Monday, March 20, 2017

Roots and Wings: same name with a new face

I started blogging in 2009 as a way to distill my thinking into bite-sized reads for our church. At times I asked people to bite off more than they could chew! I realize that my shorter posts are easier to digest. That said, whether it's short stories or more lengthy essays, the blog seems to have helped to give us a greater sense of cohesion and vision as a church.

While I am an idealist and love to talk about ideas, the most popular posts by far have been tributes to people who have either passed away or reached major milestones. Ideas are plentiful today. Legacy is rare. People are hungry for stories of those who have lived out their ideas with integrity.  So while I cannot promise that I won't post on ideas, I know that behind every idea, people are rightfully asking, "How's that working for you?" I'd love to hear from you about what you have found most helpful.

Though I've repented of slavishly following stats on the blog, I've been delighted to see that it is read by many people in many cities and nations beyond our church. This has resulted in new connections around the nation and nations which has been an added bonus.

So when it came time to put a fresh face on the blog, I asked Brett McCracken and Rob Scott to help me with ideas and feel. They both liked the name Roots and Wings because it spoke of our desire to be a church rooted in the Scriptures, the gospel and the sovereignty of God, yet elevated by the wind of the Holy Spirit. This will remain a passion and a focus.

However, since 2009, 'Roots and Wings' has taken on broader significance for us. It evokes an image of a church 'rooted' in the Southland. This is the geographic term for Southern California. Our church is called Southlands because we feel called to 'multiply points of light all over the Southland." By God's gracious hand we have begun to see real glimpses of that dream becoming reality.  The next ten years will see us lean into that calling with new vigor and focus, to see the light of Christ bring life to the 26 million people who live in the Southland.

While we remain 'rooted' in the Southland, we continue to live in Jesus' grand call to make disciples of all nations. This requires not just Roots but Wings! We're part of a global family of called Advance and we will continue to partner with them in planting and strengthening churches in the nations, like One Light in Chiang Rai, Thailand.

So the blog will increasingly look at what it means to be rooted in the Southland, with a heart to reach all nations for Jesus, through planting gospel-centred, Spirit-empowered, communities on mission.

Thanks to Rob Scott for applying his genius designer's touch to express a new idea behind an old name.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Our New, Dual and True Citizenship.

After 9 years of living in California, I pledged allegiance to the flag of the United States of America. I sang the Star-Spangled Banner with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat and felt the honor of calling the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave, our home. We did not come here to pursue the American dream. We came here for the fame of Jesus' Name and the building of His Church. But we have been welcomed and profoundly blessed by America's largeness of heart and horizon on the way. We've also been stretched beyond imagination by her intensity. It's true. You do have to be brave to call America home. It can be gut-wrenching one moment, breath-taking the next. America is a miracle. Political partisanship and racial tension run like a poison river through the canyon of her soul, alongside the golden vein of inspiration, bravery and philanthropy. With all her complexity, America is home, and today we count it a longing fulfilled to be called fellow Americans.   

Of course, pledging allegiance to a new nation means giving up allegiance to another. We've not done this lightly. It has been a 26 year journey of gradual leaving and cleaving, beginning with a defining God-encounter in Muir Woods, California when I was just 17. South Africa, the land of our birth is etched so deeply on our souls. Our family is still there, along with so many dear friends. We still carry her fiercely hopeful gees* and her unrelenting ubuntu*. For South African friends and family who have struggled with our decision to pledge allegiance to America, we've tried to explain it through the example of Jesus who became flesh and dwelt among a people, took on a nationality, learned a language and embraced a culture. The best missionaries burned their boats and called their new land home. We have given up allegiance to South Africa, but we have not given up hope for her. On the contrary, we still hope for what Alan Payton envisioned all those years ago in Cry the Beloved Country, that she would be "a great and peaceful land in which the world would take pride, a nation in which each of many different groups will be making its own creative contribution." She too has her own miraculous story. In light of that, we've thought it wise to maintain dual-citizenship to enable us to visit regularly and maintain meaningful connection with South Africa our dear land.  So we will hold on to our green passports with gratitude and pride.

All this talk about citizenship has had me thinking about the idea that every Christian holds dual-citizenship. We are all ultimately Citizens of Heaven living as ambassadors on earth, pledging first allegiance to Christ our King. The Church is an embassy of heaven living for the peace and prosperity of the nation in which it dwells, longing for a glimpse of its heavenly country to appear in its earthly one.  While honor towards human government is the order of the day, our allegiance to Jesus' government  will at times bring us into conflict with the powers that be as we live for His Kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven. The Hebrews 11 heroes of faith all acknowledged that they were "strangers and exiles on earth, desiring a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be their God, for He has prepared for them a city." 

In the midst of our earthly citizenship, may a new patriotism for heaven grip our souls.  

*gees - Afrikaans for 'fighting spirit'

*ubuntu - Zulu for 'communal generosity and hospitality'

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Tribute to Darrel Ballman: A Floral to Flannel Legacy

Last night we gathered at the Anaheim Vineyard to celebrate the life of Darrel Ballman. I have had the privilege of being a pastor to Darrel and Evie for the last four years, but they are a couple whose heritage is vintage Vineyard, having spent most of their marriage doing life and ministry there. 

One of the things I loved most about Darrel was that he never took himself too seriously. I used to tease him a bit about the hippie-style floral shirts and relaxed approach of the Vineyard and he would agree and laugh and still keep arriving at church in those floral shirts.  He had such an endearing, self-effacing humor and was very comfortable in his own skin. It was one of the repeated themes last night from family, friends, work colleagues from the school where he taught. His mischievous sense of humor and contagious joy endured through the trial of his fight against cancer. Cancer was never in charge of Darrel's joy. That this joy is now no longer with us leaves a gaping hole in many lives. 

The thing is though, that when it came to making disciples of Jesus and teaching them the ways of the Spirit, Darrel was deadly serious. I'm not sure I've ever met a couple with such a natural way of discipling young believers as Darrel and Evie. They lived with an open home and would sometimes have up to 100 flannel-wearing millennials crowded in their lounge for life group. They would often worship, pray and prophesy for hours on end spilling out into the kitchen and onto their famous deck, completely caught up in the presence of God. They were a passionate, intimate family and his unassuming persona was like a trojan horse enabling him to get the love of Jesus into the hearts of   these young disciples.

While Darrel was a powerful spiritual father in his own right, he was a man under authority. He and Evi loved the local church. I remember him asking me to come and speak to his life group a couple of years ago because some people were worried it was turing into a house church.  Before I spoke, Darrel opened up the evening before I spoke by saying, "I know that many of you see me as your pastor. But I want you to know that this man is my pastor. I am on his team." It was a masterful moment that acknowledged the role he had in his disciples lives, but placed it within the context of the local church. No independence whatsoever. Darrel was larger because of that moment, not smaller. 

And so for me, Darrell's most powerful legacy could be described in Psalm 145: 4. "One generation will commend Your works to the next." That is what he did with startling effectiveness. He was passionate about his rich spiritual heritage. But because his passion was without one ounce of nostalgia or ego, he passed it on effortlessly to the next generation. 

Darrel might have been comfortable in floral. But he passed the gift of faith and passion for Jesus to a generation who wore flannel. He had what might be called a floral to flannel kingdom legacy. Which means that Darrel is rejoicing in the presence of the Savior he loved and longed for while his legacy is multiplied in the hands of the next generation. And that, my friends, is reason to rejoice.