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.