Friday, December 28, 2007

Does Spiritual gifts discovery help in evangelism? See results

I'm about to head to the doctor to see why I have this vertigo. Now that I have some cold symptoms, I suspect it is an inner ear infection.

The "poll results" are still coming in from the Spiritual gifts surveys. But I thought I would share a couple of early findings, specifically on the impact that Spiritual gifts discovery has upon evangelism.

Note the following statistics from the survey of those who have gone through the discovery process:
  • 78% said that as a result of this process, they have thought more about and/or better served people in the world/workplace/neighborhood

  • 50% said that this process has helped them share their faith or help non-Christians come to faith in some way

  • 61% believe that if most in the church would go through this process, the church could better fulfill its mission and reach the lost

These are amazingly high stats, especially considering that most people are motivated to take the assessments because of personal spiritual growth or to find their place in the church. I'll have more to say later on this, with much more extensive results.

Why do you think this process is seems to be so effective in helping people to reach out and share their faith?

Not feeling too well today

Hey guys. I'm not feeling too well today. I've had some kind of vertigo the past few days, and I have a killer headache and some cold symptoms. Not good timing--I've got a lot of work to get done. I'm not on my death bed, but I'll take all the prayer I can get! By the way, I may be a bit slow on emails for the next couple of days. Sorry about that--I'll get back with you soon.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

I'm touched tonight by the church here

Each day I'm still here I am reminded of how precious the people at Liberty are. Tonight was one of those days.

Dennis, our associate minister, had a great class on, of all things, the story of Dinah and the men of Shechem in Genesis 34. There were a lot of good insights that were brought out by various members of the class on this interesting narrative. We laughed a lot too, which always helps. I told Dennis that I would be preaching this story soon. I thought of a lot of application for evangelism on this. I won't spoil it for you. I was also reminded of how important it is to study in community, to hear the different perspectives of God's people on a text.

I sent out a questionnaire this week to most of the people who have gone through the Strengths and Spiritual gifts assessments. It asks questions about the process--whether or not it helped people serve, learn how God made them, help them in sharing their faith, and a whole lot of other questions. I have compiled some of the results already, and they are very interesting. I'll share them with you later.

I sent out these requests for this questionnaire to be filled out by people on close to midnight on Christmas Day. It is research that I need for one of my doctoral classes. It was a personal request, though we will use the results here to help with our discovery process. I had to ask for a quick response, because my paper is due at the end of December. And people responded. The responses just kept coming throughout the day.

I know it is a small thing, perhaps, and maybe I'm just emotional right now. But as I was sitting here tonight, inputting data, I was touched by the fact that people cared enough to take time out of their busy holiday and help me on this project. Liberty, I will really miss you. You are my friends and co-workers for life.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Our Christmas

Here is what we have been up to this Christmas.

On Saturday we went to Omaha, Nebraska, to see Becki's parternal grandmother and some of her father's relatives (the Dominas). I I come from a very different upbringing than these relatives, and relating to this group required a bit of "cross-cultural" skills. We do share a love for God. We spent about half the day there, and then we went on to Becki's maternal grandparents (the McCords), who live on a farm in Harlan, Iowa.

While I did not grow up on a farm, I am a bit closer culturally to this side of Becki's family. Many of the children and grandchildren, for instance, went to Christian colleges. I had some good conversations with one of Becki's uncles, Charlies who lives in Michigan, and one of her aunts, Becky, who lives in Garland, TX. We discussed the church, spiritual gifts, and God's working in our lives.

Unfortuantely, at the McCord house, Becki's neice, Abby, broke two bones in her leg while sledding down a hill. Poor thing!

We worshipped in Harlan, a church of about 50-60 that was bursting at the seams from the family visitors. Later that day we drove back to Liberty (a trip of about four hours).

Yesterday we had our Christmas. I got Becki a certificate to the "Serendipity Spa," for a day of pampering. I received some lounging clothes, which I'm very comfortable in and wearing right now. The kids received various books, musical toys and movies.

Becki's sister and her family and one of her brothers joined us in the evening yesterday. I went with Dave, my brother-in-law, to see Will Smith's movie I Am Legend. It was a lot different than I expected, almost a horror film. I wouldn't take your wife or girlfriend out to see this--it has some rather disturbing images. Still, it made an interesting point about God at the end. Most of Becki's family left early this morning. Her mother is still here, helping us around the house.

I am working on my evangelism and Spiritual gifts paper for one of my doctoral classes. It is due at the end of December. With all that has gone on--job interviews, getting ready to move, etc.--I still have a lot of work to do on this. So yes, I'm working on Christmas, but technically, we had our Christmas yesterday.

How was your Christmas?

Friday, December 21, 2007

Man learns his co-worker is his birth mom

The title of this blog says it all. I pretty amazing story. Here is the link.

As I read this story, I wondered about a biblical application. Here is what came to mind.

There are so many people who feel that God is absent from their lives. Then they encounter a godly person who shares Christ with them. And when they look back, they discover that God has been with them all along. Every pre-Christian I have talked to has been able to look back in his or her and see where God put a Christian friend, co-worker, family member, or neighbor into his or her life. It is a great discovery, and one which is faith affirming and brings them joy.

What surprising things have you discovered about God in your life?

Recommended Church Media Blog

Hello. I wanted to highlight a church media blog that I came across and recommend. Helpful information, and the "favorite links" section will take you to the author's online store of worship slides, videos, and site designs. I'll be adding this link to my favorites section.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Up Late at Night

Well, I sent my last email tonight at 12:30 PM and went to bed. But I can't sleep, even though I am tired. So I'm blogging.

Today Becki's family came into town. They will leave for Iowa in the morning, and we'll follow them on Saturday. We opened a few gifts tonight. Gina had been dying to give us her gifts. She had made for us pictures, ornaments, and a clay figurine. She had also saved her money to buy a gift for her sister, Emily. Pretty precious.

I've been doing a lot of research on websites for the church and for my own sites. Here is a link to a designer who does some great work. Scroll down to the various sites listed on this page and check out some of the church sites.

Here are some of the things we have to do:
  • I have a doctoral class to finish by the end of the year, with paper and project that I'm doing on evangelism and Spiritual gifts
  • I have another class scheduled in January on Theology of Preaching to prepare for
  • We are working to get our house on the market. It is a terrible time to sell, both seasonally and due to the current housing slump. We also have some things to finish on our house. So say some prayers for us!
  • I am working on handing off responsibilities. I have tried to prepare and train various people to do many of the jobs that I do, but some I need to recruit. Hopefully the emphasis upon outreach, discipleship studies, and Spiritual gifts has embedded itself in the congreation, but it will take others championing these causes to keep these ministries flourishing. I am happy that some have already told me that they are going to continue these things. Others have asked me how they are going to continue and I've said, "It is up to people like you."
  • I am preparing for our new work in McKinney. I am coordinating with elders and ministers in some budgeting and planning for the year. There are some things that I can anticipate now, while others cannot be known until I am "on the ground."

I think I might feel sleep coming on, so I'm signing off. Have a great Holidays!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

We need a kingdom vision, not just a church vision

In doing some research for a paper on evangelism and Spiritual gifts, I came across this great quote by Howard Synder:

"When Christians catch a vision of the Kingdom of God, their sight shifts to the poor, the orphan, the widow, the refugee, the wretched of the earth, to God's future—to the concerns of justice, mercy and truth. Church people think about how to get people into the church; Kingdom people think about how to get the church into the world. Church people worry that the world might change the church; Kingdom people work to see the church change the world."
The Kingdom of God is God's rule over his people and the world, which is broader than the church. In the Lord's Prayer, Jesus says to pray, "You kingdom come, your will be done." This is a case of Hebrew parallelism, in which these two lines mean the same thing. That is, God's kingdom is about his will being done (his rule), which includes love, justice, and righteousness. What we desire is for God's will to be done here on earth as it is in heaven, and the church partners with God in accomplishing his will. In other words, we are part of a mission that is larger than ourselves. Church is not the ultimate goal--God's kingdom rule is the ultimate goal.

When we understand this, we will stop having a bunker mentality, in which we withdraw from the world. Instead, we will realize that fundamental to our purpose is going out into the world and transforming it. Evidence of a church focus rather than a kingdom focus is a lack of evangelism, evangelism without service, lack of care about the community, or making non-evangelistic numbers the focus. When we care about the kingdom, and serve and share the good news with the lost, numbers will result. Lost people are not dumb--they can tell if we truly care about them and the world around them, or if we just want our attendance to go up.

See Snyder, Howard, A. Liberating the Church. Downers Grove, 111.: Inter-Varsity Press, 1983, 11.

Do you think most churches have a church focus or a kingdom focus?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Dear Liberty Church--We will miss you dearly

This morning at worship we announced to the Liberty congregation that we will be moving to McKinney, Texas, and taking a position at the High Pointe Church of Christ. Many, many tears were shed, both from us and from the congregation, as I attempted to put into words our incredible love and appreciation for this church. Before I even opened my mouth, I began to break down. The elders all rallied around me, standing there with me and praying for me and giving me their blessing.

Here is my letter to this church:

Dear Liberty family,

It has been a pleasure serving with you these nearly six years. During this time, the church here has experienced substantial growth in attendance, in baptisms, in contributions, and in new ministries. We have worked together, laughed together, and served alongside one another, and God has blessed this partnership. We have developed incredible, lifelong friendships. Our children have grown up at Liberty. We will cherish these relationships always.

We have decided to take a preaching/evangelist position at the High Pointe Church of Christ in McKinney, Texas, a suburb of Dallas. It is an 800-900 member congregation that wants to become missional and reach out to the community and is looking for leadership. They have a tremendous number of young families, and are looking for someone to connect with them. The area is expected to grow from 120,000 to 300,000 in the next 5+ years. And this is the church where my parents attend, which will allow our children to be closer to their grandparents. High Pointe approached us for this position, and when we visited them, we received an overwhelming reception. In short, this is a unique opportunity that we feel will allow us to be closer to family and have a great impact for the kingdom.

We will probably be leaving about mid-March, though this may be moved up if we conclude personal matters and it is agreeable to the church. In the meantime, we plan on spending cherished time with our friends here. We will also be concluding evangelistic Bible studies, doing follow-up with the Children's Ministry Outreach, and handing off ministry duties.

Thank you so much for all that you have done for me, for my family, for this church, and for the kingdom. The Liberty church is a wonderful church, and I am sure that God will send a great minister your way. We will pray for this, and we will pray that the great progress here will continue. This church has strong ministries and strong leaders, and should do well in the transition. We covet your prayers in beginning this challenging new work. We will stay in touch and forever be blessed by our partnership here together. God bless.
James and Becki

Saturday, December 15, 2007

EVERYTHING skit/video--Sure to move you emotionally

This video shows a skit about a teen whom Satan is trying to destroy. It is sure to make you cry--hold out to the end!

Thanks, Jen, for the video.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Email and text messaging--when not to do it

A recent news article highlighted a growing trend of breaking up with someone by email or text message.

This is a horrible thing to do. Email and text messaging is good for information, but not for emotional messages. Do not break up with a girlfriend/boyfriend, quit a job, or lash out in anger through these means. Save these dramas for face to face interaction, or a phone call if that is impossible. Email and texting is the easy way out, the cheap way out, in which we can lash out and not have to deal with the human response. By doing this, we disrespect the person whom we refuse to talk to face to face.

I fear that we are becoming a society that has forgotten how to communicate face to face. I'm told by parents that teens will sit in a room together and text one another. This is probably fun, but it should not replace human interaction.

Why do you think breaking up through email and texting is increasing in popularity?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Are young adults full adults?--see survey results

Today, USA Today gave some statistics on whether or not young adults (18-25) and their parents viewed them to be full adults.

According to the survey less than 20% of both "young adults" and their parents saw 18-25 year olds as adults.
Some studies show that the brain is not fully developed for most people until age 20. And yet, decades/centuries ago, a great number of people married at age 14-16. For the Jews, a boy was considered a man at age 12.
It is true that in American/Western society today, almost no one would view a 12 year old as a man or woman. And the "kid" status has been extended until age 25 now. We need to realize, however, that this is a cultural phenomenon, and a relatively recent one, not primarily a genetic setting.
We need to challenge our teens and young adults to take responsibility and serve God, work hard, and be committed and involved Christians. If people once could be married at age 14, then surely they could serve in great ways if challenged.
I would love to hear from those with teens and young adult children on this.
What do you think teens and 18-25 year olds could be challenged to do? When should they be viewed as an adult?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

What do miraculous stories have to do with us today?

Today I am looking at Acts 12 in preparation for Sunday's message. The biggest part of this chapter is the story of Peter's miraculous escape from prison. Herod had killed James the brother of John, and he had had Peter arrested. An angel appears and leads him out of prison right past the guards. The gates even open by themselves.

This is an interesting story. But what application does it have for us today?

Any thoughts?

Monday, December 10, 2007

Spiritual Practices and Resouces for Families

Dennis Meyers, our associate minister, has recommended a couple of books for family devotionals.

In Our Fathers Hands - Justin and Tyrel Hatfield - This book is designed for families with children.
Strength for the Journey - David Deffenbaugh and Bill McFarland

A note from Dennis: "The books are published by Little Acorn: their website has additional information about the books including downloadable PDF files with excerpts from both books. The website is"

For Liberty members, if you want to order these books, let Dennis know by the end of the week.
I try to read Bible stories, sing songs, go over memory verses, and pray with my two girls every night except Sunday. Families need to be doing Spiritual things together, and studies show that families that have daily devotionals together stay very faithful. My suggestion--take at least 30 minutes a night watching TV, and spend it with your family on Spiritual things.
What Spiritual practices do you have in your family?

Addicted to achievements?

Probably one of the most defining Strengths or characteristics I have is that of "Achiever." Achiever work long and hard hours in order to accomplish goals, and they tend to define progress and themselves in terms of accomplishments.

My achiever gene translates into a lot of areas of my life, resulting in:
--Three undergrad degrees, two masters (M.A. and M.Div.), and working on a D.Min.
--Several written works (Story of Redemption, New Community, Using Your Spiritual Gifts
--Scheduling of missional Church Seminars
--Setting up many evangelistic Bible studies and multiple outreachs to community
--Hours spent in sermon preparation
--Many books read each year
--Joining of civic organizations to meet people in the community
--Spending time with Christians to develop friendships and new leaders
--Time each night spent teaching our two girls about God, Christ, and the Bible, songs, how to pray

Most people look at all of this, and it makes them tired. In truth, I at times wear myself out. I have so many things that I want to do and accomplish, and I try to do them all at a high level. If we only had 48 hour days . . . :) The past couple of days, I have been very tired. But, like most Achievers, after resting up, I want to get working again. I already have a whole new list of goals . . .

It is easy for Achievers to get addicted to achievements. And I plead guilty. To you fellow achievers out there, let's be honest--our achiever nature is part of how God built us, and it won't go away. But we also need to take some vacation time here and there, and not let the Achiever part totally override other aspects of our lives. Reggie McNeal, my teacher at Fuller, said that we need to apply our Achiever strength to our families as well, and mark off "accomplishments" with them. Becki and I need to take more vacations together. I'm counting on all of you to remind me of this!

Friday, December 07, 2007

Racism in our country's and fellowship's past

Here is an article on race from a member of our fellowship back in 1941. It will probably sadden and anger you that blacks were treated so poorly at this time. Shaking hands with black preachers, sleeping in the same room as them, or marrying an African-American was viewed to be a "violation of Christianity."

These racists attitudes were pervasive across the United States, and sadly, across the vast majority of religious groups in the South at this time. Racism has no place whatsoever in Christianity, for all men and women, regardless of race, are created equal in the sight of God.

We need to understand the sins of the past so that we can understand the issues of the present and seek to continue to move towards a more positive future. Racism still exists. All of us surely fall prey to this one way or another, often in unconscious ways. If we want to know why there is still a racial divide in our country and in our fellowship, we need to understand our history. We have made much progress on racism as a country and as a fellowship. We need to continue to do so.

Clearly, there was a blindness on this issue that was so pervasive in our culture that it was not even seen by Christians. Here is a positive point on this issue. Some hold the view that if anyone is wrong on any point of doctrine, that they are lost. If this is the case, then the vast majority of Christians in this time--including so many of our grandparents and great-grandparents--would have to be lost. I thank God for his grace, that he forgives us when we are seeking him, even sometimes to things to which we are blind. I am sure that I am wrong on many things, and blind to many things. I have to believe that God forgives me.

How can we continue to overcome racism and prejudice in our nation and in the church?

Mitt Romney, Mormonism, and Christianity

I have for a long time been somewhat conflicted about Mitt Romney's run for president for several reasons. While I am very interested in politics, I do not believe that this is the way that we will impact the world for Christ. No amount of laws can change hearts. For instance, the problem in the US is not that gay marriage may become legal. It is that people do not know Christ and that they are engaged in this lifestyle. (And no, I am not trying to elevate this sin above others here, just referencing a high profile, political issue that people are well aware of.) Also, the US Constitution says that there should be no religious test for office. So I cannot just reject Mitt Romney's run for president out of hand.

I also like Mitt Romney personally. He is a good administrator--something which we really need right now. And, though he has recently changed his positions, he is a strong social conservative. I identify with his values. I have to admit, however, that I am reluctant to see Mormonism be given a higher profile, particularly when it is confused with Christianity.

Yesterday, Romney gave a speech about his Mormon faith because he has been slipping in polls to Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor who is overtly running as a "Christian leader" (this is flashed on the screen in his TV ads). And polls show that evangelicals are reluctant to vote for a Mormon. So he gave this speech, a la Kennedy's speech on Catholicisim, to let people know that he would not be controlled by Mormon leaders in Salt Lake City. He spoke of the religious plurality of the founders of the US Constitution. He spoke about the role of faith in the US. His rhetoric was soaring, inspiring, and I believe will help him politically.

One problem I have, however, with Romney's speech, is that he sought to paint the picture that Mormonism is Christianity, merely one of many branches. He said that he believed that Christ was the savior of the world and the Son of God.

On the surface, this would make Mormonism seem like Christianity. Most Mormons are good, moral people. They have great families, great values, and are good Americans. However, Mormonism--though it seeks to portray itself as such--is not Christianity. This is affirmed by both liberal and conservative Christians alike.

Mormons believe things totally at odds from Christianity:
  • They believe that God is a physical being with a physical body
  • They believe that God used to be a man on another planet
  • They believe that God the Father had a Father
  • They believe that there is a mother god
  • They believe that God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are three totally separate beings, not one
  • They believe that Jesus is a created being, and that Satan and Jesus are Spirit brothers
  • They believe that human beings can become their own gods
  • They believe in the pre-existence of humanity, that we were spirit beings in heaven before being born
  • They baptize for the dead
  • They believe in eternal marriage
  • They believe in salvation by works
  • They believe there is no salvation without recognizing Joseph Smith as a prophet
  • They believe in "another gospel of Jesus Christ" that was given to Joseph Smith by an angel
  • They believe in ongoing revelation of modern day prophets who are on the par with Scripture

For more information on their beliefs, go to Hopefully I do not have to point out how these beliefs are totally at odds with Scripture and the historical understanding of the Christian faith. In short, while Mormons are good people who do a lot of great things, Mormonism is not Christianity. I certainly try to take the good in all people, faiths, cultures, and religions, and use this to point towards larger truth. However, I fear that some of our young (and older) people today are so unaware of biblical teaching and so (rightly) desiring of unity, that they may believe that there is really no difference between Christianity and Mormonism. There most certainly is a huge difference.

For the political reaction to the speech, see the following links.

What do you know about Mormonism? How can we best reach Mormons?

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Bowling and Friendship

After lunch today, my friend Matt and I went bowling with a couple of guys that we are getting to be friends with from Sertoma. Matt bowled 111, and I bowled a whopping 91! In the last frame, I had two strikes--the first I had had all game--and a 4 pin.

C.S. Lewis said that guys bond together side by side, rather than facing one another. In other words, guys bond by doing things together.

If you want to develop genuine friendships with both Christians and non-Christians, you have to spend time together and create memorable experiences by doing things together.

Hey, bowling isn't climbing Mt. Everest. But I'll remember my 91 and Matt's 111!

What types of things do you like to do with your friends?

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Using Your Spiritual Gifts--A New Publication

Just wanted to give you a heads up on a work that I will soon be publishing entitled, Using Your Spiritual Gifts: Serving Like Jesus. This work is designed to help people discover their Spiritual gifts, with a biblical lesson on each gift. Also contained within the work is a Spiritual gifts inventory, as well as stories or testimonies of how people have used their gifts. I believe that this will be a unique and useful tool for individuals and churches.

More information to come!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Hard Core--Beware of This!

Here is a link to a YouTube Video with Michael Frost, who is speaking on the missional church. Frost is one of the co-authors of The Shaping of Things to Come, co-written along with Alan Hirsch, one of my teachers at Fuller. Frost is a great communicator. You won't want to miss this talk. A warning, however--Frost is hard core missional, and will radically challenge your understanding of what it means to be the church. Enjoy!

Holiday Christmas Party at our House, Sat., Dec. 9

Hello everyone! Just wanted to invite you out to our Holiday Christmas Party this weekend.

What: Holiday Christmas Party

When: Sat., Dec. 9, 6:30-9:30 PM

Where: Our House

Why: To have fun! To invite friends! To enjoy Christmas!

We'll have finger foods, and our band, "Assisted Living," will be playing some rockin' Christmas tunes. Hey, our basement is finished too, so this year will be that much better. It will be a great time had by all, and a great opportunity to invite your friends. Come out, and bring someone else along.