Recovery For Everyone!

I have a great love for "Recovery Ministry". It's a wonderfully powerful group of people who have amazing stories of God's grace. And if you want to find a dynamic, alive, and trusted friend, "recovery ministry" is a great pool to go fishin' in.

But I've witnessed something, that with a slight tweak, could radically impact the church. We've categorized recovery issues at the peril of us all. We see alcoholism, drug abuse, anger, sex addiction and a few others as bad enough to warrant help. Here's the problem, it can create a sense of, "those recovery, folks". This is dangerous for two reasons. 1. We begin to look down at others and think of ourselves more highly than we ought. 2. We lose the potential of everyone receiving the help we all need, and we all truly need it.

The solution is slight but holds big results. We need to embrace the realities of life in a sinful and broken world. We all have sinned, we are all broken people, and by God's grace, we are in the process of changing (sanctification) – we are all in recovery or we're not growing. Some flaws are more visible and visibly destructive. But everyone who sins this side of heaven injures themselves and others – we all need help and healing. Here's the point: We will ALL get better together when we stop trying to handle things on our own. This is good news for serial gossips, leaders who are reckless, recovering perfectionists, drive-by accusers, professional victims, and self-elevating embellishers.

I've had the joy of seeing movements of God a couple times. A chief characteristic was a humble need for God without any judgment. We were so overwhelmed by God's grace we were rather underwhelmed with ourselves. It created a momentum that was undeniably out-of-this-world. God's been etching this in my heart and it's one of my core convictions as we've launched 180 Chicago. It's simple: When the church believes that we're all in recovery, we'll have a growing ministry, because the gospel will have fresh credibility.

II Corinthians 4:7 (read and meditate on this one for a bit)

If you're looking for a church with dreams as big as yours...join us this Sunday!

Organic Churches Thrive

There's nothing quite like the dynamism of watching a church thrive. When new people are streaming into worship experiences, friends are hugging and back slapping, and the singing sounds like we're about to lift off – there's nothing like a thriving church. But every blessing is met with a challenge and churches are not immune – they may be at the bullseye of the target.

Today's thriving churches face a challenge much like the early church. With every spurt of growth in any church, needs arise that exceed the capacity of the current leadership. Leadership is faced with the question of how to address the need without leaving their post. 

In Acts 6:1-6 we find a powerfully relevant example of a church in growing pains. A group of people (Hellenistic Jewish widows) was being overlooked and missing out on essential needs by no fault of the leadership as much as the consequence of rapid growth. The apostles did something amazing. Instead of leaving their post of prayer and the word or setting up a fancy structure for which people could apply and be trained for leadership, they put the ball back into the laps of those who saw the need. They instructed the concerned folks to select godly men that met basic criteria and they would then commission these qualified leaders. What happens next is simply awesome, "the word increased..disciples multiplied...and many priests came to faith". (Acts 6:7)

The church thrived when it stayed organic!   He's some observations I have from Acts 6 and life as a pastor and leader:

  • Some structure is needed but too much structure stifles growth and flexibility. 
  • When leadership creates programs we often box people in and box others out.
  • Empowering people to create gives a deeper sense of ownership.
  • Organic creativity puts responsibility in the hands of the people who know the need.
  • When we give authority to people we also embed them with a sense of holy responsibility.

I've learned that God trusts his kids sometimes more than we trust each other. When leadership is willing to resist too much structure but bring order to organic – churches thrive!

Join us this Sunday 10 am @ 180 Chicago Church. Click here for details

ALLIES (Part 2): A Pastors Perspective on Relationships in the Church

The only way to receive God's vision for our life and get on with it, is to find people who will help us get there. One of the values at 180 Chicago, new church we'll be launching in the next few months, is the critical need for Allies: Align your life with God and allies who want you to win.

But here's a few questions that will help us think through relationships: Who is the church? How many friends do I need? What should I expect from all the people in attendance? Where do I go for help?

The church (in general) has lacked clarity around these questions. Because we've lacked clarity we find ourselves giving extraordinary amounts of resources to some, at the expense of others who suffer in silence. The goal must be to care for the needs of the whole body and not let anyone suffer alone. We also can't fall prey to thinking that we should or could have intimate relationships with an ever growing number of people. This requires we see relationships/Allies in the church through a few different lenses. 

Benefit Allies - Allies that benefit us are those who we may know little of, but when we see them or hear of them we are the better for it. These are those brothers and sisters across town or across the world who are on mission but not in our congregation or our daily lives. They send messages or we hear word of their faith and it emboldens us to stand strong on the rock. The Iranian underground church is that kind of benefit to us. To hear of saints who smuggle and share pieces of a bible so everyone will have something and no one is caught, is a direct benefit to our faith. These allies are in the battle – all around the world!

Builder Allies - Some Allies build us up. This is why Paul wrote to a central group of followers in a city who were meeting together and encouraged them to each use the gifts God had given them. Some of the phrases Paul used were, "varieties of gifts", "are one body",  "the parts of the body that seem weaker are indispensable" (I Cor. 12). Here's the bottom line: In the local congregation, it's all hands on deck, or whatever part you are. We can't have anyone on the sidelines because we are stronger when we all do our part together.

Buddy Allies - There is a level of relationship that can only be shared with a few. Jesus modeled this with Peter, James and John, and he did it for a reason – we're not designed to have more than a few really close friends. These buddies are people who love you no matter what you've done, are doing, or will do in the future. They are in for the long haul. There are unfazed by your blunders and not overwhelmed by your victories. They love you and you love them enough to say, "wait a minute", and they always believe God for big things in your life. Everybody needs a buddy or two, or three. But not many more than that. Unapologetically pray for a few close spiritual buddies, your vitality in Christ is riding on it. 

These lenses can help us see relationships in the church with fresh eyes. We'll be the better for it.





Hope for the Disillusioned

The Church has an opportunity like never before in our nation. We have millions of people who are grasping for answers to life. People are longing for more and they have yet to hear and see that Jesus is the more they're looking for. 

Change can happen. The world has yet to feel the full force of God's power. But with a shift in our thinking and a fresh commitment to loving, we can touch the lives of people who long to feel the transcendent love of God – even if they can't put words to it.

A Church that is organically committed to loving people as they are and courageous enough to share God's vision for where he wants them to be, will be a church who reaches the lost and expands the kingdom of God.

Jeff Vanderstelt has some great thoughts on why people are disillusioned with the church. Enjoy this short video.

Personal Note: I'm following God's calling on my life. On February 5th I'll begin leading a core group of a new church in downtown Chicago. It's called 180 Chicago. I invite you to prayerfully consider joining us if you see your need for God and want to part of a church that organically reaches out to people with the love of our Father and courageously offers God's greater vision for every area of life. Our next orientation is February 4th. Click here to get signed up. See you then.

WARNING: Don't Divide

Betrayal is born out of insecurity and pride. You may have suffered at the hands of someone who wanted more. Maybe you've actually infringed on territory that God never intended for you. Here's the bottom line: Never mess with God's order. He always gets the last word and we must never push our own agenda at the expense of unity. 

I was sent a great book by a new friend I met in Texas. A Tale Of Three Kings - Gene Edwards
It's a wonderful study of brokenness and a warning to check the motivation of our heart.

Check out this powerful and practical clip. "In the spiritual...

Chivalry: Part 3 - Who goes first?

Marriage can’t be treated as a business transaction or a partnership. Sadly, the amount of marriages that languish or fail, rival the amount of businesses that languish or fail. Marriage isn’t a 50/50 relationship with measured parts of contribution. Any "meet you in the middle” agreements will never work. Nobody really knows where the “middle” is, and we always overestimate how far we’ve traveled. We need a new strategy. God knew this would be a problem so he said something real simple but incredibly difficult, “Husbands, loves your wives as Christ loved the church”. In plain terms, “Men go first”. 

The reason headship is so controversial is because it’s either abused or passively neglected. The degree to which it carries any authority, it carries far more responsibility. But servant leadership is beautiful, and gorgeous it can be. When men initiate like Jesus, women have a better environment to respond well. Now, I’m going to recommend a question that is tough for us men to ask. It’s easy to point, deny, explain… But this is the God sized question: Is there an area of my wife’s life that if I began serving her in, it would radically display my love for her, and thereby deepen our intimacy? I’m not saying that every gap in a wife is tied to her husband, but I am saying that godly men ask a simple question: Am I leading and loving my wife like Christ loves the church? It’s a gut check, but asking ourselves how we’re doing as an initiating man is a great and biblical discipline. 

Chivalry still gets style points. Women still love manly men. Christ initiated in his sacrificial love for the church. So real men go first.