Hammock

A few years ago this image came across my computer screen.  I thought it was comical at first, but then I started to realize it was pure genius.  It’s pure genius because it is a perfect example of my life growing up in church. I grew up knowing all the right answers about the church, Jesus, and the Bible.  At times, I walked around thinking how great I was because I knew all the right answers.

 

In seventh and eighth grade I participated in a competition called Bible Bowl.  If you’ve never seen a competition, click here to check it out. It’s an academic competition to see who knows the Bible better than the other team.  I truly believe it started with good intentions, but no one, not even my Bible Bowl coaches realized I was only in it for the fame and millions of bonus points it promised.  I wasn’t even a follower of Jesus yet. I honestly had a desire to prove how smart I was and how great of a competitor I could be. My main goal was to crush my competition with my Bible knowledge.  I’m pretty sure that’s why God wrote the Bible in the first place right?

 

The problem was, I had no relationship with Jesus.  I only knew the facts of the Bible. I could push the button pretty fast, recite part of the Bible and come out victorious.  I really believed that knowledge of the Bible was good enough.

 

After a short career on the Bible Bowl circuit and realizing the promise of millions of bonus points was empty, I retired. The problem still was that I had no clue what I was supposed to do with this Bible knowledge.  I had no clue that this knowledge meant little to nothing in everyone else’s mind. It also did not actually make me right with God. I knew where to find the right answers. I knew the process other people should follow to be made right with God.  

 

I still found myself awkwardly standing, like the dog in the picture, in the presence of God.  I volunteered at my church. I attended church all the time. I read my Bible but still had no idea how to act.  I thought I had to perform for God. I thought I had to go through all the ‘right’ motions and have all the ‘right’ answers.  

 

I was 17 years old when I finally had a real come to Jesus conversation.  I found myself on the back porch on a spring night. It was past midnight on a Wednesday.  My student ministry pastor had just given one of the clearest explanations of Jesus and grace.  I remember my emotional response to the message. I can remember the smell of the building and the feeling of the wind as I drove home that night.  As I sat on the back porch alone, I lit my cigar and cracked open the beer bottle I stole from my step dad’s stash. Still not knowing what to do, I asked God that if all of what I had heard was really true, then what’s next?  What should I do? I was still like that dog in the picture above, trying to be comfortable standing in the hammock, instead of resting in the hammock.

 

After asking God what to do, He simply responded: “Rest in my grace”.  One of the parts of the Bible I read through that night was Matthew 11.  One of the verses in Matthew 11 says, “Let me teach you because I am humble and gentle at heart and you will find rest for your souls”.  That night, I finally found the proper way to rest in the presence of Jesus. It wasn’t more knowledge of the Bible or emotionally driven worship songs.  It was simply resting in the presence and grace of Jesus. He bore the punishment for my sins. He endured hardships beyond measure so I could make right with God.  The issue we all need to face is that our personal sin separates us from the God who created us. God so loved the world that He sent his son, Jesus to the world, to save humanity.    

 

My prayer this Easter season is that we will all be able to rest in the grace Jesus offers us. Enjoy the hammock as it was designed to be enjoyed. Don’t just simply fit in it, but rest in the hammock.

That Person. Them. Those People.

Ever find yourself wishing that your life could be like his? Am I the only person who does this? Some days I hate going to the gym. Not because I don’t enjoy working out (I really enjoy working out. In fact, I love a challenging workout). The part I hate is looking around at the guys who seemingly do less work than I do, but still, have the results I wish I could have.

Really, I’m the only person who does this? Like you’ve never made a comment about what she did to get that promotion? Busted! I knew you’ve thought that before.

Maybe the day you dreaded is finally over. Or, THAT day happens every 365 days and it’s just another reminder. THAT day you deliver flowers to everyone else. THAT day you hate but wish you didn’t. You want to be celebrated on THAT day too. Why does February 14th happen every year?!

Granted you might put on a smile in an attempt to be happy for everyone else. When I go to the gym, I don’t walk up and spew my jealous thoughts to those guys. I do sometimes secretly wish they would get fat and struggle to lose those pounds. Don’t judge!

It’s not right, but it’s a struggle. How should we handle and deal with jealousy? Is this a battle we just have to keep fighting or is there hope?

Here are my top 3 tips when it comes to combating envy:

Number 1: Don’t label THEM or THAT KIND of people.

For some reason, it’s easier to label people with titles. The problem is that we don’t actually get to know them before we label them as “THOSE people”. I used to work for a company where this guy would go from department to department. Every two years when he reached a new promotion, he would switch to another area. I didn’t really know this guy, but everyone I worked with seemed to know him. They kept saying things about how this guy kissed butt and that’s why he was getting the promotion.

I ended up working with him on a project. I got to know him and found out a little more about him. A few months after that, I transferred from 2nd to 1st shift and ended up working with the same guy. I saw his work ethic, his personality, and his temperament. He was great to work with. His work was quality work. He didn’t make excuses. He simply did his job and did it well. After a few more months, I got to know more about him and his family. He had three girls and a boy. Growing up, his dad worked in the same industry we were in. His father worked 2nd shift on an assembly line. His father wasn’t there for most of his games because he had to work. His dad missed a lot of the extra parts of his life. He loves and respects his dad, but wanted his kids to have a different experience. So, he set out to go from the assembly line to a position that allowed him to work during the day with weekends off. Eventually, that’s exactly what he did.

It’s so easy to assign labels to people without knowing their story or their motivation.

Number 2: Don’t buy into the lie that it couldn’t be you.

I think one of the biggest reasons we become envious is because deep down we don’t believe that it could happen to us. Think about it. Would you turn down a promotion? Wouldn’t you want flowers delivered to you on THAT day? I certainly wouldn’t turn down the 6 pack abs! If you received the outcome you were hoping for, you’d accept it and celebrate it as well.

Growing up without a father figure in my life, I viewed Bill Cosby as my father figure. He was funny, successful, had an attractive wife, great family, a sweet house and was a great dad! I also remember myself as a kid being jealous of Theodore Huxtable. He had the dad I wish I had. Let’s ignore the fact that I was jealous of a fictional character! I was 8 years old at the time.

I recently read a book “To Own a Dragon” by Donald Miller. He explained similar experiences growing up. His insights helped me journey through the reality of growing up without a dad. One of the biggest insights I walked out with was to view God as my father. Once I started living like that, things in my life changed. It’s not like everything I did turn to gold but my mindset changed.

The Bible describes God as a loving father. Parts of the Bible display God lovingly taking care of His children. It also shows God blessing His kids. The Bible also says that Jesus came to give us the best life possible. Aside from blessing our spiritual life, I also believe blessings include money, success, relationship status, etc. God is FOR us, He loves us. He wants us to succeed. Maybe it’s time we start believing that too. God has more for me than I’ll ever understand. No matter how much I think I know how much God loves me, I’m wrong every time. He loves me more than I can imagine. Same is true for you. God has more for me to experience and mature into and is waiting for me to take that next right step.

Heather and I had been married for 2 and a half years when I discovered a check from our wedding. We never cashed it or deposited it. I debated if I should deposit it or not. Ultimately I didn’t. I wasted the potential of the check because I didn’t take my next right step in time. I delayed and in doing so wasted the potential that was given me.

If we spend time wallowing in our sorrows and wishing things would happen to us, we’ll waste the potential given to us.

Number 3. Fake it until you make it.

At the root of jealousy is the reality that you can’t or won’t celebrate the success of other people. You may not believe that God wants you to succeed, get the promotion, have the six-pack abs or have flowers delivered. If you need to, re-read Number 2 above.

In order to fight envy, however, I have found that celebrating other people is crucial in order to find the hope. You can overcome envy. You can experience the desired outcome you’re looking for. So, if you need to fake it, fake it. To genuinely fake it, start with a golf clap if you need to and work your way up to the full-on loud clap and cheer. I have found this has literally loosened the chains of envy that slipped around my heart. Believing that God will transform my heart for others and help me celebrate others is a great start to making it a reality.

Final thought on envy… Envy is something that we believe will help us feel better. In reality, it’s toxic to us. No one else knows that you’re envious. Being envious is kind of like drinking poison hoping that it hurts the other person. Put the poison down and experience freedom! God is for you and He wants you to succeed!

Photo by Kate Trysh on Unsplash

The List

I was a freshman in high school when I met the woman I wanted to marry and spend the rest of my life with.  As a 14-year-old,  I had everything figured out… so I thought.  I was sitting at a picnic table minding my own business when a cute, I mean really cute, 16-year-old brown haired girl walked by.  I noticed her right away and loved what I noticed!  She was wearing a simple white t-shirt with red and black checkered Umbro shorts.  

It was the summer of 1995.  Heather was and still is two and a half years older than I am.  After spending a week with her,  I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her.  I just had to figure out how to actually make that dream a reality.   

We lived two and a half hours apart and the internet wasn’t what it is these days. Dial-up ruled the day!  Napster wasn’t even invented yet. In order to make my dream a reality,  I decided to attend as many events that Heather might be at.  I started attending church camps and other events hoping Heather would be there and …she was.  My plan was working. I finally got up the courage to ask her for her address so I could write letters to her.  We wrote via snail mail for several years.  I still have some of those letters.  

We finally were able to spend time in the same space in the fall of 1999.  I graduated high school and attended the same college Heather did.  The fact that she was there, legit was the main factor in my decision-making process of what college I would attend.  The problem was that when I finally showed up, I realized I wasn’t the kind of guy Heather would want to date, let alone marry.  When I was finally honest with myself, I could see there were habits and characteristics in my own life that I wasn’t proud of.  

At some point during my freshman year of college, I created a list of characteristics that I wanted my future spouse to be like.  This list included characteristics such as loving, caring, maturing follower of Jesus, fun, faithful, funny, and attractive (who wants to spend the rest of your life with someone you can’t stand to look at?).  The purpose of the list was to help me identify ladies who might hold these characteristics.  This list became more important in just a few months.  

Eventually Heather and I started to hang out.  I quickly realized why Heather was the one. I realized that my integrity and maturity or lack thereof would hinder me from ever being the kind of guy Heather would want to date.  

I have journaled my prayers since I started following Jesus.  That list I created was in my prayer journal and during my sophomore year of college,  I read back over it.  God spoke to me that day like never before.  The message was clear.  “If you want your future spouse to be loving, caring etc.,  when will you become those things?”  “When will you start the process of becoming the maturing follower of Jesus I created you to be?”  

After my “conversation” with God,  I intentionally started the process of maturing as a person.  I quit smoking, started reading my Bible and doing more to learn about God.

In order for me to find Ms. Right (pretty sure that’s a myth we’ll unpack some other day),  I had to become the version of Mr. Right my Ms. Right was looking for.  Andy Stanley says it best, “Are you the person the person you’re looking for is looking for?”

If not, maybe it’s time you start that process for yourself.  Make a list of those characteristics you’re looking for.  Be honest with yourself. Are those characteristics in your own life?  Here’s the great news, your story isn’t over.  You’re not defined by your dating history. You’re not defined by your past. Allow God to write another chapter in your life.  If you’re married, you might want to do this as well.  You’d be surprised how this might benefit your marriage.  

I pastor RE.THINK Church and 80% of our people are under the age of 30 years old.  Several of these people are single. Some have been married before and are now looking for what’s next, or better put,  who’s next.  I’ve encouraged our people to stop looking for Mr. or  Ms. Right and become Mr. or Ms. Right first.

 

Photo by Alvin Mahmudov on Unsplash

3 Ways to Make 2018 YOUR Best Year Ever

Woah 2017 is almost over.  Did you miss it?  Did you live in the moments, capture every transition that took place in your life?  Guys, did you mourn the migration of your hair from your head to ‘other parts’ parts of your body?  Did you celebrate anything major?  Or maybe did you miss out attempting to capture the perfect picture of the moments that you missed the actual moments?

I don’t know about you, but as 2017 comes to an end I’m eager to move forward and press into 2018.  I think 2018 is going to an amazing year, I’d even say it’s going to be my best year I’ve ever lived.  

I’ve already started to set some goals for my 2018.  These goals will help me mature into the person I believe God is wanting me to become in order to accomplish the things He has in store for me to accomplish.  

As easy as it would be for me to press on toward 2018 and not pause and reflect I know I must.  There’s a misleading saying that I’ve heard throughout my life, “Experience is the best teacher…”  As I’ve not only gotten older but matured I’ve come to realize that this statement is lacking.  It’s not complete.  If that were the case then we’ve got to mature just by getting older.  If that were the case I wouldn’t be tempted to relive my glory days in high school and retell those stories.  Uncle Rico wouldn’t keep reminding us that he could throw a pigskin a quarter mile either.  Do you know an Uncle Rico?  Are you an Uncle Rico?  

Don’t just get older this year, don’t just go through 365 days and not mature or get better.  

I’ve put my top 3 tips below in how I’ve matured and maybe they can help you out as well.  

  1. Evaluate your experience.  While experience can teach us a few things, it’s not the best teacher.  Evaluated experience is.  Take time to evaluate your 2017.  How did you mature?  What was great about it?  What sucked about it?  How did you fail?  How did you succeed?  Take time to write your responses in a journal or diary whatever you want to call it.  I have had a file on my Evernote that I look back over at times and answer those same questions.  
  2. Write a statement of who you want to become in the coming year.  This statement can have goals, it can have character traits you’d like to have in your life.  It can be as big or as simple as you’d like.  Write something down that you’ll be able to look to and remind yourself over and over again throughout 2018.  Put a reminder on your phone throughout the 365 days to look at and through this statement.  Instead of waiting until the very end of 2018 you’ll be able to adjust according because you’ve taken this statement seriously.  Any goal worth achieving needs attention and intentionality so this helps you in both regards.  If you don’t give your goal or statement attention or intentionality you’re wishing and hoping, but not really doing your part to mature.  
  3. Break 2018 into quarters like you would in a business fiscal year.  In the coming days think through habits or disciplines that will help you accomplish your statement from #2.  In that quarter develop 1 habit/ discipline that will help you accomplish it.  If you choose more than 1 you won’t actually accomplish any.  At the end of 2018, you’ll have developed 4 habits that will help you become who you actually want to.  

I’m believing 2018 is going to be the best year I’ve ever lived, but I don’t want to just waste 365 days of possibilities of maturing and bettering myself.  Enjoy the time to pause and evaluate and give yourself attention and intentionality to become the person God wants you to become, in order for you to do the things He has planned for you to do.  

One more final thought…. As we become the person God created us to be it should improve our world we live in.  Our workplace, schools, friends, family etc should improve.  We don’t just improve just to improve.  It should be like the coffee bean transforming simple water into something new, something better.  

Made for Less

This month I reached out to a friend who has a great story and lives a fun life!  Caroline has some great insights that I believe we’ll learn from as we head into this holiday season.

Often times we hear the phrase, “You were made for more” and in a godly sense, this can be completely true.  We were made to love more deeply, give more often, speak more kindly, and pray more wholeheartedly.  But in a worldly sense the word, more, means something totally different.  Our culture today is telling us we deserve more, we need more and we can’t be happy without more.  More stuff that is.  They are also making it easier and easier for us to “buy” into that lie.  With one click, you can have everything you’ve ever wanted to be delivered to your home in 2 days… FREE shipping too!  But what happens after the little brown box shows up on your doorstep?  What happens when the excitement wears off and that, once special, item ends up in the back of your closet never to be seen again?

For many years my oldest son begged us for a gaming system but we kept pushing his insistence aside.  We didn’t want our child to spend his days playing video games and shoving his face into a screen.  But we finally gave in and for his birthday we surprised him with a Nintendo Wii.  It was used.  Ten years old to be exact, and only had a couple games, but to him, it was the BEST THING EVER!!!  Now fast-forward one year and my son is already wanting to save up his money to buy the newest and coolest gaming system on the market.  Don’t ask me which one that is?!  It seems like every year there is something bigger, better, faster and everyone has to have it.  Don’t even get me started on iPhones.

Too many of us these days believe that contentment can be found in possessions.  But in all honesty, the list of items we truly need in life is pretty short and you probably already have everything you need in your home right now.  Jesus tells us in Luke 12 “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” What if contentment really is found in the opposite place you’ve been looking? What if contentment was found, not in accumulating possessions, but in having less of them?

In the coming months and years, we as parents, need to be mindful of what drives us to make certain purchases.  Is it for security, acceptance or contentment?  These things are not bad in themselves to desires but when it comes to materialism, they have limited ability to satisfy us long term. Solomon was a great example of such a life.  He was the wealthiest King in Israel.  He built houses and vineyards, he owned more livestock than anyone in Jerusalem, and he also had gold, silver, and female singers.  He denied himself nothing.  But at the end of his life Solomon wrote these words, “Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun” Ecclesiastes 2:11.  He was disillusioned and learned that possessions and money didn’t bring happiness.

So, what does bring contentment and happiness?  The bible tells us in 1 Timothy, to put our hope in God, the one who provides us with everything we need.  We are supposed to be good, do good, and be generous with all that we have. By doing so, we will lay up treasures for ourselves. But they are not earthly treasures. In Matthew 6 it says, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

There are more valuable pursuits in life than accumulating material things.  I like to tell people, remove everything unnecessary and improve the purpose of what’s left.  If you remove all the distractions, all the unneeded things in your life, what’s left?  Possibly God, family, friends, nature, and lots and lots of purposeful and intentional time together.  And like my pastor always says, “Love God, love others, and teach others to know and love God.” It’s that simple. That is where you will find true contentment and happiness.

This holiday season try to focus on the most valuable things you truly “need” in life.  Spend more time in the word and more time with the people around you.  And as for presents this Christmas, my son will NOT be getting that gaming system that he wants so badly.  Instead of all toys and gadgets, our kids will be receiving gifts of experience, adventure and time.  Things like season passes to the zoo, aquarium, museum, theme park, rock climbing, fishing, eating at their favorite restaurant, etc.  The list could go on and on.  See how your kids react to getting tickets to their favorite sports team or admission to a trampoline park for the day instead of a toy.  You might be surprised at how well they handle it!

In what ways could your life improve if you and your family owned fewer possessions?  Who could you invest more time in if you had fewer material distractions in life?

Caroline Hay grew up Indiana but now lives in Oklahoma with her husband, Kevin.  She is a Homeschooling mother of 3 boys, Photographer, Instagram Influencer, and Former Blogger. You can find her most active on Instagram @cnhay5

Just a little Man Spreading here….

My younger sister brought this idea to my attention recently, man spreading.  She flew into Chicago on a Friday night and as we picked her up at Midway Airport she just had to get her frustration off her chest. Here’s what she had to say.

First, let me just say this is not a complaint on dimensions of a man compared to my 5’1’’ frame. Having broad shouldered brothers and 6’2” husband, I get it. Airplane seats are less than ideal and nearly impossible to fit in. That being said, when I sat down next to a young, same size-ish man as myself, I didn’t think I’d have to fight for my own seat space with such assertion. With an aisle spot, this guy took up his seat and then some of mine for the majority of the flight. Elbows out, knees repeatedly pushing me into a narrow (real uncomfortable) crossed leg position.

I’ll admit this is a funny topic, but I feel that it depicts something that is really going on in our culture.  The discussion around this issue is one that has quietly been going on for a while now.  

During my lifetime I’ve noticed something, the leaders of our political and government, religious practices, groups, education departments, medical industry, and business and industry have been led, and ran by white males. In my lifetime the leaders of these areas have started to see some diversity.  Which is great for culture, politics, religion, education, and every other aspect of culture.  It’s not only great for the people that are affected by these parts of culture, but it’s great for the leaders who get to lead.  Unless you’re the guys who are being replaced; aka the white males that have been leading.  No longer do we live in a culture that allows leaders to lead based on their last name, the color of their skin, or gender. There is at least a debate (it may not be a fair debate yet, but the discussion is actually being had). Until recent history in America, the number of non-white males holding leadership in these realms is few and far between.  

In my opinion, of what I’ve observed, is that white males (which I am one of) have felt the pressure to give up their leadership roles based on their gender and color of their skin and now have to actually lead and earn that space and position of leadership.  So they react by man-spreading, maybe not like one would on a public transit but still.  This happens in comments like, “I’m not racist but….”  “You’re in America learn our language….”  (as if we had our own official language).  “You’re successful for a _____”

I am grateful to have worked in a company named Denso Manufacturing that had a goal of empowering and promoting anyone who was worthy of being promoted.  I’m sure they weren’t perfect in this, but from what I experienced minorities and women were given a shot at leading, and some are thriving there as well.  I’m encouraged by the recent announcement of Willow Creek Community Church’s leadership transition taking place.  Founding Pastor Bill Hybels will be replaced with Co-Ed Lead Pastors, Heather Larson, and Steve Carter.  This is a monumental shift! 

I do believe organizations and companies are making some major strides in regards to how they are intentionally stopping the manspreading within their own ranks.  I’ve witnessed my own denomination do this in recent years by electing Jo Anne Lyons as the General Superintendent.   

So what if you’re like me, a white male in a leadership role, what should we do?  I believe number one, pull your legs together. Create space for others to lead.  Don’t lead by position or title, earn it.  Build up the reputation, credibility, and lead by example.  We must first admit this happens and is an issue.  The fact that women on average are paid $.79 to do the same job men do and are paid $1, we must admit and address it.  If we can pay a man to perform the same job it’s not a lack of funding, it’s a lack of confidence, trust, and an increase of greed on our part.  We must believe that non-white males can actually do a great job and might even do a job better than we may, and that’s ok.  It’s uncomfortable to watch someone outperform you, but it is okay.  As a leader, we are meant to lead, and that usually means creating space for others to lead.  

Secondly, do the difficult thing and earn your position over and over again.  Reinvent yourself as a leader.  The world and markets are changing which requires new leadership.  Relearning how to communicate, relearning the market,  and relearning how to accomplish something you’ve already known is a challenge.  Matt Keller defines teachability as being willing to relearn that which we think we already know. Teachability is the key to success.  Check his book out, Key To Everything.

Squeeze in and give others, especially the emerging leaders, room to lead.  Be okay with others accomplishing tasks, goals, in ways that you aren’t comfortable with.  Be there to offer advice, but not overwhelming them with your crushing man-spreading. I look forward to the day that leaders are leading based on their merit, not simply holding their leadership positions because of their skin color, last name, or gender.  I believe when this happens we’ll experience some great days!  

 -Co-written by, 

Stephanie Smith & Marc Ulrich

Why RE.THINK Church

A little over 2 years ago when we decided to venture down this path of starting a church in an area where we knew no one and had no connections; we really had no clue what to expect.  Heather (my wife) and I didn’t know exactly what kind of church we wanted to create we knew what kind of church we didn’t want.  Nor did we know what to expect when we finally were able to move up to Merrillville, IN.  

I’ll admit we wanted to create a church based on our own personal experiences as well as our experiences as pastors on staff at several different churches, some were boring, some were way too fancy and uptight, and most weren’t innovative.  So when we decided to start a church we decided to start a fun, casual, and innovative church.

  1.  Start a fun church.

My first memory of church happened when I was about five years old.  The pastor standing on the stage babbled on and on about stuff I had no clue about.  Like most five-year-olds, I got bored… really bored.  My older brother and I sat there talking, fighting, and who knows what, but we were especially loud on that particular day.  

The pastor, Pastor Helmet Head, was the name I gave him because of his perfect depiction of a TV Evangelist of the 1980’s… his hair wasn’t moving at all hence “Pastor Helmet Head.”. He looked down from the stage as he stood behind the pulpit and told my brother and me to be quiet.  I simply responded back, “Yes, Pastor Helmet Head….”  I realized then that kids were expected to act like adults, and most adults just simply endured this version of church.  After Pastor Helmet Head, a new guy named Dave became our pastor.  Dave was pretty traditional but fun.  He helped me to get a glimpse of what church would look like when there is fun involved.

I think it’s time we started allowing the church to be fun.  I think it should be age relevant environments so that an adult can encounter Jesus just like a child can encounter Jesus.  Kids shouldn’t have to sit through an adult service and never move.  There should be dancing, fun, games, and the occasional loud screams of joy from the kid’s area.  All these things should be a sign as to what’s going on as adult leaders break down the complex truths of the Bible into simplistic forms meant for kids.  If these things don’t happen I would tend to question what’s really going on!   

It’s time for  RE.THINK Church to make it fun!  

We don’t take ourselves too seriously because let’s face it if God has a sense of humor maybe it’s time for His church to have one too!

  1. Start a casual church:

I remember waking up every Sunday and wanting to wear my jeans and a t-shirt, but no I couldn’t.  I had to dress up, put on my Sunday best.  The funny thing is I remember doing all this, but not doing my hair.  My hair was a mess most Sundays, but at least I wasn’t wearing jeans!  

One particular Sunday, in between our Sunday School and church service, I asked an adult, “if someone can’t afford dressy clothes can they come to church?”

The adult’s response has shaped me since, but not in a good way.  

The response I got was essentially this, “If you can’t afford dressy clothes coming to church is the least of your worries…” the adult caught himself after those words, but the damage was already done.  Like toothpaste that has been squeezed out of the tube, he couldn’t put the words back in his mouth.  There was no recovery for him, his attitude is one that I’ve seen in several churches throughout America. He just happened to voice it.  

When I think of a church a place that should be known for grace, mercy, love, and kindness. I shudder at the idea that church is known for the thing most people get dressed up in order to encounter Jesus.  Pastor Jud Wilhite states in his book, Uncensored Grace, “Sometimes people who have it together externally are a mess internally.”  Let’s not fool ourselves here, dressing up doesn’t make you any more godly.  

I’d rather have someone show up in what they can afford, what they are comfortable in. As long as bits and pieces are covered and there are no disrespectful writing or graphics, then we’re good.  

Having a casual church isn’t all about the dress code though.  

We understand that the message of Jesus and living life the way He intends us to live can be a  very difficult thing to live out.  We get it, we are still striving to do the same here.  Creating a casual church goes beyond the dress code and into the terms of how people mature through their relationship with Christ.  

People are in control of the pace at which they want to take their next right step.  We’ll explain everything up front as much as possible, but we expect people to take the journey as they see fit.  We’re here to journey with you along the way!   

  1.  Start an innovative church:

I’ve been a pastor since 2001.  I’ve been involved in churches to some capacity my entire life.  I’ve noticed something about churches… on the surface, churches have the same elements.  Every weekend there is a service, songs are sung, someone stands up to give a message, and someone says some prayers and that’s about it.  Some churches have kids ministries, some churches don’t.  Some churches have things for teenagers some don’t.  

RE.THINK Church has a goal, a mission to be an innovative church.  We don’t want to just start up a church that acts, feels, functions the same as churches we can find anywhere else.  Innovation goes beyond cosmetics.  I believe innovation goes down into our DNA.  

RE.THINK Church resides in Lake County, IN.  There are 220,000+ people who have no religious affiliation at all. We want to see that number eliminated.  Why? Because we believe the message of Jesus is one that will change people’s lives forever.  These 220,000+ individuals have stories, reasons, and beliefs that have led them to consciously check “No Affiliation” on their census.  I don’t know their story, but I want to.  

In order to make it possible for each of the 220,000+ people in Lake County to encounter Jesus in the same manner I have; I can’t depend on the same methods to work.  Let’s face it, they most likely won’t.  

I’ll admit, I don’t have this one nailed down completely, but I do know that my friends, neighbors, fellow parents at soccer games, football games, people I meet at the gym, and at the coffee shop and every other person deserves an innovative church, and that’s what we are striving to accomplish.  

I believe that if God really did create each human being in His own image there is a God-sized God give dream inside each of us.  We want people to discover that dream and unleash the potential in their own lives.  I believe when we start doing that we’ll start living into the full potential that God has for us as individuals, families, and communities.