Wearing Saul’s Armor

beyourself3

I’ve been preaching a 3-part miniseries on “Moneyisms” pertaining to Biblical perspectives on money, giving, and this week, stewardship (1/12/14 to 1/26/14). As I conclude the series this week one image has lingered in my mind pertaining to stewardship; that of wearing someone else’s armor – that we cannot steward what we don’t have and certainly cannot attempt to steward what is someone else’s responsibility and not ours for the time being.

The bane of too many young pastors and planters is the starry-eyed covetousness of the rockstar pastor persona, that someday we wish to shoulder their “burden” of fame and wish it upon ourselves. The problem with that is simply that it is not stewardship. Stewardship of our own lot that God has gifted – yes gifted – us with. The more we look at what others have, the more we wind up neglecting and even burying our own talents.

Need we be reminded that we are not called to fame or fad but to faithfulness, that God respects the one who stewards what THEY have, beit five, or two, or one talent. His expectation is not successful return, but responsible stewardship of what was given us – in the recognition that it ALL – fame, money, success, power, authority, influence – none of it belonged to us anyway. It was granted on loan, with expectation of good and faithful returns – in a word, stewardship.

So I can say with David (and a bit of cheekiness, I might add), keep your armor, I haven’t tested it yet; I prefer that which is familiar to me; the earthiness of the 5 smooth stones – that which I know so well – that is what I will steward. Faithfully. Responsibly.

Church Planting for Atheists

freeatheism

With the recent hoopla of the new phenomenon of “Atheist churches” popping up in Europe and America, and their very first apparent “schism”, I wanted to offer my (free) professional consulting on how this could be a prime opportunity for “Atheist Church Planting.”

We in the church know how schism can oftentimes be pre-empted or ratified by an intentional redirecting of congregational energies towards positive and constructive outcomes as opposed to negative and destructive ones; that “planting” (or establishing) new congregations is a good way out of such situations in staving off congregational discontent, funneling energies towards more constructive means, and ultimately producing more missional Christians – in your case I’m not sure what that would be – but your version of a people called & sent, who perceive a divine sense of vocation and mission.

So allow for a bit of advice from people who have been at it for 2000 years; you could use a little coaching:

First, you want to evaluate the nature of this “schism” – is it a difference in teaching or in values? Are you hard atheists, or soft atheists? Have agnostics infiltrated your ranks and polluted the minds of your flock? Is it over the need to have drums and guitars in your sing-alongs, or are there people who prefer the solemn liturgy of humanism? Or is the conflict less content-oriented and more about a breakdown in the emotional process / relationship system somewhere? Can you find the means to reconcile and if not, to forgive and to bless?

Second, you’ll need to come up with a plan. How many healthy people, couples, families do you have? You should have upwards of at least 30 to 50 people to produce a beginning critical mass, and it’s important not to plant with angry, bitter people. Can you do that? Because no one likes an angry church, and an angry church cannot retain people for long. It may be evidence of emotional carry-over from the previous congregation. For churches birthed in reaction stay plagued with the toxicity of unreconciled emotional processes. So if you can birth a new, non-reactive atheist church plant, then more power to you.

Third: How are you going to fund this thing? Do you have a way to motivate people to tithe in atheism? Perhaps an appeal that their contribution “goes to a worthy cause” – but the problem with this is we’ve often found such givings come with demands, i.e., “returns on their investment” and this makes for rather selfish giving. You see, the secret in the Christian church is we often preach giving as an antidote to selfishness, not as party to it. If you can find a way to prompt unselfish, generous, and consistent giving, then do it.

Fourth: Wait for the right time. A wise coach once told me, “It’s about the right pastor, in the right place, at the right time.” If those pieces are in place, it births synergy; are you the right shepherd for your people? Do they sense your care, patience, love, forbearance, long-suffering? Are you a forgiving person that can stay decades – 10, 20, 30 years with your congregation? Are you in the right place where you are recognized as prominent within the community, looked up to as a person with integrity, not only well-connected but well-respected and loved? Is the timing right, or will this new plant disrupt the stasis around you? Are there presently other projects you can partner with?

Fifth. If you’ve gotten this far, can you launch well? Methinks you can, from the catchy ad campaigns; it really gets a lot of attention. Once you launch, it should double or triple your critical mass, and you’ve got the beginnings of a church. But the longevity and the depth of the church really depends on how well you worked the first four steps above; because if you haven’t then, well, you’ll have yet another schism on your hands.

God-bless Self-bless and good luck.

Maybe I’ll Plant Again

Still fresh from licking my wounds after closing down missio (interestingly the last few posts have been about church planting) I find myself actually open again to the idea of planting again someday. Mind you, I would never ever plant again the way we did it before. Not to discredit our work and those who’ve travailed with us – not a second was wasted nor regretted in my view. But this baby’s got some mileage and if I’m ever gonna do it again, the process has to be a lot more efficient, more streamlined and success has got to be guaranteed. Because failure is just WAY too costly, and I’m not alone in testifying to that. Failure’s great – it teaches you things – but yeah – you’re not smart if you like to make the same mistakes over and over again. Continue reading “Maybe I’ll Plant Again”