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What You Focus On Matters

What You Focus On Matters

Have you ever found yourself at that moment where your kids were doing something absurdly cute or ridiculously funny?

What do we do? We grab our phones and try to take a picture, don’t we?

More times than not something goes wrong with the picture for me: my fingers get in the way, the camera doesn’t focus on time, or the moment passes.

I think life is a lot like that.

Life is a beautiful journey. We’re surrounded by so much good and get to encounter so much in life that is purely wonderful, it’s impossible not to be struck by the simple beauty of life itself.

It’s also easy to miss it.

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It’s Lonely

It’s Lonely

During this blog series, I’ve shared what I didn’t know about planting a church when I started the adventure to plant Vortex Church in Albemarle, NC.

Most guys who strike out to start a church come from a similar context to me: they were on staff at a church doing something awesome for Jesus.

It’s so easy to overlook something that’s obvious: when you’re on staff at a church you’re typically surrounded with significant relationships. To be on staff at a church, the church would need to be larger in nature. There’s a large pool for relationships. From that, most church planters live in a significant community prior to their transition.

That was my story. We had fully integrated into the community we lived. We had a ton of friends in our church and outside of our church.

I played kickball in a league in our city with a bunch of people who never went to church, and I loved it. I played golf with men from our church on a regular basis at their invitation. I had coffees and lunch meetings with people that I was mentoring and leading.

Life was full of significant relationships.

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It’s Harder Than You Think

It’s Harder Than You Think

Anything worth doing is not going to be easy.

That’s the truth in life, and that’s the truth in church planting.

As I coach other church planters, I’ve noticed that that are a lot of us that approach this without a lot of respect for the work it’s going to take to sustain a move of God.

Throughout history, all great moves of God have been a lot of work for the people involved. In the mid-19th century, the great preacher Charles Finney led revivals throughout the US in what became known as the Second Great Awakening. During that time whole communities would be converted into active believers.

Before Finney led revival meetings in towns, he oversaw massive efforts of prayer networks throughout the communities. This methodology would later be replicated by Billy Graham Ministries in his crusades.

Too often we’re caught looking at the harvest, and neglect to understand the work that it took to sow the seed and prepare the field.

Here are a few observations on the work of planting a church…

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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 happens 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 on this journey, but planting a church is a journey filled with pain.

Here are a few observations on how it hurts…

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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.

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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.

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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?

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!

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