Monday, March 30, 2015

Is Ministry the Calling of Every Follower of Jesus?

As followers of Jesus we are all given the Great Commission (act of discipling as we go) in Matthew 28:18-20, but for some reason in the West it has been communicated that it is the job of the church leaders only. This is typically interpreted one of two ways. First, many groups in the West still believe and communicate that one cannot be in “ministry” aside from attending seminary and getting a vocational ministry position. Personally I struggled with this for many years as I knew God had called me into ministry, but I did not feel that I fit many of the typical ministry roles often seen in the West. Second, due to the attitude described above, many church members got to the place of believing it is only the job of those paid to do ministry, after all that is why we pay them isn’t it?

Leaders who think in this way have a misinterpretation of Ephesians 4, where we see it is the job of leaders in the church to equip and release all the people of God for the works of ministry. Leaders who do not think and operate in this way communicate that they think they can build their church instead of allowing Jesus to build his church. This way of thinking has also put too much emphasis on what happens during a gathering on Sunday morning, which many in our culture refer to as “church” when the “professionals” are on stage doing all the preaching/teaching. Thinking in this way is amongst what has led to the lack of disciple makers in the West, where instead of releasing people to engage the places they go, connect, and pause, we ask them to invite the people from their domains of influence to a church service to let the professionals handle reaching them.

Greek scholar, David Alan Black, sums it up well when he says, “Evangelism is not the task of the ordained clergy. All of us are called upon to share the Good News with others. It is simply one beggar telling another beggar where they may find food” (Acts 13). Throughout Scripture we see ordinary followers of Jesus being the ones that impact the lostness around them. Think Samaritan woman in John 4. Think Zacheus in Luke 19.

My background is in Missiology, which led me to serve as a church planting catalyst in India for a couple of years. And although each country has its own struggles I was able to see first hand what happens when leaders start equipping all people to Go, not Come. This mentality is the difference between treating people as passive church members/attenders to disciple makers and equippers. This isn’t some new way of thinking and doing ministry, but in actuality is a return to the “old” way of making disciples from the New Testament, which started with the eleven in Matthew 28.

Friday, March 27, 2015

When God Left The Building Trailer

A coworker of mine sent me this trailer for a new documentary coming out. It looks like an interesting documentary that will be worth a watch.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Rejoice in Godly Suffering

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.
-1 Peter 4:12-13

Somewhere along the way in the West we bought into this idea that to be a Christian meant to live your best life now without any harm or suffering. I will not point out specific teachers of this lie, but there are many out there and many of their churches are flourishing due to the falseness in their message. But not long ago I heard an Indian pastor preach from 1 Peter 4:12-19 on suffering as a Christian and I intently listened to this man because he lives in one of the top persecuted countries in the world and because he started his sermon with a personal testimony.

This pastor told of how when he started following Jesus initially there was no persecution. His life was radically transformed, but to his family and friends Jesus was just one god amongst many gods and took no real issue with him following Jesus. This is a very common attitude in India and is generally like that whether in the city or the village. But within a year this man's family had noticed that he was exclusively following Jesus and living a radically different life than his Hindu upbringing. During this time he started to be verbally and physically abused. This forced him to develop a theology of suffering and turn to this passage in 1 Peter to take comfort.

As I look around at the world in the West I see many things that alarm me, and although different than what most of us in Christ are used to, I cannot help but wonder if we are prepared to rejoice in godly suffering. I think we are far off from physical beatings in the West but I would say that many are already receiving verbal abuse for their faith. Just this week I have been reading different articles referring to how the US is becoming tolerable of everything except for those in Christ and the things of the Bible. Yes, this saddens me, but in hearing this passage exhorted this week I could not help but think that we should not be surprised by the changing tide against the God of the Bible and his followers.

This Indian pastor spoke so clearly and honestly to his congregation. He said, "If you are in this room and a follower of Christ or considering following Christ, you need to know that you are not choosing an easy life, but one that will most likely be marked by fiery trials and suffering as you take up your cross and follow Jesus."

Do we seek this change? No. Do we desire fiery trials and suffering? No. But we need to recognize that for followers of Christ around the world this is normative and when it does happen we need to be ready to rejoice in godly suffering.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Table Network Initiatives

Most of you know that at the end of 2014 I joined The Table Network as their Regional Director over the Mid-South. Over the last couple of months I have received many questions from people wanting to know about my role specifically and the network as a whole. Although I have shared some of what we do before, today I wanted to share some the core initiatives of the Table Network.
ASSESSING  //  Whether you are an experienced leader or someone stepping out for the first time, a good assessment will help you determine your next steps as you seek to establish a disciple-making movement in your context. Our experience holds this process in high value, not as a way of entry, but as a tool that helps us better understand how to meet each applicant where they are.
COACHING  //  By nature of the leadership entailed with starting new ventures, many leaders often miss out on the joy that accompanies the journey. As practitioners, we understand the highs and lows leaders face...which is why we place such a high-priority on helping them successfully navigate the challenges inherent in establishing disciple-making movements. Whether you are an experienced leader or not, don’t go it alone.
TRAINING  //  The opportunity to begin new ventures can be found everywhere. Having the freedom to create something though, and having the knowledge and resources needed to create it, are often two different things. To help leaders bridge the gap we offer a variety of trainings: 1) Workshops specific to seeing disciples made and new churches form; 2) Leadership Residencies; and 3) our DETOX initiative.  
PARTNERING  //  Working together is better than working alone, especially when the partnership doesn't translate into ownership. As a united family of independent communities...our partnerships not only offer ongoing training, coaching, and resources such as admin support and non-profit status for those who need it...but friendship, a pool of talents to pull from, and the opportunity to give with others towards the furtherance of our mission.              
CONSULTING  //  Our heart is to serve any church or organization we can, not just the network. Our experience ranges from transitioning existing churches to planting new ones, and from the urban context to the small town and everything in between. Whether you are looking to establish a disciple-making culture in your context, create a leadership pipeline, or become a church-planting church...give us a shout, we’ll come to you.
If you're interested in any of the above initiatives we would love to discuss how we can join in assisting you. Give us a shout.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Dope Church

This story has been out for a few months now, but love it when there are communities of faith formed like the one in this video.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Everyday People Equipped for Ministry

When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. Acts 13:4 

The last few years this verse has challenged me in my thinking about the equipping of believers to go into ministry. The largest denominations and many individual pastors will immediately tell you that if you want to go into ministry that you need to first go to seminary. In this way seminary has become a prerequisite to be in and do "ministry."

Even the seminary where I received two degrees only lists certain degrees as equipping you to go into full-time ministry and the mission organization that I served with overseas will not allow one to go on the mission field before taking a set amount of seminary classes. To be fair to the seminary I graduated from, there are many professors who would disagree with this, but it is listed and communicated by the school this way.

The problem is that I do not see this in Scripture, rather I see men such as Peter and John who were unschooled and ordinary, spending time with Jesus. I know some of you may be thinking, "Well we don't have the benefit of spending time with Jesus." I understand that we do not physically have Jesus here with us, but if you are not spending time with Jesus then you do not need to go to seminary or into vocational ministry, one can look around and see plenty of people in ministry that have taken this route to the detriment of the church.

Steve Addison said it this way, "Jesus' model of training assumed that the disciples did not know something until they had learned to obey it...He trained the head, the heart, and the hands of the disciples and expected them to pass on what they learned to others."

Note, this post is not meant to be against seminary, as I cherish the time I spent in seminary and may go on to the next level eventually. But it is meant to challenge the church as a whole in what it means to be equipped for ministry and to break down the distinction between "clergy" and "laity." I would love to hear any personal stories, testimonies, or thoughts in regards to every disciple being equipped for ministry. 

Monday, March 2, 2015

2015 Carolina Beard and Moustache Competition

Over the last several years beards have become mainstream again, which has been a benefit to those like myself when entering the corporate work environment or even ministry settings as I am seeing more and more pastors now with large beards. Along with this there are now even clubs throughout the country for those that sport whiskers of any kind, yes, you read that right, there are clubs for people that have beards and mustaches. 

To some this may seem silly or dumb, but the truth is that this is a place where many are finding community and doing good for their community by hosting competitions to give the proceeds to charities that help those in need. My involvement is twofold. First, it is one of my second spaces, a place where I connect with people over a common bond and get a chance to hear their story, share my story, and point to the story of Jesus changing my life. Second, it is a place where I can come together with others that I don't know and help support some charities that are making a difference throughout our state and country. I do not know many people that would argue with a bunch of people hosting an event just to give all of the proceeds away. 

2015 marks the 4th annual BAM competition and the second that I will have an opportunity to attend and compete. The charity recipient for this year is the Safe Alliance Charlotte Domestic Violence Shelter and Backpack Beginnings

This year there are sixteen different competition categories and I will likely be entering the 6"-12" natural full-beard category. 

Each competition features beard and moustache art showcase, live music, local food and local brews. If you don't have a beard then no worries, just come out to have a good time with your bearded community and support a good cause. There is even a ladies fake beard competition so there is no excuse for not coming out.

It's not to late to register to attend or enter a category. Hope to see you there!