Why we need new Church plants in America

I found this video yesterday through my friend Jaime. She and her husband Mark are planting a new church in Arlington, VA. I found John Piper’s statements to be timely and right on the mark. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve ran into here in Dallas, Texas (aka “the Bible Belt”) who are un-churched, de-churched, or have been burned by the church.

I think it’s time for many of us to pray about planting new churches. Jeremiah and I are in that process as we finish out his degree in the next two years and pray about starting a new church (somewhere in America!) along with a core group of like-minded people.

Do any thoughts come to your mind about the state of churches in America today?


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Consumerism and the American Dream

To help people trade in the pursuit of the American Dream for a world that desperately needs Christ.

This is the mission statement behind the work I do every day for RightNow, Bluefish TV, and Small Group Trader.

Our passion is to create Traders. A trader is a new kind of missionary not defined by geography but by a resolve to: Choose Daily, Hate Injustice, Work as Worship, and Act Swiftly by using his or her time, skills and money to impact the world for Christ.

Our 3 strategies for making traders is to inspire church leaders, transform small groups, and coach individuals.

As a writer and editor on our team for our Bible study curriculum, articles, and more, my role in our ministry is fleshed out mainly in inspiring church leaders and transforming small groups. I have to tell you though that every day, I’m challenged and inspired by our mission here. In a culture that is all about consumerism, self-focused leadership, and “what’s in it for me?” (yep in church culture too), I’ve been challenged to really consider what the American Dream means in my personal life.

The truth is that the American Dream was once about opportunity, but it has evolved into a “more” and “me” way of life. More house, more car, more money, more everything. And I have to regularly ask myself, do those things control me? Even in the smaller things like getting a Starbucks drink, buying clothes, or household things, I’m becoming more aware of my motives and realizing that sometimes I just buy things because I can or maybe even because I feel entitled to.

But through a process, I really desire change and to trade in those pursuits in order to give my life away for the sake of other people and for the gospel. And this is no easy task because I’m so s-e-l-f-i-s-h and sometimes I love my agenda more than people. I think when we truly grasp all that is at stake when we cling tightly to the American Dream, our lives are changed and we can’t go back. And life is just too short to live it for ourselves.

Over the past few years, my husband and I have both traded in time, comfort, and sleep to provide meals and community activities to our apartment residents every week and through that experience, I learned more than ever what it means to trade in my life. Since I’ve tasted what being a trader is about, I don’t really want to live life any other way. But I recognize I will always need God’s help in order to be a trader.

Have you thought about the idea of being a “trader”? Are you trading in anything right now or would like to in the future?


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Thoughts on Jennifer Knapp’s Interview

There has been a lot going on in my heart since I read Christianity Today’s interview with Jennifer Knapp. I have felt sadness, compassion, anger, confusion, and disappointment. One thing that I can’t escape thinking about is a question that Matt Chandler asks in a lot of his interviews and sermons: “Where is the fight against sin?”

I think we often forget that we’re in a battle against our own flesh. Not just the world and culture, but the sinful lusts and desires that rage within us. Francis Chan has also spoken lately about the “middle road” that so many Christians have created, neglecting to follow the narrow road of Christ… “If I can just follow some of Jesus’ words, then I can do whatever else I want…”

As followers who love the Lord, we’re called to follow even the HARD words of Jesus like denying self and getting rid of the sin and filth within us (James 1:21). We can’t lie and say that his words are easy, and we don’t have the right to pick and choose what we want to follow.

Will we struggle with sin? As long as we’re breathing we will, but our desire won’t be to live in that sin as a continuing lifestyle void of confession, repentance, or “struggling well.”

There is so much to Jennifer’s story than I will ever know or need to know, but from what I do know that I did not see in her interview with Christianity Today, is a fight against that sin. There was an acceptance of it. And that makes me sad. I want to see her make war with it.

So I guess my next response in all this is to look in the mirror and make sure I’m really engaged in the daily battle against my flesh.

Did you read the article? What are your thoughts on the recent news?

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Why brokenness is what I need

Well I want to thank you for your emails and comments of encouragement the past few weeks. I strive to be authentic on this blog, and sometimes it’s tempting to ignore the harsher realities of life and just write about well… prettier things!

But I want to be real with you.

The other day on my way home from a busy day at work, the words of an old worship song, Take My Life, randomly popped into my head:

Brokenness (Brokenness) is what I long for
Brokenness (Brokenness) is what I need
Brokenness (Brokenness) is what You want for me

Those words shot straight to the core of me. I need to be broken before God in order to be used by him. I need to be broken so that any pride that exists can slowly fade away. As I sang those words aloud as cars passed by me, I knew God was showing me that this is where he wants me. 

To be broken over the things that break his heart. To be broken over my sin and how it affects others. To allow Christ to break me so that I can better reflect his image to the world around me. To be broken enough so that I realize life is just not all about me (something I really struggle with).

I then started to sing the Chorus:

Take my Heart and mold it
Take my mind, transform it
Take my will, conform it
To Yours (to Yours) oh, Lord

I’m so thankful that I can give to him my heart, mind, and will so that he can do what he pleases in my life, even if that means quite a bit of brokenness.

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Coming up to breathe

It’s definitely been an eventful past few weeks celebrating Easter, dealing with morning sickness, major fatigue, spending time with family, and working out some details with my husband’s school schedule and my work schedule. I have to admit that we’ve had some tough days like never before. The weight has been hard to carry and I just haven’t had it in me to blog, socialize, much less read email, cook, or clean. Yep, it’s that bad. And the main problem is that I haven’t been in the Word for spiritual renewal.

But, I know there’s a light at the end of the tunnel and my first trimester will be over soon. That’s not to say I won’t be sick after it, but I am praying for renewed strength. I am praying for change.

In a sense, I am thankful for the times I feel like I’m in the fire struggling. For the times I sense God’s discipline in my life. He loves me and is making me the woman he’s called me to be. I pray that I will be more like him in this season of struggle and in the areas he’s refining me in.

I’m curious to know where you’re at right now. What season are you in?

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10 things the Cross has saved me from

… continues to save me from:

anger, control, pride, fear, condemnation, envy, shame, bitterness, anxiety, lust.

The weight of my sin on the cross was great, but not greater than the One who took it upon his shoulders:


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Amena Brown: Resurrection

This week, I’ll be taking a break from writing on my blog to post a few video clips that our Bluefish producers have created. I’m excited to spend this week taking a step back to reflect on all that our Savior has done for us and will continue to do.

I hope the videos posted this week will strengthen your faith and encourage you in whatever you’re facing today.

The voice behind this 2-minute video is spoken-word artist, Amena Brown.


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Life is in Creating

This post has been inspired by one of my new favorite blogs: History in the Making with Ben Arment. Ben’s passion for the church and for creativity leaks all over his blog. It’s awesome.

Yesterday he wrote about how creating is worth all the potential consequences. He lists what those consequences might be and says to not create is simply…

the greatest tragedy.

This struck such a chord with me because all my life, all I’ve wanted to do was create. Whether it was through creating a photo book for my family for Christmas, an imaginary story while playing dolls or building forts with my friends, a short story in creative writing class, a scrapbook, photos in the darkroom, a non-fiction article from scratch… the list goes on.

For me to not create would be impossible because it’s part of who I am. It’s how God has designed and wired me. And this desire to create doesn’t make me better than someone who doesn’t particularly love to “create” or would say that being creative isn’t one of his or her gifts. It’s all about how God is best glorified through us, whether that’s working with numbers, performing surgeries, or writing scripts.

In a sense though, we all have the ability to create something. We’re made in the image of God, the Creator.

I don’t know if I’ve come to the place yet where I’m willing to risk it all though. I have a huge desire to craft a book proposal, but I wonder if it’s worth creating even if it gets rejected a thousand times. Is it worth writing if I have to rewrite it or if it never sees the light of day?

For some reason I think God would say yes. It’s just up to me to dive in and risk.

What about you… Can you live without creating? What are you currently creating or hoping to create in the future?

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When faith has action

For quite a while now, I’ve been praying for God to help me live out my faith on a day to day basis (in the mundane details of life). Sometimes I feel like I have a lot inside me, but I don’t know how to give it away. I’m impatient with the Lord and wonder why more opportunities don’t exist to be a light.

Well yesterday, Jeremiah and I went for a walk to the park with John. We put John in his favorite swing and noticed a young man walking our way with three kids. He positioned his twin toddlers in their swings next to us and his older daughter went off to play on the slide. He managed to have his eye on all of them, but he did look tired.

We introduced ourselves and started talking about random stuff. He lived in the lofts off in the distance. Jeremiah engaged with him more so I decided to go play with his kids on the slides. During that time, Jeremiah learned that he was divorced with a lot on his shoulders taking care of three kids and working a lucrative job. It was neat to see him really open up.

When it was time for him to go, I asked Jeremiah if we should give him our number if he ever needed someone to help out with his kids. He nodded, so I went up to him as he was getting his kids situated.

“Hey I know we just met and you don’t know us well, but we’d love to help watch your kids sometime.”

I was nervous about his reaction but his eyes lit up. “Really? That would be such a help. Thank you so much.”

He then asked us to text him our number. He told his kids to tell us goodbye- they were adorable. 30 minutes later, we got a text back saying how he would probably be spent by the end of the week. We told him we were available Saturday to help him out. I couldn’t believe how quickly we were going to be able to help!

Initially it was tempting to not act on the need we saw. This guy didn’t know us at all. But I think the issue wasn’t really him, but us. Would we extend a hand? Yesterday really helped me see that God uses us to help bring his love to people. And to me, that is just amazing that he would use us (in spite of our shortcomings).

I’m thankful that a Monday evening at the park is going to turn into more opportunities to serve…

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About 3 weeks ago, we discovered…

I am pregnant! On Saturday, Feb. 27 I had that feeling. My friend encouraged me to take a pregnancy test. It was positive. I cried and was overjoyed at the same time. Jeremiah was in San Antonio for a class so I waited all day long to tell him. I went to Whole Foods and got 4 chocolate covered strawberries to represent that we will now be 4 and a card to write down all the details that happened before and after finding out.

We celebrated that evening together, surprised, excited, and shocked.

Since then, it’s been a bit of a whirlwind. I’ve had extreme nausea, cravings, morning sickness, fatigue, and feeling like a truck has hit me at about 8 every night. Since I often love to control things, this pregnancy is teaching me that I just can’t have control. Every day is something new. Every day I have to rely on God’s strength to help me love and respect my husband well and be there for John even when I feel like a mess.

Last Friday we went to our doctor and he said everything looked great and that our baby’s due date is Oct. 26, exactly three days after our son John was born. It looks like they will be 2 years apart. I am currently about 9 weeks along.

I definitely have my concerns: How will I love this baby the same as I do my son? Can we really handle two? We live in an incredibly small apartment on campus at seminary- will we survive until school is done? Can I really go through natural labor again? Are we crazy for trusting the Lord to grow our family?

Even in the midst of it all, we are so grateful that God has chosen us to bring about new life once again. His grace is amazing. And this new life is His. We have to hold this baby with arms wide open. It’s funny, I kept running into these verses in Psalms before we found out:

Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!
He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.
– Psalm 127:3-5

I think God was preparing me all along and I love how he does that.

Thanks so much for sharing in our joy today (I couldn’t wait to tell you)!

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