Mansfield

I would highly recommend Stephen Mansfield’s “Healing Your Church Hurt: What to do When You Still Love God but Have Been Wounded by His People.” I was provided two copies of the book in a special pre-release directly from the publisher for review purposes (the second copy goes to the first person to tweet a link of this blog or to post a link on to their Facebook page). You can pre-order a paperback copy for under $12 at Amazon.com (http://www.amazon.com/Healing-Your-Church-Hurt-Wounded/dp/1414365608/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1334011433&sr=8-1) or directly from Tyndale at http://tyndale.com/Healing-Your-Church-Hurt/9781414365602.

My favorite chapter dealt with “The Image of our Folly” where the author shares his heart for the walking wounded. He writes, “A guy falls into a deep hole and starts yelling for help. Soon a doctor happens by and hears the anguished cry. The doctor peers down into the hole, writes a prescription, throws it to the guy below, and keeps walking. Seeing the man below, the priest comes by and he peers into the hole. Seeing the man below, the priest writes out a prayer and throws it down before walking on. The guy in the hole starts yelling even louder. Soon his friend Joe comes by.

‘Hey Joe, help me. I’m down in this hole.’

So Joe jumps down into the hole too.’

‘What have you done?’ our guy says, ‘Now we’re both stuck down here!’

‘Yeah,’ says Joe calmly, ‘but I’ve been down here before and I know the way out'” (12-13).

What a wonderful way to illustrate just one more reason we feel so compelled to plant Blue Bridge Church in the Tri-Cities. There are so many of our friends and family members who are currently de-churched. For one reason or another – some of them were hurt and others were the ones doing the hurting. Regardless, they are dire need of rescue. They need someone to jump into the hole and show them the way out. They need to be reminded of God’s mission. I am convinced that if they spend six months planning and praying and preparing to plant a church that they will fall in love with a faith community again – and with the One who is at the center of that Call – Jesus Christ himself.

I have been down here before. And I am not afraid to go back.

Official Book Description: If you’ve been part of a church, you have probably suffered a “church hurt”—or know someone who has. Maybe the pastor had an affair or the congregation fought over money or the leaders were disguising gossip as “prayer.” Stephen Mansfield knows how it feels. Though he is now a New York Times bestselling author, he was a pastor for more than 20 years, and he loved it—until he learned how much a church can hurt. Yet he also learned how to dig out of that hurt, break through the bitterness and anger, stop making excuses, and get back to where he ought to be with God and his people. If you’re ready to choose the tough path to healing, Mansfield will walk you through it with brotherly love, showing you how you can be better than ever on the other side of this mess—if you’re willing to start Healing Your Church Hurt. Previously published as ReChurch.

Official Author Biographies: Stephen Mansfield is the New York Times bestselling author of The Faith of George W. Bush, The Faith of the American Soldier, Never Give In: The Extraordinary Character of Winston Churchill, and ReChurch: Healing Your Way Back to the People of God among other works of history and biography. Founder of The Mansfield Group, a research and communications firm, and Chartwell Literary Group, which creates and manages literary projects, Stephen is also in wide demand as a lecturer and inspirational speaker. He lives in Nashville with his wife, Beverly, a successful producer and songwriter.

George Barna was raised and educated on the East Coast before moving to California in the early 1980s. He held executive positions in advertising, public policy, political campaigns, and media/marketing research before beginning his own company, the Barna Research Group (now The Barna Group), in 1984. The firm analyzes American culture and creates resources and experiences designed to facilitate moral and spiritual transformation. Located in Ventura, California, The Barna Group provides primary research as well as developmental resources and analytic diagnostics. The company has served several hundred parachurch ministries and thousands of Christian churches throughout the country. It has also supplied research to for-profit corporations such as the Ford Motor Company, the Walt Disney Company, Visa USA, and Prudential, and has assisted the U.S. Navy and U.S. Army as well.

To date, George has written more than 40 books, predominantly in the areas of leadership, trends, spiritual development, and church health. Included among them are best sellers such as Revolution, Transforming Children into Spiritual Champions, The Frog in the Kettle, The Power of Vision, and Pagan Christianity? Several of his books have received national awards and have been translated into more than a dozen languages. He has also written for numerous periodicals and has published various syndicated reports on topics related to faith and lifestyle. He frequently writes about faith and culture in The Barna Update, a bimonthly research report accessed by hundreds of thousands of people through The Barna Group’s Web site (www.barna.org). His work is frequently cited as an authoritative source by the media. He has been hailed as “the most quoted person in the Christian church today” and is counted among its most influential leaders. In 2009, George initiated Metaformation, a new organization designed to help people maximize their potential. He is also the founding director in the Strategenius Group, which is engaged in business development and strategic marketing projects. To read George’s blog and get more information about his current projects, visit http://www.georgebarna.com.

Barna is a popular speaker at ministry conferences around the world and has taught at several universities and seminaries. He has served as a pastor of a large multiethnic church, has been involved in several church plants, and currently leads an organic church. He has served on the board of directors of various organizations. After graduating summa cum laude from Boston College, Barna earned two master’s degrees from Rutgers University. At Rutgers, he was awarded the Eagleton Fellowship. He also received a doctorate from Dallas Baptist University. He lives with his wife and their three daughters in Southern California. He enjoys spending time with his family, writing, reading novels, playing and listening to guitar, relaxing on the beach, visiting bookstores, and eating pizza.

Mansfield

Seabrook

Recently one of the Board of Directors of Maltby Christian Assembly, Zebb Seabrook, shared a few thoughts with me as they relate to the multiplication venture that has become Blue Bridge Church. I believe that he originally gathered many of these ideas from a previous article – and yet many thoughts are his own. He has give me permission to share them here.

The Bible reads, “Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a member of the court of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off. So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus” (Acts 13:1-4, ESV).

When you send messengers out from within a community…
1) Wait for the Holy Spirit’s power
2) Trust God for the provision
3) Anticipate that God will be victorious
4) Expect and discern divine appointments
5) Observe and join what God is already doing
6) Stand strong in the face of the opposition
7) Praise first in the midst of the adversary
8) Build bridges towards people
9) Empower and release the best people
10) Relentlessly focus on inviting people into the Kingdom

Thank you Zebb for your friendship and support. Your heart is always on the mission of Christ.

Seabrook

Protect

Tonight’s Merge Student Gathering featured a message by one of our interns, Mary Priest, on “God as our Protector” (the third and final part to our Lucky series).

The Bible reads, “When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously. Then these men came by agreement and found Daniel making petition and plea before his God. Then they came near and said before the king, concerning the injunction, ‘O king! Did you not sign an injunction, that anyone who makes petition to any god or man within thirty days except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions?’ The king answered and said, ‘The thing stands fast, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be revoked.’ Then they answered and said before the king, ‘Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or the injunction you have signed, but makes his petition three times a day'” (Daniel 6:10-13, ESV).

Imagine that – his only crime was ‘praying.’ We need more felons like that. How would you have responded in the face of the injustice? Your rights clearly taken away from you? Would you have protested? When is enough, enough? After all, they had already lost their land and leadership? Their law, too? But David does almost nothing. At least in the more traditional sense. He goes home. But in another way, he sought the counsel and defense from a Greater Authority. I wonder if one of the reasons we lose far too many battles is because we fight far too many for ourselves?

But make no mistake…Daniel DOES leave the window open. Talk about non-voilent civil disobedience. Subtle strength. Quiet confrontation. Maybe this is a case where Jesus would have been okay with someone praying in public? Let’s face it, some times the culture needs a church that says less and prays more…but prays in a place where they will be noticed.

So, what is your church known for? What do you stand up for? Or better yet, pray for?

Protect

Hunger

I just finished Suzanne Collins’ bestselling book titled “The Hunger Games.” As a communicator, and as one who aims to bridge the gospel with the culture, I have always found it valuable to sometimes read what others are reading. For a book that largely targets teenagers, the author sure raises some fascinating questions.

First, there is the general disregard of the individual person for the sake of entertaining the masses. Katniss thinks to herself, “Then I remember Peeta’s words on the roof. ‘Only I keep wishing I could think of a way to…to show the Capitol they don’t own me. That I’m more than just a piece in their Games.’ And for the first time, I understand what he means” (236).

Though we would rarely admit it, you and I play the Hunger Games every day. Or at least we watch the Games. You don’t believe me? Sure, we don’t kill people’s bodies…but we have no problem killing pretty much every thing else. Celebrity culture takes people up, then takes people down, only to take them back up again (tragically, too often we have to wait for the funeral to create some sort of comeback story). We glamorize fame and fortune while at the same time watch their lives fall prey to the pressures via addictions, divorces, and suicides. We reward people for striving for their five seconds of fame and then ridicule them for making idiots of themselves in order to keep our attention.

People are now famous for giving absolutely nothing significant to society except the false sense of feeling that we are better than they are. And all the while…we forget that they are people, too. We forget that these are real individuals and their value to us is not that we are entertained. It is that they were created in the image of God – never meant to be gods themselves.

But the closer Katniss gets to winning the games the more she becomes intrigued with the idea. The more the killings are justified. The more she believes the injustices are worth it. If only she can win…’if only’ makes us do foolish things (to ourselves and to those around us). She wonders, “For the first time I allow myself to truly think about the possibility that I might make it home. To fame. To wealth. To my own house in the Victor’s Village. My mother and Prim would live there with me. No more fear of hunger. A new kind of freedom. But then…what? What would my life be like on a daily basis? Most of it has been consumed with the acquisition of food. Take that away and I’m not really sure who I am, what my identity is. The idea scares me some. I think of Haymitch, with all his money. What did his life become? He lives alone, no wife or children, most of his waking hours drunk. I don’t want to end up like that” (311).

Is celebrity really worth the cost?

Second, here is a culture clearly without any sort of faith. The government rules. The individual is worshiped. Everyone does everything that they can in order to look better and feel better. Consumption is king. There is this false premise out there that the world would be better without religion. But would it? Who speaks up for those who cannot speak for themselves? Who in the book stood up and said that this was immoral? Was it those with power? Was it those with the influence to actually change the game?

Could it be that the church is at her strongest when she is also at her poorest? If there were Christ followers in “The Hunger Games,” what would they have done differently?

Finally, just for the record, I am going to go see the movie this weekend. I just needed to read the book first. And I will begin reading the sequel soon after that.

Hunger

Battle

After about eighteen months of reading through C.S. Lewis’ “The Chronicles of the Narnia” as a family, we finally completed the series – concluding with “The Last Battle.”

The seventh installment has to be one of my very favorites. Aside from Emeth’s conversation with Aslan in chapter fifteen, I have to say that Lewis’ description of a New Heavens and New Earth is absolutely brilliant. He writes, “Listen Peter. When Aslan said you could never go back to Narnia, he meant the Narnia you were thinking of. But that was not the real Narnia. That had a beginning and an end. It was only a shadow or a copy of the real Narnia which has always been here and always will be here: just as our own world, England and all, is only a shadow or copy of something in Aslan’s real world. You need not mourn over Narnia, Lucy. All of the old Narnia that mattered, all the dear creatures, have been drawn into the real Narnia through the Door. And of course it is different; as different as a real thing is from a shadow or as walking life is from a dream” (211-212).

Oh, that we as the church would wait on the Return of Christ in such a way. And not wait passively – but actively and urgently on the mission – believing that God is making old things new.

And just for the record, the Farley family will now read “The Hobbit.”

Battle

Report

Bittersweet. My final report as teaching and youth pastor at Maltby Christian Assembly (we transition in August to plant Blue Bridge Church in the Tri-Cities). Here are my thoughts on last year…

Merge Student Ministries, along with the rest of Maltby Christian Assembly, aims to connect all generations to Christ by loving, growing, and serving. Jana and I have spent much of our sixth year at MCA focused on Jesus’ words that read, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it” (John 14:12-14, ESV). Christ is doing something special in and through his church. Oswald Chambers proposed, “A great deal more failure is the result of an excess of caution than of bold experimentation with new ideas. The frontiers of the kingdom of God were never advanced by men and women of caution.” This year was one of exceptional progress – students joining Jesus on the mission of…

•Loving: One of this year’s highlights was our summer camp at Silver Lake (Medical Lake, WA). The weekend always includes priceless memories such as boating, the blob, beach, tournaments, team challenges, and more. But the miracles occurred as students were transformed by God during gatherings with Michael Fernandez and music by Adam Philipps. Our youth ministry saw 4 first-time commitments, 14 recommitments, 18 Spirit-baptisms, 3 water baptisms, and 7 called into vocational ministry. Our team continues to look for innovative ways to design our camps and conferences around small group discipleship – enabling students to better grow through resources and relationships.

•Growing: One of the more rewarding changes that we made this year was in combining our midweek worship gathering with our life groups into one night (extending the Wednesday schedule to now be from 6:30-8:30pm). This shift could not have been made at a better time. All discipleship flows out of relationship. Every student (regardless of their age, gender, or spiritual maturity) is connected to a leader who is committed to being a mentor. The students are given opportunity to worship through music, respond to the message, and discuss what they just learned in a small group (encounter, instruction, and application). We will be even more intentional next year with the calendar – topics include (but are not limited to) IDK (God Questions), Modern Family (All Relationships), Lucky (God Promises), Open Skies (Prayer), and All Roads? (World Religions).

•Serving: In order to better describe ways that we are reaching out locally and globally, I have asked Pastor Michael Forrey (director of Nexus Young Adults) to report on the success of their summer serve projects. We are grateful for the way that he and Christine, along with their incredible team, have mobilizing disciples of creativity and conviction.

This past summer the students of Nexus Young Adult Ministries were presented with the challenge of
how to live out their faith in a more practical way. Often times Christ-followers fail to see the whole
Gospel that Jesus presented in the bible. They go to church, tithe, read their bible, and attend life
groups. But is that really the example Christ gave? Nexus set out to fill in those holes of the true
Christ-like life, and turn faith into action. Throughout the summer the students gathered together,
studied the examples of Christ, then turned around and actually practiced what they studied. They
worked with several organizations that include Jacob’s Well (a half-way house for single mothers
with children) and Union Gospel Mission – giving of their time, treasure, and talent to spread the
message of Jesus Christ to those in need. Those simple acts had profound effects not only on the
lives of the ones ministered to, but also the lives of the young adults who participated. Pastor Michael

As always, we so appreciate your commitment in connecting this generation to Christ. Words cannot begin to describe our love and respect for the pastoral team, the youth leadership team, the students, the parents, and the church as a whole. You have invested in our family with such extravagant care and compassion. We are determined to finish strong over the coming months as we begin the transition towards planting Blue Bridge Church in the Tri-Cities. We are confident that our successor, whomever it might be, will be a leader well worth following and an outstanding compliment to the work already being done at Maltby. This is just the beginning.

Report

Fragments

The Apostle writes, “Because what Isaiah said was true: ‘The one who trusts in Him will not be disgraced.’ Remember that the Lord draws no distinction between Jew and non-Jew – He is Lord over all things, and He pours out His treasures on all who invoke His name because as Scripture says, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved'” (Romans 10:11-13, The Voice).

The Voice commentators write, “Faith is not something we do.  It is a response to what God has done already on our behalf, the response of a spirit restless in a fragmented world” (1505).

We live in a fragmented world.  And it was never meant to be this way.  So why do work so hard to ensure that it stays this way?  Even we as the church have our own ways of drawing lines in the sand.  The problem with lines in the sand is that they have not been there very long and they won’t be there very long after.

We fall into the trap of highlighting our differences rather than focusing on making a difference.

So much of how we live is about us vs. them.  Our past.  Our future.  Our occupation.  Our ideology.  Our theology.  Our nationality.  Our technology.  Our gender.  Our age.  Our experience. Our ingenuity.

But our faith is in nothing less (or nothing more) than our own distinctions.  Our faith is in us.

Maybe we should pay less attention to how we are supposedly better than someone else and place more trust in the fact that God is already making things better…

Maybe the only distinction that should really matter is the one between those who have heard the gospel and those who still need to hear it?

Fragments