church, my personal Lord & Savior.

“It was NOT church that died on the cross for us. In fact, church is one of the very reasons Christ died on the cross. He died, as our bridegroom, that we, a broken and dirty bride might be made pure and clean – ready for His return…”

Have you accepted church as YOUR personal Lord & Savior? Has church entered your heart, and become the leader of your life? Have you allowed church to “take the wheel”, & be in the “driver’s seat?” Have you committed your life to church, and begun to share about your faith in church with your friends and family? I trust that you have invited those friends and family into a personal relationship with church so that it may transform their lives, allow them to play a part in the kingdom, and grant them eternal salvation in heaven.

(Before anyone gets upset, or defensive please know that my ABOVE use of the word “church” is directed at all different forms/models of church – mega, simple, house, attractional, incarnational, institutional, conventional, traditional, missional community, etc.)

I am attempting to illustrate how we worship our individual church, or “form” of church sometimes MORE than, or ABOVE Christ. It seems as if we have become “Dependent” upon those things rather than Jesus Christ. The above sounds, and IS heretical. However, we have not merely replaced the word “Jesus” with “church” in this blog post, but it is evedent in our actions – we are guilty of heresy in our practices. Why is Jesus not enough for us?

Be it mega-church or house church we all tend to fall into the trap of thinking it is one of those things that is the answer, and not Christ. We want to give people one of those things before Christ. We want them to find “community” and relationship in one of those things. We will talk about our “churches” sometimes with more excitement and enthusiasm than our Savior Jesus. how often do we offer church to people before we offer them Christ? Sure, our well-intentioned desire is that they might find Christ once they “join” a church or get involved there. I would submit that they need to know Jesus through YOU, and therefore become a PART of the body of Christ-the Church-as a result.

Here is a prime example of what I am referring to: I have a friend who has a pretty intense drug/addiction problem. After being “clean” for a while I learned that he had “re-lapsed”, and was not doing so well. We were riding in the car as he shared with me how he had been clean again for 3 days, started going to AA meetings again, and wanted to start going to church again (By this he meant he wanted to start attending a weekly service on Sunday mornings). I immediately asked him why he wanted to “go to church” again , and he replied, “because I want to get right with God, get close to Him”.

It hit me that we have substituted church for Jesus. At best we have made them synonymous when they are NOT. Church has become the default way to get close to God. Church has become the answer, and not Jesus. My friend is not in the wrong; he didn’t know any better. I was extremely excited for him, and his PURE desire to clean up, and “get right with God”. This is not an accusation towards him, but us, as the body of Christ. What picture have we painted for the world? Have we offered people church before Jesus? Why is that the default “solution” before Christ?

I became very convicted after the conversation with my friend. You see, I immediately began to think of the best place for him to go that would assist him in his pursuit. I named several options, one of which was one of the simple churches we had started. I am not at all saying it would be bad for him to go to one of those places. I am not even saying that he would not encounter God and be discipled in one of those places. However, why was that the solution I presented him…FIRST? Not to mention, why did I try to “pawn him off” to others when here he was sitting right in my lap practically begging to be discipled? We do not realize it is also OUR job to disciple others into a saving knowledge of Jesus-not primarily an institution or form of church. We, as the body of Christ get to evangelize others into the body. Once there, we get to disciple them as new members of that body. Yes, the body as a whole plays a part in that discipleship, but we, as the evangelizer/discipler play a huge part in that process. Bottom line: I need to disciple my friend. I need to give Him Jesus.

Whatever pursuit of BEING the Church you subscribe to I challenge you to subscribe to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior first and foremost. May that be what dictates our pursuit of BEING a part of the Body of Christ. I will be taking a personal challenge this week to make a mental note of every time I have a discussion about “church” in comparison to how many conversations I engage in about my Jesus. For it is not church that we place our faith in.

“It was NOT church that died on the cross for us. In fact, church is one of the very reasons Christ died on the cross. He died, as our bridegroom, that we, a broken and dirty bride might be made pure and clean – ready for His return. May we worship Him, and not the bride for whom He was murdered.”

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“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?

Feels Good To Let Go…

Whew. I am feeling overwhelmed by the crazy amounts of reading I have done in the past week revolving around Dan Kimball’s blog, and Neil Cole/Alan Hirsch and many others response to it. If you are unfamiliar with these conversations that is not a bad thing. It is basically a bunch of guys discussing…debating, etc. how to “do” church, that their way of “doing” church is better, and seemingly defending the way they do things. (Not all. Many of the guys have stayed very chill, and much of the conversation has been healthy-a few undeserved jabs here and there)

I started following the conversations that erupted in the comments sections and have finally stopped participating today. I can’t say I have much to add. Everyone seems to have their mind made up. Everyone has their strong, and solid points that prove this way or that. I feel no need give a long explanation here. I also have no energy left to try and convince any Christians why we (Me, my wife, our community, our organization-“Intentional Gatherings”)  do things the way we do. I could spend the next hour writing an elaborate response in order to try and convince other Christians….or I could go spend some time with one of the disciples in our community, or our next door neighbor who doesn’t know Jesus….It “Feels Good To Let Go”. Anyhow, this statement by Frost pretty much sums up how I feel:

“Our christology should lead to our missiology which in turn will lead to our ecclesiology. In other words, the way we understand the gospels and the character of God revealed to us in Jesus will affect our way of thinking about our mission in the world. If we get our christology right, it will lead to a right missiology. If we engage missionally in a godly fashion, issues such as how to ‘do’ church (ecclesiology) will take care of themselves.” -Michale Frost-

I’ve posted on this topic before. Christ called us to go and make disciples, not plant churches. He also did not call us to, or even suggest that we “go to church”. He sure as HELL did not intend for us to lose sight of making disciples by getting distracted debating with other believers “how to do church”. If we are making disciples then communities of faith should be naturally birthing. (Read the book “Church Planting Movements“, or any of the previous posts I’ve written about the book)

Also, I would encourage ALL of you who are actively pursuing this conversation through the blogs, and comment sections to visit Neil Cole’s blog if you haven’t already. Start at “Misguided Misgivings 1″. They are all very short. Dan and Neil get into a very healthy discussion in the comments section. Read those. They are very informative, and answer MANY of the questions brought up throughout the various posts.

“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.”