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Never Thought I’d Say This But… We’re Church Planting………… Again!

It was almost a year ago, back in December 2013 when the thought first entered my mind, and it was not a welcome thought at all.

I was serving at a solid church and had a stable position there as senior pastor, was getting settled in Katy, and together with my wife and kids, were building a life out here in the ‘burbs of Houston. Everything was going right. But on the wrong track, it felt like, and a radical course adjustment was needed. I remember reading the words of Peter Drucker, “Whenever you see a successful business, someone once made a courageous decision.” And while the church is not a business, the principle still applies: if your org is going down a different track than what you envisioned, then either get ready for a long ride, or prepare to make a courageous decision – to get onto the right track headed for the vision you have for ministry.

And I knew that it had to be a multiethnic vision reaching all people in Houston.

So as I faced what was then a daunting task, I put my head down and waded right in. I took a lot of heat and had plenty of sleepless nights. I lost my appetite for a while. My ears itched, a lot. Still, I continued through. I had key mentors assure me I was doing the right thing. That was a big confirmation for me; that if these people – who have no qualms about telling me I’m doing something wrong and in fact have done so in the past – if these people who can tell me straight up can say that I am on the right track, then maybe indeed it is a God-thing, and not yet another of Wayne’s darn-fool idealistic crusades.

So I asked God for the courage to persist – alone, if need be, and to my surprise, I discovered that people were seeing the same vision, the same track, and were even prepared to jump onto it with me. That brought tears to my eyes, often. And even those who weren’t on board with it, understood it, and even blessed it, for which I am never sufficiently grateful.

So on July 20th we began gathering in my living room, a core group of 30 adults and 20 children.

We named ourselves Woven Covenant Church.

We came up with a financial plan, as well as a launch plan for this new church.

We formed committees and task teams, working on location, staffing, hiring, marketing, branding, welcoming, programming, etc.

I stepped back, sat down in my chair and watched it unfold(ing) before my eyes. I didn’t have to do much. The people are doing it. It’s high collaboration, and requires minimal management, because we all are heading down the same track: that of a missional church with a multiethnic mission in the suburbs of west Houston.

I sometimes don’t feel like a church planter. In fact, often. I know my skill and gift set does not match that of charismatic leader who is a strong people-gatherer. I’m more of a Russian novelist. Bookish. Alone. Pensive. Reflective. Introspective. Charismatic church leader? Enter identity crisis. I have a lot of pain about this. Really. And I am trying to come to terms with it; that while I must – and should – build up the weaker parts of my personality, I can only naturally lead with my strongest leg. And I can also allow others to operate out of their strengths, leading in ways that I cannot.

So I am thankful for my core team, in knowing me and accepting me as their shepherd, trying to fumble around figuring out Texas football, with my endless Lord of the Rings analogies, and pie-in-the-sky idealism.

woven_kids01 woven_tables01 woven_core01 woven_kids02 woven_families01 woven_house01

Robin Williams and the Disease of Alcoholism

RW01

I was recently hanging with some friends who are recovered / recovering alcoholics and it fascinated me as I observed how Robin Williams’ death reverberated throughout the community. Williams was a recovered alcoholic himself, with 20 yrs of sobriety at one point, and while I would not readily associate his death to a relapse in years past (it must have been more complicated than that), I know it triggered something in the community of the recovering. What seemed common was the disturbing reminder: “You see, addiction kills after all.”

And while I am not an alcoholic myself, I do resonate with this sad reminder that “falling off the wagon” can end a career, a marriage, a family, and a life, even.

This sobering reminder is why I have always been drawn to people who have been to the edge of hell and back and lived to tell about it; as a minister I need to know that grace + hope is real; that redemption is a tangible thing, that I am not betting on the wrong horse by wagering on life, love, and happiness instead of the dark horse of misery, hopelessness, nihilism, and despair.

Hope against hope is the essence of what I’m talking about.

Whenever I see a recovering anything it gives me hope in the Gospel.

If you are a recovering anything with real progress, not perfection, you encourage me – tremendously. You materialize my faith.

The Gospel compels me to hope that anybody can turn around, even the worst son-of-a-gun, that there is hope. That is why I am a Christian today.

Which is why Williams’ death is throwing so many for a loop; someone so bright, so vibrant, so loving, and now, so gone… is shaking up recovering people everywhere. While I am making no presumptions about his religion, I do know that he gave a lot of people hope.

And sometimes even the loss of hope is a sobering reminder to the rest of us – not to lose hope itself. To keep coming back. To hang on, one moment, one hour, one day at a time.

Holy Week Good Friday: Stepping Out Of The Cave

platosCave01

GOOD FRIDAY, April 18

Mark 10:50 Throwing aside his cloak, he jumped up and came to Jesus. 51 And answering him, Jesus said, “What do you want Me to do for you?” And the blind man said to Him, “Rabboni, I want to regain my sight!” 52 And Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and began following Him on the road.

There were three prisoners in a cave. Facing the wall, they knew nothing of the outside world, only the dancing shadows on the wall cast by the light of the fire behind them. This was their reality. Until a liberator came, to free them from their chains, to turn and face the reality outside the cave. The first prisoner refused, “Are you mad? This is reality right here!” And he never averted his gaze from the wall. The second prisoner stirred as he heard the voice of the liberator. But he just could not tear his gaze away from the transfixing images on the wall. The third prisoner looked away just long enough for the liberator to capture his attention: “There is another world out there, far more real than this – ” to which the noble prisoner responded “then take me there, I want to see.”

Blind Bartimaeus’ request in verse 51: “Rabboni, I want to regain my sight” is eerily contrastive amidst so much pervasive and self-deluding blindness in these recent passages in Mark. James and John don’t get it. Neither do the disciples in their failed attempts at exorcism. Even Peter seems to miss the mark, with an answer so close yet so far. Bartimaeus seems to be the only one to admit he cannot see in the first place.

Poor, blind, and noble Bartimaeus. Who wants to regain sight. He is the first to tear his gaze from the wall. The first to step out of the cave. Even “throws aside” his possessions for it (his cloak… contrast this with the rich young ruler prior). “I want to regain my sight.” How often are we willing to make such an admission? We are too often, too snugly know-it-alls. God grant us the grace to see we need to regain something. Grace. Love. Understanding. Faith. Sight. Humility.

Last thought.

Jesus says it again. “What do you want Me to do for you?” That’s not a coincidence. I think the wording is deliberately chosen there, echoing vs. 36 previously. And all this time He has been talking about how “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve” (vs. 45).

Two postures to take with us into Good Friday, as we keep our vigil by the side of the cross: 1: a desire to see / regain sight, and 2: a servant posture asking, “What do you want me to do for you?”

- PW


This Holy Week, we at Harvest will be bringing to you daily reflections from Pastor Wayne’s study through Mark to aid you in your own personal reflection and prayers throughout this last week of Lent. If you are in the Houston area, join us for EASTER SUNDAY at Harvest at 9:30am!

 

Holy Week Maundy Thursday: Seeing With Eyes To See

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MAUNDY THURSDAY, April 17

Mark 10:46 Then they came to Jericho. And as He was leaving Jericho with His disciples and a large crowd, a blind beggar named Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the road. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus the Nazarene, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48 Many were sternly telling him to be quiet, but he kept crying out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 49 And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him here.” So they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take courage, stand up! He is calling for you.”

Many years ago a boy born with congenital blindness was offered a then-state of the art corneal transplant. After the lengthy recovery and the bandages were removed, the momentous occasion signaled the obvious pressing question: “What do you see?” To which an equally unremarkable response: “I don’t know.” The boy perceived a varying brightness in front of him. Requesting to touch that moving thing, and upon making eye-hand contact with the physician’s waving hand, he excitedly exclaimed, “It’s moving!” Doctors and philosophers alike learned at that moment that “turning on the lights” does not necessitate sight, but the ability to see had still to be learned; light and eyes were not enough, and in that regard to give back sight to a congenitally blind person was just as much the work of an educator as it was of a surgeon.

Jesus was very much concerned in this passage (and in the preceding) with spiritual sight, as much as He was concerned with physical sight. This story of the blind man in many ways frames the larger theme of spiritual sight and (in)ability to see “with eyes to see and ears to hear.” And along the way, surprisingly, it is so often the blind who are given access to true Sight while those who think they see the most are truly blind.

Don’t be deluded; is your “sight” Sight?

For true seeing is so often precipitated by the admission that we don’t yet see, or understand yet. In that sense, Easter is for the doubting, for the faltering. It is in this posture, this admission that “I do not yet see” that we can be granted sight as a gift; I have been reading the classic by C.S. Lewis, Surprised By Joy. What an apt title. In his pursuit of Joy, it eluded, and only in the admission of its loss did it come as surprise.

These remaining Holy Days stay your vigil. Your number WILL be called. It will surprise you when it comes. And you will be blessed. So “Take courage, stand up! He is calling for you.”
– PW


This Holy Week, we at Harvest will be bringing to you daily reflections from Pastor Wayne’s study through Mark to aid you in your own personal reflection and prayers throughout this last week of Lent. If you are in the Houston area, join us for EASTER SUNDAY at Harvest at 9:30am!

Holy Week Wednesday: The Upside-Down Community

Keith Haring, Ten Commandments

WEDNESDAY, April 16

41 Hearing this, the ten began to feel indignant with James and John. 42 Calling them to Himself, Jesus said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them. 43 But it is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; 44 and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

Years ago in the 1960’s, Illinois was issuing automobile license plates, starting with the number “1”. Paul Powell, then Illinois secretary of state, had to decide who would get the much-coveted number. Much to the indignation of thousands, he decided to solve the problem by assigning it to himself. His reason? “I’m not about to assign it to someone and make about a thousand other people feel hurt.” So he conveniently assigned it to himself.

The opportunism and the resentfulness directed at it is not lost on us in today’s passage. By seeking to be “first in line” the Zebedee brothers took self-help profiteering to ugly new heights. And we all feel indignant about it. Because we wish we had done it first. They were only smarter and faster. Next time we will be.

And thus begins the vicious cycle of envy, jealousy, ambition, competitiveness, and finally unbridled will to power.

See how devilish we become.

C.S. Lewis, in remarking on his own beginning transformation into the Christian faith recognized the stark, unbudging evil within: “For the first time I examined myself with a seriously practical purpose. And there I found what appalled me; a zoo of lusts, a bedlam of ambitions, a nursery of fears, a harem of fondled hatreds. My name was legion.”

Of all the unchallenged evils within us, will to power seems to be the most tolerated, almost acceptable in society. After all we live by the maxims, “the early bird gets the worm”, “God helps those who help themselves.”

I warn against such unbridled self-preservation.

The Gospel of the Upside-Down Community challenges this notion of unabashed self-advancement, and replaces it with the counter-cultural notion of placing others first; not subjugating but serving, not wielding power but giving it up.

This Holy Week we are reminded that “even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” May you find deep dignity and gratification as you re-direct your self-will towards others instead and live a life of service and unselfishness.

- PW


This Holy Week, we at Harvest will be bringing to you daily reflections from Pastor Wayne’s study through Mark to aid you in your own personal reflection and prayers throughout this last week of Lent. If you are in the Houston area, join us for EASTER SUNDAY at Harvest at 9:30am!

Holy Week Tuesday: “What Do You Want Me To Do For You?”

Jesus washes his disciples' feet - John 13:1-17

TUESDAY, April 15th

35 James and John, the two sons of Zebedee, came up to Jesus, saying, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask of You.” 36 And He said to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?” 37 They said to Him, “Grant that we may sit, one on Your right and one on Your left, in Your glory.” 38 But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” 39 They said to Him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you shall drink; and you shall be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized. 40 But to sit on My right or on My left, this is not Mine to give; but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”

When I was about five or six, I was visiting Coney Island with my dad. We stood before The Cyclone, a legendary, rickety roller coaster that seemed as benign to me as the rollercoasters I saw people riding on TV. Until I actually got in the seat and began the horrifying ascent towards the sky, feeling every rail tick and crick by, I realized how deluded I really was about the actual experience; I endured ten minutes of sheer and constant torture that culminated with me back on the ground, vomiting up all of my previously-eaten ice cream. Of course before all this began, before I hopped in the saddle, my dad would ask me with a bemused, knowing look on his face… “Are you able to do this?” “Positive” I said. “I am able.”

Fresh off the heels of Jesus’ grim pronouncement, the Zebedee brothers are looking out for number one: themselves. It is opportunism, profiteering, and self-seeking at its worst. Add to the mix that they really “did not know what they were asking.” Jesus seems to patiently go along with their little pipe dream of glory, without bursting their bubble: “Are you able to do this?” When they say succinctly, “We are able”, I get the sense they still don’t know what they’ve really signed up for. The roller coaster life of discipleship – the actual experience of it – would be no joyride, and it would indeed culminate with their “drinking the same cup” and “being baptized with the same baptism” of Christ.

Knowing in retrospect what He’s talking about, would you still get on the ride?

There is another thing about this passage too important not to mention at least briefly, in closing. Keep it in mind because it will come up again later. Jesus asks, “What do you want me to do for you?” This deliberately worded phrase is repeated again later on. Amidst all the talk of glory and titles, Jesus is waiting tables. He is service-minded. He will mention later on about how the true path to glory is not in “subjugating” or “wielding power over others” (literal translations) but coming in and among as waiters, attendants, servants, slaves. One of my professors at Regent, J.I. Packer describes being a servant as “devoting time, trouble, and substance.”

If I can summarize what servanthood means for me today:

It is stepping outside of myself to do for others what has no benefit for me; simply giving for the joy of giving. The result is something no self-seeking can attain – deep and abiding Joy, selfless Joy.

May we find another Way, another Path to glory this week that is not through accolades, ambition, and accomplishment, but rather the way of constant downward movement, subverting our own impulses to power, and taking the posture of servants instead.

- PW


This Holy Week, we at Harvest will be bringing to you daily reflections from Pastor Wayne’s study through Mark to aid you in your own personal reflection and prayers throughout this last week of Lent. If you are in the Houston area, join us for EASTER SUNDAY at Harvest at 9:30am!

Holy Week Monday: Facing Our Fears

Kramskoĭ, Ivan Nikolaevich, 1837-1887

MONDAY, April 14th

Mark 10:32 They were on the road going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking on ahead of them; and they were amazed, and those who followed were fearful. And again He took the twelve aside and began to tell them what was going to happen to Him, 33 saying, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death and will hand Him over to the Gentiles. 34 They will mock Him and spit on Him, and scourge Him and kill Him, and three days later He will rise again.”

Fourteen years ago I began the Journey of the rest of my life, as I packed all my possessions – crammed, really – into a little 4-door Toyota Corolla stick shift, purchased just for the occasion. I was leaving home. For good. And as I made my way across the country, every day a piece of me died, while another part came alive; I was excited, but sad. Above all, I was resolute. There was no turning back. A new life waited for me at my destination.

Jesus here possesses a similar resoluteness; but it’s far more scarier, because what awaits Him is not an exciting new life, but certain death – AND THEN new life. He is “on the road” – not in the sense that he’s yet on another journey or camping trip, but that He’s on THE Road, resolute, towards Jerusalem, and towards the Cross. No turning back. This Holy Week, think of that. See His resolve. “Not my will but Thine be done.” I sometimes have to pray that prayer repeatedly just to make it through the day. Pray that prayer yourself.

33 Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered… condemned… handed over… mocked… spit on… scourged… and killed. The verbs spit out like a barrage of machine gun fire. In the Greek, these terrible words almost have a rhythmic lyricism about them. In fact, they rhyme! And in such a matter-of-fact way, Mark’s Jesus just drills them out, one by one, like poetry. It’s the only way to prepare for the trauma to come: list it out. Say what’s coming. Let them know. Prepare to be unprepared for the traumatic pain of the cross and rejection.

“Not my will but Thine be done.”

How many times did Jesus say that muttering under His breath along “the road” even as He “walked on ahead of them”. How many times must we say that ourselves, in just living our lives, asking for the courage to do the right thing? Sure it’s not the cross and scourgings and terrible rejection, but we all to some degree must say that over and over again as we continue on the Journey:

“Not my will but Thine be done.”

This Holy Week may we enter into a posture of acceptance and surrender. May God bless you all as we approach both His cross and ours.

- PW


This Holy Week, we at Harvest will be bringing to you daily reflections from Pastor Wayne’s study through Mark to aid you in your own personal reflection and prayers throughout this last week of Lent. If you are in the Houston area, join us for EASTER SUNDAY at Harvest at 9:30am!

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