I love bedtime in my home right now. My boys are 4 & 5 and their imaginations are easily captivated by a good story. Bedtime routine with dad is regularly 45 minutes but I cannot help it. I only have a few years with these boys like this and I plan to give it everything I can. The coup de gras of bedtime is the story. We either read the next story in the Jesus Storybook Bible, or I tell a tale from the Adventures of Beke & Zen.
Adventures of Beke & Zen
That’s right. I made up a story one night a couple of years ago on the fly about 2 brothers who “LOVE ADVENTURE!” and their names were “Beke & Zen.” Completely different than my two sons in front of me named Zeke & Ben. Of course they decided this was an instant classic and the next night I heard “can we hear another beke & zen story dad?” Thus set the trajectory of the adventures of beke & zen. They’ve been to the moon, the deepest oceans, to the U.N., to Krispy Kreme, Africa, and a far away land called Texas.
The Fire Breathing Dragon
Tonight was the scariest tale yet. I went for it. Short Version: I told them about the time 2 brother knights (Beke & Zen) killed an evil fire breathing dragon (15 houses tall) in order to save princess ellie (who was wandering around the room yelling “DADA!”) who was stuck in the tall tower guarded by the dragon. Beke & Zen courageously killed the dragon and rescued the princess from certain death.
The Knight Always Wins
When I finished the story my oldest son looked at me very concerned and said “but Dad, what if the dragon would have won the battle?” His nervous tone and sad eyes revealed a genuine fear of this creature dad had introduced tonight. I looked at him with a big smile and said son “The Knight Always Wins.” like only children can, his whole body changed in an instant and with a giant smile he said “Yes! The knight always beats the dragon! That’s great dad!” The fear of the dragon dissolved in the certainty of the knight’s victory.
Here I find myself tonight reflecting on that moment longing for his joy. The joy my son’s confidence in the knight gives him. The true story of the world is that of a knight who always wins. He always defeats the enemy to rescue his princess. He never once leaves the princess because the dragon is too scary, and he never once fails to defeat the dragon.
My son will no doubt create new stories where those knights face off against dragons. And his favorite part will be telling the climax of the story. Because the knight always wins.
Here at the Summit Church we are Reading through the New Testament in a Year. If you don’t have a discipline of reading through the bible, you should join us. We’ve got some great resources and a daily update on twitter.
Today we are in Philemon, a short one-chapter book of the New Testament that I don’t think I’ve ever really studied in depth. #pastorfail. As I sat there reading it I thought to myself: Why is this in the bible? Before you call me a heretic let me explain why I asked and then what I think God taught me today. Warning i didn’t read any commentaries or anything. Just me & the bible. organic bible reading. no supplements.
Why is it in the bible? I mean its a pretty simple, clear letter from Paul to Philemon. Philemon is a christian who used to have a slave named Onesimus. Paul meets him in prison, Onesimus comes to faith, and Paul is telling Philemon to receive Onesimus as a brother, not a slave, when Paul sends him back. That’s pretty much the purpose. Take Back Onesimus. Seems like such a tertiary subject matter, hardly worthy of canonical status. Out of all the letters Paul sent, this is one that made it? It’s practically a telegram. Philemon (STOP) take back Onesimus (STOP) Grace & Peace (STOP). Didn’t Paul have some better material we could’ve used? Outside of it’s connection to Colossians, Why in the world did God, via the church fathers, put this in the bible?
What I think God taught me today. I confess I need more time in here so these are big picture thoughts. verse 6 is a little confusing to me & verse 20 a little odd in my ESV reading.
- Love is a more powerful motivator than fear. Paul reminds Philemon that he could “Command” him, but instead chooses to “appeal” to him “for love’s sake” (v.9). This isn’t veiled language. This is Paul reminding Philemon that charity (in this case receiving Onesiums) must not be done by compulsion but by one’s own accord (v.14). He’s recalling Jesus’ “least of these” teaching (Matt 25.40). Paul probably gives more commands than any other bible author. And it would be easy to turn our faith into a “Do this” religion. But right here we catch Paul choosing the harder task of asking (it would have been easier to just command philemon) Philemon to remember Christ and respond out of the love he has for Christ. And he knows that by appealing to love, Philemon will not just obey, but will go above and beyond to serve his brother. Because love is more powerful than fear.
- This letter is a clear picture of discipleship. The other reason I think it is here, is to teach us how we are to go about a discipleship relationship. Look at the structure.
- Paul first encourages Philemon in his love & faith. He sees the grace of God in Philemon & points it out. “Look at God’s grace on your life! I’m so encouraged to see it!”
- He acknowledges his role as an influence (maybe even a spiritual father) in Philemon’s life. We don’t have to shy away from being voices of influence in the lives of those who seek such a voice out.
- He connects the Love of Christ to Philemon’s life. He APPEALS to the love of Christ and shows Philemon a way he can put it to work. He shows him a path, but he doesn’t command Philemon to go down it. I think this is a great example of exhortation.
- He finishes with the grace of Christ. Paul never gets far from the grace of Christ in his letters. Nor should we in our conversations and relationships. Saturate discipleship in the grace of christ.
There is some learning from this AM. What do you think? Why is Philemon in the bible?
Ok, time for a little research action. I think in order to speak into culture, you gotta know it. So, will you answer the following couple of questions to help me learn how people relate to one another? no wrong answer. Oh, and while I would agree with you, for the purpose of this poll exclude your spouse as your closest friend. Let’s just hope that’s a given and talk about others. 5 questions. GO!
I’m spending some time with Trevor Joy preparing a book that will be released next spring on empowering discipleship in the local church. One of our big emphases is that Discipleship is serious. So let me holla at my friends who lead small groups and lead small group leaders. Admittedly, I’m listening to Imagine Dragons and feeling like William Wallace about to call some of my fellow people to stop settling for far less than what God has for us.
So here it goes boys & girls. Leaders of the 21st century church: FREEDOM!!!
Discipleship is a big deal. A really big deal.
If you lead a small group you probably know Matthew 28.18 – “Go therefore and make disciples.” You’ve heard it said the command word in the sentence is to make disciples. That’s the measure of how you are doing fulfilling the one mission God has given you. Period. You and I need to wake up really freaking fast then. Because according to the numbers, our generation is on the top deck of the titanic sipping champagne as it takes on water. Very shortly, we are going to realize the problem only to realize at the same time too much damage has been done to repair it. And the american church is going to look like a handful of lifeboats bobbing around with no direction in the sea of a skeptical culture (dang, didn’t see that metaphor going that far when I started).
Ok, doomsday scenario paused. I know God will “never let the gates of hell overcome the church.” The big C church will stand, But unless we get some kind of serious, the American church will continue to make converts & cause junkies, not disciples.
Here is a 3 part plan to change the course we’ve set.
- We must believe discipleship is a big deal.To say it in all caps for emphasis: DISCIPLE MAKING IS NOT A PROGRAM, ITS THE MISSION OF THE CHURCH!
- We must set a bar for leaders that matches the weight of the call God has put on our lives. Listen, this is too big of a deal to treat it lightly. If you depend on your small groups to be the disciple making units in your church, you need to put a great deal of your attention there. Leaders should take the role of leading very serious. Leaders of Leaders should take their supporting role very serious.
- We must equip leaders to thrive above that bar. Pastors should take the care and equipping of both sets of leaders very serious. Church budgets should take disciple making very serious.
Song is over, I’m out!
I was arrested by Isaiah 6.1-8 this morning. Seriously. I wasn’t planning on reading it, but I opened my computer and there it was over on the ESV site that I’d left my browser on. And much like Isaiah, it was like I was swept into something neither my heart nor mind were prepared for. If you are not a christian, don’t worry I’m not talking about some crazy trance or anything. We christians believe the Bible is the word of God & that we are being led by the spirit of God each day. So when the word of God is open in front of us, the spirit of God sometimes kind of lights up our soul in response to what we are reading.
It’s like a double shot of God. ha! that one might not make some happy. but I did just find a good title for this post. A triple shot is a rightly done church service. where the WORD of God (1) is opened, proclaimed, and affirmed by the PEOPLE of God (2) through the leading of the SPIRIT of God (3). Which is why I want to gather with my church every weekend.
Maybe another way to think about it: Think like those times where you have those “AHA best idea ever” moments (for me the shower is where those happen. no idea why). Now imagine those weren’t just good ideas/answers that put your mind at rest, but were deeply satisfying to your soul as well. This morning that’s as close an analogy as I can get. Christians, sorry if that sounds heretical somewhere. chill out if so.
Anyway, Isaiah 6.1-8 shook me and it’s because of how clear it seemed to me as I read it. I was frightened by God’s holiness, deeply convicted of my sin, inexpressibly thankful for God’s mercy to me, and joyfully motivated to go where he calls me.
Instead of preaching it to you here I encourage you to go read it. Or just open your bible to any passage. I believe God may arrest your soul as well. By that I mean He just may cause you to go from casual reading speed to an emergency brake stop because directly in front of you is the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen. And you will stare through your windshield in utter amazement unable to take your eyes off it. In that moment, God in his grace is meeting with you. Showing you he is indeed real, alive, mighty, merciful, and intentional with your life.
Trevor joy, a good friend and fellow pastor, asked me to have a conversation with him about biblical community that he could record so he could see my face whenever he was having a down day. Figured I’d share it with you. In all seriousness, I’m honored he asked me to participate in the discussion generated around the new book “creature of the word” by two of his pastors Matt Chandler & Josh Patterson, and the legendary Eric Geiger who secretly runs a small company in TN called LifeWay.
Hope it is helpful for you. Please ignore the pixels on my face.
Unfortunately I cannot figure out how to embed it here, so you gotta watch it on FACEBOOK.
I’m a fan of Soul Pancake for a few reasons. One reason is the creativity they bring to illuminating the core of the everyday person. I love the video below. I’m sure if you visit the blog regularly you are tired of me saying “YOU ARE DESIGNED FOR COMMUNITY!” Me too. Here’s a different angle, that is really a lot of fun. hope you enjoy. I may have to bring a ball pit to the triangle.
I’ve had the great privilege to spend the past week, with Summit Pastor Daniel Simmons & Summit Small Group Leader Garret Anderson, training men who head up a thriving church planting network in India. Global Hope India, led by the Summit’s own Kevin White, asked us to come serve these pastors this week. These pastors represent 5,000 churches that have been planted over the past 15 years. And they are believing God for 25,000 by 2020. Legit churches too. not just 3 christians who bump into each other at the market and say “hey we are now a church!” I’m talking about fully functioning churches with trained pastors. Here are some things I’ve picked up from them. (Don’t worry, this isn’t one of those “why the mission field I just went to is better than America” posts. All countries need Jesus. But I do think God can bless the church by learning from one another across cultures)
- Ask God for Big Things. These men have far more limited resources than we do in the states. yet they are dreaming far bigger dreams for the glory of God than I tend to. Their prayers create a big gap between their capacities & their dreams. This gap gives God great room to work. I want to believe God like that.
- EVERYONE participates in worship. Everyone. Everyone sings, everyone claps, and by and large everyone is engaged in the sermon (like every conference there are a couple of guys texting in the back). When they hear something in the sermon that stirs their soul they shout “hallelujah” or “amen.” All of them. They shout it like a war cry and raise a hand when they say it. I believe the church in some traditions, including my own, could learn from this. It is good to respond & affirm truth when it is preached. That’s because worship is not a show, its a communal experience. It is family time. So all of the family should enjoy participating. Do you leave exhausted from your time in worship? Leaders, do you create room for the congregation to participate?
- Chai is awesome. Never had it before (yes I know starbucks has it. but I never drank it), aaaaaand now I will seek it out.
- The Gospel creates unity deeper than cultures can. As I worship and share tea & meals with these pastors it is quickly evident I am among family. In Christ we are brothers. Though we struggle to communicate words, we light up at the gospel together. We pray for each other and we remind each other that God has met our deepest need. Pretty cool time of encouragement.
- We all have idols. The idols here are visible. They are statues people worship & pray to. Though we don’t have statues, we still have idols in America. They disguise themselves in the form of relationships, career success, sex, money, fame, security, and pleasure. But they are still idols. They are things we devote ourselves to trying to gain salvation & improvement to our situation. And we still need saving from them.
These are just some of the lessons. Another lesson is I like spicy food but sometimes spicy food fights back. You must respect the spice.
The following is a guest post from Trevor Joy. Trevor is the Pastor of Spiritual Formation at The Village Church in Dallas, TX. Trevor is one of the first people I look to for both theological and operational insights in discipleship.
Returning the Mission of God to the People of God
“When the church tries to bottle up the Spirit within herself, she acts contrary both to her own and to his nature. For it is the nature of the church to be ever enlarging her borders, and it is the nature of the Spirit to transmit His life to ever-widening circles. When the church does not recognize this law of her being and of the being of the Spirit, the Spirit is quenched and he withdraws himself, and the deposit of religiosity that is left becomes a putrification in the lives of those who have grieved him.” Henry Boer
The Passion conference this year has brought back to my mind the vigor and faith that exists in the collegiate generation. There is a reckless abandonment, a willingness to cast everything aside to push cause forward that is contagious and convicting. One of my favorite biographies is about a group of college students who caught a fire for something and it change the trajectory of their lives. In England during the late 1800’s there was a famous cricket player (yes, cricket!) named CT Studd. Charles was a part of a morning bible study and accountability group of six other men. God began to stir amongst these men in a powerful way and it culminated when Hudson Taylor gave the chapel message at their college campus about all God was doing to reach the people of China. Convicted and ignited, these 7 men decided to abandon all to take the gospel to China. Prior to leaving for the mission field, this group of young men toured several surrounding campuses sharing the gospel and God’s heart for the nations and in a powerful movement God ignited missionaries across the country. They were dubbed the Cambridge Seven, and their influence spread beyond England to even the U.S. where it inspired Robert Wilder’s Student Volunteer Movement. This group of men went on to spend their lives spreading the gospel in some of the hardest places.
It began with a small group of seven young men praying a sharing their lives together and God used that group to spark a generational gospel journey that took the good news of Jesus Christ across the globe. No programs or grandiose initiatives, just the gospel taking root in a community in such a powerful way that it burst into a contagious movement. What is so interesting about this story, is that it is not unique. In fact, this is how the church has historically existed and moved in the world. This is the normative flow of the gospel among the people of God. We see throughout the New Testament, the Holy Spirit landing on a people and the gospel taking root in such a way that transforms that community and begins to flow beyond that group to the world around them. This is because the church was never meant to be a stagnant pool but a flowing river of gospel movement, disciples who make disciples who make disciples. All of us who today claim faith in Jesus Christ are apart of this flow. Go used someone to save a man in Wichita Falls, Tx who then shared the gospel with my brother who then came home to Dallas and shared it with me. In Mathew 28, Jesus gives marching orders to the church when he says, “ALL authority on Heaven and earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey all that I have commanded them, and behold I am with you to the end of the age.” The mission of God pushes forward through the people of God.
The mission of the Church is to make disciples to the glory of God. The Village Church exists to glorify God by making disciples through gospel-centered worship, gospel-centered community, gospel-centered service, and gospel-centered multiplication. Making disciples is at the core of the function of the body of Christ and we do this through all the facets that exist here. Weekend worship, prayer, home group, parking, teaching, local and global engagement, all serve as expressions of and opportunities for discipleship. Breaking it down to its simplest parts though, discipleship happens when the gospel flows in as community and out on mission.
A trap we easily fall into is to think of mission as an option rather than a necessary component of discipleship. Thinking of community apart from mission is like a car without an engine. If community is the vehicle God has designed of us to exist in as we seek sanctification, mission is the engine that drives that vehicle forward. Our trap is to fall into the lie that the mission of God is about us. The mission of God is His glory, and He achieves this through redeeming and reconciling an unworthy people to Himself. You and I faithfully live out the mission of God through being messengers of reconciliation (disciple makers) to the world around us (2 Cor. 5:16). If we aren’t careful, we will be lulled into a self-absorbed view of Christianity where the gospel of Christ terminates on us. This isn’t the full picture of discipleship. A community where the gospel doesn’t flow out is stagnant and ineffective. Accountability, care, and a sense of belonging are crucial to the balance a progress of the believer’s sanctification. Where that focus doesn’t turn beyond the walls of our homes and office cubicles it creates a vacuum of life rather than a source of life. As Bob Roberts puts it in his book on the transforming power of the gospel, “The kingdom of God is not a widget machine. It isn’t impersonal, processed, and programmed. Instead, there is a divine flow to the kingdom that goes beyond the mechanical production of religious people and products. It is an invigorating, life-giving and adventuresome river, flowing through the world and channeling people into its rapids.”
At The Village, our primary vehicle for discipleship is Home Groups. As we have discussed above discipleship is the people of God on the mission of God. Our generation is coming from a background where community meant, “teach them to obey all that I have commanded”, but we have neglected what came first, “baptize them”! Biblical community isn’t just a place where we can exchange knowledge and information; it is first and foremost a place where the gospel emanates from. We have to fight through urges of comfort and the chains of fear to see the beautiful horizon that awaits on the other side. For a good portion of us, our view of biblical community isn’t wrong, it’s just limited. We must strive for a full and faithful picture of discipleship that is the people of God (community) on the mission of God (multiplication)
In 2013 we are making some strategic changes in the life of our church to better shepherd our people towards faithfulness in making disciples. Our groups continue to be safe places where people can confess sin, struggle well, and be encouraged to deal with the roots of sin in the cavities of our hearts. This is so vital to growing and maturing as a disciple, but that is not where it stops. Our desire is to see the gospel continue to grow roots in the life of our groups, but also to see the fruit of the gospel flow out of our groups and into the world around us. One of the key ways we are striving to achieve this is to no longer segregate “missions” and “groups” in how we plan, program, and shepherd the body. We have recently moved missions at the Village fully into home groups placing the emphasis on mission in and through community life. Tangibly this means that our Groups Team will be responsible for driving all the aspects of multiplication (local/global missions, missionaries, mission trips, evangelism) in and through community life. Over the next several months we will be rolling out several resources, teachings, and communication pieces on how this move will affect the life of our church. The driving motivations behind these moves are to see our groups, like the Cambridge Seven, to catch a fire for the mission of God in making disciples here and abroad to the glory of God.
the following is a guest post by Bobby Herrington. Bobby is pursuing his PhD in theology at SEBTS and has already done what I believe to be some important research and work in the area of media ecology and it’s relationship to the church.
Online Christian Community: Healthy or Harmful?
Because of the digital age we live in people in our culture are more connected to each other online than ever. Social networking sites like Facebook have played a huge role in this; with more than 1 billion users worldwide. But does connection equal community?
As Christians who have been called into community with God and one another, it is important to evaluate whether or not authentic Christian community can be rightly practiced online. As churches are moving in the direction of “online small groups” as well as “online campuses” I think we need to be hesitant about such forms of community.
From a practical standpoint, no medium is neutral. When we use different forms of media to communicate to one another (face to face, phone, online, etc.) the experience changes. Let me give you an example from marriage. Who in their right mind, if they could help it, would choose to propose to their future spouse over text message or through a Facebook message? There’s a triviality about these forms that wouldn’t go well with such an important message.
In addition, every medium form has a certain bias. For example, Twitter has a bias towards short, efficient messages, because of the 140 character restriction. Much of the digital world has a bias towards efficiency, while face to face communication has more of a bias towards authenticity (it’s harder to hide what’s going on in your life when you are face to face with someone). For these reasons alone, I believe that online community can never offer what face to face community offers.
And theologically, I do not think online community does justice to how the Bible tells Christians to express the community they have in the gospel. For example, can online community sustain the commitment level the the two most prominent biblical metaphors for the church require? The New Testament describes the church as the body of Christ and as a spiritual family.
For example, after Paul explains that we are the body of Christ in 1 Corinthians 12:13, he then goes on to command this in 1 Corinthians 12:26: “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” Authentically being the body of Christ requires something of us. It’s hard to imagine Christians living as the body of Christ, which is a very serious metaphor, without being in one another’s physical presence.
In addition, the apostle Paul was particularly fond of using family imagery to describe believer’s relationships, with at least 274 references. Can the internet alone sustain such deep familial relationships the Bible calls us to? The answer seems obvious. Who would be content solely communicating and relating to their dearest family members through the internet and nothing else? No one would. All people intuitively believe, at least based on their practice, that familial relationships require physical presence, at least for them to be healthy. And as Christians we are family.
If tomorrow a terrible tragedy strikes in your life, would you want someone to Facebook message you that they are praying for you, or show up to your house, tears in their eyes, give you a hug, and pray for you in person? Online community can be a supplement, but never a substitute.