One thing I’ve learned is that church planting is hard, grueling work that doesn’t have a whole lot of fan fare attached to it. For all the hype church planting is getting in evangelical circles right now, its really not that sexy. It’s hard. I’ve spent countless hours recruiting people to come with us, building partnerships with supporters, and getting rejected many times in both of those. AND BTW, We aren’t even off and running yet. So, it only gets harder from here.
That is what makes moments like this past weekend so, so rich. I could tell you a lot about our launch team retreat we had this weekend. It was incredible and if I was only reflecting on that, it would count as my favorite moment yet in church planting. But then it happened. An established church in Charlotte extended a hand of partnership and offered to help us baptize one of our own. In doing so, they modeled so much of what I believe it will take to reach a growing city: Established churches helping new churches get their feet under them. In fact this not only helps new churches, many accounts have shown that when established churches get behind new church plants it actually brings new life to their own church as well. BUT MOST IMPORTANTLY, beyond all the partnership talk, is my new friend Jackie’s baptism. What a moment I will treasure for a long time to come. When she came up out of that water our church erupted. It was like we wanted an excuse all weekend to shout in celebration and then the best possible reason came. Someone declaring their faith in Christ through baptism.
I am so encouraged by the partnership Carmel Baptist extended to Mercy Church in hosting our new church this weekend and I could go on and on about the generous spirit of the leadership of Pastor Alex (in the video), Pastor Rob their missions pastor, and their other pastors. But, I’ll let you watch the video…cause its awesome. And yes, you’ll be able to hear Mercy Church there at the end. Thank you Carmel, Thank you Jesus!
Tonight the City Council of Charlotte, NC is voting on proposed updates to it’s non-discrimination ordinance. This proposal has brought more heat and spotlight on the city council than anytime it’s current members can recall.
To be honest, finding the actual proposal anywhere online was more difficult than you would expect.Both supporters and opponents of the proposal tell you about the proposal using trumped up language to villanize the other group. Depending on who you read, supporters of the proposal are heroes, or pedophiles, or regular old liberals and opponents are sensible, or fear mongerers, or regular old conservatives. Thankfully city council posts their meeting agendas online. Here is what tonight’s meeting agenda says about the effect of the proposed ordinance:
The proposed ordinance as drafted would: − Add marital status, familial status, sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression to the list of protected characteristics in the commercial non-discrimination and passenger vehicle for hire ordinance as well as the list of protected characteristics that the Community Relations Committee is authorized to make recommendations for legislation or other actions to eliminate or reduce discrimination and to approve or disapprove plans to eliminate discrimination through the conciliation process; and − With regard to the public accommodation ordinance, add “sex” and the five new characteristics to the general prohibition of discrimination and delete the current separate section dealing with discrimination based on sex in restaurants, hotels and motels. As proposed, the ordinance would be effective April 1, 2015.
if you want to follow the supporters they are rallying around #cltequality and opponents appear to be rallying around #dontdoitcharlotte. And both sides appear headed for rallies in the same location…city hall…at the same time 4pm.
So here I sit, a guy about to move to Charlotte in 3 months…to help people know and experience the love of Jesus. And there is a hate-bath about to boil over this afternoon. I can’t speak for either side because I don’t live there nor do I yet know the people of Charlotte very well. But most of us looking in from outside of the queen city know this is not a charlotte specific issue. Charlotte is simply where the spotlight is shining right now. Here are a couple of guiding thoughts I’m trying to let guide how I process this:
- Pictures of Evangelicals angrily shouting into microphones never helps their cause. I just cant get over how toxic hate is to the gospel message. Hate hardens the hearts of those it inhabits and it builds cavernous distances from those it attacks. Hate never resolves anything. I’m not suggesting opponents should stand down from their cause. I am saying evangelicals are called to promote truth with love. To my evangelical friends: you cannot control what your opponents do with what you say, you can only control what you say & how you say it. So when you gather at city hall today to oppose this ordinance, be sure to look into the eyes of those who are on the other side of this one. This is one of those extremely difficult moments where you as followers of Christ must love your “enemy” with a deep deep love. It might even help to extend a handshake or two across the picket-line. Because yes you disagree, but the other side is made up of people just like you. People with stories and hopes and baggage and friendships. I hope I am not trivializing something so difficult as speaking truth in love. Rarely is such a posture received well and I don’t want you to think I naively believe this will turn into your kindergarten recreation of the first thanksgiving between the pilgrims and native americans…but you’d be surprised what a few hundred bo-berry biscuits & some sweet tea could do at 5pm on a monday as a peace offering!!
- The gospel has social implications. I do believe Christians should be the best citizens they can be at the local, state, and federal level. For example, the basic christian truth that all people are made in God’s image is what drives all of the charity work done by churches and christian organizations around the world. At our (christians) core is a belief that Jesus offers hope to us, and to all men. Yes we believe that hope is bigger than this world, but at the same time that hope is made visible through the way we love. I believe we all have a worldview and I believe at the end of the day the gospel creates a worldview that answers the deepest longings of the human heart. however I do not believe Christians should fight for a christian Theocracy as that is anathema to Jesus’ own instruction to give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s. But I do believe Christians in America are within their bounds to peaceably seek to protect their religious freedoms and promote the general welfare of their neighbors. Contrary to some beliefs, I do not believe Christianity is something you can just keep in your home & in your church. I think when rightly practiced the best thing for a society is a group of servant christians loving and caring for it’s community.
- Polarizing the opposition as “Dr. Evil” is childish. I sincerely mean this one though I have not actually seen this Mike Myers character brought into the discussion…yet. But both sides are assuming the worst in their public press. Let me jump for a second into the small portion of the proposal acting like a lightning rod: Calling this proposal a “bathroom bill” that assumes Transgender people are looking for a way to legalize pedophilia is beyond harsh. However, assuming all opponents of this proposal fear a conspiracy by transgender pedophiles is an equally ignorant stance. Both sides bring good values to the table and we must remember that and, in civility, figure out a way forward. Christians the burden of love is on you here. On both sides of this are non-christians that we cannot expect to act like Jesus because they do not share our worldview. Regardless of which way you fall on this issue, may you give off the “aroma of christ” as you make your voice heard.
- We need more relationships & conversations. This one isn’t new with me for sure. In fact I may be the 1 millionth person to say it. But I hope it is true of me in Charlotte. I believe social media, news outlets, and rallies like todays can only dig trenches where we need to build bridges. And I’m not so sure government-sanctioned discussions in flourescent lit conference rooms are the answer. I’m thinking living rooms and coffee houses and picnic tables and other disarming third places are where we will be able to really talk. To share some of those hopes and fears and friendships and maybe, come to a place where we understand one another.
So Courtney and I jumped into this church planting thing last year very hopeful, but with no real idea of what would happen. We’ve known for sometime that Charlotte is the city God is calling us to, but who would be the people God would send with us to plant this church? Thus began our recruiting phase. We had vision nights that went way better than we could have imagined, and interest in joining the team started strong. But still, its a long journey from “hey that sounds interesting” to “hey man I want to pick up my life and help start a new church.”
The highs and lows of team building and fund-raising and strategy development over these past few months have put me in a deeper reliance on the grace of God than I’ve been in a long time. In fact just last week I had a really despairing couple of days as four different “bad news” events happened to our efforts. None of them devastating but all together took a toll on me. I told a good friend “Man, I’m an idiot. How did they ever agree to let me plant a church?” To which he replied “you are an idiot. and you need to embrace that cause that’s who God uses to build his church.” Fellow idiots, be encouraged!
But I digress. The moment we’ve been excited to get to is our first launch team meeting. With these awesome people I’ve been bragging on everywhere I go. For our rdu based team members, I can’t tell you how much fun it is to see people’s faces when they finally understand what I’m talking about when I say we are bringing “a team.” Their confused look is accompanied with some version of “wait, you are telling me 30+ people are quitting their jobs, uprooting their lives, and moving with you…for a church?” I love the Mercy Church will be characterized by such faith that surprises even christians. Then there are our Charlotte team members who are already building our reputation as a new church in Charlotte. These people are all over it. In many ways I wish we could move next week to get down there and join the work God is already doing through them.
So that’s our team. A growing group of people moving from strangers to family over this spring. We are in two cities right now, looking forward to the summer when we finally are all in one place. Pray for Mercy Church. We believe God is just getting started!
Ok so I went a little back in time for this week’s book review. Over the past few years my friend and lead pastor J.D. Greear has referred to many resources that have helped him become the leader he is today. One of those is a tiny book written around 400 B.C. (best estimate) called The Art of War by Sun Tzu. Sun Tzu was the heir of a clan with generations of skill in fighting, and winning, many battles. I finally found the space to read it myself and I really enjoyed it. This is one of those practical manuscripts that is definitely designed to be read and followed by those leading others into battle. The entire work is only 61 pages and is rich with tactics and principles for success on the battlefield that most certainly translate into many other realms of leadership. Here are a few of those that stood out to me:
- “There is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare.”
- “Hence to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemies resistance without fighting.”
- There are 5 essentials for victory:
- He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight
- He will win who knows how to handle superior and inferior forces
- He will win whose army is animated by the same spirit throughout all its ranks
- He will win who, prepared himself, waits to take the enemy unprepared
- He will win who has military capacity and is not interfered with by the sovereign (or king).
- Thus it is that in war the victorious strategist only seeks battle after the victory has been won, whereas he who is destined to defeat first fights and afterwards looks for victory.
There is plenty more in this short book that gives such great insight to leading people through conflict with wisdom. As one who has much to learn in leadership I will be leaning on some of the principles in tried and true work frequently.
One of the most important aspects of leadership is decision making. In fact, you could argue the single most important factor in the success or failure of any organization, group, or business hinges on the decisions made by its leaders. In fact that is exactly what Dennis Bakke presupposes in his leadership fable called The Decision Maker. We read this book this month as a leadership team at The Summit Church. In his introduction Bakke posits that this key to success is often woefully mismanaged in most organizations. He consults with many organizations who are used to having “management” and the rest of the people in the org chart simply follow procedure. As a result, the organization misses out on the ingenuity of most of its workforce, gets less efficiency from its employees, and creates an “average-at-best” work environment.
Bakke’s response to the typical org chart is to drive decision making power and responsibility down into every member of the organization. The line he threads throughout the book is that people are smart, creative, and are the experts at the job they are doing. Given the power and responsibility, they can make good decisions that will improve the productivity of the organization and dramatically change their work environment for the better.
I think this is a helpful read for those in leadership because it reminds them to think well about the people in their care. His idea that leadership should treat people like adults, not children, is one of those that I agree to, but perhaps need to be more careful to live by in how I lead. So, if you are leading people, this is a helpful short read. Nothing ground breaking, but an entertaining story that may shift the way you look at the people you lead. Which may end up being more ground breaking than you thought it could be. For us as a church leadership team, valuing and empowering people is at the core of what we are doing. So I know this one simple principle can have significant impact for the way we expand the ownership of the Summit Church vision and mission beyond where it is now!
One of the most trying times spiritually for me was my freshman year at UNC-Chapel Hill. I loved college and wanted to embrace every opportunity the social scene afforded. But I also had become a Christian as a 12 year old and had learned certain dos and donts that Christians are to abide by. This ethical code came under direct attack that first year as ‘freedom’ seemed to now be a temptress when she was supposed to be my ally in Christ. Why had she switched teams?
The reality is I came to college largely unprepared to THINK from a Christian perspective. I knew right from wrong, but I didn’t know why something was right or wrong. I couldn’t tie my ethics to anything other than ‘the bible says so.’ So when someone said ‘That bible isn’t even the same one from when it was originally written. It’s changed entirely over time and through translation errors,” doubt struck deep. I had nothing. “How can there be absolute truth?” “Ummm…” I wasn’t ready. I had the ethics, but I needed the worldview behind the ethics. If only someone who knew the college scene had prepared me for it. Maybe I could have gone in a missionary instead of as fresh meat.
My story is why I picked up J. Budziszewski’s book How to Stay Christian in College. This is a small, short book that has sold over 300k copies. J-Bud (cause i can’t keep writing his name) is a tenured professor in government and philosophy at the University of Texas and appears to be an evangelical Christian. He does an strong job writing on the level of his target audience: High school seniors, college students, and their parents. And he has a lifetime of experience in exactly this topic.
Strong Points: Easy, quick read you can skim. It is also structured well so you can pull it off your shelf as a resource when you encounter the challenges he talks about. He uses direct language and everyday illustrations so that you can not only understand what you read, but can feel confident wielding the ideas as weapons when you are in these worldview battles on campus. Lastly, he’s a
Weak Points: It brings up ALOT of subjects that it can only give introductory treatments of. If you get in anything more than a 5 minute discussion on these topics you are going to need more help. But that’s the point of the work so I don’t fault the author here. He picks one or two fights I would avoid (like R-rated movies) but I don’t disagree with the logic he presents. My only real critique is in his sample conversations he gives. I was real hopeful for these but found them a little too unrealistic at the end of the day.
You might be tempted to give this to a graduating senior going off to college. You’d have the right idea, but I remember getting books like this and Dr. Seuss’ oh the places you’ll go and both ending up in the “thanks for that weird gift I’ll never open” pile. So, IF you give it to them, commit to read it with them or at least send them here or another site so they get an idea of how valuable it could be to them.
Big God | Little Faith
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1.9
We prayed for 50 people in Raleigh-Durham to come hear the vision God was placing on us for planting a church in Charlotte. 100 came. A few people said they couldn’t come because they live in charlotte and it was a work night. So, we decided to do a small meeting for those 10 or so people. And last night in uptown 75 people came. What I love is that regardless of anything else that happens, 175 people in 2 cities drove out to hear about an opportunity to leverage their lives for the mission of God. We are following up with each person to discern whether or not the Charlotte launch team is the spot for them and we know it isn’t for all of them. BUT, we believe God is going to build a core team from that 175 that will believe God for the people of Charlotte. When I said what I said in this video, I believed it. But to see that faith already begin to become sight? A month later?
These next two to three months we get to hear individual stories of what God is doing as he directs people towards our team. And I believe it will be one of the most inspiring seasons of my life. Pray with me that my faith, our team’s faith, will begin to match the greatness of the God we are placing it in!