Friday, December 30, 2011

A Year in the Life of Organization

In 2012 I am on a mission to organize my life more completely. I am using the Friday section of this blog to announce tools I plan to use and chronicle the changes I am making. Here is one…
Each day when I get to the office I have a routine. That routine has changed through the years. In the past it would begin by going to the comics section of Yahoo! reading through several comics. Following that, I would then read through several news sights and then begin my day. This process normally took about 20-30 minutes. Now instead of reading comics, I have switched to blog reading.

It all began when I was introduced to Vince Antonucci’s blog when he left Forefront to plant Verve out in Vegas. From there, I started reading other blogs. Several I have started reading, and then quickly stopped. Others I have made part of my daily routine for several years. I used to go to each blog one by one through my favorites list. Then one day Vince talked about Google Reader. I have been hooked since. Google Reader gives you the ability to subscribe to blogs and read them all in one place. It is very rare that I actually go to a persons actual blog anymore. This has considerably cut down the time my blog reading takes.

One of the blogs I began reading sometime in the spring of 2009 was The Generous Husband. It is a work of love by the creators Paul of the Marriage Bed, an online resource for Christian Couples and Sexual Intimacy. Paul’s wife Lori writes a counterpart to The Generous HusbandThe Generous Wife. The Generous Husband has been a tremendous help to me in my marriage over the last 2+ years.

As I was scrolling through Google reader today I noticed a post from The Generous Wife titled After Christmas Planning. Read the post before going any further. This post gave me a great idea and was part of the inspiration for these words today.

As I seek to better organize my life I certainly have to include my wife and daughter into these plans. They have to be part of my organization. The tip that Lori gave in sitting down with a calendar and syncing our schedules is awesome. I have started attaching Crystal’s email to events I add to Google Calendars, but I think having a family calendar that is present is a must. Making it a point and planning a time to figure out the calendar is the genius of the suggestion. We have still to talk about this and figure out how we want to go about it, but it is certainly something we are going to be doing.

Blogs are a great way to pick up ideas from others. We are living in a world were blogs have become the norm and something many people do. Figuring out which ones to read and how to read them is a must. Let me recommend using Google Reader as your blog/article reading tool. It is a favorite of mine.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Flash Mob

Do you share your faith? Do you look for opportunities to present the message of Christ. During this season of Christmas we hear a lot of fuss and arguments over Christ's representation in the holiday. We hear groups attacking manger scenes on town squares. We hear stores requiring their employees to say happy holidays (an issue I do not have a problem with) instead of Merry Christmas. We complain that we have forgotten that Christ is the reason for Christmas.

This church in California decided to touch peoples hearts in a powerful way. They used one of the phenomena’s of the last year ... the flash mob ... to convey the story of Christ and his birth and the hope that he came to earth with. For whatever reason this totally moved me and brought me to tears. Maybe it was because of my realization that I would struggle to personally do something like this and the amazing bravery it took to do this. I don't know if was the people looking on in awe. Whatever it was, it totally got to me, and maybe it can get to you.

Merry Christmas to you and your family. Thank you to Michael Hyatt for sharing this video.

Friday, December 23, 2011

A New Years Resolution: Organization Part 1

It is Monday December 19th. I am sitting in my office and here is what it looks like.Messy Office

It is on my agenda this week today to begin cleaning and organizing my files. This is something I typically do once a month. Probably something I need to do more often.

The messiness in my office though screams of something deeper that needs to take place in my life. As I get older my schedule is getting fuller and fuller. I am quickly realizing I need some organization if I am going to be able to function at a proper level in my life. It desperately has to happen.

I am one who loves organization. When I do a project I like to have an organized system to follow. If not I feel I am all over the place and not accomplishing what I need to. When I wash dishes I like to organize the dishes before cleaning them so that I can be more efficient. When I used to work for Yard Works, I would approach a new lawn with a system, and that system allowed for high efficacy over some of my co-workers in the same situation. Organization is important to me.

But then there is something else I battle. I used to think it was laziness. But I don’t know if that is entirely true. I mean, I can be lazy from time to time. I allow distractions to take place of what I need to be doing, and then it doesn’t get done until it has to. But I think there is something bigger and deeper that is the launching point to the distractions and it isn’t laziness. Whether it is the work that needs to be done to our house, or my ministry with West Side, both have a lot that needs to be done, and often I have no clue where to begin.

Let me use the house as an example. When we bought the house last year it was a foreclosure. Because of that, there was a ton that needed done. Here is the short list … Every room in the house needed small to medium holes filled on the walls, all the walls painted, trim painted, appliances installed, upstairs toilet fixed, new kitchen faucet, shelves built in the basement & garage, attic floor secured, A/V wires pulled out of wall and wall fixed, and many other projects. When you look at the list, it is hard to imagine where to begin. Obviously you start with what has to be fixed … toilet, kitchen faucet, appliance, things like that. But with the other projects where do you begin. We have worked through a lot of those issues, and even picked a few projects we didn’t really have to start. Money also decided some things we have and have not done. Now after 14 months in the house, we only have two rooms that need the walls fixed and painted.

When I look at ministry I feel the same way. However, I think that can easily be corrected with some system changes. There is a lot I want to do for ministry. The list of things that needs done is extensive … continued development of our ministry system, development of our contemporary service, youth ministry organization, children’s programing, developing our online ministries through Facebook and Twitter, updating and communicating through my blog, growth of our small group structure, development of our vision/mission and strategy, along with all the normal preaching and teaching responsibilities that exist. If this is all going to get accomplished, I need to organize.

Finally there is one more area that I want to organize in my life … my physical and spiritual health. I think the disciplines I need to develop in each overlap in many ways. I have made great strides in my spiritual life over the past year. I have also failed miserably. My physical health is nothing I can boast about. I am want to be so much better in both of those areas. So I am going to work and tackle them together. I think my life of organization will help me accomplish physical and spiritual health.

Since 2012 is only a few weeks away, I have decided to make organization my New Years Resolution. It is my goal to use Friday’s to talk about how I am doing on this journey of organization. I will use this space to share tools that I found that help me organize. I will share my accomplishments and my failures along this journey. 2012 is gearing up to a big year in my life and ministry and I am excited. It will only be a success with God’s leading and organization.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

I posted this last year following Christmas. Had Jesus been born today, it may have been communicated this way. What do you think?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Sunday @ West Side

This has been a great Christmas season here at West Side. It has been really encouraging to see so many faces fill the sanctuary this month. Yesterday our numbers were a little lower, but we had many out visiting and seeing family. Our worship service was enjoyable even though the message wasn’t what I truly desired it to be. I know the point was there, I just wasn’t a fan of my delivery.

Last night was our Cantata performed by our Choir. Let me be upfront and honest with you … I am not a fan of Cantata’s. It’s not that I hate them. It’s not that I think they are old fashioned and something we must do away with. I am just not a person who enjoys listening to people sing. It’s just not my thing. I am not the person who loves to go to concerts. I’ve been to them, I think there neat, and I have seen some pretty cool things at them, but it isn’t earth shattering if I don’t get to see my favorite bands play. I can think of many different and better ways to spend money. Now I do love music, and it is a large part of my life, but to sit and listen to people sing, just not my thing.

Having said all of that, our Choir did an awesome job last night. They did a great job presenting the story of Christ birth and the salvation he offered. I am always intrigued on how well published Cantata’s do at pointing to the cross, even Christmas Cantata’s. I was especially impressed with our Soprano's at the end of the last song. They hit notes I didn’t know they had within in them. From a guy who doesn’t get excited to listen to people sing, I was thoroughly blown away.

Thank you Lord for blessing us with a wonderful day yesterday.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Sunday @ West Side

What a great Sunday we had yesterday. Yesterday kicked off our new sermon series “The Colors of Christmas,” as well as the Advent Season. Yesterday the Baker family came forward and to light the first candle, the light purple one, which for us represents the hope we have in Christ, the hope that came in His birth.

We kicked off our sermon series with a sermon that told the Christmas Story from a different perspective. In doing so I began a new Christmas tradition of repeating a sermon. It is a sermon that take us through the entire Bible to show how the Christmas story unfolds. It is a sermon that connects the dots of how the entire Bible works together to bring out the birth and death of Christ to save man.

The Colors of Christmas Artwork

Last night was the highlight of it all. Last night we began a new tradition at West Side with our first ever Hanging of the Greens Service. We met at the church at 5:00 to begin decorating the Church. The worship area looks wonderful thanks to all the people who came out and helped us accomplish this beautiful task. At 6:00 we met for a time of worship, communion, a short devotional, and the first ever hanging of the ornaments on the family Christmas Tree. We followed the service with a time of fellowship with cookies and Hot Chocolate. The night was a tremendous blessing.

Hanging of the Greens Art

Hanging of the Greens 2011 015Hanging of the Greens 2011 014

Hanging of the Greens 2011 033Hanging of the Greens 2011 040

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Concerns in Christianity

I don’t want to be judgmental. I don’t even know if I can say it is right or wrong. But there is a trend I see happening that is just not sitting right with me. I think sometimes in the church we have erred on the side of caution to a fault. One area would be in the discussion of sex. For a long time in the church sex wasn’t talked about except "don’t have sex until you are married." We never highlighted the joys, benefits, and pleasures of God designed sex in a marriage. We just said to our teens and unmarried people don’t have sex, instead of saying save yourself for what God has created sex for. We haven't shared that we save ourselves to live in and cherish all of the blessing that come from sex in marriage. But that discussion isn’t my concern today.

The Bible teaches the concept that we are to “live in the world, not of the world” (1 John 2:15-17). It also teaches that we are to separate ourselves from the sinful ways of life that we left when Christ became our savior (Colossians 3:1-17). These thoughts as well as many others has in many ways formed the way our society once looked. But as society has left the church, what has become “ok” to society now looks drastically different than the church. As a Christian, called to live pure and holy lives, this difference is a good thing.

But here is where my concern lies. While the church may look different, it continues to drift further away from purity. I guess what I am saying is if society is way out on the 50 yard line then the church is on the 10 yard line. But as society continues to move further away, the church seems to be doing the same thing. If society moves into the enemies territory, say going to the opponents 40 yard line, the church is still 40 yards separated from society, but is now residing on their own 20. Does that analogy make sense? In a sense, we are still looking different from society, but we have drifted from the holiness that marks a Christian, and accepted things society accepted ten even fifteen years ago.

What brought all of this on is something I am seeing from Christian in my generation all around me. I feel in many ways we are not separating ourselves from society. I was looking for information from an author whose book I am reading. On his biography page on the website of the church where he serves, he openly stated that he enjoys a cigar from time to time. I saw recently on a friends Facebook page, his profile picture shows him smoking a pipe. I know another guy, when he was hired as the youth minister of his church, he reported back that their staff goes out to a bar once a week, drinks a few beers, just to stay grounded. Now friends, I am not saying that drinking alcohol is wrong. I am not saying smoking a pipe is wrong, but where is the line that we draw in the sand for ourselves as followers of Christ? These are simply illustrations.

I think in some ways, we don’t really want to separate ourselves from the world. I think in some ways, we want to follow Jesus, and I really mean follow, but we also want the world. We want to be committed followers, but we don’t want to look that different. Friends, this concerns me. Being a follower of Christ is a call to purity, is a call to separation, is a call to pursuing holiness. Instead of being on the 10 yard line, maybe we need to consider being on the goal line or even in the end zone. The age old saying continues to ring true … “it’s not how close to the fire can I get without getting burnt, it is how close to God I can get to truly worship him with my life through purity and holiness.”

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Lesson’s From a Church Builder

I am excited, lost, and stuck all at the same time. Over the last few weeks we have had some really good things happen here at West Side. At the same time I feel like I have been dealt some pretty heavy blows. I am feeling excited, worn out, optimistic, and depressed all at the same time. I think there might be a lesson God is trying to teach me about the whole church building thing.

I like to read blogs. I read several every day. Through the course of reading them a few that I have really grown to like are the ones concerned with church planting and leading a church. I have read that church planting and church rebuilding is incredibly hard and draining work while at the same it is entirely rewarding. I cognitively understood the concept, but it never really sank in. Until now. It reminds me of going to Bible college.

When I went Bible college I heard from students, professors, and even our dorm parents that I was going to have to work really hard to stay in the Bible reading it for joy and to spend time with God daily. Initially I thought that wasn’t going to be a problem. “Man, I am at Bible college. I am going to become a spiritual giant over the next couple of years,” were the thoughts that ran through my mind. But as I started into my freshman year, it wasn’t long until those prophets words rang true. But their messages weren’t so much prophetic as they were words of wisdom honed from experience. The Bible became a text book and prayer became something we did in class and chapel on a daily basis. And I found myself caught in the middle of learning how to make the Bible not a text book and my prayers with God real and genuine, like I was speaking from the heart.


And so, I find myself in a very similar situation. I read about men who are going through the church planting or building stage and see that they are having mountain top experiences while being drug through the sludge of the sewer. I see their prophetic words of wisdom starting to ring true in my life. Why do I have to be so stubborn to learn this lesson all on my own? I don’t know! But maybe it is the only way I am going to learn, see, and experience all that God has planned for my life and ministry here in Lebanon serving with West Side.

Above image was used from the blog Find Me ... The Real Me . No copyright infringement is intended. 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Clarification of Thoughts


A few weeks ago on my blog I made a post talking about the lack of understanding and preaching in the church on communion. I then made a comment about communion meditations and in parenthesis I said … (and lets be honest, most communion meditations are not that good, sorry to all the guys giving them, but for the 16-17 years I have been in “Big Church”, hearing roughly 832 meditations, I have learned very little about communion … Sorry, off my soapbox now … by the way, I feel they do help set the mood, but many of them just do not teach us anything). I want to clarify what I meant by that.

Where I get frustrated with a communion meditation is when I am left scratching my head asking how that tied into communion. Friends, I am sorry to say this happens often. This is where my frustrations lie. When someone speaks and it really ties into what we are doing, when someone shares a thought and it helps lead me in my time with God, when someone speaks and it reminds me of the grace that was poured out at the cross, the meditation has been successful. I am not concerned with how well delivered a meditation is. I am not concerned with whether or not it is structured properly. I am not concerned with the details of the meditation. What I am concerned with is the content, and does the content point us toward the cross? If so, then you have been successful.

So if you are one of the men out there giving communion meditations, please remember that it is a time to point to the cross and the wonderful grace that has been poured out upon us because of it.

P.S. For the most part, the men of West Side do a great job at pointing to the cross and reminding us of what we are there for. Thank you for the many who have worked on this over the past couple of years. 

Lesson’s From a Church Builder

Here at West Side we are currently going through the process of rebuilding the foundation of our congregation. In that process we are trying to secure the foundation by deciding who our target audience is as well as what our mission statement is. We are calling that process our BluePrint.

Blue Print Logo 2

I think this aspect is essential to growing and building the church. I have talked on here that I think there needs to be a paradigm shift in the minds of the people. But what are they shifting to. Are they shifting to being more outward focused? I hope so. Are they shifting to change their style of worship? Only if it needs to be shifted? Whatever the shift that takes place is, there needs to be a common goal that we are all shifting towards.

Right now I have in my head what needs to happen. But that doesn’t mean that is the right direction. What is in my head may not be what is best for this church. That is the beauty of this BluePrint process. It is all of the men on the church board coming together to draw up our BluePrint that we will help to shift the minds of the people towards. Whatever the paradigm shift that needs to take place here, it will be shifting towards the one common goal and mission that will come from the BluePrint meetings.

Please keep these men in your prayers as we push forward and seek God’s leadership and direction for his church here.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Sunday @ West Side

Yesterday we finished our up our sermon series “How Can I Make My Membership Matter.” This sermon series has been terrific. I think too many times we undervalue the power of the pulpit. There is great power in the preached word. This sermon series as well as our one of gifts has truly been instrumental in the heart changes we are feeling at West Side.

Membership Matters Logo 3

Yesterday’s sermon focused around the history of the Restoration Movement, and we talked about how the thoughts and ideas of the Restoration Movement are still alive and well today. As I was preaching the message I saw a look on many faces that for some of them this is the first they have heard any teaching on this. Teaching has been done, but typically only in a class setting. It is interesting to see how people respond when they hear a message on a topic that isn’t typically covered in the pulpit. Yesterday was one of those days.

Last night West Side lead services at Mason Christian Village. We had a wonderful time leading worship with the residents. I want to thank Diane McRoberts and Tim Hill for helping to lead worship. I would also like to thank Pete Wall and Greg Fischer for bringing us special music. I think this is a wonderful ministry opportunity that West Side is presented and would love to continue seeing more and more people get involved in the future.

Friends, I want to thank you for making yesterday a great day at West Side. The worship was wonderful. It was also great to see Tony Philippo with us in service, his healing is proof that God hears and listens to our prayers. Let me encourage you to take the next couple of Sunday’s to reach out and invite your friends to our services, you know Easter is less than TWO weeks away!!!!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Lessons for a Church Builder

Yesterday at my weekly breakfast with a group of guys from the church we were discussing the future and the direction of the church. I made the comment that I felt like we were starting to see a paradigm shift in the minds of the people. I was then fielded the question something along the lines of … “what type of shift do you think needs to take place?”

In my opinion many churches who have become static or have even dropped off from their former “glory days,” have two things going against them …. 1) for some some reason they have become inward focused, and 2) they have lost their creative edge. I think these things are important to building a church.


I have said many times that I am not about numbers. I don’t care if we are a mega church, a medium sized church, or even a small church. Numbers don’t drive me. What drives me is reaching as many people for Christ that we can. That is what we as a church have been called to do. We have been commissioned by Christ to … “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20). Did you get that, we are to make disciples, how? by going, baptizing and teaching.

Many churches who have fallen off have some how forgot this message. Sure if you were to ask them what the church should be doing they would respond with many things, but one would be to evangelize. While they understand this, they no longer operate in a way that is going to foster evangelism. This is the first paradigm shift that has to happen in the minds of the people. The church has to stop being inward focused and start being outward focused. Without doing this, you cannot begin to reach people with a life changing encounter with Jesus.

The second paradigm shift supports the first. When churches who have existed for a while start failing one thing that goes is creativity. The church gets caught in a rut, doing the same old things week after week, month after month, and year after year. This is where the sacred cows, the traditions of the church begin to take hold. When they have lost their creativity they begin playing church, and that tends to lose that spirit of evangelism.

So to change these things you have to start rebuilding creativity. You have to start preaching evangelism. You have to start preaching about being outward focused. Before change can take place you have to shift and change the minds and hearts of the people. Once this begins to happen amazing things can begin to occur. This is the process we are now going through at West Side. And you know what … it is beginning to happen. We are beginning to see a change in heart and mind. We are beginning to see the creativity return to many people … and to be honest …. IT IS EXCITING!!!!

The above image was used from the blog Affiliate Marketing Lifestyle and used in the post My 9 Steps to Diet Freedom. Use of image does not support any website content.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Concerns in Christianity

This past Sunday I preached a sermon on Communion. Preaching on things like communion, baptism, grace, eldership, and other “doctrinal” positions can be rather technical. While I recognize the need for technical sermons, I strongly dislike to preach them. I like to creatively weave the technical through a story I am trying to communicate. So when I have a sermon to preach dealing with a technical subject I turn to podcast to see how other preachers have approached the discussion.

As I turned to my podcasts, I pulled up two churches that I love to listen to their ministers preach.  Both churches are doing amazing things in their communities for Christ. Both have astronomical numbers for their weekend worship services. But as I looked through these two mega churches I did not find a single sermon on the topic of communion in the past two years. Now to their credit they may have preached the sermons, and I could have missed them due to their title for the sermon.

But for the sake of this concern let’s say they didn’t. If they didn’t preach on communion in the past two years, and the only thing the people in their churches were hearing about communion was from the meditation before hand (and lets be honest, most communion meditations are not that good, sorry to all the guys giving them, but for the 16-17 years I have been in “Big Church”, hearing roughly 832 meditations, I have learned very little about communion … Sorry, off my soapbox now … by the way, I feel they do help set the mood, but many of them just do not teach us anything), how many people attending their services are in the dark about what this meal is. Both of these churches are Restoration Movement Churches towing the party line of Christian Church/Church of Christ. Both of these churches are churches who practice communion on a weekly basis. Both would say it is an central part of their weekly services. But to go two years+ without preaching on this, that is amazing.

Communion has such a wonderful and spiritual blessing for the Christian. A good sermon at least once every couple of years would be great to teach and instruct. But I guess my real concern is not over the sermon topic of communion more as it is to doctrine in and of itself. I think in many ways we have gotten caught up in trying to preach sermon’s that help us live better lives and lead people to a closer walk with Christ. I am guilty of this myself, and will make no apologize for doing so. I think preaching life relevant sermons is needed in our society. But I think at least once in a two year span we need to get back to the basics. We need to discuss what are some of the core teachings of Scripture that unite us as a local body of believers.

Its kind of funny, the one church on my podcast list that had a sermon on communion was a church that is relatively new. They began in 2007 and is doing a great job reaching people far from God in the suburbs of Cleveland. They saw that teaching on this, as well as other doctrinal issues was highly needed. Thank you Dan Smith and Momentum for tackling this issue.


The above image was used from the website, no copyright infringement is intended.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Sunday @ West Side


Membership Matters Logo 3

I thought we had another good Sunday yesterday morning. Our numbers were up, our offering was up (Not something I would typically highlight, but we have been behind so far this year, and that little extra gift was a blessing from God !!!!), and the atmosphere just seems a little different … different in a good way. I think the preaching schedule this year has been very good for the congregation.

Yesterday we mixed something's up in our worship service. Because I preached a sermon on communion we moved the communion service to after the sermon. This caused a little hiccup in the transition from worship to offering, but all in it all it seemed to move smoothly. I think it is good to move our services around a little bit. Too many times we get caught in a rut and expect things to happen in the same way each week. Yesterday was certainly evidence of that.

Yesterday, I even got the opportunity to stir the pot a little bit. In Sunday School we discussed the role of Deacon’s in the church. This is an area that has bothered me for about five years now. Yesterday for the first time I had the opportunity to pour out my thoughts on what is wrong with the way we do leadership in the church. I have shared these thoughts before with individuals, but yesterday was my first opportunity to do so in a public setting. I also got put on the spot about the idea of divorce with and Elder/Deacon. I knew my thoughts on the subject were radical … radical to many of our churches, but not to the Bible … but I thought they were well received in the discussion.

Hopefully I created no enemies yesterday. We will wait and see. God is great!!!!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Lessons From a Church Builder


I don’t know which is more challenging … planting a church or rebuilding an existing church. I follow several different people who are going through the planting process and have learned a lot from them. I have been in three different churches that all needed to “come back” from former glory days. Let’s look at my list of challenges for both. Please note this is not a complete list by any stretch of the imagination.

Planting a Church

  1. Deciding where it is God is calling you to plant
  2. Getting people on board with your plant
  3. Finding a location to rent/purchase for you plant
  4. Raising financial and prayer support for your plant
  5. Selecting the right staff persons for your plant
  6. Beginning the small groups that your plant needs
  7. Marketing your plant to the community and building encouragement/excitement

Rebuilding a Church

  1. Changing the mindset of the people in the church
  2. Working through sacred cows or old traditions of the church
  3. Changing the perception of the church in the community
  4. Changing the perception of the church to the members of the church
  5. Working against or through those who have a stronghold on the church
  6. Getting the churches name out in the community
  7. Fighting through financial and facility limitations
  8. Developing a mission for the church
  9. Motivating the people to get on board with the mission of the church

I think both planting a church and rebuilding a church have their challenges. However both sets of challenges are completely different. Both present problems for the leaders of the church. But, sometimes as someone who is going through the process of rebranding, rebuilding a church, I long to have the problems of a church planter. Don’t get me wrong, the challenges there are monumental, and ones I don’t think fit my skill set, but sometimes they would be welcomed.

In planting a church you get to start from scratch. Scary as that might be, you don’t have to wade through all the issues associated with the traditions and sacred cows. You can develop a mission statement and live by that from day one. You can select a style of worship, and if people don’t like it they don’t have to come. Basically you get to set the direction from the beginning without worry about how change is going to affect the church.

While I sometime long for those things, I know God has blessed me with the patience needed to work through the needs of rebuilding a church. Established churches have a lot to offer the kingdom. They are great places, once focused on reaching those far from God, to mentor people in a relationship with Christ. That is something many church plants cannot offer to new believers, because many of their people are new believers. That can be the beauty of an established church.

My goal of this section on this blog is to communicate my thoughts and feelings to you as we work through this process here at West Side. My goal is to share my highs, my lows, my joys, and my sorrows as we see God move and work through this established church. My prayer is to seek God’s leadership and guidance as we become the church he desires us to be for Lebanon, Ohio.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Not a Theologian

I am not a theologian. Studying Scripture is alright but it is not one of my favorite things to do. Probably not something you thought you would ever hear from your preacher right. Well there you go, you have now heard it … well at least read it. While it is not one of my favorite things I do, it is something that I have to do. The problem isn’t that I don’t like learning new things from God’s word … I really do … it is the act of study that I do not like. But study is what makes us grow as followers of Christ. It is through his word that God left us his thoughts. It is through his word God left us his desires for our lives. It is through his word that God communicates to us today. So study it we must.

The funny thing about study at times can be the fact that two separate people can rip apart a passage of scripture and arrive at two distinctly different understandings. This has happened time and time again in the church. That is the primary reason we have so many different Christian denominations out there. The problem we face in study is we let our background; we let our previous knowledge infiltrate our understanding of God’s word. But if you want to be a true theologian, you must come to the text with a clean slate. You must throw out your previous knowledge and allow God’s word to speak directly to you. When you do this, you will begin to understand what God has to say, and not what some denomination has to teach.

If we did this, than I would not have to spend much time in study for a sermon I am preaching Sunday morning on communion. The act of communion wouldn’t be an issue in the church today. If we were to simply take what scripture teaches and demonstrates about communion, we would do it in the way that Christ envisioned that night in the upper room. But because we have let so many outside forces determine the way we do things in the church and as Christians we a contorted view what following Christ really looks like.

So while study isn’t fun … at least for me … study I must. If you want to hear my thoughts on what I have studied about communion then join us at West Side on Sunday morning. But please remember, what I say in my sermon is just my thoughts on the subject … however, as I write each sermon I do plead to God to remove me and speak through me … so maybe they are God’s words. I don’t know.

PS. … There is more to being a theologian than what I have typed above. Maybe sometime in the future I will completely complete my thought on what it takes to be a theologian.

The image used above was borrowed and is linked to the website Sound Feelings and used in an article titled “11 Free Tips Improve Studying Results.” The link is as follows … Use of the picture is not an endorsement of the website or material published there.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Concerns in Christianity

Sometime the churches having the greatest ministry impact are the churches that are relatively young. Now I am not talking about the age of the people, but the age of the church. New churches are able to be on the cutting edge of current trends in the church because they do not have any sacred cows or holy traditions to break through. Church planters are able to start their church however they see best for their particular community and culture.

Sometimes as a minister with an established church I am a little jealous of that ability. In an established church often times you have long held traditions that may hold you back from doing something new. While these traditions are not scriptural or unscriptural, many times they hold you back from being able to reach a new or different generation/culture for Christ. To move forward you have to spend time working through and over coming them.

Many new churches tend to be a little on the edgy side opposed to their counter parts; the established church. Sometimes they will bring in many cultural aspects to their services. Most of the time I am all for this. For some reason many churches believe that walking into a church should be like walking into a time warp and going back to the 1950’s. Now they may not say it, but the look of their building, the style of their worship, and clothes they wear certainly express it. Maybe you can see why at times I may be jealous.
I think being edgy is good. I think being radicle is good. I think using technology to the best of your abilities is good. I think looking like society and the culture your are planted in is good, as long as it is not the sinful parts of society and culture. Having said all of that, I do believe there are some places you should stop.

There is a new church that I admire greatly. I think God is doing some amazing things through their church, especially in a tough and sinful community. I also understand what is driving them to do what they are doing. But I still have an issue with what they are doing. I have waited about three weeks to comment on this … I wanted to hear the sermon that kicked off the series before I did. I have, and now I am commenting.

The church is planted in a very tough and sinful community. People go to their community to run away. Since moving to the city, the lead pastor has heard the phrase … “(Insert name/noun here) just does not give a damn!” Because of hearing that phrase so much, the church decided to do a sermon series titled “God Gives a Damn!” Not only have they used the phrase for their series, but they have also purchased billboards throughout town and are selling/giving out t-shirts.

Here is my dilemma.  How far are we willing to go to spark peoples interest. Using the vernacular of the people is good, but at the same time, as Christians we are supposed to be “set apart” from the world. Could the same message be communicated without using the word “damn.” I would imagine so. I know this phrase will really catch peoples eyes, but does this cross over from not being set apart. Or am I just one of a few that thinks that word is still a four letter word that Christians should not use.

I try to hold judgment when I see things that new churches are doing. For me it may be out of the box. But then again, they are reaching people for Christ that most of the time I am not. That is to be admired. I still do not know where I stand on this particular sermon series title. I know I still feel uneasy when I hear it. What do you think? Is this something you would do in your church or encourage in your church? I know myself and my church is not ready for this … yet ... if ever.

P.S. by the way, the minister sounded a little funny the three or four times he said it during his message. Maybe he even thinks it a little uncomfortable himself?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Sunday @ West Side


Yesterday was a good day at West Side. We are continuing our current Sermon and Lesson Series asking the question “How can I make my Membership Count?” In Sunday school we discussed what the true nature and role of Eldership in the church really is. This is something I think is greatly needing within the congregation. During service Marty preached a great sermon on what Baptism is. If you missed these past two weeks you definitely want to check out the DVD’s of the sermons.

Membership Matters Logo 3

It was also nice to see several people back at worship with us who have been gone for a while. If you see people have been gone, please make it a point to give them a call to see where there at. Marty, our Elder’s, and myself can do it, but people see that as our job. If you were to do it, to give them a call it would go a long way as well. Do you ever follow up with people? If not, why not? Give it a try, it might be one of the most rewarding things you do as a Christian.

It was also great to see several guest with us in our service. Do you step out of your way to say hi to someone visiting the church? Do you make it a point to get their phone number so you can give them a call throughout the week? Guest of our church may be people who are far away from God and are in desperate need of a savior. If we remember that, it may change they way we view a visitor, and how we approach them following a service. Did you reach out to any guest yesterday and welcome them to the church and take interest in who they are and their families? If you did, you may have helped them on their path to knowing God!

I enjoyed worship with everyone yesterday and look forward to doing it again next week!

I’m Back

The blog has taken a hiatus. Some of that was from laziness, some from business, and some from trying to decide what I wanted to do. Some of the best blogs I read are the ones that are structured in a powerful way. My blog at one time had structure. The structure was to comment on that days daily Bible reading. But in that I felt I got really repetitive. I want this blog to be fresh and new each day, and it wasn’t.

So …. I have spent some time away from the blog thinking about what I wanted it to look like. If you have checked in frequently and seen no progress, or have read some of my previous post, you will have noticed that I am saying the same thing I have been saying for months. Well today, I want to announce that I think I have the structure I have been seeking out. Here is what the blog is going to look like in the future …

  • Monday – Sunday @ West Side … this will be a weekly recap of the previous weekend esp. the previous Sunday.
  • Tuesday – Concerns I have in the Christian Community … I am going to highlight some of the trends, ideas, and movements that are concerning me in Christianity.
  • Wednesday – Theology … I am going to comment on what I am studying and the new things I am learning. I may also comment on some misconceptions I am seeing in the Christian community. This section will grow and change over the course of time I am sure.
  • Thursday – Thoughts on Rebuilding a Church … West Side is in the process of rebuilding the foundation. I am going to share my thoughts on the process we are going through and the lessons I am learning.
  • Friday – This day is going to be open to random ideas and thoughts that come to mind.
  • Saturday – Family Corner … I am going to talk about personal issues, things going on in our family, and projects around the house. 
  • Sunday – The blog is going to rest on this day.

Not only does the blog have a new look and design, but it also has a new structure. Hopefully this will become something worth reading for you and the members of the West Side Church. I am excited to see where this goes and also realize that none of this is set in stone. Continue checking back in to see how God is working through this blog. 

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Music Does some Crazy Things


I love music. I love all types of music (well sort of, not into screamo, classical, baroque, or a lot of hymns) from Country to Hiphop, to R&B, to Pop, to Rock. I especially love worship music. My wife and I differ on styles of worship music that we enjoy. She is into worship music that leaves you feeling happy and excited, while I love music that leaves me feeling moved and shifted. I am madly in love with much of the worship that Hillsong Church in Australia is writing. I am also in love with a ton of Chris Tomlin and David Crowder. Some of my favorite worship albums are from bands such as Kutless and Seventh Day Slumber. I love worship that drives me to pour my heart out to God. Maybe it is because I spend a lot of time feeling spiritually deprived.

On my iPod I have several different playlist. Playlist from Pop Favorites, to Country Favorites, to Michael’s Favorites, to Short Favorites (A list of my favorite songs that is smaller than Michael’s Favorites, by about 100 songs), to Worship, to Needing to Reconnect. My favorite playlist is Needing to Reconnect. It is the list I go to when I am feeling down. It is the list I go to when I am feeling distant from God. It is the list I go to when I need inspiration. It is the list I go to when I am perplexed and needing God to listen.

Music is very powerful to me. When I am working on a project I love to have music playing. Sometimes my mood or project defines the style of music I listen to. If I am doing something with my hands I may throw on some Country or a little Skillet. If I am driving in the car I like to listen to the Pop Favorites list with artist like Lady Gaga, Tio Cruz, Ludacris,  Ke$ha, and many other artist (I know this is not spiritual in any way and most of the lyrics are dumb, but sometime I like things that have no importance attached to them). If I am mowing the grass it could be a plethora of music styles calling my name. When I am working on a lesson or sermon, it is almost always from the Worship or Needing to Reconnect lists.

I believe God uses many platforms to speak to us, but one he uses the most is music. Music styles vary depending on age, taste, and preferences. But each of us have a style of music that we really connect well with. Somewhere in there the lyrics of a song coupled with the guitar rifts, melody and rhythm really speak to us.

This afternoon I was working on my sermon for this coming Sunday. I have been really struggling with my understanding of something I thought I knew (I talked about this yesterday). In the middle of reading a paragraph the song “Lead me to the Cross” recorded by Seventh Day Slumber came on, and I completely lost focus with my reading. I put the book down, shut the door, turned off the lights in my office, and began singing. I then turned off the iPod, walked out of my office to the Sanctuary where I began an great time of prayer with God. All this happened because I heard a song.

I love what music can do. It can cause me to quit what I am doing and turn my focus to God. Music speaks to me in ways that others sometime cannot. What speaks to you? What causes you to do thing you weren’t planning on doing? How does God speak to you when you need to hear him the most?

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Beauty of Frustration

I am excited about the coming year at West Side. We have a lot of things in store for this coming year and so far an incredible line up of sermons planned. We began the year with Larry Holmes kicking off our series … “2011 Encountering Your Giftedness.” He used Rick Warren’s SHAPE principle to share that we all have spiritual gifts and that our shape defines how we use them. He did an awesome job.
Enountering Your Giftedness
Next week I have the privilege of preaching the first sermon on an individual gift, which is prophecy. This is one of those subjects that depending on the church you attend can have a different meaning. Because of that I am spending a ton of time in study. Last week I really began to dive into the study of this topic. I was speaking with our secretary and she said this topic had always been confusing to her. That left me with this response, “Had you asked me yesterday I would have given you an answer. Now after studying I am confused.”
Friends, that is the frustration of study. I have found several times that when I begin to do a thorough study of a topic or idea, before I figure it out, I get completely confused. It can be frustrating that what you thought you understood can be completely turned upside down by digging a little deeper. It makes you then begin to question other ideas, thoughts, and beliefs you may have formed off of your previous understanding. It can even open up new thoughts you never previously had.
While you may become confused, frustrated, and have things you once believed thrown out the window, there is beauty in that. You see that is what defines understanding of who God is and how you are to follow him. If you never study, but live your life according to what a preacher, Sunday School teacher, or some other person tells you, then you do not own your faith. You own your faith, you own your understanding because of your own thorough investigation of the evidence. You own your faith because you have come to a conclusion on your own merit, under your own understanding, based of what you have pieced together.
Having your understanding and faith challenged is a part of the process. The writer of Hebrews admonishes the reader to move from spiritual milk to meat. Friends, when we study, that is exactly what we are doing. And while it might be frustrating, there is beauty in it. Your faith, your understanding has become your own through the frustration. Owning your faith and understanding is beautiful.
The above image was used from a purchase made by the West Side Church of Christ from