Big Easter Thanks

April 25, 2011 by cloften  
Filed under Bible, Church and Leadership

What a great day yesterday!  Our first Easter together at the Grove Church and our first go at 3 services.  We came home pretty tired, but it was a good kind of tired.

First some stats:

We had almost 500 people at the Grove Church and I would estimate about 1/4 to 1/3 of those were visitors

There were at least 3 people that indicated that they became followers of Jesus

Many more came up and talked to me or others about decisions and recommitments that they made

Now some thanks.

Thanks to everyone who was there all 3 services.  I know that on a day when a lot of people want to make it a day for family, you made it a day for your church family and serving others.  The worship/tech guys were there from around 7 to 1.  I also know that there were several people that rather than doing the normal serve one service/worship one service did the serve 2/worship 1.  You made a huge difference in the lives of people yesterday.

Thanks to the umbrella men.  All of the people and visitors that came were during a downpour.  One thing I noticed was that almost no one was wet.  Well, when I say no one, I am of course excluding the men that were holding the umbrellas.  You guys helped the church make a great first impression.  Even before one song was sung or word spoken, people were thinking that we were a church that loves and serves people.

Thanks to everyone who served anywhere, anytime yesterday.  There were over 50 people that took time yesterday to serve and everyone one of you made a huge difference in the lives of people.  Everyone working together from the parking lot to the Greenhouse to the worship to the info cafe to the greeters did their small part and all together you guys did a big thing.

Thanks to everyone who went to the 8:30 and 11:30 services.  We knew that the 10:00 service would be packed, and it was.  However it was not near as packed as I thought it might be.  This is because many of you chose to go to a service that was less convenient.  It may seem like a small thing, but all 3 services felt full, but everyone always had a seat.

Thanks to everyone who brought a friend, especially those that don’t know Jesus.  You are investing in people and you will see God do amazing things in your lives and theirs.  You probably already have.

Finally thanks to the staff and their families.  I know that this was a challenging couple of weeks and it got highly stressful at times.  It is great being on a team with you and there is no way we could have done yesterday without any of you and your hard work.  Thanks also to your families who often work just as hard or at a minimum forget what their spouses/parents look like.

It was an incredible day and I look forward to many, many more with all of you.

Good News, Bad News and Good Friday

From Luke 7

40 Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”

“Tell me, teacher,” he said.

41 “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty.42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”

“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.

44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

There are some people out there that think that we offend people by talking about sin.  “We need to talk about the Good News of the gospel.  When you talk about sin, it’s bad news.”  I confess I have fallen into this trap before.  However, consider this.  Good news is often made significantly better when we understand how bad the news was.

A friend has a cold and is healed is good news.  A friend has cancer and is healed is GOOD news.

A billionaire winning $1000 is good news.  Someone about to have their house foreclosed winning the same is GOOD news.

Jesus dying for the sins of someone who thinks, “Yeah, I’m a pretty good person.  I need to be more religious,” I suppose is good news.  Jesus dying for someone whose heart is often very dark and does bad things to hurt people on purpose, who feels isolated and lonely and dying, whose conscious is overwhelmed, who is desperate and hopeless is GOOD news.

When we take time to truly reflect on the fact that we didn’t simply need a boost, but because of our sin we were hopeless, desperate enemies of God, the good news of the gospel and the message of Good Friday become GOOD news on GOOD Friday.  Take some today and reflect on the bad news, not for its own sake, but so that then we can celebrate all the more, the GOOD news of GOOD Friday.

Getting Ready for Easter Sunday (AKA My Obsession with Parking)

April 19, 2011 by cloften  
Filed under Bible, Church and Leadership

There’s a leadership principle out there that says that once you think you have said something too much, people really begin to hear it.  It is with that made up principle that I give you another post about parking on Sunday.

In my defense, this is only the 7th time, I’ve mentioned parking (the same as I’ve mentioned Braveheart) in a blog post.  Wait a sec, I don’t think that is in fact in my defense.

Anywho, don’t forget that we have 3 services this Sunday–8:30, 10:00 and 11:30.

1) I encourage you to go to the early service.  There will most definitely be seats available in that service.  As far as the next 2 go, who knows?  My guess is that the 10 will be the most packed.  We’ll know Monday.

2) If you are staying for multiple services, park at Braums.  They allow us to park in the spots that face College and the ones that face the Grove. Please, park there.  Let’s fill those spots up first.  (Shout out, we had one of the biggest crowds 2nd service that we’ve ever had and many of the parking spots in front of the Grove were empty. Great job)

3) College students–go clown car.  I’m not suggesting that you have more people than seat belts, but how about the same amount of people and seat belts?

4) Bring a friend.  People want to come to church on Easter.  They are just waiting for you to ask.

5) Pray.  It is going to be a great morning of worship and celebration.  Pray that people who need to hear the good news of Easter will be there and that their hearts will be open.

BONUS (added after publication)  Be a host.  Look around for people that you don’t know and are visiting.  Introduce yourself, make sure they feel welcome.  How can I spot a visitor? You may ask.  They are the ones sitting in their seat before the service starts.

I am looking forward to this weekend and to see what God will do.  See you Sunday.

The Grove Church Good Friday Service by Aaron Gonzalez (aka Gonzo)

April 18, 2011 by cloften  
Filed under Bible, Church and Leadership

As we are entering what is often referred to as “Holy Week” my thoughts have been on communion.  Specifically the words of Jesus telling us to “do this in remembrance of Him.”  Why do we remember His death?  Why do we constantly speak of the cross of Jesus?

We remember the death of Jesus because Jesus Himself told us that by His death we can have eternal life. (John 3:14-15)  We remember the death of Jesus because He removes the guilt of our sins by His sacrifice upon the cross. (Colossians 2:13-14)  We speak of the cross so often because it is the central moment of all time and history.  It is the moment when Jesus was separated from His Father that we might never be separated from Him.  It is the moment that Jesus took upon Himself the wrath of God and bore its penalty that we might instead be given life!  Not wrath, but life!!!  What an amazing God we serve.

This Good Friday let’s remember His death and what He accomplished for us by His sacrifice.  We’d love to see you at The Grove any time between 6 and 8 pm for an intimate time remembering the most important event that has ever occurred.  After that we’ll come together on Easter Sunday and celebrate His resurrection from the dead, the proof that Jesus is everything He has declared Himself to be and has done everything He has claimed to have done.  Namely, He has taken away our sins by His sacrifice and has defeated death and Satan by His power and has exchanged with us our sins for His righteousness if we place our faith and belief in Him.  What a beautiful exchange!

There is a fountain filled with blood

drawn from Emmanuel’s veins;

and sinners plunged beneath that flood

lose all their guilty stains.

Lose all their guilty stains,

lose all their guilty stains;

and sinners plunged beneath that flood

lose all their guilty stains.

The dying thief rejoiced to see

that fountain in his day;

and there may I, though vile as he,

wash all my sins away.

Wash all my sins away,

wash all my sins away;

and there may I, though vile as he,

wash all my sins away.

Beautiful Exchange (Getting Ready for Easter)

April 11, 2011 by cloften  
Filed under Bible, Church and Leadership, Teaching

We started a sermon series leading up to Easter called Beautiful Exchange.  Why is it called that, you may ask?  Because there is an incredible song out right now by Hillsong with that name that captures the message that we want to get across this Easter.  Here are lyrics to said song:

Beautiful Exchange

You were near, Though I was distant
Disillusioned I was lost and insecure

Still mercy fought, For my attention
You were waiting at the door, Then I let You in

Trading Your life, For my offenses
For my redemption, You carried all the blame

Breaking the curse, Of our condition
Perfection took our place

When only love
Could make a way
You gave Your life
In a beautiful exchange

My burden erase, my life forgiven
There is nothing, that could take this love away

My only desire, and sole ambition
Is to love You just the same

Holy are You God
Holy is Your name
With everything I’ve got
My heart will sing how I love You

Part of me feels like that anything that I would add to those lyrics would be pointless ramblings. (But that’s what you do best!  Hmm, if you think that then you have never seen me balance books on my head.)  These are powerful lyrics that describe quite well why we celebrate Easter.  Our sin has left has helpless and hopeless and dead, and then in a “beautiful exchange” we trade our death for Jesus’ death and his life for our life.

I really enjoyed our 1st week in the series yesterday (listen here) where we looked at a pivotal moment in the Gospel of Luke (read here) where Jesus shares with his disciples that he is going to be arrested and killed and then the Gospel says that “he resolutely set out for Jerusalem (Luke 9:51)”  He voluntarily and purposefully set out to die for us so that we may have life, demonstrating a deep and powerful love for us.

My favorite part of the day was that there was at least one person at the Grove Church yesterday that accepted that beautiful exchange yesterday and chose to give her life to Christ. Incredibly excited about her. My guess is that there were more than that.  Here also is what I believe, there are more to come.  There are people out there who are from God who desperately need Him.  They need to hear and believe.  You know what else? You know these people and they will come with you one of the next couple of weeks.  You just need to invite them.  We are going to provide an opportunity each week for everyone to hear the gospel and respond.

People want to come to church on Easter.  They want you to ask them, and come with them.  You want them to know Jesus, to make that exchange.  We have an incredible opportunity.  I’m glad that you are a part.

Making it Easter All Year Round

I want to give a huge shout out to everyone that made the weekend of Easter services at Fellowship Cabot incredible.  Really I want to give a shout out to all of Fellowship and really everyone who did something a little extra over Easter weekend to create great worship experiences for people last weekend.  I have heard incredible stories from pastors and friends all over the nation.  Great job everyone.

Some people came to the Saturday night service and then served all 3 services on Sunday morning.  They were at church for an hour and a half on Saturday and then over four hours Sunday morning.  People parked far away from the front door even though they got there early (isn’t that the perk of getting there early, along with fresher coffee?).  People sat on the front row.  Who would ever do that?  A lot of people did a lot of small things.  When you put all of the small things together, you have something really big that helps make for an incredble worship experience for people of all ages.

Here is a question?  How do we keep that spirit going?  I know that not every week is as big or heavily attended as Easter.  Easter is the best opportunity that churches have to minister to a large group of people who normally are not in church.  If everyone did as much on Easter every week, we would have a lot of tired people.  But what part of that attitude that drives us to do the little things on Easter can we keep alive all year long?

1) Make the serve one service, worship one service routine, an every week commitment.  More community is built in your serving team than just about anywhere.  You will be used by God every week in the lives of people you serve.  You will be considered a hero by the leader of that team.  If you are working with kids, then you will build deep relationships with them and provide much needed stability.

2) Attend the least attended service.  Often the smaller services are just a few families away from having enough momentum to really taking off.  You could make the difference.  Some people, on Saturday night services for instance, can only attend these “off-peak” services.  You worshiping with them is partnering to help minister to them.  It also provides more space for the peak, highly attended service.  Even if you only can do it every now and then, like once a month, it can still make a huge difference.

3) Consider yourself a greeter every week, even if you are not on the greeting team.  Be a friendly face for new people.  Show them God’s love and that your church loves people.

Those things may seem small, but again, a lot of small become big quickly and make a huge difference in the lives of people.

Cardboard Testimonies from Easter Sunday

April 6, 2010 by cloften  
Filed under Bible, Church and Leadership

This was a part of our Easter service Sunday April 4, 2010.  It was an incredibly powerful moment.  Hope you enjoy it (or re-enjoy it)