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Unless you’ve been sleeping under a rock for the past few months, the final movie in the Harry Potter series came out last weekend. I don’t have the statistics on the number of people who are still opposed to the franchise, but I want to take today’s post and highlight a few things that I have gathered in my 10 year following of Harry Potter. I haven’t read past book two but my husband has read them all and we have seen every movie… and if you are doubting me because I am a Harry Potter fan, I am writing this just for you. (There are a few spoilers in this so please stop reading now if you are planning on seeing the movie.) Wizards, magic, ghosts, flying broomsticks, strange creatures, far off lands, violence… it’s all there. J.K. Rowling tells a story of a young boy whose life was spared by the most powerful and evil wizard to ever exist. That wizard, named Voldemort, had killed Harry’s family, but since Harry’s mother had sacrificed her life to save his, Harry lived. Voldemort’s power was weakened by this, and being one who feared death over anything else, Voldemort decided to cast a spell that would split his soul into seven pieces of tangible items, called horcruxes. Now I know what a lot of you are thinking… the idea of having the most evil wizard controling his own destiny sounds a little blasphemous, but that is why he ultimately fails. He cannot defeat the power of good. While at a school called Hogwarts, Harry encounters many battles, adventures and disturbing situations while being pursued by Voldemort, who wants his revenge.  To top it off, there is a wand, known as the Elder Wand,  that holds the most powerful magic in the world… and it has ended up in Voldemort’s hands. This wand is so powerful that it’s master cannot be killed while holding it. In the end, it is all up to Harry (and his friends) to destroy each of the horcruxes and to get the Elder Wand out of Voldemort’s possession. How is all of this relevant to religion? When Oprah interviewed J.K. Rowling a few months ago, the talk show queen asked her what she thought of all the naysayers (specifically the Christians) who opposed the books. Her response really stuck with me. I’m paraphrasing, but she told Oprah that she had only written the books to be fun and to give children a chance to really use their imagination. She did point out, however, that she added a lot of Christian symbolism into the stories. Snakes that represent evil, a good wizard that sacrifices himself to save others, an evil wizard that is still mortal no matter how hard he tries not to be, a battle between good and evil, the strength and power that comes from love and friendship, the purity of the unicorn… it’s all there. In the end, Harry stands around with his friends after he has defeated Voldemort and they ask what he will do now that he is the master of the most powerful wand in the world. He looks at them, breaks it in half and throws it over his shoulder. Harry tells them that it is time to give the wand back to Death himself, for it was his in the first place. My thinking during this scene was, “You can’t try to play God. Possessing magic that powerful can never be fully understood or controlled.” If you haven’t seen the movies or read any of the books, I really recommend checking them out! What do you think of the Harry Potter franchise? Would you recommend it or advise church members to avoid it?


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Two Sundays ago (the day before Independence Day), my minister talked about a lot of the current beliefs in our country and how our “citizenship” as Christians lies within the Kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of Earth. I recently wrote a post about interpreting God’s grace and I thought this was the opportunity to tie it in with what I’m talking about today. So, here I go… It seems like we live in a world where many of us believe in God but we don’t live like we believe in Him. Take patriotism, for instance. It’s a great thing, a fun thing and something to be admired. It makes us feel proud when the national anthem is played on the 4th of July and it makes us come together for a common love for our country. I am not at all demeaning the act of being patriotic, but have you ever thought about putting that much emotion or devotion into your love for God? We need to decide what is more important, and not create our own translations for what we think the Bible says. We can’t live a life of thinking, “We are already forgiven so sin doesn’t matter.” I know I sound very “preachy” today and I don’t want to give the impression that I am perfect in living by my own words. I fail at honoring God first on a daily basis. I get caught up in worldly things all the time. The point is, we invest a lot of time and attention into things that won’t get us very far in life, all while we are promised a better life and an eternity in Heaven if we just believe and have a relationship with Jesus Christ. You would think that with that kind of promise, we’d want to be a little more dedicated to Him… it just takes more of a conscious effort. So there you have it… my two cents for the day.


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We are coming to the Lincoln, NE area on July 14th to do a regional demo for anyone who would like to learn more about Shelby Systems’ software. Here you will have the chance to see how Shelby’s software applications work and how they will empower your staff, ministry and membership. Arena is Shelby’s advanced browser-based church software that offers various tools to help you manage things like membership, groups, attendance, check-in, and contributions. Shelby’s v5 software will manage your AR/AP, payroll and much more. If you are located in the area, we encourage you to take the day to come visit us and hear what we have to say about how this software could be beneficial for you. This free demonstration will be held at the Lincoln Berean Church in Lincoln, NE and lunch will be served. If you have any questions, feel free to contact Bettie Silliman at (800) 877-0222 or . The deadline to register is July 12, so be sure to sign up today!

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Shelby’s amazing Media Department put this video podcast together to highlight some of the best moments at ISC 2011. You’ll see performers Ryan Fonseca and Nicole C. Mullen, as well as an interview between Shelby’s Director of Customer Development, Ron Chandler, and Shelby’s CEO, Frank Canady. Also, see what customers were saying about the conference and watch ’til the end for a little teaser on what fun you will have at ISC 2012 in Memphis, TN!

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Bryan Miles’ inspired this post after I read his article on Magsays.com about leveraging hotels for your church. Now let me tell you… I have seen churches set up shop in a lot of random places. Old grocery store buildings, at the YMCA and even a bar (to name a few). It’s becoming more common to hear about church services in theaters, too. It’s not about where the services are held, though, but about the messages that are conveyed there. By utilizing a place like a hotel, you can manage the way things are run and portrayed during your events… much like in your very own church. These large, people-filled venues are great for handling conventions, conferences, banquets and meetings. We just wrapped up our International Shelby Conference (ISC) a few weeks ago that was held at the Hyatt Regency River Walk hotel in San Antonio, TX. The Hyatt was perfect for the event because there was plenty of room for the vendors in the Exhibit Hall, the hotel staff was quick to help us with anything that we needed and all of the attendees and Shelby staff received a discount for staying there. We couldn’t have asked for a better place to host our conference this year. As far as holding Sunday morning or Wednesday night worship services, hotels can be great venues for those as well. There is so much empty space in so many hotels that you would be surprised with the benefits and cost-saving opportunities that are available. So… if you are looking for the next location for a service, banquet, or conference… be sure to check out one of your local hotels!


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I guess this title sounds a lot like I’m going to be talking today about missions work or spreading the gospel around the world, but it’s actually about something much closer to home. Something in our own towns, our own households and our own hearts. In Relevant Magazine’s July/August issue, Scott McKnight writes about the lack of people who want to talk about sin anymore. This really got me thinking of how true it is that society is not only changing its views on religious issues each year, but how much interpretation and slack we have given ourselves with God. McKnight writes:
Pendulums are designed to swing, and the pendulum swing toward God’s grace and love meant a generation has been nurtured on a message that has embraced a gracious view of  God, but has far too often ignored the zealous holiness of that God’s love.
It’s true… we dilute the Bible’s messages to make them fit our own standards of living. We justify everything by saying that God has already forgiven us so certain words and actions can be excused. A lot of people don’t even want to talk about the word ‘sin’ anymore. McKnight mentioned a student of his that had never heard ‘sin’ mentioned at church and a girl who was offended by the word altogether. How do you interpret some of the Bible’s strict messages? Do you excuse a lot of your own actions?


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NACBA: National Association of Church Business Administration As stated on their website: NACBA is an inter-denominational, professional, Christian organization which exists to serve the Church by advancing professional excellence in individuals serving Christ through administration in local churches. The annual NACBA conference is quickly approaching in just two days and Shelby is more than excited to be exhibiting again this year. It will be held in Washington D.C. at the Gaylord National hotel from July 1-3. People from all over the country will be there to exhibit or learn more about what the exhibitors and NACBA have to offer. If you aren’t planning to attend this year, we highly recommend that you look at next year’s conference. For everyone that is going… safe travels and we look forward to seeing you at booth 315!


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As most of you know, we just wrapped up our annual International Shelby Conference (ISC) last Friday and the results were better than we could have imagined. Many of you took to Twitter to share and document your time spent at the conference. We got some great feedback about the classes, the giveaways, the performances and the new relationships that were formed. Here is some of what was said: “Just sent my 1st email in @shelbysystems It was so easy, thanks to what I learned at #isc2011” -@emily_e_simmons “Just got home from #ISC2011. Great conference, learned a lot and met a bunch of awesome people.” -@alex_nicoletti “I cannot believe I won an iPad 2 from #ISC2011#ECFA. Thank you so much. I love @shelbysystems Conferences.” – @Donnie_Payne “Thank you Shelby!! What an incredible testimony and power worship this morning with Nicole C. Mullen at #ISC2011” – @batteberry “Thanks everyone @shelbysystems @ShelbyISC @OurArena for a great #isc2011 and your dedication to equipping churches for greater effectiveness” – @JonathanESmith A comment from a customer that couldn’t make it… “Wishing I was going to #ISC2011 this year, especially to rock Arena better. You are gonna learn a boat load of stuff!” – @RobinMArnold …and a comment left by another customer specifically about the software… @shelbysystems LOVE your software. It helps our staff to “get the job done”.” – @DebRosevear