Here is a fun little video of how we kicked off Easter 2012 at Mosaic. If nothing else, I hope it gives you a laugh or brings a smile to your face. However, I thought it might also be helpful to share a a few words on why we do things like 80′s covers on Sunday morning. Continue Reading…
A couple days ago we had the great opportunity of having our first ever baptism service at Mosaic! On Sunday morning, seven men and women stepped up to publicly proclaim their faith in Jesus Christ. It was awesome. Nevermind that one of our amps caught on fire last week, or that we inadvertantly flooded the back of the Bourbon Theater on Friday when we broke a water pipe retrieving Rivertree's baptismal from the rafters. (Ah, the joys of church planting.)
On Sunday, none of that mattered. Having the opportunity to baptize each person and then to hear our community cheer wildly as they emerged from the water a new creation in Christ, was one of the neatest things I have ever had the privilege of being a part of.
And when the baptisms were over and we entered into a time of worship together, the community of Mosaic worshiped like I have never seen or heard them worship before. Eyes closed, hands in the air, voices shouting praises to God, it…was…incredible. It impressed upon me once more the unequaled power of story. There is perhaps no greater testimony of God's presence and power and grace than a life changed by the gospel. In the end, what else can do we do but praise God?
Above, Erik and I hug after he comes up out of the water. You can hear his story below.
It’s official, Mosaic has launched! Sunday marked the long awaited launch of Mosaic with our first weekly worship gathering. We knew that people were excited about what God was preparing to do in and through this new community, but we were unprepared for the 250+ people who would join us on Sunday! It was an incredible morning in which many months of prayer and preparation all came together.
The best part of the morning wasn’t number of people there, or the fact that people were so excited to be there that we could hardly get them to sit down, or that people were still hanging out over an hour after the worship gathering was over, or how incredible the Mosaic launch team was all morning, or even the beautiful sound of a new church worshiping Jesus together for the first time. Personally, the best part for me (Aaron) was all of stories we heard of God moving in the lives of people.
Sunday morning we saw several people commit their lives to Christ for the first time! We are so excited to see these people impacted for eternity and to see them begin to step into what God has for them! We saw several others recommit their lives to Christ, marking what we pray will be the beginning of a season of renewed passion and purpose in their journey with Christ. We also saw a number of people who have never been connected to a church before tell us they have accepted the invitation to join a conversation about what it means to follow Christ and who now consider Mosaic their new home. That is what it is all about!
(Originally posted at http://www.mosaiclincoln.org/weve-launched/)
This past week I was talking to a coworker about what it means to follow Christ. He had committed his life to Christ a couple years ago (he was actually led to Christ by Mosaic Lincoln’s new creative director) but had fallen away from faith until just recently. He is very much a new, young believer. As we talked about the perseverance it takes to follow Christ he shared with me a statistic his pastor had told him regarding how many people fall away from Christ after making an initial decision to follow Him.
At that moment, another coworker who had been listening in leaned over and said, “There is probably a reason for that.” I knew what was coming. This person has a well known reputation around work for being angry and argumentative about all things philosophical. To be honest, he comes off like a pretty miserable person and he seems to enjoy making others miserable. Everyone there knows I am a pastor, so I had been wondering when this guy was going to take a swing at me. Now was apparently his time.
“And what reason would that be?”, I asked, bracing myself.
“It’s a sham!”, he shouted. “The whole thing is a sham. It is no wonder people don’t stick with it, they get smart and figure out organized religion is nothing but a hoax!” Continue Reading…
I have been told that every great story involves great conflict. Ask any church planter and they will tell you that church planting involves its fair share of conflict. The conflict comes in many forms: discouragement, exhaustion, criticism (sadly, often from other Christians and even pastors who are threatened by what you are doing), missed opportunities, failed plans, unforeseen obstacles, wayward team members, and the one you can almost always count on: financial strain.
The greatest conflict that I am finding myself having to deal with, however, is the hesitancy (or downright unwillingness) of local churches to step up and get involved in church planting, or at least not in a way that costs them anything significant. A word of blessing? Sure. A one time gift? Perhaps. Championing or adopting a new plant as your own in a way that may cost them people and ongoing support? Err, we'll pray about it. (Which, in case you didn't know, is Christianese for "Not on your life!!")
It is dumbfounding how many pastors and churches will agree that church planting is both greatly important and deeply biblical, and yet how few are actively involved. Troubling is probably a better word for it. As we continue our search for a "sponsoring church," here is what I am finding:
- Everyone has a perfectly good reason for why they can't do it. "Our giving is down," "Our attendance is less than it was last year at this time," "We are preparing to build a new building," "Our leadership can't afford another big risk that could potentially make them look bad," "We haven't done these sorts of things in the past"…the list goes on and on. No matter the size, budget, vision, demographics, denomination, geographical location, everyone has a reason why their current circumstances won't allow them to be actively involved in church planting.
- Everyone has a perfectly good reason why someone else should do it. "They are bigger than we are," "They've been around longer," "Their budget is bigger," "Their pastors get paid more," "They have more money in reserves," "They already have a value for church planting," "They have less debt than we do," "They have less financial obligations," "They aren't an established church fighting an established culture"…Sure pastor, perhaps Google would be a great potential sponsor for a church plant, but it's not their job, it's yours. The task and burden of church planting falls on local churches, not on outside organizations and networks. (By the way, I am all for interdenominational church planting networks, but they do not relieve churches of their duty to multiply and send out. Instead, like ARC, these org's should help churches fulfill their God-given responsibility, not avoid it.) But even pastors who agree tend to think "the church down the road" makes more sense to carry the load.
To be honest, the implications of these two realities have us in a tight spot right now. It is a really tough place to be in. So when I write this, part of it is deeply personal. In seeking to understand it, my hope is to help other planters navigate some of these things, to encourage churches to reconsider their involvement or lack thereof in church planting, as well as to help myself lead Mosaic in such a way to never be so consumed with our own internal business that we fail to continually invest in the Kingdom work of church planting.
Here are a few things I am learning:
- Internally focused churches struggle. Practically speaking, if the focus of your church is the people who are already there, then you're destined to struggle the moment your members start dying or leaving. That'll probably be sooner than later. Biblically speaking, an internally focused church stands directly opposed to the mission to which they have been called. Perhaps worst of all, not only to internally focused churches struggle more than others, they struggle alone.
- You don't get credit for what you hope to do in the future. Your intentions for tomorrow may be honorable, but today that is all they are: intentions. You don't get a faith advance for your great plans. Instead, you are measured by what you do. Either you are generously investing in the Kingdom or you are not. Spoiler Alert: Perhaps you are not being entrusted with the more you keep praying for because you have yet to be faithful with what you currently have.
- Next year things are not going to be easier. Breaking through the next growth barrier, achieving the next big goal, hitting the next milestone, etc is not going to be the thing that frees you to finally be generous any more than it is going to make your life and ministry simpler. It is always going to be a challenge. Accept it and make the hard decisions necessary to begin being generous now. Reality: If you keep thinking that you'll start investing in church planting "when…", it'll never happen.
- God blesses churches that invest in the Kingdom. Jesus didn't call his disciples to go build a church, He told them to expand the Kingdom. When established churches and leaders invest in the Kingdom through church planting, it is an act of selflessness. It takes a secure leader, one who cares more about seeing lives changed by the gospel than they do the success of their little "c" church to send people and resources out to something that doesn't directly benefit them. The pastors I have known who do this generously are not only some of the brightest and godliest men I know, but they also pastor some of the most influential and impact-ful churches in the country. I am coming to believe that there is a direct correlation between our faithfulness in furthering the Kingdom and how much influence God is willing to entrust us with.
Right now I am reading the book "Church Planter: The Man, the Message, the Mission" by Darrin Patrick, pastor of The Journey in St. Louis. The book is excellent and I can't recommend it highly enough to every man who desires to step up and become a leader in his family and church, and particularly to anyone considering church planting in the future. For more, check out the video below.
This past week my good friend, Bryan Marine, and I set out to shoot today's 30in30 video in an old, abandoned church out west of Lincoln. We had to hike to get back to it, but it turned out to be well worth the effort. What we found was incredible. The place seemed almost untouched with its old pews, rotting organ missing half the keys, broken and twisted stain glass, and remnants of what was. It was almost hauntingly beautiful to step into something so hidden and so full of history. I thought Bryan did such an incredible job of capturing the experience that I just had to share it. Enjoy!
A few months ago I was having a conversation with a good friend of mine who is a pastor and church planter in the Midwest. The church he pastors is just a few years old and they are still getting their feet under them in a lot of ways. They've been back and forth between multiple locations, weathered seasons of low numbers and inconsistent giving, had to fire multiple staff under difficult circumstances, in addition to all of the normal obstacles that come with starting a new church. In spite of all that, however, this last year they selflessly stepped out in great faith and planted another church in the same city.
Not only did they commit finances and people to the church, but they were instrumental in getting a property donated to the church by their denomination (one they technically had first dibs on). As a church, they cast vision for the new plant in their Sunday gatherings, culminating in a Sunday in which they commissioned everyone who was leaving to be a part of the new plant. That Sunday, my good friend got up before his church – the one he had watched grow over the previous several years from just an audacious dream in his heart to the community he now saw before him, a church he had led through thick and thin, one he had sacrificed so much for – and with conviction he looked into the eyes of close friends, many of which he had personally counseled and said, "Alright, whose going?!"
I love that. It is such a bold testimony of what it means to have a "Kingdom" mindset. Rather than seek to have the biggest steeple in town or to protect what momentum he had been able to build so far (and through much struggle, I might add), this pastor held what had been given him with an open hand. He understands that its not his church, its Christ's church. And he boldly showed that he is committed more to the movement of Jesus, the Capital "C" Church at work in his city, than to his own little "c" church. It makes me proud to call this pastor my friend.
But it cost them. It cost them big. That Sunday they watched a lot of great families leave to be a part of the church plant, families they didn't anticipate losing. They lost leaders, lovers of people, people who got the vision, and consistent givers. To make matters worse, shortly after sending those families off, the church encountered a crisis when the new building they had been preparing to move into and rent gathering and office space from was suddenly foreclosed on just weeks before they were to move in. They suddenly found themselves in crisis mode, and shorthanded.
In the long run, I have no doubt that God will honor their sacrifice and faithfulness. But in the short run, their commitment to being about the Kingdom and not just "their" little church cost them. It cost them money, leaders, resources, volunteers, momentum and relationships, to name a few. It is certainly easy to see why many churches cling tight to what they have rather than multiplying God's work through church planting. But to those who get it, the risk is well worth it.
I share it for a couple reasons. 1, to praise my friend David and his church for leading the way in faith and generosity. Your story is testimony to how extraordinary you truly are. Your city is better for it, the Church is better for it, and so are the many leaders who will follow in your footsteps.
Number 2, I share it because Mosaic Lincoln is committed to this kind of Kingdom mindedness. Sometimes new churches give off the vibe that they think they are THE answer for most everything. That's not us. We recognize that we are only a single expression of the church, one that some will love, and others will not. And that's okay. Our goal is not to try to be all things to all people, but rather to be faithful to who we believe God has called us to reach.
You see, we are convinced that Lincoln doesn't need a new church, but many new churches to reach the many different kinds of people represented throughout the Lincoln area. So Mosaic Lincoln is not the end, it is only the beginning. From Day 1, 10% of our total budget is set aside for future church plants. And we are committed to equipping and sending out people to plant churches in Lincoln and beyond. After all, it's not about us. It's about seeing a movement of God's grace unleashed in the city of Lincoln!
The first time I journeyed down the church planting road I
kept coming across something I found to be quite obnoxious. Everywhere I turned
– every organization, every denomination and every mentor that had been down
this road before kept asking me about my “call.”
“Are you called to
plant this church? When were you called? How were you called? Are you sure
It was obnoxious. What was this “call” that everyone was
talking about and why were they making it into such a big deal? I mean, I thought
I was called. I had been journeying with Christ for some time, loved people and
ministry and felt like this was what I was supposed to do next.
But even so, just the idea that someone might count me as
disqualified because I couldn’t recall some supernatural moment in which God
said, “Therefore goeth Aaron to Toledo and planteth a church” really irked me.
Why couldn’t someone just choose to create something as beautiful and redemptive as a new
Christ-centered, missional community with their lives? Wouldn’t God honor that?
After all, isn’t this sort of thing precisely what he has called all of us to be a part of? Then why the
insistence on something that at best seems, well, optional?
Well, I didn’t really get it back then but I think I am
beginning to understand. You see, I continued down that road and low and behold
things got hard. Actually, that is an understatement. The experience included some of the darkest months of my life personally, emotionally and spiritually. It was the hardest thing I've ever had to go through. And I'd
say it's just been in the past 18 months that I've finally got the
pieces of my soul all put back together. It was a tough road, one in which I regularly struggled with
feelings of deep anxiety, insecurity, loneliness and a powerful undercurrent of doubt.
That was a few years ago.
This time, however, the journey has been completely different. Unlike the
first time, my calling isn’t a fuzzy ambiguous sense but a clear and undeniable
call to Lincoln at this time. (I’d love to share more about this but that will
have wait until another day.) And can I tell you something? It really makes all
of the difference. Although the road will no doubt be difficult, this time around I journey it without any anxiety. No fear. No hesitations. Complete
security in Christ. And that undercurrent of doubt? It has been transformed
into a powerful movement of hope and promise.
So I think I am beginning to understand why a specific
calling is so very important to a work as trying and unpromising as church
planting. There’s just too much common sense that must be completely and regularly ignored.
If you do it without a clear call, then you are just crazy. If you do it with a
clear call, then you are obedient…and crazy.
Ok, so going back to our original question: do you need to be “called” in some extraordinary transcending
way to plant a church? Technically, although some would disagree with me, I
have to say “no.” We all make a number of choices each day to either honor
Christ or deny him, to serve our own purposes or to serve God's purposes in this world. Some of those choices are small and some of those big, but
more often than not it still comes down to our choosing whether we will honor or dishonor God with our actions.
But that being said, planting a church is not just one
choice, but tens of thousands of hard choices, often under hard conditions. It is
extraordinarily difficult. It involves lots of heartache, lots of trials, lots
of failure and it can be very lonely at times. Every church planter will tell
you he has days when he seriously doubts whether this thing is ever going to
work. I mean, statistics show that 85% of church plants fail in the first 5 years. There are
a lot of good and talented men and women represented in that 85%! But it takes
far more than talent and good intentions to plant a church.
And when the going gets tough (which is often),
when those you have loved and invested so many months and years in decide to up
and leave to go to the church on the other side of town with the new worship
center, when all funds are gone and you are trying to figure out how your
family is going to survive, when you feel like there is no possible way you can
succeed and that for all practical purposes you are alone most days in this
thing, you had better be either clearly called or be the most faithfully stubborn
S.O.B. to walk God’s green earth. (In concrete terms, this means you do not have a history of flakiness, half-hearted committment, bailing on projects/people or rarely finishing what you start, but rather, you have a history of seeing things through to completion, resiliency in face of adversity and steadfast commitment.)
If that's you and other seasoned leaders have affirmed your leadership and are encouraging you to plant, then I say go for it! But if not, wait for the calling.
Creating a culture
where people can belong before they believe is a practical application of our
first core value: Mission is why the
church exists. At first glance this might not seem like a big deal. After
all, many Christians would nod their head in agreement with this statement. The mind of the seasoned
Christ follower might even jump to relevant passages like the Great
Commission in Matthew 28 or Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 9. However, it is in
praxis that this core value often becomes problematic.
Every church has got to
decide which voices they are going to listen to. In most churches, it is the
loudest, most persuasive, most powerful, or sometimes just the most deliberate
Christian voices that get listened to. But the conversation is essentially the
same: everyone vouching for their own preferred brand of Christianity. Mosaic
essentially ignores these voices of religion in order to better hear the voices
There are always any number of conversations going on throughout Christendom that church people consider to be of immense importance. The details of these conversations are always in flux – traditional/contemporary, emergent/emerging, modern/postmodern/post-postmodern, and a never ending plethora of theological asterisks. But as a movement whose very purpose for existing resides outside of its four walls, Mosaic just isn't all that interested in engaging in such "internal" conversations. We want to spend the best of our time, energy, passion and creativity on connecting people to God who wouldn't normally associate themselves with church.
This doesn't always involve a choice. After all, we are not a
divided humanity. At our core we all desire, need and long for the same
things. Mosaic speaks into those things that are true of us all. However, in those times when we must choose, we will always choose to ignore the voices of religion and internal religious conversation in order to begin new conversations with those who do not know Jesus.