Loving God with all our heart, mind, soul and and strength

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Finding Value in the Struggle

        Mark Sanchez was one of the most athletically gifted people ever to come out of college.  He could have played college basketball or baseball but he chose to be play quarterback for the University of Southern California Trojans.  In 2008 when he became the starter, he led the Trojans to a 12-1 record and was named MVP in their Rose Bowl win over Penn State.  When the time came for Mark Sanchez to make the move to professional football, teams were lined up wanting his services.  He was chosen in the first round of the 2009 draft by the NY Jets and given a monstrous contract.
       In the NFL, however, Sanchez has struggled with handling the fame that comes along with being an NFL quarterback.  Despite being one of the most naturally gifted people in the NFL, Sanchez’s numbers have been disappointing for his fans and supporters through his first two years of being a pro leaving some to wonder if his extracurricular activities are a distraction.  Sanchez regularly makes public appearances on the “red carpet’ in Hollywood.  He had legal trouble in college, being accused of sexual assault and having the charges dropped and later making headlines for his relationship with a 17 year old high school student.
       Compare the young career of Sanchez with that of a much less touted college player, Tom Brady.  After playing college football at Michigan, Brady was drafted by the Patriots in the sixth round of the 2000 NFL Draft.  Brady is meticulous, disciplined, and has a great work ethic.  Despite not possessing the natural ability of Mark Sanchez, Brady has learned the discipline of hard work.  Brady, though just as popular as Sanchez, has been able to avoid the party boy persona of his younger colleague.
        Brady has played in four Super Bowls, winning three of them (XXXVI, XXXVIII, XXXIX). He has also won two Super Bowl MVP awards (XXXVI and XXXVIII), has been selected to six Pro Bowls, holds the NFL record for most touchdown passes in a single regular season. His career postseason record is 14–5. He also helped set the record for the longest consecutive win streak in NFL history with 21 straight wins over two seasons (2003–04),and in 2007 he led the Patriots to the first undefeated regular season since the institution of the 16-game schedule. Brady has the fifth-highest career passer rating of all time (95.5) among quarterbacks with at least 1,500 career passing attempts. He, along with Joe Montana, are the only two players in NFL history to have won multiple NFL MVP and Super Bowl MVP awards (2 NFL MVPs, 2 Super Bowl MVPs).  Before the 2011 season, his fellow players voted him the best player in the NFL
          I have often thanked God that I am not naturally gifted so that things come easily for me.  I have found a lot more character in the struggle and hard work required to attain success.  When fame and fortune come easily, it tempts us to become arrogant and forget the author of all our blessings.  In the struggle, we learn whose hand we really hold.  Remember in I Corinthians 1:

26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”
A life fully committed to Christ, completely dependent on its higher power, and fully aware of its own dark side and temptations is worth more than two who are full of talent but have no direction, work ethic and are not teachable.  The next time you see those people on TV in their beautiful clothes, driving fancy cars, surrounded by famous people, remember that a life fully yielded, broken and willing to be rebuilt is worth far more than someone who thinks they have it all figured out.

For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. (I Cor 1:25)
With all my heart, soul, mind and strength…

Friday, September 9, 2011

Kaleo (kal-eh'-o)

Kaleo is a Greek word translated:

1. to call
2. to call aloud, utter in a loud voice
3.  to invite
4.  to call out
This Sunday evening at 6:00 pm, the Northeast Atlanta community will have a new kind of church community.  The name of the church is KALEO and come from the central mission of the church in the world...to call people to faith: “Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called.”
(1 Timothy 6:12)

Core Values of KALEO:

· We believe that anointed teaching is the catalyst for transformation in individual lives and in the church.
· We believe that lost people matter to God and therefore, ought to matter to the church.
· We believe that the church should be culturally relevant while remaining doctrinally pure.
· We believe that Christ followers should manifest authenticity and yearn for continuous growth.
· We believe that a church should operate as a unified community of servants with men and women stewarding their spiritual gifts.
· We believe that loving relationships should permeate every aspect of church life.
· We believe that life-change happens best in small groups.
· We believe that excellence honors God and inspires people.
· We believe that churches should be led by men and women with leadership gifts.
· We believe that the pursuit of full devotion to Christ and His cause should be normal for every believer.

The world does not need another church...it needs a different kind of church.  Come this Sunday and see what its all about...3070 Mercer Uiversity Drive...in a community called Regent Centre, building 3070.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Unity, Diversity and the Body of Christ

I recently went to a highly celebrated Italian restaurant in Atlanta.  It had a huge opening and much publicized debut on the trendy north side of Atlanta.  This restaurant is owed by a family group in Atlanta that manages some of the most unique eating places in the city.  This place sought to bring authentic pizza from Naples to the south complete with the finest ground flour and freshest ingredients that can be placed on a pie.  The setting was impressive and the two large 800 degree cooking ovens for which the restaurant was named clearly evident when one walks through the door.  I was shocked when I got to the menu however and found printed across the bottom something like…our pizzas are perfect like they are and we do not add or subtract toppings.  I tried one of the most popular but ended up picked the arugula off myself.
I realized a couple of things that night.  I don’t have a sophisticated enough palate to appreciate double zero ground flour and the finest ingredients and secondly, being forced into conformity with others made me feel like I lost my identity and uniqueness in favor of the more thoughtful and sophisticated connoisseurs who had planned the menu.  It made me wonder about the church and the terrible loss of creativity, energy and passion when people are made to practice their faith in small unoriginal boxes.  I wonder how many people have felt the call to change the world for the good and have gotten swept away on some useless committee in the church or told that they could only exercise their faith according to the traditions of their denomination.
I have seen people almost come to tears because others would not be as passionate about a particular ministry in the church as they are.  Why will everyone in the church not sign up to volunteer in the  nursery some have asked me?  Then who would work in the youth department?  Why does everyone not fight for the same cause that I fight for?  Because that is your cause…and they have another cause.
Do you care about the environment?  Great…be the best environmentalist that you can.  Do you care about animals?  Then your interest in caring for animals may mean God has given you that passion to fight for animal rights in the world.  Your passion for that topic is your calling.  Your passion for an issue is your indicator that you are called to raise concern and fight for your passion.  Our goal is to fulfill our role without forcing others to think or believe the way we do and without becoming disillusioned because we cant win the world to thinking that our cause is the most important in the world.
Unity in the body of Christ does not mean conformity.  Conformity is when all people act, think, look and live out the same values.  Diversity makes this very complicated in the church.  The drastically different life experiences, personality traits, family values and cultural experiences mean that we all come into the church with very different passions, interests, approaches, and ideas.  Our goal is not to have a group of people who all think the same or even who care about the same things.  Success in the body of Christ is not gathering a group of people together and convincing them to care about our passions.  My passions are mine and I am here to make sure they receive attention.  You are here to make sure your passions get the attention they need.
Unity means that we all work together, fulfilling our role, doing our part, fighting for our passions and making a difference however we can and when we all work together for the kingdom of God, then all our passions receive attention.  Check the bottom of your bulletins this Sunday and make sure you don’t ever think that your church, like the restaurant I mentioned earlier, is perfect just the way it is and has no room for customization or creativity.  Allow everyone who comes with a skill, passion, talent, gift, or even curiosity to offer their loaves and fish.

With all my heart, soul, mind and strength

Friday, August 19, 2011

Is America's Greatest Generation the Church's Worst Nightmare?

I know two men who worked for the same employer for 60 years.  One man worked for the Dekalb County school system for 60 years before retiring and the other worked for Atlanta Dental for six decades before he finally stopped going to the office every morning.  Both men also live in the same homes that they bought in their young adult years.  It occurred to me recently that these may very well be the only two people I will ever know to accomplish this feat.  It is a remarkable testimony to their stability and commitment to their jobs and companies.  Many of the people that I worked with in my church job were of the WWII generation, labeled the Greatest Generation by Tom Brokaw.  As young teens and young adults, they were called on by their country to leave their homes and lives and fight tyranny overseas.  They responded with tremendous patriotism and freed Europe from the clutches of a madman.

When they returned to America after the war, our nation experienced a boom.  Suburban neighborhoods began to pop up all over the country.  Housing could hardly be built fast enough for the exploding families and schools, shopping and places of worship followed these young families to their suburban neighborhoods.  Many of these people stayed in their homes for 50 plus years and built strong stable neighborhoods that remain today.

For the church, the post WWII years were one of great prosperity and populace.  Churches were built in every neighborhood and would be full within a few months as new families flocked to new faith communities.  In my city of Atlanta, almost all the churches inside the perimeter, it seems, were started in a 20 year period around the end of WWII.  Of course this is an exaggeration but many were started in these years.

            These patriots fill houses of worship and faith communities flourished with their stable and deeply committed life styles.  Churches came to depend on them and began catering to them as the shape of American Christianity was transformed.  Their values of local neighborhoods, stability, patriotism and institutionalism became synonymous with the Western church.  Their generosity and commitment, especially as they retired, made them vital to the life of thousands of faith communities around the country and they became the driving force in Western Christianity.

The type of religion that grew in America alongside the WWII generation gave rise to some of the hallmarks of our histories.  They built fabulous buildings, schools, printing presses, newspapers, mission agencies, and their loyalty to their denominations and churches made almost anything attempted prosper.  Their institutional stability and resistance to change drastically altered the way church was organized and run.  Missions became sending money to cooperative projects rather than serving hands on.  Education became synonymous with denominational curriculum rather than true spiritual formation and commitment was shown by loyalty to denominational programs rather than by a life lived in accordance to Jesus’ teachings.

Today, many mainline and Evangelical churches are still predominantly filled with the members of the greatest generation.  Some of the churches that were founded in the post WWII boom are still populated with their original members.  Some of those churches still look relatively the same today as they did fifty years ago when they were started.  What impact does a generation of people who worked at their jobs for 40+ years and lived in the same home for 40 + years have for the modern church?  Could the values (denominational loyalty, stable to the point of resisting change) that made this generation so vital to the church in the 60s and 70s be hurting the church as it seeks to move into the future?

In no way do I mean to lay responsibility for all the churches problems at the feet of a stereotyped group of people.  I am merely pointing out that the majority of church attendees in my denominational tradition are from a generation that strongly held to the ideas of spectator religion, conformity and as little change as possible, then newer generations who value modern expressions of faith and live in a fast paced world where innovation and change are prized possessions are not going to feel at home in our WWII generation churches.  I would love to hear your thoughts.

With all my heart, soul, mind and strength


Monday, August 15, 2011

A New Blog for a New Beginning

I am so glad you have found your way to this site.  This is the place you can keep up the the new exciting journey that God is allowing me to be a part of and read and comment on the posts and articles that I write.  Please pass it around and invite your friends to follow.  My first article is coming next week: "Is the Greatest Generation the Church's Worst Nightmare."  I am sure the research I am currently doing will be fodder for a great discussion.

With all my heart, soul, mind and strength