Archive - October, 2011

Living for Today or Tomorrow?

Last night I found myself wide awake at 2:30am.  My neighbors made it home, and from the sounds coming from their house they brought the party with them.  As I lay awake in bed I began questioning, “What makes someone stay up most of the night, partying like there’s no tomorrow?

As I thought about this I realized, that’s just it!  They don’t realize that there is a tomorrow.  If you aren’t following Jesus and don’t believe in eternal life, then why not “get your party on!”  What’s next?  Just another week of making it through life so you can live it up on the weekend.  Today is all you have, so live it up!

For followers of Jesus I think we should re-evaluate our weeks & weekends.  It’s certainly a great thing to relax, kick back, and enjoy fun, rest, play, and good times on the weekend.  But we should live our weeks with a different mentality.  In light of the Gospel, Monday is just as important as Saturday.  We may not enjoy work as much as we enjoy watching college football, but our mission remains the same.  We are called to make disciples.

As you get ready to start a new week, what’s your mentality?  Are you headed off to your job counting down the days until you can get your party on?  That’s a today kind of mentality.  That’s living as if we have no hope.  Jesus calls us to live today in light of our knowledge of tomorrow.

We might not know what tomorrow will bring, but one thing is for certain.  Jesus is already there!  And He is waiting on you & me to join Him.  Our job is to love those who can’t see past today.  We are called to live today in light of the tomorrow we know will come.

This morning I explained to my boys how God is patient & gracious in waiting to return.  His heart is for all men & women to come to a true knowledge of Him as Savior and Lord.  That’s where we come in!  Although we only have certainty of today, we live each moment of today in light of the certainty we know about tomorrow.  Jesus is King & He’s coming back!

Let’s commit to follow Jesus TODAY by living in such a joyful, other’s centered, sacrificial way that friends & neighbors begin to ask about the hope we have for TOMORROW!


Christians: Taking Off the Training Wheels

My youngest son is 4.  If you asked Yohannes if he could ride his bike he would say YES!  And he could, but only with the help of training wheels.  Recently we took the training wheels off & he experienced the thrill of riding for the first time!  More on this in the video at the end of this post…

At the same time we’ve been planting Mercy Hill Church in Midtown Memphis by starting a Missional Community Group.  I’ve seen some amazing similarities between Missional Community Groups (MCG) and bike riding as Christians begin to “take off the training wheels.”

“A Missional Community consists of a committed core of believers (FAMILY) who live out the mission of God together (MISSIONARIES) in a specific area or to a particular people group by demonstrating the gospel in tangible forms (SERVANTS) and declaring the gospel to others-both those who believe it and those who are being exposed to it (LEARNERS).  To clarify, a Missional Community is NOT primarily a small group, Bible study, support group, social activist group, or weekly meeting.”  – Jeff Vanderstelt, Soma Communities

Here are some of the areas where MCG’s encourage Christians to take off the training wheels & really begin to ride!

  1. Paradigm – The hub of the church is no longer an hour & 15 minutes on Sunday morning.  MCG’s come together for a corporate worship gathering on Sundays just like traditional church.  (So from the outside you might not see a difference).  But this time is not considered or promoted as the pinnacle of church life.
  2. Priest – We struggle to rid the American church of the Old Testament priesthood.  Too often, vocational pastors are raised up as sacrificing, spiritual superheroes.  Laity gets excused from making disciples, and pastors are applauded as they “do” the work of the ministry.  This is not Biblical!  Elders are called to equip the saints to do the work of the ministry.  Someone recently said, “we got our Bible back in the Reformation, now it’s time to get our ministry back.”  MCG’s help to deconstruct this paradigm and teach everyone to make disciples and to live as missionaries throughout the week.  Rather than subverting this task to a few “holy priests” who are not so holy when you discover their terribly busy schedules & often times burned out souls.
  3. Power – It’s so easy to depend on the latest program, event, or slick marketing to offer the church the fuel that is needed to really takeoff.  MCG’s don’t utilize any of this – just relationships, the Word of God & the Holy Spirit.  The result is that regular people see that God can use them to share the Gospel, see friends come to know Christ & to disciple men & women.
  4. Priorities – MCG’s focus on “being the church” rather than “doing church.”  This puts an emphasis on the other 22 hours / 6 days of the week.  Members live as missionaries all week long, pouring out their lives for the lost children of God who surround them.  Groups meet all throughout the week in a multitude of different ways: eating, praying, evangelizing, studying, serving, partying, resting.  It’s not about a particular meeting.  Instead it’s about a way of life together as a spiritual family on mission!

As you can see, there are some things about church that will never change (like pastors using alliteration).  But the longer we walk in this new (old – Biblical) way of being the church, it is beginning to feel like we are riding for the first time!

Christians think they are following Jesus, making disciples, and living as missionaries.  But when you strip away all the programs, events, and gimmicks, most discover that they don’t even understand how to live in light of the Gospel.  MCG’s emphasize understanding the Gospel story; sharing the Gospel story; and living in light of the Gospel (past, present, & future).

It’s wobbly at first!  Trying to build relationships with outsiders, learning how to serve your neighbor, and trying to Gospel one another.  But the longer we live together as a spiritual family of called out believers on mission, the more we experience the thrill of following Jesus.

One day I hope there will be 100’s if not 1000’s of people in the Midtown / Memphis area who say, “I’m a follower of Jesus because some people cared enough to STOP DOING CHURCH and to START BEING THE CHURCH.  They left the 99 to go after the 1.  And I along with my family & generations to follow am experiencing the joy of riding for the first time!”

Here’s a quick video of Yohannes showing off his riding skills after one week!

I Must Decrease

A few weeks ago I dropped a random thought on Facebook & watched my account blow up as nearly 40 people commented or “liked” my status. Now this isn’t completely unusual. Typically something crude, funny or inconsequential will bring about a plethora of comments & interaction.

But the odd thing about this post was that it was actually something serious. Which usually brings little to no traffic. For some reason this statement seemed to strike a chord with people. Here’s the post:

PET PEEVE: Pastors who PRIMARILY promote “their church” over JESUS. It’s a subtle attack of the enemy to get us focused on temple building VS kingdom expansion. “Seek first the Kingdom of God…”

I’m not exactly sure what fellow Facebook friends were thinking as they “liked,” commented, and pushed my status higher & higher up the “top stories” roll. But it doesn’t really matter. The point is something was sparked within their hearts & minds that caused them to react.

I remember a sermon that I taught a few years back when I was church planting in Nashville. The Lord moved in an unusual way that day as people stayed afterwards to think, consider, and pray even after everyone had been dismissed.

The sermon text came from John 3. After being placed center stage to welcome the Messiah, John the Baptist takes an intentional back seat to more effectively point people to Jesus. “The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.” John 3:29-30 ESV

John knew his “place!” To point to the Messiah, even if it meant losing influence, followers, and ultimately his life. This sounds great! But it’s a daily struggle for me as a pastor. My fleshly inclination is to fight for influence, power, attention & prestige. The problem with this activity is that it blocks me from sharing & receiving grace.

As long as I am front and center, idolatry rules my life. I live for me. For my glory & my fame. This is not the Gospel. It’s the direct antithesis. It’s what got Adam & Eve & you & me into this mess in the beginning.

In the last couple of weeks I’ve been faced head on with the challenge of decreasing…literally. Our missional community group went from 7 adults & 6 kids to 5 adults & 3 kids (notice how I included the kids to make myself feel a little better). As I’ve struggled with the Lord, He’s been pointing out the idols of “success” & “achievement” in my life. I have sensed Him saying, “If I can’t trust you with 5, how can I trust you with 500 or even 50!”

I must decrease! Yes, we are called / gifted as apostles, prophets, evangelist, shepherds, & teachers (Eph. 4:11). But the context of this gifting is “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ…(Eph. 4:12 ESV).”

Let me cut to the chase! Are you willing to decrease so that Jesus glory shines brighter? Are you willing to disciple and launch others into ministry even if it means spending less time in “your ministry?” Are you willing to spend money toward church planting even if it means “your church” has to do without some things? Are you willing to leave the 99 and go after the 1 even if it means making Christians around you a little uncomfortable?

I must decrease! This is not a slogan or one liner. It’s a gut wrenching call to embrace the Gospel of Jesus Christ. A Gospel that promises to produce fruit if we are willing to embrace death. Death to self & life in Christ.

Tomorrow is a new day. Who will you worship? Self or Jesus. If it’s Jesus, you will choose to decrease. But your joy will increase. All because you made the decision to go down, so that He is lifted up!

Here’s a challenge. Look around tomorrow and ask the question, “Where does the glory of God need to become greater?” Now, go there & become LESS!