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.

Worship–What It Is(n’t)

August 29, 2011 by cloften  
Filed under Bible, Church and Leadership, Teaching

We started our (most likely to be) annual series on the vision and mission of the Grove.  (Ok, we need to decide this.  Is it the Grove? The Grove? the Grove Church? The Grove Church?  Does it matter?)

We want our church to be centered around four words:

Worship, Reach, Grow and Send

We worship God with our lives.  We reach people who are lost.  We grow deep in our relationship with God. We send people into the community and world with the love of God.

The foundation of those four words/ideas is the first one–worship.  Religious activity and doing the right thing can be empty gestures.  We want to make sure that the foundation of all that we do is our love and devotion to God.  That’s what worship is, the expression of our love and devotion to that one person or thing that we value above all else.

The question that we need to ask ourselves is what do we worship?  No, no, no.  I’m not asking what you’re supposed to say.  What do you really worship?  “But I sing to God every week at church.”

Worship isn’t singing.  Worship can involve singing if our hearts and minds are engaged with what we are singing.  My guess is that a lot of us sing along with songs in the car, but we don’t mean what we say (Think singing along to 80’s songs.  “Can’t stand the thought of you with somebody else, gotta have your tenderness, all to myself.”).

Worship on Sunday happens when we believe and feel what we are declaring to God with our songs.

Worship the rest of the week happens when we demonstrate with our lives that God is first.  How do we spend our time? What consumes our mind? Where and how do we spend our money?  Who or what is most important?

We can all agree, I’m supposing since you clicked the link to come here, that the answer should be God.  We need to take the necessary steps to make what we think should be true, actually be true.  How do I need to differently prioritize my time?  Do I need to be surrendering my finances to God?  Do I need to change what I think about during the day?

God is calling us to be used in the lives of people, but first and foremost we need to be fully devoted worshippers of God.  This is who God is calling tHe GrOvE ChurCh to be.

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.


March 7, 2011 by cloften  
Filed under Bible, Church and Leadership

I decided to go with the least interesting blog post title ever.  Hopefully it’s lack of catchy title will be catchy enough to make you click on the link anyway.  Well, I guess you clicked on it anyway, so it worked for you.  So there you go.

This winter has been exciting at the Grove.  The Nehemiah series has been going well.  Miller and the Millerettes have been doing an incredible job leading us in worship.  We have seen a lot of new people coming to the Grove.  We started some new curriculum in the Greenhouse and our teachers have been doing a great job loving and serving our kids.  Thanks to everyone who makes our services possible and incredible.

But you know what they say, “Mo’ people, mo’ problems.”  (Wait. Who says that?  Well, you know, they do.  Who they?  Well, no one says that.  Leave me alone.)

I know I have said this before, but we need to think about where we park.  I had the owner of the used car lot next to us come and talk to me on Sunday after church.  We was very gracious, but also concerned.  He had a trailer that he needed access to and it was blocked in.  He kindly asked if we could no longer park in his lot.  I told him that we would do our best.  So, we are trying to get the word out.  We also are going to try and put cones out and block it.  (I was going to use cone as a verb.  Would that have been ok?)

Where should we park then?  If you want to be an All-Star, park on the north side of Braums.  (Sorry, I’m directionally challenged.  Which way is north?  If you don’t have a compass, just think the side that is closest to the Grove.  There’s a median, park on the Grove side of that median). The street behind the Grove is good as well.  There is no traffic on that street.  Park far down. Walking is good for you.

We want to reserve the best spots for new people and late people.  It’s a small thing that can make a big difference.  A new person can find a spot and we make our neighbors happy.

You know what they say, “There’s a special blessing for those that park inconveniently.”

Grove Weather/Parking Update

February 5, 2011 by cloften  
Filed under Bible, Church and Leadership

Hey Everyone,

If you are reading this then you probably know that we are having both services at The Grove tomorrow.   Some people want to know if there is an official inclement weather policy.  If I were the kind of guy to have an official policy, it would be something like, “Unless it’s really bad, we are having church.  Even if it’s bad, we’ll probably still have one service.”  How’s that for official?

This is not our way of saying, “We don’t care how dangerous it is, you had better come to church.”  It’s more like, “Be safe out there.  If you can make it, we are here.”

If you haven’t been out, most of the main roads are doing great.  Some of the side roads still have gunk on them.  Drive slowly and you should be OK.  The Grove parking lot, on the other hand, is a bit of a mess.  We’ve been working this afternoon on it, and our pledge is that the walkways will be safe.  Outside of all 3 entrances will be clean.  We suggest that you drop your crew off at the front door and go park somewhere and be careful.  If you have kids, you can drop off kids at the back by the playground or the side door that we don’t typically use.  There will be guys in the parking lot to help you out. (If you want to be one of those guys, let me know)

Whatever you do, be careful.  We will be here at both services: 9:15 and 11.  Hope to see you there.

Unpacking the Packed House

January 27, 2011 by cloften  
Filed under Bible, Church and Leadership

No, this doesn’t have anything to do with us buying or selling a house (although we did have a 2nd showing last night, if anyone feels inclined to pray in that regard).

This has to do with the overwhelming number of people that were at the 2nd service at the Grove on Sunday (if your church is full or fullish in the service you attend, feel free to keep reading)

I have been a part of services where I’ve said, “that was packed,” or “we were full.”  I will try from here on out to not use that expression any more, because I was at a service on Sunday that was packed and full.  We counted yesterday and we have ~210 chairs.  There were over 220 people in the room.  For you non-math majors out there, that means there were people there that didn’t have chairs. I know that people who hate math especially hate story problems.

Anywho, there are a couple of things that people can walk away from a service like that thinking, “Wow, that was cool.  There was a lot of energy,” or “that was crowded, hot, and if I’m going to be honest, smelled a little bit.”  Now I’m guessing that most of the members/regulars are in category 1.  Also, I would hope that most of the new people were in category 1.  Something like that is cool, once, maybe twice.  After a while, it can for some begin to be uncomfortable.  Again, this isn’t regulars, it’s people that are new to church, often the most spiritually vulnerable.

We certainly don’t want to do anything that would discourage people from coming or inviting a friend. (Why would I invite a friend if there is no room?) So what can we do?  Welpst, we can look for a new place to meet, which we are doing (Pray for that by the way. Hoping to have some good news soon).  You can also (gulp) come to first service. It starts at 9:15, by then on most days you are up, ready, at work or class, and have 10 games of minesweeper under your belt (Is that a dated reference?).

If you are bringing friends and they want to come at 11, come at 11.  If it’s just you, try and come to the early service.  New people will almost always come to the later service.  Let’s make room for them by worshipping early.

Speaking of that, drop your kids and wife off at the door and then go park in the worst place imaginable.  Braums lets us park in the northern part of their lot. We can park across Sunbridge at the strip mall. We can park down the street behind the church and Braums.  I think no one uses that street but us anyway.

People have always said to me in situations like this that “it’s a good problem to have.”  Agreed. But that still makes it a problem, a problem we can fix.  Come early and park inconveniently.  I’ll talk to you again about what to do when both services are 200+.

Grove Town Hall Part 2

December 2, 2010 by cloften  
Filed under Bible, Church and Leadership

Hmm, didn’t you say part 2 would come “tomorrow” which would have been “two days ago” which would have been “Tuesday?”  Yes, yes, but I have a busy life.  It’s tough only working one day a week.  That’s how pastor’s are right?

Anywho, on with more from the Town Hall:

The elders got away for an overnight retreat.  We spent a good portion of our time talking about our mission statement.  What is it that God has called the Grove to be and do?  What are our values?  What makes the Grove, the Grove?  (That’s a sentence that makes more sense when you say it with the right inflection.  What makes the Grove, THE GROVE?  Written, it looks ridiculous).

As we began to think about what God has called us to, there are two passages that we believe God was bringing to the front of our discussions.  The first is the Great Commandment:

Matthew 22

34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

The second is the Great Commission:

Matthew 28

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

From these two passages we understand that the most important things that we can do as believers, and ultimately as a church as well, is to love God with all that we are and love others the way we love ourselves.

God has called us first and foremost to people who worship.  By this, we don’t mean simply singing worship songs, but in addition to that we need to live lives that show our love, gratitude and devotion to God.

The best way that we can show our love for others is by serving them and helping them have and develop a deep relationship with God.  We need to reach people who are separated from God.  Apart from a relationship with Jesus, people are lost and in desperate need of God.  He is calling us to be a church that is building relationships with non-Christians and sharing and showing our faith to them so that they can come to know him.

We also need to help people grow in their relationship with God.  We can go deeper with God, understand and know him better, love him more.  Being a Christian is not about “getting saved” and then living life in anticipation of eternal life after we die.  It is living that life now (John 10:10).

Grow to what end though?  Sometimes we feel like we grow just to grow.  God, however, is calling us take what we have and give it to others.  We need to be a church that sends people into the world to love and serve them.  God has uniquely gifted and impassioned each of us.  He wants us to use those gifts and passions to help reach the world for Jesus Christ.  We need to help people find those gifts and passions and then help them figure out the best place and way to use them.

Putting those four words (Worship, Reach, Grow, Send) together is the beginning of a mission statement.  We have not crafted it together into an incredibly pithy and memorable and awe-inspiring statement yet, but when we do, look out!  It will be centered around those 2 passages and those 4 words.  We believe that this is what God has called us to at the Grove Church.

Talk to you again tomorrow (wink, wink)

Grove Town Hall Part 1

November 29, 2010 by cloften  
Filed under Bible, Church and Leadership

Well, I was gone from just about everything for a week.  When I got back, I discovered that the audio from the Town Hall meeting was no good.  Like Kip (would his last name be Dynamite as well?), I do love technology.  But sometimes it is problematic.  So, we shall remedy this by using other technology to get it to you.  The more I think about it though, this is probably better for you.  I would rather read a series of blog posts than listen to me talk for an hour.  That’s because I think my voice is annoying.  I’m sure you do as well.  Thanks for your patience.

Anywho, I will take some time this week and put different themes we talked about here on the old blog.  This way, if you weren’t there, you can catch up.  First, of course, you need to see this video–Have you been to the Grove? We opened the Town Hall with that.  Now that I have lowered your expectations, here is the first part of what we talked about:

More than anything, I really want to thank everyone for how kind everyone has been in our transition.  It’s not easy making a move like this, especially with 12 and 9 (now 10 and almost 13) year old girls.  You have loved us well and we have loved getting to know you guys.  With the exception of our house not selling, this transition has gone about as well as it could.  Everyone in our family has very quickly felt a part of the Grove Church.

I have also enjoyed building relationships with the elders and staff.  I have always believed that one of the foundational pieces to a healthy church is the relationship among the staff and elders.  Thankfully this has not been hard work.  It has been easy and a lot of fun to be able to get to know these great men and women, and I believe fairly quickly we have been able to become good friends.

The last four months (That’s right, it has only been 4 months.  Actually, it won’t be 4 months until Wednesday, but who’s counting?) have been an exciting time for the church as well.  We have seen an attendance growth of about 70% from the same time last year.  I know that it has been a hard year for the Grove and that is was a difficult transition.  I hope that it feels good to have some good momentum in the church.

We also have relaunched a youth (I know you are supposed to call it student ministry, but I get that confused with college students, so for now, youth it is) ministry.  We have started small, because that is what we are right now.  We have a guys small group and a girls small group.  Big thanks to Ty Carlson and Leah Burry for getting those kicked off.  They are both huge answers to prayer.

We have also seen a tremendous growth in the number of college students coming to the Grove.  Several people have asked me what we have done to see so many college students this fall.  The assumption has been that there must have been some kind of intentional strategy or recruitment campaign.  There hasn’t been.  I invited a handful of students that came from Fellowship Bible in Little Rock and that’s it.  What has happened has been an example of the power of enthusiasm and word of mouth.  Students have been bringing students.  I believe we have created an worship environment with quality music, friendly people and a relational teaching style that has been very attractive to college students.  BTW, this style is also very attractive to families and singles.  It’s just that word of mouth and enthusiasm moves much quicker among students.  As of now, we do not have a formal college ministry.  We have a few small groups and we are planning perhaps quarterly events (we have had a lunch so far).  We want to start slowly.

This is a ministry principle that we are using everywhere.  Let’s do one thing well before trying to do two things well.  We don’t want to try to do every ministry possible.  Also, let’s not try and do everything imaginable within ministries, like children’s, youth, etc.  Let’s do the core well first and then do the next thing well.

Well, part one has been mostly update.  Later to come, we will talk about our facility challenges, our financial situation, getting to the next level in the Greenhouse/kids ministry and most importantly the process we are in crafting a new mission statement.  Talk to you tomorrow.

Two Service Protocol

August 19, 2010 by cloften  
Filed under Bible, Church and Leadership

For the last three Sundays, we have had just one service at the Grove (more than 3 for everyone else).  That means I’ve only preached once and that’s it.  It’s certainly less tiring, but I don’t get to redeem myself on parts of the sermon that don’t go well, jokes that bomb, etc.  Also, it has been messing with my internal clock.  Church is over around noon.  When ours has been over at 10:30, my clock has been off for the rest of the day, thinking it was later than it actually was.  That enough is reason to go back to two services, isn’t it?

Anywho, as we get ready for two services again and for the first time having Greenhouse both services, there are few tips (?), umm suggestions (?), ummm mandates (?) that I want to put out there to help everything run smoothly.

1) For people who get there early and will be there all morning. Sorry, that doesn’t mean that you get the best parking spaces.  In fact, I would like to ask you to take the worst spots, freeing up spots for newer folks.  Park on the road behind the Grove, park on the north side of Braums (they said it was OK), park across the street at the strip mall.  Leave the good spots.

2) For people attending the first service and are leaving.  Get your kids as soon as the service ends.  We will be transitioning teachers.  It’s best for the second service teachers to start with the kids they are going to have.  They don’t know who checked the kid in.  It’s easier on the teachers.

3) For people that have kids attending both services. Don’t go check on your kid between service, unless you know beyond a doubt they will be happy to see you and will be fine when you leave.  If you have a kid with some anxiety, talk to the teachers when they are done and ask how your kid did.  This helps the 2nd service teacher a ton.

4) For people serving in the Greenhouse either service. Come to the other service.  Please.  I know it can seem like 3 hrs is a long time to be there, but one of the main reasons we went back to 2 services and have Greenhouse both is for you, so each week you can still worship.  You’ll be glad you did and your kids will love it.

5) For people worshipping first service. Laugh at the funny jokes.  Don’t laugh at the ones that bomb.  This way I know what to keep or cut.  Pity laughs just force the 2nd service to hear bad jokes.

6) For people worshipping first service and serving in the Greenhouse second service. Hang out and talk a little after service and get to your class around 10:45.  This allows you to cover your class and get ready for the new kids.  You are also allowing the first service teacher to leave, get coffee, etc.  They are getting there early before 1st service.  Don’t force them to cover the class all the way to 11:00.

7) For everyone. Be mindful of traffic flow.  This is a new deal for us.  We have no idea what “traffic patterns” are going to be like.  Just keep in mind that we want to make it easy and smooth for guests to get their kids settled, get coffee and find their seats.  Stay and hang out and talk, but just keep an eye out.

This is an incredible opportunity that we have to serve each other and our guests.  We are setting a foundation over these next few weeks that will allow us to grow and multiply our impact in Northwest Arkansas.  Thanks for being a part.  If you haven’t found a great place to serve yet, let me know.  We can get you connected.

More Random Musings on 2 Services and Greenhouse

August 10, 2010 by cloften  
Filed under Bible, Church and Leadership

I am currently being swarmed by about 7 flies at Starbucks.  I don’t know why I’m telling you this, except that if there are any angry outbursts in the middle of this post, you won’t take it personally.

We really do have an incredible opportunity here when we go to two services.  We will be providing an incredible worship experience for people of all ages, and I really do believe that we will see God do some great things at the Grove this year.  I know that people have a lot of questions.  I will try to answer some of them.  None of these have been asked here to me, but I know that they have been asked many, many times all over everywhere.

Doesn’t all this talk about kids and families exclude singles, college students, folks without kids, etc.?

No, not any more than having a Women’s bathroom at your church excludes men.  (Stupid flies).  Seriously, we are not going to become a church that focuses exclusively on kids, but we have kids that come to our church, and we want them to have a great experience.  We want the experience in the Greenhouse to match the experience in the worship center (This may be the flies talking, but is there a better word out there? Let’s no go back to sanctuary.  Often I just say “big room.”  Ideas?).  We don’t want to create an A+ experience for adults and not do the same for our kids.

So, what specifically are you asking us to consider?

Church on Sunday morning is a two service experience.  We worship one service and we serve one service.  When we come together we want to worship and hear from God’s word and experience powerful worship.  We also want to use our gifts and time to serve and build up the body.  Both are an essential part of our time together.

Wait, uh, every week?

I recognize that seems like a lot.  Most of the serving roles are being designed to be every other week.  This way we have two teams that can fill every position.  People are out of town a lot and this way, ideally, when one is out of town, the other is serving.  However, many of you are here every week you are in town, why not serve every week?

I’ll tell you why not.  I need a break from serving some time.

Hmm.  While technically not a question, I will respond as best I can.  Taking a break from serving in an ideal world doesn’t make sense.  Who would need a break from sharing their time and talent with people that they love?  We all need breaks from different parts of life.  We go on vacations, leave town, shake up the routine, etc.  However, serving is what we are designed to do.  We as a church need to make sure that we are encouraging you, helping you, and loving you.  Serving your church on Sunday should be something that gives life not takes it from you.

Alright, fine but my kids, my kids.  How can they be here both services?  They’ll get tired, grow up to hate church.  Then you’ll have that on your conscience.

Kids love it at church.  They are some place different with friends.  They are with adults that love them and are teaching them about God.  Did I mention snack time?  That’s all my kids have known.  I’m pretty proud of how they are turning out.

Seriously, dude.  My baby is too young, it’s morning nap time, or (fill in the blank).

I’m glad you’re comfortable enough with me not to call me dude.  I understand.  Serve one, worship one may not work out great for both parents in all circumstances.  Maybe you take turns.  Maybe one serves in the Greenhouse and the other serves by taking the kids home and clearing space.  Make it work for your family, but try to find a way where you can serve on Sunday.

Big picture, serving needs to be part of who we are, part of our culture.  We love each other and we all have a role to play to support one another and build each other up.  Serving is not an obligation, it is an incredible opportunity that we all have to be used by God to change the world.

(Please shoot me an email at charlie@thegrovechurch.org and let me know if you want to find a great place to serve)

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