Category Archives: Pastoral Leadership

Why I Love My Church

This Sunday morning I find myself reflecting on the joys and sorrows of doing life inside the local church.  Specifically my local church, Cityview Bible Church, over the last 8.5 years.  Being heavily involved in any kind community has its shares of ups and downs because we are most vulnerble to pain when we allow ourselves to care deeply about other people.  All the risks considered, I still believe that commitment to a local church is one of the most important contributors to long-term spiritual growth.  As I think about our church family this morning, here’s what I’m grateful for:

1- Their passion for God.  Our congregation loves to worship, loves to pray, and loves to serve God.  I am constantly challenged by their ongoing fire for God’s glory above all else.  When I lose my focus or my passion, the people of Cityview remind me what is really important: we are here for God.

2- Their service of one another motivated by love.  I often say that I’m not sure where people turn for support and help when they are not connected to a local church.  Because I have seen the people of Cityview serve one another through the most difficult of circumstances.  As Barie and I have been through deep waters this year, we have experieneced the love of the local church in a whole new way.

3- The spiritually mature leaders.  The strength of any church is not really built on the communication gift of the pastor or the musical ability of the worship leader.  It is built on the spiritual health of the lay leaders in the church – the elders, the small group leaders, the ministry leaders.  I am continually encouraged by the spiritual maturity of our leaders.  I love serving with our elders, and I love watching the ministry leaders at Cityview use their gifts in such amazing ways.

4- Their patience with me.  I was 28 when we planted our church and in hindsight, a very immature pastor.  But our association and our elders were willing to take a risk on my leadership and to help mentor me along the way.  Now, at 36, I am exceedingly grateful for the patience of our congregation as they have given me room to grow in the Lord and learn how to be a pastor.

5- Their generosity toward our mission.  I don’t even have words to describe how amazed I am that people invest the amount of time, money, and energy in our mission that they do.  When we say that we are committed to reaching every man, woman, and child in Greater Austin with the life-changing reality of Jesus Christ, we mean it.  And our people are so supportive in seeing that become a reality.

6- Their grace toward one another.  I think one of the true marks of the people of Jesus is their ability to forgive one another and extend grace to each other.  Our church is a grace-filled environment.  I am so thankful to lead a church that is willing to press into the hard conflicts of life together and at the same time extend grace and mercy to each other.

I love the people of Cityview Bible Church.  They are truly our extended family, and they have walked with us through so much over the last 8.5 years.  I’m excited to see what the Lord has in store for us in the years ahead.

A Biblical Introduction to Elders

On Saturday, 10/4/14, I taught a two-hour class on what the Bible teaches about elders in the local church.  In session #1, I covered the character and qualifications of an elder.  In session #2, I taught on the role and responsibilities of an elder.  Each session includes a few minutes of Q&A.  Here is the video:

Biblical Introduction to Elders Video (10/4/14)

Here are the handouts that go with the video.  The first one covers includes the scripture that I cover in the two teaching sessions.  The other two handouts are just additional resources for elders – one that covers church-discipline and one that covers the role of the elder-chairman (in our specific ecclesiology):

A Biblical Introduction to Elders Sessions 1 and 2
Notes on Church Discipline
Roles and Responsibilities of Elder Chairman

 

Courage & Kindness

Leadership requires two skills in equal balance – both of which are difficult in their own right, but exceedingly difficult together.  Leaders must be courageous and kind.  Let’s explore these two traits and our need for growth in each area.

God tells Joshua to “be strong and courageous” (Joshua 1:9) in his leadership of the Israelites into the Promised Land.  Joshua must have been insecure after following in the footsteps of Moses and intimidated by the strong nations dwelling in the Land.  God knew that His servant would need courage, so He reminded Joshua that He was with him wherever he went.

Good leaders still need courage today.  Some leaders put off tough decisions and hard conversations because they are afraid.  Understandable, but also detrimental to the team.  Courage is required in every area of spiritual leadership – from sharing your faith to praying with someone to confronting sin to challenging complacency.  Do you wrestle with courage?  Do two things.  One, remember who God is and trust Him to lead you.  Two, ask God for courage.  Ask Him to specifically give you the courage you need today to confront the needs of today.

In addition to courage, leaders also need compassion and kindness toward those that they lead.  Philippians 4:5 commands us to “let our graciousness be known to everyone.”  Leaders must treat the people they lead with the same grace and kindness that God has shown them in Christ.  Courageous leadership is not the same as rude leadership.  We can make tough decisions and lead courageously while also caring deeply for the people that we lead.  And those we lead can tell – if we are using them or actually care about their spiritual growth and health.

Do you struggle with being gentle and kind toward those you lead?  Then, again, you need to do two things.  One, you need to lean on the Spirit each day in this area.  The Bible says that gentleness and kindness are fruits of the Holy Spirit, evidences that He is working in your life.  To display these characteristics, you must depend on the Spirit daily.  And two, ask God for greater compassion in your heart for those you lead.  Leadership is endlessly frustrating (whether as a parent or a president), and if we are not careful, our hearts can grow callous toward those we lead.

Kindness without courage produces a leader who is nice to everyone but unwilling to actually lead.  Courage without kindness produces a leader who is moving but running over people along the way.  To be a healthy leader, you must pursue both!

Four Ministry Lies

I find that many people give up on serving in ministry because they have believed a lie about the nature of ministry.  We have to carefully confront our misconceptions about ministry with the truth of God’s Word.  Have you ever been deceived by these four lies?

1- “If I am serving the right ministry, it should be easy.”  While we need to serve in a capacity that utilizes our gifts, many have bought into the lie that if we find the right ministry for our gifts, serving will be easy.  Because of this, I see people too quickly giving up on ministry when it is difficult, concluding that they must be in the wrong area of ministry or the wrong position.  The truth is that all ministry is hard work.  Faithfulness in serving others over time is challenging, regardless of your spiritual gifting or ministry context.  Paul acknowledges as much in Colossians 1:28-29 and 1 Corinthians 15:10.  In both verses, he writes of his dependence on the Spirit of God and the grace of God to fulfill his ministry, and then he reminds us that he “labored” in ministry and “worked more than any of them.”  Obviously, dependence on God’s strength doesn’t make ministry, but rather gives us the ability to persevere when ministry gets hard.

2- “Ministry is hard because people are immature.”  This is a half-truth that gets us into trouble.  People (including us) are immature and self-centered, but people are not our enemy in ministry.  Ministry is about serving people, not using them.  When ministry is hard, it is not primarily because of the people you serve.  It is because of the spiritual enemy who wars against God’s Kingdom.  The Scripture is clear that we serve in ministry in the midst of a spiritual war between the forces of evil at work in this world and the Sovereign God who reigns over all (see Ephesians 6:10-13).  If we forget about the spiritual nature of our battle, we will too quickly focus on how to rid ourselves of certain people and fail to pray as we do our ministry.  Satan wants people to quit serving others and will do whatever it takes to get you to stop serving in ministry.

3- “Ministry is first about personal fulfillment.”  It is hard to believe that we could take something as others-centered as ministry and make it about us, but the human heart can be selfish to the core.  We all struggle with asking, what am I getting out of serving in this ministry role, when it reality the right question is, how am I helping others grow in Christ through serving in this ministry?  God calls us to serve in ministry for the good of others.  Do we benefit from serving in ministry?  Absolutely.  But that is not the first reason we serve.  The first reason we serve is so that others can be built up.  Ministry is first about helping others, not helping ourselves.  1 Peter 4:10 and Philippians 2:3-4 remind us of this important truth.

4- “I should see immediate fruit from my ministry.”  Again, this is a half-truth.  Fruitfulness is important in ministry, and a lack of fruit may be a sign that we are not honoring God with some part of our ministry.  But a lack of visible, short-term fruit may just be related to the kind of ministry in which we serve.  For example, if I hold babies in the nursery or make coffee for visitors or stack chairs after church, I may not see the immediate results of my ministry.  But the Bible tells us that we don’t ultimately serve for temporary results.  We serve for eternal rewards.  This distinction has been very important for me as I seek to serve Christ in ministry for a lifetime.  I may not see the fruit of my ministry labor in the next six months or six years or even sixty years.  I may only know how God used my service when I stand before Him in eternity.  And that has to be enough for me.  If it is not, then I will give up when I don’t see the temporary results I think I should be seeing.  Faithful service over a lifetime requires a conviction that God see your service and will reward you for everything you did in this life for His glory and the good of others.  (see Hebrews 12:1-3 for a reminder of how Jesus kept His eyes focused on His eternal reward when His ministry involved suffering and death)

I hope and pray that God will help you confront the lies of the enemy when it comes to ministry and that you will not give up in serving others!

The Legacy of John Pound

Our city lost a great spiritual leader and I lost a friend this week when John Pound, the pastor of New Hope Community Church, died of heart-failure on Wednesday afternoon.  John was only 55 years old.  He leaves behind a wife, three grown daughters, and a church and city that will greatly miss him.  I met John seven years ago when I moved to Round Rock to plant a new church in our city.  In our short time together, John made a profound impact on my life.  I obviously don’t have the same perspective as his family and church-members.  Their insights and memories are different, I’m sure.  I was a co-laborer in the field with John.  As we celebrate John’s life, I wanted to write down a few of the reasons I respected John so much.

First, John was a man of prayer.  He led his elders to build a dedicated place of prayer on a hill behind their church building that he called “fire-mountain.”  He prayed for his people, he prayed for our city, and he prayed for the churches in our community.  He called others to prayer – to come out to fire-mountain and pray for the city of Round Rock.  He believed that what we needed most desperately in our churches and in our city is a move of God’s Spirit.  And so he led through prayer.  I have always prayed, but not like John prayed.  He made me want to be a better man of prayer.

Second, John was a man of encouragement.  John was one of the best in seeing spiritual gifting in others and calling that out.  John was able to see the hand of God at work in your life and encourage you to respond to God’s gift and calling.  Most pastors would say they believe that God blesses every believer with His Spirit and gifts for the church, but John actually put his belief into practice.  As a young church-planter who was insecure in my calling and my gifting, I so needed men like John who could see God’s hand at work in my life and call those things out.  I will so miss his support and encouragement.  He made me want to be a better supporter of other people.

Third, John was a Kingdom man.  We have been saying for years that there is only One Church in Round Rock with multiple expressions.  And I think the more we talk about it, the more we actually believe it.  We hope and pray that the pastors in our city (and the churches they lead) will not see other churches as competition, but as teammates serving the same Master.  John really believed that and lived it out.  He had a blessing-mentality, wanting every church to do well and fulfill their calling from God.  Oh, how we need more Kingdom men like John, who live to build up the whole church, not just their corner of the church.  He made me want to live for all of God’s Kingdom, not just my expression of it.

John, I know that you are rejoicing today in the presence of Jesus our Savior.  But I want you to know that you will be missed, friend.  I will see you soon.  Thank you for teaching us how to pray big, love well, and live for His greater glory.

The Yoke of Jesus

During His earthly ministry, Jesus said, “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

This invitation has several parts to it.

First, Jesus’ invitation is to come to Him!  It is not an invitation to an event or philosophy of life or a principle.  It is an invitation to a person – Jesus Himself.  The Christian faith (as a reminder) is about Jesus, not about a religious system.  When we find ourselves tired and weary and burdened by life, Jesus invites us to sit with Him.  Not to figure out a new system or structure or procedure, but to come to Jesus.  The invitation is not to self-dependence, but to dependence on Jesus.

Second, Jesus teaches us that all of us get weary and burdened with life.  Why?  Because life is hard and challenging and overwhelming at times.  Because we are sinful and rebellious and stubborn and hard-headed.  Because we are compassionate and loving and want to help others and carry their burdens as our own burdens.  Because we are human.  We are not God.  We get tired and sick and frustrated and angry.  We are the created, not the Creator.  Because of that, the burdens of this life can crush us.  They do crush us.  This life can brings great heights of joy and deep valleys – sometimes in the same day.

Third, Jesus promises to give us rest.  He doesn’t mean a nap.  He means a deeper rest – one of the soul.  One where are hearts are at peace and our souls are at rest in God.  You know what it feels like to be restless in your soul, don’t you?  To not be at peace with God, yourself, others.  Jesus tells us to bring that to Him.  He is gentle and humble in spirit.  His yoke is easy.  His burden is light.  He gives rest.  He promises to give rest.  To who?  To all of us.  To you – to me – today.

How does this actually work?

There is a great story in the Gospel of John, chapter 4, where we see Jesus expose the heavy burdens of this life and bring His freedom and peace.  I want us to study this passage and allow God to speak anew to our hearts about the weariness we feel and burdens we are carrying.  This story (of the woman at the well) is a familiar one to most of us.  But don’t allow its simplicity to lull you to sleep – to miss the powerful insights from our Lord Jesus and the writer John on finding rest in God.

I want us to see three contrasts in this passage, each contrasting one way of life that drains us from another way of life that fills us up.  In this passage, we will see the actual way by which Jesus brings His easy yoke and light burden into our lives.

First, let’s see the difference between stale water and living waterLet’s read John 4:1-14.

Jesus sits down at the well of Jacob in Samaria to talk to a Samaritan woman who was gathering water.  Jesus is immediately crossing two cultural barriers to talk with her.  He is ministering to a woman (not appropriate) who was a Samaritan (not liked by the Jews).  A great reminder that Jesus’ rest is for all people.  He is not a respecter of persons, of titles or bank accounts.  Jesus invites all who are weary and burdened by life.  And He invited this woman to experience His rest.  What did He say?

He told her that if she knew the gift of God and who was speaking to her, she would ask for and receive Living Water.  Let’s explore this teaching in verse 10 – very important to understanding the rest of God. What is the “gift of God?”  In the gospel of John, the gift is the grace of God offered in Jesus Christ.  Grace is God’s unmerited favor – His love poured out on us without anything in us to deserve it.

In other words, what Jesus is saying, “if you understood the grace of God and the coming of the Messiah, you would reach out for Him and He would respond to you.”  You would not just see Living Water, you would receive Living Water.  Why would understanding grace and believing in Jesus as Messiah cause us to reach out to Him?  Because we would know that we don’t have to get our stuff together before we approach Him.  That is grace.  And we would recognize that He is the only One who can give us true meaning and peace.  The Messiah is the One who puts the world right and puts peace in our hearts.

Jesus teaches the woman that this Living Water is different from anything else she has ever tried.  Every other water that she drinks will leave her thirsty again.  Is he talking about H2O?  No.  He is talking about everything else we look to in our lives to sustain us and give us purpose and meaning and value in this life.  Jesus exposes the first source of our weariness – the attempts to gain ultimate fulfillment in things that weren’t designed to ultimately fulfill.  Huge.

We know from the rest of the passage that this woman had been married many times.  Why?  Was she looking for a human relationship to complete her, to make her whole?  Think about your own life.  What stale water do you turn to, looking for peace and rest and security?  Jesus Christ Himself is reminding us in His words.  No person and no pursuit outside of Jesus will ultimately satisfy your soul.  You and I were made to worship.  We were made to be in relationship with our Creator.  Nothing in creation can be that ever-flowing well that springs up for eternal life.  Only Jesus satisfies.  Do you believe that He is enough?  That He is more than enough? Or are you always looking for someone / something else to satisfy your soul?

STOP and think.  Is your soul dry?  Is your heart empty?  Are you weary and overly burdened?  Could it be that you are feeling the effects of drinking from stale water?  Are you putting unrealistic expectations on your job, your family, your hobbies, your friends, your ministry even, hoping that they will make you whole?  They won’t.  They can’t.  Only Jesus is Living Water.

Second, let’s see the difference between confessed and hidden sin.  Let’s read John 4:15-26.

After Jesus teaches the woman at the well about the Living Water that He brings, He exposes what she tries to keep hidden from Him.  He tells her to go get her husband, and then when she refuses, reveals that He already knows about her five marriages, and her current live-in boyfriend.  Jesus confronts her sin in order to restore her, not to condemn her.  He desires to bring spiritual life to her, which is the reason for this conversation in the first place.

She obviously doesn’t want to go there, to talk about her failures and poor choices and sins against God.  Nobody does.  Who can blame her?  We don’t want anyone to know that we have those kinds of thoughts or words or actions.  It is so much easier to pretend that we are perfect and have our stuff together.  This one wanted to perform for Jesus, to act like she wasn’t involved in any kind of immorality.  But Jesus won’t allow us to simply hide our sin from him.

For good reason.  When we hide sin, refuse to acknowledge or confess our sin, it kills us inside.  We carry a heavy weight, a burden that crushes our spirit.  When Jesus calls out her sin, the woman at the well starts a conversation about the proper geography of worship.  But Jesus again won’t let her get away.  This discussion is not about location, but about the heart.

Jesus tells her that now that the Messiah has come, worship is not about external issues like being in the right geography, but about issues of the heart – spirit and truth.  Connecting with God on a heart level based on the truth of who He is and who we are.  Spirit and Truth.  Not deceit.  Not hiding from God, but coming honestly before Him, because He knows about it already.

One of the most common causes of spiritual dryness and a weary soul is a failure to confess and repent of sin.  Why do we hide from God when we know deep in our hearts that He knows about it anyway?  Because we don’t trust the heart of God.  What do you think is going to happen when you come clean before the Lord?  You think He is going to disown you?  Run from you?  Ignore you?  Punish you?  Let me tell you what happens when you confess you deepest, darkest sins to God?  He forgives you.  He extends grace and mercy.

Confession and repentance brings life.  Hiding sin from others and from God drains life.  It is a heavy burden to carry sin with us, to attempt to ignore the Holy Spirit day after day.  If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, God won’t leave you alone.  He will continue to pursue your heart, day after day.  And you know what you will find when you finally come clean and confess and repent?  LIFE!  You will find that God is more gracious that you knew and that people were more accepting that you could have imagined.  No one rejected you or sent you away.  God wipes you clean and renews your heart.  And there is freedom!

One of the greatest tools of the enemy is to keep us bound in habitual sin, to keep us trapped in the lie that we won’t ever be able to change, that no one will understand, that we can’t tell anyone about what we’ve done.  This creates a heavy burden.  Bring it to Jesus Christ.  Take up His easy yoke.  He is gentle and humble of heart.  He will free you from the sin that has you entangled.

Third, let’s see the difference between taking people to Jesus and leading them to us.
Let’s read John 4:27-30, 39-42.

The woman, after having Jesus reveal Himself to her as the Living Water and expose her lifestyle, realizes that this Man is not just another prophet.  He is the Messiah!  He is not another religious leader or spiritual guru.  Jesus is the One and Only King, the Anointed One of Israel, the suffering servant who takes away the sins of the world.  And when she realizes who she has met, what does she do?  Please take note.  She invites others to meet Him.

She doesn’t invite people to trust in her or follow her example.  She invites them to come and see this One who told her everything she ever did.  She ministers to others by bringing them to Jesus.  And the Bible says that many believed in Jesus because of what the woman said.  God used her testimony.  But notice where John goes in verse 42 – after they encountered Jesus, they believed because of their own experience with Jesus, not her experience with Jesus.  This is VERY important to understand.

So many times, we feel the burden of being responsible for people’s spiritual life.  In one sense, this is good.  We love people and want to see them grow.  We desire for people to honor God above all things in their lives.  In another sense, however, this can be bad.  If we make people dependent on us for their spiritual life rather than Jesus, we will slow down their growth and carry too much weight.

The goal of our ministry is NOT to make our own disciples.  It is to make disciples of Jesus Christ.  I know this sounds foundational, but I believe many of us are weary because we are taking on too much personal ownership of other people’s struggles and failures.  It is good to be empathetic and feel deeply for people.  It is not good to carry the weight of other people’s choices in life.  Our job is to point people to Jesus Christ, to teach people what it means to follow Jesus, and to model whole-hearted devotion to Jesus, but we cannot make decisions for people.  They have to meet Jesus on their own and experience Him first hand.

One of the reasons that we can work hard as ministers of Jesus Christ and still sleep well at night is because ultimately people belong to Jesus, not to us.  He is responsible for them, and they are accountable to Him.  They will not give an account to us when they die.  They will give an account to God.  We are witnesses to the Truth.  We are not the Truth.  We are called to lead people to Jesus.  He is the Messiah.  You are not.  You will never save anyone.  Jesus saves.  You can have the joy of introducing people to Jesus, like the woman at the well.  You can have the joy of telling them His story.  But in the end, they must investigate the claims of Christ on their own and make a daily decision on how to live.

Jesus calls us all to come to Him with our weary souls and our heavy burdens.  What heavy burden are you carrying today?

It could be the weariness that comes from looking for fulfillment in the wrong place.

It could be the weariness that comes from carrying sin that needs to be confessed.

It could be the weariness that comes from carrying other people’s concerns and struggles.

Whatever it is, remember the words of Jesus.  His yoke is easy and His burden is light.  His heart is gentle and His spirit is humble.  He invites you to come.  Not to me, but to Him.

Respond to Him and He will meet you there.

 

Six Leadership Shifts Needed in The Church

As I have worked with pastors and other church-leaders (elders, deacons, ministry leaders), I have become more aware of the leadership shifts needed in the local church in order for us to follow Jesus Christ in obedience to the Scriptures.  I hope these are helpful and challenge you to think about your leadership paradigm in the church.  Here are six leadership shifts that I see as crucial for the long-term health of the church in the United States:

1- From God speaking to MY church to God speaking to THE church.  So many pastors only see the leadership of the Spirit over their local church.  But the bigger question we need to ask as church leaders is, what is God the Spirit saying to the whole church in our area?  Of course, this is a difficult question to answer if you don’t spend time talking and listening to other pastors/churches/movements in your area.  To believe that God is only working in your church or movement is the height of arrogance.  To lead a local expression into the will of God, we must ask the question, how does God want me to be a part of what He is doing in this whole region?  This goes beyond the question of unity to the question of collaboration.  How can churches work together to reach an area when each church has a completely different view of what God is doing in the their city?  Elders and pastors need to start listening to what God is saying to all of churches in an area, not just their church.

2- From control of my congregation to open hands with Jesus’ congregation.  Church leaders are the worst at trying to control (not lead) the people in their congregation.  What if God wants to send people out to start new churches or ministries that will reach and disciple more people for Christ?  Theologically speaking, we need to work out the application of our ecclesiology.  If Jesus is the head of the church, then I don’t own anyone who goes to the local church that I lead.  I am responsible to shepherd them before the Lord, but the church belongs to Jesus Christ, not the pastor.  Local church leaders must remain open handed with God’s church.

3- From generational arrogance to learning from those who’ve gone before us.  Young church leaders are the worst at listening to the wisdom of the ages.  We are so certain that the newest way to do something is the best way to do something that we create separation between generations of church leaders.  The goal is not just to listen to those who are “successful” but to listen to those who are “wise.”  Granted, age does not always produce wisdom; but youth usually produces folly.  Young church leaders must be willing to listen to older, more-seasoned pastors, and not just to their young peers.

4- From growing a church to saturating a community with the gospel.  Church growth and gospel saturation are not enemies of each other, but they are not the same.  It is possible to grow a church primarily through transfer growth and not saturate a geography with the gospel.  The goal for church-leaders must be gospel saturation, not only church growth.  The metrics must change from numbers of people to numbers to conversions and the reduction of lostness in a geography.  Are the people in this community who don’t believe in Jesus being exposed to the gospel?  Church leaders must move from caring first about their attendance to caring first about their city.

5- From tolerant passivity to gospel-centered holiness.  Many church leaders I know what to be compassionate, gracious, loving shepherds of their people.  This is good.  But most church leaders have gone beyond this to adopting the cultural value of tolerance as the main way of living out this loving leadership.  The Bible confronts this passivity.  Being gospel leaders does not mean that we ignore sin.  It means that we confront sin personally and corporately with the grace of the gospel and the power of the Holy Spirit.  We need a leadership shift in the church towards calling the people of God to live as a holy people.

6- From pessimism about the future to faith about what God can do.  Most church leaders today are pessimistic about the spiritual future of our country.  Some of this is related to our theology (things will get worse before they get better), but some of this is also just related to our lack of faith in what God can do in our generation.  A study of history shows that God has done great redeeming works by His Spirit again and again despite the moral environment surrounding the church.  We need a generation of church-leaders who believe that can and will do again what He has done before – bring revival and renewal to His church and redemption to the world.

I am praying for these mindset shifts in my own heart and mind, and I am praying for these shifts to occur in the spiritual leaders in our church and our city.  God, help us to get in step with You and to repent of any behavior patterns or worldview positions that are in opposition to Your Spirit.

What is the goal of “Bible study”?

Yesterday at church we launched our year-long Bible reading goal.  We are using the 4+1 Bible reading plan developed by George Guthrie at Union University.  The Reading Plan has two readings in the Old Testament and two readings in the New Testament every day, plus one additional reading in the Psalms.  The plan has six days of reading each week, with one day off as a sabbatical day (also known as catch-up day!).  If you follow the 4+1 reading plan, you will read through the whole Bible in a year and the Psalms twice.  If you are interested in following along with us in the readings this year, you can download the plan on our church’s website or under the Resources Tab at the top of my blog.  We will also have weekday posts by leaders in our church on The City (our online community for the church) where we will discuss each day’s reading.  I wrote the discussion topic for today’s reading which you can read by following this link to the public side of The City.  Feel free to add your thoughts.

One of the questions that I got last week related to Bible study and Bible reading was, “Do we ever finish studying the Bible?  Do we ever get to the place where we know enough or have read enough or studied enough and can say with confidence that we really do know what the Bible teaches?”  This is a great question and maybe one that you have asked!  As I talked yesterday about the epidemic of biblical illiteracy in our culture and in the church, you might think that the goal of Bible study is simple to master the information in the Bible.  This is the way we study other books.  Do you remember taking classes in high school and college?  Your teacher gave you a book, you read and studied it with the goal of packing your brain with all the relevant facts that you might need on the exam.  So, the goal of study was mastery of information.

But that is not the ultimate goal of Bible Study.  We are not striving to get the facts straight (though that is important).  Our goal is to commune with God, to know our Maker and to love Him more.  Therefore, we don’t ever finish encountering God in His Word.  We may grow in our understanding of the Scriptures, but we never master the Creator.  We keep reading and keep studying every day, even reading passages we have read before because the Spirit of God speaks freshly in them to us every time.  I pray your hunger for God will continue to grow as you study His Word, because we don’t worship a book – we worship the Living God who has revealed Himself to us in His Word.

10 Lessons Learned as a Church-Planting Church

I’ve enjoyed writing this series over the last month – reflecting on all that God has taught us as a young church as we have worked toward becoming a church-planting church.  We are still very early in this process – just now sending out our second church and in the early planning stages on our third plant.  We are still learning so much – about different planting models, various funding strategies, effective coaching, and most importantly how to follow the leadership of Almighty God.  Here’s a summary of the ten-lessons we’ve learned in the last three years as a church-planting church:

1- Plant Early.
2- Trust God to Provide.
3- Take Risks.
4- Measure the Right Results.
5- Assess Carefully.
6- Coach Well.
7- Adapt Your Model.
8- Celebrate Small Wins.
9- Reproduce Leaders.
10- Kingdom First.

I’ve compiled all ten of my posts in one document that you can download by clicking here or by looking under the Church-Planting tab at the top of the website.  I hope and pray this helps and encourages you to follow God more faithfully.

Lessons of a Church-Planting Church: Lesson #10

Lesson #10: Kingdom First.  Sending out families and leaders from your church to start other churches constantly calls your primary commitments into question.  What is most important to the elders of your church, the local congregation you lead or the bigger Kingdom of God?  Most of the time these two commitments are not in conflict because building your local church is building the Kingdom of God.  But because the Kingdom is bigger than your local congregation, there are times where your support of broader “big-C” church will divert resources away from your “little-c” church.  This is not unique to church-planting: the same principles are true when it comes to global missions – a dollar spent supporting missionaries and church-planting movements around the world is a dollar not spent inside your local congregation.

But for some reason we get nervous when it comes to sending people (and ministry resources) to the local mission field.  We start thinking that we can’t send those leaders or those resources to another church in our city and our region because it will negatively impact our own congregation.  And in some sense that is true.  But it is also right.  Church-planting churches must have a theological understanding of the kingdom of God as bigger than any one local congregation.  The work of Jesus in the world is bigger than any denomination, movement, personality, and church.  Jesus came proclaiming the Kingdom of God – the reign of God over all people and all of creation.  And Jesus inaugurated that Kingdom in His birth, life, death, and resurrection.  Today, His church continues the work of proclaiming the gospel toward the purpose of expanding and building His Kingdom on the earth.

Churches will never start planting other churches until they see the Kingdom of God as their priority.  We are not called to build our little kingdoms, but to give our lives for His Kingdom.  No one will remember me in 100 years and no one will remember the church I started in 200 years.  But the Kingdom will continue because Jesus is the King and He is alive.  May we then like Paul, “welcome all who visit us, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching the things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with full boldnessand without hindrance. (Acts 28:30-31)”