Tag Archives: Questions

Focus [Church Book Excerpt]

There's The Steeple - Here's The Church | Greg Campbell | The Church BookFridays in August will be featuring a selected chapter from the book I published on the topic of the Church, titled, There’s The Steeple… Here’s The Church—I call it “The Church Book”. If you’d like to read the rest, click the book cover to the left to purchase your copy from Amazon.com! (And, thank you!) Or, see the footer of this post for how to obtain a FREE copy.


Today is the final chapter of this month of “Church Book Excerpts” from the book you see above. If you like what you’ve read, I’d love for you to have a copy of the book. Click through the links above (and also, more information in the article’s footer) to find out how to get your copy.

This chapter is a bit longer, but worth thinking through. Sometimes it’s good to take a look at your focus, and, as necessary, refocus your lens on what you’re truly hoping to capture.

Focus

w
e are off this weekend—not singing anywhere—and even have a break from the kids, while they are with Grandma. So, sometimes when a free weekend presents itself, we will enjoy the quietness and solitude of home when we would otherwise be “working” on a weekend, leading worship in various locations. Today, though we both really wanted to join our friends at Cross Creek Church in Palmyra. When we heard songs that they often do playing on our iPod, we thought of them. We thought of how long it has been since we have seen many of them, since outside of Cross Creek, our lives do not connect. We just had a longing to be there.

So, thanks to a last minute phone call with a friend this morning where we were reminded of the new meeting times, we made it! And it was great to see everyone! It had been a long time, but we got a sentence or two in with most of the folks we know. At least a handshake and a genuine, “Hello.” It was wonderful.

As I was preparing for that this morning, looking forward to seeing everyone, I remembered a brief conversation with a pastor friend of ours. We were talking about how I personally get the most out of any times where I get to connect with friends, other believers who are there for the morning meeting. We catch up on life, what God has been or is doing in their life. How the family is doing, what’s new… all of that sort of stuff. A real connection that seems hard in between the scheduled goings on, and is impossible as I sit quietly on my duff placing my attention on the happenings in the front of the room.

When I mentioned that was what meant the most to me, he quipped with a sarcastic smile, “Why don’t you just go join the moose lodge?!” He was not telling me I should leave, just revealing the focus that he places on our large group gatherings. They are the time we come to learn, to “worship”, and to focus on God—not each other. It’s a vital piece that we do it together, as the family of God, but it’s not the focus.

That is where I beg to differ. I think that “worship” is not a time or a place (as Jesus told the Samaritan woman in John 4) but something we do with every breath. (A popular song uses just those words, “With ev’ry breath I’m praising you…”) So my main reason for going to a large group gathering of believers then is not to worship, since that is something I do every day, all the time, anywhere.

But what about the teaching? Surely that is a reason to attend such a gathering? Absolutely! While I do not deny that so much can be learned from the great teachers who can present clear and understandable truths about the Kingdom from their study and their experience and walk with God, that still is not my main focus for attending such a meeting. Again, I submit that throughout the remainder of each week, my mind and heart are filled with great thinkers’ thoughts on the Kingdom be they in books, web pages, MP3s, radio programs… what have you. There is such a wealth of great teaching available to anyone and everyone today that the Sunday morning gathering is certainly not my primary source of such teaching. And, aside from all of the “expert” teaching we receive from the so-called “professionals”, I enjoy learning from my neighbors, the way they interact with my Father. I enjoy listening to God’s voice through the experiences of friends who may not think themselves teachers, but by sharing their lives with me take on that very role in my life.

So again, at least for me, the reason for attending such a meeting is not to worship—that happens all week long, all the time—nor is it to “be fed” as we like to call it. It is not for the teaching, as again, there is no shortage of that in my life.

Is it perhaps the specialness of the place? No. I mentioned that already, too. Jesus said that worship is not a located thing. There is no place we can go to be closer to him as he now resides in us. In us! We are the temple of the Holy Spirit! That is too deep to go into here. Perhaps another time.

So that leaves me with… the other believers! The reason that I want to attend such a meeting has nothing to do with anything that is planned. Though that is always nice—and helpful—I could get that anywhere. The reason for me is to connect with other believers—especially ones I would not otherwise connect with. To share some piece of our current journey together. To feel and see the bigness of God’s family. So much larger than me. So much larger than my small group of friends. He is real and central in so many lives other than my own. And I love to know Him through them.

Unfortunately, if this is the main reason for Christians gathering in large groups, you’d never know it. The focus certainly seems to be on the events planned for that day. Even today, I was told when to stand, when to sit, and what would be happening next. Nothing out of the ordinary. That’s what we do. But, if the greatest thing we have as we gather is each other, it does not seem like that element is being emphasized or facilitated in any way, does it? Do we make that a priority in our gatherings?

Some churches do this well. While maintaining a priority on the up-front events, they carve out a decent amount of time for people-connecting. Cross Creek is one such group. There is a time in the middle to get some coffee and just say hello to everyone. Theirs lasts perhaps 5-6 minutes. There has been a church or two along our path who has taken as much as 15 minutes for such an event. That’s great! But again, usually it is much less than 10% of the time we are together. Usually much less. Often there is a bit more time in the parking lot, or the lobby after the scheduled portion of the meeting is over, but too frequently, everyone has other things they need to get on to.

Please do not think I fault only those responsible for planning the church gatherings. I do not presume that they have so much influence over an entire culture. Certainly a good portion of the blame for a misplaced focus rests on those who “attend” these meetings. Arriving late (due to rousing and preparing a family of small children at such a time of the day, no doubt…) and getting everyone to their respective rooms, entering the main room just in time to sing the last song with everyone. Then sitting through the remaining portion of the show, taking notes and attempting to hear God’s truth for their personal life packed into about 45 minutes of one hour. As it’s over, the rush to pick up the kids ensues. After collecting them all, their tiredness, and crankiness overtakes your desire to connect with other believers, and you rush out the door to get home, or to do whatever else might be planned before you can go home.

Life these days is certainly a rush. That’s why we try and pack so much into a “worship service”. We “only have an hour a week to reach them”. That is the mentality in some circles. At least from the leadership position. Perhaps there is an equally sad mentality from the seats. “You only have one hour to reach me, God… so say something meaningful… and quick!

So while we go expecting to give to God, and him to us, we miss the joy of community. We miss perhaps the greatest part of “the church”. Not the building, the time, the meeting, or the organization. The people whom God has called to himself. From out of the world, into His Kingdom. The Believers. The Saints. The Called Out Ones. His Church.

Acts 4:32

All the believers were of one heart and mind, and they felt that what they owned was not their own; they shared everything they had.

Everything was about the oneness. Everything was about the togetherness. They loved being together. They shared everything. All the time. Acts 2 says they even went to the temple everyday to worship (as was their custom). They ate together, prayed together, shared meals together… even shared money. Life was about being together. And why not? The rest of the world hated them. The persecution was on a level that we can not comprehend in 21st century America. We have not, and perhaps will not experience such hardship. So to join together was an oasis in the desert. It was the living water of Jesus—his very body—together as one. How could they come together but once a week and then only to sit and listen to a presentation, with minimal participation, organized and performed by a select few? Where was the sharing of everything there?

No. Their focus was not on the schedule of a planned meeting. It was on each other. On their joys, on their hardships. On their shared journey with an amazing Father. That is where I find joy—even in as little time as is allotted for such—that is where I find joy when gathering with other believers.

Perhaps that is just me being the way God made me? Or, perhaps our focus is slightly shifted. What if we re-focused? What if our gatherings were not as much about the individual and God, but more about his children encouraging and exhorting each other? Wouldn’t that be as much (or more?) worship than listening to a carefully and wonderfully crafted hour of events?

Well, at least that’s how it looks through my lens.

htc-small
This post is a chapter in the book There’s The Steeple… Here’s The Church by Greg Campbell, available through Amazon.com. If you’d like to purchase the book, please click the book title in the previous sentence. If you’d like a free PDF version, it is available here. Also have some of the audio version available at church.gregshead.net. Thanks for reading, sharing, and feel free to add to the discussion in the comments below, or wherever else you can reach me.

What Motivates You?

Lacking motivation?

I currently feel very unmotivated. I am banging my head against so many metaphorical walls … and I’m not even making a dent. I’m juggling too many things, being pulled in too many directions, and not feeling any level of success in anything that I am setting out to do. Only failure, or what feels like failure.

What keeps you going? Why do you get out of bed in the mornings?

Or do you not?

I’m still moving. Pressing on. (Maybe running on the treadmill—or the hamster wheel—is a better analogy, but I am still moving.)

But I’m having to really stop and think about why. What is my motivation.

To be honest, partly it’s money. I need to earn money to buy the things our family needs. I need to pay off debts. I would love to make money to save for things we want, or want to do. That is certainly part of my daily motivation.

But that, in itself, is hollow, empty.

I love my family. I love to do things with and for them. That motivates me, but much of my day is spent doing things to earn money for our family, so I don’t get to spend as much time with my family as I’d like. (That’s certainly not my own private lament—I’d say most parents who work feel that lacking in their lives.) My love for them is certainly one of my motivations in life.

And definitely obligation, or a sense of duty will push me through when I’d just rather not. When I know my kids are counting on me, or my wife, or maybe even someone else, I will eke out the physical or emotional will power needed to accomplish whatever needs to be done.

Those are some of the things that can move me when I need moving. There are certainly a few more.

Personal comfort is a big one for me. I am VERY motivated to get those air conditioners cleaned up and locked in place when the first hot weather begins to roll in on us. I do not do well in heat and humidity! And… let me tell you, if there’s an offensive odor somewhere nearby, it doesn’t matter how tired I am, I will eliminate it!

Speaking of eliminating… what about when you really, really have to “go”, and there’s not a bathroom within 10 miles? When “nature calls” we can be pretty good at finding our motivation!

Jen knows a kind of personal comfort motivation, too. She doesn’t like pain; any physical discomfort will cause her to seek any way possible to remedy her situation. This includes hunger. She knows that the well-being of everyone around her depends on her not being hungry! Our physical appetites can certainly motivate us—food, drink, sex, even our pride, and desire for acceptance. These motivations can grow so strong that they become addictions.

Personal comfort is certainly a strong motivator.

Another one for me, somewhat related to personal comfort—in an oxymoronic, paradoxical kind of way—is healthiness. I have been walking most of this calendar year, and eating fresh, good food (and less of it) as many meals as I am able. It was something I really wanted to do for my body, and for my family (so I could be more “here”). There is some part that is “duty”-oriented to this motivation, but also, I do enjoy the quiet time alone, and I feel lighter, more alert—less heavy—and just much better, overall.

And of course, the law is another powerful motivation. Not sure if I’d wear seat belts, or restrain myself from using the cell phone while driving, or give the government-funded school system a detailed report of what we are teaching our kids unless I was compelled to by the laws and codes of our various governments.

But the apostle Paul said:

“For the love of Christ controls and urges and impels us…”—2 Cor. 5:14 (AMP)

And also:

“And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.”—Colossians 3:17

So then, love is our motivator. God’s love for us, and for everyone. And being a representative of Jesus—always, gratefully.

I think King Solomon, wisest man to ever live, asked these same questions, pondered these same thoughts. You may already be familiar with his conclusion, even if you don’t attribute it to him:

“Everything is meaningless,” says the Teacher, “completely meaningless!” —Ecclesiastes 1:2

Really. Read Ecclesiastes when you’re feeling aimless, directionless, lacking motivation—it’ll pick ya right up!

So I became greater than all who had lived in Jerusalem before me, and my wisdom never failed me. Anything I wanted, I would take. I denied myself no pleasure. I even found great pleasure in hard work, a reward for all my labors. But as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless—like chasing the wind. There was nothing really worthwhile anywhere.

(The entire book is this repeating theme of the meaninglessness of everything in life, good and bad. Truly a fascinating read!)

I have no answers. I still feel mostly unmotivated in life. It’s like much of my effort is not worth the effort—it will not have its desired effect, if I am even sure of what that is. I hope God will illuminate me, personally, in that regard. But perhaps he won’t. I know my ultimate motivation—reason for moving—is him. That’s it. Keep my eyes fixed on Jesus. Stay connected to him, the Vine.

That, I know.

But what motivates you? Where do you find reason for your efforts? Impetus for your actions? Why try when our world is so, SO messed up? What does it matter?

Everything is meaningless.

I’d so love to hear your response. Please comment below and let’s do encourage one another with the things that move each of us—great or small—to get out of bed, and carry out a day… and even to do things that move the planet.

What motivates you?

The World of Pretend [Church Book Excerpt]

There's The Steeple - Here's The Church | Greg Campbell | The Church BookFridays in August will be featuring a selected chapter from the book I published on the topic of the Church, titled, There’s The Steeple… Here’s The Church—I call it “The Church Book”. If you’d like to read the rest, click the book cover to the left to purchase your copy from Amazon.com! (And, thank you!) Or, see the footer of this post for how to obtain a FREE copy.


I have a few posts coming in the near future that will be similar in content to this chapter of There’s The Steeple… Here’s The Church! I was hoping to post them before this, but I’ll stick with this pre-selected rotation.

This chapter, written eight years ago, follows nicely with yesterday’s post about living in the moments. Life can be messy, but that’s life. We usually miss the beauty when we try to clean it up first—or to pretend. Don’t miss this. Real life is so much better than anything we can pretend.

(Although, I am certainly one for a good game of make believe! I grew up with Mister Rogers!) 🙂

The World of Pretend

There is a new fad these days in the world of audio. MP3 players are all the rage, and specifically, the iPod has become iconic. Everyone has at least heard the term. In fact, a new form of “broadcasting” a radio program is to record it and post it to the internet as an MP3 that people can listen to on their MP3 players—like the iPod—so it is called a podcast. I am quite addicted to these. It’s radio, but on your schedule. The other day I was listening to one of these podcasts and a phrase caught my attention. The speaker was a former pastor who has stepped away from “the paid ministry” and is now feeling more free, and more helpful to people than ever before. He spoke of his new paradigm in life saying:

“It’s no longer practice… no longer pretend. It’s real!”

My head nodded emphatically in agreement.

For a while now I have noticed that the whole world of Christianity as I know it involves some level of “pretend”. It is, in a way, imaginary. We have so closely united our life with Jesus to all of the things we call “church”, that to leave behind any of the practices of Christianity is to leave behind some piece of Christ himself. From Sunday school to Sunday potlucks. From Wednesday night prayer meetings to Sunday morning worship. From singing in the choir to going on a short-term mission trip; even individual practices like praying before meals, or having morning quiet time. None of those things by themselves are bad in any way. When they become the heartbeat of our relationship with God, or even more, when they replace our relationship with him, then we have what I recently heard someone refer to as “Churchianity”—the religion of the church.

The church is not a bad thing. The church, as it was designed by God is us, the believers—his bride. Jesus loves the church. But the church as we define it can be any number of things, as I have mentioned before. Could be a building, or the state registered non-profit organization that owns and meets in those buildings. It could be the hour that folks meet together on Sunday mornings. (“Come on Mertle! We’re going to be late for church!”)

But having for so long made the structure for the masses our primary focus, we have created an entire world unto itself. The world of the church. The world of pretend. There are customs and behaviors indigenous to this place. The natives seem to know them, and occasionally, there are seminars to explain such customs. But often, they are simply learned through time. Newcomers slowly pick up the behaviors and make them their own. As with any culture, there is also a native tongue. Travelers can understand most of what is spoken, but many terms are unfamiliar. The banter seems quite familiar to the natives, however. There is an unspoken dress code, a sense that some things are not to be done at some times. Very much like any other group of people, we have created a culture unto itself.

I think that’s too bad. I think that is what the speaker I mentioned before was referring to. We create this world in which we can do and say and think all the “right” things, and live out a well-performed Christianity. Life was not meant to be lived in a bubble. “Hide it under a bushel — NO! I’m gonna let it shine!” In the world of pretend that’s supposed to mean that we wear Jesus T-shirts and always say “Praise the Lord!” and, “Hallelujah!” That’s not what it means! Jesus is saying you have the light. The Light of The World is in us! Why would we coop him up in this building, or at these meetings, or only gathered with other Lamps? Live life! Let the light shine before all men that they may see your good deeds and praise your father in heaven!

I want to know my neighbors. I don’t want people to see in me someone who is a faithful attendee of Christian meetings. I want them to see a life filled with hope, and Light. A caring neighbor who listens, and is available, not running to the next planned gathering, or rehearsal for said gathering. I want to know the folks I see in the grocery store, and have some connection with them there at that moment, or from previous connectings. I want to be available as Jesus was available.

Some years ago, I really felt like all that mattered in my life was telling people about the reality of God. It is in our little slogan on our website, our business cards, all our basic gear… even our trailer. It says, “Real Life. Real God.” Nothing has been more important to me than sharing the truth that God is real and is part of every bit of our lives. And so I gave up my pursuits of a career in journalism, to follow a leading from God and give my entire life and doings to him. That has led me down some incredible paths. I can’t wait to see what is next! All of my life has been, and still is completely for him.

But perhaps my focus has been on the wrong thing. I have poured my life into doing things for him, working on staff with a couple different churches, planning all sorts of events to share this life God is sharing with me. Maybe I have just been feeding the world of pretend? Helping people to confine their Light to the refueling station of “the church”. Perhaps.

Can you tell I am sorting through some things at the moment? I don’t want you to go away from this post feeling at all negative or mad. If you are…. just forget everything I said. This is definitely something God and I are dealing with. If it sparks something in you, as the phrase at the top did in me, shoot me an e-mail.

Wherever you are in your journey with him, be there. Don’t get your light from other Lamps. Live in the Light of THE Light. Let him live in you, and teach you, and lead you. He is our source. Not the church. Not any pastor. Not any teacher. HE is the Light. HE wants a relationship with YOU. Really.

For real.

htc-small
This post is a chapter in the book There’s The Steeple… Here’s The Church by Greg Campbell, available through Amazon.com. If you’d like to purchase the book, please click the book title in the previous sentence. If you’d like a free PDF version, it is available here. Also have some of the audio version available at church.gregshead.net. Thanks for reading, sharing, and feel free to add to the discussion in the comments below, or wherever else you can reach me.

Where Do You Get Your News?

NewsIn the olden days, Grandpa would read the newspaper every morning to catch up on the latest local, national, and world news. Our parents’ generation tuned their TV sets to the national news from their favorite of the three broadcast networks: ABC, CBS, or NBC. (And of course, just before bed there was the local TV news at Eleven.)

But that’s changing. Or more accurately, has changed.

Cable news networks (starting with CNN) changed how news was delivered. Still using the old medium of the television, the difference was that news was now available 24-hours a day. We were beginning to have access to breaking news as it happened. (I am neglecting radio here. Radio was another medium that was perhaps “closer” to the news prior to cable news. But as this is not an “exhaustive report”, you’ll allow me some wiggle room, I’m sure…)

Once news was available like this, it sort of conditioned us for what the internet would bring us. Dubbed the “information superhighway”—and for a good reason—news is now available not just 24/7, but often directly from the source of the news. And from many sources.

Even better than that, the internet is open to everyone. Anyone can have a website, and now multimedia-rich websites (podcasts) so with so many sources, there can be very specific subject matter. (Like one show on a network, I suppose… but far more “networks” and “time slots”.)

Even better than that is the advent of RSS, a technology that delivers electronic news (article by article, media item by media item) almost like the paper boy brought the newspaper to our Grandpa’s step. It’s fantastic!

This means we can get exactly the news we want to read or hear. For example, I enjoy following the latest tech trends, specifically from Apple, Inc. So I do. As well as my favorite sports teams. And a few other things I like to follow.

As great as this is, the downside to this way of getting the news is that you miss the stories that the news editors would find and “rank” for us by their position in the news paper. While the obvious flaw of this method of distributing news is the influence of the editors biases, there still was at least a broader swath of news available this way.

And so sites like the Drudge Report arose, with links to the latest headlines. But since Matt Drudge (the guy who runs the site) is one person, he obviously is susceptible to the same biases that an editor of a newspaper or media station would have. Perhaps a team of writers like the Huffington Post would limit the influence of biases? Not in that case, as the person who assembled the team of writers has very clear biases. Even a site like Newsvine offers news written by you (with a splash of articles pulled from the Associated Press) but there are biases evident there as well.

So then there are sources like Google News and Yahoo News and other search engines that theoretically pull news from every source, robotically. Even culling “news” from the “blogs” (which are typically more like “opinion columns”) and mixing that in with results from more established, traditional news agencies.

I found a website today, NewsandJava.com, that pulls in the top headlines from just about every source—with every bias—that I know of (including all I have mentioned above, and more.) That seems like a pretty good place to read the morning’s news. It’s always good to hear from every side. The truth is usually—but not always—somewhere in the middle.

And I haven’t even mentioned the social networks. Now Twitter and Facebook (and a smattering of others) are just as likely a source of news (even the exclusive source) for many folks.

Where do you get your news? What sources do you trust? Is anyone still watching TV news for their main source of the daily news? Do you not even care at all?

I would really like to hear from you readers on this one, so leave your comments below!