Thursday, March 29, 2012

133 goes City-Wide @Easter

Easter 2009 marked the beginning of the Brea chapter for our community with the opening of our building on Imperial Avenue. It's been a full and fruitful three years since then, helped in no small part by a group of Brea pastors who opened a wide and warm door of friendship to us, even before we arrived.

There are two things that I find remarkable about the pastors in Brea. One is the number of them who've served their respective churches for twenty years or more. The result is a number of men who carry serious credibility in the city, which is rare and valuable as a collective Gospel witness. The other is that these men really love each other. This is even more rare and precious. A number of them have toiled faithfully as friends in the soil of this city for over two decades, and the fact that they've welcomed newer churches like us into their field and friendship circle is a tremendous gift.

I believe it takes a city-wide church to win a city-wide war. Our war is not against unbelievers or other churches. We stand shoulder to shoulder as a local churches in a common war against the god of this world who has blinded the eyes of people to the truth of the Gospel. We wage a ground war by living as faithful witnesses to Jesus in the power of the Spirit, but there is an air war which must be waged in prayer. This is what United@Easter is all about: 10 churches gathered on Wednesday the 4th of April for an hour and a half of worship and prayer before the Easter weekend.

Our simple intent is to exalt Jesus and ask Him to draw people to Him as we preach His Gospel at Easter. Every church is hungry for the empowering of the Spirit to be faithful witnesses to Jesus all-year-round, but Easter presents an especially ripe Gospel opportunity. That hunger will look, sound and feel different in each unique expression of Christian community, but the hunger is the same. We are desperate for God to move in power on our city, county and nation.

What a privilege to serve these 10 churches in Brea by hosting United@Easter as an expression of our normal 133 prayer time. I'm asking that we all show up in force as a community to host with humility and passion. I'm believing with you, that this gathering will be a significant catalyst for unity amongst the churches in Brea, bearing the lasting fruit of the Father's blessing on Brea and beyond.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Roots and Wings Book now available on Kindle at Amazon.

Although we released the paper back at Christmas in 2011, and it ships worldwide, a number of people have asked about when it becomes available as an ebook. Well, the answer is, today, on amazon as a kindle book. You can download it by clicking or cutting and pasting the link below. Hope you enjoy it.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Winning Home and Away Games

This has become one of our team war cries as a church. I think it could be for every local church. The call to win home and away, to be faithful witnesses to Jesus both in "Jerusalem" and beyond to the ends of the earth, is intrinsic to the Great Commission from our Great Commissioner.

The last couple years have seen us intentionally make an effort to be an Isaac -spirited church; (Gen 26) to 'stay and sow' here in the spiritual famine of Orange County. By His mercy we have seen some terrific fruit, and we are convinced that if we are not seeing fruit here, we have nothing to export beyond our borders. Or to change the metaphor, "a winning team builds it's season around winning home games."

So what is it to be a community on mission here in our own zip-code? What is it to peel back the sunny orange-peel facade of our county, to reach and love the last, the least and the lost? It is no easy task, because the lost are often blissfully unaware of their lostness! But we have fallen in love with our home field. It is a ripe harvest of God-fearers and Hedonists, whom God is redeeming from the idols of self-righteousness and self-realization. He is redeeming them to Himself!

Mind you, that's not the whole picture. This January during our church fast, God spoke to me very clearly through one of our students, who was fasting with us while on a study trip in Israel. He was in Beer-Sheba, and felt that God's word to Jacob at Beer-Sheba was very pertinent to us as a church for 2012. (Genesis 46) It was famine again, and God's word to Jacob was very different to the word to His father, Isaac. "Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt." It was in Egypt that God would turn Israel from a clan into a nation. Isaac had to stay. Jacob had to go.

This has been God's word in season to Southlands. There has been a weighted grace on
crossing geographical borders to partner with other churches for the sake of the Gospel this year. Palm Springs. Aspen. Newcastle, UK. Johannesburg, South Africa. This has not been due to strategic planning. The Gospel runs along relational lines more than strategic ones. We are busy training over 40 potential church planters through Porterbrook Network. There is a fresh wave of Jacob's coming.

And now we have begun dreaming about those who have never heard the Gospel. The missioliogists call them 'World A'. If 'World C' comprises Christians, 'World B' comprises evangelized non-Christians, then 'World A' comprises those that have never heard the Gospel. Of all the funding currently going to missions, only 0,1% goes to reaching World A! And of all the missions workers being sent out, only 0,4% go to "World A!' There is something horribly skewed with this picture! It may take 2-3 years, but we have begun dreaming about how to reach 'World A.' The majority of us will never go to World A. But that does not mean that we cannot prepare and partner with those who will.

Thank you for your partnership in the Gospel. May the Holy Spirit empower us to be an Isaac-spirited, Jacob-spirited community, who both 'stay and sow', and 'go and sow,' for God's glory and the joy of all people!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

"Giving what you got" : embracing the pleasure and price of travel

I love a good deal. My wife found a brand new pair of men's boots at Goodwill the other day for 16 bucks. Chocolate brown, suede, ankle length boots. 16 bucks. When she went back the next day to get them for me, the price tag had come off, so the shop attendant said she could have them for 8 bucks. When she went to the checkout to pay the lady said it was 50% off shoes that day. So I got a great pair of boots for 4 bucks. As I said, I love a good deal.

Since 1997, Rynelle and I have traveled together. At one stage airports felt like our second home. We remember those days with fondness and gratitude, but the gloss of globetrotting wore off long ago. We find the price of leaving kids, fighting jet lag, sleeping in strange beds and eating foreign food, somehow more costly these days. Travel is a huge privilege, don't get me wrong. Engaging in what God is doing around the world, making new friends and seeing new places is enriching. But it's certainly not a good deal. It's expensive all round; for the sending church, for the people who go, for the family who gets separated, and for those left behind to take care of the kids. So why do we do it?

Well, we go because as followers of Jesus, the Sent One, we are also sent ones. He left the comfort of His heavenly family to preach and embody the Gospel, and to make disciples, leaving them with the command, "As the Father sent Me so I am sending you." We understand our call to be witnesses of Jesus is not limited to our neighborhood. Christ's disciple-making commission was to all nations.

We also go because we believe the most effective way to make disciples is to plant and nurture healthy churches. When we go, that's what we're involved with. It's not a sight-seeing trip staying in nice hotels, or speaking at flashy conferences. It's staying with the people in the church you've gone to help, listening to their stories, struggles and dreams, answering their questions, and praying through their pains. There certainly is some preaching and worship leading, but that's really the minor part of it. It's more about climbing in the trenches with them. This is what we've spent the week doing in Newcastle, England, with a church called The House, which is in the throes of a leadership transition.

Which leads me to the final reason we go. We go because we have something to give. You don't go to get something. You go because you've got something to give. God has brought Southlands safely and strongly through a transition herself. He's been kind, patient and faithful to us. Although each church's journey is unique, it's been clear that the lessons we've learned have been helpful for this church in her own transition.

It's not always going to be Rynelle and I who go. We're committed to building a strong and compelling local church in Orange County, and equipping others to go too, but I feel we would be selfish and even disobedient not to share some of the treasure of our transition.

Let's not wheel and deal with God as He sends us, whether it's to our neighbors or the nations. Let's not try and get the best bargain. We've been given what we don't deserve in the Gospel, and therefore live to give it freely. As Jim Elliot, the missionary martyr once said, "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose."

Looking forward to seeing you this Sunday.