Coffee, Theology and Jesus

working out our messy faith over coffee

Tag: Community

CTJ #27: Jerry McCarty – Community Outreach

Tim and Jordan sit down, metaphorically speaking, with their good friend Jerry, who travels the world helping local communities better serve their community motivated by the gospel.   At the heart of every thriving gospel work is some sort of community outreach!  Some of the questions asked include:

  1. How do we love our neighbor as ourself?
  2. How do we love those who need it most in real ways?
  3. What does the Church need to change to be a better light in such a dark world?

Join us in the discussion of these questions in this episode with Jerry!

As Always:

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The Church Friend Zone (Breaking Out)

Remember when you were in the friend zone?

For the married crowd let me refresh your memory on what the friend zone is.

The friend zone is when you like someone more than just friends, but they don’t see you the same way so they put you in what’s called the friend zone. It pretty much means that they will never see you as more than a friend and there’s nothing you can do about it. They simply don’t see you the same way that you see them. For men, those three words bring up feelings of impending doom, emotional death, and absolute helplessness.

The friend zone is a barrier put up between you and the other person that says “you can come this far into my life, but no farther then this boundary I put up”.

So what happens when we Church zone people? I’m glad you asked.

The Church zone is like the friend zone only for Church people. Essentially, it’s a barrier we put up between us and other fellow Church members that says we can be friends up to a point. That we can be friends at Church events (like Sunday morning, maybe small group, and the yearly Super Bowl party) and that’s about as far as our relationship will go. When we church zone people we don’t see them as friends that we do life with, we see them as church folks that we see once a week or at other church events.

I know when I’m breaking out of the church zone with Church people when they call me just to hangout, to maybe see a movie, to kick back at the house and figure out something to do. This is when I know I’m not just a fellow church member, but now I’m a friend. Now I ‘m someone they see as a part of their entire life, not just their “church life”.

This is incredibly frustrating for me because the big movement in Church these past few years has been a (rightful) focus on community and relationships. The problem is that we are so used to planning events and church functions that we have forgotten how to be friends again.We are afraid that if people from Church just hangout without an agenda that we somehow didn’t do it right. This is a dangerous mindset because when we forget how to be…friends, we then miss the whole point of holistic Church life.

Listen, if people in the Church are agreeing that Church is not a place you go to it’s a life you live, then we need to smash through this wall in our heads that we put up of spending 90% of our time with fellow Church members at specific Church designated events. We must de-compartmentalize and blur the lines between Church friends and friends! Who are the people you make time to see? Who are the people that you can be you around, who you invite over regularly to eat with, to catch up on life with, to share your life with? Are they the same people you see regularly on Sunday morning?

If we are going to claim to be a Church that sees human relationships as key to living out the faith, then we must de-church zone our fellow church members and must invite them into our whole lives, not just to small group time, or Sunday morning service time, or potluck dinner time.

What’s the challenge? Call up someone you see on Sunday mornings but not during your normal week or during your normal social time and invite them to hangout. Share a meal, play Mario Kart, grab coffee, go shopping together or whatever else you can think of and break them out of the zone you’ve put them in.

If you like this post then share it!

-TW

What Mighty Ducks 2 and the Bible have in common.

This is a long post, just so your warned.

Community is one of the many buzz words in the Church community. It’s taken over like a plague. That usually is a good thing, but if we don’t really understand what that word implies then it becomes a dangerous thing. Dangerous because we start to redefine what community actually implies. When we start reading our culture into words, we sometimes tend to water down their meaning. For example many churches have community groups but all that means is a group who meets once a week for 3 hours to maybe eat some food, then go through a Bible study that the larger Church has already put together. This is not community, that’s Bible study with food.

Really community in Christianity boils down to a group of people pursuing The Lord together. Can this happen once a week in someone’s house? Of course, but when that’s all it is, a few meetings during the week, we lose the intimacy with each other. When we plan out the meeting every time, we don’t give much room for God to truly move. Why do I say this? Because sometimes we trick ourselves. We pray prayers like “God have your way tonight” but really what we’re saying is “hey God we have our format prepared, hope you fit in”. This is why I get frustrated with the Sunday service so often, because regardless of our prayers for the Holy Spirit to move, we don’t. We refuse to change too many things on a Sunday morning. I think we should be praying “God help us to be willing to change on a moments notice as your Spirit leads”.

Back to my point. About 6 years ago I met a group of people that became my community. We met once a week on Saturday nights as a group but the difference was that it didn’t stop there for us. We were always together throughout the week and it did not always have a “spiritual” emphasis. What i mean is that often times we got together for dinner, or to do homework together. We had common interests and we did a lot of them together. There is strength in Christian community because you’re able to let your guard down. People want to be there for you, not throw you out, people want to know you intimately in your life not in designated Christian times. This small group I was a part of was called 11th hour and it changed my life.

We really didn’t know what was happening. I would bring a friend out who never met anyone from 11th hour and they would say “I can’t believe this exists” and we would say “us either”. We knew early on that it had nothing to do with us and everything to do with God working among us. We got to a point in 11th hour where our prayer was “God, whatever you want to take away, take away, whatever you want to add, add” and it was completely genuine. We were willing to change anything that he wanted changed. We knew we wanted two things, the real presence of God continually and authentic, deep relationships with each other. God granted both of those to us and we would never be the same.

Our mindset was to be radically inclusive, it didn’t matter who you were, where you came from, you were welcome to join us, to be a part of our local group, to join us in pursuing The Lord together. We were set on fire with a desire to be together as much as possible with each other. One time a friend of ours got extremely sick and was put in the hospital for a week. Every day there were people in his room. Even past visitation hours. The nurses couldn’t believe how many people were with him all day and when they started asking questions we were more than happy to tell them what we were about. We even hacked in to the tv in the hospital room and hooked up a wii so we could play Mario Kart. We had 5-10 guys there day and night hanging out with him and being there for him the entire time he was in the hospital. It makes for a great story today. I mean c’mon, who hooks up a wii to a hospital tv? Our friend was sharing a room with someone else during his stay there so we had to keep quiet. Imagine 4 guys sitting on a hospital bed trying not to scream when they won or lost. It was quite the challenge.

Every day you could bet that some people somewhere from 11th hour were together doing something. We started a text loop dubbed “the loop” where people could send prayer requests to someone who would loop it out. Eventually it got so large that we had two loops. An announcement loop and a prayer loop. I was in charge of that and at one point I was sending about 10,000 texts out per month.

People were coming in to our midst and being set free from all sorts of garbage. We weren’t afraid to get in the mud with each other and work through our garbage. This was what changed my life. For the first time I had someone who knew every dark part of me, who knew all of my crap and helped me work through it. I’m still accountable to that person today and he has become one of my closest friends.

Community really is both/and. It’s all about pursuing The Lord together and it’s all about enjoying life together. When you have a group as large as 11th hour (at one point close to 35 people) you have a wide range of interests and passions. Because of that we tried to support people in doing what they loved. We went to hockey games, art exhibits, concerts, plays, and everything in between. Not because we were all passionate about these things, but because one of us was and we wanted to support that person as much as possible. The band that I play music with (Red Sea Affair) had some of the best fans. Why? Because our community was completely behind us and came to so many of our shows. When community is being fully lived out, it’s more like a unit then it is a group. It’s a living, God breathed commune that is working together in the Kingdom of God.

There’s a price though, and it’s a hefty one. You give up a lot of your individualism. It’s not just you or your family anymore, you gain a new family with new responsibilities and sometimes it gets tough. Sometimes, tough conversations have to be had, sometimes people don’t get along and you are sitting their trying to mediate between two people. This is why Biblical principles are so key. If a community isn’t practicing forgiveness, mercy, grace, patience, and ultimately love consistently, the group will fall apart. It reminds of one of my favorite scene in might ducks 2.

In this scene the hockey coach (coach Bombay) has 10 new hockey players from all over the country. So to get them to work together he ties them up on the ice so they are one big circle, then he says ok work together and skate. Of course the first time everyone tries to go their own way and they all fall. The second time someone yells “OK everyone move to your right now” to which someone else says “Who made you boss? Everyone to your left now” and of course everyone falls down. Finally, they start to work together and start to move in one direction as one group.

It’s a lighthearted scene but still a powerful lesson that can be applied here. Community only works when everyone is willing to work together, compromise, and give up some of their rights to move as a unit.

I’m not trying to paint a utopian picture here of some fantasy world where everyone floats around on clouds and never does stupid things. We’ve all had our moments throughout the years of stupid things and we’ve all either had to approach someone, or have been approach by someone and lovingly corrected. But overall, when a group of people is consistently together in life, and the common theme is pursuing the heart of Jesus together, you come out with a better way to do life. Let me sum this up.

Here’s the bottom line. When we make community a major priority in our life, and we put in the work that is necessary, ultimately we come out with a much fuller and better life. I often times look back and am so grateful for the people that i’ve had in my life and still have. People sometimes come and go as God directs them in His kingdom, and we’ve had to say goodbye to some amazing people as God moves them, but I often times sit back in a chair and remember the amazing times we had together. The other side of that coin is that I still have the most amazing people in my life. I don’t know how people do it alone, I couldn’t imagine not having people in my life that know me better than I know myself in a lot of ways. People that encourage me, allow me to encourage them, and that push me closer to Jesus.

I was with a good friend of mine a couple days ago and I introduced her to some of my community. She told me “These people are great, they just get it and I felt like I could just be myself.” Indeed my friend, indeed.

This is How We Do! (I love what I’m Seeing Church!)

I know that a lot of the posts on here give the Church a hard time.  I assure you, that it comes out of a heart to bring things to light so we as a Church can address them.  This post today though, I wanted to encourage you guys (the Church) as well as talk about what natural disasters (and things like it) remind us of. 

 

 

Here’s the bottom line Church, you guys have stepped up big time and offered your time, resources, materials, and hearts to the east coast.  It has been so incredibly encouraging to see my Facebook lit up with pictures of people helping out, statuses informing what time people are meeting together to go volunteer at a place that was affected by the storm, and I love seeing the “Hey we got to help this random person today!” updates.  If this is not the tangible Gospel then I don’t know what is. 

 

This is where the Church thrives, when emergencies happen, the Church consistently steps up.  During Katrina I knew of several churches that took bus loads of food, people and other supplies to New Orleans.  Hurricane Sandy is no different.  The Church is alive, it’s meeting beyond the normal service times and it’s punching right through the four walls that often keep us insulated from the world.  Instead of keeping bottled up and meeting once a week, we are meeting as often as we can to pray and travel to the affected areas to lend our skills and resources.  I’ll guarantee that many people who have been volunteering their time never felt so alive in their faith.  That’s because when we start living with Kingdom principles they invigorate us.  They touch a part of us that normal American life very rarely touches.  It shows us that there is so many more important things in life then us and our stuff.

 

I want to encourage you reading this not to volunteer when it’s cool, or when everyone else is doing it.  In a month, two months, three months, there will still be damage, there will still be cleaning up to be done.  Continue to give your time, resources when you can.  I personally have been busy with my dad’s company renovating a home at Union Beach that had three feet of flood water in it.  I’m still planning on volunteering time in between or after this job is complete.  I understand that not all of us have the time to volunteer right off the fly.  But I encourage you in the upcoming months to make time to get to the coast to help with the cleanup efforts.

 

Here’s the challenge Church.  Disasters like this (as sad as they are) remind us that before political affiliation, beliefs, gender, lifestyle differences, we are humans.  We are reminded when we hear about people dying that no matter what they did, it’s still a life lost and it’s still a tragedy.  Times like this remind us that human life is so very precious.  Let this be your fuel to carry in to other parts of your life.  Start getting involved in your local community more.  If you’re a Church leader reading this (thanks for reading by the way) then let this jump start your Church community in to making volunteering and serving your community a common thing.  If we really want to see America change, then start being the change right where you are.  Figure out what you can do to serve others, how your family can get more involved.  Trust me when I tell you, the world is open to Jesus, we just have to express Him in language that people can not only understand, but that people can see.

 

Be encouraged Church, you guys are doing an amazing job, keep it up, and don’t slow down when the hype of “helping out” fades away. 

 

-TW

Unlearning what we have learned. – Tim Whitaker

Disclaimers: Rob is probably going to disagree on many points. Sorry 🙂 You can blog about it later. 😛

There is a challenge a lot of us face.  By “us” I’m referring to the people that are re-thinking what it means to be a Christian.  I’m referring to people who are not content with the state of the church.  I’m referring to people who want to be known as disciples of Jesus not just “Christians”. People who want to go deep in to their faith, and who are willing to change their mindset in light of new truths when it comes to Scripture, Jesus, and the Church.  When I refer to “us” this is who I’m referring to.

So there is a challenge for us.  Most of us have grown up in the church and we have been brought up with mindsets that are not completely Biblical.  We have grown up thinking that church happens Sunday mornings, we meet at a “church” building, every service has the same format, we can’t change the format, and being a Christian means being morally right as much as possible.  We have grown up with a limited knowledge of Scripture, Judaism, and how Christianity and Judaism are so closely connected.  We have grown up with the answer (Jesus) without knowing the backstory to the answer.

And so there is a challenge because as we get closer to Jesus and the Kingdom, the more we are loosed of the traditions we grew up with.  Before I go any further let me be clear there is nothing wrong with the traditions we grew up with in and of itself.  I am a product of the traditional church, it is there that I learned who Jesus was, I met great people, and I had a basic community.  But now looking back, I can’t help but see the legalism I was rooted in, the legalism my family was rooted in.  And looking at the church now I can’t help but see how our tradition has become our prison.

The Bible I believe is intentionally vague on what a church body actually looks like and is crystal clear on what the structure of a church body should look like.  We see in Scripture that there are to be teachers, pastors, elders, deacons, and leaders in the church body, but what we don’t see is how that is fleshed out. Granted we have books like Acts, Corinthians, and Galatians, which show what church bodies looked like.  But you’ll notice that Paul doesn’t do much writing in regarding to how the church meeting should go.  He instead spends much more time talking about how we as the body are to live as people.  We see certain key things such as preaching of the word that are talked about in the structure of the meeting, but even that is not specific.

Nowhere in Scripture do we see Paul say “Here is what every church meeting should look like, songs for 20 minutes, preaching for 30 min (make sure it’s 3 points), alter call, and offering”  That is just not there in Scripture.  The problem is that the church is deeply rooted in this structure and is afraid (it seems so) to step out of that tradition.  It’s interesting to me because singing songs, sunday school, youth groups, alter calls, are nowhere in scripture, but we cling on to them like they are the foundations of church.  Then when someone talks about maybe removing one of those things, or changing the format of what we do every Sunday, people get defensive and will say things like “that’s nowhere in Scripture”.  This amazes me.

So the challenge for us is what do we do?  Well what we do is we allow God to free us from comfortability.  The first time I heard a church meeting in a bar in Belgium I wanted nothing to do with it. I thought it was completely unbiblical and I didn’t want to be a part of that body for the month we were there.  By the end of the month I couldn’t get enough of the community, the people, and what they were doing.  We have to be ok with being uncomfortable.  It is difficult to think about church meeting in somewhere other than a church building.  It is difficult to think about a church “service” not including worship music, or an alter call but we have to.  We have got to go back to the scriptures and realize that the church design is meant to be flexible.  The church body can most definitely meet in a church building, but it can also meet in a movie theatre, coffee shop, basement, or bar.  The church meeting once a week can definitely include worship  music, a sermon, and an alter call.  But it can also exclude those things.  A church can meet with talk, discuss, and be lead by the teacher in a discussion about a certain piece of Scripture.  That is just as Biblical as what we do every Sunday.

The most difficult thing for me these past several years have been unlearning all that I have learned.  I have had to unlearn that i’m not a “better” Christian because I go to church every Sunday religiously.  I’ve had to learn that it is ok if there isn’t a three point sermon during a church meeting, and I’ve had to learn that maybe creating a consumeristic atmosphere on Sunday morning maybe is not the best way to get people to own their faith.

Let me sum this up.  There is nothing wrong with what the church has been doing in our culture for years.  It has changed many people’s lives, and it has done a great work.  However there is nothing wrong with changing it.  Those traditions are not doctrines, they are not salvational issues, and honestly a lot of the things we do are not in the Bible.  The structure of the church body is clear in Scripture, what that looks like is not, and that’s a good thing.

Coffee Church continuation

I want to continue with this thought of the church body meeting in a coffee shop.   There are a few reasons this idea stuck with me when I first thought of it.  The first reason was because a cafe atmosphere is a breeding ground for conversation.  Probably the biggest drawback to our current Sunday morning format is that it just doesn’t allow for much discussion to happen.   I’m not saying that the current church model is not somewhat effective, that people have not been changed,  but what I am saying is that one of the drawbacks to the way we do church is that there is not much room for life to happen.  Most church goers are in a building once a week and during the majority of the time they are sitting and listening, or standing and singing.  yes it’s true we offer small or community groups outside of this, but the majority of the congregation usually does not come out to these things.  Again this is not true for every church, but I believe it’s true for most.

My motivation for this idea (which I really want to do in the future) is because we all agree the church is not a building.  Yet our actions show that we believe that the church is mainly a building.  Most things the church does is in the “church building” and not out in the community.

Imagine walking in to a coffee shop Sunday morning and seeing a group of people discussing the word of God.  Imagine seeing someone teaching others something about the christian faith in a circle sunday morning around a cup of coffee.  Imagine what a person would say seeing this coffee shop that the frequent full of life, of discussion, of community.  For some reason the employees are genuinely interested in the customers because the employees don’t see them as customers, they see them as people.  The church (the people) is a part of the community, they are smack dab in the middle of life where they are encountering people in the community daily.  It’s only a matter of time before Jesus comes up in a conversation, it’s only a matter of time before the regulars become friends.

To me this is one of the many ways the church can reveal itself.  This model might not be right for every setting, but i think for my generation it is a huge need.   Many people are not looking for a place to go, to sit, stand, sit, stand, repeat.  They are not looking for a place to go where they can listen to someone speak to them, they are looking for a safe place to be heard.  It is essential to realize that church is not a place we go to, it is a life we live.  The church is living, breathing, moving, and growing, if the majority of that happens once a week then it’s not really doing much the other 6 days.  We need to get the focus off of Sunday morning and learn to live in the church continually.  How we do this is for another blog post.

Worship music, a sermon, an alter call, announcements, they are great things, and all have been used by God.  But my question is are they necessary? What if people got together every Sunday morning, shared a cup of coffee together, listened to someone teach and then responded by talking about it in a smaller group?   Is this another viable option for our Sunday morning routine?

And what about leadership?  I propose a leadership team, not a single lead pastor.  Crazy you might say but hear me out.  When you have a team of people who own the vision, the responsibilities are shared.  Now a pastor can actually pastor (shepherd) people, and the teacher can actually teach people.  Elders can mentor and disciple the younger men and women.  When you’re in a group of leaders the will of God is able to be discerned in a clear way because now your thoughts are being bounced off of other people who share the same heart.  It’s no longer just about what one person is hearing, it’s about what the group is hearing.

This might be crazy, I might be in LA-LA land, but I don’t think I am.  I think this is possible, and I think it is necessary.

~Tim