Monday, December 19, 2011

Interview From Last Week

Last week I was in Ventura speaking about and doing some interviews for an upcoming book I have coming out in the fall.  I'll let you in on that book more in the spring as it is completely different than anything I've written thus far.  This interview however was about my thoughts on what churches are doing to engage "twenty-somethings" today, some of which we articulated in a book called The Slow Fade.

Monday, November 21, 2011

How You Know You've Become "Religious"

I've been teaching through the book of Mark at Colossae and it has been enlightening to say the least.  We inched into chapter 3 yesterday and this is when I took time to take a closer look at 5 pitfalls we have seen the Pharisee's fall into up to this point.  For this post I will talk about one of those.  Here is one of the things that make them "religious" and a little bit of how we, unfortunately, can fall into the same trap.

They used their convictions as weapons.  For instance, they held the conviction that you couldn't lift a finger on the Sabbath, even if it meant having something to eat.  We see this issue being addressed in the grain field with Jesus at the end of chapter 2 where Jesus and his disciples are picking some grain to eat.  The Pharisee's had unfortunately made the Sabbath about another set of rules to uphold and therefore it became about things they could NOT do.  This is why Jesus combats their understanding and makes it clear that the Sabbath was created for man, not vice versa.

But this goes deeper than just missing the point.  The Pharisee's were using their convictions about the Sabbath to tear Jesus down (see 3:2).  This is when their convictions became weapons.  Although it may be more subversive, we often fall into the same trap.

Holding personal convictions is a good thing.  We all hold personal convictions about different things and the truth is godly people disagree on many different areas.  For example, some think home school is the only way to be a faithful parent, others think public school is the only way to be faithful and yet others think private school is the way to go.  But the truth is godly people land in each of these areas of conviction and each seem to have "biblical support" behind the conviction they hold so dearly.

This diversity is normal and I would suggest healthy, but it quickly turns unhealthy when we use our convictions to tear down other people.  This becomes religious, the very thing nobody wants to be a part of.  We become "religious" the moment we think of someone that doesn't hold our same convictions as less than us.  We, of course, would never say this out loud.  But we do tend to think of people as less spiritual than we are if they don't hold the same convictions as we do.  We can do this in our own minds or openly as the Pharisee's did with Jesus, but either way we have pulled out our weapon and used it to tear someone down.  We then go away feeling more spiritual than they are.

And this, my friends, is one way we know we've become "religious."

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

5 Things I've Been Saying To Church Planters

Over the past few months I have been getting more and more calls from church planters asking about our process of planting.  I get questions from how we handled finances, to how my family handled moving a thousand miles away, to how we handled leadership teams.

But the biggest question I get is something like, "What model are you using?" or it may be asked, "How are you structured as a church?"  Most I've talked to ask this because they are trying to develop something themselves and they are simply seeking to glean some insight from someone that has walked the road a little more than they have.

But I am only three or so years into this.  So here are 5 things I've been saying to preface any conversation about how we are structured:
  1. I didn't have a structure in my head when I moved because I didn't know anyone and I didn't know the culture of Portland.  So our "model" took a solid two years to develop in our minds.  It took even longer to articulate clearly and concisely in a way people could actually understand and carry.
  2. Our structure has just as much to do with the community we live in as it does how we see the people of God organizing themselves in the scriptures.
  3. Our structure is working great right now, but at our size (about 150 adults) any structure could work well.  We really believe we have a skeleton to build on, but we cannot say yet whether or not our "model" is actually going to work long-term.
  4. Our structure is helping us solve some of the "traditional problems" we see in churches.  But we are certainly creating an entirely different set of problems we don't even know exist yet.  This is a reality of living on this side of eternity.  Time will tell of the imperfections and problems.
  5. Lastly, I tell planters that we hold our model with open hands.  After three years we have landed on a few things that we will not change.  But these are principles, not methods.  The bottom line is sometimes we have to adapt what we do, so we don't change.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

30k Foot View of Seeking God's Will

This morning I was writing for a resource called XP3College - it's offered through ReThink and is designed as a practical tool for those that have read one of my previous books, The Slow Fade.  Anyway, the conversation guide I was writing is 4 dialogs long and had to do with God's will.  I thought this could be encouraging for some readers here, so here are some things dialog two (of 4) talks about.

Everyone is interested in God's will.  We seek to know what He wants us to do in specific circumstances and the truth is, if we're honest, seeking these things out can be quite frustrating sometimes.  On another side, I know Christians that struggle with wondering if they are even in God's will.  They wonder if they make one decision over another if that would somehow remove them from God's will.  This core fear is what often drives them be stifled in making a decision in any direction.

We all have specific things we are praying about, but sometimes it helps to look at this topic from a 30,000 foot view.  What do we know God wants and what do we know He is doing?  Here are at least 3 things we know for sure:
  1. God is reconciling all things to Himself through Jesus (Colossians 1:19-20).  God is restoring what is broken and this includes us.  
  2. God is bringing Christians toward Christ-likeness (1 Thessalonians 4:1-8/ Philippians 1:6).
  3. God often finds it necessary to bring trial into our lives (1 Peter 1:6-7, 4:12-13).
So, if God is in anyway restoring brokenness within you, if God is in anyway changing you to be more like Christ and if there is any amount of pain in your can be confident that you are in God's will.  I sincerely hope that is an encouragement to was to me this morning as I wrote it.  Kind of weird how that happens sometimes.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Gracious Review of Worlds Apart

Just received a Facebook message from my friend Derek Melleby and he informed me that there was a review of my newest book, Worlds Apart, by Bryron Borger over at Hearts and Minds.  He included this review along with a number of other books he was reviewing.  Here's what he wrote.  I thought it was well thought out and very gracious:

"Worlds Apart: Understanding the Mindset and Values of 18-25 Year Olds  Chuck Bomar (Zondervan) $14.99  Chuck is a good guy and has a huge heart and amazing passion for doing college ministry. (He has written two books on how large churches near campuses can do young adult outreach ministry among their collegiate neighbors.)  Here, he backs up and gives us his most important book yet, a study of this stage of life---what Sharon Parks has called "the critical years."  As the back cover puts it, Bomar brings "understanding, comfort, and direction to all interested in this age group."  Yes, understanding.  He gets young adults.  Comfort? Well, he is full of hope that God can reach this generation and that we can build meaningful and sustained relationships with this younger cohort.  So it may be comforting, I suppose.  He offers such clear-headed and practical insight (like "learn to listen") that it really does give us great encouragement.  (Older readers, take note.  This really may be a comfort insofar as it will help you with tools to relate to your mosaic-aged friends.)  And direction?  Oh yeah, he guides us towards paths of understanding, helping us appreciate the mindset and ethos of 21st century college-aged young adults.  Huge endorsements from Chap Clark and Dan Kimball on the back, showing that at least evangelical thought leaders are taking this book seriously.  You should too."

Friday, September 2, 2011

Humbled by these...

Anytime you work hard at something and pour your heart into it, you want people to like it and find it useful.  Well, that said, I've been extremely humbled by what people have said about my newest book, Worlds Apart: Understanding the Mindset and Values of 18-25 Year Olds.

Chuck Bomar gives very keen insight into the minds and hearts of what often can be a confusing generation to try and understand. While some give up or ignore trying to understand them, Chuck is someone who has  served with this age group and has studied and written about them them for many years. I always read everything Chuck writes because he writes with not just his research and experience but out of passion, love and belief in this generation."

"From one of the leading experts on college students, Chuck Bomar, World's Apart gives us a solid, clear and empowering resource for coming alongside these emerging adults. When I want to learn about college students, I read Chuck Bomar."
Chap Clark, PhD
Professor of Youth, Family, and Culture at Fuller Theological Seminary

"Personally, as the father of three adolescents, this book was an important and relevant read for me. Professionally, as the president of an evangelistic ministry, this book was an essential and strategic read. Chuck Bomar's "Worlds Apart" is a timely and compelling work for anyone who wants to more effectively reach 18-25 year olds....[they] are the future of our communities, our churches, and ultimately, our world. We need to invest in them if we are to invest in a brighter future. Bomar's research and practical insights show us how."
Kevin Palau
President, Luis Palau Association

"...Chuck gives us a deep perspective for parents from the front lines of ministry.  Wondering what your college students might be thinking right now?  Chuck can tell you."
Reggie Joiner, Founder and CEO of Orange

We -- the church -- haven't had a clue how to connect with college-age students for a long time. Peek inside an average church and it shows. Before we race off to construct lame programs and structures that miss the mark, we could all benefit from increased understanding.  Thankfully, Chuck Bomar has arrived with this book that offers just that.
_Mark Oestreicher, The Youth Cartel
"...Chuck combines a pastors heart with cutting edge research in a way that will help you lead your church and your family"
Chuck Bomar has become a leading voice on the issue of how to reach college age people. Chuck's authority comes not just from his understanding of the issues involved, but because he has great relationships with many college age adults.  He's refreshingly clear on how all of us, regardless of our age or stage in life, can build authentic relationships with younger adults.  You'll not only love what Chuck has to say, you'll love how what he has to say will impact your life."
_Carey Nieuwhof, co-author of Parenting Beyond Your Capacity: Connect Your Family to a Wider Community (The Orange Series),Lead Pastor of Connexus Community Church, Toronto, Canada.

brutally honest thoughts...

It was somewhere between 6 to 9 months ago (I think) that I was driving over the Willamette river here in Portland, sadly telling an acquaintance what I believed to be the harsh reality of a manuscript he sent me.  Stephen Lutz had a book he was trying to get published and had sent it to me to review.  At this point he had sent it out to some publishers, but at this point wasn't getting any bites.  Now, from what I've seen, Stephen is a great guy.  But we have only sat down once or twice at a conference or two so it was tough to tell him my honest thoughts about it.  Here is the bottom line of what I said:

From my perspective the sad reality was that "major publishers" would likely not take it on because there wasn't a "large enough market" for the book.  From a national perspective, their perception is the Church just isn't in a place where this would "sell enough units" for them to take it on and unfortunately most don't look at campus ministries as a large enough market (which is crazy to me, but from my experience this is their perception).

This is brutal and a harsh reality of our world.  Publishers are in business, need to make money and their perception is what matters when it comes to publishing.  My recommendation for him was, if he desired a "major publisher" to take on the book, to rewrite it to reach a broader audience.

Well, frankly, I'm glad he didn't do that.  Everything he said in what has now been published as College Ministry in a Post-Christian Culture NEEDED to be said and should be read by everyone working in college ministry.  I told him that on the phone.  Personally, I have had a heart for this field and thus have labored to writte 2 books for leaders of church-based ministries, a book for adult volunteers, a new book for parents of 18-25 year olds.....all are NEEDED.

The bottom line is I believe Stephen has a message that NEEDS to be heard and embraced.  And he just so happens to be a good writer.  Here's what I would recommend: buy this book and learn from Stephen.  This book will, in fact, helpfully shape your focus in a wonderful way.  Plus, buying this book will show "major publishers" that there is in fact a "large enough market" out there for those working in college ministry!  You can read a sample here, or purchase it here: College Ministry in a Post-Christian Culture.

Oh, and thank you to House Studio publishing for taking on a book that needs to be published....and that HAS a market to support it.  I hope you will sell 100,000's of these over the years!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Faithful or Perfect

This past Sunday at Colossae I taught on the life of David. It was part of our "Ancient Biographies" series we're doing this summer. A lot of people know a couple of stories about David and surely know he was a king, but most don't really know much about his life. So, I decided to walk through it...with a point, of course.

We know God said David was a "man after His own heart." David is held up as THE faithful king of all the kings and is esteemed in numerous ways throughout the scriptures. But he was also a mess. He lied to the priest at Nob, resulting in his death. He sought revenge with Nabal, seeking to kill him. And, he proved himself to be an adulterous murder as seen in the story with Bethsheba.

So, an obvious question is how can he be deemed "faithful" and a man after God's own heart?

This question arises because we wrongly think of being a faithful person as being a perfect person. But here was my point: the moment we confuse faithfulness with perfection is the moment we sign up for a miserable life drowned out by shame and guilt. We will never be perfect, but we can be faithful. And David provided a great example for us to follow:

First, he desired to do God's will (Psalm 40:8). This heart desire is something all believers have because of the Holy Spirit. Philippians 1:6 tells us that God will one day complete the work He has begun in in the meantime, in our hearts, we want to please God.

Secondly, when we don't, we need to be quick to repent. David models this in Psalm 51 after being confronted by Nathan regarding his relationship with Bethsheba. He totally comes clean, articulating the truth of his wrongdoings and relies fully upon God to cleanse him from these things.

Thirdly, after repenting, we need to be quick to receive God's grace. Often times we don't and it results in us shrinking back from God, the people of God and the mission of God. In Psalm 51 David receives grace and moves forward in ministry - "teaching transgressors..."

I desire to please God in everything I do. I know I won't be perfect in implementing those desires, so I try to be quick to repent. I want to be fully honest with God with how I sinned and the consequences my sin brought. AFter this, I seek to be quick to receive God's grace and forgiveness and move forward in the ministry he has for me - whatever that might be. And, this pattern of life will one day result in my life being faithful, not perfect.

Monday, August 1, 2011

3 Reasons We Should Consider Secular Colleges

Christian colleges are wonderful. I believe, at least for the most part, of what their mission is and the role they have in equipping Christians for life. And, I personally know people that have strong convictions about sending their children to a Christian college. For them, I say, "wonderful."  The truth is seems to be right  for many people.

On the other hand I also think there are a lot of benefits of going to a secular college.  I could probably list at least 10, but to start here are 3 that I think are at least worthy of some discussion:
  1. Finances. The truth is most Christian college's are crazy expensive. The amount of debt that people go into to attend one of these schools is becoming increasingly crippling to many graduates.  It seems to be worthy of consideration to simply stay involved in a local church and attend a less expensive secular school that gives a person just as much, or potentially more, clout in the workforce for a fraction of the price.
  2. Mission.  It certainly isn't true for all, but I have seen so many people get sucked into the "Christian College Bubble" and thus lose all sort of mission and the realities of the "real world."  It's easy to talk about mission and how we are called to live on mission in a Christian setting.  But to live it out is a completely different thing.  Secular campuses can be a tremendous training ground for someone entering the workforce and especially someone involved in a local church - and in many ways it provides more depth to their training than simply working at a coffee shop or restaurant.
  3. Connection.  I know many people feel convicted to attend Christian colleges because of the Christ-centered instruction in the field of their study.  This can in fact be a huge benefit of attending a Christian college.  However I must say that I believe this type of learning can also occur from being connected to older adults from a local church that work in that field.  And from my experience those attending a secular university tend to crave that instruction and understanding, which is a great means for connecting people to others in a local church context.  Additionally, and again this does not apply to all, but often times Christian colleges talk more about involvement in a local church than they concentrate on helping students become/stay connected.  In fact they tend to offer everything a local church does - small groups, accountability, chapels, etc. - which inevitably leads many students to feel like they don't need to be involved in a church.  I have personally found this to be a much larger issue than most admit to.
Anything you would add or refute?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Great Articulation

This seems to be the best picture I've seen that articulates the heart of how we approach church at Colossae.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Interview with Francis Chan about his new book

My friend Francis Chan is coming out with a new book next week, July 5th.  It's called, Erasing Hell: What God said about eternity, and the things we made up.  I know the topic isn't exactly exciting, but I do think it is necessary and especially now when there is so much discussion around this issue.  I want to encourage you to pick it up.

Here is an interview Francis did with Preston Sprinkle (co-author) and another friend of mine, Mark Beuving.  It will hopefully give you a good picture of the book, what's in it and the heart behind writing it.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Why I Like But Don't Use The Term "Missional Community"

"Missional Community" has been a term that has become widely known and embraced and I like it.  I actually love the idea of and am a huge advocate for this movement.  Here are 4 really quick reasons why I like this terminology:
  1. It has encouraged leaders to rethink overall church structures - including myself.
  2. It helps bring intentionality into everything we do.
  3. It has been effective wording to refresh a heart in many people for the lost and has even played a role in helping define a philosophy of evangelism.
  4. It has helped many churches realize they have become ingrown, overly focusing on themselves.
Having said that, at Colossae Church I usually refer to our structure as gospel-centered community instead.  It's not exhaustive, but if you'd like to know more about how we define and articulate this, click here.  Some refer to our structure as being missional, and as of right now it seems appropriate.  It could even be used interchangeably with the term gospel-centered in ways.  But here are 6 quick reasons why I prefer to use the term gospel-centered:
  1. Titling it this way allows us to constantly and naturally articulate the gospel in a number of different ways and to a wide variety of people. 
  2. The idea of living on mission comes from an understanding of the gospel, not the other way around.  We always want to make sure this is clear.
  3. It forces us to evaluate what we are doing by comparing it to the cores/calling of the gospel.
  4. It keeps the heart of why we structure this way at the forefront of everything we do.  
  5. It has helped the people in our church to more naturally see things through the lens of the gospel because it's at the center of any conversation about what we do.  The words we use carry a lot of weight to them.
  6. Using the term gospel-centered seems to be helpful in allowing us to provide a both-and definition before any wrong connotations are attached to terminology.  Using the term missional can sometimes create confusion for those not familiar with the terminology.  They tend to think it insinuates the idea that everything we do is focused outward and thus are left wondering how we then take care of one another.  But we don't believe it's an either-or issue.  In fact we believe living out the gospel requires both caring for one another AND reaching the lost!  To articulate this in our church we say we want to be "the body to the body" and "the body to the world." We think if we lose either of these biblical concepts, the gospel message is lost.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Why You Shouldn't Fundraise

Missionaries fundraise.  It's a reality of life in our world today.  To be released for ministry requires funding.  Period.  Most church planting boot-camps that I know of would suggest a certain dollar amount a planter should raise prior to starting.  Mission organizations usually require a certain amount before someone moves overseas and at times before they even enter the training program.  These organizations don't want to negate people from taking steps of faith by raising support, they view it as a part of the faith process.  And I would agree.  This is a step of faith many people should take.

Many might suggest if you believe in what you are doing and that God is in it, you should ask people to support it.  And I would say, yes, sometimes....maybe.  But I also don't think these convictions require you to seek funding.

I obviously believed in what I was doing when I was planting a church because I thought God was in it.  But I didn't meet with people and ask them to support us.  I did ask our sending church to provide medical/dental benefits for one year, but I didn't ask them for any money.  The bottom line was because I felt like not fundraising was a step of faith God wanted me to take.  Period.  And if God calls you to the same you shouldn't fundraise either.  I wish more people considered this as a possibility.

I could literally leave it at that because that really is the only thing that determined my convictions on this issue.  But, there were some other thoughts running through my head that I will share because they might play a role in your process.  Here are some of those: 
  1. I knew I didn't want to have a conversation with God as I lay awake one night, wondering if the church existed because He was in it or simply because we still had funding to keep it going.
  2. I wanted the people involved in the church, from the beginning, to own it both through their time and financial support.
  3. I know planters that had a chunk of funding upfront, which led them to lose a sense of urgency.  In other words, they didn't have to do anything today because the funding was there for 3 or 5 years.  I know myself well enough to know that I could've allowed this sense of comfort to lead to laziness.  Clearly a character flaw in myself.
  4. I knew of planters that ended up spending money carelessly simply because they had it.  It's not that I thought I would fall into the same tendency.  But it was something that made me think a bit. 
  5. I knew I couldn't do anything apart from God's hand, but we also have to work hard.  And there is something to just having to make it work that serves as a motivator.
I will say that I know planters that have raised support and stayed motivated, viewed it as a sign that God was in it, that never lost a sense of urgency and that people came behind the ministry with their time and financial support.  I would say that's part of the fun.  God does different things through different people at different times.  BUT, more people should consider the possibility that God might be calling them to do something without fundraising and having a chunk in the bank.  Far too many people think that is the only way to go about it and it is the wise thing to do. 

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

5 Reasons I Didn't Build A Leadership Team Before Planting A Church

I know it's common for people planting a church to build a team beforehand. This makes a ton of sense, for a lot of reasons.  I have plenty of friends that have walked this path and are thankful they did so.

However, I didn't follow this strategy.  There were some people that ended up moving with me and I am SO THANKFUL for all of their service to the Lord.  They came committed, willing to do anything at any time it was needed and there is no way our church would be where we are today without their continued service!!!  But, none of them came having a leadership position.  This had nothing to do with them as individuals, but it was intentional on my part.

Here are 5 reasons I chose not to "build a leadership team" before coming:

1.  Longevity Reason. Every planter I know that has moved to a new city with a group of people have had some of that group leave and go back "home."  This happens for a variety of reasons, so I wanted to see who would stick for the long haul, first.

2.  Indigenous Reason. I moved a thousand miles away from an upper-middle class Republican community to Portland, Oregon. Portland is obviously still the United States, but there is no doubt this is also a different culture from Simi Valley, CA.  Very different, in fact.  I guess you could say I didn't want to plant a Simi Valley church in Portland.  For us to be healthy we needed people from the area to come alongside in leadership and there needed to be room for that.

3. Trust Reason.   I felt I needed to trust God to bring along leaders over time and, at least for me, building a team ahead of time would've just been me striving for a sense of comfort.

4. Structure Reason.  Putting people in leadership meant we would have a structure in place prior to moving.  This would've caused me to try and force a culture into our structure - without even knowing the culture here.  Instead, we wanted to develop culture over time and then structure around it and in a way that supported that culture.  I didn't plant a church in my head and then move here.  I moved here to plant a church in a community. This approach required me to develop leadership structure as we went along.

5. Relational Reason.  If I had approached people to ask them if they would come with me, there was far too much room for awkward expectations that could damage relationships.  The reality is if I asked someone to come and they agreed, picking up everything and moving, they would have expectations to be involved in just about everything.  This could be a wonderful thing and I certainly wouldn't blame them if they had this expectation, but it could have also been relationally disastrous.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Powerful And Disturbing Illustration

Yesterday I showed this video in the beginning of my message.  Random, yes.  Disturbing, yes.  Good illustration, I believe so.  I prefaced this clip prior to showing it, letting people know that they might wonder why I'm showing it or even if it's real.  It is real and I did have some points.  Watch the video and then check out my brief application points below.

My main point was, "This is unfortunately exactly what Christians do."  I brought out the following application points:

  1. The man lives two lives - on one side a mature adult, on the other an infant.  Often times when Christians get around mature Christians they will talk with maturity and act like they are living mature lives.  But once they are by themselves they continue living, thinking, behaving like an infant - refusing to grow and mature holistically.
  2. The nurse caring for him is enabling him to continue living in this way.  This man wants and in ways needs the enabling person in his life so he can justify it.  Christians often look to spiritual leaders to do the same.  They are looking for a spiritual leader that will enable them to continue living as an infant in their faith, never having to step up and take ownership as a maturing believer themselves, and often justify this by saying their leader should be gracious and loving.
  3. The man thought his behavior was odd until he noticed other people doing it.  We do this too.  We inherently know something is not right, but then we notice other people that are living in a similar manner which then causes us to justify our behavior/thinking.  People tend to compare themselves with others that are not as far along as they are versus with those further along the path of maturity.
The thrust of the passage I was teaching was contrasting between foolish/infant-like living with mature/wise living.  This was a bit of a shocking illustration for most and one that caused people to have images they could've probably done without, but everyone did get the point.

Monday, May 2, 2011

5 Keys To Cultivating Inter-generational Relationships

This past week I taught a couple seminars at the Orange Conference.  I love this conference.  I've had the chance to teach there the past few years.  I love how people from senior pastors to children's ministry volunteers are all coming together to prayerfully seek a unified, cohesive approach to ministry.

I've written about these in books, but in my Friday seminar I discussed 5 values churches need to embrace, promote and protect in order to cultivate inter-generational relationships.  We can get people from different generations to sit in the same room, but this doesn't mean they are "connecting."  So, I discussed the following values and key points necessary if we are truly going to help people from different generations connect with one another in a local church context:
  1. Value of Difference.  We must help everyone embrace their unique differences, but also value the differences of others (personality, giftedness, etc) to the point where they intentionally pursue people that are different.  We must show this value in words and structures.  My key point for this was: Start with structuring to promote diversity and affinity will naturally happen.  Start with structuring around affinity and you will lose a value of diversity.
  2. Value of Responsibility.  We must help older believers understand their responsibility to invest in younger people.  We cannot consider ourselves successful in ministry if we don't focus on this.  My key point for this was: Faithfulness in ministry must include holding people to the standards of scripture.
  3. Value of Family.  We cannot alienate people by language.  When we speak of "family" we ought to focus on our theological family rather than nuclear structures so that we do not alienate singles, college age people, or children who unwillingly find themselves in a broken home.  My key point for this was: Healthy nuclear families are not an end, they are a means to an end.
  4. Value of Others.  We must help people embrace the call of the gospel to focus on others, first.  If people think their faith is about them they will then think the church exists for them and thus will not interact inter-generationally unless they feel like it benefits them.  My key point for this was: A gospel-centered person seeks to give community to others, not seek it for themselves.
  5. Value of Quality.  We must begin finding ways to measure quality of relationships.  We typically only measure quantitative elements in ministry.  Churches that are helping cultivate inter-generational relationships are finding ways to measure quality.  My key point for this was: Measuring quantity is not necessarily a sign of success for spiritual leaders.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

God's Not In To Mini-Churches Either

People bash MegaChurches, but I'd suggest God isn't necessarily into MiniChurches either.

There are clearly issues that come with a MegaChurch context. Discipling people becomes more complex, connecting with other people can be more difficult for some and having a real sense of biblical community can be lost too.  But let's not get it twisted, there are also issues in MiniChurch contexts.  Discipling can be complex because it can get separated from evangelism, connecting with people can be more difficult because relationships become ingrown, and true biblical community can be lost because it's solely lived out with people just like ourselves.

There are long lists of issues with either context.  And the lists of benefits for either can be just as long.  But it's not a greater-than battle we ought to fight.  It's not an issue of size.  People might say healthy churches grow larger and thus point to how Jesus preached to thousands of people, the church gatherings in Jerusalem were enormous, or that the Lord "added to their number daily."  On the other hand, others might suggest small is "God's way" because Jesus turned away thousands of people when he preached and the early church met in homes.

I just think we need to be careful throwing negative blanket statements in either direction.  It's not about getting smaller or growing larger.  It's about every individual being faithful to our calling as believers and the truth is there ARE many leaders on both sides of the size equation that are faithfully leading as God desires...and people faithfully living it out under their leadership, too.

The bottom line is the question of whether or not faithfulness is present shouldn't be pointed at anyone but ourselves.  God is working in and through all kinds of different contexts and I'm just trying to stay in step in mine.

Friday, April 15, 2011

9 Things I Would Tell A Church Planter

  1. Be careful of church planting scientists.   Learning everything everyone else has done has benefits, but this can also be dangerous.   God is calling you to begin a new let it be new. Walk in faith and be very careful of those that will pressure you to walk in presumption. 
  2. Only say what you are doing and explain why.  If you do things differently churched people will ask you why you're not doing what you're not doing.  Don't fall into the trap of answering that - it creates a lot more work and confusion. 
  3. Be prepared to have people you thought were with you, leave.  And don't be surprised if they don't leave quietly.
  4. You will have to take massive steps of faith if you want to see God work out the vision He's placed in you.  If you are not at a point where you can take these, rethink planting.
  5. Plant a church in a community, not your head.  Every community is different and thus will require you to live out eternal truths in unique ways.  If you move to a new place and try to force everything into a structure in your head, you will probably fail.
  6. Invest in a few rather than seeking to attract many.  You are building a culture and in order to do that it's far better to have a few people really get it than a mass that sort of do.
  7. There will be times when you will wonder if you're the only one that actually believes in what you're doing.  People will come along in time and will ultimately help shape the vision, but some need to see and be a part of it for a period of time before they'll understand.
  8. Learn from criticism.  You will be criticized, people will question you and will even leave with wrong assumptions about what you are doing or what you value.  Learn from this.  Don't get bitter at them, God uses these situations to sharpen your vision and especially how you articulate it.  
  9. Give people you trust a voice into the vision.  Your vision will shape over time and these people will help shape it.  Plus, they will have better thoughts than you.  

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Main Point

Today I taught on Ephesians 4:17-32.  Up to this point in chapter four Paul has described how we are to live in diverse unity.  We are all one, but we are all unique as well.  When every believer embraces their uniqueness, the body of Christ builds itself up (v.16).

In verses (17-32) Paul makes a very strong point: our lives ought not look like the lives of people that don't believe in Jesus.  He is basically saying, "Don't live like you don't know better."  Be we cannot be different by merely abstaining from things people do in culture.  We must also do things they do not do.

Jesus certainly abstained from participating in certain cultural norms, but this is not what made him stand out.  People were drawn to him because he did things others were not doing.  We should do the same.  For example, Paul says in 4:28 that we are to labor, earn money, SO THAT we can give more.  That's different.  I can only imagine what would happen if all believers had this perspective on their work....

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Value Clash Hinders Sustainable Mentorship

Let’s be honest: connecting people of different generations is not the easiest thing to do.  We face obstacles like core values being different, older people being intimidated or frustrated by the younger generations, younger people not feeling the value of having an older person in their life…to either generation not knowing how to connect with the other.  There are ways we can help with these things (for more on that see chapters 7 and 8 of this book), but there is another issue that is just as obvious – if not more.  We just don’t talk about it as openly.
Younger people are desperate for an experience they know is Divine.  Of course not all desire this, but many just want to experience God, walk with Him daily, be a part of what He’s doing and be used by Him.  Sure, experience based pursuits can be incredibly dangerous if they are separated from truth.  But experiencing God can also be rooted in truth.  And this is what I find many college age people seeking.
And herein lies the problem.  It seems like there is a lack of older adults that authentically experience God – daily.  Many of them, if you ask them directly, have a hard time pointing out anything specific they feel like God is teaching them or working on in their life today.  Some can’t explain their own testimony of how and why they personally decided to follow Jesus – or why they do today.  Much of this is due to, and in some ways this will be an over simplification, older generations not being experience based.  They can know scripture, be grounded in doctrine, etc. but as I talk with more and more pastors working with older adults the lack of experiencing God in their lives is a huge issue.
Bridging these generational values together (a high value on experience with a high value on intellectual knowledge of Scripture) is what’s needed.  But if these tensions aren’t helped the differences actually hinder  sustainable mentor/disciple making relationships.  And, I’m not okay with that.  More to come…