Sunday, February 04, 2007

“Church 2.0” series: “The Fatal Flaw”

2 Sundays ago, at the start of this series I told you the story of how as a youth pastor I began thinking in news ways about “church” – what it really was and what it could be.

In Acts 2:42-47 that the first church was devoted to 4 things:

1. The Apostles’ teaching (God’s word)

2. Fellowship (Being together)

3. Communion (regularly remembering Jesus’ redemption)

4. Prayer (Talking/communing with God)

We saw that the first church was a group of people who were walking through life together. They were friends! They were such good friends that they sold what they had and took care of any of the rest of them who were in need!

This group of friends regularly did two things:

1. Worshipped together in the temple in large gathering

2. Met in their homes in house gatherings

Because of what they were devoted to and the way they lived, it created a setting where God was able to add to their number daily! (verse 47)

Last Sunday, we talked about the strengths and weakness of large gatherings and house gatherings. We saw that both have huge benefits and both have weaknesses. I told you I think that we need to learn how to capture the best of both of these modes of church.

Because of that, I revealed the plan I feel God’s been putting on my heart…

When we go back in to “public gathering” mode we won’t meet every Sunday in large gatherings.

We’ll meet in house-mode some weeks and then meet in large public gatherings on other weeks. This way we can have the part about this that we love and need and we’ll have the part about the large gatherings that we love and need. We’ll be stronger with both!

If we lose this and just go back to meeting in a building somewhere that we’ll miss out on what God’s trying to get us to be and see! If we stay in this mode we’ll limit our ability to grow and limit what we can do.

  • Large mode = gives us strength, unity, focus
  • Small mode = gives us depth, community, people to cheer us on

The House groups I’m imagining won’t try and to do all we’re doing here today.

They’ll take on the look and feel of the leader and the personality and giftings of the people who meet at that house.

  • Some groups might pray, eat and have someone share a devotional thought.
  • Some might worship hang out, and pray together.
  • Some might talk about the talks we have in the larger gathering and figure out how to apply them to their lives!
  • Some might read a book and talk about it together.

Whatever it is that these house groups do it needs to be simple so they can reproducible, because the purpose of these groups is to grow. You can only hold so many people in your house before you’ll have to start a new group.

Making it simple makes it easy for new groups to start and our church to keep growing!

What they need for a group:

  • A place/Host
  • A leader (or two)
  • At least two other people.

If we just have these house groups, we’ll eventually just end up being a bunch of separate groups that don’t know each other or have much connection.

That’s why we’ll keep moving back to the large gathering setting. That’s one way we’ll keep our unity.

We’ll also stay connected through other ways like these:

-Common Interest Groups:
Someone who likes golf in one house group can start up a group that’s open to people from other house groups.
One house group might be doing a movie night and make it open to other people in other groups to come and connect.
-Servant Evangelism:
One house group might be doing a SE outreach and make it open to other house groups to be help out too.
-The Internet: (This is key)
Our website will become more of a hub for the church to connect, share info and know what's up with the church – as a whole or individual groups.

Next Sunday, we’ll take some time for your feedback and questions on this new direction, but today I want to talk about a new way God wants us to see Palo Alto.

I want to start by telling you the story of how/why we ended up in Palo Alto

After I left Three Cities in Burlingame, we were living in Falls Church, VA. I was working with my father-in-law and was also on staff at NCC in Washington, DC. I went there planning on being there 18 months and then I wanted to come back to start this new church I’d been imagining.

There was one problem. I didn’t have a clue exactly where we were going to start this new church! But that was all about to change…

Our denomination has this large gathering every year where a lot the pastors of Assembly of God churches all come. It’s called General Council. There’s voting, services, etc..

I’d never been to General Council cause it’s always somewhere far from CA.

Guess where General Council was that year? Yep! DC!

So I went to General Council for the first time. I was talking with my father-in-law about this idea of starting a church and in the middle of the conversation I suddenly get this thought, “What if the district tells me I can’t do it?”

I knew they knew who I was (there aren’t many white, Christian rappers who were ordained pastors) and I knew they liked me, but suddenly I had this fear that maybe they’d say, “No!”

When we were at the hotel by the Convention center we saw Sue’s uncle Terry who’s the pastor of a large church in Fremont called “Harbor Light”. I told him what I wanted to do and he seemed to be excited about the idea.

We were there in the lobby when all of a sudden I see one of my old youth pastors from the church in Redwood City. I hadn’t seen him in years, so I went over to talk to him.

By the time I got back to where Sue’s uncle and Dad were, they were standing with Jim Braddy and Rich Hopping. At that time, they were the #2 & #3 guys in leadership of the Nor. Cal. Nevada district. (Jim is now the leader of this district).

Anyway, I knew them, so when I walked up they both said, “Scott! We miss you in Nor. Cal.” I went to shake Jim’s hand and he said, “We’re excited to have you coming back. We hear you want to start a church! We have the perfect place for you to start the church… Stanford University!”

At that moment I was thinking, “Stanford? I don’t know about, but we’ll figure that out. I’m just glad that they’re cool with me doing this!”

Then they say, “Do you know Glen Davis?”
You guys gotta understand something here…

When Glen and Paula were new in this area I was working in Burlingame and they were at my old church P.C.C. in Redwood City.

We didn’t really have a reason that we would’ve met, but we went to a concert in Redwood City with my sister and brother-in-law and when we got there Glen and Paula were with our friends Ozzie and Melissa.

We met and Glen and me talked for a little while there. Later, Glen came down to our church to talk with our Senior Pastor Jay who was the leader of this Peninsula section for our district. When he came to the office Glen and I talked a little bit more.

We didn’t know each other that well, but when they asked me as I’m standing in Washington, DC if I knew Glen - cause of those random meetings that God made happen – I was able to say, “Yeah! When they talked to Glen and mentioned me he knew I was.

I went home that night and started thinking about Stanford University and Palo Alto. It might sound funny, but if they hadn’t mentioned Stanford I don’t think I ever would’ve thought about it as a place to try and reach!

But the more I thought about it the more it made sense My father-in-law taught me that when you reach and minister to a leader you indirectly affect all the people that they touch!

The more I thought about and researched Stanford the more I realized what a huge breeding ground it is for producing worldwide leaders! I realized this could be our chance to influence leader’s lives, while they were YOUNG, before they became people of influence!

I later flew to CA and met with Glen and we agreed to try this thing together. Glen and Paula were the first people to say, “Yes!” to this idea we’d later call “Pathway”.

We were originally going to meet as a church ON Stanford University, but the facility person in charge of that decision later changed his mind, so we found Spangenberg Theater.

But we were on Stanford Universityin mind at least, long enough of a time to put the desire on my heart to reach Stanford, Palo Alto, and East Palo Alto in some way.

I began thinking more about Palo Alto and realized what an unchurched area it is. We’ve talked about this before, but this area is really anti-church in a lot of ways! I mean come on! They have an atheist church! .

So the idea has always been for Pathway to reach all people, but especially people in their 20’s and 30’s and especially Palo Alto!

We haven’t done that great of a job at reaching Stanford. We’ve had a few students hang with us on and off, but we’ve never had enough other students for them to really feel comfortable with us. We’ve done some servant evangelism things in Palo Alto, but we haven’t had that much of impact either.

I realized recently that the reason we haven’t had as much impact in these areas as we could/should is because of a fatal flaw in my planning. It’s a fatal flaw that a lot of churches have. What is it?

The fatal flaw is seeing a city as just the place on the map where you meet. It’s that old faulty “church as a place” thinking! You think I’d know better with the focus I’ve been trying to have for us!

But, I’ve done what a lot of pastors do. I’ve just seen Palo Alto as the place where our church meets.

But, I now realize God put Palo Alto on my mind (when I say that the rest of this talk that includes Stanford and East Palo Alto) not just as a place to meet, but for another reason. He wanted me to see it as one of the areas of people he wants us to focus on and minister to!!!

You know what? God loves the people of Palo Alto! He’s looking for a group of Chris-followers to make the people of that city a priority. He wants people who will pray, intercede, bless, serve that city.

Let me explain it like this…

God has a purpose for you. It’s to be a light, reveal truth and bless the people around you – the people you live near, work with and who are your family and friends.

That’s God’s plan for each of us on a basic level. Paul describes this purpose like this in 1 Tim 1:15-16 15 This is a true saying, and everyone should believe it: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – and I was the worst of them all. 16 But that is why God had mercy on me, so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life.

God wants to use you as a living example of what he can do in someone’s life! That’s pretty amazing, when you think about it!

That’s what God’s plans are for each of us on an individual level, but when we come together, and begin to walk on the journey of life together as a church, God gives us bigger assignment – bigger arenas to focus on as a team.

Palo Alto is that bigger assignment for Pathway! We couldn’t ever do it fully on our own, but we can do it as a team WITH God!

I really feel like God wants us to focus on Palo Alto as an area of people for us to impact. It doesn’t mean you give up on reaching and serving the people in your sphere of influence. It just means that we add this as an assignment from God.

We’re called to reach, influence and think of Palo Alto the way missionary sees a country their called to reach. It should be a huge honor to us for God to ask us to do this.

God really does love the people of Palo Alto so much. He wants someone to be his hands, his feet, his voice to them. He wants someone to think and dream and come up with ways to show the people of Palo Alto His love, his light and truth!

We really need to begin to pray and think about Palo Alto and how we can bless this city and show them God’s love. To do that effectively will take really knowing the personality of this city.

Roy H. Williams (a marketer and author who’s called the "Wizard Of Ads") said some in one of his recent "Monday Morning Memo" ezines that I want you to see. He had some good advice about knowing the personality of the city you're in.

He wrote this for marketers but it REALLY applies to any church! Listen to what Roy says...

"If you will write ads for a local business, you must first feel the pulse of the place; measure its inhibitions and embrace the rules of its morality.

"America is young, barely 4 human life-spans. This is why you should always begin your uncovery by asking:

1. Why is this city here?
2. Who founded it?
3. What attracted its original population?

"As newcomers get involved in a community, they're affected by the town's local culture and begin subtly sliding toward the local norm. Outsiders thus become insiders."

So here's the challenge for me and you...
How well do you really know the
Palo Alto?

Any missionary that wants to reach an area researches about the area and people. Marketers do the same thing.

We need to do the same. We need to understand this area! We need to see the social/spiritual influences that make this city what it is.

I want to encourage you guys to go online and “Google” Palo Alto history. But I just want to give you some basic facts about the story of Palo Alto that I think we should know. I think it will inspire you to see Palo Alto in a new way

In November 1769, Captain Gaspar de Portola's expedition to find and fortify the port of Monterey for Spain instead found San Francisco Bay. They worked their way down the peninsula and camped on the bank of San Francisquito Creek near a giant Redwood that later travelers came to call El Palo Alto, or "the high tree" in Spanish. The tall redwood was a familiar landmark to the native Ohlone Indians who lived here before the Spanish.

From this campsite, where one corner of the Stanford campus is now situated, Portola's parties explored the area. Later, from this same campsite, Francisco de Ortega explored the eastern shore of the Bay. The old redwood, twin-trunked and well over 100 feet high, was visible for miles.

In 1876, former California Governor Leland Stanford purchased 650 acres of Rancho San Francisquito for a country home and began the development of his famous Palo Alto Stock Farm for trotting horses.

He later bought adjoining properties to bring his farm to more than 8,000 acres, land that eventually became the Stanford campus. The little town that started to grow across El Camino Real from the university also took the name Palo Alto.

Stanford's part in building the first transcontinental railroad was of even greater importance in keeping America united as a republic. San Francisco businessmen, well satisfied with the profits they were making from sea routes, turned their backs on the hazardous idea. The steep, snow-covered slopes of the Sierra Nevada were too dangerous. But a group of Sacramento merchants took the high-stakes gamble and formed the Central Pacific Railroad company to lay track eastward to connect with the westward-building Union Pacific.

Stanford was elected president of the venture. Stanford, and three other men emerged as the "Big Four" who risked their financial hides and pushed their crews to meet the Union Pacific at a point as far east as possible. On May 10, 1869, trains of the two railroads drew together at Promontory, Utah. A few days later, on May 14, the Stanfords' only child, Leland, celebrated his first birthday, and before he was two the parents and toddler had made their first trip across the continent by train.

One of Stanford's greatest pleasures was to drive down the mile-long eucalyptus-bordered roadway from the Palo Alto home to his breeding place for trotting horses. Using his own theories of blood lines and training, Stanford developed trotters that set 19 world records.

Leland Jr., his son, loved the life on the Palo Alto ranch. He kept dogs and horses, knew all about the farm machinery and built a miniature railroad with 400 feet of track on the grounds of the country home. He was a tall, slender – taller at 15 than his father – and he was really smart. He spoke French fluently and, on trips to Europe with his parents, loved collecting art and archaeology.

The family was in Italy in 1884 when Leland contracted typhoid fever. He was thought to be recovering, but on March 13 at the Hotel Bristol in Florence, Leland's young life came to an end, two months before his 16th birthday.

Stanford, who had stayed at Leland's bedside constantly, fell into a troubled sleep the morning the boy died. When he woke up he turned to his wife and said, "The children of California shall be our children." These words were the real beginning of Stanford University.

  • Do you see the pioneering/entrepreneurial spirit/personality that was in this area from the very beginning? This was even before it was called “Silicon Valley”!
  • See how there was an emphasis on education/knowledge from “way back when”!

Knowing this will be important for us when we later think about how to reach and bless this city.

So, how’d it become “Silicon Valley”?
The San Francisco Bay Area later became a major site of U.S. Navy work, as well as the site of the Navy's large research airfield at Moffett Field.

A lot of technology firms had come into the area around Moffett to serve the Navy. When the Navy moved most of its West Coast operations to San Diego, NASA took over portions of Moffett for aeronautics research. A lot of the original companies stayed, and new ones moved in. The immediate area was soon filled with aerospace firms.

Even though there were a number of great schools in the area, graduating students almost always moved east or south to Los Angeles County to find work. This was really annoyed a guy named Frederick Terman. (Anybody recognize that name? Remember Terman Middle School?).

Terman was a professor at Stanford University. He decided that a large area of unused Stanford land was perfect for real estate development, and set up a program to encourage students to stay in the area by enabling them to easily find venture capital.

One of the major success stories of the program was that it convinced two students to stay in the area, William Hewlett and David Packard. In 1939, they founded Hewlett-Packard in their garage at 367 Addison Avenue, near Stanford University. This company would go on to be one of the first "high tech" firms in the area that was not directly connected to NASA or the Navy. This was the seed that was planted that grew into “Silicon Valley! Now this area is the home to more than 6,000 businesses employing more than 98,000 people. Businesses like: Google, Facebook, Lockheed, and others.

I really feel like God has called our little church to reach and bless this area of people who have such a huge influence on our country and the world! I know it sounds like a little too big of a job for a small group of people like us doesn’t it?

But you know what? God has always loved to take a small person or people and used them to influence a large person or group people! Think about it… Ever heard of David vs.Goliath? What about Jesus asking 12 everyday guys to go into the world and share the gospel? What about Gideon’s story we talked about before?...

Judges 6
1Again the Israelites did what was evil in the LORD's sight. So the LORD handed them over to the Midianites for seven years. 2The Midianites were so cruel that the Israelites fled to the mountains, where they made hiding places for themselves in caves and dens. 3Whenever the Israelites planted their crops, marauders from Midian, Amalek, and the people of the east would attack Israel, 4camping in the land and destroying crops as far away as Gaza. They left the Israelites with nothing to eat, taking all the sheep, oxen, and donkeys… Israel was reduced to starvation by the Midianites. Then the Israelites cried out to the LORD for help.

Who does God choose? A mighty warrior? No! He chooses Gideon!

11Then the angel of the LORD came and sat beneath the oak tree at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash of the clan of Abiezer. Gideon son of Joash had been threshing wheat at the bottom of a winepress to hide the grain from the Midianites. 12The angel of the LORD appeared to him and said, "Mighty hero, the LORD is with you!"

Listen to how mighty and faith-filled Gideon is…

13"Sir," Gideon replied, "if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us? And where are all the miracles our ancestors told us about? Didn't they say, 'The LORD brought us up out of Egypt'? But now the LORD has abandoned us and handed us over to the Midianites."

14Then the LORD turned to him and said, "Go with the strength you have and rescue Israel from the Midianites. I am sending you!"

15"But Lord," Gideon replied, "how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!”

Gideon asks a legitimate question: How can I do this? God gives him an answer… 16The LORD said to him, "I will be with you. And you will destroy the Midianites as if you were fighting against one man."

Gideon still doubts God and asks for a sign two different times to prove this is what God wants him to do.

Later gathers up an army of over 30,000 men to fight and in Judges 7 God says something that sounds crazy to Gideon
2You have too many warriors with you. If I let all of you fight the Midianites, the Israelites will boast to me that they saved themselves by their own strength. 3Therefore, tell the people, 'Whoever is timid or afraid may leave F17 and go home.'" Twenty-two thousand of them went home, leaving only ten thousand who were willing to fight.

But God tells Gideon again he has too many and finally narrows it down to 300 people
7The LORD told Gideon, "With these three hundred men I will rescue you and give you victory over the Midianites. Send all the others home.

Next Sunday
I really want you guys to pray and talk to God about Palo Alto. I want you to hear the call that he’s given this small group of people to have an impact on people who will impact the world!

We’re going to finish this series next Sunday. We’ll talk about the main way that I think God wants us to use to impact this city for him. It has to do with going from attractional vs. to incarnational ways to bless/reach people in this area.

We’ll talk about how “6-degrees of separation” can help us add more people who want to be a part of this team on this new journey together. We’ll talk about the one thing we need that will guarantee our success at this. Without it it will guarantee our failure at this.

We’ll finish this whole series next week, by taking questions, feedback, etc… on this whole new direction

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