I was recently asked to write an article for a new website launched by Campus Renewal Ministries. The purpose of the blog is to stimulate dialogue around the topics of unity, prayer, and missional communities on college campuses. Of course, I was excited at the opportunity to share what God has been doing around the country through students who are stepping out to make disciples and start new local church communities in their context. I shared a quick story, specifically about some things taking place currently here in Austin, and then a brief note about what it would look like if we started fostering “new discipleship environments” in our lives. CHECK IT OUT, and leave some input in the reaching campus comments section…
“Join us August 10th-20th to engage the diverse communities of Austin with the Gospel through a kingdom lifestyle of encountering God in community and planting churches among the lost.”
Click Here for more details & info. about Student CPx Austin.
Click Here to register for Student CPx Austin.
Many of you are familiar with the Student CPx (Church Planter’s Experience) training that we, in partnership with several other organizations, host in different parts of the country. You may remember the “concentrated” version of SCPx we hosted in Vegas in January 09′. (More on what happened there HERE & HERE) Or, if you go way back with “aholydiscontent” you might remember me mentioning the first ever Student CPx training in Lawrence, Kansas last summer. You may have even watched powerful Baptism videos from these training experiences.
Either way, the Lord has been moving in the past year, and ordaining relationships that will hopefully lead to Student CPx trainings all over the country many times each year. The dream is that these training experiences would be led primarily by students who have gone through a previous SCPx.
That is exactly what has happened with the upcoming Student CPx in Austin. Lauren Nanson, a UT student who has gone through SCPx, had a vision to see this type of training experience brought to Austin. Many of you in the Austin area have already been pursuing this movement, and have been training students to start campus churches; we are BLESSED to partner with you in the city, and grateful to the many of you who have committed to being a part of making this happen!
I hope you will all check out the information about Student CPx, and consider being a part of this experience. If you know anyone who might benefit from SCPx please send them our way, or to the website for info/reg. If you are closer to Kansas then we encourage you to register for the SCPx in Lawrence, Kansas, which is taking place July 19-31.
Student CPx Austin: August 10-20. Cost: $250 (meals & lodging included)
Click Here for more information.
Click Here to register.
Feel free to email Lauren Nanson: email@example.com OR Aaron Snow: firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
“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.”
This will NOT happen if we’re worried about how we will answer when asked the question, “how many churches have you started, or how big is your church?”
I am convinced that we do not value the things that Christ valued. He intentionally poured into a small number of guys who went on to change the world. Yes, there are times when He interacted with, and encountered large groups of people. However, the majority of His time was spent with these 12 guys. He took them with Him everywhere He went, constantly asked them questions, helped them reach conclusions, and prepared them to carry out a great task. Are we trying to do the task ourselves, as if it’s up to us to do? Or, are we preparing others to carry out a task that’s too great for us alone; ushering in the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven?
We say we value discipleship (As noted above-Jesus’ “model”), but our actions prove otherwise-across the board. We are trapped in a way of doing things in the west, and the expectations of man keep pulling us back into that trap. Man simply does not value individual people enough to actually disciple those individual’s. We want to do the things that “make it big”, or “bare MUCH fruit” in man’s eyes. We also tend to mysteriously do the things that can be traced back to being a result of what WE did; those things usually “make the papers”, ironically.
Pouring ourselves into the lives of a few people for a year’s time does NOT make the papers…but it’s what Jesus did.
So, what do we do? I am a big fan of seeking solutions to problems, and not just complaining about them. I am also a fan of DOING, and not merely talking. A lot of people are talking about a lot of this stuff, but few are practicing. I have made a commitment to the Lord this year. Against all outside pressure, and expectations to grow a kingdom of my own while calling it the growth of God’s kingdom I have decided to spend more time with less people. This is tough for many “Type A Leaders” with “strong personalities”. After all, hasn’t the Lord called us to be vessels through which He changes the world!? Doesn’t that mean we start, and grow HUGE churches!? (Or, start LOTS of churches…right?)
The problem is that we have lost the art of the heart of Jesus’ ministry; discipleship. This is the bottom line. We call ourselves “disciples” of Christ. I find it interesting that Jesus spent the majority of His time pouring into twelve ragamuffins, which eventually turned into eleven. The point is that Jesus was constantly bent towards individuals, or small groups of people.
I realize that in Acts the Holy Spirit fell on the people, and 3,000 came to know Jesus in one day! I simply feel that we have accidentally allowed the pendulum to swing too far towards “reaching the multitudes”, and in the midst of our efforts lost the art of relational discipleship. Which, in the “big picture”, would lead to reaching the multitudes. Once again, some of the most powerful stories we know from scripture involve Jesus showing favor to, and spending time with INDIVIDUALS. He then expected these individuals to RESPOND in such a way that illustrated their encounter with the Gospel.
Picture it; Jesus is walking through a large crowd of people, and ONE woman touched the edge of His cloak. He stopped and paid her the attention that only the God of the universe could. Later in Matthew Jesus is, once again, walking in a crowd. Again, He parts ways with a LARGE amount of people to call ONE man down from a tree. He then goes to have dinner with that man. As a result, the life of Zaccheous was transformed. Jesus meets the woman at the well. He extends grace to the woman caught in the act of adultery. Over and over again in the Bible Jesus shows His concern for individual people. He spends time with them. He blesses them. He pours into them. The result was people who were TRULY transformed by the grace of Jesus, and not just hit with a pellet of the Gospel spread thin as if exploding from the barrel of a shotgun.
Jesus poured into the twelve. He lost one, and was left with eleven. Those eleven would go on to change the world. What does that look like for us as Christ followers today? Many of us write off individuals as unimportant, or view the thought of any large amount of energy spent pouring into one person as ineffective/not a good use of time. I am beginning to believe just the opposite. I feel the Lord challenging myself, and Christ-followers in the West to spend more time with less people. I have begun this pursuit, and have discovered a new way of living. A way that only the Lord can receive recognition and Glory for the results. George Barna calls this the practices of a “revolutionary”. Will you join me in this new Revolution of what it truly means to follow Christ, and live out the Gospel of Jesus that we claim to cling to?
It’s time we stop being slaves to what man sees as valuable. It’s time we start valuing what Christ values. May we stop performing to make a name for ourselves, and our ministry/church/organization? May we start doing the things that go unnoticed, and fly below the radar trusting that our Father in heaven sees our good works? May we trust that if we TRULY make a disciple who we KNOW will make another that somewhere down the line we will begin to see exponential growth?
This will NOT happen if we’re worried about how we will answer when asked the question, “how many churches have you started, or how big is your church?”
I know that a lot of you out there are brilliant, and have learned a ton about making disciples to produce movements in the past few years. So, I thought I’d get some input from you…I’m in Austin, Tx. right now, and will be chatting with a group of college students tomorrow who are “movement minded”. They get the theory, and many of them have already begun pursuing starting “simple churches” in the area. What are 3 things you’d say to a group of young people who are sold out, and passionate for seeing a CPM in the states? (Practical Steps, how to avoid potential roadblocks, etc.)
1, 2, 3….come on, don’t be shy.
Next week I’ll be heading out to Orlando with my close friend, and mentor, Lance Ford. Lance has partnered with Alan Hirsch over the past few years to start www.shapevine.com
In Orlando we’ll be putting on the “missional track” at the annual “Exponential Conference”. This will be the second year in a row that shapevine heads up the “missional track”. During that track I will be participating on a “panel discussion” with several other guys. We will be discussing many issues, mostly revovling around CPM’s, and making disciples. There is room for 500 in the missional track, and it’s close to being sold out. This makes a 24 year old guy a bit nervous. If you could share 3 things with a room full of pastors about ANYTHING what would they be? (Let’s get creative here please…)
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…
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…
Seven of us hopped into a 15 passenger van that was donated to us by YWAM Las Vegas (Thanks guys!) and hit the road for San Diego…
From Left: Sam, Andrew, Dre, Rommel, Candace, Morgan, Aaron
Dre & Candace…them’s my “family”.
At the beach one afternoon following the conference…
Oh yes…swingin’ on the beach with my “fam”…can life get better?
Worship on the beach…Life CAN get better!
We had a blast together in San Diego, and learned a TON about starting new Gospel Centered Communities wherever we go. To learn more about “Total Church” read the book, or Click Here to investigate the conferences. You can also Click Here to go listen to the sessions from the conference.
Highlights from a week ordained by God…
At Student CPx this past week our purpose was to equip students to plant campus churches at their universities that will reproduce organically, fostering a church planting movement. Also, in my previous post I shared about the amazing things going on with I.H.O.P. (International House of Prayer – Kansas City). There are also several other prayer movements taking place in America such as 24/7 prayer (“Red Moon Rising”). There are plans to see houses of prayer on every college campus in the world. We started dreaming this week, and the Lord began opening doors to see these two elements join together in a beautiful marriage. It would appear that the apostolic, and the prophetic are joining together among college students on universities all over the country. Campus houses of prayer (The prophetic side) have popped up everywhere, as well as student churches (The apostolic side) on campuses. For years the two have pursued their calling apart from one another. It would seem as if the Lord is joining together these two very important elements that have been seemingly absent from our current form of church in America. Imagine what it will look like when the apostles, and prophets join one another on mission! Stay tuned…
The students at CPx were not only receiving classroom style teaching, but also hands on training. They were split into “Simple Churches” where they pursued, and practiced the values of living in “missional community” for two weeks. They were on a Native American College campus as missionaries. They learned about past church planting movements throughout history, and the pitfalls of evangelism through extraction. We taught them how simple things reproduce, and that church isn’t about a once a week gathering. We challenged them to pursue Biblical community, and to “go out in two’s” seeking a “person of peace” to disciple (Luke 10). We are extremely proud of these 40 students, and hopeful for what is to come. We challenged the them to seek out an international student on their campus during this next semester, lead them to Christ, disciple them, and bring them to a Student CPx follow-up training in six months. Through prayer, a prophetic word from several people, and a step of faith we decided that we would all bring our persons of peace to meet in none other than Las Vegas, Nevada. There are many details to work out, but in January 2009 Student CPx will join Intentional Gatherings in Las Vegas to reconnect, share what God is doing, train more, and be sent back out. My hope is that we will host this on UNLV’s campus, and that it would spark interest in planting Simple Churches among Christians in Vegas. If each of the 40 students, along with Intentional Gatherings in Vegas each seek out one person of peace then we will have close to 100 Christ followers (half of which will be brand new believers) meeting in Vegas in six months to train, and be sent back out all over the country! We also threw around ideas of having this past week’s batch of Student CPxer’s lead the training for the new believers while we facilitate. We would then challenge those 100 to go back, seek out one more person of peace, and regroup again. The potential of this gives me butterflies.
Last but certainly not least: Throughout the two weeks of Student CPx three Native American students developed relationships with our students, encountered Christ in them, and made a decision to follow Christ with their lives! We immediately Baptized these students in the dormitory bathtub! Erik Fish, who lives in Lawrence, now has three new disciples to start campus churches with. Praise Christ.
I am now on a plane to Colorado Springs where a similar conference called “SPARK” is being hosted by Campus Renewal Ministries. I have been asked to come in for the week to share, teach, equip, and empower students to start “missional communities” on their campuses. Sound familiar? Luckily, the Student CPx guys (Campus Church Network), and the “SPARK” guys (Campus Renewal Ministries) know each other well. I plan on sharing with the leadership of CRM about our follow-up training in Vegas. The amazing aspect of these opportunities is that none of the three church planting organizations involved (CRM, CCN, & Intentional Gatherings) have any desire to grow “their own kingdom”, but the Kingdom of God. It would seem as if God is bringing us together with like-minded desires for a true Church Planting Movement in the states. We will pursue this, and trust God to work out the details.
“Jesus, thank you for uniting Your Body, and preparing Your Bride like You promised to do in Your word. Thank You for allowing us to be a part of what You are doing. Protect us from ourselves, our pride, and selfish ambitions. May we be connected to You, and led by Your Holy Spirit that dwells in us. Amen.”