Jesus and this man will make you want to make your life count. Surrender your will to God. Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Jesus. Nothing better in this world.
Archive for February 2011
I am a pretty solid Radiohead fan, but this was simply irresistible. Thom’s dancing has spawned a whole slew of these hillarious mash-ups. Check PASTE for more.
I have never had a difficult time talking with my wife. I think one of the first things I found attractive about her was how easy it was to talk for hours upon hours and never get bored. And because of God’s goodness, even after almost 12 years of marriage we still spend most mornings together drinking coffee and talking. Conversation with her is just so easy. Talking keeps us close to each other. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes our talks are difficult as we work through struggles or bicker with each other – but we do talk.
What about talking with God? It’s called prayer and if you ask most Christians about their prayers you will usually get a garbled, apologetic response that concludes with, “I need to work harder at making time to pray.” For some reason talking with God is hard for most of us to do.
But there is a time when prayer becomes easy. For example: when my wife and I lost track of our 5 year old daughter in a sea of people at Disney World late one evening; or the time we got news that a family member had been struck in a head-on collision and was barely hanging on to life. Prayer was instinctive. Prayer was the easiest thing in the world in the moments surrounding those events.
Genesis 4 describes the first time in the bible when people begin to pray. A man had a son named “Enosh” which literally means “frailty”. I suspect that his son was born premature, or undersized and in light of the violent world he was born into, his dad began to pray. When frailty or weakness becomes obvious, prayer becomes easy.
I have one of those jobs that exposes my frailty on a regular basis – I am a church planter/pastor. Daily I am faced with tasks and conversations that require more than my education, charm, experience, or limited money can accommodate. I am simply outmatched, and I think God is behind it all. The good news of God is that I can talk with Him and share these burdens and find strength. By talking with God I find so much more than help – I find the joy of truly knowing Him. The bad news is that I forget that or stubbornly refuse to go to Him for help.
Prayer becomes easy, enjoyable, necessary, & satisfying when we become aware of our frailty and emptiness.
Tomorrow night I’ll be speaking on Fight Clubs: Gospel Centered Discipleship in East Texas, Nacogdoches (my roots) to be exact. What a privilege to return some of what I’ve learned over the decades to my hometown. Fredonia Hill Church is hosting me, which is also unique because it is the church my grandfather pastored for decades.
If you are in the area, join us at 6pm for dinner, to be followed by two talks
Talk #1 – What is Gospel-Centered Discipleship // Why discipleship should be gospel-centered as opposed to centered on something else.
Talk #2 – How to Make Gospel-Centered Disciples // How to keep the gospel central in discipleship through Fight Clubs
Desiring God Ministry’s Scott Anderson does a fine job asking pointed, succinct questions of Tim Keller. The interview is broken up into short audio clips, addressing questions such as:
Can you give us a sneak peek at your upcoming book, King’s Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus?
What should be the motivation of Christian obedience?
What do you do personally to engage in social justice?
How do you build generous justice into the DNA of a church plant?
I’d like to lay out the ingredients of the communion meal instituted by Jesus and observed by the church for twenty centuries–Gospel, Community, & Mission. In laying them out, inspect yourself and your own diet. Are you keeping all three ingredients together in your communion with God?
As Miranda and I work on Austin City Life’s Worship Handbook, we have been working on a worship statement. This is our provisional worship statement. I was stirred to worship through editing and writing it!
A Narrative of Worship
Austin City Life believes that the triune God created man in his own image to unceasingly & authentically worship Him (Gen 1:27). Worship is a continual outpouring of who we are in mind, heart, soul & body to what we desire most; everybody worships something (Rom 12:1-2). We were created before sin entered the world to authentically worship the one true God of the Bible. After sin entered the world we did not cease to worship, but rather we rejected God and his authority and redirected our worship to lesser—unworthy and unholy—gods (Gen 3; Rom 1-5). This was the Fall—a fall from grace into an idolatry of wisdom and self-rule. But the story doesn’t end there…the Fall doesn’t stand alone (Gen 3:15). Christ, the Son of God, came to earth, defeated sin, death and evil; and by his sinless life, love-filled death and miraculous resurrection, gives us new life, a foretaste of the new creation (1 Cor 15; 1 Cor 5:17; Gal 6:16; Rev 21-22) .
Worship Through (Not After) Repentance
Through the gospel authentic, true worship is regained. This worship can take many forms because God is worthy of worship in many ways. We can worship Him through making good culture, living obediently, serving one another, or singing a great hymn (Rom 12-16; Col 3-4). However, one aspect of worship that is frequently neglected is the role of repentance and faith (Lk 3:3; 5:3; 24:47; Rom 2:4; Act 5:31; 2 Cor 7:10; Rev 3:19). ACL aims to teach, train and encourage repentance from sin and faith in Christ as a rhythm of everyday worship. The challenge and blessing of living a life of true worship is to discover, over and over, that Jesus is a better god, a better savior, than anything this else. Repentance is God’s gift of returning us, over and over, into the arms of this better Savior. We believe that repentance and faith is good news, and is itself an act of worship, one that will continue until Jesus comes again to make all things new. Only then will our worship be unhindered and our vision unimpaired to see and savor all that God is for us in the Spirit and the Son, freeing us to appropriately enjoy all good things.
Gospel Centered Discipleship
I am finishing up my revised and expanded manuscript of Gospel-Centered Discipleship (formerly Fight Clubs). Crossway will publish this manuscript. I’ve field tested some of the new material in recent conferences with great response. I’m excited about the considerable revisions, how the writing is changing me, and my church. Manuscript due end of February.
At Austin City Life (new website next Sunday), we have been working through what it means to be a Slow, Focused, & Creative Church (audio). The response has been remarkable. People want slow. As a city church of creatives, professionals, families, singles, and students, we are well acquainted with the “busy”, too acquainted in some instances. Should Christians be among the most busy people on earth? We’re postulating slow church, and at the same time, suggesting that Christians should be among the most focused, least anxious, extremely creative people in the city. I’m working on a book to address some of this. Yes, “working on another book.”
The GCM Collective National Conference
The CGM Collective has nailed down a new, National Conference date in Huntsville, AL for Sept 14-16. It will be a GCM EveryDay on steroids. I love being a part of the GCM community and so appreciate the leadership and gospel-earnestness of my fellow GCM leaders. We’re also rolling out some new things with a GCM Affinity Group in Acts 29 this year. Oh, yeah, we put up some free audio from a recent conference and you have to check out the new CD by Soma called, of course, Story.
The Failure of the Missional Church
This article has received a lot of attention. It seems to have struck a nerve because it addresses where the Missional Church is for so many people. I recently returned from a great time with folks in Omaha, where they videoed my talk on “The Failure of the Missional Church.” We processed this talk in 45 minutes of Q&A. Pastors and church planters want to learn how to truly follow Jesus and lead his church on mission. These are great days for the re-surging American church.
Launching Missional Communities is a very useful new resource by Mike Breen and Alex Absalom. (Mike and Alex come from St. Thomas Church in Sheffield England where they helped pioneer the UK movement of missional communities. They both lead in the United States now through the 3DM network.)
There are five sections to this book. Introduction, Key Concepts, Practical Launching Guide, MC Life and Case Studies. What will set this resource apart long term will be sections 3-5 because of how detailed, practical and realistic the ideas, suggestions and examples are. I highly recommend these sections of the book for new MC leaders and pastors who are trying to model this but need some coaching and have lots of practical questions.
Sometimes the key isn’t the authors answers to the questions but seeing that they have wrestled and are wrestling with the same questions. There are calendar examples, discussions on how to deal with pastoral issues, kids, singles, the poor and even kids with bad behavior! Many pastors will want to cover the first section of the book in great detail and then hit the index as necessary for the rest of the book .
The Size of Missional Communities
Here are some big take aways I have from this first section of the book. First, the authors take a hard stance on the size of MC’s and the need for 20-50 people. They recommend this mid-size group to meet 1-2x a month and then small groups to form out of these groups for more personal discipleship. They reinforce the MC size with insights based on the 4 sociological categories of :
- public space – Over 100 People
- social space – missional community or cluster (20-50 people)
- personal space- small group (3-12 people) &
- intimate space – accountability partners (1-3 people)
My first reaction was that mc’s should be more about missional than the exact size or structure but the authors make some great points here with these categories that shouldn’t be easily dismissed. They highlight that though it is easier to gather 8-12 people in a living room these groups are sometimes by default inward focused and personal in nature. When a group approaches 20 it is still “small enough to care but big enough to dare”, where a small group can dream big but may have a hard time carrying out missional initiatives in the long run.
A medium sized group can carry a heavier load in monthly missional activity and creates the kind of collective witness by its size and energy that is difficult for a smaller group to display. I find this very thought provoking because of what we are feeling at our church with a need to cluster our missional communities (avg 10-20 adults) for more energy and more church wide missional alignment and focus. We were already having some discussion around these pain points and the feeling that some of our MCs were so focused on keeping the balance of gospel, community and mission that sometimes they are freed up to do any of them well. I think the advantage of a MC being larger could free up a more “personal” sized group to go naturally deeper into discipleship issues without the risk of losing a missional identity.
Identifying your Mission
I also gleaned a lot of insight from the authors emphasis on finding a “person of peace” based on Jesus teaching in Luke 10 where the disciples were to find and then stay in the home of a “man of peace”. This metaphor is a powerful tool to teach people about incarnational and natural relational rhythms of mission. It seems like there is a gravitational pull in even the missional church to make mission about a program or a monthly project instead of about real people and deep relationshsips. This idea of looking for the “person of peace” within the relationships in our city groups is helpful.We should ask, “what people group is God putting on our heart”? and ask, “what person has got put in our network of friendships” that we should listen to, invest time in and go with them to get to know the world they live in outside of our church? The authors stress that we should often “recognize mission” as opposed to “starting mission”.
Families & Children in Missional Communities
Many will enjoy the section on families and kids in MC’s and the authors emphasis on flexibility. They make the great observation that kids need to see their parents engaged in Christian community and mission in real settings and real relationships beyond Sundays. This is half of the benefit of MC’s for kids as theology and values are caught with kids more than taught. They walk through all the different options of what to do with kids from hiring out childcare to involving them in the full discussion and gives some great hybrid examples and ideas of how parents can be more intention with discipling the kids, involving them but yet protecting some personal discussion time for the adults.
This is a great resource that I would recommend. The last section of the book with case studies deals with churches planting with a MC DNA and some transitioning to MC’s midstream. I didn’t find this section as helpful because it was sometimes confusing which church was transitioning and which were new church plants.
You may also want to read JR Rozko’s review of this book and Breen’s response that follows on the topic of missional vs. attractional church.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”