Posts Tagged ‘relationships’

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?

Review of “They Like Jesus Not the Church” by Dan Kimball

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

This is one of those books that I’ve been meaning to read for a long time. I first heard about it when it came out in 2007. I wish I had read it then. It would have helped me a lot in the process of developing the vision for Agape Ann Arbor.

The book is well written. Dan’s style is easy to follow and the stories he chose are both compelling and relevant. Overall, I like the format too. He broke the book down into three sections. The first section sets the context of the book by describing the culture and lifestyle of young adults in the 21st century. Section two focuses on specific views that young adults have of the Christian church. The final section offers advice to churches and Christians based on what Dan has learned over his many years of ministry.

The first section does a very good job describing the situation of a young adult in the 21st century. It describes well the cultural phenomena that have shaped this generation and the behaviors that this generation has developed. The one thing that I struggled with in this section is the overall tone. I’m well aware of the statistics that highlight that phenomenal lack of church participation among the 20 – 35 age group. What I remain unconvinced of is the uniqueness of this phenomenon to this generation. It’s become commonplace to bemoan the lack of religiosity among the younger generation. The builders did regarding the boomers. The boomers did regarding GenX. Now the boomers and GenX do regarding the millennial generation. Yet, I haven’t been presented with evidence that religiosity among the 35 – 50 age group is dramatically less than that group was 10 or 20 years ago. In other words, people have and keep coming back to church.

With that said, I don’t think we should dismiss what Dan and other authors are saying about young adults. Young adults have and will always react to their parents culture. The flappers did in the 20s. The boomers did in the 60s. What we’re experiencing now is the second verse same as the first. Yet with every verse, we have to learn. We have to learn new ways to reach the people who are responding negatively to the way things are today. That is where this book and the others like it are so important.

The phenomenon we’re experiencing isn’t anything new, but we still have to respond to it and do something about it. If we don’t we may experience something new. This group of young adults may not follow the normal pattern and return to the church. Moreover, every person that has ever lived is important to God and as Christ-followers it is our job to point them to his love. With every generation we need to learn to speak a new language that will point them to God’s love.

That’s where the second and third sections of Dan’s book are so important. His experience has been confirmed by a great deal of research and my own anecdotal experience. If you take the time to read the book, I bet your experience will confirm it too. Section two puts words to what we’re experiencing. Dan makes it concrete so we can address it. He provides the opportunity for all of us to open our eyes and understand “these kids” so we can communicate God’s love to them. Finally, he provides some advice on what to do about it.

I highly recommend Dan Kimball’s They Love Jesus but not the Church. Anyone who seriously wants to see God’s kingdom come and his will be done on earth as it is in heaven needs to read this book and consider seriously what they are going to do about what they learn.

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 Fourth Place

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

Recently the idea of the “third place” has become popular in ministry circles. I’ll try to give a quick definition of the concept here. In the US, we live in three places; home, work, and the third place. There are a variety of expression of the third place; the local coffee shop (think Friends), the corner bar (think Cheers), the local lodge (think The Flintstones). The third place is where people go to socialize. It’s the hub location for their “tribe.”

In ministry circles there have been a lot of conversation about how we should make the church the “third place.” This, theoretically, is a good idea. If people are spending their “third place” time at the church they can connect to the community and grow spiritually.

I’m a little leery of this idea. If I’m spending all my time at home, work, and church, when do I engage with people who aren’t Christ-followers? Yes, I know work is a good place to do that. The people there are stuck with me. I will also concede that the workplace is part of our “mission field.” But is it the most effective place to share Christ? I find the conversations that most often turn to spiritual things are not at work. They’re at third places with third place people. If the church were to become my third place then when would I have these conversations?

I think maybe the church should be the fourth place. We should carve time out of our schedules to engage at church and in church activities but not let it monopolize our time outside of work and home. Prioritize church but don’t make church your third place. Find a place where you can naturally build relationships with people who don’t know Christ and use that “third place” time as mission time. Here are a couple of examples:

• Coach soccer (or whatever)
• Study martial arts
• Join a book club

Don’t make church your third place. You’ll miss way too much of what God is doing outside the walls of the church building. Besides, if the church is people, can the church really be a third place or any place at all?

What are some other third places where you’ve been able to share Christ and see God working?

The Most Christian Thing You Can Do is Go to a Party.

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

Yesterday I attended a birthday party with my 4-year-old daughter for one of her friends. Now, anyone who knows me knows that parties are not my thing. I’m naturally an introvert so even the idea of a bunch people crammed into a small space is exhausting. In fact while I consider the birthday-boy’s mom a friend and I like being Uncle Bryon to the young man, the main reason I attended was because my wife was feeling under the weather and not up to taking our daughter to the party.

Today as I look back on the events of yesterday and my response to the party, I’ve got to confess I’m a little ashamed. All the people at that party are people of infinite value to God but for the most part I didn’t see that. They were just people sharing the same space with me. My focus was 100% on my daughter and I didn’t even attempt to engage anyone in a real conversation. I didn’t treat them with the dignity that they deserve as people created in the image of God.

To be a Christian isn’t merely intellectual assent to a set of propositions (although those propositions and assent to them both have value). A Christian is one who follows Christ; one who longs to be closer to him and be more like him. A cursory reading of the gospels will show that Jesus loved a good party. He never missed a chance to spend time with people, because he saw their infinite value.

Now, I’ll always be an introvert. That is who God created me to be. I’ll never be the life of the party. Those are things that I cannot control. However, I can control how I interact with people at parties. I can control whether or not I show them God’s love or not. The next time I attend a party, I pray that people see someone who values them for who they are rather than someone in a hurry to leave.

The Importance of Community in Church

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010

In John 13:35 Jesus said that people would know we were Christ-followers by our love for one another. The funny thing about that is; the only way people we see us love one another is if we actually well… love one another. This is something that can’t be done in a large weekend gathering. It can only be done in the context of real relationships. It requires that we get into each other’s lives and share our triumphs and our failures. Unfortunately, churches aren’t really known as places to form relationships and develop friendships. In fact, most people that I’ve met feel that they’re more likely to find good friends at the local bar than at church.

This is the third wall that keeps us from being the church that God intends. We need to knock down this wall be creating an atmosphere where true community, true love can thrive. We need to lead our churches to love one another. This is not as easy as it sounds. It’s more than launching a cool Small Group program that gets a lot of people to study the Bible together. It requires a strategy that will encourage people to break down their own walls of insecurity and doubt and be real with each other. It requires a plan, hard work and patience.

What are you doing to develop this kind of community in your church? For more help in creating this structure, contact Jericho Ministry Solutions.

The Distance Between You and God (Part 3)

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

We’ve been talking about what Christ-followers should do when they sin.  In the first post of the series we established that sin does not cause us to lose our relationship with God.  It creates relational distance between Him and us.  We’re looking at Psalm 51, King David’s prayer when he was caught in sin, to discover how to overcome that relational distance.  In the last post we observed that the first step is confession.

At this point we have to understand that we cannot overcome this relational distance on our own.  It literally takes an act of God.  The only way for us to span the distance that we’ve created in our sin is for God to restore us to the place we were.  The cool thing is that God is all about restoration.  The entire Bible is the story of human sin which creates relational distance between humanity and God and God’s work to restore that relationship.

Look at what David says in Psalm 51:7-14a:

7  Sprinkle me with water and I will be pure;
wash me and I will be whiter than snow.

8  Grant me the ultimate joy of being forgiven!
May the bones you crushed rejoice!

9  Hide your face from my sins!
Wipe away all my guilt!

10  Create for me a pure heart, O God!
Renew a resolute spirit within me!

11  Do not reject me!
Do not take your Holy Spirit away from me!

12  Let me again experience the joy of your deliverance!
Sustain me by giving me the desire to obey!

13  Then I will teach rebels your merciful ways,
and sinners will turn to you.

14  Rescue me from the guilt of murder, O God, the God who delivers me! (NET)

When we first became Christ-followers, we trusted Jesus and his sacrifice to free us from sin and death and to restore our relationship with God.  This one time experience guarantees us salvation and eternity with Him.  But just as the disciples needed their feet washed to be clean the night of the last supper (John 13:1-17), we need to rest in God’s grace.  We need to trust that just as Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross saved us, his sacrifice restores our relationship with God.  It is not an act of will or obedience.  It is an act of faith; an act of trust; an act of love.

An then, we experience the closing of the distance that we created.

We experience the restoration of our relationship with God.

When have you experienced this kind of relational restoration?

The Distance Between You and God

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

For the sake of clarity, I’m going to share one of my theological presuppositions.  I believe that the moment a person trusts Christ all their sins are forgiven, even the ones they haven’t committed yet.  I know not everyone agrees with that statement.  If you’d like to discuss it further feel free to comment below, but that is the presupposition that this series of posts will be built upon.

Often I have been asked if that is true, what happens when Christ-followers sin?  There are two things that do not happen.  (1) They are not rejected by God.  (2) They do not lose their place in heaven.  Therefore, when Christ-followers sin they have not lost the relationship with God that they received when they trusted Christ.

They’ve disappointed God and created relational distance between themselves and God.  You’ve experienced this in relationships with people.  Think of a time when you disappointed or hurt someone close to you, your husband or wife, your boyfriend or girlfriend, your parents, your children, or maybe just a close friend.  Think back to how you felt at that time.  Remember the pain and discomfort you experienced.  That is relational distance.  That is what happens to Christ-followers when they sin.

For some of you, that relational distance was never overcome.  For some of you, that relationship ended and the pain is still there.  I want you to know, I am truly sorry about that.  I’m sorry for the loss and the pain that you’ve experienced.  Yet, I also want you to know that will never happen with God.  Jesus has promised to never leave you (Matthew 28:20).  Jesus has promised that no one will ever pull you out of God’s hand (John 10:28-29).

In the next several posts we’re going to talk about what to do to overcome that experience of relational distance with God.  We’re going to look at Psalm 51.  It is a prayer that King David of Israel prayed after he had sinned by sleeping with another man’s wife, getting her pregnant and then killing the man to cover up what he’d done.  If you haven’t read Psalm 51 in a while check it out on YouVersion.  And if you want to read the story about David it’s in 2 Samuel 10 – 11.

Before we get into what Scripture says, however, what are the steps that you use when trying to restore broken relationships?