Posts Tagged ‘love’

idol church

Monday, October 29th, 2012

I don’t hate church.

Agape Ann ArborLet me say that again to be perfectly clear. I don’t hate church. I’m a missionary and a church planter. God called me twelve years ago to vocational ministry. God called me to work in and for the church. My current endeavor is launching a new church community called Agape Ann Arbor.

As a missionary and church planter, I spend a lot of time talking to people about Agape Ann Arbor. The more I share our vision and our story the more confused I am by the reactions I receive. Here is a brief summary of what I typically share with someone interested in learning more about us. If you’d like to know more you can check out our Open Letter to Ann Arbor, Introduction to Agape Ann Arbor, and blog.

Agape Ann Arbor is a different kind of church community. Our vision is to be a community experiencing and expressing God’s love. The typical church in America is built around the weekend worship service, focusing on musical corporate worship and preaching. We’re building Agape Ann Arbor around relationships where people can experience and express God’s love with each other. The typical church plant launches with a Sunday morning worship service. We’re launching with parties and conversation groups where people connect and share relationally.

Virtually everyone with whom I’ve shared this vision has responded incredibly positively to the idea. Here’s what I don’t understand, why aren’t more people doing this? I’ve not met a single person trying something similar in the US. It’s almost an unspoken rule that if you don’t have a traditional Sunday morning worship service you’re not a church.

I feel like many of us have made an idol out of the Sunday morning worship service. I feel like we value singing and preaching more than we value Loving each other just as Jesus loved his disciples.

What do you think? Is this a fair assessment? What am I missing?

I want to see the wonders of God’s great love.

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

During my regular quiet time today I read the first half of Psalm 17. In this prayer David comes to the Lord and asks to see the “wonders of his great love” (Psalm 17:7a NIV). Isn’t that what we all want? Don’t all of us that believe there is a God want to see the “wonders of his great love?” I know I do. That’s why I moved my family to Ann Arbor to launch Agape Ann Arbor. I want to see God’s love manifested in this city. I want to see my friends, and neighbors experience God’s love. I want to have a deeper, fuller experience of God’s love. I want to experience God like Jesus did when he was here.

If we all want to see the wonders of God’s great love, why don’t we here more stories of people seeing it? Is God hiding it from us? Is life some cosmic game of hot and cold with the prize an experience of God’s love?

No. God’s not hiding his love. I think we’re just looking for it in the wrong places and the wrong way. I think a clue to seeing the wonders of God’s great love can be found in Matthew 9:35-38:

Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

Jesus experienced the wonders of the Father’s great love because he loved the same things the Father loved. When’s the last time you looked at the people walking down the streets of your town and felt compassion for the ones who don’t know Jesus? When’s the last time you tried to show someone the Jesus’ love them? If we want to see the wonders of God’s great love, we will see it when we express it to those he loves around us. As we express God’s love to the people he loves we will experience the wonder’s of his great love.

What’s one thing you can do today to express God’s love to someone you live near or work with?

What is Love?

Monday, September 12th, 2011

The vision of Agape Ann Arbor is to be a community experiencing and expressing God’s love. Unfortunately most people in our culture don’t really know what love is. We seem to have connected love inseparably to romance. We define love as that feeling we get in our chest when we’re near someone we’re attracted to. For the record, that’s not love. That’s a hormonal response to physical attraction.

So, what is love? Oftentimes, I find it easier to describe something by its opposite. The opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s selfishness. Love is looking at others and sacrificing of yourself for them. The purest example of love is Jesus. Paul describes Jesus’ love in his letter to the church in Phillipi:

Though he was in the form of God,
He chose not to cling to equality with God.
But poured himself out to fill a vessel brand new;
a servant in form
a man indeed.
The very likeness of humanity,
He humbled Himself,
obedient to death –
a merciless death on the cross!
Philippians 2:6-8 (The Voice)

Jesus gave up everything including His life for us. That is the ultimate expression of love. “There is no greater way to love than to give your life for your friends” (John 15:13 The Voice).

That is what Agape Ann Arbor is all about. We’re about giving our lives for the City of Ann Arbor. We’re here to make Ann Arbor a better city through our investment here. We’re here to give of ourselves, our time, our resources, and our abilities to the people around us so to make their lives better. We will do this in such a way as to draw them to the One who sacrificed everything so that we could have life and “have it to the full” (John 10:10 NIV).

How about you? Do you love the people around you? Are you ready to sacrifice yourself for the 98,000 people in Ann Arbor, MI who don’t know Jesus? Join the movement. Follow us on Twitter. Like us on Facebook. Join our prayer team.

Jesus said that the world would know we were his disciples by our love (John 13:35)

Experiencing and Expressing God’s Love

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011

In my last post I talked about why we’re starting Agape Ann Arbor. I talked about how we want to break the stereotype of Christianity in Ann Arbor. The vision of Agape Ann Arbor is to be a community experiencing and expressing God’s love. How do you do that? How do you build a community that experiences and expresses God’s love?

Experiencing and expressing God’s love requires contact. It can’t be done from a distance. Experiencing and expressing love happens eyeball to eyeball. We’re starting Agape Ann Arbor with a focus on relationships. We’re focusing on connecting people to each other. We want people to connect in small groups where they experience God’s love through the people around them and have the opportunity to express God’s love back to the people around them.

We’re looking for people who want to be a part of a new movement in Ann Arbor Michigan. We’re looking for people who want to experience and express God’s love. Are you interested? Do you want to join the movement or know someone who does? Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.
Subscribe to our newsletter
. Or just contact me so we can talk.

God’s changing lives. Are you going to be a part of what God’s doing?

Defining Discipleship

Saturday, October 9th, 2010

What is discipleship?

This is the question that I’ve been wrestling with for the last two months. As chaplain at Southfield Christian school, I’ve had to look at this through new eyes. In general, we all tend to define discipleship as “growing in Christ-likeness” or other similar language. In the church world, this is usually equated with a Christian Education or Small Group program. The presupposition is that these venues will create environments through which the Holy Spirit will work to transform our lives or teach us how to be more open and submissive to what the Holy Spirit is doing in us.

There are two problems with this approach. One, it leaves the definition of discipleship so vague that virtually anything could be defined as success. Two, it focuses on academics and observable behavior rather than an internal transformation of values and attitude.

Sitting in a Christian School looking to disciple students, I’ve seen these problems first-hand. Without a clear definition of what “growing in Christ-likeness” looks like there is no way to effectively evaluate the discipleship efforts of the organization. Furthermore, students that spend their entire school-day in an environment that focuses on academics and observable behavior, in the aggregate, don’t look any different than any other group of church-going students. This leads me to one of two conclusions. Either our general approach in the United States to discipling young people is incredibly effective and getting repeatable sustainable results or it is completely ineffective and getting repeatable sustainable results.

Unfortunately, based on my observation of American teenagers’ attitudes, values, and propensity to dismiss or justify sin issues, I’m inclined to believe the latter. The first step to improving the situation is redefining discipleship. We’re still working on a definition that communicates clearly and provides a way to evaluate the systems and programs we implement, but here is the concept around which that definition will develop at Southfield Christian School. Discipleship is leading another to grow in their love for God and others.

What do you think? Is this definition helpful to you? Do you think that this definition is a good foundation for building effective discipleship ministries?

Not Like Me (Blog Tour with author Eric Bryant)

Thursday, August 12th, 2010

We live in a diverse world filled with unprecedented opportunity. There is a call to move past the barriers that stand between us and those who may be different. Eric Michael Bryant has seen tolerance shown to those who are different than us — racially, religiously, sexually, politically, economically — and believes there must be more. After all, Jesus didn’t just tolerate people; he embraced them all with love.

Not Like Me: A Field Guide for Influencing a Diverse World helps people of faith effectively love, serve, and reach people overlooked by the church.

Using lighthearted humor, engaging personal stories, and a “party theology,” Bryant shows us how to love our neighbors and fulfill the vision Jesus had for the church from the beginning.
Whether that is through building relationships with the help of bounce houses, stand up comedy, or piñatas, followers of Christ will be inspired to actively engage the world around them.

The American Heresy

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

In the comments on my last post I had a spirited conversation with a friend from high school regarding the existence of hell. To summarize my understanding of his argument, he believes that hell is not a real place because hell is evil and God being all good cannot create evil. The references to hell in Scripture, therefore, are metaphors. This is one of the many variations of this idea the United States today. I’d like to take a moment here to share my thoughts on the matter.

First, I believe hell is a literal place where people who do not receive God’s forgiveness for their sin through Jesus in their earthly lives will spend eternity. Hell is a place where those who have not received salvation in Christ receive eternal punishment for their sin (Matthew 25:30, 41; Revelation 14:9-11; 19:3).

This is not inconsistent with God’s goodness. In fact, quite the opposite is true. If God were not to punish sin then he would not be wholly good because he would allow evil to exist without consequence. In this sense, hell is no more evil than prison.

What about the length of punishment? Is eternal punishment really justified for temporal sin? Ultimately, I don’t think we can answer that, because we are incapable of ascertaining the true extent of sin. We do not know the damage that sin does beyond the obvious things that we see and feel. Yet we know that sin is wrong even when there are no apparent damages to the people around us (for instance sex between to single consenting adults is sin although there are no apparent negative effects). We cannot judge whether eternal punishment is fair or not, only God knows.

While this is not comfortable for me, I trust God. I know that God is good. I know that he will do what is right. So, I trust him to do the holy, righteous, loving, good thing. Even when I don’t understand it. I must hold myself to God’s standard and not attempt to hold him to mine. He’s God. I’m not.

There’s a lot more that could be said here but this is enough for one post. What do you think?

I

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

Most of my readers have probably never heard of Tyler Perry or Madea. You’ve probably never seen any of Tyler Perry’s movies or stage performances. If you haven’t seen anything by Tyler Perry, you don’t know what you’re missing. In my opinion he is one of the best artists of our time able to seamlessly move from stage to screen. He is both an amazing playwright and screenwriter along with a wonderful director and producer. Mr. Perry can do it all.

Last Thursday my wife and I went to see Madea’s Big Happy Family, the latest offering of Tyler Perry on stage. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house. The tears weren’t from sadness. The tears were rolling because we were laughing so hard. I laughed so hard my face hurt. The writing was incredible. Tyler Perry’s whit and way with words make his comedies a laugh riot. I haven’t had that much fun watching a show in a long time.

While Mr. Perry is a phenomenal comedic artist that’s not the thing I like most about his work. The thing I like most is how he seamlessly weaves his faith into his work without it sounding forced or trite. Madea’s Big Happy Family was written by Tyler Perry, in large part, to help him process his grief after his mother passed away. The theme of the show was the influence that mothers have on their families.

The show opens with the lead character learning that her cancer has returned and she doesn’t have long to live. The hi-jinks begin when she invites her family including her kleptomaniac brother and family friend Madea, a 6’ tall 60 year old pistol packin’, ex-stripper, ex-con over to tell them the news. The entire first act is a laugh riot as we watch many failed attempts to get the family to slow down long enough to learn what’s going on. Yet, the comedy is light-hearted. This is not a dark comedy and you forget the morbidity of the situation as you enjoy watching the dysfunction of the family and laugh as you see elements of yourself and your own family in the hysterical situation.

The true theme of the show develops in Act 2. By now the family has learned the fate of their matriarch and they are working through the grieving process. The tears of joy turned to tears of sadness as we all grieved with the family at the loss of their saintly mother. (Even as I write this, I’m starting to feel the emotion all over again.) But the roller-coaster ride of emotion wasn’t over at this point. Our sadness turned to joy as we saw Tyler Perry’s vision of the death of his mother. We saw her weep for her children that were losing their mom and rejoice as she was raised to be with Jesus whom she had served faithfully.
The show culminated with the family sharing the influence their mom had on them and how through her life she pointed them to Jesus.

Madea’s Big Happy Family is one of the best stage performances I have ever seen. If you haven’t seen anything by Tyler Perry you need to check him out. Go out today and rent Diary of a Mad Black Woman and Daddies Little Girls. After you watch them, come back here and tell us what you think. I guarantee you’ll enjoy them. And if you get the chance, go see Madea’s Big Happy Family.

Sometimes I Disappoint Me

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

I disappointed myself in Small Group the other night. As I thought about it, it occurred to me that I’m probably not the only one that does this.

If you’ve been reading this blog, you know I was laid off in early November. The lay off came up in conversation in Small Group. I shared some of my feelings and frustrations regarding being laid off. We had a great conversation.

After our group had left for the evening and my daughter was in bed, my wife and I were sitting on the couch talking. It occurred to me that I had shared more about my thoughts and feelings in Small group than I had one-on-one with my wife. It wasn’t because my wife isn’t a safe person to talk to. She is the safest person in my life. It wasn’t because she isn’t supportive. She’s amazingly supportive. It was because I presumed she already knew.

My wife is the closest person in the world to me. I just presumed that she knew what I was going through but I never communicated it to her. By not communicating my thoughts and feelings to her, I deprived us of emotional intimacy, because she didn’t know how I was feeling.

Now, let me say this clearly, there is nothing wrong with being open and vulnerable in you Small Group. You should be and you will never experience the community for which the group was designed if you don’t. But, the first place to look for love and support should be your husband or wife. Don’t deny them the opportunity to be the husband or wife that God designed them to be. Don’t deny them the opportunity to love and care for you. Don’t deny yourself and your spouse the opportunity to experience emotional intimacy.

What do you do to maintain emotional intimacy in your marriage?

Valentine’s Day

Saturday, February 14th, 2009

If all you know about Valentine’s Day is from the adds on TV and Facebook then you think Valentine’s Day is all about sex. Now as important as sex is in a healthy marriage relationship, our culture has put the cart before the horse. Valentine’s Day is a day to celebrate love. Sex isn’t love. In marriage, sex is a healthy expression of the love that exists between a husband and a wife.

So, today let’s take the focus off sex and put the focus on love. Let’s not look to Valentine’s Day as a day where we focus on what we want out of our relationships. Let’s spend today focused on what we want to give to our relationship. Let’s focus on sacrificing our self for the one we love. That, after all, is what true love is; giving of yourself sacrificially to another. That’s what Jesus did when he came to earth for us.

Invest yourself in your marriage today. Start by taking at least 15 minutes to thank God for the person he gave you in marriage. Make sure it’s at least 15 minutes. That will help you to be specific about all the things that you are thankful for. It will help you focus on them rather than one yourself. It will help you stop taking them for granted and to see the wonderful gift that God has given you. Then confess to God your sins in your marriage. Confess to God the times that you’ve been selfish and seeking to be fulfilled in your marriage rather than fulfill your spouse. After that, pray that God will help you to be a better husband or wife. Pray that God will show you how to better invest in that relationship. Finally, think of at least one creative way to express your love for your spouse today. Enjoy each other today and allow this celebration of love to be a catalytic experience that draws you closer to each other in a more vibrant and fulfilling marriage.

Happy Valentine’s Day!