Thursday, December 27, 2007

God and Starbucks Part 1

Let me start by telling you two things…I am a manager for Starbucks and I am pastor of a local church. So I have an insiders perspective on both. My last 2+ years working for Starbucks has taught me a lot that has helped shaped some of my views of the church. I want to share a few things I’ve learned about both on this journey.

LEARNING #1- Why Starbucks drinks are expensive and why that’s a good thing.

James told us that our responsibility is to take care of widows and orphans. He considered this “true religion” (James 1:27) Starbucks is doing a better job of taking care of people than many churches are. What do I mean by this? Starbucks offers affordable health care to even it’s part time employees. If you work 20 hours a week, you are allowed to have full health, dental, vision, all that. And they give you stock options, tuition reimbursements and other goodies. Starbucks is the first company in the country to do this. It really is incredible and I can’t say enough good about it. My family of 5 is fully covered and it costs me less than $300 out of pocket a month. Try to find that deal out there anywhere…(you won’t!) And here’s the strange part about the system. Starbucks just uses an HMO to manage our health care plan. The actual costs of our health care (hospital stays, exams, etc) are paid for by Starbucks corporate. Starbucks actually spends more on health care than they do on coffee beans.

Churches should think about this for a while. Historically churches have taken care of the sick, before there was medicare, social programs, HMO’s and all that. Christians used to put their faith in practice by helping the sick and poor. Now we let the government do that. And since the government doesn’t do a great job of this either, Starbucks is jumping in to help out. Now there are exceptions to this in the church world and I have been privileged to know and work in a few of those churches. But by and large, we probably not doing enough to help the widows and orphans out there, (or those without affordable health care).

Think about this the next time you drop $3.75 for a grande mocha at Starbucks. Sure there is about a 700% mark up on that drink. But that mark up paid for my baby’s bilirubin treatments when he was first born. Drink up! My family needs it!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Our small group

Sunday night our small group had a Christmas party. We talked about our hopes and dreams for the coming year. The gang in this group want to be a part of our new church. It's so exciting to dream about the Area 10 Faith Community and bounce the ideas off of these people. I can look around the room and see leaders for our future church. It's just so cool to see the body of Christ doing it's thing. Everyone is unique and has something to offer.

When you dream of a church, you imagine the people but in your dream they don't have faces...they are starting to have faces now and I like them. (thank God)

I'm praising God for being great and surrounding me with great people.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

State Capitals

I am purposely going to rarely post about my kids on this particular blog, but this is just too cool. My 4 year old knows all his state capitals. I mean all of them! I asked him what the capital of Missouri is tonight and he said Jefferson City. That's pretty sweet I gotta say. Most adults don't know this...Admit didn't know the capital of're probably looking that up on Wikipedia right now.

This parenting thing is cool. I don't have an xbox 360. I don't need one. I have a 4 year old. They are way more entertaining.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Loving our fair city

I spent a day last week up at Richmond Hill- which is a spiritual retreat center in Church Hill with an unbelievable view overlooking the city. I was able to spend about 3 hours in the Cupula which is a tiny room on top of the building with lots of windows that overlook the city. It was a great place to read and pray. While reading up there I came across one of my favorite sections of Chesterton's Orthodoxy. I have changed the city word here to Richmond. This is how it read to me...Check it out:

“It is not enough for a man to disapprove of Richmond: in that case he will merely cut his throat and move to (Chelsea). Nor, certainly, is it enough for a man to approve of Richmond, for then it will remain Richmond, which would be awful. The only way out of it seems to be for somebody to love Richmond: to love it with a trascendental tie and without any earthly reason. If there arose a man who loved Richmond, then Richmond would rise into ivory towers and golden pinnacles; Richmond would attire herself as a woman does when she is loved...Go back to the darkest roots of civilization and you will find them knotted around some sacred stone or encircling some sacred well. People first paid honor to a spot and afterwards gained glory for it. Men did not love Rome because she was great. She was great because they had loved her.”

For me, I need to see Richmond this way. I hope all of us love our cities with that kind of transcendental love.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Today was an even better day!

Fairmount Christian Church in Mechanicsville, VA has officially signed up to partner with the area 10 project. I met with their missions team last night and they agreed to be a significant financial supporter of the project. This is extremely exciting news.

Trying to raise funds for this project has thus far been a big faith builder for me. I've never asked for a large sum of money before. I'm excited to see God's hand in all this. I believe God prepared Fairmount for a long time for this.

Thank you so much to the team there at Fairmount for choosing to love our city and support this project!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Today was a great day

I spoke at Journey Christian Church this morning. What a great bunch of people they have there. It really was a lot of fun. Joe Westerman, their worship leader did a fine job of leading the people. I had a blast with the congregation. They even laughed at some of my jokes which is always a plus.

This afternoon, I watched my Tampa Bay Buccaneers, survive a tough game and manage to pull out a win. That always puts me in a good mood.

And tonight I hung out with my small group, who are some of my favorite people in the world. I think that having a community of Christ followers who love God and love each other is about the most beautiful thing on the planet.

Tomorrow night, I am talking to the missions team at a local church here about supporting our project. Please say a prayer for us today! God things are happening!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Love thy neighbor part II

A few nights ago, I came home at about 11 p.m. from my soccer game where our team had gotten smacked down again by a score of about 8-1. My neighbor was sitting on her porch. She is a nice lady who is a single mother of 3. I sat on her porch and talked to her for a while. She was not doing well. She seemed down. I told her that I thought she seemed depressed lately. She told me that she struggles because about 8 months ago, she lost her 10 year old daughter to some sort of illness.

Losing a child has to be the worst pain imaginable. I felt so sorry for her and totally understand her reasons for her depression. We had a great talk on the porch. I asked her at the end if I could pray for her. She said yes, so I put a hand on her shoulder and prayed for her on the spot. I prayed for God to take care of her daughter in heaven and for comfort for them here on Earth.

After the prayer I told my neighbor that I was a minister. She had no idea! (It must be because of all the wild parties we've been throwing at our house!) She was thrilled that I was a minister. I told her I would be planting a church in the city next year. She said “well my family and I are going to come to it!”

So I guess my new church that doesn't exist yet (except in my head and heart!) just grew by 4 people. That's pretty cool. I had no intention of her being a part of our church. I didn't try to love her with any ulterior motives. I was just trying to be neighborly and loving her like God would want me to. I hope that our church one day grows by repeating these kinds of stories over and over. That's the kind of church I want to be a part of.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Soft Sell

This week, the Richmond alternative newspaper ran a feature article about churches that are selling Jesus. They talked about how some churches market Jesus to hungry consumers in hopes of reaching them. It was an interesting read for me to say the least.

I think about this all the time...Can we love people without ulterior motives? Can we hand out (in Vineyard fashion) water bottles, or free parking validations, or free gift wrapping or whatever, and TRULY do it to show people's God love...not just show people God's church (ours). How can we just love people just to love them? I think the solution is to love people who cannot pay you back in any the poor and oppressed. But as someone who wants to see a new church birth out of nothing...that's a strange thought...Should we just get out there and love the least of these like Jesus says and let the chips fall where they may? I guess it's sad I even ask the question. Ok...I'm off to repent now.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Start spreading the news

This past weekend I led a team of 5 to go on a short term mission trip to New York City. It was awesome. We spend the weekend working with Forefront Church in Manhattan. They meet in the Blender Theatre. It was a sweet location with a great group of people! We served the homeless with them, gave out free coffee and granola to people in Union Square and had some good conversations with people on the street.

I talked with their pastor, Brian Moll for a while over lunch on Saturday. He really had some great perspective that was good for me to be reminded of. He talked about being committed to the city for the long haul and thinking long term. He told me how that changes his conversations. He is not worried so much about being "church growth guy" who has to make things happen at his church. He is just committed to staying there and letting the church grow naturally over the long haul. It takes a lot of the pressure off.

That was great for me to hear. It reminds me that I need to dig some deep roots into Richmond. We are here for the long haul. It's the only way we'll be effective, and it's the only way I'll keep my sanity.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Lest I forget Gethsemane

This past Sunday night, I spoke at Gethsemane Church of Christ in Mechanicsville, VA. They have agreed to financially support the Area 10 Project. It really was a great time to get out there and cast vision again for what we are doing. Several people came up to me afterwards that were pretty pumped about what we were doing. When I tell people that the city of Richmond has no Christian Churches that seems to resonate with people.

I talked about how Jonathan took a risk in attacking the Phillistines in I Samuel. (Thanks, Erwin, Carl, and God for the inspiration) I talked about how we need to risks in our faith and step out and do something great.

Starting a church is the riskiest thing I could think of. As we used to say at Forefront, it's like opening up a hot dog stand for PETA employees.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

I See Dead People

This past Saturday, we had our first prayer walk for the Area 10 project. Some people from here in the city, Mechanicsville Church of Christ, and Chester Christian Church joined us for a short walk with prayer time spread throughout. The weather was perfect...sunny...upper 70's. It was a great day for a prayer walk...or a zombie walk.

Strangely enough, the annual zombie walk was scheduled at about the same time, in the same area. Every year, a whole bunch of people-- mostly VCU students I think-- dress up with fake blood and torn clothes and walk like zombies down Cary street. Our favorite was the pope zombie.. Good times...It freaked my kids out a bit I think.

It struck me as strange that many were walking around pretending to be dead, while we walked around praying for many people to have life more abundantly through Christ. Thanks for those that came out and for those who are praying for us. Keep on praying...There are plenty of dead people in this city. They just don't know it right now.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The missional-attractional church

The family and I spent the weekend in Tennessee. We got to visit Gatlinburg (otherwise known as Hick Vegas) and I led a workshop at Johnson Bible College. We got to see the extended family. Abby's parents came down and her brother and sister in law and their kids. Good times all around.

One of the things I talked about at the conference was churches being missional. We need to be the hands and feet of Christ in the community. However, I have worked for churches that are very attractional...the whole come and see how cool this thing is...mentality. My conclusion is this: We must be missional or we'll die on the vine as a new church. However, we must be attractional so when people come to the "show" (I hate that I even just wrote that, but I think you get what I mean) they want to come back.

But the best way of looking at is what I heard from Mark Nelson, pastor of Crossings Church in Knoxville (where we worshipped on Sunday) who said "There is nothing more attractional, than a church that's living missionally."

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Did God Call Me to Plant a Church?

Well, I'm supposed to say yes to that question, but in reality I think the answer is no. God has called me to make disciples...that's the is not planting a church. Planting a church is just a method used to make disciples. But I'm not called to plant a church. The church plant is more of a by product of the real calling...that of making disciples. It's sounds like I'm splitting hairs but I don't think so.

If I think too much about planting a church as being the calling then for me, pride creeps in...this is my vision...oh yeah and God is important, too...

But for me to stay focused I have to constantly remind myself that I'm here to make disciples. That will involve planting a church...probably with lights...sounds and all that. But making disciples is more. It's the small group in my house on Sundays. It's my soccer team on Tuesdays...It's perhaps an after school program or a gymboree type place. It is conversations over football on Sundays or a drink on Thursday nights... That's the bigger picture.

I'm praying today that we all recognize and stay true to our real calling in this world.

Show and Tell

My friend and mentor, Brian Mavis, spent the weekend with us in Richmond, this past weekend. He advised me that our church needs to launch with a Show and Tell method. Don't just tell people that you are going to be a church that loves and ministers to the city...Show them first...then tell them later why you do what you do. This made a lot of sense to me. We need to be serious about meeting practical needs in the community if we are going to ever earn the right to be heard with the gospel message.

Here's something big to pray about: We are considering launching a not-for-profit organization that serves the community at least 6 months prior to the launch of the church. I have my eye on a property on Cary Street that would be ideal for a kids indoor gym type of place that can also work as office space, and perhaps an after school program, and childcare venue. Can we rent that the whole plan feasible...can we raise support for it? Many questions...few answers right now. Please pray for this, because it could be HUGE. More details to come...

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Preached at Mechanicsville Church of Christ

This past Sunday I spoke at Mechanicsville Church of Christ. They had two services, a traditional church and a contemporary service. It made for a long morning but it was worthwhile. There are some great people out there. Mark Coffey, the senior pastor has a great heart for the people there and is doing some great stuff there. They have a new family life center, and seem to be growing with young people. Kent Childers, who has been a friend of mine for about 6 years now, going back to my days at Forefront, when I was youth minister, does a great job there with youth and college age.

I will say it is hard to cast vision in such a way that everyone gets it. I feel like when I preach, I really put my heart out there and you sometimes feel like a lonely voice in the wilderness. I wish I could grab people by the collar and shake them and say “you just don't realize how amazing this church will be!” I have a dream. God is directing it. I pray we can build something great in Richmond for His glory, not ours.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Speaking at Chester Christian Church

This Sunday, September 16th, I will be speaking at Chester Christian Church in Chester, VA. Chester's lead pastor, Neil Wheeler has a real missional mindset and has told me that their church really wants to be involved more in the city of Richmond. Please join me in praying that I will communicate clearly this Sunday to the people at the church, and that this will be the start of a great partnership to help reach the city of Richmond for Christ.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Living in the city

The other other day my wife received an email from another mom in Richmond. When Abby told her where we live, (carytown). This mom's response was basically "I didn't know anyone with small children lived there in the city!" This response is not very unusual. There seems to be an unwritten rule that as soon as you have children you need to move out to the burbs where you can have an enormous fenced in back yard so your children can run and play all day, in the safety of your own corral. Add in the fact that taxes are lower in the counties than in the city and the flight to the suburbs makes sense. I understand this..I really do. We just want to live differently than that. This year, for the first time in history, more people will live in cities than in rural areas. The world is becoming more and more urban, and as I see it, Christians need to know how to live, work, and play, and even raise kids in this urban jungle. It is our hope to raise our kids to love the city, love their funky urban neighbors, and be light in a dark world.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Project Signs on with Church Planting Solutions

This is big news. Church Planting Solutions has agreed to partner with us to launch the Area 10 Project. These guys are based in Northern Virginia and will be a huge help to us. Pat Ferguson explained to me that what they do is all the administrative stuff for the church planter so the church planter is freed up to be out with people and build a core group. THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT I NEED! This is a God send for us. Check out the stuff at their web page. They are unbelievably detailed and thorough which is great for a big picture vision kind of guy like myself.

This is definitely an answer to prayer as we need all the administrative help we can get right now.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Speaking at New Venture

These past two weeks, I spoke at New Venture Christian Church and talked with the people there about our identity in Christ. I think our identity is a huge issue for most people so I was really anxious to talk about it.

Things went well, I think. One guy who attends the church blogged about my visit a little bit. Check that out here.

Quite a few people at the church signed up to be part of the prayer team and be involved in various ways. I think the message of loving the city you live in, resonated with people.

This weekend, it's off to the Virginia Christian Convention to speak. Please pray that the whole thing goes well. I'm really hoping other people will catch this vision to put a Christian Church in the heart of our capital city.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Velocity Church is having a baby

What a great time last night as we had a Velocity church midsummer members family reunion. We got to announce that Velocity will be having a baby- our new church in the fall of 2008. A group gathered and prayed for this new church and for the many that will come to Christ because of it. I got a chance to talk about our vision for the city and what our new church could be. It was awesome stuff. Thanks so much for all of those who were there. We love you all and can't wait to get this thing started with your help.

The great Laura Shibut put together a promo video for our church plant with some photography she did and some video my buddy Zack and I did. It is still a work in progress, but it's coming together nicely. Check out the video here!
(must have Quicktime installed!)

Tomorrow I'm speaking at New Venture Christian Church. That should be fun. More updates coming soon!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Get yer pray on!

Our church plant gets officially announced to our current church-- Velocity Church next Friday. Two weeks after that, it gets officially announced at the Virginia Christian Convention. After that, things are going to get pretty busy. I'm speaking at several churches each month and sharing the vision we have for the city. What we need right now is prayer support. We need people who are willing to step up and start praying for the city of Richmond, for us as the church planters, and for the people we will one day reach. Want to join us in praying for Area 10? If so, post a comment below, and let me know you are in. (include your email address) Or if you want, drop me an email-
More details will be coming soon about speaking engagements, and important dates, videos, brochures, and all that. Check back here for updates.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Love Thy Neighbor...

Yesterday, one of our neighbors came to the door asking for a rubber skull. I am not making this up. He said he was playing with it, it went over the fence, and would we mind retrieving it for him. I don't know who you picture when I say "one of our neighbors", but what you should be picturing is a 50 - 60 year old man dressed in a t-shirt, shabby denim jeans and jacket, balding but with unkempt grayish shoulder length hair, dirty hands, and a rather unpleasant odor. He's one of about 80 residents of an assisted living center that we live next door to, and aside from a few minor details, the description could fit a good number of them. I am positive this is the kind of person that Jesus had in mind when he spoke about "the least of these". These people are looked over, ignored, forgotten, neglected. Sometimes they are harassed, yelled at, and disrespected. Sometimes they yell, harass, and behave disrespectfully. Even after 18 months of living here, I'm not always sure how I ought to relate to them. Pity is pointless. Irritation is insensitive. Rudeness is wrong. How about love? Gosh, that sounds pious. What does it really mean to love your neighbor? Keep your lawn mowed? Don't play loud music at night? Retrieve their rubber skulls when they come flying over the fence? With this bunch, in particular, I'm still working it out. But I believe it's what we're called to, whether they're lovely or not...

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Come on kids, the pool is warm!

Today I got a call from my friend Richie. He told me he is planting a church in Pennsylvania in the Fall of 2009. So that means there are now 4 of us who have all worked or been a part of Forefront Church who are planting a church in the next 2 years. That's pretty cool stuff. There must be something weird in the water down there. Forefront was a great church to work and definitely helped helped me develop the passion for church planting. If you are ever in Virginia Beach, check that place out. God is up to something down there.

Today I'm praying God starts an amazing new church through us in the heart of Richmond. But I'm also praying for Baltimore, Lehigh Valley,PA and Indianapolis, IN. (and Miami, FL!) Those are the places my buddies are all planting. May God use us all to change our own little spots in the world.

Check out Matt's blog about his church plant in Miami, FL.
Check out Carl's blog about his church plant in Baltimore MD.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Lawn mowing- city style

I have one of those lawnmowers with no motor. It has no gas, no electric, no loud engine...All it has is me and my big guns pushing it around. This is a beautiful thing. It's relatively quiet...doesn't throw fumes into the air...and gives me a bit of exercise pushing it around. One thing I love about the city is that people typically have smaller yards. Small yards=less time mowing. This is the unexpected benefit of city life. I don't spend weekends procrastinating cutting the grass anymore. If I need to cut the grass I run out and do it during the commercial break of the game on TV. (OK it's not that quick...)

Some guys I know, tell me they like cutting their massive surburbalawns because it "gives them time to think." Yeah right. These people are kidding themselves. If you need time to think, then go get a warm frothy beverage from Capital Coffee and Desserts and do your thinking in a coffee shop, the way God intended. Lawn mowing is a chore like taking out the trash, cleaning dishes, and changing diapers. Let's stop with this, "it gives me time to think" nonsense.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Big Dirty Cities

We recently had some friends visit from Virginia Beach. We always wonder what people will think when they come see where we live for the first time. They met us at church in the burbs and a couple of them rode home with Chris so they could talk about church, planting, etc. As they were coming down the interstate into the city, one of them made a comment about the city being dirty (Unneccesarily Long Disclaimer: as I was not privy to the conversation and Chris probably doesn't remember the exact context, I can't say for sure what this friend said or what he meant, but I am sure it was in no way derrogatory, because I know this guy, and he's anything but rude) Anyhow, the other friend quickly spoke up and said "Oh, man, I love big dirty cities!" This was a bit of a surprise to us, being that he lives in one of the most suburban places in the country, in a decidedly clean neighborhood.
It sounds funny to say it, but I know what he means. Our immediate location is a far cry from the pristine neighborhoods of the suburbs, and for some people, it's just too "icky". But we love it! For us, it feels alive. We'd rather take the weeds growing through the cracks in the sidewalk and the panhandlers and the graffiti along with the plentiful parks, trendy bistros, and upscale clothing boutiques, than to live where the closest thing we can get is a fabricated town center in a mall, where you'll never see a weed, or be asked if you can spare some change, or encounter anything remotely offensive to your senses, except for maybe the price tag on those designer jeans...

Monday, July 2, 2007

The Project Begins...

Before we moved to Richmond, when we were looking for a house, we kept coming across this term "Area 10". It's the designation realtors give to this part of the city, and for some reason, it just kept jumping out at me. We were very particular about where we wanted to live and Area 10 was it. It seemed to me, what better name for the faith community we wanted to see emerge here, in this particular place? And the Area 10 Project began. So here we are, 18 months after venturing into this new life in this new city that we've come to love, our little corner of the world in this great city we call home, and we're ready for more.