Tuesday, July 12, 2016

How to "Be The Church" in our chaotic world

I did something this past Sunday that I have never done before. On my way to gather with the Hub City Church family I felt led to lay aside the sermon I had worked on all week and call an audible. 

One question kept resonating in my head. It's a question that flows out of the vision God has given Hub City Church.

Our vision is for Hub City Church to be a training, equipping, and sending hub so that we can Be The Church in our neighborhoods, workplaces and around the world as salt, light and ambassadors for Jesus.

The question that I couldn't get out of my head was: In light of all that happened in our country last week, how can we "Be The Church?"

God brought 5 passages of scripture to mind and 5 things we all can do to Be The Church. Here they are.
In light of all that happened this week: What would it look like for us to be the church this week?
 Pray for those in authority.
“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”
1 Timothy 2:1-4 NIV
Pray for enemies.
““You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Matthew 5:43-48 NIV

Pray for peace and prosperity of our city and world.
“This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.””
Jeremiah 29:4-7 NIV
I have friends who aren't Christian who say, "Enough praying, do something." That's because they don't understand the power of prayer.
 Repent of racism, condescension, and disrespect.
“So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”
Galatians 3:26-29 NIV
 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
1 John 1:9 NIV 
Love your neighbor.
“One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” “Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.”
Mark 12:28-34 NIV
 This requires a relationship. The best thing we can do to be the church in these divisive times is to pursue relationships with people who are different from us and show them love.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Hub City Vision Talk 2016

This Past Sunday, June 12, was a big Sunday for Hub City Church. We talked about where we've been, where we are, and where we're going as a church. It was exciting to look beyond-the-horizon at where God is leading us. Some of our regulars missed hearing, but I don't want them to miss out, so here is my manuscript. Let me know your thoughts and/or questions. 

Vision Talk 2016

This morning, I hope to paint a picture of what I’m calling the beyond-the-horizon vision. I want us to take a look to the horizon at what God has for Hub City and imagine and dream about how to get there.

As most of you know, Hub City is a little over 7½ years old as a church. Our mission has always been to make disciples who make disciples. We got that from Jesus’ command in Matthew 28:19-20

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

We want you to grow as a disciple who in turn makes disciples. And remember, we define a disciple as someone who hears from God and does what he says. A disciple is someone who is following Jesus, being changed by Jesus and committed to the mission of Jesus, which is making disciples.

But mission is different from vision. Mission is focused on what we’re to do. Vision is a picture of a preferred future. Mission never changes. Vision is fluid because the horizon keeps evolving. Vision is like one of those old Polaroid pictures that becomes more focused over time.

When we started Hub City, the simple vision was to start a church. And that is what we’ve done. So, what's next?

About a year ago I started asking God what he might have next for us at Hub City. For a long time I didn’t hear anything. And then about six months ago some things started to take shape. This phrase came coming to mind: Be the Church.

Our first vision was to plant a church. We did that. Now it’s time for us to be the church. But what does that look like?

I want to show you a map. This is a map of Spartanburg from 1887. This map shows how Spartanburg became the Hub City back in the late 1800s. There were seven train lines that fanned out from the city like spokes on a wheel making Spartanburg a major transportation hub with passengers, goods, textiles, peaches and other produce passing through Hub City to nearly every corner of the country.

This history not only has a direct link to our name but more importantly to the be the church vision that God has for us.

I believe God is calling Hub City Church to be a training, equipping and sending hub, so that we can be the church in our neighborhoods, workplaces, and around the world as salt, light and ambassadors for Jesus.

See, we are at a crossroads in the life and history of Hub City Church. We have a choice to make. Are we going to just do church, or are we going to be the church?

See, over time churches, really all organizations but specifically churches, overtime, turn inward. We become all about us. And instead of being the church we’ll just be all about doing church. As time goes on we just keep trying to do church better, hopefully better than the other church down the street. But that’s a problem because we aren’t called to do church, we are called to be the church. The truth is that it would be so easy for us to fall into this pit. It’s easier to do church that to be the church. It’s easier to do church where it's all about its Sunday services. It’s easier to do church in a way that’s directed and defined by our preferences and desires as insiders.

Of all the organizations in the world, the last that should be inward is the church. The church as an organization, and it’s not even an organization, it really is a living organism, the body of Christ, but the church, as the body of Christ, at its core, exists for those who aren’t yet a part.

That’s why we don’t exist to do church. We exist to be the church.

But what does that look like? What will it look like for us to be the church? As I’ve asked this question and prayed over this question God keeps bringing me back to Jesus’ final words before his ascension into heaven. This was Jesus’ be the church vision for the future.

Acts 1:8 – But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

Notice there are two parts to this verse: You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and then you will be my witnesses.

The first part is about having the Holy Spirit infill us and transform us from the inside out. This is about having a healthy and growing relationship with God.

We can’t force the Holy Spirit to come, but we can do our part to position ourselves and create a heart and an environment for the Holy Spirit to move. We do that through prayer, confession, meditation on God’s word, letting him transform us, and obeying him.

This is about our relationship with him. That’s why the first step in being the church is to have a growing and healthy relationship with God where he is speaking to us through his word and through his Spirit. It begins on the inside of us.

But there's a second part to being the church. It says: Then we will be witnesses of Jesus. When you see that word “witnesses” I want you to think of being salt, light and ambassadors of Jesus.

Jesus tells us to begin in Jerusalem. Let’s talk about Jerusalem. Jerusalem is your world, where you work, where you live, where you play. I want you to think about your world in terms of the domain in society where God has you. Each of you lives, works and plays in one of societies’ domains. This is your Jerusalem.

I want to show you a graphic. It shows the domains that make up our society. Now looking at that graphic, what is your domain? Write it down.

What Jesus is telling us is that we are to be salt, light and ambassadors of Jesus in our domains.

Imagine what it would look like for the church to weave itself as a disciple-making force in each domain. Where we are a subversive presence of salt and light, where we are outposts of ambassadors, where we are making disciples in whatever domain we find ourselves in. And as a result of our presence, over time, each domain will be transformed from the inside out. That’s what it looks like for us to be the church.

See, our mission hasn’t and will not change. It can’t change. Jesus told us to make disciples. It’s what he did. It’s what we are to do. But I want us to be a disciple-making force, transforming this county. And as we’ve said before, you are where you are on purpose for a purpose. That purpose is to be salt, to be light, to be an ambassador for Jesus, making disciples in your respective domain.

And then he says “in all of Judea and Samaria.” Judea and Samaria represent places that are near us but people who aren’t like us, or places that are far away from us and people who are like us. We are to be witnesses in all of those places.

Let’s be honest, we can’t do that, but what we can do is partner with and plant churches so that that happens. We don’t know exactly what this will look like. What we do know is that we can’t transform this community and our state and our country on our own. We need more disciple-making churches to grow out of us to connect with people we can’t connect with and further extend what we are doing beyond what we can do. We can be the church by planting more churches to be the church. And we want to send some of you out to do that. This also means partnering. Partnering and planting is how to reach all Judaea and Samaria.

And then we will be witnesses of Jesus to the ends of the earth. The ends of the earth for us is a village in Haiti that nobody wants to help. It’s a village that’s an hour and a half hike up into the mountains. It’s the village of Viello.

Over the next 5 to 10 years God is going to use us being the church to transform that village. It’s going to begin with sponsoring and educating the kids in the village. We’re going to talk more about this next week when our team that’s in Haiti today gets some more information to share with us.

All of this comes back to what I said earlier about being the church: I believe God is calling Hub City Church to be a training, equipping and sending hub, so that we can be the church in our neighborhoods, workplaces, and around the world as salt, light and ambassadors for Jesus.

My Be the Church Dream:

-       I have a dream that people will want us as neighbors.
-       I have a dream that we’ll be neighbors people want to spend time with.
-       I have a dream that people will see us live such different and Christ-like lives that they will ask us about the hope that we have.
-       I have a dream that our workplaces, neighborhoods, schools, clubs and places we visit are different and transformed because of our influence.
-       I have a dream that many new churches will be planted out of Hub City, so that there will be more training posts hubs both here in Spartanburg and around our nation and world.
-       I have a dream that we transform a village in Haiti through education, and making disciples.

This is what it looks like for us to be the church.

All of this is going to require a step of faith, or should I say, a leap of faith for each of us. Because if you’ll notice, this vision isn’t dependent at all on us meeting in the theater. It’s not dependent on me as the pastor. It’s dependent on each us being the church.

Which means my job is to equip you to be the church. My job is to do what I can to help you grow as a disciple and in a relationship with God so that you can impact your domain as salt and light and as an ambassador of Jesus. My job is to stretch you and maybe push you out of the nest.

God is calling Hub City Church to be a training, equipping and sending hub, so that we can be the church in our neighborhoods, workplaces, and around the world as salt, light and ambassadors for Jesus.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Hub City Weekly Update - 4/14/16

Hey everybody,

I'm sure you know that doctors recommend a yearly physical as a check up to gauge you health. We as a church have just embarked on an 8 month church-health checkup. You will be hearing more and more about this in the coming weeks, but let me give you a quick overview of what's taking place. 

We are in the process of assessing where we are as a church and our level of health. The main data for this assessment comes from you in the form of a church health survey. We need everyone at Hub City to fill out a survey. If you're in a Hub Group, then you will fill yours out there. If you're not in a group, then plan on coming early (9 AM) Sunday or staying late after worship to fill one out. Your input is essential to us getting clear picture of where we are.

After we finish the surveys, our Church Health Task Force and Church Health Prayer Team will be working to put together a plan for us to grow into a more healthy church. 

Now, why do we need to be a healthy church? I don't think we'll be all that God wants us to be and do all that God wants us to do if we aren't as healthy as we can be. 

I am extremely excited about the future and all that is going to come out of this church health process. Pray for us. Fill out your survey. And be ready to do whatever God tells you to do.

We are starting a very important series this coming Sunday called, How to be a good Church Member. We're going to spend the next six weeks learning what Biblical Church Membership is all about, why it matters, and how you are a part whether you realize it or not. My hope is that the next six weeks change how you think about church and what it means to be a part of Hub City Church. Membership matters. You matter. God has brought us together to do something unique.

I've attached graphics for Movies in the Park for you to post, share, email, print out, and use however you choose to spread the word about this summer's Movies in the Park. Here's a list of the movies we're showing:
  • May 21: Minions
  • June 18: Alexander and the terrible, no good, very bad day
  • July 16: Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  • August 20: Zootopia
God is up to some exciting things in and through us right now. Join me in praying to know where God is working so that we can join him there. 

Finally, a big THANK YOU to Randy Nichols for speaking this past week. I love that we have a God who is for the outcast, and we need to follow his example an be a church for the outcasts as well. May God use us to connect many outcasts with Jesus.

See you Sunday.

Your friend and pastor,


Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Thoughts on this week's The Walking Dead episode

Liz and I are big fans of The Walking Dead. We have watched it since the beginning. It's such a great show. But I think this past Sunday's episode, No Way Out, was the best in the history of the show.

If you haven't watched the show yet then feel free to stop reading because there will be spoilers. If you don't watch the show at all you are missing out, but you can keep reading because there were some incredible illustrations in this week's episode.

Before you read further I want you to watch the show and think about it's implications for you personally and for the church.

First observation: The show began with everyone as victims. Darryl and his crew were victims to the biker gang. Glen and the teen girl (who's name has left me) were victims who couldn't get to where they wanted to go. Rick and the rest of Alexandria were victims to the hoard of walkers who had invaded Alexandria.

As victims they acted like victims: Scared, sheepish, hiding, cowering. 

They covered themselves in zombie body parts so as to blend in and not be noticed.

And if you watched the episode you know that fear lived out led to death (I was very sad about this because I thought Rick had finally found love again) and to Carl getting his eye shot out.

As a result, Rick threw his fear and safety aside and decided to do something about the problem. He took off alone to take on a million walkers.

But something happened when Rick had the courage to take the first step. Everyone followed. There are huge ramifications and implications of this kind of courage in our own lives. We need to be people of courage.

This courage was also displayed by Darryl when he took out the bikers with the RPG. That was so awesome I almost stood up and cheered.

Another observation: They didn't go after each other. They went after the walkers. It reminds me that our battle is not against flesh and blood but against the ruler, authorities and powers of this dark world. We have an enemy. It's not each other.

Another observation: We can do more together than alone. They had a major team building experience. They needed one another. They figured that out by working together, fighting together.

I could write more but I don't have the time. And to be honest, I wrote this mainly for myself. I need to remember how important courage is. Be the one to risk for the sake of a cause that's bigger than me, even with death/failure on the line. I have an enemy and it's not the other human beings that share the planet with me. Make sure I'm fighting the right enemy. I need community. I need others.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Two books you need to read

I want to recommend two great books as follow-ups to my sermon this past Sunday about us being Salt and Light. 

The first book is Bob Roberts', Bold as Love. I have had respect for Bob since he spoke to my evangelism class in grad school, and my respect for him continues to grow. If you're not following him on twitter, you should be. He's doing incredible things to represent Christians and Jesus well around the globe, especially among Muslims.

The second book is by Kevin Palau. It's titled Unlikely. I heard Kevin last week at the Come Closer Lunch here in Spartanburg. His story is fascinating. It's about how churches in Portland have come together to serve their city and the unlikely relationships they have made along the way. It's a fascinating book. 

There are a lot of books I could recommend, but these two have been challenging and helpful to me.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Live it like a Song - From Jon Foreman

I posted this video yesterday. It really is worth 18 minutes of your time. As an added bonus, here's Jon's transcript that he posted on the Switchfoot website:

There is a melody inside of you, an anthem buried in your chest.
Your heart keeps time, your thoughts and your words sing out in a cadence and a rhythm that is yours alone. 
Every day this song of yours is burning comes to life against the backdrop of the great symphony of time.
The stars, the moon, the sun, the rising and the falling of the tide, the rhythm of the seasons keeping time, and then the human chorus chimes in with emails, and traffic, and coffee shops.
This is the context where your melody takes place.
And yet, you are unique. You were born to sing a song with your life that no one else can sing.
When you were a kid, this melody of yours was easy to sing. It wasn’t perfect, but it came so natural, so free.
And now, maybe it’s harder to find. I know firsthand – the years add layers of pain, fear, doubt, shame and insecurity. 
You read the headlines: murder, war, divorce, hatred, and death and you wonder: 
How can this fragile little melody ever make a dent?
Late at night you ask yourself, Does my song matter?
I’ve been there. those questions are real. 
I’ve spent many nights alone, looking up at the moon, asking the sky:
“Does my time here on the planet have a purpose?”
And you breathe and you close your eyes and listen – 
You hear the ocean’s roar.
You hear the wind blowing through the trees.
And maybe you hear the contagious, unbridled joy of your daughters laughter.
And it’s almost as if the composer of time and space has answered back in wordless beauty:
you matter. 
your song matters.
There is a void in the symphony of life when you are silent – 
Your melody is needed – the good, the bad, the ugly, the shameful, the painful… all of it. 
Don’t be afraid. You walk through the tension. 
Be brave and begin to sing the truth – one note at a time. 
so how do you live a good song? How do you make it count?
Breathe, stretch, meditate, pray. 
This is your instrument! Get a good night sleep. 
When you tune, you learn to know your instrument. You realize what is yours to change and what is outside of your control. 
What does the song need? What do my friends need? My family, my community?
My favorite musicians are the ones who play exactly what’s needed – nothing more, nothing less. 
That takes an incredible listener. 
Listen to BB king – he could play three notes that say more than most guitars players who have ever lived. 
(be yourself)
I spent most of Jr. High trying to be BB king. And it’s good to learn from the masters. We learn best by imitation. But imitation has limitations, and the biggest thing that BB King taught me was that I am not BB King. BE YOURSELF.
You’ll never be as smooth as BB. You’ll never be as cool as Keith. But with a lifetime of practice, you’ll start to sound like you. 
To be yourself will take a lifetime of practice. Humans aren’t like the other species here on the planet. Being human takes practice. 
You don’t have to teach a fish to swim or a horse to run. But it takes us years to learn to walk and talk. 
A doctor practices medicine. A monk practices his faith. You practice being you. 
It’s going to take time. 
(wrong notes)
And you will fail along the way. You will break strings, you will hit the wrong note, you will be frustrated, and you will want to quit. 
Congratulations: you’re human!
Forgive yourself. Forgive those around you – believe it or not, they’re human too. 
I used to hate playing live music – I could get it perfect on the record, but live was the unknown. 
I don’t know if you heard the mistake I made in that last song – the mistakes never stop!
The beauty of music and life is time travel – you enter the song a younger soul than when you exit. And even after the broken string the symphony of life is ever unfolding around you. 
Don’t let the wrong notes in the past ruin the present and the future – the song is still unfolding.
(tension and release)
Music is built by tension and release. Dissonance and resolve.  
Humanity is stretched tight between the womb and the grave, between control and chaos, between conflict and resolve. 
Like a guitar string, we are stretched tight, pulled in two places at once. 
 And when you’re in a difficult season you want to run towards one end or the other. To cut the chord.
And yet, to cut the string is death. The tension is where the beauty happens. 
The melody of our lives is when we dance on these strings of tension. 
Be brave, your melody is worth it. Be courageous, your melody is needed. 
I dare you. 
I dare you to live out your purpose.
That the melody within you would soar above the fear, above the crowd, above the past, above the pain,
and that the song that you were born to sing would come to life. 
The composer of time and space has given you a part to play in the great symphony of time. 
This is your life, this is your opus. I dare you to move. 

Friday, January 29, 2016

A different way to live as a Christian in a post-Christian culture

I love the book of Daniel. Always have. It has some of the most exciting stories many of us grew up learning. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the blazing furnace. Daniel in the lions den. 

It also has some really confusing stuff. The kings of Babylon have crazy, outlandish dreams that mean something and come true. A had appears and writes bad news in some weird language. And then there's all the apocrophal stuff that folks have been arguing over for years.

As I was reading through Daniel this morning, however, I had a thought. I think book of Daniel shows us how to live out our faith in a culture that is post-Christian, anti-Christian and not-interested-in-anything-Christian.

And what we learn is in direct contrast to how many of us are living in our current culture.

Take chapter 1. Daniel resolves not to defile himself with the king's food and wine. He doesn't condemn the king's food and wine. He just makes a decision to not defile himself, and he's willing to suffer the consequences of that decision. He never judges the chief official. He doesn't say it's wrong for others to eat and drink the king's food and wine. He know's it's wrong for him and he lives out his faith. And God rewards him greatly.

Take the fiery furnace story. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego don't condemn the worship of the gold statue. They don't ridicule the king's policy. They just refuse to bow in worship to the gold statue. And they are willing to suffer the consequences of that decision. And God rewards them for greatly.

Take Daniel and the lion's den. Daniel doesn't condemn the king's anti-Jewish-prayer policy. He doesn't speak out against the men who wrote the bill and lobbied for the bill. He doesn't complain that it's not fair. He just continues to pray three times a day, just like he'd always done. And he's willing to suffer the consequences of his decision. And God rewards him greatly.

I think we could learn something from the book of Daniel about how to live as Christians in our current culture. And maybe, possibly, hopefully, God might start rewarding us greatly like he did those four exiled Jewish men.