Quit Trying To Be Normal

Excerpt taken from a blog post called “Missional Communities And Worship Services” by Alex Absalom

Worship Services Are Built By Missional Communities

One of our missional community leaders had this recent experience:

We had a Laundry of Love event at a laundromat in our community. Our families we went there to pass out quarters and snacks for those who were stuck in the building doing their laundry. It was snowing that day, which created an easy opening to conversation!

One of our group began talking with a guy about the weather, and how he wished it would warm up. In response, the guy said the cold was better for his wife because she had a bad breathing condition, which meant that in summer it was hard for her to be comfortable because there was no air conditioning in their home.

It just happened that this group member had a spare air-conditioning unit sitting in his garage, so he said he would give it to the guy in the laundromat. Phone numbers were exchanged, and a time scheduled to drop off and install the air conditioner. On that morning, more conversations took place, including a great dialogue about just why this unit was being given away so generously. The recipient couple kept saying how giving away an air conditioner was “just not normal”!

Out of that came a very natural opening to invite the couple to the missional community, but they expressed more interest in the weekend worship services. The member of the group was very happy to share not only the information, but also to arrange to meet them there to help settle them into the service. The couple who received the air-conditioning unit loved what they experienced, and have quickly become faithful attenders in our public worship services.


Don’t Hide Me Behind the Cross

Since giving my life to Christ in 1997, I have heard a phrase mentioned over and over in prayer so much that it became standard vernacular when praying before preaching, playing music, or giving a testimony.

“Lord, hide me behind the cross so that they my see you and not me.”

I get the sentiment. We don’t want the focus to be on us. We want the focus to be on Christ. We want Jesus to be seen in the story and not the storyteller.

But I think we misrepresent the gospel. Without a messed up story, there is not good news. With out a flawed story teller, there is no redemptive quality. Without the sin, there is no need for grace. Without the sinner, there is no need for a savior. Are you getting my point?

I’m a jacked up fellow. I’ve dealt with pornography addiction, lying, stealing, judging, cheating, gossiping, anger… I mean you name it and I’ve probably thought it or done it. My heart is a dark place sometimes. However, there are folks who need to hear my story, not just the redemptive story. They need that too but they need to know in the redemptive process there is a hardcore, that’s-messed-up story.

My story and I do not need to be hidden behind a cross. Folks need to know they aren’t the only one who deal with junk and when they hear about the messed up side, they can find hope in the redemptive story.

I don’t think we need to pray for us to be hidden behind the cross. I think we need to pray for God to use the cross in our story of darkness. I think we need to pray that God uses our junk to make his cross even greater because of what it can do among the darkness. I think we need to pray that God let’s our mess be shown so that the cross can be celebrated even more. The redeemed needs to be highlighted among the redeemer. Not as an equal but as a contributor to the overarching narrative of the cross.

It’s not about celebrating our junk. God forbid! It’s about celebrating the cross without forgetting why the cross was needed in the first place. It would do Christians good to remember what life was like before Christ in their lives. When we tell our story, we lay open the dark recesses of our hearts to show how the cross is beginning to heal those spots.

David is a prime example of not hiding behind the cross. He aired his junk out in the psalms yet spoke of the redemptive qualities of God and His word. Psalm 32 and 51 are a prime example of David giving us a glimpse into his self-centered life and the goodness of God to overcome and restore him.

We can’t have a cross without death. We can’t have redemption without cost. Our story? It needs the darkness in order for light to be known. Let’s not be hidden behind the cross. Let’s be out front pointing to the cross.

A Divided Heart Creates a Compartmentalized Spiritual Life

Psalm 86:11

Teach me your way, Lord,
    that I may rely on your faithfulness;
give me an undivided heart,
    that I may fear your name.

Years ago I sat in church and listened to my pastor give a message on compartmentalizing our life (See Pastor Rocky, I listened). He had a chest of drawers sitting on stage as a prop and showed us how we compartmentalize our life. One drawer was the “work” drawer. Another was the “Family” drawer. Again, another was “friends” drawer and a “church” drawer and lastly “hobbies” drawer. In each drawer there were compartments as well.

What he was implying was that in every area of our life, we determine who we are and how we will act making us different when we’re in different places among different people. We don’t act the same when we’re with our friends as we do when we’re in the house with our family. We don’t behave the same when we are at work as we would when we are at church. We create compartments in our life and each compartment experiences a different us.

Maybe I remembered this message so well because I recognized the compartments in my life at the time. How I was on stage was not how I was in the home, how I was at the rodeo was not how I was in church, how I was at work was not how I was around my small group.

But God never created us to have a divided heart. In fact, just the opposite, I would say. He expects our lives to be centered around him and by doing so, his Spirit in us is an overflowing into all the other compartments in our life.  Notice how the psalmist writes it. “…give me an undivided heart that I may fear your name.” We Christians tend to have a healthy fear of God on Sundays but what about Monday morning when we’re cussing the sun or the Saturday night when we’re “living it up.” Hardly is there every a fear of God in those compartments of life. I would dare say because either God is not part of those moments or we’re not sensitive to His spirit in those moments.

Proverbs 9:10 says “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” I would imagine God desires for us to have a fear, a reverent fear, not a fleeing type of fear, a fear that knows our place in creation. When we begin to fear the LORD then our compartments will become God-centered and our hearts will be undivided. We will be the same person regardless of where our feet take us because we are living a God-centered life in every aspect.

I challenge you to pray for discernment and ask God to show you where your heart is divided. When He shows you, begin letting the Spirit overflow into every compartment of your life.

8.17.14 Worship Rewind

Worship Rewind 2013

  • Our God – Chris Tomlin
  • That’s Why We Praise Him – Tommy Walker
  • Came To My Rescue – Hillsong
  • You Never Let Go – Matt Redman

Thursday, my wife and I went to our future home to get ready to sell off everything in her grandmother’s house to prepare for our move back home. We spent three days working very hard to get things ready and have the yard sale. We both are extremely tired physically and emotionally, physically for the obvious but emotionally because it’s very hard to watch your loved one’s things be sold to various people as they walk through the house like vultures in a field of dead animals. However, we’re not finished in Clarksville so we had to return to lead worship and she taught Children’s Church.

We started of with Our God. This song has a whole different dynamic when its just acoustic guitars. This song almost takes on a whole new sound and must be approached in such a way. Great song though. I love it because it has a very powerful message. 

That’s Why We Praise Him has been around for a while and we play it more upbeat than Tommy Walker plays it. This has become a staple in our church because of it’s truths and I think also because it’s a teaching song. It really announces the why of praise. 

Tony took over for the last two songs. Came To My Rescue sounded great. I am so proud of how Tony has grown vocally. When he started leading worship for us, he was very much into grunge music with vocals that had a lot of gravel. However, He’s come along in his singing ability and really beginning to find a voice in singing, not just “growling”. ;)

The last two songs had a crazy key shift so I prayed to allow Tony to transition from “C” to “A”.

Lastly we sang You Never Let Go. Absolutely great song. One that I believe speaks to our church in many ways. 

Last night, we arrived back home fairly late so I wasn’t thinking that Jayce had came back on board to sing back up. I forgot to prepare her lyric sheets so when I got to church, I realized I didn’t have any lyrics for her. So I gave her my lyrics sheets and used my iPad. That’s when I wished we had the Music Stand from Planning Center. I could then hook up blue tooth and turn pages with a pedal rather than having to flip pages while trying to play at the same time. 

It was good to have Jayce back. I’ve missed her vocals and she filled in very nicely. I got to sing some alternative vocals adding oohs and ahhs here and there. Very fun for me. 

It was a great day considering the monsoon we got before church. It was packed and I thought we were going to have a low turnout because of all the rain. Boy am I glad I was wrong. 


What Is A Missional Community

GraceLife Lewisburg will not be the new definition of the Church. We will be a different expression of the Church.

GraceLife Lewisburg


Planting a church was never in my five-year plan. I can honestly say that, fifteen years ago, leading worship was not in my five-year plan either. That may be why I don’t believe in the “Where do you see yourself in five years?” question. It seems my life changes about every five years somehow so establishing an answer to that question is futile.

So I am announcing a new church plant coming to Lewisburg, Tennessee. It will be called GraceLife Lewisburg. However, it will not look like what most consider traditional church. This is not because Carrie and I are jaded with the contemporary concept of church. In some ways we are but the primary goal for us moving back home is so that we can focus on what we feel better exemplifies the primary goal of church; discipleship. 

What does GraceLife Lewisburg look like? Let’s call it a missional community.

What is a missional community? “A missional community is a group of believers who live and experience life together like a family. A missional community is more than a bible study or a small group that cares for other believers. A missional community is made up of Spirit-led and Spirit-filled people who radically reorient their lives together for the mission of making disciples of a particular people and place where there is a gospel gap (no consistent gospel witness). This means people’s schedule, resources and decisions are now collectively built around reaching people together.” – Jeff Vanderstelt

In other words, a missional community is a group of people, about the size of an extended family, who are united through Christian community around a common service and witness to a particular neighborhood or network of relationships. The participants of missional communities find their primary identity of “church” within the missional community, rather than a larger worship service or small group. In essence, this group of people becomes a close-knit spiritual family on mission together

Because discipleship is the primary goal of the church, we feel the missional community is the best context in which disciples are made and developed:

  1. through life on life, where there is visibility and accessibility
  2. in community, where we can practice the “one anothers,” and
  3. on mission where we learn how to proclaim the gospel and make disciples.

Let me be clear. There are other groups that look much like a missional community such as small groups, bible studies, and community groups and I’m not trying to discount their importance in the life of the Church. However the main difference in a missional community and the other aforementioned groups is missional communities are intentionally focused on those who aren’t believers. Missional community is intentionally focused on those outside the church.

We are not interested in transferable growth. We are interested in reaching those who are far from God, leading them to Christ and discipling them to start their own missional community. I’m not saying transferable growth can’t happen. It most certainly can. I hope there will be those who say, “This is what church should be about, can I get involved?” Absolutely!!!

Our goal is not to build a big event driven church full of people. That’s great and all but I think that’s where we start missing the main objective. It’s difficult trying to disciple that many people. Jesus had over a hundred followers but he discipled twelve and really focused on three. Our goal is to build deep-rooted followers of Christ or disciples, someone who is a student of the teacher and lives to live like the teacher, namely Christ.

There’s more to it than my meager little post. Check out V3 Movement or 3DM or Verge Network if you want to learn more about missional communities or just do a simple Google search.

I’m excited about this new adventure. I’m also scared out of my pants. I’m sure Abraham was pretty pumped and frightened at the same time when God told him to go without telling him where. We could use your prayers. We NEED your prayers.


A Primary Leadership Quality

I’m not a leadership guru. I’ve probably only read one Maxwell book (although I have about 10 on my book shelf). I’m not an aficionado of leadership conferences. I’ve never really even considered myself a leader. But I know I am one because I have friends who ask me the who, what, when, where, and hows of ministry. So there are some who are interested in my thoughts therefore I lead.

I have often said (and I’m not even sure where I first heard it from) that the primary goal of a leader is to develop leaders. In other words, the first job a leader should begin to undertake is seeking someone to fill his/her shoes. I know that sounds counterintuitive but the reality is if you’re a leader, you won’t be where you are for long. For numerous reasons you will find yourself moving to the next place and you can either be prepared by having developed a leader to fill your spot or leaving your spot empty creating a void in the corporation or church.

When I first came to GraceLife, I had a few initiatives. One of them was praying and seeking someone to be the worship leader at GraceLife. I know that sounds odd because I had just taken that position myself. But I knew that training and leading someone to take that spot would take a considerable amount of time. So began early finding my replacement.

By the same token, I was being discipled to pastor. My pastor spent a considerable amount of time leading me, advising me, questioning me, inspiring me,(constructively) criticizing me, training me, and simply befriending me.

Training leaders to take your spot also means training leaders to take “A” spot. Sometimes, training a leader means to train them to go. Other times, it means train them so you can go and they can stay and fill the void.

So here is where I am at. I won’t be at GraceLife Clarksville much longer. That’s not a bad thing. Because we have trained and equipped the next generation of leaders to take their place. The next worship leader will step up and take my place and I will go step into my new role as pastor of GraceLife Lewisburg.

Leadership training is a vital part of church.  Our aim at GraceLife is not to make big churches but deep Christ followers, a people who know and do the word of God, are passionate for those far from God, are a people who joyfully give, do life together on a tangible level, and who celebrate authenticity and diversity. This is all a process of discipleship.

Leaders develop leaders. Some stay and fill the void where others leave to continue the great process of discipleship by creating new families (oikos) of God. More than leadership, it is discipleship and we are all part of that process. Go make disciples baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and remember, I WILL ALWAYS BE WITH YOU!







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