Posts by Andy Fuqua

Servant of God, husband, dad, pastor, lifelong student, aspiring theologian, musician, angler-wannabe. I love roasting coffee beans, playing jazz, fly fishing, and studying God’s Word.

PBC Group Leaders Update

Hey Group Leaders,

Hope your falls are starting off well! Harvest is my all-time favorite time of year.

I wanted to encourage all our groups to come out to Dave & Jeanne Moore’s for Fall Fest 2013 on Sunday, October 13. It will be a great time of fun, food, and friendship! This is a good opportunity for your group to plan a social outing together and interact with other groups and other church members as well. This could also be a great time to invite people to join your group for the next Bible study.

Speaking of studies, if any of you are interested in doing video-based study, I have unlimited access to over 500 small group video studies online. Our student small groups are currently doing one of these studies on apologetics, and my Connection Group is doing one on parenting. Excellent stuff and fairly easy to put together. If you’re interested, let me know and I’ll show you how to login and access the videos.

Also, I still need updated rosters, meeting times, and what your group is currently studying from some of you. 🙂

It’s Not Personal, It’s Business

Sermon audio link

Sunday I had the honor of preaching God’s Word to my church. I was teaching from the Gospel of Mark, chapter 11, and my fundamental point was that God doesn’t want a business deal with us, he wants a relationship. We often come to God with the attitude it’s not personal, it’s business. If we do our religious duty, say our prayers, go to church, etc, then God will keep his end of the deal and save us from Hell, fix our problems, etc. But, God doesn’t want a transaction, he wants a relationship. He doesn’t want a contract, he wants a commitment. He loves us and wants our love in return.

Having said that, I think the sermon caught a lot of people off guard. American evangelicalism has shoved a business transaction version of Christianity down our throats for over 100 years now. We’ve been so focused on manipulating people to “make a decision” or “repeat this prayer,” that we’ve come to think the decision or the exchange is the point of it all. And that model also fits well with the more fundamentalist/legalistic churches, like the one I grew up in.

To be sure, there is a transaction that takes place. We exchange our sin for Jesus’ righteousness. We give control of our lives to him, and he gives eternal life to us. But the problem arises when we think the transaction is the point, or the end, of it all. Actually, the transaction happens so that we can have a relationship. The relationship is impossible as long as we’re stained with sin. So God makes this exchange to cleanse away our sin, and then we’re free to enjoy a relationship with him as our Father in Heaven.

I was raised in a fundamentalist/legalistic church that was just like the religious leaders in Jesus’ day, and I doubted my faith often when my prayers weren’t answered like I thought they should be. I once prayed for two years for God to cure my nearsightedness so I wouldn’t have to wear glasses… I thought I just lacked the faith and wasn’t keeping the rules well enough. In reality, I was as spiritually myopic as I physically myopic! God did cure my spiritual nearsightedness, and for that I am eternally grateful. I hope you enjoy this message and I welcome your feedback!

Thank You God For Saving Me

Yesterday was my favorite Sunday of the year. Easter is without a doubt the most exciting service for a worship arts pastor. We worship at our local high school auditorium for Easter because our worship center is just too small to handle the crowd. A huge stage lets us use elaborate props and scenery. A sound system worth as much as my house is lets our band rock, and for once nobody complains about how loud it is (or about the hip-hop flavor added to one song by an up and coming young worship leader). No shortage of wireless mics means we can have extra singers and add drama to the service without passing mics like they were batons in a relay race. Gifted artists are commissioned to paint or draw especially for the service. Hundreds of adults and as many children fill the auditorium and sing praises to our Risen King.

This Easter, the capstone to our service came during the closing song, Thank You God For Saving Me, by Chris Tomlin and Phil Whickham (see the YouTube video below). It was beautiful. As we sang, scores of people came up onstage holding signs. On the one side they’d written what their lives were like before God saved them. On the other, what their lives were like now. Perhaps the most moving for me, personally, was a teenage girl who wrote “Addicted to Porn” on one side and “Addicted to Him” on the other. Wow!

This morning on my drive to Chicago, I found myself wondering if I’d be as excited about Easter if the circumstances were different. What if I didn’t have a whole band of talented musicians behind me as I led worship? What if we didn’t have the best sound system in town, elaborate scenery, or hundreds of voices singing out? What exactly is it that excites me about Easter? The event, the production, the flash… or the resurrection, the gospel, my Friend and King – Jesus?

As I reflected, I came to the conclusion that even in the most meager of circumstances I would still be excited about Easter Sunday (at least I hope I would). It’s true that the technology and talent, the production and the people are exciting and fun. However, the real celebration of Easter is not how many voices were raised to Jesus, but rather that Jesus himself was raised from the dead! In a smaller service I think I still would’ve ended with Thank You God For Saving Me. It’s quite a simple, yet profoundly moving song. It sums up my heart and the reason why I lead worship and pastor a congregation. Thank you, God, for saving Andy Fuqua.

Beat the Bushes

mark-series-titleNo, I don’t mean go find W. or his dad and turn them over your knee! Easter is just over a week away. This is the church’s “super bowl” – the single largest and most exciting worship event of the year. It’s the Sunday we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, unarguably the greatest event in the history of mankind!

Every year at PBC we rent the high school auditorium for Easter. Our worship center only seats about 250, while the high school seats roughly 900. The last couple of years we’ve almost filled the place, and this year our goal is to overflow! It reminds me of an old hymn, O For A Thousand Tongues To Sing. Our goal is for a thousand tongues to sing our great Redeemer’s praise! We want to proclaim the gospel to 1,000 people this Easter and we need to work together to do that! Go “beat the bushes” and invite everyone you can – friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, even your boss!

We’ll be examining the evidence of the resurrection, investigating the scene and asking the question, Who Is This Man? Since we want to overflow the auditorium, we’re trying to get a rough estimate of a headcount. If you haven’t RSVP’d for Easter Sunday, you can RSVP here

Lead

The more I read and learn and experience, the more I’m convinced that we have a leadership crisis. No, I’m not trashing the President, or Congress for that matter. I’m talking about people in general. Very few people want to lead, and even fewer are learning how to lead. This lack of leadership is killing families, churches and schools. It seems the best leaders go into business. The worst into politics (haha – jk, I won’t make this a political blog!).

Men in general are casting off their leadership responsibilities. They don’t want to grow up. They’d rather play video games all day, leading imaginary teams of soldiers into imaginary battles than step into reality and lead their wives and families. Not surprisingly, many women are picking up the slack and showing themselves to be gifted leaders, not just in the home but in the workplace as well. Unfortunately for the family, these women often end up being “mom” to an extra child who happens to wear their wedding ring. But wives don’t need an extra child who drinks beer and plays video games, they could really use a man, a husband, to step up and pull his weight around the home.

Pastors often avoid leading because they’ve been ill-equipped to lead, and quite frankly many don’t care to lead. They’d rather study for a sermon or pray for a sick person than take a bold step of faith and chart a course for the future of their church. While these things are important, what pastors need to remember is that our job is as much about leading the saints to do the work of the ministry as it is about us doing the work of the ministry. If all we do is visit sick people, and we never train, equip or lead the Christians in our churches to visit the sick, then we’ve missed a big part of our job.

Pastors are often referred to as shepherds, and the church is a flock. Sure, a shepherd cares for the hurting in his flock, but he also leads the flock from one place to the next. Churches need pastors to lead and guide and focus our energy, time, resources and manpower so that not only do we grow spiritually, but we also make an impact on society around us. Wouldn’t it be nice to actually change something for the better in your community?

It’s no different in schools, businesses, even social circles where leadership is informal. Every sphere of society is hurting for leadership, and that means every sphere of society is struggling, not achieving what it should be, maybe even crumbling around us. In the absence of leadership, someone will take the reigns. That person may be a lousy leader or even a sinister one.

What I’m challenging you to do, as a Christian, is pray about where God wants you to lead. We’ve all been tasked with leading others to Christ. That’s a start. Some of us have families. There’s our first leadership zone. Go home and lead your family closer to Jesus.

10 Bible Study Tips

God’s Word is light and life, and digging into it will change you permanently.  I’d encourage you this January to perhaps forego your Bible-in-a-year reading plan and instead go deep into Scripture.  What usually happens to me when I follow a reading plan is that I end up reading quickly through the assigned sections and checking them off, rather than spending time with God in His Word and going deep.  I think all Christians would do well to slow our reading down, focus on one book at a time, and dwell in God’s Word.  Here are ten tips for getting at the meaning of Scripture.

  1. Have a Bible buddy.  This will not only help you be accountable and stay on your reading, but you can also read the same book/passage and discuss it together.
  2. Get a good study Bible to give you some insight and background.  I recommend the ESV Study Bible, or the NIV Study Bible, or the Life Application Study Bible (available in several translations), or the Faithlife Study Bible (a digital format, also available in a number of translations).
  3. Actually use your study Bible!  Don’t just read the verses, but read the other sections, too.  Especially read the introductions and background material on each book before you start it.
  4. Read a variety of translations.  Most any translation can be read online for free (just use google).  Try to mix it up.  What are the similarities and differences between the translations?
  5. Try listening, not just reading.  Two ways to listen: (1) read out loud and listen to yourself; (2) listen to an audio Bible.  Most of the Bible was originally written to be heard.
  6. Try to ignore chapters and verses.  These weren’t part of the original Bible, but were added later to help people find specific references.  But they can obscure meaning!  We tend to stop reading at the end of a chapter, but often the flow of thought continues on past the end of the chapter and into the next.
  7. Look at a passage in its context.  What came just before this passage?  What follows immediately after?  How does that affect the meaning?
  8. Try to identify main themes running throughout several passages or sections.  Your study Bible intros can really be helpful here.
  9. Remember – the Bible wasn’t written to you!  Reading it is like reading someone else’s mail.  Try to figure out what it would mean to them, not just what it means to you.
  10. Try to figure out how the author wanted the original readers to respond.  Now, how can you respond in a similar way?

Livestock for Families – A Story

One of the hats I wear at our church is the pastor of connection groups (aka small groups).  And, I want to share a really cool story about a couple of our groups (well, it’s really a story about God).

Once upon a time in 2012, there were four families in southeast Asia who were in poverty.  They worked hard all day, but lived on next to nothing and often went to bed hungry.  They didn’t know God, but God knew them, and He saw their needs.  He sent missionaries to the regions where these families lived and arranged circumstances such that these missionaries would meet and build relationships with the four Asian families.  The missionaries shared the gospel with these families and looked for ways to help them.  See, God was orchestrating it so that these impoverished families in Asia would have their physical and spiritual needs met.

So, God moved in the hearts of a number of young families living in Pontiac, IL, and worshiping together with Pontiac Bible Church.  These families belonged to a couple of PBC’s Connection Groups, and they decided to work together under the banner of Advent Conspiracy.  They each bought a few less Christmas gifts, and instead pooled their money to help those families in southeast Asia by donating valuable livestock through Gospel for Asia.

See, the idea behind Advent Conspiracy is to spend less and give more.  Instead of buying a sweater that he won’t wear, or a toy that she doesn’t need, why not spend less on presents?  The most valuable gift a person can give is time.  So, these families bought less presents and instead spent more time than money.  Then they gave the money they saved on presents to one of the pastors at PBC (that’s me!) and asked him to help those families in Asia.

And that’s just what he did.  With over $1,300 to spend, that pastor sent a water buffalo, two cows, and a goat to the missionaries working for Gospel for Asia.  Overjoyed, the missionaries got to give these livestock as late Christmas gifts to the four families God was looking out for.  Through the missionaries, Gospel for Asia, and the Connection Groups at PBC, God gave the Asian families gifts that will provide food, labor, and income for years to come.

Isn’t God cool?

10 Tips for Effective PowerPoints

I do a lot of the graphic design work for our church, including designing the media for the sermons.  Here are some tips on effective use of PowerPoint – for a sermon or any presentation.

  1. Don’t load up too much text on a single slide.  Slides clutter quickly.
  2. Try not to cover up design elements with text or pictures.  Obviously, if you’re using a boring monochrome (one-color) background, then this doesn’t apply!
  3. Remember the KISS principle: Keep It Simple (Stupid).
  4.  If you use direct quotes, put them in your presentation – helps the listeners follow as you read the quote.
  5. If your media has been designed, remember that the media has been designed.  Try to design your slides to complement, not compete with, the design of the media.
  6. Keep it simple…
  7. Use font size and style to show us what needs to stand out.
  8. That being said, if you do resize text, try to be as consistent as possible throughout the presentation.  All scriptures should have the same size font, all bullet points should be the same size, etc.
  9. A picture is worth 1,000 words.
  10. Did I mention keep it simple?  Less is more!

What’s Heaven Like?

Do you believe in Heaven?  I had the opportunity on Dec 30 to preach – something I rarely do (thankfully)!  I got to end our Advent series: Ancient-Future Christmas: Celebrating the Whole Story of God,  by preaching about Heaven, from Revelation 21 & 22.  I thought I would post a synopsis of the sermon here, as well as the audio and the sermon manuscript for anyone interested.

audio file

Where is Heaven?

Heaven is the dwelling place of God, and in the end, that place is on Earth (Rev. 21:1-4).  Heaven isn’t Heaven because of where it is, but because of who is there: God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  And we will be there, too – not wearing bathrobes, with wings and harps, floating on clouds, but on Earth, as physical beings, living with God.  It will literally be Heaven-on-Earth.

Who will be in Heaven?

Obviously God will be there (that’s what makes it Heaven).  But so will everyone whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life (Rev. 21:27).

Who won’t be in Heaven?

The cowardly, the unbelievers, the detestable, murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers (this could mean drug abusers), idolaters, liars, the unclean, evildoers, the filthy, the dogs (meaning people who aren’t part of the family of God), and everyone who loves and practices falsehood (Rev. 21:8, 27; 22:11, 15).  Obviously, this list isn’t exhaustive.  And, it can be summed up in a single sentence: If you don’t belong to Jesus, you won’t be in Heaven.

What will we do in Heaven?

Here’s what we won’t do: become angels, wear bathrobes, be permanently retired, float around on clouds, or be in a church service that lasts for eternity.  A biblical understanding of Heaven interprets the New Creation in light of the Old Creation; the Bible ends where it begins.  In Genesis, God created the heavens and the earth, and told us to go cultivate the world.  Build cities, plant gardens, work according to your giftedness, make babies, write books, make music, paint, draw, act, eat, and do it all for the glory of God.

In Revelation, God creates a new heaven and a new earth (Rev. 21:1), and I believe we will be doing the same kinds of things in the New Creation as God intended for us to do in the old.  God’s plan for Creation is restored.  We’ll still have jobs, build houses, plant gardens, make music and art, enjoy good food and friends – and we’ll do it with no sin to muck it up.  I believe there will be cities and even nations in Heaven, with Jesus ruling as King of Kings from the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:10) and with us reigning over cities and nations as His under-kings (Rev. 22:5).

How can I get to Heaven?

Come to Jesus (Rev. 22:17).  He has the water of life and you can drink from it freely.  Be washed in the blood of the Lamb who was slain to redeem men and women from sin and darkness and to purchase their place in glory.  If you’re not sure whether or not you’ll be in the New Creation, or if you’re a citizen of the Holy City, then simply come to Jesus and ask Him for help.  He’ll do the rest.  If He’s your God, then you’re His child (Rev. 21:7).

Summer Mission Trip!

So… I’m leading a team from my church on a mission trip to Guatemala this summer!  Woohoo!  We’ll be staying and serving at Village of Hope, an orphanage ran by Todd & Amy Block and Dan & Christi Ucherek in partnership with Lifesong for Orphans.  Sunday we had an informational meeting about the trip and almost 50 people showed up!  I know several more wanted to be there but couldn’t make it, so I thought I’d post the short version and essentials here.

Dates

July 31 – Aug 5, 2013 (that’s a Wednesday – Sunday)

Purposes of the Trip

  1. Provide pastoral care to the Blocks and Uchereks (“pastoral” care isn’t just something that “pastors” do).
  2. Help with construction on a security wall around the perimeter of Village of Hope.
  3. See the work the missionaries are doing and report back to PBC.
  4. Expose American Christians to the poverty and needs in other countries, and ignite a passion for missions in them.

Cost

Total cost is approximately $1650/person.  Here’s how that breaks down:

  • $700 – plane ticket (this may end up cheaper if we get a group rate from the airline)
  • $750 – lodging and food at Village of Hope (it costs them to house us)
  • $200 – food on the way there and on the way home, and any purchases you want to make in the local markets and villages.

Feel free to bring more if you’d like.  You are also responsible for getting your own passport.

Requirements

  • Must be a Christian.
  • Must be at least 14 years old (due to safety issues – the Blocks were recently mugged at gunpoint and another local missionary was shot to death a few weeks ago).
  • Please fill out this Team Member Application and return it to me by January 6.  We can take ten people, not counting the leaders.  You will be notified by January 13 if you were chosen to be on the team.
  • A 10% deposit ($165) is due to the church by February 13 – if you’re on the team.

Other Info