Grace Pursues

Posted: July 10, 2011 in Grace
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It’s always a thrill to see church growth by conversion.  We had that privilege again last week at Discovery Church.  By his own admission, Adam had been trying to get away from God most of his life – he finally just surrendered.

It reminded me of something I read recently by Francis Thompson. Thompson was homeless and living on the streets of London when his writing talent was discovered.  He later went on to write a poem entitled The Hound of Heaven.

“I fled Him, down the nights and down the days; 
I fled Him, down the arches of the years; 
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
of my own mind; and in the mist of tears…

From those strong Feet that followed, followed after
But with unhurrying chase,
And unperturbed pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
They beat – and a Voice beat
more instant that the Feet –
All things  betray thee, who betrayest Me.”

And finally, after a lifetime of fleeing and hiding…

“Halts by me that footfall:
Is my gloom, after all,
Shade of His hand, outstretched caressingly?
‘Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest,
I am He Whom thou seekest!'” 

“Men and women who do the pursuing can only capture empty air,” says author David Jeremiah.  “What sets apart our Christian faith is the story told in reverse – one of a loving Father who pursues us because we are too foolish and too sin-stained to go to Him.”  

Romans 5:6-8  When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.  Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good.  But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.

Where were you when grace found you?


My story of grace

Posted: July 6, 2011 in Grace, Marriage
Tags: , ,

I have been captured by grace. Here is my story, as told to Discovery Church.

It’s been more than a year since I first posted Does Knoxville Need More Churches? Since then, those churches have each continued to grow and mature and even more new startups have joined our group.  (I should explain that our “group” really has no formal structure.  We’re about a dozen guys starting new churches all over Knoxville.  Our stories and our denominational ties are very different, but we are united by a common purpose. And we all care more about building Christ’s kingdom than we do about expanding our brand.)

Last week I introduced you to Matt Peeples of The Point.  Matt comes from a very different background than me, but I love the way that he thinks.  I got such a positive response to last week’s post that I thought I’d tell you a little more about him.  As usual, I asked Matt 4 questions.  Here are his answers.

  1. Why Knoxville? God really pulled me here on this one.  I am a part of a district that is in Arkansas and Tennessee and the southern part of Kentucky.  They want to start churches and are serious about it.  So after my training,  they asked me to come out here to Knoxville.  I really felt God giving me a golden opportunity to make an impact.  It was like he was saying, “you’re  always talking about reaching the disconnected, so I am going to give you an opportunity to put your money where your mouth is.”  I have really fallen in love with this town.
  2. Why did you choose to partner with a rock station like 94.3? It seems like a bold move, but the truth is it was common sense.  My vision is to reach the disconnected.  I knew our message would hit guys in their 20s-30s because that is the station I prefer to listen to.  So I talked to the guys at 94.3 and we worked on some stuff.  Through trial and error we have found a good commercial style that represents our church well and is true to what we deliver.   We see people who have been out of church for years come in and get plugged in.  Starting next week we will be airing some testimonial spots  from people who heard us on the radio, checked it out and have now gotten connected at The Point.  There are some great stories.  To put it simply, most of the people who come from the X have been out of church for years.  They are blown away by our Christian community, the love the experience and that we teach the Bible in a way they understand.  Since we started the ads about 2 months ago we have seen over 20 people come as a result.
  3. In your mind, what does The Point look like 5 years from now? I see us continuing to reach the disconnected in Knoxville, seeing lives changed.  I see us getting into and serving the community.  I see a few satellite campuses in other venues around Knoxville, where campus pastors are leading other disconnected and missional Christians.  I see us training and supporting other church planters to go out and reach the disconnected.
  4. What 4 words would you use to describe The Point? Loving.  Inviting.  People Searching.

cultural relevance

Posted: January 31, 2011 in Church Planting, Outreach

During this, our first month of weekly services at Discovery Church, we’ve been going through a series of messages called In Rhythm.  We’re taking 5 weeks to look closely at the things that drive us, the things that will set the rhythm for our ministry.

Last week’s topic was one that I am particularly passionate about – relevant ministry environments.  During our time in Hungary, we learned to constantly evaluate our methods and traditions in light of their meaning and their effectiveness in the culture that we lived in.  This included everything from our conversation to the way that we dressed, from the way that we built relationships with people to the way that we preached, from our outreach methods to the way that we trained leaders.  The results weren’t always comfortable for us.  After nearly ten years there, this type of critical evaluation became second nature.

Unfortunately, there are many churches – not just in America, but around the world – that just don’t get this.  They seem incapable of critical, missional thinking, much less of making the changes that would be required to reach their culture.  Like it or not, our culture is changing.  Local churches must adapt or die.  This weekend I had the opportunity – within about a 15 minute time frame – to witness one church gets it, and one church that does not.

I’ll start with the good.  Like most Saturday mornings, we were on our way to a soccer field.  Our 15-year-old wanted some music in the car to “pump him up” and apparently the mix onhis old man’s ipod just wasn’t cutting it.  We flipped through the stations trying to find something appropriate and landed on 94.3.  The song he liked was followed by something you probably wouldn’t expect to hear on one of Knoxville’s most popular rock stations, a commercial featuring Pastor Matt Peeples talking about The Point, a new church that meets at the Regal Cinema in West Town Mall.  The commercial was very casual – Matt talking over some cool music.  He stressed that The Point was a different kind of church where its ok to have questions.  He said that people can even text their questions to him during the service and he’ll try to answer them afterward.  As it turns out, Matt’s relationship with 94.3 has led to him being called in to answer some spiritual questions on the air.  (Check it our here.)  Imagine, a pastor being invited to talk about his church and his faith on a rock station! The results are, according to Matt, new people coming to The Point every week.

Within just a few minutes, we dropped Ethan at the soccer field and headed for some coffee.  As we drove down Broadway we came across a crowd of people demonstrating on both sides of the busy road.  The first thing that struck me was how different they looked. The men all had on suits and ties and the women all had on long dresses.  The other thing I noticed was that they seemed angry.  They held signs, but because of the speed and volume of the traffic, I can’t tell you what they said.  They were yelling and waving Bibles at the families passing by.  Their message – whatever it was intended to be – was lost.

One of the passages that we looked at this week was from Luke 15.  The first 2 verses tell us that “tax collectors and other notorious sinners” often came to listen to Jesus teach.  He ate and drank with them and spent time with them in their homes.  This infuriated the religious leaders of the day.   There are several lessons we can learn from those verses and the ones that follow, but one obvious one is that Jesus, though he was honest and even confrontational, must have been a pretty likable guy.  People liked hanging out with him. This is a key to reaching people in any culture.

John Burke, in his book No Perfect People Allowed, says, “Unlike a previous generation, most adults we interact with are not asking the question, ‘What is true?’ As mentioned already, the assumption of the day is that everybody’s ‘truth’ is equally valid as long as it doesn’t hurt others. They don’t ask ‘What is true?’ so much as ‘Do I want to be like you and your friends?’ ‘Do these people reflect who I want to become?'”

So which group do you think is better communicating to our culture?  Who do you think people will want to be more like?  Someone like Matt, who is graciously and humbly engaging the culture or the group on the street angrily condemning the culture? Which one is closer to the personal style of Jesus? Which group would you rather hang out with?

In a constantly – and rapidly – changing culture, the church must continually evaluate how we are communicating a timeless and unchanging message.

marriage care

Posted: January 22, 2011 in Marriage
Tags: , , , ,

I will be honest.  I’ve been avoiding this topic.  I guess mainly because I don’t want anyone to think that I’ve got it figured out.  Maybe we can make this collaborative?

I am concerned and my concern is growing.  It seems I have more and more friends whose families are struggling – families that are involved in church, even in ministry.  As I drive around town, I see more and more churches with banners for Divorce Care.  Don’t get me wrong – I think that’s a great idea.  I think the church ought to be the place where hurting people can go to find acceptance, unconditional grace, and healing.

I guess I just want to see churches doing at least as much – probably more – for marriage care as they do for divorce care.  You know, the whole “ounce of prevention” thing?  I’m sorry, but the annual marriage weekend doesn’t add up to an “ounce of prevention” when it comes to marriage.

Why is the church struggling so much in this area?  I’m not a psychologist or a counselor and I didn’t even sleep in a Holiday Inn Express last night.  But I do have a few ideas.

  1. I think it’s obvious that the family is a high priority target for our spiritual enemy.  What quicker way to distract a church – or even destroy a church – than to tear families apart, especially the families of those in leadership.  I have no problem saying that this is a spiritual battle.
  2. All too often, church is a place where we feel like we have to hide our problems and put up a false front.  Nobody is perfect, but for some reason, there is pressure to act like you are.  I heard a speaker recently say that “if the penalty for disclosure is the same as the penalty for getting caught, I will hide until you catch me.”  That’s kind of how it works in church.  The result is that we have no “small” problems in church, only “big” ones.  We don’t hear about the kid struggling with depression, until he takes his own life.  We don’t hear about the girl experimenting with drugs, until she’s an addict.  We don’t hear about the couple struggling to communicate, until they separate.  We’ve got to be able to admit that we’re struggling and ask for help before our problem or weakness takes us over the edge.  And I think it has to start at the top.
  3. Church has become a place where we mind our own business.  It’s not cool to get involved in someone else’s problems.  We’re into the “one another” passages when it comes to loving and serving and encouraging.  But as a church, we’re also instructed to admonish one another, confess our sins to one another and be accountable to one another.  Jesus even gave us instructions to do this correctly.  This can only happen where there is commitment.  When people get “offended” at church, they usually just move to another one. But if I know that I am loved and accepted and that my friends want what is best for me, no matter how badly I screw up, then I can allow others to speak into my life.  That’s dangerous, but it’s the kind of church I want.

So, let’s collaborate.  What will it take to become that kind of church?  What have you tried that worked?  What are your big ideas? Let’s hear it!

Like a lot of you, I’ve been mesmerized by the story of Ted Williams, the “homeless man with the golden voice” who became an internet sensation this week. Just in case you are relying on as your sole source of news, here’s the story…

For the first part of the week, I was motivated by one thought: “this is why we do what we do; you just never know.”  You never know who you might find on the street.  I’ve met guys with masters degrees and guys with law degrees.  Some have made mistakes that landed them on the streets and some have just been the victim of life’s twists and turns.  The next guy you help might have the potential to be a great leader, or actor, or musician, so we’ve got to keep working.

Towards the end of the week, I became consumed with another thought:  “what about all the ‘worthless-bums’ out there?”  Let’s face it.  We are moved by the story of Ted Williams because he has a “special gift” – he has the capacity to entertain us.  What about the homeless man who would be a great truck driver or the woman who would make a great nurse?  But really, what about the homeless who have no redeeming quality at all?  Are they any less deserving of our compassion?  Comedian Andy Borowitz tweeted this week: “Here’s my idea of a heartwarming story: a homeless man with no special talent gets our compassion anyway.”  Well said.

It’s human nature to judge – to place a value on the life of an individual.  It’s almost exclusively based on outward things.   The danger is that we do the same thing with God.  We use the same kind of scale to determine our own value to him.  We conclude that He should care for us because we have some redeeming quality.  The reality is that, before God, we’re all “worthless bums.”  Scripture teaches that, because of sin,  even the very best we have to offer is like “filthy rags” before the Holy Creator of the universe.

The good news is that, though He is holy and just, he is also gracious and compassionate.  The Apostle Paul wrote that when we were “utterly hopeless, Christ came.” THAT is where my worth lies. That is why I, Ted Williams and all the other bums are so valuable.

Interesting note: I started this post this morning before church and I’m finishing it in the afternoon. One of the songs we sang was Mighty to Save.  The first line starts, “Everyone needs compassion.” Check it out:

Coming to terms with a biblical view of worth changes everything.  It changes how we feel about ourselves, which in turn will affect every relationship in our lives.   It should also affect our capacity for compassion.  So I guess the title of this post is redundant.  Grace is, by definition, unconditional.  After all, aren’t we all “worthless bums”?

welcome to

Posted: January 2, 2011 in Uncategorized

It’s January, 2011.  One of my resolutions for this year is to become more intentional with my blog.  I’ve done it in the past – and gotten some positive feedback – but it’s been kind of random.  (Click HERE to check it out.)  As I’ve gotten busy – or, more likely, lazy – I’ve let it slide for weeks or even months at a time.  I have resolved to write more intentionally.  There are three reasons for this:

  1. It helps me to fulfill what I believe is God’s purpose for my life.
  2. It helps me be accountable in my own life.
  3. I have never learned more than when I was preparing to share with others.

Replicate is kind of an unusual name for the blog.  As you probably know, it means to duplicate or copy, to make a replica of something.  I chose it, because I think, above all else, that is what I’m called to do – to replicate myself.  That is a bold statement – even arrogant. To think that the world needs more of me?

Jesus Christ’s last words to his followers were to “go and make disciples”.  The Apostle Paul went so far as to say “imitate me, as I imitate Christ.”  So yes, I realize it’s a bold statement, but it’s also a way of making myself more accountable.  If I know that others are watching, even following me, I will be more careful with my steps.  It’s not to say, “follow me, because I have it all figured out.”  As long as I’m following Him, I’ll be leading in the right direction.  That’s what replicate is all about.

I won’t stick to one topic – I’m not really an expert on anything.  You may not always agree with me.   From time to time I may even be wrong.  It’s possible, Pig (see the about section for clarification).   I will always value your interaction.  If you like what you read, feel free to share it.  Most of all, I hope that this will help both of us discover and draw closer to what is truly valuable in life.