Archive for March, 2011

Church Planting, Spiritual Formation

At home… Replanting

Church planting isn’t for the fainthearted. I’ve been through quite a bit since September seeing New Antioch through its unexpected commencement last year in late September and through the challenges endured; and unexpectedly once again, immediately after Christmas.

Ups and downs, moments of excitement and periods of unwanted long-suffering have made this time quite abundant in lessons about the Kingdom and vibrant in how to “do” Church – as God wills it to be. Maiby and I have seen His faithfulness and provision beyond measure, to say the very least.

Now I confess the following:

At several junctures, I felt as if I had failed God, my wife and the congregation.

At various points along the way, I felt as exhausted as a pilgrim walking a medieval road and quite exhausted of “having it so hard”.

Through the days leading to the final decision to “replant” New Antioch, I felt it was best if I went shopping around for a church in need of a pastor and see if I could get hired and that would be enough to grant me financial security and “enjoyment” in ministry. I developed a “reasonable” rationale for why church planting wasn’t for me – at least in the way that it had “fallen” into my lap through the Church of the Brethren.

Through it all, though, God continued to open significant doors for me. PhD programmes, academic fellowships, journal articles to write and preaching engagements, too. So many opportunities and “big breaks”, and here I was feeling “left aside”, “marginalized” and perhaps… “overlooked”.

This is where my “experience as a church planter” ran diametrically opposite my life as a seminary professor. I have had the “dicha” – Spanish for “the blessing”, if you will, to encounter – on a first hand basis, the challenge of living out “theory” in the “real world”. I have grown more accustomed to the dissonance of living out the ministry licking my wounds and feeling “out of season” quite often. Perhaps I felt I deserved a better break than the one given… then one days I saw into the eyes of my wife and heard the words, “No matter what, you have everything… You have God, me and our kids”…

Then I saw into the eyes of my disciple-making students and heard my own words preach and teach everything contrary to what I was feeling…

God is amazing… although I felt tired, marginalized and ineffective, God took my brokenness and utilized it as a source of reflection, thought provocation and prayer. His redemption and restoration has humbled me and caused me to feel shame. How dare I consider myself ill used when my Lord and my God has purposed me to teach, guide and cause others to grow, mature and be nourished at a seminary, a bible study and an unorthodox Brethren “experiment”?

I am blessed and truly highly favored. Sadly, I only now get it. The blessing is what is yet to come…

Grace and Peace

Spiritual Formation

Lessons from Eat, Pray, Love

I recently read Eat, Pray, Love. First, let me say if you have seen the movie, know that it doesn’t come close to describing the intensity with which Elizabeth Gilbert goes after God, peace, reconciliation, and forgiveness in her spirit. I have often marveled that one of the great evidences of the reality of God’s presence in the world is the revelation of truth he makes available to the Christian and the non-Christian alike.

I do not think Gilbert would label herself a Christian (other than perhaps that she comes from a “Christian” nation). She practices yoga and eastern meditation.

In our ministry, my husband and I have done a lot of transformative renewal work with individuals based on the truth that our battles are first and foremost in the mind. It’s not enough to just know the truth; we have to also align our thoughts with those truths: “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (NIV 2 Cor 10:6).

One of the turning points in Gilbert’s spiritual life is when a co-participant at an Ashram in India tells her, “You need to learn how to select your thoughts just the same way you select your clothes every day. This is a power you can cultivate. If you want to control things in your life so bad, work on the mind. That’s the only thing you should be trying to control” (Gilbert in Eat, Pray, Love).

Even though Gilbert does not write from a Christian perspective, she well captures what it means to wrestle with the spiritual self. As we live in an emergent era, we would all do well to gain some insight into spiritual self battles from perspectives other than our own heritage.

~Lisa G. Yoder

Easter, Missional, Worship

Easter is coming!

Before we know it, Holy Week, with all its activities will be upon us. It feels strange to me that it’s occurring so late this year. How are you preparing for it? Are you planning something traditional or non-traditional to celebrate our Lord’s resurrection? Last year, I went to a sunrise service in Kona, Hawaii. At one point, as a part of the service, we were all surprised as a helicopter flew over and dropped thousands of plumeria blossoms upon the worshipers. Not only was it a beautiful sight, but it also engaged the sense of touch and smell. Plumeria have a wonderful fragrance!

Last year, George Barna wrote an article about people’s understanding of Easter. His main point is that people understand Easter more as a religious holiday, but don’t know about its Christian meaning. You might find it to be helpful reading in your preparation.

How many of your members/participants are active in inviting others to your Easter service? 75%? 64%? 50%? According to Barna’s report, only 31% are active in inviting a non-church going person to Easter worship.

To read the article, click here.