Monthly Archives: August 2011

Jesus’ Missional Strategy

(Adapted from Tim Chester’s book A Meal with Jesus)

Missional Millennials (part 3): Community through discipleship

Let’s say you committed a day out of your week with someone outside of your church community, doing something that you both enjoyed. Over time, you would eventually begin to establish a community.

All communities develop around a common purpose.

So if you begin shooting pool at the local billards once or twice a week with the same people, you will inevitably form a community around pool (I explain this process a bit more in depth here).

Common purposes give two strangers an excuse to hang out—thats why people throw parties.

Bonding may start on a personal level, but it doesn’t have to remain a one-on-one situation forever.

The Bible suggests that there is tremendous power in community (Acts 2:42-47). So why be satisfied with individual camaraderie when you can invite individuals into a community of kingdom-minded friends?

If you can wield a certain amount of influence through shared activity, think of what a community can do if you were risky enough to open it to non-believers.

A few weeks ago, some people got saved and baptized at our annual lake trip because this was being lived out by normal young men and women. Why? Because common purpose is the mission field that brings people together. And these college students decided to step on the field and expand the Kingdom of God.

A hobby may become an excuse to socialize for most people, but millennials on mission choose not to underestimate the power of a shared purpose, and often make sure these hobbies lead to the raison d’être of all communities: knowing God together.

So…got any hobbies?

God meets us where we’re at

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Legalism is fun

I thought it would be fun to start a new secret-society for legalists called…

“Leviticus 614”

See, in the Old Testament, if anyone sought God’s approval, there were 613 laws they had to keep—kind of the sine qua non of religious piety.

Not only is it impossible to keep all the commands of God, but for some reason, we also have this sense of self-validation (legalism) hard-wired in us that wants to do even more than what we already can’t do! Oh, the irony.

Hence, Leviticus 614 – Adding burdens since 4000 B.C.

Any enrollments?

Corporate Worship and the Missing Manual

The Scriptures tell us to gather together.

The Scriptures tell us to worship together.

Keep in mind that as we speak of corporate worship we’re not limiting “worship” to just singing songs—though it is included—we are looking at anything that we allow to happen during a corporate gathering. The liturgy, as some would say.

Surprisingly, the Scriptures tell us very little about how to worship when we are together.

So we fill in the blanks, remaining as faithful to Scripture as we can, yet only a few of the practices we adopt in corporate worship are mandated by the New Testament (Lord’s Supper, Word of God, prayer, etc). Dan Kimball once pointed out that “almost all of the specific ways we worship in most churches today are neither directed nor informed by the Scriptures themselves, but rather evolved from people in church leadership, reflecting the culture of their time.”

I love this.

I suspect that God allows the local church to develop their own unique cultures of worship.

Otherwise, we would all look the same (How monotonous would it be to visit a rural church in the jungles, and find that they all sing contemporary worship music and clap on the downbeat like you do?), yet God glories in bringing together different nations, languages, and people-groups to gather before him. And as I’ve visited churches around the world, I’ve recognized this to be a beautiful aspect of the church. To see one God at the center of so many expressions of worship testifies to the captivating beauty of Jesus. Yet it still begs the question…

Is it permissible to do anything in the church of Christ that is not specifically mandated by him or one of his Apostles?

Here are two common views…

  1. Martin Luther permitted anything in corporate worship as long as it was not prohibited by Scripture. He called it the normative principle of worship.2
  2. John Calvin didn’t allow anything in corporate worship unless commended by Scripture. He called this the regulative principle of worship.3

I tend to fall on the normative side of ecclesiology. I have the mandatory elements of worship in place (Lord’s Supper, prayer, Word of God, etc), but also include everything from candles, paintings, dark lighting, to text-messaged interview dialog during sermons. It seems that when it comes to worship, God is less concerned about form than our allegiance.

Agree? Disagree? Why?


1Dan Kimball. Perspectives on Worship. p.250
2Matthew Pinson, Perspectives on Worship. p.325
3Ibid. p.325

Christian Freedom vs. Christian Stumbling

“Don’t drink, don’t chew, don’t hang with girls who do.”

Christians are often very cautious about stumbling others, and for good reason—Paul was so adamantly against offending new believers that he was willing to abstain from certain food and drink in order to become like them in their weakness (1 Cor. 9:22).

In our day, this seems to be applied most often to the consumption of alcohol, but I’ve heard it applied to tattoos, tabacco, mixed martial arts, and more recently, what we wear. The reasoning goes something like this, “You shouldn’t enjoy anything that may cause someone else temptation.”

We ARE commanded “not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way” (Rom 14:13), and we MUST have a sensitivity to another Christian’s weakness.

Our right to indulge in good things with a free conscience, must, at times, take a back seat to the possibility that not all people will be at the same place of spiritual growth as we are (Rom. 14:21). To insensitively flaunt our freedoms in front of someone less mature may cause their growth to be stunted.

However, this blog post isn’t concerned for the process of all this, but in its finished conclusion. You see, many of us take Paul’s willingness to “be all things to all men” as a suggestion to then stay at their level.

But Paul never intended to stay in a place of weakness!

In fact, that would have been for him a sin (Rom. 14:14, cf. James 4:17). The only reason Paul would backtrack on his conscience was with the intention of bringing the weaker brother up to speed. Paul never forced his Christian liberty on others. Instead, he made it clear that we ought not judge one another either way (Rom 14:3).

But we sometimes use the warnings against stumbling in a regulative way—to dictate our lives by the weakness or strength of others, when this submissive act was meant to be both temporary, and intentional. It is temporary in that we ought not ever feel shame in enjoying good things (Rom. 14:16; 1 Cor. 10:31), and intentional because a short-term abstinence from any good thing is so that we can use that time to train our weaker brothers and sisters to know freedom in Christ.

Paul was very clear that the reason for abstaining from something that he felt a freedom to enjoy was “so that they may be saved” (1 Cor. 10:33).

In other words, Paul would give up alcohol, meat, certain foods, rituals, and customs for a short time, in order to instruct the weaker Christians in the gospel—we are saved by grace, not by what we do, eat, drink, or abstain from. Abstinence from something the Bible does not clearly shun, is not salvific. At some point in every Christian’s life there must be developed a realization that “the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17). This is what Paul meant when he commanded that those “who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength” (Rom. 15:1).

We are called to be sensitive in our living to those who are weaker in the faith. Yet if we promote immature thinking about food, drink, and dress-code, we are leading them into the error of legalism, and our abstinence will renforce a false gospel.

Now how farther can one stumble than that?

Setting up Reality Santa Barbara

“Let every skillful craftsman among you come and make all that the Lord has commanded: the tabernacle, its tent and its covering, its hooks and its frames, its bars, its pillars, and its bases.” Exodus 35:10-11, NASB.

For more info, go to realitysb.com

~ Lake Adorn 2011 ~

We came back from Lake Adorn last night—a term someone coined to refer to our ownership of this particular lake—after a unique weekend together. Our theme, Sacred, is from Acts 2:41-47 which speaks about a community that was birthed by the Holy Spirit soon after Christ’s departure. We wanted to look at the ordinary things Jesus uses in the life of a believer, when he invests the ordinary with the Spirit of power.

From the beginning, we noticed strange things begin to occur over the weekend…we began to taste a little bit of Acts 2 for ourselves. Below are some highlights of the trip, which for us, beautifully paralleled the lives of the first disciples of Jesus Christ.

Baptism. “Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church that day” (Acts 2:41)

  • 38 PEOPLE WERE BAPTIZED THIS WEEKEND!

Scriptures. “All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching” (Acts 2:42a)

  • We studied the Scriptures together, and the story of Jesus breathed life into our gathering.

Community. “…and to fellowship” (Acts 2:42b)

  • We spent, at some points, 20 hours ;-), enjoying one another in Christ’s presence.

Prayer. “…and to prayer” (Acts 2:42d).

  • We prayed for one another, sometimes with tears, others with laughter.

Awe. “A deep sense of awe came over them all” (Acts 2:43a).

  • It often seemed as if the tangible presence of Jesus was present in the places where we were. Sometimes you could hear people sobbing, yet others were praising, still others were on their faces under what C.S. Lewis called, “The weight of glory!”

Miracles. “…and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders” (Acts 2:43b).

  • Several near fatal events on the trip were averted, one, in such a way that no one doubted the gracious hand of God present in our midst. As if that weren’t enough, we received a phone call from a girl we prayed for at Adorn who was given a short time to live by doctors…she called us on our way home to tell us that her condition had improved to such an extent that those same doctors were now baffled by her sudden health.

Togetherness. “And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had” (Acts 2:44).

  • 120 people shared 4 homes with one another, and out from that flowed repentance, testimonies, and new friendships.

Worship. “They worshiped together at the Temple each day…” (Acts 2:45a).

  • We worshipped every night, from 9pm to midnight. In the mornings, houses were often filled with the sound of singing. It was not uncommon for strangers and locals to be attracted by the singing, then invited in by our hospitality.

Breaking bread. “…met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity.” (Acts 2:46b).

  • We joyfully ate meals together in each other’s cabins, and we broke bread together. During corporate worship times, groups of people would gather at stations with juice and bread, breaking it for each other, to remember the broken body and flowing blood of Jesus for them.

Favor. “…all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people (Acts 2:27a).

  • The staff of the worship area loves us and wants us to come back a fourth time. The homeowners who may have been skeptical of college students renting their vacation homes are NOW opening up even more homes to us next year. Passersby would walk into the clubhouse where we met to eat and even worship with us! We quite literally had “favor with all the people.”

Salvation. “And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47).

  • Yes, four of those who were baptized this weekend also gave their lives to the Lord right in the water. 

At the Lake

I will be leaving for Adorn’s annual weekend getaway to Lake Nac, along with 120 college students and young adults.

I will be back on Monday, which means I’ll miss several blog posts this weekend, but at the very least, I will bring back a report for you mid week. Bye!

Swimsuit Edition: Dress-code vs. The Gospel

This week, we are removing the ban on two-piece swimsuits.

Let me explain it through a personal experience…

A couple of years ago, I went to Haiti and contracted a notorious water-borne parasite, called Cryptosporidium. When I returned to the States, my health began a sad trajectory. Out of multiple effects caused by Crypto, one of them was exhaustion. I slept all day, and I slept all night. But exhaustion was the symptom, not the cause. So when I kept going after the symptoms by drinking coffee, my condition only worsened.

It was when I launched a direct attack on the parasite in my body with powerful antibiotics that I got better.

In retrospect, I marvel at having spent eight months attacking symptoms, when the parasite was far beyond the reach of my coffee. It was as nonsensical as putting makeup on measles. So it is with college students and swimsuit dress-codes. For the past two years, I enforced dress-codes at our annual lake trip because of two glaring problems:

  1. Guys stumbled over temptation, and…
  2. Girls stumbled over appreciation.

Our reply, “Girls, please wear a dark shirt over your swimsuits so boys don’t stumble over you.” There is a clear call to modesty, but here’s why strict adherence to the above line will always fail…

Strict dress-codes are a failure to appropriate the Gospel of Jesus for a “direct attack.”

Men will fail to grasp the gospel when they hide in a phony shelter where no one has to practice the implications of resisting temptation. They will cop-out to the flimsy power of a t-shirt to nip their fiery lusts, but when they return to the real world, will find that they are ill-equipped to deal with their own sin. This will probably lead them to antinomianism (the belief that one is freed from the moral law, e.g. “Everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery…” Matt. 5:28). And the cycle will continue.

On the other hand, women may adhere to a “standard” of what they’re supposed to look like, based on what they think men want to see—given our unreasonable demands—or the appearance of other women. This comes from fear, and misplaced identities.

The real fault comes with the leadership that tries to tackle the toxicity of lust and image worship, by demanding that women wear dark shirts in 90 degree weather at a lake that’s supposed to be fun, instead of calling men to treat women as sisters (1 Tim 5:2), and women to adorn themselves with the cloth of “good works” (1 Tim. 2:9-10). A failure to handle the Gospel in such a small situation will result in detriment, when women return home sustained only by legalism, while the men ride on their addiction to cheap grace.

We think we can kill a parasite by drinking a gallon of French Roast.

My friends, if you want to kill sin, you don’t have to put on a different shirt. “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts” (Romans 13:14).

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