Missional Thoughts for Thanksgiving

Did we reserve the turkey? Do we have enough place settings? Is my flight going to leave on time? Is my dad going to tell embarrassing stories like last year? What about your uncle’s girlfriend’s kids? Don’t forget the cranberry sauce! Do we have time to swing by the grandparent’s before going to mom & dad’s?

Is any of that running through your head this week? Thanksgiving is basically here, and I know I have way too much to do before I can relax with family and turkey on Thursday. And they’re calling for snow, too?!

This morning a lot of similar questions were bouncing around my head, and I started to get that feeling of “there’s not enough time!” Before doing anything, though, I forced myself to sit down with Jesus. I found myself diving deep into the first half of Colossians 1 and was specifically convicted by verses three through six:

“3 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4 since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, 5 because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, 6 which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth…”

As I was reading Paul’s letter, I walked through these verses, checking the things off that applied to me: “faith in Jesus Christ,” check. “hope laid up in heaven,” check. “the gospel which has come to [me],” check. “understood the grace of God in truth,” check! But what about my love for the saints and bearing fruit?

I just couldn’t check those points off the “list” that I bolded above. Thanksgiving is a time of year where having a conversation about thankfulness and love should be easy to do. Yet I’m caught up in my head, trying to make sure my plans for the week work out smoothly. I’m “too busy” to love on my brothers/sisters in Christ and try to share the gospel with those who don’t know Him.

Does this hit home for you? I came up with some ideas this morning in response to my conviction. I wrote down some ways that we can try to be a bit more missional over these next couple days and weeks:

  • Give thanks, specifically. When all 17 of my extended family sits down for the Thanksgiving meal on Thursday, my dad will ask everyone to share what they are thankful for. I plan to specifically give thanks for “the hope laid up for [me] in heaven” because I want the family members who don’t share that hope to be reminded that they too can have it.
  • Intentional invitations. Do you have a lonely neighbor or a friend who’s family is out of town? Consider inviting them over to share Thanksgiving with you. My wife and I are bringing our friends from Australia to Thanksgiving with us (despite the fact that my grandpa might tell lame jokes).
  • Food donations. The Light House in Annapolis is a homeless prevention center and has needs for canned goods, bagged lunches, and toiletries. They have volunteer needs sometimes, too. Give them a call and see how you can serve them this season: 410-349-5056.
  • Persistent prayer. Oswald Chambers says, “We pray when there's nothing else we can do, but God wants us to pray before we do anything at all.” We saw that played out in Paul’s letter. Pray for the people at church, the family you’ll be with this week, the people who won’t be with their family, and the people who don’t know Jesus. I’m going to spend a lot of time praying this season.

Have a great Thanksgiving! I’m praying for you.

Posted on November 25, 2014 .

Go, Give, Receive

Here at Bay Area Community Church, our mission is to make passionate, maturing followers of Jesus from here to the nations. Our heart is that we would equip those in our church to go share Jesus with their neighbors, but also to those in God's great big world. Scripture gives us a pretty clear charge:

"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." - Matthew 28:19

"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all of Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." - Acts 1:8

There exists the charge to step out of our comfort zone and share Jesus' truth. One we do that is by working with our global partners in sending short term missions teams to assist with global ministry efforts. 

This past summer, Bay Area challenged the church body to "make the trade," where families and individuals were challenged to trade a week of vacation for a short term missions trip. 150 people responded and many teams were sent out to serve in Poland, Ghana, and El Salvador. They evangelized in schools and colleges, worked at children's centers, let students at a student leadership camp, prayed over cities, and helped our global partners build community, in addition to many other projects. 

While the work of the trips is key to our global partners, it also influences the lives of the goers. Friendships were forged, passions were discovered, and Jesus is known more deeply. 

Kim Mitchell, participant in El Salvador Team 2, describes her experience as, "When we left the US, we were 37 people who sort of kenw each other and when we left El Salvador, we were a family." 

Jake and Nicole Gingrich, team members of Poland 2 team, grew in their faith as they partnered with Tomek and Damaris Otremba's ministry. Nicole explained, "There were a lot of really great memories. The most powerful was God answering prayer very specifically. There was a lot of spiritual warfare surrounding the Otremba's and [some of their ministry partners]. I prayed for angels to surround Kasia's [Damaris' friend] daughter one night; the next morning Kasia told me that her daughter woke in the morning and told her that she had angels watching over her the previous night. She was not afraid anymore. Talk about God's powerful presence."

The impact of God's work in the 150 has taken root both globally and at home. God has been glorified as He worked mightily in the lies of those who chose to "make the trade."

Saturday Night Singalong

This past weekend, we experienced another awesome time together at the Singalong. But there are still folks who question what it's all about. Here's a snapshot of the what and why of our Saturday Night Singalong!

WHAT IS IT

One misconception is that the singalong is literally just two hours of old fashioned non-stop singing. The thought of that leaves even me a little exhausted! The Singalong actually represents an opportunity to come together and relax, rest, and worship without a rigid schedule as the driving force. I've heard multiple times from folks that attend that it's "unlike anything else we do at Bay Area." I don't think they mean it's revolutionary, it just feels more free and refreshing.

The typical singalong involves an open time of sharing personal testimonies of both struggle and victory. We pray for each other, but not in an invasive way that would make an introvert shrink in fear. We even spend time scattered throughout the building, praying over the various ministries that each room and area represents (i.e. the Deep Blue, the chapel, the Warehouse). We also have the opportunity to take communion, light candles, and more.

Naturally, music is a big part of it, too. We do many of the same favorites from our Sunday morning gatherings, but our engagement with these songs is next-leveled! Ever seen people dance in a conga line to Amazing Grace? No? Then you should come to the Singalong. Because it's happened.

WHY DO WE DO IT

Our culture is always on the go. We commute, live, and work on the edge of arguably the most powerful city in the world. Our kids are in multiple school and sport programs. We have an ever-growing list of social events to make appearances at. It seems as though life is always running at red-line. Unfortunately we often find ourselves carrying this same mentality into our experience at church on Sunday mornings. We have so many things we're trying to accomplish in a 65 minute gathering! So the reason we have the Singalong once a month is a time to let go of all those entrapments and just soak up and be filled as we rest in God's presence. 

Honestly I can talk about it till I'm blue in the face. But the only way you will really understand is to come. So I encourage you to do just that. I understand it's a sacrifice. It means giving up a precious Saturday evening. But the reality is that it's not "giving up" at all... it's actually investing it in spiritual rejuvenation. 


If you're interested in seeing what our Saturday Night Singalong's look like, check out this video.

The Way Up Is Down

It makes total sense that Pat's first Sunday back, he'd climb a ladder, stick a crown on his head, and leave us all fearing for his life just a little as he teeters ten feet above us all while preaching! And it's things like this that help statements like, "The way up is down," really stick in our hearts and minds. The message, out of John 13 once again, was clearly communicated that Christ came as a servant. That He, God of the universe, humbled Himself to the point of washing feet, and that we too should take that posture. That we should stop trying so hard to climb the ladder and exhibit loving humility and serve like Jesus. That the way up... really is down. But there's one subtle nuance to this thing that makes a huge, HUGE difference. It's a sneaky little detail that, if we don't make sure we have in check, can sabotage the entire idea.

We're a society that's obsessed with formulas and success. Whenever a company, an individual, or even a church seems to skyrocket quickly, we all flock to them to learn their secret sauce so we can emulate it and experience the same results. We think "if that's what it takes to be successful, then I'll give it a try." And if we aren't careful, we can treat this "up is down" concept as yet another secret formula. It's so easy to say "Well I want to go up, so if going down is what will eventually lead to me going UP, then I'll give it a try!" See what we've just done there? We've taken this concept of humility and flipped it into yet another formula for success... and the irony is that isn't really humility at all! It's a mindset that says the incentive for going down is that it then leads to up. But that's not what Pat was saying, and that's not what Christ meant either. The real incentive for going down is not later success, the incentive is simply Jesus. The incentive is taking on His character, His love, His posture as a servant, His going DOWN. The incentive is literally that we look and act more like Jesus.

The devil is [literally] in the details. So let's be sure that our motivations are Spirit-filled, that our service... our going down... really is "Serving Like Jesus."

Posted on September 16, 2014 .

Five Ways to be Missional this Fall

Can you smell it? Did you feel it last night? Can you sense it in the trees?

Fall is happening. And I am SO pumped.

Fall produces intricate smells, brings in cooler weather, and shows off nature’s beautifully rustic side. Fall also encourages people to gather. They gather around campfires, pumpkin spiced lattes, and, towards the end, a massive meal of thanksgiving. If you’re anything like me, you’re excited to indulge in the delightful blessings of the autumn season.

If you’re also anything like me, you’ve probably started reminiscing or dreaming up the get-together’s and the fun times with your close friends and family. One of my favorite things to do is sit around the campfire with my dad and brothers, sipping on fall-ish refreshments, talking about where we’ve been or where we’re going—I can’t wait for that to happen soon!

Here’s the thing though… I spend a lot of time with my family and close friends; the majority of them share my love for Jesus. However, I spend much less time with my friends or acquaintances who don’t share that love for Jesus. Why is that? I am called to invest intentional time with people who need Him.

Whatever the reason, I plan to be more intentional this fall. I plan to invest specific relational time with the people in my life who haven’t committed their lives to Jesus. I plan to simply live on mission. And I’d like to challenge you to do the same.

I came up with a couple ideas to be missional this fall to help us get started:

1. Sports!
A lot of people love football. An easy way for us to spend time with people is by inviting them to our homes to watch a game or to schedule a time to meet up at a restaurant to watch together. And don’t be afraid to make it a party! It never hurts to find common ground. 

2. Bonfires.
Do you have a space to host people for a bonfire? Maybe you have a fire pit behind your home. Invite your missional community and the friends or neighbors you feel called to reach over for some fun times over an open flame.

3. Pumpkin Spiced Lattes.
Despite my tendency to gravitate away from Starbucks, I can’t deny the fact that they have nearly perfected the concentration of fall into a syrup form. Invite your person of peace out for a coffee and get to know them a little better. Try making it a routine: every Monday morning or every Wednesday night. Whatever works! 

4. Serve.
There are a lot of ways to get out and serve your community. You can try getting your missional community together and raking leaves in your neighborhood, or email me for ideas on getting involved with one of our Local Outreach partners. 

5. BONUS.
Here’s a more intimate challenge. Invite that person to Thanksgiving dinner with your family. This is hard for me because 1) my family can be rowdy and I’d prefer to hide that, and 2) I want to keep my family traditions pure. Inviting someone new would force me to change something. But I’m not called to hold onto tradition. I’m called to “let go and let God” as Greg would put it.

Got other ideas or want to share about how one of these worked out? Comment below! Lets take this challenge and be sure to share the results.

Posted on September 12, 2014 .

FRONTLINES Recap

Transient

As part of the BEST SUMMER EVER, we heard the stories of four church planters that Bay Area supports during our FRONTLINES series. As followers of Jesus, we are all called to be on mission to those we encounter - whether at work, in our neighborhood, at the gym, or in our families. These four pastors shared their own experiences and charged us to go be Jesus to those around us. 

Learn more about these church plants (see below). Continue to pray for God to grow the work of their hands. 


JOEY TOMASSONI

Downtown Hope
Annapolis, MD

Visit the Downtown Hope website to learn more about Joey and his church.

STEVEN LEE

Redeemer City Church
Washington, D.C.

Steven and Redeemer City Church are also a part of the Beyond 884 movement. Check out Redeemer City Church's website to learn more. 


MATT KLINGLER

The Well Community Church
Silver Springs, MD

Visit The Well Community Church website to learn more about Matt and his church.

STEVEN DILLA

Metropolitan Faith Church
New York

Learn more about Steven Dilla and his church in NYC by visiting the Metropolitan Faith Church website.


If you want to re-watch the sermons, listen to the audio, or review the sermon notes:


Posted on August 21, 2014 .

Bible Commentaries: Where to Start

Studying the Bible can be a difficult thing to do, especially without the right resources. Whether you are digging into the Word alone or with a group, commentaries are a great tool to take your Bible reading to the next level. It can be tricky to know who to trust for interpretation and help to better understand God's Word, so here are some of Executive Pastor Ed Kelley's top choices for Bible commentaries and authors.


Ed's recommended sets of Bible commentaries

Ed's recommended Bible commentary authors

  • Gordon Fee
  • D. A. Carson
  • Albert Mohler Jr.
  • Douglas Moo
  • James Montgomery Boice
  • John R. W. Stott

Posted on August 12, 2014 .

Faith in the Framework

Photo taken Wednesday, July 30

Photo taken Wednesday, July 30

As I look out at the construction of the new children’s wing and chapel, the steel framework is beginning to take shape – becoming more and more like the vision of the master plan. It’s far from finished, but one by one as the steel beams are placed, it looks more and more like a building and less like a dirt clearing. The workers spend countless hours in the hot sun. While it may not always be enjoyable, they know it is worth it for the completion of the end goal.

Our journey as Christ followers looks a little bit like this building project. God holds the master plans for our lives. We have a picture in our minds of what we think our life should look like, but our idea of a perfect life may be far from God’s plan. In the same way that we want to see fast results with building projects coming to completion, we want to see fast results in our lives. We want our prayers answered now and we don’t want to wait for God’s timing. But there will be a day down the road when God’s master plan for our lives will be made complete – when our imperfections will no longer be visible and we will be clothed in God’s grace.

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.  For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.” –Romans 8:18-21

While our bodies won’t be fully redeemed until we are with Christ, there is beauty in the process. Beams are not as beautiful as the finished product, but their construction lays the foundation toward a completed structure. The same is true for us, that God works in us through our struggles, trials, and pain in order to shape us into righteous beings.

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.  Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.  For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?  But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. –Romans 8:22-25

While we live in this fallen world, we don’t always see the beauty of what God is doing. However, we have hope because we know that His work is not yet done in our lives. That brings me to one of my favorite passages: Philippians 1.

In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. – Philippians 1:4-6

Completion. Just as any building project begins with the end in mind, if we are in Christ, we will be made complete when we are reunited with Him. We are not on this earth to aimlessly wander around for ages, but to seek Christ, share Christ, and one day be reunited with him – knowing that every obstacle is but a speck compared to the glory that will one day be revealed in us when God’s master plan for us is finally complete. 

Posted on July 31, 2014 .