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Welcome! The primary purpose of this blog is to explore and encourage around what it means to be winsome and sent into the world for God's glory. If you are new here, the definition of "lighthouse-searchlight" or our missional journey is a good place to start. Come peruse the blog and add me to your RSS feed!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

website outreach philosophy

2011 Update: clearly, the website pictured below is already out of date (here's the current website - a blogspot hosted site).  But, the philosophical site map remains the same as what is pictured below.  We've found the blog platform a more flexible and easy to adapt platform than what was, at the time, the usual website platform.  You should be able to see, in the header and surrounding links the same philosophical site map that we worked out back in 2007.  It continues to undergird what we are doing with the current site.
 

When it came time to update our website about a year ago, I worked to formulate a "website outreach philosophy" in keeping with our searchlight/lighthouse priority. What follows is what I came up with.

Good Shepherd is a church rich in community, connection, and faith. We have a strong “Christian family” identity and set of core beliefs that drive our many ministries and missions. We want all of the church family to feel at home and have an active part in the “life of the family.”


Out of our core beliefs, we also are deeply committed to being “salt and light” and “good neighbors” to our immediate community. While we carry on ministry and mission to the world, the country, and the larger community, the officers, staff, and pastor have defined a specific “ministry area” that (roughly) falls within a one-mile radius of the church. This geographic area includes an identifiable set of neighborhoods that might be described as the “Old Providence community” and includes 3000-4000 households and approximately 10,000-12,000 people of surprisingly diverse economic, educational, and racial makeup.


Our church’s first commitment to Jesus Christ is then manifested outwardly in a dual commitment to our church family and our “near neighborhood.” This commitment is expressed throughout the ministries, mission, and philosophy of our church, as seen in our approach to music, drama, staffing, architecture, and even in the nature of our ministries and mission.
  • Our website should exist for our church family and for our near neighbors in the Old Providence community. Though the nature of “ministry” to each group is different, for purposes of website “target audience” there is equal priority placed on these (note that is different than the amount of content, which would be greater for members.). This should affect the home page design in a significant way.
  • There will be different content for our church family and for our near neighbors, though there may be some overlap. Among our neighbors, there are two broad categories of people as relates to our outreach ministry: 1) unchurched/non-Christian and 2) churched/Christian who are looking for a church.
  • Philosophically, and to use a metaphor, our home page should be like a front door, where members and near neighbors both feel completely welcome and invited to enter. Beyond that, which room each would spend time in would vary as to who is visiting.
  • Practically, I have tried to describe our “priority” visitors (neighbors and church members) and what kind of information/resources/values each might be looking for. Ideally, to me, when they “open the door” on the home page, they will get to this material with ease.

A "Philosophical" Site Map

A.VISITOR CASE 1 – UNCHURCHED NEIGHBOR: a non-Christian/non-churchgoer who surfs to the site
1.Looking for information about Christianity and/or church
2.Looking for OP community resources
3.Thinking about visiting for some reason (worship, special program, etc…)
4.Not thinking about visiting… but space where we offer “inviting” stuff

B.VISITOR CASE 2 – CHURCHED ‘NEIGHBOR’: a Christian/churchgoer who surfs to the site (prob. could differentiate “door” by making this one “thinking about visiting GS?”… if they are already thinking, then they probably have some church background)
1.Looking for information about the church for a potential visit
2.Looking for OP community resources (overlap/link to A2)

C.VISITOR CASE 3 – CHURCH FAMILY: a GSPC member who comes to the site
1.Looking for current/upcoming information
2.Looking for old information
3.Looking for connection to/with church family
4.Looking for church/Christian resources
5.Looking for ministry opportunities


Here's a closer look at some of the sub-categories under "Why Church?" (the first 'door'). There is a welcome "from our pastor" HERE as well as another HERE through the second 'door', but you'll see the language differs according to the supposed audience.



Tuesday, September 25, 2007

survivor: china

Thursday night Heather and I watched Survivor: China. We haven’t watched Survivor since the first show a few years ago, but checked this one out because, Leslie Nease, one of the DJs from New Life 91.9 is on the show. If you don’t know what Survivor is, it’s a reality game show where two teams of people are put in a remote location for 16 weeks. They have to survive on their own and along the way they compete in various games and challenges, with one contestant being sent home each week.

Well, set in China, this show kicked off with a “welcoming ceremony” in a Buddhist temple. Anticipating Leslie’s reaction, the show host made clear that this was not worship, but just a welcome. What did Leslie do? When they were asked to bow down and pray before the statues of Buddha, she left the building. When they asked her about it afterwards, she said, “That felt like worship to me. I’m not religious, but I do have a relationship with Jesus Christ, and I will bow down and worship him alone.”

In Luke 13:22-30, Jesus addressed precisely this distinction between religion and a relationship with God through him.

Here are the main points, summarized.

1. The time to attend to faith and salvation is now, not later. (v. 25)

2. While there may be positive elements to religion and religious practice, there are very real limits to what they contribute to our salvation, and not a few potential dangers of religion practiced for the wrong reasons. (vv. 26-28)

3. While “the door” is narrow, the invitation given is extraordinarily broad. (vv. 29-30)

Going to church, participating in church – that is, being religious – is not a bad thing, unless those things become a substitute for the relationship with God through Jesus. It’s like confusing movie nights, candlelight dinners, flowers, and phone calls with love itself. The two are related, but they can also be tragically disconnected.

Jesus invites us not only to hang around and listen, but to “Come, believe, and follow.” That is the door. There are not multiple doors; there is just “Come and follow me.” There is only Jesus Christ.

At the heart of Jesus’ words is this: we will be surprised at who is saved, because many of us don’t have a clear understanding of what (and who) saves us. And yet, even to those who are confused, Jesus speaks clearly that we might hear. The way to God is through Jesus Christ alone. And the time to come, believe, and follow Jesus is now. It is not tomorrow; it is not when we stand ready to be judged. The time is now.

So, beloved, hear the good news: God has come all the way down to where we are through Jesus Christ that we might turn and see Him face to face, know Him personally, and follow Him obediently. There is no sin, no past, or no weight that is too great for God. He invites you now to the banquet. You are His guest; come in!

Condensed from the sermon HERE
Listen to the audio (through mid-October) HERE

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Underdog is here!

"There's no need to fear; Underdog is here!"

This Fall, there will be a Hollywood movie remake of a cartoon that used to run when I was a kid. It's based on the Superman story (which has overtones of the Gospel), but it's geared down even a few more notches.

Maybe some of you will remember these characters: Sweet Polly Purebred, the damsel in distress; Simon Bar Sinister, the evil villain; and Shoeshine Boy, a clumsy, nerdy kid (dog) who shined shoes. But, when evil threatened and Polly was once again in trouble, he would dart into a phone booth and become a human-like dog superhero, Underdog!

Whether intentionally or not, comic book heroes like Superman and Underdog get another aspect of the biblical story right: not only has a savior come from outside our world to rescue us here in this world, but this hero is humble, often-unnoticed, yet capable of amazing things.

Jesus likes stories. In Luke 13, he tells two to help explain what God's Kingdom is like. And it has more than a little in common with the understated heroes of our own comic book stories.

The Kingdom of God … is like a mustard seed, which a man took and threw into his own garden; and it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air nested in its branches. (v. 19)

The Kingdom of God… is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened. (v. 21)

Jesus taught so much with simple words and examples. "Pay attention," he said through his stories, "otherwise you might miss what God is doing."

It may be the opportunity to invite a neighbor to church or an open door to share personally about why God is important in your life. It may be an opportunity to serve God in the church or in the neighborhood. It may be a need that you become aware of that you have the resources to address in Christ's name. It may be a new sense of the importance of prayer. It may be responding to a call of God on your life – saying 'yes' to serve or obey God.

God's presence and Kingdom is humble and does not demand attention; sometimes, it is even hidden. Like Underdog's "Shoeshine Boy" or like Clark Kent, many other things will seem more attractive, more powerful, and more worth your attention. But God's presence and power, embodied in His Kingdom, changes everything around it, including the lives of those who seek and serve Him. And when we are changed, we begin to leaven – to introduce God-change – to the neighborhood and world around us.

Read the whole sermon HERE
Listen (for the next few weeks) HERE

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

how do we praise? (ps 150)

How do we do this thing called praise?

Paslm 150 gives us an example, a principle, for praising. Listen one more time:

Praise Him with trumpet sound; praise Him with harp and lyre. Praise Him with timbrel and dancing; praise Him with stringed instruments and pipe. Praise Him with loud cymbals; praise Him with resounding cymbals. (vv. 3-5)
This is not an exhaustive list of praise specifics. In other words, once you've played all these instruments, you aren't done praising God. In another sense, this is a completely exhaustive example of the principle by which we should praise. I've tried to capture what I mean by that in the title of the sermon: Give Him everything you've got!

Why all the musical instruments? Well, for one, music is one important way to praise God. And the point here is that if you are going to praise God musically, if you are in the Temple of Israel surrounded by the musicians and instruments, you want to use everything at your disposal to praise God. You want to, in essence, "pull out all the stops" and hold nothing back from God. This isn't to say, musically, that you don't have times for quiet or single instruments, but that you are to use everything at your disposal in order to turn your praise toward God.

We try to embrace this principle in our approach to worship. Look at the back of your bulletin at the statement of our worship philosophy:

The style of worship at GS is an intentional blend of ancient, traditional, and modern forms of liturgy, prayer, music, and communication. ... We also intentionally gather as a family of believers of many ages and backgrounds, and so use all the means at our disposal to invite each worshiper into the presence of God.
"All the means at our disposal" - so if you played flute in high school, we have hopefully asked you to use that talent (rusty though it may be) to worship the Lord. If we can find music of 100 years ago, or 25 years ago, or this week, that is your "language of worship," we will try to employ it so that this diverse community of worshipers can worship together as one family.

And here's where Psalm 150 really breaks out in an amazing way. It's not just talking about music and instruments! The principle it is teaching is that we are to use and give everything we've got to serve and worship the Lord. So, in terms of music, we use trumpets, guitars, pipes, drums, and cymbals! But this Psalm applies just as well to you if your talents lie elsewhere.

Can you build for the Lord? You bet you can! Not only can you craft things that are solid and dependable, you reflect the integrity and dependency of the Lord you worship when you build that way. And you can use those gifts in ministry as well, helping with home repair or serving on the facilities ministry team of the church. When we have someone in the church who cannot afford and does not know how to repair a hole in their roof, you can praise the Lord with your building skills!

Can you cook for the Lord? You bet you can! Not only can you cook for your family in such a way as to keep them happy and healthy, you can cook for those in crisis or for the church family when they gather. Your creativity is a reflection of the Creator of the universe and can honor Him as you devote that talent and love to His service and glory.

Can you think for the Lord? You bet you can! You may have a job that requires analysis, comprehension, organization, and instruction. Not only can you do that job well and with integrity, in a way that honors and glorifies God, but you can use those gifts to praise the Lord. You can use those skills to help at church, to learn and study scripture, to teach a class, or to help someone with financial troubles figure out their finances and get on track.

Can you praise the Lord as an athlete? As a parent? As a seamstress? As a retired person? As a nurse? As an administrator? Yes... yes... yes - need I go on? The point of the "How" of Psalm 150 is that whoever you are and whatever you can do, it can all be done in a way that honors and praises God. Anytime you point someone to God or reflect the character of God or give God credit or declare God's worth - you praise the Lord.

That leads us to the final verse and question: WHO should praise God? If you had any doubt in what I just said whether it applied to you, whether your interests and gifts could honor and praise God, then listen to this last verse:

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. (v. 6)

With this callback to the Creation story, when God breathed life into the man He had made, this verse is saying that all human beings should praise God. If you are alive, if you have life and breath, as one created in God's image for the purpose of worship, YOU are to praise the Lord.

So, whether it be a trumpet, cymbal, voice, hammer, stethoscope, needle and thread, football, calculator, artist's brush, 18-wheeler, treasure, dreams, mind, or body...

PRAISE THE LORD!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

anybody there?

One of the highlights of this past Saturday was Rick Brooks, a pastor friend, telling me at a presbytery meeting that he enjoys reading my blog. As far as I knew, about 3 people had ever read my blog and my profound thoughts were just kind of disappearing out into cyberspace. I was greatly encouraged by Rick's comment. If you do read this, I'd love for you to drop a quick comment here!

Saturday, September 08, 2007

don't waste your time!

In Mark 14, when the woman anointed Jesus with what translates into maybe $30,000 worth of perfume in today's dollars, the disciples laid into her about what a waste that was. She could have given the money to the poor! $30,000... talk about a waste! And Jesus told them to shut up and leave her be, for she had done a "beautiful thing" (NIV). It was an act of worship.


A missional church is predicated on being a worshiping church.


Why do I assert that so diligently, seemingly against the current "missional" movement?

Worship? What about the poor? What about those who haven't heard the Good News? What about our mission and God's mission to the world? Aren't all those things really important?

Yes, they are. That's why Jesus put them together. What is the greatest commandment?


The greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength; and to love your neighbor as yourself. (cf. Mark 12:30-31)


There it is - Jesus didn't omit it - we are to love our neighbor. We are to feed the poor. We are to build houses for Habitat and support missionaries to those who haven't heard. We are to love our enemies and join in God's mission the world. But here's the point: those things don't matter if we don't love God with all we are and all we have.


You will be hard-pressed to find anyone who is more gung-ho about God's mission, whether that be ministries of mercy or sharing the Good News. But if I haven't made this clear, then hear it clearly now, as taught in this passage:


All the love in the world is wasted without first loving the God who is the author and creator of that world and of love itself.


Want to talk about waste? There's a statement to chew on.


What Jesus taught is that loving God with all we have and all we are cannot but result in love of neighbor. Jesus taught that a lot! But the opposite is not true. Love of neighbor does not automatically result in loving or even knowing God.


And this woman, probably Mary, sister of Lazarus and Martha (cf. John 12), got it right.


That's why wherever the Gospel (the Good News) is proclaimed, what she did will be remembered. It is because what she did was worship God with all she was and all she had, with heart, soul, mind, and strength. And where the Gospel goes and people respond, they too will come to know what it means to worship and serve the Lord.


The prophet Isaiah said, "Seek the Lord while He may be found." (55:6) This blessed woman demonstrated both the wisdom and the beauty of doing just that.


Full Sermon HERE




Friday, September 07, 2007

too precious to miss

I saw this on a blog today... it's just too precious not to pass on.





HT: Thy Grace is Sufficient

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