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,

Friday, April 30, 2010

Really Busy...

I've taken a new job at Wal-Mart as the Service Manager in the Automotive Department. It is a full time job that offers benefits. So, I pretty much had to take this opportunity. It is a much more demanding job with longer hours so I've not been posting on here as much as I would like.

The Mission is busily trying to find a "next" space to call home on Sunday nights. I say next because it will most likely not be permanent, but just a transitional space. Kaley has been so faithful in letting us use her home, but we are striving for a different identity than as a house church or small group Bible study. So, pray with us as we seek to move to a place where we can grow and impact the lives of this community.

Be sure to check out The Mission's website at

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Settling In...

After months of setting the foundation in place, The Mission is finally gaining some steam. We have introduced a number of new families into the fold and we're starting to think strategically about different ministry opportunities in the community. Still, the road ahead is long and winding. There's much to do in order for us to launch in September. Here are some specific prayer requests:
  • A space to call our own
  • Wisdom in developing a children's ministry
  • Continuing to build up the bank account
We still feel very confident that God has strategically placed this church in Dayton. Not because there are no other good churches in town. Quite the opposite in fact. There are plenty of good churches around Dayton. What is lacking among the local body of believers is a place for folks that resonate with a newer, more fresh expression of the church. A church that reflects the lifestyle of the emerging generations while still holding dear the essentials of historic orthodox Christianity.

I get asked all the time what kind of church The Mission is and if we're an "Emergent" church. I never know how to answer those questions. We're just a church. A local expression of the Body of Christ wanting desperately to live out the life of Christ in this community. Whether or not we fit into the mold of what conservative evangelicals from these parts perceive as "right", I won't make any promises.

I'm sure in the days ahead there will be many more questions. People in the buckle of the bible belt tend to take very seriously some of what I consider the negotiable aspects of our faith. Things like end times theology, miraculous gifts of the Spirit, women in ministry, "being saved", and a variety of other issues. Notice I said that these things are negotiable. Meaning, they are important, but there's also a lot of wiggle room. When taken to the extreme, these topics can tend to divide more than they unite.

Quite simply, we will not take a definitive stance on most of these issues. Not taking a definitive stand spells trouble for a lot of folks around here. When you don't lean one way or the other you risk being labeled liberal or new age. I think I'm OK with that as long as anyone with questions or concerns is willing to sit down and have a meaningful conversation before jumping to false conclusions.

I'm thankful that God has allowed me to serve in the two very different churches over the last 15 years. I still consider both "my church" and the relationships formed over the years continue to impact my life today. As a result, I believe God has given me a unique perspective of the common ground shared by all of those that love and follow Jesus. It is my hope, and The Mission's as well, that we communicate through our lives the glory that can be brought to God by living in unity on this common ground.

These are exciting days for our little church. We need your support as we forge our way through the tough beginning stages. Pray for us! Pray that God would meet our needs in the way He sees fit. Support us financially if He leads. Join us on a Sunday night if you're interested or have questions. All the info you need can be found at

10,000 more blessings,

Friday, March 12, 2010

Mission Update

Well, we set up a bank account! Man, there sure is a lot of paperwork and red tape to go through in order to set up a church. Our incorporation papers are being filed and we should start filing for 501c3 status soon. As you might remember, Carrie and I sent out support letters a few weeks ago, and the response has been amazing. We have received a little over $3800 dollars!!! If you are able to support The Mission, I encourage you to click here and partner with us on this incredible journey.

God continues to provide me with opportunities to build relationships with people I run into, and work with, at Wal-Mart. I had a great conversation with a lady just last night. Although much of what God is up to these days remains a little blurry, I think I'm starting to see some questions being answered.

On Sunday nights we are still plowing our way through The Gospel of John. The fact that he was most likely the oldest surviving eyewitness of Christ really does lend to the uniqueness of this Gospel. This week we will be tackling the difficult passages found in chapter 6 about eating His flesh and drinking His blood. Sounds kind of shocking doesn't it? I would love it if y'all would share your thoughts with me about this passage.

Finally, Carrie and the girls will be joining me in Dayton this weekend for good. We will be moving into an apartment on Monday. After 7 months of living in other people's homes, we will be together again. I can't wait!!!

Continue to pray for The Mission and it's future impact on this little community. Our hopes and dreams of bringing a "fresh set of legs" to the body of believers in Dayton is becoming a reality. Much love to you all.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Among The People

Well, I'm closing in on my first month as a Walmart employee. I can't begin to describe to you how different it is to work there as opposed to my former jobs in ministry. Corporate bureaucracy, rules, and having to clock out for lunch at a certain time are all very different from what I'm used to. Since I'm a Customer Service Manager, I'm in constant contact with people, both other employees and customers, all day long. Throughout the day I usually have at least one moment, sometimes many, where I realize just how out of touch I've been with the way real people live and work. I've been a pastor for a long time now, but I've never lived and worked among the "real people". I pray that my current situation opens my eyes to unique ways and opportunities to shepherd.

Here is a reality I have been exposed to over the last month:

It's very difficult, if not impossible, to understand how to care for the poor and vulnerable if you are not poor and vulnerable too. Have you ever had to depend on government assistance to pay for groceries or receive health care for your children? Until you understand the embarrassment and have received the judgmental stares, it will be very hard to truly care for those that do.

In the church world, especially student ministry, the phrase "incarnational ministry" gets thrown around a lot. The phrase describes a philosophy of ministry where a group focuses on a deeply relational strategy to reach and serve people. As you might know, the incarnation is a theological term describing the supernatural act of God becoming human and living among the people. So, it makes sense that we would try to model our ministries in a similar fashion. I know I've used it to describe my efforts in student ministry many times in the past. What doesn't make sense is how often we forget the full consequences of God's incarnation. It ended in torture, a cross, and death. Take a look at what Phil. 2:6-8 has to say:

6 He had equal status with God but didn't think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. 7 Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! 8 Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn't claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death - and the worst kind of death at that: a crucifixion.
THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language copyright 2002 by Eugene Peterson

If we are going to talk the talk of an incarnational ministry then there are a couple of things we should expect along the way. First, we have to empty ourselves and sacrifice our status and all that we have and hold dear. We must humble ourselves so that we can truly understand the people God has sent us to minister to. Then, we must prepare for the suffering that will come. Expect hurt. Expect trials. True incarnational ministry will not end with just deepened relationships. It will in fact, take your life.

I don't like where God has my family right now. I don't like not being comfortable. I don't like not knowing if we can afford the next month's expenses. I don't like having to clock in and be told when I can and can't go to lunch. My list of "don't likes" seems to grow by the minute these days. But, my ability to be content and peaceful also seems to be growing. What God is doing in me and my family's life is irrelevant to my likes and dislikes. He has placed me right in the middle of this messed up world by messing up my own world. He is in the process of emptying me of all that I thought I needed and cared about. The trials and hurt, and there's certainly more to come, are nothing more than the result of transitioning from living outside or above the people, to moving right into their neighborhood.

Any thoughts? What does, or would, it take for you to follow the path of living an incarnational lifestyle?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Support Letters In The Mail!

Yep, we've sent out our first round of support letters. This round went out to close family and friends on Saturday morning. Included in the letter is an update on the life and journey of the Ward family, and a section that asks for financial and prayer support over the next 18 months. Our goal is to raise $1500 of monthly financial support to supplement my income and help provide for general living expenses. Anything we receive above the $1500 will be placed into The Mission's general expense fund to be used on a variety of regular church expenditures. As we look to the future we are trying to plan for monthly expenses such as facility rental, curriculum for children, etc.

Our hope is that in 18 months The Mission will achieve financial independence. Until then, we are asking for folks from all over to partner with us to bring The Mission to life. Over the next few weeks, as the appropriate documents are filed, we will have a number of convenient online donation options. If you would like to download a copy of the support letter or donate now through PayPal, you can do so by clicking here.

We have already received a number of donations and are incredibly grateful for how God is providing for us. Please visit for more information about the church. As always, I will continue to post updates and items of interest here so that you can keep up with what God is doing in and through The Mission.

10,000 Blessings,

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ideas for Ash Wednesday and Lent

Hi, everyone. It’s Rachel.

As part of our worship at The Mission, we try to keep in step with the church calendar and incorporate liturgy into our service. We do this for a couple of reasons—to acknowledge that our small church is part of a much bigger Church and to remember that our young community springs from a very old Community.

Today is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the Lenten season. This is an important time in the life of the Church, so I wanted to provide those of you wishing to participate with some direction and resources.

Lent is a forty-day period of preparation, reflection, and self-denial that begins on Ash Wednesday and continues through Holy Week. It commemorates the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness before his ministry began, and historically served as a time of preparation for new believers awaiting baptism. Many people choose to give up certain habits or refocus on the spiritual disciplines during this time of year.

On my blog, I’ve compiled “40 Ideas for Lent” if you would like to take a look.

If you would like to participate in an Ash Wednesday service, First United Methodist Church in Spring City is having one at 7 p.m., as are most Methodist, Catholic, and Episcopal churches in Chattanooga.

On Sunday night, our prayers will focus on repentance and will include the collect for Ash Wednesday:

"Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen." (from the Book of Common Prayer)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

More on the Job and My Self...

Ok, so I got a job at Walmart as a Customer Service Manager. Getting this job has caused some interesting thoughts over the last few days. On one hand I'm excited that I got a job that will allow me the flexibility to pursue my first passion which is starting The Mission. On the the other hand I felt some embarrassment about working at Walmart. I felt like I was somehow above that kind of job.

Here's some good old fashion irony for you. A pastor sent to minister to a community thinks he is too good to work alongside the community he was sent to minister to. I'm so glad that Jesus didn't think this way. I wonder how many fellow ministers out there feel this way about the community they were sent to shepherd? My first test in Dayton as a missionary to the community didn't go so well. Pray for me to do better when the next one comes along.

Until now I've been paid a handsome salary to do the work of the Kingdom. I've never had to ask myself the question of whether I'd do this work if I had to support myself. I have to tell you that it makes a big difference. Each day I have to go about the work set out for me with a sense of dependence that rarely effected me before. I think anyone in a paid ministry position should have to ask themselves this question: Would I do this if I wasn't getting paid for it?

The last few months have been a very difficult journey for my family and me. Not much has worked out the way we planned it. Now, we are praying for a season of restoration. We want to be together again as a family as soon as possible. We want to be financially stable again. Not rich, just stable. We want a place to call home with our furniture and beds. I even miss our refrigerator sometimes. Please remember to lift us up in prayer over these next few weeks that God would provide for our needs the way He sees fit.

I'm reminded of Proverbs 16:9 where it says, "In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps." Well, we've made a lot of plans over the last few months. But, in faith we trust that the Lord is guiding our steps as He desires. If sacrifice is required on our part to bring glory to His name, then I'll do my best to follow. For now, I've got to get some sleep because I have to be at Walmart at 7 AM.

Friday, January 29, 2010

I found a Job!

For those of you that have been following, I got word today that I have a job. This is a big deal for my family and me as we try and get settled here in Dayton. At this point we are still commuting back and forth from Atlanta every 3 - 5 days. But now we'll be able to find a more permanent place to call home. We might even be able to get all of our furniture and stuff out of our POD still being stored in Texas!

This Sunday we will start a new series through the Gospel of John. It's truly an amazing book packed with so much stuff for us to learn. I can't wait to see what God is going to do in us as we grasp and claw our way through the miracles, relationships, and analogies.

Now that the job search is over, I should be able to settle into a more predictable schedule. With that, I'm hoping to be able to update the blog more frequently. Thanks so much for all of your prayer, encouragement, and support. We continue to be blown away at how God provides. See y'all on Sunday!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Wise Builders

We ended our way to short study on the "Sermon on the Mount" last Sunday with a look at the familiar passage from Matthew 7:24-27. You know, the one about building your house on the rock. How many times have you read or heard that passage? Do visions of flannel graphs immediately dance in your mind when you think of this story? Each of the passages used for the last four weeks have intentionally been very familiar to even novice bible readers. I think it's important to study these passages because it serves as a measurement of how much our faith has developed since our years in youth group or children's ministry. We tend to get so familiar certain passages the we can no longer learn anything new. That's sad because there's always so much to learn and do. This passage about the wise builder is no different. We had such a healthy discussion on Sunday, I thought it would be cool to put it in the blog so we can continue to wrestle with what God is teaching us through His Word.

Matthew 7:24-27 NLT
“Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock.
Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.” Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004

The precise balance of hearing and doing tends to be a struggle for a lot of folks that follow Jesus. In today's church, with the addiction to "hearing" and knowing, we consequently find our faith a little on the lazy side. We love information, and we love to have it delivered to us in comfortable and creative ways. Unfortunately, knowledge and information don't always result in action.

Proverbs describes wisdom as the application of knowledge. Wisdom is the verb form of knowledge. I've often said that the world doesn't need any more smart Christians. What we need is an influx of wise believers that understand the importance of balancing knowledge and action. It's possible that this passage is describing for us the peril of living an unbalanced life of more hearing than doing.

There are two people in this story and they have some important things in common. There is no religious distinction between these two people. It cannot be assumed that either was further along in their faith than the other, or that one was a believer and the other was not. The task before each of them was to build. An incredibly important, and often overlooked, observation is that each of them heard the same teaching. Again, we can't assume that one heard something more, different, or better than the other. Finally, both are hit with severe storms. This last point of similarity cannot be overstated. Even doing things the right way doesn't exclude us from being hit hard by the storms of this life.

There are also some important differences between the two people. One not only hears the teaching, but follows it as well. Following, or "doing", what was being taught results in an unshakable foundation. For the other person, just hearing wasn't enough. He didn't "do" what he was taught and in the end this proved to be a destructive choice. Actually living out the life God wants for us, not just knowing all about it, is what leads to having a strong foundation.

We find this story at the end of Jesus' "sermon" that pretty much covers all of chapters 5-7 of Matthew. When Jesus says, "...anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it..." he is talking about the words that he just spoke. Words about how we are to treat those less fortunate, deal with sin, love our enemies, handle our finances, get a grip on worry, and many other important issues concerning living a life of faith. So, it is our job to diligently sift through these words and not only hear them, but also do them. It's a whole lot easier to listen to them than it is to put them into practice. But, that's what we have to do in order to build our lives on a foundation strong enough to withstand the imminent storms heading our way.

Is your faith unbalanced? Do you have big ears on a body with little muscle? Knowledge should always be balanced with action in our lives of faith. How's your foundation? Are you a wise builder?

Saturday, January 16, 2010

This Sunday at 7PM

We will gather again this Sunday. We are going to spend a little more time praying together and reading Scripture. There will be a discussion about Matthew 7:24-27 if you would like to read it before Sunday night. This Sunday we will serve communion to each other as part of our time of prayer and reading. I look forward to another relaxing and encouraging time with each of you.
See you soon!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Mission Dayton Update

Terrific gathering last Sunday night at Kaley's apartment. We actually sang some songs! Earlier in the week I sent an email out to all participants wanting song ideas and received not one suggestion back. So, we're going to continue to sing "Pharaoh, Pharaoh" every Sunday until I get some suggestions. I might break out a little "As the Deer" for a change of pace. Seriously though, our night together was an encouraging time spent in prayer, scripture, and healthy discussions.

Let me catch everyone up on what's been happening lately in the life of The Mission.

Our gatherings have been going a little over an hour. Actually longer if you include the relaxing time of conversation and hanging out we do after the service. We've been discussing passages from the Sermon on the Mount over the last three weeks. The teaching time is about 15 minutes followed by a heavy dose of discussion and interaction. The goal for The Mission's Sunday gatherings is "transformation", not just passively imparting biblical information.

We've been using The Daily Office, a large selection of ancient readings and prayers, to prepare our hearts for what God might teach us through His word. These readings and prayers are pulled directly from scripture and are beautifully crafted together. We find it incredibly stimulating and unifying to be reading and praying the same thing as millions of other Christ followers all over the world. It brings a spiritual connection and better understanding of being the Body of Christ. If you want to know more about these century old readings and prayers that have been around for countless millions of our brothers and sisters in Christ to enjoy together, you can visit

Soon we will be meeting with our lawyer to finalize the documents that will be filed with the state of Tennessee in order for us to be recognized as an official non-profit organization. Its actually a pretty big deal for us as we begin to realize that this dream is coming true. It's amazing to think that 50 or 100 years from now there might be a healthy church, living and breathing Jesus, because of what He's doing through us today.

All of this is quite humbling and exciting. I'd like to ask those that read this blog to join us as we pray that The Mission will become the hands and feet of Jesus in this community. In the coming weeks I'll do my best to keep these updates rolling. Much love to everyone!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Follow up to Egos and Sermons

Greetings to all! I want to follow up my post from the other day about the modern sermon. Yes, it is true that my post was a bit inflammatory. For some reason, when I sit behind the computer to post on here, I get this urge to stir the pot. Not because I'm a jerk, but because I know in my own life that when someone challenges the way I think, it stretches my faith and causes me to grow in significant ways. The flip side to that is you can also come across as arrogant and unwilling to see other viewpoints. I hope and pray that will never be the case for me, or any ministry that I'm involved with.

At The Mission we've put a lot of thought into how we can be a community of faith that is inclusive and sensitive to the various traditions of the Church (universal). We want to challenge some of these traditions that have found a comfortable home in American Christianity. We think asking questions and bringing doubts and concerns to the surface is a significantly positive step in expanding our faith horizons. But, the challenge for me, The Mission, and for all of us really, is to do this in a way that radiates Christ's love and promotes His Kingdom. After all, if we can't get past our differences and seek common ground in Christ, we're left with a dysfunctional Body that will struggle to impact the world around us. That's simply unacceptable.

Now, as far as sermons go, my main point is that what we have today, and what was happening in the first Church, in my opinion is two totally different things. Preaching today has developed into an art of communication with seemingly little emphasis put on content. This can result in paying more attention to the craftsmanship of the words and the brilliance of the person doing the speaking, instead of pointing to Jesus. On the other hand, teaching with an emphasis to transform, through the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit, individuals by His Word is what I tend to personally lean towards. But, God is big. He's big enough to use sermons, cheesy christian songs, and even sunsets and beautiful landscapes to draw people to Him. Every person that follows Christ has his or her personal preference. So in the end, I cannot with certainty claim one way of expressing God's truth as better than another.

I guess I'm suspicious, and probably cynical, at how many pastors have become addicted to the allure of wanting to become "gifted communicators". Not gifted shepherds, but really good talkers. At a time when the need for His Church to be mobilized into action on behalf of those that are vulnerable, in places all over the world and in our own back yards, I tend to look at the obsession with preaching as inward focused and self-gratifying.

Yes, many of you have pointed out the important role the Apostles played in the New Testament by communicating truth in public forums. I could not agree more. Is that really the biblical model that led to where we're at today? To equate a Sunday morning 3 point sermon at a church down the street with Stephen's supernaturally inspired words from Acts 7, is not quite comparing apples to apples. It would be more like comparing an apple to all the apple orchards in the state of Washington.

There is a place for God to use those that He's gifted to be preachers to proclaim His truth. For those that God wills to speak His truth before people, I hope and pray that every word, expression, and story, will be used to point to our amazing God. I pray our words would not fall to the temptation to tickle ears, but would relentlessly call His Body into action and transformation.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Sunday was great!!!

Last Sunday The Mission had a gathering at Kaley's apartment. Another great time of talking, learning, worship, and laughing. Nobody told me that starting a church would have so many awkward moments. Like, can you actually worship without music? And, when do we actually start the service when there's just 10 people sitting around a room enjoying conversation and relationship? It's not like in an established church where music starts or a person makes announcements over the loudspeakers. For now, we'll just have to go with more of a "we start when we start" approach. Besides, one of the most refreshing things about this new little faith community is the fact that we can have a gathering where catching up with a friend can actually happen in a relaxed, unstructured environment. I have this feeling, a kind of sad feeling, that it won't always be this way. I want us all to enjoy this time to the fullest while we have it so we will be compelled to keep this atmosphere of connectivity and warmth, even if God allows us to grow in numbers.

We stayed in the "Sermon on the Mount" for our teaching time. There's a familiar part in chapter 6 of Matthew that focuses in on "treasures". Pretty brave for a pastor to do a talk about money at only the second service. It wasn't about giving though. It was about perspective. Seeing "things" and "stuff" the way God sees them. I'm being challenged everyday to learn to live with less and less. There's such a great gulf that separates what we think we need and what God knows we need. We have to view money and stuff through our eternal lenses. We have to look past our initial impulses and measure the worth of something by its eternal value rather than its temporary satisfaction. If we do this and truly heap up treasures in Heaven, how will this affect our everyday lives? What are treasures in Heaven? What do think? Has God brought something to your mind as you've thought through these things? Commenting on this post would be a great way to share your thoughts.

We had a great time discussing these things and more last Sunday. I can't wait to get together again this Sunday and continue to look to God's Word for truth and transformation. Over the next month we will be revealing more about where The Mission is headed as a church. Make sure you're planning to be there and regularly checking this blog for more info. Love to all!