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.

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Great Resources on Gospel and Marriage (for cheap on Kindle)

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.


Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage: What if God Designed Marriage to Make us Holy More than to Make us Happy?

Dave Harvey, When Sinners Say I Do?: Discovering the Power of the Gospel for Marriage


Best book on Marriage for $2.99 Today

Hey folks,

The best book on Marriage that I have read in a long time, and what formed a good bit of the recent teaching series I did on the subject, is on sale for $2.99 today for Kindle (device or apps).  It is worth it at full price, but this is another steal worth taking advantage of.

The Meaning of Marriage by Tim and Kathy Keller

Megamind: The Line Between Hero and Villain, Blurred in Blue

Megamind: Bad Guy Gone Good?


What happens when your dreams come true?

At  Christ Church Santa Fe, we began a intermittent ministry of hosting movie nights during the summer.  I would put together a brief write up (called REEL Conversations) to help people think through the movie with discernment in order to see the redemption offered in it, which is a true reality for any movie. This is the write up for the movie Megamind.

I admit that I love animated movies like Megamind. This movie might just be in my Top 10 of all time. This movie-story is one where the lines between hero and villain are blurred, albeit in blue, but blurred nonetheless.  Who is the “bad-guy” (antagonist) and who is the “good-guy” (protagonist), anyway?

 Central to the story is the theme of identity and hope, and what happens when your wildest dreams finally come true.  Will it be enough?  Will your ultimate hope – the thing that drives all that you do – satisfy you in the end?

Most of us tend to live with the functional philosophy coined by the Neal McCoy country song, that “If you can’t be good, be good at it.”  You can’t escape who you are, so just be the best you that you can be.  It doesn’t matter who you are or what you do; just be the best that you can be.  Megamind comes into this early in his life and bases his life on being the best bad guy he can be.

Until one day he reaches the end.  He has accomplished all his goals.  He has reached all his dreams.  He has become the best at being bad.  And the reality sets in that there not only might, but must, be something more.

At the end of the day, we have the story about how a bad guy becomes a good guy, and the journey he takes to get there.  And that sometimes, what we thought we were all along and what we thought we wanted, might not turn out to be the total truth after all.

Questions to consider:

  1. Who is the good guy, and who is the bad guy?  What makes them so?
  2. What led to Megamind’s conclusion that his destiny was to become the best bad guy ever?
  3. When did things start to change for Megamind? What happened to make him become something he was not previously (consider the quote below)
  4. How did Megamind end up, and is there something you can take-away from this story for your life?

Quote to consider:

Thomas Chalmers, an 18th century pastor preached a sermon titled “The Expulsive Power of a New Affection”, where he argues that lasting change can only be found not by the denial of a desire, but by replacing it with a new one. He begins by saying:

There are two ways in which [one] may attempt to displace from the human heart its love of the world; either by a demonstration of the world’s vanity, so as that the heart shall be prevailed upon simply to withdraw its regards from an object that is not worthy of it; or, by setting forth another object, even God, as more worthy of its attachment; so as that the heart shall be prevailed upon, not to resign an old affection which shall have nothing to succeed it, but to exchange an old affection for a new one. My purpose is to show, that from the constitution of our nature, the former method is altogether incompetent and ineffectual and that the latter method will alone suffice for the rescue and recovery of the heart from the wrong affection that domineers over it.

Manhood as Cheap, Grownup Adolescence

This YouTube clip disturbed me this morning.  It may be old news to you guys, but I just stumbled upon it.  I’m all for being a fan of certain things, or teams, or people, but this is excessive to the point that it alarms and frightens me more than entertains or informs how we should act as men.

When our love for a team eclipses our love for our children, or spouse, we have held our manhood cheap.  Instead of being a man, we are infantile boys with the rights to drink, drive, marry, vote and own a gun – none of which we are mature enough to handle.

I wish this Dad would man-up, love his family more than the Red Sox, repent to his younger son and honor his older son who was more of a man than the child nearly 10x his age on the other side of the counter.

Full link and story here: http://www.sportsgrid.com/mlb/father-threatens-to-disown-crying-son-for-yankees-fandom/

REEL Conversations Case Study – Toy Story 3: Unwanted Junk or Precious Personalities

REEL Conversations is what I refer to as a ministry of seeing the theme of redemption in modern stories, namely cinema.  This is a brief write-up of a group discussion on the redemptive themes in the movie Toy Story 3.  This was used for a movie night we had at our church.  Enjoy and feel free to share! For a PDF version, click here.

Toy Story 3: Unwanted Junk or Precious Personalities

Toy Story 3 from Disney/Pixar

 “He called us ‘junk’!” yells Mrs. Potato Head in a healthy mix of indignation and shock.  This is the feeling at the very beginning of Toy Story 3.  And that sad assessment of the toys reality send them on a journey to find a new owner, a new home, where they would be appreciated for who they were.

“Welcome to Sunnyside!” This is the siren’s call of a place where they will never have to worry about anyone using them only to discard them later.  At last, the toys have found a place where they are promised to be played with, and never abandoned again.  They are free to be who they are and can enjoy their lives as it was meant to be lived.

Or are they?

Is this really what we want?

In their quest to find happiness they find themselves trapped and enslaved by one who cannot be happy unless others are miserable.  How will they escape?  And what would happen to them if they did?

This movie, the third installment of the hugely successful Disney/Pixar animated film company and Toy Story franchise, delves into the pervasive longing for “home”, for a place to belong and be loved, a place where a toy can be free to be a toy.  They ultimately find their answer not in a perfectly orchestrated system of manufacturing “kids” who replace other “kids” (Sunnyside), but in the loving arms of a “person” who embraces them (Andyà Bonnie).

Questions to consider:

  1. How did the toys feel at the beginning of the movie: like precious toys, or unwanted junk? What made them feel this way?
  2.  Why did they go to Sunnyside?  What did they like about it?
  3.  How do you think Woody felt trying to explain things to the other toys?  Was he right?  Why wouldn’t the others listen to him?
  4.  What happened to them at Sunnyside?  Was Lots-O a good guy or bad guy? What made him so?[1]
  5.  Did you like the end of the movie?  Why or why not?  Was the redemption found in the movie satisfying? Would you say it might even be biblical? (Read quotes below for more on this)

Quotes to consider: From Albert Wolters, Creation Regained: Biblical Basics for a Reformational Worldview

“God does not make junk, and he does not junk what He has made.”

“To sin, in the Bible, is to serve Satan—or rather, to be enslaved to Satan…Bondage in Scripture has to do with enslavement to a spiritual empire.”

“…redemption:  a freeing of creation from the shackles of sin and evil and a reinstatement of creaturely living as intended by God.”

[1] Think along these lines: “If I can’t be happy, then I’ll make others miserable.” Could we imagine Satan saying this?

Santa Fe Processing Journal – or How to Fall in Love with a Place (Pt 1)

Day 1 – June 28, 2010

Well this officially begins my attempt at a running journal on my adventures and happenings while adjusting to life in Santa Fe, NM. We have been here now for nearly 4 weeks. So far the family and I have been looking for a home (which we found) and trying to figure out how to do life here. It is certainly different than what we are used to in St. Louis. Or the South. Or anywhere we can imagine. In some ways it feels like living in a Croatian village – except where you nearly get run down by Aston Martins down tiny little side streets or you meet a guy who played a speaking part in Lethal Weapon 2 (very small role) and doubles as Josh Brolin’s stunt guy.

Weird. But cool.

So far our favorite time of day is twilight – and its not because we both like the Stephanie Meyer novels (hey, read them then you can give me a hard time about it) – but because it is absolutely gorgeous. The colors of the sunset mixed with the otherwise semi-desolate look of brown sand and sandy green bushes (not trees) as they come over and around the mountains are breathtaking. There are times where the clouds look surreal and almost as if God took his hand and accidentally brushed it against them giving them an abstract painting quality to the otherwise pristine cloud formations in the sky. So far we both have said that it reminds us of South Africa.

The people are a dichotomy. Sometimes overboard nice; other times extremely rude. Maggie says it reminds her of New Yorkers but I disagree. I have spent some time in New York (Manhattan at least) and I did not once meet a “rude” person. I met lots of focused and preoccupied people who looked like they didn’t want to bothered but when you asked a question of needed something they were more than happy to help. Not here. Even if your job depends on it you may not meet a nice person here – at least not in most of the service industries.

Even though that’ a gross oversimplification it is the initial impression though we have received. To be fair, we have met lots of great people out and about, but the overall flavor has been one of mild interest, at best.

The reason we moved here was the church. It really is a great place. It’s a great place to land right out of seminary for sure. I continue to be thankful that God led us here and that I am getting to learn from a guy like Martin Ban. He seems to be the real deal. A seasoned church planter, with lots of experience and lots of wisdom to impart. Not only that but he is willing and eager to impart it. I have met lots of guys who probably have similar experience and wisdom, but don’t see it as their role or place to give it. Martin on the other hand sees it so much that he created this position of Pastoral Intern it seems for the sole purpose, and I am grateful for that.

The people at Christ Church Santa Fe are incredible. I have been serving as the pastor now for 3 weeks I would say nad it has been an adventure. I have found myself in the midst of counseling appointments, staff meetings, benevolence requests and several other meetings with folks from Christ Church SF. And I have appreciated it. I have been getting a flavor of what it means to be a pastor. I’ve even been able to preach which was amazing.  So far people seem to really like us and are excited about us being here. We hope that lasts a long time. We have loved everyone we have met and look forward to getting to know them better, as well as more people.

Now, the real reason why I wanted to write this journal.

Martin tasked me with two things to do these next few weeks of settling into life and ministry in Santa Fe. One is to read two books. The one I am working on now is The Celtic Way of Evangelism by George Hunter. I will be posting some thoughts on this book via my blog later. Perhaps a few highlights from each day or reading.

The other is to find a 3rd place. I appreciate being able to do this. Its important to figure out where I can go to learn and love this city and the people in it. Here’s what I’ve experienced today:

First stop – The Santa Fe Post Office. Probably not a place I will go regularly to make it my 3rd place. There was one guy working the counter for 15 of us waiting around. Needless to say, that won’t be the best place of a healthy “witness” on my part.

Second stop – Downtown Subscription. It’s a local coffee shop off the beaten path but still close to the action of downtown. I like the look and feel. Kind of like a Chipotle turned coffee shop and magazine stand. I ordered a sandwich that was way overpriced and not very good (Chicken Curry sandwich). The person at the counter wasn’t very friendly, or helpful. I asked her for her opinion about a good sandwich and I basically got a “whatever” answer and look. I ate my sandwich, finished my chapter in the book and left. The positives – it looked like a place where people hang out, and the parking was free. The negatives – not good food, and not the friendliest of service. Chances of it being a regular third place – at this point I’d say 50/50. I need to give it another shot.

Third stop – Ecco Espresso & Gelato. Its another local coffee shop this time closer to the heart of the action. Its on Marcy St. and I kind of like the vibe. Free wireless so there’s a few Mac-dudes here (I am one of them by the way) working on “stuff.” There’s a few touristy types popping in and out, but for the most part its largely locals. It doesn’t seem like people are here to socialize though. I wonder what it would be if I had regular meetings here; would it be distracting and disconcerting for folks who frequent this joint, would it be kosher? This might be a good place to come when I need some focus work time. I will have to watch out for the Gelato – it looks good and probably not the most helpful for my waistline or losing weight efforts. On the upswing, the service was great. The guys making my Vanilla Latte actually engaged me in conversation. And he made the nice frothy milk-looks-like-a-leaf-in-my-latte, so he definitely has a Linchpin approach to his trade. I like that. A lot. The positives – great service, great coffee, and otherwise “cool” environment to work on stuff. The negatives – may be an awkward place to meet people or have general conversations and no free parking. Chances of it being a regular third place – I’d say 70/30.

The book The Celtic Way of Evangelism so far is great. Like I said I will have to post some regular reflections at a later time. So far, one thing I have benefited form while reading it is the difference between Roman and Celtic Christianity in regards to the approach of mission. According to Hunter, the Roman model of Christianity saw mission as having a dual focus. One obviously being to convert pagans to Christ. But the other was to civilize them into Roman culture. The thought process went that a Barbarian (i.e. pagan, non-Roman) had to have a certain measure of civility in order to comprehend and embrace the Christian gospel. The problem comes in when you define civility. The Romans thought that meant you read and spoke Latin. There was more for sure, but that right there is a huge hurdle to overcome. In addition to language, one had to behave a certain way, dress a certain way, live and do life a certain way. Only when a Barabrian could do those things, would it then be appropriate to talk about Jesus.

The Celtic way stood apart from that. Rather than see the missionary task of civilizing another country, St. Patrick and his missionary entourage embraced and loved their Celtic mission field and saw that the gospel could go forth and convert an entire nation, while embracing and utilizing its own cultural forms and norms.

Where do we today try to civilize others either before, or in order, for them to hear and be receptive to the gospel?

Thoughts on Thursday: Cherishing Our Wives, Not Our Lives

Hey gang,

I recently came across a couple of great posts dealing with the fine and elusive task of “husbanding.” I know I need all the help I can get in being a more self-less husband. Check out this post over at The Gender Blog (which is itself over at The Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood) and actually read it; its some great stuff!

Here’s a sample:

It seems to me that often the times I grumble in my heart about my wife are the same times I am not seeking to cherish her.”

That’s way too convicting for me. I know that what it comes down to for me is that I too often am only concerned with “Numero Uno” – fretting over my needs, wishes and desires – instead of giving myself selflessly to the most amazing woman in my life. I hope that I can cherish myself less and cherish her a whole lot more than I have.

How’s about you all? Any other ideas you’d care to add to his list?

Thoughts about Miscarriage

Hello friends among the blogosphere.

For those of you who are regular readers of this blog, I want to express my thanks and appreciation to you, as well as apologize for the infrequent postings lately. The end of the year was a rather rough one for the Gensheer family, and so I have taken some much needed to time away from the “normal” routine of life and that has included time on the internet and blogging (Stephen – I just got your “tag” on me yesterday, so I’ll have to put some thoughts on it and get back to you; I’m looking forward to your visit here to St. Louis too).

I realize that through the blog, I now have a new community of people with whom I communicate and interact with, so I wanted to include an email update we sent out to our friends and supporters back home in Augusta, GA regarding our recent tragedy and how we spent our break over Christmas:

We were excited to finish this past semester for several reasons. One of the biggest reasons was that we finally had a newsletter to send to you – our friends and supporters – with some exciting news, and we were greatly anticipating our time in Augusta to share with all of you what God was up to in our lives in person.

I finished my last exam on a Friday afternoon, and after Maggie and I finished packing, we started to stuff our newsletters into envelopes and get them ready to be sent out the following morning. In that newsletter we include the news that we were in fact pregnant and expecting our third child. We had just found out about three weeks prior, and had only told a handful of our closest friends and family. We were excited, and couldn’t wait to share the news with everybody.

The next morning, I woke up early to shuttle some friends to the airport, thinking I would be the only one up that early (4:30 AM). Maggie also awoke to discover that things were not quite right and was worried that she was “losing” the baby. That morning was spent in anxiety and fear after several phone calls to the doctor. The day ended with an evening trip to the Emergency Room while driving through a snowstorm only to receive the news that whether we were pregnant before or not, we certainly were not pregnant anymore.

We had miscarried the baby.

Some of you know immediately what this feels like as you have experienced the same thing. We were ambivalent; we had no idea how we felt because we felt too many things and all at the same time. For several days we were a mixture of anger, fear, anxiety, grief and sadness. Our time in Augusta quickly went from excited anticipation of reunion and catching up with all of our friends and supporters, to one of retreat, reflection and healing.

We are still processing our thoughts and feelings, and we are thankful for the many of you who have quietly understood our need for a break, and even those of you with the kind and gracious words of empathy at certain times. We thank you for helping to validate our feelings and process this tragedy, without quickly dismissing it and jumping to the facts of the matter.

We believe that in the wake of this experience – this tragedy – there are many things that we believe as Christians that often seem unsatisfying, maybe even canned, though I know them to be true. Something that has helped me personally to process this is a blog post from Desiring God ministries that just happened to be posted the following Tuesday after this happened. Here are the few sentences that stood out and felt like some sense of comfort from the providence of God:

“Experiences are very powerful. They often feel more powerful than promises. So it’s tempting to interpret prosperity and ease as God’s blessing and tribulation as God’s displeasure. And sometimes they are. But often they are not.

Actually, what we see all the way through the Bible is the Lord training his disciples to trust his promises more than providences…In the Bible pain is often the path to unspeakable joy and prosperity is often an obstacle to it. What’s going on?

Simply, God wants us to treasure what we can’t see more than what we can. “For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Cor. 4:18). And we find out that it’s pain more than prosperity that makes us look for what our eyes can’t see, and long for a satisfaction that doesn’t exist in this world.”

-“Trust Promises, Not Providences” by Jon Bloom

from Desiring God Blog (December 18, 2007)

I am not claiming that it is easy to trust in His promises more than His providences. I do know that He is good, that He has a plan, and that ultimately every wrong in this world will be righted. I also know that I have to live in this world as it is – in all its brokenness, tragedy and unfulfilled hopes, and through it all, there is so much that I can take for granted in between the Kingdom of God being here now, and still not yet.

This is something else that God is teaching us. That in the way we functionally live, it is easy to presume that life will carry on unhindered by the realities of a fallen world. Maggie and I have almost jokingly (but no less seriously) commented that maybe one day we’ll get to a point where we can learn whatever it is that God is wanting to teach us in a less tragic ways. We appreciate C.S. Lewis’ observation that God often “screams to us in our sufferings,” and I have no doubt that there is more in this for us to take-away; but for right now, we’ve been served well to relax these past couple of weeks.

Thank you to each of you for allowing us to remain in your thoughts, concerns and prayers over this past year. We pray and hope that you will continue to remember us and lift us up to our Heavenly Father as we start to head back into another year of seminary.

We have communicated through our newsletter a good bit regarding what opportunities await us in terms of pursuing the ministry God is calling us to, as well as our pressing need for both prayer and financial support. If you haven’t received it, forgive us, and if you would be so kind as to supply us with your most current mailing and email address, we can gladly put one in the mail to you in the next couple of weeks.

Thank you dear friends and fellow laborers in the Gospel with us,

The Gensheer’s

430F Covenant Lane

St. Louis, MO 63141