Discipleship on the Back of a Napkin

In case you missed it, I’ve been attempting to put reproducible patterns on the back of a napkin.

The following posts describe the different parts of DNA in greater depth:

On Discipleship: Divine Truth

On Discipleship: Nurturing Relationships

On Discipleship: Apostolic Mission

The Back of a Napkin Series:

The Napkin Test

Evangelism on the Back of a Napkin

Evangelism on the Back of a Napkin

A few weeks ago, I shared a simple question to determine if your ministry was reproducible: Does it fit on the back of a napkin?

So for the next few days, I’m going to give you a few of the truths I share on the backs of napkins, both as a challenge for me but also in hopes that they might be helpful for you.

This, for example, is the 3 Circles:

Does it cover everything from Genesis to Revelation? No. But it does hit the highlights and it’s easy to train others (even those who just came to Christ by seeing it) in how to share it.

Here’s a brief explanation:

Tomorrow, we’ll look at a napkin that will show us what to do when someone comes to Christ.

Love That is Utterly Despised

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Many waters cannot quench love,
Nor can the floods drown it.
If a man would give for love
All the wealth of his house,
It would be utterly despised.

Song of Songs 8:7

As I’ve been reading through the Song of Songs, I’ve been musing on the nature of love.  But this verse caught my attention the other day and I’ve been thinking about it’s implications. Join me in thinking through what it means:

The first part of the verse is pretty easy. Love is powerful. It’s a fire that can’t be put out with water. Not even many waters can put out the fire of love–it’s that powerful.

But the second part is much more difficult. If a man gave all the wealth of his house for love, it would be utterly despised.  This flies in the face of what we are taught about love, doesn’t it? Often we’re taught that love is a sacrifice, that it’s not just flowery emotions or lustful passions, but laying down our lives for one another in service. This verse seems  contradictory to that idea.

Let me try and help. If a man sold all he had and attempted to buy the love of a woman, most of us would react strongly, somewhere between bored disgust and outright rage.  We’d look at that man and know that he might have desire in his heart, but no real love. He was attempting to make a transaction.

Real love isn’t transactional. It’s not looking to give something in order to get something in return.  It’s birthed out of a much deeper, more real place, where, yes we’re willing to give all we have, but it’s because we love whoever it is we’ve fallen in love with.

The best example is God’s love. God’s love is never transactional. We could never earn it. If we sold everything in our house and gave it to the church or the poor in order to make God love us, it would be utterly despised.  We can’t buy God’s love. Nor should we want to. If we buy love, it’s not love, it’s just a transaction.

This is why it’s good news that God loved us first. The apostle John says this, “This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins,” (1 John 4:10). See, we cannot buy our way into this love. We can’t earn it. There is no level of righteousness that will get God to love us more than He already has. We can only receive the love of God and live lives that are a response to it.

But this is true for more than just God. We are called to love others, but often, especially within the church, we feel the need to try and win others’ love through serving.  In many ways, this is giving what we have for love. It’s trying to earn love from others through our efforts or even trying to win love for God through what we do.

Now we still need to love others, but we cannot buy love through service or sacrifice. Have you ever been served by someone who you felt like didn’t love you? It doesn’t feel good. It feels forced. No one wants to feel tolerated. It’s the noisy gong and clanging symbol that Paul warns us about.

What do we do when we find we don’t love someone from the heart? We go back to God and ask Him to fill our hearts with His true love for that person. This may seem hopeless because you can do very little, but when you are convinced that God loves you in all of your weakness and mess it’s so much easier to love others who are weak and broken.

Love is stronger than death. It cannot be put out. But the fake love that doesn’t come from God will not last. Give yourself to getting the kind of love that will stand the test of time and overcome death.

You won’t regret it.

The Transforming Power of the Love of God

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Lately I’ve been reading the Song of Solomon*.

This time around, I’ve been reading it as the story of a church that God dearly loves and the journey that she goes on in order to become the mature Bride of Christ we see described in Chapter 8. What’s struck me as I read this time was how much power the love of God has to transform a person.

Let me explain: The book starts with a woman (called the Shulamite) who is insecure about herself. She’s deeply loved by Solomon and loves being loved by him, but when he comes to her and asks her to join him in the harvest, she refuses. She loves safety and security more than she loves Solomon. So in chapters 3-5 there is an elaborate courtship, where Solomon leaves and the Shulamite, realizing her mistake, goes on a journey to find him. She is drawn out of her selfishness and leaves comfort to find Solomon.

Then in Chapter 5 something amazing happens. The Shulamite begins to look for Solomon a second time. He came and reached out to her. She responded. But by the time she responded He was gone.  She goes looking for him and asks others where she can find him. When she does, these others ask her, “What’s the big deal about this guy? Why do you love him?” She launches into what amounts to a hymn of praise for Solomon that provokes these others to want to find him as well.  And when she finds Solomon, they remark: “Who is this who shines like the dawn—as beautiful as the moon, bright as the sun, awe-inspiring as an army with banners?” (Song of Songs 6:10). This woman, who identified herself in chapter 1 as “dark, but lovely” is now “awe-inspiring as an army with banners.”

This is our story as well. We start out loved by God but insecure, afraid, and divided in our hearts. But as we expose ourselves to God’s love, we are transformed by it. God’s love poured out in our hearts, convincing us that we are the desire of His heart transforms us. Suddenly in our quest for Him, people start to look at us and say “Why do you love Jesus as much as you do?” We get to tell them. And just as the Shulamite was transformed by her love for Solomon, we are changed by our love for Jesus. We become a different person because of the transforming power of God’s love.

I write all of this because so often we feel like taking time to seek God, to receive His love, to hear His voice is a passive, even selfish thing. Often we feel like there are better, more noble, less self-centered things to do, but the transformation that happens when we know, receive, and grow in is worth our time. It transforms us. It draws others to Jesus. It’s only in receiving this love on an ongoing basis that we get beyond ourselves and join Jesus where He is.

So take time today, tomorrow, and the days after, to know and receive God’s love. Don’t despise the day of small beginnings in it. Often early it will feel pointless. It’s worth the time.  If you continue to know and receive the love of God, you will be transformed.

*The Song of Solomon has a long history of the church not knowing what to do with it, but there are essentially two groups of thought on the subject: One group sees the book as the biblical celebration of human love in the context of marriage. (Warning: this view requires you to see more explicit sexual images in the Bible than you ever thought was in there.) Another group all throughout history has seen this book as the journey of the believer into intimacy with God. (I wrote a brief introduction to the Song of Solomon that can help catch you up on this interpretation.) While will argue until Jesus returns about this subject, I’m over hear like “Why can’t it be both?”

 

Church Starts In the Harvest

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Yesterday I saw a new book by an author I follow hit the internet. Just seeing the book stirred my heart a bit, because though I know the author to be a church planter who talks extensively about starting churches the book is entirely about sharing the good news of Jesus with those who don’t know Him.

The reason this book stirred my heart was so often we can get caught up in planting churches that we forget why we do it. Church planting in the west has become about leadership, ecclesiology, and even sometimes doctrine, but Jesus meant it to be about something more.

In fact, Jesus doesn’t send us to start churches, He sends us to be His witnesses and make disciples of all nations. Church, real church, starts here. Churches are started when a group of people over time come to Christ and commit to Him and to each other as disciples of Him. This has to be our primary focus. If it’s not, all the new churches that we plant are really just shuffling around existing believers from one church to another, with no benefit to the Kingdom.

This will require of us to spend less time thinking through church structure and leadership styles and more time thinking about how to love the lost. It will require us to leave the comfort of our living rooms or sanctuaries or wherever our churches meet and bring Jesus to the places where people are. For true movements of the Gospel to happen we have to be where the people are.

If (and it’s a big if) we can get good at that, we will start to see churches planted where they’ve never been planted before: Under bridges with homeless folks and among gang members and in the board rooms of America. These things can happen. They already are in some places in this country. We just have to start seeing the role of church planter as evangelist + disciplemaker instead of church founder and CEO.

Remember, church starts in the harvest, not in the barn.

Photo Credit: Sharing the Good News by Chris Yarzab

 

Guts Over Fear

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My apologies.

I found out over the last couple of days that in many ways, I’ve embraced fear. I haven’t been living afraid. I haven’t been up at night worrying. I’ve just been careful because I was worried about messing up.

Some of it has been on the job. Some of it has been in other areas of my life. But much of it was here.  I’ve got a stack of topics worth writing about for 30 days or better, but most of them seem like the kind of blogs that need a lot of explanation not to offend people. And so my dusty stack of topics to cover is going unattended.

It’s just weird. I started blogging daily to attack the fear of showing up, the fear of having nothing to say, the fear of being misunderstood. But somewhere along the way, the routine of writing daily lulled me a little bit out of writing about things that matter. I don’t regret what was written. I just regret not leaning in against the resistance in my own soul. And for that, I am sorry.

We all deserve someone in our lives who challenges us to do the hard things. I hoped to be that guy. Lately, I’ve not been doing that in my own life and that makes it tough for me to challenge you as well.

So I’m hitting the reset button. Maybe you’ll see more blogs with less context. Maybe I’ll just talk about the stuff I love with all the passion I can muster. But my hope is to lean into the places where there’s fear and challenge fear’s right to limit me and you.

I think we’ll be better for it.

Don’t Waste Your Life Sitting In A Pew

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It’s a conversation that will resonate with me for a long time.

I had just moved back to Iowa after spending a few years in Kansas City. During my time in Kansas City I had been infected with a vision of Christianity as an organic lifestyle lived out with a spiritual family. Moving back to Iowa had been a step of obedience for me and my girlfriend (now wife) because we were leaving a group of people who were pursuing something near and dear to my heart.

I had a friend who also happened to be my pastor in Kansas City. He was a year older than me but he always felt 100 years older than me because of the amount of wisdom and experience he walked in.  I was expressing to him the conflict inside of me about whether to permanently plug into our old church that we were part of or to pursue the dream God had infected me with during my years in Kansas City. He looked at me and said something that changed the trajectory of the rest of my life:

“Whatever you do, don’t waste your life just sitting in a pew.”

That statement resonated with me in a way I didn’t expect it to resonate. He didn’t give me a direction. He didn’t tell me what to do. But what he said was wisdom. Don’t spend the rest of your life being a spectator, consuming what is given from a pulpit but never putting it into practice.

We do that so easily. It’s so easy to get comfortable where we are at with good sermons, godly people, great worship, and a thriving church. It’s easy to consume all of that stuff and feel like we are part of something great. It’s harder to go where the Gospel isn’t, share it with people who may or may not respond, and be a part of starting something that could affect people for generations or come to nothing.

These words launched me into organic church planting. But they could be said both of traditional churches and organic churches alike. Just change out pews for couches. The point is we shouldn’t be content just to consume our church life. We have to mature into people of faith who participate in what God is doing, not just observe it.

I get it. There are some people who need to stay where they are in the season that they’re in. If that’s you, great. But the church, organic or traditional, is full of people who should be advancing the mission and serving others instead of sitting around watching.

So I say to unto you the same thing that was said to me: “Don’t waste your life sitting in a pew.”

Or, maybe a better way to say it is “I want you to plant a house church.

Related: Wasting Your Life on Seashells