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.

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.

It’s Time to Go Fishing; You’re Invited

The opportunities we are given come by way of invitation but the invitations are a bit loaded. It is our choice to accept or not, but if we pay attention and have eyes to see, we will want to say “yes.” When we see deeper, shallow is no longer satisfying. From that place that lacks satisfaction, we will be willing to further.

In Luke 5:10, Jesus calls the first disciples to be fishers of men. He was talking to fishermen so the description was applicable and  somewhat easy to understand, I suppose; at least to a degree. What had to make it more clear happened just before the declaration.

Leading up to that invitation/declaration, those same fisherman had experienced the power of what they were being invited into. They had been fishing, unsuccessfully, and Jesus came with a word. The word He gave them about where and how to fish produced an abundant catch that was overflowing. It was so abundant, in fact, that the boats started to sink.

The result was an immediate realization of His holiness and their relatively un-holiness. They realized their depravity and the need for grace. From that realization, they actually wanted to send Jesus away in verse 8. But He stayed; in fact, He not only stayed, but He invited them.

We likely won’t realize our purpose in the agreement that results in being fishers of men until we see the abundance and holiness of Jesus and receive His grace for our depravity. When we see from those realizations, we will want to agree in the purpose of the Kingdom by seeing and reaching people. We’ll start to see people like He sees them after we see us like He sees us.

Being fishers of men is not a burden to be weird with people or threaten them with hell. It is a realization of your need for God’s grace and salvation through Jesus and the unbridled passion that comes from the abundance that you realize you have been given. Then, from the joy of your salvation, you simply can’t help but want to connect with people and share the treasure.

If you aren’t connecting with, relating to and fishing for others to share the treasure of your salvation, perhaps you have forgotten the abundance that you have been given? Perhaps you are shameful in your sin or focused on your lack? If so, it’s OK; simply remember and see. Then say “yes” to the invitation.

You Can Know the Answers to the Mysteries

We are not invited to be good. We are not invited just to read, meet, sing and give. There is more. We are invited into more.

The depth of what is available to us by faith in Jesus is the difference between maintaining religion and living in the Kingdom of God. When Jesus died for the sins of man, He did so on  the heels of preaching of the Kingdom of God. The promise He brought was for eternity and eternity starts immediately. There is no waiting period between the time when you meet Jesus and the realization of His Kingdom.

Jesus was asked in Matthew 13 why He taught in parables. Why not just be crystal clear and make it easy for people? Why the riddles? Jesus responded in verse 11, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.”

When you are born again as a believer in Jesus Christ as your Savior, you are invited into the mystery. Beyond the obvious and into the depth of knowing that exceeds knowledge. He will show you the “why” behind the “what.” He will give you new eyes to see things eternally, even now.

Unfortunately, most believers don’t look. The appetite to see more and to know the mysteries of the Kingdom are relegated to the super spiritual or the professional clergy. Jesus clarifies in the next verse that it is for “whoever” and He was speaking to tax collectors and fisherman. Not special people based on societies standards and not unique based on religious qualifications.

We are going to face trouble in the world, that is certain. What is left for us to decide is whether or not we want to face those troubles as confused and defeated orphans or empowered and enlightened royalty by adoption?

As you walk in your purpose today and as you encounter people and circumstances that require consideration, ask for eyes to see the mystery of the Kingdom of God in those situations. Ask for eyes to see so that you can agree with eternity in the middle of the temporal challenge. Go deeper; choose to live in the truth of Jesus’ promise. Be a mystery solver.

Dying to Live

The combination to unlock our potential is found in our willingness to give up. We are invited into a greatness that is sourced by glory, not ability. The posture to realize the Source is humility.

I watched my dad figure it out over 50 years. He went from hard charging army officer to yielded servant. When I was a boy, the rules were firm and the expectation was obedience. As I grew, permission was granted for manhood. His presence never faltered, but his touch lightened and his greatness grew.

As an adult, I watched my dad step fully into his greatness. Not only was he permissive in his allowance for positions and perspectives of others, but he was humble in his service to practically everyone. He didn’t qualify people based on their education, experience or ability, but offered his education, experience and ability for their good.

He increasingly became less. In the laying down of his considerable “more,” the impact of his influence multiplied. He gave his life over to Jesus, the church and the Kingdom of God. He became of no rank again. The promotion was supernatural.

Then, not longer after his death, I realized that he would be stronger in his death than he was in his life. It made me think of the scene in the first Star Wars movie where Obi Wan allowed Darth Vader to strike him down, declaring his own impact would only increase as a result. When the marker of death is a gate along an eternal story, the multiplication of purpose is passed along. Vision for eternity fuels intentional living temporally.

I keep writing about him because God keeps showing me stuff about Him through him. The passing along of a picture of transformative greatness presents a target. It’s good to see what the target looks like. It’s not a target of performance or behaviors as much as it is a target of disposition. A picture of what becoming less looks like to put more on display.

Jesus came not to be served, but to serve. He walked in authority, yet He was humility. He is love and “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.” (1 Corinthians 13:4). Love is less.

More than ever, I am thankful for what Jesus did for my father and I. He saved us and transforms us. I’m not yet where my father ended up, but I know what it looks like. It’s available to anyone willing to lay down their sword.

Allowing for the Growing Whisper of Your Greatness

I saw the new Winston Churchill movie not too long ago and considered the perspective of greatness. He has statues of him, books about him, roads and buildings and towns and other stuff named after him. He is seen as a great leader in a pivotal time. The declaration he has received is mostly retrospective.

At the time when his greatness was unfolding he was crass and offensive and drank an awful lot. He was largely a mediocre politician leading up to WWII, it appeared, yet he was afforded an opportunity in an extraordinary intersection of time and circumstances. In the middle of his unfolding, he was criticized by others and battled the doubt born of insecurities. As soon as the war was over, despite his leadership in a time of victory, he was voted out of office.

Greatness about you can’t be declared by you, it can only be declared by others of you. That declaration likely won’t come in the middle of the story as your humanity will almost always be a distraction. The stuff about you that isn’t so great will scream at some while the whisper of greatness grows in a subtle and secondary manner.

The necessary ingredient for greatness is grace, then. You’ll need, first and foremost, to receive grace from the Source of grace. Jesus sees you as righteous by His sacrifice, even when the evidence against you is significant. You’ve got to receive it if you hope to step into the building roar of your greatness. You’ve got to like you even before your statue is built.

Receiving grace from the Source of grace affords you the chance to withstand the doubts within your soul as well as the accusations from the friends and enemies that articulate your flaws. Their insecurities will want company so they’ll attempt to call out yours. It’s OK; they don’t like themselves too much in those times and they need grace, too. Since you’re tapped into the Source, you’ll have grace to give.

Greatness is the material for a eulogy, not an auto-biography. You’ve got to wait on it. You’ve got to realize that you won’t realize it.

You are, in fact, designed for great and glorious things. You are fashioned to reign in life. The position of rule, however, is less not more. When you are positioned to receive grace, you are positioned to be declared great. Later.