When Small Gifts are Significant – Give to our Church Planting Work and Share with your Friends

[To watch a video version, click here. Otherwise, enjoy the post below!]

When Small Gifts Make a Big Difference

I want to share a story of something that happened tonight. You see, we went out and saw our neighbors doing some yard work – moving rocks from the front to the back yard. We decided to all pitch in and help as a family. Maggie could pull some weeds, and I could do some of the heavy lifting of shoveling and transporting the rocks to the back yard.

But our little guys pitched in too. Alex, Jack and Luke each grabbed a rake or shovel from time to time and each contributed their part in the process. Here are some pictures.

Everyone with a gift pitching in

Everyone with a gift pitching in

No gift too small

Now, none of their “scoops” was as big as mine. But it would be wrong to judge their contribution as being less significant than mine. Their contribution, though smaller, was just as significant because it was part of a greater work, or end. We had to get the rocks from the front to the back, and every “small” scoop they contributed, was one less scoop I or someone else had to tackle.

Their contribution – though small – was significant.

This reminded me of a story in the Bible where Jesus went out and was teaching a group of people who had followed Him. After several hours, everyone started to get hungry, but no one had thought of a plan, let alone brought provisions to feed everyone who showed up – over 5,000 people in total. When Jesus asked His closest followers about a solution, their response was to simply tell the people to go elsewhere and find food. They had nothing. There was nothing they could do or provide that would have made a difference.

But there was someone – a little boy in fact -  in that crowd who heard what was going on and decided to step up to Jesus and offer what he had – five loaves of bread and couple of fish. It would have been the equivalent of an elementary school kids packed lunch from his Mom. But this kid was willing to offer his small gift to contribute to the need.

Then this is what happened:

“Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted. And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten.” – John 6:11-13 (ESV)

What I witnessed tonight with my own kids reminded me of this simple, yet profound fact: there is no such thing as a small, insignificant gift when it’s put in the hands and in the service of Jesus. Because Jesus is the one who makes even small gifts significant.

Asking You to Respond

Which is why I want to ask each of you who are reading (or watching) this, to respond in two ways. You see, as some of you may already know, we have been in the process of raising funds for a church planting work in a growing city in the Fort Worth metro area, Mansfield, TX.  So far, we are at 33% of our 2 year financial goal. Now we are excited about that, and so thankful for everyone who has already jumped on board and contributed. But we still have a ways to go, and I leave for Mansfield this Saturday (May 31, 2014).

The first response I want to ask you to make is to give a small financial contribution to our church planting work in Mansfield, TX.

If every one of you who are my friends on Facebook, or followers on Twitter or my blog, or a connection on LinkedIn, in my circle of Google+, or someone who received this because a mutual friends shared it with you, were to contribute a small one time donation of $50 (or a monthly donation of $4.17 for 12 months), we would reach our 2 year fund raising goal of $100,000. These funds will go to the operational budget of our church planting work.

Some of you may have already been thinking about supporting us, or perhaps you could support at a greater (or lesser) amount, and I want you to know that we would love to have you come on board at whatever amount you are comfortable with giving.

Please know that 100% of your donation will go to this work directly, and is considered a tax-deductible gift. To give, go to www.frontiermissionproject.com and choose the best option for you and your situation.

Now some of you who are my friends, followers or connections online, don’t share my same belief as a Christian, and you’re probably thinking, “Why should I get behind and support you planting a church?” I’m glad you asked, and I will be posting a second post (and video) explaining why I believe that even if you do not share my same belief as a Christian, or are skeptical, maybe even hurt by your experience of organized religion, that there is a legitimately good reason to support this kind of work. Watch for this tomorrow sometime.

The second response I want to ask you to make is to Like, Share, Retweet, and send this post (or video) to your own network of friends, followers and connections.

When you do, please give a quick word or two as to why you’re sharing it. It could be something as simple as, “Check out what my friend Chris Gensheer is doing and be a part of it. I just did!” or whatever else you may want to say. But it would be very helpful, and meaningful, to help spread the word about what we’re doing and give others the opportunity to jump on board.

A Truly Grassroots Crowdfunding Campaign

I also want to offer you all something in return for jumping on board and giving any donation you want to give to this work as a small token of my appreciation. Like any good crowd-funded campaign, I have a series of gifts, or offers, to give you for your partnership and participation in this work.

Any gift of any amount = Enrollment in our Ministry Updates and Prayer Newsletter, an opportunity to go out for coffee or some other drink whenever you’re in Mansfield (and I’m available to meet), and my undying love and gratitude.

Any gift of $50-$99 – A short essay (PDF) on the intersection of the Christian church and public good (original work of mine, to be completed by August 15, 2014), enrollment in our Ministry Updates and Prayer Newsletter, an opportunity to go out for coffee or some other drink whenever you’re in Mansfield (and I’m available to meet), and my undying love and gratitude.

Any gift of $100 or More – A small group Lenten devotional through the Gospel of Mark (original work of mine, to be completed by August 25, 2014), a short essay (PDF) on the intersection of the Christian church and public good (original work of mine, to be completed by August 25, 2014), enrollment in our Ministry Updates and Prayer Newsletter, an opportunity to go out for coffee or some other drink whenever you’re in Mansfield (and I’m available to meet), and my undying love and gratitude.

To receive these gifts, please email me at frontiermissionproject@gmail.com and let me know that you are jumping in and wanting to support this work and at what amount.

And please go and Like us on Facebook (and share with your friends), Follow us on Twitter (and RT please), and +1 on Google+ to stay up to date on what’s going on, receive informative and entertaining updates related to our work, and be part of our online community

Thanks guys. Now lets see what King Jesus can do when we entrust Him with our small gifts and look for Him to do significant things with each one!

Chris Gensheer is the Lead Pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church, Mansfield, TX, a growing suburb of Fort Worth. Find out more about his vision for ministry in reproducing worshipping communities on mission and give your prayer and financial support to the work of Frontier Mission Project.

Why plant churches?

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.

Tim Keller

Tim Keller on Need for Church Planting

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.

To find out more about Frontier Mission Project, check out our website, signup for updates and follow our social media channels, Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Instagram.

 

Review: Why Cities Matter by Stephen Um and Justin Buzzard

Why Cities Matter by Um and Buzzard

Book Review: Why Cities Matter: To God, the Culture and the Church by Stephen Um and Justin Buzzard (Crossway, 2013)

Acknowledgment: I would like to express my gratitude to Crossway for providing me a copy of this book to review.

Why do cities matter?

This is the question that drives the book as a whole.  Both Dr. Um and Mr. Buzzard are well versed and equipped to address such a question, as they both live and minister in world-class cities (Boston and Palo Alto), and are part of church planting movements that focus on ministry in a wide variety of contexts (Acts 29 and Redeemer City to City).

What is more, this particular book is a clarion call for effective ministry in any context, not just cities.  The focus on cities is certainly present throughout the book, but filled within it’s pages is a wealth of material to help any pastor, church planter or lay leader effective engage, reach and ultimately disciple people wherever they are.  One premise that I particularly benefited from in this book though, was that ministry is not just for individuals, it’s for cities themselves.  Each city (as defined by centers of density and diversity most generally by the authors) has a personality, and if we want to minister the gospel effectively to people in cities, we must know, engage and seek to influence the structures of the city with the message of the gospel.

The authors spend a great deal of time expressing what it is that makes cities what they are.  They do emphasize that they are primarily places of density and diversity (lots of people of different backgrounds and varieties), but in addition, they talk about the ideal of the city.  A city was a place where anyone could find safety, security and promise of hope.  This was true of cities in antiquity as they were known for their fortified walls and economic prospects, and it still hold true today.  People come to cities looking to belong (safety, security) and become (hopeful of a better future).  The authors address this in a winsome and comprehensive, yet still accessible way.  They also talk about what you find inside cities; centers of power, culture and ultimately, worship.  It is because of these centers that cities often attract what the authors label the “aspirational”, the “marginal” and the “explorational.” Each group is looking for life, meaning and happiness, and cities provide the context for finding it – whether directed towards God (as Creature and Sustainer) or other false gods (the creation and psuedo-saviors). For this reason, cities matter as a strategic place to proclaim by word and deed the message of the gospel.

In addition, their chapter on Bible and the City (ch. 3) is a masterful sweep of the Biblical portrait of cities.  Every aspect of Scripture is combed for an understanding of cities – their importance, their promise and even their dangers – and what one is left with is a biblically convincing case that cities are to be places that reflect God’s will and intention for all humanity.  Cities matter to God and it is evident throughout the pages of Scripture.

I also greatly appreciated their chapters on Contextualization in the City (ch. 4) and Ministry Vision for the City (ch. 5).  Both are treasure troves for anyone looking to make an impact in their context for the gospel.  Perhaps I was drawn to these as I am an aspiring church planter, but I believe anyone could take the principles and apply them wherever they are.  Perhaps the biggest single helpful item in these chapters is the principle that in order to reach and engage people and cities with the gospel, you must first take an interest in establishing the relationship to be able to speak intelligently into their lives.  In other words, listen, then speak.  Anyone can go anywhere and just start preaching; but to preach against the false gods and psudeo-saviors of a city as well as a neighbor, one has to take the time to think through and get to know what are the hopes, dreams, aspirations and fears held by those we’re talking with.  Both chapters provide plenty of helpful insights and questions for doing just that.

The one weakness of the book as I read it was the somewhat cavalier attitude towards non-cities.  Now, in all fairness, the scope of the book was focused on cities, and no author should ever be expected to say everything and everything.  They had a focus, and overall I think they did an excellent job covering that focus.  But throughout the book, mention was made of cities as opposed to suburbs, exurbs and rural areas.   I don’t like the contemporary debate about which is more important to God and therefore ministry – cities or other places – as I think it misses the point.  God cares about every place and is redeeming all things to Himself.  There’s plenty of room under that umbrella for both cities (who granted have a greater concentration of imago Dei‘s than rural areas) and rural communities.

What I would have liked to have seen though, is mention and discussion of the relationship between cities and suburbs, exurbs and rural areas.  These divisions make for great sociological studies and discussion topics, but in real life, they are more integrated and related than we might like to believe.    Are you only reaching, engaging and discipling a “city” if you are located in the “city-center” part of that city?  Or are there ways of reading, engaging and discipling a “city” if you go to where the people live, work and play?  I think that these questions might lend towards greater nuance of the relationship between cities and other aspects of cities (suburbs, exurbs, rural) and provide a more holistic approach to ministry in our cities.

Despite this one weakness, I whole-heartedly recommend this book.  In fact, it would be a go-to resource to anyone wanting to minister in a city context as it distills a ton of information in a clear, straightforward way, and has plenty of applicable and helpful points for anyone in ministry.  To end the review on the note the book ended:

“Cities matter. Let’s get to it.”

Link: Paperback and Kindle versions.

Francis Schaeffer Lecture Series – Emerging Church

Darrin PatrickHere is the content for the Covenant Seminary’s Francis Schaeffer Institute Lecture Series (that’s a mouthful, isn’t it?) on the Emerging Church. This was a series of talks given by Darrin Patrick, lead pastor of The Journey and V.President of the Acts 29 Network. Darrin is a guy who neither absolutely praises or bashes the Emerging Church movement. Instead, he gives a really good inside picture of it, while also standing somewhat outside of it and gives it a good critical assessment of its strengths and weaknesses. If you’re out there and you’re the least bit curious, or cautious, of anything that bears the label “emerging”, then listen to these lectures.

Audio Content (page – you can download the lectures individually)

Written Content (abridged notes from the talks)

Tim Keller – Contextualization

timkeller.jpgThis is the best quote I have come across on contextualization, and it happens to come from…you guessed it…Tim Keller. Much thanks to Darrin Patrick for talking through this and pointing to this definition about contextualization at the FSI Lecture Series this weekend on the Emerging Church (check out http://covenantseminary.edu in a couple of days/weeks for the audio – if they post it.)

Quote on Contextualization:

Contextualization is not giving people what they want. It is giving God’s answers (which they probably do not want) to the questions they are asking and in forms they can comprehend.

CT Article on Gospel Coalition

The Gospel CoalitionColin Hansen has an article for CT about The Gospel Coalition.  Its a good excerpt, and worth reading to understand what I think is an exciting and important trend for the shaping of future ministry, particularly in the U.S.   Here are a couple of good quotes (from Keller, yes!), but do go read the rest of the article (click here).

“I want to see more churches and leaders joining hands across denominational and network lines to think out how to do effective mission based on the historic, classical understanding of the gospel as it has come down to us from the Reformation and through the Awakenings.”

“If we seek service rather than power, we may have significant cultural impact,” the statement says. “But if we seek power and social control, we will, ironically, be assimilated into the very idolatries of wealth, status, and power we seek to change.”-Tim Keller

Signs of an Unhealthy Church

Anthony BradleyAnthony Bradley has another great post over at The Institute regarding two things: 1) Some great sermon series’ from some solid, missional churches (I’ve only listened to the series from the Journey, which I highly recommend listening to, but the others look pretty good as well), 2) some thoughts ans signs of unhealthy churches.  I found them pretty interesting, what do you all think?  Here they are (click here to go to Anthony’s full post):

Here are some signs of possible immature and unhealthy churches and/or dying or dead churches:

(1) Little or no adult baptisms. That tells you A LOT about who the church is NOT engaging. (Acts 18:10) Fellas, did you know that there are actually Christians who don’t think it is odd that their church hardly ever has adult baptisms. Some don’t even at an eye at that. Shouldn’t that be kind’a embarrassing? The most I’ve ever personally been involved with, as a church employee, was when I worked at Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philly). It was an amazing number.

(2) It’s mono-ethnic( except for rural churches). If the church is in or near a major city and the church represents a segregated mono-culture (by race and/or class) in leadership and membership you are right to think that is kind’a odd. It’s 2007 not 1907. And, sadly, church leaders and members avoid living in the epicenter of major cities. (Rev. 5:8-14; Eph. 4)

(3) The church has no social witness. Members and regular attenders are not personally involved in local, state, or national social issues (wherever the curse is found) at any level. It’s not a regular part of their family life. (James 1:27)

(4) Infrequent practice of the sacraments.

(5) Non-Christians are not involved in the life of the church, the personal lives of church goers, or attending worship (Lev. 19:33-34).

(6) The preaching, teaching, programs, aesthetics, music, etc. primarily appeal to 40-something women and their children. The men may be physically present but are bored and/or dead.

More good thoughs on “missional” and denominations

There’s a great post over at ‘Conn’-versation regarding the shape of younger Christian leaders and the whole “missional” conversation. I appreciate the post because it has put words to my scattered thoughts, particularly in relation to missional conversations within reformed denominations. For anyone trying to live and move in both worlds, this can be more tricky, and require a bit more awareness and discernment with the things we say or do. Anyway, here’s a great quote to wet your appetite:

“The adjective Missional will likely have its day in the sun and end dried up in the field of other helpful, but not bygone categories, but the changing ecclesiology it sought to capture will remain until and if we experience the Southern Hemisphere shape of Christendom to come (spoken of by people like Philip Jenkins) expanding into the landscape of our Post-Christian West in a culturally transforming manner.”

Check out the whole post here.

(P.S. – I have yet to read Jenkins book, but have heard great things about it, and with this post, I will most likely end up reading real soon. Anyone have any thoughts on the book itself?)

What does it mean to be “the Church”?

Anthony BradleyAnthony Bradley has got some good thoughts and a great quote over on his blog The Institute about being the church, and having more of a gospel-centered, “revolutionary” mindset regarding where and how we live as Christians in the world.  I always appreciate the way Bradley challenges me with his thoughts, but even more so, I love it when anyone draws my attention to the fact that Christianity is a “forward” religion – its meant to be lived out on the “offensive” rather than the “defensive” end (for more thoughts on this, check out The Prevailing Church by Randy Pope).

Here’s a quote from a missionary that Bradley includes in his post, and I think it sums things up quite nicely (but do go check out his blog to get the whole sha-bang!):

We need to recover the grand, cosmic significance of Jesus’ saving activity that moves the gospel out of the narrow realm of our self-preoccupation…The gospel properly understood, is much broader than our concerns for personal survival, security, significance, success, or even self-centered sanctification. The gospel presents us with a Jesus, not meek and mild, but One come to set the world on fire. It presents us with a plunderer, and it bids us to throw ourselves away in the pursuit of this new world order. –Bob Heppe, Missionary

Article about Driscoll

driscollFor anyone who isn’t really aware of who Mark Driscoll is, this is a really good article that gives you a good look at the history of his church Mars Hill, as well as some of his background as well as some recent controversies. Check it out here.