Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thank You God

Thank you God.

Thank you God that my life is not perfect.

Thank you for tears, and struggles and times of dryness and frustration.

Thank you for not making everything easy and for not always giving me what I request.

Thank you for not always making known the “whys” of my life.

For God, it is during these times that I find my way to you over and over again. 

It is during these times that I am reminded of my deep need for you alone.

It is through tears of pain and suffering, fears of failure and loss, and days full of doubt and questions that I am closest to you, that I seek you the most, that I renew my trust in you and that my faith is truly strengthened. 

Without these difficult times, I would think I didn’t need you. 

Without these trials, I would not grow.

With a perfect life, I wouldn’t need a perfect God.

Thank you testing my faith and drawing me to yourself.

Thank you for being God in my life.

Thank you.

Thank you.

Thank you.

-Leah McQueen (Guest Blogger)

Monday, November 21, 2011

This Thanksgiving Crosswind is thankful Jesse got his drivers license

Last night at our Gathering we celebrated Jesse getting his drivers license. No he's not a teenager, he's a 55 year old Christian friend who hasn't had a license for 17 years. Why is that such a big deal? And how is it 'the Christian thing to do' to help people get their license back?

Jesse's story is like so many other friends we meet. He came to Corinth from prison and heard about one of Corinth's great outreach ministries called Living Free. They asked if he could stay with a friend in our FAITH housing ministry and sure enough our Tony said yes. Then came the hard job of getting a job. Jesse is an eternal optimist, "Just turn it over to God Bobby, he'll get me a job." Okay Jess, but you haven't seen his criminal record and even if Jesus has saved him, not many folks wanted to take a risk on him.

Jesse never lost heart. He went to the employment agency over and over and every single time there was an opportunity he was sure 'this was the one'. It was faith building to watch him suffer disappointment after disappointment but then just lift his head and smile and say, "the Lord's gonna get me a job Bobby, he is." Many times we thought that nobody would ever hire him. We gave him odd jobs to pay his monthly parole fees and tried and tried to find him work. He became a special project to one of the dear ladies at our job center and one day (almost a year later) she got him an interview at our recycling plant. Well that was the one. And boy you should have heard him celebrate. He took his first check and went to the job center lady and told her he was gonna buy her a big steak with it. She was so happy. She couldn't go but she said in all the years of helping people find jobs, he was the first one who had done that.

After that we went to work trying to get him some wheels and get his license back. Meanwhile, he got a ride to work with one of our volunteers. He found a car he could fix up for about 500 bucks and then we contacted the DMV to see about his license. We just started laughing... you kidding me?! All those outstanding tickets and fines. Oh my, how are we ever...? But Ronda the Great just started making calls and one by one we got it whittled down to about $2300 worth of fines in about three counties. Well Jesse said "I'll just get the money to get 'em paid off, that's all." And he went to work... by the way, he began paying his own light bill and rent right away, never once shirking from any responsibility. Lanny gave him a personal loan for a portion of it and the check cleared and the State was satisfied and Jesse was free to take the exam... oh yea, there is a test.

Jesse taught himself to read in prison sounding out one sound at a time so when he heard he had to take a test it was, well... a bit challenging. He studied and studied and was ready to take it. We took him up there and I swear when he finished I thought I was gonna break down. After all this time, that sweet, positive guy... he just shrugged, eyes moist but a big smile, "Oh well, I'll take it again." Later that week he said, "Brother Bobby, I turned it over to the Lord. I thought I could do it by myself last time, but this time I've turned it over to the Lord."

A week later he took it again. Take a minute to see what happened HERE

We love what we do and this Thanksgiving, Our Precious Lord we thank you for Jesse, for his life, for what he means to us, for the faith that he has in You that strengthens us, for your mercy to him, for his attitude in the midst of deep struggle, for your provision for him through the love of many of your children, and especially, for his Driver's License.

You are the Greatest God, we love you. Thanks again,


Monday, October 31, 2011

Faction Planting, or Church Planting? (Open mind required)

I have discovered that it is easy to recognize when something is not right, but it is much more difficult to ask ‘why’ something is not right.  Asking ‘why’ can be difficult because it may lead us to discover things that may change the course of our entire lives, as well as challenge our pre-conceived ideas that we consider normal and comforting.  This article is not only an attempt to address a very important and dangerous problem within institutional Christianity, but to ask ‘why’ this problem exists and keeps repeating itself.  I would like to ask you to read this article with an open mind. If you feel led, contribute your disagreement in a constructive way and add to the discussion by sharing your thoughts.  If you indeed love the church (people), then we really do have the same goal.

Often times the problem I’m going to share is perpetuated by the same people who would agree that the problem exists.  I would like to address the very serious problem of ‘factions’ (mistakenly called ‘local churches’) and why they exist.  Let me explain…

Have you ever drove down a street (especially in the Bible belt) and noticed all the different ‘churches’ on all the different street corners?  I know that I have, and it has perplexed me most of my Christian life.  A couple of years ago, we moved from Columbus, Ohio to the ‘Bible Belt.’  God used this experience to open my eyes to some disturbing things that exist almost everywhere in this country, but is more visible and severe in the ‘Bible Belt’ so to speak.  There was one stretch of road in the area that we moved to that literally had a church building every tenth of a mile.  Sometimes they were even side by side!  Some were big, some were small, and some were medium sized.  Many of these buildings also had some type of pithy advertisement outside (advertising a sermon topic or some famous worship leader / speaker coming) that seemed to plead to people driving by to come to their 1.5 hour meeting that Sunday.

The competition seemed very stiff to say the least as each institution was desperately trying to get more & more people to ‘attend’ their weekly meetings.  Some of these institutions tried to appeal to a younger crowd, while some emphasized their more traditional meetings to appeal to an older crowd.  This is right in keeping with the American consumer and shopping culture. When one institution’s weekly meetings weren’t good enough, people simply left and went down the road to something better.  While most institutional Pastors would agree this is a huge problem, most are also blind to the fact that their own system and understanding of the church is actually what keeps perpetuating the very thing they say they stand against.

If you’re like me, you have probably wondered how things got like this.  After all, aren’t we all supposed to be one family?  I have often wondered how these groups justify being separate from one another when they are, in some cases, literally right next to each other. (I know of one specific cinema that has 3 separate ‘church’ services in 3 separate theaters in the same building at the same time!  This is no joke.)   Rarely do the people, who attend the Sunday church meetings at one facility, have any meaningful fellowship with people who attend the facility next to them.  If someone is asked why they don’t connect with anyone at the ‘church’ facility down the street, you might hear an answer like this:

“I am pretty involved in (enter church name here), and they ‘go’ to a completely different church.  Why should I be involved with someone else from a different church?”

Although this type of behavior and attitude is normal today, it doesn’t take a theologian with a PhD to see that there is absolutely no example of anything like this in the New Testament.  Even the people that I have talked to who are not Christian seem to know that there is something wrong with this picture.  How can something that is supposed to be ‘one’ be so divided in identity and practice?

As a result, some ‘churches’ have attempted to fix this problem by trying to ‘collaborate’ a bit more.  Recently while visiting a particular city in the Bible belt, I visited a very well known ‘church’ and had a conversation with one of its staff members.  When the subject came to other churches in the area, the conversation went something like this:

ME: “So, are there many churches in this area?”

CHURCH STAFF: “Oh yes, there are many.”

ME: “Would you say there is much interaction between the churches in this area?”

CHURCH STAFF: “Oh yes, our Pastor really has a heart to work with the other churches in the area.” (said with excitement and a big smile)

ME: “Oh yeah, how’s that?”

CHURCH STAFF: “Well, we actually have an entirely different church that we let use our very own building for their weekly services and staff offices.”

ME: “Wow. That’s unheard of and quite generous.” (Tongue in cheek)

CHURCH STAFF: “Yeah, our Pastor really has a heart for all the churches in this area.” (more excitement and smiles)

ME: “Can I ask you a question?”

CHURCH STAFF: “Yes, sure.”

ME: “Is it a different church that you let use your building, or the same church?”

CHURCH STAFF: “Like I said, it is a completely different church. We like to work with other churches.” (Still smiling, but less enthusiastically)

ME: “I see. And you said that this is a completely different church that uses the same building?”

CHURCH STAFF: “Yes, that’s right.” (confused look)

ME: “Do you know why the church that meets on your property is not the same church, but a different church?”

CHURCH STAFF: “Well, because it is a completely different church.” (a more confused look)

ME: “Well I know that you said that it is a completely different church, but do you know what it is exactly that makes it a completely different church? After all, it is not location that keeps you guys separate because you guys are so close in proximity that you use the exact same building.  So again, why are these two churches different churches?”

CHURCH STAFF: “Well…umm…(possibly thinking about this for the first time) because we have a completely different set of leaders, and different missional and doctrinal stances.  They even have their own marketing materials as well.”

Bingo!  That was the answer I was looking for, and I was also hoping this staff member would grasp the audacity of the situation. This is the reason that these church communities believed they were actually different ‘churches’.  It all comes down to different communities of people being factioned around different sets of human leadership and different doctrinal stances.  Again, it does not take a PhD in theology to see that this kind of example is foreign to New Testament thinking & teaching.  Can you imagine one group of Christians in the city of Corinth saying they were a completely different church from another group of Christians in the city of Corinth?  No way!

In the scriptures, you simply see the church of Corinth, Ephesus, Rome, Sardis, etc…There was only one church in these cities, and these churches were identified by which city they were located in, nothing else. Yes, there were many different local church communities that met in the same city (and no, they didn’t all meet together in one big group), but they all considered themselves a part of the same church.  They didn’t organize around specific human leaders or doctrinal affiliations, and they didn’t have different church names that distinguished one group from another like we do today.  There is no biblical evidence to support this practice.  It was simply the church of Corinth for example. They all had Jesus in common, and He was the head of their specific local fellowships as well as the larger church across the city.  Local church groups were simply identified by location. Church in Corinth was distinguished from the church in Ephesus because of location.  Again, this had nothing to do with being factioned around a different set of leaders or doctrinal positions.

There was, however, a specific situation that arose with the church in the city of Corinth when the church tried to separate from each other and faction around 4 different leaders. One group wanted to be identified as followers of Paul, another as followers of Apollos, another as followers of Peter, and then there was the ‘super spiritual’ group that wanted to separate from the rest of the other groups and say they were following Christ.  I’m sure these groups all had well sounding arguments as to why they thought they needed to be a separate faction from the others. I’m sure they liked these individual leaders and the teachings (doctrines) that each seemed to emphasize.  That is why they wanted to organize a separate group around these specific people.  This is no different than what happens today as we form separate ‘churches’ around human leaders.  If Paul hadn’t stepped in, there would have been 4 different ‘churches’ in the city of Corinth.  We would do well to consider Paul’s question to the Corinthian believers about this attempt to divide the body of Jesus into factions:

“Has Christ been divided?…” (1 Cor. 1:13)

The truth is Christ has not been divided, and His very own body here on the earth should reflect this glorious truth.  Unfortunately, this is not practiced today. I know that this might sound harsh, but most of what we call ‘church’ planting today is nothing more than ‘faction’ planting. It is NOT church planting. Yes, the church (people) can be caught up in these ‘factions’, but what is really meant by ‘church’, is simply just another faction.  How do I know this?  Because I have done it!

I was trained and taught to be an institutional church planter according to the system that was passed down to my spiritual leaders.  According to an institutional / factional understanding of the church, one of the first things that must be accomplished when thinking about a ‘church’ plant is the identification of a ‘point man’ or a human leader whom the faction will be built around.  After all, who will lead this thing?  Once the clergy figure is identified, then a faction of people can be built around them.  Eventually there is a ‘mission’ or a doctrinal stance that they begin to rally around.  Then they usually pick a name for themselves to distinguish themselves from the other ‘factions’ that are in their target area. Once they arrive at the city of their destination, they have simply added to the number of other ‘factions’ in the city that are calling themselves churches. This is a tragedy and it should not continue to be repeated because it has no Biblical precedent.  This violates the basic premise of what the local church actually is.

So, what am I saying?  Am I saying that local churches should not be planted?  No way!  I am saying that local ‘factions’ should not be planted.  A local faction is built around a human leader(s) that rally around a mission / vision for the city, or a set of doctrinal tenants. (This is not a good thing no matter how noble the specific mission may be).  A true local church must be planted around something much greater and more profound.  Many people can agree and recognize that there is a problem regarding the factional institutional ‘church’ culture that I have mentioned in this article, but until we’re ready to recognize and destroy the systems of thought that actually fuel these factions, (and until we’re ready to do something about it), we’ll just keep perpetuating and validating the problem.  The first step toward understanding what a local church actually is, is understanding what it’s not.  We need a repentance (change of mindset) regarding the very nature of church itself before we will have eyes to see the Bride of Christ as she truly is.

So, do you have a factional understanding of the church? 

I’d like to ask you to ponder some questions that may be revealing…

1. What is the basis of the relationship between you and others in your local church community? Is the basis of the relationship the fact that you both attend the same weekly meeting on Sunday or have allegiance to the same human leader(s) (pastor) or institution? If you answered yes to these questions, then you may have a factional understanding of the church. The basis of your ‘church’ relationships must be based on something greater and more profound.

2. When a brother or sister in Christ moves away or stops attending your weekly 1.5 hour ‘church’ meeting, do you forget about them, stop communicating with them, or stop viewing them as important family members? If the answer is yes, then you may have a factional understanding of the church. Our communication with them must be based on something greater and more profound.

3. When a brother or sister (IN CHRIST) disagrees with you regarding matters of doctrine, does that keep you from perceiving Christ in them and from valuing them as fellow brothers and sisters?  Does this offence make you angry and keep you from having fellowship with them?  If the answer is yes, then you may have a factional understanding of the church. You must be able to perceive something greater and more profound in them.

4. Do you belong to a ‘church’ simply because you greatly respect or have allegiance to a particular human leader or institution / denomination?  If the answer is yes, then you may have a factional understanding of the church. Your commitment to a local church community must be based on something greater and more profound.

5. Are you aware that in New Testament times, there were occasions in which local churches were planted by church planters who then left the local church on their own BEFORE elders were present and recognized?  Sometimes it was years before church elders / leaders emerged and were recognized.  Do you know how these churches functioned?  If you do not know these things, it could be because you hold to a factional understanding of the church.  The local church, as described in the New Testament, was governed and led by someone greater and more profound.

6. Do you know what specifically (not generally) should hold Biblical local church communities together? If the answer is no, it could be because you have a factional understanding of the church. (HINT: A local church community should never be held together by a membership document, commitment to a human leader / institution, or a commitment to a specific doctrinal stance since these things are Biblically foreign ideas)

I hope some of these questions have been helpful for you. Blessings to you as you embark on this journey of discovery.

For His glory in the church,
Jamal Jivanjee (Guest Blogger)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

You can only help people if they want help

It's a simple statement that we all take for granted, especially when we are trying to help our fellowman, "You can only help people who want to be helped." I don't know who first said it, it was probably a person who had really helped people and saw over time that the ones who wanted help seemed more receptive to it. We don't think it's that simple here at Crosswind. Let me tell ya why.

1. When you're desperate you'll do anything for help. Very few people turn help down when they are really desperate. People will say anything, commit to anything and do anything when they feel desperate. It's only when they are a bit relieved from the urgency of their situation that you can tell if they really want help.

2. Many times the help people want isn't what they need. We see this all the time. People want help with a late bill when what they really need is to learn how to live within their means. Not being cruel either cause sometimes that's not very much. Many of our clients only have 6 or 7 hundred dollars a month and no matter how good you budget, it's hard to make it on that.

3. Most importantly, people who need help want it now and sometimes now just ain't enough time. Most people didn't 'get here overnight' as the old saying goes and the help they need isn't going to come overnight. Many people have developed over time a way of doing life that guarantees that many hurts and hangups are in their future and in their children's future. And it takes a lot of time and patience and painfully doing things different and failing and getting back up before the fruit of that change takes place. Get help quick schemes never help.

Here's where you come in as a missionary.
In case # 1 Will you help relieve the pressure on someone's life even if you find after you have they don't want help?
In case #2 will you fearlessly offer people what they need rather than a quick fix that only ensures they'll be back?
And in case #3 will you be the one who stands with someone as they change, lovingly and patiently teaching them the ways of God, picking them up when they stumble, giving them a second chance or a third?

We have come to see that the only way people change is over time as God renews their mind by His word and His grace and as they put into practice the new ways that God is showing them complete with all the surprises and hurdles and victories. We call that discipleship.

You can't do that at a block party.
You can't do that by paying a late bill.
You can't do that handing someone a gospel booklet.

You can by loving, by making friends, by staying around, by being confident in God and His gospel, by sacrifice and trial and headaches and tears. We believe that's how people change.

My guess is that you'll have to change to believe it too.


Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Power of Community: Sometimes all they need is you.

Almost every person that comes to our ministry has one thing in common; we're all they have left. When the troubles of life begin to compound and you begin that downward spiral that ends in desperation and ultimately destitution, your friends are few and in the end even your family leaves. Solomon once said by the Holy Spirit, "Pity the man who falls alone." Sometimes the greatest ministry you can do is to add just one person to an alone person's life, and that one person may just be you.

It's easy to judge at this point. "They are just reaping what they've sown." Or "If they would have treated their people better they wouldn't be alone." And all this is true. In most cases the loneliness is a result of sin somewhere in their not too distant past. And yes, reconciling with their families is certainly a large part of their recovery. But today, right now, they need a friend, someone who can stand with them in their trouble.

The gospel is the story of a friend who rescued His people in their trouble. Isolated by sin and suffering it's fatal consequences, a Savior came to us in our trouble and rescued us. No one could help us but Jesus, so "he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." (Phil 2:7-8) And in that spirit, we reach out to those in our city who are alone, isolated by family and friends, surely due to someone's sin, and we offer friendship and with that friendship hope.

"Two are better than one, ...for if they fall, one will lift up his fellow." (Eccl 4:9-10) Sometimes all we do at Crosswind is "add one" to a broken person's life. And in so doing we "lift up our fellow" Corinthian and begin a journey to help them restore their lives to wholeness, starting with life that comes through Jesus and ending with all the fruit of that relationship.

In the last couple of weeks the sweetest "thank you's" that our missionary teams have heard sounded like this, "When I was down I didn't have anybody, but you stuck with me and see what God has done." Friends, you might be the 'one' that God is calling to a person who is alone, broken by all manner of things, waiting for a friend to "lift them up".

Add one. It makes all the difference in the world.


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The pressure cooker makes good beans.

Back in the old days people cooked beans in a pressure cooker. They turned the heat up, put a lid on the beans and let her cook. Turns out pressure cookers make good beans.

Many of the people we work with are in pressure cookers. The situations they find themselves in is very stressful and many times they don't think they can hold up under it all. Missionary organizations like ours and others in the city find this dynamic troubling. We love the people who are in a bind and want to relieve the pressure. But many times by relieving the pressure, by turning the heat down, the beans don't get cooked and we do more harm than good.

Pressure is good. It is creative, it forces you to think outside the box, to take drastic measures and many times those are the very measures that you need to take to change and do good. Dr. King when leading the movement against racial prejudice called it "creative tension". When blacks sat down at the front of the bus with their white neighbors it created tension. The pressure was on, the heat up. This tension fostered an environment where communities became willing to address issues that had been long neglected. When applied to outreach ministry this tension is most necessary for change.

Crosswind and several partners run a transitional housing ministry. Over the months we have seen great successes and turn around stories. Lives touched by the gospel all moving in a new way, living out a new way. Inevitably though, there is the pressure cooker. One family gets a job and yet still has to save for utility deposits and then has to wait for an apartment to open up or address some old fines or broken relationships. Always pressure. We don't shy away from it here. You couldn't if you wanted to. We've seen family after family be trained by the pressure that they are in, God using it to "test the genuineness of their faith" or to discipline them for a while to bring about "the peaceable fruits of righteousness".

Pressure is good, it trains us, if we will heed its loving embrace. Don't turn the heat down and spoil what God is trying to do in someone's life. Stand with them there and love them as God uses you to help them learn the lesson in the pressure cooker. You'll be in it one day too.


Monday, June 13, 2011

Call to action: Do as little as you can

I think that many people don't do anything because they try to do too much.

We believe that Christians are a sent people. We believe that every believer experiences that inner urge to 'go' and reclaim the world broken by sin for their King... but why do we find it so hard to do? Is it just because we're selfish rebels? I don't think so. In the next few post I am going to detail what it is that I see that freezes believers up and keeps them from fulfilling God's call on their lives.

The first is simply that we don't think we can serve God 'out there' unless we quit our jobs, sell the farm and become missionaries. We create such big expectations for ourselves that when we realize we can't or won't meet them we get discouraged and resign ourselves to 'pew sitting' and passing out bulletins. Or we start getting out there and we realize that we have jobs and kids and stuff and we just can't do what we expected of ourselves so we get discouraged and go back to coffee and donuts with our Sunday School class. Friends, here's a challenge for ya...

Just do as little as you can.

"Awww" you say, "I can't believe you just said that." Doesn't Jesus say to be faithful with small things, didn't the prophet encourage Israel not to despise the day of small things? Friends, something is always better than nothing. By doing something small you begin to grow, it's not more than you can handle, it doesn't burn you out and in it you can begin to see the shape of ministry that God has prepared for you. Make no mistake about it, you ARE God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared beforehand that you should do them (Eph 2:10). God has work for you to do and it isn't just handing out bulletins and taking up the offering. It's redemptive work, kingdom building work, work that glorifies God and advances His work in the world.

Start this week, find a friend to help, meet a need that you know of, reach out to that friend you know is going thru a tough time, do something small, something good. Don't overthink it, just be led by the obvious around you. And have a blast God says, Go, eat your bread with joy, ...for God has already approved what you do. Eccl 9:7

If you have bitten of more than you can chew and want to get back in the game but don't know how... do as little as you can. You'll have a blast.


Friday, June 3, 2011

"I love ministering to the poor. I just don't want to, you know, hang out with them."

There's a hard rub in Crosswind style missional life. If we are going to throw our lives in with the poor... how far in do we go? I mean, we really love the poor but are we gonna have to hang out with them too?

Crosswind life is integrated. We have people from very different backgrounds together in the intimate settings of bible study, sharing life stories and just 'doing life' together. We can characterize 'us' into two basic groups... the 'haves' and the 'have nots'.

1) There are the 'silver spooners' who have never struggled and have no clue even what that means. Similar to them are the 'bootstrap bunch' who were born needy but took the bull by the horn and did the best with what was available to them and now have a lot.

2) There are the 'working poor' who make enough to get by and the 'struggling to survive' bunch. Now it seems on it's face that's a great bunch to put together. One can help the other in so many different ways. But as you can guess and if you go to any church on Sunday you'll see... it hard to hang out with folks that aren't like you.

What are some examples of the practical problems?

Well, when it comes to church camp one group can send their kids and the other group can't. For that matter, anything that costs a lot and requires discretionary income to fund falls in that category, including going out to eat and even the movies.

When it comes to the particular house used for the home group meeting, the 'haves' can meet together and the 'havenots' can meet together but if you mix em you are going to meet some tension. Even the meal that you bring can potentially cause tension... one not able to bring food and the other brings disproportionately more compared to if we were segregated.

One of the great areas of growth in our collective lives is due to this dynamic. The 'haves' find that their pettiness sounds almost harsh to the 'havenots'. The 'havenots' struggle with jealousy and regret. The 'haves' get bitter when their extra mile is not appreciated and the 'havenots' take and take without thanks and sometimes abuse the relationship.

And suddenly in the middle of it all, the gospel comes alive. The Holy Spirit quickens the hearts of both groups to love each other and there is a depth that comes to our lives and relationships as we walk life's journey together.

I believe this is exactly what the first century church felt when they laid whatever they had at the apostles feet so that everyone's needs would be met. Unfortunately in the church today the 'haves' meet together so there are no needs to meet and the 'have nots' meet together so they can't meet each others needs if they wanted to.

We wouldn't take anything for the growth that this experience is giving us. It exposes our hearts in community so that the gospel can bring the change we need. It rips and tears at our deepest sins and idolatry like nothing else can. It lays bare our selfishness and jealousy, greed and envy. And it allows us to be free. Free to love and enjoy each other and slowly but surely by God's Spirit and His grace makes us a family.

Yesterday, a great 'have not' friend of mine said, "I don't think I'll ever feel like one of you guys" and he let the sting of that settle in and then said "but I love you man, I really love you." That's enough for me, for now.


Sunday, May 29, 2011

Crosswind Doesn't Care About You

Seth Godin's brilliant blog reminded me of a common occurrence that happens inside outreach... that is de-personalizing. Time and again people come in our office to see if Crosswind can assist them, pay a bill, help them with their trouble, etc. And many times, I have to say, "No I'm sorry, Crosswind cannot help you at all, but there may be some people who can." By the way, I'm not being a smart aleck or trying to make a distinction that doesn't make a difference, it makes all the difference in the world.

Seth Godin rightly said, "No organization cares about you. Organizations aren't capable of this. Your bank, certainly, doesn't care. Neither does your HMO or even your car dealership. It's amazing to me that people are surprised to discover this fact. People, on the other hand, are perfectly capable of caring."

John came in and asked if Crosswind could fill up his gas tank. I said "No, but I will." What transacted for John was critical to outreach.

There must be a relational, personal, community connection before people will fully appreciate what is transacting between you and them. And a pleasant byproduct is they may also quit using you.

People steal from WalMart because it's not personal. Ask those same people if they would steal from their friend and they say "of course not"! Why? Because you just made it personal.

In outreach it is critical to the gospel and to redemption and to truly helping someone to make it personal. When I told that man that I would give him gas he knew that I had worked this week, that I had taken the fruit of my labor and sacrificed it on his account and that in some way he and I had just deepened our relationship. I had loved him personally. That's way different from him getting an organization to buy gas for him.

Friends, Crosswind doesn't care about anyone, but Clifton does, Judy does, Lucky does, Nicole does, and many more who hang out and try to live a missionary lifestyle on behalf of neighbors for the sake of our Lord Jesus do.

Nope, Crosswind doesn't care at all, but we sure do.


Thursday, May 5, 2011

Missionary moms can really make an impact

I've been burdened and even alarmed at what I think is the most glaring gap in our county's improvement plan. At almost every turn we seem to have something in place to address our problems. It may need to be strengthened and have more support but at least someone has a plan or program that addresses most of our weaknesses.

But what if THE KEY WEAKNESS had hardly any community emphasis at all?

I am becoming convinced with many others that this may be the case and am making every effort to rally our citizens, especially Christians, and even more specifically mothers to the cause. Let me begin by clearing some brush so we can see clearly ahead. #1. The answer to all the world's problem is the finished work of Jesus on Calvary weekend. He is making all things new by that finished work and uses His church on earth by his Spirit to accomplish that end. 2. There is very little room between sacred and secular in my thinking. What I mean by that is, for me, helping someone learn to read is as Christian as going to a worship service.

Now then, we are finding (nationally) that the brain development of a child between 0 and 3 years is crucial to a child's capacity to learn in their school years and also crucial in them having a chance at a fruitful and productive life. The stimulation of a little baby's brain literally creates capacity for learning. So, by the time a child reaches school (the first time a professional interacts with them) the foundation for learning has already been laid. Or to say it another way, if you want to get a lot of learning in a brain you have to have a big box. That box is made before the child gets to school. So who has baby in those crucial years? Yep, you got it, for the most part it's mom.

The problem: The degree that a child is cared for or neglected (touched, played with, talked to or read to) determines the brain development of a child. Factors that exacerbate the problem: 1. Working moms (with little time to interact with the child) 2. Daycare centers (which leave babies in a crib rather than interact with them) 3. Young mothers (especially teen mothers) who haven't matured enough to selflessly care for their child's needs above their own and finally 4. mom's who don't know how to be moms. Quick caveat: Not letting dad's off the hook here, just primarily it is mom who interacts with baby. That list is not exhaustive and judgmental at first glance especially to mom's who are trying to make ends meet and doing the best they can with what they have.

HUGE missional opportunity: It doesn't matter who stimulates little baby's brain, just make sure it gets stimulated.

God gives a great picture of gospel fruit bearing older women... "they are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, " Titus 2:4

There are about 70 babies born to teenage mom's every year in our county. Yes, every year... last year, this year and next year. Almost four out of every ten babies are born to single moms in our county. These mom's have to work (many times two jobs) to make ends meet, some are so young that they just leave their kids in strollers or cribs all day. Christian mothers can reach out to these mom's in a profound way. Babysit their kids, start affordable, small, at home child care centers, start play groups with mom's in high risk circles, take an interest in young at-risk momma's. Teach them how to "love their children", you love them, show them the gospel, teach them about their babies' little brains.

As you go your missionary way this week remember mom's and their tiny ones: 1. touch 2. talk 3. play and 4. read... If every mom did it we'd make big boxes ready for much learning.

None of this takes much money but it does take much love, sacrificial love. The kind of love that mom's are wired with anyway, especially Christian ones.


Monday, April 4, 2011

Raise the Odds

Little Jimmy was born to a mom who is single, reads at a 6th grade level and dropped out of school in the 9th grade. She doesn't work and uses food stamps to pay her bills and survives on the graces of some and the ill intentions of others. She represents what we call 'the margins' of our city. There aren't tons of people like her but there are many, way too many. Back to little Jimmy. He just showed up to kindergarten and met a new friend, Joey. Joey's mom is a 'stay at home mom' too. Her husband is a doctor who she met in college while earning her degree in nursing. Joey and Jimmy are two boys who are in the same classroom but not at all in the same class. And while their paths have crossed for this season, odds are they will end up on very different paths. Experts say Joey's odds of thriving, you know getting a good job, graduating, going on to college and such are over 100 times that of Jimmy's.

Here's the kicker: neither Joey nor Jimmy chose the families they would be born too. You can say what you will about the mom's but no one thinks either Joey nor Jimmy had anything to do with the situation thay find themselves in.

God knew that in community this dynamic would exist. He knew that because of sin and its compounding misfortune some children would be born disadvantaged compared to others. And he called those who were born on the advantaged side of the scale to even the odds, to balance the scales if you will. The term he used to descibe this action was justice. Like the common iconic figure used to portray justice, Lady Justice holds a scale and Biblical justice may simply be 'balancing the scale' or in simpler terms for us, 'evening the odds'.

Tim Keller said it this way, "If I do not share the advantages that this unjust world has dealt me with them, that in itself is unjust." You see, the same injustice that left Jimmy disadvantaged also left his friend Joey advantaged. I tell my kids when they try to find value by hanging around advantaged kids: "There is no such thing as a rich kid. There are only rich parents. You kids are all the same." And while that may be true in a sense, it's not in another sense. You see little Joey had every early educational toy that money could buy. He had a little learning computer for his second Christmas and could read by the time he entered kindergarten. And for Jimmy, well his mom didn't have the money to buy him those toys or books to read and he is so much farther behind than his friend Joey that, odds are, he'll never catch up. It's just the way it is. The numbers tell a sobering truth. The odds just aren't in Jimmy's favor.

Enter God's people and Biblical Justice. The term is mentioned 130 times in the Scriptures and each time it refers to those who 'have' raising the odds for those who 'have not'. And the Lord says it is owed them. It's not compassion or charity although that sentiment is Godly and justified, it is what they deserve. Consider this powerful verse:

Deut 27:19 'Cursed is the one who perverts the justice due the stranger, the fatherless, and widow.'

So justice is perverted anytime the marginalized don't get what is 'due' them. And what is it that is due them? Well it's very obvious and with a quick review of these 130 passages you will get the jist of it, but suffice it to say the easy answer is "change the odds". Somebody make sure little Jimmy makes it. Somebody help him catch up. Somebody offer him a job and help him graduate and give him the same chance your kid will have.

Friends, it's something we all can do, it's what it means to be Christ followers. Change the odds, balance the scale, or as we say everytime we say the Pledge of Allegiance "One nation under God, with liberty and justice for all."


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Missional is hard, but we can't go back, we won't!

A little setup if I may... We are a missional community that is about five years in the making. When we first began everyone was involved in everything. We were all in the neighborhood and experiencing the new life that is missionary life. It was fun, rewarding and tiring. Then we opened it up and invited new friends to come experience missionary life with us. As they came we began to need to organize and so we brought on some staff (not the staff that you would find at a church but daytime missionaries and people who coordinate our activities). Also, with the advent of new people we began to add new ministry. We 'adopted' apartment complexes and began to focus on those families as our primary mission field. We organized ways to get into relationship with our new neighbors and friends. Our new friends began to be part of our 'community' and we began to numerically grow. You could most visibly see this at our Gathering on Sunday evening where we invited friends and missionaries alike to come and sing and hear teaching that would further 'stir them up to love and good works'.

As we went along the staff began to give reports about the great things God was doing in our midst. We began to get people from neighboring churches and organizations who came and shared the fun caught the vision and went back strengthened and encouraged, many starting their own missional outlets in their denominations and churches. We inspired a couple of groups from other cities to venture out and begin missional life. Several of them are bearing much fruit.

And the neighborhood began changing. People professed faith in Jesus, families restored, addicts set free, jobs found, children went from failing to passing and all the things you would expect God to do as His people are about His mission. But then we began a drift, it's gentle and not overwhelming but we can all feel it. We are beginning to drift back into what we came from... and we don't like it.

We came from environments where the staff and a few members do all the ministry and the rest of us show up to the meetings with our Bible and our checkbooks. We don't want to go back to that.

We came from an environment where missions was something you did once or twice a year and usually in someone else's city or someone else's country. We don't want to go back to that.

We don't want to have to wait on the newsletter to find out what's going on. We want to write the newsletter with our lives.

We don't want God's mission to belong to a special few, the chosen, paid, educated staff. We wanna play too. It's our calling. Jesus told us to go too.

Listen, its hard work and way different from just 'being a faithful church member' to live a missionary lifestyle. You have to stay engaged with your community. You can't expect someone else to do your ministry. You are responsible. People need you. And yes we drift, we get comfortable, we take our eyes of the mission field and sometimes we just want to go to the meeting with our Bible and checkbook and let somebody else do the work.

But we're not going back to that. We're missionaries.


Thursday, February 3, 2011

Experiencing more of the Bible through mission

Gordon Fee wrote a book on hermeneutics (the art and science of Biblical interpretation) called "How to Read the Bible for All its Worth". In it he showed the Bible student how to discover what the first century writer meant by what he said, how to read a passage in its context, etc. etc. When you become a missionary, all those things still apply but we add one that I believe may be more important than them all...

You have to live a Bible passage before you 'get it', I mean really 'get it'.

Our little group consists of a awfully fun bunch of people. Last night for example, one guy was missing a leg, the other missing an arm, two handicapped children, one single father of three (less than a week off of crack), an ex-con waiting a parole transfer to another state as well as ...a surgeon, airline pilot, nurse, schoolteacher, etc... 34 of us in all different situations

When we meet together we have a meal. As you can guess that burden falls on just a few gals in our group. About half of our group don't have two nickels to rub together and are really making every effort just to survive. So those gals are experiencing missionary life in a really powerful way and consequently get to experience some Bible verses that others of us don't.

For example, In the much abused passage of 2 Cor. 8 (usually wrongly applied to a building campaign, yes I'm guilty) Paul is commending the saints of one city for helping the poor saints of Jerusalem. What made it even more special was that these saints didn't have that much themselves but they were sacrificially giving to help fellow Christians in their time of need. In this passage God tells them, "For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened; but by an equality, that now at this time of your abundance also may supply their lack - that there may be an equality." Paul is simply saying "you help them when you can and they need it and they'll do the same for you when they can and you need it." And then he speaks gloriously of the spiritual benefit of this type of giving to your neighbor in need. That it is to be done from the heart of compassion for your poor neighbor, cheerfully or not at all. When it is done from this Spirit-led motivation you will "sow bountifully" and there is a great spiritual reward in so doing.

Our 'food ladies' champion this in our ministry. Week after week they bring while others can't or sometimes just don't. And they do it out of joy and humility. They experience the Bible passage. For many of us, the only time we ever heard that passage was when we were in a building campaign or our annual giving pledges for tithes and offerings neither of which have anything to do with the story from which these spiritual principles are derived.

To experience what it feels like to give to the poor... you have to give to the poor. No, not have your church do it, you do it. No, not give in the benevolence offering, you do it. No, don't give to a local charity that does it (though we'd welcome your gifts :-)), you do it. Only then, can you experience it up close and personal like our girls do. And only then, can you experience the spiritual benefits Paul promises here.

And then there's this: It's a burden, even if you are doing it joyfully. Sometimes you feel like, "Man , we're carrying the freight for a lot of people." The gospel is that Christ carried the freight for us when were were without hope... but it was still freight. Jesus suffered for the "joy that was before Him" but that doesn't minimize the suffering one iota. Yes, the missionary service is service, it is work, it is sacrificial and it is many times without recognition, thanks and sometimes even with a sense of entitlement. That is the suffering that we share when we shoulder the burdens of our brokenness together.

We did have one option... we could've let the rich guys eat first and invite the poor to come later... oh yeah, there is a Bible passage about that too.

I love feeling the weight of the Scriptures administered by the Spirit on our lives as we advance the mission of God. Some Scriptures you'll never understand until you move your life out into the same streets the disciples lived in, helping the same people they helped.

When you do, His Word comes alive and you can finally, Read the Bible for All its Worth.


Monday, January 10, 2011

Is mission the driving force or meeting?

A lot of people ask us what is the difference between us and a 'regular church'. We have a worship service, music, small groups, etc. And some say, "if it looks like a duck and it quacks like a duck it must be a duck". I agree. And to be honest there were days where I couldn't, with any degree of clarity, define the difference. I'm gonna try to do that right now. The difference that we believe that defines us, our DNA as it were, is that...

"we have mission as a organizing principle rather than meeting or teaching". That's sounds simple but it means everything.

1. What we teach comes from a "need to know" developed on mission. We know the saints are in the field all week being missionaries and we teach each other (many times on location) to help us be better missionaries or to put it like Eph 4 does, we teach "for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry".

2. We meet "to stir one another up to love and good works" (Heb 10:24) not just for the sake of meeting. So meeting has missional purpose. Fellowship has the purpose of encouragement based on mission, building a spiritual morale within the missions team.

3. Even Bible study changes for us. The Scriptures are profitable "so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work". We ask serious questions like "Lord, why could we not cast this one out?" it is 'rubber meets the road' life training, just what we believe we saw Jesus doing with his disciples.

4. Our very identity is focused on mission. "we are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works which He prepared beforehand that we should do them" (Eph 2:10). So the identity formed from His gracious saving works is mission. Like one who lays bricks is a mason, one who is on God's mission is a Christian.

5. Worship then always equals mission. The Greek word for worship means "kissing the ring of our King". And the way to kiss it best is to "do the will of the Father and finish His work". This was the context of the great passage of true worship that Jesus talked about in John 4. The worship of God isn't initiated or coaxed by good music but by God, who in his mercy shows us Himself, like he did to Isaiah, and asks us as we are bowed down "who shall I send and who will go for me"?

6. Preaching in the missional church isn't for the pro and isn't primarily for saints but instead it answers the missional call of Romans 10 that asks "how can they hear without a preacher?" The presumption is that the preacher is in the field not in the building. In the meeting centered church the answer must always be "bring 'em to the building, we don't know how to preach".

For the 'meeting centered church' worship means finding God in the building and "kissing His ring" there. Bible study is an activity in the building where we learn more about the Bible so that we know more. Preaching is confined to the larger building and is primarily for the saints a 'vigorous form of teaching' that honors the best teacher among us. Fellowship is gathering in the building for friendship rather than for the purpose of building a winning team where morale is strong because the battle is tough and morale is vital to mission. For the missional church, if you stopped the meeting, the mission would go on.

Ask yourself this simple question, If we never had a building to meet in or never had a church service again, would we stay together as a church? Would we still have rich fellowship? If so, how and where? Would we study the Scriptures together? How would we baptize and take communion? Would the leaders ever see you again? How would the head preacher get around to everyone to let them hear a sermon? Would your children ever be taught the Scriptures? How and where?

If you asked yourself these questions sincerely and answered them we believe you would find what we are seeking, church that is a people not a meeting, centered on a mission and not a service, much like what we think the New Testament church originally looked like.

That's what makes Crosswind a different breed.