Monday, April 28, 2008

What's On the Horizon?

We have three grandchildren now. Reid, who is the oldest, just turned 2 years old. Kasen is within days of being six months old and Kallie is just over one month old. They were with us on Friday night and Saturday. We had a great time with them. I re observed one thing---they are totally dependent on who is taking care of their needs. They are totally self-centered, but what do you expect out of children who are two years old or less?

New believers are pretty much just like my grandchildren. They are self-centered because the world has taught them that. Since childhood they have built one foundation on another until there are layers of "self" that will not dissipate overnight. Like the way we train a child, we must help the new believer put self to death daily and begin living for Christ.

I spent about four hours yesterday designing a time line for three fall projects. It is scary, but crucial in meeting the needs of the seeker to the youngest Christian to the most mature child of God.

I will be spending the next four months planning and executing the framework for our first Alpha Course in September. It will require a significant number of committed people and lots of "behind the scenes" preparation. I believe that this new endeavor will be monumental for the church's future and our attempt to live out The Great Commission. I expect it to reach people that we would ordinarily never reach and infuse our people with a resolve to win people to Christ.

We will also be introducing our second semester of Abundant Life University in September. We will offer the courses that we think out people need the most and that will have the biggest impact on their lives at the present. Some courses may be four weeks and some may be 12-13 weeks, with others in between. We will devote whatever time frame is needed to cover the material. Again, this will take a number of committed folks, lots of planning, and effective execution. The pay-off is giving people an opportunity to mature in their faith over a period of time.

The Track for New Christians will also be rolled out. It will include six months of small group discipleship, which will include mentoring by more seasoned believers. The new believer will move through five small group opportunities, all the while being mentored by their original mentor with less and less mentorship. As the mentor lets go, the small group leader will take on more of the guidance. This program will require some commitment and dedication by those who desire to be a mentor, but the pay-off is rewarding for everyone.

At the end of the first six-month period, the person being mentored will have the opportunity to become part of a Life Track Bible Study designed just for them. At the end of the first year, we hope to incorporate these folks into the mainstream and encourage participation in the Abundant Life University and other discipleship vehicles that we will be offering.

Maybe 3-5 years later we will have helped some believers in putting death to self and rising in Christ-likeness. Pray for us that we will have the leadership to bring this to reality.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Move Over to the Right Lane

My emphasis this month in discipleship is prayer. You know, talking with God. Sometimes we try to turn it into something else by speaking in a language that is foreign to ourselves. We talk to God in a language that is different than the one we speak everyday. It doesn't sound like us. It may sound manufactured with a vocabulary out of another point in time. God just wants us to talk with Him.

You say, "I would love to meet with the Lord every day and just talk with Him. I'd like to just share what is on my mind, what I am struggling with, and what my concerns are, but I never seem to have enough time. What can I do about the time factor?"

I think we have to slow down by moving into the "slow lane", you know, the lane on the right for the slower moving traffic. I guess you could either slow down, or change your lifestyle altogether.

Many people today are up by 6:00 A.M. and don't go to bed until midnight. That is an 18-hour day! Medical authorities tell us that we are "sleep deprived". We were once told that if we got at least 6 hours of sleep each night that we would be okay. Not true anymore. Now some leading researchers are saying that most people need 8 hours of good sleep each night for maximum efficiency.

If a person needs to get up at 6:00 A.M. in order to be at work on time, then it may mean going to bed by 10:00 P.M. What an adjustment!

Even with that kind of change, we would still need to use our time wisely in order to have time to pray. First, analyze how well you spend your time after getting up in the morning and before you actually walk out the door to leave for work. Maybe some of that time could be transferred to prayer time. Could one use half their lunch hour to eat and half of it to pray? Could one use their time more productively from the time they get home in the evening until they retire for the night? Could we readjust our self-imposed schedule to find 15-20 minutes to meet with God before we go to bed?

Taking my own advice, allow me to show you what I'm going to do with tomorrow's schedule. I will get up at about 6:10 and leave for the gym around 6:30 when Patti leaves for school. I'll have a workout from 7:00-8:00 and then head home. About 8:30 the house will be quiet and I'm going back to my office to spend some time alone with the Lord. Then I will shave and shower and I've got an Eye Doctor appointment. I may go straight to work depending on how long I have to wait at the doctor's office. Whatever the case, I'll get the important matters taken care of as top priorities.

You say, "That's great for someone who goes into work later in the day, but what about those who arrive at work at 8:00, or even before?" That happens to me on Tuesday and Wednesday. Here's what I am going to do. I really enjoy watching the news in the morning before I leave for work. I'm going to cut that time in half and spend the other half with the Lord.

You just have to find a way to be creative with your own personal schedule sometime between sunrise and the time you turn in at night. Will it be difficult to add something to an already crowded personal schedule. You bet it will! But, we seem to find time somewhere to do the things we really want to do. Good luck in the slow lane.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Preaching Tonight

We are in the midst of a Prayer emphasis during the month of April. People are signing up for an eight-day Prayer Clock, I just came from a Wednesday Prayer Breakfast, we had a Half Day in Prayer, and our people are using a Prayer Calendar during this entire month.

The intent of this Prayer emphasis is to get us ready to install the Alpha Course in September. We are trying to spiritually get ready to build relationships during May and June, before we begin inviting people in July and the early part of August.

Tonight I will be preaching in the place of our Senior Pastor who is in Israel. You guessed it...I'm going to be preaching about Prayer. The message will come from Colossians 4:2-3 where Paul is telling the church at Colosse to "Devote yourselves to prayer". That is exactly what we have to do.

If you think about it tonight, pray for me anytime between 6:30 and 7:30, or pray for me as I finish my preparation this afternoon. I would appreciate it.

Have a great day!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Time Is of the Essence

Thom S. Rainer writes the following in his book High Expectations:

"Can you imagine Luke adding a sentence or two to his account of the early church in the Book of Acts? Perhaps the words would say, 'And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. But within two years, 6o percent of those saved were no longer active in the church.'"

We could never imagine Luke adding that kind of comment, but we accept that kind of thinking today in the 21st century. We accept the fact that only 40 percent of our church members are in attendance on a given Sunday. When some of our newest members disappear, we look around and say, "Where did they go?" That's about as far as we go.

The importance of assimilating and discipling the new believer cannot be overemphasized. The churches across America that do the best job are assimilating these folks into the body of Christ and beginning the discipleship process of maturing them in their faith immediately. The process should optimally begin within 24 hours of their decision, but at least no later than the first week.

Most churches leave the assimilation/discipleship process up to the Sunday School, or the Sunday morning Bible Study structure. The Sunday School has provided such a climate over the decades when teaching, fellowship, and outreach were paramount and just part of breathing for this wonderful instrument. Today, are we providing good fellowship times, a nurturing influence, an opportunity to build relationships, and an avenue to understand what the church is attempting to do? At one time this was being done without a lot of conscious thinking. Maybe it disappeared with the typewriter.

I have discovered that only four out of 10 churches have some kind of system in place to help people discover their spiritual gifts. That 40 percent can seem huge when you are in a church that has no opportunity in place, but it should be unacceptable.

I have also discovered that only 25 percent of churches offer One-to-One Mentoring. If only 25 percent offer mentoring, how many do you think offer mentoring and a full-range Discipleship Program? Or, how many offer a full discipleship emphasis and mentoring as part of that total program?

We are presently rolling out a multi-faceted discipleship program that will take us until the end of 2009 to unroll the whole concept. As part of the whole program, we will be offering a mentoring beginning this summer/fall. The idea is to have a mentor assigned to every new believer the day they make a profession of faith. The mentor will follow that new believer in one-to one mentoring for about six months. Then the new believer will be able to take part in an on-going study designed just for them, or enter the mainstream discipleship program with the rest of the church. There will be redesigning until we get it right for the new believer.

What will be a key ingredient in making this work for the good of the new believer? Expectations are going to have to be set early on so the new believer will see the over-all gain from such an experience. Our people who assist in this needed ministry will also have to see the same thing from a mentor standpoint. In other words, everybody involved will need to be on board!

I'll keep you posted on how this whole thing develops. Remember, time is of the essence for the new believer. We have a certain time frame to capture the life of this person and then it will vaporize into thin air. It can be done and must be done for the sake of this new creature in Christ.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Who Will Throw Down Their Stones?

I just read today's post on Mark Batterson's blog and it saddened me. Mark is the pastor of the National Community Church in Washington, D.C. and one of the most sought-after speakers in our country. He recently published the book, In A Pit With A Lion On A Snowy Day, which is being studied in churches all across America. Mark is a man of impeccable character, sound in doctrine, and wise beyond his years.

Mark has been attacked because of a book that was on his recommended reading list on his blog. He was called an apostate evangelist. Now I don't know what the book was, but I know that if Mark had it on his list, it had to contain something that would lead us to really think about what we believe. Mark chose not to defend himself. In other words, this was one of those battles that you choose not to fight. There are more important things to do.

One of the people who left a comment wrote the following: "I think there are apologists our there that work more like lawyers than doctors. Let me explain. Doctors see a weakness in your body and then offer you help to get healthy. A lawyer sees your weaknesses and argues with you to strengthen his position. I prefer being a doctor."

I have also run into "wanna-be" apologists. They want to destroy the ministry of another person by using the rational that they are protecting the innocent. Many of these wanna-be's don't even have their information correct because they are getting it from another wanna-be. They seem to be blind and so bent on wanting to be right that they speak and write as if they are wearing blinders. The worst outcome of their attack is not the possible destruction of their targeted person, as bad as that might be, but the spill-over effect to multiple people they are attempting to protect. As you can tell, I have no place for wanna-be apologists.

Batterson closed out his post by asking if we could put down our stones. We have stoned folks as these innocent people watch, or as Mark Batterson says, " the world watches." He wonders how we can reach people who need Christ while we are stoning others. What an awesome thought!

The intent of this post was not to try and protect Mark Batterson. I'll let God do that, but we are seeing good men being attacked all over America by internet apologists who are trying to gather a following. It makes me sick. If some folks pick up some stones around you, remember this post, and don't join in. Go home and pray. You don't look good with a stone in your hand!

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Are You Living for the Moment or for Eternity?

The weather was great at the Shell Houston Open yesterday, at least while we were there it was beautiful. We were leaving the course when the tournament officials suspended play for a little over two hours. We were on the course from 8-2 and it was great.

We met the Brooks in the parking lot and shuttled over to the course together. It was wonderful being with them again and enjoying something together that we really love. I lost my voice on Thursday, so I was not a great conversationalist, but I tried. One time, while we were eating lunch, Jared looked at me and said, "Dad, you don't have to try to talk." So the three of them talked for me and all three can talk!

When "Lefty" came to the 18th green we were 30-40 feet from the hole. Phil did not play the hole very well and came away with a bogey, but talk about a front row seat. Then we followed another golfer for seven holes. When he approached the opening tee box, I was shocked. His face was bloated, he had put on some extra pounds, and pretty much looked like he had difficulty getting around. He would continually lean against the golf bag for seemingly support. He has been and is one of the crowd pleasers. The second largest crowd on the course followed him.

I did watch this golfer put his tee shot on the green of a short par 4 hole. His playing partners did not make it. He missed a long putt, but nailed the next one for a birdie. I'd like to remember that hole than anything else that I saw in him.

The golfer's life off the course is well known by golf enthusiasts. Jared said he had an idea for my blog, "Are You Living for the Moment, or for Eternity?" I think this golfer has lived in the fast lane for years, but has now switched to a lane for slower traffic, yet still living some of the same life style habits. I wanted to keep following him because I thought it might be the last time that I would get to see him play. One of the big surprises for me was that he had very little to do with the gallery and that is 180 degrees from the golfer I've watched in previous years.

Sometimes people around us seem to be living life for the moment. I guess there are times when someone could even say that about you. Are you living life for the moment? Do you want what the world has to offer so badly that it appears that all you are interested in is what life can give you right now?

Some folks are not living for the moment, but living life for eternity. They know that we are just sojourners on this planet earth for 60-85 years and then we become a passing memory. What counts is what we do with our lives that affects the Kingdom of God. Is everything for me? Or, am I interested in the spiritual well-being of those around me? Am I living for Christ daily, or am I living for self day in and day out?

I doubt if I will ever forget the look on the golfer's face that I watched for seven holes. There seemed to be something missing that was there the last time I saw him up close. I wonder what people could say about you and me.

Just a thought...

Thursday, April 3, 2008

What's Special About This Weekend??

I have the day off tomorrow at Home Depot. Jared has also taken the day off. Now, what would two guys do on Friday, April 4 in Houston, Texas? You're right. We are going to the Shell Houston Open with our long-time friends Gary and Patti Brooks.

It will be so good to be with Gary and Patti again. We had many good times together as families back in Tomball in the 90's. We have known each other now for about 13 years. They are the kind of people that you can just hang out with and be yourself. They have a way of looking at life that you don't get hung up on an awful moment, you just enjoy the best of the moment. They also have a great sense of humor.

Wouldn't you know it? There is a 60% chance of rain on Friday. They said on the weather this morning that the tournament would be lucky to get in some holes. That doesn't sound so good. But, that is the kind of thing that happens to me. Now Saturday is suppose to be a pretty day. Anyway, I'm looking forward to doing something and part of that will be celebrating Jared's birthday with him that was really on March 31.

I am actually a pretty fortunate guy. I never work more than two days in a row at either of my jobs, although I work six days a week. You say, "How can that be?" I am usually scheduled at The Home Depot on Mondays; Tuesday and Wednesday I'm at the church office; Thursday and Friday back at Home Depot; off Saturday; and back at church on Sunday. My schedule really breaks up the week as you can see.

I have a good friend who is the Pastor of Discipleship at the National Community Church in Washington, D.C. I think she is one of the foremost authorities on Small Groups and discipleship in the country. She has been asked to speak at the Group Life Conference at Willow Creek Community Church October 16-18. A few weeks ago Patti asked me if I planned to attend the Conference and I said, "How can I miss it?" Yesterday I asked my right-hand man at the church to go with me. Now all I have to do is come up with the funding for us.

Some of you may remember my writings about the Sawyer-Mathews football games in Mobile whenever we were home. Our kids were Jr. high, high school and college during that era of the famous football games. Heather, the girl I'm talking about was always on her dad's team and always a competitor. I've know her since she was born and I'm proud of her. I couldn't stay away from Chicago in October if my life depended on it.

I'll let you know how Friday turns out in my next post.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Preparation Is All Important

The Major League Baseball season is underway. Houston got shut out 4-0. Not such a great way to start the season, but it now in progress and there is nothing the Astros can do about it, except start a win streak.

The pre-season started months ago as the players conditioning took on a serious tone. Then Spring Training began and with it the exhibition season. Each week took the players to a new level in their preparation for the 2008 season.

We are introducing the Alpha Course in our church in September, but first some preparation needs to take place. We need to bring our people on board and it needs to be done in a systematic manner that will produce the outcome that is needed. We are going thru a "Spring Training" of our own.

Last month we educated as many people as possible with what Alpha was all about and why we would bring it to FBC Pearland. This month will be a month of prayer. We passed out a prayer calendar to be used during April. There will be prayer breakfasts, a Half Day in Prayer, a message on prayer, and a Player Clock to end the month. We should be prayed up by April 30.

In May and June we will educate our people on building relationships and then ask them to start building relationships with friends, family members, and work associates. This will be our "Exhibition Season" if you will. Then in July we will "throw out the first pitch and ask our people to invite someone that they built a relationship with to attend our first Alpha Course. In August we will contact each of these people and send them a formal invitation.

The Alpha Course will begin for us the week of September 7, but as you can see, preparation began in March. We wanted our members to know as much about this endeavor as possible and then we wanted them to get involved. Preparation and involvement--these are the keys. I hope we can reach 25 men and women who may be searching and not even know what they are looking for at this point.

Pray for us and I'll keep you posted.