January 2, 2019
As we wrap up 2018 and look forward to a New Year, I simply want again to say “THANKS” for being so welcoming and encouraging to my family. We absolutely loved our first Christmas season in Virginia! We were especially thankful for the Christmas Eve worship experience. I mentioned during the service that it felt like the roof was going to come off of Northside High School because God’s Spirit was moving so powerfully among us. Every note of every song and every word spoken glorified God. Also, we are appreciative of your gifts and messages of encouragement. We feel so embraced and loved, and we’re immensely thankful that God brought us to you.
We look forward now to a momentous 2019. I highly encourage you to invite people to share time with us on Sundays for the “What Would Jesus Say” series. This series promises to be engaging and highly relevant to our daily lives.
Also, Pastor Michael and I encourage you to join us in reading through the Gospel of Mark during the month of January. You can get through the entire book if you read about a chapter per day. In fact, starting January 1, readings from Mark’s Gospel will be on the Journey Church Facebook page. Bible reading posts go live at 6:00am every day.
You are also invited to participate in a number of new Journey Groups which are launching in January, February, and March. Please check out journeyconnection.com/connect/journey-groups often for updated information.
We look forward to joining God’s work around us in 2019! Happy New Year!!
January 7, 2019
I want to share with you some of Carey Nieuwhof’s thoughts that I recently read:
Churches are closing, and even growing churches see people attending less often. We’ve been talking about engagement being the new church attendance. After all, Jesus didn’t say “attend me”, he said “follow me.” Early Christians didn’t attend church, they were the church.
In the future church attendance won’t drive engagement; engagement will drive attendance. If you want your church to grow, start trying to engage people. In the future church, only the engaged will attend because only the engaged will remain.
Just because gathering a crowd is harder these days doesn’t mean it’s not important. In fact, even in a post-Christian age where there are a million digital options, a 24/7 culture, travel sports on weekends for kids, and an infinite sea of options for people, it may be more important than you think.
Here are three new realities about church attendance, engagement and devotion.
1. THE MORE CASUAL THE ATTENDANCE, IN ALL LIKELIHOOD, THE MORE CASUAL THE DEVOTION
Infrequent attendance is often a sign of diluted devotion. I can’t judge someone’s spiritual condition. And no, this is NOT an absolute rule. But it is a correlation.
This isn’t a description of what should be or even of what always is, but it doesn’t take much careful observation to notice that Christians who attend church casually usually have a more casual commitment to their faith.
Think about it. If someone used to be fully engaged in the mission (serving, inviting friends, giving, attending, and in group), and now they’re doing none of those things and showing up once every two months, do you usually discover that they are closer to God than they were before, or that they’ve drifted further away from God? That is almost always a sign of drift.
And if someone is going to begin a relationship with Christ, would you recommend that they do this 100% on their own, only occasionally seeking guidance, support and mentoring from a wider Christian community? Didn’t think so. Infrequent attendance is almost never a catalyst for spiritual growth.
2. ATTENDANCE DOES NOT EQUAL ENGAGEMENT, BUT ENGAGEMENT ALMOST ALWAYS INVOLVES ATTENDANCE
Showing up at church does not mean you’re engaged in the mission. Attendance in itself doesn’t have particularly high value. However, you’ll also notice that engaged people—people who serve, invite friends, give, and participate in the community, attend.
I look at the signs of engagement as a much more accurate gauge of spiritual health than attendance alone, but regular attendance is a partial indicator of engagement in the mission.
So why does this matter? Because we live in an age where what we say and what’s true are often worlds apart. I’ve heard more than a few infrequent attendees say they’re still engaged because they watch or listen, but there’s just little evidence that they are at all engaged in the work of the Kingdom in their lives or in community. Faith has become about what they think, not a reality which they live out.
Things are almost always getting worse when attendance is declining, not better.
3. THE FUTURE BELONGS TO ENGAGED ATTENDEES
A full room is not a sign of a fulfilled mission. The future of the church doesn't belong to attendees; it belongs to communities of engaged attendees. As the churches of the future emerge, you will see gatherings of engaged attendees emerge as the difference makers of the next generation. Those are the movements that change the world. And the world needs changing.
January 21, 2019
There are times when it’s difficult to find the words. How do we adequately express what God’s Holy Spirit is doing in and through Journey Church?
Perhaps differing translations of Psalm 118:23 capture it:
“This is the Lord's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.” (ESV)
“The Lord has done this, and it is amazing to us.” (CEV)
“This has happened because of the Lord; it is astounding in our sight!” (CEB)
We can hardly believe the news we get to share with you! Our church has entered into a partnership with Wild Goose Christian Community that involves Journey being able to use their facility throughout the week for our spiritual growth activities for children and youth and adults, as well as for fellowship, ministry, and community outreach initiatives. Their building is located at 5646 Cloverdale Road, Roanoke. It includes two large group spaces and six small group spaces.
We are elated about the potential of this partnership to enable Journey to fulfill our mission to lead people into life-transforming relationships with Jesus and to experience authentic Christian community! When our church adopted our strategic plan last year, we had no idea that the Holy Spirit would work in this way to accomplish what we envisioned (see the below.) We know you share our joy and excitement in how God is working in our midst!
“We partner with others. We acknowledge God acts in multiple ways to bring healing and hope to all people. We embrace working with our neighbors, other churches, and organizations to promote justice, embrace faithful love, and humbly obey God. We build partnerships of mutual trust and respect for cooperative action together to accomplish what we could not do alone. We affirm ecumenical relationships with all who would further the cause of Christ to make a sustainable impact in our community and world.
We dream big and live generously. We believe God has called us to effective innovation in order to create and develop ministries that truly make a difference for Christ in the lives of others. We celebrate that God’s Spirit is calling us to a faith life of adventure and creativity that is much bigger than we often imagine. We give generously of our time, talents and finances so we might realize God’s bold dreams.”
Here's another version of Psalm 118:23: “This is God’s work. We rub our eyes—we can hardly believe it!” (MSG) Yep, that pretty much says it all.
-Michael and James
January 29, 2019
My son, Jackson, approached me recently as I sat down to do some work at my basement desk. He found a Bible on the desk among a smattering of other books and asked, “Daddy, don’t you need your Bible?” Jackson’s question hit the nail right on the head and reminded me of the importance of consistent and focused Bible reading and application.
The Apostle Paul extended the same reminder when he wrote: “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly” (Colossians 3:16, NIV). In other words, the Bible is not meant just for theologians and pastors, but the Bible is meant for all of us. God meant for the biblical message and story to have a top-tier spot in our hearts. Perhaps then you have read through the Gospel of Mark during the last month, or you want to dive in to Bible reading with more consistency. Here are a few pointers that may help you find tremendous and transformative guidance from Bible reading.
Aim to read the entire Bible from the beginning. This will help you get to know the entire story of the Bible that culminates in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. A helpful rule of thumb is to start with ten to fifteen minutes of Bible reading per day.
Find a helpful Bible commentary, and/or read from different translations of the Bible. Contact us for any suggestions! Many helpful online tools exist for little or no money.
Set aside a set time for Bible reading when you are free from distractions. Reading the Bible in the quiet of the morning or at night before you go to bed is often most helpful. Reading the Bible in the morning is a great way to start the pace of your day.
May the message of Christ “dwell among you richly” this week!
February 5, 2019
I read an especially challenging statement this week: “We are drowning in information, while starving for wisdom.”* We live obviously in the Information Age, but I’m somewhat doubtful if our times will be referred to as the wisest of eras. Consider, for example, that with the simple flexing of our thumbs we can find information pertaining to almost any kind of data around the world within nanoseconds. Yet, some of the higher things of God can never be tracked by GPS or found on a Google search.
Fortunately, the Bible tells us how to quench our thirst for wisdom. Out of many passages on wisdom, two major Bible verses immediately come to mind. First, the sages who wrote Proverbs said, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Proverbs 9:10, NIV). The fear of the Lord is not being spooked by God. Rather, it’s holding God in the deepest reverence and awe. In other words, when we start from a place of respecting God, we will find wisdom.
Second, the Apostle James wrote, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (James 1:5, NIV). This is a promise of the Bible on which we can rely. True wisdom is not found just through processing information. Wisdom is a gift from God for the asking.
A few years ago, a good friend of mine was asked to lead in prayer for a group meeting. Before closing his eyes and speaking, he looked seriously at all of us and said: “Let’s remember who we’re talking to.” When he said that, you could have heard a pin drop. That’s wisdom. Let’s go out this week and do like-wise.
*Quote by Edward O. Wilson
February 13, 2019
Do you ever wonder why people like working with you, or they don’t? Why your life goes pretty smoothly most of the time, or it seems to be constantly filled with destructive drama? Is it possible that the emotional intelligence you’ve developed (or failed to develop) might have something to do with it? Good news! There are ways to improve your emotional intelligence that will improve your relationships. Here are some suggestions (adapted from Carey Nieuwhof).
1. Become aware of how you impact other people.
When you enter a room, do people tense up or clam up? Are they glad you’re there and happy to see you? Are they afraid you’ll criticize them or be complaining again?
How can you increase your awareness of how you impact people? Get up the courage to ask them! And whatever feedback they give you, don’t be defensive. Just listen and try to figure out what you can learn from it.
When I was growing up, I used to watch the Flintstones cartoon. There was a child character in it named Bamm-Bamm Rubble who did not realize how strong he was. Recently, a couple of people have indicated that I have a pretty strong personality. Often times, I don’t feel like this, but it’s a good learning for me on how I impact people, either for good or not so good, when I’m being like Bamm-Bamm! I am realizing there are times I may need to apologize when I have spoken more strongly than I might should have given the circumstances.
2. Don’t make others pay when you’re having a bad day.
Any of us can have a bad day, but we shouldn’t take that out on the people around us. Self-awareness is a significant key to emotional intelligence. So is self-regulation. Well, how should we process our frustration. Possibly praying a lot more?
3. Take the high road.
Refuse to take cheap shots at others. When the conversation starts going negative and damaging, don’t go there. It can be hard to not try and angrily refute all unwarranted criticism. But, there’s a familiar quote about the consequence of taking the low road: “Never wrestle with a pig. You both get dirty, but the pig likes it.” The high road isn’t the easy road, but it’s always the best road.
February 19, 2019
The band Pink Floyd released a popular song in 1973 simply called “Money.” The highly sarcastic lyrics of the song make for a biting cultural critique. Here’s a sample:
Grab that cash with both hands and make a stash
New car, caviar, four star daydream
Think I'll buy me a football team.
The meaning of the song is quite clear: the love of money is the root of all evil. It seems as though Pink Floyd, either knowingly or unknowingly, stumbled upon a biblical teaching—money grabbing is not enough to sustain one’s life. In fact, Jesus told a story about a man who saved and saved out of greed. The story is recorded in Luke 12:13-21. The man to whom Jesus referred even built bigger barns to hold all of his wealth. His life motto was: “Take life easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!” Yet, the man’s life was required of him, and his money didn’t go with him! Jesus told this story to help us beware of greed. Jesus very bluntly asked, “What good is it if you gain the whole world but lose your soul?” (Mark 8:36).
Starting March 3, Michael and I will begin a new series of teachings called “In God We Trust.” We will examine the biblical path for saving, spending, contentment, and dealing with money in healthy, Christ-like ways. We encourage you to invite others to join us for this much needed series.
February 25, 2019
Jim White writes that according to a study coming out of Oxford University, everyone everywhere shares seven universal moral rules. It was the largest and most comprehensive survey of morals ever conducted and aimed to find out whether different societies had different versions of morality. It didn’t.
It found this is what we all share in common—across continents, religions and politics—and value as important:
Help your family.
Help your group.
Defer to superiors.
Divide resources fairly.
Respect the property of others.
They also found that inherent within this code was caring for frail relatives, passing on property to offspring, going to war if needed to protect the group, and respecting elders.
Intuitively, each of us appeals to some sense of right and wrong in our dealings with ourselves, with others, and with the world. There is a surprising consensus from civilization to civilization, culture to culture, as to what is right and what is wrong. When you study the moral teaching of the ancient Egyptians, Babylonians, Hindus, Chinese, Greeks and Romans, it’s amazing how similar they are to each other morally.
As C.S. Lewis once noted (and now we have even more evidence to support his claims), selfishness is never admired, and loyalty is always praised. As Lewis reflected on his stint as an atheist before his commitment to the Christian faith: “My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line.” This, among many other things, moved Lewis into the Christian camp.
Somehow, we seem to have an innate sense of right and wrong. As Darwin once replied when asked whether man was in any way unique from other life forms: “Man is the only animal that blushes.”
Which presents a pivotal question: Where does this sense of right and wrong come from independent of an outside source? The answer is that we are not creatures of chance, evolved from a pool of primordial slime, but rather we are dependent on a Creator who put within us a spark of the divine, a reflection of the transcendent—a soul. And it is precisely our soul that gives us inner conviction—a sense of right and wrong, true and false, good and bad—no matter how dulled our sinful choices might make it.
So, cheers to Oxford for a study whose conclusion gives us one more reason to believe that there just might be a God on the loose.