A couple of months ago I was about to board a flight headed for Quito, Ecuador and all of the sudden I had this rush of anxiety come over me. For those who’ve travelled out of the country before, you might completely relate with what I’m talking about here. I was about to depart from my comfort zone to a place that’s unusual and foreign to me.
As I was waiting in line to board the flight in this sterile, small and cramped hallway, a US Customs officer began walking his dog down the line to sniff at everyone’s bag… I’m guessing in search of drugs? Not exactly sure. As he got closer to me, I began to get uncomfortable and fearful… not that I was hiding anything, but because I knew they were searching for something wrong. I even double checked to make sure I had my luggage and not someone else’s! The dog finally made it to my bag, sniffed around, and kept on moving down the line. I was relieved, and I have no idea why! There was NOTHING to be afraid of!
After we arrived in Ecuador, I noticed the airport was completely different than one you’d find in the states… In fact, we didn’t step off of the plane in to a jetway; we had to step down a set of stairs on to the tarmac and then made our way into the terminal on a painted walkway… and the smell in the air… it was like emissions gone wrong!
After we got our bags and went through customs, we walked out of the terminal into a small holding tank of vendors eagerly waiting to offer taxi rides, lodging, and souvenirs.
We started making our way to the hotel and the guide asked if anyone wanted to stop to grab a bite to eat. I was a little nervous to say “yes”… I was extremely hungry, but since I was feeling outside my comfort zone, I just wanted to get to the hotel. Someone spoke up and asked “what’s open?” The guide responded with “Burger King.” It only took those two words to change my mind… finally something familiar in a foreign place! The rest of the trip ended up being really awesome (and I’ll talk about that some other time), but that’s not why I’m writing this blog.
Today I started thinking about all of those feelings I had traveling outside my comfort zone and how much this might relate to someone walking into a church for the first time… the feeling of anxiety, paranoia, and completely uncomfortable… like “everyone’s looking at me” or “I don’t belong here”.
Even though I grew up in church and it feels like home, it’s a good reminder to realize someone might be walking through our doors today for their first time. It may have even taken a lot for them to pull in the parking lot, and now they’re walking in a place that’s unusual and foreign.
For those of us who feel like church is “home”, we’ve got look for opportunities to bring familiarity to an unfamiliar place. The last thing we want to create is a sterile environment where people feel like they’re waiting in line to get a spiritual checkup from the church’s customs officer who’s investigating everyone’s baggage. In fact, that will more than likely turn people away and they probably won’t be coming back!
I hope and pray the church would be known for creating environments where people who are unchurched feel accepted and belong!
About two months ago we were invited by God Behind Bars to join together in a night of worship at Florence McClure Women’s Correctional Center. I really wish I could write down in words what the experience was like, but this blog won’t nearly be enough.
As we were getting set up to play, one of the prisoners who was assisting in the setup of the room came up and asked “Excuse me. Can I request a song?” I turned around and said “Of course! Which song?” She replied “I’d love to hear you guys play OUR GOD. That’s one of my favorite songs.” It wasn’t a song that was currently in our set list for the night, but I responded “You got it!”
Row by row these women began to pack inside of the prison’s gymnasium, about 400 people in total. There wasn’t an empty seat in the room. We could really sense an excitement for what was about to happen… but we really had no clue.
Around 7:00 that night, we got up on stage to begin the worship set. I’m not even barely joking when I say that these women sang louder than our sound system in that gym. The band couldn’t even compete for volume even if we tried! We were in a 50′ x 30′ cinderblock gym. We didn’t have a decibel meter with us, but I bet it was somewhere around 120 – 125 decibels in that room. That’s like sticking your head inside of a guitar amp (maybe even louder). It was SO LOUD!!
Just before our pastor Jud Wilhite got up on stage to share his message, we played the song “Our God” by Chris Tomlin. I won’t ever forget these women singing “And if our God is for us, then who could ever stop us?” I broke into tears right at that moment. That room was shaking with belief in a God of second chances who loves each of us unconditionally and will always be FOR US, no matter what we’ve done. It made my faith seem so small.
It didn’t take a production to help get these women to worship… no special lights, guitar amps, projectors… there wasn’t even a screen with lyrics on it! We went in there assuming we were going to be leading worship, but I really believe they led us in worship!
I am so thankful for the women of the Florence McClure Women’s Correctional Center and ministries like God Behind Bars that are bringing church into prisons… That will always be an unforgettable experience in my life!
For my first blog post on here, I figured I’d post something cool! And unlike the weird topics that Drew writes about (bowls of stew and cupcakes), it’s actually a pretty cool video of a guy getting shot out of a cannon at Catalyst 2010. Check it out!
So now you’re probably going to think I’m crazy… first I posted a blog about a “bowl of stew”, and now I’m talking about “cupcakes”… No, I’m not crazy. No, I’m not obsessed with food. It just so happens that we listened to two messages where food was the metaphor to the subject.
This illustration actually comes from Seth Godin, an amazing author and communicator. In fact, this is also in his book “graceful.” It’s a short, but really great read…
He said let’s assume you get into cupcake making… The first time you make them, you’ll probably go to the store, buy a box that already has a mix, and you’ll follow the instructions. After you’re done making the cupcakes, they actually taste pretty good.
The second time you make cupcakes, you follow the same instructions, but this time they taste really great. You perfected the recipe on the box.
The third time you make cupcakes, you decide that you’re no longer going to just be a “cook”; now you want to be a “chef”… You decide that you’re not going to use the recipe on the box, but you’re going to give the recipe a twist… explore… try something different.
When the third round of cupcakes is complete, they turn out horrible. Do you stop there? NO WAY! Why? Because cupcake failure is NOT FATAL!
You keep trying and trying again until you find the perfect recipe, one that’s your own… it’s beyond good, beyond great… it’s excellent!
He used this metaphor to encourage people to be chefs, not cooks… take risks and don’t always be afraid of failure. Just because you mess up does not always mean fatality. There are too many cooks in this world, and not enough chefs. Yes, failure can cause tension, but the tension is good. It’s how we discover new ideas.
**DISCLAIMER** Do your research too… learn from those who already took a risk and failed. It will save you a lot of time and headaches. Ignoring wisdom from others is pride. AND It’s not about proving someone wrong either, it’s about listening to what God is telling you to do and doing THAT.
We’re on our way to #cat10 (Catalyst Conference 2010) in Atlanta, GA. We’re currently uploading this blog post at 37,000 ft over the state of New Mexico… we’re a spoiled generation with our technology options!
We’re honored that we were invited to lead a worship experience for the People of the Second Chance Evening at Catalyst. Please keep all of the leaders attending the conference in your prayers this week.
Also, in a couple of days we’re giving away a brand new mp3 version of “Everything Is Yours”. You’ll be able to download it right from our website. Check back Wednesday night.
We’re excited to announce that we’ve been invited by People of the Second Chance to be a part of the Evening at Catalyst in Atlanta, GA on October 6th at 7:30pm in the Gwinett Center Performing Arts Center. If you plan on attending the Catalyst Conference, be sure to join POTSC as Mike Foster & Jud Wilhite share an incredible teaching on radical grace in life and leadership! You can find more information here.
One of the awesome things about our band is the diverse musical influences all of us have. We all like a lot of the same bands, but odds are if you took a peek at what each of our iPods were currently playing at any given time, you’d probably be surprised at our differences in musical taste! This is a total blessing for us because it allows us all to bring something different to the table, and we get inspired by bouncing new ideas back and forth off of each other. One thing the whole band does share, though, is that we all hear God in everything we listen to and find Him in places where some people forget to look.
Being the DJ in the band, I listen to ALOT of electronic music on a daily basis. It comes with me to the mailbox, in the car, to the grocery store, to the kitchen where I tackle mountains of dirty dishes, it follows me to the bathroom…I mean everywhere! I’m always listening to other DJ’s mixes and radio broadcasts, doing what my wife calls Musical Homework. Well, the other day at the gym a song came on my iPod that another DJ had in one of his mixes, and it stopped me dead in my tracks. To me, the words flowing over the beats of this song was a testimony of someone’s first memorable encounter with God. The lyrics describe a person coming into contact with someone and feeling something that they’d never felt before and weren’t sure what was going on, but they felt like something new was happening. This resonated with me in a big way because that is how I felt when I came to know Christ so many years ago. Here’s a link to the video for the song. Make sure you listen to all the lyrics.
The song is called “Perferct Stranger,” which is exactly what He was when He came into my life. I don’t think that this song was technically intended to be a worship song, but it most definitely is to me. I know there are many folks who might not listen to this and think “Christian Music,” but having your eyes opened to be able to see and hear Him in ALL things is just one of the many gifts you receive upon coming into a relationship with Christ. He is everywhere and speaks in everything, and I’m so thankful to be able to hear Him.