Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A Journey to Financial Freedom

Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.
1 Timothy 6: 18 and 19

This is really important.

One of my core beliefs is that generosity is a key to taking hold of the life that is truly life.  It happens because when we are generous

We become imitators of God (THE most generous Being in the universe)
We store up treasures in heaven and then
We take hold of the life that is truly life.

Sadly, a lot of us struggle to be generous.  I shared in last week’s eBlast that 62% of those who make contributions to Mountaintop give, on average, less than $5 each week.  That suggests that a lot of us are missing out on becoming imitators of God, building a firm foundation and taking hold of true life.

I’m convinced that it’s not because we are stingy or greedy – most everyone wants to be generous.  The problem is no one ever showed us a better way to manage our money and now we are in a mess.

This is really important – on August 24 I want to share with you a better way.

On August 24th I hope you will join me for a Journey to Financial Freedom Seminar and discover the intersection of God and your finances. It will be a day filled with Biblical teaching on how to apply the wisdom of the Bible into everyday financial-decision making

Whether your finances are a mess or you already have a handle on your spending, this live, fast-paced experience will give help you:

Learn practical steps for eliminating debt
Develop confidence in your financial decisions
End the day with a personalized plan for managing your finance and your life

Here are the details:

Journey to Financial Freedom
August 24, 2013
9:00 am to 4:00 pm
Mountaintop Community Church Atrium

Registration is $35 dollars, which includes all the seminar material and lunch (and this is so important to me for you to attend that if you need scholarship assistance please let me know). 

Register online at Journey to Financial Freedom.

Becoming an imitator of God,
Laying a firm foundation and
Taking hold of the life that is truly life.

This is really important as we learn and share a better way to live.

To the glory of God!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013


Numbers can be a dangerous thing. They help us measure things, but measuring in the spiritual realm isn’t always healthy.  In 2 Samuel 24 David tells Joab to number the people. Joab asks an insightful question: “Why does my lord the king delight in this thing?” David wasn’t just counting. He was delighting in it. Delighting in numbers, when they are positive, tends to produce pride. And when the numbers are declining, counting can produce fear, anxiety and sometimes jealousy over someone else’s “better numbers.”  All of those things will eat you alive spiritually.
The point? Be careful how you count. And if it results in pride, jealousy, fear or anxiety – stop counting.
With that said as a word of caution.  It’s also true that every number has a name. Every name has a story.  Every story matters to God.

We are spending a lot of time this summer in preparation for the fall and as we are preparing here are a few of the numbers from the first 6 months of 2013 and the stories they are telling us.

Our average worship attendance for the first 6 months of 2013 is 1,187.  That’s a slight increase (5%) from the same time frame in 2012. Part of that increase is attributed to the success of our live streaming of worship services.  Investing in our online presence will continue to be a priority in the coming year.

Over the last 6½ months we’ve dedicated 17 babies and celebrated transformed lives with 34 baptisms.  We have another 15 baptisms scheduled in the coming weeks and we are on track to exceed the total of 51 baptisms in 2012. We’ve also welcomed 126 First Time Guests to Mountaintop.  Helping those guests know how to take a first step at Mountaintop is important and this fall we are going to be revealing some great opportunities for everyone who needs to take a next step.

On a typical Sunday morning in 2013 we have averaged 285 kids (birth – 5th grade), 34 Middle School students and 51 High Schoolers.   Investing resources in our ministries to Children and Students will be a major focus for us as we head into the fall.  We are moving forward in a search for new leadership in High School, we are brining in a worship leader for Student Ministries and working on improving the environments for Middle School and High School.

We count people because people count and we also count dollars – not because dollars count but because Jesus taught us that:

where our treasure is, there our heart will be also.
Matthew 6 21

Here’s what the numbers tell us about our hearts.

For the past twelve months (July 2012 – June 2013) contributions to Mountaintop totaled $2,652,657.  That’s a 4% increase over the previous twelve months.  Those contributions came from 1,129 contributors, which is 82 more than the prior year.  We are blessed to be a blessing and since last September we have disbursed more than $256,000 to Compassion Ministries here in Birmingham and all around the world.

When you dig a little deeper into the numbers 42% of our contributions come from less than 6% of our contributors (65).  While the number of contributors who give more than $10,000/year has increased (from 56 to 65), 62% of those who make a contribution to Mountaintop give less than $5 each week.  We have a great opportunity (and a challenge) to grow in generosity.  That’s going to be another area of focus later this year.   The goal won’t be to increase our budget – but to put our hearts in the right place so that we might discover that generosity is a key to taking hold of the life that is truly life.

Our real measures of success will never be the things that we can count but rather the stories that we tell of lives that are being transformed as we learn and share a better way to live.  But every number has a name and every name as a story that matters to God.  This coming year is going to provide amazing opportunities to be a part of God writing amazing stories of restoration and redemption.

Monday, July 29, 2013

How would you describe our church in 3 words or less?

Last week I read a great blog post by Rich Birch at UnSeminary about how churches use social media like Facebook.  Rich asked us to imagine a friend that just constantly talks about themselves and never stops to engage in a dialogue. That’s what a lot of churches act like on their Facebook wall because all they ever do is advertise the next upcoming event or service that’s going on.  Ouch! 

Rich offered a series of questions to post on Facebook to encourage dialogue and engagement.  I tried one on Saturday and loved the responses.

How would you describe our church in 3 words or less?
  • Open to all! 
  • "Totally spiritually connected" :-)
  •  No ties required!  
  • Worship without worries!
  • All are welcome!
  • Authentic...diverse...welcoming
  • inviting and exciting!
  • sharing His love!
  • Gift from God!
  • Caring, fun, ministry
  • Exampling better way.....;-)
  • Feels like home
  • Better than chocolate!
  • Always Christ focused
  • HOME
  • Real
  • Preview of Heaven
  • Christ-centered community
  • Welcoming - realistic- comforting
  • Authentic.   Warm.    Loving.
  • Jesus Freaks Everywhere
  • Blessed
  • Family
  • God Always is there!
  • Non-denominational WARM WELCOMING
  • God is there!!
  • God's Open Door
  • Home
  • Accepting of everyone :)
  • Heaven! (all races under one umbrella with the one goal in mind)
  • All about Jesus
  • Friendly organized and praising
  • Fantastically awesome!!! :)
  • Changed Lives - It is really striking to have someone you think really has it together share their "before" story. Since I've already exceeded the word limit, I'll add that I love seeing adults in the baptistry. Baptizing kids is good, but baptizing an adult means a life has gotten back on course.

 What three words would you add?

Saturday, July 27, 2013

I can’t think of the last time I was this excited about a Sunday.

I get excited every Sunday but this Sunday is going to be special.

We are going to be studying Chapter 9 of Daniel, which is one of my favorite chapters in the Bible.  I am so eager to share the truth I am going to focus on in the message that I am going to go ahead and tell you now:

Confession is the first step toward restoration.

If you have every made a mistake or needed forgiveness (and that’s true for me every day) you don’t want to miss this message.  In a beautiful prayer Daniel tells God:

We are crying to You and asking for mercy, not because we are righteous and deserve it. No, we bring these petitions to you because we know of Your great mercy.
Daniel 9: 18

Sunday we get to celebrate and experience that good news.

And on Sunday I get to introduce you to the newest member of the Mountaintop leadership team, Ben Kuykendall who is joining us as our Creative Arts Pastor.

Ben and I began working together 13 years ago in California at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church. When I left California to move to Texas, Ben joined me at Grace Presbyterian as my Director of Contemporary Music and as the Worship Leader for our contemporary service. As our Creative Arts Pastor, Ben will oversee all of our creative endeavors especially focusing on worship, communications and media technology.  Ben's leadership is going to strengthen our team in amazing ways.

On a personal level, Ben and I have been partners in ministry for more than a decade and I am so grateful that God is calling us to continue that partnership here at Mountaintop.

Ben and his wife Jenna (who led VBS music for us that last two summers)have three kids, Ryan (8 and entering third grade), Rachel (5 and entering first grade) and Sam (4 years-old who will be at MountainTots).  Ben and Jenna will both be part of our worship services this Sunday and you will have a chance to welcome them to the Mountaintop family.

I am so excited about this Sunday and you don’t want to miss out so join us at 9:30 or 11:15 on campus or online.  And what if this week you invite someone to join us so that together we can learn and share a better way to live.