Worth the cost

Three minutes.

That’s approximately how long it took for God to remind me of what I really needed.

Lead 11

This past weekend I got the great opportunity to be a part of LEAD 11 up at my alma mata, East Auburn Baptist Church. This conference, put on by The Gospel Alliance NE (which you need to check out if you haven’t), has been a huge blessing for me and many of my fellow ministry leaders. Beyond that, I truly believe this year’s conference has been the best yet. My heart was ministered to in great ways by Matt Chandler, Ray Ortlund, and many others that came from around New England to preach to us the need for the gospel. I had heard many, if not all of the things spoken before, but our hearts need the gospel like our lungs need air.

The messages were all filled with the words of God and were beneficial; everything that was said in the main sessions and panel discussion were rich in theological truth and meaning for the weary pastor, and Chandler had some great times of calls to repentance that were needed. Furthermore, I learned much from the breakout session on youth ministry that I attended Friday and plan to integrate much of what I heard there.

Where I got the most

Back to the three minutes. At the beginning of the Replanting Churches Breakout session with Jared Wilson, Mark Gedicks, Matt Grise, and Barry Murray (all great men of God), Jared Wilson introduced himself. A rough paraphrase of his introduction follows (you should find the audio and listen to it when it gets put up).

Jared pastors a Church in Vermont where he moved a few years ago from a mega Church in Nashville. He had attempted a church plant out of that church and describes his Church plant as a failure: that he wasn’t made to be a Church Planter, and that his ministry there wasn’t what he thought it would be. He came to Vermont and followed the same pattern he had used in his plant, because he is (by his own admission) not innovative. So he just did the same thing, and the Spirit moved. That doesn’t mean that they have everything we would imagine the ideal churches having (incredibly active missional communities/small groups, really dynamic worship services, big flare church stuff, etc). But it does  mean that they have doubled in size since God brought him there. It does mean that they have (slowly) made some changes for God’s glory. It does mean that they are still a small New England Church made mostly of older New Englanders who love Jesus and don’t always care for change.

Sound familiar?

If I had only been there for that the conference would have been worth the money and time that I spent on it. See, I think we get this vision of fairy tale churches that exist because of the innovation and greatness of their amazing pastors. Don’t lie, you know you have thought this: “If only that pastor came here, then we’d see some change! Then people would start growing towards God. Or maybe I don’t belong here; maybe I should move to… somewhere else! Obviously that’s where God is moving!” In all reality, we’re all just normal churches living lives of worship together for the King. Yes. Strive for Gospel Renewal, but let’s make Jesus our goal, not some fantasy of what we think other Churches are.

I needed this. It was a huge blessing for Jared to be honest about that and I want nothing less than for us all to remember that the Spirit is going to move where He will; we are just called to faithfulness, he is responsible for the fruit.

Feeling Guilty for being blessed

Every statistic stands against you. By virtue of where you live, how much money you make a week and what you had for supper last night, you are going to feel guilty. Could it be that you don’t have to live off of less than $2.00 a day? Or maybe you have a car (or bike) to get to work with- which makes you among the riches people in the world. It seems as though many non-profit organizations like to capitalize on these kind of statements. Is this good motivation to live simply and have generosity towards others?

Think of the Gospel

Jesus, who became flesh for the sake of sinners, and died that we might live, displayed generosity on a massive scale. He had riches abounding but considered it all loss for our sake (Phil. 2.5-11 and many others show this truth). And because of this Gospel- the truth of Jesus living again after dying for us and purchasing our lives from the dead- we are able and willing to be generous with our lives. Paul makes this correlation in 2 Corinthians 8.8-15 emphasizing the point that we become rich through the poverty of Christ and are called to make others rich through our abundance.

How far is too far?

Shaine Claiborne, a founding partner of The Simple Way is known for living in poverty for the sake of others. Whatever we feel about his ministry (and I haven’t always been as fond as I could be), we cannot deny that he is doing great things for others in the name of Christ. The Simple way gives everything away and serves the needy. Sounds great, right? But is there a time and place where we don’t need to give things away? Can we be generous and frugal at the same time? Wouldn’t wisdom tell us that?

Poverty and Prosperity Theology… is there a middle ground?

This is a great video that aired about a year ago. Listen in at about 8:45 for the relevant portion:

Maybe we don’t have to pursue suffering or riches; maybe we can be content where we are and serve in the way that God wishes us to serve. Maybe we can agree with Paul when he says in Philippians 4.11-13:

I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.