Friday, September 30, 2011

October Update

The craziness of starting a new school year has died down considerably.  Instead of preparation, I've been filling my schedule recently with one-on-one meetings.

I've been trying to get to know the new guys in core better to see where they are in the different areas of life so I can help them grow in maturity both spiritually and mentally.  Core is what we call our small groups, because we believe them to be the core of our ministry.  Some of the guys who I have known for a little longer are currently doing a Bible study with me called Focus on Jesus.  This is the same Bible study I was referring to with Kenneth last month.  It is a ten lesson study that we have created over the years to cover the basics of following Christ so we can 1) get rid of any misconceptions of who Jesus is, 2) get rid of any misconceptions of what following Jesus means, and 3) teach them how to read and interpret the Bible for themselves instead of depending on what other people tell them.  The goal of this study is to "bring them face to face with Jesus and become as we are - radical, fired-up, crazy-in-love-with-Jesus disciples."  We try to make sure that anyone interested in going through that study has the opportunity to do so.

One of the guys in my core is named Wes.  At first he seemed pretty pretentious, but when I got to know him I could start to see beneath his exterior shell that he puts up.  It's pretty common for guys to think they need to act cool in order to make friends so I wasn't surprised.  That's the problem with our world, though.  Fortunately for Wes, there were also a few opportunities that God has given me with him to show what actual friendship is.

The first was when I talked to him one Thursday night at our large group meeting.  He mentioned that he was playing in an indoor soccer game afterward so I told him that I wanted to come and after the game he was really surprised that a small group of us actually came.  I really don't think that he had many real friends or ever really experienced friendship the way God intended us to.

Last week I organized a soccer game on Sunday afternoon because I knew that he would enjoy that.  During the game he had a seizure and collapsed on the concrete so we called an ambulance.  Another friend and I followed them to the hospital and stayed with him and his mom for a few hours to keep him company.  The next day I texted him to see how he was doing and he profusely thanked me for being there for him.  Obviously, God had everything to do with that, but it was amazing that I was used to bless him in such an awesome way.  I'm really looking forward to seeing what God does in his life this year.

In core we have been talking about who God is and what it really means to obey him.  Each week the guys will spend time with another person in the group to talk about the topic for the following week.  During core we will share our thoughts and provide scripture to back it up.  This week we started singing some a capella songs and it was pretty painful to listen to!  Keep in mind that none of us are musically gifted so it sounded kind of like a bunch of dying seagulls, but we had a lot of fun.  My main thoughts on this are that we are praising God and creating a more intimate environment as we all make ourselves more vulnerable together.  Things like that go a long way toward developing intimate relationships with each other.  It's that intimacy with other guys that is so attractive about the group, because it's not just another Bible study.  Many people today have no clue what this even feels like.  That is a sad reality.

Another group of guys I meet with regularly is the Peer Team.  These are the leaders, but not all of them facilitate a core group.  Casey (the campus pastor at Collin) and I split these guys in half and meet once every few weeks to discuss where they're each at in their studies and how their core groups are going.  As leaders, we have committed to making sure each core member gets one-on-one time with someone who is mentoring them.  I also meet one-on-one with the Peer Team guys, but my intentions are to go even deeper to teach/challenge them as best I can to have a real and meaningful relationship with God, because that is absolutely foundational for leadership.  Then I want to help them understand how to use that relationship to effectively disciple others.

A few weekends ago was our annual Fall Retreat.  We were only there for a straight 24 hours so time was of the essence.  The whole point of our fall retreats is creating or developing new friendships with people who are new.  We do a few things to foster this such as group games to learn each others' names, "walk and talks" where we split up into same-gendered pairs to share parts of our background, and general free time.  During any of those times our leaders keep in mind to purposefully facilitate these developing relationships.  Camp is quite possibly the best place for any new member to come in order to make meaningful, lasting relationships.

I'm continuing to learn more from my intern class with Ronnie as well.  We have gone over Matthew and Mark in depth over the past month.  From Matthew I have focused a lot of attention on the beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-10) because within them they summate the characteristics of Christ.  Ronnie has said they are like a skeleton that you can build other lessons into.  I have memorized them so that I can continually dwell on them and relate other lessons and ideas back to them.  Each night before going to bed I recite them to make sure they are fresh on my mind.  In Mark, we were asked to prepare an intro discussion to lead with the rest of our group in class one day.  I chose to talk about the author, Mark, why he wrote the book, and why I think his source was Peter.  There are a lot of signs within Mark when compared to the other gospels that leads me to believe that Peter, at the very least, helped Mark write his gospel.  The reason we are focusing so much on the gospels first is because they are the window into Jesus' life and he said that if we know him, we know the Father.  Also, the remainder of the Bible simply revolves around Jesus.

Let me know if you have any questions or would like to hear more about anything I mentioned above.

Thank you for all of your continued support!  Please continue to pray that God uses me.

Yours for the Campus,

Matt

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Ministry Vision

In our big group meetings we have been having people share their vision for our ministry.  It's a time for individuals to paint a picture of what our community of believers could do and be with God's spirit within us.  In my mind it is kind of a goal setting exercise.  I read my vision a few weeks ago and I wanted to share it with you here.  Below are my notes as well so that you can get a feel for what my point is.

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Intro:

- Note the things that stand out to you and make them your goals for the semester/year.
- On top of that think through these things and figure out how to make them happen.
- In my mind vision setting is about getting a picture in your head of what things could look like and trying to reproduce it.

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There is no doubt that God has been changing each of us throughout our lives so far, but my vision for our ministry is of the completed transformation.

This is what we would look like if we truly took up our crosses and followed him daily:

We would understand what it means to die to ourselves and how to make it happen.  Then we would do it.  God would be able to live within us in the way he intended.  He would have total control over our lives.  Just imagine never resisting him, but more so than that, imagine never even attempting to make a decision without first looking to him.  We would no longer be independent, but rather dependent on God and nothing else.

We would also become a community that passionately cares for people.  All people.  Individually and collectively, we would be the ones that people know to come to.  People would feel comfortable confiding things in us because we not only listen and keep things in confidence, but we try to help in whatever way we can and share their burden.  We would not only hold people when they cry, but cry with them because their pain becomes our own.  We would care for others habitually and love them so much that we literally forget about ourselves.

Through consistant time reading and dwelling on scripture, talking with and relating to others, and praying, we would become strong in our knowledge and understanding of the Lord and his word, but we would also be disciplined and controlled in our actions.  Submission to him in every situation would be our first priority.

We would learn more about God every day; something we did on purpose.  Instead of being obsessed with material things or people that don't last we would be obsessed with he who lasts forever.  Anything else: we would only use to glorify him.

We would be forgiving and understanding.  Our first reaction would always be love and never hate or accusation.  We would only think the best of others instead of the worst.

We would be so devoted to God's work that nothing else could distract us.  Just like a great athlete so intently wants to win that they let nothing hinder their training, we would desire pleasing him more than having fun, spending time with friends, sleeping, eating, or even breathing.  Yes, we would consider dying and pleasing him better than living and pretending to.  Through all of this we would never develop a sense of pride any more than a hammer does when used to hit a nail.  All the glory goes to the builder.

We would always look for peace rather than a fight.  When an argument arises we would try to resolve it quickly so that it doesn't linger and cause more damage than it's worth.

We would live such devoted lives to Jesus that people would be forced to love or hate us.  Not because we tell them to choose, but because our actions expose them for who they are and because they have no control over us anymore.  Since we have relinquished everything to God, others have nothing to take from us and no way to inflict pain on us.  This would create a barrier or curiosity.

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Conclusion:

I hope that this inspires you to think about the possibilities that God can bring into your life.  Don't ever limit what he can do by lack of belief.  Our God is big and he can do things beyond your imagination if you truly want him to.

Pray

- Prepare our hearts so that we can empty ourselves completely.
- Fill us with your spirit and give us a vision of what we can be when coupled with your power.
- Teach us how to allow your vision to come to life within us.