Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Reality Reversal

In having a conversation with a friend of mine last night, I stumbled upon a concept that I feel needs some more discussion. We were discussing his current church situation. He moved to a new town, and like most of us, misses the "old days" and his previous church. I told him I understood. His grievance with his new place of worship was one based more in structure and theology, but it is the best place out of the choices he has available. He knows that we have started our organic church and I was sharing with what we've been doing and going though and trying to encourage him as best I could from several thousands of miles away.

... and then it happened...

As it does so often with me, because I love to spew words out of my mouth, I said something that I had never said before, that I really liked! I started to expound on it a bit, and found a missing piece of the puzzle for the book that I am trying to write. Here it is... (at least what I've found so far)

Faith in Christ is meant to be grown individually
and celebrated corporately, not the other way around.

We believe we have lost either sight or touch of this in the modern paradigm of the corporate church. Individuals are brought in and made into church members, then are been plugged into a system that tries to help them grow through different programs and classes. Living in our instant satisfaction drive-thru-like society, it's not surprise that people expect instant church as well. They want to go to a church, sit down, worship, listen to a sermon, give an offering (often begrudgingly) and have some type of instant spiritual growth or experience... and dare I say, in the absence of a true one, we have conditioned ourselves to "experience" one anyway.

However, the reality is you can not force anything natural to grow faster that it is created to without adding some kind of chemical or additive to force things to move alsong quicker that it is meant to. These "growth hormones" usually end up causing differences in the end product in some way. Yes, it may last on the shelf longer, but it isn't the same as the natural product that it is meant to be.

Our modern church systems and "models" are all built on programs designed to artificially grow and sustain faith. Outside of the "church" and it's supporting systems, many Christians don't know how to exercise their faith in real life. Because they were never taught or grown on their own, free of the system, they are just a product of a passive system that keeps them "plugged" into the matrix that is the corporate church.This is a HUGE disconnect and I believe why we have begun to associate things as "church" and "non-church". The faith that once was so fluid and transparent has now become more rigid and regulated... and then we wonder why we don't see the evidence like in the days of the early church.

We must re-train ourselves that when we gather with our fellow Christians, it's not to grow as much as to celebrate our faith and our Savior with the congregation of believers. The natural growth and byproducts of faith need to be happening daily... even hourly throughout the course of our lives. If we do not stop and take a look at the state of our faith and His church, we may well be stuck in this reversal of reality.

Faith in Christ is meant to be grown individually
and celebrated corporately, not the other way around.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A License to Drive...

I bet we all remember that day.... standing in line... waiting expectantly to get to the front... getting our picture taken... and then it happened... some underpaid overworked civil employee hands us our driver's license! FREEDOM! Finally, after years of waiting, and a year of "practicing" it's here. We are free to rule the roads...

There's no denying the sense of power and authority that having a driver's license gives to a teenager (and the sense of dread that it brings to their parents). With a simple piece of plastic, a world of opportunity and excitement is opened to them. They are able to move and operate free from other people's control and have to be responsible for the outcome of their choices. This is a huge step for many, if not all, teens in their transition to adulthood.

Sadly, I feel that spiritually, many people never get to this same level of freedom and maturity.

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." - Matt 28:16-20

Most of us know the great commission, and probably can quote it. So, why don't many of us do it? I have found some that believe that because Jesus gave this to the eleven remaining disciples, that be by proxy gave this commission only to the clergy of the church and not to the everyday person. Since there was no professional clergy then, and I don't believe that view would mesh well with the rest of Jesus' teachings, I think it is safer to assume he is talking to each and every member of the Christian faith. Christ's words could better be described as the great "Co-Mission".

But the question remains, why do we not still see individual followers of Christ following this, Jesus' last directive to His church? I believe this is for two reasons:

(a) The incorrect view and application of this passage of scripture

(b) Fear or apathy on the part of the individual believer

As I have previously stated, I think the "clergy" view of this passage is incorrect. However, the application of it is what is more insidious. In believing that the great commission was only given to the clergy, you are in effect incapacitating the majority of the body of Christ and lulling them into passivity. "It's their job to just go to church and pay the pastors to do ministry..." This is not at all what Jesus intended for his body. When was the last time you saw only one aspect or organ of your body work?

Secondly, I think because of this passive mindset, many Christians are either apathetic to the call of the gospel, or are afraid they won't be good enough. This is a very real and difficult problem to deal with, but we must own up to our mistakes, and being to release as many people to function in their faith as possible.

No matter how long you teach someone about a car,
you still can not say you've taught that person to drive,
until they get in the car and drive it away from you...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A Fast Approaching Precipice

Since my departure from church in the traditional or institutional sense, I have felt a variety of emotions. Fear that I would not know what to do; Excitement about what is ahead; worry that no one will understand me; joy to see people blossoming in faith for themselves; and peace that I have found my place in the body of Christ. The transition has been harder and longer that I anticipated, but not for any of the reasons that I expected.

I was ready for a fight, if you will, to justify and solidify my belief in the organic church concept... I found no such fight.

I was ready to be lonely and outcast by all of my institutional church friends who wouldn't understand or support me... I am neither alone nor outcast.

I was ready for the church to fail, because I have no experience with or examples of organic churches near me to follow... our church has grown both in maturity and numbers.

I found myself braced for a battle that did not come. It was in this discovery that I noticed something that has become clearer to me the more time I allow myself to mediate and pray on it. If we are not careful, the organic church movement will end up repeating the same mistakes that our denominational friends have in the past. Let me explain.

I have found that in the organic community people fall into two different groups:

(a) there are those who find there identity in what they are against in the institutional church

(b) there are those who find there identity solely in the "church" in whatever form it may come

In networking and talking to as many organic-minded people as I could find, this first group became very apparent. And I have to say, if I'm honest, I think I started out there. When I finally came face to face with the hard questions in my heart about church, as well as the evidence and history of the church (Thanks Frank), I had to face the facts and adjust accordingly. However, the point of the church is not to criticize other parts of the church. I feel that those who fall into this first group unknowingly (I hope) taint the majority of their words and opinions with a negative light of the traditional church. I think this is a bad thing. Yes, we may have our disagreements with the church, but we must be careful to understand, that's still the bride of our Savior too.

The second group of people that I have found have been a little harder to locate, but have been a much greater support and strengthener to me. I have friends in both the organic and traditional worlds that just love Jesus. I realize that sounds cliche, but let's be honest, there's a lot of money to be made in the church, and a lot of times priorities can be confused. My friends who fall into this latter category are those who truly want to see Jesus exalted, believers released into their fullness, and the true church (no matter its expression) flourish and prosper.

As I said earlier, I think we as the organic/simple/home church movement are approaching a precipice where our voice will begin to be heard and recognized by our brothers and sisters in institutional and denominational churches. The number of people in organic/simple/house churches is growing and will not be able to be ignored or recognized.

What will they hear carried on the wind of our words?

Will they hear criticism and rebuke? Will they stand up to greet us as part of the body only to be met with hostility and animosity because they don't do it our way? How can we expect unity in the body of Christ when we, as mere men, focus on our differences instead of our likenesses.

I understand the inert human need for identity, but does that identity have to come at the cost of unity? Where is the church that will stand up, united in glorious power and might, under the headship of Christ, institutional and organic together to greet the loving Savior at His return.

Having served my King in both the institutional and organic expression of church, this danger is very real, and very prevalent on both sides of the isle. We must fight to find forgiveness for the flaws and faults of our families, and be determined to dissolve our differences to defeat division.

Unity does not have to be uniformity, it just has to be.

Friday, June 5, 2009

The Currency of Christianity

Faith, like money, is an intangible concept that only exists in the mind. Currency, however, is the very real, tangible, (and more importantly), exchange-able embodiment of the concept of money. It is currency that carry in our wallets and change purses, but it is the value of that currency that we spend... money.

Understanding that... let me move on...

The church, and in my opinion our faith as a whole, faces an unparalleled and unprecedented problem. Never before has the rot of festering infection eaten away at the core of our faith than it is today. We are surrounded by buildings, images, movies, music, and every other form of consumer-driven Christianity, and yet with all of these things in place. The message of Christ is being drowned out by pluralism and relativism and the impact of the church is being (or maybe has been) relegated to government help programs and para-church ministries.

If faith is the "money" of Christianity,
than where is the currency?

Where is the real, tangible, and exchange-able embodiment of our faith?

A lot of it has been out-sourced. Neil Cole in his book Organic Leadership, illustrates this point excellently. Many of the para-church ministries that exist are parasitic in nature because they draw from the same sources of life as the church (ie, leaders, finances, etc.) but do not give anything back to the church.

To gain a better understanding of what the true "currency" of Christianity should be, all we need to do look back at the first generation of the Faith, and glean from their attitude (and more importantly) their actions.

When you take a good look at the way the early church "spread the wealth" of the faith, there are a few things that I believe are key elements to their success and impact.

1. Conviction

Like it or not, we all know what OXYCLEAN and SHAM-WOW are. This is not because they are ground-breaking, life-altering products, but because every time Billy Mays speaks, I am instantly drawn in thinking "wow" (and does his voice hurt after yelling so much?). Conviction is a tool of communication, but it also goes beyond that to a point that one's whole life and choices can be centered around a conviction. THIS is the type of conviction that the disciples and early church had. Many of them gave their lives for the cause of Christ. You can not deny or downplay the impact that someone with that kind of conviction can and did have on those they met.

2. Action

Time and time again, as you read through the gospel accounts and the book of acts, we see the the disciples and the early church putting their faith into action. Whether is be healings, casting out demons, or feeding the widows, the early churches faith was felt by their surrounding community. As I have already stated, the existance of para-church organizatiosn and government help programs have taken up a lot of the duties of the church. But they haven't cornered the market on helping people. (Anyone who looks around can see that!) We must be diligently on the look out for ways to assit, encourage, serve, and provide for those in need. This is the best and most powerful form of currency that we have.

3. Compassion

I believe that both the conviction and action of the early church was fueled by a limitless compassion. One taught to them by Christ Himself... to see people as sheep without a shepherd. This compassion led them to get outside of themselves and their day to day lives and begin to become part of something bigger. We say that we do this today, but our practices don't always echo our principles. Many churches today toute in mission and purpose statements having compassion for the lost, broken, needly, etc... but only reach them with event-based evangelism, and only then to grow their church. Christ-like compassion is seeing the need and filling it, regardless of the outcome. The "come here you lucky people, you get to come to our church" mentality has ham-strung the evanglism of the modern day church, and in come cases worked against it.

If we are to take back the ground that has been lost in the past, and once again rise up as a modern, living, and active body of believers, we must regain the spirit and heart of the early church and begin to use the same currency that they did.

Conviction, Compassion, and Action do not cost us anything,
but they can win us everything.

Lord, please help us to live lives of conviction. Help us to see with the compassion of Christ. Guide us to the people, places, and problems that you want us to intercede in. Give us the boldness to do what you have called us to do. Father, please send workers into Your harvest. In Christ's name... Amen.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Hidden Heresy

I had a great conversation with a good friend of mine who is a youth pastor at a local church yesterday. He and I were recounting some of the most recent activity in the ministries that we are involved in and found a striking, and quite honestly, frightening similarity.

We both have observed in our various ministry capacities over the years a very clear difference between those who have been "in the faith" or "in the church" for a long time, and those who are brand new. The people who "grew up" in church were less likely, and in some cases afraid to express their faith openly. Something as simple as praying out loud was a HUGE ordeal to these people... whereas the younger believers, those who were very new in the faith and had very little discipleship and training were more than willing to do anything they could.

Doesn't that seem backward to you?!

The people who have had more time
in the faith are the less likely to express it...

The individuals who have "grown up" in church,
and who should have a much firmer grasp
on the foundations and truths of our faith,
are the one's who want to stand in the back of the class?

It would also be nice to be able to dismiss this as a singular occurrence or an isolated incident, but unfortunately, I do not believe that it is. All of my experience and exposure to Christianity and the Church has shown this sadly reality to be true.

BUT... before we get all weepy-eyed and distracted, we must ask ourselves, WHERE does this enigmatic dichotomy come from? I believe this answer, like many of Jesus' teachings, is very simple.

- Time "in the church" does not equal time "in the faith"

- Exposure to the church does not equal exposure to Jesus Christ

Being in church doesn't make you a Christian any more than being in a garage makes you a car! I believe we have lulled and weened ourselves into a false sense of belief that the sheer passing of time is the measure of maturity.

"Because I have spent more time "in the church" or "as a Christian" (than someone else) automatically means that I am a more mature of a follower of Christ.

You can not really read (and believe) the words of Jesus, and the message of the Gospel and still believe this horrible hidden heresy.

I believe that this is the insidious hidden heresy that is eating away at the core and foundation of our faith today. Individual believers are no longer measuring their maturity by their effectiveness as messengers of the gospel, but by the arbitrary passage of time.

"Lord, please help us to break out of our stained glass castles and our religious reliance on anything else but You. Guide us, direct us, and show us how we can be mature, effective, and productive messengers of hope, faith, and love in a world that is in desperate need of all three. In Christ's name... Amen"

Friday, May 29, 2009

Lethal Labels

Why is it that we feel this constant and compulsory need to label one another? There is hardly a person that we meet, talk to, or speak about that we don't place into some sort of category or group.

"This is my friend Mark, he's a mechanic"

"Oh yeah, I have a friend who's gay too, her name is Sydney"

"Yeah I understand, my parents are divorced."

I believe that whether it is conscious or unconscious, we group, label and identify people by certain aspects of their life:

1. Activity or Occupation
2. Identity or Affiliation
3. Experience or history

While each of these categories view a person differently none of them view the whole person.

To see Mark merely as a mechanic, is to miss that he's also a father, husband, and musician... to say nothing of his personality and character.

To see Sydney, solely as a lesbian woman, is to miss that she's a business woman, singer, actress, and again, completely miss her personality and character.

To see me as a child of divorced parents, is especially horrible, because you're now framing my present life in my past history. Nothing can be done to change or re-live the past, so why would we use a definition from it to define who we are now?

I believe there are a few excuses we tell ourselves in order to use labels to define people.

1. It makes it easier to "know" someone.

If I know Mark as a mechanic. Then my conversations with him with be based on that. My interactions with him will stay in one playing field where I know he'll be comfortable and I'll know what to say. By limiting the scope of who Mark is, I will be able to "know" him better.

2. It makes it easier to "understand" someone

If I know Sydney as a lesbian. Than I will assume that all of her decisions are based on that aspect of her life. I begin her lifestyle and choices through the single lens of her label and it makes it easier for me to "understand" her.

3. It makes it easier to "judge" someone.

Like it or not, we all do it. We all look at a situation and decide for ourselves if an action by a person in a situation is either good, bad, justified, etc. We are creatures of habit and do this all day without much effort. By labeling people and grouping them into categories, we then pre-suppose that this group will more than likely be right, while this one will not. By doing this it makes it easier to "judge" someone.

The sad reality is that all of these errors in judgement lead to the same place. A misguided and skewed view of people.

We are beautifully complex creatures. Endowed by our Creator to be unique and different. We do ourselves and the Lord a tremendous injustice when we relegate all of our life down to a single variable or choice.

We must make a conscious effort to break this insiduous trap and see people for who they are, not what they do, what group their in, or what they've been through.

Christ died for all the people of the world.
If we can not see past the label, how will we ever see their soul?

- Just a thought.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

What have we done?

I realize that it has been a while since my last blog post. I didn't want to just keep spewing up words everyday just for the sake of making a post, however, I do feel that I need to say something and this is the method I want to use...

I have believed for a while that a persons maturity is not strictly linked to their age. I have met my share, as I'm sure you have, of people who act far less mature than they should be at their age. Conversely, there are also people who speak and act far more mature than they should for their age. A person's age is only the measure of how long it has been since they were born... a person's maturity however, is the measure of their character, actions, speech, and will.

Unfortunately, this same paradigm is true for spiritual maturity. A person's spiritual maturity is not the measure of how long it has been since they got saved... but the measure of their personal character, actions, speech and will.

Why is it that we seem to have relegated the impact of the Christian experience to going to church two times a week, singing a few songs, and giving in the offering?

The true life-altering power of the Gospel lies not just in the hearing of the message of Christ, but in sharing that message that you heard. I'm afraid that the modern day church has missed out on so much of the sweet fruit of love that is supposed to flow so easily out of a heart of compassionate grace because we have subjugated our faith, and in some instances, our lives to the aristocratic clergy-class of pastors and leaders that guide our churches. The majority of the church is no longer active in ministry, they are passive share-holders or at best submissive volunteers in the organization of their church.

Because of this shift in structure from the gospels original intentions, we now have raised a generation (or more) of Christians who never learned how to grow up. Again, if a person's maturity is measured by their character, speech, actions, and will, then all we must do is look at the obvious answer that is screaming at us.

Many church-going, bible-toting, praise and worship-singing, Christians don't display that much maturity in their day to day lives. I'm not talking about the 2 to 4 hours that you are at church in a week. I'm talking about every minute of every day, seven days a week.

Many of the people who flood into sanctuaries all over our country don't know how to study (not just read, but actually study) the Bible on their own... or lead someone to Christ by themselves... or are afraid to pray for someone in public...THIS IS A PROBLEM!

Most of what we know and hear from pew sitters and church goers is complaining, back-biting, gossiping, tattle-tailing, and accusing someone of something... I'm sorry... but that sounds like a two-year old to me!

It seems that we have traded...

Freedom in Christ for Bondage to legalism

Compassion for the lost for Judgment of the sinner

Unity in Christ for Uniformity to rules and doctrine

Faith to act for Fear of criticism and judgment

We must wake ourselves up from the deep slumber of unconscious passivity that is holding us hostage and begin to BE the church of Jesus Christ. Jesus is not coming back for a building, arena, sign, billboard, parking lot, website, podcast, stage, or pulpit. He is returning to meet His Bride who is a person. We must stop seeing the church as a place or building and start seeing it as us... a collection of individual people who are in love with Him and are going to carry out His mission on the earth.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Discipleship Dilemma (Part 2)

Because of our misunderstanding, misuse, and misapplication of discipleship, many Christians have shunned away or been turned away from this very biblical and necessary process. If you were to ask 10 different Christians what discipleship was, you would most likely get at least 6 different answers. Here are a few:

It's reading your Bible.

It's praying every day.

It's going to church.

While all of these answers are involved in discipleship, none of them are the total picture of what discipleship IS. Discipleship is the process of becoming a disciple. Note two things:

1. It is a process...
it's not a place to be, a thing to do, or a group to belong to.

2. It is voluntary...
you can only be discipled to the extent that you submit yourself to it.

If you were then to ask the same group of Christians how discipleship works... you probably would get a lot of the same answers. Read your Bible... Pray everyday... etc.

I would like to submit a different view of what discipleship could be. Knowing that the discipleship is a voluntary process of becoming more like Christ, let's look at how it should work.

In my opinion, there are three main elements to the discipleship process:

1. Character

Before you ever speak, your character is there. Many people you will meet have already heard about you or have interacted with someone who knows you and you character has made an impression on them. Godly character is not up for debate, we should all have it, but we don't automatically get it just because we call Jesus our Savior. We must work to make our character more like Christ's if we are to reflect Him to our world.

2. Discipline

Without the discipline, there can no be real growth. (thank you fortune cookie guy) Discipline is not a very popular or common word in Christendom today, but it is a very necessary one. Jesus was a very disciplined person. He disciplined, corrected, and rebuked His disciples, so did Paul.

3. Knowledge

This is probably the most misunderstood element of discipleship. We do need to grow in our knowledge of the spiritual matters. How can we be expected to grow if we don't know anything about growth. It is the knowledge that guides our growth in Christ and helps us to avoid dangerous pitfalls.

There is also a symbiotic relationship between these three elements that must be addressed. Growing in one or two of these areas without the the other is still of little use. Let me illustrate:

You can not grow in character without the discipline and knowledge to correct it.

You can not grow in discipline without the knowledge and character to hold to it.

You can not grow in knowledge without the character and discipline to learn it.

To only grow in one or two areas and ignore the reality of the other is both naive and detrimental. I'm sure we have all met men and women who claim to be very knowledgeable but have poor character... or who have close to impeccable character, but don't teach the Word of God correctly. You are left with sour taste of spiritual maturity, not because they weren't truly knowledgeable or had good character, but because you weren't given the whole picture of true spiritual maturity and discipleship.

If we want to grow and become more like Christ, we must evaluate ourselves on all three elements of discipleship. Because, like many other things in life, we are only as strong as our weakest area.

- Just a thought.

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Discipleship Dilema


Just hearing that words makes most of us a little weary.

"Another great lesson on how I'm not a good enough Christian..." is usually the thought that runs through most of our minds. The concept of discipleship that we have at work today is very far from the original concept that Jesus taught. I believe this is for three reasons:

The first is misunderstanding.

Discipleship is not meant to be chore, it's meant to be a choice. You do not have to be involved in discipleship any more than anyone forced you to become a disciple. We must get out of our minds that discipleship is a chore that all Christians must do in order to be "holy" and begin to realize the simple truth that becoming a disciple is not an instant process, but a progressive one. At the moment of salvation, when we first accept Jesus as our Savior, we are His. We require nothing more to enter Heaven and spend eternity with Him. However, this does not also mean that we are also at this moment made perfect and no longer sin. It is at the point of salvation that the journey of faith begins. Each and everyday we are faced with opportunities and choices... it is what they do with them that determines what and who we are.

The second hurdle is misuse.

Often times in discipleship teachings and circles the process has been relegated to a system that everyone must follow. Step A, then step B, so on and so forth. Each and every believer is thrown into the same mechanical machine in order to come out exactly the same on the other side. This is flawed for two reasons:

(a) we are not the same; yes, we are all to reflect Christ, but all one must do is look at the early church throughout the gospels and acts to see that there was a wide diversity of personalities within the Body of Christ.

(b) we aren't really trying to make followers of Christ, we're just trying to make followers... Sadly, there are many ministries and teachings that take the "follow me as I follow Christ" principle and neglect or negate the latter half of the concept. "Follow me" is much easier to say and apply. However, without the balance of following Christ, (and being held accountable for it) we can get very far off topic and away from Jesus desire for His church.

The third problem is that of misapplication.

Most of us have been taught about discipleship from people who have fallen into either one or both of the previous errors. Because of this, we then misapply the concept and practice of discipleship in our lives. For example:

Young Christians are usually taught to read the Bible, pray daily, and go to church... and somehow in that magical formula God will begin to grow your faith. However, if and when it doesn't work out right, or you get discouraged and tired, then it's YOUR fault for not having enough faith.

Does anyone else see the blindly obvious contradiction here!

If it works... it was all God...
if it doesn't... it's all your fault...


No matter what your thoughts or experiences with discipleship are or have been, it is an integral part of the Christian life that can not be ignored or discarded. We must fight for correct understanding, usage, and application of Christ's teaching and mindset if we are to make a difference in our world.

- Just a thought.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Grazing and Feasting

In spending some time in prayer this morning, frustrated with many aspects of my life right now, I truly feel that God spoke to me. Not in a loud booming voice, or even an audible whisper, but a simple truth emerged in my mind that wasn't there when I started praying.

Lately I've been very focused on the concept of growth. (Lately is really an understatement, to be honest I'm kinda obsessed about the whole thing) I'm always trying to better understand and better practice spiritual growth in my life. And with the advent of our new church starting, my weekly discipleship lunch has also got me praying for and involved in the growth of my friends as well.

It was on this topic that I was talking to God and trying to understand why I feel like I'm not growing... and how can I help my friends to grow if I myself don't feel like I'm growing the way that I should! The first clear rebuke I got was obvious. I don't necessarily grow the way "I" want to, but as a single tree in the Father's orchard of faith, I am to grow according to the Masters plan.

However, the second thing that the Lord spoke to me cut much deeper. I was asking about the time that we spend together both in prayer and in the Word... am I doing it right?

Now, I have to say, for someone who has been a full time "pastor" and worked in the ministry, this was a humbling and scary question to ask. I've had plenty of warm-hearted, well-intentioned, godly men either teach me or tell me what a "quite time" is supposed to be like, but I've never felt like it was "mine". I never owned the idea. I've always seen it as a ritual of faith that everyone says you need to do in order to be a better Christian. It never seemed "personal" enough for me.

Here's what I feel I learned this morning:

Most Christians "graze" when it comes to spending time with God. They hunt and peck at the Word, reading a little here and there. Some might even follow a schedule or pattern, but still are just grazing or blindly reading the words on the page. Their prayers are either self-focused, or scattered and random as the thoughts come scattered across the dusty floorboards of their mind. They spend the time, time being the operative word, and think that this is what is expected.

(I must admit, many times, this is me)

However, Jesus said:

"I am the manna that fell from heaven"
"I am the bread of life"
"... I will give him living water"
"... He who drinks of this water will never be thirsty again"

The real difference between grazing and feasting is not actually in the amount of food that is eaten, although, that's the obvious choice. The real difference is in the attitude and hunger of the individual BEFORE they get to the food. If you are completely full and a table of snacks and food is placed in front of you, you will graze possibly, to be gracious to your host, and not be disrespectful. However, if the same spread of food is placed in front of you and you are starving and hungry for food, you would not apologize, but dig in unashamed.

This is the difference that we must understand when approaching a "quiet time"...

(btw... I don't like that term, it's just makes me feel like kindergarden and I'm in trouble again)

If we too "full" of ourselves and our life's activities to spend the time, or have the desire to interact with God, it is not the amount of sustenance that God offers us that needs to change, but our attitude.

"It is our attitude of approach that will determine how much
(or how little) we get out of communion with the Almighty."

Monday, February 23, 2009

The PR Problem

I have to admit that closer that we get to our new organic church, the more and more excited I become. I have had more than a few conversations with friends and family. Some have been very supportive, others have been less. But, there is an overwhelming themes that keeps re-emerging in different conversations at different times. It is to this theme that I would like to address my attention.

Most Christians when I share with them the basic idea of organic faith and organic church are supportive of the concept. (It would be hard to still be a Christian and not support evangelism) However, most are also skeptical and weary. Not in the mission, but in the method. I have been inundated with questions and issues such as doctrinal integrity, positional authority, and even flawed structure or thinking. Though, I do believe some of these issues are valid and should be discussed, think they are putting the cart before the horse.

Personal Responsibility should be the first concern. So many of us who have grown up "in church" see ourselves as part of the whole, which we most certainly are, without seeing ourselves as the individuals that we also are. This is not a mutually exclusive relationship.

We are each an individual ambassador of Christ


We are each part of the whole that is the Bride of Christ

We see this personal responsibility in the words of Christ:

"If anyone would come after me,
he must deny himself
and take up his cross and follow me."

This quote from Jesus is recorded in three of the four gospels: Matt 16:24, Mark 8:34, and Luke 9:23. Jesus said "he" and "his" not "they" and "theirs". The responsibility to both carry and proclaim the gospel is personal... not corporate.

All too often we get so used to being a part of a church and participating in the activities and programs of that church that we think that that is all that we need do in order to be an active member of the Body and the Fellowship of Christ. But this is no more than a cruel lie from the enemy himself.

By steering our minds to the concept that being a member or supporter of a church or ministry is ALL that we are to do... he has incapacitated generations of Christians! Weakened and marginalized, many believers now sit helplessly on the sidelines while the battle for souls rages right in front of their eyes! And the sad reality is... some don't even know it.

We are to be a member of a body of believers. That is clear. But, we are not meant to be passive or inactive as members. Being a part of a football team doesn't negate the player from action. Neither should being a member of a local church cause us to abdicate our personal responsibility to share the gospel and relegate it to the pastor and his staff.

Throughout scripture and the church age that has followed one thing has held constant. When true followers of Christ took personal responsibility to grow in faith, share their faith, and disciple others in the faith the result was renewal, revival, and reformation.

- Just a thought.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Would You Take the Red Pill?

I had the fortune of spending a nice lazy day at home on Saturday doing laundry and basically being lazy. So, I decided for my daily dose of entertainment, to watch the matrix trilogy. After watching it again, I am more convinced that there is a great parallel that can be drawn from the matrix to the church of today...

(Before I go on, I would like to make something clear. I love the church. I in no way want to be seen as anti-church or anti-Christian. I do believe however, that many followers of Christ do not fulfill the command or commission of Christ because they think the church does it for them. In this light, I make my analogy.)

As I watched the trilogy again, I became very aware of the symbiotic relationship between the people and the matrix. The matrix needs the people plugged in so that it could survive. But, the other side of that coin that was pointed out by Morpheus in the first movie is that as long as the people were still hooked into the matrix they were dependent on it (or at least the machines that ran it) for their survival. Because of the situation that existed, the matrix lulled the human race into a state of comatosed passivity in order to keep them as a life-giving force that was under their control.

A few observations I would like to make:

1. The Christian and the Church do have a purposed symbiotic relationship today.

As much as people like to say, "I can be a Christian and not go to church", this is not Biblical or accurate. Christ was very clear in many of His teachings, and we see this evidenced in the early church. There was no "one man is an island" mentality. The Body is one. The Family is one. The church is meant to be one. Anyone who refuses to be a part of a church is either immature and doesn't understand the true teachings of Scripture, or is injured and acting out of hurt and bitterness. We must realize that as the many parts of the one whole, we are all equally responsible and equally accountable for the spreading of the Gospel. We must see this as a personal responsibility and not shirk it off to the church thinking that it is there job to do.

This is where I believe we as individuals need to grow.

However, being a part of a body of believers, at least in the Biblical sense, is more that what we see in our churches today. Our performer/spectator style of having church today does not meet the full biblical teaching of an "every member functioning" body of believers. The reformation helped solidify the priesthood of all believers, but we don't have that in practice in our churches. Likewise, Jesus came to abolish the Old Testament method of worship: Temples as the only place of worship, Priests that stood between God and His people, and ritualized worship activities that were repeated. Yet, when one takes a step back from our modern-day churches we see a lot of this same activity going on. We have just replaced the Temple with the Church, the Priest with the Pastor, and one set of rituals for another. Secondly, the larger a traditional church gets, the more buildings, property, staff, and general overhead it must have. This then increases the need for people to stay "plugged in" and drives us to a more entrainment driven or at the least program driven ministry. This again does not fit in with the original mission and goal of the early church.

This is where I believe we as the church need to grow.

The reality is, like the in the matrix, the life-giving force that radiates from a person is not contingent upon anything. We as believers and followers of Christ are already tapped into the well-spring of life. It is undeniable and it is uncontainable. But because of our desire to have larger churches, and possibly our desire to have less personal responsibility, we have created a matrix that we stay passively plugged into.

We must take the words of our Lord and Savior not as a corporate command for churches and organizations, but as a personal mission for every believer in their everyday life:

"...go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you." Matt 28:19-20

- Just a thought.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Silent Partner

I was reading the beginning of Acts this morning, and I stumbled across a story that I know I have ready many times, but this morning something new jumped out at me from the pages of my Bible. The story is from Acts 3:1-10. In Acts chapter 2 the Holy Spirit came down on the day of Pentecost, then Peter preaches to the city of Jerusalem and 3,000 people were added to the church, and the chapter concludes with a fellowship of the early church. That is a great progression of events all in themselves. But we'll save that for another day.

Here we pick up the narrative with Peter and John going to the temple to pray at the "ninth hour" or three in the afternoon. There is a crippled man, who was born crippled, lying at the entrance begging for money from those going in. Peter walks up to him and says, "Look at me". After getting the man's attention, he tells him that he doesn't have any money, but what he does have he will give him. "In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, get up and walk." And the man is healed.

I can't tell you how many times I have read this small interaction outside the temple, or worse, just skimmed over it while reading about something else and not paid attention to it. But this morning, still in the throes of my hazy journey of faith, something startled me that I hadn't considered before...

In the previous chapter Peter had just delivered a very passionate bold message to the city about Jesus. So, he obviously had some boldness. (Remember this is the same Peter that walked on and then sank into the ocean, and the same Peter that cowered in front of a servant girl and denied Christ three times) But that wasn't what I thought about first. I thought, if I was Peter who's opinion would I be more afraid of: the crippled man I don't know or my friend?

Often times we do not share or exercise our spiritual muscle not because we are afraid of strangers, although let's face it, that's a big reason, but because we are not comfortable sharing our gifts openly with people we already know. Don't forget the silent partner in this story, the Apostle John.

The same John that was there:

the first day they were called to be fishers of men
when Jesus healed the daughter of Jairus
on the mount of transfiguration
in the garden of Gethsemane

The power of friendship and relationship, in my opinion, is the single greatest tool that we have when serving Christ. Peter, James and John were in the thick of it no matter where they were. Jesus had the twelve, but within them he had the three. It is this relationship, combined with the empowering of the Holy Spirit, that was the recipe for the great boldness that we see in much of the early church.

But for me, I don't actively do a lot of "ministry" with my friends... or even my family. In fact, I am down right afraid to "step out on faith" in front of some of my family! So, where's the disconnect? I don't have the full benefit of the support that God intended for me to have because I haven't nurtured and grown Godly friendships and relationships that will encourage not just my growing in faith but my acting in faith. It is not enough to simply grow in faith. We must be ready to act in faith, and support those who do.

Do you have the boldness to "shoot from the hip" and act in faith?
Do you have friendships with people who would support you and act or react with you?

- Just a thought.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Haze of Uncertainty

I apologize that I have not made a new post in a while. I have been very pensive (and distracted honestly) about many things. But, I have come up with an answer that I would like to share with you. However, before you can understand the answer, we must understand the question...

The question (and somewhat personal crisis) that I have been facing is what is my role in the Body of Christ. If you had asked me that six months ago, I would have known exactly what I was. I was a pastor. My calling and job was to pastor God's people, to lead them to follow Him, and my future goal was to pastor my own church. But, as my heart began to follow the path of organic church and then organic faith, I found myself diverging from my intended destination. I found my heart and passion at odds with my head knowledge and what I thought I was supposed to be doing. It is in this haze that I have been aimlessly groping around in for the past week.

At this point I would love to tell you that I have emerged from the haze, the better man, with a clear vision and understanding from God as to what the future of my life, my family, and our ministry holds... but that's not the case...

I have made a few smaller discoveries that I believe are helping me map my way out of the dark:

1. I am a prideful, arrogant, selfish man who's dreams of ministerial grandeur were rooted in as much self-service as self-sacrifice.

I realize that this is mostly my problem, but pride is not so exclusive in it's enticements. We all are tempted by the things that appeal to us. In our search and desire to see Christ's church and one day His Kingdom come to reality, we must be sure that we are not wondering who or where we will be in it. However, there does exist a 'false-humility' in many Christians today that is just as dangerous, if not more, than pride itself. There are those who deny themselves certain things or abstain from certain activities so that other will see it and think that they are more 'holy'. This is also very dangerous. At the point which we begin to do any type of ministry from a "self" driven standpoint, we have lost the true message of the gospel and will be held accountable for our actions.

2. In order for Christ to fully operate in and through His people, they must all stand on equal ground.

This issue has two faces. For those of us who are used to leading, speaking, preaching, etc in the church, we are naturally going to want to speak out more. This is an injustice to the rest of the body. Likewise, the people who just simply go to church and are not accustomed to speaking out are robbing the rest of the body of their knowledge and input. But either way you look at it, it's the same problem with the same solution. John the Baptist said it best in the gospel of John, "I must decrease, so that He may increase."

3. The mission must always be more important that the messenger.

All to often we get distracted by the messenger. Either we don't like him or her, so we refuse to listen to the message at all... or the reverse... we are so enamored with the messenger that it doesn't matter what the message is, we receive it without hesitation. You can clearly see the danger with both of these mindsets. The early church in the book of Acts must have sounded like a broken record to the people of their day. They had one message. And they wore it out! They focused not on who was carrying the message, but who was receiving the message. Somewhere along the line we have gotten these lines crossed and they desperately need to be righted.

As I said in the beginning, I have not fully emerged from the fog of questions that I have about my faith, but what I do have is a new found passion and excitement that I can not hide from. Being a follower of Christ can no longer be relegated to going to church twice a week for me. It has become a day to day, passionate reality to both reflect Christ into my world and to watch Him work through me to accomplish His mission.

" If you don't know where you are,
how will you know where you're growing? "

- Just a thought.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

What are we...?

In talking with people about my last few blog posts an interesting question has come up that I thought I would address. I was asked if I think that my analogy of spiritual growth to natural growth was true for everybody. The question was since we are all not the same, then how can this analogy apply to everyone?

This was my response:

I agree that we are all not the same, but regardless, we all grow the same. The apple tree, the grapevine, and the rose garden are all very different in nature, but they all use the same three elements to grow: sun, water, and soil. Likewise we all may be different, but not that different. We are all God's creation, made in His image, put on this earth to multiply and subdue it. (Gen 1:28) If we have called on Christ for salvation, we are all members of one body. (Rom 12:5)


I think we are missing one big point here... and that is that the seed of faith that is planted in each of us is not FROM us. We are not growing more of us (cause that would be weird). We are growing the seed of faith. Jesus, in Matt 13:3-38, gave several organic growth parables. There are different kinds of soil, but only one seed and one sower. We are merely the soil that the seed is sown into, not the seed itself. We are not responsible for the growth. We can't control the growth.

If the:

The seed is the Word of God...
The sower is Jesus Christ...
The field is the world...

...then the crop is faith in Jesus Christ. Our responsibility is not to be the seed, the sower or the field, those have been given to us. Our responsibility is to grow in faith, and like any other plant that exists, we must multiply when we mature.

- Just a thought.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

A Well Balanced Diet (Part 3)

In 'Well Balanced part 3', we took a deeper look at the three elements that nurture the growth of faith. What I would like to look at today is what can happen if they are not kept in balance. Fellowship, Worship, and Discipleship are as necessary to the life of faith as sun, water, and soil are to the life of any living plant. But, just as the natural elements each pose a specific threat if taken to an extreme, so the spiritual elements will do the same thing.


When fellowship becomes the unbalanced focus of the Christian life, it takes the focus off of Christ and places it on the individual and their circle of friends. This is obviously not what the Christian life is meant to be. This is where the 'us four and no more' mentality is very prevalent. We get so focused on fellowshiping with fellow Christians, and spending time together, that we think that we are the focus of the Christian life. We get lulled into a false sense of holiness and become standoff-ish and judgemental. It is the heart of worship and the discipline of discipleship that keeps this danger in check.


When worship becomes the unbalanced focus of the Christian life, it takes the focus off of Christ and places it on the experience or emotion of worshiping, not the person whom we worship. This is a very difficult line for some to see, but the reality is that worship is not meant for us. We are to give glory and praise to God because of who He is and what He's done, not how it makes us feel. Yes, true worship is an emotional experience, but it's not the emotion that makes the experience. Especially in charismatic and pentecostal circles, this line is very blurry if it's there at all. True worship should be born out of heart of humility, not experiential emotion. It is the community of fellowship and the discipline of discipleship that keeps this danger in check.


When discipleship becomes the unbalanced focus of the Christian life, it takes the focus off of Christ and places it on legalistic rules. This is the sad reality that many Christians are faced with. A system of judgemental rules and guidelines that are supposed to make you more 'holy' or 'righteous' but in reality just make you tired and afraid. Jesus did not teach from a legalistic standpoint. The pharisees did... to them the only way to please God was through legalism. But Jesus came to bring freedom. I do not believe that then have the freedom to do anything. We must live in the freedom of Christ. That is the freedom to live for Him, to be like Him, and to reveal Him. Our actions, choices, and lifestyle should reflect a desire to love and serve Jesus, not exemplify a life of servitude to a legalistic law that was abolished on Calvary. It is the community of fellowship and the true heart of worship that keeps this danger in check.

Too much or too little of any of the elements of growth will result in abnormal growth at best, and death if not properly addressed. Do you tend to lean towards one of the elements? Make a conscious choice to involve yourself in the other two to create balance and hopefully spur on some spiritual growth.

- Just a thought.

Monday, February 2, 2009

A Well Balanced Diet (Part 2)

As I pointed out in the first 'well balanced' article, our faith, like other organic life forms needs three elements to grow:

1. Fellowship
2. Worship
3. Discipleship

And, just like the plants that grow with sun, water, and soil, if the elements needed for growth get out of balance, that causes specific problems. What I would like to look at in this article is a little deeper look at each of the elements.

(Again, I would like to point out that I do not believe that you can have "too much" of any of these elements. It only becomes excess when not kept in balance with the other two.)


This is a 'christian-ese" term that we here a whole lot of, but no one really defines it. Spending time together is a common definition. If you belong to certain denominations, then fellowship usually means food. While others fellowship is a sanctified activity that only the saints of God can partake in. No matter how you define the word, it's not really that word that matters. Fellowship is what should be happening when two or more people, who genuinely care and have concern for one another, spend time together. I do not believe that a certain activity, food group, or sanctification is necessary, only the desire to deepen a relationship.


Probably more than any other singular term in all of Christendom, the concept and expression of worship has caused more strife and division among the members of the body of Christ. The "worship wars" as they are called are completely ridiculous when you take into account that fact that worship is not music! Yes, we can worship with music, or to music, but the reality is that worship is not music. It is the expression of love, thanksgiving, and exaltation of God by us, His creation. We should be involved in worship every day. Dare I say all day. Is there not a moment when you can stop what you are doing to recognize the Divine in the day to day. Say "Thank you, Lord" for something in your life. That is worship. How can we expect to be able to worship corporately if we don't worship personally?


In my opinion, this is the last talked about and yet, most needed element for the Church today. Discipleship is no more than the process of becoming a disciple. That's it. People try to put a lot of other things in with it, but at its base principle, it is not more than becoming more like Christ as you strive to be a follower of Christ. This is sadly missing from many churches and lives of Christians. We don't want to confront sin, or tell people they can't or shouldn't do this or that, because it might offend them. The reality is Jesus talked more about what we SHOULD DO than what we SHOULD NOT DO. I think the reason we have fewer Christians practicing discipleship, is because they are focused on the Old Testament's concept of 'Thou Shalt Not' and not on the message of love and freedom of Christ.

Take a personal inventory of your current life. Do you have all three elements firing in your life. Not just passive attendance of a worship service, but working in action in your life?

What can you (are you) going to do about it?

- Just a thought.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

A Well Balanced Diet

As I said yesterday, all living plants have the same life cycle, basically, in common. I would like to take that a step further. All living plants do have the same life cycle, but they also require the same things in order to grow. They are :

1. Sun
2. Water
3. Soil

(yes I realize that oceanic plants and some others don't use "soil" to get nutrients, but the principle is still the same... just let me get there.)

As I said, before I was so rudely interrupted, by me...

Ah yes... Sun, Water, Soil...

These are the three basic elements of life for any type of plant on earth. Each of these elements provides a different aspect of nutrition to the plant. Each one adding to the health of the plant. There is a delicate balance that must be maintained between them. Too much of any one element or not enough of any one element and the plant can not thrive, it may survive, but it will not flourish and be as fruitful as it was created to be.

Too much sun... the plant is scorched and burned

Too much water... the plant will drown or be washed away

Too much soil... the seed won't be able to reach the surface and will die underground

For any career farmer, or even your weekend gardener, these are very real dangers that must be kept in check as the plant is first starting to grow. As the tree or shrub matures, it will be able to take more abuse if things were not as they should be, but in the beginning of its life-cycle, the balance is literally a life and death struggle.

I believe that growing in faith is the same way. As believers we require three separate and distinct elements in order to grow spiritually.

1. Fellowship
1. Worship
1. Discipleship

Just as with the plant, each of these elements provides something different to the life-cycle of faith and the health of the Christian. They also must be kept in proper balance, just like their organic counter-parts, if they are to yield the best fruit in the person's life. I do not believe that there can be "too much" of any one of these elements in our lives, but just like the plant, I do believe there is a very real danger if they get out of balance and one area become the focus.

We must strive in our daily lives as well as our corporate lives as bodies of believers to keep balance in our faith. We must realize that just like the brand new plant that has just broken ground, a new believer is just as fragile in their understanding and experience of living the faith we are in. For their sake, if not our own, we must provide them a "well balanced diet" if we expect them to grow and become healthy enough to reproduce themselves.

- Just a thought.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Gardening tips from a non-gardener

I've never really been one for gardening. My parents always had a garden when I was growing up. Several in fact. We had squash, zucchini, strawberries, blackberries, tomatoes, cucumbers, etc. It was really nice to be able to go out into the backyard and grab a few fresh veggies to cook for dinner. But, I'm sorry, I'm a child of the 80's. I'm sure I still have a little bit of Nintendo and Thundercats coursing through my veins. So, I never really payed that much attention when I was working in the garden. I just followed directions (sometimes better than others) while my mind was somewhere else.

Well, as I have been walking down this path of organic faith and church, I have come to the conclusion that the best education for understanding the spiritual nature of God's creation is to look at the physical nature of what He left us. If you look at the way Jesus taught about faith and the kingdom, you will see he used a lot of analogies, most of them were organic in nature. I would like to use an organic illustration of my own.

All the plants on earth have, just about, the same life cycle and growth pattern:

A seed is planted...

It begins to take root...

A sapling or shoot emerges...

The plant begins to mature...

The plant spreads seeds of it's own.

Like clockwork. Without fail. Every time. It doesn't matter if we are talking about the mighty redwoods of the west coast or the seemingly insignificant dandelion in your backyard, the process is still the same. Every time.

I think there is a HUGE lesson for us to learn here as it applies to spiritual growth and maturity. First off, the process for growing in faith is exactly the same. I don't know why we try to complicate a simple process that God has put into place. When the seed of salvation in Christ is planted and allowed to take root, (cause let's be honest, some people pull that seed right back out of the ground and then wonder why it didn't grow) the flower of faith will begin to grow. Not long after that, again if allowed to grow, the maturity of that believer will be evident. Yet, that person is still not fully grown. This is where we miss a lot of the picture. Just as in the life cycle of the plant, a follower of Christ is not fully matured until that person can plant seeds of their own in other people's lives.

Let's be real here, any plant that does not reproduce, in one generation will die out completely. That's all it takes. One generation who is less concerned with multiplying and more concerned with "mega-fying". We must, as the Body of Christ, the expression of His church, and the embodiment of His love for this world, be willing to set aside our own person gain or growth to do what we were created to do.

"Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds." - Jesus (John 12:24)

- Just a thought.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Where's the fruit?

Like the famed Wendy's ad campaign, "Where's the beef?", I think many people both in and out of the Christian church are left asking a simple question...

"What's the difference?"

To expound on that mindset, it may sound more like this:

"What's the difference anyway? All religions are the same. They all teach you to be a better person, to be nice to other people, to live life they way they tell you to... and oh, yeah... they all want your money!"

Let's just be honest, in our pluralistic and relativistic society, this mindset and worldview is paramount. You will not be able to have many conversations with everyday people from different walks of life and not run into this position somewhere. It is pervasive. It has so entrenched itself into our culture under the guise of 'tolerance' or 'acceptance' that it is thought to be wrong if you hold to a different viewpoint.

My opinion on this issue is two-fold. The first is philosophical, the second is more practical.

First, I wholeheartedly believe that the only truly intolerant view is ultra-tolerance. What I mean by that is this. By whittling away at the differences and unique characteristics of our different cultures or faiths, we have forced everyone to uniformity. That, by definition is intolerance! Now, if you are so weak in your faith that you can't see anyone who disagrees with you as anything but an enemy that must be attacked, that that is your problem. But to ignore everyone's individual ability to choose a belief system (or not to choose) or to tell them that they can not express their belief system because someone else might not agree with it, is just as intolerant.

Second, and this is where the rubber meets the road for followers of Christ. If we have brought our faith to a point where it seems to be equal to everything else in our culture, that we as the messengers of God's love and compassion, have failed in our mission. To borrow from the Wendy's ad campaign... "Where's the fruit?"

The early church had nothing to depend on to carry their message of love, compassion, forgiveness, salvation, and community except themselves. They did not have printed ad campaigns, movie trailers, websites, or any of the major marketing tools that we see in use today. And yet, in one generation they were able to carry the Gospel of Christ from one end of the known world to the other.


Because, no one had to ask them where the fruit was!!! They lived out of the love of Christ, they were moved by the Spirit of God, and they impacted their community wherever they went. That is the real fruit of the Gospel. It's a life that is lived in such a way that the power, love, compassion, and salvation that comes in Jesus Christ alone can not be denied.

One final thought about fruit is this, there are a few tests that any good fruit must pass if we are going to want to eat it:

1. Looks - Does it look good? If it looks rotten or bruised we're not going to want to even pick it up

2. Smell - What kind of aroma does it have. What kind of impression does it leave behind? Even if it looks good, but we can't get passed the less than obvious stench, we're still not going to taste it.

3. Taste - (This is where we really drop the ball) How does it taste? Even if I think the look is ok, and it doesn't smell too bad, if I bite into it and it leaves a less than desirable after-taste in my mouth, do you really expect me to try it again?

Finally, to express this another way:

A = Life with Christ
B = Life without Christ

If, A = B, then Christ is worth nothing

If, A < B, then Christ is a negative

If, A > B, then Christ is a positive

Only when we can express "A > B" with our very lives, will we see the uncontainable, unstoppable, unequaled gospel of the New Testament active today.

- Just a thought.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Simple Math

“When the Greeks got the gospel, they turned it into a philosophy; when the Romans got it, they turned it into a government; when the Europeans got it, they turned it into a culture; and when the Americans got it, they turned it into a business.” - Richard Halverson

How chillingly true this statement is. At the heart of the issue for me is the organizational foundation of the church. What I mean by that is this:

Most of the modern expression of the church that we see today is built on paradigms. A paradigm is no more than a way to do something. A plan. I'm sure you've heard of some of these terms.. the seeker model, the worship model, the discipleship model... so on and so forth. Yet, underneath every one of these models is the same thing... a paradigm built on programs. And as we all know, people's tastes change. As the taste or paradigm of culture changes... so must the church if it wants to keep up.

This is where I believe the heart of the problem is... paradigms of programs aren't self-sustaining or self-multiplying. They are reliant on the culture as their medium of connection. This is why we see people "discuss" (often times, argue) about what should and should not be "in the church". Everything from music, lights, sound equipment, stages, instruments, etc have all been debated and decided on based on our culture.

Yet, the early church carried the gospel from one end of the known world to the the other. Crossing cultural, ethnic, language, and geographic boundaries without much hindrance. What was their secret? I believe it was a simple one. The simple and organic message of the gospel was so transmittable that no matter what type of soil it was placed in, it grew. This, by its very nature, could not have been based on paradigms or programs. The power of the message of Jesus is that is based on principles not programs and character not culture. This empowered and enabled the early church to carry the message of Christ wherever they could and know that it would still take root.

I think we, as the modern day church, need to take a look at ourselves and our churches and ask some tough questions.

What is the medium in which my faith is expressed...
Culture or Character?

What is the method on which my church is built...
Programs or Principles?

What is the result of my faith in church...
Entitlement or Empowerment?

Put another way, I believe the following to be true:

Culture + Programs = the Entitlement of faith

Character + Principles = the Empowerment of faith

- Just a thought.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

How can it be?...

I was at the chamber of commerce building yesterday finishing up my last meeting of the day, when someone asked me a question about our new church. I gladly tried to give them the best answer I could. We then got into a very interesting conversation that I thought was worth noting. Once I finished sharing my views and beliefs about Christianity and such. My friend, Mike, recounted a story of when he was a young catholic adolescent and some people came to his door.

They preceded to tell him that only their certain group of people were going to get into heaven and that he needed to know that he was in that group. And then before they could finish, Mike turned the tables on them with this simple logic problem

(A) God is loving and merciful.

(B) Sending half (or more) of the world's population to hell is not loving or merciful.

How then can God, being loving and merciful, send all those people to hell?

They floundered for a second, starting rifling through their bibles, and began to read him individual scriptures to justify their position.

"But, how can that be?" he retorted

The conversation finally ended and neither side had really done anything of value. The newcomers left and Mike went on as he was doing. But, I do think that this question is still a valid one, and one that we still face today, so I'll try to answer it to the best of my ability.

First... God is loving and merciful. This is undeniable. BUT, that's not ALL that God is. He is also just. And you can not take any one part of God's personality and extract it to be the whole of his personality, any more than you could do that for any of us.

God is mercifully loving... He is lovingly just... and He is justly merciful.

When you look at all the character of God, and not just the part you want to see, it becomes much clearer. Just as much as a parent today would have to deny their child the gift they promised them, if the aforementioned criteria was not met. So a just, loving, and merciful Father does the same.

Where is the love? In the giving us a way out, through Jesus on the cross.

Where is the mercy? In letting us choose Christ up until the very last second of His return regardless of our circumstances, actions, motivations, lifestyle, race, gender, ethnicity, etc.

Where is the justice. In keeping to the words He has already spoken and holding us accountable for our choices and actions.

I think if we are truly made in the image of God... and we truly want to reflect Him to our world... then we should strive to have these three attributes in correct balance in our own lives.

- Just a thought.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

From Disciple to Denial

As I was reading Galatians this morning, I stumbled on a passage that I have read/heard many times, but suddenly, it all started to make sense. Let's take a look the Apostle Peter:

When Peter was finally realized Jesus was the Son of God, he fell to his feet and asked Jesus to go away, because he was a sinful man (Luke 5:8)

He was called to apostleship by Jesus on his fishing boat. (Luke 5:10-11)

Peter was one of the three closest to Jesus inside the twelve apostles (Mark 5:37, Mark 9:2, Mark 14:33)

At the last supper, Peter pledges his dying devotion to Jesus (Matt 26:33)

In the Garden of Gethsemane, Peter in passionate defense of Jesus, cuts off the ear of the high priest's servant. (John 18:9-11)

After Jesus' betrayal comes the famous trice denial of Jesus. (Matt 26:75)

On the day of Pentecost, Peter stands up in front of the crowd and delivers a message and 3,000 people got saved. (Acts 2:41)

During Paul's ministry, Peter was rebuked because he was being influenced by the circumcision group (a group that was trying to make the new gentile believers follow Jewish customs) and not allowing gentiles to live in the freedom of Christ. (Gal 2:14)

Just look at the facts... Peter was not a steady, perfect, unwavering believer. He had his personality and self to deal with throughout his ministry. This makes me feel much better personally, because I don't know about you, but I just can't seem to live up to the standard of perfection. I try, and I fail... and I try again, and I fail again. It is this never-ending cycle of constantly seeking to attain perfecting that I think achieves humility and grace. As long as we are cloaked in these meat-sacks of flesh we call bodies, we will never be able to rid ourselves of the sin that is so inherently within them (Rom 7:22-24).

But, there is hope. Not just hope, but honestly, comical hope. If Jesus, being fully God and fully man while He was on earth, still chose Peter to be one of his closest friends and most trusted disciples, then I think we can all rejoice in the fact that we don't need to be perfect. Don't forget that it was Peter that gave the great confession (Matt 16:13-16), "You are the Christ, Son of the Living God" and yet was still able to deny he ever knew Him.

I said all of that to get to this... all to often we get caught up in wallowing in sin, and not walking in grace. I am not saying use grace as a license to sin, but I am saying that when you sin, ask for forgiveness, apologize to the Lord for faltering, then pick yourself up and get on with it. Do not allow the enemy to use your sin as a foothold for bondage.

If Peter could run the gambit from disciple to denial, can't you cut yourself some slack?

- Just a thought.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Our Greatest Strength

I have been wondering for some times, as I have listened to and read the Bible, what the personalities and thoughts of some of the Biblical characters were like. I know, I know, they were totally holy, barely sinned, and all spoke in perfect King James English... but beyond that, what were their personal struggles like. I know for me, living out my faith and being an expression and reflection of Christ's love for the world is not always easy. So, I assume, that being human, the early apostles and disciples had some of the same feelings.

Then I began to meditate on the idea that His strength is made perfect in my weakness (2 Cor 12:9). I do not want to be one of those 'holier than thou' Christians, but I also do not want to make the mistake of hiding who and what I am just to be accepted by people. I found this to be a very slippery slope, on both sides, and was wanting to know what this verse meant. To be strong in the midst of weakness for me is a little hard to fathom. Yes, I realize those who are super spiritual will say, "You just need to trust God" or "You need to have more faith" Both of which are true statements, but neither of which are obvious practical examples for me to follow.

And then it hit me...

The book of Acts focuses mainly on two different apostles. The first half is focused on Peter, while the second half follow Paul. Both men were obviously led by the Spirit and are both worth trying to emulate. (all except that martyrdom thing, I'd like to pass on that)


Paul was a pharisee of pharisees. He was thoroughly trained in the law of Moses under a teacher named Gamaliel (Acts 22:3). He was both passionate and zealous for holiness and obedience to God. So, much so, that he could bring the new found followers of Christ to Jerusalem to be punished (Acts 22:5). He would be the perfect person to send to tell the message of the love of Jesus to a Jewish nation. He was trained for it. He was known for it. He was the top of food chain in religious standing with the Jews.


Peter was a fisherman (Luke 5:2-3). He was your regular, run-of-the-mill Jewish guy making a living doing what his father had taught him how to do. He was a career worker, not a intellectual or a pharisee (Acts 4:13). He understood things like the ocean, tides, and fish... and yet, he and his brother Andrew are among the first disciples who are called. James and John, fishing partners of theirs, were also called out of this occupation (Luke 5:10). Jesus even goes one step further and in His band of twelve apostles, selects three of them to be closer to Him. These three were Peter, James and John (Mark 5:37, Mark 9:2, Mark 14:33)

But wait a minute....

On the contrary, they saw that I (Paul) had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, just as Peter had been to the Jews. (Gal 2:7)

Paul was the one that was sent to the gentiles, and Peter to the Jews. That seems a little backwards doesn't it? Paul was the one with the training in Jewish law and religious standing. Peter was just a fisherman. Likewise, as a fisherman, Peter probably would have been a little more accepted by the gentiles, on the mere fact that he was a little more 'blue collar'.

And here is the beauty and majesty of God's sovereignty...

God called both men to minister in the area where they could not stand on their own strength and knowledge. They needed to guidance and reliance on the Holy Spirit in order to accomplish their task. This is not to say that they could not use their past experiences and knowledge, but it would not have been enough to do it on their own.

This is the perfection of Jesus' strength filling our weakness. When we can stand in the place of ministry and NOT be able to do it ourselves. Not because we are choosing not to... but because in and of ourselves, we simply don't measure up.

If we don't give ourselves the opportunity to fail, we never allow God the opportunity to succeed.

- Just a thought.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Fake it 'till you make it.

I'm sure we have all heard this phrase at one time or another. If you haven't, I'm both shocked and envious. But, I would like to explore this phrase a bit deeper, especially its implications in the world of ministry.

The sad reality is that this attitude, more than any other, has indoctrinated the ministry culture America today. Thousands of ministers, though they would never admit it publicly are caught in this web of "justified deception". You see, here's the problem that many full-time ministers face:

1. If you work for the church, and are supposed to be the 'head' and spiritual guidance, you can not then ask your church or prayer when you are struggling with something. Because, your livelihood and income depends on them looking up to you and wanting to follow you. (That's a whole 'nother post waiting to happen)

2. You also can not really talk to other ministers, because lets face it, they gossip a lot more than most people, and if you're in that crowd you know it. Also, you need to protect your career and possible future opportunities, so if you have a secret that gets out, it might make things worse for your later.

3. Because of these first two causes, the result is you develop a plastic layer on the outside of your personality (and in my opinion soul) that reflects the "Godly" character that you are expected to portray. And in doing this, you have cauterized yourself into a lonely, self-loathing box that unless you continue to 'fake it' you can not escape from.

I realize that many of you may not have experienced the dark evil underbelly of the major machine of ministry. But, let me assure you, it is real. And it is well oiled and ready for action every Sunday.

I do not fault the pastors and lay ministers that get caught up in this cycle with 100% of the blame for this tragedy. They are just a much, if not more, the victims of this wretchedly repetitive cycle as the rest of us. The only difference is, they suffer in the quite serenity of an empty sanctuary each and every day while the rest of us go to work.

If we continue to "fake" it, then do we ever really ever "make" it? Honestly, if the victory you receive is won by ill-gotten means, is it still a victory? Have you really won anything of value? I believe if we are to break the vicious cycle of vapid vanity in the church, then we must do away with the old thinking that sanctified is perfect. We, as sinful humans, though we are created in the image of God, are not gods ourselves, and even with the blood of Jesus, are still not perfect... So, why do we try to act like it?! If we really want to be the Body of Christ and minister to one another the way that Jesus intended for us to do...

We must embrace our weaknesses and be able to share them and work through them with fellow believers.

We must be willing to see that holy community is as important as holy communion. We are not islands in the ocean of faith. Without a strong connection to the body, no one part can survive.

We need one another to remain feed, strong, protected, connected, and most importantly... to grow.

We must also realize that being who the Lord has called us to be is not a destination to be reached... it is journey to be undertaken.

I realize that for most of us, the thought of changing the way we think about and look at church or ministry is unthinkable, even heretical. But, isn't that exactly what Jesus did? Should we not be constantly evaluating our thoughts, actions, motivations AND ministries to see if they are still in line with the Gospel and mission that Jesus left for us to do?

The point at which we hold our traditions and programs on equal level with the scriptures, we have become the pharisees of old, and have trans our faith into the very thing that Jesus died to abolish.

- Just a thought.

Friday, January 16, 2009

We all have a lot more to grow...

As most of you know by now, Melanie and I are going to be planting a new church in our area soon. In preparation for that, we have been working on and praying through our purpose, plan, and principles. Though we were very sure that organic faith was the mission to which God has called us, implementing that is definitely easier said than done. So, I sent out some emails and asked some people who have been down the road we're beginning to traverse for some wisdom and guidance. What I got back was both comforting and condemning at the same time. Let me share it with you.

I have been plagued with logistics questions about our new church. What are we going to do about this... how will we address that... so on and so forth. It really bothered me, because, I felt that if I was supposed to be the pastor of this church, surely I should be able to answer simple questions about its operation. So, in my frustration, I reached out to a new friend and bounced some of my questions to him. The response I got back was simple. The questions I was asking were good one, but they weren't the right questions to be asking first off. Faith, like life, grows from the micro to the macro, not the other way around. Put a different way, grow disciples and you will grow a church... grow a church and you may not necessarily grow disciples. My heart was in the right place, but my focus was not. This was very comforting to me, because I didn't feel as though I had to know it all before I began, but i didn't know how to answer some of the questions that I had been asked.

I think this lesson is applicable to all of us. (not just the crazy one's that want to start churches) I believe we should all take a step back and stop focusing on the Macro elements of our life. Because let's face it, they're big. And sometimes, I think we get discouraged when we look at our life and its problems and they are too big for us to deal with. Instead, we need to readdress our focus to the micro elements. How can Jesus be Lord of your life, if he can't even be Lord over your words, thoughts, actions, motivations, etc.

I did say earlier that this response was both comforting and condemning. The condemning part of this advice for me was not in the advice itself, but in the person who first told me. As thankful as I was to my friend for his wise words of wisdom, the overwhelming sound that resounded in my ears after reading them and talking to my wife, was that this was exactly what she had been trying to tell me for the past two weeks! And I wasn't hearing it! This was both humbling and exciting. I am humbled by the realization that it took a stranger to tell me what my wife had been telling me all long... and it is exciting to know that God is moving not just in my life, but in my wife and our friends as well.

I've said all of this to illustrate two points:

(a) Faith is grown from micro to macro. Focus on the little things.

(b) We all have a lot to learn from one another, and if you think you are right and won't listen to your friends and family, you will get a rude awakening one day about how wrong you really are.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

A bit more personal...

I realize that for many of you who read my blog on a regular basis, you know me. We're friends, so what I'm about to say may not be a shock to you, but I would like to expound on it anyway. Again, as most of you know, I joined Facebook last week and am both loving it, and totally addicted. I love being able to re-connect with people from my past as well as stay more current and updated with freinds in my present. It's been a wonderful tool and a real joy for me to use. But, I have begun to notice a trend. Of all the people that ask to be my "friend" on FB, only a handful of them actually communicate with me. Now, that may be just my experience, but it was one that I took note of.

Why is it that we are desperate to have friends, but aren't really that friendly? Is it just easier to click and link and send someone and e-vite to be your e-friend, than to put the wrench time into being a real friend? I have to admit, I have lost contact and not stayed in touch with my fair share of friends. Some because I no longer wanted to be friends with them, and others because we just naturally drifted apart. But, I began to ask my self this series of quesitons:

1. How many friends do I have?
2. Do my friends see my faith in action in my life?
3. How many people reflect back that faith, either in congruent faith, or respectful disagreement?

In my opinion, this final number is the number of people that I am actually touching with the gospel in my life. It was sad when I saw it for what it was. Even me, who I consider to be a rather friendly person, only touches a dozen or so lives with the gospel. That number is completely contingent upon my ability to make new friends and maintain my integrity and faith with them. So, in order to accomplish the Great Commission that Jesus left for us to do, we must be willing to step outside of our comfort zone sometimes and befriend some new people.

I believe the "Us four and no more" mentality has crippled the advance of the gospel in our lives today. We go to churches who many have unspoken prerequisites for attendance.

Dress this way.
Act this way.
Use these 'Christian' buzz words.
Don't do that.
Do this instead.

On and on the cycle goes until like I said last week, we become so isolated from our culture we are no longer relevant enough to affect it. Don't get me wrong, we must stand up for Biblical integrity and not make light of sin just to appeal to sinners. But, the reverse is also true, we must not make so much of sin, that sinners don't feel welcomed or loved.

"The line between tolerance and arrogance is razor thin, if you are not consciously trying to stay in the middle, you have already chosen a side."

- Just a thought.