Word on the Street…

I received this comment through an email from a young guy who has been exploring what it looks like to live in Gospel Centered Community in one of our I.G. families over the past couple of months. This was his response after me giving him a hard time about being so quiet during worship gatherings. It is very refreshing, and encouraging to hear things like this:

“I feel like I’ve been able to mentally understand the core values and purpose of Christianity, but I’ve rarely ever felt spiritually close to God. I can give some theologically correct answers and I try to live by them, but the basis of my action feels more like a rigid conviction rather than an overflow of the love God’s given to me. I see in the I.G. family an authentic heart for God’s people, and I hear stories of the Spirit moving in everyone’s life. So, I figure that most of you have greater experience at engaging God and people in a way that has more depth than mere intellectual explanations. Yet I am unsure of how to make such a thing real in my life. I relate to Kierkegaard in that way.”

The purpose of posting this is not to boast in anything that we have done as an organization, or I.G. Community. We simply feel that the above statement is a beautiful picture of fresh perspective from someone who is new to “organic church”. I think this would have been his/her response to many other Organic/Simple Churches as well…To God be all of the Glory.

City-Wide Missional Community Network

Two years ago there was only about one group of people pursuing simple/organic/house church, or what we call “missional community”, in Las Vegas. It was Apex Church. When Intentional Gatherings moved into town we were told by many in the city that we were “crazy”, and that the vision of seeing “MC’s” multiplied throughout the city was “unrealistic”. They said that it “just wouldn’t work in this city”. Since then we have connected with Apex, and met many others who are also on this pursuit of living in tight-knit Biblical Community through the multiplication of simple expressions of the ecclesia.

A few months ago some of the leadership of these organizations got together to discuss what it would look like for us to partner, unify, and cooperate as similar organizations in the city. As a result, the “Vegas Valley Missional Community Network” was birthed. There are now about seven organizations/churches representing 16 different “missional communities” spread out all over the city.

There is an inward purpose, as well as an outward focus behind why this network has been birthed. (Missional – outward. Community – inward) Because of this network, each of our individual organizations now realize that they are a part of something bigger throughout the city. We know, and are affirmed because there are people spread out all over the city who are pursuing the same vision; the same vision that we were told was “unrealistic”. That is the inward focus, which we pray never becomes dominant in this network. The outward focus should be a natural result, or response of each individual community as they pursue life with others centered around the Gospel. The outward purpose of this network is to see “missional communities” multiplied throughout the entire city. Our prayer is that this will happen through the training, and release of apostolic leaders to start new communities where the Gospel is not rooted deeply.

This past Sunday evening believers from the different organizations involved in the Vegas Valley Missional Community Network gathered for the first time to meet one another, celebrate what God has done in their communities, and pray for one another as they are on mission together in the city. Here are some pictures from the evening…

What a beautiful, and God ordained evening. It was the first of many. Thank you to all of you who joined us, and helped out with everything. Until next time…

I.G. Vegas = Eight Months Old…

It has been eight months since Intentional Gathering’s first permanent presence in Las Vegas. It has been quite the ride. We have seen the Lord do some amazing things. He has taught us much. He has begun forming some beautiful Gospel Centered Biblical Communities here in the city, and used I.G. Vegas to influence to birth of new “missional communities” in other parts of the country. Over the past eight months we have been continuously reminded of some of the core principles we learned at the birth of our journey of that began two years ago in Texas…

1) If we EVER think we have “it” figured out then we have fallen victim to pride, & self-righteousness. We will soon lose all ability to hear from the Holy Spirit, and the ability make proper changes in order to stay effective in our pursuit of seeing the Gospel spread to the ends of the earth.

2) Every “missional community” IS, and MUST BE different. There is NO formula. Gospel Centered Community centered around mission MUST happen naturally, and cannot be forced.

3) We must not spend precious time, energy, and efforts trying to rally believers around our “cause”, “model”, or “way of doing things”. We MUST pursue making disciples, and adding NEW believers to the Body of Christ in order to grow the Kingdom of God. As we pursue making NEW disciples Christ will grow His Church. Amen.

Here’s a quick video of some things that have happened over the past eight months in Vegas, and some upcoming opportunities we have as an organization…

“Airbags”

All-new Hyundai Accent, 3-door version - 6 standard airbags.From the beginning of “Intentional Gatherings” we have made it a point never to think that we have it all figured out. We believe that the second we start thinking we have it all figured out is the second we become closed off to allowing necessary change, and therefore, become ineffective. It would appear that many in America have lost touch with this idea of continuous improvement. It seems somewhat ignorant to believe that the way we do things RIGHT NOW will be the best way to do things in six months, right?

This all makes me think of the automobile industry. Years ago, people did not wear seat belts. Many people died. So, changes were made, and seat belts were required. At first, waist straps were implemented. This worked well, but was not completely effective. Automakers soon realized that they needed to implement a shoulder strap to provide further protection from collision. Seat belts save lives. Wear your seat belt! However, people continued to die in tragic accidents even while wearing their seat belt. So, necessary changes were made…

The airbag came onto the scene. What an amazing invention. The airbag was designed to save lives, which it did. However, there are two important things about airbags that we must remember: 1) Without its partner, the seat belt, airbags are not only ineffective, but dangerous, & 2) Airbags can kill children. Automobile manufacturers are pretty good about making changes, and fixing things that are unsafe. I wonder sometimes if “the church” in America is like the airbag. (I use this term “the church” in reference to our current form of church in American, and very loosely because it means so many different things to so many different people, few of which are correct. This probably includes myself; I beg the Lord daily to teach me what it truly means that as His follower I am, and you are, The Church.) The airbag is an amazing thing. It saves lives, and does great things. But through time those who implemented the airbag realized some things about it. If a small child was involved in an accident, and the airbags deployed it would kill them. The airbag was not effective at saving the lives of smaller children. Our current form of church in America (Institution) is an amazing thing. It saves souls, and it does great things. Period. Anyone who tries to argue that is disillusioned. The institution, just like the airbag, has the potential to spiritually kill if necessary changes are not made. Is the institution bad, wrong, or lost? No. However, it may have become ineffective in many ways by allowing stubborn pride to hinder it from making the appropriate changes.

Soon children under a certain age were prohibited from riding in the front seat, and some cars had the ability to turn off the airbag feature. But wait, the airbag is a great thing, right? Why would anyone want to turn it off? How devastating would it have been if auto manufacturers would have only focused on the saved lives resulting from the airbag while ignoring the child fatalities? I pray that we, as The Church, will celebrate the good, but welcome the opportunity for change and the constant pursuit of effectiveness. This type of change only comes through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Are we spiritually starving the next generation because we feel they are supposed to be “doing church” like we did growing up? Are we pushing the lost away because our arrogant, self-righteous pride has taken over the call on our lives to usher in the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven?

There are guys in the “emergent/organic/simple/house church” movement who are somewhat disenfranchised with the church as an institution. Many of them have taken up a new hobby of bad mouthing the church that doesn’t look like theirs, which happens to meet in a living room. This is a terrible approach. Not only does this cause even more division among the body of Christ, it is arrogant and prideful. Philippians chapter 2 speaks of a unification that occurs through humility. Thinking that I am right and everyone else is wrong is not humility, and cannot birth unity. The issue is not a debate between who is right and who is wrong. Too often in the church time is wasted arguing and discussing who’s right about this and that, who does church “right”, who’s doctrine is correct, etc. I wonder if the Lord isn’t thinking to Himself, “man, they just don’t get it…I thought I made it pretty clear in my word that their purpose is to glorify me, and become more like me.” On that note, I cannot help but think to myself what would happen if the church in America began taking the teachings of Jesus seriously. We’d see rich professionals giving everything they have to the poor and radically following Jesus. We’d see “neat Christians” decide that it’s “ok” for them to NOT be comfortable ALL the time and have perfect, secure, and happy little lives. Shane Claiborne says, “I truly believe that when the poor meet the rich, riches will have no meaning, and when the rich meet the poor poverty will come to an end.” Nicely put.

The root issue seems to be pride. We do things a certain way, our way. We do them for a certain period of time, and it soon shifts from our way to the right way. We then presume to volunteer everyone around us to do things our way, convincing them that it’s The Way. What would it look like if the church stopped getting so set in its ways and tied up in tradition, but allowed the Holy Spirit to lead in a consistent way? Obviously, this would require much humility, and a raised awareness of allowing change.

“Father, as your followers would You burn into us a spirit of humility. May we never allow our prideful flesh to convince us that we figured it out. Show us where You are, and where You’re going so we may follow. Motivate us to action and cause us to embrace doing things differently. Prepare your Church, your Bride, for your return.”