Monday, November 8, 2010

When God Dreams

Early October, I had the privilege of getting together with about 200 other leaders and church planters from various locations for a gathering called, "When God Dreams," in Redding, CA. It was an amazing time of learning from the best and the brightest. It was also encouraging to connect with other leaders headed in the same direction of seeing God's kingdom expand. Here are some highlights I picked up from various leaders:


//On Community//
Banning Liebcscher opens the conference with a reminder of the importance of community. He calls us to the need for covering for young leaders. We tend to have a streak of rogue in us, as church planters.

| "Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." (1 Peter 5:5) |

It's intriguing that God can be the one that actually opposes us, as leaders. I recall stepping out and doing things in my own strength and seeking Him to bless it afterwards. From experience, that may not be the best route to go. Submission is a huge lesson for the development of any Christ follower. Hence, the emphasis on "follower."

As we move in ministry, there will be times we feel that our "best just isn't good enough." We're always one fry short of a happy meal. This is when you ask whether or not you have gotten the best of others in your life. Have we submitted to others enough to receive from them and develop our leadership, our marriage, and our ministry? 

There are at least 3 Roadblocks to community:
  1. Resistance to feedback and input - we tend towards doing things and asking for forgiveness rather than seeking permission. Our independent spirit has fueled this mentality.
  2. Pride - keeps us from going to one another for advice and we don't want to admit that we are broken. We need to be serious about our restoration.
  3. We don't have the skill set - to seek covering and hear from others. We need to check in with relationships to see how we're doing. Banning calls it, "Check it out." Check out those you think you may have offended and simply ask them if you have hurt them in any way. 
Banning served with Bethel Church in Redding, CA and is also leader of the Jesus Culture Movement. 


//Seek God First//
As obvious as this sounds Jason Ostrander, Youth Director of the Christian and Missionary Alliance, reminded us of the importance of going to God for direction rather than listening to the many voices that pull us in different directions. Launching from the development of Moses, as a leader in Exodus 19 - 20, Jason raises the point that: 

"The biggest mistake Christian leaders make is replacing listening to God with listening to people. We become more consumed with the culture and the people around us than with what God desires of us."

Jason brought an invigorating and jarring message reminding us the importance of going directly to God  and searching his heart for what pleases Him rather than looking to what pleases people. Our message and ministry should be about finding out what is on the heart of God and conveying that to His people.


//The Mission//
Nathan wraps up the conference up with a reminder for leaders to move from the role of the Prodigal Son, to the Older brother, and finally to being the Father. As a church, we have failed to love passionately, the way the Father loves. Instead we are more like the brothers. As the brothers we fight against one another. If we take on the mantle of the Father, we would fight for our brothers. As the Father we are called to:
  • Wait and Seek to see when the Prodigal will return.
  • Run and Embrace them when they do return.
  • Celebrate their return - instead of finding a home that welcomes the Prodigal most churches are leary of newcomers and tend to gather with their own. 
Nathan pastors  The Stirring Church in Redding, CA.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Declaring War

I'm not one to look for the "devil behind every bush," but recently there have been events that I believe could be attributed to a world that, while unseen, encroaches upon ours constantly. I am writing about the spiritual realm that is, in many ways, more real than we realize.

Regen has recently been going through the book of Luke. As we've rounded Chapter 4, which has been a powerfully packed chapter on Jesus' identity, messianic message, and ministry we've experienced some challenges. Reading about Christ's temptation, we learned about how our identity is tested right after God affirms us of who we are (vv.1 - 12). We then jumped off of the diving board  into the deep waters of the Good News:

| The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor. (vv.18 - 19) |

This study was a sobering reminder that the gospel is not an "abstract, head knowledge, prayer to get my golden ticket to heaven" but a robust declaration that His kingdom is connecting with ours and that we should be changed and be a changing agent in the broken world we live in.

What followed in the weeks to come was something we did not expect as we invested time to break down the passages of Jesus casting out demons and healing the sick. What we experienced, as a church, resonates with what Paul stated:

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Eph. 6:12) |

As Jay preached on the passage where Jesus was casting out a demon from a man in the synagogue, strange occurrences surrounded the preaching. Prior to the sermon, as Jay is getting ready around the house, he hears small footsteps running around, thinking it was his 1 and 1/2 year old son, Jacob, he goes to look for him only to find his boy fast asleep with his mother. Later that day, Jacob has a painful ear ache, keeping his mother at home tending to him. Ironically, Jacob was fine when the service had ended.

During the service as Jay was delivering the sermon he oddly heard, what can only be described as a voice that said, "Ha!" while he was preaching. He was distracted three times during the talk but couldn't place where it was coming from. He felt this distraction right off of his peripheral vision and couldn't quite catch a glimpse of it. What we encountered here was the dark realm pushing in on us and trying to plant:

in our heart as we move forward. It's a good thing that Jay has a thick skin and continued on without a hitch. I don't know if I could've done the same if I was in his position.

The following week, I took the passage of Christ healing Simon's mother-in-law (Luke 4:38 - 44) and we went into a discussion on the parameters of healing and what the scripture has to say about it. We saw Jesus as our "Restorer," our second of four values at Regeneration. Wherever Christ went, he touched people and restored what was broken and misplaced in the natural and supernatural world. He was also proclaiming and "preaching" the word as he went, leaving people no doubt as to who He was. 

What we found that weekend was uncanny. About a quarter of our congregation was sick with something from the "bug" to "migraines." Some were missing and some had headaches while the service was proceeding. We had a time of prayer for those who needed healing but we definitely saw an increase in those that were sick on this particular Sunday. Even as we opened the floor for prayer, there seemed to be a spirit of complacency about us. We continued to seek God together, asking Him to meet us there. Numerous people  were heard coughing during the service with others absent as their entire family became ill. This was no coincidence. As we lean into what God is doing, the enemy is hard at work and we find that experience in our natural world. 

We know that while God is at work and His kingdom is present and powerful, it does not go unnoticed and the Dark forces will not sit idly by. The one consolation is that there is a response and this could be translated to mean that Regeneration is heading in the right direction with proclaiming the word and practicing what God has called us to ... live out the Gospel message.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Reconciliation: The Big Story

James Choung presents the Big Story in a 2 part youtube snippet:

James Choung, author of "True Story - A Christianity worth believing in," shared his insights about presenting a full gospel message in a time when people don't find the gospel to be "good news." His presentation is a wake up call, challenging us (followers of Christ) to consider how we approach evangelism and what the heartbeat the gospel message is.

He opened with a challenging question: "Why doesn't the world perceive the gospel message as good news?" He proposed two possible answers:

  1. We, as Christians, aren't convinced that it is good news and (or),
  2. We believe those that we are sharing it with won't perceive it as good news. 
I would dare to say that it is a mixture of both factors. I would venture to say that a large portion of our church going population are functional agnostics - believing that there is some benevolent good God out there who will sort it all out when we're done. Meanwhile, we simply need to put in our time in church and service and behave Christianly.

James went on to describe how the partial (2-part gospel) we've shared has been part of the Big Story but inadequate in creating selfless Christians on a mission together. Rather it has created selfish Christians with a consumer mindset. The two part gospel emphasizes the two of the four circles on the right hand side of the image above:

  1. We are damaged by evil - we try and get people to admit that they are sinners and in need of Christ and
  2. Restored for Better - we try and get them to pray the sinners prayer in hopes that they will admit that Christ is their Lord and Savior.

    While these statements are true, they lack context and the other two circles are vital in providing a full robust, gospel message. In order to see God as more than someone waiting for us to sin and bash us over the head with a club, we need to present the first circle:

    1. Designed for Good - which shows us a generous God that, from the beginning, desires to have a relationship with us. He has shown us how we are to relate to one another, to Himself and to the world He's given.

    2. Sent together to Heal - indicates the mission of the church and that we are not to simply hold on to our salvation as the Golden ticket to see God but to share his healing power to all those that are broken and hurt.
    The traditional two part gospel message has heavily focused on:
    1. The individual - we need to make a personal choice to follow God.
    2. A Decision - this usually involves a prayer or walking up to the altar.
    3. The Afterlife - Christ paves the way to eternal life with God after we die.

      Again, there are truths here but they are inadequate to transform people who are concerned about their family, their quality of life on Earth, and how they impact this world while here.

      The questions being asked are:
      • Does our faith create selfish Christians?
      • What good is our faith in the world?

        In various generations these questions have surfaced philosophically:
        • The Boomer Generation - asked, "What is true?" They lived to work.
        • Gen X - asked, "What is real?" They detected the salesman and weren't into the fake stuff. It was about being authentic.
        • The Millennial Generation - is asking, "What is good?" They desire to make an impact in the world and change the world. 

          The Big Story (the 4-part) Gospel message, presented above moves the message from being:
          1. Individual ---> Communal
          2. Decision ---> Transformation
          3. Afterlife ---> Missional Life
          James is on to something here. He talks about how the Kingdom of God is here and is also, not yet. There is an in-breaking of God's kingdom that we are missing and that is the power of God's reign here and now. We need to remember that is what the Gospel is:

          "The time has come," he said, "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!" (Mark 1:15).

          As a church planter and a follower of Jesus, I wrestle with the implications of this 4 part Gospel. I can see that our churches have left the central message of Christ and have hung our hats on the wrong issues. With that said, it leaves me asking:

          • What is the gospel message to our generation today?
          • Specifically, what does it mean to Southeast Asians 1st and following generations to live out "Being Restored for Better" and "Sent to Heal Together?"
          What are your thoughts as you process this?

          "True Story: A Christianity worth Believing In" has been a great resource for our church as we explain the gospel to those exploring Christian worldview.

          Monday, September 20, 2010

          33 years into life and 3 years with Regeneration - God Moments

          As of September 14, I celebrated my 33rd and my 3 years with Regeneration church. We just celebrated our 1 year anniversary on September 12th. This marks the 1st year since we've gone public with Regeneration Church. The first 2 years was building up the launch team and having preview services. What a landmark Anniversary! With this said, I thought it would be good to start capturing some thoughts on this journey of Regeneration Church and life in general.

          Here are some Celebrations with Regeneration Church lately:

          • Small Group: We've come through 3 semesters of small groups so far. Each semester is about 3 months long and we'd go through workbooks for each small group. We went through "First Steps," which gave the foundations of Christianity. New believers and Veterans alike enjoyed that small group as we discussed and dove into the basics of following Christ.

            The 2nd semester challenged the small group to live out three important facets of following Christ: Community, Communion, and Mission. We went through a workbook called "The Tangible Kingdom Primer." In these 3 months we learned how to live a life reflecting Christ in an intuitive and natural way.

            We are now ramping up to launch into our 3rd semester and we'll be going through a workbook called "A Spiritual Formation Workbook," challenging us to wade deeper into the waters of spiritual growth. It's an exciting time as we seek Him in small groups and desire to see Him form us.
            Other gatherings include a Couple's Small Group - connecting couples with other couples to learn how to honor one another and care for each other, Leaving a Legacy - addressing how we leave a legacy for subsequent generations, and Women's Small Group - which explores the lies that women have bought into and the truth that sets them free.

            Pray that God will
            continue to form Regeneration church through our small groups.

          • Game Day: Community Outreach to the kids right across the street from the church. I've been praying about how God wants us to connect with the neighborhood as we have been largely a commuter church rather than a community church.

            This idea was born out of the fact that there are always kids playing in the playground of the church and we didn't even know their names. We partnered up with the other churches that were meeting at our campus and decided to do a day for the young ones.

            The verse that came to my heart was:

            | Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." (Matt. 19:14) |

            At first we saw only 4 kids on the street. After telling them there was free food and fun games at the church they scurried back to the apartment to gather more of their friends. Kids are the best evangelist. They run with good news! They knocked on the doors of their friends and hurried them to something they weren't entirely sure was good but they were hungry for interaction and good food.

            As we were going through the apartment complex we were welcomed by parents with whom we had a translator communicate with. We affirmed that their children would be returned unharmed and happy. However, there came a point when we did encounter resistance. As we went through the complex, a rough looking Hispanic man covered in tattoos came out on the second floor balcony and yelled out to me:

            "We're all atheist here. This whole apartment complex is atheist," trying to deter us from inviting others.

            I was a little taken by the remark and the children were looking up at me awaiting a response when I called back,

            "Well, even atheist eat hot dogs and play football. We'd love for you to join us!"

            He was taken by the comment and paused. He then gave me a crooked smirk, turned around, opened the door and let two kids out from the apartment to join us. By 1130 am, we had 15 of these little guys crossing the street with us to play some Futball and then some American Football.

            It was an amazing day of giving of ourselves. I felt that this is what Regeneration is about: Connecting with the lives, interacting with a community that is hostile towards Christ and just being a presence of Christ to them. What I learned from this experience is that we need to look at the very needs that are present right before our eyes. Once we minister there, we will see God leading us like bread crumbs on a trail to more and deeper service to those that are hurt and broken.

          • Serving and loving deeply those He brings to us - As if all that wasn't enough, from this Game Day, there was a mother that came by and we discovered that she was in need of a little help to get by. Myself and a member of Regeneration had the privilege of buying some groceries for the family and some school supplies for the kids.

            When we went to deliver the goods something I could only explain as a "God Moment" happened. As I was heading up to the apartment, I realized this young lady lived with the very man that called out to us and stated that they were all atheist. She lived with him and I was completely floored. We were helping the very family of the man who was persecuting us. What an opportunity for us to share in Christ's experience of loving those that persecuted Him.

            As she opened the door, I saw him and he smiled at me. This was a very different person from the guy I met a couple of weeks prior. He was softened by our act of love and kindness. He came down with me to retrieve the rest of the groceries and we had some small talk on the way back up. I wasn't going to mention our first encounter hoping that he would think that all of us "Asians" look alike and he wouldn't recognize me.

            The awesome part was that the following Sunday, he came to church with the young lady and her kids. The very man that said we don't believe in Christ was moved, not by words but by action. Love (the verb) that steps out in vulnerability and trust in God can be a powerful force to reckon with.
          I believe this is what God has Regeneration in Anaheim on Broadway street for ... to be His presence and for us to be shaped into His likeness. I can see how my life has been shaped by this time and people. I pray that God is not done with us.