One of the dangerous things about publishing and writing online is that you can get an exaggerated presence. People begin to inflate your ideas, your church, your leadership well beyond their actual capacity. I think this is a real danger among church planters. We’re all “trying to make a mark for God” by employing the latest missional thinking. We comb the web for innovative ideas, best practices, and training in order to make the “best mark for the glory of God.”
I want to deflate any exaggeration that might be out there about Austin City Life or my own leadership. Not just to deflate, but to bring balance and realism into the picture. A lot of young church planters are captivated by methodologies and best practices. These methods and practices are often downloaded without any effort to rethink them for their own vision and context. That, too, is dangerous.
At the risk of promoting more uncritical downloads, and with the hope of bringing realistic balance to what I write, I thought I would point to some actual stories of Gospel, Community, and Mission told by our own people on a Sunday morning. We often bring people up to share about how God is working in their life during a SUnday gathering. We do this, not to be cool, but to a) As the psalmist says “tell of the works of the Lord b) to reinforce that church is a family not an event c) to encourage others.
This past Sunday was a vision/story-telling Sunday. I brought three people up from our community, who are not leaders, to share how they experienced God’s goodness in 2010 in the areas of Gospel, Community, and Mission. The stories are earthy, inspiring, real. They are not canned. And because of that, I hope you’ll find them helpful. They are little windows into an imperfect church, clinging to a perfect Christ, that is trying to live by the gospel, in community, on mission.
On Sunday we launched a new vision series called RENEW the CITY. We looked back on evidences of God’s goodness in 2009, and looked forward in hope for more goodness in 2010. Here are a few resources related to the Austin City Life RENEW vision for 2010:
- Mission for Moms: Check out Little Helping Hands an organization that hooks parents and their children up with volunteering opportunities around the city.
- Community Spotlight from Nixons – story of gospel community in action from our very own Nixon family!
- The Art of Patrick Watson – fascinating article on the music of Patrick Watson, as reviewed by Miranda
RENEW the CITY: Thanks for the Past, Faith for the Future –sermon audio and manuscript from Sunday
The end of a year brings about a time of reflection. We reflect for newsletters, sermons, and donors. But most of all, we should reflect for Jesus. As I have reflected on the clear evidence of God’s grace in my life and our church, I’ve been both encouraged and discouraged.
I’m encouraged by a growing church, a repenting church, a missional church. I’m encouraged by strengthened and renewed marriages, deep community, new leaders, and sincere love. By…
- A culture of repentance and faith in Jesus
- Elderly Loved, Abused Cared for, Broken Counseled, Homeless fed
- Baptisms and Conversions
- Church Growth doubled from 70 to 150
- 130 in Sunday attendance
- 125 people in City Groups
- 45 people in Fight Clubs
- 8 Church planters coached
- 60 African Pastors trained
- 11,000 sermon downloads
- ACL Worship EP: ONE
- Fight Clubs: Gospel-centered Discipleship (10,000 free downloads; 700 sold)
- Music for the City launched
Wow. What a remarkable pouring out of grace in our church. But when I compare my experience of grace with other’s experience of grace, I begin to get discouraged. There are other pastors, planters, and churches with more influence, more depth, and more mission. And the minute I do this is the minute I move from worship to idolatry, from worshipping God to worshipping influence or reputation. Because of this idolatrous tendency, I was blessed by the following words from my new church planting coach and all round godly pastor, Jeff Vanderstelt:
- “Donít be concerned about position or power, the world longs for these things. We donít need them because we are already seated in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”
- “And donít let what is so great about Acts 29 Austin City Life ever be any of us Ė it is Jesus and the way he is loving his church through each of you.”
May you end the year in worship, not idolatry, in enjoying God’s grace not coveting other’s grace. May we not be concerned about position, power, esteem, or influence but rather rest in the abundantly sufficient grace of God in Christ, who accepts us with an incorruptible love, a Christ who is our everlasting righteousness!
We are releasing an upgraded version of our website this week. It will have six boxes on the homepage instead of three. Each box will contain a dynamic click-through blog area, where you can comment, interact, and share on areas such as City Groups, Fight Clubs, and Sermons. Keep your eyes peeled!
P.S. Will release early this week!