Category Archives: Brian Norris

Powerful

Do we really know what the word “power” means?

Sometimes, I wonder if we are so conditioned by shows of weakness that we’ve begun to call moderate strength or even mediocrity, “power.” It seems that those exercising true Spirit-enabled power are often culturally interpreted as arrogant or brash.

power

Could it be that a weak church culture is feeding that misconception? Could it be that we are teaching the world that “Christian” = “weak”? Yes, Jesus is humble. Yes, those who follow Jesus will demonstrate real humility.

But…

Jesus is also powerful & those who follow Him will demonstrate His power! Have you read the book of Acts? Humility & power are NOT mutually exclusive!

Real humility isn’t about projecting a negative or neutral self-image; it’s not about talking yourself down whenever someone gives you a compliment.

As C.S. Lewis so wisely said:

True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”

So Go ahead, be powerful, think of Jesus more, follow His mission harder, see like He saw, do what He did, & think of what your friends will think WAY less.

Look in the mirror & see someone who is powerfully compassionate, someone who tells the truth even when no one wants to hear it, someone who is powerfully joyful even in the face of painful tragedy. Look in the mirror & see someone so controlled by the Spirit of Christ that he looks a lot like Jesus! Yes, you’ll likely lose yourself in the process, but isn’t it all about Him anyway? Don’t worry, living a powerful life won’t lead you to deny truth, rather you will find yourself discovering greater truth.

Don’t be afraid to be powerful!

Romans 12:1-2

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.

And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

Article by Brian Norris

@BrianNorris

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Forgetting the Fairy Tale

fairy-tale-190x300I’ll take 100 copies in camouflage please!

My friend & new ministry teammate has yielded herself to God & written an incredible book!

I do, in fact, recommend that you read it.

It seems that most of the people who read my blog are men. Readers other than my Mom that is–hi mom!  Notice that I didn’t recommend that you buy this book for your wife, your daughter, or your mom—though that’s a good idea, first why don’t YOU read it.

I need to insert a confession here:

I did have a little trouble getting “into” this book to begin with. First, because many of the illustrations are girly; second, because some of the application was a bit harder for me to identify with (cause I’m a dude); & third, I kept seeing the faces of young ladies who I’d ministered to, as a pastor, who got caught up in the “fairy tale.”

This last one was most distracting:

Some of my “manly” readers will jump to a conclusion here. You’ll be thinking, ah, Brian is recommending that I read this book so that I can help ladies in my ministry more effectively.

Again, good idea, nice try, but that’s not my primary intent.

Instead, I want you to take the time to apply this book to your life! I think its concepts will be as helpful to you as they have been to me.

You will find them Biblical & as a result meaningful.

Yes, some of the illustrations won’t “connect” immediately but if you change out “shoes” for “guns” you’ll get the message just fine. On the surface the application might feel different for you, but at the root our need for ultimate satisfaction in Christ alone is the same!

Here’s one of my favorite quotes from the book:

I challenge you to take time to consider the vastness of creation and the indescribable glory of our Creator, Jesus Christ. Ask Him to open your eyes to the truths of His majesty. Empty your mind of all that seeks to distract you from true communion with Him and give Him praise. Lift your hands and heart to Him in complete surrender and ask Him for the grace that you need to love Him as you ought. It is a prayer that we all need to pray every day of our lives. Our sinful natures prevent us from knowing true love as He is love, but through the power of the Holy Spirit, He can open your heart to love that is deeper and more fulfilling than anything any man on earth could ever provide for you and far more than anything you could ever have imagined. Let Love reign in your heart and life from this day forward.

Now, tell me you didn’t need that!

So really, I’ll take 100 copies with a camouflage cover and a few different illustrations but until that edition comes out, dudes, get over yourselves, grab a pink copy.

Go ahead, open up Forgetting the Fairy Tale, buckle your seat belt, and listen as my friend Donya walks you through the Word reminding YOU that Jesus is more than enough one story at a time!

It’s available on Barnes & Noble’s website & on Amazon too, check it out!

Article by Brian Norris

@BrianNorris

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The Practical Ministry of Presence

Galatians 6:2 Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

This verse’s specific context speaks of believers helping one another with the oppressive weight of temptation and the effects of yielding to it. However, there is a broader principle that can be applied to all burdens.

FriendshipsSo why is this principle important?

Today, it seems as though everyone you meet is carrying a burden, and Christians are not exempt. Though we can and should have joy in the midst of our difficulty, this doesn’t mean that we are to be dishonest about our difficulties. If we act like we never have problems then what does our ability to have joy prove? However, if we are honest about our lives and still find Jesus sufficient in all things, even when we are clearly at the end of ourselves—that can be winsome. If we, by faith, find some hope even when things seem hopeless, that is a powerful apologetic! By the way, the hope that we find isn’t pie in the sky or foundation-less hope; we hope in the real person who has already rescued us! It is the height of arrogance to think that he can’t overcome some issue in our lives when he has already overcome our depravity. If we minimize our sinful condition or magnify our role in salvation, we are much less likely to hope in Jesus! We hope because of his record! A Christian who has gotten caught up in a sinful cycle must be honest with himself and with others to get out. In the same way, a Christian who is bearing a burden that isn’t tainted by sin must be honest with himself and others to find help and hope. Christian, stop acting, it’s ok to need help!

How can I help bear burdens?

There are many ways that Christians can and should bear each other’s burdens, but this is a blog post, so I would just like to focus on one of them. Be there! I know it’s simple, but your presence can make a difference. Often, in the difficult seasons of life, friends and family don’t know how to help or what to say. Sometimes the one who is hurting doesn’t know what they need and wouldn’t know what to ask for if they did ask. Often this hurting individual carries on an internal dialogue that goes something like this: “I don’t physically need anything.” “No one could possiblysay anything that could help me right now.” “If someone were here with me they may feel some of my pain.” “I wouldn’t wish this on anyone.” “If someone else hurts, that will not help me in any way.” This hurting person then decides to bottle it up and go through their pain alone. Isolation is not the answer.

You are created in the image of God, and part of that imago dei illustrates that you are a relational being made to live within community. Your emotions are as real as you are.  People don’t have to say anything. Those that love you most are already feeling your pain. There are some weights too great for anyone to go through alone. Whether you are the one carrying a burden or the friend of someone carrying a burden, your presence can make a difference!

Article by Brian Norris

@BrianNorris

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Gospel-Oriented Prayer

I hear the words echoing in my mind: Prayer is asking and receiving. Though that statement contains truth, I can’t help asking if it paints a very full picture.

Both Tim Keller & Jack Miller talk about the difference between “maintenance prayer” and “frontline” prayer meetings.

If I understand them correctly, maintenance prayer meetings are characteristically mechanical, primarily focused on physical needs, and relatively short. But frontline prayer meetings have three basic traits:

  • People ask God for grace to confess sins and humble themselves
  • There is an expression of compassion and zeal for the church’s advancement
  • There is a tangible yearning to know God, to see his face, and to see his glory.

So just to recap, people get real, get filled with hope, and get focused on God’s glory!

Why is the distinction between “maintenance” & “frontline” prayer so important? Because these authors believe that frontline prayer is always connected to real revival.

Keller says:

Biblically and historically, the one non-negotiable, universal ingredient in times of spiritual renewal (read revival) is corporate, prevailing, intensive and kingdom-centered prayer. 

He sites Acts 4, Exodus 33, and Nehemiah 1 as examples. Our attention is drawn to the disciples in Acts 4 who don’t pray for safety in a time of peril but only asked God for the courage to keep preaching.

I would say that these types of prayer gatherings are a right and natural response to the gospel itself. When we begin to grasp God’s grace, we become focused on Jesus and find freedom from building our own image in the eyes of other broken men. Honesty and repentance are enabled and we can begin to get real. This will be reflected in the way we pray with others.

Are you overly concerned with how much your brothers may find out about you as you pray with them? Take another look at the gospel.

Do you “hedge your bets” when you pray, or do you find yourself asking God to show up in God-sized ways? If you pray small prayers, take another look at what God has already done for you in the gospel.

Do you find yourself coming up dry or pretending when you know you should be praising, worshiping, and seeing God’s glory? Take another look at the gospel. Look at Jesus—in Him we will find & see the fullness of the Godhead!

What do our prayer meetings look like? Maintenance or frontline? Defense or offense? Dead orthodoxy or passionate spiritual renewal?

So is prayer asking and receiving? Yeah, but one of the gospel’s effects in our lives should be to change what we ask for!

Article by Brian Norris

@BrianNorris

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The NEW Church Foyer

I can’t help noticing church trends, and I love visiting churches. Just ask Laura, my wife, and she will tell you that I will drive way out of our way when on vacation to visit a church that I’ve heard about. You can learn something from everybody.

Recently I have been contacting numerous churches and scheduling presentations designed to communicate the need for church planting in the Urban South.  As a result, I’ve had occasion to view lots of church websites. Some are great—some are not so great.

Church leaders, your website is your church’s new foyer!

Quite a while back, Zondervan sent me a few books from their Leadership Network series. One of them was A Multi-Site Church Road Trip by Geoff Surratt, Greg Ligon, and Warren Bird.  This book offered me a unique opportunity. I could, in essence, visit a number of diverse churches around the nation without ever leaving my local ministry on a Sunday. To a churchman like myself, this was an appealing opportunity!  Since all of the churches in this book were multi-site (already a bit out of the box) I wasn’t surprised to read that many of them had also added an “internet campus” so I could virtually visit as well.

This post isn’t about the pros and cons of the multi-site church model or even whether an “internet campus” is or isn’t church. Rather, let’s focus on the simple thoughts that this book, along with other factors, has generated in my mind.

Specifically, let’s talk about how important online media has become to churches. One thing that each of these diverse churches seemed to “get” was that their church must leverage media. Experience seems to be indicating that 20-somethings will watch/listen to services online for several weeks or more before ever attending church in real life.

In Reaching the Unchurched Next Door, the survey team was surprised to discover that “most of the unchurched feel guilty about not attending church.” In addition, “96% of the unchurched said that they are at least somewhat likely to attend church if invited.”

This would seem to indicate that truly unchurched people are likely intimidated by all the unknown factors presented by any given church.

I remember going to play golf for the first time with “serious golfers” only to find out that there were all kinds of rules of golf etiquette that I was completely unaware of.  It was intimidating! In the same way, the unknown intimidates people who are unfamiliar with church!

Enter: the church website. Your website is a tool that unchurched people who want to visit church are using to become familiar with an intimidating setting before they come.

  • Do you have a high bounce rate? Rethink the design of your site.
  • Do you have primarily single page views? Maybe you should re-work the content of your site.
  • If you provide audio—great! Could you provide video?
  • If you provide video, how could you make it more consumable?
    • By adding an attractive lead in?
    • Could you divide each video into parts?
    • Could you optimize for quicker uploads?
    • What about a better-written explanation for each video?
    • Should you consider moving your service media to a different location on your site?

I think that we will find more and more visitors spending a few services with us online before they ever meet the church in person.  It’s like the new foyer—the place where people take time to get comfortable, get to know what your church is all about, and ultimately decide whether or not to push through the sanctuary doors.

RELATED POST from P4G: Practical Helps for Your First Impression

Article by Brian Norris

@BrianNorris

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