We’ve reached our third year at MCC (Mosaic Community Church) and it has been a trying year. Let me clarify, it’s hasn’t been hard year for the church, but more of an emotional roller coaster for me personally. Since I’ve got a lot to write, let’s just jump right in...
We have stayed true to who we are. We never started a church with the intention of doing anything more than to grow closer in intimacy with Jesus and to introduce others to that same intimacy. We’ve kept to our core values and haven’t allowed trouble, circumstances, or anything else hinder this idea. While it seems at times small and simple, I am constantly reminded how simple the Gospel really is.
We have tried to balance our core values with the current church values that exist. This has proven to be hard and at times compromising. In partnering with other churches for outreaches, we sometimes have to compromise a core belief. I've justified it through the idea that being united or even seen as united is good for the body. How long we're able to do this, I'm not sure, given the state of our city and our country. For instance, it's standard operating procedure for the churches today to market and advertise their events and outreaches. The intention is good. They just want to help others and love others, but they also want to be seen doing it too. It's justified under the idea of church growth and it's common practice. However, at MCC, we've chosen to follow the advice of Jesus in Matthew, chapter 6, verse's 1 through 4:
"Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do—blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get. But when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you."
Let's just simplify this. There are two ways to give and two rewards for giving. If you are going to give and want the public to know about it, then your reward will be that everyone will see you and will know that you are a giver. Your reward then is your reputation. The other option is that you can give and want no one to know or see you give and your reward is that the Father see's you and He will reward you. The difference is whether you desire a reputation with the public or a reputation with God. Neither is bad per say, but if given the choice MCC chooses to be rewarded by God, thus we have taken precautions when it comes to advertising and marketing as well as what other churches we might align ourselves with.
The other factor that plays it's part in this endeavor is that, in ministry, I've had to listen to pastor after pastor complain about how little their people evangelize and tell others about Christ. However, this issue lies solely at the pastor's feet. If you choose to do the evangelism for your people then why should they evangelize? The analogy I liken to this to is this:
"No child is born with the ability to walk. It is a series of trail and error. They stand up and then they fall. Falling hurts. A child would rather be carried then experience the pain of falling, but as parents we know that they must endure the pain to learn how to walk. If we were to never let them experience that pain of falling, we would, in reality, palsy them. This is what pastoral ministry does every time it presses the church organizationally to do what individuals should be doing. The intention is good, but it's palsying the church and creating weak disciples."
I won't be a part of that. We won't be a part of that. That is a tough line to hold when it's common practice in the churches today.
"Wise leaders should have known that the human heart cannot exist in a vacuum. If Christians are forbidden to enjoy the wine of the Spirit they will turn to the wine of the flesh….Christ died for our hearts and the Holy Spirit wants to come and satisfy them." A. W. Tozer
No other topic I will discuss will bring more controversy then the one I will speak of now. This is where I draw a line in the sand and will proceed to stand on one side and preach like the prophets of old, calling out for a "stiff neck" people to return.
This past year I have had my eyes opened, as the canon fodder around Marble Falls is that an alcohol problem has entered into the pulpits of our churches. There is giggling going on from the teenagers all the way to the adults as they brag and are so pleased with pastors who no longer provide a witness against that which is still the one of the greatest killers in America.
I listened as one adult bragged that their pastor has a full on mini-bar and a teenager who used their drinking youth pastor as an excuse to drink themselves. I've watched a women's group, who is discussing what it means to be a Proverbs 31 woman, end their night with a glass of wine (the glory of Facebook). It's as if they don't read the whole chapter, or they just leave out the part where it reads, "Rulers should not crave alcohol. For if they drink, they may forget the law and not give justice to the oppressed. Alcohol is for the dying, and wine for those in bitter distress."The same woman that provides the idea of what a godly woman is, is the same that advises her son that alcohol isn't for leaders and it tends to make people not care about the plight of others (in other words lazy and self-centered).
These drinking pastors have definitely taught their people one thing, that drinking in and of itself is not a sin. This is true. There is no denying. However, I don't know a single individual that drinks that hasn't experienced a time where they've drank too much. In this the Bible is very clear. Drunkenness isn't a fruit of the spirit. If anything it's a lack their of.
Do not mistake my position on this as angry. It isn't. My spirit is broken over it and I've got grace for those that have yet to turn to Christ when they need a break from the stress and anxiety that this world offers. Right now, alcohol provides a temporal relief from what ails them. What I long for is to see these same people turn to Christ for this "fix". After all, if I were throwing stones, I would've killed myself a long time ago when alcohol had possession of me as well.
I can't tell you how much I have weeped over this issue in Marble Falls. I am praying for a day when God restores holiness back in the pulpits here. Prophetically I am waiting for the day of repentance from our local churches:
"O Israel, my faithless people, come home to me again, for I am merciful. I will not be angry with you forever. Only acknowledge your guilt. Admit that you rebelled against the Lord your God and committed adultery against him by worshiping idols under every green tree. Confess that you refused to listen to my voice. I, the Lord, have spoken! “Return home, you wayward children,” says the Lord, “for I am your master. I will bring you back to the land of Israel—one from this town and two from that family—from wherever you are scattered. And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will guide you with knowledge and understanding." Jeremiah 3:11-15
It's not just in Marble Falls too. It's everywhere.
I recently saw where the North Texas District of the Assemblies of God had invited a young man to speak at their local camp this summer. While I don't know this young man, I have heard of his pastor. His pastor became famous a few years ago for reasons that would get most pastors fired. First, he got in trouble for hiring a openly gay couple to lead worship. Second, he showed up on TMZ with Justin Beiber doing shots in a bar. And yes, he is still the pastor. (It doesn't take much to look up and find out who this guy is. His church name is famous. You might even be singing their songs.)
To this point I'm not sure the North Texas A/G leadership are aware of what their District Youth Director has even done. You can argue that in this situation it wasn't the youth pastor that was involved with the media. That is true. However, the youth pastor obviously agrees with what his pastor is doing or he wouldn't be there. All of it is reckless and spiritually dangerous...and just disappointing.
Bob Dylan was prophetic when he penned, "The times, they are a changing." Agreed, and I'm not sure for the better.
KEEPING IT SIMPLE.
Being a church plant has had its rewards. First and foremost, it's allowed us to operate void of dumb policies that don't help people. In the Marine Corps it's always "mission first, troop welfare second". In our church it's, "God first, People second". However, how we honor and take care of people works towards our God first policy. God loves people and to love God is to love his people. Thus, our policies and practices are set up to help people. This translates a few different ways.
First it means keeping our policies simple when it comes to helping people. We might get burned a few times by people looking to take advantage of us. It's going to happen. However we don't let 2% of the people dictate policy for 98% of those who actually need legitimate help. We don't discriminate as to whether they are people who attend our church, someone else's church, or come to church at all. Our policy is simple, "If we can help you we will, and if we can't then we can't". Pretty simple.
I also have to warn you that our church is set up to help people and not to entertain them. We don't have fancy lights, smoke, staging, and a fancy building. We don't invest in novelty things for evangelism like a photo booth for every holiday so that you family can take photos at Mothers day, Fathers day, or any other day. We don't provide transportation from your car to the front door or have a million signs advertising who we are. We try not to advertise at all. We just focus on helping others and, for us, that means forgoing some things so that we'll have the means to help people when they ask.
Secondly it means that I will continue to keep a full time job while also pastoring the church. Before the full-time guys freak out that I might be advocating that it's unbiblical to be a full-time pastor...I'm not. The Bible is clear that pastors can definitely be compensated for their work. However, I approach this like Paul:
"In the same way, the Lord ordered that those who preach the Good News should be supported by those who benefit from it. Yet I have never used any of these rights. And I am not writing this to suggest that I want to start now. In fact, I would rather die than lose my right to boast about preaching without charge. Yet preaching the Good News is not something I can boast about. I am compelled by God to do it. How terrible for me if I didn’t preach the Good News! If I were doing this on my own initiative, I would deserve payment. But I have no choice, for God has given me this sacred trust. What then is my pay? It is the opportunity to preach the Good News without charging anyone. That’s why I never demand my rights when I preach the Good News.” 1 Corinthians 9:14-18
I might be biblically disserving of a salary, but I choose to work in the effort to not be a burden and so that we can help more people. There is nothing worse that getting paid off the tithe of people and then having to tell them no when they need help, whether it is because of policies set up in your bylaws that forbid you to or just because if you help anyone else it will financially hurt you as a pastor. Both of those excuses are unacceptable.
Lastly I will leave you with this, it is an excerpt from my "Year One" journal entry:
"At Mosaic it’s not about where we meet, it’s about ministry to the Lord first, and each other second. At Mosaic the ministry exist for the people, not the pastor, and not the organization."