Pace - Doing Life at Godspeed.

Watch this week's video from The Walk series. Pace, doing life at Godspeed.

You only need 1 Like?

Casting your soul upon the altar of public approval will leave you empty. You only need one like.

The Mistake of Making Easter Ultimate

For some people we make a huge mistake when it comes to Easter. We make Easter ultimate. What I mean by making Easter ultimate is that the entire conversation and invitation has been about attending church with you on Easter Sunday. Been there. Done that. Now leave me alone.

How to Have An Effective Easter

To have a great Easter at your church there must be more than great music and a great sermon. You may be the one that makes all the difference.

When Legends Die

There is a sobriety these moments bring. None of us are going to survive life. The actors, comedians, athletes; time has a way of humbling all of us and death is cruel in that no matter how great we are, eventually our lives are taken away.

April 18, 2014

You Only Need 1 "Like"

A news story surfaced last week about a 19 year old man in Great Britain who became addicted to selfies.  He would spend 10 hours a day taking as many as 200 pictures of himself until he could find the perfect one to post.  Ultimately, when he realized he could not take the perfect selfie, he tried to kill himself.
In a widely circulated article “Parents, A Word About Instagram”, blogger Sarah Brooks helps parents understand a potential pitfall of the social media phenomenon by saying,
“Have you considered that your child is given numerical values on which to base his or her social standing? For the first time ever your children can determine their “worth” using actual numbers provided by their peers!”
“Let me explain…”
“Your daughter has 139 followers which is 23 less than Jessica, but 56 more than Beau. Your son’s photo had 38 likes which was 14 less than Travis’ photo, but 22 more than Spencer’s.”
“See what I mean? There’s a number attached to them. A ranking.”
Brooks goes on to say
“They’re definitely paying attention. And it’s definitely affecting them.”
“It’s not just about assumed popularity anymore. It’s explicit. It’s quantifiable.”
“At arguably the most awkward time in their lives, a crucial time of development when they are trying to figure out who they are and where they belong, this is what they’re up against. A quantifiable popularity ranking.”
If we lay the worth of our soul upon the altar of public opinion we will find ourselves empty, confused, and eventually destroyed.  The young man who was addicted to selfies explains the highs and lows of what Brooks calls “quantifiable popularity.”
“People would comment on them, but children can be cruel. One told me my nose was too big for my face and another picked on my skin. I started taking more and more to try to get the approval of my friends.
“I would be so high when someone wrote something nice but gutted when they wrote something unkind.”
Truth is, you only need one “like.” 
In Psalm 16:11 David says, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”  In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word usually translated “presence” is actually the word “face.”  
We don’t need a perfect picture of ourselves.  We need a perfect picture of God.  Before His face is everything our selfie fails to deliver: a trending future “you make known to me the path of life”, satisfaction “in your presence is fullness of joy”, and something eternally pleasing, “at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”  
There is something powerful about taking the focus off of ourselves.  Negatively, it disarms the false value and potential pain of “quantifiable popularity.”  Positively it changes the question.  Does God like it?  Changing the question changes everything.
The question could be asked of every area of our existence.  My attitude, does God like it?  The way I act as a student, a parent, a worker, a neighbor . . . does God like it?  Is God pleased with the way I act, think, and talk?  Ironically, you can’t please people, but believe it or not, there is a way you can become pleasing to God (1 Thess. 4:1).  
If we find what God likes, according to Psalm 16:11, something incredible begins to happen.  “You make known to me the path of life.”  A God who perfectly knows you and the future begins to unleash trends and blessings that could become viral in your life.  Instead of trying to please followers and friends, which leads to never ending waves of tossing confusion (Eph. 4:14), we have only one path to consider.  We need to please the Lord.  
“In your presence there is fullness of joy.”  The Bible teaches that God loves for His people to be overjoyed.  He is the originator of paradise, the architect of the Promised Land.  If you learn to like what God likes you can have your fill of it.  
“In your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”  There is no version of the selfie that can bring eternal pleasure.  This is the truth at which the young man from Great Britain crashed.  But we have a God who offers His people everlasting pleasure.  If we live to please people we enter into a black hole that will empty the soul.  When it comes to “everlasting” there is only one like that ultimately matters.  
You only need one like.

If you do not know the Lord as your Savior, repent of the rat race of the sin of quantifiable popularity.  Take your soul off of the altar of public opinion and find grace in the God who offered His son for your sin.  Be born again today (John 3).  You only need one like.   

April 16, 2014

The Mistake of Making Easter Ultimate

Easter presents the church with a natural attendance spike.  There will be a lot of effort put into extending invitations and even offering incentives for people to come to your church.  For the most part it will work.  There will be  a huge swell in attendance.  There will be people who hear the gospel for the first time.  There will be people who will be saved Easter Sunday and it will be a huge turning point in their life.  There will be those who reconnect to church who have been away for years.  The Lord will bless the day and the efforts of a people who truly exalt His Son, but there will be some things that happen after Easter Sunday that will not meet your expectations.

Some people will show up and leave never to be seen or heard from again.  Some of us will work hard to get a friend to attend church with us.  They will come.  Eventually though, the conversation about returning may grow stale, perhaps even awkward as we drift off into the summer months.  Why is this often the case?

For some people we make a huge mistake when it comes to Easter.  We make Easter ultimate.  What I mean by making Easter ultimate is that the entire conversation and invitation has been about attending church with you on Easter Sunday.  Been there.  Done that.  Now leave me alone.

For those that do everything we dreamed they would on Easter Sunday; loved it, coming back, saved, changed, connected . . .however you want to quantify success, those people are like low hanging fruit.  For whatever reason they were ready for a change.  There was something the Lord was doing in them that made them ready to respond.  Yet for those that are thinking only in terms of kindly responding to your invitation to Easter, of whom responding to Christ or coming back to church is not even on the radar, what do we do so that Easter is not the ultimate end of their exposure to the gospel?

Easter as third space.

For that seemingly unresponsive friend you invite to Easter service, you might as well be inviting him or her to outer space.  The technical term for Planet Easter Service is 3rd space.  

The concept of 3rd space, or 3rd place, was first introduced in the early 90’s to describe a place outside of home (1st place) or work (2nd place) in which people meet and interact.  Evangelicals extended this concept, inspired by a talk given by Erwin McManus, to describe a strategy for Christian cultural influence.  1st space is a place where everyone is familiar.  2nd space describes a broader group of working relationships.  These people are less immediate in your life.  They are less like you, but they are the people you interact with everyday.  In 3rd space you are an alien, a complete foreigner.  You don’t know the lingo.  You don’t know how it works.  3rd space is a realm in which you have no relationships, a place you will only go by invitation.

Think about it, for church goers, your church is a 1st space.  It may be a 2nd space at worst.  You are familiar with the surroundings, the customs, the lingo, and the people.  But for those you invite to Easter, church is 3rd space.  It is unfamiliar and strange.  

You call it worship.  But for a person unfamiliar with church, the words on the screen look like Christian karaoke.  The sermon is a sales pitch.  The invitation appears to be the walk of shame.  The offering is probably offensive.  You may love church, but your friend is alien to the whole thing - and perhaps extremely uncomfortable during the experience.  Don't let the smile on their face fool you.  They are being polite. 

Allow me to wax prophetic about your post-Easter conversation with your friend, which may take place as soon as the parking lot or perhaps the next day at work. 

“So what did you think?”

“It was good, I enjoyed it.”

“So would you like to go back with me sometime?”

“Sure.”

To the alien mind the word “sure” means, no chance.  Weeks will go by.  Your friend will not return.  At some point they may even communicate to you the not so subtle hint that they would like for you to quit asking.  Because you made Easter the ultimate end, your Easter service was the unfortunate end.  

Your friend was kind to you.  He or she came to the service.  They felt foreign to the whole thing.  Who in their right mind wants to continue subjecting themselves to an alien experience?

Here is the key.  The conversation about the gospel can’t find its ultimate end in 3rd space, it has to work its way into something more familiar.  How can you accomplish this?  Below are some suggestions on how to change the space:

  1. Extend the Easter experience into a more familiar space.  After Easter service, have a plan to move from 3rd space back to a 1st or 2nd space where the two of you have common ground.  Go on a bike ride.  Plan on sharing Easter lunch with your friend at your home.  Don’t just digest the meal, somehow digest the message.  Talk though the experience.  The more immediate you are with this the more effective.
  2. Don’t be offended by criticisms.  If your friend talks about parts of the service or the message that made him or her feel uncomfortable, or perhaps even points they disagreed with, don’t freak out.  The gospel is offensive.  Sympathize with the comment and work through it.  Humor is a great way to disarm tension.  Don’t laugh at your friend by laughing at their objections, but don’t shy away from laughing at yourself.  If you don’t think Christians are funny, visit John Acuff’s “Stuff Christians Like.”
  3. Don’t belittle questions.  Your friend may ask questions that seem elementary to you, but if you make them feel stupid Easter will be the end.  For instance, not everyone understands that the Bible is broken down into books.  When your pastor says, “Go to John” that could be taken several different ways.  Never assume anyone knows the most basic stories of the Bible.  When your friend asks questions, it is an invitation from them to you to reduce the alien nature of the church as a 3rd space.      
  4. Make mental clips into conversation pieces.  If your church has an app, webpage, or you pastor writes a blog, use that content to share with your friend and keep the conversation moving forward.  You can do this in a not so awkward way by sharing thoughts from past sermons or articles that pertain to the natural course of conversation.  “My pastor said . . .”  “I read the other day . . .”  Instead of, “O.K. so now I want you to sit here and watch this 30 minute message from last week and let’s talk about it tomorrow.”  Make your own mental clips into conversation pieces.  Your friends are like you.  They need answers to life.  Surely something your church is saying is meaningful to that conversation.  
  5. They came to your 3rd space, accept an invitation to come into their space.  McManus’s talk on 3rd spaces was really focused more on this concept.  The reason most of us make very little cultural impact is because we will receive very few invitations into 3rd spaces.  If you do make it into 3rd space, you may be every bit as uncomfortable with that experience as your friend was with their Easter experience.  Recently I have accepted several invitations to speak to groups that were galaxies away from my normal Sunday context.  Don’t be afraid to venture into a galaxy far, far away from Easter.
  6. Don’t farm out follow up.  I mentioned this in my post about making Easter effective, and I want to reiterate this point again.  Your pastor is a comeback killer.  If all your friend gets from Easter is a call or a visit from your pastor, they will never come back and they may want to kill you :).  The pastor is the master alien.  The visitation team is merely his minions.  Your friend probably won’t appreciate an alien invasion from 3rd space.  If you wait on the pastor and his minions, you have immediately moved the gospel conversation back into outer space!  You keep the conversation going in 1st and 2nd space.  
  7. Help your church get over Easter.  To be successful at reaching people, your church needs to ultimately become less of a 3rd space.  Sometimes churches become calloused environments focused only on meeting the needs of the people already there.  Eventually the church becomes a closed group that becomes more and more difficult for you to invite friends.  We need an honest answer to this question.  How many people do you see each Sunday inviting their friends?  If people are not inviting people to your church, something needs to change.  People will bring people to a place that is meaningful and exciting. 

    Look around.  Does the nursery look like a kennel for Christian babies?  Does the seating look KJV?  Do the Sunday School or small group spaces look like a visit to the principal’s office circa 1953?  If the bathroom at the rec. field has more going for it than the stalls at God’s house, oh my!  You see the needs before your friends do.  Help your church get over Easter by getting involved in the daily process.  If you are prone only to serve at your church on clean-up day or at the egg hunt Easter week, Easter has become your ultimate end.  Be a servant all year long. 


Easter can be an ultimate experience or the ultimate end.  Think of how you can use this incredible holy-day to keep the conversation about Christ going with your friends.

April 15, 2014

Pace, Doing Life at Godspeed (#TheWalk)


Pace, Doing Life at Godspeed #TheWalk from Brian Branam on Vimeo.

You can also view this video on our App, LBCEngage.
 http://www.libertybaptistchurch.ws/app

April 14, 2014

Blood Moon #1

Here is a great video explaining the science behind tonight's first blood moon.  I'll lend my thoughts to the Biblical significance of this event later this week. 

April 11, 2014

Random Thoughts on Friday 4/11/14

Now there's an app - LBC Engage

If you haven't downloaded the new app for my church family (www.libertybaptistchurch.ws) get it this weekend.  Three great things you can do with this app:
  1. You can stay current with what is going on at Liberty through social media and immediate access to announcements.
  2. You can keep the conversation going all week long.  At Liberty Engage you can listen to any sermon you might have missed or one you want to hear again.  Something I am really excited about, in a few weeks we will be posting 2 minute video clips from the weekend's sermons that will help you continue to digest truths from God's Word.  There is also a link to this blog where you can read articles and share stories, connecting sermon content and Biblical truth to culture.
  3. Get in the Word.  At LBC Engage you will find multiple versions of the Bible as well as a place to journal your thoughts.  LBC Engage also interacts, in real time, with Sunday's sermon by cuing you to display Bible verses or content on the screens on your device.
Get LBC Engage for iPhone:  https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/lbc-engage/id845296250?mt=8
Get LBC Engage for Android:  https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.bibleandjournalapp.liberty2go

The Selfie of God

This Sunday I will be continuing The Walk series (#TheWalk) by talking about Presence.  Did you know most of the time the Bible mentions God's presence in the Old Testament the word is actually "face?"  For example, Psalm 16:11 says, "You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore."

Here are some things I am working on for Sunday:
  • God has a selfie.
  • God's image gives a whole new meaning to Selfie Sunday.
  • We need to be less self-interested and more God interested.
  • God knew the dangers of us becoming image driven (Ex. 20:4-6).   He knew we would recede into a plastic world full of color but lacking redemptive conversation.
  • In God's face there is providential care, fullness of joy, convicting comparison, and everlasting pleasure.  We desire all of these things to be true of our selfies, but we can't deliver.  This is why most of the motivations behind our "selfie" driven culture are the height of idolatry.
  • When we sinned against God we fled from His selfie and became more infatuated with our own.
  • God's selfie is ultimately expressed in Scripture, His Son, and His Holy Spirit.
Here are a couple of great resources I am consulting while preparing this message:

When I Don't Desire God - How to Fight for Joy by John Piper
 Selfies, Self-Deception, Self Worship by Josh Philpot
Parents, A Word About Instagram by Sarah Brooks

G-Day

Moving back to Georgia gave my family and I a better opportunity to attend UGA's annual spring football game, G-DAY.  We went for the first time last year and it was a blast.  We are going back this Saturday and it looks like the weather is going to be perfect.  I can't wait to watch a glorified football practice again this Saturday.  Go Dawgs!

Easter Music

Our choir will be sharing this Sunday night at 6:00 p.m.  It is amazing how many great songs the resurrection has inspired.  I can't wait to hear them.  (and the director is a hottie! aka, my wife!)

Eggstravaganza at North Murray

In case you've missed the announcement.  We will be having an incredible event, Good Friday at North Murray High School.  You could win a Harley!  No joke, no catch, requires no cash.  Just come and be ready to have a great time.  Here is the info.

Have a great weekend.  I hope to see you at Liberty this Sunday.

April 9, 2014

An Effective Easter

Easter presents the church with its greatest natural opportunity on the calendar to share the gospel.  Here is a short list of ways you can help your church have an effective Easter.

1) The Lord wants to bless your Easter services, make sure He can.

God has proven that for those who will exalt His Son, obey the commands, love Him, and love people that He will bless with bountiful growth (John 12:32, Acts 2:42-47).  If God can see that a local church is serious about obeying the commands, preaching the gospel and discipling people He will send people their way.  Make sure you do nothing in attitude or action that God would say, “I can’t bless that.”  Let there be no apathy, selfishness, or self-righteousness.  Make sure the sermon is faithful to the Biblical text, the music is Scriptural, and the teaching in every group is doctrinally sound.  Make sure that the building is uncluttered and reflects that it is owned and operated by the redeemed people of a Holy God.  Be a people God can bless and you will be blessed with people!

2)  The invitation begins in the parking lot.

The parable of the sower and the seed shows us that the battle for fruitful response begins early, not late (Matthew 13).  Many people who come to your church campus for Easter services have been fighting battles for years.  Don’t make them struggle even more to find parking, nurseries, or comfortable places to sit.  If they feel uncomfortable at the front door they sure won’t feel comfortable in the altar.  Remove every obstacle, fear, and feeling of awkwardness.  Make sure they know their kids are safe.  Help them understand what is about to happen in the service.  Use the bulletin.  Use sermon notes.  Make a friend, sit with them and explain to them what is about to happen.  Communicate clearly from the stage what you want people to do, sit, stand, pray - give them cues don’t leave them guessing.  Also remember, if you are not willing to fill out a card, no one else will.  If you are not willing to give, no one else will.  If you are not willing to sing, no one else will.  If you are not willing to listen, no one else will.  And most importantly, if you are not willing to respond to the invitation, not one else will.  Lead people to the altar, don’t think they will awkwardly walk the plank alone!  It is hard to be new.  People want to respond, but they are looking for cues from you that what they are doing is OK.

3)  Everyone is a greeter.

Melanie Smollen from Faith Perceptions says that guests at your church want to know:  Do you see me?  Do you hear me?  Do you know that I am here?  Do you care?  People expect to be greeted by the pastor and the greeters.  People will determine if they are seen, heard, acknowledged and cared for by a church if they experience those things from people who are not expected to do so.  Jesus told us to love our neighbor as ourselves.  That word was for everyone at your church, not just the greeters! 

4) People will come if you ask them.

Thom Rainer shares some startling statistics from his insightful book The Unchurched Next Door.  82% of the unchurched are at least somewhat likely to attend church if invited.  This means most people are just waiting on you to ask.  However, only 2% of church members will actually invite an unchurched person to church.  In a given year, 98% of church-goers never extend an invitation.   

5) Don’t farm out follow up.

Don’t expect someone else to follow up.  Don’t make the mistake of thinking that if a person is going to be birthed into the Kingdom that they must go through the church office.  Meet someone this Easter at your church.  Get their name.  Find out how to contact them and you follow up.  They expect a letter from your pastor.  If you want to leave a lasting impression, let them hear from you; not because it is your business, but because you care.

6)  People will be talking about your church when they leave, it’s up to you to determine what they will be talking about.

What do we want them to say about the nursery?  What do you want them to say about the music?  If you are the pastor who will be delivering the sermon, will you say something so impactful, simple, and memorable that people will be talking about it for several days?  What will people be saying about your building?  People will talk, positively or negatively.  Give them something great to say about their experience at your church this Easter.
7)  Tell people what’s next.  

Church folks are notorious about complaining about people only coming to church Christmas and Easter.  If you want to remedy that, tell them what’s next.  Otherwise, in many people’s minds, Christmas is next.  What’s your next event?  What is the sermon next Sunday?  What will the children, students, or small groups be doing next?  Are you playing softball this Spring, going to lunch this afternoon?  The leaving is just as important as the greeting.  If you don’t have anything worth coming to within a week after Easter, you might as well wish your guests a Merry Christmas as they walk out the door.  

Paths - Your Next Step Could Change Everything (Sermon Audio) #TheWalk

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