Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Ask and Ye Shall Receive

Yesterday I came into my office with a feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach. I had a long to-do list, which doesn't bother me, but what did have me aching and moaning was that over half of my list involved calling people and asking them to do things. I hate asking people to do things. I hate the idea that I'm putting someone out or inconveniencing them. But, sometimes there's no more hiding behind other items on the list and it's time to make some calls. And so, I did. About mid-way thru one of the people I called, called me back and said, "Hey, can't I make some of these calls for you?" HALLELUJAH!!! My heart soared, my shoulders lifted - FREEDOM as William Wallace would say. And then, she said next, "Why didn't you ask me in the first place?" Oh, um, well...I guess that would have been easier and better and smarter and...

The mentality of not wanting to ask people to do things is not good - just read the Bible, pretty much any of it. And, it's particularly dangerous in ministry for two reasons:

1. It leads to the conclusion that I should just do everything myself, "for convenience sake." For starters, I am not capable or qualified to do everything myself. It's arrogance to presume that one person can do the work of the body of Christ. Paul said very specifically that each of us gets to be only one body part at a time, requiring us to work together. If I do everything, I'm under-serving God who deserves our best, I'm neglecting my family and my health, which is a big no-no (remember that whole idea about our bodies being God's temple?) and I'm under-valuing all of the people who are ready and willing to serve and offer their gifts.

2. God created all of us to be part of what He's doing in the world. If I don't ask people to do things, I'm denying them their role in God's creation. I'm making assumptions on their behalf instead of giving them the ability to make decisions for themselves.

In all ministry and in church planting especially, I'm learning that my job is enabling the body not being the body. And so, look out team, I'm going to be asking. You can always tell me no and you should tell me no if I ask you to do something God isn't calling you to do. But, I'm going to start opening the door for you and God to have that conversation.

Hmm, leading people into conversation with God, wonder if that's what a pastor is supposed to do?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Video from Matt

Prayers for Matt Chandler

This post is a call to prayer. Matt Chandler is a 35-year old pastor in Dallas, Texas (The Village Church). I have seen him speak a few times at Catalyst conferences and I regularly listen to his podcasts. He is a very gifted speaker and a faithful follower of God who both challenges and inspires me. He is married and he and his wife have 3 young children.

On Thanksgiving, Matt had a seizure and was taken to the hospital where they discovered a tumor in the frontal lobe of his brain. Two weeks ago, they did surgery to remove what they could and also biopsy the tumor. The family got the pathology report yesterday. The tumor is malignant and they were not able to remove all of it with the surgery.

Please pray for Matt, his family and their church. Even in the midst of this huge challenge, their faith is strong and they continue to be an example of what it looks like to live with complete hope in Jesus Christ. The video of Matt below was put together before his surgery and what he has to say will blow you away.

Video from Matt

Monday, December 14, 2009

Joshua and Ashley Ridge

Okay, so I've been on a Joshua kick for a month and a half in my reading and with devotions I've shared with the ARC launch team. Here's the summary and the wrap-up:

As Moses neared the end of his life, he turned the reins over to Joshua, who was not a young guy. Nevertheless, he was new to the role of commander-in-chief of God's people and with the new role, came fear and uncertainty about what he would face. Joshua's task: lead God's people into the Promised Land. God's word to him, "Be strong and courageous. And be obedient to my word."

Joshua took God at His word. They went into the Promised Land kicking butt and taking names. And when they were done, they divided the land between families and then settled down to worship and live as a people whose purpose was to give glory to God in their worship and in their day-to-day life.

So, where's the parallel? Well, Joshua begins with a J and so does Jenn - kidding!!! Here's the parallel - God has set before us a Promised Land and it's ours to claim and take hold of. There are times of preparation and times to charge forward. We'll know which is which when we stay tuned in to God's word. Our purpose - to serve the Lord. Joshua said, "Choose this day whom you will serve. As for me and my house we will serve the Lord." In this world, there are always other places we can give our time and attention. But we have a chance to choose Jesus and serve Jesus and make glorifying Jesus the sole purpose and cornerstone of our lives - every day, not just Sunday.

There is a lot of ground in our world that is ready and needing to be re-claimed for Jesus. He has already won the victory and now the question sounds again, "How long will you wait before you begin to take possession of the land that the Lord, the God of your fathers, has given you?" (Joshua 18:3).

Now is our time. Our season of preparation is coming to a close and the charge is imminent.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

East Edisto

As I mentioned in my last entry, the master plan for East Edisto was unveiled last night at a town meeting held at Summerville High School. You can go to the website to see the maps and read all about it. It's incredible exciting. "Why?" you ask - THIS IS OUR MISSION FIELD!

In Scripture there are lots of times when God sends His people to existing areas of need, but there are also those rare occasions when God sends His people out ahead to prepare the way. John the Baptist knew all about that kind of ministry. He went to the wilderness and declared that Jesus was coming. How cool is it that we get to do the same thing!

We are in ongoing conversations with the land development team at MeadWestVaco that is responsible for this project. They see ARC as an asset to the kind of community they are trying to build. Please continue to pray for our relationship with MWV and our continued dialogue, but more importantly start pulling the maps of these communities up on your computer screen and start praying for the people who will come and the ways God will use us to point them to Jesus.

This is so exciting!!!

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Random Thoughts

1. Bad acting and bad writing are requirements for made-for-tv Christmas movies. So, why do we love them? It's all about the feel-good effect. Eleven months of the year I avoid the Hallmark channel like the plague, but come December, bring it on.

2. On-line is by far the best way to do your Christmas shopping. No lines, no traffic, much less impulse buying, and, if you play your cards right, FREE SHIPPING!

3. Dieting makes me hungry.

4. Stress makes me hungry.

5. I'm hungry.

6. It's amazing how quickly babies learn. Jacob not only mimics Clark's and my movements, but he has mastered our dog's begging techniques at the age of 10 months.

7. I went to a community meeting tonight about the master plan for East Edisto. It amazes me how God is always 10 steps ahead of the plans we make. Check out and notice that Ashley Ridge High School is in the middle of it all - God has big plans and it just so happens that we get to be part of it!

Monday, December 07, 2009

Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus

Yes, that's right, if you were in worship yesterday morning, this is the Christmas song we sang. It's my favorite. Coincidence? I think not. Call it selfish, call it pastoral privilege, call it leadership, call it what you like - here's the bottom line: I told Jamin I wanted to sing "Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus" on December 6 and he said, "which version would you like?"

Where am I going with this? No, I'm not on a power trip. However, one of the big lessons I'm learning as a church planter is that there are decisions I simply need to make - no questions, no consults, decisions made. It's necessary to stay on task. It's necessary to keep the ball rolling. It's necessary to maintain clarity about our vision and where we're headed. I was told many months ago that the job of a church planter is to "set, maintain and protect the vision." I'm starting to see that firsthand and understand that it means making decisions and also taking responsibility for all decisions (even those that weren't mine). As Truman said, "the buck stops here."

It's been a difficult lesson because the truth is I'm a big fan of team ministry and I work well in that environment. In truth, it's all I know and it's all I want to know. That said, even in team ministry, there are times when decisions need to be made with clarity and conviction so the whole team can then rally around and make progress in a shared direction.

Here's the caveat, and man is it a big one: all decisions, all vision, all purpose comes from God and God alone. The only way for me to stand up and lead is to start the day on my knees in complete and total submission to the One who is ultimately in control. What God says stands - no questions, no consults, no quibbles, no "but what ifs." When God says sing I shouldn't even take time to ask "how loud?" God says sing and it's mine to sing. God gave birth to Ashley Ridge Church long before I was around. The fact that we get to participate is a huge gift and an opportunity that can never be taken lightly, which means I need to be willing to act boldly on the vision God has set before me and before us.

The good news is that the vision for ARC is so much bigger than any one of us. I'm thankful for the opportunity to lead and I'm thankful for a team that has also seen and heard God's vision for our community. We move forward in faith and in the power of Jesus Christ who has already given us everything we need.