Is This a Compliment or a Put-Down About Our Church?

Recently the staff at Mt Vernon got together and talked about who we’d met the previous Sunday. It’s a common occurrence for us, trying to keep up with names and faces as they come in. But I got tickled (yes, tickled. I never got tickled before moving to the South but apparently that’s what we do down here) when one of my staff told me about someone they met. After she finished describing the encounter she said:

10.14.14

 

“And I could tell that they were new to Mt Vernon.”

My response: “How could you tell they were new?”

She said, “Oh I could tell they were new because they dressed up nice and brought their Bibles!”

At that point I got officially tickled. I love it! How do you know who stands out? Look for the ones dressed up in their Sunday best with their oversized Bibles in their hands! Now, many well meaning Christians might take this as a put-down of our church, but I take it as a compliment. We intentionally dress down, like a family reunion, because for us formality is a barrier to relationships. Informality breeds community. Part of that informality is the fact that when our sermons (which are obviously very biblically-based) are preached, the Scripture is available on the worship guides, on the screen, and on our YouVersion Bible app live event. We don’t care how they get into the Word, as long as they’re in it.

We have over 60 Baptist churches in a thirty mile radius aiming for the dressed up Christians with the Bibles in their hands. Mt Vernon is going for the rest of the population: the dechurched and unchurched who are still seeking God but are burned by and/or skeptical of organized religion. When my staff member made this comment, I realized that for better or for worse, we’d hit our mark. The super-church-looking folks stand out in our crowd. Amen!

QUESTION: What do you think? Is this a compliment or a put-down for our church?

7 Things I Love About the YouVersion Bible App

9.23.14Several years ago Lifechurch.tv released a free Bible app that has revolutionized how people interact with Scripture. It’s the most downloaded Bible app out there, and there are some incredible features that can strengthen your own walk with Jesus. Here are some of my favorites:

 

1. You can listen to Scripture. On several of the translations available, including the NIV (which is my translation of choice), there’s a megaphone icon at the bottom. If you’re on your daily commute to work, you can listen to Scripture while driving. Listening (as opposed to reading) is a different way to intake Scripture. It’s great!

2. The Bible is always with you. Since I’ve got the YouVersion Bible app on my phone, and my phone is always with me, the Bible is always with me. As much as I still read and use the printed Bible, you’ve got to admit that a phone is a lot easier to fit into your pocket!

3. You can take online notes with YouVersion Live. There’s a “live” button within the app where you can search for churches near you that use the app to communicate sermon notes. Mt Vernon has been using it the past few months and people are loving it. There are several interactive features you can use within the “Live” option to get an audience to participate more than ever!

4. You can follow others. Like most social media sites, you can follow other people on YouVersion. When people read a Scripture or make a note, you get a notification. If you’re separated physically from close friends, you can still share in a spiritual journey together through YouVersion.

5. They have reading plans. A lot of folks want to be in Scripture more but don’t know where to start. YouVersion has a multitude of Bible reading plans that can help you get into the Word on a more consistent basis.

6. You can highlight and take notes. I used to highlight my Bible and take notes in it, which was a great way for me to remember things God taught me through Scripture. The hardest part of replacing a Bible was losing all the handwritten notes. With the YouVersion Bible app, you can take online notes that will stay with you forever!

7. It’s free! Lifechurch.tv could have made a ton of money off of this app, but they made the decision early on to make it free to the world. It actually costs them each year to maintain it and improve it. It’s their way of blessing the world and helping people get into the Word. It’s free (and always will be). Take advantage of it and download it today!

Five for Friday (7.18.14)

5Here are five great articles to keep you thinking through the weekend! Go to church (somewhere) this Sunday!

Balancing Justice and Mercy in Immigration Reform – A great perspective on this divisive topic.

Catalyst’s Brad Lomenick on Secret to Success – Great interview with the guy who helped build the Catalyst Conference, a conference I look forward to going to every year.

The Road to Jericho & the Border Crisis – Another strong perspective on the border crisis from the top Baptist mind on the subject.

The Pastor’s Wife Who Went Crazy – Amazing first-person perspective on mental illness.

Why Are So Many Christians Afraid of Hollywood Bible Movies? – With more and more Bible epics coming out, this is a good word.

BONUS Video – For the guys, a history of hair fashion over the past 100 years.

Why Attending Church Can Be Hazardous To Your Health

7.15.14Maybe you did it Sunday. Woke up, got the kids looking decent, scrambled out the door a little late, snuck into the church service a few songs into it, but at least you didn’t miss the main part (the sermon). Maybe you stay for the last song, maybe you sneak out early to beat the traffic (or just to avoid another awkward conversation with “Sister Betty”). In and out. Smooth. Clean. Hazardous to your health.

I would make the argument that attending church can be hazardous to your spiritual health. You attend shows. You attend ball games. You’re not supposed to attend church. When you attend something, you sit and watch as a spectator. If you like it, you offer some applause, perhaps you pay to get in or make a donation, but that’s as far as your involvement and commitment go.

The picture we see of the early church is just the opposite. They didn’t just attend church services, they did life together. They broke bread in each others homes. They got involved in each other’s lives. They gave to those in need. They sacrificed for each other. They practiced biblical community. They were the church for each other.

There is a difference:

  • Attending church is about you. Being the church is about us.
  • Attending church is about getting. Being the church is about giving back.
  • Attending church is about meeting your needs. Being the church is about also meeting the needs of others.
  • Attending church is about being entertained. Being the church realizes that you’re not the audience, God is.
  • Attending church stays skin deep. Being the church goes deep into the lives of those around you.
  • Attending church will eventually dry up your soul. Being the church will enrich your soul and those around you.
  • Attending church is easy. Being the church takes work.
  • Attending church is optional. Being the church is not.

Don’t settle for attending church this Sunday. Be the church.

7 Things You Can Do To Make This Week Different

7.14.14Small things can make a big difference. If you want this week to be a little (or a lot) different than last week, here are some small things that could have a big impact on your week.

1). Set your alarm (or set your alarm 30 minutes earlier). If your morning is a frantic last-minute race to get out of the house to get to work, or if you have the mornings off and like to see how long you can sleep in, change things up. Get up earlier, don’t be frantic and stressed before you even leave the house. Don’t sleep in. Decide that you want to be productive this week.

2). Declare a “TV Free” day. Pick a day where the tv doesn’t come on all day. Choose to let something else besides the media influence your thoughts and actions. Read a book, play a game, just keep the tv off.

3). Listen to the Bible on audio. As you’re on your commute, as you’re doing things around the house, plug in those earbuds and listen to the audio Bible on free apps like YouVersion. See what happens when you allow words of truth to wash over you and settle on your soul.

4). Exercise. Yes, you know you need to do it, so do it! Get out and go to the gym. Walk around the neighborhood. Do something. As you take care of your physical health, your mental, emotional, and spiritual health will benefit as well.

5). Help someone accomplish something. To momentarily break the power of selfishness, choose to help someone else accomplish something they need. Help them with yard work. Help them finish a project. Do something intentionally for someone else and not you.

6). Don’t be a slave to lists. Just live!