Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Pick up Your Chair...

By the way, that IS the original chair we used.
The sound was clear - at the close of Revolution Church's services at H.B. Williams Elementary School, the noise echoed through the gym as dozens of people turned and began stacking the hard plastic chairs we used each week for service.

For 70 weeks, we set up and tore down, every week. In January of 2012, we were blessed to move into a permanent facility. And though many of us don't miss the eight-hour Saturdays when sometimes things would all go wrong, and the late Sunday afternoons making sure the building was cleaned right, I certainly do miss hearing the sounds of the "stair chackers."

Funny thing. That's a transposed way of saying "chair stackers" but I can't tell you how many times I screwed that up on stage trying to say it right. Be my guest, you'll do it too. But that's not the point of today's blog.

Sunday began "Sun Stand Still" at Revolution Church. We challenged our church to own the vision and dream for God to do the impossible. Reaching the impossible requires a full reliance upon the Holy Spirit, and a simple obedience. Quit trying to change the world - just simply change your next step. And that means picking up your chair.

Now that we are settled in a building, the vision certainly has different ways to carry itself out. I want to offer THREE SIMPLE WAYS to "pick up your chair" at Revolution Church. Together, we CAN change the world, and together with God, we CAN do the impossible.

Pick up your chair by:

1. Serving like you worship. During Sunday's music time, Philip Gorodetzky was playing the djembe (pronounced "gym-bay") with his left hand, while his eyes were closed and his right hand was in the air. He was serving as he was worshipping, and do it with the same hands. When you serve like you worship, you are as passionate about serving others as you are about praising the name of Jesus. Because serving IS worship.

Serving happens in systems, but using those systems is a productive way to carry out what God has for you. In a church, find a system and get plugged in to serve - setup, small groups, greeters, ushers, maintenance, kids, cleaning, tech, teens, admin, leadership - or simply see a need and be a part of the system to meet the need by creating ministry.

The key to serving is sacrifice. Make a difference.

2. Praying like you preach. We have called our church to a seven-day prayer fast. Each day from 6-7 a.m. or 6-7 p.m., take an hour to pray for your family, your self, your church, your leaders and your calling/ministry.

Followers of Christ do a lot of talking. We fill Facebook, T-shirts and text messages with constant billboards of who we are in Christ. But when we do not translate our talk into an open communication with God, we are missing the biggest piece of how He works in us.

Pick up your chair by owning the vision in prayer. Call out to God, and intercede for your church and those around you. Step up by kneeling. Get connected with God.

The key to prayer can also be in how well we listen. It's not always about what we say.

3. Finding like you follow. Christians abuse statistics, so without throwing a number at you, I can instead verify that the large majority of people who come to church do so because someone invited them to the Gospel, to a service, or give church a try.

We are in a community with 58 churches, yet 70 percent of the people around us on a given Sunday (whoops, there's a stat) are not in church, and therefore most likely not following Christ. Church membership is not a precursor to salvation, but if a person is not connected to a local church, it is a fair question of how connected they are to the Gospel of Christ which called us to work together.

You are at Revolution Church because you chose to follow - hopefully Christ above all. You responded to an invitation, mailer, outreach event, serve project, buzz in the community - there is a channel which brought you. That channel likely had a person connected to it.

Saved people SAVE people. Served people SERVE people. Found people FIND people. The centrality of the Gospel is to tell the world about the Good News of Christ.

So pick up your chair so someone else can sit.

Today's blog is simple. It's probably not going to change your life.

Funny thing, it might change someone else's life. And if we all pick up our chair, it will definitely change our church.

Don't get comfortable. We haven't even started yet.

I love you, and these are my thoughts.

Pastor Kris

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

I Dropped My Arms...

Dear church and dear friends: what you are about to read is the most transparent writing I have ever put on paper. It's my Sun Stand Still prayer, and confession of a leader desperately seeking to be found in the will of God. At times, you may find it challenging, and other times uncomfortable. But the anointing of the Spirit has been quenched in my life for so long that it about cost me my church, my ministry and my ability to live in God's calling. My desire to write and my heart to flow the words of God onto paper has been silenced for so long that I worried I would never hear from Him in power again. He has lifted this burden, but it is up to me to lift His Word. So it begins. This will take a while.

I don't actually need you to read it. I need to say it.

And I hope you will be there Sunday to hold up my arms.

Pastor Kris


While the people of the Lord were still at Rephidim, the warriors of Amalek attacked them. Moses commanded Joshua, "choose some men to go out and fight the army of Amalek for us. Tomorrow, I will stand at the top of the hill, holding my staff of God in my hand."

So Joshua did what Moses had commanded, and fought the army of Amalek. Meanwhile, Moses, Aaron and Hur climbed to the top of a nearby hill. As long as Moses held up the staff in his hand, the Israelites had the advantage. But whenever he dropped his hand, the Amalekites gained the advantage. Moses arms soon became so tired he could no longer hold them up. So Aaron and Hur found a stone for him to sit on. Then they stood on each side of Moses, holding up his hands. So his hands held steady until sunset. As a result, Joshua overwhelmed the army of Amalek in battle.

After the victory, the Lord instructed Moses, "write this down on a scroll as a permanent reminder, and read it aloud to Joshua: "I will erase the memory of Amalek under heaven." Moses built an altar there, and named it Yahweh-Nissi (which means the Lord is my Banner). Exodus 17:8-15

I am not Moses, and in no way claim to be of his leadership ability, albeit flawed. I am stubborn, at times insecure, and have a poor habit of caring so much about people that I equate their voice in importance of time often to the voice of the Holy Spirit inside of me. I can tend to be aggressive, I certainly argue with God on many things in my personal prayer time though he always wins. And yes, my arms get much more tired that the Lord's when He holds up my banner, than when I try to hold up His.

I identify with Moses. I don't pretend to be him.

The journey to plant a church has been filled with ups and downs. Church planting is not always what you read on Twitter, or the marketing success it's portrayed in social networking and mass mailers. With church planting there is great spiritual battle, to fight against the forces of Satan and intercede for the lives of many people who can be transformed by the message - and life-changing power - of Jesus Christ.

There are broken pieces, shattered glass, and the edges cut. The thorns pierce harder than the roses smell sweet. Failure is trumpeted by temptation to give up; success is wallowed in a constant ego battle to disengage your pride.

Alright, fair point. You are lost. What is this about?

Moses led God's people out of Egypt. It was with his staff that he performed incredible miracles, instructing the people to stand still and wait on the provision of God while an oncoming army charged them to the bank of the Red Sea. Then in miraculous fashion, God parted the water, and the enemy was swallowed whole by its rush.

Yet time after time, the people (including Moses), disobeyed God, complained against God and the leaders, and constantly found themselves bickering about missing the "goodness" of slavery in Egypt. They actually liked it better when they were broken and held in captivity because in their freedom they abused the blessing.

This story finds the army of Amalek raging against them, and a commanding victory delivered by God when the raising of Moses hands and his staff declared the advantage to the Israelites. The Bible says when Moses hands were raised, the Israelites prevailed. When they lowered, the Israelites were losing. But the magic of the story is found when Moses cracks under human frailty and cannot stand any longer.

His right and left arms are raised up and held up by his men, Aaron and Hur, as Joshua his military commander fights the battle. He sits upon the rock to rest his tired legs. And when there is victory, God says WRITE THIS DOWN AND DON'T FORGET IT. I AM YOUR BANNER. I WIN.

About February of this year, my body got tired and I dropped my arms.

We had momentum, and let me say something about numbers. Numbers without spiritual health are as good as a million dollar home built on a sink hole. It won't stand without foundation. That's in the Bible too, by the way (Matthew 7:28-30).

And then, Satan attacked. He brutalized our momentum. Every month was a different battle. By summer's end, it wasn't about numbers anymore, it was a fight for spiritual survival.

It was hard. I have nothing else to say about that. It. Was. Hard.

Thank you to my friends who were constructive with me, and to others, please pray for my family and I, and I love you and pray for you. I forgive you, and you - I pray - forgive me. If it's not settled, then we need to talk - not to everybody else, to each other.

I was sad, hurt, watching friends leave our church. And it's OK. I accept the consequences of what happens when Satan attacks and people lose sight - and LEADERS lose sight. Let me say something to all of you. I want you to be plugged into another church, for your family to be blessed, and I pray for forgiveness because my leadership was bludgeoned by discouragement and I cowered into a corner of distrust when people began to let me down.

My arms got tired. The problem was, I did not know who was there to hold them up. I told you this was going to be brutally honest - I did not know who I could trust, and I am learning once again how to build those relationships. If I don't yet trust you, be thankful. Hold me accountable. Earn it, and let me earn my trust with you. That is the way it works.

Leaders like Perry Noble and Mark Batterson have learned to celebrate the success of overcoming their trials and their flaws. For me, being a confident leader starts with admitting my year-long battle with depression. I did seek help for it, once very nearly checked myself into a hospital this summer though no one knew about it. I was physically sick. And in this weakness, I needed to break. And I did.

In my brokenness, I need forgiveness. I desire to be the man of God I was called to be. My responsibilities are not to keep people happy. That is neither Biblical, nor responsible. My responsibilities are to shepherd the flock, which means to care for, protect, lead, fight for and seek out the flock God has given me.

I became afraid to speak, afraid to write, afraid to use a staff of correction, for fear of a transparent flaw that was exposed in numbers, and my brokenness to be consumed by it.

Steven Furtick said you cannot hold back on something God has given you say to bless most of the people, for fear that it might offend a few of the people. I did. I settled. I quenched the Holy Spirit.

My prayer life was not for leadership, it was for survival. It was a prayer life seeking a desperate answer from God, not a direction from God.

But despite our circumstances - some of which were not the fault of the church and beyond our control - the blessing fell when the leader let down his arms. A question I have for every leader is will you lead with vision, or will you be confined to managing? And for the people - will you hold up the arms of the leader, or will you surrender to the enemy when the battle gets hard?

A manager ends up wandering in the wilderness, and with all due respect to Moses, the reason Joshua later led the children of Israel into the promised land is because he was one of the original 12 spies that ACTUALLY believed in the vision and provision of God and charged Moses and the people to go to the land despite their enemy.

Joshua was a military commander who became a dynamic leader. And in moments, Moses was a dynamic leader too. So let's focus back on him before we ever find out what Joshua did.

Sunday, we begin a series called Sun Stand Still. It's open comes with a state of the union of sorts, a peeling back of the shades on Revolution Church to expose our broken windows, and have vision enough to see the purity of transparent glass.

By Sunday, I will have prepared for this message over 35 hours this week. I have never put this much preparation into a single message in 15 years of ministry. And I'm tired, but I have one promise. I'm not going to quit. Here's what we're going to do.

1. I am going to lift my arms and lift my voice and proclaim the name of Jesus. Jesus said if he be lifted up, he will draw all men unto him. That's where it begins. The vision of Revolution Church is not mine. It is God's. It is BOLD. It is BIG. It is IMPOSSIBLE. And that's exactly why I believe God can do it. I'm going to share it Sunday.

2. I am going to sit down on the rock. When things get hard, we are going to develop leaders founded upon the cornerstone of Jesus Christ and the principles of leadership in God's Word. We are calling upon commitment and dedication from serve team leaders like never before, to "pick up your chair" at every service and invest in the space God has given you to minister like you own that vision so strong you'd fight for it. When Satan attacks, we fall back on Jesus. When we get tired, we fall back on Jesus. When we are overwhelmed, we fall back on Jesus. We are going to build his church upon this rock and dare the gates of Hell to prevail against it.

3. I am going to call on you to carry my arms. The biggest flaw in our church is the development of leadership, and the structure of support systems to follow up and plug-in. Surprisingly, this should be the strength of a church plant. But when the leader is not sharing the burden, his arms, heart, life, abilities are all too weak to do it alone. We are going to do it together. We are going to challenge each other to step to the plate. If you believe in broken people, then serve with excellence to reach them. If you have been blessed beyond measure and trust God with your finances, then give like it. If you have the backs of the people around you, then talk like it - and shut Satan up. And when the leader lets his arms drop, drive accountability in each other that challenges the shepherd to pick up his staff, and the sheep to get their wooly butt in gear (I just added that for effect) and say, "baaa! Let's go!" By the way, there's a Jamaican goat joke in there somewhere from the mission trip but if God's calling you to go then you're going to have to get out of your comfort zone to find out what it means. But together, we're going to drive this herd and find every lost sheep we can get our hands on.

4. I am going to write this day down, and remember it. The late Dr. Calvin Miller once told me there will be watershed moments in ministry where you look back and remember when you took a stand. This is one.

Dr. Miller shared that on his first trip to The Grand Canyon, his family decided to take a hike through the valley, from one side of the large massive cliffs to the other. The journey would take them through a wilderness of sorts, and the tour guide pointed to the other side of the canyon to a small, faint light. He said, "Do you see that?" They said yes. "That's where we're going." Tired as they were, they trekked across the desert valley for an extended period of time and set up camp.

The guide turned back. "Do you see that light over there?" Strained, they barely caught a glimpse of a flicker in the distance. "That's where we came from. Aren't you glad you didn't quit in the valley?"

This story told sums up the Moses narrative. He held his staff high. It was the light, the miracle, the directive and the hope. But every time Moses got discouraged and listen to people who lost spiritual wisdom, they trekked aimlessly in the valley. For 40 years, many died. Joshua made it.

At the conclusion of Joshua's ministry, I think he figuratively pointed out the faint light to the children of Israel. You see that over there? That's where we came from.

"But if you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now dwell? But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord." - Joshua 24:15

It was once stated that 80 percent of church plants fail. A more recent report by the North American Mission Board now says that 32 percent of church plants fail by year four. That number is better, but still identifies the dangerous pitfalls of losing focus on God's direction.

I do not choose to be a statistic, nor a number Satan can parade against the kingdom. I will not back down, I will not give up, and I will not settle for the wilderness. Let me give you a number that matters.

Joshua once could have quit - facing the trek across the great valley, a wilderness and an enemy. But he declared, with his fellow spy Caleb...

The land we traveled through and explored is a wonderful land! And if the Lord is pleased with us, He will bring us into that land and give it to us. It is a rich land, flowing with milk and honey. Don't rebel against the Lord, and don't be afraid of the people of the land. - Numbers 14:8-9

Moses attempted to intercede as the people railed against the promise of God, and prepared to run out Joshua and Caleb. Moses plight was that of the people, a wander in the wilderness never to see the Promised Land. It would be Joshua and Caleb who would lead the descendants of that remnant of people into the Promised Land. The promise was true, but Moses never saw it.

Perhaps I'm making a spiritual parallel here that a theologian would say is both unconnected and inappropriate. So forgive my naivety, but I have a question.

How would have things been different, if Moses would have held up his staff and led the people according to the promise spoken by Joshua and Caleb? How would it have been different if he held up the arms of Joshua and Caleb instead of allowing the people to turn on them?

It sounds like to me his arms got tired again, and this time the only ones willing to stand up were the cowards of the camp willing to lay down. And they died in the wilderness because of it.

I'm not laying down. I'm not giving up. I'm not letting Satan win.

I've heard there is a promise. My God will supply all our need. So I'm going to lift high the banner of Jesus and let God speak for us.

The question is when my arms get tired, where is Aaron? Where is Hur? Where is Joshua? Who is Caleb?

I am not concerned with numbers. I don't need a measuring stick to know the faults of our church because they have been identified to me spiritually in my prayer time and evaluation with God. I am not going to lose another night's sleep worrying about things I cannot control, and being silenced because I am scared. I am going to lead. Leadership takes courage.

My family's future depends on it. My church depends on it. My serving depends on it. My friends depend on it. My prayer list of lost people depend on it. And as for me and my house, we're in this for a fight. We will serve. Live.Love.Serve.

The victory is won. You just gotta pick which side of the camp you want to be.

I pick God. I lift Him high. Sit me on His rock, and be there to hold up each other's arms.

Let's go, Revolution Church.

Gee whiz. I haven't even gotten to Joshua chapter 10 yet.