He Wanted: Disciples

I have been watching some of the confirmation hearings of the candidates for our new president’s cabinet positions, and can’t help but think about how difficult it would be to go through the gamut of questions, especially when you know that almost half of the crowd already opposes you just because of who appointed you.
It also reminds me that none of us are perfect, and that I am glad that the Lord is willing to use us despite our struggles and imperfections and all the baggage we bring to the table. In fact, He has a long history of taking the broken and least-likely-to-succeed and using them for His glory.
With that in mind, I wanted to share something I came across online recently. It’s an alleged (tongue-in-cheek) memo from a first-century management consulting firm, addressed to one Jesus of Nazareth:
Dear Sir,
Thank you for submitting the resumes of the twelve men you have picked for management positions in your new organization. All of them have now taken our battery of tests; we have not only run the results through our computer, but also arranged personal interviews for each of them with our psychologist and vocational aptitude consultant.
It is the staff opinion that most of your nominees are lacking in background, education and vocational aptitude for the type of enterprise you are undertaking. They do not have the team concept. We would recommend that you continue your search for persons of experience in managerial ability and proven capability.
As for specific profiles:  Simon Peter is emotionally unstable and given to fits of temper. Andrew has absolutely no qualities of leadership. The two brothers, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, place personal interest above company loyalty. Thomas demonstrates a questioning attitude that would tend to undermine morale. We feel that it is our duty to tell you that Matthew has been blacklisted by the Greater Jerusalem Better Business Bureau. James, son of Alphaeus, and Thaddeus definitely have radical leanings and they both registered a high score on the manic-depressive scale.
One of the candidates, however, shows great potential. He is a man of ability and resourcefulness, meets people well, has a keen business mind and has contacts in high places. He is highly motivated, ambitious and responsible. We recommend Judas Iscariot as your controller and right-hand man. All of the other profiles are self-explanatory.
We wish you every success in your new venture.
Jordan Management Consultants
Thank God we don’t have to pass a Senate confirmation to serve Him, nor are we judged by some consultant as to whether we are fit to serve. What He wants most from us is our availability, and then He is able to use us and be glorified through us.
I am so grateful to serve with such a wonderful group of disciples we call The Church at Shelby Crossings. I am praying for you, and I look forward to seeing you on Sunday.

Core Training

Whether you’re a muscle-head, a Crossfitter, or someone who just occasionally goes to the gym, you know that some of the most important exercises you can do are those that strengthen your “core.” The core is a collection of muscles in the abdomen and pelvic area which stabilize and move the spine, and are a key to strength and health for your whole body.
In the same way, we at Shelby Crossings want to strengthen the core of our church body. In fact, our “core values” are posted on the walls of our worship center and are printed on our worship guide every week, to remind us of what we believe and why we’re here. They are biblically grounded and help us to stay “on mission.” That’s one of the reasons we teach them to new members at our Connection Point class, as we did last Sunday night.
In case you don’t know or remember those core values, they are:
  • People matter to God.
  • Every member a minister.
  • Everything belongs to God.
  • God is honored in excellence
  • What we do, we do together.
I would point out a couple of those values in particular as keys to the overall philosophy of how we want to do church. For one, it is so very important that everyone who is a part of our church body grasps the truth that “every member is a minister.” That is, we all have a calling to serve in ministry and be engaged in the mission of the church. The long-held distinction in many churches between the so-called “clergy” and “laity” is in no way a biblical concept, and we sure don’t want to encourage that line of thought here. All of us who name the name of Christ at Shelby Crossings are ministers, whether we are on the church staff or not.
Accordingly, we understand that “what we do, we all do…together.” It is vital to the life of the church that we operate with unity, even with our diversity. We have many different gifts, and bring so many different experiences and passions and skills to the table, but we come together to serve the Lord. This was so indicative of the church in Acts, which was “together in one accord” and thus was so effective in its ministry. Likewise, we desire to serve together, with everyone doing his or her part, so what we will operate like a well-tuned machine.
With that in mind, we seek to follow the apostle Paul’s instructions in Ephesians 4:11-13 to “equip God’s people to do the work of ministry, so that the body of Christ may be built up.”  This. is the motivation behind our Training Day, coming up this Saturday at Shelby Crossings. We desire to train and equip and enable all the “ministers” in our church family so that each of us can serve effectively and fruitfully together in the different ministries to which we have been called.
Which brings up a third “core value”: “God is honored in excellence.”  To heed a few more admonitions from Paul: “…whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31); and, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.” (Colossians 3:23) In other words, God deserves our best. And that is why we have Training Day.
I hope you can join us this Saturday for some “core training.” You’ll be glad you did, the Lord will be honored by your commitment, and our church will be healthier because of it.
I am praying for you, and I look forward to seeing you on Saturday…and Sunday too.

Out of the Overflow of the Heart

I don’t know if you heard, but there was a big football game played this past week. No need to rehash how it turned out, since I’m sure you’ve heard the news, along with all the expert analysis and opinions from your friends on social media.
No doubt about it, whether it’s pre-season, regular season, bowl season, recruiting season, or spring training, we do like to talk about college football in these parts. For better or for worse, people in this state are consumed with the game, 365 days a year.
Which reminds me of a quote I read once from Connie Mack: “No matter what I talk about, I always get back to baseball.”
You may have heard of Mack, whose given name was Cornelius McGillicuddy. Born during the Civil War, the Hall of Fame legend managed major league baseball teams for an astounding 56 years, from 1894 to 1950.  (You may have also heard of his great grandson, Connie Mack IV, who served several terms as a Congressmen from Florida.)
Anyway, the elder Mack’s life was obviously consumed by the game he loved. Hence, the quote above, given in an interview with Sporting News magazine in 1951, when he was 88 years old and retired from the game. He still couldn’t stop talking about baseball.
We’ve all known people like that, whose lives have a singular focus, whose conversations always seem to end up in the same place. It may be their work, their family, their frustrations with the president (or president-elect), or Alabama football, but you come to expect that somehow, some time, the conversation will turn to what is most important to them.
It’s really quite simple. It has everything to do with what’s on our mind and what’s in our heart, all the time. Jesus said it this way: “For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45)  In other words, what you say flows from what is in your heart.
What does your conversation always get back to? Where does your mind naturally “settle” when the dust of life clears? Where is the “due north” your compass needle points to after you shake it up a bit? Or, to sum it all up, what is the central focus of your heart and mind?
My prayer is that no matter what you talk about, you’ll always get back to Jesus, and the difference He makes in your life. Not a pious and phony religiosity–no one wants to hear that–but a genuine heart for Christ that oozes out of everything you do and say.
May He be honored in your conversation today. I’m praying for you, as I hope you are for me, and I look forward to seeing you again this Sunday.

Sweet Sixteen

Tomorrow marks the sixteenth anniversary of the first official worship service of The Church at Shelby Crossings. It was Sunday morning, January 7, 2001 when the church gathered publicly to worship at Valley Intermediate School in Pelham. Much has transpired in the life of this community of faith since that day, and there are many things God has done worthy of celebration.

I was wondering what the traditional gift is to celebrate a milestone of a “sweet sixteen” anniversary. I mean, we all know that 25 years is a Silver Anniversary, and 50 is a Golden Anniversary, so what is it for a sixteen years? So, I went to the source of all knowledge–Google–and discovered that the gift that signifies a sixteenth anniversary is….and I’m not making this up…wax.

Not exactly a gift to remember, though I would have to say it would also be hard to forget. We should be ready to celebrate, at least until we clean up the spilled wax from the Advent candles from a few weeks back. Either way, I guess it doesn’t really matter what precious metal or stone (or wax) that we use to signify such an occasion. But it does matter that we stop, and reflect, and remember, and thank God for all the great things He has done in the life of our church over the past sixteen years.

I can say I have been here for more than a dozen of those years, first as a member of the congregation for almost five years, and then as pastor for these last seven and a half years There has been some rough times, no doubt, but the Lord has been gracious to us through it all. He has pruned up, healed us, changed us, grown us and used us in our community and around the world, and for that I am grateful.

The reality is, there are not a lot of folks left among us who were there for that first worship service in 2001, but for those faithful few who have hung in there for the whole sixteen years, we say…thank you. And, even as we celebrate God’s work in His church so far, we hold to the words of the apostle Paul, who wrote of “forgetting what lies behind, and reaching forward to what lies ahead, we press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called us heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:13)

We may live in a time that seems to be getting darker by the moment, but there are bright days ahead for the Lord’s church, and for this local body that we call Shelby Crossings. We continue to seek to be a “diverse community of believers committed to developing passionate followers of Christ to impact the world.” I hope you’ll commit to investing your lives into the Kingdom work He in doing in and through this faith family, as we seek to walk with Him and share His gospel faithfully with our community in 2017.

Let me close with more words from Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi, which speak to us today at the church at Shelby Crossings: “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 1:6, NAS)

I am thankful for you, and I look forward to seeing you Sunday.