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Sunday, January 29, 2012

How to re-abolish slavery worldwide...right now

Read this aloud as a prayer to God for those who aren't free today. 
http://www.freedomsunday.org/
Father God,

You who created all things out of the overflow of your boundless love, 
you who defend the rights of the fatherless and the widow, the oppressed of every generation, you who set the captive Israelites free from their bondage in Egypt, and each of your children from our bondage to sin, glory to your name!

Hear the cries of our hearts for those enslaved in our world today, for their labor and for their bodies in sexual exploitation, the countless unheard individual voices around the world and here in our own city.

Lord, hear their prayers and ours for their freedom! Stretch out your mighty hand to restore their dignity, to bring comfort and healing. Shelter them and meet their material needs, and provide education, resources and opportunities for each of your enslaved children to live a life of abundance and fulfillment.

Lord, you have called us according to this your purpose, to be the hands that bring freedom and comfort and healing and opportunity to the captive and the oppressed. May we be a rising tide of abolitionists, flooding the world as in the days of Noah.

Lord, protect us from the attacks of the enemy--the voices that tell us there is too much and we are too little, for we are not the liberators, but you, Lord, and we are walking in a victory that you have already won. Protect us from the feelings of despair and helplessness, exhaustion and burnout, and the desire to insulate our hearts from the pain of the stories we hear, but let us meet pain with fearless compassion and faith in your provision, giving generously of the talents and resources you have generously given, remaining in your joy and inexpressible peace, as the followers of one whose yoke is easy and whose burden is light.

Finally, we pray for the oppressors--the traffickers, who supply the demand, and the consumers who create it: both we who demand ever-cheaper products, and especially those who defile themselves by seeking sexual services without love or freedom. Lord, the world sees battles between good people and bad people, but you have taught us that there are only broken people who are created in your perfect image. We pray for those men and women who are captive to their own sin, who are manipulated and corrupted by the evil one. We pray also for their freedom, for their healing, and that they may find what they seek, whether money, pleasure or love, in ways that honor you and bless the world.

Lord, in all of these things, may your kingdom come and your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven, and may your name be glorified, everywhere and always, now and forever. Amen.

Now go to http://www.freedomsunday.org/ to begin to be the answer to your own prayer.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Collaborate: The Church for the City

Yesterday I was privileged to be a part of a new network of local churches that is forming in the SC low country. While I don't know what the formal name will become, we refer to it as the Cypress Project based on Isaiah 55:13. It was started over a decade ago by church planter and equipper Neal McGlohon of Rock Hill, SC. The gist of it is that God wants to do something new and big to bless the people of God and those they live amongst. 


The heart of the leaders gathered on Thursday is to see God bring peace and prosperity to our city. (based on Jeremiah 29:4-10) While most pastors and church leaders probably want this, the difference is in how it's being done. We're seeking to do it together. It's a desire to encourage, serve and equip one another to love our city as One church--The Church of Charleston. It's putting aside our local church names for the sake of The Name. We don't abandon our own identity. We just allow it to be overshadowed by the witness of the greater Church. We're all members of the Church (the Bride and Body of Christ). The thought is to start acting like it. 


It's built around 9 months of training (day-long training once a month) that comes from the larger context found in the Bible about God's mission. From Creation on, God has been moving to rescue people far from Him. It is summarized by:


Movement-Kingdom-Harvest-Church-Disciple-Leadership-Multiplication-Scorecards

These make up the theme for each of the monthly training sessions and the homework that goes with them.


The lunch session was an informational time of sharing with church leaders what they could expect when going through the Cypress Project training. About 25-30 leaders were present. 


However, before that, for about 2 hours, there was a gathering of Cypress alumni to discuss what it might look like for the alumni to start gathering monthly as well. This would be a time of encouragement for each other as well as a way for us to connect with those going through this round of the Cypress training.


Some of the thoughts shared during this time of conversation, connecting, brainstorming and prayer included:

"Part of our prayer for the Church at Charleston is Jesus' prayer in John 17"


"Premature actions can be harmful because our motivations aren't their yet"

"Success starts with relationship. Action/interaction follows (think marriage)"

"There's pleasure in being last"

"We want to build our church on the foundation of making disciples before we plant other churches"

"I would become last for them"

"It takes the Church of Charleston to reach the City of Charleston"

"Be intentional. Intentionally schedule time to be with lost people or you won't spend much time with lost people"

"Collaborate seems to be the emphasis of this network. I like it! City-Church-God's Heart"


I found yesterday incredibly encouraging, personally. To see non-denominational, Episcopal, and Baptist church leaders (to name a few) together dreaming and praying was moving. Will Browning and Clay Jernigan did a great job of leading the day. They were humble, gracious hosts. 

If you are interested in learning more about the Cypress Project in general (it's all over SC) or in the low country, contact Clay Jernigan of Journey Church at claysjourney@gmail.com or 843-743-1798.


Cypress Project Facebook page

Sunday, January 22, 2012

2002 Passport Expires Today

Well my #passport expires today. 10 years. I got my passport 2 take#rrbc #youth grp 2 #Curacao n '02. Going back this summer.

Google+: 'via Blog this'


2002 Curacao w/ RRBC Youth
2003 China
2004 Curacao Pre-trip
2005 Curacao w/ RRBC Youth
2008 Curacao Pre-trip
2008 Curacao w/ GCF Youth
2010 Curacao w/ GCF Youth
2011 Curacao w/ GCF Youth

Thursday, January 19, 2012

"LOL!" Best Medicine for the Church

Last year we launched 6 Initiatives at our church. This was an effort to move from a broad, general vision "Love God. Love People." to a much more specific and measurable mission. Will Mancini's free ebook summary to Church Unique was a great help here, as well as, the Cypress Project. (thanks Neal!) 


The top initiative flows from this idea that God calls us to multiply. He calls people to multiply (physically and spiritually) and He calls churches to multiply. Jesus movements are just that-movements where people "catch" and then "sneeze" something life-changing (like a virus but in a positive way). (Outbreak, Greg Stier) Growth doubles and then increases from there. And by growth, I'm thinking more than numerical growth. I'm also thinking growth in depth of faith and character.


Another initiative is to plant churches. I spent a lot of time last year with the Cypress Project learning about church planting and re-missioning the Church. In this process, I realized that, as a church, we knew we were to make disciples of all nations (at least we were nodding our heads) but we weren't really doing it...at least, not completely.


So, here was my conundrum: Do we really want to plant a church if we're not functioning as a healthy church? Now, like the churches in Revelation, we are doing many things right. And we are growing. But also like those churches, we have our gaps. One large gap is our ineffectiveness of making disciples who make disciples.


What do I mean when I say make disciples? I mean that we teach/learn (disciple = learner) the ways and commands of Jesus to others...who will teach others...who will teach others...who will teach others. (1 Tim 2:1-2) This is more than discipleship training classes. So much more. This is truth taught relationally


I recently read, I think in Mike Breen's Building a Discipling Culture, that we learn in at least three ways: Classroom (information download), apprenticing, and immersion. All three are necessary. But his point was that in the Church we've over-emphasized the classroom method. As a result, we're not really making disciples who make disciples. We simply educating people.


So, we felt like we needed to move our church in the direction of building a culture of disciple-making before we planted any new churches. Otherwise, we'd just be reproducing more poor disciple-making churches. Said another way, we can build a church that doesn't make disciples, but if we make disciples, we WILL build the church. (Mike Breen, Building a Discipling Culture)


One simple way we're teaching our people how to become disciple-makers is using Wayne Cordeiro's S.O.A.P. method. In his book, Divine Mentor, Cordeiro makes the case that growth and leadership development are both fueled by a commitment to teaching your people how to hear the voice of God (through His "divine mentors"), put what those mentors teach us into practice, and then lead others to do the same. I've been doing this for eight months and it's not only transformed my time alone with God--it's transformed others. I'm seeing real fruit in our people!


So from this fruit and momentum, I'm teaching that each of us needs to "LOL!"


"LOL!" is common shorthand now for "Laugh out loud." This kind of slang is getting so common that teenagers are even speaking it. I heard a teen the other day say, "JK" instead of "Just kidding."


Acronyms are great mnemonic memory devices. I'd like to use this one to serve us here.




LOL = Listen. Obey. Lead.


Listen


We need more of God plain and simple. That's our solution to _______________. Either we believe God is fully sufficient for our every need or we don't. 


So we need to listen...to God. We hear from God in several ways. But the key way (and most reliable) is through His word--the Bible. 


We know this. But we don't live as if we really believe this. Otherwise, we'd feast on it instead of nibble at it. We need to listen and hear the voice of God spoken to our heart. 


Cordeiro's S.O.A.P. method is one of many great ways to do this. I encourage you to pick a plan and roll with it for the next year. Here's the Bible plan I'm using this year: Divine Mentor Bible Reading Plan


Obey


This may seem obvious. But it's not easy. It moves our faith from the intellect to the will. We surrender our agenda and desires to God's. When God speaks, our only right response is to obey. Delayed obedience is still disobedience. Incomplete obedience is also disobedience. Read the Bible with a mindset of submission, humility, and a posture to obey it.


Lead


This is where the Church is really struggling, I believe. Many do the first two above. They read and study their Bible. Many of those actually obey what they read. But for some reason, we don't feel compelled to lead others to do this too. The few that do teach a class or small group. That's a good start but remember that's mostly information transfer. Where's the apprenticing? Where's the immersion into a relationship where the nuances of following Jesus can be caught? This is essential for any Jesus movement to occur. Multiplication will not happen unless we are willing to not only receive but give our time to disciple others. Start with your family and move our from there. Disciple Christians and not-yet Christians. Just start.


So LOL! Yes, laugh out loud! That just feels good! After all, "laughter IS the best medicine." But Listen, Obey and Lead too. Not only will you be effective at sharing your faith (Philemon 1:6) but your joy will grow. Hey, maybe these two LOLs have more in common than I thought!


P.S. I'm sure that my recent readings in Church 3.0 and Organic Leadership have shaped this post as well. Both are by Neil Cole. I'm also reading through Launching Missional Communities by Mike Breen & Alex Absalom right now.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Life Journal Bible Reading plan for 2012 (links)

In case you have missed the links to finding the Life Journal Bible Reading plan we're all doing at Grace, here are the links again:




Both of these work with the S.O.A.P. journaling and discipling method we're highlighting this year. 

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

My Top 10 Podcasts

I love podcasts!
I love to learn--especially if I can learn while doing something else. This is why I favor audio over video podcasts. And unlike a book, which is very polished and more dense content-wise, a podcast is typically an interview or talk given in a more conversationally raw way. Material is less dense and therefore if your mind wanders you aren't lost when it returns.

So I thought I'd share a few podcasts that I listen to while running or riding in the car or working out. (I rarely just sit and listen; the efficiency nut in me can't do that). 

Disclaimer: I'm a pastor and Christ-follower. That shapes this content considerably. So consider yourself warned.


Here is my top 10 right now...



10. Passion City Church (Louie Giglio) - It's hard to argue with Louie Giglio. He's passionate about God and communicates with raw energy and enthusiasm. A contagious Christ-follower every week!

9. Timothy Keller Podcast - Keller preaches in Manhattan and knows his stuff! And you have to to get New Yorkers to come back. He is extremely smart and knowledgable and yet can explain complex ideas in simple ways. Couple that with a genuine love for people and humble continence and you have a great weekly podcast.

8. The Village Church (Matt Chandler) - Matt is also raw and passionate about leading people to following Christ. He's challenges the status quo in church world with a touch of irreverence. He's also a brain cancer survivor that helps him speak with great humility each week.

7. Brook Hills (David Platt) - Ever since David Platt's book Radical, I've been a huge fan. He speaks like he writes: direct and with great humility every week. 

6. Together for the Gospel (T4TG conference) - There are 4 guys who really make this bi-annual conference happen (Mark Dever, CJ Mahaney, Ligon Duncan, and Al Mohler). They bring their main session speakers from past conferences here for free. What I like most is the panel discussions that happen directly after each message. From these discussions you not only get more on that particular message but you get to know each of these men in a way that causes you to like and love them. 

5. Stuff You Should Know - Josh and Chuck (HowStuffWorks.com) have great chemistry as they bring their individually researched "stuff you should know" together in a fun conversation. You feel like you're part of a coffee shop conversation as they discuss various and random topics (1 per episode) like How Alcatraz Works, How US Marshalls work, and 10 Scientists Who Were Their Own Guinea Pigs. They are a riot and you learn along the way. FYI: They aren't coming at things from a Christian world-view but they still do a very good job. They upload multiple episodes per week.

4. Exponential - This annual church planting conference is the largest in the world. They upload all of their content. From main sessions with thousands of people to breakouts of a dozen, you hear from big and upcoming names in the world of church planting, networking, and disciple-making. Great variety!

3. Neue - I almost always finish this podcast wanting more. They do 20 min. interviews with people in the world of cutting edge ministry and church life. This is an overflow of their work on Neue magazine. Authors, musicians, entrepreneurs and social justice advocates populate their episodes. Very well produced and the interviewers are terrific. More, more, more!

2. ESPN's Fantasy Focus (ESPN Pro Football) (Matthew Berry & Nate Ravitz) - I know, I know, get a life, right? But alas, I love fantasy football! And I am only decent because I listen to/read other experts. (I don't have time to figure out why you don't play Steven Jackson against the 49ers Defense)

Anyway, these guys are irreverent, lack good judgment, and immersed in the world of fantasy sports. But they know their stuff. Most importantly (for me) however, is not their analysis (which they say is only about half right anyway) but their banter. They are at times terrible and other times hilarious. I keep coming back because they make me laugh with their daily football podcast. Note: There have been times when I've simply stopped listening to them. They can get carried away!

I have never listened to their baseball show so can't speak to that. They are gifted at talking nonsense about something as nonsensical as fantasy football. Additional notes: They've won at least 3 podcast awards. 

1. Catalyst Podcast (Brad Lomenick & Ken Coleman) - These 2 are clearly close friends who have a passion to change the world by being a catalyst of change in and through others. Unpolished but well-produced, this crew brings you top-shelf interviews every 2 weeks. I don't miss many of these and going back several years is worth the investment of time. 


I'd love to hear what your favorites/recommendations are too! Please comment with a podcast you think I should check out (in any category).


Honorable mention:

Emergent - UK Resources Podcast July 2005 "Kingdom" series - Ok, so I only know about this particular series because it's taught by Dallas Willard. This professor of philosophy at the Univ. of Southern Cal is also a Christian. He has an amazing grasp on what it means to be a Christ-follower. He's dry in deliver but his content is worth the effort. Love his sense of humor too.

The Gospel Coalition - A conference like T4TG above, they also have lots of past content with panel discussions thrown in. They have a wider selection of speakers but they are less personal than T4TG. Great content!

A new one I just found and am checking out is called Movements that change the world (Steve Addison)

BTW, you can find all of these at the iTunes store through your iTunes app.