7 Things that have changed since I became pastor of Brentwood Baptist in 1991.
1. We moved! From 409 Franklin Road to our new facilities on 7777 Concord Road.
2. My first computer had a green screen and used a DOS operating sytem.
3. We have 6 weekly worship venues every week (4 worship experiences on Sunday at the Brentwood campus, one at Station Hill campus and Kairos on Tuesday night).
4. Our membership has gone from 900 in 1991 to over 7,500 in 2010.
5. We have 500+ people who join our services by internet every week.
6. Social media is a big part of my job now. I’ve learned to Twitter.
7. My twin sons Chris and Craig have graduated college, married and started their own lives.
But the Word of God has not changed.
What’s changed in your life?
I have grown too old and too frustrated to go through the annual illusion of making resolutions for the New Year. If I had a dollar for every resolution I’ve made I would be a rich man indeed. If, however, I had a dollar for every resolution I had kept over my life time, I would be as broke. . .well, as broke as I am now. Funny thing is, any one who is familiar with Roberts Rules of Order and parliamentarian procedure can tell you resolutions have no binding effect on an organization. A body can pass a resolution to express how the organization is feeling at any given moment, but the adoption of a resolution requires NO ACTION by the members. And that’s the key, isn’t it? New Year’s resolutions, like any other resolutions, require no action. Without action, nothing happens and that’s why most resolutions fail. This year, I have only one goal – to be more like Christ. That’s it. I simply want to be more like Him this year and less like the guy I was in 2009. Now, with most things that have to do with following Jesus, this sounds easier than it is. First, there is a lot of me that is not like Christ. I will have to do quite a bit of soul work to begin to become more like Christ. . .wait. . .I have tried this before. This is the old “fixin’ to get ready” game of pseudo discipleship. A lot of people I know. . .me included. . .spend all of their time dealing with the negative aspects of their lives and never deal with the positives of Christ. We say to Christ, “Let us deal with this anger, grief, failure, sin (fill in your own blank), and then we will focus on you.” And we know what happens, don’t we? We never get finished with the negatives in our lives. We never get to Jesus. And we grow bitter and frustrated to the point that most of us give up. But what if we start with Jesus and not ourselves? What if we study His life, His words and we say, “this is the way I want to be” and thus, we invite Christ more and more into our lives. As our lives become filled more and more with His light, the darkness within our own lives is chased away. As we learn His ways, we forget the old ways of despair. It’s not a matter of saying “no” to all of the junk in our lives, but a simple process of continually saying “yes” to Jesus everyday. So, for 2010, this is my only desire. . .to become more like Christ. I am not wasting time trying to straighten out my life. I am not wasting time trying to get rid of the garbage of past mistakes. I want to be like Jesus. I want to be with Jesus. I am saying “yes” to Jesus in 2010. The “no’s” will take care of themselves.
Whenever people ask me what I am reading, my first reaction is a long pause. Yes, I do read a lot, but more and more, I am rereading a lot. I am reading again great classics of the Christian faith. I am reading Reinhold Niebuhr. I am reading Richard Niebuhr, A.W. Tozer and of course, there is always C.S. Lewis.
I am finding again the great depth of theology and biblical thinking that is hiding in these great texts. The reading isn’t easy. The words and phrasing is a little dated and sometimes frustrating, but still with all of that, the richness of the truth discovered is worth the slow pace through the book. I have grown tired of books that seem to have been written during lunch, books that tie Jesus to the latest fad of the culture (would Jesus wear jeans?), or books telling me about a new program to reach a different target group. These books seem to come out every hour. I understand the need to adapt the presentation of the gospel to the sub-culture that you might be addressing, but we have so bought into the marketing approach to church (18-35 year olds do it this way, 15-18 years olds do it another way) that we forget the commonness of our humanity. For all of our superficial differences, we are amazingly similar underneath it all. We are all broken and lonely and Jesus answers it all. I don’t mean to sound simplistic, but the genius of the gospel is its simplicity. We have made it way too complicated.
So I am simplifying my reading…and by the way, most of my reading is Scripture. The more time I spend with the Bible the more fascinating the Book becomes. I have been studying the Bible long enough now to begin to see the subtle textures of the writing and the brilliance of the way these writers were used by God to bring His truth to us. I have grown to love reading entire narratives in one sitting (David’s life story, the story of Joseph or Daniel) or entire books at one time. This is the most important reading I do. So, I guess I would suggest that all of us just start reading the Bible instead of all those books about the Bible.