Why Acts 29

September 28, 2009 at 7:35 am

acts29aAs a new church, we get asked a lot to explain ourselves, to pick a label, as it were. We are convicted of Credobaptism (baptism of believers), but we’re not Southern Baptist (“Baptist” with a big “B” as I refer to it). We’re Reformed but not antogonistic. We’re loving but stress doctrine. We practice church discipline but know that we’re all sinners striving for holiness. We believe in cultural engagement rather than retreat. We believe that missions begins where our contact with unbelievers begins and then extends to the nations.

It may or may not surprise you that, when I began the process of planting Church of the Cross, I often felt a bit alone. We did not have a “sending” church in the traditional sense and I was not part of a denomination. But, as the lead planter of Church of the Cross, I also knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that I did not want to be a lone ranger, I had no aspirations of “going it alone.” I knew that I needed advice and accountability and I wanted Church of the Cross to be a part of something larger than itself.

Enter the Acts 29 Network. Acts 29 Network Director Scott Thomas introduces the network this way:

Acts 29 Network exists to start churches that plant churches. God is using our network to influence and shape the church planting culture through both solid theology and contextualizing the gospel. We will not waver on either of these commitments. We won’t water down our theology to reach more people and we won’t attack the culture in the name of Christianity. We are planting churches that are missionaries in their respective communities sent by Christ with the gospel (John 20:21). It is our desire to plant 1,000 new churches in the next 10 years. We desire to make your dream of planting a gospel-driven church come true. We count it an honor to partner with you and to serve you.

I get the “Why Acts 29″ question quite a bit, so, I want to offer a few quick thoughts. Though there are certainly more reasons than these why we decided that Acts 29 was the best fit for us, these are some that I want to share with you:

    Jesus-centered missionality

I realize that “missional” is a bit of a junk-drawer word (surely you have a drawer somewhere in your house where everyone puts everything?!), but at it’s base, it communicates the idea of living like missionaries in our immediate context. Living on and in God’s mission. Missions involves cultural engagement and lays the groundwork for evangelism.

Acts 29 not only understands and encourages this but does so from a Christ-centered framework, putting Jesus at the center of everything. This is key and must not be overlooked. Indeed, as Mars Hill Church says: “It’s All About Jesus.” To claim to be “on mission” without Jesus is simply a fool’s errand at best, and suicide at worst. Acts 29 understands that, not only is Jesus the embodiment of God on Mission, He is our hope and strength as He sends us in His footsteps (Matthew 28:18-20).

    Vocal doctrinal commitment

It is a sometimes-tempting trap for many church planters to water down doctrine in the hopes of attracting more people. Acts 29 rejects such shallow options, understanding that, to open up your Bible at all and teach is to involve doctrine and we’d better strive to get it right. We only do disservice when we treat the things of God as though they’re merely self-help tools to get us our best lives. Acts 29 unapologeticaly encourages and empowers pastors to lead their people deep into the glories of Calvary.

    The centrality of the Church

While the doctrine (and practice) of the Church is under attack from nearly every direction (including many who profess faith in Christ), Acts 29 stands on the principle that the Church is at the center of God’s redeeming Work. It is for the Church that Christ laid down His life (Ephesians 5:25).

    The importance of family

It’s often been said: “As goes the home, so goes the church.” And yet, it’s quite common for many ministers to pour themselves out so much in ministry that they have nothing left for their families, which should be their primary ministry. Acts 29 not only understands this, they call their pastors/planters to first be family men before pastors. This is often sorely overlooked to the detriment of everyone involved. I am humbled to be part of a network that takes family so seriously.

    Calling Men to Be Men

I was never a jock and I cringe a bit when I see masculinity defined primarily in athletic/competitive terms. But, it doesn’t take long in most churches to realize that more women participate in church life than do men. Acts 29 is intentionally calling men to be men, to be sacrificial leaders, to be humbly bold, to lead their families and the church. This is much needed in our culture.

    Kingdom over Denomination

Acts 29 has members across the denominational landscape. I see this as a tremendous strength. Acts 29 strives to put the Kingdom over our differences (as important as they may be). It’s much more difficult to strive to work across those boundaries than it is to hide behind them. What’s even more difficult is to firmly hold certain doctrines in a closed hand while holding others in an open hand. I am honored to be part of a network that puts the unity of the Kingdom above the differences of denomination.

Music Saturday

September 26, 2009 at 7:59 am

Here’s some music for your Saturday. First up, brand new Sufjan Stevens! Here’s a new song called “There’s Too Much Love” performed live:



 

I don’t know when this one is from (it appears to be this month), but here is a great video of Woven Hand performing “As I Went Out One Morning” live in the KEXP studios:



 

And, last for your Saturday is a group I’ve only recently discovered called Mumford and Sons. Here they are playing their song “The Banjolin Song” on a balcony:



The Weekly Town Crier

September 25, 2009 at 7:58 am

gibb_street_town_crier3Here with all your custard news! Uh, er, I mean, wait. I mean, something about other stuff and lots of links and clicking and browsing and reading and thinking and processing and the such and the like.

Be my friend on Facebook.

Follow me on Twitter.

Read about the top secret Monopoly games that helped free soldiers in World War 2.

Read as The Guardian reports that Jay Farrar will record the third Mermaid Avenue collection.

Read as Paste asks the question, “Is Pearl Jam a modern Grateful Dead?”

Read Tullian Tchividjian’s op-ed response to the controversy now surrounding his ministry.

Read as Al Mohler wonders is babies with Down Syndrome will simply disappear as up to 92% are aborted.

Read about the rolling billboard urging people to have an affair.

Read: The RIAA wants to be reimbursed to the 30-second preview of songs you can hear in iTunes. Seriously. Oh, and the music you hear in TV shows that you get from iTunes. They want money for those too.

Read this piece exploring this concept: “He’s not going to work at _____ for the paycheck, he’s going to work there because he believes in what they are doing.”

Read about Apple entering the chip market.

Read as The Philadelphia Inquirer reviews David Byrne’s new book, Bicycle Diaries.

Read about the result of the Tullian Tchividjian ouster attempt.

Marvel as Justin Taylor finally gets a “real” blog, courtesy of The Gospel Coalition.

Read about Joan Baez finally getting her apology from Bob Dylan over their break-up 44 years ago.

Read about Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard and Zooey Deschanel getting married.

Read “Jesus’ Health Care Plan,” an editorial by George Barna.

Read “How to Tweak Your Twitter Layout for Maximum Influence.”

Read what Al Mohler and Mark Driscoll think of Brian McLaren observing the Muslim Ramadan Fast.

Read about a businessman who says that “organized religion” is too organized.

Read about Gollum playing Screwtape.

Browse Paste’s list of 20 of the most literal album covers.

Read Paste’s review of 9.

Read as Trevin Wax interviews a guy in a tie (Robbie Sagers, Ph.D. student at SBTS) about the emergenting church.

Watch a video on the “2×2 Strategy.”

Browse this list of suggestions to get retweeted.

Read Dan Kimball’s thoughts on Jim Belcher’s great book Deep Church.

Watch the Religious Newswriters Association’s discussion on the “New Calvinism.”

Read this piece on the Sunny Day Real Estate reunion.

Read about a truck stop chaplain.

Read Christianity Today’s interview with David Crowder.

Read their review of Crowder’s latest “Church Music.”

Read Christianity Today’s review of the newest from Future of Forestry.

Read Out of Ur’s thoughts on “Internet Campuses.”

Watch Mark Driscoll talk about idolatry to ABC’s Nightline.

Listen to this interview with Tom Schreiner on New Testament theology.

Read as Christianity Today interviews Tullian Tchividjian about the recent controversy surrounding his ministry.

Listen to a panel discussion on eschatology at Boyce College.

PreOrder The Complete Columbia Album Collection, a 70-CD Miles Davis box set.

Read as The Wall Street Journal examines the debate over posthumous publishing of authors.

Read as Austinist interviews singer-songwriter John Vanderslice.

Listen as Amazon is streaming the new Hope Sandoval album, Through the Devil Softly ( out September 29th), in its entirety.

Music Friday

September 25, 2009 at 7:58 am

Here’s the trailer for the upcoming Medeski Martin and Wood documentary “Fly In A Bottle.” Yes, I like them very much. No, they’re not a “jam band,” but so what if they were?!



Increasingly Digitized

September 22, 2009 at 9:47 am

I’m not necessarily endorsing the Media Convergence Forum (I don’t know much about it to be honest) that this video promotes, but my friend Jake Johnson recently posted the video with the question: “We are becoming digitized. What’s your online strategy?” As a church planting pastor, I find myself thinking a lot about stuff like this and I wanted to pass this video along for feedback and discussion. How can the church utilize digital tools to build real relationships? Are the two mutually exclusive? Is it enough for a church to have a great digital presence. Of course, this brings up questions of “online church,” but I’ll let you ask some of those questions. Please, discuss:

 



Just Don’t Pop Our Bubble!

September 21, 2009 at 7:32 am

chemical-protective-suit-356449As you might imagine, I spend a lot of time thinking about the C(c)hurch (both “big C” and “little c” – the universal Church and the local church). God has called me to give my life for Jesus’ bride, so I not only think about about the church, I listen. You’d be surprised how much people talk about church(es). Sometimes good, sometimes bad.

I was talking with some friends the other day and they related a story to me in which they had talked with some non-Christians about some local churches in our area. Our church context is probably like most other suburbapolitan cultures: we have a very small handful of “mega-churches” (typically over 2,000 adults) and then A LOT of very small churches of varying degrees of health. Some on their way up, some on their way down. As you might expect, the mega-churches typically corner a lot of the attention and conversation when it comes to churches in our area.

I don’t know what the mega-church trend in your area looks like but here, in the suburbs of Phoenix, our mega-churches like to resemble shopping malls, with something for everyone. There’s coffee shops, drive-through coffee shops, bookstores, bowling alleys, tennis courts, skating rinks, basketball, swimming pools (I’m not sure if they allow co-ed swimming or not!), racquetball courts, softball fields, soccer fields

This man (the non-Christian friend of my friends) owns a local sporting goods store. During the course of his conversation with my friends, he complained that at least one of these mega-churches was actually affecting his business, using its 501(c)3 status to get lower prices on sporting goods equipment for the many leagues it hosts on its own campus.

I know (at least I hope I know) that these mega-churches think they have good motives. After all, these are the same people who have “harvest festivals” where you can dress up and go get “safe” candy instead of dressing up and going to get candy from your actual neighbors at Halloween (or is it Reformation Day when I dress up like my favorite Puritan?!). In many peoples’ minds, church becomes a safe-haven from the rest of the world. Why enroll your child in a public sports program where they might be exposed to a nasty parent or rough play when you can keep them pure with “Christian” teammates.

Well, because Jesus describes us as being “salt and light” (Matthew 5:13-16). I know that many of these well-intentioned believers disagree, but I have come to believe that when we simply congregate with other Christians for the sake of “values” or “family-friendliness” or whatever it might be, that we are doing exactly what Jesus said not to do: we are hiding our light from the world, we are, in a sense, putting it under a basket. We are called to make disciples as we are going (Matthew 28:18-20). Jesus seems to assume that we will have regular contact with non-Christians GASP!, the very thing many Christians now explicitly try to avoid.

By adopting this “church as shopping mall so we can be safe from the world,” not only are we placing ourselves in a protective bubble, isolating ourselves from the rest of the world, it is quite likely that we are economically hurting the very people we are called to reach in love. It seems to me that we’re willing to put our own sense of “safety” above living on mission with Jesus.

I still can’t help but wonder what are we doing, and how well have we really thought things through?

The Weekly Town Crier

September 18, 2009 at 7:42 am

town-crierOK, so since I didn’t get to the weekly Town Crier last week, you’d think I’d have double the links to share. You’d be wrong! I mean, really, come on, I have an awesome wife and four terrific boys on top of planting a church and all that comes with that. I try to study, I try to read, I try to build real, physical relationships. Do you really think I just have all day to sit around and gather links for your pleasure? Oh, wait, you do. I’m so sorry. Please forgive my lip. I’ll try harder next week.

Be my friend on Facebook.

Follow me on Twitter.

Read about why John Piper hopes his daughter hears President Obama’s speech to school children.

Read about a recent, small, informal poll asking how many songs many worship leaders have in rotation.

Browse Paste’s lists of the slowest movies ever made.

Why is Brian McLaren observing Ramadan, and does he think Jesus sinned? This blog wrestles with those questions.

Get the Bifrost Arts album.

Read as Al Mohler weighs in on the Obama-school speech silliness.

Read as Ed Stetzer comments on the recent list of the “Top 100 Christian Blogs,” which, somehow, overlooked me. Hmmm, maybe next year.

Read some concerns about Sunday School.

Read as Scot McKnight asks “Whatever Happened To Liturgy.”

Read about many megachurches garnering community opposition.

Try this method of faster reading.

Browse this list of online trends that may change ministry.

Beware of the “big book” fallacy.

Enter the “Dug Down Deep” film contest.

Read about the time Tim Challies spent with Rick Warren.

Browse John Piper’s thoughts on the “Marks of a Spiritual Leader.”

Read Justin Taylor’s interview with my friend Jason Meyer on his new book.

Read the Guardian’s report that that the Smashing Pumpkins will release a free 44-track album (actually 11 4-song EPs) digitally.

Read as David Byrne talks to USA Today about his new book.

Read
as The Guardian reports that Radiohead drummer Phil Selway is recording a solo album.

Read as Prefix interviews Son Volt’s Jay Farrar.