Going Out There with a Clear Picture of It’s Limits

The reason for the gathering is to be encouraged and equipped for the purpose. The purpose is carried out day-to-day in markets and communities that aren’t coming to the gathering. That means that vocations and locations occupied by people who come to the gathering are going to be the ones that carry out the purpose. Out there.

The ministers are electricians, dentists, room moms and IT professionals. They go places that pastors and priests aren’t invited or expected. It’s in those places that ministry extends the reach of God beyond the four walls of a gathering place. To be qualified, you simply have to be reconciled. Once you are reconciled to Jesus, you are a minister of reconciliation.

“And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” (2 Corinthians 5:19-20)

Once reconciled, you are given the authority of an ambassador to bring the message of reconciliation to others. You are a minister of reconciliation. Congratulations.

John 1:1 says that Jesus is the Word. Reconciliation is to the Word; written and personal. When people are hurting they need to know but they need more than information. The written Word is imperative in our understanding of truth. The Word Himself is just as vital as we realize grace and love. Without the personal connection, it’s a matter of logic and reason with no relationship. The invitation is into relationship.

Too often, we are “out there” among people who don’t know Jesus and we want to try to convict or convince them of their faults with supporting evidence from the written Word. The net result is accusation and condemnation. Typically not very fruitful.

If we’ll allow for Jesus to be personified in our grace and compassion without the need to change behaviors from the outside, He is good at the inside business. In fact, when we consider it, He is still in the process of changing us from the inside but is doing so with love and grace. Not guilt, shame or condemnation.

Ambassadors are only legitimate for as long as they represent the governing authority that sends them. Jesus didn’t send you to tell everyone how wrong they are; He sends you to tell them that He isn’t holding it against them.

“All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.” (2 Corinthians 5:18-19)

 

Recent Attempts at an Ancient Way for Church

The burdens that we accept are made more clear when we finally get free from them. Looking back, the extra stuff which was piled on is exposed for its worthlessness. All that should be left as we walk out faith which is increasingly easy and light should be the grace of Jesus, the love of the Father and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.

We do church in a coffee shop and in no way do I think that we have it figured out and others have it wrong. In its simplicity, there have been some revelations of an ancient and easy way that may have been lost by way of best efforts, however. Without programs, promotions or professionals to administer them we are left considering the body and how people interact with each other as well as with the Head of the Church, Jesus.

We recently added to staff, which means we’ve added a part-time pastor. We only have part-time “pastors” and no particular guy who is “in charge.” There are elders who equally seek to agree on direction and facilitation of vision as the church fulfills its unique place and calling in the context of the Church overall in the Kingdom of God.

The implications of this model are numerous, starting with the idea that a “pastor” may or may not be pastoral. The “five-fold” ministry of eldership relies on the diversity of gifts to equip others to do ministry with Jesus left in His place as the Head of the church. That means that pastoral care and counseling might come to others via a dentist or other form of vocational professional who is gifted as a pastor. It also means that those that are compensated for their contributions to the church (again, on a part-time “bi-vocational” basis) are free to operate in their particular gifting and not try to be everything to everybody.

Recently, our new pastor (who actually is pastoral as well as evangelical) said to me, “I like coming here; it’s not like I’m coming to work and I look forward to the gathering.”

That’s it; it was never meant to be career management, but gifts and talents released in agreement with an eternal plan. Professional programming and metrics management isn’t part of the equation. The invitation of fitting uniquely in a group where your gifts are valued and released in unison with others frees up the “professional” to freely give without carrying a weight that isn’t designed for them to carry. It’s easy and light and should be enjoyable and maybe even some fun.

Don’t Run Ahead; Enjoy the Walk

When my children were young, I made them hold my hand as we walked through parking lots. We would talk along the way, and I would tell them where we were going. I didn’t tell them so they could let go of my hand and run ahead. That would be dangerous. I told them so we could walk together toward the destination because I enjoyed them and wanted relationship to raise them into maturity. I don’t hold their hands in the parking lot as I used to, but I still don’t want them to run ahead. The enjoyment in walking toward the destination is in the companionship.

God created each of us for great and glorious things. Those things are for His glory and the advancement and fulfillment of His purposes. Our part is to agree with Him in His purposes and be conduits of His glory. As such, God does not use us; God includes us. We don’t do things for God; we do things with God. Those are big differences.

Once we gain vision and purpose, the biggest challenge for many is the pace with which we approach that vision. Deciding we will be “used” by God to work “for” Him, we likely will run ahead and be about our purpose rather than His purpose for us. There’s more than a little irony in this arrangement. When we embrace purpose so tightly that we think it’s ours, we are actually choosing to exclude the One that created us for that purpose.

“When you have eaten your ll in this land, be careful not to forget the Lord, who rescued you from slavery in the land of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 6:11–12).

God warned the Israelites—and you and me—what happens when we look around and think we’ve actually done something. If we run ahead to do things for God instead of walking with Him, we will almost certainly get to the place of some accomplishment and think we did it. In truth, we may have not depended on Him at all. Any accomplishment limited to us is always less than what He wants to accomplish with us. He’ll show us where we are going, but not so we can run ahead. He wants us to enjoy the walk.

Once we taste and know the greatness of the glorious, we’ll never again be satis ed with the mediocrity of the mundane. By His grace, and in our obedience to His invitation(s), He walks with us toward the fulfillment of our grand design.

We pursue a purpose that requires our effort in agreement with the One whose purpose it is. Just like the defense attorney, we are called to be zealous about the tasks of our day; we are not, however, called to own the outcome. When the world sees us owning the outcome, the only God they see in our lives is ourselves.

The whisper of God to our spirit to race toward a destiny of significance is not a prompt toward behavior. It’s a reminder from our Father that by His grace we have access. We have a race to run, but we don’t have a result to control. We run with disciplined passion and commitment, and then trust the results to the promises.

From “Abundant and Free” available on Amazon by clicking here.

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.

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.