I spent this week with some of our staff at a conference in Atlanta. The past few days for me added to or confirmed with me part of an ongoing study I have about “what is the church?” I last posted about it here: What is the Church? 10 Things the Bible Says About the Church, but this week was focused on discipleship.
This group (3DM) we started to explore months ago doesn’t have a new program, or some new secret way to make disciples, they walked through how Jesus did this. That means this was really more like a workshop than a conference, and there wasn’t a step-by-step process by those Type-A’s can take away and say “this is how you do it.” That’s what made this different than the host of Christian conferences we all love to attend.
I’m not actually sure how to completely process everything presented to us over the last three days. It was a great starting point to learning how to create disciples, not how to create the church. If there was a quote for church staff and leaders that stuck with me, it was this.
Make disciples and it will build and create the church. Build a church and you aren’t necessarily creating disciples.
This is completely backwards from what our American church is. Our consumerist church of the 21st century is certainly a place where we can go on Sunday’s to consume a church product, but is it a place we create disciples as Jesus commanded us to do in Matthew 28? It turns church on its head because it is a scary place for church staff, and a freeing place for followers of Christ. I have heard it said countless times that church is not a building it is the people, but that’s a hard thing to live out when we place so much emphasis on doing church in that traditional church building.
That’s the raw unfiltered understanding of the last few days, it’s not anything ground breaking, but creating disciples is what we are called to do, building the church building is a place where we believers gather to worship on Sunday, not the place where we evangelize the unchurched.
What does this day mean to you at this point eleven years later? Each year I look back at what Deborah and I were doing on this day in wonder and amazement, remembering details I would never remember on any ordinary day. Every year I look for photos I took on that day of us watching the news hour after hour from Philadelphia, PA where our motorhome was parked, and every year I am amazed that I didn’t take one single photo. Not only did I not take a single photo that day, but I didn’t take another photo until we landed in the Cayman Islands on October 1st a few weeks later. I had been a photographer for almost 10 years at that point, taking thousands upon thousands of photos, and yet on this one day, and for weeks to come all I could do was watch things unfolded on the news. Now, we see photos of two beams of light shooting into the night sky where buildings use to be.
This was the day I presume for many that evil became visible. Even though the fall of man took place long ago, for many of us who often choose to ignore the evil in the world, this day it was impossible to ignore. For me and my friends growing up in the 80’s and 90’s we knew nothing of this type of evil in the world. We were past the great wars of Nazi Germany and Pearl Harbor, and beyond Vietnam. Sure I remember Bush senior sending some planes over to Iraq, but that seemed to be over quickly, and besides, we seemed to have won. We knew nothing of the true existence of pure evil that comes from Satan out of hatred for others.
That reality changed of course on September 11, 2001. Now more than a decade later I can still turn on the news and see the events unfold exactly as they did when I was watching them years ago since networks rerun the coverage over and over again, thinking somehow those who were old enough to remember will have forgotten.
Today we think of pure evil and Satan as being those terrorist who flew planes into our buildings and killed “innocent” people, but we all posses the evil of every sin ever known to man. To Jesus and the Apostles the evil of Satan was much closer than some unknown terrorist, the evil was from not looking to God for everything. Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man” (Matthew 16:23).
I don’t know what this day means for you at this point, for me it is still a day of remembering those who died, and that yes, evil does exist, and it is ever-present, and closer than we would ever care to think, only squelched by turning our hearts to God. If you look closely there are some amazing stories of people who turned to God during those horrific days, and some day I really hope to visit the memorials in Washington and New York.
Any of you who know me well know I don’t post too often about kids stuff, but today was a banner day for the future of our kids at Cornerstone Church. I have been to a lot of churches over the last 40 years, and I have visited churches who have very little evidence of kids in the building. While I’m not a “kids person” per se, this is a sure sign of a church with a hard future ahead of it, and the Church body itself needs it’s kids.
Over the last 3-4 weeks our kids staff, shown above, along with a host of other people, implemented a plan they had worked on tirelessly over the summer months. Meeting after meeting to go over every painstaking detail transformed the hallways, classrooms, and worship space for every little soul from new borns to our youth, and for kids who haven’t even been born yet. Think about the transformation in terms of a franchise. We love franchises all over the country because they are consistent, stable, and we know what we are going to get when we go into the building. We want our kids at every site to have the same worship experience no matter where they are, to have a consistent, stable, feeding on the word of God, while being surrounded by a community of believers.
In a very fragile time in history for the Church in our culture, this makes me excited for the future of the Church body. Investing in our kids is investing in the future of God’s Church. I’m thankful for these five ladies, and all the other people who worked so hard to make today happen, especially for the kids who have never walked into one of our children’s areas at Cornerstone Church. The future of Cornerstone Church, and the Church body as a whole, is in the hands of these woman above, but it’s also in the hands of every single individual who follows the teachings of Jesus. When you give to a child, you have given it to Christ himself.
This is the last Chick-Fil-A pro marriage homosexual theological chicken eating post, promise… I think… maybe. This above photo was the scene at our local Chick-Fil-A Store #1445 today around 2:45-3:00pm(!), and what an awesome scene it was. There were lines of cars wrapped around the building, out into The Home Depot parking lot, and out into the streets. There was even a line at McDonald’s across the street to get over to the Chick-Fil-A parking lot, now that’s funny. From last word, the Chick-Fil-A in Prattville had to close after they sold out of chicken, and it’s possible ours will too. I love my Chick-Fil-A, and that’s how it feels to me, it’s not “the” Chick-Fil-A, it’s my store. I know people who work at this store, they have the best customer service hands down of any fast food restaurant in town ten-fold, and they have great food.
I have had many conversations with people about this “event” today, for lack of a better word, and it’s all across the board. Some Christians were saying don’t eat chicken today because of this and that, some were saying if you don’t eat chicken today you’re not a “Christian” and so on. From the reasonable to the absurd.
My question here, is, now what.
To be a Christian means to follow Christ, to become Christ-like. We the church body obviously have a huge reserve of people, many of which I think have been sitting on the sidelines, until eat chicken day came along. When we read the book of James we see the example Jesus’ brother gave us, to be people of action, and not just on Chick-Fil-A Appreciate Day, but 365 days out of the year, or 366 days this year. So where are we chicken eating people the other 364 days of the year? I mean here in Auburn, we Chick-Fil-A loving chicken eating people are pretty much the overwhelming majority, so it wasn’t too much of a stretch to eat there again today. Don’t get me wrong, today was definitely about eating chicken, and that was what we good chicken loving Bible Believers should have done today. But what about tomorrow? How do we show the love of Christ, and support uncompromising values and truths of Scripture the rest of the week?
You probably tracking with me so far, but here’s the kickers. Ever since today was dubbed Chick-Fil-A Appreciate Day, we social people (that’s all of us) have been throwing around opinions faster than the news can actually absorb them. Today was a great example of the reason churches should embrace social media, learn it’s power, and use it to point people back to Jesus as the Messiah. While the outpouring of support for Chick-Fil-A seems phenomenal all around the country, it does give the church body a great opportunity to reach out to gay people, to show them the love of Christ.
Scripture has example after example of Jesus eating with “sinners” like tax collector and prostitutes, perhaps we should be sitting down with gay people in our cities and talking to them about Christ as well?
Many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, and when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
…and Jesus responds by saying these are the people I came here to save (Matthew 9:10-13).
It’s a fine line we walk today. If we are going to make a point to go talk to homosexuals about Christ why not our next door neighbor? The homosexual groups see some Christians as hate mongers, hypocritical people who don’t follow what Christ teaches, and we see them as a people living in perpetual sin. There are absolute truths in Scripture that should not and can not be compromised. But there are ways to follow in Jesus’ footsteps without compromising what we believe. Perhaps this is done by sitting down and having a meal with someone you disagree with on such a fundamental level that the only way to agree is to allow the Holy Spirit to do His work?
I don’t know what today means for tomorrow. Come Friday when the homosexual “kiss-in” is supposed to happen, we may see the reverse of today. When that happens the only thing we may have accomplished will be to really irritate PETA for devouring so much chicken in one week, which is ok by me. If we come out today to buy chicken for ourselves, why aren’t we Christians going to come out Friday to buy lunch for some kissing couple?
There must be something learned by all this. There are theological truths to be learned here. There are opportunities to teach being handed to pastors on a silver platter. And there are opportunities to talk to people who do not know the love of Christ, and the salvation that comes with trusting in the Messiah. Would Jesus have eaten a chicken sandwich today, or would he sit down and eat with homosexuals on Friday, or both? Scripture seems to indicate both, but it matters because this is not life or death, this is eternal life and eternal death.
Every time I read about this story I can’t help but think how incredible this was. There wasn’t just one person who gave up his life for another in Aurora Colorado, but three people, who died in place of a friend. This story for some reason reminds me of the story about Arland D. Williams Jr., dubbed the “sixth passenger.” Do you remember this guy? He was one of the survivors of Air Florida Flight 90, a flight from Washington National Airport headed for Fort Lauderdale. On January 13, 1982, the Boeing 737-200 crashed into the 14th Street Bridge over the Potomac River. Williams was given the chance to take the life-line from the helicopter, and each time he passed it to the next person, all of which were saved, and then he died before they could rescue him.
I’m not sure why Williams’ story comes to mind, but perhaps because that was really the first time in my life I can recall the act of giving up your life for another. I was 12 years old, living in New Jersey at the time, and I remember going to church that Sunday, and listening to a sermon about what this man did by giving up his life for those other passengers. For some reason, that flight and Williams’ actions, have stuck in my mind since that tragic event happened 30 years ago.
This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.
This is what Jesus told his disciples in John 15:13, and this is exactly what, at least three people did, in Aurora Colorado last Friday night at the premiere of The Dark Night Rises. Jon Blunk, Matt McQuinn, and Alex Teves all took a bullet trying to protect their girlfriends while the horrific shooting went on in theater number nine. This is the very message of the gospel played out in horrific fashion right in front of our eyes on national television.
This is honestly something very difficult to fully comprehend. Words just can’t adequately imagine the sacrifice made by these people, yet, this is what the very basis of our faith in Christ is built around.
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person — though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die — but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. ~Romans 5:6-8
In these few sentences, Paul brings together words that exemplify the Christian message, and show exactly what Christ did for his followers. We look at the actions of these heroic people I listed here, like Williams, Blunk, McQuinn, and Teves, and we praise them, and honor their incredible sacrifices, and rightfully so. They died for a friend, and in Williams’ case, he died for several strangers he never even knew. But Christ, who died a horrific death, for centuries of sinners, is given no such praise by today’s culture.
What view would we have of Jesus if we truly pictured him diving in front of a bullet, dying in our place, in a crowded movie theater in a typical 21st century American town like Aurora? He did do this for you.
I didn’t just post a picture of a black square, this is actually my desktop. I love the clean, simple, and yet still very sophisticated… desktop, home screen, written code, verse, prose, lyric, file structure, office, room, company, house, life… etc (could be I like this so much because life in reality is actually very messy). This term, sophistication through simplicity, has come across my desk several times over the last few weeks, and it’s a phrase I have attempted to develop throughout every aspect of my life for years now. The main reason of course is that this really seems to be how Jesus lived out his earthly ministry. Scripture is so complex, packed full of highly technical arguments and situations, yet, the stories of Jesus’ life are simple enough for any child to understand. The verse on my various desktops in the graphic above about Jesus in John 1.14 is one of the most complex and sophisticated statements ever uttered, yet it’s so very simple.
There are so many ways I try to live this out, and one is being very aggressive at keeping my digital life organized, my desk clean, and to only allow those things which are most important to be most visible. That’s one reason why I really love using an Apple product over a Windows PC or an Android device (I have all the above and use all of them for different things, so I’m not totally Apple bias). Apple just makes it so easy to be digitally organized and in our modern day is a secular company that has spent 30 years perfecting sophistication through simplicity, something Steve Jobs took to its extreme. There are many different ways to achieve this, but a disorganized digital life (to me) is no different than a messy living room, or a house full of junk I don’t need.
I can’t think of a time in my life when I have ever been this busy, a time (or season if you will) when I am being pulled in so many different directions all at once. None of those directions are necessarily “bad” so to speak, but I find the busier I get, the more I have to simplify, organize, and focus on specifics. And that’s why I love the concept of sophistication through simplicity. It allows you to stay focused, remove distractions, and focus on what’s important.
The shot above was one I took while the band was warming up for worship this morning. I never get tired of being around the worship band and their practices. It is just as much a part of worship to me as when the official worship time begins. This church location, our second site, has been meeting in a basketball gym since February, and I love how it forces us to look at church from a new perspective again.
One of the songs we sung today, a modern hymn called How Deep the Father’s Love For Us by Kings Kaleidoscope on their album Sin, which was original written by Stuart Townend many years ago, has become one of my favorites because of the amazing lyrics and how it was written. It was released almost 2 years ago at this point but every time I read this poem, or listen to it being sung, it just hits home why we believe what we believe.
As mere created beings we can’t possibly fathom how deep God loves us, but the part that always rests with me is when the writer says “I hear my mocking voice, call out among the scoffers.” What an incredible thought to process and ponder. You can listen to the song from a link at the top of this post, but the rest of it goes like this:
How deep the Father’s love for us,
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure
How great the pain of searing loss,
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the chosen One,
Bring many sons to glory
Behold the Man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice,
Call out among the scoffers
It was my sin that left Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished
I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection
Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom
I guess everyone has different stretching points in words and in music that makes them emotionally tied to one work over another. This one for me brings out the beauty and sadness in sacrifice for someone who finally gets it. I love that we can worship a God this great, through these words, and do it with a basketball goal above our heads.
I decided to start a series of sorts on social media and how we the people of the church body use, don’t use, or outright diss the majority of the world at this point. I’m hereafter coining this series of sorts as the SMFT (Social Media, Facebook, and Twitter) discussion. Part of the necessity of this discussion comes after reading some of Viral: How Social Networking Is Poised to Ignite Revival by Leonard Sweet (or @lensweet), which I would highly recommend to anyone, but should almost be required reading for anyone born prior to 1985. I have written on this many times before, but I do so now mainly because there are still some in the church today who continue ignore this medium, which has now become the most powerful tool in the world to connect with other people.
Much of the premise behind Viral is to bring the older generations of believers (that is those born prior to about 1985) into the fold of understanding in the world we live in today. It is far easier to say “I’m not part of the world, the culture, the depravity of our society,” and ignore everything our world has become, even though we do still live in the world. We are supposed to be the salt and light to the world, not to be just the salt and light to the baby boomers. Many of us do ignore the power of social media in our calling as Christians to go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19-20).
How in the world can we make disciples if we don’t know and understand the different forms of social media like Facebook and Twitter? So you say I’m on Facebook, got that covered… well, I would say Facebook is the most closed, the least evangelically available social media tool there is. You can close yourself off in Facebook by locking every aspect of your Facebook account and never be heard from again, what type of witness is that? Did you know that most younger generations are moving away from Facebook at this point (partly because we are now on there). It’s extremely important to get beyond Facebook and into other areas like Instagr.am, Pinterest, Foursquare, Flickr, Spotify, YouVersion, Kindle Books (yes it’s social), blogging, texting, and various avenues on Twitter.
[On a side note… if you are only on Facebook, you are not a part of the social media revolution, this is basically pseudo social networking at best. I say this because Facebook is close to reaching saturation levels. Facebook has become like the telephone or cable TV of the 80’s. Once everyone is on there who wants to be on there it’s growth is all but flatlined. I don’t mean if you aren’t on there yet, you shouldn’t get on there, and fast, but If you are only willing to get into one single social site, I would not recommend it be Facebook, I would first make it a smart phone, where you can learn how to access everything the world now takes for granted.]
So, if you are a believer, and think this social media thing is going to go away, I’m sorry, it’s only going to get more and more ingrained into the very fabric of the world we live in. In another 5-10 years it will encompass the world’s population, except for those who ignore it’s existence. For us the church to ignore social media is akin to the church ignoring electrical power and the car when they were invented, choosing instead to stick with candles and horses.
10 Reasons To Learn Social Media if You Are a Christian
Jesus would have used this media (this is a later post, but I will show from Scripture why this is the case)
We are called to disciple the world, and the world is connected via social media
If you don’t learn the basics, instead of you teaching your kids, your kids will be teaching you at some point
By the time you are ready it will be too late (it’s already quite late as it is)
Your target audience are all sitting right there waiting for your witness
How many people in your neighborhood have your talked to (witnessed to) lately?
Door to door is dead. Buried… and greatly frowned upon in our society. Social networking is the norm.
The disciples used every tool to their advantage (they wrote books and distributed them)
The Bible is the greatest social media tool every created, it’s meant to be socially shared
Because there are lost people who do not know Jesus and you may be their only connection
So there you have it. That’s just a start. I didn’t put a lot of references, or other specifics as to where my ideas came from, I will put those in future SMFT posts, and those 10 reasons are just off the top of my head, I’m sure there are a ton more. I beg the church body to not let itself become irrelevant in such an overwhelming way as to not be able to reach our world today. We make disciples by investing in people’s lives, and more than any other time in the history of the world, we have access to more people, to discuss the good news of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ with more people, than any generation who ever lived before us.
It may not look like it at first glance, but this is part of the hard work that goes into following Christ wholeheartedly, what we call, Leading People to Know and Serve Jesus. I have learned an amazing amount about how the church body functions since I went on staff in late 2008. One of the incredible things about being on staff is the behind the scenes look you get at the visioning and planning process the church body goes through, continually. To see God actively working, guiding his people through the process of being the church, is a great privilege. Today was one of those rare monthly staff meetings where almost everyone on staff was in the room. There are almost as many people behind me in the photo above as there are in front of me, and still we had a few people who couldn’t be there today.
One thing that never stops amazing me is how hard everyone works, not just at my church, but at most all the churches I have come into contact with over the years. There are so many people who make the church body what it is. Countless volunteers who have sacrificed time, and money, to be the hands and feet of Christ. Of the many topics discussed today, one was how to tell the stories of these volunteers and other people who’s lives have been changed by Christ’s work through his church, like some of our seniors going to Uganda last week instead of going somewhere like Panama City Beach for a party.
I’m not really sure why this particular post came to be tonight, this just happened to be what was on my mind as I recalled events from my day. I do know this type of planning and these type of stories, go on endlessly, because God is at work in His people endlessly. If you haven’t been in church for a while, there is no better time than now. Sunday is less than 7 days away, and you aren’t reading this by accident any more than I wrote this by accident. Don’t just keep looking around for that perfect church, there isn’t one. Christ, who built the church out of imperfect people, can change your life forever, and he can use us imperfect people of the church to do it.