Rest and Recovery

rest

Today I got a simple reminder that recovery is a big part of living life beyond optimal.  Our wod consisted of a 30 calorie row, 30 burpees, 30 wall balls, 30 kettlebell swings, 30 push press, and 30 pull ups, for time.  It was a real blast, especially after a very intense fifteen-hour work day.  When I finished the wod both of my arms ached like a toothache.  I immediately went to the store to pick up some ibuprofen, downed a protein shake, and iced both my arms.

What I didn’t realize and what I’m learning is that peak performance requires good nutrition, training, and lots of recovery.  Most of us don’t get enough sleep nor do we rest enough between times when we are burning tons of energy.  Everything has a rhythm.  Why not enjoy your rest.

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I Was Fat, Now I’m Not…How I lost 50 lbs and kept it off

I know it’s that time of year when many of us are thinking about New Year’s resolutions.  Some of you may be thinking about eating healthier or losing weight.  Even if you’re not a resolution kind of guy, let’s face it, we all think about getting healthier.

Three years ago I was at my all time heaviest. fatIt impacted almost everything I did.  I was on medication to control my blood pressure.  I had a couple of bouts with pneumonia that landed me in the hospital.  My mental attitude was down.  I was self conscious with the way I looked.  I lacked energy and stamina, and I was sick and tired of being sick in tired.

That’s when I did something about it.  I got healthy.  I started exercising and eating a healthy diet.  I ultimately lost 50 pounds, and over 3 years later I’ve kept it off.  Now that a new year is rolling around I’m setting new goals tami & me 2related to my health.  This year I plan to lose  another 15 pounds by focusing on nutrition and diet.  I currently exercise 5-6 times a week focusing on strength training, cardio, and core routines.  Sometimes I catch myself working out to eat.  I’m taking nutrition to a whole new level in 2014.

What about you?  Maybe you are where I was 3 years ago.  Here’s what I’d say to you.  If I can do it, you can do it.  Here’s a few of the things I’ve learned along the way.

Go All In

I couldn’t just ease into it. I hired a trainer, paying him $4000.00 up front for 6 months of training.  Now I know everyone doesn’t have 4 grand lying around, but I want you to know it was the best investment I’ve ever made.  It literally changed my life.  Whatever going “all in” looks like for you, just do it.

Become A Disciple of Fitness

That’s right, start following others who have been successful at fitness.  You probably know a lot less about heath than you think.  I try to spend several hours a week looking for new workouts, reading about the right kind of supplements, and expanding my knowledge of nutrition.  At fifty-four, recovery is a big deal so I can use all the help I can get.

Discover Your Own Rhythm

I have to build my own routine.  I know some people like to work out early in the morning.  I’m a writer, consultant, and coach.  My mornings are key times for me to connect with God and begin developing my thoughts for a book or a client.  I guard my mornings for these activities.  In the evening I’m spent.  In the afternoon I like to connect with people.  I know the best time for me is to schedule my workout late mornings, between my transition from preparation and writing to meeting and connecting.

Be Flexible

As a Lead Navigator (Consultant) with Auxano (www.auxano.com), I travel a lot.  Some days it’s impossible to establish any kind of pattern. When this happens my rhythm goes out the door.  I may rise long before the sun does, travel across the country, and do a full day of consulting just in time to head to the hotel at the end of the evening.  On days like this I still find time to work out.  I choose hotels that have good fitness facilities and I’ll run 2-3 miles on the treadmill.  On a typical, non travel, day I will do that plus about 45 to 60 minutes of strength training and 15 minutes of core.  Either way, I’m going to get some type of workout 5-6 days a week.

Monitor Regularly

I weigh daily (if I’m near a scale).  I know where I need to be.  When my weight drifts upward I immediately make adjustments.  The great thing about monitoring your weight when you workout regularly is that you can bring your weight down rapidly.  It’s easy to drift upward 3-5 pounds in a single weekend.  I can also bring it back down in about 48 hours.  Once you wake up your metabolism you discover that losing weight can be that easy.

Plan for the Holidays

I know there are times when I’m going to eat a festive meal.  On holidays I usually get up early in the morning and go for a long run.   A long run for me might be 6-10 miles.  For every six miles I run I will burn about 1000 calories, not to mention I crank up the ole metabolism.  It’s awesome starting your holidays 1000 calories in the hole.

Change the Way You Eat

I’ve completely changed the way I eat.  I think I eat more now than ever.  The secret is that I eat differently.  I try to eat a high protein/low carb diet 5-6 times a day.  I supplement with a protein shake at least 2 of those meals.  That’s right, every two to three hours I’m eating something.  This requires planning ahead.  I do all the grocery shopping at my house and I have a general rule, you shop around the perimeter of the store.  That’s where you find the healthy stuff.  I’m including a 45-minute video I did for Entertain with Jane where I reviewed the way I eat.

Here’s what I know.  I was fat and now I’m not.  If I can do it you can do it!  Why not get started now?

The Core of Disciple Making

In the Core of Disciple making we are going to take a look at three foundational components that are essential for developing a disciple-making strategy.   Let’s face it we often talk about “what” a disciple is, and we even sometimes talk about the “why” behind the “what”.  However, we seldom get to the “how” of disciple making.

 I have to confess this has been a journey for me as well.  I was invited to speak to speak at a pastor’s event a few years ago in the North East.  The Pastor putting together the program said, “We want to walk away with a discipleship strategy.” 

 As I prayed about it God gave me this bottom line this statement, “We must become the disciple we want to become.”  Then I spent the next 8 hours telling them what it meant to be a disciple.  However, I’m pretty sure that I never got to the “how”. 

 Since then I’ve done many talks on disciple making, but like many I always feel short of putting it into a process, a system, or strategy. 

 Maybe you can relate.  We know what we want, but yet we can’t quite get there.  Today I want all that to change.  I’m going to attempt to give you a way forward.  What I want to do is give you three core components that are essential to building a disciple-making strategy. 

 When I’m done you I believe you will have what you need to begin putting in place your own disciple making strategy.  Before we move on let me give you a word of caution.  To move forward is likely to require some adjustments to way we live our lives and do church.  As Einstein put it, “Insanity is doing the same old thing, the same old way, and expecting different results.” 

 So, what are these three core components that make up a disciple-making strategy?  They are:  gospel content, gospel communities, and gospel causes.  The following slide depicts this and their relationship to one another:

Our temptation is to check these things off our list.  We preach the gospel so we check it off our list.  We have a small group structure so it gets checked off.  We do an occasional community project or mission trip so gospel causes gets checked off.  What I’m talking about here is so much more. 

 It’s not enough to have these three, but they must be strategically interconnected where they all happen at the same time creating fertile soil for making disciples. 

 I’m going to spend my time introducing you to these three core components.  And at the end of our session I’m going to invite you into a coaching relationship for implementing this disciple making structure into your context.

 Gospel Content

 Let’s begin with gospel content.  To have this conversation we must understand the context in which Jesus gave us our one, and only one, mission of making disciples.

 It is interesting to note that Jesus’ approach did not depart from the Jewish system of education He grew up with.  Let’s take a really brief look at this system in order to frame and understand it as it relates to disciple making.

 

Age

School

Source

Objective

6 to 12

Sefer

Torah

Reading and Writing of the Torah and   Large portions of it was memorized.

13 to 15

Midrash

Torah plus the Prophets and the other writings.

Memorized Torah.

Learn Oral Interpretation.

Make application.

15 to 30

Talmud

Yoke (requested to study under famous rabbi).

Goal was to become like the teacher.

 

When a child reached 5 to 6 years old they would go to the Sefer in the local Synagogue where they learn to read and write from the Torah, memorizing large parts of it.

 If the child was bright they would advance to the Midrash where they continued their studies in the Torah plus the Prophets and other writings.  They focused on memorizing, learning oral interpretations, and making applications of the Torah. 

At fifteen if a student was exceptional he went on to study the Talmud and became a Talmudah or disciple.  A student would go to a famous rabbi and request to study with him.  The rabbi would choose him based on his ability to pay the price and become like him.  This was reserved for the brightest of all students.  Jesus broke from this tradition when he chose his disciples. 

The goal of the Talmudah or disciple was to learn the “yoke” of a famous rabbi of his choosing.  The “yoke” consisted of his interpretation of the Torah including the 10 Commandments and 613 other laws, along with his hedges, which were smaller laws created by the rabbi to protect the Law. 

 While the “yoke” of other rabbis was heavy and imposing.  Jesus came to show us a whole new way.  This is what he was getting at when he told his disciples to, Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

 In the tradition of the Talmud the goal was for the disciple to become like the rabbi he was following.  To do so they would:

  • Follow in the dust of their rabbi in order to emulate him.
  • They would prepare and eat the foods in the same way.
  • They would sleep and wake the same way.
  • They would take on the rabbi’s yoke and learn his way.
  • Ultimately becoming like him in every way.
  • Then becoming a rabbi who would have his own students. 

 In other words, the goal of the Talmudah student or disciple was to become fluent in the “yoke” of the rabbi. 

 As a rabbi, Jesus’ “yoke” has come to be known as the gospel. Our goal as His disciple is to become fluent in the gospel.  For the disciple of Jesus the gospel unlocks all of scripture and life.  This brings a whole new significance on The Sermon on the Mount he gave immediately after calling his first disciples. 

 When it comes to becoming a disciple we must interpret all of scripture and life through the lens of gospel.  So, let me begin with a simple definition of the gospel:

 The gospel is an announcement of good news, that in Christ, God did for us what we could not do for ourselves in that he redeemed us, is renewing us, and will ultimately restore all of his creation.

 Therefore, as a disciple, we are followers of Jesus who are learning to live out the realities and implications of the gospel. In other words, we are gospel disciples.  This definition of the gospel provides a framework for becoming gospel fluent

 When we become fluent with a language it becomes our primary language.  We no longer have to translate from one language to another, but we speak it, understand it, dream in it, and comprehend in it.  It becomes a way of life.

 In our coaching we pay close attention to this definition and learn to live life through the lens of gospel redemption, renewal and restoration.

  Gospel Communities

 This leads us to the second core component of disciple making, gospel communities.  The way we learn a language is by immersing ourselves into a culture that speaks that language as its primary language.  The same is true of the gospel.  We must immerse ourselves in relationships that live out the realities and implications of the gospel.  In other words, they speak the gospel fluently. 

 It’s in this kind of community that we are safe to explore, experiment, and experience the gospel of grace and mercy. This community is not simply a small group that meets once a week.  This is the kind of community where real life happens with all of its ups and downs and where the gospel of grace is applied in spite of our shortcomings. 

 Jesus modeled this type of community when He called the twelve. 

 “Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him.  He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons. These are the twelve he appointed: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter), James son of Zebedee and his brother John (to them he gave the name Boanerges, which means “sons of thunder”), Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him” (Mark13-19).

 Notice that he called “those he wanted…and that they might be with him.”  This even included “Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.”  Notice this isn’t a perfect community, but rather is a community filled with grace and mercy.  It’s where real life and authentic relationships happen.  It’s where we see the gospel applied to the good, the bad, and the ugly.  And through it all we still experience the redemption, renewal, and restoration of the gospel. 

I describe this in a book I wrote called, “Detox for the Overly Religious”. 

 “Jesus’ priority wasn’t a curriculum.  His priority was spending his life in intimate relationship with others.  He chose those he wanted to be with.  We know them as disciples, but they were much more.  They were his friends, and he chose to spend his life with them.  He didn’t take them through a study course, an intense Bible study, or a twenty-six week discipleship program.  He simply lived with them.  Jesus’ life was his study course.”

 As far as we know Jesus never formed a small group.  What Jesus did was life-on-life.  He formed a community.

 Now, I’m not against small groups.  Forming small groups is a good place to begin, but it’s never a good place to end.  A small group should be a means to an end that leads to authentic community where the gospel is lived out. 

 

Steve Timmis with Crowded House defines a gospel community this way,

 A gospel community is a group of people who are effectively a group of 10-30 people sharing their lives together. It’s about life-on-life, it’s about doing evangelism corporately. We share our lives together, we make friends with each other’s friends so we can show the gospel in action, we can tell them the gospel verbally, we disciple one another – just everything that the church is about we do in those communities. They are intentional communities.

He goes on to contrast gospel communities with small groups by saying,

Gospel communities see themselves effectively as a church, so they take upon themselves the privileges and responsibilities of a big church. A small group in a centralized structure basically just sees itself as part of the bigger church in the sense that a lot of the other stuff goes on centrally. These gospel communities have a very extensive expression of the church – so basically, if it’s church stuff, they do it. They teach the Bible to one another, disciple, they break bread together, they baptize in those contexts.

In a previous talk I gave on reaching The Other 60% I talked about shifting the power from the center to the edges.  This exactly what I’m talking about here.  This is not about de-empowering the big church, but it is about empowering the people to be the church where they live, work, and play. 

This shouldn’t threaten existing churches with a small group structure.  I think it’s simply taking on the popular notion of “every member is a minister” a step further.  There is still value for the corporate gathering.  It’s in that gathering that we should celebrate our many stories together, set culture, communicate vision, proclaim the gospel, and join together in greater missional causes. 

Gospel Causes

This leads us to the third core component of disciple making, gospel causes. It’s impossible to be a gospel disciple and not participate in gospel causes. 

 God is not a God who simply does missions, but God is a missionary God.  His very essence is mission.  A disciple who refrains from intentional missions is no disciple at all.  In the Gospels we see the gospel proclaimed (kingdom) and a community formed (disciples) all for a specific purpose (Great Commission) that is for the good of the world. 

 We are saved for a purpose.  That purpose is to be formed into a people that reflect his glory.  Jesus prayed for this in what we know as his priestly prayer

 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me (John 17:20-23).

Here we see the relationship between community and cause. You can’t separate gospel causes from our primary identity.  In this context, every disciple is called to live sent, in that he or she becomes gospel planters by planting the gospel where they live, work, and play. 

 As we come to understand the gospel this becomes second nature to us.  In others words, as we become gospel fluent we overcome our personal and corporate barriers in order to live a missional life. 

 As leaders in the church we must begin to equip our people to be the primary planters of the gospel.  We empower our communities to be the church and we disciple our people to be a kingdom of priest.  This involves equipping them to 1) see the harvest, 2) pray for laborers, 3) plant the gospel, 4) make disciples, and 5) form new gospel communities around those disciples. 

Conclusion

 Let me encourage you to begin right where you are at.  If you are planting a church, start by discipling your core to be a gospel community.  The way we say it at Planting the Gospel is “slow down in order to speed up.”

 If you are in an existing church, don’t blow it up, but start with your group and begin living out the gospel in and with your small group.  Go from being a small group to a gospel community. 

 We have a new resource being released in January called The Gospel Disciple Journey.  It’s designed to be used in the context of a gospel community.  It will help you develop a gospel worldview, relate as a gospel community, and engage in gospel causes.  

 For more information contact me at david@plantingthegospel.com

 

 

 

 

Good News Verses Big News!

Everywhere I look there is the promise of big news!  I love big news especially if it’s big and it affects me in a positive way.  At the same time, social media has greatly impacted our churches and ministries.  Some of it for the good, some is not so good.

I don’t know about you, but I struggle with this.  I am constantly having to examine my motive for why I do or say what I say.  Is it to get others attention? Is it to get them to do something I want them to do or do I honestly want to serve them and honor God?  Am I building the “kingdom of me” or am I building “God’s Kingdom”?

While reading the scriptures, I ran across some really BIG NEWS that got my attention.  Jesus is approached by a father who has lost his little girl. I can’t even imagine how desperate this father was.  He fell on his face before Jesus and said, “My daughter has just died.  But come and put your hand on her, and she will live” (Matthew 9:18).

Along the way, he heals another woman before entering the fathers house.  When he arrives, there is a full blown wake in process.  The house is filled with friends, food is being served, music is playing, long lost cousins are chatting.  Once Jesus arrives and his intentions are revealed, the mourners all laugh at him.  He clears the house, he goes to the daughter who is dead, and he takes her by the hand.  The scriptures tell us, “…and she got up”.

Now notice what happen!  ”News of this spread through all that region” (Matthew 9:26).  The Good News is the Big News!  This is what I want to be part of…Good News!

I do not want to manufacture results or build another great church.  I’m convinced if you work hard enough in the flesh, you can mimic the Spirits work to a certain point.  I want to be a part of what God is doing.  I want to see the power of God at work in my life, the lives of those around me, and through my life and through the lives of those around me.

I’m looking for Good News, not Big News, and I’m sure when I find the Good News it’s going to be big news and I won’t have to tweet it.

 

The Gospel Changes Everything

The essence of gospel is good news. It’s an announcement that God has done something for us that we could not do for ourselves. All other religious systems offer us good advice. The gospel offers us the Good News.

Jesus begins his ministry with an announcement, “The time has come the kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news” (Mark 1:15, NIV)! In essence he was saying the King has come. Everything has changed. What God began in Genesis, he completes in Jesus. This announcement is good news because in Jesus, God announces that we are redeemed, we are being renewed, and he is restoring all things through us.

We Are Redeemed
The gospel is an announcement of good news that in Christ we have been redeemed. Paul understood this when he wrote, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering” (Romans 1:1 & 3, NIV).

The announcement is that God sent Jesus in his perfection to take the wrath of our sin and punishment upon himself. The time had come in that in one moment in history Jesus took all of our past, present, and future sins upon himself; absorbing their wrath and setting us free.

The good news is that “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it” (Matthew 13:45-46, NIV). In this parable grace cuts both ways. Grace is God’s abundant love given to us freely without price or cost. We don’t deserve it. We can’t earn it. It is beyond our reach. The only possible way to receive it is to have it gifted to us by someone beyond our reach. In this parable God is the Great Merchant who is looking for something of great value. When he finds it he sells all that he has in order to purchase it. He redeems the pearl by selling all. He holds nothing back. In Christ, God holds nothing back. He purchases us with his very blood and life. He redeems us.

It cuts both ways in that this becomes our motivation, life. I no longer have to prove anything. I no longer have to gain man’s approval. I no longer have to live up to any particular standard. I have been redeemed. I know what we think. Doesn’t this lead to carelessness? Not at all, because God in Christ has redeemed me, my motivation for life is his love. I am now fully approved, accepted, and complete, resulting in a life of humble gratitude and devotion. When I realize the nature of this good news, I find myself selling all to follow him.

We Are Being Renewed
What I just described is the idea that we are saved by grace. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9, NIV). For most of my Christian life I have understood this aspect of good news. However, I must confess there was a time when I was young that I struggled with God’s sovereignty and found myself shackled by doubts. These days are long behind me. However, what I didn’t realize, that not only are we saved by grace, we are renewed by grace. I lived as if my salvation was free, but if I was to grow as a Christian it could only be accomplish by my aspiring to some moralistic code or level of performance.

If I did five uninterrupted quiet times in a row I felt good about myself and would declare that I was a growing Christian. If I controlled my temper, abstained from alcohol, and avoided angry people who indulged a bit I was a good Christian. On the other hand, when I fail on either count I was a bad Christian or I stopped growing.

While I depended on the gospel to save me, I depended on my ability to live up to all certain standards and expectations to grow me. I found myself running faster and faster in religious circles in need of rest. My life simply didn’t line up with the teachings of Jesus, who invites us into his rest, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). Once again this was good news breaking into my tired soul.

The announcement of good news is that God in Christ doesn’t only save us by grace, but he grows us by grace. We see this best in Jesus’ parable of the growing seed. He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain – first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come” (Mark 4:26-29, NIV). The seed in this parable is the gospel and soil is our hearts. When we receive the seed into the good soil of our heart something happens. We can’t explain it, but it does. Jesus says, “Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how.” This is an amazing truth that changes everything; gospel in, gospel out.

Paul understood this when he said, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not be conformed any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approved what God’s will is – his good, pleasing, and perfect will” (Romans 12:1-2, NIV). In this text Paul demonstrates that our devotion is based on our understanding of the gospel. We are to offer our bodies, but only as a result of being in full view of his mercy. We don’t present our bodies to get God’s mercy we present our bodies because of God’s mercy. The order has been reversed. I don’t do in order to earn God’s favor, but I do because I have God’s favor. He goes on and addresses the idea of transformation. We are transformed by the renewal of our minds. Once again we see gospel in, gospel out.

When I come to understand that I am fully loved, then and only then can I offer love. When I come to understand God’s forgiveness of me, I become more forgiving and understanding of others. As I come to understand God’s provision for me, only then can I truly become more generous. As I come to apprehend the gospel there is a reformatting and aligning of my values that take place. I am transformed.

This understanding of the renewal aspect of the gospel has the potential to change everything. As a preacher, I once thought I had something to say. I thought it was my job to give people good tips on how to live the good life. Much of my preaching and teaching was about me. As a result we saw many people come and many people go. However, we saw very little spiritual transformation. We preached a kind of moralistic therapeutic deism. We referred to scripture. We even taught passages of scripture, but we had very little gospel in what we preach and taught often seeing the scriptures simply as a guidebook of what to do and not to do in order to experience the good life.

When you understand gospel in, gospel out it changes everything. It produces an urgency concerning, proclaiming a healthy gospel-centered hermeneutic. Our goal in teaching and preaching isn’t to be cool, clever, or even relevant. Our goal is to preach the gospel in every text. Some who read this are thinking I do that, but in essence you don’t. Tagging a gospel presentation at the end of a moralistic theoretic message is not the same as preaching the gospel. We must seek to preach the whole gospel, which includes the redemptive, renewing, and restorative nature of the gospel.

The gospel is not a tag we put at the end of a good blog for those who are searching. The gospel is God’s story of redemption, renewal, and ultimate restoration. It is the entire story. It is the truth that makes its way through out every book in the Bible. Together it tells the story of Creation, rebellion, rescue, redemption, renewal, and restoration. It is the announcement that everything has changed.

He Is Restoring All Things (through us)
This is a profound truth. What God begins, God concludes. He makes all things new! In Genesis we see God’s creative purpose in full bloom. There is relational harmony among all creation and we are at rest. Sin disrupts and destroys. Relational brokenness enters the world. God’s creation looses its way. We are lost.

In Christ we are redeemed, renewed, and ultimately all things are restored. Once again Jesus uses the power of a simple parable to convey this pregnant truth. “He told them another parable: ‘the kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches’” (Matthew 13:31-32, NIV). In this parable we see the impact of the gospel to restore all things. A mustard seed grows, becomes the larges of garden plants, even becomes a tree, and the birds of creation come and find rest in them. What God began he completes in Jesus.

If you flip over and read the last chapters of Revelation you see this playing out. John “saw a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God” (Revelations 21:2, NIV). In this picture we aren’t going up, but heaven is coming down in keeping with Jesus’ message of the kingdom of heaven is here or at hand. God is doing a work in his world. He isn’t done. He is restoring all things. What he began in one garden he concludes in another garden.

Now God is working through his church to restore all things. As Paul declares, “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his very appeal through us” (I Corinthians 5: 20, NIV). Jesus tells us we “are the salt of the earth and light of the world” (Matthew 5:13 &14, NIV). Salt and light has their greatest impact from within.” As restorers we enter into God’s redemptive, renewal, and restorative work. As restorers we enter into the lives of those who are in the most need of redemption, renewal, and restoration. We become God’s ambassadors. The gospel restores us that we might be restorers.

This changes everything. I no longer see people as a means to an end. I see people as the end. God has our interest at heart in all things. It’s no longer about planting and growing a big church. It’s no longer about my sermons. It’s no longer about feeding my own narcissism. It is about the restorative work of the gospel. I see all things through that lens.

And all this is to the glory of God! May our redeemer, renewer, and restorer of life and all creation receive all praise, honor, and glory.

Rescue Church Planting

Church planting as a movement has lost its way and is in need of rescuing.

A church planter came in to meet with me after attending the hottest new plant in our city.  He was intoxicated with vision.  He couldn’t say enough good stuff about the way this new church operated.  It was running over 600 people while just a little over six months old.  After the planter talked about signage, parking, greeting, hosting, childcare, worship, preaching, and so on he paused to catch his breath.  I asked him a simple question, “What about Jesus?”  “Pardon me?” he replied with a puzzled look.  I repeated myself, “What about Jesus?  Where was Jesus in all this?”  He pause and went introspective.  In a few moments he returned.  This time there were tears in his eyes as he replied, “There was no Jesus!”

Jesus paints a vivid picture of this when he addresses the Church of Laodicea, “Here I am!  I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me” (Revelations 3:20).   Where is Jesus in this picture? What is he doing outside his church?  How did we come this far?

Planting the Gospel is a movement about rescue.  Our mission is to rediscover the simplicity and beauty of Jesus and his ways resulting in dozens of movement making churches, hundreds of church plants, thousands of disciples, and millions of gospel seeds sown.

Our prayer is that God will rescue us from ourselves.  It’s our desire that Jesus and Jesus alone will be enough.  We need nothing else.  We confess that we have made church planting more about…

  • Building our little kingdoms instead of advancing his glorious Kingdom.
  • Reaching “more of those” instead of the “least of these”.
  • Puffing our own Narcissism instead of His glory and honor.
  • Advancing our own personal mission instead of embracing his mission.
  • Producing weekend services instead of reproducing the “Body of Christ”.
  • Being relevant instead of proclaiming his liberating revelation.

God save us from ourselves!  We repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!  We embrace your way as the only way. We commit to plant the Gospel as reflected by…

  • Being devoted to a Gospel of rescue, renewal, and re-creation.
  • Accepting our mission of making disciples that live like Jesus, love like Jesus, and leave what Jesus left behind (those that live like him and love like him).
  • Embracing the Kingdom of Heaven as our true citizenship.
  • Reproducing disciples, leaders, groups, ministries, churches, and movements.
  • Acting with humility, justice, and mercy toward the “least of these”.
  • Depending solely on the power of the Holy Spirit to work within and through us.

Join the movement.  We would love to hear from you.

Plant the gospel. Make disciples. Form the church.

Living in Another World

The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!  It really is! Yet many people miss it.  Jesus said they would.  Seeing they don’t see, hearing they don’t hear, or understand.

I was hanging with a friend one night.  We were sitting around a fire talking about theology.  It became apparent to me that the ways of Jesus that have become so familiar to me over the past couple of years are often strange to many.

Later when I prayed with my wife, I asked God to invade our lives with his presence.  Then I looked at her and said, “The Kingdom of heaven is at hand”.

I was recently asked by an antagonist, “What is the Gospel?”  I replied, “The Kingdom of heaven is at hand”.  This is the Gospel…Good News!  The Kingdom of Heaven is really at hand.

In Matthew 13, Jesus has a lot to say about the Kingdom of Heaven.  Read it for yourself.  The very first parable he shares is about the farmer who sows seed.  There are four responses, some seed fell on the path and were quickly eaten up by the birds, others fell among shallow soil, some fell among thorns, and finally some fell among good soil.  It was only the seed that fell among good soil that yielded a crop 100, 60, 30 times.

That’s what I want…I want to be good soil.  The things that hindered the gospel were:

  • Lack of understanding – God show me your way!
  • Trouble and persecution – God give me faith!
  • Deceitfulness of wealth – God be enough in my life!
  • Worries of this life – God be my peace!

May I encounter every day with my eyes wide open…show me your way!  Invade every area of my life.  May your Kingdom come into my life in full bloom!  May I yield a crop 100, 60, 30 fold.  May you be glorified.

City Movements

Lately I’ve been thinking about what a gospel movement in my city would look like.  My imagination has been running wild.  I see endless possibilities for the transformational power of the gospel to make it’s ways through the very veins of our city bringing new life every where it goes.  I believe this kind of gospel movement is possible and we can be part of it.  I can experience it in my city and you can experience it in your city.  Here’s how!

Recognize the gospel is enough.  It really is.  I believe the gospel is all we need.  Matter of fact, I think some of the things we rely on really get in the way and are harmful to a gospel movement.  Jesus taught us that the kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, that though it is the smallest of all seeds it grows to become a large tree.  He also said that the faith of a mustard seed has the capacity for moving a mountain, or in this case redeeming, renewing, and restoring a city.  The gospel like that mustard seed when planted grows, grows, and grows.  Along with that growth it multiplies, multiplies, and multiplies.

Now when I say the gospel is enough, I’m not talking about the gospel we use like a tag in our moralistic therapeutic teachings, but a robust hardy Bible-centered gospel.  A gospel that spells out God’s incredible meta-narrative in the context of creation, rebellion, redemption, renewal, and restoration.  It’s the story of Jesus from Genesis to Revelations.  It’s the story of God’s unconditional redeeming love, his ongoing renewal of his people, and his ultimate restoration of his creation.  God wants to redeem, renew, and restore our city.  This is the essence of a gospel movement in our city.  The gospel is all we need.  Dependency on anything else is idolatry and will ultimately hinder.

Recognize we can best do this together.  The gospel is enough, but the gospel always brings us together.  I am encouraged at how we have a way of finding each other.  Over the past couple of years I have notice when I focus on being the church, opposed to doing church, church is always breaking out or perhaps breaking in.  The very essence of the gospel draws us together.  Unfortunately, our churches often operate as separate business in competition with one another.  We are all guilty.  I know I am.  I believe Satan knows something incredible happens when God’s people come together for a common purpose.  If I was the enemy I can’t think of a better strategy then to keep us apart.

Years ago I heard Leonard Sweet suggest that the movement of God is like a tornado oppose to a hurricane.  A hurricane moves inland with its mighty power devastating everything in its path, while a tornado’s power is much more random touching down here and over there.  He went on to suggest we see God touching down here and there, in random patterns.  He offered this conclusion, that if we ever learned how to connect the dots we would see the power of God in incredible ways.  For some reason this really hit me.  Perhaps it is why I do what I do today.  I remember praying, “Father, I want to spend the rest of my life connecting dots.”  There’s an incredible advantage and power when we come together.  I would even go as far as to say it is sin when we don’t.

You are a part of the solution, not the total solution.  God always brings together a people to do his work.  Israel was made up of twelve tribes.  Jesus chose twelve men to be his apostles.   John wrote letters to the seven churches in Asia. These seven churches were a collection of movements in their city, join together by the gospel.  Paul never acted along, but was sent out by the church at Antioch, with Barnabas.  Not only do Christians find each other, they need each other.  We are the body of Christ.  As the body of Christ we are complete when we are join together.  As the body of Christ we need each other to demonstrate Christ love to the world.

Recognize the gospel is already growing in your city Look around you.  What do you see?  If we look beyond the natural eye, we see the gospel and it’s growing.  There’s a gospel movement in your neighborhood.  It may be small, but it’s growing in humility and impact.  It may not look like a movement, but it is.  This gospel movement may be found in a new upstart church or an old traditional one that’s been around for many years.  This gospel movement may be found within a small group who find themselves bringing renewal to the lives of kids that need a foster parent for whatever the reason.  This gospel movement may be found in a widow, who even though she has very little shares it with everyone along her street ensuring that they all have a good meal and a warm place to lay their head.  This gospel movement may be found in the heart of a businessman while experiencing incredible success, gives generously to other gospel causes.

God is at work and he invites us to join him.  When we recognize the gospel is growing in our city that is our invitation to join him and join them.

Recognize that the gospel must begin with me.  I was in a meeting with two pastors from the Midwest.  They had experience amazing growth and impact.  They told me their story.  It was a story of God’s power and presence at every point.  It became obvious that the gospel was at work within and through them.  When they finished I longed for what they had.  I told them our story.  I talked about how hard we had worked and the sacrifices we had made.  When I finished they affirmed me and us for our faithfulness.  I reply, “You don’t understand, I want what you have.  I want a gospel movement in my city.”

To experience a gospel movement we must begin with the gospel in our own hearts.  No more cheap substitutes.  I’ve come to understand when the gospel is sown in good soil, in your heart; it produces a good harvest of 30, 60, and 100 fold.  At least that’s what Jesus said.  I often ask, “When will the gospel be enough?”  Jesus paints a picture in Revelations 3:20.  He is standing outside a door knocking seeking to enter.  This provocative image forces us to ask the question, “Where is Jesus in this picture? Is he outside our hearts?  Is he outside our churches?  Could it be both?”

God helps us to open our hearts to the gospel on a moment by moment base where we can begin to experience a gospel movement in our own hearts that would grow like leaven in the flour.

Discipling Church Planters

Here at Planting the Gospel we are committed to discipling church planters!  I often get the question, “How do you disciple church planters?”  In other words, what’s the difference between the training and discipling of church planters?  It’s really very basic.  Most training models are strictly about the acquisition of knowledge.  We assume the more we know, the more success we will have.  However, this is simply not true.

I planted my first church coming out of seminary in 1988.  At that time, I was aware of one book on church planting, Planting New Churches by Jack Redford.  For me, it was the Holy Grail of church planting simply because it was the only book on planting I was exposed to.  In addition to this book, Peter Wagner did a set of audiotapes on How to Plant a Church and Bob Logan created a self-bound version of Church Planter’s Toolkit called Church Planter’s Checklist.  That was it.  Since then, there has been a proliferation of church planting resources with similar nominal results.  Ed Stetzer and Warren Bird suggest in Viral Church, the average church plant after four years runs 87 people in weekend attendance.

I think it is fair to say that doing the same old thing, the same old way, produces the same old results.  However, today things are changing.  I recently did a study of the major church planting networks in the US.  Most networks employ a relational approach to developing church planters.  They often offer some kind of residency, apprenticeship, or internship.  These networks have seen phenomenal results.  The average network church plant after five years runs approximately 300 people in weekend attendance.  This is nearly four times the result of the non-networked church mentioned earlier.

Why?  I believe the key is relationships.  In order for leadership transformation to take place, training has to run congruent with intentional relationships.  That’s why we don’t talk about training church planters or simply running church planters through a curriculum.  It is our core conviction that planters must be discipled in the context of a healthy church planting environment.  Our formula is simple; relationship plus training in the context of an effective church or church plant equals the discipling of church planters.

This is why every church planter should speed up their effectiveness in planting by slowing down and spending a year in the right residency.  That’s why we don’t train church planters, we disciple them.

The Gospel and Disciples

I am the guy who gets asked to talk about Jesus.  I think I get tagged because I wrote this book called Detox for the Overly Religious, which is all about losing our religion and rediscovering the simplicity and centrality of Jesus and his ways.  I am convinced that we as individuals and we as a church have lost our ways.  In John 10:10 Jesus says, “The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy, but I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” I think this is spot on for the condition we find ourselves in.  The thief has stolen from us that which Jesus came to give us.  This happens really subtly.

One of the stories I often tell is the story of a church planter I coached a couple of years back.   One of the things I had him do was visit church plants in the area.  One particular day he came to our meeting most enthused.  As I listen to him he told me how wonderful the experience was.  He went through the entire experience describing how they did parking, greeting, hosting, singing, preaching, and caring perfectly.  He was so excited.  As he paused, I asked him, “What about Jesus?”  He looked puzzled, “What do you mean?”  I went on, “What about the role that Jesus played in the whole experience?  How was he lifted up?  How was the Gospel clearly communicated?”  Once again he paused.  Finally, he looked up with tears in his eyes and said, “There was no Jesus.”

“The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy. I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” The thief is often so subtle.  There is a passage of scripture in Rev. 3:20, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.”

Here Jesus is outside the church.  Here Jesus is outside our lives.  This is the condition we find ourselves in.  “The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy.” I’m convinced that the church is need of rescuing.  I’m convinced that we are in need of rescuing.  I’m convinced that I am in need rescuing.

As a disciple, our lifeline is the gospel.  Everything flows out of the gospel.  Yet I’m not even sure we can articulate what the gospel is.  Disciples are people of the Gospel and when we get this, it changes everything.  Recently, I was at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis speaking on discipleship.  There were some antagonist among the crowd and at the end I had the blessing of a question and answer time.

I was asked by one student, “What is the gospel?” I responded, “The gospel is the kingdom of heaven at hand.”  Historically, it is an announcement of good news.  Something has changed.  The king has come and the battle is over.  The kingdom is at peace, and because the kingdom is at peace, I can now be at peace.  Something radically has come and changed my pitiful condition.  Another way to look at it, a new king has come.  The old dictator (sin) of my life is no more.  This new king is a kind and benevolent king.  He has shown his grace toward me.  He is renewing his kingdom.  Old laws and regimes are being toppled.  All things are becoming new.  The old is going, going, gone.  The new is arriving, arriving, arrived.

This past year I have focused on following.  I was teaching a sermon when I made a statement, “We believe, but are we willing to follow!”  I know God spoke to me and said, “What about you?”  For the last year, I have been following.  Here is one thing I have learned, what we believe is crucial to how we follow, specifically what we believe about the gospel.  However, following is essential to apprehending the truth behind our belief.   You can believe and not follow.  This often happens.  You can follow and not believe, but in reality the two are intertwined and together they perform a sacred dance.

What you believe about the Gospel is going to determine how you follow as a disciple.  The gospel is good news for all.

First, it is good news for all in that we are redeemed.  Jesus redeemed my life with his death.  He redeemed my despair by giving me his hope.  The King has come.  The kingdom is here.  He fought my enemy, and won my battle independent of my participation.  We call it grace.  Jesus did for me what I couldn’t do for myself.  In doing so he extended a great invitation of grace to me.  Come as you are.  He knew my condition.  He knew my worth.  He saw me as someone worthy of redeeming.  He purchased my redemption by paying the price for all of my sins.  The penalty for my sins has now been paid in full, never to be paid again.  This includes all of my past, present, and future sins.  Nothing I do can separate me from the love of God.  It is impossible.  “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death-even death on a cross (Philippians 2:5-8)”.

Religion requires for me to earn God’s approval.  Therefore, I obey or do good in order to get his approval.  The gospel is about receiving his approval as a gift.  I recognize that I am approved.  I have been redeemed.  Therefore because I am approved, I obey or do.  This is the great reversal.  The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy. The thief has been defeated.  I have been redeemed, never to be lost again.  I have been redeemed with a great price.  I am of great value.  In Matthew 13: 45, Jesus is speaking in parables about the kingdom when he says, “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for a fine pearl.  When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.” We are the fine pearl.  Jesus left Heaven selling everything he had to redeem us.  We are bought with a great price.  This changes everything and motivates me to love and serve the king.

Second, it is good news in that the gospel doesn’t only redeem us, but it renews us. Paul puts it this way in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation.  The old is gone and new has come.” This is the great reversal.  He brings life to the dead.  The thief comes only to kill, steal, and destroy.  I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.

Jesus began his ministry with this same proclamation.  A new king has arrived.  The old order is gone; the new has come and is coming.  God is renewing all things.

This renewal begins with a single seed.  Jesus puts it this way in Matthew 13:31, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in a field.  Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches.” You see that?  It begins as a seed and grows beyond its’ own capacity, even to the point of renewing creation.  What begins as a seed becomes a tree.  What begins with a spark becomes a fire.  What begins with a drop becomes a flood.  What begins with a single volt lights an entire city.  What begins as an idea cures HIV!  What begins as a meal feeds five thousand others.

The gospel finds its’ beginning in renewing us, and without the renewing of us there is no making of all things new.

The gospel changes us from within through the renewing of our mind.  He gives us his Spirit.  Like a seed it grows, and grows, and grows.  “The thief only comes to kill, steal, and destroy.  But I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.”

I’m not the man I use to be.  I have changed from within.  The Spirit has worked out this truth in my life.  As I become more and more aware that Jesus is my provider, I have less and less need to seek after materials things.  As I experience more and more of his forgiveness, I find it easier and easier to forgive, even forgive my enemies.  As I become more and more aware of my position in Christ, I have less need for status and recognition.   As I become more and more aware of how blessed I am, I am more apt to bless others. As I become more and more aware that God is in control, I have less and less need to be controlling.  As I become more and more aware that God is to be trusted, I have less and less need to not trust him or others.  I am not there.  I am in process, but I am being renewed.  “The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy.  But I have come that they may experience life and experience it to the full.” There is this fountain flowing up within me.

Finally, It is good news in that we are part of God’s restoration planWe are restorers. The plotline is simple:

  • God created the world,
  • Sin entered and the world falling into sin and decay,
  • Jesus came to redeem us from our sins creating a new people, and now a new kingdom is being formed.
  • We are a kingdom of priest with the responsibility of redeeming, renewing, and restoring.

He is setting all things right.  We are now active participants in the incredible story.  We are part of the gospel narrative. The things that Jesus began doing he continues to do through us.  We are the ones who do greater works then even he has done.  We are the ones that God makes his very appeal through.  When Jesus prayed, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:9-10).” He was praying for you and me.  Jesus is coming, but he’s coming right now through you and me. When he redeems us, then he renews us, he restores everything around us.

This indeed is the great reversal.  When I was a child my dad abused alcohol.  When evening came, if he wasn’t home by a certain time my mother would gather us up and take us to a hotel.  The next day she would take us to her in-laws where she would call my dad.  My dad would come over, have to face his parents, and then we would go home.   By the time I was a young teenager, we were hanging on by a thread.  That’s when the Gospel showed up in our house.  Thirty-five years later my mom is 71 years old and has leukemia.  She is not doing so well.  She’s a fighter, so she continues to fight the good fight.  My dad spends his every waking moment caring for his beautiful bride.  He is a caring father, a devoted husband, and a passionate follower of Jesus. He’s the dad every son longs for.   Why? It’s because that’s the power of the gospel.  It restores.  “The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy, but I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.”

The gospel is indeed good news.