Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Bible Reading Plans

I have mixed feelings about Bible reading plans. On one hand, they are very helpful in keeping me on a plan to systematically and thoroughly read the Bible. However, on the other hand, they can also be an accuser when I fall behind schedule and I have a lot of "unchecked boxes" staring me in the face. When that happens, I completely miss the point, which is to connect with the living God.

Ultimately, I think Bible Plans are helpful and should be used as a guide to stay on track to do what you what to do. Paul says in I Corinthians 9:26-27a, "So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control,..." In this life, we shouldn't be casual about our pursuit of God. We are pursuing an "imperishable wreath"!

If the the truth be told, we apply discipline to that area of our life we are most passionate about. Could be work, could be video games, could be golf, could be fantasy sports, could be a lot of stuff. The funny thing is that when we apply discipline to those areas we are passionate about, it doesn't feel like work nor is it a strain. So maybe when I look at my Bible reading plan and feel condemned, stressed and strained, it's not the plan's fault. Maybe my heart has lost some zeal and passion for God? What I need to do is step back, and pray for a renewed faith and zeal and then, like Paul, continue to apply discipline in my pursuit of God.

With that being said, I have enclosed a couple Bible Reading Plan options for you:

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Look Back at a Decade: PART TWO

Last Blog: People Impact

What God Has Produced in Us

Our mission is to Connect People to Jesus Resulting in God-Honoring Life Change. This statement implies that we will be proactive about reaching the lost, which was what my last blog was about. However, this mission of ours also implies that God will produce a work in us. When I look back at the recent decade, three things come to mind that I believe are strong community characteristics:
  1. Generosity: The people of Jubilee Church have invested $3.55 million into the Kingdom in the past ten years. I find that to be an outstanding number for a few reasons. A) We are not a large group. We were only 66 when the decade began and 137 five years later. It wasn't until 2007 that we started to break through the 200 number and it wasn't until this year that we starting breaking through 300. B) We're a young group. The average age of adults is 27. This tells me that people are giving not out of their surplus, but out of sacrifice. God loves a cheerful giver an blesses those who seek first the kingdom. I'm proud to lead such a generous group.
  2. Flexibility: Do you know that Jubilee Church has met in 11 different locations in the past 10 years? I couldn't believe it either. It takes a lot of flexibility for a group of people to make that many major changes. Not to mention all the set up and tear down of our rental locations. Church growth experts say that you will lose 10% of your congregation in making a location move. If that would have been true for us, we would have zero people. However, we have not moved from place to place due to our wisdom, but because of God's direction. We have been a people that have paid close attention to God's prophetic direction. Words like "I'm moving you out of the shade and into the light" that we received in 2003 got us thinking beyond 700 Tuxedo Boulevard. God also said that we would be like a lunar module bouncing around on the moon (and we bounced around for a few years), but then we would settle into a place and where there was once not life, life would emerge. I always thought that had spiritual implications only, but who would have thought it meant taking a mortuary and turning into a celebration center for the glory of Jesus and the benefit of the city?
  3. Love for one another: We have been through a lot together in these past years. We have mourned together and we have rejoiced together. I am grateful for both because I believe it has produced a genuine love one for another. I don't just have friends at Jubilee...I have brothers and sisters as well as fathers and mothers. I love that we are not just about doing church but being the Church. I love that we do life together. That we know each other, care for one another, serve one another, and give to one another as there is need. I'm grateful too that it's not an inward love, but a love that is inclusive of new brothers and sisters. No group is immune to the temptation to form cliques, so it is a battle we'll need to continue to fight...but I'm proud of what I see.
God is so good to work in us both to will and to work for His good pleasure. Let's continue to seek after Jesus and have Him form us and mold us more and more into His image.

Next Blog: Leaders We've Trained

Monday, December 28, 2009

A Look Back at a Decade: PART ONE

As I have contemplated this past year and decade, I’ve quickly become grateful for all that God has done in and through Jubilee. It’s a lot, so I’ve broken it down into four parts: 1) People Impact, 2) What that Impact Has Produced in Us, 3) Leadership Training, and 4) Our Future.

People Impact

Saved and Added

As we concluded 1999, Jubilee averaged 66 people in our gatherings. We now gather 330 worshippers in St. Louis City and Wentzville combined (about 400 including Union). My gratitude goes well beyond the numbers because each one of us has a story. It is a story of God’s grace and redemption. It is a story of how we were once strung out, addicted, on the verge of divorce, broken, lonely, without purpose or plan, with no hope and no future—but God’s grace saved us. We were once a God-less people, but now we are the people of God! It is with His grace in full view that we gather together for celebratory worship and to be equipped so that we can worship Him by serving, giving and telling others of His wonderful works. (I really, really would like to hear your specific story. I would be blessed and encouraged if you took the time to email your story to so I can read it.)

Saved and Sent

Now Jubilee’s people-impact goes well beyond our current gathering of 400. Over this past decade, dozens of people have felt the call of God to go elsewhere and we have had the pleasure of sending them. I think about people like the Largents and the Eftychious who in 2005 went to help plant Jubilee Church (Atlanta, GA) led by Carl Herrington. Jonathan and Leigh-Anne Eftychiou are a leading couple. Jonathan was on staff with us and oversaw worship. Both of them are classically trained musicians and were a huge blessing. Dave and Tasha Largent are a spunky couple who are very evangelistic. It was rare that they were not bringing someone with them on Sunday to hear the gospel. There have been several others, including Sam and Marlene Poe, who were with Jubilee in the beginning. Sam and Marlene moved to Tacoma, WA in 2006 to help plant New Community Church led by Bo Noonan (Bo will be speaking at Mobilise USA 2010 and to Jubilee on January 17). Sam Poe is highly prophetic and plays a huge role in our Newfrontiers family of churches to preach the gospel in nations who have yet to hear of Jesus Christ. He spearheaded a charge to develop a system of communicating the Bible through storytelling in order to reach oral learners who represent 70% of the earth’s population. Sending people is bittersweet. I love these people and wish they were still here, but I am encouraged how God is using them and feel honored that we were able to play a role in their lives.

Scattering Seed

Over the past decade, we have preached the gospel to hundreds of people who may not have stuck with us, but I am confident we impacted their life. Sometimes you reap where you do not sow, and sometimes you sow where you do not reap. When this life is over, we will not be judged by the results that we see but by the results that God sees. Our primary call as a church is to be witnesses of the gospel of Jesus Christ. For some the gospel is the power of God but for most it is the stench of death. Although we want to see people converted, it is outside our abilities to convert them. Our part is to proclaim and demonstrate the gospel and allow the Holy Spirit to do all the heavy lifting. However, we have seen literally hundreds of people make commitments to Christ and have baptized more than a hundred of them. There is nothing more encouraging for me as a pastor than to lead someone to Jesus or to hear that someone else has. It is why we do what we do.

Next Post: What God Produced in Us

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Jesus is Knocking

I find it amazing how much God desires to be with His people and demonstrate His love for them. Over and over in Scripture you see this desire. Crowds of people with all kinds of needs flocked toward Jesus and he graciously met with them over and over again. This idea is most clearly seen in Revelation 3:20 where Jesus says, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me." Jesus comes right out and says that He so wants to meet with us it's like He's standing right outside our door knocking, alerting us to the fact He's here! All it takes from us to meet with Him, to dine with Him, is to open the door. That's it!

I am writing about this now because I sense that Jesus is knocking on our door a little louder these days. When I look around at our church and here the stories of people encountering God, I see evidence of a louder knock. Salvations are on the rise and healings are on the rise. People are encountering His presence in an increased manner. I'm hearing about "chance" meetings with old friends that God is working powerfully through those encounters.

Here's the point. God is a God who loves His people and wants to administer healing in our lives. He is standing at our door...your door and He's knocking. Are you going to let Him in?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A New Normal

A person who is normal is one who conforms to the dominant behavior in a particular society or community of people. Whether you realize it or not, you have a desire to be normal.

Normal Christianity in the New Testament meant to completely sell out to following Jesus. It meant to completely devote yourself to Scripture (living it, not just reading it), prayer, unity, one another, the poor, and the evangelization of the whole world. The early church looked after each other's needs (physical, emotional, and spiritual), they were honest with one another, they regularly confessed sin, there was a sense of awe because of the demonstrations of Holy Spirit's power, and they had a loose grip on this world and a tight one on the Kingdom. The word of God spread quickly but it cost many of them their lives. There were no pretenders or casual attenders because to say you followed Jesus was risky business.

Now, normal church life in America is quite different. To be a Christian in America simply means to go to church on Sunday, read your Bible, pray at meals, give a few dollars and perhaps volunteer once in a while. The Christianity we experience today is in large part sub-normal to that of the Bible.

However, in recent days, I believe that God is speaking to me that He wants Jubilee to experience a new normal. A normal that includes an increasing number of salvations, healings, miracles and joy in His presence. This new normal will be resisted by our desire for the status quo, but we must contend for all that God has for us. To not settle for a sedentary Christian lifestyle that can lead us to experience spiritual atrophy. I believe He wants to awaken our hearts and revive our souls through the power and the coming upon of His Holy Spirit. This new normal isn't for our benefit, but for the benefit of those God has called us to reach who are many.

I would encourage you to be in prayer as God so desire to move upon your life in ways you can't imaging (Eph 3:20) to demonstrate His love for you and the world.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Expanding Our Borders

Isaiah 54:2-3, 2 “Enlarge the place of your tent, and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out; do not hold back; lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes. 3 For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left, and your offspring will possess the nations and will people the desolate cities.

A consistent theme in the prophetic call to God’s people is to make preparation for expansion. It is a promise of blessing in order that we might bless others. However, to receive this promise, we must in faith make preparations (changes) in order to make room for the blessing God wants to pour out.

I have spent the last couple of days in Northeast Missouri…about 25 miles south of the Iowa border. It is very rural and with lots of farms. Any farmer knows that you have to build a silo before you can harvest. Moreover, the size of your silo (or the number of your silos) depends upon how big you expect your harvest to be.

Jubilee has always lived with the expectation of a big harvest, and has sought to be the kind of church that has prepared for growth before it’s happened. This has meant we have:

  1. Rented or bought facilities bigger than maybe we needed at the time
  2. Developed and trained more leaders than we needed
  3. Remained very flexible with our systems and methods of going about our mission.

Our hope and plan is to continue to “enlarge the place of our tent”, to lengthen our cords and strengthen our stakes.

This Sunday, December 6, the roughly 75 people that currently make up Life Church in Union, will officially come under the leadership of the Jubilee elders, making them a part of Jubilee Church. This is an exciting time…the family is growing!