Below is the fourth sermon in our Underdogs series. Enjoy!
“What a big church!”
“What great preaching!”
“What amazing worship!”
“What great buildings!”
Those are all nice things a church can hear. But the other day I heard one of the best compliments our church could get. It came from an unchurched, unbelieving, alcoholic lesbian. I met her recently through the Recovery House, a local in-house rehabilitation facility (drug and alcohol addictions) that allows me to come and talk with the ladies there once a month. Every Sunday they make the journey to Mt Vernon church. 9:00 am, second row, every week.
As I was getting to know one of the new ladies there, she told me her story: she was born up north but raised in Mississippi. Her parents didn’t go to church and she went very sporadically growing up. Never considered herself a “believer.” She wrote church off for good eight years ago when she came out as a lesbian. Years go by and she decided to enter rehab to conquer an alcohol addiction that had grown out of control. Upon arriving to Recovery House she learned that the girls go to church every week. She freaked out a little and asked if she could get out of it. Everyone has to go to church, but she could sit in the van if she’d like.
Grudgingly, she made her way onto our campus for the first time two weeks ago. Naturally apprehensive, she told me how surprised she was that she actually liked it. It wasn’t like the other churches she visited growing up. The next Saturday night, talking to her parents on the phone, she caused their heads to turn on a swivel when she told them, “I’m actually looking forward to church tomorrow.”
Isn’t that great! She still has a long way to go. She’s not a believer (yet). She is in the beginning stages of conquering a difficult addiction. She has a lifestyle that doesn’t line up with traditional evangelical beliefs. And yet she feels comfortable enough at Mt Vernon to start exploring a relationship with God. I’ll take that kind of compliment (and those kinds of people) any day!
Pastor David Platt succeeds Tom Eliff as IMB President – here’s the new leader of the Southern Baptist missions effort.
What the ALS Challenge Taught Me about Life – great perspective on the challenge that’s sweeping the nation.
Why I Turn My iPhone Notifications Off & You Should Too – I believe this! I turned most of my notifications off a long time ago.
Census Figures Show More Than One-Third of Americans Receiving Welfare Benefits – This won’t end well for us.
20 Reasons College Football is Better Than the NFL – I don’t buy into this as a rabid Saints fan, but it’s still a good article.
It’s eye opening to experience first hand the innocence of youth. Recently a new family moved into our neighborhood. They have boys. That’s a good thing. There are currently 10 boys (now 12) in our neighborhood that play together, roaming around like Hell’s Angels on their Huffys and Schwinns. My oldest, Zeke (7), befriended one of the new boys and came home one day and told me, “[My friend] is so lucky, he has a stepdad!” Record scratch, head jerked sideways, “What you talkin’ about Willis?”
I asked him what he meant. Apparently when Zeke was asking his new friend about his parents, he was told he lived with his mom and stepdad. Zeke had never heard of a stepdad before. What was that? It was like another dad that he lived with. So Zeke told me, “He’s lucky he has a stepdad because when one dad goes to work, the other one gets to stay home and play with him.” Wouldn’t it be great if it worked out like that?
I had what we call in the business “a teachable moment” and got to introduce my 7-year-old my the finer intricacies of divorce. Afterwards, Zeke didn’t think his new friend was so lucky. The whole episode reminded me of the simplicity of what marriage is supposed to be. One man, one woman, together for life. That’s what our kids are born expecting. We’re the ones who mess things up.
12 years strong married to Zeke’s mom (and my wife). With every power of my being, I never want Zeke to ever have to walk through a divorce first-hand. I never want him to have a stepdad.
Every Monday at 10 am, the pain comes. As crazy as it sounds, it’s good pain. It’s the pain I asked for. It’s time for the weekly worship service evaluation. Each week Mt Vernon’s creative leadership team sits down and rips apart the previous Sunday’s worship services. We nitpick stuff that most people don’t even notice: Was the service intentional? Were the transitions smooth? Did we achieve excellence? Was hope made tangible?
The first part is easy: we talk about the music. Song selection, notes missed, transitions. What did we get right? What could we have done better? It’s easy for me to pick apart someone else’s job performance. It’s all done in an effort to get better at what we do. The music’s the easy part. Then they get to the sermon. I’ll be honest: it hurts. I work hard each week to craft a sermon that engages and effectively communicates truth from God’s word. I labor over illustrations, applications, and an occasional one-liner just to keep things interesting. I always get the expected “amens” and “well done preacher’s” from the crowd on the way out. So why do I subject myself to the service review? Because I want to get better. As tempting as it is to hide behind the cloak of spirituality and assume that since I’m preaching for God every sermon is going to be a home run, I know better. I went too long in one area, I failed to adequately explain the main point I was trying to get across. Laying my work bare before others is never enjoyable, but I do it because I want to get better. I walked away from yesterday’s meeting with my sermon relatively intact, but more importantly, with an incredible piece of advice that will help me get better. Even if no one notices the results, I’m glad I subject myself to this every Monday.
I’ve got a morning routine. I drop off my oldest son at school each weekday, then I stop by my gym just down the street for a quick workout before heading to the office. I’ll spend ten minutes on the elliptical, partly to get a good heart rate going, but really it’s an excuse to watch last night’s monologue from the Tonight Show on my smart phone.
I never used to watch the Tonight Show. No disrespect to Jay Leno, but I just didn’t connect with him. Since taking over, Jimmy Fallon has taken the Tonight Show to new heights, leading in the traditional Nielson ratings as well as online ratings. Always trying to learn from others, here are five things I’ve learned from Jimmy Fallon (and what the church can learn too):
1. The core remains the same. From Johnny Carson to Jay Leno to Jimmy Fallon, the core remains the same: entertainment and making people laugh. For the church, whether it’s traditional, contemporary, liturgical or charismatic, the core should remain the same: leading people to follow and worship Jesus.
2. Jimmy Fallon brought a 20th century show into the 21st century. Many of the elements that Jay Leno did rolled over into Jimmy Fallon’s tenure, just with new names. Jay’s monologue was “what’s in the news.” Since many young people don’t watch the news, Jimmy uses the phrase “Here’s what people are talking about,” referencing the importance of social media. Jay Leno did a bit called “Headlines,” where people sent in funny advertisements from the newspaper. Jimmy does “Screengrabs,” where people pull funny photos off their computer. The essence remains the same, just updated for a new generation. It’s the same essence behind “worship wars,” updating worship music to a style that connects with a younger generation.
3. Jimmy Fallon makes the show interactive. One of Jimmy’s most successful bits is called “Hashtags,” where he sends out a hashtag on Twitter and allows viewers to send in funny tweets with the hope of making it on the air. Today’s generation doesn’t want to simply watch a performance, they want to interact and feel like they’re taking part in what’s going on. This should inform how a pastor preaches and interacts with the crowd during his message. I’ve recently started using YouVersion’s “Live Event” option on their Bible app for their sermon notes, which allows members to take notes, go to church web links and answer questions in real time.
4. Jimmy doesn’t just talk to guests, he plays with them. The traditional late night format was to interview a number of guests with a musical number at the end. Some of Jimmy’s most searched for web clips are of him playing with guests, whether it’s catchphrase with Artie Lange, pictionary with Wiz Kalifa, or a kayak race with Cameron Diaz. The audience loves to see Jimmy and celebrities play together. In churches, we’ve lost the element of fun. While it should never overpower the reverence of worship, there’s nothing wrong with a little fun in church. It’s an incredible way to break down walls and build community.
5. Jimmy Fallon genuinely enjoys what he’s doing, and you can’t help but get caught up in his boyish enthusiasm. In a world of fakeness, Jimmy is the real deal. He loves what he does, and you can’t help but get swept up in it. As a pastor, your enthusiasm, your passion, your enjoyment of what you do each week will be broadcast loud and clear to your audience. You can’t manufacture it. You can’t fake it. If you genuinely love what you do and who you’re doing it with, people will naturally be drawn to it.
QUESTION: What else can the church learn from Jimmy Fallon?
Watch below for the third installment of our Underdogs series (preached 8.17.14)
4 Things Every Husband Needs to Hear Daily – read this ladies!
What Made the Situation in Ferguson Escalate So Quickly? – sobering words.
How To Kiss Like You Mean It – for married couples!
Don’t Let Your Comfort Zone Kill Your Church – great words!
What Writers Can Learn From ‘Goodnight Moon’ – I read ‘Goodnight Moon’ to my boys at least twice a week!
Last night at The Conversation (our mid-week adult Bible study) we talked about how to practically stop the bad habits that are destroying our lives. Those bad habits may be: bitterness, lack of exercise, poor eating, viewing pornography, or overspending (to name a few). While many people think the answer is pure willpower, modern neuroscience shows that to be false.
In a fascinating article, John Ortberg applies modern science to spiritual discipleship, saying “Most of the time, a change of behavior requires the acquisition of new habits. Willpower and conscious decision have very little power over what we do.” The way our brains our wired, our habits create “ruts” in our neural pathways. Call it muscle memory. Once an action becomes a habit, it’s a rut in your mind that’s very hard to get out of. Practically speaking, the only way to change is to create new ruts, new habits. That’s how our brains work.
With that, I shared a few small habits we can begin that can help us create new ruts in our life.
12 Small Things You Can Do to Create New Ruts
- Set your alarm 20 minutes earlier. (get more accomplished).
- Lay out exercise clothes before you go to sleep. (get more exercise).
- Have a curfew and stick to it. (nothing productive happens after 9 pm).
- Take the television out of your bedroom. (robs too much sleep).
- Cancel cable/satellite television. (television is pure distraction, doesn’t make you better).
- Put your phone in a kitchen drawer when you come home. (be present with your family).
- Make the Bible the first and last thing you read each day. (make your mind dwell on Word).
- Listen to the Bible on YouVersion during your commute. (use quiet moments to dwell on Word).
- Keep a journal. (helps you reassess. Gives you perspective. Forces you to slow down and evaluate where you are).
- Buy a stack of thank you notes and leave them out as a reminder to write at least one a week. (habit of thankfulness)
- Write out a budget and keep track of every dollar you spend each month. (fiscal responsibility).
- Join a small group. (relational community).
QUESTION: What other habits would you add?
In this short clip, I talk about keeping the negative labels you carry from defining you.