I put new roofs on three houses this past week (well...I managed the projects).
The life of domestic missionaries in Burleson, TX continues to baffle and astound us all. 2010 has gotten started with a whirlwind of seemingly random activity (unusual for our family, I know).
For starters, many of you are aware that the Christ Journey community and several friends in various locations decided to engage in a shared commitment to prayer and scripture reading. From January 1 to February 16 we spent six days a week reading through substantial passages of scripture and then processed our reading together on Sundays. During this time we read through Isaiah, Micah, Haggai, Hosea, Zechariah, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts and Ephesians. We also spent time each day reading and praying over Luke 10:2, begging the Lord of the Harvest to send out workers into the field, asking that we may be those harvesters and that we would encounter those God was preparing to become harvesters as well.
Words cannot describe the impact that this has had. It was incredible to witness the ways in which the Holy Spirit opened scripture to our community and opened our eyes to miracles occurring all around. We came to expect our worship gathering each week to be opportunity to replay the miracles of the previous week and to anticipate even greater transformations in the coming week...what a novel thought for the people of God!
During this season we witnessed no fewer than a dozen NEW connections with broken people in search of something. Friendships were begun with exhausted single moms, angry dads and frustrated grandparents. We “randomly” reconnected with a few high school friends and had “chance” encounters with strangers.
Coming into this season, Chris and I both had some friendships that had developed over the past couple years but which seemed stuck. We had no idea how to help these friends take the next step in their journey...until we began praying more regularly and more specifically. Some of those friends have now shared dinner and spiritual conversation at the Chappotins’ house. I spent a morning at Denny’s with another of those friends, describing what it would look like to begin a house church in his living room.
Chris and I have both had friends who are either avowed atheists or who have said they have no use for church (regardless of whether or not there is a God) say to us in the past several weeks, “That is a Jesus I could get behind. Why haven’t I heard of this before?”
Over the last couple months, I’ve gotten to know a young man who is trying to leave behind a life of selling drugs and stolen merchandise. He’s already spent considerable time in jail. This past week we had a conversation about the radical new kingdom that Jesus came to announce. A kingdom that functions with a different understanding of power, success and wealth. The reign of God announced by Jesus is a direct attack against the systems of power fed by greed and manipulation. His response, “I like this. Is this way ever going to be possible?”
Our first season of reading was so transformational that we and the Chappotins have now completed our second round...and we’re making plans for what we’ll cover in round three.
I wish I could say that this amazing experience has solved all our frustrations and struggles. It hasn’t. Not even close. But it has certainly strengthened our framework of faith in order to accept those struggles.
The reality is that to reach many of the broken and hurting people in our community, many of whom have been burned by “Christians” or the church, we must go to them. Creating the newest high impact worship gathering or glossy invitation mailer will not get their attention because they aren’t interested in attending any religious gathering. A rocking worship band is cool...for people who are looking for Christian worship music. A fantastic children’s and youth ministry is attractive to those who are looking for a Christian place to take their kids. But what about those who aren’t so sure they want Christians teaching their kids anything?
To reach these broken people, we need to have a presence of hospitality in our neighborhood. We must be actively praying for God to open our eyes to those he’s allowing to cross our paths. We need to be inviting our kids’ friends and their parents to the park, and if Sunday morning is when they are available...
There’s a question that Chris and I have been asking people lately, “How long do you need to sit and listen to stories of Jesus before you are ready to share those stories with others?” I’ve known of good, kind, loving people who sit in Sunday school classes every week for decades on end without ever feeling that they are ready to invite someone else to follow Jesus. Why is that?
We realize that our goal must go beyond merely planting churches. Our goal is to call people to become fully devoted disciples of Jesus. Fully devoted disciples of Jesus are those who hear the words of Jesus and put them into practice; they make disciples who in turn make disciples. These disciples certainly worship together (we are still planting churches!) but they refuse to simply form a club that meets weekly. They are on mission together to be like the one they worship.
This is much more difficult than just planting churches...which isn’t an easy thing to begin with! Please continue to join us in prayer for the harvest and harvesters in the south Fort Worth area.
Now back to that comment about roofs...
This school year I’ve been substitute teaching to cover the balance of our financial needs. We have been so blessed to have such a large group of friends and family supporting us financially - some of you have now been partners with us for two years! We know that many of you have been giving, not out of your abundance, but sacrificially. We cannot thank you enough. Truly there are times that I am kept from despair by the realization that so many people believe in us and are praying for us. It is an honor to be entrusted to this ministry by God and supported in it by you.
In addition to subbing I began the process for obtaining certification as a junior high/ high school teacher. However, it became apparent that we weren’t going to be able to make it to September before that more substantial paycheck would possibly come along. So we continued moving forward in faith, praying that God would provide an answer.
We believe that answer was provided through a phone call from a friend I haven’t seen since 10th grade. David works for Quick Roofing here in the metroplex and invited me to join his team as a sales rep / roofing contractor.
After some time of prayer and deliberation we decided to go for it. I’m still subbing some, but mostly I’m devoting a large amount of my time learning and developing a customer base as a roofing contractor. It has been so promising that my little brother has decided to join me as well.
After this summer I will only have 1 class remaining in my DMin work (with just my doctoral project remaining), I do not anticipate subbing next year, and as my customer base and referrals grow in roofing, time spent “pounding the pavement” will decrease. I am hopeful that a more healthy and stable lifestyle is within reach.
We feel called to devote our lives and our time to proclaiming resurrection in the midst of darkness and pouring ourselves out for those who are skeptical and wary of the Christians; for those who desperately need to hear the good news of hope and new life. It appears that, at least for the time being, to do so faithfully I need to develop a “tent making” approach as Paul did at different points in his missionary journeys.
Such a transition is difficult and slow. I’m working very hard to keep all the plates spinning, but I continue to need your help. We are in a particularly vulnerable position right now and over the next year. In order to get this new job off the ground without abandoning my church planting and evangelistic calling, I will need continued support during this period.
If you are currently a financial partner with us, we hope that you will continue with us over this next year. If you are not currently, would you please consider doing so? Perhaps you have friends or a congregation that would be willing to contribute to this specific goal.
There are people right here in our own backyard who have never heard the gospel. Our Lord Jesus has called me to announce the arrival of the Kingdom to these very people, to proclaim good news to the poor and oppressed. I readily acknowledge that I will not be able to fulfill my calling without the support of God’s people in this land - this is a call that must be lived out in and supported by the community. And I am convinced that God wouldn’t have it any other way.