Gospel Ministry w/o the power of the Spirit?

I (Will) have been reading through Radical by David Platt over the past few months. Most (if not all) of the content I’ve heard before through the sermon podcasts. But there’s been a smaller theme in the book that’s really resonated with me and caused some soul searching on my part.

Platt spends one section talking about how [my paraphase] if we wanted to, church leaders in America could grow a huge mega-church without any help from the Holy Spirit. All we have to do is find the outgoing, charismatic speaker; build the greatest facilities w/ best technology; organize top-notch programs; and target the upper and middle suburban class. Before long, the church is booming and the leaders are being invited to all the speaking circuits with the other celeb-evangelicals. Yet, no where to be found is the Holy Spirit actually changing hearts rather than man playing with emotions.

As I read this, I began to think about who is really behind my gospel ministry. I’ve lived overseas for 2 years engaging unreached people groups; I’ve traveled around the southeast for 8 months promoting and recruiting for missions. I’ve had chance to preach and teach at churches. I’ve trained national church planter and pastors in Asia. Yet, I think I’ve come to the realization that much of my “ministry” falls into the category Platt is describing. Reflecting on the state of my personal walk with Christ during these times, I know that many of these efforts were completed in my own power. Bible reading was scarce; prayer even scarcer. Now, the Bible has plenty of examples of using someone’s sin or faults for the greater purpose (Joseph’s brothers, Cyrus, Judas, etc); so I don’t doubt that any who were impacted by what I said or did were impacted for the wrong reason necessarily. Yet, I have been reminded over and over the past few weeks about the missed opportunities this spiritless-ministry left on the table.

For too long, I’ve mostly relied on my head knowledge to carry me through ministry (and seminary) rather than opening my mind and heart to hear the Spirit’s leading. I know that the only way to completely follow God is 100% submission to him. I don’t doubt my salvation; I know that Christ is my Savior. What I look back on are the many times where my disobedience prevented me from seeing God at work through me, missing the opportunity to know him better. Yet, I know that the Spirit is always here in me. I trust God’s Word that the Spirit will lead and guide me; I trust that the Spirit will intercede for me when I know not what to say. I need to be more committed to being in God’s Word, to spending time in prayer, to listening to his voice. Only then will I be able to actually see the power of the Spirit in my gospel ministry.

I write this post not to publically confess my shortcomings. I write to possibly help and encourage any of the few readers we have to not fall into the same trap that I did. Don’t rely only on your own gifts, because your gifts and talents without the power of the Holy Spirit are fruitless. Gospel ministry without the power of the Spirit is no Gospel ministry at all.

Music: the Great Divide

Beth mentioned to me that the blog is becoming more her’s and Maddie’s and so a nice ramble or thought might be nice to balance out . . . so here I go.

I’ve been thinking a lot about church music.  Our current music minister has felt called to a church in Oklahoma and is leaving at the end of the month.  Therefore, our church will begin the process of seeking to replace this position.  But what has amazed me is how 1) different people’s ‘wants’ are in music and 2) how music can be such a source of conflict.  One of the reason’s I love our church is that we are diverse.  On any Sunday, you can find about 4 different generations of people walking (or crawling) around the sanctuary.  We are a family.  Yet we have some VERY different tastes when it comes to the ‘secondary’ issues in church.  For the most part, we all manage to get along because it can generally be minor differences.

Yet, music is different.  Think about it.  Music is front and center on Sunday mornings, and we all like something different.  Some members of our church could put on the Gaither Vocal Band (pic to the right for those of you who don’t know who they are) and hit “repeat” and be in tears.  I might be in tears . . . but for a different reason.  Me?  I’ve got Sovereign Grace-type music on my iPod.  Others may like to jam out to some Michael W. Smith or Lecrae.  So how is a church filled with diversity supposed to unite on an issue that has the potential to be so divisive?

Easy answer . . . hard application . . . Humility.  A few years ago, Dr. Russ Moore was answering a question of similar nature to a prospective student at SBTS.  He said that we have to first look and see if this is an issue of taste or truth?  IF the issue is truth, then there is a definite need to make a change.  Yet if the issue is one of taste, then we need to put aside all of our desires and wants.  He said that the day a church is truly humble is when the 80 year old legacy member of the church tells the pastor to play more “hip” songs to reach the 20 year olds AND when the 20 year old tells the pastor to play more southern gospel to reach the 80 year olds.  It’s a two way street.

I have been trying to apply this over the past few years to my own life.  I may not care for a certain song or version of a song, but if there is no issue of truth, then unity it is!  However, I am now beginning to think about this from a missiological perspective.  Is the corporate service worship time for the church members or for reaching out?  Or both?  If primarily for those in the church, then the humility is putting off issues of taste for the unity of the church.  Yet, if we are trying to reach our communities, then doesn’t the music need to be something that would draw or keep visitors around?  IF so, then taste is a major issue calling for even more humility of those in the church to put off their desires and wants for the greater good of the kingdom. 

I’m still trying to put all this together and so is our church.  So feel free to comment to help a brother out . . .

PS.  the best book I’ve read on this topic is Worship Matters by Bob Kaughlin (on sale now).

The moment I finally felt old

This year, Maddie was born, I graduated from seminary, and I turned 30.  Yet I never really viewed myself as old.  I’ve had some gray hair for years, but it’s still all there!  I’m still active in the Young Adult ministry here at church.  So, I feeling pretty good . . . until earlier this week.

church_vanOur Young Adult ministry (includes college, single, and young marrieds) is heading out on our retreat today.  Last week, I was asked to drive the church van (1st clue) but didn’t think much of it since I’ve done it before.  Then earlier this week I got the schedule and saw the first session starting at 11:30 pm and said out loud, “That ‘s too late for anything.”

It was then that I realized, this retreat is not for me . . . I’m the younger old guy with the baby bringing the whole family who’s driving the church van.  When I was in college, we called them chaperones. 

I’m now a chaperone.  I’m feeling old.oldman4

Off to South Asia

pc201010Braylon, Stephanie, and myself are leaving this afternoon for our trip over to South Asia for 2 weeks of working with the believers there.  For them, this is their first trip to South Asia; for me, this is a quick return to the place that I love.  Throughout our trip, Beth will be providing updates here on how everything is going along with how you can be praying for us. 

Have a Merry Christmas!

Crazy Jesus Statue

If you are ever headed up I-75 toward Dayton, OH, you will want to make sure that you take in this scene. There is a massive Jesus with his hands up towards the sky in a pond in front of this church. No, this is not photo-shopped for effect . . . this is the real thing.

I don’t really know what this accomplishes to be honest. There are a few Facebook groups dedicated to this particular “sight” with some clever additions to the statue. The church will always be known as the church with the freakishly-large Jesus in a pond. Otherwise, I’m not sure.

On another note, Beth and I have been enjoying reading a blog called Stuff Christians Like. This has some funny stuff on it such as the “Sounds Almost Like a Christian Band Hall-of-Fame” list. I would like to nominate this statue to the “Crazy things you find in front of churches” Hall-of-Fame.

Trunk or Treat: Clue Edition

Well, we had yet another fun and successful Trunk or Treat at Cedar Creek Baptist Church on Friday, Oct. 31, 2008!  It was announced that we had about 680 guests from our community come through our church parking lot to meet and greet with members and get candy, hot dogs, apple cider, popcorn, a free hayride, and a free picture!  That’s awesome!  I pray that those will come back to join us for our service and hopefully get plugged in at CCBC, but more importantly, I hope these peeps open up to a relationship with JC!

Here is the whole crew in front of our “Study” (from left to right) Mr. Green, Mrs. White, Col. Mustard, Miss Scarlet, Mrs. Peacock, and Prof. Plum!  Everybody did a great job with getting their costumes and I don’t think we paid over $20 for 2 costumes!  Good ‘ol Salvation Army and Goodwill! 

Here we are in the photo booth with our weapons (from left to right) Col. Mustard with the lead pipe, Miss Scarlet with the wrench, Mrs. White with the knife, Mr. Green with the rope, Mrs. Peacock with the candlestick, and Prof. Plum with the revolver.  ha!  We had a great time and we’re trying to think up our 4th Trunk or Treat idea for our time at CCBC!

Happy Halloween! (Happy Reformation Day!)

Today is probably my wife’s favorite holiday because we get to dress up in creative costumes and decorate for Fall.  She loves fall as well because of the cool weather and changing colors in the trees.  Last night we went on our date night up to Hillcrest to see all the houses which go way overboard in Halloween decorating . . . but it was still pretty cool to see some of the ideas.  Then we headed over to the Pie Kitchen for dessert and then to Krispy Kreme to buy 2 Pumpkin shaped donuts to enjoy for a good Halloween Breakfast!

Every year we usually dress up twice.  Last weekend we had our 2nd annual Costume Party.  This year’s theme was Nursery Rhymes, and we went as Jack and Jill . . . . after they fell down the hill.  Yet, somehow it looks like Jack took the brunt of the fall?  You can see more pics of the fun at our Flikr page on the right side of the screen.  My fav was little Miss Muffett and her spider.

Then tonight we are heading to church for Trunk or Treat where we will be Mr. Green and Mrs. White in the Library with the rope and the knife.  HA!  Stay tuned for more pictures to come . . .

World Mission Conference – 2008

Our church, Cedar Creek Baptist, is prepping for our 1st World Mission Conference to be held November 7-9th, 2008.  Entitled The Gospel: Believe it. Share it. Send it, the weekend will focus around Romans 10:13-17 looking at the need and commands found in Scripture for the Gospel.  We have both been busy prepping for this since early in the Spring, and now we are just a few weeks away.  To help promote over these last few weeks, I have created a separate page with the schedule and list of guest speakers for you to check out.  This conference is open to all people in our church, our community, the seminary, and others who might want to attend. 

We have missionaries/church planters from West Africa, South Asia, Pac Rim, Central Europe, Indianapolis, & Kentucky who will be around to share their stories of how God is working in their area.  In addition, we will have other booths set up from the IMB, NAMB, Long Run Association, Jefferson Street Ministries, Fern Creek/Highview United Ministries, and more.  We will be led in worship during the weekend by Chad Watson.  Chad, currently a student at SBTS, has many years of experience leading worship in TN and AL as well as spending some time on the mission field himself.

Please be in prayer for all that goes into this conference and we hope to see many of you in November!

Christian Radio

Seeing that it is already August 1st (craziness), I thought I would post a fun blog I wrote in Feb ’07 about my thoughts on Christian Radio here in Louisville.  So enjoy and laugh and enjoy the first day of a new month:

But today’s real rambling is about Christian radio.  I pretty much now listen to sports talk radio but during those commercials, I will flip over to the 2 Christian radio stations we have here.  Here’s my rant with them:  There are more artist out there than Third Day, Jeremy Camp, Casting Crowns, and Barlow Girl!!!  But yet, this is almost all I hear.  And we have 2 [now 3] stations.  It’s really starting to get annoying.  At one point a few weeks ago, Beth and I were trying to think of the last time we heard a new song on either station.  The newest song was released back in December, we think.  So, here’s what I’m gonna do.  I am starting my list of ways I would run my station if I had one.  Please feel free to add your thoughts and comments.

– No songs over 15 years old.  So this year, nothing older than 1992 can be played . . . except during Oldies night on the first Friday night of the month.  This whole night can be dedicated to all these “classic” oldies.  You know, when Micheal W had long hair, Twila Paris won a Dove Award, and the synthesizer was the bomb.  Then in the last week of December, we would have a “retirement party” countdown for all those songs that reach 15 years old.  EXCEPTION TO THIS RULE:  DC Talks songs don’t count.  Why?  They are Beth’s favorite.

– I would have selected “special hours” during the day.  A Praise and Worship hour maybe about mid-morning or afternoon would be good.  Also I would have a “Who was that?” hour dedicated to only playing songs from new bands you might not have ever heard of.  Then I would have to have the Albert Mohler program on also.  He’s the man.

– If a song has been re-made more than twice, it’s not allowed.  I can not tell you how many times I have heard “I Will Give You All My Worship” or “Better is One Day” by mulitiple artists.  I mean foreal; it’s getting out of hand.  So, you want your song on my radio, then don’t redo one that’s already been redone.  Same goes for those who take secular-christian songs and make them christian . . . ala Josh Groban and Rascal Flatts remakes.

– Finally, I would put a cap on how many times a song can be played in a 24 hour period.  Right now I am leaning toward 3 times, but I am willing to drop that down to 2.

🙂

“A win is a win . . .

. . . no matter how ugly it is” was the sound heard around the dugout after the Creek’s 8-7 victory in the final inning against the Cuban church.  Trailing from the 1st inning, the Creek just could never get their bats going.  Everything was either popped up or hit right to a very skilled Cuban defense.  After a rough 1st inning, the Creek’s defense settled down and held their own even getting 3 outs on 3 pitches; however, it wasn’t until their last at-bat that any sort of rally formed.  Finally, the top half of the lineup produced some good hits and scored a few runs starting the comeback.  After cutting the lead to 1, pinch hitter Will J came to the plate and hit into a fielder’s choice to tie the game at 7.  After a walk to load the bases with 1 out, lead off Dave Raulston hit a dribbler to short who tried to turn a double-play, but quick-footed Dave beat out the throw at first and the Creek claimed the victory.  “I have been working out all off-season even losing about 10-15 pounds,” said Dave in a pre-season interview.  Aren’t we glad that he did . . .

Game ball has to go to Dave not only for getting the winning RBI, but for really being the only Creeker to actually hit the ball last night.  Props to Keith for coming into the game in relief and holding the opponents to only a few more runs.  While the Creek was missing some players, such as the fantasy sleeper Scott “Hurricane” Davis, next week’s bye week will hopefully help give the team a break as they get ready for the stretch run to the playoffs.  It is this reporter’s desire that they would spend next Thursday at the batting cage instead.