Do we have it all backwards??

“If you make disciples, you always get the church. But if you make a church, you rarely get disciples.” (Building a Discipling Culture by Mike Breen)

I come from a long line of church going people…my Father was a Church of God pastor (my Mother still is), my Grandfather was a Church of God pastor for over 40 years and my great Grandparents help found the Pelzer Church of God in South Carolina.  I was a church going fool growing up…Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night FTH and Friday night prayer meetings were the norm for me and I didn’t think anything of it because that’s what was expected from you if you were a faithful Christian.  When I became a follower of Christ in 1997, I was rabidly obsessed with Jesus, God, the Holy Ghost, the Bible and anything that vaguely had anything to do with spiritual stuff…I would have slept at the church if they let me.  I was literally in church every single time the doors were opened and when I finally got a key, I would open the doors myself!

Now, if you would have asked me during that period in my life if I was a ‘disciple’ of Jesus, I would have laughed and said that OF COURSE I was!  I read the whole Bible in a year, I prayed for an hour a day (really loud sometimes), I read all the right books by “Spirit filled” authors and I tithed 10% and even gave offerings on top of that.  Over time though, it all lost meaning to me.  The Bible became stale, my prayers became ritualistic and vain repititions, the books just blended together and my tithing became another bill I paid every week.  Of course, to rectify the problem, I relied on my church going background and thought that if I did more of those things with greater passion, God would take away the emptiness I was feeling and replace it with the joy that I once had.  That didn’t happen.

In fact, the opposite happened.  In the midst of the hopelesness and despair that I was feeling, He spoke gently to me and said that true discipleship is not praying 24 hours a day or memorizing the Bible or raising the dead or ANYTHING that I can do…it’s being simply obedient to what the Father asks of me.  The problem was that I didn’t have any clue what the Father was asking of me because I hadn’t shut up long enough to hear Him speak.  I’ve tried to do that a lot more recently…just be quiet and allow Him to speak to me.  And what He’s showing me is that our criteria for being a disciple is vastly different than His criteria.  We think that a good disciple is someone who shows up to our church stuff, gives money and occasionally feeds poor people…and this is not to bash the ‘institutional church’ folks.  You can be just as duped in an Organic Church, Missional Church, House Church or whatever else you want to call it.

To be honest, I don’t think we have the foggiest clue what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ and I am the chiefest of sinners!  As Mike Breen says “discipleship is  having a life worth imitating! We are inviting people into our lives and asking them to imitate the parts of our life that look like Jesus.”  I am taking a long, brutal look at my life and searching for the part of me that I would want someone to imitate…I’m still looking to be honest.  I wonder if any of us can truly make disciples if we have never been discipled ourselves?  How can we pass on something that was never passed to us in the first place?  Have we lowered the bar so far on what it means to be a disciple that we’re satisfied with attendance, buildings and cash in the offering plates?  I don’t know…I don’t have the answers to these questions but I have a feeling that Jesus will only wait so long for the church in America to get it’s act together and begin to do the ONE THING He actually commanded for us to do: MAKE DISCIPLES!

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This blog has fallen into total disrepair!!

When I went to other guys blogs and they haven’t posted in months, I always shook my head and said that I would never allow that to happen.  Well….I guess a 3 year old, 2 year old, one on the way in September, working 50 hours a week, buying a new house and planting a church has kind of turned me into one of those guys that I shook my head at.  But God has really been doing some incredible things in our lives recently and my passion for writing is being rekindled, so if you have been checking this blog from time to time for something new, there will be some new things appearing in the very near future.  Thanks for putting up with the disrepair!

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Rhythms of Sanctuary Church

We had an incredible time together Sunday night brainstorming as a church and dreaming of how we could demonstrate that OUR GOD REIGNS to our community.  Here’s the list in progress:

*Accountability-keep each other accountable to live ‘missional lives’ and to be the type of ‘trailer’ that makes people want more of God. Substantial time is spent with each other for the purpose of watching over one another in love.

*Unity-being in one mind and one accord…this doesn’t mean that we won’t have disagreements but that we are all moving towards and striving towards what’s important—announcing that our God reigns!

*Generosity-Blessing (In and Out)-Serving Together- demonstrating the reign of God to our friends/neighbors/co-workers and each other by what we do.  Giving sacrificially of our time and resources, individually and as a group.  We will seek to share our time, talent, and treasure with others. Generosity will flow out of the grace God has given us. We are to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share. We will be an authentic community who shares one another’s burdens with a battle cry that “no one stands alone.”

*Worship-living in such a way that every step, breath, word and action is worship to the Lord while also entering into a sacred atmosphere when we come together as a church.

*Fun-in public/parties- Backyard BBQ’s, gathering at the local watering hole, inviting friends to our home for food and fun. These are just a few examples of what it means to party. We choose to celebrate and enjoy life with people inside and outside our community. This is what Jesus did. A good party is like a little drop of heaven on earth and is a way of life for the follower of Christ.

*Financial/General Support for those in need (in/out)- we want to always be free to give to those in need as a body and not be hindered by overhead that would prohibit that

*Prayer (silence/contemplative)- We will be a people of constant conversation and communion with God. As we live our lives, we will pray without ceasing according to God’s will. We will thank God, worship God, be honest to God, confess our sins to God, listen to God, and always seek opportunities to pray for others.

*Respect– The arm of God is big enough to wrap around the whole world. The least we can do is wrap our arms around our neighbor, the people we come across in our daily lives. We will not play favorites based on social status but view all people as equally valuable under an almighty God. Our community is one where people can belong before they believe and find grace overflowing. All are welcome to the table.

*Trials-we know and expect that we will go through trials but during those trials, we will support one another and hold each other up

What do you think??

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Man, Organic Church is a beautiful mess!

Paige and I began down this wonderful, scary road of church planting about 3 years ago when we felt Him tell us to resign our position at a great church where I was executive pastor.  Since then, He took us through a desert place for about a year which tested our faith in Him but also “de-programmed” us of a bunch of stuff that was tradition of men and had nothing to do with what it  meant to actually “be” the church.  At the end of two years, God brought an incredible group of people int our lives and we made a commitment to God and each other that we would allow Him to make us missionaries to our world no matter how unclear that process may be at time…and it has been very unclear at times.  We all have been tempted at times to go back to the “way of doing things” that produced visible results and made sense to us since we all grew up in church.  Thankfully, we resisted that temptation and stayed on the path that God was showing us, step by painful step.

Well, here we are, a year later and God seems to finally be illuminating more than just the very next step in front of us…the path to becoming missional Christians is becoming a little more clear every single day.  We have decided to forget about planting a church and focus on planting the gospel in our offices, homes, neighborhoods and wherever God takes us.  The cool thing is that we are starting to see how that seed is taking root in people’s lives and God is the one who is causing the growth to happen…all we have to do is continue to sew seeds of justice, mercy and love and allow the Holy Spirit to do His work.  A network or “oikos” is beginning to take shape and it is very, very exciting!

About 6 months ago, a woman in our church befriended a woman who was in a homeless shelter with her 2 year old son.  We all agreed that God brought this woman into our lives and we couldn’t leave her like this.  So, we basically adopted her and her son, helped them move into an apartment, buy furniture/dishes/pots and pans/clothes for her, her son and the new baby and anything else she needs.  It has been a slow, incredible, painful process but actually helping someone always is.  When you don’t just ‘throw money’ at someone but instead to become intimately involved in their lives, you have to sacrifice time, money and convenience but it is SO worth it.  So, the cool part is that we just found out that not only this lady wants to be a part of our church but now her mother (who she had NO relationship with as of a few moths ago), wants to check us out because she has seen how we have helped her daughter.

This has now become more than abstract concept to us.  God is wanting to birth a rapidly multiplying, multi generational move of God in this country but it will only happen when we focus on planting the gospel, loving people and “being” the church wherever they are.  For the first time in years, I am truly excited about the possibilities of what the church can be and what can be accomplished in this country for Christ!

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Christmas Conspiracy

So, we were in one our Sanctuary Church gatherings a few weeks ago and we started to brainstorm on who we could bless as a church and how we could best maximize the small amount of funds that we have coming in.  The usual suspects were mentioned: homeless ministries, adopt-a-families, mission agencies, etc.  But then someone came up with a crazy idea and the light bulb went off: instead of throwing money at people that we didn’t know and we would never meet again, let’s bless people that are already in our lives.  So, the church would give each person $50 and we would all ask the Holy Spirit to lead us during that week to a person/people that needed God’s help. I have to say that in all my years in ministry/church, I have never actually received money from the church (other than salary, etc).  So, needless to say, we were all very excited about this radical idea and couldn’t wait to see who God led us to that week.  Here are a few of the stories of how God used us:

*One couple could not figure out who to bless and decided to hold on to their $100 until they heard God speak.  So, as they were heading to our house for the Sanctuary gathering, they began to think they missed their opportunity and then they saw their neighbor struggling to change her tire.  This neighbor and her family have been facing tremendous health and financial difficulties recently and a flat tire was not something that they could afford.  As the husband changed the tire, he handed the neighbor $100 and blessed her…needless to say, this was perfect timing!

*One guy was led everyday to go the local gas station and just help people out.  Since we live near a military base, he was able to buy a lot of soldiers breakfast and make their lives a little easier this holiday season.

*One thrifty couple found some tremendous deals at JC Penny and were able to pool their money and get $500 worth of gloves/blankets for $100.  They are giving these to the homeless in their area.

*One person works in a call center and has 14 people on his team.  He just wanted to bless them and got them each a $5 gift card to Starbucks…he was very popular that day!

*Other people sent anonymous gifts to people they knew knew were in need, helping out friends and families that are struggling this Christmas and some other really cool stuff.

I am so grateful that God has blessed each one of us and Sanctuary Church so greatly this year and we are humbled that He gave us the opportunity to give back to our friends and neighbors…it is truly awesome!

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Missional Communities—Really good blog posts

Ben Sternke

About a year ago, I was able to go to a fundraising seminar that Ecclesia conducted down in Richmond, VA.  While I was there, I met a guy named Ben Sternke and began to follow his blog when I got home and I found out that he is taking his church in a very similar direction that we want to go.  Recently, he put a series of blog posts about Missional Communities and what they are, how they work and how to get there.  So, enjoy:

*Why I Believe in Mid Sized Communities

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