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Back in 1996 my girlfriend asked me if I wanted to go to a college conference with her campus ministry. It was over in Austin, TX and was called Passion. Some guy named Louie Giglio had put it together and Dave Busby was going to be speaking. So was John Piper. I had no idea who these guys were. But I did see that a band named Caedmon’s Call was going to be playing. So I said, “Sure, why not.” and signed up.

Those four days really shaped my life. I was just starting my first full time ministry job in January of 1997 and this trip was January 1-4. And I’ve been a huge respecter of Louie Giglio and his ministries ever since. Beverly and I went to the first three Passion conferences (97, 98, 99) and to OneDay 2000. While in Clinton I carried a group to Nashville for Passion 2006 and tomorrow we leave with a group of college students headed to Atlanta for Passion 2011.

If you’re not that familiar with Passion or Louie Giglio, then you should be. Louie is one of my favorite communicators of God’s truths. He does it in a casual way, but will sometimes punch you right in the gut (or face) with exactly what you needed to hear. His heart beats most for college aged people to see how much they mean to God and the ways He can move through them to make a difference in the world.

I plan to tweet and blog a little while in Atlanta about Passion and our time there. We’ll get to listen to Louie Giglio, Francis Chan, Beth Moore, John Piper, Davie Crowder, Chris Tomlin, Kristian Stanfill, Matt Redmon, Charlie Hall, Christie Nockles, and more. But I hope that our group really catches fire for seeing God’s glory made known back here in Oxford and beyond. Pray for us while we’re away.

Anyone else going to be at Passion?

Church services at The Orchard this summer have been good. Usually when summer comes our numbers drop a little because of the college students that attend are home for the summer. Or off working somewhere. Or just traveling and seeing cool stuff. But usually, most of them are not in Oxford.

But this summer our numbers didn’t drop significantly because many of our college students stuck around Oxford taking summer school or getting jobs. So summer was a nice time to get to know them better, and we also saw a few new families start to attend during the summer. Plus often times we had many counselors from Camp Lake Stephens attend too.

But when fall gets near we know to expect an uptick in attendance. But no way to really gage it though. We averaged about 115 from the Sunday after Ole Miss’ exams were done through the last weekend before classes started. I preached on August 15th to about 135 people. The next weekend, the 22nd was “Move In” weekend. Classes for Ole Miss started the next day.

On that morning we saw familiar faces showing up. Then some we’d not seen around the Orchard in a few months. And then new faces. And more new faces. And more and more! We started finding folding chairs in the storage room. We took all the chairs out of the Kids’ Ministry rooms. And we ran out of chairs! We had people sitting on the floor, standing in corners, out in the hallways… There were over 250 people there! I was quite surprised. We practically doubled from the week before.

I joked with myself that my awesome message the week before brought everyone in. But really, I don’t know what the catalyst was. And we start wondering how to prepare for the next week.  Pat is preaching a series on Biblical Friendship and I think it hit home with many people. But so many of the new faces were college students.

This morning I woke up to get ready for church. It was grey and raining outside. I thought, “hmm.” I figured the rain would keep people in bed or just in their homes. So we wouldn’t have to move as many chairs around.

We still set up a few chairs in the overflow room, but didn’t know what to expect. The service at The Orchard starts at 10:30. It stops raining about 10ish. There are a few people there. But then it happens again. A steady trickle becomes a stream. And soon we’re scrambling for chairs again. Taking the chairs from the kids again. And having people sit/stand everywhere. It didn’t seem quite as crazy this time, but there were actually more people there today than last week. The parking lot was an insurance adjuster’s nightmare with all those cars parked so tightly and all those college girls trying to maneuver around!

Now people are suggesting knocking out walls and other major remodeling projects. I’m interested to see how many people coming on Sunday mornings shift to the evening service that will begin on September 12th. But running out of space is a good problem to (temporarily) have.

It’s been an exciting two weekends. Seeing your church attendance double. But we’ve got to continue to seek God in how to connect everyone that’s coming to God and to each other. Provide community both big and small for them. And to create space, whether that means extra services or expanded rooms. So if you’ve read this far (and I’ll admit that I left out a lot of details I wanted to put in. I’m trying to get better at that) I ask that you pray that we, The Orchard, seek God and His wisdom for what our next steps should be.

Next weekend is a holiday weekend. No one has school on Monday and many people are off of work. Will people be traveling? BUT…it’s Ole Miss’ first home game of the season! Will more people be in town and come to church? We’ll see.

The time change isnt’ a big deal when you don’t change your watch at first. But I guess I should now.

We went back downtown today for lunch today to meet with an Orchard student that goes to Furman. Ate at Sticky Fingers. That is an aptly named restaurant. But then we went to the Discover Class. It is structured for people wanting more info on Grace Church. It was a two hour meeting. But was interesting.During this meeting there was the Saturday night service going on in the next building.

downtown-greenvilleAfterward we got to go to the “debrief” meeting with the pastors after their service. Then a trip to supper with the teaching pastor and worship pastor. Both were really down to earth. Easy to talk with. Funny. But pretty straight on as far as talking Biblical stuff too.

Tomorrow will be a full day. Probably three or four church services. Might even squeeze in a service with Newspring Church too that recently opened up a Greenville campus.

The downtown area of Greenville is interesting. It was revitalized a few years ago, but is full of shops, restaurants, parks, plazas, and landscaping. Lots of unique lighting at night too. There is even a “Mice on Main” scavenger hunt.

Rumors about churches…

rumorsMan, I guess they’re to be expected. And especially about “higher profile” churches. But rumors can be damaging. The sad thing is when rumors are spread not as rumors (like where Pat Patterson will sign to play college football) but told as truth and matter of fact. Like the email I got yesterday.

But first a little background. The church where I serve/attend is a plant of a church in Tupelo. We are still deeply connected to them and are thankful for that. The church in Tupelo just celebrated their ten year birthday. They’ve done tons of good in the community and reached many people. But I can’t think of anyone on the staff who would say that they are perfect or there is not still room to mature and grow in effectiveness as the Body of Christ.

But I got an email yesterday from a friend asking me if something was true of our church in Oxford like it is our sister church in Tupelo. Is is true that, in order to become a member of The Orchard – Oxford, one must present copies of one’s W-2 for tithing purposes?  Someone told me that it is a requirement for membership at the Tupelo Orchard and asked if y’all have the same requirement.” Seriously? I mean….seriously?

Truth is, this “fact” had been spoken about as just a matter of fact for years I’m told. Now I don’t think my friend was making that accusation. But seems to have taken the statement about the Tupelo church as at least possible fact. I simply responded by asking that they find that “someone” and ask them to stop by The Orchard in Tupelo to appologize for spreading lies about them. Or to at least check facts before regurgitating them.

I mean, how damaging can that be to a church’s reputation? How hurtful could it be to ministries and ministers? How lame of a rumor is that in the first place? And to think that it was even heard more than once in a different church’s office? That’s super-extra-lame.

So…if you hear something negative about a church that surprises you, make sure you know your facts before trying to surprise someone else.

Camp Video

01/16/2009

Yesterday I came across a video that inspired me. You know of course that I made the Small Group Promo video thing last weekend. It was fun to make, and after editing it and showing it I felt a stirring to make more. But of what? There were a few ideas for the “next” video we could do for small groups at The Orchard. But what else going on at our church?

I remembered being at Innovate08 back in September. They had a film festival where churches brought some of their best videos and showed them. I was pretty surprised. Some were sermon illustrations, some were promos for upcoming events, some were just highlights and innovative announcements. But lots were really good. I’ll try to find a few and put up here soon.

But the video I saw yesterday was a promo video for a Young Life camp out in Arizona. Camp videos can be fun. I remember helping some with the video we showed each session the summer I worked at Camp Ozark (like 12 years ago. wow). They could be intense the last night of editing, and it wasn’t even my job to do it! And BreakThru made a video each year that literally finished rendering minutes before it was shown on the last night. And I made a few highlight videos here and there back in the deck to deck days.

So I know the thrill of seeing lots of different things happening and then having it all come together for something that makes a grand impression. Well, this video below blew me away. Like I said, it’s of Young Life camp. But the guy who made it and the equipment used was exceptional. But to be able to make a video like this would be a dream of mine. Enjoy.


Young Life Lost Canyon from W. Ashley Maddox on Vimeo.

My wife is always wanting to be helpful. She wants me to be “successful” too. So sometimes she realizes I need a little bit of a boost to get rolling. So we talked about different ideas for a video to make for the church about small groups. But she went ahead and and started calling people setting up interviews to get feedback about why people at The Orchard here in Oxford, MS enjoy small groups.

She kept telling me she was “helping me” when really she was nudging me to help myself. But I appreciate her a ton for it. It turned out to be fun and makes me ready to do the next one…what ever it happens to be. But with a few interview appointments spread out over a few days and some friends in town over the weekend too, I pushed back the editing of the video til last night. Like really got started at about 11:30pm. And then the re-edits and tweaks that no one else would probably notice kept me going back over it. So I finished around 3am [aided by the fact this was my first time to use iMovie08] so we could show it in church today. But I’m all good.

Anyhow, here it is. It’s not perfect. But it was fun and a learning experience. I hope for more to come soon. Tell me what you think in the comment.

Small Groups (@ The Orchard) Promo from Blake Thompson on Vimeo.

One year ago today

01/03/2009

A year ago today I started my work at The Orchard in Oxford. It was a pretty large change for the life of my family. We’d spent just over three years in Clinton working in the youth ministry of FUMC. We liked it there. Wasn’t looking for any reason at all to move. But when Pat spoke to me one day about possibly coming to help plant the church in Oxford…it just seemed right.

Yes, even Oxford felt right. Not the red and blue aspects of it. But what I would be doing and who I would be doing it with. And at the time I didn’t realize that I’d be living in my dad’s basement for five months or that gas prices would get so crazy. Nor did I anticipate the chore of finding a house in Oxford. But after looking back on that first day here in Oxford lots has happened. 

As I said in the last post, I’m going to put together a few ”

I think I’ve learned quite a bit the last 12 months. But I realize how much more I need to learn, study, and apply myself. I see where God has worked, but I see lots of opportunities to partner even more deeply with God in serving Oxford and Lafayette County.

So I’m sitting in my living room listening to the carrots boil on the stove. Everything else in here is quiet. But I can hear the pandemonium that is coming from the back of the house. My brave wife decided to take all three kids to try to get cleaned off at once. Even she got a bath out of the time back there. But it’s been loud and crazy. I’m sure there’s a lot of water on the floor too. And the carrots continue to roll around in the boiling water (we’re going to mash them up to feed to Rowan… not eat our selves).

Last night was Art With Santa for our church. It’s our 2nd annual event that happens right before the Oxford Christmas parade. Kids come in and make Christmas art projects and get to sit on Santa’s lap if they’d like to. I don’t know exactly how many showed up. But it was pretty full in The Powerhouse for about two hours. And Pat said it was at least three or four times as many people who came last year. [a few pice below].

Then afterward we walked the parade route handing out signs for kids to hold up that said “SANTA, I’VE BEEN GOOD THIS YEAR!!!” The cool thing was that on the back side was our church name and info. So hopefully we’ll have a few more people hearing of us and maybe coming by.

We’re about to eat a little supper, and then decorate the tree. We were afraid it might not fit in our house because the house in Clinton had higher ceilings. The tree is a 9 footer. But it made it barely.

Now for some ART WITH SANTA PICS:
Art With Santa

Art With Santa

Art With Santa

Art With Santa

Art With Santa

Advent Conspiracy

11/29/2008

We should all look at doing this. And not just at Christmas.


The Advent Conspiracy Promo Video from theadvance on Vimeo.

My wife told me I needed to post something “personal” next on the blog. And she’s right. I’ve had a lot of ideas of whta’s next, but ran across this video this morning and simply had to share. It is one that I laughed at multiple times. Make sure you wait for the last song too.

[ht to Josh Griffin]