This Weekend @ The Gathering: One Day You’ll Go Back to Zero (How to get and stay unstuck)

bighurryiconThis weekend at The Gathering we’ll be finishing our current series, “What’s Your Big Hurry?”

We’ve enjoyed this journey as we’ve learned the principles that will help us enjoy our everyday life, and stop worrying too much about the future and living way too much in the past.

We’re going to finish this timely series talking about how to get and stay unstuck by going back to the Old Testament and looking at a very little known principle called jubilee. It was an idea that every fifty years, no matter what had transpired within those fifty years, all land would be returned back to its original owners.  The idea is to give people a chance to get unstuck no matter how they got in a hole, no matter what bad decisions they’d made, it was a period of grace where they could have an ancient “do-over.”

Maybe you know someone who is stuck, they just can’t seem to get traction and get moving forward.  Maybe it’s living too much in the past or having too much of their time spent in dreaming about things that might be; the inability to really put legs on their ideas and make them happen.

We’re going to be talking about how God uses setbacks, delays, lay-offs, firings, downsizings, and a thousand different ways in which we find ourselves at transitions.  And sometimes when we fail to make the turn in the transition, we get stuck.

This weekend we’re going to be talking about how to get and stay unstuck, how to make application to each of these seven principles we’ve talked about.  We’re going to talk about seven “I wills.”  We’re going to be talking about three gifts God gives us on our everyday journey that allow us to start something new, to close something old, and to dream about what may be.

This weekend will be, not only biblical, but thoroughly practical, hands-on, how you do it day by day by day. If you know someone who is looking for a fresh start, a do-over; maybe they need a jubilee in their life where all the past decisions could get wiped away and they have a brand new slate, and the chance to do it right this time.

Remember, we serve a God of grace and new beginnings.  This weekend could be yours, or maybe someone you know.  We’ll see you at The Gathering @ 9:00AM and 10:30 AM. Come with hope, an open heart, and expect to be changed.

This Weekend @ The Gathering: Why Can’t I Make You Happy?

bighurryiconHow many times have I heard people say that: “Why can’t I make you happy?” or “I can’t make you happy,” or “I can’t make anyone happy,” or “Everyone’s upset with me,” or “It seems like I can never figure out how to please the people in my life.”

This weekend @ The Gathering we’re going to be talking about people-pleasing and how that devastates our life.

One of the reasons why really smart people self-destruct is they lack boundaries, margin, and a sense of identity in their life.  It’s “whoever you want me to be,” and “whatever you want me to do,” and with that mentality that’s driven by fear and self-doubt, we end up living someone else’s life.

You can even be a high-achiever and wake up one day and realize that the ladder you’re climbing is leaning against the wrong wall. And what happens is, we self-destruct.

So this weekend we’re going to be talking about how to avoid doing really dumb things that will end up destroying your life.

Maybe you know someone who is going through a time where they’ve lost something.  Maybe they have a sense of dissatisfaction in their marriage, their job, or maybe it’s just them.  This weekend will be a great time to bring them to The Gathering.  Why?  Because it’s a place where we specialize in God simple; not church complicated.

The Gathering is a place where messy people come together to celebrate life as it can be; not how it has been.

Isn’t it true that you need the love of other people when you deserve it the least?  When we gather around the grace of God in Jesus Christ, really amazing things begin to happen.  If you’re trying to go it alone, if you’re trying to figure out life without connecting to some other fellow travelers, you need to get up and come to one of our two services at 9:00 AM and 10:30 AM this weekend.  It’s a place that you can make the connections you’ve been crying out for: not only a connection to God, but to other people, and a connection that’s most critical – to yourself, to your own sense of self-worth and significance in the world around you.

Gathering to worship God, whether it’s at The Gathering or someplace else is a privilege that’s been bought by the sacrifice of so many. Why not get out this weekend and celebrate this sacrifice.  If you’ve been hurt by church, or life, or someone else, The Gathering is a safe place to come and begin the healing process.

5 Words I Want to Describe The Gathering

wordsYour church has a reputation – good or bad. Most of the time it’s in between – neither good nor bad, which is really the problem.

In Revelation one of the churches was warned that God wanted them to either be hot or cold, not lukewarm. Most church experiences in America seem to be that way as you listen to people describe churches. Words like boring, out of touch, dated, irrelevant to my life come to mind when I hear these conversations.

For me, there are five words I hope people can use to describe their experience at The Gathering each week.

1. Fresh. By fresh I mean current, contemporary, the look, the feel, the style, the conversation, the teaching style, music, and signage all feel like it’s in the now, contemporary with how people look and feel, and interpret experiences.

2. Engaging. The music is engaging. Any announcement we might choose to offer pulls people into an opportunity, not just something they have to endure listening to. The teaching is engaging, the atmosphere, the music that we go in and out with, the information tables, and the people, are all engaging. They capture my interest. You might even say, entertaining.

3. Energetic. By that I am not advocating a loud, frenetic, never-ending string of loud music and movement. But there is energy in the people as they come in. There is laughter, talking, and there is a buzz about the place.

4. Compelling. The subject we’re dealing with, for example the present series we’re in, “We Don’t Do Fear,” defining who we are in a bad news world. We want that subject to be compelling. If it doesn’t have the possibility of being compelling it shouldn’t be used.

5. Transformative. That is, lives are changed. That’s the bottom line. Numbers matter, budgets matter, numbers of people serving matter, all of those things matter but they pale in comparison to the question, “Are lives truly being changed as people experience the living Christ and converted from the inside out by the power of the Holy Spirit?”

Think about these words: fresh, engaging, energetic, compelling, and transformative. Do these words describe the experience people are going to have in your church tomorrow? If not, they should be your new goals and you should do everything you can to hit them.

Vision is probably not what you think

Every great company, great church, great endeavor has an engine at its core; something that drives it, sustains it, pushes it forward and then upward. It’s called a vision. It’s like an engine that sets the thermostat around which all the other systems and processes of an organization revolve.

A vision for a company is what gathers the workers, the capital, and calls for innovative ideas to create something that’s never been before.

The vision of the church of Jesus Christ is somewhat different. It’s not just a vision for building a great church, vision for taking a city, vision for building a facility or buying land, or vision of collecting a great staff, or vision for writing a book or having a conference. If that’s what you think vision is, you’re going to fail miserably, or probably be out of the race very soon.

Here’s what we mean when we talk about vision and the revolution of the gospel, and the advancing of the church in the world.

1. Our vision starts with God. It’s a vision not only of the holiness of God, His distance, His magnificence, His immensity, but also a vision for the imminence of God, the closeness of God, the compassion of God, and the grace of God. It’s an overwhelming, mind-blowing experience. And it’s always the engine that drives every expression of the church of Jesus Christ. What’s your vision of God? What is God like? What does He want? How does He operate? What does He bless? How does He want to be served and represented?

2. Second is the vision of who we are and what God wants us to be. While every church has as its primary mission, the gospel, each and every church no matter how large or small, has its own particular DNA. If you don’t have a vision of who you are and what God wants you to be, it’s going to be very difficult to face the hardships ahead. What I am really talking about here is your particular teachable point of view, as it were, your elevator speech. What is it that makes your gathering, your movement, your ministry different from all the others to choose from.

To be sure it starts with your vision for Who God is and how He wants to be expressed in the world. It will be completed in the second stage of who you are, what your gifts and strengths are, what your interests and abilities are. I’m amazed at the number of churches that try to pursue a mission for which they have no affection or vision. Because that vision is detached from who they are and how they’re gifted.

3. The third part f our vision is the vision of where we are and whom we’re to reach. Again we’re all in very different places. I live in a community called Franklin, Tennessee. It’s a part of the metro area of Nashville, Tennessee. Above us is Brentwood, above that is Nashville proper, to the east of us is Murfreesboro, to the west is Spring Hill and a burgeoning population all around. My ministry field – white suburbia; a growing number of people moving from all parts of the world, right in the heart of where Nissan North America is moving and many other companies are relocating their headquarters. So the vision I have for Franklin, Brentwood, Nashville, Murfreesboro, Spring Hill is going to be very different. So in this third part of your vision, what is your vision for where you are? Do you know who you are to reach? Do you have a love and affection for them? Are you connected to them with your heart? You cannot effectively reach people you don’t love!!!!!

So a vision is not what you think. It’s more than you think; a vision of Who God is, a vision of who you are, and vision of where you are and how you’re going to reach those people. That’s your mission. Think about it long and hard.

Why Most Churches Don’t Market

In the world of marketing, the church takes one of two stances. It stays away from it totally, or engages in what I would call cheesy church marketing. Bottom line; they’re not very effective.

But why don’t we market? We have the greatest news in the whole world; something everyone needs and everyone should know about. The good news is relevant to everyone’s life, every day. So why don’t we let people know more effectively what we have to offer? There are two reasons why we don’t market. One, we don’t know what promise to make. Two, we don’t know how to make good on the promises we do make.

At the end of the day, that’s what marketing is: making a promise to fulfill a need that someone feels down deep in their soul. Is it because we’re lazy and we don’t want to sit down and define on paper what the promises are we’re willing to make to our city, our community, and ultimately our world? Do we really know what we offer? Are we really the friendliest church in town? Do we really have the greatest youth ministry, the best music, all these adjectives that we use to describe what we do that are general and blur the lines?

Let’s face it. Churches are pretty much churches when it comes to the services they offer. So what unique promise are you extending to your community (market)? For example, at The Gathering here in Nashville, we make this promise: that we will create environments and experiences that will help nonreligious people connect to God and each other. That’s our promise. What’s the end gain or the purpose? That we can change the world.

How do we deliver on that promise? Well, we have to create environments and experiences first of all that are targeted toward nonreligious people and what they care about. If we don’t deliver on that promise then the promise is null and void. If we don’t make the promise, then we simply go out of business, or at least, stay stagnant.

So if you’ve ever wondered why churches don’t market, it’s not because we’re above it, or because it’s beneath us, it’s because we haven’t stopped long enough to ask what is the promise that we make that people really care about. And do we keep the promise once people have come?

Remember, it’s not that people come that really matters, it’s that they come back. And they’ll come back when we make and keep our promises.

What promise are you making that is worth telling the world about? And if they come, can you deliver?!

What I Mean When I Use The Word “Emerging”

Iíve been a pastor a long time, and a leader. Weíve gone through several different movements: the seeker movement, purpose-driven movement, fundamentalist movement, church-growth movement, even through the post-modern period. Now weíre in a time where weíre hearing the word emerging.

Hereís what I mean when I use the word emerging:

1. I believe that all of life is lived before God, that we do not compartmentalize our faith, doing one thing at church and another thing everywhere else.

2. I believe the disciplines of theology are meant to be entered into everyday life, not a separate discussion that is apart from the experience of conversion.

3. When I say emerging, I am really saying that Iím seeking where God is moving in this moment; where the new ideas, trends, methods, ways of presenting the gospel in our current culture are coming from; to seek to ride the wave that God is sending.

4. When I say emerging, what Iím saying is that there is no difference between clergy and laymen, that weíre all brothers and sisters in Christ, equally called, equally gifted, and equally responsible for the revolution of the gospel of grace.

5. When I say emerging, what Iím saying is, I have no particular loyalty to a set of systems or methodologies. In some sense Iím a pragmatist. Iím going to use what works and when it no longer works, Iím going to set those methods aside to see what new methods God is bringing to the forefront.

6. When I use the word emerging, Iím saying that I am sick and tired of labels between conservative, liberal, fundamentalist, and social action. I think we need to drop those labels and be men and women who love Jesus and who are loving the world in His name.

7. When I say emerging, what Iím saying is Iím trying to erase the false division that exists between profession and doing. My doing shall come out of my being.

8. When I say emerging, Iím saying I want to erase the so-called barrier between social action and love for Jesus. If we love Jesus, we love our brother, we love the poor, and we help those who are disadvantaged. And thatís not a compromise, thatís an outcome.

9. When I use the word emerging what Iím saying is I want to carry on a conversation not a confrontation.

10. When I use the word emerging Iím saying I want to be faithful to the gospel and to the foundation of Godís word. I want to use the kinds of words that people understand. I use words that bring people together, not words that divide them. Iím not looking for a fight. Iím looking to join a group of men and women who are part of this worldwide revolution of presenting the gospel in a dark, dangerous, sad world.

These are some of the things I mean by emerging. What do you mean?

Commitment in the Concrete

Last weekend at The Gathering we talked about the importance commitment. Basically the things we commit to define our lives. But once we make a commitment, that commitment makes us, for to fail to commit is indeed to commit to fail. The problem I believe, in our culture, is not that we fear commitment, it is that we commit to too many things, too many things that are good, but not the best. The truth of the matter is, our lives are cluttered with lesser commitments. We are constantly pulled in many different directions. We have many things that we care about but few things that we truly love or are willing to lay down our lives for.

For example, as a Christian who says, “I’ve committed my life to Jesus Christ,” that commitment has been made by millions and millions of well-meaning people. Let’s be honest, if we were all committed to following Jesus Christ, committed to the principles that He taught and the life that He lived, if we lived like Jesus lived and love like Jesus loved, driven by the power of our commitment, wouldn’t the world be better than it is? I submit it’s not the fact that we aren’t committed, it’s that we’re committed in the abstract. In other words, when I go to church on Sunday and have an amazing experience of worship, an environment of love and acceptance, and where I hear a relevant message, how do I make that commitment practical? In other words, how do I move from a commitment in the abstract to a commitment in the concrete?

Let me give you four practical ways to move to commitment in the concrete. In other words actually living out the heart of the relationship that Christ-followers have, an intimacy, that ability to cast all our cares on Him, to ask anything in His name knowing that we shall have it, knowing that all things that come to us (good or bad) are being worked together in concert for our good. Of all these amazing promises, one of the most amazing is when the Scriptures say, “Commit whatever you do to the Lord and your plans will succeed.” What a promise! How do you make that commitment concrete?

Here are four ways to move to commitment in the concrete:

1. Giving God the first thoughts of everyday. When you open your eyes in the morning, what’s the first thing that floods your heart: fear or faith? Thoughts of how good it is to be alive and how good God is going to be in that day, or thoughts of lack, scarcity, and worry? Fill your first thoughts every day with thoughts about God.

2. Giving God the first day of each week. We were made to rest on one day and in that day to worship God. Find someplace that stirs your heart, pulls you in, sets you free, and makes you want to be the man or woman you know God wants you to be.

3. Giving God the first part of all my wealth. That wealth isn’t just money, but it’s my time, skill, talent. The standard in the Old Testament was the tithe. The standard in the New Testament is joyful giving, based on the tithe, which means my money, my time, my talent all need to be tithed and dedicated in practical ways to God each week.

4. Giving God the first consideration in every decision. God wants to lead you. He said, “Commit whatever you do to the Lord and your plans will succeed.” He said, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you all the desires of your heart.”

Claim these promises. Make your commitments in the concrete this week, right now. It will change your life.