As some of you may know (and for those of you who don’t, please take this as my apologetic catch-up on all things related to the Gensheers and ministry update), we will be joining a church plant in progress as the new Lead Pastor, starting June 1, 2014 in Mansfield, TX. You can read about it here in its entirety.
One question I get with plenty regularity is, “Why plant more churches? I mean, don’t we have enough, especially in the Bible Belt?”
I typically respond with a stat that shows maybe the Bible Belt, especially where we’re going in the greater Fort Worth part of the DFW metroplex, is not as “Christian” as we think. In 2010, only 54% of the nearly 1.8 million people living in Tarrant County espoused any religious affiliation whatsoever. In 2012, that number dropped to 52%. That’s just a little more than half, of almost 2 million people, who generally care enough about religion (of any kind, mind you) to respond on a survey asking about such things. The overwhelming worldview of Fort Worth is one that is largely self-centered – whatever works for me, myself, and I, suffices.
But here’s another great response from Tim Keller in his book Center Church on that question.
“Studies and anecdotal evidence indicate that if there is one church per ten thousand residents, approximately 1 percent of the population will be churchgoers. If this ratio goes to one church per one thousand residents, some 15 to 20 percent of the city’s population goes to church. If the number goes to one per five hundred residents, the number may approach 40 percent or more. The relationship of the number of churches to churchgoing people is exponential, not linear”. – Tim Keller, Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City (p. 362).
To get Keller’s book, Center Church, click here.
“Christian practice in matters of spiritual formation goes badly astray when it attempts to construct or organize ways of spirituality apart from the ordinariness of life. And there is nothing more ordinary than a meal. Abstract principles — the mainstay of so much of what is provided for us in contemporary church culture — do not originate in the biblical revelation…Breakfast and supper. Fish and bread. Their home in Emmaus and the beach in Galilee. These provide the conditions and materials for formation-by-resurrection.” – Eugene Peterson, Living the Resurrection (72)
Sometimes you just come across a great thought, or quote, and you realize why you’ve been reading that book for as long as you have. We’re all that way. We’re not affected by books as much as we are statements, or as John Piper might say, sentences.
Today, as I was reading a few verses for my personal devotional life and worship, I came across this note in the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible while reading Ephesians 6:1-4. It had that effect of both encouraging and challenging me to live out the implications of the Gospel in my mundane, everyday life. Here it is:
“There is no area of life too big or too mundane that the person and work of Christ cannot sanctify and empower it. The Christian gospel is not an ethereal formula unrelated to daily living. The gospel informs and transforms all of life.” – ESV Gospel Transformation Bible, on Ephesians 6:1-9
Friends, today, how will you let the gospel inform your experiences?
When you hit your highs of landing that deal, signing that contract, moving the ball down the court that one next step, seeing your kids treat each other with love and compassion?
Or when you hit your lows, and that client cancels their subscription, the contract goes back for review, you take two steps back in your business, your dryer decides to quit and you find yourself playing sibling referee in the never ending cage-fighting grudge match that is your kids’ interaction with each other?
Will you look to yourself and say, “I did this,” – for good and for bad, and take all the praise or the blame, whatever the case may be?
Will you look at your surrounding and say, “How can this be, why is this happening to me?” – for good or for bad, and resign yourself to living in a life without purpose, meaning or significance, just a mere collision of unintentional accidents?
Or will you look at who Jesus is and what He’s done – the perfect Son of God, who gave up perfection in the happy land of the Trinity to come seek, find and redeem you and me both by living the life we should have lived (but didn’t), and die the death we should have died (but now, we don’t have to!)?
Will you choose to look to Him who is orchestrating all events, circumstances and our very lives to the glorious crescendo of “all things new”? (cf. Revelation 21:5)
Which will it be?
Because only one is truly capable of transforming not just your perspective, but the way you live your life, deal with criticism, setbacks and negative circumstances, as well as praise, honor and forward momentum.
When your perspective is informed by the Gospel, you are able to take the pressure off of your performance (but not your responsibility to live your life in God-honoring, Christ-exalting, Spirit-enabled ways), and instead, focus on the One who comes to redeem and renew all things to Himself.
A gospel-centered way of looking at life is more informed by what Jesus has done and is doing than what I could have or should have done!
Just saw two great books incorporating the Gospel and Marriage.
At the heart of both of them is the understanding that “I” am not the central orbiting reality of neither my life, nor my marriage. Once that concept sinks in, I can then reorient everything in my life and marriage around God – who He is and what He’s done (the gospel) – and discover more resources for forgiveness, patience, empathy and ultimately joy, than I could ever muster up on my own.
Both of these books have been an encouragement and challenge to me, and as is my usual habit, I like to share all good things with others. If you don’t have them, check them out.
This past week, my wife and I spent our time in Orlando, FL at the Global Church Advancement conference (go #GCA2014). I plan to publish my thoughts on the conference as a whole later, but for now, I wanted to share what I thought was one of the highlights.
I went down a day early for the opening workshop on Discipleship led by Randy Pope of Perimeter Church in Atlanta, GA. I’ve met Randy years ago through my involvement with Campus Outreach. I had a sense of what to expect with this workshop having that background and some familiarity with Randy’s ministry at Perimeter.
But I wasn’t quite prepared for this statement he made. At some point in the Q&A time, he said, “If I had to go back in my ministry, and only pick between Preaching to the masses, or Discipling the few in life-on-life missional discipleship, I would pick life on life every time.”
I know this. Or rather, I should say, I knew this.
If you look at the impact over a longer time one could have by investing into a few who then do the same with others, the outcomes are astounding. Plus, it seems to be Jesus’ preferred way of doing ministry.
He wasn’t as concerned with speaking venues, podcasting sermons, marketing and promoting teaching series’. Sure he spoke to the masses, and taught as One with authority. Sure he even went to the mountaintops where his voice could project and carry.
He did these things, but they don’t seem to be the focus.
Instead, He lived life with a few, who would later turn the world upside down.
This isn’t sexy. This doesn’t make headlines. This doesn’t get your name or brand out there.
But it is highly impactful to the world for spreading the gospel and seeing the change of heart/lives that come with it.
I needed that. My soul needed that. As I prepare to go into a season of planting a church, I know my tendency is going to be to focus on the good things, at the expense of the best thing – giving my life away to a few, in a life on life, relationally intentional, purposeful discipleship way.
For those who are interested in delving more deeply into this (and who couldn’t be at the #GCA2014 conference), let me encourage you to pick up two resources along these lines.
Discovered this post this morning about the faith of Peyton Manning. Loved his perspective on maintaining his priorities, keeping his faith in Christ in first position, and wanting his actions – not his rhetoric or rituals – to speak for themselves.
I also appreciate the way that he can (appropriately in my opinion) focus on playing good football, working on his craft, and pursuing excellence as an extension of his faith, not merely as a platform for persuasion or a means to a supposedly “greater” end. This is the heart of living out the mission of God as His creature and child, in every sphere of life.
“For outlandish creatures like us, on our way to a heart, a brain, and courage, Bethlehem is not the end of our journey but only the beginning – not home but the place through which we must pass if ever we are to reach home at last.”― Frederick Buechner, The Magnificent Defeat
During this Christmas season, I love to be reminded that we are “outlandish creatures” who are all longing for home. The reality though can only be found in the One in whom we’ve been made, and in whom we also “live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).
Home, in other words, is found in Jesus Christ alone. That is the meaning of Christmas – God making His home with us, so we can find our way back home again with Him.
“Of all the customs surrounding Christmas, it occurs to me the most singular, the most distinctive, is the custom of giving one another gifts. You realize how unique that is. There are other special occasions, birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, Father’s Days, Mother’s Days, and so on, in which somebody is given gifts. You bring your gifts to somebody, but the real question is … How many holidays do we have in which all of us give gifts to all of us? The answer is only one, and it’s right that we do it at Christmas because it highlights, it makes real, the central event, in some ways, the central truth of Christmas…Jesus Christ came at Christmas, but he didn’t just come. He was given. ‘For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given …’
Jesus didn’t just come. He was a gift. That’s the central event of Christmas, and all the gift giving, in a sense, makes that real. Jesus was given. ‘For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son …’ Jesus did not just come. He was a gift.
There’s one place in which Paul is so overwhelmed by the thought of it that he breaks into praise, and he says, ‘Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift,’ an unspeakable gift, an inexpressible gift. It’s beyond description. It’s beyond comprehension. Whenever Paul thinks about it, even for a while, his imagination and his heart explode.”
- Tim Keller, December 23, 1990
sermon, “His Name Shall Be Called”
“How can God stoop lower than to come and dwell with a poor humble soul? Which is more than if he had said, such a one should dwell with him; for a beggar to live at court is not so much as the king to dwell with him in his cottage.”—William Gurnall