A Bittersweet Evening….

We helped Austin and Alesha load up their Penske Truck this evening for their move to Benton, AR. Sweet, because we know this will be good for them and our business. Bitter, because it seems as though much is ending.

Through the last five years, we have endured many struggles and hard lessons together. We have wept together, played together, eaten hundreds of meals together, prayed many hours together, searched the riches of Christ together, and sat many moments in silence together. We have rejoiced in many victories and dramatic breakthroughs in radical new understandings of our awesome God. We have cringed as lies, gossip, slander, and out-right Satanic attacks have affected our families. We’ve seen highs and lows. We have made many new friends together and seen other friends destroyed by bad choices.

It’s crazy that we are moving in a new direction apart from one another, yet we will always remain great friends and coworkers in business and the Kingdom.

The ministry that started as CrossLife over three years ago, now will spread into a new community. God only knows what will come next for us all.

Prayers, my good friends.

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Mental Defragmentation…

Wow. It’s been a while since I’ve blogged. I have been getting adjusted to Facebook and Twitter. They will not replace my blogging, but I have enjoyed getting in touch with folks I haven’t seen or talked to in years. Though, a few I could have done without.

Anyway, I just want to unload my mind now:

  • I hate computers. It seems like I have faced computer difficulties around every corner this summer.
  • I love what we do for a living. I have enjoyed the summer to chill out and get ready for what we hope to be a VERY productive and busy Fall.
  • I can’t wait to see our new website for All Star Fundraising. We have a final logo, and should have the site up within the next month.
  • I love simple church. I love our friends we do life with. These folks challenge me and encourage me. See some pics here.
  • Kacey and I are getting ready for trip to Orlando, FL, to meet Frank Viola next week. Should be a great time to hang out and meet new people.
  • I am supposed to have a conversation today with a guy who emailed me from Memphis a couple of days ago regarding a network of folks in Memphis who are interested in simple church.
  • Kacey and I are praying about starting a new church. We believe it’s close.
  • Some friends of ours are about to make some huge changes that will effect us in a big way. Good changes we believe. Can’t share too much yet.
  • We are trying to help another new church get started on the other side of the city.
  • The CrossLifewebsite will be going through some major changes over the next several months. It will become way less of a “church” website, and more of a network training portal for simple/organic church. We aren’t really sure what that means yet other than the fact we believe this is what God wants us to do with it at this time.

Finally, I have been reading a lot this summer. I will be reviewing some books, but for now, I will just list them:

  • “The Monkey and the Fish” by Dave Gibbons
  • “The Rabbit and the Elephant” by Tony and Felicity Dale
  • “The Stewardship of the Mystery” by T. Austin Sparks
  • “God’s Spiritual House” by T. Austin Sparks
  • “Prophetic Ministry” by T. Austin Sparks

I am currently reading and very much enjoying “The Normal Christian Life” by Watchman Nee.

That’s about it for now. I am still planning on getting on a blog “schedule” for posting book reviews, meditations, website reviews, and random stuff. Just haven’t figured it out yet…

Thanx!

A Reflection

To friends of CrossLife:

We send greetings in the name of our Holy King and Savior, Jesus Christ. We hope this message finds all of our friends doing well and prospering in their relationship with our Father.

The past year and a half has been an arduous and sometimes painful journey. We have not shared much information with you, because we have been busy in the harvest. However, as of late, we have felt the time has come to share the realities and some details about our adventures here in Southaven, MS.

Many people have visited our website and our personal blog’s in order to see what is going on here. We fear that these sources of information have often caused more confusion than necessary. Many things have been taken out of context and/or misunderstood. Many people tend infer what they think we are saying, rather than simply listening to our hearts cry. Much of the confusion has been caused by a lack of clarity, most often due to our lack of communication skills. So, if you’re angry, agitated, curious, saddened, convicted, or any other potential reaction to our  ramblings, please read on. We hope to clarify some things.

  • We are practitioners of what is now commonly referred to by some folks as simple/organic/house church. Why? Because that is what God has placed within our hearts. We didn’t make these terms up. They are just being used by a wide range of people to describe a world-wide movement that is taking place within the Body of Christ. We are not perfect, and this doesn’t come without its struggles. Please understand, we don’t think we are better than anyone else, just different. The way we think about our relationship with Christ and our relationship with the church is different. Our current understanding of past experiences, observations of present realities, and Scripture has led us to our position. We have NOT been unduly or blindly persuaded by anyone or group. We have made determined, purposeful, and thoroughly researched and prayed through decisions about where we are and where we believe God is leading us. We don’t claim to have arrived, but instead acknowledge the fact that we are in process.
  • We are NOT against institutional/traditional church. If this is the sphere God has placed you to serve Him, that is fantastic. Who are we to question God’s working in your life? Let it be understood what we mean by institutional church. We identify it as that form of church which arises out of history with a set structure of practice, programming, financing, professional clergy and volunteer laity, and a varied assortment of traditions, depending on the denomination or affiliation, of which most Christians in America are closely associated with. While these practices and structures may not be inherently wrong, they are also not found within the context of Scripture, and, therefore, are not NECESSARY for the people of God to be the church representing Christ.
  • We are, at the same time, NOT huge proponents of institutional church. Why? Because we see much of what HAS to be done inside the institution as distracting from Jesus’ mission of simply making disciples of HIS Way. (i.e. buildings, budgets, programs, structures, conformity to certain “rules” that exist outside of Scripture, etc.) This doesn’t mean that we have withdrawn from or are against institutional churches. Further, we believe we can work together to bring Christ to our nation.
  • We are very orthodox in our beliefs. We are affiliated with the American Baptist Association of Churches. Our “doctrine” is biblical and aligns fully with historical Baptist teachings. Most of our friends, and unfortunately also our detractors, are within this fellowship. While our practices may not be common among our fellowship, our beliefs are. I hope that in time all who are confused and even negative about our path, will come to see this truth. We are NOT heretics, confused, misguided, “tossed about”, or any other reference to our current positions and/or ignorance that may be used. We fully acknowledge that the word “Baptist” does not appear in the “name” of our church. Frankly, we don’t see the big deal about this and refuse to argue pointlessly about it. Instead, we choose to be identified by our actions rather than our name or set of beliefs. We are simply CrossLife. Our life exists only for the glory of the One who died on the cross to give us the very life He gave up. Our hope is that CrossLife will actually become a network of simple churches that gather throughout the Memphis metro area, and ultimately the world, which exist for the sole purpose of helping lives transform into disciple-makers for Jesus Christ. The way we seek to do that is by being available for God to use to influence one life at a time. If He sees fit to do more with that, it is His business. After all, Jesus said He would build His church, not us.
  • We are not different just to be different. Our path is not one of rebellion against the establishment. We fully believe we are on the path that God has led us to travel. It is certainly not conventional, but nothing we are doing is outside the bounds of Scripture. In fact, we can easily show you where our practices fully align with Scripture. Please understand, we were not originally looking for this path. In fact, our original goal was to plant a very traditional functioning church. We soon realized that this was not the desire God had placed in our hearts, and thus began a thorough search for what God was leading us to do. We have not arrived, but are fully persuaded that we are on the right path. This has been a frightful, aggravating, persecuted, misunderstood, misrepresented, and very difficult journey thus far. Some of our “friends” have only served to add to our torments; however, we also have true friends that have been sources of encouragement, love, grace, and mercy. I choose not to list them here for fear of people taking out their own insecurities on these friends, which has, by the way, been a common practice thus far. We are very thankful for those have been our friends through the toughest of times.
  • We don’t take criticism lightly. We understand that in both positive and negative criticism God has something for us to learn. We have received very hurtful emails and phone calls from “brothers” who seemed to have axes to grind. The rumor mill has churned out all sorts of lies and fantasies about what we are or are not doing here. Some of these have brought pain, but some of these have been used by God to point out our own egos and arrogance. These are issues, we are still repenting of. Yet, even with the most hurtful words, God has continued to lead us. WIth that being said, anyone who wishes to dialogue with me about our decisions may feel free to call me at 662.393.8733.
  • Our support is primarily from our own personal jobs/businesses. However, we do want to point out some loving and caring folks who sought to help us. First, we want thank the Steve Peace family. Their children were heavily involved in our youth ministry in Magnolia, AR. They have faithfully sent us money every month to help us carry on our ministry here. We especially send kudos out to Matt Peace who was in our teenage group. This past summer he worked at a Christian youth camp. At the end of the summer, he sent to CrossLife ¼ of his tithe to help our efforts in the harvest. Thank you, Matt. Second, we thank Bethany #1 MBC in Grapevine, AR. Austin’s dad has pastored there for a number of years, and led them to be regular and faithful supporters of our work for quite some time. Thank you. Finally, we recognize the contribution of Trinity BC in West Memphis, AR. This church shared a vision for planting a disciple-making church in the Olive Branch/Southaven area. This vision, unfortunately, came as a result of a church dying. The former pastor of this church, Liberty MBC, was left with all the assets which consisted of over $100,000 and 3 acres of property. He, as a very faithful and honest steward, handed these assets over to Trinity for a new church to be planted in the same community the original church existed. Many thanks and admiration is given to Greg and Melinda Kelly for their faithful service to our King. These assets were ultimately handed over to us. In addition, for the first several months of our arrival to Southaven, Trinity sent each of our families $400 a month. This was to help offset some of our costs of living, which had significantly increased. A small portion of the original assets were used at various times to help members of our ministry team. These funds along with our own offerings have also bought several dozen Bibles and other discipleship tools, meals for homeless and poverty stricken families, a warm bed for a few people to sleep in, our own educational development, and a sizable down payment on a ministry house. This house was originally purchased as a place for single guys who were struggling in life to live for low costs as they got on their feet. At the time, we were working with several young men who needed strong accountability and guidance, plus a place to stay. This ministry was short-lived for a variety of reasons and we were left with an empty house, to which our team decided to allow my family to move into. This has been a huge blessing for our family, to which we are very thankful to God. CrossLife, also, uses this house for our weekly gathering on Sunday evenings. Both we and the Taylor family regularly invite people to dinner and other activities opening our homes to people in our community. Our house now serves as somewhat of a “home-base” for our ministry efforts. Ultimately, my family will buy our own home, and CrossLife will sell this property for a sizable profit for, which we hope will only serve to further our stewardship of the resources God has blessed us with. 

We, again, hope this serves to bring a little clarity to what we are doing here in Southaven, MS. We have tired of the rumors and lies that only serve to detract us from our mission to make disciples of Jesus. Our only desire is for people to know the truth. We appreciate all those, and they are many, who have helped us through prayers and words of encouragement. For every negative attack we received, we had at least 10 positive experiences.

In addition to what we are and how we live out our faith, there are the people we have encountered. Space or time does not allow us to share all the stories we have lived and encountered. We have ministered to single moms, former strippers, prostitutes, homeless, drug addicts, homosexuals, pagans, and self-proclaimed atheists. We have fed the hungry and housed the down-trodden. We have met face-to-face with the bitter realities of life on the streets of Memphis, which leads the country in violent crime. We have had people arrested in our homes and even had to take one friend to jail ourselves. We have rescued some from within hours of their certain death. Through all of this our minds have been opened to the reality of the brokenness around us. Some of these situations left us desperate for comfort for ourselves, while others have motivated us to never give up. I will be using the “Trenches” section of this blog to share some of these stories in the future, so be sure to check that out over time.

If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to give us a call. If you are interested in learning more about why we do what we do, please check out my links and books section.

May God be glorified.

Thanx!

Kinda Where We Are…

Hey, first, I want to turn my few readers out there on to my links page. I have a ton of great resources for you to learn about what we are doing these days.

I find it difficult to explain when people ask how we are doing, because most people just don’t understand our journey to this point. Most of the people we know are and always have been inside the institutional church. That is all they know and understand, which is exactly where I was for a long time. Let me interject this: It was in an institutional church that I heard the Gospel and was saved. From an early age I learned about God. So I am thankful for the institutional church setting in my life. However, I also inherited a lot of extra-biblical baggage that weighed me down with religious stuff and often snuffed out my relationship with Jesus. Over the course of time, I have learned that much of what is done as “church” is not only NOT in the New Testament, it wasn’t even thought of until many years after the original disciples were gone. So much of what we do and say, can easily be misunderstood by well-intentioned people. Our words are sometimes even twisted by people who seek to bring us and our friends harm. I want you to understand that we are not heretics. We have not left the faith. We are very orthodox in our beliefs. The problem for most people is the way we seek to live out those beliefs tends to be a little different, causing good people to raise questions in their minds, and stupid people to speak evil of us behind our backs.

Our goal with CrossLife is to help people connect to God through His Son Jesus. We only desire for people to authentically grow in their relationship with Him. Often, the flurry of activity, programs, practices, and stuff of “regular” churches actually become a substitute for a growing relationship with Christ. I know this, because I was an integral part of such systems for many years. This, of course, is never the intent, but it tends to be more of a reality than an exception. The score card for “effective” church ministry becomes buildings, budgets, and butts in seats rather than life-transformation. All the work that goes into to keeping the institution alive, quite often detracts from what God is trying to do in the world, which is redeeming a people for Himself.

So, you may ask, is “house church” the best way to “do” or “go” to church? I would whole-heartedly say, NO. Why? Because it is actually IMPOSSIBLE to “go” to or “do” church. The church is the people. No one can attend church. Church is not an activity or a meeting. The church is the BODY OF CHRIST, and His body IS NOT built with brick and mortar, whether it is a small house or a gigantic “sanctuary”. You may say, that this is a squibble over semantics, and to that I would say that the evidence shows that most people actually think of the church as the “place” they worship God, give their offering, and sit for an hour a week to hear the professionally-trained “man of God” speak. We train our kids to think this way early on, and it catches on quite nicely. Never, do you see that being taught or lived out anywhere at all in the New Testament. In fact, you would be very hard-pressed to find most of what is commonly done on a Sunday morning in Scripture without wrestling those Scriptures away from their original context.

So, here’s the point, the focus should not be where you may attend church or how big it may be. Instead, the question should be, are you being the church? Is your life being transformed from day to day through your ever-growing relationship with Jesus? Is your walk with Christ being intertwined with other people who are on the same journey? Is your journey impacting those who are moving away from Christ?

These are serious questions that deserve a real answer. Remember, our life is not about what church we are a part of, but how we live out the life Jesus Christ sacrificed in order to give to us. If you would like to read further on these issues, I would invite you to check out my books section and my links section.

Thanx!

Take a Moment and Practice

I would like to encourage you, whoever you may be, to stop a moment and listen to this podcast from the Fermi Project in reference to the book, “UnChristian“:

 Click Here to download the mp3. (It’s only about 25 minutes or so.)

This is an interview with Chuck Colson, author of “How Now Shall We Live”. I read this book several years ago, and this interview made me want to get that book back out and reread it. This is exactly what we have been talking about in CrossLife, and, in return, I have been trying to communicate on my blog. Pay particular attention to his idea of common grace. That is an interesting thought.

This is very exciting to me!!

Oh, BTW, Austin and I have an interview with a local newspaper reporter today. I am not sure yet how I feel about this. My fear is that I will say something really stupid and it will show up in a public publication. That would really stink.

Thanx!

Currently Reading and Processing…

Have I ever mentioned that I love to read. Back in the day, my time outside of work and/or school was spent hunting and fishing. Then, I had kids and had to start working more and spending that my time hanging out with my family, which, BTW, I do not at all regret. I love spending lots of time with my family.

Anyway, when I am not hanging with the fam, or blazing the phone lines with business, I enjoy diving headlong into a good book.

I just finished “Jim and Casper Go To Church”. Check out this post and this post for my thoughts on this book.

I am currently reading “UnChristian” by David Kinnaman. I can’t say too much about it at this point, but whoa!! The book can be pointedly summed up in the opening sentence of the book itself, “Christianity has an image problem.”

I am also still reading “Seeker Small Groups” by Garry Poole. I have written some thoughts about this book here, here, and here. This book actually gels quite well with the other two books.

So what am I learning these days?

  • I am guilty and repenting of seeing people outside of the Christian faith as projects to convert rather than people to befriend.
  • I am guilty and repenting of being a moralist.
  • I am rethinking how I live out and share the Gospel from a Kingdom perspective, rather than a three point presentation and a decision card.
  • I am learning that homosexuals are not the enemy of Christianity, our country, my family, or my values.
  • I think most of the “system” we call Christianity and/or church desperately needs to leave the back door, though this won’t happen soon or without a significant fight.
  • I am learning that a church gathering doesn’t have to be a prayer, three songs, a sermon, and a prayer, but a much more intimate gathering of friends who seek to live out the life of Christ with love for God and people, while diligently seeking to make disciples of Jesus.
  • Church doesn’t “HAVE” to meet on Sunday mornings.
  • Kacey and I could not have made it through the last year without Austin and Alesha Taylor.
  • I am nervous about our fourth boy coming on March 11th.
  • I think I have Adult ADD.
  • We started a church, named it CrossLife, and now it is time for us to start “being” the church in our community.

Wow, it feels great to get that out there…

Thanx!

Clarification

Well, I know it’s been a while. I’ve been really busy. I should be getting back on track to blog regularly again.

We (CrossLife) have been working on our total restart. This has been a grueling process, but is rewarding at the same time. For the last two weeks, we have been “clarifying our win” and thinking through the steps we want people to take in becoming disciple-makers for Jesus Christ. We have been using the book, “Seven Practices of Effective Ministry” by Andy Stanley, Reggie Joiner, and Lane Jones. We have also been listening to the accompanying podcast “Practically Speaking” (found at www.practicallyspeaking.organd/or on itunes.)

Anyway, this process has been very insightful and has revealed our lack of direction and knowledge of how to plan and think through ministry goals. The following is a debriefing of where we so far. I must add that we are really just beginning this process, and still have a long way to go…

  1. The CrossLife Win: We want to lead people to follow the Way of Jesus.
  2. Our Community Group Win: We want to connect people into authentic relationships.
  3. Our “future” Central Teaching Win: We want to challenge people to make radical choices for Jesus Christ.
  4. We are still working on clear wins for: Community Group Hosts, Community Group Bible Study Leaders, Children’s Ministries, and others.
  5. We are working on our “Key Performance Indicators”, which are the questions we will be regularly asking ourselves to evaluate whether or not we are actually winning. (“Key Performance Indicators”, also KPIs, is a phrase introduced to us through Austin and his business.)
  6. Example KPI questions:How many people are connecting in LTGs? How many people are meeting outside of the Community Group for lunch, dinner, or recreation? How many people did I personally invest time with and invite to CrossLife? How many people are attending a CrossLife event? How many people are visiting the CrossLife website? How many people are giving tithes and offerings to God through CrossLife? How many people are we baptizing? How many people are involved in our Fresh Start Series? How many people have signed the CrossLife Covenant? How many people are involved in Leadership Development? How many LTGs have been multiplied? How many Community Groups have been multiplied? How many people do we have in our Core Group? How close are we to “re”-launching the Central Teaching? and on and on…
  7. We are also making sure we are actually asking the right questions.

As I said, this is no easy process, but we feel this is a vital step of success that we neglected to take early on due to immaturity and the vague idea that we thought we knew what we were doing when we really didn’t. Wow, confession really is good for the soul!!

Hey thanx for stopping by!!