Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The One Thing Certain

The one thing certain is starting a new church is that you will have difficulties, resistance and obstacles both physical and spiritual. This past Sunday our church experienced one such obstacle.

When I arrived at the storage lot where we keep our truck that we use to transport our items needed to set up our worship space the electronic gate was broken. No problem I will call the emergency number on the door since no one is working today on Sunday. The problem with that was that after repeated calls all I got was a voicemail and no call back.

To make a long story short we had to back up our big white truck to the entrance and shove bins, speakers, and baby items over or under the fence of the storage area and load our stuff into pick up trucks. It was a good thing the police did not show up!!

The people of New Season Church did a great job setting it all up once our pick up trucks arrived. It helps in going quickly when you have already set up 720 times before then.

In the end, someone would have never known we had the problem unless we told them and God was worshipped and glorified.

Never Give Up

This past Sunday my wife's grandfather, George W. Howe died at the ripe old age of 92. In the fourteen years I knew him, "Grandpa George", was every bit an agnostic and antagonistic to religion in general though always polite and never belligerent. In these last few weeks of his life he came to know and accept Christ as his Savior and has now inherited the promises prepared for every believer.

Many had prayed for such a day when "Grandpa George" would accept Christ. He fought in WWII, in Korea at the Chosin Reservoir, faced numerous health issues over the years, took care of his wife who developed severe Alzheimer's (he was 90 then!), and overcame perhaps the greatest obstacle of his life- his unbelief- when he sought forgiveness and accepted Christ as his Savior and Lord just a couple of weeks ago.

Two lessons I have learned in all of this. First, God takes us all on different journeys. Some "get it" sooner rather than later. Others, for whatever reason take longer. Second, never stop praying for those who are friends, relatives, neighbors and co-workers to find the blessed peace of faith in Christ. No one, at any time, is beyond the redemptive hand of Christ. Thanks be to God!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Dream Center

I recently have been doing some reading and research on the Dream Center model of churches. My understanding is the this type of church was birthed out of Los Angeles at the LA Dream Center under Pastor Matthew Barnett via Phoenix First Assembly of God. I learned about Pastor Matthew and the LA Dream Center after reading the book Multiplication bu Tommy Barnett, Matthew's dad and pastor of Phoenix First Assembly.

From the initial vision of the LA Dream Center some 150 dream centers have now begun that actively engage their community and work for transformation. According to their website the LA Dream Center's mission is to provide hope by meeting both tangible and spiritual needs. We provide food, clothing, shelter, life rehabilitation, education and job training, Biblical training and much more through our 273 ministries and outreaches. We reach thousands of hurting and needy children, families and adults across all races and cultures each week.

There are many things to love about LA Dream Center but there are two things I find especially Wesleyan in their ministry.

First, there is no dualism in their ministry. What I mean is that sometimes you find churches and ministries that just want to meet the physical needs of the poor but largely ignore the spiritual needs of the people they minister with. Then there are churches who are largely concerned with ensuring people's salvation (important!) but are less concerned with meeting physical needs. The LA Dream Center does both. This is exactly what Wesley did as he held together these two necessary things.

The second thing is that the LA Dream Center lives out both personal and social holiness. They live out holiness of heart and life. They just don't talk about ministry they do ministry. They just do not seek the transformation of the individual they seek the transformation of the community.

We can learn something from these Assembly of God folks. Thanks for the reminders LA Dream Center.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Real Heroes

It is striking that the cult of celebrity we see played out in our media surrounding the celebrities of movie, music and television fame is also present in the body of Christ. We Americans seem to have a fascination with the celebrities in our culture. Notice the rise of E Network, Inside Edition, and numerous magazines about the celebs.

The same happens in the church though not to a greater extent. We have our celebrity pastors and rightfully so. Rick Warren, Andy Stanley, and Joel O'Steen to name a few. We have them in the church planting world too: Perry Noble, Mark Batterson, and Steven Furtick to name a few. And even in my own tribe: Mike Slaughter, Adam Hamilton, Mark Beeson. The majority of these and the other heroes of the church lead large burgeoning churches. They are innovative, creative and full of wisdom. I love them all (OK maybe I just really like Joel!) They are in many respects heroes who I have the utmost respect for and have learned so much from them. I am thankful God has used each one of them, their teams, and their churches to make the name of Jesus famous. See I am not against big churches, or large number of people in worship (that is what it is going to be like in heaven- read Revelation!), or even these great leaders receiving this celebrity status. And I am in no way against these people or even against their status though many of them I would guess would eschew the celebrity that has been brought upon them.

However, I want to suggest some new (or additional) heroes that the holy catholic church doesn't often call upon to lead conferences, write articles, or have their faces on Outreach Magazine. I am talking about pastors that lead their churches to multiply. That is to start new churches out of their existing churches. In most cases, multiplying churches out of your own church, especially if you lead a church of under 200, does not gain celebrity status because the church may not become the megachurch. To me the pastor of a church with 200 or less in worship who is leading his/her church to multiply is a hero as well! They too have much to teach and share. They and their teams, and churches need to be celebrated, asked to speak, and highlighted by Ed Stetzer in a cover story for Outreach Magazine- "The top 100 multiplying churches with 200 or less in attendance." Because in the end, history has taught us, a movement of multiplication will not come from megachurches (as vital as their ministry is). Rapid multiplication will instead come from churches with 200 or less in attendance taking the bold step to reach emerging generations, populations, and other niche groups. This is good news considering most of our churches in Christendom are less than 200 in attendance.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Addition and Multiplication

From the beginning of creation we see God moving from simple addition to multiplication. We all know God created man and then added woman. Then he gave them the instructions (much to Adam's delight!) to be fruitful and multiply.

The same thing happens among the early church. Twelve becomes 120 then 5,000 then through a variety of circumstances multiplication happens and the Jesus movement explodes.

God has a heart for multiplication.

For too long though the church has been content with addition. More people, more buildings, more programs, more parking, a bigger production. Pastors with holy ambition seek to be the next Willow Creek or the next Saddleback. Yet, with all out megachurches followers of Jesus in the United States have still not made a significant impact on the spiritual climate in the United States. We continue to hear how there are less baptisms, less professions of faith, and fewer churches being started to keep up with the population.

While I am in no way against a megachurch, they have their place, it seems to me that for most churches there needs to be a shift from a mindset of addition to multiplication. Addition, with its bigger buildings and bigger productions, by and large has not worked. What if instead of investing millions of dollars in buildings that saddled a church with debt we used millions of dollars to begin new churches that will reach people a current church is not reaching? What if instead of the grand production children's program which has the dual purpose of discipling children and feeding into parents' consumer desires "to only have the best for their children" we multiplied ministries to children in our communities for whom Jesus is only a curse word?

I feel the winds are blowing and the message on the wind is one of multiplication and not addition. "The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where its going." Jesus in John 3:8

Thursday, September 11, 2008

New UM Church Starts Blog

I recently came across this blog that is part of the Path 1 Initiative of the UMC tribe. It is great to see some people with influence who get it. Great job guys (and girls)! This blog has some great potential, they just need to post more (especially Christie Latona who worked with the 250 Task Force of the Virginia Annual Conference who can offer some great insights). Check it out here.


I hate to settle. Settling is against everything I stand for. What is settling? Settling is saying "well, that's good enough." It is like the cliche "Close enough for government work." I am not sure why I have such a passion for not settling. Maybe it was growing up playing sports and always seeking to do better. Perhaps it was the desire to do better in school and go to college. No matter where this came from, the refusal to settle for "good enough" is usually a good thing.

It is a good thing in the church as well. God forbid if in the church we settle and say "Well, it is only church." It is of course not only church. The church is Christ's bride, the instrument he uses to change lives, save marriages, change the world, and offer genuine community. We should always look at how we can do better: welcoming people, assimilating people, creating an environment for people to worship God, discipling people and everything else.

Yet, spiritually, for the indivudal, there comes a time when we need to settle. There comes a time in our own spiritual lives where Jesus has to be enough. There must come a time when Jesus satisfies all. There must come a time in the life of faith where we do not need the approval of man, the excitement of extra-curricular activities, or the satisfaction of this world. In the spiritual life there is one thing in this world to settle for that meets every need where we can quit our striving- Christ Jesus.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

What Would Wesley Say III

Wesley, stealing from Augustine, once said something like "As to the essentials unity, as to the non-essentials think and let think, in all things charity." (I am not sure of the exact quote and to be honest I am just too lazy to look it up!)

No matter the exact wording or whether Wesley stole it from Augustine I think the spirit of the quote serves us well today in the church as we argue about everything from the color of the new carpet in the sanctuary to whether homosexual persons should be ordained or married. Wesley is really warning about majoring in the minors. We should not major in the minors.

When it comes to the essentials of the faith- who Jesus is, what Jesus did, and the bedrocks of Christianity- there can be no debate. When it comes to the non-essentials- how much water we use in baptism, how often we receive communion, whether there is a pre-millenial rapture or not- we have to think and let think.

While all that sounds wonderful (and it is in many ways), the questions becomes what are the essentials. You and I might disagree about the essentials. For me, I find the essentials in the Bible as defined in the Apostles' Creed or the Articles of Religion.

I do believe in the end we can avoid a lot of useful arguing about many of the "hot button" issues of our day if we just step back and live into the spirit of what Wesley said. As I like to say about many of these "hot button" issues- when every stomach in the world is filled and every person has clean drinking water and shelter and when every person has heard the name of Jesus and had the opportunity to respond then I will give more energy to the non-essentials.

Daily Bible Reading Program

I wanted to pass along a daily reading program that you can use to help you read the Bible on a daily basis. It is called the Bible Plan (Inventive I know!). At Bible plan they have thirteen different Bible reading plans. You can read the: Whole Bible in a year, Old Testament in a year, New Testament in a year, Old Testament in two years, Words of Jesus 4 times in a year, Whole Bible chronologically in a year, Whole Bible chronologically in a year #2, New Testament Letters 3 times in a year, New Testament & Proverbs twice, Psalms once in a year, New Testament & Psalms twice, rest of Bible once in a year, Proverbs in a month, Gospels in a month,Psalms in a month.

One of the neat things about Bible plan is that you can choose different translations and you can get a link to the reading for the day delivered in your inbox.

I am currently making my way through the Old Testament in two years. It is a chapter a day and two chapters a day on Saturdays and Sundays. I am stuck in Jeremiah who is awfully depressing. But hey I made it through Leviticus so Jeremiah is nothing!!

This is a great way to feast on God's word in a systematic way.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Speaking of Wesley's Descendants

In my last post I wrote about Wesely's descendants. Many do not realize that the spiritual descendants from the Weselyan revival include far more than the United Methodists. Here is a great article I came across via Todd Rhoades at Monday Morning Insight.

Some of these descendants include: The Wesleyan Church, The Church of God and the Pentecostal Holiness Church, The Free Methodist Church, The United Church of Canada, The British Methodist Church, The Uniting Church of Australia, The Church of the Nazarene, The African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, The African Union Methodist Protestant Church, The Christian Methodist Episcopal (CME) Church, The Union American Methodist Episcopal Church and yes the United Methodist Church.

What Would Wesley Say II

There is much talk these days about the business of discipleship. There has rightly been an infatuation by missional churches with reaching out to and welcoming those who are far from God. In fact, whole worship movements have resulted in this question (i.e. the seeker church movement). Recently, the sands have begun to shift and churches and leading thinkers and practitioners are realizing while it is of utmost importance to reach out and welcome it is also important to be just as ferocious in discipling those persons.

I believe this shift in thinking is a shift toward what John Wesley knew all along. Wesley was adamant about the need for the gospel to be spread- especially among those that the Church of England was not reaching. Yet, as we can see with his ingenious organization of societies and classes for the purpose of discipleship he was equally concerned and passionate with helping the people called Methodists grow in their faith and grow toward renewing the image of God they were created in.

I think the move toward awareness of the need for passionate discipleship systems is really a return to what Wesley knew and practiced all along. Now, only if Wesley's descendants could capture some of that genius!

Friday, September 05, 2008

Families on the Edge

This Sunday at New Season we start a brand new message series called "Families on the Edge". At no other time in the history of the world have families found themselves bombarded by so many things that take them to the edge: from financial stress to long commutes, from hectic schedules to setting boundaries for kids, from dealing with illness to officiating sibling fights families can quite easily become stressed to the max and be living on the edge. If we are honest, we have all been there.

We are going to be applying biblical truths to the question of how we can build strong families so that when we are on the edge we can not only survive but thrive. Invite a friend, relative, co-worker or neighbor to be with you this Sunday at New Season.

What Would Wesley Say?

I sometimes wonder what would John Wesley, founder of the Methodist movement say about some of the issues facing the church today.

For example, what would Wesley say about the worship wars? What would he say about the use of musical instruments apart from the pipe organ or the use of projection screens and special lighting?

Wesley was a traditionalist. There is no denying that. Yet, he always threw off tradition for the sake of spreading the Gospel. When the Wesleyan revival was in its early stages and it was suggested that Wesley preach "outdoors" in order to reach more people with the good news he bristled. However, the traditionalist Wesley gave in. According to Bishop Robert Schnase "John Wesley stretched himself beyond his own traditional tastes and practices and in his own words submitted to be more vile when he began to preach outdoors to reach those beyond the church’s touch. Wesley kept the end in mind- helping people find a way back to God and helping God find a way to people- even if it required forms he himself found distasteful."

Today, I think Wesley would probably find many of the "methods" employed by churches trying to reach those who have never been or stopped going to church "vile". Yet, he would realize the end and that methods are changeable while message is not.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

One Prayer Message

The last One Prayer message, "Make Us Audacious" from Steven Furtick can be viewed by following this link. This concludes our One Prayer series.

Some Changes Around This Place!

I have made some changes to the blog recently. First, a much needed change to replace the outdated photo on my profile. Good grief- that one was from 2004. Jack was a baby and Robert was not even three. Now we have this "cool" black and white one. I hope it will not take me four years to update this one.

Second, I finally went and got my own domain so I could get rid of that blogger verbiage in my address. Amazingly enough no one else had bought www.RobbAlmy.com so I gobbled it up before some unscrupulous people did. If you have this blog bookmarked you will be redirected to the new address, you don't need to do a thing. If you subscribe via a feed you shouldn't have to do anything.

I think these changes are good. But with all this change I am reminded about what Mark Twain said about change: "The only one who likes change is a wet baby."