Wednesday, February 28, 2007

A Fish Aquarium isn't always just another...

I have 15 minutes before we load up on NWA for my return flight! So I'll try to get my thoughts together quickly.

I met with several pastor's downtown Portland two days ago. Ron always finds these neat places to share lunch. This time Japanese cuisine. We were seated and I noticed a huge fish aquarium stretching across the wall. While it was beautiful, I wasn't easily impressed. I quickly scanned the tank and appreciated the colorful fish. That's it. Just another aquarium with fish and the added "fake" stuff.

You know where this is going. At the end of our meal, George and I hung back and talked. I noticed George constantly glancing at the aquarium. I asked George, "Do you like the fish?" He answered, "Yes, but I like the other stuff in the tank a whole lot more." What stuff?

It was then that I realized that this was no ordinary aquarium. It was a live sea tank with live coral of all types, a huge large clam, live rock and so many other things with names and features I have never seen or heard before. This stuff was moving and alive and I almost missed one of the most spectacular things I have ever seen. It looked like the others but there was something significantly different.

I wonder how many people miss the church because we look like the Church? What would happen if the world could see that it is real, alive and not fake? When I saw the real deal I was caught by it.

In contrast...

Do all those planned/programmed outreach programs of the church really work? Oh, I know they accomplish something, they always do. But I am digging deeper here, do they really work? I mean, when they are over do they continue with individual ownership? Or, do those previously involved in the outreach settle in and wait for the next church planned event/ministry?

Have we largely replaced personal driven outreach (living in the lives of others) with a planned event we call outreach? Is this really something to brag about? Does the church driven outreach program(s) get us off the hook and lift our personal responsibility?

I know church driven outreach events are not bad in and of themselves. This we agree! It's the way these type of things circumvent the real deal of being outreach as Christ followers. I can't see Jesus joining the gig!

A doing dualism....

It is it really possible or even probably that the way we do church is the problem?

Alan Hirsch caught my attention when he said, "Platonic Dualism is the belief that the world is separated into spiritual and nonspiritual, sacred and secular realms. This worldview, largely forein to the Hebraic mind, became the predominant one in the church by the late fourth century, largely through the influence of Augustine and other church theologians. The issue of dualism is raised here because, although we now reject this philosophy intellectually, we still tend to practically embody this belief in the very structures and activities of the church in a way that precludes any life-affirming message we might want wish to portray verbally. The result of the dualistic understanding of life and faith is that of the artificial environment of the fishbowl, because it separates in practice what is essential to a holistic biblical worldview and spirituality: an all-of-life-under-God approach."

If this is not true in practice, why do we in the church think we must program our reach into the world? We have this outreach and that program designed to get people on the beaches picking up trash or serving in the local food bank. What should be a natural expression of life for believers is now laid at the church doorstep and if it is to be done it is done artificially through a structured ministry of the church. What should be a natural flow of "being the Church in the world" often ends up "doing church in the world".

Can anyone state specific ways where dualism is practiced in the church? If dualism is present, it carries huge implications and even larger than I first thought.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

If you could...

I used to say that it takes time to turn a huge ship!

If you could do anything to turn the American Church ship, what would that anything be?

It strikes me!

It strikes me odd that there is a growing tension between Missional disciple driven/making movements and traditional American ways of doing church/ministry.

Do you think this is normal and healthy and why?

Monday, February 26, 2007

Does your church burp, sneeze or neither???

While here in Portland, I stay in my favorite Hampton, in the world. Every morning we have one of the finest breakfasts rated higher than all the others. This morning I'm enjoying my breakfast when all of the sudden sneeze, sneeze, sneeze echos from the food preparation area. Deliliah has a bad cold! All of the sudden what was a perfectly wonderful breakfast didn't quite taste that good. Actually the thought of sneeze blasting over my food ended it for me. I'm not in the least bit hungry.

On the other hand, a good sneeze can be exhilarating. I love those 3 sneezes that hit me every morning. It's a great and freeing experience. How about you?

When I consider sneezology I am reminded that the church engaging the mission of Making Disciples who Make Disciples needs a healthy dose of sneezing that leads to infecting that leads to more disciple making movements that end up with God birthed Churches. We must do this over and over again until all Christ followers are infected and so that those who do not know Jesus can be infected with Him.

Sneezing is what we do in Disciple Driven/Making Movements! The spittle scatters in a sneeze and so in this movement we sneeze, stuff scatters, people are infected, new disciple making movements emerge and God birthed new sneezing Churches have life to sneeze again and again.

I'm not too impressed with burping churches. A burp never started an infection that I have ever seen or heard of. I don't like burps. There are reasons I don't like them, some I cannot share here. A large church is going well, so they burp out another church and then they burp out another church. But before we rave over the Burps there are reasons why we burp! It has to do with making room for more! This is not always a good thing.

But back to burping! People burp because they have too much unwanted gas! Gas is the result of taking in and taking in and as we do something has to come out, so we burp! Burping churches have gas that needs to come out. I call this unnecessary baggage that weighs us down. Burping churches plan, develop strategy's, gather a core and burp out a new church just like them. Same old spiritual gas causing buffet and consumer driven burping out just another gas causing spiritual buffet filled with consumerism.

Now can I ask you somethings? Are you a sneezing church or are you a burping church?

Sneezing infects and scatters infectious disciple making movements. Sneezing spreads out the mission infectiously all over the place.

Burping let's out unwanted gas to make room for more feeding frenzies! Burps are localized and burp only when they have to in order to make room for more and more and more.

Are you a burp, a sneeze or neither and please tell us why?

Friday, February 23, 2007

Just because it looks better doesn't mean it is.

Are you stuck in outdated methodology? Does the same-o have you stuck? Is it possible that what you think is good may not be better? Just because it has worked it the past doesn't mean it works today.

We are discovering that there is another way to plant churches. Sometimes we think same-o when we should/could be thinking in terms of new-o. Why keep doing what we've always done as the only way? Why do we idolize methods at the expense of the mission?

Lunacy = Doing the same thing the way we always have while expecting differing results. That is lunacy! Why would we rather live in lunacy? What's up with that? Why not try something new when it comes to church planting?

Let's agree:
#1. We don't plant Churches, God does.
#2. We are to make disciples, that is our job.
#3. God never called us to plant churches, He calls us to make disciples who do the same.

Now consider this in planting churches. Instead of trying to collect a crowd and have a large new church launch, why not let God provide you with one or two people who can multiply disciples quickly (the Bible calls these guys person of peace) who can do the same. Instead of launching with a plan, a program and a precious crowd, why not launch a disciple making movement with one or two people? Starting with two or three disciple-makers could really be a stronger foundation than 2-300 shifting saints, if you know what I mean. I believe we often start new churches backwards. In the traditional sense we gather the crowd and have a big launch. In disciple making movements we start with a few and in time we end up with more disciples who make disciples.

Did it ever occur to you that starting with only a few can result in more? Did it ever occur to you that if we would get the making of disciples right and as the main thing, that God would birth more churches filled with disciple makers?

Did Jesus ever give us the traditional model/method for planting churches? Or, did He prove to us that He will birth more Churches as we make disciples who will do the same?

It is more than likely that if we started disciple making movements with the few, we could end up with more. Are we doing church planting backwards? Are we measuring the wrong things?

Just because it looks better doesn't mean it is.


Thursday, February 22, 2007

Your thoughts????

Pastor Terry has some interesting blogposts that deserve comments. Would you take a minute to post some goodies? Check out "Christian subculture" and "Mealtime prayers". Interesting.

I'll be looking for your comments so as to solve the ?????

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

My friend is wrong...

A friend told me that moving to St. Louis to plant churches that multiply rapidly, like they do overseas, could not be done. He said, "I believe you will plant one church in 6 years, but not 15 or 20. He said, "I do believe God is a God of miracles, but Americans would never settle for the kind of Church that is planted overseas."

1. My friend is right, I cannot plant 15 + churches in 6 years or less. My job is to make disciples who make disciples and it is God's job to plant or birth His Church.

2. My friend is right, God is the God of miracles and will always be that kind of a God.

3. My friend was not right to say America will never tolerate a church that looks like Africa, India or China.

4. My friends thinks too American, of course the places around the world do not have bigger buildings, larger budgets, better programs and of course the more butts in pews. But what they have is far better than those things mentioned above. They have Jesus and a willingness to die if need be for their faith and so that others can know Jesus.

5. My friend is wrong, Americans by the millions are becoming dissatisfied and disillusioned with what they have come to call church! They long for Jesus but will never find Him at church. It will take the Church being the Church to reach them. A novel thought!

6. My friend is wrong, Americans long for a genuine, close, authentic, transparent, real, lived out relationships with Jesus where people live, work and play. They long for what the church claims to have, but often doesn't display.

7. Then he gave me a long speech about his call to use the resources they have to reach their own city and build there own church and ministry.

I still think my friend is wrong! What do you think?

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Longmire RANTS without the RAVE!

Erwin McManus said: American Church is not loosing its influence in our culture because less people are attending, but less and less people are attending because of the influence that Christ is having in the American Church.

Forgive the RANT - Philip Longmire

BUT Church

We are no longer sought after or even seen as a viable option to seems we are no longer the preferred flavor in this world of secularism and pluralism.

  • We have lost the ability to transform cultures and change worlds.
  • Our influence has not been taken from us…but we have given it away.
  • We have become the church of pancake feeds, bickering controllers over traditions, kings of tattered walls and broken down castles.
  • It feels odd to be part of the minority, to be part of a remnant of people left in the church that believes Jesus is God and did what the Bible says he has done.
  • It feels weird to have to define what church I align myself with…I’m not part of the church who has left the traditional teachings of sacred scripture. That claims that Christ was something other than the Son of God
  • It isn’t that the world has become more secular, it is that the we the church have become more secular.
  • It is an odd day to be in a religious institution that has left the very thing we were started to promote, Jesus Christ.

I’m not speaking of any one denomination…it just seems the church as a whole has lost its ability influence the world it serves.

What does it take to produce the future Paul's, Peter, and Timothy's of the next generation?

The Planter: Phil, it takes people like you who do not have to survive!

All is not O.K.!


Are we in the church even slightly aware of approaching demise?

The guy in the kayak just woke up! Are you awake?

My day!

Today I am catching up on a slew of details and planning while continuing my missional fund raising and recruiting. I'm a missionary to the larger cities of America. The fund raising for support is the hardest part! That is until today! Today I do something so much more difficult.

To be very vulnerable, in a very weak and passionate moment I gave Michelle dance lessons with me for Christmas. We go places and couples are dancing and she has wanted me to get out on the floor with her in my arms. Oh my goodness! So I pay for the lessons (the easy part) and I get my butt on the dance floor, what was I thinking? I can see it now, a graying 49 year old man with a growing pot belly stumbling all over the place in the arms of this God given beauty. It reminds me of the beauty and the beast movie!

Tonight we begin our Swing Dance lessons at My King Studio of Dance, a Jesus honoring dance studio. Psalm 149:2-4 is on their brochure - ..."Praise His name with dancing.."

What was I thinking? I have a knot in my gut! Pray world, pray!

Paul Walker and the Church in England

Big Bulky Anglican took a swipe at the Church of England's love of getting us to fill in statistical surveys recently. I agree with what he writes! 'Statistics for Mission' is a code word for 'how many people come to your church?', which I would argue is not really the same thing.

pewfiller.jpgI was pondering about this yesterday. We have to fill in a (different to the above) form which counts the number of adults who come to 'any Sunday service' in our Church. It's used to calculate the 'Share' payment, the contribution that we make the cost of running the Church. Now, we've just started up a work with 'young adults' - which in the slightly vague way that we have in the Church means anyone under 35 years old (some churches would regard anyone under 60 as being in that category, but that's for another post!). Anyway, the group met last evening and I happened to notice that there were quite a number of them who hadn't been 'in Church' that day. Horror of Horrors! Yes, they had skipped 'proper church' and only come to the young adults meeting!!!

So, were they 'in Church' yesterday? Theologically I would say 'yes, they were'. Gathering in a house, cracking open a few bottles of wine, eating pizza, and talking about how the bible speaks about 'love' (tenuous link to Valentines Day in case you were wondering!)... was it 'church'? I think so. The wider question is whether they should be counted in the figures that the Church of England is collecting. And I think the answer is probably 'no'. The reason for that is that the Church itself seems to want to define itself as 'those who come into our building on a Sunday morning'. So, whilst I regard those young adults as being every bit as much a part of 'the church' (i.e the community of faith in this place), the Church of England hasn't yet caught on to missional church enough to officially count them 'in'.

Isn't the Church of England wonderful 3.gif

THE PLANTER: Does this remind you of America? This picture scared me to death, a flash from my past. I used to preach to people like this, they look barely alive.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Jesus never had a pulpit to preach from!

I had time to scan through the religious Church broadcasts last night. The thing that stood out was pulpit after pulpit after pulpit. Did anyone notice the magnitude and magnificent things we preachers have and do preach the Word behind. Whoever came up with the pulpit idea?

My memory went away with me and I cannot begin to tell you how many sermons I preached behind the pulpit. In one church I pastored we had two different pulpits. During our traditional first service we used the 100+ year old wood pulpit (we put wheels on it) and during our contemporary second service we used the see through acrylic pulpit.

Maybe I was sleeping when we discussed the pulpit in church history, but, I have no idea where the pulpit came from and why it remains such a huge and important Sunday necessity. Why is the pulpit or lack thereof such a big deal?

Are you serving in your passion?

It seems these days that we have the market on ministry. A few leaders in the church decide what ministries we will validate and then we staff for the those ministries.

Are you free to serve in your area of passion? We all know we are supposed to reach and disciple the lost! Did you know that God has gifted you to reach people within your gifts, ambitions, abilities, personality bent and experiences? You have a passion. Are you allowing God to use your passion to reaching and disciple the lost?

In the context of the church many Christ followers are sadly limited to service/ministry in the predetermined ministries that are sanctioned by your church and often in the church? Are you or aren't you serving in your God ordained passion? Is it God led or man predetermined/limited?

Something to think about!

I'm dissatisfied, are you?

I'm dissatisfied with going to church on Sunday? It just doesn't seem to be the right thing thing to do in light of the mission of Jesus. It seems phony and empty. It seems less about Jesus and His Great Commission and more about what man can do. And we men (& women) do it well. I leave church drained, frustrated and saddened as I pass miles of unreached people who will never find Jesus in a church on Sunday.

Are you dissatisfied with going to church on Sunday? Do you long to experience what it means to be the Church and not just go to church?

Am I a Pharisee or a Rebel? Who was Jesus, a pharisee or a rebel? Who must we be to be like Him?

I have my bullet proof vest on.

My kind of action!

My first Hockey game since moving to the St. Louis area.

I live in Wentzville (St. Louis) and I grew up just south of Detroit. Which team or teams are mine? (Cards or Tigers - Blues or RedWings)

Same thing in the Super Bowl, my wife is from south of Chicago and we pastored mostly in Indiana. (Cubs or Bears)

The view in this picture is where my friend and I sat. Right in the front row just in front of the ice and the fiberglass in front of us was slammed over and over again. Penalty box on the left.

My friend and neighbor Patrick (left) invited me to tag along with him. He had the tickets and I had the time.

Of course the Blues won over Detroit!
Of course the Cardinals won over Detroit!
Of course the Colts won over Chicago!

Wherever we live - our team wins!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Two children and a blessing

My snowblower has been used quite a bit this winter. I almost sold that thing a year ago! Whoever thought God would use a snowblower to bring blessings, knock down barriers and open up the doors of deepening friendship?

I arrived home after running some errands this afternoon to find two neighborhood children (from two different families) who were scraping the packed snow and ice from my driveway. What are you guys doing, I asked? "We are shoveling your driveway. You clean off our driveways and we are cleaning off yours. And, we are doing this for free."

Two young children both around 7 years of age and armed with a snow shovel and a straight edged shovel. Knowing how hard the job was, I told them it was O.K. to leave the really packed and frozen stuff. With that the boy replied, "Nope, we are going to get it all cleaned off." And, they did just that.

I will never forget what I experienced today!

Do you know them?

Do you know who your neighbors are? Do they know who you are? When was the last time you spoke with them? Are you involved in their lives? How so?

What's wrong with this picture?

I love dreaming of a Church (as the Body of Christ) involved in all facets of life where life is lived and with the people we live with in the world. While those in the church often declare they are involved in all facets of living with the reached and unreached, we have not done all that good. We do really well at compartmentalizing various aspects of our lives - church worship & involvement, family life, work and play.. On the other hand, we do really poorly as a church (the Body of Christ) integrating in the world with the unreached. In the end, our attempts to live holy lives for Jesus we have resulted in incomplete and shallow lives with our neighbors and others.

Alan Hirsch suggests, "When we look at our networks, which are an essential aspect of organic structures, we will see that the church must structure itself around the ebb and flow of the believers life. Existing relationships with believers and unbelievers alike become the very fabric of the church."

We desperately need a wake up call in the church. We have for far too long kept our members so busy in the church ministries that we have no time to be in the world. We have our church life, our family life and our work life. We end up with no time or life with those who need Jesus!

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Children partake of Communion for the first time today!

Two of our younger children received communion for the first time in their lives at our gathering today. They have been watching their parents take communion and Levi (the oldest) asked daddy to explain why we do this. This may have never happened -had they not been in worship as a family! Daddy, "What does the bread represent?" Daddy, "What does the juice or the cup represent?" These children, who are in the gathering/worship time wanted to experience what they witnessed their parents experiencing. Levi told his dad, "I have accepted Jesus, why can't I have communion?" Dad explained it! Today, Levi and his brother took their first communion because they had accepted Jesus into their hearts and because they understand what communion means.

Questions on my mind:

When are children like Levi and his brother ever allowed to accept/partake of communion?

How many children actually have their father (who knows Jesus) teach them from God's Word the meaning and significance of communion?

Why do you think these children (Levi and his brother) wanted to know about the meaning and significance of communion?

Had these children not been in the worship gathering where communion is shared and meaningful, would they ever have communion and if they do, at what age? Some young people never have communion because they are segregated from their parents and from worship services because they have their own classes to attend? SARCASM: We can't have children interrupting our worship, so we say and think.

I am left to ponder, how many years does it take for a child to accept Jesus and then remember his sacrifice by partaking of communion? Isn't this really what discipleship is all about?

Are you drained or energized?

Do you ever feel drained, tired or worn out? Or, do you ever feel refreshed, and ready to run the race?

How many of you feel like you just need a nap after Sunday worship services? Do you leave worship services feeling drained? Or, do you feel energized? No matter how you feel after Sunday services, tell me why you think you feel this way!

Drained or fueled and why?

Thursday, February 15, 2007

I love this!

Bill Huffhine wrote a great article called "The Perils of Individualism" and he will forgive me for copying part of his article, a part that answers allot of questions for me. You may want to read his entire article. I just clipped a few paragraphs from the heart of it.

"I have found, however, that people don't tend to appreciate people like me being around. We get a lot of blank stares. We get a lot of polite, patronizing nods. We get a lot of obstacles placed in our way. We are often told to just follow the rules, color within the lines, don't confuse people, and don't disrupt the status quo.

I think the people who react as I just described are simply afraid that our individualism will in some way threaten their stability. They like things to remain calm and uneventful. They don't want there to be even the possibility that our way of doing things will create ripples that eventually reach the placid serenity of their waters.

I don't think the answer is for me to repress my nature. And I don't think the answer is for me to expect others to become like me. I think the answer lies in a mutual pact. In this pact, I need to be patient, kind, and understanding with those who need sameness and stability. And others need to become more open to the new hues of color that people like me may be able to bring into their world, yet patient and gracious with us when we do manage to create nothing but chaos. That happens a lot. But every so often, something beautiful emerges."

Did God Win the Super Bowl?

I would like some discussion on this one. I have some friends who think that God helped the Colts over the Bears win the Super Bowl. If that is true, did God win the Super Bowl? Do you guys think God intervenes by helping one team win over the other?

My friend Carol (of course a Hoosier) speaks out,

"The team prays after every game and before every game. This is a team that puts God first. As you can see in the picture the trophy has been placed almost out of sight during prayer. (Scroll for the picture)

You should have heard the Saturday morning Super Bowl Prayer Breakfast. Amazing in that coach gave an outstanding sermon and then gave an invitation to all. How powerful is that!!??

This is a team who has a weekly Bible study.

God rewarded this team because they remained faithful in letting God work in his own timing.

How can one not believe God was not with them in the final game?

The power of the Holy Spirit is so evident when hearing the coach and players speak. It's real--not fake. One can't fake what one feels when seeing and hearing from them.

Just my two cents worth..."

The Planter returns: I know God works miracles and I know the Holy Spirit was all over the Colts, but does that mean with certainty that God's Holy Spirit wasn't all over some of the Bear players. Does God help a team win? Some think He actually made the Colts win.

Does anyone have their two-cents to throw in?

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

I share a note from Adam, my friend, as a gift to you, my friends.

Life goes on, doesn't it? A year ago, I sent some of you a note about my Valentine's Day Celebration. I am celebrating once again, a year later, a year older, and with any luck, a year wiser.

If you received last year's note, you'll perhaps remember that this is the day I celebrate Love and love. I'm inviting you to break your plans and join the party. Of course, many of you did not receive an email from me this time last year, and that pleases me, because my circle expandeth.

Have you ever been angry, sad, or bitter on this day, longing for something you did not have? Some are sad today, but I know that, just like Paul, all blessings in the Heavenly realms are mine, with of course ten thousand beside. For what else could I possibly ask?

Did you see the couple who died in one another's arms? I'm celebrating the love I share with friends today, knowing that it reflects capital-L Love that I will know in full for the rest of eternity. One month ago today, I remembered what a hug can mean, as I stood by the curb, and then waited in the ER for a word on a couple of friends with whom I had been in a serious auto accident. It seemed that we were all numbed by the sudden trauma, until we hugged one another, and the emotion welled up. I'm thankful that we're all okay or will be, and our love for one another has grown, I think. Friends from all walks, know that my love is with you today, and I know even more now than ever before exactly how much you mean to me. Hug someone today and tell them you love them. Happy Valentine's Day to you, my friends!

Today, I also celebrate my family. Too many families are broken, but I am living proof that God can heal a broken home. My parents continue to love me without question, even when I am difficult and cast aside their tested wisdom. Remember when Jesus told the rich young man to give away all he had? My dad has shown that sort of commitment to his family. He lives in a small rented home, driving vehicles that are as old as I, and gives to his children until there is no more to give. That I may live up to his example and commitment is one of my most earnest prayers. Visiting my family for diverse holidays has been especially touching in the last several months, as it has been as close to heaven on earth as I probably ever will be. Love, warmth, acceptance, and grace pervades my parents' households, and it lifts my heart. This St. Valentine's Day, I celebrate the love of my family, and I encourage you to do the same.

To put to words the next part of my triune celebration may well prove impossible. I giggled as I walked home from Bethel Baptist Church that summer day, for reasons that I haven't yet come to understand. I was a child, maybe seven years of age, and I had abandoned my ride home from Vacation Bible School in order to talk to the pastor after the program. That day, he led me in a prayer that changed me for good, indeed, changed me for Good. Tears well up as I compose even now. Walking the half-mile home by myself was nothing compared to the road my life might have otherwise taken. That day, I learned of a God who loves beyond measure and asked if I might know Him and be known by Him. And today, in my celebration of St. Valentine's Day, I know that whatever else has happened, hasn't happened, or will happen; I know that whether or not I'm exchanging boxes of chocolate and giving roses; I know that Love has been my guide. I capitalize the Word because it should be. It's the only Love that endures through the end of time. Happy Valentine's Day, friends and family! Know that my love is with you, and my prayer is that Love is also.

The Planter: Thanks Adam, as a young single adult, you put it all in perspective for us. How refreshing!

Valentine's Day Saddness

As we consider living incarnationally as Christ followers in the world - it does change the way one looks at the world. This is Valentine's day and there are many men under enormous pressure and many women who long for the special love expressions. Valentine's day is for women and not for us guys. Just a thought here!

I ordered the online flower deal and they arrived and were nice but there was no greenery to enhance the beauty of the flowers. So I ventured out! I went to our local Dierberg's grocery store floral shop. I'm standing among the guys as they were frantically looking for something to say what needs to be said on this Valentine's day. At least they were in the floral shop and not like the guy who bought his wife a jar of jelly beans. As I waited in line to buy a few dollars of greenery, I over heard one guy saying, "this is ridiculous, this is a Hallmark and florist marketing scam." While I didn't agree, I ended up wondering if he had a point when the floral department charged me $1.00 for every piece of greenery for a total of $12.00. I just asked for a bunch of filler and in the end I felt price gouged! But since I was over the barrel and because Michelle wouldn't appreciate me cutting up her plants for rose filler, I left as other guys snickered with unbelief over the gouge of $1.00 per stem. I also felt cheap as other people noticed my flowerless greenery as I left the store. What we do for love!

In all of this, on this Valentine's Day, I find myself thinking about the the widows, the orphans without a mother, the wife who is never appreciated or loved, the recently divorced, the ones wanting to be loved but have no one.

I look at the world through a different lens now that I'm looking at the world and not preoccupied with all the stuff I thought I had to do. As a pastor, I have regrets that I was so busy getting ready for the next Sunday, and so busy with the church family, that I didn't see as I do now do. Today, I saw some hurting and less fortunate ones.

In my new context of living incarnationally and making disciple making the main thing, I see life through a different lens. I am finally moving from the immediate to the most important. With the Holy Spirit's help and revelation I now see people like never fully saw them before.

Today, I pray for the less fortunate, those hungry for love, and those who are divorced with a great sense of compassion. Will you join me in noticing and praying for those who need the love of Jesus and others the most?

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Whatcha think?

Shortest post on record! Whatcha think of when you think of the church? How does your understanding of the church impact lost people you live with, work with and play with? That is, if you do any of those things.

Any brave ones out there?

Living Incarnationally

What does that mean?

Alan Hirsch says (Sorry, I cannot leave his work yet) "The incarnation not only qualifies God's acts in the world, but must also qualifies ours. If God 's central way of reaching His world was to incarnate Himself in Jesus, then our way of reaching the world should likewise be incarnational. To act incarnationally therefore will mean in part that in our mission to those outside of the faith we will need to exercise a genuine identification and affinity with those we are trying to reach..."

The Planter says. How can we do this when we think going to a church service or attending a Bible study is the way of fulfilling what Christ expects of us? Where did we ever learn and how did we ever come to believe that attending events to meet our spiritual needs is also the fulfillment of the demands of Christ upon us? Jesus said, we are to deny ourselves and take up our cross and follow Him. Does what we do really represent reaching beyond ourselves with a spiritual journey that mostly satisfies our own needs? Where is the cross and where is the denial?

Alan Hirsch writes, "Incarnational ministry means taking the Church to the people, rather than bringing people to the church." Or, I'd rather challenge that it is time to quit just doing church and start being the Church. Think about it, look at all of the energy, money, time, and resources (just to name a few) that are used for us and not for the unreached. What does God think? How will we be judged? We cover it up very well, but church is mostly for us.

I know this is stirring and I also know we make all the excuses in the world, but in reality what are we really doing with the sole priority of reaching beyond ourselves, needs and wants in order to reach those with needs and wants. How will we reach those who do not know Jesus but long for Him?

Is living incarnationally a priority of yours? If it is, does your life reflect that priority? If not, then perhaps you really don't own it.

Just wonderin.....

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Paul Walker one more time on "The Forgotten Ways" by Alan Hirsch

Paul Walker (link on my blogsite) is going through Alan Hirsh's book, "The Forgotten Ways" and leave these comments behind:

Searching for Missional DNA

This book begins with a bold claim - that there is a fundamental principle that has remained or neglected for much of the history of the Church which - if rediscovered - would release a potent and church-shaking energy of change and reconfiguration. Of course, this is by no means the first book to make such claims - Christian bookshops are full of books that dna.gifclaim to have found the 'missing piece of the jigsaw'. What makes this book any different?

What seems to be different here is that we are not talking about a piece of a jigsaw at all - some new approach to theology or spirituality that can somehow change everything. Indeed, it would seem to be the case that no such piecemeal approach to our current malaise (the long term and seemingly irreversible decline in inherited church) can - almost by definition - bring about the kind of deep-rooted change that is necessary. Here we are talking about a complete reconfiguration not simply of the 'software' of church, but the very 'hardware' itself. It is about the need for a 'paradigm shift' to use a somewhat over used phrase.

The clue to this missional DNA first seemed to become clear to Alan Hirsch when he found out the the early church grew from something like 25,000 believers in 100 AD to 25,000,000 in 310 AD. The figures come from Rodney Stark in a book called 'The Rise of Christianity' (I'm taking them at face value as I've no knowledge of the source). Now, the interesting thing is the choice of the year 310 AD, which is a few years before the rise of Constantine (he came to power in 312 AD) and the subsequent rise of Christendom from the Council of Nicea (325 AD) onwards. If these figures are anywhere near accurate then Christianity was growing exponentially before Christendom - indeed it is quite likely that Constantine didn't so much 'create' the central place of Christianity, but saw its inexorable rise and 'jumped on the bandwagon'. I think Stuart Murray also mentioned in 'Post Christendom' that Constantine may have been rather more of a political expedient than a spiritually-motivated reformer!

The explosive growth of early Christianity isn't, of course, the only historical example of this phenomenon. The incredible growth of the Chinese Church after the explusion of Western missionaries during the Cultural Revolution is a more modern example. Then there is the rapid growth of the Methodist Movement - from 2% of the population in 1776 to 34% in 1850.

How do such growth 'spurts' come about? It is the contention of this book that there is a 'missional DNA' that can be discerned, isolated, extracted and incarnated into the present day context. Note that we are not talking about simply replicating a pattern from a previous era and a different context - but rather taking deeper and more fundamental principles from those movements and re-interpret it for the situation that we find ourselves in ( late modernity, liquid modernity, post modernity...take your pick!) In the same way that the Tin Man, the Scarecrow and the Lion, in the film 'The Wizard of Oz' eventually discover that the qualities they needed were 'in' them all along - but they hadn't awakened them, Hirsch suggests that a similar missional re-awakening in the hearts of Christians could unlock a potent force within the Church. He says

This story highlights the central assumption in this book and gives a hint as to why it has been called The Forgotten Ways : namely that all God's people carry within themselves the same potencies that energized the early Christian movement.... Apostolic Genius (the primal missional potencies of the gospel and of God's people) lies dormant in you, me, and every local church that seeks access and trigger it.

The Planter: Visit both Alan Hirsh and Paul Walker's site for more discussion. See to the right for a quick jump over to some great discussion.

Paul Walker replies on "The Forgotten Ways"

A Yearning for the Ocean

The first chapter of 'The Forgotten Ways' starts with a great quote from Antoine de Saint-Exupery

If you want to build a ship, don't summon people to buy wood, prepare tools, distribute jobs, and organise the work, rather teach people the yearning for the wide, boundless ocean

That's a profound statement - and a warning not to get so hooked up on 'methods' and 'programs' that we neglect to discover core values and set them in place as the foundation of all that we do. Alan Hirsch uses this first chapter as something of a personal testimony, the story of his ministry and how that ministry came to shape his own approach to mission. We learnmelbourne.jpg about his move to South Melbourne Restoration Church (now simply called Red) as new minister charged with turning around a church that was rapidly declining (as an aside - why do the least experienced ministers seem to be given these almost impossible jobs?) He recounts that there were three distinct phases in which this failing inherited church was transitioned into a missional community :

From Death to Chaos This was the 'reseeding' of the old church with the new missional type of church. Recognising the unhelpful nature of seminary education, Hirsch fell back on the one thing that he did know about, which was the experience of God's grace. So they set out to simply 'do' community - offering love, acceptance and forgiveness to any who would come looking. It wasn't always easy - there was plenty of chaos, and not everyone in the older church community welcomed the chaos - but, bit by bit, the newer form of church become the prominent one.

Becoming a Church Planting Church A sense of 'calling' - more or less from the start - to birth new churches into the unreached people groups of their home city. The first was a 'street church', planted with the poor and marginalised, the second was planted in the large Jewish community, and so on. There is a very interesting case study in this section which I'm going to look at in the next blog post

From a church to an organic movement This came from the realisation that the church had somehow lost its missional edge and that had unwittingly adopted consumerist models and bowed to the 'cult of the cool'. The Church was massively popular amongst GenX-ers but hadn't seen a conversation to Christ in over two years! The diagnosis was that there was a lack of emphasis on discipleship, which was - in turn - leading to lack of fruitfulness. The analysis of this is very penetrating, so much so that, again, it deserves a blog post of its own to really develop.

It's worth that the Hirsch's were at SMRC for some 15 years - this process didn't happen quickly, and it didn't happen without personal cost, a few failures and plenty of disappointments along the way. Yet, within that process, a sense of 'missional DNA' was slowly emerging (it will be that missional DNA which will form the rest of this book!)

The Planter -just a few thoughts from Paul walker to help suck you into the discussion Alan Hirsch is raising as a Missionary to the U.S.

New Motivational Approach!

A church has a new strategy to motivate children to fill in take home papers, bring guests, and turn in their completed calendars (whatever that is).

Not sure if they give real money or fake money or whatever! But when I see a dollar sign in front of something it looks real to me.

$ 15 bucks for returning take home papers.
$100 bucks for bringing a guest.
$155 bucks for bring their completed calendar.

What a creative way to motivate children to be disciples or is it really?

The headline: Let's set our sails for "CATCH" the land where we can "CATCH" God's vision to work and grow together.

No church name listed here (on purpose), let's just discuss this motivational approach used here to get the children discipled. Or, are we not really concerned with children being discipled? This is a reputable and highly resourced church in America, but this is no church attack. I want to discuss this method of motivating children to do something in this spiritual sense.

I'm back in the saddle so lets stoke the fire after a long hard ride.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

A Huge Thank you!

To all my blogging friends from around the world I want to express my deepest thanks for all the prayers lifted before God for our family during this hard time. Losing a brother or a son is very hard. I never experienced losing a sibling in this manner. It was and remains difficult as many of you know from experience. Our sorrow is not unlike yours. Time does heal the loss but we never forget our loved ones.

My brothers funeral was like none I have ever attended. The funeral was pulled together by my parents Pastor Jim Luttrell and my brother Jim. They did a great job. Since we are a family of 8 kids (now 7) we had the oldest "son" (nephew) from each of our families do something. Jim led out with words of tribute and a message, we sang together "Amazing Grace" as brother Rick led us. We had a special music and message by Pastor Jeff. My son Matt spoke great words of healing and tribute and I offered some brief reflections along with brother Tom & Rick. Every one of the brothers and one sister through their families offered something of significance.

The funeral lasted 1 hour and 45 minutes and we didn't care (maybe some of the guests did) but it was a healing time for all of us. The funeral procession was long and we had a graveside service in the frigid temperatures as our teeth nearly chattered out of our mouths.

At the graveside my dad and mom waited for the casket to be lowered into the ground, they wanted to be alone and we honored that request. My dad has since visited the graveside where he wept loudly and hard over his son's grave.

My dad and mom need your prayers. We are especially concerned about dad. He is taking it so very hard that we sort of fear that this will kill him. Please pray for healing and peace for my parents and especially for my dad who is experiencing high blood pressure and heart concerns, something that has followed my brother's death.

Thank you for the support we have from all our blogging friends from around the world. You came through for us and God heard your prayers.

How can I thank you all? What can I do for you? Do you need prayer for anything?

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Paul Walker is book blogging on "The Forgotten Ways" by Alan Hirsch

We shape our buildings. Thereafter they shape us.

Winston Churchill

Backtracking slightly to my post yesterday about how Alan Hirsch moved his people from being a 'church' in the traditionally accepted sense of the word to an organic community, I've been reading over his reflections on how buildings come to dominate and shape our entire thinking and focus.


It's fairly obvious the a traditionally orientated church is based on a model of passivity - where 'the ministry' is done by a very tiny percentage of people, often only those with particular qualifications (as evidenced by special clothing) and the rest of the people are in the role of passive participants, or even 'observers'. The transition to contemporary worship styles has only really scratched the surface of addressing that problem. A few more people take part in the music ministry, or join the prayer team, or lead prayers. But, Hirsch estimates, you're still generally looking at an 80/20 split of active/passive. (I actually think that's a pretty generous assessment in most cases). Even the 'holy grail' of GenX or post-modern worship, even some Alt.Worship settings too, have still left most people as passive participants.

And so we return to the earlier point about whether we change the 'software' of church (what we do to make things 'work' in the way they do) or the 'hardware' (the underlying core that makes the thing even happen in the first place). A decision was taken to rebuild the church from the ground up - from 'first principles' if you like. (Remember that this was a significantly 'successful' and sizeable, so this wasn't a straightforward decision borne out of desperate failure)

This involved a number of foundational ideas

  • The basic 'unit' of church was to be much smaller - more along cell or simple church lines, to facilitate genuinely active participation by every member.. Rather than being based around mission statements, philosophies or documents, the church would be based around a set of practices - people would be asked to enter into covenant with others around these core actions.
  • The majority of the members of each 'cell' had to be involved in the practice of spiritual disciplines - bible, worship, prayer, accountability etc. This - I am assuming - was as a result of the realisation that people in the church were not being fruitful as I mentioned a couple of posts back.
  • The 'rhythm' of the church would be different to the usual 'Sunday morning meeting'. There was to be a weekly group meeting, a monthly meeting of 'the tribe' (a local area with networked groups - I'm guessing meetings of, say, 50-100 people) and a bi-annual large scale celebration of everyone in the 'movement'. However the regular discipleship, teaching, prayer etc takes place at small group level (and rooted in the core values through the missional DNA)
  • The groups would have a core value of aiming for multiplication - as soon as feasible each group was to multiply, which prevents the development of an inward-looking approach and the constant missional focus.
It hardly needs saying that this change did not occur without criticism or cost - I know from my own experience that people don't necessarily want to move from passive to active. In this particular case it took a period of two years to fully transition. My sense is that transition a more historically-rooted inherited church - such as my own - could take even longer.

Less is more and more might be less

While we need "more" love, concern, giving, gratitude, Christ reproducing disciples and the likes, I'm also convinced in a consumer driven culture that more is not better. Having more and more stuff is the downfall of American culture. Having more leads to having and wanting more. Having more leads to maintaining more! Sometimes we just buy things we don't need with money we do not have in order to impress people we don't even like.

Has the motivation to have more blinded us from seeing what the more is doing to us? Do we really need more buildings, larger budgets, better programs, and more butts to fulfill the Great Commission mandate of making disciples who make disciples?

Is it possible that there is another angle we should consider. Is it possible that there is another way to mobilize the church to make disciples by being authentic disciples in the world where people live, work and play? Could God be birthing something new in the world to advance the kingdom of God with less?

Instead of owning buildings we are meeting in the homes, parks, coffee shops, restaurants, and office buildings or wherever. As we reach people for Christ we lead them to reach others for Christ in the world. Instead of having more butts in one location, we are scattered all over the community. We meet together as a larger Christ family in parks, office buildings etc. for communion and worship. We also meet together in smaller settings during the week and every week.

Consider starting (churches) smaller with two or three leaders who can multiply themselves quickly instead of larger. Our first Church in St. Louis started with one family (Pastor Terry Goodwin) who made the commitment to make disciples who do the same as the main thing. After four months God birthed our disciple driven Church and now God has raised up two young leaders (Mark and Zac) who are now committed to making disciples by reaching younger twenty something's for Christ. The goal is making disciples (our job) that leads to planting Churches (God's job).

Please pray for our efforts here in St. Louis and for our first team in Kansas City, Missouri! We also would like to ask you to pray for God to raise up more leaders who will make disciple making the main thing. We long for those who are wiling to do more with the less. Could God be showing us that He wants to do more with less, who will start churches with two or three instead of 100 or more. Could God birth 50 churches of 100 or less (who make disciples) without that campus filled with buildings, people, programs and larger budgets to maintain the campus? Can you imagine a Church that is the Church instead of just doing church.

Do I have it backwards? Watch and see for yourself? And if you don't want to just watch, join our wagon train and experience it yourself. You know how to contact me!

Okay Mike E, are you happy now?

Super Bowl XLI

They really did it, they really did! Chicago was just not in the game. And, before you put all the blame on the quarterback look at the Bear defense! In reference to the Colt victory my friend Chris says, "God did not help them win the game over the Bears." God may have helped them (both teams) in many ways but I'm with Chris, God didn't choose one team over the other. Or did He? for Chris Kozacek's original article on this.

I just got another comment: My friend says God does help certain teams win the game. See picture:

Saturday, February 03, 2007

In His Memory


Glenn Carder
Born: July 20, 1962
Died: January 28, 2007
Services: Funeral Services will be at 12noon Friday, February 2, 2006.
Service Location: Allore Chapel - Martenson Family of Funeral Homes
Visitation: Friends may call from 5 p.m. until 9 p.m. Thursday, February 1, 2007.
Visitation Location: The Allore Chpl-Martenson Family Of Funeral Homes
Obituary: Glenn is survived by his parents Oval & Hilda Carder. He is also survived by 6 brothers; Steven (Marilyn) Carder, Robert (Michelle) Carder, James (Linda) Carder, Thomas (Cynthia) Carder, Rick (Cindy) Carder, Mike (Antoinette) Carder and one sister Robin (Richard) Schmidt.
Cemetery Location: Roselawn Memorial Park (Map)
Send Private Condolence

Friday, February 02, 2007

What in the world?

My brother Glenn is gone. After years of Cocaine addiction going back to his teenage years , and now at the age of 44 he is now gone. He was found dead 3 days after the fact by my parents in his bed, in pajamas, in a more than perfect setting, all stiff and lifeless. What in the world?

Fowl play, overdose, suicide? What in the world?

How does a brother deal with such a tragedy? He now lies in a casket, he is dressed and ready, but, what should I think, or say, or feel?

After years of dealing with death professionally, I find it hard to deal with death personally. If suicide, it was the most creative and perfect and the less destructive I have ever seen. What in the world?

What happens when a person is seeking for God as hard as my brother Glenn was? And, then He dies by self inflicted means or others and dies in the process? Drugs? Deliberate carbon monoxide poisoning? Self inflictioned wounds? Others? Where is He now? He was searching for God with all His heart as he said to me at New Year's, but where is he now?

I am at a loss! I am tired and empty! Where is my brother based on what my brother was searching for? He wanted Jesus, he said He loved Him, and that he accepted Him and yet He died and maybe even took his own life? Did he really end it? Maybe and even likely! Where is he now?

What in the world? Can you help me and maybe others? I'm numb by it all!

Glenn was one of 8 kids who now lies in a casket awaiting his burial. What say you about this? What can you say at a time like this? I'm too close to the trees to see the forest!

Grief, disbelief, rejection of reality. So senseless and unecessary. How should I respond? I'm weak, weary and without answers. This is a lonely time and sad beyond words. Why didi't I do more? Where was I when He needed me? Why does it have to end this way?

Fire and remember, I am a big boy who loves to be hit on the head as strange as that is. What in the world do you have to say? Hurting but without answers? What was he thinking anyway?

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