THAT’S IT?

This is honestly a question I get asked more often than not.  When people ask me about what programs we have for them and their families throughout the week at our church, they are usually shocked by the answer.  Every time, I respond with: Sunday Morning Services (Including those for our kids & students)…and LifeGroups…that’s it.  And they almost always respond with that question…THAT’S IT?  That’s it!  
No, we don’t have Sunday Night Prayer Services, or Monday Night night Jamboree.  We don’t do Tuesday night door-to-door visitation, or midweek devotional.  We don’t have Friday Night Bible School or Saturday Morning Pancake Breakfasts.  We don’t do ANY of that stuff!  Legitimately, outside of special events, we ONLY do Sunday Morning Environments, and LifeGroups.  But why?
Why not do more?  Why not spend as much time as possible with the Church?  Well I’m glad you asked!
At Next Level Church, we have ONE evangelism strategy…YOU!  That’s it.  We don’t go knock on doors, or stand on street corners with megaphones.  Our one strategy for sharing the Gospel is you.  It’s called invest, and invite.  We want YOU to invest in relationships with your friends, family, neighbors, & coworkers.  Once you have developed the credibility with those people to do so, we want you then to invite them to church with you.  Sometimes it’s immediate, and sometimes, it takes a while.  Either way, once they show up, they can hear the life-changing message of Jesus Christ.  
But here’s the problem.  If we decided to keep a busy church calendar, and ineveitably caused you to spend all your free time at church, you wouldn’t have time to invest in the lives of your friends, and you certainly wouldn’t have the opportunity to make new ones.  Your lives are busy already, so you would end up only having time to invest into relationships with the people you are always around, people who’s eternal homes are already secure…people already here.  And as a result, nobody new would ever get invited to hear about the love God has for them, and the plans He has for their lives.
So as a church, we have committed to a “simple church” model, which keeps our calendar VERY lean.  Because honestly, we don’t want you at a midweek bible study.  We’de rather you be at a BBQ with your neighbor.  Because then, and only then will you be granted those super cool opportunities to invite people to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  
BTW, Christmas Eve is coming up.  Among your friends, neighbors, coworkers, and family…WHO ARE YOU INVITING?  Don’t come alone…It would be a shame if you did.
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Is it REALLY Worth the Risk?

It’s WAY too risky…isn’t it?  Sharing our faith.  Actually opening up about the love Jesus shows us…with a friend, family member, coworker, or neighbor…Sharing that could mess things up way too much…right?  
Or even inviting someone you know to come to church with you, to HEAR the life-changing message of Jesus from a pastor, a professional religious person.  Is it really worth the risk, or the ramifications that could possibly ensue, to bring up your faith to those in your sphere of influence?  
At the end of the day…GOD LOVES US, AND IT’S UP TO US TO TELL OTHERS THAT GOD LOVES THEM.  But at what cost?  Is sharing that message really worth the price.
Well let’s take a second and look at the reasons why so many of us don’t…why we feel it’s too risky  Then maybe we can figure out if it’s truly worth it…or not.
REASON #1:  WHAT WILL THEY THINK ABOUT ME IF I BRING IT UP?
Ok sure, this is a valid concern.  Who doesn’t care about others opinions of themselves.  NOBODY!  Everyone wants to be thought highly of and nobody wants to be labeled negatively for any reason.  But let’s think ahead for a moment.  What if one day, down the road, the person that God has placed in your life now discovers the truth of God’s love.  What if one day, they come to realize that through Jesus, God gives us the life we were always meant to have.  And then one day, they think back on your relationship, and realize, you knew.  You knew the whole time, and you never told them.  You never gave them the chance.  You never went out on a limb on their behalf…
See, the real question is not what they will think about you if you do bring it up.  The real question is what will they think about you…if you don’t.
REASON #2:  I DON’T KNOW THEM ALL THAT WELL. 
It’s tough to bring up things of a serious nature with those you are nothing more than an acquaintance with.  Maybe it’s that co-worker you see in the break room, or maybe the neighbor, you wave to while walking your dog.  Talking about “faith” with someone like this just seems a little awkward, doesn’t it?
But let’s consider this.  If we have accepted what Jesus did on the cross on our behalf, we are granted a life in an eternal relationship with God.  But we also know that those who don’t, will be eternally separated from Him. What could be more terrible…
Now think about it, if you were standing on a street corner, and a stranger unknowingly starts to step out in front of a bus, would you honestly say “well, I would say something, but I don’t know them all that well so…”  NO!  It doesn’t matter how well you know a person, when they are headed down a road of destruction, you have a moral obligation to say or do something!
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m definitely not advocating preaching the entirety of orthodoxy to someone you barely know, but as Christ followers, no one is too obscure to throw a simple invite their way.  NOBODY.
REASON #3:  IT MIGHT RUIN OUR FRIENDSHIP.
Some people get very concerned, especially when things are good, that bringing up a topic like faith might take a negative toll on a friendship.
But here’s a life lesson on friendship to keep in mind:  A SELFISH friend is concerned about the well being of the friendship, a TRUE friend is concerned about the well being of the friend.  
Nothing could be better for your friend than for them to find the hope, and peace that knowing Christ can bring.  And honestly, if you care more about the friendship than you do about what’s best for them, it it really a friendship worth having?
REASON #4:  BUT THEY ARE OF A DIFFERENT FAITH, SO THEY MAY NOT BE THE BEST CANDIDATE.
In western culture, we’ve become far too concerned with offenses regarding faith.  Look, here’s something we have to keep in mind.  EVERYBODY who becomes a follower of Christ comes from a DIFFERENT faith, even if it’s a faith in something like scientific evidence alone.  
Even the 12 guys who hung out with Jesus personally, and started THE CHURCH were from a different faith.  People who are of different faiths are the BEST candidates for the truth of the Gospel.  I mean, before I became a Christ-follower, I was a Baptist! (that was a joke…funny only for a small few I know.)
REASON #5:  I MIGHT GET REJECTED, AND I DON’T DEAL WITH THAT WELL.
This is understandable.  But we must keep things in perspective.  Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, the only perfect man to have ever lived…was rejected.  Rejected by his friends, his religious leaders, his family, even his own heavenly father…for OUR sake, so that we might have the life we were always meant to have. If Jesus himself was willing to be rejected on our behalf, surely we could be willing to face rejection, on behalf of those we know and love. 
So…it it really worth the risk?  Well, yeah, I guess it is.  I guess there’s really nothing else on the planet more worth our risk, than furthering the Gospel of Jesus Christ, by sharing it with those God has brought closest to us.  
Is it risky?  YES.  Could we lose friends?  YES?  Could we get labeled?  YES?  It is worth it?  ABSOLUTELY YES…

Big News!!!

I wanted to take a moment and share with you the next venture in the life of the McLaughlin family. After leaving Next Level Church (which is a fantastic church I HIGHLY recommend for anyone living in the South Charlotte/Matthews area) in March of this year, I joined the staff of High Rock Church, a multi-site church that has grown to 5 campuses and over 2500 ppl in weekly attendance in just 8 years! They have done this with a very unique strategy that carries them to regions without a strong  relevant evangelical church presence. This gives them the opportunity to share the Gospel of Jesus in a way many living in these areas have never seen. It’s been an incredible team to land with, and God is changing lives through the faithfulness of this team in ways I can’t even begin to explain.

To make a long story short, High Rock has a vision of planting 100 campuses over the next 20 years to reach a plethora of people who are far from God. They’ve never desired to be the biggest church on one corner, but rather, a church which spreads its reach further by expanding regionally and geographically to meet people where they are at.  God has granted them such favor in their efforts thus far, and every one of their current campuses are thriving, growing, expanding, building, and seeing lives changed each and every week. Just in the last 20 months, we’ve seen over 700 people make decisions to follow Christ with their lives, and I’ve witnessed nearly 200 people be baptized just in the few short months I’ve been there.
Having said that, High Rock has a desire to plant 3 of those campuses simultaneously in the Spring of next year. One of those that will be launching next Easter will be a permanent facility campus right on HWY 49 in Harrisburg NC, just 15 minutes from where my wife and I grew up in Indian Trail. Although parts of Cabarrus County are very saturated with a church presence, the particular area we will be targeting is VERY unchurched, and the ratio of people to evangelical churches in this area is frightening.
High Rock leadership has asked me to consider leading this campus as it’s Campus Pastor. And this morning, we gladly announced at all of our campuses that we have accepted this call on our lives.  At High Rock, each campus pastor does the live communication each and every week. While all of the campus pastors prepare sermons together each week, we have a dedicated communicator and pastor for each campus.  What this means is that I will be the primary communicator at this particular campus.  For those of you that have worked closely with multi-site models, you know this is fairly unique, particularly in our part of the country.  For those of you that know me, you know this is a passion of mine, and I cant wait to get rollin!

They’ve also asked Sam Donahue, whom I’ve previously worked with at Next Level, and is currently the Kannapolis Campus Worship Pastor to come and be our Campus Worship Pastor. I’m super excited about this because Sam is one of the greatest pastors and leaders I’ve had the privilege of working with.  And the team of musicians and vocalists he is assembling is nothing short of spectacular!  We also have several other key volunteer and staff leaders currently plugged in to High Rock who have committed to this campus when we launch!  I’ll give you more details on them in the weeks to come.  And finally, a piece of news I’m extremely excited about, Doug Irvin, who formally led TC3 in Matthews, was on staff at Next Level in Mathews, and is a part of the executive team at High Rock, will also be joining the Harrisburg staff on a campus level, helping people get connected at this particular campus.  Doug and his wife Donna are two of the most Godly people we’ve ever known, and we couldn’t be more thrilled about serving with them!

I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I am about this opportunity for me and my family, how stoked I get thinking about working with this particular team, and how incredible this church community will be for the people of Harrisburg. God is going to do UNBELIEVABLE things in Harrisburg this Spring…AND I CANT WAIT!

*If you live in the area and would consider being a part of the core team which will launch this campus this spring, or simply have more questions, shoot me an email at robbiemclaughlin@highrockcommunitychurch.com
**For more information on High Rock Church, visit www.highrockcommunitychurch.com.
***Or to hear What High Rock is ALL about in an hour or less…watch this!

When God Says Surprise!

The longer I live, the more and more I realize how much I hate surprises. Parties (I’d rather choose the guest list), gifts (I’d rather pick the present), news (I like to prepare myself), whatever it is, I always like to know what’s coming! I know how that sounds, and no, I promise, I’m not a total party killjoy. But, honestly, who likes surprises…I mean really likes them…
By our very nature, most of us like to plan, prepare, get our thoughts together, and build (at least mental) action steps BEFORE something, anything happens to us. Why? Because it makes us all a little uncomfortable when we get caught off guard. For whatever reason.
But here’s the irony of following Christ, God almost always operates in our lives via the element of surprise.
One of my friends used to say that God doesn’t direct our lives like mapquest. He doesn’t lay out all of the turns and directions ahead of time. Rather, he operates much more like GPS. He tells you turn by turn, and usually tells you right before it’s time. SURPRISE!
But the real question is why? If God knows that it naturally makes us uncomfortable to be surprised with life-bombs if you will, why does he continually drop them?
I think more than anything else, it’s because it forces us to trust him. When we have time to plan and prepare, that’s exactly what we do…plan, and prepare. In our own strength, and with our own resources, we figure out how to deal with what’s coming.
But God knows as long as He continually surprises us by the events in our lives, we will have no other option but to lean on the truth of His word, trust in the wisdom of His Spirit, and rest in the peace of His presence.
When you face an unanticipated surprise, don’t panic and freak out. No matter how hard it may be, take a second, pause, and thank God for giving you another opportunity to trust Him. You may not like surprises any more than I do, but one thing’s for sure, we take one step closer in our relationship with God every time we face them.
So next time God surprises you, don’t be surprised…it’s how He rolls!

An Unexpected Christmas

Ever wonder why God saw fit to foreshadow and tell the Christmas story the way he did?  It was, well…unexpected to say the least.
God could have used a queen, a royal handmaiden, or at the very least someone who was MARRIED to be the mother of the Messiah.  But He didn’t.  He used a young (some say almost inappropriately young) girl from a small town, who had not even yet married her blue collar fiancee.
God could have given Him a birthplace of eternal significance like Jerusalem, or of worldly significance like Rome.  But He didn’t.  If Israel were New York City, Jesus wasn’t born in Manhattan, he was born in the Bronx.  Of all places…Bethlehem.
God could have given Jesus a royal welcome by allowing Him to be born in the house of a King, or a major political leader.  But He didn’t.  Rather, the very creator of the universe was born in nothing more than what we would call a parking deck, a basement cave under a motel where the motel guests would park their donkeys and camels they rode in on.  And the best they could muster for a crib was a pigs feeding trough and some feed hay.
God could have given the first birth announcement to a group of world leaders like King Herod, or perhaps even the emperor of Rome himself.  But he didn’t.  Instead, God announced the birth of His son to a bunch of smelly shepherds out in the middle of a field.  These guys weren’t even necessarily the owners of the sheep,   this was the third shift help!  And now look, they have action figures sold in boxed sets of nativity scenes around the world!
Go back and read the genealogy of Jesus, the opening lines of the Christmas story.  Even it has some of the most unexpected Old Testament Characters in it! (Rahab the hooker anyone?)
But interestingly enough, God still tells stories the same way.  It seems as though He continually uses the most unlikely characters, and situations to play significant roles in His story.  
You may very well be an unlikely character for God to use.  You may have an unlikely background, or unlikely job.  But if (HIS)tory is any indication, it seems as though God may have a significant role for you to play in His kingdom.  Who knows, you may even have your own action figure one day!  
Remember, God uses the most unexpected characters to play some of the most significant roles in HIS STORY!

Dear Occupy Wall Street…

I’ve been meaning to jot down some thoughts on the OCCUPY movement for a while now.  But I recently read a letter written by Dave Ramsey, a financial GENIUS, and world renowned expert on personal and corporate finances, and thought, “there is no way I could even come close to articulating my thoughts and feelings towards this movement as clear, compelling, and concise as this man has!”
So, rather than posting about it myself, I figured I would just let you read the letter for yourself.  Once your done, post some thoughts…I’d love to hear your take on this movement!
THE FOLLOWING IS BY DAVE RAMSEY:

“I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore!” Yeah, that’s great. But what do you want? What are your goals? What are your demands? What result are you looking for?
The beauty of being vague is that anyone who has any emotion can get caught up in the excitement and join your crusade. They’ll just get mad at something and assume that you’re both mad about the same thing. Put a few hundred of these people together, and boom. You’ve got a crowd, a headline and a lot of attention … but no message.
A lot of people on Twitter are saying I totally agree with the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) demands and goals. The only problem is that I have no idea what their demands and goals are. And neither does anyone else. If all you ever do is stomp around, yell and hold up signs protesting a million different things, sure you’ll get some attention, but over time, you’ll just look foolish. You end up coming across like a three-year-old having a temper tantrum.
This is what’s happening to the OWS movement. They’re being discredited because no one has stepped forward and really stated what it is they’re after. The whole group is just coming across like a bunch of jacked-up, jobless, wannabe hippies. That’s not going to change anything in this country. You’ve got to state your goals clearly if you want to accomplish something.
So in the absence of any clear goals, let me comment and offer some helpful advice in some areas that seem to be getting a lot of disorganized OWS attention.

“No Government Bailouts!”

Banks and big companies should not receive taxpayer money for a bailout while their CEOs are making hundreds of millions of dollars. If that’s your gripe, then you’re protesting in the wrong location. Pack up and head to Washington, D.C., to deliver your message to the current administration. Don’t get me wrong—I totally support a company’s freedom to pay their leaders well. I just don’t believe that I, as a taxpayer, should subsidize those huge salaries in the form of taxpayer bailouts. I pay my own team members; I don’t need to pay everyone else’s too.
By the way, you may be shocked to learn that the Tea Party agrees with you on this one—and so do I.

“Down With Corporate Greed!”

Gordon Gekko was wrong. Greed is not good. Greed is bad—very bad. It’s a spiritual disease, and it is a disease that sadly affects a lot of companies across the country. If you believe a specific company is acting purely out of greed, then don’t just get mad—do something. Point out where and how they’re greedy and let the world know. Stop doing business with them. If enough people listen to you, the company will get the message because you’ll hit them where it hurts: the bottom line. If they don’t get their act together, then they’ll go out of business and another business will take their place.
But if you’re saying that all businesses are greedy and that capitalism itself is evil and ineffective, then I’m sorry—you’re just being stupid. You’re being misled and misinformed by some of the louder voices around you. Are you wearing clothes? Have you eaten any food lately? Do you have an iPhone in your pocket to check in with Twitter and Facebook while you’re out marching around? Good. All of those products and services are brought to you by quality companies dedicated to serving you well in a capitalistic system that works just fine.

“Wall Street Is Evil!”

If you have this painted on a sign, well, now you just look ignorant. Wall Street is a street that people drive on. The New York Stock Exchange is a building where people exchange stocks in New York. This is the flea market of the financial world. Don’t turn Wall Street into some terrible monster attacking American citizens. It’s just a road with some buildings on it.
But here’s what happens. Sometimes when people don’t understand something, they start to fear it. And as the fear grows, it turns into anger. But just because you don’t understand something, you shouldn’t see it as bad or frightening or a conspiracy. You should just think of it as an opportunity to learn something new—something that could actually be a blessing to you.
For example, imagine a group of natives out in the jungle in the farthest part of the world. I mean, picture a group of people who have never seen anyone outside of their tribe and have certainly never seen any kind of machine. What would they think if they saw a Red Cross helicopter land near them? And what would they think of the strange-looking men and women who jump out of the chopper and start walking toward them? They’d be freaked out! They wouldn’t know or care if the Red Cross was there to help them with food or medicine. They’d think it was the end of the world or something because their minds would be totally blown!
I hate to say it, but a lot of OWS protestors are just about as uninformed as those jungle natives when it comes to how the American financial system works. A road and an office building. That’s Wall Street.

“Wealth Redistribution Is the Answer!”

I’ve heard a lot about wealth redistribution over the past few years, and I’m sure you’ve heard it too. Call it whatever you want, but this is how it usually sounds to most Americans: “We are the 99% of Americans who don’t have as much as the 1%, so we’re mad and think the government should take their wealth and property away so that I can have a piece of it. Wealth inequality is a moral breakdown! We should all spread the money around so everyone gets a fair share!”
I have my toughest critique for those who believe this: You are a thief. When someone takes my money and gives me no say in the matter, that’s called theft—whether they’re using a gun or the government. At the core of this demand is envy. And that’s not the same as jealousy. Jealousy just says, “I want what you have.” Envy is a different beast. Envy says, “I don’t think I can ever have what you have, so you shouldn’t have it either.” Decades of horrible economic teaching and the politics of envy have kept this monster alive and growing and moving forward.
This way of thinking makes you assume that all rich people are evil and have scammed their way into wealth. That may be true in the tale of Robin Hood, but I choose to live in the real world. Sure, there are some scoundrels, but the vast majority of successful men and women got that way by working hard and serving people—lots of people.Steve Jobs and Bill Gates changed the world in ways we’re just now starting to realize. Their positive impact on the world has helped all of us live better lives, and they made fortunes for themselves by doing so. Why is it that you’re holy if you help one person but evil if you help a million? That’s just stupid.
A good friend of mine is a country music legend. He’s made a bazillion dollars over his career, and he just bought a $400,000 car. He’s worked like a crazy person his whole life, spending decades in tour buses, writing songs in the middle of the night, and entertaining enormous crowds of cheering fans. He paid a price to get there, and I’m happy for his success. Would it be right for me to walk into his house and demand my “fair share” of his wealth? Heck no! I’m a terrible singer! I didn’t do one thing to contribute to his success, so why would I be entitled to a share of his wealth? He’s given me years of entertainment through his music. That’s my fair share of his hard work.
My problems aren’t his fault. And my problems aren’t McDonald’s fault or Home Depot’s fault or Walmart’s fault, either. My problems are my fault! And the more people these companies serve, the more money they make—and that’s none of my business! If you don’t like McDonald’s, then here’s an idea: Don’t eat there. But don’t walk into the restaurant and demand a portion of their proceeds for the day.
When you scream, “I’m in the 99%!” you just look like a whiner. Those of us willing to pay the price to win look at you and shrug. Heck, when it comes to the music business, I’m in the 99% myself! But that doesn’t mean I have to tear Toby Keith, Brad Paisley or even Kanye down. Oh, and a special note just for Kanye: Capitalism has been pretty good to you. I celebrate your success, but you look a little hypocritical protesting capitalism while wearing a $50,000 watch.

Celebrate the Land of Opportunity

This is the greatest country on the planet, but even here, you’re not guaranteed wealth, talent, fame, a full head of hair or six-pack abs. Those things are not in the Constitution. You are, however, guaranteed the freedom to make your life what you want it to be. And when you do that, when you build your life around your dreams and passions and hard work, you’re guaranteed the right to keep it. No one has the right to take it away from you.
So to summarize, I’m not very impressed at the moment. I’m not impressed by your temper fit. I’m not impressed at your lack of goals and focus. I’m not impressed by the fact that the only thing I see about your movement is ignorance, immaturity and envy. Grow up—and get a job.
Yes, there are jobs out there. There are jobs out there that haven’t even been invented yet. Go create the next Facebook or Weed Eater. Go pick up so much dog poop that you can start your own fertilizer company. And stop complaining that companies are TOO RICH while also complaining that they aren’t RICH ENOUGH to hire you! I’ve seen a lot of you guys. I wouldn’t hire you, either. But if you take all of that energy and excitement and pour it into something new and creative, you’ll get the chance to serve a whole lot of people really well, and over a decade or two, you’ll get to become the very thing you’re now protesting: rich people who actually earned their money.