Introduction to Psalms

This may be one of the worst days in the calendar year to teach a Learning Lab at West E. Free. Whenever the clock is thrown ahead one hour, people’s internal clocks are thrown into complete and utter turmoil. There will be some yawns this morning at our Learning Lab environment, to say the least.

We look forward to teaching this quarter of Learning Lab focused on Psalms!

Regardless, I have posted the notes here for your review and download for March 11, 2012.

Also, here are some resources that may be helpful for you as we look at Psalms together. 

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A Disciple of Jesus Rejects Pride

I spent the past couple of weeks really diving into Mark 9:30-50 and processing what Jesus seems to be saying to his disciples as he teaches them. I have several thoughts/questions listed in the bullet points below that I didn’t get to share a lot about on Sunday morning, but that were important within the text as I continued to ask questions regarding this passage of scripture.

  • Why does Jesus spend time alone with his disciples teaching them? How often did he do this? What application can we make from this passage?
  • There seems to be a  pride and an arrogance in the way that the disciples didn’t “understand” what Jesus said about him going to be betrayed and handed over to people to kill him. I wonder how many times in my own life this same pride of not learning something has consumed me? I wonder why the disciples didn’t want to understand or learn the things that Jesus was trying to teach them?
  • The part of the text that seems to answer the above question is the disciples discussion as they walked which was all about who was going to be the greatest. It centered on who would ‘succeed’ Jesus when he was gone or who would be the greatest in the “Kingdom.” In the disciples mind, this was probably an earthly kingdom and they wanted to all have a big part in this. They were living in a culture where power, authority, prominence were very important for people to have (not unlike today.)
  • Jesus asks them to reject their pride, their hunger for power, position, and authority and instead points out to them that they needed to be humble, that they needed to be last, and that they needed to be a servant to all. Being a servant was not a title that was powerful, positional, or authoritative. In fact, it was one of the lowliest positions that one could have (next to a slave). I’m sure the disciples were taken back and somewhat horrified that they would find themselves being servants if they wanted to be the first.
  • The entirety of Jesus’ message in this section is really hard for humans to grasp and live because our very nature points us toward pride and arrogance. The very reason that we have fallen is rooted in pride. Desiring to be better then God (or at least equal) put us down the path of being separated from God forever.
  • Jesus spent time alone with his disciples teaching them some of the deepest parts of themselves that they would have to deal with in the coming days. They were a rag tag group of individuals that would literally birth a movement that has survived and thrived (and had bumps) for over 2,000 years. And they started as prideful, arrogant people. What an amazing attribution to Jesus’ grace and mercy in their lives. They learned what it meant to serve others. They learned what it meant to give all glory and honor to Jesus. They learned what it meant to serve others and protect others. They learned what it meant to deal radically with sin indeed. This foundation was necessary as they sought to plant the Church of Jesus.

“Sent.”

I haven’t blogged for quite a while. I’ve been pretty busy working towards other issues and roles in my life. I have been working on http://www.cpwichita.org and trying to figure out what a residency might look like at West Free Church in the future. I thought I would blog a few thoughts that I have jotted down the past few months that have impacted my thinking and living as I continue to understand who God is and who he has called me to be.

I am finishing up teaching the Students in our student ministry these next couple of weeks and we have been going through a series called “Sent.” Alot of the series is focusing on what it looks like to be  a missionary in the context that God has called those that know him and follow him to. In the New Testament, in the book of John alone, we find that Jesus says that he is ‘sent by his Father’ 39 times. Then, he turns around and calls the people that follow him sent by him. This begs the question “What are we sent to or who are we sent to?” And what we find is that our mission is pretty clear. We are to “love God, love others, and serve the world. There are three clear areas of living that we need to engage in.

Love God – Our relationship with the God of the universe seems to be the beginning and crux of what it means to know and follow Jesus. We obey God because God first loved us. It’s not a list of rules, regulations, dos and don’ts, etc… Rather, it is this staggering walk of faith that culminates in following Jesus (Sometimes haphazardly because I am human!)

Love Others – We were created to live in relationship with people. God created Adam, and then created Eve. Relationships are important. Loving others because God first loved us is important. It’s more then loving the people that love us, it’s loving the unlovable, it’s having relationships with those that are down and out, it’s caring for those that are hard to care for. And we don’t do this because we want to ‘get people saved.’ We simply do this because Jesus called us to do this. And his life inspires us toward this. Within this, we find the great commission, the clear mission that Jesus gave us, to “Go and Make Disciples.” We are explicitly sent people in this passage.

Serve the World – We serve out of love. 1 John seems to point out that love must be present in any persons life that knows and follows Jesus. We serve people, we serve our world because we know and follow Jesus.

 

Here are some other thoughts that I wrote down in the past several months.

  • Church Planting is not the goal, Making disciples is the goal and often, making disciples culminates in a planted church.
  • If every person in our established churches saw themselves as and then lived as a missionary, we would have the potential to double the size of Christ followers each year. Currently we experience the opposite outcomes
  • The landscape of our culture and context is always changing. If we are unable to be sent into that culture, we will become unable to reach those that don’t know Jesus.
  • Each person already has a sphere of relationships that they simply need to engage as missionaries.
  • Ultimately, Jesus, God, the Holy Spirit do the work of ‘saving someone.’ But we obey out of love to share the gospel with people that we know.

I’m excited about the precipice that each of us find ourselves on in this area of being “sent.” It’s time to stop talking about being sent and “go.”

 


Church Planting Wichita

In my last take at blogging, I mentioned that I was in the process toward a new role that involved working with church planters and church planting. Officially, I started this role September 19th. It has been an exciting journey of trying to find and assess potential applicants toward being a church planter. I have met alot of really good people so far and a few interesting ones! God seems to continue to work and move in this area of church planting. There is a prayer team that regularly prays for the process and for our first set of residents that we will bring on board. If you are interested in being part of this prayer team, you can email us and let us know that you would like to receive updates and pray for the search.

I am still splitting my time in two different roles. I am working with teenagers and adult leaders to continue partnership with parents in the area of discipling teenagers. We continue to meet weekly as a youth group and are currently going through a series on relationships and sex. It has been an exciting series where we have seen God do some good things in the hearts and the minds of our teenagers. Parents have been able to have conversations in these areas with their teenagers because of the series. Small group leaders have been able to host good discussions during small groups. I will miss youth ministry and will miss the regular interaction with adult leaders. But God has given me the desire for something different, in the area of church planting.

In the area of church planting, I currently spend most of my time networking with those that may be good residents or may know people that might be good residents. What I am finding is that there is an undercurrent of people that are excited about church planting and what it means to rediscover sharing the gospel with a culture that is unreached with the message of hope. Alot of the conversations that I have area excited that churches are moving toward culture and are seeking to share the gospel with others. This seems to be the sentiment from most of the people that I am speaking with. I have been networking with others that are leading a similar strategy in their context (Local church church planting) and also those that might be networking on a grander scale (across cities and even across the nation). This has been a great learning process for me to understand the ins and the outs of church planting as it currently stands in the United States.

As I survey the landscape of church planting, I realize that each context of church planting is different. I have known that US church planting is totally different then Mexico church planting for a long time, but what I was unaware of was that Wichita church planting is totally different then Kansas City Church planting. There are some similarities between all three, but by and large, they are three totally different contexts that must be seen as such.

It is incredibly important that I continue to learn from ‘cross cultural’ church planting models and experiences but also be careful to not adopt the contextual issues only the global principles. I’m excited to continue to grow in this area.

If you are interested in what residency might look like in this area of church planting or what is happening at West E. Free in the area of church planting, you might check out www.westefc.org/cp and enjoy!


What does it mean to be ‘called’ anyway?

The past year and a half for me have been a continuing dialogue with God culminating in an intense conversation with him this summer. People have asked me about the calling that God has asked me to be a part of and how I know that this is what God wants, and all I can do is explain the process of dialogue that I have engaged in over the past year.

February of 2010, our elders and pastoral staff went to “Velocity’ inAtlanta. It was a great trip where we were ignited with a desire to live out the calling that West E. Free has been given to ‘multiply churches that multiply churches to reach our county for Christ.’ It’s a calling that involves way more people then just church planters and it is a calling that, without Jesus Christ leading the way, is impossible for us as humans to really live out in a way that produces what God has called us to. Elders and Pastors came back from the conference excited about what God had for us in this area of calling but unsure exactly of next steps.

When I came back, I had this lingering conversation in my head about my role in this multiplying churches calling. I wondered if maybe God was directing my heart and mind to plant a church inWichita. I wondered if maybe he wanted me to be a part of launch teams helping to start youth ministries. I wondered if he wanted me to be in the youth ministry position that I have been part of the past several years. Late in 2010, I thought that God was moving my heart toward Church planting inWichita(me doing it) and began to read and develop in this area of church planting so that when the timing was right, I would be as ready as I could be.

Early in 2011, there were a few things that I experienced that I knew that God was directing me somewhere other then planting a church. He was saying, “Just hold on, hold tight, and be patient. I’ll clearly direct you when the time is right. Be satisfied with where I have you, but know that you will not stay there.” And so I began to pray more broadly, that God would capture our churches heart in this area of multiplying churches. In March, our elders asked Pastors to pray about and discover a strategy that would help us multiply churches at a rate that would be directly correlated with this concept of reaching our county for Christ. Elders and Pastors spent a month in prayer and when we came back together it was clear that we still needed to discover and put together a strategy. Pastors spent several hours together discussing a strategy for multiplying churches based on “HillCountryBibleChurch” in Austin, Texas. HCBC (www.hcbc.com) has planted 23 churches in the City ofAustin through the past 11 years and has church plants that are 2 generations away from the home church. They are somewhat peculiar in the church planting world because they are focused solely on their city and reaching the city with the gospel. They believe the best way to reach their city with the gospel is by planting churches.

As I have read about and studied church planting, as I have had conversations with church planters currently on that journey, as I have talked to former church planters, it seems to me that the gospel must go forward into a culture and context and out of that gospel being planted in a city, churches are born. To say that we are involved in ‘church planting’ is somewhat inaccurate and it may be more accurate to say that we need to be involved in ‘gospel planting.’ We desire that all people in the city ofWichitahave a chance to know Jesus Christ as their savior and Lord. When people hear the gospel and begin to respond, communities of faith that are sharing Christ with others are born and lead by leaders (we call them Church planters).

During the time that we were developing the strategy, we talked about a position that would be hired by West E. Free Church that would oversee three things at West E. Free.

  1. Assist in developing a culture and lifestyle of evangelism within the West E. Free local church body.
  2. Develop and Oversee a Residency programming by recruiting, training and equipping, and launching church planters and a core team made up of people from West E. Free and people that may or may not know Jesus from outside of any church.
  3. Partner with others in our city who are multiplying churches that multiply churches to reach our county for Christ.

As we talked about this position, I could tell that God began to speak again. I was resistant to this discussion mostly because it was difficult to see myself in this type of role as we developed it. There came a point about 3 weeks after the role was developed and talked about where I was reading through Exodus and reading Chapter 4 where God is having this conversation with Moses. He continues to address Moses’ concerns about leading people out ofEgyptand Moses keeps giving excuses. As I read the dialogue, it was as if God began to say, “I don’t want excuses from you. I want obedience. That is all I desire as a response to the salvation that I have given you. You have not earned it and you are not earning it today. You do what I ask, and I’ll take care of the rest.” It was in that moment that I knew that I needed to apply for the “Pastor of Multiplication” position here at West E. Free.

Even weeks after this decision and conversation with God, I still had a lot of excuses. I still have a lot of anxiety and questions. I still have a lot of deficiencies in this area that I know God will have to work in spite of if I am to be involved in this role. But God is a God of using people that are weak so that his glory might be made clear and shown brightly. And I’m excited about that!

Many parts of the dialogue I have not gone into detail about. I could tell you about the countless conversations that I had with my wife. I could tell you about the conversations that I had with different mentors and friends that helped shape and guide the conversation between God and I. Sharing with you about the scripture that was directed toward me and that I read in my quiet times daily would be something that I could sit down and show you. All of those things were integral in the process of ‘calling.’ For many, ‘calling’ seems ambiguous and the truth is, it can be! In this case, God has clearly directed my heart and mind towards obedience in this particular area.

One of the more difficult parts of this whole discussion has been my own love for students and parents and leaders here at West E. Free. I love youth ministry and I love what God is doing in the families here. Not being able to be integrally involved in that in the future will be incredibly difficult, but again, is part of the call to obey in this area. I shared with parents, leaders, and students this past Sunday night where God is calling me and to what area he is leading me and my family. That was hard. My dream is that in the position that God calls me to, I will have the opportunity to help launch 10 youth ministries around our city that impact teenagers all over. But not being involved to the level that I have been involved with is still painful, as exciting as that dream is. In a different role at West E. Free, I have not ended any relationships with anyone, in fact, it will just be a little different relationship then I have had in the past. Relationships don’t end and that’s a good thing! My prayer and hope if I get to be involved in this new role at West E. Free is that students are living ‘missionally’ (as missionaries in whatever context they live in, school, neighborhoods, etc) and share the gospel with people that don’t know Christ regularly. They are going to be key to our church living as a church that understands and lives out a lifestyle of evangelism.

Some have asked about next steps in the process of this dialogue. Now that I have applied, elders here at West E. Free will meet on September 8th to decide whether or not to recommend me to the congregation for a vote to change roles. Then, if that recommendation is affirmative, there will be a congregation vote. I’m excited about the process and to see what God will do.

Regardless of where God puts me within the context of West E. Free, I know that I need to be involved with planting the gospel and churches somehow. God has to work to draw people to himself as we see churches planted in our county and begin to see our county saturated with the gospel.

If you would like to know more or dialogue with me more about this, email me at chris@westefc.org and I would love to share more. If you would like to give input or have questions for elders at West E. Free, please contact Pastor Ken Cooper via email.


In the Moment, I forget the Past

Sometimes, in the moment in life of something hard or difficult, I forget what God has done with me in the past. In a moment of fear or trepidation, I forget that the God I serve has been a God of peace and wisdom and has led me through these types of times in my life.

I saw the following come across my facebook newsfeed from Youversion. I have been doing daily readings with Youversion for quite some time (because they are delivered to my phone and they can be read out loud to me as I drive). I am really looking forward to this particular five-day reading of God’s Word because it will remind me of God’s faithfulness in the past. Personally, it’s something that I must get better at if I am going to celebrate God’s goodness in the future!

If you are reading the five-day plan with me, comment below!

Click here for the Five Day Reading plan focused on God’s faithfulness in the past.


James 1

During my time on vacation, I have been looking at James. It’s a great book and I have remembered why it is one of my favorites. As I read chapter 1 a few days ago, I was reminded of a summer many years ago when I worked at Hidden Acres Christian Camp as a counselor and was required to memorize this particular section of scripture. At the time, it seemed like a trial in and of itself! But looking back, it was one of the most helpful sections of scripture that I have ever hidden in my heart.

When there are things in my life that are hard, that are difficult to navigate, I often remember this particular passage.

James 1:

2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.5 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.6 But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.7 That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord;

Sea...Blown and Tossed by the Wind

8 he is a double‑minded man, unstable in all he does. 
9 The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position.10 But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower.

11 For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business.

I currently am not experiencing hardship in my life but I know that there are seasons that come and go and clinging to God’s Word in EVERY season is what I want to be doing.