As you read this blog, please listen to a song my brother Brad introduced to me a few weeks ago. The song is entitled
All (#7) on the album Arrabon above. If you do listen to it, it is important to listen to the whole thing.

Did you listen to it? If you are a Christian, did you feel the power of the phrases:

“Nothing without You.”

“You are all.”

“Everything I need in You.”

“Nothing in this world can satisfy me, Lord... because You are

Black Friday trumped Thanksgiving Day. In a sense, this is a snapshot of our brokenness. I am not here to make those who shopped this past weekend guilty. My point is to use Black Friday’s encroaching onto Thanksgiving as an analogy of the way humanity defines itself as opposed to the way God defines us in Christ. The Christian’s primary identity is son and daughter. Christians are placed into an eternal family. We are adopted and full
inheritors of God’s goodness and grace.

We are not consumers. We were not created to consume. We are not targets for marketers. Our identity is not in what we purchase, but in the one who purchased us.

Christians are sons and daughters purchased by the blood of the Lamb. Nothing we purchase can fill or fulfill. Nothing we buy can fix the internal battle of dissatisfaction with our current state of affairs. Black Friday feeds humanity’s dark side. Black Friday reveals our brokenness and thank
lessness. Black Friday has become the gateway of Christmas. Somehow the gift of God’s Son has been replaced by the gifts of stuff. Somehow the season of Thanksgiving has been replaced by the buying of stuff. Black Friday’s greatest temptation is to live out our thanksgiving by buying more stuff. Culture’s marriage of Thanksgiving and Black Friday gives us a false sense of Thanksgiving. It’s not a thanksgiving of what was and is, but what I can do tomorrow (or tonight) at my store of choice. Humanity has the insatiable desire to accumulate the easy and cheap. The Gospel, however, was difficult and expensive. It cost the life of God’s only Son. That sacrifice suffices. That sacrifice fills and fulfills.

So the Bible presents to us an alternative message. Christ gave it all, so we can have it all. Resurrecting Thanksgiving to it’s rightful place of solidarity this week is so important. Tis the season for thanks to God and for His provision. Tis the season for thanks to God for His Son. Tis the seasons of grace! Not one action on our part enhances or confirms grace. Grace is what happens to us. Grace tells us that we don’t add an ounce to our salvation. Jesus did it
all. Thanksliving allows us to live lives of gratitude for what was. It rests in the fact that we cannot add a single thing to salvation. It’s a gift that solves it all. All problems. All depression. All sin. All brokenness. All fear. All displeasure in one’s appearance. All pride. All injustice. Grace dubs us a daughter of Christ. Grace dubs us a son of Christ. To quote the lyrics of All, God is full of grace. He is all we need. He is ever present. Ever faithful. Ever true. God is all!

This week we cry out,
You are everything we need. Everything. Everything. Everything.

This countercultural message is the old, old story. It reminds us who we are in Christ, what Christ has done for us, and what we were saved for.

I’ll end with words from Ephesians 2 as a way to remind us to live in thanks for what God has done for us in Jesus Christ:

Ephesians 2:8-10
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Comfort and Danger of Starbucks

I love Starbucks. The coffee is amazing. The internet is fast. The music is hip. They promote stewardship of the earth. They have slogans like “Share joy,” or “Earthy and herbal for a season of thanks and giving.” I admit, Starbuck’s marketing lifts my self-esteem. I love all types of coffee shops though. Caribou Coffee is another favorite of mine. For you Hamiltonians, I do miss Williams by Pier 4. I miss writing sermons there. I do miss Tim Hortons, but for different reasons. Tim’s did not provide power outlets for long hours of work. I enjoyed Tim’s on days off.

I spend more time at Starbucks because there is a new one in Holly Springs. Only chains like Starbucks can afford the ridiculous rental fees popping up in new strip malls. Local coffee shops are coming soon.

Coffee shops provide for my extroverted self strength to get work done. My headphones cup my ears and cancel out noise. I can focus on a commentary or my computer or a commentary on my computer. Just the presence of people around me boosts my energy like osmoses. The coffee helps too.

But the problem with Starbucks is that you can get stuck. It can be a Stuckbucks. Church planting is about pursuit. You need to pursue people and relationships. You need to strike up conversation with perfect strangers. Sitting in a Starbucks by yourself does not build relationships. Going to food kitchens, volunteering here and there, attending town council meetings, walking to stores, visiting the chamber of commerce, playing basketball with people you do not know, supporting local businesses do. My mechanic is hooking me up with all sorts of contacts! Coaching gymnastics introduces all sorts of memorable conversations with coaches, parents, and, of course, the kids. My Vacation Bible School personality comes out when I coach, and it is a blast. Camping out at Christ the King Presbyterian Church for weekly worship has also connected us with all sorts of folks- even potential church launch team members!

So there is a comfort in Starbucks, but there is also a danger. It is a comfortable bubble. The coffee and atmosphere is so cozy. The baristas feel like my friends. But staying here can give the illusion that I am in the world rubbing shoulders with strangers, where in fact it can be a place of escape. Church planters need to be in coffee shops, but they cannot get stuck there. The world is dangerous, but in fact, Starbucks is too. The illusion it gives is dangerous. Jesus entering our existence was dangerous. He died violently. Knowing that he would die violently and still go through with the incarnation is the ultimate example for us. Christians are not called to stay stuck inside the cozy and comfortable. We must dare to care for those in this world who have no hope. It is uncomfortable. It is not cozy. But we have God’s spiritual armor (see
Ephesians 6:10-20) to help.

What is your cozy zone? Does it blind and disable you from a relationship with Christ that will push you out into this world?

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
- Paul writing to the church in Philippi: Philippians 2:5-11


Timing to Plant

Over the past week, I have been discerning as to the exact time we should start holding worship services. Here’s why: This past week I talked to two different new churches. One church was planted 3 years ago by two friends. I met these two pastors over lunch who said their first worship service was simply their two families. They slowly grew from there. Three years later, they have about 40 people regularly attending.

Another pastor I talked to is starting a new church in Florida. After just a few months of being on site, he started weekly worship services. The first service had 30 people. He was praying hard that people would show up. People did. He advertised in the local paper, he used Facebook, and he handed out invitations.

These two stories present two completely different methods of planting a church. The first method is focused on doing life together. They have hardly advertised for compelling theological reasons. They simply want to grow through the development of meaningful relationships. These two pastors would get a standing ovation from a lot of church planting authors right now.
Doing life together is a mantra I read over and over again right now.

The second method of just setting up shop, advertising, getting the name out any way possible, and then holding weekly worship services (yes, two
different worship services a Sunday) without a large launch core is not heralded as the way to plant a church. At least, that’s what the current voice says, but this voice feels more like a trend. I am learning that trends change quickly in this business.

Talking to the two planters from the three year old church has inspired me to remember that deep and common relationships are key to both evangelism and discipleship. However, talking to the planter from Florida has inspired me to make sure I do not wait too long to start the actual worship service. This planter reminded me of a valuable theological truth: God works through the preaching of the Word, and people will be drawn to that.

Right now we are praying about the timing of when we should start meeting. We do not want to meet too early, we do not want to meet too late (most recommend having a core of 40 people
before one meets for worship!). But we will meet at some point! It is what we are working towards, but the butterflies flitter when I think about it.

Resurrection Life

This blog is intended to introduce the name and vision of this new church plant. The name is Resurrection Life Church. There is a lot that goes into a name. Believe me, this blog could be much longer.

What is the vision of Resurrection Life?
A church family drawn to Jesus, challenged by his message, and released to southwest Wake County.

Why this vision?
Drawn to Jesus finds its roots in a story found in the Book of Mark. A rich, young ruler in the first century is drawn to a man named Jesus. He asks Jesus, "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus responds by challenging this young and powerful man to obey different laws handed down throughout their ancestry. The rich, young ruler responds with a slight swagger in his voice, "I've kept all these laws my whole life."

Jesus challenges him with a life changing choice, "You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

The grip of wealth and power is too strong for this young man. He walks away from the offer to give up everything to follow Jesus. He was drawn to Jesus, challenged by his message, but left stuck to his stuff as opposed to discovering real freedom following Jesus.

In another story, Jesus meets a woman across enemy lines at an ancient water well. Jesus is a Jew. She is a Samaritan. The two ethnic groups do not get along in the first century. But Jesus strikes up a conversation with this woman. Jesus reveals to her that he knows she has been married five times, and the man she is living with right now is not her husband. She draws water shocked by the fact that Jesus knows these facts about her. She concludes that Jesus is a prophet. Jesus ends the conversation sharing that he's not merely a prophet, he's the Christ! He's the one the Jews, Samaritans, and every other ethnic group on the planet has been waiting for!

The difference between the rich, young, ruler and this Samaritan woman is cosmic. The Samaritan woman does not leave stuck in her sin. Instead, she's changed on the spot and becomes a missionary to her family and friends back home. She's released with this Good News that the Messiah has come, and he's come to change everything about us! The resurrected life the young ruler was looking for isn't found in obeying laws. It's not found in being bound to lots of stuff, to youth, to power. The Resurrected Life can be experienced in this life when we follow Jesus.

It's about being drawn to Jesus, challenged and changed in order to be released as missionaries too.

Jesus made it possible for modern day rich, young, ruling men and women to live Resurrection Life. He has freed Samaritan women and men to live the Resurrection Life. How? Jesus chose to give up his life for us. Through his death on the cross by Roman crucifixion, Jesus surrendered his life so that we can receive eternal life. True freedom is found when we live for Jesus and follow him. We follow him and learn from Jesus' example to give up our own brokenness, wealth, power, prestige, and our own modern day idols for his sake. Being drawn to Jesus isn't enough. We need to experience the freedom found in his challenge to follow Jesus so that we can be released to share the good news of our Risen King named Jesus. When you experience Resurrection Life, you experience true freedom and true purpose.

So what is the resurrected life? It's surrendering everything for the sake of others- especially the poor- in order to follow Jesus.

So come, be drawn to Jesus, be challenged by his message, and be released with resurrection life into southwest Wake County.


Church Plants

Ephesians 4:1-6: Live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Last weekend we had some friends visiting from Hamilton. We had a great time, part of which was spent in Holly Springs at Hollyfest. Hollyfest is an annual free event geared mainly for parents with small children. It had an impressive free line-up: live music, multiple inflatable jumping contraptions, a rock climbing tower, and I even witnessed my first ever pig racing event. I was fortunate enough to catch the final race. Three piglets run in a circle and gallup to the prize at the end of the race. It was pretty cool.

The one surprising thing we found at Hollyfest was three church plants. All three had booths with free give aways, and (this was the most compelling part) people. Two of these church plants will be beginning the same Sunday in January. The other one is currently meeting already in a small venue downtown Holly Springs. So as I’m walking around Hollyfest, my mind reacts. My first reaction was, “There’s competition!” Another reaction was, “How will our new church plant fit into this new community?”

As you can see, my reactions weren’t entirely holy. Pride and self-preservation kicks in pretty quickly. However, another thought overpowered others as I continued to walk around: How can I connect with these churches in ways that will mutually benefit one another? Obviously, our church plant is further behind in the journey, which means that there is an incredible amount I can learn from these new upstarts. There’s also the matter of calling. If God has called us to southwest Wake County to plant a church, then gut reactions like fear and pride are the wrong ones. It’s not about competition, it’s about Kingdom. The eye can not say to the ear, “I don’t need you.” We will need one another, especially if all these new churches are to survive. Statistically speaking, the odds are against us. However, planting a church in this community with an attitude of togetherness, unity, community, Kingdom, collaboration, partnership, and Spirit-led calling is the only way any of these new churches will take root and thrive. Finally, the reality is even if all these new churches became a thousand members in the next year, there are still plenty of unchurched folks around. Hopefully more church plants will be coming our way!

Matthew 9:37: Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.”