Saturday, December 12, 2015
Since late summer, several people who have listened to me have asked me about whether or not we should be planting a church instead of continuing to work in a parachurch capacity. Many have stated that I would be more effective in media ministry and as a conference speaker and evangelist. I have wondered the same thing myself and each encounter of this type has raised that question again and again.
The other side of the coin is that when we set forth on this journey, we set evaluation points to determine whether or not this was likely to happen. The obstacles are enormous. The challenges are huge. While we have found many people who would like to be a part of Freedom Church, the reception of the vision in the rest of the church in the area has been something less than warm. A couple have been supportive and encouraging, but most write off the vision as either unneeded or too far removed from their experience to work. Funding simply hasn't broken loose from any quarter. A few have given cash but no organized help has ever come. Without it, FC just won't happen.
The other part of the evaluation is what doors are opening. While I do not hold to the so-called "Open Door Theology" as a steady guide to determining the Lord's will, but it can be a good indicator of a need in the Body of Christ. Looking at the Jesus' Outsider episodes that have been popular, observing what's happening in and out of the church, and having conversations with ministry leaders and people in the local community have all pointed in one direction. There are some things we need to talk about and we just aren't, at least not at the level they need to be discussed. Many of these are areas that my lovely bride and I have the experience, knowledge, and passion to engage in these conversations. The opportunities for that to happen are already starting to become apparent.
The truth is plain for us to see. We are no closer to launching Freedom Church than we were a year ago. I am overloaded beyond any real capacity to accomplish anything. I am essentially working five jobs and none of them are getting the attention they deserve. I am still working in the mobile industry, a day a week in construction, Jesus' Outsider, Deep Mystery Studio, and Freedom Church. I am restructuring everything in my life (See my personal blog for more) to line up with a clearer vision from the Lord. I am trimming the fat and that means some things are dropping away and others are getting the pause button pushed to be revisited down the road. Freedom Church is the latter.
For now, we are pushing the pause button on Freedom Church. We will be revisiting the issue down the road but as of right now, we are not going forward with the launch. That doesn't mean that it won't happen but it does mean not now. We might not even be the right people to do this. Maybe we need to look for that person and give our support to that individual. Instead, we are throwing all of our efforts into Jesus' Outsider (including changing the Facebook page to Jesus' Outsider Ministries), Deep Mystery Studio, and speaking engagements and conferences. I will also spend a lot more time writing not only blogs but other projects that have been on the back burner.
All of the energy and donations so far will be redirected into these ministry efforts especially the Sex, Porn, and Freedom conference announced in the last blog post. Further information will be on my personal blog and the Stainless Steel Soapbox. I know this will be a blow to some of you but not really a surprise to most of you. We must do what we believe is right in the Lord and at this stage, this is it.
For all of you who've been supportive and encouraging, thank you. We hope you'll stay with us as we further refine what the Lord has for us.
Wednesday, November 25, 2015
Josh talked about the barriers to the Gospel we face in this modern age. The first is the information glut that is the internet. There is a lot in great stuff out there but there's even more garbage. His point on this one is that we all need to do our homework before we teach or speak publicly. The Science of apologetics is more important than ever. On this point, I can't really disagree. I've debated too many atheists, agnostics, and other non-Christians over the years. I'm very grateful for my background in science and history fanaticism. Even with that, I still need to know more to be effective. However, the need to study more was not the key moment.
The key came from the second barrier, the vast increase in pornography especially online. If you've listened to my podcast, Jesus' Outsider, you know I do a lot of work in this area as does my lovely bride. That sexual and pornographic addictions are increasing wasn't a surprise neither was the shift in cultural attitudes created by the growing acceptance of its use. The thing I had forgotten was how few of us are talking about it. Living in this world with all of the resources we use, sometimes it looks like the conversation about sexuality in the church is in full tilt. Unfortunately, it isn't. No one, outside of the ministries we get our resources from, is really talking about just how bad it really is in the church. Porn, sexual addictions, and all sorts of other "unique" sexual lifestyles are deeply embedded in the Body of Christ.
Why do we talk about it? Because we get it. We both have very interesting backgrounds, to put it mildly. We have fought this junk continuously for years. We have to take extra precautions to prevent falling back into it. If, as people who have served Christ for many years, we need to work extra hard to keep our sexual purity, then how many others do as well. Worse, how many don't bother to work to stay pure and just give in to the lure of sexual sin?
The need to do something real was driven home. We have had a conference in mind for a long time dealing with this issue directly and honestly. In fact, we started to work on it but a series of circumstances forced us to put in on the back burner. That has now changed. It's time to do the work to make this happen.
I already have a good format in mind with a shortlist of possible speakers beyond Kim and me. One of the most important segments will be Kim giving her story for the first time in public. It's more than a little scary and heart wrenching but it highlights the results of living a lifestyle that millions of women have been introduced to through Fifty Shades of Grey. The truth behind this supposed romance is very dark. For my part, I'll be sharing statistics and the technical side of porn including apps, filters, and other helps for breaking the addiction. We have other speakers in mind but until we have them confirmed, we're not going to share.
Now, for the challenging part. To pull this off, we need a lot more money than we have at our disposal. We're going to need at least $3000-3500 to cover all of the expenses of putting on the conference. We are going to charge admission with the proceeds going toward the launch of Freedom Church but we would like to have the resources to put it on before the first ticket is sold. Once we hit the first $1500, we will set the date.
To raise the funds, we're seeking individual donations on the support button on the Freedom Church page until a separate page is set up. We are also seeking ministry and business sponsorships including setting up tables in the resource area, banners, and other recognition. If you're interested or know someone we need to talk to, please get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We will be sharing more information as it develops and can be made public. We will also throw out some hints on the content as we approach the day to wet your whistle.
Pray for us as this is going to be a difficult to do for a host of reasons.
Saturday, November 14, 2015
The post, by a good friend and big part of the start of Freedom Church, posted the following:
"God is not looking at your forearms to determine whether you can share His Gospel with others. He’s not looking to see if you have too much makeup on or are wearing pants instead of a skirt. It’s ridiculous to think that God is so shallow that He would stop you from coming to Him because of something external. No, God is concerned with your heart and your mind. When you allow Him, not people's ideas, to transform the way you think, it will always be a positive thing."
This started a short series of posts about transformation. One commenter asked that if people do not leave their culture, how will the world know that they are changed? He did state that outward appearance wasn't necessary for salvation but did wonder about evidence speaking to the change. It was answered in brief and quite well by the moderator for the group, but there is still more to be said.
I had to set back and really consider where to go with my thinking and how best to express it. The question boils down to this: When you accept Christ, do you have to leave your particular subculture as evidence to the transformation Jesus brings?
It's a loaded question that needs to be broken down a little further. There are some cultures built around that which is sinful, usually around some type of sexual immorality. If this is the culture you're in, then yes, leave and be free from the sin. This is a much broader group than many people realize and includes a lot more than the first one that pops into most Christian's heads. These groups are ones that Christians do not become part of to reach but stand and show them the door to His freedom through love and relationship without participating in the sin.
Most subcultures do not fall into these categories. Most are just outside of what is considered to be normal society but aren't in and of themselves sinful. There's nothing wrong with being Goth, a biker, metalhead, punk, nerd, or any other group that you can think of that fits the outsider label. If they are not sinful, then why do we expect them to adopt cultural normative dress and lifestyles?
This is the same mistake that Christian missionaries from Western countries have made when preaching the Gospel in nations with different cultures. As much as preaching Christ, many also tried to Westernize the people in the name of Christ and civilizing the people. This resulted in a lot of failure in reaching people who truly need Jesus. Fortunately, most modern foreign missionaries have learned the lessons of the past and embrace local customs and attire as part of reaching the culture.
I do not mean to say that we need to alter the word to fit a culture nor that Christ needs to change a culture. But, that doesn't mean changing clothes, removing a tattoo (unless the tattoo is pornographic or directly blasphemous), or musical style preferences. It does mean abandoning sin and changing from a follower of the flesh to a disciple of Jesus. That is a change of the heart and mind and will be evident in the life of the person through behaviors, both leaving some behind and developing new ones.
Who better to see the change that the people you identify with, the group you are most comfortable? They will see the change first before anyone else could. They know the person best as they were before Jesus and are most likely to notice when that transformation begins. This is one of the most effective tools in Jesus' toolbox when it comes to reaching sinners in need of grace, the word of our testimony.
Instead of expecting people to adopt to church normative culture so they can fit in with us, why not let people be who they are yet transformed by the renewing of their minds? It's not the job of the church to make everyone look and think exactly the same but to preach the Gospel of Christ where it is needed. Last time I checked, that was to everyone for we are all in need of Jesus and His freedom through salvation.
Wednesday, September 9, 2015
I have to admit, I was starting to get very discouraged. We're making progress, but at an excruciatingly slow rate almost to the point of appearing to be stationary. It's very frustrating for me, especially since I'm very much a results oriented person. If I'm working toward something, I have a hard time with delays, stalls, and setbacks. Nowhere is this more true for me than when it comes to Kingdom work. I came very close to giving up more than once in the last couple of months. Discouragement and despair are always at the elbow of anyone called to leadership in the Body and I am no exception.
Before I could give up, I hit my knees in prayer and for the last several weeks have engaged in a period of intensely seeking the face of God and sessions of fasting. I sought answers for a lot of questions that have been plaguing my thoughts. There are a few left I need answers and a couple I need further understanding but the primary queries have been answered.
I have been asking the Lord why Freedom Church is going so slow. Instead of one answer, I got three. One of them, I've already addressed in my personal blog and dealt with a sin issue that had been tolerated far too long. Yes, pastors can have sin issues in their lives just like everyone else. We can even have a modicum of effectiveness while allowing sin to have a hold on areas of our lives. However, the time is coming when the Lord isn't going to allow us to remain in bondage to the flesh and still serve effectively in His Kingdom. He was pretty clear that he wouldn't allow these seeds of destruction to remain and proceed with Freedom Church's launch. Now that this has been dealt with, placed under the Blood, and vigilance against it is in place (including accountability), the other answers have been given to us.
The next is that we are no longer going to be limited to a specific geographic location. When we decided to focus on Sunnyland, it was in the aftermath of the Washington Tornado. I was privileged to be used of God to minister to a number of people who were dealing with the loss of their homes, shock, and grief. In retrospect, I believe we were caught up in the emotion of the grief and pain of a community we belonged to and loved. The call to the Washington area (of which Sunnyland is a part) was for a specific time and season and that has passed. For many people, not being specific about a location is gong to sound a little nuts because it goes against the grain for many church plants. However, the fullness of the Lord's vision for FC makes more sense when we are no longer tied to a location.
The real truth is that we are called to a people rather than to a location and even that has been reshuffled a little. Our calling to the outcast, the people who don't feel like they belong anywhere else. That may not seem to be of a change since that's always been a part of the vision but the truth is we had a lot of the right people on the list but not in the right order. There are a lot of people who feel like they can't be themselves in a church because they feel condemned or judged because of who they are or what they enjoy. They need a place to belong.
There are a lot of people out there who need the Gospel. No one church can reach them all. The truth is, there are a lot of people out there who don't fit the mold of the "typical churchgoer." Many of them also feel rejected by larger society and need a place to belong. There are a lot of names people use for these people including freaks, geeks, nerds, losers, and flakes. However, these are among the most intelligent, creative and sensitive people out there. Lots of them are into metal, hard rock, punk and dress that way. They could be Goth, Cosplayers, or a whole host of so-called subcultures that feel out of place in traditional and contemporary churches. That is our calling. These are our people.
Does that mean that bikers and others are off the list? Absolutely not. Freedom Church is open to anyone who feels disenfranchised or cast off and needs to find the real freedom offered in Christ Jesus. This particular change appears to be minor but the focus shift is very real. We were close to the mark but not quite on the bullseye. It's the same list we've had from the beginning but the order has been shuffled a little bit. It's going to be a more difficult road to travel, but we must go down it.
When we were aiming at the wrong part of the target, the Lord slowed our progress to keep us from going too far down the road. It's so much easier to correct a course when you're starting out than it is when you're well underway. There are a few more things we need to clear up but they're relatively minor. With His help, things should start to accelerate very soon.
Thursday, August 13, 2015
The last few months have been excessively busy to the point of insanity and exhaustion. I wrote about some of it in my personal blog last week. I have been mentally, physically, and spiritually exhausted. My lovely bride has been dealing with the effects of the mess herself. The stress has brought up a lot in our lives and shut down our brains. I think my son had to wipe some drool off my chin because I was nearly catatonic from all this junk. Some of it has been worthwhile Kingdom work (which I will never complain about) but a lot of it has just been steaming piles of garbage to sift through.
Unfortunately, Freedom Church and Jesus' Outsider have been in coast mode for over a month. I haven't had the time or energy to produce videos, write blogs, or record episodes in far too long. I will return to producing new material soon, likely as early as Sunday night. We are still going to proceed slowly for a couple more months. There are some key decisions to be made before we can truly ramp up. Yes, the lovely bride and I need to clean up a few things (also mentioned in my personal blog) but that is being dealt with using prayer, fasting, and some hardcore spiritual warfare. It will be overcome in short order.
In front of me are a series of choices that I need to make. I have already made a couple of difficult decisions. I had to learn how to say no to opportunities that would have derailed everything we've been working for these last several months. Kim and I need to figure out the next steps and make sure the Lord is in them before we make a leap.
Many years ago, the call of Elisha was laid upon my heart. (1 Kings 19:19-22) If you're unfamiliar with what happened, Elisha was plowing his parents' field when Elijah came up to him and placed his prophet's mantle on his shoulders. Elisha immediately broke up his plow and used the wood to sacrifice the oxen. He was leaving all of his old life behind to follow the call of the Lord upon his life. The Lord told me that a time would come when I would do the same thing. In the midst of the insanity, the Lord reminded me of His word to me all those years ago. I am seeking His face to determine if that time is coming soon.
In truth, even dropping to part time on my main job and gaining a couple of days, I'm still not finding all the time I need to recruit a launch team and raise funds. Something always seems to come up to eat my time or the tasks before me take more hours to do than I have time to do them. Some of that means I need more help but to find it, I need more time. It's a huge catch 22. I am grateful for the help I already have but there's just so much to do. I fear that if I don't find more time, it's going to take years to get FC off the ground. The sense of urgency I have is much greater than that.
When we set out, I decided not to take a salary from FC in the early stages. Now, I'm spending a lot of time in prayer to determine whether or not that was the Lord and not my ego. I have to weigh some options to both build Freedom Church and provide for my family.
So, here's my options:
1. Leave one of my jobs and trust God that the income from the other will be enough.
2. Replace one job with Deep Mystery Studio and work to bring in self employment income. This choice carries its own pitfalls and dangers.
3. Raise personal support along with the initial startup costs for the church either keeping one part time job (the least stressful) or eliminating both.
4. Leave both jobs and split my time between the studio and the church.
5. Continue as things are and keep working as time allows.
Each of these presents opportunities and challenges. I know what I would do in the flesh but I don't want to operate in the carnal. I need to know where Jesus wants me to be and follow His guidance. I'm a risk taker but I want my risk the rest on His shoulders. When He leads and we follow, that's the best option and the risk that brings a truly worthwhile reward.
So far, this has been a truly stretching experience. The financial options I just laid out are the tip of the iceberg of the decisions that need to be made. Regardless, I need to find a way to redeem my time and put more of it into building Freedom Church for His glory. Obedience to Him and Kingdom building has to come first. Some tweaking needs to be made to the vision to really convey what Jesus means to accomplish through the ministry He called us to so that we can fully communicate it to others who may bee feeling the same pull on their hearts to either join us or support us.
The lovely bride and I would appreciate your prayers as we seek the Lord's face in these decisions.
Wednesday, June 3, 2015
Saturday, May 16, 2015
One of the questions I get asked a lot is, "Aren't there enough churches out there already?" The context of the question is usually to wonder why we're starting another one.
Setting aside the call of God to do so (which really can't be set aside for nothing succeeds without the call of God), there are some very good reasons to start new. First, with approximately 1000 people for every existing church in the Peoria Metro Area but with average church size closer to 80, the need is obvious. There are more people in this area who need the Gospel than the existing congregations will every be able to reach. People are perishing without Jesus at a horrific rate. Jesus words about the harvest being ripe but workers being few ring very true today. The vast number of people taken alone is reason enough to expand the tent of the Kingdom's presence in this area to strive to preach the Gospel as broadly as possible.
At the risk of sounding like a marketer, there are underserved people in our area. We have developed a church culture based on reaching people like ourselves. This isn't necessarily wrong. It's human nature. Since most pastors and church leaders are college educated with a white collar background, that's naturally who they connect with and are most effective reaching. Unfortunately, we aren't a predominately white collar region. We're still a manufacturing community with more than half of our population in that area or the trades.
Others just don't feel comfortable in most of the current congregations. Either they expect to be rejected because of their appearance, lifestyle, or history or because they don't see relevance to their life. In many cases, that expectation or rejection is based on real experience. A lot of these people have some past experience with the church. They may have felt cast off, excluded, or otherwise shut out for a wide range of reasons from questioning what they were taught, struggling with "one of those sins," or just being different from the group. There isn't a more difficult group to reach than these individuals often referred to as the de-churched. Pain gets in the way.
Our out-of-the-norm approach to ministry will create an atmosphere that will help bring people to Jesus. Our purpose is to proclaim freedom through the Good News (hence the name Freedom Church) to any and all. That means using different methods than what most would expect. Nontraditional styled services, intentional hospitality, and music are among the tools we'll employ to connect with the community. We'll promote relational evangelism and discipleship by equipping those the Lord sends with the tools and confidence in the Holy Spirit they'll need to be His witnesses in a dark age.
We've been called a subculture ministry. That's a label that we embrace as it speaks to our desire to reach those who don't feel comfortable in most churches. Our motto, "In Christ but out of the box" and credo, "A church for people who don't know how to do church" both speak to the call we feel. To reach cultures that are challenging for the established church to reach is what we need to do. Our methods, by necessity, are going to be different but we will NEVER compromise on the Word of God.
By adding to the mix of existing congregations, Freedom Church is being launched to work as a partner to the rest of the local church so that we can together preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ as effectively as possible. The unique flavor we have been called to create is to improve the overall reach of the Church of The Peoria Metro Area. Paul wrote that he strove to be all things to all men. The greater the variety of styles we offer, the more easily we can do that. The Kingdom is advanced when we all do our part. We will, by the grace and power of God, do all that we can to fulfill whatever part we play in rescuing the Hell-bound and adding to the Kingdom.
Pray for us and that we will find the increase necessary to fulfill His mission. Perhaps, this vision is what you've been seeking. Please, feel free to comment or contact us and let us know.