Environments Matter at Church

6.12.14At Mt Vernon, we are ridiculously committed to creativity and excellence in all of our environments, but especially our Sunday morning worship experience. For each sermon series, we’ll change up the look of the stage: the lighting, the background, the props, etc. This was made possible by sinking some financial (and political) capital into upgrading our worship center to be able to transform from series to series. Why do we spend so much time and energy on our stage? Because we believe that environments matter at church.

An environment sets the mood. It captures the attention. If done well, it communicates to the church that the leadership is constantly striving for excellence and willing to put in the hard work to get there. The basic format of church hasn’t changed in centuries: sanctuary + pews/chairs + singing + preaching = worship service. Some say that the “gospel is enough,” that church leaders don’t need to be creative. The gospel definitely is enough, but church leaders can sometimes use this reasoning as an excuse for lethargy and laziness.

So, for the new series on Ephesians we started on Sunday, we changed up the stage. I’m biased, but I think we nailed it (I can brag because I didn’t do it!). Wanting to immerse ourselves in the book of Ephesians this summer, we took chalk and literally wrote the book of Ephesians on the walls behind the stage (picture above). Add some cool lighting, and you have an environment that immediately captured the attention of everyone walking in the door. But more than just a gimmick, this artwork literally highlights the theme verse for the series, Ephesians 4:1. (By the way, total price less than $10. We just paid for the chalk).

When we leverage our God-given creativity to draw people to Christ, it makes it all worth it. Our worship center is fifty years old. Two years ago we took a step of faith and radically redesigned and updated the interior. On Sundays like this, we can literally see why it’s all worth it.

QUESTION: What’s the most creative thing you’ve ever seen at a church?

How a Playdate Can Change a Life

It’s the little things that can change a life. A few weeks ago at Mt Vernon Church, we had the privilege of baptizing Jennifer. What I love about her story is how it all hinged on a divinely appointed playdate with a Christian that changed her perspective on God. Keep doing the little things, and watch God turn our everyday obedience into the miraculous.

Why You Need to Attend the Chick-fil-A Leadercast

3.6.13

Jack Welch – former CEO of General Electric

Mike Krzyzewski – head basketball coach of Duke University, winningest men’s basketball coach in NCAA history

John C. Maxwell – best-selling author and leadership expert

Condoleeza Rice – former Secretary of State

Andy Stanley – pastor of North Point Community Church

Sanya Richards-Ross – 2012 London Summer Olympic Games gold medalist

These speakers, plus many more, will be at the Chick-fil-A Leadercast on May 10, 2013. If you’re a leader of any age, this Leadercast is designed to inspire and equip you to reach your God-given potential as a leader. Mt Vernon Church is proud to host this event as a simulcast on our campus. So, instead of traveling to Atlanta, simply buy a ticket from us and attend the Leadercast live from Columbus, MS. Click here to purchase tickets for this event.

Watch this short video to get an idea of what the Chick-fil-A Leadercast will be like. Hope to see you there!

http://vimeo.com/51513639

7 Things I Wish I Could Tell Every High Schooler


1.10.13I recently had the privilege of speaking to our teenagers at Mt Vernon Church. In that talk I shared “7 Things I Wish I Could Tell Every High Schooler.” Here are the seven things:

1. Once you graduate from high school, you’ll be amazed at how little you care about those high school friends you spent so much time trying to impress. I guarantee you, you’ll look back at all those hours wasted trying to impress the ‘cool kids’ as wasted time. Don’t give into peer pressure to impress people you won’t really care about five years from now.

2. Drinking doesn’t mean you’re cool; it just means you have a problem making dumb decisions. The alcohol industry spends $2 billion a year in advertising getting people to drink. Why? Because they want you to become addicted (which means more money for them). If you’ve got a mom or a dad who drinks too much, I know that you don’t think it’s very cool that they’re wasted all the time. But I guarantee you, they probably thought they were the ‘cool kids’ in high school because they broke the rules. Don’t go down that path. It’s not worth it. 

3. 98% of your high school relationships won’t last past college. The average marrying age (in MS) is 26 for guys, 25 for girls. Chances are that your high school relationship won’t be the person that you marry. So don’t act like you’re married! Don’t ditch your friends, don’t change who you are. Most importantly, don’t give up pieces of yourself that you intend to save for your real spouse one day.

4. Every sexual mistake you make now destroys intimacy with your future spouse. I know you’re curious, I know you’re tempted, and I know that all those Hollywood actors make pre-marital sex seem cool, but don’t do it. I’ve counseled with hundreds of teens who’ve made sexual mistakes. ALL of them regret it. How many people do you want your future spouse to sleep with before they get to you? Then behave in the same way.

5. You’ll start acting like an adult when you want to. Adulthood is a choice. Adulthood is not automatic. You don’t become an adult when you turn 18, 21 or even 30. You become an adult when you start acting like it. The myth of adolescence has lured generations of Americans to waste decades of their lives. I know some 14-year-olds that are more mature than 35-year-olds. Adulthood is a choice.

6. The most important ingredient to getting ahead in life is hard work. It’s really that simple. Most people don’t have the determination and discipline to see things through. So that I don’t get lumped in with a former presidential candidate, I won’t say that 47% of Americans are lazy, but the principle behind those remarks isn’t that far off. If you want to get ahead in life, work hard. Most people aren’t willing to put the time and energy into it, leaving more for you.

7. God wants to use you RIGHT NOW to change your world. Many of the world’s revivals have been started by teenagers. Who says the next one can’t be started by you? I love what 1 Timothy 4:12 says, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.” Live that out, and watch what God does through you.

The Power of Knowing a Name

12.17.12Here’s part of an email our church recently received, “Thank you for making us feel so welcomed, we have been enjoying the church services and my heart is so happy that my children are also enjoying it too!” This is from a family who’s recently attended and has decided to make Mt Vernon their church home. What helped make the difference? We knew their names.

This family came late to our 10:30 service, dropping their kids off and slipping in before anyone could properly greet them. But our staff are highly trained welcoming ninjas. They will not let a new couple go away ungreeted! At the end of the service, while our Worship Pastor was closing out the service, one of our staff informed me that we had a new couple that came in late, but we didn’t know their names. They had kids, however, that they had registered in our children’s environments. Checkmate.

I quickly walked over to our children’s environment, got the names of the kids and the parents when they registered. By the time they came to pick them up, I was ready for them. I greeted them by name and talked with them for about five minutes. They couldn’t get out of our building without two or three other couples coming up and introducing themselves.

Two weeks later, they were back. This time to stay. They’ve found their home at Mt Vernon. Once we knew their name, they were family. Do whatever you have to do to learn someone’s name.

QUESTION: Has knowing someone’s name ever helped you connect someone with your church?

Image courtesy of www.freedigitalphotos.net

What Your Wedding Vows Were Really Like

If you missed church this weekend at Mt Vernon Church, then you missed a faux wedding for the ages! When you walked into our worship center for the services, you encountered ushers wearing tuxedo tshirts, Pachelbel’s Canon in D playing lightly over the speakers, and the stage decked out for a wedding.

After choosing either the bride’s or groom’s side, you watched as the wedding party made it down the aisle, until it was just me (as the minister) and our bride and groom to be. At this point, you didn’t know what to think. “Are they really putting on a wedding during church?” “This is Mt Vernon. What are they up to?” “Will there be punch and cake afterwards?”

Those questions went unanswered, until the vows came. That was the ruse. Instead of the mushy, well-intended but poorly followed through vows we usually hear, we inserted some more realistic vows. This tongue-in-cheek look at wedding vows was a hilarious introduction to our marriage series we’re currently doing at Mt Vernon. Thanks Church on the Move for the incredible idea! Below is the transcript from the wedding. Enjoy the vows!

TWO BECOME ONE

MINISTER The vows you are about to take should be taken with caution and with much consideration of their content. Please turn and face each other. Bryan place the ring on Danielle’s hand and repeat these vows after me. I Bryan take you Danielle.

BRYAN I Bryan, take you Danielle.

MINISTER To be my lawfully wedded starter wife. (repeat) For better and better.(Repeat) For richer as we go into debt.(repeat) As long as you stay skinny. (repeat) I promise to yell at you. (repeat) To ignore and neglect you. (repeat) to compare you to other women.(repeat) From this day forward. (repeat) I promise to be faithful to you. (repeat) Until I convince the girl at work to get with me. (repeat) Til’ divorce do us part.(repeat) Now Danielle place the ring on Bryan’s hand and repeat after me. I Danielle take you Bryan.

DANIELLE I Danielle take you Bryan.

MINISTER To be my starter husband.(repeat) From this day forward. As we try this out for a while. (repeat) To join with you as long as I can manipulate you.(repeat)  To demean you.(repeat) and tear you down in front of my friends.(repeat) To despise you. (repeat)I promise to be faithful to you.(repeat) As long as you make a ton of money. (repeat) I am completely yours (repeat) most of the time. (repeat) Til’ divorce do us part. (repeat)

You have made this commitment hoping that you would be one of the lucky couples in which their marriage  would actually work. That you would be able to tolerate each other for a lifetime, and I admire your ambition. As witnesses we are honored to share this moment with you  and we wish you the best of luck even though the chances are really only 50/50. Because of the promise you have made to each other today I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss the bride.

How Your Marriage Can Survive Your Kids

It never happens intentionally. You marry your spouse because they’re the only one for you. It will be you and her against the world. You and him, together forever. There’s lots of romance, quiet strolls together, weekends spent exploring the world.

And it’s just the two of you . . . until there are three, or four, or five. Kids. Kids are the joyful fruit of a marriage, but they can quickly erode the marriage if you’re not careful. Funny thing about kids, they’ll suck up every waking moment of your day, if you let them. They want to be held, coddled, loved, changed, walked, soothed. They’ll climb in bed with you in the middle of the night. They’ll want you to do everything with them. They’re not intentionally trying to drive you crazy. They’re just being kids.

If you’re married with kids, you know the tension. You know the difficulty of trying to be intimate with your spouse when you’ve got a two-year-old sleeping in between you. You know the frustration of having a rare quiet moment with your spouse interrupted by a screaming child. You know the feeling of exhaustion after a full day at work and home, giving yourself to your job and your kids, leaving nothing for your spouse. What started as a relationship of love can unintentionally erode into a loveless partnership of necessity as you try and raise kids together. Instead of thriving as a couple, you’re trying to simply survive. Your spouse becomes your roommate.

If there was an easy way out of this scenario, someone would have written a book on it and sold a million copies by now. There’s no magical solution, but here are a few things you can do:

  1. Pray with your spouse everyday. For your marriage to survive your kids, you’ll need the power of God like never before. Ask him for it. Constantly. Praying with your spouse everyday will do wonders for your marriage. Try it.
  2. Prioritize your marriage over your kids. As harsh as this might sound, your kids need a strong marriage to look up to. Studies have continuously shown that kids raised in households with a strong marriage tend to do better in life than those that don’t. If you love your kids and want them to succeed, don’t focus on them primarily. Don’t sacrifice your marriage on the altar of your kids.
  3. Don’t let your kids dictate your day. Sure, kids will take up a good portion of your dayess m, but don’t let them set the schedule. If you do, they’ll get you for every waking moment. Someone has to set a schedule for your family. Don’t let it be your kids.
  4. Date your spouse. Just because you won their heart once doesn’t mean your work is over. However you have to do it, date your spouse. Don’t take their affection for granted. Date them. Date them regularly. Don’t feel bad about dumping the kids off on a babysitter. They’ll be fine. For you and your spouse to make it, you need to date each other, regularly.

For those that go to Mt Vernon Church, this coming Friday we’re having an event designed to help marriages. Called Table for Two, it’s an opportunity for parents to drop their kids off at the church and go on a date with each other. It sounds simple, but if you have kids, you know how rare it is. Date your spouse, and your marriage can survive your kids.