How are you gifted? Wired? Called?

How are you gifted?  Wired?  Called?

WateringSome Christians are gifted as church planters. They are like Paul the Apostle. Converted to convert others. Led by God to start new churches. Paul spoke about this gifting when he wrote, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow” (1 Cor. 3:6).  God uses called and gifted servants to both plant new churches and water existing ones.  Do you have the apostolic calling of Paul?

As you consider this question, read 1 Cor. 3:5-9 and specifically ask, “What type of servant am I—a planter or a waterer?

What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task.  I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.  The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor.  For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.

As you reflect on this passage, realize that you are merely a servant.  Only God working through you makes things grow (vs. 6). This planter/waterer metaphor illustrates not only spiritual gifting, but more importantly, divine guidance and empowerment.  We are only “God’s fellow-workers . . . God’s field . . . God’s building” (vs. 9).  Ultimately the mission is God’s, and we are merely servants ministering in his vineyard.

Read 1 Cor. 3:10-15 about laying kingdom foundations.

By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it.  But each one should build with care.  For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.  If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw,their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work.  If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.

chiselWhat type of builder are you in the kingdom of God?   Are you like Paul—one who lays the “foundation” of the Gospel “as a wise builder”—or are you like Apollos, a minister building upon an existing foundation (vs. 10)?

The Lord’s work is not easy!  It is messy—as messy as people are.  Paul writes, “The fire will test the quality of each person’s work” (vs. 13).  How do God’s servants spiritually and strategically prepare themselves to lay new kingdom foundations of Jesus Christ (church planting) or to build upon these foundations (church renewal and growth)?  Are you willing to put your life in God’s hands and work in this messy world?

What type of material will you use to build the foundation of Jesus Christ?  Paul describes various materials used in the building—“gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw.”  What separates these elements?  The answer is that some are combustible and some are incombustible!

Since “the fire will test the quality of each person’s work,” some work will “survive” and some will be “burned up.” Foundations of gold, silver, costly stones will survive but those of wood, hay, and straw will be consumed.  How can we spiritually prepare ourselves for ministry in which some of God’s work will “survive” but some will also be “burned up”? Are you spiritually ready to experience loss?

Paul talks about ministering out of “God’s grace.” What does this mean? How do we minister out of God’s grace?

Paul called himself “a wise builder” (vs. 10). How did Paul—who once persecuted the church—become an expert builder? How does “God’s grace” work within us to form us into “expert builders”?

Answering these questions is a step in discerning how you are gifted, wired, and called.

For personal spiritual discernment contact us at Mission Alive at Contact@missionalive.org to connect and discuss a process of equipping. We would love to hear your journey and pray with you.

A ReVision Church’s Story

We in Mission Alive were invited to begin walking with Fred Liggin and the Williamsburg Christian church when he transitioned into his leadership role at WCC two years ago.  Fred calls Gailyn his special mentor and coach, his sounding board and partner in his personal journey to cast a new vision and lead this church toward spiritual renewal.

Fred said, “We came to a cross roads where I realized we needed a partner in the journey. I shared this with the elders and we invited Mission Alive into our journey.”  Theirs is an exceptional story, not just because attendance has doubled and children’s ministry tripled, but because they have begun to think of themselves as a kingdom community on mission with God.  In this story you will hear that growth is not primarily about numbers but a people’s heart on mission with God.

A Church Planter’s Story

“I remember feeling incredible joy” said Mission Alive church planter Kevin Vance as he walked the streets of North Central Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada.  “It was like a physical burden.  I need to be here.  I need to walk these streets.  I need to be with these people.  I need to love on them.”  This is how Kevin described the spiritual burden he carries for the residents of North Central Regina,

“Canada’s worst neighborhood” according to McLean magazine in 2007.

At Mission Alive’s Celebration Dinner in February Kevin testified that he had a “kind of God-pressure, a calling on his life” to minister among the poor and forgotten in the provincial capital of Saskatchewan.  Watch Kevin’s video testimony about how God called him from being the president of Western Christian High School and College to inner city church planter.

Click on the image to watch Kevin’s video testimony of church planting.

Transformed for Mission

Florence Pohl (Flo) was the quintessential American unbeliever: skeptical of organized religion, lonely and isolated, passionate about helping others, and open to faith and God.

She recently crossed paths with Kyle Mott, a Mission Alive church planter in Wichita, Kansas, with the River City Christian Community.

Flo’s story is about faith, community, mission in the workplace, and not least, transformation.

Through her interactions with River City Christian Community, Flo was transformed by God’s power from a lonely person who struggled to see how God was at work in the world to a disciple of Jesus on mission with God!

Click on the picture below to hear Flo share her story.

Celebrating God’s Work

Monday, September 17, was a thrilling evening at the ACU Summit—our annual Celebration Dinner describing God’s work in Mission Alive.  We were blessed with a full house, just over 120 participants who heard stories of church planting, church renewal, and conversion.

Sergio Rizo spoke about family ministry in neighborhood contexts while beginning Reunion Christian Community in downtown Nashville.  For example, sometimes Sergio, his wife Jackie and their four children plan “sneak attacks” to bless others.  On those nights, they express God’s nature by secretly helping people.  One evening during Easter, they hid Easter eggs in three different yards. Then they taped a sign to each front door that read, “You’ve been egged!  The Rizo kids have hidden 12 eggs in your yard.  Enjoy the hunt, but don’t be discouraged when you find the empty egg.  It is a simple reminder of Jesus’ empty tomb.”  They then rang the doorbell and dashed to the van.  Afterward, they were blessed with calls and texts from each family that had been egged.  These simple ministries bless both their family and the Reunion Church.

My favorite part was seeing Margaret Akachuk’s video testimony describing her journey to become part of the Gentle Road Church of Christ in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada.  I was particularly moved by Margaret’s words: “God saved me from a life of disaster, and I’m willing to give back to the people any way that I can. And I’m very proud to be a member of Gentle Road.”  Watch Margaret’s testimony in this video.

Randy Couchman, Preaching Minister for the Boerne Church of Christ, spoke of Mission Alive’s role in his church’s ongoing renewal.  He spoke of intentional disciple-making processes to spiritually form his church’s leaders and how personal connections with people in neighborhoods are developing.  His friend David—part of a Starbucks group of searchers—invited Randy to go fishing with him early one morning and after deep soul-searching announced that he was ready to give his allegiance to Christ.  The lake where they fished became a baptistery!  Homer Hillis of Highland Church in Abilene, reflected on Randy’s words, saying, “I could see that he is not just a mouth in a pulpit, but one who walks with people.”

Tod Vogt, Director of Equipping in Mission Alive, told stories of churches that have been planted over the last seven years.  It was apparent that a nation-wide movement of church planting and renewal is developing.

Finally, Gailyn and Becky Van Rheenen told the story of Leslie Fry.  Leslie is not only a supporter of Mission Alive but also a great encourager.  Becky told of her anticipation of letters from home when they lived in Africa.  In this same way Gailyn and Becky anticipate opening the letters from Leslie.  He invariably includes a word of encouragement indicating that he prays for and follows what God is doing through us. His spirit of encouragement also takes him to Denver to spend time with the church planters and Christians of the Aspen community whom he also supports.  We were honored to present Mission Alive’s annual Mustard Seed Award to Leslie Fry, our Encourager!

We give thanks for the stories of God’s work and for all who gathered to hear them.

Gailyn Van Rheenen

gailyn@missionalive.org

Raise your leadership to another level…with Coach Training.

Mission Alive wants to equip leaders to equip their churches. Coach training trains leaders to come alongside church members and help them listen closely to God. Then they help them creatively develop action steps in alignment with what they hear God saying.

Eric Wilson, the Executive Minister of the Sycamore View Church of Christ in Memphis, Tennessee recently began training as a coach with Mission Alive. He described his experience this way:

“I have benefited from coaching by realizing the necessity of my own need for a support team. I am very driven to become who God has called me to be and to fulfill what He has called me to do with this life. This realization, that everyone needs support, came through the Mission Alive’s coach training. In some ways, these are small revelations of obvious things and small initial discoveries of innovations. But in other ways these are huge moments of affirmation about the coaching process. Coaching breeds innovation and implementation. And I’m convinced we have to celebrate even an inch of expansion of the kingdom.”

Like Eric, most of us want to live in alignment with God’s purpose for our life. We want to grow into our calling and use our spiritual gifts to their maximum. Like Eric, we need support. We need help and, like Eric, we need someone who can assist us to be best version of ourselves we can be.

Mission Alive trains coaches to walk alongside another person rather than stand above him/her. Coaches-in-training learn how to ask transformative questions that help the person they are coaching think outside whatever box they may have around their thinking. They learn how to listen deeply. They learn how to help people see what they have never seen before and do what has previously been too difficult.

Coaching will move your leadership to another level. You will listen differently. You will ask different questions. You will see people discover new ways of serving God’s Mission. You will help others become what God gifted them to be.

Mission Alive is now registering a new cohort of coaches-in-training. See the Mission Alive website for more details on the coach training process.

Registration deadline: November 16, 2012
Coach Training Lab 1: Feb 1-2, 2013
Coach Training Lab 2: Sep 27-28, 2013 (both are required for certification)

Register Here

New Board Leadership in Mission Alive

I am thankful for the many people that God has raised up to serve with us as partners in His mission.  They grow with us as we seek to equip kingdom communities on mission with God both in the planting of new churches and the renewal of existing ones.  Truly God, who leads us forward in His mission, is faithful!   The leadership of Mission Alive is an ever-expanding circle of staff, board, church planters, ReVision church leaders, church leaders in equipping huddles, and those walking with us in areas of equipping/preparing, praying, serving, relating/networking, giving, and healing/transforming.

This update focuses on the developing leadership of the Mission Alive Board.

For the first seven years of Mission Alive, I have served not only as Executive Director of Mission Alive but also as the Chairman of the Board.  I am happy to announce that at a recent board meeting Frank Stepp was selected to serve as the new Chairman, Scott Ferguson as the Vice-Chairman, and Mark Lowe as Secretary.

Frank is Senior Vice-President of Thompson and Associates.  He has served as an elder at the Central Church of Christ in Amarillo and currently is a leader within the Riverside Church of Christ in Coppell, Texas, a major partnering church with Mission Alive.  He has served on the Continent Connection Team with Continent of Great Cities (currently called “Great Cities Ministries) in Brazil in 2009 and 2011.  When asked how serving with Mission Alive emanates from or fulfills his calling, Frank says, “I have a heart for ministry beyond the confines of traditional brick and mortar buildings. Mission Alive’s approach to relational transformation that comes from a missional church body energizes me. Also, my background in fundraising and working with churches fits nicely with the needs of MA.”

Scott Ferguson is a Vice-President of Cornerstone Real Estate Advisors.  He serves as an elder of the Riverside Church of Christ.  Scott says, “Working with Mission Alive helps me, in a very small way, be a part of helping the church reach our culture by supporting our men and women who display such commitment in planting churches and living out their lives as an example of God’s Kingdom at work on the earth.”  Scott and Frank will work closely together to provide board leadership to Mission Alive.

Mark Lowe is Vice-President of Wealth Management and Trust at the First United Bank and Trust.  Mark is currently a member of The Branch at Vista Ridge and served as a catalyst to plant the Shawnee Trail church in Frisco, Texas.  Mark says serving with Mission Alive “is changing my life to serve with committed Christian men and women whose purpose is to follow the calling of Matthew 28:19 and to witness the results of Christians changing people’s lives by demonstrating the love of Jesus.”

Jerry Browder, President of Signet Health, continues to faithfully work with us as Treasurer of Mission Alive.  Jerry is an elder of the Singing Oaks Church of Christ in Denton and a founding board member of Mission Alive.  Jerry says, “I believe Mission Alive’s missional and incarnational models of church planting reflect who Jesus is and how he connected with people while on the earth. Our world and our community needs these kinds of opportunities to provide belonging for people who are struggling with the consequences of sin in their lives and are unlikely to seek or find community in established traditional institutional churches.”

I praise God for our partnership with a board who believes that the key to renewal and church planting is a return to Jesus’ heart for making disciples and multiplying them into missionary leaders.

Gailyn Van Rheenen

Mission Alive

www.missionalive.org

We walk together amidst the siftings

This is a difficult blog post.  It is about an Exponential conference on April 23-26 of nearly 5,000 church planters who looked deeply into their hearts and considered how they were being “sifted.”  That was the topic of the conference – “Sifted.”  Why “Sifted”?  It comes from Jesus’ words of warning to Peter in Luke 22:31-32:  “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”  During the conference, church planter after church planter testified about their sifting by Satan–by lust and pride and tarnished by discouragement, frequently leading to sexual immorality.   Tod provided us a good overview of this conference in his blog Sifted:Powerful Theme, Powerful Conference.

In response to attending Exponential Jackie Rizo, church planter with her husband Sergio in Reunion Christian Community in Nashville, wrote a blog about their marital difficulties.  The blog, entitled “Intimate Foes or Intimate Allies,” describes their personal marital struggles while they were missionaries in Mexico.  Soon after posting the blog, Jackie emailed Becky Van Rheenen asking for prayers.  A portion of the email is used with her permission:

I’d like to ask for your prayers.  Last night, I wrote a blog post about the time when our marriage almost fell apart.  I didn’t post it until this afternoon and in just 20 minutes my inbox is flooded with personal stories from dear friends and then from another whom I’ve not spoken to in 10 years.  I ask for prayers of wisdom and the ability to stand alongside of each of them while they fight for their marriages.  My heart is deeply saddened by the “sifting” that each of them are going through or have gone through.  Thanks for always listening to me!

You can read and respond to Jackie’s blog at http://www.livingaredeemedlife.blogspot.com/2012/05/intimate-foesorintimate-allies.html.  I am thankful for Jackie and Sergio’s transparency and leadership in the kingdom. Their journey is beneficial to us.  If you are being sifted by Satan, are overwhelmed and finding it difficult to cope, would you contact Becky, Tod, or me?  We want to walk with you, pray with you, struggle with you . . . and help you become the man or woman that God desires.  We want you to know that we are praying for you that your faith will not fail but that you will turn and strengthen God’s people (paraphrased from Luke 22:32).

Wayne Cordeiro’s book “Sifted” (written with Francis Chan and Larry Osborne) was written specially for this conference.

The Exponential Conference next year will once again be in Orlando, Florida.  The dates are April 22-25.  Until May 18 you can register both yourself and your spouse for the conference for only $99.  Put “Mission Alive” as your organization while registering.  We will rent a house or apartments for all of us to stay in one place and also invite others to join us during the evenings.  The topic, as illustrated, is DiscipleShift.  Todd Wilson, who organizes the conference, will provide us a forum next year to speak in either classes or during a pre-conference intensive.  He says, “Mission Alive has much to say about this topic.”

We invite you to join us for next year’s conference.  Register this week to get the special price.  We will work on housing and keep you updated.

For the sake of His kingdom,

 Gailyn

Sifted: Powerful Theme, Powerful Conference

Last week the Mission Alive staff attended the Exponential Conference, the largest gathering of church planters in the world.  Every April over 5000 church planters gather in Orlando, Florida, to think, pray, worship, learn and grow.  If you are a church planter or church planting ministry like Mission Alive, it is THE place to be.

This year the conference theme was “Sifted,” taken from Jesus’ words of warning to the apostle Peter in Luke 22:31-32:

31 “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

In each session speakers and couples took the stage to testify how Satan had sifted them.  They spoke with surprising honesty and vulnerability, something not usually seen at conferences like these.  Some confessed to pornography, others to adultery, others to ignoring their families while they poured all their time and effort into their ministry.  Darrin Patrick, church planter of The Journey church in St. Louis challenged church planters not to walk away from their calling at the first significant challenge.  He said, “If we are going to talk about [our] calling, we are going to have to talk about faith.”

Each speaker exhorted the audience to have courage, perseverance, integrity, deep dependence upon God, obedience, and much hope.

The final session focused on healthy rhythms and boundaries for church planters and their families.  Dave Ferguson interviewed Bill Hybels, his wife and two adult children about how they maintained a healthy family as they ministered.  Amidst his many wise thoughts Hybels said, “In ministry you’re going to disappoint someone.  Try not to make it your kids.”  Great advice for every Christian trying to live by faith and raise a family in the midst of such busy lives!

Most church planters and church leaders understand the importance of personal development, soul care and family care, yet these are often lost in the frenetic activity of church leadership which results in a life and family unprepared for the inevitable sifting.

Jesus’ words of warning to Peter echo far and wide throughout Christian history.  Satan has indeed sifted many missionaries, church planters, ministers and preachers.  Today we can be sure that he is preparing to sift a new generation of Christ’s servants.

Join us in praying for God’s blessing and protection on Mission Alive church planters on the front line of the Kingdom of God.  If you would like to join our Prayer Team and receive weekly prayer updates, contact Holly at holly@missionalive.org to be added to the prayer list.

Tod Vogt

Mission Alive-Director of Equipping

Learning to Pray

“Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples” (Luke 11:1)

Prayer, like conversion, is a turning to God.  This turning to God is very difficult for human-focused, individualistic Euro-Americans and those culturally influenced by the secularism of traditional Western education.  We are taught to rely on ourselves rather than on God.

How then can we learn to pray, to turn to God?  The answer is imitating others who depend on God, modeling their examples.

Prayer – Imitating Jesus

The early disciples learned to pray by watching Jesus.  They watched him go to a solitary place to pray (Luke 4:42).  They witnessed that he “often withdrew” from proclaiming the kingdom of God and healing the sick “to lonely places” to pray (Luke 5:15-16).  They learned that before Jesus selected twelve of them to become his apostles that he “spent the night praying to God” (Luke 6:12-15).  They heard his prayers before his death, “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you!” (John 17:1), and his death had the power to give them “eternal life” (John 17:2). They did not fully understand this prayer, but the words stuck in their minds.

But the journey to his death was not easy.  He urged his disciples to pray that they would not “fall into temptation” (Luke 22:39-40) and then withdrew “a stone’s throw away” and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:41-42).  Luke says that he prayed so earnestly that “his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground” (22:44).  This took place in the Garden of Gethsemane at the foot of the Mount of Olives, where Jesus habitually took his apostles to pray (Luke 22:39).

Jesus’ journey was typified by prayer to His father and was witnessed to by his disciples!

Prayer and Disciple-Making

Learning to pray cannot be done merely by studying prayer, telling people to pray, or teaching the components of prayer.  It is best done by imitating those who are walking in a dependent relationship with God.  Learning by imitation thus becomes an inextricable part of our disciples-making.   Expectant prayer must be modeled in both community and ministry.

I am currently learning how to more effectively huddle church planters and ReVision church leaders for the purpose of disciple-making and leader-equipping.   In this process I am like “a sheep from the front and a shepherd from behind” (p. 40, Building a Discipling Culture – Huddle Guide by Mike Breen and Steve Cochram).  In other words, I am following those who disciple me while simultaneously guiding others on the road to becoming mature disciples and leaders.   In these various huddles I am learning prayer both from the vantage point of a follower and a leader.

Currently I am honored to facilitate a huddle for the leaders of a church in the San Antonio area, who are going through the Mission Alive ReVision ministry.  This weekly huddle takes place via conference calls because of distance.   As church leaders, we recently spent two weeks disciplining ourselves to pray.  We concluded during this time that it is easier for us to talk about prayer than to discipline our lives to commune with God in prayer.  We, like the disciples in Luke 11, requested “O Lord, teach us to pray!”

The obvious beginning point is the Lord’s Prayer, his model prayer, in Matthew 6:9-13.  This prayer, given specifically to teach us to pray, has six elements, each teaching us an important truth about the father (Breen and Cockram, Building a Discipline Culture, Chapter 11): Continue reading