Nobody likes to admit that they are greedy and materialistic, yet that is one of our biggest problems in our society today. We buy stuff that we don’t need with money we don’t have. And then we expect someone to bail us out when we get into financial trouble. We are in the middle of a series called In God We Trust at Cornerstone. We’re taking a hard look at how we can really honor God with our possessions and our finances. To help show how easy it is to manage money in a way that honors God, I recruited some high powered help. Check out this video from my little man.
As a father, I’m incredibly proud of all my children, but seeing them learn from an early age about honoring God and saving money is awesome! I even want to share a little story about Drew, the six year old star of the above video. About six months ago, while he was eating a snack in the cafe before the service started, he asked me about one of the offering boxes. I told him what it was and he went on to talk about something else. About 5 minutes later, I glanced over and saw him sneaking over to the box. He made sure no one was looking and he slipped some money out of his pocket and put it into the box. I asked him about it later that day and he just said he felt he needed to give some of his “extra” money back to God. He had already tithed out of his allowance, but he wanted to give more!
I’ve been to a lot of conferences and I’ve read a lot of books, but seldom do I hear much about rural churches. We are told that we must change culture through reaching the urban cities, but rural America is not as important. It seems that to be considered successful, a church must have thousands of members. But the reality is that most churches are in rural communities and average less than 100 people per week. Communities where everyone knows everyone, and communities where people still need Christ. I was excited to get my hands on a copy of Transforming Church in Rural America by Pastor Shannon O’Dell, and I want to share a few of my thoughts with you.
But before I talk about the book, I need to share part of my story. I pastor in a small city of less than 7000 people. It’s where both my wife and I grew up, and it’s where we plan on raising our children. It’s a city that is full of churches, some that have been in existence for over 100 years. And most importantly, it is a city that I love. I can relate to the people that live here because I understand them. So I am passionate about the rural church. I have even turned my desire to help rural churches learn how to integrate technology and use the internet into a small part time consulting opportunity.
When I started reading this book, I really could not put it down. I read the entire book in two days, while constantly asking myself why there weren’t more books about the rural church. It’s great to read a story of a church that followed a God-given vision and worked through some pretty big problems along the way. It gives me hope that God can transform any community when we get serious about following Christ. The book starts off by sharing some of the “Unwritten Rural Rules”
Successful churches grow in thriving urban or sprawling suburban America.
Sparsely populated rural communities are behind the times and not worth our time.
Cities are strategic; the country is inconsequential.
The best, most visionary pastors are hired by growing visionary congregations.
Rural churches can only afford the leftovers from the leadership pool.
If you want to be a “successful” pastor, go to the cities.
If you want to drive a minivan with 200,000 miles on it, go to the sticks.
Like the author, I want to break all the rural rules. I want to see every church healthy and growing and transforming lives. But I also know that rural churches have their own set of problems to overcome. Most pastors have to learn how to deal with family dynasties that think they rule the church, learn how to operate on a very limited budget, and learn how to promote change and share vision with people who are very happy with the status quo. The author talks about the continual process of change-conflict-growth that we will experience in the rural church. I have definitely seen that take place, even in our 5 year old church.
This is a book about leadership, about vision, about change, and about opportunity. This is a very transparent book, one that shares both the successes and failures that the author has experienced in the church. I love the practical ideas for reaching out to the local communities. As a tech geek, I am fascinated by their use of satellite to reach smaller communities through video venues. I see great value in connecting the leadership and vision and resources of stronger churches with smaller churches that need help. It is a great picture of cooperation and I can envision many more similar partnerships and mergers in the future.
Overall I highly recommend this book. If you are part of the leadership of a rural church, don’t lose hope. Read this book and decide if you are willing to go through the process of change-conflict-growth. I’m afraid that too many of our rural churches are content simply going through the motions while the church gets smaller year after year. I want to see churches find their God-given mission and lead people to Christ while transforming their communities. This book will help guide you through the process of becoming that type of church. It doesn’t answer what style or denomination you should be, but it challenges you to truly love your community and find every way possible of reaching it. Here’s a video with more info.
Our local newspaper, the Galax Gazette recently launched a new website. As part of their new design, they invited community bloggers to submit posts. I plan on sharing at least one post per week about church life in a small town. Blogging is such a great way to interact and communicate with your community. I’m excited about this new opportunity to share online. Here’s an excerpt from my first post called Compete or Complete?
I can never understand why so many Christians spend time criticizing other churches.
Unfortunately, I think too many times it starts with a competitive attitude from the pastor. I will even let you in on a little secret about pastors. Whenever two pastors run into each other, one of the first questions that is always asked is “How many are you running now?” In other words, whose church is bigger.
Maybe I’m naive, but I think the better question is “How can we help each other?”
Truthfully, no two churches are alike. They may have different interpretations of some secondary doctrinal issues, and they will certainly have different styles of worship and ministry, but they each have a role to play in our community. Different types are churches are a good thing, because each church will be able to reach and minister to people that the others can’t.
Hi, my name is Mike, and I am addicted to electronic gadgets. If you ask anybody that knows me well, they would be sure to verify this fact. I like to stay on the cutting edge of technology, but over the past few years I have really slowed down. The reason why: money.
It takes a great deal of money to have the latest and greatest computers, gadgets, and software. And ministry is not exactly the profession to go into if you want to have money. So now, I’m the guy that constantly wants new stuff, only to have to learn the meaning of contentment.
But I have found something unexpected in the process. My 3 year old church laptop is still running great, and my $300 home computer running Windows XP still works fine. Even though my cell phone came out over 3 years ago, it still makes phone calls. In other words, I really have all I need and more. We live in a society that tries to convince us that we need more. If we buy into the myth that we always need the latest and greatest gadget, then have we made technology our God?
Materialism is an ugly thing, and we can become experts in rationalizing our purchases, but I want to challenge you to really ask yourself if you need the latest and greatest version of every new gadget. The question should not be, “Can I buy this?” The better question is “Should I buy this?”
So while I’m lusting after iPads, new MacBook Pros, and new Android phones, I’m learning the true meaning of 1 Timothy 6:17-19. We’re just started a new series at Cornerstone called “In God We Trust: Faith, Hope, & Money” and I will be sharing about honoring God in every area of our lives, including our technological purchases
Recently I made an interesting observation in how my shopping habits have changed. I love to read and I love hanging out in bookstores. When you find a good book and a comfortable chair and simply relax with the smell of coffee in the air, you can spend hours reading. Most bookstores today have great children’s areas as well, so our family frequents many of the big bookstores. But over the past few years, I’ve noticed that we really don’t buy anything at the bookstores. We pick up a kid’s book every now and then, but for the most part, we just hang out and discover books.
Now, I either order books for my Kindle, or I choose to order several at a time from Amazon or one of the other online retailers at much cheaper prices than the store offers. I simply can’t bring myself to pay full retail price for books. I try to buy a few books from our local small family owned bookstore, but most of my purchases are now online.
So here is the question for you to think about: Can bookstores stay in business considering all the new electronic reading devices? Can they afford to keep such high inventories of books when people can order books online and have them shipped overnight cheaper? What are your thoughts? Leave a comment and let me know what you think
I have shared about OpenDNS before, but I wanted to let you know about a new free service they are now offering. FamilyShield is a web filter that blocks out inappropriate sites on your home or business computers. I have used OpenDNS to protect my home network and our church network for the past two years and it has worked great.
FamilyShield is a stripped down version of OpenDNS basic that requires very little setup and no configuration. It works by simply changing a few settings in your wireless router. They keep a constantly updated list of inappropriate sites and there is no software to install on your computer. Since it works through your router, it also protects all computers on your network including any iPods, gaming systems, or other home devices. Check out their site for more information. I highly recommend it.
Over the past year, I have been using Google Voice to handle all my voicemail on my mobile phone. Google announced today that Google Voice is now available to everyone in the US. Before today, you had to receive an invitation in order to use it, so here’s your chance to try out something that is cutting edge.
Most pastors spend a large amount of time on their phones, so this service really works great for them. You can route incoming calls to your office phone, your home phone, your cell, or even straight to voicemail. Google transcribes every voicemail into text so you can read your voicemails over text messages or emails. Although the transciption is sometimes a little crazy, most of the the time you can decipher what the call is about without listening through the voicemail. They don’t have many local google numbers for my area, but they are adding more all the time.
This video explains a little more about the service.
As part of the One Prayer series that we are participating in at Cornerstone, we are asking everyone to go to the One Prayer website each day to read the devotion and prayer guide. Each Tuesday, I have asked that we join with other churches around the world and fast from Sundown Monday night to Sundown Tuesday night. Fasting is a powerful but neglected spiritual discipline that can transform our lives. Fasting helps us to focus on what is truly important and it can clear our minds of daily distractions.
On Tuesday of this past week, our family was at the beach on vacation. Here’s where it gets a little complicated. Even though I was on vacation, I wanted to honor the fast. So Jennifer and I went 24 hours with only liquids and we spent some extended time reading scripture and praying for our church and our community. But to end the fast, we decided to go to an all-you-can-eat-gorge-yourself-on-incredibly-insane-amounts-of-seafood buffet. I literally ate 3 or 4 pounds of crab legs in addition to prime rib, shrimp, and fish. Now it doesn’t take a detective to see through the problem in that.
In our country, we are so used to excess that we don’t even realize what we are doing. The restaurant said they cook over 1800 pounds of crab legs each night! We let food dictate our schedules and we even plan our vacations around where we can eat. And even when we fast, we are thinking about where we can eat next. Lord forgive us for our selfish and extravagant lifestyles. What really bothers me is that most people never even see the problem. We pray for those who are hungry around the world and then eat like it’s our last meal. I am thankful that fasting is teaching me lessons and opening my eyes to where my faith and actions don’t line up.
I am also learning from my friends. Jennifer has also just completed a 21 day Daniel fast, and my friend Ronnie has been blogging and sharing about his 40-day fast. I’ve got to admit, God is really challenging me right now to get serious about prayer and fasting. And not just from food, but from other things that hold control over my thoughts and actions. I’ll be sharing more about my thoughts on technology and fasting as well.
But let me just stop and ask my readers, what have you learned from fasting? Leave a comment and join the conversation.
I am a former design engineer who now pastors Cornerstone Community Church in Galax, Virginia. I'm passionate about following Jesus and I love technology. I've been married to Jennifer for 18 years, and we have three awesome kids, Emma, Luke, and Drew.