Thursday, October 27, 2011

Compassionate Bread

"Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things." Mark 6:34 NLT

Jesus and his disciples were exhausted and needed some serious "R & R". They needed to getaway and debrief together.

The disciples had just returned from a short missionary stint. Jesus sent them to teach, heal and cast out demons. He sent them out in pairs and without him. As a result, they had stories share and they had questions to ask. Lots to talk about! 

The disciples were indeed exhausted. Not just physically but emotionally. They'd experienced the highs and lows of miraculous ministry in Jesus' name. This is both exhilarating and draining.

Jesus was extremely tired as well. Not just from healings and exorcisms but from ministering to so many people he'd eaten nothing in who knows how long. (v. 31)

In addition to this, Jesus was grieving. He was grieving because he had just learned that his dear cousin and friend, John the Baptist, had just been beheaded by Herod. As a result, Jesus is trying to get his disciples away from the crowds to rest, debrief and grieve. Good shepherd.

But it didn't work out quite that way.

The crowds, of course, didn't realize their situation. They just knew that this may be their best opportunity to hear, touch and be blessed by Jesus. So they pursued Jesus.

...pursued Jesus...

Hmmm...that's good. But I digress...

It's at this point that most of us would be at our breaking point with people. I'd probably be so irritable at this point that I'd be blowing up with any and everyone around me--friend and stranger. 

And yet, while Jesus may have been tempted as we are, he did not sin. In fact, the verse says, "He had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things."

"He had compassion on them..." That blows me away. 

Instead of thinking about himself (and even his disciples) he decides to step into yet another opportunity to display the Kingdom of God. 

He begins giving them himself--the Bread of Life! But he doesn't stop there. 

He and the disciples--way out in the wilderness and grieving--serve over 10,000 men, women and children fish nuggets and rolls like waiters in an un-airconditioned warehouse soup kitchen. Makes me hot and tired just thinking about it.

So What?

I have a couple of take-aways here...

First, Jesus responded compassionately to the masses of people pursuing him. He could easily have justified pulling away. Easily. He didn't. 

Am I willing to serve when I'm tired and hungry and have a choice?

Second, when Jesus did serve them, he gave them both the Bread of Life as well as physical bread

Notice, too, that he gave them himself first (bread of life)-then he fed them. We usually do it the other way around (if we give them the Word at all).

Do I see the Word of God as truly more valuable than physical food? (Test: What do you spend more time consuming each day?)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

25 Books Everyone Should Read

I'm a reader. I love to read. But I'll admit that I'm an undisciplined reader. I read what I feel like reading a lot. 

I heard or read a CEO of a major publisher say once that the "dirty little secret of publishing" is that not every good book is worth reading. His rationale sheds wisdom on selecting what we should read. There are just too many good and better books out there. Perhaps we should focus on reading the best and get better value out of our time spent reading.

I've heard others talk about the importance of reading both contemporaries as well as dead authors. Dead authors usually aren't read unless what they wrote continues to be valued. But living authors often haven't lived enough of life yet for us to conclude whether or not they are worth reading or their works will stand the test of time.

In addition, always reading fiction (or non-fiction) isn't wise either. There is great value in reading a great work of fiction as it can illustrate great truths and move us emotionally in a way that a theological treatise struggles to do.

All that to say, read but read purposefully. Here are some suggestions:

* Consider reading more biographies. Someone said that 25% of what we read should be biographies.

* Consider reading at least a fourth of your books by dead authors. 

* Consider reading at least 2 novels a year. Choose fiction that has a reputation for being well-written perhaps with historic accuracy (ex. Francine Rivers, A Voice in the Wind). Stay away from more sensual for the sake of sensual type books. Consider classics such as Pilgrim's Progress as well.

* Consider reading the paper and blogs less. I like to keep up, but our time is precious. How much of what we read to keep up is really helpful? I'd argue at times it's unhelpful. When reading news perhaps you should steer toward more thoughtful articles on current events (such as is found in World Magazine) versus USA Today.

* Don't skip the classics. This is easy to do. They are often harder to read and not as cool. But they are often free or very cheap on ebook websites like Amazon and Google books. Start downloading today!

My purpose in posting this today was to include this good article below by James Emery White. However, I apparently had the above in me screaming to get out. At  the end of the day, I hope you will read and think more and with more discernment and purpose than you have been. Why? Here's one more reason:

"Guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life." -King Solomon, Proverbs 4:23

What you read and take into your mind matters. (Phil 4:8)

25 Books Every Christian Should Read  (by James Emery White)

HarperOne has recently published 25 Books Every Christian Should Read: A Guide to the Essential Spiritual Classics, selected by...
...Having compiled a few reading lists myself, most notably in A Mind for God(InterVarsity Press), I found the list interesting:
On the Incarnation - St. Athanasius
Confessions - St. Augustine
The Sayings of the Desert Fathers - Various
The Rule of St. Benedict - St. Benedict
The Divine Comedy - Dante Alighieri
The Cloud of Unknowing - Anonymous
Revelations of Divine Love (Showings) - Julian of Norwich
The Imitation of Christ - Thomas a Kempis
The Philokalia - Various
Institutes of the Christian Religion - John Calvin
The Interior Castle - St. Teresa of Avila
Dark Night of the Soul - St. John of the Cross
Pensees - Blaise Pascal
The Pilgrim’s Progress - John Bunyan
The Practice of the Presence of God - Brother Lawrence
A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life - William Law
The Way of a Pilgrim - Unknown Author
The Brothers Karamazov - Fyodor Dostoevsky
Orthodoxy - G.K. Chesterton
The Poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins
The Cost of Discipleship - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
A Testament of Devotion - Thomas R. Kelly
The Seven Storey Mountain - Thomas Merton
Mere Christianity - C.S. Lewis
The Return of the Prodigal Son - Henri J.M. Nouwen
The list is obviously tilted toward devotional and spiritual classics, as opposed to theological works, and is a weakness...

...But I welcome any and all such listings, if for no other reason than the ensuing conversation about which books deserve to be on the list.
For a sampling, would any of the following deserve inclusion?
Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica
Martin Luther, The Babylonian Captivity of the Church; The Small Catechism
John Milton, Paradise Lost
William Blake, Songs of Innocence and of Experience
John Henry Newman, Apologia pro vita sua
Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling
T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets; Murder in the Cathedral
Simone Weil, Waiting for God
Dorothy Sayers, The Mind of the Maker
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings
Flannery O’Connor, A Good Man is Hard to Find
Martin Luther King, Jr., Why We Can’t Wait
Solzhenitsyn, A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich; The Gulag Archipelago
Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
Of course they would.  And more.  But then again, it wouldn’t be a list of 25.
And perhaps that’s the problem.
Twenty-five books could never begin to reflect what every Christian should read.
But giving credit where credit is due, you could have worse starts.
James Emery White
25 Books Every Christian Should Read: A Guide to the Essential Spiritual Classics, edited by Julia L. Roller (HarperOne).
James Emery White, A Mind for God (InterVarsity Press).

Editor’s Note
To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, log-on to www.churchandculture.org, where you can post your comments on this blog, view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world.  Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Our "6 Initiatives"

Updates in red

I'm learning a lot these days.

I've been a pastor at Grace now for over  7 years. There is nothing like learning "on-the-job."

My pastors/elders and I have been wrestling the past  5  7 years over what we're really supposed to be doing as a church family. You know what I mean. After reading the Bible, what's the bottom line, fundamental thing we should be doing and doing well. I feel good about where we've landed. And, fortunately, it wasn't a big surprise. 

So I wanted to share with you '6 initiatives' we are moving forward on...together. We continue to be unified in this plan as a church family. I believe God will send people our way to join us in these efforts even as he equips those already with us. Some will join our church. And some will partner with us from the outside. I can't wait to see it unfold!

Our "6 Initiatives" 


1. Create a disciple-making culture in our church.
2. Put more feet on the ground internationally.
3. Develop our process of helping people in crisis become disciple-makers. 
4. Begin planting new churches in the low country (first).
5. Train-up future staff from within.
6. Begin developing a physical campus.

The assumption is that all of this is to be within a context that our purpose in all eternity is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever and that the best way we can do that as a church while still here is to join God in his disciple-making mission.

1. Create a disciple-making culture in our church. That is make disciples who make disciples who make disciples. The expectation is that healthy things not only grow--they multiply. Everyone is called to do this. 

We've spend a lot of time in the last three years teaching and preaching about making disciples who make disciples. This teaching has been essential in demonstrating the biblical foundation of what we're leading our church to do and be.

We did this by teaching through the book Crazy Love, by Francis Chan (2010), Radical, by David Platt (2011), as well as several sermon series around the idea of making disciples who make disciples. 

Our next step was to move from teaching why we should do this to how we can do this. Multiply is our first effort to equip our church to make disciples who make disciples. The free ebook Multiply can be downloaded here. We are currently (2013) going through this 24-week study in our small groups. 

Another key step we're working on is creating a recommended path for people to take that will move them from where they are in their walk with Christ to where He wants them to be. Much of this has been influenced by the Reveal study work. Their latest book, Move, is a great summary of this strategy.

As a part of this, we plan to move forward with the Reveal Survey church-wide.

a. More learning opportunities on Sun. mornings

b. Launching Disciple-Making Groups (DMG) (or Huddle) church-wide (2-5 people) 

I've been leading DMGs now for over 2 years. These have been one on one mostly. Others have tried as well with varying degrees of success. We will continue to equip people to do this and variations of this.

I am considering launching a new group made up of several of my more fruitful one on one relationships so that they get the benefit of the group dynamic. It would be a 12-month commitment with the intention of them starting something when we're done.
c. Launching Missional Communities church-wide (30-50 people) (future churches?)

Our two Goose Creek area Home Groups have been doing some of this organically already. As a result, we're moving forward more formally and making this a pilot group. The Goose Creek Community Group is made up of the Garlick/Avington HG and Hill/Lee/Smith HG. I'm currently the pastor-elder overseeing it. The book Launching Missional Communities by the folks at 3DM will be a key tool in implementing this. However, we'll take principles from a variety of sources to make this our own.

d. Launch experimental worship serve group. 
In practice, I've been doing this since Jan. 2013 as a part of our praise band rehearsal. I've been teaching that it's about more than pulling songs together for a set on Sun. I feel like we're seeing fruit from this already.

2. Put more feet on the ground internationally. This means that sending money to missionaries oversees is no longer enough. We need to be more hands on in how we support our missionaries. 

a. Curacao would continue and expand 
This continues to be our most fruitful effort. We'll go back again for our 6th summer in a row. The Hundleys do a great job leading this.

b. Add Kazakhstan (Palms) Perhaps our next destination

c. Add China (Warrens) 
Another possible next destination

d. Add Egypt (Pastor Georggi & Gieb's) We added a second team here (Gieb's)

3. Develop our process of helping people in crisis become disciple-makers. 
We've made great strides here without even focusing on it. We're learning that helping people in crisis is messy. But when you dive in the fruit is remarkable. We've had 2 people trust Christ this year through this effort while helping them in practical ways. Both got baptized and have become active members in our church.

a. Make sure process leads people to make disciples at home.

b. Explore buying apartment building to transition ppl from Palmetto House to more stable housing situation. Transitional housing is still a huge need in Summerville-N Charleston. We're currently partnering with SHIELD in N. Chas learning how to do this better.

c. End result is people breaking cycle of poverty and attitude of entitlement and becoming disciple-makers and contributors in life.

4. Begin planting new churches in the low country (first). 
This is still on our radar. Our training in the area is through the Cypress Project based at Journey Church, Summerville.

a. Start small churches that are flexible, missional, and less dependent on church buildings.

b. High emphasis on disciple making DNA and engaging ppl who do not see institutional church as a solution to their spiritual questions. (80%+ of ppl today under 30 years old)

5. Train-up future staff from within. The goal is to raise up leaders who already have our DNA and vision firmly in mind. 

Interns are another step we hope to take in 2013-2014.

We strategically hired Ken Dorrity (4/1/2012) to help us implement disciple-making strategies church-wide.

6. Begin developing a physical campus.

a. Create a multiple-purpose building that is able to withstand natural disasters and become a resource to our community when basic necessities become scarce.

b. HQ to our church planting movement.

c. Place to gather for worship, equipping and encouragement.

d. Built with little to no debt.

e. Doesn’t have to be on our property.

* Pastor-Elders

Friday, October 21, 2011

Can I say that here?

I recently did a funeral at Beaufort National Cemetery. I remember the thought running through my head, "Is there anything I can't say here, I wonder..." I quickly got past that thought. But the fact that it was even there says a lot. 

I'm thankful for ministries like AFA who help us slow the erosion of common sense freedoms our founding fathers intended for all religions and expressions of faith. I wanted to share the following to encourage you to be thankful for what we have and vigilant for religious freedom in America.

VA backs down: no more religious discrimination

Houston National Cemetery agrees to allow prayer and religious speech at funerals for our veterans
October 18, 2011Several veterans groups who had sued the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs over claims of religious discrimination by Houston VA officials have agreed to settle their lawsuit, according to attorneys at Liberty Institute representing the groups. See earlier AFA Action Alert.

According to Associated Press, the settlement agreement lists 50 provisions that VA officials agree to adhere to. The VA said in the decree that certain of these provisions "are already the policy or practice of the department."

Some of these actions include no banning or interfering with prayers or recitations at committal services; agreeing to not edit or control the content of private religious speech and expression by speakers at special ceremonies or events at the cemetery; and agreeing not to ban religious speech or words such as "God" or "Jesus" in condolence cards or similar documents given by some of the groups that filed the suit.

The VA also agreed to pay the veterans groups' legal fees, which total $215,000. It is not known if Director Ocasio has been or will be removed from her position.

Because of your support of the AFA Action Alert, we were able to deliver over 375,000 emails to the Veteran's Administration, clearly contributing to the VA's decision to stop its religious discrimination. Because of your action, and God's help, we are making a difference.



Tim Wildmon, President
American Family Association

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Good Questions

2 questions we need to asking in coaching, debriefing, disciple-making and leadership (not to mention in our personal walk):

1. What is Jesus saying to you lately?

2. What are you doing in response to that?

I'm learning a lot reading Mike Breen's book Launching Missional Communities. They ask these 2 questions in their regularly leadership huddles.

What questions do you like to ask in your disciple-making conversations?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Free lunch, legal advice (personal & church) RSVP

Hey Guys and Gals in Ministry in the Summerville and Charleston, SC area:

My good friend Jimmy Reeves is hosting a free lunch to discuss legal issues that are relevant to 99% of us both personally and professionally. One of his areas of expertise is helping churches with legal issues as well. Anyway, I'm sending you this for two reasons.

First, to ask you to come. You are a leader and leaders are learners. This not only is free but so is the lunch!

Second, to ask you to forward this to folks you feel would benefit from this. Remember, the content is focused on pastors and church leaders so focus on those folks.

Finally, Jimmy is more than a great attorney and personal friend. He is a church planter, church pastor and fellow elder in our church. He doesn't just go to church. He actively leads people to follow Christ daily both in his practice and in his church. It is a pleasure and honor to serve alongside of him at Grace Christian Fellowship.

Obviously, I highly recommend him for your personal and ministry legal needs. I also think it would be time well-spent to learn what he has to teach us, network with other like-minded people in ministry and share a free meal together. RSVP today and I'll see you soon! (Details below)

Darien Gabriel, Pastor 

Dear Church Leader:

You are invited to a free information luncheon hosted by James E. Reeves, P.A. on Monday, October 17, 2011 starting at 12:00 p. m. at Belles Restaurant located at 975 Bacons Bridge Road, #156, Summerville, SC 29483 in the Summerville Galleria Shopping Center. We are inviting various church leaders to this luncheon to discuss Wills, Powers of Attorney and Living Wills. We have found in our practice that many people are unprepared for death and various disabilities that place their family members in difficult situations. These issues can be resolved with some advanced planning.

We are trying to reach out to church leaders, as you are also the ones who end up trying to help families that have either lost loved ones or who are dealing with disabled loved ones.  We are in the hopes that this information may assist you in facing those situations and also in guiding your congregations to avoid some of these situations.  Again, the luncheon is free, so we hope you can attend.

To insure we have sufficient space available, we would appreciate if you would respond as soon as possible by calling our office at 832-7337 or emailing Jan Reeves at JanReeves@jreeves-law.com.  If there are others in your church that you would also like to attend, please simply let us know that as well, as they are certainly welcome.  We hope you can attend and look forward to seeing you.


 James E. Reeves

Fully Radiate to the Nations

Luke 2:32

New Living Translation (NLT)

 32 He is a light to reveal God to the nations,
      and he is the glory of your people Israel!”

This verse includes something familiar and something surprising to me.

I observe that Jesus is light (in fact, He calls himself the "light of the world" in John 8:12). As a man, he shined brightly and revealed God to the nations. He discipled others to do the same. ("You are the light of the world") He (as God) is the source of light according to John (1 John 1:5) that shines into our dark world revealing truth and exposing evil. He reveals God by shining to and for the nations. That's why Jesus came--to reveal God!

I also notice that Jesus is surprisingly called "the glory of Your people Israel." I expected it to say "the glory of God" for that is what He is. He's the radiance of God!

In addition to being the glory of God, Jesus is the glory of God's people Israel. He fully represents and illustrates humanity as God intended us to be. He is both the exact representation of God and the perfect example of a human child of that same God. No wonder He reveals God so well!

So what? Are there any take aways from this? At least one.

If we're following Jesus, we do what He does. What is that? We shine. We shine in full humanity that has been created anew in Christ Jesus. We shine or radiate as a human filled with God's glory. We fully radiate God's glory as the glory of His people.

And where do we radiate this light? "To the nations." To all people...around the corner and around the world.


Lord, help me shine and radiate Your glory in full humanity to exalt You and extend Your glory for the good of all people. In Jesus' name I pray, amen!

Monday, October 03, 2011

Bible Reading Plan

Our church is going to read through the Bible together in 2012. We're encouraging people to use the same Bible reading plan to help conversations around His word happen more naturally. 

It's based on the reading plan from Divine Mentor, by Wayne Cordeiro (a fabulous book I heartily recommend). I wanted to share the link to this reading plan for you to consider as well.

Because of the way the plan is done, you can start today and get a feel for it. If you complete it, you will read the Old Testament once and the New Testament twice in one year. 

Here's the thing though--the goal isn't to read the whole Bible in one year. The goal is to read the Bible regularly and obey what it says. So, if you miss a day, just move on to the appropriate day. Don't feel like you have to go back and catch up. Dig in!