An Open Letter to Our Former Youth Group

Dear Former Youth Group {an open letter to generation Xers and Millennials}

Dear former youth group,

I'm here to say I'm sorry. I'm sorry we told you not have sex, do drugs, or drink alcohol. I'm sorry we guilted you into devoting your midweek to our service rather than your God-given-interest. I'm sorry we taught you self-righteous religion rather than the true character of God.

Here's the thing. The Bible isn't a book mostly about YOU and what YOU should be doing. It's a book about GOD and what HE has done.

We unintentionally taught you that that every story in the Bible somehow points to you. We explained that your behavior was the ultimate dictator of salvation. Though we never would have come out and said it knowing it was totally false, we let you believe that your behavior swayed God in some way, good or bad. We painted a picture of God as a Santa-figure who sees you when you were sleeping, sees when you're awake, knows if you've been bad or good, so please be good for goodness sake.

The Bible does have guidelines for how life works best. Why wouldn't it. It's a story about the Creator and His creation. It's bound to come up because the story of God and what He's done is made even more amazing in light of how things were supposed to work, how we jaked it up, and how His genius master plan is going to redeem us even though we don't deserve anything.

Many of you in our youth group were coming to 'church' alone. You're parents weren't devout Christ-followers or even if they were, they were possibly relying on us to teach about God. Most adult use youth group like a public school, trusting that the fundamentals of "Christianity" are the responsibility of the staff at a 'church'. Because of that, I'm even more sorry we didn't show you complete truths.

Every story in the Bible points to Jesus. Not you. You're not supposed to attempt to find yourself in the stories of Noah, Mosis, or David. You're supposed to seek God and His kingdom. Every story whispers His name.

As I watch you grow-up, go to college, move, get jobs, get married, have kids I see religion failing you. No matter how much attempting to be 'good' you can handle it will always leave you empty. Life won't unfold into the christian-karma-crap we filled you with. Because of that you will run. You are running. You're leaving the Church in droves because morality has failed you.

I'm sorry I helped lead you to this place but now I'm hear to fight to lead you back to Christ. To show you His true character. Every aspect of our life bleeds the DNA of who we think God is. Your view of who God is the foundation for your belief system and you believe system determines your actions. Out of our love for you in our youth group, we targeted the only thing we could see, your actions, in an attempt to determine if you were a Christ-follower.

Maybe we had a savior complex, maybe we were just that ingnorant. Painting a picture of a self-serving, smoke and lights, hype and games, fame and fortune religion remorsefully. God's taught us so much over the last few years and we hope to chase down the dechurched generation that we had a hand in running off.

Sincerely yours,

Regretful Youth Pastors of Generation Xers and Millennials

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My Comfy Peace that, “God’s GOT This!”

God's been opening doors all over the place since we committed to this God-size dream He gave us.

valley testlogo blackI mean, we shouldn't be surprised right? If he ask us to do something He's not gonna sit back and laugh at us while we fumble around making fools of ourselves while trying to accomplish it. Heck no. God's already got a crazy detailed manuscript He's directing and we are just blessed to be asked to have an extra part in a tiny scene of this movie we call eternity.

Way back in November 2011, when my husband shared with me that he was sure God was calling him to be a pastor {and if you know me and my hubs, this would be a shock to all of you as well}. Not only was he supposed to be a 'grown-up pastor' now but he was being asked to PLANT a Church.

WHAT?!?! Aren't there enough churches? Everyone is leaving the ones that exist. How are we supposed to do any better than what's already out there? We know NOTHING about running a church.

These were the questions that I later learned were flying through my husband's head when he began sorting this God-sized dream out. He joked about some of these things but it never seemed to be a dampener on what God was gonna let us do. I'm slightly childish in this way. When God ask me to do something, I'm sure its Him, I just do it. Some may call that extreme faith but I think its just how He made me...kinda like being short ;o)

If I give myself lots of time to think about something, that's when the questions come. Not the, "don't you know I can't do this God"s but the "well, what can I do to move this along" questions. This life of limbo is either one of two things; God teaching us {lots of} something(s) OR satan trying to mess with my head and get me to jack things up by trying to do it on my own during the waiting. Daily I remind my self of the spiritual battle going on and wiggle down into my comfy peace that, "God's got this!" Some days that works and other day I'm a panicky mess, don't ask my hubs, he'll give ya the horror stories. hehe

Any how, about all these doors God is opening since saying Yes to this adventure:

  • a woman, we had never met before, who is committed {and I mean Committed!} to give us 1/3 of her already meager income
  • a partner church who is interested in helping plant autonomous churches
  • 100 folding chairs
  • friends who have a heart for church plants
  • friends who have a heart for the community we are going to minister
  • random jobs {never saw ourselves working} to offset our income
  • a radio interview {that came out of the blue} where I was able to share part of our story, as well as educate listeners on church planting and the de-churched
  • can lights, a projector and a screen Fo Free!
  • a couple churches who have committed to praying for us and/or financially supporting us
  • and tons of other things I've forgotten to mention

SEE UPDATE AT THE BOTTOM!

Things we are faithing God has in the works:

  • a space for The Valley to meet in weekly {praying for "The General", an old Dollar General in a store front}
  • people who will commit to being part of the leadership: ie. Financial Advisor, Worship Team, Administrator
    {UPDATE: we've had vocalist, drummer, and other musicans come talk with us recently!}
  • A passionate move of God like no other ever seen in Vilonia, AR where those who know Jesus catch fire and Salvation spreads across that community so ramped that no one can deny GOD is at work!

I haven't talked a whole lot about the logistics of what we're doing on here...mainly 'cause I don't know if you'll care Or what you really wanna know, already know, or could care less to know. Blow up the comment section or message me. I'd love to share more. If there is a lot of interest I'll even do an entire Q & A post for ya.

Speaking of which; Matt and I will be doing a question and answer session a One Church {Conway} on the evening of January 27th. If your interested in more info about this then ask away!

I've also provided a link to the interview I mentioned above if you'd like to hear it. It's an hour long program but you can skip ~15 minutes in to where my interview starts and of course fast-forward through the commercial breaks. My part of the interview is really only about 20 minutes.

Chasing After the De-Churched a radio interview with Vivienne McNeny

Download HERE to Listen

UPDATE:

I wrote this last week and when it went live this morning my husband was in the process of picking up an old screen someone had donated only to find out that they were searching for more equipment items to bless us with. Thank you so much Mark Cox & Indian Springs BC for being Jesus through extravagant generosity! And the Fagan family for letting us borrow your ginormous covered trailer to hall it all in. AND to Pappa Dean for helping us pick it up {and for storing it until we get a space of our own!

God is so randomly Good. Just when we think we understand Him... waBam!

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And, if any of your readers out there in cyberspace happen to be in the Conway/Vilonia area:

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What Does it Feel Like to be the DeChurched?

I think for some, not all, of the DeChurched, THIS is how they feel. They don't quite fit in to what the church is telling us we have to do. How they must look. They just can't seem to physically adjust the way God's made them to perform the way the church has told them they must. So. They quit.

I'd just want to add that God did not set this mandate for how many churches try to train it's members to perform. Yes, God did give us guidelines to follow for our safety, protection, and inevitably to show us how much we need Him and the salvation he offers. But the fence before the fence before the sin was put up by the Pharisees. The ones that think they actually can make it on their own. They've created man-made traditions to adhere to in hopes to seem more righteous before men but are lost and separated from their savior thinking they don't need saving.

Lets rethink first position that's is hard to maneuver and the plié that makes the newbie fall on their tush while the experts giggle amongst themselves. Let's instead stretch out the hand of love and teach each other to walk the straight and narrow path with as little fancy pants dancing down the path as possible.

If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don't love, I'm nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God's Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, "Jump," and it jumps, but I don't love, I'm nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don't love, I've gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I'm bankrupt without love. (1 Corinthians 13:1-7, The Message)

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Are You the DeChurched?

In the 80s the term "unchurched" was coined. This word was used an inevitably replaced non-christian. Satan has a clever way of using just a simple word change to seem more politically correct and palatable to hinder the work of Christ.

You may not think this word change sounds so bad but it essentially changed the game plan. We, as Christ-followers, used to "spread the gospel" in the beginning of The Church. Then some how this moved to a more self-righteous movement where we're doing crazy things like pilgrims trying to "convert" the Indians. Along with that came the "right way" to dress, behave, interact, and basically live. That moved to the phrase "evangelizing non-Christians" which then became "reaching the unchurched". Yep. That's exactly what it sounds like. To quote an article for Christianity Today entitled Who are the De-Churched,

The church was no longer just a means by which Christ’s mission would advance in the world, it was also the end of that mission. The goal wasn’t simply to introduce the unchurched to Christ, but—as the term reveals—to engage them in a relationship with the institutional church. This paved the way for the ubiquitous (but flawed) belief today that “mission” is synonymous with “church growth.”

Church-goers are now trying to grow their club rather than simply love on people and be prepared to share the reason for the hope they have.

In that same article they've broken the de-churched into these 3 generalized groups:

1. The Relationally De-Churched: those who abandon the institutional church because they desire authenticity.

2. The Missionally De-Churched: those who leave because they are die-hard activists.

3. The Transformationally De-Churched: those who left because people in the church have the tendency to be small and mean and couldn’t deal honestly with their own sins or the sin of others.

Where do you fit in today?

  • Are you apart of the club? Have you made it through rush and now you know the ins and outs of how things are to be run?
  • Have you gone to the club week-in and week-out not really knowing why you do certain things but enjoying having something to do or a group to call your own?
  • Are you begrudgingly attending a club but long for something more and just don't know what that is? Do something about it! Be the change you're looking for. Love. Love right where your are!
  • Are you one of the de-churched for one of the reasons listed above? There are tons like you! Ones who want to make a difference. Ones who are tired of the once meaningful traditions. Those ready to engage in the culture now.
  • Are you a person wandering this earth waiting to find out why we're all here? You've never stepped foot inside a church building and have never been given a good reason to do so. No one's told you about the God who created you and loves you and longs to be reunited with His child. You've possibly lived in the US all your life, and people assume everyone in this "Christian Country" knows all the stories of the Bible, but you along with tons of others have no idea what they're talking about in literature class.

We're coming! I promise! There are Christ-followers who are on their way. They want to share life with you. Love on you right where you are! We want to share Christ; not bottle Him up for ourselves and those we deem worthy. We Are Coming for You!

Learn more in these posts: Who are the DeChurched? AND Why are they leaving and NOT coming back?

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Where are you ‘chasing’ the DeChurched?

I told you a little yesterday about who some of the DeChurched are. I also mentioned that they, along with the UnChurched, are the target group of The Valley church we are planting in Vilonia.
Today I want to share this video of Matt Chandler, the lead teaching pastor at the 'mega church', The Village in Dallas, TX. I hope this explains yet another sect of the UnChurched population in America.

Many of you may be wondering where exactly we plan to "chase" this generation of Christ followers who happen to not regularly attend a Sunday service somewhere. You may be disappointed but our goal is not to chase them back into a building to take part in a boring weekend hobby. Our plan is to chase them back to the heart of Jesus.

  • For some that means introducing them to the real Jesus of the bible as opposed to what some churches have portrayed Him as, a tradition or moral to uphold
  • For others that may mean we provide them with a freeing space to worship together with the the family they have in Christ.
  • For yet others, it may mean showing them God's heart for serving and sharing this amazing love story as it unfolds all around them.

We want to be the arms of Jesus reaching out to a group that needs solid biblical teaching, strong fellowship among other Christ-followers, an example of authentic gospel driven lifestyle to mimic. Ultimately, this model will mobilizes this generation to reach the world for the name of Jesus like we're called and long to do.

We will not be a building. We will not be a location. We will not be a service. We will not be an organization.

We will become the body of Christ in order to bring honor to His name and accomplish His will.

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