Further Up, Further In Weblog

Chronicling the Journey of the Homeyers

Falling Slowly… December 31, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — furtherupfurtherin @ 4:29 pm
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 I don’t have my thoughts quite together on what I want to write about this video. 

 Spend the 4 minutes to watch it.  It is from the movie “Once.”  First off, I highly recommend the movie and the soundtrack. 

 Second, here is what you need to know about the clip.  These two don’t know each other well.  They sit down and begin to go through this song and play it together, finally culminating in this beautiful and passionate, harmonized piece. 

More to come soon.


O Shepherd Where Art Thou? December 21, 2007

Filed under: Pastoring Stuff — furtherupfurtherin @ 2:45 pm
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I have been grappling lately with the concept of church growth.  When I accepted the call to pastor Fellowship Baptist Church this past July I had lofty ideas about the growth of our Church.  We are blessed to be in a growing rural area that is projected to double in size in 5 years.  We are going to have a brand new building soon.  We are a mature but vibrant congregation that is eager to minister and serve.  There is a sweet spirit about our Fellowship.  In less than two years we had grown from 30-40 to almost 200 members.  For a new, young, and naive pastor all of these characteristics of our congregation added up to the blessed assurance of tremendous growth. 

And we have experienced ascertainable growth.  We have added a good number of members.  We have also lost some members, had members move, and had members die.  In 6 months our weekly average attendance and giving is higher than it was in the previous 6 months before I came.  All of these areas point to measurable growth. 

The talk of growth within the congregation is encouraging.  They want more people to experience Christ in our Fellowship.  They desire to have new people added to our family of believers.  They want to bring others to the saving knowledge of Christ that they know.  As a whole they have the best possible motives for growth.  They want people to come to experience life with Christ and they want to walk alongside them in the experience. 

 It it outside my congregation where my tension with church growth arises; in the world of pastors, ministers, and pastoral literature. 

I am reading the book, O Shepherd Where Art Thou? by Calvin Miller.  I am not done with it, but so far I would highly recommend it.  It has really helped to crystalize many of my fluid thoughts concerning church and the pastorate that I have mulled over the past months.  It is a unique book.  Half of the book is a story about a medium-size-church-pastor who wants his church to grow but feels dragged down by the necessity of meeting the needs of his congregation.  Half the book is little asides and comments that go along with what is happening in the story. It is like a study-narrative. 

I came across this quote in the book:

Our culture is marked by a kind of Dow Jones Calvinism.  Churches – and for that matter, pastors – are evaluated on their size or the size of their dreams and visions.  Bigger is always seen as better.  Why is bigger better?  Because bigger is how we rate ourselves. 

So much of how we “do” church seems to be predicated upon how this or that will grow our church numerically.  I see Baptist churches moving away from what it means to be Baptist for the sake of growth.  I have seen pastors exceed their position as pastor for the sake of church growth.  I have seen churches crucify their pastors for a lack of church growth and deify others for effective numerical growth. 

We choose our worship styles, our preaching styles, our bulletin layout, our leadership structure, our discipleship programs, our bible study materials all largely based on what will help us grow most effectively. 

Even much of the theology (or should I say pop-theology) of our day has church growth at its heart. 

And I have discussions with pastors both in and out of the pastorate who base much of their worth on their ability to effectively grow a church.  Ironically, I don’t hear near as much of this conversation in the Seminary or from my fellow ministers of the 20something generation. 

I am by no means exempting myself from this critique.  This critique has only come about through assessment of my own life, thoughts, conversations, and ministry. 

Why is bigger better?  Why do we stir up so much in our churches to facilitate growth?  What is our reasoning for pursuing growth? 

Are our motives kingdom oriented?  Do we really have a clear mandate from God that gives us the authority to change the things we change in the way we change them? 

Or are we products of our consumer/capitalist culture?  Seeking to acquire members as commodities and equating more with better. 

I don’t know the answer.  I believe, as it is with most conundrums, the answer is both depending on the person and situation. 

I hope I am honest enough and, you, the reader of this, are forgiving enough to let me confess there are times I covet new members.  There are moments I am tempted to go against many wonderful people in my congregation in order to make others more comfortable.  There are times when I lust after the programs, efficiency, support, and resources of other churches. 

And yet, rarely are my passions so extreme to care for the needs of my congregation.  Rarely do I find myself desiring to drop everything and visit the hospital.  I don’t find myself coveting more visitation or Christmas parties. 

And yet still, I love the people of Fellowship.  There is no Church I can envision serving in the coming years than Fellowship.  And I would bet most pastors feel the same way about their congregation.  They are in love with their people. 

My prayer, is that I can die to most ambitions of growth.  Not that I wouldn’t desire the ministry of Fellowship to grow; but, that my passion would lie with meeting the needs of Fellowship and in leading Fellowship to be a people who are about Kingdom work in all that they do.  In so doing I pray we would develop worship styles and ministries and a community identity that are both indigenous to the community we are now and hope to be.  I have to hope that growth can come as a by-product of a community focused on serving God’s kingdom.  I don’t know how to measure it or quantify it.  I don’t want to have to. 


Holiday Pics December 20, 2007

Filed under: Life of Matt — furtherupfurtherin @ 2:35 pm

So I thought I would use the blogosphere to show a few family pictures of the Holiday Season. 

 Below is a picture of my family at Paw-paw’s and Maw-maw’s at Thanksgiving.


This is a picture of Kelley and I at Seminary Graduation last Friday.  This other one is our Christmas Card pic.   

img_0839.jpg                      img_0846.jpg

 And this little guy (does 95 lbs count as little?) is Max.  Be amazed by the cuteness.  Someday I might just do an all Max pic post.  It would blow your mind. 



December 19, 2007

Filed under: Devotional,Fellowshp Baptist Church — furtherupfurtherin @ 12:56 am
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I graduated from Truett Seminary this past Friday night.  I have been done with my coursework for seven months, but hadn’t had the opportunity to “walk” until Friday.  It was a wonderful time.  Lots of my family was able to attend and it was good to see several of my seminary friends and professors. 

            One of my preaching professors, Dr. Dennis Wiles gave the commencement sermon. Dr. Wiles is also the Pastor of First Baptist Church of Arlington, TX.  It was an incredible and memorable sermon.  It was formative to the extent that much of it will probably be infused into many of my future sermons and ministry. 

            One of the keys of Dr. Wiles sermon was his discussion of a minister’s need to assess.  He claimed that good assessment is an extremely important factor in any ministry and hoped for all of us graduates that we would learn this ability of assessment quickly in our young ministries. 

            I took comfort from this.  It is my natural inclination to assess.  Those who know me best can attest to the fact that I love to analyze and assess.  In all areas of my life I find myself assessing.  What are the strengths?  Weaknesses?  Areas of growth?  What is succeeding?  Failing?  Stagnant?  Dynamic? 

            When things go poorly I break them down and attempt to figure out why.  When things go well, I feel obligated to break things down and analyze why things went so well. 

            Our worship experience Sunday was one such “thing” that went very well.  I believe that everyone present in that worship service was richly blessed in some way.  If you weren’t able to be there, you truly missed an encounter with the Holy.  God’s presence was made known in our midst and people responded to their Creator.  No one “came down front” but from the pulpit you could see the response in the faces and eyes and tears of those in the congregation.

            How do we assess such a Sunday?  What brought about such a worship experience?  Was it the singing of the children that softened and warmed so many souls?  Was it Jared and Natalie singing so boldly and beautifully?  Was it Will and Gay sharing in such a vulnerable and transparent way?  Or Marge and Kim’s songs? 

            Sunday afternoon, as I reveled in the afterglow of such a worship experience at the High School Choir performance, my natural inclinations took over and I began to break the service down and assess the experience.     

            Here is my conclusion:  Such encounters with Christ and experiences of worship are beyond assessment.  There is no one or two things that can be definitely pointed out as the reason for such a wonderful experience other than the grace of God. 

            The children, Natalie and Jared’s duet, Marge and Kim’s solos, Gay and Will’s testimonies, the songs, the meditations of all of us, all of these were factors; but, the catalyst, was the presence and grace of God. 

            Sunday afternoon, as I sat in this concert, I realized that not only did the birth of Christ in the world come suddenly, not only will Christ’s return come suddenly and unexpectedly, so do our encounters with Christ come suddenly, powerfully, and unexpectedly. 

            Such experiences can’t be bottled up and marketed.  The components of such experiences don’t add up to the sum weight of said encounter. 

            But, we can learn from these experiences.  We can hope to always come before our God with the honesty of the children, with the boldness with which Natalie and Jared sang, with the transparency and vulnerability with which Gay and Will shared, and the passion with which Marge and Kim sang.  Add to these the receptivity of the rest of us in attendance.  In these ways we need always approach our God. 

            Encounters with Christ, such as what was shared between us all Sunday, are special.  Over time they are what bind us as a family to each other and to our God.  They are what give us hope for our present and for our future.  They feed our souls. 

            As we are a week away from the celebration of the Birth of Christ, live in the reality of a faith that encounters Christ in such surprising ways.  Live honestly, boldly, passionately, vulnerably, transparently, and receptively before both God and man and be filled with such unexpected and miraculous encounters with Christ. 


Thoughts on Advent… December 11, 2007

Filed under: Devotional — furtherupfurtherin @ 3:40 pm
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Come and Listen, Come to the water’s edge all you, who know and fear the Lord.

Come and Listen, Come to the water’s edge all you, who are thirsty come.

Let me tell you what He has done for me.

Let me tell you what He has done for me,

He has done for you,

He has done for us.

Come and listen, come and listen to what He’s done.

David Crowder Band, “Come and Listen” 

Family, as we enter this third week of Advent, the season of waiting and preparing for the Christmas Event, my prayer for us all is that we come to our God, and Listen, and reflect both upon what our God has done for us.  For He has done for me, He has done for you, He has done for us.  Spend time this week waiting with your God.  Spend time preparing for the coming of His Son!


            Our Advent text for this Sunday is Matthew 11:2-11.  Open your Bibles and read the passage.  Let it speak to you.  And after you have waited and reflected upon what God has done for you, and after you have reflected upon this passage, go in confidence and tell what you know and have experienced. 


  There is no better way to prepare for and celebrate our Lord than to tell of what He has done for us and desires to do for anyone who will come to Him. 


Thoughts on Advent… December 4, 2007

Filed under: Devotional,Fellowshp Baptist Church — furtherupfurtherin @ 2:41 pm
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This evening, as I pull into my drive way after a day of work, bright white lights that outline the edges and ridges of my roof-line will illuminate the path into the garage.  As I enter the house the rich aroma of a seven foot tall Noble Fir will fill my nostrils.  As I drive around town today I will be greeted with colorful lights and displays in front of homes and businesses and on street lights that aren’t usually there.  As I drive up and down HWY 281 and HWY 1431 I will see advertised special sales and greetings specifically for this time of year.  As I sit down in my office this morning and reflect upon the week ahead, I am reminded that we are in a season of waiting and preparing for the celebration of the Birth of our Savior, and so I reflect on what my Lord has done for me.  And so I wait for the celebration of Christmas morning and His imminent, sudden second coming.  And so I prepare to be about Kingdom work this week. 

The signs of the Christmas season are all around us.  As we rest at home, as we watch TV, as we drive around town, as we spend time with our God.  Embrace this time.  Don’t rush through it and allow the busyness of the happenings all around Christmas to sour your experience of this time: your waiting, your preparation, your eventual celebration of the Birth of Christ!