the times they are a changin

So says the Bob Dylan song. So is my life.

11 weeks ago I found out my wife was pregnant. 10 days later I found out that there were two human beings forming inside her belly. Being a father changes one’s outlook on life. I do not know this from experience, I have just been told as much. What I can tell you is that being an expectant father changes you. But first, you go through stages:

Utter Fear (from the moment you see the two embryonic sacs [which is really week 4] until about week 8 )

My jaw literally dropped when I looked at the screen and saw two sacs. As my wife marveled in joy over the next three weeks, laughing and crying with friends, picking out 73 different nursery designs, spending 23 hours a day on babycenter.com and babysrus.com – I freaked out. I considered things like, how can I make more money, how are we going to feed two more people, how can I make more money, do we need to get rid of the dog, how can I make more money, can I emotionally handle two, how can I make more money, what kind of dad will I be and of course how can I make more money. Sometimes this stage comes back in spurts – like when writing a blog about it.

Utter Joy (from week 8 until week 10)

Something clicked around week ten and I started acting like a junior high girl with a new boyfriend. Trips to Babysrus to register – more registering online. Dreaming about names and what they will look like. Touching my wife’s newly and quickly protruding belly whenever I get a chance. Noticing babies everywhere I went and making faces at them. This was fun, it really was. I miss it.

Planning (from week 10 until present)

This stage coincided well with buying a new house, making business deals and determining future plans. This stage is hard because you don’t want to make the wrong decisions. The wrong decisions could have you in the wrong city and/or the wrong church and/or the wrong/job and/or the wrong house, etc. Understandably this has left me a tad bit freaked out considering the track record of decisions Vicky and I have made. Yet, at the same time, it has helped me look at scenarios with a bit more maturity. This has caused me to sell-out, I mean re-look at vocational ministry. SAY WHAT, ah now we get to the meat of the blog post.

When Vicky and I left Campus Crusade for Christ we decided we were God’s hope for Las Vegas and decided it would only be a matter of time before God blessed us just like this guy says in this book.

Um, yeah. Problem is that I am not that guy.

So Vicky and I oriented our life spiritually (church planters), emotionally (full-time work plus trying to be missional and entrepreneurial) and financially (rent a house with a big living room) as if we were 35 years old with over a decade of ministry experience. This left us in debt spiritually, emotionally and financially. To summarize, we oriented our lives as if we were 35 even though we were 25, and it almost ruined us.

The logical next step seemed to be to move into a local church, serve humbly and move into leadership in a short period of time. We balked at a few good communities and once again bit off more than we could chew by joining the leadership of plant/venue/thingy. Once again we had to pull out, this time we were wise enough to do so before any harm came to us. What is the real issue? What were we really hoping for? What did we think God had for us?

The answer:
A leadership position within a church that I had neither the wisdom, experience or maturity to deserve.

My justification for such: the church needs me. It needs guys like me who care about the gospel and who care about being authentic and all the like. Those people doing it now have it all wrong. The church needs me.

The church needs me. Right.

As Colin Cowherd says, “Say it out loud. See if it still sounds like a good idea.”

This has caused me to approach/view the local church with a different lens. Seeking ways to bless the church faithfully from the inside, rather than being the rogue outside agent taking it on by force. Perhaps, people get to be 35 and qualified emotionally, spiritually and financially by growing in those areas. Even the best engineers work their way up to management by showing themselves faithful. Why should I get a pass? Why should the church suffer by letting punk mid-twenties guys with entitlement issues go right into senior management? Why should they not be blessed by letting faithful pastors prove their faithfulness with little, so that the church has proven godly men leading it?

So what is my next step? Do I re-enter vocational ministry? I’m not sure. But my entire perspective of the church is changing. Hopefully I will be so focused on serving and blessing the church that I won’t even resemble that old punk. Yeah, well at least in my attitude. The times they are a changin, and thankfully, so am I.

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Links I think You Would Enjoy

I really enjoyed this sermon by Rick McKinley. Just a great lesson on how to be honest with God while revering him as God. It seems that often times in the church that we get only one right, if that.

John Piper dispenses this nugget of wisdom on humility. I agree with Justin Taylor (whose blog every Christian should read) that this was the best line, “be more amazed that you’re saved than that they’re lost.”

Steve McCoy has lost his mind.

Trevin Wax has a great interview with N.T. Wright. N.T. is a great balance to the more Reformed conservative voices out there. Of course those voices provide a great balance to N.T., who on some issues, is way out there.

I got Bob Hyatt to admit by ommission that Doug Pagitt is a heretic. That is what I call an Emergent victory. Check the comments out for details.

Lee Coate has some great thoughts on how we discern fruit in the age where church planting is as cool as African babies are to celebrities.

Rob Hall preached a really good series on Jonah.

enjoy

matt

South Hills makes Jesus famous

Last December Ryan and I were on our way to meet his in-laws and my wife for lunch at In-N-Out in Las Vegas. On our way we stopped on the desert land that a church is getting ready to build on. We prayed for the church, the city and (becuase of the heartbeat of the church) the nations. Today, as I looked at one of the local newspapers, I was stunned to see parts of that prayer answered.

If you are reading this post on April 24 2008, then click here to check out the front page of the Las Vegas Sun. If it is a later date click here.

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(Shhh, don’t say anything, but I think Bret stole those chairs from Starbucks)

The thing I love about South Hills has been it’s mission statements/slogans. When I stepped into the church at Bob Miller Junior High the banner draped behind the stage read:

For Christ, Las Vegas, and the Nations

And even more refined now:

Making Jesus famous in Las Vegas

The idea of making Jesus famous is that his glory would shine in this dark place. God has used South Hills Church Community in the South end of Las Vegas to bring many people to faith in Christ since it launched early 2001. So congratulations on your faithfulness South Hills Church Community, may God continue to use you to make Jesus famous in Las Vegas.

matt

The Sure Guy and The Gray Guy

Hey guys, remember me. My name is Matt. I used to blog here regularly. I just got back from the wonderful city of Mesquite, and boy do I have a lot to say.

I cannot help but consider the relationship between myself and Jake a perfect case study for Ryan’s epistemological theory regarding those who more inclined to be sure in biblical interpretation and those who are more inclined to be gray.  For those of you are new to this discussion, I am more inclined to sure and Jake is more inclined to gray.Jake’s wife likes to laugh and joke that Jake and I don’t agree on
anything. Yet we both consider each other good friends, we share prayer requests and struggles and rejoice and mourn with each other. He is a true brother in Christ and of all the pain of the last year, I look back and see my relationship with Jake as one of the best things that
has come out of it.

For the sake of helping you understand where we are coming from, let me briefly describe how different our upbringings were:

Jake: Pastor’s kid in the mid-west where all morality was black and white (alcohol bad)
Matt: Atheist/recovering alcoholic’s kid in Las Vegas where truth was relative (yet my mom never stopped drinking in front of my recovering alcoholic dad, who now drinks socially)

We both rebelled from these upbringings hard in college:

Jake: dressing like a homosexual (no, really, he wrote a blog about it here. When I first met Jake he had a weird “Cheetah Print” fetish)
Matt: becoming a legalistic thinking/moralist

Now, keeping in mind that I tend to be a bit more sure and Jake tends to be a bit more gray, the following are the two biggest issues he and I have dealt with this past year:

– A mutual friend abandoning his sick wife.

– A mutual friend throwing a holiday frat party.

Now how do a sure guy and a gray guy deal with these two scenarios? Very differently.  I will spare you most of the details of these two conversations (although Jake, please know that I am only putting the lid on them for your sake, if you want to bring them out I’m fine).

When our friend was abdicating his role as husband and abandoning his wife I, as a sure guy, I was able to love our friend by speaking truth into his life that Jake, as a gray guy didn’t/wouldn’t (I am not making a judgment call for motive). As a gray guy Jake was able to love my friend in a very safe environment that I could not provide. As far as fruit is concerned, well our friend refused to repent, so we cannot exactly say either of our styles worked.

After attending our friend’s Christmas frat party we had a similar exchange part of which can be viewed here. As far as fruit is concerned, our friends have refused to repent, so we cannot exactly say that either of our styles worked.

I would seem that we both have over-realized interpretations of certain parts of the Bible and under-realized interpretations of other parts of the Bible. As a sure guy I see in myself all the problems that Jake presents. As a gray guy, I see in Jake all the problems Ryan presents. I would like to get on my soapbox and say that I believe Jake postures himself over certain parts of scripture and instead of letting them define what certain things like “love” and “church” mean, he goes with what he thinks “love” and “church” should mean. I really would. And while I will not tell you that I find that statement untrue, what I will say is that I cannot get up on my soapbox and tell that to him becuase in reality:

I myself take my cue of what “love” and “church” mean from certain verses while marginalizing others. So that while I might assume to have a posture by where I let the scriptures define what certain things look like, I do it by marginalizing other verses.

I have been discovering that my main spiritual gift is prophecy (proclamation). The thing that has been so convicting lately is that all the prophets in the Bible were constantly on their faces praying for God to change people and have mercy on them just as much, if not more, than yelling at them (they still yelled mind you). Do I do this? Or do I bash people with the truth of the Bible hoping it will change them? I find this to be just as fruitless as not proclaiming truth and hoping to love and create safe environments for them to come to me when ready. People are never “willing” to repent, that is why God constantly sends people to verbally warn them throughout scripture.

I cannot help but think that if Jake and I were more like the other that we would see more fruit. Creating safe environments where people are loved and cared for. Environments where they are warned that sin leads to death and that Christ came to take away sin by those of us who are so wrecked by their sin that we have been pleading to God on their behalf.

Thanks for carrying the blog for a while Ryan, but it won’t be necessary any longer; I’m back.

matt

McLaren, Driscoll, Juno and Famous Black People

Vicky says it has been too long since I have blogged. Not believing her I decided to check and yeah, it’s been a while. So I thought I would catch up in 3’s:

3 Books I’m in right now

– Everything Must Change by Brian McLaren

– Introduction to Biblical Theology by Klein, Blomberg, etc.

– World Biblical Commentary – 44 – Colossians, Philemon by O’Brien

Mostly school and a little fun from BMac.

3 CD’s that are rocking my world right now

– Fort Nightly by White Rabbits

– In Rainbows by Radiohead

– Juno Soundtrack

3 Issues that have been on my mind

– Abortion

thanks to the following: NPR – possibly the worst thing I have ever heard on the subject, I had to turn it off before I completely lost it; Obama – the man and I have very different idea of what “justice” means; Juno – great, great, great movie. Unfortunately, what it does for pro-lifers it does the same for teenage fornicators. Adam Carola – he’s been especially preachy lately, great for perspective on commentary against the church)

– Politics

thanks to the following: Vicky – she’s a junkie for sure; Time Magazine; Jonathan’s blog; Matt Drudge

– 14 kinds of Grace

thanks to Mark “300 books” Driscoll. I mean really, was mentioning over and over again that you are going to write that many books necessary to helping me understanding grace? Really? Still great, but really?

3 Things That Might Change This Year

– The city I live in  (I know, when will it stop)

– The amount of people I live with

– The amount of healthy churches that meet it bars in Las Vegas

3 Things About This Blog

– We get roughly 25-30 hits a day for people searching for “famous black people” thanks to my post on The Bible Experience. And with Black History Month coming up I expect that number to increase. Sorry people searching for famous black people, you’re stuck with two white guys.

– Ryan’s in his last real semester of Seminary. Go ahead and send him some encouragement. I am really proud of him. Who would have though Dawson Leary in Seminary and Joey a manipulated Scientologist. Times have changed.

– Last year we had a little over 13,000 blog hits which was aided supremely by the Washington Post linking here. This month we had a little over 3,000. So expect a healthy dose of posts about more famous black people over the next few weeks. We’re shooting for 50,000 this year.

Peace Out – matt

Cheating on my own blog

Ryan and I had a conversation a few days ago that pretty much consisted of us patting ourselves on the back for co-blogging. Here were our reasons why co-blogging is the best way to blog:

– You don’t have to carry the weight of always having to post. For example this is my first post in about two weeks, but my co-blogger has picked up the slack.

– You become less important. It’s not your blog, its both your blog. The other person can always put you in check for any abhorrent post.

– Unlike multi-blogging, co-blogging doesn’t overflow the blog with a million posts like Scot McKnight does (side note: I am reading The Jesus Creed right now. It is good).

– You constantly get emails from your co-blogger saying things like, “Did you see the search terms that brought some one to our blog.” Followed by you checking the stats and nearing spitting coffee all over your computer screen.

– If no one reads, you can act as if you are just having a conversation with a friend. Which makes the inside jokes that much funnier. Like the name of our blog, probably the biggest inside joke we have.

All that to be said, I wanted to thank Ryan for carrying the load the last few weeks, and also confess my blogging indiscretions.

Apparently I wrote three guest blogs on Devin Hudson’s blog.

Actually I wrote the first draft of the Core Values for FIVE20, the church venue we are starting in a bar located in Downtown Las Vegas. Devin has posted them on his site. Check them out and feel free to comment on both this post and his to let us know what you think.

Sorry Ryan, you’ve been so caring and this is how I treat you.

matt

Confessions: “La, la, la … I can’t hear you”

“For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.”
Romans 12:3

https://i2.wp.com/static.flickr.com/44/188144687_a556d571fd_b.jpg

When we moved back to Las Vegas, the plan was to plant a church in 2-3 years. I’m not even sure if the pastor I was under thought this was a reality for me, or if he thought I had potential, and would be a good guy to have around irregardless.  There were, however, many voices of concern that were made.

A good pastor friend of mine stood out. He said that he didn’t believe a guy should plant a church until he was 35 years old. His main point centered around the missional concept that a church planter will attract people on a ten year age radius. This being the case, 35 is the ideal planting age for a pastor becuase he will attract young professionals and young families, and those two groups will attract others. Not only do I agree with this radius, but it was what I used as a reason for a 26 year old to plant a church in Las Vegas. This would allow us to hit a radius that we are barely hitting, a young/hip church that could reach an unreached group in Vegas: the young/hip 18-35 year old demographic.

While I do not think I should have been questioning whether the concept was right, I do think it would have behooved me to ask whether I had the capacity and character to swim against the grain and be the man that reaches that demographic. Or to say it differently, instead of questioning the validity of the concepty, I should have questioned whether it applied to me or not. The reason I couldn’t do that:

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(note: the picture is the answer. other note: the bear is holding its hands over its ears.)

I would even clarify that our hearts are broken for Las Vegas. Especially for the young adults. It kills me that most churches are geared towards young families almost exclusively. Not that these are bad, or that we even have enough churches geared that way (especially with only 5-8% of our city going to an evangelical church on Sundays). It just that there are hardly any venues for young adults in Las Vegas to hear about Jesus in a context that is relevant to them. This was my heart for wanting to be the 26 year-old pastor who planted a church to reach that demographic.

But the question arises when a young guy is unwilling to ask himself the hard questions about his ability or preparedness to accomplish the task: who’s vision is he carrying out; his, or God’s?

May we all, always be willing to ask this. That God may get his glory, and we might be empowered by the Holy Spirit to do the impossible: build His Kingdom.

 

matt

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Now playing: Derek Webb – I Hate Everything (But You)
via FoxyTunes