Training Institute: United Kingdom Update

One of Harris Creek’s ministry principles, Create Over Reproduce, drives us as a body to pursue creative solutions to hurdles that we face as we look to seek the welfare of our city. Our culture is constantly shifting, and we desire to be proactive when positioning our church to intersect the Gospel with that culture. One way to approach the unknowns that lie ahead is to learn from those who have gone before us.

Over the last few years our staff has been hard at work identifying churches that have wrestled with what we are just beginning to see here in our country. Our research took us to England. We have found a handful of unique and passionate churches that we think we can learn from. Though these partners aren’t an exact match of Harris Creek in terms of theology and practice, they do share a true desire to creatively engage their cities with the Gospel.

With trusted partners in place, we have begun to send young leaders into a summer long learning environment. The reciprocal aspects of the Training Institute:UK allow us to bless these churches with excellent volunteers for an extended period of time, and in turn we get to observe and ask questions as to their approach.

Church life in a post-Christian world is going to look different in each city. Our second summer rotation marks the addition of a ministry partner. As of right now, we have four residents in two different cities/churches in England. This cohort will experience vastly different approaches to seeking the welfare in Brighton and Birmingham. We are excited about what they will learn and bring back for us to consider.

This summer’s residents are Nathan Scott (Brighton), Christy McCaw (Brighton), Zach Winterrowd (Birmingham) and Shayna Bettinger (Birmingham). We will be providing updates on their experiences throughout the summer by way of this blog and our social media platforms.

 

We are excited to announce that we are adding short term options (8 days) for those looking to experience the TI:UK in an accelerated way. Stay tuned for those details!

The Chewbacca Lady & Social Media

You’ve all seen it by now, and are probably over it, I know. However, the Happy Chewbacca lady, Candace Payne (who happened to go to my alma mater, Ouachimagesita, NBD), hit on something with her viral post recently that I’ve been thinking about for a while now. I’ll pose it as a question. Shouldn’t Christians be the most fun people to follow on social media?

It seems that Christ-followers, who SHOULD be the most joyful people on earth, would easily be the best people to follow, because who doesn’t love a [cheesy Christian pun alert] “good news” feed? However, this is rarely the case. Many times our news feeds turn into less than joyful places—places for political fear mongering, posts that say to tag 10 friends or Jesus won’t love you, diatribes on the demise of our world, and the list goes on. I’m kind of over it, to be honest. We are really great at being known for what we are AGAINST, and not so much for what we are FOR. We are called to be evangelicals—not the hijacked word the media uses to define a political group—but spreaders of “good news” (this is really where the word comes from). In Romans 10:14-15, it says, “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’”

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She Shall Not Be Moved

A few weeks ago, my family celebrated the life of our youngest son. It was the anniversary of the day our lives changed forever. We celebrate on this day because he is still with us. God spared his life! It is, however, a different life than the one he had and it is definitely not the life we had dreamed for him, but it is life.

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Harris Creek Training Institute: UK

London, England is an epicenter for cultural development. What happens in London doesn’t seem to stay in London. Business ventures, style trends, fine arts movements, and social reform may start within the walls of Big Ben and Parliament, but they flow outward like the River Thames, beyond the realm of the big city and to previously unknowing neighbors. A speck of an idea can float to the heart of Great Britain or it can float out to the open sea to distant lands that wait. Despite what the geography of the United Kingdom wants you to believe, “no man is an island” after all, but rather each person is as capable of influencing, as he/she is capable of being influenced. In London, the transformation of an individual has the potential to influence the world at large. Can anything good come out of London? Can anything good come out of Waco?

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Stewardship: Simple Solutions Against Self-Absorption and Appetites

Brooklynn Wynveen shares her thoughts on the recent message entitled, “The Ripple Effect,” which discussed the lasting repercussions from one generation to the next. With a PhD from Clemson University, this doctor knows her way through conversations regarding sustainability practices and their social outcomes. Read her post below as she invites us to continue the conversation.

Stewardship is defined as “the responsible overseeing and protection of something considered worth caring for and preserving.” Most Christians would probably view Joseph, “the dreamer” in Genesis, as a good steward and a great manager of resources. I know I did, until this weekend’s message in our Dreamer series. Our Lead Pastor Brady Herbert described Joseph’s actions in Genesis 47, how he worked to elevate himself by taking advantage of the Egyptians’ weakness and vulnerability, to the point of enslaving them from one end of Egypt to the other. Brady also pointed out the influence of idolatry in Joseph’s decisions and actions. I love the quote he shared by Andy Crouch, where he states, “Idolatry is the biblical name for the human capacity for creative power run amok.” This is all too true, unfortunately. And that creativity, having now run amok, has led to disturbing lack of stewardship on many different fronts—social, environmental, economic, and spiritual.

Stewardship is essentially an exercise in balance and simplicity in the way we live our lives and allocate our resources—again, on many different fronts. Sometimes when we focus on economic resources, for example, we neglect our social or environmental responsibilities. Sometimes Pair of scales is made of stones on the cliffwhen we focus on our social responsibilities, we forget entirely about the economic sustainability of our efforts. So ultimately, we’re faced with what is at best a delicate balancing act, but what more often collapses into a huge mess. It’s no wonder that people are constantly asking for practical tips and examples about how to actually live a life of stewardship. And if you offer practical tips and examples, people will almost invariably ask for a greater quantity or a greater variety of those suggestions. I know this quite well from experience.

I think that Brady’s suggestions for how we can counteract the self-absorption and insatiable appetite for more that accompany an idolatry of self were a great jumping-off point, and I definitely think we need to be deliberate about continuing this conversation. We need to reevaluate our needs as compared to our wants, and learn to really recognize the distinction between the two. We need to consider the impact of our actions on ourselves, our families, our communities, our natural resources, and on and on. We need to prioritize our time, our financial resources, our spiritual gifts, and so forth, in such a way that reflects our Christian values and beliefs. We each need to acknowledge our individual role in caring for and preserving God’s creation, with the focus outside of ourselves.

I think one way to do that is to share individual experiences with one another and to share about an action step you want to strive towards. Do you have some practical tips and examples for how to live a life of stewardship? Use the comment link below to share your suggestions and aspirations.

Asking the question, “How can I do this (exercising stewardship)?” is not beneficial without active progress towards application. What if we made ourselves accountable to one another, allowing our brothers and sisters in Christ to call us out—in love and grace, of course—when we start showing symptoms of self-idolatry? Let’s make a commitment—individually, as a Life Group, and as a church—to make some changes in the coming 2015-2016 Ministry Plan year, and we’ll surely be blessed by the ripple effect!

Dreams and Rest

After being out on a month-long sabbatical and preaching on the subject of dreams over the summer, I wanted to make an important connection between these two subjects: dreams and rest. It sounds fairly obvious, but our ability to dream is intimately linked to our ability to rest. When I say rest, I don’t necessarily mean “going on a trip” or “taking a day off.” I’m sure we all have experienced those vacations that were not restful in the least bit. So, rest must be something far more than the American idea of taking a vacation.

Rest in Scripture is linked to the sacred practice of honoring the Sabbath. And Sabbath, as you know, finds its origins in the accounts of creation in Genesis 1-2. Obviously the Genesis story has God resting from the activity of creating on the seventh day. What is less obvious is the pattern that leads up to the first Sabbath-rest was this pattern engrained in the Genesis story of each time period being marked by, “it was evening and morning.” There has been much discussion over the significance of the text not following the pattern we would assume, which is morning first, evening second. I recently heard someone say that the reason why God does things on an “evening then morning” pattern is because rest is what fuels creativity.

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Simply put: your ability to dream is built upon your ability to rest. If you’re worn down and burned out, your problems will be magnified and God’s calling on your life will begin to wane. There’s no way around it: dreaming is a result of dwelling in a state of restfulness, not in the midst of frenetic activity. This begs the question, “How are you doing in the area of rest?” In a culture that prides itself on constantly giving off the appearance of being crazy busy, we have to relearn the discipline of rest.

Here are some questions to help you assess how you are doing in the area of rest:

  • Do you require multiple cups of coffee (or caffeine hits) just to get through the day? It is becoming routine for people to push their bodies beyond their finite capacity into a dangerous, unhealthy place. In order to keep up with the demands on our plate, we take supplements to help push our bodies through barriers that God designed for a reason. If you do this long enough to your body, it will take a toll and the price will be steep. Depression, anxiety attacks, heart disease and hypertension, relationship failures, etc. will be the price you pay if you refuse to accept your God-ordained limitations. Keep in mind that some jobs are physically demanding (e.g., standing on your feet all day, working with your hands, etc.), while others are emotionally, psychologically, or spiritually taxing. I think the temptation to self-medicate and form addictive behaviors is extremely high, particularly if you have an emotionally draining role. Why? It’s easier to spot when your body is physically exhausted. We are less adept at identifying when we reach a saturation point emotionally and mentally, so we reach for substances that will help us push through our finite limitations. Over time, we can become reliant on these substances just to make it through the day.
  • Is it hard for you to get sleep because your mind is still running when you finally get a few moments of peace and quiet? Sleep is a daily reminder of our place in the world; the world goes on spinning even when we’re not awake. Amazing how that happens. During the month I was away, it was a great and sobering reminder of my role in the grand scheme of things. I don’t hold things together at work or in my social circles nearly as much as I like to think I do. And realizing this fact is actually freeing, not depressing. I don’t have to trick myself into believing that I am carrying a weight that I was never able to carry in the first place. This is one way sleep can be a daily reminder of our place in the universe, as well as the power of the resurrection. We are remade and given the gift of new life each morning.
  • When you see friends or co-workers in public on an “off day,” do you find yourself still wanting to project busyness or productivity to them? If all of your off days are filled with projects and to-do lists, just for a different boss, then you’re probably not finding rest. The concept of Sabbath is rooted in the necessity of ceasing our work—whether it is completed or not—and finding value in simply being, not in what we can produce. I know that I can see projects take up whole days on my weekend if I’m not careful. While pulling my weight around the house is essential, being constantly worried about endless to-do lists will not provide the rest I need to flourish.
  • Are you constantly checking your technology devices to monitor social media platforms (i.e., Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, etc.)? One of the subtle forms of “hustling” is constantly feeling like you need to manage your online persona. Even our attempts to be real or authentic can actually just be another way to try to gain status over others, “who are clearly not as transparent and vulnerable as I am.” If you don’t think technology and social media play into our inability to rest, try giving it up for a day each week. Early on, you will find yourself instinctively grabbing for your device to check social media at stoplights, on the couch, or any moment when you reach a lull. It’s frightening how addicted we are becoming to this incessant form of restlessness.
  • Do you rely solely on activity-based rituals (e.g., running, working in the yard, reading a book, etc.) to connect with God? While it is certainly possible to connect with God through activities, it should not be the sole source of deepening our connection with Him. The point of rest is not just for us to recharge physically and emotionally, but also to reconnect spiritually with the Creator of everything seen and unseen. We do this through disciplines like uninterrupted prayer (communing and communicating with God), Scripture study (learning more about His character/nature and rooting ourselves in the truths that He describes about Himself), and solitude (listening for His voice and finding God in the “whisper” moments of life).

Rest is a spiritual discipline, which means you may have to work at learning to rest (it sounds like an oxymoron, I know). I can tell you at this stage that I am not nearly as skilled as I hope to be when it comes to rest. I can also say I am getting better at it. I’m learning to take pride in getting enough sleep each night, even as a parent of young children. I want to resist the urge to “humble brag” about running on fumes when it is a habit that can eat away at you spiritually, emotionally, and physically.

If all of this talk about rest and Sabbath sounds like laziness to you, or if you think practicing regular rest sounds way too easy, I would encourage you to rethink the subject. Essentially removing myself from my job, my community, and even my closest friends for a month took intentional effort. It was not easy. But, in Genesis language, it was very good.

The Running Back that Hated to Run

I have long been fascinated by the story of Curtis Martin.

Curtis Martin retired from the NFL in 2005 as with the fourth most rushing yards in the history of the league and was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 2012. While there is nothing extraordinary in that, what fascinates me is something that Martin shared in his Hall of Fame acceptance speech: he never really liked football… and he hates running.

I’ll let that sink in for a minute.

Martin explains a little more in his induction speech:

I’ll tell you this, I came into Canton this week, and everyone here who knows me, this section, everyone knows me.  You know that I was never a football fan.  I wasn’t the type of guy to watch football.  I could probably count on one hand how many football games I’ve watched from beginning to end in my lifetime.

Also, another thing about me is I played running back.  I’m up here because of how many yards I ran.  Everyone who knows me also knows that I hate to run.  I don’t like to run at all.  I box now to stay in shape just because I don’t want to run anywhere.

But this has been an incredible road for me.  When I’m in situations like this, especially when I’m being honored for something that I’ve achieved in football, it always makes me feel a little awkward and out of place because I’ve just never really been able to identify with the love and the passion that a lot of my colleagues and a lot of the other alumni of the Hall of Fame have.

Most of these guys have lived for the game of football and eat, breath, sleep football.  I was someone who was somewhat forced to play football.  I can remember draft day like it was yesterday.  My family and I were sitting around and were watching the draft.  The phone rings and it’s Bill Parcells.  I answer the phone and say “Hello,” and Parcells says, “Curtis, we want to know if you’re interested in being a New England Patriot?”  I said, “Yes, yes, sir.”  And we hang up the phone.  As soon as we hang up the phone I turn around to everyone, and I said, “Oh my gosh, I do not want to play football.”

No, you’re laughing, but this is the truth.  I turned around and said, “I don’t want to play football.  I don’t even know that I like football enough to try to make a career out of it.”  My pastor at the time was a guy by the name of Leroy Joseph, and I’m so glad he was there to talk some sense into me.  He says, “Curtis, look at it this way, man.”  He said, “Maybe football is just something that God is giving you to do all those wonderful things that you say you want to do for other people.” I tell you, it was like a light bulb came on in my head.

That became my connection with football.  I don’t know if he wouldn’t have said that to me if football would have gotten out of me what it got out of me.  I definitely wouldn’t be standing here.  And ever since he said that, I knew the only way I was going to be successful at this game called football is if I played for a purpose that was bigger than the game itself because I knew that the love for the game just wasn’t in my heart.

For Curtis, football was the platform that allowed him to be able to do the things that he really wanted to do: help people in difficult circumstances. What amazes me about his story is that Curtis Martin was able to find a “through-line,” a way to use something that he wasn’t all that excited about in order to do that which he was called to do.

I’m curious: what is your football? What is your through-line?

What is it that God has given you to leverage for your true calling?