Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
- Alfred, Lord Tennyson, 1850
ey bloggers...I hope that all of you had a beautiful and blessed Christmas, and that you’re anticipating and expecting great things for yourselves in the new year. In spite of a lot of things that are going on in my personal life and in the ministry right now, my household actually enjoyed a very peaceful and prosperous holiday, for which I am quite grateful. God is good. And now, hard as it is to believe, 2010 is soon to arrive, and with it comes new possibilities and new challenges for us all. I’ll talk about all of that in a minute, but first I want to give you who are interested and/or concerned a little update on what’s going on at Church In The Now.
s many of you know, a couple of weeks ago I shared with the CITN congregation some very serious and sobering news about our current financial situation, particularly as it relates to the security of our property. I also referred to it here on the blog, and immediately received an outpouring of response to what little I did say. I was surprised, truthfully, at the number of people who either called or e-mailed or texted me about it who aren't a part of CITN...people with whom I rarely speak...people who are not really a part of my current, every day life. I had no idea that so many of them visit here silently and in secret...in fact, I was glad to find out that the blog still garners such interest, especially because the number of daily comments has tapered off, considerably.
utting it in perspective, however, I really think that the decline of participation in the blog is probably due to two things...one is the fact that for the last year I've used it mainly as a vehicle to write The Gospels In The Now, through which it became much less topical and interactive...and the other is the immediacy and accessibility of Facebook, where many of you seem to prefer to communicate with me. Anyway, it's all good...whatever works for you is fine with me...I'm just glad to know that I have friends and supporters who are still out there, and BLOGINTHENOW remains important to me. Of course, I realize that I created too many other blogs this past year to keep up with...it's hard to explain how my brain works with my gift...in a word, I don't like to create things, I have to create things...for me it's like breathing (I say that to keep from saying that it's a compulsion). But even though there are too many of them now, I don't want to delete any of them because I put a lot of work into them, and they each contain a lot of good stuff.
erhaps I should get back to the main topic now (I only have so many letters to use in this acrostic). The bottom line is that we have had a persistent problem of lack of participation in giving at CITN that began the very first Sunday we were in the new building 4 1/2 years ago...a problem that has finally caught up with us. That first Sunday the finances dropped dramatically, and we've been trying to recover ever since. I think that, psychologically, the people felt like we had raised the money for the building, and now that we were in it they could relax in their responsibility to keep it solvent (and they did).
ou add to that the country's current economic situation and widespread unemployment problem (which has affected every church), along with the fact that at CITN we don't threaten people with missing the rapture or going to hell or being under a curse if they don't give, and you have a recipe for an operation with all outgo with very little income. The other major financial factor has been the free streaming over the internet of every service that we have offered for years. I don't know how free streaming has affected other churches (it's a wonderful service to provide for people who can't get to church because of sickness or who are living out of town), but in our case it has created a situation in which hundreds of our local people stay home and watch, rather than actually come to church, and, for the most part, when they don't attend, they don't give. I really regret that so many of you out-of-state streamers (cyber-CITN) seemed to get the short end of the stick on our doing away with it (at least for now)...I know that the streaming was your church and you miss it (and you've let me know!)...but when you have as many or more of your congregation sitting at home in front of their computers on Sunday than are actually ITB (in the building), and not supporting financially, then, Houston, we have a problem. Fortunately, those of you who live out of state can still get the services on mp3 and on CD and DVD.
ow, I'm fully aware that the Scriptures say that we shouldn't give "grudgingly, or of necessity": Let each one [give] as he has made up his own mind and purposed in his heart, not reluctantly or sorrowfully or under compulsion, for God loves (He takes pleasure in, prizes above other things, and is unwilling to abandon or to do without) a cheerful (joyous, "prompt to do it") giver [whose heart is in his giving].(2 Corinthians 9:7 - Amplified Bible) And for that reason, I'm very reluctant to talk about these things, which is why I rarely do. People should give because of their love for God, and their covenant with Him, not just to pay the bills. But when the bank starts throwing around words like "foreclosure", I have no choice but to talk about it. I also know that the church isn't a physical building...it's a spiritual house built with living stones...and I never lose my focus on that fact. But I do think that there is something very special about what we've built here...something worth fighting for and keeping...a "Metron"...a geographical location that houses our message, and makes a statement of permanence to our community and to the world.
very year I like to come up with one of those rhyming themes like "We want more in 2004", or "Come alive in 2005". For this coming year I keep hearing in my spirit "Begin again in 2010", and that could mean any number of things for me and for CITN. I've considered many options and possibilities, should the worst happen, but I don't think that beginning again in another location is best-case for me or us, especially after all we've done to develop these 43 acres on I-20. I know that my gift will always make room for me somewhere, but I would like to think that "begin again" means "begin a new, more responsible, more mature Church In The Now right here at 1877 Iris Drive in Conyers is in 2010! This is especially true because it's so doable...if everyone would just simply do their part, we'd have absolutely no problem. Period.
hatever 2010 holds, I am confident that the Lord will perfect that which concerns us all. I am of the school of thought which was held by Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who said, "We believe the Lord will deliver us from the fire of this furnace, but even if He doesn't, we will not bow to Nebuchadnezzar!" In saying that, they revealed the concept of believing for the best, while being prepared for the worst, which basically caused them to be invincible. No doubt, I have learned from experience that in every chaotic situation, once the smoke clears and the dust settles, I always find myself standing...and I don't expect this current situation to be any different. I'm not afraid of the future. But I'd be lying if I said that it wouldn't break my heart to lose everything we've worked for, because it certainly would.
ou must know that it's very hard for me to make myself vulnerable like this on the world wide web. I prefer to always keep up a solid front, and only exalt the good stuff. But our current situation is serious enough that I am forced into discussing it in public. That's the reason that I opened with the Tennyson quote..."Ring out the false, ring in the true"...it's time to tell the truth...and the truth is that CITN needs a paradigm shift...to move from just loving the ministry to supporting and taking ownership of the ministry (Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also...and where your heart is, there will be your treasure also)....
nvision a world...your world...without Church In The Now in its present incarnation. Imagine no Sunday services on our campus...no Wednesday night Bible Study...no CITN Cafe'...no Project 404...no Kids In The Now...no Kidzzone Learning Center. Think about what it would be like to drive down I-20 and see our beautiful campus vacant and overgrown, or perhaps see the buildings converted into something other than a church. If you are a part of CITN and aren't supporting what we now have, you could very well see that sight soon and be able to say "I helped do that...I helped make that happen by not helping". I know I'm being a little heavy-handed with the imagery, but we just have a little of window of time to turn this thing around, and I have to use every opportunity to make the point.
nyway...enough about that for now. It's a new year, and I do want to speak a blessing over you all concerning it. I pray that in 2010 you find within yourselves inexhaustible reserves of potential that you have never even come close to realizing before. God says, "I know the plans I have for you"...and those plans are all good...and I say that they unlock all that potential for you. You have far more intelligence than you have ever used, and in the new year, I believe that you will tap into a whole new level of that intelligence. I say in faith that some of the greatest achievements of your lives lie ahead of you in 2010, and that some of the happiest moments of your lives are coming to you in the next 12 months, along with some of the greatest successes you will ever attain. You are blessed when you go out (of 2009), and blessed when you come in (to 2010).
each forward to what lies ahead, while you forget those things which are behind. Let me leave you with this:
“In other words, it’s just pointless to worry and be anxious, saying, ‘What are we going to have to eat?’ or ‘What are we going to have to drink?’ or ‘What are we going to have to wear?’ For the nations are obsessed with these kinds of things, yet the fact remains that your heavenly Father already knows full well that you need them all. But seek out and search for a revelation of the kingdom of God in and through every circumstance, and in every situation. And seek it first (or first thing)...before you strive with the circumstance... before you start to worry about the situation…before you fret over it…before you allow yourself to become overwhelmed by it or let it become exaggerated in your mind. And along with your primary search, look diligently for His righteousness, (or His rightness) to be revealed somewhere in the thing, as well. When you prioritize the kingdom in this way, then you can be sure that everything in your personal world will come into order, and that all you need for your daily provision will just automatically flow into your life and will be added to you as a result of your quest. So don’t worry or be anxious about what may or may not happen tomorrow. Live in the now, because the kingdom is always revealed in the now. Deal with tomorrow and what it may bring when it gets here, knowing that tomorrow will have worries and anxieties of its own. As you live each day as it comes, God will enable you to successfully handle each day’s trouble, whatever it may be.HAPPY NEW YEAR!
(Matthew 6:31-34 - Matthew In The Now)