Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Church

This last Sunday I went to church at Nags Head Church, which is the church we go to when we are on vacation at the beach. Over the last several years I have gotten to know a few of the people there a bit, including the pastor's son, Nathan. I just added his blog as a link to visit from my site because his story is one of absolute trials and faith. I'm not worthy of telling his story for him, so please just read his blog to find out what he and his wife and daughter have been through and the story they have to tell - it will melt your heart, strengthen your faith, and rock your world. I don't know him all that well, but Nathan is a friend of mine and he has taught me a lot about church. There are many things that Nags Head Church has: a cool building shaped like a wave, a phenomenal worship band, a Spirit-led and God-honoring pastor who is an exceptional leader and preacher, and a group of wonderful people as the body there. I absolutely love attending there, it blesses my heart so much that it hurts me inside to leave after only one worship service a year. And that's the way it should be.

For all the things that that church has or doesn't have, there is one thing that they are that can be summed up in one word: genuine. They are genuine Christians and it shows in everything they do. The worship wraps around you and you fall into it because it is so genuine and Spirit-led. The words of the pastor, whether they are stern, joking, instructional, or story-telling, they are all genuine, spoken to the people, straight from God.

Is my church genuine? Am I? These things are a lot more difficult to see in the mirror than they are in someone else. It made me take a good hard look at myself and ask, when people are around me, do they see a genuine Christian, or do they see someone who talks the right way and knows some things but doesn't seem quite like the real thing. What is the experience like at my church? It is different. Maybe it's different for me and not for others, but I think regardless, it may not be quite as genuine. As a member of my church, I include myself in the Church I talk of.

If we're not where we need to be, why? What needs to happen in a church in order to get the body functioning as genuine Christians all of the time? If there was an easy answer to that, all churches would be healthy and wonderful because we would know how to do it. As an up and coming Christian leader, I struggle with this immensely - what should the Church look like (what should it be), and how do I get people from outside of that framework into it?

In his book The Knowledge of the Holy, A.W. Tozer says, "We Christians are the Church, so whatever we are doing is what the Church is doing." Well, that's a good answer, but it's a scary one too. That puts the responsibility on the people in the church, not just the pastor. The whole can not be greater than the sum of its parts. What each church actually is - is the sum of each member of that church and what they are currently doing. If the church is made up of a bunch of genuine Christians with servant's hearts who are surrendered to God's will - you will have a church that is the very same. If your church has a decent leader, but the people generally are just Sunday morning attenders and they're not in God's will and are not surrendered and genuine in their daily lives, then the very same things will be true of your church. Again, this clearly shows that the personality, if you will, of a church does not stem from the pastor, but from all of the people in that church. What am I doing as a Christian? Do I understand the parallel consequences of what I am doing to the type of church I am a part of? The kind of Christian you are is a direct influence upon the church you regularly attend. And every person there has the same level of accountability and responsibility in this regard.

As I continue to reflect on my time at Nags Head Church, it creates a clear picture in my mind of the type of Christians who make up that church - because it comes through not only in the worship, or the message, but the entire experience - from the time you park to the time you leave the property. Now, if I don't think my church experience is the same (as good), then who's partly to blame for that? ME. If I want my church to be a certain way or do a certain thing, I need to be that way and do that thing first. What we do and who are are is what the Church is doing and what the Church is. Think about that, and ask yourself what kind of church you want, and what you're going to do about it in your own life.

Some final thoughts from the message brought to us last Sunday. "We must change so others can be changed by knowing us." "Let it be said of us that we lived our lives as a blessing to others." "In what significant ways is my life being changed by the Word of God?" "I've been changed to bring change."

Let these words be the words we live by as Christians. I will challenge myself with these phrases in order to ensure that I am a vital part of whatever church body I attend. I pray you would challenge yourself with these too.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Nowadays, things are different. On June 26, Ross Vernon Keegan came into our world and everything has been different. I see the world differently, my priorities have changed, and I am growing in new ways every day. Being a father is one of the most challenging and rewarding things in life. With a demanding full-time job, and earning a Master's degree on the side, it is very difficult to balance everything. So far so good though. The one thing getting me through is the absolutely remarkable wife God blessed me with - Sarah. She is so amazing with Ross. She is so patient, nurturing, and wonderful. No one can calm him like she can, and he smiles for her more than anyone else too. I get frazzled from time to time, but she is my strength and my rock in those times. I can't imagine raising a child with a better person.

I am about halfway through seminary. Through my academic and personal reading and studies, there have been so many new things that I have begun to think about. What exactly is the Emergent Church Movement? Are these guys on the right track or steering off course? Tozer's book "The Knowledge of the Holy" reminds me that I can't ever define God - so how do I know Him? We have discussed that in our Bible study recently. The more I read the Bible, the more questions I have, but we don't reach God through reason but by faith. How do I let go of those questions in the right way in order to actually strengthen my faith, instead of fill myself with doubt? I have been challenged in the ways of church government in some of my recent activities in the church. I am frustrated with antiquated language and ideas. I could go on and on.

I have been doing well with reading through the entire Bible in a year, except the month of August was pretty much disregarded. The more I got behind, the more daunting it seemed to try to catch up. I am on vacation next week and plan to do all my catch up reading then and be back on track for September. It has been one of the biggest blessings in my life though to have such regular contact with God's word. The interaction between what I am reading daily and the books I am also reading, as well as what I study in school is so interesting and enriching on both ends.

I am close to finishing up Tozer's book, and I have Peterson and Lewis books on deck next, as well as a couple by some new guys that look interesting. I think if I was able to, I would read for 2-3 hours a day. Man, am I dreaming though! Oh well, little strokes fell great oaks.

A young woman in my Bible study just left to do a year long mission trip to India. You can check her out at Pray for her whenever you get a chance. Her name is Kim.

I think that's about it for now. I am going to a Christian leadership conference in October called Catalyst. The host is Andy Stanley, senior pastor at NorthPoint Community Church in Atlanta. He is one of my really big guys right now. I listen to his sermons a lot. I think the conference is going to be a huge boost for me spiritually, and possibly in the area of future plans. As always, feel free to comment anytime, just to say hi, or ask questions, or discuss whatever.