Trapped

Adversity. Criticism. Discouragement. Negativity. Overwhelmed.

Do you ever feel trapped by one of these things? Perhaps one comes at you, and you have no idea how to respond and get out of the rut. For others, one may hit you hard, and you know how to overcome it but seem unable to do what you know you should do. In either case, it’s easy to get stuck and be tempted to give up, give in, or both. 

 

Naturally, I’m an optimist, sometimes annoyingly so. Therefore, when I am looking at situations and struggling to see past the negative, I know something is wrong. Another default tendency is to endure and fight harder. When I’m tempted to give up and walk away or when I start pretending like I don’t care, I’m in a bad spot. (To clarify, it’s basically impossible for me to not care, so by saying I don’t care, what’s really happening is that I care too much and feel powerless so I’m trying to cope.) I also love being married to my best friend, Whitney. We laugh together and genuinely enjoy time that we get together. When I’m not looking forward to time with her because I’m overwhelmed with all I have to do or a situation, that’s another sign that I’m off and heading down a bad path. 

 

What do I do? I often try to suppress and keep going. Sometime the emotion flares up and comes out in negative ways (such as throwing a highlighter against a wall…bad decision because you have to clean it up.) I don’t deal with my frustration in a good way, and in the midst of my effort, I choose to be numb. I show very little emotion, don’t engage relationally, and just try to keep moving forward and get as much done as possible. As you have probably realized, this is NOT healthy and has adverse effects on my closest relationships. How do I engage with Jesus when I’m trying to do everything in my own strength? How do I engage with Whitney when I’m numb to emotion and distant relationally? 

 

At some point, hopefully sooner rather than later, I begin to break. I stop trying to do it on my strength and let the emotion flow. When this happens, I need to get alone and let all my emotion out. This is when I pray honest prayers…prayers that I don’t want anyone to else to hear. Prayers where I yell or angrily state whatever is on my mind and just come before my Father in heaven unfiltered. The crazy part of these prayers is that these are the kind of prayers God wants. These are the kinds of prayers we read in the Psalms where David and other authors say some crazy things in the midst of their honest reflections. 

 

I walk away from these times rejuvenated, not by my strength by the power of the Holy Spirit within me, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. There’s one more key: I need to reach out to someone else. My restoration back to my optimistic, persevering, and relationally engaging husband is not complete until I’m honest with someone I trust. Jesus has designed you and me in such a way that we need each other. Until I open up with vulnerability to Jesus so that he can be my source of strength AND open up to someone else who can share my burden, I cannot be fully restored. 

 

This blog is part of my restoration. It’s one thing to open up to my best friend and wife, Whitney, or to my best friend, Cody, or to go see my counselor, or to lean on someone I trust. It’s totally different to choose authenticity in a blog that anyone can read. It’s worth it. Why? One of Public Church’s core values says, “We choose authenticity because Jesus’ reputation is at stake.” If I’m authentic, I draw people to Jesus; when I pretend, I drive people away. It’s worth it to point anyone who reads to a Jesus who died for us in our flaws. And it’s worth it to encourage you to take the second and crucial step in your restoration by opening up to someone you trust. Your restoration will be incomplete until you do. Let’s move forward through the power of Jesus in us and dependence on Jesus followers around us. 

What is the Purpose of Our Vision?

Public Church has a unique vision: 

Develop a public church that invites people to embrace the journey of following Jesus.

I am very passionate about vision because a compelling vision allows us to find our place in the Jesus movement and complement others instead of duplicating what is already being done. What is the point of our vision? 

Let’s start with the first phrase “develop a public church”. A Public Church blurs the lines between what happens on and off our campus. In my opinion, this is a huge need in Cleveland, Tennessee where church is often a place and time on Sunday morning. Our culture has drawn lines around a time and place and assigned it the name, church, which is a misrepresentation of the Biblical idea of church.  

When we study the Bible, we see that church is never a place and time; instead, church is a gathering of Jesus followers. In fact, the church is referred to as the body of Christ, the very hands and feet of Jesus on earth, so how could a building be a body? How could a certain time represent hands and feet? It simply cannot. Therefore, part of our motivation is blurring the lines to show that following Jesus cannot be limited to a place and time but should permeate every area of our lives and every situation we enter. When we let Jesus impact our every moment, then we act as Jesus would act if he were physically here. In so doing, we are his hands and feet. Rather than going to church, we should be the church, be the body of Christ on earth.

Our God-given vision allows us to take our place in the Jesus movement by serving as a constant reminder that following Jesus and being the church is an everyday, every moment lifestyle. 

This brings us to the rest of the vision “invite people to embrace the journey of following Jesus.” People will see us making Jesus our pattern by how we interact with our bosses, how we serve and do tasks that no one else wants to do, how we maintain our integrity even when we think no one is watching, and how we approach our school or work with excellence. As they observe Jesus impacting our every moment, they will also witness our failures. What happens next is something they will not expect. When we fail, we will own our mistakes rather than blaming others or acting like it did not happen. They may not understand our actions, but they will be intrigued. Over time, they will realize that we are the same on Sunday at 9:30am or 11:30am or 5:30pm as we are on Monday at 1:00pm or even Friday at 10:00pm. In other words, there are no lines in our lives that keep Jesus out of certain areas or times. Hopefully, they will ask questions and want to know why we are the way we are. If they silently observe, then it’s our task to initiate the conversation by talking to them about what Jesus is teaching us, how we are learning from our failures, and why we think Jesus is the best way for life on earth and life after earth. As this unfolds, we are inviting people to embrace the journey of following Jesus with our actions and our words. 

If you have ever wondering what it means to be a public church or why that is our name, this is why. I encourage you to take just a moment and dream with me. Imagine if all the current Jesus followers in your city lived out this vision. I know that seems far-fetched, but let your mind wander. 

Would your city not be better? Would our factories, schools, hospitals, and all the places people work not be better? Would our homes not be better? I mean think about our marriages, relationships with our kids – would these not improve? Would the impact not bleed over into other cities and places around the world? 

Most importantly, can you see the name of Jesus lifted up to its proper place as the name above all names? As people see and experience his love and hope, he would get the recognition and worship that he deserves. 

I hope you see that our vision is needed and worth the sacrifices it takes to bring it to life. Whether or not you are part of the Public Church family, would you join us in making our vision a reality? I hope you will, and I look forward to seeing the world improve and Jesus lifted up as a result. 

Why Start A Blog?

Welcome to our blog, Public Stories!

I am so excited that we are launching our blog, and I wanted to start by thanking Lily Scott for doing a lot of behind the scenes work to make this dream a reality.

The obvious question you may be asking is, “Why?” Why would we add a blog to what we already do?

Our number one goal is to create a conversation during the week that allows us to come together and encourage each other as we embrace the journey of following Jesus. We hope that you all look forward to the blog, and we pray that Jesus uses the blogs to encourage, challenge, and inspire you!

Our second goal is to display how Jesus is moving through Public Church in ways that we may not discuss during our Gatherings. Some of our authors will be business women and men, medical professionals, food industry workers, parents, coaches, athletes, teachers, church planters, and accountants. As all of us engage with their thoughts and hear how they strategically engage to point people to Jesus in their sphere of influence, we hope that you connect with them and are inspired to do the same in your everyday life. 

Another question you may ask is, “What is my role as part of the audience?”

We mention this question because our goal is to create a two-way dialogue rather than talking at you. Consequently, your role revolves around one word: engage. Even as I write this, I’m the author of this blog, but I will be the audience for another. All of us will have an opportunity to engage at some point to foster the dialogue, and we can do this in a variety of ways. Feel freedom to comment and let us know how you are processing the blog. We can also continue the conversation beyond this platform by talking to our family, friends, or co-workers about what Jesus is showing us through what we read. We can also refer other people to the blog so that our community can grow. 

One final way to engage is applying aspects of the blog to our specific lives. For me, I read a blog about a particular leadership role in a church, and I was so moved that I shared it with our Elders. Prior to that blog, we had a plan for hiring and a preferred order for what roles we would hire, but that blog led us to change our entire strategy towards hiring and the order of roles we are looking to hire. In other words, Jesus used that blog to change the trajectory of Public Church! That’s a huge impact on our church, and I hope that real change occurs in all of our lives so that each of us can say that Public Stories has made a huge impact on us. 

I’ll end with one of my favorite Scriptures that I pray often over Public Church. In addition, my wife Whitney and I have recently welcomed our son into the world, we have been praying these two verses over him. Just as we have prayed over Public Church and our son, I invite you to join me in praying Ephesians 3:20-21 over Public Stories. (I slightly altered the verses to say them as a prayer.)

Father, you are able to do far more abundantly that all that we ask or think through Public Stories, according to the power at work within us, so may YOU be given glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever, Amen. 

Christmas Traditions

Most of us have traditions that we want to happen every Christmas or memories of a past time that cause us to miss those rituals. Growing up, we always went to my Mamaw’s (very southern term for Grandmother) house on Christmas Eve. We had several traditions, but my favorite was the whole family gathering around to read the Christmas story. I remember when I was old enough to read it and what an honor that was. Mamaw passed away three years ago, but every Christmas, a smaller circle of family gathers at my parents to read the Christmas story. I hope to continue this custom as long as I live. 

What is your favorite Christmas tradition? Why does that particular custom mean so much? I love reading the Christmas story since that provides a moment to be still and reflect on Jesus, who should be the focus of the season but so often gets marginalized in the busyness. I like it because it forces me to shift my attention off my wants and onto others. I hope that you have some type of Christmas tradition that helps you do those two things as well. If not, perhaps this is the Christmas that you start a tradition for those two purposes! 

First, Jesus’ birth really is an inconceivable action that I often gloss over, and I don’t think I’m alone. The fact that our Father in Heaven would send his only Son to earth knowing how many people would reject him is hard to wrap my mind around. Think of the person you love the most, and think about sending he or she into an environment where he or she will be betrayed by a close friend, endure injustice at a magnitude that we can’t fathom, and be mentally and physically tortured up to the point of being executed. I can’t imagine doing that, yet God sent Jesus to be born, which is the initial action that began unfolding these very events. 

Second, becoming self-consumed at Christmas is easy, and we need something that helps us fight this natural tendency. Take a moment and think about your family and friends. Has someone in your sphere of influence suffered a miscarriage? While we celebrate, she mourns. Does someone have one or both parents who have died or simply are uninvolved for another reason? As we smile, he or she misses them. Is someone divorced or going through a rough season of marriage? Is someone single but longing to be in a relationship? Is another person enduring a broken relationship between a close family member where the two of them are not on speaking terms? As we hug our loved ones, these people sit in relational brokenness. Christmas is not a merry season for everyone, but often loss and sadness are magnified in the holidays. 

When we focus on Jesus and consider others, then we see our role as Jesus followers in the Christmas season: follow Jesus’ pattern and do for others what he does for us. Jesus came onto our turf to experience heartache and sit with us in our brokenness. Christmas provides a great opportunity for us to do that for others.

Whose “world” can you enter to simply mourn with them? Whose hurt can you acknowledge to share the burden? Whose relational brokenness can you sit in to begin offering Jesus’ restoration? Who can you pray for that views this season as one of loss and sadness? As we pray, our Father in Heaven can begin to shift their perspective and guide them to see little moments of joy that they would otherwise miss. 

This Christmas, let’s utilize our traditions to put our focus and attention where it should be.

Let’s follow Jesus’ pattern and do for others what he does for us. As we come alongside others, I think we will truly honor our Father’s gift to us.