9.01.2014

Life as Mission

How do you see your life in regards to mission?  Is it something you simply add to your already busy life?  When we take this approach to mission, we relegate it to a task that we must find time to "fit in."

If we choose take the posture of Life AS Mission, then we are always on mission.  Everything counts!  When we work, we're on mission with and for our co-workers.  When we're in the neighborhoods, we're on the mission field ready to Bless, Eat, Listen and Learn.

So, what's your posture?

6.12.2014

FATHER'S DAY: No Coffeehouse This Sunday

It is Father's Day this Sunday, so do whatever you want and come hang out with us! We'll be at the Ishee Home for a community cookout. Chicken Fajitas, Sausage Wraps & Hot Dogs for the kiddoes... we'll get started at around 11:00am-ish!

See you Sunday and Happy Father's Day!  For more info, contact us at info@lifechurchaustin.com

5.19.2014

HEADS UP: No Coffeehouse This Sunday

This weekend is Memorial Day Weekend, so there is no way we would spend that in the coffeehouse!  We'll be kicking it outside with our "Freighbors" (a term I heard my buddy Matthew Allen use to describe all of his neighbor friends) with some good food and drinks!

Feel free to join us, we'll kick things off at around 11:00am on Sunday.  Hope to see you there!

For more info, contact us at info@lifechurchaustin.com.

3.30.2014

BELLS: Missional Habit #2 - Eat


Eat: I will eat with three people this week -- at least one of whom is not a member of our church.

The second missional habit I want you to consider embracing is that of eating with others. I’d like you to eat with three people each week.  One person from the church community and one person in your mission field (where you live, work & play).  The third is a wild card, it can literally be anyone.  Sit at a community table and strike up a conversation!

The invitation to share a table is a extremely important in most cultures. I’m calling you to embrace the habit of eating with three people each week. You don't need to re-invent the wheel here, don't make it complicated.  Keep it simple. You already eat three times a day, that’s 21 meals a week. I’m simply asking that you bring another person to your table for three of those. Or if you want to cut corners, you could bring three people to your table for one of them.

The point is, eating has always been an important habit for Christ followers since the beginning of the movement.  Not only do we value eating sacramentally, like the communion and the Lord's Supper, but eating missionally as a way to express love to those God's puts in our lives.

Love Feasts

A few weeks ago I shared about how Julian sent out a creed against Christians because he was tired of being out-served by the early church.  He actually decreed that all of Caesar's men where to "practice every virtue" of the early church, because he said so.  We know how that worked out. It didn't!

One of the things that really upset Julian, as he put it, one of the Christians' methods for "perverting" the empire, was their so called Love-Feasts or Service of Tables.

It seems that the early Christians must have focused so much of their lifestyle and ministry around the table that outside observers like Julian were confused as to the exact nature of any given meal.

How Not To Do It

Let's look at I Corinthians  11:17-22 and see Paul's response to the Corinthian church and how they conducted their meals together.
17-19 Regarding this next item, I’m not at all pleased. I am getting the picture that when you meet together it brings out your worst side instead of your best! First, I get this report on your divisiveness, competing with and criticizing each other. I’m reluctant to believe it, but there it is. The best that can be said for it is that the testing process will bring truth into the open and confirm it.

20-22 And then I find that you bring your divisions to worship—you come together, and instead of eating the Lord’s Supper, you bring in a lot of food from the outside and make pigs of yourselves. Some are left out, and go home hungry. Others have to be carried out, too drunk to walk. I can’t believe it! Don’t you have your own homes to eat and drink in? Why would you stoop to desecrating God’s church? Why would you actually shame God’s poor? I never would have believed you would stoop to this. And I’m not going to stand by and say nothing.
Of course, we know the Corinthians were practicing a communal meal as part of their weekly habit, because Paul rebukes them for conducting it so poorly in Corinthians. He is outraged that their so-called love feast doesn’t express love at all, with certain people being left out and others appearing to eat in cliques rather than as a whole body of believers.

How We Should Do It

If we continue in I Corinthians 11, we see that Paul then goes on to offer them a form of words they should use when eating the Eucharist, which indicates that the Corinthian love feast included the Lord’s Supper at its heart.

Let's take a looksie at I Corinthians 11:23-34.
23-26 Let me go over with you again exactly what goes on in the Lord’s Supper and why it is so centrally important. I received my instructions from the Master himself and passed them on to you. The Master, Jesus, on the night of his betrayal, took bread. Having given thanks, he broke it and said,
This is my body, broken for you.
 Do this to remember me.
 After supper, he did the same thing with the cup:
 This cup is my blood, my new covenant with you.
 Each time you drink this cup, remember me.
What you must solemnly realize is that every time you eat this bread and every time you drink this cup, you reenact in your words and actions the death of the Master. You will be drawn back to this meal again and again until the Master returns. You must never let familiarity breed contempt.

27-28 Anyone who eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Master irreverently is like part of the crowd that jeered and spit on him at his death. Is that the kind of “remembrance” you want to be part of? Examine your motives, test your heart, come to this meal in holy awe.

29-32 If you give no thought (or worse, don’t care) about the broken body of the Master when you eat and drink, you’re running the risk of serious consequences. That’s why so many of you even now are listless and sick, and others have gone to an early grave. If we get this straight now, we won’t have to be straightened out later on. Better to be confronted by the Master now than to face a fiery confrontation later.

33-34 So, my friends, when you come together to the Lord’s Table, be reverent and courteous with one another. If you’re so hungry that you can’t wait to be served, go home and get a sandwich. But by no means risk turning this Meal into an eating and drinking binge or a family squabble. It is a spiritual meal—a love feast.

The other things you asked about, I’ll respond to in person when I make my next visit.
Just sit across a table from three people this week, and... talk.

The table is the great equalizer in relationships. When we eat together, we discover the inherent humanity of all people. We share stories and hopes and fears and disappointments. People open up to each other and we can open up to them to share the same things, including our faith in Jesus.

I love what Alan Hirsch and Lance Ford say in their book, Right Here Right Now:
“Sharing meals together on a regular basis is one of the most sacred practices we can engage in as believers. Missional hospitality is a tremendous opportunity to extend the Kingdom of God. We can literally eat our way into the kingdom of God! If every Christian household regularly invited a stranger or a poor person into their home for a meal once a week, we would literally change the world by eating!”

The Great Example - A Sinner at the Table

Conversion flowered from communion. What a beautiful expression. We see it in Jesus’ attendance at a meal at the home of the tax collector Zacchaeus in Luke 19:1-10.
1-4 Then Jesus entered and walked through Jericho. There was a man there, his name Zacchaeus, the head tax man and quite rich. He wanted desperately to see Jesus, but the crowd was in his way—he was a short man and couldn’t see over the crowd. So he ran on ahead and climbed up in a sycamore tree so he could see Jesus when he came by.

5-7 When Jesus got to the tree, he looked up and said, “Zacchaeus, hurry down. Today is my day to be a guest in your home.” Zacchaeus scrambled out of the tree, hardly believing his good luck, delighted to take Jesus home with him. Everyone who saw the incident was indignant and grumped, “What business does he have getting cozy with this crook?”

8 Zacchaeus just stood there, a little stunned. He stammered apologetically, “Master, I give away half my income to the poor—and if I’m caught cheating, I pay four times the damages.”

9-10 Jesus said, “Today is salvation day in this home! Here he is: Zacchaeus, son of Abraham! For the Son of Man came to find and restore the lost.”
His communion with the sinful tax collector led to repentance and conversion. Likewise, we should be as prepared to eat with sinners as a habitual missional practice.

Initially, all I’m asking is that you invite three people to share your table, at least one of whom isn’t a churchgoer. But what you’ll find happening is that people will reciprocate your hospitality.

You’ll start getting return invitations. And when that happens you’ve got serious missional traction.

Don’t judge the lifestyles or eating (or drinking) habits of your host. See the opportunity as a goldmine for missional relationship building. Let communion precede conversion.

3.09.2014

BELLS: Missional Habit #1 - Bless

Bless: I will bless three people this week-at least one of whom is not a member of our church.
“Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.” -- John 13:34-35
The first habit I want you to consider embracing is that of blessing others. I’d like you to bless three people each week.  One person from the church community and one person in your mission field (where you live, work & play).  The third is a wild card, it can be someone from the church, your mission field or simply a reactive opportunity.

What Does It Mean To Be A Blessing

So, what does it mean to be a blessing?

Technically, it describes the act of consecrating something or someone by religious rite or word.  When translating the Bible into English, we used the Latin word benedicre and Greek word eulogein, both of which mean "to speak well of, to praise."  Later, the meaning shifted toward "pronounce or make happy."

Today, Christians use the word "bless" in a ton of different ways.  Mostly it is used to give prosperity or bring happiness to someone.

It is also used in terms of adding to someone's life or being a helping hand.  A  blessing is simply:
   Anything that relieves a burden in someone's life.

   Anything that helps someone breathe more easily.

   Anything that lifts their spirits or alleviates their distress.

A blessing can be a small thing or a big thing!  Basically, blessing another generally takes three different forms.  These are the forms that I suggest we use as a framework for us in our mission.

1. Words of Affirmation

This is the simplest way to bless someone. Send them a note, write them an email, text them. Send them some words of affirmation and encouragement. Let them know you’ve noticed something worthwhile about them.

Mark Twain once said, “I can live for two months on a good compliment.” It's been said that a word of encouragement is like oxygen to the soul. It's really beautiful when you think about, a word of affirmation helps our souls to breathe more easily.

2. Acts of Kindness

Who doesn’t feel blessed when someone does them a solid or helps out with something? Raking a neighbors leaves. Babysitting a couple’s kids... for free. Taking out the neighborhood girls for coffee and chit-chat.

These acts of kindness add something to their lives. They lighten the load a bit. Look for ways to perform an act of kindness in someone’s life, big or small!

3. Gifts

Someone who receives a gift just seems to bask in the love, thoughtfulness and effort of the gifter. A gift can show someone that they are known, cared for and valued. And I’m not just talking about birthday or Christmas gifts. I mean totally random gift giving.

Almost everything ever written on the subject of love indicates that at the heart of love is the spirit of giving. A gift is a symbol of that thought. Gifts come in all sizes, colors and shapes. Some are expensive, and others are free.

Some gifts are given for obvious reasons... make a meal for family during a stressful time, grabbing a beer or coffee with a friend who is struggling, stressed or depressed.

But some gifts are nothing more than expression that the recipient has been thought of... extra loaf of banana bread from a neighbor, random 12 pack of your favorite beverage because it was on sale.

Blessing Wars

As I mentioned earlier, I want you to bless one person from the church community and one person in your mission field. This means the blessings will bounce around our church, as we are affirming, gifting and performing acts of kindness for each other.

It also means we are thrusted outward to bless unbelievers in the ways. Just watch how unleashing a culture of blessing—words of affirmation, acts of kindness, gift giving—binds people to each other.

It has the effect of strengthening the Christian community while launching its members more deeply into the lives of outsiders.

Let the Blessing Wars begin!

3.05.2014

BELLS: A New Set of Habits


In the hopes of attempting to better fulfill the mission of God, I would like to put in a place a set of habits that we as a church can adopt, commit to and use as a guide in our pursuit of missional living.

BELLS, which I will breakdown over the next weeks, is a set of habits that help mobilize Christians up, in and out into mission.  UP into a deeper connection with God, IN to a stronger sense of community with other believers and OUT into the neighborhoods and mission fields.

I believe we all here recognize the need to live generous, hospitable, Spirit-led, Christ-like lives as missionaries to our own neighborhoods.  BELLS helps us stay focused on doing just that.

We have to get to the place where we see the church as "an army of ordinary people" sent out to announce and demonstrate the reign of God.  That is where these missional habits come into play.  The key of the church is to equip every believer to see themselves as a missionary, a sent one, and foster a series of missional habits that shape our lives and values and propel us into the world confidently and filled with hope. 

We Must Live "Questionable" Lives 

We are most effective in pointing people to the reign of God when we are living generous, hospitable, Spirit-led, Christ-like lives as missionaries in our own neighborhoods.  It is also helpful if those who are gifted with Evangelism are among us doing their thing.

There is a TWO-FOLD Approach to Evangelism:

First, Paul affirms that there are those who are gifted in Evangelism (APEST - Eph 4).  Second, he also writes as though all believers are to be evangelistic in their general orientation.  In other words, we all have to do the work of an evangelist and point people to Jesus in both word and deed.

We see this in Colossians 4:2-6.
Type of Minister
Priorities
Type of Spoken Ministry
Gifted Evangelists
Clarity in the gospel; looking for opportunities
Bold proclamation
Evangelistic Believers
Prayer; watchfulness; wise socializing
Gracious answers

Not everyone is going to be able to turn normal conversations into gospel conversations without weirding people out, some will, those who are gifted in that, but most will not.  If you have that gifting, then go do that, if not, then your job is to pray like crazy and to conduct yourself in word and deed, in such a way that it causes people to question your motives, their beliefs and start gospel conversations.

Living a questionable life, just like the early church,  is super important if we are going to point people to Jesus. 

The World's Response: The Julian Decree 

They devoted themselves to sacrificial acts of kindness. They loved their enemies and forgave their persecutors. They cared for the poor and fed the hungry. In the brutality of life under Roman rule, they were the most stunningly different people anyone had ever seen. Indeed, their influence was so surprising that even the fourth-century Emperor Julian (AD331-363) feared that they might take over the empire. Referring to Christians as “atheists” because they denied the existence of pagan gods, and believing their religion to be a sickness, he penned this directive to his officials: 

We must pay special attention to this point, and by this means affect a cure [for the “sickness” of Christianity]. For when it came about that the poor were neglected and overlooked by the [pagan] priests, then I think the impious Galileans [Christians] observed this fact and devoted themselves to philanthropy. And they have gained ascendancy in the worst of the deeds through the credit they win for such practices. For just as those who entice children with a cake, and by throwing it to them two or three times induce them to follow them, and then, when they are far away from their friends cast them on board a ship and sell them as slaves… by the same method, I say, the Galileans also begin with their so-called love-feast, or hospitality, or service of tables—for they have many ways of carrying it out and hence call it by many names—and the result is that they have led very many into atheism [i.e. Christianity]. 

Julian was concerned that the Christians’ acts of hospitality and philanthropy were winning too many of his subjects. He decided to launch an offensive against them by mobilizing his officials and the pagan priesthood to out-love the Christians. He decreed that a system of food distribution be started and that hostels be built for poor travelers. He wrote: 

“Why do we not observe that it is their benevolence to strangers, their care for the graves of the dead and the pretended holiness of their lives that have done most to increase atheism? I believe that we ought really and truly to practice every one of those virtues … For it is disgraceful that when the impious Galileans support not only their own poor but ours as well, all men see that our people lack aid from us.” 

The early church were literally the most surprising alternative society and their conduct raised an insatiable curiosity among the average Romans. 

What Kind of Life Will Evoke Questions? 

People are bored with predictability, they already know what is mostly likely gonna happen.  When people are intrigued or surprised, it forces them to think long and hard about what they have witnessed.

Remember that one of the primary acts of believers is the arousal of curiosity among unbelievers leading to questions and faith sharing.

We need the drive to propel us outward, into our neighborhoods and workplaces, but also inward towards a deeper intimacy with Jesus.  We need to become a... godly... intriguing... socially adventurous... and joyous... presence in the lives of other!  The habits will help with that. 

A New Set of Habits 

Let's be blunt, missional is a habit!  Who we are is made up of our habits!  Aristotle said, "We are what we repeatedly do."

We need to be fostering a set of habits as a church that will help shape our values and support our beliefs.  That is what BELLS is.

Let me start by defining again what "missional" is.  By missional, I mean all that we do and say that alerts other to the reign of God.

Those of us who are not gifted evangelists (APEST) need to foster habits in our lives that draw us out into the lives of unbelievers and invite the kinds of questions that lead to evangelistic sharing. If our only habits are going to church and attending meetings, it’s not going to connect us with unbelievers nor invite their curiosity about our faith.

The trick is to develop habits that unite us together as believers, while also propelling us into the lives of others. We also need habitual practices that don’t just deplete our energy and burn us out, but which re-energize us, replenishing our reserves and connecting us more deeply to Jesus.

I believe the following habits do just that.  The five habits of highly missional people are:

BLESS
I will bless 3 people this week, at least one of whom is not a member of our church.
EAT
I will eat with 3 people this week, at least one of whom is not a member of our church.
LISTEN
I will spend at least 1 period of the week listening for the Holy Spirit's voice and direction.
LEARN
I will spend at least 1 period of the week learning from Christ.
SENT
I will think and process throughout the week all the ways I alert others to the universal reign of God through Christ.

Over the next few weeks, I will begin to unpack these. 

For more information on BELLS, check out Michael Frost's Five Habits of Highly Missional People.

2.14.2014

Staying is the New Going


From our friends at Forge Sacramento.  To learn more about Forge here in Austin, check out Forge Austin at www.forgeaustin.com