Monthly Archives: April 2009

Defining Sustainability

I had a great conversation the other day with Dave Ferguson, Pastor of Community Christian Church in Chicago. It’s a large church with multiple campuses. Dave’s an awesome guy and has a heart for church planting. Since Austin New Church has officially entered the journey of helping plant churches (not just be a church plant ourselves), we were talking about the sustainability of some of the modern church planting movements. And he asked me the question, “What do you mean by sustainable?”

Great question. Initially I thought, well, sustainable is when a church can survive on it’s own without outside support. But then my mind flooded with all the things that should be sustainable that are much more important than even financial feasibility. Is our vision sustainable? Are our values sustainable? Our hope is to create a reproducible model, but while it may reproduce, will it sustain? Do our goals have an inherent reality of sustainability? Are our intentional relationships based on a sustainable foundation or do they end after an event is over? The list continues.

The reality is, the only things that are sustainable are the things of God. And today’s scripture struck a chord with me. Psalm 45 is a wedding song. It’s laced with the imagery of Christ as the coming groom and the church as His bride. As the psalmist begins his description of the groom he writes,

“You are the most excellent of men and your lips have been anointed with grace, since God has blessed you forever. Gird your sword upon your side, O mighty one; clothe yourself with splendor and majesty. In your majesty ride forth victoriously in behalf of truth, humility and righteousness; let your right hand display awesome deeds.” – Psalm 45:2-4

Christ, and all He represents, is eternal. Verse four tells us that it is in truth, humility, and righteousness that He rides forth victoriously and that in his right hand He displays awesome deeds. Verse two says that His anointing mark is grace. It is in His grace that all things sustain. It is in His grace that we find eternity. It is in His grace that we will find purpose beyond our plans.

I’ve had an interesting day already. After leaving an early morning meeting with a group of men from my neighborhood, I sensed the urge to pull over into the parking lot of a traditional Baptist church that I know has seen some recent ups and downs. I sat in their courtyard for a while and just prayed for them. During that time, God convicted me that while I knew all the church planters in the area, I didn’t even know the name of the Pastor who led that church.

As I sat there reading Psalm 45, a wedding song for the Bride of Christ, He reminded me that His purposes are far greater and more sustainable than my plans could ever be. He reminded me that whatever I do as a leader, it needed to include sustainability for HIS church, and never be about “my” church.

It doesn’t take much to make the jump and apply these truths to our personal lives as well. Whether it’s in our family or our career (hopefully both) there are sustainable pursuits and those that are fleeting. Somewhere in there we’ll find contributing factors to the difference between what our reputations are and what our legacy becomes.

Father, your Son taught us to pray for your Kingdom to come and your will to be done. May we see your Kingdom break through in our churches, our lives, our families, and in our priorities. We know this will happen when we submit our will to yours. Give us the desire, the wisdom, the hope, the courage, and the will that it will take. Amen.

“Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” – Psalm 51:12

“Sustain me according to your promise, and I will live; do not let my hopes be dashed.” – Psalm 119:116

“Let me live that I may praise you, and may your laws sustain me.” – Psalm 119:175

“The LORD sustains the humble but casts the wicked to the ground.” – Psalm 147:6

“Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.” -Isaiah 46:4

“The Sovereign LORD has given me an instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught.” -Isaiah 50:4

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Relationship Receptivity

Ed Stetzer and team recently released one of the largest surveys on Americans’ receptivity to different methods of church invitations. Conducted last December, the study included a survey of over 15,000 adults:


The Corporate Church

I’ve come to truly love the “sending” of the Church. I love the opportunity to band together in unity of Spirit when we go out into our workplaces, social circles, schools, and neighborhoods as ambassadors for something greater than ourselves. I’ve grown to love experiencing faith in new and exciting ways. I’m learning more and more each day the joy that comes from intentionally living out the command to “love others” Monday through Saturday. Call it an attempt to be “missional”. Call it an effort to live “incarnationally”, whatever we call it… I love it.

And I still love the corporate gathering of Church. I love the Spirit and energy. I love the momentum. I love teaching as well as hearing the Word of God. I love times of reflection and prayer. I love taking a moment each week to intentionally recall the cross through communion. Corporate worship is one of the most powerful things I experience each week. There is something special that happens when we exalt God together. There is something special that happens when you can physically and spiritually sense the Spirit moving among a body of believers.

As much as Austin New Church is a “sent” Church, it is also a body of gathering worshipers. It’s real. It’s thick. And I love it. For those who struggle balancing the role of the sending and the gathering of the church, Psalm 48 (a chapter I just happened to be reading today) is another small reminder that there is every biblical precedent for both:

“Great is the LORD, and most worthy of praise, in the city of our God, his holy mountain.” – Psalm 48:10

“Within your temple, O God, we meditate on your unfailing love.” – Psalm 48:9

Psalm 48 is listed as a song of the “Sons of Korah”. In other passages, “the Korahites,” are described as expert warriors. More interesting, however, than the fighting Korahites are these “sons of Korah”, who were somehow connected with the service of song.

“These are they whom David set over the service of song in the house of Yahweh, after that the ark had rest. And they ministered with song before the tabernacle of the tent of meeting, until Solomon had built the house of Yahweh in Jerus” – 1 Chronicles 6:32-32

One article I found about these “sons” said,

“In this way we are introduced to David’s 3 great leaders in choral and orchestral music. Among them Heman the Korahite has at first the place of primacy, though Asaph, later, comes to the front. The events just referred to are mentioned again, more in detail, in the account of David’s bringing the ark to Jerusalem. There it is said that at the suggestion of David “the Levites appointed Heman the son of Joel,” and also Asaph and Ethan, “and with them” several others, “their brethren of the second degree” (1 Chronicles 15:17,18). The record proceeds to speak of the services of “the singers, Heman, Asaph, and Ethan,” and their associates, in the pageantry of the bringing of the ark to Jerusalem. After that, it says, Asaph had charge of the services of thanksgiving and praise before the ark in Jerusalem, while Heman and Jeduthun served in the high place at Gibeon (1 Chronicles 16:4,37,39-42). Later, the record says (1 Chronicles 25), David made an elaborate organization, under Asaph and Heman and Jeduthun, for song and instrumental music.

Translated: Corporate worship was a big deal to David.

For years I’ve heard people say, “I don’t have to go to church to be a Christian.” In our postmodern world, it’s becoming more and more prevalent of a thought. Theologically, you can indeed receive Christ without a corporate gathering, and many have. But I would argue that the Christian life is incomplete without a time in which we come together to make God our centerpiece.

I think our problem is our posture and perspective. While the law certainly put different requirements on the gathering of God’s people, I don’t believe David saw worship as just a mandate. I think He saw it as a privilege. I think He loved it. He saw it as an opportunity to exalt the King. He made much of God, and if we want to be known as a people after the heart of God, so should we.