A digital commonplace for a Regular Guy called Charlie Pharis

Category: Church (page 1 of 5)

Sunday Night Unwind, 08.30.15 (late, late edition)…

Awake late tonight for whatever reason. It may be the thousand things going through my mind and heart. It may be the bout of depression I can’t seem to shake. It may even be the Jittery Joe’s pourover I had earlier! Either way, since I’m up, I might as well share a little Unwind.

Here’s what’s rattling around in my head tonight…

  • We did The Golden Rule part of the Sermon on the Mount series today. Pretty brief. (We beat the Catholics and the Sovereign Grace folks out of church!)
  • The Golden Rule has its counterparts in almost every major religious tradition.
  • While on the surface, they look the same as Jesus’s teaching, there is a powerful difference in the way Jesus expresses this principle and the way the other traditions do.
  • Jesus’s command is positive, proactive, comprehensive, and sensitive. The others, by and large, are expressed negatively, they entail avoiding behavior, they pick and choose the situations in which the principle is applied, and there is virtually no risk for the person who chooses or neglects the principle.
  • I started the “big” Sermon on the Mount series the Sunday after Easter. It looks like we’ll wrap it up on September 20. That’ll be 24 weeks.
  • I love these long series because they help me stay focused on the material at hand. They also give me an idea of where my preparation needs to be.
  • I don’t like the long series so much because they tend to drag a little toward the end. I feel sometimes as though I’m belaboring the point. I also don’t like them because they end. And I have to figure out what’s coming next.
  • Oh…I said this before but it’s worth repeating: Isn’t it amazing how we think our 24-week explanation is more important and powerful than the original words, expressed in a few minutes by Jesus? Go figure.
  • I may be adding yet another side gig. Completed the application and a pre-hiring assessment. The assessment was pretty much a major stressor. (No, no, not this guy!)
  • Re-reading Henri J.M. Nouwen’s In the Name of Jesus. This little book is full of big ol’ “ouches.”
  • I’m wondering about the ways I and our church are involved (or not involved, as the case may be!) in the real life of our community. We have to work on that. And pronto!
  • To all a good night!

The Barn…

(Image via flickr.com/mytimemachine)

Ed Stetzer has some thoughts on the evolution of the Church Growth Movement. This quote grabbed me early this morning…

The church can never become the place where I live, work, and play. My neighborhood is where real people live. I am not sent by God to a church facility, ever how convenient and impressive it may be. I am sent away from the church gathered to my tribe and household with the Good News of the Gospel. That is where transformational movements take place that engage every man, woman, and child with the Gospel. So, too many in church growth focused on the barn, rather than how we might live on mission among the white fields. When focusing too much on the barn, we sometimes forget that the wheat will not harvest itself.

I’m living and leading in such a context right now.

(OK, not leading so much. There, I said it….)

My Biggest Blunders, Part 1…

I’ve made plenty of stupid, boneheaded mistakes in 31 years “in the ministry.” Most of them have been relatively minor, and the relatively major ones were graciously forgiven by God and His people.

The biggest blunder in my ministry – and the one which has impacted me the most since – was going to a church without really “going to” that church. The second biggest was leaving that church before it was time, because I had never really “gone to” that church in the first place.

One of my heroes in the ministry once opined that there are two kinds of pastors in Georgia: the ones who want to go to Atlanta, and the ones who want to leave. I’ve been both.

Sixteen years ago, I was serving my first church out of seminary. It was small, rural and south of metro Atlanta. Our church was the product of that Southern Baptist phenomenon, “evangelism by church split.” A friend got himself recommended to the search committee of a 100-year-old church in the city of Atlanta. At the same time, he had just accepted a position at one of our seminaries. So he passed my name along to the Atlanta committee.

Long story short, God led me to northwest Atlanta. I went.

About the same time, I was learning about the strategic nature of cities in God’s redemptive plan for the nations. It seemed like a perfect fit: a city church in need of renewal, a neighborhood on the cusp of renewal, and a pastor who was hearing God talk about the importance of cities. There’s where the first big blunder happened.

Instead of embracing God’s call “to” that church in that neighborhood in that city, I chose to carry on the myth of suburban pastor commuting with the majority of his people to a building in that neighborhood in that city and then retreating to the “safety” of the suburbs. Like the majority of my people, I paid lip service to the desire to see God do something new in that church in that neighborhood in that city. I listened and nodded as the older members spoke lovingly of the church’s “glorious past,” and commiserated with the long-time members about the glory days. All the while, we met, we ate, we sang, we prayed, we wrung our hands, we wondered, we reminisced, and we went home to our comfortable and safe suburbs.

Sunday Night Unwind, 05.02.10

In a jazz mood for tonight’s Unwind. The Bebop/Combo channel on Pandora is filling the bill quite nicely, thank you. At this moment, Stan Getz is playing a song called “Beatrice,” and it really is in that cool jazz mode.

Anyway, here’s what’s rolling around in my head and my heart, and dropping out on the keyboard…

  • Speaking of jazz, I would’ve enjoyed these guys at the Jazz Mass this morning!
  • And who knew Cartersville, Georgia has a live jazz place? Cartersville?!?! Get outta here!
  • Oh, and that bassist? yeah…he’s pretty much my musical hero!
  • Cartersville?!?!?
  • It was good to be back at The ‘Crest today, after a week away at Fusion Church.
  • I finished a series called “Running on Empty,” and talked about how we need to take the time to refuel and recharge in our walk with Jesus. I thought it was pretty good stuff!
  • Got to spend the afternoon with the lovely and gracious Mrs. Just Charlie and The Boy…a little lunch, a little clothes shopping, and little hanging out…a good time!
  • The Boy is hopefully winding down this this part of his academic journey soon.I really feel for newly-minted college graduates trying to find a real job in this economy.
  • Heard some disturbing new about one of our elderly members today that makes my blood boil! I’m not sure there’s anything we can do, but I sure am hacked off about it!
  • Getting back on track with my health and fitness again. It’s impossible to live today on what you did yesterday. Or four years ago.
  • I’m on the lookout for a new bag in which to carry my laptop and other assorted junk. I’m leaning toward the Timbuk2, although I haven’t really scoped out the specific model. If it’s good enough for Tony McCollum and Randy Bohlender, it’s good enough for me!
  • Yeah, yeah! I know…who’s got time to go to blogs anymore? That would be tonymccollum and rbohlender, respectively, thank you very much! Sheesh!
  • Dang! John Coltrane could play!
  • I’ve been a reader for as long as I can remember. This Kindle for the PC app has re-ignited a passion for reading though! I’ve just finished Peter Scazzero’s Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, and Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson’s Rework, and I’m about to dive into Ben Arment’s Church in the Making, along with some classic Bonhoeffer and St. John of the Cross. How’s that for eclectic?

Well, this post that started out rather promisingly has now started to drag, so I’m going to quit, and read some, drink a cup of coffee, and get ready for the storm that’s on the way later tonight.

Sunday Night Unwind, 03.07.10…

Good evening, both of my loyal readers! Wait…there’s only one of you left! Anyway, here’s a long-overdue contribution to the old blog.

  • Hanging at home, with an iTunes Genius playlist fueled by the great Hillsong classic Mighty to Save. For some reason, that song never, ever gets old and tired to me.
  • The hanging at home thing is also powered by a French press full of Brazil Peaberry, one of my favorites from WeeklyRoast.
  • BTW…why aren’t you getting your coffee from my buddy Ken at WeeklyRoast? Well, why not?
  • I finished a series-within-a-series this morning on the parables of Jesus from Luke’s blog…uh…Gospel.
  • We looked at the familiar story of The Prodigal Son. No, not that one. The other one. The one that stayed around but was farther from home than his kid brother.
  • See, in the context of the story – see Luke 15:1-2 for the setup – the older son was the one that needed the dad to go find him. Even though he was right outside in the field.
  • Yeah, yeah…I know. We’ve always focused on the kid brother. It’s the twist that makes the story powerful, though. What twist?
  • I’m glad you asked!
  • Part 1 of the Lost and Found trilogy is about a shepherd with 100 sheep. One gets away. What does the shepherd do? He goes looking for the lost sheep. He expends energy. He does everything he can to find the lost sheep. And when he finds the little lamb, wandering in the wilderness, he loads it up on his shoulders and takes it home, rejoicing!
  • Part 2? A woman has ten coins, and somehow loses one. What does she do? She turns her house upside down trying to recover ten percent of her wealth. She expends energy. She does everything she can to find the lost coin. And when the coin turns up in the sofa cushion, she calls her neighbors for a little impromptu party! (I made up the part about the sofa cushion.)
  • Part 3 is the biggest chunk of the story. It’s about a man with two sons. The younger gets all uppity one day, says some horrible things about his dad, demands his share of the old man’s money, and splits! Get ready…here comes the twist.
  • Oh, wait…Third Day’s Your Love Oh Lord just kicked in on the iTunes playlist. Love those guys!
  • Where was I? Oh, the twist
  • What does the dad do in response to his immature brat of a kid taking his money, leaving for a far country, and blowing the whole wad on riotous living? Go ahead…I’ll wait while you tell me about the dad’s response…
  • Got it? Good! How far did the dad go to find the kid? How far was that again? If you said something like, “All the way to the far country,” or something like that, that would be a good guess. But it wouldn’t win the prize tonight!
  • The dad waited at home. Yep, he was there, everyday, watching, hoping, trusting. But he was waiting. And one day, the kid had come to his senses in the pigpen, and realized his need for his dad. He came home, and his dad was there, waiting for him. And the par-tay ensued!
  • What about the older son? He’s the one the dad had to look for. He’s the one the dad expended energy to find. The older son is the one that was far from the dad’s heart, and he was literally in the house the whole time!
  • And as far as we can tell from Luke’s careful reporting of the story, the older son still hasn’t dropped his resentment, self-centeredness, and superiority complex and joined the party!
  • Hmmm…how about that for a twist? And did you catch the connection to the setup? Yeah, I thought so…

Sunday Night Unwind, 10.18.09…

Hey, loyal readers…both of you! I’m unwinding tonight in Starbucks in Woodstock, Georgia. This is becoming a weekly ritual after long days. I’ve got the old iTunes kicked up , and I’m listening to a Genius mix based on Hillsong United’s great From the Inside Out.

Some things on my mind and in my heart tonight…

  • True confession time: Today was the first day in a long, long time I didn’t actually dread showing up at church. I know that’s weird for a pastor to say. Somewhere along the way to somewhere else, I lost that real sense of joy I used to have. Today was different, and I pray that’s going to be a regular thing again.
  • I don’t share that to whine, but just to lay it out there, and let you know that if you’ve got an extra prayer or two, I won’t try to convince you not to use them on my behalf!
  • I’m teaching through the powerful and practical epistle of James these days. It’s been good to get back to my roots, so to speak. For all the cool, hip, happening, relevant topical preaching out there, there is still something pretty powerful about opening up part of The Book and working through it in a systematic, deliberate way.
  • I want to be both Biblical and unboring.
  • I talked about facing the future this morning. I wondered aloud if I talk a lot about faith and all that, but live like a “practical atheist,” as though God really doesn’t exist and is not a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Ouch!
  • I wondered aloud if I presume on His grace when I assume things about tomorrow that may or may not be true. And yes, I used the great lesson of the word assume: you make one out of U and ME when you do it! Ouch, Number 2!
  • And I wondered aloud if I’m cruising through my life with God’s dream, purpose, and plans percolating on the inside, but not taking shape in my life. I wondered aloud what’s keeping me from fulfilling His plan and purposes. Big OUCH, Number 3!
  • I’m planning on talking about money next week.
  • I’m learning some hard lessons about trusting God to provide in the face of great need these days. At least I hope I’m learning the lessons. I don’t want this process to go on indefinitely!
  • Fasting without praying is just a cruel and joyless diet.
  • Action cures fear.
  • I’ve got at least 3 books in various stages of unread. I need to finish them and find something new.
  • I’m old and tired. That’s reality, but I tend to trot it out as a convenient excuse for not doing something.
  • I love Loreena McKennitt’s Christmas stuff!
  • I’m breaking my own rule and actually rooting for an orange team against another orange team next weekend. Hey, Perry…make sure your Tigers win, OK?
  • BTW, how ’bout them Jackets?!?!?
  • What the heck is a Hokie anyway?
  • There’s way too much math homework going on in here tonight!
  • My couple of hours of free wi-fi is about up, and my rambling has about rambled out.

Make it a great evening!

Sunday Night Unwind, 04.05.09…

So…THIS is the blog, eh? (Blows off the dust)

Most of the time I do the Twitter thing, but every now and then, I get the urge to put something down that’s a bit over 140 characters. Here’s a rare Sunday Night Unwind for your enjoyment or ignoring or whatever.

  • My day started with a post to the aforementioned Twitter which read: Bigger, uglier true confession time: I hate Sundays right now. There. I said it. Lately, it seems my weeks are pretty good, but I find myself dreading Sundays. Which is pretty not-acceptable since I am the pastor and Sunday comes right regularly, every seven days, just like clockwork. If you’ve got a spare prayer or two, I’d appreciate you investing one in that area on my behalf. Thanks!
  • One of my Y folks surprised me by showing up at our church this morning. As soon as she walked in, I thought: I wish I had something a little better, more profound, more fill-in-the-blank because she’s here. Then it hit me: Why do I worry about having something “better” for her, when I seem perfectly content to offer less-than-my-best to Him? Ouch! Big OUCH!
  • Talked about the cross today. Three things the cross does. Galatians 6. I was especially moved by the way The Message renders that passage. Hope our folks were, too.
  • Oh, and I used my CrackBerry to read The Message translation. From YouVersion! Tech savvy, there, boys!
  • Speaking of CrackBerrys in church, I think we’re going to encourage Twittering during our services. That ought to get some comments!
  • That and a couple of other good ideas from this helpful post over at Church Tech Matters.
  • I’ve been reading a lot about burnout lately. Specifically,  I’ve just finished Leading on Empty by Wayne Cordeiro and Mad Church Disease by Anne Jackson. Both of these books were very helpful and very challenging. I Twittered once while reading Mad Church Disease: Although I never noticed her hanging around, I’m pretty sure @flowerdust was spying on me as she wrote Mad Church Disease.
  • Tonight, I started Henry Cloud and John Townsend’s Boundaries. Seems to be a great and necessary follow-up for some of the burnout/stallout stuff. I’ve already been slapped around a bit by the first few pages.
  • Meanwhile, all is not dreary and gloomy.
  • For instance, tonight I discovered the Inside Eddie’s Attic program on DaveFM. Good stuff that made me want to go check out some live music.
  • Two guys in particular grabbed me on the Eddie’s Attic program: Mike Kinnebrew and Dana Cooper. Got home and downloaded some great stuff from both of these guys!
  • Also, in the middle of a Sunday I started out hating, I was reminded again how much I enjoy the team I get to do church (and life!) with. Nick, Mark, and Alison, you guys rock and you make my day!

Well, there you have it…

Sunday Night Unwind, 02.08.09…

Welcome back, Sunday Night Unwind! Where have you been? This is the first Sunday Night Unwind of 2009. Not that there hasn’t been any Sunday Night Unwinding going on, but just not a lot of posting. So, anyway, without further ado, here we go!

  • I got an earworm for that song on the TomTom radio ads. For the record, that song is “In a Persian Market” and it comes from some album of circus music. Circus music! Shazam!
  • My ability to count is slipping away. I thought we had more people in our service today than the “official” counters counted. Go figure….
  • We’re in the middle of a series called Constant Contact, and we’re focusing on how to listen to God. I think some people are getting uncomfortable with it. Which is good.
  • I was as tired as I’ve ever been after preaching today. I don’t know why. It’s a good tired, but tired nonetheless.
  • My TomTom earworm isn’t the only one I’ve had today! I woke up with The Spinners“It’s a Shame” in my head. That led me to set up a Spinners channel on Pandora. Still haven’t heard “It’s a Shame” yet, but in the process I discovered Slacker Radio.
  • Slacker is cooler than Pandora for one good reason: It plays on my CrackBerry! Yes!
  • Starting a new workout from Turbulence Training tomorrow.
  • It’s a case of “Physician, heal thyself” for me lately. Starting to put back on a little of the weight I lost. Not much, but enough to make me know I’ve got to get re-focused on health. Especially since I spend  the first part of most of my days tying to help folks develop healthy habits.
  • I’m also becoming more convinced of Charlie’s Undeniable Exercise Truth #1: “You can’t ever out-exercise bad nutrition.” I’m no expert personal trainer or anything, I don’t play one on TV, and I didn’t stay in a Holiday Inn last night, but that seems to be so basic that it’s not even funny! And so simple that it seems to be pretty profound! Your mileage may – but probably won’t – vary. Whatever….
  • I’m becoming more and more convinced that this so-called “economic stimulus” is a really crappy idea. The Congressional Budget Office now says it’s not only unnecessary, but probably detrimental in the short- and long- terms.
  • And what is the stinkin’ attraction of socialism, anyway? Quick, name an instance in history where it’s led to a better quality of life, more freedom and liberty, and prosperity. Still waiting….
  • I liked Starbucks a lot better when you never knew what kind of great coffee awaited you until you walked in the door. In the pre-Pike Place days, going to Starbucks was somewhat of an adventure. You got to try different blends, different tastes, and it was good. Now you get Pike Place. Or decaf Pike Place. That tastes like soap. And you might as well be drinking coffee from MickeyD’s, Waffle House, or the Patel Kwik Sack at the corner. Rant off….
  • I still don’t think there’s ever been a better movie than Casablanca. Please, God, don’t let anybody get the bright idea of remaking it!
  • One last thing: Do you hear that sound? The crack of the bat, the pop of a fastball hitting a leather catcher’s mitt, chatter from the dugouts…spring training is almost here! Yea, baseball! here’s hoping the crybabies will just get down to playing this season!

I hope you have a great Sunday evening, whatever’s left of it. Make your week count! It’s the only second full week of February you’re going to get this year! Peace!