Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Review - Chazown


Chazown is the Hebrew word for vision or dream found in Proverbs 29:18 - "Where there is no vision, the people perish" (KJV) It's also the basis for a recent book by Craig Groeschel called "Chazown: Define Your Vision. Pursue Your Passion. Live Your Life on Purpose," published by WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.

I enjoy books that inspire the reader to dream bigger, to consider the fulfillment and fruit of their calling, and about the importance of a clear vision. Invariably when I finish such books I'm left with no further clarity for my own dream, vision, or purpose. The Chazown Experience was distinctly different!

Chazown is definitely not just a ray-rah call to dreaming bigger. It does call us to that, and covers the critical need for vision quite well. But the goal of the book is to help the reader discover what their purpose (or Chazown) might be. The book has five sections:

Part 1: Seeing Clear to the End (the desperate need for vision)
Part 2: Circling the Truth (the circles that help us find Chazown: core values, spiritual gifts, and past experiences)
Part 3: A Dream in Deed (discerning your Chazown and moving from vision to action)
Part 4: The Five Spokes of Chazown (relationship with God and with people, finances, health, work)
Part 5: From Here to Eternity (Chazown in community)
In addition there are several helpful appendices including how to create a personal time line, discerning core values, assessing spiritual gifts.

Basically, because God is a master designer who cares about you deeply, you are wired such that your purpose/Chazown is at the intersection of your values and passions, your spiritual gifts, and the life experiences that have led you to where you are today. The book has many chapters, but each is very short and filled with graphics and call-out boxes for key points. From that format you might think it's meant for easy dipping for a casual reading experience. That's not going to work very well for you! This is one of those books where you will get out what you put into it. There are a number of very thought-provoking and introspective exercises. Without doing these the chance is remote that you'll get the most out of this book.

For those who are serious about discerning their calling / purpose / Chazown, Groeschel has provided an absolutely amazing free resource to complement the book. It's called "The Chazown Experience" and it provides video teaching from Craig and extremely helpful online tools for doing the most important exercises. These include an interactive personal timeline, tools for discerning core values and spiritual gifts, and tools to convert vision to action in the five spoke areas. Anyone interested in Chazown should check out Chazown.com. The book covers a lot more, but you'll do better with the exercises by using the website.

Waterbrook Multnomah has provided several resources for those interested.
You can download the first chapter of Chazown and read it for yourself.
There's also a short video by Craig Groeschel on this thing called Chazown...

Chazown is available at Amazon and other book retailers.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review as part of their Blogging For Books Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising".

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Biblical Basis for Saving

A friend from church who consistently calls us to faith and trusting God to meet our needs asked recently "Where do you see any Biblical instruction to save and keep reserves? Instead we need to live by faith!" (I love this man's challenge for us to be strong in faith.) I gave this a lot of thought and study, and present here my thoughts on what the Bible has to say about saving.

Scripture on Saving   (NIV)

Proverbs 30:24-25 "Four things on earth are small,  yet they are extremely wise: Ants are creatures of little strength, yet they store up their food in the summer."  (c.f. Prov 6:6-8)

God does provide. But sometimes he provides before the need, and expects us to be wise stewards in setting aside in times of plenty for times of greater need.

I Corinthians 16:2 "On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made."

Saving up - to give away and use to serve others - is commanded in a way that is consistent, and proportional to income. That is contrasted with waiting until the last moment the money is needed and passing the plate.

Proverbs 21:20 "In the house of the wise are stores of choice food and oil, but a foolish man devours all he has."

Saving up (not hoarding) is considered wise. It's considered foolish to spend every dime you bring in. 

Luke 14:28-30 "Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’"

It's not a great sign of faith to expect God to cover you when you don't plan and save up. It's merely a sign of poor planning that does not honor Him.

Proverbs 13:11 "Dishonest money dwindles away, but he who gathers money little by little makes it grow."  (or the NASB: "Wealth obtained by fraud dwindles, But the one who gathers by labor increases it.")

Wealth itself is never described as evil in the Bible - the key is what you do with it. The way to become wealthy: piece by piece, spending less than you bring in. 

John 13:29 "Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the Feast, or to give something to the poor."

In the Bible there are stories of God providing miraculously (Jesus and paying a tax, Mt 17:27; Elisha and the widow's olive oil), but this is for His purposes and in His timing, not a command for how we normally operate. It's clear that Jesus and His disciples also 'kept a purse' and had to balance issues of saving and spending.

Scripture on Giving

It should be pretty clear that God loves a generous giver, that we are called to give to the poor, to share of our possessions. Giving is not something you do instead of saving, it's something to do in addition to saving.

Proverbs 28:27 "He who gives to the poor will lack nothing, but he who closes his eyes to them receives many curses."

Malachi 3:10 "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it."

God loves to meet our needs, He desires the tithe from us both as an act of worship and as a means to develop us spiritually.

Managing the Tension - Both Giving and Saving

What about the story of the rich fool and the commandment to be like the ravens who have no storeroom or barn? (Both from Luke 12). The teaching points here are not to avoid saving, but rather:

1) If you store things up for yourself and are not rich toward God, look out (Luke 12:21)
2) To fret and worry about the future and finances is foolish - your heart will be where your treasure is, and that should be in God.  (Luke 12:34)

Here's how the 'Money Help for Christians' website displays it, as a continuum from
Squander -- Save and Give -- Hoard

They note that one who squanders lacks self-control, one who saves has self-control, and one who hoards has greed. "The question is not to save or not to save. Nor is it to give or not to give. Both giving and saving should be practiced at the same time. Each Christian must prayerfully find the right saving balance.  Squandering our money does not honor God.  Hoarding our money dishonors God.  We must find the right – God pleasing – balance of saving."

Kick Debt Off discusses what the Bible has to say about savings and offers these comments.

Benefits of Saving Money as a Christian

  1. You are able to meet your family obligations without getting into debt.
  2. You get the ability to support other people in need.
  3. You are able to support Gods work in the local church and missions abroad.
  4. You have the ability to demonstrate your obedience to God through your finances.

Dangers of Saving - you're on a dangerous path if:

  1. Savings becomes your god
  2. You build your confidence and security in your savings fund
  3. You are hoarding (a good word for greed)
  4. Are in the habit of just collecting stuff without a purpose
  5. Your saving is motivated by worry

One final heart check - if we are calling on the church to "rely on faith" in all things instead of planning well and having set-asides for both known future needs and to have the ability to meet unknown needs in the future - do you have life insurance? a mortgage? money in a checking account? and IRA or a fund for a vacation with the family? Again it's not faith OR saving, hoard OR give-it-all-away, but a prayerful balance of giving now and saving to give later.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Ministry Design

I've had some interesting conversations with ministry leaders and small group leaders at Calvary about how we do ministry and what we expect of our people. Do we strongly challenge people to become fully devoted followers of Christ? Do we have events with no agenda (or challenge) other than to hope people make a new friend? Do we have high expectations of our volunteer leaders and help them to be more effective in our mission? Do we accept people no matter where they are? The answer to all these is 'Yes!' How we can say yes when these seem to contradict each other is a practical challenge. To explain this I want to unpack a little bit about ministry philosophy and ministry design.

Ministry Philosophy - How we do and think about things

"You are loved. You are are accepted." - God loves everyone, withholding love from no one. And so must we.
"Encouraging the development of fully-devoted followers of Christ." - God accepts us where we are, but loves us enough not to leave us there. The Spirit lovingly and patiently ever calls us to deeper devotion and commitment to God. And so must we.
"Loving relationships" - community is not just a biblical value or a key purpose; Christ-centered relationships are essential to growth and ministry.
"Progressive sanctification." While conversion and justification happen at a point in time, sanctification is a process that takes a lifetime. Jesus' call to his disciples was also progressive. "Come and see", "Come and Follow Me", "Come and Be with Me", "Remain in Me."
"Next step" - we don't expect seekers to behave like believers, nor do we expect new believers to have everything figured out one month after coming to Christ. Our goal is simple - help each person discern and take the next step in (or towards) Christ which the Holy Spirit is leading them to take.
"Authentic Leadership" - we want our leaders to model, not just teach.

Ministry Design - Cultivating Environments for Growth

Because personal growth is an organic and relational process, we can't force things to happen. What we can do is to provide excellent environments which allow for such growth to occur naturally. Crafting such environments is not easy, but intentional thought about the design of ministry activities is important. The key to this is:

Know your Target - Know your Purpose - Know your Desired Outcome

Here is how we look at 'targets' at Calvary:
concentric circles of commitment.

Community - those outside the church
Crowd - those who attend Calvary
Congregation - have committed to membership
Committed - have committed to growth
Core - have committed to serve and share

It's important that ministry activities are friendly
and appropriate for your primary target.

The goal is for people to take further steps of commitment as they grow in Christ. Is it bad to be part of the crowd? No!! We're delighted to have people coming even occasional as they are exploring the claims of Christ. Is it ok to stay hidden in the crowd for 20 years? Not so much. We want the community to 'come and see' without other expectations. We want occasional attenders in the crowd to come to call Calvary their church family and commit to deeper fellowship. Our hope is that those who are close to Christ will join in His mission and start to build up the body and make disciples themselves. Here's the thing - an activity or environment that is well-designed for one target (or one transition) is likely ill-suited to people at other stages in their walk with Christ.

Let's look at some practical examples:
  • Community BBQ
The Community BBQ is what we call a bridge event. Its sole purpose to be a bridge to the community. It shows that Calvary cares about them, cares about being a good neighbor, and likes to have fun. If a person attends a bridge event and leaves thinking "Maybe not all churches are bad." and decides to come check it out sometime, that's a step forward, and a win.
  • Small Groups - Fellowship or Discipleship?
We have many small groups at Calvary. These are places where people can 'do life together', and encourage each other to grow closer to Christ. Some place a very high value on fellowship, doing things together, and trying to reach out to people on the fringe of the crowd. Others are fairly intense in the devotion to Bible Study. Is it ok for a small group to just be social - get together for lunch and shoot the breeze? No. But the "no" is not because it breaks a small group rule, it's because that doesn't help anyone take a next step in Christ. If the group spends most of the time chatting, but asks questions applying the sermon to their lives for 15 minutes, that might well be an appropriate next step for a group of guys in the "crowd", who have few friends who are strong followers of Christ, and who have never wanted to be in a small group before. A patient small group leader here will focus on "Come and See" and will have to be intentional to keep Christ as central in their time together (both inside and outside the group).
  • Men or Women's Ministries
The goal of a men's ministry or women's ministry is the same mission as the church - to encourage the development of fully-devoted followers of Christ.  But people are all over the map in terms of their current commitment to Christ and the life of the church. No one event or activity will adequate reach all people. No one event or activity will be 'the next step' for all the women, or all the men. How then do we apply principles of ministry design to pursue our mission and serve our people? By cultivating several environments, each designed to help a target audience to take a next step in Christ. For example:

- Bridge events (fishing trip, ornament exchange) to reach out relationally to friends in the community
- Fellowship-centric activities (casual breakfast, luncheon with a brief message) to allow people already part of the crowd to connect with each other, and develop an interest in joining a group or serving on a team
- Men's small groups or Women's small groups - where people are intentionally encouraged to great understanding of God's word commitment to spiritual growth
- Men's Fraternity or Beth Moore Bible study - more intense groups, though still relationally based, that challenge the committed to greater devotion and their next step
- Service Projects - both as a means to pull-in "hands-on" people to connect relationally with others, as well as to encourage those who love to study the Bible to get outside the church and let their deeds match their words.

That's a lot of activity. Trying to do all of these things is a recipe for burnout! Besides, chances are good that someone excited about in-depth Bible study might be frustrated by a meeting where spiritual growth is lightly referred to for five minutes. Team-based ministry is the answer here. Have a variety of people on your team, with a variety of interests, and work in those areas where you have both passion and skill. It is completely OK to start small, in an area you're excited about. Do the very best you can with that activity, but make sure that you are crystal clear in who you are trying to reach, designing your activity to best meet the needs of that audience, with a clear 'next step' that defines a win for those participating. If there's no one passionate about the activity or event, don't do it! But with everything you do choose to do... Cultivate an environment for growth for the people you seek to serve.

So, ministry leaders... does this make sense? What comments or questions do you have? Is there anything you want to push-back against?

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Wii Fitness and Spiritual Formation

To counteract a men's breakfast and a special dinner today I thought I better get in some exercise, and chose to do the Wii EA Active workout. Overall I like the exercises, feel they provide a benefit, and like the illusion of interactivity with a 'personal trainer.' Today for some reason it didn't go as well as hoped. On some exercises where I was giving my all, it just wasn't good enough the for program and the virtual trainer was nagging me to try harder. On other ones where I was gasping for air and barely moving, they chimed 'That's it! Now you've got it!'  (huh??)  Half-way through the routine I started completely ignoring the instructor, and just did whatever I wanted. Why? Because something the way I was holding the remote was not registering, and even though I was doing them right, the screen kept saying "No, watch closely and do it like me!" By the end I was ready to throttle the instructor, sell the disk, and never work out again. I'm thinking a Kinect system where it's actually paying attention to me instead of the other way around? Why did I even finish the workout? Because I get together weekly with another guy and I know we will ask me next week if I did what I promised I would do.

I wonder sometimes if our approach to spiritual formation in the church leaves people feeling the same way. Sermons that boil down to "You suck. Do better." Formulaic approaches to a quiet time, specifying the 'right' way to do it. Nagging way more about what we're not doing right than applauding that we're even trying, and encouraging what we are doing well. (I'm not saying our church is much like that, but it's easy for any church, any minister, to get too focused on the wrong thing.)

So after getting frustrated with this workout, I came up with...

10 Things that Wii Fitness can Remind us about Spiritual Formation:

1. If we lose sight of what we're trying to achieve, we'll never put in the effort it takes to get there.
2. Having a supposed 'instructor' that doesn't care about us or screams "Do it just like me!' pushes us further away from growth
3. Focus on taking your next step, however small. Don't look at someone way ahead of you and sigh.
4. Conversely there is great benefit to a personal trainer who can work with you to achieve your goals
5. Exercise and spiritual formation are often best done with a friend or a group
6. Finding the right exercises - ones that you actually enjoy doing and which build you up - is golden.
7. Going through the motions just to please your instructor is virtually useless.
8. Exercise/disciplines are half of the equation. It really has to go together with learning to feed yourself in a healthy way.
9. An accountability partner who asks questions but doesn't nag helps you get it done.
10. The goal is life transformation. Don't settle for anything less.