Announcing my next book!

LivingSacrifice_eBookCover_130809-003-BWhat was Jesus doing on the cross?–Try to answer that question and you’ll discover a more surprising question in return–What if Jesus in his death was showing us how to live?

Typical studies on the cross focus on what Jesus was doing for us. There are basic, long-established answers that say Jesus was…

  • Taking our place (Substitution).
  • Reuniting us with God and His Creation.(Reconciliation).
  • Defeating sin, death and the evil one (Christus Victor).
  • Purchasing us out of slavery to sin (Redemption).
  • Yielding to the will of the Father (Submission).

While affirming these magnificent tenants of the Christian faith, I take them a step further: The cross is a way of life. When Jesus died, he was showing us a new way to live. The Apostle Peter wrote, “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.” (1 Peter 2.21) Living Sacrifice is about following in the steps of the example that Jesus left us in his suffering.

Living Sacrifice reveals that the cross is an invitation to an unusual kind of life. The English word “excruciating” comes from the Latin “excruciare” meaning “out of the cross.” It was a word invented specifically to describe crucifixion. Living Sacrifice explores the excruciating life; that is, a life lived “out of the cross.” Ultimately we’ll discover that the cross is a culture for the people of God, a set of behaviors, patterns and values for us to practice.

While rich in theology this book is devotional in nature. It is meant to draw us close to Jesus so that we may survey His wondrous cross.

Release date: Lent 2015

 

Now Online: Immigration Transforum

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Recently Colorado Community Church gathered for a Transforum on immigration.

(What’s a Transforum?)

 

 

 

Watch

Responding to the Call of Micah 6.8

Do Justice:

Whose case can I plead?  How can I involve the person who caused the problem in the solution?  What common ground do I have with those also working on this issue?

Love Mercy

Who is sinning and needs forgiveness?  Who is suffering and needs relief?  What basic human need can God use me to meet?

Walk Humbly With God

What would it look like for God to show up?  What can I do?  What can only God do?

Action:  What is God calling you to do?

Click here to download the Immigration Transforum Tool box complete with statistics, organizations and action opportunities

 

(Click Here to Watch Previous Transforums)

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A Jazz-Shaped Faith–The Making of a Multi-Ethnic Church (Part 6)

Depositphotos_11227702_xsMetaphors Matter

Metaphors matter immensely when we cast vision for a multi-ethnic congregation.

How do we communicate the kind of unity that the Spirit of God makes possible?  What image captures the kind of diversity we see at Pentecost?

E Pluribus Unum—from the many one—is the motto for our nation.  But we have had many bad metaphors to communicate this maxim.

For example, the melting pot requires that you give up your unique identity for the sake of the new culture; it’s more about the one than the many.  The salad bowl analogy allows for each part to remain distinct but then we are left to argue as to what our unifying “dressing” should be.  Ultimately it is more about the many than the one.

Ensemble Community

I’m grateful that we have an indigenous metaphor of unity without uniformity.  There is a product of our country that was born out of the tensions of E Pluribus Unum:  Jazz.

Ensemble community balances the individual and the group. Each person remains distinct while playing the same song. Everyone brings who they are to the experience as the Spirit calls out the song.  We live in concert with and for each other.

Click here for more information about Jazz Theology & my book, Finding the Groove:  Composing a Jazz-Shaped Faith 

(Read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5)

“A” Value Not “The” Value–The Making of a Multi-Ethnic Church (Part 4)

“A” Value Not “The” Value

I believe we set ourselves up for failure when we make diversity “the” value instead of “a” value in a church.  When it is “the” value it is front and center and all we see.  When it is “a” value it is always on our radar screen but not the dominant priority.

??????????????????????????For us at Colorado Community Church becoming multi-ethnic was not the primary goal.  Our focus was our call to transform our city and beyond by connecting people to Christ, community and calling.  That is what is front and center for us.

As we live this out there are many convictions that guide us (nine to be exact). One of these is that we are inter-cultural thus we celebrate our God given differences in all aspects of ministry. Diversity is “a” value for us but not “the” value that is given precedence above all others.

(Read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3)

First and foremost the mission of the Church is to grow the saved, reach the lost and care for the downtrodden.  It is a gathering where Christ is worshipped; His Word is proclaimed; people are inspired, equipped and mobilized to serve Him; and where care, prayer and family are available to all.  Not being multi-ethnic can hinder this mission but we mustn’t think that it is the mission.

Horst and Greer say that there is an unspoken crisis facing leaders:  Mission Drift.  They write, “Without careful attention, [churches] will inevitably drift from their founding purpose and mission.  It’s that simple.  It will happen.”  Mission Drift is prevalent but not inevitable.  “Mission True organizations know why they exist and protect their core at all costs.”

Taste of Heaven–The Making of a Multi-Ethnic Church (Part 3)

hands symbol of diversityTaste of Heaven

As a Christian, the pursuit of a multi-ethnic worshipping community is a response to what we read and see in the scriptures.

We want to be the answer to Jesus’ prayer:  “May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”  (Jn. 17.23)

Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream but we serve the King who prayed for and paid for the dream to become a reality.

Jesus taught us to pray for life on earth to be “as it is” in heaven.  When John glimpsed eternity he saw, “every nation, tribe, people and language standing before the throne and in front of the lamb.” (Rev. 7.9)  That is so beautiful.  When heaven arrives and we receive our glorified bodies our ethnicity and nationality will still be distinguishable.

A multicultural church wants a taste of heaven now.  As followers of Christ we seek “as it is” moments.  Worshipping and serving as a multi-ethnic congregation is a preview of heaven.  It is one of those rare times that heaven and earth meet.

Efrem Smith in his book, The Post-Black & Post-White Church, reminds us that this was the goal of the civil rights movement.  Smith wrote, “The multi-ethnic and missional church as a Christ-centered community becomes the beloved community that Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of.”  The church remaining segregated was ultimately the source of King’s nightmare and the King of Kings heartache.

(Read part 1)

(Read part 2)

Join the conversation:  What do you think about the concept that your view of eternity should inform the kind of church you choose today?

40 Days of Mercy–Fasting and Feasting with Jesus

All aloneDuring lent we walk with Jesus in the desert as he fasted from food but feasted upon the word of God. (Lk. 4.1-13)  The goal of lent is not just to give something up but to replace it with substance that feeds our soul.

God’s mercy is sustenance for our soul because we all sin; suffer; suffer because of sin and sin to alleviate our suffering.

I love what the psalmist said when he cried out to God,

Turn to me and have mercy on me, as you always do to those who love your name.  Ps. 119.132

The cross is the greatest act of mercy in history and this season prepares us to celebrate that fact.  During Lent I’ll regularly post meditations on the mercy of God, verses to memorize and reflection questions to facilitate this process.

Let us feast upon the compassion and clemency of God.

Today, let’s begin by memorizing Ps. 119.132 together.

 

 

Break Down the Barriers–The Making of a Multi-Ethnic Church (Part 2)

Break down the barriers.Diversity: You Can’t Make it Happen.  You Can Only Stop it From Happening

Diversity and church growth are similar in that we need to recognize what is and isn’t within our control.  One thing that Pentecost made clear is that multi-ethnicity is first and foremost a work of the Holy Spirit.  When the Spirit of God dramatically descended in Acts 2 the resulting diversity was and can only be attributed to a move of God.

This must be our starting point.  The longstanding walls of race, class and culture that keep Christians from worshipping and serving together need the direct intervention of Jesus in the hearts of his people.  Colorado Community Church makes no sense without first recognizing that God decided to do something.

If you ask me, “How do you make a church grow?” My response would be, “I don’t know.”  When it comes to church growth I don’t think you can make it happen, you can only stop it from happening.  The same is true with diversity.  Only God can make it happen but we can do a lot to prevent it; therefore, we need to intentionally address the barriers that get in the way.

Mark DeYmaz in his book Building a Healthy Multi-Ethnic Church, says that “most local church leaders…are glad for diverse individuals to get involved ‘as long as they like our music, our preaching style, and our environment.  But they should not expect us to change for them.’  Therefore, the message being sent, whether directly or indirectly, is that ‘you might feel more comfortable in another church down the street.'”

In order to send a different message we knew that we had to be intentional about music, language, staffing and false barriers.

Music Barrier

Some multi-cultural churches take a “music appreciation” approach to their worship services with each song is done in it’s pure form—Gospel by the gospel choir; praise by the praise team and hymns with the organist.  This can work but it requires the pastor to remind the various groups in the congregation that some of the songs are for them and others are not.  If they don’t like the songs that are not from their tradition they can at least learn to appreciate them because it is for the benefit of their brother or sister in Christ who is from different culture.

We chose to take a different route by looking for what could be called “crossover genres.”  Paying attention to the local concert venues and taking note as to which bands draw a diverse audience will reveal these.  When you do this you’ll notice that when a country star or classic rock band comes to town that the crowd is not as diverse as with Prince, Earth, Wind and Fire or the Commodores.  The crossover genres in our city are R & B, Jazz and mainstream hip-hop.  Thus, in order to remove the music barrier we decided to filter gospel, praise and hymns through these forms so every song has a higher degree of accessibility to maximum number of people.

Language Barrier

Some barriers are insurmountable on a practical level.  Geographical distance and language may be two such barriers.  Geography isn’t a barrier that we face as a church but language is.  We are an English-speaking congregation and have yet to crack the bi-lingual, multi-lingual code.

However, we are intentional about watching our language.  For example, we never use phrases like, “color blind.”  The person who says it usually means well but the person to whom it is directed is left with the question, “Why would you not want to see me for who God made me to be?”  As a leader I point these sorts of things out often.

Trillia Newbell calls us to a higher use of language in our cross-cultural interactions with this video about her recent book, United:  Captured by God’s Vision for Diversity.

Staffing Barrier

meetourstaffWe are intentional when it comes to recruiting and maintaining a multicultural staff. When people attend worship they should see themselves reflected on the platform and in their pastoral staff.

I agree wholeheartedly with DeYmaz when he says, “we should not expect to integrate our leadership teams through random prayer or wishful thinking.  Diverse individuals of godly character, theological agreement, and shared vision do not just arrive on waves of whim.  Rather, they must be intentionally sought.”

False Barriers

We also rejected false barriers.  We refuse to believe that you can only reach people like yourself.  Philip was a Jewish man with a Greek name.  God called him to share the gospel with an Ethiopian eunich.  Anyone can reach anyone!

Popular in church growth literature is the idea that multi-cultural churches wont grow.  We chose to reject that notion.  Even if it was true, we are compelled by a higher calling of faithfulness to the gospel.

(Read Part 1 here)

Join the Conversation:  What do you think of the statement, “When it comes to diversity in a church you can’t make it happen, you can only stop it from happening?” What other false barriers do you think need to be rejected?

The Making of a Multi-Ethnic Church (Part1)

Colorado Community Church is known for its’ diversity.

Back CameraWhen we started fifteen years ago our hope was  to reflect our local community of Aurora, Colorado.  At the time, our part of the city was 82% White; 11% Black; 5% Latino; 2% Asian and 1%other.   Today this suburb of Denver is even more diverse with 127 languages spoken in the Aurora Public Schools District!

When you take into account the diversity of our city and the fact that multicultural churches “tend to be more diverse than the neighborhoods in which they reside.”  One would think that multi-ethnic congregations would have been commonplace in our community.  However, that wasn’t the case.  Martin Luther King Jr.’s old adage about Sunday morning being the most segregated time of the week rang true in our city as well.

Today, Colorado Community Church is a vibrant multicultural, international, inter-denominational gathering of 3000+ followers of Christ committed to washing the feet of our city.  Demographically we are 57% white; 32% black; 8% Latino; 1% Asian, 2% other with over 20 different nations of origin.

As Lead Pastor I’m often asked about what went in to the making of this multiethnic church.  I thought I’d take the time to write a series of posts chronicling what we did with the hopes of accelerating what the Spirit of God is doing in our nation.  There are a growing number of churches recognizing and living out the truth that Jesus on the cross broke down the barriers that divide us. We need more.

The authors of United By Faith said it so well:  “The twenty-first century must be the century of multiracial congregations.”

This will be a seven part series with new posts every 2-3 days.  Let me know if there are any specific questions that you want me to address?  Join the conversation…

Why do you think multi-ethnic churches are still the minority in American Christianity?

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