Pondering…

1208792_81039391So many of us who are interested or concerned with ecclesiology, church growth and evangelism would spend time listening intently to the latest podcast or reading the latest book on the subject.

You hear of ‘seeker-friendly’, purpose-driven, organic church, simple church, multi-site church and ‘fresh expressions’. Some are ‘old hat’, some are relatively new, some are sensible, some are inventive and some are just plain intentionally provocative. Still – they all seem to have a genuine desire to connect with those who need to hear the Good News.

I heard someone quote Craig Groeschell (I like LC wonderful generosity and what they have done with the best Christian app on Itunes) who said something like this: ‘to reach people no one else is reaching you need to do things no one else is doing.’

And the speaker challenged those who were listening to make whatever changes in their church service and ministries in order to reach people.

I hope I am not over-reacting or being defensive. I am not averse to change but I am nauseated by the current church obsession with change.

I wondered whether that’s why we get it wrong: mixing-up what church gatherings should be (koinonia, ecclesia) with what outreach should be.

A couple of questions to ponder over (while musing over Acts & the Epistles):

  • Were the Early Church gatherings primarily for ‘insiders’ or ‘outsiders’?
  • Is mission/outreach/witnessing a Church task or a personal one?

Think of me (Me?)

I first heard Francis Chan speaking on one of the Passion sessions and loved his orthodoxy as well a his enthusiasm as a communicator. Finding more about FC and Cornerstone (the church he leads in California, Simi Cornerstone) I found a radical building project/approach to missions. Here is a video that explains a bit about it : i.e. the decision not to throw tens of millions of dollars at a new building.

A compelling story to say the least, and if you click onthe link to their facility site, it’s a beautiful community concept as well.

The story is that his church was on track to spend 20 million dollars to build a new building.  What happened, and I don’t know how, was that the decision was made to build an outdoor meeting place instead.  Much cheaper.  Much much cheaper.  And the money that was saved would then go to the truly poor around the world.  And, the story goes, meeting outside on rainy days or hot days would serve to remind folks in the church of the discomfort others live in every day.

Spend less.  Create empathy.  Mobilize to show mercy.  Sounds like church to me.

He told this story at the National Worship Leader Conference.  He said that he told them it was repulsive to spend that much money on themselves, and he could never pastor such a group of people.  He said that he, as a pastor, would be responsible for that before God.

He suggested that every time an offering was taken that it was divided equally – half spent on their church, half spent on others outside the church.  This is the only way Christians can claim that they love their neighbor as much as themselves.

He said that if we really believe Jesus is starving (cf. Matt 25), then we can’t sit back and let that happen and expect to call ourselves Christians.

So, he told the elders it was repulsive to spend that kind of money on themselves when Jesus was starving on the other side of the world.  He suggested building a park with an amphitheater that the community could use and they could hold services in – and would cost less money; the rest could be given away.  When one asked about the weather, Chan reminded them of the Green Bay Packers fans who sit through a blizzard for the season every year.  Packers fans are that dedicated for the team; are Christians that dedicated to sit outside in Southern California weather so that Jesus, who is starving on the other side of the world, can be fed?

Here is what they say:

On a practical level, Cornerstone has been unable to grow numerically for the past seven years. This is due to lack of space. While many would be content to keep our church at the current size, our mission statement reads that we seek to reach “every individual” in our community.

The obvious solution would be to buy more property and build a bigger building. However, this would require spending an amount of money that none of the leaders feel peace about spending. This lack of peace primarily springs from a desire to give more to the poor who are suffering around the world.

The idea of building an outdoor sanctuary rather than an auditorium sprung from a desire to save millions of dollars.  It came from a belief that God would rather we spend that money in other ways. It comes from a thought that God would receive more glory from seeing His children sacrifice for others – namely, those around the world who lack basic necessities. The idea then evolved into developing the property into more of a park-like setting that could be enjoyed by the church and community throughout the week. In this way, we would be giving to our community as well as to the needy around the world.

In reality, this is about more than a building. The park/amphitheater is an expression of a mindset. It represents a group of people who are willing to sacrifice their own comforts in order to better care for others. The following are not just reasons to build inexpensively, but they are the reasons why Cornerstone strives to be a “giving” church.

1. We love the poor: People around the world desperately need aid (Romans 12:13).                                                                     2. We love Jesus: He says that He is the One suffering (Matthew 25:35-36).
3. It’s best for us: We’ll be more joyful if we give rather than receive (Acts 20:35).
4. It affects unbelievers: They are impacted when they see good works (Matthew 5:16).
5. It models Christ: Laying down our lives is how we imitate Christ (1 John 3:16-17).
6. We gain eternal rewards: God rewards those who care for the poor (Matthew 9:21).

Blind Spots

Here is a very thoughtful article from Leadership magazine – highlighting an issue that can easily be neglected. Of course there are extremes on the ‘other side’ too. Many of us can be extremely uncomfortable with the facilities that some of the US mega-churches have ploughed money in. Yet still, first impressions count for a lot and we ought to be good stewards of the resources God has entrusted us with.

My daughter was reaching out to Daddy. What a joy to see our nine-month-old longing for me from the arms of the nursery worker following our mid-week service. Hannah was being gently rocked by the wife of one of our elders, but it was clear she wanted down. I thanked the woman for watching our daughter while I led a prayer group and my wife taught some of the older children. She assured me that she held Hannah the entire time, except when Hannah was sleeping in one of the stacked cribs. While I appreciated her diligence, I let her know that Hannah enjoyed crawling.

“I’m not comfortable with her crawling on this floor,” the worker replied.

The floor was carpeted and vacuumed regularly, so I asked why. With a look that conveyed a terrible secret, she confessed, “The carpet may look clean, but it’s laid on a wood floor that was built on top of the original tile floor because we have a water problem. I’m sure you smell the mustiness.”

I acknowledged the damp smell. She continued, “I don’t want to get anyone in trouble, but look at the wallpaper.” She pointed out some dark spots that crept up from below the carpet level. “I don’t let any babies crawl on this floor.”

About that time my wife joined us in the nursery. When I showed her the marks on the wallpaper, she said she knew about them and also tried to keep little ones off the floor. The elder’s wife explained that they had moved the nursery downstairs to create a church office upstairs. Since water often leaked in that corner of the basement, they built the wood floor to allow for carpet on the floor of the new nursery.

On the way home, I asked my wife why she didn’t tell me about her concerns sooner. With the look of a supportive spouse, she gently responded: “We’ve been here less than a year, and I know you have several other areas of ministry that need changing first. Since Hannah is the most consistent baby in the nursery, it will look self-serving if you try to change something they just built the year before we arrived.”

Ouch. Talk about feeling convicted. And clueless.

I realized changing the nursery was not just a facility issue, but really a ministry issue. I’d heard the clichéd facility priority list—take care of the nursery and the women’s restroom above everything else. But in this case, I felt the issue personally. Though I overcame my guilt—thanks to a supportive wife—I intensified my zeal to address the nursery issue.

With a nursery that smelled musty and had mold marks on the walls, we were sending a terrible message to visitors: “Your babies may not be safe here, and we aren’t doing anything about it.”

Why did I miss this clear message? I love my children. I look out for their best interests. I had a child in the nursery. So why did I miss something that should have been so clear?

As I reflect back on that situation, I realize several issues commonly cloud our perspective of our facilities. Now as I work with a church architect, I find myself working with pastors to pull back those clouding issues to understand the messages our facilities send.

When facility issues are ministry issues

The first clouding factor is determining what facility issues are indeed ministry issues. Many views exist on this. At the two ends of the spectrum are quality and humility, each of which can be supported biblically.

Proponents of quality suggest that God deserves the best of everything. The quality of the Temple, tabernacle, and worship elements provide our example for highest quality in our church buildings.

Those who espouse humility point out the vitality of worship by Christians through the centuries and around the world that meet in crude structures—if any at all. Since we are greatly blessed with any facility compared to other Christian cultures, we should limit effort and expense on our facilities.

Both positions reflect some truth.

Given the location of our church, there were basic community standards that people expect to be met. And basic cleanliness and freedom from molds in the nursery were certainly community standards. At that time, the news reported accounts of children dying due to exposure to the mold Stachybotrys. Were we possibly endangering our children?

Calls to several environmental services taught me more about molds than I ever imagined! I reasoned that if I could prove that we had Stachybotrys, then everyone would have to agree to remodeling or moving the nursery. However, several different molds resembled Stachybotrys, so we could only be sure through a costly environmental analysis. Trying to limit expense for our congregation that was stretched financially, I initially kept probing for other options to verify if we had a potentially deadly mold.

Then one environmental expert asked me, “If this is for a church nursery, are there really any molds that would be acceptable—whether they are deadly or not?”

His question brought clarity to a situation I’d been cluttering with irrelevant detail. In our community, there should be no molds on any nursery walls. It is a clear ministry issue to remove health hazards for our children.

Duh!

Why had I been slow to grasp something that should have been so clear? Because of a second clouding issue.

How many “chips” it will cost?

It isn’t a very spiritual analogy, but I’ve never forgotten a Leadership article by Leith Anderson that compares pastoral credibility and influence to winning and losing chips at a poker game. His point: you need to know your current chip count before spending your leadership stake on activities that may cost more chips than you’ve got. I realized there was wisdom in that article.

Since I’d only been at the church for a year, I was still assessing my chip count. I assumed that I would lose chips by pushing a nursery renovation, and I thought I needed to save my chips for other new initiatives. But when the environmental expert asked whether any mold was acceptable in a church nursery, this clouding issue disappeared.

I realized I could move “all in” because no one can rationally defend allowing any molds around infants. In fact, identifying such a readily solved problem could actually gain chips.

We proceeded to move the nursery back upstairs near the sanctuary where it made much more sense for young families. The office moved downstairs to another space. In the room with the mold problem, we tore out the carpet, wood floor, and moldy drywall. A special paint coating and new tile floor provided a space that could get wet if we experienced leaks. We also addressed the cause of the water leaks as best we could.

I think I actually gained chips through the process. With a reasonable presentation of the case, everyone was on board with the changes.

This prompted me to lead the renovation of the next clichéd priority space—the women’s restroom. Since it was also in the basement, guess what kept appearing on the walls? Black molds. Since we’d already dealt with mold issues, I reasoned that similar reasoning for renovating the women’s restroom would be welcomed by all.

Wrong again. Because of a third clouding issue.

Conditions that have become “normal”

We become easily attached to what we’ve grown accustomed to over time. When we enter a space for the first time, we notice the abnormalities. But as we grow accustomed to our own spaces, we quickly lose objectivity—and those abnormalities disappear from our minds. That’s why it’s easier for guests to recognize faded wallpaper than for most residents.

Renovating the women’s restroom was more complicated than I realized. Repeated efforts in the past to paint the block wall surfaces were only a temporary solution as the molds kept reappearing. We hired a couple of contractors to perform specialized tasks: sealing the walls, floor, and ceiling to keep the molds from reappearing. As a result the project cost more money than the nursery changes. But the fixtures, colors, and finishes produced a room everyone would appreciate.

Well, almost everyone.

Following the project, one woman sat in my office complaining about the money spent on the women’s restroom renovation. Her judgment was clouded by the first issue—she couldn’t discern that this facility issue was a ministry issue. She tried to appeal to the humility position—that we had wonderful facilities compared to a Third World country. Why did we spend so much money on the renovation?

“We could have sent the money to our missionaries,” she said, playing the humility trump card. She only shook her head when I countered that sending the money to missionaries in the “uttermost parts of the world” is important, but we also need to invest in areas that help us reach our own “Jerusalem.”

I reasoned that moldy walls are as unacceptable to the women’s restroom as the nursery. So I reminded her of the molds on the restroom walls and also some of the stall partitions.

“I don’t know, it kind of had a homey feel to it,” she responded. I ended the conversation as graciously as I could.

When I told my wife that comment, she was stunned and countered, “Well, not our home.” Today we laugh recalling this event. But it clearly illustrates how clouded people’s judgment can become. What we overlook, we learn to accept. What we accept, we eventually become attached to. And what we become attached to, we resist changing—even unclean or unsanitary conditions.

This situation taught me that there will always be resistance to change, no matter how well prayed for and planned. Realizing this fact gave me renewed energy to address a full sanctuary renovation—a project I always knew would meet some resistance. But we made it through that project as well to enjoy a renovated facility—a facility I believe pleases God.

Any facility change will meet resistance. Since none of us likes resistance, we can become tentative about the facility changes that are truly necessary for healthy ministry. But getting past the blind spots and pulling back the layers of clouding issues can provide us with clearer vision to see what God wants our facilities to be.

Fresh Eyes for a Clearer view

A congregation on Chicago’s North Shore area built a new worship center two decades ago. When they called a new pastor two years ago, he was shocked to find steep steps leading from the entry area to the worship center. He called them “the climbing wall.”

But recently when I visited the church and commented on the steps, he said that he had gotten used to them and had forgotten how imposing and intimidating they appeared to him as a newcomer.

In a short amount of time, we can lose our ability to see our facilities as a newcomer sees them. We lose our objectivity in evaluating facility issues.

Here are a few ways to look at your building with clear eyes.

Recall your first days at the church. When you first visited the church, your objectivity was fresh. Think back to your first impressions.

Ask your spouse. Men and women notice different things. My wife knew all about the mold issue in the nursery long before I noticed it.

Read past prayer or planning journals. If you journal, skim through past entries. You may have jotted down facility issues you wanted to address—but have forgotten. Reading past records may jog many helpful recollections.

Prayerfully walk around the building by yourself. The church building seems a much different place when no one else is there. The quiet moments in prayerful reflection may enable the Holy Spirit to open your eyes to an entirely new idea.

“Visit” the church with a friend who’s never been there. A true visitor to the church will have a completely fresh perspective. Also, asking a non-Christian for his perspective may open your eyes to the facilities—and Lord willing, his eyes to the gospel.

—JR

Jim Rodgers is a church leadership servant/project manager for Wildesign Group “Ministry First” Architects in Crystal Lake, Illinois.

Blind Spots


Here is a very thoughtful article from Leadership magazine – highlighting an issue that can easily be neglected. Of course there are extremes on the ‘other side’ too. Many of us can be extremely uncomfortable with the facilities that some of the US mega-churches have ploughed money in. Yet still, first impressions count for a lot and we ought to be good stewards of the resources God has entrusted us with

My daughter was reaching out to Daddy. What a joy to see our nine-month-old longing for me from the arms of the nursery worker following our mid-week service. Hannah was being gently rocked by the wife of one of our elders, but it was clear she wanted down. I thanked the woman for watching our daughter while I led a prayer group and my wife taught some of the older children. She assured me that she held Hannah the entire time, except when Hannah was sleeping in one of the stacked cribs. While I appreciated her diligence, I let her know that Hannah enjoyed crawling.

“I’m not comfortable with her crawling on this floor,” the worker replied.

The floor was carpeted and vacuumed regularly, so I asked why. With a look that conveyed a terrible secret, she confessed, “The carpet may look clean, but it’s laid on a wood floor that was built on top of the original tile floor because we have a water problem. I’m sure you smell the mustiness.”

I acknowledged the damp smell. She continued, “I don’t want to get anyone in trouble, but look at the wallpaper.” She pointed out some dark spots that crept up from below the carpet level. “I don’t let any babies crawl on this floor.”

About that time my wife joined us in the nursery. When I showed her the marks on the wallpaper, she said she knew about them and also tried to keep little ones off the floor. The elder’s wife explained that they had moved the nursery downstairs to create a church office upstairs. Since water often leaked in that corner of the basement, they built the wood floor to allow for carpet on the floor of the new nursery.

On the way home, I asked my wife why she didn’t tell me about her concerns sooner. With the look of a supportive spouse, she gently responded: “We’ve been here less than a year, and I know you have several other areas of ministry that need changing first. Since Hannah is the most consistent baby in the nursery, it will look self-serving if you try to change something they just built the year before we arrived.”

Ouch. Talk about feeling convicted. And clueless.

I realized changing the nursery was not just a facility issue, but really a ministry issue. I’d heard the clichéd facility priority list—take care of the nursery and the women’s restroom above everything else. But in this case, I felt the issue personally. Though I overcame my guilt—thanks to a supportive wife—I intensified my zeal to address the nursery issue.

With a nursery that smelled musty and had mold marks on the walls, we were sending a terrible message to visitors: “Your babies may not be safe here, and we aren’t doing anything about it.”

Why did I miss this clear message? I love my children. I look out for their best interests. I had a child in the nursery. So why did I miss something that should have been so clear?

As I reflect back on that situation, I realize several issues commonly cloud our perspective of our facilities. Now as I work with a church architect, I find myself working with pastors to pull back those clouding issues to understand the messages our facilities send.

When facility issues are ministry issues

The first clouding factor is determining what facility issues are indeed ministry issues. Many views exist on this. At the two ends of the spectrum are quality and humility, each of which can be supported biblically.

Proponents of quality suggest that God deserves the best of everything. The quality of the Temple, tabernacle, and worship elements provide our example for highest quality in our church buildings.

Jim Rodgers is a church leadership servant/project manager for Wildesign Group “Ministry First” Architects in Crystal Lake, Illinois.

Those who espouse humility point out the vitality of worship by Christians through the centuries and around the world that meet in crude structures—if any at all. Since we are greatly blessed with any facility compared to other Christian cultures, we should limit effort and expense on our facilities.

Both positions reflect some truth.

Given the location of our church, there were basic community standards that people expect to be met. And basic cleanliness and freedom from molds in the nursery were certainly community standards. At that time, the news reported accounts of children dying due to exposure to the mold Stachybotrys. Were we possibly endangering our children?

Calls to several environmental services taught me more about molds than I ever imagined! I reasoned that if I could prove that we had Stachybotrys, then everyone would have to agree to remodeling or moving the nursery. However, several different molds resembled Stachybotrys, so we could only be sure through a costly environmental analysis. Trying to limit expense for our congregation that was stretched financially, I initially kept probing for other options to verify if we had a potentially deadly mold.

Then one environmental expert asked me, “If this is for a church nursery, are there really any molds that would be acceptable—whether they are deadly or not?”

His question brought clarity to a situation I’d been cluttering with irrelevant detail. In our community, there should be no molds on any nursery walls. It is a clear ministry issue to remove health hazards for our children.

Duh!

Why had I been slow to grasp something that should have been so clear? Because of a second clouding issue.

How many “chips” it will cost?

It isn’t a very spiritual analogy, but I’ve never forgotten a Leadership article by Leith Anderson that compares pastoral credibility and influence to winning and losing chips at a poker game. His point: you need to know your current chip count before spending your leadership stake on activities that may cost more chips than you’ve got. I realized there was wisdom in that article.

Since I’d only been at the church for a year, I was still assessing my chip count. I assumed that I would lose chips by pushing a nursery renovation, and I thought I needed to save my chips for other new initiatives. But when the environmental expert asked whether any mold was acceptable in a church nursery, this clouding issue disappeared.

I realized I could move “all in” because no one can rationally defend allowing any molds around infants. In fact, identifying such a readily solved problem could actually gain chips.

We proceeded to move the nursery back upstairs near the sanctuary where it made much more sense for young families. The office moved downstairs to another space. In the room with the mold problem, we tore out the carpet, wood floor, and moldy drywall. A special paint coating and new tile floor provided a space that could get wet if we experienced leaks. We also addressed the cause of the water leaks as best we could.

I think I actually gained chips through the process. With a reasonable presentation of the case, everyone was on board with the changes.

This prompted me to lead the renovation of the next clichéd priority space—the women’s restroom. Since it was also in the basement, guess what kept appearing on the walls? Black molds. Since we’d already dealt with mold issues, I reasoned that similar reasoning for renovating the women’s restroom would be welcomed by all.

Wrong again. Because of a third clouding issue.

Conditions that have become “normal”

We become easily attached to what we’ve grown accustomed to over time. When we enter a space for the first time, we notice the abnormalities. But as we grow accustomed to our own spaces, we quickly lose objectivity—and those abnormalities disappear from our minds. That’s why it’s easier for guests to recognize faded wallpaper than for most residents.

Renovating the women’s restroom was more complicated than I realized. Repeated efforts in the past to paint the block wall surfaces were only a temporary solution as the molds kept reappearing. We hired a couple of contractors to perform specialized tasks: sealing the walls, floor, and ceiling to keep the molds from reappearing. As a result the project cost more money than the nursery changes. But the fixtures, colors, and finishes produced a room everyone would appreciate.

Well, almost everyone.

Following the project, one woman sat in my office complaining about the money spent on the women’s restroom renovation. Her judgment was clouded by the first issue—she couldn’t discern that this facility issue was a ministry issue. She tried to appeal to the humility position—that we had wonderful facilities compared to a Third World country. Why did we spend so much money on the renovation?

“We could have sent the money to our missionaries,” she said, playing the humility trump card. She only shook her head when I countered that sending the money to missionaries in the “uttermost parts of the world” is important, but we also need to invest in areas that help us reach our own “Jerusalem.”

I reasoned that moldy walls are as unacceptable to the women’s restroom as the nursery. So I reminded her of the molds on the restroom walls and also some of the stall partitions.

“I don’t know, it kind of had a homey feel to it,” she responded. I ended the conversation as graciously as I could.

When I told my wife that comment, she was stunned and countered, “Well, not our home.” Today we laugh recalling this event. But it clearly illustrates how clouded people’s judgment can become. What we overlook, we learn to accept. What we accept, we eventually become attached to. And what we become attached to, we resist changing—even unclean or unsanitary conditions.

This situation taught me that there will always be resistance to change, no matter how well prayed for and planned. Realizing this fact gave me renewed energy to address a full sanctuary renovation—a project I always knew would meet some resistance. But we made it through that project as well to enjoy a renovated facility—a facility I believe pleases God.

Any facility change will meet resistance. Since none of us likes resistance, we can become tentative about the facility changes that are truly necessary for healthy ministry. But getting past the blind spots and pulling back the layers of clouding issues can provide us with clearer vision to see what God wants our facilities to be.

Fresh Eyes for a Clearer view

A congregation on Chicago’s North Shore area built a new worship center two decades ago. When they called a new pastor two years ago, he was shocked to find steep steps leading from the entry area to the worship center. He called them “the climbing wall.”

But recently when I visited the church and commented on the steps, he said that he had gotten used to them and had forgotten how imposing and intimidating they appeared to him as a newcomer.

In a short amount of time, we can lose our ability to see our facilities as a newcomer sees them. We lose our objectivity in evaluating facility issues.

Here are a few ways to look at your building with clear eyes.

Recall your first days at the church. When you first visited the church, your objectivity was fresh. Think back to your first impressions.

Ask your spouse. Men and women notice different things. My wife knew all about the mold issue in the nursery long before I noticed it.

Read past prayer or planning journals. If you journal, skim through past entries. You may have jotted down facility issues you wanted to address—but have forgotten. Reading past records may jog many helpful recollections.

Prayerfully walk around the building by yourself. The church building seems a much different place when no one else is there. The quiet moments in prayerful reflection may enable the Holy Spirit to open your eyes to an entirely new idea.

“Visit” the church with a friend who’s never been there. A true visitor to the church will have a completely fresh perspective. Also, asking a non-Christian for his perspective may open your eyes to the facilities—and Lord willing, his eyes to the gospel..

FLASHFORWARD: Destination

TEXT: John 14:2-3


MAIN IDEAS

  1. Don’t get discouraged
  2. Don’t get comfortable


PRACTICAL

  • Get excited about it
  • Study the map
  • Tell others about it
  • A new theology – vis-à-vis suffering
  • A new lifestyle – simplicity
  • Ask questions – ‘in the light of heaven…’


    EXTRAS

    ‘If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next … Aim at heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in’: aim at earth and you will get neither.’ C. S. Lewis

    ‘I place no value on anything I have or may possess, except in relation to the kingdom of God. If anything will advance the interests of the kingdom, it shall be given away or kept, only as by giving or keeping it I shall most promote the glory of Him to whom I owe all my hopes in time or eternity.’ D. Livingstone


    Daily Prayer

    Come Thou fount of every blessing
    Tune my heart to sing Thy grace
    Streams of mercy never ceasing
    Call for songs of loudest praise
    Teach me some melodious sonnet
    Sung by flaming tongues above
    I’ll praise the mount I’m fixed upon it
    Mount of Thy redeeming love

    Here I raise my Ebenezer
    Hither by Thy help I come
    And I hope by Thy good pleasure
    Safely to arrive at home
    Jesus sought me when a stranger
    Wondering from the fold of God
    He, to rescue me from danger
    Interposed His precious blood

    O to grace how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be!
    Let Thy goodness like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to Thee
    Prone to wander Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love
    Here’s my heart Lord, take and seal it, seal it for Thy courts above

    What fabulous words from a timeless hymn. After being converted at the age of  23, Robert Robinson penned this just 3 years later. He first listened to George Whitfield at the age of 17 and he message haunted him for years.

    Such words drip with honesty and deep yearning for a daily awareness of His great grace. Oh that He may bind our wandering hearts – even today – to Himself! Oh that we would live with a longing and anticipation for that day when we stand in His courts!


    Leadership Top 10 from a 'sage'

    Chuck Swindoll, accepting a Lifetime Achievement Award at Catalyst 09, offered the following lessons he has learned:

    1. It’s lonely to lead. Leadership involves tough decisions. The tougher the decision, the lonelier it is.

    2. It’s dangerous to succeed. I’m most concerned for those who aren’t even 30 and are very gifted and successful. Sometimes God uses someone right out of youth, but usually he uses leaders who have been crushed.

    3. It’s hardest at home. No one ever told me this in Seminary.

    4. It’s essential to be real. If there’s one realm where phoniness is common, it’s among leaders. Stay real.

    5. It’s painful to obey. The Lord will direct you to do some things that won’t be your choice. Invariably you will give up what you want to do for the cross.

    6. Brokenness and failure are necessary.

    7. Attitude is more important than actions. Your family may not have told you: some of you are hard to be around. A bad attitude overshadows good actions.

    8. Integrity eclipses image. Today we highlight image. But it’s what you’re doing behind the scenes.

    9. God’s way is better than my way.

    10. Christlikeness begins and ends with humility.

    Some of the observations are more eye-catching than others imho. My highlights:

    3. It’s hardest at home.- this is a classic. ‘Home’ is where we let our guard down, it is where we become familiar and contempt creeps in. It is the place where we are not the ‘superstars’ others wrongly perceive us to be.

    7. Attitude is more important than actions – at times in a very competitive environment like the ‘church scene’ we seem to believe that the destination (success) is justified by any method.  Jesus displayed this through the emphasis on the right attitude – it isn’t just what we do but how we do it.

    8. Integrity eclipses image. Today we highlight image. But it’s what you’re doing behind the scenes. This is my favourite from all 10. We must never forget to invest more than anything in our character, in what isn’t always visible, in who we are when the spotlights and the stage are not set. Image changes quicker than we can imagine. Character investment will never leave us bankrupt.

    10. Christlikeness begins and ends with humility – the bedrock of any leaders’ life displayed through our thoughts words and actions.

    ELIJAH: Breakthrough

    TEXT: 1 Kings 18:41-46

    MAIN IDEAS

    1. Declaration: God Promises
    2. Determination: God Chooses
    3. Demonstration: God Acts

    PRACTICAL

    • Know God’s promises – read His word with discernment
    • Choose to trust Truth vs. feelings
    • Pray with humility & perseverance
    • Live with a trustful expectation in God’s power

    EXTRAS

    ‘God’s faithfulness means that God will always do what He said and fulfill what He has promised.’ Wayne Grudem

    ‘God never made a promise that was too good to be true.’       D.L. Moody

    ELIJAH: Showdown

    TEXT: 1 Kings 18:20-39


    MAIN POINTS

    • God desires your heart
    • God displays His power


    REMEMBER

    • Idols are for ‘losers’ – they will not ‘deliver’
    • Idol – gives you significance meaning apart form God alone
    • Remember who you are – identity in Christ
    • Rebuild the altar – make a choice

    EXTRA

    In The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, author J. R. R. Tolkien portrays the classic conflict between good and evil set in a mythical land called Middle Earth. After a great battle in ancient times, the Dark Lord Sauron was temporarily defeated and his most dreaded weapon, the Ring of Power, was lost for many ages. A Hobbit from the Shire named Bilbo Baggins finds the ring and, unaware of its true identity, passes it on to his nephew, Frodo, as part of an inheritance. Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood), the hero, is full of humility and uncertainty as he embarks on an epic quest to destroy the Dark Lord’s most powerful tool—the Ring. In one scene, Bilbo converses with his wise and trusted friend Gandalf about departing on a long journey and leaving his inheritance behind for Frodo. The Ring is part of that inheritance, and ever so subtly the Ring begins to exert itself on Biblo, as it does with everyone who comes near it. As Gandalf encourages Bilbo to leave behind the Ring, Bilbo grasps it and clamors, “It’s mine! My own! My precious. What business is it of yours what I do with my own affairs?” Bilbo casts a suspicious eye on Gandalf and accuses, “You want it for yourself!” Firmly, Gandalf responds, “Bilbo Baggins, do not take me for some conjurer of cheap tricks. I’m not trying to rob you. I am trying to help you. All your long years we’ve been friends. Trust me, as you once did. Let it go.” Gradually Bilbo’s defiance fades, and he embraces Gandalf, saying, “You’re right Gandalf, the Ring must go.”