Thursday, August 30, 2007

who leads the church?

one of the more interesting things about being a pastor is how people relate to you as a leader and how they try to figure you out. In many ways it is like trying to piece together the true story of brittany spears from the tabloids. People get pieces and parts, from a variety of sources, and then try to construct an image from those assumptions, expectations, and sound bites.

We all feel it when we meet new people. Do they smile; how do they talk; how do they relate to their spouce or kids; what are their hobbies; how do they dress; what do they read; tv or movies that they like...and as we look at these things we form a composite image that evolves and we decide if we like them; respect them; enjoy them; want to be with them; etc.

Jesus knows what this is like. People wanted the Messiah to look like a lot of things. Someone to overthrow the zealots; a pharisee or saducee or essene based upon which clique or cult you happen to be in; a preacher; a pastor; a...

Even today we try to press Jesus and God into our mold and force him to conform to our assumptions, desires, and needs.

We've all felt it. The pressure from parents, coaches, church-people, teachers, pastors. Everybody trying to make us into something they think we should be. Usually for them.

Which brings me to my question.

Who leads the church? Jesus says "I will build MY church." He is the chief cornerstone and the function head of the church. But that sounds vague and theoretical. Is it?

I don't think it is. I think Jesus really is leading 5 stones. I think that the staff, boards, me, and other leaders are really trying to listen to him and follow his leadership.

so what? Well if Jesus really is leading it takes a lot of pressure off the rest of us. We can be free to be who we really are and who Jesus wants and is making us to be. People in the church can not so much lower their expectations about leadership...but grant them grace and acceptance to be who they are and not who we think they should be. That way Jesus can lead, and all of us can be followers and nobody has to play a game of trying to be perfect and have all the answers. Instead they simply go to Jesus with the questions and try to follow him.

Wouldn't that be nice.

Wouldn't it be great if we all looked to Jesus to lead HIS church and all of us just followed him. Wouldn't it be nice if we could all give or gifts in who we are [broken people] and have a community of grace, committment, covenant, and love that would accept us.

I think that is what Jesus is trying to do at EVERY church.

But when we follow fads, personalities, selfish desires, the new bright shiney things, charismatic individuals, momentum, success...we cheapen following Jesus because now we are simply following our desires and needs.

He no longer leads, we simply follow our own whims.

Which is, naturally, sad and pathetic and will ultimately take us nowhere.

In Esther it says "perhaps you are here for such a time as this." That has a lot of stuff packed into it. 1 it assumes God has a plan and has placed you here for a purpose. 2. If you know the story of Esther it is to be courageous and committed and not cop-out because of convenience or consumerism. 3. It assumes others at at risk for wonderful or terrible things based upon what you do.

But what undergirds everything, is that Jesus is leading us. Leading us sometimes into places we don't want to go, don't like, and don't enjoy. But his plans need our obedience more than our happiness to be the deciding factor in what we do.

And 5 stones as it tries to get back on it's feet is under pressure. A wonderful pressure that proves ones character and integrity...or shows us something else. All of us will face it.

We had a great Sunday...but is that why we like our church? I will preach good and that why we love our church? The music will be great and flat...small groups...youth ministry...childrens ministry...paryer...missional adventures... Is that why we love our church?

Or do we love our church because Jesus loves it...and he has us here for a reason...a mission. Those who are young in their faith won't fully be able to grasp this [and that's ok] but for the rest I want you to think about this.

Because Jesus has allowed what he wants to do to be by our love, obedience, and character. And one of my not-so-fun jobs is to remind people of that...and to remind myself.

I follow Jesus, and ultimately Jesus alone.
Today I struggled with this. I had a hard day, and wanted to be somewhere else for a few hours. But in praying Jesus said...just be with me...and wherever you are will be just fine. And that's true. Sometimes it feels like Jesus is sleeping somewhere out of sight while my little boat is tossed and turned in the sea. But then he comes out and rebukes the waves and all is calm. And then he looks at me and of such little faith.
And yes, at times I have little faith in the circumstances that seem beyond my control. And then he steps out and controls everything.
and I would have missed it all if I hadn't been on the boat. I would have missed the miracle. Talk about regret, man.
God help me to have you and you alone lead me. Help me to enjoy and appreciate my circumstances. And help me to believe the truth that these circumstances, not matter how hard they are, are here because and you have me in them "for such a time as this." Help me to not pursue the "other" things...but to pursue you right here and right now. That is all I REALLY need. Amen

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

I completed our teaching schedule for the next 6 months or so and thought you might like to know

  1. We will do Daniel for 3 weeks total
  2. Then we will finish off Nehemiah
  3. In October we will do a topical series called "Baggage" it will be about overcoming life's hardships...depression, emotional trauma, addictions etc. This will be a "RUNNER" series IE: We are gonna ask you to invite your top 10 unchurched friends
  4. we will have a "vision" teaching in Novemeber mapping out our church future
  5. We will then head into the holidays with a series on Jesus
  6. We will start 2008 going through 1 cornithians...which I am calling "the 1st church of Jerry Springer"

details below...if ya really wanna know

Tentative teaching schedule for 5-stones on Sunday mornings

1st Church of Jerry Springer AKA: 1 Corinthians

January dates forthcoming

Jesus [advent] ure [holiday series]

Week 6: A misunderstood Messiah
Preach 12.30.07

Week 5: A revolutionary in diapers
Preach 12.23.07

Week 4: Joe Somebody was Jesus Dad
Preach 12.16.07

Week 3: There’s something about Mary
Preach 12.9.07

Week 2: Seeking the Sacred
Preach 12.2.07

Week 1: The North Star
Preach 11.25.07

Vision sermon
Preach 11.18.07 “an unstoppable force in Ashland”

Runner series: “Baggage” Topical series on overcoming emotional trauma

Week 4: Weight penalty baggage [depression]
Preach 11.11.07

Week 3: Excess baggage [emotional scars]
Preach 11.4.07

Week 2: Addiction baggage [what’s hidden in the airport locker]
Preach 10.28.07

Week 1: Baggage check [what if we let God carry our burdens and scars?]
Preach 10.21.07

Nehemiah series completion

Week 13: Missional Barbarians (Nehemiah 11:1-36)
Preach 10.14.07 Based off of a list of men specified as leaders in various neighborhoods of Jerusalem, the word explains that living missional lives in the city of Ashland is a matter of sacrifice in order to see the gospel of Jesus take root in all areas of culture.

-I would like to see us have a missional adventure in conjunction with this message. Something where we serve the community, and invite people to visit as we will probably have a “runner” series after this.
*we will need to have print material, signage, t-shirts, website done by then if at all possible

Week 12: K[no]w Commitment K[no]w Community (Nehemiah 9:38-10:37)
Preach 10.7.07 The people of Israel renew their commitment to walking in God’s law by entering into a covenant. With this covenant comes an assessment of the resources needed to continue on in ministry. In light of this, Dave will explain the current state of 5 stones and organizational changes being made so that our church model can expand to reach more people for Jesus.

Week 11: U-turns and changed Destiny (Nehemiah 9:1-37)
Preach 9.30.07 In a heartfelt prayer in remembrance of God’s character, the people of Israel confess their sins and the sins of their fathers. This example shows us that prayer must be radically biblical, God-centered and truly repentant.

-In light of this we will also have a 3 fold communion service.

Week 10: Medicinal Laughter…is God Prozac? (Nehemiah 8:1-18)
Preach 9.23.07 The people of Jerusalem gather together to hear Ezra preach from the Bible and to worship God. In their conviction over their sin, Nehemiah encourages them to stop grieving and be joyful in the Lord. Scripture explains that it is vital to know and understand God’s Word, allowing it to convict and encourage us.

-I would like to end service with a time for the prayer team to minister the spirit to those who are in pain, grief, and depression.

Week 9: Your name in lights…forever (Nehemiah 7:5-73)
Preach 9.16.07 After lots of hard work rebuilding the wall, the people of Jerusalem are allowed back into their city. Scripture walks us through a list of pastors, musicians, deacons and other faithful followers of God who led the way in, reminding us that God knows each of us by name and has an important role for us in rebuilding our own city of Ashland.


College returning: Mini-Series: Daniel [alien nation: series title]

Week 3: Daniel “the writings on the wall”

Week 2: Daniel serves and stands against an alien world

Week 1: Daniel intro chapter 1

Saturday, August 25, 2007

ghandi quote

"I with very much desired to be a christian, until I met one"

quote has been assigned to ghandi and a buddhist monk at different times, so I'm not sure i have it right.

the challenge is to live in such a way that we are congruent with Jesus, and thus people find him and us compelling.

another quote helps:

GK Chesterton: "Christianity has not so much been found tested, and wanting; but untested and unexperienced and thus ignored and unwanted"

The person who desires to make a difference in the world sooner or later is confronted with the Christ. In finding Him the potential for moral grandeur and spiritual audacity becomes apparent. And if we would dare...our lives can become mythic and epic...not because we follow of myth, but because we follow a reality and truth so counter-cultural that our lives cannot help but become revolutionary.

missional revolutionaries

5 stones community church is looking for people who want to take the church on a road trip...monthly.

Missional Revolutionaries:

People of God who bring his love, liberation, grace, hope, meaning, compassion, and social justice to the world. They act in his authority, love, and power to make His Kingdom manifest itself on Earth.

Point Person: Heather Haldeman
motto: "Jesus loves you, and we are here to prove it"

Potential networks of the kingdom to plug into:

Isahia [A/U religious life: contact Aaron Wardle]
Luminus Network [contact Doug Cooper]
Habitat for humanity
Salvation army
Pump House ministries

Goals and values:

Matthew 5:1-48;6:1-34;7:1-29;22:36-40; Acts 10:34,35;
Social justice as an act of worship, discipleship, and love
Lepers, widows, orphans, the poor and the imprisoned as core priorities
Because all people have dignity, being made in the image of God, we will serve them as if they were Jesus himself
We will be a catalyst for the kingdom, our church, and individuals to be focused on these things
The greatest gift that can be given to anyone is for them to be rescued by Jesus. Thus, when the fullness of time makes us aware we will present the gospel to people as our highest priority

Calendar and balance:

1 event per month [at least]
Try to do a college servanthood project every other month
Try to do a community project every other month
Try to do something urban and rural once a year [at least]
Try to do something global once a year
Missions trip
Water-well in Africa


Pray for vision and strength [pray]
Have an initial team meeting [plan]
Explain vision
Explain values
Explain calendar
Pray as a group
Brainstorm ideas
Pick things that are possible NOW with no budget
Pray for future things that need resources
Think developmentally [baby steps for the church]
Calendar ideas and assign a point person for each monthly event
Communicate with church staff
Make sure we communicate with the church body
Make sure things are administrated correctly
Have at least 2 people work together on each event

Go before church [or assign] to report on activities in services
Powerpoints, pictures, video, etc.
Have fun with Jesus
Expect Satan to be annoyed!

An initial list:

Move in college students
Do something with pumphouse ministries
have a workday with habitat for humanity
Have a free car wash for college students
Visit and serve a local hospice, nursing home, assisted living facility
A day trip to a Cleveland homeless shelter
Cook brownies / cookies for local firemen, emt, and police
Provide free back to school supplies for poor [next aug]
Help people moving in to the area move in [talk to local realtors about this]
Do an extreme makeover on a house for a single mother [when we have some cash-flow]
Distribute cards that tell college studnts we will clean their dorms for free on a designated day if they RSVP with us
Feed students not going home for thanksgiving, Christmas, easter…especially any international students
minister to local shut-ins
Visit local prison and start pen-pal relationships
Start a designated fund at church and ask people in the community to help fund a water-well in Africa
Find a sister church that is in economic poverty and go paint, clean, pray, serve, etc.
Find out how to serve Neuman [sp?] and fellowship of Christian athletes
Ask doctors what we can do to serve in the ER or Maternity wards of local hospitals
Find a leper…aides victim…?...serve them with outrageous love
use your imagination…that’s my 5 minute list!

Friday, August 24, 2007


Integrity, integration, intimacy, disintegration

A person of integrity with God:

Listens to God through the Word and Spirit
Walks with God in morning / cool of the day
Talks with God 24/7
Is intimate with God through worship
Is God’s messenger, example, incarnation in the world
Is the same with God as he is in the world
Understands God’s love language is obedience [if you love me you will keep my commandments]

Is integrating God into their whole being

This isn’t a cliché person
They may be as dangerous as Jesus
They may be as loving as Jesus
They may be as confrontational as Jesus
They may be as compassionate as Jesus
They may…

A person of integrity with God in the church

uses spiritual gifts to uplifts others
has disciples, peers, and mentors
is investing cash and time in the church
follows leaders and challenges them as needed

A person of integrity with God in the city [world]

serves the world with excellence
is salt and light in ethics
looks to be missional
looks to tell the jesus story
looks to bring the kingdom to the least of these

Botched integration:

Listens to just word, and forgets word connects to God
Always trying to find a proof text for actions
Lives in fear of getting it wrong
Lives to aquire knowledge and be condescending to others
Thinks word has every answer
Listens to just Spirit
Doesn’t know how to test spirits with scripture
Hopes discernment and holiness are attuned correctly
Lives to aquire spiritual experiences that justify maturity / authority
Thinks spiritual power is the answer to everything
Talks at God
11th hour prayers are norm
prays to get, complain, vent…alone
Primarily prays for self
Listens very little
Makes lots of assumptions and wants God to sign alongside their assumptions
Wants love but not teaching, conviction, or rebuke…because they don’t see these as acts of love
Is intimate with self through worship
Is more concerned about how they feel, than how God feels
Often judges worship [especially in others]
Looks at worship as a time to get instead of give
Is willing to lie in worship if they still get what they want
Is God’s bad impersonation in the world [when these are over exaggerated into hyperbole]
Legalists/ Fundamentalists…Pharisees
Usually take 1 attribute of God and wildly overexagerate it
Take a minor text / detail and make it a major doctrine
Cliques, heretics, church splits
Mercy…social gospel
Wonder worker…charismatic movement
Is often a hypocrite because the system is unbalanced / unreal
What happens on stage isn’t what happens in real life
Over-promises and under-delivers making people feel like failures
Pushes hard with guilt, shame, seduction, neediness
Disobeys God
Because fear of God drives them to addictions
Because they don’t know his word
Because they use word foolishly
Because they don’t know how to walk in the spirit
Because they are unteachable
Ultimately and sadly…they don’t really know God and what he is like very much and have failed to integrate his intimacy into their life. So they prop up religion in the place of relationship and try to play the game.

Integration is a MUST for Christian spirituality to work
Safety is in the balance
Teaching you safety is my job
Integration is when we all do what we should for God, each other, and the world
Integration allows us as a church to enjoy diversity and deference. Fear of God, humility before all, and the law of love…is a good start and finishing point

nuff said

ok, I haven't blogged all week. My family got in town and that is all I have been doing when I am not working.

my scheduled time to blog every night has been 10pm, which is also the time my wife and I go to bed.

So I have been choosing to apply the lessons of song-of-solomon to my life this week instead of blogging.

i will get back in the rythum pretty soon

nuff said

[nudge, nudge, wink, wink...know what I mean] M Python

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

sin is simple, right?

Sorry I haven't blogged in a few days. Jesus has had me in the grips of 2 big concepts and I have been working through them with prayer and scripture. 1 is the idea of integrity and integration...more on that later...probably Sunday as well. The other is sin...that's easy right?

Sin is simple...or not

1. Thou shalt not kill...unless they live in Jericho, commit adultery, or are rebellious children [see levitical law]. So even early on a law had a few disclaimers.

2. My son and I shared 2 pieces of bubblegum in the car, I took the wrappers and folded them up in my hands, then when I thought he wasn't looking threw them out the window and he said "that was sin dad." I didn't ask him for a text, because I knew he was right. But exactly how did he know it? Did he know littering was a sin because the gov't law says it is, or did he know that his dad was being sneaky...and just smelled it out, or that Adam was supposed to take care of the garden of Eden and I was screwing it up. I don't know. But something in his spirit or conscience nailed it.

3. How about this. Is drinking alcohol wrong? That is certainly what the schools are telling my kids...they call it a drug...and say it's bad. So there we were at an episcopalian church taking communion and he asks "why is the juice on fire...what wrong with it?" Um son, it's wine. Isn't that made with alcohol...yes it is. Should we be drinking it. Uh...oh. OK here goes. Jesus turned the water into wine, so it must be OK to drink it, the church has had communion with wine for over 2000 years, Paul tells Timothy to drink a little wine for his upset stomach, and Jesus says it isn't what goes into a man that causes you to sin it is what's in your heart, and finally Paul says in Collosians "let no man judge you for what you eat or drink. Then it's OK? Welllllllll Timothy and Titus have lists of deacons and elders and they are supposed to be people who drink very responsibly, and Paul says various times not to get drunk. OK dad...what's the it right or wrong. Here goes: It is right when Jesus tells you it is OK in your spirit, or at communion, and in is not right if you are or were an alcoholic, or in their presence as a person who may stumble, and not if you are under 18 because we are to obey authorities, and we are never to get drunk but be filled with the spirit. It's like botox...a little can be great, and healthy and good for you [just like chemotherapy] but too much is poison and dangerous.


why can't there just be a list.

Like the pharisees had. Or Bob Jones had. Or how about this from the rule of the apostles in the early 3rd couldn't be a member of the church if you were a juggler. Yep, forget tattoos being and issue.

and Jesus is very testy about this sort of thing. In fact he told the listmakers that they were wrong and din't know God.

and the Baptists were so sure they were right when they protested Disney. How angry do you think Jesus was that day!!!

wait it, gets worse. Some of David's psalms could be sin. What?! Ya, David asked God to kill his enemies and in general smear their guts everywhere...but Jesus tells us to love our enemies and do good to those who spitefully use and abuse you. Jesus New Testament ethics supersede the old testament law. In fact Paul says "all things are permissible, but not all things are beneficial." In so doing he was pushing things even farther.

it looks like this:

1. Old Testament Law...basic laws for a bare minimum society...replaced by
2. Jesus ethics...your motivations and heart attitude are way more important than just the actions. He is looking at the root and not just the fruit.
3. Paul comes along and says "everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial." Be careful with this, he also gives commands in some places and he isn't trying to say do whatever you want...he is saying look at the benefits of doing things and figure out the risks and rewards.

Oh, but it's simple isn't it?

if it were we would still be under the law and lost in our sins. And we would have to obey all those old regulations...not just the top 10 all of them. No more ham sandwiches, no more lobster tails, and yes all the women need to leave the city limits when IT happens because they are unclean, and...

No it isn't simple...why?

Because we want lists and black and white understandings to keep our standing with God and ourselves and our own perception of holiness and righteousness tidy. And to be honest we want to condemn others and have our witch hunts. And, we want to know how to raise our kids in a complex and nasty society that is addicted to sin.

and yet

God wants something far deeper for us. He wants us to know his word and let it examine us and tell us things; he wants us to pray and ask what to do; he wants us to look out and see the effect it will have on others; in short he wants us fully integrated with his word and spirit.

and then...sin will be different for different people.

"If a man knows the good he should do and doesn't do is SIN" And that my friends is different for every person every minute of every day.

Some sin is easy. We are supposed to love our enemies, and no amount of whining will ever get us out of that one. Some is a little complex like alcohol.

and here is my favorite. Guess at and assigning sin to others.

There is plenty about not judging in the Bible, most of us know to not do that.
It gets a little more complex when you confront someone about gluttony only to find out they have a thyroid problem.
And it gets even more fun when 1 person thinks something is sin, that the other person doesn't. [Which is usually when you call the church elders in for a meeting and have a good dialogue and prayer]

But the really best way to handle sin is this.

  • Ask God for help
  • Know scripture
  • Walk in the power of the Spirit
  • Spend 99% of your time working on your own sin
  • If you see sin in others pray for them to be liberated
  • Avoid judge anothers sin most of the time, being condemning is not something we are in short supply of in the church
  • Confront as needed, and love while they are in process

Let's imagine my son drinks a beer behind the garage one day at age 15. I see him and confront him. He says he is taking a person communion. I decide this isn't funny and yell at him-place him in foster care-or send him off to be a silk-weaver slave in Indonesia.

and you say...that's crazy. Is it. Why do people get squeezing the toothpaste in the middle. Read about the crusades, the inquisition, or the counter-reformation. The body of Christ has a huge history of defining holiness on non-biblical data and rejecting and destroying people.

Thank God our father doesn't act that way. Our father loves us enough to confront, but his son promises to "never leave or forsake us" for being screw-ups. Then in the upper room he demands. "A NEW COMMAND I GIVE YOU, THAT YOU MUST LOVE ONE ANOTHER EVEN AS I HAVE LOVED YOU."

Now then. When a church offers that sort of love, compassion, and grace to one another the world will take notice. Because it is a reflection of the love they have longed for all their lives. But as long as we "tear and devour one another [read the epistles]" we will still be short of what God intended and Jesus commanded. In short we will still sin.

Me. I'm a screw up. I have worked on so many things and have so many things to work on that I rarely have the time to look at other peoples lives and try to figure out where to jack them up. But when I do it is scriptural truth, in love, in a covenant of reconciliation, forgiveness, and commitment. Because of all the things I am called to model, the one I can't get wrong is love.

So yes there is sin, it is nasty and everywhere. It is the cancer of human reality, ceaselessly gnawing away at everything. And yes, figuring out when it is sin is sometimes simple and sometimes hard. But yes!!!! Their is a rescuer from sin....Jesus! And yes!!!! There is a helper who will lead us and his name is the spirit. And Yes!!!!! I have a church full of maturing brothers and sisters who will love me enough to talk to me and never give up on me...even when we agree to disagree about some things that scripture is silent or grey on.

and the rest?

a benediction: Forgiveness, love, hope, compassion, mercy, patience, reconciliation, forbearance, charity...these are what I give to you as best I can. Anything else is sin, and candidly that stuff "sucks."

one final story. I used to walk certain televangelists just to mock them and yell at the TV screen and quote scripture back at them that they were ignoring. It was a weird fight-club, rant, judgment hobby of mine. Then one day I was sitting in the car listening to "christian radio" and they spent about 1/2 an hour mocking Dennis Rodman, and I was just furious. I pulled over I was so mad. People were driving by and looking at me because I was screaming at the radio. I screamed "You idiots, what's wrong with you? He doesn't know Christ, leave him alone. Or love about spending a 1/2 hour of radio time praying for him. Get money in to buy him something as a gift of love...but please...PLEASE...SHUT UP! and the God said...quiet as a whisper. "Hey buddy, you do this to the TV all the time."

That really helped me...a lot. Because I am a sin-addict, in recovery with a group of people who are the same. And on any given night or day, one of us will fall off the wagon.

will we be there to help them back up unto the wagon?

will we leave them there and move on?

or will we run over them a few times, because thier failures are embarrassing?

When you screw up...I'll be ther to help pick you back up. Do the same for me, will ya? That's what Jesus did.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

When we hear music it effects our hearts, minds, and imagination and in many ways our souls on a deep level.

as does all great art.

In our case the composer is God, and he has composed the music of our lives...beginning and end. In our case he is also the composer of 5 stones church.

He is the composer of our tone-poem and it will be beautiful. And like all great stories in music it will have refrains, balance, dissonance, and finally resolution. Many of these parts repeated but always brought back to resolution.

I'm not the composer...he is. I'm just the conductor. I read the music [the Bible] and help other people through prayer and instruction to know when, how loud, how fast-slow, etc to play the music.

If I were the composer, we would have a cult. And my personality is far too obnoxious and transparent to be a good cult leader.

So instead of that we follow Jesus and the composition for us to sing, practice, and play which is His will and His word.

I simply stand up and make sure we have balance and harmony. Those crazy woodwinds are going to fast again....slow down; those drums....back off a bit and learn to be subtle...brass you're doing great add a little more longing to how you play it....flutes...good night your on the wrong page [not yet, wait a little while]...everyone let that silence lingering in the air a moment it means something...this section we must all play together...yes piano this is your solo grab it with gusto...

Can you FEEL that?

And the symphony isn't complete without all the instruments playing together. And church isn't really a mature church till all the people are playing what they are supposed to be playing.

oh and 1 other thing

a VERY important thing

so important it is unimaginable that we sometimes forget form one of the core reasons we are doing this.


we are a MARCHING band...get it?! We have an audience to play for.

an audience of one...the composer who is God...

and an audience of roughly 6.3 billion...the world

Because the composition and the conductor, and the symphony members exist to introduce the world to the conductor who has also written a song for each of them.

a song of redemption and rescue, or love and hope...the song of Jesus
it's a sing-a-long, c'mon you know the tune, it's been haunting you yur whole life. Just pick up the composition and'll get better at it I promise. We'll all help you!

what is going on


I thought I'd make a run at it so you get a feel for where things are headed.

  1. college members are returning. We will take a 2 week break from Nehemiah to do a mini-series on the life of Daniel [tentatively called alien-nation] to help them acclimate to a/u and 5 stones and being away from home.
  2. after Nehemiah...mid oct we will do a runner series [a time to really focus on inviting people] called baggage [it will be about overcoming the baggage and emotion issues we acquire over time]
  3. after that we will have the Jesus [advent] ure which will be our Christmas series which will take us to the 1st of the year
  4. amy stephenson is putting together a hospitality team to decorate etc 5 stones on sun mornings
  5. w gravitt is putting together our seminars which will start sept 9 for the 9-10am hour before the services
  6. n shultz is putting together the small group teams and what they will be doing in the fall
  7. g black is looking at bridge ministries for the fall and how to help singles between 20-30 and the a/u students
  8. lenore gray is putting together various prayer teams for ministry to the church and community
  9. missional adventures [monthly] is still looking for leadership, but people are praying about it
  10. all staff: youth, childrens etc have stuff going on and changes percolating
  11. the servant board is working on finances and other things to get us organized as a good stewardship [business] model
  12. the spiritual oversight board is getting us organized and putting together some long range planning
  13. j harrison is building a new website and working on our marketing, invitation card, etc.

and that's just what I can think of for now...sorry if i left anything out

pray about where you can help, things are getting focused and coming together, this is gonna be fun!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

why are we here?

Why does the church exist?

It has a lot of functions: Fellowship, teaching, nurture, worship...but all of those and many more either have a continuation or an ending in Heaven. There is one however that stands out as limited to the brief time we have here.


To show, tell, illustrate, explain, dance, create movies, do graphic art...THAT...tells the story of Jesus and his rescue of our titanic lives.

To be sure God desires authentic worship; words of prophesy; inner-healing; prayer; solid doctrinal teaching; programs for our kids and students...but these are not things that are PRIMAL priorities in terms of mission. The mission is to continue the ministry of Jesus, which was primarily to live, suffer, die for the sake of the gospel rescue of those who do not know him.
There are things we enjoy most...and there are things God enjoys most. When we [as slaves to God] become more concerned about His joy than our own, we turn the corner of being true disciples.

Thus while God allows us to indulge a certain level of preference in a variety of things the commands to love God-each other-the lost-and our enemies...coupled with making disciples...are non-negotiables.

View it like this.

You were a piece of art, poetry, media that was poorly scribbled and juvenile in form and content. Then Jesus rescued you and turned you into a masterpiece of art [that incidentally becomes more beautiful day by day as it ages in the presence of the Holy Spirit who is transforming it]. That art exists solely to give glory to the artist {god} and we call this giving glory to God {worship}. Thus, the church exists at least in part to help you learn to express this art to the world...through your unique signature and form. It may be poetry, dance, teaching, cooking, mowing yards, painting houses...but those things are worship.


When worship becomes an expectation of how one feels at church, what one enjoys or likes...something else besides God is being worshipped. Self. Here we end up in spiritual pride and selfishness which is a virus increasingly effecting the western church. Now we are mere spiritual consumers, and differ little from the world in simply wanting to get something from God instead of giving something to God.

Most people are at a church from 3-5 years. The reasons for that are myriad. My point is simply this: wherever you are and wherever you go keep two things in mind.

  1. Go to give God worship. Whatever the style is, don't act like that can stop you from giving God love. From Hymns to Electronica press through to find Him. Listen to what is preached and compare it to scripture and if it fits than apply and act on it...because God enjoys the worship of obedience to His word. Bring out the worship in those around you in it's various forms of art and encourage people to thus display the gospel to the world.

  2. Be Missional as the primary focus of life. Jesus died to rescue you, and then asks you to rescue others. That is messy and at times difficult business. But please don't make primary the secondary things of life, don't trivialize the cross with selfishness about style and such things. Deny self, pick up a cross, and follow him. Anything less than that, fails to understand the implications of our rescuers life and death.

I write this because I love God and I love 5 stones. And I don't want us to miss God's purpose and mission for our lives while puddled in our own private preferences and passions. HIS PASSION is our passion, and His passion is the mission.

What did the woman who received living water do...what was her worship?

she told everybody she could...about Jesus

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

This Sunday at church we will have a "ministry time" for the leaders of the church.

What does this mean and why?

What this means: Prayer is in some ways a mysterious and mystical thing. God's word tells us that it is more than just a conversation with God, but that it is also a means to plug-in to the power source of our salvation for energy and healing. Much of this is done in private, but there are also times when it is done in public in the Bible. It is done in public for annointing, laying-of hands etc to call people to healing or often to the next level of leadership. When we connect to this power source [God] normative and strange things can happen. Sometimes it feels like nothing...sometimes a whisper...and sometimes like a thunderbolt racing inside you. I have experienced all of these through the years. In a sense I am a "charismatic with a seatbelt," or perhaps "a biblicist who does shrooms" depending on your frame of reference. What that means is that God CAN do anything, but it is His perogative and not something to be drummed up. Entered into with faith, yes...but not manipulatively. Church is neither a freakshow nore a is both and neither as God chooses. At one end of the extreme are religious nutjobs who make a spectacle every time they do anything...and at the other end are people who just worship the words of the Bible as answers unto themselves instead of conduits to God Himself. Jesus does a little of both, and that is called balance.

Why this week?

This week Nehemiah asks for God to "strengthen his hands" for the task in front of him. As 5-stones begins to awkwardly lurch into re-start mode the leaders here will need Gods power and for people to love and support them. And this is what we will enter into this week.

If you are comfortable with this...engage

If it seems weird [I understand, I was there once] just sit back and observe and pray and discern in your own spirit what is true and not

The fun of following Jesus is that he is both God and man and when he shows up at church both components are there. The human part is most visible in his empathy with our weaknesses and as a teacher through his word. The divine part are those nudges we feel inside and those moments of worship or healing that are a connection with something far weirder and more wonderful than anything our imagination can create. Balance is learning to enjoy and both.

Have I said "balance" enough yet...?

also: we may have a "bobcat" in the service as an object lesson this week...just to raise your expectations.

Monday, August 6, 2007

The graveyard

I went to a graveyard today, which is something I do in a regular fashion.

Johnathan Edwards [a once famous pastor] used to take a horseback ride through the cemetery once a day with his wife for a time of reflection. [sounds kinda goth, huh?]. There they would both ask themselves "what must I do today, if it were my last day on earth?"

That's what I do as well.

There is precious little time allotted for each of us.

In Nehemiah this week he is diverted from his path by distractions which are far more subtle than the previous frontal assaults. He is manipulated, and tricked, and has to think fast to stay on target.

This is what leadership is. And these are some of the lessons we will learn this week

  1. Fear is something people and Satan will always try to use to get you off target from your mission. As a leader you will have to be emotionally grounded in God and not in people or circumstances.
  2. You will have to say no to some things in order to say yes to more important things. Not every dialogue is worth having, not every opportunity is worth pursuing, and the good is often what stops us from doing the great.
  3. Be careful who you trust too quickly. Nehemiah meets a prophet who looks wise and godly, but it quickly becomes apparent to him that they have been bought off by his enemies to trick him into sin and wrecking his reputation.
  4. Satan has at least 4 major weapons to be aware of: 1 The core seductions of sin that bring moral failure and thus an abdication of leadership character. 2 the frontal assaults of enemies who don't like you or what you are doing. 3 busyness with nonsense that exhausts you and leaves you no energy for the highest priorities of the mission of your life. 4 sneaky and subtle manipulations to get you just slightly off target, which over time will have you way off target.

The graveyard is a reminder of the urgency of now and the legacy of choices. To cherish the opportunities to serve our God, our church, and our community with love and grace. And to think about the big picture of the whole of our lives and the biography we are writing with every breath we breathe. It is sobering and focusing to walk in the graveyard, and to be reminded that we too will pass on.

What we pass on then, is the question

Sunday, August 5, 2007

5 stones I believe has a great future unfolding in front of it. These are the reasons I am excited:

  1. The level of spiritual warfare and oppression is thick! Our enemy [Satan] doesn't waste his time with dead churches or churches that have no destiny. Every week I have been here I have felt the need to press through a wall of pressure. Some weeks [2 weeks ago] go great and I can feel things cracking and the sunlight coming in. Other weeks [today] I can feel the pressure mount and the rain we had today acted as a metaphor for our inability to see the sunlight.

  2. People are stepping up to leadership roles! Some people who have needed a break, and others who have never been in leadership are starting to come out from survival-mode and push back against the tide. This is normal and natural for revival, new leaders must face the first waves of attack and fresh vision and step up to the plate.

  3. A new emphasis on intercessory prayer! Every great revival in American history has started with prayer. When people get serious before God and fill themselves with His power fresh energy and enthusiasm follows in their wake. 5 stones may never know these people because what they do is unseen; but what they are leveraging is THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT component to our awakening to mission.

  4. The word of God is following us and leading us step by step. At first I was confused by this a bit. Nehemiah faces so many obstacles, and preaching from his journals has been very hard on me. But today I realized that this is EXACTLY what is supposed to happen. 5 stones is learning about handling leadership and opposition because this core-group will be the leaders of 5 stones future.'s hard, but's real. For 5 stones to step up to the next level it must learn how to take the licks and stay on target. Starting with me, and trickling down to everyone else.

  5. Big needs are being met in big ways! we needed a laptop and somebody stepped up with obedience...same with visitor God is beginning to show what needs there are and releasing gods people to meet those needs.

  6. People who have core agendas that are not centered on the mission [the gospel] are leaving. This may sound harsh but it is a core part of Jesus ministry. Jesus builds up crowds and then asks them to do hard things and sees who is left and invests himself strongly in them. The 12 and the 200 or so who were his main support. Almost every church that has a turn-around / re-start story tells that story in the context of simplifying, focusing, and downsizing. Gideon was led by God to do this and we are seeing our ranks thinned out a bit in a similar fashion.

  7. There is a growing concern for the lost! As I have dinner with people they seem more and more aware and concerned about people who don't yet know Jesus. The Holy Spirit is slowly bringing that ultimatum of concern into their hearts. When the concern becomes a mandate and a passion we will be ready to make the next step forward.

  8. We are starting to protect one another with our words. We are starting to really encourage each other in our gifts and passions. This is called edification...literally to build one another back up. This is part of the wall building in Nehemiah...building a physical and spiritual edifice to God. As we speak wisely and with encouragement the healing of hearts is happening and our hearts are even beginning to become more tender [not hard] to the tough spiritual lessons God is showing us in Nehemiah.

  9. The momentum of obedience is slowly replacing the momentum of "feeling." As 5 stones matures it is starting to understand that emotion is not the fuel of the soul and heart. When someone asks God how to love him his response is "keep my commandments." And 5 stones is already ahead of the curve in knowing that, that is impossible without the Spirit of God that must be tapped into moment by moment.

  10. God is in us; with us; and for us. So long as we stay on page with His priorities we will increasingly see His sovereignty and providence open doors for us and light the path before us. Churches that are desperate for His voice and who seek him through earnest prayer and a deep searching of the scriptures will always be close to Him. As our hunger for Him and His will increases, our dependence on "emotional encounters and experiences" will decrease. These are fine for the young while their faith is still wavering, but God desires a companionship that is deeper than that. And I sense 5 stones has been growing deeper roots of faith over the last 18 months as they have faced a time of confusion and dryness at times.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

what a week

Sorry I haven't been blogging its been quite a week.

  1. packed up house to get ready for move

  2. amy lost her cell phone

  3. pod wasn't big enough for moving all stuff, so had to get a ryder truck...and a trailer

  4. satan did a little damage through a backstabbing gossip this week

  5. had to say goodbye to my folks in fort worth...friends...neighbors...etc.

  6. house still hasn't sold

  7. money is so tight at 5 stones you couldn't get a line of credit to buy food stamps

  8. amy fell hard on the back steps and hurt her back

  9. chip packed his contacts and we have no idea where they are

  10. the bills put losman on pup-list [NFL stuff and code language]

on the flip side

  1. found a place to stay in ashland

  2. got defended by two friends who confronted said person from above list, who will now thankfully probably not be around to damage me and other people

  3. unanimous vote on new board member

  4. several people have signed up for new leadership positions

  5. i got to snuggle with my kids and smooch my wife

  6. a bunch of seniors from my former church came over and packed up my stuff that we were under the gun to get done

  7. got to give away more irksome material possessions

  8. 3 out of 10 things i listed on blog as church needs have been picked up by individuals

  9. nehemiah 5 is once again right on target for the church

  10. God has a plan

So it has been an emotional rollercoaster. Fear; love; panic; hope; anxiety; faith; grief; security; attack; defence; short a soap-opera in many ways.

so why do I do it:

  • I love God more than words could ever capture

  • I love his church, increasingly here at 5 stones

  • I love the lost, and desire with all my heart for jesus to rescue them as he did me

  • I am learning to love those who betray me, although candidly my maturity in that at this moment is suspect at best

but Jesus is SSSSOOOOO worth it. And His Spirit surrounds me even as calamities collide and spiritual warfare takes it turns and bounces.

it's a heeluva ride. [hmmm forgive me if that word offends you, I caught a little flack this week [and no grace] for some word choices lately] Oh well, there is lots to do and I've already given too much time to silly thoughts. There is work on the wall to be done.

pax: ds

PS: pray for the 4 guys driving with my stuff tonight...what they have done is awesome, and again words will never be able to express my gratitude.


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