Tuesday, January 25, 2011

"You don't get honor by seeking honor. You get honor by giving honor." - Mark Batterson

Friday, January 14, 2011

"I'm restless, I'm restless, till I rest in you, till I rest in you. I am restless, I'm restless, till I rest in you, till I rest in you."

I feel that often. A deep restlessness that I can't figure out how to satisify. I've often wondered if that's something that will ever truly find satisfaction here. I feel like it must be a bit of a holy hunger, a longing for heaven. When I put it in that perspective, I almost revel in it, thankful that for at least a moment, my heart is tuned in to His voice and my longing for heaven superseeds my longing for the things of this world. If only I could say that that were my perspective all the time. Sometimes I'm just restless, deeply restless, and forget why.
"Men seek petty gains; they will quarrel shamefully over a single coin; for a mere trifle or vague promise they will toil day and night...For an imperishable good, for a reward beyond all reckoning, for the highest honour and for glory without end, they are unwilling to endure a little toil." -Thomas A Kempis

How much are we truly willing to "work" for the Kingdom, to sacrifice to see the Kingdom gain? Gulp.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

For all my superstitious sportsfan friends

Pearls Before Swine

This song was played as part of a worship set at a church leadership conference I was at last week. It was the first time I'd heard it but somehow it took up residence in my heart. With all the questions I've been asking lately, this song has buoyed me and spoken to me in new ways. I've always believed that God speaks to me through music and this seems to be another one of those songs through which His promises have been made new to me. He makes beautiful things out of us. Out of the messes we find ourselves in. God steps into our worst situations and redeems them. I have lost count of how many times I have said that God is in the redemption business and I still believe it. He makes new things. He takes the worst and turns it into something beautiful for His glory. He makes me new.

An article...

Brad Brisco-Transitioning from Traditional to Missional

Over the past few months I have had an increasing number of conversations with pastors and church leaders about moving existing churches in a missional direction. I have been asked what key issues or topics need to be considered when attempting to transition a traditional church. The following list is certainly not conclusive or comprehensive, but here are nine elements that I believe need to be considered when making a missional shift:

1. Start with Spiritual Formation

God calls the church to be a sent community of people who no longer live for themselves but instead live to participate with Him in His redemptive purposes. However, people will have neither the passion nor the strength to live as a counter-cultural society for the sake of others if they are not transformed by the way of Jesus. If the church is to “go and be,” rather than “come and see,” then we must make certain that we are a Spirit-formed community that has the spiritual capacity to impact the lives of others.

This means the church must take seriously its responsibility to cultivate spiritual transformation that does not allow believers to remain as adolescents in their spiritual maturity. Such spiritual formation will involve much greater relational underpinnings and considerable engagement with a multitude of spiritual disciplines.

One such discipline should involve dwelling in the word, whereby the church learns to regard Scripture not as a tool, but as the living voice of God that exists to guide people into His mission. If we believe the mission is truly God’s mission, then we must learn to discern where He is working; and further discern, in light of our gifts and resources, how He desires a church to participant in what He is doing in a local context.

2. Cultivate a Missional Leadership Approach

The second most important transition in fostering a missional posture in a local congregation is rethinking church leadership models that have been accepted as the status quo. This will require the development of a missional leadership approach that has a special emphasis on the apostolic function of church leadership, which was marginalized during the time of Christendom in favor of the pastor/teacher function.

This missional leadership approach will involve creating an apostolic environment throughout the life of the church. The leader must encourage pioneering activity that pushes the church into new territory. However, because not all in the church will embrace such risk, the best approach will involve creating a sort of “R&D” or “skunk works” department in the church for those who are innovators and early adopters.

A culture of experimentation must be cultivated where attempting new initiatives is expected, even if they don’t all succeed. As pioneering activities bear fruit, and the stories of life change begin to bubble up within the church, an increasing number of people will begin to take notice and get involved.

3. Emphasize the Priesthood of All Believers

Martin Luther’s idea of the priesthood of all believers was that all Christians were called to carry out their vocational ministries in every area of life. Every believer must fully understand how their vocation plays a central part in God’s redemptive Kingdom.

I think it was Rick Warren who made popular the phase “every member is a minister.” While this phrase is a helpful slogan to move people to understand their responsibility in the life of the church, God’s purpose for His church would be better served if we encouraged people to recognize that “every member is a missionary.” This missionary activity will include not just being sent to far away places, but to local work places, schools and neighborhoods.

4. Focus Attention on the Local Community

As individual members begin to see themselves as missionaries sent into their local context the congregation will begin to shift from a community-for-me mentality, to a me-for-the-community mentality. The church must begin to develop a theology of the city that sees the church as an agent of transformation for the good of the city (Jeremiah 29:7). This will involve exegeting each segment of the city to understand the local needs, identify with people, and discover unique opportunities for the church to share the good news of Jesus.

5. Don’t Do It Alone

Missional activity that leads to significant community transformation takes a lot of work and no church can afford to work alone. Missional churches must learn to create partnerships with other churches as well as already existing ministries that care about the community.

6. Create New Means of Measuring Success

The church must move beyond measuring success by the traditional indicators of attendance, buildings and cash. Instead we must create new scorecards to measure ministry effectiveness. These new scorecards will include measurements that point to the church’s impact on community transformation rather than measuring what is happening among church members inside the church walls. For the missional church it is no longer about the number of people active in the church but instead the number of people active in the community. It is no longer about the amount of money received but it is about the amount of money given away.

A missional church may ask how many hours has the church spent praying for community issues? How many hours have church members spent with unbelievers? How many of those unbelievers are making significant movement towards Jesus? How many community groups use the facilities of the church? How many people are healthier because of the clinic the church operates? How many people are in new jobs because of free job training offered by the church? What is the number of school children who are getting better grades because of after-school tutoring the church provides. Or how many times do community leaders call the church asking for advice?

Until the church reconsiders the definition of ministry success and creates new scorecards to appropriately measure that success, it will continue to allocate vital resources in misguided directions.

7. Search for Third Places

In a post-Christendom culture where more and more people are less and less interested in activities of the church, it is increasingly important to connect with people in places of neutrality, or common “hang outs.” In the book “The Great Good Place” author Ray Oldenburg identifies these places of common ground as “third places.”

According to Oldenburg, third places are those environments in which people meet to interact with others and develop friendships. In Oldenburg’s thinking our first place is the home and the people with whom we live. The second place is where we work and the place we spend the majority of our waking hours. But the third place is an informal setting where people relax and have the opportunity to know and be known by others.

Third places might include the local coffee shop, hair salon, restaurant, mall, or fitness center. These places of common ground must take a position of greater importance in the overall ministry of the church as individuals begin to recognize themselves as missionaries sent into the local context to serve and share.

In addition to connecting with people in the third places present in our local communities, we need to rediscover the topic of hospitality whereby our own homes become a place of common ground. Biblical hospitality is much more than entertaining others in our homes. Genuine hospitality involves inviting people into our lives, learning to listen, and cultivating an environment of mercy and justice, whether our interactions occur in third places or within our own homes. Regardless of our setting, we must learn to welcome the stranger.

8. Tap into the Power of Stories

Instead of trying to define what it means to be missional, it is helpful to describe missional living through stories and images. Stories create new possibilities and energize people to do things they had not previously imagined. We can capture the “missional imagination” by sharing what other faith communities are doing and illustrate what it looks like to connect with people in third places, cultivate rapport with local schools, and build life transforming relationships with neighbors.

Moreover, we can reflect deeply on biblical images of mission, service and hospitality by spending time on passages such as Genesis 12:2, Isaiah 61:1-3, Matthew 5:43; 10:40; 22:39; 25:35; and Luke 10:25-37.

9. Promote Patience

The greatest challenge facing the church in the West is the “re-conversion” of its own members. We need to be converted away from an internally-focused, Constantinean mode of church, and converted towards an externally-focused, missional-incarnational movement that is a true reflection of the missionary God we follow.

However, this conversion will not be easy. The gravitational pull to focus all of our resources on ourselves is very strong. Because Christendom still maintains a stranglehold on the church in North America – even though the culture is fully aware of the death of Christendom – the transition towards a missional posture will take great patience; both with those inside and outside the church. Many inside the church will need considerable time to learn how to reconstruct church life for the sake of others. At the same time, the church will need to patiently love on people, and whole communities, that have increasingly become skeptical of the church.

You can go directly to Brad's, Missionalchurchnetwork blog HERE

Monday, January 10, 2011

I'm sitting at my desk in tears. I just finished reading this article and the timing couldn't have been more appropriate. I've spent the last several weeks trying to sort out (again!) what my place and purpose in ministry and in the Kingdom is. I struggle with feeling out of place and out of sorts because of the expectations and assumptions around me.

Take today, for example. Our staff meeting consists of 3 of us - Lead Pastor, Worship Pastor and myself, the Associate Minister (previously known as the Children's Pastor. Add another aspect to the job description and, poof, a new title emerges). Because we don't have a building, we have needed to find another space to meet. Another large church in the area has allowed us some of their space. We were sitting having our meeting when a lady, who I assumed to be on staff, walked by. We chatted a bit about Journey, being a church plant in the area, etc and affirmed that this was, in fact, our staff meeting. She quite boldly went around the circle and named the positions she assumed to us and, of course, was right. Senior Pastor. Worship Pastor. Children's Pastor. Check.

Sometimes the truth hurts. I admit to being quite offended that, by a glance, she could assume that I am the Children's Pastor. While it's true, the assumption grates on me. Why did she assume that? I wasn't carrying a box of crayons - or any other children's ministry paraphanalia for that matter - with me anymore than our Worship Pastor was carrying his guitar. Was it because I was the only woman in the circle?

For years, I have struggled with the feeling that the only role available to me as a woman in ministry is in Children's Ministry. Now, don't get me wrong, I love the kids I serve and know that that role provides me a place to serve God and His Kingdom for now. That much is true without question. If you asked me, however, if I felt particularily passionate about Children's ministry over other ministries of the church or if I could see myself doing this for the rest of my life, I would have to answer no. Again, I love kids but the truth is, I love the church and, even more so, the Kingdom, more. It's because kids are part of the church and part of the kingdom that I do what I do. I hope I'm making sense here!

Kid's ministry is my way to serve the church and the kingdom for now but I feel like it's not entirely me most of the time. Get me in a room with a bunch of Children's Ministers and I feel entirely out of place. Put me in a room with church planters, coaches, strategic planners, and spiritual directors and I feel like I have something to offer the conversation.

I love to look at the big picture and strategically envision what potentials the Church has for doing the work of the Kingdom. I love to vision cast, define values and create strategy and structure to make those things a reality. I want to empower and encourage people to think far bigger than themselves and see that God is calling each and every one of us to something so much bigger than ourselves. It excites me when I see or hear about communities that are coming together to do that well. It inspires me to dive into the deeper truths of faith and to consider the impact they have on our lives and faith. It rocks my world to consider what would happen if we all truly lived out the grace of God in our lives and, because of the difference that has made in us, were to seek out ways to bring that grace to those around us. I want to be a part of that. I want to lead in that kind of a context. I want to dream up and initiate, as part of a team, something that would accomplish something so much bigger than myself. That, however, is typically not the place for a 30-something female.

And so I maintain. I get to - and I mean get to as it truly is a privilege - love on fantastic kids and share with them the love of Jesus. Still, there's a part of me that longs for, that hungers, for something more and resists the expectations and assumptions put on me because of some weird set of presuppositions years worth of tradition has created, assumptions that, at times, I, myself, buy into. I feel a little bit like a snake must feel just before it sheds its skin - like it fits just a bit too tight but not sure how to find relief or make positive change. There was a time I might have doubted God and wondered what on earth He was thinking to put this set of gifts and abilities in me. Now I doubt myself for not being able to discern the steps ahead.

So today, I'm praying for discernment and for clarity and freedom to become more of what God has made me to be.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

To Build A Fence - Children's Ministry

Read this article today on boundaries for ministry, or any form of leadership for that matter.

To Build A Fence - Children's Ministry

Monday, January 03, 2011

"Christ is more of an artist than the artists; He works in the living spirit and the living flesh;
He makes men instead of statues"
Vincent Van Gogh