Thursday, December 18, 2008

Questions Part Two

So right now at C3 we're talking about how each of us has a unique role in the Body of Christ. Part of discovering our "fit" involves getting to know ourselves and our personal style; how we're wired.

It's kind of old school, but I still enjoy using the "personality inventory" as a tool in this process. You know, those sheets that have a bunch of character traits on them, and you select from each set of traits, the one that you think best describes you. At the end you transfer your answers to a scoring sheet that helps describe your personal style, or personality type.

 I know, "tests" like this have some inherent weaknesses, but hey, what have humans ever developed that doesn't? Anyway, kept in a proper perspective, I also like how much fun people have with it. 

So my next question for you is:

What character trait do you most admire in others?

If you want a list character traits to get you started, you can go here:

In Him We Live,

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Questions- Part One

Hey there! 

Yup, I'm alive. It's been awhile since you saw a new post here on Convergence, and I'm sorry for that. These days I'm working with a fantastic group of peeps, meeting in homes and preparing for the launch of Convergence Christian Church, or "C3" if you don't want to write it all out.

Oh, and I'm asking lots of questions.

It seems to me that ministry in general, and church planting in particular, fills my world with a constant flow of questions. Really, there's way too many for me to even give an example that would be representative. Anyway, I was just out perusing the blog world and I came across a fantastic post by blogger extraordinaire, Anne Jackson. What I liked so much about it, was that it was a question. 

Since she writes that she stole it from her "nashville-book-publisher-ceo-friend Mr. Michael Hyatt," I'm hoping she doesn't mind if I steal it from her.

Here's the question:

What would you do if you were brave?

Don't wait for further explanation; it's not coming. What is your gut answer to this question?


Friday, September 12, 2008


Although we only have clouds right now, it looks like our area is going to get hammered in a few hours from hurricane Ike.

If you are a part of the C3 community locally and you feel that your home may not be safe, please contact me as soon as possible, and we will find a safer place for you to ride out this storm.

For our prayer partners outside of Houston- our area needs your intercession. It's likely that we will lose power/phone for a while, so don't be alarmed if you can't reach us. I'll update you on the situation as soon as I am able. This is a huge storm, but God is bigger.

In Him We Live,


(This entry is duplicated on

Thursday, July 24, 2008


I'm a guitar player, and a worship leader. And I have really appreciated the way that Christ followers have renewed an emphasis on expressions of worship over the last 2 1/2 decades.

But I wonder if you've noticed something. Maybe it's just me- where I'm at personally, but I think it's more than that. And as a somebody who loves worship, it bugs me.

We talk so much about "worship" today, but often that talk ends up centering around music. Like I said, music is a huge part of my life, and I recognize it to be a big part worship. But worship goes much further. Paul described it this way:

"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship."
-Romans 12:1

If we accept that Paul knew what he was talking about, then surely worship includes, but must be more than, what we can experience in a public gathering for an hour or so once a week. It also must therefore be more than any one element that goes into it- like music.

Worship is also about our daily interaction with God. It's a constant conversation.

It's a lifestyle.

I wanted to talk a little about worship through prayer this week, and as I was updating the C3 Prayer Partners blog, I got a little carried away. So, I think I'll point you over there for the rest of this entry, because it just made sense to write about prayer on the prayer blog (I know, "Thank you, captain obvious.").
Hope you join me for the rest of my rant!
In Him We Live,

Monday, July 21, 2008

Internet Drought

Sorry for my absence over the last few weeks. My family and I just moved from Findlay, Ohio back to Houston, Texas. We had the internet connection turned off the last week of June, and since then I've been relying on the kindness of my friends to sneak some time when visiting them, or using the public wi-fi access at Starbucks (which is what I'm doing right now).

I am grateful for the invitation from our friends to log on at their home. But I don't quite feel right blogging while I'm over at someones house for a visit- it just seems rude. Public wi-fi is an awesome alternative as long as you have enough session time to write. I've been bumped off already while trying to check email and write this post.

However, tomorrow we are scheduled to have our phone hooked up and with it will come a new high-speed internet connection.

I have never been so excited about a phone line.

So, look for a new post soon, and thanks for continuing to check in with me!

Uh-oh, I'd better sign off- I'm just about out of session time.

In Him We Live,


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Full, Part Four

I drive a 1996 green Geo Prism.

There, I said it.

I feel no shame about owning this car. It is the only "brand new" car my wife and I have ever purchased. It had 28 miles on the odometer when we drove it off the car lot (and we put 21 miles on it in test drives- which, admittedly, is excessive and may say more about my personality than I want to delve into in this post). As I write this entry, it has been driven close to 130,000 miles, still gets close to 38 miles to the gallon, and has been virtually problem free the entire time. Outside of normal maintenance, I have only done one repair: a new starter.

A couple of months ago, I started the little green car up like normal, and it made a funny noise. Not funny "ha ha," but more like funny "hmmm, that's not normal." The noise was a quick, chirp-like sound. And, the car was running a little rough. Over time, the chirp turned into a squeal. After a few weeks, I faced the truth: my alternator belt was going bad. Sure enough, upon inspection, the belt was so worn it was actually tearing down the middle into two skinny belts. Unfortunately, phrases like "the more, the merrier" don't really apply in a situation like this. The belt needed to be replaced. Once the repair was made, the car quieted down and the engine ran smoothly again.

Maybe at this point you're thinking, "hey Jeff, I know it's been awhile since your last post. Do you remember that you were doing a series called 'Full'?" Or maybe you're thinking, "hey Jeff, do you remember that you usually talk about God? If I want 'Car Talk,' I'll listen to NPR."

Here's the point of my little green car story: If the car had always run a little rough, and made a little chirping sound, I wouldn't have been concerned. I knew something was wrong with my car because I'm familiar with how it runs when things are right.

If a big part of living a life that is "full," is knowing what it takes to be filled, then we have a problem. We chase after all kinds of things that we think will fill us up, only to find that they don't live up to their hype. If we've never really been "full," how can we know what it's like? And if we don't know what it's like to be truly "full," how can we know what it takes to get there?

Enter Jesus. He actually makes the outrageous statement that He has come to bring us life. Not only that- He literally says it is "life to the full." Is this just more hype?

I don't think so. Mostly, because Jesus is a decidedly "low-hype" guy. Even when He did something miraculous, there wasn't a bunch of razzle-dazzle attached. Reading about Jesus in the gospels tells us that He lived authentically, and He kept His promises. And, His teaching has a way of stripping all the non-essential stuff away to reveal what is most important.

Just look at Matthew 22:36-40. The religious leaders had come up with a law system that was bulging at the seams with 613 commands. They were constantly debating with each other over which were the most important. Jesus takes this complicated system, and He clears it up. Essentially He says, “Love God; love people.” This is good news, right? Because it simplifies things. The last two "Full" entries talked about those things.

But what exactly does it mean to love someone? How do you know that someone loves you? How does someone know that you love them?

One way is to say it- you can declare love to someone.

But the other way to identify love is to show it. Love gets substance when it’s demonstrated, and that demonstration will often speak louder than the words.

If we are going to learn by Jesus’ example, we need to look not only to what He says, but also to what He shows. So now that Jesus has declared that we should love God and love people, how does He demonstrate it?

Philippians 2:3-18 makes it clear that Paul thought that Jesus gave us the example of serving, and that we should be like Him:

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

While Jesus was here on earth His nature was to serve-even when it cost Him deeply. If we want to be like Christ, we will serve.

Remember also that the definition of “Lord” is “Master.” If Jesus is our master, doesn’t it make sense that we would be the servants?

To put it bluntly, you won’t find fullness in Christ unless your love for God and for people is demonstrated through sacrificial serving.

Anyone who sets himself up as "religious" by talking a good game is self-deceived. This kind of religion is hot air and only hot air. Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world.” -James 1:26-27, The Message Translation.

In Matthew 20:25b-28, Jesus told His followers, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Jesus modeled this behavior before eating His final meal with his disciples. In a gesture that shocked them, He humbled himself and washed their feet—including the feet of the one who would betray Him later that evening. With this image vividly etched into their minds, he then suffered the ultimate humiliation, and “became obedient to death—even death on a cross!

Chirst's example shows us that we will never be full until we are living out our love in service.

For over a decade, my little green car has really served its purpose; it's been a useful tool. But to get there, someone had to make it. Then I had to buy it. Finally, to fulfill its purpose, someone has to use it.

God made you. He bought you. And, He wants to use you.

The first statement you just have to acknowledge- He made you, whether you like it or not. The second you must accept. He bought you at the price of His Son’s life. If we are obedient and accept this gift, we can have eternity with Him. That requires us to surrender, but it’s only the beginning. After surrendering, God wants to use us. God can certainly use whomever He pleases (He used Pharaoh, and even Balaam’s donkey), but what He desires, is for us to yield to Him; to freely place our lives in His hands, to empty ourselves out, so He can fill us up.


In Him We Live,


Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Full, Part Three

I'm sitting in a coffee house on Main St. in Findlay, OH as I write this.

Outside, about half a block down, two guys just spent about 35 minutes standing on the street corner. One was holding up a large banner of Jesus on the cross. The other, dressed in a tie and jacket, was "street preaching. "

Well, at least I think he was street preaching. He was yelling a lot.

With the exception of one short break, he maintained a constant level that was easily heard down into the coffee house, which has it's front door propped open to let in the warm air from one of our first real Spring days. For a while, it was just me and the barista in here. As I was adding sugar and half and half to my cup, she was leaning out the door to take a quick listen. As I headed for my table by the front window, she smiled at me and said, "they have a banner, but it doesn't look like there's anything bad written on it." I leaned out the door to take look, but couldn't make out all that it said. The two were facing toward the center of the intersection, so a large portion of the banner was obscured.

I watched as groups of people, going to and from lunch, passed by on each side of the street. There really wasn't any interaction between the people and the two guys. Actually, the guys were so focused on the middle of the intersection that it seemed to me that their target audience must have been the manhole cover in the center of the street. Despite his high volume, no one looked up as they walked by- even when he shouted the invitation to come to Christ.

As I walked back to my seat, I thought about the stark object lesson that the scene was serving up for me. Sitting on my table is a book entitled, "I Sold My Soul on eBay," by Hemant Mehta (pronounced HEH-mint). It's the true story of an atheist who decided that he wanted to explore some of his conclusions about God (i.e., his lack of belief in God's existence) by going to church. Being a rather bold and creative guy, Hemant "held an eBay auction, agreeing to attend any place (or places) of worship determined by the winning bidder. Jim Henderson, a former pastor and author of 'Evangelism Without Additives,' won the auction. He asked Mehta to attend a number of churches and write a critique of each one." (This excerpt is taken from the publisher's note at the book's beginning.) Hemant's reviews are still available on Henderson's site at if you are interested. Just go to the site, click on "eBay atheist," then go to the right column and the find "Hemant's Church Surveys" link.

(I know this sounds like an unbelievable partnership- the pastor/author and the atheist, but it worked. Hemant did just what Jim requested, and his reviews reflect a sincerity in what he proclaims: He's curious, and he doesn't believe there is a God. After completing Jim's assignment, Hemant went on to visit other churches, and compiled his experiences into the book that is sitting by my computer. His words aren't angry or insulting, but he also doesn't pull any punches. If he thinks the preacher's presentation is dull, or the music stinks, or the people are unfriendly, he says it.)

Anyway, back at the table, I picked up the book again and read these words:

"But as I read Christian books, and as I spent months attending an amazing variety of churches in different parts of the country, I kept running across a consistent and troubling truth about American Christianity. It is clear that most churches have aligned themselves against nonreligious people. By adopting this stance, Christians have turned off the people I would think they want to connect with."

As I read, the street preacher shouted at the manhole and people continued to walked past, pretending he wasn't there.

Being "full" in Christ involves not only that we love God, but that we also love people, and strive to develop real, authentic relationships that allow us to live in real community. I mentioned in the last "Full" entry that corporate worship gatherings provide a great starting point in forging community, especially with other Christ followers. But real community is so much more than this. Authentic community is literally "life together" with others.

"This is the case of a man who is all alone, without a child or a brother, yet who works hard to gain as much wealth as he can. But then he asks himself, “Who am I working for? Why am I giving up so much pleasure now?” It is all so meaningless and depressing.
Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken."

-Ecclesiastes 4:8-12 (New Living Translation)

We need each other. And it seems to me that an authentic, open community is a lot more attractive than a guy shouting at a manhole.

In Him We Live,


Sunday, April 20, 2008

Exponential '08

Hi to everyone!

Things have been quite busy for the past few weeks. With the help of some great people, Convergence Christian Church has filed its articles of incorporation, which means we are now "officially recognized" as a church by the state of Texas. A lot of my time lately has been spent working on things that have to do with our initial start-up. Some of what needs to be done has been slowed by the fact that my family and I are still over a thousand miles away from Houston. As we draw closer to the end of April, I am reminded daily that the big move is coming, and I will likely need to go a little earlier than I had anticipated. I'll be sure to keep you updated on those dates.

In the meantime, I am working on parts 3 and 4 of "Full," which may be finished around the same time. Unfortunately, it won't be this week, because we will be out of town for the next several days at a church planters conference called "Exponential."

You can look for an update to this main page in about a week (it's April 20th as I write this). If you haven't ever checked out the link on this page to the "Extra Stuff," this might be a great time to take a look- I'm hoping you'll find something of value there, but at the very least, you can hear some great acoustic music, read a book review, and possibly get a laugh or two.

I hope you have a great week!

In Him We Live,


Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Full, Part Two

If you read the last "Full" entry, you'll remember this quote from Blaise Pascal:

"What is it then that this desire and this inability proclaim to us, but that there was once in man a true happiness of which there now remain to him only the mark and empty trace, which he in vain tries to fill from all his surroundings, seeking from things absent the help he does not obtain in things present? But these are all inadequate, because the infinite abyss can only be filled by an infinite and immutable object,that is to say, only by God Himself."

I can't speak for you, but I know that I have felt "the infinite abyss," and have known the longing to be filled up with the "infinite and immutable" God of the universe.

I believe that God wants us to be "full." And although this fullness is never promised to be "easy," I really don't believe that God ever intended it to be complicated for us to understand.

I would suggest that it is all about discipleship. Here's what I mean:

In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus says, “…All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." For the Church, there can be no better description of our purpose. Robert E. Logan shares this thought on the Church’s role: “The Great Commission sets disciple-making as our strategic objective. Throughout most of this century the Church has focused its attention on the sending imperative—‘Go therefore’—rather than on the making imperative—‘and make disciples.’ But the focus clearly is on the objective of making disciples—both more and better disciples. This is a very large expectation, but he offers us a great deal of help in this task.”[1]

If the church's role is to "make disciples," then surely the role of a Christ follower is to be a disciple. And I believe discipleship can be summed up in three simple words:

Love. Live. Serve.

Each of these words represents a significant stage in the simple process of discipleship, which is kind of an older word that basically means "to be a student of." A "disciple" of Jesus is literally someone who is asking Jesus to pour Himself into them.

“Love” is the first stage in this simple process of discipleship. Love God; Love your neighbor as yourself.

The logical question then is, “how does a disciple love God and love their neighbor?” The answer is through the vehicle of relationship. When using the term “relationship,” I am referring to “a connection, association, or involvement.”[2] In speaking of God, J. K. Jones says, “He longs for a relationship with His creation,” and suggests that we can learn about pursuing that relationship by looking at Jesus’ example in the Gospels.[3] Certainly He models disciplines such as prayer and solitude in passages like Mark 1:35 and Luke 9:28. But the Gospels themselves also serve as an example, since they tell the story of God incarnate.

Jesus communicates this very point to His disciples in the fourteenth chapter of John’s Gospel when He tells them “If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well,” and “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.”[4] If we truly desire to develop a relationship with God, we must get to know Jesus. And I mean, know Him.

I have read several biographies on C.S. Lewis, as well as a large body of his work. There are characteristics of Lewis' personality that I have identified in his books that can be confirmed while studying accounts of his life. Over the years, I have grown to know about C.S. Lewis. But I did not know him. As a matter of fact, he died several years before I was born. There was no relationship. I am little more than an amateur historian.

Jesus doesn't long for you to reduce your association with Him to simply becoming an amateur (or professional, for that matter) historian of the Scriptures, or of His time on earth in the flesh. The Scriptures are far more than historical; they are living and active! And so is HE! He loves you, and He longs for you to know Him through His Word, and to love Him! The environment in which our relationship with the living God/Savior/Spirit is cultivated is called worship. It is far more than a place. Worship is an authentic, "all the time" lifestyle.

Because it is "all the time," worship happens both privately and publicly. We have to carve out personal time to talk to Him (pray), to learn from Him (read His Word), and to listen (silence-this can be a tough one in our society!).

We also need to be a part of corporate gatherings/celebrations where we can study the Scriptures (“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." 2 Timothy 3:16-17) and live out our growing love for God in its various levels of development along side of each other.

Paul talks about this kind of authentic worship when he addresses the church in Romans 12:1 (NIV Translation): “Therefore I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship."

Have you ever wondered about the term, "living sacrifice"? On the surface, it seems like a complete contradiction; an oxymoron, like "jumbo shrimp." But Paul chose his words for a reason.

Today, we use the word "love" in lots of ways-especially in Western culture. "I love you." I love summertime." "What do you think of the new restaurant? We just love it!" During the period in which the New Testament was written, the Greek language had 3 different words for expressing "love." One word referred more to a brotherly love, or strong friendship kind of affection. Another word referred to romantic love. And then there was the word "agape."

"Agape" represented a love that was absolute and unconditional. It primarily described God's love toward Jesus (John 17:6), toward humanity (John 3:16) and specifically for people who have chosen Christ as Savior toward one another (John 14:21).”[5] This love is not awarded to us because of our worth; it is given despite us. It is a very costly love; it is sacrificial. The ultimate demonstration of "agape" love is shown in God sending Jesus to die for our sins. If this kind of love is starting to seem a bit dangerous, you've got the right idea. It's really not safe to love like Jesus. At least, it doesn't allow you to stay too comfy.

In his book, The Barbarian Way, Erwin McManus talks about this very idea. In it he says, "Love always moves to sacrifice, which is exactly where He calls us to go. We shouldn't be surprised, then, that to follow Christ is to abandon the luxury of safety and security. If we are to be like Him, we must always risk for love." When Paul calls on Christ-followers to be "living sacrifices," he is essentially saying, "live and love like Jesus." And since his words indicate that our living sacrifice is directed to God, this act of worship is our way of expressing true love to Him.

When worship- both corporate and private- becomes our lifestyle, a Christ-follower gets the opportunity to live and love like Jesus. And it also gives us the opportunity to have real, authentic community with others. Living sacrifices after all, need a place where there can be honesty about both the joys and the pains of life “on the altar,” while growing to understand more about God's Truth.

In Him We Live,


[1] Robert E. Logan, Beyond Church Growth, (Old Tappan: Fleming H. Revell Co, 1989), 96.
[2] (accessed: June 24, 2007).
[3] J. K. Jones, Longing For God, (Joplin: College Press Publishing Co., 1994), 13.
[4] John 14:7a & 9b.
[5] Vine, Unger, White, Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc., Publishers, 1985)m, 381

Thursday, March 27, 2008

I've been out of town most of this week and just returned this evening (Thursday). A new post will be coming soon. Thanks for being a part of the Convergence community!


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Full, Part One

I actually started this entry over a week ago, but I kept running into these little "problems" that had to be addressed before I could continue. As a result, my train of thought this week stops at a couple of extra stations along the way. Maybe we can just call it a "scenic trip"...

For the last couple of weeks, I've been thinking about the quote, "Everybody has a God-shaped hole in their life." It seems like I've heard it a lot lately, and in general, I like what it says. But as I considered writing about it, I saw a couple of "problems."

When I come across a quote that I think I might like to use, I typically try to find out where it originated. There's just so much faulty information readily available to us today, having a source is important, since it allows you to check for accuracy. [Note: I think too many of us who share in semi-public arenas like this one find it tempting to use a "great quote" without adequate research. I know it takes extra time, but that's a small price to pay to avoid perpetuating a load of hooey.] First problem: This quote is attributed to a philosopher from a couple of centuries ago, but its wording seemed a little too "modern."

Second problem: when I really stop and think about it, describing humanity's intense longing for our Creator as nothing more than a "God-shaped hole" diminishes and trivializes the scope of that longing. Like the hole is finite and definable, and we just need a little god to "cork" it up.

The statement in question was attributed to Blaise Pascal. So, I did some digging and it was beginning to look like the "quote" was actually a paraphrase of these words: "There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus."

Ahh, now it seemed we were getting somewhere. The website "" described a vacuum as, "a space that has no pressure and no molecules inside. It is truly an empty space." That's a better description than a "God-shaped hole." But I still had a couple of problems.

First, while the term "vacuum" helps me to visualize the emptiness in our longing, I'm still left wanting a better description of just how big that emptiness is. And second, I can't find this quote in any of his writings either. Oh, I can find a lot of people who will credit him with saying it, but I can't find anyone who will tell me where he said it. This left me wondering if it was a paraphrase too... (If you know it to be an actual quote, I'll gladly make a correction to this entry. I'd really appreciate getting that info!)

See what I mean? Problems. So I kept digging. In the end, here's what I did find:

Blaise Pascal was a philosopher and mathematician who lived during the 17th century. Saying "he was intelligent" is a lot like describing Tiger Woods by saying "he's a good golfer." He was a brilliant mathematician who, in an effort to ease his father's immense workload as a tax commissioner, invented a mechanical device that became a forerunner to the modern adding machine.

As a philosopher, he was equally brilliant. Among Pascal's more well known works are his "Pensées," which is a French word that means "thoughts." They were actually published in book form after his death, and are basically a compilation of notes and essays. It was in looking through this collection that I found a short essay on "Morality and Doctrine." In it, he talks about how all people seek happiness, but few find it. Take a look at what he says:

"What is it then that this desire and this inability proclaim to us, but that there was once in man a true happiness of which there now remain to him only the mark and empty trace, which he in vain tries to fill from all his surroundings, seeking from things absent the help he does not obtain in things present? But these are all inadequate, because the infinite abyss can only be filled by an infinite and immutable object,that is to say, only by God Himself."
-Blaise Pascal - The Pensées
#425, Section VII. From "Morality and Doctrine"

Unless I'm mistaken, this is the actual passage that has been reduced to "Everybody has a God-shaped hole in their life." Even if it's not, I'm glad I found it, because this statement more accurately describes the kind of longing that I have known. I know without a doubt that the absence of God in my life would not produce a "God-shaped hole." Instead, it would leave me with a massive, gaping wound from which the entirety of myself as I know it would be drained. Without God I would be empty.

"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I (Jesus) have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." - John 10:10

So why is it then, that someone can be a Christ-follower and agree that they would be empty without God, but also have to admit that they don't exactly feel full with Him?

Maybe we don't feel "full" of God because we're still too full of ourselves.

For the next couple of weeks, I'd like to spend some time exploring this idea, because I believe that a Christ-follower who focuses on loving God, living in community, and serving the world allows the “infinite abyss” inside them to “be filled by an infinite and immutable object."

And I think we all long to be full.

In Him We Live,

(By the way, my resources for the stuff on Pascal came from places like an Oregon State University page on philosophers- and the History of Computing Project website- as well as Pascal's book, "The Pensées." Just in case you want to see for yourself...)

Monday, March 17, 2008

A new post is coming soon! Sorry to keep you "waiting." (It really is purely coincidental. I've been working on it this weekend, and it's almost ready.)

In the meantime, take a gander at the picture to the right. Fred is a part of this community and sent this original pic my way this morning. Thanks Fred!


Wednesday, February 27, 2008


I love to watch the snow fall- especially in the evening... From indoors... With a fire in the fireplace...

Okay, I'll admit it: I like snow once or twice a season (it's a plus when it happens the way I described it above) but after that, I'm really just waiting for Spring. So, I guess it would be more accurate to say that I'd like to visit a place where it snows- see it, play in it- and then go home.

Reality, however, woke me up this morning to find five inches of new, wet, heavy snow on the ground with more falling. I suppose I could have climbed back into bed, pulled the covers up over my head and told myself, "I don't want any more snow, so it can't be snowing." I suppose I also could have stood at the window lamenting all the bad weather this town has experienced in the past 6 months thinking, "It's not fair."

I am anxiously waiting for Spring. But while it is very true that I don't think there should be any more snow this Winter, it's also true that I'm not even remotely equipped to make that decision. And, come to think of it, I'm also not equipped to talk about what is "fair." After all, there are several things about life that aren't "fair," (particularly in the area of God and eternity) in which I am relieved that I don't have to get what I deserve. Besides, denial and self-pity won't get the cars and porch cleaned off or the sidewalks shoveled.

The only response which accomplishes that result is action. So even though I'm still waiting on the Spring, I got dressed and got to it, remembering that Winter doesn't last forever.

But in that brief moment, it wasn't an easy choice, even though I clearly knew it was right. Precisely because I'm waiting for it, the big snow seemed to somehow make Spring more implausible- as if it might not actually happen. It was temporarily defeating. Waiting seems to trigger a unique combination of thoughts, emotions, and physiological effects in most people- especially when the wait is ongoing.

Waiting tires us out and wears us down.

Don't think so? While waiting for something, have you ever used the phrase, "I'm so tired of..."? Or how about this one: "I can't take this much longer."

When our emotional batteries get drained, our judgement can be compromised. I believe that more than a few poor choices have been made out of a desire to end the waiting and find closure. In order to avoid this situation, we need to find a source of renewal; a way to keep our stamina while things are on hold.

Waiting is a theme that is literally found throughout the entire Bible. Jacob waited seven years to be allowed to marry Rachel, only to be tricked by his father-in-law Laban into marrying her older sister. After re-negotiating for Rachel's hand in marriage, Jacob worked an additional seven years for Laban (Gen. 29:16-30).

At the age of seventy-five, God promised Abraham (then called Abram) that he would be "a great nation" (Gen. 12:2). After receiving that promise, Abraham waited twenty-five more years until God gave him a son, Isaac, through his wife Sarah.

And in Acts 1, after the resurrection and just before he is "taken up before their very eyes," (v.9) Jesus tells the eleven remaining apostles not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there instead for the gift of the Holy Spirit. Okay- so in this case He actually tells them it will happen in a few days. But when they ask if this is the point when He will "restore the kingdom to Israel" (something for which the Jewish people had been waiting a very long time) Jesus responds by telling them, "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority" (Acts 1:7). I'd say that roughly translates to "nobody gets to know that, you'll have to wait and see."

In each of these examples, they chose to act while they waited. Jacob negotiated for Rachel's hand in marriage, and then continued to work for Laban until the terms of that agreement were met. Abraham trusted God's promise that he would be a great nation, so he left his country and set out on a journey to a new land. The apostles returned to Jerusalem, joined together in prayer and chose someone to take the place of Judas.

So where did they find the stamina to do those things?

Isaiah 40:27-32 says, "Why do you say, O Jacob, and assert, O Israel, 'My way is hidden from the LORD, and the justice due me escapes the notice of my God'? Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired His understanding is inscrutable. He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for the LORD Will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary." (NASB version)

Interestingly, sometimes "wait" in v.31 is translated "hope." These verses, compare Israel with a person waiting for some kind of resolution. In frustration, the cry goes out, "I'm so tired of this! Don't you see me God? This isn't fair!" But, they are reminded that God does indeed see everything, and he never gets tired. And they will find the strength and renewal they need to endure the waiting if they will put their trust and hope in Him.

Life is full of waiting, for both the mundane and the very serious. Waiting to check out. Waiting for lunch time. Waiting for that file to download. Waiting for the light to turn green. Waiting to find out if you got the job. Waiting for those test results. Waiting to see if the surgery was a success.

It's likely that you are waiting on something right now. It may be wearing you down and draining your strength.

Do you need renewal?

Where will you go?

In Him We Live,


Tuesday, February 19, 2008


The sun was shining, and I was surprised at how warm I was getting. It was not particularly hot, but my load was heavy and awkward. About halfway up the hill, we paused for a moment on the gravel road and I turned to take in the view behind me. Looking out past miles of pasture and grassland, my eyes met the horizon and fixed on the mountains that stretched out as far as I could see in either direction. Turning back to our burdens, we started again up the hill.

When we had gone as far as the road could take us, we negotiated a small culvert and continued on across country. The buckets made it difficult to traverse the steep incline of the hill, but by now the destination was only a few minutes away. As we neared the top of the bluff, I thought about the objects I was transporting.

I had only chosen a few rocks, but they were significant. Most of them were pretty close in size and weight, but had specific physical characteristics. For example, one was really rough and abrasive- like sandpaper. Another was quite attractive on one side, and black on the other. Every new rock caused me to consider the instructions that were given concerning their selection: "Each should represent a deep hurt someone has inflicted on you; a wound that you continue to carry."

Every new rock made the lesson sink in more deeply.

My final selection was unique. It was a wound that I had carried around for a very long time. No, it was actually several wounds that were all joined together with the common thread of one relationship. I knew it as soon as I saw it. Large, angular and sharp, this rock was as awkward and unattractive as the hurt that it represented.

“That thing doesn’t even fit right in your bucket,” Tamara said. “Are you sure you want to carry it all the way up the hill?” She was right. This one rock was as heavy as all the others combined. And since the diameter of my 5 gallon bucket wouldn’t accept all of the lopsided mass, adding it made the whole load awkward and top-heavy. But that was precisely the point. I didn’t want to carry its weight, but I already was. It was perfect.

We arrived at the top of the bluff, set our buckets down, and peered over the edge of the cliff. The path we followed on our ascent had circled around so that we could see the mountains again. We could also see where we had begun. Ironically, although we now stood 40-50 feet above it, we really weren’t too far away from our starting point. Had we not been carrying the stones, we could easily have made the same journey in less than half the time.

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. (Matthew 18:21-22 NIV).”

Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins (Mark 11:24-26 NIV).”

Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors (Matthew 6:12 NIV).”

We just stood silently for a few minutes, looking at the mountains and enjoying the cool October breeze. Then one by one, we took turns throwing our rocks off the cliff. With each toss, we expressed to God that we had forgiven the one who hurt us so deeply, and surrendered the burden of the wound to Him. When I got to my last rock- the big one- I stopped and prayed, “Lord, I’ve carried this burden around for so long that it feels like a part me. But I don’t want it, and I never did. I am surrendering everything about the situation to You, including the person.
After hurling it over the side, I watched as my rock landed on an even larger one at the bottom of the cliff and was broken.

When we can’t forgive, we load ourselves down with burdens that can be much heavier than a bucket full of big rocks. If you’re carrying a weight like this around, take it to the cross and let it go. Life is better with an empty bucket.


In Him We Live,


Sunday, February 10, 2008


Can a blog become a church?

Not sure. But they could share a name...

A little over a year ago, the Convergence blog made its debut. The entry was called "A New Adventure," and it described exactly how I felt. I talked about bike rides when I was twelve, and how I loved to explore places that I'd ever been. I guess I've always been a sucker for a good adventure.

As I explained in that first entry, I could never have described it then, but as I look back on all the incredible adventures, I think those feelings were stirred because I was at a point of convergence. You can see one definition of that word above- every time you log on to this site. But according to, “convergence” can also be defined as “the occurrence of two or more things coming together.” It is a “meeting place” of sorts.

My life in Christ has been an ongoing series of these moments, and the feelings of adventure and excitement have been joined (and possibly intensified) by a passion to share the amazing gift of the Gospel with people who don’t know Jesus. But just when I think my experience, wisdom, or understanding has grown a little, I have been met by new challenges and further sections of the trail, waiting to be explored. Sometimes these challenges appear purely as obstacles to be overcome. At other times they are opportunities.

At each new stage, I am reminded of my inadequacy. I feel like that twelve year old again, hesitating at the edge of the unknown, feeling very small and weak. But in my better moments, I am also reminded that “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9. NIV Translation)."

If it is true that a "leader’s inadequacy finds resolution only in the grace of God (David Faust, Growing Churches, Growing Leaders, (Joplin: College Press Publishing Co., 1994), 126)," then it would seem that it is in the facing of these very challenges that we will find our Savior’s gracious hand, guiding us forward in His strength. I am trusting in that strength as I journey toward the opportunity to plant a new church.

It is far beyond the scope of any human to establish a new body of Christ, purely based on their own strengths and abilities. Jesus’ words to Peter in Matthew 16:18 tell us that the church will be built on the rock (petra), in which he refers to Himself. This is in response to Peter’s confession that Jesus is indeed the Christ, the Son of God, living with them in the flesh. In comparison we, like Peter (petros), are more like small stones, or pebbles. People need the guidance, power and blessing of the triune God to plant a new church. But people however, do without a doubt have a contribution to make.

I believe that a healthy, thriving church can be rooted in a simple process. It can be birthed, grow, and reproduce by focusing primarily on the Great Commission and the Great Commandment. This process can be seen not only in the life of the church as a whole, it can be observed and measured within the context of the individual disciples that make up the larger body. This process can be expressed in a simple mission statement that encourages the believer to “Love God, Live in Community, and Serve the World.”

Love. Live. Serve.

I do not feel worthy of this amazing opportunity. But I know that “we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us (2Corinthians 4:7 NIV Translation).” When I replace my frailty with God’s strength, what is left is the potential to see, as author Randy Pope says, “a place where the presence of God’s power is demonstrated with such force that the community in which it exists is marked with an indelible spiritual imprint (The Prevailing Church, (Chicago: Moody Press, 2002), 20).”

The thought of seeing such place become a reality is in itself a point of convergence. As a matter of fact, "Convergence" is again one of the best words I can think of to describe what I'm talking about. Just imagine: the opportunity to establish a body of Christ, built on a simple process that invites believers as well as the spiritually curious to "come together" with the living God into an ever-increasing relationship.

Now that's what I call Convergence.

In Him We Live,


Friday, February 1, 2008


This is not the entry I had planned for today. Maybe that one will make it in next week.

Music is a big part of my life, and has been for as long as I can remember. Long before I understood anything about music theory, I recognized that there were certain elements in music that had a strong affect on me emotionally, and sometimes even changed my mood.

I have always listened to the words, too- and I mean really listened. By the time I was ten, I could easily (and accurately) sing along with most of the music that my parents listened to, both in the house and on the radio in the car. Much to their relief, I was still too young to understand what some of the songs insinuated (i.e., I thought Star Land Vocal Band's "Afternoon Delight" was about a cookout on the 4th of July, since they kept talking about "making sparks ignite," and "skyrockets in flight.")

In my life, God has often used this love for music (with a now increased understanding of lyrics) as a tool to remind me of His presence and get me thinking about His Word. Sometimes it's just one line from a song that digs deep into me. (And it hasn't been exclusively "Christian" music, just in case you're wondering.)

Yesterday however, He used worship music. I had my mp3 player on as I worked on other stuff, and decided to listen to the song "Fuel." You may know the opening lyrics: "You are the fuel our spirits burn; the oil, the light, the flame the fire, we are burning..."

Then it was the song by Hillsong United, called "Look to You": "As I look into the sky above; Wonder how my life has changed; Wonder how Your love, it came to me; As I look into the sky above; All my fears, so far away; All I hear is heaven calling me. So I look to You; So I look to You. No one else will do; No one else will do."

I began to think to myself, "These are songs that declare a total dependence on God- they indicate a life that acknowledges Him as the ultimate source." I then decided to listen to "Look to You" a second time. This time though, a piece of John 1:3 came to mind: "Through him all things were made..." The rest of the verse is, "...without him nothing was made that has been made."

Then it sort of expanded to Colossians 1:13-20 which says, "For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins." I was thinking of the next part specifically:
"He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created:"
(When I looked it up later, the power of the whole verse practically knocked me over.) It continues, "..things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross."

From there, I thought about a Vineyard music song from the late 90’s, which we've been singing lately at worship gatherings called "You are in Control." It starts out, "You are my shepherd, I have no need; You lead me by peaceful streams; And You refresh my life. You hold my hand and You guide my steps; I can walk through the valley of death and I won't be afraid. Because You, are in, control. You, are in, control. Yes Lord You, are in, control. You are in control..." I probably don't need to mention that my thoughts were turned to Psalm 23.

Sooo... why share that story today? In an effort to be as transparent with you as possible, I'll just lay it out: I think I'm supposed to.

I had something completely different in mind for my entry this week, but by the time this impromptu worship experience was complete, I was left thinking about who God is: the Creator and sustainer of everything that has ever been or will ever be. About all God has given to me: existence; hope; salvation; the very life of His Son. And about how He is totally in control of everything, but won't force himself on anyone, desiring instead that we choose to freely give Him the authority in our lives that He, by all rights, could demand.

I love music. But despite all its good points, music is not the focus of this entry. More accurately, music in this story plays the part of the vehicle which provides transportation to the real focus: An encounter with the Living God.

Has God been trying to remind you of His presence lately? He's not limited to music. God can use anything from medieval literature to muscle car restoration to get someone thinking- if they are willing to pay attention. You see, God's only "limit" is self-imposed: He will not allow Himself to push beyond someone's free will. We must choose to listen.

He still desires that we choose Him.

In Him We Live,


Thursday, January 24, 2008

Hot Wings

Spicy rules.

In just a little over a week, the nation will be tuning in to one of the most watched events in network television: The Super Bowl. You might be a Giants fan, pulling for Eli Manning. You might be hoping to see the Pats pull off a completely "perfect season." (Should I add an asterisk next to that statement, in light of their "spygate" incident?) You might be mourning Brett Favre's lost opportunity. You might even still be blaming Jessica Simpson on behalf of the Cowboys.

Or, like many people, your love of the Super Bowl might be primarily and intrinsically tied to your love of the food that comes with it. If you fall into this category, don't worry- you have a lot of company. I mean, places like Buffalo Wild Wings shape their whole business around the reality that almost all of us connect professional sports and T.V. with food.

Whatever category you might be in, I am hoping to make your big day a little brighter (and spicier) with what I am about to share.

Here for you my friends, is my recipe for hot wings. This offering has made me a welcome guest at almost a decade of Super Bowl parties. If you decide to write this down, remember this rule above all others: The way you prepare this recipe is just as important as the ingredients.

Okay, here we go. You will need:

1 Large bag of wings/drummies (about 30-50 count)

1 Stick of butter or margarine

1 Gallon of Louisiana hot sauce (yes- a gallon- don't skimp on me)

A medium to large slow-cooker.

Your grill.

"That's it," you say? That's it. It's all about the preparation.

Start by melting the whole stick of butter/margarine in the slow cooker. (Don't be worried about the calories- you're diluting it into a gallon of hot sauce.) Now add about 80% of that Louisiana hot sauce and set the temperature to low. Let the sauce cook for about 2 hours. Around the second hour, it should be simmering, and you will notice that it is beginning to change colors slightly. If it's not yet simmering, increase your temp a little to get it going. (NOTE: Try not to let this stuff boil, or you may be left with something that can only be used in stripping your garage floor, or perhaps as an anti-terrorism device.) Now, on to the chicken.

Thaw the wings and then grill them until the chicken is almost cooked through.

Yes, grill them. I know. "But we're putting them in the slow cooker." Take the time to crisp up the outer skin and add some of that wonderful "off the grill" flavor. Trust me, this is not a wasted step. Combining your grill with your slow cooker is the culinary version of an unstoppable force of nature.

Once the chicken is nearly cooked through with some nice charring on the outside, add it to your sauce. This is also the time where you can feel free to add some or all of the remaining sauce from your original gallon. Be sure to taste-test the sauce first, because as it simmers with the butter, it will be getting hotter. My suggestion would be to add enough of the uncooked sauce to cover the wings (or to bring the spice level back down to a place where someone won't take a bite and then run screaming from the room).

Let the wings cook in the sauce for another 1-2 hours. You're in the flavor zone now. The combination of all these steps produces a result that will make you very popular with just about anyone who likes hot wings. But remember, it's all about the way you approach the preparation. You might be thinking, "that sounds like a hefty time commitment for a hot wing." You're right, it is. But then again, it's not your ordinary hot wing.

Extraordinary things can come from simple ingredients. But short-change the preparation, and you'll short-change the result.

This is the way it is with our life in Christ. If we skimp on our time cultivating our relationship with our Savior, we end up in a world of bland Christianity. Christ is inviting us to join Him on an adventure into a world of extraordinary life in Him, but we have to continue to choose to come along. One of my friends recently shared this very same idea in an email saying, "Years ago, I began praying for God to draw closer to me. Then… somewhere along the way I heard a TV evangelist (don't recall the man's name) comment that WE should focus on drawing nearer to Him. Well… "duh…" It's like a light bulb went off over my coconut and I finally got it! I guess I was expecting God to do all the work…".

"Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me (John 15:4)."

It isn't overly complicated. An extraordinary life in Christ is waiting for anyone who will choose to love God in worship, share their life in community with others and grow as disciples, and reach out to the world as a servant.

Love. Live. Serve.

Now that's a truly unstoppable force.

In Him We Live,


p.s.- If you end up with leftover wings, be careful. Their much hotter the next day!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


You just never know what God will use to teach you something.

It was May in Virginia, and the weather was getting hot. We had just moved, and were still unpacking boxes when an old Dodge Diplomat pulled down our gravel drive and parked in the front yard. From within the car emerged a hulk of guy wearing bib overalls and no shirt, with a wad of chewing tobacco in his cheek that was so big it made him look like he was eating a jawbreaker. He lumbered onto the front porch and knocked.

As I opened the screen door, he extended his hand to me and said, "Hi. I'm Landon. Welcome to the South." Actually, the chew was contorting his right cheek so much that the last word sounded more like, "Sowf." Landon went on. "I'm glad you all are here at the church. I work at the dairy down the road."

Although true, this last statement was unnecessary. Since we didn't have air conditioning, all the windows were open to allow the breeze to blow through. We knew Landon worked at the dairy from the moment he drove up. Both his car and his clothes exuded that aroma that is unmistakably, "all things cow." After a short conversation, Landon went on his way- probably back to the dairy. The aroma of "all things cow," went with him.

About a year later, I was driving back to the church building after lunch. As I approached the dairy, I noticed that they were watering a field near the road. Just about the time I drove past, the wind really kicked up and my little green car was coated on one side with a mixture of something that resembled watery pudding. I immediately realized that "watering" had not been the right term. When the milking stalls were cleaned, all the waste and runoff was washed into a nearby lagoon. That lagoon was now being pumped to fertilize the field. At the corner stop sign, I turned right instead of left and headed straight to the car wash. By the time I had driven the remaining four miles to town, "all things cow" was my overpowering companion.

I rejoiced that it hadn't eaten off the paint. I also rejoiced that the passenger windows were shut during the wind-induced manure malaise. Washing a coat of dung-paste off your vehicle's shiny exterior is one thing. Trying to get it out of your upholstery is something else entirely. But here lies the difference between myself and Landon. (Well besides the fact that I don't wear bibs or chew Red Man.)

That smell was an immediate problem for me, and I wanted it off my car. I don't, however, think I've ever met a dairy farmer who complained about the odor. Actually, I've heard more than one say, "It just smells like money to me." The benefits they receive have altered their perspective. They have also accepted that when you spend a lot of your time milking, caring for, and cleaning up after cows, you are going to smell like them at the end of the day. After all, the closer you are to something, the better the chances are that you'll become saturated with it.

To be saturated is to be unable to hold or contain any more; it is to be completely full.

In Colossians 2:9, Paul says, "For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form...." In other words, there is no part of Him that is less than fully God- even as He walked in human form.

Now look at the rest of his statement: "...and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority (Col. 2:10)." Do you realize that we can choose to be literally saturated with Christ? Each time an undesirable part of our old self is removed, we can cry out to Jesus to fill the void. Little by little, we decrease and He increases in us.

All this saturation seems to carry its own "smell"-both to God and to others. No kidding. Even more interesting, our smell to others ends up depending on their choices. Here's what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 2:15-16a:

"For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance or life."

Who knew we were all so smelly?

Be saturated.

In Him We Live,


Monday, January 7, 2008

Jumbo Shrimp

Today's entry is a rant. And it all goes back to jumbo shrimp.

My family and I were enjoying New Year's eve at a friend's house when we got a phone call. Just as I put it on speaker, we heard a cacophony of voices shouting greetings to us from Houston. As they passed the phone around, our friend Kara said, "Hey Jeff! We're all over at Shaun's house having a great time, and we've got jumbo shrimp. Isn't that enough to get ya'll down here?" I was immediately reminded of the line from the movie "Jerry McGuire," when she tells him, "You had me at 'hello'."

Now, you may not be as familiar as I am with jumbo shrimp from the gulf area. Let me just say that, if you've been eating shrimp anywhere else, you are missing out on how good it can really be. There's just something about that region and the freshness that takes tasty to a whole new level. (You may now insert any of "Bubba's" dialog from "Forrest Gump," i.e., "shrimp salad, shrimp kabobs, shrimp on a stick," etc.)

Now that I think about it, most of the places I've lived have had some kind of food that is a "specialty" for their particular area.

I was never a fan of mussels until I lived on Prince Edward Island, in eastern Canada.

When I ministered in Virginia, there were certain times when some of the ladies would come to the church kitchen and make homemade yeast roles. My office would be so flooded with that incredible smell, that I was hungry enough to eat my stapler by the end of the day.

You have never truly experienced baby Swiss cheese until you've had it from Amish country in Ohio.

For me, all thin crust pizza will forever be second place imitations of St. Louis style pizza. (Ahhh, Imo's...)

While I'm really not sure what makes those Virginia yeast roles so incredible, I suspect it's the same secret ingredient to enjoying cheese in Amish country, mussels on PEI, and shrimp on the gulf: it's local. You might even consider these foods to be expressions of the unique cultures that they come from.

Okay, so is there a point to all this- I mean, besides the confession of my love for all this food? I certainly hope so. If not, I've made you all hungry for nothing.

In my opinion (and that's all this is), it all goes back to the jumbo shrimp. I'm not heading to Amish country any time soon for a taste of the famous "Amish shrimp of Ohio." You get great shrimp in the gulf region because the gulf has great shrimp, and lots of them. Period. You get great cheese in Amish country because those farms aren't as concerned with mass production as they are with producing a great product. Each place has made the most of what it already has locally.

Churches sometimes become enamored by the growth or "success" of another congregation. In an effort to imitate the result, they imitate the outward, measurable actions of the "model" church. Interestingly enough, this second generation just doesn't reap the same results. So what happened? Again, in my opinion, it's the "local" factor. The second generation church has spent less time studying the principles and philosophies of the "model" church, and more time duplicating methods and actions that may be dependent on, or influenced by what God has naturally given the "model" church to use locally.

Here's what I mean: It would be helpful to examine the principles behind a church that has consistently drawn in great numbers of new visitors and helped them grow into Christ-followers.

It would be short-sighted, however, to simply copy a program, curriculum, or event that this same church has used, without considering
similarities and differences in culture and context.

This is not an attempt to get some kind of back-handed jab in at mega-churches. It is also not a commentary designed to warn people against using Willow Creek group studies, Saddleback "40 Days" campaigns, or any other widely marketed tools. No church needs to reinvent the wheel- if an established method or approach fits your church's unique community and personality, by all means consider using it; each can be beneficial under the right circumstances.

What I am saying, is that there is no "one size fits all" approach to church growth. Different people have different needs. Different communities can have many different local cultures and personalities. Our churches are comprised of those same unique cultures and personalities.

What we all share, is the need for a Savior. We all have sinned, and cannot be brought back into a right place with God unless we accept His grace through Christ. In John 17:18, part of Jesus' prayer for His disciples was, "In the same way that you gave me a mission in the world, I give them a mission in the world." (The Message trans.) What could be a more effective way to share this message than by embracing the ways that God has naturally given our churches their own unique "thumbprint" in our community?

So, pass the shrimp, bake the pizza or cut the cheese- but whatever you do, be what God intended you to be, not a copy.

In Him We Live,