Worth

A cool thing about our Outreach Saga is that I don’t have to carry the load. I do a lot of the teaching, but others step up when they have something from the Lord to share.

A couple of weeks ago my friend Cyndi Gavin shared. She talked about the worth we have to God. What she shared was so good I had to pass it on:

If you could do anything, what would it be? That was the question she posed to us. We had a paper and pencil to write down what we would do if we could do anything we wanted. Then she talked for a bit about how we get our sights on things that aren’t worthwhile.

She pulled out a fifty dollar bill and asked if anyone would want it. Many hands shot up. What if it was dropped in the mud? There were still takers. Now if a one dollar bill was in the mud, you’d consider whether it was worth it. Not with the fifty. It’s gone.

Then she came back to our papers, with our one wish on there. She asked this question: How much was it worth? Was it worth giving the life of your child for it?

No one said yes.

But God said yes.

He said we were worth enough that He would sacrifice His Son for us. And He did just that.

That is how much we are worth.

So, know that you are loved today. And no matter how bad things may seem, God thought you were worth it.

All In

When people ask me where I go to church now, I tell them about our Outreach Saga. Meeting in the park. Trying to do a community of Jesus in the midst of a group of people on their turf instead of in a specific building.

Sometimes people respond, “So you don’t go to church anywhere else?”

Well, no.

What we’re doing is church.

We don’t go to a building in the morning and then do outreach after that. We’ve said that sink or swim, stand or fall, what we’re doing with people in the park is what we’re doing. It keeps us more engaged I think. There’s no lifeline. There’s no safe place to retreat to if the going gets rough.

Since we can’t go back (well, we could, but not immediately), we have to press in. We have to love people as they are. Working through the ups and downs of life. Pointing to Jesus when it gets rough or when it is going well. It keeps us engaged with the Lord, because without Him it all falls apart. I wish I could say I did this perfectly. I don’t.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that with this church in the park deal, we’re all in. No chips held back. They’ve been pushed to the middle of the table and we’re playing this hand.

It’s exciting. It’s frightening. It requires a lot of faith, and the Spirit encourages us an awful lot when we have those human moments of doubt.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Not sure if this song fully fits, but here’s Lifehouse with All In.

Back To The Park

Did you see the angel behind the tree? ūüėČ

Ugh. I don’t even want to look at when the last time I posted. It’s been one of those months.

But in better news, the Outreach Saga is back in the park.

This was our Sunday for church:

We had beautiful singing with a battery powered keyboard.

The worship leader gave an anointed word at the end.

Our main speaker had to wait until the dogs checked each other out to continue.

We talked about Jesus as our redeemer. As we talked about how we can’t earn any more unconditional love than what God already gives us, one new gal spoke up. “We can’t do sh*t by ourselves. It’s Him.”

At one point I had to duck a lit cigarette as the gal next to me excitedly waved her arms talking about Jesus.

Yep, we’re back in the park. All of us beautiful messes, learning to walk with the Lord in His love and truth. Out in the fresh air. Mixed up with real life, which isn’t always pretty or “religious.”

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Soccer or Football

I was talking to a friend this weekend who passed on an observation from someone else.

“Church can be like football or like soccer.”

This piqued my curiosity. I am a sports fan after all. I love to watch American football, but I enjoy playing soccer more.

A football game is equipment and support heavy. All the helmets and pads. Several referees. A special kind of field with marks every ten yards. To do it right, it takes a lot of effort and resources.

Soccer can be the essence of simplicity. You need a ball and two spots for goals. That’s it.

 The laws of soccer are actually very few, compared with the myriad of penalties and rules for what is acceptable in football. Try explaining to a football novice the difference between running into a kicker vs. roughing the kicker, or pass interference, or illegal formation. The wide receiver covered the tight end? What is that?

Of course kids can play a simple game of football in a park, and soccer can be done with huge stadiums and use a lot more resources. Still, the analogy holds: football is generally a lot of work to actually get to the game, while soccer can be done with a minimal of requirements.

When it comes to church, doing our Outreach Saga has convinced me that doing things simply like the soccer match is a valid way of meeting together as the body of Christ. I recognize that the big football game of Sunday morning church has its place and can do things we can’t do in our small group. However, I think both can be used to meet the needs of people around us.

Are we willing to do something small and simple to reach people, instead of always going for bigger and showier?

For now, God’s given me a soccer ball. I’m willing to play the game He’s put in front of me.

What do you think of the analogy? Does it ring true, or do you have a concern about it? Let’s talk about it in the comments below.

Organic Outreach?

There’s a lot of talk on the internet about Organic Church. I know the internet gives any cause a voice, but when we moved into our Outreach Saga and started meeting outside of the traditional church, it was heartening to find other like-minded people.

I’ve paid attention to several writers: Frank Viola, Alan Knox, Neil Cole, Alan HirschChurch In A Circle, Church Multiplication Associates, and Simple Church to name a few. These sites have information pertinent to doing church organically, in a different pattern from the typical Sunday morning setting. They talk about the body doing ministry together, meeting out in the world (rather than a church building), and growing disciples in more of a relational manner. 
These are all very helpful resources, and I’m grateful to these brothers and sisters for sharing the way the Lord is leading them and their testimony and experience in walking out church in a new way.
I’ve come to realize an issue though. My group that I’m involved with isn’t doing strictly Organic Church. 
We met in a park during the summer and fall, moving into a local counseling center for the winter weather. Many people share during our times together. We eat, sing, and bring the Word as we’re led. These are things that an organic church will do.
The thing that may be different is that we’re an outreach at the same time. 
We’re in a neighborhood with low income housing, and we’ve mainly reached people in this apartment complex. I think most of the people coming are Christians, but I’m not certain in every case. Some have been in the church and felt rejected. Others come because we are so close and accessible. 
It seems we are a little different than a lot of the organic church talk I’ve followed online. Maybe I’m wrong and not catching it. 
The challenge is that we’ve got a core of believers that have had relationship with each other over a long period of time with a desire to be the church instead of doing church. Then we have another population of people that we’re getting to know and trying to disciple. It is very exciting what we’re doing each week, and it is a huge blessing to be ministering to each other. I am touched as often as anyone else is. That doesn’t take away from the sensation I have of walking on the water at times – trying to keep my balance as the waves shift beneath me!
I guess the point of this post is to throw this situation out there. Does anyone have experience doing organic church as an outreach? If so, I’d love to dialog with you on this topic. If you have a heart to pray for us, that would be greatly appreciated! 
So leave a comment if you’re interested in a discussion on organic church and reaching out. I’ll meet you in the blogosphere.

The Spirit And Sloppy Joes

Sloppy joes bring people together

There’s something we’ve missed out on in modern church culture.

We don’t eat together very often.

I’ve always gone to small churches. It is easy to eat together. For a long time it was a once a month ritual. Then some people got tired of it and we backed off, but then I realized it made a difference in our fellowship. I don’t know how a mega-church could consider doing it – probably isn’t feasible.

Which is too bad, considering the Bible assumes food and fellowship as part of the regular meeting of the saints, if you read Acts, Galatians, and 1st Corinthians. I’ll come back to this point in a minute.

Having said that, we had another interesting night for our Church in the Park (that is now indoors for the season).

I was responsible for sharing and I was having trouble. I couldn’t zero in on anything in particular to talk about. I’ve wanted to talk about what it means to be a disciple, but that didn’t stick. I looked at some other verses to discuss and couldn’t really get a sense of what I should share. Finally I went ready to talk about three different passages of Scripture. And if all else failed, we’d pray for the election.

Well, one of our regulars asked if there was something in the Bible that could help him with some conflict in relationships.

Okay then. Scrap my other three plans. I guess we’re talking about turning the other cheek and walking in the opposite spirit!

We had a good discussion. I shared a couple of pertinent passages out of Matthew 5 and Romans 12. The group shared their thoughts and from their experiences. There was no clear answer but we were able to address a need and pray for it among each other. I was very blessed that my lack of direction helped me stay open to what the Spirit needed to do. That isn’t easy to do in a regular church service. Thankfully, our situation allows for a more organic response. It was special to see our little group be the body to each other.

Oh, so back to the sloppy joes. One of the guys mentioned as a joke that a lot of conflict can be resolved if there were only sloppy joes involved. I couldn’t help but laugh at that. I think there’s truth though. I wonder if eating together drops our defenses a little bit. It is one thing to mingle in the foyer and make small talk. When we dine and share our food together, it is more inviting to open up to your brother or sister.

Let’s be open to what the Spirit wants us to do. Having sloppy joes couldn’t hurt.

Moving In With The Outreach

We held out as long as we could.

This is truth
We challenged our foe. We braved conditions, kept persevering, and kept fighting. In the end we had to capitulate.
Idaho weather won.
Our Outreach Saga¬†has managed to meet in the park since we started¬†the first weekend in June. Every Sunday we¬†showed up at the park.¬†Those of you who know Idaho’s climate realize this is a minor miracle. Since it has snowed in Idaho in June before (not just the mountains either), I am fairly shocked and pleasantly surprised! We had a couple of windy days, the occasional cold day, but we never had to move our cancel for the weather.

Until now.

This¬†weekend we finally moved indoors. Ironically the weather wasn’t too bad and we could have stayed out one more¬†time. Daylight Savings ends next week though, so it seemed time to pack it inside.

This¬†will¬†change our dynamics. We have had people come and go with the freedom of the open park. We always eat together and then spend some time in worship, Bible study, and discussion. A majority ate and left. That was okay. We never wanted to hold them hostage to something in order to get a meal. ¬†I’ve been of the mindset that they will stay when they are ready to hear what we have to say.

Yesterday actually went well. None of us had any idea of what to expect. We are blessed to be meeting at a counseling center less than two blocks from the park, but we didn’t know if people would trudge down a little farther, if convenience was a big issue.

We had a good turnout. Some kids came and were fed and had a safe place to hang out for two hours. Many adults came for a meal. We didn’t have many stay for our Bible discussion, but we got to minister specifically to those who did.

This adventure has been mind-blowing for all of us involved. At the start of the year I would have never imagined doing an outreach like it. Now I can’t imagine what I would be doing otherwise.

If you’ve been following this, please pray for us as we transition into the winter and being indoors. We will have more of a challenge engaging the kids/keeping them busy. Our sense is that winter will allow some more in-reach, whereas the summer in the park lent itself to outreach and a wider net.

Who knows? This has been an unpredictable journey so far. Why start predicting now?

Got Body?

My mom had her share of corny jokes.

One of her favorites was, “Do you want to hear my ghost song?” Then she would sing the first couple lines from the song, “I Ain’t Got Nobody.” No. Body. Get it. Never mind.

Well, I think in the body of Christ we act too often as if we “ain’t got no body.” In that, we don’t let the body do what it needs to do.

Our little Outreach Saga in the park has been going for about 7-8 weeks now. When we first started, we concentrated on building some relationship and gaining the trust of the people. We shared Jesus when we could, whether through conversation or deeds. The last few weeks we have transitioned to having a little more organized Bible study together.

Now, “organized” has a different meaning for what we’ve been doing relative to most people. In this case, it means we gather in a circle and start with reading a Bible story or a few verses. Then we have discussion. That part has lasted about 1.5 hours the last two weeks. No agenda or specific sermon to go through. We’re opening it up to questions and sharing from our hearts.

The awesome thing about this is that we’re seeing our group be the Body of Christ. I’m kind of the leader of our study time, since I have a big mouth and am not afraid to get the ball rolling. The problem is that I don’t necessarily have all the answers for the questions we’re getting.

Last night several people shared. People from the park have questions but also chime in with thoughts. Others from our original fellowship stepped up with their testimonies and words at the proper times.

I’ve had some great opportunities to go to a wonderful Bible study program, to teach and use my gifts in the past. This doesn’t mean I have it all figured out, or have the right words for every situation. Far from it!

I was so blessed¬†last night to have others willing and able to share and use their gifts and testimony to touch others. I needed them. I couldn’t do it myself (not that I would ever want to!).

More and more in our Outreach Saga I’m seeing the wisdom in 1 Corinthians 12-14. Jesus created us as a body for a reason. We need each other. Don’t be afraid to use your gifts from God. He gave them to you for a reason – to be shared with others.

If anyone has questions about what this whole Outreach Saga is, feel free to let me know in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them. It’s an interesting journey so far!

Applied Learning

Another Mission Monday. Another series in our Outreach Saga.

The link there will catch you up if you’re so inclined. The basics so far – I’m in a home group/church that has decided to meet out in a local park for the summer. We’re meeting next to a set of low-income apartments on Sundays, inviting the people to a “BBQ for Jesus” and hanging out with them.

My last two Monday posts have talked about our first two experiences relating to what we have done with the people there. Yesterday was another good day where we were able to bless people relationally, financially, and spiritually. I had a great conversation with some guys discussing our souls, forgiveness, and cremation(!).

The outside manifestation of what Jesus is leading us to do is cool enough. However, I am seeing an equally important side-effect.

I am being transformed.

I have been a faithful church attender since high school. I went to church when my mom had given up on it long ago. I’ve been through church splits, highs, lows, and anywhere in between. The Lord has been walking with me all along, through the trials and blessings. However, over the last several years I have struggled at church. I knew that I was not going to get milk. I wasn’t a new Christian, and I felt that I needed to reach out and be a blessing to others. I taught Bible studies and Sunday school classes. I filled in for the pastor if he was gone. Why, I even acted as a “lay pastor” when we were 5 months in between ministers.

Still, it was more¬†of a duty going on Sunday mornings. I felt it was my fault. I needed to pray more prior to church. I had to get my “heart” right. It was on me.

Now that we aren’t doing church as usual, I think I’m seeing something.

Since we don’t have a strict format, since we’re going week by week trying to listen to God and do whatever is set before us, there is a difference in my heart.

There’s an excitement. There’s a renewal of a passion that had cooled.

There’s a new dependence on Jesus.

We don’t know what is going to happen each time! We have done a variety of things so far. I can’t plan – I can’t use my prior knowledge of the Bible or church to guide me. (Certainly I’m leaning on the Word, but it isn’t where I plan a three-point sermon or lesson).

It is staying sensitive to the Spirit each time we’re out there. It is crying out to Jesus through the week, recognizing that I am in over my head! I need Him to walk with me through this.

I am being changed again.

I have had the privilege of many different experiences that have strengthened my relationship with Jesus. A mission trip, nine months of Bible school, and my long history in church walking with some dear people.

It reminds me of¬†my physician assistant program. The first year was almost all classroom. We took in so much information it was like drinking from a fire hose. The second year was our clinical year. We worked with doctors, PA’s, or nurse practitioners to take care of patients. I was part of a team that helped people, and it made the classroom learning real, because it was applied learning.

I feel like our little group is in clinicals right now. We’ve had many years of going to church, learning and building up our knowledge base and our spiritual lives. Now we are in the practical stage. It is time to go out and do.

It is a challenge. It is frightening at times. It is also exhilirating. I know Jesus is helping us as we try to obey as best we can. I’m learning more and more the truth behind this verse:

‚ÄúWith man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.‚ÄĚ (Mark 10:27)

Applied Learning

Another Mission Monday. Another series in our Outreach Saga.

The link there will catch you up if you’re so inclined. The basics so far – I’m in a home group/church that has decided to meet out in a local park for the summer. We’re meeting next to a set of low-income apartments on Sundays, inviting the people to a “BBQ for Jesus” and hanging out with them.

My last two Monday posts have talked about our first two experiences relating to what we have done with the people there. Yesterday was another good day where we were able to bless people relationally, financially, and spiritually. I had a great conversation with some guys discussing our souls, forgiveness, and cremation(!).

The outside manifestation of what Jesus is leading us to do is cool enough. However, I am seeing an equally important side-effect.

I am being transformed.

I have been a faithful church attender since high school. I went to church when my mom had given up on it long ago. I’ve been through church splits, highs, lows, and anywhere in between. The Lord has been walking with me all along, through the trials and blessings. However, over the last several years I have struggled at church. I knew that I was not going to get milk. I wasn’t a new Christian, and I felt that I needed to reach out and be a blessing to others. I taught Bible studies and Sunday school classes. I filled in for the pastor if he was gone. Why, I even acted as a “lay pastor” when we were 5 months in between ministers.

Still, it was more of a duty going on Sunday mornings. I felt it was my fault. I needed to pray more prior to church. I had to get my “heart” right. It was on me.

Now that we aren’t doing church as usual, I think I’m seeing something.

Since we don’t have a strict format, since we’re going week by week trying to listen to God and do whatever is set before us, there is a difference in my heart.

There’s an excitement. There’s a renewal of a passion that had cooled.

There’s a new dependence on Jesus.

We don’t know what is going to happen each time! We have done a variety of things so far. I can’t plan – I can’t use my prior knowledge of the Bible or church to guide me. (Certainly I’m leaning on the Word, but it isn’t where I plan a three-point sermon or lesson).

It is staying sensitive to the Spirit each time we’re out there. It is crying out to Jesus through the week, recognizing that I am in over my head! I need Him to walk with me through this.

I am being changed again.

I have had the privilege of many different experiences that have strengthened my relationship with Jesus. A mission trip, nine months of Bible school, and my long history in church walking with some dear people.

It reminds me of my physician assistant program. The first year was almost all classroom. We took in so much information it was like drinking from a fire hose. The second year was our clinical year. We worked with doctors, PA’s, or nurse practitioners to take care of patients. I was part of a team that helped people, and it made the classroom learning real, because it was applied learning.

I feel like our little group is in clinicals right now. We’ve had many years of going to church, learning and building up our knowledge base and our spiritual lives. Now we are in the practical stage. It is time to go out and do.

It is a challenge. It is frightening at times. It is also exhilirating. I know Jesus is helping us as we try to obey as best we can. I’m learning more and more the truth behind this verse:

‚ÄúWith man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.‚ÄĚ (Mark 10:27)