Archives For kingdom

Swearing in Church #@!$%*&!

Erik Cooper —  February 24, 2011 — 7 Comments

There’s an emerging curse word in church circles today (at least my circles). A four letter word that actually has seven. It’s dirty. Nasty. Brace yourselves and stick a finger in the kids’ ears.

Pr@g&#m!

(I’m expecting my FCC fine in the mail at any moment).

A pastor announcing a new pr@g&#m at his church today is like a politician bragging about increasing your taxes. You just don’t do it. Your posts will get flagged by internet filters. It could even trigger a Dateline exposé.

Pr@g&#ms are for institutions.

Pr@g&#ms are for mass, assembly line production.

Pr@g&#ms are for religious people.

Pr@g&#ms produce 2% shifts and checklist living, not long-term Kingdom transformation.

Right?

I had a fascinating conversation with one of our City Community Church overseers last week. In the midst of our passionate dialog, he mentioned the dreaded “P-word.” After chastising his potty mouth, I asked him a serious question:

When does a valid ministry endeavor become an institutionalized pr@g&#m? When does it cross that line? What is the core difference between a pr@g&#m response and an honest, effective investment in someone’s life?

I thought his answer was intriguing. Worth posting to stir some conversation:

“Pr@g&#ms create spectators and consumers. Transformation demands participation and sacrifice.”

What do you think of that definition? Is he right? Love to hear your thoughts (after I finish sucking on this bar of soap).

The Impostor of Guilt

Erik Cooper —  January 26, 2011 — 2 Comments

Sometimes following Jesus is like having the stomach flu. That internal rumbling in your digestive track. Uncomfortable. Disturbing. I thought Jesus lived in my heart, how did he find His way to my small intestine?

I’ve definitely been there. The summer of 2000, I was avoiding full time ministry like Jay Cutler and the second half of the NFC Championship game. And it was eating me for lunch. We Christians call it conviction. That gnawing feeling inside your gut that is spelling out in no uncertain terms:

God is compelling me to do something I don’t really want to do. Insert vomit here.

But honestly, I’ve learned to welcome this type of nausea.  When we have the courage to respond and obey, life becomes beautiful. The Kingdom of God comes alive in us and around us. We begin to live in the reality of doing things God’s way. Never painless. Never without a cost. But always full of life. Real life.

But I’ve also experienced an impostor.

Rather than wrestling with internal, God-initiated challenges, I far too often find myself embracing the sinister villain of guilt. I wear its heavy strands around my neck like a concrete necklace even Mr. T. would see as a bad fashion statement.

I compare myself to others.

She’s taking a missions trip to Kenya.

He volunteers at the homeless shelter.

They’re adopting a child from Eastern Europe.

He quit his job to start a non-profit.

And rather than allowing the challenge of those we admire to inspire our own obedience to the Father, we become overwhelmed by shameful comparisons. Why am I not doing what “that guy” is doing? Maybe some day I’ll have “that kind” of faith. When will I man up to “that kind” of courage?” When will God be “that proud” of me?

Let me both let you off and put you back on the hook, ok?

Jesus said:

“Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”Matthew 11:29-30

Jesus isn’t asking you to be somebody you’re not.  He isn’t asking you to mimic someone else’s obedience. He’s not placing anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. You can’t sustain that.

But He is calling you to obey. To become who He created you to be. And He never said it wouldn’t be painful. He never said it wouldn’t be costly. He never said it wouldn’t rumble in your stomach at 2am like a bad piece of meat.

So be inspired by others. Be challenged by their actions. But don’t wear the guilt of comparison. The question for you is simple:

What is God asking of you? Are you responding?

Simplifying Prayer

Erik Cooper —  January 20, 2011 — 3 Comments

I’m shifting the focus of my prayers.

(Not like to another deity, don’t worry).

I’ve begun to notice a lot of “shoulds” infiltrating my conversations with God.  Should I choose this one or that one? Should we go there or stay here? Lots of complicated specifics. Should I? Shouldn’t I?

Not inherently bad prayers. God definitely cares about the specs.

But at times I feel like a bad meteorologist. I focus feverishly on trying to predict which way the wind is blowing, rather than just asking the Source of the wind to come alive inside of me.

Jesus said to pray:

“Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” –Matthew 6:10

Your kingdom come.

What if that became my foundational prayer? What if the kingdom Jesus talked about was lit as a fire inside of me? (Mat 3:11-12) What if rivers of living water began to originate from an internal Source? (John 7:38) What if God’s Kingdom really came, transforming me from the inside out?

Wouldn’t all these complicated little “should I?” or “shouldn’t I?” dilemmas just begin to flow naturally? Wouldn’t they be God-originated? Wouldn’t they be energized? Wouldn’t they be sustainable?

Too simple? What do you think?

Tension is good for music. Notes that don’t naturally fit the chords. Melodies that depart the intended key. Progressions that take you to unexpected places.

Music that never breaks the rules is boring. A little healthy tension is actually what makes music beautiful.

Same is true for life.


This weekend my younger brother and his wife are moving to Houston. Another goodbye in a seemingly endless list of adieus over the past few years

A little more tension in the melody line.

Darren has an unbelievable opportunity to work under a successful music producer in Houston, Texas (which also happens to be Britney’s home town). He’ll be learning the ropes from an industry insider, working on some serious projects, and slowly launching his own production company (all while wearing a ten gallon hat and learning proper parts of speech for the word y’all).

Sad and exciting all wrapped into one. (Sadciting? Exsading?)

When we launched City Community Church, we committed to hold things loosely. To invest in people selflessly. To release them passionately. To see the Kingdom as bigger than our individual church community. To give until it hurt.

Little did I know how close those declarations would hit to home. And how badly they would actually sting.

So we let go. And that release brings pain. And the pain creates tension. The very tension that has the potential to fill life’s music with unbelievably beautiful melodies.

Goodbye D&B. (I guess it’s really more of a “see ya’ll”). Love you. Proud of you. Go write some beautiful, tension filled melodies (with a Texas twang).

(But don’t think for a minute I’m not subtly reminding mom and dad which one of their sons loves them enough to stick around).

For any of you out there contemplating the start of a new church, I have a bit of advice.  Listen to me now.  This is important.  Tuck it away somewhere where you can look back on it regularly.  This isn’t shared in any of the church planting books or boot camps, but I’m telling you, this little nugget will save you a massive migraine.

Building a church with people who really want to follow Jesus is a bad idea.

I know.  Sounds crazy.  But it’s true.

Jesus followers are bad church builders.  Well, at least the kind of “church” a lot of us immediately sketch in our minds when we hear the familiar word.

As a church leader, prefer those who are just looking for some friends.  Those longing for relational connections with a few God overtones.  Those who want to build their social hierarchy around a church culture.  They’re so much easier to deal with.

Look for people who are settled. In control.  Those who have painted a vivid, stable picture of their futures – their destinies, what they want for their lives – and then just want to sprinkle a little God into the sauce like oregano or thyme (seriously, isn’t thyme is such an under-appreciated seasoning?).

Passion is good.  Passion for you. For your sermons and preferred style of worship.  For your kids program or the layout of your building. This kind of passion stays put. On course.  And barring an unforeseen transfer or poorly calculated misstep on your part (i.e. changing the color of the carpet in the lobby), stays solidly attached to your congregation.

Stay far away from Jesus followers.

They’re the ones connected directly to Christ, not just your church organization. The ones that quit serving their own egos.  That derive life from Jesus as their internal source, and begin listening and responding to His leading.

They start dreaming.  Creating.  Taking action.  Following.  Jesus.

And that’s dangerous, because sometimes He will ask them to do things that don’t benefit you. That destabilize your organization.  That may throw off your church growth game plan.  For instance…

They might invest $18,000 to bring an Ethiopian orphan into their home instead of donating to the capital campaign fund.

They may spend an evening helping a single mom clean out her garage instead of attending the church prayer meeting.

Sometimes they’ll even do things like move to other cities or countries because Jesus tells them their presence is required there. Crazy!

Yep, Jesus followers are terrible church builders.  I suggest you stay away from them.  They’re just too unstable. Too radical.  Too Kingdom minded.  Too dead to their own agendas.  Too busy building The Church to always help you focus on building your church.  They’re far too enamored with following Jesus.