Archives For City Community Church

We dedicated a bunch of kids yesterday at City Community Church. And we could’ve dedicated more. Lots more. I’m starting to think the Central Library Cafe is spiking the java with little tax deduction incentives.

If you dare to drink the water, don’t say you weren’t warned.

As my wife and I were prepping, talking, and praying about what this beautiful moment should look like within the context of our church’s weekly gathering, I couldn’t get a key verse of Scripture out of my mind:

So God created human beings[a] in his own image.
In the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.

Genesis 1:27 NLT

My good friend, mentor, and personal counselor, Jim Falk, will tell you (with deep conviction) that nearly every issue he deals with in his practice ties back in some way to this verse of Scripture. Sin breaks our connection to the Father. In our brokenness we embrace lies. In our deception we lose site of the foundational core of our identity.

At that point life always seems to get a little messy.

The truth? We were created as image bearers of God. Of God! You know, the Creator of the Universe. Formed. Fashioned. Knit-together. Known. Valued. Loved.

Our prayer for these beautiful children yesterday was really pretty simple:

Regardless of what life throws their way.

Regardless of their social hierarchy or socio-economic status.

Regardless of their insecurities.

Regardless of their successes or failures.

Regardless of their grades. Their looks. Their seat at the school lunch table.

Regardless of who their friends, pop culture, or even their own families convince them that they are.

That they will forever hear the sweet voice of the Father whispering (shouting!) that eternal reminder of their true identity: “You were created as an image bearer of God!”

My prayer for you and me today is no different. Let’s not forget who we are.

I got a tough phone call yesterday (on a day I blogged about grace, figures).

From a church shopper.

I don’t normally mind church shoppers. It’s a natural thing when you’re moving to a new area or entering a new season of life. You want to know more about a church community before you take time to visit. But this guy had an ax to grind (and he was chopping wood).

I won’t bore (or give much credence) to the details, but let’s suffice it to say he had some serious issues with a couple of well known, and at least by me, well respected pastors with a national platform. He wanted assurance that City Community Church didn’t align with their “heresy.”

(For the record, we don’t align with any heresy. But he still probably needs to keep on shopping).

I’m a big believer in truth (it’s not relative). There are obvious imposters out there. Dangerous ones. Scripture warns of them (2 Peter 2:1-3 among plenty of others). But sometimes we get our panties all in a bunch over rampant misinformation, “canonized” personal preferences, and just good old fashioned arrogant condescension.

I’ve done it.

You’ve done it.

We all need to stop it.

First of all, before you go condemning another Christian leader, make sure your facts are straight. In case you haven’t heard, the internet is wrought with misinformation (who knew?) and poor interpretations of things people have supposedly said. I question our impulse to condemn, but if you must do it, at least do it with accurate facts.

Second, there’s room for all kinds of church expressions. Just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Small churches, traditional churches, mega churches, urban churches, organized churches, contemporary churches, suburban churches, house churches, organic churches. Different church expressions reach different kinds of people! I think all of us (including my big-ol-guilty-hand in the air) can respect that, right?

And lastly, let’s all stop pretending we’ve got it all figured out (leave that to the meteorologists). If God resists the proud, wouldn’t it make sense to assume that arrogantly insisting you know everything about Him is a pretty sure sign that you don’t?

Let’s become humble (and loving) pursuers of truth.

Let’s cripple the high horses.

Last night, I spent a few hours with my brother, our dad, and family friend (Kellog MBA and global powerhouse) Jim Ordo. We engaged in a little brainstorming session.

Strategery.

My (10 years younger yet 10 inches taller) brother has a dream. A music school. An environment where kids can not only learn an instrument but release their creativity. Become artists, not just technicians. It’s a cool concept, and we had a blast hashing it out with him.

The ideas flowed faster than the coffee. By the time Darren would jot one down, three more were colliding in the airspace above our heads. It was energizing. Freeing. Easy. Because at this point, all I’m really responsible for is the dreaming.

Dreaming comes standard with energy, freedom, and ease. They’re built in. Creating is the expensive upgrade. I left our dialog with dreamer’s hangover. Darren walked out with four reams of action steps and a mountain of hard work.

All of us can dream. Few of us will create.

Imagination is intoxicating. Creating is flat out (terrifying) hard work.

I have 6 or 7 major initiatives on the table for City Community Church and our family in 2012. They’re good ideas. Big dreams. Massive potential. But there’s a giant cavern between what resides in my head (and my heart) and the tangible creation process. A gap full of:

FEAR: Of failure. Of being misunderstood. Of finding out the dream was idealistic. Unrealistic. Maybe not that good. Of shame and embarrassment. (I even fear the responsibility that comes from being successful).

And….

LAZINESS: Let’s face it, realizing a dream isn’t usually impossible. It’s just really, really hard. Dreaming is fun (and cheap). Maybe I could just hang there? (Makes for some great blog posts).

Courage and lots and lots of hard work – that’s our bridge. So let’s get to it. The creating, not just the dreaming.

The painting only manifests if you actually pick up the brush.

What 3 action steps do you need to take to actually create what you’ve only been dreaming about?

Last Friday night I was driving across town to a dinner party. Alone. Melancholy was the self-indulgent vibe of choice. After all, I was nursing a few emotional challenges:

My wife is literally on the other side of the globe.

I’m a (temporarily) single dad of 3 living in borrowed housing.

My Peyton Manning jersey is now a throwback antique.

I know there are serious pressing global issues to address, but cut me some slack. I was relishing in some good ol’ fashioned self pity, and I had just the soundtrack to complete the party: Neil Diamond’s Greatest Hits Volume 2.

This is my go-to album when I need to feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Neil Diamond was the first live concert my parents ever took me to when I was a kid, and this cassette tape played non-stop in their brown 84 Cadillac during a majority of my pre-teen years. I can still smell the new leather as soon as I hear the intro to “Hello Again.”

I didn’t choose Neil, Neil chose me. The smoky tones of his vocal styling forever intertwined with a simpler and safer time in my life.

I really like Neil Diamond.

We all have our Neils. Things we like or don’t like. Preferences and opinions. Traditions and culture. Things that help us enjoy or make sense of this life. But sometimes we try and attach spiritual mandates to these personal positions, and that’s when things can get weird. We split churches. Engage in holy wars. Give cynics their ammo. We grieve the Father.

My brother-in-law developed a little chart he shared with his church awhile back that might make this a little clearer.

On the outer ring are opinions and preferences. Everybody has them. And that’s OK, everybody can and should. Styles of music, political leanings, style of decor, architecture, food. You like it because, well, you like it.

The middle ring are traditions and culture. These are, in essence, shared opinions and preferences. We tend to find like minded people with like minded tastes and interests

But in the center are the essentials. The things that really matter. Unfortunately, human beings are really good at trying to make spiritual essentials out of our opinions and traditions. Mandates of our preferences.

We all do it. Old school or contemporary. Conservative or liberal. Young and old. Rich and poor. Big and structured or small and organic. Obama or Romney. Paper or plastic.

There’s room for a massive mosaic in the Kingdom of God. A melting together of endless opinions, preferences, traditions, and cultures around the ultimate of essentials: Jesus Christ. Don’t miss Him while you’re out lobbying for your Neil Diamond.

You can hear my entire message on this topic by clicking here: EncounteRespond–The Essentials. As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Chaos and Rest

Erik Cooper —  March 5, 2012 — Leave a comment

Friday night was awful.

We got late word that a project we had been working on for weeks was appearing to go bad. An opportunity we had been dreaming about and planning for was potentially falling apart. It was gut wrenching.

My wife and I feigned stability. All is cool. It’s gonna be alright. But my digestive system was already holding open auditions for the new Cirque du Soleil show, “Le Indigestion.” I woke up at 4am having mental conversations with people who weren’t in the room (at least I don’t think they were). Paced the floors. Jotted down potential strategy. And then I heard it:

Rest.

No seriously, God. I’d like to. I’d really, really like to. But don’t you remember all that ceiling staring that was going on? I’ve got little French clowns doing acrobats on my small intestine. Sleep is not on the docket today.

“Not sleep. Rest.

We desperately long for restful circumstances. God longs for us to rest in Him.

In the midst of my early morning pity party, I flipped on the TV to the truly gut-wrenching stories of the Tornado disaster in Southern Indiana. No better way to put a night of tossing and turning in perspective than to scale it with a catastrophe of that magnitude.

Unspeakable pain, death, and loss.

It’s hard enough to find rest amidst the every day stresses of life, how does rest enter into that kind of chaos? How do we rest when circumstances are anything but stable?

“My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.” -Psalm 62:1-2

Honestly, I don’t always know. No trite spiritual cliches admonishing you to elevate above what you’re experiencing. Small or great, trivial or devastating, personal or global, all I know is that God promised rest. Not in what’s happening around us. In Him alone.

How have you experienced rest when circumstances were anything but restful?

SPECIAL NOTE: If you would like to help the tornado victims of Southern Indiana, you can donate food, supplies, or cash to our friends at the People Helping People Network, Salvation Army, or Red Cross. Details from the CityCom Facebook page here: