The Fog Is Lifting!

This is the most significant week of our church planting residency so far.  It’s a turning point for us – not one that was scheduled but one I’m really grateful for and have been anticipating for a while.  It feels like this is the week the fog is lifting.

We’ve spent these last seven weeks thinking through the foundations of our church.  Big things like mission, values, culture and vision.  It’s been a time filled with reading, praying, dreaming, talking, listening and searching.  And it’s honestly been harder than I had anticipated.  It was like all the ingredients were laid out in front of me but I couldn’t quite see how they fit together into a coherent recipe.  That can be a scary place.

But it’s starting to come together.  And I’m starting to get excited.  I can see a rough picture of what this church is going to look like and it’s the kind of church I’ve always wanted to attend.  I can’t wait to see what God does with it all.

The trick is reminding myself that we aren’t there yet.  There’s still more clarity needed.  Yes, we’re 80% of the way there but this last 20% is the key.  So, please, pray for clarity.  Pray for vision to crystalize.  Pray for values to be refined.  Pray God breathes what He wants into the life of this church.  And, yes, pray for a name!

As much as I love the thought of planting the church I’ve always wanted to attend, I’m even more concerned with planting a biblical church that is faithful to what God is calling us to do.  We need a huge amount of prayer to see that come to life, so please keep interceding on our behalf.

I’m so grateful for you and appreciate your prayers more than you can imagine.

Tuesday Prayer Post – 09.17.13

It seems like I’ve been following a pretty standard format for as long as I’ve been writing these prayer updates.  It goes something like this: warm greeting followed by 3 bullet points to pray over and a closing that thanks you for praying.  It’s a nice format.  It works a lot of the time.  But not all of the time.  And definitely not today.

I just don’t have three points in me right now.  So, if you’re okay with it, I’m just going to tell you what’s on my mind and let you pray for me however you want.  

In Psalm 2 we are told to “rejoice with trembling.”  I kind of feel like that should be every church planter’s theme verse.  It pretty much encapsulates everything running through my heart and mind these days.  There are moments of pure exhilaration when you’re planting a church – moments when vision seems so clear and compelling, moments when you see Jesus working to actively build His church and moments when you are overwhelmed at His goodness and faithfulness.  And there are moments when the enormity of it all causes us to tremble – am I really up to this?  how are we going to pay for all of this?  will anyone actually come to this church?  btw, where should this church even be?  I could go on but that short list has already spiked my blood pressure!  

It’s a wonderful thing and an overwhelming thing to plant a church.  Ultimately, God uses both the rejoicing and the trembling to keep us abiding in Christ, in awe of God’s glory and serving in humility.  So, I’m not asking Him to take either away.  I’m just praying for the grace to lead well, hear His voice and obey what He’s telling me to do.  As long as He empowers me to do that well, I’m pretty sure He’ll take care of building the church.

So, that’s where I’m at this afternoon.  That’s what’s running through my head.  I figure you can take it from here and pray as you see fit.

John

The Futility of Faking

Being authentic is a really big deal these days.  From ethnic foods to churches and pastors, it all better be authentic.  And I think that’s a really good thing.

What amazes me is how many people and leaders think they can get away with the alternative – presenting a fake version of yourself.  There’s something in us that leads us to think people will like us better, respect us more and follow us more confidently if we invent some fictitious version of ourselves.  So we design “Super Me” and then do our best to pretend we’re that person -no struggles, no faults, no temptations.  We make it look like life is one non stop festival of perfectly Instagram-able moments.

And the funniest part is we think people are buying it!

Let me freak you out and free you up in the same moment.  No one is buying the act!  We can tell when you aren’t telling the whole truth.  We can tell when you think someone’s idea is stupid.  We know when you don’t like people.  We know when you would rather be somewhere else.  We know when you find someone boring.  We know!

Terrifying, huh?

But freeing.  Because if the act isn’t working, there’s no good reason to keep it up.  What do we have to gain by lashing ourselves to futility?  Instead let’s be honest.  Let’s be real.  Let’s tell people what’s really going on.  Let’s say what’s on our minds (without being rude) or at least stay quiet.  Let’s relate to people.  Let’s be genuine.

I don’t think our problem with authenticity is that we don’t know how to do it.  I think we’re either afraid or arrogantly believing people are buying our act.  They aren’t.  Just be real.

Tuesday Prayer Post – 09.10.13

Hello from summery Durham!

It’s been another full week for us on this church planting journey.  We are still very much in a learning, planning, dreaming and praying mode when it comes to the church plant.  Honestly, we feel like we could stay in that mode for a long time – there is so much to study, think through and imagine.  The good news is that I’m loving all of it.  At the same time, we are getting more connected to the life of Summit Church and really starting to feel like we are part of this great family.  Add into that a feeling that we are starting to learn our way around The Triangle and we are feeling so grateful for all the Lord is doing in our lives.

One of the things that is very important to me is planting a church in a way that my family is blessed not punished.  I want this experience to be as exciting for Laura and Jack as it is for me.  And I want our family to be strong, healthy and unified.  With that in mind, I would love to have you praying specifically for our family this week.  Here are a couple of specific requests:

1.  Pray for sleep.  Specifically, pray for Jack to sleep through the night.  It seems like every time he’s on the verge of figuring that out, something comes up and knocks him off course.  Currently, that would be teething.  The poor little guy has cut three teeth in the last two weeks and has one more on the way.  You can tell it’s bothering him and keeping him up at night which in turn is keeping us up and bothering us.  It may seem small but, seriously, sleep would be amazing!

2.  Time with Laura’s Family This Weekend.  We are going to be spending Friday and Saturday in Richmond with Laura’s extended family.  A number of them are traveling to Richmond for the weekend and it will be great to see so many of them in one place.  But with so much going on, it can be hard to slow down and just spend time with people.  So, pray the Lord fills Laura and I with grace, joy and patience over the weekend.

3.  Rest.  We’ve been having a lot of conversations recently about what it looks like for us to stay rested and connected as a couple.  I’ll likely be blogging in upcoming weeks about some of what the Lord is showing us through this process.  But we are definitely aware of our need for more time when we are alone, rested and undistracted.  Please pray we can create those spaces in the midst of so much activity.

As always, thanks for praying.  I’m so grateful for you and your prayer partnership in the church the Lord is calling us to lead.

John

Going To Church Is Like Ordering A Burrito

One of the great joys of moving to a new part of the country is discovering a whole new set of regional chain restaurants.  You know the kind of place – if you’re from the area, you’ve eaten there hundreds of times but if you aren’t from the area, you’ve never heard of it.  Some are really good.  Some are really bad.  But they are all unfamiliar.

Well, I went to one of those the other day.  I was pretty confident my choice would turn out well:  I’ve heard a number of my friends say they are going there for lunch, the parking lot was full and there are a lot of locations all over the city.  All of this shouts “booming local establishment” in my book.  Plus, it’s a Mexican place.  I love Mexican food and it’s kind of hard to mess up.

I got there and the place was packed – great sign!  I happily stood in line to order, thinking about all of the options I had for my burrito.  I finally hit the ordering station and handled it like a champ!  Whew!  By the time I hit the register, I was feeling pretty confident.  You would’ve sworn I’d eaten there hundreds of times.  So, I casually told the teenager working the register that I would like an order of chips and salsa with my meal.

Oops.  That earned me a look that was equal parts “how did someone so stupid get in here?” and “you’re so pathetic I’m not even sure you can pay for any of this.”  So much attitude from someone still in braces!  Turns out the salsa is available at a station around the corner.  She’s responsible for chips.  Not salsa.  And I broke the code.  And she wanted me to know it.

All I wanted to say was, “Hey, ease up.  I’ve never been here before.”  Instead I opted for, “Oh, I’m sorry.”  What?!?  Why am I apologizing?  I didn’t do anything wrong.  I just didn’t know how things worked.  She should have felt bad, not me.  But that isn’t how it works, is it?  When we’re new and we break the code, it’s really easy for us to feel like we’re to blame.  Most of the time that conclusion gets reinforce by the people who do know the code.

Which brings me to my real question:  how do new people feel when they come to your church?  What if they break the code?  Wear the wrong thing?  Say the wrong thing?  Don’t know where to drop their kids off?  Come late?  Don’t bring a Bible?

As leaders, are we expecting first time guests every time the church meets?  Are we prepared to make them feel welcome?  Are we willing to pitch the code and just love people?  Or are we more concerned with protecting the code from outsiders?

How we answer those questions has a huge impact on how many of our first time guests become regular attenders and ultimately members.  So, when people come to visit your church, go out of your way to show them where we hide the salsa!

Tuesday Prayer Post – 09.03.13

I just reread my post from last Tuesday and was filled with gratitude for all the Lord has done in such a short period of time.  At this point, the townhouse is all but rented out – we’ve selected a tenant and are just working through a few details before they move in.  We also had a great time in NY this weekend and are seeing God start to fit pieces together for a church plant.  So, I’m filled with gratitude as I sit here writing.

My goal for this week is simple but really important – I want to map out what the next 8 months look like for us.  I need a road map that helps organize all of our efforts, identifies key milestones and lays out specific decision points, actions and communication steps.  It’s time for a roadmap that holds all of this together.

In case you don’t know me well, I’m more of a “pick the destination” kind of guy than a “design the roadmap” person.  On a good day, I can pick the destination and decide whether we should drive or fly.  But laying out the steps….well, that’s where your prayers come in!

There are no prayer bullet points this week.  Just pray for wisdom, insight and creativity in this planning.  I want to challenge the right assumptions and make the right decisions.  So, please be praying.