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Have the homeless become invisible?

This video was published on April 22 this year by the New York Rescue Mission. I thought it was a provocative approach to challenging our typical view of homelessness. Since April 22 it has been viewed over 2.7 million times. Which means there is a good chance you’ve already seen this. I commend this to you for 2 reasons: #1: to spread their message to you about homelessness awareness and #2) to spark creativity in how you are communicating your message.

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Tim Keller on Community & Millennials

I thought this was a surprising and insightful response from Dr. Keller. I think he brings up a very significant challenge for us as we lead the millennial generation towards a healthy practice of church family life. This came from Jefferson Bethke’s youtube channel. 

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The People of God: Empowering the Church to make disciples

People of God CoverBut you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” 1 Peter 2.9-10

I’ve been anxiously awaiting when I can tell you about the book I recently wrote. It’s titled The People of God and it is debuting this week at Together For the Gospel. The team over at B&H took a risk on myself and my good friend Trevor Joy and I am grateful they did. I am honored the book’s official release is at such a great conference like t4g. Oh, and one thing real quick…LOOK MOM!!! I WROTE A BOOK!! thanks guys, had to get that out. feeling better now.

For my part, this book is the fruit of 12 years as a part of the Summit Church Family who has loved on and invested into me and my family in so many deep and meaningful ways. The same is true for Trevor over at the Village Church, a true sister church to the Summit in every sense. His pastor Matt Chandler wrote the foreword, and my pastor & friend J.D. Greear wrote the afterword. Both Trevor and I now have the humble privilege of coaching churches around the world towards a healthy practice of making disciples in the local church. This book is the fruit of our time here in the trenches, hoping it will be helpful to other men & women down the line in their trenches of ministry.

In short, this book is a message of hope for the church. I know the church can be screwed up. I went through some messy church stuff growing up (an entire chapter is devoted to this problem). Yet the people of God remain the bride of Christ. We have been called TO something together. And I believe the church can be the family-on-mission God has designed it to be.

We worked hard to make this a practical theology for the church. That is, this book will discuss a theology of community, but then give you some very practical steps to take to implement that theology. I’m not gonna lie, now that it is in print and available for you to read, I’m a little nervous.

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Summit Cancels social media small groups

 

R.I.P. social media small groups. You lasted One glorious day: April 1, 2014.

Yes, yesterday’s post was a good old fashioned April Fools Hoax. While I enjoy the occasional social media surf, the Summit will not be launching online small groups. Danny Franks & I would like to thank those who played along to make this possible.

The Summit remains fully committed to face to face church family life. If we got you, and i know we got a few (one of our pastors even called me while deeply troubled by this around 5pm yesterday), maybe that was God’s way of stirring you towards leading a real in-person small group! You can begin that process today!

This was one of the best responses to an April 1 post I’ve had. Coming in second only to April 1, 2011: Advance Conference =dd’s U2’s Bono.

back to For-Realzies now.

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Summit Launching Social Media Small Groups

April 1, 2014 1 comment

 

 

With easter fast approaching, the Summit Church is rolling out a new initiative called socialMEdia™ Small Groups to connect more people into community at this critical time in their faith journey. To make this dream become a reality I’ve had the great privilege to work alongside one of my best friends in ministry, Summit Connections Pastor Danny Franks. We pulled together some of the genius tech minds in Raleigh-Durham (this area dominates in that category) who are members here at the Summit and shared our dream with them. Danny wrote the formal announcement for our church and I’ve copied portions of it here for you as well:

we know that getting into a small group is tough. Every month we see hundreds of people attempting to join a group, and the truth is, it’s hard to keep up. We want to have well trained group leaders, but training takes time. And time is something that prospective leaders and members just don’t have.

But one thing Americans (even American Christians) seem to have time for is social media. Whether you love it or hate it, most of us are tech junkies. We love our Twitter, our Facebook, our Instagram, and our MySpace (shout out to our 90′s brethren!). So last year several of our pastors asked the obvious question: Why can’t we do both?

Why can’t we increase involvement by CHANGING commitment?

Why can’t we lower the risk and give a better return?

Why can’t we – for lack of a better term – dumb down the process?

So that’s exactly what we did!
We took the best that social media had to offer and applied it to the fast paced lifestyle of the 21st century disciple. We worked with some of the best and brightest tech people out there to flush out the kinks in the system. We vetted the go-getters of the online community to build a new kind of community, and we think you’re going to love what you see.

Here is a bit on how it works:

Imagine: what if you could have all of the benefits of a small group without the difficult commitments? What if you could connect with your fellow disciples anytime, anywhere? What if you never again had to walk into a strange living room, endure a long and awkward prayer request, or risk rejection from a group that’s already gelled before you showed up? Maybe you laugh at those examples, but then again, maybe you’ve never had to face these realities.

socialMEdia™ Small Groups changes all of that. For starters, you choose the group that’s right for you. When the SMSG site launches, you’ll complete a profile that describes your preferences. You can tag your profile with any descriptor from seeker to serious, from dog lover to Democrat, from Lecrae devotee to Larry the Cucumber fan club president. From those tags and profiles, our database will run an algorithm that will generate up to ten social groups that might be right for you, much like E-Harmony or Match.com. You can pick one or several, and try them out at your leisure.

Some groups will meet weekly, much like our traditional groups. Others will meet at more random times: sometimes every other week, sometimes several times a day. Because there are no houses, childcare, and schedules to deal with , the sky is the limit.

GETTING STARTED.

socialMEdia™ Small Groups don’t officially launch until mid-May (just in time for your summer travels), but you can join the waiting list and fill out your profile starting today. Simply follow the link to get started.

 

 

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Gene Bartow, Joshua, & Risk

This January I gave a talk to our small group leaders on taking risks for the glory of God. The genesis of the talk came out of some personal conviction God was doing in my life through reading and meditating on Joshua Chapter 1. My lead pastor, J.D. Greear, posted the article on his site today and I hope you will take a look at it. J.D. takes great care to make sure he is constantly putting great resources out for his readers so if I were you I’d make that a regular stop on your internet cruise. Since you can read the article there, I’m going to do you a favor and show you a favorite movie scene that captures the tone (albeit not the theological underpinnings) of what I wanted to get across:

 

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Rend Collective: A fresh call to church life

February 13, 2014 Leave a comment

I was introduced to the music of Rend Collective just a couple of months ago. Today while listening to their music I came across their campfire experiment. I love it. Truthfully I want to give it a shot if some friends with some musical talent will join me. Who is in with me? God created us to be creative just like him. Fresh expressions of timeless truths will engage fresh generations. That’s where i want to live & interact. I’m grateful for this group and their love of the church. Below is their explanation of the campfire experiment.

 

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Abortion pt 2: The Morality of Abortion

January 22, 2014 Leave a comment

I’m taking a few posts to lay out what I believe to be some key things to think about when approaching the abortion discussion. You can see a summary of these topics in the opening post. Today, as legal abortion turns 41, I pray with everything I have we as a nation will have the veils lifted off our eyes at what we are doing.

In this post my hope is to examine the morality of the act of abortion, and then to examine the role of government in legislating on abortion. Now you and I know far more has been written by far better thinkers than what you will see here. Nonetheless, this is something I’m particularly passionate about so I’m going to give my best shot here

The Morality of the act of abortion

I won’t dwell long here as it is likely most reading this will affirm what I write. But maybe it will be clarifying to some. Peter Singer, a respected ethicist and distinguished bioethics professor at Princeton, once astutely outlined the argument against abortion in a simple syllogism:

  1. It is wrong to kill an innocent human being.
  2. A human fetus is an innocent human being.
  3. Therefore it is wrong to kill a human fetus.

In the past, the argument by pro-abortion advocates usually denied the second premise. But Singer, himself a staunch pro-choice advocate, finds this impossible to maintain. There is no point in the development process where the fetus moves from “non-human” to “human.” This is why he believes the first premise, not the second, must be denied. This is where the conversation is shifting. And this is where we must be compelling and consistent in defense of the inherent worth of human life.

The reason abortion is morally wrong is that abortion is the killing of innocent life (premise 1). The killing of innocent life is in direct violation of a pillar of one of our culture’s guiding moral principles. We as a culture believe people posses certain unalienable rights. Unalienable (or natural) rights are those not granted by a legal system but are considered universal applying to all people at all times, of which Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are just a few. Life is perhaps the most valuable of all of these rights.

We weep when our soldiers die, when our friends lose cancer battles, when a relative is lost to tragedy or crime, and when our neighbors pass on of old age. We weep because life is so valuable to us. Indeed there is nothing more valuable to us as Americans than the right of the individual to a free life.

As a Christian I believe this guiding principle is universal and was declared when God formed man in his very image. And like a messenger carrying the seal of his king, I believe we are all owed respect because of the seal we carry with us. When an innocent human person is killed by poison or a puncture wound to the head, I weep because what we value most was just taken from us. I get angry because injustice was committed. I am horrified because when that injustice is applauded.

But in your smart way of thinking you reply…”the right to live a free life is the very right that we must protect by allowing the woman the right to have an abortion.” Thank you for using my own words against me, it makes me feel smart. The difference of course is the difference between pregnancy and death. Pregnancy is a season, death is permanent. Pregnancy is difficult, death is irreversible. Pregnancy is life-changing, death is life-ending. Do not think for a second I take pregnancy lightly. I’ve lived it alongside my wife 5 times first hand over the past 5 years. It is fragile, scary, and exhausting even with a good support network. But the right to terminate a pregnancy cannot trump the right of another to live. And because it does not, abortion is morally wrong.

Legislating Abortion

Perhaps the most common defense of legal abortion used, indeed the one used in Roe v Wade, is that the state cannot interfere with a woman’s right to privacy. And according to that 41-year-old ruling, her pregnancy falls under her right to privacy.

Our nation has many laws protecting the lives of the innocent and defenseless. These laws are a reflection of that guiding principle discussed earlier. Now that technology (you can hear & see a baby’s heartbeat at 8 weeks) and philosophy (refer back to Peter Singer) affirm that human life indeed begins at conception, our laws must be updated to uphold rights to life. As Wesley Smith observes in this fantastic commentary, Roe v Wade is not the first ‘dehumanizing’ gaff our Supremes have made that has needed correcting.

Legislation is not the magic bullet, and incredible work is being done to turn the tide on abortion despite its present legality. Let us remain grateful for God’s grace through these workers and see it as hope for a day when all Americans once again exalt life as an unalienable right.

The next post in this series is on the ‘Normalcy’ of Abortion.

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Abortion: The Conversation is changing

January 16, 2014 1 comment

 

The  conversation is changing. When my grandparents were growing up, abortion was illegal, frowned upon, and kept silent. When my parents were growing up the conversation changed with the rise of the feminist movement. The rights of women in all spheres of life were brought to bear perhaps most poignantly on abortion. In the landmark decision of Roe v. Wade, the court ruled that a woman’s right to privacy under the 14th amendment extended to her decision to have an abortion. And the conversation became about the rights to womens health vs. the ‘potentiality’ of life.  I was born 9 years after Roe in 1982 yet the conversation was far from “settled.” Over the next two decades ultrasounds, medical videos, and entrenched opinions turned the conversation into an all out single-issue voter level fight. Debate swirled around whether or not a fetus was a ‘viable’ human life, especially in the early stages of pregnancy.

The conversation my kids are growing up in is changing again. It is changing because, as I outlined in a previous post, influencers in the pro-abortion camp have come to agree the fetus is indeed a human. The abortion discussion is no longer about whether the fetus is a human life, but whether human life is worth protecting over and above a woman’s right to privacy.

 

This shift has occurred over the past several years and, like all cultural shifts, provides an opportunity for people to advocate change. There are a few things we all need to be aware of if we are going to influence change:

 

1. The morality of abortion. All citizens must weigh both the act of abortion and the act of legislating on abortion. We must understand the moral and legal discussion so we can better engage the discussion.

 

2. The normalcy of abortion. In 2010, the most recent year the Center for Disease Control reported on abortion surveillance, 765,651 abortions were performed in these United States. That is 1.5 abortions per minute. Regardless of where you stand, something so weighty yet so normative in our culture calls you to be more informed on it.

 

3. The faces & names of abortion. Numbers aren’t enough to fully grasp this issue. This is a human issue that weighs much more heavily on those who’ve experienced abortion personally or as a close friend of someone who has. We must as a culture respect the weight of what we are talking about. We must become familiar with the great courage many young women are showing & the great support many organizations are giving.

 

4. How to influence the discussion today. Something I’m reminded of in this discussion is that it is easier than ever, in the land of social media, to be a pseudo-advocate. That is, you can align yourself with a position with relative ease, but not personally give of yourself to that very cause. Imagine if the civil rights activists would have written letters (ancient form of tweeting) about their concerns instead of marching on Washington on August 28, 1963.

 

The conversation is indeed changing. I’m going to give my best attempt to give a more thorough treatment of each of the points above over the next four posts. My hope is that it will mobilize your heart & mind to take action at some level, in some way.

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The fight for Self-Control

January 9, 2014 Leave a comment

Anger is never without reason, but seldom with a good one.  – Benjamin Franklin

Sometimes devotional thoughts are more like musings than articles. I hope you will read the following as my musing on Titus 1-2, not a final draft.

Paul’s letter to Titus has done a number on me lately. Paul makes a point to give Titus a set of character qualities that together paint a picture of what the life of an ‘elder’ of the church should look like. The most repeated descriptor of what the elder, and as he models it, what the people of God SHOULD look like is…’self-controlled.’

My first reaction was ‘really?’ It’s not even in the 10 commandments. how about…’lover of God’ or ‘not a murderer’ or ‘husband of one wife?’ All of those seem more important than the occasional ‘letting loose.’

But then I started looking at my relationships. The Holy Spirit has a frustrating way of recalling the word of God to mind right after you disobey it doesn’t he? Almost like an out of body experience i watched myself yell at my kids. I recalled punching a hole in one of our walls (low moment) after an argument with courtney. Then I started realizing it’s not just anger Paul is confronting nor is he confronting all anger. It is the untempered indulgence to our passions that Paul is confronting. My propensity to laziness, my readiness to lie to make myself look good.

I began to connect what Paul was talking about when he called self-control a ‘fruit’ of the Spirit. For the Christian to be self-controlled is to be Spirit-controlled. It is to be so submitted to the Spirit of God that his reaction to a situation comes out of you instead of yours. This is what makes the ‘Serenity-Now!’ self-help tricks so impotent. Lesson learned: I cannot conjure self-control in the moment. Sure I might discipline myself to never SHOUT, but my desire to satisfy my urges is going to find another outlet like laziness or short-cutting or gluttony.

How can I have self-control like Paul calls for without completely detaching from my emotions? What great news that God is an incredibly passionate God. God is not a vulcan (had to!). He made us in his image after-all. We are not to detach from our emotions, we are to submit them to a new and better master.

I’m thinking of it like the way I play Mario-Cart with my kids. When they drive, they almost always finish last. But when they sit with me and I hold the wheel with them, they always win. That is, they win if they let dad guide the wheel. When they fight dad’s leading is when they lose ground in the race. So yes, it turns out Carrie Underwood had the right prayer in her lyrics after all. I walked into that one

The fight for self-control tonight with my kids, began this morning in my time with God. It continues today in my work-ethic. The fight for self-control is won or lost in my submission to the Holy Spirit today.

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