Thursday, May 24, 2007

Lessons from Cane Ridge

In my tribe and its splinter groups, the folks out the Stone-Campbell movement, Cane Ridge is a birth place. It is an old meeting house/church on the Kentucky Frontier where in 1801 a large revival was held. 25,000 people across the frontier gathered for a revival and about 3 to 4 thousand became Christians.

I made my first trip to Cane Ridge a couple of days ago as part of a New Church Planters Peer Group. They told the story and history of the building and the revival. The interesting point about Cane Ridge is that the revival took place outside of the meeting house.

The building was not used for the revival except as a place for the preacher's to sleep and get rest. Cane Ridge provided me with a powerful lesson.

In a church, it is not about the bulding, it is about the mission of reaching out. If Cane Ridge church would have kept to themselves and stayed inside...then nothing would have happened. It took the church reaching out beyond itself.

We have preserved the building, but to me the greater message is that there are stumps outside where preachers hopped up on a stump and proclaimed the gospel to a people who came searching for God and community. As part of the Stone-Campbell movement, I will carry that image with me wherever I serve. I am a Disciple...meaning my mission is outside the walls of any building.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Emerging Churches are lame, my take.

As I am packing my books, I have come to the conclusion that I am no longer going to support Emerging Church Authors. Doug Pagitt, nice guy, but his book is an odd size.
I think the Emerging folks are trying to be cool and hip, so they make books that are not traditional.
A dozen emerging books are a pain in the butt to pack. I can pack the Ante-Nicene, Nicene, and Post Nicene fathers with ease comparted to the emerging folks.
So, I am going to make my theological and ecclesial decisions based upon the packability of the books.
So, folks at Youth Specialities...I am going to wait for the podcast.
Anybody have any Alexander MacLaren books instead of Brian's?
Fearless Joy,

Monday, May 07, 2007

The key word: Mission.

Why do we as Christians and as a church do the things we do? Why are we who we are?


Ultimately, the church exists to care for the one's who are not there. I am a Christian not for my own salvation, but to use 12 step terminology, 'to carry the message.' To help folks who have not been touched by grace, because I know what a life apart from God is.

Angie came to me after worship and said, she had a vision of a junior high ministry. "Niel, you know what is running in my mind. Blues Brothers. 'We are on a mission from God.' I feel like I am on mission from God." It was a mission and for three years, Angie was the catalyst for youth ministry. It was cool. Her mission was generated by listening and watching her daughter's friends. She had passion and calling. She did not have many skills, but those can be learned. We had little money, but passion can overcome dollars or generate dollars.

Why is this church in Visalia being born? That is the question that will drive the life of this church. What is Jesus calling us towards? What message or experience to we have to share that will bring grace, healing and life to one's who are in need of grace, who are wounded, and who are dying?

Being the church is not about being the coolest church in town. It is not about great music. It is not about a great atmosphere. It is not about any of that outside stuff. It is about what is on the inside of the church, the mission.

The churches that decline and die are those that have no sense of mission. They do not know why they exist. Also, those churches that die are those who existence lies in being inward looking and care for one another as the primary mission.

Over the last couple of days, I have been thinking about that. My conflicts in the churches that I have served have been on this issue. People may complain that I do not visit them enough. I have not heard anybody tell me in a church, 'You are spending too much time with us. We need you out doing your mission.'

As I think of the folks, I admire, Herb Kelleher president of Southwest Airlines, I am reminded that on day before Thanksgiving, Herb, as the story goes, would go to work with luggage handlers. That was the place that needed the most help. In my life as a pastor, I have found myself scrubbing toilets, cleaning floors, carrying dead babies, and counseling difficult folks because that was where I was needed. I did those things out of sense of mission. I found myself visiting folks because I cared about them. My frustration came when folks complained about their needs were not being met. I recall telling a young man in prison who had not received a visit in awhile. "You are important to me and I love you. If I have not come to see you, it is because there is one who is hurting more than you. If you could pray for me during the in between time that would be helpful."

My personal mission is this. I am a Christian to bring encouragement to those who fear. To bring out the child of God that lies within every person. To remind folks that Jesus is their friend. To bring folks hope who suffer isolation of shame and regret.

These words by Mary Chapin Carpenter from her son "The Calling" have really been speaking to me.

"Deep in your blood or a voice in your head
On a dark lonesome highway
It finds you instead
So certain it knows you, you can't turn away
Something or someone has found you today

Genius or Jesus, maybe he's seen us
But who would believe usI can't really say
Whatever the calling, the stumbling or falling
You follow it knowing
There's no other way, there's no other way."

What is your mission?
What is your calling that will not let you go?

A new call

Yesterday, I received a call to be a pastor of a new church in Visalia, California.

My posts have been sporadic as this movement to a new church has been a large part of my life that I did not want to process while it was happening. Those discussions were private between my wife, the search committee, and myself. So, those are people who I have an intimate relationship, more intimate than a blog.

However, with this new call, I am going to use this blog to communicate this transition. I am stealing from my buddy Pastor Bruce Frogge who chronicled his journey to Naples, FL.

So, what have I done. I began painting my house. I quit my job at Jos. A. Banks. I am coming to the conclusion that the next few weeks, I need to get myself spiritually around what I am being called towards. I want to invite you on the journey to help in that transition.

So this Texas boy, one who grew up in the Republic of Texas is moving to the Republic of California. My prayer is that I may have courage to be who I am and live faithfully to what God is calling me to become.

fearless joy,