Archive for the ‘Faith’ Category

I was able to catch the latest installment to the Pirate’s of the Caribbean saga. Here is my initial response.

“Dang this theatre is packed!”

“East India Company reminds me a lot of Exxon Mobile.”

“What’s with the giant nose and why does hell just seem to be freaky like willy wonka?”

“That voodoo chick made a whole lot of noise for nothing.”

“Will, think it through man!  She ain’t gonna be that hot in 10 years. Better stow your heart in the bilge locker.”

I can’t stop thinking about this concept of having your heart in a box.  The notion that you could lock it up and give it only to those you trusted is fascinating.  The biggest downside would be that anyone could steel your heart and destroy you.  It reminds me of Jesus’ words in Matt 6:19-21,
19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

The imagery of the heart being in a treasure chest is certainly appropriate.  The heart governs the will of a person and the will is what keeps us all from turning into Michael Jackson.

Could it be that the heart in a box concept is a valid metaphor for the way the human heart works? I have yet to meet the person who was totally heartless. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve met cruel people, but their cruelty was  more a result of their heart being buried under the sand after years of pain or abuse. Even the person who seems to operate totally independent of others has their heart set on something. No one is without dreams and aspirations.

I was watching the season finaly of House last night. (I should read more, I know)  If you didn’t catch it, Doctor House had a female patient whose heart failed and she and her husband were praying that the problem would be solved and that she would survive.  House detested the notion of putting faith in God and ridiculed the couple for praying.  It was through this realization that House discovered that she wasn’t sick but “God screwed up” and she was born with a defect in her heart.  He had to go in and fix God’s mistake so that the woman would survive. 

The show was provocative and I suppose upset some of the conservatives in this country.  It made me think about the heart and how good God’s creation is and how much we have corrupted it. 

The character of House facinates me because he is a perfect illustration of the person of faith that thinks he doesn’t believe in anything.  His is perhaps the clearest religion, because he is so dangerously committed to it.  Science, reason, discovery and the powerof human ingenuity.  It’s cool the way he becomes like Davy Jones in the Pirate’s movie at the end of almost every episode.  They both are alone and miserable in their faith. 

If I could box my heart up I would take it and put it in a storage locker where it would never have to hear the hurtful words of a friend who betrays me.  I would have it hidden during the commercials of children starving in other parts of the world, begging for my help.  I would toss it in my trunk before my church gatherings so I wouldn’t be consumed by the things I need to change in my world.  In fact I would probably only take it out when I was spending time with my children, or on a date with my wife. 

And perhaps the best part of all…

I would never have to worry about my cholesterol.


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I can’t tell you off the top of my head the number of books I have read in the past three years on starting and growing churches. With each book it seems that every author has his own definition on what church is. Some argue there are certain things that need to be in place, such as elders, doctrinal statements, sacraments, etc. Others hold the view that “wherever two or more are gathered” then church is happening.


As I read the New Testament it strikes me that the church is never spoken of or addressed in these terms. It seems that decades of change in culture and religion has altered the view most of us have on the church. In our context the church is different than that of the first century. For starters, we face the challenge of a thousand different denominational differences and traditions. There weren’t seven different churches in a single town in the first century. Imagine if Paul were to write a letter today to the church in
Columbus, Ohio. It would take three weeks just to get the letter around to all the different church gatherings in and around our city!  We’ve come a long way since


The Greek word “ecclesia” is the term that we translate into church in the English language. This term is a compound that literally means to “call out”.  The church is the “called out” ones. This Greek term was also used interchangeably with the term “synagogue”, which means assembly. Synagogue infers a certain level of hospitality.  Neither one of these terms seems to denote today’s concept of church.


In the first century every believer had a sense of calling on their life. To confess Christ was to sacrifice something. The earliest believers were imprisoned, killed and isolated from the local community. Everyone understood, from the Apostles to the guys serving food to widows, that they were called out of the world and into an eternal Kingdom.


They also demonstrated the proper response of blessing others just as God had blessed them. None of the church members had need because they all shared in God’s blessings. They sold property and gave financially in order to meet the needs of the widows and orphans. While it is encouraging to see in the American church culture a sense of love for the lowly, a majority of our support for others goes directly to those outside the church. We tend to project a belief that those who have received God’s grace should never find themselves in a situation of need. This couldn’t be farther from the New Testament model. These believers took care of each others needs first. You can imagine why people would want to join a group like this!


Is it possible to regain this concept of church? Can we reclaim the forgotten ways of our spiritual fathers? Could we return as the church united, to the heart of Jesus? Can we experience love at an unconditional level?

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After finally realizing that our efforts were not effective nor being blessed, we decided it was time to stop cookie cutter plan and begin exploring different concepts of church in an effort to reach the people we were called to reach. We stopped pouring money into mass marketing strategies and began to take a more grass roots approach, building relationships with those around us and offering tools to help our people begin to think missionaly. We took the money we had been spending on marketing and began serving in the community and abroad with projects for the poorest areas of
Columbus. We provided food, clothing, heat and beds for those in need. We partnered with much larger churches around us to help funnel Gods resources to where they were most needed. Hurricane Katrina provided us the opportunity to take bottled water, baby food and cleaning supplies to those affected by the storm.

As we changed our focus we began seeing people slowly come along side us in these projects. Both Christian and non-Christians were joining us to help with this mission and those who had not been involved directly with our church began to engage in this capacity.

Aside form the change in focus of resources, time and energy; we began to refocus our community life. Through gleaning insights from others like Neil Cole and Alan Hirsch, we took a more organic approach to being the church. Over the past year we have focused more and more of our efforts on simplifying church and making it more easily reproduced.  A year ago we challenged our people to begin meeting as “households” to share in faith and life together. Our reason was to take Christ out of the weekend worship and into the fabric of our lives. As we have gotten out of his we have seen God do some amazing things. What started as three gatherings, has now multiplied to 11 with two more starting in the next few weeks, one of which is in
Indiana! We have had a vision to reach our community and God has a vision to reach the world. Apparently even

Today we are working to create a network for edifying, resourcing and initiating simple churches everywhere God wants to have one. We are trying to kill some of the old habits that die hard in order to keep from interfering with God’s amazing work. We want to challenge believers to serve with the gifts God has given them for the glory of the giver and to walk in a manner that sets us apart from the world. This is not simply a walk of morality, but a walk of love. A walk that is as close to the example of Christ as we can possibly muster. All this for His glory.

Have we made some mistakes?

Refer to the first part of the story and you will see we have. 

Will we make mistakes in the future?

Most definitely.

Has it all been worth it?

I have honestly come to the point in my walk where I must say I can’t judge. God is the investor, I am just the invested.

Where has He invested you?

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I set out three years ago to start a church with my now closest friend Doug Swan. With high hopes of changing the world in a little over 18 months (maybe two years tops if we got distracted) we launched using almost every church growth and marketing concept known to man.

Our first goal was clear. Try to convince every Christian we knew and a whole bunch we didn’t know, to leave their present churches and help us get off the ground. We spent several months attempting to round up our 300 mighty men, but we ended up standing in the corner of a big empty room feeling like our prom dates had stood us up. With no where near 300 mighty men, we had to figure out a new plan that would convince the dirty dozen to stay with us. These faithful twelve have proven their heart for Jesus is bigger than their heart for us as we have lead them into failure after miserable failure.

With twelve people we quickly realized our 18 month timeline might have to be extended by at least a few months, but still had high hopes. We recruited all we could and began taking fliers door to door and sending out thousands of dollars in mailers. After all our efforts the big Sunday came. All of the experts seem to indicate that our return from our efforts would end up drawing a minimum of 300 people. The signs were out and banners were up. We had volunteers ready to move chairs and help out in the nursery. We were prepared to face the reality of offering a second service for all those first time guests that were not early enough to get a seat. We purchased gift cards to Starbucks and decided we would tell these late comers that they could have a cup of coffee on us while they waited an hour for the second service to start. With sheer excitement our team stood in ready position, all prepared to face the masses that were to arrive at any minute. Finally at five minutes before the service was to start we began to realize that we were not going to get the return that the experts had promised. Finally, at two minutes till, a man showed up. One single man. He was gracious enough and sat through the whole service. We never saw him again. Thousands of dollars and hundreds of man hours were spent for him and he never came back.

One would think that after such a brutal experience we would have learned our lesson. 

 This wasn’t the case.

We went on to do a phone campaign that played a message from Doug, inviting people to come and check out this new church in the area. Those that were interested in hearing more about the church were supposed to press one and leave a recording with their information. A handful of people did this.  We then followed up with a phone call and talked to each of these folks who were interested. This proved to be only a couple people after we realized one was a local pastor from another church interested in hearing about the new competition, another was my father leaving a little note of encouragement and there was one message from a guy who threatened to call the State Attorney Generals office if we ever called him again. The rest were very promising because they were people that were new to the area and genuinely looking for a church to join. Despite the fact that we had four points of contact with all of these people, none of them ever showed up to a single service.

After this experience, we decided it would be best to try and engage the community a little more directly. We went around to children’s neighborhood parks throughout the community. We delivered thousands of invitations for people to bring their children to a “party in the park.” And this was no simple party! We had arts and crafts, face painting, water toys, a free drawing for bicycles for children of all ages and to top it all off, pony rides! It was an event to end all events! Surely not even the Ringling Brothers have had as much anticipation over a single event as we had in the days leading up to our first party. We had kids coming out of the woodwork!  Families would come and we would talk with parents while children enjoyed the festivities. It was awesome the number of people we got to know through those events. The only problem was that none of them came to our church. Not one!

I know by this point you must be thinking that we are weird. You must be thinking that we are in someway freakish to look at or be around. This is not the case. We all are normal people who have held normal jobs and have very healthy families. The people we met seemed to genuinely like us. We conversed with them for hours. We sent mailers out to all the folks we met and invited them to visit during our series on the family. Still no one came.

It was at this point that we realized it was going to be decades at best before we saw the global effect we were hoping our church would have and many around us began to ask us if we felt we should go on. It was at this point that we had to really get still and do some soul searching.  We decided that it had nothing to do with our performance and had more to do with our call. God had called us to do something different to reach unreached people and so far we had done everything the same as everyone else. We were competing for the same people that every other church in the area was trying to reach. It was at this point that we were able to get out of the way enough to see God do some pretty cool things around us.  

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