Compound Interest…

***I promise this post is not about finances & investments!***

“If you would just set aside $100.00 each month starting NOW then you would be a millionaire by age 65!”

My mother has told me this several times since I was about 18. Many of you have probably heard something similar to this scenario as well. It is very true, though I do not personally know anyone in real life who has ever done it. Apparently, some sort of a mathematical phenomenon takes place when you make a small investment each month into various types of mutual funds/investments, which accrue a compounding interest. Basically, you earn interest on the principle amount that you invest each month, but you also begin to earn a return on the interest as well. Somewhere down the line you see an explosion, but it takes time. You can’t argue with basic math. The small investment each month WILL multiply into a LARGE sum of money in the window of about 40 years.

What I am submitting now is that there is exponential value in this particular pursuit of discipleship; what I believe to be the “way Jesus did things”. Again, we just don’t like it because it might take longer; heck, we may never even get to see the fruit from it. We will not get glory for it, or should I say we will no longer be able to rob God of the glory HE deserves. However, we can be assured that if we take the challenge to pour into just a few people at a deep level we are doing exactly what Christ called us to do, and there will be an explosion somewhere down the line. We can be assured that the disciples we are making WILL make more disciples (Otherwise we can’t say we’ve effectively discipled them in the first place).

Here’s a quick video illustrating what this might “look like” if we did it. Many of you have already seen this video, but it’s worth a re-watch.

It seems so easy doesn’t it. So why don’t we do it? I assume it is the same reason that I have never met anyone who has actually become a millionaire by investing $100 a month into a mutual fund. However, if we dared to take the challenge might we wake up in forty years to see that the Holy Spirit has swept through our land to raise up a holy army of kingdom warriors? And this, all because we found value  pouring our everything into a few people for a few years against all outside pressure from the world around us. At every turn the “world around us” screams that we are wasting our time on small/insignificant things when we could be “allowing the Lord to do great things through us”. May we not be seduced by that lie any longer. Jesus save us from ourselves, and replace what we value with what YOU value.

Where’s The Value?

This will NOT happen if we’re worried about how we will answer when asked the question, “how many churches have you started, or how big is your church?”

I am convinced that we do not value the things that Christ valued. He intentionally poured into a small number of guys who went on to change the world. Yes, there are times when He interacted with, and encountered large groups of people. However, the majority of His time was spent with these 12 guys. He took them with Him everywhere He went, constantly asked them questions, helped them reach conclusions, and prepared them to carry out a great task. Are we trying to do the task ourselves, as if it’s up to us to do? Or, are we preparing others to carry out a task that’s too great for us alone; ushering in the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven?

We say we value discipleship (As noted above-Jesus’ “model”), but our actions prove otherwise-across the board. We are trapped in a way of doing things in the west, and the expectations of man keep pulling us back into that trap. Man simply does not value individual people enough to actually disciple those individual’s. We want to do the things that “make it big”, or “bare MUCH fruit” in man’s eyes. We also tend to mysteriously do the things that can be traced back to being a result of what WE did; those things usually “make the papers”, ironically.

Pouring ourselves into the lives of a few people for a year’s time does NOT make the papers…but it’s what Jesus did.

So, what do we do? I am a big fan of seeking solutions to problems, and not just complaining about them. I am also a fan of DOING, and not merely talking. A lot of people are talking about a lot of this stuff, but few are practicing. I have made a commitment to the Lord this year. Against all outside pressure, and expectations to grow a kingdom of my own while calling it the growth of God’s kingdom I have decided to spend more time with less people. This is tough for many “Type A Leaders” with “strong personalities”. After all, hasn’t the Lord called us to be vessels through which He changes the world!? Doesn’t that mean we start, and grow HUGE churches!? (Or, start LOTS of churches…right?)

The problem is that we have lost the art of the heart of Jesus’ ministry; discipleship. This is the bottom line. We call ourselves “disciples” of Christ. I find it interesting that Jesus spent the majority of His time pouring into twelve ragamuffins, which eventually turned into eleven. The point is that Jesus was constantly bent towards individuals, or small groups of people.

I realize that in Acts the Holy Spirit fell on the people, and 3,000 came to know Jesus in one day! I simply feel that we have accidentally allowed the pendulum to swing too far towards “reaching the multitudes”, and in the midst of our efforts lost the art of relational discipleship. Which, in the “big picture”, would lead to reaching the multitudes. Once again, some of the most powerful stories we know from scripture involve Jesus showing favor to, and spending time with INDIVIDUALS. He then expected these individuals to RESPOND in such a way that illustrated their encounter with the Gospel.

Picture it; Jesus is walking through a large crowd of people, and ONE woman touched the edge of His cloak. He stopped and paid her the attention that only the God of the universe could. Later in Matthew Jesus is, once again, walking in a crowd. Again, He parts ways with a LARGE amount of people to call ONE man down from a tree. He then goes to have dinner with that man. As a result, the life of Zaccheous was transformed. Jesus meets the woman at the well. He extends grace to the woman caught in the act of adultery. Over and over again in the Bible Jesus shows His concern for individual people. He spends time with them. He blesses them. He pours into them. The result was people who were TRULY transformed by the grace of Jesus, and not just hit with a pellet of the Gospel spread thin as if exploding from the barrel of a shotgun.

Jesus poured into the twelve. He lost one, and was left with eleven. Those eleven would go on to change the world. What does that look like for us as Christ followers today? Many of us write off individuals as unimportant, or view the thought of any large amount of energy spent pouring into one person as ineffective/not a good use of time. I am beginning to believe just the opposite. I feel the Lord challenging myself, and Christ-followers in the West to spend more time with less people. I have begun this pursuit, and have discovered a new way of living. A way that only the Lord can receive recognition and Glory for the results. George Barna calls this the practices of a “revolutionary”. Will you join me in this new Revolution of what it truly means to follow Christ, and live out the Gospel of Jesus that we claim to cling to?

It’s time we stop being slaves to what man sees as valuable. It’s time we start valuing what Christ values. May we stop performing to make a name for ourselves, and our ministry/church/organization? May we start doing the things that go unnoticed, and fly below the radar trusting that our Father in heaven sees our good works? May we trust that if we TRULY make a disciple who we KNOW will make another that somewhere down the line we will begin to see exponential growth?

This will NOT happen if we’re worried about how we will answer when asked the question, “how many churches have you started, or how big is your church?”

Can’t Stop the Spirit…

This past Sunday evening was beautiful, and refreshing for me and Morgan. We were in Ft. Worth visiting family, taking care of business, working, etc. We got to hook up with our old simple church community on Sunday night for their weekly worship gathering. It was SO encouraging to see what the Lord has been doing through them over the past year and half since we’ve moved. Reconnecting with them to pray, worship, and seek the kingdom was extremely rejuvenating…not to mention how encouraging it was to see a room FULL of new faces who we’d never met before…

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Before we moved from Ft. Worth I had thrown out the idea of seeing new communities birthed out of ours-multiplication. However, it just didn’t seem to be the right “timing”. So, we moved, and the issue wasn’t discussed much more. I found out a few months back that a group of the “adults” from that community had branched off to start a new one…I believe they refer to it as “I.G.O.F.” (Intentional Gatherings Old Folks) or something like that. That was encouraging to hear. Then, this past Sunday night Keri’s dad, Bob Crowell, shared a word he had received from the Lord. He said that the Lord was telling them that they were going to multiply, and see new communities started out of that one. My heart lept for joy as I realized that the Lord, in His timing, and through His Spirit was doing what He wanted to do. The rest of us in the room got excited, and I listened as several others began to beg the Lord for wisdom/discernment/guidance in how to go about seeing new disciples made and new communities started. I could do nothing but PRAISE CHRIST for His sovereignty. Pray for the I.G. Ft. Worth community, that they pursue the Lord, and see multiplication…

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***Oh, they Baptized Ioana, who has been a part of the community for quite some time now, a couple months ago in a Hotel Lobby Fountain the week after several of them had been in Las Vegas for Student CPx. I thought that was pretty rad. They also Baptized a guy in the front yard a couple weeks ago who’s now become a “part of the family”. LEGIT***

“I praise you Christ for your activity in our lives, and the lives of our dear friends in Ft. Worth. May you continue to rock our worlds in supernatural ways. Have your way Lord!”

What Would You Say…?

I know that a lot of you out there are brilliant, and have learned a ton about making disciples to produce movements in the past few years. So, I thought I’d get some input from you…I’m in Austin, Tx. right now, and will be chatting with a group of college students tomorrow who are “movement minded”. They get the theory, and many of them have already begun pursuing starting “simple churches” in the area. What are 3 things you’d say to a group of young people who are sold out, and passionate for seeing a CPM in the states? (Practical Steps, how to avoid potential roadblocks, etc.)

1, 2, 3….come on, don’t be shy.

Next week I’ll be heading out to Orlando with my close friend, and mentor, Lance Ford. Lance has partnered with Alan Hirsch over the past few years to start www.shapevine.com

In Orlando we’ll be putting on the “missional track” at the annual “Exponential Conference”. This will be the second year in a row that shapevine heads up the “missional track”. During that track I will be participating on a “panel discussion” with several other guys. We will be discussing many issues, mostly revovling around CPM’s, and making disciples. There is room for 500 in the missional track, and it’s close to being sold out. This makes a 24 year old guy a bit nervous. If you could share 3 things with a room full of pastors about ANYTHING what would they be? (Let’s get creative here please…)

“Thoughts From The Desert”

Yep, I spent the night in the desert last night. I’m sitting out here at Red Rock at my campsite. Of course, this makes me more of a man, right? Haha! I mean, come on, I haven’t washed my hands since I got here, and I’ve cooked all my meals with the same dirty dishes. (I’ve got my pup here with me; she’s my “dishwasher”-no lie) I’m sitting here in my camping chair with my laptop out-haha, again. I’m been thinking about how this may be one of the last times that I camp alone, or with my wife alone. The next time we camp we will most likely have a little girl with us, our little girl. I am still humbled that the Lord would count me worthy to have such a life as this. I am reminded as I sit here of His grace and healing power in my life. I beg the Lord to continue to heal my brokenness even as I sit here.

“Lord heal and sanctify me that I might be the husband and father that you desire me to be. Teach me how to point my wife and little girl to YOU as their TRUE Father.”

Being in the “wilderness” with Jesus has definitely brought me closer to “being a man”. For example, I didn’t get any sleep last night because I laid in my tent on the hard, rocky ground. Halfway through the night by toes were numb, and I was literally freezing my ass off. How, you ask, does this make me more of a man? Well, it doesn’t other than the fact that I have shown my stubbornness and stupidity like most men do. Silly little things like this remind me of my need for Jesus’ activity in my life. One of my favorite authors, Brennan Manning, is known for his yearly trips to a random cave where he goes to be alone with the Father. I am kicking myself for not taking more opportunities to do this before I become a daddy. However, I hear the Holy Spirit whisper gently that it will be “ok”. If all goes as it should I will do my best to be a responsible parent, but the life of my little girl lies completely in the hands of her creator, and hope-to-be Savior. All I can do is model for her the deep need we all have for a Savior, and trust the Spirit to draw her to Himself.

In about 48 hours I’ll get on a plane for Texas, where I’ll reconnect with my wife, who’s belly will have probably doubled in size since the last time I saw her. In that belly is the second girl (Morgan being the first) on either side of our immediate family. I have only one girl cousin on either side of my parent’s family as well. This excites me, however, it may excite our future baby’s grandparents even more! From Dallas we’ll head to Austin to reconnect with some friends, and do a short training with some college-aged world changers. After that I’ll fly into St. Louis, load up a truck, and drive to Orlando with one of my mentors to help facilitate the “missional track” of the annual “exponential church planter’s conference” I nearly wet myself when I think about sitting in front of pastors from all over the country, and share about how our lives have been changed through more organic expressions of the ecclesia. I am humbled to even think about this opportunity. I am sent to my knees in desperate pursuit of Jesus, and the leading of the Holy Spirit for guidance. I beg for the ability to exalt Christ above anyone/anything else. I question my ability to pursue such a task in my broken state. I praise you Christ for using such broken, jacked up people to usher in your kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. Lord Jesus have your way.

(In the midst of NOT sleeping well all night I did get to see the sunrise coming up from behind the mountains this morning-it was beautiful, and worth a lack of sleep=)

Simple Church “FAQ’s”

Hey there blog readers. I wanted to share a wonderful resource with those of you who are either simple church planters, or are “investigating” simple church in differently ways. Some of you have embarked on this journey to plant, others of you are still questioning the Biblical legitimacy of simple church. A friend of mine here in Vegas, Scott Linklater, is doing a study/documentary video on Simple Church for his denomination. It will be a great voice for SC, and raise awareness in the denomination. As a part of the study he has put together a list of FAQ’s about simple church, and asked that practitioners participate. I filled out the questions, and sent them back to him. I also posted a link to the file here on the blog, and would love for you guys to look over it; fill it out if you like. Feel free to share it with whomever, and if you do fill it out I would love to read the answers you contributed. If you do so please email them back to me: aaron@intentionalgatherings.com

Scott will also greatly appreciate your feedback. To the right of this post, and down a little bit you will notice a “box.net” file sharing widget. The file is at the very top. Simple download it, fill it out, keep it, share it, and please email it back to me. I will forward it to Scott. Again, your response is greatly needed and appreciated for this “study”. Let me know if you have any questions!

“Interns, College Courses, & Good Discussions”

Some of you know that we recently brought on our first “official intern” for Intentional Gatherings as an organization here in Vegas. We have had many people come in and out of our different communities in Ft. Worth AND Vegas over the past three years. They have all been “informally trained” to take what they’ve learned back to wherever they came from. We have also moved quite a few young people in and out of the different I.G. Houses in both cities. Here in Vegas we do, on paper, call those who have come into the I.G. House, “house interns”. We’ve also seen hundreds of students trained to start simple/campus churches through the various trainings we’ve hosted/been a part of. We would also hope that ANYONE who is ever a part of any of the I.G. communities would be equipped/discipled in such a way that they could ALL go anywhere in the world to start their own simple church. However, this is our first “formal” intern who has come in to learn specifically about planting simple church communities with the end goal of starting his own community when he’s done. We’re about a month in and things have been really exciting…Pray that it continues to be fruitful. Welcome Aaron Fullmer!

I have another friend who spent some time with our community here in Vegas last summer. He went back to school in Reno, but we’ve stayed connected. He’s doing some cool stuff in his neighborhood with his roommates to facilitate “Missional Community”. He’s in a college class right now, and had to write a paper/do some sort of study on The Church in America. Unfortunately, it was a discussion about “Institutional Church” & “House Church”. He asked me to comment on this issue for his paper. I’m not a huge fan of debating these two things anymore. However, I thought it was worth sharing with you guys for some more healthy discussion to continue our wonderful chat from this past weekend…

From Jon:

“I’m just looking for one or two quotes for an article for a class I’m writing. Just sum it up…

What’s your opinion on home churches compared to the institutionalized church?”

My Response:

“Dude you know I can’t make it that short-haha! This is as short as I could manage….

It depends on how you’re defining “church”. Biblically, The Church is defined by the people of God, The Bride of Christ, etc. To put the word “institutionalized” before the word “church” is a bit scary and dangerous to me. However, placing the word “house” before the word “church” is also very dangerous. When we do either we confine the people of God to a place, and put the Holy Spirit in a box.

Practically speaking I do feel that institutional churches do a poor job of “equipping the saints for the work of service”. Because they are run like a business they are dependent upon money, infrastructure, staff, programs, etc. When those are the dependent variables the God-given purposes of His people get distracted. In our current day and time most businesses AND institutions across the board are struggling. This is the VERY same with MOST churches that operate as institutions. When money is NEEDED to survive as a business (institutional church) then certain things MUST be done in order to get people: 1) into the church (building) 2) Make/Keep them happy 3) Please/entertain them 4) Get them to pledge membership-tithe & volunteer their time. When the primary focus becomes the above we very quickly throw TRUE discipleship out the window. (Please know I am not questioning the motives behind why these churches do what they do. They are obviously pursuing what they feel God has called them to in making disciples-I would hope & assume)

I have found, in my experience, that more organic expressions of the ecclessia better facilitate discipleship & “equipping the saints for the work of service”. Not only that, but because it is NOT dependent upon any of the above variables it is much more reproducible. Anyone from anywhere and in any context can follow Christ, make disciples, and facilitate Gospel centered community ON MISSION when the “criteria” for “what/how/why” we do church is made more simple & organic by nature.

God has used the institution to do wonderful things, and change lives-we’ve forced Him to have to work in that box here in America (Generally). He’s working in crazy ways OUTSIDE of the box of the institution all over the world. The Church-the people of God were never created to be institutionalized (Thank you Constantine) and sure as hell never meant to operate as a business. We prove our lack of faith when we insist that the movement of the Spirit of God, and the Gospel can/should only operate inside the realm of an institutionalized business. God is moving, and there is a HUGE shift happening among the Body of Christ. May we welcome it gladly, appreciating some of our past healthy tradition, but not cling to it in foolish  pride.”

Your thoughts?

“Out Of Business”…!?

A couple of days ago I posted a blog about our experience at “Poetry Reading Night”. If you haven’t read it you might want to do so before continuing with this post.

A dear friend of mine and Morgan’s, Jackie, posted the below comment in response to the above (linked) post. Before you read it: Jackie spent a summer with our Intentional Gatherings Ft. Worth crew a couple years ago, and then went back to Austin to start doing some rad stuff. She ended up on staff at The Austin Stone, where the Lord provided her with an incredible opportunity to bring some of what she learned about living in community ON MISSION to the church. She has a heart for true church planting movements, and from what I know of The Stone, they do as well. It may shock you that a staff member of an institutional mega-church would post a comment like this. I can assure you that The Stone knows her heart, and most likely shares the same heart…

Posted by Jackie:

“Man brother, your heart is so encouraging to me, and always seems to speak about what I’ve been wrestling with. Crazy.

This is my question I’m going through…if the institutional church/mega church/whatever is really there for the Kingdom, shouldn’t it’s goal be to put itself out of business? I.E., shouldn’t churches seek to keep the doors swinging so that believers come in, only to be released out into the harvest, where essentially they spend their time and therefore DON’T have time for church as a service and programming. I realize this is a dangerous question, but I just can’t get it out of my head.”

Jackie’s a thinker, and she’s passionate. She GETS movements, and making disciples. Maybe you guys can wrestle through this question with her. What are your thoughts?

Lonely Old Men, & Poetry…

The thoughts in this post pose some interesting questions, which are the reasons behind why I wrote it in the first place. The questions are at the end…if the story becomes boring feel free to skip down and read them. I’d love your thoughts on them as well…

“Lonely Old Men, & Poetry”
Last night our simple church decided to go to what we thought was an “open mic night” at the Coffee Bean. The Bean is right down the street, and we’re always sure to meet people who live in our neighborhood when we go there. Our purpose was to build some relationships, and a couple of us were possibly going to contribute to the “open mic”…

Much to our dismay, we had received a bit of inaccurate information about “open mic night”. Turns out it was really “Poetry Reading Night”. We thought, “What’s difference does it make? We came to build relationships. Why would that change because it’s open poetry reading, and not open mic, right?” We had also spent some time covering the evening in prayer at the house before heading up to the Coffee Bean. So, we, a bit reluctantly, joined the group of poets in the back room. It was closed off from the rest of the coffee shop, probably due to the language/content of the poetry. Not to mention they had the mic CRANKED up.

It did not take us long to realize that this was going to be a long night. What we thought was open mic night was actually poetry night. What was SUPPOSED to be poetry night should have actually been called, “Erotic, Sexual Poetry Reading by Creepy, Old, Lonely Men and Women Night.” Haha! I won’t go into detail here, but you can imagine what we were hearing. Each person had crafted their wildest sexual fantasies into a poem to share with the entire group; all included MUCH use of the “F” word. Enough said.

I am really proud of our community for being such “troopers”, not judgmental, and having true compassion in their hearts for those we spent the evening with last night. For the most part we’ve all been far removed from our previous “Christian Bubbles”, which completely sheltered us from the world, sin, and the potential to be temped. Being around “sin” doesn’t make us want to leave so we don’t get “tainted”, or hinder us from remembering our purpose. We go confidently into dark situations having faith that the LIGHT is US in far more powerful than the DARKNESS we’ve entered into; we’re also “prayed up”, and on mission together as believers. (The Bible talks a bit about this believe it or not = )

There is one very important thing that came to my mind last night as we were sitting in the back room of the Coffee Bean while creepy old men were talking about their dream girl being tied to the bed…

I could not help but think that the way we felt sitting in this room (A bit uncomfortable, uneasy, not used to the atmosphere, confused, unsure of how to act, curious, maybe a bit offended, etc.) must be what it feels like to be an UNbeliever walking into a “church” for the first time…(Please do not hear me picking on the “institution” here. This “happening” can easily take place in a simple, or house church setting as well)

Think about it: We walked into the poetry reading as “outsiders”, not knowing much about it, the people, etc. We were greeted, and found our seats quietly. The next hour was spent in the context of a completely different, and new atmosphere. The language was different, the way people spoke, the things they spoke about, the attitudes they had, the activities they participated in, the way they expressed emotion, the music they listened to, etc. Of course, not all of these things were bad, or negative by any means. However, that is all we know of poetry night at the Bean, and probably all we’ll ever know unless we intentionally pursue relationships with those people outside of poetry night. Being there that night did not make us better-equipped poets or poem readers. We will most likely not “join” the poetry-reading group based upon our experience last night.

So, could our experience last night (Believers in a dark setting with unbelievers-on THEIR turf) be very similar to the experience an UN-churched person might have when they walk into a “church”? (Unbelievers in a “bright” setting-on OUR turf). It makes me think about the times Jesus encountered sinners in the scripture, and who’s turf they were usually on. Did Christ expect the darkness to be attracted to the light, come to Him, and be changed? Or, did he take the light out into the darkness and see lives transformed?

Hopefully this will help us to all think more about our unbelieving friends, and where they’re at. We, for a brief moment last night, were “in their shoes”. We learned what it must feel like to walk into a brand new place with new people who dress differently, talk differently, sing different songs, use different language, go on different vacations, enroll their kids in special schools, listen to special radio stations, shop for music & books at special stores, etc. etc. etc.

Should our weekly services be for unbelievers, or for believers?

Should we be trying to accomplish effective discipleship & evangelism SIMULTANEOUSLY using the same weekly service? Are both not going to suffer greatly in the process?

Could two serious issues in the American church today (Weak discipleship & being “seeker sensitive”) come to an end if we stopped putting all of our eggs in the “weekly church service” basket, ceasing to attempt to be both “seeker sensitive” & solid disciple makers with this ONE tool?
(I don’t know of many churches who would admit that this is their ONLY “tool”, but there’s no denying that it is the primary tool used to attempt to achieve both of the above outcomes. If you’ve EVER spent any time on staff at a church then you know that most of the time, energy, resources, etc. are poured into the weekly worship gathering)