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Get Out of Your Bubble

Can you imagine what it would be like to live in a sterile environment without physical human contact? No doubt you’ve heard the phrase, “living in a bubble,” or something similar. It was coined a few decades ago, based on the movie of a boy with an underdeveloped immune system who had to live in a bubble-like environment.

This made-for-TV movie came out in 1976 (The Boy in the Plastic Bubble), combining the life stories of two boys with rare diseases. Of course, the movie dramatized the story (added some fiction) and a romantic theme far from reality. But the concept of living in a bubble, like an incubator, caught hold in a cultural expression.

In real life, these boys were unable to venture out of their bubble-like environments without fatal consequences. And yet, their great desire was to live outside the bubble.

Living in a bubble

It wasn’t long before people applied the phrase living in a bubble to other situations and people. For example, the office of the U.S. presidency is bubble-like, with the 24/7 Secret Service guard, and screening of people whom the president will come in contact.

Today it could apply to people focused on their cell phones, gaming, and social media in a virtual bubble. The phrase came to describe anyone isolated from the world around them.

Sadly, this describes many Christian believers. Many Christians live in an insulated Christian world surrounded by other Christians, and locked into Christian-oriented media and music. And, many Christians like it this way and don’t want to leave this protective bubble—their faith bubble.

Even more sadly, the world around them is untouched by their Christian beliefs and values. Why? Intentionally or not, we’ve constructed an ivory tower of faith.

Not as Jesus intended

This is not what Jesus had in mind when He spoke of the Kingdom of God on earth. Not at all. This bubble-like isolation isn’t reflected in Jesus’ teaching about the kingdom.

This bubble-like isolation isn’t reflected in Jesus’ teaching about the kingdom.

Jesus had an entirely different way of life intended for His followers, which is seen in several parables and other teachings.

In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus sent out twelve disciples to “preach the kingdom and to heal the sick” (Luke 9:1-6). Later, in the last year of the Lord’s ministry on earth, Jesus sent out seventy others in the same way (Luke 10:1-12).

His final instructions to those who would lead the church after His departure extended this same message—But the Holy Spirit will come on you and give you power. You will be my witnesses. You will tell people everywhere about me—in Jerusalem, in the rest of Judea, in Samaria, and in every part of the world. (Acts 1:8 ERV)

This is also echoed in all four of the gospels and termed the Great Commission (see What Do You Not Understand About “Go”?). It is clear, Jesus intended for His followers to be empowered to go out with His message to the world around them.

Getting out of the Christian bubble

For the “Boy in the Bubble,” leaving the bubble put him at risk for his life. But it’s different for us followers of Christ. Our spiritual life is at risk if we don’t get outside the bubble.

Our spiritual life is at risk if we don’t get outside the bubble.

We need to engage people who have different values and beliefs than our own. Here’s a blog post by Pastor Cary Nieuwhof that addresses this— The Evangelism Conversation No One Is Having.

Over the past several weeks, I’ve posted articles related to this week’s topic—sharing our faith without being aggressive or overbearing. But, we have to be willing to get out of the Christian bubble to engage people who don’t share our faith.

Here are the links to those articles—

How to Be an Evangelist—Without Really Trying
What’s Your Story Morning Glory?
Getting Personal
Ready to Engage

One simple question— Are you willing to get out of your own faith-bubble to engage people about faith?

Trip Kimball planted a Calvary Chapel in 1978 and in 1990 took them to the Philippines as missionaries. There in Asia he was used by God to not only establish Rainbow Village for abandoned babies, but serve in equipping hundreds of national pastors and church planters. Currently Trip serves from his Florida home as a mentor with CCPN, as an integral part of Poimen Ministries and continues to equip leaders in the States as well as in missionary settings.

The Benefits of a Spiritual Exercise Plan

I’m no authority on the subject of physical exercise but it seems to me that the people who seem to benefit most have an exercise plan. Exercise in the physical or spiritual realm requires intentionality and tends to be more effective when done with another. People who want to develop in the physical realm determine the various options such as weight training, cardio, flexibility, etc. and then seek to create an exercise plan that is right for them. The plan is designed to help you grow from where you are to where you want to be. An exercise partner ideally encourages you and creates accountability in a way that helps you to implement your plan. Creating a culture of intentional growth is great for the individual and the community.

In the spiritual realm we need to be careful to avoid reducing a relationship with Christ to a spiritual workout or creating any impression that doing more spiritual exercise makes you more right with God. If you are in Christ you are right with God because of the work that Jesus did and by receiving that gift from God by faith when you submitted to Christ. Nevertheless, I’ve discovered through the years that a spiritual exercise plan and an accountability partner have helped me to grow in Christ. Similarly, I’ve seen that a spiritual exercise plan has been helpful for new believers, mature believers, and Christian leaders. So how do you create a spiritual exercise plan?

Consider the list below and set personal goals for your spiritual development. Don’t worry about comparing your list with someone else’s plan it is not a competition, but a personal spiritual growth plan.

1. Bible reading: for example consider a Bible reading plan to read through the Bible in a year. Perhaps you want to create a plan based on a certain amount of time (e.g. a half hour) for a certain number of days each week, or any plan that works for you.
2. Prayer: plan to set aside time to pray alone or with others. Consider a list of prayer requests to help you.
3. Reflection: Take time to journal or for some quiet time to reflect about God and your life with Christ.
4. Sharing your faith: How often would you like to share your faith with an unbeliever or unchurched person?
5. Authentic relationships [community]: What is your plan to be involved in a community group?
6. Serving others: How would you like to serve God by serving others in the church in this coming season?
7. Generosity: How do you plan to give of your financial resources to advance God’s kingdom through the church in the coming year?

Once you have a plan share it with a friend who will help to encourage you and keep you accountable. I try to meet with my spiritual exercise partner every couple of weeks to talk about life in general, any challenges we are facing and to encourage one another to keep growing in Christ. These times are far more than reviewing a checklist. Sometimes we don’t even talk about our spiritual exercise plans, and these meetings are some of my favorite times of life.

Remember the purpose of a spiritual exercise plan is to help you to grow in your relationship with Christ and others. It is a flexible plan and you can adjust it whenever and however you choose. I suspect that the last thing that Christ desires is you feeling guilty that you are not doing enough. Instead consider the plan as a tool to help you be intentional about your growth.

Pastor Bruce Zachary planted Calvary Nexus in Camarillo, CA and is the director of Calvary Church Planting Network. Many of his resources are available for free online, including Kingdom Leaders and the Church Planting Manual. You can follow Pastor Bruce on Facebook and Twitter @BruceZacahry.

Lessons From A New Church Plant

Organic Church Plant

A little more than three years ago I responded to the church planting call by relocating my family to Westminster, Colorado. This was a thrilling process of stepping into the unknown with God. I was totally pumped believing He would supply the needs for the ministry as I ventured out in faith. I wanted to do something great for God and see a Pastor Chuck like explosion from the days of the Jesus movement. Well, it didn’t happen like that, but God’s faithfulness was at every corner. The first 10-months were crazy tough, but flew-by. We used road signs to capture eyes and iPod worship to capture hearts for Jesus – and He totally blessed our weird efforts.

Staying Focused

As time went on the initial obstacles subsided as people began to attend on a regular basis and worship normalized. Then hit October 5th, 2012 (about one year into ministry) a tragic event struck 2-blocks away from the church, Jessica Ridgeway’s disappearance. As a new pastor I was front and center in a community situation that was overwhelming. There were 1,000 volunteers from around the area that showed up to our Sunday sanctuary at the Rec Center to help search for Jessica.

Long story short, this had a big impact on our Sunday services and the church grew temporarily, similar to the days of post 9/11 tragedies.

During the several months that followed, God had a valuable lesson to teach me in staying focused on Him. You see as a typical church planter, I got overwhelmed with all the responsibilities that I took for granted at larger churches. The very thing I had been warned about was happening to me. I was a male-Martha being distracted with much ministry and my relationship with Jesus suffered. It was hard for me to grasp the balance of priority.

In the end, I learned that deep roots and transformed lives are only possible by waiting on Him. Lots of people led to lots of problems! As a new church planter this was a valuable season for me. Faithful plodding over the long haul with Jesus is far more important than rushing through overwhelming demands of ministry. Stay focused!

Faithful plodding over the long haul with Jesus is far more important than rushing through overwhelming demands of ministry. Stay focused!  

Making Progress

Jesus builds our influence and leadership in a community over decades. The power of His word changes lives day-by-day and relationship is built through faith, hope, and love. No doubt there are many notable victories along the way. However, I’m learning that the road of a church planter is to faithfully hold the course no matter what my eyes may see or my heart my feel. I knew this in my head, but my heart needed to experience this in order to make progress.

So, if God is calling you as a church planter connect with CCPN and get the valuable resources that will help you establish a ministry worth having. Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13).

Pastor Jeff Cramer was used of God to plant Westminster Calvary Chapel in Colorado. Follow the church on Twitter at @WestminCalvary.

How God Uses Pruning to Grow a Church

Pastor Pilgrim is the lead pastor of Reality Church Tampa, a Calvary Chapel church plant located in downtown Tampa. For more information about Reality, visit www.realitychurchtampa.com.

 

“The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” Job 1:21

We all know that the word “grow” means “BIGGER”. My son Aiden is 10 years old, but was born two months premature. He was literally the size of a peanut butter jar. For some reason the nickname “Peanut” didn’t…stick…(pun intended). Within a matter of months he was skyrocketing through the growth charts. The doctor must have said “100th percentile” at least a dozen times. Our baby was becoming “bigger”. He was growing. We hear that companies are “growing” and that usually equates to expansion: bigger customer base, bigger reach, more locations, increased revenues. Grow means bigger. Right?

When I was growing up I bought a pack of foam dinosaur “pills”. The box promised that if you got them wet, they would expand into huge foam triceratops that I surmised would wreak havoc on your little sister. So I dropped them in the tub with me half expecting to be mauled by a T-Rex before my feet turned into raisins. I was gravely disappointed.

Thankfully I had tear-free shampoo.

Growth Doesn’t Mean “Bigger”

What if when we spoke about churches, assuming that a growing church meant a “bigger” church, we had it all wrong? What if a “growing” church instead actually meant a “healthy” church? Job seemed to lose everything, and yet at the end of literally the worst day of his entire life, Job uttered the worshipful assertion, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord”. It was in the midst of loss, of losing almost all that Job held dear, that he worshiped. Why? Is this some sick sarcastic attempt at mocking God?

Not at all.

What if a “growing” church instead actually meant a “healthy” church?

A Lesson From Job

Job knew what many church planters have come to discover after a few months or years of faithfully tilling the soil. He came to understand what Jesus would say centuries later in John 15: “and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” Job understood that God is the giver and the taker. He prunes that we may bear fruit.

Job understood that God is the giver and the taker. He prunes that we may bear fruit.

A Lesson from Jesus

I don’t pretend to understand gardening. My wife Jenn just planted a beautiful organic garden in our backyard and I’m working hard at helping her make it a success, but I don’t have anything close to a green thumb. What I do know is that if we want a healthy garden, it needs our attention. It needs our tending. It needs sweat and effort and lots of water. Jesus said He was the Vinedresser, the faithful gardener. He’s paying plenty of attention to His garden! And Jesus said if a branch is bearing fruit, it must be pruned. Not to punish it. Not to cut it off. But to cause it to bear much more fruit.

A Lesson In Media Res

In the last two months God has been pruning His church. I have counted over a dozen people who have left the church I pastor for various reasons, and it can be very discouraging and challenging as a pastor trying to pour into people’s lives when they remove themselves from the community. A church planter has sacrificed his (and his entire family’s) life to make investments that seem to be trivialized and expendable by the very people he is wanting to “do life” with. To get a dozen nonchalant “we’re leaving, but we love your family” conversations is enough to decry counseling or some wayward counsel from Job’s friends.

It is hard to grow “big” when you are seeing a net loss.

Unless “grow” meant healthy.

And if it is indeed God’s church, they are indeed God’s people, and you are indeed God’s servant, then you must submit yourself to the realization that He has the right to give, and the right to take away, and His name will continue to be blessed.

Even if the foam velociraptors are smaller than you expected.

Enjoy Every Stage

My kids have taught me more about my relationship with God than probably anything else. Having kids made my stock of sermon illustrations overflow.

I remember when we had our first daughter (she’s almost 7 now), people would tell me things like, “Don’t blink! They grow up so fast,” or, “Enjoy them while they’re small – they won’t last long.” I didn’t fully understand it then. Now as I send my daughter off to first grade, I’m understanding it a lot more. Now when I see parents trying to rush their kid into the next stage from crawling to walking, I often tell them to slow down. They will learn to walk – enjoy the crawling stage while you have it.

Each stage has its own challenges and rewards, and instead of always trying to get to the next stage, I think it’s very wise to slow down and enjoy the one you’re in. The same is true for church planting…

Each stage has its own challenges and rewards, and instead of always trying to get to the next stage, I think it’s very wise to slow down and enjoy the one you’re in.

When you’re first starting out, it’s easy to think things like, “If I only had more money…more people…a bigger building, etc.” As if all of those things will solve your problems. What I failed to realize when I had those thoughts is that although we’re thankful for more money, more people, and a bigger building, with those things come bigger problems and often a bigger disconnect. Back in the day, when 10 families were coming to Awaken, I knew the whole church by name – even their kids and their kids’ soccer game schedules! Sometimes, the entire church would go out for coffee after service. I knew what was going on in everyone’s lives; we could have the whole church over for dinner… You get the point.

although we’re thankful for more money, more people, and a bigger building, with those things come bigger problems and often a bigger disconnect.

I knew the church would grow, but like parents sometimes do, at times, I failed to enjoy the season I was in.

Eventually, Awaken went from crawling to walking. That was an exciting time! The church was growing, more people were coming, and ministries were getting started. With the growth came new challenges however. I had to work more at being in the lives of the people at Awaken. We needed to start small groups to help others stay connected. And just like a kid outgrows their pants and shoes, we outgrow buildings (many times over)! Although every stage had its excitement and blessings, they each had their challenges as well.

I’m so thankful today for a healthy, vibrant, growing church, and although I’m always praying and planning for the future, I’m trying to enjoy where we are right now as well. I’m excited to be in a larger building one day, but I’m thankful for where God has us now and trying to make the best of it.

What are some of the struggles you face in the current stage your church is in?

How do you take time to slow down and enjoy each stage?