If you are new to this blog....

Welcome! The primary purpose of this blog is to explore and encourage around what it means to be winsome and sent into the world for God's glory. If you are new here, the definition of "lighthouse-searchlight" or our missional journey is a good place to start. Come peruse the blog and add me to your RSS feed!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

confluence - for such a time

...at New Wineskins, which attracted me several years ago because of the missional structure and mindset...

Dean Weaver spoke on the opening night about the opportunity before us as outward-focused congregations. He described way God's timing coincided with human history for the geometric spread of the Gospel. In the early church, the Roman road network enabled the church to expand to the known world. At the time of the Reformation, the printing press allowed for Reformation theology and teaching to be spread quickly and thoroughly to the people. And now, there seems to be a great opportunity through the Internet to partner and reach the world with the Good News of Jesus.

I think Dean's analysis was spot on... not that the Gospel will spread because of new technology, but that in God's Sovereignty earthly tools can be sanctified and used mightily for God's work in the world.

I was also struck by the particular way several of these themes (mission, technology, networking) come to confluence in our local setting at Good Shepherd and in Charlotte.

I (with others) have been pursuing a number of ministry networks in and around Good Shepherd. We have defined our own "Jerusalem, Judea/Samaria, ends of the earth" and are trying to partner with other churches in our area for the "Judea ministry."

I also recognize that we support a number of missionaries through Wycliffe, and specifically through the JAARS center (of Wycliffe) in Waxhaw, NC. Further, besides aviation support, JAARS is a technological support base for Wycliffe's work worldwide.

Finally, I admit to my own interest in the Internet for networking, mission, and ministry.

Here's the confluence: could it be that Good Shepherd could help implement and enable a Charlotte-area ministry network for which one major focus would be partnership with JAARS/Wycliffe for a worldwide ministry of carrying the Word of God to unreached people groups, using technology to enhance participation and partnership?

Yes - I think we can! Consider me on it. :)

Monday, October 29, 2007

wine tasting in sacramento

Tonight was the opening worship at the New Wineskins convocation in Sacramento. It was a beautiful time of worship. It's almost 1:00 a.m. EST, so this will be short. Just a few highlights...

1. I appreciated Dean Weaver reaffirming that New Wineskins is about missional networking for the glory of God and not about "staying" or "going"... that's why I'm here... to meet people who want to focus on Kingdom work.

2. I was blessed to meet some web friends in real life... just heard one introduce himself on the row behind me. Very cool.

3. I was "pre-blessed" by a sermon I heard on my iPod on the plane trip out... entitled "10 Shekels and a Shirt". It was rich, but among other things was challenged by the description of liberals and evangelicals both being guilty of humanism. The former for focusing on what we get from God in this life... the latter for focusing on what we get from God in heaven. The preacher argued that both are off-course... it's not about what God can do for us. We are here for God's sake, for His glory. Something to ponder, especially this week in the context of getting about Kingdom-work.

Rest well on the East Coast... know that I will here very shortly!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

stewardship as worship

What is Christian stewardship?

At Good Shepherd, we are interested in doing “good ministry” – particularly that to which we believe God has called us. We are likewise interested in being “good stewards” of money that is given to the church. It is tempting to equate and define stewardship from the “receiving end” and get wrapped up in justifying programs, creating and balancing a budget, and encouraging tithing or sacrificial giving for the sake of the ministries to which we are called as a church.

However, this is getting the cart before the horse, as well-intentioned as it may be. Stewardship is first and foremost an act of personal and corporate WORSHIP, a faith-full response to the being and character of the Triune God we experience in Spirit, Truth, and Christian community.

In scripture, “stewardship” and being a “steward” has to do with serving a higher authority through wise use of that which belongs to the authority (whether God, king, or master). If “the earth and all it contains is the Lord’s” (Psalm 24:1), then all that we are and all that we have belong to God. Our stewardship is not a tax, tithe, token, or charitable gift, but our complete and obedient service to God. That is the definition of worship in the broad sense.

What about tithing? Tithing was part of the Law, intended to “train spiritual children” (Galatians 3:24-26). Tithing is not our expected maximum, it is like training wheels until we learn what it means to submit everything we have to God as an act of worship.

What I am saying? I’m not trying to create a cult where all the members sign over their worldly possessions to me! Rather, I recognize that as long as our stewardship is understood as giving that is tied to a budget and a set of ministries, or even to the concept of a tithe, we have put limits on our worship, just as surely as saying one can only worship with traditional music or King James English.

At Good Shepherd, we have glimpsed the freedom and blessing of worshiping God musically and artistically in Spirit and in Truth, using “every means at our disposal to invite each worshiper into the presence of God” (from the worship philosophy on the back of the bulletin).

Could we discover a similar freedom and expansiveness in terms of our stewardship-worship?

Friday, October 05, 2007

advertising emergence?

I was reading through some older posts on Michael Kruse's site about churches who are beginning "emergent worship" services. He wrote, "I'm not really sure there's such a thing as Emergent Worship." I agree with him (at least this is what that means to me - ha!).

Post-modernism, emergent culture and emergent church, and the generations that supposedly embody these terms do not particularly want to be defined, assigned, and labeled. To do so is one of the particular traits of the modern culture that is being left behind.

Without intending any slight to the church doing emergent worship in Michael's post, or to those in my own area who are being intentionally emergent, it seems to me that being emergent in worship is simply that ... being. Advertising, labeling, and hyping emergent "tricks" doesn't make one emergent.

I don't think anyone in my presbytery would think of my church as an emergent worship church. That's probably because I never use that word (or post-modern) in normal conversation. But I think someone who is being targeted by explicitly 'emergent' services would feel as welcome, included, and HOME, at Good Shepherd as anywhere in our city.

This is not to say I don't read the literature and understand the values and priorities of a post-modern mind (mainly I do 'cause I grew up with it), but like the Gospel, it isn't a program to execute, it is who we are. And if I understand anything about emergent culture, I think the church is going to miss the mark if we lead with a "program especially designed for 20-something emergents." That sounds more like something that would appeal to the father of a 20-something who really wants to get his kid to start going to church again.

I'm not saying that we should keep doing "traditional church" the way we always have; that, too, will miss the mark (has missed it!). In every age and culture, there are aspects of following Jesus that will resonate with the surrounding culture and there are aspects that will be very counter-cultural. We are called to be authentic, obedient, loving, followers of Jesus Christ. And in our obedient following, God shapes the church into a family full of love, grace, accountability, and living out the Gospel. I can't think of how we could be any more effectively emergent than that!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

the "nobody beats on my little brother but me" rule

There is a rule of brotherhood that is seldom spoken aloud, but seems to be nearly universal in it’s acceptance. It is the "Nobody Beats on My Little Brother But Me" rule. In other words, it’s okay for an older brother to tease, pick on, fight with, or otherwise torment his little brother, but if anyone else ever tries it, the older brother turns into the Great Defender of the weak and helpless.

Now I was not one (in my humble opinion) to beat on my little brother, but I will admit that there were times I pushed his buttons and otherwise drove him crazy. But, in keeping with that other seemingly universal rule (the "Little Guys Like to Hang with the Big Guys" rule), it never kept him from spending time with me.

Well, one day Glenn and I were playing Ping-Pong in our basement garage, and one of my friends came over to join us. Chris was a friend of mine from way back, and lived just up the street from us. In later years, it came out that he used to pick on Glenn, but it must have always been when I wasn’t looking. Well, Chris came over and began to play Ping-Pong with us, and after a little while began to tease and taunt Glenn. That soon turned to intentionally beaming Glenn with the Ping-Pong ball at every possible opportunity.

I think I remember leaving it well enough alone… that is, until Chris beamed Glenn real hard right between the eyes. It left a small welt and Glenn crying, which only added to his humiliation. That was enough for me – the rule mentioned earlier kicked in and my "Nobody Picks on My Little Brother but Me" alarms went off.

I’m not real sure why I responded as I did. Perhaps it was because I was basically a non-violent person and had never really been in a fight. Perhaps it was because I wanted to discipline Chris as much as punch his lights out. At any rate, I grabbed Chris and I grabbed a Ping-Pong paddle, and after dragging Chris outside into the grass, I spanked him real good on the bottom with the Ping-Pong paddle. And I told him, "Never, never mess with my little brother!"

Looking back on it all later, I could only laugh at my response. After all, who spanks his friends for picking on their little brother. But, I did what I did – and that’s the story.

There is, at the heart of this crazy "Rule", a deeper principal. That principal is that the bond between brothers is rooted in love and family. There is a connection that says in so many words, "Whatever may be between us, we are family and I love you." At least that describes my relationship with Glenn. I may have made him crazy from time to time, but behind the "Nobody Messes with My Brother" rule and the "Little Guys Hang with the Big Guys" rule was the bond of family – the bond of love. When I saw Glenn being picked on and realized that love was not restraining Chris – that brother bond was not tempering his actions – I rose to Glenn’s defense.

Jesus practiced this brotherhood in a pure way, not even tainted by the tendency to tease or "pick". His relationships were motivated purely by love and the bond of fellowship, so when he related to people, it was for their best and for their benefit.

When Jesus came to the "Sheep Gate Pool" in Jerusalem, he encountered a man who had been an invalid there for 38 years. Jesus responded immediately with love and concern and asked the significant question, "Do you want to get well?" Jesus healed the man… ending the lifestyle he had become accustomed to, introducing something new and probably frightening into the man’s life. Jesus healed the man and sent him away from that place.

There were those who saw the man and did not react so charitably. Those in the temple "picked on" the man – they said it was unlawful to walk around with a mat on the Sabbath. They wanted to know just who had "healed" him on the Sabbath. When Jesus later confronted these people, he came to the man’s defense and claimed the authority of God for the healing. He used the situation as an opportunity to teach and rebuke those in the Temple.

Jesus consistently took on the Pharisees for their misdirection and legalistic warping of the Law of God. Jesus was quick to rebuke and correct this kind of "beating on" God’s people.

I don’t know if the whole Ping-Pong spanking scenario was a picture of the Gospel or not. I do know that deep down I loved my brother and did not want to see him mistreated. And I think of the verse in Proverbs that says "there is a friend closer than a brother." Jesus love for others was of the purest and unconditional kind – he always defended and helped those in need and he expressed his love for humanity in both his life and his teaching.

There were other times that I lost control of my emotions in anger or fear, but this one time at least, I was about my brother’s business. In some way, I hope it was a dim reflection of one who was constantly about his Father’s business.

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