Known Deeply. Loved Deeply.

Following excerpt is taken from “Tempted and Tried” by Russell Moore.

Felix told me that he battled against the pull to do stuff, awful stuff. When I pressed Felix about the gospel, he seemed to evidence credible faith and repentance. But he wanted me to know just how dark his demons were inside. “If you could prove to me that Jesus’ bones were in the ground in the Middle East,” he said, “I’d leave here right now and get as drunk as I could get, take every drug I could find, and sleep with every woman who would let me.” I think he was a little surprised when I chimed back, “Me too.”

I told Felix that if the bones of Jesus were in the ground, it seems to me his response is exactly what we ought to do: “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” (1 Cor 15:32). The question rather than that is this: “Do you, in fact, believe the bones of Jesus are in the ground?” Felix’s eyes welled up with tears that he manfully blinked away. “No, I believe he’s alive,” he said. “And that’s why I fight this stuff all the time.” Let me give you a formal theological term for what Felix is experiencing: the normal Christian life.

This quote from Russell Moore leads me to a few conclusions…

  • Normal Christianity is not feeling as if you have reached such a level of sanctification that you no longer wrestle with your sin nature. In order for that to be the case there is one prerequisite, death.
  • After 15 years of pastoral ministry one thing I know for an absolute certainty is that each and every one of us is broken. We all have our closets. And perhaps our deepest longing is to be known for who we truly are and loved all the same.
  • Leaders cultivate shallow Christian community when they act like they have it all together. Which means that the church does not feel like a safe enough environment to let others see who we truly are.
  • Don’t believe the lie that you are the only one who has a monster inside of them that is being kept under control by a very thin leash. Everyone is fighting some kind of battle whether you can see it or not. You are not alone.

Pic taken from therealiferealtalkdotcom

10 Reasons Why Discipleship Is Hard

Fishers-of-Men-610x350“When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” -Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

  1. Getting up at 5:00 AM to meet with people is hard.
  2. Asking questions about marriage, sex and ambition is hard.
  3. Telling a dude in a loving way that there is a serious lack of passion in his life is hard.
  4. Admitting that you are the one who blew it again is hard.
  5. Feeling worthy to disciple another person when you know what kind of sinner you are is hard.
  6. Fighting the idol of success (large crowds) while getting involved in the slow, time-consuming messiness of other people is hard.
  7. Keeping after it when you don’t see much progress is hard.
  8. Not going out of your mind when someone tells you that they are too busy is hard.
  9. Going beyond accountability to creating true fishers of men is hard.
  10. Creating a culture of discipleship in an age of consumerism is hard.

The Deception of Happiness

Happiness-Hands1We all want it. Most of our lives are focused on attaining it. Is it possible that we are guaranteeing a life of deep dissatisfaction (unhappiness) if happiness is what we are pursuing?

In Matthew 5, known as “The Sermon on the Mount”, Jesus is making some really counter-cultural claims about what it means to be happy.

Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

Very few would identify happiness with being poor, mourning, meekness or hungering and thirsting. In fact these are exactly the things we work so hard to avoid for ourselves and our family! For many of us we associate happiness with a promotion, losing ten pounds, a sexually-fulfilling relationship, our kids doing well in school or sports.

What if all the cultural things we pursue to make us happy or fulfilled were an illusion? What if happiness or blessedness looked fundamentally different than we ever imagined?

“Happiness can never be found directly… happiness is always and only a by-product of seeking something else more than happiness… if you seek righteousness more than happiness, you’ll get both. If you seek happiness more than righteousness, you’ll get neither… the person who is happy is the one who has stopped trying to be so happy.” – Tim Keller, from a sermon called “The Search for Happiness.”

When Jesus tells us that ‘blessed are those who mourn’ he is pointing away from fleeting pleasures to the place where true eternal happiness resides; in himself. Here is the hard part. The happiness Jesus is talking about is only attained through death and pain. Death of self. The pain of giving up my way of doing things, my insistence that my pleasures rule my life.

I would encourage you to read through Matthew 5 and prayerfully consider how you are going about seeking fulfillment, satisfaction and happiness.

Releasing Disciples Too Early?

We try to imitate the way we see Jesus making disciples in Scripture. For most of us our worship services are geared to model how Jesus taught to the larger crowds. This is a good thing. But clearly Jesus also spent time with much smaller crowds as well.  Jesus discipled the 12 (Mark 3:13-18) and an even smaller group known as the inner circle (Matthew 17:1, Mark 9:23).  As a church we call our inner circle “Life on Life.”

When we begin a Life on Life Group (2-4 people) we explain the expectations up front. One of the primary goals is that at the end of the discipling relationship each person would go on to begin discipling someone that God has strategically placed in their life. One of the things I am learning is that there is a real risk of releasing people too early to go make other disciples. What we are doing to keep the momentum going is to refuse to release the person we are discipling until they have prayerfully identified who they will disciple next. If this does not happen then the busyness of life will creep in and the movement will stall.

Would love to hear your thoughts and experiences when it comes to making disciples who make disciples.

Boomerang Effect of Non-Discipleship in the Church (Bonhoeffer)

What price are we paying in the church today for not calling people to true discipleship?

Bonhoeffer“But do we realize that this cheap grace has turned back on us like a boomerang? The price we are having to pay today in the shape of the collapse of the organized church is only the inevitable consequence of our policy of making grace available to all at too low a cost. We gave away the Word and sacraments wholesale, we baptized, confirmed, and absolved a nation unasked and without condition. Our humanitarian sentiment made us give that which is holy to the scornful and unbelieving. We poured forth unending streams of grace. But the call to follow Jesus in the narrow way was hardly ever heard.” -The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer (p. 54)

Pursuing Purity

Here are week one notes I have created from the book, “Closing the Window: Steps to Living Porn Free” by Tim Chester. This is for an upcoming Adult Bible Fellowship Class (men). More notes to follow…

Pursuing Purity

Suburbianity-Christian Faith is Buried Under America

I have blogged for years about what it means to be missional in a suburban context. So, when a book comes along with the title “Suburbianity” I naturally take a moment to check it out and see what’s up. I have ordered the book, but as of yet have not read it. Challies has done a review of the book and he seems to like it. Once I receive my copy I will share my thoughts, but for now here is a video that describes the direction the book is taking…

Interview With Mark Sellers About The Gospel, Community, And Living on Mission

Question: Tell us a little about yourself, your family and your role at Summit Crossing Community Church.

I am a native southern boy. I was born and raised in Mississippi and have now been in North Alabama for 13 years. I am a preacher’s kid and have been raised in the church world. Unlike many of my fellow PKs I grew up loving the church! My father is an amazing pastor and lover of the Father’s bride and his own bride and family. I have been married for 13 years to my amazing bride, Staci (also a native southern girl) and have two precious children: Andrew (6) and Ava (16 months). I was a part of the core team (4 families) that planted Summit Crossing Community Church 10 years ago. My official title at SC3 is “Community Life Pastor”. It’s my job to give both vision/ direction and execution to our missional communities. So I am responsible for discipling and equipping MC leaders, getting folks in the general church body connected, and overseeing the multiplication of the MC movement in our city. I also oversee our membership process and reaching out to new folks in our community. So basically, I get to hang out and eat with a lot of folks! Best job ever.

Question: What is your definition of a Missional Community?

In a sentence, a missional community is the family of God’s missionaries on the mission of making disciples who make disciples. We do this quite simply as we go, doing life together, seeing every moment in life through a gospel lens.

Question: What does it mean to be fluent in the gospel and why is this so critical for the spiritual health of every believer?

To be fluent literally means to be able to write or speak something with ease. Practically, to be fluent means that something is a natural part of you. It flows out subconsciously, without thought. To be fluent in gospel means that the gospel is a natural part of us, both literally and practically. So not only are we able to speak it without much thought, but we are also able to apply it without much conscious thought. So we speak it, we think it, we apply it when we make decisions, when we interact with situations and people, its natural! Why is this critical? Look, we are in a battle, both personally and corporately. And its the same battle that our original ancestors fought in the garden: our ways versus God’s ways. He has given us Himself and in that He has given us everything. But apart from both the purpose and power of the gospel, we are completely unable to choose anything other than ourselves. We must know the truth of the gospel and must apply its truth to our lives and to our communities to be healthy people and healthy communities. The world will not encourage or empower this. Our only hope is found in the gospel and the gospel is the answer for life period.

Question: Loving our neighbors in practical ways can be quite a challenge for people who do not all live in the same neighborhood. What does it look like for the MCs at Summit Crossing to be on mission?

When we transitioned to MCs, we really pushed folks to all unify around an adopted mission. It looked good and sounded good on paper, but it really frustrated many of our groups. That kind of mission is really easy (or I should say easier) for groups that are contained within 1-2 neighborhoods. But it was very difficult and frustrating for groups that were regionally connected but not defined by 1-2 neighborhoods. What we realized was that we were in danger of establishing a “missional legalism” that would take us away from Jesus’ simple words in His commission to us. It was subtle, but it was present. So we took a step back and encouraged our communities to consider asking these questions: “How are we making disciples both personally and corporately, and how does this community encourage and equip us for both?”

So we really want our MCs not to “rate” themselves on whether they are unified around A mission but to ask whether they are unified around THE mission. One of our MCs is localized in a suburban community but is spread out across many subdivisions. They were one of our “frustrated” groups that couldn’t unify around a particular mission. They began to break into smaller discipleship groups based on geography and relationship and found that each of these groups were much more effective in not only discipling each other but in making disciples within their other spheres of influence. So two times a month they all gather to share and celebrate the grace of God in their personal lives and in their missions. So at that gathering there is not only encouragement but the opportunity to partner with others in mission. The rest of the month these smaller groups meet and do life together to make disciples.

Our MC originally started as a neighborhood MC and it was really easy to be on mission in our neighborhood. We experienced a lot of traction early on but grew outside the boundaries of our neighborhoods. Our group was also very diverse and so it was even hard being on mission in our neighborhood with so many different walks of life. So we began to discuss where God was giving us favor or traction with people on mission. This led to some of us really giving time and energy to a rec team that involved a few of our group children. This led to the whole group being able to be a blessing to two families that we met through this rec league. One of the families has now since joined us and is getting to see what a gospel family looks like. Other parts of our group have been able to penetrate the artistic community and many of us have been able to join in with them on mission. Not all of us but a few of us! One of our girls got engaged and our group was able to help plan and execute her wedding which was a blessing to their extended family. So all of us didn’t do everything, but we all have had the opportunity to engage where God has given us personal traction with the help of our MC. And my family has been able to help others in our community do the same thing. So there’s no pressure to do it all, but there’s the freedom to follow the Spirit to engage with others as they live the mission. It’s actually fun and its a delight, not a duty!

Question: What do people study in your MCs?

Most of our groups study the same texts that we are preaching through in our corporate gatherings. Right now, that’s Romans (pray for us!). We have these groups answer 5 basic questions about the text each week that center around observation, interpretation, and gospel application. It is our hope that our people learn to be self-feeders! Many groups are actually studying ahead of what we are preaching so that they hit it before it’s preached. This allows them to hit the text fresh and be led by the Spirit and not just the preacher. A few of our groups do other book studies or other things like The Story of God or Gospel Parenting, etc. Anything outside of the sermon discussion must be approved by the church elders.

Question: How do you train your MC leaders?

Our training is really a two tier approach. On a large scale corporate approach, we offer quarterly workshops for all leaders and apprentices across all three campuses. This is a really big deal for us. We feed them all breakfast, take care of their kids, and give each family a free resource (not free to us usually!) along with the training that we do. In short not only do we try to equip and encourage them, but we try to bless their socks off too. The training generally has four sessions that revolve around these four components:

1. Evidence of God’s Grace (sharing MC stories)

2. Vision Training (one of our 5 community essentials or 4 rhythms)

3. Practical Training (gospel fluency through counsel training or the like)

4. Collective Prayer Time (both for the leaders and for their MCs; divided up geographically)

Our leaders love this and we almost always have every community represented at these events. They are led both by elders and MC leaders, but always by practitioners! On a small scale, our 3 campuses are divided into 9 geographic regions that we call collectives. Each collective has elders and deacons present that oversee individual coaching, accountability, encouragement,and equipping amongst the collective leaders. So the workshops are our air war and the collectives are our ground war for training.

Mark is also on the Executive Team for GCM Collective.