Sunday, May 31, 2009

One Prayer

Starting next week, our church is going to be joining thousands of other churches around the world to participate in One Prayer 2009. Last year, the inaugural year of One Prayer, over 1800 churches worked together to plant over 660 churches in four countries. As a result of those efforts, over 7000 people have been baptized, and over 44,000 are enrolled in Bible studies.

This year, in addition to continuing and expanding those efforts, One Prayer churches will help transform communities through humanitarian projects such as providing clean drinking water, literacy instruction, safe housing, and micro-finance training.

Here's the plan:

  • Plant another 500 churches in each of the currently engaged target areas through current partnership networks. Working in Southern India, Sudan, Cambodia, and Northern China, we'll be supporting indigenous church planting in the most densely populated, difficult, strategic areas remaining on the planet.
  • Start pilot programs with holistic community transformation initiatives in at least two (and up to four) of these geographical target areas. We'll be equipping the best and brightest of church planters in the existing One Prayer network to begin community transformation initiatives geared towards improving the living standards in their communities. These initiatives will be easy to deploy, grass roots, micro-interventions that make sense in their communities.
  • Add one additional target area in Northern India and plant an additional 100 churches. Northern India is densely populated with unreached populations that are predominately Hindu, Muslim and tribal/animistic, and this new church planting movement will allow One Prayer to make inroads into those communities. With the outbreak of terrorist attacks in Northern India, the One Prayer movement will be strategically positioned with a relevant and powerful response to the violence.
The One Prayer network tears down all sorts of barriers--big church/small church, evangelical/mainline, high church/low church, traditional/contemporary, Reformed theology/Wesleyan-Arminian theology. In so many ways it is the answer to the prayer of Jesus in John 17: "I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. 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."

Imagine what could happen if the churches of the world that claim the name of Jesus Christ were all united in the same effort--to bring massive change to the areas of our globe that most desperately need it! Planting churches, training pastors, and starting Bible studies in regions where very few, if any, people follow Jesus. Think of the difference that we can make!

One Prayer's vision is not just global, however. We'll also have the chance to impact our local community through serving them with tangible expressions of God's love. You'll be hearing more about these opportunities throughout the campaign. But make sure you're here next week as we kick it off and join in this exciting movement to literally change our world for Christ and his kingdom!

This June, let's take part in an extraordinary worldwide experience: One Prayer 2009. Unite with churches around the globe to share, serve, and give:

Monday, May 18, 2009

A Crash

My heart aches this morning. On my way in to the office, I passed an accident that occurred on our road about 1500 feet before I turned into our church driveway. I could only see one car that had run off the road and up into somebody's front yard. The car didn't look like it was in too bad of shape--a little banged up, but it didn't hit a tree or anything. I said a prayer for the driver and prayed that anyone else who might have been involved was ok. The police were working the scene and directing traffic, so I didn't think too much about it.

But about a half hour ago, I learned that the driver of the car was a teacher at Flora List Elementary School, Mrs. Page; the accident happened as she was on her way to school this morning. She was ejected from the car and pronounced dead at the scene. There's a brief article here.

As we are located less than a mile from the school, I immediately called to see if there was anything we could do, but they informed us that they had all the help there that they could use.

I'd ask that you remember the Page family in your prayers, as they deal with this sudden and tragic loss. Pray also for the kids in Mrs. Page's classroom, and the other children in the school. Flora List is only for children in Kindergarten and First Grade, so these are very young kids who are experiencing this tragedy. Pray that each child (and adult) will receive the counseling they need.

Flora List is the school in which Kids Hope mentors from our church meet with the child that each of them has been assigned to. I don't yet know if any of our mentors have a child from Mrs. Page's classroom, but I'd also ask that you pray for any that might. They will have an especially important responsibility as they help their child process through this loss.

Every day matters. Every moment is important. This is why the Bible reminds us, "As for mortals, their days are like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more" (Psalm 103:15-16 TNIV). And that is why the Bible instructs us to root our lives in God, who "has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all" (Psalm 103:19 TNIV). We just never know what's around the next corner; the only thing we know is that life can't make any sense if there's not a God who is bigger and greater than we are.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Road Trip

Over the course of my 34 years, I've had the privilege of joining in on eight major road trips, which have largely accounted for my having visited 46 states and eight countries:

  1. With my family in a motorhome to Idaho;
  2. With my dad and brother around the country on a three-week whirlwind tour of "guy-stuff" (MLB Hall of Fame, NFL Hall of Fame, Little League World Series, Mammoth Cave & more);
  3. With my dad to visit potential colleges;
  4. With a traveling music team on a three-month missions trip that went all over the countries of the United States and Venezuela;
  5. With three college friends on a spring break adventure, covering 6400 miles in eight days;
  6. With five college friends on a January-term adventure, as four of them sang in a gospel quartet in various stops along the way;
  7. With my grandmother and 20-some other people on a tour bus around Italy (a college graduation present);
  8. With Tanya on our "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles" vacation, where we rented a convertible and drove with the top down along the Pacific Coast Highway.

In my mind, at least, there are several factors that distinguish a road trip from a simple vacation:

  • First of all, there must be more involved than simply going to a destination and back. In addition to these road trips, I've visited Disney World, New York City, and Hawaii. But the main focus of those trips was going somewhere and returning--not a road trip.
  • Second, if you're moving (no matter how far), it doesn't count. I've moved cross-country several times, but I'm not counting any of those. Road trips are supposed to be fun; moving is never fun--not a road trip.
  • Third, you have to be on the road for at least a week. Going to a friend's house for a weekend, being in a wedding, going to Grandma's for the holidays--not a road trip.

As a road-tripping veteran (maybe even expert??), I can identify several factors that make a road trip worthwhile and noteworthy:

  • Every day, different places. One of the great things about a road trip is that you keep on seeing new sites. The journey's the thing. There may be other things going on that you have to do along the way, but the trip itself is what you remember.
  • Every day, the same faces. It's the same people with you, day-in and day-out, in your car, van, bus, motorhome or vehicle of choice. So the memories you have, while they include places, they really center around people. It's the relationships that are central on a road trip.
  • Every day, new graces. Whenever you confine people to a limited space, it will always breed some form of conflict. But being committed to the trip, committed to the relationships, and committed to good memories forces the parties involved to work it out--to compromise, to extend grace, to communicate through misunderstandings. And that in itself is a wonderful thing.

In a lot of ways, a road trip is a good metaphor for the church. We're all joined together on a spiritual journey, where there is a destination in mind, but it's the roads we take along the way, the sights we see, and the people we share it with that make all the great memories. And as we're committed to the trip, committed to the relationships, and committed to good memories, we work together to resolve conflict and maintain unity, encouraging and supporting one another along the way.

In this particular road trip, we seek to pick up all the hitchhikers and strays along the way that we possibly can, always scooting over to make room for one more. After all, the more the merrier, the greater the variety, the richer the experience, the deeper the satisfaction, the fonder the memories.

Next week, we're kicking off our series, "Road Trip," an exploration of faith and community, an affirmation of relationships and the value of each person, and an inspiration for all of us to recommit to the journey and life together.

I'd encourage you to consider who you can invite to this series. The longing for connection and true relationships is deep in the human soul--it speaks to the very depths of what God made us for (Gen. 2:18). I'm sure you know someone who is longing to be loved, longing for acceptance, longing for belonging. And we can all find it at the foot of the cross. This series is good news of healing to a hurting world. Be sure to bring a hurting friend.