WOW God!

I have to share just a few updates about the GREAT things God has been doing in our lives. We are simply blown away at His grace and favor toward us. I have had my hands full through the summer. That is the reason that I have not been able to blog lately. To all of the regular readers of my blog, I apologize for my absence, but after reading this you might more fully understand why.

As is our regular rhythm my wife and I took the month of June to reconnect with one another and our son. I had the opportunity to teach at a youth camp in Kentucky. This is something I have desired to do for years. It was amazing and I discovered that I loved the youth camp culture. I am already on board to do it again next summer. Kentucky Christian University was so moved by my speaking that they had me come to teach for a week. I even received an offer to teach at the school. (I am honored, but I must do the work that I am doing.)

In July we went to China. It was a powerful trip. We went to support some people we sent to Asia teach conversational English. We ate some incredible food, connected with good friends, and made connections we hope will last a lifetime. We are looking to both send more next summer and to set up some opportunities for us to head back. Look below to the previous blog to see the music video of our trip. 

I have had the opportunity to speak at some powerful churches both in the city and outside. I love traveling, sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the story of Vertical Church. Things have been so busy that I have only had one weekend off since our sabbatical and that allowed me to celebrate my wife’s birthday. Speaking allows me to supplement my income, which is a blessing as I lead a church in a underresourced community. I also have been able to talk about College Impact, which is now on kindle. Click here for College Impact Kindle Edition

Writing so many messages for churches has kept me very busy. Add to that, I am writing another book! I am writing an e-book about the failure of “missional” churches (and “attractional” churches.) I am half way through it. So I have been challenged to find the space to blog during this season. 

Here is the crazy news… While speaking at a church a person was inspired by my message and the work we are doing in the city of Atlanta and requested a meeting with the simple phrase, “I want to get behind him”. After a brief time, the person committed the largest donation the church had received. This was incredibly encouraging.

I took someone on a community tour, and the person was impacted by our story as we care for our son who uses a wheelchair. The person then did what was unimaginably and bought us a wheelchair accessible truck to more effectively transport our son. No more lifting and twisting to place my 60lb son in his car seat. It was paid in full! Hallelujah! Not only is it functional, it's nice… leather interior, low mileage, and a "tricked out" kneel ramp function that allows my son to more easily get up and down the ramp. Add to that I spoke at another church this past Sunday, and they heard about our new vehicle. They collected over $1,200 in gift cards to help us with gas. Just wow! God has been so good to us. It would have taken us years to save enough money to get a van/truck like this. We with tears in our eyes are singing, “How great is our God!” 

China Trip 2013

Is it missions if it’s 45 minutes from home? (Yes.) by Tony Morgan

Yesterday, Emily and I took a short trip down I-75 to the West End community of inner-city Atlanta. There, we met up with Damian and Zarat Boyd. The Boyds are about 18 months into planting Vertical Church.

The church gathers two times a month in another church’s building near the campus of Clark Atlanta University. There, they have the unique challenge of trying to reach college students at multiple campuses and the poorest of the poor in neighborhoods that are in decline.

Here’s a seven-minute video of Damian and Zarat sharing their vision for the impact of Vertical Church.

 

There’s a lot of emphasis in churches today about missions. That’s a good thing. I find it challenging, though that we invest so much time, money and energy focusing on communities on the other side of the world, when there are communities just down the road that need help and need Jesus.

Are you looking for an experience that will open your eyes to a different culture? Do you want to serve the needs of people who don’t have resources like you? Do you want to bring the Gospel message to people who are looking for hope, purpose and love? You may not need to fly to Kenya to find it.

As I mention in the video Damian and Zarat are quality. They’re sharp. They’ve partnered with the right people to have accountability. And, God has them positioned for huge impact. If you’re looking for the “easy button,” I hope you’ll consider partnering with Vertical Church through prayer, serving and financial investment. 

10 Things I Hate about Christians

Sometimes Christians suck! I know that this might take many people by surprise considering that I am a pastor and have been a passionate Jesus follower and preacher for 20 years now. But, the truth needs to be said even if it hurts. I know people that have no problem with Jesus or His teaching, but they hate those who say they follow Him. I am not writing this out of anger or because of a bad experience with a disgruntled church member. This is a cry to encourage God’s people (who I love) to do better.

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” This is a scathing critique that was as true in his day as it is in ours. The Bible bares the same idea, “Here’s what it says: Because of you, God’s reputation is slandered by those outside the covenant.” Romans 2:24 There are people, I think, that are down on the whole “Jesus thing” because of the sorry actions of Christians. Some might say that I am exposing family business, but lets face it, these are things non-Christians already think and say about those who are supposed to carry the name of Jesus.

So, I give you the 10 things I hate about Christians.

1-Christians are Hypocritical- Jesus himself was frustrated at those who were seemingly religious, but living incongruent lives. They preach that people should be kind while being jerks. They are little angels on Sunday and live like devils Monday through Saturday. Christians can be so judgmental about the sinful lifestyles of others while they are just as sinful, but have managed to keep it quiet.

2-Christians are Ungracious- Grace is the concept that God was good to us even though we were evil. Instead of giving us what we deserved He blessed us. That should make Christians, who have been blessed with grace, gracious to others. They are very mean to people who are flawed. It’s interesting that somehow they want people to be nice to them when their flaws are exposed.

3-Christians are Unloving- How can you say that Jesus is love and refuse to love people? Jesus fed the hungry. He helped those who were hurting. Why don’t people who say they represent Him do the same thing? Love shouldn’t be limited to just friends or the people that agree with you. Jesus taught His followers to love even their enemies; so Christians should be the most loving people anywhere.

4-Christians are Ignorant to what they Believe- There is nothing more frustrating than a person who says they are a Christian, and they don’t read, nor do they know their Bible. It makes sense that so few live up to its teachings. When those who don’t believe what you believe, know more about what you believe than you, do it looks bad. If you believe that the Bible is the word of God then it makes sense that you should know it!

5-Christians are Dishonest- How many people do you meet that talk about how blessed they are, and yet they are so unhappy. Why do they paint smiles on their faces while they are hurting on the inside? If you are going to be honest in one area, shouldn’t you be honest about your feelings? Blessed is not a good answer when you are struggling.

6-Christians are all about their “church”- it seems to me that a Christian should be a representative of their faith when not in the church building. Why do I have to come to your building to hear about this truth you say you believe. Is the pastor the only one good or smart enough to tell someone about God. And why do so many people exalt pastors to demi-god status? Doesn’t that force them on a pedestal that is impossible to remain on? Just saying. Christians seem to be overly concerned with differentiating themselves from other Christians. Aren’t all Christians going to heaven?

7-Christians Talk more about Rules than God- There are so many Christians that try to get people that are not Christians to act like Christians. Why tell people about the rules of Christianity without first helping them get to know Jesus. Isn’t the faith supposed to be more about what God’s goodness than ours? Do you really want people living Christian morality without Christ?

8-Christians are Stingy- if God gave us Jesus, then shouldn’t believers be givers. There are so many churches struggling because church people don’t give. Many will close their doors because their members aren’t generous. Not to mention that there are many churches in communities that have hurting and hungry people, and they don’t help them. Christians are supposed to be generous.

9-Christians are Unforgiving- God forgave you so you are required to forgive others, right? That seems to be central to the Christian’s belief. People in churches stop talking to one another for not being invited to a barbeque. If Christians can get along with other Christians, then why would anyone want to be one?

10-Christians are like Me- The biggest thing I hate about Christians is that I am one of them. I am just as guilty of being a hypocrite, unloving, ungracious, etc. I have told people I was fine and blessed when I was so hurting and lonely on the inside. I am not writing this to say that I am any better than anyone else. The simple truth is that no Christian is perfect, only Jesus.

Even though I am broken and in need of the grace of God, I am expected to live the best life possible. Let’s be honest, no one expects me to be perfect because I don’t pretend to be either. I think if we stopped acting like we were better than others we would be able to have more integrity when we to share with them. Yes, Christians must stand for truth, but that doesn’t mean we step on others in the process. We can’t simply talk about spiritual principles; we must live them out to the best of our ability. We can do better! Others are not necessarily looking for us to get everything right, but we can no longer pretend that we don’t have some wrong. I love Jesus followers, but sometimes I hate the things we do.

Missions Possible

I am passionate about making a difference in the world around me. By God’s grace, I made a difference in my high school, college, post-college career, and now as a pastor. One of the saddest things I have seen is a local church that has no impact in their surrounding community. Another mistake is a church so focused on local engagement that forget that it has a responsibility to the world. The mission that Jesus has given us should compel us to reach both right here and over there.

The bible says, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me (Jesus) in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8 These are the words of Jesus desiring us to carry on his mission into the world. The Holy Spirit empowers us in part to fulfill the work that God has for us to do. Jesus is talking to guys who are in Jerusalem so the connotation is to reach the local area, Judea that is a little farther away, and Samaria, which is a far off. All three are necessary. 

One thing I understood early on in our journey to start Vertical Church was the importance of the way we started, because it influenced the way we would continue as a body. So, from the beginning, we were sure to do both local and global outreach. Actually the very first thing we did publically as a church was to serve one of the college campuses in our community. We also were sure to donate financially to a student going on a mission’s trip. Both community and international engagement were right there at the beginning.

Last year, we performed over 2,000 hours of community service. We provided over 2,200 meals to the hungry. We also collected clothes for the naked, and books for a local school, and so much more. We also helped fund church plants around the North America, and one specific team going to Memphis, TN. We gave to help 7 churches get started in Tanzania, most of which were among the Masai people.

This year, we have continued that process. We recently sponsored a community Easter Egg event where we helped feed over 375 people, prayed for community members, provided eggs and games, and shared Christ through entertainment for hundreds of children in the statistically worst community in our city. To add to that, we are sending at least 6 people to Asia on teaching missions this summer. My wife will be joining them to both capture the experience and to encourage them.

Churches can’t ignore the needs around them. Churches can’t ignore the world abroad either. We must impact our immediate community and we must fulfill the mission given to us by Jesus to tell the world about His amazing grace. A church that is only internally focused is not only functioning selfishly; it is failing the mission, no matter its size or status. The mission of Jesus is not only possible, it requires us to impact our immediate surrounding and the world at large. 

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