Tuesday, January 24, 2006


Shondrella Avery is her real name. And ole LaFawnduh paid us a visit at the Angelus Temple on Saturday night. Our Saturday Night Redefined service is for teens, college students and young adults. This month is Dynamite January, and every Saturday has focused on a different character from the movie Napoleon Dynamite. On Saturday 1/21, the focus was Kip, who in the movie is this pencil thin moustache wannabe cage fighter who lives with his aunt and his ghetto fabulous girlfriend (LaFawnduh) whom he met in an AOL chatroom.

So someone on staff at the Dream Center had the bright idea to see if we could get a few actors from this hit movie to grace us with their presence at a service...and what do you know, it worked!

Shondrella and her little brother, who also had an extra part in the movie, were in attendance on Saturday night. May I just say that I was highly impressed with this woman. When asked to come on stage, she was so gracious and poised and gave the audience a great message about believing in yourself and going for your dreams that went perfectly with Brad's message on Kip. Afterwards, she stayed, taking pictures and signing autographs with all who wanted to meet her.

Brandon and I aren't what I would consider star struck. In fact, it is a bigger deal for us to get 10 minutes with one of our pastors to pick their brains that to sip frappacinos with Cameron Diaz or 'Brangelina'. I know that maybe Shondrella wasn't the biggest star of the movie. I know that she isn't the biggest name in show business. But you know what, I'd rather spend an hour with her than some of these young bucks who have made it big and are now too hot to handle. We so appreciated her kindness and effort, her desire to encourage our young people and her bright smile. It made our service extra special and we are thankful!

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Not About Numbers

"Oh, so you're the new youth pastor at such and such church"
"Yep, sure am. My wife and I just moved in and got started about three months ago."
"So...how's it going so far?"
"Well, you know. It's hard to get started quickly. We have to build relationships with the students and their families. We have to get familiar with the school system. I'm learning how to use a lot of the church's resources and trying to figure out how everything works together. But it's going well overall."
"That's great. How many kids you got coming?"

Okay...so this conversation never actually happened...or did it? So many times in mainstream ministry a conversation very similar to this comes up. It seems to me that too many times the temperature of how a ministry is going is equated with how many are in attendance. It really frustrates me, and yet, I find myself dealing with the numbers game already at the beginning of a ministry endeavor.

The Young Adults/College ministry at The Dream Center has great potential. A rich history of effective ministry, a vibrant congregation, a heartbeat to share the Gospel with others, a push for outreach that meets the physical needs of many...There are about 15 big colleges within a 45 minute drive of the front steps of the Angelus Temple. The population of the area where the church building stands outnumbers my entire home town. That leaves a great opportunity in our laps--to get connected with more people and to have them become fully devoted to Christ in every aspect of their lives. The thing is, is that we don't want to be a mile wide and an inch deep. We would rather have 10 people who are really going after God full force and building deep set relationships with each other than 1000 people who are just there to hang out and eat some snacks.

This dilemma is an interesting one that we are working through. We don't want to equate 'success' in ministry with how many people attend our events. Any thoughts?

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Back In The Saddle Again

Okay, rather than bore you with the minute details of the rest of our trip, let me just go on to say that we enjoyed our Christmas Day with my parents and also with the Johnston family (we stayed at their home while Mom was in the hospital). Mom got out on the Wednesday after Christmas, and we made it up to Columbia to help them get readjusted before making our way to Greenville (for church at Redemption) and finally back to Hendersonville. By this time, we were plenty tired of driving, but were excited to be in Brandon's home town for his BIRTHDAY! The Berrys enjoyed an afternoon of bowling, throwing peanuts on the floor and eating steaks! Brandon's now officially in his mid-twenties, at 24.

We spent New Years with our friends in Atlanta, and besides feeling a little run down from the long hours of driving and staying up late, we had a great time laughing and eating and readily beating everyone at our favorite game, Sequence.

New Year's Day allowed us some time with the Pophams. Randall used to be Brandon's high school youth pastor, and is now the Sr. Pastor of Lanier Hills Church in Gainesville, GA. We enjoyed the service and lunch with the family.

The final days of our tour were spent sleeping off some fevers, vegging out with my parents, and enjoying our final days of being able to order sweet tea in restaurants.

We made our way to Charlotte to spend time with Ryan Carson and Chris Lusk before flying out early the next morning.

We had a nice time at home, but boy are we glad to be back in LA!