Thursday, May 21, 2009

Poor yet Generous

Not long ago I was in line at a downtown Wendy's when a homeless guy cut in front of me. He literally acted as if he didn't see me. He stepped up to the counter and ordered a .99 cent hamburger and a water. He handed the teenage girl behind the counter two wadded up dollar bills to cover the grand total of $1.07. As he stuck out his hand for the change, I noticed him reading the label of a donation box for kids with MS. In one quick move, he took the .93 cents he was given in change, jammed every penny into the box, spun around and bolted out the door.

It caught me off guard. And it was my lesson for the day (if not week).

Today I found an article that interested me and reminded me of this experience. It was written by Frank Greve and was surprisingly titled, "America's Poor Are Its Most Generous Givers". Here's how it started:
When Jody Richards saw a homeless man begging outside a downtown McDonald's recently, he bought the man a cheeseburger. There's nothing unusual about that, except that Richards is homeless, too, and the 99-cent cheeseburger was an outsized chunk of the $9.50 he'd earned that day from panhandling.

The generosity of poor people isn't so much rare as rarely noticed, however. In fact, America's poor donate more, in percentage terms, than higher-income groups do, surveys of charitable giving show. What's more, their generosity declines less in hard times than the generosity of richer givers does...
(to read the article in it's entirety click HERE)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Something Happened Last Night...

I sat in a living room last night in East Austin dreaming, praying, discussing, and planning with a group of men I never would have known just a handful of years ago. Through networking initiatives like the Austin PlantR Network (, a handful of lunches, meetings, emails, and phone calls, we each found ourselves looking at each other and asking the question, "What if"?

So there we were: Two white dudes, three latinos, an african-american, a native-american, and an asian-american... all pastors, all feeling called to be a part of a collective spiritual and social renewal effort in the amazing city of Austin. Some are reformed, some wesleyan, some from the holiness tradition, and honestly some have spiritual journeys I'm still trying to figure out. One of us (who will remain unnamed) preaches in flip-flops, another wears a robe. There is much we do differently, but have at least one thing in common: the belief that it's time to look past our secondary theological disagreements and not just "say" it won't divide... but actually take major steps towards partnering together to reach a city that needs hope more than we need to be right.

It was very encouraging. The Spirit was overwhelming. And while it ended up being a four-hour meeting, I left refreshed. Something just seemed right. While part of me wishes I could fast forward five years and see what happens, I have a feeling that the joy will be in the journey of simply "what's next".

To be continued.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


I had a great conversation the other day with Dave Ferguson, Pastor of Community Christian Church in Chicago. It’s a large church with multiple campuses. Dave’s an awesome guy and has a heart for church planting. Since Austin New Church has officially entered the journey of helping plant churches (not just be a church plant ourselves), we were talking about the sustainability of some of the modern church planting movements. And he asked me the question, “What do you mean by sustainable?”

Great question. Initially I thought, well, sustainable is when a church can survive on it’s own without outside support. But then my mind flooded with all the things that should be sustainable that are much more important than even financial feasibility. Is our vision sustainable? Are our values sustainable? Our hope is to create a reproducible model, but while it may reproduce, will it sustain? Do our goals have an inherent reality of sustainability? Are our intentional relationships based on a sustainable foundation or do they end after an event is over? The list continues.

The reality is, the only things that are sustainable are the things of God. And today’s scripture struck a chord with me. Psalm 45 is a wedding song. It’s laced with the imagery of Christ as the coming groom and the church as His bride. As the psalmist begins his description of the groom he writes,
“You are the most excellent of men and your lips have been anointed with grace, since God has blessed you forever. Gird your sword upon your side, O mighty one; clothe yourself with splendor and majesty. In your majesty ride forth victoriously in behalf of truth, humility and righteousness; let your right hand display awesome deeds.” - Psalm 45:2-4

Christ, and all He represents, is eternal. Verse four tells us that it is in truth, humility, and righteousness that He rides forth victoriously and that in his right hand He displays awesome deeds. Verse two says that His anointing mark is grace. It is in His grace that all things sustain. It is in His grace that we find eternity. It is in His grace that we will find purpose beyond our plans.

I’ve had an interesting day already. After leaving an early morning meeting with a group of men from my neighborhood, I sensed the urge to pull over into the parking lot of a traditional Baptist church that I know has seen some recent ups and downs. I sat in their courtyard for a while and just prayed for them. During that time, God convicted me that while I knew all the church planters in the area, I didn’t even know the name of the Pastor who led that church.

As I sat there reading Psalm 45, a wedding song for the Bride of Christ, He reminded me that His purposes are far greater and more sustainable than my plans could ever be. He reminded me that whatever I do as a leader, it needed to include sustainability for HIS church, and never be about “my” church.

It doesn’t take much to make the jump and apply these truths to our personal lives as well. Whether it’s in our family or our career (hopefully both) there are sustainable pursuits and those that are fleeting. Somewhere in there we’ll find contributing factors to the difference between what our reputations are and what our legacy becomes.

Father, your Son taught us to pray for your Kingdom to come and your will to be done. May we see your Kingdom break through in our churches, our lives, our families, and in our priorities. We know this will happen when we submit our will to yours. Give us the desire, the wisdom, the hope, the courage, and the will that it will take. Amen.

“Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” - Psalm 51:12

“Sustain me according to your promise, and I will live; do not let my hopes be dashed.” - Psalm 119:116

“Let me live that I may praise you, and may your laws sustain me.” - Psalm 119:175

“The LORD sustains the humble but casts the wicked to the ground.” - Psalm 147:6

“Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.” -Isaiah 46:4

“The Sovereign LORD has given me an instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught.” -Isaiah 50:4

Monday, April 13, 2009

Relationship Receptivity

Ed Stetzer and team recently released one of the largest surveys on Americans’ receptivity to different methods of church invitations. Conducted last December, the study included a survey of over 15,000 adults:

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Corporate Church

I’ve come to truly love the “sending” of the Church. I love the opportunity to band together in unity of Spirit when we go out into our workplaces, social circles, schools, and neighborhoods as ambassadors for something greater than ourselves. I’ve grown to love experiencing faith in new and exciting ways. I’m learning more and more each day the joy that comes from intentionally living out the command to “love others” Monday through Saturday. Call it an attempt to be “missional”. Call it an effort to live “incarnationally”, whatever we call it… I love it.

And I still love the corporate gathering of Church. I love the Spirit and energy. I love the momentum. I love teaching as well as hearing the Word of God. I love times of reflection and prayer. I love taking a moment each week to intentionally recall the cross through communion. Corporate worship is one of the most powerful things I experience each week. There is something special that happens when we exalt God together. There is something special that happens when you can physically and spiritually sense the Spirit moving among a body of believers.

As much as Austin New Church is a “sent” Church, it is also a body of gathering worshipers. It’s real. It’s thick. And I love it. For those who struggle balancing the role of the sending and the gathering of the church, Psalm 48 (a chapter I just happened to be reading today) is another small reminder that there is every biblical precedent for both:
“Great is the LORD, and most worthy of praise, in the city of our God, his holy mountain.” – Psalm 48:10

“Within your temple, O God, we meditate on your unfailing love.” – Psalm 48:9

Psalm 48 is listed as a song of the “Sons of Korah”. In other passages, "the Korahites," are described as expert warriors. More interesting, however, than the fighting Korahites are these “sons of Korah", who were somehow connected with the service of song.
"These are they whom David set over the service of song in the house of Yahweh, after that the ark had rest. And they ministered with song before the tabernacle of the tent of meeting, until Solomon had built the house of Yahweh in Jerus" – 1 Chronicles 6:32-32

One article I found about these “sons” said,

“In this way we are introduced to David's 3 great leaders in choral and orchestral music. Among them Heman the Korahite has at first the place of primacy, though Asaph, later, comes to the front. The events just referred to are mentioned again, more in detail, in the account of David's bringing the ark to Jerusalem. There it is said that at the suggestion of David "the Levites appointed Heman the son of Joel," and also Asaph and Ethan, "and with them" several others, "their brethren of the second degree" (1 Chronicles 15:17,18). The record proceeds to speak of the services of "the singers, Heman, Asaph, and Ethan," and their associates, in the pageantry of the bringing of the ark to Jerusalem. After that, it says, Asaph had charge of the services of thanksgiving and praise before the ark in Jerusalem, while Heman and Jeduthun served in the high place at Gibeon (1 Chronicles 16:4,37,39-42). Later, the record says (1 Chronicles 25), David made an elaborate organization, under Asaph and Heman and Jeduthun, for song and instrumental music.

Translated: Corporate worship was a big deal to David.

For years I’ve heard people say, “I don’t have to go to church to be a Christian.” In our postmodern world, it’s becoming more and more prevalent of a thought. Theologically, you can indeed receive Christ without a corporate gathering, and many have. But I would argue that the Christian life is incomplete without a time in which we come together to make God our centerpiece.

I think our problem is our posture and perspective. While the law certainly put different requirements on the gathering of God’s people, I don’t believe David saw worship as just a mandate. I think He saw it as a privilege. I think He loved it. He saw it as an opportunity to exalt the King. He made much of God, and if we want to be known as a people after the heart of God, so should we.

Monday, March 23, 2009

No Uptick in Americans’ Religiosity

I've heard a ton of pastors expressing that a recession might be a really good thing for the American Church. Here's an interesting article on a recent Gallup Pole taken on the topic:
"Despite suggestions that the economic recession might cause religiosity among Americans to increase, there has been no evident change over the past 15 months in either Americans' self-reported church attendance or the importance of religion in their daily lives. Forty-two percent on average have reported attending church every week or nearly every week during that time, and 65% have reported that religion is important in their daily lives. These results are based on an analysis of more than 425,000 interviews Gallup has conducted since January 2008."

For the full article click HERE.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Learning from Europe

Several Global Church leaders have challenged American church leaders to keep their eye on and learn from what has happened and is happening in the European Church. Their fear, if we don’t change, that we won’t be far behind.

With that in mind, I’ve tried to educate myself. Along the way, I found the following 2008 article from the Christian Culture Journal. I contemplated whether or not to post all of it, thinking that we might get so distracted with the discussion of discrimination, that we'd miss some of the other significant thoughts on the division of church and the massive decline of professing Christians. Although some of the conclusions feel like a bit of a stretch, I thought I’d share it in its entirety as written. I found it interesting for many reasons.

"The divisibility of the Church is the cardinal document of Anglicanism, and its most fundamental heresy." Abbott Chapman (20th cent)

According to a recent study conducted by the U.N., two-thirds of British citizenry claim no religious affiliation. The 23-page report by a special rapporteur of the U.N. claims that the 2001 census which found that nearly 72 per cent of the population is Christian is no longer accurate.

Excerpts from TIMESONLINE: "The report calls for the disestablishment of the Church of England. It says that the role and privileges of the Church do not reflect “the religious demography of the country and the rising proportion of other Christian denominations”.

"The report says that there is an “overall respect for human rights and their value” but it gives warning of discrimination against Muslims.

"Citing research that 80 percent of Muslims in Britain feel that they have been discriminated against, the report singles out the Terrorism Act 2000 for particular criticism. Under the Act police in some areas can stop and search people without having to show reasonable suspicion.

The report’s author also criticizes terms in the Terrorism Act 2006 for being “overly broad and vaguely worded”.

Certainly, if a church is founded upon the notion that Christ's Church can be divided, then this same church therefore becomes subject to division, disestablishment and even elimination itself. The curse of the Reformation may well be the Islamization of Britain.

"And so the stage is set for the chastisement which the prophecies say will be very severe for England." Catholic Prophesy, Yves Dupont.

For the sake of maintaining the article's "integrity", I posted all of it. I don't believe that the Reformation will cause the Islamization of Britain. So please don't read that into why I posted it. And while any bit of discrimination certainly bothers me, my greatest concerns from the article are two fold: (1) The shrinking church and (2) the divided church.

"Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand." Mt 12:25