Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund

It is time to do what we missional Christians do best, mobilize our efforts to help those suffering from great tragedy.  NorthHaven Church is a proud partner with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Disaster Response ministry.  At this very moment, Cooperative Baptist state and regional organizations on the East coast are working feverishly to assist victims of this terrifying storm.

Therefore, we are creating a means for anyone wanting to donate their resources for helping storm victims.  Through NorthHaven’s PayPal Donate Page Link, we will make certain every dollar you contribute goes to help in the relief efforts.  We will be collecting these funds and immediately send them to the headquarters of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship in Atlanta, GA where they will distribute them to state and regional organizations on the East coast who are actively engaged in disaster relief work.

Every relief dollar is precious so contribute now.  Just think, through social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, we can spread the word and make a real difference for those currently suffering.  My sermon text this week is about the Great Commandment, “Love God with all you heart, mind, and strength…and love others as you would love yourself.”  Here is our chance to demonstrate the love of Christ to those needing some hope now.

Confero: Discussing the Future

There are key moments in the life of every great organization when evaluation, assessment, and planning for the future must take place.  As NorthHaven begins to break ground on our new Children and Youth Education Center, the time has arrived to begin discussing what future ministry and mission possibilities are before us.

Similar to the recommendation to create more usable space generated the current building project, the time to access current ministries and develop new opportunities is at hand.  Every great organization takes time to evaluate current conditions and realities, which hopefully produces a narrowing of present focus and an expansion of future possibilities.

Therefore, on Sunday evening, at 6:00 PM, NorthHaven will convene for an especially important Confero.  The term Confero means “to confer for conversation.”  Our congregation will meet over the course of two Sunday nights to discuss a wide range of topics, helping us to refocus our faith and practice in hopes of becoming more mature disciples and expanding our missional congregation.

Here are some examples of the questions we will be exploring this upcoming Sunday…

What are you currently doing to grow your personal faith?

In what ways are you investing in NorthHaven ministries and missions?

What would compel you to invite someone to church?

How much time each week do you have for church activities?

What currently excites you about your faith and your church?

What are you willing to do to invest in the future of NorthHaven?

These are just a few of the questions we will be exploring on the first night of Confero.  During our second gathering, we will then turn our conversation to specific ministries within our church in which people participate. In addition, we will explore any future ministries people would like to invest in for the purpose of engaging others with the presence of Christ.

We hope to see every person in attendance, interested in the future of God’s work through NorthHaven Church.

Tech Overload

During October, I have been highlighting dastardly characters in my sermon series entitled “Villains in the Pew.”  Thus far, we have evaluated The Wicked Witch of the West and Darth Vader.  This week, we will be taking a look at a pop-culture icon, which some people forget started out as a villain.  We will be examining The Terminator and how technology seems to be taking over our lives.

Therefore, prior to the sermon, I have a few questions I would like to ask.  These questions will provide an idea of how much technology plays a part in our lives.   Once we stop to consider the sheer amount of time we spend with technology, we might be challenged to get up from our desks and take a walk outside on this beautiful Autumn day.

Here are the questions (Note: the questions ask about weekly minutes):

  • How many minutes do you spend working on a computer or tablet each week?  This includes word processing, excel files, data entry, email, or any other program you utilize for work?
  • How many minutes do you spend on a computer or tablet each week for leisure?  This includes Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, surfing the web, watching Netflix, or anything else just for fun.
  • How many minutes do you spend talking on the phone for work and private conversations each week?
  • How many minutes do you spend sending and receiving texts each week?
  • How many minutes do you spend listening to or watching something on your smartphone or tablet each week?
  • How many minutes do you spend playing games (Angry Birds and Words for Friends count) on a smartphone or tablet each week? 
  • How many minutes do you spend playing video games on a gaming console per week?
  • How many minutes do you spend watching a movie or television shows each week?

Now, take that amount of time and subtract it from 10,080 (minutes per week) and this leaves the amount of time you have for other activities.  Now, subtract 2,940 (seven hours of sleep per night) and this gives waking minutes for other activities.  How many do you have?  Surprised?  How so?

Now if this is way too much math or time to spend helping the pastor, answer this simple question for me.  Over the next hour, tell me how many times your eyeballs look at your phone?  Two per hour?  Six per hour?  Twelve per hour?  Are you looking at your phone right now?

If so, set it down and go take a walk.  The sunshine will do you good.

See you Sunday as we examine The Terminator!

Breaking a Kid’s Jar

For seventeen years I have been pastoring churches.  For many of those years I have taught countless children’s lessons during services.  Furthermore, for the last five years, I have been pulling items out the Mystery Bag and developing spontaneous lessons without any problem.  That was, until yesterday.

For those who are unaware of what we do at NorthHaven, instead of a traditional Children’s Sermon during the service we offer the children an opportunity to bring something special to them and place it into the Mystery Bag.  The Mystery Bag, my old seminary satchel, is taken home by the children and brought back with something unbeknownst to me inside.  During the service, I open the bag to reveal what the child has brought and attempt to come up with a lesson right there on the spot.  It has been a great time for the children and an even better time for the adults when they know I’m stumped.

All has gone swimmingly over the last five years until yesterday.  A child brought a collection of bottle caps and marbles that his grandmother gave him.  They were all secured safely inside large mason jars.  Well, Pastor Mitch really liked the sound the marbles made when they hit the side of the jar.  So, I was showing the other children the marbles and giving them a shake when all of sudden the jar cracked.

It may have been my lowest point ever with the kids.  I felt absolutely horrible.  The young man was extremely gracious telling me it was all right, but I felt like the worst pastor ever.  Not only did I break this little boy’s container, I did it in front of the entire congregation.  Needless to say, the “lesson” took a backseat to the more important lesson of learning to say you’re sorry when something goes awry by your own doing.

For the record, once again, Z I am sooooo sorry!  I owe you one, but thanks for being so understanding, gracious, and Christ-like with your response to my clumsiness.  You, my friend, are one in a million!

The Rise of the None’s

The Pew Research Center released a survey recently which was very interesting for those interested in the religious landscape of America.  Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly, a program produced by PBS, will be airing a three-part miniseries on the topic called, “None of the Above: The Rise of the Religiously Unaffiliated.”  Check local listings for the program dates and times.

The rise of the none’s (religiously unaffiliated) has grown to nearly 20 percent of the population, which comprises 46 million Americans.  These are startling figures.  However, as troubling as these numbers seem to be, there are some interesting contradictions.  One apparent contradiction revealed the religiously unaffiliated are not necessarily opposed to faith.  Sixty-eight percent of those designated “none’s” say they believe in God or a universal spirit.  This indicates that most of the religiously unaffiliated are not necessarily opposed to God, rather they have grown distant from organized religious institutions.

What does this say to those of us within organized religious instructions, such as the church and denominations?  It would be easy to lay the blame at the feet of the none’s, claiming they have given into the temptations of the world.  There is no doubt our culture has changed.  The world has become a more alluring place for those seeking an escape from reality.  However, much of the blame I am afraid can be set squarely at the front door of the church.

Here are some reasons I think we bear much of the blame…

  • The church has become more concerned over doctrine than people.
  • The church has merged herself too much into the secular political process.
  • The church has lost focus of our main objectives: worship, discipleship, fellowship, and missions.
  • Are there any other reasons you would add to this list?

    If you are a “None” then I would really like to hear from you.

    Religious Liberty Flows in My Veins

    Last week, I traveled to Washington D.C. to attend the annual board meeting for the Baptist Joint Committee.  This meeting is always very special because of the inspiration generated when hearing about the great work the BJC has accomplished.  Brent Walker (Executive Director), Hollyn Hollman (General Counsel), and the rest of the BJC staff provide an incredible witness and defense for religious liberty in our nation’s capitol.   We should all be proud of their work!

    In addition to the board meeting, the BJC celebrated a great achievement, the newly renovated Center for Religious Liberty was unveiled.  The center is absolutely gorgeous, with the latest technology and architectural designs that provide for an amazing experience.  Generation after generation will benefit from the center’s commitment to providing both education and advocacy.  In the Baugh-Walker Conference Room, there is an incredible view of the Supreme Court with the U.S. Capitol rising out behind it.  It is a wonderful reminder about the prophetic voice Baptists have provided throughout our country’s existence.

    On Monday night we toured the center and Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer offered a word of encouragement to our group.  During the entire exciting evening, I could not help but reflect why religious liberty and church/state separation is so important to me personally.  As many of you know, I am a Native American from the Muskogee (Creek) tribe.  My bother and I are one-fourth Creek with many of our ancestors being full blood Creeks.  One of them was my great-grandmother, Eloise Boudinot.

    Eloise grew-up in Eastern Oklahoma and was sent to a government run boarding school when she was very young.  Along with my great-aunt Ruby, they suffered at the hands of people who were there to supposedly help.  Christian missionaries were allowed to teach in this government run school and conduct actions that were very un-Christian.  As little girls, Eloise and Ruby were whipped when they spoke their native Muskogee language.  Good Christian girls spoke only English they were told.  Their hair was cut to reflect a more appropriate Christian style, an attempt to defile the sacredness of Native American’s long hair.  Just imagine it.  Two little innocent girls, scared and alone, being whipped for simply being different.  And all of this took place in the name of a Christian witness and under the watchful eye of a government funded school.

    Want to know why I stand for religious liberty?  Want to know why I strongly defend the wall that separates church and state?  At the top of my list is this story of little Eloise and Ruby, my great-grandmother and great-aunt.  Never should a child be made to feel ostracized and demeaned because of their culture or religious differences.  Never should the state permit a religious organization to promote their beliefs to captive children while under the state’s care.  Religious liberty should be for all people and the best way to preserve this freedom is by keeping church and state separate.

    Congratulations to the Baptist Joint Committee for the new center.  It is absolutely beautiful!  Yet, more than anything, I want to thank you for keeping religious liberty and church/state separation at the forefront of our minds.  Even further, thank you for defending religious liberty and keeping the wall of separation strong.  On behalf of my family and ancestors, I thank you!