Category: General (page 2 of 13)

Why Live Streaming Makes Sense

For the past year or so, we have live streamed our Sunday services to people in over 90 countries. Anyone can watch the entire gathering from their laptop, phone or tablet anywhere in the world where there is adequate internet access. The technology has advanced super fast in the past few years, making it easier for churches of every size to take advantage for several good reasons.

1. People who are sick at home get to join us in worship. People who are caregivers and those with chronic illnesses can quickly feel isolated from their church families, but this allows church to literally come to them at a time when they really need encouragement.

2. Our members who are deployed in the military watch from bases worldwide.  We are a military town and we stay connected with them with live streaming. One soldier in Afghanistan told me recently his entire unit crowds around the laptop to worship with us live each week.

3. People “check us out” online before actually attending. Numerous guests have told me they were curious about our church and wanted to watch the service online to get to know us, and to see if we handled snakes. We don’t, by the way.

There are some challenges, for sure. The sound can be sub-par, so your worship team may complain a bit and some people will use the online streaming as a lazy excuse to stay home.  Don’t let either reason keep you from reaching more people with technology that takes your worship gatherings around the world at very little cost.

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Sons and Daughters Now Available

Just a few weeks ago, I released my newest book, entitled Sons and Daughters. It is a collection of stories from my family and from friends that I have met over the past decade. The book attempts to answer three very important questions that each of us must answer:

1. Is God a father?

2. Does God really want to adopt us into his family?

3. If the answers to the first two question are yes, how will this change the way I live with others?

This book is one of my core life messages and I really hope you will take the time to read it. The book is great for all ages, but I especially believe young couples, high school and college students will find the message of sonship really compelling. The ideas in the book will help us be better parents, better spouses and better friends.

You can order it right now by clicking here or pick it up at any bookstore, including the bookstore at New Life Church. I sure hope Sons and Daughters encourages and strengthens you.

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My NFL Guest Experience

I went to a Denver Broncos game with some friends this past weekend and had a great time cheering for the home team. We arrived about two hours early, paid $10 to park in a lot that almost two miles from the stadium and navigated our way with a throng through a circuitous route lined with souvenir vendors and potholes.

Once I arrived at the main gate, a security team waved a wand around me looking for hidden weapons, scanned my ticket, but not one person smiled or greeted me warmly. There was not even free coffee or a free gift for first time visitors.

The food was pretty good, but terribly expensive. My seats were certainly not spacious but there was a cupholder, so that was nice. The music blaring overhead was a mixed bag of 70’s rock-n-roll and modern pop hits, and really loud, even for me.

Once the game began, there was tremendous unity among the fans, most of whom were dressed in identical orange apparel. At key moments, like third down plays, the entire crowd anxiously stood to their feet and no one seemed to care that things were getting a bit emotional. Everyone, it seemed, came ready to engage and participate. They really cared about the details of what was happening. People were asking questions, debating strategies and even dancing in public when the Broncos scored. It was an authentic worship experience for many.

As the 75,000 fans exited the stadium, they cheered wildly all the way back to their various remote parking lots, this time dodging storm drains and spilled food in the dark of night.  No one seemed to mind the five hour gathering, the crowds, or even the cigarette smoke billowing from the masses.

All this confirms to me that the “guest experience” at our local churches may be a bit overrated and overstated. It seems that passion for what happens at the gathering trumps any inconvenience. We all seem to give a lot of grace to the imperfections of institutions or traditions that we admire or respect.

We should be intentional about communication, super friendly, and provide worship space that is clean and comfortable. But the NFL is proof that people will overlook lots of challenges for things they believe are important.

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Sons and Daughters – Fake Trophies

My new book Sons and Daughters just released and I love the conversations that have started, especially from this chapter that I call “Fake Trophies”.

My daughter, Callie, played soccer this year on a recreational team that got “rode like a rented mule” every Saturday for four months straight. Callie is a fairly competitive kid and played well during practices and games, but not everyone shared her zest for the sport. In fact, based on empirical evidence, I can say that there were girls on her team who didn’t even know there was a ball on the field.

At the end of the season, Callie and her teammates were invited to a pizza party, along with all of the other teams in her league. The coaches made a big deal about the girls’ involvement and then proceeded to hand out trophies to each and every girl. Regardless of whether she was part of a winning team or a losing team, regardless of whether she dribbled like a pro or ever even made contact with the ball, every single player received a trophy—the same trophy as everyone else.

I think there’s a correlation here, between this ubiquitous sheltered existence and the fact that we’ve got a rash of twenty-somethings still living in their parents’ basements, with no plans to leave, no plans to achieve, and nothing but time on their hands. They were never challenged as kids, they never learned how to compete, and they’ve never been forced to recover from failure. Now they find themselves aimless and passionless and weak, while we shake our heads in disbelief.

Between the years 1940 and 1970, as a country we sent people into space, we invented computers, we created suburbia, and we revolutionized automobile technology. This was a generation that had endured a world war, had been challenged in combat, and had parents who had survived the Great Depression or had survived the Depression themselves. Competition was a celebrated part of the culture, and winning and losing mattered deeply. Heroes were honored for their victories, and grace was disbursed to the defeated. Losers learned tough lessons, and winners had to practice harder to stay on top. It was an age of innovation and persistence in the face of challenge and turmoil and angst. And every member of that generation was better for having prevailed. They understood the value of improving and overcoming. They didn’t need fake trophies to prop themselves up. Hard work was deeply honored, as opposed to mere limp participation.

This is just an excerpt from this chapter. Read the entire book and then let me know your thoughts.

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Sons and Daughters – The First Word of Every Good Prayer

 My new book Sons and Daughters releases October 9th, but I cannot wait that long, so I am sharing some excerpts here on my blog. Here is a snippet from chapter 25.

An old photograph featuring former President John F. Kennedy captures the essence of how I now view God. In it, the president is standing to the side of his desk in the Oval Office, tapping his toe and clapping as his young daughter and son jump and dance around the room. Legend has it that the shot was snapped just as the leader of the free world was in the throes of the internationally tense Cuban Missile Crisis, when Russia was trying to establish a missile base in Cuba.

 

The president and his advisers were pressed to make difficult military and diplomatic decisions, even as they shuffled myriad other world leaders in and out of the Oval Office who were seeking an audience with them. During one such meeting, the Commander in Chief heard the pitter-patter of children’s feet outside his office doors and cleared his office so he could turn his attention to Caroline and John Jr., if only for a few minutes. Telling, isn’t it, that when the weight of the world was on his shoulders, this leader still found time to enjoy his kids.

 

JFK may have been President of the United States, but to Caroline and John Jr., he was “Dad.” Those kids didn’t see their dad’s authority; all they saw was his access. President Kennedy wielded the most power of any single individual on the planet, but those closest to him knew that father was his favorite role.

 

It’s a fitting metaphor for God. He is all-powerful—and he is Abba. He is all-present—and he is Daddy. He is all-knowing—and he is Papa. “Father” is his favorite role, and he will grant us an audience, even when we’re acting like little children. Perhaps especially then. Yes, he commands our deference, but how he loves it when we dance at his feet.

 

 

 

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Our Return to the Sacred

When the early church gathered for worship, the focus was not a band or a sermon from a pastor. There was certainly singing voices and teaching Scriptures, but the climax was a celebratory meal of remembrance, an Agape Feast. The Eucharist was the reason they gathered, the center of their worship and the reason for their hope.

Then somewhere along the way, mainly in the past 50 years, a growing branch of the American evangelical church decided the Lord’s Supper could be relegated to a monthly or quarterly afterthought. No one was being heretical or insensitive, but the focus of our gathering was certainly changing. This was the tradition in which I was raised.

We have decided at New Life to bring it back to the center of our worship, to return our attention to the mystery of Christ’s body and blood. Starting this Sunday, and on most Sundays thereafter, communion will be the highlight of our gathering. We will gather to sing and I will still teach the Scriptures, but there will be a time in each gathering where we pause, pray and celebrate the sacred.

Some Sundays, we will celebrate the Lord’s Supper while we sing and on other Sundays we will respond to the teaching of the Scriptures by ending our gathering with communion. Regardless of when it happens, it will certainly be the underscore and the emphasis of our time together.

In a world where absolute truth and sound theology are under attack, I believe, for us at New Life, we are being centered again on a foundational stone and are returning to the mysteries that call us to a deeper place of worship. For us, communion is the bridge between a miraculous, resurrected past, a hopeful present and a prophetic future.

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Adrenaline vs. Holy Spirit

Our American ministry landscape is filled with strong, competent, visionary pastors and leaders who have an unending passion to build and equip the local church and subsequently the Kingdom of God. There is no shortage of ideas, dreams, plans, strategies, and innovations. What is missing or what is being missed, in some cases, is a sustainable fuel source.

It is hard for many Type A, driver personalities to distinguish between competitive adrenaline and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. Most of the leaders of “successful” ministries were once either competitive athletes or high academic achievers who were driven to succeed by sometimes overworked adrenal glands. I was doing some research on this topic for a message to pastors at our upcoming New Life Leadership Conference. Here are some of my findings:

You may be experiencing adrenal fatigue if you regularly notice one or more of the following:

  1. You feel tired for no reason.
  2. You have trouble getting up in the morning, even when you go to bed at a reasonable hour.
  3. You are feeling rundown or overwhelmed.
  4. You have difficulty bouncing back from stress or illness.
  5. You crave salty and sweet snacks.
  6. You feel more awake, alert and energetic after 6PM than you do all day.
This sounds like a lot of pastors and church leaders, doesn’t it? I wonder how many of us are running on the wrong batteries. Our bodies will simply stop working if we continue to abuse our adrenaline glands with unnecessary stress. That is a medical fact.
There is good news, though. If we will lean solely on the Holy Spirit to empower us for ministry, we can all cross the finish line with our bodies, our marriages and our families in thriving, good health.
There are some signs that point to an unhealthy dependence on adrenaline:
1. We long for the applause of the crowds and therefore we crave the attention of the stage. Can we sit in the audience and let others teach and speak without a compulsion to take over?
2. We have to be super excited about every Sunday gathering, as if it were the spiritual Super Bowl. Every. Single. Week.
3. We cannot take a day off without feeling some guilt and missing a Sunday is almost unthinkable. We really believe the church cannot survive without us being there.
Adrenaline is available in only limited quantities but the Holy Spirit is like a well that overflows and never runs dry. Let’s all take a long look at what is fueling our mission and our work. Let’s lean into the right source so we don’t run out of steam just as we head down the home stretch.
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Reflections from a Visit With Eugene Peterson

I just spent a couple of days in Montana at the home of Eugene Peterson, talking about church and our call as pastors. The conversation was filmed in his pastoral study overlooking Flathead Lake for our upcoming New Life Leadership Conference. Spending time with Pastor Eugene and his wife Jan was a real joy and I drove away from their home with several thoughts.

1. We need more spiritual grandfathers.

Pastor Eugene will be 80 later this year and most of his adult life has been spent in relative obscurity as pastor of a Presbyterian church he planted in suburban Baltimore. He is finishing the race really well and his wisdom and integrity are evident in his words and actions. We need to hear the stories of more men and women who have served so faithfully. We must seek them out, linger with them and hear about their struggles, their fears and their victories. The Abraham generation has a lot to teach those of us who are in the Isaac and Jacob stage of ministry.

2. Hospitality is powerful.

Pastor Eugene and Jan welcomed us into their home. They admitted that age and fatigue does not allow them to extend as much hospitality as days past, but they genuinely welcomed us. We ate meals at local restaurants and stayed overnight at a nearby B&B, but the time in their living room and on their back deck were powerful reminders that all of us need to open our homes more often to unhurried conversations.

3. We have more in common than not.

Pastor Eugene is from a different generation and his pastoral challenges were not always the same as ours today. He laughed when I asked him about worship bands, light shows, smoke machines and other potential distractions to our worship. What we do have in common is our love for the local church, a real desire to see people learn to listen and pray and a tenacity to teach the continuously articulate Scriptures. Some things transfer naturally from one generation to another.

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Fire Update – Part Two

We have a huge opportunity to bless our city and region this Friday and Saturday. Thanks to the tremendous generosity of an organization called Gleaning for the World, which is led by my friend Jonathan Falwell, we have four semi-trailers of relief supplies headed our way.  We will be getting bottled water, food, pet supplies, items for babies, blankets, some fresh produce, and personal toiletry items.

We will also be working closely with local relief groups, supplying them with anything they need. We are so thankful for local food banks and shelters who have done an amazing job the past week. We hope these incoming supplies will be a blessing to them, too.

We need help on Friday unloading these semi-trailers and help on Saturday from 9am to 4pm as we bless the thousands of people who have been scattered because of the evacuations. If you can help in any way on these two days, email Rina Thompson at rthompson@newlifechurch.org and let us know. Also, please help us spread the word about Saturday using your email contacts and by posting this on Facebook and Twitter.

Thanks for all the prayers and encouragement and a big thank you, again, to Gleaning for the World and Jonathan Falwell for their kindness.

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Fire Update

First, I am so proud of the way our church has mobilized into our city to help during this fire storm. The offers continue to pour in by the hour for shelter, food, and donations. You are the church at its finest.

We have offered our campus to several local agencies, but right now, there is a lot of available space at local schools, especially since it is summer break. They have better shower and bath facilities, which makes sense for families who may need shelter for several days. We are more than ready to take in fire refugees, though.

We decided to go forward with Desperation, which starts Wednesday and ends Friday night. Most of them were already en route, when the fires turned suddenly toward our city. Our campus is safe from the flames and we will limit outside activities since the air quality is so poor. I also believe it will be powerful to have thousands of students here to pray for rain, plus our local hotels and restaurants will be blessed at a time when a lot of tourists are cancelling their trips to our city.

We will be working closely with many New Lifers who lost their homes last night and I will make you aware of any opportunities to serve them or our city. I am thankful there has been no loss of life and very few injuries. Our prayers are important now, more than ever. God is faithful to us even when circumstances are not what we had planned or imagined. Seems like someone spoke on this very subject at New Life last Sunday. Now we get to live it and believe it together.

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