Joint Simple Church Gathering…

The Churches Come Together…

The Sunday before last we had a “Joint Simple Church Gathering” at our place. One of our student church planter elders at the student church in Arizona was in town, and joined us to share testimonies of what God is doing there. We were all equally edified as we shared stories of how God is moving in our different simple churches all over the city and country. It is beautiful to see these young passionate students pursue Jesus in such a radical way. There were several people from about 6 different simple churches present. Several of those new churches were started as a direct result of Student CPx here in Austin back in August! We have the privilege of being in a community with several of the leaders from those churches, as well as shepherding them as they are sent back out into their individual contexts.

On another note:
We’ve had people visiting us here in Austin almost every weekend for the past month and a half. It’s been awesome for friends and family to come see what God is doing here as the testimonies spread across the country. Brad McKoy, one of the elder’s on the student church national elder team, and Jim Erb, a spiritual grandfather of ours have been here with us the past few days to pour into us and the students. The Taylor’s then joined us this past weekend to relax and enjoy Austin. Our place is open for anyone to come visit! Do it!

I am excited about the next few months of life for us. They will be busy, but full of fun and the kingdom.

Advertisements

“bASS Ackwards”

In continuation of previous post: “Compound Interest”

Our problem is that we are impatient. We want “get rich quick” schemes, and don’t typically like to work hard for things. We want things NOW, and we want them easy. We are this way with our money, and we are this way in our discipleship methods. Last week I posted “Where’s The Value?” suggesting that we do not value the things that Christ valued based upon how we refuse to disciple others in the way that Christ modeled for us to do so. (By pouring ourselves into just a few people at a time for a few years at a time in such a way that they can & will go and do likewise)

Not only do we want things fast, once we get them we quickly grow discontent with those things we so badly wanted. It intrigues me that we can have such a strong/pure desire to see someone come to know Christ (Neighbor, friend, co-worker, classmate, etc.) that we will pursue/invite them into a relationship with Christ, and think we’re “all done” once they have made a verbal profession of faith, and been Baptized. But, this is only the beginning! When someone commits their life to Christ they have simply committed to beginning a process of discipleship that will go on for the rest of their lives! How have we been tricked into thinking this is the END goal!? This is merely the FIRST step! For the disciples the first step was that they left everything the follow Christ. What if Christ had said, “sweet, I got you to leave everything to follow me, but now you can go ahead back to your life. I just wanted to see if you’d do it”!? Is that not what we do as Christians? We desire someone to “accept Christ”, and when they do we act as if we’re DONE! Picture it: A person has been shadowing us, and watching us. They have allowed us to introduce them to their future Savior. They’ve been wrestling for months with this BIG life decision. They’re finally ready, and we are excited. We lead them through what a decision for Christ means, and maybe Baptize them. Then, we act as if the “job is done” when all along the person thought they were just entering into the beautiful beginning by making that decision!

I know too many stories of people who were led to Christ, and then left high and dry. This is sad to me; I’ve done it before as well. At best we pawn them off to our church “leaders”, or a nearby church to do OUR job, as disciples of Christ, for us. It’s time we step up and take the call to live out the Great Commission seriously. It’s time we actually BE disciples of Christ, and not just call ourselves disciples. We must stop kidding ourselves. We must stop pretending.

So do we truly find value in “making disciples”, or just getting people converted? I would submit that the conversion is the beginning of a discipleship journey that is accompanied by life transformation. We must continue that process with a process of discipleship. May we all search our current lives to see who we are in the process of “leading to Christ”, and who we are discipling.

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.

“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?

There Must Be More…

I want to preface these thoughts to ensure that I cause no doubt in anyone’s mind regarding their salvation, or whether or not they are “really a Christian”. My thoughts below are merely an attempt to “raise the bar for what it means to be a disciple”. (Thank you Neil Cole) I am not passing judgment on anyone for these thoughts, because they apply to me as well. These are convictions that I have had personally, so if they challenge you, know that they challenged me first; they continue to challenge me daily.

There must be more to following Christ than reading my Bible, praying, and “going to church”…=)

I was thinking this morning about how much emphasis we put on certain things as Christians, but not on others. For the sake of keeping this short I will use the example that has been most evident in my life over the past few months, and what I notice as I speak with other believers…

If Jesus’ last command to His disciples when He left them with His Holy Spirit before going to sit at the right hand of the Father was to “Go and make disciples, Baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”, then why is it that many of us as believers do not do so? Some of us may do 1/2 of this command: “Go make disciples”. However, if part of our disciple making process is not Baptizing those new disciples then are we really making disciples at all? I have to ask myself why it is that MOST people, MYSELF included (until much later in my journey), who claim to be disciples of Jesus Christ, have NEVER Baptized someone? This seems a bit crazy to me when I think about it. Jesus’ last command…how is it that when WE made our decision to follow Christ, and then got Baptized that we did not realize/were not released to GO AND DO LIKEWISE? Why is it that the moment I came up out of the water “in new life” that I did not realize the COMMAND of Jesus to go and do the same? (Many Christians that I have dialogued about this with not only do not realize that they are COMMANDED by Jesus to do this, but often think they are NOT ALLOWED to because they aren’t “ordained ministers”. Ouch.)

Basically, we have the majority of the Body of Christ in America, (again, myself included) who are neglecting to carry out a foundational command of Jesus that He imparts to ALL BELIEVERS. This is the command that released the disciples to launch the spread of the early Church by the empowering of the Holy Spirit. If we are not carrying out this command, each and every one of us, are we drastically SLOWING the rate at which the Gospel can go forth to the nations? (TO OUR NATION?)

PRAISE CHRIST THAT IT IS BEGINNING TO HAPPEN IN MANY PLACES, AND EXISTING CHURCHES…(GOTTA SHARE THE POSITIVE TOO!) In fact, I have been hearing beautiful stories of many communities of faith who have begun releasing lay-people in their congregations to start Baptizing new believers! Praise Christ! Dad’s Baptizing their daughters, etc. Beautiful.

A main point I wanted to bring up was that we spend more time, energy, and efforts on our own individual “walk with God” than we do on pursuing this basic command of Jesus. We put more emphasis on religious tasks, duties, and checklists that we think we must do to be a good Christian than we do on this very basic task of making disciples/Baptizing them. What if we focused as much emphasis on going out to make disciples, and baptize them as we do on reading our Bibles and praying? What if it was just as important a task, and expectation as a believer to Baptize new believers into the kingdom as it is to show up at church each week, or read our Bibles each day?

(Guys, I’m not saying we should not be reading our Bibles, and pursuing our individual intimate relationship with Christ. I’m simply asking why we put more emphasis on those things than we do on the growth and spread of the kingdom through new disciples being Baptized by ALL OF US.)

In case you were wondering how this got conjured up in my soul again: I spent the entire last week teaching a group of students about Simple Church Planting. I taught on Baptism briefly…and here is what happened:

img_0200

img_0201

img_0202

Above is Beth, one of the D.T.S. students who had made a verbal decision to follow Christ some time ago, but never followed the Lord in Baptism. Above are also students who had all made decisions for Christ, and followed Him in Baptism, but up until this point had never Baptized another. On Wednesday they Baptized their first, but NOT their last. One student said afterwards, “Now that I’ve done it before I can, and WILL do it again!”

I am anxiously awaiting your feedback, and hope that we can all move forward with a new fervor to obey the Great Commission…ALL of it.