things u wish u knew…

25 04 2012

the problem with things you don’t know is you don’t know you don’t know them. bummer, huh? i find it extremely helpful to position myself around people who are at various stages further down the road than I am. for instance, i find that person who is miles down the road from me. this person usually has the stability and ability to look back and synthesize life lessons/principles. this can be for all areas of life…ministry, family, marriage, personal, etc. then there is that person who is in the trenches with me. i find great comfort and encouragement to know i am not in this (whatever “this” may be) by myself. an oft over-looked resource, however, is the person who is only 2-3 steps ahead of you. this person is less able to look back and synthesize life principles/lessons, but he or she is close enough to the action to say “watch out!!!!!! you really don’t want to do that.”there is an immediacy to their input, but the cautions & encouragement can be for things that will greatly alter the long-term direction. another pastor is writing a blog series entitled “Church Planting Things I Wish They’d Told Me.” it is a great series and I greatly appreciate his insights. even if you aren’t a church planter, it’s worth checking out this piece as he quotes from Michael Bell on church size and numbers. quite interesting!





church planting essentials

29 11 2011

Ok…here we go. Focus. Speed. I am speed.

For any endeavour there is the need for focus. Even Lightning McQueen got that! A clear vision with leadership. A willingness to slough off the unnecessary but attractive. A determination that outlasts even the most severe critic.

So it goes with church planting. The question continually before us is simple: what is essential? Yet I wonder if the question will ever fully be answered…We are asking the question almost daily. Others that are a few steps further down the path are still asking the question. Some who have journeyed so far that they don’t even remember not being established still ask the same question. In one sense perhaps the  essential is asking the essential question about what is essential…hmmm.

A couple of things were passed along to me and are worth the 2 minutes they take to read. First is a blog post about the need to define the essentials (here). The author points to Acts 2:42-47 as the bare bones of what a church is. Great job! The second is a code, or values, of a church (here). I absolutely love the language used!! One of the statements caught my eye, particularly the tag line:

We will do anything short of sin to reach people who don’t know Christ.
To reach people no one is reaching, we’ll have to do things no one is doing.

I identify with the tag line as we are in the beginning stages of launching a church. There are things/behaviors/appearances/whatever that will not look like many established churches. This is not our attempt to degrade other churches or movements. It is simply that we don’t want to empty the seats of one church to fill another (ours). We want to reach the peeps that are not in these other churches! To accomplish this, there are many churchy things that we will “slough off.” Please don’t be offended 🙂





Mission vs Family…the never-ending tension

26 10 2011

You are the salt of the earth…you are the light of the world…therefore go and make disciples of all nations…
They were devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship…every day they continued to gather together…

 

 

 

Soooo…what is the focus of the church? Are we to draw in and encourage, instruct, and grow each other? Or, are we to push out and be light and salt? Both-and. From the very beginning, God chose a people to be set apart unto Himself, that they might be testimony-givers to the world through their lives and a channel of blessing. Yet, what was the rebuke that Israel received from her God??

I have fond memories of you, how devoted you were to me in your early years. I remember how you loved me like a new bride; you followed me through the wilderness, through a land that had never been planted. Israel was set apart to the Lord; there were like the first fruits of a harvest to him.
-Jer 2

The rebuke is continued in the gospels when Jesus condemns the religious leaders of the day, not only for their hypocrisy, but for excluding the Gentiles from the blessings of God. In addition, though, the New Testament is full of instruction on gathering together for teaching and spiritual growth. Believers too are holy and chosen, set apart from the world through the blood of Jesus Christ.

The challenge, then, is to always be on mission and grow as family. If the focus is too heavy on family…which tends to be the norm for most…then we become exclusive and are not gospel-proclaimers to the world. But likewise, if the focus is too heavy on mission, then we become anemic and fail to be good gospel-proclaimers to the community of faith. Both are dangers, so we acknowledge the tension, press into it and intentionally engage and build family while also pushing each other out to be on mission…together!

What can you do this week to engage and build church family while also engaging on mission?





a gift passed down

8 06 2010

postmodernity…POSTmodernity…postMOdernity…postmoDERnity…

This is a buzz word flying around these days with as many definitions as there are people talking about it.  I would write a few thoughts about it, but I’ve been struck by something different. I figured if I threw postmodernity out there I’d get a few more readers (notice the inclusion of it in the tags!). No, I’ve been struck by something different that has revolutionized the world, a paradigmatic shift in philosophy from which the world has not recovered…a gift of not postmodernity, but modernity itself. What saddens me most is that this gift has been fully embraced by Christianity…even myself.

Cogito ergo sum

This is the famous statement of Descartes…I think therefore I am. There are many aspects to this statement, but I cannot get past the first word, the subject of the statement…I. It’s all about the individual! I, the individual, the singular, has been exalted above the plural, we. Oh what damage has been done by the warm receiving of this gift! So many of our churches embrace this gift in the fullest: individual chairs to sit in, individual bibles, individual bulletins, quiet prayer by myself, talk about a private relationship with Christ, my own individual cracker and juice cup…the list goes on. Now I know I surely have offended some, and I fully recognize that for some things in this list there are other things to consider (such as health responsibilities), but do you catch the results of this gift of modernity??? Let’s see if I can offend some more…do you realize that the biblical text declares, without apology, that YOU WERE NOT CREATED TO BE A PRIVATE, INDIVIDUAL CHRISTIAN!?!? Oh that’s right, listen to the biblical language: the body is made up of many parts, brothers (and sisters) in Christ, family of God, it is not good for man to be alone.

So, what do we do? Well, whatever we do it has to be INTENTIONAL and we have to persevere. I vote for returning the gift of modernity. Instead, how about adopting a concept like ubuntu that stems from the Zulu people of Africa. I’ve heard that a valid expression of ubuntu is “I know who I am because we know who we are.” Wow! What if that is how the Church thought!!? Notice that the individual is not repressed…but notice that the individual is not the singular focus. As a Christian, my identity is found in the community, in the body that is formed around the Lord Jesus Christ. But it doesn’t even stop there! My identity is found as a member of the family of God. I am a member only through Jesus Christ, by means of the Holy Spirit. Did you catch that?!?! My identity is rooted in the Triune God…now that is a distinctly Christian reality!





weigh anchor and hoist the mizzen!

18 02 2010

…and off we go on the journey! I’m in the thick of my thesis research and, well, it’s a blast and its a drag all at the same time. Some of the reading can be a beating. I mean, if someone would just write what I want to say, then I can refer to them and be done with it! No, instead I have to try and piece various peeps together to basically say…”see, I’m not the only one who thinks this!” Why can’t I be “an authority” on the matter?? And then there is the blast…I mean I did we did pick the topic, so it is what I am interested in! Oh yeah, in case you forgot, something along the lines of “An Evangelical Comparison of Biblical Demonolgy and Mayan Spiritism.” Anyway, I have to have the bulk of the research and a written outline of my paper done by March 15…it is looming up ahead (cue impending doom music)

I am also taking another journey, with the Sunday School class. We are traveling back to the time of the Early Church to study developments in Christian thinking. What a great series, huh?!? I’m sure into it!!! As I was prepping the intro, came across this great quote about studying Church history:

Studying church history…is like being at a Bible study with a great company of people who thought about those questions that were bothering you and others.
— Alister McGrath

Isn’t that great?!? So, we are joining a bible study of Christians from the first 5 centuries of Christianity. The main focus is to look at how they contended for the Christian faith (see challenge here). As our faith is bombarded, how do we respond? Let’s take a gander at how the early brothers and sisters responded…





Thoughts on church

21 12 2009

There are times when a certain topic takes root in my mind, and like weeds it pops up in all sorts of places, shading most of what I think about and talk about. I see it in things I read…in conversations I have…in studies I do…EVERYWHERE! So has it been with church. In one sense, I am not sure why. In another sense I know exactly why. In regards to the former, I am not preparing for a specifically “church” ministry. By this I mean that I am not preparing for a vocational ministry within a church (like a senior pastor, minister to a specific age group, youth pastor, etc). So why the obsession? In regards to the latter, all Christians need be part of a church because this is the body of Christ…this is the family that I have been placed in…this is part of my new identity…it is created/instituted/ordained by God…so how can I not think about it??

I found these interesting statements regarding challenges to the church…issues that I find dangerously real.

The truth is that without a biblical understanding of why God instituted it, the church easily becomes a liability in a market where it competes only with the greatest of difficulty against religious fare available in the convenience of one’s living room and in a culture bent on distraction and entertainment.

The constant cultural bombardment of individualism, in the absence of a robust theology, meant that faith that had rightly been understood as personal now easily became faith that was individualistic, self-focused, and consumer oriented. That was the change to which the church marketers attuned themselves.

–David Wells, The Courage to be Protestant

For many Christians, a biblical understanding of the church is rapidly disappearing.





bad orthodoxy or orthopraxy?

14 09 2009

Evangelism…this is one of the touchier subjects in Christian churches. Our pastor has jumped in on a whole series on evangelism (a rarity to find anything more than one sermon), and all I have to say is “ROCK ON!!!!”

I was struck yesterday at an all too often comment that made me want to guffaw loudly. My reaction? Well, it stems from frustration, the cliche-ness of the statement, and…okay, personal attachment to the underlying sentiment. (By the way, this was not spoken by our pastor).

Well, I just think the best evangelism we can have is to live a good Christian life for everyone to see.

WRONG!! This is not evangelism…okay, okay, I don’t want to spend the rest of this post trying to define and nuance all the terms related to evangelism. Because, yes, this can be a very real and quite valid part of evangelism as a whole process. But you know what, me just living a “good Christian life” never got any saved by itself!!! At some point, by some person, in some way, there must be a presentation of the Gospel!

And so, as I sat pondering this statement, one that I am far too familar with…I’ve used it myself…though I knew that it wasn’t true…I wondered if it stems from bad orthodoxy or bad orthopraxy (orthodoxy refers to correct belief, orthopraxy refers to correct practice or behavior as a result of belief). I think I’ve concluded that it is really bad orthopraxy. In general, most Christians know that evangelism requires more than living “a good Christian life.” The problem is, we don’t want to actually have to share the Gospel, so we cop-out by saying we’re no good at it…there are others “gifted” in evangelism so we’ll let them do it…and we’ll do our part by living with good Christian behavior. Umm, no. Sorry, that doesn’t cut it…but nice try! 🙂

At some point, by some person, in some way, evangelism requires that the good news of Jesus Christ be told/shared/explained/preached/etc. God has not ordained for a specific behavior by which people will say, “Oh! Jesus Christ is Lord and I can be saved only through faith by believing in Him!” Nope, it is by the proclamation of the Gospel, which might indeed be given a hearing by your “good Christian life.” By all means, lets definitely live correctly…but let’s not stop there!!

He will bring you a message through which you and all your household will be saved.
— Acts 11:14
I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile
— Romans 1:16