April 23, 2009

A Commitment To The Kingdom, Not The Church

This week I was able to visit the Greenville, SC area for a pre-project visit connected to a mission trip I'm taking a small group of students on in June. While there I was able to visit over half a dozen church plants in the area. What I saw in these church planters & the local denominational leaders was refreshing. I actually saw a commitment to the Kingdom of God & not to their particular church(s). I saw church planters that are doing ministry so out of the box that there really isn't even a box in their general vicinity, yet they're impacting their communities & some of these plants don't even meet for worship regularly...yet.

All the while I couldn't help but think of the areas I have lived in. Would those area embrace such a movement the way it's seemingly embraced in South Carolina? My own limited experience says, "No". I know planters who have tried to start in those areas, & they can't get traction because they can get zero support from the local churches that are already established. And anybody who has ever started a church from scratch will tell you that it helps if you have plenty of support from other churches & church leaders. However, in many places church planters are viewed as competition to the establishment, even if the establishment has long since ceased to be a force in the community. First of all we're not competing against each other; we're competing against everything else that could keep someone from connecting to God & His people. And even if we were competing, it wouldn't be much of a competition because many of us in the establishment got out of the game a long time ago.

I have a huge heart for church planters. They have huge faith & vision. Above all though, they have a commitment to growing God's Kingdom not merely growing their own.

April 14, 2009

People Have To Believe In You Before They Believe In Christ

Last night I was watching the Andy Griffith show, & Andy said something that really caught my attention. Opie had a new friend, Mr. McBeevee (classic episode by the way). Andy had never met him & Opie's description of him definitely put him in the world of make believe. When confronted with the question "So you believe in Mr. McBeevee?", Andy responded, "No, but I do believe in Opie."

That exchange grabbed me. My experience has taught me that before people will believe in the Jesus that we talk about & read about they have to believe in His followers. They have to see authenticity, compassion, faithfulness, & life change. When they can believe in the Christ followers in their life (and many times it only takes one), they are one step closer to believing in Christ Himself.

Are we as followers living out a compelling picture of what it means to know Jesus? Are we as leaders leading & equipping our people to live lives that the world can believe in?

April 3, 2009

The Most Important Vision

Over the last week I've been contemplating that question, "Whose vision is more important, the leader's or the people's?" And my conclusion is that neither the leader nor the people necessarily have the most important vision. If the vision of an organization, especially that of a church or ministry, isn't the vision that God has given them, then it is not the most important vision.

It's easy for either the leader or the larger group to think they have the right vision for the group's future. However, I also know that too often the tension over vision isn't about what is right but who gets to be right. Unfortunately this can even happen when one or more people in the group actually do have a sense of God's vision for them, yet if all of us aren't pursuing God's will & vision for us, we can quickly digress into an argument that will begin to erode the work that God is doing in us & wants to do through us.

The prescription for this dilemma: A Collective Pursuit of God's Will, Not Our Own & A Mutual Submission To One Another, Not An Assumption Of Our Own Wisdom.

Easy right? No, simple-yes, but easy-no. In order for our churches to go with God, we must continually remind one another that we are all part of God's work , & we must be willing to admit that we're not always right. Our vision isn't always the right direction. The only vision that should consume us is the one that God lays on His people. The process He uses is usually through leadership. Therefore leadership has to be willing to wait, to a point, for God's people. Afterall, it's not just about God's vision; it's also about God's timing for His vision