What is the “Lizard Brain” you ask?
If you chose to skip the above video explanation, the lizard brain is that part of your brain (the amygdala) responsible for your “fight-or-flight” reflex. It’s the part of your brain that often sabotages you in overcoming the increasing pressure as you near the completion of a project or goal. Seth Godin has a very short explanation of the dynamics of the “lizard brain” and “the resistance” on his blog (if you want a more detailed lecture from Seth check out this presentation).
So what does this have to do with church planting? Church planting involves a highly creative process that requires the pastor or team to continually “ship”, that is, follow through on their vision for the worshiping community they serve. As you near an event, or a meeting, or a service launch date the pressure builds and the resistance/lizard brain spikes in volume. What was once but a whisper is now a loud shout: “Are you sure this will work?” “Maybe we need to delay the launch”? “Is my team ready”? “Maybe I should wait until I have a larger core team”? “Should I just cancel this event?” “Am I the person for this job?” The lizard brain demands attention near the end and calls into question those things which we so certain of just days prior. The Lizard Brain seeks to sabotage the potential of “what could be” with the comfort of “what has always been.”
This was my experience last week with a service I had labored over in one of the local parks. Two days prior to the event, I found out all the people from the church plant that I anticipated going, legitimately couldn’t make it. My lizard brain started to howl: “Should I just cancel it.” “Will anyone actually read the flyers I put out and come?” “Will people even be in the park?” “How embarrassing” … But then God’s Spirit reminded me that I’m not called to “false self-preservation” as much as I am called to faithful obedience to the Gospel.
So I overcame the mounting resistance and went to the park last Sunday afternoon. I spent a lot of time setting up and no one showed … finally my wife and daughter came … then my parents and their dogs … then two more couples with their kiddos. We met folks in the park and had a fun time together. Did revival break out? Did people come to know Jesus as Lord? Was my ego preserved? No… but I shipped! I followed through on what I told people I would do: I showed up at the park, grilled food and got to know folks better.
The above video offers some helpful tips to overcome the effects of the “lizard brain”, but I prescribe these words to you as well from St. Paul,
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
Too often IF discipleship comes up in a church setting it means a new program or a curriculum. It is a topic that every church knows is important, but doesn’t seem to really take place in most churches. Churches will say they value discipleship (and other sexy words like “mission” and “community” of course), but often this value isn’t embraced by the church culture. Discipleship is more often than not delegated to a program, a curriculum, or some class that people need to attend. Discipleship becomes a task instead of a relationship. A program to attend instead of an ongoing journey to discover.
Fortunately for me, this hasn’t been my experience with discipleship in the past and it’s not my vision for plant medina’s future. I view discipleship in the church as an invitation to a journey into Christ likeness with others. Discipleship is like being invited on a hiking trip by an experienced hiker and having this new friend show you how to use all your gear. Then actually going out and hitting the trails with you, showing you how to navigate tough spots and not just how to hike, but how to hike well.
Have you noticed the organic food craze that has been sweeping the United States for the past decade or two? As a kid growing up I never remembered seeing an “Organic” or “All Natural” label placed on the food my mom would put in the shopping cart. But people today are demanding that their food be grown without pesticides or artificial fertilizers and in an ethical and sustainable way. People are looking at the size of their chicken breasts and questioning if a chicken really should be the size of a turkey! You can blame the farmers all you want for this, but their livelihood depends on their crops. Furthermore, many of them have no other option due to industry pressure, other than to grow conventionally. Today the revolution in farming is to return to the ancient practices that have brought forth a safe harvest for millennia.
So what does this have to do with the church and church planting? People are tired of getting their spirituality super-sized and a drive-through window. Like the pressures of the agricultural industry there have been pressures on churches in all denominations to ascribe to business models of management, un-scriptural leadership techniques, manufactured sermons, financial pyramid schemes, marketing that is tacky and shallow, and a view of church growth that states “bigger is always better.” Like those people who question the way crops are grown and the size of chickens, there are some of us who are asking the question, “Has church always been like this?” Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not rallying against any specific church or denomination any more than I am rallying against any specific farmer. However, I am saying that ancient Christian practices are never more needed than they are today.
Perhaps the way forward for the church is to re-appropriate for today those ancient practices: daily prayer, weekly Eucharist, abiding in the church calendar, healing ministry, and radical hospitality. What if instead of one large farm in town, there were multiple smaller farms that worked together to grow crops that are sustainable for the community? What would it look like to plant churches that have a neighborhood feel, a deep spirituality, an outward focus to the broader community, and an unshakable love of God and neighbor?
I want to see what it would look like to grow such an organic church community in Medina. Where would we start? What does such a community look like? How do we grow a movement?
The picture to the left is an early American illustration of Francis Asbury, one of the original two bishops ordained by John Wesley to serve the Methodist Episcopal Church in America. Asbury is often pictured on horseback because of the itinerant nature of his ministry; traveling from cities to towns to villages and even to remote outposts to preach the Gospel and encourage the preachers under his leadership.
In a lot of ways (except the whole bishop thing), I am in a season of itinerant ministry to the people of Medina, Hudson, and North Eastern Ohio. I am currently living in Wilmore, Kentucky and am graduating next weekend with my Master’s Degree in Divinity from Asbury Theological Seminary (yes, the same Francis Asbury is the namesake of the Seminary). Since March, however, Bridgette and I have been responding in faith to a call from the Holy Spirit to come and plant missional Anglican Churches in Medina, Ohio. Since March we have been making trips every other week to Medina and NE Ohio to meet with families, local clergy, local government officials, business leaders, attending rallies and community events, and constantly praying for revival in Medina, Ohio. I am also going to be serving two days a week during my ordination process at Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Hudson, Ohio, so I also have been worshiping and getting to know families there on Sunday mornings. My last trip (about a week or so ago) I visited and worshiped with the folks at St. Luke’s Anglican Churchin West Akron, Ohio. I hope for future partnership and mutual encouragement with all of these Anglican communities as our church plant is grown by the Holy Spirit!
We arrived into town last night at 1:30 AM for our latest “itinerant visit”! We will be in town for about 5-6 days taking care of some logistical matters on our new house (photos and story in a future post) as well as meeting with more families in Medina!