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Jun
12

help wanted

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Even with efforts to increase efficiency, the core team cannot keep up. The number of personnel required to meet the objective must increase by a sizable factor. If we, the body of Christ, are going to declare the reign of God, then it is essential that all members labor toward that end.

It is time for the church to bless and send out all of her people to live and share the good news that is the gospel. It is time for the professional clergy to empower and serve the worldly professionals that are going out into the highways and hedges daily. It is time for the stories of the laity to be featured center stage because they are profound in spurring one another on toward love and good deeds.

The church that sends herself out will inevitably look a lot like Jesus. The church that ’employs’ all of its’ members to live sent will end up changing the community. In turn, she will be changed into a more faithful representation of the bride of Christ.

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Jan
25

attention church planters….

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Attention church planters….I have a list of the top 9 cities in the US that are ready for a church plant.  Looking for somewhere to make a difference….a good place to offer hope….try…

Norwich, CT

Brunswick, GA

Abilene, TX

Wichita Falls, TX

Flint, MI

Champaign, IL

Santa Barbara, CA

Reno, NV

Carson City, NV

Now these aren’t your typical prime cities for church planting.  These aren’t seminary cities, these cities don’t contain large corporations or tons of affluent people.  In fact, the opposite is true. Fox Business.com lists these cities as the 9 American Cities nearly destroyed by the recession.  Planting in these types of cities goes against conventional wisdom.  Andy Stanley planted Buckhead among the most affluent of Atlanta and recently the team of Giglio/Tomlin also chose Atlanta, a city which has a mega-church for every Starbucks around the city.  I’m not saying they chose easy locations….but it makes you wonder….what if Giglio and Tomlin had planted in Flint, MI where there is a 21% poverty rate….would they have a mega -church before they even opened the doors.

What is the purpose of planting a church?  To build a name, a brand, to launch a career, to gather disgruntled sheep from smaller, more traditional flocks…..or is it more than that.  I see the church as a manifestation of “His Kingdom come” here on earth.  A community of authenticity, a community that offers hope, a helping hand, a message of hope to those that are hurting.  These 9 cities don’t need entertaining, they don’t need self-promoting, churches with laser shows and billion dollar budgets.  They need people that will love them, serve them, and help them come together for the greater good.  They need pastors who would rather feed the poor than dine with the wealthy, they need pastors who would rather cater to the spiritually lost than the spiritually disgruntled, they need pastors who would rather spend times in homes than they would at conferences.  They need you!

-edited 1/25 for content and clarity

Categories : church, missiology
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Dec
14

uncomfortable at Christmas

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When I think of Christmas I think of comfort….traditional songs, warm food, candles, fireside chats, thick sweaters…to me Christmas is all about comfort.

When I look at the first Christmas I don’t really see much comfort. Jesus left the right hand of the throne of God for a dirty, smelly manger. He left behind the worship of the saints for the sounds of sheep and camels. He left a place of prominence for a place of obscurity. He was born to an unwed mother and went from being the Creator to the created. He went from being all-powerful to needing diaper changes and meals. He learned a new language, found a new role, learned a new craft and subjected himself to everything human….sore feet, acne, being hot/cold, temptation….everything human. And he did this…for us. He was the ultimate incarnational, cross-cultural missionary. He took on a life of being uncomfortable to please God and rescue us.

In our ministries we get to choose who is uncomfortable….us or them. Our traditional, attractional models are comfortable for us. We invite someone to our church or our small group or our event. We invite them into our world….and they are the ones made uncomfortable. They have to learn our rules, our “Jesus” language, our way of dress and our rules of behavior.

This is the primary way the US church does ministry….we like it on our terms, in our context…it’s safe for us. But if we look at the way Jesus did life and ministry we see a different approach. Not only did he become the uncomfortable one in his birth, but he maintained this approach throughout his ministry. He taught in the synagogues but he also dined with sinners. He spoke with religious leaders but also met a samaritan woman at a well. He was viewed with suspicion by religious leaders because he chose to hang out with tax collectors, whores, the sick and the crippled. He never lost his faith or became like the sinners he was with but he constantly chose to learn their language, enter their world, minister in their context and in doing so took the gospel to places it had never been before.

So it’s not about giving up our comfortable Christmas with our rich traditions, favorite foods and family. It’s about looking at the amazing life of Jesus and learning from Him. We have a hurting world all around us….most of which will never come in contact with our church campuses and dynamic worship services. They already gather and find community in clubs, pubs, coffee shops and other activities. What if we became uncomfortable and went to where they are….entered into their world. What if we stopped inviting and started going and serving. What if we went to church less and became the church more?

I want to learn to accept being uncomfortable as a way of life. The best way I can honor Jesus and his birth is to learn from his example and allow myself to be made uncomfortable for the sake of King and Kingdom. Merry Christmas!

Categories : church, missiology
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Nov
18

Jesus, Chris Martin and fair trade

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Some say that we should only be concerned with the proclamation of the Gospel. That we shouldn’t concern ourselves with the community, with justice, with change…. that our task is simply to proclaim, to preach, to change individuals. Maybe it’s a knee jerk response to those believe in a social gospel which may not include proclamation. Maybe it’s because they’re afraid we’ll lose our focus and become nothing more than good people in an evil world. Maybe it’s because they’re afraid, afraid of actually having to take this faith we so value and release it off of the campus. Maybe they just don’t know how to interact with a lost world on the world’s turf. Regardless of the reason I think as we relegate our role as Christians to the singular role of proclamation we lose out on the fullness of the gospel.

Jesus said….”The Lord has put his Spirit in me, because he appointed me to tell the Good News to the poor. He has sent me to tell the captives they are free and to tell the blind that they can see again. God has sent me to free those who have been treated unfairly and to announce the time when the Lord will show his kindness.” Luke 4:18-19, NCV

What if Coldplay’s Chris Martin has a better grasp on part of Jesus mission than we do? Chris uses his global platform to bring awareness to Oxfam and Fair Trade. He wants to see those who are oppressed, treated unfairly receive a decent wage for their product/craft and to see justice for those who have been mistreated for so long. How can we say we follow Christ, that we believe in the Kingdom come and yet live holed-up on our campuses and seminaries without concern or action for those mistreated around the world? We should be leading the way on such issues as fairtrade, human trafficking, orphans and refugees. We complain about the government having to do more, about the prostitutes on our streets, about the kids in foster care and we walk around in our robes of righteousness determined our only role is to tell them about God’s love…..God forbid we leave the temple, get dirt on our robes and show them the very love we long to proclaim.

We live in a hurting, broken world. Instead of retreating into our middle-class, republican, mostly white, puritan like world of piety what if we threw open the doors, rolled up our sleeves and set out to be agents of justice, change and love among our communities. What if we spent more money on the hurting in our community than we do on our buildings, renovations and upgrades? What if we stopped building new temples and built an orphanage on our campus? What if we stopped asking “How do I build my church?” and started asking “How can I love my city, my community, the world around me?” What if we actually cared enough to show God’s love to those we proclaim it to?

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Nov
08

backwards?

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Our call is to make disciples. He builds His church.

Often it seems we give ourselves wholly to building our church and trusting her to make His disciples.

Categories : church
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Jul
22

launch not

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Though I have been away for a bit, I wanted to give a quick update on the last post which created some really good conversation about what the term might be in church planting if it is not a “launch.” With so much good input, it gave the church planter dealing with the issue, Jason Egly, an opportunity to work through this process with the sage advice of many that had gone before. (Thank you to all that participated in the conversation, your contribution was very helpful.)

So after much thought and prayer, Jason and his crew decided to go with: This is “our next step.” To make it a bit more emphatic non-event, they are using the idea that this is: Just our next step.” Thanks for processing with us Jason. I am cheering you on and praying for you as you move forward.

In this vein, I am sharing a video that I saw on Tall Skinny Kiwi’s site that may give more food for thought on this issue.

Categories : church
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Jul
11

launch this

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Recently in a conversation with a friend that is in the process of planting a church in the least-reached region of a Bible-belt city in the U.S., we were talking about the upcoming first public gatherings. I have been cheering for them as well honored and blessed to be a small part of helping them to put mission in their DNA from the beginning. As we were discussing this upcoming first, the only common language we had for the event was a “launch.” While the term conveyed an idea we were both familiar with, it troubled us both.

Of course launch refers to all things rocket related. It is the goal. The desired action in rocketry–much of which is explained in Sir Isaac Newton’s laws of motion–is about getting the vehicle off the ground. Newton’s third law is often summarized as: “for every action, there is [always] an equal and opposite reaction.” Ignite thrust downward in order to achieve lift. Rockets are conceived, engineered and built to leap off the ground. This is the goal for which people build them. Whether for recreation, science or weaponry, the goal is the same. Get the thing up in the air to a desired altitude and then you can add to it any functionality that one may desire.

So if launch is the goal in and of itself, then I would offer that it sucks for use in church planting. As this is not the realm of the laws of motion, launching a church does not hold to the confines and realities of physics. I have seen a lot of energy expended in church launches that proved unsuccessful and vice versa. So, because church planting and physics are not bound by the same physical laws, for this reason alone the term is less than adequate. In fact, it is wrong. But it is wrong for an even greater reason….

If launching is the goal, then it is possible that simply holding a religious service is the objective for which we strive. Some may say that it is a little more developed than that. Perhaps the goal is a recurring service which leads to transformation and development of disciples. I will pass on spending a lot of time on that here as I think this has been candidly dismissed by Willow Creek’s reveal. A public meeting, worship gathering, or church service–regardless of what you call it–is not the goal of church. Nor does a recurring service constitute a church.

If the church is conceived and functioning before any public declaration or launch, then what is it that we are kicking off? And with that what would be ideal for this launch thingy to be named? In the particular plant in question–(whether planting a church or planting the gospel is the goal is another topic for another day as well)–disciples are being made. Broken relationships are being restored. Justice is being pursued in the community. What this community of believers is about to do is let it be known to their neighborhood that there is a group seeking to live as the body of Christ, love God and love others so that those not already in community with them may find them more easily.

Now, I say this is not a launch. The pastor participating in this says it is not a launch. But we don’t have an acceptable “what is it?” yet. Wordsmiths / thinkers, what say you? What is about to happen in this community?

PLEASE help us with some input on this topic!

Categories : church, trends, Uncategorized
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Jun
27

disturbing statistic

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Last week a friend of mine met with the president of one of the state SB conventions. According to him, the number of SB churches in the state that are dead or in decline was 85%. This number is troubling for a whole lot of reasons. While I am aware that there are significant changes in the U.S. church scene at present, no growth or realignment comes close to addressing an 85% decrease in the number of existing, functional churches in one denomination.

As this state is in the Bible belt, it doesn’t really matter where this interview happened. It seems that this statistic could very well be true for any of the Bible belt states–take your pick.

To turn it around and look at the positive side of the statistic, 15% of the churches are vibrant. A meager 15% are in a situation where they can be more concerned about loving the lost around them rather than being focused on self-preservation. This positive side for me is a bit depressing. Clearly, things as they have been are not working.

Categories : church, trends
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May
19

BAM and church

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With the different wiring and  issues facing the mission-oriented person (MOP) and the business-oriented person (BOP), there are several options for how to be about business as mission (BAM). The first option is to determine that one type of individual and resulting strategy is categorically right and the other is always wrong. There are a host of issues that make this a poor choice, so let’s put this choice aside for now. Second would be to allow that both have merit and each MOP or BOP should find his or her own way. I have seen cases where this has and is happening, but often with poor results. A third option would be for the church to come alongside the MOP or BOP person and resulting proposed strategy and speak into the conversation, process and strategy. This is, I am convinced, a super healthy way to move forward.

If mission belongs to the church, then BAM is a tool or strategy for the church to use. The church is uniquely positioned to be able to work with the MOP to bring some BOP(s) into a collaborative relationship to be able to speak into strategy and process. On the other side of the scale, the church can bring MOP(s) into a consultative relationship with the BOP person being sent out to provide balance and perspective.

The church that is seeking to take rightful ownership of the commission of Christ can as a healthy body help in addressing strategy in a range of areas including resourcing whether it be expertise, legal counsel, capital fund-raising, business plans, missional living coaching, etc. The church is key in seeing the gospel go forward. If she takes ownership of this responsibility, then she should also prepare to work in a range of ways and strategies including BAM.

As this happens, there will be a slew of new questions to address. At the base level, the church will do well to look to answer the question about her role both if and in BAM as a strategy for her people to reach out to those to whom they have been sent.

Thoughts?

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Apr
28

fringe

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Following “my name is ____,” the very next sentence he shared was: “I am also a Christian on the edge.” Others shared, “I am on the fringe.” Still others did not even know how to describe their situation. I heard this repeatedly during our recent Upstream JetSet in Prague and Budapest. There was even concern that none of the “leaders” were at one of the Frost One Day events. What these on the edge were saying was that the leaders of the long-standing church were missing. We were gathered as the planters, the rebels, perhaps the misfits according to some.

Undoubtedly we worked with and took some fringe guys on the journey with us too. (And no, I am not trying to exclude myself from this group.) I heard multiple stories of metric discombobulation and concerns about missiology and ecclesiology and its outworkings. It is not uncommon for me to have conversations via various communication modes about this fringe issue–about us. But I’m not sure that makes it easier for those that are out there who feel alone and cut off.

Be encouraged, you are not alone. You have a leader. I don’t think it an accident that Christ’s first miracle recorded in the gospel of John was to turn water into wine using the ceremonial jars–all of them. Though His time had not yet come, He took the opportunity, while honoring His mama, to start conveying that things may not be as right as they seem in the religious realm. This was just the beginning of course. He still would be accused of being a drunkard and glutton. This accusation was believable by many as Jesus often spent time with those that were the unwashed eating and drinking in their homes. (e.g. Matthew, Zacchaeus, a band of Samaritans in John 4). Tragically ironic, it would be the religious leaders that crucified the Messiah who was so often on the edge.

Be encouraged, you are not alone. You have a tribe. There is a band across the globe of those that are seeking to walk as Jesus did whether that puts them in the mainstream or on the fringe. Partner with these around you and walk together. Continue to bless and encourage each other. Draw from each other’s passion, creativity, stories of triumph and stories of failure. Know that there are places and networks where these fringe are likely to gather. These networks are relationally based. Good luck climbing a social ladder here. This is about people walking together on mission in grace.

Being on the fringe is not about a fight to be won. There is not a position of leadership that needs to be sought and attained. Ours is to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling.” Ours is to “grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ….” Ours is to “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ours is to love deeply both the washed and the unwashed as we continue to experience the “breadth and length and height and depth” of His love.

Take courage. I am so thankful that you are who you are.

I hadn’t seen this clip in years, but it kept replaying in my mind. For some reason I heard Dreyfus’ voice when I typed the word “misfits.” Almost discarded the word, but thought it even better to include the clip here.

Categories : Bible, church, missiology
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