Saturday, October 17, 2015


1. #Ibelieve – We need to understand our creed. As followers of Christ and as members of the team at Mission Vineyard Church.

2. #Sothat – We need to have a reason for everything we do. We need to be connected to action not motion. Benjamin Franklin said “Never confuse motion with action”…..

3. #TheCityLives – The beautiful thing about God’s plan is that is was and is a plan. He has always had and will always have an “end game” in mind. He is driven by something. Are we?



Got Mission?

Define Church: 

What do you think about when you think about church.  I want to ask you to be totally natural here.  Don’t give me the answers you want to me to hear.  Don’t give my your best theology about what church is.  Don’t say what you’ve always said. 

I want you to be observant for a moment and tell me what you see.  

Factually.  I’m asking what church is:  Not what it should be.

I have been struck by the vast difference in the last couple of years in how we define church,  how we do church, and how God says it should be done. 

Recently – it’s more important than ever that we get a really good grasp on what it means to be a church.  Why are we actually doing any of this at all?

I want to talk to you about the “Mission” of this church body. 

Describe for me what our MISSION is.
Describe for me what our MISSION should be. 

“Without Mission – The church is nothing more than a bunch of disobedient Christians hanging out with each other…”

MATTHEW 28:18-20
Then Jesus came near and said to them, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age."

MARK 16:15
Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation.

ACTS 1:8
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

1 PETER 2:9-10

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood,
a holy nation, a people for His possession,
so that you may proclaim the praises
of the One who called you out of darkness
into His marvelous light.
Once you were not a people,
but now you are God's people;
you had not received mercy,
but now you have received mercy.

The key to how we do church is discovered in how we define church. We can define church many ways.

·         We can define it by what we want to get by going to church.
·         We can define it by how we have always done church.
·         And we can define it by how it is done in our culture.

There is one a problem with defining church in any or all of these ways: it may not be how God wants us to be and do church.  WE are central to each of those definitions. 

The simplest way to define church is the way Jesus taught and modeled it. A question to ask in helping us arrive at a biblical definition of church is this: what are the minimum biblical essentials to be church? In the words of Jesus in Matthew 18:20, there are four ingredients that answer that question:

1.                   Two or three people: Jesus did not require a large group or a recognized leader to be church. There doesn’t have to be a building, and there doesn’t have to be a pastor. But there does have to be people, people who gather.
2.                   Gathered: To be gathered in His name is not just to attend a meeting. Church is not a meeting you attend or a building you meet in. Church is people who form a spiritual family. To gather is to be a community of friends who are dedicated to following Jesus. Just as Jesus gathered His disciples and invited them follow Him, the same thing is happening today, all over the world.
3.                   In His name: The focus of church is Jesus. The church is made up of those who seek to know Him and obey Him. The church exists first for God, not us. To be gathered in His name means we are committed to obeying His commands.
4.                   I am with you: Jesus promises to be in our midst when we obey him. Matthew 28:19-20 tells us that we are commanded to go, preach, baptize and make disciples, and that if we do those things he will be with us. Acts 5:32 says the Holy Spirit is given to them that obey him.

A Church is God’s family living for God’s glory.

Paul described a local church community:

·         As those who are being built together for a dwelling place of the Spirit
and those who are joined together.
·         He went on to say that this joining together of our lives causes growth of the body to edify itself in love.
·         Paul said to the Roman Christians: we are individually members of one another. (Ephesians 3:14-15, 2:20, 4:16 Romans 12)

“Jesus did not die to have a disconnected collection of individuals who are saved and going to heaven. He came to fashion a people who belong to Himself, a bride, a body, a family that are on point – on Mission”

What we don’t think about sometimes. 

  • ·         Jesus modeled church with His disciples.
  • ·         He came to die for the sins of the whole world –
  • and to build His church into a loving family.
  • ·         One without the other does not work.
  • ·         He didn’t come to just die for the sins of the world.  He came to establish the Church as a body – a family – a bride.  One that is moving and working in the right direction.  One that is identified by Kingdom fruit. Not culture fruit. 

Church is not an option for those who follow Jesus – it is who we are. We are the physical material that makes it up, literally, the "called together ones."

IF you follow Jesus you will belong to a band of brothers and sisters who are seeking to love each other and spread His love to others.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Periscope Test


YouTube Video

- From the unstable mind of a dude that eats too many twinkies.


We have spent the last few days circling Austin Texas. In the pursuit of the perfect brisket. Also - in the hopes that we would somehow stumble across a plan for the rest of our lives once we wrap up the work The Lord has had us doing in Southern California for the last 9 years or so.

It occurred to me yesterday in the middle of our ramblings that I don't know very much. Blindingly, out of nowhere, I had this sudden urge to feel inadequate and humorously indifferent. Which usually wouldn't be words I would use to describe myself.

Not sure what was driving these emotions I did the normal introspective digging in the hopes that I could find the source of my pain and somehow convert that into knowledge that would one day save humanity. But alas it appears that may be a bit over reaching. So I decided to settle on a donut instead.

I had my donut on a bench outside of a food truck just off of South First and watched Austin "keep its city weird". In the process of this I came to a few conclusions.

#1. No matter how much we all would like for it to be true - we don't get to determine our own identity. At the very least we should agree that the determiner of our identities is "other" than us. As hard as it is to swallow you and I can only be labeled accurately by something other than ourselves. My own bias or brokenness would prevent an honest assessment any other way. All of our qualifying identity traits (whatever they may be) are simply observations that need to be made "by someone else". In my case, I'll believe what God says about me. You can come to your own conclusions about that....But nevertheless I don't get to draw out the narrative of what or who I am. Someone else must. By nature and the laws of physics - someone else must. Let me ask you a question: if you lived alone on the face of the earth with no one around to define you would you even need a name? See, that's what I'm talking about. Think about it.

#2. I'll never be able to wear skinny jeans.

#3. I could possible succumb to diabetes sitting right here on this bench.

#4. If that happens I'll probably be fine with it because the donut I just ate was worth it.

Live long and prosper...

- From the unstable mind of a dude that eats too many twinkies.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Seriously Though.....

The question "What about me?" Lies at the heart of almost every fight you will ever have.  It's the core element of being offended.  And being offended is a huge issue in your life whether you realize it or not.

Being offended often has at its roots the secret question "Well - what about me? What about my needs?"  We don't always say it out loud - but we certainly do think it.   It's a short trip from there to offense.

That's something we never heard Jesus utter.  In any way.  He never asked "what about me?".....he never said anything of the sort.  As a matter of fact he said the opposite.  Why are we so pop culture justified in "taking care of #1?

That whole thing "you can't love others until you love yourself" - "gotta look out for #1" - "If Moma ain't happy nobodies happy!" I know we joke about it, but seriously, all of that stuff is junk and it's totally not God.

True Christianity is built on the premise of putting the needs and wants of others above your own needs and wants.  Truly following Christ means that we MUST BE WILLING TO BE A SERVANT.  Dying to self, carrying your cross, being the last or least - all of these things mattered to Jesus.

Truly following Christ means that we have to strike from our vocabulary most of what modern culture says about self appeasement.

Where exactly does the bible talk about selfishness - Where is that biblically?

I'll tell you where - when the disciples were being selfish and asking about who would be the greatest - or when the Pharisees were afraid Jesus was there to rob them of their power - or when Satan himself desired to be worshiped.  Or even when Adam and Eve wanted to be more like God - knowing what He knew.  Or even when all of Jerusalem thought the Messiah was somehow coming to build for "them" a Kingdom "they" could rule in.  

All of those scenarios started with the question "what about me?"  "Don't I deserve better?"  "When do I get mine?".

Honestly - most of the Western Church seems to still clearly be asking those questions....don't we?  Don't answer that - I don't want you to be telling lies now.  Don't you get "offended" when things don't go your way in church? Or when someone doesn't "love you enough".  Don't you ever think to yourself "well if it were me...I certainly would have done things differently"?  Come on now - don't be coy.  We are arrogant, prideful, broken, and somehow always right aren't we?

Then there's this:

Half of the articles I've read that deal with prophecy in any way all spoke about how this year was going to be the year of jubilee and blessing.  How 2015 was going to be a "manifestation of Gods glory" in our lives financially and that we would see "wholeness in exponential increase" in our homes.  Interestingly enough - if you look at any archives that track those "words", they said the same thing last year too.  Wonder why?

My question is this - doesn't it all seem a bit self centered?  Doesn't it seem like we are a little too concerned with our own level of comfort and increase?  I mean I know The Lord loves us and all but we may have taken that "good Dad" analogy a bit too far.  We think a "good Dad" must be one that gives his children everything they ask for.  Well - in my childhood I was raised by a great man and I got what he believed was best for me.  Not what I believed was best for me.  You know why?  Because he knew better than I did.

Offense is born in these trenches.  It is secretly fed by these things.  It's a monster under the bed that grows more and more hungry each time we want our own lives to be magically amazing.  We think we deserve it.  We think we are entitled to it.

We are offended when we don't get what we want.  Whether it be from God, our boss, our spouse, our neighbors, or the people we share rush hour with.

This is what our sin nature is built on.  If the Kingdom of Heaven has at its foundation the cornerstones of Love, Grace, Forgiveness, Humility - then the kingdom of darkness has at its core selfishness.  Or, for lack of a better phrase, self centered ness.

We have been trying to be the center of our own worlds since the beginning of time.  It's what killed us then and it's what is killing us now.

Jesus felt differently though.  Curiously we don't follow Him very well in this area.  I think we have been outplayed by our enemy.

If we can curb our greed and selfishness then the level of offense and contempt will decrease in our lives as well.  Then we can be free from all that mess to move on with what God is really doing on the face of the earth....reconciliation.  In that, ironically, there will be great joy.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Why do we do Church?

So I have a question for all of us doing life as followers of Christ.........  

What's the deal with Sundays? Why do we do it?

I have had this burning question inside of me since I was a little boy....growing up in the Southern Baptist tradition.  Let me be very clear right up front about something.  That Southern Baptist church introduced me to The Lord and they are part and partial to the reason I'm even here tonight writing this into blogoshpere eternity.  I am deeply grateful and personally rejoice at my time I spent with them.  I love them.

Nevertheless, the question persist.

I know all the normal answers.  The things we tell ourselves.  Some of which are very good and true.  Some of which are total junk.

I feel like that agent - Agent Smith - in "The Matrix".  He asks the question "why o why do you still persist."  He asks the question of his formidable foe Neo.  Of course in pursuing Neo, this was the great challenge Smith faced - that Neo continued to persist.  So this question of Church and "why do it?" is my Neo......I seem to be chasing it into oblivion much like Smith.

All the same, off I go.

There is one glaring thing you need to remember when you hear me ask this question:  I'm asking as a Pastor.  Sunday's are extremely important to me.  I love the idea of gathering together for a common purpose and seeing these amazing people that I love so dearly.  So you can infer that I might struggle with this question some.  It is my great hypocrisy. I find myself sometimes doubting why I do the things I do.  Of course I guess that puts me in decent company.   There was another guy who felt that way about his misgivings - the Apostle Paul.  I think I may understand him more than I should.

I want to continue setting the stage a bit.  I'm not talking about deconstructing the church.  Well, maybe I am.  I'm not talking about decentralizing the church.  Well, maybe I could be.  I'm not entirely sure that either one of those things are bad anymore.  Truth is, God did those very things with the Church throughout biblical history.  He did them with intent - obviously.  To reach those that didn't know him yet.  To create an environment of deep discipleship.  I wonder if His intent has changed?   I'm not disenfranchised as a wounded Christian.  Well, probably.  I'm not arrogant and self involved with the reasoning that drives this "persistent question."  Well, I suppose that's possible too.

You get the point.

I think we all bring a certain level of brokenness to anything we approach.  The same can be said of this subject matter.  I'm also certain I am broken.  So basic math tells me that I need to step carefully and with wisdom when I talk about such things.  When I approach the bride of Christ - it better be with good intent and a loving heart.....or He may just feel the need to defend her from me.  I wouldn't want that.  You shouldn't either.

With that said,  let me elaborate on the question at hand.  Why do we do Sunday church?

I think we are instructed TO gather.  I also think we are instructed on WHY we gather.  I think, as well,  we have a clear idea WHO makes it possible for us to gather.  However...I don't think we are instructed on how to gather.  I don't think we are instructed on where to gather. I don't think we are even instructed on what to do when we gather - except to gather to worship (to include communion).

Worship looks like many things.  Or does it?  I've heard this statement my entire life.  I think that as I have gotten a bit older and as I have been somehow learning to Pastor, my perspective may be changing on this.  I am starting to wonder if gathering to worship should look like.....well.....worship.

I think that we (especially here in America) tend to use this statement "worship looks like many things" to somehow justify the fact that worship looks like "I" want it to look.  But isn't that counter intuitive to the very concept of worship in the first place?  Shouldn't worship look how The Lord wants it to look?  Consumerism is born of such statements.  Isn't it?  I want a certain thing.  I prefer a certain thing.  This makes me happy.  So I shall shop until I find a great deal on it and then I will trade my time and energy for it.

I see a problem with this worldview when applied to our churches.  Don't you?

This dynamic creates an unhealthy element of common wants and "needs" that we join together to experience far to often.  Unhealthy because all of those elements are based on the universal standard of "I".

We are and have been gathering around our preferences for far too long.  Instead, I believe that Sundays should be more about gathering around a wounded and dying Savior that beat death back with a stick and came out looking kind of like the Son of God.

You see - It's often been described as "DNA" or "preference" in our church circles.  I'm guilty of describing it this way myself.

I wonder though if this does more damage than good.  Here is why I say that.  DNA is at the core of our genetic make up.  DNA defines us as human first and blonde second (or brunette - whatever).  I think we have greatly damaged the concept of "DNA" in our terminology. Because we have let something temporal and unimportant define it in us.  Like, for instance, your preference.  It's almost like saying "being blonde makes me who I am".  No it doesn't.

Big picture - we trade our true DNA for something so surface and cheap that it can be bought and sold as easy as hair color.  Who cares what the worship team sounds like.  Who cares how good the coffee is or how warm the bagels are.  We aren't gathering for any of those things anyway.  Are we?

I think we should really take care on how we handle Sunday gatherings.  We may be outsmarting ourselves.  I'm not convinced anymore that we get to apply something as trivial as preference to "why" we make the choices we make when it comes to "doing" Church gatherings.  Shouldn't it be bigger than that?  Shouldn't we model something different?  After all, the entirety of our lives are based on our preferences aren't they?  Why should that same principle be applied to how we do our Sundays?  It seems that it shouldn't but maybe I'm wrong.

Don't misunderstand me - preference has its place.  I would hope, however, that we are all talking about "preference" in terms of callings and giftings.  In other words, our preferences should sound more like "I really have a heart for the homeless in my city" or "I want to plant churches and build community" or "My preference is to lead worship or play an instrument".  These are great preferences.

Alas, I fear that to most of us, preference is just another way to say "I like the show".  As a follower of Christ you were never called to watch the show.  Not on Sunday or any other day for that matter.   There are way too many instances in scripture where Jesus calls us into life, action, silence, contemplation, prayer, or even death.  None of which have much to do with watching.  At least, not only watching.

Yet we have created a culture of watchers. Consumers.  To me (and many many others) this fact has become simply irrefutable. The reasons for this are many.  I have resolved myself to not blaming any one thing over the other.  We don't have to look to deeply to see the first one though.  Money.  We have worked ourselves into a freenzy over budgets and buildings.  Secondly - there is that old enemy, ego.  Somewhere down the line, as Pastors,  I assume we all can find ourselves on that continuum.  In general, we work from a place of fear in ministry. There are many outworkings of these things:

  • We are afraid that we might not meet budget (who cares we aren't really using the purse strings the way they did in Acts anyway). 
  • We are afraid that someone might go to the church down the street instead of ours (you are the church down the street). 
  • We are afraid that we might lose people (they aren't yours). 
  • We are afraid that we might lose our buildings (why would that stop you?)
  • We are afraid to look foolish (we already do).  

I have had a couple of great exchanges with people lately on that great bastion of wisdom we call Facebook. This seems to have been a common discussion as of late.  Good.  We should be talking about this.  Most definitely.  

The Rebuttal: 

I guess there are some of you out there that might be saying this is bad stewardship to talk like this.  I think it's bad stewardship to not. This is basically an issue that has choked me for most of my life.  I have avoided asking these questions of myself or anyone else for far too long. Because they are hard questions.  I, like you,  tend to really dislike hard questions.  Lately, though,  I have decided to chew my food better....and think more patiently, deeper.

So I will end with my opening question:  Why do we do Sunday church?

I honestly hope we know.

I think we are approaching an age where the options on how, where and when are unlimited.  I can't wait to see it.  I think revival might just happen when we stop thinking like a bunch of small business owners and start thinking like an agent of consuming power that shapes everything it touches....and it should touch a lot of things: namely people and communities.

Remember - This isn't an issue of management.  Most people would argue that the church is like a business because it has to be managed.  Nope. I now utterly disagree with that statement.  I didn't used to.  But now I absolutely do.

The Church is, instead, like a family that needs to be managed.  It's a different construct altogether.  Both require efficiency, effort, commitment, and responsible choices.  But a business can function just fine without God.  A Church cannot.  Neither can a biblical model of a family.  In a family - the goal is safety, love, relationship, growth, sacrifice and all the other intangible things that sound like Heaven on earth.  In business, however,  the bottom line often rules with a hard lean towards hitting targets and gauging growth on what the eyes can see and what the hands can touch. A business owner has preferences.  He is successful when he achieves them.  A father, on the other hand, has hope.  Hmmm.

Leadership and Pastoring should look more like mentoring and parenting than anything else.

The world outside of the walls of our churches is about ready to revolt until they get this sort of thing.  They are desperately hungry for depth.  Not another meeting.  Not another concert.  Not another coffee bar.  Not another small business fighting for their affection.

I have heard it said that we have created these environments of preference to be "attractional."

It also seems that, for the most part, doing that has attracted (or shifted) only other Christians.  Probably pulled them out of places that they neeeded to be in.  To serve.  To lead.  To grow.  To disciple.  Not to watch or consume.   Not to slip through the cracks of just another organization while we all stretch our necks watching our attendance records and worrying about the rent and the light bills.

But what if it's all changing........?

Just consider the possibilities.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Hipster Church?

So ok - Here is a noodle rocker for you:  When does a trend become something permanent - no longer a trend but more like a marker or line in the sand?  My particular take on that question might bake your above mentioned noodle.

I believe that a trend becomes permanent the moment it impacts a person's life.....instantly.  It becomes permanent in THAT person.  Which, by my definition at least, makes this question very relevant doesn't it?  I can remember being shaped by certain trends that are most definitely not around anymore.

I am, however, still around.

The shaping is still evident in me.  I still work from those moments in my life - even if they happened 20 years ago.  Don't you?  Do you find yourself being continually classified generationally?  That's because you ARE classified by the generation from which you were shaped / formed.  In truth that is completely how we all view each other.  Especially across broad gaps in age and tradition.

Here is what I'm getting at:  Why do we discount cultural and societal trends in church culture?  Why can't we value the things that others value....the things that impact people?  Why do we keep playing "Chicken" with society....waiting to see who will flinch first?

The Gospel is all about impact and change.  Isn't it?  I do surely understand that trendiness doesn't apply to Jesus.  Relevance isn't an issue with Him.  In a vacuum - void of my influence on the situation - Jesus would always be relevant.  But last I checked I wasn't living in a vacuum - neither are you.  We should favor the idea of people in general being willing to be shaped and formed by trends and culture.  Why?  It's a very good common language to share - the language of movement and change....and it's a very good place to start a conversation.  I am in favor of change.  I am in favor or warming someone up to the idea that change is good - Jesus change is fantastic.

We in the church tend to fear it a bit - or either we overly embrace it altogether.  Not much balance to speak of.  For me, personally, I think the danger of trendiness lies in the mindless mob mentality that tends to come with cultural influence - sometimes.  Take Croc's for instance - total mob mentality.  In retrospect, I can't imagine why I would have owned a pair but I did.  Admit it, so did you.   But that's also true of Church life isn't it - mindless mob mentality?  Maybe.  Have you ever seen it in your church community?  I certainly have.  I've seen it in the very church I pastor.  Even while we work tirelessly to prevent it.  It's still there.  Mindless being the key word.

Sometimes I wish we, as a Christ centered group doing Jesus Culture, would be so easily shaped and changed.  I wish we could be shaped by Jesus alone - but sometimes I would literally settle for just changing the shoes we wear.  Maybe we should just do Hipster Church and go ahead and get it over with.