Category Archives: Missional Church

The Need for Intimacy Among Men

To the Ancients, Friendship seemed the happiest and most fully human of all loves; the crown of life and the school of virtue. The modern world, in comparison, ignores it. C.S. Lewis

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On August 27th, I led a men’s breakfast at Foothills Fellowship. My goal was to help men see the need for intimate male relationships, encourage them to be willing to explore this concept more, and eventually pursue such relationships. I gave them 6 reasons why I decided to speak on this topic.

1. Occasionally, I find myself telling my wife, Michelle, “I don’t need close male friends. I have you.” Emotionally, I may convince myself of this, but theologically, I know this is not right.

2. Most churches (including mine) stink at keeping single men connected to the church after high school. Perhaps one of the main reasons is that there aren’t any older men relationally connecting with these younger men.

3. Churches must have an answer for single men who struggle with same-sex attraction but want to honor God by remaining celibate. Deep and meaningful relationships with other men and families in the church is pivotal for helping these men stay connected to their faith and keep their commitment to celibacy. I recently blogged on this.

4. In college, I enjoyed deep male friendships, and I miss it. However, once I was married and had children, these relationships faded. Men must figure out ways to stay connected to one another after marriage.

Yes. That’s me on the right! And yes, I was in college. A senior as a matter of fact!

5. The Bible calls us to deep, intimate relationships with other Christian men, but our culture has made this almost impossible.

Sam Allberry, a pastor in Maidenhead, UK explains why: “Our Western culture has so identified sex and intimacy that in popular thinking the two are virtually identical. We cannot conceive of intimacy occurring without it in some way being sexual. So when we hear how previous generations described friendship in such intimate terms, we roll our eyes and say, “Well they were obviously gay.” Any intimacy, we imagine, must ultimately be sexual. But the Bible conceives of these things very differently. Sex and intimacy are not the same. It’s possible to have a lot of sex and yet find no intimacy. Sex is designed to deepen and express intimacy that already exists; it cannot in itself create it. But it’s also possible to have a huge amount of godly, healthy intimacy without sex.”

6. Men’s discipleship and sanctification is dependent upon deep relationships with Christian male friends. Proverbs 27:17 says, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” Iron tools are made sharp, and fit for use, by rubbing them against the file, or some other iron; so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend. He quickens his ingenuity, enlivens his affections, strengthens his judgment, excites him to virtuous and useful actions, and makes him, in all respects, a better, more godly man.

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There are other Scriptures that point to the need for intimate relationships between Christians (men in this case).

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12: Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken. I read this passage at most marriage ceremonies I perform, but gender is not specified here.

Proverbs 17:17 A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. A friend is sent into the world of another for this among other ends, that he might comfort and relieve his brother in his adversity.

Romans 12:10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Out do one another in showing honor. This denotes the affection that ought to exist between spiritual brothers and is a badge of discipleship. To “outdo” one another means going before, leading, setting an example.

John 13:34-35 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. Christians are called to love one another – and this goes for men too. By doing this 1) it gives evidence that we are Christ’s disciples and 2) it shows unsaved people that we follow Christ.

John 15:12-13 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” This is what Christ did for us. This is what we should be willing to do for others – including our brothers in Christ.

in I Samuel 18-20, we see the ultimate example of an intimate male relationship in David and Jonathan.  We see that “the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.” Once Jonathan realized that he would never assume the throne of his father because of his father’s sin and that David was God’s choice to be the next king, he made a covenant with David (rather than try to kill him) because “he loved him as his own soul.” In an act of great humility and love, Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was upon him, and gave it to David, and his armor, and even his sword and his bow and his girdle.

The last time they ever saw each other, Scripture says that “David fell on his face to the ground, and bowed three times; and they kissed one another, and wept with one another.” Jonathan was eventually killed, and David eventually became king, but their friendship and loyalty lasted long after Jonathan’s death. In 2 Samuel 9, we see David caring for Jonathan’s son as his own. “I will show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan, and I will restore to you all the land of Saul your father, and you shall eat at my table always.”

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Christian men need friendships like this, and it can happen. Pray that God would show you a man of two with whom you can work toward developing a deep and intimate relationship. It will take work and great intention, but it’s worth it. As a matter of fact, your sanctification depends on it!

To see more of these great old photos of men with their buddies and to read about the history of male friendship in America, click here.

To listen to the audio of the men’s breakfast discussion I had with the men from Foothills, click here.

Lopsided Missions

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According to an article in the November 2013 edition of Christianity Today, 400,000 Christian missionaries were sent in 2010 from one country to another.  The breakdown of who sent them and who received them is very interesting – and reinforces the missions strategy of my church.  Here are a few interesting and revealing stats:

The top 9 receiving countries received more than 1/3 of the world’s missionaries – but are home to only 3.5% of the world’s non-Christians.

The United States sent 127,000 missionaries and received 32,400 – which reveals that some countries see the United States as their mission field.

32,400 is the most missionaries any country received – making the United States the #1 receiving country of missionaries.

After the United States, the top senders were Brazil (34,000), Spain and France (21,000), and Italy and South Korea (20,000).

After the United States, the top receivers were Brazil and Russia (20,000), Congo (15,000), and South Africa (12,000).

Among other things, these numbers reveal that the large majority of missionaries are still being sent to countries where the gospel of Jesus has already taken root and where an indigenous church already exists.  And this concerns me – and it concerns many others who have a heart for missions as well.

I’m not saying that already-reached countries should not receive any missionaries, but what I am saying is that countries where there are large unreached people groups should be considered first.

The problem with countries like this is that they are difficult places to get into and to live, but the difficulty should not stop mission agencies and missionaries from trying.  At my church, we’ve committed ourselves to spending our mission dollars on and sending our missionaries to the unreached people living in hard to reach areas.

This has come with its set of unique challenges, but we’ve also seen the gospel break-thru among people who have never heard the gospel before.  As a matter of fact, among an unreached people group we targeted 20 years ago, we’ve seen an explosion of the gospel take place – to the point where now over 1000 home churches exist!

If you are a pastor, a missionary, or a Christian with a heart for missions (something every Christian should have, by the way), please consider focusing on the 4 billion people in this world who have not been reached with the gospel rather than focusing on the 3 billion who have.

Taking the Offering – Literally

Last spring, Cross Timbers Community Church in North Texas began giving money away. Lots of it.  Hundreds of thousands of dollars.  They’ve given single moms and widows $100 gifts; they’ve given $200,000 to four local and two mission organizations; and they’ve fed, clothed, and paid utility bills for  many local people during these tough times.

Last April, the church gave 1,400 families $50 each and told them to give it to someone else. And before that, Pastor Toby Slough told his congregation to take money from the collection plate if they needed it – even though church donations were down. That day they had the largest offering ever.

When asked if he worries people will hear of the church’s generosity and take advantage of it. Pastor Slough replied, “If I’m not being taken advantage of, I’m not being like Jesus.”

To read and watch more about this, click here.

How Much Is Too Much?

At what point is too much too much?  I recently heard about the massive $130 million building campaign of First Baptist Church of Dallas, and my mind immediately went to this question. It was just announced that the church (founded in 1868) will launch one of the nation’s largest church construction projects, aiming to transform its downtown campus.

The plan calls for tearing down five buildings and keeping the 1890s-era sanctuary. The centerpiece is going to be a new 3,000-seat glass-front sanctuary that will be connected by a sky bridge to a six-story education building. A major feature will be a fountain topped by a cross.  One of the pastors was quoted as saying that the church plans to be a spiritual oasis in the heart of the city.

Is it me, or am I missing something?  I like the idea of a church striving to establish itself as a “spiritual oasis” in the heart of a city, but does it take a $130 million building to do that?  Can’t a church be a spiritual oasis without spending so much money on its facilities?  I’m fine with spending money on church buildings, but $130 million?!

Seems to me that what a city like Dallas (or any other city for that matter) needs is a church willing to spend that kind of money not on its facility but on the people of the city.  Much needed jobs could be developed, low-income homes could be refurbished, single mothers could be assisted, college scholarships could be established for students with no chance of attending college otherwise – all in the name of Jesus.

And with the kind of money that First Baptist Church of Dallas has at their disposal, imagine the “oasis” a church like that would be if they used a large portion of that money to redeem the lives of people rather than build an insanely expensive church facility.

Missional Living and the Sermon on the Mount

Currently, my church is involved in a study of Jesus’ words from His “Sermon on the Mount.”  Along with Jesse Harden, my friend and associate, we’re preaching through it each Sunday.  Then following each sermon, along with Andrew Streett, my friend and our new Director of Missional Living, we’re discussing each sermon in more detail with our church family.  And there’s a reason why we’re doing this.

God has called our church (and your church too) to be missional – to join Him in His redemptive work in our neighborhood, our city, our country, and around the world.  And what better passage to study than Jesus’ instructions to His first followers recorded in Matthew 5-7 on what it means to join Him in His mission of redemption?

Andrew, being the missional director that he is for our church, sent me a link to a video where Mark Scandrette, an author, teacher, and missional activist shares his insights into missional community formation from  his 10+ years of radically living it with his family in a San Francisco neighborhood.  Mark’s words encouraged me that we’re doing the right thing in exploring Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount with our church family as a way to lay some missional foundations with them.  He says:

Jesus said “Love your enemies.”  He said, “Don’t worry about your money and possessions anymore.”  Seek first the kingdom of God.  There are between 36 and 40 explicit things that Jesus said about how to live in the kingdom of God (in the Sermon on the Mount), and what a missional community does is they get it down to: How are we going to help each other actually live those things out?  What is our next step to living in the Jesus way?

The easiest thing to do is to talk about our dissatisfaction with the way our church is or the way our lives are.  But somehow we need to get to the point where we turn the corner and decide how we’re going to live into the reality of God’s kingdom, which is the revolution of love in the gritty details of our lives.  And THAT’S how you are missional.  It’s an inside revolution of saying: “What new choices am I going to make in my heart and in my relationships to transition from a self-focus to a focus that’s on being renewed in the way of love.

I am encouraged by his words, and think it’s cool that he kinda looks like Bono.  Anyway, I’m glad that – even though our exploration of the Sermon on the Mount has exposed some tough things in our lives and our church – we chose to dive in and are continuing to wade through the deep and choppy waters anyway.

Click here for the full video. It’s 17 minutes long, and Mark’s vibe is kinda funky, but his words are profound!  It’s well worth your time.