Wednesday, April 13, 2016


Our Final All-Campus Event

The school year is coming to a close in the next few weeks, and we've all been working hard to finish well. We had our second Pizza Theology of the school year this past Sunday, this time wrestling with issues of gender, marriage, and sexuality. We had well over 400 students show up to spend four hours diving deep into this topic! The recording should be up on our site in the coming days for those of you who may be interested. As always with Pizza Theology, our goal is not to tell the students what to think but to get them thinking and give them building blocks for thinking like a Christian on an important topic. Our three alumni speakers did an awesome job at that.

Getting ready to start teaching. It takes a lot to get that many people quiet when they're with their friends! 
Brad Davis teaching on sexuality. I wish you could have seen his tribal dance when he talked about sexuality across cultures.
Laying a Firm Foundation

I had the opportunity to preach to our UT Arlington community last week, and it got me thinking about how we lay a foundation for healthy Christian community. Paul wrote "By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care" (1 Cor 3:10). The reality in planting a ministry is that it's hard to re-lay a foundation once it's been laid; it's hard to change a community's values once they've adopted them. I gave this challenge to our UTA community and wanted to share it with you because it gives some insight into what FOCUS is really about. But more than that, I think these values are needed in all of our churches today.

Here is a summary of my message to the UTA students:
You are laying the foundation of a community here that, Lord willing, will last for many years to come. Just like the people who built the original buildings here at UTA will probably never meet you, you may never meet many or most of the people who you are building this community for. But what you do now affects them! Paul knew that. He “laid a foundation as an expert builder” and said, “no one can lay a foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ”

We need to lay those values carefully, starting with the core of the gospel. When I think about our core values, about the things God has taught us that are important to everything we do, 3 things rise to the top.

Value #1 - Jesus is Lord (This is the good news!)
This is where we unify. It's the thing we have to agree on. It's at the heart of the gospel. We joke that it's our entire doctrinal statement. Paul said, “No one can say Jesus is Lord except by the Spirit” (1 Cor 12:3) Even as we come from diverse backgrounds and have so many different practices and convictions, we come together as one because we we all agree on this one central thing. 

But it's not enough to give lip service to this--it has to be about the real Jesus, the real good news. Paul was frustrated with the Corinthian church when he wrote these words: "For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the Spirit you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough" (2 Cor 11:4). And in Galatians: "I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!" (1:6-8)

As a community, we have to be committed to the good news as revealed in Jesus, passed on to us by the apostles in the New Testament writings. We have to take seriously God's name--I AM WHO I AM. He reveals who He is through the scripture and we have to start there to get to know Him.

Value #2 - Real friendships (This is where we are good news to others.)

In the New Testament, church is all about the "one another" passages!
  • Love one another
  • Wash one another’s feet
  • Be devoted to one another in brotherly love
  • Honor one another above yourselves
  • Live in harmony with one another
  • Stop passing judgment on one another
  • Accept one another as Christ accepted you
  • Forgive one another
  • Bear with one another
  • Spur one another on toward love and good deeds
  • Confess your sins to one another
  • Use your gifts to serve one another
  • Teach one another
  • Pray for one another
There are 50-60 of these! And most modern churches actively obey only a handful of them.

This stuff happens in the context of real friendships. It’s much messier than putting on a show once a week. But it’s also more real and more godly and more faithful to our calling from God.

Value #3 - Raising up leaders (This is where we leave good news for a new generation.)

The church is too good at raising up generations of followers. But we haven’t done a good job imitating Jesus, whose ministry was ALL ABOUT raising up and empowering leaders!

Paul captures it in 2 Timothy 2:2 “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.”

This is more than a sound bite! It’s Paul explaining what Jesus’ ministry was all about. It’s the apprentice imitating his master.

You guys have a cool opportunity to build something awesome at UTA. I remember those challenging early days as a student at UTD, trying to lay a foundation and protect it against the various dangers that came up. It cost a lot, but in hindsight, it was so worth it! And it’s still building and bearing fruit. Skyscrapers need deep foundations, so don’t get in a hurry. Lay carefully. So many people are rooting and praying for you.

I hope you can be encouraged by that message to a new community on a new campus. I am deeply thankful that you are purposefully and carefully, through prayer and generosity and friendship, helping us to lay a deep and lasting foundation of Jesus on these campuses. To God be the glory!

Developing Our Pastoral Team

We are back in August and ramping up for the school year! We have an amazing pastoral staff, and an outstanding group of student leaders. At...