Sunday was our final preview service! On the one hand, that really excites me because it means that months of preparation are finally coming to a culmination. On the other hand, it makes me nervous because now I can’t hid behind the “We’re still in preparation-mode” excuse. Also, I now have to get back into the mode of preparing weekly messages and worship services. I think it is going to be really hard work for a while. But I’m looking forward to it. It should be exciting.
Anyway, we had some really neat things happen Sunday and we learned some more good lessons.
Because our Grand Opening is this coming Sunday (the 25th), we didn’t market last week as much as we had last month. I did send out a cool postcard to all those on our mailing list.
Here, you can see the postcard we mailed out.
Also, because of how long the signs took to put together last time, I had our signs professionally printed, and I set them up the day before. Here’s what one of them looked like.
Also, you might be interested to see the banner I set up on the corner of the school’s property.
I got all the signs put up on Saturday including an additional banner on some columns in front of the school.
Also, on Saturday, Josh came over and helped me load up the truck so that we didn’t have to do any loading on Sunday morning. It made everything go so much more smoothly in the morning.
Because last month’s morning got off to a slow start, I asked everyone to be at our house at 8:30am this time. Everyone was there by 8:45 and we were able to pray together before loading up the truck.
Yes, I did say truck! This was our first day to use the truck, and it was also our first time using the equipment that came from Willowbrook Community Church. Their sound equipment is much more elaborate than what we had been using.
Somehow we did get a little delayed at our house. I think the prayer time took a little longer than I had thought it might, but that’s not a bad thing. Anyway, we got to the school at about 9:15, and then unloaded everything.
Our total numbers weren’t much more than they have been for any of our other services, but something about it felt really good. It especially felt good because between last month’s service and this one, three members of our worship team stepped down. However, we made up the loss in numbers with quite a few new faces.
The coolest story of the morning was one family that was on their way to visit another church when they saw our signs and recalled our TV spots. So they decided to stop on in and check us out.
Here our numbers:
- Children – 12
- Adults – 20
- Total Attendance – 32
My morning message was entitled God Is Love and the best part of the message is when I took the “love passage” from 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 and asked people to consider substituting “God” for every instance of the word “love.” Here’s the verse from the NIV:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. — 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
I then asked people to consider which of those promises was God’s promise to them for that morning. Try it yourself.
However, I failed to get my MP3 recorder set up properly, so I didn’t get a recording of the service. I’m kinda bummed by that, but what are you going to do?
During our debrief lunch following the service, we discussed some lessons learned for the next time. Here they are:
- We need to get some extra equipment
- 1/8″ stereo mini plug cable
- 3 Speakon cables (2×25′ and 1×50′)
- smaller box for AV cables that can fit in the cabinet
- a mobile cart for our computer and projector so we don’t have to use the microwave stand from the cafeteria.
- Latex Gloves for the Nursery
- a hand truck / dolly for getting stuff off the truck better.
- Trough or cooler with ice for water bottles
- Bread bags for people to take the donated bread home
- More water bottles
- We need to darken the room (the screen was getting washed out by the light coming in the back windows)
- We need to make up some cards for nursery workers to easily communicate to parents what happened with their kids (what snacks they got, if they took a nap, if their diaper was changed).
Well, that’s about it. Next week is our Grand Opening. I’ll write another post on our plans for that.
So I was praying last week and asking God for a miracle or two to confirm that he was really in this church planting effort of ours, and then on Sunday I asked the people there to pray specifically about two things.
First, we needed the school board to approve our usage and specifically, we needed some clear guidance on how far into the future they would let us meet there.
Secondly, we needed something to happen with regard to the truck so that we could drive it around legally. The other church that donated it to us lost the title, and the plates had expired, so we couldn’t actually take the truck on the streets.
God moved in some big ways to answer these prayers.
Closed door, open window
I was so concerned about the title for the truck, that I had been calling Larry, the representative of the other church, to find out about the title, and he offered to look into what it would take to get a duplicate title. I was worried that it might end up being a couple of weeks, and I had internally just committed myself to thinking we would drive the truck to the school this Sunday anyway and run the risk of a cop seeing us.
However, Larry and his wife figured out a different solution. When she went to get the replacement title, she found out that she could just pay the registration fee to get new plates for the truck and thereby make it street-legal again! She did that, express mailed the plates to us, and we got them today! The truck will be drivable in an hour or so when I get around to putting the plates on it! Also, the duplicate title should be arriving in about 3 weeks. And if that weren’t enough, they also found the missing amplifier for the sound system. We should be able to go down there some time this week to go get it. Praise God!
God Uses Secretaries
The other answer to prayer completely shocked me. I got a phone call on Monday from Cheryl, the secretary of Gary Jenkins who is in charge of maintenance for the Tippecanoe School Corporation. I called her back on Tuesday and she wanted to know if we needed to use the school at any point in March or April.
Apparently, the principal hadn’t gotten our paperwork into them by the deadline and this lady thought she would call me to double-check that we didn’t need the school! Praise God! If she hadn’t called me, our request would not have made it to the school board on time. The school board was to meet the very next day (yesterday), and if our request didn’t get on the agenda, we would have been WAAAAAYYYYY up a creek with no place to meet, $4,000 out of our pockets for the postcards advertising our launch and no way to reprint them in time! As it was, our request made it onto the agenda and was approved! We are good to go all the way through April! I just can’t stop using exclamation points!!!!
God was looking out for us this week and has caused all these things to come together. I’m so thrilled and encouraged to see how He has confirmed just this week that he is watching over this whole process. Keep praying for the turn out at our launch service on March 25!
Here in Lafayette, there is an association of ministers that is far more significant than some “ministerium” that many communities have where pastors of various churches get together to try to demonstrate some unity but never really get anything done.
TEAMM is the Tippecanoe Evangelical Association of Ministers and Ministries which has a couple things going for it that get me excited:
- They are committed to the core beliefs of “evangelicalism” which are basically the lordship of Jesus Christ and the authority of the Bible as God’s Word.
- They are developing a strong sense of unity among churches that have traditionally been at odds with each other in this town.
- They are being noticed both locally and nationally for their accomplishments in social programs and community prayer efforts.
This last weekend, TEAMM hosted its annual pastor’s prayer summit and I had the opportunity to go. It ended up being a very refreshing time, and since most of the pastors there were coming from a charismatic bent, it was spiritually uplifting as well.
Our two days followed a process of talking about what God is doing in Lafayette, what it’s going to mean for us and our ministries, and what he’s saying to us individually. We had significant times of worship through music before each session and long prayer sessions after each discussion.
On top of that, I had a great time getting to know a couple other pastors and allowing them to get to know me a bit. They were very encouraging and a few of them gave me some prophetic words that seemed quite authentic.
I also had the joy of playing my guitar as Randy Skidmore of Elston Family Church led the worship music.
All in all, I came away from that meeting with a deeper respect for the other pastors here, a deeper sense of the promises of God for Southside Church and some inklings of a more vibrant life of faith God is laying out for me.
I just wanted to post something quickly to say that our time in Crown Point went really well on Sunday.
Jen, the kids, and I all went up there Sunday morning and had a good time at the service. Afterward, Pastor Tony and his wife treated us to lunch at Portillo’s. It was a great meal and a great conversation too.
Some time ago, I began a blogosphere conversation over with Rob at Casual Musings. The conversation has centered on the relationship of Science and Faith. His post is here, my response is in the comments there and also here.
In his most recent comment, he posed some more questions to me. His main issue boiled down to this:
In an age where the scientific method forms the basis for our worldview, what should the Christian position be considering especially the Biblical descriptions of angelic and demonic activity in the world?
Specifically, he addressed these questions:
- Can demons influence the scientific process?
- Are demonic forces still at work in cases of psychological and other illness?
- Why has science consistently pushed God out of the question?
I want to address these with an analogy.
The Man Behind the Curtain
If you have read the book or seen the play/movie The Wizard of Oz, you know that at the end of the book, the all powerful wizard is shown to be simply a man behind a curtain pulling ropes, throwing switches and speaking into a microphone.
Now picture yourself in the position of an observer in the room who sees the gigantic floating head, the booming voice, the smoke and effects, but this time, instead of a black curtain, there is a sealed, steel box behind the head.
As an observer, you have three possible conclusions to make.
- The head is exactly as it appears. It is what it is, and there is nothing more to it than that.
- At some point in the past, someone built this head, attached it to a computer program, and let it run.
- There is a man in the box who is controlling the head.
In this analogy, the head refers to the universe around us that we can see and observe, and the man in the box is God. Therefore, position 1 is the position of the atheist. There isn’t anything other than the head. Position 2 is the position of the deist. Someone put this all in place, but now it manages itself. Position 3 is the theist. There is a God who is actively involved in what we see.
Ancient people presupposed that #3 was true because they had no other explanation. Whether they knew God or not, they presupposed there was a God who was operating the world. More precisely, most ancient people thought that every phenomenon observed in the world was actually controlled by a different divine being. That there would be only one Almighty God who was over all phenomena was a uniquely Hebrew concept.
Anyway, the process of scientific inquiry started with the presupposition that there was, so to speak, a man in the box, and the earliest scientists wanted to learn more about the man in the box by trying to figure out how he was doing what he was doing. The biggest problem, of course, was that the box was closed up tight with no seams, windows, or doors. There were only ropes and wires along with the occasional message that people claimed came from within the box.
Scientific investigation, then started with the head. As scientists investigated the head, they began to notice the ropes that led from different parts of the head back to the box. They watched closely, and they saw that everytime one rope moved, so did the eyes. Rejoicing, they gave that rope a name (R1) and developed a theory that whenever R1 moved up and down, so did the eyes. Some scientists were even able to build a ladder, climb on the box, and figure out that they too could move R1 up and down. Amazingly, when they moved it, so did the eyes. Their theory was confirmed.
Along with better technology, more detailed theories were developed, and patterns became evident. Mathematical formulas were increasingly able to predict how and when the head would move, and eventually, scientists began to feel that because everything was so predictable, there couldn’t be a person in the box. Some believed it was a computer, but most began to feel that somehow the head was self-sustaining.
This is the progression of science in our world. With more and more of the world proving to be predictable, the proposition that a rational being was behind it all became unnecessary, and God went from being in a box to being nowhere at all.
Science needs no God
Science lost God because it doesn’t need him.
It really came down to this kind of reasoning:
- There are many unseen forces.
- Each year, more of those forces are shown to be predictable on their own and malleable by technology.
- We have zero direct evidence of the spiritual world outside our perception of unseen forces.
- Therefore, we will proceed as if there is no distinction between “spiritual” and “natural” forces and see how far we get.
To date, 100% of the forces that we understand are predictable and malleable according to various mathematical formulas, and the number of forces we don’t understand is dwindling fast.
That’s how we got to where we are today with many scientists simply saying, “We no longer need to assume there is a God behind it all. Whether there is or isn’t doesn’t matter to the scientific process. Every observable effect we have found, has an observable cause.” Scientists are convinced that the belief in God will not help the process. Instead, the belief in God might hinder the process because someone might come upon an unseen force (say, the nuclear “strong force”) and simply credit that one to God without investigating it. Therefore, in order for science to keep moving forward, all scientists have to uphold operational atheism or deism which means that they assume the process they are observing is running all by itself.
Now, a person can be a believer in God and also be a scientist, but the presupposition to all science is that some observed phenomenon is not under the control of a capricious being but under the control of a predictable, rational God.
This is where modern science is directly opposed to some of the ways the Bible represents the activity of demons and angels. It’s very easy for us to say that God is rational, predictable, and in control, but what about the Bible’s claims regarding the capricious activity of demons?
Are demons still at work today?
Demons and Psychology
Jesus was apparently known more for casting out demons than he was for healing the sick. People would be brought to him with symptoms similar to epilepsy, dementia, retardation, or other mental defect, and his diagnosis was consistently that a demon needed to be cast out. He never once diagnosed a person with a mental illness.
However, if you pay attention, Jesus never “diagnosed” anyone. He always accepted their own self-diagnosis and then healed them according to their faith or the faith of the person who brought the issue to Jesus. You see this repeatedly in the gospels, and there is only one exception.
The exception is found in Mark 5:6-13
When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Swear to God that you won’t torture me!” For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you evil spirit!” Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” “My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area. A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. The demons begged Jesus, “Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.” He gave them permission, and the evil spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned. — Mark 5:6-13
In this passage, Jesus has a conversation with the evil spirits that reside in this man!
With all the other biblical instances of demonic oppression, you see demonic behavior that can (relatively) easily be explained from the perspective of Western medicine, but with this one, we see a description of an unpredictable, powerful, and personal intelligence that Jesus calls an evil spirit. Western medicine might describe this as a psychotic individual, but Jesus proves it to be the result of evil spirits when he sends them into a herd of pigs who then run off and drown themselves.
So how do we reconcile Western scientific thinking with the biblical worldview of spiritual forces at work in our world?
My own approach is the combination of a few core beliefs:
- God is completely in charge of Creation and he is logical, orderly, and unchanging with regard to the way he created it and continues to sustain it.
- Humans, angels, and demons are given a mind similar to God’s own that is capable of imagining the possible and thereby causing action that may be unpredictable.
- The mind and activity of spiritual beings is ultimately under the control of God himself such that they are limited to do only what he allows them to do.
- Humans, being both spiritual and physical, have an interplay of spirit and body that is far more complex and profound than we yet understand.
In the medical world, I believe that what the Bible describes as demon-possession or demonic oppression is the simple fact of God allowing an evil spirit to physically damage the brain or body chemistry of a person to create the symptoms of epilepsy, depression, etc. It could be that God allows the demon to also continually remain with the person such that the body is incapable of healing itself and the symptoms persist.
In Jesus’ day, there were no pharmaceutical or surgical cures, but in fact, most pharmaceutical “cures” are really only able to alleviate symptoms and not really provide a cure. In addition, many surgical cures work only by removing the part of the body that is the focal point of the problem. When Jesus cast out a demon, he was able to completely heal the person and eliminate the potential for the illness to return.
Therefore, it is quite possible from a biblical perspective that demons are involved in mental illnesses today and that our medicine is simply treating the symptoms without treating the spiritual source.
Modern medicine is beginning to understand that there really is more to patient care than drugs and surgery. The soul is becoming much more of a focal point for treating illness today. Other cultures have done “holistic” medicine like this for centuries with quite positive results.
Demons and Science
If demons are allowed to be at work messing with people’s heads, and according to the Bible, they have at times been given such authority, then are they also allowed to mess with people’s conclusions about the physical world?
The answer is a clear Yes. However, I think there is only one way demons have been allowed to influence conclusions. It is clear to me that Satan and his demons have achieved all they need to achieve by simply convincing people that the assumption of God is detrimental to the scientific process. Once we got to that point in scientific inquiry, it was a small leap for science to begin to follow the principles of naturalism which says, “we assume nothing but the natural world.” Then of course, there was no difficulty for many to simply say, “There is no God,” or more accurately for many, “I don’t care if there is or isn’t a God.”
Therefore, with that kind of victory already won, I don’t think Satan really needs to do much more in the scientific world. Romans 1 is clear that once a person has rejected God as Creator, their hearts are hardened and no amount of discovery in the natural world will ever bring them to later accept God as Creator.
Therefore, I don’t think demons are actively involved in the scientific process any further than to consistently reinforce the principle of naturalism.
Rob concludes his post with this paragraph:
My thinking is that there is a kingdom of deceivers who will use all available means, including science, to keep people from God. Man’s unaided rational capacities, certainly unregenerate man, are not capable of sifting the lies out of the truth, even with the scientific method — at least this is what I strongly suspect. We need the guidance of the Holy Spirit to arrive at “true truth,” to use a term of Francis Schaeffer. My posts to date have dealt more with a historical report with some interpretation on my part, but this debate cannot end until we answer the question, “What does the Bible say about this?” All the reasoning in the world is useless if we don’t find the answer to that question.
It’s certainly an interesting thought that demonic forces might be at work to keep us away from a knowledge of the world that might point us to God, but I think the Bible clearly says we humans don’t need any help there.
But God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who push the truth away from themselves. For the truth about God is known to them instinctively. God has put this knowledge in their hearts. From the time the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky and all that God made. They can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse whatsoever for not knowing God. Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. The result was that their minds became dark and confused. Claiming to be wise, they became utter fools instead. — Romans 1:18-22 NLT
Or in the NIV
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools — Romans 1:18-22
My point is that our own human propensity to reject God’s power over us is the very thing that has darkened our hearts to see him through his Creation. This passage seems to indicate that there is nothing in this darkening of the hearts that prevents people from understanding the world as it is. Instead, this darkness seems to exist mostly in causing our thoughts to be “futile” (not having eternal significance) and “foolish” unaware of the fuller truth of the world as God’s Creation.
I have no doubt that science is as predictable as the orderly world God Created and that Satan has better things to do with his limited time than tweak with experimental results on the level of consistency those experiments seem to show. I have no doubt that demons are still active in the world, but I have better things to do with my limited time than to try to identify which events are “demonic” and which are “natural.”
The bottom line is that I trust the scientific method to give us humans truth about the operations of creation because I believe in an orderly, rational creative God.
Nevertheless, underneath it all, behind it all, through it all, in some unseen place we cannot visit yet, there is an unseen God who though his creation is predictable and orderly still deeply desires to have unpredictable relationships with people.
Daniel Pink has written a very interesting book about the coming shift from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age. He makes an interesting claim that the Information Age is already over and a new way of doing business has begun. The book is mostly about business principles, but it has a lot to say to churches and church leaders (something I’ll tackle in an upcoming post). Continue reading
The title of this post comes from a video posted on Guy Kawasaki’s blog about a Chicago company called Threadless that has users create designs for T-Shirts and then sells the finished product. I thought it was an interesting way to talk about there business, and I haven’t finished watching the video yet, so I’m posting the link here for my own future reference. You might like it too.
If you have the time to watch it, post a comment about what you think about “creating and monetizing” a community.
One of my favorite blog sites is http://presentationzen.com because it takes a critical look at the way people present information in a public setting. As a pastor, I’ve been presenting information to people for a while now, and I’ve been using powerpoint to be a visual aid in the process, but this site has changed my thinking quite significantly on what it takes to give a good, entertaining, and memorable presentation. If you want to improve the way you communicate to groups of people, whether you use powerpoint or any other visual aids, you should give this website a good bookmarking.
Not long ago, the author of the site posted a list of significant books in the form of a Christmas buying guide. After reading it, I went to the library to pick up as many as I could find. I’ve only made it through one so far (and my library only had a couple of them). My next post will be a summary of the lessons I’ve learned from reading that book.
I got this as an email forward from my wife, and it really was good enough to post here.
20 Ways to Maintain a Healthy Level of Insanity (I’m thinking this
could get one arrested, actually.)
At Lunch Time, Sit In Your Parked Car With Sunglasses on and
point a Hair Dryer At Passing Cars. See If They Slow Down.
Page Yourself Over The Intercom. Don’t Disguise Your Voice.
Every Time Someone Asks You To Do Something, Ask If They Want
Fries with that.
Put Your Garbage Can On Your Desk And Label It “In.”
Put Decaf In The Coffee Maker For 3 Weeks. Once Everyone has
Gotten Over Their Caffeine Addictions, Switch to Espresso.
In The Memo Field Of All Your Checks, Write “For Smuggling
Finish All Your sentences with “In Accordance With The
Don t use any punctuation
As Often As Possible, Skip Rather Than Walk.
Order a Diet Water whenever you go out to eat with a serious
Specify That Your Drive-through Order Is “To Go.”
Sing Along At The Opera
Go To A Poetry Recital And Ask Why The Poems Don’t Rhyme
Put Mosquito Netting Around Your Work Area And Play tropical
Sounds All Day.
Five Days In Advance , Tell Your Friends You Can’t Attend
Their Party Because You’re Not In The Mood.
Have Your Co-workers Address You By Your Wrestling Name,
When The Money Comes Out The ATM, Scream “I Won!, I Won!”
When Leaving The Zoo, Start Running Towards The Parking lot,
Yelling “Run For Your Lives, They’re Loose!!”
Tell Your Children Over Dinner. “Due To The Economy, We Are
Going To Have To Let One Of You Go.”
And The Final Way To Keep A Healthy Level Of
Insanity…….Send This E-mail To Someone To Make Them Smile.
It’s Called Therapy.
I believe that God exists as a Triune being whose very nature is that of one essence sustaining three persons in perfect relationship—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. His essence admits of no separation among the three but remains always One. Nevertheless, the three persons remain eternally distinct both in person and in role (Dt 6:4; 1Ch 21:15; Isa 63:9f.; Mk 1:10f.; Mt 28:19)
I believe that within the Trinity, there is an eternal hierarchy of function. The Son is sent by the Father and is submissive to the Father’s will for redemption (Jn 8:28f.). The Spirit is sent from both the Son and the Father to continue the work (Jn16:7f.). The Spirit points people to the Son (Jn 15:26), and the Son is the way to the Father (Jn 14:6). I believe this in no way mitigates the full equality of the members of the Trinity (Jn 10:30; cf. 1Co 15:28).
We had a great service this morning. It was our second monthly service and here is a brief rundown of how it all went:
We really ramped up our marketing efforts this time. Here’s what we did:
- We sent out our “New Movers” letters this week. (We send a letter welcoming them to their new home and giving them a coupon to a local bookstore and one for a free Chick-fil-A sandwich.)
- We sent out a postcard to everyone on our mailing list inviting them to come to our service.
- We put an ad in the newspaper.
- I sent out an email to everyone on our email list.
- I made a bunch of phone calls.
I thought some of you might be interested to see some pictures from our house of the Indiana snowstorm that hit us yesterday, so I’m posting them in a little gallery here http://jeffnjen.mikels.cc/~jeff/snowstorm_2007/.
You should have seen the huge pile of snow that the snowplow left at the end of our driveway. I was out there shoveling from about 8:30 until 11:00 when a couple neighbors came by with a snowblower and made short work of the rest. Praise God for nice neighbors!
Last Sunday was our first sneak preview of “day one at southside church.”
Our Sunday morning service is based on the mindset that worship is what people should be doing with their lives throughout the week. As a result, we aren’t calling our Sunday gatherings a “worship service.” Instead, we call our Sunday Morning gatherings, “day one.” The purpose of our Sunday gatherings, then, is to motivate people toward living a life of worship, putting God first in all things, for another seven days.
There are three things we are doing to keep things unique and motivating, and each is an answer to a specific problem we have seen in a number of churches today.