I Love The Church!

i-love-the-churchI love the church.  I love the organic expression of Jesus on earth through his wonderful bride.  I love being a part of the body.  I love both the gathered and scattered forms of church.  I love leading.  I love that Jesus is the head.

I love my home church in Waynesville, Ohio and the heritage she instilled.  I love the miracle God did in a cornfield church in Washington, Indiana where people are still called Christians at Antioch.

I love the expression of Jesus called Mountainview in a place called Highlands Ranch.  This Colorado church has seen more than her share of struggle, and yet she remains to pierce the obvious darkness around the Denver area.

Heck… I even love the church we’ve attended on study break here in Sarasota.  I’ve never heard church music this loud!  My kids LOVE it, and for that reason alone… so do I.  The messages are topical, prayer is minimal, no Bibles are opened; it’s a very clean one-hour service… but I still love their expression of church.  I’m finally at a point where I don’t have to agree with a church’s complete methodology to love the Church.

I love Cumberland Community Church.  Less than eight years ago, the bride at CCC was a struggling one.  With a sum total of less than 200 people, some $380k negative annual spending was necessary to keep her doors open.  Wow.  Does anyone remember hiring musicians to come in and keep the music alive?  Does anyone remember Mitzi shooing the thin scattering of people into the auditorium for the start of church?

I remember almost giving the Cumberland keys away to Northpoint.  We thought maybe they should come in and take over.  The elder’s meeting where pastoral ethos was awakened is still fresh in my mind.  These awesome leaders could not walk away from the teetering 200 because of their responsibility and love for the Church.

I love that now, on some Sundays, we’ll have three fully volunteer and excellent bands playing at our church serving folks at two different times of worship.  I love how God has breathed life back into CCC through giving ourselves away.  There really is abundant life as you give yours away.  Cumberland is evidence.

I love how Acts 2 has informed our mission of loving people, feeding people, connecting people, and motivating people.  I love the days when people go home wet.  I love how people get a greater chance to experience Jesus through our experiential forms of worship.  I love our strong 20-something influence and the monster relationships they share through community groups.  I love how our elders operate in community and not as a traditional board.

I love the church.  I love the vision of Cumberland becoming an EPIC gospel place of restoration for hurting people.  I love how the church at Cumberland is energized by giving ourselves away even more through specific restoration ministries in our building.  I love how we’re partnering with so many outside entities to impact our community.

I love how Jesus has encouraged her bride at CCC to embrace messiness.  Oh… we are a messy church in so many ways.  We are white, black, Hispanic, rich, poor, broken, healed, charismatic, reformed, Baptist, independent, and all sorts of flavors.  Somehow God has smiled and given us great diversity to reflect His glorious bride in such an unlikely place like Smyrna.

I love the generosity God has welled up in His body called Cumberland.  In spite of Faith In Action Sundays where offerings are always so minimal, we keep ending fiscal years in the black while continuing to advance Jesus’ Kingdom.

I love our relational staff who get it.  I love our push towards discipleship.  It’s just right.  I love our elders and their hearts.  I love the serving hearts God has grown within the people at Cumberland.  I love the very gracious folks of CCC who have enabled me to stay for nearly eight years.  My marriage and family is healthy because of the stability and longevity the Bride at Cumberland has given this pastor.  This side of heaven, nobody will ever know the depth of grace so patiently extended to the Scotts with our calling to CCC.

I love how my wife and kids love serving.  I love that they love the church.  I love knowing we will all be serving at VBX this next week as a dynamic expression of the Lord’s Church comes alive within our well-led kid’s ministry.  I didn’t love the idea of Lauren leaving study break a week early to go back home, but…  I DO love that she went back to serve and lead in significant ways in preparation for VBX.  She loves the church too.

My love for the church also pushes me to want to lead in the best ways possible.    Leading at less than 200 is different than leading when people stories start to jump to between 800 and 1,000.

I know I need help, and will necessarily be challenged to bring high levels of leadership alongside me to be unleashed in leadership beyond my capability.   To keep the Bride at CCC moving ahead, I will need the very hand of Jesus to help me stay within my strengths of teaching, leadership, and vision casting — and out of essential components of management which tend to foster issues of control within me.

I will need to be a sharper leader.  I will need to help the staff, elders, leaders, and emerging leaders be Kingdom players at higher levels.

All of this is for the glory and magnification of Jesus and His church.  Christ-realization and not self-realization.  This will need to be leadership pointing to HIS book, and not mine.   This will be leadership that can last.  Bernard Mandeville (“The Fable of the Bees’) quipped, “pride and vanity have built more hospitals than all the virtues together.”  Jesus, help me to steer clear from the type of leadership leaning on pride and vanity to build selfish empire relics instead of lasting Kingdom foundations.  This is why “The Other 80 Percent” was a good read.  The authors are clear about end goal:  “Are the people of your church engaged with God at deeper levels?  Are they becoming more active disciples of Jesus Christ?  Is the church you lead becoming spiritually revitalized to love God more with heart, mind, and soul?  Are people loving their neighbors?  Are people growing in grace of Christ through the transforming power of the Holy Spirit?”  The push is to Jesus… beyond the often tantalizing “next levels.”

And that’s what this study break has been about.  Leadership of a higher variety.  Jesus leading through me in better, Kingdom ways.

I have some ideas to take back and fly at CCC.  I want to lead those who are committed, those currently increasing their commitment, those with declining involvement, those with marginal involvement, and those with no involvement.  I want to reach more lost people.  I want to help CCC restore broken lives back into a healthy Kingdom expression of Jesus’ church.  I want to see discipleship and serving measured and appreciated more than attendance numbers.  I want expressions of church beyond Sunday mornings and CCC walls to be lauded and applauded.  (“The Other 80 Percent” has been a good read prompting my thinking.)

Because I love the church, I want to work out my leadership plumb lines, as Larry Osborne suggests in “Sticky Teams,” so staff and other leaders can understand my heart and expectations.  I’m anxious to pound and hand these out.

In short, I love the Church.  Over the years, I can see how God has used me to help lead His Bride.  Sometimes I have led well, and sometimes not so much.  I have grown, and don’t want to stop.  I”ve learned and continue to learn.  I take ownership of my leadership, and yet hold on loosely because this is Jesus’ Church.  Over the years, God has used me to restore and heal churches.  I will continue to operate and lead out of that calling.

In so many ways, the church is hurting.  Contemporary expressions can often focus more on self-realization instead of Jesus.  Traditional models are tired.  Broken extensions of the Bride are numerous.  Os Guiness writes, “Whereas ‘Christ’ is free and fresh, ‘Christianity’ is often formal and dead — or worse.”  An American T-shirt has screamed:  “Jesus, save me from your followers.”  Erasmus wrote to his readers, “If we would bring the Turks to Christianity, we must first be Christians.”  George Bernard Shaw quipped, “Christianity might be a good thing if anyone ever tried it.”   Lenny Bruce once said, “Every day people are straying away from the church and going back to God.”  G.K. Chesterton wrote, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting.  It has been found difficult; and left untried.”  Soren Kierkegaard (“Attack Upon Christendom”) wrote, “The most dreadful sort of blasphemy is that of which ‘Christendom’ is guilty: transforming the God of Spirit into… ludicrous twaddle.”

The Bride of Jesus will prevail.  Who will be so enthralled with Jesus as the groom, that intentional, purposeful, excellent preparations as His Bride will be all consuming?

God help me to keep Jesus at the center and lead.

(And so this is the last study break blog post for 2013.  It has been good like it always.  How can you miss with this kind of special opportunity?  I’ve read Genesis, I, II, and II Peter, Toxic Charity, Leadership That Lasts, Sticky Teams, Amplified Leadership, The Other 80 Percent, My Utmost For His Highest, and 14 chapters of Os Guinness book, The Call.  The girls all read “Not A Fan.”  Michael read “A Story Of God And All Of Us” and worked on his memorization of the books of the Bible.  Sherry read several Christian novels.  They build into her soul and wiring.  We studied half way through Ephesians as a family.  We unplugged, hung out, played, prayed, laughed, boogie boarded, body surfed, watched a few episodes of Duck Dynasty, soaked in sunsets, and allowed God to breathe into us.  I am so thankful for the staff, elders, leadership, and people of Cumberland who encourage this unique, special, rare, great break.)

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