Friday, April 15, 2016

City Notes 24 | Barefoot Church: Serving the Least in a Consumer Culture Part 3 of 3

City Notes 24: Books in 30 minutes or less

City Notes are more than a book review. They are meant to provide you with direct quotes from some books I've read in the last year, so you can get a taste of the overall theme of the book and then begin to chew on what your life might look like if you applied what you read. 

Here are links to the previous City Notes books:

2014 | ANDLife Together; A Meal with JesusDeep Church; Gospel-Centered DiscipleshipThe Art of NeighboringSpeaking of JesusA Praying LifeBuilding a Healthy Multi-Ethnic ChurchFamily on MissionLeading Missional CommunitiesLaunching Missional CommunitiesCongregational Leadership in Anxious TimesYou Can ChangeThe Hole in Our HolinessEncounters with JesusOne Thousand Gifts

2015 | The Rest of GodInterruptedEveryday ChurchRhythms of Grace

2016 | Letters to a Birmingham JailBarefoot Church Part 1 of 3; Barefoot Church Part 2 of 3

Barefoot Church: Serving the Least in a Consumer Culture Part 3 of 3

Chapter 8 | Partnering with the Nonprofit World

We've found it true that people find a mission that is larger than themselves compelling. They want to change the world. They do not respond in the same way to a church that is sedentary. For skeptics of faith to see Christians when they are serving side-by-side with them, I'm confident it will be good news for them to realize that we serve a God that cares desperately about some of the very things they do. – pg. 132

(1) Nonprofits typically have a great reputation in the community. Nonprofits know city officials and school administrators, are connected to resources, and know who the "go to" people are. What we can spend months spinning our wheels on, a well-connected nonprofit can make happen in days. 

(2) Nonprofits are experts in their field of work. We have a lot to learn from them. The typical project or effort by a local nonprofit offers a better serving experience and often carries a more significant impact on the community. Instead of spending all our time planning the event itself, we can be spending our time cultivating relationships, considering follow-up, and prayerfully seeking gospel-centered movement. 

(3) Partnering with nonprofits offers a new posture for the church. The church has a reputation of being withdrawn from culture. I'm always amazed when we show up to partner with a nonprofit and see the level of surprise by our co-laborers. They simply do not expect to see a church group partner with them. The good news is, they are so used to seeing us do our own thing that when we actually do something outside of ourselves that benefits them, the impact is so much greater. 

(4) Nonprofit partnership is a reproducible strategy. In order to keep gospel-centered missional community central, everything we do is through our Restore Communities  and every community is unique. When we serve primarily through our nonprofit partners, and we have a simple reproducible process, it becomes a plug-and-play process for our Restore Communities  regardless of how many of them we have and regardless of their focus. For each of our nonprofit partners we ask a simple series of questions: 

– If you had fifteen to twenty adults serve you, what would they do? 
– How long would you need them? 
– What kind of training goes into it? 
– And what would they need to bring? 

We don't tweak the project to fit our need. We do exactly what they ask.

(5) Nonprofits need volunteers more often than they need money.

(6) Nonprofits have more non-Christians involved than Christians. For many not-yet-believers, the nonprofit organization has become their church. Serving with nonprofits has proven to be one of the most significant ways for our people to serve shoulder to shoulder with those who do not know Christ yet. 

(7) Serving with nonprofits provides a platform to serve selflessly. The church rarely serves selflessly. We can often find a benefit in one way or another from our service. Whether it's a hope that someone will come to our church, a building that is painted that we actually meet in, or a public acknowledgment for what we've done, we love our kudos. We tell our people to do whatever someone else needs us to do, we do the sweating, and they get the credit; that changes things. 

When we do extreme classrooms with Communities in Schools (CIS), neither the teachers nor the principals know it was us who did it. They give credit to CIS. And we are helping to empower CIS to make more of a long-term impact in that school that lasts long after we're gone. As church leaders, we not only need to spend more time figuring out ways to get our people serving, but to get them serving selflessly.  pgs. 135-136

(1) Start with a common redemptive purpose. The "people of peace" were not followers of Christ. Rather, these were probably influential persons who shared much of the same values of this new kingdom that was being proclaimed. It was through partnering with these people of peace that the towns to which the disciples traveled would get to hear about this new kingdom. In short, from the beginning of Christ’s sending his disciples, he was using partnerships between non-Christians and Christians for his redemptive purposes. 

(2) Prioritize developing relationships. It is not enough to just do work for a nonprofit; rather, it is worth the effort to begin to build relationships with key leaders in the nonprofit you wish to work with. A solid non-agenda-oriented relationship will take you beyond any worldview difference you may run into. 

(3) Trust their leadership. If you’ve found that you can’t trust their leadership, then move on to a different nonprofit. 

(4) Lose your agenda. You have to remember that you are coming to serve their agenda, and you can do this because you have "shared redemptive purposes" (see step 1). 

(5) Give away the credit. This is not about you. This is about the opportunity to serve those about whom Jesus is deeply concerned – the oppressed, broken, and poor. 

(6) Commit to be available. There is nothing that builds credibility like being on call for what you claim to believe in. There is a stigma with non-faith-based nonprofits that the church is only willing to serve on their time, with their agenda, and with their specs. We begin to tangibly deconstruct the view of the church held by non-faith-based organizations when we are willing to be on call to the redemptive purposes we claim to believe in.

We have followed these steps over and over and over. God has given us credibility, and through that, we have seen AIDS patients come to faith right before their death. We have seen homeless become self-sustainable. We have seen homes built for the homeless, prostitutes, and those who have lost hope. We have seen hope restored, and ultimately God glorified. – pgs. 138-140

Chapter 9: A New Metric for Success

We know that nothing valuable in ministry happens without God’s movement, that our ability is through the Spirit, and that we’re called by his grace. He orchestrates movement, provides resources, and crosses our paths with other people. He overcomes our inadequacies, enables and empowers us to respond to their need, and yet we often claim the glory. Glory cannot be shared. Either we get it or God gets it. – pg. 148

Reggie McNeil reminds us in his book Missional Renaissance that externally focused leaders must take their cues from the needs and opportunities of their environment. We have to care what’s going on outside the walls of our church. We must always look for ways to bless and serve our communities. In order to shift our focus, we must shift much of our calendar, resources, and energy to people who are not already a part of our church. No strategy, tactics, or clever marketing campaign could ever clear away the smokescreen that surrounds Christianity in today’s culture. The perception of outsiders will change only when Christians strive to represent the heart of God in every relationship and situation. We will not make the shift from an internal focus to an external focus unless we are willing to change the way we view success. We cannot shift the way we do church without shifting the way we view church. – pgs. 149-150

We give each other permission to value the things we see Christ value. We speak more of mission, transformed lives, and reaching those who claimed they would never darken the doors of a church. We talk about the gospel and kingdom. We strategize ways to partner together and to learn from each other. When we orient our ministry around church attendance, we tend to get either defensive and insecure or puffed up and prideful. When we orient our ministry around mission and the kingdom, we tend to get increasingly more dependent on God and increasingly more thankful for his movement. Measuring success through the lens of the kingdom is life giving. Measuring success by focusing on attendance is like a dog chasing his tail. We get tunnel vision, we never arrive, and it will literally drain the life right out of us. … Jesus never gave us the keys to the church. He gave us the keys to the kingdom. When we measure success in church and faith, it must be done by the standards of his kingdom, not our kingdom. … We think it’s about us. It’s not. It’s about the Father. Likewise, we wrongly come to the conclusion that it’s "our" church. As leaders who’ve been commissioned to lead it, we intuitively take glory when it goes well. If we’re members, we’ve invested, we’ve sacrificed, we’ve been there for "x" amount of years, and we’ve lead this program or sat on that committee, and so we do the same. But none of those things relinquishes ownership. The church is not ours; it never was. We’re not owners; we’re only stewards. We will never value the things God values until we give back what is already his. – pgs. 151-153

The word "peace” in Romans 5 comes from the word eiro, which means "to join" and implies being "set at one again." The doctrine of peace encompasses the idea that we are reconciled back to God through Jesus and are now at peace with him. Once separated. Now back together. Just the idea is refreshing to me. So few of us live in peace. We have such a desire to prove ourselves that we’re constantly striving for the next thing we can do for God. Whether in ministry or life, this can become a chasing after the wind. If God does not require something of us, why do we require it of ourselves? If God considers us at peace with him, then why are we not at peace with ourselves? ... Joy is not something we can do or manufacture. Joy is something you have, something you bring to others, something you share, something you respond to, and something you rejoice in. Nehemiah reminds us that "the joy of the LORD is your strength" (Nehemiah 8:10). Not only do we want joy, we need joy. … 

Scripture teaches that we experience joy: 

(1) When we trust in our salvation (Isaiah 12:2-3)
(2) When the Spirit is present (Luke 10:21)
(3) When justice is present (Proverbs 21:15)
(4) When we promote peace (Proverbs 12:20)
(5) When we love (John 15:10-12)

The Bible clearly links our joy to one of two issues. First is the understanding and resting in our salvation through Christ and the presence of the Holy Spirit. The second is the presence of justice, the promotion of peace, and the existence of love in our lives. – pgs. 166-168

The greatest gift that God gave us at ANC was the certainty of our calling. He never told us to try to build a big church. His vision was clear for us to serve the least, invest in his kingdom, and make disciples who do the same, and he would build his church. So that’s what we’ve tried to do. And we’ve been fortunate that the church of our dreams has emerged.

(1) In our first year as a church plant we committed 58 percent of our church’s tithes to mission and led over 125 service projects. 

(2) On our one-year anniversary we gave over $20,000 (more than 75 percent of all we had) to an East Austin ministry so they could secure a place to meet in a strategic location. 

(3) During year two, we moved out of our rented multimillion-dollar fine-arts facility into the back room of an old dance academy in a diverse south Austin neighborhood. Although it was cheaper to stay, the fine-arts facility didn’t match our vision, and we felt it gave a false first impression to our visitors about who we were.

(4) We’ve completely stripped our church of programs and events to give room for people to live on mission. This has forced us to be creative with just about everything else we try to accomplish as a church. – pg. 169

I think we already know what God values more than we’ll admit. Just take whatever is self-serving and do the opposite. Anything that makes the name of Jesus famous is success. Anything bringing us glory is not. – pg. 172

Chapter 10: Becoming a Barefoot Church

My prayer is that we discover fully the joy of the gospel and that we give ourselves permission to live in the margins. By now you know I believe deeply in the journey to the end of our selves, the place where Jesus is often found, and where God is ultimately glorified. That place is where peace is found. It’s where joy is found. Where contentment in our journey is found. As Albert Schweitzer once said, "One thing I know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve." … Every Christian has been given the priestly responsibility of being a minister of hope and reconciliation. Whether or not we embrace that calling impacts us; how we embrace it impacts others. – pgs. 176-177

It’s important that we don’t displace our tension onto someone else. Always deal with yourself and your life first. Be willing to be a part of the answer. We cannot expect everyone else to make the change for us. – pg. 178

(1) Be convicted. Start with prayer and end with prayer. Ask the Spirit to show you where you yourself are falling short. You don’t even have to know exactly what you’re being convicted about, you just have to feel something, know something has to be done, and be willing to do something about it. 

(2) Be convinced. Settle the issue of theology. Study the Scriptures. Not everyone agrees, so expect conflict; pray and do some more research. Without being convinced that you are pressing forward out of biblical mandate or moral imperative, your leadership will lack the power and confidence you need. 

(3) Be confident. When the tension comes, you will either forget why you’re doing it and bail out or remember God’s leading and instruction and fight for it. There will be a time when you’ll feel you have to remind God that it was his idea. He already knows that. Do you? Leading people through change is art, not a science – especially when leading others toward engaging need for the first time. – pgs. 180-181

Phase One: Communication – Communicate a clear plan for where you hope to go and why. 

Phase Two: Preparation – Prepare your congregation with the bigger picture. Be creative. Prepare your impacted groups with a vision supporting the big picture. Be clear. Prepare your key leaders by equipping them for their new role. Be concise.  

Phase Three: Transition – Transition by communicating where you are along the way. 

Phase Four: Reinforcement – Reinforce your leaders with encouragement and a platform for evaluation. 

Phase Five: Recommunicate and repeat – Repeat the phases of communication, preparation, transition, and reinforcement. – pgs. 185-186

We have to cultivate a healing culture – where it’s okay to be imperfect. 

We have to become a forgiving culture – where grace is expected and extended. 

We have to create a culture of acceptance – where love is unconditional. 

We have to offer a culture of permission – where we can wait to move until we hear God’s voice. 

In other words, we have to become more like Jesus. If we were to cultivate these four things into our church culture, we wouldn’t have to worry about the rest. We’d be the church we needed to be. Service to the least would naturally flow out of the grace and compassion of our church culture. It starts with each of us. The church is a collection of Christians either living on mission or avoiding responsibility. – pgs. 191-192

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