Archives For Values

Marvelous Light 2008

Charles Kiser —  November 24, 2008 — 2 Comments

Marvelous-LightWe participated in the Marvelous Light retreat this weekend at Camp Hoblitzelle in Midlothian, Texas. Nearly forty people from five churches recently planted in DFW came together for the event—Christ Journey (Burleson), New River (Forney), Storyline (Dallas), Sunrise (Grand Prairie) and VineLife (Savannah). Four of the five churches are associated with Mission Alive, our church planting resource organization.

I’m biased because I helped to plan it, but I think it was a tremendous success.

Many people came carrying heavy burdens and left with lighter loads. Many came with brokenness and left on the pathway to healing. Many came with darkness and left with more light in their lives.

One of our Storyline people said something to this effect:

When we lived in Los Angeles, going through a body “detox” was a popular thing to do. Marvelous Light was like a spiritual detox for my soul. I poured all of myself out through confession in my ministry group. It was hard, but by the end of it, I felt so much lighter.

I think that’s such a great description of the cleansing and renewal that occurs at Marvelous Light—spiritual detox for the soul.

Testimonies were hands down the favorite element of the weekend listed in our evaluation forms. They were vivid examples of how our lives change when God transfers us from darkness to light.

  • One woman talked about being freed from bondage to anxiety and aversion.
  • Another woman talked about learning by the power of God to forgive the man who raped her, and after that, to forgive herself.
  • Still another shared her story of growing up in a very legalistic environment, hating the god behind it, and then finding the true and living God.
  • One young business entrepreneur shared the panic attacks he experienced because he trusted money too much and how he learned to trust God by giving large chunks of his money away.
  • Another man shared how he had been enslaved by sexual addiction to pornography for more than thirty years and how God had given him sexual purity for more than three years.

What I love is that a couple of these testimonies were shared by previous Marvelous Light participants who were enabled to share the light they’d found because they had let God deal with their darkness in the Marvelous Light retreat.

Confession of sin is an oft-neglected discipline in the church. It’s much easier to stay in the realm of pretense and superficiality.

The gospel, however, calls us out of darkness and into light.

We have therefore made a rigorous commitment to authenticity, acceptance, confession and life change by the power of the Holy Spirit.

That’s why we put so much energy into experiences like Marvelous Light.

When’s the last time you dealt with your darkness and confessed your brokenness to someone you trusted?

God’s forgiveness—his marvelous light—is waiting for you…

God’s Surprises

Charles Kiser —  October 23, 2008 — Leave a comment

I’ve been reflecting in the last couple weeks about God’s surprises for Storyline since we’ve started—situations where things have taken shape, by God’s Spirit, differently than we expected.

Example #1

We expected that we’d be facilitating a weekly worship gathering starting in September 2008. We realized that such a timeline would allow us only four months before the worship gathering began to nurture a community of house churches—which to us are the foundation and heartbeat of the Storyline Community.

Gailyn Van Rheenen, one of our mentors and leader of Mission Alive, asked us why we were in such a hurry to start a weekly gathering. We weren’t sure why. So we shifted our expectations and planned for a weekly worship gathering in February 2009.

We began to wonder if a weekly worship gathering at any point in the early life of Storyline would distract and drain our resources away from what we saw to be most important (house church ministry). So now we’re expecting to launch a monthly, rather than weekly, worship gathering in December 2008.

Who knows, the day may come when we move to bi-weekly or weekly community worship gatherings. For now, we’ve sensed it will be better to “build out” incrementally than to front-load a bunch of programming we might later have to deprogram.

I believe it was God who surprised us with these developments.

Example #2

We expected that Storyline’s house church gatherings would consist almost exclusively of young adult professional types. We also expected that Storyline would be a community that cared about justice—loving the poor, caring for the marginalized, helping the helpless.

And then we started befriending and serving the poor. Many of our young professional friends began inviting their poor neighbors to our house church gatherings.

At first I was uncomfortable with this. Would it scare other Uptown young professionals away from Storyline to encounter our poor friends in our gatherings?

Larry James, a prophet who leads Central Dallas Ministries, said, “You should read James.” So we read James, especially the second chapter, and were reminded that it’s a sin to show favoritism to the rich and neglect the poor.

My instincts were wrong. So we’ve taken on a posture of full embrace toward all who desire to be a part of our community.

God surprised us by who he drew into our gatherings.

The Takeaway

God will undoubtedly continue to surprise us—hopefully whether we cooperate or not. We can only seek to be attentive to his leading.

I’m reminded of one of the Proverbs: “In their hearts human beings plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps” (16:9).

We have a very limited view of what paths we’ll actually take. We plan the best we can—and we trust that God, who is infinitely creative in the way he oversees the unfolding of our lives, will establish our steps.

Earl Creps says there are at least three theories on how to plant churches: 1) the big bang theory—start a big gathering and draw the community; 2) the evolution theory—grow relationally at the grassroots level; and 3) the intelligent design theory—whether big bang or evolution, God is the one orchestrating the process.

I like that. Regardless of the model, I want God to be Storyline’s designer.

Well, friends, it’s finally here. Check out the website and leave a comment here with some feedback if you’d like — either for encouragement or improvement. We’re excited about it and are glad this part of the project is behind us. This website has been a way for us to draw together all we’re about into one place. Developing this website has been a “vision check” of sorts: it has reminded us again and again why we’re doing what we’re doing.

You can click on www.storylinecommunity.com or the picture above.

What We’re About

Charles Kiser —  August 4, 2008 — 5 Comments

One of the products of the last several months of groundwork and planning has been the initial development of our identity as a church. Mission, vision, values — this is the language of identity.

To a certain extent, much of the groundwork we’ve done is tentative. As the church grows and comes to life more fully it will give body and character to much of the initial dreaming and articulation we’ve done. We’re prepared to adapt (adaptation, in fact, is part of our values set).

When I look at our values I think of time spent in the Mission Alive Strategy Lab nearly two years ago, hours spent in front of a whiteboard with Ryan, Claudia and Julie, searching the Scriptures, conversations with mentors, coaches and other church planters, and even asking our Dallas friends and neighbors what they thought. These values have been a community project.

What you’ll see below is our take on the whole mission/vision/values task. You’ll notice that it’s not much. Part of our bias in developing this kind of thing is that less is more. What is the use in crafting this language if it will sit in a document somewhere on our computers and never be used? We wanted our values to be simple and memorable. Our values sum up what we’re all about.

These values will be our roadmap for future decisions. They’ll be the way we organize our job descriptions as the staff grows. Even our children’s ministry will find its place living out these very same values.

Ultimately, all of our values flow out of the story of God as Father, Son and Spirit that we find in the Christian Scriptures.

You’ll notice that each heading is one of our major values; underneath the headings are sub-values, if you will, or further explanation as to how the major values come to life in our community. Accompanying each value is a short statement that brings the value down to earth. When people ask “What are you guys about?” we’ll say, “We’re people that live for something bigger than ourselves” or “Storyline is a church where you can make real friends.”

Here’s an excerpt from material published on the website (which will be fully up and running next week…hopefully that will be the next blog post!):

Storyline Christian Community lives to discover its place in God’s story through dependence on God, mission, life change and genuine relationships.

Dependence on God — God manages our lives better than we can.

  • Trust: The best way to live is in a trusting relationship with God

Mission — We live for something bigger than ourselves.

  • Reproduction: followers make new followers and churches make new churches
  • Hospitality: extending a warm welcome to strangers
  • Justice: befriending the poor; helping the helpless; caring for the earth
  • Adaptability: the courage to create new things and the willingness to adapt

Life Change — God is fixing us.

  • Character: thinking, acting and feeling like Jesus
  • Expression: reflecting God’s image with our unique gifts and abilities
  • Generosity: extending our resources — time, money, abilities — on behalf of others
  • Simplicity: finding more in less

Genuine Relationships — We make real friends.

  • Authenticity: being real about who I am with others
  • Acceptance: embracing people as they are without judgment
  • Collaboration: working together where everyone has something to contribute

What do you think? What do you like? What feedback would you give? Again, we’re all about adaptation.

Our house church gatherings are at the heart of who we are as a church. Church to us is less of an institution than it is a web of relationships formed around a common purpose. Church isn’t a place we go to; it’s a community to which we belong. The way of Jesus is a way of life that is learned, modeled and lived out relationally.

This conviction about the nature of church is why we’re starting with house church ministry and not with a super-sized worship gathering. It’s why the worship gathering, even after it’s started, will be second (or fifth) place in importance. In fact, it will probably not take place weekly, especially in the early stages.

House church gatherings of 10-20 people are and will always be the central venue for life in the Storyline Community. They most fully embody the chief values of our community—dependence on God, mission, life change and genuine relationships.

To be honest, we use the term “house church” for lack of better words. Some call it organic church; others call it simple church; others call it cell church (as in a smaller part of something larger).

One thing I do like about the phrase is that “church” is part of it. House churches are not an appendage ministry for us among other ministries; house churches are the essence of who we are as a church—so much so that I would rather describe Storyline Christian Community as a network of house churches rather than just a church (though the latter is certainly still true).

Our hope and plan is that our ministry is reproductive: as followers of Jesus help to create other followers of Jesus, house churches will start other house churches, and Storyline will start other churches.

So what do our house church gatherings look like?

We gather for meals and share life. We share communion in the context of our meals. We joke around. We tell stories. We sing together. We confess our struggles to each other.

We have conversations about Scripture, current events, music, God, food, spirituality—things that really matter to us. We share our resources to help the poor and connect to those who are far from God.

We throw good parties. We welcome new people of all kinds into our midst. We participate in justice projects in the community. We pray for each other, our friends and our city.

It’s a little reminiscent of the early church (Acts 2:42-47; 4:32-35)—not only in the forms and activities, but also in its potential to turn the world upside down.