Testimony

In Bill Hybels’ book, Just Walk Across the Room, he challenges his readers to write out their faith story in 100 words or less.  Here is my 105-word attempt:

As a young person I dreamed of growing up to become a doctor.  Then, I saw a “20/20” special on successful people who had attempted suicide.  Their reason: Once they had reached their goal in life, they still felt empty.  I projected myself into their shoes.  I thought, “If this is all there is then life is meaningless.”  So, I began reading the New Testament.  Within those pages I met a man who transcended the vanity of this mortal coil.  His name is Jesus.  He invited me to train under him and so to become like him.  I accepted and have never regretted that decision.

Faith and the Art of Motorcycle Maneuvering

I’m a new motorcycle rider.  As I’ve been learning to operate my new vehicle, I’m finding that it’s much like faith.  To ride a motorcycle, a person has to trust an invisible principle to keep him up.  He doesn’t have the visible certainty that comes from another two tires.  No one can test the principle until he actually begins to ride the motorcycle.  Such is faith.

Not only must a person launch out beyond his experience to ride a motorcycle, he must also at times violate his intuition in order to operate it properly.  Those who’ve ridden for very long have heard of counter-steering.  For those who’ve not ridden, counter-steering is a technique in which the operator of the motorcycle turns the handlebars in the opposite direction from the way he wants to go.  So, to go left, you’ve gotta turn right.  This is also like the faith which follows the counter intuitive message of Christ to find his apparent foolishness vindicated.  The last become first.  The humbled become exalted.  Those who give receive.  The one who loses his life finds it.

I never imagined I’d be riding a motorcycle.  Financial concerns first led me down this road.  What began as frugality has become just fun.  I came to Christ out of desperation.  I’ve found that following him is the ultimate thrill ride.  I think the risk is what makes it so exhilarating!

http://youtu.be/B8IdTq3_3WI

The Bottom Line

Two years into my stint as a children’s minister for a medium-large church, I found myself in our prayer room crying out to God for answers and relief.

My question to him: “Why is this so heavy?”

His answer: “It’s consumerism.”

Next I asked him, “How can we combat consumerism?  It’s everywhere.”

He replied, “It’s the general fund.”

He showed me how undesignated giving gives birth to an entity which vies for its own survival to the detriment of the goals God has for the church.  The institution becomes a codependent parasite draining the vitality from the body of Christ.

“Is it even possible to do church without a general fund?” I asked.

Then he proceded to show me how Christians could meet in smaller numbers.  Because the groups would be smaller there would be no need to build or rent meeting spaces. They could be led by proven people who could develop and endorse more leaders.  These leaders could live on faith, support themselves, or do a combination.  Minus a staff and facilities, the need for a general fund would dissipate.  Without a bottom line to maintain, leaders would be released from the pressure to please and placate and be liberated to lovingly confront.  Appeals to give could be heard as “Give to them.” rather than “Give to me.”  People could be challenged toward real generosity out of compassion rather than minimal giving out of rote obligation.  In short, we could quit “doing church” and start making disciples.

This vision haunted me for four years until I finally gave in and quit.  After three months of uncertainty, God brought me to serve with another church.  So what’s the difference?  Our elders have embraced the preeminence of making disciples.  We’ve acknowledged the danger of survival thinking and we’re moving forward to make disciples rather than maintain programs.

We have a building.  I draw a salary.  We have a general fund.  But we’re launching groups and developing leaders which have none of these things.  We’re getting as lean as we can to make way for these groups to be born and multiply.  We don’t want any group we plant or resource to send money back to the mother ship. This approach will probably affect our organizational bottom line but that’s okay because our eyes are on God’s bottom line – more people becoming more like Christ.

Organic Church Planter Training

The gospel is a seed which takes root in the hearts of individuals and bears fruit through redeemed relationships.  Having borne fruit it, must then spread into the soil of other hearts and so The Growth Wheel continues to turn.  In this way, healthy disciples of Christ are produced and reproduced spreading the knowledge of God in the face of Christ throughout the world.  Coming August 24th -26th, our church will host Neil Cole and Phil Helfer as they lead the Greenhouse Intensive Training Weekend in Springdale Arkansas.  This training will provide ordinary Christ followers with basic skills to begin making disciples right where they are.  Individual online registration ends August 19th.

For more information on Organic Church or on the Springdale Greenhouse Intensive Training Weekend, check out this radio interview with Neil Cole-

NeilColeOrganicChurch

Starbucks Appreciation Day

I cannot endorse homosexual marriage.  Sometimes I wish I could.  I don’t want to come across as bigoted or intolerant.  I don’t want to erect unnecessary hurdles to people coming to faith in Christ.  I don’t believe that anyone woke up one morning and thought, “I think I’ll be sexually attracted to someone of the same gender today.” That being said, I cannot endorse homosexual marriage because the Bible universally and unequivocally denounces homosexual activity.

For me, the choice is to either denounce homosexuality as one sin among many or deny my faith in the message of the Bible.  I will not choose that latter.  So does that make me a Pharisee or a bigot?  I’m sure there are many who would say, “Yes.”  Because they say it does not make it so no matter how many say it or how loud they say it.  No one’s words can change the truth of who I am or what I believe.  For that reason, I give anyone full permission to disagree with me or to say whatever they like about me.  I would appreciate the courtesy to be allowed to share my convictions, though.

By now, everyone as heard about Dan Cathy’s comments and their repercussions.  I think, though, that most people are missing the lesson to be learned here.  The main issue which the last two weeks have brought to the fore is free speech, or for that matter, free thought.  Mr. Cathy is a private individual who can believe and say whatever he would like to say.  He can spend his money or his company’s money in ways that he deems are worthwhile.  Should his stance be incorrect, those who oppose him have nothing to fear.

I believe in free speech for everyone.  When opinions are stifled no matter how egregious they may seem to our sensibilities, everyone loses.  When we muzzle one person or fail to tolerate dissenting opinions, we narrow our vision as a society and eventually become blind.

I didn’t go to Chick fil A yesterday.  I don’t like crowds and don’t prefer their food.  I do however like Starbuck’s coffee.  So I’ll be there tomorrow morning supporting their CEO’s right to his opinion and my caffeine addiction.

I’ll close with this landmark quote from Martin Luther which I believe applies to the current debate:

Unless I am convicted of error by the testimony of Scripture or by manifest reasoning, I stand convicted by the Scriptures to which I have appealed, and my conscience is taken captive by God’s word, I cannot and will not recant anything, for to act against our conscience is neither safe for us, nor open to us.

On this I take my stand. I can do no other. God help me.