Are you building another man’s ministry?

29 10 2007

A prophetic word sent out last week included this line that deeply struck me.  The prophet wrote about a shift coming in the way people are released into ministry.  He wrote, “The new breed of ministry will not use the people to build their ministries.  They will use their ministries to build people.”

It’s a subtle difference but many churches and ministries are NOT designed to find and release people into their ministries (into the unique calling God has placed on you).  They begin with a specific ministry agenda and seek to find others to help them build THEIR ministry.

But is that how a church should be structured?  Should we structure a church, a body of equally gifted, interdependent believers around the ministry, gifting and calling of one man?  Should not churches be a place where everyone is released?  Where the first question is NOT “what ministry position can we fit you into” but instead “what is your Kingdom destiny and how can we equip, encourage and release you”?

But there is one huge weakness in a model that releases everyone instead of supporting only one man’s ministry.  The weakness is this – if everyone is released, it requires each person to PROACTIVELY pursue their calling and NOT wait for someone to come along and give them a position.  We must each take responsibility for our own calling and steward those gifts and fulfill our responsibility to God and His Kingdom.

Oh what am I saying???  Its so much easier to just put in our hour or two per week supporting another man’s ministry.  Let’s just do that and get on with our lives.  Anything more might require too much of me.  Anything more might require me to die to myself.  Anything more might mean I will have to be crucified with Christ, that I can no longer live, that Christ will have to live His life through me.  Anything more might mean I’ll have to live in God’s Kingdom and NOT mine.  His life for mine.  His Kingdom for mine.  And that is why almost none of us will do it.  See you at the ministry fair.

Is The Church A Fortress or An Army?

22 10 2007

FortressWhen you read the New Testament do you get the picture that Jesus and Paul were hoping that some day there would be thousands of Christian fortresses across the Earth where the people of God could gather apart from the world once per week and then disperse individually back to their normal lives? Or do you picture an army of disciples in small platoons, living life as one and going throughout the Earth training disciples, confronting evil and spreading the Kingdom. My experience is that 99% of Christians say they picture us like an army but sadly my experience has also been that 99% of the time Christians actually build the church like the first picture – a fortress. These two pictures are not compatible. They are drastically different visions of the church and you can’t become an army by building a fortress and you can’t win a war by only playing defense.

For the past 6 months our community has been in intensive discipleship training. We believe training is not something you do for a season but something every disciple is doing continuously. But training for what? An army trains for two reasons – to defend AND to attack. Jesus and Paul were almost always playing offense and the modern church seems to almost always play defense. It’s time to rethink our strategy.

Should Christians Create Controversy?

17 10 2007

Christian DemonostrationJesus promised persecutions but we are rarely persecuted.  Jesus said a servant is not above his master and if they treated him this way we should expect more of the same…but that’s not been our experience.  Why?

The first and most disturbing answer that comes to mind is maybe we’re not following Jesus – maybe he’s not our master.   Shouldn’t Christ-followers be the most polarizing figures in society?  Shouldn’t Jesus’ disciples be constantly challenging religious leaders publicly?

Recently I’ve found myself believing the teaching of Jesus at a more radical level as I’ve engaged in intentional discipleship.  And I find myself becoming more disturbed by beliefs that oppose his teachings.  But there is a step I have not taken.  I sit here on this blog and spout these beliefs mostly to people who care about me and trust my character.  But I’m one step away from really choosing to CREATE controversy.

So my question is simple.  Are Christ-followers supposed to cross that line?  All of my training, all that has been modeled to me and all of my culturally conditioned values say NO.  But I have not been commanded to follow those things.  Jesus commands “follow me”.

How Worship Services Subvert the Christian Mission – Discipleship

16 10 2007

Great Ommission“All authority on heaven and earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples…”

Could it be any simpler? Could it be any clearer? Jesus sent us out to make disciples. This IS the mission. Why is this so hard to grasp? There are many reasons why almost no Christians believe this is the central mission. I’d like to explore just one of those reasons namely the pervasive, black hole we call the weekend worship service.

After being on staff at 7 churches and encountering hundreds of others I can say with confidence that, to date, I have NEVER discovered a church with a worship service that believes and practices discipleship as the central mission of the church. Why is this? Is there any causal relationship between having a worship service and a lack of discipleship? For a long time I’ve thought there was not. But the more I’ve pondered the connection I’ve begun to believe that there are elements involved with the maintenance of a weekly worship service that discourage our mission as disciple-makers.

1. Worship Services form the Church’s Identity – Have you ever been to a church with a worship service where that was not the event that defined the church. Every element of the service speaks to what that church is and stands for. What kind of music do they play? Who preaches the sermons? What type of building? etc. What a terrible place to form an identity as a Christian body! We are a worship rockin’, bible preaching church. Really? Is that how the church should self-identify? Not with relationships, nor with beliefs but with music and preaching style.

2. Worship Services communicate that the bar is low (instead of radical discipleship) – The last worship service I went to the Pastor persistently referred to the congregation as “regular attenders”. Huh…so that is who we are. We’re not “the Household of God” or “Disciples of Christ” or “The Light of the World” we’re “regular attenders”. And whether explicitly or implicitly this communicates that what it means to be a good Christian is to regular attend a worship service. What a tragedy! Jesus died on the cross so that we can “go to church”. You may say, “I don’t believe that” but then why does 95% of Christianity act out this belief? Because of the weekly worship service. We’ve trained them well.

3. Worship Services suck up the discipleship resources – Even though we have a hundred million case studies on how useless worship services are at making disciples 99% of churches use their worship service as their primary means of disciple-making. There are a small number of churches that, after tremendous effort, grow large enough to develop other ministries outside of the worship service but when they do discipleship is usually not the focus of those ministries. They feel they need to launch ministries that the worship service does not meet like missions and community so once again discipleship – the central mission – gets the shaft.

Is Card Counting (Blackjack) a sin?

15 10 2007

This is a great question I’ve been asked recently so I put my thoughts on the morality and ethics of Christians card counting into these two videos.

Part 1

Part 2

Why Middle-class Christians Neglect the Poor

9 10 2007

“All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.” – Paul

Neglect of the poor is an embarrassing, dangerous failing of the modern church.  Our society is deeply divided by economic factors and its getting worse.  Our choice of restaurants, grocery stores, clothes, cars, beverages, neighborhoods, churches, schools, recreation and many other areas consistently breaks along economic lines.  We can now live happy socially active lives for decades without developing a single significant relationship with someone from a different economic strata.

So what’s the results?  We neglect the poor.  Not because we’re uncaring.  Not because we haven’t been transformed by the love of Christ.  I think the main reason is far more simple.  Far more subtle.  We don’t know them.  We don’t see them.  A lack of contact creates a convenient barrier between our blessed life and their deep needs.  And the church has quietly accepted this development in our culture as an unasked for blessing.

Faced with this reality you can do several things –

1. Push the whole unpleasant thought out of your mind with a few sips of Cabernet Sauvignon.
2. Feel a pang of guilt a few times a year and throw a bone to charity on occasion to medicate the sting.
3. Get involved in a ministry that helps bridge the relational gap and introduces you to a family in need that you can help in practical ways.

Members of our community’s outreach team are working to design a relational bridge and now we’re asking everyone – are you willing to walk across that bridge and develop an ongoing relationship with someone in need?

The Way of Faith and Sukkot

1 10 2007

Sukkot“By faith Abraham lived in tents…For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.”

For his entire life Abraham maintained his identity as a sojourner on the Earth. Unlike Lot who moved into the city of Sodom and was nearly assimilated into their culture and destroyed by God’s wrath, Abraham remained apart.

This week is the festival of Sukkot where God instructs us to move out of our homes, build a temporary dwelling (a Sukkah), and live like sojourners. We are to remember that all things on this Earth are temporary except other people and our God.

In the years of your sojourn are you clinging too tightly to the things of this world? Is your life centered around the eternal?

Stay fit
Travel light
On the move
Savor Relationships

Be a stranger
In a strange world
Peering ahead
To YOUR city
To Zion