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!