Episode 051: A Culture of Life

In light of the recent abortion legislation passed in New York, we sat down to talk about what it looks like for the Church to not only preach but also work for a culture of life.

 

 

It seems like there’s been a great battle for women’s rights, and there have been great advances… but to associate the abortion law with women’s health is difficult for many people because we believe that life begins at conception…

 

In the name of fighting for more rights, we’ve dropped the conversation about what our responsibility is to these creatures who have been made in God’s image…

 

I want my daughter to have access to every possible health benefit that she can get… there’s not one thing I would withhold from her for the sake of her health… but because we have a different view of when life begins, we can’t back away… babies in the womb are precious in the sight of the Lord…

 

The One that we come to church and worship on Sunday mornings was the product of a difficult pregnancy… Christians are hard people to convince that life isn’t sacred in the womb… it is a theological conversation…

 

Women don’t often see the Church as a place where they can receive compassion and grace… we should be outraged at violence against children… however, when women come to us, we need to receive them, listen to them, and help them…

 

The Church has to go to extravagant lengths to welcome these women into our midst, being empathetic, kind, and compassionate, and offering real solutions…

 

People need to turn their zeal from outrage to outreach… and you’d be surprised at how many churches are quietly and effectively reaching women at this moment of crisis in their lives…

 

Politics do matter… we shouldn’t be partisan, but we should be political… laws matter, and unjust laws will hurt our community like just ones will help people thrive…

 

For all of us, we should contact our state and national legislators and tell them we believe in the sanctity of life and that we are here to help… if you come in combatively, you won’t get invited to the meetings you need to be invited to in order to make a difference…

Episode 050: The Pastor As A Student

In this episode we sit down to talk about the pastor as a student. Why is it important that a pastor be an ongoing learner, and what does that look like?

 

 

One of the traps for a pastor is to only listen to your peers, to people who are right where you are… we need input that is qualitatively greater than our output…

 

We are those who have been entrusted with a message… for pastors, our work is words… so much of our life and ministry lives at the level of perception… that means that the pastor is the ‘first student’ in the congregation…

 

It’s too easy to let the culture at large co-opt our language, where our words all of a sudden carry meanings that wouldn’t have resonated with followers of Christ 1500 years ago… so we’re fighting for an accurate perception of God’s world as it lives at the level of language…

 

We need to be a student because our faith is a received faith… we shouldn’t be the first ones to talk this way about God…

 

In terms of a study rhythm, a lot of us try to keep the mornings open to read, write, or take notes on something… the trick is to devote a few hours a week to study that is not sermon-related…

 

When all you’re doing is taking in and then cranking content back out, it becomes functional and utilitarian… I feel a displeasure in my soul over that… it’s important to submit yourself to the pleasure of reading and learning that is not directly useful to your preaching…

 

All of our learning goes somewhere… we’ve been entrusted with the most beautiful story in the world, you need to tell it beautifully… we submit ourselves to the wordsmiths so that we can tell the story well… I don’t want to tell the greatest story in a mechanical or sleepy way…

 

The enemy of so much of this is our phones… I used to wander around the office with a book, but now I’m [on my phone] scanning Twitter… something is taking up our time… we need to be proactive and choose sources that nourish us, since we are giving out so much…

 

Don’t just read the stuff that’s been written in the last 15 years or so… access the ancients because they are there for you… that’s part of how we sit at the feet of the great cloud of witnesses…

Episode 049: When Is It Time To Resign?

In this episode we sit down to talk about what qualifies and disqualifies a person for ministry. How do you know when it’s time to resign? What kinds of structure and culture do we need to have in our churches to keep them and those who lead them healthy over time?

 

 

God is not after perfection, but he is after holiness… I’m concerned that we’ve lowered the standards of holiness in the church… which means we’re holding leaders everywhere else in our culture to lower standards…

 

In our media-driven culture, we no longer look to 1stTimothy 3 and Titus 1… instead we ask, “Can this person light the stage up?”

 

We made a decision here at New Life that when we ask a guest speaker to come to our conference or church or to impart to our people in any way, we are asking, “Is their character intact?” Sometimes that has meant we don’t invite people…

 

The problem is there are fewer and fewer spiritual moms and dads in the church… we have a lot of young men and women leading the church now with no spiritual moms and dads in their lives…

 

What holds the church together over time is lives that are rooted in Christ Jesus… genuinely righteous lives… if you don’t have those kinds of folks in leadership, the thing will ultimately blow apart…

 

When you have unrepentant sin in your life, where you get caught and you aren’t repentant… where you made efforts to hide it, conceal it, to live a double life… that is a sign that something is really broken inside of you and you need to step away…

 

The world is watching…. and one of the reasons the church has lost so much influence in the culture is that we have not handled our scandals well…

 

Abuses of sex, money, and power are disqualifiers… but also heresy… knowing that you are wrong but continuing to teach it… all of a sudden these people becomes apostles of a new theological movement, standing against the great tradition and doing it defiantly… when you catch a pastor in this kind of condition, it’s time for them to resign…

 

You can scour the documents of the early church all you want, and you won’t find a coordinated evangelistic strategy… mostly the church leaders minded the integrity of their common life… when we mind the integrity of our common life, it’s actually our best ‘growth’ strategy…  

 

Churches that do not have clear government structures inside and outside, I would avoid… a church that doesn’t have a discernible network of elders within and a discernible group on the outside that can hold it to account—chances are it won’t be safe long term…

Episode 048: Starting The Year Out Right

In this episode, we sit down to talk about how to start the congregational year out on the right foot. What should we do? What should we not do? How can January poise us for what the Lord wants to do in our churches over the next 11 months?

 

 

For us, we believe that starting the year out with worship, prayer, and the presence of the Lord does something for the rest of the year in the life of our church… if you can start the year in a holy way, the chances of you finishing in a holy way greatly increase…

 

The essence of the gospel is a new start… we always get a second chance… January gives you a chance to start over and get fresh wind in your sails…

 

Praying churches produce spiritual fruit, and if you’re not praying, then a lot of energy is going to be wasted over the course of the year… when we’re praying, it feels like we do more with less…

 

The right time to teach your church to pray is before a crisis happens… New Life was able to survive its dark seasons because it was a praying church before those seasons…

 

Some of the best prayer meetings that I have been in have been the ones that were stripped of everything and all you had was your naked longing for God… God moves on meetings like that…

 

When people know that their pastors and leaders are willing to sacrifice, are willing to fast and pray, they will show up…

 

There’s a difference between being planned and being produced… we have an idea of the songs we’re going to sing and who is going to lead… but once the service starts, we are saying “Come, Holy Spirit” and we really don’t know what’s going to happen next…

 

I like the fact that these meetings are organic, that we can call audibles… you can feel the room respond to the spontaneity of it…

 

This time of year is the wrong time to try to grow the church… this is the time to build depth and strengthen your core… we need to go deep so that when we go wide later, it can sustain itself…

 

The rest of the year is about to get very busy… if you’re going to add more events at the first of the year, don’t wear your staff out… this needs to benefit them… they’re going to have to empty their cups in the next few months… this is a time for them to fill their cups…

Episode 047: A Conversation with Andrew Wilson

In this episode we sit down to talk to our friend Andrew Wilson about his new book Spirit and Sacrament: An Invitation to Eucharismatic Worship to talk about the what, why, and how of blending the charismatic and sacramental expressions.

 

 

https://www.spiritandsacrament.com/

 

I don’t remember where I first came up with the word (“eucharismatic”), but my history is that I have some Anglicanism in my childhood that was non-charismatic… and then I went to a charismatic church that had almost no awareness of the historical church…

 

At around six or seven years ago I started thinking there was a need for the church to bring together these two gifts… the term eucharismatic is a putting together of two words: eucharistic and charismatic, and the link between them is charis—grace (or chara—joy)…

 

When we understand the gift of God in the spiritual gifts and the gift of God in the Lord’s supper, we can receive all of God’s gifts rather than just some…

 

For me, the sacramental tradition was not associated with joy… but then I began reading the history of the church, these people who had almost unutterable moments of revelation of the beauty of who God is [while celebrating the eucharist]…

 

The Lord’s Supper is the lovely thing where everyone knows that this is something they are supposed to do; the question is how and how often… our church was doing it in homes, like they did in Acts 2…

 

For us, we had to recognize that whatever we did not practice on Sunday we did not ultimately value… you can say the same for the gifts… unless we do this at some point on Sundays, the church will think this is relatively unimportant…

 

I think that for many in more traditional churches, they are concerned about the charismatic out of a concern for orthodoxy and for things to be done in a decently and in order kind of way…

 

One of the things you can do is pick low-hanging fruit… the judicious and careful use of a prophetic impression (and you might not even call it that)—most people, even the most conservative (traditional) are happy with the idea that God might lead them to do something…

 

You just need to be sensitive to the fact that for many people this is really new… you need to be able to explain things in a non-weird way what God is doing…

Episode 046: What is ‘Multi-Congregational’? (Part 2)

In this episode (the second of two) we sit down and finish our conversation about the multi-congregational model New Life Church has developed over the last several years. Why we did it, how it works, and what opportunities and challenges it presents.

 

 

This model is not your friend if you value speed and scale… if you want to go fast, this isn’t for you… it’s a crockpot not a microwave… it’s also not a model for scalability… there’s a cap on it because of built-in relationships…

 

What we’ve decided is that there’s a circle around in our city that we’re willing to plant congregations inside of… outside of that circle the best use of our time and resources would be to plant autonomous churches…

 

Another thing about this model is that if you don’t like people telling you “no,” you should stay away from it… but if you want to be collegial, familial, and do the slow work of building the kingdom together, then this is a great model for you…

 

Another challenge is that I’ve sent out a lot of really good leaders and so I have to constantly make sure the leadership pipeline at New Life North is replenished… I can’t just keep sending people out and ignore the leadership pipeline here…

 

So you have to move slow, but also think five years ahead… it takes 3-5 years to send out a leader like this with this much trust…

 

There is a sense in which we’ve multiplied one another’s trust… there are people here who trust Brady because they trust Daniel Grothe…

 

The reason our congregations are different is because Glenn and I are different… I’m not forcing Glenn to be a Brady clone…

 

Every house is different, but there’s a great sense of safety when you get to go back to your parents’ house, and I think that’s what New Life North feels like to these guys…

 

In order for us to be under one family covering, it has to be under one eldership, one family covering… each congregation has a “wisdom council” full of non-staff people who are watching them and their marriage…

 

I encourage all our elders to be present in our congregations from time to time… but I like the wisdom council because it gives people who are actually listening to the sermon and watching the pastors interact with the congregation… it gives a second layer of accountability which is super important…

 

The genius of this model is that it allows a lot of people to be taken care of very personally… it allows us all to live in proper pastoral work without silo-ing to much… we all are in all the work…

 

Episode 045: What is ‘Multi-Congregational’? (Part 1)

In this episode (the first of two) we sit down to talk about the multi-congregational model New Life has developed over the last several years—why we did it, how it works, and what opportunities and challenges it presents.

 

 

PART 1 SHOW NOTES

 

We stumbled into this, quite honestly… we knew we had a deep bench of teachers and preachers on our staff and we needed to infiltrate our city…

 

Brady was really taking a risk with me… he gave me a space to experiment and grow…

 

For us, we decided that the church should look more like a family model than a franchise… we wanted to create an environment for our “children” to thrive within their strengths…

 

We had a burden for a location and a leader who was willing to go… you have to have that… if the leader isn’t called to the location, it won’t work long-term…

 

I am not suggesting that everyone do it the way we did it… it requires a lot of vulnerability, a lot of honest conversation, and a great deal of trust… if you don’t have that, don’t even try…

 

All of us had to agree that when we had aggravations, we were going to talk about them… most relationships fall apart because we don’t know how to deal with conflict… this model is ripe with potential conflict…

 

We believe that to be a pastor is to be attentive to place, to the soil of where you’re planted… and so we CENTRALIZE our administrative [functions] but we CONTEXTUALIZE ministry…

 

If you’re in a church where you have a group of friends and you’re wondering how to expand, then this model will work for you… but if you’re in a church where you don’t have any preachers or teachers, this model is not for you… you need to spend a lot of time building relationship with each other…

 

The flip side of this is that we need to get clarity where clarity is possible… financials, percentages, benchmarks for hiring, etc.… you need to work that out as much as you can…

 

The tension came in when New Life Downtown was bringing in enough money to sustain them separately from us… so we came up with some percentages that would keep Glenn motivated and also kept finances coming back to us…

Episode 044: The Pastor in Relationship

In this episode, we sit down to talk about the kinds of relationships pastors need to cultivate in order to live and lead from a healthy place.

 

This is particularly tricky for young pastors or church planters… on one level, this is the last question you think about – who’s leading me, who’s caring for me?

 

Part of the reason this is so tricky is that there’s a power differential here… it can make it tricky to know what you’re seeing with people… are people drawing near to us because they care for us, or because they need us?

 

Only recently have I begun to think about the kinds of relationships I need… it’s not just about “having friends”… maybe we need to think of the pastor like Frodo Baggins… on the quest, you need several different kinds of people around you…

 

We need relationships inside the community certainly, but also relationships outside the community in order to stay healthy… keeping this in the right balance is crucial…

 

There’s already a distance between the pulpit and the pew in the very first interaction that people have with us… sometimes we unwittingly increase that gap… but we can also intentionally decrease that distance…

 

A spiritual director is someone that you see not exclusively when you’re in crisis… they are someone to help you see and pay attention to what is going on in your life, and even to bear witness to that…

 

What happens to us when we don’t have real relationships is that we become a parody of ourselves… we start being our persona and cease being the person God made us to be…

 

The fruits of the Holy Spirit are still the best index of whether or not we are healthy…

 

Episode 043: Why Church?

In this episode, we sit down to talk about the role of the local church in the life of the believer. In a time when many people see participation in the local church as optional, we try to answer the question, “Why Church?”

 

 

I don’t know how we got here but it certainly is a different day… many feel that they can practice their faith in other ways [than being part of a local church]… and it didn’t used to be like that… it used to be that this was the neighborhood and this is where we go to church…

 

The church used to be the place that held many community concerns together, and as a society develops you have more groups that handle parts that the church held… which then reduces the things that the church feels specifically responsible for…

 

It’s our job to ask the question whether we are teaching people accidentally whether their physical presence with us is not necessary…

 

There are so many reasons why the research says people go to church… but the reason that’s never listed is, “Because I am a Christian” or “Because I got baptized…” we need to recover the sense that the church is a PEOPLE… what we offer is not a religious product, but what we offer is OURSELVES…

 

We’ve taught people to say that church is about YOUR relationship with God, YOUR experience with God… instead of saying that “Church is how God forms US as a family…”

 

The church has the unique opportunity to restore a sense of family and village and comradery that has been lost in society today… it is the place where we can call out names in a depersonalizing and lonely world…

 

We need to tell people what the church IS… people come with their own paradigms and conceptions… we need to say to people that the church is a whole different kind of thing and help them practice it…

 

Pastors need to draw attention as often as possible to the common life of the community of faith as the place where the sermon lands… the church rising up in the uniqueness of its common life is what makes the church interesting in the first place…

 

We live in a world that wants to talk about the omnipresence of the divine… and the church stands up and says, “Yes, God is present everywhere, but he is particularly present here… Come home to the Father’s house…”

Special Episode: Remembering Eugene

In this special episode we sit down to talk about the life and legacy of Eugene Peterson.

 

 

First, I think Eugene’s generosity of spirit [most marks me]… he should have never let me into his life, but he did… he’s a pastor…

 

Eugene’s commitment to the life of the mind [also marks me]… from 6am to 11am every day he would lock himself in his study to be with the Lord and his own mind… and then would spend the rest of the day at church with open office hours till 5pm…

 

These days people read blogs… Eugene spent 25 hours a week diving deep and then produced for the world… that inspires me as a pastor not to cut corners…

 

Most of us discovered Eugene when the Message version of the Bible came out… it introduced us to this man and awakened our curiosity… and then we couldn’t get enough…

 

When I went out to see Eugene in 2010, a lot of my questions were about the pastoral vocation I saw in his books, which I was having difficulty reconciling with my context… the thing that stuck with me about my visit was that Eugene said that there was no perfect context to do ministry…

 

Eugene taught me not to romanticize or idealize small church… demonic activity happens there as everywhere… you need to learn the prevailing idolatry of your place and stand against it…

 

I love the story of why Eugene wrote the Message Bible… he wrote it for his Sunday school class… he rewrote the book of Galatians for his class, and found it was helpful to younger people who were coming to faith in his church…

 

What I find interesting about the Message was that he did it for the sake of his congregation and not to sell books… it’s almost like the Lord winked at him and said, “Because you care about my bride, I’m gonna bless this…”

 

Eugene would say that busyness is an illness of the spirit… that it is a violence against time… when I heard that I thought it wasn’t possible [to do ministry that way in my context]… but I’ve learned that you can…

 

The last time I was with Eugene I told him of the impact he has had at New Life… of the transformation we’ve experienced because we were reading him… so much of who we are and what we’re doing is because of him… I wanted him to know that the church is listening to him…