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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Theology from My Snow Dog

In the past few weeks we have gotten a lot of snow here in Chicago and amazingly not one day has school been cancelled! This is new for us. In Texas when it snows the whole state shuts down. No one drives, everyone stays home and plays. Here, everyone is still driving, buses are going and kids have to sit in school while I'm out playing in it!

This is the first winter for Selah, my Siberian Husky puppy and her first experience with snow. For those who don't know, Siberian Huskies are a medium-size, wolf-like dog. Huskies are an active, energetic, and resilient breed whose ancestors come from the extremely cold and harsh environment of the Siberian Arctic. Siberian Huskies were bred to pull heavy loads long distances through difficult conditions. The dogs were imported into Alaska during the Nome Gold Rush and later spread into the United States and Canada.

In other words, they were bred for the snow and to work long hours in it. Now Selah doesn't work, as in pull a sled, but she does play hard. And when she first stepped foot in the snow, even though she had never seen it, it was like she was finally home. She immediately had extra energy like she had drank a Red Bull and began pulling me like I was her sled. When we finally got to the park and I let her off leash she ran all over the place, stopping only to stick her head completely in the snow like she were an Ostrich. She would make doggy snow angels, hunt squirrels and just play forever this first snow day.

And then it occurred to me: even though she had never experienced snow, or sledding, as soon as she was in the element she was bred to be in, she thrived and did exactly what she was created for instinctively. When she was in Texas (out of her element) we never noticed some of her behaviors as we do in this colder climate.

This is true for us as well.

We were created to be in community with the communal God and with His body. Obviously our sin has taken us out of this "element" and we don't thrive in it. We don't experience life in this element. Every time we sin, it's like we remove ourselves from the very element that we were created for. That's why Jesus said the enemy comes to steal, kill and destroy life. He comes to take us away from what we were bred to do.

HOWEVER, when Jesus reconciles us back into His kingdom, we have life. Thats why Jesus said, "I have come to give you life--and to the full." He came to bring us back into the element we were created to be in. In this element we thrive. We have life. We experience our purpose. We are excited about what we are doing.

As we celebrate the birth of Christ this season, remember why he came: to bring us back into the place we were created to be in. As I watch Selah play in the snow and as she hates leaving it to go inside, God reminds me and asks why I would ever leave too? And He then reminds me of His son and His grace that brings me back every time. I want to be where I was created to be, how about you?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Why Serve?

Many people have been asking me how we are starting our church and what we are doing right now in Chicago. Here's the short answer: We are serving.


There are many ways to start a new church in a new city. Every new church at some point in time "introduces" themselves to the city they belong too. Many do this by spending a lot of money on creating an amazing mail out that says something catchy hoping to get 1% of that mailer as a return to attend one of their events or services. It also serves a purpose of even if they throw the mailer away, they at least know who you are now by name.

Here in Chicago with our new church, we've taken a different approach. One, because of resources. We simply cannot and do not want to spend the money on a mailer. Two, and more importantly, we want to "introduce" ourselves in a different way. When people hear of us, we want it to be for a REASON instead of for a piece of paper. AND when they do receive a mail out or flyer later on (just not an introduction one), we want them to have a point of reference: "Oh, that is that church that does..." What?

What is it we want to be known for in our city? Love. That we love God so much we love our city.

I would rather introduce our new church to the community by consistently serving it than by doing a "mailer." This advances the kingdom, impacts our community & saves money.

That's the answer to the question I've gotten of why we've been serving our school and our community since we've been here and what we're trying to accomplish. We are the body of Christ and we should be showing the love of Christ to all people. Not so that they will come to our church but because we should love them. My new friends may never come to my church, but I will never stop serving them. Furthermore, we are establishing DNA in our church so that when people do join, they know that they are joining to serve. We will make our school better and be a part of God's ministry of reconciliation in our city.

Here's a cool story:

One of the first events we partnered with the community on was a Scarecrow Extravaganza where the community got businesses to sponsor and build a scarecrow for a week-long display the week of halloween. Kids and families would then show up and build their own scarecrow to go in the lot with the sponsors. The lot was our local school courtyard. We decided to be a sponsor to help our community. We were the only church that did this and it was a lot of fun. We even saw the school principal there and she came up and gave Ash & I a huge hug, even though we've only been serving in the school at that point for 2 weeks. God was showing us the importance of what we were doing. Then he added another blessing. A lady who runs an on-line newspaper for our neighborhood and has over 7,000 followers covered the event, and we got "free" publicity to our neighborhood that we didn't even have to pay for. And, more importantly, we were becoming known for what we wanted to be: we love our neighborhood.

We need to shift our focus from the church to the kingdom. When we start a church our focus is "church". When we advance the kingdom, we can change a city & the world. We will make decisions based on the kingdom, not based on how many people this will bring to my church. We serve our cities no matter what, because it is about the kingdom and not my church. That's why we serve.

Kingdom. Disciple. Society. Church. Start with Kingdom and make disciples that engage society and God will build His church. So why serve? Easy as what my dad always told me when I asked why: "Because your Father said so."