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What I Love About You

Last observation from my time at the Willow Creek Conference Saturday in BC (thanks Willow for a great event). 

Having spoken at numerous conferences in a wide variety of settings over the last five years, I see a lot of checkerboard enthusiasm among church leaders and volunteers.  Some are passionate.  Some aren’t.  Some really want to
take risks.  Some don’t.  I wish everyone was passionately committed to reaching others and being the church Jesus has in mind.

And yet everyone I meet wants radical results.  However, not nearly as many are willing
to pay the price associated with radical action.  Because at the end of the day, church and even spiritual growth are too often about us, not about the world. Is it possible to have radically different results without radically different action?  Isn’t that like desperately wanting to lose weight while sitting on the couch eating bags of potato chips?  Something’s got to change for the results to be radically different. 

I feel SO grateful to be part of a community at home that jumps into
real risk, that is willing to embrace deep change for the sake of Jesus
and for the sake of others.  You are one courageous group of leaders, and your faith and willingess to risk inspires church leaders all over the place.

I
never ever want to think we’ve "arrived" because we have so much to learn and so much left to do. But when I think of a
bible passage like this,
I think we are starting to really embrace the radical essence of that
teaching.  I desire that so deeply and I’m so excited to be doing this with you.  Let’s not ever quit!

You have left so much behind for Jesus.  All I can say is thanks for
taking this huge risk.  I feel privileged to be counted among the members of this community.

10 Comments

  1. Carey Nieuwhof on November 8, 2007 at 11:46 pm

    So grateful that the ministry God is doing through us (and many others) actually changes lives. It's amazing, actually.

    Allen, the only thing people can't refute in this post-modern age is personal experience. Anyone can debate an idea, but people can't refute a relationship. One of the most powerful evidences for the existence of God that people have is their personal relationship with Him through Christ. My hope is that all of find that relationship deeply strengthened in the next year. I need it, and we need to move from "idea" to "reality" on love and a real love relationship with God through Jesus.

  2. Allen Forget on November 8, 2007 at 10:12 am

    Carey
    Something just occurred to me. (it is amazing when these just come out of nowhere!)
    A little background first – I grew up in the Catholic Church. I can say that my experiences were OK and that "process was served". You know, go to church every Sunday, youth group, youth music, Sunday picnics, etc, etc. I grew up fearing God and Jesus because I felt continually judged for my human actions.

    What I think was lacking was the development of the ACTUAL KNOWLEDGE TO CREATE AND MAINTAIN A RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS. I think that this is the reason that so many young people ( ie College and university age people ) turn away from their "parents church" because they were not instructed and lead into a relationship that was worthy of maintaining. That is the challenge we all face in ministering to people. We need to SHOW THEM how OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS affects HOW WE ARE and WHO WE ARE. There is no better example than action. You cannot find this in words in a book. You only find this in a true relationship with Love as the forefront to everything that you do.

    Here was my thought:
    I believe that it is even more challenging to develop a "personal relationship with Jesus" than it is to study the Bible or quote from scripture or go through the motions for the sake of tradition.

    I have been in many conversations about "modern churches" and "contemporary format" in churches. Many traditionalists believe that this "watered down" version of church is not theologically demanding enough to really serve God and what serving God was all intended to be. Some would believe that the fear of God is exactly what us weak humans need to keep us on the right path. As you mentioned somewhere else on this blog, a 75-week study of Revelation doesn't mean you are that much closer to salvation or, for that matter, to a meaningful relationship with God. That in itself is what I believe many people are suffering from in faith. They believe that knowledge of the book is what it is all about. I believe that the biggest fear that these people truly have is the idea of a relationship with God itself so they hide behind ideology and theology and traditions. My Dad, a committed Catholic, is comfortable in what he does. It is comfortable! Is that what church is about? I say NO! When he see’s what I do every week in church he is not comfortable. It is different. But you know what? He cannot deny the fact that he is moved by the deep love and in your face relationship with Jesus that some of the people have that I know. This moves him! The relationship is stronger than the knowledge by a long shot.
    Think about this everyone. Your RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS is more powerful and more difficult and more noticeable and more relevant and more intoxicating than ANY AMOUNT OF THEOLOGICAL BOOK KNOWLEDGE you may have.

    Finally, to everyone reading this, if you ever meet me do not quote me scripture, as I will be suspect. Rather, hold out your arms and extend the love of Jesus beyond what is possible by reading a book. Show me your faith, do not tell me your faith!

    Have I mentioned that I love this Blog?

    Peace to all.

  3. Carey Nieuwhof on November 7, 2007 at 6:27 pm

    Terra,

    It's so good to hear our mission that we talk about so often lived out in real lives. Your story is such a huge reason why we do what we do.

    A thought: I didn't realize that you had thought about seminary…wow. That's huge. But the cool thing about our model of ministry (and the Bible for that matter) is that ministry doesn't rely on paid professionals. It belongs to all of us. I believe that in so many ways you are in ministry.

    Great comments. Thanks Terra and everyone else on this post.

  4. Terra Fehrman on November 7, 2007 at 4:35 pm

    Hi There,
    I am in the 30-40 year old age bracket. There are comments going back and forth regarding new versus traditional ministry. What I can tell you is this: As a child, I spent 17 years in a traditional church. For a time, I even considered attending seminary myself, but felt that my faith was not strong enough. I fell into that 80% of high school kids that lose touch with their faith when they enter university. What in the world happened there?!
    I went back to a traditional church eight years ago and left again! Then, I found Trinity Community Church, when my husband and I began discussions about having children. My faith has grown more in the last two and a half years than in all my 22 years in a traditional church. I want a real relationship with Jesus more than anything else in this whole wide world. I want the same for my nine month old daughter. It is a huge responsibility and task to raise a daughter with grace and wisedom. Connexus Community Church is passionate about giving me the tools to do that. They also treat my husband (a non-believer) with acceptance and grace. I cannot imagine a ministry with a better mission than that.
    I also agree with Carey that if you are getting the results you want with a traditional ministry, then don't change. Only do something if your heart is in it! There is room for us all! Not everyone wants or needs the same thing. I admire Carey because he is taking a huge step in faith. Why should we keep this type of ministry to ourselves? I have so many friends and relatives that would enjoy it as much as I do. It bothers me that my experiences are not readily available to them.
    My final thought: Maybe if I had better mentoring or been able to see different options as to the type of ministry that I could have done, then maybe I would have followed a very different path. I often think about that.
    Terra Fehrman

  5. Carey Nieuwhof on November 6, 2007 at 12:07 pm

    Hi Everyone,

    Some great threads developing on the blog.

    John…I guess risk is a life message for me. I just am a fundamental convert to the belief that change is only an enemy if you are deeply satisfied with the results you are currently getting. My proposition isn't that change is good…only that radical change is probably required if you imagine radically different results from what you are getting. So I wouldn't encourage you to change at all unless you are dissatisfied with your current results or you believe God might be dissatisfied with them.

    Lorelei and Tracey…thanks for the encouragement. Jumping is exhausting, but God so totally renewed my strength again in the 48 hours. Funny that when you rely on Him, He brings a new level of energy. Hope you find it too Tracey.

    Allen….Man I LOVE your comment about people making a lot of noise when established people leave churches but nobody making noise when younger people come and go. Next level: does anyone care that 80-90% of people in our country declared their local church irrelevant last Sunday? Who's speaking for them?

    I am more and more a convert to my friend Sean Seay's comment that no one should be in church leadership who doesn't have an unchurched friend on their arm. This is the one community that truly cares more about others than itself.

  6. Allen Forget on November 6, 2007 at 10:57 am

    Carey
    I totally agree with you on this one here and on some of the great insight into the under 30 crowd ( in your Provocative Discussion segment) and how they view "church" and what they need to get from it.
    It reminds me of my days in school trying to get through English class. I had significant trouble with Shakespeare. Not because I am a "Tech Head" or I didn't find the story's interesting, it was because, to me, they may have well been written in Portuguese because I could not understand the LANGUAGE. It was that simple! The LANGUAGE was ancient and yet the true purist would argue that you could not read a Shakespearian story in anything other than the original language. Not true! I read a rewritten Shakespeare story years later ( and I am not usually a Novel reader ) that was produced in modern English and I completely enjoyed the story and had a new respect for the author.
    I agree that today’s under 30 crowd had very little tolerance for many things, especially hypocrisy. They seem to be able to sense it a mile away as well.

    Ironically, I also agree and respect what John is saying above in that there are situations where change is not going to happen and traditionalism will dominate. I truly believe that there is nothing wrong with this at all. We could argue that the traditional churches have a "death wish" or that "their time is written on the wall" and maybe that is true and maybe it is not. Suffice it to say, I believe that the vision and focus of the church is truly driven by the people in that church and if they cannot be clear on a direction ( or don't care! Yikes! ) then so be it and there is no point in pursuing anything different than what you are currently doing.

    The questions I pose then is this; Is it OK with these traditional churches that we ( the under 30 or 40ish people ) just pack our stuff and silently leave your church in search of the knowledge of a God centered life in a language that we can understand? I hope it is OK because, in my experience, that is what is happening. At a church I know of in my area when an elderly person leaves the church ( because this church is trying to contemporize itself ) people are aghast and there is uproar and turmoil but when the young people come in and out it seems that no one is really that overly concerned. Maybe this is due to the fact that these new people to Christ are seen as people who " haven't paid there dues to the church or to god" or who haven't served a long time in that church to warrant that recognition. I shed a tear for every one of these young people who this church ( ie The Body of Christ, His people themselves ) cannot seem to reach out to.

    Finally, every person has a different flavor that tingles their senses. If this were not true then ice cream would taste like, well ICE CREAM, Baskin Robbins would go out of business and there would be no need to make anything other than plain old frozen milk. In this case the God centered life is the very substance of ice cream ( the dairy products that our bodies all need to be healthy ). The flavoring is the method we use to get it into everyone. I pray that everyone comes out on a Sunday to try whatever flavor of ice cream they want to have just to get that substance they really need.
    Peace

  7. Tracy Wallace on November 6, 2007 at 1:13 am

    Oh and John, I don't know who you are or where you preach or with which denomination you are associated, but regarding your comment above…..AMEN Brother!

  8. Tracy Wallace on November 6, 2007 at 1:09 am

    Hey, Carey.

    I thought you totally brought it home during the last session at Willow.

    It was a pleasure to meet you, and hear you speak of transition. But most importantly how all the tension (is that a good word to use here in your case?) in the last few months is being used by God to show the "jumping" required.

    I'm sure when you committed to speaking back whenever it was and prepped your "jump" talk,you never envisioned God giving you more experience (than you likely needed) to share with us, as he has recently. It was a very powerful message of just what God is up to and that He really is obviously in this for you and your team.

    Getting to the next level, the Jump you spoke of and the risk you speak of above in your post, it's exhausting man.

    I must have sat there through both days at the conference going, "God, I get it, I get what needs to be done….but man I'm so tired." Thankfully, I now feel I have someone else to help carry the vision, and someone else that "gets it." Now we just need to creatively show the leadership the "why" and the "how" and start the process.

    I'll enjoy the exciting but more restful exploring stage you spoke of, and allow myself to rest before we need to plow head long into The Jump.

    Blessings and encouragement to you and your team,
    Trace.

  9. John Bigham on November 5, 2007 at 8:17 pm

    Sub-text going on here, for a different set of leaders altogether.

    Nieuwhof, your post above has helped me see you've got two gifts: evangelism, and convincing others in your words that radically different results require radically different action; that there's going to be kickback and that we're going to have to be courageous to take the heat. I've used the excuse that the congregations that came together in Trinity were simply more desperate than most, and didn't have many other options than to follow a bold new path. Not so for most of the rest of us in the mainline denominations who, as leaders, WANT to reach others, but are confronted with resistance, fear, and traditionalism that we don't seem to be able to overcome/turn around.

    Look, when I walk into The Meeting Place, my first reaction is, "I can't come anywhere near 'competing' with this setting where I am in terms of appealing to a non-traditional mindset, so I'm going to let Cavey–and Carey–look after the next generation, and I'll look after their grandparents." Niche marketing in reverse.

    Only thing is, it seems like such an unsatisfying lackey's cop-out… Is this all the cross was for?

    Was there anything at that Willow conference for the rest of us?

    John.

  10. Lorelei Manthorpe on November 5, 2007 at 11:39 am

    Carey you could have stayed with Trinity Community Presbyterian and boasted about how large your congergation was becoming. Instead, as in the early church, you are encouraging us to reach out to our community and you yourself, by example have started the Connexus Community Church. By sitting in one place with God's word we can become stagnant, as the Devil would hope, but we are taking steps to avoid this by projecting the love of Christ out into our community. Praise our Lord for His unfailing love,hope and desire He has in us. Thank you Carey (and your family) for the lead…….Lorelei

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