Experience vs. Process

experience vs process

A big event means a great experience. I bet you can remember a “life-changing” experience in your life. Maybe you can think of two or three. These are the crucial moments in our lives that change our trajectory. It might be a retreat, a mission trip, a worship night, or a conference.

These are necessary.

In your desire for the experience, you are likely to forget about the need for the process.

The purpose of the experience is to strengthen the process.

Tim Elmore said, “If all we do is offer big events, we may inspire students, but we’ll never get beyond the excitement and emotion of the event.”

The process is essential because that is where real growth happens.

Here are five differences between an experience and the processes. We need both, but we often neglect the process.

1.  An experience inspires a group, the process transforms a group.

This is why you should be in a small group or discipleship relationship. Growth takes more than one night or weekend. The experience is like a catalyst to the process. Too many people are motivated to transform but are not willing to go through the process.

2.  An experience is attractive, the process is necessary.

It is more fun to show up to an event that involves free food, loud music, lots of people and a heart-grabbing message than have it be your week to bring the donuts to Bible Study. The processes is necessary because it is over time that our hearts are broken and restored. It is in the processes that we struggle with what it means to be a disciple.

3.  An experience usually needs money, a process always needs time.

Big events are expensive for someone, probably not you, but someone paid for the space, entertainment, food and free stuff. The best thing about the process is that it requires little money, but it always requires a lot of time. Do not grow impatient of the process.

4.  An experience requires a small commitment, a process requires perseverance.

This is why more people will be in church on a Sunday than small groups during the week. We like our Christianity without genuine commitment. But growth requires perseverance.

5. An experience allows us to stay hidden, a process requires that we be real.

It is easy to hide in the back at a large event. Events often do not require that we talk, share or interact with people on a deep level. The process takes away the ability to hide. That is probably why some of you are scared of joining a small group.

If all this true, why are we so afraid of the process? 

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When Missions Isn’t Sexy

Missions, Andes Mountains

I have been on a lot of mission trips. I have built churches in Mexico, spent weeks in the Andes’ Mountains, and slept on the ground of an orphanage.

I’ve never shared Jesus with my neighbor.

I discovered something recently. Mission trips are sexy. They attract our attention. That is why you are likely to jump at the chance to go. Everyday evangelism lacks appeal.

Let me give you some examples:

  • “Four weeks in the jungles of Brazil”
  • “Help rebuild Haiti”
  • “Dig wells in an African village”
  •  “Love street children in Thailand”
  • “Spend a month with the underground church”

Maybe you have been on these. Maybe you are planning on going. I really want to go to Thailand, I heard it will forever change my life.

Is it possible that missions serves my purposes more than it serves the purpose of God?

Do not misunderstand me, global missions is needed. God might want you to go on all five trips. The world is in desperate need of his redemptive power.

Mission trips are attractive because they require only a week or two of commitment. I get to travel somewhere new and experience a new culture. I benefit.

What happens when the mission God has called you to, is not sexy?

  • “Share the Gospel with your lab partner”
  • “Start a Bible study for your intramural team”
  • “Take your roommate to church”
  • “Wake up early and pray for your professor’s salvation”

I think these fall under the category of “unattractive”. They are not eye-popping. They are unattractive because they require actual commitment. No one will celebrate or ask to hear about this mission trip. You cannot put it on a resume or share pictures with your church.

I believe the true test of the great commission is found not in the attractive but the unattractive. It is found in the mundane not the extraordinary.

Would our campus look different if we embraced the unappealing?

Why travel the world when I can walk across the street?

Seven Things New Christians Should Know

new Christian

New Christians are like a teenager learning to drive a manual car. You can probably learn to drive stick on your own, but you will stall out, get frustrated and probably want quit. It’s so much better when someone teaches you. You’ll still stall, probably get frustrated but at least someone is teaching you. You can grow as a Christian without help but it is so much better with a little direction.

Billy Graham said, “The decision is 5 percent, following up the decision is 95%. Salvation is free, but discipleship costs everything we have.”

Here are seven things you should know as you begin your new life:

1.  YOUR SOUL WILL STARVE WITHOUT THE WORD.

You need God. You need more of Him every day. God speaks to us through His Word. The most significant thing you will ever do in your life is listen. Find a common time and place, open up your Bible and read through a book. Jot down a few observations and what the passage is asking you to do. Feed yourself every day.

2.  YOU WILL BE DOING WHAT GOD WANTS WHEN YOU TELL SOMEONE.

Do not listen to this lie that is running through your head: “I’m not ready to share my faith yet.” Just do it. Tell a friend, a sibling, parent or roommate. Tell them about the decision you made and why you made it. You will be nervous scared terrified. Thankfully someone overcame their fears and told you.

3.  YOU WILL GROW WHEN YOU FIND SOMEONE TO TEACH YOU.

Call it what you want: a discipleship, mentorship or “you-know-more-than-me-ship”. Find someone who has been doing this Christian thing for a while and ask them to lead you. It is amazing how much you will grow when you do not have to go at it alone.

4.  YOU WILL NEVER GET OVER THE GOSPEL OR MOVE BEYOND IT. 

Paul said that we would spend our life working out our salvation (Phil 2:12). So, spend your life diving deeper and deeper into the pool that is the Gospel. His death, burial and resurrection is a mystery you will spend your entire life figuring out.

5.  REMEMBER YOU ARE NOT PERFECT, BUT FORGIVEN.

Do not hold yourself responsible for sins Jesus no longer holds against you. You are forgiven. You will still struggle with the same things you did before you met Jesus – that’s okay. You are free to struggle, you no longer have to struggle to be free.

6.  YOU WERE CREATED FOR COMMUNITY, SO LOVE HIS CHURCH.

Find people who gather together to worship and hear from His Word every week. The church is the people of God. Love God’s people – even when it is difficult. Worship, learn and grow in community. You need a pastor and a family to hold you accountable. You also need a place to serve. Make it a priority.

7.  YOUR LIFE WILL BE POWERLESS IF YOU DO NOT TALK WITH GOD.

Pray. Pray when you make decisions. Pray when you are walking to class. Pray for your friends. Pray for your enemies. Pray when it difficult. Always pray. God speaks to you through the Bible, but he wants to hear from you in prayer.

Five things college students should remember on Valentine’s Day

love, valentines day, 5 things

A quick survey of the conversations I have had over the past few weeks reveals that there are more people not looking forward to Valentine’s Day than those who are excited. It does not matter where you fall on the spectrum – “I can’t get enough of the flowers, color red and chocolate” to “If I see one more status update about that special gift from their special someone I might actually explode” – Here are some things worth remembering this Friday.

1.  Who you are is defined by Jesus, not who you are with.

Have you ever met the person who finds their identity in the person they are with? Maybe you are that person and that’s why you have found yourself in a string of broken relationships. Jesus has already declared you to be free, loved and secure in Him. I’ve witnessed countless shipwrecked relationships in which one person asked the other to do only what Jesus can do. But people cannot do what Jesus does. When we find our worth in Jesus not people we are free to actually love and enjoy the relationship God has given us.

2.  You are not married yet – so don’t play pretend.

Marriage is great, when you are married. Pretending usually leads to a lot of heartache. I know this is true because anytime we live outside of God’s plan, it does not go well. This Friday night do yourself a favor, stay away from backseats, cozy couches and snuggly beds. Your marriage will thank you someday.

3.  Being single is not the enemy.

Singleness and in a relationship does not equate to defeat and victory. It is tempting sometimes to feel sorry for ourselves when we are not in a relationship as if we are losing at life. That is not how God sees it. He has a plan and purpose even in singleness. Enjoy this time because you are right where God wants you.

4.  Single? Don’t worry, you probably don’t have the gift of singleness, so pray for your future husband/wife.

It is true, God has given some of us the curse gift of singleness. But in general, God has called you to marriage. The command was given back in the beginning, “get married and make babies” (that’s my version of Genesis 1:28). Take some time to pray for your future valentine, maybe they need more prayer this week than you!

5.  Valentine’s Day is an opportunity to proclaim to an unbelieving world the truth about love.

God is love. I will love my wife better because I know and experience the love of God in my life. Would it not be great if you were able to proclaim the love of Jesus on your campus this week?

See. Feel. Touch.

There are two kinds of churches

A church that is.

A church that does.

Personally, I want to be a part of a group that does. I’m not really interested in being in a community of believers who just meet on Sundays, raise their hands in worship, pray, study the Bible and then go on with their lives. It’s not that this kind of church is all together wrong. In fact, it could still be a good church that proclaims truth. But, I want to be a church that is salt and light in this world.

I was reading through Acts chapter 3 the other day. In the first 10 verses, Luke tells an interesting story. Peter and John are on their way to the temple to worship when they see a man who has been paralyzed since his birth. It says they stopped, looked at him, and then in the name of Jesus, they healed him. Immediately the man ran into the temple, jumping around, praising God.

I realize this is a crazy, miracle story but I want to be like Peter and John. I want us to be like Peter and John. Here is what they did.

They saw the hurt. Felt the hurt. Touched the hurt.

It may seem simplistic, but you can go read it for yourself. They noticed a man in need and they felt his pain. How terrible it must have been to never have been able to walk. Day after day he would just sit on the street corner begging for money – he was a social outcast. I wonder how many people walked by him that day, they noticed him but they ignored him. It’s easy to ignore the hurt of others when we are consumed with our own needs.

Most of us today don’t have trouble seeing hurt in our world. Walk through our town, turn on the news or surf the internet and you will see hurt. Its hard not to see and then feel the hurt of the world around us. But I am certain I do not do a good job of touching their hurt.

Touching their hurt involves action.

It might be as simple as a letter sent to someone hurting. It could be watching the kids of a single mom so she can have a night out. Maybe its sending money to an organization. For some of us it means we give up our spring break or summer break to go somewhere and serve. It could be a coffee you buy for a friend who just needs to talk. It’s a cheese burger for the homeless man on the corner, groceries for the family whose dad lost his job, giving a ride to a friend who has no car, or bringing soup to one who is sick.

See. Feel. Touch.

I do not want us to miss the result of this kind of love.

The man ran into the temple praising God. People respond to our touching with worship. The book of Acts tells of masses of people coming to Jesus. 3000 in a single day (Acts 2) and 2000 more in another day (Acts 4). But slammed between those two accounts of great revival is a story of a single man coming to Jesus.

Why tell us a story of one man crippled from birth coming to Jesus?

Those who are most effective in reaching the masses are most passionate about reaching the one.

See, feel and touch – one person at a time.

Shadows and Reality

Her name was Federlina. Her wrinkled face, callused hands and raspy voice tell you she has lived a full life. How old is she? Your guess is as good as mine, I’m not sure she even knows. She’s lived in the same mud brick house her entire life. Her husband is long gone. Her children have moved to the big city and rarely ever visit. Her cattle that she still takes care of graze in a field a couple miles away – she makes the walk everyday to check on them, it’s as routine as my drive to work. She lives in the Andes’ mountains, in a town of 200 people, has never searched on Google or sent an email and she doesn’t know Jesus. I met her the first time I went with Grant Avenue to Peru two years ago.

Don’t get me wrong, she’s religious. She lives in a village where the majority of people claim some form of Catholicism. A couple times a year there will be religious festivals to honor a saint or maybe even Jesus.  For most of the people in the town, the festivals have little to do with God and are more of ritualistic celebration, an excuse to drink. Federlina doesn’t get drunk during the festivities though, in her words own words she said, “I’m a good person.”

I’m reminded of a few verses in Colossians 2:16-17.

Therefore do not let any one judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.

A shadow can tell you something of reality, but it isn’t the object itself. That’s what the festivals, new moon celebrations and even the Sabbath are. They are shadows – Jesus is reality.

Federlina knew the shadows well. She knows the festivals. She knows the Christian stories but she doesn’t know Jesus. Every time we would share the gospel with her and think she understood she would say, “but I have always been a good person.”

Sometimes our religion gets in the way of us actually seeing Jesus. Sometimes we get captivated by the shadows of Jesus and not Jesus himself. This time of year might be the easiest to get captivated by the shadow. There will be Christmas parties and presents will be exchanged but I wonder sometimes if we lose sight of Jesus. We are good at celebrating Christmas but are we celebrating the shadow or reality?

My heart breaks for Federlina because she only knows the shadow, she doesn’t know reality. But you and I know reality – Jesus Christ. The question is, will you celebrate the shadow or the reality this Christmas?

S.Y.A.T.P.

syatp_2012It was a cloudy, brisk morning just over a month ago. I set my alarm clock for earlier than normal and met some of our high school students at Crescent Valley. It was just after seven in the morning when I pulled into the parking lot, we were meeting to pray around the flag pole before school.

Students across the country met for what is called, See You at the Pole. Middle school and high school students gathered before school on a Wednesday to pray for their campuses. They prayed that Jesus’ name would be proclaimed to the lost.

As we circled the flag pole, holding hands with students from other local churches, I was reminded of my high school experience. I used to attend See You at the Pole fifteen years ago. But on this particular morning, things happened a bit differently.

Across the circle from me was a little freshman boy. I would have mistaken him for a sixth grader if we weren’t standing in front of the high school. I would later find out that his name was Jessie. He was one of the first students to arrive. Things were getting busier as parents dropped off their kids for school. We were standing right in front of the main entrance to the school.

Just before we were to start praying, a girl, who I have never seen before walked behind me. Her mom had just dropped her off and she was making her way into the school. She called out to that boy on the other side of the circle, “Hey Jessie! You need to get some new friends!”

Her words cut through the cold morning air. If it was meant as a joke, than it fell flat because no one laughed. The person to my left squeezed my hand hard. Another girl’s mouth dropped open.

In the brief moment that followed I tried to consider how I should respond as the only adult standing in the circle. I was angry. I wanted to say something to the girl who seemed unnecessarily angry at the boy who was just meeting with his friends to pray. I was sad. I wanted to encourage the boy across the circle. He must feel attacked.

Before I could speak, the boy spoke. His words were soft, but confident.

“I don’t need new friends. I have my people.” And then, before I could even process what was happening the boy looked at us in the circle and said, “Let’s pray.”

He prayed first. It was hard for me not to cry. I wish you could have been in that circle. I have prayed many times standing in a circle. But this time was different. The 14 year old student prayed for boldness, he prayed that every student at his high school would come to know Jesus. He prayed for opportunities to share Jesus with them. He prayed for a heart to love and eyes to see the broken.

The bell eventually rang and students scattered off to their classes. I got in my car and drove to church. My head was racing with thoughts. I thought was Romans 1:16, “I’m not ashamed of the Gospel…”. I wondered why my first thought was to say something back to the girl when his first thought was to pray.

Would our college campuses look differently if we learned from this freshman in high school?