Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Know Your City

Photo Credit

I live in a place where women take their morning run in full makeup. A place where girls ride bikes in dresses and heals (I wish I was making this up; I'm not.) I live in a city where theme parks and the entertainment industry thrives, and our communities become more superficial because of it. In the heart of Downtown Orlando you should not go out any night of the week without high heels and a dress on (the higher and shorter the better) or you will be seriously under dressed.

My city is the 3rd Worst Place to be Homeless, the 6th Most Stressful City and Most Dangerous City for Driving. I know that once a month our Mayor does a "State of Downtown" address. People who want to know what's going on in Downtown Orlando are there. I also know that on Sunday mornings locals are at the Lake Eola Farmer's market or at any of the numerous restaurants that serve a post-hangover brunch. Sunday morning culture involves waking up late, lingering over good food, and connecting with neighbors. The few people who don't have hangovers on a Sunday morning probably were working in the numerous service industry jobs until 4:00 in the morning to serve those that do.

And then there’s the sizable homosexual population that only reluctantly is welcomed by local churches.  And another community—the green/vegan/hipster community—that looks with skepticism on the message of Christ. We have to reach them too.

What does that tell me about church planting in Downtown? It tells me that a traditional Sunday morning service won't work. And does it really make sense to take people away from so many great relationship-building opportunities anyway? It tells me that church planters will have a long road ahead to see lost people engaged in genuine Biblical community.

Chances are you city is not identical to mine. Perhaps your target demographic is older or younger or richer or poorer. Perhaps there are a lot of migrant workers, or hunters, or politicians in your community. What do you know about them? Are you connecting with them? What's the best way to reach them? Are other churches in the area succeeding, failing, or maintaining?

I've poured the past three years of my life into seeing Downtown Orlando transformed to the glory of God. Before I moved here I was constantly traveling to the city to gauge the culture. Soon I'll finally be part of a core group, seeking to plant a relevant church Downtown, and I hope my experience in coming to understand our city makes a helpful contribution to our effort to minister to a lost and dying world.

So, how well do you know your city?

(Be sure to read the second post in this series here.)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Do You Dream? (3 Steps for Fueling Hope)

I'm an anomaly. I'm a woman who's excited about my 30th birthday. It's just less than a year away and I'm planning the party to end all parties (merely a dry-run for my 40th of course). As I caught myself daydreaming about the music, dancing, food, and venue yesterday, my mind wandered to the people. I thought of the long list of folks I want to invite to celebrate with me. A lot of those people don't know Jesus. But maybe in a year they will? I decided I couldn't come up with any better birthday gift for myself than having those close to me in relationship with the Savior of their souls. That is worth looking forward to...

One of the most powerful concepts I've discovered, next to grace, is hope. Hope has the power to change daily attitudes and entire worldviews. We all have a longing inside of us that needs to be filled. An expectancy for something outside of this world. God created that longing to never be satisfied with anything but him. That longing keeps us looking toward a kingdom not of this world. And it is this longing that can keep us going from day to day. 

If you're in ministry by definition you're probably tired. You may still wake up excited about your calling but you're still tired, maybe even weary. You need something to hope for, long for, dream about. I have found the concepts of dreaming about the future to be extremely therapeutic and oftentimes the right fuel to face another day. Here are three steps for dreaming of a God-sized future and fueling hope:

  1. Remember Why You First Entered Ministry: Were you hoping to see throngs of people come to Christ through your evangelism? Did you see a social justice need in your community that if remedied would point people to Christ? Is your goal to see your city radically transformed?
  2. Spend Time Imagining Your Wildest Dream Coming True: Would homelessness be eradicated in your city? Would foster homes be empty because of the church stepping up to the call to "take care of orphans?" Would once pleasured centered businesses be missional hotspots?
  3. Pray Toward That Dream: Ask God to do something incredible through you/your church plant/ your ministry. (Your dream should be so big that if it came to pass it could only be credited to the God of the Universe.)
I know what I'm dreaming of and praying about for the next year. What about you?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

We Are Disgusting

 Our society, American society, (I know there are problems of epic proportions all over the world, but I am an American and so I will address American issues) is a mess and it disgusts me. We find it not only acceptable but commonplace to use others misfortunes as entertainment. Like in this clip of Chad Johnson's firing from the Miami dolphins.  We read posts like this about the current horrors of late term abortion and yet do nothing. We read magazines in worship service and those of us who don't feel righteous by condemning those who do. Ann is right that we have no idea how to really live.

What disgusts me most is that I am to blame. I am no less guilty than the partying stars of Jersey Shore or the cold reporter on the evening news. Just a few miles from my home in either direction, woman are trafficked and I turn a blind eye.

My struggle is how to balance the weight of sin with the incredible grace that makes me no longer guilty but free? I know I cannot solve or even address every issue in our culture but how can I live in a way that says, "I care" and share the hope of Heaven that I have?

Are you disgusted by our society and your own sin? Facing the enormity of our problems how do you avoid complacency to live a meaningful and engaged life?