Sorry about the spam!

I guess my WordPress account got hacked. All of my blogs had a new entry about making money. Eek. I changed my password, so hope that doesn’t happen again!

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Part 3: What role does the church service play in your church’s ultimate mission?

You can read the introduction to this series here.
In this series, I have been giving answers to the following questions:
Part 1: Who are church services for?
Part 2: What are church services supposed to accomplish?

Some Thoughts on Being the Church 7 Days a Week

One of the reasons this topic is so important is because I think we too often mistake our church services with being the actual body of Christ, the church. We forget that the church is composed of people and exists at all hours, every day of the week in every part of the world where believers live, work, and play. The church service can play a role in our ultimate mission and calling as believers, but we are called to live in the world every day as the church.

In the last post, I explained the role the church service plays in our church’s mission. North Point Ministries’ (NPM) mission is to lead people into a growing relationship with Christ. Our church service provides an easy step for anyone and everyone toward that relationship with Christ.

And there are steps after that. There are more environments after this that people are invited into as they grow and pursue a relationship with Christ all eventually leading to the “kitchen” (see intro), which is community groups, the most intimate environment. This is really where little parts of the church meet all over the city in people’s homes on various days of the week to share each others lives and encourage one another. My husband and I really appreciate how NPM’s emphasis on community groups encourages this focus of living out our faith throughout the week in our communities.

This is one enormous downfall of the Sunday morning service–of Sunday morning “church” (in my opinion). Our pursuit and “worship” of God has become a weekly event instead of a lifestyle. Yes, we are called to have a sabbath day of rest. But instead of the sabbath meaning less busyness on 1 day it seems to mean less God on 6 days and less loving people on all days. We “worship” Him for an hour on Sunday morning and forget (perhaps don’t even know?) that we are called to live lives of worship.

Jesus told us the most important thing for us to do is to love God with all that we are and to love our neighbor as ourselves—all the time. He also told us to tell others about him and the many things he taught—again, no specific time, anytime you get the chance really. One of the many things he taught is that we should rest one day a week. Somewhere along the way this has all gotten rather muddled.

I love what our church has done–from its inception really–to address these issues. But this is also a continual conversation my husband and I have as we wrestle with some of the questions and concerns that people have about NPM’s model. But over the past 2 years these conversations have generally concluded that grace and making things easy for those who are turning to God are worth it (Acts 15:19).

How can you “be the church” this week? What does it mean to live in the world as the church?

How can we live “lives of worship?” How can our church services be used to encourage a life of worship mindset rather than a worship event mindset?

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Part 2: What role does the church service play in your church’s ultimate mission?

You can read my Introduction to this topic here and Part 1 here.

What are our church services supposed to accomplish?

At North Point Ministries (NPM), our mission is to lead people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ. As I described in the last post, our church service is the foyer, and it is the first step in our “organization” towards a relationship with Christ and towards community with other believers.

North Point was first created to be a church for the unchurched (I love this). So our church service is designed to be comfortable, engaging, and even entertaining for those who are uninterested in–or perhaps have been hurt or offended by–traditional “church.” It’s designed to be an environment where anyone will feel welcome so that no one is hindered from taking this first step towards a relationship with Christ.

But at NPM, Sunday morning isn’t church in the traditional sense. Honestly, sometimes I miss “church” where I get to do more meditating and the songs include richer hymns; the slower, quieter traditional church service is soothing and familiar for my introverted self. But come on. Do I really want the pastor, musicians, and countless volunteers to invest all that time and energy just for me? Just so I get a comfortable, reassuring fix once a week–a fix that is probably masking a deeper need to invest more of my personal time in pursuing daily rest and intimacy with God?

Or would I rather have them invest that time and energy in creating an environment that will draw people in who would never dream of stepping foot into a traditional church? Knowing that I am helping create such an environment–a safe, open-armed place for people to come and hear the gospel–also motivates me to volunteer my personal time and energy. I already know Christ; I want to be part of a body of believers and an organization of believers who are putting their efforts toward making Him known and warmly welcoming others into a relationship with Him.

This isn’t to say that Christians don’t get anything out of the church service. I attend every week and find the teaching to be even more challenging and edifying for my relationship with Christ than most of the innumerable sermons I have heard in my life–mostly because the teaching is so clear and memorable. Check out one of the series posted online and you’ll see what I mean 🙂 (Also, I discussed in the last post how “seeker sensitive” shouldn’t mean hiding the essentials of our faith.)

So at NPM, the church service is supposed to provide an easy step for anyone and everyone toward a growing relationship with Christ.

In the next post, I’ll share some thoughts on Sunday morning “church” versus being the church 7 days a week.

– What is your church service seeking to accomplish? (As I said in the Intro, I don’t think there’s only one correct answer to this question, but I think it’s important that you do have an answer!)

– Does your church service play the same role as NPM’s (provide an easy step for anyone and everyone toward a growing relationship with Christ)? If so, what does that look like at your church? What do you do to make it a safe and welcoming environment for those who might feel unwelcome or uncomfortable in other churches?

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Part 1: What role does the church service play in your church’s ultimate mission?

You can read my introduction to this topic here.

Who are church services for at our church?

We attend Buckhead Church in Atlanta, one of the campuses of North Point Ministries (NPM). At NPM, every “environment” has a specific purpose directly related to the ultimate mission of the church. Their approach to church services is unique compared to most churches I’ve attended or know. They answer these questions in a non-traditional way, but it’s an answer that I see God using powerfully and makes me want to join what He is doing there.

One issue to keep in mind is that a church service is not the church. The church is composed of believers and exists at all hours of every day.

So, who are church services for at NPM?

At NPM, we have three main environments: foyer, living room, kitchen. They increase in familiarity and intimacy just like they would in your own home. Guests and strangers (and everyone else) are welcomed into your foyer–conversation is a little different there because you want your guests to feel welcome but you’re still yourself. Friends are asked to stay for a longer time in the living room–there’s more conversation here, relationships are built. But the kitchen is where you share meals with your family and your most intimate friends; it’s where you talk about the mundane and the serious, joys and sorrows, all of life.

At NPM, the church service is the foyer. It’s for anyone and everyone, and it’s designed with those people in mind. It’s a foyer; it’s designed to be welcoming to all.

When I say this, you might immediately think “seeker sensitive” church. Unfortunately, the idea of making your church service “sensitive” to seekers has come to mean don’t talk about the Bible, sin, the cross, or anything about Christianity that could offend. This is foolish. If someone is seeking to understand Christianity, and they come into a foyer of Christianity, why would we suddenly stop talking about the essentials of our faith? It’s not only hypocritical, it’s confusing and awkward for those genuinely seeking answers.

There are ways to teach from the Bible and talk about Jesus, the gospel, and the Christian faith that are down to earth, unassuming, easily understood, and even practical for both believers and unbelievers so that all feel welcome and engaged. All of NPM’s pastors/speakers do a phenomenal job with this.

So our church services are for guests and strangers and for the family of believers to welcome everyone into our “home,” our community. In the next post I will describe what this foyer environment seeks to accomplish.

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What Role Does the Church Service Play in Our Ultimate Mission?

If you’ve read any of my blog posts, you have probably heard me say something about my introversion. There’s a fantastic book called “Introverts in the Church” by Adam McHugh, and he has a blog where he and others write about introversion and how it relates to faith and Christian community. It’s great. And by reading it from time to time, I’ve found other blogging introverts who write about the things I wish I had the energy and clarity of mind to write about. They’re amazing. And I wish they lived in Atlanta. At least they’re on Twitter. 😉

One of these introverted bloggers wrote a post asking the following related questions:

Who are church services for?
What are church services supposed to accomplish?

Here is my answer:

My husband and I talk about these issues regularly, and our passion regarding this is what led us to attend our current church because it answers these questions SO CLEARLY. However, not everyone agrees that the answer our church gives is the “right” or “correct” answer. We wouldn’t say it’s “correct” either because I don’t think God defines “church services” in the Bible (especially not Sunday morning gatherings).

Whether a church answers differently than ours or not, I think it is important to have an answer! Our time on earth is fleeting and precious, and it makes me incredibly sad that so many people use up a whole morning every Sunday not knowing what the purpose of those hours are. Another way to phrase these questions would be:

What role does the church service play in your church’s ultimate mission?

I would like to share in some detail how our church answers these questions. To preserve everyone’s sanity, I am going to divide it into a few posts addressing the following:

Part 1: Who are church services for at our church?
Part 2: What is our church service supposed to accomplish?
Part 3: Thoughts on being the church 7 days a week

Do you know the mission of your church? Do you know what role the church service plays in that mission?

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Humility to Make A Difference

I’m not a very opinionated person. But the opinions I do hold, I hold very strongly. I like to think this is because they are the types of things that matter to God. I’m sure this is true in some instances and not others.

One of these convictions is the importance of relationships and love — with God and people. Jesus told us the two greatest commands that sum up all the law and the prophets: love the Lord your God and love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37-40). If we could figure out what this really means and how to live it out, I think we would be surprised at how marvelous this life can be.

I feel like I have helpful things to say about things that matter, and I’m an extreme introvert. So the best way I know to communicate is through writing, not speaking. Over the past few months I have pondered various ways of communicating important truths — children’s stories, video games, iPad apps, blog posts, guest blog posts, short accessible books. And yet I have written next to nothing.

Despite this desire to share these truths, I’ve felt little motivation and energy to write despite having been a rather devoted writer in the past. I have, also, felt an internal struggle between the need to express these thoughts and to engage in community. These two are obviously not inherently at odds, but by nature of my personal limitations at the moment, they seem to be. I’m an extreme introvert, which is not enough alone to keep me from social engagement, but 4 years ago I seem to have developed a hypersensitivity to stress which causes chronic headaches and migraines. Whenever I am socially engaged for an extended length of time, I get a migraine. And so I have felt this tug-of-war in my heart between my desires to write and desires to engage with people that I might grow in love.

But last night, I had a revelation.

I thought of a rather ingenious idea for a children’s book iPad app. It turns out someone else had thought of and released a similar app only last month (cue: implementation is worth a gazillion times more than an idea!). It’s a book where the child gets to make an avatar of himself, and he is a character in the story. I would like to see the stories take the attention off of the child so he would learn the story isn’t always about him… maybe I will suggest that to them. It’s called Book of Me, if anyone wants to check it out. They did a really great job with it, and it sounds like kids love it. As I had thought they would. Anyway… getting off track.

It would have been easy to be frustrated or upset that someone else had already taken this incredible idea I just had, especially because I’m sure it will be really successful. But I had to be realistic about it. I’m not an artist. And the main attraction of children’s books is the pictures. My ideas for how to use that kind of book might be great, but God does not seem to have placed me in a position to do that work.

And then I’m not even sure how it hit me except that maybe I saw how futile everything I was trying to do was. I remembered Andy Stanley’s message this Sunday: we’re not here to make a point; we’re here to make a difference.

I’ve been trying to make a point. In the midst of my desire to communicate about the importance of relationships and community and love, God has shown me that it is more important to practice and grow in these than it is to write about them. Usually it is much more difficult to make a difference than it is to make a point, but I think God has been gracious to me in making my writing difficult lately so that I could learn this lesson.

The summer I was researching humility, God seemed to turn that entire season into an object lesson in humility. Physically, emotionally, spiritually, I was a helpless, humiliated mess and came to really know and understand Christ’s covering of grace over me in ways I never would have been able to experience without being taken to that place of helplessness. I learned that being a street sweeper (or in my specific case, living with my parents jobless, then a church secretary and now a homemaker *without* children) was just as honorable and dignified in God’s kingdom as being a Ph.D.

Once again I’m having to learn that in order to live my life well, it needs to look a lot smaller than I expect. Instead of writing a blog or a book that might reach dozens or hundreds or thousands of people, I need to write letters and emails and cards to a handful of people who are in my life right now. I need to learn how to love and be part of a community using the unique gifts and design God has given me. I need humility to make a difference where I am. I need humility to fulfill the highest calling — to love God and to love the people in my life.

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Dreams of Humility

The Twilight Saga began with a dream. Did you know that? As an aspiring writer, I began paying closer attention to my dreams after reading this bit of trivia. So far my writing aspirations have been all over the board from fantasy fiction to video game story lines to devotionals to spiritual growth books. As you can imagine, most of my dreams seemed to favor the fantasy and video game veins. Unfortunately, those both seem very overwhelming genres to tackle.

Last night’s dream seemed to have more potential. I ran into some friends from my grad school days, and they told me a bit about the humility scale they just finished (they actually did just do this). I was kind of appalled at what they had done with it. (My thesis was going to be creating this scale.) In reality, I’m sure they did a fantastic job with it, and while they may have gone a different direction than I would have, the fact is they finished it. I’m not sure I ever would have, lol. And finishing something is worth a whole lot more than having an idea. I am learning this hard truth 0:-)

But when I woke up, it got me started thinking about humility again. I thought about the fact that there a lot of good reasons to be humble despite it being so contrary to our nature. God calls us to be humble; He gives grace to the humble but opposes the proud. Humility assists in many other desirable traits such as patience, joy, peace, forgiveness, and, probably my favorite, love. And yet we can’t seem to figure out how to simply and practically describe what humility is.

I’ve read a lot about humility. I spent a great deal of time researching and reading about this virtue, and I feel very strongly that if we could just get a grasp on what it is and how we can practically live it out, it would make a world of difference in our lives. We all know what it looks like to be patient and kind and loving, and we all can point to an instance when we have engaged in these acts. But what about humility. If God commands us to be humble, why don’t we know how to do it or what it looks like? Why do we insist on silly statements like, “The moment you think you’re being humble, you’re not.” This isn’t helpful.

I want to write something helpful. I think there is something helpful to be said about humility. I think humility is something that we *can* see in ourselves and others and something we can choose to do. We can humble ourselves. And God asks us to.

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