Picture Someone

As we continue to build anticipation and excitement toward the launch of 801South, I want to give you a question that can help you understand if this is a ministry to which your heart may be calling you.

I begin with a story:

This past weekend, I was forced, dragged, and brainwashed in to officiating a wedding in Charleston, SC. (If you have ever spent any amount of time in Charleston, you will immediately catch the sarcasm of the previous line.) The weekend was everything you would imagine in a beautiful celebration of two families coming together through the union of marriage. The food was delicious. The atmosphere was intoxicating, inciting thoughts of an old world gone by as we dined in vintage spaces provided by Charlestonian restaurants and prior digs of the uber-wealthy now used for social events.

Speaking of intoxicating, this brings me to the purpose of this post. There was an open bar available at the rehearsal dinner on Friday evening. (Let me state that this is NOT a do/don’t post on consuming alcohol. I refuse to broadcast my thoughts on the matter, because this is a nonessential that works too often to divide and distract the church. Please do not receive my words here as judgement.) The usual toasts followed the delicious food we enjoyed and it became obvious that there was one young women who had clearly taken full advantage of the wait staff’s willingness to repeatedly fill empty wine glasses. During the short salutations, she (and she alone) was repeatedly swapping loud sobs for untimely laughter. Those around her, including me, were obviously uncomfortable and embarrassed for ourselves, as well as for her.

What would be your response to such an occasion? Several in attendance expressed the usual responses: “Can’t she control herself?”, “She needs to learn how to handle her alcohol.” “That is so embarrassing.” All of these responses point to her overconsumption as a completely objective, rational decision not impacted by any outside influence.

My first thoughts, however, were slightly different. I immediately wondered what part of her story would cause her to feel the need to overindulge in an otherwise very tame and controlled environment. (She was the only person among over 100 demonstrating signs of overconsumption.) I wondered why perhaps she does not appear to value herself enough to restrain. What is she trying to escape or even hope to experience? The compassion I experienced for her in the moment far outweighed any feelings of embarrassment, judgement, or annoyance on my part. Instead, I wondered if there is anyone in her life who loves Jesus and, consequently, loves her that will take the time to listen. Then, when the Holy Spirit opens the door, to present her with the Good News and the potential is has to change her life. And then lead her into that new life. Maybe someone already has and, in that case, I hope she or he does not give up. That is my prayer for this stranger.

When I look at the world and our need for a Savior, I picture her. I don’t know her name. Actually, I don’t know a single thing about her. But that does not stop me from praying for her.

Is there someone in your life–a friend, a neighbor, a coworker, a family member–who demonstrates a lack of peace with God? Does it break your heart and bring you to your knees in prayer for him? If you can’t picture someone, then perhaps you either need to check your follow-ship of Jesus or expand your circle. If you can picture someone, then 801South might be the arena for you to participate in leading others to know that peace.

Will 801South Try To Be Elevation: Movement

Have you ever attended a worship experience at Elevation Church? Have you downloaded their original worship music? Have you read Pastor Steven Furtick’s books? His blog?

I have. Because, rather than hoping God will come to me, I would much rather go to where I know God is moving. Bono conveyed a similar sentiment at the National Prayer Breakfast several years back when he said, “God may well be with us in our mansions on the hill… I hope so. He may well be with us as in all manner of controversial stuff… maybe, maybe not… But the one thing we can all agree, all faiths and ideologies, is that God is with the vulnerable and poor.” Therefore, we are more likely to be a part of a movement of God if we go to where we know He is at work.

I have shared my thoughts on the topics of competition and starting with why, but the biggest reason why 801South will not try to be Elevation Church is because Elevation is a movement of God and there is no copying a movement of God. There is only one Elevation. There is only one Mars Hill. There is only one Life Church. There is only one New Charlotte. There is only one Matthews UMC. There will be only one 801South.

We can learn from movements of God that arise through godly leaders with magnetic visions. We can grab some “take-aways,” and attempt to tweak them for use in our context, but we cannot copy them. In experiencing different churches, conferences, and missions, I have come to understand that, although they are all very different in strategy and implementation, the one key similarity among them all is the evangelical urgency of the senior leadership. This past year, while serving as the senior leadership, the most important aspect of godly leadership I learned can be summed up in one word: Dependence. For six years as an associate pastor (and many more in various ministries prior to being a “professional Christian”), I thought it was all about making the right decision and choosing your words carefully. But it’s not. Rather, I have seen God work again and again through my dependence on Him.

We are looking for a different breed to be a part of the leadership at 801South. To make a generation of new disciples, we need more dependence on the Holy Spirit to guide us through fresh expressions of the Gospel, as well as what it looks like to follow Jesus today. We need people who are passionate about living a life of worship and expressing their devotion to Jesus. We need people with an evangelical urgency. We need less religion, tradition, and church as many have known it. Ultimately, we will be looking for those who are most comfortable in living dependently for the sake of a new movement.