Pray Without Ceasing

The lovely Robin and I just returned home from two weeks in Peru and a week in Tennessee, combining a church mission trip with some vacation time. Inexpressibly memorable.

Before we left for Peru, I spent some time categorizing the five years of entries in my prayer blog ( In doing so, I realized how much prayer carried me through my discouragement, disappointment, and even depression of 2008. I'm soooo glad I was so honest in praying, because going back over 2008 and 2007 provided a map and a timeline of those emotional and spiritual travels--and also drove home how much of an anchor prayer was for me through it all! I knew, of course, that I prayed more than ever before during that time; I guess I just never saw so vividly, all painted on a single canvas so to speak, the full picture of those prayers.

That underscores for me (again) the value of a prayer blog, or prayer journal.

What Would the World Do?

What would the world do without the Body of Christ? There are teams here in Cuzco to work among the poor here, like ours in Arequipa are doing at this very moment. I imagine there are many, many missions teams spread throughout Peru and all of South America--all the world!--right now....staying in hotels, renting buses, buying food and supplies and souvenirs, and performing acts of kindness. How much poorer would these countries, these people, be without such efforts?

Lord of the Pueblo

Lord of the pueblo,
King of my heart,
thank you for these people.
Thank you that in Christ
there is no East or West,
north or south,
light or dark,
insider or outsider,
but we are all one in Christ Jesus.

Thank you for Don and Christie,
and for Gianni and Giannina,
and Luis and Yvonne,
and Hebert,
and so many others I have met,
by your grace.
Be kind to them, Lord God Adonai,
and throw any blessings
you have planned for me
their way instead,
in Jesus´name, amen.

(Posted simultaneously on Bob Hostetler´s Prayer Blog, Desperate Pastor Blog, and ¨Hither & Yon¨Blog)

Off to Peru

This blog and my other two blogs will be silent for the next few weeks. I leave Monday with the lovely Robin for nine or ten days of ministry in Peru, with our friends Don and Christie Latta. While this is the sixth year our church has sent a mission team to Peru (the picture at right was taken on one of those previous trips), this will be my first. I'm really looking forward to it and would appreciate your prayers.

I'm expecting to preach a little, pray a lot, do some dental clinics, maybe help Vic with a little plumbing work, play with kids, smile a lot, and otherwise do whatever is called for in those ten days. We really hope to find some way to be a blessing to Don and Christie, and to as many other people as we can. We know, too, how these things go: we'll come back having received more than we've given.

After our mission efforts are done, the lovely Robin and I will fly from Arequipa to Cuzco, spend a night and then take a train to Machu Pichu (pictured at left), the fabled lost city of the Incas. After a day at Machu Pichu, we'll fly out of Cuzco, to Lima, and then back home by way of Atlanta.

Turn and Face the Strain

Ed Young's blog ( is one of the pastor's blogs I read regularly. His latest entry is another good one:

If it ain't broke, break it.

In other words, change. Just to change. That may sound like an odd statement, but it's vital. Why? Because change is the guts of creativity.

We all want to be creative. But to do that, in any venue of life, we have to be willing to change. Something. Anything. And we have to do it before we need to do it.

One of the biggest pitfalls we find ourselves in is the inability, or unwillingness, to change. We lock ourselves into a style, a look, a time zone. And after a while, everything we do and say looks and sounds like circa 2002.

When you drill it down, the lack of change is all about fear. Many people and leaders resist the need to change because of the resistance of change. But there's a spin cycle of success when it comes to change.

Change. Conflict. Growth.

If you want your life and your leadership to reach the level God wants it to, you have to change.

At Fellowship Church, we change all the time. There's a running joke that FC stands for "frequent change." But it's true. We've discovered over the past 18 years that when we change, yes, we face conflict. Yes, people do the push back. Yes, some people even leave the church! But as we stick through the changes, we also discover tremendous growth on the other side.

So what does change really look like here?

Change Your Preparation
I don't always prepare my messages the same way. I vary the books I read, the articles I research and the people who help me craft the weekend messages. I even change the places I study.

If I stick to doing things the same way, I fall into a rut. And there's no less effective place to be than in a rut.

Change Your Worship
Over the years, we've blown up the entire dynamic of our worship department. And not just once.

This is one of those areas that, when it's "working," people are afraid to change. But it's one of the greatest ways to keep the church on its feet with its arms raised in worship rather than folded in familiarity.

Change Your Style
I'm not talking about just your clothes (though, yes, please change those as the years go by). I'm talking about the style of your leadership. In other words, change the people you have in leadership positions.

Even as I write this, we're in the process of changing the entire leadership scheme of Fellowship Church. Because we've discovered that new perspectives, new viewpoints help elevate our church to heights we never dreamed possible.

Don't be afraid of change. Instead, be afraid of what could happen if you don't change. Be willing to face the conflict change will bring. And get ready to experience the growth on the other side!

Daggone, that challenges me....primarily because I hate conflict. I really, really want to improve and so I'm open to long as no one gets upset, as long as no one gets hurt. And yet I think I've learned that (a) growth brings change, (2) change brings conflict, (III) not changing brings conflict, (d) so we might as well experience conflict because of trying to improve instead of trying not to change, eh?

Things That Sap My Peace

Yesterday I riffed a little on Jesus' words when he wept over Jerusalem ("I wish you knew today what would bring you peace" (Luke 19:42, NCV)) and listed 7 things I have learned bring me peace. Today I thought I'd take the opposite tack. What are the things that sap my peace, that subtract from my joy and general sense of well-being:

* PRAYERLESSNESS...I function better and feel better when I have been constant in prayer. There's just no substitute.
* CRITICISM...I am so jealous of my friends in ministry who let criticism roll off them like water off a duck's back. I'm not like that. Criticism rolls off me like a fly strip off a fly's back. I honestly think I'm getting better at it, but there's still PUHLENTY of room for improvement.
* TELEVISION...It took me some time to realize, when I used to take my Sabbath on Saturdays, that watching television--particularly 4-8 hours of college football--did NOT charge my battery! But when I began to eschew all T.V. on my Sabbath, I experienced an amazing restoration.
* HURRY...John Ortberg tells the story in his book, When The Game Is Over, It All Goes Back in the Box, of asking a wise friend what he needed to do to be spiritually healthy. The man said, "Ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life." He wrote that down, then asked, "What else?" The man said, "There is nothing else. You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life." I needed that counsel as much or more than Ortberg, I'm sure. Hurry is my enemy, and one of my great weaknesses. When I give into it, it robs me of joy and a hurry!
* kids make fun of me because I avoid driving whenever possible, especially on my weekend (and certainly on my Sabbath). But honest to goodness, driving--even if I'm not in a particular hurry--draws down my tank like running too many applications off an old laptop battery.
* TELEPHONES...I have long had a hate/hate relationship with the telephone. Having an iPhone has mitigated that a lot. But even so, I find that I still have the tiniest tolerance for talking on the telephone (except with the lovely Robin, and my kids, of course!).
* PEOPLE...Don't get me wrong. I love people (most of the time). But I'm an introvert. I get recharged in silence and solitude (or near-solitude). So I know that, when I reach my limit, I need a break even from good friends and wonderful people. I think Jesus understands, because the Gospels seem to paint a similar picture of him.

So those are the main ones, I think. When my tank is full, such things are not a problem. But I think I'm learning that, when the tank starts to get low, I need to give myself permission to avoid some of the things that sap my peace and pursue some of the things that bring me peace....and with added peace will come added joy. And with added joy, renewed energy and effectiveness.

Things That Would Bring You Peace

When Jesus wept over Jerusalem, he said, "I wish you knew today what would bring you peace" (Luke 19:42, NCV).

Which (along with my posting day before yesterday about self-care and why I see a shrink) prompted me tonight to give thought to the things that bring ME peace, practices that add to my peace and joy and general sense of well-being:

* PRAYER...particularly in the sense that I like myself more and feel better about my life and ministry--and just generally function better--when I am consistently in prayer;
* wife, kids, and grandkids make me happy. They bring me joy. I love every moment I spend in their presence. I don't even have to be the center of attention.
* READING...particularly in the sense that I love life when I am in the midst of an utterly engrossing book. Not just any book, but one that is a joy to read.
* OUTSIDE...I agree wholeheartedly with William deBuys's comment--"Sometimes the easiest answer to our difficulties is not so much to get outside ourselves as to get ourselves outside." Being outdoors (in the woods, especially) is a tonic to my soul.
* MUSIC...not just any music, but James Taylor, Shane & Shane, Donnie McClurkin, Michael McDonald...
* WORSHIP...almost every weekend, even when I am at my lowest, I am transformed by worship at The Loft.
* own, mostly, as self-centered as that sounds. But it's the truth. When I am soon to preach (or just have), all is right with the world.

That's at least the top 7, I'm pretty sure. Maybe soon I'll give some thought to the things that most easily sap my joy.

Fans and Fruit-Throwers

I am so tired of our tendency as Christians to exalt pastors and preachers on the one hand and criticize them on the other. I don't like either one. I think both are not only a waste of time, but a shame. A pox on the house of God.

I'm willing to make an exception for you if you actually came to faith in Christ through the ministry of, say, Joel Osteen or Mark Driscoll or Beth Moore or whomever. In that case, honor and follow that person as your spiritual parent, which is Biblical (1 Timothy 1:2, Titus 1:4; also 1 Corinthians 4:16, 11:1, and Philippians 3:17). But it irks me how easily we become "fans" of such people, succumbing to the celebrity worship that is so common in our culture. (Full disclosure coming: I once had a detractor ream me out because he thought I was trying to be like another pastor and make my church like that guy's church...and then--honest to goodness--without skipping a beat told me we really ought to do just like Mark Driscoll, of Mars Hill in Seattle! I kid you not).

It irks me more, though, to hear fellow pastors in books and the blogosphere criticizing this preacher or that, their theology or their way of doing ministry, and so on. I'm sick of it. As Paul said in Philippians 1:18, "So what? All I care about is that Christ is being proclaimed, whether poorly or well, from mixed motives or pure. And that makes me happy!" (Bob's Revised Version).

Hey, there are some preachers I LOVE to listen to, like Rob Bell and Erwin McManus. They pastor me long-distance, mostly through the earbuds on my iPhone. I occasionally tune in to T. D. Jakes on television. There are some I can't bear to watch (Joel Osteen: Man, I love you, but your incessant blinking is gonna throw me into a seizure some day!). And others have an approach or personality that's just not my cup of tea. But life is too short and my mission is too demanding to worry about who's right and who's wrong, whose theology is proper and whose isn't, and so on and so forth. Give it a rest, my peeps! All I care about is that Christ is being proclaimed, one way or another, and that's a good thing. So if you want me to become a Facebook "fan" of someone in ministry, no thanks (I don't respond to all that stuff anyway). And if you ever catch me critiquing a fellow pastor or preacher or teacher in words stronger than "not my cup of tea," call me on it, okay?

Why I See a Shrink

I get different reactions when I mention to people (quite readily, most of the time) that I regularly see a "shrink" (that is, a professional counselor). Many are surprised. Some get that wary, gee-I-didn't-know-you-were-crazy, look in their eyes. Some seem really appreciative. And others want to know why. Here's why:

1. For several years, while being coached as a church planter by my friend Steve Sjogren, he would ask in probably more than half of our meetings together, "Are you seeing a shrink yet?" At that time, my answer was no. But he, with wisdom borne of years of successful ministry, continued to promote to me and my co-pastor the importance of self-care for pastors, which includes having a counselor to talk to.

2. As I told my first counselor when he asked me in our first session, "Why are you here?," I sought out counseling when I WASN'T in crisis because I knew (as I myself had counseled many) that the best time to seek help is BEFORE a crisis hits. And, boy, has that been proven wise.

3. Ministry invites spiritual warfare. The burdens of leadership and ministry are so heavy at times that it is so valuable just to have an outlet, a pressure release valve, someone who isn't a member of the church, and who can offer comfort and counsel and wisdom and perspective.

4. It sets a good example for the flock. It's one thing to recommend counseling to people from some position of supposed superiority, and a much better thing to model the fact that a person doesn't have to be crazy to seek counseling (even if I am).

5. It is part of my accountability network. My counselor helps expose my blind spots and asks the hard questions of me. I hate that. But it's helpful and necessary.

6. My counselor also happens to be a qualified spiritual director. So he helps me get better at listening to God and discerning what God is trying to say to me (most of the time, it's "Hey! Anybody in there?"). The value of spiritual direction is not mainly in answering my questions, but in questioning my answers.

7. It clears my head. Often, after seeing my counselor, I experience a renewed mental, emotional, and spirituality clarity as a result of offloading some of the confusing and conflicting thoughts in my head. Turns out such clarity is an asset for a pastor. Who knew?

"Why I'm Pumped About the Future of the American Church"

Loved this post from Larry Osborne's blog (

It’s fashionable to decry the current state of Christianity in America.

But frankly, I don’t buy it.

Some of the most popular conference speakers on the circuit today excel at drive-by-guiltings. They paint a picture of a church that lacks guts, cowers from dying to self, and lives out a self-satisfied, what’s-in-it-for-me Christianity.

In most cases, I like these speakers. They are good guys. I respect them. But I just don’t agree on this issue.

I’ve noticed that their audience is usually a room full of charge-the-hill-type young leaders who eat it up and then return home to look with disdain upon other churches, pastors, leaders, and often their own congregation (oblivious to how much they have in common with the self-congratulatory zealot in Luke 11: 9-14).


Now don’t get me wrong, I’ll agree that we have lots of carnality and self-centered living in our churches today. But come on, that’s nothing new. It’s been like that from the beginning. It’s simply not accurate to paint a heroic picture of the early church without also pointing out its many failures. In reality, the early church was pretty messed up, about as messed up as the American Church.

Have we forgotten . . .

*Those who willingly sold what they had to share with those in need thought Jesus was returning any day. So when the Pentecost pilgrims who stayed rather than return home ran out of money (no one carried a debit card) the Jerusalem Christians sold possessions, fields, and homes to meet their need. I’m sure I would too if I thought Jesus was returning in the next couple of weeks.
*They ended up broke. So much so that the Gentile churches took up a special collection for the impoverished saints in Jerusalem. Between persecutions and previously selling much of what they had, the Jerusalem church ended up in poverty. Perhaps Acts 2:41-47 is descriptive rather than prescriptive. After all, I know of no one who suggests we should be meeting daily, in Jerusalem, in the temple courts.
*The early church ignored Jesus’ command to take the gospel to the world. They flat out disobeyed. They stayed in Jerusalem. Eventually God had to send a great persecution to drive them out of their holy huddle and jump start the expansion of the kingdom. That’s the only reason they left according to Acts 8:1
*The early church was unwilling to share the gospel with Gentiles. And once they did, they didn’t want to allow them full status as Christians. Only after a contentious debate at the Jerusalem council did things change. And even after that, the battle raged on. That’s one of the major reasons we have the books of Galatians and Hebrews in our Bibles.
*The Apostle Paul’s church plants were so messed up (both doctrinally and morally) he later had to write a bunch of letters to get them back on track. The Corinthians were visiting temple prostitutes, ignoring sin in the name of grace, hoarding the good stuff at church pot-lucks. And they seem to have forgotten that the resurrection really mattered. Timothy had to be reminded not to appoint the town drunk as an elder. The Galatians’ and Colossians’ flirted with heresy. And that’s just the beginning of a long list of sins and goofy thinking that had to be corrected.
*The early church leaders were as feisty and flakey as today’s leaders. Paul and Barnabas had a messy split over how to handle a young intern named John Mark. Peter fell into hypocrisy and pretended to be a legalist until called out by Paul. And didn’t everyone skip out on Paul during his time of greatest need?
*Jesus also had some rather unflattering things to say to the New Testament churches. Most of the churches mentioned in Revelation 2-3 hardly set an example I’d want my church to follow.

So when we call for a return to the New Testament church, do we really know what we’re asking for? In many cases, I think not.


And in light of that, here’s why I’m so pumped about the future of the American church.

*Jesus said he would build his church and the gates of hell could not hold it back. So I’ll bank on his promise despite some occasional setbacks.
*As seen above, things might not be as bleak as they appear. Yes, we’re messed up, but so was the early church; and God used them to turn the world upside down.
*God has already hand-picked a new breed of leaders and shepherds to care for his flock and beautify his bride. In my travels around the country, I run into them all the time. I wish everyone could see what I see and spend time with them as I do. They are the real deal. Many are already leading huge churches at a young age. Thousands more are heeding the call to become church planters. A plethora of church planting networks and organizations have spontaneously formed to recruit, train, and deploy these folks into ministry. It’s not only encouraging, it’s humbling.

Dead on. It always amazes me that we all agree "there are no perfect churches," and yet we can be so critical of our leaders, other churches, etc. And it seems also that folks who want to be a "New Testament church" typically mean in ONE or TWO areas but not in others. When we say we wanna be a New Testament church, we mean we want elders (but we don't want the pastor appointing elders, as was the New Testament way). Or we mean we want baptism by immersion (but not tongues and interpretation of tongues). Or we mean we want apostolic leadership (until the apostle makes decisions we don't like). And on it goes.

But I praise God for Larry Osborne's wise words above that remind me that even Paul's churches were messy. Even the New Testament church struggled financially. Even they had to eat their words from time to time. Given all that....God may still use US to turn the world upside down. To paraphrase a trite saying, "Churches don't have to be perfect; just used!"

A Little Technology Is a Dangerous Thing

By way of Kem Meyer's blog (

Auto Tuning from Casey Donahue on Vimeo.


Twenty-two Jobs

Inspired by Tony Morgan's blog (, at which he posted "10 Jobs I’d Consider Taking Now that I Don’t Work at a Church" and followed it up with "10 Jobs That I Will Never Take," I thought it would be fun to consider:

11 Jobs I’d Consider Taking If I Weren't a Pastor and Qualifications Weren't a Problem

Writer (duh, right?)
Magazine editor
Seminary professor
Israel tour guide
Radio DJ
TV news anchor
Simcha Jacobovici's replacement as The Naked Archaeologist
Bookstore/coffeehouse proprietor
Park ranger
Shakespearean actor
Lounge singer

11 Jobs I Will Never Take, Even If I Were Qualified

Pool boy
Country music singer
Belly dancer
Personal trainer
Cliff diver
Septic tank cleaning

The Blessings of Compline

Since my first prayer retreat at the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky, I have incorporated Compline (the last of the seven prayer "offices" observed in fixed-hour prayer) into my daily routine. When people ask me, "What's Compline?" I'll usually explain it's "bedtime prayers." But it's more than that. It's not only the time of prayer I observe before going to bed, but a purposefully designed liturgy that has turned into a tremendous blessing for me.

One of the blessings of Compline, perhaps the most basic, is that it helps my mind prepare for rest. Psychologically, at least, this nightly practice is a little like many other details of bedtime routine: locking the doors, turning out lights, brushing teeth, etc. On a solely natural level, Compline tells my body and mind that bedtime is approaching.

But there's much more to it than that. The opening words of Compline--"May the Lord Almighty grant me and those I love a peaceful night and a perfect end"--are a doorway into rest for me. These words cue my spirit that rest is coming soon. The confession and plea for forgiveness that soon follows cleanses my conscience and prepares me to bed down in purity and peace.

Also, while I only sometimes chant (in the Gregorian fashion) my morning prayers, I always chant the psalms and prayers of Compline. I've only recently asked myself why. I think it's because the quiet, meditative nature of chant is the perfect way to end the day. The chant slows down my racing mind. It helps me to welcome the Word of God into my head and heart in the last moments of the day, and often (partly because of the music of the chant) helps it to lodge there.

The actual words of Compline also bless me before bedtime. As someone who has long had trouble falling asleep, sometimes tossing and turning for hours, my sleep routines have changed drastically in recent years, and I think it's partly due to the words and thoughts with which I fill my mind before retiring, such as, "Into your hands do I commend my spirit....keep me as the apple of your eye and hide me under the shadow of your wings" and "Lord, you now have set your servant free to go in peace..."

Compline also helps me commit my loved ones and others--and the world, in fact--to God's care before I close my eyes in sleep. No matter how concerned I may be for someone, the wonderful words of Augustine's prayer (which I will amplify with the word, "especially," followed by specific names) enable me to cast all my cares on him who cares for me: "Watch, dear Lord, with those who wake, or watch, or weep tonight, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend your sick ones, Lord Christ. Rest your weary ones, bless your dying ones, soothe your suffering ones, shield your joyous ones, and all for your love's sake, amen." It's a critical and complete exercise in intercession and in trust before I go to bed.

Finally, I think the strange melody and fitting words of the Compline Hymn ("Lord, save us, save us while we are awake; protect us while we are asleep, that we may keep our watch with Christ, and when we sleep, rest in his peace"), along with the Gloria ("Glory to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit..."), have come to affect my mind and spirit a little like a loving parent tucking me into the covers and planting a gentle kiss on my forehead. It punctuates my day. It draws the curtains and turns out the lights on all the activity of the day. It benedicts.

And I know that doesn't even exhaust the blessings of Compline. I am also confident that my nightly habit has saved me hundreds of dollars in sleep aids and thousands of hours in tossing and turning. And, most of all, it nightly draws me into the arms of God, a blessing that becomes dearer every day.

Focus Pocus

Another challenging post from Scott Hodge of The Orchard:

One of the most empowering moments in The Orchard's journey of transition & change occurred a few years ago when someone said to us: "Until you get your focus OFF of the people who are disgruntled, unhappy, unsupportive, and resistant to the direction God has called you to go, and ONTO those who are excited, supportive and on board, you will NEVER gain momentum and see a new culture created in your church."

That statement set us free.

It really did. In fact, I can remember our team making several tough, but GOOD decisions that day that literally sped up our momentum by leaps and bounds.

Some of those decisions had to do with things we were going to STOP doing. Decisions that:
• We were NO LONGER going to try and get people to stay at our church who weren't happy.
• We were going to stop spending time and energy trying to get the naysayers "on board" when it was very evident that most of them were not going to support the new direction.
• We were going to stop allowing some of the "small things" to continue just to keep a few people happy (You know those programs and committees that are OPPOSITE of where you're headed, but you're keeping in place just to keep 12 people happy? Yeah, those...)

We also made some decisions about what we going to START doing or focus on being more intentional about. Decisions that:
• We would stay focused on God's mission for The Orchard NO MATTER WHAT. Even if it were just the three of us in the end!
• The focus of our leading and teaching would be turned towards the people we were reaching and those who were excited about where we were headed.
• We would only engage in ministries, programs, and events that aligned with our mission - regardless as to whether or not every other church in town was doing it or not. The mission would dictate everything - not what was "popular" with other churches or even what programs or events might have seemed "successful" in the past.

It wasn't easy, and yes, we lost a lot of people. eventually created a momentum that led towards reaching the people that God had called us to reach. By 400% since 2003.

It's challenging because I STILL just want everyone to be happy, even though the past year or more has demonstrated to me that I can EITHER try to please everyone OR I can be healthy and effective in God's service. But I can't do both. I know that.

Now, that's not to say I don't have a lot to learn about leading change....I do. I'm working on that. And I think we've really turned a corner as a church, and are once again moving forward....beautifully. I just hope I finally have the backbone to cast vision (effectively, please, Lord) and then get my focus where it belongs.

Pastor John

Since I'm privileged to serve alongside "Pastor John" at Cobblestone, I thought it would be appropriate to post this, from one of the blogs I check daily (

And yes, the blog is actually called "naked pastor." Think what you will.

In Praise of Talented People

I'm so blessed to work with such talented people at Cobblestone Community Church, among them my fellow staff members. Yesterday in staff meeting we took some time to brainstorm a flyer that will be placed in 3,400 first-year Miami student orientation bags distributed by the Oxford Chamber of Commerce. Our youth pastor, Andrew Holzworth, had come up with a few designs. We knew we wanted something with at least some appeal to an 18-year-old who may or may not have had any previous church experience (or who may be glad they're finally free of Mom and Dad and church!). Tough task.

But Andrew gave us a great place to start, and we tossed around a few ideas (no one liked any of my ideas...but I'm not bitter...much). And finally came up with this:

I like it. But it doesn't matter unless some of those Miami freshmen like it...enough to check us out. And we hope the offer of a free CD will help us gauge the flyer's effectiveness, by seeing how many are turned in.

How Does My Church Smell?

I've always wanted, since starting Cobblestone Community Church, to achieve a worship experience that incorporated all five human senses. But, truth be told, we are a lotta sound, a lotta sight, occasional touch, and (on communion Sundays) occasional taste. But smell? Not so much. Which made this blog post from Scott Hodge of The Orchard all the more interesting to me:

What are you doing to create an environment that says to people, “We KNEW you were coming and we were EXPECTING you!”

At The Orchard, there are a handful of things that we consider to be non-negotiables when it comes to creating a great environment for our guests.... Here are a few of them:

GREAT MUSIC. When people walk into The Orchard, they’ll hear music. Everything from Coldplay to Matt Kearney to Hillsong United. The only rule we have is that it needs to be positive, upbeat and stylistically consistent with who we are.

GREAT SMELLS. There’s no reason that churches should smell like Ben-gay and mothballs. So we use Henri Bendel Scentports scattered throughout our auditorium using a scent called Firewood - which is a mix of birch, cedar, sandalwood with a slight hint of tobacco. This fits the wood-beamed architecture of our auditorium perfectly. (On a side note - please leave the flowery smelling potpourri at home. And DON’T spray Lysol before starting a service. That makes the room smell like someone just threw up minutes before people arrived.)

GREAT COFFEE. There is something incredibly disarming about walking into the auditorium with a latte or cappuccino in hand. Plus, one of the first things you'll notice when you walk through our front doors is the smell of coffee. It’s familiar, comforting and sends a huge signal to people that we understand coffee's place in our culture.

GREAT PEOPLE! I’m convinced that we have THE MOST welcoming church in our community. I’m serious! And that’s due, in large part, to our Welcome Teams - who are intentional about making sure that people have a great experience when they walk through the doors at The Orchard. They greet people authentically.... They walk people to their destination (instead of POINTING).... They help people find seats when they walk into the auditorium... They do WHATEVER is needed. They are a HUGE part of creating a great environment on our weekends.

I can honestly say we have all those pieces at Cobblestone, except "great smells." We did something once with smell and unfortunately whatever we used (I can't remember) irritated some saints who have a sensitivity to fragrances of some kind or another. But particularly since we worship in "The Loft," I think a few well-placed "Firewood" scentports would be fun to try.