Sun, Sep 1, 2019
What is “Scott’s Thoughts”?
Note: I promise, Scott’s Thoughts will eventually be much shorter, with time. We’ve got lots of cover because I’ve been saving lots of unsaid vision stuff for the first couple weeks of ST. (“Right, Scott. Because we all know you to be spare with your words.”)
Note, pt. 2: You can easily get to Scott’s Thoughts by using the shortlink fccgreene.org/st.
First, Scott’s Thoughts is a weird and depraved place to be… and also now a weekly written replacement for what we have informally called “Family Matters”. For the last 12 years, for about 5-7 minutes before the sermon, (and, occasionally, twice that!) I had the freedom, (or perhaps, created and took full advantage of the freedom?!) to touch on things not well covered in other outlets, mention important churchwide initiatives, spread vision, and communicate my heart as Pastor at FCC.
Occasionally, at crucial moments in our history, we addressed difficult things together and brought out into the open some tough stuff. (“Ok… time for a family pow wow…”) There were a few times when I spent more time preparing for Family Matters than the sermon. Every once in a while, our Elders would speak during Family Matters, drawing a line in the sand to make crystal clear how God was leading us a church family. Over time, Family Matters helped make us stronger. For me, it is a key part of our recent church history that symbolizes how a relatively small group of all-in Jesus followers came together for the mission of enjoying and communicating the goodness and glory of God. Honestly, I grieve that it is going away.
But different circumstances often require different strategies. Being a multisite church (fccgreene.org/multifaqs) has meant learning to adjust, well, everything, in order to continue to be a place that is Helping people find and follow Jesus, and some recent strategy tweaks intended to bring greater effectiveness and health mean adjusting how we communicate.
Said simply… As a consequence of shortening service times to help families and accommodate greater Worship & Serve participation, I can’t wax ineloquent for 5-7 minutes before the sermon! That’s the incidental reason for Scott’s Thoughts. Secondly, because we are increasingly experiencing the same trend as other churches nationwide where active attenders average once every 2-3 weeks, keeping people in the loop is harder than ever and requires on-demand access to information, when they need to know it. So if you are in a conversation with someone or get to wondering, for yourself, “What were those membership changes from that letter the Elders sent out?” Boom. Scott’s Thoughts, Vol. 1, No. 1. Throngs of the 5-6 of you who care can search it on our website and get the verbiage and vision in written form! Third, the modern church needs to become a place where the Great Questions (fccgreene.org/gq) of life are given reliable, biblically sound, and Christ-centered answers that equip us to discern truth from falsehood. This can be done more effectively in a written and searchable format like this. (See “Great Questions” Update below for some cool details.) I’ll be answering questions we encounter during Great Questions. So we hope, over time, that Scott’s Thoughts will become an online learning repository and resource for you.
So, Scott’s Thoughts will keep you updated on important Family Matters not well covered elsewhere, communicate churchwide vision and important upcoming initiatives, answer some Great Questions we’ve been encountering, provide some devotional thoughts and Bible Study insights, and other (hopefully) interesting tidbits… all in an online searchable format that can become an ongoing resource for you.
New Service Times: Reminder. Why? Help us!
In case you didn’t make it to Sun, Sept 1, our first day for our new service times, don’t forget that we now start at 9:20a and 10:40a! Friendly reminder that we are trying (a) to make it easier on families with kids on Sundays and (b) to remove hindrances to participation in our Worship & Serve Sunday morning strategy.
We’d love for you to help us get the word out by grabbing a New Service Times Postcard in The Hub next Sunday, praying about who needs to join you at FCC, and thinking about a way to creatively use it. Send it as a postcard. Hand it to someone with a note, like an Invite Card. (See below, “Why We’re Slightly Crazy About Invite Cards”.) Or grab a dozen and take ‘em to your workplace. We have an opportunity to use these new service times as a friendly reminder and reset to perhaps bring back some FCCers who are just out of the habit or to prompt someone new to join us!
Why We’re Slightly Crazy About Invite Cards
After a few years of using Invite Cards, we now have one for every sermon series and every ministry area, and we are working to have enough Guests Team members so that, upon exiting any door from any service at any location, you are handed an Invite Card as you exit. So… why are we slightly fanatical about this? Simple reason is that, as a church, we exist to evangelize the lost and edify the saved. When you exit our services on Sunday, we want you to have that weekly trigger that we are a sent people, leaving from that experience of resetting our hearts and minds on God and His Word to take the good news to our friends and neighbors throughout the week. So grab an Invite Card, pray about an opportunity to use it, just one time a week, and let’s see what God can do with our small acts of faithfulness.
Update to Membership: Yearly Renewal, Health Survey, and Congregational Vote
A recent letter from the Elders that was sent out about a month ago outlined some important changes to how we’re approaching membership. For existing members, it now requires a Yearly Renewal that incorporates an optional Spiritual Health Survey. What is important to understand here is this: Our Membership list goes down to zero at the end of every year and we are asking everyone to recommit every year to our vision of Helping people find and follow Jesus by participating in The 7 Habits. We think this Yearly Renewal, coupled with the Spiritual Health Survey, will make us stronger, help leaders better know our flock, and provide insight for directing resources toward the greatest point of need! For New Members, moving forward, we now require completion of all 4 sessions of Next Steps. Though this Next Steps requirement does not apply to those who are already members, as they are “grandfathered in”, all who haven’t yet done Next Steps are strongly encouraged to do so. Not only is it really important for understanding how it all fits together here at FCC, but it is a great place for relational connection and gaining fresh Kingdom vision! You can complete your Yearly Renewal, the Spiritual Health survey, as well as turn in your vote (keep reading) at fccgreene.org/membershipupdate2019 or by going to The Hub on a Sunday morning for a hardcopy.
Also, don’t forget the upcoming Congregational Vote to affirm Mark Liebert for another term as Elder. (As a friendly reminder, the current Elders are Chuck Bowlin, John Hamilton, Mark Liebert, Bill Richards, Mike Schubert, and Scott Wakefield.) That vote will happen on Sun, Sep 22, or you can do it beforehand, online, by going to fccgreene.org/membershipupdate2019 or by going to The Hub on a Sunday morning.
Great Questions: Update, High Schoolers, and an Answer
We’re a month into our new Monday evening ministry and it has been really fun to think together about how God’s Word provides answers to life’s Great Questions (fccgreene.org/gq). We’ve averaged 26 people, 5-6 questions, and have had those who are skeptical and seeking answers join us!
Also, did you know that that High School students are allowed to join us for Great Questions?! A few months ago, as the Elders were finalizing the basic vision, we decided that we needed another way to help train our students to encounter a world rife with falsehood, bad answers, and sloppy thinking. Given that they are already daily confronted with that environment, we decided to allow High School students to join us on Monday nights, in the Worship Center at our Greeneville campus, from 7:30-8:40p! (Also, btw, childcare is provided.) So High Schoolers… Hurry up and finish that homework for Tuesday so you can hear Christ-centered answers to the many empty narratives with which you are already confronted!
A number of folks have asked if we’re making the video available for those who can’t come on Mondays. We’ve decided it’s best, given that we are trying to create “a safe place to examine Christian faith”, to not video the evening and share it online. Instead, we’ll be sharing some answers we encounter with you here, in written form! (And you can easily get to Great Questions we’ve Answered by going to the shortlink fccgreene.org/gqa). So, here’s our first one…
Does the Bible Support a Geocentric or Heliocentric View of our Little Part of our Galaxy?
Well, the Bible supports both and neither… sort of!
Since the biblical writers approached the processes of nature “phenomenologically”, meaning according to what they observed around them, the Biblical writers themselves did literally “view” the universe from a geocentric, or “earth-centered”, perspective, believing the earth to be the center of what astronomers now call the “Solar System” (because, well, they generally believe our neck of the woods to be a “system” of planets surrounded the sun. “Heliocentric” means “sun-centered”.) See Joshua 10:12-13; Ecclesiastes 1:5; Psalms 19:6-7; 93:1; and 104:5 for examples of the Bible’s phenomenological perspective of the universe as geocentric.
However, the Bible does not teach this phenomenological geocentric understanding as scientific truth, in modern terms. Increasingly, trustworthy modern Bible scholars see the Bible’s purpose not as intending to teach material origins, in modern scientific terms that make claims that should fit with contemporary models of chemistry, biology, physics, e.g., but as intending to teach functional purposes, i.e., God’s purposes for the world. This doesn’t mean the Bible has nothing to say about nature and God’s role and purposes in it, but simply that the Bible wasn’t written to give us an account of the earth’s material origins in a way that fits with modern scientific theories and categories.
And, btw, these scholars make such arguments from the text and context of the Bible itself. For example, many modern Old Testament scholars now talk about Genesis 1 as not teaching material scientific origins re how God made the world, according to our modern understanding, but teaching functional origins of why God made the world. This is the difference between (a) saying a chair is a chair because it is made up of metal/wood/material parts that go together to form what we call a chair (i.e., material origins) and (b) saying a chair is a chair when those parts comes together (because an intelligent designer puts them together, btw!) to form something on which we can actually sit, i.e., it ‘becomes’ a chair when we can sit on it and it does its job. This is like when God says, in Genesis 1, that the things He was creating were “good”, meaning they were carrying out the purposes for which He made them.
So, I would say it is perfectly okay, not contrary to Scripture, and fully reasonable to believe in the modern scientific understanding of our little part of the Milky Way as a heliocentric (“Solar”) System.
How to Find Your People at FCC: Engage, Serve, Connect
Having just started a series that asks the question, “Who Are My People?” we want to make clear how that happens here at FCC.
We have said this in various forms, time and again, for about the last 5-6 years: You do not simply stumble across meaningful Christian community; you create it. I don’t exactly love making this point so starkly, but, frankly, you cannot expect deep relationships to automagically happen without personal effort, regular involvement, and committing to vulnerability. This applies in all relationships of all sizes and contexts, whether a marriage, friendship, or Life Group. Deep and meaningful relationships, of all things in this messed-up-and-broken world, require work.
This is why we teach explicitly, in Next Steps, that, at FCC, our structure is designed so that your personal care and connection happen as you Engage in worship, Serve on a team, and Connect in a small group, (especially Life Groups.) We make this clear in Next Steps by saying that our “Team Leaders” and “Life Group Leaders” serve as the “front lines” of your care and connection. Not only does this strategy give you great personal care, but it provides the resources needed to carry out great ministry and makes us a great team!
So guess what?! It’s actually working exactly as planned. Are there normal frustrations and is everything perfect?! Duh. It’s earth we’re talking about here, where things are broken because of our sin. But… Every single week I personally witness and am told of example after example after example of people on Teams or in Life Groups who are taking care of one another well, meeting in person to strategize about ministry or share burdens in prayer, taking meals to people in need, serving meaningfully on a ministry team, and generously providing help in tangible ways. This isn’t just abnormal. This is normal. And it’s what happens when you jump in to find your people.
If you’re not yet serving or in a Life Group and you’ve been at FCC long enough to begin to feel that disconnection, please hear this as a friendly warning, because I’ve seen this happen again and again… Your disconnection will not improve and you won’t find your people if you don’t participate in “The Big 3” (Next Steps terminology): Engage, Serve, and Connect. We have structured this way, on purpose, to create the best possible environment for your care and growth.