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!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

something more than training?

So this past Sunday was "Youth Mission Sunday" at our church. We do it every year: the middle and high school youth who participated in summer mission trips share their experiences with the congregation. It is uplifting and encouraging - all these young people doing the Lord's work. :)

In recent years, these short-term mission trips have come under thoughtful critique (see Toxic Charity and When Helping Hurts) (or if that didn't get your attention), and we have both appreciated and been responsive to the potential downsides while continuing to see benefit from getting our kids outside their comfort zones and community. While on our high school trip, our youth director had a meaningful heart-to-heart with the director of the mission organization about some of these critiques and we were pleased at his receptivity as an organizer.

This past Sunday I had prepared a sermon on Romans 12:1-2 ("offer yourself as living sacrifices... do not be conformed to the world, but transformed..."). Our congregation is waking up to the fact that church is not something we come to but something we are. We are working to see faith not as something (only) expressed within the church walls on Sunday morning, but lived out in all of life throughout the week. But here was the fresh revelation to me as that topic and text were set in the midst of youth mission Sunday: Neither is the "mission trip" a destination faith event.

As with Sunday morning church, there also are carefully attentive leaders, safe boundaries and borders, planned activities, all stuff that adds up to something more resembling a "training camp" than an end in itself (or worse, a spiritual diversion).

I was and am careful to note that more than training happens during community worship, but still:

What if our Sunday morning gathering, our summer missions, our camps and retreats could be seen not as destination events, but a training/equipping ground for lived ministry and mission: being the church in the world?
You can read or hear more about that here: "Life as Worship".

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

the world as our campus

I met this afternoon with a friend who is planting a church (with ECO, a new Presbyterian branch). In the course of conversation we talked about the old models of build-it-and-they-will-come church planting that no longer seem to work, and how the only "building" he was looking for was a place to rent a few hours a week for corporate worship. The rest of the time, he hoped to be out gathering where people live, work, exercise, and recreate. The pieces of that conversation caused this thought to come together in my mind...

Campus ministries have this thing figured out already. With the exception (perhaps) of the Baptist Student Association having a 'house' on campus, most of the groups I am familiar with (InterVarsity, Campus Crusade, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Campus Outreach, RUF, etc...) do NOT. They do rent or reserve a meeting space for an hour or two each week for some kind of large-group gathering (worship, preaching, teaching, etc...), but most of their interaction is on-campus, in the coffee shop, one-on-one, in small groups, or in service opportunities together. Whether there are staff or student leaders, the organization exists "out there" in and among the campus life and activities.

I think the organized/traditional church could learn something valuable from this model. Not that we need to sell all our buildings, but we are so building-focused that even when we do "outreach" it is so often INSIDE our buildings!

What if we (the church... who are the people, not the building) could see the community and world around us as our "campus" - the place where we live and move in faith. It is important to gather as the faith community, but there is too often a disconnect between those gatherings and the rest of life. With the world as our campus, we would have to re-orient our language, our vision, our focus, and our programming. We might just find the church unleashed in a significant way as we are called out into the world God loves.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

summer hiatus (over)

I've been traveling quite a bit this summer, so haven't blogged here since May. I did write a piece for the NEXTchurch folks that went up this morning (so check that out!). It gives a lived-out example of the main topics in this blog, particularly the "What is the Church" series below. And here are some other topics/posts if you are just getting your feet wet with Lighthouse/Searchlight Church:

  • What is the Church? - a series on being the church in the world (unpacks the NEXT post a bit); and check HERE for some specific narratives about how the "Wednesday Night Experiment" worked in our local setting
  • Presbytery Vision - a reflection on how God is moving in my local presbytery (Charlotte)
  • Bluegrass Sunday - a good intersection of contemporary music, worship, and multi-church teamwork; and a video! - yes, it was my Mumford debut. 
And then there is always the welcome/favorites page with some key posts in my favorite topics over the past few years. Hope you'll check things out and stay a while!

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