Friday, April 22, 2011

The Tri-Vocational Pastor

Church planting is a risky endeavor that requires a lot of faith, tough skin, and perseverance.  Unless you are independently wealthy, the issue of providing for your family is always at the forefront of living out this calling.  Since we began the process of planting C3Magnolia (@c3magnolia), I've had several discussions with other planters, supporters, and friends about how I plan on providing for my family.

Please note that what I have been doing and what will be shared here is not intended to be prescriptive, but descriptive of how we've been 'making it' so far.

When we began this adventure, I was serving as an elder at Christ Church in Brenham, TX, building websites through my media company, publishing books through my publishing company, and traveling and speaking.  By God's grace, even in the midst of the recession, we were able to make ends meet, but there was very little margin of time to work on planting the new church.

In May 2010, I was assessed by a group of peers for the Acts 29 Network to be a member of this great church planting organization.  During my assessment, I was confronted by the pastors about being so busy.  This was hard to hear, especially since I felt that the multiple projects I was involved in were necessary for the survival of my family.  However, one of the conditions following my assessment was to work towards getting out of day-to-day operations of all of my interests so that I can focus primarily on planting a new church.  This was hard to hear, but it really was the best recommendation.

Since that time, I have been working diligently on planting the church, and working on my other companies to transition myself out of the daily operations.  One of the best decisions I have made was to bring on a partner in my media company and publishing company.  Together, he and I have hired an administrative assistant who has done a phenomenal job, and my partner, Brad, has assumed the reigns of the daily management of the companies.

The church has been growing steadily, and I am almost making as much as a first-year teacher (in 1996), so I am still working some outside of the church.  Most of my outside time is spent traveling and speaking, helping behind the scenes at the publishing company, and doing some very select consulting with a handful of clients.

Our hope and prayer is that by September I will be able to be full-time at the church.  I'm already serving full-time, but not compensated as such.  Until then, I will be focusing primarily on the church, speaking at 3 summer camps, and doing some side projects.  It is my responsibility to love, lead, and provide for my family, and by God's grace I have been able to do so.

What questions can I answer for you?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Mission: Suburbs

I originally wrote this blog post for one of our sponsoring churches, New Life Baptist Church in College Station, TX.

The Great Com­mis­sion that Jesus gave to His dis­ci­ples is often quoted when dis­cussing world mis­sions. Jesus sends His dis­ci­ples out to make more disciples,

All author­ity in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go there­fore and make dis­ci­ples of all nations, bap­tiz­ing them in the name of the Father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit, teach­ing them to observe all that I have com­manded you. And behold, I am with you always to the end of the age. – Matthew 28:18–20 (ESV)

I remember sitting in a seminary class and the professor began talking to us about the Greek and the idea that the word ‘Go’ in the Great Commission could really be read, “As you go,” or “While you are going.” This opened my eyes to an understanding that Jesus command doesn’t only apply to world missions, but to living our lives as missionaries. As we go, we make disciples.

This is an eye opening truth that brings some meaning and purpose to those of us who reside in the security of suburbia. This is not written as an opinionated diatribe towards those who live in the suburbs. I live in and minister to people of the suburbs. It’s a reminder that all peoples matter to God, and that you don’t have to go to obscure lands to make disciples. To be honest, if you are not an effective missionary where you are, as you go, then what makes you think you have any authority serving as a missionary elsewhere?

To serve as a missionary in a suburban context has several inherent complications. People in suburbia enjoy their individuality and privacy. They are busy and often living beyond their means. We need to realize that we have a mission at hand, not in a far off land, but down our street, in our schools, in the stores and restaurants we patronize. There are people all around us who are separated from God and need to know and love Jesus.

I often receive questions on how to be a missionary in a suburban context. Here are a few things to keep in mind as we consider our calling to make disciples as we go:

1. People Matter to God: This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s good to remember that God has sent us into the world as His ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:18-20) to bring the message of reconciliation. We are not sent to only reach those like us, but to minister to all whom we come in contact with.

2. Places of Impact: We are creatures of habit. We all have places that we frequently go to eat, shop, and play. Remember, the people who work in these places are often dismissed, but this is a great place to start building intentional relationships. Not only is it important to minister to them, but also they can connect us with other regulars.

3. Go Out in Pairs: The mission we are on is a communal mission and an individual one. We are not just inviting people to ‘church’, but calling people out of darkness into light, from death to life, from isolation to biblical community. Jesus sent His disciples 2-by-2, so we should be intentional about being on mission together. Examples of this include BBQ’s, play dates, library activities with kids, work out spots, etc.

4. The Golden Rule: Remember what it was like to be lost? If not, then you should begin there. Isolation from God may give the appearance of freedom, but ultimately leads to death. We need to do for others what we would hope they would do for us, especially when it comes to sharing spiritual truths.

5. People are NOT Projects: One of the most arrogant things we can do is to treat people as projects. People do not need to be ‘worked on’; they need to be loved on. What are ways that you can serve them, speak to them, and treat them that in a way that communicates your love for Jesus and your love for them?

6. It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint: We never know when God is going to regenerate a person. That’s not our business. What we are to be about is making disciples as we go. Befriending people, serving people, and pointing people to Jesus with our lives and our words. This could take years in some instances. Perhaps it is just as much about your sanctification as it is about their salvation.

7. Jesus Saves People / You Are the Mid-Wife: I’m often stunned how bad theology leads to ineffective evangelistic lifestyles. People get paralyzed when they believe that they are the one’s to save people. What I mean is, when people believe that it’s up to them to lead a person to the Lord, they get stuck with fear, or prideful with their ‘success.’ Keeping in mind that God is the sovereign King who is able to save even the hardest of people, should give us rest in His provision. Our calling is to be faithful to the Gospel, to share the faith, and to serve as midwives to those who are born again.

While these points are valid regardless of your context, it is important to note that while we are in a unique context living in suburbia, we are not relieved from the commission at hand. We must be faithful to present Jesus in our lives, words, families, and deeds. We live in a fallen world that is in great need of redemption and restoration. The question is whether you will make disicples as you go, or will you wait for other, more professional people, to do it for you? Let’s not fall into the suburban stereotype of outsourcing local missions, rather, let us invest into our communities, connect with our neighbors, and continually strive to be intentional about seeing lives transformed by Jesus.