I can hear it now! "What does that big city pastor think he's doing by suggesting that the Church, the body of Christ, can learn something from a secular festival?!" It's almost like the song from one of my wife's favorite musicals entitled "The Music Man" where people fear that there's "Trouble in River City!"
Well, I assure you that I'm not trying to cause trouble in "River City," but I do believe that God gives us every experience to teach us how his word can apply to the day to day realities that we face.
Last weekend was a special treat! Not because several of our members returned safely from their pilgrimage to Florida (although I am thankful for such). Not because I felt like I was reliving the glory days of North Wilkesboro as our highways and by-ways were converted into a racetrack when our population temporarily doubled (watch out for turn three, it's a doozy!). Not even because our members engaged in various ways with this opportunity volunteering as students of the university, serving as security guards, driving shuttles for the visiting talent, and serving in many other capacities. It was a special treat for me personally because my family and I had the opportunity to go and walk among the people of Merlefest!
We saw vendors, food, several of our members, extended family of those members and others who attend our church, and we heard some really good music. This is a normal experience for many and even a motivation for others to get out of town due to the traffic, crowds, and general transformation that our beloved borough undergoes. Yet, I believe that Jesus would be right smack dab in the middle of it all!
So here are a few brief observations as we walk this trail together:
Opportunity! Jesus did not come to be served, but to serve. I loved seeing so many of our members (yes, even on Sunday) serving in the community and influencing those at the festival.
Incarnation! Jesus, the Word, became flesh and dwelt among us (or "moved into the neighborhood" as The Message paraphrase says). What a great opportunity for local churches to say that they are going to be the flesh and blood of Jesus by walking among their neighbors and guests (and loving them along the way). Sounds vaguely like that second great command that Jesus taught about "loving thy neighbor as thyself." (Yes, I just used the KJV sentiment there and no, I'm not speaking in tongues).
Flaunt it! The old phrase says, "if you've got it...flaunt it!" Now, that can go in a lot of directions. Many of which I will not explore in this blog, but you get the gist. Merlefest had an excellent program with many exceptional people working behind the scenes in support of the significant talent on stage. Have we, as the church, lost that concept? Every Sunday (and every day for that matter) is an opportunity to worship our amazing God. Yet, we treat church, God, and our faith sometimes like a day-old bologna sandwich. It's good if you're really hungry (in need/crisis), but otherwise...
This is getting a bit long, so I will let you go for now. I suspect that there may be some additional observations in the works for a sequel to this post. Keep looking around you just like Jesus did and learn from the experiences that God gives you. Make the Bible part of your daily recommended allowance of spiritual nourishment and see how God will apply His word to your life experiences today!
Social Media and the Web…The Future is Now:
As most of you know we now live in a society where you find the product type you want to purchase then what do you do? Next thing you know you find yourself on the web reading review after review of different products in that particular category deciding what fits your needs best and what is going to provide you and your family with the best “bang” for your buck. This usually includes navigating to several websites, blurred vision, and finally a headache from starring at the tablet or computer screen for hours on end. I kind of answered my own question above but again I ask, why is that…why do we put ourselves through that? Well, I’m glad I asked and I’m going to answer that for you right now. One reason! We are all in search of the BEST VALUE and QUALITY for our money, because we want the best for ourselves and our families!
With the above being said let me give you a revelation that some may understand and may startle some of you. The average individual goes about their church search the exact same way today! However, this has been a concept that many churches have been slow to grasp. Picture it, the year is 1993…Joe and Peggy are relocating to a new city, they’re going to be looking for a new church in their future home of residence…what do they do? Well, unfortunately back then if Joe and Peggy knew absolutely no one…they would go ahead and move, then they would have to spend about a week looking through the local paper and yellow pages hoping to find a church clipping or ad with very few details. After a week of gathering church data the couple would then spend the next month or two of Sunday’s visiting church after church attempting to find out what they can about each one in a short 2 hour timespan until they found a church they felt “comfortable” with…when in fact they really didn’t know much about the place at all. Fast forward to 2015…Joe and Peggy are relocating in couple of weeks and are looking for a new church. They immediately hit up Google or Bing and search up “churches in XZY city.” Joe and Peggy then search through webpage after webpage of churches see what each one offers them, their children, the community, the worship style, and listen to the latest sermons if available. They then hit upFacebook to look at the same churches to find reviews to see if the value they see on the website is being shown through to visitors and members that attend each week!
That’s the difference we’re seeing today my friends, but sadly too many churches have failed to adapt and are still living in 1993 wondering where the young people have gone. However, I’m glad Peace Haven understands this new concept and we have accepted this challenge…THE FUTURE IS NOW! I will explain with the figures below!
Peace Haven on Facebook:
We currently stand at 403 “likes” on our church Facebook page, with 44 new likes this current week alone! Over the past two weeks our Facebook page has reached over 9,901 individuals! Think about that! Almost 10 THOUSAND! That’s a lot of eyeballs looking at what Peace Haven is up to in your life and our community!Something that would have been unheard of in 1993! We also have over 192 people engaged on our page per week, meaning they’re clicking, liking, and commenting on our content! That is more than any Baptist church in Wilkes County and it’s all a part of PHBC BREAKING THE MOLD as a church!
Since the launch of the new Peace Haven website (FindPeace.today) on February 22, we have seen close to 1,800 unique visitors to our site and a total of 11,408 page views in total! Last week we saw 204 unique visitors and 850 over the course of a month. That is awesome for a site that was only launched less than 2 months ago! The top pages visited on our site were: our Homepage (of course), Sermons, Walk with Jesus Event, Photo Gallery, and About Us. The top referrers to our page are Google, Bing, Facebook, and peacehaven.org (our old domain.) Our page over the course of a month was seen on Google by over 1,300 individuals and clicked on 46 times.
Note: Peace Haven also runs ads on GoWilkes.com and BuyWilkes.com.
Now, you might be asking what all of that means or you may not understand all of that technical jargon. However, what I did was give you a real life example of my Joe & Peggy story above from the year 2015. Whether it’s relocation or a local couple looking for a new adventure with a new church we need to be ready to embrace the future that is now!
Are you ready to #Buckleup for the future?!
Last Sunday marked the beginning of our new series "Put Me in Coach..." at Peace Haven! As I shared about this series, I made sure that people knew that this is not intended to be "The Gospel According to John Fogerty." Rather, when I get to this time of year with the flowers blooming, the grass growing, and the return of the baseball season, this song always echoes deep within my soul. Am I an avid baseball fan who memorizes every stat and rarely misses a game? No, not in the slightest, but I enjoy the opportunity to go to games and cheer on my favorite teams whether they are high school, college, minor league, or major league players.
So why use a theme like that in church? After our last series that looked at how we could "Live Like We're Dying," the urgency of seeing the mobilization of God's people has burned in my heart. My family and I had a great opportunity after an amazing Easter weekend to spend a few days visiting extended family in Tennessee. During this visit, I enjoyed time with loved ones, but I also tried to get out and exercise when feasible. One of my "gyms" of choice was a cemetery that was close to my in-laws' house in Clarksville.
Walking among the deceased provided many opportunities for reflection.
Tombstones- While there were some that were very ornate and others that were almost non-existent, their condition and reality are all the same. The appearance of their graves did not make a difference, but rather the impact made on the lives of those they knew while living determine their legacy.
Quiet- Life is filled with noise as people find their lives characterized by human hustle and bustle. One day, that noise will cease and our opportunities to make noise, in praise and faith, will only be heard in Heaven.
Life is brief- While the amount of years varied with each marker, the reality of how quickly those years pass becomes increasingly more evident as we witness our children grow up and eventually our grandchildren.
All of these observations, no matter how morbid they may seem, inspire me toward this new series as a renewed emphasis on the fact that we all become worm food eventually. What are we doing today to "seize the day" and make an eternal impact? "Put Me in Coach" is a challenge to all of us to not ride the pine or be in the stands, but to actively seek where and how God wants to work in and through our lives for His greater glory.
I've said it before and I will say it again, when we passionately resolve to pursue God's will and glory in our lives, we better...BUCKLE UP!