Category Archives: missional communities

I Am Dave Ferguson!

Exponential Conference

I’m here at Exponential 2011 in Orlando, FL.  Our New Life team is volunteering with a ton of cool stuff.  We’re getting to see some pretty cool behind the scenes stuff at the coolest church planters conference on the planet (someone please pass that tid bit along to Todd Wilson for me).  As we were preparing to volunteer today, we were going through some training.  Our fearless leader stood up and inspired us to volunteer like it was our last day on earth.  He was very excited and it was easy to get excited along with him.  I wanted to share a little of what he said.  If you’re a volunteer, apply what was said to your particular area of service.

In order to give this conference the “Wow” experience it deserves, volunteers have to own it like it’s their own.  Our volunteer leader helped us with that.  He told the story of Exponential and how it was the brainchild of so many great people.  One of which he mentioned specifically was Dave Ferguson.

Dave Ferguson

Mr. Dave Ferguson

You are Dave Ferguson…

…he said.  So I left and pretended to be Dave Ferguson today.  That was fun.

The point was well taken though.  If we want this conference to be as successful as it can be, we need to be as excited about it as Dave.  We need to pretend we have invested as much in it as Dave has (and many others, I’m just using Dave because that was the name that was thrown out there today).  I was inspired to, “Be Like Dave.”  He’s cooler than Mike anyway.

Then our leader said, “Every moment is your moment of truth.”  I loved that.  I think that is a great, practical statement that all volunteers in any capacity can grab onto and believe in.  Each moment is the only time you will have that moment.  Your only moment to make a first impression.  Your only moment to make the best impression for Christ that you can.  Every moment is your moment of truth.  I’ll be taking this one home to the volunteers at my Haymarket Campus.

If you are a volunteer at a church (or anywhere else for that matter), I want to encourage you.

Thank you so much for all you do.

I apologize for not telling you as often as I should.

I want to encourage you to view your role as a moment of truth.  Put yourself in the shoes of “the boss” for a minute.  Think about how much they invest in whatever it is you are doing.  You are that person.  Care for it as deeply as they do.  Give it your all.  Especially if you are volunteering in a ministry.  There’s nothing more important than the work you are doing.  View every moment as your moment of truth.  It is your moment to make a huge impact on someone’s life and ultimately for the Kingdom of God.

Do you volunteer?

What do you do?

And, thank you.  Thank you so much for volunteering!

Tomorrow, I’ll be Dave Ferguson again.  Not a bad looking guy I guess.  It could be worse.  I could be….whoa!  About got myself in trouble there.

Whirlwind!

Starting last Monday, pretty much everything is a blur.  My week was insane.  Literally, at moments I thought I was going to go crazy.

I’m happy to say, I’m still alive.

I was able to get an awesome deal on a new (to me) trailer and cabinets for our church.  We are mobile, so everything has to go in a trailer.  We are making moves toward a one trailer system.  The day we picked it up, was insane.  Everything from driving the opposite direction looking for a trailer, to reading a last minute ad in a flyer where we ultimately bought a trailer.  Emails from out of the blue.  Crazy cool conversations at times.  Then, topped off with an awesome Sunday morning with a near record attendance for our campus (on a Sunday not a holiday).  We are also connecting with a couple, area communities to help with their Easter events.  We are bringing moon bounces, sno-cones, popcorn, ice cream and face painting, all for FREE.  It’s a great way to plug in to area communities and their events.Ashton James

Stepping away from church talk, I volunteered to manage my son’s, 6-7 year old, coach pitch, little league team.  For those of you who are getting to know me on this little blog o’mine, I don’t really have anything to do with baseball.  Heck, I don’t even have a favorite team.  I don’t watch baseball.  I don’t really play it.  Now, I’m coaching it in one of the most competitive areas of the country.  Sheesh!

Beyond the lack of confidence since I know nothing about baseball, I’m super excited to spend time with my son.  I’m also really looking forward to meeting other families in the area.  Hopefully, God will use that to lead to some cool conversations.

It’s amazing how God opens doors through the most unlikely scenarios (me and baseball) for ministry.  I truly am excited to see where this might lead.

In other news, I’m really wanting to get back on Facebook.  My wife is posting awesome pictures online and I desperately want to check those out.  If you haven’t checked out her amazing photography, you should.  Misty Rodda Photography.

Time to relax for the rest of my Sunday evening.  I think I’ll run and grab a Dr. Pepper from somewhere.  Yeah, that sounds good.

Missional Doesn’t Equal “New!”

I started a discussion on missional communities last week.  Mostly, I just wanted to take time to share some of my thoughts and ideas on them.  Missional communities (MC) were first experimented with in the late 1980’s in London.  The idea was to create groups of 30-50 who were aligned around a common mission.  That mission could be feeding the hungry in a particular area of town.  That mission could be to clothe the people who had very little.  It could be whatever they believed God was calling them to do.  As this idea spread around Europe, it wasn’t until the early 2000’s that the idea finally came to the States.  Once here, a few people have been leading the way in “re”implementing this “new” idea.

London at NightAt the beginning of the year, I began a reading plan on YouVersion to read through the Bible in a year.  I chose the chronological reading plan because I wanted to be able to read the Bible more like a story, with everything in order as it happened.  I began to read and I came to the book of Exodus.  I have started Exodus before.  It’s not my favorite book.  The first twenty chapters or so are pretty cool.  Lots of action, you could even make a movie out of it.  Someone should do that.  But after that, it starts to get a little boring.  So I was a little nervous about being able to get all the way through without faltering.  What I found was incredible.  As I prayed through the “boring parts,” God began to show me something that I believe is incredible.  MC’s are not a “new” idea.

Exodus 35:29 (NLT) – “So the people of Israel—every man and woman who was eager to help in the work the Lord had given them through Moses—brought their gifts and gave them freely to the Lord.

This was an entire community of people, focusing on an area in which they had a passion and were gifted and they used it to complete a work the Lord had shown them through their visionary leader, Moses.  They not only did the work, but they “gave them free to the Lord.”  From early on, it seems to me that God has had this idea.  MC’s are not new, they are a throwback.  They are not something to be afraid of, they are God’s plan.  A MC gives the average, ordinary, everyday person an opportunity to find fulfillment by using their gifts and talents freely for the Lord.  To use the talents they have been given to follow God in the mission of sharing the love of Jesus with everyone they encounter.  Being a MC to me is simply a group of people living their lives as missionaries.  It is saying, “God has placed me where I am, for a reason.  And rather than waste the opportunity, I am going to use all of my time, talents and resources to make a difference for God right where I am.  I don’t have to live in a foreign country to be a missionary.  I’m a missionary right here.  And I’m going to join with others who feel the same way and I’m going to help make a difference right where I am.

I’m going to bring my gifts and I’m going to freely give them to God.

Join the discussion.

I want to hear your thoughts.

What do you think about MC’s?

What needs are right in your backyard that you can see as a mission field?

Is it time to freely give yourself to God by using your gifts and talents to be a part of the solution for that need?

In what ways can you see this concept playing out in everyday life?

Are MC’s a new idea?  Am I just crazy?  (I will be the first to admit that God doesn’t call this group in Exodus 35 a “missional community.”  Based on the way they are structured today, it seems to me that God has been trying to use people as “missionaries” since gifts and talents were first given to them.)

Can’t wait to hear from you.

Judged!

What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise.  So if I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God’s command is necessary.  But I need something more!  For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help!  I realize that I don’t have what it takes.  I can will it, but I can’t do it.  I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway.  My decisions, such as they are, don’t results in actions.  Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.  It happens so regularly that it’s predictable.  The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up.  I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight.  Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.  I’ve tried everything and nothing helps.  I’m at the end of my rope.  Is there no one who can do anything for me?  Isn’t that the real question?  the answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does.  He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different…here’s a word that you can take to heart and depend on: Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.  I’m proof – public sinner number one – of someone who could never have made it apart from sheer mercy.  And now he shows me off – evidence of his endless patience – to those who are right on the edge of trusting him forever.

-the Apostle Paul (Romans 7:15-25; 1 Timothy 1:15, 16 MSG)

Missional Living!

Ephesians 4:11-15 says…

Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers.  Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.  This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.  Then we will no longer be immature like children.  We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching.  We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth.  Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.  *emphasis mine

There are so many applications to this passage it seems.  There are directives to those who lead the church.  People in positions of leadership who shepherd God’s people.  But there is an even greater emphasis here.  One that lies at the heart of an issue I seem to continually wrestle with.  There is a huge emphasis in this passage not on the leaders of the church, but on every person who calls themselves a follower of Christ, a Christian.

What we know from this passage is that Christianity is not a spectator sport.  Over the last 2000 years or so, the church has done a really good job at making church a spectator sport.  “Sit in our pews.  Listen to what we say.  Do as your told.  Follow these rules.  Preacher knows all the answers.  You are dumb.  You can’t speak to God, I’ll do that.  Come to our potluck dinner.  We’ll make it all happen for you.”  And it seems to me that we have done a great job at creating spectators, fans, those who simply watch the show but don’t actually take part in making it happen.

That is changing.  Winds of change are beginning to blow in the world.  Everyday people, normal, ordinary followers of Christ are starting to make a difference.  They are living different.  They have a different mindset.  They aren’t sitting idly by and letting someone else use their gifts and talents, they are actively pursuing God’s mission and purpose for their life.  They are living life on mission.  They are living, well, like missionaries.

Take a look around at the community you live in.  What are some of the needs you see?

Is there a homeless shelter nearby?

What is the percentage of homelessness in your area?

Are there hungry families?

What percentage of families live below the poverty line?

How many people are struggling just to pay for groceries?

Are there food banks nearby working hard to offer a simple meal?

What about abused moms?

Are teens in your neighborhood struggling?

I wonder, what would Jesus’ office look like if he were here, doing ministry today.  I wonder if he would have the corner office with a nice window and a good view of the city.  Maybe he would have a comfortable couch with a few plants and a picture of his mom and dad on his desk.  He would be furiously typing out the “Sermon on the Mount – Part 2” on his MacBook Air.  His iPhone would be buzzing constantly with emails and demands from people.

But it doesn’t take long to notice something different in the life of Jesus.  Let’s just say, you have to be pretty close to a prostitute for her to pour perfume all over your feet, to wipe you down with her hair and to cry on your shoulder.  You have to be pretty close to the traitor to share a meal with him or to receive a kiss on the cheek.  There isn’t much room in his life for an office space when there are thousands of people feed.

In every aspect of the word, Jesus lived as a missionary in the world.  He was a missionary to mankind.  And in every aspect of the word, I can’t grow to be like Christ until I am doing the same thing.  I can’t live like a missionary in my world when I don’t even have “non-Christian” friends in my life.  It’s hard to be like Jesus when I don’t share a meal with people who don’t share my values.  It’s hard to be like Christ when I don’t rub elbows with anyone who doesn’t think, feel, believe and look like me.  When it comes to being like Christ, I have a long way to go.  But it starts with a belief, a belief that translates into action.  It’s the belief that I am a missionary right where I am.  I am not here to spectate and watch the world go by, I am here with a purpose and mission to help make a difference and to share Jesus with people.

So what about you?

How would you feel if I told you that you were more than “just a Christian,” but that you were a missionary for Christ right where you are?

Would that change the way you view your world?  Would that change how you act toward people?  Would that change who and how you interact with people?

Over the next few weeks, I will probably talk about this topic a lot more.  I have a lot of thoughts on my mind about this very issue.

Like Jesus, 200 Meters at a Time!

Starting LineI grabbed my running gear and headed to the track at Bull Run Middle School.  Two days a week I run with a couple other men from our campus.  Today we were going light, just to loosen up our legs.  Flag football is beginning to take its toll on my old body.  We decide we’re going to run 8 X 200.  In lamen’s terms, we decided to run 200 meters, 8 times.  I enjoy Tuesday and Thursday afternoons because I get to work on keeping my body in shape with two other men who have the same goal.

But we don’t run, just to run.  This is also our group time.  For those familiar with Christianese, you know what I’m talking about.  For those who might not be as familiar with weird, Christian lingo, let me explain what I’m talking about.  These two guys and I have decided to journey through life together.  We don’t force the issue, but when things come up, we are there for each other.  We eat dinner, work out, play football and go to church, together.  It’s an awesome group.

We line up at the start line on the track.  Our “coach” sets his watch and says, “Go.”  The three of us take off at about a 75% pace.  We get done with the first 200 meters and we try to catch our breath.  That’s easier for one of us, but I refuse to say which one.  I take the thirty second break we are enjoying to drop a question that has been consuming me for a couple of weeks now.  In between semi-deep breaths I manage to squeak out, “Question of the day.  What does it look like practically, everyday, to live and be like Jesus?”

Ephesians 4:12, 13 (MSG) – “to train Christ’s followers….until we’re all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God’s Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ.

Thirty seconds are already up.  How is that possible?  We just started our break, right?  We’ll have to answer after the second, 200 meter leg.  “Go.”

Second leg is over, time for a thirty second break.  In between deep breaths a thought is thrown out.  “I don’t know man.  That’s hard.”  I respond with another question, “Yes, it is.  More specifically, what does it look like for me to be like Jesus in my marriage?  Or as a father?”  Thirty seconds is up.  I think our coach is cutting us off too soon.  I’m still panting.  “Go.”  And the third, 200 meter leg, is over.  Only five more to go.

In between each 200 meter leg and the sounds of deep breathing, the conversation continues.  As the conversation gets deeper, so does the sun.  It begins to go down behind the tree line and pretty soon, it’s gone.  By the eighth 200 meter leg, it’s mostly dark outside with a few school lights and the stars in the sky acting as guides to our feet on the track.  “Go.”  The last 200 meter sprint begins.  Before long, it is over.  All we can hear is the sound of deep breaths.  Our breathe showing up in the cold air as we strain to take in more oxygen.  The walk back to our bags seems much bigger now than it did before we began.  Did someone move our bags?  I don’t remember this walk being this hard.

Hebrews 12:1 (NLT) – “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.”

Our conversation continues, “Well, when I read about Jesus, He seems so selfless.  He didn’t have any self-gratification in His life at all.  And I love my toys.  So maybe if I want to be more like Jesus I need to be more selfless with my stuff.”

“True.  That’s a great point.”

It’s suggested at this point that we stretch out while we talk.  We’re old and have to do that now.

Wedding Rings“What about our marriages?”

“Well, I guess if I’m going to be like Jesus, I should do things for my wife even though I know I won’t get anything in return.”

“No doubt.  That’s a tough one.”

“Sometimes I come home from a long day of work and I’m tired.  I just want dinner, a warm shower and to go to bed, but I know I need to spend time with my kids.  They need me too.  It’s hard to be selfless like Jesus when I’m so tired.  I have a lot of work to do by giving my kids the time they need.”

The practical challenges of being like Jesus begin to manifest themselves to us.  I will speak for the group and say that none of us are “bible scholars.”  We aren’t theologians or philosophers.  We are three guys, trying to understand how to be like Jesus in the 21st century.  And we are going to do that by doing life together and supporting each other in that effort.

“And just to throw this one out there; what does it look like to be like Jesus at play?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, on the track or playing football.  How do we be like Jesus there?”

“Oh man.  You might be going too far tonight.  We should tackle that next week.  I’m still stuck on how to be like Jesus in my marriage.”

“And we haven’t even begun to tackle the thought life yet.”

“Oh man.  One thing at a time.”

Three guys, enjoying life and trying to be more like Christ.  I’m willing to place money on one bet.  My bet is this; had I come into these men’s lives and said, “Hey, we’re going to be like Jesus and this is the program by which we’re going to do it,” they wouldn’t have joined me.  The place we are at, as we strive to be more like Jesus, developed out of a relationship strictly born out of where we already were in life.

The conversation moved to one man asking how he could be a better example to his sister.  He wants her to come to church so bad.  How could he effectively share Jesus with her and how his life had been changed by Jesus?  Want to know what I heard, “How can I be an evangelist for Christ?”

The other man in our group is considering going into full-time ministry.  I don’t know what’s going to happen with that situation, but I do know it wouldn’t have happened had we overlooked the importance of simply doing life together.  Want to know what I hear in his story, “I want to make an eternal impact for Christ.”

And in our group…

…there are no lectures.

…there are no judgments.

…there is no condemnation.

Just three men, trying to be more like Jesus.

Jesus reached out to His disciples where they were.  On a boat fishing.  Collecting taxes.  Walking down the road.  I wonder if He were here today, if He would walk onto a track and say to three, crazy men, “Come, follow me.”

Changed lives happen in the course of everyday relationships.

Changed lives happen when Jesus Christ is the foundation of who we are.

Changed lives happened on a boat in the Sea of Galilee.

Changed lives happen on a track in North Virginia.

Mark 1:16, 17 (NLT) – “One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and his brother Andrew throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living.  Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow Me.

How are you meeting people where they are?  Who are you coming alongside to join on this spiritual journey?  Who are you challenging to become more like Jesus?  And in the process, how are you becoming more like Christ?

Blog Action Day 2010

I sat down to have dinner last night with my kids.  My wife was hanging out with some girlfriends.  I was preparing to make some chicken nuggets and mac ‘n cheese.  Healthy, I know.  I grabbed a pot from the cabinet, walked to the sink and turned on the faucet.  Clean water poured into the pot.  I started boiling it for the noodles.  We sat down to eat and we were all thirsty.  I grabbed four cups from the cupboard, placed some ice cubes (frozen, clean water) in the cups and filled them with clean drinking water from our sink.  We enjoyed our nutritious meal and moved on with our evening.  Most of the dishes were taken to the sink by my children.  They’re good, I know.  I turned on some hot water at our sink to rinse the plates.  Then I filled our dishwasher with the dirty dishes.  This is a machine that will spit out, clean water, at a scalding hot temperature to clean your dishes for you.  Before long it was dark and time for bed.  Upstairs we went.  Clothes were stripped all over the floor and children were making their way to the bathroom.  Clean water flowed to give my children showers.  Each put on their pajamas and stood by the sink.  They turned on the water and brushed their teeth in clean water.  If I haven’t made my point clear, there is no shortage of clean water in our house.

My guess is there’s no shortage of clean water in your house either.

Hopefully, you are feeling somewhat uneasy about where I’m going with this.  And you should feel uneasy about it.  Want to know why?  Because while you’re going through water like there’s no tomorrow, roughly 38,000 children under the age of 5, die every week because they don’t have clean water.

There, now you know.  You don’t have an excuse anymore.  You can’t hide behind the story that you didn’t know that was going on.  You can’t pretend the issue doesn’t exist.  You can’t look at your own five year old without seeing the face of a child who will not make it through tonight because they simply don’t have clean water.

When Jesus walked on the earth, he shared an illustration about the end of time.  All of humanity will stand before God, the Creator of humanity.  And while we stand there, Jesus will talk to us.  He will say to some, “Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world.  For I was hungry, and you fed Me. I was thirsty, and you gave Me a drink” (Matthew 25:34, 35 NLT).  I don’t claim to be a scholar, but it seems that God places a pretty high priority on giving water to people who are thirsty.

But it isn’t just water that so many people need.  It is our highest priority on earth to love and serve people the way Jesus did.  And often times this comes in the form of a cup of water.  Yet this very opportunity presented itself to Jesus as well.  In John 4 Jesus met a woman who was getting water from a well.  But Jesus knew more about her than she realized.  Her true need went beyond the water.  It went into need something much deeper.  Water was good, but she needed a Savior.  Jesus shared with her some teachings about this very idea.  And it was during this conversation that Jesus identified Himself as living water.

Yes, people need water!

Yes, it is our responsibility to provide it!

Even more, it is this generation’s great burden!

But ultimately, humanity needs a Savior.  The Savior we need is the One who not only taught us to love and serve people, but will also ask us about how we did it when we meet Him some day.

As the Bible is closing out in the book of Revelation, we are given a beautiful scene of heaven.  And in Revelation 22:17 we read these words, “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’  Let anyone who hears this say, ‘Come.’  Let anyone who is thirsty come.  Let anyone who desires drink freely from the water of life.”

Are you thirsty?

Are you giving a cup of water in the name of Jesus?

Because the One who is faithful (Jesus) to all these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.”  And we say, “Come.  Lord Jesus, come.”

So, what are you waiting for?  Get out there and help quench someone’s thirst.

For more information on Blog Action Day, please visit their website.  Have questions about Jesus?  I would love to hear from you.

Blog Action Day 2010

Feeding The Hungry!

Jesus

It was an awesome night.  And by awesome, I mean one of those really cool God moments where people come together, using up their own personal time to do something for someone else.  I have to say, I am so excited to be working with the Haymarket Campus at New Life Christian Church.  I saw two life groups come together tonight to prepare a ministry we call, “Grab Your Groceries,” for the upcoming school year.  Let me give you a few more details.

New Life is a church with three campi (our word for multiple campuses).  All three campi collected non-perishable food items for Grab Your Groceries (GYG), which is a ministry of Passion 4 Community here at New Life.  This is how GYG works…

We are connected with social workers through the school systems in our area.  Through them we are able to reach the families who need help the most.  Each school has a representative and that person picks up boxes full of grocery relief for families.  They take the groceries to the schools and the schools pass along the groceries to those most in need.  It is one of my favorite things about New Life.

After collecting food from three campi across the New Life landscape, we have the shelves completely stocked and ready for the beginning of the school year.  It is so cool to watch this come together.  Two life groups tonight stuck around to unpack and stock the shelves for GYG.  In two days, more life groups will be back to prepare the groceries to be taken to the schools by packing them up into boxes.

I stood there tonight, in the pantry, with two life groups and we prayed for the food.  We prayed for the families that would be receiving the food throughout the school year and we prayed for the children who would be able to eat because of it.  It was truly one of those great moments.  I am in awe when I see people living for someone else.  I love to see people giving of their time and energy to make someone else’s life better.

Then to celebrate, we hit Foster’s Grille.  The ladies and I sat around a table, drank some soda, some had awesome burgers and we just talked.  It was a ton of fun and a great way to end the evening.  The ladies were so fun I’m thinking about joining their life group.  Wonder if that would fly?

So, thank you.

Thank you to the volunteers at New Life who don’t think church is about what they can consume, but realize it’s about what they can do for others.

Thank you to those who were there to help make it happen.

Thank you to our GYG Coordinator, Jodi N., who has taken this ministry to a whole new level.  She is awesome!

Thank you to our GYG volunteers who deliver food to the schools and who are literally the hands and feet of Jesus.

Thank you to New Life for helping create the environment where something like this can happen.

And most of all, thank  you to God who allows us to be a part of His work.

Proverbs 31:8, 9 – “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed.  Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice.”

Matthew 25:37, 40 – “Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you?  Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.”

Tourist Destinations!

St Martin's Church, Exminster

Church of St. Martin

Our family has gone on a few vacations together.  For the most part, we don’t get too far from home, but we do enjoy getting out of town every now and then.  Have you ever noticed the types of places we plan to go for vacation?  They’re usually tropical, warm destinations.  Disney World.  Disney Land.  Sea World.  Bahamas.  Jamaica.  A cruise.  The beach.  Depending on your vacation, you will look for places to tour.  You might be a family that likes to walk around a historical museum or location.  Seeing a statue that was built in memory of someone can be a lot of fun.  We plan to go somewhere that we can tour and see things that we can’t see at home.

Want to know what one of the tourist stops in the United Kingdom is?  A church like this one near Exminster in Great Britain.  It is the Church of St. Martin and it dates back to the 14th Century.  You can even go online here and research much of the data on the church.  For instance, the history tells us about the Parish registers, dating back to 1562.  They even have published indexes covering baptisms, weddings, burials and christenings.

As our family was driving through one small town in Missouri, we stopped at a little park to have a picnic lunch.  Vacations on a budget is how we roll.  We sat eating our lunch and noticed a cute little building on the park grounds.  It sure looked like a church.  A really old church.  My wife wanted some pictures before we left town.  We started to walk around the building and we saw a sign in the front.  It was the town museum, formerly a church.  It had been remade to show off town history along with much of the history of the church.  It didn’t date back to 1562, but it was still a very old church building.

In terms of “religion,” the western world is following suit with much of that of Europe.  As Europe has moved away from Christianity, much of America is doing the same.  We could answer the question, “Are you a Christian” with the answer, “Yes,” while at the same time answering the question, “Do you believe Jesus is the Son of God” with the answer, “No.”  Simply stated, the church in America is dying.  More churches die per year than we replace with new churches.  According to one article I read, we need to plant 2900 more churches a year just to keep up with the population growth.

Let me say it this way, America has decided it no longer needs the church.  The church is no longer the center for spiritual needs to be met.  As Europe left the church behind, America is following close behind.

A very sad possibility is ahead of us.  That possibility is that churches could feasibly become tourist locations in America.

I for one, am not ready to concede.  I for one, am not ready to turn our churches over to the tourist industry.  The question is, how far are we willing to go to stop the bleeding?

How much are we willing to sacrifice to make the church of God thrive again?

Are we willing to engage the culture in new and risky ways?

I would like to share more on that question in a future post.  In the meantime, what are some of your thoughts?

How is your church engaging the culture around you in fresh ways?

What are some of your ideas for engaging the culture so that we don’t become a tourist attraction in America?

What do you think some of the key contributing factors are to this decline in the church in America?

Who’s Building The House?

One of the things I have been praying about recently is that God would show me what He wants to do with His church.  In my specific case, His campus.  My prayer has been simple; “God, who do you want us to be?  What do You want us to accomplish?  What can we do to bring You glory?”Traditional Church Building

As I was doing some reading and studying to try and prepare myself for what God might say, I found my way to 2 Samuel 7.  This was a big deal to me because for so long, I have been making the same mistake as David.  Prior to verse 5, David makes an assumption that he will be the one to build God a big, beautiful house.  He assumes that his plan is right and that God will bless it.  In fact, he was so confident, he told the prophet of God, Nathan, about his plan.  David has decided that because he lives in such a beautiful palace, there’s no reason why God should dwell in a tent.  He wants to build God’s house.

So often I have prayed that way.  Have you?  I have prayed, “God, bless what I’m doing.  We’re doing ‘this’ ministry, bless it.  Make it work for You.  I’ve read the demographics.  I’ve done the research.  I’ve prepped the team.  Please bless our efforts, so that You get the glory.”

We make the same mistake that David made.  He wanted God to bless his plans with the ulterior motive of bringing God glory.  He justified making his own plans by assuming God wanted his plan.  The church as a whole is in the middle of something similar.  Should we be attractional (let’s do a bunch of big events)?  Should we be missional (let’s have church in a coffee house)?  Can attractional and missional be blended?  Maybe we should be more traditional?  Maybe we should start house churches?  The internet and technology are there.  Let’s launch an internet church.  Or should we do video church?  So many questions, so little time.  So many “houses” to build.

Starbucks SpiritualityI believe those questions must be answered.  I believe those questions are legit and shouldn’t be ignored.

Here’s where I believe we get hung up.  2 Samuel 7:5 says, “Go and tell my servant David, `This is what the Lord has declared: Are you the one to build a house for me to live in?'”  In other words, we often think we are the ones with the master plan.  We read the books, go to the conferences and even wear the right clothes.  We begin to believe that we have the plan.  We will build God’s house.  We will make His name great.  He will bless our efforts.

That’s when we must hear the voice of God saying to us, “Are you really the one to build a house for me?”  God says, I have this planned out.  I know what I want my house to look like.  And I even know who I want to build the thing.  Our mistake is not that we work hard for God, our mistake is that we look to the wrong source for the plan.

How much different would church be if every single follower of Christ and church leader, went to God to find out what God wanted?

What if we asked God His opinion before we start to build?

How much greater would the effectiveness of the church be if “we” weren’t building God’s house, but we were allowing God to do the building?

How much stronger would the church be if church leaders and pastors were humbling themselves under the hand of God?  Fasting and praying for His lead?  Waiting on God to make the first move?  How much stronger would we be?

The question I want to ask you is this, “Who’s building the house?”

Are you building and hoping God blesses your plans?

Or are you allowing God to lead the way and working where He blesses.

Thoughts?

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