“Ministry to Jesus”

Courtney is a part of our Spiritual Family here in Austin. She’s a student who went through Student CPx last summer here in Austin, and has a passion for knowing Jesus. We are blessed to be a part of a “church family” with her and others who have dedicated their ALL to Jesus. Courtney shares some deep truth in the video below with other student church planter’s on the student church website. I just HAD to share it here for those of you who are not on the student church site. These are some great and universal truths for all of us-regardless of our context. Enjoy.

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What Are We Aiming For…?

“We must stop being so worried about the “sustainability” of churches, and focus on the quality of the disciple due to their time in that community…”

A few days ago I mentioned I was going to continue with what I felt was one of the most important lessons we learned during our time in Las Vegas. To get caught up, Click Here to read the previous post…the following is among many of the things we have learned in the past two years, but something I have been thinking a lot about lately. It will shape & mold how we do things from here on out, and have a tremendous impact on how we will pursue “things” once we arrive in Austin…

Overall, I have determined that Christ is TRULY concerned with the individual Disciples who make up His body (the Church). He is concerned with the growth of those “parts”, knowing that if they are healthy then the body as a whole will be healthy. Many of us fall into the trap of caring/worrying/pursuing more about the “sustainability” of the new “church” or “community” that the health of the individual disciple can be overlooked. The fact is if the disciple is not healthy the church is not healthy. The truth is while most simple/organic churches will not (in many cases SHOULD NOT) be in existence for more than a couple of years, the quality of the disciple will live on forever no matter where they are geographically. (This has been our experience thus far)

As many of you know, at Intentional Gatherings we do like to see new faith communities birthed as a result of discipleship. However, we must constantly fight, and remind ourselves that these new faith communities are a means to an end; they are not an end in themselves. The hope is that they would produce and foster healthy, mature, and reproducible disciples. As disciples are reproduced the Body of Christ (Church) grows and is made more pure for His return. This is a beautiful thing.

I know what some of you are SCREAMING right now: “Aaron, are you saying you aren’t concerned with the actual church that is made up of those individual disciples, and are you saying Christ is not concerned with each individual church!?” I am saying that I feel Christ is extremely concerned with each individual disciple, and their obedience to whatever particular community of faith they are a part of for that time in their lives. We must remember that while there are individuals inside of different communities of faith there are also communities of faith that make up THE CHURCH. We must start with the health of the disciple. From there we will ALWAYS get a healthy community of faith (Healthy does not always mean it will “live” forever=), and thus a healthy body as a whole. If we skip the disciple and try to have a “proper” or “sustainable” faith community then we “chop the legs” out from under the Body as a Whole.

I’d rather have a church of 10-15 made up of extremely healthy kingdom-minded Jesus followers that lasts for 2-3 years than one of ANY number that lasts for decades. You see, I know that wherever those 10-15 go throughout the  rest of their lives they will continue to be that disciple, or potentially start a new church of their own.

“We must stop being so worried about the “sustainability” of churches, and focus on the quality of the disciple due to their time in that community.”

May we all begin, and continue to focus on the disciple more than we do the “entity” (whether big, small, mega, or house) in which we call, “church”. As we pursue individuals gaining a deeper understanding of the Gospel, and fall more in love with their Savior, Jesus, may HE do the rest…”build HIS Church”.

Child Sex Trafficking…

It breaks my heart that such a thing even exists on this earth…

If you are in Vegas then GO REGISTER for the “Stop Child Trafficking Now” Walk on Saturday, September 26th! The information is posted below. A close friend of ours who is a part of our Simple Church is heading up this initiative in Las Vegas. There are many ways you can be involved.

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Click Here to join the group of FaceBook. Click Here to RSVP to the EVENT on FaceBook.

Please read below, and add any thoughts/comments…

Many of us are broken over these issues, but feel very helpless when it comes to doing anything about it. It seems so far away, and too difficult a problem to solve. Let me crush that mentality by first saying that it is NOT far away. Human trafficking is taking place all over OUR Country-yes, the UNITED STATES, on a daily basis. This is a multi-billion dollar industry.

Second, it is NOT too difficult a problem to solve-especially if you claim Christ as King. Each of us carries the keys to the kingdom of God if His Holy Spirit dwells inside of you. Our role as kingdom ambassadors is to USHER in the “kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven”. We do that by walking in confidence in the authority Christ has given us-things that do not match up with His Kingdom do not belong on this earth. Our job is to BRING that authority to the broken places of this earth that don’t align with the Kigdom-in Jesus’ name.

We MUST, as the Church of Jesus Christ, stand up against this injustice. There are many organizations you can partner with to make a difference. One of those is the above organization called “Stop Child Trafficking Now”. They host benefit “walks” in cities all over the country to raise awareness and funds to fight against this injustice. They work with governments and hire trained professionals to go into these brothels and rescue children out of sex slavery. You CAN play a part in ending child trafficking on this earth…

Texas. Baby. Daddy.

I just put my wife & mother in law on a plane to Texas. Yes, it’s ok to fly when you’re pregnant. I will head out tomorrow morning in the car with our dog, and enough stuff for a month or so of life in Texas. I wanted to post this to let you all know the “game plan” for the next bit of our lives…(If you know all of this feel free to skip down to the little “survey” at the bottom of the post…)

Our baby is officially due on June 28th, however, we’re praying for her to come a bit earlier. As many of you who have been pregnant or have children know, Morgan is beginning to feel a bit uncomfortable with this rather large baby growing inside of her. We have been reminded lately of how gracious our God is to provide us with such amazing friends & family who have supported us in everything along the way. From baby showers, to prayers for our marriage & pursuits of what God has called us to you have all been a reminder of the Grace of God in our lives.

I have been reflecting over our time in Vegas for the past few weeks. I can’t believe we’ve been here for a year and a half now. God has done incredible things here and all over the place. We have learned a lot, fallen down a lot, been humbled A LOT, and sanctified for His namesake. We have about 8 months left in Vegas, and will be packing up to move to Austin sometime in December of 2009. We will leave behind several thriving new communities of faith here in Vegas that will, by the grace of God, multiply into many more pockets of believers who will continue to proclaim the kingdom of God in Vegas.

We’re excited to return from Texas to Vegas with a new life in our arms. Up until now “how to handle children” in an “organic church setting” has been mere theory with a small amount of practical experience being involved with other communities with children. Our church here in Vegas is excited to pursue this experience with us…

While in Texas we will be spending time with our families, and old I.G. Community in Ft. Worth. It will be refreshing to say the least. I will be getting some things put into place structurally for “Intentional Gatherings” as an organization that will help to propel the vision and purpose forward. (Website, etc.) We will make a few runs down to Austin to prepare for Student CPx, which is coming up at the end of the summer. After the baby is born I will have a few places to go and teach on simple church planting. To say that things will be busy, fresh, and new may be an understatement!

I’m sure I am leaving some things out. I’ll bring this to a close for now. I hope this post answered some of your unanswered questions. I will be on the road for the next couple of days, but will do my best to update the blog. I have a few topics that I’m really anxious to write about. Hopefully, I will have a chance to do so once I arrive in Texas. For those of you who are quite a bit more interested in our new baby than anything else: don’t worry, I will be taking many pictures, posting many blogs/twitters, Facebook updates, etc. as the time comes.

To close: we’ve been playing a little guessing game around here. Would love for you to chime in…give your best guess for the following:

1) When do you think the baby will come based upon the June 28th due date? (early/late, & feel free to give a specific date as long as it is not a prophetic word claiming she will arrive AFTER June 28th!=)

2) Will she look more like her daddy, or mommy?

3) Will she come out with tattoos and/or piercings as many of you claim?

4) Will she have hair, and if so, what color will it be?

5) What color will her eyes be? (her mom has green eyes, and I have blue eyes)

6) Last but not least: Will she have me wrapped around her little finger…?

“Gospel Authority in the Upside Down Kingdom…”

I am currently in the middle of a series of posts titled, “All Mixed Up, Don’t Know What To Do”. However, the Lord has been teaching, and speaking to me through prayer, community, and one of my mentors about the authority of the Gospel in the upside down kingdom of Jesus. I will pick back up with the “All Mixed Up” series very shortly…

In the I.G. community here in our neighborhood we have committed to walking the streets every Friday morning at 7am to cover our neighbors in prayer. God has given us a desperate heart for this hood, and it’s sanctification. This is where we live, and we feel influenced to seek it’s welfare through deep relationships with those who live here as well. As we were walking the streets, and praying this past Friday the Lord gifted us with a beautiful realization about His authority, His Gospel, His Spirit that lives in us, and what that implies for those of us who call Jesus our Savior.

In man’s kingdom the word authority has a particular meaning. Many of us, myself included, are a bit rebellious by nature, and have had “issues with authority” throughout most of our lives. (The words of my amazing Dad!) Some of us relate the word to a husband & wife in the context of marriage, though often times not Biblical. We think of teachers, police officers, judges, managers, and bosses as having authority. Many of us are under the authority of someone, but also have authority over others. Regardless of which of the above examples we subscribe to the underlying theme is that of a power, or influence over others through control. The dictionary definition of authority is, “the power to determine, adjudicate, or otherwise settle issues or disputes; jurisdiction; the right to control, command, or determine.” Whether accurate, or inaccurate this is the view many of us have in regard to the word authority. The thoughts we have on words like authority are the result of our upbringing, culture, technology, country, education, and so much more. Sadly, this default meaning for the word authority we have acquired has tainted our ability to understand the authority that Jesus speaks of in His upside down kingdom. This is something that we will forever be handicapped by as we seek to pursue ushering in the kingdom of God on earth as it is in Heaven.
When Jesus walked the earth He challenged all the norms, thus we have the phrase “upside down kingdom”. There are many examples of how Jesus did this throughout scripture, but we will focus on His view of authority. As we saw earlier, man’s idea of authority stems from influence by control. We can all agree that our bosses have some degree of authority over us. They control, or influence the way we do things in many ways. A police officer has the authority to pull us over, ticket us, or arrest us. Jesus submits a different idea of authority in His upside down kingdom.

What if authority was not through control, or causing someone to submit to us, but rather something that was naturally awarded us as a result of love and service? For example, I submit to Christ, and His authority in my life as a result of His love for me. Jesus extended grace to me, and served me on the cross. My response to His actions are a willing submission to Him, and His authority in my life. He does not have to twist my arm, control, persuade, bribe, or compensate me to gain my submission to Him, which is not the case for most relationships we are in where someone has authority over us. We submit to our boss’s authority because he will fire us if we do not. We submit to our teachers because they have the ability to fail us. We submit to the police officer because he has a gun, and to the judge because he can put us in prison. Jesus’ authority is not a result of control of, or power over our individual lives. His authority in our lives is a result of us responding to Him, who He is, and what He did for us.

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.Mark 10:45

This is how the triune God chose to gain authority “over” His children; by being under them. (Kneeling to wash the feel of His disciples & accepting a punishment for people who didn’t deserve it to gain them access to the creator of the universe.) He did not put His thumb on our heads, and push down. He came to serve us, and die for us to complete a task that we ourselves could not; He raised the bar, and set the standard for how we are to live. That is the authority He has in my life. My deep appreciation for His grace causes me to submit to his authority. He did not force authority, or control.

This is the authority that we are invited to have in the lives of our neighborhood if we emulate the actions of Jesus. The Jesus inside of us kneels down to serve, and “wash the feet of our neighbors”. We serve, love, and build a relationship with those who live around us. We, through humble service, earn a voice in the lives of those we have grown to love; those who have also grown to love us. We have now not only sought to share the Gospel in words, but with the actions of our lives. Hidden agendas are non-existent, and ulterior motives nowhere to be found. Through modeling the life of Jesus we have now, by accident, gained authority in the lives of our new friends. Actually, the Spirit of Jesus living in us has now gained authority by our obedience, and submission to Him.

These realizations are what led to our prayer for the neighborhood this past Friday morning. As we walked down Lorilyn Ave. I prayed that the Gospel, and love of Jesus would have authority in the lives of those who live in this neighborhood. I prayed that we, by the power of the Spirit of God living in us, would be made able to love and serve the people in this neighborhood in such a way that would cause them to respond appropriately. I prayed that the authority of Jesus, His Spirit, and His Gospel would reflect the upside down kingdom. We do not desire to have an oppressive, controlling, consequence fueled, and forced authority in this neighborhood. We begged the Lord to show us ways that we can come not to be served, but to serve our neighbors. We truly believe that as we move forward and reflect the upside down kingdom of Jesus that it would place a bent towards Jesus in the hearts of those who do not know Him as Savior.

Jesus, may Your Gospel have authority & power in this neighborhood not through control, but through your followers humbly living out that Gospel. As we live a Spirit led life, may it gain a supernatural authority, presence, and voice in the lives of those who do not know You as Savior. Amen.”

“All Mixed Up, Don’t Know What To Do” – Part 1…A?

Why “church planters” Suck at Reaching the Lost
(This one might hurt…it hurt ME to write)

Previous blog written on May 14th, 2008

This is follow-up from part 1 of the “Christians Suck at Reaching the Lost” entry. I couldn’t just pick on the everyday Christian, and had to ask, “well, who is responsible for training, and leading these everyday Christians!?” (I want to start off by saying that I have been one of these “church planters”, “trainers of everyday Christians”, etc. I am guilty. I repent daily. I beg the Lord for something different, something fresh, and something new…heck, something Biblical.) I was recently in Orlando with a large group of “church planters” at Exponential 08′, which is one of the largest church planter’s conferences in the country. I had the pleasure of spending quite a bit of time with a few of the key speakers/authors outside of the conference. These are guys who are introducing new thoughts into the picture for what life as a disciple of Christ looks like according to the scriptures, and the implications that result for those of us who claim to be disciples. We sat around chatting about things, and it led me to the following thought…”church planters” (Me) suck at reaching the lost. There are many reasons for this. I will attempt to touch on a few of them…

We have been planting churches for the already churched for years. Most of our plans, strategies, models, etc. include language and practices that the average Christian is familiar with, or can relate to. However, those outside of the church, who do not have any church background or Christian upbringing are lost in the mix do to a HUGE language/culture barrier. Most of our “church growth” is a result of Christians transferring from one church to the other. We MUST stop planting churches for ourselves, and start being Disciples of Christ who focus on being missional in our communities. We MUST stop kidding ourselves into thinking that the large numbers in our weekly services are a legitimate measure for success. Are those numbers bad? NO. But are we reaching the lost, or simply entertaining a tragic game of “musical churches” for Christians?

I will not be so arrogant as to think that some disciples are not being added to the kingdom as a result of our current form of church, and church practices in America. However, I would submit that we have things backwards. We “plant churches” thinking that it will produce disciples. The opposite, in fact, is what we find in scripture. Jesus COMMANDED us to “go and make disciples”. He never even so much as suggested that we go “plant churches”. Interesting. I have experienced personally that when we start with the disciple, “church” naturally happens. When we start with the disciple those disciples become The Church; they don’t start going to church. They become a part of The Body of Christ. Of course, a natural result of people becoming radically transformed by the Gospel, and living missionally in the context of community, are the “church practices” that follow. Notice though, that these “church practices” are merely a RESULT/REACTION of transformed disciples; they are not the “end”, but simply a “means to the end”. In America we start with the “church practices”, invite others to join those practices, on our terms, and hope that a disciple is produced. We accidentally get consumed with those practices, so much that a team of professionals now has to manage those practices. Typically, those managers of “the practices” must have extensive Biblical Degrees, and demand control of this finely tuned machine, lest they lose control. Ladies and gentleman…ding ding ding: church planter. Me, if I’m not VERY careful. (Except I don’t have a seminary degree…ooops)

Do we find anyone in the Bible ever intentionally “planting churches”? Not that I can find. Interesting. I realize that Paul went to new cities, raised up disciples of “The Way”, and then left. I would submit that he went to those cities to raise up disciples of Christ, and the result was people living in the context of tight-knit community. The followers of Christ in those cities were naturally led into certain “church practices”. His follow-up letters are addressed to “The Church at (fill in the blank)”. He was referring to the people, or community of believers when he refers to them as The Church. He also addressed The Church by the CITY the people lived in. Not by denomination, or what building they attended on a weekly basis. “When the day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.” (Acts 2:1) There are verses all throughout Acts that describe this idea of The Body of Christ being together within the cities they resided. They were defined in their city by the way they lived their lives. The outsiders actually labeled them as “Christians”, or “mini Jesus'”. They didn’t even place that label on themselves! They simply lived out the Gospel of Jesus in community with one another, and received their label from others. They were the Bride of Christ, they were The Church. I fear that we have lost the art of being, and raising up disciples in our attempt to “plant churches”. When will we begin to raise up disciples who will go to, or be in their cities in order to truly reach those who do not know Jesus? When will we stop creating machines that busy the “Christian” with programs, and choke out the movement of the Holy Spirit because man takes total control? (If the previous statement does not apply to your church then do not let it offend you. If you feel offended then it might apply, and require some issues to be addressed. Please hear my heart, and receive this gently. I pray for the day when we can all have mutual accountability within the Body of Christ, and “spur one another on to goodness”.)

When will regular, everyday Christ followers feel the freedom, desire, and responsibility to live the Gospel outside the walls of an institution? Is the institution bad? No. Does it do good things? Absolutely. Is the church (little “c”/institution) as we know it in America a catalyst for a movement of the Holy Spirit that sweeps through communities, and transforms the multitudes as we read about it the scriptures? Tears come to my eyes as the hard truth leads me to answer that question with a broken…. “NO”. (There are some RARE exceptions to this statement). This is not an easy realization to come to. It challenges, and changes everything I have ever known about “church”. However, I cannot escape the fact that much of what I see in our “church practices” in America are nowhere to be found in the scriptures. I wonder what it would look like if those of us who call ourselves “church planters” allowed that label to be placed on us AFTER we have raised up disciples in the cities we inhabit? After all, in the scriptures The Church is The Body of Christ. How can we go to a city with a name, budget, location, website, core values, prospectus, mission statement, staff, and plant a “church” with no disciples!? No people? No Body? It seems a bit presumptuous doesn’t it? It’s time we start going places with the intentions of raising up disciples, be led into missional community with one another, and then look back and say, “Praise Christ! Look at THE CHURCH that was planted!”

I do not want to be a mere complainer, someone who tears down and deconstructs. So, please know that I believe there are answers and solutions to the above issues. As my close friend, and mentor Lance Ford told me today regarding this entry: “…include some answers…we can deconstruct until we’re blue in the face…”, and as Alan Hirsch says, “the best critique of the bad is the better.” I have several more entries to follow up the ones I have posted so far. God willing answers and solutions will be formed in the entries to come. Stay-tuned.