Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Bubble Wrapped Life

During our core days of Ridge Church we did a series called "Interrupted." The big idea being the fact that interruptions in our lives are inevitable and often un-invited. However, some of the greatest interruptions have the capacity to become blessings and opportunities. Children are a great example. They interrupt everything--the quiet, our checking account, the new furniture smell that 'was' in our homes, our date nights and romantic meals, our emotional stability:-) But you'd be hard pressed to find a mom or dad that doesn't talk affectionately and often about their children. Interruption? --Yes!... Blessing?---Most definitely! My favorite time in the series was the night we discussed "The Safe Life Interrupted." Maybe you can relate--- it is a struggle in my own life not to simply migrate back to all that is safe, convenient and predictable. Most of us like a measure of predictability and routine. BUT, truthfully, as I consider my personal experience pursuing Jesus and living out the values he taught, it isn't always simple or safe or predictable, but it is always satisfying.

To put it lightly, this idea stirred again in my mind today reading Chazown, by Craig Groeschel. It wasn't even his main point in the chapter I was reading, but he threw out this rough definition of "Sacrifice" that resonated and stuck with me. It went like this: "Sacrifice is giving up something you love for something you love more." Simply profound, huh? I can't help but think what this would look like in my life. I mean what if?...What if we actually did that consistently? And what if the something we loved more was actually someone?...and what if that someone was actually worthy of the sacrifice? Many of us have discovered that "someone" in Jesus, but I still think He is the best kept secret around. But, I'm getting off subject... Bottom line, following Jesus isn't our safest option necessarily but it is the most sensible and satisfying one! It is the only option that can make sense of this life. So don't live a bubble wrapped life. You've got to dig into this thing and discover the depth of life available in Jesus. I'm convinced every one would love Jesus if they would just let down their guard and meet Him! Check out the video that went along with "the safe life interrupted" talk. I think you'll enjoy it. I'd love to hear your thoughts on "sacrifice" as Craig defined it--how did you process it? and the video!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Do it anyway

You know the kind of activities that you know are good for you but you still sometimes hate the energy and commitment it takes to get to the place of participating in that activitiy? Good activities that in hind sights are always applauded and enjoyed OR even if they aren't enjoyed you at least see the benefits?---Like going to the gym. You hit the alarm clock which is rattling off the night stand over an hour earlier than it should, and in that moment you hate the gym, exercise trainers and anything that is remotely connected to the gym. But you do it anyway! AND later, when your energy levels are good, and the doctor gives you a green light...in hindsight you are glad you went! (or maybe the details are slightly different and you now know you should have gone!)

Here's my confession, that feels very "un-pastor-like" but I'll say it any way since it's true. I meet with a group of men on Thursday mornings (we call it oxygen) for a time of prayer and the description above is often my experience. Some mornings, I just have so much to do, it feels like I can't schedule it or justify it or focus on it...BUT every time, literally every time, I am so glad that I sat with those men and heard their hearts poured out before God. I'm so glad I have participated with them in opening our hearts before God and laying down our desires, and needs. It does something in me and to me that I can't quite explain with words. It is powerful to watch and experience the alignment of our hearts with the heart of God, and I'm convinced that nothing does that like prayer. I walk away from that time feeling as though God was sitting among us. From time to time I can almost feel his pleasure in our joined voices and hearts, pleading to Him. But that makes perfect sense if you consider God's Word. Deuteronomy 4:7 reveals that"...God is near us whenever we pray to him." That sure makes sense of what I experience every Thursday morning! So, the next time you think about jumping into prayer personally and privately, or with a small group or with some group like the one that I meet with, and something else presses in, and attempts to Hi-Jack your time or focus---Do it anyway! You'll be so glad you did. Remember "...God is near us whenever we pray to him."

We pray about all sorts of things but these four things, concerning Ridge Church are part of the discussion and pleading with God every time we meet. We have seen evidence of God working in each area, answering request--orchestrating his plan among us! :
  • God's Glory: We pray that men and women will experience life in Jesus and that we will play a role in seeing God's Glory move forward in this city...and beyond.
  • God's Kingdom Advance: We pray not just that "Ridge Church" will grow and succeed in our mission, but that God's Kingdom will advance and become an epidemic. We pray for other churches, pastors, and ministries by name.
  • God's Provision: We ask God to provide for this vision by providing people that will partner with us as on-going percentage givers and others as "Gap" or "Vision" Givers. Ultimately we pray that God will align people's hearts with this vision (Wow--that one is happening in a big way!)
  • Specifically about a morning facility: Each week we confess to God that we don't see what he sees, and that we want to move through this life based on his knowledge and view of the world around us---not our own. We beg him to put us in a place that would be optimal for seeing people's lives changed. For more info on participating in this one click here: VISION PARTNERS.
**UPDATE on VISION PARTNERS: We had two more commitments last week. Both individuals are new to Ridge Church, but love what they have experienced!! Still need at least 10 more commitments (15 would be even better). You guys rock, for stepping up on this. I know that there are others that will step up to the plate for Ridge Church on this as well.

Seven Practices: (8:15-9:30am, Th., Mornings @ PJ's, in Matthews):
I am very excited to introduce a new element to Thursday mornings. For the next two months we are going through a book together called "7 Practices of Effective Ministry." In addition to our normal time in prayer, we will spend 15-20 minutes each Thursday morning dialoging around these practices. The practices are simple, but amazing and can be scaled to apply to so many contexts. Work, school, home and family etc. Can't wait to jump in and see what kind of conversations emerge.

If you missed the last service you can catch it here. We honestly didn't know what to expect with the weather in question and the biggest NFL playoff games of the year going on. We opened the doors and just hoped people would actually show up. As it turned out, we had to set out four or five extra rows of chairs in the back to fit every one in! Josh Bayne lead us in an incredible night of worship. He had some cool an ecouraging things to say about ridge on his blog. It was an incredible night!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Happty 13th Birthday!

Who's 13th you say? Ridge Church of course. Not 13 years, or even 13 months, but 13 services. We fully intend to have many more of these! We began the journey that first night by talking about the fact that the way things are in our world, in our lives, in the church, is not the way they have to be. (Listen Here) We truly believe that there is something incredible that happens when the church creates contagious, relevant environments, where peole can be encouraged to pursue the right kind of relationships---starting with our relationship to our Heavenly Father.

For us the pursuit of three vital relationships defines us and becomes the filter for all that we do as a church. If it doesn't funnel people into one of these three relationships we simply don't do it. We feel like focus and simplicity are keys to success in reaching people:
  1. Intimacy with God (Listen Here)
  2. Community with Insiders (Listen Here)
  3. Influence with Outsiders (Listen Here)
Lock and Load People of Ridge:

I love the challenge of looking ahead and wrestling through the details of the future of this church. God wired me that way. The preeminent question
that we are asking currently is when, where and how we will make the move to becoming a Sunday morning church. Why? It is simple--because we believe this is the optimal time to meet---the best time to partner with each of you to become an "easy invite" for your friends, neighbors, and co-workers---especially for families with small children, and we have alot of those! PLEASE hear my heart: Our mission is about people, not facilities, buildings or private empires, BUT if a facility (specifically one available on Sunday morning) better enables, and platforms us to partner with each of you in seeing the people in your world and mine meet Jesus, then it isn't "a nice to have--it's a must have!"

S0...some of you love this idea. It resonates with you. It makes sense to you. Many of you have been impacted, and influenced personally! Many of you ask about the progress and how you can help so here it is: Become a vision partner with Ridge Church. Cool stuff is shaking loose and many have already stepped up, but we need at least 12 more families, or households, or individuals (you too college students!) that would partner with us as "percentage givers" this next year at Ridge. (Percentage Giver meaning a commitment to give a percentage of your normal income)" If we have 12 more commitments we will make an offer on an incredible Sunday morning facility. Exciting Days! You can help. Click here to sign up as a Vision Partner.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Snow and community group

Well, good luck finding bread and milk today, around Charlotte. I've never understood it, but apparently those two items are essential to survival in case you get snowed in for a week (with less than two inches of snow)? So, less than 24 hours later the snow is gone and you can probably find discounted bread and milk on craig's list or ebay or something.

But, not all of the snow is technically gone. We have the largest snow man in the neigborhood. A little bit weird shape, but he is stellar! NOTE: It took all of the snow in the front yard to make him. We were playing in the snow at 8am this morning, and then the kids were off to school after a two hour delay. They loved it!

Here the girls brought the snow in doors for some cooking and Brayden is taking aim:
The night ended with community group at our house. We do some pretty cool stuff at Ridge Church, but community groups are clearly the best and most vital thing that we do. We have seven couples in our group that hardly knew each other when we began. In fact, most of them had never even met prior to group but friendships grow so quickly in this context. We are having an incredible time together. My wife is a killer cook, so the food is always great, but it is so fun to watch these groups take off and grow together. Next weekend we are doing a retreat in the mountains and every one is stoked, looking forward to spending the time together. Tonight after group I told my wife that I can't wait until these groups are meeting in neighborhoods across the city. Every person deserves and needs to experience relationships in this kind of context. Every person needs a group of people to do life with. February 2nd we are having our first "Group Link" to form new groups. Seriously you need to sign up and attend if you haven't already. You won't regret it.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Reunions, Momentum, Excellence, and Updates

The topic of many sermons in recent years... "If Jesus decided to avail himself in our current world what would he look like" Well, for a moment we thought we had spotted him in the Ridge Church parking lot. He was rollin' in this "pimp my ride addition" pick-up truck approximately 1,700 lights, including blue lights around each tire, and a tree in the back.

Well, no Jesus, not yet anyway...but it was a cool reunion with a Brian Queen. I didn't recognize him at first, but I used to speak at Garinger, his high school like 7-8 years ago. Good to re-connect Brian---love the ride! Keep pursuing Jesus.

Ridge Church had her 13th public service this past weekend and we have a really cool sense of momentum right now. Tons of new faces, and people are really excited about group link and are signing up to attend (February 2nd). Many of the people that have been to Ridge Church only three or four times are already shadowing in various ministries and jumping in to give and serve. Andy Stanley talked about the need that every person has "to be known" We all live with the tension of image management and run the risk of living our lives never really being known if we don't allow ourselves to be in relationship with the right people. It's an unbelievable talk. Check it out (Q3 part two).

We have a lot people make comments about the high quality that we have been able to pull off as a brand new "load-in" church. Honestly we still feel like we are just learning, and doing the best we can with what we have, but we do strive for excellence. Excellence is not one of our core values but creating relevant environments is. We want to create environments that partner with Believers as a safe place for them to invite the people in their circles of influence that have yet to discover the love, acceptance, and Salvation found in Jesus. We talk alot about the fact that everything that we do communicates something that we believe about God.

This excellence shows up in a significant way in our music. We are privileged to have a lot of amazing musicians, that are in love with Jesus, play on the stage at Ridge Church. Josh Via is is a good friend and amazing musician that loves Jesus with all his heart. He leads for us frequently and we love this guy! Ben Richter has knocked it out of the park for us a few times too and will lead for us regularly in 2008. And Michael Johnston has lead for us as well. Quick story on Michael, in response to questions from several of you. He was the lead singer of a really poplular band a few years ago called the "Small Town Poets." Michael obviously has an amazing level of talent but carries himself with humility--never like a rock star. Check these guys out on-line, then come out and hear them in person at Ridge Church.

OKAY. The burning question...the number one question I'm asked currently is about Ridge Church moving to Sunday Mornings. When? and Where? We are in pursuit of several Sunday morning opportunities and you can help us get there. If you'd like to know more click here to find out about becoming a Vision Partner with us. For those already involved, we are about 12 commitments away from our goal. Thanks for your interest, and thanks for partnering with us in this amazing vision!!

Friday, January 11, 2008

What keeps you awake at night?

Okay, I confess that the question I am posing "What keeps you awake at night?" doesn't have much current context with me personally. See, I have a gift, one that I am grateful to God for, one that many of you wish you had. Here it is: I have a gift to be able sleep at night. To put my head on the pillow and lights out! I know a lot of people can't sleep at night for many reasons (like your snoring spouse, or a crying infant, or the inability to stop thinking about what happened at work, or the double shot venti mocha from Starbucks) I was like that early on in ministry but something changed, a story for another time, BUT now I sleep at night.

But you know what I am asking when I say "What keeps you awake at night?"...Right? In other words, what is it that drives you, energizes you, pumps adrenaline through your body? What are you passionate about? What is the thing you can't wait to blog about, show pictures of, tell your friends at work about? What do you do that invigorates you? What do you do that makes you lose track of time? Your answers to these questions will reveal your passions...or lack of them.

For me it has been clear for sometime. As a 17 year old I experienced a relationship with Jesus for the first time, and I have never "recovered" from meeting him. He changed me. The trajectory of my life was set in those days, and though I didn't know how, and didn't know all the details I knew the rest of my life would be committed to making Jesus famous. I somehow knew that if people could just meet him, not the way the church often portrays him, but actually meet him that they would be crazy about him too. I pray every day that my children will know him, and that my wife and I will accurately portray Jesus to them.

That is what drives, excites, motivates me. The mission of Ridge Church is, "To lead people into a growing relationship with Jesus." It is a mission that will out last us. It requires prayers that are bigger than us. It is a mission that deserves and requires our attention. It is something worthy of consideration at the very least. In fact I bet every person reading this wishes they could be certain that the contributions of their life out last them. We all want to make a difference. Well, for me and a lot of other people that call Ridge Church home, this is it. What about you, "What keeps you awake at night?"

Wouldn't you hate to find out after the fact that this exciting movement was shaking lose in your city and you didn't know it or worse yet you knew it and casually dismissed it? In his book "Chazown", Craig Groeschel says this about vision, "When God gives you His vision, he also gives you the ability to get it done"...I KNOW this is true for me----Now quickly, before you misunderstand me, and roll to the next blog because of my apparent arrogance listen to what I mean. The vision God has placed in my heart for the city of Charlotte is overwhelming, but he has given me the "abilities" to get it done, and by "abilities" I mean yours. The collective abilities of those that call ridge church home, as well as those that will call ridge church home in the future are the fuel for this vision. The revolution I envision, the stuff I dream of will take the abilities of many, and God is gathering that army. Buckle your seat belt. I can't wait for all of our friends, family, and co-workers to meet Jesus!

To learn more about becoming a Vision Partner with Ridge Church. Click HERE.

Monday, January 7, 2008

2008...off and running

Ridge Church kicked off the new year with a series called "Q3". The first night was about Asking Big, something all of us could probably afford to do a little bit more of. It is pretty normal for us to drift toward safety and toward prayers that manage the details and circumstances surrounding our lives, but there is so much more to prayer.

Most of the time when pastors talk about stuff like this there is some sort of hidden agenda for the church, but the topic of the night was all about individuals asking God to do big things in their personal lives. Stuff so big that "if it was answered it would drive people in our lives to acknowledge the hugeness, the power, the love, the hope, the compassion, the ability of our God!

If each of us would take this challenge seriously I think the results in our neighborhoods, families, places of employment, highschool and colleges would begin to morph before our eyes. I can't wait to see it implemented in our lives!! Ask Big.

Alright, check out the "PHAT" stage that Rusty and his team put together for "Q3". Two important notes as you look. First, we load all of this stuff in before service and load it back out afterward so it had to be light, portable, and easy to assemble. Second, this stage set was all done for roughly $50 (with a few donations of course.)

Sunday was a great day for many reasons. New faces, people beginning to fully embrace this church, great volunteers displaying excellence in every way, incredible music and worship. We talk a lot about the fact that every week someone is experiencing Ridge Church for the first time. This reminder is a vital part of our preparations. Check out this blog entry someone forwarded me from a first timer at Ridge.

Sunday night church is risky business though. Seriously, who in the world goes to church on Sunday night? It is a stretch even for people that like church! Especially if you have small children that go to bed early. Inspite of that we had 50 children fifth grade and younger at Ridge Church. There was a contagious energy in the building, and very little space in the parking lot! Churches don't typically grow numerically on Sunday nights. In fact most decline, so we are grateful to God for the increase at Ridge Church. Something is about to shake loose!

Moving to Sunday Morning:

Ridge Church took a year in '06 to cast vision, train and develop a core team, and launched to the public in September '07. We now have 12 public services under our belt and feel like the next big step is making the move to Sunday mornings. Many of you are interested in helping us get there! If you'd like to help, here is one simple and practical way. We are asking 45 people (housholds) to partner with us as "percentage givers" at Ridge Church this next year. This would enable us to make an offer on a Sunday Morning facility in Matthews. Help us get there!! Become a "Vision Partner". (This link is not a public link on our website) Join the journey, the adventure, something amazing that God is up to in this city.