“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?

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A Bad Thing?

Over the past few months I have become increasingly aware that there are many (Mostly “Big Christian Leader Men” in the Evangelical world) who seem to think that making disciples, and seeing new communities of faith birthed is a “Bad Thing…?”

Interesting.

I know what you are thinking: “Aaron, what do you mean they think it is a bad thing!? It has become VERY popular, and many pastors are starting to pursue planting churches out of their churches!?”

This is true. Pastors ARE realizing that if they are to be kingdom churches they must be starting new ones. However, I have noticed that “they” love church planting so long as it is either:

1) Planted directly out of their church

2) They can SOMEHOW take credit for the fruit produced

3) BOTH

In other words: If it continues to grow “their thing”, benefit them in some way, and DOES NOT challenge/get in the way of what they are pursuing then “yes of course we are a church planting church!”

The “question”, “A Bad Thing…?”, resulted after I became aware of several different situations taking place all over the country. The students, and young people we train to start lay-led simple churches have shared that they are constantly getting flack from institutional church pastors/Christian leaders.

For some reason the FIRST response from the pastors to these students after the students share what God has been doing is to: “Burst their bubble, reign on their parade, question God’s activity, doubt what is going on, oppose what they are doing, WARN them AGAINST it, and challenge them to the point of COMPLETELY delegitimizing what is taking place.” (Usually based upon extra-Biblical, Cultural American church concerns.)

This breaks my heart, and leaves me in awe. Picture it: young people all over the country being equipped/empowered/released to go onto their campuses and into their neighborhoods to plant Gospel seeds. In the process new decisions for Christ are made, and new disciples Baptized. Then, new communities of faith are being birthed as a result. Students are Baptizing students, who are then going and Baptizing OTHER students. Churches are birthing, and birthing OTHER new churches! This is bad? Dangerous?

It saddens me that these Christian leaders, for whatever reason, HINDER the movement of the Spirit by abusing their “authority” and influence in the lives of younger Christians. Instead, my prayer is that today’s Christian leaders would rise up to Spiritually Father these young people by affirming and encouraging them to keep moving forward; yes, even if it means their churches have one less member.

Thoughts?

“Underground Church” Newsletter…

A UNLV journalism student put together this newletter about “Intentional Gatherings” and the “Vegas Valley Missional Community Network“. Hopefully it will begin to circulate throughout Las Vegas and begin to connect the other simple/home/organic churches or “missional communities” in the Valley. The student’s purpose is to connect like-minded individuals in the city to know about one another, and eventually partner to be on mission together to spread the Gospel in the Las Vegas! Praise Christ!

For more information on “Intentional Gatherings” or the “Vegas Valley Missional Community Network” send an email to iglasvegas@gmail.com OR contact any of the individuals listed on the newsletter.

Thank You “Church Planting Movements”…

Church Planting MovementsAs you may know I have been slowly reading through a wonderful book by David Garrison called, “Church Planting Movements“. This book is brilliant, and prophetic. I came across something this morning that encouraged me, and gave me much hope for the future…

“Converts are put on a pew while they demonstrate their conversion through years of faithful church attendance.  If the convert grows disinterested over time, the faithful conclude that his conversion was not genuine, when, in fact, he may have simply grown bored. This patter has led to a staggering attrition rate for evangelical churches around the world. The passion and zeal of the new convert is slowly absorbed into the church pews until an anemic, nominal Christian finally drifts away. Lost people are finding the message of the gospel powerful both in its appeal and its ability to change their lives, but they find life on the pews to be less satisfying.

In recent years, evangelical churches have improved discipleship training in an effort to conserve new converts. Some of these efforts have proven effective, but often they concentrate on indoctrination that results in better-educated Christians, but not necessarily better-assimilated Christians.

In Church Planting Movements prospective converts often begin serving Christ even before they become His follower. A Southeast Asia missionary began meeting regularly with a group of Vietnamese physicians. Though the physicians were not yet Christian, they met weekly for prayer, Bible Study, and sharing a vision of what they perceived to be God’s desire for them and their people.”

Garrison, David. “Church Planting Movements”. 2004. Wigtake resources. Pg. 230.

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.

Passion Church – SoCal

If you step foot onto the UCLA campus it won’t be long before you will encounter a zealous student who loves Jesus, and is a part of a simple church within a network called “Passion Church”. Passion Church Network was started by Jaeson Ma, author of “The Blueprint”, under the mentorship of Neil Cole, author of “Organic Church”. There are many student led simple churches spread out on several campuses in Southern California that make up the Passion Church Network. Last weekend 45 students who are heavily involved with PC headed for the mountains in Yucaipa, California for a PC leadership retreat. Morgan and I, along with several others were asked to come speak to the students.


The weekend was amazing, and we met true world changers. We learned as much from them as they learned from us. Every one of them is passionately pursuing Jesus, and the spread of the Gospel through simple church planting. Morgan and I were, and are always extremely encouraged when we spend time with Jaeson, Erik, Neil, CCN guys, or anyone else who is passionate about the multiplication of missional communities.

We all came to a beautiful understanding this weekend in mountains of California. Erik felt a deep need to release the students from a performance mentality that many of us tend to slip into. We feel the need to seek the approval of man, or worse, seek the approval of God by our many works. As prideful man we have a hard time accepting the fact that the beauty of the Gospel is that Jesus did for us we could not do, please God.
By Sunday morning we all had a fresh dose of grace, and reminder of why we made the decision to allow Jesus to do for us what we could not do for ourselves. As I got up to share with the students the Lord gave me a fresh word for the students. There seemed to be some curiosity, and confusion about our part in the kingdom…since we are set free from “doing” for God, right? I can still see the look on the faces in front of me as I shared this simple statement with the students:

“We do not perform for God to earn His approval, we obey because we ALREADY have His approval.”


This simple statement set many of us in the room free. We were, not only released from a performance mentality, but moved to obedience upon the realization of the approval we have from God, because of Christ in us. It is as if we have had things out of order this entire time…


“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.”