Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Next Season of Mission for CEC

Been a long time since I last posted anything on my blog. Guess FB and Twitter have surpassed it as a more useful communication tool. Skip to the end for info on this picture.

So I'm commenting on my last post 'The Best Mission Trip Ever'. I think I need to rename it the 'Best Mission Trip Yet!'

The lasting impact with the 4000 houses prayed over, 1000 doors opened and 450 prayed for has been hard to measure eight months later. When everyone got back into school in the fall, we discontinued the follow-up with all but a handful of people with whom we connected.

The Best Part of This Past Mission Smyrna? One mother we contacted in July, who came to the big party, started attending with her husband and five-year old daughter, joined a small group and finally received Christ about a month ago! That has made all of Mission Smyrna worth it!

So we've had a season of making disciples (Gospel DNA Groups) and now we are making plans to build on this mission trip by praying for our friends, neighbors and co-workers. In April we will kick-off the next phase of outreach. This will be more personal to people we know but we hope and pray even more fruitful.

Plus we are planning to equip more of our people to share their faith through creative means like sketch board messages and wordless dramas like the 'Redeemer' sketch, giving testimonies and other local short term mission trips where we actually share the gospel. And maybe even internationally in Ecuador with Open Air Campaigners! Especially now that Hèctor and Cecilia Guzmàn can travel, the international doors are opening wider...

Other Effects
Another intangible is that one or two families at CEC have increased their focus on their local area. One woman got a job in the county justice system and has started a Bible Study in her home for women. There is a hunger for more training among your youth. And we haven't lost focus on our community. We're still working, learning to be fully trained disciples who make fully trained disciples through both evangelism and discipleship.

I'll keep you up to date as we go. If you are interested in learning to share your faith and go on local and international mission trips, let me know!

P.S. The picture is of our staff with the David and Monica Proaño and their family from Ecuador. They work year round creatively presenting the gospel in schools, military bases, police academies, parks, churches and anywhere else they can think of. The whole family even performs the wordless drama with there three year old playing a key role.

My friend and former colleague from Fellowship Bible Church, Mike Baumgardner will be helping us with sketch board training and all sort of other stuff, including being a key intercessor for the work of God here in and through CEC. Thanks Mike!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Best Short-Term Mission Trip EVER: Stay Home and Do Mission Locally

I've gone on more than a dozen short-term mission trips and supported dozens of others. Thanks to Corbett and Fikkerts book and seminar, When Helping Hurts, now I'm not as naive about the benefits of short-term trips unless one takes into consideration the spiritual, relational AND economic impact of such trips.

So what to do? As a church planting pastor who wants to train up the church to make disciples who make disciples, we NEED to equip our people for the work of ministry! (Ephesians 4: 11-12) 

Do a local, stay-at-home mission trip with the help of an agency like Celebrate Jesus Inc. (Yes I know most of their participants are UMC, but this group is Kingdom-minded! They provided easy to follow instructions for key leaders, asked for very low consulting fees, sent six experienced local church missionaries and cheered us on.)

Here's the short report to Crosspoint Encuenro one week after mission:

Our church mobilized to prayer walk past 4000 homes in March-June then did a local mission trip where we went back, knocked on those doors, invited them to a block party and asked if there was anything we can pray for. Check out the pictures on our Facebook page.
  • We went out 10 times last week Sunday-Friday in groups of 25-55
  • The total number of hours prayed for our city is hard to calculate. But it’s a lot!
      • Intercessors – 3-4 people x 2 hours x 9 missions = 60-70 hours
      • Before/After door knocking – 25-55 people x 1 hour x 10 missions = 300-400 hours
      • Estimated total hours prayer during Mission – 360-470 hours
  • We hand-delivered information about Crosspoint Encuentro to over 4000 homes.
  • Almost 1000 people opened their doors - I was shocked. Maybe a result of intercession? Duh, yep.
  • Over 450 gave us prayer requests
  • We prayed right there at the door with the ones who let us, prayed back at the church for all of them again, then intercessors prayed again. (Notice a pattern?)
  • Postcards written and sent to 450+ telling them we'd keep on praying.
  • One young single mother prayed to receive Christ at her door!
  • Wednesday we started sending teams back to do follow up as the Spirit led us.
  • 75-100 came to the party (a rainy night) but it was amazingly fun connecting.
  • 7 new people came to worship on Sunday
After the Mission Week is Over
  • Several of us are continuing following up with practical help, building relationships, hospital visits, meals, phone calls, etc.
  • A group of 35 of us meet on Wednesdays to pray over the requests and go out for follow-up visits. First week - encouraging results!
  • Praying during worship service for these prayer requests.

Results so far…
Surprisingly, we have heard of sudden healings, restored relationships, interest in Christ from many Hispanics and some Muslims. 

And remember how some of us were afraid to even go on their first prayer walk in March?
Remember how most of us were afraid to knock on a door?

·     Now more are leading the way, doing follow up, supporting CEC's mission, discovering they have the gift of intercession, mercy, hospitality. More of us view our city the way the Lord sees the people in these households! Our youth and children are soaking it up! They are learning that this is the normal stuff you do when you are a Christian. Whole families are ministering together at the same time.

AND, this was better than any short-term trip I have ever done.

Higher percentage of our folks participated. Cost less TOTAL than flying 2-3 people overseas for a week for a short-tern trip. We can cultivate relationships, CARE TOGETHER, love each other as Christ loves us, plant seeds of the gospel and reap the harvest of God’s work!

Be Sober and Aware of the enemy’s schemes
The enemy is kicking and fighting back! But many more of us are learning to fight back against his schemes. So, be encouraged. You are making an eternal difference in your church, in your family, in this city and ultimately this region!

Pray for Celebrate Jesus Mission as they kick-off another week of mission with churches on the Space Coast of Florida.

To God be the GLORY – He’s AWESOME!

P.S. I am absolutely positive the LORD arranged the timing of this partnership with Celebrate Jesus and this Mission to Smyrna. Can't wait to see what He has planned for us next!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

3 Crimes this week in our Smyrna Community - Reason for Us to Pray and Act

Usually, when I/we hear bad news, I tend to think, “These are not ‘our problems’” and “They need to get their acts together.” I’m having a harder time thinking stuff like than this week.

Direct Connection to Students in our Church 
But in a week where our youth group, led by one of our students, Leo Rodriguez, a junior at Campbell HS, organized our CEC youth group to go out and prayer walk our city 10 times in the next 13 weeks and part of our discussion involved telling the Smyrna Police about it so there is no misunderstanding (Trayvon Martin case came up in discussion), I am more aware that this is OUR COMMUNITY.

The 3 problems I’ve copied out of news articles are our problems. Why?
·        Our covenant children go to school at Campbell HS. Even if you don’t live in Smyrna, these are OUR children. We make vows to help raise them.
·        We seek to reach people who are affected by and perpetrate violence on one another.
·        Only God can save souls. And those whose souls are saved are communally responsible and individually responsible to ask HIM to save, reconcile, bring justice, punish evil doers and have mercy.

Who, outside of us who have experienced God’s radical transformation, can offer true hope, powerful change?
The government? Cults? False religions up and down King Spring Road? Neighborhood Associations?

I’m not saying we are the solution alone. We are part of the solution though. We must pray. We must be willing to get involved so lives, families and our community are transformed.

That is what Mission Smyrna is ultimately about – transformed people, families and communities
Did you know what happened in 6 days in our community?
1. Tuesday March 27 – multiple sources
Tendai Nhakairo, shot and killed late Tuesday night by Cobb County police was a wide receiver forCampbell High School and was set to graduate with Fabian Rodriguez in May. Shot at the Riverside House Apartment complex on Shadowood Road.

We prayed about this in our youth group on Wednesday night in our basement. Though he was apparently on something. Came at police naked and carrying knives, he was part of our community. Fabian is one of OURS.

His mother Blessing, goes to sister church Church of The Redeemer PCA in Dunwoody.

2. Last Sunday night March 25, AJC and Online Athens
Zach Gamble, age 34, was severely beaten on Sunday, March 25, 2012. He was found lying in a parking lot at Concord Crossings off Old Concord near where we sent a team to pray just hours before.

"His parents, Tina and Leon Robbins are hoping someone can help Cobb County Police find out who did it and why they did it. "We know that someone came up behind him and he took a terrific blow to the back of his neck," said Tina Robbins, his mother.

"She and her husband have been keeping vigil over their son's hospital bed at Wellstar Kennestone Hospital for five days. Gamble served two tours in Iraq. Now he is fighting for his life. "Being a mom, and this is my only son, and I'm just hoping that someone knows something," Robbins said.

"Gamble has a 7-year old son who has recorded messages that the Robbins play to their comatose in the hopes that it will awaken him. Cobb County Police say that Gamble was at a party at the Concord Crossing apartments. A taxi driver who thought she ran over Gamble called police. But police said the injuries Gamble suffered weren't from being run over, they were from a blow to his head."

3. Saturday March 31 The Associated Press and AJC

"Cobb County police say a high school teacher had sex with a 17-year-old student, who then threatened to tell if he didn’t pay her and give her a good grade.

"Both the teacher, 55-year-old Jonas Magdangal, and the student face charges. The tryst was reported to police by adult who found out from one of the student’s friends. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports (http://bit.ly/H4kvVX) police say the Campbell High School teacher and his student had sex at a Smyrna hotel Dec. 31. Police say the girl then demanded money and an “A’’ grade to keep quiet.

"The teacher was charged Friday with sexual assault. Smith said the girl is being charged with extortion." 

This happened in OUR SCHOOL.

4. Friday March 30, I got this email from Pastor Lionel Gantt, who is a pastor in a pastor of a historically black church in Cobb County. We met at the forum on immigration we hosted last year.

"To Pastor Moon and the Crosspoint Encuentro Church, I greet you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ the head of my life and ask His grace and blessing upon you and the family of God with you. May God's hand forever be upon you, I greet you in brotherly love.

"My Brother what affect one affects us all and the affects of poverty shows in the record numbers of incarceration due to violent crimes and crimes for money. It is here my Brother, in the fight against poverty, we proactively fight crime.
Through education and economic empowerment we counter act the criminal behaviors of those who would use crime as a means of creating income. We change the hearts and minds of men. No other subject in the Bible was talked about more than money.

"It is here that we must reach back and educate our people to live economically spiritual lives as men and women of God walking in the full power of God.

"We must come outside our church walls to reach out to God’s hurting people of all races, colors, creeds, nationalities and yes, denominations.

"What will Heaven be like? A paradise of all races, all people from every nation in one Kingdom a Kingdom whose House is God’s. When we come together as one on Earth we are looking more like Heaven, the Kingdom of God a House not made with hands, we are the Church of a Living God.

"So I ask you to please come out and join us in this stop the violence crusade and join in with us in prayer for Cobb County. We the SCLC is the Southern Christian Leadership Conference so we believe in the power of prayer and in the unity of the Church. I ask you to please contact those Churches

"Come out and join in the fight. On 21st Apr at 6pm, at 1588 Willie Dr. Marietta, GA Cobb County SCLC/ Stop the Violence and Incarceration Campaign is asking all churches of Cobb Co. to all come together for Prayer and stop the violence crusade.

"Our children are dying in the streets and our sons are being buried alive in the GA Prison system, while GA is ranked 5th in the nation for poverty among children. Poverty is the leading cause for incarceration in America. We take a stand to say “No to Violence, No to Racial Profiling and we say "No to a government who cut unemployment, welfare and housing benefits/service to the poor, while giving tax credits to the rich. Taxation without due representation was the reason for the American Revolution. We are in the fight of our life, as our freedoms as a nation of people are under attack. This is your platform to take a stand and speak out, the violence must stop. We ask you to come and take part in this event."

So I disagree with some of Pastor Gantts solutions. So this problem will not be solved in one easy step. So should we all sell our houses and move to the suburbs? Wait, this is the suburbs y’all. Crime is everywhere.

Evil is pervasive. Sin runs and ruins. Our theology tells us so!!

We need to pray. We should consider praying with (more) other churches!
Pastor Jim Moon, Jr.

PS – I am so proud to be part of Crosspoint Encuentro because I KNOW you all will take this seriously!

PPS – This was a long rambling vent. I hope you will take it in the spirit I intended.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Very Personal Life of a Church Planter: Finances

Part Two of the Very Personal Life of a Church Planter:
by Jim Moon, Jr.
This is the 2nd half of a letter I sent to church planter friends in South Florida. The first half is here

About the Very Personal Financial Life of a Church Planter
The apostle Paul notes in Ephesians 5 that most men long for respect and most women long for security. Both are ways to seek significance. Both are God-designed but sin-warped. Both respect and security will be challenged growth points during the process of church planting.

As with intimacy, finances can be a large but mostly hidden point of contention between you and your wife. You will face temptation to consider short-cuts or cheats that will provide you with the money or gratification you think you have to have. Like past sexual conduct, financial decisions made prior to starting a church plant can hinder intimacy, cut into available resources for rest and limit flexibility to give generously.

Finances are a more visible aspect of the very personal life that can impact public opinion of you and your church. Whether we like it or not, most people outside the church form their initial opinion of every pastor through the lens of what they see with TV preachers, read on the news, remember from past bad experiences or hear by way of gossip. It isn’t pretty. You are guilty by association until proven innocent by your faithfulness over time.

Take pains to set up your personal/family finances and church financial practices to be dependent on the Lord, above reproach, trustworthy and able to withstand scrutiny.

1. Avoid debt. Have a rigorous plan to pay off all consumer debt (everything except mortgage) before assessment. Seriously limit or avoid student debt even if it takes more time. The crisis of student loan debt may be the next systemic road block we face to getting church planters on the field. (See ‘I Owe U’ by Krstina Bell, TIME October 31, 2011)

It’s best to ask people to support a church planter who has paid off personal debts. Your wife should not be required to work to make payments on debt. There will be a lot of stress planting a church and you all have limited time for your marriage, family and church priorities.

2. Spend wisely within your family and church context. You and your family should live on a written budget within the context where God calls you to plant and the means he supplies you. Some planters have larger reserves and family resources than others. Be sure your spending adjusts to God’s call and provision for your family, not over-adjusts to the expectations of your culture.

There is a need to fit in. I hate TV but got cable. I bought different clothes and even learned to play golf to fit in. The temptation to get an upgraded car did pass through my mind, but really a used Accord is fine. It is wise to live on the humble side of your context.

3. Always tithe. You lead by example here. If you don’t tithe, you have no moral authority to ask others to tithe. And ‘tithe’ means 10%.

4. Save. You’ll need margin in your life and the flexibility to give to important projects. Can’t do that if you are scraping by month to month. Current wisdom is have three to six months of your expenses in reserve.

5. Raise all your support before you move or start public worship. This is your part-time job until it is completed. Raise at least 80% prior to moving to the field. Experienced fund-raisers will tell you people give to ‘anticipated vision’ so your urgent need to get support in place goes away after you move to the field and once you start public worship. If you are stuck here, find a coach who can help you.

Corporately as a Church Plant
1. Team finances. For the protection of the church’s name and those who handle the money, have a team where every role is double checked. A good sending agency will have these policies for you to follow.

Examples: Two people count the offerings, two people have access to all files, you do not have direct access to check signing or specific amounts people give. You will save yourself and your volunteers and staff much heart ache and potential scandal and rumor if you protect everyone by implementing these safeguards.

2. Open budget discussions. If you start with a launch team, discuss finances openly and frequently. Then quarterly open discussions about expenses and income build trust with those who join in after you start. People take notice when a church does not keep secrets!

3. Take offerings teach appropriately about money. Several scratch planters have found suspicions about money so high that they started public worship without taking up an offering. They opted for a locked box in the back of the worship space. This was wise for a season. However every church must be taught appropriately about money.

Take advantage of other programs to train people in budgeting, debt, spending, tithing, giving etc. Financial Peace University is more accessible to unchurched people but has only 1 of 13 lessons on giving. Crown Financial is a small group Bible study formatted series. Both are solid.

4. Preach about money as the Scriptures bring it up. Plus set aside annual times to emphasize giving. You can and should inspire people to sacrifice, but the pulpit is not the place for the nitty-gritty training so folks can get out of debt, live on a budget and free themselves up to give cheerfully. That is best done in smaller contexts and training.

And remember, tithing and sacrificial giving is part of following Jesus because it is our part of taking up our cross daily. We aren’t calling people to a life of comfort but to a life with a cross. We are called to bear one another’s burdens.

Who Bears Your Burdens?
One temptation is to put your faith in your finances. But that won't save you. Finances are a terrible savior, whether you have a lot or too little for your comfort.

Christ Jesus has taken the full weight of all your debts on Himself on the cross and knowing everything about your finances, God the Father punished Christ in your place. Trust Him, not your financial support. Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness bought for you on the cross and he will provide everything you and your family need.

Action Items:
1. What financial road blocks and speed bumps do you need to address this month? Or in your church plant ministry plan?
2. What resources do you need to find and implement for your family and your church plant in the next six months? Next year?
3. How do you need to think differently about finances in light of Christ's work on the cross?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Very Personal Life of Church Planter:Sex

Last month my friend Rick Hunter gave me the honor of speaking to Renew South Florida, two cohorts of church planters in Miami and Fort Lauderdale, about the personal life of a church planter based on Redeemer City to City Incubator curriculum.  

But what about Sex and Finances?
As I settled back home in Atlanta, It concerned me that I had not talked enough about sexuality or financial issues. These are two significant areas of temptation and struggle that need to be addressed. 

So I wrote this as a letter to the men I had just met and sent it off to Rick to distribute to the Renew network. It's a bit long so I'm posting it in two parts. The second part is here.

The Very Personal Life of a Church Planter
By Jim Moon, Jr.

In all the intense focus on prepping for the ‘Personal Life of a Church Planter’ training at the Miami and Ft. Lauderdale cohorts, I overlooked at least two topics that need attention. Sex and finances: two areas of character and skill development where readiness to plant a church needs preparation and attention. Perhaps these topics are old news to you or addressed in other training sessions, but I wanted to mention some important defense and offense to consider now.

About the Very Personal Sex Life of a Church Planter
When you start a church, or even begin to start a church, you are putting yourself, your spouse and your marriage (if you are married) in a highly exposed situation. Most all of this addresses married planters.

I won’t bother to count the number of pastors and church planters I know who are no longer in ministry because of sexual or emotional unfaithfulness or financial impropriety. These are two moral failings that will remove you from the field of battle immediately. God does forgive and the church can and should restore men who fall, but the direct consequence of a moral failing in these areas is removal from ministry for a season until (or if) the marriage survives and restoration made.

As a church planter you are highly stressed. You are working intensely. You will constantly feel insecure. You will fail in many small ways. Every idol you have will clamor for satisfaction. Everyone you know will have idols clamoring for your attention too. Sexual and marital purity is vital.

Especially because you work often and closely with women. You deal with emotions, demands and stress unlike anything you have experienced. And then you go and open the doors of a facility and invite the public. Now your life is open even more to temptation. I will spare you salacious details, but be warned the enemy of your soul and the church sends women to attempt to seduce you. I know too many stories.

So be ready to fight off anything and everything immoral and sexual that is not your bride.
She is your protection sexually. She is God’s ordained emotional and sexual protection for you alone.

Let me say this again: There is one and only one woman who can protect you, your God-given wife. Say that out loud to yourself. Seriously.

One way my wife protected me was to listen to me and realize how much I needed intimacy and sexual gratification while I was under stress and constant temptation. I had to go out on an emotional limb and fill her in on what I needed from her for protection. Do I need to be more specific?

If you and your wife have SO MANY demands on your life that your marriage is not healthy or you fail to make time for rest, or for sex, you can more easily be tempted and fall morally. This is a shameless plug for taking a Sabbath right here. TAKE A SABBATH. Or at least part of one!

What else should you do? I’m a list guy, so here goes…
1. Regularly repent from mini-moral failings. Your eyes will wander. Your flesh will lust. Women will dress immodestly (it’s South Florida) and you will look. Obviously try not to! It just gives your flesh more temptations to work through, but urgently and quickly prefer Christ’s forgiveness and run to the love of God which will satisfy you deeply. We pray ‘lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.’ Protection from sexual immorality is God’s concern for you.

2. Weekly accountability. Weekly talk with someone you trust to hear your confessions and preach the gospel to you AND who knows you well enough to challenge you. Have them ask a question like this, ‘Have you had inappropriate contact with a woman this week? in your mind or physically?’ Live meetings are better. Similar peer level season of life is helpful too.
This isn’t my first rodeo, I know you can you cheat on accountability. But in my life, I want accountability to protect me and just knowing I’m going to be asked that question causes me to pause and reconsider going down a temptation trail.

3. Learn to love ‘blinders’ and boundaries. Blinders are those leather cups worn beside the eyes of horses to prevent distraction and keep them looking forward. Develop blinders of discipline specific to your life, weaknesses and struggles about where you will not go, where you will not click, where you will not go alone. If you have struggled with internet porn, you need a specific set of blinders. If you struggle to keep your eyes pure when you are at the beach, you need a specific set of blinders. If there is a certain woman who causes you to be tempted, you need a set of blinders and boundaries. Seek out a mature Christian man to help develop specifics.

Make it a best practice to not be alone in private with a woman who is not your family. This protects from temptation and protects everyone’s reputation.

On those occasions, when you are unavoidably the last to leave an event or must give a ride to a young lady or woman in an emergency, call your wife and let her know the situation and when you will be home.

4. Gently and clearly let your wife know you need her help. She is the one and only person who can protect your heart and emotions from a myriad of temptations. And she is the only one who keep your sexual/emotional tank full.

So communicate humbly. Keep romancing her. And when you are too tired but needy, tell her that you need her help anyway. It seems wise to me to have your wife as part of all your sexual experiences, rather than just taking care of yourself. Thank her for protecting you and satisfying you. Be honest about how much you need her and when.

Single men. I know Jesus did ministry perfectly as a single man. And so did the apostle Paul. But honestly, I got married young so I have little to no experience as a single man. This is where I’m going to say find a wiser man to discuss this issue and I’ll shut up.
Abuse. If either one of you have been sexually abused, get help in order to heal. Seriously consider how this impacts God’s call for your lives.

Don’t tweet. Seriously, no need to tweet about this part of your life. I think it’s demeaning to your wife and your marriage, even if you say positive things about going on a date. Also protect your wife and other men from thinking about your wife. Let’s keep tweeting about ‘hot’ and ‘smoking’ only refer to barbeque. Really.  

Sexual intimacy in marriage is a very personal gospel issue. Your deepest idolatries and sins will fight the humility and honesty God has granted in the righteousness of Christ. Believe that you are worse than you want to admit but more loved than you ever dreamed. Right there is the key to loving God, loving your nearest neighbor and yourself.

Brothers, I hope this encourages you and leads to a fruitful life of loving and serving Christ and His church! Contact me if I can be of any help.

Suggested Action Items:
1. Do you have a solid accountability system for your protection? What can you do to improve it?
2. Have you and your wife had an open discussion about sexual temptation and the need for sexual and emotional protection in your marriage while planting? Read this together and discuss.
3. If the thought of sexual intimacy as a gospel issue causes you or your wife emotional discomfort, with whom can you speak to about this spiritual emotional issue?

Monday, September 19, 2011

More of Less Activity: In Favor of Spiritual Disciplines

Silence. Solitude. Meditation. Fasting. Simplicity.
These are as strange and alien concepts to the life of Christians in the West as a business man in a tree. At best such practices are odd, optional or only for super-Christians. Or worse, they could be construed as punitive.

However our historic Christian faith grew in grace and power as everyday believers and leaders practiced spiritual disciplines. 

On purpose. With astonishing results.

Return to Spiritual Disciplines
When I started in ministry as a 23-year-old Jr Hi Pastor just off the road with a Christian band, voice mail and pagers were cutting edge. We communicated only via phone and paper. Now we have social media, cell phones and the internet that invades every spare corner of our lives.  

My pastoral bosses encouraged me to read Foster's Celebration of Discipline and made me go on monthly prayer retreats. I did not like it at first. Now I am so glad someone showed me how and why spiritual disciplines are vital for ministry. It was not easy for me to do.

It showed me ministry is impossible to do. For me. I need Jesus to do it. In fact, Jesus said in  John 14:12-14 that we would do greater works than He did. By asking Him to do what He can do through us.

Disciplines are inconvenient, frustrating and seem counter-productive. But we managed to get ministry accomplished before cell phones, iPads and wi-fi. Apparently, even Jesus and the church ministered pretty well focusing on prayer, discipleship and a simple life.

It leads to this leading question: what kind of boundaries (if any) do you have now between the urgency of everything on your phone or tablet or laptop and your relationship with Christ? I fear our little space for Jesus makes us a mile wide and an inch deep. I'll even say it may make us hypocrites on par with Pharisees.

Will you be one who says, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or naked or a stranger' because we were too busy virtually connecting with people? (Matthew 25).

Expect More from Parents and Pastors
A pastor friend of mine just posted the following:
(Name) is going off the grid for a week for a silent retreat. Yup. No cell, not FB, no Angry Birds, no TV to numb or distract me. No agenda, not planning, no strategizing- just a whole week to meet with Jesus. I'll either go completely crazy or meet Jesus. We'll see.
I applaud his decision! And I say MORE of LESS!

More of less should be normal. Not considered newsworthy or radical or neat if you can spare the time. 

Don't you want to meet Jesus, no matter what it takes? 

What We Need
Our churches in Atlanta and in the West need more power of the Holy Spirit. More prayer and intercession. More trust in God than trust in skill and effort. What we need more grace-filled discipline.

When I parachuted in to do a scratch multi-ethnic church plant, there were a million things to do, but I taped a quote from Eugene Peterson to my computer monitor. 

It says, 'Busyness is laziness.' Busyness is substituting the good things for the highest, most excellent things. Meeting with Jesus ought to be our most excellent task. 

Do I get too busy? Yes. Am I not getting enough done? You'd have to ask the leaders of my church and our church planting network.

I do not hold myself up as an example. I hold up Jesus as FAR MORE WORTHY of our time and pursuit than anything else - including ministry, comfort and child-raising.

Pastors, fathers, mothers, your church and your family need you to turn off the 24/7 distractions and meet with Jesus - regularly, purposefully, intentionally. Replace the good things with excellent. Quiet, solitude, simplicity, fasting will deepen your experience of Jesus' grace.

This is not earning your salvation. This is experiencing the transformation Jesus' wrought by His salvation.

It's hard at first. But it's the best thing you can do with your time.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

How The Help Helped Us Become (More) Bi-Cultural

On vacation in July, my wife and daughters all read The Help. and I'm man enough to say I read it too. Though all the main characters are women, it isn't 'just a chick book' but it's a rather a stimulating book about our recent past prior to and during the civil rights movement. Another pastor I respect wrote a great review I don't need to repeat.

I wanted to comment on the tag line for the movie. It's change begins with a whisper. But I think the result of 8 or 10 women in our English-speaking congregation reading and discussing The Help for their book club has revealed and spurred on some change. And it shows how we are making progress in our mission to be a justice-seeking, reconciling, bi-cultural, multi-ethnic church.

The Setting of Our Change
Sunday July 31, we got back from vacation to witness an historic Sunday for Crosspoint Encuentro Church. Our Pastor to Hispanics for the last few years, Hector Guzman, an immigrant from Mexico City, preached in Spanish to our English-speaking congregation for the first time. (He was translated by a 2nd generation Puerto Rican man in our church). He spoke as one who knows us well and who loves us crazy Americans but had some good corrections and some needed insight into our vision to be unified - one church two congregations. He was right on and we needed to hear from him!

The Background of Our Change
When we started 8 years ago, the vision was always for a multi-ethnic church. But, as you may know, I'm a white guy from Tennessee. I really had nothing in my family (except some racially-mixed adopted cousins but that is a whole other story) or in our staff to show visibly our desire to be not 'just another white church.' So we just kept holding the door open, telling all the people who visited (most of whom were white) that it's our vision and aspiration to be a church of many nations, races and languages.

So miraculously, three years into the church plant, God brought some bi-lingual people - the Mateos, Santiagos, Rodriguezes - and through them, six years in, the Lord sent us the Guzmans to start a second Spanish-speaking congregation.

The Problem with Change
It is a challenge to start being a bi-cultural church after its always been a mono-cultural church! We had been somewhat multi-cultural and multi-racial in our first six years but adding a second language requires a significant amount of  work and sacrifice so that we can truly be ONE church, instead of two churches that like each other.

Over the years we have held combined worship services. I spent three weeks at language school improving my Spanish. I attend all the Encuentro worship services I possibly can. In our English worship services, we sing one song a week with Spanish. Some of our people are making friends slowly during our education hour when both congregations are in the building together. We send a van around to pick up families. But it seems like we have a long way to go to be unified like a family in Christ.

The Help is Helping Us Change 
We are beyond whispering now! When these ladies read and discussed this book, I was told it led to some deep and perhaps surprising discussion! When Lisa Payne spoke to me after hearing Hector preach, I was shocked at what they had discussed the night before at their The Help discussion.

She said it made them ask, 'Do we do this same sort of thing today? Are we prejudicial in our treatment of Hispanics? What is it like to raise children in a sub-dominant culture?' Wow. Wow!

Only the gospel could have prepared all these English-speaking women (who are quite diverse themselves) to look at themselves and ask such an honest and hard questions!

And only pressing into the Gospel and Scripture and each others' lives will lead us to further answers about the issues. I am deeply excited about how The Help discussion is helping us make progress!

We Aren't All Better Now - But We are Changing at Different Speeds
And now more people are investing themselves in the questions, the issues and the struggle to be united as a diverse church. As your pastor, it's so encouraging to see!
  1. One Saturday after their The Help discussion, the ladies book club re-assembled to invite Hector and Cecy and me discuss issues immigrants face living under a dominant culture. The answers were not neat or easy. It makes us uncomfortable. But it was good. (more in future posts).
  2. Pastor Jose Mateo (who is a 2nd generation Puerto Rican) just joined our pastoral staff as a volunteer to develop Outreach and Discipleship in our two congregations. Though he thinks and speaks English mostly, he can bridge both cultures in a way that neither Hector nor I can.
  3. Sunday 4 people who's primary language is Spanish will lead 18 English-speakers in beginning to learn or improve their Spanish. Our hope is this will develop an appreciation for each other's lives, cultures, families, worship songs and maybe deeper friendships as we learn to obey the Lord together.
  4. Next month, in our bi-monthly combined worship service, Hector will preach instead of me.
  5. I posted a resolution some of us have made about welcoming immigrants into our church. Its posted here on this blog.
I wonder what else God will do with and through Crosspoint Encuentro as we continue following Him together?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Resolution about Welcoming Immigrants into Our Church

Over the last few years as we have sought to become a truly bi-lingual and mulit-cultural church, it has come to our attention that there are few churches, in our denomination anyway, who have any official written statements that welcome Hispanics (yes, even people without documents) into their churches. There is a fertile and strategic mission field right here in our city!

I know we are stepping into a hornets nest, but since we have many immigrants in our church membership and we want to reach more, we realized we need to start thinking and writing about this issue from a pastoral perspective. The recent Georgia law House Bill 87 (HB87) and the heated argument about immigration and deportation has only sped up the process for us. 

Scripture has much to say about immigrants, sojourners or aliens. So this resolution starts with a 16-point summary of what the Bible says about immigrants. The nine resolutions are our attempt to address some key issues first in our church, Crosspoint Encuentro Church.

I would be interested in talking with others who have or want a similar statement about welcoming immigrants into their churches.

May 25, 2011

A Resolution from Concerned Pastors and Elders of Crosspoint Encuentro Church
Regarding Welcoming Immigrants into our Church

  1. God is the Sovereign King over all the earth and all governmental authority is subject to His authority and rule,God, after the Fall, subjected Adam and Eve to an immigrant status upon removal from Eden, (Genesis 3:23) and,
  2. God sent Abram to be an immigrant with his family (Gen. 12:2) sojourning in a strange land, then made His covenant with Abraham while he was an alien (Genesis 17:9),
  3.  the children of Israel, through God’s divine providence, were immigrants in Egypt for generations (Gen. 50:22-26), were led out of Egypt by Moses, an immigrant (Ex. 2:22) and celebrated the first Passover in Egypt with converted strangers and sojourners (Ex. 12:43ff) who were led out of Egypt with Israel.
  4.  God audibly and repeatedly commanded His people to give aliens/sojourners with them Sabbath rest (Ex. 20:10; 23:9, 12), identified them as former aliens and commanded His people to not mistreat or oppress sojourners/aliens among them (Ex. 23:9),
  5.  God commanded His people to maintain the same regulations for non-native born people as native-born (Num. 9:14 and Num. 15) and required equanimity in temple worship (Lev. 17 and 19),
  6.  God charged the courts of His people to judge righteously between fellow countrymen and aliens living among them (Deut. 1:16) and promises to defend aliens along with the fatherless and widow because He loves the alien and provides for them through the generosity of His people both directly and through the tithes of His people (Deut. 10:18, 24:14-21, 26:12-13),
  7.  God curses the man who withholds justice from the sojourner, as well as the fatherless and widow (Deut. 27:19),
  8.  Christ Jesus immigrated to earth from heaven,
  9.  in His humanity Christ was an immigrant, persecuted by his fellow countrymen,
  10.  we were all alienated from God and strangers to the covenants of promise without hope except through God’s grace by faith alone (Eph. 2:12)
  11.  through Christ’s sacrifice in our place, He became our peace, made all believers one, broke down the dividing wall of hostility, created in Himself one new man, and by His reconciling work on the cross will make all things new in heaven and on earth by His blood (Eph 2: 14ff, Col. 1:20-22)
  12.  his people are and will be from every nation, tribe, tongue and people united in Him, heirs and sons – neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female (Gal. 3:26-29),
  13.  all of God’s people are citizens of heaven first and citizens of a nation on earth second (Phil. 3:20)
  14.  there is no human governmental authority outside of God’s sovereign will and all government is established by God (Rom. 13:1-7) but does not supersede the government of God,
  15.  legal status is not a requirement for salvation or church membership,
  16. ministers and elders of God’s church have a moral duty to speak against injustice.

We Resolve…
1.      We resolve to pray for immigrants and their families out of concern for their souls and well-being. We will pray as well for our US governing authorities – local, state & federal – who are responsible to God for their personal, legislative, executive (including enforcement) and judicial decisions in regard to justice and mercy for all people.  We will urge people to pray for the US electorate to consider immigration issues according to God’s Word so that His Word is exalted and obeyed as US immigration policy is debated and decided.  And equally important, we will pray for other nations’ governing authorities who will also one day answer to God.        
2.      We resolve to welcome all immigrants into our church for relief, assistance, development and the hearing of the gospel.
3.      We resolve to accept anyone who meets the requirements of faith in Christ alone by faith alone, they shall be welcomed into full membership in our church, regardless of legal status before the US government or any state in the Union.
4.      We resolve to disciple and train immigrants to ‘glorify God and enjoy Him forever’ and treat them with dignity as image bearers of God.
5.      We resolve to prepare all church members and attenders, whether immigrants with status or without, or citizens of the US, to live as missionaries wherever God may, in His divine providence, send them to live, work and worship Him.
6.      We resolve to protect and teach all children, regardless of status or citizenship, to love God, receive Christ by faith and follow the doctrines of our holy religion.
7.      We resolve to work for the protection of the weak, oppressed and alien during legal proceedings and to urge our political representatives to develop a just and equitable means for immigrants whose status has expired to be reconciled and/or acquire legal status according to the laws of the USA.
8.      We resolve to educate English-speakers in our church about the issues, challenges, problems and struggles for immigrants and to educate Spanish-speaking congregants about their rights and duties as a sojourner in the USA.
9.      We resolve to prepare any immigrants under our care who are not currently under proper status to comply with the laws of the US and if they are unable to rectify their status, prepare them for the potential return to their home nation and accept these consequences peaceably and with grace.

Under the Grace of God and to His Glory Among All Nations,

Jim Moon, Jr. – Pastor, Crosspoint Encuentro Church Smyrna GA
Hector Guzman – Pastor, Crosspoint  Encuentro Church Smyrna GA
Jim Payne – Pastor, Crosspoint Encuentro Church Smyrna GA
Gordon Hwang – Elder, Crosspoint Encuentro Church Smyrna GA