Weekly Gatherings

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Weekly gatherings. These are two words I have been thinking and praying about for a long time. Starting October 12, the goal is to have weekly small group meetings in our home. The goal is to put into practice our vision of being a family of God drawn to Jesus, challenged by his message, and released out as missionaries. So we will have a small family of about 10 adults and 5 children. That number may grow as we gear up to October 12, but we shall see and keep praying. The group is an intentionally one made up of Christians with leadership ability and talent who can give shape to a public launch starting in January.

Church planting requires flexibility. The original goal was to meet on October 5 in our house. However, Christ the King Presbyterian Church would like to commission the team first and October 5 works best for them. So we are now gearing up to the logistics of meeting in our home. We have had two worship team practices thus far, and there’s another team working on planning the details of our morning together. How should we be caring and ministering to our children? What should we eat and how should we do it? What does the actual worship experience look like? How does the liturgy fit within the context of our own living room?

So our weekly small group worship gatherings will be launching softly on October 12. We will keep it small and grow slowly. We hope the Spirit will draw others in, that the Spirit will convict us with Christ’s message, and to wisely, lovingly, gently, passionately, mercifully, and contextually go as missionaries. Please join us in this prayer, and if you are a Christian, may you continue to discover how to reach our world effectively.

Be Thou Our Vision


This past week marked the very first official meeting for Resurrection Life Church. Four of us gathered for a worship team practice in the fellowship hall of First Reformed Church of Cary during a tremendously active thunderstorm this past Tuesday. We sang towards the heavens in worship while the heavens boomed and poured rain downwards. I told the group that I was a little nervous, so I did what I always do when I am nervous leading a group. I talk. Fortunately the group was made up of gracious listeners, and in the end it was important to talk through the worship vision of Resurrection Life Church.
We sang a collection of songs from an array of ages and styles. The very first song we sang was a prayer. I chose this hymn intentionally to set the context for the evening and for all future planning for worship. Anything we plan for the future needs to fit in line with God’s vision. Being a visionary church planter is emphasized in the church planting world. You have to set the direction. Be confident in that direction. Look to the future and what do you see. These sentiments are all instructive. In fact, I spent a significant amount of time praying and reflecting on a vision statement last year. It’s created, and I am actually surprised that I am still sold on it. It goes like this:
Resurrection Life Church is a family of God drawn to Jesus, challenged by his message, and released as missionaries. But having a vision statement is one thing, trusting that the Lord will be in the drivers seat for each inch of the journey ahead is another thing. That’s why we need to continue to pray that the Lord himself will be our vision. That the Holy Spirit will be the One pushing prodding, and punching our insides to follow Jesus into God’s preferred future.
The first song we sang on Tuesday night was
Be Thou My Vision. The music’s elegance and beauty bonds perfectly with the deep and profound lyrics.
Are you letting God be your vision? Do you have a set time in the day to ask Him to be your vision?

Isolated


Music always serves as a great source of encouragement for me. Here’s a new, fun and challenging song that has encouraged me recently.


Life as a parachuting church planter has, at times, been an isolating experience. That’s not all that bad though.

Last month, my family squished into our van and spent time in Drayton, Ontario. The connections, networks, and relationships were sudden and wonderful. We stopped by Hamilton and spent an afternoon with friends. We spent quality time with family. We all went to church together on Sunday and capped things off with a Blue Jays game with old friends. The depth and ease of connectivity felt so natural and normal.

Now that I am back in North Carolina, the sense of connectivity is different. Being geographically distant from older relationships requires one to be more intentional with them. At least it does for me. Email, Facebook, Skype, Google Hangout, blogging, and the good old telephone are tools to help out. However, at this stage of the game of church planting, a growing awareness of isolation from that which is so familiar remains. Fortunately Heather’s parents are nearby. I have been visiting North Carolina for 11 years now, so their home feels like home. Fortunately local relationships are blossoming, but blossoming is associated with springtime and new beginnings. As excited as I am about nurturing these new relationships, I still feel like a bit like an island. I am not at the point where I feel lonely, but the distance between isolation and loneliness is short.

When we moved into Hamilton in 2006, Christian Reformed Church pastors and churches were a dime a dozen. The moment we stepped inside the doors of Immanuel Christian Reformed Church was the moment we were plugged into a network of literally thousands of people. We were thrown into immediate community with its own culture, expectations, obligations, networks, and reputations. All these things fed my extroverted soul (and my ego a bit too...).

A personality test this past week confirmed how much I do value deep and wide connections. My church planting coach asked me to participate in a test that discovers what my core values are. The test took about 10-15 minutes to complete, and the results contained some of the most insightful reflections about how I am wired. Some of what it revealed I already knew about myself. I make decisions by talking and need to explore all options before I make them. I like working with a team. Here’s a quote to give you a sense of who I am when I am at my best:

Your cornerstone core value is love. Building and sustaining relationships is central to your life's strategy. You are constantly working to know and understand the truth about yourself and others. You like to have a good sense of connection between what you are doing today and what you see in your future. You like discovering new possibilities, and you consistently watch for them. Nothing feels right when the people you value are distant or are in conflict. You have a natural enthusiasm and like to be in situations that are fully engaging and energized. No potential plan, idea or possibility gets by you. A core strategy for you is to work effectively with others. Share your knowledge and information with others; you enjoy it and others appreciate it. You are good at getting others to work for and with you. Choosing your words carefully works well for you. Feeling a sense of togetherness with people gives you confidence. You like a new charge in your life and you like to be the charge in the lives of others. You like to trust people and to share yourself with them freely. You enjoy lots of different people and activities. Charm and enthusiasm are part of your arsenal for success.

The report is extensive and it reveals the positive ways in which your core values facilitate success. At the same time, it also reveals how your dark side rears its ugly head if your core values are not regularly nurtured. Because a geographical distance exists between me and older relationships and networks, and because my core values thrive within relationships and networks, I have to be extra intentional to maintain them and at the same time ensure that deep common journeys exist with people locally. Church planting requires new relationships to be pursued in order to create new community. This work still feels new, and it always feels vulnerable. Part of me feels like a child asking others in a playground, “Do you want to be my friend?” Church planting is also like the dating process because you wonder, “Is this person interested in me?” It’s like marriage too, because these relationships are covenantal. The community we seek to grow will include vows, baptisms, Lord’s Suppers, and God’s Word.
So rather than spill more about who I am, let me ask you this. What are your core values? What type of presence do you add to a room full of people? In what ways has God wired you to connect with your neighbors? Do you want to know or not (and what does that say about your core values)?
A professor in seminary always challenged us: Know Thyself. Knowing oneself is an important part of one’s spiritual journey, and I want to encourage you to keep learning in order to love.
Love God.
Love neighbor.
As thyself.