Is It Biblical for a Church to have a Target?

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Recently, I did a series of posts on why a church should have a target, why every church has a target and how to make choices to reach that target (you can read them here). After the series, I got some questions about whether or not it was biblical to have a target. After all, are we told anywhere in the bible that a church should have a target.

The answer is yes.

In the book of Acts, we see how Paul had a target of the Gentiles (Acts 9:15; Galatians 2:17) and how Peter had a target of the Jews (Galatians 2:17). Jesus in the great commission even gave the disciples a road map of who they were to reach and the order in which to do it (Matthew 28:18 – 20).

As you look at the New Testament, you see that certain people were better suited to reach certain people. Their backgrounds, the way they talked, how they understood certain world views, enabled them to be more effective in taking the gospel to places. The courage of some allowed them to plant churches others never would.

Does this mean that Paul never shared the gospel with a Jew? Or Peter with a Gentile? No, in fact we have evidence of them doing that. It means they were focused though and knew who their primary target was.

Churches are the same. The style of preaching lends itself to reaching a certain person. The pastors who have effective ministries are largely effective because of where they are located. That isn’t an accident. Instead of fighting against this, churches need to be clear about this. And, they need to support church planters who go to places they don’t.

Let’s admit a tension here: it sounds unloving to say we are better suited to reach a certain kind of person as a church. This is a reality though. Dress, style of music, age of the people on stage, how programmed or organic a church is. All of these go into who a church is best suited to reach. A church will reach people outside of the norm, but by and large, they will reach a certain kind of person more easily. When we fight against this, our effectiveness goes down. This is one reason that church planting is so important. It enables a church to reach different kinds of people within a city.

I think that is one reason God blessed Peter and Paul’s efforts. They led from their natural gifts, didn’t fight with each other about it (at least after Acts 15, so you can see what happens when we look down on each other) and they then encouraged each other by planting more churches in a variety of places with a variety of leaders.

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Piecing Life Together when it Falls Apart

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Maybe you’ve gotten to the end of 2013 and wonder, what did I do this year?

You look back with a sadness of relationships that are broken, people who no longer speak to each other. You think back to those who you were close you last December who are no longer there.

It might be a career that has fallen off the tracks. A dream you had in school last year that doesn’t seem possible anymore.

Maybe you were given horrible health news this year. We as a church have been walking with families who were told this year, “you have cancer and it seems hopeless.”

Sometimes, life feels like a puzzle that you are putting together and you get to the end and discover that there are pieces missing. 

Yet, in one my favorite chapters in the Bible, John 21, we find that Jesus puts the pieces of our life back together.

In this scene, Jesus is on the bank of the Sea of Galilee, where Peter and his friends are doing what they love, fishing. This is what Peter does to relax, unwind. It is what he does for a living.

Peter is still reeling from the pain of denying Jesus 3 times. Watching him die and wondering what lay ahead because of the resurrection. So he fishes. It seems like the natural thing to do. When we are depressed, lost, sad or down in the dumps, we do what we know. So Peter goes fishing.

When they see Jesus, John tells us that Peter jumps in the water and swims to him. The details of John 21 are fascinating to me. He tells us how far Peter swims, how many fish they catch.

He even tells us the kind of fire that Jesus builds: a charcoal fire.

This seems like an odd detail until you remember that in John 18:18, the night Peter denies Jesus three times we are told that Peter is warming himself beside a charcoal fire.

Jesus does this to remind him. Not to rub his nose in it, but to remind him.

When we think of piecing life together, we often want to forget what is broken to move forward. That isn’t possible though. If a marriage falls apart, it is still apart. You can’t forget that. You can’t make that not true. The pieces are there, the brokenness remains, you will feel the affects of that for years, possibly the rest of your life. And so will others.

This fire is an important picture for us.

We have to know that following Jesus does not remove what is true in our lives or what has happened. But Jesus doesn’t leave us there. He transforms us. He changes us.

Then, Jesus asks Peter three times, “do you love me?”

Not because he is hard of hearing or because he wants to annoy Peter, but because Peter denied Jesus three times. He is giving Peter the chance to make things right. Not because Jesus didn’t believe him or because Jesus needed to hear it three times.

Instead, I think Peter needed to say it three times. He needed to know in his own heart that he loves Jesus more than anything.

Grace is often about how we accept it. For many, believing that God forgives them, loves them and gives them grace is a hard thing to believe.

For Peter and maybe you, it might be difficult to believe that Jesus isn’t finished with you. 

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The Biggest Sin in Adoption

We have met our son, FINALLY seen his sweet smile, squeezed his small body, got lost in his big eyes and then had to say goodbye for 5-10 weeks. Every time I think about leaving him that last day tears come to my eyes; we walk with him toward the lunchroom and his breathing becomes great heaves. Josh and I are trying to hold it together and not have a complete melt down in front of our son, who has lost SO MUCH, and now probably feels like the hope that he may have found in a relationship with us is being ripped away from him. We help him wash his hands, and instead of his lighthearted smile and willingness to obey, he is in a fit of tears and his legs won’t support him… we kiss his sweet face and walk away. The nanny explains we will be back, but how can a 4 year old know that in his heart. So again because my arms are too short to change anything in this process, we pray; that he doesn’t lose hope, that when we return he doesn’t reject us because he has felt abandoned by us, and that our hearts will be ruled by peace and patience as we wait.

This is the part that gets me, being ruled by peace as we wait. There have been times in this waiting that I have gotten caught up in the frenzy of wanting to know what is going on, following other people’s journey forward and feeling forgotten, and it. has. been. sin. Before we traveled to meet our son, we were waiting on a piece of paper from a government official giving us the clearance to travel, as we waited I begged God that it would come through. One morning I woke up especially early and prayed, I watched the sun rise and was reminded of  what we tell our kids… see that light from the sun, it is so bright that it is hard to look it, that is what the glory of the Lord looks like…

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That morning I was reminded of the truth that God’s ways are above our ways, that He exists outside of time and He already sees it as done. The timing of the thing that I was so anxious about, God already saw as DONE. Thinking in that way helped me to not just cling to the peace that I knew I should have, but actually live in it.

We are in a time of waiting again, this is some of the most painful waiting we have had to do up to this point…

I am reminded of God’s heart toward us, His calling us and desire to be in relationship with us, and because of his patience we have salvation (2 Peter 3:15). My desire through this is to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity (2 Peter 3:18). If I fall into the sin of worry, control and lack of peace, then I am not pressing into God’s heart for me or my son, who is not orphaned because he is OUR SON NOW, but feels orphaned. There is a longing in my heart that can very easily cross over into the sin of worry, but if I feel that and see it through God’s heart toward those who have not crossed over into His family I am more likely to live in His peace.

Isaiah 53:5 says,

But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.

If I am not living in peace then I am neglecting the very crucifixion of Jesus, and I think that is the biggest sin in adoption.

Sunday Afternoon Mind Dump…

  • It’s been awhile since I did one of these, but thought it would be good to bring the tradition back
  • So much has happened
  • I’m on my summer preaching break, which has been unbelievably refreshing for me and my family
  • We spent a week in San Diego on vacation and last week, Katie and I spent the week in Newport Beach at the Acts 29 Pastor’s retreat
  • We got a new child 9 days ago through a local adoption
  • I’ll post more about that tomorrow
  • For my preaching break this year, we shot 3 sermon videos that we used over the last 3 weeks
  • The response to those sermons has been amazing, love hearing how God used those videos in the lives of our church
  • If you missed any of them, you can listen or watch them here
  • We showed my favorite of the 3 last night, that you can see here
  • We are starting a brand new 2 week series this week called Jonah & David, it is going to be a great look at two important people in Scripture and what we can learn from their lives
  • Then, on July 14 we are kicking off a brand new series called Fearless on the book of Joshua
  • That will also be the night that we look towards the future and our move as a church and what God has in store for us
  • The 14th is definitely a night you don’t want to miss as we look to see what God has in store for us
  • I am more excited about the future of Revolution than I have ever been about Revolution
  • I believe God is preparing us for some incredible things and we as leaders have seen God’s hand over this entire process of looking for a new location
  • Been loving all the Euro 2012 games
  • I’m one of those guys who gets up at 2am to watch a World Cup match
  • So pumped for the semi’s, love that all the powerhouses are left
  • I’m not much of an underdog guy
  • During my break over the past week, I’ve been reading one of the most fascinating books I’ve ever read called The President’s Clubthere truly is no better book for a history nerd
  • Like me
  • The next 3 months at Revolution Church are going to be unlike any other time in the history of our church
  • As we move, launch our fall Missional Communities, and some of the other things we have planned are going to set us on a journey where I believe we will see God do some things we’ve never seen him do at our church and through our church