Can You Have Church Without an Agenda?

Can You Have Church Without an Agenda?

A couple of weekends ago, I participated in a men’s retreat. It was one I helped coordinate, and we had invited Wayne Jacobsen (founder of Lifestream Ministries, co-host of The God Journey podcast, and co-author on The Shack) to come and be with us.

I’ve never experienced a men’s retreat like this before. For one, we decided to run the retreat without an agenda. I had heard Wayne talk about this before, and it sounded like amazing things could happen. However, it also scared the heeby-jeebies out of me. Being a good ex-pastor, I always had a plan or agenda for things like this. After all, God’s not a God of chaos, so we shouldn’t be either, right?

Wouldn’t not having a schedule lead to utter chaos?

I decided to trust in the process that God has been leading me in over the last few years, and trust that it was God who was nudging me to have an agenda-less retreat. I ran it by my friend who so graciously offered up his lake house where we hosted the retreat. He obliged to the request.

I’ve seen and been part of retreats that fill up every moment of time, not really allowing you to connect with God, or others for that matter.  I’ve been to others that have a light schedule but also provide room to hear from God. I enjoyed the ones that didn’t fill up the whole time and so I wondered, “What could Father do if we don’t fill up any of the time, but turn it over completely to him?”

There were still doubts and fears, even at one point the first night of the retreat. I kept wondering, “Is this really going to work?” After that first moment of panic, I decided (again) to surrender the schedule to the Lord. We had one dinner planned with the wives on Saturday night; other than that, we left conversations, gatherings, and agenda to Father.

At the end of the weekend, as I reflected, I couldn’t have planned and orchestrated everything any better than what happened. There were deep conversations, there was time spent alone or in groups of two’s or three’s. I got to know new brothers and fellowship deeply with others that I hardly know. There was laughter and joy. There were moments where I was deeply satisfied and

It was, in a word, more.

I felt more community.

I felt more connection.

I felt more “church” than I have in a long time. All without an agenda – and all without planning much of anything.

I used to think that you needed a plan or schedule to make things happen. I really didn’t trust that God would show up without needing a bit of help. Now I know that a schedule isn’t necessary. Father can handle it. Much of the time, we limit God by our own agenda. We read into what He wants, instead of simply surrendering our agenda and plan to Him, because we ultimately don’t trust that He can do things without our assistance.

It doesn’t mean there is not room for a plan, on occasion. However, I think we (I know I did) have a tendency to over-plan and plan God right out of most of what we do. I’ve heard people ask, “Couldn’t God break into [our plan] if he wanted to?” I guess he could, but wouldn’t it be better to let Him lead from the beginning? Trust him with the program and the results.

Try it and see what happens. And when God shows up, I bet you’ll be glad you did!

Where can you create more space for God to set the agenda in your life or ministry? What fears do you have about leaving the results and schedule to Father?

Creativity Unleashed

Creativity Unleashed

When I wrote this, I was on my way back from a conference in Vegas.  I know, I know. You can rag on me later.  While in Vegas, my boss and I went to see the Vegas show, Le Reve (it’s French for “the dream”).  From the set design, to the lighting, to the costumes and choreography, this show was an amazing spectacle of human creativity and ingenuity.

I marvelled at the set design and configurations that were created within a relatively small (and confined) space.  The theater is in the round so there is no back stage or side stages to store a lot of props and set changes.  All of the stage changes have to come up from the floor (which is also a big pool) or from the ceiling.  It was astounding to see what different designs appeared out of the watery set.

There is a link, I believe, to our Creator and our capacity to be creative.  For some, it is a natural gift (much like the creators of Le Reve or other Cirque du Soleil-type shows.)  For others, it exists, but needs to be nurtured and shaped and allowed to express itself. We need creative people in our communities to serve as ambassadors and heralds not only to redeem those areas of culture, but also to show us what is possible when we dream and dare to move beyond our current thoughts and trends.

Road to CreativityCreativity spans all kinds of industries, above and beyond art and media; although, we need artists in all fields and should encourage “Christian” artists to move beyond walls of the church and seek to be missional in their art and in their sphere of influence. How can an artist share the Gospel with other artists?  How can he or she create an organic community of believers who share the same passion?  How do artists and creatives share the Gospel of Jesus in their different medium and subcultures?

What about inventors, entrepreneurs and other business creative-types?  My father-in-law has a keen knack for business and being creative in financing certain business deals.  I am amazed at how he thinks when it comes to business. I have much to learn from someone like him in the area of business creativity.  There are opportunities for people like that to teach and train others and impact the business community as well as their local communities.  What if those people formed small groups or MasterMind groups to teach and train others all the while pursuing opportunities to share the Gospel and God’s love with them?  What if they had a heart for the community and training up the next generation about the in’s and out’s of business?

While we are not all called to be creative, part of our nature comes from the Creator, and so there is within all of us the capacity to create.  Whether that’s through business, the arts, education, or ministry, let us seek the author of creativity as we also seek to glorify Him in each of our areas of calling.

Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.  (Isaiah 40:28)

 

When God Seems Silent

When God Seems Silent

Recently, my wife and I (and the teams that we do ministry with) prayed with a young lady regarding her sister (we’ll call them Ruth and Sarah).  Ruth’s sister, Sarah, was about to make a life-altering decision (one that would have lasting physical and emotional consequences).  Ruth called us not knowing what to do or how to convince Sarah to not go through with this.  We prayed with Ruth.  We asked if we could talk to Sarah, but she didn’t think that it would be a good idea.  So we called on our teams to begin to pray.  And we all prayed – for 2 days.

– We prayed for God to speak to Sarah about her decision.  We prayed that Ruth would have influence in her sister’s life to talk her out of it.

– We prayed that Sarah and Ruth would be filled with the Holy Spirit and that Sarah would make the right decision.

– We prayed for the Lord’s will regarding this situation (knowing that God would not agree with her decision.)

– We prayed Scripture over this situation and that God would intervene for His glory.

– We prayed blessings over Sarah, Ruth, and all those who would be involved.

– We even prayed for a bus to break down so that these yound ladies couldn’t make it to their destination.

Image credit: designpics / 123RF Stock Photo

Sarah went ahead with her decision.  My wife and I were heart broken.  As was Ruth, the sister.  She (Ruth) also struggled with her faith and with forgiveness (mostly God’s forgiveness towards her for orginally supporting her sister’s decision.)  Why would God not answer this prayer for His glory right then and there?  Wouldn’t God be glorified by intervening and preventing this decision to be made?  (At least that’s what I thought and how I prayed.)  We were sure we were praying in God’s will.

Each person must decide to respond to or reject the Spirit’s working in their life. 

As much as we would like to choose good (and God) for some people, not everyone will respond favorably to the promptings of the Spirit.  Our job as Christians is not to be their Savior, but to point them to the only one who can save.  We also must remember what Jesus said, ““Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me.” (Luke 10:16, NIV)

We Don’t know the ultimate outcome of the situation

God is still God, even though the outcome of this particular situation was not how we had been praying.  As we were grieving, the words of one of Delirious’s songs came to mind

40 million babies lost to God’s great orphanage,
It’s a modern day genocide and a modern day disgrace
If this is a human right then why aren’t we free?
The only freedom we have is in a man nailed to a tree.100 million faces, staring at the sky,
Wondering if this HIV will ever pass us by.
The devil stole the rain and hope trickles down the plug,
But still my Chinese take away could pay for someone’s drugs.
Our God reigns, Our God reigns,
Forever your kingdom reigns.
[ Lyrics from: http://www.lyricsmode.com/lyrics/d/delirious/our_god_reigns.html ]

God still reigns even when God seems silent.  Who know what will happen with this young lady in the future.  Meanwhile, our job is to continue to support both young ladies and show them the love and mercy of Jesus.

God still deserves our praise

Just because God seems silent or does not answer us in the way we expect, He is still worthy of all of our praise.  It doesn’t mean we can’t grieve for someone.  It doesn’t mean that we will understand everything that God does.  God asks us to obey Him always, not understand Him in everything.  There will be things we face that we can never understand.  Our response to God is a trusting worship, one that is anchored in hope.

– Hope that God will ultimately use this situation for His glory.

– Thankfulness that one heart did turn towards God.

– Praise that God forgives, and that if this young lady decides to choose forgiveness, He will be waiting with open arms.

When God seems silent, choose hope.  Choose to believe.  Choose to worship Him.  After all, He first chose us:

For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you… (1 Thessalonians 1:4)

Glenwood Prayer Update (new requests added)

For those of you following our Glenwood Outreach, Mike and I went to Glenwood the last 2  Sundays and had really good conversations with several of the residents. We got some good information as far as ways that we can help out, but we will need some help making connections. What follows are prayer requests and ways that we can continue to help the residents (and possibly ways for you to get involved). We are going to create a survey this week and contacting Becky, the apartment manager, to make sure she’s okay with us using it with residents.  Our whole goal of being involved with these people is to not assume what they need, but to really listen to them as far as their true needs.  We also will make sure we can use the clubhouse one night a week for a women’s Bible Study.

PRAYER REQUESTS

*New*

James – (apt. 515) – James wife has left him recently.  There are 6 kids in the picture (4 of them are theirs).  James definitely knows the Word.  He was quoting Scripture while we were talking with him.  He is open to being part of a men’s group and definitely needed some encouragement, but he seems to be doing okay.  We are praying for reconciliation with his wife and strength for him and his children.  We are also praying that Christ would guard his heart and mind and the hearts and minds of his children.  They are living with their mother, and it is not a good situation.

Erika (apt. 425) – Erika recently got her car totalled by a drunk driver.  She’s okay, although she did injure her ankle and is supposed to be on crutches.  The car is owned by  someone else, so she has to get a power of attorney to get the money to buy a new one.  We are praying that she is able to do this quickly, and that her ankle heals supernaturally quick.  She has also been struggling with anxiety, so we are praying Philippians 4:6-7 over her and that the peace of Christ would guard her heart and mind.

*Last Sunday*

Shontiel – (apt. 212 ) – she said that the biggest need right now for her and her friends are car problems and auto maintenance (her mechanic says she probably needs another car, and that it will cost more to fix than what it’s worth. We need to pray for a new car for her! – She also told us that Kristen is having car issues as well, which we’ve known about but need to help her get fixed (I don’t remember what’s wrong) – She thinks a Single mom’s ministry would be helpful for encouraging and connecting the women in Glenwood apts. and a mentor program for young boys – to connect them with consistent adult male relationships.

Rachel (apt. 717) – the AC on her car is out and needs $700 or so to get it fixed. She’s still working part time but has also applied for a FT job – let’s pray that she gets it! – She also said a mid-week Bible study would be helpful – she doesn’t know any other single moms in the apt. community. She attends Cowboy Church.

Abuk -(apt. 313) – please pray for encouragement for her. She is experiencing a lot of doubt. (Praise) – She found a tutor at AC that is going to help her prepare for her next (and final) time she can take the test to get into the LVN program. She also mentioned that gas was a big expense.

Paco – (apt. ?) – Mike and I met Paco as we were leaving. He works as a security guard and was about to leave when we saw him by the pool. From our brief conversation, he seemed to be a believer, but also let us know about a young man, James, in Building 5 that needed some encouragement. His wife has left him (James) recently and Paco said James was struggling. Mike and I plan to go back sometime this week and try to visit with him.

Manny and Veronica -(apt. 625)- I briefly talked to Manny, Veronica, and Fredarius. They were leaving to go to a family cookout. I had been praying this week that I would run into him, so go God! I asked if it would be alright if I stopped by sometime and visited with him and he said yes. So, let’s pray that God will arrange that encounter!

– Please pray with us that we will not enable these residents but empower them. We do not necessarily just want to give them everything for free, but we want them to contribute some so that they feel empowered as a person as well as helped.

Biggest Needs at Glenwood

– Automotive help for several single moms (If anyone has any connections, please let me know)

– Bible study for moms and a woman to step up and lead it.

– Gas cards (maybe offer them at a discount to residents – Glenwood groupon idea)

– Mentor program for youth

Upcoming Events

Last week of June – Mission Amarillo Group to Glenwood & Glenwood Community Block Party

Weekly visits with residents

If you would like to contribute to our cause or learn more about our ministry teams, please contact Will at ratlif.will@gmail.com.

The Church: Sent

When God moved us out of full-time vocational ministry and into a high school, I had no idea how messy some aspects of our ministry would be.  Our first year we focused on building relationships in the community and adjusting to a new job.  We got involved with a local apartment community and helped with a local back-to-school outreach and Christmas outreach.

Now, three years later, our most recent endeavor, though, has put us into closer contact with the people we’re trying to serve.  And it’s gotten messy…really messy.  We are dealing with people who have great need and little support.

– Single moms raising multiple children and cars that need constant repairs. Those same single moms are working, going to school to try to improve their lives (and the lives of their children), and are spread so thin that they have no time for themselves.

– Children running around their apartment complex with little supervision and little direction for their lives.  Fathers are absent from much of this community.

– People struggling with addictions and life-altering decisions (and those that love them trying to guide them to the right path.  Sometimes it works; sometimes it does not.)

And much, much more that I’m sure we haven’t even begun to scratch the surface.  But one thing I know and am convinced of…

Our presence is needed.  Because our desire is, no matter what the circumstance, to point them to Jesus.  Only He can save.  Only He can restore.  Only He can heal.  We cannot save them.  But we can be there to point them to the only one who can.

If we’re not there, will God call someone else to go? I’m sure he would.  But what happens to all these people in the meantime?  If God calls us to share His love, His grace, and His mercy, then what are we waiting for?

There are people in your neighborhood, probably even on your block, that need the same thing that these people need:  for someone to show them God’s love.  They need to see God’s mercy and forgiveness extended to them in tangible ways.  There are people all around us who are hurting and searching for the truth.  God wants you to point them to Christ and show them mercy.

Romans 10:14 says, “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?”

We are called to be those “preachers” to those around us.  Not to preach at them, but to live the gospel and proclaim the gospel in a way that draws them to Jesus.

Not sure how?  Here’s a great blog post from The Verge Network with some ideas  10 Simple Ways to be Missional.  Then, get out there and start preaching!