2 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 11, at the Park Lawn Northland Chapel, I-35 at M-291 Hwy., Liberty, Mo. Interment will be in Glenridge Cemetery, Liberty. In lieu of flowers, you may honor Tim with a memorial contribution to the Kansas City Rescue Mission, Post Office Box 419527, Kansas City, MO 64179. Tim was born July 14, 1947, in Kansas City, Kan., the son of Grayson and Selma (Anderson) Tinker. He received his undergraduate from the former Bethany Nazarene College and his master's degree from the Nazarene Theological Seminary in Kansas City. His service as a minister in the Church of the Nazarene spanned 34 years. He pastored churches in Weatherford, Okla., Ames, Iowa, Fort Madison, Iowa, and finally at Southside Church of the Nazarene in Des Moines, Iowa, until June of this year, when his health no longer permitted. His dedication as a pastor continued up to his last days, as he ministered to his fellow residents and the staff at Manor Care Center in Overland Park. During his years in the ministry, he served on the Iowa District Advisory Board of the Church of the Nazarene and also served as its Quizzing Director from 1994 to 2005. He was united in marriage to Bernadine Harrington on May 16, 1969. She preceded him in death on June 11, 2007. Tim is survived by his son and daughter-in-law, Trent and Heather Tinker of Olathe, Kan.; and two grandchildren, Ally and Hunter Tinker. He also leaves two brothers, Charles Tinker of Wooster, Ohio, and Dr. Thomas Tinker of McCune, Kan.; one nephew, three nieces, other relatives, and many others whose lives he touched. Arrangements: Park Lawn Northland Chapel (816) 781-8228. Published in the Kansas City Star on 12/9/2007.

Trent asked me to share at Tim's funeral tomorrow. What a privilege to celebrate the life of someone who invested in me.

May God’s peace be on the Tinker family!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

My trip into enemy territory

When I was in Des Moines over the weekend for a family Christmas dinner, I took a couple hours to go up to Ames with my dad for the annual Iowa vs. ISU basketball game. Since during Iowa's last game their best player had gotten on back on the court since breaking his foot, I thought maybe we'd have a good game. But Freeman must've re injured his foot because he didn't even dress. The game was disgusting. Iowa didn't even break 40 until about 3 minutes left in the game.

I had a great time hanging out with one of my best friends from high school who is an ISU grad and season ticket holder and I love going to games with my dad. With that said, I remembered why I despise ISU. At halftime they did a big presentation of the Cy-Hawk football trophy; the crowd went crazy and I almost puked. I've been to two BB games in Hilton Coliseum and both times they've bragged about beating Iowa and the other game was against Kansas. I wanted to stand up and yell, "congratulations for achieving the peak of your pathetic football programs' potential, you beat a mediocre Iowa team." But Jesus probably wouldn't have liked that, even though his Dad is a big Hawkeye fan.


The weather outside is somewhat frightful...

... but the Gardner-Edgerton school district has decided it's very frightful, so they closed the facilities for the day. Erin and I drove up to Des Moines Friday evening for a family Christmas dinner, knowing we might have a long trip home. We left my uncles' at 7:00 and one hour later got a call from the school district saying they were closing the facilities. So, had I gotten that one hour earlier, I could've enjoyed being snowed in with my cousins. But the trip wasn't really that bad. By the time we hit the Missouri border, the snow had stopped falling and the roads were completely clear.

There is a thin layer of ice on the parking lot at the school, but it isn't really that bad. But it is nice that the school district made the decision, so I didn't have to fret over it.

I enjoyed sleeping in and reading today's Advent scripture, Isaiah 11:1-10. This is one of my favorite passages in the entire bible! It's a beautiful picture of the complete fulfillment of the kingdom of God.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Please pray for a Pastor's son here in Gardner

I just got this email from Russ Koelzer, the Pastor of Lifestream Christian and wanted to pass it along:

For those of you not aware, Isaiah Johnson is the 5 year old son of Aaron and Jennifer Johnson, members of LifeStream Christian Church. He had a small intestine transplant recently. They took him back to Omaha yesterday and just found out today that he is in rejection.
I am asking you to pray hard for little Isaiah. I will update when I know more.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Love Wins - Night 5

An update from my wife on her and Jaymie Beal's trip to the clubs last Friday night:

On our most recent visit to The End Zone, I wanted to talk to one of the managers about doing a little something extra for the month of December. We got to talk with one of the guys who manages and DJs at the club. His name was Harry. When we got to the booth, Harry was busy changing music and talking to people. When he was available, I introduced myself and Jaymie and told him that we were wondering if we could decorate the dressing room for the Christmas season. He shook his head and said that there was too much going on all the time and it wouldn't work. I then suggested that we could come in when business wasn't going on, maybe before opening hours. He put his head down and then chuckled and said, "Okay, I 'll let you talk to Angela."

Angela came over and we told her what we were wanting to do. She looked kind of doubtful and asked what the charge would be. Jaymie realized that we hadn't told her who we were, so she told her that we were part of Love Wins and that it wouldn't be an charge at all. She smiled in recognition. And then it was decided that we would come a week later on a Saturday morning.

When I got home I realized that next week wouldn't work because I had to be out of town all day Saturday. So, I called the club and tried to talk to Angela, but she had already left for the evening. Harry, however answered and told me that he thought it would be okay for us to come the very next day which was also Saturday. While on the phone, he also told me that he had wanted Angela to talk to me about some things. At that moment, I got a bit nervous, wondering what he was going to say next. Was there something wrong? Were we upsetting someone? Then he TOTALLY surprised me by telling me that they had been thinking about adopting a family for Christmas and he wondered if I could help to point them in the right direction. I agreed right away because I knew something Harry didn't know...

Just the night before, Jaymie had gotten online to to sign up for an adopt-a-family so that we could ask the clubs if they would want to partner with us to help someone for the holiday season. WOW! God is a God of coincidences! I hung up the phone so encouraged that I had to immediately share this with others! Isn't God great?

Advent Conspiracy - Week 1 (Worship More)

During this season of Advent, Trinity Family has joined a movement entitled Advent Conspiracy. The goal of this movement is to help people experience the true meaning of Christmas this year by encouraging Christians to 1) Worship more 2) Spend less 3) Give more and 4) Love All. To learn more about the Advent Conspiracy, you can check out their website link

This week the focus is to Worship More. To help TF live this out, we're putting daily scripture readings in the weekly. These passages of scripture are to help you as an individual or your entire family to worship Jesus during Advent. Yesterday's passage from Colossians had me on my knees worshipping Jesus. You can read it here.

And here is the list of scripture readings all the way through Christmas Day.

Week 1
Sunday: Isaiah 2:1-5; Psalm 122; Romans 13:11-14; Matthew 24:26-44
Monday: Matthew 3
Tuesday: Colossians 1:9-23
Wednesday: John 18:33-37
Thursday: Isaiah 43:1-21
Friday: Hebrews 10:11-25
Saturday: Zephaniah 3:14-20

Week 2
Sunday: Isaiah 11:1-10; Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19; Romans 15:4-13; Matthew 3:1-12
Monday: Luke 1:5-15, 57-80
Tuesday: Matthew 4:1-6; 28:18-20
Wednesday: Matthew 3:1-12
Thursday: Isaiah 62
Friday: John 1:6-34
Saturday: Mark 1:1-8

Week 3
Sunday: Isaiah 33:1-10; Psalm 146:5-10; James 5:7-10; Matthew 11:2-11
Monday: Mark 13:1-13, 24-37
Tuesday: Luke 21:25-36
Wednesday: Revelation 1:1-8
Thursday: Ezekiel 34:1-10
Friday: Luke 12:35-48
Saturday: Acts 1:1-11

Week 4
Isaiah 7:10-16; Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19; Romans 1:1-7; Matthew 1:18-25
Christmas Eve
Isaiah 9:2-7; Psalm 96; Titus 2:11-14; Luke 2:1-20
Christmas Day
Isaiah 62:6-12, 52:7-10; Psalm 97-98; Hebrews 1:1-12; John 1:1-14

May you worship Jesus this Christmas Season!

Super Servants

When I first thought of the idea of Trinity Family Super Servants, I was thinking of people like Troy and Dawn Strahan.
I'll just go down the list of ways Troy and Dawn serve others at TFC.
  • Dawn serves with Pastor Andy on the Children's Ministry Council and both Troy and Dawn are constantly volunteering to serve the kids. Sometimes they're serving because it's their week, other times they're filling in for someone who forgot they were serving that day.

  • The Strahans have just started a new small group that meets in their home every other Sunday night. I'm pretty sure I've mentioned this before, but small groups are the way we build authentic community together. It's impossible to be close with everyone in our church, but we can build deep relationships with a few other families. If you're not in a group, you can email Troy and Dawn about their group at

  • I can't tell you how many times Troy has run to price chopper to get donuts and juice for Sunday morning. If someone forgets to bring refreshments or if no one has signed up, Troy almost always bails us out. I noticed that a lot of people hung out after worship on Sunday, drinking orange juice and enjoying the donuts, we can thank Troy for picking those up.

Yet one more example of a family at TFC living out our discipline of serving others!

Monday, December 3, 2007

The God of the Impossible

It was late Saturday afternoon by the time I finished my final preparations for Sunday. But despite the work I'd put in, it didn't seem like the message was coming together. I finally gave up and went upstairs to watch the Big 12 Championship game with Erin.

While we were watching the game, I told Erin, "my message tomorrow is going to suck." Erin asked why I didn't just redo the message, but 7:00 on Saturday night is too late for me to be doing that, too much pressure. But I did practice it one more time that night and again on Sunday morning. I felt a bit better, but still figured I was going to be preaching a dud.

Well, I don't think yesterday's message was a dud. The entire service seemed to be a pretty powerful experience. After the message, we sang 3 songs and gave the opportunity for people to be anointed during the singing. Josh, Ashley and I were on one side while Aaron, Areon and Ben were on the other. I can' t speak for the other group, but those we prayed for seemed to be serious in their prayers. There seemed to be a prayerful and worshipful spirit during the worship.

During tear-down, Areon Kelvington came up and gave me a bear hug, thanking me for what happened during the service. He told me it was one of the best worship times and best sermons he'd ever experienced at TF! I don't think it's a false humility to say that I couldn't take much credit for the compliment. What might be a bit ironic is that the title of Sunday's message was The God of the Impossible.