Well, Now What?

September 20, 2011 by cloften  
Filed under Bible, Church and Leadership

That is perhaps the most important question that should follow any sermon.  If what we have just heard and talked about doesn’t make any difference in our lives 5 minutes later, then we have wasted time. The hearing of God’s word should propel us to be different people, more like Jesus in what we do and in who we are.

We have spent the past four weeks talking about who God is calling us to be as a church.  We’ve summarized this into four words–Worship, Reach, Grow and Send.

God has called us to:

Worship him with our lives.

Reach people who are far from God.

Grow deep in our relationships with Him.

Send people into the world with the gospel.

Each week, we took a moment and talked about the “Now what?” Hopefully, there were a few different moments when you heard God nudge you:  “You need to do more than sing on Sunday. You need to worship me with your whole heart.”  “That person at work who is hurting, walk over to them and talk to them.”  “Spend more time in the Bible, hearing what God has to say to you.”  “Step out of your comfort zone and serve the needy in your community.”

Now that the series is over, I’d like to give you 3 more “Now whats.”  Three things that we as a church need to be committed to if we are going to see God move in a powerful way in our lives, our church, our community and our world.

1) Pray.  None of the incredible things that have happened at The Grove Church happened because of great planning.  In fact, much of it happened in spite of mediocre planning.  God has been moving.  We want to continue to see him move in our church.  We need The Grove body to pray.  Pray that God will reach the lost, grow us closer to him and send us out into the world.  This will take us all working together, but without God moving among us, it won’t matter.

2) Serve.  Find a place where God can you use your gifts, talents and passions.  You have a role to play.  God has placed you here, you specifically.  Don’t for one second believe that the mission that God has called us to will be achieved by the staff and a select few leaders.  It will happen when each one of us finds a place to serve.  So find a place on the Dream Team.  Serve in local ministries.  Take the gospel to an unreached people.  When we all “do the good works which He has prepared for us,” we will see God do something amazing. (Eph. 2:10)

3) Give.  I truly believe that the mission that God has given us as His church and His followers is worth giving your life to.  When God uses you to make a difference in the lives of other people, you will experience a closeness and fulfillment that maybe you never have before.  It is going to take each one of us, not only serving, but giving financially as well.  As God continues to reach more people through us, draws more families and students, the needs in the church will continue to grow.  The more people God sends out into the world, the more opportunities we will have as a church to support them.  That takes money.  Prayerfully consider what you are giving and join together with us to watch God change the world through us.

It is a privilege to serve alongside you.  These last 14 months have been incredible.  The next 14 years will be even more so.

Obligatory Cheesy Parenting Post on One of My Daughter’s Birthday

September 13, 2011 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

Can one of my daughter’s have a birthday and me not have some kind of sappy parenting post reflecting on how old they are getting?  Hmmm, no.

Our baby girl turned 11 yesterday. (Based on Lauren’s birthday party 11 is louder than 10. Boom! Dated, but still cool, reference! See below.)  Now that we have a soon to be 14 year old and 11 year old, I have officially turned into one of those guys.  You’re minding your own business, talking about your one year old and then I say, “You know, you’ll turn around one day and suddenly they will be 14.”  Yep, I’m that guy now.  Sorry.

It did happen very quickly.  I feel like I was paying attention.  I was there the whole time.  Then suddenly my 3 yr old and 6 yr old (that’s how old they are in my mind) are 11 and 13.

“So other than being sappy, what you got for us?”

1) Time is precious.  They will only be babies for a little while.  Toddlers for a little while.  Kids for a little while.

2) So make the most of it.  You will not look back in 25 years and think, “I wish I had watched more football” or “I wish I had taken a little more ‘me’ time.”  You will think, “I wish I would have sat on the floor and played more dorky games.”

3) Remember that them getting older is kinda the point.  You are raising them.  You are launching them.  Are you helping them become mature, godly adults? Or are they just getting older?

I love those girls so much, and somewhere there’s a “that guy” who wants to tell me that I’ll turn around again and I’ll be walking them down an aisle to marry some punk, that has a black-eye that I gave him.  I know, and I want to make the most of the time that I have in order to prepare them as best I can for those moments when they come.

Swimming in the Deep End

September 12, 2011 by cloften  
Filed under Bible, Church and Leadership

Lauren was just a little over a year and a half (turned 11 today) when her mom took her and her 4 year old sister to the neighborhood pool in Twin Chimneys where we had just moved.  She set Lauren down to get Maylee’s floaties set on her when she heard the big splash.  She turned around and Lauren had run and jumped in.  Now with her arms and legs flailing as fast as they could go, she is “swimming.”  Heidi quickly jumps in after her and pulls her out.  As she is pulling her out, Lauren is excitedly (Let’s not get confused here.  She was neither scared nor nervous this entire time.  Mom was.  Lauren was not.) repeating, “I swim. I swim. I swim.”

And so it was with Lauren Loften her entire life to date.  She always wanted to be able to swim, by herself, no life jacket, no floaties, nothing (Ultimately, Heidi had to make the decision to put the lifejacket on Lauren at the house, before we even got into the van to drive to the pool.  No chances.  She would have done it again.).  She also wanted to swim in the deep end.  She didn’t understand that rope and why other people got to swim on the other side of it and she didn’t.  Her goal, as with a lot of kids, was to swim in the deep end.

And why not?  It’s where everything is just a little bit better.  You can do more stuff.  You can dive, you can swim down to the bottom, it’s just better.

(Sudden shift) But what if everyone who was capable of  swimming in the deep end, exclusively swam in the deep end?  No one ever left and went to the shallow end.  What would happen?  No one new would ever learn to swim.  Experts could get better, but no one else would learn.  Who teaches new people to swim?  People who already know how.  (Wow, that is deep.  Is this going somewhere?  Yes.)

In part 3 of our vision series, we talked about how God wants us to grow.  He wants us to become more like his son, Jesus.  We want God to change what we believe and our character.  Ultimately, he wants to do this so that, like Jesus, we can lay our lives down for other people.  We are “blessed to be a blessing.”  We grow to help others grow.  We learn so we can teach.

I believe that God does want us to enjoy the “deep end.”  He wants us to have and enjoy all the benefits of being close to him.  He wants us to be strong swimmers so we can navigate the waves of life.  But in addition to all of that, he very much wants us to give our lives away to those who need help–physical, spiritual, emotional help.

There is something inherently selfish in the hearts of those of us who believe that we grow and draw close to God simply for our own benefit. He wants to GROW you so he can SEND (next week) you into the world, because he wants to change the world through you.

Philippians 2

Imitating Christ’s Humility

1 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Thinning Out the Middle

September 6, 2011 by cloften  
Filed under Bible, Church and Leadership

No, no, no this is not a weight loss post.  I could use a little thinning out in the middle, but this post will be a little more metaphorical than that.

We have now done 3 services for 2 weeks.  It has been a lot of fun.  It has, of course, also been tiring, but it’s definitely a good kind of tired.  Anywho, we weren’t really sure what the crowds would be like from service to service going into it.  We were pretty sure that 1st would be the smallest, but we didn’t know about the 2nd and 3rd.

Through 2 weeks, the first service has been about half the size of the 2nd service with the 3rd service being somewhat in between.  This last Sunday, we had standing room only at the 10:00 service.  That makes for great energy in the room, but doesn’t make for great opportunities for new people to find a good place to connect in the long term.  We want to keep making room for newer people.  Most new people will visit at 10:00.

So…we need to thin out the middle service and move to the outer services.  If you can make it to 8:30, please do.  It is certainly the earliest, and for the most people, the hardest one to get to.  If we can make room for newer, less engaged people at 10:00, by coming at 8:30, let’s do it.  11:30 is also a good option.  You can get some extra rest, have a leisurely breakfast/brunch and come to church at 11:30.

BTW, you guys have been doing a great job parking farther away and making space for newer people.  Kudos to you and the coolest people in orange vests, Grove Parking Team.

We are at an exciting time at The Grove Church where God is blessing us a ton, and we’re excited to see what happens next.  Thanks for making some small changes to make a big difference.

Balance and the Body–Why We Need Each Other

I have a confession to make.  I’m not a balanced person.  Another confession: I never will be.  My skills as a gourmet chef are really lagging behind my other ones.  I, as of yet, have not even begun my training as a luthier.  In fact there are quite a few things that I’m just terrible at.  Chef and luthier aren’t even the worst.  “What is, then?”  Hmm, haven’t given it a lot of thought, but I’ll go with Lasik Eye Surgeon.

There are a few things that I’m good at, there are some things I’m great at, some ok, some mediocre, some slightly above average, some slightly below average, some..”Get on with it!”  All that to say, I feel I’m pretty good at public speaking and teaching, however, when the time comes for laser repair on my eyes, I’ll go with someone else.

(Sidenote:  This will never happen.  Ever.  I don’t want your finger within 18 inches of my eye, much less a laser, while I’m awake.  Not happening.  When the day comes, I will wear glasses, not contacts, glasses.  I don’t even want my finger near my eye.)

Hey Captain Ramble, you getting anywhere today?  Maybe, just move that threatening finger away from my face.  Seriously, it unnerves me.  In the same way that I am unbalanced, most churches are unbalanced as well.  There are things that churches do well and things that they don’t do well.  While it is impossible to get me into balance in the over the top, tongue in cheek ways I’ve described, it is possible for churches to be balanced.

You see, a church doesn’t have to rely on one person or even a small group of people to be balanced.  We all have each other.  We all bring different skills, gifts and passions to the church.  When we all work together, God can use us to be everything he has called us to be as a church.

If your church is weak in something that you are gifted and passionate about, guess what that is not the pastor’s fault or the leadership’s fault.  It’s yours.  God put you in that church with those gifts and passions.  Use them, play your part in the body, your church.  Help your church be better by serving your church in that way.

“But Cloften, my church doesn’t let other people lead and do stuff.  They are very controlling.”  Welpst, there is really only one solution to that.  Punch them in the face and tell them it was from me.  (Just kidding?)  Even still, if you believe that God has called you there and God has impassioned you in this area, do what you can to be a part of the solution.

We, by this I mean me as well, spend a lot of our time complaining about what is and wishing about what is not yet.  We spend less time being used by God to make what is not, is.  (Sorry)  If you are at the Grove, we need you.  If you are somewhere else, I assure you, your church needs you as well.

Especially if you are a luthier.