Category Archives: missional communities
I’m here at Exponential 2011 in Orlando, FL. Our New Life team is volunteering with a ton of cool stuff. We’re getting to see some pretty cool behind the scenes stuff at the coolest church planters conference on the planet (someone please pass that tid bit along to Todd Wilson for me). As we were preparing to volunteer today, we were going through some training. Our fearless leader stood up and inspired us to volunteer like it was our last day on earth. He was very excited and it was easy to get excited along with him. I wanted to share a little of what he said. If you’re a volunteer, apply what was said to your particular area of service.
In order to give this conference the “Wow” experience it deserves, volunteers have to own it like it’s their own. Our volunteer leader helped us with that. He told the story of Exponential and how it was the brainchild of so many great people. One of which he mentioned specifically was Dave Ferguson.
You are Dave Ferguson…
…he said. So I left and pretended to be Dave Ferguson today. That was fun.
The point was well taken though. If we want this conference to be as successful as it can be, we need to be as excited about it as Dave. We need to pretend we have invested as much in it as Dave has (and many others, I’m just using Dave because that was the name that was thrown out there today). I was inspired to, “Be Like Dave.” He’s cooler than Mike anyway.
Then our leader said, “Every moment is your moment of truth.” I loved that. I think that is a great, practical statement that all volunteers in any capacity can grab onto and believe in. Each moment is the only time you will have that moment. Your only moment to make a first impression. Your only moment to make the best impression for Christ that you can. Every moment is your moment of truth. I’ll be taking this one home to the volunteers at my Haymarket Campus.
If you are a volunteer at a church (or anywhere else for that matter), I want to encourage you.
Thank you so much for all you do.
I apologize for not telling you as often as I should.
I want to encourage you to view your role as a moment of truth. Put yourself in the shoes of “the boss” for a minute. Think about how much they invest in whatever it is you are doing. You are that person. Care for it as deeply as they do. Give it your all. Especially if you are volunteering in a ministry. There’s nothing more important than the work you are doing. View every moment as your moment of truth. It is your moment to make a huge impact on someone’s life and ultimately for the Kingdom of God.
Do you volunteer?
What do you do?
And, thank you. Thank you so much for volunteering!
Tomorrow, I’ll be Dave Ferguson again. Not a bad looking guy I guess. It could be worse. I could be….whoa! About got myself in trouble there.
What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God’s command is necessary. But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t results in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time. It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge. I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question? the answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different…here’s a word that you can take to heart and depend on: Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. I’m proof – public sinner number one – of someone who could never have made it apart from sheer mercy. And now he shows me off – evidence of his endless patience – to those who are right on the edge of trusting him forever.
-the Apostle Paul (Romans 7:15-25; 1 Timothy 1:15, 16 MSG)
Ephesians 4:11-15 says…
Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. *emphasis mine
There are so many applications to this passage it seems. There are directives to those who lead the church. People in positions of leadership who shepherd God’s people. But there is an even greater emphasis here. One that lies at the heart of an issue I seem to continually wrestle with. There is a huge emphasis in this passage not on the leaders of the church, but on every person who calls themselves a follower of Christ, a Christian.
What we know from this passage is that Christianity is not a spectator sport. Over the last 2000 years or so, the church has done a really good job at making church a spectator sport. “Sit in our pews. Listen to what we say. Do as your told. Follow these rules. Preacher knows all the answers. You are dumb. You can’t speak to God, I’ll do that. Come to our potluck dinner. We’ll make it all happen for you.” And it seems to me that we have done a great job at creating spectators, fans, those who simply watch the show but don’t actually take part in making it happen.
That is changing. Winds of change are beginning to blow in the world. Everyday people, normal, ordinary followers of Christ are starting to make a difference. They are living different. They have a different mindset. They aren’t sitting idly by and letting someone else use their gifts and talents, they are actively pursuing God’s mission and purpose for their life. They are living life on mission. They are living, well, like missionaries.
Take a look around at the community you live in. What are some of the needs you see?
Is there a homeless shelter nearby?
What is the percentage of homelessness in your area?
Are there hungry families?
What percentage of families live below the poverty line?
How many people are struggling just to pay for groceries?
Are there food banks nearby working hard to offer a simple meal?
What about abused moms?
Are teens in your neighborhood struggling?
I wonder, what would Jesus’ office look like if he were here, doing ministry today. I wonder if he would have the corner office with a nice window and a good view of the city. Maybe he would have a comfortable couch with a few plants and a picture of his mom and dad on his desk. He would be furiously typing out the “Sermon on the Mount – Part 2” on his MacBook Air. His iPhone would be buzzing constantly with emails and demands from people.
But it doesn’t take long to notice something different in the life of Jesus. Let’s just say, you have to be pretty close to a prostitute for her to pour perfume all over your feet, to wipe you down with her hair and to cry on your shoulder. You have to be pretty close to the traitor to share a meal with him or to receive a kiss on the cheek. There isn’t much room in his life for an office space when there are thousands of people feed.
In every aspect of the word, Jesus lived as a missionary in the world. He was a missionary to mankind. And in every aspect of the word, I can’t grow to be like Christ until I am doing the same thing. I can’t live like a missionary in my world when I don’t even have “non-Christian” friends in my life. It’s hard to be like Jesus when I don’t share a meal with people who don’t share my values. It’s hard to be like Christ when I don’t rub elbows with anyone who doesn’t think, feel, believe and look like me. When it comes to being like Christ, I have a long way to go. But it starts with a belief, a belief that translates into action. It’s the belief that I am a missionary right where I am. I am not here to spectate and watch the world go by, I am here with a purpose and mission to help make a difference and to share Jesus with people.
So what about you?
How would you feel if I told you that you were more than “just a Christian,” but that you were a missionary for Christ right where you are?
Would that change the way you view your world? Would that change how you act toward people? Would that change who and how you interact with people?
Over the next few weeks, I will probably talk about this topic a lot more. I have a lot of thoughts on my mind about this very issue.
I sat down to have dinner last night with my kids. My wife was hanging out with some girlfriends. I was preparing to make some chicken nuggets and mac ‘n cheese. Healthy, I know. I grabbed a pot from the cabinet, walked to the sink and turned on the faucet. Clean water poured into the pot. I started boiling it for the noodles. We sat down to eat and we were all thirsty. I grabbed four cups from the cupboard, placed some ice cubes (frozen, clean water) in the cups and filled them with clean drinking water from our sink. We enjoyed our nutritious meal and moved on with our evening. Most of the dishes were taken to the sink by my children. They’re good, I know. I turned on some hot water at our sink to rinse the plates. Then I filled our dishwasher with the dirty dishes. This is a machine that will spit out, clean water, at a scalding hot temperature to clean your dishes for you. Before long it was dark and time for bed. Upstairs we went. Clothes were stripped all over the floor and children were making their way to the bathroom. Clean water flowed to give my children showers. Each put on their pajamas and stood by the sink. They turned on the water and brushed their teeth in clean water. If I haven’t made my point clear, there is no shortage of clean water in our house.
My guess is there’s no shortage of clean water in your house either.
Hopefully, you are feeling somewhat uneasy about where I’m going with this. And you should feel uneasy about it. Want to know why? Because while you’re going through water like there’s no tomorrow, roughly 38,000 children under the age of 5, die every week because they don’t have clean water.
There, now you know. You don’t have an excuse anymore. You can’t hide behind the story that you didn’t know that was going on. You can’t pretend the issue doesn’t exist. You can’t look at your own five year old without seeing the face of a child who will not make it through tonight because they simply don’t have clean water.
When Jesus walked on the earth, he shared an illustration about the end of time. All of humanity will stand before God, the Creator of humanity. And while we stand there, Jesus will talk to us. He will say to some, “Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed Me. I was thirsty, and you gave Me a drink” (Matthew 25:34, 35 NLT). I don’t claim to be a scholar, but it seems that God places a pretty high priority on giving water to people who are thirsty.
But it isn’t just water that so many people need. It is our highest priority on earth to love and serve people the way Jesus did. And often times this comes in the form of a cup of water. Yet this very opportunity presented itself to Jesus as well. In John 4 Jesus met a woman who was getting water from a well. But Jesus knew more about her than she realized. Her true need went beyond the water. It went into need something much deeper. Water was good, but she needed a Savior. Jesus shared with her some teachings about this very idea. And it was during this conversation that Jesus identified Himself as living water.
Yes, people need water!
Yes, it is our responsibility to provide it!
Even more, it is this generation’s great burden!
But ultimately, humanity needs a Savior. The Savior we need is the One who not only taught us to love and serve people, but will also ask us about how we did it when we meet Him some day.
As the Bible is closing out in the book of Revelation, we are given a beautiful scene of heaven. And in Revelation 22:17 we read these words, “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’ Let anyone who hears this say, ‘Come.’ Let anyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who desires drink freely from the water of life.”
Are you thirsty?
Are you giving a cup of water in the name of Jesus?
Because the One who is faithful (Jesus) to all these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” And we say, “Come. Lord Jesus, come.”
So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and help quench someone’s thirst.
For more information on Blog Action Day, please visit their website. Have questions about Jesus? I would love to hear from you.
It was an awesome night. And by awesome, I mean one of those really cool God moments where people come together, using up their own personal time to do something for someone else. I have to say, I am so excited to be working with the Haymarket Campus at New Life Christian Church. I saw two life groups come together tonight to prepare a ministry we call, “Grab Your Groceries,” for the upcoming school year. Let me give you a few more details.
New Life is a church with three campi (our word for multiple campuses). All three campi collected non-perishable food items for Grab Your Groceries (GYG), which is a ministry of Passion 4 Community here at New Life. This is how GYG works…
We are connected with social workers through the school systems in our area. Through them we are able to reach the families who need help the most. Each school has a representative and that person picks up boxes full of grocery relief for families. They take the groceries to the schools and the schools pass along the groceries to those most in need. It is one of my favorite things about New Life.
After collecting food from three campi across the New Life landscape, we have the shelves completely stocked and ready for the beginning of the school year. It is so cool to watch this come together. Two life groups tonight stuck around to unpack and stock the shelves for GYG. In two days, more life groups will be back to prepare the groceries to be taken to the schools by packing them up into boxes.
I stood there tonight, in the pantry, with two life groups and we prayed for the food. We prayed for the families that would be receiving the food throughout the school year and we prayed for the children who would be able to eat because of it. It was truly one of those great moments. I am in awe when I see people living for someone else. I love to see people giving of their time and energy to make someone else’s life better.
Then to celebrate, we hit Foster’s Grille. The ladies and I sat around a table, drank some soda, some had awesome burgers and we just talked. It was a ton of fun and a great way to end the evening. The ladies were so fun I’m thinking about joining their life group. Wonder if that would fly?
So, thank you.
Thank you to the volunteers at New Life who don’t think church is about what they can consume, but realize it’s about what they can do for others.
Thank you to those who were there to help make it happen.
Thank you to our GYG Coordinator, Jodi N., who has taken this ministry to a whole new level. She is awesome!
Thank you to our GYG volunteers who deliver food to the schools and who are literally the hands and feet of Jesus.
Thank you to New Life for helping create the environment where something like this can happen.
And most of all, thank you to God who allows us to be a part of His work.
Proverbs 31:8, 9 – “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice.”
Matthew 25:37, 40 – “Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.”
Our family has gone on a few vacations together. For the most part, we don’t get too far from home, but we do enjoy getting out of town every now and then. Have you ever noticed the types of places we plan to go for vacation? They’re usually tropical, warm destinations. Disney World. Disney Land. Sea World. Bahamas. Jamaica. A cruise. The beach. Depending on your vacation, you will look for places to tour. You might be a family that likes to walk around a historical museum or location. Seeing a statue that was built in memory of someone can be a lot of fun. We plan to go somewhere that we can tour and see things that we can’t see at home.
Want to know what one of the tourist stops in the United Kingdom is? A church like this one near Exminster in Great Britain. It is the Church of St. Martin and it dates back to the 14th Century. You can even go online here and research much of the data on the church. For instance, the history tells us about the Parish registers, dating back to 1562. They even have published indexes covering baptisms, weddings, burials and christenings.
As our family was driving through one small town in Missouri, we stopped at a little park to have a picnic lunch. Vacations on a budget is how we roll. We sat eating our lunch and noticed a cute little building on the park grounds. It sure looked like a church. A really old church. My wife wanted some pictures before we left town. We started to walk around the building and we saw a sign in the front. It was the town museum, formerly a church. It had been remade to show off town history along with much of the history of the church. It didn’t date back to 1562, but it was still a very old church building.
In terms of “religion,” the western world is following suit with much of that of Europe. As Europe has moved away from Christianity, much of America is doing the same. We could answer the question, “Are you a Christian” with the answer, “Yes,” while at the same time answering the question, “Do you believe Jesus is the Son of God” with the answer, “No.” Simply stated, the church in America is dying. More churches die per year than we replace with new churches. According to one article I read, we need to plant 2900 more churches a year just to keep up with the population growth.
Let me say it this way, America has decided it no longer needs the church. The church is no longer the center for spiritual needs to be met. As Europe left the church behind, America is following close behind.
A very sad possibility is ahead of us. That possibility is that churches could feasibly become tourist locations in America.
I for one, am not ready to concede. I for one, am not ready to turn our churches over to the tourist industry. The question is, how far are we willing to go to stop the bleeding?
How much are we willing to sacrifice to make the church of God thrive again?
Are we willing to engage the culture in new and risky ways?
I would like to share more on that question in a future post. In the meantime, what are some of your thoughts?
How is your church engaging the culture around you in fresh ways?
What are some of your ideas for engaging the culture so that we don’t become a tourist attraction in America?
What do you think some of the key contributing factors are to this decline in the church in America?