Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Sunday Recap... Labor Day

You would think after pastoring a church for more than six years I would have my finger on its pulse.  Most of the time, I feel like I do, but I totally missed it this weekend.  For reasons we can't explain, Catalyst has seen a surge of growth this summer.  We had this happen a few years ago just after we opened our facility, but most summers have been spent just hanging on. 

We started a second service on Easter Sunday and felt like it may be a struggle to keep them both feeling full enough through the summer, but that has not been the case at all.  We have seen weekly attendance settle in around 160-175 per Sunday and I was sure that Labor Day would be a really low Sunday.  Why was I so sure?  Because holidays usually hit us hard...Because the 4th of July was a ghost town at Catalyst and in hindsight wished we had combined the two services for the holiday weekend. 

So, we advertised a "Back to School" bash complete with our very own Dr. Feinstein making a special appearance with a new experiement.  We rented a big inflatable waterslide and provided a fried chicken, beans, and potato salad lunch hoping to lure some of our families to church instead of the lake. 

We had prepared food for 150 thinking that would be a great number for the day.  Well, what do you know?  211 men, women, and children decided come and experience the Back to School Bash at Catalyst.  We had every chair we could find crammed in the worship space and our elementary kids had special seats right up front so they could enjoy the music and special guest teacher.

We had a PR (Public Relations) band, Remedy,  in from our regional Nazarene college, Southern Nazarene University that did a bang up job leading worship and the always unpredictable Dr. Feinstein kept everyone, including me, on our toes for every moment of his appearance.  It seemed that everyone from the youngest kid to the oldest adult had a great time. 

I had a few "take aways" as I have reflected on this day:
  • Catalyst is full of people with servant hearts:  I could not even begin to list everyone that pitched in to make the day run smoothly.  We had people that hosted college students in their homes, helped prepare food during the service, set-up, serve, and tear-down  the meal.  Folks who stood in the sun and made sure kids didn't maul one another on the waterslide.  We had some of our own bring their snow cone concession out for the event and refused to take any money.  
  • I can't predict what God is up to:  After 14 years in ministry it is easy to think that I know what is going to happen in our church.   God continually reminds me that I have no idea what he is up to and how he is working.  
  • It is fun not being in charge of everything:  I had several people ask me how they could pitch in after the service and my answer was, "I honestly have no clue, I am in charge of nothing at this point."  I was able to mingle and talk with folks and even took a few trips down the waterslide.  I could never have done these things if I had my hands in everything that happened Sunday.  

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Something Beautiful is Going On In Rowlett!

Something beautiful is happening in Rowlett! This "something" has been in the works for quite some time. For the better part of six years, many of the local pastors  have met on the first Tuesday of each month to share a meal, share their hearts, and pray  for the community in which they serve.

 Full disclosure, I am part of this group but I wasn't so quick to embrace these guys and gals.  To say I was hesitant would be a heinous understatement. I had moved from North Carolina to Rowlett to start/re-start a church with a group of 12 or so local folks. I was of the  mindset that we needed to stay to ourselves and carve out our niche in the community and not get "lost in the crowd" of local churches.

Honestly, I had never known a bunch of pastors to get together to pray and share life;  the good, bad, and ugly with each other. The catalyst behind the group was a local  pastor named Kason Huddleston and he kept bugging me to come to these lunches and  meet the other pastors. He was relentless with his invitations and I finally caved-in and told him that we would  participate in the annual Community Thanksgiving service.

 Have you ever attended an  event to end the invitations of a persistent friend or neighbor? Yeah, that was me. We gathered on that chilly evening to give thanks as the combined churches of Rowlett  and to my surprise, it was... beautiful! Baptists, Methodists, Nazarenes, Pentecostals,  and a variety of others joined together and raised our voices to sing songs of thanks.  We prayed prayers of thanks. It was far from the smoothest or flashiest service,  but it changed me.

 I began to let my guard down and trust that it might be a good thing to "live life" with  this group. I began making the Tuesday lunches a priority and participated in the  community services without fail. It wasn't long before I had laughed, cried, hurt,  and hoped with these folks.

Over the past few years I have heard first hand of some pretty amazing stories of Rowlett churches working together. There are more stories than space here, but a few that come  to mind are:
  •  In the Fall of 2011, after months of planning, we pulled of “Cover Rowlett”.  The churches united and literally walked in front of, and covered every home in Rowlett with prayer. 
  • Stillwater Community church has invited three other churches use their facility in  order to get started. 
  • First Baptist Church has helped at least two churches with significant financial gifts.  They gave Catalyst Church enough money to buy a nice communion set as well as the  equipment needed to broadcast services online. 
  • Four churches recently contributed financially to Lake City Community Church as they bought property and a building. A couple of the churches making contributions are situated within a stone's throw of Lake City's new location. 
Did you catch that? Local churches with no affiliation other than close proximity, have  been working together for years to support and give generously to one another.

A question that we have struggled with as a group in the past few months is, "Now that our churches know we are on the same team, how can we inform the whole city that we are united in our care for Rowlett?" At our last monthly lunch, the idea to send out a multi-church Easter Ad sponsored by multiple churches was pitched. A huge color piece that would land in every mailbox (18,000) in our  city and let each resident know that: we care for them as a faith community. We don't care which church they choose to attend, we simply hope they will attend one.

The result was a variety of voices... men, women, young, and old responding with a  variation of "We're In!" Seven churches were on ON THE SPOT!

Another church wanted to participate but didn't quite have the funds. It came as no surprise that several other churches were willing to make up the difference so that we could begin getting the message out that something  beautiful is happening in the Rowlett faith community.

Just before posting this, I got word that the total is up to NINE churches.  I am so grateful to do ministry in Rowlett with a bunch of pastors that “get it”. Maybe you are a skeptic of church like I was a skeptic of this group of pastors. I honestly believe that if you give a local church a chance, you will be surprised with the beauty of  what you find within.
The Back...(This thing is the size of a full newspaper page)
The blank spot is where the addresses will be placed..
Click the Picture for better quality.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Boom-shaka-laka will always be special word for me.

So here is part of an email that I sent to our Catalyst folks... It does a pretty good job of explaining the significance of the word "Boomshakalaka" for us...

Last Sunday we began communicating the reasons we need to make the transition to double services and what it would mean for us. In the weeks leading up to this I shared with a few pastor friends that I was nervous that as a church with so many people in their 20s and 30s we wouldn't be able to get enough folks to commit to the first service each week. I had been prepared to begin targeting families if we didn't get enough commitments.

During my little speech I made the comment that if you and your family were willing to attend the first service (9:30ish) to write the word “Boom-sha-ka-la-ka” on the 2 Service Question Card we had placed in your Beaker Mini (what we call our bulletin).

I moved on, preached a sermon, woke and slept a few times until Wednesday morning staff meeting rolled around. Pam Moriarty handed me the cards with all the questions and said something like, “a lot of the cards say Boom-something or another.”

I respond, “Oh really, how many of the cards say Boom-sha-ka-la-ka?

I was stunned as Pam removed a rubber band as she handed me the cards and casually said, “Pretty much all of them.”

In my mind I was thinking, “Pretty much all of them? What the heck does she mean pretty much all of them? Pam needs some coffee this morning”

 I must confess to you that there had never been a scenario playing in my head that answered the question of what we would do if essentially the entire church was willing to give up their spot in the second service to make room for new guests. That scenario had never played in my head because stuff like this doesn't happen in normal churches, but when was the last time we were accused of being normal?

In all seriousness, Catalyst... You blow me away! You humble me! You remind me how fortunate I am to lead you in ministry and share life with you!

I must make one more confession, Boom-sha-ka-la-ka is currently my favorite word. When I hear it, write it, or speak it I am reminded of your willingness to be inconvenienced for the sake of reaching others with the message of Christ. My biggest fear in this whole two service process was eliminated as many of you wrote this crazy word for the first time in your life.

Boom-sha-ka-la-ka Catalyst! Boom-sha-ka-la-ka!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Remembering Stan...

Last Saturday, while the world mourned the loss of Neil Armstrong, the news of another devastating loss began to trickle out via Facebook. At first it was vaugue requests for prayer for an incredibly difficult situation, but later my buddy Stan began getting tagged in RIP posts.

 To say that I was stunned would be an understatement. Stan was not yet 50, and ran several marathons each year. He had even taken to coaching others who wanted to train for their first distance race. Stan was thin and started running nearly a decade ago because he didn't want to die young like his father.

The funny thing about my relationship with Stan is that he was a "friend of a friend". I met him though Scott Stargel, who had been friends with Stan since college. They modeled for me what friendship could look like as adult. They had walked through the good, the bad, and the ugly with each other.

 We would gather a few nights a week on our computers to play online games and chat. We didn't care as much about the games as we did the chat, but the games were the magnets that drew us together. Over the course of many months I began to realize that Stan was an incredibly bright (UTC BIO) man but equally a solid father, husband, and churchman.

I experienced Stan to be an incredible encourager. We would occasionally email about different things, and he always wanted to know how "the church" was doing. I would lament that things weren't moving as quickly as I had hoped and that it was infinitely more difficult than I had anticipated. He always found a way point out the bright spots, the growth, the cool things that were happening. I wondered how he could do that so quickly...

These last few days, I find myself clicking on his Facebook page to see how people are responding to his death. I must admit that I have been intrigued by the breadth and depth of the posts. Although Stan was only 48, he made the most of the time he had as folks from his childhood and college years can clearly articulate the difference Stan made in their lives.

High school classmates speak of his kind words and support that made life bearable at times. College colleagues speak of his ability to bring calm to incredibly stressful situations. His former pastor told me that if he could clone someone to teach people how to lead at church, Stan would be the mold he chose.

One of the comments that stood out was a lady he helped coach for her first marathon. She said that Stan had believed in her before she believed in herself. That resonated with me because I think Stan believed this church plant in Texas would take root and grow before I believed it.

I am grateful that I got to stay a night in his Chattanooga home on my trek to Dallas. I am grateful that Scott introduced us, but I am most grateful that this "friend of a friend" became my friend.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Hobo_Nick T-shirt Sale (IS OVER)

This is how this works..
  • Shirts will be $20 shipped ($23 for XXL).  $15 ($18 XXL) for Dallas area pick-up (in Rowlett)
  • Actual cost will be $10
  • Shipping will be about $5
  • $5 proceed will go to local homeless folks in the form of a $5 McDonalds giftcard. (We will take pics and post them on twitter as we hand out each card)
  • Are you profiting from this?  No, not one dime will stay in my pocket.
  • Why do this? Raise awareness of Nick and his journey as well as helping local hobos.
  • Isn't that phrase disrespectful? Nope, Nick made that statement both times I met him.  It is uniquely Nick, and it is probably true (ha ha).  Nick likes it and we are rolling with it. 
  • How long will it be before I get my shirt? We will sell them for seven days, it should take about two weeks after that (maybe sooner).
  • Are you gonna take my money and run?  Nope, all transactions will be done through PayPal so that you can feel safe about the transaction. 

Click the drop down box below to select your size and then click "Buy Now" button. (I have no idea why there is a gap between this text and the menu box).

 ***Please note that we will add the hashtag #coastocoast below @hobo_nick as that is what he tags most***

Hobo_Nick Update!

Well... This is the result of my McDonald's interview with Nick.  Jonathan Sprang did a killer job on the editing and did it all in the front seat of a minivan while we did a road trip to Austin a week ago today. 

We showed this at church last Sunday.  I was talking about "giving" our time, talents, and resources and I'm pretty sure that this 13 minutes was as meaningful as anything I said before or after it.

We have continued to keep in touch with Nick via Twitter and email and are even kicking around the idea of selling a t-shirt with a funny phrase he said in the video about "smelling like donkey turds".   All profits would be given to local hobos in the form of $5 giftcards.

 He is doing well on his trip and posted today that he is at the halfway point of his coast to coast trek.  The folks in TX seem to be taking good care of him as he has plenty of water, a sweet hobo cart, and even some new shoes that someone got him. 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

My Crazy Ordeal with Hobo Nick!

This story is almost hard to believe....but here goes...

Heather and I have been trying to sell a double jogging stroller on a Facebook group for a while.  Nobody seems to want it in TX because it doesn't have a sunshade.  I mean c'mon folks, just buy some sunscreen for the kids. So, we end up listing it for the riff raff to fight over on Craigslist.  I am the riff raff I speak of so it is ok to say it. 

We have sold lots of stuff and gotten all kinds of responses, but nothing like this one:

I have a wild story, I am walking across the entire country. And I need a new cart to haul my supplies haha but anyways, I am in rockwall and heading west along the 66 tomorrow through your town. I'm only on foot. How far off the 66 are you guys? Trying not to walk too much extra haha but I do have cash and will be taking the stroller cross country. And I'm not crazy, been on the news and stuff. Just a normal guy on a spiritual journey. Are you guys near the 66? And if not would a drop off to me be possible?

Really?  Some dude that is walking across the country has internet access, happens to be in Rockwall, will be walking through Rowlett, and wants to buy our stroller? 

Heather's email subject line to me was: Is this for real?

So I loaded up the stroller, texted the sojourner, and arranged to meet him at Burger King.  I pulled into the parking lot and, no lie, the screen on my phone farted out.  Done. Kaput.Finished.

I drove around the Burger King looking for a dude with a bunch of stuff.  I even went in the Burger King looking for this dude and eventually just drove off.  I kinda figured that the dude was a flake (he thought the same thing about me as I found out later on his twitter account) or that one of my friends was punking me with a ghost phone number (Doug Booth came to mind).  I drove off and didn't give it much more thought.

FAST FOWARD several hours... I ended up getting a new phone today and the first text I got (four or five hours after the missed meet-up) was from Hobo Nick saying, "you still alive?"

I told him yes, that I had tried to meet him, yada yada... and we arranged another meet up.  I was intrigued to see if this was for real as I pulled into a McDonalds parking lot off Forest Lane and Plano Road. Out he came looking like a real life Grizzly Adams.  He had the full-on homeless beard, free flowing hair and a vintage looking cap holding it all together, but is clearly not drugged up or drunk, and is remarkably articulate.

We are standing there putting the stroller together and talking a bit about his journey when a random dude (who follows him on Twitter) walks up and says, "You must be Hobo Nick, I've been following you since you were in the Florida Panhandle.  This must be the new buggy (double stroller) you've been talking about (via twitter on free wifi).

That's when it really clicked, that this dude was legit, that he was on an epic journey, that he had probably been on some news channels, that he indeed was walking through my town and wanted to buy my stroller.  I realized immediately that in a small way, my life, my story had joined in with a much bigger story.

As my encounter with hobo_nick marinated in my head over the next few hours it became clear to me that our meeting was a divinely inspired encounter and that our connection may need to be a bit longer than the 15 minutes I spent with him in the McDonalds parking lot. 

I will share that part of the story in the next day or two.  For now, head over to Twitter and follow hobo_nick and take a few minutes to read his blog at http://worldinstrides.blogspot.com. 

For the record, he is on day 85 of walking from Jacksonville, FL to the Pacific Ocean.