Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Crazy Love :: By Francis Chan

My wife calls me a dork all the time because I fill up my iPod with podcast from a few of my favorite Bible teachers. Obviously, Matt Chandler and the Village podcast is one of my favorites, I also pick up the Desiring God podcast each week so I can get my Piper on (as Lonnie would say) and the last few months I've been really challenged by Francis Chan, the Lead Pastor/Founder of Cornerstone Community Church in Simi Valley, CA as well as a featured speaker at the Passion Conferences the past couple of years. Pastor Chan and his church have become known for their great love for "the least of these" and the fact that last year, half of everything their church brought in they gave away to missions, church plants and to help feed children all over the world (they gave $1 million dollors to Children's Hunger Fund last year...$1 million).
A few weeks ago I picked up Pastor Chan's first book, Crazy Love. He writes very much the way he speaks...a way that is easy to grasp and no doubt very compelling. I've really had a hard time the last 2 days getting through chapter 4 titled, Profile of the Lukewarm...I'm going to be honest, it's been tough. He walks through some characteristics of what he's seen in "American Christianity" and then supplies Scripture that speaks to each. I just want to share one of these...here ya go:
"Lukewarm people do not live by faith; their lives are structured so they never have to. They don't have to trust God if something unexpected happens - they have their savings account. They don't need God to help them - they have their retirement plan in place. They don't genuinely seek out what life God would have them live - they have life figured and mapped out. They don't depend on God on a daily basis - their refridgerators are full and, for the most part, they are in good health. The truth is, their lives wouldn't look much different if they suddenly stopped believing in God."
Now, check this out from God's Word in Luke 12:16-21
16. And he told them this parable: "The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. 17. He thought to himself, 'What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.'
18. "Then he said, 'This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19. And I'll say to myself, "You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry." '
20. "But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?'
21. "This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God."
Tough stuff, no doubt...I also like the King James translation of verse 20 where it says, "...thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee..."
Just a little something to chew on...

Monday, July 28, 2008

Captured...Though Set Free

I was almost brought to tears yesterday (for those who know me that is no small task). I love watching people worship God, it goes back to my days of doing student ministry. There is just something about seeing people respond to the Holy Spirit as He sets people free in worship. Since Susan is typically on the stage singing with the band, I like to walk to the back of the room during worship. What I saw yesterday was absolutely moving. Just being able to see people individually just respond to what God is doing in them is always beautiful. It's very complex and hard to understand from a "worldly view" to know and understand that the more captivated you are by the things of God, the more free you become. I believe what I witnessed yesterday was freedom. Freedom from fear of what others might think if they were to go ahead and let go and lift up there hand to this God...freedom to love Him in that moment as they lift their voices to Him in praise. What I don't want you to hear is that you have to lift up your hands in order to truly worship God because the thing that really got me was watching one young man, probably in his mid 20's, sitting with his chest bent over to his knees almost in a fetal position looking like he was truly agonizing in worship. It was a beautiful Sunday at Gateway...but I continue to be amazed at a God that constantly draws man closer and captivates every area of my life...in order to set me free. What a paradox...


Sunday, July 20, 2008

Why Church Planting Sucks...

A missionary friend of mine who is serving in Papa New Guinea with New Tribes Mission sent me a link to this blog and I thought is was worth reposting.

The life of a church planter is not an easy one...you will find yourself more frustrated than anything...but I can't imagine doing anything else with my life. I love Gateway Fellowship Church...I love Royse City and I love the idea of doing this same thing in many many other cities. We are hoping to plant another church later this year. It will be hard work and we will probably sacrifice a lot of sleep...but again...can't see myself doing anything else.

Oh...almost forgot...here's the post. I did not edit this post from it's original text because I didn't want to change this guys thoughts...so the bad language is his not mine...although the same thoughts have been in my head. Confession is good for the soul.

Well, it doesn’t really suck. I actually love it, but there are definitely times when I wish it was easier, or that the church that we’re dreaming of would magically appear next Sunday. But what kind of story would that be?
Here’s a top ten list of things I have learned so far about church planting.
1.) It’s harder than you think - but not in that ways you expect. I expected it to be a lot of work and I expected there to be discouraging times and I expected there would be times I would want to quit, but I didn’t expect that I would spend most of my time doing stuff that I don’t love and doesn’t excite me. I didn’t expect that I would be tempted to get lazy. I didn’t realize how tough it was to balance the tension between pastoring the people you’ve got and trying to grow the church we feel called to be. Be prepared for this.
2.) It’s more fun than you think it’s going to be. Strap on your helmet, but it is fun. You’re building something from scratch and fighting and winning and failing. It tough, but it’s not boring. Look forward to this and remember it when being beaten down by number one.
3.) There are people who don’t want you to succeed. There are those who are more comfortable believing that the world is against them and that nothing can be done and that nothing can change and to see a new church come to be and survive calls into question their status quo. Identify these people and ignore them.
4.) There are people who desperately want to you to succeed. They want nothing more than to see the Kingdom come and for healthy churches to be acting out what God intended for us to be. Identify these people and seek them out.
5.) It is not easy to figure out who are #3 people and who are #4 people.
6.) Weather will kick your ass. Maybe this is more of a thing in Canada, but you could have both Saints Paul and Peter scheduled to appear at your church where they will reveal the date of the second coming and the cure for baldness and a snowstorm will leave you sitting with your wife and kids and the angry guy you’re not surprised has never found a church home. There’s not much you can do but be ready for it.
7.) You will also schedule something no one will show up for. This will be something that you’ve poured heart and soul and sweat and blood into. There will be no real reason for people not to show up. They just won’t. This will crush you. Get up, dust yourself off, and never speak of it again except to laugh when you’re not angry anymore.
8.) This is not the church you built in your head. This is a real group of people called by God who are going to be something you never dreamed of. Trying to be the church in your head will kill your joy for the church you have, so kill the church in your head.
9.) Don’t take anything personally. People will come to your church and go, and friends will choose to be a part or not, and people will arrive and begin to pour themselves into what God is doing and this, for the most part, has nothing to do with you. If your confidence and self image depend on the “success” of your church, you are screwed as a pastor and will be a terrible person to live with.
10.) Settle the failure question before you start. The reality is most church plants don’t make it. If your church plant becomes part of those statistics, are you done either as a pastor or a follower of Jesus? If you think the answer might be yes, get the hell out. Your desire should be to see God’s will accomplished and if his will is that your church is planted and dies, if that is what is glorifying to him, then name of the Lord is still to be praised. There is no shame in being a failed church planter.
and as a free bonus
The most important thing you will do is to decide what success looks like. Remember that this is your choice. Choose to define success by obedience. Ask God where he wants you to go, and fight with everything you have to get there. Back to #1 and #2, it will not be easy, and it will be fun.
Now if I read this every day for the next ten years and pray that God would make me believe it, I should be alright.

*The picture above is Mr. Taylor and the link to his blog is, www.danielktaylor.wordpress.com


Sunday, July 13, 2008

Corporate Prayer 7/13/08

With joy we praise you gracious God, for you created heaven and earth, made us in your image and kept covenant with us - even when we failed you in sin.

We give you thanks for Jesus Christ, our Lord, who by His life, death and resurrection opened to us the way of everlasting life.

Therefore we join our voices with all the saints and angels and the whole of creation to proclaim the glory of your name.

In Christ Holy and Powerful Name...