• 5 Things to Consider When Searching for a New Church Home

    As a pastor I have come across a lot of people who are in search for a church home and who frankly, really struggle with the process. It can be a really difficult and scary journey, one that seems never ending for some. I thought it would be really helpful to a lot of people to jot down a little encouragement for those who are searching for the right church home. 

    5 Things to consider when searching for a new church home

    1. The perfect church doesn’t exist.

    We are not the exception to the rule despite what we will try to convince you over your first month. The perfect church doesn’t exist because the church is made up of people and no perfect people exist. So the question isn’t whether you will find a perfect church but once you find the place you feel God has planted you in, will you stay when you are often reminded of the imperfection of your brothers and sisters? Will you love them still? Also, good churches have bad days as do good people, so don’t toss the baby out with the bath water. That’s a ridiculous old saying (who would do that?!) and have no idea where it comes from but it sure does apply to a lot of situations in life. The truth is that its really hard to know the heart of a house in just one visit. 

    2. Consider how God might be starting a new work in your life.

      To everything there is a season. Once I heard a wise teacher say that every person has 1-2 church moves in their lifetime within the same city, so he was not counting those that have to move often for work and thus find a new church at each stop. 1-2 moves within their lifetime! We live in a much more transient day and age than ever before. Job mobility is a major deal in the 21st century job market. And people church hop like crazy. Some “shop,” some “hop.” That conversation is for another day. Nothing wrong with looking for the right church home but I worry that we do harm to the plant that is trying to grow by regularly uprooting it. As you move into a new season, be ready for God to do some new stuff in your life. I believe God will allow you to tap into and release new spiritual gifts, unlock new passion and ultimately meet the needs of the new body you are connecting yourself to. 

      3. Strong and meaningful relationships take a long time to develop.

      I recently read a study that talked about meaningful relationships in our lives and specifically about how long it takes to develop them. The average amount of time it took for a person to move from being an acquaintance to a casual friend was about 50 hours of quality time. To move from a casual friend to an actual friend was nearly double that at 90 hours. And to move from a friend to someone you consider to be a close friend was roughly 200 hours of quality time. I think of this in terms of the church world and I totally agree with the time. There are 52 Sundays in a year. I think after the first year at a church you can become casual friends with everyone with a mild involvement of showing up most of the weekends in a year, even though I wouldn’t classify a Sunday morning worship gathering to be quality time, though God might multiply our closeness through the Spirit. After nearly two years people start to feel like friends and after close to 4 years you can call these people your close friends. If you really want to develop meaningful relationships then you just need more time. Be intentional to water your relationships with quality time wherever you find yourself planted.

      God has designed the church to be a living, moving and breathing organism of spirit-filled connectedness with a singular focus and goal, to glorify God by building one another up and pointing others to Jesus. We cannot do this apart from loving relationships. The organization is a necessary skeleton to provide structure for the body but it is loving relationships that provide the meat and muscle on the bones. 

      4. Know what’s open handed and close handed

      Ever watch one of those shows where the couple is about to buy a house and they have all these “must-have’s”? The realtor tells them that their list is totally unreasonable based on their budget. Isn’t this a little bit how we approach finding a church? We have our list of “must-have’s" When each one of us step into a church asking ourselves, "is this the place for me?" we come in with a list of close handed items which are important to us and a list of open handed items of which we value less. Having a clear picture of what’s open handed and close handed will actually make the decision making process much easier and I encourage you to do this with your spouse if you’re married. As you begin to think about your open handed list and your close handed list I encourage you to consider that some of the items on your lists may be in the wrong list. When we do this we come face to face with our long list of preferences. We should never allow our preferences to be honored above God’s word nor the places he chooses to plant us. I have honestly grown so much in churches that didn’t meet all my preferences. I didn’t worship or serve because of the music or the style of small groups I preferred. I did so out of love for God and His people. This is the purity of heart that God desires and will always allow us to be led by God to His perfect plan for our lives. 

      5. Pray about it

        Rocket science right?! How often do we reason within ourselves and don’t submit it in prayer. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Doesn’t have be confirmed 32 times over. Sometimes it's just a peace inside. Other times its looking at the fruit of the impact already in your life and knowing you’re in a place that is going to help you grow in your faith and in friendships too.  

      1. Takam// Integrated Farm

        Today is our next to last day here in Cambodia. I have been blessed to meet incredible leaders, see a mission field of people who are hungry for truth and hope and been stirred in my call to lead a movement of crazy people who think they may just be able to change the world. We were blessed to be able to tour an artisan wood carving factory as well as experience how silk is made from worms (it’s a pretty crazy process) but I don’t care to spend any time talking about those today. I only wish to tell you about PCL’s Integrated Farm that I was able to experience this afternoon.

        Integrated Farm

        The farm sits just behind a small rural village about 45 minutes outside of Siem Reap in a place called Takam. About 150 families live in this extremely impoverished village where the average wage is only about 30 per person/family (.60 to $1 per day). 90% of Cambodia is just like this village.
        The Integrated Farm is a research facility to see what can grow and technologies that can make it easier as well as a training center to teach people how to do this on their farms. They don't just tell them, they show them through relationships. Its only 4 years old and they’ve only been growing for 3 years so that means much of the first 3 years has been about trial and error, learning and building relationships in order to pass on their findings. Below are just a few of the amazing things they are doing in order to help 90% of Cambodians learn to grow better, faster, more frequent crops and have a healthier, more sustainable life. Let me just tell you how connected each of the elements are in the midst of telling you how they are helping people.The two fish ponds have a small deck that houses pigs over the top of one portion of the pond that creates food for the fish as well as contributing to the compost station that will be moved to the rice fields to produce better and bigger rice crops. In 4-5 months a fish (Catfish and Kmher tilapia) will grow to 1 kilo and be able to return 3 bucks in the market. Not only will the dung be used for compost but before it goes to compost it goes to a biodigester which will harvest the methane and be used to cook with in the kitchen. This is a huge improvement for this community that until 3 months ago had never, ever, had electricity in it. They have used solar panels and a super battery (composed of about 40 regular car batteries) to turn the lights on for the very first time ever in this village. That’s pretty incredible.

        Rice fields
        They have been able to produce better rice than anyone else in the village and the people of the village now believe what they have been hearing about. They are teaching irrigation and field techniques and can now get two to three crops a year as opposed to one. It's hard to make money on one crop a year but with two to three crops per year they have a chance to send their kids to school, etc..

        Water Filtration
        They give out thousands a year. $12 a piece takes care of one family for a year. Drastically improves infant immortality rates. Many children die before age 5 because of unfiltered water. $12 can change one families life!

        Mushroom Project
        They are helping many widows in the community help make a living and send their children to school. One woman named Um Lai is a great example of how they are helping. Her daughter was raped by a man a couple years ago and no one would help her. She has tried to kill herself many times. They saw her climbing into a tree trying to hang herself several times. They found her and they began to train her. She now works on this project, goes to church and has hope. They start with sawdust, mix with rice leftovers grinded and with lime. They break it down and bag it. They put it in the fire steamer. They take it out and let it sit for a month and the mushrooms start coming out. They sell really well here. Over a six month cycle 1 bag produces 1 kilo = $1-1.50 per bag. Each women has made 2-300 in the last six months. From what they make they save $11 for bags and supplies stuff for the next six months. Each women has been able to trade the mushrooms, eat better and sustain themselves better. They have easily doubled what they had coming in before.

        Of course when PCL came to Cambodia 10 years ago they had dreams of helping plant churches but that journey is extremely long. A few months ago they began meeting as a church in this community, 60-70 people regularly attend. They are pastored by a man named Pastor Ike. They have plans to build a church, kitchen, fence around property.  After the need was presented for the church several pastors on this trip stepped up and agreed to take care of all expenses to build the church.

        Finally, one incredible story is of a man named Sen, (Sine). Sen grew up here, went to an orphanage, but had a dream to come to this village and start a church and farm. He now lives in Siem Reap at the PCL children's home as a house parent and works full time serving in this community as a PCL staff member.

        Wow. That’s when you know it is working. Some investments take a long time for a return and they are more than worth it.

      2. Tonle Sap Lake and Common Grounds

        So far this journey has been filled with once in a lifetime opportunities, incredible stories of brokenness and hope, and one of a kind culture and physical beauty. The Tonle Sap Lake was a combination of all of the above. This is the only place in the world where you will see nearly 1.5 million people living on water. Not a lake house on the water but literally living on the water. It's a similar size to one of the Great Lakes. You can't see land when you're in the middle.

        The Mekong River is the only river that flows two ways. Ice melts on the Himalayas and causes the river to flow backwards and the lake here to rise 40-50 ft. This is the largest fresh water lake in Southeast Asia and also the home to the largest freshwater fish in the world! (The largest ever recorded was over 600 lbs.) There is a strong Vietnamese population from refugees from the Vietnam war that join the 100s of thousands of Cambodians that live on the Tonle Sap Lake. There is a strong racial tension between Cambodian and Vietnamese people. The exact population is not known but some estimates are as high as 1.5 million.

        PCL has given two boats to a Vietnamese missionary who is doing incredible things with the people here on the lake. They use one as a lake traveling medical clinic. It's a two story, 30 yard boat that helps these special people who, for many, will never touch land in their entire life get some kind of medical care as they do not have access to clean drinking water and disease is very prevalent.

        After our morning adventure on the lake we went to Common Grounds. Common Grounds is PCLs very own coffee shop here in Siem Reap. A two-story Starbucks looking joint with a full menu all day long including local and American favorites. The model is built around the motto, "giving the poor a working chance." They employ all local Cambodians teaching them work ethic, English, employment of course and other valuable tools that drastically improve their ability to make a decent living in this impoverished country. Even better, Common Grounds is not only making a profit but rolling that profit over into other projects around the country that are giving people a working chance as well, such as the English speaking school next door that has about 300 students at a time and the Build a City project in Andong, outside Phnom Penh.

        The model that PCL employs in nearly everything they do is built on sustainability and a working chance for the poor. It is quite beautiful to see individuals begin to have hope and dream for a better future. 

      3. History in the Making// A Day with the Cambodian Government

        Third World Disparity

        Day two on the ground in Cambodia was a stark contrast to day one on the ground here. Day one we were able to experience the Build a City project in Andong, a village of displaced people outside the capital Phnom Penh living inn extreme poverty with an end cycle of disease and hopelessness. Day Two we ate lunch in the sky rise hotel that was built in place where these people were displaced from with government officials. If you've never experienced the great disparity of wealth in third world countries then let me explain a little further because our entire second day was spent in ties and jackets with men who make nine figures in a country where most will only make less than $450-500 USD  per year (roughly $30-40 per month). 

        Meeting with His Excellency

        Our day began with an early meeting with the Governor, His Excellency PA SOCHEATEVONG, one of the most powerful men in the entire country. He praised the work of PCL and said that the model can be used for the hundreds of similar impvoerished villages across the nation. He was an extremely friendly and welcoming man. We ended this day hosted by he and his wife at his hotel dining hall which was followed by a 16th floor rooftop after party, which included traditional Campbodian dancing and a live band. To say this incredible honor was surreal would be an understatement.

        Meeting with the Prime Minister

        After our morning meeting with His Excellency, a few leaders from our group were selected to have a private meeting with the Prime Minister of Camobodia, their president for an American reference. This meeting was scheduled to go 10 minutes and went 40.. This was all on the eve of the Camobidan Liberation Day that marks the day they were emancipated by Vietnam from the Khmer Rouge. Apparently it is extremely rare for outside Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) to have meetings with the Prime Minister.

        Tour of Parliament

        After lunch we were given a tour of Parliament, similar to the British system, by the former Govern of Phnom Penh. This was very cool. The Cambodian people are extremely proud of this building because during the Khmer Rouge reign from 1975-1979 all of their educated and skilled workers were murdered. The building of this facility marked overcoming this atrocity through building this beautiful facility with all Cambodian engineers, designers and builders. We were able to sit the seats of these government officials, everyone except the kings giant golden chair that sits at the back elevated part of the stage.

        History in the Making

        While this day felt strange, surreal and almost wrong in light of the work we have come to connect to, it marks uncharted territory in American and Cambodian relationship. Both Hilary Clinton and President Obama have been here within the last year. He was the first president to ever come to Cambodia. This speaks to the global awareness and importance of the need to promote democracy and capitalism in this country as China and other players position themselves for influence in and over this country. It is quite amazing to be anywhere associated with this movement in Southeast Asia.

        Proverb 22 in its entirety has much to say about the relationship between the rich and the poor and it quite a good read on a day like today.

        Proverbs 22.29

        29 Do you see someone skilled in their work?
            They will serve before kings;
            they will not serve before officials of low rank.

      4. On the Ground of Cambodia

        Day One of traveling in Camboida was extraordinary. The first few days of our trip is centered here in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Phen. Like most third world countries, there is an extreme contrast between the rich and the poor and a severely absent middle class. Before we left the hotel we were able to meet Pau and Kasol.
        Two young adults who came in through the People for Care and Learning (PCL) orphanage and are now in year five of medical school. PCL has two orphanges here in Cambodia. When children come into the orphanage they are sponsored through university.

        The Wedding

        We left our hotel and our day started by getting to particpate in a Camobidan Christian wedding. This is a pretty rare sight in this 97% Buddhist country. Weddings are held in the street directly outside of the brides home. We hopped off the bus to the pungent smell of fish paste (soured fish), a delicacie in this culture, and the beautifully dressed wedding party. We were greeted with diet cokes, wedding wifi password and a coconut and egg sweet appetizer/dessert.We were only able to participate in the Western portion of the ceremony which felt pretty similar to our American weddings. This wedding was the first time that most Cambodians present had heard the Christian version of the creation story. They will have the Cambodian traditions later in the day.

        Interrogation Camps

        Next, we were privileged to experience the Khmer Rouge Interrogation Camps, what we might call concentration camps, that date back to 1975. An old high school that Pol Pot, a new leader in 75', took over with great excitement from the people. Three hours into his reign he began to murder all educated people; doctors, lawyers, teachers, those who wore glasses, those who could speak more than one language. They brutally interrogated people until they confessed they were educated so they could excuse their murder. Over 4 years, 4 million people were brutally murdered. Babies were thrown into trees. People dipped in their own feces. Executions and camps like this one were all over the country. Pol Pot desired to turn society back into an agrarian society. His army was made up of 13-21 year olds that were forced to kill family anf friends. The psycological damage to those people and their families still lives on today. Many of these people still live in the city. Pictured inside each room were huge boards of pictures of those that had died in these camps. There were only five survivors of the camps and only one still living. I posted a picture on instagram of her. She is now a pastor and works with PCL here.

        Andong, Build a City project

        After lunch, we travled out to the site of the Build a City project. In 2006, more than 1000 families were displaced from the capital of Phnom Phen to the middle of nowhere outside the capital, a place called Andong. The government succombed to international investors that wanted to build huge modern high rises on the river. These families lived in sewage, literally. I can't accurately describe what I saw here because words won't do it justice. PCL is right in the middle of the project. They have looked to serve the people by presenting a sustainable future for this community of displaced people. The Cambodian government has been so moved by PCL and the love shown to these people and the model to economic and community development that they have declared that they hope to copy this model all over the hudreds of similar communities in Cambodia. A person only makes $30-40 a month here. An entire family might hope to bring in a meager $100 a month. Keep in mind, grandparents, kids and grandkids all live in a 12 x 15 sqw ft home made of stick, tins and stones gathered and little concrete. Build a city is giving people a deeded home with electricity that would not be much to our standards in the states but is an extreme improvement from their current conditions. PCL has built roads, hospital clinic, town market and has plans for so much more such as playground, community center and many more homes. The work here is messy. It is difficult for families to beleive in the future, people and hope for a better life. The assistant director of PCL, Jake Stum, told me last night that the children from their orphanage have dreams for the future and this is the great difference between them and most all other children in this part of the world.

        I could write for hours on each day. I will continue to post and blog throughout this incredible journey but time is extremely limited and I have to rest with what little time I have. Thanks for staying connected to this project, for your prayers and financial support.

      5. Cambodia Travel Day

        Hey friends,

        Today I embark on a journey to Cambodia to serve and learn more about the people, culture, needs, and work of the Build a City project. I've had the privilege to see many places around the world but this will be my first time to Asia. My heart is full, expectant and ready to overflow with the love that God has for me in service, reflection and calling.

        I miss my wife me children already. Please remember them in your prayers and if you are able to encourage or connect with them this week it would be greatly appreciated. This trip is on behalf of Fathom Church and the international missions that we endeavor to do across the world in 2014 and beyond. I'm extremely humbled and grateful to the many people who have made this trip possible through financial support and prayer. Thank you.

        I will do my very best to update this blog regularly throughout the week with pictures, stories and reflections of what God is doing in me and this country.



      6. The Mission of the Church

        Recently I was asked to email a short response to this question by a friend working on some school work. What is the mission of the Church? I responded with this short, uncomprehensive, emotional response to what God is speaking to me currently for our church. Thought I would share it.

        "The mission of the Church is more deep than it is broad. I believe the American Church has gotten these two backwards. It has attempted to offer a surface level understanding and message of Jesus in many superficial programs and ministries rather than embracing the words of Jesus to live out the love of God as a faithful Christian community. At Fathom Church, we have simply enabled the Great Commission (Matthew 28.19-20) as our "mission statement". Go! Go out. Go upstream in your field of calling; your field of harvest. Go obey. Go point people to Jesus. Go radically obey in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Let God supernaturally redeem your family, your office, your community by acting as a very practical vessel of His all sufficient mercy and grace.

        Shut down the programs. Shut down the busyness. Shut down the idea that we have something to give the world. And resurrect Jesus. Resurrect His simple message. Resurrect the truth that He is all we will ever need.

        In this the Church finds truth, mission, purpose, passion, compassion, true grace and real rest."