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“And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” – Luke 10:2

This verse seems to suggest that the Lord is eager to produce spiritual fruit but somehow limits or slows its growth to match the availability of workers and the authenticity of our prayers. This is not a precise formula that activates a genie from the lamp, but there is some type of mysterious participation that God is waiting for before He acts. John 15: 5 goes even further by saying, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

Several years ago, a friend told me that I needed to be as intentional and aggressive in raising prayer support as I was in raising financial support. That has stuck with me (more accurately, haunted me) – given the absolute necessity of raising money for our family and church – that if there was to be any hope of spiritual fruit – prayer must be our primary tool, not a secondary accessory to talent, resources and connections.

If our church succeeds it will be because a small group of people prayed for God to move. I can guarantee that the lead pastor does not have the talent, resources and connections to pull this off. To his credit, however, he’s smart enough to realize this and is trying to get people to join him in prayer.

To that end, Cara Jane and I have begun setting the alarms on our phones for 10:02, in reference to Luke 10:2. So twice a day we are reminded to pray that God would raise up a team to join us in planting Union Church. Specifically, we’re asking the Lord to provide 12 people from Huntsville to be sent out with us as well as 12 people already on the ground in Auburn who would begin laying the ground work before we arrive.

If God would be gracious enough to put this team of missionaries together, the first thing we’ll do as an official Union Church team, will be to launch a prayer meeting. Missional communities, preaching, finding a building, all that is important, but it comes later.

Please join us in praying that God would burden 24 people for the Auburn/Opelika area, that we would be united in the vision and mission of Union Church and that God would bring healing and reconciliation to a stagnate culture. Who knows what 24 people abiding in Jesus, praying for a harvest could accomplish?

 

Nazis and College Towns

There is always that one pundit on cable news who will inevitably draw comparisons between the policies of whatever party he/she doesn’t like… and the Nazis. As if the Third Reich is the inevitable trajectory of anyone who disagrees with him/her. This historical hyperbole can be drowned out and dismissed easily enough but the recent events in Charlottesville, VA has knocked our country on its heels – because this isn’t dramatic rhetoric anymore, these are actual, swastika waving Nazis! We’re reeling, not only because innocent people are being killed but because we seem to be experiencing (or probably more accurately re-experiencing) a cultural moment where multiple environmental factors are colliding together to allow Alt Right/White Supremacist/Neo Nazi violence to occur… right in front of our eyes!

I believe this perfect storm is made up of at least five elements:

  • There seems to be a traumatic realization that racism is not a historical problem that America has already legislatively solved but, in fact, is a brutally present reality that is alive and well. This seems to have annoyed the Right and confused the Left.
  • There seems to be a political climate that openly encourages polarization, extremism and fear mongering, thus discouraging any form of cooperation and compromise.
  • There seems to be a digital climate and a cultural attention span that prefers soundbites and headlines in 140 characters or less – making reasonable, thoughtful, nuanced debate virtually impossible.
  • There seems to be an administration (I’m trying to be as charitable as I can) that won an election, in large part, due to the support of disgruntled, white voters. Therefore, this administration is, at best, slow, vague and mild in addressing the concerns of minorities – in an effort to maintain that original bloc of support.
  • There seems to be a significant portion of the American church, for whom political power and stability is simply a higher priority than racial reconciliation and social justice. We’ve seen this movie before (Israel in the time of the prophet Amos, Pharisees in the time of Pontius Pilate, German Lutherans in the 1930s, American Evangelicals in the 1960s…). Rather than being the prophetic advocate she is called to be, the Church has once again looked for comfort in political parties and court nominees rather than the character of our sovereign God…

This is the reality that we live in. The American church, as she is presently built, for better or worse, led us here, and Dr. King already warned us about it…

“I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice… I have traveled the length and breadth of Alabama, Mississippi and all the other Southern states. On sweltering summer days and crisp autumn mornings I have looked at the South’s beautiful churches with their lofty spires pointing heavenward. I have beheld the impressive outlines of her massive religious-education buildings. Over and over I have found myself asking: ‘What kind of people worship here? Who is their God?” (Excerpt from A Letter from a Birmingham Jail)

The Evangelical Left has compromised theologically to appease the broader culture and the Evangelical Right has compromised politically to hold on to whatever structural power is left. Either way, the unbelieving world sees absolutely nothing unique about the way we live and we’ve sold out our minority brothers and sisters in the process.

But what if out of this dumpster-fire of a moment came a tribe of people that believed the gospel was good enough – and required no alterations to make it palatable for liberal ears – and was strong enough that it didn’t need the structure and systems of the conservatives? What if these people planted new churches – uncompromised by theological drift or political pressure? What if they strategically planted these churches in places like Berkley, CA, Auburn, AL and Charlottesville, VA?

The University of Virginia in Charlottesville has 20,000+ students – from all 50 states and 148 countries. Its faculty and alumni have significant influence across a number of industries all over the world, particularly in the political arena of nearby Washington D.C. What if there were dozens of churches planted there to reach that particular people group? What if there were dozens of multi-ethnic congregations where black and white believers worshipped together? What if you were a student at UVA and were forced to deal with the reality of those faith communities? Would that shatter your preconceived ideas about religion? Would that affect how Jesus plays into the way you view politics, money, sexuality, race, ethics?

Luther, in the first of the 95 Theses said, “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent,’ he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance…” Centuries later, Karl Barth, channeling St. Augustine, said that “the church is always reforming…” The American Church should repent and reform and as far as I am concerned, the most effective way of doing that is to plant new churches in college towns… because the Nazis are already there.

First Month is in the Books

We have officially crossed the one month mark of living in Alabama. The last of the boxes have been unpacked, we’re not constantly lost anymore, and we have a firm grasp on the best restaurants in town. Finally, we feel settled into our new home. Not only are we a step closer to planting our church in Auburn but the whirlwind of having a second child, selling our house, and moving across the country is behind us, and we are starting to enjoy this new season rather than simply trying to survive the transition.

Here are a few of the highlights from the past month: Continue reading “First Month is in the Books”

Ellie’s here.

A lot of life has happened in the last three weeks. Our second child, Eleanor Jane, arrived at 8:01 a.m., March 26, and weighed in at 6 lbs, 3 oz. Ellie and Cara Jane are both healthy and doing great. Two weeks after coming home from the hospital, we accepted an offer on our house in Norman. Both of these things were huge milestones for our family and the top 2 items on our “to do before moving to Alabama” list. Continue reading “Ellie’s here.”

Prayer

My primary position over the last several months could accurately be described as overwhelmed. There has not been one day in which I have not thought to myself that we have bitten off way more than we can chew. We are moving 800 miles and 5 states away from our friends, family, and the church we helped build from scratch. We currently have less than 50% of the money we need to make ends meet, and my wife could literally go into labor any minute with our second child.

Our objective is to plant a church that is intentionally multi-ethnic in a part of the country that literally fought a war to prevent that from happening. Our primary strategy for this church plant is to engage college students and minorities, two people groups not historically known for their financial stability. Furthermore, I am convinced that my skill set and personality are nowhere near sufficient for the task ahead. There is nothing on my resume that suggests our church plant will be wildly successful. I’m not trying to be self-deprecating – I believe I’m both qualified and called to this task – I’m simply trying to express the enormity of what is on the Bristers’ plate.

On the bright side, desperation and spiritual poverty seem to be what the Spirit is attracted to (Matthew 5:3). Continue reading “Prayer”

Financial Support Update

As of today, we are two weeks away from the due date for little Ellie Jane and three months away from moving to Alabama. Our house in Norman has been on the market for six days now and we have already shown it four times. These last few weeks have been incredibly hectic as we try to juggle these different priorities, but we’ve resolved to take things one day at a time. I’m honestly just really ready to meet Ellie and introduce her to Bo.

Because CJ could go into labor literally any day now, I have backed off of traveling and fundraising for the time being. However, a few weeks ago Continue reading “Financial Support Update”

Soma in San Diego

Cara Jane and I were recently invited to the Soma Pastors’ Retreat in San Diego, CA. With the fast-approaching arrival of baby # 2, the selling of our house, fundraising, and finishing up the semester in Norman hanging over our heads, three days in southern California did not require much arm-twisting.

Soma is a family of churches under the umbrella of the Acts 29 Network. It began as a few churches on the West Coast, but now their distinctive theological and missiological emphases have spread across the country and has been, in many ways, the primary influence on our church planting journey. Continue reading “Soma in San Diego”