Church or Something Like it In a Coffee Shop

A little over a year ago, we were considering where to go and what to do. The building we were meeting in was for sale but it wasn’t a bad thing as we knew there was something more and needed a change, anyway. One morning outside of a coffee shop, God whispered and the conversation began.

Last night, the church moved into the heart of the marketplace. We aren’t the first congregation to start or move in a coffee shop, bar or other market centered location, but it’s not entirely common, either. The first night of “Ekklesia” was full of life and power as God showed Himself faithful, because He is.

Most churches grow by transfers. People move from one church to the other because they either get offended or bored at their last place or there is a new and “better” thing down the street. As of 2014, according to the Barna Group’s book “Churchless,” 48% of people consider themselves “churched” (at least once a month) and 41% are either de-churched or marginally churched (once or twice a year). Only 10% are truly “unchurched” where they have no history or experience with church at all.

Of those that are de-churched or marginally churched, they are overwhelmingly still interested in God, spiritual growth, etc. but have various reasons why they eventually were done with the institution as we know it. Their theology and world view wouldn’t typically line up with the main stream church, but they need places to figure it out. They need to be able to disagree, out loud, without disqualification or stigma. They need authentic relationship regardless of theological agreement, conversion or tithing.

We are going to give it a run in a coffee shop, because it seems that God said so. We are going to try to be a part of the Church with a unique little spot that isn’t really designed for large crowds. We’ll never have gatherings of over 100 because we want people who are there to have an opportunity to be heard and be part of the experience. We want to foster gatherings that are participative, not consumeristic. Many voices, not a single voice. If we grow, we’ll multiply the number of meetings, but we won’t be starting a building campaign or moving to a larger building.

Some people have been hurt, misunderstood, offended or grown weary of religion and church as we know it. It’s not necessarily anybody’s fault, it just is what it is. They won’t go back into a building with a steeple but we hope they’ll have a cup of coffee with us whether they agree with us or not.

8700 N. Tarrant Pkwy, North Richland Hills, TX . . . We meet Saturdays at 6 pm.

Anxiety Presents an Opportunity for Greater Glory

Every time we accept invitations into new opportunities, we step into a new version of discomfort. We go from a known to an unknown because we believe that it will be better in the new place even if there is a cost to getting there. There are times that we experience discomfort in new circumstances that we didn’t choose but that were forced on us. In either case, the opportunity in the discomfort is the same.

When we get to this new place of unknown challenges and uncertain outcomes, we often (if not always) can recognize insecurities within us if we will pay attention. In that place where we are no longer comfortable, we are likely to feel a sense of threat. Often we will be anxious surrounding our protection, provision or promotion/place. If we aren’t careful, we may very well be offended or suspicious of people in this new environment as we view them through our lens of anxiety as we guess at their motives or overreact to their interactions.

In these new places where we are tempted to envy, judge, compete, be offended, etc. because we are afraid as we experience lack of control, we are presented an eternal opportunity. The insecurities that are driving the anxiety and mental gymnastics were there prior to their exposure via this new set of circumstances. They are simply ripe at this particular time for redemption.

Where God shows us the ugliness of us in the middle of our discomfort or suffering, we get to choose. We can agree with fear or come home to His love. We can foster the temporal anxiety or run home to the comfort and certainty of eternity. His love dwells within us by the grace of Jesus (if we want it to and receive the sacrifice of Jesus for the restoration of relationship with the Father) so the peace that relieves the anxiety is in Him within us.

It’s at this point that we are granted repentance. We are given the gift of getting to exchange the insecurity of an orphan which wasn’t yet redeemed and trading it in for the security of a legitimate child of God. When we feel the ugly stuff, we can own our part of the emotions instead of blaming people and circumstances for our discomfort and exchange our crud for God’s glory. He will be put on display from within us when we choose to submit the temporal fear for His eternal love.

Leaders Launch While Managers Maintain

Security is the whole shooting match. Remembering the truth of identity is the constant to realization of freedom. Where we decide that things aren’t good enough, safe enough, abundant enough or noticeable enough, we scramble against our peace and into control, anxiety, fear and manipulation.

Leadership is influence; management is control. The ability to make it appealing and inviting to agree comes at the cost of the desire to control all the variables. Leadership is a multiplying effect that comes with release and empowerment. Management is insulation to maintain desired status quo and it sets a ceiling on the potential of people and places.

The influence of leadership is much more challenging, messy and dependent than the controls of management. The release which comes through leadership is scary and it will be impossible to endure the fear where there is no internal security. Personal insecurities hijack organizational empowerment.

Management is easier to reward, promote and codify but it will never go viral. There will be no impact beyond the immediate touch and the legacy of a leader is not determined except for in their absence. Until and unless they can do it without you, the jury is out regarding the methods and motives of the relationship. Myles Munroe said, “The greatest act of leadership is what happens in your absence. If everything you’ve done died with you, you are a failure. True leadership is measured by what happens after you die.”

“For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” – 1 Corinthians 4:15

There are plenty of guides; those that will serve as task masters and rule enforcers. It’s those that will lead like a father leads that are scarce. Those that will sacrifice and step aside even when the beneficiaries are immature and/or inept, leaders will believe in them and encourage them and afford them the next opportunities. The security that affords fathers the freedom to release others is only available through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Without identity rooted in the gospel of Jesus, the potential leader will susceptible to the threat of embarrassment via the failures that come as those they are raising up figure things out. Security is fed not from results of the leader or the follower, but the truth of who Jesus says they are. Security is before, during and after the growing pains of succession and is the fuel that results in legacy.

Defeating Insecurity

When my dad died in December, I had no doubt that he loved me and was proud of me. His affirmation and my knowledge of his unconditional love and acceptance was and is an incredible gift. It is healthy and necessary for my security and confidence. It was a platform for my potential. Yet, I mess it up.

Despite the benefit of affirmation and the resulting security that comes from unconditional love, there are times when my insecurities win out. I can be victimized by doubts and fears like anyone else when I forget who I am or when I work from my voids. Insecurity is a universal challenge and there is no earthly cure.

There is perhaps more insecurity in the ministry world than there is in secular settings. In a secular setting, the lines are clear; we are out for ourselves for the most part. Courtesy, morality and values should influence our interactions as there are lines that are drawn in keeping with social responsibility. For the most part, behaviors are oriented by expectations with consequences and ramifications that require strategy to maneuver around.

In faith based settings, I’ve noticed less certainty and more apparent insecurity. We acknowledge and embrace that we are spiritual beings, therefore we tend to work from the inside-out. The truth is the guide and foundation for our beliefs, but our choices are influenced by our developing ability to allow those beliefs to overcome our will. Our will is born in a fallen state, and even after we are new from the inside, that salvation is being worked out.

In the working out, we often allow emotions, expectations and desires that are based in “good” and even eternal appetites to guide our interactions. “That’s not my heart” becomes a valid excuse to behaviors that are offensive or not thoughtful. The squishy possibilities within can muddy the absolutes of cause and effect.

No matter where we are spiritually, the insecurities we battle as members of the human race cause us to self-protect, self-provide and self-promote. We do so in defensive and/or offense postures with other human beings. Where the contrast is in the context of the Father’s house and the Body of Christ, the insecurities seem to become glaring. The insecurities are counter-cultural to the security of sonship.

Until we know that we know that control is an illusion and our Source is greater than our limitations or abilities, we are going to entertain the charade of mastery. Freedom comes in the wake of giving up and admitting our limitations. Security comes where we know that we can’t do it and are loved anyway. Security comes in the love of a Father that not only affirms us, but He receives us despite us.

Competition for Credit vs. Collaboration for Kingdom

It hasn’t even happened yet and credit is being debated. There is apparently the potential for peace on the Korean peninsula for the first time in years and the jockeying for recognition might even jeopardize the resolution. Politicians, pundits and pro athletes (Dennis Rodman) have been in the mix as personalities play out publicly.

This is the norm in politics and unfortunately it’s become the norm among faith-based and church circles, as well. It’s become a competition for attendance, giving, recognition and followers. It’s a platform producing endeavor as much or more than it’s a disciple making endeavor. There’s no difference between us and them; just a different target audience.

I’ve enjoyed a unique journey to this point in life in which I find myself engaged in full-time, vocational ministry. I was a corporate middle-manager, a business owner and a practicing attorney prior to being a pastor. I actually did compete for market share, revenues and profits as a legitimate measure of business viability. There were times when it was reasonably lucrative and there were times when it was catastrophically not. Be careful what you wish for; competition has a variety of outcomes.

There is no competition in the Kingdom of God. Only one Person gets the credit and honor for success in the endeavors that are truly of His Kingdom. His glory is not to be manipulated, leveraged or hijacked to afford personal gain for any that seek to advance His purposes.

The opportunities that will exist to agree with God in the advancement of His Kingdom in the coming years will be conditioned by the requirement of collaboration. Those that will agree to agree will be conduits of His life, light, breath and glory. Because they can share and trust, they can be trusted to share.

Others will continue to exist outside of the Church even if they call themselves a church. They will build their kingdoms and perfect their marketing and the show will go on but the smoke will eventually fade. Ministries and churches that choose to go it alone will may grow, but they won’t be alive.

Promotions in business and retainers in law came as a result of marketing, ability, relationships and persistence. Promotions in the Kingdom come purely by grace and favor. Grace and favor are given where there is humility and submission. Humility and submission are evidence of security and trust. Where we are truly trusting God, we will truly trust each other. Where we can do that, He can trust us and we’ll get to be a part of the Kingdom without settling for the cheap substitute of an inferior attempt at our well-meaning own kingdom.

I’ve Found an Enemy I Can Kill

One of my favorite television shows ever is “The West Wing.” In one episode of that series, Admiral Fitzwallace, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, is arguing with Leo McGarry, the President’s Chief of Staff. The argument is over a foreign leader that has planned a terrorist attack against the United States and what they are going to do about it. Fitzwallace tells Leo, “I’ve been a soldier for thirty-eight years, and I’ve found an enemy I can kill.”

Well, I’ve found an enemy that I can kill and I need to kill it. The enemy that I’ve identified is my love for the distraction I find in electronics. It has become an enemy to my soul.

Increasingly, I’ve preferred the satisfaction I’ve perceived in the busyness of typing, swiping, scrolling and posting. It’s cost me my solitude and that has cost me relationship.

Practically, it costs that depth of relationship the comes in the nuance. The opportunities that are available waiting for someone else to arrive. Even discomfort in those times is valuable as the tension requires effort.

Spiritually, it costs the depth of intimacy available with an invisible God waiting on me to draw near. Jesus simply won’t post, text, email or provide any competition to those that do. The choice is mine.

The times that I’ve set aside to meet with Him have all too often been compromised by my inattention and distraction. Lately, I’ve been intentional about changing that. I’ve been intentional about killing my enemy, which is within me.

I’ve started to leave my phone in my office or car when I am at meetings or lunches. I’ve started limiting the times that I’m interested in checking for and responding to emails, phone calls, texts, etc. Most importantly, I’ve started walking past my phone in the morning as I head into my office to spend time seeking the Lord. The return on the investment has been sweet. The life that I am finding in the wake of what I am killing is tangible.

There is discipline in this and there has been temptation. I’ve literally had to pray, “Lord, I want to go type something or check something right now; will You help me?” He has and He will because He is faithful. I’m saying it out loud because I’ve found a treasure that I want to share and also because I know that I am tempted to go back to the distraction. Declaring that helps to defeat that.