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Deeper Roots + Wider Branches

Pursuing Sanctification, Community & Mission

Monthly Archives: January 2011

For more info on how you can pray for Bosnia and Herzegovina visit: http://www.operationworld.org/bosn

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Although I am not currently a church-planter, church-planting is something that I have a growing passion for, and hope to be a part of in one way or another for the rest of my life. So don’t be surprised if I end up posting a bunch of church-planting-related stuff on here…

I just read a short post over at the Resurgence called “Plant Churches Like a Missionary, Not a Pastor”  by Dave Dorr, Pastor of Passage Church in Cincinnati, OH. Dave says that his biggest mistake as a church planter was “approaching a new church start like a pastor and not like a missionary.” He points out that the failure to see church planting as a missionary endeavor with the goal of forming a church out of lost people in that area can quickly lead to missing the very mission that church-planting is supposedly all about:

“I know church planters often don’t have to do evangelism to start churches domestically. They can start with a group of people from their sending church. They can recruit from other churches. They can find a group of people who are fed up with how other churches do things and launch from there. Some of these are legitimate ways to plant a church. Some of these are shady. But all of them miss evangelism.”

Jesus commanded us to go out and make disciples, not create consumeristic upgrades for believers who are not satisfied elsewhere. Our mission is not to create “cooler” churches that provide goods and services that other churches lack (See another recent post by Dave entitled “Consumers“); our mission is to lead lost people to life, and call them to become committed disciples. This is not to say that there should not be a core-group of believers when starting a church-plant, and Dave makes this point in his post. After all, we are not to be lone-rangers out calling people to come follow us, but rather a covenant community calling people to come join us in folling Jesus. In his concluding paragraph, Dave says “The church planter is a missionary first, doing evangelism, and leading the believers in his church to reach lost people.”

I think that a lot of newer (especially) urban churches on the scene right now would agree with this idea. The question is: Is this actually happening? When you look at your church and realize that it is not reflective of the neighborhood that it is located in, what does that mean? I think this is a complex question and the answer may not be as simple as it initially seems, but I do think it’s a question worth asking. Secondly, since many newer urban church plants do agree with this ideology, what can we adjust/change to be more faithful to what we actually believe? Is it possible that our baggage about the way we are used to doing church or small-groups is holding us back from reaching our neighbors?

I definitely don’t have all the answers, but I do want someone who asks the questions. I pray that God would help church-planters and pastors as well as believers who are part of church-plants to be willing to rearrange the way we do life and community in ways that are more inviting to our neighbors and more faithful to our mission.

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This past weekend was the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the historic decision which made it legal for women in the U.S. to “terminate” unwanted pregnancies. The brief sound bites and the hand full of blog posts I caught over the weekend reminded me of just how frustrated I am with this issue, with myself, and with other young evangelicals like me. While fighting human-trafficking is rather trendy right now (with many celebrities picking it as their “cause”), not many choose to fight for the rights of the unborn. I am ashamed to say that although I have deep convictions that abortion is murdering millions of children, I do very little with these convictions. I’m ashamed to say that it often takes an election season to get me thinking about the issue again. I’m sure many are in this boat with me. And yes, we have our reasons: the issue seems tired; over-politicized; we don’t like some of the ways that the generation preceding us fought this battle; we feel frustrated that passionately fighting for this cause seems to pigeon-hole us politically and culturally; often those who are making the most noise for the cause are not necessarily the people we want to be associated with; and let’s be honest- while saving the lives of orphans in Africa, and refugees, and child sex-slaves, and other trafficked humans is “hip” and will win us the praise of our friends and coworkers, fighting for the rights of the voiceless unborn (and by implication against the “rights” of the women who carry them) is simply not cool, and not something anyone is interested in discussing. People may accept that we hold this position, but the general vibe is “keep it to yourself.”

I don’t know what the solution is, but I no that silence is not it. As Christians who who care about seeking justice for the oppressed this is an issue that we should be learning about and talking about. Ok, so there are some crazy pro-life people out there! And yes, I agree (and hope) that my church is not made up of political clones who all tow the Republican party line. And yes, this is a delicate issue. But regardless of your political leanings, let us not deceive ourselves into believing that this is a personal issue on which we all may come to any opinion we like. Abortion is the termination of a human life created by God. Last time I checked, that’s called murder. I honestly don’t know what it looks like or sounds like to faithfully fight this evil in our generation, but we must figure it out. We must talk. We must read. We must do something! I (and I believe many of us) need to repent for our apathy towards this issue. Father, forgive us.

In a broken world with so many issues, there is no possible way that we can each fight against every injustice. I will be honest: I do not necessarily feel called to become an expert on the abortion issue, or to make a career out of fighting it. But I am deeply disturbed at how absent this issue seems to be in the conversations and justice-related efforts of young evangelicals, as well as in the hip urban churches that many of us populate. While I may feel called in other directions such as serving refugees and being part of church-planting, I still feel a deep conviction that somehow I should be more aware and more involved in this issue which I believe is no less important that ending the trafficking of children and adults around the world.

I guess part of what I’m trying to do here is to echo the call of Isaiah 6:8: “And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.” Who will be that person for this issue? Who will be the voice of our generation for the rights of the unborn? Who will lead us in this fight? Who will help us figure out how to talk about this? Who will pioneer the new approaches that are so desperately needed? Where are you? Will you please start talking?

Join IJM in asking President Obama to make the fight against human-trafficking and modern-day slavery a priority in his administration and learn about the the Child Protection Compact Act: http://www.ijm.org/justicecampaigns

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For more details about how you can pray for Cambodia, visit: http://www.operationworld.org/camb

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For more details about how you can pray for China visit: http://www.operationworld.org/chna

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According to Wikipedia, Muscle Memory is “a form of procedural memory that involves consolidating a specific motor task into memory through repetition. When a movement is repeated over time, a long-term muscle memory is created for that task, eventually allowing it to be performed without conscious effort.”

As I’ve worked to fight both habitual and seemingly out-of-nowhere sins in my life, I’ve discovered that it is helpful to develop a sort of routine that I go through whenever I am hit with temptation- spiritual “muscle memory” if you will. Of course, this technique is not a silver bullet, but I have seen it help me when my sinful appetites start to make me insane and irrational. It helps me slow down, think, and remember what I truly want. You may not use the exact pattern I do, but I would encourage you to come up with something that is easy to remember that you can kick into action when the enemy attacks. Like cheesy sermons, all of my reminders start with the same letter, in this case “R”.

Recognize. Just admit to God what is going on. Name it. Face up to your appetite. “This is what I want right now…”, This is what I’m craving… “, “I’m angry because…”, etc.

Repent. It is possible that you haven’t sinned yet. The temptation is not the sin. But the way I see it, I can’t go wrong repenting. So this step usually looks like me saying something like “Lord, forgive me for the parts of my heart that desire what is evil, or what you have not given me.” I’m pretty sure that even when I haven’t done “the deed” yet, there are parts of my heart that need cleansing.

Remember. Call to mind relevant scripture passages. Remind yourself that God is good; that he is faithful; that he knows what you need and will provide for you. Remind yourself what your fighting for and find motivation in imagining the man/woman that you are praying that God will help you become. e.g. I want to be a man who is pure; who will be faithful in life and ministry; I want to be a person of integrity; I want to be a good steward of my time; etc.

Redirect. Turn mentally from whatever the temptation is and decide what productive/good think you are going to set your attention on.

[Retreat?] This will not always be possible, but ask yourself “Is this a situation I can physically flee from?” Can I change my location/activity, and get away from this temptation?

[Reinforcements?] Do I need to call for reinforcements? Should I call/text/email/visit someone who can pray for and encourage me? Warning: This one is tricky. There will be a lot of times you tell yourself that you don’t need reinforcements when you really do. The motto “better safe than sorry” is a good plan here. Much like repenting when maybe you aren’t totally sure you sinned, calling for reinforcements when you think you will probably be fine is not a bad thing!

Rejoice. Rejoice that whether you have a good day or a bad day, whether you “succeed” or “fail” you have a high priest, Jesus Christ, who sympathizes with your weaknesses, who intercedes on your behalf (Hebrews), who gave his life to save yours, and who covered you in his righteousness. Your salvation is not based on your ability to be a “good Christian”…it is based on Christ’s blood. Not only that, but you can rest on the promise that “just as Christ Jesus was raised from the dead, we too will walk in the newness of life” (Romans 6). Rejoice!

This sort of strategy is not original with me. Others have shared similar strategies (see John Piper’s ANTHEM) What’s important is not finding the “silver bullet” technique, but rather knowing the gospel, knowing yourself, and figuring out what gets your eyes off of you and onto God in times of temptation. Think about your own personal fight with sin. How can you anticipate battles, and prepare for them? How can you develop your own spiritual “muscle memory”?