Paradise

Today, David Brakke (the lead pastor at Maltby Christian Assembly) concluded our Easter series called “Famous Last Words” – speaking today on the subject of paradise.

The Bible reads, “One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, ‘Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!’ But the other rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.’ And he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ And he said to him, ‘Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise'” (Luke 23:39-43, ESV).

We spend so much of our lives convincing ourselves that death will not come our way – or at least not come for a long, long while. We pretend that death is not a reality – at least for us.

We speak of life too often as if it is all about what happens between our birth and our death. But what if we took on a more eternal perspective? Living with the end in mind? Admitting that our bodies are for a time but our spirit remains forever?

Would your life look any different?

Paradise

Spencer

Today I had the opportunity to officiate the wedding for two former students of Maltby Christian Assembly – Hunter Spencer and Aimee Cote`. The passage on the Fruit of the Spirit is very meaningful to the both of them.

Paul wrote, “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives” (Galatians 5:22-23, NLT).

My prayer for Hunter and Aimee is that they stay connected to Christ. May he create in them:
• Love: Committing to each other no matter the personal cost to themselves
• Joy: Assuring each other that their relationship is a part of God’s plan and purposes
• Peace: Making every effort to be right with God and with each other
• Patience: Offering each other the time to grow in every area of their lives
• Kindness: Considering the feelings of each other before their own
• Goodness: Going out of their way to bless each other before they bless themselves
• Faithfulness: Showing love and loyalty to each other regardless of the circumstance
• Gentleness: Listening to the needs and desires of each other
• Self-Control: Doing the right thing for each other despite feelings or circumstance
Walk in the Spirit – that he may produce a marriage that best represents Christ through your language and lifestyle.

Spencer

Childlike

I was having one of those mornings where you feel tugged in several different directions. That was the very moment that I stumbled upon my daughter doing this…

A powerful reminder to stop. Wasn’t it Bill Hybels who said we are never too busy NOT to pray? In the midst of the pressure…bring praise.

Childlike

Boobie

Bissinger observes, “But legs are not a ticket. They’re just legs: fragile, exposed, subject at moment to irreparable hurt” (13).

One of my favorite books of all time is Buzz Bissinger’s “Friday Night Lights.” The movie did not do justice (and though the show was only loosely based on the book – at least it caught the spirit behind the story). Imagine how excited I was to see Bissinger’s short twenty-five year follow-up available as a free e-book download this week at Starbucks! I read the forty-page work on Boobie Miles in one sitting.

Speaking of Miles’ career-ending injury, the author writes, “That was the moment when I understood that I would never abandon him. Over the years since, if anything I have done for him has made a difference, has created even a momentary uplift in his broken-puzzle life, then it has been worth it. I try to coax him forward. But the “what if” question that lingers over his life never goes away. I believe that he had as much chance as any great high school running back coming out of Texas in the past several decades to make it to the pros” (12).

In response to Miles finally giving up his football dream, the author suggests, “I believe him. But when you were once an athlete wearing the crown of thorns called Great Potential, you never fully give up the dream, no matter what you say. “What if?” is a big f****** headache that lasts forever” (23).

But the “what ifs” of life are not limited just to football. The author himself feels a good portion of the pressure as well. He proposes, “It is now twenty-two years since I finished writing the book, and still, virtually every day, someone approaches me about it…But I so often feel as if I professionally died after I penned it, at the age of thirty-five, vainly trying to top what could never be topped, wondering if I was fated to be a one-hit wonder, worried that my first book should have maybe been my last…Did my life somehow stop because of it, the book both a shining star and a falling one? I want to flee from it and yet here I am, twenty-two years later, writing about it. So maybe I really don’t” (28).

Who would have thought that “… a meaningless summer day in 1988 that Boobie’s life was defined by an injury that my have changed his fate forever. What I never anticipated was that the very same moment would forever define me” (37).

Boobie

Learning

Today at the Northwest Ministry Network Annual Conference, I had the opportunity to join a small panel of church planters to share a small part of our multiplication story – primarily what I have learned thus far during the pre-launch process.

Here are a few observations thus far:

LESSONS LEARNED (AND STILL LEARNING)

Honor: We resist a maverick mentality. We respect those who are already in the area – understanding that we are a different work (not a better one). That being said, the mission takes priority. The harvest is ripe.
Identity: We remind ourselves: 1) This is not our church. This is much bigger than a personality or method. What drives Blue Bridge? 2) This is not about planting. We are defined by trust and obedience to Christ in all areas of our lives – not merely in the plan and prepare for a Blue Bridge.
Prayer: We are tempted to work on a project rather than to pray. Don’t.
Pressure: We thought that the most stressful point would be saying “yes.” We were wrong. Pressure mounts when people join us on the journey.
Success: We must define true success. Otherwise we will grow discouraged.
Trust: A “no” hurts more than we ever thought that it would. But we must remind ourselves that following Christ does not look the same for everyone.
Unity: We cannot and will not do this alone. Our primary partner is Maltby (and many churches and individuals in addition to that). A diverse team is being compiled and developed. This is not my vision – but our vision.
Work: The pre-launch phase is more difficult than ever imagined. We are caught between two worlds – finishing strong and preparing for the next phase. Time management, accountability, and grace are non-negotiables.

PRAYER REQUESTS

1200: We are compiling a list of people who we have influence on a daily basis. We want to see people made new. We want to baptize them in water!
Location: We await a very important decision from the school district.
Partners: So many have been so generous and sacrificial. We currently have $94,000 raised. Our goal is $150,000 by October.
Transition: There are several individuals and families who need housing, work, and education in a very short amount of time. We also join Maltby in prayer for the right youth pastor, with the right gifts, all in the right time.

Learning

Multiplication

Today at the Northwest Ministry Network Annual Conference, my lead pastor and myself had the opportunity to share a small part of our multiplication story – of how Maltby Christian Assembly came to be a primary partner to Blue Bridge Church in the Tri-Cities.

Upon further reflection, here are a few key moments from that process:

January 1996: Decision to Follow
I had claimed to be disciple of Jesus for over two years – but had little to no concept of what it meant to be on the mission. I thought that I was saying ‘yes’ to being in vocational pastoral ministry – but really I was committing to go where Jesus told me to go and do what he asked me to do (regardless of personal cost).

June 2002: Youth Ministry
After five years of internships and four years of college, I of course, had everything figured out. It took less than six months for me to realize how little I really knew. Regardless, I had planned out my life – Jana and I would be in youth ministry for ten years and then possibly a lead pastor of a turnaround church (I have this terrible habit of believing if I can plan something then I can be in control of it).

August 2004: Dreams and Discussions
I would meet with friends and discuss “why” and “what” as it relates to Christ and the church. I was intrigued with simple discipleship and mobilizing ministers.

January 2006: Transition
I committed at least five years to Pastor David Brakke. We trusted each other enough to share our dreams for the future with each other. My hope was to honor him by aligning the youth ministry with the local church and his desire was to develop me to be the leader that I was supposed to be. The conversation continued.

January 2009: Masters Program
I began studying at Southeastern University with the intention of learning more about turnaround churches but gradually began to think more about launching a missional community in the Tri-Cities. I was greatly influenced by the works of Alan Hirsch, Thom Rainer, Ed Stetzer, and Leonard Sweet (as well as conversations with Don Detrick, Jeffery Portmann, Dan Serdahl, and John Jay Wilson).

August 2010: Restless Contentment
My lead pastor’s nine-week sabbatical solidified in me the desire to do something – I just did not know what. Honestly, I had a bad case of “Junior-itis.” Just because I wanted to do something did not necessarily mean it was the right time.

July 2011: Pursuit
Conversations occurred with a couple of churches about the possibility of pipelines and partnerships. My lead pastor asked, “Why not give Maltby a chance?” He agreed to send me to Starting Point (a Network workshop designed for church planters). I followed that session up with prayer in the Tri-Cities (once by myself and once with my lead pastor and our spouses). We made our decision in October.

December 2011: Honor the Past and Present
I made appointments with the lead pastors of the six existing churches in the Tri-Cites. My hope has never been to compete with them – but to compliment what they were already doing. Many of these churches were instrumental in my life and family. Though I cannot do all that they ask, I am determined to do all that I can to honor them. I have a lot to learn from several of them – especially in the areas of prayer and leadership. Time and time again, I have been overwhelmed with they support.

February 2012: Public Announcement
We shared with Maltby Christian Assembly the plan and timeline for them to be primary partner with Blue Bridge Church (a relational connection). Our desire is for this multiplication venture to be as much a win for Maltby as it is for Blue Bridge.

Keep in mind that I tend to process things to death… I am a firm believer that anyone interested in church multiplication must first ask two very important questions:
1) Should I plant a church? Not everyone is called to do so. Different people lead different churches to reach different people.
2) When should I plant a church? Just because you want to do so now does not mean that you should do so now.

Multiplication

Direct

Les Welk, our Network Team Leader, opened this year’s Annual Conference for the Northwest Ministry Network of the Assemblies of God with a session centered on Multiplication.

The Bible reads, “After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, ‘Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun shall be your territory. No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go'” (Joshua 1:1-9, ESV).

A couple of takeaways:

Whom did God allow you to lead today in a direction He is already leading them?
This is not (and will never be) MY church. These are not (and will never be) MY people or resources. Truthfully, I cannot (and will not) claim that this is MY vision. God graciously and mercifully has allowed me to take a significant role and handle sizable responsibility. But this is his church because this is his Church.

There was a time recently that I believed I could not be more terrified in life than at the moment that I finally said “yes” to planting Blue Bridge Church in the Tri-Cities. I could not have been more wrong. I become more and more scared each time some one says they are going with us. Excited? Absolutely. But scared? Most certainly.

But I choose to go in the direction that God has asked me to go – and I will take with me (and send forward) all those who are likewise called to join us. I am accountable for how I lead people – but I am even more accountable for how I follow Jesus. We all, individually and corporately, must own our choices to follow the voice of the Spirit.

In order to multiply disciples in God’s Kingdom we must abandon the spirit of poverty that grips us and adopt a spirit of generosity
There will be times that it makes no sense to give. We will want to keep. Those are the moments that we must give more. We will never have enough. Therefore, we will never stop giving more. We will cheer on those who have what we don’t and praise God for all that he allows s to do.

Multiply.

Direct