, about the Catalyst One Day event I went to. If you haven’t read that post you may want to do that first along with the comments attached to it.
I owe the Catalyst people a short explanation of a negative tweet I post a few days ago. My post, “Loved #catoneday grt teaching. Only I think big church pastors are out of touch with church planters and small churches.”
Like I said the One Day conference was extremely good and I gleaned much from the speakers, Andy Stanley and Craig Groeschel, and I will be applying so much to my ministry and passing it on to the leaders of Epic Life Church. It is great stuff.
The later part of my post was a bit more negative but I couldn’t help, half way through the afternoon, thinking to myself that these two, along with Mark Driscoll and Judah Smith, seemed really out of touch with the small church pastor and church planting pastors. It seems odd because each of them started the churches they are now involved in, save Judah, and they all are in the process of starting more campuses, which really do not reflect the structure, resources and environment of the small church or church plant.
As I listened to these great men of God and equally great pastors and leaders tell all 1500 of us, sitting with willing ears and attentive souls, their schedule throughout the week I was a bit taken back. None of them said a word about interacting with the lost, or people who are currently located outside the walls of their respective Church Bodies.
Andy hinted about a relationship that he was building with a painter, but it was a very small portion of the entire day. These men shared their weekly schedules with us, divulging when their staff meetings were and when they prepared for the weekend talks and when they took time for themselves and their families, when they vacationed and Sabbathed, but not one word was mentioned, as far as I can remember, hinting towards their own personal involvement in the lives of the Christless world.
Again, I have a lot of respect for these men, as I am sure 99% of the others squished into the “for skinny people only” theater seating of the City Church’s auditorium. But, that means we, most of us who were in attendance, who lead much smaller churches or, like me, am in the first year of the new church Epic Life, we are listening and respecting and then trying hard to replicate the actions of those we look up to. Which means we would spend no time, none, on the streets ministering to the homeless, marginalize, widows and fatherless. And in essence not fulfilling the Gospel Call.
Hmmm. I am sure this is not what they wanted to get across. When I tweeted that statement at the end of the One Day event a friend of mine in Wisconsin dialogued briefly with me the virtues of big church and the need for pastors who are focused on the Flock, because of the size, they can’t be expected to be “on the ground,” and that both are needed.
To a point I agree and if it was presented in that fashion then maybe I wouldn’t be making it such a big deal. But it wasn’t presented like that. I actually began to feel bad for sitting on Aurora Ave. waiting for my pizza to cook from “Good Guys Pizza” while I prayed for the strippers sitting outside the “Dancing Bares” taking their smoke break two doors North and not being home at 5:30 but instead going from there back to a planning meeting as we pursue more ways to reach the, literally, Lost.
These men kept telling us that we need to be home by 5:30 every night, take vacations, Sabbaths, spend two days working on the weekend talks, delegate, keep things edgy and creative, blog continually, making killer videos, writing books and travel around speaking at conferences. When I am sure at one time they too sat in my shoes and I would think the shoes of hundreds of those in attendance.
The shoes that haven’t been paid in a year, that can’t afford to record the message in a studio and then go on vacation, that has to work a job and preach, that are on the streets lifting the Lost off the streets, that are actively building relationships in their city with the secular world, that has no staff, that is actively creating a garden space in an empty lot, that frequents businesses to get a chance to share Christ, that is truly going into the world and making disciples, that have served for years and have never gotten a day off, that has no retirement fund or insurance or dental plan or college savings or any savings but gives their meager income away to anyone who comes to the “door.”
Those people are who these pastors were speaking to. Men and women who are giving more than can be written about to see one person come to Christ. There is a passage in the Word that calls us to be willing to leave our families behind for Christ’s sake. Luke 14:26. And although we might not take this literally it still has to be considered, when it is only in this country that as pastors we are taught take care of ourselves and our family first. Pastors in countries like China actually are giving up their lives and are in hiding yet still preach, pastors in continents like Africa spend countless hours walking from village to village to preach the Word and pastors in countries in the Middle East are getting beheaded along with their family for preaching the Gospel.
But here we are in the Western church glazing over passages that tell us to give all.
Please remember the beginning of this post. I still highly respect each of these men and I have never put down “big” church, because I know they have done great things in this world to advance the Gospel to the multitudes. Far greater things than the small church could and let’s face it, often it is the smaller church that is unwilling to change, that reeks havoc on the perception of Christianity.
But…gentlemen…you are leading Catalyst! Such a great influencer of young minds and young leaders. You now have the opportunity to teach sacrifice and not make us feel that we are doing our family a disservice serving God and following after the vision he has called us to. You all have been in our shoes and those same “big” churches are big because someone sacrificed something and God blessed it and that someone was probably you. But if we allow the next generation to believe that they have to act and exist like a big church when they begin there will be no one lasting long enough to become big.
I confess, I am nothing. Just a church planter with a church that is less than a year old and just now breaking a meager 100 in attendance. What do I know. Maybe I have much to learn and discover. I just pray that when God chooses to expand our walls and we have thousands attending the Epic Life Church movement, that I will be able to remember who I was when I was no one.
Oh…I still like Catalyst and I plan on trying very hard to raise the money so I can attend the Catalyst West conference with my leadership team this coming spring. A team who I am blessed beyond belief to minister with and would benefit greatly from Catalyst, and actually has benefited from the Catalyst Groupzine just a few years ago.
This past Sunday we, the leadership of Epic Life Church, had a meeting that should be told in the annals of time in the history of Epic Life. I got the opportunity to sit around the room with young men and women, mostly in their 20s, and discuss passionately the future of Epic Life Church, the church God is establishing here on Aurora Ave. in North Seattle.
I have been in many “church” meeting in my life and am continually amazed at the level of maturity in the leadership at Epic Life. We are seriously in the trenches right now because of our lack of financial bounty. We have to make some serious choices to decrease spending, none of which seem good, especially since we don’t spend. Without going into the nitty-gritty of the choices we have to make I want to describe what’s happening.
God is taking a group of common men and women stretching and pull them, beating them up, applying pressure and strain on them in ways most would run from. But none of these leaders are running away. Because of the strength of the team we are being built up in ways many people may never allow to happen in their lives. We are in the trenches right now and its scary. But that is exactly where God wants us. He is doing his work in us, recreating each of us and setting a firm foundation for the months and years to come. The outcome will be bright and beautiful and quite miraculously amazing.
Thank you God for counting us worthy to be stressed in this way, to be forced to depend on you, and to be strengthened. This is the stuff from which heroes are born, from which great leaders are created and from where humble confidence becomes natural.
Thank you Father for counting us worthy.