Sermon Preview: Friend Request

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I was in Manhatten one time with my parents and Meredith. My Dad was running the New York Marathon. We were a block off Time Square and someone walked by, stopped, pointed and said “Chad Brooks”. And I said “Hey Bud”. We had a short conversation and me and my family went on our way. My Mom asked me who it was and my reply was “I have no idea”.

Has something like this ever happened to you?

Friends are important.

On twitter I follow Darth Vadar, Fake Justin Bieber and John Wesley. Even though we are contacts, we definitely aren’t friends.

Friendship in the Bible is much more serious than a surface relationship, but it goes hand in hand with the benefits social media gives us in keeping up with old friends. Paul wrote these words to his friends in Philippi. He was far away from them and wanted to communicate his love to them. Philippians is one giant letter to Paul’s friends that basically says “I love you & want to give you a high five.”

Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. Whenever I pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy, for you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now. And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

So it is right that I should feel as I do about all of you, for you have a special place in my heart. You share with me the special favor of God, both in my imprisonment and in defending and confirming the truth of the Good News. God knows how much I love you and long for you with the tender compassion of Christ Jesus.

I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return. May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God. Philippians 1:3-11

Come and worship with us this Sunday. We are talking about what true friendship looks like, online and offline.

Chad Brooks - March 9, 2014

Practicing Prayer

Practicing Prayer

Have you ever felt like you bumble through prayer or are dissatisfied with your prayer life? One of the keys to the Christian life is understanding how prayer builds a big vision of who God is. This week we look at the Lord's Prayer in Matthew 6 and find out how it helps us build a great prayer life.

From Series: "Celebration of Discipline"

For Lent we are taking a journey into the disciplines. The disciplines are the garden in which we are planted and grown into mature followers of Christ.

Scripture and Discussion

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3 Reasons Pastors should be Curators of Content

3 Reasons Pastors should be Curators of Content

As pastors who are involved in the web and social media, we point our churches (and wider networks) towards pieces of information on the web we think is important. We can be agreeing or disagreeing with the writer’s position or the information, but essentially we are placing content in the eyes of folks that might not see it. These intentional moves are Pastoral Curation.

Josh Sternberg wrote a great piece on Mashable about called Why Curation is Important to the Future of Journalism. Curation cobbles together information or objects and shares them in a direct way with an intended audience. Museums have curators, and their decisions with individual pieces are always directed towards the entire exhibit. Art shows are curated for much the same reason.

With social media, when you decide to share a blog post, article or any other bit of information you are contributing to the wider idea of some way you either define yourself, your brand or business. There are folks I follow on twitter solely because I know the content they spread is unique and high quality. I can easily pigeonhole what I get from them. What we link others to contributes to the wider sense of our ministry. We take this information, think about the people God has called us to minister too and ask the question “Is this something I need to share with my congregation?”

As spiritual leaders in this world, we need to be reading as much as we can. Not just the articles we can talk about with our Seminary friends. We need to be thinking about the concerns of the people we pray with, preach to and live life with. We have the advantage of being part of their spiritual journey and this is a new mission field for people in ministry.

Here are a few notes regarding the intentionality that should take place if we want to be good (and responsible) curators for the folks that we lead in relationship to God.

Here are 3 reasons Pastors should be Curators

1. Understand Curation for Growth.
We point people to information that we think will be good for them. Sternberg notes that we should build trust. This is not something that is automatically given. Our congregations need to know that we have read and thought over this. Two things jump out to me first.

This isn’t just information. There is a specific reason that we have pointed others towards it. Hopefully, the piece easily fits into the makeup of the community already and people won’t be blindsided by it. Folks can easily see what should be gained from it.

Don’t indoctrinate. Remember by linking to something, we are telling our congregations we approve of it. This is for growth, not control.  We can’t try to use other peoples information to try to control our congregations. We pass along what we consider to be relevant. Some of it we might agree with and some of it we won’t.

2. Know what informs the needs of your congregation.
Don’t use Twitter or Facebook as a soapbox. The role of pastoral curation is simple; intentional and relevant. People should never say “Why is she/he pointing me to this link ? “. Don’t be passive aggressive either. It isn’t ethical to constantly use the internet to point fingers or proclaim how unhappy you might be with your situation. I see this more and more with the church leaders I follow.

If it doesn’t relate to the fabric of life and social situation of your church, it might not be worth the click.

3, Curate at the level of your congregation.
Perhaps this might be the most important. If you are serving in a small town in West Texas, pointing towards hip congregations in New York City might not be the best idea. But if you get wind of another church in a similar situation, it could be a great idea. If your congregation has only a few members under 60, consistently retweeting information for young adults wouldn’t make sense. If you are aspiring to a higher level of academic training, linking to scholastic arguments makes no sense to a local congregation. We have to know our environment and actually have a plan regarding how we use these tools in relation to our congregation. Know who is online and how they use the internet. Encourage them to interact with you.

More and more church leaders are communicating around the internet in apostolic ways. Your congregations are following/friending you, and that means you pastor them online as well as offline. We can’t just pass this off as a social space where we don’t have responsibilities. We want to give people resources so they can have deeper faith in God.

How do you decide what to share with your congregation?

Guest Post: Matt Stout on Spiritual Renewal and Parenting

Matt is a good friend from seminary. He wrote and drew an amazing cartoon with a hilarious look on the seminary life. I am proud to own an autographed copy with a custom bigfoot sketch! He offers us some great words on spiritual renewal and parenting. If you are interested in guest posting, here is some information.

mattstout

I’ve been reading Chad’s various blogs since we met in seminary, and have always found them to be helpful and uplifting.  However, there have been a few occasions when I’ve been reading about Chad’s life and routine and think, “It must be nice to be able to do that!”

 See, I have two wonderful daughters.  One is a toddler, and the other just learned how to crawl.  I love them so much, but to say they are a disruption to a disciplined spiritual life is an understatement.  I remember reading once on this blog about how nice it is to wake up in the early mornings and spend time with God and get some stuff done unencumbered by the business that comes up later in the day.  I can’t relate to that.  My girls wake up between 5:30 and 6:30 every morning, and for some reason they aren’t content if I get out my bible and pray at that time.  So, rather than an energizing burst of productivity, my early mornings are filled with cries of “I hungee” and trying my hardest to get my oldest to pee pee in the potty.  Some mornings their constant need for my attention can be draining before my day even really gets started.
I don’t say this to complain about my life, or to draw comparisons to Chad’s life.  My point here is to encourage people with kids, especially young kids, that there is spiritual renewal in the midst of these incredibly needy people we’re surrounded by.

Our kids don’t have to sap our spiritual energy, they can help us know God better.

Children Give Us An Opportunity To Deny Ourselves
Actually, they give us lots of opportunities to deny ourselves.  As much as we need to be refreshed spiritually, the overall trajectory of the Christian life is to give ourselves away for the sake of others.  There is no greater opportunity to practice this than parenthood.  Whether it’s giving up our mornings for an early riser, putting things at work on hold to go to a doctor’s appointment, or watching PBS Kids during your downtime instead of whatever Netflix show you’d rather watch; we get to put ourselves second a lot.  Sure, we can view this as a necessary evil or an annoying fact of life, but if we view it through the lens of Jesus I believe we can extend it to those outside our family too.  We can make laying down our lives for our kids a spiritual practice that helps us lay down our lives for others too.
Children Give Us Insight Into Ourselves
One of the big challenges in my house right now is trying to teach our toddler not to whine.  If she doesn’t get exactly what she wants when she wants it, she will whine about it.  So whining is a big no-no now around our house, but it’s opened my eyes to how whiny I can be to God.  It seems like any discomfort I experience, or any negative thing I feel, I complain about it to God.  After sending Ruthie to her room for whining the other day, I thought, “I ought to be grounded for the amount of whining I do to God.”  Relating to God as my heavenly Father has taken on a whole new dimension since I became a father myself.  It’s humbling to see how much like a toddler I am in my spiritual walk sometimes.
Children Force Us To Get Creative About Our Spiritual Lives
So, I can’t wake up at 6 AM and get my day started in the bible.  It doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be reading the bible anyway.  I just need to get creative.  I may schedule my first half-hour at work from some scripture reading and prayer in my office.  I can move my study time to after they go to bed.  I can read them a story from a children’s bible and talk about it.  (I don’t think anybody is above learning about God from a children’s bible.)  My prayer life has taken a hit since becoming a parent, but now I’m teaching my daughter to pray and it’s so rich.  Sometimes I sing hymns to my youngest to try to get her to nap, and that’s a time to enrich my faith as I instill a love for those old songs in her.  Getting creative and involving our kids in our spirituality is a benefit, not a hindrance.
All of this is to say: It’s easy to look at someone else’s life and think, “Sure, it’s easy for YOU to pray, but you don’t have to deal with the stuff I have to deal with!”  We all get caught in that kind of thinking sometimes.  But God gives us each different seasons, and no season lasts forever.  It’s our job to connect with God and to develop spiritual practices in whatever season of life we are in.  For those of us who are parents of young kids, thank God for them.  They’re teaching us and forming us.  Let’s pay attention to the ways it’s happening and join with God in the process.
Matt Stout is the Director of Student Ministries at College Place UMC in Brunswick, GA.  He’s married to a fantastic woman, has two daughters, and two dogs.  He’s a television enthusiast and an avid indoorsman.  Back when he used to have free time, he was an amateur cartoonist.  You can find some of his old cartooning work at http://communitylifecomic.tumblr.com

Does this fit your definition of worship?

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Over the last year or so I have been following Hillsong Young & Free on Instagram. It seemed like a really neat look at the youth ministry of the giant churches in Austrailia that has influenced much of modern worship. In some ways Hillsong has defined the sound and genre of what many people consider to be modern worship.

I have a working definition of contemporary worship I like to use.

Contemporary worship is the (specific) expression of devotion to Jesus Christ by a particular people in a particular place. You can read more about this on my post on culture and context. Every different group of Christians will have an idea of worship besting fitting how they see God moving among them and the value set of the kingdom they hold highest.

So what is Young and Free’s definition of worship?

Judging from the ministry’s name and the two released songs, I would imagine this particular expression looks at the freedom of grace and the abiding/indwelling power of the spirit. What is interesting about it is what this music looks and sounds like. I have to admit, I find it extremely catchy. Funny thing is, I don’t see a huge amount of congregational participation mirroring what even I am used to in contemporary worship.

I don’t judge this either way. What I do find interesting is some sort of evolution from a church generally described as groundbreaking.

 

Sermon Preview: Dropping Bombs

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Words are powerful things. I don’t think anyone would argue with that statement. When I was having conversations with people preparing for this series the thing I heard the most was how people would just say anything online, regardless of the consequences. We have the potential to drop bombs on people, destroying everything in our path because we don’t think about what we are saying. Just because we are online we aren’t exempt from communicating with respect and care for others. It is often the littlest thing having the biggest impact.

When I was in college I lived in the same house for two years. At one point in time towards the end of our time there our air conditioning started behaving really badly. The repairman came to the house to find the problem. The first thing he went to was our air filter. It was located in one of my roommates rooms. When said roommate realized the repairman was going to look at the air filter he told him “I’ve been taking care of it every month.” Upon removing the filter, you could tell it had not been changed in ages. The roommates response was “I take it out and shake it. Every few months I squirt the water hose through it. I don’t see what the problem is.” The filter was so clogged up our A/C couldn’t possibly be running well. A 5 dollar filter would have had us living in a much cooler environment. Small things matter in big ways.

This week we are going to talk about the power of words and how we can better use them. Our focus scripture is James 3:2-9

Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way.

 We can make a large horse go wherever we want by means of a small bit in its mouth. And a small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go, even though the winds are strong.In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches.

But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself.

People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish,but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God.

Think back to the last time your words got you in trouble. It never is very fun is it? Think about the last time you were hurt by another’s words. Just a single word has the power to completely change everything. It can lift people up or destroy them. We need to learn to use our words wisely. MIndfulness in our speech can make the world a different place.

Little Words can Cause a Big Reaction

*sermon re-recorded due to technical difficulties

Chad Brooks - September 15, 2013

Dropping Bombs

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Words are powerful things. James gives us many different analogies to explain how powerful words can be and how they can affect us. The most important thing for us to remember is little things can cause a big reaction.

From Series: "#statusupdate"

Have you ever noticed people act differently online? Join us as we explore what good relationships look like online and offline.

Scripture and Discussion guide

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See you in worship this Sunday