Christmas starts this weekend at Parkcrest.
It kicks off at our 7th Street Campus with their Urban Angels event on Friday night for women.
On Sunday we begin the first 3 of 7 Christmas Services at our Heartwell Campus, where we’ll have the final 4 services on the 24th.
At the Lakewood Campus on the 24th, there will be a Christmas Open House with a petting zoo and Christmas pictures.
And then all of our campuses will be having a special service on Christmas morning.
If you’re in the Long Beach area, we’d love to see you there!
I’ve stolen a mantra from Mark Batterson over the last few years. Change of Pace + Change of Place = Change of Perspective. Sometimes just changing the environment that you’re in can give you a whole new perspective on something you’re working through.
Today, I packed up and headed to the coffee shop to work through some of my Christmas message and a few things that need to get written in the next couple of weeks for early next year. Sometimes that simple change can spark something that sitting in my office all day can’t.
For me, sometimes I’ll leave and take a 20 minute drive without the radio on, or I’ll write in my moleskine with a nice pen instead of writing on the computer, take a walk around the office, or I’ll simply change the music that I’m listening to to something completely different. For me, I’ve found that those little things can help get me going when I’ve hit a wall.
What are some of the ways that have been helpful for you to change your pace or place?
Our family went shopping today to buy presents for our Operation Christmas Child boxes. If you’ve never participated in Operation Christmas Child before, it’s essentially a way to share Christmas with kids around the world by purchasing small gifts and packing them into a shoebox that will be given to them as a Christmas gift.
We’ve participated in this every year we’ve been at Parkcrest. What we’ve started doing, is buying presents for a boy Isaac’s age, and for a girl, Kate’s age. The kids help pick out the presents, pack the boxes and write them a note with pictures they’ve colored. This year, we’ll register our box online and watch where it gets delivered to.
As they were packing up the boxes, I was reminded of this picture that a woman from Parkcrest sent me last year. She was traveling on a bus in Fiji, having participated in Operation Christmas Child a few months earlier, and saw this boy.
As she asked him about it, he shared with her how important this box was to him and said that it “made his Christmas extra special.”
Although this weekend is the deadline to turn your boxes in at Parkcrest, you’ve still got time to help make Christmas extra special for a child on the other side of the world.
I recently was asked to write an article for the Pastors in the Foursquare Denomination based on a message that I gave earlier this year.
Here’s an excerpt…
Far too many of us have bought into the fallacy that the way to accomplish this mission is to have really great and attractive church services. Is it possible that we have become too focused on the church service, believing that the service itself would accomplish the mission of the church? It seems we have lost sight of empowering our people to live out that mission, instead training them to become consumers of a church experience.
As leaders, we need to stop blaming those whom we lead, and instead recognize that we’ve played a role in creating the vast consumerism that’s running throughout the church in North America.
You can read the rest of it here
(also, thanks to Marcia Graham for getting me to do this and editing the final draft)
This American Life is one of my favorite things to listen to. I listen to very little music, almost all podcasts, and This American Life is one that I never miss. This week’s episode is on Middle School. If you have any kind of influence with Middle Schoolers, as a parent, pastor, teacher, whatever, it’s worth a listen (This American Life makes only the show from the previous week free to download, so get it before Sunday if you want to listen to it).
A couple of things I was reminded of as I listened (it’s got much more in it than this, but these were two overarching ideas I left with after listening):
Middle School is hard. Those can be some of the roughest years for a kid as you’re growing up.
Middle School is exciting. It’s a time where you form who you are, try new things and experiment.
That makes such an interesting tension for those who do ministry to that age group. It takes the right person and personality type. It made me really proud of our Junior High Ministry and Scott Schlatter who leads it. He’s been doing this ministry much longer than the average tenure of a Junior High Minister and gets better and better every year.
If you go to Parkcrest, listen to this episode, be reminded of what that age group is like and thank Scott and the incredible volunteers who serve our Middle School students.
I was driving with Allison not long ago when we came across a church that had a sign to attract people to come to this particular church. Although it was worded much more eloquently, the sign essentially said, “Don’t like that contemporary music at your current church, then come to ours – we’re doing it the way that you got used to 50 years ago”. Again, they said it in a much nicer way than that, but that was it’s essence.
It got me thinking about churches that I know of that actually aren’t doing anything to reach people far from God, but instead have gotten really good at collecting disgruntled believers from other churches. Most churches are good at hiding that, by having something in their mission statement about reaching unbelievers or something like that, but their reality hasn’t reflected actually doing that in 30 years. At least this one church was being honest about what they’re doing – trying to connect with Christians who are looking to leave their church.
All this led me to ponder out loud – can those churches actually be defined as a church? Isn’t one of the core, defining characteristics of what makes a church, a church, that it actively lives out the mission of Jesus? Would the New Testament call it a church if it wasn’t doing that? Is it a church because they read the Bible and sing some songs? Is it a church because the name on their sign says so?
As we move forward on seeing 50 churches planted in the next 5 years, one of our expectations is that we would be seeing new churches help people discover faith in Jesus. Shouldn’t our expectation be the same for the long established churches as well? And if they aren’t, what should we call them if they’re missing one of the essential defining characteristics of what it means to be a church?
What is it that makes a church, a church?
On Tuesday, I got to be a part of something incredibly significant. We publicly launched our movement with other churches in our city to plant 50 new churches in the Long Beach area over the next 5 years in order to see our city transformed.
It was great to have Rick Warren there for us, kicking off the event and talking about how you don’t need a building, money or many people to plant churches. He was a huge encouragement, and worked the room better than anyone I’ve ever seen.
Miles McPherson shared about what it looks like to be a church that cares for the needs of your city and does something about it.
It was a huge gift to have these two very gifted leaders, who lead some of the largest churches in the country (and who actually planted those churches) help us kick off this movement, but what I was more impressed by was who was in the room. There were church planters and potential church planters. Urban leaders and business leaders. Incredibly wealthy men and women, some of whom lead large companies, as well as leaders who lead nationally recognized ministries. There was socio-economic diversity, denominational diversity, and ethnic diversity. The more than 260 people who filled up the room, looked like Long Beach, and the buzz was palatable.
As I talked with one person after the event they told me about how emotional they were during worship to see the spirit of unity in the room amongst such a diverse crowd. When the church unites, not just for unity’s sake, but for the sake of mission, something powerful happens…and we saw that Tuesday. I’m so grateful for the leaders who have stepped up and who I get to lead in this alongside. It is no small act of humility and sacrifice for each of these pastors to contribute their time, finances and even at times their reputation in some circles in order to see the mission of Jesus moved forward in our city.
Now’s the time when we get going, put our money where our mouth is and get some churches that reflect our city planted. But that was an incredible way to get started.
Yesterday I got home from the 4th Big Idea Retreat that I’ve led with several of our staff. Every year I take 5-8 of our staff away for a couple of days and as a group, we outline the next year’s message series. Every year, I’m blown away that we’re able to do this and that we come out of it with some great material. Now that I’ve done this for 4 years, here’s a few of the benefits and why I keep doing it:
1. There are great ideas that I would never have on my own
The way that I was trained to come up with message series is to go away on my own and to dream up what we’re going to be talking about. I could really easily do that – there’s plenty of things that I’d love to talk about, but if we did, the kinds of messages that we would do would be heavily slanted towards what I more naturally want to communicate. Different people have different passions and vantage points when it comes to what we need to communicate. Some of our best series in the past few years were ones that someone else came up with and would have never happened if I was the sole idea person for our message series. Our messages at church are richer because we do this every year.
2. Planning 1 year ahead gives me more room for ideas to build
Because I now know what we’re speaking on through 2012, I can collect ideas along the way, begin reading books that would be helpful and start processing ideas that are months away from being delivered as a sermon. I have a system where I catalogue ideas, insights, etc that can be used in messages. This helps me to have some direction on what to be collecting. This takes a huge burden off of my shoulders…and I’m not constantly having to figure out what we’re going to be talking about next month.
3. We can plan natural ebbs and flows in the life of the church
By planning 1 year in advance, we can be thinking about what we talk about based on attendance patterns, what’s happening at that time of year, and having a healthy balance of the kinds of sermons that we deliver.
4. There is greater buy-in with what we’re doing as a church
The messages that we give help to shape our church and really in a lot of ways are a means to cast vision, simply by what we chose to talk about. I believe that vision is worked out in a team environment, which then also means that the message topics need to be worked out in a team environment
5. I can give voice to and push back on theological ideas and biblical interpretations
I don’t do a huge amount of teaching through specific texts with our staff or theologies, but as we talk about messages and how we want to frame things, I get an opportunity to speak into the way that we’re reading texts and some of our theological framework in a more pointed way than I do when we do take opportunities to talk about that stuff as a staff. It was funny to me what people remembered I had said about specific passages of Scripture based on what we had talked about in years past. And at the same time, I get challenged by
6. I enjoy hanging with our staff
There are things that we can’t plan for, conversations we can’t create and experiences that we don’t have together outside of getting away and spending a few days with one another. I think those encounters make us a better team and help us towards pushing the ball down the field a little bit better. Plus, it gives me some great blackmail material on our staff.
Our Big Idea retreat has become, I believe, one of the more important things that we do each year for our church. I love it and am already starting to think about next year’s.
At Parkcrest United, we announced our involvement in partnership with churches in the Long Beach area to plant 50 new churches over the next 5 years in order to see our city transformed. On Tuesday, we’re holding an official kick-off event for this effort to invite even more churches, potential church planters, business and city leaders to be a part of this.
We have just a few spots left for this lunch event with Rick Warren and Miles McPherson. The details and the link to register are below. If you want to come and hear more about what we’re doing, I’d love to see you there.
WHEN:Tuesday, October 25th, from 11:00 AM – 1:30 PM
COST:$25 – Includes lunch
WHERE:The Reef, 880 Harbor Scenic Drive, Long Beach
GUEST SPEAKERS:Rick Warren, Pastor, Author
Miles McPherson, Pastor, Author
MORE ON VISON360