Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Right Question.

It's been awhile since I have written anything. I've been fairly busy at the church and haven't felt especially compelled to write anything recently, until tonight. Before I get into the reason that I wanted to write let me fill you in on the past couple of weeks.

In the first part of the month I spent four long days roofing a house for a lady that goes to Crossroads. This lady could not afford to put a roof on her house and it was in dire need of one. So Crossroads put a crew together and we went to work. It was a bit frustrating at times, but overall it was a good experience. I got to know a couple more people that go to Crossroads and really put into practice what I heard the boys in Maine talk about. I got to use a service to build relationships and build relationships I did. I am now on a first name basis with at least four more people than I was before doing the roof. So I feel good about about. After that I worked in the office doing varies different things. I wrote three weeks worth of devotionals that go along with the sermon for the week and are posted on I put together demographic information for Defiance. I researched marriage and the effects of cohabitation on marriage and put together a brief document that explains why cohabitation (living together before marriage) is a bad idea from a social science and biblical perspective. I have also spent some time doing some carpentry for my mom, playing volleyball, golfing, reading, palying guitar, riding my motorcycle and hanging out with friends.

Now on to what I wanted to share. I have spent a lot of quality time with Matt Boyers (the head pastor of Crossroads) over the past month and it has been really great. He said something the other day that kind of struck me about prayer. He said something to the effect of "prayer is not so much asking for things from God out of our own desires but rather it is learning to speak His heart." I thought about that for a while. Most times I ask for things that I want and I desire and it is not that often that I really stop to see if what I'm asking for is what God wants. Recently I've been asking the question why a lot and I realized that this is the wrong question. God's ways are way beyond our understanding so even if He would choose to answer the why question we probably wouldn't be able to understand it, which we leave us only with more questions. The question we should be asking God is not why, but rather what. What can I learn from this situation God? What are you trying to teach me? This is the right question. What changes your attitude from resentment and doubt to eager expectation. Why questions God and His heart. What places trust in God and His heart for you and your life.

In Isaiah 65 The Lord says "I was ready to respond, but no one asked for help. I was ready to be found, but no one was looking for me. I said, ‘Here I am, here I am!’to a nation that did not call on my name." The question why does not require action it just leaves you with more questions. God is waiting eagerly for us to ask Him the right question, what? What now Lord? What would you have me do here? What are You asking from me? What can I learn from this situation? What requires an answer along with a response from us. When we ask the right questions, when we inquire of the Lord Zephaniah tells us that "The Lord your God is with you, He is might to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing." Are you asking the right question?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

I've learned I know what I don't

Over the past week I've spent my time: reading, cutting out fliers, building a float, walking in a parade, conversing with people, praying, doing demographic research, watching movies, and the list goes on. It's been a great experience and I've really enjoyed getting to know Mike and his family better. We've talked about many topics ranging from atheists, the Church, church planting, the government, and relationships (of the romantic and non-romantic type). He's a wise man and it has been really good to pick his brain. As I head back home tomorrow, I think the main thing that I will take from this experience is that I don't really know that much. I know I know, you're all really shocked that I don't know it all, but it's true. Mike has joked with me a lot over the past week and a half about how I am currently at the pinnacle of knowledge. The main point that I am trying to make and have seen the importance of through conversing with the intellectuals of Minnesota is that true wisdom starts with the fear of the Lord. Not fear as in being afraid, but fear as in putting God in His place or rather letting Him put you in yours. The kind of fear that invokes a revere, respect, and honor. The kind of fear that creates a curiosity and causes you to stand in awe and gratitude that God would lift the veil from your eyes and allow you to see the truth; that being Christ crucified and resurrected. This may seem basic, but every person I've talked to who doesn't grasp this simple truth is just talking and thinking themselves in meaningless and illogical circles. The start of wisdom begins with the fear of the Lord. Solomon was right. What'd'ya know!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

I'll Take the Coffee

From one basement to another. I moved in with Mike Armbrust and his family on Monday of this week. I'm living in his basement with my own bathroom, a pool/ping-pong table, pinball, a piano, a guitar, a 37 inch LCD TV with dish, two couches, a queen size bed, and very fast wireless internet access. I'm really suffering for Jesus. Along with that I am finally getting to hang around some people my own age. Mike has two sons still at home. Wes is 19 and Zach is 18. So it has been fun getting to know them. The other day I went to Toco Bell with Wes and his girl friend. So I was the third wheel, but I'll take whatever contact I can get with someone who isn't married with 2 kids.

On the ministry side of things, I've been going to meetings with Mike and chatting with him about how he got into ministry and the do's and don'ts of church planting. He's got me reading this book entitled Starting a New Church by Ralph Moore. The first part of the book was really good, because it focused in on what it takes to be a Church planter, which speaks directly to my internship, but the last bit of it has been harder to relate to because it's kind of the how to's of church planting, which is valuable but a lot farther into things than I'm going to get this summer. Nevertheless it will probably be a great resource later on in life.

As I continue in this internship I really feel like God is leading me in this direction, and it would be really easy for me to jump the gun. I am eager to get started in some ministry, but I also really see the value of finishing my degree. Mike gave me a good word about this. He's said that it is always good to practice contentment. He said, "you're 20 so be happy being 20. Don't try to be 25 or 30 or 15. Do what a 20 year old should do and enjoy it because you're only 20 once." Basic wisdom, but it's great to be reminded of that every so often.

Today we met with a group of local pastors for prayer. I had know idea what I was getting myself into, which was probably a good thing. We met at The River Church (Mike's church), which is in down town Farmington, to pray for Farmington. I soon found out that we would be walking around the town to pray for it. I was ok with this. I can walk the streets and pray for a city. So we started walking and proceeded to enter a pizzeria to pray for the business and the employees. We weren't going to just pray for Farmington in our little group of pastors; no, we were going to pray for the businesses, the owners, and the employees specifically pulling them into our prayers. We were out to evangelize via prayer. It may sound as if I am against this, which I am not, but it is definitely out of my comfort zone and to be honest I was a bit skeptical of it. It ended up being a great experience. We went into the city council building and met with the city administrator to pray for him and the city. His reaction was interesting. We told him what we were doing and then asked him if he had any specific prayer requests for himself or for the city. He gave them to us and then we asked him if we could pray for him. He paused for a moment, the short silence was a bit awkward, and then said, "well I firmly believe in the separation of Church and State and so I can't ask you to pray, but I'm not going to throw you out if you choose to do so either." We were alone in a conference room. Really, separation of Church and State? So we proceeded to pray for him and then left. We also went into this senior center and talked a bit with the receptionist. We asked her if we could pray for her specifically as well as for the senior center and her reaction was priceless. She had no idea of what to say and no desire for prayer and so she turned to the separation of church and state as well and said that she wasn't supposed allow solicitation in that building. We assured her that we weren't soliciting anything but that we just wanted to pray a blessing on her and this business. "well," she said, "you're welcome to pray in the building if you want, but I'm pretty busy and need to help Ruth. (another receptionist)" So we prayed in there and then left. Then we went to an Edward Jones financial office and talked to John. That was a positive experience. We told him what we wanted to do and he was more than excited to receive a blessing on him and his business. He was a believer. It was definitely and interesting morning. I was surprised and how people were so opposed to prayer. Also I was a bit uncomfortable with one of the Pastors tactics. He was very in-your-face talkative, if that makes sense? One of those types that tries really hard to force conversation on strangers. He definitely struck up a lot of conversations, but I could tell a lot of people were uncomfortable with it and maybe received a bad taste in their mouths from the interaction. I appreciate his heart, but I wonder if that's the best way to bring about believers. Christians already have enough bad stereotypes. It's great to be bold and zealous for Jesus, but it's also important to have a certain amount of tact and intuition when evangelizing. Body language is 90 percent of all communication and this pastor would do well to pay more attention to it. Although his style made me a bit uncomfortable, I could learn a thing a two from him. I tend to hold back and at times I wonder if that's because of a fear of man and looking stupid or freakish. With all that said, I still think it's possible to be bold in my faith and share the Gospel in a zealous way that is personable and nonabrasive. There is a time (usually within an established friendship or christian fellowship, not with strangers) to bluntly ask, "what can I pray for you about," and a time to sit down with a person over coffee and discuss the struggles that life is throwing their way. I think I'll take the coffee. People don't care what you know until they know how much you care. Having said that, walking up to a stranger, giving them your name, and then asking for their prayer requests seems a bit off base. A better route to the same end would be engaging in a conversation and steering the conversation gradually towards the eternal, maybe ending with a prayer using the information that you gathered via asking good questions. Different strokes for different folks I suppose. God works all things for good and those who do not oppose us are for us. So although this was not exactly my cup of tea, God can still use it, but like I said I'll take the coffee.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Basics?

This morning began like every other morning this week. Willie and I got up at about 7ish and headed to the coffee shop down the street. We sat around a table for a while, I had a coffee and a bagel, and chatted with one of the regulars named Jim. It was just casual conversation for about 30 minutes. Then Willie met his cousin and his fiance there to do some marital counseling. So while he was doing that I remained at the table with Jim and steered the conversation to a more spiritual focus. I questioned Jim about His faith and beliefs. Then ensued a hour and a half long conversation. Jim explained that he is part of this sweat lodge. He was adopted and raised by Native Americans. So over the years he has adopted what he calls "the basics". These basics he referred to I gathered to be his hodgepodge conglomeration of "truth" that he has selected from Native American religion, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. I really challenged him and questioned how he managed to set the standard for what he could select from these religions to be truth. We talked, or rather he talked and I listened, at times poking holes in what he was saying and then allowing him to rebutle and essentially talk himself in circles. Never in my life have I ever felt such a wide variety of emotions from a single conversation. It was extremely frustrating because I couldn't straight out tell him he was wrong without ending the conversation. So I listened and question and got absolutely no where. It was humorous at times to see him respond to my questions and completely sway from one idea and then refute himself in the next. Most of all it was sad. As I sat there and listened to Jim I began to really connect with the sense of sorrow that Jesus shared at the end of Matthew 23. "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing." Jim was completely content with his beliefs. He believed in a "supreme being," but he said he wasn't willing to commit to anything more than that because "how can you really know?" Jim didn't want the truth because with that truth comes responsibility. If he really committed, even if not to Christianity he would have a responsibility to adhere to the teachings. At the end of our conversation he said, "you know I could be wrong and I guess that means I'm going to hell, and so what."

I realized more today than ever that it is not my job to save people. I had some great apologetics and asked some really solid leading questions that according to the books I've read should have lead this guy to the right answers. God is the only one who can save Jim and anyone else for that matter. God has to lift the veil, sometimes he might choose to use me to help and sometimes it's just planting seeds.

It really broke my heart to see the deception that Satan has seized Jim with. For instance He prayed to spirit guides (justified by Catholics praying to "saints" and his native american background) and believed that we have power within ourselves to bring about healing. There were all kinds of things that were complete lies from Satan that he latched on to. It was a tough conversation for me to hold my tongue in. I left that coffee shop with a new sense of awe and thankfulness for the grace that God has showed me that I may know his truth. I could just as easily have been sitting in Jim's shoes on the opposite side the the table if it were not for the Grace and Mercy of Jesus that I may know him.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Standing on Giants!

A wise man once said, "great men stand on the shoulders of giants." Don't ask me who that wise man was because I couldn't tell ya, but one of my good buddies at school shared this with me when I first got to Taylor as a young freshmen and it's really stuck with me ever since. I love this quote because I love to read and I really see the value in reading. It gives people the capability to walk in others' shoes and see many different perspectives. I've seen the truth in this quote lived out in guys' lives like Jay Kesler and the men of Crossroads. They are all very well read and what I would consider to be great men. It saddens me to read statistics like 80% of Americans last year neither bought nor read a book. No wonder our nation is in the state that it is in. Anyways that's my rant on reading. Thanks for listening. Tonight this quote took on a bit of a new meaning for me. I've always thought it was a reference to reading, but as I sat in on Willie's small group tonight I realized that it is also applicable to Christian fellowship. I met a woman named Jane tonight who was probably in her mid 40's. Jane has five children. One is a Doctor, one is a recovering meth addict who's done time in jail and recently relapsed, and another one (her youngest) had leukemia, part of her legs mowed off by a lawn mower and suffered seizures from a peach sized tumor in her brain. Jane is also divorced. Apparently her husband loved money more than her. At Jane's last church a woman told her that none of these things would be happening to her if she would just pray more. Remind ay of Job's friends? Anyways so Jane was sharing all of this with me and she finished by saying, "Dontcha know, Satan is out to seek, kill, and destroy, but I'm not going to let a few little problems like these get in between me and God because he is so good and faithful, and I wake up everyday so thankful for what the Lord has done for me and all that he has blessed me with." Wow! So now I'm on the verge of tears and astounded at this woman's faith. Jesus talked about the faith of a mustard seed can move mountains and I always thought He was referring to literal mountains, but as I listened to Jane I realized that she had, with her soy-bean-seed-sized faith, cleared her path to God by moving some serious mountains like a divorce, wayward children, and leukemia. I know that this internship was supposed to teach me the methodology of planting churches and I am learning a lot in that area, but more so than that God is helping me climb on giants' shoulders. My faith, trust, and confidence in Christ is growing stronger daily via Christian fellowship. C.S. Lewis, Eugene Peterson, Thomas Kempis, A.W. Tozer and the other great authors and spiritual giants are no longer the only shoulders that I want to stand on. God has allowed me to come and see bits and pieces of His Kingdom being worked out and it's awesome. I commented a little bit of this to Willie and he said really that's all you need to plant churches, strong faith. Maybe God is preparing me for something like this?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Crazier than a bed bug!

And I’m off again! Well I was home for about 6 days. I had some time in the office to catch up with the guys, work on my sermon, sit in on some church plant stuff with Wes and help out a bit with a funeral. It was a good week. I got to see my friends and talk with Logan a little bit about his trip to Jamaica, which was great. It was so good to hear about the seeds that he and his team were able to plant over there and listen to the growth that he experienced in his faith. So my time at home was very relaxing.

Now I’m on the road again. I’m currently staying in a town that I can’t particularly remember the name of currently, but it’s right outside of Cannon Falls which is where one of the three church plants is that I’m going to be checking out while I’m up here. Mike Armbrust picked me up from the airport today in his stylish jeep wrangler with the top down. I rode with Mike back to his house and had lunch with him. While we were at lunch I asked him how he and his wife met. I’m kind of a romantic and so I always like to hear how people got hooked up. His story was very interesting and I think you all will enjoy it because it’s a bit unconventional. It may be one of the most odd and awesome stories that I’ve ever heard. Are you ready for me to tell it yet? Good! So Mike was doing campus ministry at the University of Minnesota where he and some of his friends decided to make a commitment that they were no longer going to date any girls. They would be friends with girls, but they kissed dating good bye. (like my cheesy Christian book reference?) They were fed up with the way America was doing dating and so they decided to place their trust in God. Later then, Mike was out in the woods praying and fasting and he said he heard a voice, apparently audibly but not with his ears (weird right? That’s what he thought), telling him that he was going to marry Debbie whom he said he knew as good as he knows me. So he thought that’s just like Satan to try and tempt me with this girl while I’m trying to pray. So he rebuked that thought in the name of Jesus, but the voice came back and said the same thing again. So he rebuked it a second time and then there it was again. Mike said that he knew that he had power over Satan and so it must not be him. He concluded that it must be God. Mike kept these thoughts to himself, but started to pray that if God truly wanted him to marry Debbie, He would bring it to pass. He then told his pastor about it and his pastor simply asked, “if God can talk to you don’t you think He can talk to Debbie as well?” So Mike started to pray that if it was God’s will He would tell Debbie (good move Mike!). He went on and said that one night while Debbie was studying for finals she kept thinking about marriage and finally she broke down and prayed that if God really wanted her to get married He would show her. Well right after that she, herself, audibly said “Mike Armbrust” again who she knew only very little. She then went to the Pastor’s wife and told her about it who then told Mike. So one night after church Mike asked Debbie if he could talk to her afterwards. She said yes and so they went for a walk and Mike asked her to marry him and she said yes, and they were married within 3 months!! They have been married for I think he said 20 some years and they have 3 kids. Crazy! I thought that was a very cool testament to God’s faithfulness and provision if only we are willing to place our trust in Him.

So I did lunch with Mike and then went back to his house where I met Bill Davis and his wife. Bill is an ex-bank robber who was sentenced to prison for 9 years. He lived in a cell next to Charles Manson! Anyways to make a long story short, he was converted and now he travels the world sharing his testimony and speaking to people. He and his wife live off of a little support from people, love offerings, and faith. Neat people! I hung out with them and Mike for awhile until Willy showed up. Bill described Willy as “crazier than a bed bug, but rock solid for Jesus.” (that gives you a little picture of what Bill was like as well as Willy.) Willy is one of the church planters who works with Mike. Willy picked me up from Mike’s and showed me around Cannon Falls where his church is and then we grabbed a bite at the local coffee shop and now I’m just chilling in his basement. He seems like a really great dude. It looks like I’m in for a treat up here in Minnesota as well. I’m not really sure what God has in store, but I’m excited. It’s going to be a great learning experience again and I get to meet a lot more sweet people. Good stuff!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Setting Sail

The past three days have been very good. Friday the Knowles and I went to Portland to Fort Williams on the coast where there is a light house and some other stuff. We walked around the coast for a while and the kids played on the beach. Then we went to we went to the mall because Pam needed to buy a dress for her piano recital that she is hosting. So we went to the mall and I helped her pick out something fashionable. Just kidding, although I am very fashionable, Tim and I decided it would be better to go play with the kids at a playground while Pam went in search of her dress. After that we headed back to South Paris, put the kids to bed, and soon afterwards I went to bed. I was downstairs in my room hanging out before Talia had gone to be and she came down special to give me a hug. It was precious.

On the church plant side of things, I asked Tim earlier that morning what the Organic Church should or would look like in 50 years (that was the last of the “twenty questions” that I had written up to inquire about). Tim said that it is hard to maintain this structure if the church body gets too large, but he said that the main thing is that you need to fight the desire to take control. Pastors often becoming managers and take over all the programming and what have you. Tim said that you need to fight the tendency to take those things over and force/encourage the lay people to step up and use their gifts. For instance, there was a lady here at Moss Brook who wanted to start a lady’s ministry. So she came to Tim and said, “Hey I really want to start a lady’s ministry.” Tim said that was great and that she should go ahead and do it. Well, a couple months later nothing had happened and this same lady went to Mike and said the same thing. Mike told her that was great and that she should go ahead and start it. Again, nothing happened. About six months after that this lady called a meeting with her and the pastors and complained about how she didn’t feel like they were supporting her. Tim told her that they had their full support, but that they weren’t going to put their energy into programming a lady’s ministry. He said that God had given her a passion for that not him. There still isn’t a lady’s ministry at Moss Brook and it would be really easy for Mike and Tim throw that on their to-do list, but they don’t. Tim explained that God gifts people for certain things and gives them passions for certain things. He believes that if God made that lady passionate about lady’s ministry she should be the one to put it in motion. This may sound harsh, but it puts responsibility for ministry back into the lay peoples’ hands. As far as what the church is going to look like in 50 years, Tim didn’t have a whole lot to say about that except that he thinks it’s important that we ask that question of every church system in place and not just this style. Although he did say that he thinks it’s possible to keep it this simple by being intentional and focusing on duplication instead of growing the congregation.

Saturday was very chill. Justin came down and woke me up at 8:20. He rode into my room on his big wheel trike and said, “Levi are you sleeping?” Haha! Kids. Anyways, so I helped Tim set up their pool and tried to avoid getting splashed by the munchkins. Then at noon the Knowles took me to a Tim Horton’s somewhere where we said good bye and they handed me off to Steve and Ann. We got to their house in Gardiner and then went on a bike ride down a scenic river trail. We had dinner and then I read some and talked with them about their kids, politics, and the church.
Today then we had church in Steve’s home. It was basically a bible study lead by Steve. There was a man named Joe who came and brought his family. Joe is a Christian but his wife is not. So that was interesting to have her here with us. She was very nice but didn’t say much when we were going through the passages. She seemed to be very comfortable though and I thought and Steve said she’s been coming for a little while with Joe and she’s starting to ask some good questions. After church then we had lunch and then went to Boothbay Harbor where we went sailing on a double masted schooner. Very cool! We sailed around the Atlantic for about 2 hours. There were many small islands and it was very scenic. Quite a way to conclude my time here in Maine.

As we were sailing the Captain explained that he had circumnavigated the world 2 times and that when you sail, you never go the same way twice because the wind depicts where you are going. Forgive me for the cheesy analogy, but I couldn’t help but relate that back to what I’ve witnessed up here. The Holy Spirit is blowing in a different direction than what I’m used to in relation to how church is being done, but the outcome remains unchanged; disciples are being made. It seems that a church planter and sailor are very similar in that the destination is always in view, but the wind is determining the path they take to get there.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Horticulture + Geo-Survey = Relationships

What up! So yesterday I hung out with this 65 year old man named Don Winkla (actually Winkler) a.k.a Winks. He is an ex-CEO of some technology business. If you’re familiar with principle of birth order and it’s affects on personality, Don is a classic only child. He is very driven. He is list oriented and very personable. He’s also a visual learner and really fond of the white board as I soon found out. Don’s title at Moss Brook is Outreach Coordinator. To start our morning we went to a corner store and got some coffee. We were there for about 15 minutes and Don talked to everyone he saw. Some of them he actually knew and had developed a relationship with and others he hadn’t. After a short while we headed back to the office and straight to the white board for my first lesson of the day. Don walked up to the white board on drew a big question mark. Then he said, “This is what people are thinking when you first talk to them. You’re job is to push that question mark off to the side and develop a relationship. You do that by selling them yourself via body language aka a smile and firm hand shake and then you ask them lots questions, because what person doesn’t love talking about themselves.” Then he said, “Later with the help of the Holy Spirit you introduce them to the….scribes….cross.” After this he told me to make a list of everyone that we met. So I wrote down: Lisa, Kelly, Talkative girl, Bicycle guy, Sheriff, Mustache guy, Old guy, and Construction Worker. Don then proceeded to point out that we were only there for 15 minutes and we had made eight opportunities for relationship. Then he said, “What down what God has gifted you with Levi.” So I wrote down: discernment, teaching, people person, leadership, and service. “Now what’s your mission today?” he said. To which I replied very Sunday schoolishly (it’s a word I promise), “Umm… ministry.” We laughed a little bit and I was actually pretty close, but Don explained that my goal for the day was simply to be used; I was supposed to look for ways in which God could use me and the gifts that He has given me. From the white board we went to several different places doing various things. We went to look at a Shelby GT 500, talk cars with a salesman and visit with him. We went to a track and walked with a Sheriff whom Don was mentoring. We took some plant boxes to a landscaper named Phil and talked horticulture, which actually was very interesting. (Google blooding heart they’re a neat little plant.) We went to the Lost Gull, a sea food restaurant, where we had some clam chowda and talked with an elderly couple we randomly met. Finally we concluded the day by playing some cribbage (a board game that Mainers love) with a guy about my age named Travis. It was an interesting day and it was neat to see the people that Don connected with and the ways he was used by God. Don connects with people that Mike and Tim cannot because his personality connects with different people then Tim and Mike. Lesson: Mission of the day equals to be used. Good stuff.

Today then was very low key. I went with Tim and Jeff to Portland where we did some surveying in the woods for some road work that they are going to do. We traipsed in the woods for 4 hours with an Engineer and a surveyor. Then we went to Famous Dave’s for some Pork BBQ. It was a normal day in the work force, but it’s days like those where Tim is able to deepen preexisting relationships (Jeff) as well as build new relationships and network with business folks like Wayne and Candy (Engineer and Surveyor). Lesson: Intentionality, Relationships, and Networking. Tim is intentional about not spending too much time in an office. He has a “tent-making” ministry where he works to help support his ministry and as well as uses his work to build relationships and network (a little BAM (business as mission) for ya).

Tonight then I went to Mike’s for dinner and met Tom and Denise. We had a huge turkey dinner and good conversation. This was yet another example of Christian fellowship. I have been amazed and extremely encouraged at the way in which Christ bonds believers together. I’ve only been here for like 6 days and I feel like I’ve known some of these guys for a long time already. You read about the brotherhood of believers in the Bible and it has been way cool to really see that come to life. Anyways, so we had dinner and it was good and then I walked back up the hill to Tim’s house where I caught the last half of their camp fire and Talia before she went to bed. It has been such a blessing to hang out here at the Knowles house hold. Tim and Pam have a great marriage and two incredibly cute kids whom I have become extremely fond of. It’s been really great to see Tim and Pam together as well as watch them parent their kids. Watching Tim manage his ministry with his family has been invaluable. Tim said that his family always comes first. His role is to look after his family. God is looking after the Church.

Tomorrow, we, meaning me and the Knowles, are headed to the coast to do some touristy stuff and spend probably our last day together. Saturday I leave to spend the rest of my time here at Tim’s brother, Steve’s, house. It has been an incredible experience thus far and God has blessed me with some really great company! It was a bit uncomfortable coming up here not knowing anyone, but God was so faithful and now I’ve made some pretty sweet new friendships and learned a ton as well. God is good!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Life of a Church Planter!

This phrase has become me and Tim’s joke. Tim’s life is very unscheduled and he has his hands in a lot of different things. You could say that he wears a lot of different hats. One minute he’s having a phone conversation with someone about Sunday morning’s message and the next he’s grocery shopping and picking up diapers. His schedule doesn’t look much like a schedule and he pretty much flies by the seat of his pants. It’s a very flexible this thing he has going here, and at times hectic. Sigh! The life of a church planter.

To truly get a feel for what I’m talking about let me give you a rundown of my last two days. Monday, June 1: I woke up around 8:30 showered, made my bed, did my devos, had some breakfast, and watched a John Deere (or as the Mainers say it John Deea(r)) movie with the kiddos. Then at 10:30 Tim, Mike and I drove about 30 minutes away to a Tim Hortons where we met up with Steve. There we joked and talked about chocolate, food, and ministry. Our conversation revolved around a book entitled Organic Leadership, which happens to be the sequel to Organic Church. We discussed the role of the Pastor within the church and how we need to be careful not to spoon feed the congregation making them dependant but rather help them to be self feeders. We also talked about the importance of releasing control of ministry to God. Tim said that the Holy Spirit is fully capable to teach people without any help at all and told a story of his time in Bolivia where he ran into a man who was living alone outside of a village because he had been shunned. He had been shunned because he had found a New Testament and become a believer solely by reading it. This man was actually ministering to neighboring villages and cults and he had never been instructed by anyone. So Tim said that we don’t place enough trust in the Holy Spirits ability to teach, but Steve reminded him that God also chooses to work through humans. We decided that they were both right and the two ideas should be held together in cooperation with not against each other. We also discussed how Jesus made it difficult to follow him and how that should relate to the way we disciple and do “seeker friendly” services. Mike pointed out that in the Gospels when a large crowd starts to gather Jesus starts making things difficult. He either starts speaking in parables or says things like “sell all your things and follow me,” or “deny yourself take up your cross and follow me,” or “follow me and leave the dead to bury their own.” After Jesus said these things the crowds would dwindle and he would again begin to teach. We thought there was maybe a lesson in there somewhere. Finally we talked about the right process for planting a church which Tim said should be first making disciples; second, giving them a mission; third, doing service together and in the community and eventually the outcome is a church. After that 2 hour discussion Tim and I headed back home to watch the kids because his wife teaches Piano from 2 to 5 on Mondays and Tuesdays. So we picked them up and then went to the bank and Wal-mart. Ah, the life of a church planter. Then we made dinner, flew some kites, and had a camp fire. Good stuff! That was Monday.

Today: Well I went to bed yesterday at 9:30 to prepare for today. We left Tim’s today at 5:00 (in the a.m.). I tried to get up at 4 to shower and stuff but I may have shut my alarm off and so I ended up getting up at 4:55. We were on the road at 5. Ah the life of a church planter! We had to drive over to Gardener (Gadenea(r) again with the Maaaine accent.) for a small group at 6:30. It’s about an hour drive. This group is one of the simple churches. It’s a group of about 20 guys. It was a smaller crowd today. Richard and Chet are veteran believers and then Steve are three years new, Jeff is 2 years, and Randy and Pete are a little under a year. Tim and Steve were also there. We went through the 28th and 29th chapters of Proverbs. We joked and chatted about life and how the truths we read related to us today. We did theology. It was great. It was simple but life change is happening from it. I asked Tim afterwards where these men went to church and he said that they went all over, but for some of them this was there church. Good stuff! Pete and Randy (the new guys with the help of Steve) actually started another group that meets on Thursday nights in a Biodiesel plant that is similar to this. Less than a year old Christians started a small church! Steve (one of the pastors) has been there to be their Paul and guide and direct them, but they brought the people. They made more disciples from their circles of influence. That’s organic church being worked out. It’s all about simplicity and growing faith where life happens.
After small group, I went with Tim to McGee Construction where Tim is a “Business Consultant.” I soon found out that Business Consultant pretty much just means “Business Pastor” and “Conflict Resolver”. Steve (not the Pastor, but the three years old Christian who owns McGee Construction) hired Tim to be his, as he said, personal coach. So I sat in on a meeting with Tim and Steve discussing business management everything from personnel cuts to employees’ roles and responsibilities. It reminded me vaguely of my time as an intern under Nate last year where I would go into Nate’s office and go over what I was going to say at group that night or how to handle a certain situation. After that meeting I got to go sit in the truck for an hour while they had their staff meeting and confronted some issues. I used that time to do some reading and get started on my sermon in Ruth. Again, the life of a church planter.

Well I’ve been up from 12 hours now and it’s only 4:30. I’m about to have some pulled pork and then Mike is coming to pick me up to go to with him to his small group (at Tim Hortons, which I’m becoming quite fond of that place) where we are checking out John 20-Acts 1. After that I’m headed to a planning meeting with Mike and Tim to talk through Sunday morning. Then I’ll be back here to hang out with the kiddos, Tim and his wife and then probably hitting the sack early because we’re starting at 6 tomorrow. Oh joy! :)

The life of a church planter!

Sunday, May 31, 2009


Today has been a good day. I went to church with Tim and the family. We sang about five songs, Tim preached, and then we fellowshipped. I met some pretty sweet people who were very on fire for God. The congregation was very eclectic and eccentric. They were very friendly, warm, and full of Christ’s love and joy. You could see that the Christ they worshiped had changed their lives and brought them out of some dark places. I met two men that I took a special liking to, Brian and Don. Brian was extremely talkative as well as extremely on fire for God. He explained that he had come to the faith about five years ago. Since then he has started several small groups and has been leading others to Christ. He gave me his card and told me that if I ever needed anything prayed for to call him and he would pray for me and he made sure that I knew he was serious about his offer. Brian introduced me to Don. Don was a quiet, shifty fellow. It took me a little bit but I got him to talk. I asked him how long he had been a Christian and how he ended up at Moss Brook (that’s the church’s name.) He told me that He had been a Christian for many years and started coming to Moss Brook because of the solid Biblical teaching and the Pastors’ humility. Apparently the last church he went to wasn’t practicing everything they preached. That was all fine and good, but what really interested me was what he told me about his youth. Don explained to me that he has been on his own since he was 12 and he said he started working odd jobs traveling the northeastern United States all by himself when he was 14. He said he has a hard time trusting people and he doesn’t feel like he knows himself that well. Don said all this with a smile and I could tell that Jesus really had a hold of him. He said he just takes one day at a time and tries to submit himself to the Spirit. What a guy! We had small group later at Tim’s house and again I met a very diverse group of people, intellectuals and blue collared people doing life together. We played catch phrase and some of the men shared about recently losing their jobs. Again it was obvious that these people trusted in a Jesus who carried them out of some messy situations. They were disgruntled about their job situations, but they had full trust in Jesus.

My time up here has really challenged me on how I view Church. Tonight Tim and I had a great conversation about the Church. I’ve come to the seemingly obvious but sometimes overlooked conclusion that Church is not something that you go to, but rather it is something you live out. The Church is a living organism that is meant to be fluid. The Church is meant to make disciples. The Church is meant to bring Jesus to a broken and hurting world. “Gee you’re really breaking new ground here Copernicus!” I know, I know just bare with me a second. When the Church is discussed in the Bible Jesus says that the gates of hell will not prevail against it. (Matt. 16:18 ESV) The last time I checked, a gate was a poor weapon. Most people use gates to keep things out. It’s more of a defensive device used for protection. So from this verse as well as the chapters on the Armor of God, which focus on offensive weapons and frontal protection, I think that the Church is meant to be on the offensive striking Hell with everything it’s got. The problem is that we as humans have bought into our humanity and chosen safety rather than the life of combat. We have institutionalized the Church and fortified it. We draw up documents and statements describing what we are against and wait for Satan to attack us. Until he does though, were are perfectly content and comfortable coming to church on Sundays and going about our business in a manner that is as politically correct as possible as not to offend someone or disrupt the peace.

Tim believes that the Organic Church (essentially the house church or as they refer to it, the simple church) has taken this idea of a fluid and offensive Church and put it into action. This structure is composed of a network of simple churches, essentially small groups, with a team of pastors at the center of this network. Tim and his team act as the Paul and the leaders of these simple churches are their Timothys. In this model multiplication is much easier because everyone can act as a church planter. Say someone is lead to Christ via one of these small groups. That person can then go and take their new found faith to their sphere of influence and presto a new simple church. Then with some training via this theological curriculum known as Truth Quest, they can become the new leader of that simple church. It’s a neat little system that removes a lot of the politics from the Church and raises the level of ministry that a lay person does. It also promotes the use of each individuals special gifting and pushes people to make disciples.

When I was talking with Tim about this earlier this evening I asked him how he talks about this without sounding like he is down on the American Church. He said that he didn’t really but that it is not his intention to come down on the institutionalized church. He said that God has used and is currently using that style of church to make an impact, but He said if the Church doesn’t start doing new things it is likely to die out in the next 50 years or so. I then asked if there was a way to implement any of this Organic method into the already existing Church. To that he said wineskins. Say what? He said you can’t put new wine in old wineskins. Let’s say that you lead someone to Christ and they are on fire for Him. They are so on fire that they convert nine of their buddies and now you have a functioning small group. From there you decide to take them to your church Sunday morning for the celebration aspect of Church. At church one of them runs into some aged believer and exclaims, “Hey I’m so on fire for God. I can’t wait to change the world!” To which the aged believer replies, “Yea I felt that way once too. Don’t worry that feeling wears off.” You’ve just ruined the wine. Tim explained that every church has a deeply ingrained DNA and it’s not wise to try to change it. So he said you’ve got to use new wineskins, which in his case would be the Organic model.

God’s church is diverse and ever changing. It doesn’t need defending and it should be on the offensive taking ground for the Kingdom. This can be accomplished in many ways and that is the important thing to remember. We serve a God who is creative and adventurous. A God who makes axes float and has fish eat people just to make a point. It’s stupid to argue about how Church is implemented and to avoid that we need to recognize that God’s Church is not a building or an institution, but a living organism: a body of believers doing life together, sharing in the joys and sorrows of life, and stealing ground back for the Kingdom.

Friday, May 29, 2009

1st Night

What up!
So I’m in Maine. I’ve been here for about 5 hours. I got here at 3 today and Tim, his wife Pam, and his two children Talia age four and Justin age 2 came to pick me up. They may be two of the cutest little kids I have ever met. They are ridiculously rambunctious and really funny. Tonight at dinner Justin brought his bib over to me and I thought that he wanted me to help him put it on him, but what he really wanted was for me to wear it. Good stuff! Also we watched one of their movies entitle Tractor Adventures tonight before they went to bed. Needless to say I think I’m in for a great time with them.

I already feel like I’m drinking from a fire hose. Since I have arrived I have hardly stopped discussing the Church and church plant stuff with Tim, accept of course to play tractors with Justin. Tim seems to be a great dude and it’s been really interesting to question him about how they do church up here. It’s extremely different from the way Evangelicals normally do church, but it seems very appealing. It’s very small group oriented and places a lot of responsibility on the lay people. The small group has essentially become the church. I see a lot of value in this because it keeps families together to learn together and it provides more opportunities for people to use their gifts. For instance, Tim was explaining that one of their church plants experienced some interpersonal problems and instead of sending in the Pastor or elder board to fix the problem, he instructed the leaders of that particular group on how to handle the problem and after three weeks of walking this person through the steps they were welcoming them back into the body. Tim explained that instead of the Pastors acting out a Matthew 18, the body was able to do that and now they are stronger because of it. I have a lot more I could write but I’m going to wait until I actually seem this system in action. I have a lot of ideas about what I think is going on, but I think it’s best to actually see how they are doing things before I comment on it any further.

Suffice it all to say that it has been fun and enlightening experience so far. Tim and his family are great and I’m way excited to spend the week with them. God is doing sweet things up here and I can feel God stirring a passion in my heart for the Church as I talk about it with Tim. Pray that I can soak up everything and retain all that I’m learning.


Thursday, May 28, 2009

Just the beginning...

Hey everybody! So several people have asked me if I'm going to blog this summer. I really had no intentions of doing so, but enough people have mentioned it and I've been thinking about it enough that I think I'm going to give it a shot. So this is me blogging. Look at me I'm so trendy. :)
To start off let me give you an overview of my summer. I'm interning for a church in Wauseon Ohio called Crossroads. My internship involves traveling the countryside making stops in Maine and Minnesota to spend time with church planters. (I know what you're thinking "Gee, really suffering for Jesus huh Levi," and to that I say somebody's got to do it.) Anyway, my job is to be a sponge. I am supposed to soak up as much as I can from these pastors about the culture of the area and what ministry strategies they used to start churches with each specific culture in mind. From there I am going to try and implement what I have learned about planting churches in Defiance Ohio where Crossroads is interested in possibly planting a church. I will be spending lots of time in Defiance during the month of July trying to feel out the culture and spiritual climate by hanging out in the community and getting to know people. That’s the brief overview.

I recently spent the month of January in Ethiopia and God really challenged me about my comfortable life style. Observing the Ethiopians’ faith and trust they placed in the Lord’s provision really pricked me heart. I began to realize, with the help of Francis Chan’s Crazy Love, that God does not call me to live comfortably, but rather He calls me to walk faithfully with Him and be obedient to His will daily. I realized that it’s really hard for Americans to trust God, because we don’t need to trust Him. We have our big bank accounts and healthcare benefits to fall back on. I'm not condemning good stewardship or healthcare, but I think it's hard to have faith as Americans because unless you actively seek to put yourself in places where God has to show up, you don't need Him. We have become too self reliant, I had become too self-reliant. Ever since I’ve been back in the states it has been my prayer that God would place me in situations where trusting Him is a necessity. Situations that would leave me so dependent on His presence that if He doesn’t show up I am going to be in serious trouble. Mark Buchanan in his book Your God is Too Safe, describes this reckless abandonment as living in the Holy Wild. He explains that the God of Heaven is not a safe God and if you truly follow Him He is going to take you places you don’t want to go and make you uncomfortable, but He doesn’t take you there and leave. He walks with you to the destination and leads you through the valley.

As I prepare to leave for Maine tomorrow, I do not really have any idea of what to expect. I’m staying with people I have never met, in a place I have never been, doing things I have never done. I have my doubts and worries, but I am surprisingly at peace. I am comforted by the verse I read in 2 Timothy 13 this morning, which states that "if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself." This summer is going to be an adventure to say the least and I’m really excited to meet new people and learn new things. It’s going to be a challenge and I’m going to be stretched and although this is a bit nerve racking I know that God is good and He is faithful and He will not leave me to fend for myself. As I left Taylor one of my friends said to me as we hugged good bye "be bold!" I thought that was a great way to end this entry and begin my summer. Be bold!