Thursday, January 31, 2008

Can you cyberpastor a church? part two

Part One

Can You CyberPastor a Church?
part 2

Upon accepting the role I currently occupy as pastor, I immediately entered into a different phase of ministry. Much of my ministry in those weeks of transition before I moved here could be described as cyberpastoring. What do I mean by such a word? I simply mean using the forms of electronic communication to oversee and shepherd a congregation of believers. Personally, I received many emails immediately from people I had not met before. They most likely ‘googled’ my name, found my previous church, and presto, instant information (scary thought).

So, what forms of electronic communication am I speaking of? That is the vast difficulty of the internet and cyberspace. Terms and trends are often very hard to define, describe, and come to agreement upon. What is here today, could be gone tomorrow, or even sooner! But, here is a representation of electronic communication I have used today to pastor the church I was called to serve.

  • EMAIL – This is probably the most common communication of all. I currently have 2 primary accounts that I check fairly frequently. Through email, I have made appointments, counseled, shared prayer requests, actually prayed (through writing the prayer out), encouraged, discipled, answered faith-based questions, evangelized, evaluated books, shared resources, taught theology, collaborated on projects, gave input on decisions, and much, much more. Much of these things are clearly fundamental biblical aspects of pastoring. I don’t think it is the only way to pastor, but it has provided avenues to do so.

  • BLOG – Before I was on the payroll of the church, I was speaking to the congregation. How so? Through a weblog, or ‘blog’ for short (fyi, you are reading the blog, if you were unaware!). I currently post 4 to 5 times a week. I speak to an audience that is often faceless, although I hear comments from time to time. I open up my life a little, and get to speak to dozens (maybe hundreds?) of people through each post. I make book recommendations, share my devotions, point people toward helpful resources, promote sermon ideas, share some laughs, follow up on sermons (extending the teaching time). And, it is free! Within a couple of seconds, thoughts typed on a computer in Newark, DE, can be read around the globe. And they have been read around the globe. I have a web-based tracker that has brought to my attention that people have hit the blog from 6 continents (no one from Antarctica yet), and from numerous countries. Several missionary friends have read it, as well as friends in other states, and former members of the church who want to keep tabs on what is going on here.

  • FACEBOOK – I was not the first to get on the Facebook train (or many other trains for that matter). Facebook is in the same type of category as MySpace. It is hard to describe them, because they are so exhaustive. Overall, I would say that it can function as a place to communicate with people, disclosing personal interests, pictures, and just about everything else (if you want to). It can function as a place to send messages back and forth or just see what is going on in your friend’s lives. As it relates to my current role as pastor, Facebook has been a place to connect with friends from past places in my life. But, specifically, it has been a resource to communicate with people who are currently a part of the congregation here. I had a meeting recently that was set up exclusively on Facebook, no other form of communication. Our church has an underutilized Facebook group. I was told by Emily, our church’s director of college ministries, that more students are likely to keep close tabs on their Facebook page than their email accounts. I think that is true. What has also been amazing is to keep up with friends who are sharing the gospel in remote places. I can see pictures, read stories, pray and celebrate God's work among the nations through the technology of Facebook.

to be continued...

Monday, January 28, 2008

Something for nothing

This weekend I had the privilege of eating at a restaurant that will be opening soon. One of our OBC members is the general manager.** I had received a special invite there, but there were a couple of caveats to the meal.
  1. The meal was free.
  2. The staff were being trained, so a disclaimer was made that service might be a little slow.
  3. The menu was somewhat limited.
  4. The place was packed.
  5. Did I mention the meal was free?
So, how did it go? It was great. EVERYONE seemed to be in a good mood. The place was packed out, and everybody seemed to be smiling. It reminded me that getting something for nothing seems to have the natural result of making people happy.

Just FYI, the 'big-mouth burgers' are aptly named. And, when it came time for dessert, guess who said, "Sure! I'll have some!" This was in total disregard to my sermon that suggested that we practice self-control. :-)

Full disclosure: The restaurant is Chili's across from Wal-Mart in Elkton. I think it opens this Thursday night.

**By the way, if you are a general manager and would like to get a mention on the blog, just let me know when I can stop by for a free meal! Just kidding.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Song that I came across

As I was searching my iTunes library for songs about the heart, I ran across this song by Charlie Hall called "Holy Heart." (iTunes link) I am sure that if I had ever heard it before, I had not really paid attention to it. Yet, with what I have been preaching, this song resonated with my own heart.

Holy Heart
A holy heart is what I long for, what I cry for, what I need
A heart that loves You, a heart that hears You, fears You
And sees You as You are

Search my heart, O God and see in me
All offenses, God, that there may be
(Cry it out now)

Refined in Your love, refined by Your blood
And the pure in heart will see You, will see You
(We're cryin' out now)

To gaze (look) upon You
Purifies me
So purify me, purify me...

Is it official?

So, can I officially be called a Delawarean now? My criteria...
  • I have been stuck on I-95.
  • I now go to WaWa regularly whether I need something there or not.
  • I have been to the beach.
  • I have been to (s)lower Delaware.
  • I have been to a Blue Hens football game.
  • I have gotten a parking ticket on Newark Main Street.
  • I have avoided the toll to get back into the state from MD.
  • We have spent the night with our child at AI DuPont.
  • 75% of our family has inhalers.
  • I have Delaware tags (it was fun paying the fee to get them).
  • I have given up Little Debbie's for TastyKakes.
  • My jaw has been repaired after the reaction to seeing the housing prices.
  • I have somewhat of a grasp on Christiana Hospital. (although I should keep in mind Prov 16:18)
  • I have been late to appointments because I underestimated the traffic on Kirkwood Hwy (and 273, and 4, get the point).
  • I have been in a 'developing' neighborhood in Wilmington late at night. Not good when you see a lot of adult males outside. I'm pretty sure they weren't talking about the Sunday School lesson.
  • I have eaten Grotto's Pizza (not at the beach though, so I am not sure it counts).
  • I now know what a sub is (the South just pretends they know what a sub is, and I realize that Subway and Blimpie are poor attempts at subs).
  • I have gotten lost because a street name changed 4 times in 2 miles.
  • I now pronounce Newark (newARK) and Townsend (townsEND) correctly, I think.
  • The "I'm from Delaware" song/video has been forwarded to me (more than once or twice actually).
Feedback please! Are there other rites of passage?

FYI, my wife and I love this place. We thank God for sending us here.

Lessons from Dead Guys

Most people who read this post, will read it after I preach tomorrow. So, you will already be aware that I quoted a couple of "dead guys" and what they can teach us about temptation. In case you didn't get their names or weren't there, I heartily commend to you...
  1. Thomas Brooks who wrote Precious Remedies Against Satan's Devices. Here is another page with lots of Thomas Brooks' resources.

  2. John Owen who wrote On Temptation and The Mortification of Sin which is compiled in one volume called Overcoming Sin and Temptation.
The reading could be some of the most difficult reading you ever do. The blessing might be the greatest you ever receive.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Benediction from this past Sunday

This prayer was said in closing of Sunday's services. I thought it was too good not to share on the blog!
Lord, give us the desire for a new heart.
Lord, give us a new heart.
Lord, cleanse us from sin.

Give us a hunger for your glory and a hunger for your word.
Give us a hatred of sin and not just a hatred of the consequences.
Lord, give us a greater realization of Jesus’ sympathy and his help in our struggles with temptation.

Thank you, Lord Jesus,
that in the gospel,
we are blessed with the profound mystery
that although we are more sinful than we could ever imagine,
we are also loved more than we could ever dare hope.
In Jesus name, Amen.

Weekly Walk in the Word

One of the pastors I have benefited greatly from is James MacDonald who pastors a church in Chicago called Harvest Bible Chapel. I love the church and his preaching is always challenging.

Weekly I get an email from him called Walk in the Word. You might enjoy it as well.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Can you cyberpastor a church? part 1

I am going to post a lengthy article on this subject, but for conservation of your time, I am going to do it bite-size. So here is the first post...

Can You CyberPastor a Church?

My guess is that they did not have to answer the questions I do. Who? Pastors of years gone by. I recognize that they had their own set of unique issues and questions to work through. Not harder, not easier, just different. The questions and issues concerning electronic communication simply were not on their radar. (And to be fair, these kinds of questions will most likely morph into other issues and questions in future years.) John Calvin most likely never had to decide whether to add ‘so-and-so’ as a friend on Facebook. The writings of John Bunyan were not read first as blog posts. Even men like James Montgomery Boice and Adrian Rogers lived the majority of their lives not interfacing with the kinds of electronic communication that are considered commonplace today.

So, what happened? It is not in the scope of this post to describe in detail the history of the internet. That has been done in many other places, and my attempt would be meager at best in describing it. What I can describe is that since my first real exposure to the internet (probably in 1994), my life has grown increasingly MORE dependent on the internet. My email inbox has actually become a more significant part of my life than my mailbox. My news is not thrown into my driveway, but compiled by my RSS feed Google Reader. We’ve come a long way in many respects of communication even from the dial-up internet craze created by the movie “You’ve Got Mail.”

Times have changed, haven’t they? They are not necessarily better or worse, just different. And so, as I said, the challenges and issues of a pastor in the 2000’s is fairly distinct than the issues and challenges that those even in the 1980’s experienced. The technology is different, the audience is different, and so what does this mean in relationship to pastoring? Is there a place, now, for cyberpastoring? Should serving and shepherding in cyberspace be out-of-place, commonplace or put in its place?

to be continued...

Monday, January 21, 2008

2 things I did on this holiday

One was for education, the other was for humiliation...

EDUCATION - I watched this video.

I had never seen the video in its entirety, so it was very interesting. I found it most interesting that Dr. King went "off script" in some of the speeches most inspiring parts.

HUMILIATION - The other thing I did was check my mailbox. About halfway through checking it, I remembered that this was a federal holiday, and I looked like an idiot checking for mail. But, I just acted like I hadn't checked it over the weekend. :-)

Humbling AND encouraging

I was just closing out some of the files on my computer this morning, and I saw my sermon notes from yesterday. I felt a couple of different things when I looked at them.
  • I felt humbled. I realized there was so much more to say. I realize there are always ways of saying something better. I realized that God has to do a great work in my own life and in the life of our church if we are going to be more like Him. So, that leaves you feeling pretty inadequate for the task of clearly communicating His words to people.

  • But, I also felt encouraged. I realize that God does His work before, during, and long after I get done speaking. He is using the words and Scripture that were communicated to transform our body. I hear of stories where lives are changed through an awakening to the Word and to the Spirit, and I realize what a privilege it is to be used by God in His purposes.
So, that sums it up: humbled and encouraged. A pretty good way to start a Monday!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The church (not just ours)

I have mentioned in sermons here that my background is one of going to church (all the time). When I was a child, we had services on Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday night. If there were special "revival meetings," we were there. That was just the way it was.

As I have grown up (or more accurately, am growing up), I have still experienced the grace of God through the church. I still love it. That works well for my occupation. (Sometime ask my wife to share with you some the story of a pastor of her church growing up who liked boating on the lake more than he liked going to church. That became a problem when he was out pretty regularly on the lake Sunday mornings, and let someone else preach. It didn't turn out so good for him or the church.)

I know that the church is not a perfect place, and yet each week I have front-row seats to see what God is doing through it. That is why reading a few pages this morning from a book like this is such a treat for me. It is close to the experience I have in eating Reese's Peanut Butter Cups (hint, hint).

So for all of those who want a perfect church, you might not hang around OBC (or really any church) for long. For all those who love the idea of connecting with the family of God, I hope you give your life to and fall in love with a God-honoring, Bible-believing, people-loving family of faith (whether it is OBC or not).

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

A prayer for justice and grace

I have mentioned in the past, I think it can be a healthy to discipline to write out our prayers. Challenged by Ruth 2 and the kindness of Boaz toward Ruth, I have asked God for grace today.

You are to be greatly praised for Your justice and grace
Your grace always operates in a way to provide perfect justice
Your justice always comes with the full assurance of grace

In ourselves
we are inadequate agents of justice and
we are often poor representations of grace

But in You and through You
we can be agents of Your justice
we can choose to speak up for those whose voice is often not heard
we can value "the least of these" as You do
we can care about the ones who are abused and
we can do more than care we can act on their behalf
we can anticipate needs and meet them before requested
we can search our hearts for prejudice and hate
we can confess our sins

In you and through you
we can be representations of grace
we can love our neighbor as ourselves
we can do good as we have an opportunity to do it
we can show kindness for no earthly reason
we can give at great personal cost
we can manage businesses with care for people
we can go the extra mile

It is not in our own strength that we can do any of this

So we ask for
an understanding of Your heart as Father and
a love modeled by Your Son and
a passion stirred by Your Spirit

For your glory forever
and your will to be done on earth as it is in heaven we ask this


Does the Bible speak to social issues?

Does the Bible speak to social issues? The question is a little tricky to answer. The obvious answer is "Yes." And yet, the Bible was never meant to be used in our times as a political manifesto, a personnel policy manual, or a social activist handbook.

However, as I was studying for the Bible study on Wednesday nights that I am leading here at OBC (we are going through the book of Ruth), I realized that Ruth 2 speaks a great deal to some social issues. For instance...
  • anti-sexual harassment policies - Boaz made sure that the men who worked in his fields treated Ruth in a proper way.

  • welfare - Deuteronomy clearly took into account that people in society were disadvantaged and needed help. This teaching is applied by Boaz in the book of Ruth.

  • equal opportunity employment - In the book of Ruth, a Moabitess woman (the dregs of society from the perspective of Jews) was given the same right to glean in the fields of Boaz.
So, what does that mean for Christians today? I think there are several things we should consider.
  1. These types of passages really demonstrate God's grace in action. Boaz is such a visible representation of what God's grace is for a business owner. His 'employees' (i.e. servants) recognize that he acts in a way that is gracious.
  2. These social justice issues seem to be warranted by God's grace rather than an entitlement. There is a huge difference. In these passages whether Ruth deserves these things is not stressed. The fact that God is a gracious God is warrant enough to look out for "the least of these."
  3. Prejudice and discrimination clearly have no place in a God-follower's life.
  4. Whether a government in a fallen world is required to create welfare programs, pass discrimination laws, and provide equal opportunities is worthy of lengthy study and discussion. However, a follower of God who has been changed by the life, death, and teachings of Christ has no option but to care about these things. It is wrapped up in the command "Love your neighbor as yourself."
God's Word never fails to stir my interest. I don't read the Bible for information's sake, but I do feel informed as to the mind and heart of God when I read such things as Ruth 2.

Here's the commercial (couldn't resist!)...Come tonight to OBC at 6:30 pm in our fellowship hall and we will look at the chapter in some detail!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Where are we coming from?

I was looking at addresses of people who have visited OBC in recent days. So far, I have come across addresses that let me know people are coming from New Castle, Wilmington, Newark, Middletown, Elkton, and North East. I have gotten emails from people in PA and in NJ who have been coming here as well.

I believe that God in His grace and sovereignty has positioned our church in a unique place. We are accessible to so many people, especially with our proximity to I-95. Surely, this is a great opportunity for our church to minister to many people.

May God give us grace as He opens doors to minister to people in this quad-state region. Not so that OBC would be recognized, but that people would see Jesus Christ for all that He is.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Grace When You Fail

So, we stared a series of messages today on temptation. The first message was called "Grace When You Fail." For those who have iTunes, I have listed some songs (which can be bought for 99 cents) with their links that will remind you of God's grace even in the midst of our failure and defeat into temptation.
Disclaimer! These may not be your favorites. Everyone has different musical tastes, but the content of these songs is pretty strong!

Fine Dining

I have been privileged to have some of the finest in Mid-Atlantic cuisine. So, what have been the dining establishments?
  1. Cracker Barrel - I finally found pinto beans, cornbread, and fried okra in Delaware (actually it wasn't Delaware, it was Maryland).

  2. Ikea in Philadelphia - For $2.50, I got 2 hot dogs, a bag of chips, and a drink. What more could you ask for?
So, I will add that to California Tortilla, Five Guys, and countless Dunkin Donuts!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Check it out

Opening a new building is exciting in many ways. I wanted to encourage you to check out this information on how you can be involved in OBC's new building!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

NEWSFLASH, God is opening doors in Delaware and around the world

Based on Colossians 4, I challenged OBC and myself in a couple of sermons to pray that God would open doors and that we would be faithful to walk through them and talk about Jesus.

So far, I know this:
  1. God has been faithful to answer our prayers and many have communicated to me the open doors that he has placed before them.

  2. Many at OBC have been faithful to walk through those open doors and share the good news about grace in Jesus!
I know God wants to do this, and yet I am often surprised and so encouraged by many who have emailed me their "open door" encounters. I don't know what 2008 holds for Ogletown, but I know God has great plans for all nations and people to see how great his Son is, and we get to be a part of it!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Temptation from Z to A

This Sunday, I am planning on beginning a series of messages talking about temptation. This coming Sunday, we will be looking at what God says when we FAIL in temptation. Logically, I think this would normally be the last message of a series, but I wanted to frontload the series with God's words about grace in our failures. I believe that many may give up trying to fight temptation because of their repeated failures. So, I want to extend God's grace and hope to those who have fought and lost regularly.

Having said that, if you are in the category I am (failing too often in various temptations) or if you know someone who is, I am praying that Sunday will provide all of us words of hope from God about our failures, defeat, sin, guilt, and mistakes!

See you here!

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Grace is (somewhat) like a gift card

Sometime, I will share this story in a sermon. When I do, you can smile to yourself, and say "I read this on the blog."

This weekend, I had the privilege of using a gift card...a LOADED gift card with a NICE amount of money on it. It was fun. It just feels like free money. I bought a sportcoat, and was nowhere close to using all of the amount on the card. So, I bought a tie, and another one, and another one. Still the gift card was not used. I bought a sweater, and that finished it off. Good times!

I thought about that in the context of grace. The grace of God is really grace upon grace. We use a lot of it everyday, but it seems like there is always more. That seems to be the nature of God. He shows more grace all the time. We could never and will never exhaust it.

I enjoyed spending the gift card, but it in no way compares to the joy of receiving God's daily amazing grace! Thank God for the little (and big) reminders of how great His grace is!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Those who hope in...

Last night was yet another reminder that those of us who (sinfully) hope in a football team to provide us happiness will often be disappointed.**

Oh well, see you in September, Sooners!

**The exceptions to this for me of course would be '50,'55,'56,'74,'75,'85,'00 (yes, I recited those by memory, and yes Canaan will also do the same one day). I will also throw in '71,'77,'92,'93,'95.