Thursday, January 23, 2014

Sully Notes 1 | AND: The Gathered and Scattered Church Part 1 of 3

Sully Notes Gathered Scattered Missional Community Church Emmaus City Worcester MA

Sully Notes 1: Books in 25 minutes or less

Ok, so "Sully Notes" is not that clever of a name. But now you know exactly what I mean, right? Cliff Notes. Sully Notes. This is something I've been doing for the past year, and I wanted to share some of them with you. So instead of trying to come up with a better name, I'm just going to start posting these for fun and for your benefit if you are now curiously intrigued.

Sully Notes will provide you more than a book review. They will include direct quotes from some the favorite books that I've read in the last year. Instead of my opinion in a review, instead the quotes can give you a taste of the overall theme and then begin to chew on what your life might look like if you applied what these books are saying. I plan to post three parts on each book to keep the posts brief so you can read the quotes in less than ten minutes, while also whetting your appetite for the next round.

Of course, Sully Notes in no way can replace reading the book for yourself. And let's be real. Reading a book is not the accomplishment. Letting the book read us in order to reveal our heart and motivations is the real goal. The books included here have dug deep into my mind and the marrow of my bones and have, in many ways, helped bring invitation, challenge, and change where I had wrongfully left things dormant or nearly dead.

I hope they prove helpful for you, too, as you allow them to read your heart and motivations. Join with me in considering how your life would be different if you let the words shape your actions.

AND Gathered and Scattered Church Book Cover Hugh Halter Matt Smay Book ReviewFor the first round of Sully Notes, I chose Hugh Halter and Matt Smay's AND: The Gathered and Scattered Church. This book has continued to resonate deeply within me, and God has used it to help shape the vision for what I feel He wants Emmaus City to become in Worcester. A great complement to the book and these notes is a talk given by Hugh Halter featured in this video: "How to turn Consumers into Missionaries." 

AND: The Gathered and Scattered Church | Sully Notes 1: Part 1 of 3

Chapter 1: The Beautifully Sent Church

"In Genesis 12:1, God says to a man named Abram, 'Leave your country, your people, and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.' Abram (later to be called Abraham) is the start of God’s plan of salvation. With these words we see the Father sending his redemptive community out into the world. God the Father is starting to give his baby away on her wedding day. In Genesis 12:2-3, God continues ... The people of God are being sent to live in a pagan land. Why? So they may bring the blessing of God wherever they go." – pg. 34

"Jesus continues the 'sent' ways of God. He goes to a well in Samaria to give hope to a half-breed, a spiritually illegitimate woman like Rahab, who would have never thought access to God a possibility again. He visits wedding parties, hangs out with tax collectors, ministers to a centurion’s family, plays with children in the streets, and spends time on mountainsides, in caves, and in city centers where the people will listen to his teaching. After Jesus lives and works for thirty-three years, he says to his followers in John 20:21, 'As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.' Hear it another way. 'As the Creator of all humanity gave you a perfect world and kept giving his best, he again has sent Jesus, his very best to you. You must follow suit and continue to give your lives away.'" – pg. 43

"The church is loved by God and given intimate access to his great passion of self-sacrificing love. Because she is precious to him, she is most beautiful when she reflects his deepest love and gives herself away for the sake of the world." – pg. 45

"…What we (had) after a year was a small community of people. … Most of them were outside the normal church realm, but they had taken an interest in our story, and the visibility of our faith had attracted them to us. Some of them had come to faith in Jesus, but others were simply a part of our community, still processing through their questions about God. We met Saturday nights at our home to talk over 'me and God.' … a girl who had come to faith with us raised her hand and asked the big question we weren’t ready to answer. 'So…is this my church?' … 'Actually, church is something everyone should be a part of, but it’s different than being a faith community. Church happens when a group of people decide to go on mission with God together. … For instance (we’ve) been on mission for you. We’ve given up our food for you; we give up our family time and personal interests to accommodate all of your spontaneous dropping by to talk. Half the time or more, we would really rather you stay away so we can enjoy our private time; but then we see you pull up in front of the house and we give another night up for you. We throw parties and gatherings for you and your friends all the time, and although it looks like it’s all fun for us, it’s a heck of a lot of work! In many ways, we’ve died for you; and if you want to be part of a church, you’ll have to die, too. You have to give your life away.' ... looking at their faces, I had a strange feeling that God was up to something. … Our little group of twenty-five people wrote down about 110 names. We decided to simply pray for a week, and then the following week we invited them back to take the final vote. It was a vote that would essentially change their lives, a vote that God would use to help me clarify my understanding of a missional church. The rest is history, as they say. Everyone came back and unanimously told us, 'We’ll come and die with you; we’ll let God send us.'" – pgs. 46-47

"Church is God’s people intentionally committing to die together so that others can find his kingdom. Just as God had given away his Son, he now asks us to give our life away. ... For God’s church to reemerge in your local church, you must be willing to let the bride become beautifully sent. You must allow God to send you, to send your people, and you must begin to see yourself as part of a larger story of God’s mission, which began with Abram and continues today through leaders who desire to see God’s marvelous ways change the course of history." – pgs. 47-48

Chapter 2: Starting the AND Wherever You Are

“Being incarnational is not so much about our direction; it’s more about how we go, what we do as we go, and how we are postured in the culture God calls us to engage. Incarnation is the personality of our proclamation. One of the most profound things about Jesus (which is often overlooked) is that he hung around for thirty years without planting a church or starting a small group. He was just there living a regular life. Though he was labeled a friend of sinners during his formal period of ministry for hanging out with certain groups of people, the truth is that Jesus spent his entire life becoming friends with sinners. He knew his context by name and face. ... we had a goal of becoming friends with about fifty people. We also qualitatively measured being a friend by how many of them invited us to be with their friends. ... We threw parties all the time, often had people over to our home, made the most of spontaneous times, and tried to become the life of our neighborhood and any place where relationships were being forged. As we engaged the culture as missionaries, our 'street cred' increased; we became the 'go to' people when an emergency happened, and people expected us to initiate a lot of great times together. After about twelve months, we had become really good friends with about as many people as we set ought to know. When we threw a party, there were always around fifty people jammed in our house. When we finally invited people to an informal Easter brunch, we had about 125 folks join us. For anyone who wishes to see a substantive level of relational and spiritual movement, the place to begin is by engaging the culture. But as you can tell from our story, it only happens over time." – pgs. 56-57

"The core issue is a missionary question: 'How can we best engage the culture to which God has called us?’… If you want your existing church to successfully engage the culture, you don’t begin by telling your people to engage and then bring 'em to church. You must start by creating a new environment for them that provides a better witness to the culture and is the best way to see the kingdom lived out in concrete ways. The incarnational community that forms can then go out together and will eventually form the bridge between your cultural engagement with the world and the corporate structure of the church. ... patience is a key fruit of the Spirit one needs in order to sell missional church…'This is all about being a community to add value to our city.' ... 'I need to live as salt and light so as to add value and blessing to my street, to my neighborhood, so that if my family were to move, the street would miss us and grieve when we left.'" – pgs. 66, 70

Chapter 3: Consumerless Church: Every Church’s Dream, Every Church’s Nightmare

"Consumerism is the self-focused drive to get as much as I can get with the least amount of effort. It coercively shifts the church away from its true call, from valuing giving to getting. It compels to protect what we already have and only to give away what has become useless to us. ... It gets in the way of leaving a legacy for those behind us because it waters down our present understanding of what it means to follow Christ today. It pushes responsibility and expectations onto others instead of self and exchanges true spiritual growth for ankle-deep personal devotionals and self-help measures." – pg. 74

"The only thing (Jesus) is going to ask you about your performance (or what he would call your 'faithfulness') will be based on a simple measurement: 'Did you do all that you could with what I gave you to make people like me?'…

  1. Did you spend the majority of your resources I gave you on things that actually proved to produce change?
  2. How many people did you lovingly confront out of their stale, pharisaical ways of living, their self-destructive materialism, and their recreational devotion, especially the ones with all the cash?
  3. Did your buildings contribute to apprenticing people in my ways?
  4. Are your people considered to be 'friends of sinners'? Are they salty? Do they appear as lights in the dark?
  5. Did your people invest more in heavenly things than earthly things?
  6. Were they the type of people who drew curiosity and allure of their friends?
  7. Did they die to self and worship God with the offer of their lives each day?
  8. How many people did you challenge and see leave your communities because they had no real interest in following me or serving my purposes?

… if we look at the amount of time, money, and focus that is spent on providing services for people and the results don’t reflect a fading consumerism in the lives of our people, it’s time to take a walk in the woods and talk to the Head of the church." – pgs. 77, 79

"'Nothing good of the Spirit ever comes naturally or easily.' The missional push and incarnational way of giving your life for others sound really nice, but the reality is that living this way means you don’t get what your flesh wants. You don’t get to keep all the money. You don’t get to do whatever you want with your time. You have to share your house, your stuff, your money, your kids. You have to exchange your ambitions for God's, your kingdom for his, and you must be available for God to interrupt your nicely scheduled day with needs that will cause you to pull your hair out. The principle is indisputable: the great things of God cost us our life. The more missional you want to be, the more incarnational you’re willing to be, the more you release your people out into the world, the more you desire to equip and empower young leaders, the more effective and faithful you want your church to be … the more you’ll have to die to your self." – pg. 80

"Jesus often had 'crowds of fans following him,' and then the very next day he was back down to a few disciples. Always remember the Main Thing! God knows that fifty committed apprentices will out-serve, out-love, out-sacrifice, and out-faithful two thousand fans, but along the way you will take hits and you will start to wonder if things wouldn’t be easier if you could just provide church services for people. Adullam now has three hundred apprentices, but that’s not the entire story. We’ve had another five hundred people come through our process who decided there was an easier way and left. Do I lament the loss of those people? Of course! But I have a feeling that I’d be feeling a different kind of pain if we had tried to keep everyone from leaving." – pg. 87

"…there are two types of tension we can breathe. One type of tension, the kind most have been fighting us, 'How do I keep people coming to my church?' You’ll never win with this kind of tension. You’ll never feel done, there will never be enough people, and you’ll never stop worrying about losing their nominal commitment. This kind of tension leaves you relieved for a few minutes after your Sunday service because numbers were up, but by 3 p.m. Monday you are doing mental and emotional jumping jacks wondering how to avoid losing your momentum. The other tension you can deal with is more helpful. It’s the tension that comes from asking, 'How do I help every person become more like Jesus?' Like the first tension, this one will also never go away, but you will see some payoff that you won’t get with tension #1. The payoff is that you’ll begin to see people struggling with the issues that matter. You’ll hear stories of changing decisions, of habits being adjusted, and of faith being stretched. On the high end, you will watch people taking responsibility, not only for their own growth but also for the growth of others. Where once they relied on you to relieve their burdens and prop them up, they will begin carrying the weight of others. Some of the best will eventually leave because they are responding to the call of God on their own lives. One way or another you have to decide what kind of tension you want to work with. … we should all be able to agree on: the gospel is costly! Leaders face the pressure of pride and peer respect, the pressure of financial survival, the pressure of living up to the expectations of those who hold positions of power over us, and our own self-created pressures, where at the end of each day, as we turn off the light and lie in bed, we silently wonder if Jesus is really pleased with us. Add to all of this the real and constant attack of satanic forces, and it should be clear that we need to stop fighting over how to do church and just be thankful we’re in the honorable position of leading people who belong to God." – pgs. 86-87

"Pastoring is as much about protecting the flock as it is about growing a flock. It’s about pushing them and challenging them instead of pandering to them…Our collective calling as leaders is to create spiritual pathways for people so they can come out of their old life and find the new life of Christ." – pg. 89

Next post: AND: The Gathered and Scattered Church | Sully Notes 1: Part 2 of 3

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