Monday, June 30, 2014

"You're the only ones that talk to us..."

On Friday I reposted a post that I wrote four years ago when I was convicted by my lack of engagement with my neighbors. Since that time my family has worked on intentionally engaging our neighbors and focused on not only being in the neighborhood but also with the neighborhood. This was true of us in India and this is true of us now that we are back in Raleigh.

In our two months back in Raleigh we have picked back up with some neighbors where we left off and then started new relationships with other neighbors. We really have not done much other than just be available and start conversations. Regularly we have heard that we are the only neighbors that talk to anyone or try to build friendships.

At this point in American culture it is quite normal to return from work, go inside, and never speak to any neighbor. This is a point of contextualization that I sense Christians have become all too comfortable with because we also tend to do the same thing. We are too occupied with our own lives, church activities, and do not want to do the hard work of getting to know people.

After spending some time helping my neighbor over the weekend I tweeted, "I hope that we are the only Christians nearby." A generous percentage of Christians in Raleigh-Durham would be 79% or at least 79% claim to be a Christian. It is unlikely that my family is the only Christian family on the block, but it is sad to me that none of my neighbors know one another. Nobody who claims to be Christian is shining their light, engaging the neighbors where they are, and sharing Jesus and the hope he offers.

The place where you live, your neighborhood is one of the main areas that you have been sent by God for a season as a missionary. If the people that live around only know you for the family that wakes up early on Sunday morning and is gone half of the day then there is something wrong. I am not saying I do everything right, I know that I do not, but this is a call for all of us to do the hard work of getting to know our neighbors and neighborhoods so that we can engage with them, love and serve them and ultimately make disciples of them.

Friday, June 27, 2014

How Well Do You Know Your Neighbor?

***This post originally appeared on in June 2010.***

How well do you know your neighbor? Before moving to Raleigh my wife and I discussed how we wanted to live intentional within the community where God provided for us to live and be missional amongst our neighbors. Although, we had the best intentions and it is not that we have not put forth some effort, but in some ways we do not know many of our neighbors. This was clearly brought to my attention today when I waved to a neighbor two doors down, but decided this time to walk over and introduce myself. We introduced ourselves and then she said, "I wish you could meet my husband, but he has been in the hospital for the last three months."

Immediately I recognized that good intentions only go so far and in order for good intentions to become reality we have to act on those intentions. I thankfully know this neighbor now and we were able to spend about fifteen minutes getting to know each other and I learned how I could be of assistance to her and pray for her and her husbands health. The tragedy is that people no longer know their neighbors in our society and Christians as a whole are generally known as different or prefer to "protect" their families through the sin of busyness with church activities 24/7. 

To be intentional and missional is going to look different for all of us. For some it will be getting to meet your neighbors for the very first time. For others it will be inviting some neighbors over for dinner this friday night. For others it may be offering to help a neighbor with a project or some yard work. It doesn't specifically matter what it is, but what does matter is that you do something in order to share the message of Jesus Christ.

Here are a few ideas from an Acts 29 pastor Jonathan Dodson in Austin Texas on missional living:

1. Eat with Non-Christians
2. Walk, Don’t Drive
3. Be a Regular
4. Hobby with Non-Christians
5. Talk to Your Co-workers.
6. Volunteer with Non-Profits.
7. Participate in City Events
8. Serve Your Neighbors.

What are some ways that you intentional get to know those around you? Feel free to comment below.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

5 Observations Six Months Back in the USA

It has been six months since my family returned to life in America and although it is increasingly becoming "normal," we are still not completely there. This is largely due to us now being considered third culture adults, in Andrea's case a fourth culture adult, where we identify with both or numerous cultures on certain levels. The past six months has been full of catching up with family and friends, mobilizing churches, preaching engagements, church planting cohort, traveling and living in multiple cities, graduating with two master degrees, and trying to figure out where it is exactly the Lord wants us next.

During these six months I have taken a lot of time to reflect on life in India, reverse culture shock, and the return to life in America. Below you will find some broad generalizations that have been true in my life and experience. The last six months have been very eye opening for me and have caused me to want to help others returning from overseas. If you fit that category then please contact me directly.

1. Most people mean well, but most of them just don't get it. You may ask, get what? The majority of people do not understand or care what we were doing overseas, how to engage us in conversation about life and ministry overseas, and most people do not know understand what it is that we are experiencing now that we have returned from overseas. There is a small percentage of people that do get it and those are usually ones that have also been sent out at some point in their life.

2. The American Church highly undervalues overseas ministry experience. This one did not really come so much as a shock, but more of a hard reality. I have more education than the majority of churches are looking for in a candidate and I have about the right amount of paid experience, but when many learn that this experience of church planting happened overseas it is like they write it off. One guy summed it up well, "It's as if these churches look at you like you have leprosy or something."

3. A hard reality is that many people you had relationships with in the past have simply moved on in your absence. This is not referring to all relationships, but there is a percentage of people that you assume you will return and pick back up with and it simply does not happen. When we were saying, "See you later," they were saying, "goodbye." In a sense we put life and our relationship on pause and they just let it be finished.

4. Everything you were once involved in has changed so quickly that you are not sure if you fit any longer. The American culture is a fast paced moving machine and that carries over into all spheres of life. It is difficult returning to the areas of life that you once were heavily involved only to feel like an outsider and to be uncertain if you even have a place to fit in any longer.

5. Making disciples and establishing the kingdom as it is in heaven seems to come secondary. One thing that I greatly miss about what we were doing overseas is that every decision we made revolved around the mission and purpose of being there. I believe that we are all to be missionaries so we should function the same way in the US, but I find that few people really do. Sure, they will volunteer some time occasionally, be faithful to attend a church gathering on Sunday, but it rarely goes deep.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Drakes Branch Baptist Church Sermon

As promised, here is the link to the sermon that I preached recently at Drakes Branch Baptist Church. I am thankful to Drakes Branch and Pastor Adam Blosser for the opportunity to fill the pulpit in his absence. I apologize that it is not a video upload, but the church currently only does audio recording of sermons. If your church is interested in having me as a guest speaker one weekend here is a link to my speaker request form.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Inaugural Oak City Beard and Mustache Competition

Triangle Beard and Mustache Club presents the Inaugural Oak City Beard and Mustache competition at Kings on Saturday, July 19th!
Registration Guidelines:
-Tickets are $10 at the door. A ticket gets you in the event, as well as the chance to register for a competition category.
-Filling out the registration form as a competitor reserves you one ticket.
-You can reserve additional tickets for any spectators you may be bringing with you on the registration form.
-Pre-registration, combined with your $10 ticket, guarantees you a reserved spot in the category of your choosing.
-You can register for as many events as your beard or mustache qualifies you; an additional $10 fee will be required per additional category (pay additional fees at the sign-in table, not the door).
-Pre-judging WILL take place at the event, before the competition begins, to confirm that you are in the correct category.
-All pre-registration must be completed by July 15th.
-After pre-registration is closed, you can still register at the event, but are not guaranteed a spot if categories are filled.
-All registration at the event must be completed by 7:30PM.
To Register:
-Click HERE to download the registration form. It will have guidelines for the category your beard or mustache should be in.
-Click HERE to upload the registration form. If, for some reason, you cannot upload at the site listed, you can also scan the document and email it
-Once your registration form is uploaded, or received via email, you will receive an email confirming your slot. If you do not receive this confirmation within 48 hours of registration, please email to confirm.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Kids Week at the Summit Church

In one week the Summit Church will hosts its kids week in five different locations at two times. This is the first year that we have been in the country and my oldest son is at the age where he can attend. If you live anywhere in the Triangle this is a great opportunity for you to get a couple of hours free from your children, but more importantly a time for them to hear the gospel in a fun, engaging, and relevant way. 

Full details below from the Summit:

June 23–27, 2014
Ages 3 (potty trained) through Grade 4
One week each year in the life of our church we intentionally focus our attention to the kids of RDU. Kids Week is a time for us to share the good news of the gospel with as many kids as possible in a fun, engaging, relevant way. If there was ever a time for you to invite the kids in your neighborhood to church, this week is it!
This week will be filled with games, crafts, snacks, and most importantly looking into God's Word. We will start and end everyday with high energy worship that the kids will love!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Biblical Counseling for A Global Audience

Today I am on my way to S. Asia to partner with two different teams in two cities where a group of national church planters have expressed the need for a practical training on biblical counseling for their context. Before you start questioning my own ability at an area that is not my area of study or expertise, I am mainly functioning as the trip leader, culture insight for the team, and teaching the opening to the conference and one section in the middle. I am traveling with Brad Hambrick who is the Counseling Pastor at the Summit Church and a beast of a counselor.

I have gotten to know Brad over the past six months as we have prepared for this trip and I love his heart for biblical counseling both in the US, but also in places around the world. This is a very strategic trip because based on conversations there is a need for this type of trip and training all over the world. To my knowledge it may be a first of its kind for a local church based on the uniqueness of the trip.

Please pray for us as we travel the next couple of days, our families while we are away, our trainings in both locations, and that through everything we will glorify God. This trip is packed full everyday with very little down time so my blog may be taking a week off. If time allows then I may post some of what is happening during our time on the field, but definitely look for some posts on the trip when I return.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Are You Operating As A Missionary?

Many of my conversations with other spiritual leaders revolve around movements and paradigm shifts within the church that change the world. Being a missional Christian is a phrase that often comes up, which I love what being "missional" means as long as it is correctly defined. A short way to encompass what a missional Christian is one who embraces their role as everyday missionaries. Truthfully this should be how all followers of Christ operate so my question is often, "Can you be an obedient Christian and not be missional?"

Part of my equipping role is to help others embrace their role as an everyday missionary and here are some of the common questions that I have been asking others and wrestling through myself.
1. How are you best leveraging your opportunities for authentic gospel-centered community?

  • If Sunday is the only time that you meet with your faith community then you do not have true gospel-centered community.
  • In the New Testament the church is compared to a family (household) that depends on another as we depend on Christ, which is countercultural, but reveals a gospel-centered life.
  • It is our responsibility to show people that they are hungry for biblical community.
     2. How do we have affective gospel-centered community?

  • It requires us to start by getting out of our "holy huddles" and to start seeing ourselves as everyday missionaries.
    • Every follower of Christ must embrace this and not see missionaries as only those that move to another country.
  • One way to do this is by staying focused on our neighborhoods and workplaces.
    • This is why I prefer a model that meets in homes throughout a city instead of on a Sunday morning because it more affectively allows us to take the gospel to our neighborhood and city.
    • Inviting people to church is good, but it is not sharing the gospel with them and you are mistaken if you think it is your pastors job to share with those within your realm of influence.
  • 1 Peter 2:5-6 (House made of Stone)
    3. Challenges to embracing your role as an everyday missionary in gospel-centered community:

  • At a moments notice you must be available to gather together with those in your faith family.
  • You see your homes as ministry centers for those in your community, not a retreat from them.
  • You view every interaction with each other as an opportunity to bless unbelievers within your midst. 
*It must be noted that embracing your role as an everyday missionary will inevitably put you into relationships that you may not always be comfortable.

   4. Do you know where the people in your city are gathering, what is their 3rd place?

  • Examples: Coffee shops, bars, clubs, etc.
  • Do you know what the people are discussing and what their interest are?
        What I am getting at here is that if you are to embrace your role as an everyday missionary that it will require you getting out in your community to build relationships with the people.

Each time I have discussed this idea I leave the discussion with a parting verse that is my prayer for those that embrace their role, which comes from 1 Thessalonians 2:8: "We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us." So let us stop gathering in our churches and take the church to the community we live in and embrace our roles as everyday missionaries!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Defining Spiritual Leadership

I recently came across one of the best definitions of spiritual leadership that I have ever read. It is from a 1995 article by John Piper on the "Marks of a Spiritual Leader." If you consider yourself a spiritual leader as I do, this is a good definition to see where you are in regards to leading people in a spiritual way.

"I define spiritual leadership as knowing where God
wants people to be and taking the initiative to use
God's methods to get them there in reliance on God's
power. The answer to where God wants people to be
is in a spiritual condition and lifestyle that display
his gory and honor his name. Therefore, the goal of
spiritual leadership is that people come to know God
and to glorify him in all that they do. Spiritual leader-
ship is aimed not so much at directing people as it is
at changing people. If we would be the kind of leaders
we ought to be, we must make it our aim to develop
persons rather than dictate plans. You can get people
to do what you want, but if they don't change in their
heart you have not led them spiritually. You have not
taken them to where God wants them to be."

                                                                 John Piper

Friday, June 6, 2014

Recommended Summer Reading

We are almost one full week into June, which means this summer will be flying by as usual. Even in the midst of backyard cookouts, days at the pool and beach vacations it is always a great time to pick out a few good books to read. Many of my conversations of late have revolved around community and the biblical practice of "one anothering." The below list is one I am working through this summer, some for the first time and some as a reread, but if the topic of biblical community interests you then this is the list for you.

Fellowship among believers is more than just talking over coffee after church service. Biblical fellowship in New Testament times—or koinonia—had rich and varied meanings, including covenant relationship, partnership in the gospel, communion with God and others, and the sharing of earthly possessions.

2. Everyday Church: Gospel Communities on Mission by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis 

We live in an increasingly post-Christian culture. More and more we find ourselves on the margins as less and less people have any intention of ever attending church. What used to work doesn’t work anymore and we need to adapt. Helping us to see the way forward, this book offers practical ideas and personal stories for engaging with Western society. Find out how to effectively reach people in the context of everyday life and take hold of the opportunity to develop missional communities focused on Jesus.

3. Untamed: Reactivating a Missional Form of Discipleship by Alan Hirsch and Debra Hirsch

Discipleship is costly. Are we willing to critique and even challenge much we've been taught for the sake of the kingdom? For this is the radical nature of the discipleship to which Jesus calls us. He did not allow the outside culture to hold him captive; instead he established the kingdom of God and turned the world on its head. Jesus was untamed, and he calls his church to be the same.

In this provocative and compelling book, internationally known missiologists Alan and Debra Hirsch overthrow culturized understandings of theology and culture, and cast a vision for a distinctly mission-shaped way of living the Christian life. Written for any Christian serious about issue of discipleship, Untamed covers such topics as church, humans as bearers of the image of God, family life, culture, and sexuality. Through it all they seek to answer the question, how are we to think and live day to day as followers of Jesus?

4. Community: Where God Dwells by Eddy Leo 

Eddy Leo offers a rare glimpse of eternity before Creation to create a startling new picture of the purpose of community on earth. Building on Scripture from the Old to New Testaments, we see how God builds “His dwelling place” through the community of believers. 

5. Creating a Missional Culture: Equipping the Church for the Sake of the World by JR Woodward 

In Creating a Missional Culture, JR Woodward offers a bold and surprisingly refreshing model for churches--not small adjustments around the periphery of a church's infrastructure but a radical revisioning of how a church ought to look, from its leadership structure to its mobilization of the laity. The end result looks surprisingly like the church that Jesus created and the apostles cultivated: a church not chasing the wind but rather going into the world and making disciples of Jesus.

6. The People of God: Empowering the Church to Make Disciples by Spence Shelton and Trevor Joy

People of God lays out the theology and practice of community. Authors Spence Shelton and Trevor Joy seek to show why community is central to the Christian life, and how to practice it in the 21st century church. Whether you are a pastor or a volunteer leader, People of God aims to equip and encourage congregations as they build a culture of discipleship in the life of their church. 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The People of God Book Giveaway

Trevor Joy and my friend Spence Shelton have recently released a book on empowering the church to make disciples titled The People of God. Both Joy and Shelton are seasoned pastors that have years of experience coaching leaders to make disciples within the local church context. I have personally had the privilege of being a leader within the small groups ministry that Spence oversees at the Summit Church

I just received my copy and started reading it yesterday, but the topic alone excites me enough to do a giveaway on the blog. Group life is one of the most important aspects in the life of the church, the one anothering that should be happening as we see exemplified by the early church. Sadly, many churches have ignored this and placed disciple-making within a programatic structure.

Joy and Spence have written this book as a practical theology for the church. From Spence himself, "It is a book that will discuss a theology of community, but then give you some very practical steps to take to implement that theology."


I am giving away one free copy of The People of God: Empowering the Church to Make Disciples to one of my faithful readers. As usual, there are two ways to be eligible to enter the giveaway or double your chances by doing both. Here is how you can enter the giveaway:

1. Share a link of this post via Facebook or Twitter.

2. Leave a comment below, briefly sharing how community within the church has impacted your life.

3. The winner will be selected and book will be sent to the winner on June 12.