Are you up for a challenge?

My latest project has been to build a work center for Sharon at the house around her computer table. For the most part the work center consists of a massive book shelf system. Needless to say, we have books stuck all over the house. Piles of books and small shelves of books can be found in almost every room. Our hope is to get them all centralized in one location with the new work center. Books and reading are a large part of our life. Anyone who is going to continue to grow and enjoy life must be a reader. To not read, in many settings, is to get left behind.

However, there is a book that is unlike any other book. It is not just an accumulation of words. It is more than a story or an accounting of events. It isn’t just the product of a writer’s imagination. It is unique in every sense.

Its uniqueness is found in the fact that it is ALIVE. That’s right, it is living. You say, how can a book live? How does a book live? I don’t understand it all, but whether or not I understand it doesn’t change the fact of its living existence.

That book is the Bible. From within its pages we read, “The Word of God is ALIVE and POWERFUL. It is sharper than the sharpest two edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow, it exposes our inner most thoughts and desires.” (Hebrews 4:12)

Let me try to explain. The Bible is fundamentally different than any other book because the Bible is an active book.  The Bible is a living book.  You can read the Bible over and over and over, and every time you read it, even though the words on the page may not have changed, what God says to your heart will. Its message is ever working and changing us. It never stops doing that. Its message never becomes static or irrelevant.

So I want to offer you an invitation as well as a challenge. For the next 63 days at New Venture we are going to be reading through the New Testament. If you read about 20 a day you can read through the New Testament in 63 days. We are calling it the New Testament Challenge. Would you like to accept the challenge and join many others who are ramping up to read through the New Testament? If so just comment and let me and others know that you are up for the challenge.

To assist in keeping focused and monitoring progress, there will be a day 63 day breakdown of the entire New Testament and what to read each day at relaxedchurch.com.

I just want to warn you up front. It’s ALIVE. Expect what you read to push, stretch and maybe even disturb you a little. But it’s ok. Just let God have His way and everything will be OK.

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NV Celebrates First Anniversary

Can you believe it? It was just a year ago that New Venture relocated and relaunched at Tomahawk Creek Middle School. What a blessing the facility has been. It is so suited for use by a church. In fact, at the dedication of the TC I was asked to have the dedication prayer. I was seated on stage next to the architect who drew the plans for the building. I leaned over and commented to him that the building was so user friendly for someone like a church to use. He responded, “We designed it that way.” The county is now designing their buildings to be rented by churches and other not for profit groups. They intentionally want them to be user friendly. TCMS is certainly that and more for New Venture.

I want to say that 2009 has been a great year of meeting at TC. We have used the building for a number of “first” for our church family including our first official “fellowship meal.” I have sprinkled this post with a few pictures from the year.

But I want to add that 2010 and beyond will be far more tremendous than we have in any way experienced to this point. The future is so wide open and full of ministry opportunity. God has raised up this church to be Christ in this community and we will experience that to ever increasing degrees as we move with anticipation into the future. I am so excited about all that the future holds.

The only disadvantage we have identified about the TCMS facility is its location. It is off the beaten path, so we are depending on everyone to continually get he word out. Talk up the church, clearly explain our location and consistently invite others to join us for our gatherings. Word of mouth is our best marketing plan.

The church is not here for us.

We are a society of consumer, big time consumers, even when it comes to churches, especially when it comes to churches. We want a church that meets our needs and if it doesn’t we will shop around until we find one that does. As a result we have created a climate of church hopping and church shopping.

In fact, this is how bad it has devolved.  This is incredibly popular.  We will go to one church for the worship because we really like the music there and then we leave early and get in our car and drive quickly to somewhere else to hear the preaching because we like the preaching there and then we take our kids on Wednesday night somewhere to the youth ministry because our kids like the youth ministry there and we go somewhere else for the ladies Bible study because it’s really outstanding while the whole time we are under no accountability, we answer to no one, we are not involved in genuine deep Biblical community, and we don’t give back because we are too busy consuming, and then what happens, we whine because we cannot find one church that meets all of our needs.

Can we be mature and talk about this? It’s a tragedy that American Christians are more consumers than contributors. As the leader of a new church the reality of this hits home often, especially when you hear of a family that has left to go to another church because the other church does a better job of “meeting their needs.” So can I be straight up with you and tell you what you are not going to find at our church and save you some time in the searching process?

You are not going to find… (Here’s the top 10)
1. A nice building of our own that is suitable to meet all the needs of the church.
2. A variety of programs that are designed to address “all” the needs of the church body.
3. A turn key facility that is all set up and cleaned by a custodian and all you have to do is walk in and enjoy.
4. A church campus that is ideally located in the community
5. A wide array of staff and finely tuned programs ready to meet all the needs of everyone.
6. Strong clout and influence in the community.
7. A place to hide if you want to forever remain anonymous.
8. A highly comfortable and convenient setting.
9. A substantial financial base of long time givers.
10. I’m sorry, I could only think of nine.

I suppose it is only fare that after identifying what you will not find at our church to let you know the flip side, what you will find. So here it is.
1. A place for bold and courageous people to serve and demonstrate authentic faith.
2. A place that witnesses more unsaved coming to Christ than any other kind of church setting.
3. A place to invest your resources that pay the highest return in kingdom results.
4. A place where radical life change happens regularly.
5. A place with a spirit and environment that is infectious and contagious.
6. A place that gets more accomplished due to lack of bureaucracy.
7. A place to be stretched in faith like you never have before.
8. A place where the Bible is communicated clearly and without compromise.
9. A place where corporate worship brings you into the presence of God.
10. A place with a children’s program that is second to none.
11. A place with a healthy, growing student ministry.
12. A place with small groups that provide friendships and a environment for living out faith.
13. A place that will challenge your comfort zone in a healthy way.
14. A place where you are needed.

Here’s the problem.  We’ve forgotten this. THE CHURCH IS NOT HERE FOR US. Did I really just say that? I must be insane. But friends, we are the church and we are here for the world.  When did we forget that?  “Can’t find a church that meets my needs.”  Grow up.  Church is not here for us.  We are the church.  We are here for the world.  When we grasp that, when we work together with that objective, God’s business will flourish like it never has before.  God will be glorified when the body of Christ acts like the body of Christ. And then, and only then, will our own needs be met as God has designed them to be met.

Isn’t that exactly what Jesus was driving at when He said, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. “ (Matthew 10:39) Can I put that in today’s terms? Whoever lives life from a selfish perspective, always looking for how my needs can be met, will never come to experience the true meaning of what life is all about. But those who are willing to live life from an unselfish perspective, living for God’s objectives, discover true life. And I might add, those are also the only ones who come to discover true happiness.

So what are you looking for, your needs being met or real life and happiness?