Welcome to Provocative Church

As you browse, read and share the many articles, our hope is that you may find this site an encouragement to your faith and Christian life.

Worship

We were created to worship. And we are to worship God with every aspect and area of our lives - presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God.

The Church

The bride of Christ can often times be difficult and messy - but it is Christ's beautiful mess - to which He is the head and chief cornerstone.

Ancient Future

Our faith comes out from a rich heritage and history. It was during the formative years of our faith that creeds, confessions, traditions, and liturgies were developed. These practices and traditions recaptured will not only anchor us but move us forward in our faith.

Freedom

There is freedom in the gospel as it proclaims that in Christ we are sons and daughters of the King. The importance is learning to preach those truths to our heart and life everyday.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Going away to a men's retreat

I will be unplugged through Sunday.

Looking forward to spending this time with God and some friends.

See ya next week.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Death of Blogging

This just in from the CT website...

(HT: Christianity Today)
As weblogs proliferated earlier this decade, Andy Warhol's famous aphorism was modified to read, "In the future, everyone will be famous to 15 people." Now it looks like Warhol was right after all: Thanks to widespread blog burnout, everyone will be famous to 15 people for 15 minutes. Related articles and links Tech researcher Gartner Inc. reported earlier this year that 200 million people have given up blogging, more than twice as many as are active. "A lot of people have been in and out of this thing," Gartner analyst Daryl Plummer told reporters. "Everyone thinks they have something to say, until they're put on stage and asked to say it." Given the average lifespan of a blogger and the current growth rate of blogs, Gartner says blogging has probably peaked.

I wouldn't say blogs are dead, but consistent and blogging for the long haul isn't as easy as it looks....

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Communion Meditations


At Big Creek Church we celebrate communion weekly, you can read the theological and practical reasons are from this series of posts on the Lord's Supper, part 1; part 2; part 3.
These are our communion meditations that we post on the screen to provide an opportunity of meditation and contemplation during the Lord's Supper.

1 John 1:9: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

During this time, confess your sins to God. The following are some sins you may want to confess:
Any ways that you have violated His commandments that you have not yet confessed to Him.
Areas of your life where you are not living by faith. Those things or people which you treasure more than Him. The good things that you do in an attempt to earn His favor. Your doubts about His love for you. Areas where you are being selfish and unloving towards others.

Isaiah 30:15: This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says:
"In repentance and rest is your salvation,
in quietness and trust is your strength,
but you would have none of it.

2 Chronicles 7:14: If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Finding idols at Home Depot

I was reading out of Isaiah 44:9-19 this morning and I couldn't help but laugh at the silliness of idolatry.

How foolish are those who manufacture idols.
These prized objects are really worthless.
The people who worship idols don’t know this,
so they are all put to shame.
Who but a fool would make his own god—
an idol that cannot help him one bit?
All who worship idols will be disgraced
along with all these craftsmen—mere humans—
who claim they can make a god.

They may all stand together,
but they will stand in terror and shame.
The blacksmith stands at his forge to make a sharp tool,
pounding and shaping it with all his might.
His work makes him hungry and weak.
It makes him thirsty and faint.

Then the wood-carver measures a block of wood
and draws a pattern on it.
He works with chisel and plane
and carves it into a human figure.
He gives it human beauty
and puts it in a little shrine.
He cuts down cedars;
he selects the cypress and the oak;
he plants the pine in the forest
to be nourished by the rain.

Then he uses part of the wood to make a fire.
With it he warms himself and bakes his bread.
Then—yes, it’s true—he takes the rest of it
and makes himself a god to worship!
He makes an idol and bows down in front of it!
He burns part of the tree to roast his meat and to keep himself warm.
He says, "Ah, that fire feels good."

Then he takes what’s left
and makes his god: a carved idol!
He falls down in front of it,
worshiping and praying to it.
"Rescue me!" he says.
"You are my god!"
Such stupidity and ignorance!

Their eyes are closed, and they cannot see.
Their minds are shut, and they cannot think.
The person who made the idol
never stops to reflect,

"Why, it’s just a block of wood!
I burned half of it for heat
and used it to bake my bread and roast my meat.
How can the rest of it be a god?
Should I bow down to worship a piece of wood?"


The Israelites were trusting in a stupid piece of wood. They were bowing down to a piece of wood and asking it to rescue them. It would be as if I went into the lumber section of Home Depot and starting worshiping the two by fours. Sounds pretty stupid, right!?

Problem is I am just like them but I am just more sophisticated to make a fool of myself at Home Depot. My idols are more subtle and acceptable within the culture. Too often, I find my heart trusting in other things to RESCUE me instead of the God of the universe. So I started thinking this morning, what do I, in fact, find my heart drawn to trust in rescuing me?

Paper, I trust in a piece of paper with numbers on it. I look to money to rescue me. If I only have enough money, then I will be satisfied. I want money to rescue me from self-denial. I want money to rescue me from worry. I think only if I had just a little bit more money, then I will be happy and comfortable.

Metal, I trust in my car to get me where I want to, and when it doesn't I become angry and frustrated. I want my car to rescue me from dependence on others. I like my independence and freedom. My cars give me that.

Flesh, I trust too often in my own strength and efforts to rescue me. If I work harder then all will be alright. My hard work will rescue my reputation. People will think highly of me and will admire my work.

I am tempted to look to too many other things to find rescue, but they, like the wood idols, are nonsense and futile. I pray that God would turn my heart to Him and that I would cling tightly to the cross for my rescue.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Beyond the Gates


I want to highly recommend this movie that I recently watched called, Beyond the Gates. Beyond the Gates is another compelling and provocative story about the Rwandan genocide in 1994.

This account is based on a true story and was filmed in the actual locations where everything occurred. Beyond the Gates is a story about a dedicated and faithful Catholic priest, played by John Hurt and a young, idealistic English teacher, played by Hugh Dancy. These men find themselves caught right in the middle of the genocide as they must choose to whether stay with the thousands of Tutsis about to be massacred or to flee for their own safety.

This story explores many of the Western issues and moral failings associated with the genocide. The movie is rated R for language and some violence. Of course it is just impossible to sanitize the horrific events in Rwanda and for a movie like this to have anything less than an R rating. But, don't let the rating scare you away from this movie. The violence isn't gratuitous, and isn't the centerpiece of the movie. At the core, this movie is about the moral struggles of people facing and confronted with the horrific events that surround them.

If you are vague or unfamiliar with what took place in Rwanda in 1994, then this is a good movie to help you understand the background and issues of what led up to the genocide and the events that took place in 1994.

Movies at times allow us to escape, but also movies have the power to provoke and reach our hearts. See this movie not to be merely entertained, but rather challenged and changed.


Also, see my reviews and comments of two other important movies about the Rwandan genocide, Hotel Rwanda, and Sometimes in April

And check out this book, by the Bishop of Rwanda, that addresses these issues in more depth.

And to help Rwanda here in this country in a simple, practical way, check out this earlier post about serving Rwandan coffee.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Fahrenheit 451 Gospel

Just read this quote posted on Tony's website...
You have to know how to accept rejection and reject acceptance. – Ray Bradbury
(HT: TonyMcCollum.com)

I love the way Bradbury put that. What he said, is what the gospel does.

When we ,deep in our being, know that we are accepted and crazy loved by Jesus, rejection from others doesn't matter because we are secure in Christ and our reputation and desire to please others doesn't matter because we are secure in Christ.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Worship inside and out



Just read these thought-provoking words from Sally Morgenthaler concerning the effectiveness of worship-driven churches,



Were these worship-driven churches really attracting the unchurched? Most of their pastors truly believed they were. And in a few cases, they were right. The worship in their congregations was inclusive, and their people were working hard to meet the needs of the neighborhood. Yet those churches whose emphasis was dual—celebrated worship inside, lived worship outside—were the minority. In 2001 a worship-driven congregation in my area finally did a survey as to who they were really reaching, and they were shocked. They'd thought their congregation was at least 50 percent unchurched. The real number was 3 percent.
(HT: ALLELON)

Sally Morgenthaler has been a proponent of Worship Evangelism and the worship-driven model , which at it's heart is an attractional form of ministry and outreach. The attractional, worship-driven model says that we will have the best, authentic and most compelling worship and because we do, people will come. Our Sunday worship experience will be the means to reach the unchurched.

From this article, it has become evident that Sally has had a change of heart about that model. She makes it now clear that effective outreach must be comprehensive. The church must Celebrate worship inside and Live worship outside.

I have no problem with the argument that the Sunday morning worship experience should be excellent, meaningful and compelling. At Big Creek, we work hard to make it excellent. I know that our Sunday morning worship is one of the main storefronts which new people enter through every week.

But it is not just enough to ask people to come to us. We can't just expect those who don't yet know Christ to come onto our turf. We must go to them. We must be a sent out people, sent out into the community! We must show Christ to people around us. Where we work, live and play are the arenas of opportunity and the contexts for our ministry.

It must be both worship inside and out.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

They call this a news flash!?



Atlanta Ranked as 2nd Worst Traffic City in USA
The Texas Transportation Institute released a new Study that ranked Atlanta as the 2nd worst traffic congested city behind Los Angeles.


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"It's good enough"

That has been the motto of my life this past week, "It's good enough".

Forget the perfectionism.

Forget pouring over a project, constantly tweaking it.

Forget the luxury of getting everything done just the way I like it.

Life this past week has been crunch time.

Life this past week has been filled with all types of surprises in my schedule.

Blogging seemed like such a luxury when everything else was screaming for attention. Hello blogosphere, I am still here. I am still alive....barely.

Back to blogging...

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Humility can be an evasion

This is a great post for David Wayne over at Jollyblogger, you have to read the whole post to make sure you get the full context and meaning. But here is the excerpt that hit me between the eyes when I read it:

When humility is an evasion and grace is an excuse.....

God's greatest gifts can become curses and His highest virtues can become vices. So it is with grace and humility.....

What brought all of this on was some reading I was doing today in the book Bonds that Make Us Free by C. Terry Warner. This thing nailed me to the wall so strongly that I am having to laugh at myself. Here's the passage:

When we are caught up in self-betrayal, "admitting" we are unworthy is just one more strategy in our repertoire. It gives us just as good a justification for acting irresponsibly as the strategy of condemning others. It is a powerful maneuver because claiming to be a victim of our make-up or nature is even harder to refute than claiming to be a victim of others. (To call it mistaken seems like telling terminally ill patients they are exaggerating their illness.)

The maneuver is powerful for another reason. We think we are being honest, that we are "admitting the truth at last." If we were living a lie before, then surely, we think, we are telling the truth now. Indeed, we can say that although we may not be the wondrous individuals we have made ourselves out to be, we at least are not being hypocrites anymore. We believe we have mustered up the courage to be honest with ourselves. But the truth is, we are taking this position accusingly and self-victimizingly - and therefore with violence in our hearts. We make people feel guilty for not rescuing us, or for being successful themselves, and thus hold people hostage to our misery.

We have all met breastbeaters who, convinced of their worthlessness, beat themselves up verbally and emotionally. Breastbeaters are not as purely self-condemning as they look. Their is really just another way of playing the victim and nurturing feelings of self-justification. Nietzsche wrote: "When we despise ourselves, we love the despiser in ourselves."

(HT: JOLLYBLOGGER)

I know that my heart is so deceitful, that I can even take pride in my own humility and transparency. Even though humility and applying the gospel of grace to life is a great thing, the temptation can be to turn a great thing into a deceiving thing.

This post from the Jollyblogger was excellent food for thought in my own life and heart.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Be Missional, but not with your car!


I have never put a "fish" on my car. The reasons why, have a lot to do with Sjogren's post below. I don't think putting a fish on my car is an effective witness, in fact I think that it can be detrimental to my witness. Being a missional Christian is more about what I stick to my car. Read Steve's thoughts below and consider taking the fish off the car! I have only included his bullet points, go to the original site to read the reasons why.


Five Reasons To Pry Off The Fish Symbol

by Steve Sjogren

During your weekend services, do a spot check before you speak. Tally up how many vehicles sport some sort of Christian symbol. Usually churches that are seeing many come to Christ and have an internal book shop that sell these things have a high percentage of people who sport these on their vehicles. Enthusiasm to declare Christ is magnificent, but there is no worse way to do this today than by putting a symbol on your vehicle.

1. The Message of The Scriptures is Repeatedly “Prove your faith by your integrity, consistency – that is, not flash, but essence.”

2. THE TRUTH: Traffic Conditions Are Beyond Your Control, Period. Thus You Will Tick People Off With Your Driving On A Regular Basis No Matter What…
Enough said.

3. The Primary Push Behind Such Symbols are Marketing Companies:

4. As We Drive With Symbols On Our Cars, Not A Single Positive Thing Will Come of This:

5. One Word: WHY?

During the Jesus movement days of the late 60s and early 70s this was a spontaneous idea that was a fun, even beautiful thing. Times have drastically changed. The Church has taken so many hundreds of major, high profile hits in its integrity, we don’t need to reproduce a local version of what is happening on TV.

(HT: Conversation at the Edge)

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Saturday, September 08, 2007

Details, Details, Details


Ahhh, the irony in it.

A street near Northwood Elementary in Kalamazoo, Mich., has the word ’school’ misspelled on the pavement. Crews were expected to correct the mistake Thursday. Go here for original article
(HT: Neatorama)

Photo: Jill McLane Baker/Kalamazoo Gazette

It is the simple things that slip me up. I often overlook the little details. I get used to seeing something, over and over again, that I end up glossing over it and skimming through it.

Today at our inquirers class, we had all the materials completed, and bound together and ready to give to the people who are considering joining Big Creek. All the history and beliefs of Big Creek are in the manuals, but what was missing was the "membership" module (And today, that wasn't the only detail that got missed).

How could that important information not be in there? Where did it disappear to? I have been doing these classes for years and now I discover that one of the most important pieces of information isn't in the materials, how could that happen?

Here were my key mistakes:

I assumed: I assumed that past success guarantees future success. Just because we have been doing these classes for years, doesn't mean that mistakes don't creep in. We have been in a groove with this class, we have it down to a science. That degree of familiarity breeds complacency.

Systems may remain constant, but people change: The system and details for our inquirer's class had been honed and developed. The people who were implementing it were new and weren't able to draw upon from past experiences.

I didn't check other people's work: There were a lot of hands working on editing and updating the materials. I need to inspect what I expect.

This mistake wasn't big, it was easy to correct. But I was very surprised that it happened. Now I know that even the simplest mistakes can happen and creep in especially when we become overly familiar with our systems and processes.

Tearing down the Tower of Babel


Check out the sidebar on my blog. One of the goals to the design of my blog is to keep it clean, simple and appealing to the eye. Therefore I have chosen not to clutter my sidebar with a lot of widgets, badges and links.

But I did add one new widget which I thought was pretty cool and useful. "Translate".

Now you can translate Provocative Church is several different languages (such as French, German, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Russian, Arabic, Portuguese, Japanese and Italian)

I get hits from all around the world, so now there is no reason why someone couldn't read my blog even if they don't know English.

Tell me what you think? If you read and understand another language, translate the blog and let me know if the translation is decent (I suspect that it won't be perfect, but as long as it is adequate I'll be satisfied).


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Friday, September 07, 2007

Feed the gray matter


I love stuff that challenges and energizes the brain. That is why I appreciate the stuff that TED does. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design People pay good money to attend these gatherings so what I particularly like is that they have made their stuff available to the public - FREE. I periodically go to the TED's website to see what's cooking, but thanks to Ars Gratia for putting together this great list of must watch talks.

Ars Gratia-
"TED is a group that brings in people of many views on many topics who talk about big ideas. You’ll hear thoughts on everything from religion to story telling to science and technology and anything else bright people talk about. Some will challenge you to ponder new ideas, and some will infuriate you. All of them have the potential to make you think."

Some recent topics:


(HT: Ars Gratia)

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How to Recruit and Communicate More Effectively

In the afterword to The Tipping Point in paperback, Malcolm Gladwell predicts that people will become immune to email over time: “the more email we get, the shorter and more selective and more delayed our responses become. These are the symptoms of immunity.”

One the biggest challenges for our team here at Big Creek Church has been communication, especially in the areas of recruiting. Recruiting volunteers and letting those in our congregation know about events and opportunities has been a constant challenge. In light of that, one of the things that I have been trying to emphasize at Big Creek is limitation of email. Email has a purpose, but that purpose is not to recruit volunteers. Email doesn't demand a call to action or require a response. People can forget and ignore email and you never know if the email has been read.

As a way to address our communication for our staff, I came up with this information entitled the Five Levels of Communication ...

....Read the rest here


(Occasionally I may cross-post from my other blog. My other blog is brand new, therefore I want to give this freshman blog some exposure - so please excuse my shameless plug.)

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Uncomfortable Grace


Do you have a low tolerance for difficulty and pain? I know that I do. Unless you are a masochist, chances are you don't revel in pain and suffering. But often times as Christians, that is exactly the place that we find ourselves in. I was reading out of Amos, and read these excerpts from chapter 4.



Amos 4:

"I gave you cleanness of teeth in all your cities, and lack of bread in all your places."

"I also withheld rain from you when there were yet three months to harvest; I would send rain to one city one field would have rain, and the field on which it did not rain would wither; so two or three cities would wander to another city to drink water and would not be satisfied."

"I struck you with blight and mildew; your many gardens and your vineyards, your fig trees and your olive trees the locust devoured."

"I sent among you a pestilence after the manner of Egypt; I killed your young men with the sword, and carried away your horses, and I made the stench of your camp go up into your nostrils."

"I overthrew some of you, as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and you were as a branch plucked out of the burning."

Why would God do these things to people He loves? God had a covenant with Israel. He said, "I will be your God and you will be my people." Wouldn't His love for them desire to protect and provide for them?

The answer is found here in the repeated phrase within this chapter, "yet you did not return to me."

That phrase changes the whole perspective on acts by God that seem like the product of vindictive anger and turn them into acts of beautiful, redemptive love. In doing these things God is actually fulfilling his commitment to satisfy the deepest needs of his people. In a real way, He actually is protecting and providing for them, giving them what they needed most.

What is it that they need most? The answer is simple and clear throughout all of Scripture; more than anything else they need Him! More than anything else, YOU and I need Him as well!

This is what Paul Tripp has coined, the theology of uncomfortable grace. As long as sin still lives inside of us (Romans 7), producing in each of us the tendency to forget and wander, God's grace will come to us in uncomfortable forms and through uncomfortable channels.

As a child of the King, resist the temptation to doubt His goodness in the middle of your stresses, difficulties and trials. It's time for us to stop thinking that our difficulty is a sign of God's unfaithfulness and inattention. Our trials and difficulties should never lead us to the conclusion that God isn't good and that He doesn't desire the best for us. God isn't withholding his grace from you. No, you're experiencing uncomfortable grace.


thanks to Paul Tripp for his many thoughts on this subject

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Information Overload


My inbox is stuffed to the gills, so here I am to share the wealth with you. Grab a cup of coffee, sit back, relax and enjoy some interesting, funny and provocative reading.

Read about the factors that help a new church to grow.

Watch out iPhone, there may be a Google phone ready to launch.

More children are being hurt in Croc related accidents - beware!

How To Beat Carnival Games

Superman's Fortress of Solitude has been discovered!

What is in a name? Couple tries to name their child, "@"

Since I live in Atlanta, this is a must read: 12 Things to Do with Coca Cola

Thoughts related to God cultivate cooperative behavior and generosity, according to University of British Columbia psychology researchers.

Read here what Evangelicals can learn from Flannery O'Connor

Read about the 6 Sports too deadly for gym class

Alan Weisman theorizes what the world would look without us.

Read about the most successful Pirate of all time, hint: the pirate is a woman.

D. James Kennedy has died

D. James Kennedy --founding pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, FL and founder of Coral Ridge Ministries--died peacefully in his sleep this morning.

You can view a timeline of his life here and go to the website dedicated to his life and legacy.

Also, I posted earlier here about his transition and retirement.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The Community Conundrum

I just read this from the LifeChurch.tv blog:
Community is also one of the most discussed topics within the church today. A recent Barna survey showed small group attendance had doubled in the last twelve years, however another survey showed 92% of Americans believe they are self-sufficient and only 3 out of 10 adults were “trying to find a few good friends.”
(HT: LifeChurch.tv : swerve)

How do we resolve this conflict?...more people want to get involved in small groups, and yet they keep to being self-sufficient and self-reliant. I think Dallas Willard got it right in an interview he did with Relevant Magazine and the importance of community with the young generation:
That's an expression of their loneliness. But most of them don't know what community means because community means assuming responsibility for other people and that means paying attention and not following your own will but submitting your will and giving up the world of intimacy and power you have in the little consumer world that you have created. They are lonely and they hurt. They don't know why that they think community might solve that, but when they look community in the face and realize that it means raw, skin to skin contact with other people for whom you have become responsible...that's when they back away.
(HT: RELEVANT MAGAZINE )

I think Willard nails it! Community is hard and messy. We like community in "principle" but when we get ready to actually do it, we back away. Real, authentic community is going to be raw and tough and it going to have to take the power of the Spirit and the application of the Gospel to make real community a reality.


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Sawnee Mountain


My Monday morning hike with some friends on Sawnee Mt.

More pictures available at my Facebook.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Attack of the Blogs

Introducing a NEW BLOG:

I initially launched Provocative Church to merely learn how to write, but over time, the blog has taken on it's own character and personality.

It has become a blog and outlet that focuses on my life and the things that God is teaching me. I particularly address issues concerning the missional church and gospel centered living as well as any other issues that may strike my fancy, ala FaceBall.

During my two year blogging endeavor, I have felt as if there's a whole other area that I'm compelled to blog about. That area concerns certain best practices in ministry within the church of bringing people from their First Impressions to making Lasting Connections. Therefore I have started another blog.

First Impressions is a blog that explores the ministry issues that I wrestle with every day.

It is not meant to be a blog that says to everyone, Hey look at me, I am an expert! Rather I want to this blog to be a forum to share ideas, create a dialog and network with others in ministry who are working and wrestling with the same issues.

My biggest worry about starting to write at a new blog is capacity. To address this issue, I will only post to this blog about 3 times a week. I feel as if I have learned how to effectively manage my life and routine for blogging and a couple of more posts a week seems very doable.

Please show me some love.

Go over to First Impressions and check it out. Please subscribe to either my RSS feed or via email. I hope and trust what is shared there contributes meaningfully to the Christ's church.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

aahhh coffee!

Ahhh,nothing beats a cup of java in the morning! At least the caffeine makes a person feel productive.