The World Needs More Love Letters

Hannah Brencher is an incredible young lady I met at the Catalyst Conference who’s made a dream a reality. A lonely young professional lost in the urban jungle of New York City, Hannah began writing letters and leaving them around the city as a way to lift herself out of the depression she was struggling with. She wrote one blog about it with the simple note at the end, If you’re discouraged and need someone to write you a letter, please let me know. Before she knew it she had over 400 requests from complete strangers and the rest is history.

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More Love Letters is the movement that grew around her to use this simple medium of letter writing as a way to spread love and hope to others. Each week several people will be nominated to receive love letters, and then hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of strangers will write, pouring in love and affirmation when a person needs it most. If you go on the website, you’ll see that right now Janice is nominated. Here’s her story (nominated by her daughter):

“My dad is 62 and has been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimers and my mom is the sole caregiver. She is a pillar of strength, courage, and love. Even through this disease they never stop laughing with one another. My parents celebrated their 31st wedding anniversary this past July. Losing her husband slowly has been very hard on her but she manages to put a smile on everyday and is still quite the optimist! Even with the best support system I sometimes think she feels very alone.”

If you’re interested in writing a letter and joining a movement, go to More Love Letters. (https://moreloveletters.squarespace.com)

Catalyst Conference: Day 2

Catalyst Day 2 was just as amazing as Day 1. Some incredible talks were given that challenged my way of thinking and expanded my vision of what God can and wants to do through Mt Vernon church in Columbus, MS. Here are some of my favorite quotes from Day 2:

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Limited resources + willingness to fail + increasing passion = exponential innovation.” Craig Groeschel

Failure is an event, not a person. Don’t internalize it. You fail, but you’re not a failure.” Craig Groeschel

The church should be the safest place on the earth for students to talk about anything, including same-sex attraction.” Andy Stanley

The church must stop expecting outsiders to act like insiders while insiders act like outsiders.” Andy Stanley

Catalyst Conference: Day 1

So much great content! Like years past, sitting at Catalyst is like drinking from a fire hydrant: there’s too much to take in at once. Thankfully, I’ll be able to go back, process, and unpack what I learned today in months to come (of course stealing the best ideas and turning them into future sermon series). Here are some of my favorite quotes from Catalyst Day 1:

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You haven’t been called to change the world, but you’ve been called to change something.” Andy Stanley

Many years from now, what would you like people to line up to thank you for?” Sandra Stanley

We’ve got a bunch of Christians who want to change the world but not change themselves.” Christine Caine

Your sins will always present themselves as considerably smaller and less potent than they really are.” Tim Keller

There are things God wants to give you but won’t until you pray because you won’t know who they’re from.” John Calvin

I love science because it catches up with the Word of God.” Dr. Caroline Leaf

Comparison will constantly cloud the clarity of what God has called you to do.” Robert Madu

Your thoughts are public to the only one who really matters.” Matt Chandler

Quotes from Catalyst Pre-Labs

Yesterday I attended the Pre-Labs at Catalyst Conference Atlanta. As I’m waking up to attend day one of the conference, let me share some quotes from yesterday that struck me:

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Unless we seek God in radically different ways, the only thing we’re going to do in the next 50 years is manage the decline of Christianity in the Western world.” Jon Tyson on the topic of raising up a culture of leaders

How can a church transform a community if it doesn’t reflect the community?” Mark DeMayz on building a multi-ethnic church

We worship a place called ‘elsewhere.’ Elsewhere is a defense mechanism to keep our fists clenched.” Hannah Brencher on staying hungry in the digital age.

We no longer have to chase the right situation. All we have to do is chase the shepherd.” Carl Lentz on Psalm 23

Don’t get caught missing the supernatural because you’re chasing the spectacular.” Carl Lentz speaking to pastors

Great words! Can’t wait for this morning!

Why I Love Hanging Around Addicts

You’d never think that a “good church kid” from a staunch Southern Baptist background would willingly hang out with a bunch of addicts, but I do and I love it! More than that, it’s one of the favorite ministry things I get to do each month. Mt Vernon church works together with Recovery House (a local in-residence treatment facility) to help ladies battle drug and alcohol (and more and more prescription drug) addictions that are ruining their lives.

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Every Sunday a dozen of the ladies from phase one march into church two by two. For many of them, it’s the first time they’ve been in church in years, if not decades. Once a month I get to go out to Recovery House and spend two hours with these ladies, getting to know them and answering any spiritual questions they might have. Yesterday was my day to go to Recovery House, and I walked away (as always) reminding myself that it was for afternoons like this that I got into ministry.

Like most months, the current group of clients for Recovery House is a motley crue of broken and damaged lives: we had an exotic dancer, a preacher’s kid, and a mousy-faced, harmless-looking lady who was actually a murderer (she sat right next to me!). I learned about their stories, their hurts, their broken homes growing up (four of them grew up with parents who were addicts), their children, their divorces, their abuse. Being insulated for so long in the antiseptically clean environment of a Baptist church (not saying that hurt like this doesn’t go on in the church, just that we weren’t supposed to talk about it), it’s shocking to realize just how much brokenness exists in the world.

Here’s what I love about hanging out with a bunch of (recovering) addicts: the gospel shines so brilliantly against the backdrop of their broken lives. They are all hungry for religion, for someone or something greater. So I get to tell them about the Jesus of the New Testament, and there’s none of the arm-chair theologians, stiff-necked traditionalism that can sometimes obscure the beauty of Jesus. They are broken and hurting. Jesus is grace and truth. And they embrace him like the woman at the well or the blind man receiving his sight.

It’s fresh. It’s refreshing. It’s free from any church politics. It’s a group of sinners encountering and embracing Jesus. That will never get old!

5 Things God Uses to Grow Your Faith

Several years ago Andy Stanley preached a sermon series that has always stuck with me for its simplicity and practicality. Titled “Five Things God Uses to Grow Your Faith,” Stanley taught from his years of experience as a pastor, noting that when people told their story of faith and how God had grown their faith over the years, the things they shared all fell into one of five categories. Looking back over my own journey and talking with hundreds of others about their own, I see these same five things popping up all over the place. Here are the five things God uses to grow our faith:

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Practical Teaching – When you sit under someone who explains the Bible in practical ways, your faith grows. It could be a Bible study leader, a Christian professor, or a pastor. But a good and gifted teacher can help the Word come alive practically in your life.

Private Disciplines – When you begin to practice the private disciplines of Bible reading, prayer, fasting, tithing, etc., your faith will begin to grow. As you trust God and develop strong habits, your faith strengthens.

Personal Ministry – When you begin to serve others, whether it’s working at a homeless shelter, leading a small group or working on the host team, you’ll see your faith grow as God meets you at your point of service.

Pivotal Circumstances – There are moments, forks in the road, valleys of decision. Moments when you have to choose whether to trust God or go your own way. When you choose to trust God in those pivotal circumstances, your faith in God will skyrocket.

Providential Relationships – There are relationships that come into your life that, looking back, you would say were providential. That guy at work, that lady down the street, that grandmother who showed you what it meant to follow Christ. God regularly uses providential relationships to help grow our faith.

QUESTION: How has God used these five things to help grow your faith?