Thursday, August 15, 2013

Promotion Sunday and Week of Prayer

This Sunday in our Children and Student Ministries we will be promoting our classes.  But this year’s Promotion Sunday is much more than just another move to another grade.

In our Children’s Ministry we will be building on the excitement that began last year in the TreeHouse and on the Playground.  Watch for more fun and more adventures as we love, laugh and learn together.  And 4th and 5th graders, we have some special events ahead this year just for you!  It’s “hats off” or more specifically “hats on” day in Children’s Ministry.  Wear your favorite (and craziest) hat to join in the fun.

For Middle School and High School we start the year in new environments with new faces.  Both will meet in our newly designated Student Life Center (and wait till you see the plans we are making to transform this space for students).  Middle School meets during the 9:30 hour and High School at 11:15.  Both hours will include awesome worship led by Cole Forehand and at 11:15 you can meet our new High School Pastor, Chris Conner.  At 12:30 parents are invited to join us for a Meet and Greet with Chris.  That’s a great chance to welcome him to Mountaintop and hear more about where we are heading this year.

And then on Monday, students are back in school!  This week our staff has been praying for students, parents, teachers, administrators and schools as the new school year begins.  And we will continue to pray for our children and students throughout the year.

One of my favorite images on prayer comes from the theologian Karl Barth:

To clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning 
of an uprising against the disorder of the world.  

As we head into the fall of 2013 and a new program year for Mountaintop we are designating August 19–26 as a Week of Prayer and setting a time each day to pray together for the ministries of Mountaintop.  Whenever I talk about prayer I often repeat the following from Jim Cymbala’s book Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire because it so perfectly captures the importance of prayer:

If we call upon the Lord, He has promised in His Word to answer, to bring the unsaved to Himself, to pour out His Spirit among us.  If we don’t call upon the Lord, He has promised nothing – nothing at all. It’s as simple as that.  No matter what I preach or what we claim to believe in our heads, the future will depend upon our times of prayer.  This is the engine that will drive the church.

Prayer is the engine that will drive the church.

If our future is dependent on prayer - and I am convinced it is - then it’s essential that we begin this fall praying.  That’s easy to say but over the years I’ve discovered that it’s not easy to do, and it seems especially difficult to gather together and pray as a church – but it’s essential.

For the week Monday, August 19 – Saturday, August 24 we will gather for prayer each morning in the Sanctuary from 6:00 to 7:00am. You might need to rearrange your morning routine and you might have to set the alarm a little earlier.  I know that for many of us this is the first week back to school but I really hope that some of us can come every morning, some of us will make as many as we can, and all of us – whether we are in the Sanctuary, at home or on our way to school or work – will begin each morning next week praying together for Mountaintop.

All that we will do in what is shaping up to be an incredible fall begins with prayer, so I challenge you (invite, encourage, implore, beseech, dare you – whatever it takes) to join us as we clasp hands and continue an uprising against the disorder of the world.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

One More Staff Change

Over the last year we’ve made some significant changes to the staff at Mountaintop (watch later this week for a complete recap).  This September we will make one more significant change as our Executive Pastor, Wayne Hudson, retires.

It’s more accurate to say that Wayne will re-retire, maybe even re-re-retire - well sort of…. let me explain.

Wayne and his wife Sue moved to Birmingham and joined Mountaintop after a successful career in industry that literally took him all around the world.  Retirement brought them back home to Alabama and at Mountaintop Wayne found a place to use his experiences and incredible gifts.  He joined our staff in 2005 and since then he has been faithfully and expertly overseeing the finances, facilities and human resources of Mountaintop Church.  In 2009 Wayne was preparing to re-retire when our former Senior Pastor, Bill Elder, suffered a stroke.  Wayne put his retirement plans on hold and took on even more responsibilities during the two year search that eventually brought me to Mountaintop in November 2011.

Since my arrival I have remarked on numerous occasions that Wayne’s steady leadership was key to our ability to sustain ministry during that interim period.  It is certainly the case of God strategically calling the right man to a specific task for “such a time as this.”

Wayne’s leadership has been equally invaluable during my transition to Mountaintop as your Senior Pastor.  I quickly learned to rely upon his knowledge and wisdom and to trust him completely.  Wayne’s love for Jesus Christ and his love for Jesus’ church is a model that inspires me as we have served alongside one another.

On a personal note, Wayne and Sue have quickly become treasures to Kim and me.  Their love, encouragement and hospitality so generously shared are blessings to us and gifts that many of us enjoy.

I know that you will join me in expressing our appreciation for the many ways that Wayne Hudson has been, and continues to be, a blessing to Mountaintop.

In September Wayne will re-re-retire, sort of…. he will remain part-time on staff to oversee the management of our Chambers Building, take on special projects and to assist in the transition of our new Executive Pastor, James Benton.

You will have a chance to welcome James, as well as his wife Susie and sons Beckett and Asher, when they arrive later this month.  James joins us from Menlo Park Presbyterian Church in Menlo Park, California.  During the years that I served as Menlo’s Executive Pastor, James was a member of our staff and I recognized his tremendous gifts for ministry.  For more than a decade James has served in the Operations and Administration ministries at Menlo Park, gaining experiences and skills that he will bring to Mountaintop.

Just as God strategically placed Wayne here to lead us through the past eight years, I am convinced that God is calling James to Mountaintop to be a part of the team that will lead us into the future.

In the coming weeks we will have opportunities to welcome the Bentons, to show our appreciation to the Hudsons and to express our love for both families.  Watch for eBlasts and announcements about those opportunities.  For today, take a moment to give thanks to God for the amazing ways He provides the staff to lead us as together we learn and share a better way to live.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

iServe: did you know?

Did you know that each Sunday 45% of those who attend Mountaintop are part of our iServe ministries?  Some drive carts and others greet people with smiles, coffee or doughnuts.  They run lights and cameras, play instruments, rock babies, lead small groups for students and countless other things that make what happens each Sunday possible.

If you are not part of that 45% and want to be, visit the iServe desk on Sunday morning.  This month we are especially looking for those of you called to serve with our Children’s Ministry.  Just imagine the difference you can make in the life of a child and their family by giving an hour on Sunday morning.

Visit iServe to find out more!

Writing on the Wall Recap

As we wrapped up the Writing on the Wall study of Daniel I’ve had several requests for the bottom lines we reviewed at the end of Sunday’s service.  So once again here’s what we’ve learned:

Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his. He changes times and seasons; he deposes kings and raises up others. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him. Daniel 2: 20–22

God is in control in spite of our present condition.

God sees in the dark - and light spills out of Him.

Sometimes God will deliver us from the furnace
and sometimes God meets us in the furnace.

God meets us in the fire and He rescues us from the lions.

God is sovereign over human kings and earthly kingdoms.

Faith that receives grace always becomes gracious.

Kings and kingdoms will rise and fall
but at the end of days God’s kingdom will remain.

When we struggle to understand what God is doing we turn to God’s word.

Confession is the first step toward restoration.

The Battle Is Bigger Than We Realize and Prayer is our Best Weapon.

And at the end of day (and the end of days):

Those who are wise will shine as bright as the sky at midday, and those who make the many righteous will shine as the stars forever and ever.  Daniel 12: 2 and 3

Monday, August 5, 2013

Introducing Chris Conner

Sometimes God shows up and sometimes God shows off.

Earlier this summer I shared with you the news that our High School Pastor, Cham McCutchen, has accepted a call to return to the Pacific Northwest and serve a church outside of Seattle.  We are grateful for the impact that Cham has made in the lives of our students.  He and his wife Courtney will be missed but we know that God has a plan for them and for Mountaintop.

As soon as Cham let us know that he would be leaving us this month we began to put in motion the process for finding new leadership for our High School Ministries.  We are committed to building an exceptional Student Ministries that will impact and influence middle and high schoolers in our community.  Finding the right leader for high school is critical to our future.  Knowing that searches can takes months (or longer), our pastors, staff and elders began praying for God to quickly bring us the right person – trusting that God would do just that in His timing.

Today I am excited to share with you that God’s timing is NOW (that’s God showing off) and in a few weeks we will welcome to Mountaintop a new High School Pastor:

Chris Conner

For the past 8 years Chris has served in the Student Ministries of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia.  His responsibilities there included speaking, programming, event planning and recruitment of volunteers to work with more than 350 students each week.  Chris has a BS in Psychology from North Georgia State and a Master in Christian Education from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.  Chris and his wife Aubrey have a 2 year-old son Sutton.

Here’s how Chris describes his passion for ministry:

God has given me a passion for leading students to a closer relationship with Jesus Christ. It is my desire to use the skills and passions God has given me at a church where the student ministry is focused on reaching every student possible with the Gospel.   My passion in ministry has always been relationship driven. From discipling students to communicating the gospel in any setting, my heart is to see students’ lives move towards God. Along with that, I also have a passion for equipping adults and volunteers who wish to serve in ministry.

On August 18 (Promotion Sunday) Chris will speak to our High School students as we kick-off a new year and you will all have a chance to welcome him, Aubrey and Sutton to Mountaintop.

In the meantime pray for their transition from Atlanta to Birmingham, pray for God’s blessings on our Student Ministries and give thanks for God’s answer to our prayers for leadership.  And watch for more exciting news about our commitment to building the very best Student Ministry.