Category Archives: culture

Loving the City

Over the past few years my heart as a pastor has been driven by several things, one of which is a call for the church and Christians to love their city. God loves the city. In the book of Jonah, God three times refers to Nineveh as “that great city.” Nehemiah is commissioned to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the city. Much of Paul’s missionary work was centered around cities. In Revelation 21, John describes heaven as a great city. I believe this also means coming alongside and supporting what is already happening in your city. This can be a large city, like Charlotte, or a small town. Size doesn’t really matter, what matters is loving and investing in the community God has placed you. Often times our churches’ outreach programs are based around events and activities the church produces and invites the city to come to. This can be very effective and in some communities may be the only thing going. The church is providing a valuable and needed service to its community. In so doing relationships are built, Jesus is introduced and disciples can be developed. Fantastic. However, the church should not limit itself to planning and producing insular events and activities. So often, cities and towns, even neighborhoods are producing and promoting community events that are healthy and vibrant. In these situations, the church has a great opportunity to come alongside, invest in and support what is already happening in their city. The goal should not be to “take over” or “christianize” these events, but to love our community, love our city and be a part of investing in our cities. From there, relationships are built, Jesus is introduced and disciples can be developed.

Over the last year, the church I pastor, Ephesus Church, has not produced any singular outreach events, but through something we call the 1:8 Initiative (Acts 1:8) we have come alongside several great community events. Our local neighborhood, Wilmore, put on Wilmore Day in the Spring. We had access to free inflatable games for the kids and a sound system that we set up and ran throughout the event to support what our neighborhood was doing. Throughout the spring and summer the other neighborhood we straddle, South End, held a monthly Gallery Crawl. We became a stop on the Gallery Crawl each month showing local artists work and having local musicians play live. Our goal was not to create a “safe” alternative to the Gallery Crawl, but to support and be a part of what South End was doing. By the end of the season we developed great support and relationships with the organizers as they realized our heart to be a part of what was already happening and not create something separate. This fall we’re loving the city of Charlotte by supporting the local NFL team the Carolina Panthers. Ephesus is only a few blocks south of Bank of America Stadium (the home of the Panthers). Last season was the first time Ephesus was its current space and the church saw the crowds and parking issues as a challenge to be overcome on home game days. This year, the church saw it as an opportunity to love the city. For the home opener, the church planned a tailgate party to celebrate the Panthers in lieu of church service that day. A young man in the church designed and produced a great looking magnet with the Panthers’ schedule on it, a bit about the church and an invitation to the tailgate party. These were passed all around the neighborhood and on opening day several folks from the neighborhood came out to eat hot dogs, play cornhole and watch the game or for some, walk a few blocks and go to the game. Throughout the season the church has continued to support the Panthers, watching the pre-game after service and watching the game together during the monthly potluck. It’s fun to watch football, but it’s also great to be a church that Loves the City! The local Fox news channel felt this was a pretty cool thing too, you can see the story they ran here.

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Twitter and church

I wrote this in response to a blog post at The Digital Sanctuary, thought I’d share here.

I was definitely following your Twitter feed that day, mostly cause I was glad I don’t deal with SoCal earthquakes anymore (although I miss a lot of other aspects of Cali…). Anyway, more to your point on the connectivity of Twitter, I’m seeing it take off in my church as we get folks on the Twitter bandwagon. I was hearing exactly the complaints you mention, “Who cares what I’m doing?” But in community, we all care. Not that you just went #2, but where you’re traveling, how work is going, what interesting things you’re reading or discovering online. In just a few weeks I’ve gotten to know several people much better through Twitter. And when we’re talking face to face it’s a stimulus for conversation so the relationships expand beyond 140 characters! On a professional level, I’ve made connections through Twitter that are allowing me to take trips and get insider access to churches and leaders that would have never happened any other way. Because of email and Twitter I’ve gained an incredibly valuable mentoring relationship and been able to create a mini-conference for me and my team at one of the most dynamic churches in the country; all of these happening face-to-face. Twitter has opened the door for face-to-face relationships across the country. Anyway, good stuff.


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Great series on design in ministry

Check out Cynthia Ware’s series on design as she interviews a designer right in the thick of things.

Venue sagas continue

It is looking like we will be at the 24-7 Prayer Room again this week, but I haven’t yet confirmed that with the director (as of 4:29pm on Friday April 4th). I was watching The Pursuit of Happyness today with Will Smith and watching him go through the struggles of being homeless and taking care of his son and believing that an incredible future was ahead. Yesterday I was rereading some portions of Confessions of a Reformission Rev and Mark Driscoll was relating the early days of Mars Hill when it was struggling to survive and wasn’t really what he had thought the church would look like, but he had a vision of something bigger, a vision God had given him and his role was to do whatever he could to set the foundation for this huge vision of reaching the city God had place him in. Chris Gardner (the real person Will Smith portrays in Pursuit) and Mark Driscoll both saw the dream come about. I’m holding on to that right now. God is faithful. He’s bigger than any of this, and I have a vision of a church impacting the city of Charlotte in personal lives and cultural influence. It’s bigger than anything I can do, it’s a dream God has birthed and no venue issues are going to stop it. So get on board the ride we’re on cause the trip is going to be a good one.

BTW, just got off the phone with Lisa at 24-7. Ephesus will once again meet there this Sunday. If you haven’t been to 24-7 yet, you need to go. It’s a place of peace to get close to God, pray for what’s going on in your life, pray for what’s going on in Charlotte, and pray for the what’s going on in the world. And while you’re there, consider a little financial contribution because what they provide doesn’t happen for free.

See you this Sunday at Ephesus where we’ll continue to dig into the true nature of the church!

Okay, so I finally saw 300…


I finally completed my journey into manhood last night and watched the movie “300”. I enjoyed the graphic novel approach to the visual look of the film. It gave it a fresh perspective and allowed you to suspend disbelief the way you need to to get into a movie like this. Overall, it was a good movie, lots of blood, but heck look at the title graphic. And anytime you throw a LOTR guy in there, I have this strange loyalty that kicks in (for sake of full disclosure, I’m listening to the Return of the King soundtrack right now). Right at the beginning though, something jumped out at me. The way Leonidas, and apparently every Spartan warrior, is trained as a lethal killing machine. As a boy he is taught to fight and battle and not show fear or be intimidated no matter what. He becomes a warrior who earns his stripes by killing a massive wolf in the snow while in his underwear. He is portrayed as a warrior who feels no emotion, the perfect soldier, the perfect Spartan. Now, later in the movie we see he is passionate about his wife (I always dig movies that show married couples can be passionately in love, often it’s just people who aren’t married who really love each other and marriage is portrayed as where relationships go to die, not true!!), loves his son and loves his people (he becomes the Spartan king). Really the whole lead up to his initiation as a warrior doesn’t couple with the Leonidas we see later; he becomes a warrior surely, but he loves and cares for those around him too, a little out of character from what we’re told Spartans are trained to become.

Anyway, while watching this whole scene of a young Leonidas and the wolf, coupled with the narration explaining his lack of fear and emotion, only focused on killing led me to think of David of the bible. Here’s a guy who took down lions and bears. He then went on to single handedly battle a giant who had been striking fear into the entire army of Israel. Then of course went on to become one of the greatest kings in history….The point is, he loved the Lord. He sang songs, played instruments, danced! He wrote poetry and cared for people. And within the heart of this artist and compassionate guy was someone who could bare-handedly kill lions, bears and giants. That’s hardcore. He wasn’t raised in a culture of pain and hardship. He’s a man’s man who loved the Lord with all his heart, yet when the battle came he faced it. There’s a hero to look to…