Today I took a day off to help my wife with a garage sale. She really didn’t need much help. She is very organized and good at running garage sales. So I decided to take part of the day to get out and play.

I went to NewPointe Church to play basketball at noon. Usually 6-10 people gather on Tuesday’s and Thursday’s to play hoops. Soon after I got there the electric went off. We were determined to get some playing time in, so we tried to get the hoops outside, but they did not fit through the doors. Finally someone rigged some lights and we played in half dark. We had partial electric. It was 4 on 4 and we had a lot of fun.

After that I went to Willandale Golf course in Sugarcreek and played 18 holes of golf. It was beautiful outside and I walked all 18 holes. I played pretty well, 1 birdie and 5 pars for an 84. Not bad for the first time out this year.

As I was walking on the course I had a long conversation with God. It was very peaceful and helped me to relax and really connect with God. It is so easy to get caught up in a busy life. Sometimes we forget to go play and have some fun. We can easily forget how to relax and just enjoy the trees and grass. We miss the many birds and animals around us. All the stuff that God created.

Today was a good day for me. We all need to find time to have those type of days on a regular basis. It will help to keep you focused and at least for me it recharges my spirit and attitude.

When was the last time you played?

In this World

I started doing some jogging lately and I really enjoy it. I like the idea of getting healthier and maybe even running a 5k or two, but the other thing I enjoy is getting to listen to some of my favorite music, enjoying the great outdoors and listening to God while I run.

This past week I have experienced several things that led me to this entry in my Blog. I listened to a CD from John C. Maxwell called “Success Classics – Part One”. I went to the Free Methodist annual conference in Dalton Ohio at Living Water Free Methodist church. I did some reading, I met with my men’s group and I bought some music on iTunes.

You might wonder what all those things had to do with each other. Well not much except as I was running today God helped me realize that all these events were speaking to me about being in this world and understanding what that means. Sometimes Christians call it secular or worldly stuff. You know, some things are Christian and some things are secular.

Let me explain. John Maxwell was talking about 9 classic books about success. Most of the books he mentioned were rather old, yet they had many great truths in them. Of the 9 books I have only read 2. None of them were Christian books. The one statement that stuck with me was that John said, he is willing to read anything, if he thinks there might be a nugget or two he can take a way. He mentioned the book “The Secret” which has been very popular in the “secular world”. He said that he read it not because it was a classic, but because so many people were reading it, he wanted to see what the author had to say. He went on to say that there were some good things in the book. He also said there were some things that he didn’t think were true and he clarified that. The point was, he was able to read it and take a away some good stuff and throw out the useless stuff, or at least have the discernment to know what is true and what is not.

At the Free Methodist conference on Friday we heard from our new Bishop. He was interesting and tried to be funny and relaxed. It was a nice change from some of the past conferences, but still pretty boring. However, I was able to take a way some good stuff. I am excited about the vision of reaching out to help the poor in our communities even more over the next several years. They also showed a video about a church that was built in a town about 40 years ago. At the same time a grocery store was built in that same town. About every 8-10 years the grocery store made major changes to reach its customers and get them to come to the store. They would change the type of food they offered and changed the look of the store often. The church did not change over those 40 years and eventually was closed. Evidently the church did not want to reach people and get them to come back or even come at all.

I have been reading a book called “What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There” by Marshall Goldsmith. I don’t think he is a Christian, as a matter of fact he mentions some Buddhist stuff he studied. I am learning some good things that are helping me be more efficient at work. I also am reading “secular” fiction books by John Grisham and David Baldacci, both great story tellers.

I also met with my men’s group this morning. We had breakfast together and had a great time laughing and talking. One of the guys is moving to Florida and we said our goodbyes, but we plan on staying in touch. He is now a friend of mine. Some of the guys in the group have really opened up and are sharing the real stuff going on in their lives. It is messy and dirty and not much fun. We are praying for each other and trying to encourage each other. Those guys all know that we care about each other and will be there for each other no matter what. This is a real group of guys that are building lasting friendships.

Lastly, I love music. I have been building my iPod collection. I listen mostly to “secular” music. Even the radio stations I listen to are mostly “secular” 92.5 WDJQ & 98.1 WKDD if anyone cares. Just today I downloaded “3 Doors Down” newest CD and I also bought a couple of “Cold Plays” new songs. Other groups on my iPod are Plain White T’s, OneRepublic, Nickelback, Matchbox Twenty, Maroon 5, Lifehouse, Linkin Park, Goo Goo Dolls, Evanescence, Daughtry, Justin Timberlake, Usher, The Killers, Augustana and The All-American Rejects. Of course I also have some great Christian groups as well.

My point of all this is that I don’t want to isolate myself from the world. I don’t want to be a typical pastor or typical Christian. I don’t want to miss what is real and relevant in this world. I want to know what people are thinking about and listening to. As Christians it is very easy to get into our own little world and talk our talk and walk our walk. We can put on a smiley face and be content with our safe little world. Most of the time we are only vocal about what we are against.

I don’t think that is how Jesus was. He was in the world. He got his hands dirty and met with and listened to the most undesirable people. He understood what people were struggling with and what they needed. This world can be dirty and ugly sometimes, but that what makes it real. That is why we are here.

It seems to me that most non-Christian people don’t think very highly of church and church people. At our church conference the Bishop shared that non Christians or seekers use words like judgemental, hypocritical, boring, out of touch and irrelevant about church and Christians. Wow, if that is how people are seeing us, I can imagine what they then think about Jesus. Why would they want to know more about Him?

I had to ask myself this question. Do I love this world or do I hate this world? I have decided that I love this world, because Jesus loves this world. God loves every person in this world, even if they have tattoos or piercings. He loves the alcoholics and the house wives. He loves the homeless person and the farmers. He loves the CEO and the factory worker. He loves the poor and the rich.

Because that is how Jesus is, I want to be like that. I want to understand what people are dealing with and connecting with. I want to be able to listen to someone and not judge them or think that I am so much better than that person. I am glad I am in this world, because that is right where God wants me. He wants us to get dirty, to get real and to be with people. He wants to use us to reach a lost, dirty, broken world. To do that we need to understand the culture in which we live. We can’t isolate ourselves and hope the people come to us.

That is how the church should be. It should be irresistible and real, the coolest most happening place in the community. It should be a place where everyone feels welcome and not judged. A safe place, a place to heal, to grow, to ask questions, to have fun and celebrate, a place to make lasting friendships, a place to be inspired and to be equipped for whatever God brings their way. In short the church should be the hope of the world.

Relationships Matter

I just finished reading a great book by a pastor friend of mine, Bruce Hamsher. It is called “Bouquets – Intentional Relationships in Making Disciples”. The idea of the book is that we are an aroma to the people around us. We can either be like a bouquet of flowers or something else that does not smell good.

It was a great read for me because it reminded me how important relationships are. First and foremost our relationship with Jesus needs to keep growing. Bruce talked about baby Christians needing to get fed, but as we grow, we are able to feed ourselves. And as we mature, we can feed others. To mature in our relationship with Jesus Christ, we need to do what He taught. We need to put into action the things we have learned. When you do something it shows that you have learned it and taken it to heart.

Being intentional about investing in people is what God has called us to do. Being aware of those around us that we can be an encouragement to or that we can comfort or that we can pray for.

I hope that I can be a giver of Bouquets to the people around me, how about you?

Prayer Time

This morning a group of people met at NewPointe Community Church to pray. We do this once per month on the third Saturday of the month. We gather at the church at 7:00 am and spend one hour praying together. We usually open our time by listening to some worship songs and praising God. We spend the rest of the hour praying for ourselves, our families, our church, our communities, our nation and the world.

Sometimes we will walk through the building and pray in each area of the building. We pray for the volunteers, the staff and leaders, our children and students, and the new people God is drawing to the church.

We pray for some of the church goals like 300 small group leaders, 2 Satellite Churches, 1,500 volunteers, 1,000 people participating in Financial Peace University or Crown Financial small groups and 300 prayer warriors.

Each month God has been bringing new people to this prayer time. As more people know about it I am sure it will grow. When people get together to pray, God shows up and does amazing things. As our church grows, prayer becomes more and more important. We want to make sure that everything we do glorifies God and helps people take their next step with Jesus Christ.

The Prayer Ministry at NewPointe is growing and God is bringing more and more people that have a passion for prayer. God is building his team of Prayer Warriors at NewPointe. Our prayer ministry is made up of several teams. We have people that meet with the speaker every Sunday morning to pray with him. We have a team that is in the prayer room and in the auditorium to pray with people that have prayer needs and to pray for each service. We have a team of people that pray for all the prayer requests that come in on Sunday and throughout the week. We have a group that meets every Monday morning at 6:00 am to pray. We have people that meet once per month on Saturday morning to pray. We have all of our small groups praying together when they meet. Some small groups are praying for their local schools and communities and some are doing prayer walks. Our staff meets together every Monday morning at 8:30 am and breaks into groups and prays together.

All this prayer is making a difference! God calls us to be persistent in our prayers and not give up. Jesus spent a large amount of his time in prayer. That is good enough for me. Join me in praying for changed lives in your communities. Prayer really does matter!

Customer Service

Last week I had a great customer service experience at a local retailer. I recently have lost some weight, actually my wife and I have lost over 50 pounds together. As a result many of our clothes do not fit. We have been slowly buying clothes to replace the bigger ones.

On Thursday I realized that I had a wedding to officiate on Saturday and the three suits I own were all much to large for me. On Friday my wife and I went looking for a suit. We checked several big retailers and didn’t like what we found and didn’t get much help.

We ended up at Robert’s men store in New Philadelphia. When we walked in we were immediately greeted by the owner. I told him my situation and he said no problem, we can have a suit tailored for you by the morning. He asked me what I liked and then showed me several suits. I needed one that I could wear to both weddings and funerals. I decided on a great looking black suit and he measured me up.

He did not pressure me to buy a shirt and tie like some places do. I got the suit the next morning and had a great wedding on Saturday afternoon. Congratulations to Phillip Coletti and Heather Yoder.

The reason I call that a great customer service experience is that it was a pleasant experience and made me want to go back when I need other clothes. The salesman asked me questions, found out what I liked and then delivered quick service. I have also dealt with them in the past and have had many such experiences. That keeps me coming back.

It should be the same way at church. Churches should make sure that they are giving a great first impression and great “customer service”. The win for a Sunday morning service at my church (NewPointe Community Church) is for people to want to come back. We believe that if they keep coming back they will be changed and impacted by God.

That is why it is so important that everything is done with excellence and we pay attention to all the details. Things like clean bathrooms, friendly helpful people, quick check in of children, the smell of fresh coffee and help finding a seat for your family are all critical. Churches should be the best at customer service, because we have the best product in the world. We need to remove all the distractions so that people will come back. The more they come back the more they will grow in their intimacy with God, the more opportunity they will have to experience community and the more they can influence the world around them.