Friday, December 11, 2009


Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

These are the words to the poem "Invictus" by William Ernest Henley. This poem was kept by Nelson Mandela during his 27-year prison sentence during the period of Apartheid in South Africa. It is also the title of a new movie about the South African rugby team during the 1995 rugby world cup held in South Africa. Everyone should see this movie. It is more than just a movie about rugby. It is a story about the forgiveness and grace of Mandela. It is remarkable how a man who suffered so much at the hands of his oppressors could be so forgiving and full of grace towards them after being elected president. There is a line from the movie that may be real and may not be, but it is very telling. A white security guard is escorting the captain of the rugby team into Mandela's office and remarks that under the previous president he was invisible, simply a force to provide protection. He said that with Mandela no one is invisible. This shows a level of grace that seems to be reflective of Jesus himself.

How many times do we not offer forgiveness to those who have wronged us? Considering what we go through and what some have endured, our pains seem rather pitiful. How many times do we hurl insults at people simply because we don't like their philosophies or the way they live? How much more could we be bringers of peace?

I love the last two lines of the poem:

I am the master of my fate
I am the captain of my soul

We can't control what others do; we can only control how we respond. Can we not be more forgiving and full of grace?

Friday, December 4, 2009


I spent the afternoon yesterday with a group of church planters, which was very exciting, and had an interesting thought upon waking this morning. In Genesis, when God created the universe, he enabled every living thing to make more living things, to reproduce, to be fruitful and multiply. Basically he's telling us to go make more of us because life is better when there is more life. If this is true of us as people, shouldn't it also be true of us as churches? (Perhaps this thought is old to you. If it is, please excuse my tardiness in thinking it.) Shouldn't we as local iterations of the Body of Christ try to make more bodies? It was put this way by one of my friends last night. "We want to plant church-planting churches who plant church-planting churches." Shouldn't there be more of us than there are? They also made the comment that church plants grow faster than established churches because they have to. If they don't reach out to the lost, they don't grow, and they fail. If it's easier for a church-plant to reach the lost, maybe that's what we should be doing, training others to go plant churches, to go plant churches, to go plant churches...

Perhaps now is the time for us in the Body to be fruitful and multiply.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Matt Chandler @ RightNow

Friday morning and Saturday morning Matt Chandler was the featured speaker at RightNow. I enjoyed him because he speaks with authority. Listening to him reminded me of John Piper. He is also a Reformed Theologian (buying into at least some if not all of the points of Calvinism). What is remarkable about this, though, is that he isn't mean about it. Both of his messages were difficult, but filled with truth. This is an overview of both sermons.

We tend to present two sides of the gospel. One is very traditionally evangelistic. This says that God created man, man sinned thereby separating himself from God, God sent Jesus, accepting Jesus can restore our relationship to God. This is a very straightforward presentation of the gospel, ending with a moment of decision.

The other side is that God created the world, man brought evil into the world, Jesus came to rid the world of evil, we must continue the work of Jesus on earth. It is a very social presentation of the gospel. We must meet people's physical needs in order to restore justice to the world.

When we choose one of these camps or the other, we pervert and hinder the gospel. Traditional evangelism without meeting people's needs leads to rigid religion (an "I'm in, you're out" kind of mindset). The social gospel without the saving power of Jesus is simply doing nice things. We must have both! We must emphasize the saving power of Jesus while meeting physical needs and seeing justice done. It must be both. Faith without works is dead, but works without faith is futile.

Jesus' death is what paid the price for our sin. Jesus' resurrection is what paves the way for us to have a new life. Life begets more life. Jesus' new life at the resurrection told us there was more than just a sacrifice, there was a new way to live. Now we can fulfill our purpose in the world because we have the power of Jesus' resurrection. Paul emphasized the resurrection as what gave us power. We don't have to fear death because it is not the end. We are brought into new life in order to take this life to others, to leave our old lives behind and join with Jesus in his.

May we spend our lives in radical generosity because of the radical way He has been generous to us.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Francis Chan @ RightNow Conference, pt. 3

Friday Night, Nov. 6, 9:45 pm

This was Francis Chan's final session with us @ RightNow. It was late Friday night and I had been awake for almost 15 hours at that point, much of that time spent in sessions. My brain was mostly fried at this point and several hours earlier a pain had begun in my left shoulder and had worked its way through my neck into the back of my head, but still God spoke.

Chan began this talk with a statement that went kind of like this: We're not worried about living; we're worried about our standard of living.

Francis Chan is a gifted communicator, but is also a best-selling author. When the profits from his first book began to come in, he and his wife decided to allocate that money to a specific charity. He said he was confronted with well-wishers who told him he should save some of the money for an emergency. His question to us was, "What qualifies as an emergency?" Is it only an emergency if it applies to me? Does Darfur not constitute an emergency? Does the AIDS pandemic not apply in this situation? Is the fact that there are 138,000,000 orphans in the world not sound like an emergency?

Why are we so concerned with self? Why do we hang on to money simply to die and pass it on to others, who will then die and pass it on to others?

This is not to say that we should all liquidate our assets and run out to the nearest United Way advocate. What it does mean is that we should at the very least be thoughtful with what we've been given, to be good stewards of the blessings we've received.

He went on to discuss our methods of preaching and teaching to the church. We who have a different perspective on the way ministry should be done must be more thoughtful about how we approach change. I am certainly guilty of this myself. I want things to happen my way, right now. Perhaps this is not the way it's supposed to happen.

Chan made this statement: "For so many years we've spent our lives trying to move the church along by our own power. The church in scripture, though, moved itself because of the power of the Spirit." His point is this, if we will focus on the Spirit, on following Jesus, the church (us) will become more like Jesus. This means our leadership should honestly be seeking the leadership of the Spirit, but it doesn't mean that we as members of the Body shouldn't begin ourselves to see life this way. We can lead by simply following Jesus. Instead of trying to use our own power, shouldn't we simply spend more time in prayer, more time in scripture, more time seeking God himself? We can't create movement. Movement comes from God when we humbly seek Him.

Everything comes through knowing Jesus. Scripture says everything we need for life and godliness is freely given to us through the divine power of God. We are divinely prepared. Perhaps if we feel like we don't have enough, we haven't spent enough time with the Father.

This post seems a bit disjointed to me. Perhaps that's a result of my being zombie-like during this session that night, not able to take adequate notes. I'm sure my notes made sense to me at the time, but this is the best I could get out of them today.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Francis Chan @ RightNow Conference, pt. 2

Redefining Church

On Friday morning, we had an opportunity to attend several connection sessions in order to speak to more specific areas we were concerned with. Amanda and I chose to hear Francis Chan again as he talked about redefining the church. He made the point that when he and his team planted their church they were trying to be all things to all people. They wanted to have great worship so they could feel the Spirit move. They wanted to have solid Biblical teaching in order to present the truth. They also wanted to connect with people so they would feel at home. In designing their church, these were the three things they wanted to have happen. They succeeded. They drew large crowds, had authentic worship and Biblical teaching, and connected with people in meaningful ways. But there was still something missing.

He confessed that in designing their church, they had neglected to seek God's guidance, to search the scriptures as to what the church should be, not programming wise, but who they should be as people. They sought the things man said were important and forgot about the leading of the Spirit. After all, if we are the "Body of Christ" shouldn't we look at what Jesus did? Shouldn't we seek to do the same things?

He made the point that we are a people who seek after miracles, just like the Pharisees. We want to see amazing things happen, sick people healed, lame people walk, and the lights flicker in our sanctuaries because the Spirit of God moves. As rational and linear as we are, we long for the mystical, as if we need God to prove he exists. If we look at scripture, we find this is exactly who the Pharisees were. They wanted Jesus to perform miracles to prove his deity.

Cool worship services are not the answer. Engaging and charismatic preaching is not the answer. Programming that fills our lives with busyness is not the answer. Jesus is the answer. Following him is the goal. Why do we offer up offerings that God didn't ask for? In Samuel, Saul was condemned for offering up a sacrifice that was illegal. His excuse seems pitiful to us, but don't we do the same thing? "But I thought you demanded sacrifice! I thought you wanted us to sing you worship songs!" And the reply of Samuel is the same to us as it was to Saul. "To obey is better than sacrifice." We should give God what he wants, our obedience, our lives.

Chan walked us through parts of 1 Peter. One of the scriptures that caught my attention was 1 Peter 2:5. "You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ."

His point was this: we are the stones the church is made of. Peter called us living stones. Therefore, the church we are building is a living organism. It's the same message Paul gives us about spiritual gifts and unity within the body. Peter goes on in chapter 2 to talk about how we once were not a people, but now are God's people. We are his people. We are of his tribe, of his family. We have his DNA. We are a global race of Jesus followers set aside to show the world what God is like.

The mission of the church matters. It matters how we build up a fellowship. It matters how we set things up because it sets the pace for what is to come. We must do things the way God wants them done and give him what he asks of us.

Church = Body
Church = Living Building

These are two of the metaphors we've been given to help us understand the role of the church.

What do our churches look like?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Francis Chan @ RightNow Conference

Continuing from my last post, here are my notes from Francis Chan at the RightNow Conference this past weekend.

Understand that as I was listening and writing notes, not everything I heard was written down. Taking that into account, some of what I write here will seem a bit disjointed and you may wonder how these things were said in the same talk. I may not remember myself, I'm going based on what I wrote and trying to remember what feelings were conjured up that made me feel like that was important.

Friday, Nov. 6, 9:00am

Do we really desire truth or do we discover what we want and then work to craft an argument designed to defend our assumed position?

Truth should be our objective, our goal. When Jesus said he was the way, the truth, and the life, we should take that to mean that Jesus is our goal. We should read scripture in its entirety and let it speak to us out of its own context. We must be as unbiased and objective as we can when we approach scripture. We will never be completely objective and unbiased, but we should at least be aware of our biases and assumptions.

What's the point with this?

Truth always leads us into greater fellowship with the Father, who is the source of all truth. When we present the gospel of Jesus, we must keep this in mind. Is what we're saying going to lead someone to Jesus or to ourselves?

As we look at scripture searching for truth about the church and her mission, it becomes clear to us that unity was important, was necessary. Looking in John 17, Jesus even prayed that we might experience unity, that we would be one. If this is the case, why are we surprised when we face division? Do we think the enemy is going to rest and simply allow us to be who Jesus wanted us to be? Isn't it possible that division comes from the enemy? Shouldn't we then re-think possibly why we say or do certain things? If we're not concerned about building up the Body, maybe our motives are wrong.

The church must also be outward-focused. Very rarely are people going to walk in the front doors of our buildings and say "I want Jesus." It certainly could happen, but most of the time we're going to have to be focused outward. It doesn't matter how inviting, contemporary, post-modern, or anything else our services are. In order to reach people, we can't force them in, we must take the church to them. We must exist to go into the world, willing to meet people where they are, and sharing with them the love of Jesus and how he is still active in the world today.

Then we must not be surprised at the trials we face. We will face oppression doing the work of Jesus. Instead of running from it, however, we must choose to embrace the persecution, counting the suffering as joy because it draws us closer to Jesus, who also suffered for the truth.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

RightNow Conference: George Barna

Spent the weekend at the RightNow conference in Dallas. In the following days, I'm going to be posting some of my notes from the weekend.

Thursday night George Barna presented church leaders with a talk about his latest book in which he spoke with 30 of the nations prominent and famous leaders, from Mike Huckabee to Lou Holtz. Following are 6 leadership checkpoints that he learned.

Leadership checkpoint #1

~Leaders can strategically change reality, but they cannot intentionally change people.

The point here is that we can create a compelling environment, we can set up circumstances to promote change in people, but we can't do anything to actually make the person change. The desire for change must come from within.

~Nobody is the "complete leadership package." It's important to work in a leadership team

None of us is as smart as all of us - Ken Blanchard
The best leadership teams are small in number, know each other well, have established an environment of trust, share vision, values, and passion, are vulnerable and communicate well with each other, and most importantly empower people to achieve the vision of the organization.

~One of the most under-valued and least common skills among leaders is listening.

You cannot listen effectively if you aren't willing to have your mind changed - Ken Blanchard
You never learn anything by talking - Lou Holtz
Good leaders aren't afraid to listen. They always want to learn, always want to grow, aren't afraid of change

~Leaders must master conflict and confrontation.

Good leaders aren't afraid of conflict and in fact, sometimes inspire conflict by the way they lead. Good leaders cause conflict because of their passionate pursuit of truth. Anytime truth is sought, those who believe the lie are going to be at odds with it.

~Success is helping people achieve their potential.

You can't change people; you can only help them achieve what they are capable of.

~You get what you measure.

We must learn how to measure things the right way. Not all measuring systems are objective. We must learn how to measure the subjective things. For ex. if we measure church success by large buildings, large crowds, or number of programs, that's what we'll get. If we measure quality of discipleship we may struggle to accurately measure it, but we'll get better disciples.

~Do not accept a leadership position unless you're ready to pay a stiff price. The more significant the outcome you seek to achieve, the more substantial the price you can expect to pay.

Leaders can expect to suffer for their convictions, but they never shy away from pressure or criticism. You really do get what you pay for.

Barna is incredibly thorough in his presentation. Often dry and occasionally so thorough as to be boring, he still presented a great talk with grace and poise. Made me reconsider my role as a leader and how I carry myself. Also made me think about the price I must pay to lead well. I pray that I always lead well and that God is honored in what I do.