Posts tagged Northpoint Community Church
So yesterday Andy Stanley preached an amazing sermon at North Point Church (as usual). He is doing a series called “Christian” and what that term means. My wife is convinced Andy read my book because some points sound so similar. I even have a chapter called “Christians” in which I challenge the Christians to not call themselves a Christian for a short season. You can read excerpts in my post called “Lose Your Religion, Christian.” I assured my wife I probably stole my ideas from Andy or someone else.
In any event, yesterday (Part 2), as an illustration Andy spoke about the famed vampire novelist Anne Rice becoming a ‘Christian’ and then leaving ‘Christianity.’ Clarifying, Andy highlighted what Rice wrote:
“For those who care, and I understand if you don’t: Today I quit being a Christian … It’s simply impossible for me to ‘belong’ to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten years, I’ve tried. I’ve failed. I’m an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else.”
“My faith in Christ is central to my life. My conversion from a pessimistic atheist lost in a world I didn’t understand, to an optimistic believer in a universe created and sustained by a loving God is crucial to me…But following Christ does not mean following His followers. Christ is infinitely more important than Christianity and always will be, no matter what Christianity is, has been or might become.”
Who could disagree? Being a Christian is different than being a follower, or disciple, of Christ. Rice is correct.
>But Andy Stanley left something out about Anne Rice in his sermon.
Rice’s comments are nearly 2 years old and, subsequently, the core illustration is incomplete. Rice has since gone a step further.
Anne Rice is no longer even a follower of Christ as defined in the Bible. In a recent interview regarding her new book The Wolf Gift Rice admitted:
“Everyday, I’m asking myself that, because my faith in the Christian belief system totally collapsed. I realized a lot of what I believed about Jesus was rooted in lies and falsehoods. What I’ve tried to preserve is a love for and a trust in God. Jesus coming here is the most beautiful love story I’ve ever heard.
I know I feel a palpable God — with a human face. I can’t really tell another person what I believe that is. I believe that there is a maker of the universe that knows every hair on our head — and has made this entire universe and is very aware of us and I hope and pray this maker of the universe loves us and — and I think he does.”
She says she remains “committed to Christ.” While I respect her views I’m not sure what that means anymore. It sounds a bit more like the Christ consciousness that New Agers speak of. This all-roads-lead-to-heaven spiritual vanilla is not what Jesus lived, spoke of, or died for. Jesus spoke of following Him and a narrow path (or road), but I guess if you don’t believe the Bible anymore, it is irrelevant.
Although I would not judge Rice’s heart, based on her comments, I question if she is still a follower, or disciple, of Christ. No, that is not essential to the sermon illustration, but it is some information that is important to know.
This post is of a very personal nature. No lesson or thought today. I simply need to tell this story, because the events of yesterday will stay with me for the rest of my life. So although this is long, I hope you’ll stay with me. I have a feeling you’ll want to.
Sometimes something happens that burns in your mind in such a way that you know it will stick to you forever. It’s sears into the wall of your memory and affects you. When the experience is fresh–like it still is for me right now–you’re not really sure if it is good or bad. That’s what church was like for me yesterday.
On any given Sunday, you will see my wife and I walking into the 9 o’clock service at North Point Community Church with our four boys. Since this is a church of thousands we are very strategic about where we park, sit, and the routes we take to pick up our four kids afterwards in order to navigate the crowds. We split up. We each take two kids. This Sunday it was my turn to handle the two youngest: Carson who is 4 and Ethan who is 4 months.
After service I picked up Ethan and was annoyed right away. Sure, it was amazing as the nursery volunteer handed him to me and he smiled right away when he saw me. Unfortunately, the joy of that little moment was muted by the embarrassment of calling him the wrong name, especially considering I did the same thing signing him in before service. There’s nothing like feeling like a bad Dad.
She handed him to me, then his car seat, and then his diaper bag. I was fumbling and wondering why he wasn’t sleeping. He should have been in the carrier out cold, per our instructions. So I asked, “Did he take a nap?” “Oh yes, a whole 30 minutes. And he has a clean diaper too. We just woke him up to change it.”
I appreciate the policy. When I ran a children’s ministry it was my policy too. I wanted to make sure all visitors knew how much we cared about their children, so we didn’t want any parent to pick up a child from our nursery with a butt load of poopy diaper. Here’s the thing, I’m on number four, so a sleeping baby in a poopy diaper is way better than an awake baby who should be sleeping but is awake with a clean diaper. Why? Because the baby being awake now would change the rest of the day–and not for the better. I know I’m a jerk–and I know it was wrong–but I was getting more annoyed.
I mustered up a hollow “thank you”, since deep down I know these volunteers are wonderful and generous for watching children on Sunday morning when they could be sleeping in. With Ethan in one had, I clumsily put the carrier on the stroller and dropped his bag in it. I decided to try to defuse my annoyance by carrying my smiling baby and doing the “proud papa” walk.
About halfway out of church I realize I totally forgot the other one. Carson was still in his classroom. My heart sank. I felt terrible. How could I get forget my child? I’ve never done that. Proud father no more.
I quickly placed Ethan in his carrier, turned the stroller around in the crowd (no easy feat, mind you), and picked up Carson from his class. About halfway out again, Carson looked up at me and let me know, “We forgot the picture I colored!” I said we’ll have to leave it this time. He responded, “But we have to go get it, Dad!” Not this time. He was mad. And I was further annoyed. Not at him. Just at the small amount of chaos going on.
With relief we broke free of the crowded hallway and reached the light of day. While waiting for the other half of my family next to the main entrance, I decided to strap Ethan back in his carrier hoping he’d fall back asleep. So I turned around and proceeded to straighten the straps, click the chest piece, fasten the bottom harness, straighten his arms and head, and pull the shade down. He was content. I was starting to relax again and took a breath.
All the while, people were walking out of the church laughing. I barely noticed. What do I care? Except one lady peaked my attention. She was crazy with belly laughs walking all the way down the walkway to the parking lot. I looked to my right down the sidewalk wondering what everyone was laughing at. That’s when I turned to see what I was oblivious to a moment ago.
Carson had his pants and underwear down at his ankles and was in full peeing mode on the tree right in front of the church.
The horror. The embarrassment.
I was mortified. Hundreds of people were walking out seeing this, and many were likely first-timers. Plus, the church has visitors from around the world every Sunday–many who are leaders and pastors–trying to glean wisdom from how North Point does ministry. Perhaps this was not the best first impression for them to have.
I bolted to him with arms stretched out yelling, “What are you doing? You can’t pee there! Stop peeing! STOP PEEING!!!!” I pulled his pants up in midstream. I lectured him about “not peeing in front of church.” I saw my wife in the corner of my eye and abruptly blurted out, “He has to pee hurry up and take him to the bathroom!” She rushed inside with him.
While in the bathroom he let her know, “I don’t have to go, Mommy.” “What? Daddy said you need to go so keep trying.” He let her know, “I already went pee.” “What?” “I peed on the tree outside.” That’s when she become mortified with me.
In shock, we get it together and get in the car. Leaving the scene of the crime, I told everyone the story. As we all laughed hysterically, my 7-year-old let’s us all know, “Peeing is not the Big Idea!” You’d have to go to North Point to get how funny that was. You see, the team at North Point teaches the kids a main point every Sunday they call “The Big Idea.” And peeing is not the Big Idea, for sure.
So I got home and decided to put a blurb about it on my Facebook and Twitter status, of course. I shared: Caught my son PEEING on the tree right in front of CHURCH as everyone was coming out. Slightly embarrassing.
I got the cursory “likes” and such. And then I get the kicker toward the end of the day from an old friend down in Florida:
You’re not going to believe this, but my boss (our senior pastor) was visiting NP today from down here in West Palm and texted me a picture of a kid peeing on a tree after service. The text said, “Only in Atlanta”. How crazy is that!? Now to read that was your son is hilarious!
Funny? Yes. Embarrassing? You bet. Ironic? Unbelievably. This puts the whole ‘6 Degrees of Separation’ to shame–literally.
Believe it or not, I managed to get the picture forwarded to me. Here it is. It looks like I am helping him pee on the tree. Not so much. That’s me trying to stop the stream.
Lastly, in the evening Lisa asked Carson, “Why did you pee on the tree?” What did he say? “Because I had to go and I can’t go to the bathroom by myself.” In a strange way, it was so sweet. He had to go, so he looked around to see who could take him. He didn’t see his Mom or brothers, saw that I was busy with the baby, and decided to take matters into his own hands–literally.
Looking back I have to wonder why no one said anything to me for the minute or so Carson spent emptying his tank? Were they enjoying my shame? I suppose I am very glad no one from the church walked up and said, “Excuse me ‘sir’, but these trees are purely decorative and not meant to be used as proxy toilets for little boys,” or, “Sir, would you mind having your son use the restroom and not the tree in front of our church.” And I agree. Will I need to change the service we go to or look for another church? We won’t. But the thought did cross my mind since we’re in front of the church every Sunday at the same time and everyone will think I meant for it all to happen. Ugh.
The real irony in all this is that I just submitted a resume for a job at the church hoping to put my writing to work.
What are the chances?
First Lady Michelle Obama is invading my church (North Point Community Church) today. Okay, that was a bit of an overstatement (and it sounds like I am trying to stir up controversy). Today is the 1-year anniversary of Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move initiative and she asked if she could come talk about it and celebrate the program at our church. From their own website it is: America’s Move To Raise a Healthier Generation of Kids. Of course, our church said yes. I probably shouldn’t comment on this, but, well, you know me…
Am I going? No.
And it’s not because I have to work today. I am home doing stuff getting ready to welcome our new son (#4) on Friday. And it’s not because I am a fatty or that I feel guilty about raising fat kids (I’m not, by the way. Raising fat kids, that is. But I am a bit of a fatty myself). I could go. So that no is an emphatic one.
I’m not going because I am very uncomfortable with the decision. Now, I love my church. My family has been serving and giving there for 6 years. And we are not going anywhere (ie. not leaving because of this). So this is not a detrimental decision. I am not going to talk trash. I support my church in all their decisions and trust them. It’s probably the right decision, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have some cautionary thoughts or opinions of my own. In fact, this is the first time I’ve ever said anything like this because I love “all things North Point”.
I just don’t like the idea of government officials or representatives coming into churches, especially those with a philosophy of big, centralized government. It creates too many contradictions, too much hypocrisy, breeds corruption (since power attracts the corrupt and the corrupt seek more power), leads to blatant opportunism (since it seeks to sustain it’s control/power) and often not principled (which is built on core values, and if opportunism and control is your desire there is no room for core values).
For example, you know what’s really unhealthy for children? Abortion. That kills kids 100% of the time. In fact, it kills about 1.4 million children every year and has killed about 43 million since it became legal in 1973. I’m just sayin’. [source: whitehouse.gov]
I also don’t like government officials or representatives coming into churches who come from a philosophy that is constantly trying to secularize and sanitize religion from the public square or sector (unless it is politically beneficial, of course).
For example, I wrote about a person in my small group (community group, Bible study, discussion group, or whatever you want to call it) that teaches at a public school up the street. During the holidays the school had to take the decorations off of the Christmas tree because a parent complained. I don’t really get that one (being that Christmas trees are actually pagan and not Christian, or leaving it up bare being an amicable solution). And then there are the anecdotal stories of public school teachers warned not to hand out Christmas cards or say “Merry Christmas”.
So let me get this right, we can’t say Merry Christmas in the public sector more and more, but Michelle can come into churches and say Merry Government? Woo-hoo!
Beyond that, there is often criticism of religious groups trying to affect public policy (like with abortion)–you know, allegedly trying to create a ‘theocracy’. For some reason, faith is an illegitimate source for values. But there is no problem with government coming into churches to influence public policy? Let’s be honest, that’s what this is. I guess government is a legitimate source for values?
You might be thinking, “Jason, you’re so judgmental and jaded. Isn’t this neutral ground? You’re making a big deal out of nothing. We can all agree on making our kids healthier, can’t we?”
Sure, then let’s meet on truly neutral ground–like an event center or something (there are plenty in Atlanta). Then Washington could ask local churches to partner and support the agenda. That way we have a real choice. I mean, how much of a choice do you have when the President’s wife asks to speak at your church? You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.
There’s really nothing neutral when it comes to politics. And that’s the point: Politicians use political power to promise policies that will benefit certain people in order to harvest votes. Make no mistake, this initiative is about increasing government regulations and spending. As it is, speculations are that there will be more sin taxes on certain foods, salt limits in food production, and portion control for restaruants. Either way, the government is set to spend over half a BILLION dollars EVERY year on this initiative (and related ones). Read that again…$$$HALF A BILLION DOLLARS EVERY YEAR$$$
In general, this is not a legitimate use of tax-payer dollars (which is in reality being borrowed from China, by the way, so it is not even payed for), especially when we are all broke. It’s not the government’s job to tell us what to eat or what to do. I’m sorry there are so many fat kids sitting around and eating Doritos while playing X-Box. If we’re going to spend money on kids, let’s spend it something useful–like literacy, English, science, math, technical programs, marriage and family classes, etc.
I can’t help but also think that Michelle is trying to indirectly muster support for her husband with one base that is not supporting him all that much right now. Who’s that? White evangelicals. I’m just being honest, because that’s the main demographic at my church. It seems manipulative. Make no mistake, the election cycle has begun.
Our church is now officially on the radar of the government. That makes me uncomfortable. It should make everyone uncomfortable, both the religious and irreligious. This all begs the question, what will my church say when President Barack Obama calls and asks to speak when he is campaigning for president again? It probably won’t happen. But if it does, what do you say? Again, you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Plus, I can’t help but worry if this is a jump-the-shark moment for my church with regard to political influences. It’s hard to resist the exposure, for sure.
And this tension is really what the First Amendment was all about:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
It was meant to protect the religious citizens from government, not to sanitize the government of religion or religious citizens.
Just some thoughts from a ‘religious’ fatty.
It’s Sunday morning and we’re getting our kids ready for church in a whirlwind, like aways. If you have kids you know the routine: bathroom, breakfast, get dressed, bathroom again, race out the door, try not to get into a fight in all the chaos (we’re on our way to church after all).
So there I am, getting my 10-month-old dressed. He’s real wiggly so it’s not easy. What’s worse is I like him to wear shoes when we go out, which is totally unnecessary as he’s not quite walking on his own yet. But I like him to look like a real person in public and not like we just got him out of bed. Putting the shoes on is a real challenge. It requires a delicate balance of tying them tight enough so he doesn’t kick them off and not cutting the blood off to his extremities.
Anyway, I talk to him to keep him focused on me and less wiggly. I just say what comes to mind. And then I realize what I said:
“OK, Carson. You need to be a good boy at church today for the ladies. I don’t want to hear any whining when I drop you off this time. You’ll be just fine. You’re going to have lots of fun with all those new toys and you’re friends…And try to do your once-a-day giant poop (doodie booty, as we call it) at church so they have to change it and not me. It’s disgusting!“
I meant it. Was that wrong?