Some believe the local church is dead and that her best days are behind her. The church is not dead, its alive. Her best days are now and ahead. I believe, as Bill Hybels says, “the local church is the hope of the world.”
I grew up attending church. Many of my earliest memories are times spent at the Mars Hill Baptist Church of Chicago, with church people, or in church services. So when I meet people who aren’t regular attenders it’s a surprise to find that sometimes they don’t know why you might be a part of it.
Why go to church? What’s the benefit of attending regularly? When you understand the “why” it makes it easier to understand the “when” and “where.”
God designed us in such a way that we are really just a big bundle of appetites, expectations, and desires. Appetites include security, an appetite for love, an appetite to be respected, to be cherished, and to feel successful. God designed to have appetites, but each one of our appetites creates tension. The reason you feel tension in your life, is because one or more of your appetites are clamoring for MORE.
Your ability or inability to manage your appetites will determine the direction of your life. That’s why I decided to begin 2015 with a new series called “All Things New.” On Sunday, January 4, 2015 (8AM or 10:30AM), I’m kicking off this series discussing the tension you face in your pursuit of MORE. Together we’ll look at the Story of Jacob and Esau and discover how uncontrolled appetites can lead to destruction (Genesis 25). Grab a friend and meet us at Mars Hill Baptist Church. You’ll leave stronger, better, and wiser.
Monday’s post challenged readers to ponder, “When Was Jesus Born?” Wednesday’s and Thursday’s posts explained why God chose Mary and Joseph as part of His divine plan. If you missed it, you can catch up on your reading HERE, HERE, and HERE.
Many responded how they enjoyed reading and learning the truth surrounding Jesus’ birth. Many agreed that it really doesn’t matter “WHEN” Jesus was born…we all agree that it’s important “THAT” He was born.
The reality of Christmas is not about Santa Claus, Elves, Rudolph The Red-nosed Reindeer, or shopping. The reality of Christmas is Jesus Christ and that He came to model what an abundant life consists of.
A few weeks ago I invited Trevor, my atheist friend to attend our worship services and share his experiences. What he shared was mind-blowing, eye opening, & enlightening. His words rocked the very core of my essence and caused me many sleepless nights.
Here’s what Trevor shared:
“Clarence, many Christians (including many of your members) are my first cousins. I’m currently an Atheist and most Christians are Practical Atheists (1st Cousin).” Trevor had my undivided attention and I ask him to explain his statement. He went on to elaborate and share how most Christians he knows, know enough about God to keep them out of hell and enough to get them into heaven. However, many are unwilling to change the way they live. “Clarence, where I come from, that’s called practical atheism.
At this point, I’m dazed, intrigued, and curious.
So, I ask Trevor, “do you mind sharing your definition of a practical atheist?” “Of course, a practical atheist is someone who believes in God but lives as if He does not exist.”
So, do you know any practical atheists?
FYI: At the Atheist Alliance International Convention, members we were asked to pick an atheist symbol from a select list. They chose this symbol – the new symbol of Atheism.
Sunday services are over, but, my mind is STILL spinning…
I honestly feel that this weekends services were the most amazing services we’ve ever had since I became pastor in 1999.
Our total church attendance was over 2,500 for the first time in the history of our church!
I preached about God’s historical bailouts & (The Full Coverage Plan, The “I AM” Plan, The Provision Plan) & closed with The Greatest Bailout that ever happened – The Resurrection Plan!
Our NEW & IMPROVED Video Venue Service had over 220 for the first time today! I want to thank all the ushers, greeters, deacons, ministers, and security who served in our Video Venue – YOU ARE SIMPLY THE BEST!
Our 100-voice choir was OFF THE CHAIN as they slammed Donald Lawrence’s “Matthew 28.”
Honestly, I believe Mars Hill has the best Worship & Fine Arts Ministry – PERIOD! There are churches with larger ministries & celebrity musicians & personalities. However, I’ll take our anointing over any celebrity!
Folks…what happened yesterday at our church IS NOT NORMAL…it wasn’t a “nice service”…it was a move of God! I’ve honestly never been a part of something like what happened today…and it’s only the beginning.
Religion is all about what we do to get to God…Christianity is all about what God did to get to us!
THAT is one of the problems with church today…we’ve became “normal” when the call of Christ on our lives is to change the world-“normal” people can’t do that!
We will continue this series on Sunday…expecting/praying for God to do amazing things AGAIN!
AND…to My Mars Hill Family…a personal note…
Reality is this…satan got his butt kicked this weekend! Hell is going to be less crowded! People crossed over from death to life. The way a community is changed is by the church preaching AND living the Gospel…and I believe we are going to continue to see Jesus do the unexplainable and undeniable…and we, His church, will continue to become unstoppable!
He’s alive-we win…now all we need to do is continually run up the score!!!
I LOVE you guys…I LOVE our church…I LOVE serving here…there is NOTHING ELSE on the planet I would rather do! I’m bought in!!!
Trevor (not his actual name) says that he is “currently” an atheist. However, he says “he is open to the possibility that he may learn something that will change his mind.” Trevor and I currently work out together and he calls me the only “Christian” he likes. “Why,” I ask? His reply: “You walk the walk, you’re down to earth, you’re funny, a cool person, and your goal is not to convert me, but to be friends with me. That’s what I like about you.” For the record, Atheism is the view that God does not exist and it is not a new development. Psalm 14:1, written by David in around 1000 B.C., mentions atheism: “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.'” Recent statistics show an increasing number of people becoming atheists, with up to 10% of people worldwide declaring themselves to be adherents of atheism. Trevor is an associate professor at the University of Chicago (whose workload includes classes on comparative religion, anthropology, and philosophy), a husband, and the father of three children. He is also a poet and an author. Trevor’s father is a retired professor who is also an atheist. His mother is a classically trained violinist and a lifelong seeker of truth. Last week I asked Trevor to attend one of our worship services and he did (I’ll post what he said about attending Mars Hill – EYE OPENING). In turn, he asked that I attend a lecture with him at the University (I’ll share my experience – EYE OPENING). Of course, I agreed. Before we agreed to attend each other’s events, we made an agreement:
We will do this only if we remain open minded with each other. We both agreed.
Here’s what’s on my mind:
“What would you say to Trevor since he’s “open” to the possibility that he may learn something to change his mind?”
Dynamic, Authentic, Life-changing… this is the sort of thing I'm striving for with our online Cyber small groups.
It is my prayer that it becomes a place to connect and
develop meaningful and lasting relationships. It's life-on-life
interaction that should serve to strengthen your relationship with God
and everyone else around you as well.
Furthermore, I envision "Cyber Groups" to be a connection point at the Mars Hill Baptist Church. It is my prayer that you will experience the merge of Shared Passion, Shared
Purpose and Shared Lives.
Finally, It is our hope that everyone who comes to our online community will have the
opportunity to benefit from being a part of this experience.
LET'S GET STARTED!
<CLICK HERE> to review Sunday's message notes and download the discussion questions <HERE>. After you review the questions, please post your comments for all to hear!
Trust me, this series will go down in history as one of the most innovative and controversial series at Mars Hill. What pastor do you know encourages their members to pull out their cell phones (DURING WORSHIP) and text their questions regarding the sermon. Guess what, THEY RESPONDED! The first person to respond had their question answered – LIVE!!! Additionally, they responded so well that we were overwhelmed with questions that I'll post and answer here. If you were not able to attend our services, you can view the outline here.
The"text me" project is your chance to get biblical answers to burning questions, concerns and hot issues in our culture. Over the next few months, I will preach on the 10 Hottest Topics that address spiritual, ethical or controversial issues facing Christians today. And guess what, you get to choose the topic!
All you have to do is submit your topic for selection via text message at (773-358 0356) or on our website by April 25, 2008. Your submission, along with others, will be posted on our website.
Members, guests, family and friends will cast their votes for the top 20 Hot Topics. The selected 20 Hot Topics will be posted on the website beginning April 27th. Beginning May 4th – May 10th, members, guests, family and friends will vote for the final 10 Hot Topic Sermons that I’ll preach on.
GUESS WHAT, IT GETS EVEN BETTER…
When the Top 10 Topics are confirmed, at the end each message you can (are you ready for this) text me a question relevant to the topic. For better or worse, I’ll answer the question ON THE SPOT!
That’s right, DURING WORSHIP you will be able to use your cell phone, BlackBerry, iPhone, PDA during worship and "text" me your question…TALK ABOUT INNOVATION…