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?