Monday, July 26, 2010

Thinking About Church

Over the course of the past year or so (and possibly even longer)I have been thinking about church. I've been thinking about what it means to "be" the church, how to live out community, church based community ministry, a parish mindset church, etc. I have read two books by Francis Chan that have got my wheels churning about church - "Crazy Love" and "Forgotten God." He has challenged me to read through the book of Acts and the Gospels, and then ask the question "Does the American Church look like a Biblical church?" I have also had the opportunity to visit a diverse group of churches in the past 3 months or so - in rural, urban, and suburban settings. I don't have any real "conclusive" thoughts as this point, but I wanted to share some of the things that have my "wheels turning" about what Church should be.

First, here is a sermon entitled "Is This Really Church?" This is 58 minutes long, but it is worth watching.

Secondly, here is a short excerpt from the book "Forgotten God":
"A while back a former gang member came to our church. He was heavily tattooed and rough around the edges, but he was curious to see what church was like. He had a relationship with Jesus and seemed to get fairly involved with the church.

After a few months, I found out the guy was no longer coming to the church. When asked why he didn't come anymore, he gave the following explanation: 'I had the wrong idea of what church was going to be like. When I joined the church, I thought it was going to be like joining a gang. You see, in the gangs we weren't just nice to each other once a week - we were family.' That killed me because I knew that
what he expected is what the church is intended to be. It saddened me to think that a gang could paint a better picture of commitment, loyalty, and family than the local church body.

The church is intended to be a beautiful place of community. A place where wealth is shared and when one suffers, everyone suffers. A place where when one rejoices, everyone rejoices. A place where everyone experiences real love and acceptance in the midst of great honesty about our brokenness. Yet most of the time this is not even close to how we would describe our churches.

Without the Spirit of God in our midst, working in us, guiding us, and living and loving through us, we will never be the kind of people who make up this kind of community."
Later he adds, "As for me, I am tired of talking about what we are going to do. I am sick of talking about helping people, of brainstorming and conferencing about ways we can be radical and make sacrifices. I don't want to merely talk anymore. Life is too short. I don't want to speak about Jesus; I want to know Jesus. I want to be Jesus to people. I don't want to just write about the Holy Spirit; I want to experience His presence in my life in a profound way."
-"Forgotten God" pp 152-153

Finally, here is a copy of the "Church Values" of my dear friend Pastor Aaron Roy's church, Living Hope Neighborhood Church in Richmond, CA. These values really resonate with me!

1)Christ Centered - We want to promote the supremacy of Christ in all that we do (Colossians 1:15-20).

2)Outward Focused - We will live out the "great commission" as a command and not an option.

3)Multi-Cultural - Embracing and celebrating the diversity of the body of Christ here on earth

4)Holistic - Our conviction is that the Gospel is concerned with the "whole" person and that the church is to meet the special needs of the diverse urban community (Acts 2:42-47).

5)Missional - We desire to view God as one who is intentional throughout the whole world. The church can/should engage in "global" transformation.

6)Local/Parish - We will strive to better our local community in the areas of schools, housing, and over all health (spiritually and physically) of its residents.

"The success of a church should ultimately be defined by the degree to which it changes its neighborhood." - John Perkins

Any thoughts, insights, Scriptural references that have shaped your "ecclessiology" or your view of the Church?

Friday, July 23, 2010

Youth Outreach Summer Update

Wanted to give a quick Youth Outreach summer update…

Safe Families
Erica has still been working really hard networking, seeking to mobilize churches, Christian families, and social service agencies to take part in the ministry of Safe Families. We are one of the top performing hubs (amongst the new hubs trying to be established). Please continue to lift up Erica and the ministry of SF in prayer.

Summer Blast
Next week will be our final week of Summer Blast (our day camp for 2nd through 5th graders)! We have been averaging between 30 and 40 kids each day. We have had a good group of “returners” as well as built some new relationships with some new kids and families. The summer staff have done well, and we are thankful for all of them serving with us this summer.

Summer SWAGG (Students Worshiping a Great God)
Next week will be our final week as well! We have been averaging 20 to 25 6th through 8th graders on Monday and Wednesday night! We have also made some new relationships, as well as strengthened some existing ones. Brittney & CW have done a great job!!

Sunshine Cove
We took a record-breaking 75 kids to camp this year!! They were between the ages of 7 and 14. The theme for this year was one love, as we unpacked what it means to love God and love our neighbor as ourselves. We had a great week building with the kids, and many Gospel conversations were had. The kids are already asking when we will be heading back to camp!

Miracle League
We had a junior high team and a high school team this summer! The Jr High team (which I coached) ended the season with a record of 1 and 10. We also bowed out early in the season ending tournament. Although our record wasn’t ideal, the time I was able to spend with the guys was great. I look forward to following up with them in the weeks and months to come. Seeds were definitely planted in each of their lives.

The high school team ended the season with a record of 5 and 5. Pastor Brad (Bethel Church) and Pastor Brown (from First Baptist Church) co-coached the team. We are all excited to continue to build into the lives of the high school guys as well.

Montana Trip
We will depart on our annual pilgrimage west on Sunday August 1st (returning on Tuesday August 10th). We will be taking 6 young men and 4 young women. Myself and Mike Avery will be the counselors for the guys. Sarah & Erica will be the counselors for the girls. The Blodgetts will also be coming to work with both the guys and girls. Praise God, the church from Montana is sending us a very generous check to help with various trip expenses!!

Fall Staff Editions
I have revamped the 2-5-2 Director position, and am hoping to have filled this vacancy by mid-August.

Brittney Rost is heading back to Elkhart during the month of August to continue to raise support. Lord willing, she will join our staff in September.

CW Allen could potentially be coming on in the fall as well to work with jr. high/high school. We are still working through a potential “youth staffing partnership” with Young Life to see if we can leverage our collective resources in order to bring on a youth staff team.
Please pray for all of the above concerning staffing.

I just thought I would try to give everyone a “snap shot” into some of the “hustle and flow” of the Youth Outreach ministry this summer.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Daily Need To Abide

On the morning of Sunday July 4th, I had the opportunity to preach at Lawton Evangelical Mennonite Church in Lawton, MI. You can check out the sermon audio here. Since preaching the message (and while preparing it), I have really been challenged to "walk it out."

We went to camp this past week. I have spent time at Christian camps in different capacities since the summer of 2000. That being said, the thinking can easily go, "I know how to 'do camp'." But John 15:5 says, "apart from me you can do nothing." In other words, apart from Christ I cannot bear real fruit, Kingdom fruit, eternal fruit. Apart from Christ, and abiding in Him, we merely spin our wheels. We can be busy, we can be active, but there will be not true impact apart from abiding in Him. I need this reminder EVERY day. I will be preaching this message again on Sunday the 25th at a church just outside of Chicago, so I will be chewing on this once again. I am grateful for what the Lord is teaching me through this message/passage.

John 15:1-11
1"I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes,that it may bear more fruit. 3Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7If you abide in me, and my words abide in you,ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Legacy Conference 2010

The Legacy Conference will be here soon! I am looking forward to it! If you are interested in attending, and you need a place to stay, let me know. I will keep as many people as I can at my place during the days of the conference. It is Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, July 29, 30, & 31st. For more information check out the Legacy Conference web site.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Abide In The Vine

Abide In The Vine
John 15:1-11

Abide is taken from the Greek word “meno” which means, “to stay in a given place or state, or to continue in, or to dwell, to remain” OR “to be held or kept continually”

I. The Roles of Abiding
v. 1, v. 5
God the Father is the gardener, Christ is the vine, & we are the branches.

II. The Requirement of Abiding
v. 4, 9, 10

III. The Repercussions of Not abiding
For believers…
a)No fruit
v. 4b, 5

For non-believers…
b)No Future
v. 2, 6, 8
“The thought of a person calling himself a “Christian” without being a devoted follower of Christ is absurd…Is this idea of the non-fruit bearing Christian something that we have concocted in order to make Christianity ‘easier’?”
- Francis Chan in "Crazy Love"

IV. The Result of Abiding

a)The Purpose is Fruit
v. 5, 7

b)The Process is Pruning
v. 2b, 3
“He prunes” gives a picture of painful but necessary removal of some interests and activities in order that the remaining branches may bear even more fruit.

c)The Product

1)Joy for the believer
v. 11

2)Glory to God
v. 8