CCC blog

Archive for October 2011

Beyond The Message: Millennium

Online Campus Pastor Robert Murphy sits down with Sarpy Campus Pastor Steve Walters to discuss the millennium. Steve preached on the millennium, at the Sarpy Campus, as part of the Future Shock message series. We wanted everyone to have a chance to hear about some of the main points from Steve’s message.

Questions we discuss are:
What is the millennium?
Why is it necessary?
What can I learn from it?
Why do I need to be aware of it?

Additional resources:
William Barclay commentary on Revelation
Things To Come by J. Dwight Pentecost

Opportunity for the Gospel: Knowing my Barista

While grabbing a cup of coffee at my neighborhood Starbucks last week I ended up in a conversation with my barista. (I’ll keep her name out of this post just in case…er…well, just in case.) For some reason she thought I was from Turkey and we began a conversation about culture and living in Nebraska.

This week I stopped in and she immediately began telling me about her family in Turkey and how she has family that are missing after the recent earthquake.

After listening for some time I offered to pray for her and her family. She thanked me and the conversation moved to Libya. She was concerned with the circumstances in which Moammar Gadhafi killed by a mob shouting that “praise allah.”

It was clear that she was a muslim woman who was offended at the idea of muslims committing violent acts in the name of her god.

My point is that I am convinced that she never would have expressed her feelings on the whole “praise allah” issue had I not offered to pray for her.

The next time I go into that particular Starbucks I look forward to taking the next step in our conversation, letting her know that I prayed for her family and friends still in Turkey. The ones recovering from the earthquake.

I will let her know that I prayed to the Father in the name of Jesus. Who knows, maybe it’ll spark a conversation that will allow me to tell of how I “praise Jesus.”

Acts 17:26 says

And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us…

It is no mistake that I happen to frequent that particular Starbucks and that this particular Turkish barista happens to work there. Perhaps God is allowing her to “feel” her way toward him. I’m praying for her. Praying she finds someone worthy of real praise. Namely, Jesus.

low expectations = failure!

At CCC we love getting involed in helping people! Whether its helping to train Pastors in places like Mali and China, or its building a hospital for women and children in Mali, or supporting missionaries in places like Tunisia, El Salvador, Gabon, and other difficult places – we believe we are doing the right thing.

But what are your expectations? Not your hopes and dreams, but your expectations. Expectations are not the same as hope or possibilities – they are instead what we believe to be probable and inevitable.

For example – when I got up this morning, I expected there would be hot water when I got in the shower, that there would be food in the kitchen for breakfast, and that my car would start when I came to work. I was not hoping for those things, I was expecting them. When we hope for things if they don’t happen we are not that surprised and we don’t usually get frustrated or angry. But trust me, if I had no hot water in the show this morning I would have been ticked!

That’s the way expectations work. We expect something to happen, and when it doesn’t it bothers us, we get frustrated, we might even get angry.

We recently embarked on a new ministry in the Village One neighborhood of North Omaha. We are partnering with an African-American church called Bridge Church, and our goal is to attract people into the arms of Jesus through Bridge Church. So we are showing up in Village One and blessing the community by having block parties, mowing lawns, throwing Halloween parties, feeding them at Thanksgiving, and hopefully blessing maybe a 1,000 children at Christmas with a gift.

We are hoping that God will use all of this to attract people to Bridge. But what are your expectations?

Are you expecting God will show up, that he will in fact attract people to come to Bridge Church, that they will find Jesus when they do? Are you expecting that God will use CCC and Bridge to transform this small section of North Omaha? Or are you just hoping?

I have to confess that until now I have been hoping but not expecting. But when we have high expectations it causes us to innovate, to persevere, to work hard until those expectations are met.

We should expect God to transform this neighborhood. And if its not working, or if we become overwhelmed by how big the task is, we must not let ourselves grow complacent, shrug our shoulders, and say, “Well, it was a long shot anyway.” Instead, we should get angry at injustice, angry at how many people still need Jesus, and work hard through the power of the Holy Spirit. From here forward, I am no longer hoping for results – I am expecting God to do great things.

Women, Porn Is Not Just A Men’s Issue

Because of the openness with my story of overcoming porn addiction, I’m asked a lot of questions about it. This is great because dialog is necessary when it comes to the topic of pornography and how it can hurt people. One of the common misconceptions I encounter is that it’s only an issue with men. A woman, usually in defense of her husband, will say something along the lines of, “Well, this is an issue men have to constantly battle.”

Wrong. This is a men’s AND women’s issue.

According to Covenant Eyes, 34% of women struggle with using pornographic sites. 1 in 3 women struggle with porn. When I tell women the stats there is usually shock.

If you are a woman, next time you are at church look around the room and think about one-third of the women there are struggling with porn. Actually, don’t look around the room and wonder about everyone else. Take a look at yourself and ask some honest questions.

Yes, men struggle with porn at a greater percentage. 70%, according to Covenant Eyes’ statistics. Men need to be militant in addressing the issue and putting up safeguards to protect themselves. (Here’s a recent article from Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, on how pornography hijacks the male brain.)

And, we shouldn’t think this is an issue for men when they get older. Did you know the the largest consumers of pornography are teens ages 12-17? If you have kids, or are a mentor to someone who is young, what are you doing to address the threat of pornography? Are you talking to them about it? Do you have internet filters in place?

Most children never receive any advice on how to surf the Internet. Is it any surprise they come across pornographic sites and start perusing them?

It’s not just a man’s issue or a woman’s issue, it’s everybody’s issue.

If this is an issue you struggle with, know that you can receive help at Christ Community Church. You may think it is impossible to break from this addiction or struggle, but by God’s grace it can be done. I, along with many others here at CCC, have found freedom through one of the renewal groups that meets here.

Women, we do have a group that meets on Tuesday nights that deals with sexual integrity. If this interests you, please email Josi Poloncic. For more information, check out The HUB for all Renewal Groups that meet on Tuesday nights. (Men, we also have Men of Integrity, a safe environment for men to address the issue of lust, that meets on Tuesday nights as well.)

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
-James 5:16 (ESV)

The Dark Side of the Ministry Life

I love my calling. I love my job. I love being a pastor. I have fond memories of when I was missionary working overseas and here in America. It’s hard to imagine living any other life than the one I have. But I also know there is a danger with that life.

I saw a recent post which highlighted the struggles a number of people face while working in ministry. The following stats are courtesy of PastorBurnout.com.

  • 40% of pastors and 47% of spouses are suffering from burnout, frantic schedules, and/or unrealistic expectations.
  • 45% of pastors’ wives say the greatest danger to them and their family is physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual burnout.
  • 45% of pastors say that they’ve experienced depression or burnout to the extent that they needed to take a leave of absence from ministry.
  • 50% feel unable to meet the needs of the job.
  • 52% of pastors say they and their spouses believe that being in pastoral ministry is hazardous to their family’s well-being and health.
  • 56% of pastors’ wives say that they have no close friends.
  • 57% would leave the pastorate if they had somewhere else to go or some other vocation they could do.
  • 70% don’t have any close friends.
  • 75% report severe stress causing anguish, worry, bewilderment, anger, depression, fear, and alienation.
  • 80% of pastors say they have insufficient time with their spouse.
  • 80% believe that pastoral ministry affects their families negatively.
  • 90% feel unqualified or poorly prepared for ministry.
  • 90% work more than 50 hours a week.
  • 94% feel under pressure to have a perfect family.

It’s no wonder people I’ve talked to about working full-time in ministry have reservations. They’ve seen and/or heard horror stories of what it can be like. (I have my own horror stories!) Why is that? Because the work is crucial.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
(John 10:10 ESV)

When God calls someone, He calls them to fulfill His mission. He calls them to love, serve and reach out to people in need. This kind of work will draw someone into spiritual warfare with the Enemy. If someone doesn’t take necessary precaution, they could open themselves, and their family, to unnecessary harm.

One thing I appreciate about working at Christ Community Church is the culture and environment that has been established by Lead Pastor Mark Ashton. Mark has a high standard of excellence he wants the staff to reach. He pushes us to serve and sacrifice. However, he also expects the staff to take Sabbaths. He expects the staff to focus on their marriage and family if they are married and/or have kids. He hopes that staff take time to focus on their own relationship with God, and are plugged into a Journey Group. He schedules times for staff development and has Q&A with the staff. He is leading us in pursuit of God and not in pursuit of keeping the status quo.

When I interact with Mark, or I interact with another leader, like Pastor Steve Walters, those guys are always asking about how I am doing, how my marriage is, and if things are going well with my kids. Of course, they are concerned that I am doing my job and staying on mission with it, but they are more concerned that I, and my family, are mentally/emotionally/physically/spiritually healthy. A few years ago when I backed off some commitments at church, to focus in on my family’s health, I received some criticism for doing so. Mark and Steve encouraged me for making that choice. My family is better off, I am better off, and my work is better off for making that decision.

I think this is one reason why the average length of stay, for a CCC staff member, is five years. While that may not seem like a long time, it is twice the average for a staff person at a church of comparable size. Staff enjoy working here and being a part of what God is doing here. The spiritual health of the staff is important. Are their difficulties here? Of course. Are their conflicts between staff at times? Of course. However, I think staff realize how good it is here. CCC is not perfect, but it is good.

The above statistics are something we must be on guard for at all times. It’s never obvious, it’s a slow drift into depression and burnout. It’s a slow drift into a strained marriage and family. It’s one reason why my wife and I are always militant to make sure we set boundaries. We set boundaries with our Sabbath. We set boundaries for our family. We make sure to have times of prayer, individually and corporately. We make sure we have healthy friendships. We don’t want to fit those things into the rest of our schedule, the rest of our schedule needs to fit around those necessary things.

When we make sure we are centered on Jesus, and we are taking care of our own and family’s spiritual health, it is easier to endure the spiritual warfare that will come. And it will come because the mission of reaching, helping and serving the world around us is great. However, it doesn’t need to defeat us.

It is also easier when your leadership makes sure your spiritual health is a priority. CCC makes sure this is a priority, and the trickle down effect is the people CCC interacts with, and reaches, will reap the benefits of a spiritually healthy leadership.

I want you to know that from the top down, here at CCC, we do our best to make sure we are healthy so we can lead/serve at our optimum best for Jesus.

Beyond The Message: Hell

In this Beyond The Message, Robert Murphy sits down with Tim Perry to discuss a number of questions surrounding the topic of Hell. Some of the questions discussed are:

  • Why would God create someone if they would ultimately go to Hell?
  • Luke 16:19-31
  • Does a loving God send people to Hell even if they’ve never heard the Gospel?
  • Is Hell a literal place, and if so why is it necessary?
  • Does an eternal punishment fit the crime, especially if they lived a moral life?
  • Do we get a second chance if we were to go to Hell?
  • Rob Bell’s book “Love Wins”

Click here to find out more about the Gathering message series Hell.

Also, check out the message series 5 Minutes After… for more related resources.

“Trevor Day”


Many of you are aware that a few weeks ago Trevor Andersen, a senior in CCC’s Student Ministry, was in a serious car accident. He faces a long recovery from his injuries. Tomorrow, people are showing their support for Trevor, and his family, by wearing bracelets and t-shirts supporting Trevor.

Even if you don’t have a bracelet or shirt, you can always support the Andersen family in prayer tomorrow. If you’re interested in buying a bracelet, email Alex Ehly and he’ll get you connected with the students selling them on Sunday mornings in the Student Center.

Also, next month there will be a Trails for Trevor benefit at Zorinsky Lake Park to benefit Trevor and his family. It will be a 5K run/walk. Results will not be posted online, it is meant to be a fun day. Check out the Facebook Event page for more information about this event.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go. -Joshua 1:9 ESV

The Database and Pastoral Duties

One thing I’ve learned about being an on-call pastor is you’re rarely prepared for you’ll encounter. Three years ago, one of my first pastoral calls dealt with our…database. I received a call from a mother that was irate with Christ Community Church. Her son had died a few years previous, but yet we were continuing to send him offering envelopes. Part of the reason she was so upset is she had contacted CCC to let them know her son had passed away. It didn’t make any difference. We kept sending her envelopes, thus reminding her about her son’s death every couple of months.

So, when she received her son’s offering envelopes she called the church and wanted to talk to a pastor. She let loose on me, and then she broke down on the phone. I listened a lot, and then I apologized a lot.

There is no excuse for that happening, so why did it happen? We had no organization to our database. We didn’t have a central database, but a number of them. New staff weren’t trained on how to use the database. So, it’s quite possible that whoever this mom talked to did take her son off a database. With how bad our databases were organized, it didn’t matter.

Christ Community Church has been around 90 years, and has a Sunday attendance of 3,200. There are going to be thousands upon thousands of records in the database. It’s long overdue, but we are finally overhauling our database.

Earlier this week, I received training for our upgraded database. Training like this can sometimes be monotonous, but it’s going to help CCC be a lot more efficient and organized. I’m excited about that. The big thing will be getting staff to use it, and use it correctly. I think that will happen, though.

Bonnie Borgum and Michael Born have done a great job spearheading this project. Kudos to them.

The project to upgrade CCC’s database is not something that excites a lot of people, but CCC will be better for it. And, hopefully we don’t have any more pastoral calls like I experienced.

The Threat of Danger

A few days ago, I saw a post on Twitter that talked about journalists being one of the most dangerous professions in the world. This was declared so by the United Nations because over 500 journalists have been killed in the past 10 years.

Since 2000, roughly 160,000 Christians have been martyred every year. Since 1900, nearly two-thirds of Christian martyrdom has occurred…45 million Christian martyrs. (World Christian Trends AD 33-AD 2200)

While some of these martyr statistics can be estimates in certain cases, it is safe to say that Christian martyrdom is one of gravest human rights abuses in the world.

This is not meant to minimize what journalists risk in reporting the news in dangerous places all around the world. There have been some horror stories, especially with what happens to women. I think it’s courageous what some of these journalists will do to report the truth.

Let’s just not forget that a number of Christians face the threat of danger every day of their life.

ON vs. IN: Getting

Prepare your work outside;

get everything ready for yourself in the field,

and after that build your house.

Proverbs 24:27

For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?

Luke 14:28

Most of us get so caught up working in our lives we don’t take the necessary time to work on our lives. Thus, we get distracted, sidetracked, and frustrated when the unexpected creeps up on us. Sure, you take the time to write out your “to-do list” and have a general idea of what your work week looks like, but have you synced it with your home schedule? Have you taken the time to look at what the next quarter, 6 months or year looks like both at home and work? Here is something that Becky and I started doing that is helping us stay on track, focused, on mission and hopefully helping us be more fruitful in ministry, as parents, as neighbors, and be better friends (read: considerate) to each other.

Sync Up:

Becky and I recently took out our Fall Calendars for both work and home and went to work on getting in sync with each other. This proved to be very fruitful as I am a big picture thinker and Becky gets lost in the details. Here is what we did:

Necessary Tools:

  • Calendars (his and hers – it doesn’t matter if its a physical or digital calendar)
  • Time (block out at least 45min -1 hour to really focus on getting on the same page)
  • Necessary information including school calendars, work schedules, kids activity schedules, etc. Think of everything.
  • Get in sync! By being specific about working on your life you will be better prepared for the unexpected and establish a rhythm for your family.

    Step 1:

    Establish your time frame. (will you work on a month, a quarter, a year?)

    Step 2:

    Ask Questions:

    Write it all down on both calendars (if you have digital calendars or use mobile or google you can simply synchronize them.)

    • What are the “big rocks” (vacations, other travel, Holidays, big projects at work, etc.)
    • When will we have one day of rest per week (Sabbath)?
    • What is the family dinner schedule?
    • What day of the week is typically the long work day (for me its Wednesdays)?
    • What days of the week do the kids have activities?
    • What is on the school calendar that we should be aware of? (off days, PTA events, performances, games, etc.)
    • When will we have out of town family over for visits?
    • When will we have a family fun day? (one day a week where you intentionally build in family activity time. Our Family Fun Day is on Tuesdays (This week we’re doing Taekwondo at the YMCA)
    • When is our date night? (gotta plan it!)
    • Which church service will we consistently attend?
    • What day of the week is the “crazy day” and mom or dad need more help?
    • How does our schedule affect Journey Group?
    • When are we traveling alone, without the kids?
    • Does anything on this calendar affect our budget? If so, how? How should we respond?
    • How often will we review our calendar for changes and updates? (daily, weekly, monthly? We try to do it weekly)

    Step 3

    Make decisions

    • What will we say yes to and no to?
    • Which questions do we not have answers for?
    • What questions do we need to ask that we aren’t asking?

    Things to remember:

  • Don’t overfill your calendar. If, after this activity you find that you do not have very much margin in your life (space for flexibility, down time, and empty space) you will be over taxing your family and that is unhelpful and you will soon be unfruitful. Remember, this is a great time to decide what you will and will not do over this period of time.
  • Men, your wife will appreciate when you take the time to initiate this activity. It shows her that you value her time just as much as you value your own. It can be a big win for you!
  • Hope this blesses you.

    By His Grace. For His Glory,

    Elvin