Friends, I wanted to share with you this sermon that just rocked me today. I was actually listening to Gregg Matte's Easter sermon and just kept listening to the following Sunday's sermon and God got my attention. Dr. Rick Rigsby was one of my sister's professors at Texas A&M and an incredible preacher! I can't encourage you enough to take 30 minutes to sit and listen to this sermon. I'm reminded listening to this sermon of the faith that I had in college. I had dreams that were bigger than I was and prayed prayers that were way bigger than I was. I've stopped doing that. I remember praying a prayer that Louie Giglio prayed on one of the Passion worship CDs begging God to give us dreams that were bigger than we are and to live lives that were bigger than we are. I experienced God do things that I can't even explain how powerfully He moved following those prayers. May we stop and beg God to speak to us daily and may we have an astonishing faith expecting God to do things in and through our lives that are way bigger than we are. To listen to this sermon by Dr. Rigsby go here and scroll down to the sermon on April 26,2009. To watch the sermon you can go here.
I've been hearing rumors for the past couple of years and it's finally official... the iPad tablet is here! While it looks very cool, I'm not sure how exactly it will be an effective median between my iPhone and my MacBook but I'm eager to play with it. I had lunch today with a Software Engineer who works predominantly with PCs and has developed many Windows Mobile applications. He just sold out and bought an iPhone and he's blown away by the capabilities. We were talking about everything you can do on the iPhone now. Every day I use my iPhone to wake me up (clock), read my Bible (YouVersion), record my calories (Lose It), check the weather/news, use the calendar, to do list, check my bank account, update my Twitter, Facebook, and Linked In, and best of all play games! There's really not much I don't do on my iPhone in any given day. It sounds like with the portability of the iPad it expands these possibilities and looks to much easier to read similar to a Kindle. I will be excited to get my hands on one of these very soon! Do you plan to get one?
Looking for a good, free app to download? If you haven't downloaded Words with Friends you need to try it out! I have to admit though before you jump in, it can be VERY addicting! It's FREE, but you do have to deal with a lot of ads... well worth it though. It's basically an online scrabble game with other friends with iPhones that can go on for days and you can have multiple games going with multiple players. It's been fun to play with old friends from college and Houston, reconnecting with them at the same time. If you're already playing Words with Friends or you download it today start a game with me, my user name is nilssmith.
I have been a Purpose Driven fanatic since I first entered full time ministry in 2002. I read Doug Field's book Purpose Driven Youth Ministry and began following all things Purpose Driven since. Rick Warren pushes in his message at The Nines conference that you MUST have a plan for discipleship. I agree that it is helpful and beneficial to have a plan, but sometimes I think we create too much structure in the church and submit to structure over spirit. I do strongly agree with having a plan to follow, I just think that we have to be careful to how firmly we cling to our plan and make sure that we leave flexibility for the movement of God.
I'm curious, what is your plan? I've always led ministries with the idea that our large group experience was evangelism and our small group experiences were discipleship. In the past few years though I think we are seeing small groups becoming more of an evangelism/front door experience and more discipleship based teaching in our large group settings. At Segue, our College gathering, we started with about 5 or 6 students in a house with a discipleship based Bible study. We have since grown in the past year and a half or so to around 200 students in an auditorium but the depth of our Bible studies is still just as deep.
I think what I'm finding is that discipleship happens in so many different forms. It often occurs when we are intentional with our planning, but it also occurs at times and in programs where we aren't so intentional and God moves despite our efforts!
I'm currently serving in a church that is 60 years old. It's actually the youngest church I've served as my last was over 100 years old and the one before that, was around 75 (I'm actually not sure on the last one, but I know it's old). I'm taking Church Planting right now at Rockbridge Seminary and the course has me thinking a lot about why we plant churches. Just tonight I attended the 1st worship gathering of a new church that a friend of mine is planting here in San Antonio. The Sunday before that I attended a different worship service of a new church plant in our city. On my way to both of those worship services I probably passed more than a dozen church buildings that likely sit half empty on a regular basis.
So why do we need these new churches? Shouldn't we invest our efforts into continuing these other churches that have plenty of room to grow or some dying congregations that need a jolt of life breathed into them?
I'm a big fan of Andy Stanley and heard a podcast where he made a statement that the last thing that the church in America needs is more Real Estate. The problem seems to be that there is a great division in the church in America. We have booming young churches that have space issues and limited resources while we have beautiful empty buildings with dying congregations that are unwilling to change. Can't the two of these be combined? Why don't they? Don't the young churches need the resources and wisdom found in the older congregations? Don't the older congregations desire to invest in the future? My opinion to the problem: PRIDE. My suggested solution: Humble Courage. This is actually something that I just read about in Erwin McManus' book: Uprising. He talks about the need for ministries to be bold and step out of their comfort zone while doing it with humility. So often when we step out into doing the extraordinary we want all eyes on us.
I believe there is great need for more churches even here where we see church buildings everywhere. I also believe that there are churches that will never change and aren't worth the effort. My hope though is to see more movements with congregations seeking diversity with young passion and zeal combined with mature wisdom and experience. Our best days as the church are not behind us but ahead of us!
What are your thoughts? Do you want to invest your efforts in building or rebuilding existing congregations or planting new ones?
If you haven't already heard, I'm gonna be an uncle!!! My sister, Becky, recently announced to the family that she's pregnant and we couldn't be more excited! Becoming a parent is indescribable and I can't wait for her to be a Mom and for Chris to be a Dad! With the combination of Becky's passion and zeal for life combined with Chris' wisdom and discipline being poured into this child, this kid will probably take over the world. I can't wait to be an uncle and it's so fun to celebrate this exciting season with them. I'm trying not to over use the exclamation points in this post, but it's too exciting!!! You can follow Becky's pregnancy and their lives on their blog at http://thekisers.blogspot.com. Take time and read their past posts as Becky is one of the most gifted writers you will ever read.
Over the past few days I've struggled with knowing how I can help somehow in Haiti. I know I can give to some organizations that are going over there, but it seems like there must be more. I've been inspired when I hear stories like this one from Austin where these musicians and artists are using their gifts creatively to raise funds for relief in Haiti. I've heard about HELP designing t-shirts for Haiti and Rob Bell offering to donate all proceeds from one of his NOOMA videos on the iPhone will go to efforts in Haiti. I will also give Lady GaGa props after hearing her discuss Haiti on Oprah (don't ask me why I was watching this) and how she is donating all proceeds from a concert to relief efforts. I haven't had a creative moment where I have said this can be my unique role, but I want to do everything that I can and encourage you to do the same. I would love to hear of other ways that you have heard about in opportunities to help relief efforts or what you are doing to do your part.
So my first iPhone App is now available for download! It's been fun to hear others responses. It's a very simple app that needs lots of work, but so much fun to create! I hope this is the first of many! I actually created the App through SwebApps who make it so simple and affordable for anyone to create an iPhone App for just about anything. You can easily use their very basic templates or build a very custom app depending on your budget and need (I went with the most basic and affordable option). If you have an iPhone please take a moment and download the app and let me know what you think. You can find the app in the App Store by searching for "Trinity Baptist". Also, please please please rate and comment on the app!
Last night when I was on Facebook I was sniped by my friend Jaime Puente. He taught me a new technique that he coined "sniping". You see Jaime has a goal to get people to go and vote for his commercial, "Casket". If you read my previous post about Vote for Casket you can find out more about his project. So he needs people to go daily to the website www.CrashtheSuperbowl.com to vote for his commercial "Casket" so that it will be aired during the Superbowl. Instead of just sending out a mass message he's chosen rather to snipe. His technique is to watch the Chat board and see who is online. As new people pop in he immediately sends them a quick message (a snipe) that says: "Have you voted for my video yet today? Go to www.voteforcasket.com. While this could obviously get obnoxious if overly used, when you need action asap this technique is genius! I'm definitely going to try this during a live feed of one of our services soon! I apologize if I snipe you and it's unwanted, but I hope if I do that it leads you to respond to my request. It definitely has more effectiveness than hoping that your status shows up on someone's news feed.
How about you try it? I believe getting people to vote for casket is a great cause. See how many people you can snipe and vote everyday for this commercial! You can used bit.ly to create your link and see how many people actually go to the site. Leave me a comment and let me know how well this technique works for you.
I have followed the teachings of Ray VanderLaan for about 6 or 7 years on his website: www.followtherabbi.com. While I regularly stop in when studying scripture, I have recently been recaptured by his teachings. I've begun watching his Faith Lessons video series and am continually blown away. Watching him show physically at the location of the events and describe the culture of the time along with the geography of biblical passages brings them to life in a new and fresh way. It seems that many times I read a passage and my understanding is only based on today's culture and as I understand the culture of the time it occurred, new life and meaning begins comes about. If you aren't familiar with the teachings of Ray VanderLaan take some time to check out his website. I'm also accepting donations if anyone wants to send me on a trip with Ray (not really, but it would be cool if you wanted to).
As I begin my new role as the Internet Pastor at Trinity Baptist one of my top priorities has to be Facebook. Almost everyone I know and probably you know is on Facebook. You are likely reading this blog because of a link from Facebook. Some friends were joking with me the other day that I must be on Twitter and Facebook all day by the amount of posts that I make and my response was: "Well, it's my job." It's almost strange to think that being on Facebook is my job, but how huge of an opportunity do we have to interact and deepen relationships through this incredible social networking resource!
About a year ago or so I began realizing how powerful this tool was especially in reaching college students. Our college ministry has grown from 2 to over 200 in less than 2 years and a lot of that growth is due to outreach on Facebook. We invested minimally in Facebook ads and began creating Facebook event invites making it easy for Segue attenders to invite their friends. When you ask around at Segue about 90% of the attenders are involved whether they heard about it from Facebook or came with someone who heard about our Monday night gatherings on Facebook.
Facebook is constantly expanding though and the demographics are changing. Currently the highest % growth of any demographic within Facebook are women over the age of 50. Facebook seems to be sticking as well with 70% of those who try it continue to use it where Twitter only has about 40% who stick with it.
As I begin to figure out how to use this resource for Trinity Baptist Church I have begun by creating a fan page. On the fan page I went ahead and inserted some pictures, I linked the Twitter page and YouTube page thanks to Involver, and will continue to seek to develop this resource in the coming weeks. My challenge is now to get our congregation involved and hopefully use it as a connector for both our congregation and the city that we are seeking to reach.
As I continue to experiment, I would love your suggestions, thoughts, ideas, concerns, etc. I am constantly looking for tools similar to those that Involver has created. Please go and check out our Facebook page and share your comments!
If you haven't already heard about this, Doritos is running a competition for film makers offering an opportunity to air a commercial in the Superbowl. Many of you are already familiar with Erwin McManus and the ministries of Mosaic in LA, but might be surprised to hear that they decided to enter this competition. I'm not sure that you would consider this ministry, but I guarantee that it will help to further their ministries if given the opportunity of this platform in the Superbowl. Their commercial was chosen out of 30,000 to be in the final 6. Now, they need your vote to win this competition! Honestly, when you watch all of the commercials you will see that their commercial is by far the best of the 6. Not only do they need your vote today though, but they need your vote every day until the competition ends. Take a minute and find out more about the commercial at www.voteforcasket.com and then go to www.crashthesuperbowl.com and vote. After voting help get the word out to others!
At Segue we are blessed to have the best worship leader in the country in David Gregory, leading each week, so when we invited guests to come lead we are very picky. For the past year I had heard a lot about Stephen Miller and somehow became friends on Twitter. He is actually the only person that I've ever met in person that I've met off of Twitter. One day a couple months ago, Stephen saw that I was going to be in Austin for the day and asked if I wanted to meet up at a local coffee shop. I had an opportunity to hear his story and his heart and immediately we set a date for him to come lead worship at Segue. If you haven't previously heard Stephen lead, you have to take a few minutes to listen to his music. I am particularly drawn to the song Awaken My Heart which you can hear on his MySpace. I encourage you if you have an opportunity to go and experience Stephen Miller live somewhere in your area to do that or if you're looking for a worship leader, he's an incredible one travelling out of Austin, TX.
On the last day of 2009 Emery gave us a great gift in letting us hear her laugh for the first time. Earlier that day she started cracking up whenever Logan (our dog) barked. We couldn't get Logan to bark that night, so Becky filled in and Emery seemed to find it just as funny. I don't know if you'll enjoy Emery laughing more or Becky's barking. Either way, enjoy this video!