Monday, April 18, 2011

All Good Things...

All good things must come to an end...
Who said that? How did they know? I wonder if they experienced the same amount of sadness and disappointment we have as our “good thing” has come to an end.

After a year and a half of leading The Mission, we (Brian and Carrie) have decided to accept a position in youth ministry at a church in south Florida. This is truly a bittersweet time for us as we continue our journey of loving God and His people.

We have experienced so much during our time in Dayton. We’ve been amazed at the generosity of our friends and family as they sacrificially supported us. Even if just for a short time, we truly experienced an intimate community that longed to serve Jesus and love others. The Mission delivered Thanksgiving meals, and provided Christmas gifts and meals for a few families that couldn’t afford to purchase their own. Some of us volunteered at the local free health clinic. We shared our burdens with one another. We prayed for each other. Some of us found a place of healing where we could ask tough questions and openly share our doubts without fear of being judged. We learned about God and His Word together. Sometimes we got frustrated with each other, but our love for one another always prevailed. We were a small church, but hopefully we were an example of what the Body of Christ should be like.

Dorothy Day, co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement once wrote, “What we do is very little. But it is like the little boy with a few loaves and fishes. Christ took that little and increased it. He will do the rest. What we do is so little that we may seem to be constantly failing. But so did he fail. He met with apparent failure on the cross. But unless the seeds fall into the earth and die there is no harvest.” While The Mission will no longer exist, in no way do we consider our efforts a failure. We hope that the small seeds of the prayers, conversations, and actions of the Mission will reap a harvest beyond the borders of our group.

It’s no secret that I thrive on relationships. That is what has always been the “bread and butter” of how God has used me in ministry. Often, I felt like a “fish out of water” as I took on this role as church planter and Lead Pastor. While working elsewhere 40 hours a week to supplement the needs of our family, I simply did not have enough time to effectively balance all the different responsibilities. The Mission’s Sunday night gatherings were such a blessing to us and to others, but our family was struggling to make it throughout each week. So, after much consideration and prayer, Carrie and I decided that it was time to make some tough decisions. Thankfully, it seems that the Lord has once again found a great place for Him to use our gifts and talents to continue to serve Him and love His people.

We’re so grateful; to the people within our group who sacrificed furniture, finances, labor and time; to those outside of our church, but still part of our body, as they supported us with prayers and finances; to people within our community who loved our children well, provided work for us, and backed us with much encouragement. We thank God for old relationships and new during our time here in Dayton, and for the trials and growth that He has led us through.

If you were financially supporting The Mission, we would respectfully ask you to discontinue and prayerfully seek out other organizations that might need assistance at this time. Your sacrificial support has left a permanent imprint on our lives. Words could simply never convey our gratitude. Pray for us as our family makes another significant transition. And, pray that the folks that were a part of The Mission would find a place to connect to God and other Christ followers in the near future. Many blessings as you seek to love and serve Jesus through your words and deeds.

Grace and Peace,
Brian and Carrie Ward

“Give us patience and humility with our feeble efforts at faithfulness. Bless the minute things we do in your name so that our small acts of faith may find witness among many, and thereby glorify you.” Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Acts Week 2: Heaven and Earth Collide

Our primary passage for the night was Acts 1:1-11 with a focus on verse 8. The verse here comes from Eugene Peterson's The Message . It would be helpful to read the whole selected passage to better track with the summary of the lesson below.

Acts 1:8
What you'll get is the Holy Spirit. And when the Holy Spirit comes on you, you will be able to be my witnesses in Jerusalem, all over Judea and Samaria, even to the ends of the world."

And there it is. With one statement, verse 8, He sums up the whole task of the church. Jesus goes to heaven, and the New Creation begins with the Holy Spirit filling believers on earth. The Kingdom on earth begins. Not with political power or nationalistic pride, but power to be witnesses of Jesus through the Holy Spirit. Heaven and earth collide. Heaven and earth are not two totally different spheres with one being reality, and the other being a far off “sci-fi” like dimension. Heaven and earth collided on ascension day just as much as on the day of Christ’s birth. And, Heaven and earth continue to collide through the Spirit empowered witness of those that follow Christ.

"What you'll get is the Holy Spirit"
The Holy Spirit was not sent just to comfort us, but to strengthen us to comfort others as Jesus did. The Spirit was not sent to simply love us, but that we might be empowered to love like Christ. The Spirit was not sent for our personal gain or benefit, but to courageously and tirelessly point to Jesus. The work of my flesh and blood can never accomplish a Jesus kind of love. Only the Holy Spirit can accomplish that in me. For now, in the absence of Christ’s physical presence, power and strength are given to us not to dominate an unwilling world as Knights in Christ’s Kingdom, as is so often depicted in popular contemporary teaching, but to extend love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control.

" will be able to be my witnesses"
It’s important at this point to emphasize that being “witnesses” is much more, (note I said more, as in not the only thing) than stating facts and verses in hopes to persuade a person to “accept” Christ. We are “witnesses” to a “Kingdom”, to a “Mission”. We are witnesses empowered, not by brute strength, but by the One described in Scripture as counselor, advocate, and comforter. I wonder if you have ever deeply considered what it means to be empowered by the Holy Spirit in light of the ways we know Scripture defines Him? By His work in our lives, and our availability to be worked through, it’s seems logical to expect that His “personality” would gradually permeate its way into how we express our lives of faith. For instance, as a Spirit empowered witness, I boldly declare truth about God the Father and His Son Jesus. But, I do it through the power given to me by the counselor, the comforter, the advocate - seeking the best for the person or community.

What do you think about this kind of Kingdom? Is this a different kind of Kingdom than the one you had fashioned in your mind? As I mentioned last week, the ultimate rule of Christ will happen. But, this is not our primary concern right now. God will work out those details. We wait... We anticipate... We hope... Until then, our concern is to busy ourselves being Spirit empowered comforters, advocates, and counselors to the ends of the earth. It’s my prayer and hope that today we have a better understanding of what that looks like.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Introduction to Acts

Over the next couple of months The Mission will be working its way through the Book of Acts. To help follow along, I would like to provide a summary of each lesson. Please join us if you can as I'm sure this will be a significant time in the life of our church.

Intro to Acts

The Book of Acts is crucial for us as a bridge to the epistles. Acts serves as a perfect middle ground for us to consider a more FULL understanding of Jesus, His Kingdom, and His Body. Acts challenges us to bring The Kingdom of Heaven to a focal point now. Not just some far off, distant scenario that will only be accomplished when Jesus returns. The Kingdom is very much alive today, and will be fully realized upon Christ’s return. Our job is to continue the presence of Christ on earth today, passionately living to restore justice, serve the poor and needy, and love one another completely. Jesus will bring all this to it’s ultimate consummation by physically returning to earth, bringing with him a completely restored social and political system. At some point in time, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. But, that hasn’t happened yet. With each second that passes by is one more second that we should be doing our job, while anxiously anticipating the Return of Jesus.

Acts was written by Luke, a devoted co-worker of Paul, nearly 30 years after the ascension of Christ. It’s interesting to note that the Book of Acts chronologically covers about a 30 year span. So, as Luke traveled with Paul and Timothy for around 30 years, he meticulously kept records of not only the goings on of the earthly ministry of Jesus, but also of the post ascension ministry of Christ. He had access to James, Peter, Mark, John, Barnabas, Apollos, Priscilla and Aquilla, and the list goes on. He very well could be the one person in the best position to write an objective history of both the life of Jesus, and the actions of Jesus through His followers after His ascension. In my opinion, Luke has to be mentioned as one of the most important writers in the New Testament. Luke stands in the gap for us that long to merge Jesus’ Kingdom of Heaven, radical social, political, and religious living, and our present apologetical, fact driven, highly cerebral, knowledge based Christianity. If we are to become both knowledgeable and active followers of Christ, Acts is an important place to start.

The Book of Acts is about balance. Balance between knowing and doing, between faith and deeds. It’s the best parts of liberal and conservative Christianity all rolled into one great story. You have incredibly clear and knowledgeable sermons delivered by significant and foundational figures. And, you have amazingly passionate and sacrificial acts of service. Simply, it's church the way it was meant to be.

So, Acts will be our Bridge. It will help us to define ourselves as a church, and define what to do as a church. It will spur us on to become the 29th chapter of Acts - the continuation of this great story of both incredible knowledge, and miraculous action. It will challenge us to be people of faith, and to do, through faith, what Jesus did. We will learn that we need to be people that know how to clearly communicate Jesus, his life, and the religious tradition that He came from. And, we will see how important it is to be ambassadors of Jesus to those that need us, those that are hurting, to those that can’t help themselves. We will also be challenged to let go of all of our prejudices as Acts provides us with a biblical mandate for building a diverse, multi-ethnic, multi-economic, and multi-political body of Christ.

Acts is just as much about Jesus as the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. His physical presence is gone, but His spirit-indwelt body of followers is alive and kicking. The next few months will be a journey of discovery for sure. It is my prayer that our study of Acts will become a catalyst to propel The Mission forward as a vibrant, knowledgeable, sacrificial, and balanced group of followers.

Monday, November 8, 2010

For all the bloggers out there... Wylio is your friend!

I found this great website that is free and it allows you to add and appropriately cite pictures to you blog. All I did was type in Polar Bear in the search block, followed their easy instructions, and in no time I've got a pic of cute snuggly polar bears on my blog. Saves a lot of time and headaches. Great site run by even better people! Check them out at

a polar bear and her babyphoto © 2008 Just Being Myself | more info(via: Wylio)

Monday, November 1, 2010

Mission Update

My beautiful wife sent out this update to a family member and I thought I should pass it on to all of you. We're still alive and kicking here in Dayton. Thanks so much for your prayers and encouragement!

Dear Friends and Family,

I hope everyone is doing well! We had a busy, busy weekend, but it was a great one! The girls were so excited to dress up and go trick or treating and did it 2 nights in a row. On Saturday night, the stores in downtown Dayton opened the doors for the kiddos and the street was packed with families. Last night, we had church so our sweet babysitter walked the girls to the Baptist Church in our neighborhood where they did "trunk or treating" in the parking lot with lots of games and festivities. I don't think I've ever seen them as pooped as they were when we came home last night!

We had the opportunity to open the doors to our church on Saturday night as all of the festivities were going on. Being centrally located now in town, it was great to be able to have an open house and invite people in for snacks and conversation! The church is now in a space that is NEXT DOOR to where we live. Right now, the man that owns the building is letting us use the space for free as we have agreed to do some work to fix it up. So far we've taken down old dry wall to expose brick, installed a working toilet and have cleaned, cleaned, cleaned! This past week Brian and some guys built and stained a huge partition to section off a portion of the space as it is very long and narrow (15x100ft). Now we have a more intimate meeting area that we've fixed up with some lighting and furniture. We have a long ways to go, but we're excited to have a place to use as a group to serve the community.

Brian is now working at Advance Auto Parts full time. It's not the consistent schedule that he had at WalMart, but it's still 40 hours and a bit more pay. I'm continuing to keep 2 kiddos during the day with Adi from 7:30 to 5 on the week days and also work at a Methodist Church in the nursery on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings. Avery goes there for the kid's programs while I work which has been a huge blessing as we don't yet have a children's program.

It has been a tough year, but it's been such a blessing to know that we're not alone in this process. We're so thankful for your faithful support and pray that you are doing well.

A few prayer requests...

-Perseverance... That we would not loose sight of where we feel the Lord is leading us with the church as we plug away at our daily routines to support ourselves and our family in the process.
-Service... That we would be able to support & provide for a local family as a group throughout the holiday season and beyond.
-Family... Pray for our family to remain strong and support each other by intentionally focusing on time with one another although we feel our time and energy is often stretched with work.
-Community... Pray that we will continue to be a safe and welcome environment for many in the community that feel disconnected and frustrated with church in general. Pray that our Sunday night gatherings would be a fruitful time together as we dig into God's word.
-Finances... That through our members and supporters, we would have what we need when we need it.

We love you guys!!
Brian and Carrie

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Once a Month!

Well, I'm posting about once a month now and I'm not surprised. I'm not much of a blogger, never really claimed to be. I do believe that every now and then I'll have something significant to write about, but for now this is the best way for me to communicate the stuff happening with The Mission.

It's been roughly 6 months since we officially started The Mission. Right now I'm relearning for the millionth time that things take time, be patient, stay focused, don't get discouraged, and trust. Good Grief! You'd think I'd have figured these things out by now. I'm as convinced as ever that God is up to something in our midst, but sometimes the details get a little fuzzy. Here's what I'm struggling with right now:

Horizontal Leadership instead of Vertical Leadership. I'm so tired of the "up the ladder" form of leadership that has held the church captive for so long. I'm continually amazed at the amount of money I was paid in the church world to do a 1/4 of the work I do now at Walmart. The specialized, professional, and pampered pastor in today's churches mostly lead from the top, without any real involvement with the "Average Joe" in their community. How did we create such an organization? How have we managed to scrap the horizontal, intimately relational church of the first century, and turn it into a business run by "leaders" (that's church language for CEO). If you're wanting to pick a fight with me about deacons/bishops/elders of the first century church being equivalent to today's evangelical mega-church organizational chart, then bring it on.

Conversations about politics. I can't make any sense of how American politics and Jesus fit together. Frankly, I'm disgusted at myself for taking so much time to think and argue about this stuff. Wasted hours indeed! Enough said on that issue.

Money. Money sucks... both figuratively and literally. It sucks in the sense that it is THE most important thing in our lives ( I wish that statement weren't so true). And, it literally sucks the life out of me. Money and God. God and Money. Money is God or God is money. Which is it for you? Be honest!

Heat. My armpits are in a state of perpetual leaking. Since I work outside and underneath hot vehicles I'm slimy and sweaty all day.

People that don't get it. I wish I could just get everyone (as in Globally) to just listen to me. I promise I could fix you all.

OK, so I'm just being a little sarcastic about most of those things, except the pampered pastors and money. Every now and then you just need to let some things out and vent... so I did. In reality though, I'm blessed beyond my imagination to have a wonderful family and faith community. Things are a struggle sometimes. And, sometimes those sometimes are longer than others. But, we live now knowing that better will be in our future. People will meet Jesus. Lives will be changed. Justice and peace will happen.

Mission Update
The Mission Dayton is struggling through it's first summer. When five people are out of town it drastically changes the size of our group. Summer is just a tough time to do anything, especially continue the momentum from a very exciting spring. Fall is right around the corner though and we are nearing a move into our "next" meeting place. More details should be coming soon about that. In a few weeks, we will be starting a video series through Reggie McNeal's book, The Present Future: Six Tough Questions for the Church. I'm excited about The Mission being challenged to think outside the box about the church and it's place in our community. I'm praying for big things to happen in the life of our church as a result of this series.

I'm so grateful for all of you that support us with your prayers and resources. It's humbling to know that so many are willing to give up their money and time to help us. May the Lord continue to bless you as you seek Him. Until next month...


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Mission Update

All is well here in Dayton. We are very excited about Rachel Held Evans' book launch in July. Rachel is a participant and leader at The Mission. Her book is being published by Zondervan and is starting to get some pretty neat press. Please take a moment and visit her blog to learn more about her book. If you have gone through a faith crisis in your journey of following Christ, Rachel's story is bound to resonate with you.

In a few weeks we will celebrate together as a church our first baptism service. Chad, a regular guy that Jesus got a hold of a few years back, is ready to take the plunge. We're going old school down at the river. We are so thrilled to be a part of this big decision in Chad's life and pray that this will be the first of many more visits to the river.

I continue to forge relationships at Wal-Mart as the Service Manager in the Automotive Department. My new motto is, "I would really like to change the world, but will settle for changing your oil." I'm grateful for the opportunity to test my faith and contentment on a daily basis. It brings out a whole new meaning to Colossians 3:17. There Paul writes, "And whatever you do or say, let it be as a representative of the Lord Jesus, all the while giving thanks through him to God the Father." That seemed like such a no-brainer when I was in full-time ministry. Now, those words truly give me life and endurance. I live and work for a purpose far greater than my own comfort and satisfaction.

To those of you that have faithfully partnered with us through prayer and financial support, please know that our hearts are filled with gratitude. None of this would be possible without your willingness to be used by God to serve this community. Pray that we will continue to be good stewards of His many blessings. As always, stop by here on a regular basis for updates on The Mission. If you happen to be in the Dayton area and have not checked us out on a Sunday night, please feel free to stop by and hang out.
Detailed information is available on our website.

Many Blessings,