worship is…

You’ve heard it said and probably even sung that “we were made to worship.” But what does that mean? If we truly were made to worship, ask yourself this question – are you worshipping in the everyday, and if so, how? It stands to reason that if we were made to worship, we probably ought to ask for wisdom to know what “worship” really is.

 

Beginning this Sunday morning, we will spend four straight Sundays examining four different Scriptures that let us in on how God defines worship. On August 2nd, we will be reminded that “worship is exposure” from Isaiah 1. On August 9th, we will be challenged that “worship is response” from Amos 4. On August 16th, we will be surprised that “worship is nowhere” from John 4. And On August 23rd, we will be encouraged that “worship is forever” from Revelation 4.

 

Let’s come together these next four Sundays as the Westpoint family to worship, while we continue to grow as worshippers who live sent everyday. 

 

Here’s a basic definition of worship, based on the etymology of the word itself and the ways it is used in the Scriptures:

_a declaration of who or what you hold as worth the most; an indication of what you value above all else.

 

I am asking myself this question – “What is worth the most to me? What do I value most? What I think is worth the most to me, does my life really demonstrate it to be true?” Because whatever is worth the most to me and to you is evident in how we live. And whatever is worth the most to me and to you is what we worship.

 

Lord, please expose us as Your worshippers. Please strengthen us to respond. Please surprise us in the here and now. May our hope be in You, forever.

 

See you Sunday, if you can make it. In the meantime, be worshipping today.

what is the great commission?

I guess you could call a lot of things about the story of the life of Jesus great. His coming was great. His miracles were great. His baptism was great. His compassion was great. His death was great. His resurrection was great. Great doesn’t necessarily mean grand or fun to look at or posh or attractive. Great can also mean of significant consequence. 

For instance, “The Great Commandment” is what Christians have entitled Jesus’ declaration that loving God and loving people are the most important elements of the law. There’s also what Christians have called His “last words,” so to speak. Found in Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus affirms His authority and asserts His intentions for the ongoing mission of His followers. He commands those who follow Him to make disciples as they are going throughout life, teaching and baptizing, living His teachings while teaching them to others and calling those others to the same public commitment. These three verses have been a stalwart of protestant evangelical promotions since the days that the “re-baptized” took an involuntary swim in the rivers across Europe. These three verses have been called “The Great Commission.”

Jesus commissioned His followers with a purpose and focus for their everyday living. They were to learn and live the ways of Jesus together, encouraging others to follow Jesus and learn and live His ways together, so that others would follow Jesus and learn and live His ways together, and so on. That is how the movement Jesus called the “church” would go on, for quite some time, and continue through today. And that is why that commission is so great, because it is so central and so significant to the mission of the people who follow Jesus together, known as the church. 

There has been one very impactful flaw, in my opinion, in the promotion and follow-through of this Great Commission in the last 100-plus years or so. At least in baptist life, which is the base of my background in church culture. That flaw? What baptists have made synonomous with “The Great Commission.”

I have heard three synonyms. “The Great Commission” is “missions.” “The Great Commission” is “evangelism.” “The Great Commission” is “discipleship.” Of these three, I would suggest that the latter holds truer to the Matthew 28 text than the two former synonyms. However, as I wrote about in a previous post, even that latter one to me is lacking. The bottom line _ The Great Commission is simply to “make disciples.”

I have always appreciated how my dad has taught this word “disciple.” He is a Greek scholar. You wouldn’t know. He doesn’t flaunt it. Ask those who have known him at New Orleans Baptist Seminary. They’ll tell you. That way you will know it’s not just his biased son. Anyway, he has always emphasized that the word literally means “learner.” Thus, the definition for “discipling” that I gave above. 

And that is “The Great Commission” – discipling. Locally and globally, as we go, 168 hours per week. Living sent daily.

Earlier today, a friend of mine tweeted this message:

mtg with NAMB’s task force looking at how to promote the Great Commission among and in our churches.

It struck me in such a way that it prompted me to “direct message” him a few thoughts. He probably thought I was stalking him, because I sent six messages in a row. However, you can only type 140 characters or less on Twitter. So, really, it wasn’t that long. 

Nonetheless, here is what I direct messaged to him. 

Hey bro, I would suggest to start by redefining “The Great Commission” emphatically as discipling rather than missions, evangelism, or discipleship. No offense, but if NAMB thinks that local churches don’t promote “The Great Commission,” then they are out of touch. It’s what they are promoting AS “The Great Commission” that needs to be addressed. A construct shift. 

I would suggest that the promotion needs to focus on a construct shift, or the result will be no different than before. Once the construct is shifted, the values and behaviors will follow. In that effort, here are three possible emphases to include in the promotion:

  1. As already stated, “The Great Commission” is discipling. Let’s unpack that for people. The GPS promotion is a valiant effort, but do we really think pastors are going to select that piece of mail as the one not to toss in the trash can among the stack of junk mail that sits on the desk? It’s going to take more than mail, no offense to the author of the GPS stuff. It’s going to take actually “going.” It’s going to take ongoing “teaching” through relationship. Kind of like what Jesus emphasized in “The Great Commission” – as you are going, make disciples. I suggest that people will “learn” (as they are discipled) that kind of everywhere and anyone mentality if it is taught to and modeled for them in coaching. The result will be a rethinking of and a renewal of “The Great Commission.”
  2. Furthermore, “The Great Commission” is AWD. That’s “all wheel drive.” It’s on all the time. You don’t switch it on. You don’t turn it off. It’s not like “four wheel drive.” It’s “all wheel drive.” All the time.
  3. Further-furthermore, if we are going to carry out “The Great Commission,” we may have to change where we are “going.” If our “as we are going” never takes us into the midst of the culture that church sub-culture tends to so heavily criticize and separate from, then we will not make disciples. Both among the church and among culture at large, we need to allow people to become. Jesus did. Met them right where they were. Did life with them there. Told them and showed them He was their friend. Then laid down His life to prove it (John 15:13). He told us to love people in the same way.

“Evangelism” is still important. Being messengers of the “good news” is a part of discipling, because discipling includes “pre-conversion” relationships and people who don’t follow Jesus observing the love of those who do. “Missions” is still important. Going all over the world to love people and share with them the “good news” of Jesus and serve them wherever they are is a part of discipling, because discipling includes “as we are going” both locally and globally. “Discipleship” as it is called is a part of “discipling,” because teaching followers of Jesus more and more about His ways is a “post-conversion” element of discipling. It’s interesting, because some of you reading this equate “discipling” with “discipleship,” but Jesus didnt. He never divided these concepts up. Never spoke of them in three different ways.

When I think of “discipling” as Jesus used the word, it involved all three. Most importantly, it involves doing life together with both people who don’t follow Jesus and people who do, living the teachings of Jesus at all times in love and speaking the teachings of Jesus when prompted to do so in conversation. To emphasize one of those three is not “The Great Commission.” To emphasize only one of those three would not be true to how Jesus taught discipling. Therefore, it would be lacking His intent to emphasize just one of those three as “The Great Commission.” So, the synonym for “The Great Commission” is “discipling.”

What would you suggest that the synonym for “the Great Commission” is? What would you suggest needs to be done to promote it? Please leave your thoughts.

I guess I am passionate about this, since this is my 2nd “southern baptist” post in like two weeks. I hear the talk of the “Great Commission Resurgence.” Here’s the thing. If baptists are going have a “Great Commission Resurgence,” then we may need to start by giving adequate time promoting what “The Great Commission” actually is.

praying for wisdom. praying for love.

Wisdom and love.Who doesn’t want them? Decisions loom. Loneliness abounds. Hopelessness is near. Brokenness is realized. Money. Relationships. Future. Who doesn’t want wisdom and love?

How would you define wisdom? The Bible has an entire “book” dedicated to wisdom principles. The book “James” from the New Testament of the Bible states that God will give it in abundance if we ask for it. People of all races and cultures declare some choices to be wise and some choices to be foolish. So, what is wisdom?

What if “wisdom” is when God’s unseen shows up in our seen? What if wisdom is when it is on earth as it is in heaven? What would be different in your life if God’s unseen showed up in your seen?

What about love? The Bible holds the story of a loving God intent on pursuing a people who pursue their own interests in order to restore them into the loving relationship He made them to have with Him. And He goes to any length necessary to get their attention – from interrupting their pursuits to actually taking on the consequence of their self-destructive choice of betrayal, death. Jesus gave a new command in the New Testament “book” of John, chapter 13. He said we were to love like He loves. Well, He doesn’t love when He chooses or when He feels like it. He loves us to death, no matter what it takes, so that abundant life can blossom in and through us. He doesn’t love to better His life. He loves, losing His life so that we can have life. 

Do I love like that? What if when you said “I love you” you were really saying “I’d die for you if I had to?” What if instead of loving a team or a donut or a hobby, we loved people? What if we loved because we chose to give love no matter how people were responding to that love? Cause that’s love. That’s how Jesus loved us.

Therefore, pray for wisdom. Pray for love. I assure you that our lives will absolutely change if each of us would rise in the morning and pray:

Jesus, please give me wisdom and please teach me to love. May Your unseen show up in my seen, on earth as it is in heaven. May it show up because Your love is showing up and changing me and changing others. Teach me how to love like You love, and give me the wisdom to recognize the opportunities that you give me along the way to love. 

Then listen. Look. Respond. Love. 

He already promised His unseen would show up. He said He would grant wisdom. He called us to love, though. Maybe that’s when wisdom shows herself the most.

Thoughts? Holler back…

____________________________

Speaking of love, here’s a fun display of it. Sure to make you smile. It’s a segment of the “daddy-daughter dance” at the reception of the wedding of Katie and Michael. They are friends, and my wife and I were truly blessed to be a part of their wedding ceremony. We love you, Michael and Katie. We’re excited to walk with you in the journey ahead.

Here’s the video:

two videos worth sharing

It doesn’t take a long time to share some videos here in my blog, so I thought I would do so. I hope you enjoy them. 

The first one is of a teaching concept about the ways of Jesus called “Converge.” Donald Miller hosts. Looks interesting. Comes out in October 2009. Let me know what you think. Click on the link below to go to the site and watch the video. It will either open a new window or take you to a new page. Click back to come back here if it takes you to a new page. Check it out:

WATCH THE CONVERGE PROMO

The next video is dear to my heart, mainly because of the culture I grew up in and the friends I walked with in the inner-city of New Orleans. I could so see this happening in some way there. And I love it. If you get hung up in any inaccuracy, at least let the enthusiasm and the spirit of it get you excited! Check it out:

There you go. 

By the way – SOMETHING ELSE WORTH SHARING – Katey, my almost five year old, learned how to read today. She read her first little book by herself. My wife taught her, which is really cool. Here’s a pic of her reading:

 

Katey reading her first book.

Katey reading her first book.

I love my KG (“Katey Grace”)!!! And her Mommy, too, who is so awesome with all she teaches our kids. I am so blessed to have a wife who gives her life away into our kids the way Jen does.

I’ll blog at you later.

a southern baptist post

I composed this post on two plane rides in one weekend. It’s just a few thoughts that have been swirling in my head and heart provoked by some recent articles I have read from southern baptist leaders and some conversations Dad and others and I have had over the past few months. Here goes…

___________________________________

My dad has been a southern baptist pastor for almost 50 years. That is my heritage. I’ll admit, I’ve thought a lot about disassociating from southern baptists for various reasons since my college days, but I continue to be compelled to learn from and walk with southern baptist friends and leaders. I am especially thankful for the southern baptist leader that my dad has been. I so respect him and his heart to listen to God and love others. I am also thankful for his heart to love and lead southern baptist leaders, as he has done with the New Orleans Baptist Seminary for nearly 30 years.

Now, I network with and learn from others leaders who are not southern baptist. I certainly am enriched by those relationships, but I must say that my most influential relationships have been with southern baptist pastors and leaders who have generously poured into my life.

I guess I caught my love for the SBC (Southern Baptist Convention) particularly from my dad. It might better be described as a love-hate relationship. That’s probably true for many of us involved with southern baptist sub-culture. Like the SBC or not, I believe in and am passionate about three specific core values that southern baptists have held for a long time now.

1 – Teach the Bible. 2 – Associate autonomously. 3 – Serve cooperatively.

Dr. Chuck Kelley, president of New Orleans Baptist Seminary, should he proud of me for remembering one of the key stories he told his students in evangelism class. The story was set in 1906. I don’t remember the guy’s name, but I do remember what he boldly stood for and reminded the convention crowd of that day. He reminded them, in the midst of a season of Biblical wavering and power grabs, that the convention was founded on these basic core values I’ve mentioned above. Mainly the Bible and autonomy.

When it comes to teaching the Bible, we will never lack for something to teach. God has preserved a letter of His great love for and interaction with us. We have plenty to learn from and share from within it. And we must surrender all of our systems of theology and preferential thinking to the premises of His living Word. Jesus called Himself truth, and as the embodiment of that living Word, His truth should shape our values, theology, and ministry practices.

Associating autonomously is to me one of the most distinct characteristics of the SBC. Technically, we are not a hierarchical denomination like all others. We are instead a lot of local expressions of the church who relate together to love the culture we live among. At least ideally.

The cooperative program was founded with a cooperative spirit. That spirit has not always prevailed, admittedly. However, it remains the heart and hope of those who see the beauty of SBC ministry throughout our nation and our world.

I believe in and am passionate about these central values of the SBC. I know I am not alone. I believe they still matter. 

We live in an interesting time as southern baptists. It is an SBC day of both great commision resurgence and inwardly-focused churches, visionary leaders and power struggles, open dialogue and alleged cover-ups, theological debates and individual-slandering, missional-emphasis and mission-board turmoil. I guess it’s nothing new. New or rerun, these core values remain as important today as ever.

As someone interested in remaining faithful to learning and living the ways of Jesus alongside fellow southern baptists, I want to make two suggestions to the current leadership of the SBC. I am sharing this at an important time as those leaders look to reorganize and reprioritize. I really have no idea whether anyone in leadership will ever see this post. Nonetheless, I felt compelled to write it. If these suggestions are worth considering, I pray they will be helpful. If not, they probably won’t be read anyway.

1st suggestion_MENTOR YOUNG LEADERS AT ALL TIMES SO THEY CAN TAKE THE BATON FROM YOU AT ANY TIME NECESSARY.

There is a Biblical mandate to make disciples. It’s not just for the pastors and convention leaders. It’s for every follower of Christ. It does, however, certainly include the convention leader. I’ve asked a few folks who are considered “convention leaders” if they would say that it is a common occurrence for convention leaders to be actively discipling young leaders for the purpose of readying them to take convention leadership when the time would arise. The answer has been no across the board.

If we truly have a heart to resurge the great commission and foster a cooperative spirit, then that would of course include daily discipling the next generation of leaders and in turn handing off leadership to them over time rather than when our position comes to an end.

Does the leader of the executive committee have several young leaders he is mentoring for convention leadership? Does the head of the state convention? The president of the Seminary? IMB? NAMB? The local association? The local church pastor? If not, we all should.

If not, then how seriously do we really take the great commission?

It has been said lately that God does not need the SBC. That is true. However, men who follow God continue to give energy and continue to sacrifice family time to lead the SBC. If they see the SBC as a vital part of the mission and movement of God that Jesus called His church, but they don’t mentor the next generation of leaders to take their place, one would wonder how much they really value the convention’s role in the resurgence of the great commission.

I’m not trying to be critical here. Just making a suggestion. Put your money where your mouth is. Bring on young leaders to learn from you and give input to you. Give the chance to lead and learn and fail and succeed, coaching them along the way. This is a must if you hope for the SBC and the Cooperative Program to continue to stay strong into the future.

2nd suggestion_DECENTRALIZE LEADERSHIP TO MAXIMIZE IMPACT.

Autonomy still matters. If it does, lead like it. Lead like Jesus. He had the guts to hand off a global mission to a bunch of diverse, seemingly ill-prepared, got-my-own-ideas-about-this-kingdom stuff men. And the movement called “church” continues.

A serious question looms. Why, among current leadership, does there seem to be a sense of needing to control ideals and strategies and partnerships? It’s as if the movement that continues will be lost unless it is protected by the right men. It’s as if the way to move the SBC forward lies in preserving what was fought so hard for in the 80s to protect. This makes no sense, because preserving life does not beget new life. Giving life does. Preserving something’s current existence leads to stagnancy. Stagnancy will not spur on the restorative mission of the great commission. Resurgence does not happen when controlling SBC development is the focus. Releasing instead of retaining does.

After all, I didn’t think that the movement of convention organizations determined the direction of the SBC. I thought the movement of the local church did. I didn’t think convention leaders, in their committees, had any power other than the power that is present when they give themselves away to serve and resource local churches and local leaders engaged in the very powerful ministries that happen in their local communities. Or am I to understand autonomy differently.

Jesus decentralized. And current leadership must, as well. After all, Jesus’ movement is not dependent on the preferences of one specific group of religious leaders. It’s much bigger than that. Much bigger than them. And as convention leadership does what convention leadership was originally intended to do – relate, serve, dream with, support, trust, decentralize – then and only then will they get in on the movement, too. Cause it’s happening.

The bride of Christ continues to be the beauty the Groom adorned her to be among our world. She is not waiting for one or two or three groups to declare her beautiful or correct or sound or on the right mission. And while convention leaders too often centralize efforts in order to act on a power that was never intended to be theirs in the first place, the decentralized movement of the church moves onward and outward without them.

If someone who is a convention leader actually reads this, I hope you will hear these suggestions from a heart that cares about the future involvement of the SBC in this movement Jesus called church, not from a haggler criticizing a group of men with whom my own Father associates. I am grateful to those men and for the leadership they provide. 

And thanks, Dad. Thanks for all the people you have mentored and released through the years. The evidence is HUGE. Since Mom and Dad were in the accident back in April, the response has overwhelmingly indicated a resurgence of great commission followers and leaders who have poured out love to the man and his wife who so freely poured out all they had into those young leaders.

May we all join the original surgence. And may the convention leaders pour into those involved and serve those already carrying out the great commission in their local contexts.

at the races…

The July 4th Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway was Caleb’s 6th NASCAR race to attend. He has been at one Nationwide race (the level below the Sprint Cup), and five Sprint Cup races. All of this may be completely foreign to you. It was to us about two and a half years ago. But now, due to Caleb’s passion for the sport and the drivers and the strategy and the creation of various tracks in his room, it is very much a part of our family.

Katey and Abby talk about drivers and race with Caleb in his room. Caleb is more knowledgeable about the sport than most commentators on TV. Jen even talks about it. Even about bump-drafting and safety barriers and HANS devices. Those are words that have come our of her mouth. Prior to February 2007, Jen and I both had no idea what a HANS device is. 

It’s been a fast learning lap and a whole lot of fun. 

In case you have never been to a race, which I highly recommend, let me give you an audio sample of it. The clip you are about to hear was recorded on my phone. When it begins, the cars are halfway around the track from us. You will hear the announcers for about 15 or more seconds. Then, all of a sudden, the roar of forty-three 800 horsepower engines humming by 14 rows below us on the 2.5 mile track that is Daytona International Speedway. Click the link, then press play. To return to read and see the rest, just hit your back button.

the sounds of the Coke Zero 400

Caleb and his friends Cole and James and their daddies and I went to the race together. It was a blast. All of us got to hang in the garage area and near pit road and in the infield before the race. The kids absolutely enjoyed it. Our seats were great. Our time together was very memorable. Thanks for a great Saturday Jamie and Chris! Sure do love you guys. 

Here are a few pics from this past Saturday night’s race in Daytona. One of which I am really proud of – a panoramic of pit road. Appropriately, there are 24 (like the #24 driver Caleb loves so much).

 

Here’s that panoramic one. Dig this pic a lot:

a view from the front of the lineup of the cars on pit road!!!

a view from the front of the lineup of the cars on pit road!!!