Thursday, September 30, 2010
By His Grace.
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Last week I began a short series on the Pressing Questions of a Growing Minichurch. There was some good interaction with a few folk here and on Facebook. Below is part two of this series:
Five Most Pressing Questions for This Growing Minichurch
Near the end of our leaders meeting last week, I asked the other guys what the five most pressing questions are that we are asking right now. Here are the questions what we came up with:
- What are the qualities of a Disciple-Making Disciple?
- How does one define a tribe or people group?
- Calling: Is it to what, to where, or to whom?
- How do church leaders serve and pastor the growing body while still staying "in the world"?
- What do we do when our Sunday attendance outpaces the structures we have in place?
What are you asking?
What about you? Whether you are a church planter, pastor of an established church, staff person, or just a member, what do you think the five most pressing questions are for your church today? If you have thoughts or comments, make sure to post them below. Looking forward to hearing where you are and how we may be able to help each other as we feebly attempt to be a part of Christ growing His church in the world.
By His Grace.
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Watch this on two levels: (1) to follow the content of the discussion about the pros and cons of multi-site congregations; (2) the way in which Mark Dever is slow to speak, quick to listen, and asks good questions to advance the discussion and change the tone of the conversation. Instructive on both levels!
I found it to be really informative. I will tip my hand and say that I am not a fan of multi-site churches, though I am growing more willing to be swayed. I believe it creates too much of a cult-of-personality and relies too heavily on a brand. A lot of talk goes into their effectiveness currently, but we honestly have no idea. It would be interesting to see what the comments were in the 80s and 90s on megachurches and their "effectiveness" now that we can look back and see the many sad results from them, including, but not limited to, Consumer Christians.
What are your thoughts?
By His Grace.
Here is an excerpt from 2 Samuel 11:1-5 of The Facebook Message:
King David decided not to go out to war that season even though he was an amazing warrior. Instead he decided to chill on the roof of his palace and check Facebook all day while everyone else was gone. As he was doing so, he stumbled upon the ...photo of a beautiful woman he had never met before in his entire life. He clicked on it and saw she was from Jerusalem. Some other photos were public, but not enough information for him to get the best idea. He saw that they had a mutual friend so he contacted that person who also happened to work for him to see if he could get more information. That’s where he learned that she was married to this guy Uriah (her profile pic didn’t have him in it). He told this mutual friend that he had to meet her now, and, being the King, was able to do it. This mutual friend told her that David was FB stalking her and wanted to see her. Because he was King she came. Then he "poked" her. After a little while later she sent him a message on FB – “I am pregnant.”We always trip on Facebook stalkers. We joke around about how they are creepy or even how we Facebook stalked someone that day. I know that my "translation" may seem a bit crass, but it does expose that even "a man after God's own heart" can be one jacked up cat who needs redemption.
By His Grace.
Sunday, September 26, 2010
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
|The Line Band prepping for one our services in July|
If I had to guess, I would say that most established churches are asking questions regularly, but there also comes a time when certain structures, like staff, finances, are in place that make each week a little more routine. My experience as a leader in a young church plant has me believing that while in this constant state of flux, many of the questions we ask are more pressing and could drastically effect the direction of the church.
Over the past month several pressing questions have arisen I'd like to share. This is the first of at least a three part series that will come out each Wednesday over the next three weeks. My hope is that they open up discussion and create a forum for the questions you may have regardless of what role you have with your church.
Crowd to Core or Core to Crowd?
I had the chance to visit with a pastor of a church of 3,000 people down in Florida about a month ago. The method of how they planted their church is a "Crowd to Core" method, one in which they promote heavily, hold an event at a key time of the year, draw an enormous crowd and develop a core from that. Almost everything we do as a church plant is the reverse of that. The church started with a crowd of seven. The preaching began in a living room to a crowd of 10-15. Gospel Communities (small groups on mission) were launched small and strategically by neighborhood. We made a weak attempt at promoting our launch service in The Congress Theater. Though we put an emphasis on our Sunday service, the majority of our energy is spent thinking and praying through our Gospel Communities and our Cords, which are the discipleship groups of our church. Our mentality and method is for the mission to move from Core to Crowd.
After explaining this to the pastor, he said point blank, "I have never seen that work." Speaking strictly from a Western context, I am sure that there are exceptions to what he claims (Soma Communities comes to mind). I am also very aware of the conversation regarding the Church Growth model and the Missional model. But generally the fundamental question is raised,
"How should we be planting churches?"
From this comes other questions:
"Methodologically is it better to plant on a 'Crowd to Core' model or a 'Core to Crowd'?"
"What are the advantages to each? What are the disadvantages?
"Do we depend more on method than on the Spirit, prayer, and discernment?"
Many Questions, One Certainty
Over the next several weeks you will be exposed to more questions we are asking. We do have many questions, but are certain of one thing: Jesus Christ is building his church in Chicago and throughout the world. Thus our questions are not rooted in fear or insecurity. We are not reaching out and grasping tightly to every body that walks through our doors. The Line exists to be a witness to what Jesus has done and continues to do. We strive to make sure that the questions we ask are confidently rooted in Him.
I pray every local body remembers that whether you have one question or one thousand questions.
By His Grace.
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Go on the adventure with me as I follow the deer around Trinity.
By His Grace.
Monday, September 20, 2010
The key really is in the first 3 verses:
I was able to pull three observations from this:Jonah 1:1 Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.” 3 But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went on board, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the LORD.
- God's presence comes to us. This goes with what we said the first week in "Jesus makes the first move." There is no mention of Jonah's moral character, how he was living, what he was trying to do to bring God's presence into his life. It merely says that the word came to Jonah. And like the word coming to Jonah, Jesus came first to earth (John 1:14) and then, as believers, His Spirit has come into our hearts (Gal. 4:6). So not only is God present externally, but within each and every one of us who considers ourselves Christ-followers. God's presence in our lives is an act of divine grace and kindness.
- The word is God's presence. The OT is full of examples of "the word of the Lord." In fact, it shows up 438 times in the OT. Often it is assumed that the word of the Lord coming also means his presence. It isn't completely proper to say that God's presence is only established when we hear the word of God (i.e. read Scripture) because we have already established that something totally different has taken place in Christ with God's Spirit dwelling in us now. But it is right to say that the word of the Lord that has come to us in the Scriptures is the foundation by which we all live, testifying to his presence in us. Jesus' temptation is a prime example (Matt. 4, Luke 4). Although he had the Spirit, and although he is the Son of God, he depended on Scripture to resist temptation.
- The question we must ask is, "how do I respond to God's presence?" I think if we're really honest with ourselves, we will know we are like Jonah. We will know that God's presence is here, we have access to him, we can read his Word, we can pray directly to him, that He is guiding us, but everything in us says "FLEE!!!" Jonah was confronted to make a decision to what God was telling him to do. The transition between v. 1 & 2 tells us nothing of what went on in Jonah's head & heart; it's almost as if he knew immediately that he didn't want to hear this from God and wanted to get away as far as possible. The story shows that we can't run forever and God will pursue us. He cares that much.
The way forward is to ask the question, "Will I be honest with myself about how I respond to God's presence?" We can only answer "yes" from a humbled heart. It is in that humility of knowing my flesh is striving to flee that I am able to stop, submit to Christ and know the freedom of following Him.
By His Grace.
Sunday, September 19, 2010
By His Grace.
Thursday, September 16, 2010
The Ordinary Pastor
Recently, The Gospel Coalition unveiled a new project called The Ordinary Pastor. The goal in two words: "Be encouraged."
Be encouraged when growth is slow and measured by generations. Be encouraged when guilt, fear, and the specter of failure form an unholy alliance against you. Be encouraged when young men grown fat on the feast of podcasts question your every move. Be encouraged when no one knows your name; it is written in blood in the book of life. Ordinary pastor, be encouraged: Your faithful labor in the darkened forest of obscurity is heroic.I am not yet a pastor. Even the "yet" comprises so much uncertainty. Thankfully these concerns are of the Lord. Regardless of my own situation I am encouraged with the direction The Gospel Coalition is taking by highlighting the countless pastors who God uses on a minute-by-minute basis to preach the gospel of Christ, disciple people by the Spirit, and faithfully serve where they are -- all without ever being recognized by throngs of screaming fans who inject the pastor's material into their eyes and ears.
The Ordinary Planter
Building off of this is the real
I was just reading earlier about Steven Furtick, a 30 year-old pastor who was first a planter. Starting in Charlotte, North Carolina, only four years ago with seven other couples, his church, Elevation Church, is over 6,000 strong. Their website says they've seen over 8,000 people receive Christ. He also has a book coming out, Sun Stands Still, which according to recent tweets may be sold out on Amazon before next Tuesday. But for every Steven Furtick -- or Mark Driscoll or Tim Keller or Rick Warren -- there are hundreds of men plowing daily to minister to several dozen individuals in cities of millions or towns of thousands. When they hold their first baptism service it can be in a kiddie pool at the rented gym or even the bathtub at the pastor's house. There is no explosion of growth in terms of numbers or conversions although the preaching may be powerful and burrow deep into the hearts of the 80 people who faithful arrive on Sunday mornings not only to listen, but to set up the equipment, pray, break down and do childcare.
This is the life of the ordinary church planter and the ordinary church plant. A study done by Dr. Ed Stetzer in 2007 states that there are 4,000 church plants annually. In a conversation with him around this time last year, Dr. Stetzer stated that after four years of the existence of a church plant the average membership is 75 people. Think about it for a moment. We have a tendency to glamorize not only the megachurch pastor, but also the megachurch planter, the individual (and families and core groups) that seems to see his church grow by the hundreds while he sleeps. Yet when we survey the landscape of church planting, we see planting following the pattern of pastoring -- it's ordinary.
The clock has struck 12:00 am. Tomorrow starts early again at 5:30 am (hopefully). Therefore I shall stop here. Please know that the direction of these posts is to share church planting experiences from those on the ground. This may include planter profiles, stories of conversion, challenges faced along the way, etc.
Are you looking to be a pastor? What about a church planter? Are you involved in a large church or a small church? How do you view the situation there? Are you like me, helping out with a church plant? What's your experience like? What about your pastor?
Just an ordinary guy with an ordinary blog helping out with an ordinary church plant
By His Grace.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
For Luke, salvation itself is “the way” , a pattern of life revealed by God. This idea of salvation as a “way” leads in time to calling the Christian community “the Way” (Acts 9:2; 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:14, 22), an early designation or title for the organized community of disciples, which eventually is known as “the church.” From the Lukan perspective, disciples must enter into and stride along that Way in the footsteps of their Master.This is the call and the challenge to walk along the same path that has been set before us by Christ. It points to a life marked by sacrifice. This is how he continues in the article as he writes about the second aspect Traveling Along the Way:
Luke specifies that self-denial, taking up the cross and following Jesus not only characterizes entrance into the Way but life on the Way. With the addition of “each day” to the cross-bearing proclamation, the Lukan Jesus calls for daily self-denial, daily bearing one’s cross and daily following in the footsteps of the Master (cf. 9:23; Mk 8:34). Life on the Way involves being doers of the Word (11:27–28), because not all who are walking on the Way truly belong to the Way. Public statements of commitment must be judged by the fruit of one’s life (6:43–49; 19:11–27). That fruit consists, at least in part, in loving and doing good to others (6:17–36), proper stewardship of material possessions (6:35; 8:3), servanthood (22:24–30), prayer (10:2; 11:1; 18:1–8) and testimony to the Way (9:1–6; 10:1–12, 17–20; 12:8–12; 14:23–24; 24:44–49).I was challenged with one thought after reading this: I talk so often of being in the Word daily, but I rarely ever talk about doing the Word daily. I get to school fairly early so I can read The Script, but my heart is stirred to wonder about the possibilities of daily doing the Word each day afresh. I don't think this means that I am not doing the Word daily. But how often do I and others tell people, "Commit to reading the Word daily"? I'm all about that. I just don't know the last time I told somebody, "Commit to doing the Word daily"? I believe the question of doing the Word needs to fall into the series of questions I have been trained or trained myself to ask daily:
Will I get out of bed this morning?
Will I shower this morning?
Will I brush my teeth?
Will I make coffee? Lunch?
Will I study after class?
Will I read God's Word today?
Will I do God's Word today?
For us all, this may not require any real change in our daily activities or lifestyle. Or maybe it will. Maybe it will radically alter how we pray each day, interact with friends and strangers, steward money, rest, and read God's Word. All I'm suggesting is that our approach to God's Word requires more thoughtfulness and intentionality than we give.
I believe reading the Word will inform how I do the Word. I am proposing for myself and whoever reads this that we take real action toward being as committed to doing the Word as we are to being in the Word.
For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. -James 1:23-25By His Grace.
Monday, September 13, 2010
I was going to wait until Friday to post this, but I just couldn't resist. I honestly was laughing from beginning to end. I hope he is laugh about it as much as the rest of the country is.
(HT: Ryan Shields)
By His Grace.
Sunday, September 12, 2010
The first is a more technical text, Craig Blomberg's The Historical Reliability of the Gospels. The title gives away the goal of the book - to see how truly reliable the gospels are in telling the life of Jesus. As honestly as he can being an evangelical Christian, Blomberg claims to "neither presupposed nor argue for the complete inerrancy, infallibility or inspiriation of Scripture, even just with the Gospel" stating further he wears his "historian's hat," not his "Christian believer's hat in this project." Early on in the book he applies this historical approach to the foundation of Christianity:
Christianity is based on the concept of God acting in history. Despite the oft-quoted verse 'we walk by faith and not by sight' (2 Cor 5:7), Christianity does not require a 'leap in the dark' or a sacrifice of the intellect. Paul is quoted entirely out of context when this verse is treated as a rationale for believing without evidence (cf. 1 Cor 15:3-8). Biblical faith is fundamentally committed to a God who has intervened in the history of humanity in a way that exposes his activity to historical study.This is powerful on a number of levels:
- It is easy to jack up verses and Scripture, co-opting them for our own purposes. We treat each verse as the little strip of paper found in a fortune cookie that we keep in our back pocket, forgetting that the Bible tells the full story of God's redemptive plan. Though the verse numbers are helpful, sometimes I wish we could tear them out.
- God works in history. This assumes God exists and that the God who exists is at work in the world in an active way. God is somehow involved through the course of this world's movement - past, present, and future.
- We can study God's work. Being exposed to God and His work in the world, we can study, analyze, ponder, and explore his activity in such a way that we can make thoughtful, meaningful conclusions.
Here is where the second book comes into play. In his book, The Peacemaking Pastor, Alfred Poirier admits the dry intellectualism that never actualizes to concrete belief by labeling himself a "closet heretic." His heresy and that of countless other pastors? Docetism. He writes,
Remember the heresy of the ancient church? Docetism is failing to believe that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh. Docetism is the belief that the Son of God only appeared to be, or seemed to be, fully man.This is of course a statement that has implied qualification. Poirer, nor the other pastors, object against Christ's humanity outright; he says it's simply sheer unbelief. Leaders of the church function daily with the idea of Christ coming to this earth 2000 years ago as God in the flesh, but it remains as mere concept with no real impact on how they pray, preach, counsel, evangelize, serve, or love. Seeking to move his readers through the mind to the heart, Poirer shares these convicting words:
Christ is no phantom. The real Jesus is no Hollywood Jesus walking two feet off the ground. The ministry of the Pastor of pastors in the ministry of the God-man--a man whose feet are blistered and dirtied by the long, hot days of walking dusty roads. In Christ we find a pastor whose hands are calloused by being about his Father's business--hands clasped in prayer, touching lepers, wiping eyes full of tears, and breaking bred. The first Pastor was a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering. The first Pastor was a lover of the real world even as he came to change the world.We often speak of the Incarnation as God becoming flesh (John 1:14), but Poirier points us to the fact that the Incarnation also includes God living in the flesh, praying in the flesh, preaching in the flesh, serving in the flesh, and being the embodiment of love in the flesh by dying on the Cross in the flesh and raising from the dead in the flesh! How interesting it is that I have much more difficulty conceptualizing the reality that Jesus Christ ascended to heaven in the flesh and is in the flesh reigning over all things right now as I type about him. Yet it is truer than any of my weak ideas.
Does this change the way I look at history? Can I see Christ's hand in each day as I walk the streets of Chicago, serve at The Line, hear about the politics and who is going to run for mayor, or read the news about a Christian's in Indonesia being attacked?
Does it change the way I study God's Word? Do I see all the stories from Creation in Genesis 1-2 to Consummation in Revelation 21-22 as what has truly happened and what will truly happen? Do I see them all pointing to Christ? As I read, do I slow down and allow the words on the page to penetrate every fiber of my being because they are both truth and history?
What about how I look at culture or think about my calling? Do I know that God empowers individuals and groups to be culture shapers and makers? In every aspect of this world, do I try to find how God has somehow influenced it by His common grace (Ps. 19:1)? A popular paraphrase of Calvin's teaching is "all truth is God's truth," but do I take it a step further and say "all truth is the living God's truth"? With regard to calling, do I trust that Christ in the flesh is looking over me, loving me, caring for me each day? Do I surrender my day and my future to Christ who knows better than I do about what's really best for me?
What about you? Does Christ's Incarnation challenge the way you think and live?
In short, the reality of Christ in the flesh crushes all our petty philosophies. In the very least this should bring sheer power, intensity and inspiration to all that we say and do.
Oh how I pray that the Spirit of God will convict both my mind and my heart that I may know Christ is more than just some idea or concept or worldview, but is now and forever God in the flesh.
By His Grace.
Wednesday, September 08, 2010
What's the most shocking news you've ever received?
How did it affect you?
How did it change your life?
Here is the sermon on Galatians 4:1-7 I preached this past weekend at my church, The Line.
The Most Shocking News
By His Grace.
Tuesday, September 07, 2010
What first caught my attention last month about the notorious plan to burn the Quran on September 11 was that it would happen in my old stomping grounds of Gainesville, Florida. I spent a quarter of my life in Gainesville: four years as a student at the University of Florida and three more as a staff member of Campus Crusade for Christ. In those years, Gainesville residents mostly burned couches on the streets after winning national championships in basketball and football. The news devastated me in large part because it was happening so close to home and heart.
In less than a month this horrendous event has gained enough momentum to reach an international audience, capped with a statement by General David Petraeus. The commander of American troops in Afghanistan criticized the burning, saying, "It could endanger troops and it could endanger the overall effort in Afghanistan." Even the Vatican newspaper condemned the burning. The Dove World Outreach Center, with 50 people led by Pastor Terry Jones, has caused a backlash throughout the world that includes the general speaking on behalf of 120,000 troops in the Middle East and the largest church in the world.
Since this news first came to my attention, I have had to think and pray through a response to the burning. This story has already been covered from countless angles. Carl Trueman calls it "childish." Tweets abound, some of which attempt to find humor in the situation. So what do I have to add?
One of my closest friends, Jimmy, is the director of Campus Crusade for Christ at UF. By the grace of God, more than 1,000 students attend their weekly meetings. They are the largest student organization on campus and one of the largest in the city of Gainesville. This all means they have considerable influence as an organization with his words being loudest. After learning of the Quran burning, Jimmy was invited to speak at a protest organized by a group gathering together organizations of various religions around Gainesville. This is where he asked me for advice on what to do, because he is rightfully opposed to the burning. At the same time, he does not think protesting is the answer. However, if he does not lock arm in arm with the other Christians, Jews, Muslims, etc., will he be viewed as being in favor of the burning? What will the hundreds of students involved in Campus Crusade think? What will the 50,000 students at UF think? He can't stay silent on this, so what's the response?
Here is what I shared with him:
It seems to me that the best road for a gospel-saturated Christian to take is not standing on the one side of the road with all-exclusive hate or on the other side with all-inclusive love. Both are ultimately extremes that do not address the heart of the issue. The middle road seems to be the only-exclusive love that Christ offers through the Cross, which rejects hating enemies (Matt. 5:43-44) and loving the the world (1 John 2:15-17) while embracing love of enemies and hating sin. The response we must have as Christians is to reject the utter hatred of people like Pastor Jones and the Dove World Outreach Center, while at the same time not making the mistake of being purely reactionary by standing on the other side of the road, united only in protest, not in love.
He is the one who will have to live out this calling all the more in Gainesville after this weekend is over. Please pray that the influence of Campus Crusade and all the solid churches in Gainesville does not get squelched due to this terribly sad showcase.
Finally, I am saddened that a church of 50 people will not only destroy the Quran, but also damage the credibility of all the churches out there that go unheard for all the good they do in the name of Christ. Though I should not be, I am astonished that a 50-person church has gained more attention than any 5,000-person church could by living out the gospel everyday. Christ's blood shed on the Cross in Jerusalem is eternally scandalous news that is overshadowed today by the scandalous news of Qurans burned by 50 people in Gainesville.
I pray that the Gainesville I've come to love will stay away from burning the Quran and get back to burning couches.
Monday, September 06, 2010
Near the beginning of the book as the older Copperfield looks back on his life he retells the time when he left home. I have no commentary on it, but when I read it I cried. Maybe somewhere deep inside of you is a child like David Copperfield:
The day soon came for our going. It was such an early day that it came soon, even to me, who was in a fever of expectation, and half afraid that an earthquake or a fiery mountain, or some other great convulsion of nature, might interpose to stop the expedition. We were to go in a carrier's cart, which departed in the morning after breakfast. I would have given any money to have been allowed to wrap myself up overnight, and sleep in my hat and boots.
It touches me nearly now, although I tell it lightly, to recollect how eager I was to leave my happy home; to think how little I suspected what I did leave for ever. I am glad to recollect that when the carrier's car was at the gate, and my mother stood there kissing me, a grateful fondness for her and for the old place I had never turned my back upon before, made me cry. I am glad to know that my mother cried too, and that I felt her heart beat against mine.
I am glad to recollect that when the carrier began to move, my mother ran out at the gate, and called to him to stop, that she might kiss me once more. I am glad to dwell upon the earnestness and love with which she lifted up her face to mine, and did so.
By His Grace.
Saturday, September 04, 2010
Love is building relationships with people regardless of whether or not they believe in Jesus.
Evangelism is verbally sharing the gospel with people, earnestly desiring that they will believe in Jesus.
Without love they're just a project.
Without evangelism they're just lost.
By His Grace.