Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Ten thousand

When I started this blog just a few days before the end of this past February, I had no idea that anyone would visit and read. But a number of you have been faithful to visit often. This has given me an opportunity to share my heart and vision on various issues. As we approach the 6 month anniversary of this blog it appears we will surpass the 10,000 hit mark some time in the next 24 hours. You can watch for yourself with the counter at the bottom of the page.

I just want to say "thanks" for stopping by. I really have no idea whether this number of hits in this amount of time is high or not as compared to other blogs. It doesn't really matter. I'm grateful for all of you who make this a regular part of your week. So, this if for you ... all of you.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Men and the church

Speaking on leadership from Acts 20 yesterday I made some pretty pointed comments to the men related to their role as leaders in every area of life, including the church. I want to follow up a bit on those comments.

USA Today came out with an article last month on the discrepancy between the % of men v. women in churches today. ClearView is stronger in this area than the average church. We have a healthy ratio, I believe, in men to women.

I have heard several comments on this since the release of the article by USA Today and other media. I was in Belize this past March on a mission trip. We saw an extreme example of the problem of fewer men in church, but I believe it gives us some insight into what is going on here in the states in the same arena. In Belize, we might have had 20 - 30 adults inside the church building during services. Maybe 4 or 5 of those would be men. However, if you looked just outside the door of the church there would be another 10 - 15 men sitting in bicycles listening to all that was going on. I saw that as a snapshot of what is going on in the church in America.

Why would these men simply sit outside during service and not enter the building? Were they afraid of the building? I don't think so. We had a men's dinner one night and 45 men showed up to eat dinner in the very building they would sit outside of on Sundays and for other worship services.

But the decorations inside the church screamed, "this is for women only". They had flowers on the podium and lace curtains (big ones) behind the pulpit. The night we had the men's dinner they brought out some speakers and played (very loud) some contemporary christian music (it was in Spanish, but I asked and they said it was Christian) the guys could relate to. I asked why they didn't play the same music for their worship services. Never really got a clear answer to that one. But I can't tell you how often someone there bemoaned the fact that so few men would come to church.

With leadership in the church having been abdicated over the centuries by men to women, we have seen a feminization of church. I have preached in hundreds of churches over the past 20 years. Many of the dying churches especially decry the lack of involvement by the men in the church. Many were smaller and struggling churches. Women had taken most of the leadership roles. So guess what services felt like? They felt like women designed and produced them. There would be flowers in the front of the church. The choir wore robes with stoles (I think that's what you call them) that matched the carpet and walls. On a couple of occasions I had to politely refuse to wear a flower if I were asked to preach on Easter. The worship folder covers (bulletins) would have pictures of flowers or some open field with ... flowers. [As a side note, please don't send flowers to my funeral. Give $$ to a ministry of some kind if you feel the need to give something.] Words like "precious" and "sweet" are thrown around in music and sermons. Great for women but men don't use that kind of language in their every day lives. And then we wonder, "Where did all the men go?" "Why don't more men come to church?"

This is one reason I love preaching in a room that transforms into a gym during other days of the week. It doesn't feel so ... well ... feminine. Along the same lines, I am grateful for a worship leader who is a man's man. Michael Smith leads worship that men, as well as women, can relate to. Drums and guitars are simply more masculine than a pipe organ.

Men, God called us to lead. So let's lead. As we learned yesterday, we lead with a humble spirit, with compassion and love for those God has placed in our care. Men's men stepping up to the plate will propel any church into a better future for Christ. Reach the men and the family will follow.

I would end with this. Thank God for the women who have and who do step up. Without them, no telling what kind of mess we would be in our churches. I am appreciative of all they do and will do. This is not about women backing down from all they do. This is about men stepping up to what we have been called to do ... lead!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

To twitter or not to twitter

That is indeed the question. I've answer it for now. I am twittering. For some of you twitter is a familiar word. For others it is new.

Here is the statement from web site related to the purpose of this somewhat new technology:
Twitter is a service for friends, family, and co–workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?

In layman's terms it means intermittently throughout the day, I will "twitter" what I am doing at that moment. What I am thinking or doing at that moment. Now, I will warn you, I have followed a couple of twitters for several weeks. It can be funny. It can be informative. It can be downright silly at times. It can even be annoying. You can sign up by going to the twitter website here. You can have the twitter sent to your web only. Or you can have it sent to your mobile phone as well as the web. It will come in as a text message. For those that follow my facebook page, my status will now be updated via twitter ... I think (at least I tried to set that up).

I will be learning to send photos via twitter when I get my email fixed on my blackberry. So from time to time you will get a candid shot with comments. It's still new technology to me so I will be learning for a few days.

One more thing. When you sign on and search for me under my name. There are currently four Mark Marshalls (who knew?). Mine is mxmarsh.

Why do I feel between facebook, the blog, ClearView's site, and now twitter I am walking into the heart of the Matrix. If you like communication and information, here it is :-).

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Two great Sundays

The past two Sundays were just incredible at ClearView. When we had over 1540 in worship August 10, I wondered if we could better that on the 17th. Well, we hit over 1570 in worship on the 17th. Wow! These are record breaking back to back Sundays. The only time we have had larger crowds has been Christmas and Easter. We have never had two weeks back to back like this. I am so grateful for all God is doing. More than the numbers in worship have been the numbers responding that they wish to become members of CV and / or know more about a relationship with Christ. We had several families and individuals respond via the famous "tear offs" over the past few weeks.

If you are reading this as a member of CV I need your help. We have a couple of wing sections of seats down front near the stage. Maybe you could talk 10 or 12 of your closest friends to join you in sitting in them. I know, I'm asking a lot of my favorite people (my blog readers :-)). Really, I won't call on you or spit on you if you choose to sit down front.

Also, we definitely went over time this past Sunday during the first service which created a MAJOR bottleneck in the hallways. We will aim at getting out much earlier this week and eliminate this problem. Please spread the word.

If you get this before tomorrow night (Wednesday night) we think we have solved our space challenges we have encountered on Wednesday nights. Who would have ever thought we would have space issues on Wednesdays. You guys are awesome!!! I can't wait to see you tomorrow night!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

I know it's only preseason ...

But it is still nice to see the Bulldogs on top ... click. Let's see if they can hang on all year.
Hunker down you hairy dogs!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A Day of Gratitude

While it is true that we should maintain an attitude of gratitude at all times, today was a day when I just seemed to be especially grateful. There was an old hymn we sang in church when I was growing up: "Count your many blessings, name them one by one". Here are some of the thoughts I have been flooded with today.

1. God's patience with my frailty.
2. A wife who love's me more than I deserve.
3. Two daughters who have somehow turned out with a heart for taking the gospel to the nations ... despite my imperfections as a parent.
4. A church with a desire for God's Word and a growing heart for those around us without Christ.
5. A church that loves each other, my family, and me.
6. A beutiful view from my house.
7. Relatively cool weather in August.
8. God's faithfulness each week in my time of preparation.
9. Health.
10. Dark chocolate (sorry ... couldn't be serious all the way through ... but I am grateful).
Your turn ...

Friday, August 8, 2008

Baptism - What is it and why does it matter?

Since New Testament times baptism has been central to the corporate life and the individual identity of those who call themselves Christ followers. Bring up the subject of baptism with people of various denominations and you get a variety of opinions and beliefs. Some believe baptism is required for salvation. Some do not. Some believe infants should be baptized. Some do not. There are various opinions about the mode of baptism (sprinkle vs. immersion). So, does any of it matter?

So, what does The Bible say? How should we think about this?

We need to get this most important point on the table as we begin. Baptism does not save us. Faith alone in Christ alone brings salvation.

8 For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift— 9 not from works, so that no one can boast. Eph 2:8-9 (HCSB)

Baptism is identification and union with Christ. When we embrace Christ as our savior, He did not make us a little bit better or a little bit cleaner. He made us a new person! A change like that deserves a bold public declaration. Baptism highlights that there has been a radical change of life. The symbolism (with immersion) is that of turning from our former way of life (dying to self) and a turning to a new way of life (in Christ). It is a clear marking of our faith step in trusting Christ alone for our salvation. Jesus Christ died, was buried, and resurrected in order for you and me to know forgiveness and eternal life. The symbolism is clear that we acknowledge that truth along with our own life transformation.
Christ Himself was baptized to mark the beginning of His earthly ministry.

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. 14 But John tried to stop Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and yet You come to me?” 15 Jesus answered him, “Allow it for now, because this is the way for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed Him [to be baptized] . 16 After Jesus was baptized, He went up immediately from the water. Matt 3:13-16 (HCSB)

Christ commanded that we be baptized and that we baptize those who join us in faith.

19 Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. Matt 28:19-20 (HCSB)

Putting the two statements above has always made me wonder how someone could put their faith in Christ for eternal salvation, but choose not to follow His clear example and command to do as He had done.
Baptism also identifies us with others who have also embraced Christ.

12 For as the body is one and has many parts, and all the parts of that body, though many, are one body—so also is Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body
1 Cor 12:12-13 (HCSB)

The focus of baptism is identification with Christ and a bold testimony of our new life in Him as stated above. But this verse clearly states that we are secondarily baptized into a body. What body? The body of Christ ... the church. When compared with other New Testament scripture it is clear that this baptism is administered by the visible expression of the body of Christ ... the local church. Yes, there were exceptions in Acts, such as the Ethiopian Eunoch, however, exceptions can never define the boundary. Keep in mind the Book of Acts is written about a time of massive transitions. The Church was just coming into focus.

The New Testament has no concept of an unbaptized believer. They simply could not conceive of such.

This post is a follow up to a message preached August 10. You can hear it hear.