Thursday, January 26, 2012

Church Planting requires Persistent Prayer

Every week I spend at least one day doing sermon study in Beaumont. Until we sell our home in Groves I'm keeping an office near the house for study but I still make an intention effort to be around the people we hope to reach through our church plant, Cross Point. You might find me at Sertino's or Rao's part of that day but I also like meeting business owners and workers at various places in the Old Town neighborhood or in Downtown. The first thing I do when I get to Beaumont for the day is pray. I drive up and down the streets of "The Oaks" and pray for the residents-- mainly that God would awaken them to the glory of His gospel.

Presently our church is meeting on Wednesday nights for prayer as well. We begin by praying as a group for our church and for the community (using our five "core values" to guide us). Then we divide up between guys and ladies. This is time to share more personal needs and offer accountability for each other. I cannot emphasize how important it is to bathe everything we do in this planting process with prayer. In 2 Corinthians 1:11 Paul says, "You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many." We do not call on others to join us in prayer (sharing "prayer requests") so that God might be convinced or browbeaten into doing what we think is right. Whatever God does-- whether we agree or understand-- IS RIGHT. We call others to join us in prayer so that when Christ is exalted through meeting our needs and responding to our requests more people will be aware of His glory and praise Him. The goal of prayer is to bring our will into alignment with the will of God so that Christ would be exalted.

We want Christ exalted through our lives and our infant church. We want Him exalted in our community. We want Him exalted in our marriages. We want Him exalted across the earth. So join us in prayer and pray with anticipation like David who said in Psalm 5:3, "O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch."

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Tuesday Hodge-Podge (1-17-12)

Why Biblical Manhood and Womanhood Matters from Desiring God on Vimeo.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

First Impressions

Cross Point has met for worship now for two Sundays. It is a lot of work but also a lot of fun. By fun I don't mean we're playing dodge ball (Murchison would dominate though). It has been such a joy serving alongside my friends and making new friends as we worship together, eat together, and seek to spread the gospel together. So here are my first impressions of the first two gatherings:

1. Simplicity is refreshing. We've intentionall kept things simple. We're not trying to bite off more than we can chew and even the worship service is bare bones. Yet it has been encouraging to see that Christ can still be exalted, the saints can still be equipped, and the gospel still be made clear without all the bells and whistles.

2. Eating together after worship is already becoming our relational glue. It is work to prepare and bring food and we'll definitely need to take some breaks from our fellowship supper at times but it is really precious time. We want everyone- married or single- feeling part of one family and not disjointed by their place in life. This meal time encourages unity, sharing, and hospitality. I love it!

3. The set-up and take-down creates buy-in. I'm certain this will grow more tedious especially after an already tiring weekend but at this point it is serving to wire something very important into our church's DNA: No one is a spectator. We are on mission together and we all contribute. I'm thankful for how everyone has pitched in already in one way or another (even guests).

4. Everything is a work in progress and that's okay. We have a lot of tweaking, refining, and polishing to do in a lot of areas but we're learning together. There's no one on pins and needles if something doesn't go just right because there's no one waiting to pounce. We're helping each other, encouraging each other, and loving each other. It is such a joy.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Are you defined by what you are against?

One valuable lesson I've learned over the last year or so that is proving to be extremely helpful in church planting is: Don't define yourself by what you are against (or who might be against you). I've talked to too many church planters and pastors who now bemoan that they once tried to build their church and shape their own pastoral ministry by what they disagreed with. They made a mental list of what they didn't like, who they didn't like, and what they thought was done poorly and used that as sort of a reverse aim. These churches often come undone and are unsustainable. Why? Because we ought to be shaped by Christ. If your bar is set at being different (i.e. "better") than someone else or some other church then your standard is still fixed on fallen man.

Paul wrote in Colossians 3:1-2, "If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth."

When questioned about why you do a certain thing that might be different than many others be ready to explain Biblically why you do it. Your argument for why shouldn't begin with "Because what they are doing is wrong". Let the Bible do the talking. You will still rub some the wrong way and offend even if you speak "truth in love" but let the offense be clearly based on your convictions about God's Word and do not give the impression that it is just a matter of preference or personal opinion. Define yourself, your ministry, and your church by Christ. Our aim must always be to exalt Christ over man.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Tuesday Hodge-Podge (1-10-12)

  • One of my favorite verses in the Bible that describes God's character, Jeremiah 29:11, is sadly often butchered and ripped from context to push an almost "prosperity gospel" message. Here is a good analysis of this great verse.
  • Michael Horton provides a helpful and convicting argument for a high view of the Lord's Day. (I am not a strict Sabbatarian and believe Christ is our Sabbath but recognize that we honor Christ as our Sabbath by setting apart a day to be unique for worship and rest.)
  • John Piper reminds us that strategy is good but prayer is better. This is a lesson I've learn in church planting these last few months.
  • This is a really interesting article about how Martin Luther was way ahead of his time when it comes to social media.
  • Michael Patton gives us a helpful chart and post about studying the Bible efficiently and effectively.

Monday, January 9, 2012

First Sunday with Cross Point

Cross Point has begun in earnest! Yesterday we had our first "formal" gathering on the Lord's Day. We will be meeting for worship (followed by a fellowship supper), Lord willing every Sunday from now on out. For the next couple of months we'll be meeting at 4PM and eventually begin a morning worship service. The afternoon hour allows some of our partnering churches to come assist us in various ways. For example, yesterday I was greeted by members from Westgate Memorial Baptist in Beaumont and Jade Avenue Baptist in Port Arthur who helped us unload and set-up. JABC's pastor and family hung around to help us with childcare during worship. A group from First Baptist Groves joined us for worship which was a big encouragement! I'm thankful also for the many prayer partners we have out there and for the texts or emails I received yesterday reminding me that they were praying for us in their church services. What a blessing!

Our first service went great. Aside from the pastor's first Sunday jitters everything went so smooth but mostly I trust the Lord was honored which is our mission each Sunday. If Christ is exalted we have hit our target! I preached from Mark 1:1-15 as I began a series through the Gospel of Mark. My hope is to spend the next 20 weeks or so in the rich book of the Bible to get to know our King better and to better understand what He demands of those who follow Him. I firmly believe Cross Point will thrive if our lives are collectively shaped around our Lord and Savior! By God's grace and through the Spirit's sanctifying work that's our aim.

It was good to have friends come in support and to make new friends as well. We hope the Lord continues to draw people into our church family and we hope to engage people in the community with Christ's gospel as well. Continue to pray for us-- especially this Saturday as we'll be going into a nearby neighborhood to meet residents and distribute gospel tracts and church fliers. I'm praying our labor will yield fruit and praying the Lord will send us laborers for this harvest. Perhaps the Lord is leading you to be one of those laborers. Come help us this Sunday or come unite with us (even if for a short-term mission assignment) at Cross Point and help us plant a Christ-magnifying, Biblically-driven, gospel-living, community-engaging church!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Ready for Launch!

This Sunday Cross Point begins its third critical stage of development: Mobilization. The first stage is actually continuous (must be) and is the Prayer/ Dreaming stage. For us this began back in the Spring of 2011. The second stage began last Summer and was the Planning/ Fundraising stage. I've been blessed to have two families come alongside ours to dig down in the trenches of this phase with us. We're also blessed with partnering churches and their pastors to help. Now it is time to moblize.

From January 8 through April 8 (which is Easter Sunday) we will be meeting every Sunday for worship and fellowship. These will be simple gatherings to exalt Jesus, hear from His Word, and break bread together so that we might build toward authentic and committed friendships. My expectations for these three months are:

1. To cull together a committed group of Christ-followers who will make up the core group of the church. These will be called upon to share of their time, talents, and treasures to the Kingdom work of the church in Beaumont (and beyond).

2. To dig through Mark's Gospel together and so be formed as a church family around the person of Jesus Christ.

3. To organize and implement Missional Community Groups (MCG's for lack of a catchier name). These groups will meet in homes and be smaller applications of the Biblical picture of the church as a missional faith community. Each group will include believers who are church members (in covenant by common confession) and will intentionally seek to pull in unbelievers or those believers not connected with a church family. Each group will be intentional about sharing and living out the gospel through community engagement. Each group will be intentional about investing in one another and building each other up.

4. To introduce ourselves to the Old Town/ Downtown community through canvassing efforts and through hospitality.

5. To identify and begin training leadership-- particularly men to lead in their homes and in the church.

That will bring us to the next stage: Deployment. This will also be continuous. We will be putting our MCG's into full application. We will be expanding our gospel footprint in the city. We will formalize covenant church membership (yep, that is Biblical and critical). There's lots of other stuff I could say to this but first up is this Sunday. Pray for us. Join us. Spread the word.