i will not take these things for granted

thoughts on this and that in an attempt to live reflectively

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Location: Little Rock, Arkansas, United States

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Surprise Me

Repeatedly this summer, Chris has talked about God’s surprises during his and Heidi’s short journey of church planting. This is a characteristic of the missional paradigm: missions occurs by the Spirit, by waiting for God’s surprises; whereas in the church growth paradigm, missions occurs by strategic planning. The surprises in Christ Journey have been many. Only one of the couples Chris and Heidi pursued to be a part of the core team said yes. The rest of the core team has come together due to ‘random’ meetings. One couple called Chris out of the blue one day to ask him what Christ Journey was all about. They had heard that CJ meets at 4:00 which was more appealing to them than having to get up in time for 10:30 service at the church they were attending. They brought along with them their family—mother, brother, sister, and brother-in-law—each member of which has a powerful testimony concerning the grace and guidance of God to turn their lives around. Another couple called Chris because they had searched on the internet for local church plants. They were tired of the seeker-sensitive model at their church which lacked depth; they wanted to help in a church that both seeks the lost and matures the found. The husband is now the worship leader for the cell group. The church has both denominational (CofC, Baptist, Pentecostal, Catholic) and geographical (Burleson, Cleburne, Fort Worth) diversity. At basketball in the park, the friend we have gotten to know most grabbed the only bottle that had a Christ Journey card taped to it. Etcetera.

We can do all the planning and preparing we want—and we should do these things—but in the end it is not our ingenuity but God’s providence that proves most ‘effective.’ What does it mean to trust in God? To wait on the Lord? To be led by the Spirit? Maybe it is like a couple of my friends have said: Perhaps it is not that God works a whole lot more when we pray, but that when we are active in prayer we become more aware of the work God is doing in our midst. We join him in the work he is already doing.

God, please surprise me. Open my eyes, and help me to know what to do once I finally see—at the coffee shop tomorrow, in the bookstore, at the gym, in the park, wherever you will. May your kingdom break in. May your will be done on earth as in heaven. For, yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Pickup Evangelism

Tuesday at the Park was awesome this week. Chris and I brought a cooler of bottled water to the Warren Park basketball courts and offered them to the people there playing pickup games. The water turned out to be a hit. We joined in for 3 or 4 games. It’s pathetic, I’m 5’6 and my strength is rebounding!

This was our second week in the park so relationships are slowly beginning to develop. Kevin, who last week told us about a cousin who was very sick, informed us today that he had just returned from her funeral. At one point during the night I let him know that I had been praying for his family the past week and he shook my hand appreciatively.

As we were packing up to leave, Chris told a couple of the guys about our cookout this Saturday night, and somehow the topic of our usual Sunday night gathering came up. It was amazing how interested a few of the guys were in learning about what we do, and when we meet and where. What was especially cool was that Kevin, who has apparently attended at least one Christ Journey event, told a couple of the other guys that it was cool and they should come. Reflecting on Kevin’s comments, Chris later pointed out that despite the perceptions we tend to have, transformed/impacted seekers are actually more effective evangelists than paid ministers or evangelists of a church. Very true, and a fact that we should use to encourage others to reach out through spiritual friendships. Evangelism isn’t for those with special training, but for anyone whose life has been impacted by God via relationship with him and his disciples. I wonder if perhaps another factor in the interest shown tonight was the fair play, clean and encouraging language, etc. that Chris and I showed. Perhaps no one really noticed these things while we were playing, but I wonder if afterward, when they found out we were Christians working with a new church, it clicked that we were different.

One guy, who was there with his wife and baby watching, said that they go to another church in town which is also meeting in houses. Two other guys attend the Lighthouse Church in town, and one of them is the worship leader. When we told him our church was called Christ Journey he asked what denomination we are affiliated with. Churches of Christ. So are you charismatic? Etc. It is interesting how denominational names and distinctives are so important to churched people, but to the unchurched those kinds of things really don’t matter. It was also apparent from some of the questions and comments tonight how engrained the importance of having a church building has become. It’s like we feel illegitimate without one.

I’m excited to see what happens this weekend, whether some of the folks we met tonight show up for Saturday cookout and/or Sunday gathering. I pray that they do. I’m also just excited about allowing God work through me as I develop spiritual friendships with others. I’m more reserved than Chris, so getting to know these guys will be a bit slower, but fast or slow, I think the work of the Spirit and the witness of a transformed person (still in the process of transformation, of course) who is concerned for the wellbeing of others could be a powerful combo.