Confession

I have two confessions for you today.  The first is a personal weakness, and the second is a corporate weakness in the body today.

For those that do not know me, I do have a “normal” job in the IT industry.  I also have a full time family; therefore, SeqHim is mainly something I work on early in the morning and some late evenings.  As such, I figure I have to focus on one or two things to make meaningful progress.  Right now, these two things are fundraising and community development.  Problem is, I’m much more motivated my the later than the former, so I have made little progress on fundraising.  I’m praying through this, and I would benefit if you would lift me to the Lord as well.

I mentioned that the second confession is corporate in nature.  I mentioned Nehemiah a few posts ago, and I’ll quote him again here…

We have acted very corruptly against You and have not kept the commandments, nor the statutes, nor the ordinances which you have commanded Your servant Moses.  Nehemiah 1:7 (NASB)

Nehemiah prayed these words as he was lamenting the plight of the people before he went before the King with his request to go back to Jerusalem.  I’ve personally remained committed to praying over God’s people almost daily as Nehemiah did, and it hit me in the past few days just how mistaken the Church has been in the times of prosperity and how we are suffering for it now that difficulty is increasing.

I have not yet done any formal “research”, but I do have enough relationships with enough leaders of local churches to know that generally speaking attendance is up but giving is down…significantly.  Just yesterday, a local church leader and I discussed the tie to our lack of training when times were good.  Churches today feel compelled to “dial for dollars” just to survive, and I feel increasingly certain that the reason we’re in this predicament is that we did not train disciples when we had the resources to do it…rather, we invested those resources in building a bigger audience.  We thought that the percentage of givers to non-givers would remain steady, but what we’re finding is that the “social givers” (as opposed to “cheerful givers”) are dropping like flies as they panic.  They were among us, but they were not truely with us. 

And so, I feel compelled to confess this corporate failing to the Lord, which I have already done personally.  Will you join me?

What You Believe Determines What You Become

I have not yet put a section on doctrinal beliefs or core principles for SeqHim.  That will be changing soon.  For those that don’t know me, my doctrinal beliefs line up with evangelical protestantism: sufficiency and innerancy of scripture, the virgin birth, sinlessness of Christ, atoning death of Christ, resurrection, sufficiency of grace alone through faith in Christ alone to save, the reality of heaven and hell, and Jesus return.  I’ll expand on all of these in the future, but this gives you a sense of where we are.  They do matter; and, they do shape everything we are doing.

What I want to exand upon a little more here is our core principles.  I’ve come up with five principles that will shape/guide this ministry unless the Lord leads us to change them.  I would love your feedback on them!!

Transformation is a Command of God

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.  Romans 12:2 (NASB)

Most (if not all) of the New Testament can be thought of as speaking to one of four major topics: a) what we were before Christ; b) what Christ has done for us; c) what we are after believing in Christ; and d) what our responsibility is after being redeemed. 

This principle focused on this last topic: what do we do now that Christ as redeemed us and given us a new spirit?  Do we go back to living the way we once did?  No, of course not…we are called to live as we are.  We are perfect and righteous in spirit, but our flesh needs to be conformed to this perfect spirit.  This is what we mean by “transformation” and what Paul speaks of in Romans 12:2.  All other responsibilities of being a Christian can be tied back to this one calling: loving one another; serving one another; worship; giving to the poor; etc.  All of this increases in a genuine sense only as we transform.  And so, if you can obey God’s command to transform, you will obey the rest by definition.

God Alone Transforms People, But We Have a Role to Play

Does that mean that we can somehow transform ourselves?  No!  Only the Holy Spirit can transform us.  But, in his soverignty and for reasons I do not understand, He has chosen to use us in the process somewhat like a tool.  We must cooperate in a sense with the working of the Holy Spirit within us.  And, a Spirit-filled Christian wants to cooperate…it’s part of what we get when we are first regenerated.  We long for and strive for and work for the day when we are “set free from this body of death”.

What then do we do?  I believe there is a very simple model that we can remember, embrace, and act on day-by-day.  It is that iterative growth model that I have mentioned before.  If you missed that post, you can catch part one here and part two here.

God Expects us to Help One Another Transform

I can’t imagine being obedient to our calling to love one another if we did not help one another in this mission of transformation.  What greater expression of love is there than to help someone embrace the gospel and grow in Christlikeness?  Giving to the poor is critical, and we should all do it; but, what if we invested more than we do today in people to help them transform to the point where they are even greater givers than we are?  Is that not how we exponentially grow (in number and in maturity) the Kingdom.  One person helping three others become more like Christ, so they can help three others become more like Christ?

Preaching, Teaching, Small Groups, Bible Studies, Books, Podcasts, and all other forms of “mass” instruction have a significant role to play, but at the end of the day the real work is usually flesh on flesh.  It’s person on person helping them practically apply what they are learning to their lives and interpret what the Holy Spirit may or may not being doing in their lives.  It’s defeating the lies of the world that cause us to compartmentalize our lives into our “church life” and our “work life” and our “family life”.  It’s being able to see “Bible teaching” in the lives of peeople we know the best and the people who know us the best.  This is how we ultimately reach the ‘fringe’ and the ‘world’…we must encourage and complement the proclaimation of God’s word with the genuine living out of it and explicit honest interaction with others on it.

Modern Technology Can Be Used for Good, Evil, or neither

My background and career is in technology, so I see first hand how it can be used for good and evil.  I also suggest that it can be used to have a neutral effect.  And this is as true in the Church as it is in business.

With every technological advancement, people first figure out how to make money off if it; cultures then change as a result of broad adoption; and sometime later, the church eventually comes around to doing something with it to stay “culturally relevant”…whatever that means.

I’m not going to go into all of the nuances of this right now.  That’s a series of posts for a later date.  But, I will assert that…

  • …technology should be embraced as a way to win treasure in heaven just as aggressivly as business embraces it as a way to win treasure on earth.
  • …the church has a moral obligation to carefully assess when and how it is used, because it can easily become distracting to the mission of the Kingdom just as the ‘cool’ factor in business can distract from it’s mission of delivering value to shareholders.

Therefore, we will pursue technology aggressivley but only to the extent that it builds the Kingdom in a God-honoring manner.

The Wisdom of a Crowd can be Greater than the Wisdom of a Few

As with the other principles, this can easily be a series of posts on it’s own; but, I will try to concisely explain the intent of this principle.  I, and many others, have noticed an accelerating movement for people to use the web to do things and not just consume things.  There are many, many examples of this…software development (e.g. open source), finance (e.g. Kiva), publication (e.g. wikipedia, blogs, istockphoto), and social networking (e.g. facebook) are just the tip of the iceberg.

These initiatives, and many others, are successful because technology enables the untapped potential of the amateur crowd.  This is a group of people who possess passions outside of their day jobs that are strong enough for them to devote extra time to working with others in their field.  They include amateur bird watchers, scientists, software developers, engineers, philanthopists, and many others.  And, the quality and speed of their production can exceed that of the “professionals”; e.g. compare Linux (open source) to Windows.

And guess what, this amateur crowd also includes faithful disciple-makers.  SeqHim is here to give you, God’s called disciple-maker, a means of working with others to do something as significant as facebook, or Kiva, or wikipedia…only, the significance is for the Kingdom and not for the world.  Can such a crowd be used for good or for evil as technology can?  Do we have to be careful to protect the integrity of the Gospel and the Kingdom itself?  Absolutely!  But there is a way forward to gain the productivity of the crowd without sacrificing the integrity of the Gospel, and I will continue to expand on it future posts…praying that many of you will join in the fight and help shape this thing.

Do you want to join the mission?  Send me a note (jreeves@seqhim.org); check out the get involved pagepray with us; comment on this post; keep coming back…we’re pressing on and accelerating by God’s grace!

Deeper Dive on Growth Themes

In my last post, I introduced the concept of a growth theme.  Think of themes (joy, compassion, humility, perseverance) as the more concrete sub-components of the growth dimensions (knowledge, character, and behavior).  And remember, growth on these dimensions within the themes is a result of hearing, believing and obeying God.  Later, I’ll go a little deeper on hearing, believing and obeying God…the things we do.  But first, lets look a little closer at what we are trying to become (increasingly joyous, compassionate, humble, and persevering).

Joyfully forget yourself and focus on others forever.

The above statement is something I made up as a kind of personal mission statement.  Notice how it includes each of the four growth themes…joy, humility (forget yourself), compassion (focus on others), and perseverance (forever).  We are followers of Christ if we do this increasingly, genuinely and in the context of God’s truth.  Note that I did not say we are “saved” because of it.  We’re “saved” because we professed faith in Christ and He gave us life by His grace alone.  What I’m taking about here is actually following Christ after we have been regenerated.

Now, let’s look under the hood.  Are four themes really enough?  What about love, wisdom, righteousness, contentment, faith, dependenance, generosity, etc?  As I said before, we created a mind map to organize these characteristics so that we could get our arms around the different facets and begin to eat the elephant one bite at a time, so to speak.

Here is a link to that mind map: Themes v0.3

Remember, this is one of an incalculable number of possible arrangements.  This is just one that works for our purposes.  I’m happy to take feedback on it, because I do want to improve it…but, let’s not miss the forest for the trees either.

And so you will see that we’re framing contentment as a joy issue.  If you do not have God’s joy, it is possible that the underlying cause is a contentment issue.  With this kind of vocabulary, we can use it in a number of different ways to help people.  Here are a few:

Assessment: Helping Disciples Know Where They Are

We can develop a means of helping people understand where they are in their walk with regard to joy, humility, compassion, and perseverance.  This then drives where/how they spend their time addressing areas of weakness (rather than simply ammassing knowledge by an endless stream of “bible studies”).  The intent of “assessment”, would be to help someone understand that contentment is a bigger issue in their life than say generosity.

Guidance: Helping Disciples Know Where to Go and How to Get There

Guidance can be attached to the same vocabulary.  Guidance (e.g. passages of scripture, teaching, books, podcasts, disciplines, ad-hoc experiences and advice, etc)  can be provided on how to become more generous, for example, and loaded into a shared repository.

Search: Helping Disciples Find The Best Stuff Fast

Now that guidance has been loaded against a specific vocabulary, and a person understands their need using the same vocabulary, an extremely efficient search capability can be put into place that helps a disciple find exactly what they need almost immediately.

There is alot more to be said, but alas…it will have to wait until next time.  Until then, I will continue to pray for all of you as you strive to become more like our Savior.

Are ‘fringe’ building churches such a bad thing? Maybe not…

The problem is not so much with what churches are doing; it’s with what they are not doing. 

Many churches are so focused on growth that the majority of their resources (money, materials and people) are focused on growth initiatives; i.e. building campaigns, community events, etc.  This leaves little left for internal growth initiatives.  In other churches, particularly those overseas, there is precious little resource to invest in either external or internal growth.  Either way, churches are struggling to help people to grow.  We are adding to our numbers, but we’re adding ‘fringe’ and we’re not helping ‘fringe’ move to the core.

BUT, what if there existed a community of ‘core’ believers whose sole purpose was to birth new believers from the ‘world’ and develop baby believers in the ‘fringe’? 

If this community was effective, it would complement churches of all sizes, shapes and styles while filling this all important gap of internal spiritual growth.  It would have to be orthodox and yet inter-denominational.  It would have to be united on the essentials of the Christian faith, but mature enough to give and receive the freedom granted by grace.  It would have to be seemlessly global, not bound to a region or local church body.  It would have to be large in number, but it would have to be more concerned about the maturity of the community than it’s size.  It would have to be simple for community members to communicate with one another; it would have to be accessible, transparent, authentic, and helpful to those outside of the comunity.

If such a community existed, ‘fringe’ building churches could leverage the community to supplement their existing internal growth initiatives, practically free.  If such a community existed, a small town church in west Texas, an isolated body of believers in Zambia or an underground small group in a communist or muslim country would have equal access to the same global support structure as a mega-church in the USA.

Does this sound exciting?  Do you want to engage?  Let me know…