It’s Going To Hurt (Part 2)

It’s Going To Hurt (Part 2)

When you start a journey, it’s always exciting.

The first few steps of a run, the first few miles of a road trip… there’s always a sense of wonder and expectation.

The same is true of the journey to plant a church.

It started with good dreams: helping people find a meaningful relationship with Jesus, seeing broken families healed, and the lost being found.

I neglected to understand this important fact: to see all that happen we would have to gather a bunch of sinners together, build relationships with them, and watch Jesus move in their lives… since we are practically incapable of doing any of that in their lives!

I didn’t expect to get hurt when we started out in this journey, but planting a church is a journey filled with pain.

Here’s a few observations on how it hurts…

#1 – Hurt people hurt people.   

At a new church, you get a lot of “one more chance” people. These are people who have been hurt at other churches (often for very legitimate reasons), and they are willing to give a brand new church “one more chance”.

The church seems “different”, and at first that’s exciting. It’s not uncommon for the newness to provoke a new level of involvement and renewed communion with Jesus.

That new found devotion also does something I didn’t anticipate… it opens them up to the past hurt from other church experiences.

At this point, these people have two choices: to deal with the past pain or they will inevitably start to displace the past hurt into their present context.

When they don’t deal with the past hurt, they’ll start to find reasons to be hurt at the new church, and when they’re hurt… they’ll hurt other people.

#2 – People don’t care as much about your feelings as they do about their opinions.

Culturally we’ve shifted how we approach those in authority.

Years ago Teachers, Coaches, Pastors, and Police Officers garnered an immense level of respect. You treated them well. You honored them. Not because they were perfect, but because of the honor of the position they held.

This is not the case in our present context.

Sadly, we live in a cultural context that seems to always be working hard to second guess those in positions of authority. This isn’t a simple truth, but it is the context we find ourselves in.

In our current context, those with informed and arbitrary opinions have platforms to spread their opinions without thought to the feelings of the people they are criticizing.

It’s a part modern day leadership, but it is still painful.

#3 – Healthy always hurts.

One of the guys I work out with is somewhat of a freak. While in his mid-50s, he’s in incredible shape (essentially competition shape).

I remember working out with him one time and making this comment,
“Dude, I can’t wait to get to where I’m not sore anymore.” He repield, “Man, I’ve been sore for the last 30 years.”

That moment I learned something that continues to stay with me, and it’s a very uncomfortable truth…

Healthy always hurts.

During the process of planting Vortex, I’ve had to make decisions I didn’t want to because they were hard. They included having hard conversations with leaders, disciplining those in leadership for poor decisions, and even letting some people off the bus.

Those moments hurt deeply. Those moments also lead to health.

You cannot avoid pain, and if you attempt to avoid it… you’ll avoid being healthy.

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How has pain produced a healthier relationship with Jesus in your life?

It’s Going To Hurt (Part 1)

It’s Going To Hurt (Part 1)

I’m not a “health nut”, but I’ve learned something important about being healthy… It hurts.

Being unhealthy hurts, too.

When you plant a church, at the center of your motivation needs to be two things: God and people.

Planting always needs to be a response to a call. I’ve written about that before.

Planting also always needs to be focused on people.

I came back to our rural, Southern town to start a brand new church because I love the people of this community. I always have. This is place where people wave to you when they pass you in a car, where people pull over to honor a funeral procession, and where we still value being nice to each other. I’m so glad God has allowed us to live here.

When we started Vortex, I had no idea that our church (and me) would hurt people. I still dislike this very much. It’s been the source of much of my quiet pain and struggle for the past few years, but it is unavoidable.

Here are three ways that a church hurts people…

#1 – People are hurt by the sinfulness of others.

A church is a group of people, and any time there is a group of people there is a collection of sin.

People in church aren’t perfect; Pastors aren’t perfect.  Our imperfections aren’t often preferences. It’s often sinfulness.

One of the most important truths about sin to wrestle with is that sin impacts our relationship with God AND others. We often avoid the fact that our sins impact other people, but they do.

In our church, I’ve watched the sinfulness of one impact and hurt others. Sometimes it’s subtle, but most of the time it’s brutal.

Far too often our response is to disassociate the hurt from the people who were sinful and associate the pain to God and the promises of the Gospel. In this way, people far too often run from meaningful community after being hurt in a church.

A healthy perspective allows us to view the sinfulness of others in light of our own. We’ve hurt other people. We’ve offended them, too. We’ve needed grace and forgiveness. What we have received, we freely give.

#2 – People are hurt by the organization of the church.

The local church is an organization of people who have united around the cause of spreading the hope and love that the Gospel has brought to us.

As we leaders shape the organization of the church there will always be strengths and weaknesses to that organization.

There is no such thing as a perfect church. In our imperfections, we’ve hurt people along the way. I hate this. Of all the ways hurt creeps into a church, this is the worst. It’s also unavoidable.

There are often decisions that we make, as a team or simply as a leader, that will inevitably lead to hurting someone. Even the right decision will often hurt people.

This is why we must continually work to recenter ourselves on the two most important things in our church: Jesus and the people He has sent us to reach. We must be willing to be open and honest about our failures in repentance, and we must be willing to make adjustments when we miss the mark.

#3 – People are hurt by the Truth.

When we started Vortex, my heartfelt commitment was that if someone was going to be hurt or offended, I wanted them to be hurt by the Truth.

The wounds that come from the Truth are healthy. They allow us to face our faults and sinfulness, be healed, and move forward into new life that is only found as we are restored in Jesus.

It would be a mistake as a leader to not want this sort of pain for our people, because it is precisely this sort of thing that leads us to a progressive relationship with Jesus.

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How has pain drawn you to or pushed you away from God?

It’s Not About A Church

It’s Not About A Church

One of simplest, yet most profound questions we’ll ever wrestle with is: “What’s the purpose of my life?”

I believe that Jesus still invites us to follow Him, just like He did His disciples.

Sometimes it’s hard to figure out where God is going.

I know a lot of people who wrestle with this. The wrestling comes in the form of “calling” and “career”. We want to have a clear roadmap, and too often it just feels hazy for a lot of us. We don’t know what where Jesus is leading us or what He specifically wants us to do.

When God convinced me that He wanted me to move to back to our small, rural hometown and start a brand new church I thought this would all be about a church.

So during the process of preparation I did what anyone would do: I studied, prepared, and planned to start a church. This wasn’t a mistake. It’s what anyone in this sort of venture should do.

If you’re starting a brewery, you need to know how to make beer. If you’re opening an auto shop, you need to know cars. My calling and career has been in church ministry, so I was very devoted to learning best practices for church planters.

I thought it was all about a church.

But it wasn’t.

You see: In a career, you give yourself to a vocation. You work hard to improve your craft. You devote yourself to the opportunities, and you climb the ladder. Success is measured in metrics like salary and sales.

For me, this is not a career. It’s a calling.

Like the disciples who heard Jesus invite them to abandon their jobs as fishermen and to come and follow, I believe there is something vastly greater awaiting those of us who respond to that deep sense of motivation and purpose that is found in calling…

We discover that it’s all about Jesus.

When we chase a calling we get closer to Jesus, and that becomes the greatest gift that all of life could leverage.

For me and my journey of starting Vortex Church, planting a church has not been about a church. Instead, it’s been about responding to an invitation that Jesus has given.  That invitation is simply to follow Him and draw near to Him.

It’s not about a church. It’s all about Jesus.

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How has pursuing your calling brought you closer to Jesus?

Loved How We Need To Be Loved

Loved How We Need To Be Loved

A vast research project from the University of North Carolina studied how we, as American culture, view God. Christian Smith, a Sociology Professor at UNC, determined that the most common understanding of God in America aligns to these statements:

  1. A God exists who created and orders the world and watches over human life on earth.
  2. The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.
  3. God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when he is needed to resolve a problem.

Dr. Smith summed up this perception with this statement:
For most of America, we view God as a “Divine Butler”… someone to come and help us when we need Him, but not too involved in our lives.

There’s one huge problem with all of that…
That’s not how it works.
We’re not in charge. (and I’m thankful for that!)

The greatest problem with that perception of God is that we expect God to love us how we WANT to be loved.

That’s not how love works.

Love isn’t about what we want. Love thrives in what we need.
Love isn’t about me. Love is all about someone else.
Love isn’t about my needs. Love meets somebody else’s needs.

Why do we make love about us? It cannot work that way. It will only fail.

The same application needs to be made to how we understand God’s love.

God does not love us how we want to be loved.
God loves us how we need to be loved.

At times, what we need is not comfortable, and I’m afraid that many of us spend way too much time running from God’s loving invitations.

You know that your kids need to eat their vegetables. They’d rather eat candy. You love them, so you force them to eat their green beans and broccoli.

You want to live a comfortable life.
God wants you to live a meaningful life.
So… God convicts you and invites you to change your direction.

Even though its uncomfortable, He convicts you because He loves you!

I’m thankful that God doesn’t love us how we want to be loved.

He loves us how we need to be loved!

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What’s something that you’ve been running from that you realize is a loving invitation from Jesus?

You Asked: How Do I Make Time For My Relationship With God?

You Asked: How Do I Make Time For My Relationship With God?

I was asked this question recently:

How can I be more disciplined in making time each day to read my bible and have quiet time with God? I know it’s just an excuse to say “I’m busy”, but I really try to get it each day… and life gets in the way. Im really struggling with wanting to do this, but I’m having a hard time doing it. HELP!

First off… WHAT A GREAT QUESTION!
I love this question for a couple reasons:

#1 – The desire to spend more time with Jesus represents the longing to strengthen our relationship with God.

If you’re struggling with this desire, the only reason is that you know that you need Jesus! What a great realization to live with! Too many of us live complacent lives that aren’t aware of our desperate need for Jesus!

#2 – This question comes from a sincere place of understanding that we don’t have it all together!

Questions in general come out of an understanding of our own limits. They are, in that way, a very healthy part of our exploration and development. I don’t believe God is afraid of our questions. Just like a good Father, He’s patient and understanding with our questions!

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Let’s start this answer with just a bit of advice on how we read the Scriptures…

When it comes to the Bible:
It’s more about what you DO WITH IT than what you know about it.

I realize that this is so counterintuitive to the way “Bible-study” has traditionally been taught. Knowledge isn’t transformational until it’s applied, and that’s the point of studying the Scriptures.

Reading the bible isn’t just a quest for knowledge; it is spending time with Jesus and letting Him shape your life.

Here are three steps to developing a more disciplined devotional life:

#1 – SET A GOAL.

We get goals, because in many ways our lives progress around them.

We also get the natural progression of goals.

So… If you’re new to reading the bible, it’s not wise for most of us to make a goal to read the Bible in 30 days. We might read it through, but we’d probably miss a lot.

Make a goal to read the bible every day. If that doesn’t work, try 5 days a week.

Make a goal to read at least a Chapter a day. Pick a book of the bible and read it through over and over and over again until you become very familiar with it. You’ll know when that’s happened because you’ll start quoting the verses!

If you’ve made more progress, progress the goals: more chapters, more books.

Remember: It’s more about quality than quantity. Don’t get to a place where you’re “I need to speed read these three chapters to keep up with that plan.”

#2 – PICK A TIME.

Everyone has a different rhythm. Some of us do well in the mornings, some at night.

I’d suggest deciding on a rhythm for your life (in general): Learn how much sleep you NEED, decide on a regular, daily rhythm that affords you that amount of sleep, and build your daily routine around that.

For me, I know I need about 7 hours of sleep to be well rested. I try to be in the bed around 10:00pm and asleep around 11:00pm. I then try to be awake at 6am. If I’m awake at 6am I have one hour at least until the kids are awake!

If you can wake up early and be functional, start your day with time with Jesus. Then get busy with your morning routine. Once we get busy, it’s easier to make excuses.

If you end your day with a devotional time, consider letting it be the last thing you do. Let your mind relax into God’s Word as you still yourself for the day.

Whatever it is… pick out a rhythm that works for you and make it routine.

#3 – TRY IT FOR A WHILE.

Don’t commit to a year. Or six months. Try it for a month, and then make adjustments for what you need.

Your devotional life is as much God teaching you about yourself as it is you learning about God. You’ll learn about how disciplined you are: NEWS FLASH… You’re not as disciplined as you want to be or need to be, and this journey an invitation to change that!

If you’re committing to anything, let it be that you’re making the intentional commitment to say, “God, whatever it takes; however it has to happen… I’m doing it.”

When we make our mind to devote ourselves to God like that, well… that’s a profound place to be!

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Do you have any questions? Ask away in the comments and I’ll get around to answering them!

 

The Light

The Light

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” – Jesus (Matthew 5:14-16)

Let’s face it: this world is quite confusing these days.

People have all sorts of opinions about what’s good and bad, what’s right and wrong, what we should do and not do, etc.

When the world seems dark, our typical reaction as Christ-followers is…

We blame the dark for being dark.

You know, I think God is pretty smart. When Jesus described the church and His followers as “the light” it was not on accident.

What is “darkness”? Darkness only exists in the absence of light.

Just one tiny spark lights up a completely dark room.

So, is it more helpful to blame the dark for being dark? Or is it a better question to ask where the light is?

When the world seems to be getting dark, let’s make these commitments:

#1 – Let’s blame ourselves.
If we are living out the Gospel as the people of God, the world will be full of light. If it’s not, then it’s our fault. It’s that simple.

#2 – Don’t get mad at the world for being the world.
The Church and the Gospel are intended to be instruments of healing and restoration, not blame and condemnation. “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:17

#3 – Make a difference in your own world.
“Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16

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How can we more fully be the light Jesus wants us to be? Leave a comment below and share you thoughts:

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Three Ways To Listen To Our Sermons

Three Ways To Listen To Our Sermons

One of the most common questions I get is:
“How can I listen to the message from this Sunday? We’re going to be out of town, and I don’t want to miss out on it!”

That’s a huge compliment.

We work hard each week to prepare messages that we think will be life-giving, meaningful, and relevant to your life right now. The fact that so many of you connect to them is a powerful testimony to what Jesus is doing in our church!

By Tuesday morning, we’ll have the message from that Sunday posted online.

Each week we provide several ways for you to connect to the messages we’re sharing on Sunday (or reconnect if you were with us).

Here’s how you can listen:

#1 – Access past messages through the Vortex Church app on your iOS phone or tablet, Android phone or tablet, Windows phone, or Amazon Fire.

The Vortex App is the best way to find our most recent messages, consolidated into one, convenient place. Once the app loads, it’ll load directly to the “sermons” tab.

The great thing about the Vortex App is that you can watch our latest videos, my blogs, and check out for upcoming events all in one place.

To get the Vortex Church App, visit: http://get.theapp.co/0230

NOTE: Make sure you enable “Push Notifications” so that we can send you important updates. We did this during the ice storm this past weekend and it was very helpful.

#2 – Subscribe to our Podcast.

Our podcast is going to become an interesting way for you to interact with the messages, because we’ll be providing exclusive content on it.

We’re planning to do some Q&A and sermon follow-ups posted mid-week that will only be available on our podcast!

There are THREE ways to subscribe to our podcast:

  • iTunes: If you’re an iPhone, iPad, or just iTunes user, you can find our podcast in the Apple Store by searching “Vortex Church Sermon Audio” and selecting “subscribe”.
  • Stitcher: Stitcher has become a popular podcast app, and you can access our podcast through Stitcher now. Again, just search “Vortex Church Sermon Audio” and subscribe.
  • Podbean: Podbean is an industry standard host for podcasts, and we recently relocated our podcast over to them. You can find us on podbean at: http://vortexchurch.podbean.com – just select the “follow” button!

#3 – Listen directly from our website.

Our website has been a constant source of information for our church, and we’re thankful that many of you visit it frequently.

To find the catalogue of our sermons, starting with the newest and working it’s way backwards, visit: http://vortexchurch.com/sermons/.

From the website you can stream the audio, download the messages, and often download the notes as well.

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Is there any other way that we could make the sermon audio more accessible for you? If so, tell me in the comments and we’ll work on that for you!

3 Ways To Do Facebook Right As A Married Couple

3 Ways To Do Facebook Right As A Married Couple

The data is overwhelming: Facebook is having a negative impact on marriages.

Let me be up front about this: It’s not Facebook’s fault. Facebook can be a wonderful supplement to your existing relationships. It can help you connect with people you love but don’t get to see regularly. It gives you a chance to share your life with people you don’t see or talk to regularly. When used properly, it can be valuable.

The Facebook problem is a symptom of a greater disease: we’re not doing married right.

At Vortex, we’ve spent the last few weeks examining God’s blueprint for marriage, and we’ve all been challenged, convicted, and changed by what Jesus has been teaching us. If you haven’t been with us, I encourage you to give those four talks a listen to: vortexchurch.com – blueprints audio.

A few day’s ago I shared “5 ways to do Facebook wrong”, so I thought it might be nice to follow it up by giving a few suggestions on how we can get it right…

#1 – Kill the idea of privacy.

In a healthy marriage there are no boundaries of privacy. I realize that statement flies in the face of what most of us practically want, but it’s God’s design not mine.

If you have individual accounts, your spouse should have the username and password for you account. If you’re generally posting the same things, you might want to consider having a joint account. It’s not enough to follow them, because (as with any social network) there are activities that happen out of the view of the following public.

If you have a problem with the idea that privacy needs to be killed in your marriage, reflect on this with me: As Genesis 2 closes, after God has created Adam and Eve then united them together in the covenant of marriage, the scriptures tell us this: “Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.” (Genesis 2:25) As the first (and prototype) married couple, they were so intimate that not even a millimeter of clothing was going to separate them.

#2 – Celebrate and honor your spouse publically.

My wife taught me this important lesson:
It’s quite nice to have flowers waiting for your wife when she gets home. It’s altogether meaningful to show up at her workplace with those flowers and honor her publicly in front of the people she spends her days with.

Facebook gives you a venue to celebrate and honor your spouse publically.

You might be thinking: “I don’t know what to celebrate. I’m really disappointed in my spouse right now.”

Let me suggest that honor works a lot like the cork-in-the-bucket principle. Honor your spouse, as you believe they can be, not as they are. The more you honor them, the more water goes into the bucket. The cork rises to level of water. In the same way, our character often elevates to the level that we’re honored.

#3 – Create technology-free times & zones.

Here are three times you don’t need your phones (or Facebook):

  1. When you get home from work.
    Make the choice to put the phone down and have a conversation regularly when you arrive home. Taking fifteen minutes to communicate will set your evenings up for success.
  2. When you go to bed.
    This is a struggle for most of us, but studies show that exposure to the brightness of the screens actually hurts your sleep. This is again one of those important moments where conversation is unexpected and needed. The absence of distractions could also benefit your intimacy.
  3. When you’re on a date.
    My wife and I have had a rule: When we go into a restaurant to eat dinner together on a date, the phone’s stay in the car. Dating is all about facilitating intimacy, and intimacy is bred in conversation. Don’t rob yourselves of that.

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What did I miss? What’s helped you do Facebook more successfully as a married couple? Leave a comment and share it with us!

5 Ways To Do Facebook Wrong As A Married Couple

5 Ways To Do Facebook Wrong As A Married Couple

Facebook is a wonderful thing. That is, until it’s not.

The purpose of social networks is simple: to connect people to other people. Social networks weren’t necessarily intended to create relationships, but were designed support the relationships we already have. Facebook is great at helping you find that long lost friend from high school or that friend you played sports with growing up.

If you’re married, the way you relate to people other than your spouse is vitally important to your marriage. In 2011, one study showed that Facebook was named in ONE THIRD of divorce filings. That simply means that many of us are doing Facebook wrong.

If you’d like to do Facebook wrong too, here are five suggestions:

#1 – Check Facebook while you’re spending time together.

There’s nothing that says, “You’re valuable to me” like keeping your head down and staring at your phone. So… Take your phones to bed. Take them on dates. When your spouse tries to talk to you, just politely nod your head and ignore them. After all, you’ll post a picture of your meal with the hashtag #datenight, right?

#2 – Seek emotional support from your online community first.

You had a bad day? Tell Facebook first. You need some prayers? Ask Facebook first. Let your spouse learn about what’s happening with you by reading your posts like everyone else does on Facebook.

#3 – Shine a spotlight on your spouse’s failures.

Nothing says, “I love and honor you” like airing your dirty laundry publically!

Everyone makes mistakes, right? So when your spouse blows it, why not make it public knowledge by sharing it with your 734 friends on Facebook? Engage in an ongoing conversation with sympathizers about your plight, and make sure to tag your spouse so they can follow along!

Think about it, if you’ll tell Facebook that, what are you telling your friends at work?

#4 – Create posts to get the kind of attention your spouse should be giving you.

Everyone loves the “feel sorry for me” posts, right? Here’s an example: “I’ve had a bad day and no one seems to care.” That’ll get you attention and let everyone else know your spouse isn’t paying you the attention you deserve!

If that doesn’t work, you can go for the “I’m unappreciated” post. Here’s an example: “I cook and clean and take care of the kids. Don’t I deserve a ‘thank you’?” I’m sure you’re friends will give you a thank you!

Or… if you’re not feeling very attractive, post a picture that you feel makes you look good. If you’re a guy, go shirtless (if you can). If you’re a girl, a good #TBT to a beach picture where you’re in some swimwear should do. Then let your friends remind you that you are attractive!

#5 – Flirt with somebody.

Find an old fling, then like or comment on everything they post on Facebook. You could mention friends from work in your posts, tell how funny they are, or share how they’re so emotionally supportive. When someone you find attractive seems down or hits a rough spot, send them a polite little ‘pick me up’ message to remind them you care!

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I hope you’re not doing Facebook wrong, but many of us are. Getting it wrong is having a seriously negative impact on many marriages.

Getting Facebook wrong isn’t a disease; it’s a symptom of a greater problem. That disease is a lack of honor in our marriages.

Wives, honor your husbands as the person you want him to be, not as the person he is. You’ll see him in his most fragile and vulnerable state, and your response to that will play a huge role in your relationship. Honor nourishes that character of a man. As you honor him, watch him grown.

Husbands honor and protect your wives. Don’t humiliate them because of the failures. Don’t act in a way that makes her feel less important. Guard her heart and position in your life.

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What did I miss? How else can we get Facebook wrong?

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