Monday, September 29, 2008

What I love about my town

One of the aspects of Gardner that initially attracted me to the town was the mix of suburban and rural. I love the fact that brand new homes bump up against ripening bean fields. I like driving through cornfields to get to the brand new middle school where TFC worships. I took some pictures of the juxtapositions of suburban and rural over the weekend. Enjoy.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


I just got back from the Wheatridge Middle School 8th grade varsity football game against Ottawa. Since I coached 7th grade JV, I didn't coach many of these kids last year but I was proud to see two kids from my team last year had moved up to varsity this year. One of the kids was the hardest hitting players on our team last year and he's starting on the d-line now. The other kid is starting at guard on the o-line. Despite his protests, I had him playing there a bit last year and it makes me feel good to know I was right on in my assessment. I talked with both of them after the game and they were glad to see me. I also got to talk with some former players on the JV team that were watching the game. It was really hard to talk with those kids and watch the game from the stands. I really, really wanted to be out there.

The team lost 12-6 in overtime. It was quite the heart breaker. Before OT, they got the ball with 2 seconds left in regulation (after sacking the Ottawa QB) at their own 39. They ran a reverse pass and the tailback completed the pass for what I think was the first completion of the game. The receiver drug defenders for a few yards before finally getting pulled down inside the 5. I didn't know an 8th grade game could end that exciting.

Neither team scored in the first OT. Ottawa scored to start the 2nd OT and WMS lost a fumble on the first play of their half of OT #2, ending the game. The mom of one of my players from last year commented, "this is the type of game that gives parents gray hairs."

A Night with Alison Krauss

On Tuesday night, I took my sweet wife to Starlight Theatre to see one of her favorite singers, Alison Krauss. She's on tour with Robert Plant. Now, I'll be honest and admit I did not know who Robert Plant was but I did wonder if there was a particular reason I saw Led Zeppelin t-shirts all over the place. There were a LOT of hippies at the concert!

Our favorite Alison Krauss song is "When you say Nothing at all," which is why we had it sung at our wedding. We kept waiting, waiting and waiting, but she didn't sing that song. It was pretty disappoint, but I understand why. Alison Krauss has achieved almost unprecedented success in mainstream music, despite the fact that she keeps rejecting mainstream music. She's stayed away from major record labels and has stayed true to her roots as a bluegrass artist. She's occasionally moved into mainstream country/ pop/ movie soundtracks, as with "Nothing" but she's stayed true to her artist passions. Probably something to learn about leadership from her example. So, "Nothing" may have been too cliche to do in the concert.

She did however, sing my wife's 2nd favorite song of hers, "Down to the River." There were several times in which I sat in complete awe of what Alison is able to do with her voice. At a level above any other singer I've ever heard, she has turned her voice into a musical instrument. Even her back-up vocals were awe-inspiring.

It's also awe-inspiring that I actually planned this date for my wife. I'm not really the most thoughtful person in the world. Ever since the Foo Fighter's concert, I've been getting emails from the Live Nation concert production company. When I saw that Alison Krauss was coming to Starlight (with some old dude I'd never heard of) I knew I had to get my wife to that concert. It's one of the few things we'll be doing to celebrate my wife's quickly approaching 30th Birthday.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Another Trinity Family Story

To celebrate turning 3 this month, we've been showing videos of "Trinity Family Stories." We were planning on showing this video from Emmanuel Reinbold on Sunday, but ran out of time.

Emmanuel and his wife, Janelle, helped us launch TFC. They were a strong part of our community until they sensed God's leadership into full-time ministry. In December of 06, they moved to McCook Nebraska to pastor the Church of the Nazarene in that town.

Emmanuel learned a lot during his time at TFC. I'm sure he learned plenty not to do, but while at TFC, he caught a vision for reaching people far from God and church. It makes me very proud of this church to know we helped shape Emmanuel to lead a church in focusing on people who don't know Jesus.

Yep, we're a pretty cool church!

Greetings to Trinity Family from Emmanuel Reinbold on Vimeo.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

No Perfect People Allowed - Chapter 11

All God intended you to be: Creating a culture of hope

"Most people lead lives of quiet desperation.. an unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind." - Henry David Thoreau

If we do not create a context for hope and healing, people will keep acting out of their pain in sinful ways. We all know we were intended for more! But we all need hope, that despite all our screw-ups and misguided stabs at life, we can still become all God intended us to be.

The problem compounds, though, when seekers come into our churches or groups and rather than hear the predominate message of hope in Christ - that the Creator of the seas wants to come on board and navigate them toward life - they hear only that God is mad about the reefs they keep hitting... leaders spend more time talking about shipwrecks and reef-avoidance than how to let the Navigator navigate!

Jesus rebuked the religious leaders of his day because they had an inaccurate perception of God and no compassion for broken people.

It's the funny thing about humans compared to other creatures. We alone know we are not yet as the Creator intended. I seriously doubt cats ever feel anxious about whether they'll reach their full potential. But all humans know they have potential to be more. We all instinctly know there's a life out there we were created for, but we can never fully seem to live it.

One of the greatest challenges leaders face is correcting misperceptions of the nature and intentions of God.

The Evil One has done a great job of making God look like the mean, bad guy who wants to rob people of all life - destroy their fun, deny their dreams, make them marry someone they aren't attracted to, and then send them into a profession they hate against their will.

Eight characteristics common to growing churches:
Empowering Leadership
Gift-oriented Ministry
Spiritual Passion
Organizational Structure
Holistic Small Groups
Loving Relationships
Need-oriented Evangelism
Inspiring Worship Services

People do not change without motivation. But the root of motivation comes from emotion - a connection to the heart as well as the head.

The worship service can create a culture of hope that inspired seekers and believers alike to clearly see who God is, to envision the life he intends for them in a specific realm, and to motivate them to trust him in that area.

We find we must constantly evaluate whether we are connecting the dots, using creative elements to really connect the message of Scripture to real-life issues, or if we are falling into the trap of doing creative elements to wow, entertain, or be cool. The latter never motivates spiritually.

When seekers come to church, they usually know somethings broken... but they are not sure there's hope for something better.

But messages can also motivate people to take next steps: connecting into community, serving with their spiritual gifts, putting intentional practices into place. That's when people begin to become all God intended. And when all the pieces come together, God powerfully uses catalytic teaching to bring hope and life through the whole Body, and that becomes contagious.

Live gives life. When God's message of hope begins invading the hearts of people, motivating them to action, meeting their real needs spiritually, they change. And life-change is contagious. Seekers invite seekers even more than believers do. The change and newness of life is fresh and liberating and full of hope.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

TFC's 3rd Birthday

On Sunday, we celebrated TFC's 3rd Birthday! They grow up so fast...
It was a great, but crazy day. We rented the school an hour earlier than usual, so David Brush could hang our lights on the PRMS light rack. It took so long that we were moving the lift out of the auditorium right at 10:30. I decided around 10 that if we had to, we could allow David to keep working during worship. Although it was a ton of work, we now have 6 lights mounted above the stage, meaning we won't have to set them up/ tear them down every week. GOOD WORK, DAVID!!!
The lights wasn't the only crazy thing about Sunday. For some reason, set-up didn't go that smoothly and the band was doing sound check 15 minutes before worship started - not good. Between setting up for the baptism, the picnic and other stuff, it was really crazy before worship. But at 10:30, I was able to shift my focus. Singing the songs, clapping hands and watching my niece dance on the front row helped me take my focus off self and place it upon Christ, which is exactly what worship is all about.

The worship service was powerful on Sunday. The band did the song Handlebars and Caleb Wood nailed the rapper motif and the song nailed home the theme of the Golden Rule. There were tears and applause after the video testimony - link. And of course, there were massive cheers after each of the baptisms. It was also great seeing such a large crowd. If we keep inviting, we'll get that room filled up eventually. We did have a picnic afterwards, but it was a brave few who fought the cold wind.

After we watched Marty and Lindsay's video testimony, I told the congregation, "that's why we started this church." I knew there were people like Marty and Lindsay out there and we needed to start a church that would connect with them. I've stayed with the vision God has given me for this church, even if some people weren't able to share that vision. In fact, there is one thing Marty shares in the video that he says helped bring down his guard on his first Sunday. What he's referring to has caused some families to leave the church because they didn't agree with my philosophy but I'm so glad to see how it helped bring Marty to Christ.

Later on Sunday, due to Lindsay's mom's seizure, I sat in the surgery waiting room at Olathe Med and listened to Marty and Lindsay tell the rest of their family about TFC. They said the reason we showed their video on our 3rd birthday was because, "they started this church for people like us, with hurting marriages and without God. We're still focuses on reaching more people who don't know God yet." Man, I couldn't have been more proud. To listen to the vision God gave me 4 years ago being repeated by a family who has found Christ at our church is beyond amazing.

It's only been 3 years. Imagine what can happen over the next decade? Are you willing to do what it takes for us to live out God's vision for our church?

To see the entire photo album, click here.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Les Miserables

On Saturday night, Erin and I sat in the rain at Starlight with Zach and Valerie and Will and Annie Biggs and watched the musical Les Mis. It was an incredibly moving experience. In fact, I was glad it was raining so people couldn't tell I was crying...

I'd read the book a couple years ago, so I knew the story. I'd strongly recommend the book as it's one of the most beautiful pictures of the gospel you'll ever find in literature, as was the musical. To read a summary of the story, click here. I'd also recommend the abridged version, unless you really want to read about 100 pages describing Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo or the 18th century Paris sewer system renovations.

I'll summarize so as to make the main point about the musical/ story. Jean ValJean spent 19 years doing hard labor for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his sister's children. In prison, ValJean was watched by Inspector Javert. ValJean's sentence was constantly extended due to fighting, killing and trying to escape. When ValJean is finally released, he finds that excons can't get a job or even a bed in an inn. A priest finally takes him in but ValJean steals the priests silver and sneaks out in the middle of the night. When ValJean is caught by the police (thus breaking his parole and sending Javert on a life-long search to re-arrest him) the priest tells the police that he'd given ValJean the silver as a gift. This act of grace changes ValJean's life. He commits himself to serving God and the destitute.

ValJean moves to the town of Montreuil-sur-mer and opens a factory with a new method for making bracelets and he becomes incredibly wealthy. Wealthy enough that he never has to work again and he gives away money the rest of his life. A single mom who had been sweet-talked into bed by a real loser, Fantine, is working in the ValJean's factor but is sent away when some nosy neighbors report her "sin" to a foreman. Fantine ends up selling her hair, teeth and eventually her body to send money to the family keeping her daughter, Cosette, not knowing the family is ripping her off with false medical emergencies. Javert tries to take Fantine to jail but ValJean rescues her and eventually risks his life to save Cosette as well.

Javert gets back on ValJean's trail when ValJean saves a man caught under an oxcart. The whole town is shocked at ValJean's strength and Javert knows of only one man with that type of strength, prisoner 24601. ValJean risks his freedom to save another man and then does so again by testifying in court that he, "Monsiuer the Mayor" is the convict Jean ValJean, not the dim-witted man they have on the stand. ValJean struggles greatly with both of these acts, but he is propelled to do the right thing by the love of Christ and the love of the priest. In fact, several times during the story when ValJean is struggling over whether to risk his own life to save the life of another, he takes out the Priests' silver candlesticks.

To summarize, the rest of the story is about ValJean raising Cosette and trying to avoid being caught by Javert. And the rest of what I'll write is the whole point of this post. Javert represents extreme legalism. Over and over, he claims the way to please God is to follow the laws. Javert cannot view ValJean as anything other than prisoner 24601. Various times he tells ValJean "people cannot/ do not change." Javert's character remains static.

ValJean is the one who changes. When the love of Jesus overwhelms ValJean through the Priests' love, ValJean's life trajectory completely changes. He infuses the world with love and hope. Since he couldn't rescue Cosette's mother, he devotes the rest of his life to saving Cosette.
But in his own mind, ValJean is also still prisoner 24601. He believes God and the rest of the world are still looking at him as the convict. Although no one other than Javert views him this way, ValJean cannot forgive his past or embrace his new identity. The climax of the book however, changes all of this.

When Cosette's fiance, Marius, is wounded behind the barricade in a battle of the another round of the French Revolution, ValJean risks his life to rescue Marius and bring him back to Cosette. With an almost superhuman act of strength, ValJean carries Marius to safety through the sewer. Just before rescuing Marius, ValJean had the chance to kill Javert, in fact Javert begged him to do so, but ValJean let him go. In the sewer, ValJean runs into Javert. He promises Javert that he'll return to allow him arrest him but he must first safely deliver Marius. Javert lets ValJean go but while waiting for ValJean's return, he collapses mentally.

Javert CANNOT deal with the reality of ValJean's transformation. Prisoner 24601 could NOT have shown him such mercy nor risked his life to save the life of another. Javert's rigid categories of people and how God works in the world are torn apart. Rather than changing his views to fit reality, Javert's mind is destroyed. When ValJean returns to surrender to Javert, he gets word that Javert has thrown himself into the River Sienne.

ValJean never tells Marius it was he who rescued him. In fact, Marius believes ValJean actually killed Javert, so he and Cosette reject him for awhile. ValJean is sitting in a dark room, waiting to die while Cosette and Marius are being married. ValJean still believes this type of fate is what prisoner 24601 deserves. But before leaving the wedding ceremony, Cosette's former captors tip Marius off to the fact that it was ValJean who saved him that day. The newlyweds immediately seek out ValJean and throw themselves at his feet. They're finally able to see who ValJean has become. No longer prisoner 24601 but a true lover of Jesus and humanity.

When ValJean is able to see himself through Marius and Cosette, his identity is FINALLY changed. He finally accepts the grace of God and that in Christ, he is "a new creation." It took someone else revealing his new identity for ValJean to accept it.

Javert teaches us we can't keep God in a box. God keeps busting out of our box, so we're forced to either get a new box or suffer from a false view of God. ValJean teaches us that it's not about who we were but who Christ has made us to be now!

Are you struggling to "allow" God to work in a way you don't understand? Are you buying into the lie that you can never change? Folks, He's a BIG and POWERFUL God. Let's allow him be in charge while we simply obey.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A long run

I just finished an 8 mile training run for the KC 1/2 Marathon I'll be running in October. I opened Sunday's message talking some about running, listen here. There's not much that compares to a long run. It's a test of mental and physical discipline. I'm alone with my ipod, the steady pounding of my feet, prayer and the ever increasing fatigue. I set a pretty slow pace on long runs, so I don't feel much of the "pain in the side" that you get from running fast but I do experience muscle fatigue. With about two miles to go, I started feeling some cramps in my quads and my calves. Two days earlier, I'd spent 3 hours passing out door hangers in the Double Gate subdivision, so I was still sore from that workout, too.

The interesting thing about the long run are the mind games. From the time I leave my driveway till the time I step foot back on it, I've got the question of "will I really be able to do this" running through my mind. At the same time, there's a dogged-determinism that I will do it, even if it kills me. I actually did almost kill myself in August of 2003, when I became completely dehydrated during an 18 mile run. My doctor said I just about did myself in, took me weeks to recover. Thoughts of "just walk" or "just give up" runs through my mind while at the same time I'm growing in confidence with each step. The key to finishing a long run is to ignore the pain, ignore the doubts and continue putting one foot in front of another. An hour and a half later, you're stretching your sore muscles in the comfort of your front yard.

Are you making the connection yet? In the bible, the life of a Christ-follower is often compared to an endurance run. This is from 1 Corinthians 9:
24Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.
25Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. 27No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

And from Hebrews 12:
1Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
12Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. 13"Make level paths for your feet,"[b] so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.

Let me give another analogy. We don't just wake up one morning and decide to run a marathon, we have to build up our endurance. Two weeks ago, I felt terrible while doing a 6 mile run but because I ran almost every day between that run and tonight's 8 mile run, I was a lot stronger this evening. We build our endurance through regular "practice." What's the "practice" of a Christ-follower look like - at TFC we call it SOAP. Our times of training prepare us for the long difficult stretches where we must have endurance.

How do we endure those difficult stretches? How do we finish the race? It's simple; keep putting one foot in front of the other. The only way to finish the race is to continue putting one foot in front of another. Even if it hurts, even if we want to quit, we continue putting one foot in front of another. This life of following Jesus is a long run.

Monday, September 8, 2008


The plan is for TFC to stay portable for a long time and we've been working pretty hard to get ourselves in the position to be as efficient as possible as a portable church. Here are some of the steps we've taken to 'get better' at being portable.

1) We've moved into a bigger facility. We could probably triple in Sunday morning worship attendance at Pioneer Ridge Middle School before needing to go to two services. This has been a huge step of faith for us. First of all, because it will take a lot of work to fill it up (invite, invite, invite!). Secondly, it isn't easy to pay for. Our annual rent has gone up about $6,000 over our rent at Madison Elementary. But we KNOW this is what God has called us to do. We will NOT accept status quot. Let me say that if you've been considering making giving a regular habit but wondered whether your giving to TFC would make a difference, believe me, it will! You can now give online, to do so click here. It was the move to PRMS that caused us to work at becoming more efficient in our portability.

2) We've made modifications to our carts. We fixed some things, eliminated some stuff we don't need in PRMS and shifted the contents among the carts. Pastor Andy and the children's council also painted the kids carts. Although we're still figuring out the best way to get the carts in and out of PRMS, the rolling carts are what make us efficient.

3) We found ways to make the commons of PRMS much more kid-friendly. See the pictures below. This set-up takes more time and energy than our previous set-up in Madison but it's well worth the effort.

4) Moving into an auditorium eliminated a lot of our sanctuary set-up. No more curtains to hang or chairs to put out. All the work now is for the lights, sound and media. We've also got permission from the school district to mount our lights to the PRMS light rack. We're hoping to get that done this Sunday morning. That will save us about 20 minutes of work each Sunday.

5) We've bought our own truck to pull the trailer. We did this a little over a year ago but the truck is needing some work done on the shocks so as to hold the extra weight of the trailer. Owning our own truck has been a real help. Now anyone who can back a trailer can pull on Sunday morning and we're no longer dependent upon the few people who own trucks. Gardner Nazarene graciously allows us to park our trailer in their parking lot.

Why are we going to stay portable?
People with a traditional church paradigm often ask, "when are you going to get a church?" Andy gets this question at Seminary often. I always clarify, "do you mean a church building? A church is people, not a building." It's really difficult, at first, for those from a traditional background to wrap their minds around a church not owning their own facility. But our approach to portability stands on some solid logical ground. Here are our reasons for staying portable for the foreseeable future (in my mind, that means a decade or more). Although, I should add that if someone wanted to donate $10 million to buy land and build a building, I'd seriously consider taking them up on it, I'd have to pray about it (and I mean that) because there are a lot of reasons for being portable:

1) A church isn't about a building but about people. I really think we need to be careful with our terminology, for biblical reasons. "the church building" is much more accurate when referring to the physical facility than simply "the church." The biblical idea of "church" is the people of God, not a building. Which leads to my second point...

2) The New Testament church was portable. Or more accurately, they were house churches. It wasn't until Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire that the church started adapting to Roman traditions of meeting in large groups (which TFC obviously does) in a large building. Some other not-so-good compromises were supporting Roman wars and taking away leadership roles from women. But my point is that the New Testament church didn't even consider owning buildings. That's not to say it's anti-biblical to own buildings but it does counter the idea that you're not a real church until you own a building.

3) We aren't limiting our growth. Why let the shoe tell the foot how large it can grow? If we fill up PRMS, we can move to the GEHS auditorium. When First Light builds on the land that was given to them by their denomination (Methodists have so much $) we can move into the GEHS auditorium that holds 1,000 people. Can you imagine the cost of building a 1,000 seat auditorium. Which leads to another point...

4) Renting is being a good manager of God's resources. Why pay a mortgage for a building that sits empty 75% of the time? Even when a building is being used, it's only filled to capacity on Sunday mornings. I wouldn't be opposed to renting a smaller space to be used during the week, but I struggle with paying a huge mortgage for a Sunday morning worship facility. I'd so much rather invest in church planting across KC or the world than build a building. Call me crazy, but Jesus' heart seemed to be much more about people than buildings. Every $ that has to go toward a building is one less $ that can go toward people.

5) We aren't paying a MORTGAGE! I know this is similar to the above, but when I get worried about paying the few hundred dollars we have to spend to fix the carts and the truck, I think, "we could be paying a mortgage." We'd also be paying utilities, custodial fees and maintenance costs. Dude, just paying rent is enough of a stretch.

6) Set-up/ Tear-down is good for our church. Christ Community Church in Olathe was our sponsoring church. Some of the guys who had been with CCC in their portable days really missed the relationship building that came with being on their set-up/ tear-down crew. We really have a great time together. Yes, it's a lot of work, but it's good work. And as Chris Billings just told me, it's good for your walk with Jesus. It seems that Jesus said something about serving other people. What better way to serve than sweating like crazy in August or freezing your butt off in February as you pave the way for people to worship.

If you're a guy reading this and you aren't on the set-up/ tear-down crew, please see me this Sunday to either join our team or turn in your man-card. We NEED you and you NEED to serve on this team!

7) Unchurched people don't care where you meet! I've found this to be true over and over and over again.

8) Buildings don't reach people, people reach people. YOU are the answer to building God's church, not any type of facility. Are you working to build God's church (i.e. people)?

If you'd like to read a GREAT post on the benefits of being portable, click here.

Below are some pictures from PRMS.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Some good thoughts from my sister

I just read two really good blog posts from my sister and wanted to pass them along.


Grace Wholesaler

You can probably tell that Rachel and I think alike in a lot of ways. I'm guessing we learned a lot of this from my parent's example.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Salsa dancing

Tonight was Erin and my first night of an 8 week ballroom dancing class we're taking through the Gardner Dance Studio. We found out about the class from Jaclyn, a lady with whom Erin became good friends during Music Man. The class is being taught by Eric, a dance major at KU whom Franci brought into our show with about a month left, to beef up our dancing prowess. I called him "the ringer."

Although I have no problem keeping a rhythm, I'm not very smooth in my movements. It's pretty intimidating to try to swing your hips in a salsa movement in front of someone who's basically a pro. Maybe that's why new people are sometimes nervous to talk with me about God. But I started to get a little bit of a hang on the salsa moves by the end of the hour. I must say, my wife looks HOT dancing the Salsa. I could hardly keep my hands off her!

There are two other couples taking the class. One immediately asked me what I did (I usually try to let people see that I'm normal before admitting I'm a pastor) but she suddenly wanted to talk about church, which surprised me. She asked about our church and said she wants to get back into church. I gave her my card, so we'll see what happens.

That conversation is just one more example of what happens if you just find different ways to get into the community. Erin and I love music and are wanna-be dancers and it figures that God would use this class to bring about spiritual conversations.

The lady we met at the dance class was at church this morning! Erin and I were just talking about how we've been so much more attractive lately. I don't really know what other word to use, but SO MANY people have been coming to our church (at least once) simply because they know Erin and I. I think we might be inviting less than we did 3 years ago, but we're reaching more people. My reasoning is that I've been praying a lot more than I did three years ago. Erin simply pointed out that we're "out there" more than we used to be. It's amazing the way God has been working through us to help connect people with Christian community.

Drop/ Add

Well, so much for the JCCC French Class. I dropped it a couple days after enrolling. See, the cost of the class and book totalled $600! I couldn't justify spending that much money for what is basically a recreational class.

So I emailed my good friend Lori Beckum, who teaches at MidAmerica Nazarene University and she said I could audit her French class for free as well as borrow her book! Wow, talk about a turn of events.

Today was my first class and I think I'm going to like Lori's teaching style more than the professor from JCCC. I'd only considered how knowing French would help me travel or teach in France, but Lori explained that over 20 countries speak some sort of French dialect. I've had the sense for over a year that I need to learn French, maybe God is preparing us for some sort of international work some day. I don't necessarily mean being a full-time missionary, but maybe leading mission trips or something.

That would be just like God to use our love of Paris and Southern France to trick me into learning French (thinking we'll retire in Provence or something) so I can go work in some distant island or something.

Just kidding... sort of.

A good thought on prayer

I'm just about done reading Thomas Merton's book, Contemplative Prayer. I'll be honest and say most of this book flew right over my head. Catholics (Merton's a monk) have explored depths of prayer life that I can't begin to comprehend. There was a great quote that I need to share, though.

"What we need is not a false peace which enables us to evade the implacable light of judgment, but the grace courageously to accept the bitter truth that is revealed to us; to abandon our inertia, our egoism and submit entirely to the demands of the Spirit, praying earnestly for help, and giving ourselves generously to every effort asked of us by God."

Chew on that for a minute or two...

The power of calling for a response

I've been reading this series of blog posts and it has been challenging me to be more intentional about calling people to a response. post 1 post 2 post 3 post 4

Now, I'll clarify that my view of salvation is likely a bit different that Craig Groeschel's, I understand his passion to call people to a decision. To raise your hand and acknowledge a desire to live for Jesus is a HUGE step! It is however, simply one step of a lifetime of walking. Just because a person raises their hand or repeats a prayer doesn't mean salvation is a "done deal" - salvation is never finished until we die, but there something to be said for challenging people to make a decision or acknowledge that they're considering a decision. Which is what I try to do. I usually give people a couple options, "I'm serious about following Jesus" or "I'm curious, want to learn more and need you to pray for me."

This past Sunday, I was prepared to give both options. But after the first option of "I'm ready to turn from self and follow Jesus," I was blown away by the number of hands I saw raised. There were probably 20 people who raised their hands! I couldn't believe what I was seeing and I just about lost emotional control.

The Holy Spirit has been moving in powerful ways in our worship services. Sunday was the biggest response I've ever seen. We prayed for obedience and honest before the service, I just didn't expect so much of it!

I now need to work out a system for people to take the next step after raising their hands, taking communion for the first time, or whatever response we offer during worship.

Our first Sunday at Pioneer Ridge Middle School

It had been a year in the making, but our first Sunday in PRMS finally came. I had some serious "pre-game jitters" that I hadn't felt in awhile. It was almost like our opening Sunday again. All these questions of whether people would really follow us out to PRMS, whether people would be able to find it and whether new people would know we'd moved. Well, all those questions were answered. No one told me it was hard to find, we had one of our biggest attendance Sundays ever and one new family had pulled into Madison Elementary, but came to PRMS after seeing our sign in the Madison Elementary parking lot.

I must admit, though, the 12 hours or so leading up to the beginning of worship were quite stressful. We came in for two hours on Saturday night to work on set-up details and were back at the school by 8 AM on Sunday morning. But even with all that extra time, we were still stressing a bit (at least I was) by 10:00 Sunday morning. We've got a lot of new equipment for the kids area that we'll have to train people on and get efficient at, it will take a few weeks for the tech guys to get placement and hook-ups figured out and PRMS is so HUGE that we still haven't worked out an efficient route for the carts.
We rented a lift for Saturday night so as to hang our lights on the PRMS light rack but the lift wouldn't fit down the aisle. When I measured the lift (twice), I failed to notice the back wheels were two inches wider. So, that was frustrating, too. David Brush and I both had trouble sleeping on Saturday night because we kept thinking of things to worry about.

The funniest comment of the day came from Lindsay Mothersbaugh, referring to the size of PRMS, "this isn't a middle school, this is a college campus!"

Worship did however, begin promptly at 10:30. It was amazing to see that huge auditorium about 1/3 of the way full. And let me tell ya', there was a powerful spirit of worship from the the opening note to the final blessing. A lot of us leading in various ways could sense God working in people's hearts. I preached the message I'd originally prepared for August 17th, before God changed my plans that Saturday afternoon. To be honest, I didn't really want to preach it, it wasn't a very well put together message, but I sensed God leading me, if for no other reason than the last few minutes of the message. I closed the message by passionately challenging people to turn from self and to follow Jesus. I just laid it all out there, if a person only follows self it will make this life miserable and will lead to an eternal separation from Christ.

After my message, the band played "I will possess your heart" by Death Cab for Cutie. I then got back up and asked if anyone would be willing to raise their hand to indicate a willingness to turn from self and to follow Jesus. I was totally blown away by the response, we had about 20 people raise their hands! I just about lost my composure. It was amazing!

At 10:15, when I was nervously pacing the auditorium, wondering if people would show up, mumbling about how going to PRMS is likely the "make it or break it" point for our 3 year old church, I had no idea how incredible that morning's worship was about to be. I imagine God smiling, "Donnie, see what happens when you trust me!"
I believe in 10 years or so, we'll look back on August 31st as one of the most significant days in the history of our church.

Trinity Family is dreaming God-sized dreams!!!!

To view all the pictures from Sunday, click here.