Thursday, April 30, 2015

6 Reasons we Invest in Public Schools

I referenced this in a post last week about the cheating scandal among Atlanta Public Schools and the trial, convictions, and sentencing that followed.

So here's the question again:  what if every evangelical church looked at a school in their geographic locale and did what they could to seek the welfare of that place and those people?

Here are my top six reasons our church is invested in a local school (an elementary school in our case):

1.  We have families with kids there.

2.  We have families with kids there that we want to reach with the Gospel.

3.  We want to do "cup of cold water" and evangelistic ministries as a part of our church-wide effort to Proclaim the Kingdom.  Our adopted school, in particular, is fertile ground for both.  We do the former through a great relationship with the school nurse and counselor (more below).  We do the latter through our sponsorship and hosting of a Good News Club.

4.  It gives us an opportunity to invest in people who are pouring out their lives for others.  The teachers and staff there are generally glad to see us coming.

5.  Our church family practices generosity (and fights suburbia-induced greed) by doing something at Christmas and at the end of school for families in need.  These families are often classified by the school district as homeless and are assigned to us by the counselor and nurse.  We buy and wrap gifts at Christmas.  We pack summer survival kits in May.

6.  It reminds us that the Kingdom is bigger and broader and better than just our little expression of it.  One grandmother pulled up to pick up her kid from Good News Club and excitedly expressed her gratitude that we had invested in her grandson who had just been baptized at their church the weekend before.  Awesome.

I don't assume that we can fix everything or presume that all is well simply because we're there.  Far from it.  But, I do know we're making a difference.  And that really does matter in the lives of some kids.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Raising boys and strutting in the yard

As my boys get older, I've noticed something.  The three males in the family (Max the dog excluded) have conflict over who is the biggest rooster in the hen house.  It shows up in various ways, but I have to consistently remind the other two little roosters that I'm still the biggest.  And I might have to remind the biggest rooster that it's not always that important to be seen as the biggest as it is to be the biggest.

So here are a couple of lessons I'm learning.  I don't share these as "These are things you should do too."  I share them as, "Hey, these are things I'm discovering about myself and the process of raising boys."

1.  Patience is a virtue, but it's harder to find than snow in Miami when a little rooster is trying to unseat you.

2.  Being calm is best.  I've done this successfully once.  Once.  And it really worked.  The rest of the time I've resorted to threatening to throw a rooster in an ice cold pool.  Now that it's warming up, I need to come up with a better threat.  Or be calmer.

3.  There's a balance between letting them learn to puff their chest out and be insubordinate.  One expresses some growing levels of testosterone and manhood.  The other is rebellion and dangerous to their character.  And it's tough to figure out which is which sometimes.

4.  It's hard to remember that I'm shaping arrows to be launched at The Enemy when I can't straighten them like I think they should be.  Maybe that's because I need to learn to shoot better.

So for all those with little roosters, may God bless you as you raise them.  And despite my parenting, may mine grow up to be men who make a difference.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

1-and-1 Free Throws and Spiritual Growth

March Madness is over.  Now comes a rather drab NBA playoff and then baseball.  Insert my sad face here.

And for the first time in history, my mom beat the other brothers and yours truly on our bracket picks.  I haven't even managed to tally the scores yet because of the embarrassment.

There's a situation that a player finds himself in as a basketball game goes on.  In the college game, you get to 7 team fouls in a half and you shoot a 1-and-1.  They call it that because if you don't get the first, you'll never get the second.  Missing one means missing two.  Make the first and you get a shot at the second.

There's a situation like that in the spiritual life as well.  One in which if you don't get the first, you won't get the second.  Missing one means missing both.

In our spiritual lives of following Jesus, if we don't take the time to do the basics, we'll miss the other stuff too.  In my opinion, the basics are prayer and Bible intake.  That's the first 1 of the 1-and-1.

What would be the others that you would miss?  Here's a possible list...

- Meaningful worship that is fueled be worship throughout the week and isn't solely an emotional experience.
- Service that's a joy instead of a labor.
- Sacrifice that doesn't mind being inconvenienced instead of only when I somehow benefit from it.

Should I go on?

Let me go ahead and caveat here:  if you don't read your Bible every day, you can still have meaningful worship, etc.  God is God and can do as He pleases.  Further, you can do the basics and have a bad attitude while you serve, etc.

That being said, the most consistent path to the And-1's of life with Jesus happen because a person chooses to commit regular time to prayer and Bible intake.

How to do that?  There are a number of ways.  I personally enjoy the McCheyne reading plan.  But on principle, just remember that prayer is talking with God about things of mutual concern and Bible intake is more than just reading words but interacting with a Person.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Hyundai, Space, and a Special Message

Just in case you missed this awesomeness, it's well worth your 4 minutes.  These folks are in our church family.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Judge Baxter, Education, and Cheating in Georgia

If you've missed the terrible cheating scandal in the Atlanta Public Schools and the court drama that followed, you've missed something that's a travesty.  Alleged educators were breaking rules for the sake of grades.  Full story here from CNN.

In his sentencing (all were found guilty of one crime or another), Judge Baxter noted that many of the kids in APS, because of their family situation and/or living conditions, had no chance for a better life except for the public education system, which failed them miserably.

First, he's right from a societal perspective.  Too many kids are stuck in tough situations with a pathetically narrow escape hatch.  I just read a statistic that 71% of African-American children are born out of wedlock!  When you consider the statistics that testify to the struggle of single moms, that's awful.

Second, there's more to it than their family, their living situation, and the failure of school administrators who loved bonuses more than they loved kids.  There's also the church, the hope of earth.

What if every church in metro Atlanta took responsibility for one school, it's welfare, it's teachers, it's "What do you need, Mrs. Counselor?"  What about your church?

If the church is the greatest institution in the world, then we can be about the greatest good in the world.  It's true that the church has been and done great good in the world at multiple times and in multiple places.  Atlanta seems like a great opportunity (and so is your neighborhood).

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Monday, April 13, 2015

Easter and Planting a Church

FYI:  I'm going to try to re-enter the blogging world after several months away.  Thanks for hanging in there with me.

We had a record setting Easter in terms of attendance.  Every pastor brags about that, right?  That's not the point of this little story though.  It led to a great conversation on the way home with the Bear.  He was asking if we'd go to multiple services and then to a new building, etc.

Something you have to understand:  it was a genuine question fueled by some of the things he's seen and gotten to be a part of.  Whether or not he admits it (he is 12, after all), I think he likes it that he gets to hang around with dad and travel with dad and so forth.

But I told him no, we'd be looking at planting a church instead of building a building.  He asked about multiple campuses.  Again:  we'd plant a church because we want to see the Kingdom grow and that's a major way it does.

Some thoughts on why:

1.  Church planting has historically proven to be the most effective evangelistic tool.  In our ministry context, we have 275,000 people who claim NONE on their religious affiliation data.  That's over half the people in our area.  And that's a lot of people to reach.  So the most effective tool is what's needed.

2.  Our little slice of heaven is landlocked on 5 acres.  This limits our growth size.  Planting churches makes sense.

3.  Multiple services / campuses and so forth are not bad things.  But for me, the only reason I'd be open to multiple anything is if it were a step toward planting a church.  Why?  Because of the two reasons above.

4.  I wonder if 20 churches of 500 would be more able to respond to a need and turn their organizational side to meet it at a faster rate than 10 churches of 1000.  I think probably so.  Slimmer and smaller is more capable of adjustment.  Again, I'm not dogging churches of 1000.  Far from it.

5.  I like pastoring a people, not running an organization.  I have friends who can do both.  I'm grateful for them.  I'm challenged by them.  I want to get better at both.  But I want to burn my energy with people:  knowing their stories, knowing their kids's names, etc.

This is just me on a Monday, but it's something that's been in my heart for a while.  I cast no aspersions.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...