building or no building…is that the question?

It appears that my family is going to be out of our house for a bit with some needed repairs due to water damage. In fact, every wall that touches the outside will need to be gutted and replaced. Awesome stuff. We practically live in a piece of poop house. Funny thing is we really like that piece of poop. Hopefully it will be fully repaired and bootified. I mean beautified. Did I really write that? Yep. That just happened.

Seriously, the home thing is a big deal in our lives these days. Not just with our family, but with our church family, too. We have a pretty big mtg tomorrow night where what we call the COLLIDE team will continue to kick around the why and what and when of facility for WestpointChurch.org

Within our church family, we stress “being the church” as opposed to going to church. Two reasons:

1. among the 140-plus times the New Testament of the Bible refers to “church,” not one time is a place or an event. It seems as though “going to church” might not even be a Biblical concept. Going to worship gathering to worship God together with the “church” would be, and so we call our Sunday morning gathering exactly that – a gathering, along with other various gatherings and get-togethers. Not a point of semantics or being anal. Just emphasizing the church is a who, not a what.

2. the story we want to communicate to one another and to those around us is the story of how we are together being the church in our everyday lives living sent as a letter from God with the message of His love and hope and nearness. This story has an exponential impact all 168 hours per week, versus a gathering which is typically one to two hours per week. Which one tells the real story of the life and essence of the church. Church 168. Sunday gathering is meaningful and significant, but gathering is not intended for gathering’s sake, but rather for leaving. The Sent One said that just as He was sent, “so send I you” (John 20:21). 

Therefore, the “church building” question is a rather important question among our church family. We emphasize church is not a building, so what kind of facility we have or meet in or use needs to be about “church 168” not just “church Sunday.”

People just by default ask, “so, when do you plan on building?” But also because setting up in a school every Sunday can create a weariness. Of course, Sundays are not the only thing WestpointChurch.org is about. What’s really cool is that everyone agrees with the fact that if we build a building or have a “church facility,” it cannot be a just-Sunday kind of building. Nonetheless, there is a stirring and a grappling happening among our church family. While we have all resolved that having a building in and of itself is not a bad thing and will not hinder us from living sent, I just keep wondering why we are focusing so much on this question. Is focusing on this question keeping us from living sent, even though the subject of the question would probably not?

Why do people think we need a building as a church family. Here are some of the reasons that have been communicated to me:

1. having a building would give us credibility in the community

2. having a building would allow for greater awareness in the community

3. having a building would give us legitimacy as an organization

4. you’re just supposed to have one

5. if i am going to give money to this church, i want to know what my money is going for

6. it is a necessity for growth. in fact, people will not invite people to a school. but if we had a building, more people would invite people

7. it is a great thing to have for a headquarters / ministry center

I am actually not anti-building contrary to popular belief. I have even been told I am anti-growth since I am anti-building, which makes me chuckle since we have always seen life change as well as numerical growth as a church family. Not that we are doing everything right, but I am definitely not anti-growth or anti-building. I am concerned, however, about our motivation for having a building. Why we want one is actually more important to me than whether we have one or not. Just like I actually have little preference to “worship style,” I have little preference to building style. I would rather know the heart behind the worship, and I want to really understand the heart behind having a facility to maintain. If the heart of having a building is to live sent daily, then I am all for it. 

All that to say, I am praying for several things with regard to the question that is swirling among people in our church family. First, I am praying we will not just live in default. You know, the status quo mindset of “we are a church and should have a home” kind of default thinking. That is more of a civilized thing to do, not so much a Christ-like. In fact, it can be argued that the reason the Chinese church has been exploding under communism for almost 100 years is that she was not centralized when communism came. She was still raw and defined by followers rather than gatherings. In contrast, the reason the church in Russia has been stifled and defined by vacant cathedrals since communism entered is because she was already centralized, already cathedralized. Interesting.

Next, I am praying we will really come to a point where we can clearly communicate how having a building enhances living sent. And I mean into our culture and connecting with people who don’t know how much Jesus loves them. Not just for “christians” getting together. 

Finally, I am praying we can really be of one accord. Not one accord on having a building. That is not the mission around which we should be unified. But one accord with regard to the mission of living sent. The mission that the Sender gave to the sent.

Let’s play what if. What if we stayed in Whispering Oak Elementary for Sunday mornings for another 10 years and served the socks off the families and administration of that school? What if we focused on how we are the church outside of a facility we had to maintain and figured out how to collide in our context in other ways? What if we volunteered in community events instead of creating our own and decided to be the church there? Is it possible that our community could be impacted, loved, given hope, changed, encouraged in a way that it would not otherwise? I am not sure. I AM JUST ASKING OUT LOUD. I mean, the setup thing is really not as prominent of an issue as we make it. When I talk to those who oversee setup on Sundays, they understand that even if we have a multi-purpose building or a marketplace concept to meet in on Sundays, there will still be a significant element of setup.

Maybe the real question is not “building or no building?” Maybe the real question to be grappling with is “where is the church?” And is she legitimized by the love and hope and sentness of people, rather than the gathering of people in one place. 

I’m listening. I really invite discussion. I really want us to be in one accord on living sent and growing in unity with regard to what a facility means to that.

Bob Carlton at BLOSSOM 08

Bob Carlton shared this afternoon on “discovering leaders.” He asked three questions:

1. How were you discovered as a leader?

2. How are you currently discovering leaders?

3. What is the purpose of discovering leaders?

Great questions, especially the third one. Why we even look for leaders to equip and release depends upon what we are looking for leaders to do. Are we looking to discover them in order to help them discover their God-given dream and then release them to live abundantly in it even if we don’t get any credit for it?

Bob’s not just talking about it. He has lived this out on many occasions and in many contexts.

Panel discussion and more conversations to come this afternoon. Then we wrap up.

BLOSSOM 08

We’re on the 2nd day of BLOSSOM 08. Awesome togetherness happening. Awesome conversations. Awesome thinking and inspiration happening. Thankful to be a part. 

Here’s a blog from last year entitled “what is blossom” in case you are interested and want to enter the conversation.

Neil Cole shared last night about what it means to lead people organically, to develop leaders organically, and to release leaders to lead organically. He said, “we must lower the bar of leadership in the church and raise the bar of being a disciple.” Then, we will see disciples developped, which is necessary for leaders to emerge and for the church to blossom. Neil is passionate about seeing disciples made and churches blossom because of it, rather than “churches” planted in hopes of disciples being made.

Alex McManus is teaching this morning. He began with the statement, “Jesus did not come to teach Christianity. He came to make the world human again.” It is sad that people hear Alex say this and immediately think he is universalist or something. I am thankful to be friends with him, and I know that not to be true.

God actually made us as humans, in His image, and even after the fall in Genesis 5 still called His creation good. Before humanity chose self over Him, He had already made a plan to put on human skin, and in the fullness of time and in the midst of a tense religious and political climate He came and walked among us and died to restore us to being human – like He originally made us to be. Think about it – does not keeping the 10 commandments make you just a sinner, or is not keeping the 10 commandments, which the Scriptures call transgression, actually being inhumane? If you murder someone, that would be a fair statement. If you worship someone besides the Creator, do you think of it that way? Inhumane to not worship the One who made you? If inhumane means not what I was made to be as a human, then yes. If sinner means inhumane, then so we are, and Christ died for us even while we were still sinners. Even while we were inhumane. Lots to ponder. 

Alex’s heart in sharing this stuff is to challenge so-called “Christians” to actually walk among humanity like Jesus did and love people and be human and allow humanity to happen. Here’s a book he has coming out on it in January.

BLOSSOM 08 in Orlando, sponsored by www.ReproducingChurches.com, is a conversation about planting and watering the love of Jesus into lives and watching God grow His church. The goal – to unite together to give ourselves away and release the church (every follower) to live sent daily. It has been awesome to work with the team that created BLOSSOM 07 and 08, and to see leaders here passionate about being followers who lead others to live sent, who release followers to give themselves away together. The church 168.

If you’re curious, please check out last year’s BLOSSOM videos here. And, come hang with us as we keep doing life together through our monthly and online Reproducing Churches gatherings.

live sent_the intro video

We are taking five weeks on Sunday mornings as a church family to reemphasize “living sent” and to unpack it even more than we have before. Three goals in doing this:

_to continue to stress this as what Jesus intended for His church

_to further equip followers of Jesus to live sent daily (loving people like Jesus loves us and simply being a letter that reads of His hope and purpose and life)

_and to continue to network and resource the stories and thoughts that our church family and church network have shared on the subject for over four years now.

I pray that our efforts to share as much as we can about the philosophy and stories of “live sent” will both be an encouragement to people as to what the real mission of the church is and a challenge to those who are trying to preserve the entity of church rather than actually be the church in the daily.

Hope this intro video is an encouragement to you…

live sent_an intro

For some time now, church has been known as and defined by Sunday morning. The principle exists that you reap what you sow, and in church culture what has been sown is “come and see and I’ll feed you.” What has been reaped is followers of pastors who have made Sunday mornings a sacred cow, who have equated discipling with getting more people to to the place where they can hear the pastor, and who have developed spiritual nourishment patterns defined by gluttony on the worship experience and the words of the pastor on Sunday mornings all the while starving themselves and being lazy when it comes to the teachings of Jesus the rest of the week.

Surely pastors have not intended for this to happen. While it may stroke the ego of equippers, it has stifled the daily ministry of the saints. The daily ministry of the saints seems to be much more important according to the New Testament and much more influential according to the new testimonies of the people of our culture. 

Why? Could it be that the daily ministry of the saints tells a story and engages people in a way that pastors never could on Sundays? Could it be that the credibility of daily living is and always has been a much more significant form of persuasion than what one individual tries to communicate. 

Not that what pastors communicate is unimportant. Not that the role they play as equippers is not necessary. But Sunday mornings cannot be viewed as “fueling stations” any longer. They must be viewed as post offices, sorting mail and sending out letters.

Paul introduces a very picturesque and challenging metaphor in 2nd Corinthians 3 as he defends the focus and authenticity and credibility of the message he delivered and the ministry he lived. He said that the people who received this message were now letters written by the Spirit of the living God. What this implies is that the church is not to be gone to, but rather to be sent out. Released with God’s stamp of love and grace, sharing a message as we live sent in the daily. Being letters from God into culture.

And God pens this letter without a pen. He does more than writes it. He embeds it. Not on tablets, but on our hearts. And so, we live sent as a letter from God to culture sharing the same message He has delivered all along – “I love you. I am near. Follow Me.”

While living sent certainly involves many elements, here are three in particular that I would suggest are of utmost importance to the mission of being the letters that we are as followers of Jesus.

First, living sent is all about trusting your value. The primary hindrance for a follower of Christ who is made to live sent is that he/she does not trust their value. What we need to understand is that our value is not appraised, it is declared.

The housing market ebbs and flows, has ups and downs. My home has been appraised three times in the last four years, and every instance has produced a very different perception of its value. Depending on the condition of the house, the state of the weather, and the perspective of the appraiser, the value amount has varied. This is fine for homes, but not for God’s letters, not for His followers.

You see, our value has been declared. He nailed it down. We are worth dying for. Our worth as His letter and our value for living sent is not up for debate. If we follow Him, we have trusted His declared value over us, are abiding in the One who declared that value once and for all, and are resided in by the Spirit who makes us priests and kings. The message that our family, neighbor, co-worker, and all of humanity needs to read is written on our hearts. 

Next, living sent is all about doing life together. The “as you go” stuff within the verses church culture has labeled “the great commission” means exactly that. Doing life together is mandatory for discipling just as much as discipling is mandatory for every Christ-follower. Jesus modeled it. 

And discipling is not this formal, master-teacher driven, gotta be in a classroom thing it has become. If our lives are letters, then people can read and learn and be moved simply by doing life with us. Not that “teaching” doesn’t happen. It does. Sometimes formally, most times informally.

This implies a lot. Two implications are: (1) there is no A to Z process then for how we live sent and “disciple” someone. There is a need, however, for ongoing discernment of where between A to Z the person being discipled is, and thereafter a customized discipling process is embedded within relational intentionality. (2) we will have to get messy, deep into the lives of people, right where they are, like Jesus did, in order to live sent and do life together. The problem – we tend to be spiritual germaphobes. 

I heard one teacher put it this way. Church culture in North America treats culture at large like a public restroom. Think about it. When I go into a public restroom, I try not to touch a thing. I tell my children the same thing when I take them in – “don’t touch anything!!!” When Caleb needs to go “messy,” for instance, we walk into the stall. We tear off toilet paper and carefully wipe the seat down in a manner that does not wipe the stuff you are wiping off on the parts you sit on. Then we tear off more toilet paper, fold it over and place it on each side and on the front of the potty seat. Caleb carefully sits down. He does his business. I flush with my foot. We try not to touch the door of the stall as we move to wash our hands. We hope they have motion faucets. Do they? They don’t. I elbow it on. Get my hands wet. Gingerly touch the soap dispenser praying desperately they will at least have soap. Wash intensely. Rinse well. WAIT. Before the faucet thing, I check to see if they have motion towel dispensers. If not, I give it four pulls and keep a keen eye out to make sure someone doesn’t steal my patient paper towel. Then do the wash and rinse thing. Then pull my towel off. Then dry my hands. Then turn off the faucet with the damp paper towel because it has a non-penetrating shield for germs. I look to see if I can back out of the door instead of having to pull it. If I have to pull it, I do so with the damp paper towel. Then I turn to see if the trash can is near enough and open enough to toss it in with one foot holding the door. I give it my best basketball set-shot. If I miss, I for sure am not picking it up because once it hits the floor who knows what undiscovered diseases lurk there and immediately leaped onto the paper towel. I foot open the door swinging wide enough to slip through. Whew! We made it.

You know you do it, too. 

Sad question is, does the church tend to treat culture like a public restroom? We know we got to go in, cause we got to go you know? But we sure as heck don’t want to touch it. Don’t want to touch him. Don’t want to touch her. But Jesus reached out and placed a hand on that leper. Jesus extended His arms and embraced that prostitute. Jesus drew near and touched me. We gotta live sent, no matter how messy. 

Finally, living sent is all about giving ourselves away intentionally. Jesus gave Himself away. We know what love is in that Jesus gave up His life for us and we should give up our lives for others (1st John 3:16). 

There’s no better illustration of giving oneself away than the story of the widow’s offering (Luke 21). Jesus stated that she gave “largest offering today.” All these others made offerings that they’ll never miss; she gave extravagantly what she couldn’t afford – she gave her all” (quote from The Message). 

Some important thoughts emerge here for living sent. We don’t have to wait to live sent until we “have a lot.” God makes much of our little. It also doesn’t have to make sense to give ourselves away. We should give as though we have access to God’s supply, not just our bucket. That’s why we can give our all.

My prayer is this – that the church will be released to be the letters from God that He has written them to be. Gathering is fine, as long as it is to worship the Sender and then to leave to live sent.