Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Something New on Wednesday Nights

Tonight marks the return of Wednesday evening worship at the U. When I was appointed here, I was told it was being put on hiatus and would restart in the fall with me leading. The service has been in a fairly steady decline. Some people had hoped that I would restart it making it pretty much the same service we had done in the past. While that certainly would have been the path of least resistance, I remembered the cliche (usually attributed to Albert Einstein) that reminds us that the definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over expecting different results.

So, as I set out to restart a service of worship on Wednesdays, I started from the beginning. I began knowing full well that the day and time itself has its own unique challenges. Wednesday evening has certainly lost its place as a time for worship and Bible study amongst mainline protestants. But, then again, more and more, so has Sunday. Very few Christians would consider worshipping primarily on Wednesday and very few feel the need or desire to worship more than once a week. That is a challenge. However, in a church of close to 6000 members in a rapidly growing area, there may still be enough need and demand to make the service work.

Given the challenges, I worked with our team of coaching pastors to figure out what need worship at that time and place might fill. In trying to understand the worship habits of our members and the clear desire to worship on Sunday, we began to get a feel for the service. We realized that this service would not likely be, for many, an alternative to Sunday morning, but an addition to Sunday morning. That raised the question, who needs an addition to Sunday morning? While we came to realize that people might be drawn to Wednesday worship for a number of reasons, those who may most need it are those for whom Sunday morning is currently their only means of connection to the message of Jesus. An overwhelming number of people, be they new to Christianity, returning or even those who have been connected for a long time have no means of growing in discipleship other than Sunday morning. We asked the question, could Wednesday evening be a means for drawing them deeper into the community and deeper into the gospel? That is where we started.

We have renamed the service ugrow and focused it on people in the message phase of our discipleship model, in other words, people asking the question, "What is the news about Jesus and what do I do about it?" The service will be primarily prayer and teaching. We will begin this week with a look at the Gospel of Mark. I recommended moving the service to the loft, a space that better reflects the size of the service and a room better suited to a teaching based service. For the first five weeks, the service will be followed by a discussion of the "University for Life" church-wide study. After that, we will have informal small group discussion based on the teaching for the night.

Whether or not this sounds like something you need, I hope you come. (If you are a reader who lives in San Antonio.) Your presences will support this worship ministry and, whatever the form, we could all use some more time gathered together to worship our creator.

See you tonight at 6:15.



Sunday, August 24, 2008

Thanks Tina!

My friend Tina took time during her recently completed sabbatical to send me a book she had just read. Eric Weiner's The Geography of Bliss fit right into her normally random reading suggestions. Weiner tackles the question of how geography affects happiness as only a fairly grumpy NPR correspondent could. With some research guidance from a Dutch professor, the author travelled to Switzerland, Bhutan, Qatar, Iceland, Moldova, Thailand, Great Britain, India and back to America trying to figure out, geographically, why people who claimed to be happy were happy and why people who claimed to be unhappy were unhappy. Weiner (whose name is pronounced as one who whines a lot) by no means took a scientific approach and his own bouts of unhappiness are interwoven with the stories of others. He approached his slightly haphazard research through the eyes of a reporter rather than a scientist and the results are wonderful. The book is full of beautiful stories of people: people who are joyful in places the sun rather shines, miserable in the midst of prosperity and hanging on to slivers of joy in places where life is just plain miserable.

The Geography of Bliss, for the most part is just fun. But, it may also make you think a bit, especially about what makes you happy. By the way, if you are a pastor, it is full of sermon illustrations.

If you have read the book or choose to read it, I always love to hear other thoughts.



Saturday, August 23, 2008

It was only a matter of time

In the new world of American Idol, Big Brother and Survivor, it was only a matter of time before someone would mix reality television and Christianity. As I would have imagined, it doesn't sound like it turned out too well. In the UK, Make Me a Christian is airing to the dismay, not of secularist, but of Christians who think that the show is focused solely on issues of Christian rules and lifestyle and not at all on the foundations of the faith. Check out an article on

"Unexpected Detractors for UK's Make Me a Christian"

When your done, come back to the weblog and let us know what you think.



Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Oil Changes

I just got back from picking up my truck from the shop. I had the oil and filter changed and had the mechanic look at all the stuff that causes problems: tires, fluids, breaks, etc. This may seem odd, but I always feel a little bit better after I take the truck in. I like that someone with mechanic's eyes has spent some time looking at it. As I drive, little noises my ears pick up on don't make me quite as nervous. If I have a out of town trip on the calendar, I feel a little more confident that I am going to make it. I feel like a little better steward of the money I spent buying the truck in the first place and more hopeful that it will last as long as my last truck. At this point, you may be wondering why I put some much thought into an oil change and what in the world this has to do with discipleship. Good things to wonder about.

It just so happens that all this auto maintenance business is a great metaphor for our Christian journeys. Servicing my truck makes me feel better because, as the son of a man who started his career working on cars and eventually jets, I know full well that if I fail to take care of my truck it will eventually stop working possible stranding me and surely costing me a bunch of money. As Christians, we need regular maintenance as well. If we accept Christ into our lives and fail to work to maintain that relationship, something will break down in us as well. Some of us consider worshipping on Sunday as the thing that maintains our relationship with God. To overuse the metaphor, that would be like confusing putting gas in my truck with maintaining it. I certainly need to do that to keep it running, but it isn't the whole story.

Truly maintaining our relationship with Christ requires a bit more from us. The exact prescription may look a little different for each of us, but somewhere in the mix are Bible study, participation in a small group, prayer, study, service, worship and other means of staying connected with God and other believers. I have found that when I attend to the maintenance of my relationship with Christ, I feel a little better about myself. I am a little less nervous about the little noises I hear. I feel more confident that I will be able to finish the journey. I feel like a better steward of this life God has given me.

That is what our "University for Life" sermon series and study is all about- looking at the big picture of what it means to be a disciple. Over the next few weeks, we will be looking at, not only what it takes to become a Christian, but what it takes to commit the the life long journey of continuing to become a disciple, an apprentice of Jesus Christ. This of course requires regularly scheduled maintenance. (See your service advisor for more information.)



Monday, August 18, 2008

Getting the Message

The video segments for "University for Life" are done and I made the mistake of taking a final look at the DVDs at home. They look fantastic but my mistake may have been allowing our son Joshua to watch with us. My segment on "The Jesus Message" is quickly becoming Josh's favorite video. Because it puts Papa on the TV, he wants to watch it over and over (and over).

Pastor Ryan, in his sermon yesterday, talked about the fact that children in church overhear and take away much more than we think they do. As Josh was watching my video again a few minutes ago, every time I would mention God or Jesus, Josh would repeat back, "God and Jesus." I decided to ask, "What about God and Jesus?" to which he replied, "Jesus loves me." I guess if adults take nothing more than that away from the video, it was worth the effort.

However, since I am really tired of hearing myself talk, I am going to go see if we can watch Little Einsteins.



p.s. All the videos for "University for Life" are now available. If you are leading a small group or Sunday School, you can get yours through the Discipleship office. They will also be available on the web this week, I will post the link when it is ready.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

University for Life

The blog has been a little sparse over the last couple of weeks and there is a good reason for it. Here at University we are about to launch a sermon series that will outline an amazing new comprehensive discipleship system. When I first became a Christian ten years ago, I immediately wanted to go deeper. I wanted to be more than a church member, I wanted to be a disciple. When I asked people how to become a disciple, I got a lot of quizzical looks and shrugging of shoulders. I also got a laundry list of recommendations: join the choir, take this Bible study, teach Sunday school, join a committee. While through the power of the Holy Spirit, doing some of those things led me to a deeper level of discipleship, I have become convinced that if we are to live up to our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ, we ought to be clear about some of the beginning steps one can take. At University we believe that this, at the very least, means that people need to have a Jesus meeting, learn the Jesus message and learn about their own Jesus mission. University for Life outlines this journey. At the same time, we will be rolling out our core curriculum, the basic options for people who wish to engage in the journey of discipleship. People will have a choice of three options at each stage of the journey (meeting, message and mission): a Bible study, a small group or an immersion event.

You can read more about University for Life in this month's Encourager magazine:

The U - The Encourager - August 2008

I can't tell you how excited I am about the launch of U for Life and the core curriculum. For me, this has been a vision and passion for a long time. The idea of a comprehensive discipleship system is what led me to University and I am thrilled to watch it roll out and anticipating Spirit filled results.

If you have any questions about University for Life, I would love you to post them here so I can answer them for all the readers.



Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Twittering Pastor

As a 36 year old pastor I am in a epic struggle to not fall behind the curve of technology. I do this in the context of wondering about how to properly balance the use of technology in my calling to deliver the message of the gospel and help people to be transformed by the Holy Spirit.

Even though it consumes a bunch of my time, I am trying to stay "with it" as much as I can so that I might make better decisions about the use of technology without just making assumptions. Emerging technology is allowing me to interact with a new generation who seems to communicate in an entirely different way.

Enter twitter. If you scroll down the right hand side of my weblog you will see a new section called twitter updates. If you don't happen to already know what twitter is and does, let me explain. Twitter is another social networking tool that lets users post very short updates about their life. Updates are as mundane and "at lunch" to more detailed and specific than you might like. You can send them from your computer or even text them from your mobile phone. Then people can "follow" each other. In other words you can choose to view the feed of another person's updates and other people can choose to view yours. If this makes no sense at all to you, it probably isn't that you don't understand how it works, it is probably just that you can't imagine why people would do something like that.

This may help, Youth Radio's Lauren Silverman did a piece on NPR today that could shed some light on the subject:

Public is the New Private

Silverman describes a sort of paradigm shift in the spheres of communication that may seem just plain odd to those of us over 25. But I refuse to throw in the towel. Just because I don't quite get it, doesn't mean I am not going to try and play along. Doing so in my role of pastor might become the equivalent of speaking louder to try and communicate with someone who doesn't speak English. The message of the gospel will never change, but the people listening will.



Monday, August 4, 2008

Back to a little preaching...

I had a chance to preach in Sanctuary worship this past Sunday. I have mentioned before that preaching is not my primary function here at University, but I do love it.

You can hear my sermon, "Choose Christ-like Choices" here:
(Note, for some reason you need to scroll all the way to the bottom of the box on the right to find sermons from the sanctuary.)



Saturday, August 2, 2008

On the other weblog

If you pay a lot of attention to this space, you may notice the other weblogs I like to read listed on the right column. One of those I also moderate. I am the chair of the Southwest Texas Conference Futures Committee and write for and moderate a blog on that topic. I wrote a post this morning and couldn't figure out which blog to put it on. So, I put it there and include a link here in case you would like to read it.

Starbucks Revisited at Southwest Texas Futures