passionate.purpose

Recently, I ran across this blog post and the article to which it refers.¬† Jay Lorenzen’s comments about the article are excellent, and you should read them – as well as the original article. My own reaction follows:

As a father of a college student, I have heard plenty about the social justice “movement” that is hitting our colleges. And, I am going to be right upfront about this: it is a pitiful shame that there has to be a resurgence at all, especially within Christian educational institutions, of a passion or at least an actionable concern for those who are struggling to make it. But, I also have a huge problem with the terminology and the fuel source that I see behind this “movement” thus far.

You can read about my issues with the terminology here.

So – fuel. I love passionate people, and unashamedly consider myself a person of passion. I believe strongly in what I believe, and I will passionately defend my belief. I am more than willing to change my opinion, but it will be a result of a convincing argument, not just fancy or emotion.

Emotion – there’s my problem. My daughter might argue with me about this (she is more than welcome to her wrong opinions – smile), but I think that this current resurgence of concern for social responsibility is one that is, for the majority, based on someone pulling some heart strings. I also think that it is perpetuated by people motivated by emotional response, who rely on emotional response for that perpetuation.

I love the passionate idealism of college students. But what I love more is watching that passionate idealism mature into passionate purpose. Idealism relies on a sense of fairness and an emotional “check” to determine what is fair or not. The problem with such an approach to societal issues is that it focuses on the symptoms rather than real solutions (“people are hungry so let’s feed them”, rather than “people are hungry so let’s equip them to escape the situation resulting in that hunger”). The result is a bunch of bandages placed on the wound without any real healing – but hey, we feel good because we put those bandages there, right?

Folks, it takes the maturity of “purpose” to put real and lasting action to “passion”. With purpose we realize that the bandage, while necessary, is only temporary, and that more extensive foundational work is required to heal the source of the wound. Let’s not rely on pulling heart strings to solicit guilt-laden service. Let’s help people understand how a love for neighbor is vital to the plan of God – a plan to save the world. Then, let us adopt God’s purpose (to save the world) and let that purpose fuel our service. This will get us beyond feeding the poor to actually changing their lives.

Evan Hunter speaks of a disjointed theology that can only sustain either social activism or spiritual growth. I’ve seen both. But, I am so thankful for a theological heritage that speaks of a “perfect love” where God’s love in us is realized through both our own personal spiritual growth journey and the resulting compulsion to help others to be transformed.

online.relationships

Thrive is always planning. There are always lots of things that brew for awhile before they actually become reality (if ever) at Thrive (because we are very intentional about what we do and do not do). For some time, we’ve had a few leadership team discussions around new ways of experiencing “church”. There is a lot of buzz right now about “online church”. There are churches who hold live services online, with serious attention to audience participation. Some churches have begun to hold web-cam baptisms for parts of their “congregation” who are “remote”. We’re discussing various online approaches, but we’re still letting it brew.

I am not sure what Thrive’s foray into this space will be, but it is something we are talking about. We’re not talking about it because other people are doing it, while we are striving to learn from them. We are talking about it because we see an unmistakable pattern in human behavior. Whether you like it or not, people are engaging more and more in online avenues for building relationships. I have my reservations as many of you do as well. But as was said in a “retweet” I sent out today, “If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less. God’s message is never irrelevant, but we can sure make our efforts at spreading that message irrelevant.

So, when you pray for Thrive, pray for your leadership team. Pray that we keep the prize always ahead of us. Whether it is an online Thrive Church, or some other method to reach those who “live” online, pray that we allow God to shape our efforts.

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In His grip!

Herb Halstead, Pastor

he.loves.us

We capped off our Advent series with “love”. During previous weeks, we covered hope, peace, and joy using an Advent candle wreath to helps us with the symbolism. I have to tell you that while this season is probably the most hectic time of the year, the Advent series has probably been my favorite each year. There is just something amazing about the process of trying to rekindle the essence of the enormity of the hope that God gave the world in sending His Son to live among us and suffer for us, so that we could have the opportunity to choose.

Each of us can just as easily say “no” as “yes”. That fact alone makes His willing sacrifice all the more poignant – that He would do so, knowing that some of that blood could be shed in vain. I can already imagine that some of you reading this would take pause at my assertion that Jesus’ blood could be shed in vain. But isn’t that what happens when a soul so dear to God (all souls are) would choose to forgo such an awesome gift, especially when He paid so great a price?

One of the songs that Josh chose for the worship set completely took me by surprise. I had been listening to David Crowder’s “Church Music” album since release. It is an amazing work, by the way. The song Josh played is He Love Us. I am serious when I say that I have probably heard that song fifty times since release. But Sunday, as I saw the words on the screen, I was overwhelmed by the magnitude of them. Even as I prepared the message, which was intended to spur my folks toward a richer understanding of God’s love, I was not prepared for what God would do in my own heart.

I have a definition for worship that I have used many times. Loosely, it is that true worship happens when we are confronted by the enormity and awesomeness of God, and realize just how small we are. That is what happened to me as I sang that song. In fact, at one point I actually stopped singing and began praying. But what surprised me was that my prayers were not of “my” thanksgiving, nor were they for God to have mercy on “me”.

I saw an image in my mind of Christ on the cross, His precious blood falling¬† onto people in robes. It would fall on some who would treasure that drop as more precious than gold. There were others who were trying to remove the persistent stain, eventually throwing their garment into a fire. I began praying for people I know who have not chosen to follow God. I prayed that somehow God would use me to portray His love as faithfully as possible (for this human shell) so that they would choose “yes”. Whatever I can do to this end, may each precious drop count.

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In His grip!

Herb Halstead, Pastor
www.ThriveCommunityChurch.com

Posted via email from Herb Halstead’s posterous

my.tribe.is.growing

First thing’s first: I hate numbers – at least for numbers’ sake. I do appreciate that numbers are one of a myriad of indicators that we can use as tools to evaluate how things are going, but I also contend that they are often mistakenly used as THE litmus test for success. And, for the record, I think the logo on the graph is stupid. Use a cross, or the words “God’s Kingdom”, or something. Blech. OK, soapbox dismounted.

In the past, I’ve admitted to having been, at times, embarrassed/ashamed of my tribe. Some of the positions we’ve taken have been just ridiculous. But, there is one thing that I firmly believe is true about this tribe: we want to be on the move, where God is moving. This has not always been the case.

My tribe has episodes of unflattering history where we placed idols before God (legalism, fundamentalism, et.al.). Thankfully that is the past, and I am confident that we are doing the best we can to let God steer this ship to abundant waters. Especially in recent years, I have sensed an awakening of the passions that made this tribe grow so fast at its birth: love for the “lost”, compassion for the “hurting”, and intercession for the “disadvantaged”.

I have been secretly waiting for these reports the past two years to see the state of growth of the tribe, fully expecting that the majority of this growth is due to the rescue of the lost, hurting, and disadvantaged as people discover (or rediscover) God. I hope this is so. I mean, the growth is obvious, but I hope the growth is the right kind of growth – you know, Kingdom growth, not organizational growth.

There ya’ go.

In His grip,
Pastor Herb

Posted via web from Herb Halstead’s posterous

more.taco.theology

This is the “Herb’s Special” from my favorite restaurant. It has one taco, one tamale, and rice (or beans – your choice), and yes, it is named after me. The story is that I have been going there nearly everyday since they opened. Quite often I would order a taco, a tamale, and a side of rice. Eventually I suggested that they just add it to the menu and call it “Herb’s Special”. Well it made it as a periodic feature to the daily special’s board, and now it is on the new menus that are being printed (I saw an advanced copy). You have to seriously invest in your favorite eatery to get close to this sort of “immortalization”.

The other day, I started craving the “Herb’s Special” at about 10am. Not good. By the time I made the walk to the restaurant and sat down, I was eager. The waiter came up and I enthusiastically ordered the “Herb’s Special. He was happy to take my order and I was happily anticipating the goodness to come. Well, about 3 minutes later, he comes back and says they did not have any tamales made that day. Devastation I tell you – complete and utter devastation. Now what?

Of course, the entire menu is scrumptious, so there was no real danger of going away unsatisfied, so I ordered another “Herb typical” – 3 tacos, with guac’ on top. I thoroughly enjoyed my meal while listening to David Crowder via my spiftaculous bluetooth stereo headphones. I left just as happy as I always am after a great meal at El Rodeo.

So, I was doing some heavy thinking about Thrive Church – the people. Why are we all here? I mean, I know why I am here. I know that even if I were not the pastor I would be a part of Thrive. But what of others? What is it about Thrive that causes people to want to be a part of it? Is it the preaching (hahaha), or the music (yum), or the AM Exchange (awesome), or the Prayer Chapel (sanctuary!)? I think if we took all that away, I would still be at Thrive Church. Here’s why: I’ve never sensed His presence so strongly as in this place.

I believe that God is present in all His churches in full measure. So, what makes the difference that I sense at Thrive? Relationships. It is because of our relationships that God shines so brightly to me. Other people, in other churches, can and do say the same thing about God;s presence at their churches. And for them too, even if they do not realize it, it is not because God is more present there than anywhere else. It’s just that the relationships are stronger in some places than in others, and that is why God’s presence “feels” stronger in some churches than others.

It does not matter what we “have on the plate” at Thrive – I always leave the place thoroughly satisfied – my cup overflowing – and eager to return. Case in point: last night, we did one of my least favorite things: Christmas caroling. But guess what? I had a great time with my friends at Thrive, and I finally got my Christmas cheer on too! Why? Because of the love of God shining through the people of Thrive – being together was enough to obliterate my discomfort.

So here’s the taco theology wrap-up: There is a “Herb’s Special” on the menu because El Rodeo is my favorite eatery. I have invested a lot into them (not just money), and they have invested a lot into me. They know I love the place and introduce lots of people to their great establishment. In return, they really take care of me. Sometimes I get a free meal, or extra portions, or a complimentary scoop of guacamole. Sometimes they let me into their personal space too. They know my name, and I know many of their names. So, why is it my favorite eatery? It is because of the relationships that we share there.

Want to sense God stronger in your church? Then, invest in the relationships at your church – and allow the love of God and His presence to shine through them. When everything else fails (and trust me, many things – and people – will), the strength of the relationships is what will determine your ability to make it through.

In His grip,

Pastor Herb

Posted via email from Herb Halstead’s posterous

website.bible.verse.goodness

We have always considered our website to be an important instrument in our mission. We put a lot of thought into how it is organized and what information is available to visitors. We also spend a lot of time tweaking it and adding subtle features.

I have become increasingly more fond of the NET Bible and have begun to use it more and more in my studies and in my preaching. I keep up with their RSS feed. Something caught my eye today, and I totally forgot what it was because when I got to their site something caught my interest that I am really psyched about.

Most bible sites give you a way of delivering scripture dynamically. Think "verse of the day". But, the folks at the NET Bible have added a really cool feature for your website, and made it so easy. Just by inserting a tiny bit of code into your header file, you will add this really cool feature.

What's the feature? Basically, whenever someone's mouse hovers over a scripture reference on your website, the user will get a convenient, on the spot, little window containing the bible passage at their cursor. The cool thing is that you do not have to edit your pages to add this functionality to all your scripture references. It automatically finds the references and does the work for you. All you have to do is add a small code snippet to your site. [Check it out here].

Awesome.

Posted via email from Herb Halstead’s posterous