Home > Where the Rubber Meets the Road > Where the Rubber Meets the Road – Guest Post #3

Where the Rubber Meets the Road – Guest Post #3

I apologize for not getting back to this series sooner.  But, fear not, we shall continue.  If you need a reminder of what has been discussed so far, feel free to visit these links:

Amy’s Response – Guest Post #1

Jason’s Respsonse – Guest Post #2

This week’s response comes from Randy Morgan.  I hope that you will be just as encouraged and challenged by his response as I was.

Introduce yourself in 25 words or less (we are all counting – some of us are borrowing our neighbors fingers or toes):

i am a lovable dissident.  the church we started 15 years ago has been spectacularly unsuccessful, and the process has shaped me into a desperate pursuer of jesus and kingdom.

If you blog, what is your site URL and what is the emphasis behind your blog?

i blog at randymorgan.wordpress.com.  description of the “emphasis” is probably best left to those that visit regularly.  my hope is that people on a journey similar to mine will find humor in my failings and encouragement in my quest.

Respond to the following the scenario:
I am a skeptical seeker who has just read Matthew 25:31-46 and you are the first person that I meet at your church on a Sunday morning and I ask you to explain these verses and show me how your community applies them.

my stock, sunday school answer would have to do with the church taking a fresh look at our role in society.  but, to my thinking, the real answer goes much deeper than that.

my youth pastor came to me recently with an idea for a program to get students involved in service.  he was serious about addressing the biblical purposes for the church (worship, discipleship, fellowship, ministry, evangelism, etc), and he wanted to post a “needs list” on the wall of the church building so seniors and widows and single moms could sign up to have teens come over and lend a hand.  my youth pastor (all breathless and excited) said, “we can meet needs in our fellowship and teach our kids about service at the same time!”

i’m afraid when that i deflated his balloon when i told him he was missing the point.

one of the great issues in the institutional church is that our first impulse is always to establish programs to address symptoms (we’re hard-wired that way), and we never really address the actual problem.  its called legalism and it is systemic.

david (my youth pastor) has attracted a bunch of marginalized kids from low income, single-parent homes who come because we provide a place to hang out, and because somebody has demonstrated an interest in them (and that is his primary mission).  most have a vague understanding of who jesus is, but they are not yet believers and they are certainly not disciples.

so why would they serve?

my advice to david was to concentrate on leading these kids to a deeper understanding of jesus.  i assured him that when they finally arrived at a place of commitment—out of love for jesus and an appreciation of grace—that they would serve as a matter of course.  not because someone told them they should, or because it made them feel better.

for those of us who are christ-followers (sorry, tony, i really did not intend to be so verbose), i would argue that the story of “the sheep and the goats” was never meant to stand alone as a message to the church.  it must be folded in to the larger command to, ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40).

as we develop christlike character, produce the fruit of the spirit, and pursue the knowledge of god, we will love/reach out to the disenfranchised as a matter of course.  we do the church and the kingdom a great disservice when we “get the cart before the horse” (mechanically try to obey jesus prior to genuine heart change).

…and show me how your community applies them.

in the fellowship i lead, our motto is “life-by-life.”  that’s the way jesus did ministry and we believe that’s the model we should follow.  we teach that real ministry does not take place on sunday morning at 10am.  we work hard to decentralize ministry responsibility and we encourage people to experiment with their gifts.

we demonstrate this philosophy by throwing the doors of our building open to the community.  everyone from local businesses to the girl scouts to scrapbookers use our facility (and we never ask them to pay).  it is literally open every night of the week. we believe that, besides being good stewards of the things god has entrusted to us, we are creating opportunity to connect relationally with people who wouldn’t normally come on a sunday.

What makes you come alive?

obviously, talking about this kind of stuff.

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  1. August 23, 2010 at 6:26 pm

    good thoughts, randy. i especially like the way you guys use your building — that’s great.

  2. August 24, 2010 at 12:13 pm

    Randy,

    You wrote:

    “the church we started 15 years ago has been spectacularly unsuccessful,”

    If it is not too forward, could I ask what happened that made the church spectacularly unsuccessful AND how did you measure that it was unsuccessful?

    • randy morgan
      August 24, 2010 at 4:09 pm

      sure, tony, i’ll be glad to parade my shame before your vast readership…thanks for asking.

      seriously, our fellowship is only unsuccessful when measured by traditional standards (numbers, budgets, buildings). in 1995, we started meeting in an abandoned church building and i led by the only method i knew–what i had seen (what reggie mcneal calls the “church growth method”). our first year we only averaged about 35 in attendance, but we quickly started growing quite vigorously. by the second year we were in two services, and on easter 1998 we had 348 folks in the building. i remember one day telling the guy at the post office that we would soon be the biggest church in town.

      in 1999, however, i met jeff lucas (www.jefflucas.org) and he introduced me to the idea of missional church. i began seeking the lord and reading everything i could get my hands on. my leadership team and i committed to the tedious process of transition (basically, changing people’s thinking about church). we went from the concept of staff doing ministry to everyone doing ministry. we bought a building downtown that would serve our “new purpose” (and that needed a ton of work, by the way). and a large number of people became disenchanted. a lot of the ideaslistic young people who were leaders in the transition got tired and drifted away (see http://randymorgan.wordpress.com/2008/06/20/teddys-story-part-four/) and a lot of bystanders got tired of being asked to help, and they left.

      today we average about 100 in our meetings, but we have a chist-centered, outward-looking vision, and we are completely open to whatever he wants to do with us. paying the bills gets to be a struggle at times (okay, all the time) but we keep stretching our thinking and we sincerely believe we are poised to be a genuine reflection of jesus in our community.

      hope that answers your question.

      • August 25, 2010 at 12:34 pm

        Randy,

        Thank you for your transparency. I visited the link you provided and spent some time reading through the previous postings. I remember you sharing that story with me over dinner this summer.

        Your willingness to point to your own struggles is one of the reasons that I respect what you have to share.

        Being church is hard.. it is hard work. It takes sacrificial love and it takes hearts open to the Spirit’s leading.

        I appreciate your body of Christ in Moore, Oklahoma.

  3. Amy
    August 27, 2010 at 12:38 am

    Thank you Randy for your honesty. Sounds to me like a successful body of Christ, an actual body of Christ! Too bad we aren’t in your neck of the woods, sounds like the place to be. Following God’s leading is essential and I know that people just don’t get that sometimes. It’s encouraging to know that there are pastors out there willing to follow God’s lead no matter what the price. Bless you brother!

    I especially appreciate your advice to your youth leader in leading the students into a deeper understanding of Jesus. A lot of that “getting the cart before the horse” stuff is going on. We end up doing an awful lot of inreaching in our churches today instead of reaching out.

    • August 30, 2010 at 7:55 pm

      thanks, amy. your words of encouragement are timely and much appreciated.

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