Aliens in a Strange Land

In Galatians 1:3-4, Paul writes that Jesus “gave himself to rescue us from this present evil age.” It seems like every day we’re confronted in new and more blatant terms just how evil this present age is.  On the one hand, it can be heart-breaking to see a culture in constant decline and that reality should push us towards it with the desire to communicate hope in Christ.

On the other, it serves to remind us that disciples of Jesus are not of this world (1 Peter 2:11) and this place isn’t home.  The deteriorating condition of the world should push us closer to Jesus, longing for another land with a Father-King who rules with strength and grace, protecting His children and welcoming them into His presence, face-to-face.

…but does it?

Are you homesick?

I know too often I’m not.  That’s what is frightening.  It’s when I don’t long for home.  That’s when I know I’ve gotten too comfortable in a world I wasn’t ultimately designed for.  It’s when I have to pull back a bit and remember I’m not to be conformed to this world, but transformed by the renewing of my mind (Romans 12:2).  That comes through the Word–spending time absorbing the Truth, meditating on the reality of another Kingdom that I’ve been born into and fitted for, and praying for a fresh perspective on why I’m still here.  Only then will I be ready to engage the world in a way that brings glory to God and healing to the hurting.  Only then will I experience what it means to be rescued from this present evil age.

Making Disciples

The mandate for the Church is to “go into all the world and make disciples.” (Matthew 28:18-20).  If we’re a part of a “church” and not doing that, and doing it effectively, we are hard-pressed to say we are a church.  I think that we are to do this is hardly debated.  HOW we do it is another story.  Though I think there are many different “methods” utilized, I am convinced most (though, of course, not all) are overly complicated.  Without desiring to come across either arrogant or critical, the following is a sneak-peak at an article I’ve written for an upcoming edition of RoadSigns, the monthly newsmag of The Gathering where I propose a simplified (not simplistic!) approach to this process.  It’s the approach that I, personally, have adopted and found fruitful for myself and those I spend time with:

On Being A Disciple-Maker

I have been thinking a lot about discipleship lately.  One of the things I’ve always said since I first came here nearly seven years ago was that I never want (nor expect) God to bring more people here than we can effectively disciple.  I still mean that.  Our primary calling is to make disciples to the glory of God.  If we can’t do that, what’s the point?

So, I’ve been evaluating where we are and thinking through different aspects of discipleship and wanting to lead us into the most effective strategies in order for that to happen.  I’ve read books on discipleship and looked at various programs for discipleship and, somehow, something always seems to be lacking.  They all seem to leave me somewhat cold.  That is not to say that all discipleship programs are bad or that there is no place for them.  Rather, this is more about emphasis.  Are we boxing up discipleship too neatly or is there more to it?  Is it a little messier; a little more dynamic?

Over the course of a few weeks and a few different conversations I’ve had, I have done some re-thinking on the process of discipleship and moved in a direction I think is more reflective of a dynamic process of making disciples.  I’ll start with some of the characteristics and go from there.

Simple

The one who first made disciples of Jesus was, well…Jesus.  He’s the first one who called people to Himself.  So, how did he do it?  He quite simply said, “Follow me.”  They did.  That’s a pretty simple approach, right?  He didn’t introduce them to a program.  He didn’t hand out books or have them do homework.  He just called them to follow Him, they did and they learned from Him.

I’m not sure that our approach to disciple-making should be any more complicated than that.  These people stayed close to Him, listened to Him and grew in Him.  The beauty of Jesus’ approach was that it was very relational, which is how they learned.  Today, we can emulate that by building relationships with each other, doing life together and learning from Him through His Word where we focus on having gospel conversations together.  We challenge each other in our attitudes, actions and words.  We talk of what is really important and encourage each other during tough times.  In this way, we very simply grow in our understanding of the comprehensive nature of following Jesus; that He is concerned and is to be included in every part of our lives.

Organic

Though we don’t know the criteria Jesus used to determine who He would call, we know He didn’t have an extensive sign up process or pre-screening for them.  He very naturally entered into relationship with them and invited them to follow Him around and listen to how He handles things, what He prioritizes, how He deals with people and how He obediently walks with God.  It was a living process rather than a stale, classroom relationship. Discipling others should focus on how a more mature Believer does life following after Christ so that those who are younger in the faith can learn what to (and not to) do.  It’s being real, letting others inside your world, seeing your weaknesses, your strengths, your faith, your mistakes and how you work out sin through repentance.  You may not feel comfortable being completely vulnerable, but discipleship is at least being open and honest enough to be able to wrestle through the issues of life together, growing in faith together and serving as iron sharpening one another to the glory of God.

Intentional

This process doesn’t just happen.  As a matter of fact, I don’t think it will ever happen accidentally.  Just because it is to be organic and natural doesn’t mean that it isn’t intentional.  We have to determine we’re going to pour our lives into someone else.  We have to intentionally establish that relationship with an understanding of what is happening.  Jesus did that.  He made an intentional decision and then established the relationship with, “Follow me.”  Jesus was very intentional about doing things in the presence of His disciples.  He pulled in Peter, James and John, in particular, to share in some of the most intimate and amazing aspects of His life.  As a result, they, being filled with the Holy Spirit and having lived with Him for three years, did some amazing things for God’s glory after Jesus had left.

Discipleship is a simple process, but I don’t want to make it simplistic.  We have to care enough to get involved.  We have to love enough to include.  We have to trust enough to be real.  None of that is easy…but it’s our purpose and the blessings on the other side are priceless.  We are called to go into all the world and make disciples.  You may not feel as though you are qualified.  Fortunately, the requirements are not that extensive.  Do you have a vibrant relationship with God?  Have you been walking with Him through the seasons of life?   Do you spend time with Him in His Word and in prayer.  If not, you may not be ready to be a disciple-maker.  You may need to be discipled.  However, none of us are in the middle.  We either need to be discipled or we need to be a disciple-maker.

I really believe God has grown The Gathering to the point where we should be ready for any number of people God brings through our doors.  However, that will largely depend on whether or not YOU are taking discipleship seriously.  Decide where you are in the process.  Do you need that kind of mentoring relationship where you can grow in faith along with someone else who is a bit more mature in the faith or are you at a point where you could pour your life into another, ready to spend time with someone, walking through life together for a season?  Once you’ve got that figured out, pray that God will hook you up with at least one other person to begin growing together.  If you are unsure where you are or where or how to get started, find one of the Elders of The Gathering.  It’s our job to help you move down the road to spiritual maturity.  When this happens, we will accomplish our goal of being among the healthiest churches in Chattanooga!

After discussing this article with a trusted friend in the ministry, he pointed out this video on discipleship by D. A. Carson that had been shared this morning by Mark Dever.  It articulates much of what I have proposed here.

What a Gift!

Amazing video of the Kimyal people receiving the Bible into their own language for the first time.  This is a good reminder to me on this Christmas Eve of the blessing of Christ coming and the very Scripture that reveals Him that I so quickly take for granted.  God, forgive me.

To have that kind of enthusiasm over something other than a sporting event.

Goats are Cool.

 

It just doesn't get any cooler than this!

With one week left of our “Give a Goat” drive, The Gathering has currently raised enough money to purchase 54 goats and also 61 nets through Samaritan’s Purse!  That is exceedingly cool.  Thank you so much to the people of The Gathering for getting behind what had to have sounded like a crazy idea when I first presented it.  But in true Gathering fashion, you jumped on board and now there are many families that will have nourishment and protection that they might otherwise have not had.  Even more importantly, they will have the opportunity to hear the Gospel of Christ as they are presented with their gifts.  Thank you so much.  I am a blessed man to be able to lead such a great church!

A Christmas Revolution

Tired of Christmas as usual?  Had it up to here with the long lines, long bank statements and long recovery time?  If so, I want to invite you to join the revolution to take back Christmas.  No, not that kind of revolution.  I’m not advocating boycotts or signing petitions, nor am I encouraging you to stand on a street corner carrying placards of how “We’re taking back Christmas from that godless pagan scum! (In Jesus’ name)”  This is more of a silent revolution.  This is a revolution of the heart that affects the actions.  A revolution that truly makes a difference in people’s lives around town and around the world.  This revolution directly affects your attitude about Christmas and how you will spend your money this year. This revolution will make this a year where your primary focus is on how you can make a lasting difference in the lives of people outside of your own family.

Now, I’m not saying you have to cut out all gift giving…just cut back.  Get to the heart of Christmas…fight the commercialism and self-centeredness that has hijacked a season that is supposed to focus on the coming Savior; the One who gave the greatest gift of all.

So, be creative.  Take advantage of some of the great opportunities that I discussed in this post.  I would also encourage you to read a great post on Michael Hyatt’s blog about starting traditions with your family that will teach and encourage them to focus on an attitude of generosity this year.  The following is an excerpt:

Why not start a tradition. Along with creating their own “wish list,” your kids make out a list of the gifts they plan to give away to others. This could include people they know and perhaps people they don’t know. The gifts can be ones they buy with their own money, or some of their own possessions they treasure.

Let’s take it a step further. What if for every gift they put on their wish list, they have to match it with a gift they plan to give away—one of their own toys, dolls, electronic devices, or games? This may just balance their “giving and receiving” experience a bit more.

Whatever you decide to do, take a stand against the status quo.  Decide that you’re no longer going to be victimized by the consumer mentality that robs your joy, your finances, and your celebration of Immanuel (God with us).  In so doing, I bet you’ll absolutely have the best, most memorable Christmas ever.  Blessings!

A Review of The Generous Soul

If you’re looking for a great gift for a loved one this Christmas, I highly recommend Marty Duren’s new book, The Generous Soul. Especially during this season of Christmas, it is so easy to get caught up in the consumerism, stress, overs-spending and debt that characterizes American life every day. It really is a vicious cycle that not only robs us of resources, but also of the joy in life Christ has provided. Since that is not how God intended his followers to live, we must figure how to break this cycle and learn how to be a true follower of Jesus, not by our words alone, but with our whole lives including our finances! All of the resources needed to alleviate hurting have been given to us. The question is what are we doing with what we have been entrusted with to bless the world?

Using an abundance of biblical sources and recent statistics combined with plenty of personal experiences and humor, Marty points us to a way of living that accomplishes God’s will for our lives of freedom and joy and makes an impact on a hurting world in the name and for the glory of Jesus. The Generous Soul is a fiercely practical book that is well-written, easy to read, and desperately needed in our churches today. I am going to encourage everyone in my church to read this and hope you’ll do yourself and your family a favor and read it soon, as well.

The Generous Soul is available in print as well as Nook and Kindle editions.  Click the image above to order.

On Mission

The report yesterday on the mission day in Atlanta was awesome.  I’m excited about the opportunities that lie ahead for The Gathering.  So many important doors are being opened and it’s incredible to watch our people excited about walking through them.

On Saturday, we had 7 people join with a great team from Birchwood Baptist Church to go down to a refugee mission in the outskirts of Atlanta.  People from 25 countries are living in this complex and they are so hungry for love and attention.  These are people who have found refuge in this Country not for reasons of convenience, but, as one of our team members pointed out, “they’re here because otherwise, they would probably be dead.”

Man, what a great opportunity!  I want to encourage all of the members of The Gathering to get excited about being on mission!  We have opportunities for everybody: locally to your own neighborhood and workplace, city-wide through HaCoBaCare, regionally through the Atlanta Refugee mission, and internationally in Peru.  The only thing keeping you from being on mission…is you.

How to help in Haiti

A letter to members and friends of The Gathering:

As I am sure you have been following the events of the past week related to the devastating earthquake in Haiti, you are probably feeling the same desire as I have to “do something” to help alleviate some of the suffering.  It is difficult to know what to do and to feel as though we’re doing enough.  In light of that, I would like to suggest a couple of things that you can do that will make a world of difference:

1.  Pray.  I know that you expected me to say that first, but there is truly no greater thing that you can do besides that.  As many of us are reading through the Bible in a year as a part of The Gathering One-Year Bible Challenge, we recently read through the book of Job. After all of the “friends” of Job had finished giving him their collective wisdom, God said something interesting in chapter 42:

After the Lord had spoken these words to Job, the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite: My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.8 Now therefore take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and offer up a burnt offering for yourselves. And my servant Job shall pray for you, for I will accept his prayer not to deal with you according to your folly. For you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.9 So Eliphaz the Temanite and Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite went and did what the Lord had told them, and the Lord accepted Job’s prayer.

The point here is simply that God instructed these men to go to Job that he could pray for them to God.  Think about that: isn’t it a little strange sounding for God to speak to them to tell them to tell Job to talk to God on their behalf?  The important thing for us to see, though, is that there is a process that God wanted them to go through; to humble themselves before Him and have His servant petition Him on their behalf.  And God moved and accepted the prayer and brought restoration to these men.  That process is still in effect today.

When we can “do something” that will physically bring healing and relief, we must!  However, that must never take precedents over our primary responsibility, the one that has more power because of the One to which we petition, and that is prayer.  Pray without ceasing.

2.  Give.  Some of you can give hundreds of dollars and you should to help bring relief.  Others can only give ten or fifteen dollars and you should.  Scripture says for us to bring our tithes and offerings to the Lord (Deuteronomy 12 and 26).  At the Gathering, our tithes sustain the work of the church so that ongoing regular ministry can occur.  Offerings are the extras that go to meet special and/or specific needs.  One such offering is for relief for the work in Haiti.

With so many organizations working to bring relief, there are any number of avenues through which you can give support.  Some are more effective than others both in their distribution of funds received and the work they do when they get there.  We have determined to channel our funds through the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief.  Through the leadership of the Florida Baptist Convention, which has had ongoing work in Haiti for many years, the SBC Disaster Relief Teams are on the ground now doing what they do best.  We believe the best use of our funds is to provide the much-needed resources to those best equipped to serve. These teams are well-trained and experienced in going into areas of such devastation and bringing much needed relief.  Our own SBC Disaster Relief are considered among the best and most effective in the world and we can help that work in a very tangible way.  If you would like more information on the SBC Disaster Relief, please visit our website at GatheringChattanooga.com and click on the Disaster Relief banner.

As we did last week, we will be taking up a special offering for Haiti relief this Sunday.  Please consider joining with us to make a difference, both in your constant prayers and in your giving.

To the glory of God,

David Price

2010: Year of the Mission

I met with our Mission One:Eight Team this past Wednesday night and left so encouraged and excited about the coming year at The Gathering.  God has moved in some pretty big ways over the last couple of months, removing the inward focus that largely characterized what this church has been, bringing a fresh wind of excitement over reaching out to the world with the love and redemption communicated in the Gospel.

This church has realized it was never meant to serve as a club for the religious separatist, but must become a center for those actively carrying out the Great Commission through every door that God opens for her.  It is so refreshing to sit with people who are excited with anticipation over what God is going to do through our mission giving and our mission going.  It is a wonderful place to be where people are asking the God-honoring question, “Why not?” regarding missions rather than the spirit-quenching “Why?” that so often characterizes religious people.

I believe that 2010 is going to be the year of the Mission.  There are so many opportunities that are before us and we can’t wait to see what God is going to do with them.

Already, we are engaged in a church-planting effort in Peru, ministering among the Yauyos People located high in the Andes Mountains.  We were overwhelmed to experience God already at work there and had simply invited us to join Him in His work.  At our last Family Ministry Meeting, the people of The Gathering enthusiastically embraced this mission opportunity, understanding that a church without a mission is no church at all.  We have been called and we are being sent!

Locally, we are becoming more aggressively involved in the ministry of HaCoBaCare.  This ministry of the Hamilton County Baptist Association to those in need in the Chattanooga area is reaching more people than any other ministry of its kind in our County.  As our efforts increase, it is our hope that even more people can be affected by this Gospel ministry, both physically and spiritually.

Further, we have a new possibility that we are exploring with another strategic partner in our area to reach out and minister to refugees located in a camp in the Atlanta area.  This mission is unique in that it is an opportunity for many to be engaged in foreign missions only two hours from our home!  Though we have not moved on this particular ministry, we are praying through that as a possible door that God is opening up for us.

The days of sitting and being spiritually fed to obesity without getting out and exercising our faith at The Gathering are over.  With opportunities like God has put before us, there is something for literally everyone in our covenant community to get involved in.  If you are a part of The Gathering, begin praying about how God can use you in our Mission One:Eight in 2010.

There is a new day that has dawned at The Gathering with a new spirit of love, compassion and cooperation being experienced as never before.  Our worship experiences are sweet times of refreshing from the Lord and our focus is clear.  Praise God for cleansing downpours and fresh movements of His Holy Spirit!

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