Sunday, November 22, 2009

Untamed Truth: Night of Worship & Art

It seems that Untamed Truth: A Night of Worship & Art was a success! The place was packed with over 50 people. It's about all the place will hold so it was standing room only.

Despite that, it was a nice relaxed atmosphere and the band did great. Had a little snafu with sound system so we started a little late, but not a big deal.

There was some awesome poetry readings by Amber Olsson and Andrik Powell. There was also an amazing sketch artist, Andrew Giulio, who created an art piece the whole time. Just met him last week and just found out that he's legally blind and color blind. Wow!

People were also given a chance to create small artistic expressions throughout the night and then post them in a collage by the end of the night. I think people really got a opportunity to connect with one another and encounter God's creativity.

We heard a lot of comments that the music sounded amazing, the environment was so relaxed, people enjoyed themselves, and I hope they took away something about God's life-giving creativity.

You can find all the great photos on Facebook here.
Check out a Picasa slideshow here.

This night was a entry point and kickoff for a regular small to mid group gathering we'll be having every other week called Friday Night FWD. We are already looking for musicians to get involved in one or more gatherings. It starts on December 4, so we could really use your prayer. So many people around here will come to an "event" like a Sunday morning service or a night of worship. But it is much more difficult help people connect for some ongoing spiritual growth.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Untamed Truth: Our God Is A Creative God

There is a deep connection between the creativity we express as humans 
and the creativity of God.

Because our God is a creative God.

And as “image-bearers” of God, as people who are created in His image, we too possess in all of us the ability to be creative.

But here is the problem.

In ancient times people thought of creativity not as something that someone had, but as something someone received from God as inspiration. To allow the creative spirit of God move through you. But we've lost sight of the potential for creativity that God places within us. We've become tamed, we've become civilized, and we've settled for status quo.

But Jesus challenged the status quo. He took Old Testament concepts and unleashed them with New Testament truths. He said this is the way you have been taught, but I offer a better way — a way that leads to an abundant life.

The problem is that we have begun to think of creativity as something that we ourselves possess. We've begun to say that person IS creative, rather than seeing creativity as a gift that flows through us as a vessel or conduit.

And it's unfortunate that we have done the same with our spiritual lives.

We look at good and Godly attributes and we begin to think of them as something we can possess. As something we can create in our personalities, rather than a gift of God that flows through us, as we are surrendered to His Spirit. We have selfishly begun to rely on our own will power to muster up these attributes. We rely in our own ability and we become prideful.

We can't do it on our own.

True creativity, true love, true relationships, and true freedom come through God's working in our life. It comes as we surrender to Jesus and allow His Spirit to create something new in our life — to make a new creation. So if you feel tamed, if you feel caged, if you feel like you've been chained by life as we know it — it's time to stop relying on yourself.

Remember that our God is a creative God.

Jesus specializes in creatively bringing new life from brokenness and helplessness. So lift up your hands and let him unchain you from the things in life you so desperately want to escape. Experience His creativity as He forms you anew from the inside out.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Steps of Faith: A Lesson At The Red Sea

As I look upon this journey of building a new faith community, I sometimes feel like Moses when he and Israelites stood between the Egyptian army and the Red Sea.

Looking back, the Egyptian Army, the old life of bondage and slavery, the old ways of doing things, was quickly advancing.

But looking forward, a seemingly insurmountable obstacle, the Red Sea blocked the way. It seemed like they were trapped. Their options quickly narrowed.

In the same way, our journey to plant Encounter has led us out of old, lifeless, religious routines. We have discovered the newness of meeting people where they are, and sharing God's live in simple and tangible ways. We have served our community selflessly and begun to gain a reputation as people FOR Helena, not just IN Helena.

And just like the pillar of smoke and fire that led the Israelites in Moses' time, God has been faithful to guide us on our journey as well. People have been encountering Jesus in fresh new ways, throwing off the chains of ritual and self-improvement and refocusing their steps to follow an amazing Savior — people who would not step foot in an established traditional church have encountered Jesus in our discussions and begun to form friendships and relationships.

We've connected with those who have been hurt at or disengaged from churches to find an authentic faith community relevant to their life-stage. New babies, young couples, new marriages, and searching for God's call as they serve in international mission fields are some of the experiences of our regulars in these past months. We're now a small gathering of broken people who are doing life together to find out what it means to follow Jesus.

God has promised to lead us into His vision for impacting this generation and beyond in Helena and yet, we find ourselves at our own "Red Sea."

As we look across the sea to that distant shore, we can see that launch team of 25-45 people. They are key team members in the areas of worship, kids, students, small groups, and more that will help us launch in a significant way. We can also see the additional $3000 per month salary support and $90,000 needed for a dynamic worship gathering launch.

But there is a huge Red Sea standing between us and that distant shore. And now we're here, having followed God all this way and we might begin to question ourselves and even God. Did He make a mistake? Did He know what He was doing? Will we ever get to the place He has promised?

The answers is a resounding YES. Even now, He is preparing a way that we cannot see, something beyond what we can even hope or imagine.

Maybe YOU are part of God's miracle of parting the Red Sea. Maybe YOU are part of the dream that gets us all to that distant shore. It's time to get involved. It's time to take that first step of faith. Picture yourself as part of an Encounter ministry team. Picture being part of a community that truly cares for people and want to see the broken things healed. Picture financially giving of yourself to allow so many more to encounter Jesus in a significant way. And then take the step.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Serving At The Kids Fall Fest

Encounter partnered with Downtown Helena today to help bring some Fall fun to Pioneer Park.

There was a pumpkin patch, wagon rides, needle in the haystack game, and pumpkin art all organized by DHI and various Helena businesses.

As part of our effort to "be the change" in Helena, we at Encounter came alongside Downtown Helena to provide a rock climbing wall, kid's inflatable bouncers, cotton candy, and popcorn for the event. What a hit!

In the four hours of the Kid's Fall Fest, we went through over 200 popcorn bags and even twice as much cotton candy. We estimate nearly 400-500 kids and their parents had a great time!

Our Encounter volunteers did an awesome job serving our community and sharing God's love in tangible way. We invite you to engage our Helena culture and join us in our next project at Encounter Church.

You can find all the great photos on Facebook here.
Check out a Picasa slideshow here.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Giving Ourselves Away

I believe that we are most like Jesus when we serve others by giving ourselves away. We can give of our time, our talents, our treasure, but most importantly we must give of ourselves. But giving that does not cost us in some way is not a true sacrifice.

When we stop seeing people as evangelistic targets, when we stop expecting something in return for helping them — it is only then that we can serve people and meet the needs in our community the way Jesus did.

As part of Encounter Church, we feel this is one way to be a burning bush — something that catches the attention of a city so they can not only hear the voice of God, but also encounter firsthand His crazy love through us – in a real and tangible way.

Building these types of relationships with individuals and our community is something we at Encounter call "Engaging Our Culture." We know that once people come in contact with Jesus, they are forever changed. We are not just doing community service, we are serving our community. And that is a big difference. When we serve our community we are pursuing the transformation of a community.

Engaging Culture by building true relationships with others is a lifestyle, not an event. It is something we do in our homes, workplaces, classrooms, pubs, tattoo parlors, and more. We must first live out this lifestyle as individuals, but we also know that there is great value in gathered efforts as well. And that is what Encounter's Community Impact efforts are all about.

Our Community Impact relies partly upon an intentional and coordinated effort of service with others in order to accomplish something significant to change peoples' lives in a positive way. We want to see Encounter Church not as a place we only attend on the weekend, but something we ARE throughout the week.

We have come to understand that we are not "bring Jesus" to people, but that that Jesus is already alive and active in our culture and we want to join Him in what He is doing. While Encounter does initiate some community impact efforts of our own, we are very interested in partnering with other organizations that are already successfully meeting needs in our community. And then we can join in and help make an even deeper impact.

Some of the community organizations we have already served or partnered with are the Helena YWCA, Youth Connections, Downtown Helena, Helena School System, Elkhorn Rehabilitation Center, St. Peter's Medical Center, Staples, and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana. We are continually looking to strategically expand such partnerships.

Isn't it time that you "give yourself away" in your community?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Get Updates At

Hey friends! You're probably wondering why we haven't posted a new post over here at the eSomething Blog for a while.

A lot is going on in our lives and we're really excited about what God's been doing here in Helena. As you know, we're now pretty deep in the process of planting a new church in Helena for this generation - those in their 20s and 30s.

With that said, we've taken a sort of a blogging break from posting here at the eSomething Blog and putting a lot of effort into posting updates over on the Encounter Church Blog and in our regular prayer updates for Encounter.

We will still be posting here periodically. And at some point, we will start posting more regularly again, but not for a while.

As our friends and family, we encourage you to subscribe to the Encounter Blog and as a prayer partner now to keep up-to-date. Here are the links:

Subscribe to the Encounter Blog

Sign up as a prayer partner

Thanks so much! And visit the Encounter Church Blog here.

Updated Photo Albums 2008-2009

Surprise! It's been almost 6 months and I haven't posted anything over here at the eSomething blog. I will again resume posts here of our personal life journey...but not yet. Most of what is going on is over at the Encounter Helena blog.

However, I just uploaded about 8 albums of photos from the last year or so. Check them out on Picasa here. Or check them out on the e|Photos page here.


Sunday, July 26, 2009

Ready to Dance?

What does it take for us to step out of our comfort zone? As you can see from this video, it often takes someone to lead the way. Then it takes some others to put all else to the side and join in. Before you know it, you've got a crowd. Is it possible that this how churches get planted? How people share Jesus?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Making Helena Greener

The Making Helena Greener project was a huge success!

A group of us from Encounter landscaped and planted donated flowers at the Helena YWCA home for women this last Friday, July 10. In a sense, we were involved in redeeming the landscape.

It was a lot of hard work, but it was a joy to serve others in a tangible way — with no strings attached. Honestly, I was blown away by all the people that showed up and gave up their time and effort on a Friday night, no less. You guys are awesome!

What an awesome way to make a difference, demonstrate God's crazy love in action, and engage the culture of Helena!

You can also find a bunch of photos of the effort on Facebook here.

Monday, July 06, 2009

The Vision Will Be Made Real

"We always have visions, before a thing is made real. When we realize that although the vision is real, it is not real in us, then is the time that Satan comes in with his temptations, and we are apt to say it is no use to go on...

"God gives us the vision, then He takes us down to the valley to batter us into the shape of the vision, and it is in the valley that so many of us faint and give way. Every vision will be made real if we will have patience...

"If you have ever had the vision of God, you may try as you like to be satisfied on a lower level, but God will never let you.

— Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest, July 6

Monday, June 29, 2009

"Hell, Yeah!"

A group of us from Encounter, recently got together and talked about ways we can continue to Engage Culture in Helena. The group had some great ideas and I am really excited about continuing to impact our community and about being a positive agent of change here where we live, work, play, and explore living a life following Jesus.

We've already been involved in Washing Windows at the Helena Walking Mall, and gathering Gift Packages for St. Peter's Hospital O.B. nurses, Broadwater School staff, and the Elkhorn Rehabilitation Center workers.

Two new project we're working on is Making Helena Greener by planting donated flowers at the YWCA, and Serving Friends at Memorial Park by hosting a rock wall, inflatable, and other booths at Memorial Park. We'll let you know more as the details come together.

One of our favorite things to do is to extend Simple Acts of Kindness by handing out free Tootsie Pops and other giveaways like bottled water at various community events such as the Vigilante Parade and Alive@Five. It's such a simple way to brighten someone's day and let them know you care — no strings attached.

It's interesting that more than once as we've given free stuff and asked "would you like this free thing?" — we've gotten the response "Hell, yeah." I love that! It means that we're touching people's lives in a simple, yet relevant way.

In a culture that looks at church agendas and organized religion and says "Hell, no!" We're catching people's attention and allowing them to say "Hell, yeah" so they can eventually move forward in a faith journey with Jesus — we're freeing people to Encounter Jesus.

This is just one way to be a burning bush. It's just one way to be something out of the ordinary that captures the attention of a city so that people can hear the voice of God.

And to that I say "Hell, Yeah!"

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Crazy Thoughts From Helena's Prayer Vigil

Last night, Andrea and I gathered with at least 300 others from the Helena community to pray for peace and healing. In response to last weeks' shooting, Helena's faith-community gathered people together at Anchor Park to offer a forum of reflection and healing through a Vigil of Peace.

During the event, we sent positive words to encourage those we know. If you received one of my texts, please be encouraged in this...

Although we are a broken, lukewarm people, although we have pasts that cause us pain, God can make us complete. He wholeheartedly loves us and is changing us — even this very moment — into a people who will love God back and love others with His crazy love.

Pastor Rick mentioned the John Mayer song Waiting for the World to Change

me and all my friends
we're all misunderstood
they say we stand for nothing and
there's no way we ever could

now we see everything that's going wrong
with the world and those who lead it
we just feel like we don't have the means
to rise above and beat it

so we keep waiting
waiting on the world to change

While we understand Mayer's sentiment, we disagree. We believe that it's time to STOP waiting. It's time for us to fulfill the purpose for which God created for us — to take an active role in seeing His kingdom move forward through us.

I challenge you to take a moment to ask God what He is preparing you for — and then let His crazy love shine through you.

Monday, June 08, 2009

On Boats And Safety

Since we've been talking about boats and safety recently, I found the following entry this morning in Oswald Chamber's My Utmost For His Highest. It's quite interesting. He writes...

"If you yourself do not cut the lines that tie you to the dock, God will have to use a storm to sever them and send you out to sea. Put everything in your life afloat upon God, going out to sea on the great swelling tide of his purpose, and your eyes will be opened. If you believe in Jesus, you are not to spend all your time in the calm waters just inside the harbor, full of joy, but always tied to the dock. You have to get past the harbor into the great depths of God..."

Are we spending all our time in the calm waters? In the safety of the harbor?

Don't get me wrong, Jesus died to bring us peace. He came to give us rest and comfort. But that safety is found in Him alone – not in our retirement plans, not in our job security, nor in our convenient participation of church activities. The safety we seek is granted within and despite the chaos of the raging storm.

I see this daily as I am reminded how crazy it is to launch a new church in a city that already has dozens; when I am reminded that we are in economic hard times; when I am reminded that Helena is not immune to the violence and heartbreak of tragic events like last week's shooting.

While we find peace and fulfillment in Him, may we remember that Jesus didn't die to make us safe. He died to make us dangerous — to the storms, to spiritual apathy, to the evils of this world, and to the status quo.

Perhaps God is moving you right now to sever the lines of complacent safety. Perhaps He's calling you to take an active part in being a positive agent of change in Helena. We would love to talk to you about what Encounter is doing and how we plan to conquer these storms through Jesus.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Getting Out Of The Boat

We are in a boat. We're in the boat of our lives.

For some of us, our boat is going to church, reading our bibles, listening to the message, listening to the music, and trying to be a good person. All these things are our little boat.

They keep us safe.
They keep us afloat.
They keep us from drowning.

It's a good little boat to be in — but isn't there something more?

Our little boat does make us comfortable. It's a nice little boat to be in. We don't make anyone angry. If people ask us about Jesus, we'll tell them. We think "yeah I'm going to heaven. I'm saved. I know how to do the Christian thing." So what's wrong?

Why do we feel like there is more?
Why are we dis-satisfied with the status quo?
Why are we NOT dis-satisfied with the status quo?

In Matthew 14, Jesus was on the shore, praying. The disciples were out in a boat when the winds began to pick up and waves began to crash on the side of the boat. The sky got dark and the storm began to pour down on the disciples. Of course, the disciples began to be afraid for their lives because they thought the boat was going to flip over and they were all going to drown.

One of the disciples looks out onto the water and he sees what he thinks is a ghost walking on the water. And then they hear a familiar voice that says "Take courage, it's me. Do not be afraid"

It was Jesus!

Jesus was walking on water out in the middle of the storm. And then Peter says "Lord if it is you, tell me to come to you on the water."

And Jesus says "Come."

So Peter steps out and he is miraculously able to walk on water and walks toward Jesus. While he soon begins to doubt and begins sinking, Peter calls out for help. Jesus grabs his hand and pulls him up.

Peter never had to leave the comfort of the boat. He could have easily hid with his life jacket on, hid from the storm, and stayed in the boat. But there was one problem.

Jesus wasn't in the boat.
Jesus was out in the middle of the storm.
Peter knew he needed to be with Jesus.

We too, have a choice to make. We can continue on staying in our boat — with our family, with our friends, with our schools. We can pray to God everyday. We can read our Bibles. We can try to be nice people. But if we do, we never leave our boat. We never say Jesus is worth risking our life for. Jesus is worth drowning for.

Jesus told Peter to come.
And He's telling you to come.
Get out of your comfort zone.
Get out of your boat.

And come walk on water with Him.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Wanna Start A New Church in Helena?

Last week, we held our first-ever Encounter Informational Meeting at the Placer Center, downtown in the Helena Walking Mall. The May 28 event was an opportunity to share our strategy to impact this generation and beyond – to invite others to "step out of the boat" and join in with what Jesus is doing in Helena.

A lot of our friends meeting for the Encounter Discussions at the Staggering Ox really stepped up and helped make the Informational Meeting a success — Thank you guys!

Highlights of the evening for me were hearing from others what a church like Encounter in Helena means to them. It was fun to answer Encounter questions from text messages sent during the meeting for Q&A. And finally the door prizes were just plain cool — powerful little red LED flashlights (think burning bush).

We challenged the nearly 30 people that attended to:

PRAY regularly
SHARE financially
JOIN the launch team
TELL others.

I will be posting what these mean and adding links over the next week. For now, I suggest you check out the "Hot Topics" and "Encounter Links" in the sidebar to the right.

Our worship is edgy and engaging, our culture is relational and outward focused, and our theology is grounded in the Scriptures. We seek to be a burning bush that captures the attention of a city — something out of the ordinary that draws people in, so that they can hear the voice of God.

View some pre-event photos here.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Servolution In Helena on CBS

On Good Friday, April 10, KXLH aired our interview about Servolution in Helena on the local CBS News. You can find the online CBS article and photos here as long as they keep them available. While I was originally disappointed with the interview, I have come to realize that the main idea of "Servolution" came across. We are very grateful to KXLH for helping us get the word out. There were just a couple of details we wanted to clarify:
  • Healing Place Church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana is the originator of the global Servolution.
  • Encounter Church organized the effort here in Helena, Montana.
  • We collected donations and assembled gift baskets for the workers and volunteers of Elhorn, St. Peter's Hospital, and Broadwater Elementary. We didn't exactly volunteer at these organizations as mentioned in the report.
  • I'm also pretty sure I never used the phrase "Pay It Forward" :-)

Thursday, April 09, 2009

7 Days of Servolution In Helena

Thousands and thousands of people all over the world been reached through Servolution this past week. At Encounter Church, we are proud to be a part of it, by organizing the effort here in Helena.

Whether we handed out free lollipops, delivered gift baskets, or washed storefronts downtown, the response was often the same — disbelief. It was hard for people to grasp that we were serving them for free with no strings attached. At the same time, once people understood and heard about the idea behind Servolution, they were receptive.

One business owner was so excited, she called the local TV news. As a result, we were interviewed about the 7 Days of Servolution in Helena today at the walking mall. You can look for the news cast this Good Friday, April 10 at 5:30 and 10:00pm on the CBS News in Helena. (View the news clip here.)

While numbers are not the goal of the Servolution in Helena, they certainly do tell a story. We had 21 volunteers participate in Servolution and directly reached a minimum of 212 people, but I suspect we reached many more indirectly — all while sharing God's love through simple acts of kindness.

There were 5 organized efforts. Three gift baskets were delivered to workers and volunteers who serve our community. Downtown, we served our community as windows were washed, trash was cleaned up, and 115 Tootsie Pops were given out for free.

All in all, we gave away nearly 800 free items that were donated by Servolution volunteers. What an awesome way to bless individuals in our community! We just want to say thank you to all who donated and served this week.

As you may know, we at Encounter Church want to free people to encounter Jesus. The most important way people can do that is through us as we reflect His heart and passion in our own lives. As my friend David Timms recently wrote, Jesus has a passion for serving others and encouraging them to do the same...

In the middle of that first Holy Week — as the cross loomed — Jesus gathered His disciples together, took up a towel and basin, and washed their feet. Then he urged them to do likewise, not just for each other but for the blistered, bruised, deformed, and dirty feet of the world. They would serve the broken and the beaten, the disillusioned and the defeated, the hurt and the humbled, not to demonstrate obedience but to define their life’s vocation and purpose.

View a slideshow of Servolution photos here.

Friday, March 06, 2009

The Church of Tomorrow?

When I hear people refer to this generation as "the church of tomorrow," my heart breaks. Not because there is no hope for this generation, but quite the opposite. Seeing this generation as the upcoming generation means that we are tragically clinging to the past.

Dan Kimball is correct in the assertion that those in this generation are the primary shapers and influencers in our culture. He writes in They Like Jesus But Not The Church...

"Musicians writing the songs that influence people at a national and global level are primarily in their twenties. The creativity and innovation of people in their twenties and thirties are used in the marketplace and in the music world, but are they given a place to help shape the church?"

Truth be told, this generation is "the church of today," not tomorrow! Unfortunately, the hearts and minds of many in this generation are being squelched because they don't conform to traditional structures of organized religion. The thought patterns and life experience of this generation are like no other generation in history.

From Craig Groeschel and a recent series over at the Swerve blog, let's highlight some important observations about this generation:

Our world is smaller and our perspective is broader.
Because of technology, The lines between global and local has been blurred.

We have a wider definition of "friends."
Today a friend can be someone you may not have ever met before they clicked on your Facebook page and asked to be your friend.

We're more experiential.
Instead of accumulating possessions like previous generations, our generation is into accumulating experiences.

We have been under-challenged.
Many in this generation have been given much, yet we’ve been challenged little. We have more potential than most realize.

Our world is gray.
Many of us in this generation have been told that truth is relative, but deep down we believe and are searching for absolute truths.

We’re searching for a cause.
This generation is looking for something, often anything, worthwhile to live for. When we find a cause, we'll go to extreme measures to make a difference.

We are conversational.
But before we listen to you, we want to know if you’re listening to us. This generation builds trust slowly. If you’ll get to know us, we will listen to you.

We want to be loved.
This generation craves intimacy in relationships. We want to know and be known. We are hungry for acceptance and affirmation and respond well to sincere Christian love.

If you’re quick to judge, don’t bother trying to connect.
Unfortunately, too many Christians are turned off or intimidated by the young, tech savvy, tattooed, and pierced young adults.

This generation doesn’t want to hear about what you believe.
We want to see your beliefs in actions. As strange as it may seem, we are drawn to faith that feeds the hungry, clothes the naked, heals the sick, and loves the outcasts—all in the name of Christ, the King. If you’re daring enough to live like Jesus, we might join you. And then one day, we might believe what you believe.

Care to add to this list? Click on the word "comments" below ...

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Church Planter Training Reflections by Andrea

I asked my church planting partner and wife Andrea to share her thoughts and reflections about our follow-up Church Planters Training this weekend. These are Andrea's notes for each day...

It all began Thursday evening when church planting couples (including us) shared their visions and plans for planting churches in Butte, Townsend, and Helena.

It was awesome to hear about how God is moving in these communities. It is great to see the heart of the church planters to make a difference in their community and to see lives changed for Jesus. It was a reminder that God is definitely at work in the world and in Montana.

Looking back, Eric and I spent many frustrating hours on our presentation together. Near the end of that preparation, we we're reminded to listen to God's voice and trust in His power to help us put together this master plan for Encounter. The outcome was an awesome presentation that inspired and encouraged those at the retreat.

Friday was a time of gleaning valuable insight about church planting both from teaching sessions and conversations with other church planters throughout the state. We discussed the importance of using our time wisely; allotting time for building relationships, taking a sabbath, and actually doing ministry.

We also explored ways to plan message series to make the most of our time and to allow others to be involved in the process. The ultimate goal being to communicate a clear message that will result in life-transformation.

Another powerful discussion was about the the importance of differentiating between a church OF small groups and a church WITH small groups. We were also able to share inspiring church planting experiences with one another and share our challenges.

As a the retreat came to a close, Eric and I led a time of worship with the other church planters. A time of prayer followed giving us the opportunity to pray for one another and the challenges we were facing. It was great to get to know the other church planters. We've already begun the process of developing friendships and helping one another.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

New Discussions At The Ox! You're Invited

In the next month of March as we seek to develop partnerships with churches across Montana, we are not quite ready to begin hosting Informational Meetings or Planting Team Meetings. However, we've had many people ask us how they can get involved and find out more of what Encounter is about.

With that in mind, we are planning a six-week guided discussion group (aka small group) to explore why people who like Jesus, don't connect with church. It will be an opportunity for spiritual growth like many small groups, but it will also allow those who have disconnected from traditional settings to explore common misperceptions about the Church. We are excited to meet at the Staggering Ox for these discussions – it's the perfect place to have spiritual discussions in a non-threatening environment.

We hope to express the heart of Encounter Church with clarity, boldness, and compassion as we discuss and respond to six of the most common objections and misunderstandings emerging generations have about the church.

To generate discussion and examine our own responses, we will encounter the firsthand thoughts and feelings of those who find Jesus attractive but don’t care for organized religion. From the Zondervan DVD and participant guide to They Like Jesus But Not The Church, we'll explore some of these questions about the church.

Isn’t the church just organized religion that is politically motivated? Is the church homophobic? Does it take the entire Bible literally? Does the church repress women? Is it judgmental and negative? Does it arrogantly think all other religions are wrong?

So the invitation is out. If you are at all captivated by the vision we've communicated for Encounter Church, if you want to explore how a faith community can welcome people in a non-judgmental atmosphere, if you want to discuss how Jesus would respond in these situations – we invite you to join us.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Conversations With This Generation

We've had some connections with this generation in the past few weeks. In our conversations, they've expressed excitement at what God is doing with Encounter.

They're concerned about their friends who won't go to a church because they don't fit in or feel that the atmosphere is cold and judgmental.

They want a church in Helena that won't judge them by what they wear, how they look, and what their past is like - no matter how many piercings or tattoos they may have.

They're praying for a church for "all those people who don't want the dried out version of Christianity or don't feel comfortable with most other churches."

Our strategy at Encounter is derived from Jesus' call for us to love God and love others — and so we intend to encourage and equip people to pursue three vital relationships: to ENCOUNTER GOD (to love God), to EXPERIENCE COMMUNITY (to love fellow believers), and to ENGAGE CULTURE (to love others).

As we continue to meet with people and share the vision of our new church plant Encounter, our challenge is to ask those with a heart for the disconnected to join us in creating the culture of our faith community. A few people with a vision is great. But many people with the same vision who are making it happen becomes a church.

If you really want to see Encounter become a reality, we challenge you to step up and help make it happen. Contact us to find out more.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Are You Ready To Be Dangerous?

This last week I was looking over Matthew 21:12-17. In the passage, Jesus entered the temple area and began to drive out all the people who were buying and selling there. He turned over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves for sacrifice. He said to them, "My temple will be called a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves."

Basically, Jesus was dangerous.

It was only after the distractions and obstacles were removed that Jesus could begin healing people. It is only then that they could encounter the fullness of the divine Christ. It was as if the temple had finally been freed to be what God meant for it to be.

I believe Jesus has called His church to be dangerous.

A dangerous church will take an uncivilized approach. A dangerous church will possesses a divine boldness. A dangerous church will demonstrate a risk-taking faith — and without faith it is impossible to please God.

Encounter will be a dangerous church.

Our goals are reconciliation, strength, and life — there is safety and comfort for those who are broken. But those who are religious, those who worship tradition at the expense of worshiping God, those who are frozen in their cautiousness — they will be disturbed.

When was the last time you had an uncivilized experience with God? When was the last time you took a faith-risk? When was the last time you took a bold stand for Christ? Isn't it time to become dangerous?

Jesus didn't save us make us comfortable, He died and resurrected to make us dangerous!

Won't you join us? Our vision is to help people encounter Jesus in a real and tangible way — to remove the distractions and barriers in the way of people moving forward in their faith. And we're not afraid to overturn tables and upset the status quo.

Are you ready to be dangerous?

Friday, January 30, 2009

Why The Name Encounter?

The vision of Encounter is to "be something out of the ordinary that catches people's attention so they can encounter God."

It is derived from Moses’ encounter with God through the burning bush in Exodus 3. Those far from God are living their lives apart from His will and purpose.

In the Exodus account, Moses was tending his sheep when the Lord "appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, 'I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.'"

Much like Moses, we are presented with potential "encounters" with God that will lead to a transformed life through a growing relationship with Jesus. But we are often too burdened and distracted to recognize and respond. Part of what Encounter Church is about is freeing people from those burdens and distractions and allowing them to take that next step.

No matter where someone is spiritually - skeptic, new believer, returning to the faith, growing believer - we want them to be moving forward in their faith relationship with Jesus Christ. That's because we see discipleship not as a goal to achieve, but as a process of becoming more and more intimate with Jesus Christ.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Staying Attentive to God's Leading

Several weeks ago we wrote about being attentive to God's leading. It seems that you can analyze and evaluate information, seek Godly counsel, and consider all the pros and cons - but after all is done, we need to be attentive to what God's Spirit is speaking into our lives. "Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit." (Galatians 5:25)

After much prayer and consideration, we HAVE decided to partner with the other network we've been discussing. You may know them as the Montana SBC. We have recognized that God was moving us in a certain direction to plant a relevant church in Helena for this generation, while at the same time moving the Montana SBC to do the same through their "AA Strategy."

We can't ignore that our paths crossed and we feel that the Spirit was leading us to this decision.

ARC is an incredible church planting organization and has been an important step in this process and we wouldn't be in this place without them. Attending the ARC Church Planter Assessment helped us evaluate ourselves and gave us a professional opinion as to our suitability as church planters.

We are so grateful they have recommended us as church planters and are willing for financially partner with us as well. We hope to nurture the relationships we've formed through ARC through the coaching and financial resources they provide.

There are comparable funds and resources available through the Montana SBC. In contrast to ARC, none of the funds from the Montana SBC will need to be paid back – regardless of whether we succeed or fail.

We are already forming some sponsorship relationships with churches here in Helena and Montana and will also receive assistance with fund raising a portion of our salary and startup costs through other churches in the SBC network. We are already praying that God will open those doors wide open. Like ARC, another portion of funds will come from our own fund raising and Encounter's Planting Team.

The relationships we've already formed within the Montana SBC have already been a blessing both on personal and administrative level. While the whole process through the SBC is a bit more fuzzy than ARC's straight forward plan, they do have proven success with our model. Here are some great churches affiliated with the SBC network:
One thing we were concerned about is the kind of oversight that the Montana SBC would have over us. We don't want such oversight and traditions to be a barrier to the vision God has given us to reach those who have been turned off by church. We've made it pretty clear that we are seeking to plant a relevant, engaging, missional church here in Helena.

We've gone over a number "hot-button issues" to see where we stand, but for the most part the SBC allows churches to be autonomous within the network. In addition, we are in theological alignment with the Montana SBC and are impressed by the SBC emphasis on global missions; probably the best organization for missions in the world.

We've carefully examined the implications of this partnership, and feel that we can still pursue a non-denominational approach while still aligning ourselves with the Montana SBC. We maintain that the un-churched are more open to attending a church that appears to not have the "baggage" and institutionalism associated with many denominations.

While Encounter is partnering with the SBC denomination, is in alignment with their theology, missions emphasis, and cooperative program, we will focus on the heart of Jesus in our teaching and practice. As Paul expressed it, we will be about "preaching Christ and Christ crucified" (1 Corinthians 2:2) rather than building denominational walls.

One of our first training experiences with the Montana SBC was the Church Planters Boot Camp we attended last weekend. We are planning some more training near the end of February to follow up. As we move into March, we will be visiting potential sponsor churches and forming valuable relationships, and learning more.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Hannaford Transition News

About two weeks ago, our pastor and I discussed more about Hannaford's ability to support our calling to launch Encounter – and on Sunday, January 18, announced the time line for my transition from the Hannaford Worship Ministry. Our last day leading worship at Hannaford will be Sunday, March 1 and will be preceded by a service "sending us out" to this new ministry.

We are very excited and also just a little saddened. As I said last Sunday, Andrea and I have been greatly blessed by the friendships we formed here at Hannaford. And while we are excited about this great vision He has called us to, we will cherish these next weeks of worship we will share together.

As another church planter friend expressed it, "Moses has to leave his homeland to get to where the Lord had him to go"

We ask that you pray for a blessed sending out and commissioning service that will allow our family at Hannaford to support us and the mission of Encounter in prayer.

The night before the announcement, we gathered about 25 of Hannaford's Worship Ministry together to facilitate an informal time for fellowship, prayer, and Q&A. Our goals were to discuss any concerns and questions to help ensure a smooth transition while confirming Hannaford's commitment to excellence and heartfelt worship. Please pray for our ability to facilitate a smooth transition for Hannaford with such a short time line.

I was explaining to a friend recently that there is a lot of work to do before we launch. We've been working hard on financial backing and network support - and that work will continue. We have been quiet about this calling for months out of respect for Hannaford's leadership, but now we have the freedom to share the vision of Encounter with others.

During the next few months, we will be praying to meet others that share our passion to see the unchurched in Helena begin a growing relationship with Jesus. We'll be praying for God to bring people our way to join Encounter's Planting Team.

We thank God for challenging Andrea and I with this vision, but now we also pray for others to come along side us and become a part of what God is doing for this generation in Helena. There is much to be done, there are many workers needed, much prayer required, and there will be funds required. Please pray whether God is calling you to this vision as well...and if so, let us know.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

2009 Is Here - Are You Ready?

As another year comes to a close, we can't help but look back. For some of us, 2008 was a difficult and challenging year. Some of us experienced setbacks and even life-changing tragedies.

For others of us, 2008 was a stellar year. Some of our dreams came true — those we hoped for and some that we didn't even expect. Most likely, however, 2008 was a mixture of blessings and challenges.

For us, we started 2008 in an atmosphere of uncertainty and burden. God had laid on our heart a passion which we had not seen pursued. A passion for the disconnected and un-churched of our generation. I saw young adults in their 20s and 30s that were disengaged in the life Christ had for them - and I began the year with a burden on my heart to do something about it.

I've said before that God places within us the ability to see “broken things” in areas that we are passionate about. God is not calling us to complain or fret over these “broken things,” but to let them serve as fuel for action based on His leading.

We acknowledged this burden and earnestly sought God's desire in prayer for many months. I can honestly say that it was an uncomfortable journey. After all, we were at a pretty comfortable place in life. We had been greatly blessed serving in worship ministry at a growing church in Helena. We had made many friends and really just begun to build this ministry.

Through all of this, God was speaking a deeper passion into our lives - the vision and desire to connect people with Jesus. Specifically what we call “this generation” and “those who are far from God.” We desperately resonate with those who are not familiar with or who do not connect with traditional church models — who see traditional church as lacking or irrelevant at best, and repelling at worst. And we want to be able to help the true, authentic Jesus become real in their lives.

As I said before, God was calling us to an uncomfortable place. We asked why He had thrown us this "curve ball" asking us to embrace a journey seemingly full of risk. Rick Warren says that “neither past nor future generations can serve God’s purpose in this generation.” What we’ve realized is that God has been preparing us for such a time as this. He's given us not a new vision, but a broader one encouraging others to worship God not just with song, but with their whole lives.

Our catalyst for planting a new church in Helena developed out of talks to form a strategic partnership with North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Georgia, and begin a journey into church planting. While talks looked encouraging, we eventually came to an impassible wall – our leading to reach young adults specifically in Helena, Montana. Had we been led to plant in a larger metro area somewhere else, we very well may be planting as a strategic partner with North Point.

But the need for a high-impact, relevant, and missional faith community in Helena overshadowed the ease of partnering with North Point. Our burden was clear and so as one door closed, we began to look for other open doors of partnership to plant Encounter Church, Helena.

While investigating church planting networks, we also presented our heart to our home church in hopes of partnering with them to reach an overlooked and un-reached group in a way that Hannaford has never attempted. We are still hopeful Hannaford will choose to act upon their spoken to desire to reach all of Helena in and effective and relevant way.

We also attended the ARC Church Planter Round Table to find our more about our compatibility with their initiative to plant 2000 churches. We were then invited to their select ARC Church Planter Assessment — resulting in ARC's recommendation of Andrea and I as church planters with their respected organization - a great encouragement.

Finally, we began talks with another church planting network – one with experience and ties here in Montana. I can say that Andrea and I have discerned God's Spirit moving in this relationship bringing their vision to plant high-impact churches in Montana together with our vision to build a relevant, missional faith community in Helena.

This new year brings in a whole new emphasis for us. These first months will solidify our church plant partnering relationships and we will begin to communicate God's vision for Encounter specifically with individuals. We will begin to build our Church Planting and Launch Teams. And by the end of the year, God will have prepared us to launch out into our community to touch lives like Helena has never seen.

We know that God has already begun to work in the hearts of those who also desire to see this generation grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ. There are those who will be taking their first steps in exploring faith, those who will be finding out who Jesus is, and also those who will be making a deeper commitment.

Our challenge to you is this. Imagine what God will do in 2009. Imagine how He will move and change you. He may even make you uncomfortable this year and ask you to step out of your comfort zone. And I am challenging you to be recognize that going out on a limb with Jesus is really the best place to be.

As Mark Batterson says, "Jesus didn't die to make us safe. He died to make us dangerous." Are you ready? We are!