Tuesday, January 19, 2010

I spent a big part of the day today accompanied by the sounds of Cake. This track, Conroy, reminds me why I like them. They're just so creative and quirky.

Monday, January 18, 2010

I love to cook and I love books so it seems only right that I could find it easy to waste all sorts of time reading cookbooks and dreaming up all sorts of fun things thanks to all the ideas the authors have given me (*note* I consider recipes a suggestion or guideline, not a rule). This one is one of my new favorites. When it's recommended by an 18 year old boy, you know it's got to be fun!

The author's got a blog too! How fun is that!!?? And then, on his blog, he recommended this foodie blog. I haven't really read it yet but I'm in love with her photography!

The Comfortable Substitute

By Francis Chan

When I first started Cornerstone Church, I asked myself the question: What things do I need in order to start a church? The answer was obvious: find a building, a person to lead the singing, a sound system, a childcare area, and put together a good sermon. There were other things that I wanted, but these were the essentials. You can’t have church without them. Every evangelical knows you need a building, a sermon, singing, and a program for the kids. Other elements are negotiable, but these are the absolutes.

Here’s the million-dollar question: Is that what I would conclude from searching the Scriptures?

Of course not.

I simply followed what other churches in America had done. I didn’t even think twice about it. But as I look back, I’m amazed that I didn’t consult the Scriptures as my primary resource. Had I done so, “church” probably would have looked different.

If I had consulted the Bible first, I probably would have created a gathering that emphasized loving one another. Instead, I spent years running a service that left little room for love. It quickly became the most popular service in town. It was “successful.” The problem is, we defined success as a lot of people coming, enjoying the service, and receiving some sort of benefit. Our motives seemed pure, and good things were happening, so we didn’t question much.

How would we define success if the Bible were the only standard by which we judged our church? If you had no theological training or previous church experience—if you did nothing but read through the Bible fifty times—what would you consider to be essential for a gathering of believers? How would you measure the success of a church?

This process of starting with the Scriptures alone is what we call exegesis. One of the first lessons I learned in seminary was the difference between exegesis and eisegesis. Exegesis is starting with a passage of Scripture and pulling the meaning directly from the text. Exegesis aims for objectivity. You try to study without preconceived notions of what the passage teaches. You are surrendering yourself to whatever the text says.

Eisegesis is the opposite of that. We were warned against it, and rightly so. Eisegesis is when you attempt to import a subjective meaning into the text. In other words, you start with an idea, then look for verses to support your idea. This is a dangerous approach because your personal desires can determine your interpretation. In your heart, you desire divorce, immorality, wealth, etc., so you search the Bible for verses that will defend your point of view. In eisegesis, you are surrendering the Scriptures to your desires. In exegesis, you are surrendering your desires to the Scriptures.

While we were taught to study and preach exegetically, I don’t remember being taught to live exegetically. Many teach exegetically, yet live eisegetically. We call this hypocrisy. When it comes to life, do we really search the Scriptures first? Is the Bible really the basis for how we live? Or do we pursue a certain way of life and then use the Bible to justify our actions?

With regard to church, I can justify many different styles of gatherings. The point, however, is not to defend our current models. Rather than pointing to biblical elements in the way we do things, we should build our model from the Scriptures alone.

We have trouble building our churches exegetically, however, because we are surrounded by so many influences, and each of these beg us to think subjectively. My thinking is constantly affected by my Asian culture, my American culture, my Southern Californian culture, my evangelical church culture, and a host of other factors. Then I have my own flesh that begs me to believe what I desire to be true. There is so much in this world that would keep us from simply listening to the voice of God.

When I began to realize this, I prayed that God would allow me to ignore the prodding of my culture, my lifestyle, and my flesh as I searched the Scriptures for an exegetical model of church. I have listed some of my conclusions below.

Understand that I’m not saying we need to “do” certain things in order to become a part of the church. We become a member of His church the moment His Holy Spirit enters us. He is the proof of our salvation. When the Spirit enters us, He gives us a desire for the things He desires. He gives us a passion to build His kingdom through obedience to these commands.

There are many things that could be listed, but I’ll limit it to these characteristics because they seem to be the most emphasized. I mention these not because I found a verse about each of these, but because these are the things that I see over and over in the Scriptures. These practices were obvious in the life of the early church and they appear to have been given priority. If we were to follow an exegetical model of the church, then we would:

1. Love one another (which motivates all the “one anothers” in Scripture) - This would have more to do with actions than with feelings. We would care for each other in such a way that we would be moved to intense prayer and giving in order to meet the needs of the people around us. An intense, love-based fellowship would exist because of our common, deep-rooted devotion to Jesus and His teachings. This love and commitment to each other would continually spread to larger and larger circles.

2. Proclaim His message - Our lives would be devoted to proclaiming the amazing news of the gospel to the world. We would announce that salvation has come through faith in Christ. We would teach people to “obey everything that Christ commanded”—not just assenting intellectually to a few core doctrines, but dying to self and becoming immersed in Jesus, His teaching, and His mission. We would be gathering with other believers to remind them of this gospel and to encourage them to stay focused on the mission. In proclaiming Christ’s message, we would be joining Jesus on His mission to rescue the physically and spiritually impoverished by leading them to an all-satisfying God.

3. Practice Communion and Baptism - This was important to Jesus and the early believers. We need to devote ourselves to gathering with like-minded followers to remember Him. We would make sure that His death and resurrection were always at the center of our gatherings, always our motivation and priority. As we baptized new believers, we would be reminded that they are committing themselves to a new life that begins with the death of the old one.

4. Pray - We would gather with other believers in order to pray. We would come into His presence, asking Him to further His kingdom. We would ask Him to lead us according to His will. We would pray fervently for one another.

After searching the Scriptures, I am convinced that if I gathered a group of Christ-followers to practice these things then I could rightfully call it church. There are other things the church could do, but these are things we must do. Here’s another way to look at it: If I’m not living these things out with other believers, do I have the right to say I’m part of God’s church? Biblically, I would have to say no.

Do these things take place at our “services”? If not, then shouldn’t we make it a priority to create gatherings that center on these elements? Shouldn’t this take priority over maintaining services? I believe what we do in our services is good, but it’s not all necessary, it’s not all commanded. So shouldn’t we first spend our energy on what is commanded? What should we hold sacred: our “services” or the commands?

Although good things can happen during a service, certain things cannot take place when two hundred or two thousand people sit in chairs, face forward, and listen to people on a stage for an hour. You cannot truly love your neighbor in that type of setting, nor can you practice the “one anothers” in that manner.

As I said before, it’s time for us to stop defending the models we are comfortable with and start pursuing church in a way that allows us to do and be everything that God desires His church to do and be. It’s time for us to make a change.

Some will object by saying this is good information for someone starting a new church, but what about those of us who are part of an already established church? As someone who is in exactly that position, I’m not sure of the answer, but I’m devoting the next years of my life to figuring it out. For starters, I’m going to be consistently explaining to people that church is not something they attend, and they can’t call themselves the church simply because they attend a weekly service.

One of the major changes we need to make in the evangelical world is our speech. We have people claiming to be followers of Christ even though they don’t actually follow Him. In the same way, we have people claiming to be the church even though they don’t practice the “one anothers” of Scripture. If people are going to begin to understand what God designed the church to be, then we need to start speaking rightly about it. It’s not “just semantics.” What we say affects how we think and how we act. If “church” is not a building, then why do we call it that? If we really believe that “church” refers to a people that God has redeemed, then why are we using the word for so many other things?

We have to start gathering believers who are focused on the mission. This should resonate with those filled with the Holy Spirit (Heb 10:24-25). There ought to be a desire to gather together to practice the “one anothers” of Scripture for the sake of the mission. Whether we continue our Sunday services or not is almost irrelevant. What is relevant is that we gather in a biblical way and for biblical purposes.

Practically, I’m toying with the idea of starting a network of gatherings that meet in homes in order to practice the commands of Scripture. They could watch sermons via DVD or have a leader give the lesson. They may even sing together. But the gatherings wouldn’t stop there. They would discuss how to live out the sermon in their neighborhood. They would also pray for each other. They would take communion and remind each other of the mission. They would meet the needs of the members of their group and their unsaved neighbors. Rather than coming to church, they would be the church—not in a sacred building, but in their neighborhoods. Occasionally, we could all gather in an auditorium or stadium to celebrate and worship collectively.

There are many benefits to this type of church network:

1. We can be obedient to the “one another” commands through the interaction that takes place in these gatherings. Whereas before people were spectators, they become active participants—not in a service, but in the joys and needs of the people around them.

2. There’s no limit to growth. The old system limits evangelism based on the size of a building. Every growing church runs out of space with the “build a bigger building” model. But when every home is a potential gathering spot, growth can continue until we actually accomplish our mission.

3. Gifted and bored leaders now have a mission, a place to be challenged and to exercise their giftedness in teaching and leading. With a service, only a few charismatic leaders can use their gifts. But if church is more than a service, then every person can use their God-given talents to edify the body of Christ.

4. There is greater accountability as people learn and interact in a smaller setting led by a lay leader in their community. People are no longer anonymous; now they are vital members of a community.

5. A huge amount of money is freed up for meeting real needs for the sake of the gospel. I can’t even think about how much money we have spent on buildings and comfortable chairs and air conditioning and everything that comes with running an entertaining service. When we focus on the biblical essentials of ministry, then God’s money is more directly and efficiently used to meet the actual needs of our actual neighbors.

6. It keeps people from idolizing their homes, furniture, carpet, etc. By allowing others to gather in their homes, it reminds them that their houses truly belong to God. It also helps us to bring Christ into every area of our lives rather than seeing a church building as the place where ministry and growth take place.


I also want to be honest about some of the dangers I see with a neighborhood church network:

1. It could easily become ingrown. As we become comfortable with our own little group, we can stop caring about and therefore reaching out to the people around us. While this is also a problem in the current church model, the neighborhood church network model seems to pose an even greater danger of this.

2. Individual groups could stray from truth. More leaders means more potential for things to go in the wrong direction.

3. By deepening involvement we increase the potential for inappropriate relationships. Again, this problem has always been present, but as we encourage deeper interaction, sin has a greater opportunity to pervert what is intended to be good.

4. It can be seen as rebellious or an attack on other established “churches.” Historically, it’s been the angry “I’m tired of church” people who begin gatherings in homes. They are the people who have the attitude that everyone else is doing it wrong.

These problems will need to be addressed. I believe that many of them can be solved through a midweek-training time. By gathering the leaders together regularly, elders can constantly encourage them to run from these issues. We would make use of gifted leaders in the church to train and equip the other leaders, not only during the midweek-training time but also discipleship throughout the week. This would ensure greater unity in doctrine and practice across the network of churches.

Where is all this headed? What do I think the American church should look like? I really can’t answer those questions. All I can say is that I am responsible to God for how I shepherd the church that He has entrusted to me. I certainly don’t want to say that this is “the” model for everyone. It’s just the direction I keep sensing the Lord wants me to head. By sharing it, my hope is that it will encourage others to not only search the Scriptures but to boldly implement your findings.

As I prayed and thought through the way I “did church,” I believe that in many ways I hindered the mission of the church and created confusion about what the church actually is.

I cannot in good conscience call the old model “church.” Jesus created the church when He redeemed us from sin and death by dying on the cross. He is adding new members to the church daily through the powerful work of the Holy Spirit. As the church, we are called into the mission of Jesus. This mission is what our lives and gatherings must center on. The model does not matter unless it pulls us away from our mission.

I believe Satan has distracted us through programs, entertainment, and comfortable substitutes for what the church really is. It’s time for us to wake up, cut the fat, and be who we are: a people redeemed by Jesus, empowered by the Holy Spirit, on a mission to show the world the glory of God, and waiting for the day when all things are subjected to Him (1Cor 15:24-28).

Francis Chan is the pastor of Cornerstone Church and the president of Eternity Bible College in Simi Valley. In addition to being a pastor, Francis speaks to thousands of youth throughout the U.S., challenging them to deeper commitment. He can be heard on his radio program “Truth Be Known.” Francis has a great sense of humor, a genuine love for Christ and a commitment to teach straight from the Word of God. Francis and his wife Lisa have been married for twelve years and have three daughters and one son: Rachel, Mercy, Eliana, and Ezekiel. He is a graduate of the Master’s College and Seminary.

Current Read

Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin

Faith Begins at Home, Mark Holmen

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Did it again and got the same thing. Hmmm...
I took the 43 Things Personality Quiz and found out I'm a
Money Managing Self-Knowing Tree Hugger

Kind of makes me want to do it again...was fun once...why not!?

Friday, January 01, 2010

Top 10 Movies of 2009

I was thinking it would be fun to find a top 10 list of movies in 2009. I'm just the curious sort. I'm curious how many on the list I'd have seen and which ones that I've missed I should check out. In trying to find such a list, I realized that I should have been more specific as to what criteria I wanted to consider in defining the top 10.

One of the few lists I've managed to hunt down is the top 10 movies of 2009 based on box office sales thanks to Yahoo. They include, in reverse order:

10. The Blind Side - Total Gross: $184,387,000
9. Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs - Total Gross: $196,573,705
8. Monsters Vs. Aliens - Total Gross: $198,351,526
7. Avatar - Total Gross: $212,268,000
6. Star Trek - Total Gross: $257,730,019
5. The Hangover - Total Gross: $277,322,503
4. The Twilight Saga: New Moon - Total Gross: $280,924,000
3. Up - Total Gross: $293,004,164
2. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince- Total Gross: $301,959,197
1. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen - Total Gross: $402,111,870

That list, in my mind, is a reflection of the opinion of the masses and media/marketing induced hype and anticipation, not necessarily quality. That said, I've seen 7 of the 10 on the list and am itching to see the 8th...and no, it is NOT Twilight.

Anyone have any suggestions on a reasonably all-encompassing list? It doesn't have to be just 10. Anyone have a list they'd like to offer?