Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Serve Elyria Gardens

Last year, about 25% of our church went into the community on May 15th to Serve Elyria. It was a great day. Through that experience, we were able to build a lot of good relationships in the city and see a lot of good things happen. We were able to be a part of some really great things already happening in the city. One of those things is gardens.
Read this article from yesterdays paper (Elyria Woman's Garden Project Grows by Leaps and Bounds) and think about helping us bless 300 families with gardens!

Here's how you can help:
  • $20 to cover the cost of each garden. That's right $20 feeds a family produce for a year! You can donate this Sunday at Open Door.
  • 20 trucks and 60 volunteers to deliver the gardens on May 15th. Click here to sign up your truck and/or yourself.
  • Volunteer for any of the other Serve Elyria projects. Click here to sign up.
See you May 15th at 9:00 am in Ely Square! This year, lets get 500 people out to Serve Elyria!

Monday, April 26, 2010


Have you spent months or even years investing in a pre-Christian friend only to have them surrender to Christ by praying with someone else? If so, then you have witnessed the work of an “Evangevulture.”

Evangevultures are sometimes seen as gifted evangelists, but this is not usually the case. In fact, they can barely be considered evangelists at all (at least as far as their evangevulturing goes). They are the ones who are given (or take) the credit, so that the real evangelists don’t get cocky. Don’t hate them! They are a vital part of our ecclesiological (church) ecosystem. They may not be pretty. They may even be annoying and ugly, but we need them. Otherwise, the real evangelists would become prideful and ineffective.

Get ready for a shock: I am an Evangevulture! Speaking for my fellow evangevultures, I can tell you that this wasn’t a choice. The Holy Spirit is setting us up! Let me give you an example. Recently someone called into the church and ask to be witnessed to. Yes, you heard it right. They called in and asked for a gospel presentation! He surrendered his life to Christ within 5 minutes. I think that is an evangevultures record. It was easier than taking youth ministry classes at Liberty University!

Evangevultures only work part-time. Real evangevultures spend most of their time building relationships, bringing friends to Life Group, etc. They are always witnessing to their friends, but the people they witness to surrender to Christ with someone else. Don’t be sad. It’s just how things work. They get the privilege of evangevulturing pre-Christians that someone else has witnessed to. Evangevultures have learned to accept this reality.

There is such a thing as “Evangevulture Wannabes.” In a recent post I referenced door to door evangelism. When you try to force conversions without the help of the Holy Spirit, you become an "Evangefulture Wannabe," like the chicken hawk on the old Foghorn Leghorn cartoons. He’s 6 inches tall but wants to prey on full-sized animals. Rookie mistake! Evangevultures don’t go knocking on doors or dropping tracts that look like fake $50 bills. Evangevultures build relationship, live the gospel and wait…..wait….they are masters at waiting.

By the way: $50 Bill Tracts could be the worst ministry tools ever invented by Christians. “Ooh! What’s this?! A fifty dollar bill! Now I can buy that pagan music CD I’ve been wanting!” When he unfolds the bill and finds “The Million Dollar Question” instead of genuine currency, the name of our Savior will leave his mouth, but not as an act of surrender. I wonder if Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron have ever been charged with counterfeiting.

In seriousness, evangelism is a Spirit-led endeavor. He is the Great Evangelist. To learn how to work alongside Him, sign up for Leading in the Adventure.

Coming this week: Emergend? Part 2 (a.k.a. “Apologetic Jiu Jitsu”).

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Emergend?--Part 1

As a young adult pastor I get a lot of questions about the Emergent/Emerging Village/Church/Conversation/. Given recent articles about its passing/death/transformation/emergence, I thought this was a good time to talk about it.

My first real experience with the Emerg_(insert ending of your choice here) was years ago at a Youth Specialties conference. I attended a Tony Jones workshop about ministering to postmodern youth. I didn’t know anything about Jones, but I knew that postmodernism was a big issue and that I wanted to know more about how to minister to our culture. So, I went.

The first part of the lecture was especially interesting to me. Jones gave a chronology of western philosophy that began with Immanuel Kant and led to Michel Faucault. I followed along as he traced through the centuries to contemporary thought. I noted that he conspicuously left out what I would call “objective thinkers” (philosophers who focused on objective truth as opposed to the knowing subject as the center of knowledge). Every thinker he cited seemed to focus on the knowing subject rather than on objective truth. Assuming his plan was to point out this underlying problem with modern and postmodern thought, I wasn’t concerned. Things didn’t go as I thought they would.

Background info: You might remember Rene Descartes’ famous quote, “I think, therefore I am.” The basic gist of his philosophy was that man’s source of truth is his own reason, not any outside authority. This ruled out general revelation and special revelation (The Bible and Jesus), among other things. His theory marked philosophy’s turn from objective to subjective truth, the beginning of the Enlightenment, and the elevation of human reason over divine revelation. Out of this came modern thought, out of which came postmodern thought. The ultimate root of both is man’s desire to trust himself rather than God’s revelation. It is the rejection of authority.

The modernist idea of reason was to impose human rationality on a universe of disorder. Truth was seen as amorphous and man’s role was to impose order upon it. Absolute truth was in the mind of the modernist. The post-modernists rightly pointed out a myriad of problems with modernist thought. However, rather than remove the root, the post-modernists hacked at the leaves by denying absolute truth in favor of skepticism. Both elevate self rather than God as the center of knowledge.

As Jones finished his overview, I noticed that he did not offer God and His self-revelation as a source for human knowledge. Instead, Jones finishes by saying that postmodern thought should be the basis of Christian thinking in the 21st century. No critique, no appeal to Scriptural authority, just complete acceptance of the latest western philosophical mindset.

This was strange to me. He had just described the constant changing nature of western thought. How could a philosophy that rejects truth and authority be seen as an authority on truth? This is my issue with postmodernism and emergent thinking: they trust the opinions of man rather the revelation of God. They are unwilling to fully surrender.

Do you know what is disturbing? Lack of surrender isn’t isolated to the emergent church. It didn’t start with them, and it won’t end with them. I don’t know if this is the end of the emergent church (I doubt that it is). Regardless, it isn’t the end of self-oriented theology. Every time I open the Bible, I am tempted to re-interpret it according to my preference rather than what I know it says. God calls us to read His Word and surrender. Instead, we read it and rationalize.

Have you ever re-interpreted a passage of Scripture to fit your theology or your comfort?

Sunday, April 18, 2010


Every now and then I come across an action, event, being or situation that requires the invention a new word. An uncomfortable encounter in the restroom today merited some lexical entrepreneurship. So, here goes….

Cludge (verb)
— to pass judgment based on one’s clothing or apparel: The man cludged the pastor for having his shirt un-tucked.
—to form a judgment or opinion of a person based on his/her clothing or apparel; decide upon critically based on clothing: You can't cludge a pastor by his cover.

Cludger (noun)

—one who cludges: The cludger said the man looked like he’d been mugged by a GAP mannequin.

I am a victim of church cludging. Only now have I gained the strength to talk about it. Months ago, I wore a green sweater on Valentine’s Day. Cludge reports came from all over. “Did the leprechaun and cupid trade jobs this year?” was my favorite sarcastic cludge. People couldn’t seem to overcome the fashion-forward idea of green on Valentine’s Day. It didn’t stop there. I have received comments insinuating that I have an addiction to sweaters, that I am physically incapable of tucking in my shirt, and that my gelled hair is sharp enough to cut flesh.

Generally, I can handle the cludging. In fact, I enjoy it most of the time. Teasing is my love language. However, today a line was crossed. While washing my hands before church, a man whom I don’t know told me to tuck in my shirt. He did not ask, mind you. He TOLD me to tuck it in. Apparently, there is an unwritten church by-law giving tie-wearing parishioners the right to give orders to church staff. “Tuck in your shirt. Get me some coffee. Mop the floor, and while you’re at it, drop and give me 20.” Unaware of this unwritten by-law, I stood in stunned silence. Realizing that I was a rookie and unaware of the tie-wearer directive, he took a gentler approach. “Why don’t you tuck your shirt in?” he asked, visibly frustrated.

“Hi, I’m Dan. What’s your name?”---No, it was too late for that. He didn’t seem interested in being friends. He was only interested in the 2.5 inches of blue shirt protruding from beneath my jacket. Fortunately, I was raised a pastor’s kid and am used to being judge by strangers. However, the reality remained that a man in a tie purchased decades before the internet was invented was asking me to justify my fashion decisions. Only now does the irony of the situation manifest itself.

I had to act fast. What was I to say? Realizing that any reference to current fashion trends related to shirt tuckage would get me nowhere, I simply said, “It adds dimension to the outfit.” This is true. It really is why I sometimes un-tuck my shirt. The inch or two of shirt tail brings more color and intrigue to the ensemble. Plus, I see it on the mannequins at the store (a good way to choose outfits). It really was a fashion decision, and not an act of youthful rebellion.

“I don’t understand you young people,” he barked as I wished him a nice day.

On occasion older members of our church have expressed their desire to see me dress nice, and I make it a point to oblige now and then. To some, I am known as “the tie guy,” because they see me in ties so often. A tie is a nice way to honor seasoned believers. It helps them remember that they are valued and that young people can dress up for church. Plus, it s a nice fashion statement! But, this situation was different. I felt judged, like I was bringing the place down. I think if I had let it get to me, I would have felt like I didn’t belong there, like I had to dress a certain way, like I had to be someone I wasn’t to fit in. I certainly don’t think that was his intention. I don’t even think he was upset with me. He just didn’t care for the way I dressed and felt like telling me about it.

What concerns me is that I am a paid staff member of our church. If I felt cludged and unwanted, imagine how a guest would have felt. I wish I knew who it was. I didn’t even get a good look at his face. I really was stunned by the whole situation. It was one of the few times that I was at a complete loss for words.

Fortunately, this is not the norm of our church. Most people come to Open Door in jeans and feel very comfortable. Many have said that they come because they don’t feel judged about their clothing. That makes me happy. In fact, this is why you will often see me in jeans.

I’m just afraid for the unheard cludging victims and victimizers, afraid to speak out. Well, I am declaring cludge amnesty. Cludgers and cludged alike are invited to share their hurts and feelings and walk away. Have you cludged or been cludged? Be free today!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Prince, Dating and Evangelism

Recently, I was involved in a discussion about door-to-door evangelism, and it got me thinking about why we share our faith in the most awkward ways possible. Let me be very straightforward; I don’t plan to ever schedule any door to door evangelism events. The truth is I hate it when religious proselytizers show up at my door. They interrupt whatever I’m doing, and they seem out of touch with the real world. When a guy in a white shirt and black tie shows up at my door I think, “Who are you to talk to me about my spiritual life. You don’t even know me.” Why would I want to associate myself with guys who are considered the worst Saturday bummer-inflictors of all time? I’ve done my share of “spontaneous” evangelism, and it has never worked out well. I’m uncomfortable, and they are uncomfortable. Drive-by evangelism in all its forms isn’t usually very effective. I believe this for 3 reasons:
1. It is creepy. Think about how you feel when a salesman or J-Dub (Jehovah’s Witness) comes to your door. That’s how people feel when you show up unannounced at theirs or when you introduce yourself by saying, “If you died today…” By the way, my friend Patrick says that Prince is a Jehovah’s Witness. While seeing him at your door would be more interesting than most J-Dubs, it would still be creepy (see below).

2. It gives me a reason to compartmentalize my life, separating witnessing from daily living. Witnessing should be a part of every relationship I have. If I set aside special “evangelism nights,” I tend to leave evangelism only to those nights.
3. The gospel is about relationship (God with man). When we share the gospel outside the context of relationship we are not only limiting our ability to communicate the full message of the gospel we are not living it either.

I’ve been thinking about why we put ourselves in uncomfortable evangelistic situations, and I’ve realized how much it is like dating. It is important to us, or we wouldn’t want to do it. And, it is best done in the context of relationship. I used to be so afraid of asking girls out. My nerves would get the best of me. It seemed like the less I knew the girl, the more uncomfortable we both were and the less likely she was to go out with me.

However, I realized something my senior year of college. The more comfortable I was with who I was and what I was asking, the more at ease the girl would be. More than that, the more at ease I was, the more likely it was that she say “yes.” However, that comfort only came as I got to know the girl. This is how I eventually married my wife. True story!

Have you ever felt nervous sharing your faith? Think about how the pre-Christian felt. Wouldn’t you like to feel comfortable? After all, you are the one with the good news. He’s the one who needs to hear it.

This is why we have the 5Bs. Now, I hate to call the 5Bs a “system” or “method” because it really is a lifestyle. This May, we are going to teach our church how to evangelize. If you want to learn how, sign up for a Life Group at

What has your experience with evangelism been like?

Friday, April 9, 2010

Safety Last

Tuesday night at Frequency we had a discussion about the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30. If you aren’t familiar with the parable, it is the one where the master gives three of his servants talents to invest while he is gone. Two of them engage in risky endeavors that yield a 100% return on their investment. The third fears losing his talent, so he buries it in a safe place.

When I used to read this parable, I always thought he third servant was the good guy. After all, he values his master’s talent so much that he goes to great ends to protect it. What we re the other guys thinking risking losing the talent by investing?! As a child, I remember being surprised when the master punishes the “play-it-safe servant.” He actually calls him a “wicked, lazy slave.” It was as if he was being judged for his fear of risk. Turns out, he was.

It is a lie that Jesus wants you to be safe. Somewhere along the line, we started thinking that being unspotted from the world meant being uninvolved with it. The truth is Jesus doesn’t want you to be safe. He wants you to multiply (Matthew 28:19-20), and multiplication means risk. It means stepping out and saying, “I’ll do that” when you are scared that you might make a mistake or get hurt. The good news is that Jesus never leaves us hanging. He provides for us when we step out in faith.

Opportunity is here. I am privileged to pastor at church that is growing. People are coming to Christ. New people are showing up every Sunday. It is thrilling! There is no shortage of people in need of ministry, but there is a shortage of people to minister. I know now what Jesus meant when He said that the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few (Luke 10:2). I’m watching it happen. We need help in the simplest areas:
Tech Team members (We will train you!)
Children’s Ministry workers
Life Group Leaders
Administrative help (printing bulletins, stuffing envelopes, etc.)
Host Team members (All you have to do is smile and greet people)

You have no excuse. No matter who you are or where you live, there is something you can do. Here are the e-mail addresses associated with some of the ministries that need help:
Tech Team (
Children’s Ministry (
Life Group (
Administrative (
Host (

As Jim Morrison once said, “The time to hesitate is through.”

Will you step up for the sake of the gospel?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Easter Salvations

Something amazing happened at Open Door on Easter Sunday: 34 people surrendered their lives to Christ! You could tell something was happening. There was a buzz in the air and the church was packed. It was as if a great momentum was building as people kept raising their hands to respond to the draw of the Holy Spirit. It’s even bigger than you think. We have had people coming to Christ every week for the last six weeks. Something is happening!

What we are experiencing is no accident. We have been doing some very specific things lately that we need to keep doing. I believe revival is starting, and I want to see more of it. Here’s how:

Keep praying. About 6 months ago, we took the names of almost 3,000 pre-Christians connected to our congregation. We have been praying over those names in weekly prayer meetings, 24 Hour Prayer Vigils and Life Groups.

Keep inviting people to Life Groups. Many of the people who have come to Christ these last few weeks have done so in Life Groups or at church after being invited by a Life Group. Life Groups are our most-effective evangelism environments.

Keep doing the 5Bs. If you don’t know what this is, pay attention to what is happening in May at Open Door.

Keep serving. The more people that come to Christ, the more help we need making room for new believers. Our Children’s Ministry is full of children. We need more volunteers to oversee them. We are adding people to Life Groups so fast that we really need to be planting at least one new group every 2 months. That means new leaders need to step up to volunteer. There are dozens of other ministry needs for hosts, tech team volunteers and teachers.

By the way, some of you remember a sermon I preached on Acts 1:6-14 about how pre-revival prayer is always Unified, Purposeful and Continual. In the sermon, I mentioned some characteristics of revival:
The Holy Spirit shows up
The gospel is preached
People repent

All three happened Sunday. So, is this revival?

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Hitler, Hell and Atonement

I recently watched a movie about the Holocaust. Seeing families torn apart and children murdered made me feel an emotion I don’t often experience: anger. Most people will tell you that I’m a pretty easy going guy. I don’t get upset about most things. But when I see wickedness at its worse my sense of justice wells up. It infuriates me. Similarly, I’ve had people sit in my office and tell me they were abused as children. They still live with the scars today. My soul aches. Someone has to answer for this. We just can’t let this kind of evil go unaddressed. Worse than rape or murder would be to pretend they weren’t that bad. It would be like telling the victims that their pain doesn’t matter. To be brutally honest, in those moments when I hear about things like that it makes me glad there is a hell. Of course, in these moments I am forgetting how evil I am.

We don’t want God to wink at sin…unless it is ours.
Last night, I attended our Good Friday Service. It is a sobering affair. The pastor wears black. The band plays dark mournful songs about the suffering of Christ. Instead of a sermon Jim (our pastor) read a list of sins written on bricks. As he read the bricks, he tossed them into a rusty metal wheelbarrow. Each one makes a hollow, metallic noise. Some of the sins were murders and abuse. Others related to bitterness and deceit. All of them made the same heavy noise. In that place, hearing all those sins listed together, I didn’t want God to ignore any of them not even mine. They were all horrible. That same sense of justice that made me want punishment for Hitler, rapists and murderers made me call out for justice for my own sins. I am a wicked man. My sin weighed heavy on that cross. I deserve death.

At the end of the service, as everyone sat with the reality of their sin Jim pushed the wheelbarrow across the stage and dumped the bricks at the foot of the cross. The weight of my sins and the worlds were placed on Christ. Justice was served but at the expense of God’s Son. It was a powerful image.

Feeling the weight of my sin has helped me to see the greatness of God’s grace. The God of justice is also the God of grace, and my sin has made that grace very costly. Praise God for His justice and His grace. I am a bad man who has seen someone go to death for me. Grace is good and I want it for the worst offenders just as it was given to me.

Do you think that it is a good thing to wish for grace for rapists and mass murderers? How does it make you feel to think that Hitler could have gone to heaven if he had surrendered His life to Christ?

Friday, April 2, 2010

Ultimate Surrender

Today we remember the death of our Savior. Every year I think more about how my response to His sacrifice seems inadequate. He voluntarily suffered the most painful, torturous death possible. “Thank you” isn’t enough to express how grateful I am. Beyond that, I really don’t feel grateful enough. How can I “feel” grateful enough for such a sacrifice?

Jesus modeled the ultimate act of surrender. Remember that Jesus didn’t “want” to die on the cross. He asked the Father to “let this cup pass” (Matthew 26:42). He knew the cross would be painful. He understood what it meant that he would take on the sin of the world. His response was not, “I’d be happy to;” it was, “Not my will but your will be done.” Surrender was Jesus’ response. Not just any surrender, ultimate surrender. He took on the sin of man and died the most excruciating death ever conceived. How can we say a mere “thank you” to a sacrifice like that?

The most grateful response is to follow Him in surrender. The Apostle Paul says that the prerequisites for salvation are belief in the resurrection of Christ and confession that He is Lord (Romans 10:9-10). Confessing Jesus as Lord is not just a comment. It is an act of surrender in itself. Jesus is not just Lord of heaven and earth. He must be Lord of your life. He has to be Lord of every decision, every thought. If you haven’t given him the throne of your life, then maybe that should be your act of gratitude this Good Friday. Jesus surrendered so that you could surrender too. Don’t just tell Him you are thankful. Show Him with surrender.

How do I know if I’m surrendered? I find it helpful to take inventory of my life now and then. Here are a few things that I do to check myself.
Do I make decisions according to what will bring God the most glory?
• Have I recently told myself or someone else that I deserve something?
• Do I believe God is going to provide for me no matter what?
• Has God led me to do something that I rationalized myself out of doing?
• Is there a sin in my life that I have not repented of?
• Am I holding a grudge or bitterness toward someone?
• Have I done my best to reconcile broken relationships in my life?
• Am I working and resting to the glory of God?
• Am I submitting to the authorities in my life as to the Lord?
• Have I been in prayerful conversation with God?

How are you living surrendered in your life? What specific things do you do differently because you are following Christ in surrender?