How We are Growing as a Church in Mansfield

CHURCH RENEWAL SEASON OF PRAYER AND ENGAGEMENT

Fall 2017

For the past several years our church plant has grown – in numbers and in what it means to be a healthy and missional community. But as we’ve grown, we haven’t kept up with helping everyone grow together. This is why we have set out to embark on a church-wide season of renewal through prayer and intentional engagement.

We are asking, collectively, as a church: What does it mean, practically, to follow Jesus and be transformed by Him in our everyday life, as well as our life together as a church – His people in His world? Over the next few weeks, we want you to set aside some time to pray, consider, and discuss with your family and friends in the church how you can participate, engage, and grow in the life and ministry of Christ Church Mansfield.

lightstock_190452_medium_user_3970569As members of Christ Church Mansfield we take the following vows from our Book of Church Order:

  1. Do you acknowledge yourself to be a sinner in the sight of God, justly deserving His wrath, and without hope except for God’s sovereign love and mercy?
  2. Do you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and Savior of sinners, and do you receive and rest upon him alone for salvation as He is offered in the Gospel?
  3. Do you now resolve and promise, in humble reliance upon the grace of the Holy Spirit, that you will serve him with all that is in you, to forsake the world, to put to death your sinful nature, and to endeavor to live a godly life as a follower of Christ? 
  4. Do you promise to support the church in its worship and work to the best of your ability?
  5. Do you submit yourself to the government and discipline of the church, and promise to pursue and preserve its purity and peace?

As a follower of Christ, and member of His church by faith and this church by association, I/we agree to take the next steps in committing our lives to God’s glory, man’s joy, and the mission of His church here at Christ Church Mansfield in the following ways: 

  • Receive, believe, and live out the gospel and cultivate daily habits of spiritual growth by spending time with God through reading, studying, memorizing, applying scripture and praying. (Personal and Vibrant Faith)
  • Grow as a disciple and follower of Jesus by connecting with God and His people in worship, growing in relational community, serving others in ministry, and helping others do the same in discipleship.  (Church Philosophy of Ministry and Discipleship Process)
  • Practice living a generous life motivated by the gospel and give financial support to the mission of God in and through Christ Church Mansfield through our tithes and offerings, in ordinary and extraordinary ways. (Sustainable and Sacrificial Support for the Mission of CCM).

How do these three commitments fit with our Membership Vows and culture as a gospel-centered church?

We will explore each of these commitments in subsequent posts. For now, let’s look at the first commitment.

On Having a Personal and Vibrant Faith

First, living a life of worship in devotion to God, characterized by ongoing repentance and faith based on the person and work of Jesus Christ in the gospel is the direct result and implication of the gospel for our lives. We are not saved by our works in any way, nor do we strengthen God’s love and resolve toward us by anything we do. But our good works and spiritual disciplines are the appropriate fruit and expression of gratitude for the love and grace we have received from Him in Jesus Christ.  Our Membership Vows 1-2 speak to our commitment to the personal profession of faith and possession of a life of faith. 

On Being a Gospel-Centered Christian (Christ follower; Disciple)

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” – 1 Peter 2:9

The essence of the Christian faith and what it means to be and live as a Christian is that we worship God alone, in community with His people, giving of ourselves in service to others, and reaching others with the transforming power of the gospel.

Our lives are characterized not by perfection, but by repentance and faith; humility, trust, and godly ambition; a growing desire to bring God glory and honor in our lives, as well as our communities, seeing His name and kingdom spread throughout the world.

To believe, or “have faith” is to transfer our functional trust from our own efforts of finding life, mercy, and forgiveness, to the person and work of Jesus Christ alone. The default mode of the human heart is to “go our own way” and “take matters into our own hands.” Faith in Christ means we go His way, on His terms, and in His power – not ours.

We need to remember this and repent daily as a way of life.  To repent is to simply admit that we often desire, and in fact live, as masters of our own fate, choosing to worship someone or something (creature/creation) other than God (Creator). We seek and savor “forbidden fruit” in the forms of our own autonomy, power, control, comfort, or approval, establishing our own “law” and “rule of life” instead of trusting in the “Word of God” that satisfies more than any bread. We repent of all these things we do or leave undone, and all the ways we make ourselves the center of the universe instead of God.

But as we turn away from sin and all the ways we give in to it, we also turn towards Christ in faith, receiving His mercy, forgiveness, and life by the Holy Spirit to live in “newness” of life – constantly dying to sin and living unto righteousness. In light of what He has done, has given us, and continues to be for us, sin quickly loses its power and control in our lives.

The great Puritan, circuit riding Presbyterian minister, Robert Murray McCheyene perhaps said it best: “For every one look you take of your sin, take ten looks upon Christ!”

This is the Christian life in a nutshell – to be obsessed with Jesus and the significance of Him for our life.

In light of the gospel, we are:

  • …creatures made in the image of God, ruined by sin, redeemed by the person and work of Jesus Christ, and actively hopeful about the ultimate renewal of all things. 
  • …. works in progress, holding on to grace for dear life, and bringing others along for the journey.
  • …worse off than we think but also more loved and accepted than we ever dared hope. Therefore, we are to be loving and serving others because we’ve been loved and served by another Who is greater – Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

Practically this looks like several things:

  • Read, study, memorize, and apply the Bible. Pray and respond to God in repentance, and believe the Gospel (always and ongoing). (Here’s a good summary article to help!)
  • Love and serve others as you have the opportunity. Seek out these opportunities!  
  • Share with others what you have – Jesus, hope, faith, resources, etc.
  • Publicly professing my faith in baptism and/or confirming my faith in receiving communion.
  • Potentially joining the church as a Member.

Personal and Discussion Questions

  1. Where are you on your spiritual journey:
    • Have you trusted Christ with your life?
    • Have you confessed and repented of your sin as well as your “good works” that keep God at a distance from your life?
    • Are you growing in what it means to be a disciple/follower of Jesus Christ
  2. What helps you keep Christ at the center of your life?
  3. What new practice could help you to refocus your life on Christ?
  4. Who can you share your responses with and ask them to help you grow in having a personal and vibrant, growing faith in Christ?

 

Prayer

“O Lord Jesus, I thank and praise YOU for the life that You have given to me by Your wonderful grace and love. May I grow day by day to be more like You, full of compassion and kindness, grace and truth. Saturate my heart with Your love so that I may love You more with every fiber of my being. Thank you, Holy Spirit, for making to be more like Christ in all of life. Help me to reflect Your truth, beauty, and goodness, in thought, word, and deed. I ask that I may devote my time and heart to reflect on all You are and all You have done for me – so that You are magnified more and more in  and through my life.” Amen

Additional Resources

Daily Bible Study and Devotional reading: He Reads Truth and She Reads Truth

Daily Prayer and Devotional material: Heavenward by Scotty Smith

You Are What You Love by James K.A. Smith (book)

Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Harrison Warren (book)

Knowing God by J.I. Packer (book)

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The Blessing of Divine Intrusion

New sermon video from last week is up! Share your thoughts, comments, and questions – I’d love to hear what’s on your mind!

 

The Blessing of Divine Intrusion
Ephesians 1:3-14
Part 2 of the series, Wondrous Mystery: Exploring the Depths of our Union with Christ

Sermon series through Ephesians at Christ Church Mansfield

Questions that Get to the Heart of Life

computer-tomography-62942_1920In his book, Seeing with New Eyes, David Powilson offers some very helpful diagnostic questions to uncover the ways we find life and significance apart from God.

On these questions, called “X-Ray Questions”,  Powilson writes

“The questions aim to help people identify the ungodly masters that occupy positions of authority in their heart. These questions reveal ‘functional gods,’ what or who actually controls their particular actions, thoughts, emotions, attitudes, memories, and anticipations.”

Consider these questions as a way to get to the bottom of your heart, to identify and confess the sin and “functional gods” you might be looking to for life, worth, and significance, but more than that, to be at the point where you come to the end of yourself and find the loving, grace-filled arms of God meeting you in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I would suggest using these as part of a daily, weekly, or monthly review of where you are in relationship to your goals and aspirations for your devotional life and walk with God.

1. What do you love? Hate?

2. What do you want, desire, crave, lust, and wish for? What desires do you serve and obey?

3. What do you seek, aim for, and pursue?

4. Where do you bank your hopes?

5. What do you fear? What do you not want? What do you tend to worry about?

6. What do you feel like doing?

7. What do you think you need? What are your ‘felt needs’?

8. What are your plans, agendas, strategies, and intentions designed to accomplish?

9. What makes you tick? What sun does your planet revolve around? What do you organize your life around?

10. Where do you find refuge, safety, comfort, escape, pleasure, security?

11. What or whom do you trust?

12. Whose performance matters? On whose shoulders does the well-being of your world rest? Who can make it better, make it work, make it safe, make it successful?

13. Whom must you please? Whose opinion of you counts? From whom do you desire approval and fear rejection? Whose value system do you measure yourself against? In whose eyes are you living? Whose love and approval do you need?

14. Who are your role models? What kind of person do you think you ought to be or want to be?

15. On your deathbed, what would sum up your life as worthwhile? What gives your life meaning?

16. How do you define and weigh success and failure, right or wrong, desirable or undesirable, in any particular situation?

17. What would make you feel rich, secure, prosperous? What must you get to make life sing?

18. What would bring you the greatest pleasure, happiness, and delight? The greatest pain or misery?

19. Whose coming into political power would make everything better?

20. Whose victory or success would make your life happy? How do you define victory and success?

21. What do you see as your rights? What do you feel entitled to?

22. In what situations do you feel pressured or tense? Confident and relaxed? When you are pressured, where do you turn? What do you think about? What are your escapes? What do you escape from?

23. What do you want to get out of life? What payoff do you seek out of the things you do?

24. What do you pray for?

25. What do you think about most often? What preoccupies or obsesses you? In the morning, to what does your mind drift instinctively?

26. What do you talk about? What is important to you? What attitudes do you communicate?

27. How do you spend your time? What are your priorities?

28. What are your characteristic fantasies, either pleasurable or fearful? Daydreams? What do your night dreams revolve around?

29. What are the functional beliefs that control how you interpret your life and determine how you act?

30. What are your idols and false gods? In what do you place your trust, or set your hopes? What do you turn to or seek? Where do you take refuge?

31. How do you live for yourself?

32. How do you live as a slave of the devil?

33. How do you implicitly say , ‘If only…’ (to get what you want, avoid what you don’t want, keep what you have)?

34. What instinctively seems and feels right to you? What are your opinions, the things you feel true?

35. Where do you find your identity? How do you define who you are?

Gospel within the Gospel

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In preparation for our upcoming sermon series at Christ Church Mansfield on Luke 15 I came across this magnificent quote, explaining how to read and understand the parables of Jesus, from Kenneth Bailey.

A parable is not a delivery system for an idea.  It is not like a shell casing that can be discarded once the idea (the shell) is fired.  Rather a parable is a house in which the reader or listener is invited to take up residence.  The reader is encouraged to look out on the world from the point of view of the story.  A “house” has a variety of windows and rooms. Thus the parable may have one primary idea with other secondary ideas encased within it.   It may have a cluster of theological themes held together by the story.  Naturally the interpreter should only look for the themes that were available to the first century audience listening to Jesus.  What themes are set forth in this marvelous “Gospel within the Gospel” as it has been called for centuries?” Kenneth Bailey, The Cross and the Prodigal, p. 87

Don’t Call it Inspirational. It’s Depressing

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“Don’t call this story inspirational. It’s not. It’s depressing.” – Malcolm Gladwell

Recently listened to Malcolm Gladwell’s new podcast Revisionist History, “Carlos Doesn’t Remember.” This is a powerful and sobering story talking about the reality of privilege and the struggle of those without it in our country, in our day.

One step towards working for a better world for all is first coming to understand how others live. That’s why the gospel of Jesus Christ doesn’t just begin when He is dying on a cross, or raised from the grave, but when he comes “in the flesh” (incarnation) and walks in the shoes of His people. It even begins much earlier than that though, where we see that the story of Jesus and His incarnation, substitutionary death, and resurrection life is really the fulfillment of how God entered into the world wrecked and ruined by sin. 

In the Garden, God comes into His ruined creation and asks, not “What have you done,” but “Where are you?”

God leads with empathy and entering in. 

We can do the same for others in our midst – loving and serving them and their interests, regardless of our own interests – but only if we do the work of building relationships with them. Relationships characterized not by moral judgments or simply making opportunities available, but by entering into the world and life of others and seek to be a blessing.

This is how we build the shalom Jesus brings. Not through triumphalistic endeavors or merely good intentions. But through empathy and relational trust whereby we seek the interests of others ahead of our own.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:5-11 (ESV)

Listen to the episode for the story “Carlos Doesn’t Remember.”

http://apple.co/29W6gEl

#empathy #know #feel #act #shalom #notthewayitssupposedtobe #gospel #incarnation

Prayer of Corporate Lament and Mourning

cc46af8a-8441-42e0-9822-f5355827f087This past Sunday at Christ Church Mansfield we had a time of corporate lament and mourning. Lament for the stories, situations, and tragedies happening around us (such as #blacklivesmatter, #backtheblue, and #dallasstrong).

But also mourning. We learned of the death of one of our beloved members – a 19-year-old college student and were needing to deal not only with the pain and loss throughout the world and our community, but very acutely within our own hearts and minds.

This was the prayer we prayed to help us process our emotions of sadness and anger, as well as confront the complacency or numbness we would have been more comfortable with nursing.

I hope this will help and serve you as you do the same.

 

Prayer of Corporate Lament and Mourning as the Body of Christ

L: Father, we come to you today with heavy hearts.

The killings of Alton Sterlin, Philander Castile, and Officers Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Michael J. Smith, Brent Thompson and Patrick Zamarripa unite our hearts in grief. Good Father, show yourself both good and bigger still to the families who are left to mourn their loss. And for all that fractures our communities and causes the divisions and strife to mount to such terrorizing tensions, Father let us continue to trust in you alone to do what is right and to bring your perfect justice in your perfect timing.

People: … [Offer up personal calls of prayer for the stories and situations weighing on your heart]

All: Lord God, heal our broken world.

L: Lord Jesus, who breaks the power of sin and death by the power of your grace.

We look to our own lives, mourning the loss of loved ones near and far. We especially grieve over the loss of our beloved friend, brother, and son, [….] . We ask that you would surround the […] family with your love, grace, and peace that surpasses all understanding. Be the hope that sustains us through our grief and the presence that outlasts all the pain.

People: … [Offer up personal calls of prayer for the stories and situations weighing on your heart]

All: Lord God, heal our broken hearts.

L: Holy Spirit, who enables us to become children of God.

Today, Christians will gather in Asian churches, Black churches, Hispanic churches, and White churches. Today young Christians will gather separately from old Christians. Progressives separate from Conservatives. Rich from the poor. Reformed from Baptist from Evangelical from Catholic from Charismatic. All the while you have called us to be One church, worshipping One Lord, gathered by One faith, introduced by One baptism, to become the One body of Christ. We lament, not over the differences and distinctives of each peculiar church, but over the divisions we celebrate, rather than tolerate or obliterate, and ask you to renew a right Spirit within each of us.

People: … [Offer up personal calls of prayer for the stories and situations weighing on your heart]

All: Lord God, heal our broken churches.

L: Father God, through your Son Jesus Christ and by the power of Your Holy Spirit, move in our hearts and minds to grieve as those with hope and to become your people who act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with you in your World.

A Response to the Tragedy of this Thing Called Life

13631587_1339660476049071_5031917597077668152_nI have never been very good at Pastoral Responses. Those times when a word is needed to help frame specific events and tragedies that happen around us, or even to us, as a collective people. One on one, we can at least listen and offer up a ministry of presence. But communicating to the masses only seems to feed the machine that helps propagate and perpetuate soundbites and the always present search for the right scapegoat.

There is no scapegoat to cast the blame on the events that have occurred just in the last week alone.

There is no scapegoat to cast the blame on the tragedies that have fallen on Alton Sterling, Philando Castille and his four-year-old daughter, Brent Thompson, Patrick Zamarripa, Michael Krol, those many more wounded, and countless others traumatized by the senseless acts of sin and evil of others.

This week my heart is raw. My capacity to comprehend is exhausted.  I have no great answers, and I frankly question anyone who would want to offer any up for such a time as this.

What I want to offer is not a person to blame or a logical reason for why we have to justify the existence of others – black and blue alike.

Instead, I want to point my heart and mind and strength to hope.

Hope that is found not in justice imperfectly administered by fellow fallen and sinful people.

Hope that does not reside in the hands of the socially powerful or the culturally privileged.

Hope that does not depend on the firepower at one’s side or the force of numbers at one’s back.

But hope that resides perfectly in the person of Jesus Christ. Who administers justice perfectly as the innocent slain on behalf of the guilty. Whose hands bear the marks of powerful love scarred forever for you and I, and who has the right and the privilege to speak and act on behalf of all who suffer the insufferable.

He knows what it is to suffer. He knows what it is live with tragedy, and die at the hands of corrupt and corruptible men.

And He knows that one day, in the end, the senseless will end. The corrupt and corruptible will be stopped.

Revelation 22 ends with the temporal plea of His people that will one day give way to inevitable reality and the eternal praise of His people for all He has done in bringing about His perfect peace into this world of evil, and hatred, and murder, and strife, and war, and insecurity.

It is the hope that is a person, not a process.

And we plead for this because it is Him and Him alone who knows what it means to suffer the ultimate injustice and yet rise up from it in order to stand with and for those who also suffer in this world and life.

The plea, the promise, and the praise our hearts, souls, minds, and wills need:

“Come Lord Jesus come.”

 

The Church: What Kind of Community are We to Be?

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“Group inclusion is a kind narcotic, and a probably more powerful narcotic than adrenaline.” So says author Sebastian Junger, discussing his recent book titled War following the lives of the men of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team fighting in Afghanistan.  He may just be on to something.  He later writes.

“The feeling of being included in a group, where you are absolutely sure about your role and you’re absolutely sure about your relationship to everyone else and their role and you’re completely necessary to the functioning of that group and everyone in that group is necessary to you. There is a security to that, there is a sureness there is a kind of necessaryness that every person has where they don’t have to wonder really about what their worth is, what their value is.”

This holds true across any and every spectrum.  We all wear our badges of belonging in the form of stickers on our cars, clothes on our backs or laptops in our briefcases. There is truly no such a thing as a man being an island to himself.  We all carry with us a sense of belonging to a group that is much larger than just ourselves.  And we wear that badge proudly.  Even those who would shun stereotypes and labels can’t escape it.  They belong to the group that shuns stereotypes and labels!  They have there own brand of musical preferences (eclectic: Dolly Parton to Snoop Dog to Death Cab for Cutie) and clothing style (Bobo’s rejected from Art School).  They even have the same mantra (“I don’t like to be categorized/boxed in/etc”) and rituals – reveling at much alike they are and unlike everyone else.  Together they bond in their uniqueness.  

We all long to belong to a group that we can identify with – who we get and who gets us.

But that never happens perfectly.  There is always some point of tension or misunderstanding or worse yet, alienation and exclusion.  When that happens, we usually jump ship and go form another group or seek to belong someplace else.  This is a common practice today.  We see it in church world with the phenomenon of “church shopping/hopping.” We also see it in the political world with the newly formed “tea party” party.  Apparently the republicans are not conservative enough, so we need to branch off and form a separate group altogether.

But this is not community; its affinity.  Its surrounding oneself with only those people whom we get along well with, and who think and behave the ways we are most comfortable with.  It’s a form of tribalism – where we erect barriers in order to preserve our groups identity and place in the world by keeping others out.  

That need for community is meant to be fulfilled, at least temporarily and imperfectly, in the church. However, for those outside the church other forms of community serve to fill that void. Video gamers find community at the local video game store and act violently when their space and community is threatened [illustrations see below]. Others seek to fill the that void with work, or leisure, or perhaps online communities become a way to achieve that sense of belonging without the costly commitment that normally comes with community and fellowship.

Among Christians, there is always the temptation within us to either preserve or reject the church and its community. Either we feel as though we don’t need the community, or we feel as though we must protect the community from any outside forces and from any changes.

People reject the community of the church for all sorts of reasons, but one of the most common is that the church is full of sinners. Anne Rice, a famous author and Christian convert, recently reported that she was done with Christianity because she simply could not be “anti-gay,” “anti-feminist,” “anti-science” and “anti-Democrat” and that following Christ did not mean following his followers. The comments section of the website on which this announcement was made was full of supporters who echoed similar statements. According to many, you don’t need the church to be a Christian. Living in community with other Christians is difficult, for sure. There is no doubt that the church is full of sinners and that means that there will always be messiness and frustration when Christians seek to pursue real community with each other through the church. However, just as Christ does not abandon us because we are sinners, or obnoxious, ignorant, or prejudiced, we are not at liberty to abandon other Christians for similar reasons.

Other people become obsessed with preserving the community exactly as it is, and for them, this means being very unwelcoming to outsiders. There is a security and a conformability that is lost when communities reach out and invite others in. However, one of the very purposes of the church is to provide a place of security from which Christians can reach out and minister to those outside the community. Just as Jesus “did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men,” (Phil. 2:6-7) so should we be willing to release our grasp on the security and comfort that we have in order to minister to others. Jesus was willing to be abandoned by the community of the Trinity for the sake of the world. 

But the gospel comes in and it challenges our methods for seeking community through tribalism and through radical individualism.  It brings together a group of people who have one overruling allegiance to all other allegiances – their relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ.

You see the gospel isn’t about being conservative or liberal, bohemian or bourgeois, black, white, Asian, Hispanic, Mexican, man, woman, child, elderly, hip, traditional, old school, new school etc.

The gospel is the ultimate relativizer because it is the most radical community builder. 

The picture presented in Acts 2 is neither of Christians who shun community, nor of Christians who are so concerned with preserving their community that they aren’t willing to reach out and grow. The picture presented in Acts 2 is rather of a group of Christians who were absolutely committed to living together in harmony and unity, sharing all things, including their burdens, with one another. That commitment to radical community and fellowship was attractive in a way that the community continued to grow daily.  And this community was formed out of Jews and Greeks, old neighbors and new strangers, living in and out of each others houses and good graces.  Why?  Because Jesus – the One who was the Son of God – had given himself for these people.  “He emptied himself of all but love and bled for Adam’s helpless race.” The gospel forms a new humanity out of the old humanity.  It doesn’t just gather like-minded professionals or urban hipsters, or chic soccer moms or organ-and-choir-please church people.  It gathers sinning, broken and arrogant people and proclaims to them that there is another way to live.  And this new way finds its most significant meaning living life in and with the community of fellow redeemed people. 

We are called to that same radical community in which we are in each others lives, knowing each other’s problems and struggles, and sharing each other’s burdens. When we can live in community and fellowship with one another like that, then we will truly exemplify the unity and love of the Trinity, and God’s love for us. That sort of community is not only healthy to us and pleasing to God, but it is also attractive to the world. Your neighbors, co-workers, and family and friends are looking for a community like that. Many of them seek it out in organizations like the Lion’s Club, the Rotary Club, the Free Masons, the Soccer Club, the local bar of pub, the various different boards or committees they are on, or internet social sites. However, most such communities don’t offer all that a person needs. They aren’t full of people who will truly sacrifice and provide for them, who will love them and support them. That is the sort of community that people want to be a part of and it is the sort of community that the church is called to be.

What sort of community will you be a part of? One that is relativized by the gospel so you can give yourself away to others? Or one that seeks to build up it’s walls of tribalism and live cut off from others?

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.

 

Desiring to Know the Real Reason

English: Saint paul arrested

English: Saint paul arrested (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I love this simple statement Luke includes when he recounts the trial of Paul in Acts 22.  Paul had been preaching the gospel, sharing his story of encountering Jesus, and it caused a stir.  People were upset.  They couldn’t handle what he was talking about.  And their reaction was to hand Paul over to the authorities.

 

The Romans did what they were trained to do – get the truth out of Paul any way that they could.  Their interrogation methods included flogging.  Nothing like a few lashings to get to the truth.  But before they made it that far down the particular path, Paul explains that what they are about to do us unlawful, for although Paul is a Jew, he was also a Roman citizen by birth, and thus he had some legal protection from being bound and interrogated without cause.
What strikes me about this story though is not Paul’s social and political savvy, or even his practice of what some have labeled “riot evangelism.” (Not arguing against this either.  The demonstration and proclamation of the Gospel should cause a stir!).
No, what I find fascinating is that the Roman tribune came to back to Paul, “desiring to know the real reason why he was being accused by the Jews.” (v. 30).
Do our lives and our words have that kind of effect?
 
Not just the effect of causing a stir or a controversy.
Not just the kind that instigates a riot.
Not just the kind that shakes the comfortable and complacent out of their apathy.

But the kind that draws others closer, “desiring to know the real reason.”  

 
The real reason for the hope that we profess.
The real reason for our experience of God.
The real reason why some would struggle to the point of wanting to condemn, ostracize and even punish  us for what we believe, what we proclaim and what we demonstrate with out lives.
That’s the kind of impact I want to have.  To see men and women and children be so moved with desire to want to know the real reason why I believe the gospel.  This is why I’m excited to see more interest being taken up in the realm of “gospel neighboring” and if you haven’t yet stumbled upon Andy Stager’s  blog and podcast on this subject, you really should go check it out here.
It’s when we live with such radical hospitality, in close proximity to others in our communities, that the distinctiveness of our lives shaped by the Gospel will begin to have the effect of disrupting the perceptions and preconceived notions of Christianity and Christians themselves, and that space for desiring to know the real reason is created – in relationship.
Can you imagine what would happen if our words and lives had this as their aim and intention?
Can you see your family members, neighbors, and coworkers being so drawn to ask you that kind of question – “Tell me the real reason why……
….so-and-so seems out to get you?
….you’re not holding that grudge against that guy who threw you under the bus?
….you’re not falling apart when your husband lost his job?
….you’re neither a fundamentalist, prude, nor are you a anything-goes kind of person?
….you love your kids and yet your world doesn’t simply orbit around them and their schedules?
….you’re life has changed so dramatically?
….you go to that church?
….you are a Christian?
Can you imagine the folks in your particular sphere of influence asking you these kinds of questions? That’s the kind of person I want to be, and the kind of people God wants us to be as we seek to live a distinctively Christian life in the world He has placed us.