Worship, meet Mission. Mission, meet Worship.

So last night, 7 of us from Oikos Church rode the Metro Rail south in the Near Northside from Moody Park. As we pulled up to the Fulton stop, a homeless gentleman got on board with a $5 Little Caesars pizza. With guitars in hand, we struck up a conversation, his name was Cowboy. I asked him about his thoughts with regards to the tension between the Northside and the Salvation Army. He spoke about how unfortunate it is that so many of the men at the shelter are working hard to succeed and then everyone wants you to leave the neighborhood because of “one bad apple.” As we pulled up to the Quitman platform, we got off, and he invited us to come into the Salvation Army facility to sing and pray with the men. This was a twist that I didn’t plan on… I was simply planning on worshiping and praying out front, but God put Cowboy in our path to direct our steps deeper into the heart of where we were going.

When we got to the side gate, out popped a security guard, who asked what we were there to do. So I explained that we just wanted to come worship and pray over the neighborhood and the Salvation Army and that Cowboy had requested we come inside instead. He then said he had to check with his supervisor, who then came out and asked the same question. He then gave us the okay to come in.

As we walked in, there were probably around 100 men, mostly veterans, sitting around this outdoor pavilion in a big square. We greeted a few as we walked in and were welcomed with smiles. We made our way to the center of the pavilion when all of a sudden a couple guys told us we’d better move. Sure enough, there were pigeons roosted above our head and they didn’t want us to get pooped on. However, Adrian’s homemade drum set didn’t make it without casualty. [Sidebar: Adrian made this sweet drum set out of plywood and tupperware that included a hole for his splash cymbal… no joke]. Then these two gentlemen thanked us for being there because we were needed. They gave us their blessing and encouragement.


So we sang “Good Good Father” by Housefires there amidst all the men. The volume of conversation came down. We got to declare who our Heavenly Father is to all the men, that’s He is a good father who is perfect in all of His ways to us and how we as His children are dearly loved by Him. Our time in the pavilion was cut short since the men had trouble hearing their names being called over the music, so then I gave a blessing over the men that God would draw them close to His heart, that His kingdom would reign in this place, that these men would be blessed with health and prosperity, for safety, for transformation, for faith, hope, love and peace.


Ready for another twist? Another gentleman came up to us and recommended that we come back regularly because they currently do not have anyone leading music for their chapel service. What?! We not only received an invitation into the Salvation Army shelter, but got invited to come back. And as we walked out the gates, the security guard who let us in said, “Do you remember me? I met you on the Metro stop last month when you sat on the platform and worshiped with your two friends.” I shouldn’t be surprised at these people the Lord leads me to, but was simply encouraging that nothing we do nor place we go is ever wasted by the Lord.

The night was still young, so us 7 and a couple gentlemen continued with more worship and prayer out front for 30-45 minutes. We prayed for the homeless, we prayed for the Northside residents, we prayed that there would be reconciliation between the neighborhood and Harbor Light (Salvation Army), we declared God’s victory over the evil that has occurred, heaven touched earth on North Main last night.

The afternoon prior to our adventure, I sat down and wrote a song I felt the Lord wanted me to write over this place and situation. Here is the chorus:

“Your light shines into the night // You’ve won, we’ve won // All wrongs made right”

So here are my reflections…

  1. The Holy Spirit will often just give us a glimpse of the mission when he speaks to us, and only when we step out in obedience, even with all the ambiguity that can come with it, do we get to see how the mission is unfolding.
  2. Jesus’ Person of Peace strategy works. In Luke 10, Jesus chooses 72 disciples to go out into towns to search for the persons of peace. He asked them to greet them with peace and if your peace rests upon the household, then stay there. If your greeting of peace is not accepted, then shake the dust from your feet and move on. Harbor Light was a house of peace for us last night. And if this is the case, transformation in Christ is inevitable.
  3. I’ve been praying often for how my Homebrewed spiritual family (missional community) can dig our heels into the Near Northside, and hasn’t been until last night that that was revealed. For me, this reaffirms reflection #1, we need to step out and engage the community we are in in order to find our house of peace.

My prayer for my neighbors is that we embrace our victory in Jesus. In Him we can be strong and courageous without fear, darkness cannot exist when the light shines, and as God’s sons and daughters we get to proclaim the Good News of Jesus that in His kingdom all wrongs are made right. The catch? In order to see the kingdom of God we may have to take a risk and love our homeless neighbors enough to go say hello and introduce ourselves. And if you’re feeling really risky, maybe even invite them into your life… and your home.

If you’re interested in joining my homebrewed spiritual family at Harbor Light, hit me up at jason@theoikos.org. It looks as if we may be having a predictable rhythm of worship and prayer in the near future pending a couple conversations.

Following Directions Even When You Didn’t Hear ‘Em

This morning at our daily devotions at Target Central Starbucks, we were discussing hearing the voice of the Lord even during times when He seems silent. We know that the Lord delights to speak to us, spend time with us, and hear from us. However, we also have seasons where either the Lord is withholding His voice, or perhaps the silence is created by all the distractions and cloudiness within our own mind. Either way, God’s character never changes and even in the silence we know that God is near.

As a spiritual family, we read through the Moravian Daily Texts together and this morning’s Psalm was Psalm 77:10-15; a Psalm of Asaph:

10 And I said, “This is my fate;
    the Most High has turned his hand against me.”
11 But then I recall all you have done, O Lord;
    I remember your wonderful deeds of long ago.
12 They are constantly in my thoughts.
    I cannot stop thinking about your mighty works.

13 O God, your ways are holy.
    Is there any god as mighty as you?
14 You are the God of great wonders!
    You demonstrate your awesome power among the nations.
15 By your strong arm, you redeemed your people,
    the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.

In verses 1-10, Asaph is lamenting because God has seemed to have “turned his hand” against him. A time of silence. A time of painful stillness. A time of trouble. However, in verse 11, Asaph’s faith kicks in.

When we can’t hear the voice of the Lord, we then can rely on what we know the Father’s character to be. God is a good father. When we can’t hear him speaking, we still know who he is. When he seems far, we know He is close. When we don’t know what to do, we still have the example of Jesus.

It reminds me of a conversation, well, several conversations actually, with my oldest daughter Bella. We often talk about how she can best represent Ashley and I when she is at school. I remind her often of who she is, she is a Phelps. And we are constantly teaching our children what it means to be a Phelps. Our identity, who and whose we are, forms how we live. Obedience is always flows from our identity. So I remind Bella to remember who her dad is… what kind of decisions do I make? how do I show love? How do I serve? How do I talk to others? What are my priorities? These are things that I hope she remembers, so that when she’s faced with situations she can remember what her dad would do. That she would hear my voice in her head even when I’m not there. But more importantly, I want her to know that she is God’s daughter and I want her to imitate Jesus. I love this quote of Craig Groeschel: “When you know who you are, you know what to do.” (That phrase is said a lot around my house!)

It’s similar with God. We know His character, so even when we can’t hear His voice specifically, we still have a pretty good idea of what Jesus would do. We know who we are, too. We are His kids. And because we are His kids, we represent Him wherever we go. So let’s do what we know He would do.

So today, as I drove home from devotions I didn’t necessarily have a plan for how I would exactly spend my time. So I prayed: “Lord, what is your plan for me today? How should I spend my time? Who should I talk to to? Where should I go?” I had sort of planned to go to our church campus and get some planning done, work on the website, write a song, and other office-type work, but I decided to go home first last minute. As I pulled onto my street, there were my neighbors shoveling two cubic yards of limestone and sand for the pavers they were going to install for their new backyard patio. Alright, here we go. So I got to spend an hour or so shoveling rock with my neighbors. And it was good.

I’m thankful I had the opportunity I did. I didn’t hear the Lord tell me to help my neighbor. But I knew that Jesus would have if He were me earlier today. So take the time in all your comings and goings to consider what Jesus would do if he were you. And I even had  time to finish all the other work I wanted to do (including this blog post), and I feel more energized.

Missional worship leaders are good neighbors. Good neighbors bear good fruit. Good fruit produces more good fruit. How can you be a good neighbor this week?

Missional IS Attractional

One of the common comparisons we often hear about and talk about in the life of the church is whether or not we are an attractional or missional church. The point of this post isn’t to pin us up against one another, but to pose a question that I think is worth asking when we hear the word attractional.

Typically when we think attractional church, we identify churches who use Sunday worship as the front-door of evangelism. The design/programming/environment of the Sunday experience is attractive in order to attract people to come and to stay. Worship gatherings, programs, and events are marketed to a particular group of people to “come and see”. Most events/gatherings are happening at the church building, the temple. And they are executed with excellence and precision, because it’s intent is to be attractive.

When we think of the missional church, we might think of churches who aren’t as Sunday/Program/Building-Centric and are builders of a more organic culture through the creation of spiritual families. Missional Communities (aka Spiritual Families on Mission) provide incarnational ministry in all arenas of life; where people work, play, eat, and rest. The people are discipled and empowered to carry out the authority of Jesus as sons and daughters of God in order to extend God’s kingdom. Worship and meals are often happening in homes in order to invite people into spiritual family. And it’s worth saying that much like the attractional church, worship gatherings on Sundays may also be done with excellence and precision; it just may not be as heavily emphasized. It’s more about culture, metrics, language, and purpose that characterize the two.

I want to pose a few questions: What if we broadened the spectrum of the attraction? What if we used the word attractional and applied it to the overall life of the Church? Applied it to the life that we live? This is where missional and attractional intersect. Actually, I want to pose that Missional IS Attractional.

In order to understand missional as attractional we must change our spiritual glasses with new lenses. We must step back and see this from a kingdom-perspective. Simply stated, the kingdom of God is the most attractive thing in the world. In His kingdom, people are made whole, they are united with their creator, savior, and sustainer, there is unconditional love, forgiveness, there is family (I often say that water is thicker than blood), there are families united together in covenant with one another through Jesus, there is no sickness nor sin, no loneliness, and we are in the presence of God. Even though all of life won’t be perfectly restored until Jesus comes back, these are the glimpses of heaven we get to invite others into and what a beautiful and yes, attractional, life this is.

Tweet: Sunday worship should be done well, but the attractive Sunday worship is not the main attraction. Life with Jesus is. @jasonmphelps

When people encounter you and your spiritual family, when they encounter the kingdom throughout the week, they have already experienced so much more than the attraction of a Sunday morning service. When people experience Jesus and are living within a spiritual family on mission, all the lights, smoke, bells, whistles, Aeolian Wind Harps, giant LED screens, and confetti just don’t mean as much.

Missional IS Attractional.

May the power of God breakthrough into the lives of those around us as we take risks for His kingdom. May the life we live as homesteading worship leaders draw people in to the family of God because it is oh, so good. May the spirit speak to us on how to fulfill our calling as worship leaders in our everyday lives so that we may be good builders of spiritual family and mature disciples who make disciples who make disciples.

– Jason

 

The Acts of Homesteading

Homesteading. It’s not a word that we, Americans, use much anymore. At least not since the late 19th and early 20th centuries. I, myself, actually had to look up the definition of homesteading on Google before officially making this blog live. It’s actually a funny story of how we came up with the name “Homesteaders.” Ashley and I were enjoying our hot tub the other night and I told her I felt the Lord calling me to start a blog about the missionary worship leader. So naturally, in my creative spirit, we had to come up with a cool name. We started throwing out random words… So random and outrageous my wife and I have deleted them from memory. But when the word Homesteaders came out… We both knew that this word captures the essence of the missionary worship leader too well. I knew enough about homesteading that this could work. And when I ended up knocking on the front door of Mr. Wikipedia’s home, I was relieved to read that homesteaders was the right title for this movement and blog.

In 1862 the US government under the presidency of Abraham Lincoln passed the Homestead Act. The intent of the act was to open land in the west in order to populate and better the land. Here is a snippet about how a homestead could be attained and whom could attain it:

“The Homestead Acts had few qualifying requirements. A homesteader had to be the head of the household or at least twenty-one years old. They had to live on the designated land, build a home, make improvements, and farm it for a minimum of five years. The filing fee was eighteen dollars (or ten to temporarily hold a claim to the land).” – Wikipedia

I think this quote gives an image that we can grab onto when conversing about the homesteading worship leader. The homesteader had qualifications to meet and a responsibility to the land he was receiving. He was to make a home, improve the land, and stick around a while; as well as expending some financial capital to secure the land and, of course, make all the improvements.

For us, as homesteading worship leaders, we can perhaps imitate these pioneers and apply these responsibilities within our own lives and ministry. When we live out our vocation as Worship Leaders beyond the stage, beyond the production, beyond the music, and into our every-day lives, and seek to be builders of spiritual family, we will without a doubt see kingdom breakthrough on the frontline of the missional frontier.

Over the next few posts, I will be fleshing out these ideas:

Homesteading Worship Leaders who…
1. Are the head of the household
2. Live on the designated land
3. Build a home
4. Make improvements
5. Farm it
6. Stick around for years

I hope this is resonating with you. I’d love to hear your thoughts thus far on the homesteading worship leader. Have you seen any breakthroughs in your neck of the woods by embracing worship and mission?