Global Missions

I had an interaction with a church planter recently that startled me. He told me that his church isn’t going to do any overseas evangelism until every last person in his city knows Christ. I was troubled by this. I walked away stunned and wondering how many other pastors, even if they wouldn’t be so blunt about it, share his perspective.

Let me say for the record that I am a thousand percent for churches being missional. I don’t think you can pattern your ministry after Jesus or Paul without contextualizing the gospel to the culture you are trying to reach. And we do need to be passionate about reaching our cities. Do I believe that we have a mission field right under our noses 24 hours a day, 7 days a week? Yes! But that certainly doesn’t free us from the mandate to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16:15)

Today, church planting is ultra hip. And I am grateful that God is raising up an army of young pastors to plant slick, relevant churches that will reach this culture. I embrace the latte’s and the foyer’s that feel like you are in an Urban Outfitters and all the tech,(provided we remember that we don’t make the Bible relevant–the Bible makes the Bible relevant!) but in our efforts to effectively reach our cities we must not neglect the rest of the world.

In my life, the desire to plant a church and reach a new city was born out of a missionary heart that God had awakened. When I was 16 I had been around the world a few times and I viewed missionaries like Bruce Olson, William Carey, and Hudson Taylor as rockstars. As a result, it is a part of my DNA and I couldn’t lead a church that would ignore the lost in the world if I wanted to. You just can’t undo what leading someone to Christ in a squatter village in the slums of the Philippines does to you, on the inside. And it would be incompatible with following Christ, who died for and will be worshipped in heaven by every tongue, tribe and nation.

Being on mission in my city hasn’t replaced or eclipsed the desire to bring the gospel to the ends of the earth, it has intensified it.

We certainly haven’t perfected this at fresh life but we are being intentional about integrating global missions into our daily lives and ministry as a church. Here is a video clip from this weekend that will give you an idea of what this looks like for us.

Webcast Upgrade

I am excited to announce that last night we officially launched a brand new Skull Church/Fresh Life webcast experience. Although we have been webcasting for almost 3 years and have seen God use it in amazing ways (we see decisions for Christ registered online each week) it has been as lofi as you can possibly get.

After working for months on an overhaul of our video infrastructure and systems we now are able to offer a webcast that we are excited about (and not bummed out by–though you should never despise the days of small things…) One of the great new features is that it is now streaming in HD! And in addition to computers you can watch the live feed on iOS devices like iPhones, iPod Touchs, and iPads. And if you own a Droid you can listen to live services through the Fresh Life Radio app that is available in the Droid Market. I want to give props to our creative and technical team for this epic win.

Check it out! The live webcast occurs during all of our weekly services. Details here.

There’s a passage for that

It is a brave new world out there. We have technology coming out of our eyeballs–literally. For every conceivable situation in life there are apps and widgets you can download. Whether you want to figure out what the song is that you are listening to in a restaurant or you need to find Jupiter in the night sky–there’s an app for that. It can be very convenient. There are also downsides, like when you exchange more words with friends on Words With Friends than in real life or if you have bags under your eyes because you were up until 3am last night playing Cut the Rope. But that just calls for a little self-control. In a very helpful way we move from situation to situation assisted by the downloadable companion for that particular setting.

The great thing about God’s Word is that in it we find an eternal app store. No matter what you are going through or needing assistance in there is something for you.

In a situation where you feel like you are being fed to the lions?
There’s a passage for that.
Married to an unbeliever and don’t know what to do?
There’s a passage for that.
Have some enemies that you wish would experience the pain of broken teeth?
There’s a passage for that.
Is your husband about to unintentionally exterminate your entire race?
There’s a passage for that.
Struggling with sexual purity?
There’s a lot of passages for that.

And great news, you don’t have to pay 99 cents to enjoy them. They are all available for free and ready to help you out.

But before you can fire up any app it has to be downloaded. That is why we need to hide God’s word in our heart so that the Holy Spirit can launch the different passages in the appropriate settings. Jesus didn’t have a copy of the Scriptures in the wilderness temptations, and Jonah didn’t have a Gideon’s Bible in the belly of the great fish but they both recited scriptures to get through what they were facing. You might read something in your devotions today that you don’t feel applies to you at all. Just wait. Tomorrow you might need it when you are getting tempted by the devil or sulking in the small intestine of a colossal situation. Or maybe God has you learning something because He wants you to be equipped to share it with someone else down the road.

The reality is, there is nothing you will face today that God isn’t willing to navigate you through. 2 Peter 1:3 says that we have been given everything necessary pertaining to life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us. It is through the pages of Scripture that we are able to put two and two together, applying what we have learned to each particular situation as we run this race with endurance, keeping our eyes on Christ.

And while in this day of technological overload there might be a few too many hours being wasted on Farmville and Angry Birds we also have easier access to the Bible than any generation that has ever lived in history. Through downloading the Scriptures to your phone (click here) you can transform pockets of time throughout the day, like waiting in line or a few minutes in the mens room, (if you catch my drift) into devotional time. I also love the idea of communicating with God on the same device that we use to communicate with everyone else. You might even find that getting regular text-messages from God on your iPhone or Droid will help you win the the battle with mobile device oriented sins like looking at porn or sending mean/ crude texts.

We have no idea what awaits us today, but God does and He has the perfect passage for that!

Romans 15:4 For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.

don’t just say it’s important….prove it.

I have recently been thinking about the correlation between input and output. Meaning that what you choose to put into something will have an impact on what comes out of it. This is true on a number of levels. Paul said (Galatians 6:8) that if we sow to the flesh, of the flesh we will reap corruption–garbage in, garbage out. The Psalm 1 dude, on the other hand, chose to pour God’s Word and righteous company into his life and because of that he grew fruit. We are determining who we are going to be tomorrow by what we are doing today.

I have also realized that this principle also applies to other areas too, like the allocation of energy. Meaning that the areas where attention, passion and time are invested make a statement about where you are wanting to see growth. You can say you want to be a better tennis player, but if that’s really true you will be spending hours every day practicing your serve. This is so simple that I shouldn’t need to be learning this, but I am. There have been times where I have been disappointed by a lack of improvement in an area but if I step back I can usually see that it was directly related to a meager allocation of passion. There is no growth without sacrifice.

Maybe I saw Field of Dreams too many times as a kid or something but something I have had to overcome is the “If you build it, they will come” mentality in ministry. Just put it out there, and let it go… That approach works great if you are playing with a top, but for something to keep spinning there must be the continual introduction of force. This mentality can be spiritualized though, all you have to do is bust out a “we are just letting go and letting God.” (whatever that means) And all of a sudden you are able to be lazy in Jesus name. But from what I see in Scripture God doesn’t want us to let go of the things we are trusting Him to do-He wants us to work out what He works in. (Philippians 2:12-13)

Here’s one way this has been working out in my life lately. We just launched another trimester of fresh life groups (our intentional approach to meeting the need for community within the church) and we were blown away by the tremendous response. We are going into this fall with over twice as many groups as we had one year ago today and 19 times as many as we had two years ago! In that time nothing has changed in how important we view community as being, but A WHOLE LOT has changed in what we are willing to do to facilitate it.

A line of people waiting for the Lab to open so they can enroll in a fresh life group.

We have always believed God wants our church to meet in large and small groups, but now it’s not just a line item in our bulletin, it is being shouted from the rooftops–almost to the point of obnoxiousness. We have also put our money where our mouth is, so to speak. Before, if you came to fresh life you might have heard about our small groups, now it would be impossible to go and not know all about them. This is not a coincidence, we took a number of steps to accomplish this: we dedicated digital and print resources, allocated staff through a full time groups pastor, carved out pulpit time to the subject, and even terminated competing ministries to make this happen. In short we have backed up our conviction that these groups are important with action. The increased input of energy had a direct and immediate impact on the output.

Here is a video we created to promote fresh life groups.

I have found that, because resources are finite, doing things with your whole heart will lead to doing fewer things. There is only so much money, manpower, and time to go around. Shaun White is a professional snowboarder and skateboarder–a man of the board. He does those two things incredibly well. He doesn’t also professionally fight bulls or pole vault on an olympic level. He spends all summer on the vert ramp and all winter on the snow. His time and his energy are focused like a laser on what he has deemed important. You gotta pick where you are going to spend your passion or you will end up doing a lot of things poorly.

Here’s a test: If you were to write down the things that you believe are important in your life, church or ministry– your core values, the ministries that matter: and I was brought in as a consultant, would I be able to name those things without seeing your list? If I were to superficially assess what you were broadcasting to be important through the allocation of time, energy, resources and passion: would our lists match? Make it so!

Don’t just say it’s important…prove it.