Posts Tagged ‘epic life church’

This past Sunday at Epic Life was so sweet! The power of God’s Spirit is amazing and the place I get to journey at this particular moment of my life is phenomenal.

There is nothing I am about to write that I mean to be disrespectful to anyone.

This month’s series at Epic Life is “Three Men Who Blew It and Made A Comeback, and One Who Didn’t.” My intro in the Journal is here.  We are speaking on the lives of John Mark, Peter, King David and Solomon and each Sunday will be from a different speaker. I spoke this Sunday on John Mark and told the story of a young man who ran away but was restored by God.

The Spirit moved and even though it was a Labor Day weekend we had many in the service, including several from the streets, many from international communities, families, singles, old and young.

As I finished up the message and Averi brought in music on the keys I told everyone that it is time to Stop running, Drop to our knees and repent and Roll – Turn back to God and follow after Him. He is always there to forgive and has, in fact, already done so. He will restore us.

Recently our Family has been expanding with several men and women from the streets who have the propensity to talk back while I am speaking from the stage. It doesn’t bother me. I just figure they must be paying attention because most of the time what they are saying out loud has something to do with the message. (Not always though). This week I offered prayer to who ever wanted to join me in the front. All of our homeless friends came forward along with a few others and we, (Jeff, David and I) got to pray over each of them. They smelled of alcohol and a lack of bathing, but they did step forward, a couple to repent, another to ask for prayer for someone else, another for prayer as she enters rehab.

So here’s my big prayer! I am praying that we as Epic Life will be able to exemplify the beauty of the Acts 2 Church and have all things in common with ALL the believers. I am praying that we never become like the Corinthians (1 Cor. 11:20-22) who didn’t even share their wealth during communion. I am praying that we are able to break bread together: rich and poor, learned and unlearned, old and young, from every ethnicity, every language, every socioeconomic level, and every spiritually mature level.  I pray that joining us on our knees in the front of church repenting will be all of these people together, side-by-side, without judgement. I pray that this work the Spirit is doing will draw people to Christ and not scare them away.

I know that what happened this past Sunday was scary for many and way out side of their comfort zones, but it was so beautiful!  And, I praise God for counting me worthy to experience it first hand, to see with my own eyes and hear with my own ears the full family of God. If you are reading this and you are part of the Epic Life Family, be Bold! See beyond any selfishly focused motives and judgments. Be humbly confident that God has placed you in this place at this time for his purposes and you get the amazing privilege of being in the front lines of something completely remarkable.

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Jon Bon Jovi sang it well, “Living on a Prayer,” although probably not realizing the beautiful declaration it truly is. Living on a Prayer is exactly where Kristine and I have been finding ourselves over the past two years and especially within the past ten months.

I have been cautious about blogging on my own personal finances but have arrived at a place now that I believe what I am about to share can be huge encouragement to many who may find themselves in the same place.

We are a people who feel a false security in lives that are financially secure. We seek, pursue and wage war to have financial stability…but have no idea what that really means. Having a “little change in my pocket going jingalangalang” creates a facade of safety in our lives. It is fleeting and will soon be consumed and will demand a higher pursuit of gathering more to feed the proverbial monster, which causes our focus to be moved from sharing Christ with others to keeping the change “jingling.”

And the cyclone continues.

In this church starting journey God has us traveling on he has constantly pushed us, encouraged us, and strengthened us. It has, from day one, been the biggest financial stretch God has ever placed us in. We left a city where we had financial security and a long standing job in ministry that was growing and wouldn’t go away and arrived in a city with zero financial security and job that wasn’t.

From month to month we watched as many faithful partners helped fund the ministry here in Seattle; as God gave us property and increased our vision for this city; and we watched as last January came and the money disappear and our pay checks cut in half and then vanish all together.

The reality of having no paycheck is, the bills continue. So God placed our family in the epicenter of a renewed shocking realization that we are living on his security not financial security. Literally we have gone months without any money coming into the Carpenter family household. The money our partners and tithing Body of believers here at Epic Life is going to continue ministry, starting the church and taking care of bills we are responsible for as a church.

But…God is still taking care of us. We are stretched to the point of breaking, but not breaking, because he doesn’t give us more than we can handle and at the same time we literally have no income. Its so crazy.

Three years ago I had many people who asked me about  the wisdom of leaving Winona, MN and the security that it represented and moving to something like starting a church and the intense insecurity it represents. One person said to me. “What are you going to do when you are in Seattle and you don’t have a church around you to ‘bail’ you out?”  And, there were many who said that it just wouldn’t work. Others who tried to stop it all together. Were they right?

No.

Yes.

The fact is…God called us to start a church, a movement, a visionary journey of creative discipleship and reconciliation that will change a city. So in the long run it really doesn’t matter if there is money available to live on or not, we will do what he has called us to do. Period.

Please don’t feel sorry for us. Feel sorry for yourself if you have never been taken to brink of disaster and taught to lean on Jesus in greater ways. Sure our family doesn’t have the money to keep up with our bills, we don’t have the money to take a family vacation or set up a retirement and savings program or buy the latest flat screen TV or go to a movie or buy gas for our cars. But we do have Jesus and he tells us not to worry about our clothing and food…He will take care of us.

Honestly, I don’t see it yet.  I just told a gentleman here in the Green Bean coffee shop that I feel like a cliff jumper and I am falling through the air and my hand is on the rip cord but God is saying, “wait for it,wait for it,” and I am waiting for his signal as the ground approaches at a wild speed.

Many of you who read this blog have been God’s answer to prayer. Two of you have sent us huge gifts, taking care of our mortgage. Many of you sacrificially give on a monthly basis allowing God to stretch you. Most of you spend time praying for my family, Epic Life Church and the massive influence God is giving us here on Aurora in North Seattle as we encourage life transformation by finding an epic life in Jesus Christ.

I am confident in these points.

  1. We are in exactly the right place at the right time in the History of Seattle.
  2. God will provide in miraculous ways. He is Faithful!
  3. Epic Life Church will continue to grow and thrive on Aurora.
  4. God has provided the perfect leadership for Epic Life.
  5. Our Faith in Christ is solid.
  6. My wife is confidently by my side.

Now I believe it is time to write the book about the success of God’s church in Seattle before it is. We are doing more than living on a prayer we are living on a calling.

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.

Sunrise

I love the sunrise, to see it you must get up early. Many people miss the sunrise because it forces you to go out of your way to see it. Those of us who have seen it know the beauty and will find ways to be present when this miraculous event happens.

I see the world around me in the same way.

I have recently gotten to walk with Ben Carlson along Aurora and introduce him to what God is doing on our street. Ben is visiting us from South Africa where he works with the Navigators and is a professional coffee taster. He has a lot of vision for life and future, and talking with him gives me a huge shot of encouragement.

As we walked from the AXIS to the garden space along Aurora and I got to introduce him to business owners and homeless men and women and show him where we minister, sparks started to fly as we praised God for his greatness. We entered the garden space and started envisioning the space green and with a small stage for music and tables and chairs and umbrellas for conversation and a coffee cart where we could sell or give away java to the “customers” of the Space.

Wouldn’t it be beautiful if this space was where we held a Bible study for whoever may be walking on the street? Maybe very late at night or really early mornings. That gives me the chills just thinking about it. How about small concerts just for the purpose of bringing music to Aurora? Maybe some vegetables that are growing and people have the freedom to snack? Then Ben says, “Maybe this is your coffee shop that you’ve been dreaming about? It doesn’t even need a building!” Maybe? Oh yeah! What if the tattoo parlor next door actually started partnering with us and looked forward to us being there? Or opened up their back “yard” space to join up with the garden space for a larger venue?

The “what if’s” are huge, when you allow God to push it…

So…on another note but not really, we are at a place financially as Epic Life Church where we are living in the negative, you know – the red numbers. This is a scary place to live, that is strengthening our faith and resolve. But just because we don’t have the finances and resources to pull off dreams doesn’t mean the dreams stop coming. In fact if anything the dreams are growing and God is asking more of us. So we are trusting him in our poverty and owning this new Church as a community in greater ways than if we hadn’t found ourselves in the negative.

Praise God for people like Ben and the business owners who may not even have a personal relationship with Christ and those who are walking Aurora and those who are on our Finance Team with beautiful gifts and leaders who are moving forward even in difficult times and for a church Body who know what they are here for and vision, pure God-driven, life-infused, transformational vision.

“To see North Seattle transformed by finding an epic life in Christ Jesus.”

Find ways to “see” the “sunrise” in your world. It is beautiful and miraculous!

Roughly three years ago God started assembling the cast for the greatest journey of my life time. He began bringing specific young men and women together to become the foundational pieces of a remarkable church that would desire and pursue Transformation in North Seattle by offering people an Epic Life in Christ Jesus. This team was part of a college leadership team along with a couple of others. They have had no formal ministry training. They all moved away from their families and friends to work together to start Epic Life Church.

Three days ago I got to witness this same team in a remarkable meeting as once again changes were happening.  I was privileged to sit around a room with this team and watch them speak about God’s vision for their ministries. They shared victories and problems, dreams and visions with many emotionally laden words. Each person spoke eloquently about their ministry with a beautiful understanding of the Epic Life vision and mission. It was awe-inspiring to listen to, even though I already knew what they were about to say.

They were speaking this night because of a new team that we have created called the Development Team. This new team will be a group who help the ministry leaders succeed, by encouraging ministry growth and supporting deliberate balance between the ministries of Epic Life. Its a wonderful idea and will be a fantastic team that will help Epic Life build a firm foundation. The beautiful thing is that this team is made up of Seattleites and myself. In other words, God has raised up men and women from Seattle to lead.

As I sat in this meeting listening and watching these leaders from Minnesota speak and encourage each other and interact with this new team, I sat in awe.  They were so mature and gracious and wise as they encouraged the Development Team about what they were doing and how good it was going to be. There was NO defensiveness or pride or protecting of territory. None.

I have been in few meetings where this happens. But at every Epic Life meeting this is the norm. Our meeting are all but boring meetings, they are always Epic! God has truly developed an amazing team and is now adding to it.  This speaks so strongly of the massive ministry God is establishing here in North Seattle.

Way to go; David, Jeff, Kari, Shelli, Averi, Casey, and Sam!

Wow!

A year and a half ago God brought us to a strange land of evergreen trees and a salty breeze. We landed in Seattle not knowing anyone, not knowing where to start this church God was calling us to start and not knowing where to find jobs for everyone on the team, not even knowing where to live. It seemed the best place to start would be to unite in one of the native gathering establishments and plug into the all-knowing and all-encompassing electronic cyber fishing net while sipping some hot brew from the local roast, grind and brew.

So we convened at one such enterprise with the name Hotwire attached to it’s front door. After ordering our favorite brew we sat along one wall together searching for occupational pursuits and domicile habitats with our laptops taking up all the spaces on the small tables. We introduced ourselves to the purveyor of the beany environment who told us the name would soon be changed and that we should return if we were able, “and, by the way, good luck with your church.”

We were new and it was a strange land.

Fast forward eighteen moons.

Sunday, February 28, 2010 we were once again sitting in this same cafe. But this time the name on the door read Laughing Ladies and we were among fifty friends from God’s newly established Epic Life Church here in our city, Seattle.  DVic played his musical wares and mesmerized the audience for two spans of 60 minutes. We filled the establishment and it was a beautifully miraculous night of laughter, singing and encouraging God’s people.

And the once foreign and unknown Laughing Ladies on 15th & 177th became Church.

I am seriously looking forward to the day that the Oak Tree Cinema becomes the Epic Life Church main campus. I am going to just type and see what comes out…The AMC big guys in their AMC big office building will one day say to us, “Hey you there, Epic Life Church, we really don’t want this building anymore and we were just wondering if we could bother you by giving it to you.”  To which we would reply, “Oh that’s no bother, we’ll help you out and take it off your hands. Glad we could help out.”

From there Aurora Ave would have a sweet spot at the Oak Tree Village.  We would quickly remodel the children’s theater to be a bit more children friendly, by knocking out a wall and creating a sweet nursery, baby and toddler area. Then take the theater and make it a place where crafts, videos, drama, music and great teaching could happen. The images are beginning to form in my brain as I type.

We would head off to the adult theater and create a stage, lights and sound that would be quite stellar. Better lighting, new colors, and a stage that could have depth and the ability to build and create.

Of course the other theaters would become different language churches, like Korean, Spanish, Ethiopian, Russian, etc. and the children from these communities would all go to the children’s ministry theater. I can see the beauty in such a international children’s ministry. A lot of encouragement, excitement and heart for the nations.

Then we will show second run movies and encourage date nights and family nights and charge as little as possible and only show good wholesome movies. We should be able to make enough money to cover the cost of the building, then every bit of tithe can go directly to ministry, on Aurora and around the world as our international community grows.

With this the AXIS (the Epic Life administration and education campus) can grow and be remodeled to host a bigger school with more teachers who are better paid. And we can start planning for the Bible College and Seminary on location.  Then the Cafe can be developed and begin to Thrive and the Epic Warehouse can open, making a major difference in the lives of the community youth, bringing them by the hundreds to the foot of the Cross.

It is only a matter of time before all of this happens and even more, because God is big and he wants to reach all of Seattle!  And his dreams and plans are much bigger than mine or even what I could imagine.