Workin’ with Dad

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Not too long ago, I woke up from a dream. It wasn’t the kind of crazy, scary, or nonsensical dream that you try to tell your friend afterwards that receives only a head tilt response indicating that your dream was illogical and ridiculous. It was a different kind of dream.


On this particular morning, I woke up with large hot tears flowing out of the corners of my eyes.  It was a sensation that I never experienced before.  The reason for the tears is what makes this story significant.  I have recently been under quite a bit of pressure to perform in my current job.  You might think it is strange to hear a pastor speak of his work as a “job,” but bear with me for a moment.  My “work” was getting heavy and I was feeling the strain of the week closing out as I woke to speak to a gathered crowd awaiting to hear from God through a Sunday sermon.  But this particular morning was different.  It was as if I had heard from the Lord.  In fact, this IS as close as I have ever been to hearing an audible voice from God.  I would even go as fast as to say that I experienced a Theophany (Google that one later)!  I didn’t wake up to my alarm clock that morning, but to the feeling of a hand on my shoulder.  It oddly felt as though my actual father was waking me up early in the morning with the words, “Get up son, it’s time to go to work.” After wiping the tears and coming to full awareness of the situation (you know the feeling of waking up from a realistic dream and realizing that you are actually in your bedroom), I sprang to my feet and practically ran to start the shower.  As the water flowed over my head a smile engulfed my face - one that I could not shake - at the realization of the new understanding that had come to me...


Today, I am going to work with dad.

 

Do you remember what that was like? I sure do.  There is only one such incident from my own childhood that I am able to remember.  I remember getting in the truck that morning which was already filled with the tools needed for the day.  Dad had packed us both sandwiches, chips and ice cold Dr. Peppers to drink. Sure, we had a big day of work ahead of us, complete with manual labor (pouring a concrete sidewalk to be exact), but did that really matter? Remember, I was a kid going to work WITH DAD! What a joy. 


It is in these waking moments that I realized that the bulk of my “ministry” was simply showing up! Dad would do the lion’s share of the work.  All I needed to do was hand him tools and to do whatever he told me to do. What a liberating concept!

 

As far as living out the good news of Jesus is concerned, we should know that the results of our Disciple-Making efforts aren’t contingent upon our proficiencies, gifts, or winsome personality.  Our Father is doing and will continue to do the work.  Sometimes, all we need to do is to show up with a willingness to obey God in whatever he leads us to do. It is his work and he is inviting us to join him as he redeems all of mankind to himself.  

 

 

*This is piece from an upcoming book on everyday people making disciples that is set to release in early 2019. Thank you for being a part of this journey and even more so for being obedient to Jesus’ command to make disciples!

5 THINGS WE LEARNED IN YEAR 3 OF CHURCH PLANTING by guest blogger Jacob Dahl

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Well, we’re still here.

It’s still a bit of a surprise even to us, but we survived the initial landing on the beach, managed to blaze a trail through the woods, set up camp, and are now sending a team off to pioneer new territory.

In 2014, we were on a team that left Pullman, WA that planted a church in Ellensburg, WA that is now sending a team to plant in Monmouth, OR, becoming Resonate Church's first third-generational plant.

We proved we’re not just a fluke or a flash in the pan. We proved that twenty-somethings can still plant churches just like they have throughout history (Adoniram Judson, Hudson Taylor, and countless Moravians to name a few). And we proved that our God is faithful to save as his people live sent.

After the first year of church planting, you’re just happy to be alive. You’ve seen lives being changed, people finding Christ and community for the first time, and a church beginning to form that’s held together delicately by the grace of God. It’s quite exhilarating and exhausting at the same time. The law of inertia reminds us that the force required to put an object in motion is far greater than the force required to maintain motion because static friction is higher than kinetic friction. Once you apply enough force on the object, it breaks free from its stationary position and slides with ease. Anyone who’s ever thrown their back out trying to shove a heavy desk or couch across the room knows this first hand. Launching a new church feels similarily in the early months. It takes a ton of leverage (strategy) and force (teamwork) but eventually that thing is bound to budge by the power of the Holy Spirit.

In the second year, you are happy that people are still there. It’s a little bit like your second year of marriage: the shine has worn off, the honeymoon stage is over, and every day you wake up thinking, “I hope she doesn’t discover just how jacked up I am and want to run away.” Heartbreak abounds in year two as people discover indeed, that your church isn’t perfect, and walk away because their idealized picture of community was destroyed or the cost of following Jesus was just too high. However, those who do stick around become the catalysts for breakthrough that’s on the horizon.

By the third year, you must make a decision though. It’s a tipping point year that demands the question, What kind of church are we going to be?

Will we play it safe, hoarding leaders and resources to ourselves, grow bigger and cling to the comforts of addition? Or will we release control, send our very best people away and continually embrace the thrill of multiplication?

Robert Brault says, “We are kept from our goal not by obstacles but by a clear path to a lesser goal.” In the American church, too often the lesser goal is addition. Church growth becomes the target instead of church multiplication.

Contrary to all intuition and conventional wisdom, we’ve come to believe that planting another church within three years is actually the healthiest thing for our sending church.  

There is a big difference between planting a church and planting a church planting church. We knew going into it that we wanted to multiply rapidly. We weren’t going to wait until our church was busting at the seams to plant again. We were going to do it when we had ready leaders. This kind of vision and urgency became the driving force that created a multiplication DNA in our church. By God's grace we've seen over 100 people baptized, over 200 college students gather weekly on Sundays and in community groups, and 20 people moving together and transplanting their lives so that more people may be reached for Christ. 

Here are 5 things we believe were keys to our success in the third year of this process.

1. Letting the rookies play

Wilt Chamberlain earned the MVP award averaging 38 points and 27 rebounds per game en route to what is considered the greatest rookie season in the history of the modern sports era. Some rookies make a huge splash—the vast majority, however, need a ton of time, reps and feedback to reach a high-impact level. A lot of coaches bench rookies because they are either afraid of the risk or don’t want to take the time to develop their raw talent.

Too often in the church we let new and young leaders sit on the sidelines watching the game be played by paid professionals. We value program excellence over people development. We think we’re saving rookies from failure but what we’re really doing is robbing them of opportunities to grow and eventually they get bored and leave. Failure is an invaluable and inevitable piece of leadership development. By withholding opportunities “until they’re ready” just means young leaders will experience the same mistakes later. All veterans were at one time rookies who were given the chance to play, make mistakes, receive coaching and correction, on their way to a high-impact future

For our church, giving underclassmen in college opportunities early and often to exercise spiritual leadership is now paying huge dividends—they have now become our best leaders, many of whom are spearheading our new church plant.

2. Developing a leadership pipeline, not platform

In a recent study by Lifeway, they found that the odds of survivability increase by over 250% in church plants that offer leadership development training. In order for rookies to mature into veterans they not only need playing time, they also need a ton of training. A leadership pipeline is absolutely essential for any church planting endeavor, and the time when you begin to see the return on your early investment in young leaders begins to shell out serious cash in year three. But it takes a systematic approach to developing people the way Jesus did.

In a recent Leadership Network talk, Will Mancini claimed Jesus founded the movement of Christianity on a leadership pipeline, and said:

The church today has practically abandoned the original pipeline vision of Jesus, and substituted it with something more culturally attractive. Rather than developing people we manage programs, rather than building leaders we build worship centers. We have traded the pipeline of Jesus for the platform of cultural Christianity and as a result the church in America is over programmed and under discipled.

He goes on to outline a “pipeline manifesto” in the New Testament:

  • Luke 6:12 → Jesus chooses 12 out of the multitude (hundreds) of disciples
  • Luke 8:1 → Jesus does the heavy lifting, healing people while the 12 watch
  • Luke 9:1 → Jesus gives the 12 power and authority and sends them out
  • Luke 10:1 → Jesus sends 72 to proclaim the kingdom and heal people
  • Acts 1:15 → 120 leaders gather in the upper room after ascension of Jesus
  • Acts 2:41 → 3,000 people saved at Pentecost

Consider what happened in the third year of Jesus’ ministry: after skyrocketing to influence and gaining a massive platform, just when things start gaining traction he begins to hand over the most precious and eternally significant task to a dozen mostly blue collar, ordinary men. Jesus could have continued to preach to large crowds and gained a larger following, but instead he chose to give away his leadership because it would not only lead to exponential growth, but it would outlast his earthly life for thousands of years. Mancini points out that in the platform paradigm the ratio of leaders to people would be 1:3000 as opposed to 1:25 in a pipeline paradigm, showing us that if we truly want to reach the world it will come by way of a leadership pipeline, not a preaching platform.


3. Hiring fruitful over faithful or flashy people

It’s really easy to make the mistake of hastily hiring people in the midst of the chaos of the first couple of years of church planting. Your church is growing, which is an amazing thing, but you have to tread carefully as you begin adding people to your staff leadership team.

Faithful people are great, don’t get me wrong, but often it ends with them. They show up everyday to everything but rarely multiply themselves, becoming cul-de-sacs rather than highways. Many believers never miss Sunday gatherings but also never bring any non-believing friends with them to those gatherings.

Flashy people often have incredibly winsome personalities, dress and dance stylishly, and can light up the stage. They seem like an obvious choice for any leadership position and are frequently labeled as “influential”. But when it comes to hiring for your new church plant, you have to resist the urge of onboarding someone based on flash. Don’t be swayed by a perceived level of impact. Dig deeper and look closer at their life.

Fruitful people, on the other hand, are those in whom you have witnessed continual spiritual breakthrough in their life. You’ve seen visible, genuine expressions of inward Christlike transformation in them. Fruit is not only the metric we use to measure discipleship (like Jesus does in John 15) but also in evaluating staff applications because it’s the best way to ensure someone will be able to equip the saints (Eph. 4), which should be the primary work of leaders in the church.

4. Believing resiliency is the new currency

The great theologian Mike Tyson once said, “Everyone has a plan until they are punched in the face.” The one common factor in every church plant is getting metaphorically punched in the face (but also quite literally for some friends we have who recently planted a church in downtown Portland).  Our friend Brian Frye, national collegiate strategist with the North American Mission Board, often says in reference to pioneering new movements, “The first one through the wall gets their nose bloody.”

Church plants that survive and thrive are led by teams of people who are able to take the punches and pick themselves up off the ground over and over, year after year. More than theological training, more than money, more than buildings--church planters need resilience to make it to year three and beyond.

No one modeled the “beaten but not broken” resiliency required of church planters better than the Apostle Paul. This brother endured lashings, beatings, stonings, and mockings. Nonbelievers degraded him and believers deserted him. He spent three decades on the run from the authorities. Loneliness and anxiety were often more commonplace than his next meal. Yet through it all Paul still writes with battered hands, “we do not lose heart.”

Embracing a life of resiliency on the missional frontier may mean “bearing on your body the marks of Jesus” like Paul, but that tenacious sacrifice paves the way and makes inroads for the gospel to continually transform new lives over the long haul.

5. Elevating the “APEs”

In Ephesians 4, Paul lays out the five ministry roles (first modeled in fullness by Jesus) that are designed to synergistically lead and equip the church--Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Shepherds and Teachers (or APEST). Alan Hirsch in his recent book 5Q illustrates it quite well.  

Apostles, Prophets and Evangelists naturally pioneer new ground, start new communities of faith, and take the gospel to new lands to engage unbelievers. They act like spiritual entrepreneurs. Shepherds and Teachers naturally developthe ground taken by the “APEs”, cultivate relationships in existing churches, and root the gospel deeply in the lives of believers. Hebrews 12:2 gives context for this ecclesiological rhythm when it points to Jesus as both the “pioneer and perfecter of our faith”.

Nearly 70% of people test as Shepherd or Teacher, which means the majority of pastors will be Shepherds or Teachers, which means most churches will be dominated by a developmental culture. All churches were birthed out of pioneering but very few continue to pioneer because frankly, pioneering is harder than developing. This is why only 4% of Southern Baptist churches will ever start a daughter church (Neil Cole).

The church in North America is declining because it stopped pioneering new congregations while the culture around it grew exceedingly secular and stopped going to church. The church lost its missional impulse because it buried and forgot the APE giftings, which have laid largely dormant for two hundred years. In order for a church to activate and maintain a missional impulse it must intentionally cultivate an ongoing pioneering culture and bring people with APE giftings to the forefront of its operation.

Even in our third year as a church plant, we could already feel the magnetic pull back to development. This is why starting another church within three years, and subsequently starting churches every other year after this, is so crucial in perpetuating the missional impulse the church had when it began.

The natural human tendency is to gravitate away from chaos and toward comfort. So once a new church finally reaches a point of stabilization, it’s easy to begin moving away from the mission and into maintenance. Craig Groeschel calls for “institutionalizing urgency”, and says there are three factors that contribute to sustained urgency: outside opposition, divine calling, and limited time. Because we set a goal of planting again within three years, it never allowed us to settle into missional complacency. We kept our edge by leaning heavily on people with APE giftings who kept pressing the gas pedal on reaching new people and multiplying everything.

It’s easy to have urgency in year one because you’re in survival mode—maintaining urgency over multiple years takes a top-down institutionalization from the stage and in discipleship.

THIRD YEAR BREAKTHROUGH

Statistics suggest that the third year is a make or break year for new startup churches and businesses. Research shows 68% of church plants still exist four years after having been started. That means one in three fail during the first three years.

The corporate world actually fares worse than the church. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor, 75% of new businesses survive the first year, 69% survive the first two years, and less than 50% make it to five years. 

The key to breaking through the wall in year three of any organization is leadership. Will Mancini says “Every church needs a leadership pipeline and every pipeline needs a clear vision.” Clear, compelling vision and strategic people development. That’s it.

I’ve often thought that when it comes to the most important things the church is called to do, the answer is not complicated. It’s really quite simple. But it’s also really hard to do. We often want to make ministry and church planting easy and sophisticated, we dream of overnight platform success. In the end though, it comes down to a long-haul, simple system of pipeline disciple-making. If it was good enough for Jesus, it should be good enough for us.

 

 *Follow Jacob’s journey as well as the Resonate Vision here: resonate.net

BONUS ROUND

If you’d like to know more about the Resonate Church Planting Network we’re a part of and our strategy of planting 21 collegiate churches by the year 2021, watch the video below. We're also hosting a "Hitchhikers Guide to Resonate" this fall, which is a 3-day event designed to give attendees an inside look into how we operate. You can register here.

If you need additional convincing on multiplication or multi-siting, here is a graphic from Warren Bird on 5 Compelling Reasons to Start a New Church.

If you’d appreciate more resources or ways to better engage college students, look no further than the Collegiate Collective.

The Causes & Cures for Anxiety

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I wanted to share some thought for you from a recent talk by Alli Worthington.  I hope these notes are as helpful for you as they have been for me.  

 

 

We all have FEARS.

 

They (our fears) manifest themselves in anxiety (1/5 people struggle from this)

 

We use 5 behaviors to deal with anxiety:    *THE FIVE BAD BEES

The 5 Bad Bees we must identify to better cope with fear:

Busy.   (Hyperactivity) Martha

Blame (It's someone else's fault) Garden of Eden

Binge.  (We overdue something else) Prodigal Son

Bury   (We pretend our fears do not exist) Pharaoh, etc...

Brood (rumination) cow eats and throws up over and over and eats it

^^^ This one is most dangerous bc we create negative thought patterns.  Saul

 

  • 1) Be aware of these "5 bad bees." 
  • 2) Avoid the five bad bees. 
  • 3) Ask Jesus for help.  (Rather than simply checking Facebook/turn on TV/etc...)
  • 4) Attack these fears.  Learn scripture to attack fears. 

 

TOOLS for overcoming these fears which cause anxiety. 

4 simple steps to confidence:

  1. Show Up.  So much of life is just about showing up.  Don't listen to the inner critic who says, "do you really need to be there? Who do you think you are?"
  2. Be Real.  Be you!
  3. Love others. (This fights against the negative responses
  4. (Work Hard) DON'T QUIT!!!  RESULTS TAKE TIME! Stop Getting frustrated with the lack of results.

 

HOW TO STOP THE ANXIETY SPIRAL...

(It's when you've been thinking all of these negative thoughts which is paralyzing)

  1. Identify the triggers.  (Could be financial conversations, could be leadership, etc...)
  2. Play the "So What" game.  (Ask, "What's the worst thing that can happen if what you are feeling is true and did actually happen - Is that the end of the world - If that happens, will you die - Will you survive and be o.k.?) Is this a rational fear? If yes, ask "Is this likely?" If this happens, do I have any control of what might actually happen? If not, what good does this do? Then... Give it to Jesus!
  3. Make a plan.  (What 1, 2, or 3 things can I DO to actually have some control over the thing that might happen? - Then DO it!)

 

 

Do Not be anxious about anything, but instead give everything to God...

 

Engage in Spiritual Warfare through worship & prayer

 

The enemy wants to invade our THOUGHTS and our FEELINGS.

Dear Church

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Dear Church:

Thank you.  Thank you for looking to Jesus for your hope in an increasingly post-Christian culture. While many seek to make God in their own image, you pursue him as his children as you have been called to do. Thank you for seeing with eternal eyes peering through the realm of the here and now. 


Dear Church:

Let's be honest, you are not perfect.  In fact, you are pretty darn broken.  You long for holiness, but fall short again and again.  The good news is that you are in good company.  Since the fall of Adam, your flesh often overpowers that quiet voice in you that calls out for something more grand, some sort of holy life that resonates deeply with your creator.  Rest, this tension has existed in every child of God since that epic garden scene unfolded. 


Dear Church:

You are not a building.  Stop pretending that you are a "safe haven" from the real world.  You were never designed to be.  You are a force for good in a broken world.  Although you are broken men and women, you have been commissioned for something greater.  You have been set apart for God's redemptive work in the world.  Your job is to press into every nook and cranny of society with the good news of Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection. You of all people should know that the power that exists in you is stronger and more dynamic than any power in this world. 


Dear Church:

Beware - Men and women will come at you with stones in this life.  They will accuse you falsely and seek to tarnish your reputation.  Be reminded - Your value is not is what others think about you but in what our King has done for you.  When your enemies come against you, remember it is not vengeance upon you that they seek, but their battle is with their creator.  Do not fear what mere man might afflict upon you.  Your current trials are nothing compared to the glories of your future life.  Do not compromise on what scripture teaches.  Remember, you do not seek to please man, but to please the Lord.  You are not of this world.  You are sojourners and aliens.  Do not get too comfortable or complacent in the affairs of this life.


Dear Church:

Be encouraged.  Stand strong in the faith.  Put on the armor of God.  Your are chosen.  You are a priesthood.  You have companionship with the fierce and mighty warrior God.  He is the Lion of the tribe of Judah.  He has already won the victory and all of Heaven and Earth will one day bow before him. 


Dear Church:

Scripture says they will know you by the way you love one another.  With this in mind,

Love without ceasing, 

Bless those that persecute you, and

Be kind to those who seek to cause you pain.


Dear Church:

You have work to do. You are in good company. All of Heaven cheers you on as you seek to live out the Good News of Jesus.  Go in peace my brothers and sisters.

iRepent

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My life is busy.  Just this weekend, I juggled 3 teaching enagagements, my daughter's 7th birthday party, an entrepreneurial pitch to potential investors, 2 additional meetings with staff, a local football game with the family, a national conference call, assessing, insuring and registering our vehicle, and coordinating a men's event called the Turkey Bowl, all while hosting inlaws in our home.  Needless to say, there was more than one occasion where I felt frustrated, anxious, and angry.  I feel constant pressure to perform as a husband, father, pastor, coach, and community leader.  

For the past month, our Gospel family has been studying an Old Testament book of the Bible called Jonah.  In this book, we read of a rebellious and racist prophet who continues to run from the very God that has called him. In his journey, he is consistently pursued by the relentless love of the Father.  In the final chapter of the book, God asks Jonah the simple question, "Do you do well to be angry?" In short, Jonah justifies his anger and the book ends on a seemingly hopeless note while Jonah remains frustrated with the grace that God shows to a cruel and unruly group of people.  

"Do you do well to be angry?" God asks. 

I have discovered trends in the times my anger seems to manifest itself.  I get angry when others do not live up to the unrealistic and unspoken standards that I have created.  When my own children misbehave, my blood pressure rises.  When those I lead organizationally fail to follow through, I quietly make a tally mark in their mental files of personal wrongdoings.    

Does it make you angry when good things happen to those who don't seem to deserve it? My good friend Ryan Mayfield says, "We don't get grace because we deserve it, we get grace because we don't."

Yesterday, I watched a woman named Sarah lead a visually impaired couple into our Sunday worship gathering.  She was patient and caring.  Her simple acts of love and compassion moved me.  I watched as she gently led the couple to the communion table and then enjoyed eating the bread and drinking from cup together with them after prayer.  That evening, My wife and I had the pleasure of having that same couple in our home for dinner and conversation.  I watched as they enjoyed the simple pleasures of food and laughter over storytelling.  The wife's name was Dana and she told me how thankful she was to have been born blind because the first person she would ever see would be none other than Jesus.  

For the anger I have felt hidden deep below the surface, I repent.  For the times when I have taken others for granted, I repent.  For the times I have expected my family and my leadership team to live up to some unrealistic standard that I have set for myself and for them, I repent.  Instead, today I choose grace.  You see, I am Jonah. In some ways, we are all Jonah.  The good news is that we all are being relentlessly pursued by a loving Father who longs for us to understand the grace that he offers, despite our leanings toward busyness, importance, and the unrealistic standards that we set for ourselves and others.  

As we begin this Thankgiving week, let us remember and be thankful for this grace that relentlessly pursues us.  

 

Caution: Men at Work

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What we do matters. Meaningful work often brings a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment to our lives.  However, I want to pose an opinion that what we do should take a backseat to how we do it.  There is a distinct difference between simply getting things done and acknowledging the hopes, dreams, and longings of other people along the way.  How we work matters.  The way we interact with others while we carry out the everyday tasks of life can either make or break that sense of fulfillment that we all crave through meaningful work.  Are those we work with simply pawns in our chess game or rather critical components of a puzzle that is being creatively and masterfully drawn together through our daily routines? It is my assertion that an organization can only thrive when those involved within the organization truly succeed.  This means that there is more at stake than profits and losses.  While quarterly figures are ciritical for the trajectory of an organization, they do not fully tell the tale of organizational health. In today's economic climate, organizations are celebrated and shamed by their bottom line.  However, some of the seemingly "overnight success" stories were not at all quick in their development.  Rather, these are organizations who have adapted to changes in their field while caring for and highly valuing their employees, stakeholders, and customers.  

 

For example...

 

Just yesterday, my family was enjoying a hamburger and fries at a local chain with its origins here in Central Arkansas.  I noticed smiling faces, hot food, and pictures of the founding family posted on the wall.  Its no wonder that this restaurant has grown to 8 locations in less than 10 years.  What does this organization and other growing and successful organizations in our city like Tacos 4 Life, the Conway Chamber of Commerce, and the Faulkner County Senior Citizens Center have in common? Here are a few common denominators:

A) Healthy & Consistant Leadership

B) Organizational Clarity  

C) Open Dialogue

D) Follow-through

 

Healthy & Consistent Leadership: 

In every successful organization, there is a healthy leader or team of leaders who is consistently present.  Every time the Undercover Boss* spends time his employees on the front lines, the organization wins.  Good leaders create & maintain open door policies with the people they serve.  

 

Organizational Clarity: 

Why are we doing what we do? This question cannot be overstated.  Passion is of utmost importance and one must believe in what he or she is doing in order to make any necessary and personal sacrifices for the good of the whole.  Each member of our tribe must be able to answer the question, "why does this matter?" 

 

Open Dialogue:  

Can the members of our organization communicate openly about their hopes, dreams, and fears? Are the platforms in place to have this type of conversation and connection among peers? Do we plan and execute regular opportunities to facilitate open dialogue? 

 

Follow-through: 

Some of the most sad and unsuccessful organizations that I have come across have great-intentioned leaders.  Struggles can manifest themselves through poorly functioning teams, lack of execution, and even overwhelmed and overworked leadership.  We must become excellent at follow-through in order to get our vision to where our people live.   

 

In conclusion, I believe that what we do tells a story.  It tells a story about what moves us and what we truly believe in.  Some of the happiest people I have ever met make below average incomes and often go above and beyond the call of duty to sacrifice those whom they serve. In contrast, some of the most miserable people I have ever met are the most wealthy.  They seem to grow increasingly dissatisfied in their field of work and live from vacation to vacation.  Regardless of your current work context, I believe there is satisfaction to be had.  The satisfaction that I refer to must stem from a general love of mankind and can only exist by shifting from seeing others as a means to your end to seeing others as a worthwhile investment of your time, energy, and money.  When we pour into other people and help them to fulfill their own goals, dreams, and aspirations, good things happen.  This helps the people around us win.  When people around us win, they are more willing to sacrifice for the greater good.  When people sacrifice, organizations win and fulfill the vision that they set out to achieve.  In the meatime, the world becomes a better place and we become the healthy and whole people that we were originally designed by God to be.  

The Day After (by Chuck Gshwend)

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Easter. Resurrection Sunday. ALIVE from the dead. 

Monday. Tuesday. Wednesday... "He presented Himself ALIVE to them..." Acts 1:3

Everyday since the first Easter, Jesus has remained oh so very ALIVE. All the motivation we need is found in the fact that, since Jesus is alive, He is at work. He is not alive and on vacation. He is not alive and forgetful of all his promises to you. He is not alive and bored. He is not alive and weak. He is not alive and full of despair.

Nope. He is alive and at work in your heart. He is alive and at work in your home. He is alive and at work in your city. He is alive and at work in our nation. He is alive and at work in all the nations.

He alive and reigning from the right hand of the throne of God! He is building His church even today. He is restoring all things to its' rightful order. He is creating beauty out of chaos. He is reconciling broken relationships. He is resurrecting new hope in dead souls.

AND He is at work finishing everything he has ever started. Rest on this Monday in His work. Rest in the fact that you get to join Him and His work today. 

 

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Photography by Chad Graves

 

Life, Love, & the Pursuit of Kindness.

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I'm sitting in a coffee shop in downtown Henderson, Texas enjoying a chai tea latte on a foggy Thursday morning. Although the wifi is the same, the coffee shops here are not exactly like the specialty shops in Central Arkansas.The drinks are different, and people have a different perspective of coffee in general.This is the most happening coffee spot in this town of 13,000 and the locals love it.As I write, a white man in his 60's dawns a grey suit, a copy of today's paper, and the beloved "Texas handlebar" mustache.In front of him, the junior high football coach, a black man in his 40's, banters with the seemingly "Irish-hipster" (let that cue your mental imagery) behind the espresso machine. Life is happening here at MoJoe's.Business is happening.News is being shared. Friendships are being formed.I'm blogging. But yesterday's experience was much different...

 

I had scheduled a coffee meeting with an aspiring church planter at this same spot.  Looking forward to being finished with my commitments for the day at the local seminary where I am doing a series of Spring lectures on the topic of "church planting", we entered the doors with excitement.  As I approached the counter, I began to make my selection.  "What can I get ya?", said the Longhorn hipster. "Do you have anything sweetened with brown sugar and honey," I said, as my mind resorted back to my favorite drink from the natural state.  "Hmmmm.... I don't think so. What would you call a drink like that," he asked. "Back home we call it a cortado" I said, passively relaying my coffee expertise in front of my new friend who had come to ask me questions about what I do. "We don't make anything like that," he remarked, "I'll have to check into it." After getting our drinks, we sat down and had a great conversation. 

 

Upon entering today, I was a greeted much differently.  "Stuck here again, huh" said the same barista.  Whoa, I thought to myself.  I think I just experienced one of the most passive-aggressive expressions I've heard in awhile.  After ordering and exchanging some friendly-er phrases, I sat down to tackle my daily round of correspondence through text, email, and various social media platforms.  During the next 30 minutes, I overheard that same barista talk as he was asked about the pain he had been experiencing in his chest as well as the fate of his shop when the new Starbucks opened just down the road.  "People love Starbucks," he stated, "I don't know if we'll be able to keep the doors open or not."

 

We never really know what people are processing on the inside do we? Even the slightest comment, although we may mean no harm, can hurt a person, especially if they are already suffering.  Sometimes that person may even harbor that comment for the rest of day and into the next, maybe even longer.  Last year, through a series of difficult circumstances, I made the decision to begin with the assumption that everyone is trying their best.  I have found this to be one of the only good assumptions that I have ever made.  When we give others the benefit of the doubt, we start conversations differently.  We also view others differently.  We are less likely to cast judgement and to be unfair in our assessments of the decisions of others.  I have found that viewing others in this way often becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that brings out the best in others and liberates our own souls from bitterness and resentment. 

 

Yesterday, during one of my main sessions, I missed a call from my mother.  After I finished the lecture, I stepped out of class and listened to the voicemail that informed me that my dad had suffered his first stroke.  While speaking to him on the phone, I noticed that, for the first time in his life, his speech had a slight slur.  He spirits remain high as always, and he anticipates playing golf together for his company tournament that we had planned for next weekend.  Last night, I was invited to the apartment of a couple of guys from the seminary for authentic Japanese Sushi.  Before the meal, one of the students asked if there was anything that they could pray for me specifically.  I shared the news of my dad's situation with them and they asked for God's provision in his life.  It meant the world to me and our time together ended up not only being a meal for our bellies, but food for my soul. 

 

You never know what others are going through.  It could be your words that operate as wind in their sails or as the venom that penetrates their blood stream and causes them to toss and turn at night.  I don't want to be the kind of person who orders the one thing that is not on the coffee menu.  I want to be the kid of person that adds value to others and encourages them in the middle of their circumstances. Would you join me in this endeavor?  Let's be kind to others today.  Who knows, we may just make a difference in this world. 

-May God bless & keep you

The Danger of Coveting Others' Stories (feat. guest blogger Chuck Gshwend)

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This week we take one last look into what it means practically to abide in Jesus. Again, the benefits are staggering since as we abide, the life of God is both fully realized and fully released in the lives of those who move from striving to abiding. What is abiding? Abiding is an effortless resting in the risen Jesus, confident in his affection for us, confident in his ability to work in and through us, and confident in his authorship of our story.

A few weeks back I introduced this final aspect of abiding: Confidence in Jesus' authorship of our story, which requires us to STOP COVETING OTHERS' STORIES. (http://eepurl.com/cBG2BX). I want to close this series with a look at three dangers of coveting others people’s stories and not enjoying yours:

  1. Danger 1: Coveting blinds you to the good He has worked into your story in the past. From eternity past to your birth until today, God has been perfectly good to you. He has been patient with you. He has not forsaken you. He has given you underserved mercies over and over and over again. Rather than being disappointed with God because He has done something in someone's life differently than yours, spend some time today being grateful to God for his past and present work in your story.
  2. Danger 2: Coveting leads to disbelieving He has the power to redeem the past regrets in your life or that He is a restorer of the lost years the locusts have eaten away. When you are stuck in the rut of coveting other people's circumstances, you have taken our eyes off of Jesus. Jesus has the power to redeem your past. He is looking to comfort and heal you of all your wounds. He will then give you the ability and the ministry of extending that same healing and comfort to others. Jesus often asked people, "What do you want me to do for you?" Today, tell him where you are hurting. Ask for wisdom as to where and with whom to seek healing. He has the power to restore the years the locusts have eaten away. Your future is bright. Don’t covet anyone’s future but your own. God has good works prepared in advance for you to do!
  3. Danger 3: Coveting distracts you from Hearing the Good voice of God today. If your mental energies and/or your emotions are even subconsciously focused on how blessed someone else's life is, then you are certainly distracted from hearing the voice of God today in YOUR LIFE. God is speaking to you today about what is going on in YOUR STORY. He is authoring your story. He is perfecting your faith and trust in Him. He is leading you toward abundance. God is at work in the midst of the details, circumstances and mess of your life. He is wanting to bring healing, hope, peace and resurrection to your life. Fall in love with your messy reality. The Father knows right where you are and He knows what He is trying to show you and and He knows exactly where He is leading you.


Friends, I know life is unpredictable. I know there are pain points. I know you would be writing it differently, but I call you to Worship the real Jesus, who is good despite what your life looks like right now. He is the author and perfecter of your FAITH. He can be trusted.

For the life of God to be realized in you and released through you: Abide in his affections for you...his abilities in you...his authorship of your story.

 -Chuck

*To Subscribe to Chuck's Motivation Monday Newsletter, simply follow this link:  http://eepurl.com/co2sdP

Rest.

We exist in a culture saturated with messages compelling us make something of our lives by getting out of bed, putting on our boots, and working hard to achieve our dreams.  This is not necessarily a bad message.  However, what about those of us whose thoughts of productivity, success, and seized opportunity race from the time we lunge out of bed in the morning to the time we slip into an unconscious state? I must confess, I struggle to turn off thoughts of things I needed to do, should do, and hope to do at the end of the day.  My wife often lovingly reprimands me at the dinner table for such activity.  "Work" can take a variety of shapes and forms in today's culture.  As a pastor, my work often manifests itself through texts, emails, and various means of social media.  

For those who believe in the God of the Bible must believe REST is more than a little extra time at the end of the day.

Rest can often be classified as something "we can do when we're dead" or even an activity practiced on Sunday afternoons or at the end of the day when we take the time to watch the nightly news or veg out on Netflix.  However, for those who believe in the God of the Bible, it must be must more than that. 

Shortly after God created the Heavens and the Earth in the Genesis account, God rested.  He instructed his people to practice Sabbath as a spiritual exercise for their own mental, physical, and emotional health.  For Sabbath, Jews were instructed to rest accordingly, refraining from basic physical activities as simple as cooking.  Sabbath not only reminded God's people of his sovereign provision for their lives, but it also gave men, women, boys, andgirls the opportunity to look back over and enjoy the product of their labor.  Needless to say, healthy rhythms of rest seem to be nearly nonexistent in America.  

Any weightlifter understands the benefits of rest.  If he or she works out a certain muscle, say a bicep, 24 hours of proper healing must occur in order to gain the desired muscle growth.  Without allowing the muscle to rebuild, we continue to tear at the very fiber we are seeking to grow, without ever giving it the opportunity to mend.  Endurance athletes often "taper" their training in the last two weeks leading up to an event so that their bodies can recover and allow them to compete at optimum performance.  When bodily injury occurs, doctors and physical therapists begin the process of healing with rest.  

We are inundated with information on a daily basis and rarely unplug. Even as I type from my seat in the coffee shop, every person within eye shot is interacting with others through screens of various sizes on multiple... (Sorry, I had to stop typing to Cash app a friend who texted me) levels.  A drop down menu from the top of my iPad screen just updated me on my upcoming fantasy football league while a request from a friend looking for a new roommate popped up through GroupMe.  It never seems to end, does it??f

It is no wonder that my Twitter feed is lined with quotes from dead scholars reflecting the ancient practices of rest, solitude, and the grace of God.  They sat.  They reflected.  They listened to the crickets and watched the sunrise.  Yet we increasingly rely on uppers and downers, anxiety medication, and the like to simply make it through the day.  

How then do we fight the tide of a culture that promises fulfillment through activity?

Jesus.  

Yes, Jesus.

Under the old covenant, the people of God were given a generous amount of instruction regarding temple worship and the sacrificial system.  Fortunately, Jesus not only fulfilled the law, paved the way for you and I to be reconciled to God through his sacrificial death, subsequent burial, and victorious resurrection.  Hebrews 10:11 tells the reader that Jesus sat at the right hand of a God after this grand rescue mission was completed.  In Hebrews 4:9-11, the author instructs the reader that Jesus is the ultimate rest.  We can Sabbath in him.  

We are convinced that resting in Christ brings about soulful healing and heart recovery.  We believe that Jesus can provide the rest that we are so desperately longing for.  May we all grow in our discovery of him and the rest that he brings to the weary soul.  And, in the process, my hope for you is that you might stop and smell the roses.  May an attempt to listen to the crickets at night, get up early and take in a sunrise.  Sit on a beach and watch the tide roll in.  God's handiwork is all around us.  He longs to spend time with his children.  In fact, it is in those moments that we may actually discover something special that has beckoned us since the beginning.  A wise man once wrote, "Happiness is like a butterfly.  As long as you pursue it, it will escape you.  However, if you sit still long enough, you may just find that it comes to rest on you."

Blessings to you my friend as you learn to rest in the finished work of Jesus...

This is Spiritual Warfare...

In light of the recent events occurring throughout the country, I felt the need to discuss a topic that gets overlooked in many Christian circles.  According to Sarah Farish, "The outside world has jumped on the theological concept of spiritual warfare as an opportunity to commercialize the demonic through horror films and television shows. Say the words “spiritual warfare” and opinions tend to polarize between those two camps: those who sensationalize the supernatural to a maximum and those who downplay the reality of spiritual warfare to a minimum."  However, to minimize spiritual warfare is to perform a disservice to the Christian faith and render followers of Christ powerless in this struggle.  

On a nationwide level, we are certainly under attack.  Our most recent attack resembles more of a civil war than that of a world war.  Our very own are fighting one another based on the color of one's skin.  In the wake of these events, we must know that there is a deeper, underlying battle taking place.  Although on the surface we have witnessed videos segments revealing hand-to-hand combat, scripture speaks of an unseen battle:

Colossians 1:12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Paul clearly writes of a domain of darkness in verse 13.  Understanding that our battles are not simply between flesh and blood can greatly affect our game plan.  In his letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul sheds light on 6 critical pieces of armor available for the the believer, and you and I would do well to consider both the offensive and defensive tools in our possession.  

Ephesians 6:10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints

During the last month, the attack has hit even closer to home. I have personally felt the psychological attacks of the enemy and know that these attacks can leave us feeling derailed and powerless.  If you are like me, I want to remind you of some good news today.  A reoccurring theme found in the apostle Paul's writing throughout the New Testament is one of an "already, not yet" victory.  Simply put, Jesus has not only already won the battle, but we are also in the process of experiencing that victory. Jesus conquered death once and for all on the day of his ascension.  He died and defeated death in one fail swoop.  This is good news for his children.  However, the battle still rages on.  As his sheep, we must engage daily in this victory.  We take a step at a time, taking up his cross with each waking hour, continuing to push back the darkness that exists in our own neighborhoods, city streets, and in our own hearts.  The battle is over, yet simultaneously remains.  Perhaps this is why John writes in Chapter 16:33 of his Gospel, "I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”  

Jesus has not only already won the battle, but we are also in the process of experiencing that victory

In the words of one man who understood these battles as well as any, "darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." I am personally grateful for the men like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who pointed others to the author of love, our God himself.  May we take refuge under his wing during these perilous times until that fateful day when we see his son Jesus face to face.  

Until then,

Being a Dad...

Fatherhood is one of the most challenging and rewarding undertakings in life.  Before children, I supposed that parenting looked easy.  I thought to myself, "I will never be the parent that yells at their kid in Wal-Mart." Most of the time, I was right.  Occasionally, I exhibit the behaviors that I once swore against. If you don't yet have children, just wait. You'll understand soon enough.  Fortunately, my two children are old enough to remind me that their young lives are speeding along.  It seemed like only yesterday that we welcomed our son into the world and now he and his little sister will leave the shelter of their home to walk the halls of our nearby elementary school this fall.  In the words of Hootie & his blowfish friends, time is walking by.  

So what is a parent to do?  

Thank God for the days that we have with our children.  In scripture, children are compared to arrows in the bow of a skilled archer, and blessed is the man who has a quiver full.  When my children were infants, they would throw the biggest tantrums.  Many times in public at the climax of these fits, we would tell people that children are a blessing, and cast a crooked smile with our tongue-in-cheek.  To the parents of infants and toddlers, hold on, your season will change soon.  Pretty soon those arrows will be feeding themselves and insist on picking out their own clothes.  I'm learning to enjoy the current season.  I'm actually realizing that coaching my son in baseball and loving the children and parents that we share the field with each week may just be the most important "job" I ever have in life.  

Parent, you are a temporary manager of a young life.  Your child is not your child.  Your child belongs to God and you and I have the privilege of raising them during some of the most formative years of their lives.  Make good use of the time you have been given and fight the urge to sit passively on the sideline.  Your children are looking to you for answers to the questions that consume them.  If they are anything like mine, your children parade your halls dressed in your clothes as a way of imitating the person that they admire most in this world.  Let me encourage you to point them to a better Father.  Let them know that although you love them more than anything in the world, they have a Heavenly Father whose love makes yours look tiny.  Your children have a daddy and he will never raise his voice or lose his temper.  He is patient, loving, and kind even when they are not.  He loves your children despite their tantrums and he feels the same way about you.  

Happy Father's Day. May God bless your efforts.  

GOSPEL FLUENCY: where heaven & earth collide

[Guest Post Feat. Ryan Mayfield]

What does it mean to be fluent in a foreign language? A combination of personal experience and Webster’s dictionary have led me to this definition:

Fluency is the ability to accurately hear and respond in a specific language.

What if we thought of the gospel like a foreign language? What if we began to believe and live like the gospel was something to be spoken and listened to on a minute-by-minute, daily basis? What if the gospel began to affect and infect the everyday, normal lives of Jesus’ people? What if the gospel became the normal language we spoke, instead of just a pep-talk we listen to on Sunday mornings and, occasionally, Wednesday evenings?

Just like we can be fluent in a foreign language, we can be fluent in the gospel.

Gospel Fluency is when a person knows the good news of Jesus and is able to accurately apply it to normal, everyday life.

The word “gospel” literally means “good news.” So, the gospel of Jesus is, simply put, the good news of how Jesus’ life and death impacts the world. Jesus, and everything he does and causes, is good news. Jesus himself tells us this as he reads from the book of Isaiah while teaching in a synagogue:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.” (Luke 4:18)

Jesus says that his purpose is to proclaim good news! He says he came to set captives free, to heal the blind, free people from oppression, and to show people that God cares for them deeply! And that’s all good news!

So, today, as you examine your own self, what fears or anxieties are holding you captive? The gospel of Jesus is that he can set you free from that captivity. What illness plagues you? The gospel of Jesus is that he can heal you! What forces in your life oppress your very soul? Jesus can come alongside you to help you live free from your oppression. And when you feel lonely or unloved, the gospel of Jesus stands to remind you of the deepest love of the Creator towards you.

This is not prosperity theology. The world is dark and broken. Sin is real. But when Jesus’ kingdom collides with earth, here and now, restoration and redemption take place. One day, King Jesus will return and all things will be made new and right. Until then, fluently speaking and applying the gospel to our normal, everyday lives will allow us to walk in the freedom and joy of life that Jesus always intended for his people to have.

 

"My dad is stronger than your dad"

Have you ever been scared? I'm not talking about being simply frightened for a brief moment, but legitimately fearful of the what is to come?  I have.  In fact, I was scared just this week. As a 34 year old adult male with children, this can be a bit hard to admit, but I'd like to spend the next couple of minutes discussing that process and how you can have faith in the face of fear.  

As most of you heard, last week our congregation received a call that our City Church body needed to cease gathering in our current location immediately.  In case you are wondering, moving 300-500 men, women, children and all of the accommodations associated with a public worship gathering is not simple.  We currently use an entire tractor trailer full of supplies plus a couple hundred extra stacking chairs to transform a gym into a family-style, "living room" setting complete with state of the art Audio/Video/Lighting to service our Simulcast service online at citychurch.tv as well as local Television Channels.  We have maintained a wonderful relationship with the local Boys and Girls Club and this news caught us by surprise to say the least (you can read the full news article HERE). Not-so-coincidently, I was also near-bed ridden due to a lower back injury at the time I had received this news. In short, things were not looking up for the home team.  

After a 24 hour period of self-induced short-term depression accompanied by a pot of coffee and a tube of icy-hot, I remembered who my daddy was.  

Do you remember being a kid and taunting others by telling them how your dad could beat up their dad?  Maybe you don't, but I certainly do.  As an adult, I now realize how outlandish my claims were to unleash my 5'9, 160 lb father with all the fighting fury of Golden Retriever to attack some other kid's dad.  However, it seemed to make sense at the time.  Looking back, I realize that somewhere down the road, I lost that childlike sense that my dad was unstoppable. Until now.

Just this week I have been reminded of the power of my father...

My Father has promised to work things out for my good.  He has promised me a future.  My father knows everything that I am going through.  He knows my deepest needs.  He understands my struggles.  He promises to go with me wherever I go and to provide my needs in the exact way that I need them.  The greatest news is that the same promises that my father will fulfill are equally as true for you.  Whatever it is that you are currently facing, you have a father that is in complete control.  When we come to this realization, we can face any obstacle, no matter how big the bully appears.  

I can't wait to share the story of how our father provided for us this week through our brand new gathering location at 705 E. Siebenmorgan in Conway at 9:30 & 11:30.  I hope you can join us on this epic journey of trusting and following King Jesus as we face our fears and walk by faith in the everyday.  

In X,

 

New Chapter

Persecution???   Nah...

Gospel Advancement?   Absolutely!

I am not a martyr.  We have not suffered.  We are a privileged people.  

I felt the need to clear the air at the outset of this conversation.  Many have given much for the sake of Christ.  We are among the most privileged to live in such a time where Christians can gather openly and worship King Jesus without fear of threat, at least in our part of this country.  

However, we have experienced a new chapter in the brief history of our young faith family.  Our city officials have asked our church to cease weekend gatherings in our current facility due to parking congestion that has occurred on Sunday mornings when a growing congregation shares space with a youth baseball complex. We are not angry.  We love our city.  We also understand that our city has hopes and dreams.  Our dream is that our dreams can one day coincide.  Until then, we have to trust that God knows what we need better than we do.  

With that said, City Church is currently homeless.  Wait.  That's not entirely true.  The church is and has always been the people who have decided to make Jesus the King of their lives and have decided to follow him together.  So, by definition, we are not homeless.  All of our people have beds covered by a roof.  However, we do not currently have weekend access to a space that is large enough to allow us to worship Jesus together.  This is not necessarily a bad thing.  In fact, many Christian groups have thrived under such circumstances.  It could even be argued that this is the ideal context for a Christian community to flourish.  Although City Church is structured to function without the presence of a weekly corporate gathering through weekly rhythms of missional communities doing life together (which we call City Groups), I actually enjoy gathering with my faith family on Sundays.  We have seen God do tremendous things on many weekends.  There's really not anything that is super-spiritual about Sunday as opposed to the rest of the week, but there is something supernatural about a group of people singing songs of Gospel hope and restoration and opening up the Holy Scriptures as family.  As a matter of fact, just this past Sunday, a young family trapped in sexual promiscuity was restored through Jesus.  Those are the stories that drive me.  Stories like that bring tears to my eyes when they cross my mind.  

This is why we value the weekend gathering.  We are going to work like crazy in an attempt to procure a facility in which to hold a worship gathering next week.  At the same time, we are going to rest knowing that God is Sovereign and will provide what we need at precisely the time when we need it.  Thank you for taking the time to enter into this journey with us.  

If you can help this family find a space to gather inside the city of Conway, let me know, and I will personally treat you to a steak dinner at Mike's Place in downtown Conway.  I would be honored.  If such assistance is beyond your means, would you take a moment and ask our loving Heavenly Father to shine a bit of favor on our situation?  Either way, we are content.  We know that our hope has never been provided through brick and mortar, but rather through wood and nails.  

Why "X"?

Over the course of the last 2 years, I have been asked about the significance of the X. I wanted to repost a blog post explaining the orginination, purpose and vision behind the "X".

In the winter of 2006, I was having coffee with my brother-in-law Adam Breckenridge, who had just made the transition from graduating from Mid-Western Seminary to working with a new church in the mid-town district of Kansas City. It was in the middle of the holiday season and we were addressing the recent angst on social media regarding the alleged "removal of Christ from Christmas," manifested by the use of the term "X-mas."  He explained to me that this phrase did not remove Christ, but rather illustrated Christ in shorthand.  The X simply represented the Greek letter Chi and was used by the early church as a marker to represent followers of "The Way" (Acts 9:2, Acts 11:26). Chi is the first letter of Christ and was often used to signify one's relationship to Christ as a disciple, or "learner." During the time of severe Roman persecution, disciples of Christ would use X as a signal to other Christians that they too were a part of this movement.  In fact, it is believed that the people of God living under Eqyptian bondage probably put this mark on their doorposts using the sacrificed blood of their most pure lamb in order to avoid the death of their firstborn when the death angel passed through the village (Exodus 12:23).  This is also believed to be where the "ichthys" (Jesus fish symbol) originated as one would not lift the pen when drawing the X quickly.

In short, X is the mark for Christ.  In the dreaming/vision stage prior to the launch of City Church, Carson Bray told me about this near-secretive group of Jesus followers who were blessing people with random acts of kindness and, when asked who they were and why they were doing this, would simply reply "we are of Christ."  We decided to take this idea and run with it.  We begin to ask the question "what if we planted the kind of church that served their city and avoided sharing our names or the name of an organization?" So that's exactly what we did. Then and there, the vision for the X was birthed.  We a Christ-centered communities cultivating compassion for our city.  We give out red stickers to everyone we serve and invite them to share the vision at every given opportunity.  It is our dream that these "markers of Christ" infiltrate every dark corner of our city, our state, our nation, and eventually, our world.  

What does the X mean? It means there is hope.  Hope for our broken condition, hope for sin-marred men and women who feel hopeless, hope for broken families, broken relationships, hope that all things are being made new, hope that the God who set it all in motion has sent his son to redeem and restore a fallen world, and hope that Jesus will take all of his followers with him to live in paradise one day. 

That's why we put X 's on the end of our names on social media.  That's even why my oldest son's middle name is X.  Yeah, just the letter X. (Don't worry, even our baby doctor was confused when we filled out the birth certificate).  When people ask what it means, we get to share the name that brought us all to a life of joy, significance, and purpose and desires to do the same with all who would trust in him. 

Would you consider joining in on such a task?? We are not seeking to build a personal kingdom, we want to lift up the name of Jesus. We long to see His kingdom come. 

JOIN THE MOVEMENT:
Do you live in Central Arkansas? Learn more about how to join the movement LIVE at citychurch.tv or contact us at info@citychurch.tv and we'll even send you some X stickers to help kick start your own Jesus movement beginning in your hometown!