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Yesterday, I was in the drive through at the bank, depositing my paycheck (which my bank account was grateful for) and the teller and I struck up quite and interesting conversation. It was only like 3 minutes long, but I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. It went a little something like this:

Teller: Welcome to Wachovia. How are you doing today?
Me: Thanks. I’m good.
Teller: So, do you work at Cornerstone?
(*I was depositing my paycheck, so Cornerstone’s name was on the check)
Me: Yeah
Teller: So, what do you do there?
Me: I’m the Youth Minister (I kind of stuttered here, because I’m still not used to saying this out loud.)
Teller: Wow, that’s really cool. I have heard a lot of good things about Cornerstone.
(*Now this is the point in the conversation where I got really excited, because this girl looked to be about my age and probably someone I could be friends with. So, I thought, this is my chance to get her to Cornerstone, because once she comes I know she will want to keep coming.)
Me: Oh, have you been to Cornerstone before?
Teller: No, but I have friends that go there. I’m am actually more of a Church of the Highlands girl.
(*At this point I considered saying something like, “Oh, you don’t want to go to the Church of the Highlands. Cornerstone is so much better, because……” But I stopped myself, because even though Church of the Highlands may not be my thing, it’s not a bad church.  So, instead I said this…)
Me: I’ve heard good things about your church, too.
Teller: Yeah, I really like it. It’s a great church.
Me: That’s awesome. Cornerstone is pretty great, too.
Teller: *nods head to indicate agreement*
Me: Well, I hope you have good afternoon
Teller: You, too.

Let me just say that I am blessed to be a part of a church that is intentional about reaching people who are not reached by other, more traditional, churches.  Cornerstone seeks the broken, the wounded, the people who don’t have it all together and who don’t pretend that they do.  I love to hear people say good things about Cornerstone.  It reminds me that I am a part of a movement.  I am a part of something that is changing people’s lives.  I love it.

But, it also swells my pride.  I begin to let myself think that Cornerstone is the only church that is doing it “right.”  I want everyone to come to Cornerstone, not because they need Jesus, but because I want them to see how good we are.  And, I tend to lose sight of the fact that #1 we haven’t cornered the market on how to do ministry, #2 we are not the only church God is using to draw people to Himself and transform lives, #3 we are not in competition with other churches.

This conversation was a humbling experience for me, and it is continuing to humble me.  I needed to be reminded that I’m not in the business of “outdoing” what other churches are doing, but it is our job as the church to be a complementing and cooperating force alongside each other.   We are in this together.  Yes, every church does it differently, and that’s the way it should be.    We are a body.  We all look different.  We all are drawn in differently to different groups of people.  We are partners in reaching people for Christ. We are ALL the church.

So, let’s do this thing….together.

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I have been waiting on this for a while.  It has been brewing and stirring up inside of me for a few weeks now.  It is being birthed inside me even as a write this.

It is VISION.

God has doing a lot in my heart/mind/life lately, as I said in my last post.  And, now I’m at a place where I can begin to share the things God has been showing me and teaching me.

I have been learning more than I ever thought I could learn about leadership, and the more I learn, the less I feel prepared to be a leader.  But, nevertheless, God has called me to lead for this time in this place, and I must be obedient.  And, obedience requires that I listen to Him and do what He says.  It means that I risk failure.

Tonight was VIP night at Cornerstone, and while I have been thinking a lot about my fear of failure (aka–stepping out and trying something and it bombing), my pastor, Rusty, said something that caught me in such a way that I had to write it down.

“We have to be willing to fail, as long as we are failing in the right direction: toward Christ.” — Rusty Hutson

I have a feeling this will be on my wall for at least the next year.  Because, I am about to risk failure, but if I fail, at least I will be failing in the right direction.

All of that to say….I want to share the vision for Cornerstone Youth with you:

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(just in case you were wondering what “vision” looks like, this is what vision looks like for me, at least right now)

5/50/10

5 adults invested in the lives of each student

50 un-churched, de-churched, non-Christian students reached

10 by the end of 2010

This is the vision.  This is the beginning of what God has waiting on the horizon for this ministry.  This is the beginning of the revolution.

So, how in the world is this going to get done?  Honestly, I’m not completely sure yet, but I do have some ideas (in no particular order)….

1.  Invest in parents so they can invest in their teenagers.

2.  Invest in adult leaders so they can invest in small groups of teenagers that in turn invest in their lost friends.

3.  Create an engaging environment that is intentionally Biblical and culturally relevant in order to reach students for Christ.

4.  Be someone who moves through change and helps others move through it.

5.  Keep the vision clear and in front of people.

6.  Get plugged into the local schools.

7.  Build teams around me of people that are smarter and better than me.

8. Always be learning and growing.

9.  Streamline ministry.

10.  Don’t be afraid to step out and take a risk, because I’m afraid God won’t be there to catch me.

This is just the beginning.  There will definitely be more about this in the near future.

But, I must ask…Will you join in the vision?  Will you join the revolution?

There is so much going on in my life right now….so much I need/want to blog about. There is so much I have been chewing on over the past week….so much God is working on in my mind and moving to my heart. So, so much. I know I will blog about all of it eventually.  But, if there was just one thing I needed to say right now, one thing that God has been molding within me that I just have to get out, it would have to be all included in one word: striving.

As a staff, we have been memorizing and meditating on Philippians 2:5-11, which pretty much smacks me in the face every day.  These verses call us to have the same attitude of Christ, in that He completely emptied himself of all his rights to be God, meaning he didn’t strive to attain the equality with God that he deserved on earth, but became a man (just like me and you) and was so obedient to God that he gave up his life.  But this wasn’t just any death.  He died a criminal’s death, the most painful death possible, so I could know him personally.  This is the attitude I’m supposed to have.

So much of my life I have been working toward a goal, the next thing that will make life perfect better, but once I “reach” that goal, it always moves.  This, my friends, is my striving.  Always trying to get to the next place of glory, happiness, reward….but, it never ends.  I do this in my personal life, with my friends and relationships, in ministry, in my relationship with God….it goes on and on.  And, what my brain is coming to realize, but my heart is still trying to catch on to, is that I can’t do it.  I wasn’t made to be happy by anything on this earth.

I have been writing some curriculum over the past few weeks for our Life Groups on the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12).  In these verses, Jesus takes a traditional method of pronouncing blessing and completely flips it upside down.  It’s not wealth and the absence of suffering or doing what feels good or being in control that brings true blessing and happiness; it’s a life that is surrendered to Him where true blessing is found.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I need to cool my jets.  I have spent way too much of my life striving to be better, to do better, to feel better, when all I need to do is strive after HIM, and He will make me great, produce great things through me and create a heart within me that craves Him.  And, He will recieve all the glory, which is the way it should be.

Maybe that was more than one thing…

I spent some time visioning about youth ministry at Cornerstone with our Pastor of Connections, Josh, yesterday.  It was messy.  I was challenging.  It was good.

It looked a little like this.

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I put this picture on my computer desktop, so now everytime I open my computer I have to stop and think about–dream about– where this ministry is going, my place in this ministry, and how I can pull others alongside me in this journey.  And, that its okay to ask for help.

I have also started reading Next Generation Leader by Andy Stanley.  I couldn’t even get through the introduction without being challenged in my understanding of leadership.  The weird thing is that I have never considered myself gifted as a leader.  Most of the time I find myself stepping up and being a leader because no one else will.  But, now I have a group of people that are following me, and I have to lead them somewhere…..that’s a lot.

I’m trying.  I’m learning.

The leadership essential that has hit me the hardest so far is courage.  I have never considered myself a courageous person.  For the most part, I am crippled by fear (at least I used to be that way).  Things are changing in my life, but fear is still something I face every day.  And, as a leader, my biggest fear is of failure–both in trying something and it going down the tubes and in missing out on something amazing God has in store.

These fears keep me from dreaming.  And, when I do let myself dream, I often write my dreams off as unattainable.  But, I am learning, that sometimes I just have to go for it, pick my fears up and take them with me for the ride.  And, if I fall on my face, I fall on my face.  But, at least you can’t say I didn’t try.

It’s my job to dream for this ministry.  To cast a clear vision and take people along with me.  It’s not my job to protect myself (or other people) or avoid risk.  It’s my job to stare risk down and move anyway.  I must be willing to challenge things as they are now for the sake of what they can be.

So, I leave you with this:

“Courage is not the absence of fear.  Courage assumes fear….  Courage is the willingness to strap on your fear and move ahead.  The leader who refuses to move until the fear is gone will never move.  Consequently, he will never lead.  There is always uncertainty associated with the future.  Uncertainty presupposes risk.  Leadership is about moving boldly into the future in spite of uncertainty and risk.  Without courage we will simply accumulate a collection of good ideas and regrets.  What could be and what should be will not be…at least not under our watch.” (Next Generation Leader, p.54-55)

“The leader who accomplishes great things will not always be the most talented or the best educated–it will be the leader who refuses to put brackets on his thinking.” (Next Generation Leader, p.74-75)

So, go dream!  Dream Big!  I will be dreaming, too.

It snowed yesterday in Auburn. This morning there was still some left on the ground. I love the snow, but I don’t get to see it very often, so it was pretty special.

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Bella liked the snow, too. I think that was the most excited I have seen her so far.

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As I was driving to Cornerstone yesterday morning, I was thinking about some particular sins I had struggled with the day before and even that morning and was feeling pretty broken and unworthy. But, as I was watching the pouring snow blanket the muddy ground, I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed by the way snow completely conceals the flaws of the world and transforms the ugliest things into pristine masterpieces.

I love snow, because it tells my story.

Jesus took all of my muddy, ugly, mess and didn’t just blanket it with snow, but turned me into snow. Because of Him I am a pristine masterpiece. I am clean. I am pure. I am snow.

It makes me think of 2 Corinthians 5:21 –

“God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”

That’s me. That’s my story.

It touches something deep inside me. The part of me that I tuck away and bury because I am ashamed of it. The part of me where my deepest sins reside.

Then, I got to church. A guy named Chip Jackson was preached, and I am convinced that God was speaking directly to me. He preached from Matthew 5:8, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God.” Now, I have been spending quite some time in the Beatitudes over the past few weeks (ironically, I am writing a curriculum on the Beatitudes), but it was like God smacked me in the face with this verse, like I was reading it for the first time.

As Chip preached, I was completely taken with the fact that I will never be pure. I can’t be. I am tainted. I am flawed. I am broken. No matter how hard I try, I will never attain the purity needed to see the face of God.

But, I am snow. Jesus has made me into snow. Pure, clean, uncorrupted, pristine, white, beautiful snow.

Because He has made me pure, I get to see Him. And, seeking Him, seeking His face, leads me to purity. I get to know God. And, one day I will get to see clearly what is such a poor reflection right now. I will get to see Him face to face.

I am looking forward to that.