Sunday, March 29, 2015

Holy Week: It is finished...

"When he had received the drink, Jesus said, 'It is finished.' With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit."  John 19:30

Some have said the church is the hope of the world.  That's true, so long as Jesus continues to be the hope of the church!  

This week is not only a celebration of Jesus' victory over sin and death on our behalf; but a celebration for the church.  That's because Jesus brings the message of grace alone to a church often laboring under the burdens of performance-based Christianity.

Hmm.  I sometimes wonder if our churches have become more "Nike-Victory-Like" in our discipleship, rather than "Jesus-Victory-Like."  I wonder if we've unintentionally adopted a worldly war cry of, Just Do It, rather than a biblical war cry of, It Is Finished!

Or can there be---  a combo meal of sorts?

One major way Jesus' biblical discipleship can be resurrected in us, is through the painful process of self-forgetfulness.  Currently, there's a bunch of spiritual narcissism inside the church where we're obsessing over how we're doing.  Big churches do it, little churches do it...and church plants can quickly fall into the same pit.  We're obsessed over whether we are doing things right or wrong in worship, in our small groups, or in the visitor follow-up with our marketability.  We obsess because we want to do better and fix people and their problems.  I've been guilty of that!  Trouble is, it can lead to church performance, rather than church discipleship, as the driving purpose of church.  It can lead to accomplishing worldly goal-purposes, rather than accomplishing God's kingdom purposes.

Having said all that, please hear me also say that wanting to do better is not a bad thing, so long as we understand that only as we first follow Jesus we will always be in the right.  I've heard it said, "Discipleship is a process of paying more and more attention to God's righteousness and less and less attention to our own."  I believe that's true.

That's why hearing Jesus declare this Holy Week from the Cross, "Come and follow me, and I will...finish it, becomes our redeemed battle cry of, Just Do it!  

Just follow me, says Jesus,  and I will do it.  I will redeem all things.  You don't have to finish it.  You don't have to even start it.  You simply need to believe me, trust me, follow me, and then anticipate something great is going to happen for you, through you, for others--- to the glory of our Father!

With that, I bless you, dear friends, with a powerful Holy Week of celebrating and receiving Jesus' Victory performance!  It is the true hope for the world when it's the true hope of the church in the world!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Leaders for the sake of Mission

"Leaders are for the sake of mission.  Mission is for the sake of God."  Bob Logan

This coming May 3-6 in Columbus, Ohio, the LCMC Ministry Board is hosting a great opportunity for learning, developing and deploying greater biblical leadership.  This, for the sake of greater mission...which is for the sake of greater impact...which is for the sake of Jesus' Great(er) Commission!  Please go to and check-out the needed background information and registration details for the iFollow: 2015 Leadership in the way of Jesus.              

It promises to be deeply meaningful and fun, but maybe some of you leaders are feeling flooded by all your individual in-house responsibilities.  If that's the case, then attending the May conference on leadership is even more crucial for you and your congregation!  Perhaps the conference experience will transform your mind from inward duties to outward delights?!  Your congregational stats may, or may not, grow from a renewed sense of "what is biblical leadership," but your kingdom influence will--- and isn't that the real point of life in the way of Jesus?

Of course, all the hard work that goes into seeking greater worship attendance and developing more fluid programming within our congregations is certainly worthy of your attention, but only if the greater attendance and programming is leading to greater discipleship for greater city impact in Christ!  Look to 2 Kings 4:1-7 and see that when our motivation is to give and grow outward for kingdom impact, we'll always find more oil in the jar--- for ourselves, and for our ministries to move forward and into our respective cities.

I recently came across this situation myself.  I was sensing that most of our 800 LCMC congregations were disconnected from our church planting vision of "1,000 in 10."  I sensed many of our leaders were ok with the idea, but it was just not for them.  With that in mind, our newly formed LCMC Mission Team recently came together to pray-storm the next steps for developing our church planting mission.  We knew we didn't have a financial problem, nor a faith problem...but we believed the LCMC was experiencing a leadership problem.  Leaders, that is, for the sake of mission and mission for the sake of God!  From our meeting, we sensed the Lord gave us the following steps of strategy:

1). Start Small.  I'm going to be meeting/connecting with 35 of our most mission-minded congregational leaders over the next year.
2). Go Deep.  When we meet/connect, it is to begin gelling together in a missional mindset that goes way beyond the four walls of our church facilities.
3). Think Big.  When 35 of our congregations begin moving forward as bold models of missional success, we are believing that other congregations will be inspired to join together in the same kingdom endeavor.

While it would be wonderful to get buy-in and full participation from everyone in the LCMC, the secret is, we don't need it.  Jesus called some who chose not to follow him in mission.  And when they didn't follow, he went on with his work anyway, focusing on those who had ears to hear.  Trying to develop those who don't want development will actually become counterproductive, creating a drag on those who are truly motivated.

Leaders, think on this: too often I've mixed-up the difference between training people for mission and orientating them for mission.  Maybe you have too?  Orientation is like a ball team studying game film in the locker room, while training is more like implementing what was learned in orientation by actual engagement on the practice field.  Great leadership is knowing the difference.  Great leadership is doing both, well.  Great leadership is learning to first follow Jesus and his way.  After all, many of you Christian leaders are tired of talking about the same old things without them making much of a difference.  You want to see lives transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit, marriages restored and people released from addictions.  A vision like that is compelling, urgent, and energizing for all.  It's leadership for the sake of mission...and mission for the sake of God!  

Please consider registering TODAY for the May 3-6, iFollow Leadership Conference in Columbus, Ohio (host: Upper Arlington Lutheran Church, in Hilliard, OH).  Then, let's anticipate God will stir us and our work will be empowered!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Using A.D. as a tool for outreach

Planters: Inspired by an article I recently read in the March/April 2015 edition of OUTREACH magazine, let me share the following ideas in order for you to contemplate possible uses in your new congregation for city impact:

A.D.--- the Bible Continues is a 12-week television series airing on NBC beginning April 5th.  If used well, A.D. could very well be the tool you need for great post-Resurrection Day follow-up!  I believe the series will not only engage your current congregants, but also serve as a means of outreach to those in your community who are unchurched, yet are still intrigued this spring by the power of the Easter message and want to somehow get connected to the Christian faith.

What is the television series about?  A.D. speaks to the birth of the Christian Church, connecting historical facts to spiritual drama through the first 10 chapters of Acts.  The series starts live on the evening of Easter Sunday, April 5th.  I realize, of course, that most of you have already planned your Holy Week messages, but here are some thoughts to how you can still use the videos:

1). Order right now the official A.D. Church Kit via, and you'll receive sermon outlines that work with each of the 12 TV shows.  You'll also get video preview clips and a Study/Guidebook.  From there, either develop an A.D. preaching series for post-Easter into the summer months, or wait until fall as a kick-off series that could also impact your September youth ministries and small group start-ups.

2). Or, record the show and play it over the big screens of your church facility, or in the homes of your small groups, at your convenience.  The great thing about showing A.D. at your church facility is that it gives folks outside your congregation "public permission" to come and see and then get their questions engaged.  If you don't want to record the show, then air it live at your church!  Promote and invite people from outside your congregation, then end each night with a question and answer session...perhaps even some ministry time!

These are just two ideas for how to use this up-coming television series to teach the faith and reach the lost.  Might something work for your culture?

Friends: even though you may have already planned out your sermon-series of Easter through the month of May, you can still easily implement this great biblical tool into your ministry this spring while the story is hot.  Video clips could be used Sunday mornings to encourage people to watch the show Sunday nights.  So, whether you develop a Sunday morning sermon series, or small group gatherings around A.D.--- the Bible Continues, clearly the TV show can be a great culture-touching tool that gets people talking on Monday mornings in the marketplace about the Christian faith!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Blurring the lines of Sacred and Secular: part-2

"For the Son of Man came to seek and to save WHAT was lost."  Jesus, as recorded in Luke 19:10.

Contrary to what we often hear inside many of our churches and various American institutions these days, there is no such thing as something (music, movies, sports, jobs, school, government, etc) being either sacred OR secular.  Instead, ALL things are either sacred (of God), or sinful (not of God).  That's because when Jesus went to the cross and laid down his life as an atonement for the sin of the world, He redeemed all things for His purposes!  Therefore, when people, places and things are "acting" outside of God's purposes, they aren't being secular, they are being sinful!

At the resurrection, all things that were once lost are now re-found by Christ.  He owns them and he wants YOU to now reclaim them as well!  That means all schools belong to God (even Harvard).  All music belongs to God (even hip hop).  All sports belong to God (even the Packers).  All money belongs to God (even the millions that are grabbed by greed).  All neighborhoods belong to God (even the darkest, most run down, most dangerous).  Businesses, hospitals, parks, police departments, shopping malls, and government agencies and nations--- they all belong to God via Jesus.  This is why believers can reclaim them instead of avoiding, or bad mouthing them!

With this kind of transformed thinking by the power of the Holy Spirit, believers are deputized by Jesus himself as his "marketplace ministers" to serve in their spheres of influence.  Teachers are the ministers of their classrooms.  Business people are the ministers of their co-workers and industry.  Government workers are the marketplace ministers to those they serve.  No longer are ordained pastors the only ones capable and called to do ministry, but they lead others to live-out their God-given spiritual gifts for the sake of ALL THINGS!  

CHURCH PLANTERS: as you meet and work with your launch teams, be sure to train and deploy them as fellow-ministers in Christ.  Don't just tell them they should "do discipleship," but also model for them what discipleship (following Jesus) looks like in regular, everyday circumstances.  This gives them more than just mere permission to invite others to "come and see" your new worshipping community, but it models for them what it looks like to minister to other people where they are at (see my last blog, part-1) in life.  When this happens in the culture, non-believers are inspired to find out more about this Jesus fellow, or this new church that is meeting in the school's theater, etc.  They are now intrigued by your new church plant because they are seeing ordinary people like themselves doing extraordinary things in the city! 

Still, the biggest barrier to getting people out of the church facility is often the culture within the church itself.  Much of Christianity has become ghetto-ized.  In other words, in the name of staying holy, we often separate ourselves from the rest of the world.  We object and reject so much of popular culture, that we have created our own "Christian" music, movies, schools and novels.  We become so defined by what we are against, that nobody knows what we are for.  When a current book or movie hits a note of discord or controversy within the church, we often preach, "Don't go to that movie, or don't buy that book."  So instead, try this: examine why a particular book, or movie, or political stance is so popular right now in our culture.  What is the so-called need that is being met, or not being met, in the life of the viewer/reader/voter?  Where is the "hole" in people's daily lives that the church can fill and meet such needs in a far more life-giving manner?

Here are three recent examples:
1). The book and movie, Fifty Shades of Grey, focuses on the dark side of male-female sexual relationships.  So ask, "What part of the human soul is longing for this story line?  Is it because our male-female relationships are missing something that only God can truly provide?"  Probably so.  Then dissect the root cause of such a need and biblical preach into it so people are reminded that God is the creator of within His context, sex is a great thing!  In other words, don't just say, "Don't go to the movie, it's bad."  Instead, speak into it's issues, our issues, and God's promises in sexuality.  

2). The elevation of heated race relations in America.  Or, the promotion of same sex marriages.  Is it true that people are still bias or hurtful against others based upon the color of skin or sexual orientation?  Yes.  It is also true that media and politicians are trying to exploit race and sexuality for some un-Godly reasons--- like for increased power of their own?  Probably so.  So planters: lay it all out on the table with the conviction and courage of Christ!  Help your new congregation walk by faith as the folks daily engage people of all sorts of cultural backgrounds and lifestyles in the marketplace.  As you do, your people will live differently, and your church will gain a reputation as being willing to lovingly address issues that other cultural groups simply avoid or exploit. 

3). The rise of ISIS in the world and its killing of Christians, Jews and even other Muslims.  Are we going to just hate Muslims we see working, shopping, schooling or living next to us in order to make us "feel" better?  If we do, are we becoming more like ISIS, or more like JESUS?  I know you know the answer, but that's why discipleship of the Christian faith has to move from the pews to the do's.  Start addressing your folks on how they can speak and act into this divisive momentum in such a manner that gives more people the breakthrough that only JESUS is the way, the truth and the life--- because people are seeing Jesus in us!

Preachers: not only be brave enough to tackle this subject with your Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other, but give your people means and models to practice loving those who are not easy to love.  Let's move from good ideas to God ideas that lead more and more people (including Muslims) declaring Jesus is Lord! 

Friends: contrary to news reports or even some churches...there is no such thing as a separation of what is sacred and what is secular.  ALL things are under Christ's victory at the cross!  Therefore, ALL things are either sacred (living in the purposes of God), or they are sinful (living counter to God).  Truly, Jesus has already paid the full price to redeem this world, and now he wants his followers to reclaim it as well!