Connection: Hip and Cool

There have been several words that I have learned in the “church-planting” world. Connection is up there with the best of them. Just about every church foyer, bulletin, or web site has this word blasted everywhere. But what does it really mean?
From my experience, it means, “this is where you can learn how to serve on a Sunday morning.” You can sign up to usher, park cars, teach a class, go to a class, or wipe the faces of the youngins. Just about every connection point has something to do with serving in the church, or going to a small group, where hopefully you don’t feel too awkward and you can actually build real relationships.
I’m not sure this is working too well. Unless you are really aggressive and want to be plugged in, this process can prove to quite awkward and cumbersome.

Then there is the connection card. Have you ever wondered what you are connecting to when you fill this out? Is it a card that connects me to someone or something? Is someone going to connect with me? What if I am not ready? Anyway, enough chasing rabbits.

Look, I am not against points of connection. I just think that it’s overused and people really don’t know what they are trying to connect visitors or new believers to.

When my friend and I began to dream about what church could look like, we issued our vision statement to reflect the desires that we felt the Holy Spirit was saying. This is what we came up with:

At KeyStone Church we want to:
Connect People to the Creator, so they may know who they are… their true identity.
Connect People in Community, so they can discover what they are, their true gifts.
Connect People to the Culture, so they may know why they are, their life call.

It’s pretty simple, but here is the cool thing, everything revolves around this mission. We live our lives in the simplicity of connecting people in this way.
Several months later, I was introduced to Mike Breen’s book, Developing a Discipling Culture. In this book he describes the balanced life Jesus lived. He lived Up, Connecting to his Father, In, Connecting to his disciples, and Out, Connecting to the culture. As I read those words it hit me like a ton of bricks! This is exactly what we were saying in a different way! I knew we were on the right track. We had the foundation in place to live a balanced life, just like Jesus did; and connect people in a way that they really needed and desired.

So having said that, we really believe that connecting people is really just living life in a balanced way. Jesus’ connection points were lived in the everyday ebb and flow of life. This is what we want to do, this is how we want to live. In balance.

I just received an email from a family that has been searching for community like we are experiencing at KeyStone. They are going through some tough times, and yet they know they are connected to a group of people who really love them. And we do. They haven’t filled out a connection card, went through a connection course, or signed up for connection groups. But what they have experienced is real connection to Jesus through real community. Their lives are changing because of what Jesus is doing through real connections. Through the everyday beauty of life.

If we could just practice these simple principles, I believe Connection will become more that a buzz word, it will become a way of life.
What are we trying to connect people to? If it’s not to the balanced life that Jesus lived, then maybe we are connecting them to the wrong things. 

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Addition Before Multiplication

There are some pretty simple rules when it comes to math, maybe that’s why I like math, unlike English or other “flowable”subjects, math is constant. When you apply the rules, you always get the right answer. 2+2 will always equal 4…always!

This is why I like Jesus’ model of church planting. We have already established that real church growth, the kind the Jesus is interested in, is about making disciples. You just cant’ get away from that…that’s the rule and if you apply it you will always “get the right answer” in our case, be fruitful.

I have read just about every church growth book there is, ok maybe not every one, but I have read a lot. There is a common them in these books, namely, how to make your church bigger. Not a whole lot talking about discipleship, slow growth, learn to add before trying to multiply…until recently.

There seems to be a shift in our thinking about church planting and what makes a fruitful church. People are not as interested in the big top show, the smoke machine, or the laser light show as they once were.  What we are discovering is that people just want genuine relationships! Just be real. It [Sunday Morning] doesn’t have to be perfect, just make it real. That’s what people are looking for.

As a pastor I have some confessions to make. When we came to Colorado, it was under the premise of starting a “Big Top” style church. Big auditorium, big children’s ministry, big worship, just go big! I have wrestled with the concepts like “missional, house church, and incarnational. Honestly, some of these terms meant nothing to me, or they offered a negative connotation. I have constantly suppressed the desire to legitimize our existence here. By that I mean going and renting a building, doing a huge marketing campaign, and raising lots of money...that isn’t our course. 

At KeyStone Church, we are learning Acts 2:42 first. In verse 47 it says…”the Lord added…” Isn’t it interesting that God adds before he multiplies? I believe there is a concept that we need to learn here. Addition is simple, once you know the rules, a kindergartener can learn to add. Ask a three year old what their age is and they will proudly display 3 fingers. I think Jesus is trying to get something through to us. Get simple, learn to add before trying to multiply. It’s also important to note that God did the adding. The church really just did what they loved to do! They lived life together! 

In the book of Acts, multiplication doesn’t happen until chapter 6, and then they realized that they could have had serious problems, but because they learned addition first; the problem was averted, and they had men they could trust to handle the situation.

What have we missed because we want to multiply before we learn to add? In addition there is strong relationship birthed and sustained. In addition, there is strong leadership developed. In addition there is the foundation laid to handle multiplication. 

If you’re a church planter and are struggling to grow…just stop! go back to the basics, let God teach you addition. Let him add to your fellowship. Then you’ll appreciate and understand the responsibility of multiplication. I believe God wants to grow his church. But let’s let him do it, he’s much better at it than we are. Our responsibility is to make disciples, start there. Seriously, practice Acts 2:42, it’ll blow your mind to see what God does!

We are growing at KeyStone Church, we can’t help it. We are not really trying to promote our Sunday celebration, God is just adding to our fellowship. Honestly…we can’t handle multiplication right now, we are still working on addition and getting those rules right.

Because we are learning addition, I don’t have to beg people to start things…i.e. Ladies Bible studies, or men’s groups, or teen prayer. These things are happening out of the desire of the people who God is sending. My job as a pastor is to make sure they fulfill their God-given talent, and give them the platform they need to be fruitful! I don’t try to control or manipulate, or make people feel guilty for not serving. I know it will come, God will send the people he wants to grow his church. It’s a great way to live, I gotta be honest. I pray for God to send to us the people we need to see his church be fruitful…he is always faithful.

I am learning the church may look completely different then what I thought it was. I am confessing my weaknesses in knowing that I want to make the church look like I want it to. I am always challenged by this, and yet there is always grace to screw it up and let God make the adjustments. 

Add first…multiplication will come…

Discipleship: Not Another 12 Week Course

What comes to mind when you think of the word “discipleship?” For most of us (self included) we usually tend to think of discipleship as another class the pastor, or teacher of the assimilation process, has created to let us know more about what it means to become a member! Discipleship is not membership!

Discipleship is life on life, it’s pretty simple. Mike Breen,author and president of 3DM says, “Just simply fold people into your everyday life…” Do what Jesus did. He has perfect balance of life, education, practical application, and correction. Revelation-Imitation-Innovation-Correction

There are tons of pastors asking this question today, “We know we are supposed to make disciples, but, really, we don’t know how.” So we generally default to another 12 week course, dissecting what someone else has written as his/her interpretation of what they don’t know about discipleship, and the cycle continues.

Discipleship is not a 12 week course…hold on to your panties…it’s a life time course! Discipleship is eternal. It’s like saying, “take a course for a couple of weeks and you’ll know all there is to know about your wife.” Yeah right! Marriage is an eternal discovery about the opposite sex! You’ll never know all there is about your spouse. So relax and enjoy the journey!

Same with making disciples. It’s a lifetime adventure. It’s like having children, they are always your children, even though they grow up and mature. They never stop being your children The same holds true with discipleship. The disciples were always called disciples. They never once were called Jesus. Other than when they were made fun of and called “little Christs” We still call them disciples, isn’t that interesting?

Here’s what we are learning. In order for the church to look like she should, it should be filled with disciples and not consumers. We have swallowed the lie of American Marketing, and thought this should translate to the church as well. It shouldn’t. I’ll refer you to my friend Christy Inama’s blog for more on that.

Jesus said make disciples not consumers. Referring to Breen once again, “If you make disciples you’ll always end up with a church, if you make a church you’ll end up with consumers.” I think we can look around our nation today, and see that we have done a poor job at making disciples and a great job at making consumers. My thought is if we cared less about our big budget buildings, large “on stage” performances, spinning every plate possible for the entertainment of the masses, and more on building people,  we wouldn’t be fighting a marriage agenda, or trying to legislate morality. Disciples act like Jesus. We’ve made disciples that love consumerism. So maybe we have made disciples, just not of Jesus.

What is it going to take to turn this ship around? Is it too late? Is this why we have left the pulpit, and have fled to Capital Hill to save us? Do you really think that one president over another would have made a difference? We are in moral failure as a nation because we as the church have failed to reproduce Jesus. So now we are reactive. We are behind the “8” ball and are knee jerking to make sure we don’t lose america. We need to wake up church and start doing what Jesus told us to do. It’s not that hard…

Jesus’ last command was to make disciples. We’ve lost something along the way. We commercialized our pulpits and sold out to the message, “Bigger is better”. I like Jesus’ method of church growth…”Don’t tell anyone!” Why is that? I believe it was because he was more interested in raising up his 12 men than having 12,000 followers. 12 disciples can do more in the earth than 12,000 consumers. ANYDAY. We are growing at KeyStone, but it’s not because we are advertising, we are growing because people are really interested in real relationship. I think my guys love the fact that I spend time with them at a pub, over a pint, talking about life…OUTSIDE OF SUNDAY MORNING! Shock!! I think that’s what Jesus would do.

As a pastor, I had to ask myself, “What kind of people are we going to have at KeyStone Church? Are we going to file people in every Sunday, sit them down, spoon feed them the word, and then send them on their way?” No, I don’t think so. We are going to be a church known for folding people into our everyday life, we are going to clean our Mormon neighbors house, and feed her children, and bring her kids to church with us while our children’s ministry plays at the park. We are going to serve our community, and have a blast doing it!

I think the introduction of the microwave oven is one of the most fascinating things invented in the 20th century. I remember when we got one, it took up 1/3 of our kitchen, but man you could cook an egg in 30 seconds! I fear we have translated a lot of our discipleship into microwave thinking. Just shove as many people into a course, turn on the desired timer, and presto! Instant disciple.

Turn the dial to lifetime commitment… “IF you make disciples you’ll always end up with a church, [it’s the natural by-product of disciple making], if you make a church, you’ll end up with consumers.” Thanks Mike Breen! That statement has changed the way we think about KeyStone Church, and it’s changed the way we think about discipleship.

The Dirty Word: Community

Most people think of community as a fun filled time to get together with friends,have a bite to eat, maybe a pint or two, but in reality, community is a dirty word.
It hit me the other day as we are journeying through the book of John. In chapter 11 Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead…which is pretty cool, then he says the unbelievable…[You] “Unwrap his bindings” I have read over this verse hundreds of times and yet for some reason, maybe the season of life we are in, it hit me as the true sign of discipleship in community. Lazarus and been dead for four days. Even the family was embarrassed because they hadn’t used the family oil for his burial, so he had some funk on him!
Jesus isn’t phased, “Unwrap him!” even though he stinks, and it’s not proper, and it’s unclean, and it violates all of our Jewish rules and regs, and oh yeah…he stinks.
True community is a lot like this. Teresa and I have this weird anointing for living life with people, even in the four day old dead stinking stuff of life. This is community. This is the unwrapping of the things that bind us. This is real life.
Stuff happens, it stinks, it’s real…it’s life
Notice that Jesus didn’t tell a specific individual to unwrap Lazarus. He told the community. There were lots of people standing around, so Jesus figured to put them to work. Unwrap him…disciple him in the context of YOUR community. Get your hands dirty, don’t worry about what people say, don’t worry about all the models you’ve been taught on real discipleship, just get in there and get dirty. Get into his stuff, get into his life.
Jesus brings us to life, it’s our job to discple. It’s our joy to bring people into a real relationship with Jesus in the context of community.

When we came to our city to plant KeyStone Church, we started hearing people say things like, “we long for real community…and…please don’t start another American church…and we really just want relationship over religion.”
I agree. But what we are asking for is messy, ugly at times, and smells. It’s the ability to be real, even when we are dying to something, we may not say all the right things, we may screw it up royally, but we are real.

“You can’t handle the truth!” That famous line from Jack Nicholson in “A Few Good Men” rings in my ears every time someone says..”I just want real community.” Really? Is that want you really want? Ok, let’s do it. I’m all in. I’m willing to get dirty, smell your crap, change your diaper, and walk with you through the sewers of life…are you? So take your freakin mask off, and let’s get to it!

Jesus wants us to make disciples. This happens best in the context of living life together. My friend Brock loved the phrase, “life on life” it means just folding people into your everyday routine. Living in community means people have access to you. They know your junk, and you know theirs. Your not afraid of the smell of death, because honestly, we are all dying to something.
Community…not your average dirty word.

*Warning Explicit Language*

 

At KeyStone Church we are wrestling with some explicit language, like…Love, Discipleship, Multiplication, Community, Connection.

Some of these words have become the latest and greatest buzz words that we like to flash across our web sites: GET CONNECTED HERE, or FIND THE DISCIPLESHIP COURSE HERE…you get the point.

But these are more than the hot topics of the day. These words mean something, they came from our Master, and He wasn’t just kidding around when he wanted us to DO them.

Over the next few posts I’d like to explore these explicit words, some of which we have never learned their true meaning.

I figured the best place to start is with the New Commandment. Love One Another. Across the nation there is backstabbing, gossip, hate, and un-forgiveness running rampant in our churches. It’s no wonder why the world doesn’t want anything to do with us, kinda freaks me out and I’ve been in church as long as I an remember. I heard a stat the other day, probably from Barna, that 96% of church growth is transfer growth! What the…explicit word..? Seriously? My city boasts some of the greatest mission organizations in the world, along with some of the largest churches, however 80% of our city is un-churched! I’m not even talking about the walking wounded, I’m saying that 80% of the people where I live don’t have any community of believers, no fellowship with Jesus, and have no desire to seek it out.

What IF? This is a question that we love to raise in our Team Meetings. What IF church looked like…What IF we tried…What IF the church… just simply loved one another? Jesus said, “They [the world] will know you are my disciples by your love for one another.” In light of the prior stats, this can only mean a couple of things…

1. We aren’t real disciples

2. We don’t really know how to love

3. We’ve never been taught real love and discipleship

I met with a prominent pastor here in town a few months ago, he said something that shook me. “You know, when I first came here to pastor, our enemies were the witches and warlocks. Now our enemies are the religious.” He continued, “We’ve become really good at making people say prayers, and then teaching them our language, and our ideology, but we’ve done a poor job of making disciples.”

What IF we could just learn to love one another? I mean, like Jesus loved his guys? I am taking our church on a journey through the book of John. It’s amazing to build chapter upon chapter about Jesus rather than trying to come up with the hottest topical message of the season. In doing so, we have learned how much Jesus really loved his guys; the time he spent with them was over half of his earthly ministry. In chapter 14, you can feel the compassion that is oozing from his heart for them. Loving one another makes us attractive. We don’t have to water down the Message, it’s sweet just as it is. But what makes us attractive to the world is our love for one another! 

I like to hang out with my guys. We are growing so the number keeps increasing, and it gets a little more challenging for all of us to meet every week. But I LOVE it. This is something we have lost as pastors, we spend all our time in meetings, or sermon prep, or in the business of church. I know these things are necessary, but it’s not the most important thing! We have lost our first love, our love for one another. This is the New Commandment.

I am a pretty simple guy. I figured if we were going to plant a church, let’s just start with the basic model, Acts 2:42. Then I figured our best evangelistic tool wouldn’t be another 9 week class on a Wednesday night, but rather John 13:35. Yeah, just love one another, then the world will know you are mine. You won’t have to shout it, or make an idiot of yourself, just love. I don’t know, seems pretty simple to me.

 

 

I Cheated on My Gym

Several months ago I joined a large gym close to my home. It’s a mega gym. I mean, if you can think of an exercise platform, they have it. From Aquatics to Zumba, they have what you are looking for. My experience there has been remarkable. From the time I signed up for a tour on line, to my first “walk-through”, I have been nothing less than impressed. The staff is friendly and professional, and you realize after a few minutes with any member of the team, that they love working there. And it shows, I noticed there were no “out of shape” trainers or staff personnel…more on that later. Anyway, I was sold, I signed up for all the bells and whistles. I got two sessions of personal training, a hair cut, a free protein drink from the cafe, a “health score”, and the latest heart rate monitor!

I couldn’t wait to get started on my new training regiment. I was excited to go, as well as tell as many people about my gym as I could. Besides being excited and determined, I was faithful! I went every day for months, just taking Sundays off to rest. I was following the training plan, eating right, drinking the funky tasting drinks, and taking my vitamins.

Christmas came and we went to Indiana for 10 days. I was in full swing of training, and I didn’t want to miss a beat, so I went to a local gym and signed up for a 7 day trial period. The first night there I felt like I was back in High School. After waiting five minutes for a young girl to come and take my pass, [she was busy flirting with the local gym rat] I realized that I wasn’t in Kansas anymore, and in this case, Kansas was a lot better. I made my way back to the ill-fitted locker room, where a fungal science convention could have been held in the showers, and changed into my work out gear.

I love to spin, that is, riding a stationary bike to warm up,and then do my routine; chest, arms, back etc. I had trouble finding a bike that actually worked and when I did find one, it was so torn up that I eventually got off of it and just ran on the treadmill.

Needless to say, it was not a good experience at all, not for me anyway. I realized that this was a lot like the kingdom. God has given us all that we need and want, more than enough actually. He said “eat freely” just stay away from that one gym…er..uh..tree. This was a lot like my experience. My gym is the “eat freely” gym. It’s more than enough, they have stuff there that I’m not even sure how it works, but it’s there if you want it. I thought that just by going to a local gym, paying for a trial membership, I could experience the same thing. Nope.

How many times do we settle for the cheap imitation for whatever reason, and lose out on the Best Life? God has everything we want and need, and yet we Cheat on our Gyms for a lesser, cheaper imitation. I was unfaithful, and to tell you the truth, I only went back to the other gym for a couple of days, breaking my awesome routine, and losing momentum in my effort to get my temple in shape.

Here’s the good news. When I came back home, my gym was waiting for me. No one was mad, upset, or jealous that I had gone away. The trainers and staff all greeted me as if it were my first day; the lady behind the counter welcomed me back by name; and the equipment was just as I had left it, in perfect working order.

I have been unfaithful to God more times than I can count. And yet, all it takes is for me to return to the Best Life is open the door, and walk back into my father’s house. There He knows me by name, He has everything I need and want to make my life the best, and He never accuses me of cheating on Him, NEVER. He never makes me feel guilty. And, yes, He always has everything in working order, just like I left it.
How do we treat those that have walked away and tried a cheap imitation of the real thing? Do we still care for them? Do we still think highly of them? Or do we make them feel guilty and ashamed? Hopefully it’s the former…
Welcome back Lonny, have a great workout! Thanks, I think I will.

Vision over Venue

Our Vision Determines our Venue.
When coming to Colorado to “plant” a church, I was using a model that has proven to be very successful in many parts of the nation and abroad. We were following the model to a tee, preparing to rent a large auditorium, building a launch team, and raising lots of money.
Three days before we were going to receive funding from the organization, the Holy Spirit prompted me to stop. Well, more like pause…think about what you’re doing. Think about what the American church has turned into. Did I command you to plant a church? Or did I say Make Disciples? This conversation with the Holy Spirit kinda messed everything up. We didn’t rent the big facility, we didn’t get the check from the church planting org. We didn’t launch our team of 30 people to start spinning plates. We just paused.
I met with the team on a Sunday night and told them what I felt we were to do. I said, “Let’s start from the ground up rather from the top down.” This was life saving for some and rattled the brains of others. Some even left…but I knew that I had heard what our instructions were. Start small, start slow, start strong.
For the last 13 weeks, we have been meeting in our home every Sunday morning. It starts with a great breakfast. Around 50 people cram their way through the kitchen eating the cooked wares of the day. Celebration in song is next, then prayer, then teaching.
People would ask me what model are you using to plant your church? I simply say, Acts 2:42. Then I get the funny look with the, “oh…ok”
Because of our vision, we are growing. I can’t help it, I can’t control it, and I can’t stop it. I have found that if we make disciples, Jesus will build His church. I just get to be a part of the movement!
So our Vision…Because we are growing and my living room is limited to the amount of people we can contain, I have started looking for a place to rent. This has become an adventure in and of itself…we want to keep the large kitchen/living room feel. I have found that most places to meet want to sit people down in neat little rows so that they can consume the latest and greatest vision/interpretation of the word for that week. After all, this is how we have done it for centuries…right?
I am re-thinking things. I am currently looking at a pub that would house over 200 people…all the while letting them fellowship, eat, pray, and learn from one another. It’s crazy…but I think I like it. I don’t known if the pub will work out, but it has lead me on a great adventure to discover that even our venues reflect our vision!
And why not have church in a pub? I think this would shake the religious up, and bring to life the ones who truly need Jesus!