Friday, October 31, 2014

Hidden Heroes, Week 4 -- The Epic Fail Hero

This week's hidden hero might just be my favorite of them all.

(Well, until next week's.)

I love the arc of his story.  From failure to redemption. From problem to purpose.

From Pamphylia to Proclamation.

To see what all that means, Sunday.

8:30.  10.  11:30.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Not Yet And The Never Will

Although I have lived in and around Charlotte for a quarter century, there are still some typically Charlottean things that I have never done.

Some fall into the category of "not yet."  Others, "never will."

I'll let you try to figure out which is which.

Here they are:

Checked a book out of the Billy Graham Library.

Crawled the galleries in NoDa.

Attended a Charlotte Knights game at BB&T Park.

Line danced at Coyote Joe's.

Watched an indie movie at the Manor Theater

Eaten at the Flamingo.

Attended a Davidson College basketball game.

Tailgated all Sunday morning before a Panthers game.

Gone to a 500 or 600 mile NASCAR race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Shopped at Charlotte Premium Outlets.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Some Things You'll Never Quite Hear At A #UMC Board Of Ordained Ministry Interview

If you are a United Methodist pastor today, it's because you survived the Board Of Ordained Ministry yesterday.

Each of the Annual Conferences (Good Shepherd is in the Western North Carolina Annual Conference) selects its Board to evaluate, test, interview, and ultimately decide upon candidates for ordination.  Back when I was going through this particular valley of the shadow of death, it was a two pronged system: the Board approved me as a deacon in 1989 and an elder in 1992.

Today, the nomenclature is different, but I believe the process is virtually the same.

Which brings me back to the interview sessions themselves:  tension-filled gatherings in which difficult questions get asked and serious advice gets given.   

Here are some things that, given the theological makeup of not only the UMC but those likely to be selected to serve on the Board Of Ordained Ministry, you just will never quite hear.

So:  pre-trib, mid-trib, or post-trib?

Do you put your right hand or your left hand on the small of the candidate's back as you baptize them by immersion?

What's your favorite John Haggee book?

When you pray in tongues, is it more likely to happen in private devotions or during worship on a Sunday morning?

We won't ordain you this year, but if you spend the next 12 months shoring up on your John Piper,  you should be good to go.

Tell us how you are modeling your marriage after Mr. Wesley himself.

When are you taking your youth group to Hell's Flames & Heaven's Gates?

You're a new parent?  Congratulations!  When's the dedication service?

Your best continuing education is a daily dose of "The Heart Of The Matter."

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Top Five Tuesday -- Top Five -- Er, Thirteen -- Questions About Beyond

In case you weren't able to be in worship on Sunday and didn't see yesterday's blog-with-video, here is an architectural fly though of what's coming to Good Shepherd at Moss Road:

And then here are the most Frequently Asked Questions about the project and the Beyond Campaign that will support it.

What is the purpose of the “Beyond” project?
Beyond will allow us to dramatically increase our ability to invite all people into a living relationship with Jesus Christ.  We’re moving beyond the ordinary in people’s lives, beyond the walls of this Worship Center, and even beyond the borders of our Moss Road campus. We have the opportunities to help hundreds of students, new residents, and Spanish-speaking friends become awake to the Holy Spirit.

How will we advance our mission?
We will move beyond our borders by launching a worship community at our Zoar Road Campus, we’ll move beyond these walls by adding a Living Room space at Moss Road, and move beyond the ordinary by updating our K-Zone Children’s Space.

Why Zoar Road?
Zoar Road is at the epicenter of a residential housing boom.  Over 2,300 homes are going up in new neighborhoods within a 2.5 mile radius of Zoar.  Many people who currently live around Zoar Road already know we exist and ask about the site.  Also, we have existing influence in Fort Mill & Tega Cay to launch a worship community at Zoar.

Will there be any new construction at Zoar Road?
No.  We will remodel the existing buildings. The Life Center will become our Worship Center and the Fellowship Building will become our Zoar Road K-Club.  We are excited to invest more heavily in people than in buildings at Zoar and still have an opportunity to reach 400 new people per weekend.  We will build a new parking lot on that campus.

What will be offered at Zoar Road?
Our Zoar Road Sunday morning will feature a live host pastor, live worship band, live children’s ministry, and a video sermon from Moss Road.

How will we solve the issue of losing the Corner Campus?
The lease to the Corner Campus (across Moss Road), which houses our Student Ministries and Latino Worship, runs out in 2016.  To compensate for losing that space, we will build a new 17,000 square foot Living Room on the Moss Road side of the current Worship Center. The Living Room will be the new home of our Student Ministry, Latino Ministry and the After School program.  The space will built with students in mind but have the flexibility to accommodate the additional worship space we require on Sunday mornings.

How will all this make our Moss Road campus look?
The net effect will be to make the exterior of Good Shepherd much better match its interior.  What we look like on the outside will mirror the worship that happens on the inside – modern, intimate, and passionate.

Will there be anything different for children at Moss Road?
ABSOLUTELY! We will be giving the K-Zone and the K-Zone lobby a total makeover.  The lobby will be enlarged and themed to match the inside of the K-Zone.  It will be and exciting space that kids can’t wait to enter!  In addition, security for both the K-Zone and Nursery will be enhanced, providing the assurance to parents that their children are safe and cared for.

When do you want to do this?
The Beyond Capital Campaign will run from January 4 – February 8, 2015. During that month, we will have some pretty amazing things lined up for our worship gatherings.  The whole church will have a chance to get involved.  The Campaign builds to a First Fruits offering and three year pledge on February 8l.

How much will the project cost?
Early estimates put the cost of the project at over $6 million.  To begin construction next spring, we will need $500,000 cash on hand and $3 million in pledged giving over the three year period 2015-2017.  This giving is – you guessed it – above and beyond what you give to our operating budget.

Is This Even Possible?
The Beyond Project is ambitious without being outrageous.  A church of our size, with our giving patterns, and with our history of watching God work in ways beyond our imaginations, can confidently tackle such a task.

Can I give now?
Please do. See below.

What do you want me to do next?
First, begin seeking God on how he will transform you from invited to inviter.  Second, join us in our fasting commitment for the duration of 2014.  Third, if you would like to take advantage of year-end giving and support Beyond with a lead gift that will move us towards the $500,000 cash on hand requirement, please contact Brad Brasel at 

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Maybe Hero Recap -- Sermonizing The Way To A Major Church Announcement

So yesterday was both a sermon and a major, mega church announcement.

Gospel proclamation and congregational reveal all in one place.

The first part of the message -- in which I tried to imagine what it was like to be the unsuspecting Archippus and to hear his name read out loud at the Colossian church -- was modeled after a similar effort by my friend and fellow Asbury Seminary alum Carolyn Moore.  It's vital to recognize that every book in the bible actually had a life before the bible -- and the covered dish dinner scene in Colossae is quite possibly what that life looked like.

With that prelude, I then moved to demonstrate the ways that Archippus in the 1st century = Good Shepherd in the 21st:  sitting on loads of untapped potential.  That paved the way for the reveal on the ways we are going to massively expand our ability to invite all people into a living relationship with Jesus Christ.  Don't miss the video fly through!


So we’re in this Hidden Heroes series, taken from a hidden, closing section of the book of Colossians.  It’s the kind of section those of you who don’t really read the bible didn’t even know was in there at all AND the kind of section that even the bible readers in the house skim right over. But do you know what it was like when one of these churches in the NT, like at Rome or Ephesus or in this case at Colossae, received a letter from Paul?  These letters had a life of their own before they ever made it into the bible, after all.
            Remember: there was no Constant Contact, there was no mass email, no telephones, gosh, no books even.  So I suspect they would call a meeting by word of mouth and in all likelihood the entire church would gather at someone’s house at night.  And it would be a dramatic night, because they all knew they’d gotten a letter from a VIP.  People probably brought food … couples with small children stopped and picked up at Chick Fil A and widows with more time brought their own mac and cheese and put it in Tupperware with their names taped on it.  God HELP you if you try and take someone else's Tupperware home.  And there was this sense of anticipation around the whole night because Paul was such a big deal and his words had such power and persuasion.  It was really like the reading of a will . . . which makes good sense because the Gospel was in fact their inheritance.
            And they no doubt recruited their best reader, the one with the clear articulation and deep, resonant voice.  Maybe like this:

Baseball!  So he starts. And early on, Paul’s words are dense & thick and goose bump-inducing, like 2:9:

  For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form,  (All of God was in Jesus!)


  Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

 And remember: these people were used to listening because most couldn’t read.  They got what they heard much better than we do.  And in the home that night with the rest of the Col church was a young man named Archippus, the son of Philemon.  Archippus – from now on, merely “Archie” – was a young man of some privilege and a lot of potential. Everybody there knows the boy has GOT IT.  He can speak and teach and persuade people towards Jesus.  The younger kids love him.  The ladies in the church dote on him.  He’s been marked for greatness, clearly.  Personal charisma.
            But Archie is sort of . . . complacent. Comfortable.  Coasting.  In fact, on the night of the reading, after grabbing some CFA & mac & cheese, he’s actually in the back of the room while the reading is going on, and I don’t know, maybe he’s doing thumb exercises.  Huh? Yeah! Those thumb exercises that adolescents and young adults do so much better than we do! Texting.  Almost not paying attention.  And then, just when Paul is winding down in his letter, having given some kudos to Tychicus & Onesimus and others and there is an “in conclusion” just hanging in the air, Archie hears this: 

  Tell Archippus: “See to it that you complete the ministry you have received in the Lord.”
 And he JOLTS up.  What?  Did I hear that?  And everyone in the room swivels their head to look at him. So he raises his hand.  Could you repeat that please?  So the reader repeats 4:17: READ.  You know what has taken place?
            Archippus has been called out in front of everyone!  Paul – geographically distant yet emotionally forceful – has chosen this very public place to deliver some private words.  And he has taken on the task of addressing this supremely talented yet partially motivated young man, the son of privilege who is loaded with potential and in so doing calling him out.  He’s called him out because he’s calling out the hero hiding within.  Archie has evidently hidden his own hero.  Wasting his own potential.  So Paul must call him out, calling that hero to emerge.  Complete what you’ve started, young man.  You’ve begun, you’re gifted, you’ve got potential . . . so complete it.  Why?  Here’ what Paul is saying “Finish what you started because it wasn’t yours to begin with.”  Archie didn’t conceive of his ministry; he received it.  He inherited it.  His ministry gifts weren’t his to begin with . . . but they are his responsibility now.  “Finish what you started because it wasn’t yours to begin with.” 
            And my gosh, if every one guy could represent one church, it’s the way Archippus = Good Shepherd.  If ever a church got called out because God is calling out the hero within, it’s us.  If there was ever a time a church needed to hear a word, it’s us and it’s now.  “Finish what you started because it wasn’t yours to begin with.” 
            Because we have started well as a people.  This church is 23 years old, which in church years means we’re like an older adolescent.  Emerging out of puberty, shaking off the acne scars, and have a lot of work to look back on with satisfaction.  One of the 2-3 largest UMCs in the Carolinas.  The most racially and ethnically diverse UMC in the Carolinas.  (If all the Anglos were gone, you’d still be about the largest A-A church in WNCC!)  A history of bold, almost incomprehensible projects: Million Meal March (AV), $400,000 in one day for the Hope House, 3,000 shoe boxes.  And so with this level of accomplishment, it’s tempting to be like Archie: complacent, content, coasting, sitting on loads of untapped potential.
            And so Paul calls us out by calling out the hero within us.  Hey, tell GSUMC that they didn’t conceived of their ministry; they received it but now is the appointed time to complete it.  Every RIP, every LifeGroup, every living relationship with Jesus Christ was God’s idea FIRST, but now is the time to grab it and complete it.
            So I trust, I pray, I believe, in this journey toward completion is upon us.  Here’s the deal.  WE have two enormous projects coming up that are really one thing.  First: Zoar.  As a lot of you know about 18 months ago the UMC asked us to absorb another UMC about 4 miles from here that had become insolvent. My first answer was "No."  But you all are so blessed that you have a Church Board who is willing to speak wisdom into its frightened preacher. So we “solved” it, and for the last 15 months it has been the ZROC, not for Sunday morning, but for a # of outreach programs we have.  Then earlier this spring a # of us had an epiphany:  since Zoar became part of GSUMC, an incredible housing boom has erupted w/in a 3 mile radius of that site: (AVs of neighborhood signs, Merritt Meadows, etc).  2300 homes coming up within 3 miles and it suddenly became clear why God had given that to us.  We realized OMG we’d be fools NOT to have a Sunday morning worshipping presence there on that site that straddles the state line in a way that gives us a tremendous foothold into Tega Cay and Fort Mill.  What an incredible opportunity to expand our ability to invite all people – because the folks moving in there are, well, people!
            So we’re going to upfit the space, redesign, redeploy and about a year from now we will have Sunday morning worship at Good Shepherd Church Zoar Road campus.  Live band.  Live children’s ministry.  Video, hi def sermon recorded here at 8:30 and ZAPPED over there by 10.  You know what I love about it?  We are taking this DNA, this inviting all people into a living relationship with Jesus Christ passion, and reproducing it there.  And that thing we do pretty well -- making a big church feel small. It won't be an impersonal satellite of some major mega church; it will be our DNA through and through. We’ll be investing not in brick and mortar (parking and paint, yes!) but in people.  And it’s not possible without you.  We’ll be calling you out to call out the hero within you … the hero who works with kids, who plays an instrument, who recognizes that greeting ppl in the parking lot is the first step in an invitation to eternity.  Pioneers.  We figure a launch team of 50, led by a campus pastor, and that in a short time we can have 400 or so new attenders at the Zoar Road Campus of Good Shepherd UMC.  “Finish what you started because it wasn’t yours to begin with.” 
            But that’s not all. Remember how I said two enormous projects that are really one thing?  Some of you know of our Corner Campus which houses our growing Latino worship on Sunday morning and our Student Connect on Sunday evening, is a leased space.  And the lease is up, over, done, finis, in July of 2016.  We will lose that valuable square footage AND the right to park there.  Well . . . all people includes teenage people, Latino people, and people who drive cars here and need a place to park.  So that’s why we’re adding the parking lot now on what used to be the Boyd land – after years of saying “No,” the owners (miraculously) sold it to us earlier this.  So I was like “fine, we got the cars settled. But what about the people?  Do we want to change our mission to Inviting All Cars?  We are inviting all people, after all!”  And then I got this email from a young man who started coming to church alone as a 17 year old and is now away at college:
Then I got this from someone in our Latino worshipping community:
Llegamos al ministerio latino en un momento donde creíamos que todo estaba perdido para nosotros, en el ministerio latino de Good Shepherd nos recibieron con una sonrisa y nos trataron como uno mas y cada una de las personas allí nos enseñaron (y siguen enseñando) lo maravilloso que es tener una relacion viva  con Jesucristo. Nuestra familia aprende semana a semana y nuestra vida cambia dia a dia. Nuestra relación con Jesucristo crece y crece y estamos muy felices de ser parte de esta congregación.

Translated:  We arrived at the ministry Latino in a time where we thought everything was lost to us, in the Latino ministry of Good Shepherd we were greeted with a smile and treated us like one more and each one of the  people there we were taught (and still teach) how wonderful it is to have a living relationship with Jesus Christ. Our family learning week by week  and our life changes day to day. Our relationship with Jesus Christ grows and grows and  we are very happy to be part of this  congregation.
Guess what:  una relacion viva con jesucristo is a living relationship with Jesus Christ!  Students getting the mission and taking it to college.  And Latinos getting the mission and sharing it with each other.  And I realized: we’ve got these people with a living relationship with Christ and no place to put them!  We need to make room for all these living relationships.
            And that’s why we are building The Living Room here.  We are going to expand our inviting ability with a new Living Room:  Space for additional seating at 10.  Room for Latino worship at 11:30.  And most especially, the first ever “home” on site, on campus, connected to the rest of the bldg, for GS students who aren’t tomorrow’s church, they are today’s church.  It will enhance, soften, and modernize our exterior, and completely re-imagine our interior.  We’re so excited we made a movie:
            Check it out: 

            We’re going to spend the rest of Hidden Heroes providing you with opportunities to explore, to ask, to understand.  Then we’ll celebrate Christmas (Good idea?).  And then in January & early February of 2015 we’re going to have a campaign called Beyond.  And in that campaign we’re going to explain and inspire and invite you to make this project possible.  Yes, we’ll ask for money. Yes, above and Beyond what you give to church now.  Yes, this project is not only needed, it is essential.
            And you know what?  We can’t accomplish this, we can’t radically expand our inviting ability, if we rest on our accomplishments and sit on our untapped potential.  We won’t make this happen if we are a church full of Archies.  Because we too, need to be called out so that God can call out the hero – the inviting all people hero – hiding deep within. 
            We’re a really good teenage church.  Time to move to maturity; to act on that which we did not conceive but which we received.  “Finish what you started because it wasn’t yours to begin with.” 

Concluding fasting challenge
FAQ distribution

Friday, October 24, 2014

Hidden Heroes, Week 3 -- The Maybe Hero

This coming sermon concerns a young man but it is about a young church.

The young man is Archippus from Colossians 4 -- the same place where we have seen all our other hidden heroes.

The young church is Good Shepherd.

To see how those two intersect and to hear some of the biggest news coupled with one of the most exciting videos we've ever shown here, you'll want to come Sunday at 8:30, 10, or 11:30.

If you have surgery, cancel it.

If you have a trip planned, cut it short.

If you have Panthers tickets, come on. The game starts at one, people.  You can easily come at 8:30 or 10:00.  That is, if you want to hear the biggest news involving our church in a long, long time.

Will we be a group of "maybe" heroes?

Or something more? 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Multiple Roles In A Single Day

As I think back on Wednesday, October 22, 2014 -- that is, yesterday -- I realize with no little gratitude all the different roles I played in one day as pastor of Good Shepherd.

  • First, there was sermon internalizer.  Way before I left the house yesterday, I spent some quality time with this Sunday's sermon, one more in a daily process of preparing to deliver it without notes.
  • Second, I was blogger.  Upon arriving at the office, I posted yesterday's blog about AA, the language of recovery, and Good Shepherd Church.  I typically write those posts the evening before, but for a variety of reasons was unable to do so until yesterday morning.
  • Next, I was staff leader.  We had our weekly staff meeting of 25 people or so, and I wanted to make sure we were all speaking the same language regarding our Beyond Capital Campaign and the possible questions that might arise.  (Thankfully, I did not have to play the role of staff referee, as we have a terrific collection of people who are more focused on group mission than on individual ministry.)
  • I had a quick, quirky thought that turned me momentarily into a tweeterHere it is:
  • For a brief time I was sermon preparer / wordsmither.  I had a few minutes to work on a message in the upcoming Baby Invasion series we're doing for Christmas.  I know what I want to say in that sermon but I'm working on the how.  
  • Via some email correspondence, I was denominational advocate.  I love the United Methodist Connection except for those times I don't, and so a few of us attempting to think through ways to love it better.
  • Later in the day, on two separate occasions and in very different venues, I had the role of development director.  What does that mean? Directed conversations about lead giving to the Beyond Campaign.
  • Still later it was marriage counselor / spiritual director.  
  • Finally, with a good friend from the church, I played one of my favorite roles of them all: Door Knocker/House Blesser/Evangelist.  We blessed eight houses of new movers to the Charlotte area.  
  • The day concluded with a few roles that were not necessarily work-related:  YMCA go-er, dinner eater, and early to bed sleeper.