Sandy

As hurricane Sandy continues to ravage homes, my heart is pulled towards wanting to help those struggling through the anguish of their trauma and crisis. 50 dead. Billions in homes, business, roads and more are gone. Many more will die in the coming days, through disease or accidents through rehabilitating the area. The storm is subsiding, but the pain is just setting in.

Last week I received training through Foursquare Chaplaincy International to be a part of their Disaster Response Teams. This morning I received my first call to action:

We are asking those that can deploy to respond to this e-mail. What we are asking for on your e-mail is where you are located now and how soon you can deploy… Please keep in mind as stated above there is massive power outages and will be more to come. Most airports are shutdown at this time as well. Travel to the area will be difficult.

I have a very important trip to Seattle next week, and leaving right now would be very difficult. But my heart is in the NE. When I went through our training, I could feel a stir in my soul. I love to help people in crisis (especially dangerous and physically demanding situations). We have many people in crisis right now. They need our help.

Our church is developing a strategy and budget for helping people in times of disaster. This is a growing passion for me, and the more I recognize the roots of my faith, the more I discover the beauty that exists in the body of Christ responding to crisis.

In the third century, Christians were the primary care providers for those stricken with plague. I’ve read stories about family members throwing their dying into the street in hopes of not catching the disease. Many fled the cities, while Christians stayed by their side. What a horrible site, with death and dying everywhere. What a beautiful site, with hope and compassion everywhere.

I don’t even have my “Foursquare Chaplains” shirt yet. I don’t have the money to travel. I trust in God to send me where he needs me, and to be patient when I cannot leave. My heart is with the broken. God’s heart is with the broken.

-Shawn

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Foursquare Chaplaincy Training

Sixteen hours of training between yesterday and today is helping me to understand disaster response. The Foursquare Chaplaincy program is providing a two-day training on disaster response. I’m in Anthem, Arizona with my wife, Ryan and Selena Frederick.

When we reviewed the “Personality Profile” for a Foursquare chaplain, it would read something like this:

“Seeking adventurous team-player who demonstrates compassion and understanding of human limits. Must have fortitude in times of chaos and crisis, and be willing to share the love of Christ with people who are experiencing the most horrific challenges life brings.”

Being a little crazy helps. Sign me up.

Nobody wants to see the world burn. But when it does, chaplains grab their “go bags” and deal with psychological and spiritual trauma. The fire on the ground might be out, but the fire in their minds is just beginning to rage. I’ve always had an ability to keep my cool in the midst of chaos, and frankly, I love to help people who are at their worst. Several times in my own life I have had someone minister to me in a moment of helplessness. The calm of a hand on my arm. The right question. A blanket.

Luke 10:35 “The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’”

The church should always, ALWAYS respond to people in crisis. When other people are running away, we should be running in. Preparation is key, and that’s why Desert Foursquare Church is taking steps now to serve. In the story of the Good Samaritan, the first two people to pass the man in the ditch were religious (the priest and the Levite). It would be easy to focus on “churchy” things, but that’s not what the body of Christ does.

I want to share my gratitude with our church family. Thank you for investing in disaster response. My thanks also to Jay Donnelly and Robby Booth for running such an incredible program and training. Thanks to Grace Church in Anthem for being incredible hosts. Thank you Desert Foursquare for making the investment in the four of us.

Shawn

Transformation

A friend and mentor wrote a short blog post today about measuring success in a kingdom-purposed organization. Dr. Scott Rodin writes:

“Consider the ways that organizations talk about themselves and measure success. While not-for-profit ministries may pride themselves on leading with mission-focused accomplishments, true success is almost always measured in financial terms. Pastors talk to other pastors about the size of their congregation, the success of the latest building project and whether they’re giving has gone up or down. Presidents of Christian schools, colleges and universities speak to alumni in terms of growing enrollment, new academic buildings and an increasing endowment. Owners of businesses speak to shareholders about profits, reinvestment and share prices. And for each of these, whether the pastor of a small church, the president of a community not-for-profit organization or the owner of a growing business, the financial success of their respective organization reflects heavily on their own self-image and reputation.”

You can read entire post here.

I read this post right on the heals of reading a chapter today from Hugh Halter’s Tangible Kingdom, in which Hugh challenges the paradigm of Christian success. He builds a case for how we measure outcomes of faith, values, relationships, influence and success. It’s the success metrics I’m most interested in, because both Scott and Hugh are pushing in the same direction. Hugh charts his case for success on page 78:

Our metrics for success in church and para-church work is changing. I see a revolution, a sort of healthy rebellion against the product-oriented (or postmodern justification) organizations of yesteryear and the expectations of transformation from what Hugh and others are calling the “missional” church.

We’ve wrestled with this at both organizations I work with, Rooftop 519 and Desert Foursquare Church. Both organizations quantify very different things that are important, like the number of kids we help bring to healing or the number of people who attend a service. But these are not the key metrics. Hugh sums up Christian transformation in the last words of the “Paradigm” chapter:

“These people will be making eternity attractive by how they live such selfless lives now, and will be modeling life in a New Kingdom in ways that will make it easy for other people to give it a try. People like this aren’t desperate to convert everyone; they are desperate to be like Christ and to be where Christ is. Their heartbeat (sic) to be transformed into the image of Christ, and to pray and work for little specks of transformation in everyone and everything they touch. Success is faithfulness. The rest is up to God.

Those last few words really get me going. Measuring transformation in everyone and everything. Dr. Rodin concludes his blogs with this thought, “He seeks our obedience and faithfulness, not financial success.” That could sound to some like a cop-out, to me it sounds like a rally cry.

A Lifestyle Choice

Yesterday I stopped by the office of someone in our faith family. I got a tour of a local RV park, but it wasn’t what you would expect. First of all, they don’t call them RV’s (they’re “motorcoaches”), and secondly, it wasn’t really a park. It was 80 acres of top-shelf resort. Large lakes, a marina, tennis, golf, restaurant, fitness… more than I can list.

“How much do they cost?” I asked. “That one on the corner over there went for over $1 million”. She pointed to a nice piece of land, probably about 3000 square feet, which is about 1/3 the size of a normal house lot in most neighborhoods. What does a million dollars get you? They make you spend $1500 a year at the restaurant and HOA’s are $500/mo. And there is no home until you drive your $500k RV into your lot.

$1.5 million will buy you a nice house in the desert… a really nice house. Why do people buy in an RV… er… Motorcoach club? It fits their lifestyle. For some people, this is their dream. I don’t begrudge them their choice, but it got me thinking. What lifestyle choices do I make that would seem ridiculous to someone who is totally unfamiliar with the way we live in America (or even on the “other side of the tracks”)?

Having just come back from Nicaragua, I have some idea of how people live in other countries. Guilt and shame aren’t my motivation for asking these questions of myself. It’s more of illuminating the root of what I want… why I chose my lifestyle choices. One of the things I’ve discovered is that lifestyle choices aren’t bad, as long as they are actually well thought-out choices and not lifestyle accidents.

-Shawn

A Tale of Three Churches

I’m on a working vacation. It was the best compromise I could make with my loving family in order to line up five generations coming together in Colorado AND me getting to keep my jobs at Rooftop 519 and Desert Foursquare Church.

One of the tasks I assigned myself during this 10 day hiatus was to dig into the missional church (and the missional parachurch, which I’ve already compiled several thousand words for a blog post at some point in the future). Yesterday, while the remaining 13 of our vacationing clan either slept or scared fish, I drove off to visit Adullam, a missional community I learned about from Hugh Halter’s book Sacrilige.

I planned to swing by one church with a 9 a.m. start time before joining Adullam at 10. On my two hour drive from Estes Park, I passed another church at about 8:15 that had just started their service, so I popped in for a short visit. Three churches before noon. I chose not to name the first two not because there is anything wrong with the churches, but simply because my primary interest was in visiting Adullam.

Church One

The website says they have services at 9:30 & 11, but I know there were about 600 people there singing hymns at 8 a.m. They have about 1000 Facebook followers and 200 Twitter followers. I scoured the sanctuary, but I couldn’t find a single person of color. That may have been an indicator of the community, but my hunch is that it was more a representation of the community of 30 years ago. Their weekly giving (just under $90k/week) was listed in the bulletin, something I’ve heard about but never seen.

Church Two

This is the up-and-coming church in Denver. The lobby was bigger than most church buildings I’ve seen (by at least 3x). I have never seen such a polished, picture-perfect place of worship. They have 11,000 facebook followers and 2000 Twitter followers. Roughly 3000 people gathered for their 9 a.m. service. Lights, smoke machines, awesome band & huge screens, they really put on a show. They are the most perfect attractionally modeled church I have ever seen.

Adullam

They meet at Denver Seminar, which I used my GPS to locate. There were a handful of cars in the parking lot and maybe a dozen people filtering in at 9:50 a.m. Only one sign was at the front door and there were no signs on the inside of the building. I’d never seen anything quite like this.

Inside the chapel at Denver Seminary, about 200 chairs were arranged in a semi-circle. Tech equipment consisted of a few microphones, two small speakers, a projector and laptop, and not much else.

The first person to introduce himself to me was Hugh. I recognized him & told him that I was a pastor checking out Adullam. His immediate response was, “We don’t try to hard at this”. I knew exactly what he meant. It wasn’t laziness or an apathy for the church, it was his intentional efforts to not over-produce service. I found it very refreshing.

Hugh had not intended to be at service that day, as he was speaking at a conference that weekend. In the wake of the Aurora theater shootings, Hugh longed to be with his church family.

The community of faith gathered slowly from the time I got there until worship began at about 10:30. We sang simple songs of worship, followed by open table communion. Families were encouraged to serve communion to their young children. These tender moments may have been the highlights of my time with Adullam.

Our speaker that day was Craig Colon. He brought a message from his heart, and it seemed to spark a lot of conversation after the service concluded. Craig recently left a church he was pastoring near Boulder, and he is joining the Missio team with Hugh.

Here are several of my big take-aways from Adullam:

1. The congregation was diverse (multi-generational & multi-ethnic).

2. They will not burn out volunteers anytime soon.

3. Sundays are not the church (it is obvious the gather of believers is important on Sunday, but they obviously live in community).

4. Visitors are expected to come at the invitation of people who are already there (I deduced this from the non-seeker sensitive approach).

5. Service to the poor is at their core. Next week they’re not even having Sunday morning meeting. They are gathering in the park to feed people.

My experience at Adullam gave me an appreciation for the simplicity of the church. Being the church shouldn’t be hard because there is too much to do on Sunday mornings. It should be a narrow path, which means we are measured by our service, not THE service. I’m still wrestling with what this looks like for me, my family and my church family. I am enjoying the learning journey.

There is so much I could write about all three churches. I learned so much in just a couple of hours. Feel free to ask me questions if you’d like to know more about my busy Sunday morning.

Peace,

Shawn