Category Archives: Culture

The Gay Card

President Obama’s recent endorsement of gay marriage sent nothing less than a shockwave of emotions and opinions throughout every corner of the good old USA. As a pastor, I have taken particular interest in how the church would respond. Unfortunately, most of the popular media has chosen to let judgmental pastors and brainwashed singing toddlers represent what I believe to be the minority.

There are many churches that don’t agree with our President’s current view but I’ve spoken with no one, in any of those circles, who agrees that a modern-day concentration camp, or teaching children to proclaim hell on the gays, is a good idea. It might not make the best nightly news story or sell papers but there are many Christians who understand this issue is not going away and that hate never brings about a positive exchange.

I believe Jesus heart breaks when he hears people who claim to follow Him respond with hate instead of love. After all, He was the one who told us to love our neighbor as ourselves. (Mark 12:31) My prayer is for all my gay brothers & sisters, who are human just like I am human and deserve respect and love, to find it inside the church. My desire is for everyone, gay and straight, to find the life-changing liberation that only comes through Jesus. I believe love will open that door and I believe love is the foundation of many churches. I am hopeful the ignorant opinions of a few will not detour people from experiencing the true legacy of love left by Jesus and proclaimed by many of His followers.

We must value all life because God created life and everyone has a story. 

Thoughts to ponder… 

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God in my dinning room table

VanB #3 is on the way and we’re remodeling to get ready. In the spirit of clearing out the old to make room for the new, my wife decided we should have a giant garage sale so we cleared out just about everything we have…literally and put it up for sale. After the yard sale was over we posted some of the larger remaining items on Craigslist. Needless to say, I did not know God would use that post to help us do much more than sell some of our stuff.

Our dinning room table was one of the items we posted and last night, a lady showed up to buy it. We made some small talk, she paid me 50% and said she’d be back later to pick it up and pay the balance. It was on the return trip that our conversation took a turn.

I found out she’d moved across the country and was in the midst of a major transition. I told her our family was also undergoing a transition hence the selling of just about everything in our home.  Somehow the talk transitioned to religion and she told me she was buddhist. I told her I was a pastor. Neither fact seemed to bother either of us. She asked where our church was. I told her it was in a movie theatre. She laughed. I shared our vision. She shared her perceptions. I invited her to come visit. She said she’d like that. As she was leaving she said, I think we just did a lot more than buy and sell a table didn’t we? I nodded and smiled in agreement. I went in the house, shut the door and realized God had used our dinning room table to create a moment only He can create.

Moments like this are all around us but we must be open enough to see them. I sincerely hope my path crosses again with the lady who bought our dinning room table. I’m pretty sure they’re supposed to.

For or Against?

When Jesus came to earth He was surrounded by a culture of religion that chose to speak more about what they were AGAINST than what they were FOR. This attitude oppressed the people of Jesus culture and He came to set creation free.

Jesus offered this freedom by speaking more about what He was FOR than what He was AGAINST.

He was FOR love. He was FOR peace. He was FOR  grace.

No doubt it’s often easier to fight AGAINST something than it is to fight FOR something but I would argue more of us need to realize it’s worth the extra effort. People on the outside of church tend to see us as a divisive group of people who, although playing on the same team, rarely seem to agree. In honesty, I believe most of us who claim to follow Jesus have more that unites us than divides us but we yell louder about the things we don’t agree on.

Before Jesus left this earth He prayed those of us would choose to follow Him would experience oneness with one another (John 17:21). If we want God to answer this prayer, I believe we need to do a better job of telling people what we stand FOR instead of yelling at them about what we’re AGAINST.

Thoughts to ponder…

CV

Sex. Marriage. Church.

God created sex and marriage. No matter what you might have heard, neither were created simply for the sake populating the earth. He created sex so we could experience pleasure and He created marriage so we would have a visible reminder on earth of the heavenly love He has for His church. The problem is, our view of sex is distorted and the state of marriage is broken. We’ve taken two wonderful things and messed them up.

I often wonder if the church is more to blame for this than anyone else? God wrote the book on sex and marriage but have we engaged it in an authentic way? The divorce rate within the church is almost the same (50%) as  it is outside the church and nearly the same percentage of people in the church say they are addicted to porn. God gave us the guide but we clearly aren’t following it. I wonder if it’s not being followed because it’s not being taught?

There’s a positive wave in many churches today to refocus on giving a Biblical perspective on the issues of sex and marriage. The Bible is real about these issue and those of us who are spiritually leading others have to be real about these issues as well. These are vital parts of our society and they affect the way we view God’s creation and ultimately, the way view God. Sex and marriage are redeemable but it must start and end with God. His way is the best way.

As we approach this topic yet again at Centerpoint I have emotions that range from excited to apprehensive but my prayer is that hope will reign. Hope for the broken. Hope for the abused. Hope for the lost. God’s love is the only thing that can restore and redeem but people can’t experience what they have not seen and heard. May those of us who lead be willing to engage the hardest issue facing our society knowing that God has the answers.

CV

Sex, Marriage & Fairytales starts Sunday at Centerpoint

For the Regulars, the Sporadics & the First Timers

Many of us, from a variety of backgrounds, will attend church to celebrate Easter this Sunday. 

  • Some of us will be regular attenders.
  • Some of us will be sporadic attenders.
  • Some of us will be first timers.
  • The regulars might be sporadic because think they’ve already found the perfect church.
  • The sporadics might be sporadic because they have yet to find the perfect church.
  • The first timers might be first timers because they’ve avoided imperfect people who act like they’re perfect.

The issue with ALL of this is that many people, from each group, are focusing on the wrong thing. The perfect church is a myth. It’s an urban legend at best and we would be wise to shift our focus elsewhere if we ever want to experience an authentic connection with God. As many of us prepare to attend church this Sunday, here are a some thoughts to ponder:

  • For the Regulars: Get involved in more than filling a seat. Love your church but love God more. People will let you down but God’s love never fails.
  • For the Sporadics: It’s time to end your endless search. Stop trying to find a perfect place that doesn’t exist and get planted in a place that will help you grow relationally and spiritually.
  • For the First Timers: You might have been unwilling to give the church a chance but give God a chance . Let God guide you to a church that will admit their imperfections and help you grow.

The NEXT Step

Every one of us hits an inevitable crossroad in our journey of life.

Maybe things didn’t work out as well as we thought they would.

Maybe they worked out better.

Maybe they’re still working on working. 

Whatever the case might be, most crossroads require us to make a significant decision. Making the right decision requires faith in God yet this is the part a lot of us miss. In an effort to seek independence we can push God out of the equation. In my young life, I have learned that a decision at a crossroad is much better made with God then without Him.

God opens doors that no one else can.

God shuts doors He’d rather we not walk through.

God gives us the favor only He can give. 

Proverbs 3:5-6 is a Scripture I read often to remind me that my life is better in God hands than it is in my own. The NEXT Step, at any crossroad in life, is to seek God with everything we have & trust that His wisdom will light our path. Whatever crossroad you find yourself at, keep God in the equation & watch Him show-up & do incredible things!

CV

 

Is the church like Simon Says

We sit, we stand.

We sing, we pray.

We sit again, we give.

We laugh, we cry.

We pray again, we go home.

No matter how different a church service may look, and how we as pastors & creatives might try to spin our unique approach, many of them are made up of similar rituals & elements. These rituals & elements aren’t bad but if we don’t know WHY we do them we can find ourselves following the commands & going through the motions of religion that ends up resembling a game of Simon Says.

I grow more & more convinced that this is one of the biggest reasons people minimize the importance of church in their life. They don’t know WHY we do the things we do & if we’re not careful, religion instead of relationship is ultimately encouraged.

I believe people crave genuine relationships & authentic life change but in order to find it, we must get past the exterior & tap into the WHY behind the WHAT. Why do we sing? Why do we reflect? Why do we serve? Why do we gather? As leaders, it’s easy to take these things for granted but in a world jaded by a list of religious do’s & dont’s we would do well to explore the WHY ourselves & then communicate it with our people. It’s all about getting back to the relationship & WHY is where it starts. 

CV

Centerpoint’s new series Simon Says starts Sunday March 11th. 

CHANGE or DIE

At this point in my life, change comes easy. When things become un-effective, outdated, & boring I’m usually one of the first to change the method & start over again. This view has directly impacted the way I see the church. The numbers don’t lie & churches are shutting down more than they’r opening these days. I believe many churches die simply because they refuse to change. 

In talking to a pastor recently who is struggling to change the methods & mediums by which his church shares the Gospel I had a revelation of sorts. The story this pastor shared of his churches history was intriguing to me because at one point, they were engaging their community & using everything available to them to communicate the Gospel. Now, the church is arguing over whether or not they should have a Facebook account. So what happened? Why did this progressive & growing church stop changing? 

I believe this church stopped changing because they found something that worked & changing that method to venture into the unknown scared them to death. They resisted change because they feared the death of their church. While trying to save their church from death, they had actually died trying to protect the method that was comfortable to them.

What I realized was that few churches or organizations start like this. When there’s nothing to lose we go all out but once we find something that works, and people show-up, we realize we could lose it all so we hold back & cling to what we know. No one is exempt from this problem. Even a young, entrepreneurial fellow like myself, who welcomes change now, might become so unknowingly corrupted by success that I would forget the risks & faith it took to get us to that place to begin with.

The world around us is constantly changing & if those of us who lead refuse to change our organizations will almost certainly die. I believe good leaders recognize that, as we age, we must continue to surround ourselves with people who are younger, more creative & more aware of where culture is headed. It takes humility for a leader to admit change isn’t as easy as it once was but that humility is often the difference between a successful organization & a dying organization.

Thoughts to ponder…

CV


The Poor Guy With The Flatscreen TV

Last week a story started swirling around Southern Ohio about a panhandler who used money people gave him to buy a flat screen TV. That swirling turned into a significant regional news story that many people have weighted in on over the past week. John Snavley is the panhandlers who is at the center of everyones recent attention & last summer, before he was making local headlines, I got the opportunity to have a conversation with John & like everyone else on the face of planet earth, John had a story. 

The sad reality is that few people who have given their opinion on John will ever take the time to hear his story. This guy is a bum in their mind & nothing he could ever say is going to change that. He took their hard earned $2 & used it to buy a flat screen TV & shame on him for it they think! I can think of worse ways I’ve saved & spent my money, both the money I’ve earned & the money I’ve been given, but we have a harsher standard for others than we do for ourselves.

This post is not for those outside the church. This post is for those inside the church. Those who proclaim the love of Christ. Those who have been shown grace time & time again. Those who are reminded by Jesus Himself that we are NEVER to judge (Matthew 7). People on the outside aren’t held to the standard we are because people on the outside aren’t claiming to follow Jesus.

We might all have different opinions on whether or not to give a panhandler money. I have given John money & I will do it again because I’ve heard John’s story. The poor guy with the flatscreen TV deserves the same love & grace as the rich man with the flatscreen TV. We are all God’s children & I believe it’s time those of us who claim christ start treating our brother & sister accordingly. Our faith should cause us to see these types of situations differently.

CV

Just Give Up

At the end of 2008 my wife & I were getting ready to have our first child, graduate from college, move back to Chillicothe, OH in the spring & plant the next fastest growing mega church in North America. So I’m slightly exaggerating the last part but you get the point. The world was ours for the taking & we believed Centerpoint was going to blow the doors off of our small southern Ohio town. 

3-years later, as we prepare to end 2011, I realize things didn’t go quite as we expected over the last 36 months. We did have our first child (Aubri), and our second one (Owen), and recently found out we’re expecting our third (TBD). We did graduate from college, we did move back to Chillicothe  and we did plant a church (Centerpoint) but it did not grow quite as rapidly as we expected. I could tell you our growth has been steady but my honest translation of steady in this case would be slow.

More often than not, a good thing takes time to grow but this is not what we want to believe. We are drawn to the exceptions. We love the overnight sensations & the start-ups that defy the statistics. These stories happen but it doesn’t make the churches, start-ups & dreams that don’t go this way less significant. Even now, as Centerpoint has grown & faces another move into the last & biggest theatre in our building, I am reminded of what might have never been if I had just listened to the voices & given up. No life change. No hope. No Crazy Love. No future.

I believe God has placed a dream in each of us whether it be a church, a business a cause or a destination we are drawn to. Whatever it is, when God says go we must go & trust Him with the consequences. Those who truly love us will stick by us through thick & thin. They’ll be there when it’s bad & when it’s good. They’ll be there when we exceed our goals & when we fall below them. A good team is essential to fulfilling a big dream.

As we all look towards 2012 & all the promise it brings, I would like to offer a humble piece of advice: If you don’t want to do something great JUST GIVE UP but if you want to live the dream & follow God’s leading, keep going because persistence & faith will carry you out of the valley & up to the mountain. May your new year be blessed!

CV