Graduation Sunday for Process Church

graduationThree years ago Process Church had its final service. That is a day I will never forget. This is the email I sent to our supporters that evening…

Today’s goal was beautifully accomplished… brag on the good things God has done in our midst. There were stories of lives changed and lives challenged to see Jesus with new eyes. There were multiple stories of people who still do not yet believe but were thankful for a safe place to come and explore faith. The theme I tried to leave in each of our hearts was one of definitions. For the obvious reasons I’ve been studying the word “failure”. While there are many uses of the word, we only qualify in the most technical sense. And that is mainly because of how we allow the Scripture to define another word… “success.” I read from Joshua chapter 1 and was doing ok (no I wasn’t) until I hit verse 8… “Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so that you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.” Because that has been the work of Process Church from day one… we have been successful!

To give Satan ZERO room for impact… you must know that there is no scandal. I’m not running off with my secretary – mainly because I’m crazy in love with my wife – never mind that I did not have a secretary. And though money was never our strongest link, we always paid our bills on time and will somehow do so with the startup debt that remains. Our friends at the New Dawn Theater even offered us to stay rent-free for the rest of 2012 if that would keep us going. But it is so many little things that bring us to this moment. The beauty is that all of us know we did all that we possibly could to make it continue and grow and thrive. So we hold our heads high.

The question I am asked most relates to what we’ll do next. We (the McQuearys) will do what all of us now-former Process-ers will do… we’ll recover. We’ll find new places to worship and serve and learn. Most importantly we will keep journeying with Jesus. In all the important ways nothing has changed. Collectively we walk away from Process Church knowing that our Boot Camp is over and we are about to be deployed. I have a simple request this week. Pray that all of us will believe the truth… that will be enough.

Today’s pic-of-the-week is the visual I chose to leave in our minds today. Today wasn’t a funeral… or even a finish line. Today was Graduation Sunday.

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Mars Hill Church: A Cautionary Tale

DriscollI have stared at a near-blank page every day since the news of the unraveling of Mars Hill Church. All I had previously written was the title. This was no classic case of writer’s block. There is a big part of me that would rather saying nothing at all about the recent happenings in and around Seattle. There is certainly plenty that I don’t know. I don’t know Mark Driscoll. Some of my hesitance to write is because of what I do know. I know that Christians seem to be known for shooting their wounded. I don’t want to do that. I also know Mark and I are from the same generation – we’re actually the same age. I have many friends who were and are part of the Acts 29 Network which he helped start. And I know I have been challenged by some of Mark’s earliest writings. I know I always want the spirit of Jesus to flavor my actions. Sometimes that means not writing certain things – other times it means writing hard truths in a loving way.

The Bigger the Personality, the Harder they Fall
I don’t think it’s Mark’s fault (necessarily) that he is a person with a megatron personality. In fact, my theology (view of God) leads me to believe that God creates the personalities within us. That said, part of our journey is learning to submit all of ourselves to God’s control. The problems begin when our personalities leapfrog God and put us in his spot. Most of the scandals in recent memory (Jesus world or not) include an individual whose personality in some way eclipsed their reality.

Structural Audits
The churches I know and respect systematically submit themselves to financial audits. They do so for accountability and transparency. Perhaps a structural audit would also be a good idea. This likely would not have to happen with the frequency of a financial audit, but here are some birdseye thoughts. Have an outside (completely independent of the lead pastor) source come in a for a week or more and assess the leadership structure. They would need to be given unfettered access and permission to ask hard questions. This kind of look would at least challenge an individual that may be prone to creating a spiritual monarchy.

Multi-Site Footnote
From the beginning I have questioned the general wisdom of a multi-site approach that has one man as the primary teacher. I just think it sets a guy, whose personality is already a challenge, up to fail. I’m not saying it can never work, but I think local assemblies and shepherds are the preferred way to go. Ironically that may be the only way former Mars Hill satellites survive this ordeal.

Finally, please know that I am cheering for Mark Driscoll. I’m hoping that he will listen to voices that will tell him the truth. I’m praying that he will take time to heal and reflect on how all of this has transpired. Jesus, help Mark to be restored for the sake of your great name!

You’re Not JUST A Youth Pastor

potterThursday afternoon near the end of my work day I stopped at a coffee shop on my route. I noticed a guy with a Bible and a few other books at a table nearby. We had a short conversation as he was leaving. Included in that exchange was my question, “Are you a pastor?” His answer sent me into a 3-day thought process, the fruit of which is this article. His response? “I’m just a youth pastor at ___________ Church.

I began my career as a youth pastor. From that day to this – almost 22 years worth – I have always served students in some capacity. I write these words as one who has shared your experience. I am for you.

Be A Shepherd
If you joined this game for any other reason, you should probably stop and do something else. Students and their families are your flock. You have been tasked with leading them to green pastures. Take yourself seriously and others will too. Understand the gravity of your position.

Be A Strategist
Though you may often wonder if your students are listening, they are. The data supports this notion. Ages 11-18 are among the most formative and developmental years of a child’s life. Because of this, you and I cannot afford to be casual about our approach. What an opportunity we have been given to change the landscape of Christianity by helping students understand and own their faith. Pray. Contextualize. Strategize. What was missing from your own teen experience? Be intentional.

Be A Student
First, I am not suggesting you act like you’re a teenager again. It is imperative to model that being a student is a lifelong process. Show them what you’re learning and who you are reading. Live out your faith by demonstrating that learning never stops.

If you are a Youth Pastor, thank you. Keep striving to be more than you are. If you know a Youth Pastor, please pass this on to them and encourage them to be more than JUST a youth pastor.

Helping Start Churches

It may seem strange (or more likely, even crazy) for an infant church to talk about (let alone, value) a pursuit such as Helping Start Churches. That said, our final value – one that we have adopted since the inception of Process Church – is that of Helping Start Churches. We want to be very careful to define what we’re talking about here. We are not saying that the immediate goal of Process Church is to start other churches. Obviously that would be pretty difficult in our earliest days. But what we are saying is that built in to our DNA is a strong desire to see other healthy churches get started and we will participate in whatever ways possible to that end.

This week we’ll re-visit a concept that Paul touched on previously near the end of his letter to the Romans found in Romans 15:20-21. As we hear Paul’s heart, we are reminded of why (even in the early days) Process Church will also value Helping Start Churches.

1. It has been widely published that starting new churches is the best way to introduce people to Jesus. Why do you think this is true?
2. If you had to guess what % of people in the U.S. consider themselves unchurched?
3. What do the combined answers to #1 & #2 suggest as a solution?
4. Why is it valuable to have all kinds of different expressions of church?
5. How can you tell when an area (community) may need another church?
6. Besides the obvious idea of (literally) starting other churches… what other ways are there to help?
7. What do these verses tell us of the criterion for knowing with whom to partner?
8. What role does planning play in this process?
9. What role does flexibility play in this process?
10. In what good ways does this type of vision force us from only thinking about Process Church?
11. Why is the answer to #10 a good thing?
12. How do we keep from seeing other God-honoring churches as “the competition”?

For some extra insights follow the link to this commentary… Romans 15:20-21.

Fundraising During Finanacial Collapses

We are in arguably the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression almost 80 years ago. All of us seem to be holding our breath as we await a “bailout package” that will represent hundreds of billions of dollars that we as taxpayers will help fund. Needless to say, financially speaking, these are tenuous times.

In the midst of this economic boom (that’s sarcasm) my family and I have decided to leave a healthy, growing church and a comfortable salary to become church planting missionaries.

So I am swimming in the waters of fundraising these days. Here’s what I know… my pastor used to say that what God orders He pays for. I get that. I’ve experienced that. And it translates this way for me:

  1. I believe that I am doing exactly what God has planned for me to do.
  2. I am going to work my fingers to the nub to make ends meet, but at the end of the day it will not be my hard work that “gets it done” for us financially.
  3. I believe that God is the Provider. Money is paper. Human currency. God is over all.
  4. I trust God. I know that He will put it in the heart of people to support us & in so doing allow His church to be built here in Duluth, GA.

The Remedy for Fear

There are many famous quotes about fear. You’ve likely heard some of them…

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself… Franklin D. Roosevelt.

All right, I’ll go in there for Dorothy. Wicked Witch or no Wicked Witch, guards or no guards, I’ll tear them apart. I may not come out alive, but I’m going in there. There’s only one thing I want you fellows to doCowardly Lion
What’s that? Tinman & Scarecrow
Talk me out of it Cowardly Lion

Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear... James Neil Hollingworth.

And my personal favorite – Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear... Mark Twain.

Most of you know that a little more than a year ago I felt that God was calling me to start a church. No big deal, right? I mean, isn’t that what pastor-people do? There are a few other things to consider in that interrogative equation:

  1. for my entire 15-year career (until 1 month ago) I have been a salaried employee.
  2. we moved to Atlanta without knowing (in the deep relational sense of the word) a single person.
  3. I am a hyper-positive person… to a fault. At times I even (by instinct) ignore negative realities.

So now I am finally facing the reality that this church thing that God has most certainly called us to will require lots of money that I don’t have. Putting aside the fact that I am primarily a positive person (see #3 in the list above), there have also been moments of fear as I consider my family obligations.

This morning in my quiet time with God I read from John 14 and Jesus said these words to His followers, When I am raised to life again, you will know that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. When I remember this truth… I’m not afraid anymore.

The 300: Prayer Warriors for Process Church

Will you join us in praying? We are looking for 300 people who will lift the steps of this new ministry before the Father. There are a few significant reasons I have chosen this number. Gideon followed God against impossible odds with 300 men. The 300 men of Sparta were a force to be reckoned with. And even our new zip code starts with… you guessed it… 300. We are asking people to commit to praying for the McQueary family and Process Church on every calendar day that has a 3 in it (the 3rd, 13th, 23rd, 30th and some months, the 31st). Our primary method of communication will be email. To join The 300 please send an email to rob@processchurch.org and in the subject line type 300. We will periodically be sending more detailed email updates to our 300 as well as a Request of the Week at the beginning of each new week.

Asking God to Do Something So Big That He Alone Gets the Credit,

Rob, Christina, Natalie, Erica & Tyler