Archive for the ‘Church Plant’ Category

It is 2:36 in the morning and I cannot sleep. It might be because I drank too much coffee when I have barely had any caffeine for the past three months. It might be because I have some stressful weeks coming up very quickly. However, I think there is a very different reason. The truth is something has been bugging me lately. That something(one) is God…

I have been letting things get in the way of God. I have been letting human reason stop me from following God’s direction for my life. I have made excuses of why I can do what God wants me to do. Well, that time is over. I am going to move forward with God regardless of the human obstacles I might face.

Church planting has been my heart and passion for some time now. It actually goes back a number of years. I can still remember when I told God that I would go to seminary if he wanted me to go, but I had no intention of working in church ministry. I want nothing more now. But, the truth is, I don’t want to work for any church. I want to let God create a church that will truly reach out to “the least of these.” I want people to truly experience what it means to follow hard after God. I want people to know that God loves them where they are at. He does not ask us to be perfect. He only asks us to give him the opportunity to make us something special and new.

I don’t know exactly how this is going to happen. The one church planting opportunity I thought was going to happen is not. However, it is not happening because it would not be the proper opportunity for God to use me. I thank God for giving me the wisdom to close this door. I also thank him for having me close it instead of him closing it for me. I needed to opportunity to know I can still hear his voice.

I can tell you I am back. I have been away spiritually for a number of months, even though I have only stopped blogging for a few weeks. God and I are talking again and more importantly, I am listening again. I am simply overwhelmed by God’s mercy and grace.

Tonight he spoke to me through that pages of a book by Donald Miller, To Own A Dragon. His words to me were very simple – Follow the passion I have given you…and let me lead the way.

Thank you Lord.

Have you ever felt like you and God were going toe-to-toe? You know from the very beginning that God is going to win, but you also know that your on an intense period of your spiritual journey and the only way to come through it is fight and argue with God. That is what I have been going through.

I have really been questioning this whole idea of church planting. I have been questioning if it is the right thing to do. My questioning is not because I don’t think I am called, it is because I don’t think I was being true to my calling.

I am not a creative person in general. Often, I will take what others have done and tweak it to fit the particular situation in which I find myself. That is what God and I have been wrestling about. I have been planning to plant this church in partnership with New Thing Network (www.newthing.org.) When you are part of New Thing all of the sermons, curriculums and other ministry support materials are co-created and used by all churches involved. Each of these church also look very similar in regards to their services, philosophy of ministry and other features. In fact, if you went from one church to the other on Sunday morning you might think you were in the exact same church (effectively you would be.)

One of the main components of my vision for this new church has centered around the idea of EPIC. It stands for:

Experiential – People experience real faith, real time.

Participatory – all facet of faith are participated in, not just watched – worship, service, fellowship, community etc.

Inclusive – all are welcome regardless of where they are at on their spiritual journey.

Connected – authentic community.

I know that the New Thing Network churches would say they try to accomplish these four goals, but they simply are not designed to do so like God has given me a vision for. I am not sure how, but somehow I will find a way to truly create an EPIC Community.

Authenticity

This is another installment in the “What is the church” series.

Today, I am thinking about authenticity. Specifically, what makes a church authentic.

As I have studies churches, church growth and success, I have become more and more concerned about what it means for a church to be authentic. When I look at many very large churches, I see them growing and reaching people, but I also see them as more orientated toward programs than people. I have seen people become more and more connected to a church, but not because of relationship. They are connected because they become involved in a program. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think programs are bad. In fact, programs can be good and provide good results. However, I begin to think about how many people at my church I truly call friends. There are very few. I stay because I am entrenched in the program. I stay because lives are changed and people are affected for eternity. Yet, I feel like I am missing something.

I feel like I am experiencing great teaching, but I am not growing in community with others. I wonder if it is possible to truly have a place focused on community. I have to admit, I have never experienced it. Then I wonder if it is me. I have never been the type of person to have a lot of friends. In fact, I can count true friends on one hand. I don’t regret this, it is just me. This makes me wonder, is it possible to really start a new church that avoids becoming focused on programs? Is true community possible?

Compassion

A question I cannot get out of my head is, “What is the church?”

As I have been planning and preparing to plant a church, the need to come to some understanding or answer has become more and more important to me. While I am not sure there is any one answer, or that there should be any one answer, I am trying to formulate some ideas of what a church that God would have me plant should be. The first thing I want to talk about is true compassion.

Compassion ministry has caused a lot of controversy and confusion in the church. Some churches on the more liberal end of the spectrum have put a great focus on compassion to others, but have excluded explaining the love of God to those they are helping. Essentially, they see compassion as providing for physical needs, but do not see compassion as providing for spiritual needs. I just don’t think this is holistic or Biblical.

On the other hand, evangelicals have often used compassion ministry as an excuse to preach at those less fortunate. During the time I was in seminary, I live in Springfield, Missouri. As I began the process to get ministerial credentials, I found out before I could be given the credentials I had to preach five times. They even called the credentials a License to Preach (I wonder if Jesus ever had one of these. If not, then it might explain why the Pharisees and Sadducees were so upset.) When I asked how I was to get the opportunity to preach five time, they suggested I volunteer at Springfield Victory Mission.

Springfield Victory Mission was a lot like many mission around the country. They provided meals, clothing and other assistance to the homeless and others in need. This sounds great except for one thing. For a person to eat a meal at the mission, they were first required to sit through a sermon. This just seemed like compassion without compassion to me. I felt that this would actually drive people farther from God and caused their hearts to become calloused. I refused to do it and stopped the ministerial credentialing process at that time.

I don’t recall Jesus every requiring someone to listen to him give a sermon before he healed them or fed them. Jesus did compassion out of love. He never used his ability to heal etc. As a way to force people to believe (of course, the idea of forced belief is ridiculous, but has been used throughout history. We all know about the “successfully” conversions during the crusades.) I have been looking for a middle road between these two extremes.

Then I came across the example of The Salvation Army. I worked for The Salvation Army for two years in a fundraising role. I loved the compassion of the Army and that they never required attendance at a church service etc. To receive help. Yet, the Army is definitely on the evangelical side of the spectrum. However, the Army tried but was never able to bridge the gap between compassion for the physical and compassion for the spiritual. I observed that the Army never fully expressed to those being helped that this was being done in Jesus name. They never fully expressed that they considered their spiritual well being as important as their physical.

I am still trying to figure something out on this one. I am committed to planting a church that will show true compassion to all people, but this compassion must include the whole person – physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual. The answer may be as simple a non-obligatory invitation to participate in the body of Christ every time help is given. It might just be asking spiritual questions along with questions about the other parts of their life. I just know I want to be compassionate toward the whole person just like Jesus.