Thursday, January 29, 2009

God made me listen

My schedule is somewhat amped...well really amped, right now. So this morning, I walked the dog. Side note: My dog, Samson, he is really dumb. He sniffs, digs a hole, repeats that process several times, then relieves himself. The catch is he misses the hole every time. I've never seen him even come close to hitting the hole after digging with such precision and intentionality. Most of the time he is facing the complete wrong direction. Talk about side ways energy. It perplexes me.

Back to the story...after walking the dog, I headed out to face the day full of meetings and things to promote progress in our mission. My brain was bumping 98 mph before the door even closed behind me. I jumped in the truck, buckled up for safety, and turned the key. AND--NOTHING. Don't blame her though, she has pounded out 245k miles since she came off the lot in 1995. She is old and tired! After several tries I just sat there and smiled. I knew that "God was making me listen." Let me be clear. I'm not telling you to break out your Bible on 485 next time you run out of gas, but in this case it was as if God tapped me on the shoulders and said: "Me first, Chris. Start with Me. Slow down. I have something to tell you."

So still sitting in my truck, buckled up (hope the neighbors didn't see me)-- I opened up my Bible and read Colossians 1. I got to verse 11 and here is how it looked to me:

"Being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance..."

And there it was bigger than life; louder than the to do list screaming in my head; more important than the 98 mph rate I started with. God spoke to me! It wasn't audible but it sure was loud. God has what I need. He can dispense the great endurance this mission and calling requires of me. I spent a few minutes praying for "great endurance" and thanking God for it. Then, I closed my Bible, turned the key again, and she cranked right up. Today, God made me listen, and I'm so glad that he did.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Muddy water, drink up!

If you were a faucet or a spring what kind of water would come out? Clean water? Muddy water? Or the kind of water that "looks clean" and jacks you up with a bacterial infection two days later? Someone from your office came to mind with that last description didn't they? They smile really big and say "hello, how are you today?"...all appearances are good, then they throw you under the proverbial bus as soon as you walk away. You know I'm right :-)

Truthfully, unless you are more self aware than most people you run the risk of placing yourself in a category that wouldn't match what those that interact with you the most would actually say.

So, Jesus summed it up this way: "For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks." Uh Oh! So, if it found safe passage through your lungs, vocal cords, and made a debut into the public air waves then you can be certain that it is also in your heart! In other words what we say to people, about people, in front of people isn't a words problem or issue it is a heart problem or issue. Your words are a mirror reflecting your heart.

Bitter words reflect a bitter heart
Angry words reflect an angry heart
Negative words reflect a negative heart
Judgmental words reflect a judgmental heart
Condemning words reflect a condemned heart
Divisive words reflect a divisive heart
Grace filled words reflect a grace filled heart
Encouraging words reflect an encouraged heart
Visionary words reflect a heart filled with vision
Forgiving words reflect a "forgiven" heart
Hope filled words reflect a hope filled heart

So how is your heart? Listen to the words coming out of your mouth in private and public and know that they never lie. If you invite God to revitalize, renew, or recalibrate your heart--you will be amazed at what you discover, and how it affects your words.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Monday Review [2nd service?]

We dove into part 3 of "Breakaway" and answered the question "What if we believed that God really did know what was best for us--how would that changes our decisions and ultimately the outcomes of our lives?" Really practical and powerful stuff.

These are exciting days for us. We have had three really great services in a row and are beginning the conversation of what it would take to add a full second service to replace our 9:30am CORE worship (abbreviated worship service for our incredible volunteers). The primary catalyst for this conversation is pretty simple. Our family ministry areas (Waumba and Upstreet) are almost at capacity. What a great"problem" or conversation to begin! No time lines for now, just conversations. We want to maximize our current set up before pulling the trigger on another service. But, if you have been thinking about stepping up to serve or volunteer at Ridge and haven't pulled the trigger yet--NOW IS DEFINITELY THE TIME!!

Last, but not least. Great start to the student impact room. A couple of ping pong tables, a wii, some food of course, and some incredible Student Impact adult volunteers combined for fun and successful start. Can't wait to see what happens next.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Ridge Student Room Opens

This Sunday our Student Impact room is open for the first time! This room is open to all middle and high school students before and after the 11:00 a.m. worship service. Parents, no children 5th grade or younger in the Student Impact room PLEASE! You can still donate to this environment as we continue to make improvements in the upcoming weeks. Students...we will see you there!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Monday Review [Breakaway 1]

If you were at Walmart or the grocery store buying milk or bread Sunday for the "winter storm" then you seriously missed out. Amazing day at Ridge Church as we kicked off part one of our new series Breakaway. Band opened with "Ants Marching" by the Dave Matthews Band. Perfect fit for the topic of the day and super exciting start to the morning. Andy Cherry along with an amazing band really nailed it. I'm pretty sure it was the first time Dave Matthews has hit the "air waves" at the Levine Senior Center where we meet, if you know what I mean. Here are a few pictures from the day:
Breakaway Adult Stage Set

Truly awesome time worshiping together!Upstreet Production (K-5th grade)

Upstreet Small Groups (Amazing Leaders!)
Smile says it all! Truth on hat ain't bad either!

Friday, January 16, 2009

I never dreamed of being average

"Breakaway": Begins 1/18/09 Don't be late the opener is awesome!
When you were you
ng, you were told, "You are special!" and were encouraged to become anything you wanted. The future held unlimited options. But then life happened. And now you look around feeling, thinking, looking, and acting basically the same as the next guy. You can't help but feel trapped and hemmed in. Unfortunately, many try to break out of the suffocating sameness by making the same bad decisions over and over again. In this series Andy renovates our thinking by illustrating four core beliefs that dictate the decisions shaping the outcome of our life.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

A church with bed side manners?

My son is sick with Pneumonia (so hard to watch them sick!) but I had a great reminder about the importance of good "bed side manners" today at his doctor's visit. You will agree with my observation if you are a parent or if you don't get all that excited about doctor's visits! Here it is:

What happens between the parking lot and the minute the doctor walks in the room is a huge deal! It sets the mood for the whole "event/experience."
  • Is the nurse smiling and pleasant when she/he calls your name to come back?
  • Does she/he say things like "hmmmm?" or "interesting" or "WOW!" or "oooooh my" while taking your vitals?
  • Do they write furiously on their pad as they occasionally peak over the glasses at you, yet say nothing?
  • Once you are in the exam room, are you left for the longest minutes of your life with no news of what's ahead? No instruction, no idea of what comes next?
  • And, the silence...what's up with the silence? It messes with your head.
Truthfully, we are either more relaxed or more stressed when the doctor finally arrives based on what happened on the way to the exam table. It's true. Today, our nurse was simply amazing! She put my son and consequently his parents at ease. She smiled, she explained, she empathized, she cared--or gave a very convincing performance if she didn't. She totally set the doctor up for success!

Here are my non-medical observations about "vitals" for Doctors:
  1. They must see every patient as some one's precious son, daughter, spouse etc not just another patient
  2. They must remember that the only minor doctor's visit or surgery is the one some else is having! This stuff is a big deal to the one's sitting in the other seat. They must see it through the patients eyes not the just the doctor's eyes.
So, this got me thinking. How are the bed side manners at our church? I want us to be great at this. Not just "church standard" great, but Chic-fil-A, Starbucks, Marriott, Disney World, Apple store great! For starters, hopefully people are more excited than at the last doctors visit when they pull up! However there are some obvious similarities. What we do from the time people drive onto our property to the time the sermon begins has HUGE significance. It ain't just about the sermon friends!

*Were we friendly? Enough but not too much?
*Were we clear on where to go, what to do, and what to expect?
*What did they see, hear or experience in parking lot and foyer?

*Did the stage set make them curious?

*Was there any one available to answer questions?

Here are my observations for churches. Stuff we MUST NOT forget! Eerily similar to doctor observations:-)
  1. "WE" must see every person as some one's precious son, daughter, spouse etc. But even bigger than that, as someone of extreme importance to our heavenly Father. Someone he died for. Not just another attendee!
  2. "WE"must remember that most first time visitors or people returning to church after a long break are really nervous and unsure about what they will experience. Their guard is up. Consequently this stuff is a big deal to the one's sitting in the "other seat". See it through their eyes not yours!
**What about your church? How are your bedside manners?
**What assumptions do you make about people when they arrive at your church?

**From parking lot to sermon are you working to relax people or unintentionally stressing them out?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Read my lips...shut up!

Our words can be a very slow and painful train wreck. Our spoken words are like emptying the feathers from a pillow. Once they hit the wind you can never put it all back where it came from.

Three recent situations that I observed (and cringed!) reminded me of the power of our words--either to destroy or to build.

Lets reduce it to the bare minimum. Your daily spoken words will either:
  1. Build and encourage
  2. Destroy and discourage
Spend them wisely, because there are no refunds. We've all been there and tried to retrieve a sentence a moment too late. At home. At work. In neighborhood. At church--words matter. They build or destroy...they encourage or discourage. Steward your words well.

From my devotions:
Proverbs 13:3 "He who guards his lips guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin." Did you see that? This is serious business. There is a direct connection between our life and our words. James called the tongue " ...a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the man can tame it." Maybe we should pay closer attention to the wake of wreckage our words leave and adjust accordingly. Maybe like James said, this is God's jurisdiction and we need his help. I pray often that God would guide, guard, and filter my words before they hit the air waves. Don't tell my kids I said this, but just maybe we all need to shut up from time to time? You with me?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

It's none of your business

"It's none of your business." That's what Chelsea Clinton said to a college student in response to questions regarding her dad's promiscuous past. Truthfully this kind of thinking [It's none of your business] has and will lead to many messes in our lives. Because you are human, I know that there are things in your life that you don't want any one else's opinion on so you simply don't ask, and you definitely don't tell. And if someone happens to offer their opinion about that thing, that habit, that relationship...well..."it's none of their business".

Reality Check: As long as you keep quiet about__________ it enables you to continue. Silence and secrecy are the best friends of some of the most destructive forces in our lives.

Q: What are you intentionally secret or silent about?

Q: Who are you taking advice from? No really, who would you listen to, even if it hurt?

Q: Who has full permission to speak freely about your life--professional life?--private life?

Proverbs 13:10 "...wisdom is found in those who take advice" Find some one you trust and let them in!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Monday Review [unwritten]

Great day at Ridge today as we kicked off the new year with a one part deal called "Unwritten" There is simply too much at stake for us to allow the things already written on the pages of our lives to determine that which is yet to be written. Catch the message HERE.

The band seriously did an amazing job today, both leading worship and with the cover tunes. Josh Via lead out on the opener with "This is your Life" by Switchfoot. Lauren Wilson really nailed the closer "Unwritten" by Natasha Bedington [impressive!]. Brett, Trenton, and Chad brought the heat too. Simply stated. They are phenomenal.

*37 kids in Upstreet today. I think that may have matched our largest upstreet to date. Here are a few pics from the day. We started off the new year in style:

Saturday, January 10, 2009

This ain't your grandma's church!

While I am admittedly irritated and bothered sometimes by the churches and church leaders in my generation that sometimes say and do things under the guise of "relevance", that are more aptly described as rude and lacking discernment---I love the fact that my generation is trying so hard, and sometimes even "breaking the rules" to reach people and make a difference. We are putting so much thought, effort, creativity, and financial resources into re-shaping the image of church and of God that exists in most people's minds. And we are making progress! The bar that had plummeted to an embarrassingly low level for churches is gradually being raised.

At Ridge we place a high value on creativity, excellence, and relevance. We believe everything that we do communicates something we believe about God, and we believe he was and is all three of those words! Creative. Excellent. Relevant.

Buckhead Church is a campus of our Partner Church, North Point Community Church, led by Andy Stanley. Check out this video of a service they did earlier in '08. This ain't your grandma's church!:

Friday, January 9, 2009

Do you have a student ministry?

I am so excited about the beginnings of our student ministry at Ridge Church. We began really laying the ground work in '08 and we are taking the first steps to bring it into reality. I led student ministry (middle school, high school, and college) for almost a decade before starting Ridge Church and I have both the passion for and commitment to see Ridge become the seed bed for a student ministry full of passion and radical life change. This is just one event for the teenage girls that will jump start this amazing year. I will talk about "Student Impact" later:
The Revolve Tour is coming to Greensboro, North Carolina with "All Access". This is an awesome event just for teen girls! The middle and high school girls from Ridge Church will be going for the weekend of January 23-24. Be ready for an experience you will never forget! The weekend will be packed full of fun, awesome concerts with bands like "Hawk Nelson" and "Group 1 Crew", plus some great speakers who will talk about these issues relevant to teenage girls today. Go HERE for more information.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Stop responding in Prayer!

Okay, that title was just to get your attention:-) I am absolutely confident that God is calling and drawing me toward a new place and new understanding of prayer as we move into '09. God has been rocking me with this simple thought (maybe you'll hear it as a message sometime in the future):

Prayer is so much more than a response.
When we lose our job we PRAY!
When we or our loved ones get sick we PRAY!
When we have a relational crisis we PRAY!
When we are feeling desperate we PRAY!
When all other roads and options have been exhausted we Pray!

Don't get me wrong those are great times to pray. I have, I would, and I will pray in those kind of circumstances in the future. But, as long as you see prayer as a result and not a cause you (we) have missed something monumental.

Prayer is causal. We shouldn't just pray when stuff happens we should pray that stuff happens. Not bad stuff--but stuff--God stuff! When we pray stuff happens. Sometime huge stuff. Prayer isn't just a band aid, it is the force that shakes loose the foundations of some of the cruddy stuff in our lives. The prayer closet is the dream closet. Some of the greatest dreams and aspirations of our lives will come from times on our face in prayer. Prayer is so much more than a response to tragedy. It is the cause of change and the cause of movements that shape generations. Prayer somehow invites God onto the scene whatever the scene may be!

I told my staff this last week that I want prayer to be the cause of our decisions not a result of our decisions. I want our decisions and solutions to arise from the prayer room rather than the board room. Maybe, just maybe, we sometimes wait for a reason to pray instead of causing things to shake loose as a result of our prayers. Are you with me? Anybody? Is this just my deal? I'd be the first one to admit that I don't understand all of the intricacies of prayer. I feel like a beginner. But I do know this---When I pray, passionately, consistently, and honestly--STUFF happens; God moves; I CHANGE. God changes me. God changes my passions. God changes stuff! So quit waiting for a tragedy or crisis to be the calling card that moves you to your knees.

Let's pray some prayers, SO big, that they require God's involvement and maybe we will see and experience the hand and presence of God in unprecedented form in our lives. That's a ride I want to be on.

Monday, January 5, 2009


Our lives are like a book. Our decisions, relationships, successes, failures etc come together to form the sentences, paragraphs and pages of that book. The real question is whether or not we will allow the pages that are already written to determine those that are yet to be written.

Join us this Sunday, January 11th at Ridge Church as we discover what to do with those pages that are "Unwritten." It's going to be a day that sets people free to really experience full life.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Mission trumps Ridge Under Tent

Crazzzzzy morning! I typically sleep well, even when things are stressful, and even when we are planning big events but last night I was restless for some reason. To bring you up to speed, we have been planning a big tent event at Ridge Church for several weeks. Emphasis on several weeks--as opposed to months like we would have preferred!

We found out on very short notice that our facility would be re-finishing the hard wood floors. We decided that instead of canceling on the first Sunday of the new year that we would just go big and put a tent out back for the adults and do a blow out event. We had to turn it around fast but were able to get everything from the big tent, to tent heaters (just in case) to outdoor staging, to generators, to NOISE permits (CAPS means I am shouting, right?). We were going to blow this thing up!!

The song set was amazing, the takeaways cool. We even had a cool new year party bag ready--everything came together!! And on top of that our people were golden and sent this thing on full viral alert through facebook and blogs. You couldn't escape references to the event. I saw dozens of status comments all week hyping the event.

the thunder and lighting storm hit this morning at 4:30am (in the middle of January?) I rolled in just after 6am and Rusty was already there. Not only had the corner of the tent collapsed under the weight of the rain (1/2 inch in less than 30 minutes!), but we also had a reservoir under the tent that could have probably provided water for a small village. Okay, I exaggerated a little bit. Bitter sweet for sure as we turned away at least 10 cars full of first time guests. At least half of the cars that came through said they had friends coming as well. Sweet to have that many first timers and have created such a buzz--Bitter to have to say "see you next week."

But I love this---Though the decision was painful and heart breaking our mission made it easy. Here is what I mean: We tell our people all the time that we want them to invest relationally in people and invite them to Ridge when the opportunity is there. We also tell them we will be careful to create incredible environments--safe environments for people new or returning to church--environments that ensure a great first experience. Well, because of the circumstance today we simply couldn't hold up on our end of the deal. Rusty summed it up well: "Given the two bad options, we would rather provide no experience than a bad one". I'm so glad that's how we roll.

Our decision to cancel though painful and tough to communicate to everyone, was easy because our mission to lead people into a growing relationship with Jesus trumps EVERYTHING else around here. We won't cut corners. There is simply too much at stake. Our people have invested too much in the people they are inviting for us to drop the ball. I love this church!! I love the people. I love the fact that our mission was the filter for our decision even though it was a big financial hit.

I can't wait to see what God does when we return on January 11th, because I think it's going to be huge!! I promise you don't want to miss next Sunday. I'm already stoked about it.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

At peace or ignoring?

Challenging insight from Francis Chan: "There is a difference in being at peace with something and ignoring something. Especially true with areas of conviction."

It is amazing how subtly all the wrong things can creep into our lives and find themselves among the things we call normal. It happens in relationships, with spending habits, with lifestyles, with entertainment, with conversations, with morality etc. Then you turn around one day and wonder how you got here! The answer is: One seemingly small compromise at a time!

When the Scriptures teach that followers of Jesus are to be "set apart", and "in the world but not of the world" those can get very tricky in real time and real life. Following Jesus can get messy and can be costly. The rewards on the other hand are unimaginable and well worth any "costs".

I Peter 2:9 reminds of the reason we are "set apart" by is so we reflect our heavenly Father and his characteristics and love to praise him. Not so we can feel superior or look down on others--but to reflect and praise God! That's it--that's our most significant role as followers of Jesus. As a mountain lake reflects the mountain so should we reflect our heavenly Father here and now to those around us.

Are you reflecting God to those around you?
Are you at peace in your life?
Are you ignoring things and calling it peace?
Are you calling something normal that secretly you know shouldn't be part of your life?
What defines you?--How would those close to you answer that question?

New start. In 2009 let's reflect God to those around us with more clarity than ever before. Let's praise him with more passion and consistency than ever.