Archive for October, 2007



What if we asked God to meet our needs and He gave us too much? What if we asked for water in our cup and He caused it to overflow? What should we do? We are starting a new series this Sunday,and these are the questions we will be answering during the “Overflow” series at Athens Church. I’m excited about this series. I think it is going to be really good for our church. Take a look at the promo video.

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Cheap Airfare


I’m always on the look out for good deals, and I came across one the other day that I was not aware of.  Allegiant Air was not an airline that I had heard of.  It’s apparently pretty small, but they fly out of Greenville, SC.  Living in Athens, GA, flying out of Greenville is actually quicker than flying out of Atlanta.  It takes about the same time to drive there, and Greenville is a much easier airport to use.  Greenville to Orlando, FL is a route that I am interested in for obvious reasons, and they have flights for $39 each way.  Flights are pretty limited, but if you timed a trip to Orlando right, you could save a lot of money in airfare.  They also offer travel packages, but that must be where they are making their money because they aren’t nearly as good a deal.  Make sure to choose “flight only” when you do a search.  There are other cities they fly to as well.

One word of caution, they fly into a smaller airport in Orlando, so you can’t use Disney’s Magical Express service (free transportation to and from the airport).  If you have a large family, though, it would still be cheaper to fly using Allegiant and getting a shuttle to your hotel.  If you plan to rent a car anyway, then there is no problem.

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Training for a race


Hal Higdon is amazing, and his web site (though not well designed) is very helpful. It has training plans for all different distances and levels. I’m using his “novice” half marathon training plan right now, and it is going great. If you are looking for some guidance on how to train for a race you are interested in, this is a great resource.

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A new way to sell music


Mashable.com reported that Radio Head earned 1.2 million dollars in their first week of sales for their new album “In Rainbows.”  The interesting thing is that they did not charge a set fee for e price of the album.  People are able to download it for the price they think it is worth.  They got an average of $8 for each album purchase, and did not have to give a recording label a penny of it.  They sold directly  to their fans and made roughly $10 million.

Who knows what this will do to the music business, but one thing is for sure- times are changing.  I love the fact that they are acknowledging the reality of what’s going on in their business (illegal downloads) and rather than complain about it, are doing something new to work around it.

I think we can learn from this in our ministry practices.  Rather than complain that people “aren’t committed enough” or “don’t love God enough”, we can change our systems to help them do what’s right.   Andy Stanley did a great talk about systems at the last Drive Conference.  I would highly recommend it.  You can buy that talk here.

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Our Photos


A lot of people have asked where we got our family pictures done.  We used a photographer from Atlanta named Alea Moore.  She just followed us around Memorial Park here in Athens and took hundreds of pictures of us posing and just playing with the kids.  It was fun, and we ended up getting some great shots.  Her prices are very reasonable, and we got a CD with all the pictures that we could print how ever we wanted.  I would highly recommend her.

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This post is for all Athens Church Community Group Leaders who follow this blog. If you send me an email saying you saw this post, I will give you two of North Point’s DVD small group curriculum sets for free. You will be the hero of your small group! The two series are…

Fool Proof (now called “The Best Question Ever”)- retail price $25

Defining Moments– retail price $30

That will teach people to read my blog 🙂

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Culture of Grace


This fall, we launched a new program for college students.  It is called the Leadership Development Program (LDP).  We hired six students to work as part time staff for the entire school year.  While they lead different areas of ministry at Athens Church, we try to develop them as leaders.  Part of this is done “on the job” as we oversee them and help them lead their areas, and part of it is done through more formal training times.  Each of the full time staff members has been assigned a couple of Monday afternoons where we are leading them through some content that will hopefully help them be better leaders.

Today is my day to lead them, and I am going to be talking to them about a “culture of grace.”  I am a big believer that churches in the past several decades (and maybe even throughout the majority of Christian history) have not been places characterized by grace.  More often, we are characterized as judgmental, narrow-minded people who are not very understanding of people who don’t measure up to what we consider acceptable Christian living.  However, when I read the New Testament, and specifically when I read about the life of Christ, I see a man who consistently worked to create a culture of grace among his followers.

One of the most poignant examples if this is found in John 8.  The Pharisees bring to Jesus a woman who was caught in the very act of having sex with someone who was not her husband.  Clearly the woman was wrong and by Jewish Law deserved to be stoned.  As I’m sure you know, Jesus responded in a very different way and the woman was a recipient of Jesus’ culture of grace.  I’m going to be talking to our LDP staff today about four things we can learn from this story about creating a culture of grace.

1. A culture of grace is often misunderstood.  I can guarantee that Jesus took some flack for how he dealt with this woman’s sin.  If not for this specific event, he was maligned regularly for being a “friend of tax collectors and sinners” and for being a “drunkard.”  But Jesus didn’t care about what the religious community or anyone thought about how he was dealing with sinners.  Jesus knew he would be misunderstood for the places he went and for the people he had relationships with.  When you create a culture of grace, people will always misinterpret what you are doing, but you can’t let that stop you.  People need grace.

2. A culture of grace always accepts.  In this passage and throughout his life, Jesus always accepted the unacceptable.   The people who were most ostracized from society and the religious community were the ones who felt the most comfortable around Jesus.  You didn’t have to fit into a specific mold to be accepted by Jesus.  You could come like you were.  We have to work hard at this one.  “Unacceptable” people are hard to accept.  But, they need grace.

3. A culture of grace always forgives.  “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone” may be one of Jesus’ best known statements.  It characterizes what Jesus defaulted to- forgiveness.  When there is a choice between forgiveness and judgment, Jesus always chose forgiveness.  We must be a people who extend forgiveness to people no matter where they have been or what they have done.  They must be welcomed into Christian community with open arms.

4. A culture of grace always offers a better way.  A culture that only accepts and forgives is not a culture of grace at all.  It is not gracious to allow people to continue in the pattern of sin that is ruining their life.  We need to model the way of Jesus and tell people “neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.”  In other words, you are accepted and forgiven of your past, but I can show you the way to happiness and fulfillment for the future- a way of true freedom.

May our churches be characterized as displaying a culture of grace.

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Bill Willits’ does a great job explaining the North Point model of Community Groups in his book “Creating Community.” One of the hardest things to implement in the model is multiplication- making groups split up after an agreed upon period of time (in the range of 12-24 months) and form 2 or 3 new groups.

In short, the reason for multiplication is that we have a closed group system. If you have an open group system (meaning people can be added at any time), multiplication is not necessary. People come and go all the time, and the group stays fresh. We have chosen to prioritize intimacy in our groups, so we close them. Multiplication is our answer to closed groups becoming stagnant and inner focussed. The best quote from Bill’s book on this is,

“Every group eventually comes to an end. Our perspective is that a group can plan to end and have something to show for it, or they can let their group die a long, slow death.”

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By Chuck Swindoll

It’s and old book, but it’s one of my favorite books of all time. If you’ve never read it, I would highly recommend getting it. It helped me make an incredible shift in my thinking about what it means to be Christian. This is my favorite quote from it…

“If you claim to be a messenger of grace, if you think you are really preaching grace, yet no one is taking advantage of it, maybe you haven’t preached it hard enough or strong enough.”

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A couple of weeks ago, I attended the Willow Creek Groups Conference. I’ve been processing a lot of what I heard, and I’ll share more about it in weeks to come. In one of the sessions, Bill Donahue interviewed Bobby Gruenewald from LifeChurch.tv. Life Church is known for being front runners in using technology to reach people. I had heard about their two newest initiatives, but it was good to hear Bobby explain it.

The first thing they have done is create an internet campus. This is an online version of their other campuses that have physical locations. They stream worship and messages live on the weekends, give people on opportunity to join a small group (either online or in person), talk with other internet campus attenders through a forum and even give online. They have people from all over the world who attend services online each weekend.

The second thing they have done is to start a church in second life. Second Life is an internet based virtual world that people live a “second life” in. You can learn more about it on Wikipedia here. You can see a video clip from one of their services here. They have bought property in this virtual world and have built a church that people can attend.

It was great to see what they are trying to do to reach people in a way that no one has really tried yet. Of course, it’s easy to be critical about the problems that come with doing something like this, but I’m grateful that they are courageous enough to blaze the trail for us. Who knows what this will lead to in the future. Culture is changing, and we can either adjust to it or become irrelevant. I’m not sure what the right way to reach the internet generation is, but I’m glad people are starting to work on it. My prayer is that we will be creative and innovative enough to stay ahead of culture and reach people where they are.

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