Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Catalyst 18: Craig Groeschel

From 1/14/07

Craig Groeschel is pastor of the innovative, based our of Oklahoma but beamed to satellite locations worldwide. They are truly pioneers and on the cutting edge of the multi-site model. Groeschel is quick to mention, however, that this model works for them but is not by any means "the" way to do it. He laments churches who try to copy what is being done at Lifechurch out of fad, not need. Multi-site still needs to be authentic!

Online Church
Speaking of authentic, I was skeptical listening as he described "online church." It is what it sounds like, complete with online pastors, whose congregations live in cyberspace. It seems natural that if the church is going to meet people where they are, and considering that so many live socially online now, she would attempt something like this.

But can it work? According to Groeschel authentic community indeed takes place as through the chat lobby users arrive early and stick around longer than they would at live church. Users and online hosts pray for one another before, after, and even during the service. Oh, and you can even attend the worship style of your liking first before seeing the message. Folks who have met in the lobby have small group studies throughout the week with webcams and even organize and go on mission trips!

For Lifechurch, the target audience is those who would never come to church, as well as those who can't go because they are home with sick kids or other responsibilities. I can see that. But, it's hard to lay hands on someone without being there! It's hard to argue with this though; according to Groeschel, Online Church has more decisions for faith per capita than any of the live locations. I appreciate how the Gospel is being proclaimed innovatively through this medium, however I feel it should be intentionally acting as a temporary home for those who can't attend while encouraging all to get face to face.

Open Source Church
As Lifechurch grew rapidly, others noticed and inquired about their resources. The church had a choice, do we market our resources or make them freely available? To the benefit of thousands, they decided to post all their resources for sermon series, kids, youth, small groups, etc, on line with free access here

Craig Groeschel is a big advocate of pastors having accountability. He wrote a revealing book, "Confessions of a Pastor" that goes even into his struggle in the past with porn among other things. He in fact uses xxxchurch - it seems all these influential leaders use it!

"I will not sacrifice my family on the alter of ministry." Craig picked this quote up along the way and lives by it now. He is home @ 5:15 6 days a week and in family mode and promotes a church organizational culture that does the same. He mentioned Stanley's "choosing to cheat" as a big influence in this area.

Each year, in Jim Collins fashion, he adds to my "to don't" list. He's a huge advocate of leader development saying, "if you build others up there is no limit to what you can do." In other words, the American cultural model is to do as much as we can and receive praise for it. If we pour into others, and let the take credit, our mission will have no limit. After all, especially in the church, it is never "our" mission.

Finally, at home he praises his wife as his biggest asset in ministry. They homeschool their six kids and she sees her primary ministry as ministering the kids and supporting Craig. And she does this by challenging him often, affirming him, yes, but also asking point blank, "how's your time with God, I haven't seen you pray much?" and things like that.

A few years back Lifechurch did a series called "My Secret" that received national attention as thousands uploaded video confessions when invited through their online church. Incredible healing took place through this even that blew the leadership away. A cool example of the church leveraging technology and culture to promote reconciliation, to offer forgiveness, and to foster redemption.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Waiting on an Opportunity

Tough questions to ask yourself when waiting on that next step in life. I got this from a great Andy Stanley sermon that I highly recommend and can be found here. Honest answers should should be revealing and challenging...

The Questions:
Based on your current performance, would you trust you with a better opportunity?

Are you preparing for the next opportunity or just waiting for it?

What can you begin doing where you are now to prepare for the next opportunity?

Is there an opportunity where you are now that you are ignoring because the income doesn't match the workload?

The Meta-Application
Fully engage with your current opportunity while you wait, pray and actively look for the next one.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
~ Colossians 3:23-24

Monday, November 8, 2010

Catalyst 17: Dave Ferguson

From 1/2/07

Dave Ferguson is the lead pastor of Community Christian Church in Naperville where is well known for creating an sustainable healthy culture of leadership. They are one of the pioneers of the multi-site church model where they're attendance went from ~800 to upward of 5,000 within a short time of expanding to other satellite locations. He has a heart for facilitating not only church planting, but for creating whole networks of reproducing churches. Dave does this through the NewThing network that supports, resources, and catalyzes church planters and leaders of young churches.

DNA of Growth
When asked about what contributed to the growth of their church, which was planted in 1989, Ferguson cited Two Critical Decisions:

1. Identifying Apprentice Leaders. Specifically this happened within the context of their first small groups. From the start, groups had a leader and an apprentice who was being trained to eventually lead their own group. In this way, multiplication was built into the DNA of the church...sounds like 2 Timothy 2:2, eh?

2. Being Proactive about Growth. This is in contrast to waiting for growth to happen. Or, better said, "If you build it, they will come." Essentially, they didn't wait for the people, they waited for the leadership. When leaders were ready, they created space for a second service...and the people came! Proactive...

Ferguson offered an interesting and compelling reason to consider the multi-site model. With multi-site, the limiting factor is no longer real estate, rather it is the presence of leaders and artists. An entire new building and land need not be purchased, space needs to be rented to accommodate the technology. And, of course, the people, which are available because of intentional apprenticing and proactive growth.

I thought this was a perspective on confronting "change" in a church or organization. The context is of a young church planter creating a new experience from that of the sending church, that may have traditions that will not be incorporated. He notes that it's easy to rationalize the need for change by pointing out what is wrong with the current situation. Instead, perhaps a more tactful approach is to frame the new direction as "building on the positives of the past." Keeping this perspective in mind just might save a bridge from being burned while maintaining a healthy and productive relationship with an established partner in taking part in what Ferguson calls the Jesus Mission!

One Big Idea
CCC intentionally strives to broadcast a single unifying message each week. This is similar to Stanley's "one point sermon" in "Communicating for a Change." CCC integrates this theme from top to bottom, centering not only the sermon, but small group curricula and kid's church teaching around the One Big Idea as well. With families all on the same page, the gears for transformation have been well-oiled.

Moving Forward
If the 80's were the decade of the mega-church, Ferguson sees this generation as being one of the "reproducing" church. As distinctives, he sees a shift away from "territoialism" and a move toward networking across denominations, cultures, and generations to reach culture with the Jesus Movement.

The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Review of The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I knew Dietrich Bonhoeffer to be a martyr and great theologian but not until reading his work did I come to truly appreciate him as a great hero of the faith. Born in Germany in 1906, he spent much time in the academy outside his homeland, only to return when it became evident that the Nazi party was successfully co-opting the church for its own ends. When others may have stayed abroad, Bonhoeffer went into the fire to lead an underground movement of evangelical churches in opposition to the state’s maneuvers. This was a subversive and thereby dangerous task, and indeed it cost him his life in a concentration camp just days before allied liberation in 1945. Why did he return? He knew God had called him there. Did he know it would be costly? Yes. And thus the theme of this book: a true disciple obeys his call understanding that it costs sacrificing our will to God’s, and that this may indeed cost us dearly, even our lives.

The book itself is divided into 4 main sections, Grace and Discipleship, The Sermon on the Mount, The Messengers, and The Church of Jesus Christ and the Life of Discipleship. Working primarily from the Gospels, The Cost of Discipleship reads more like a series of theological commentaries than a linear themed narrative that was meant to be read as a whole. Indeed, each section and really even each chapter, could stand alone as a commentary on an individual portion of scripture or doctrine. Each chapter is tied directly to a certain text or theme (eg baptism), often quoting text at the beginning, with the exegesis and commentary following. The handy scripture index at the back of the book makes referencing The Cost of Discipleship as a resource for study very easy.

Grace and Discipleship, the first section, is five chapters of commentary on primarily four texts: Levi’s call in Mark 2:14, those questioning to the call to be a disciple in Luke 9:57-62; The Rich Young Ruler in Matthew 19:16-22; and the Lawyer in Luke 10:25-29. Throughout, a contrast is made between “cheap grace” and “costly grace”, a key idea for understanding the entire book. He takes great care to define each as the definition of “grace” would seem to say that it is free; to add a cost would be to add works to grace. In no way does Bonhoeffer support works based salvation!

According to Bonhoeffer, “cheap grace” is salvation offered as forgiveness without repentance and discipleship. In this way, “the justification of the sinner in the world degenerated into the justification of sin and the world” (p50). In other words, when we offer solace to sinners, simply offering forgiveness without repentance or a call to discipleship, we enable them to continue in sin because we don’t call their sin “sin”, we simply give comfort without calling for life change. We have not rooted out the source of evil without a call to follow Jesus...and that call will cost us something, thus “costly grace.” To Bonhoeffer, “cheap grace” is the “bitterest foe” of discipleship when in fact “grace simply means discipleship.”

Bonhoeffer is ahead of his time, noting the ill effects of offering “cheap grace” in society, noting how just as in the time of Constantine, the nation of Germany “became the cost of true discipleship.” This is a prophetic reminder to us today, in a nation that many believers consider to be “Christian”, to examine our churches for the signs of true discipleship. This is an especially poignant call as he predicts the downfall of what constitutes the mainline denominations due to an offering of “cheap grace” at the expense of discipleship. Indeed, this is playing out even as we speak.

While the first section lays the theological foundation for “costly grace” and true discipleship, the following three sections of The Cost of Discipleship, expound on its implication for the believer and the church. Section two offers a 100 page, section by section commentary on the Sermon on the Mount with challenging ethical and societal implications of discipleship. Section three focuses on Jesus’ call and commission of the disciples to be workers for the harvest in Matthew 9:35-10:42. Here, many of the true costs of obeying the call as an individual are laid out. Finally, section four deals with implications for the church, as a visible community, living out costly discipleship, not as an isolated kingdom, but as a transformational body within the world as proclaimers and partakers in the Kingdom of God.

Instead of speaking of strengths and weaknesses, it is more helpful to speak of what audience would most benefit from this read. The Cost of Discipleship is dense philosophically and theologically! Especially having the first section in mind, I feel I need to re-read several chapters to get the full sense of Bonhoeffer’s thoughts. This, combined with the fact that much of the exegesis uses arguments based on the Greek, in fact printing the Greek words directly in the text, suggests that the expected reader be somewhat learned in hermeneutics. And so, as a whole, I would recommend this book to a mature leader as a tool and resource for discipleship. That being said, certain sections, taken individually, would provide great material for discussion within a new believer’s discipleship class. Further, well read and erudite outsiders might connect with Bonhoeffers excellent literary skill and thorough exegesis. Specifically, I would recommend the Sermon on the Mount section to my non-believing friends for its well articulated presentation of the Kingdom of God. Who knows, maybe this could be the doorway to encouraging conversations about the Gospel?

Overall, The Cost of Discipleship is an incredibly encouraging, though extremely challenging read. Knowing the story of the author further adds to its authenticity and persuasiveness. The Cost of Discipleship is not for those who knowingly ignore the tension between Ephesians and James; that we are justified by our works as they testify to the fact that we have first been truly saved by grace, through faith. Faith without works, what Bonhoeffer would call the effect of “cheap grace” is truly dead. However, though self-denying, it is only through “costly grace” that we find the true and joyful life as it was meant to be, in communion with our creator and savior, who paid a great cost for us.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Catalyst 16: Christmas Special Kevin Myers

from 12/20/06

Instead of the standard interview, the catalyst crew played a sermon by Kevin Myers of Crossroads Church (now 12 Stone Church) in Lawrenceville. A passionate delivery with a few nuggets to think about...

Two Themes...

1. Reduce!
Very fitting for the Christmas season. The reference was actually to observing real-estate signs all over town with "reduced" plastered on them. That sparked in Myers' mind the idea to "reduce" this reduce this season down to its essentials. For him, that meant taking four Sundays to talk about Redemption, Justification, Regeneration, and Adoption. It's way too easy to forget that Jesus' birth was for the purpose of bringing these gifts to mankind...

2. Obligation vs Invitation OR Got to vs Get to
This was the big idea of the sermon as it related to redemption - that it is not an obligation but an invitation. The point was that too often the life of faith is seen as an obligation; but this was never the intention! He came that we may have life to the full. How will we respond then? Is this something we have "got to" do, or something that we have the great privilege to "get to".

He said this another way...that religion is what we do to get God to respond to us. It's a "got to." Instead, the true life of faith is a "get to"; an invitation to live a full life as a participant, through grace, in the story of redemption.

The most powerful illustration, however, came for me when Myers spoke of Justification. He told the heart wrenching story of a teenager in his church who was responsible for the accidental death of a young woman in a traffic accident. In court were two weeping fathers: the father of the young man pleading for mercy and the father of the young woman pleading for justice. I can understand both sides. The father of the young man knows that his son is deeply remorseful for the accident for which he was responsible...a guilty plea would leave his son in prison till mid-life, loosing many years of his life. On the other hand, the father of the young woman can only plead for justice...could you imagine being him watching the young man walk free?! I couldn't bear it! Justice must be upheld. And this is when I first realized the need for us to be justified. If forgiveness only is offered, justice is not served. The penalty must be paid. And this is what is so incredible about Jesus. He meets both of these fathers in their tears. He fulfills the need for justice to the one, and in doing so provides mercy for the other. Now, this doesn't mean that the son doesn't have consequences in this life, but in a spiritual sense the metaphor is powerful. The divine need for justice is satisfied in Jesus, and mercy is granted to our souls, even the worst of sinners. Why Jesus would do this is the beautiful mystery of the incarnation.

final notes...he gives three definitions of certain terms:
Justification - deals with guilt
Regeneration - New Life
Adoption - New Stance

Catalyst 15: Rick McKinley

from 12/10/06

So I have had this in the edit box for over a month and meant to write it out but I'll just post what I've got because as I read it the notes gave me some good things to think about...

Not Building the Church...Being the Church
- the seed must die
- love the city
- months of prayer
- don't create programs, pray for folks with vision to be raised up...the church comes alongside
- shepherding environments (of the laity), not trying to keep programs from falling apart
- the church is about cultural renewal, not empire building
- what would the kingdom look like...for drug addicts (freedom)...for the homeless (no lonliness)...for...
- the gospel is more than the's that the kingdom is already but not yet. Most profoundly seen in redemption, with people at the pinnacle of that redemption, therefore their salvation is central
- choice to do church at a HS so they get the funds in the community

Crossroads church - extension ministries Norwood Davis
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