Sunday, February 19, 2006

More About Project Mustard Seed

When we talk about Project Mustard Seed, we talk about three journeys that we are on.

1. The Upward Journey
This is the journey of spiritual formation. We have been created in the image of God, and for relationship with God. We follow Jesus as our King and our Teacher. We help others come to know and love this God. The Scripture that comes to mind is Matthew 22:37-38, which says, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment."

2. The Inward Journey
We were never meant to walk this journey of faith alone. Spiritual formation cannot happen apart from community. We need people around us who love us, encourage us, admonish us, and above all, urge us towards maturity. A key verse for us is John 13:34-35, in which Jesus said, "Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other” (The Message).

3. The Outward Journey
The outward journey is one of mission. Just as Jesus gave His life away for the world, so we are to do the same. The Church is the called out, sent forth people of God. The second commandment that Jesus gave in Matthew 22 fits well here: "and love your neighbor as yourself." The question, "who is my neighbor?" must obviously be asked. We are called to love our neighbor across the street as well as our neighbor across the world. We cannot afford to be ignorant of the world's problems. We believe that the Church is called to be on the front lines of ending poverty, disease, and injustice.

Even as I post this, I am excited to be a part of a community like this. Todd Hunter defines the church as this (I think he got it from Dallas Willard):
"The cooperative friends of Jesus, seeking to live lives of constant creative goodness through the power of the Holy Spirit, for the sake of the world."

I think this is a great definition of a community that I'd like to be a part of. I'll probably update this posting from time to time.

If you're at all familiar with the Church of the Saviour, you'll see that we've been influenced by their life and their writings.

Abundance in $20

This is a great post from my friend Kenny McCord. Kenny has been one of my closest friends over the last few years. I continue to learn from him, not just through the things that he says but through the way he and his family live their lives. Thanks Kenny!

Project Mustard Seed

I have a new blog up. We'll be using this blog to tell more about our new ministry in Memphis.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Millions More Starving by 2015

The world will have 100 million extra hungry people by 2015, say scientists.

Despite great improvements in food availability in the 1960s and 1970s, these trends are reversing in many developing countries, they say.

The United Nations' goal of halving hunger by 2015 looks unattainable without new technologies and greater financial investment, they add.

Ten pre-school children die every minute from malnutrition and this number has not changed since the early 1980s despite global promises.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Build it and they will come

Build it and they will come

This line was of course made famous in the movie Field of Dreams. However, it's also been a strategy (perhaps an unconcious one) of the church over the past few decades. It's one of the reasons why I was first attracted to the house church movement. The idea was that instead of trying to get the world to come to the church, we, the church, the missional people of God, would go to the world.

We've been working on a proposal for a church start over the last few months, and this morning I was reminded again of this principle. I first read Jesus For a New Generation, by Kevin Ford, during the summer of 1996. It was the first book that I had read on the subject of Generation X. It had a tremendous impact on me. A little over a year later I was helping to plant a church in Nashville that targeted this generation. This morning I was rereading the proposal that our pastor had written for that new church. In the proposal there is a quote from this book. Here's the quote.

"I have met very few Thirteeners (another term for Generation X) who actually hate God. When I meet someone who has an aversion to church, I sometimes ask why. With the exception of the few satanists I've encountered, no one says, I avoid church because I hate God.' Instead, they say, 'Church is boring.' Or 'Christians are hypocrites.' So I respond. 'Well, gee, I go to church, and that's not my experience. If you could go to a church that was not boring, and where the Christians were not hypocritical, where people talked directly and honestly about life, where you got a chance to see how God intersects with human lives - do you think you might be interested?' Without exception, they all answer, 'Yes.'

The idea at the time was that we had to make church relevant to this generation. They no longer fit in their parents' churches, and they were no longer going to go just because it was the cultural thing to do. So how did we make church more relevant? We replaced choirs and organs with drums and guitars; we encouraged people to take off their masks and be real with one another, believing that authentic lives were key to sharing the gospel; we sought to figure out how Jesus fit into our lives Monday through Saturday; etc. So where has that left us?

All of this is great, but my feeling now is that we didn't take things far enough. The paradigm was shifting, and we made part of the leap, but not all of it. The question was still, "If you could go to a church that was not you think you might be interested." This is not the problem. I think we're going to have to dig deeper as to why people do not come to our churches. I think we're going to have to go back to Scripture, as well as to history. How did the early church make such an impact on society. We won't find the answers until we first learn the right questions to ask.

My prayer is that we will have the courage to discover and then ask these questions.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

What is Project Mustard Seed?

Jesus once said that the Kingdom of God was like a mustard seed (Matt. 13:31). He explained that a mustard seed was the smallest seed that one could find, yet, when it was fully grown, would become the largest of all plants. Jesus taught us to pray that God's will would be done here on earth as it is in heaven. This involves prayer, but it also involves work.

Project Mustard Seed isn't a church. It isn't even a true organization. It's more a set of values for us. We believe that at some point a church that lives out these values will be birthed. Our mission is to bring about spiritual and social change to our neighbors. This involves those neighbors here in Memphis, but also those throughout the world. Some may say that this mission is an unrealistic one. Perhaps it is, but if we're not hoping for this, then what are we really doing?

This morning Mandy and I watched Bono's speech at the February 2 prayer breakfast. By some of his statements, I don't think he considers himself much of a public speaker, but I thought he did an incredible job. He encouraged, celebrated, and challenged. Below are a few excerpts from the speech, along with the links for both the video and the transcript.

I’d like to talk about the laws of man, here in this city where those laws are written. And I’d like to talk about higher laws. It would be great to assume that the one serves the other; that the laws of man serve these higher laws… but of course, they don’t always. And I presume that, in a sense, is why you’re here.

Even though I was a believer.

Perhaps because I was a believer.

I was cynical… not about God, but about God’s politics. (There you are, Jim.)

Then, in 1997, a couple of eccentric, septuagenarian British Christians went and ruined my shtick—my reproachfulness. They did it by describing the Millennium, the year 2000, as a Jubilee year, as an opportunity to cancel the chronic debts of the world’s poorest people. They had the audacity to renew the Lord’s call—and were joined by Pope John Paul II, who, from an Irish half-Catholic’s point of view, may have had a more direct line to the Almighty.

‘Jubilee’—why ‘Jubilee’?

What was this year of Jubilee, this year of our Lords favor?

I’d always read the Scriptures, even the obscure stuff. There it was in Leviticus (25:35)…

‘If your brother becomes poor,’ the Scriptures say, ‘and cannot maintain himself… you shall maintain him… You shall not lend him your money at interest, not give him your food for profit.’

It is such an important idea, Jubilee, that Jesus begins his ministry with this. Jesus is a young man, he’s met with the rabbis, impressed everyone, people are talking. The elders say, he’s a clever guy, this Jesus, but he hasn’t done much… yet. He hasn’t spoken in public before…

When he does, is first words are from Isaiah: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,’ he says, ‘because He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.’ And Jesus proclaims the year of the Lord’s favour, the year of Jubilee. (Luke 4:18)

What he was really talking about was an era of grace—and we’re still in it.

So fast-forward 2,000 years. That same thought, grace, was made incarnate—in a movement of all kinds of people. It wasn’t a bless-me club… it wasn’t a holy huddle. These religious guys were willing to get out in the streets, get their boots dirty, wave the placards, follow their convictions with actions… making it really hard for people like me to keep their distance. It was amazing. I almost started to like these church people.

When churches started demonstrating on debt, governments listened—and acted. When churches starting organising, petitioning, and even—that most unholy of acts today, God forbid, lobbying… on AIDS and global health, governments listened—and acted.

I’m here today in all humility to say: you changed minds; you changed policy; you changed the world.

Look, whatever thoughts you have about God, who He is or if He exists, most will agree that if there is a God, He has a special place for the poor. In fact, the poor are where God lives.

Check Judaism. Check Islam. Check pretty much anyone.

I mean, God may well be with us in our mansions on the hill… I hope so. He may well be with us as in all manner of controversial stuff… maybe, maybe not… But the one thing we can all agree, all faiths and ideologies, is that God is with the vulnerable and poor.

God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house… God is in the silence of a mother who has infected her child with a virus that will end both their lives… God is in the cries heard under the rubble of war… God is in the debris of wasted opportunity and lives, and God is with us if we are with them. “If you remove the yolk from your midst, the pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness, and if you give yourself to the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then your light will rise in darkness and your gloom with become like midday and the Lord will continually guide you and satisfy your desire in scorched places”

It’s not a coincidence that in the Scriptures, poverty is mentioned more than 2,100 times. It’s not an accident. That’s a lot of air time, 2,100 mentions. [You know, the only time Christ is judgmental is on the subject of the poor.] ‘As you have done it unto the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me.’ (Matthew 25:40). As I say, good news to the poor.

But here’s the bad news. From charity to justice, the good news is yet to come. There’s is much more to do. There’s a gigantic chasm between the scale of the emergency and the scale of the response.

And finally, it’s not about charity after all, is it? It’s about justice.

Let me repeat that: It’s not about charity, it’s about justice.

And that’s too bad.

Because you’re good at charity. Americans, like the Irish, are good at it. We like to give, and we give a lot, even those who can’t afford it.

But justice is a higher standard. Africa makes a fool of our idea of justice; it makes a farce of our idea of equality. It mocks our pieties, it doubts our concern, it questions our commitment.

6,500 Africans are still dying every day of a preventable, treatable disease, for lack of drugs we can buy at any drug store. This is not about charity, this is about Justice and Equality.

Because there's no way we can look at what’s happening in Africa and, if we're honest, conclude that deep down, we really accept that Africans are equal to us. Anywhere else in the world, we wouldn’t accept it. Look at what happened in South East Asia with the Tsunami. 150, 000 lives lost to that misnomer of all misnomers, “mother nature”. In Africa, 150,000 lives are lost every month. A tsunami every month. And it’s a completely avoidable catastrophe.

It’s annoying but justice and equality are mates. Aren’t they? Justice always wants to hang out with equality. And equality is a real pain.

I want to suggest to you today that you see the flow of effective foreign assistance as tithing…. Which, to be truly meaningful, will mean an additional one percent of the federal budget tithed to the poor.

What is one percent?

One percent is not merely a number on a balance sheet.

One percent is the girl in Africa who gets to go to school, thanks to you. One percent is the AIDS patient who gets her medicine, thanks to you. One percent is the African entrepreneur who can start a small family business thanks to you. One percent is not redecorating presidential palaces or money flowing down a rat hole. This one percent is digging waterholes to provide clean water.

One percent is a new partnership with Africa, not paternalism towards Africa, where increased assistance flows toward improved governance and initiatives with proven track records and away from boondoggles and white elephants of every description.

America gives less than one percent now. Were asking for an extra one percent to change the world. to transform millions of lives—but not just that and I say this to the military men now – to transform the way that they see us.



What is Church?

Here are excerpts from an article I read this morning. Thanks to Kenny for the link.

Recently I was speaking with a good friend about his dream to plant a church/ministry in New York city, since his dream is seemingly the same as mine just opposite coasts, I was more apt to listen closely. He made the statement that he wanted to plant a church in the city that truly lived out the church 6 days a week, and on the 7th day he didn't care where they went to worship.

I must admit that this idea resonates deep in my heart of hearts but at first this idea struck me as strange, why would you plant a church with no visible numbers to report? Why would you submit yourself to such hardwork and arduous labor without being able to write a prayer letter detailing the size of your services or the size of your sanctuary? With no tangible results how will anyone know what is going on? This is the mindset of the church today, a mindset that must change if the kingdom is to be increased. is because of these friends that my mind, more importantly my heart, has changed. Being the church is more important than a Sunday morning service. Sure we'll probably have one in Portland. Yes I hope it grows. But my prayer is that our leadership never get bigger than Jesus. That we never let our human greed defeat our desire to meet human need. And that we look nothing like the "money changers" of old, but rather the True church of Jesus Christ.

Continue reading

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Welcome to the Project Mustard Seed Blog

Mandy and I will from time to time be posting about the things we are learning here in our new home - Memphis.


My Utmost for His Highest, February 8

The Cost of Sanctification

“May the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely …” (1 Thessalonians 5:23).

When we pray, asking God to sanctify us, are we prepared to measure up to what that really means? We take the word sanctification much too lightly. Are we prepared to pay the cost of sanctification? The cost will be a deep restriction of all our earthly concerns, and an extensive cultivation of all our godly concerns. Sanctification means to be intensely focused on God’s point of view. It means to secure and to keep all the strength of our body, soul, and spirit for God’s purpose alone. Are we really prepared for God to perform in us everything for which He separated us? And after He has done His work, are we then prepared to separate ourselves to God just as Jesus did? “For their sakes I sanctify Myself …” (John 17:19). The reason some of us have not entered into the experience of sanctification is that we have not realized the meaning of sanctification from God’s perspective. Sanctification means being made one with Jesus so that the nature that controlled Him will control us. Are we really prepared for what that will cost? It will cost absolutely everything in us which is not of God.

Are we prepared to be caught up into the full meaning of Paul’s prayer in this verse? Are we prepared to say, “Lord, make me, a sinner saved by grace, as holy as You can”? Jesus prayed that we might be one with Him, just as He is one with the Father (see John 17:21–23). The resounding evidence of the Holy Spirit in a person’s life is the unmistakable family likeness to Jesus Christ, and the freedom from everything which is not like Him. Are we prepared to set ourselves apart for the Holy Spirit’s work in us?

In the past, I've thought about sanctification in light of the chief sins: lying, cussing, cheating, etc. If I could keep from sinning, then I'd be holy. I would become who God created me to be. Today I see things much differently. Sanctification is not something that I do. It is something that God works in me. I have to ask for it, then yield. As He works this in my, I have to trust His work and then obey. That's not as simple as it sounds, yet it's a lot more simple than for me to work at becoming holy.

The cost will be a deep restriction of all our earthly concerns, and an extensive cultivation of all our godly concerns. Sanctification means to be intensely focused on God’s point of view.

Yesterday Mandy and I went to see End of the Spear. It's the story of the five missionaries who were murdered in the jungles of Ecuador in 1956. Among those missionaries was Jim Elliot and Nate Saint. This movie is about sanctification. It causes the viewer to ask why a group of people would risk their lives, why they would leave the comforts of America for the jungle, and why, after their husbands' deaths, would the wives return to the jungle with their children. In the movie we see Nate Saint's overwhelming urge to find the Waodani Indians before more of them were killed. These families seemed to have had in mind God's concerns over their own. One cannot muster this up. It comes over time, as God has His way in a person's life. The amazing thing is that these people had such joy. They never seemed to regret their choices. Two nights ago we watched the documentary Beyond the Gates of Splendor. The story was not over in 1956. God has continued to bring transformation through the sacrificial love of these families.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

What is a blogger?

According to Guy Kawasaki, author of The Art of the Start, a blogger is "someone with nothing to say writing for someone with nothing to do." He is of course being a little sarcastic, but he's probably pretty right on.

The question of homosexuality

I just came across this article from Leadership Journal by Brian McLaren. There is the original article by Brian, followed by a second article that is really a selected response by a reader. The next response is from Mark Driscoll. Finally there is a response by Brian McLaren. Throughout all of these there are comments by readers.

Here are a few thoughts.

1. It saddens me how much (I'm going to use the word) hatred there is. Hate normally comes as a result of prejudice or fear. Maybe there is a little of both of these going on.

2. We've just moved to Memphis. We're going to be living in a place where there are more homosexuals than anywhere within at least a 200-mile radius. I am hearing church leaders struggling with this topic. Being from the San Francisco area, we are being asked our opinion. I'm glad the questions are being asked.

3. I've been a fan of both Driscoll and McLaren. I feel like one reader who asked if it was possible to like both of these guys, or if he was going to have to choose. Maybe that's one of our problems. I first heard both of these guys at the same conference - the Young Leader conference in New Mexico in 1998. Over the years I've learned a great deal from both of them. It's too bad that they now feel this way about the other.

4. I think this is a very difficult issue. I don't think I should be ashamed to admit that I have trouble with this. I don't think it's like slavery. At the same time, I don't want my fear and prejudice to dictate how I relate to a homosexual. I don't think my job is to repel a person with the truth. Enough of that is happening today. If a person wants to truly dialog, then I am willing to engage, to build a relationship. We can look at Scripture. We can pray. We can be honest with one another. If that person wants nothing more than to pick a fight, I'm probably not the best one to engage with.

5. I want to be careful what I write, as well as how I write. So many things can be misunderstood. Dialogue is much better. I'm glad only about two people read this blog. Maybe that will help to keep me out of trouble.

Some help on the words "emerging" and "missional"

This comes from Andrew Jones' site. I think it gives some good clarification and history on these sometimes confusing words.