Sunday, November 07, 2010

What's Next.

I spoke this weekend at the Vineyard, wrapping up our NEXT series. I read from my prayer journal and some people asked that I post what I read here on my blog. The following is a slightly edited (for grammar) version of what I wrote after asking God, "What should I tell everyone this weekend?" It can be dangerous to say that you have heard the voice of God. I submit this to you, as I did this weekend, as simply my thoughts after asking that question in prayer:

A 15 year-old girl sits alone in an apartment in Corryville. She’s pregnant and nobody knows. She’s scared and alone and confused. She needs a lot – she needs a friend, a father, a plan, a hug. She needs more wisdom that her friends have to offer and a large dose of grace that nobody in her family is willing to give her. She needs Jesus. And we think…if only she could be here with us today at the Vineyard. Maybe we could help – at least with the hug and the grace. But she isn’t here. She’s there.

A 52 year-old man sits alone at a Starbucks in Montgomery. He gets up every morning, puts on a $2,000 suit, kisses his wife and kids and gets in his luxury car to go to work. The only problem is that he hasn’t had a job for three months. He can’t bring himself to tell his wife. He doesn’t feel like a man anymore. All he has worked for is gone. What will she think when she finds out? How long can he hide this? He needs a friend and the courage to be vulnerable. He needs a place safe enough to be honest. He doesn’t know it yet, but he needs Jesus. And we think...if only he could be here with us at the Vineyard. Maybe we could be his family – pray for him. Maybe we could help him a little. But he isn’t here. He’s there.

A thirty-something couple watch television in Middletown. It’s all they do now. They used to do other stuff, but if they were honest they would say that their lives are boring now…maybe even disappointing. He had dreams of coaching football. She wanted kids. Neither happened. Now they are lost. They need a reason to get off the couch. They need a savior to rescue them from the hypnotic stupor they have fallen into. They need Jesus. And we think...if only they’d come here and be with us. Maybe they’d meet God and find meaning. Maybe those life disappointments could be redeemed by the power of the Holy Spirit. But they aren’t here. They’re there.

But what if they didn’t have to come here? What is “here” anyway except a building? We aren’t this place anymore than my house is my family or the college I went to is my education. We are a mobile people, but we have been inch by inch believing the lie that somehow we are confined to this location and to a methodology that says “come to us.” This NEXT vision for Vineyard Cincinnati is about saying that “come to us” isn’t enough when people in our city are lonely, hurting and checking out of life. This series for us as a church is a bold announcement to anyone who will listen: Vineyard Cincinnati is on the move. We are – from this point forward and without apology or reservation – a “go to them” movement. We hope people still come to us, but in the end it doesn’t really matter because we are going to them - everyone of them. We are taking Jesus to every neighborhood and community in our city…and any other place God will lead us to. We are adjusting our strategies to reflect the belief that our mission statement of 25 years is actually attainable. That it could really happen in our lifetime. That we will actually love the people of Cincinnati into a relationship with Jesus and give away to the world what God has give to us. In other words, we really are going love the people of this city. Everyone of them – as impossible as that may sound in this moment.

To do this we are going to have to mobilize and multiply in different ways. Everything we do must multiply. First and foremost, we must multiply disciples: every person here must teach someone what they have learned thus far about life with Jesus. We must multiply leaders: every leader in our organization starting with Dave and me and the elders will have an emerging leader learning from them. We must multiply groups: every community praying and looking for how God can birth a new community through them. And we are going to multiply Celebration experiences. We are taking this – what we are doing right now – to the people who aren’t currently here now. We have prayed and prayed that God would show where to begin this effort and he has led us to start two new Vineyard sites in Middletown and Uptown. These are not going to be carbon-copy-pack-and-play church services in a box, but missional outposts of the Kingdom where people can be know and be known, serve and be served and love and be loved into a relationship with Jesus Christ.

We are also seeking for leaders called by God to start intentionally smaller expressions of church that can reach people who would never or could never come to an institutional feeling church. These “microsites” will be holistic communities of faith that are part of us, but do church in homes and public places. They will be our special forces invading subcultures and immobile people groups in our city with the dangerous and beautiful love of Jesus and power of his coming Kingdom. All of this means that by this time next year we will be one church meeting in at least 13 places – here at TriCounty, in Uptown and Middletown and in ten smaller, more subversive microsites scattered about the city and beyond.

This is not about us or our plan. This is not about some sort of institutional expansion. If I was into institutional expansion I’d be working for the government or Steve Jobs or Facebook. This is about Jesus. It’s about that nameless girl in Corryville, that hurting guy in Montgomery and that lifeless couple in Middletown. It’s about the fact that God loves Cincinnati and he has a plan for this city. To sit on our hands while God has a plan to love a city is the greatest sin a church can commit. The leaders of this church understand that and we are calling you to action. Are you ready for what’s NEXT? 

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1 comment:

Dean said...

if it matters, I wept as you set up your journal entry. That you would open yourself up to be used by God, that you would take the chance to even be wrong AND that you would take the chance to share it without 6000 of your closest friends just boggles my mind.

The stories of the people you called out in your journal really resonated with me. While I'm excited about the future, I'm scared for what it means for us. And by us I mean Amy and I in particular, but then our small group, the ministries in which we serve, the church as a whole, and the over all mission.

Years ago Amy and I felt really led to be involved with reaching the marginalized, specifically single moms and fringe groups that wouldn't dare step into a church. In discussions with like minded people we'd always say, like a church but not a church. It always centered around a performance space and coffee shop...knowing that Vineyard Uptown is going to be at Club86 just blows my mind.