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My Thanks November 24, 2011

Posted by clintcarter in Church Planting.
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When I woke up this morning the first thing on my mind was gratitude.

The Carter family has been living on outside financial support now for 2 and a half years.  God graciously blessed us with family and friends who care about us and are committed to church planting.

We’ve seen God at work in some pretty incredible ways lately and in large part that is due to the fact that I can focus all my energies on building relationships, teaching and making disciples.

If you are a Carter/Crosstown supporter, thank you for your generosity.  May God richly bless you.

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Herding Cats July 26, 2011

Posted by clintcarter in Church Planting, Family, Humor.
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I love this commercial.  It sums up my life both as a dad and a church planter (Crosstown peeps, no need to take offense – cats can also be a lot of fun).

It seems like there are all of these important things that need to get done, but they all seem to running off in different directions.  Time spent chasing down one is time spent ignoring another.

But I wouldn’t want it any other way.  “It ain’t an easy job.  But when you bring a herd into town and you ain’t lost a one of ’em.  There ain’t a feeling like it in the world.”

While I was away June 22, 2011

Posted by clintcarter in Church Planting.
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This month has been the least blogged month of my entire blogging career.  I probably should have just taken a sabbatical from blogging for the month of June.

I’m currently in Chicago.  I’ve been up here all week with a group of friends serving and learning from a church planting ministry that is starting churches among refugee groups.  There has been so much to soak in and so much I haven’t experienced before.

One of the highlights was getting to preach in one of the refugee worship services on Sunday.  It was my first time to preach through a translator – way different from normal teaching and I felt very inadequate, but God was gracious and it went well.

Looking forward to what the last couple of days of this trip holds.

What am I doing? April 26, 2011

Posted by clintcarter in Church, Church Planting, God.
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As a pastor there is an incessant urge inside of me to work on growing our church.  It’s understandable on many levels.  First of all, a growing church can represent job security.  Second, a growing church can financially support its pastors so that we don’t have to worry about where our next house payment is coming from.  Third, I’ve told a lot of people that we’re planting a church and there is some level of expectation from these people (many of whom are supporting our family financially) that a self-supporting church will be established.  Fourth, it is a definite ego boost to see a full house on Sundays.  Fifth, a growing church has the appearance of a successful church (depending on your definition of success).  I could go on, but you get the idea.

But there is a great danger here.  If I’m not careful, I begin to think that growing a church is my responsibility.  But I haven’t come across anywhere in the New Testament where God instructs pastors to grow churches numerically (if you find a place let me know).  I do find instructions for pastors to guard sound doctrine and make sure their lives reflect it.  I find exhortations for pastors to watch over the souls under their care as men who will have to give an account.

I don’t know your impression of it, but for me giving an account for the state of someone else’s spiritual progress is a scary thing!  A scary, sobering responsibility.  If anything, I’d rather limit the number of people I’m responsible for so that I can do the job well.  Would you rather be responsible for 2000 souls or 20 souls?  Even 20 sounds like a lot.

That’s why Crosstown takes church membership seriously.  There are lots of reasons, but at the very least, we want to know which souls we are going to have to give an account for.

Jesus told the Apostle Peter “I will build my church…”  So apparently it’s His responsibility.  My charge is to teach, care for and lead them well, while making sure my own life reflects sound doctrine.

(For those concerned about the effect of this approach for evangelism – if my life, and the lives of those in my church reflect sound doctrine, than we will be proclaiming the message of reconciliation to those far from God.  As God chooses to bring them to life, they may choose to identify themselves with our church and we grow numerically.)

Being a shepherd March 2, 2011

Posted by clintcarter in Church Planting, Leadership.
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Shepherds are willing to bear the pain and endure the brunt of the sheep, for the sheep.  True elders do not command the consciences of their brethren but appeal to their brethren to faithfully follow God’s Word.  Out of love, true elders suffer and bear the brunt of difficult people and problems so that the lambs are not bruised.  The elders bear the misunderstandings and sins of other people so that the assembly may live in peace.  They lose sleep so that others may rest.  They make great personal sacrifices of time and energy for the welfare of others.  They see themselves as men under authority.  They depend on God for wisdom and help, not on their own power and cleverness.  They face the false teachers’ fierce attacks.  They guard the community’s liberty and freedom in Christ so that the saints are encouraged to develop their gifts, to mature, and to serve one another. Alexander Strauch

I’ve been in ministry since 1998.  But for the first time in my life, I’ve begun to feel the weight of the responsibility.  In my 20’s, more often than not, I was task oriented rather than people oriented.  Not that I didn’t care about the people I served with, but shepherding wasn’t at the forefront.  I’m grateful to God for those people who were patient with me and put up with my hair-brained schemes 🙂

During those days, God blessed me with older, wiser men in leadership who often times shouldered the brunt of my stupidity or turned me away from poor decisions.  At the time, I didn’t realize the support and shelter I had.

That safety net is no longer there.  When I make decisions now, there isn’t a buffer.  The things I decide directly affect the health of the church.  It is a humbling realization.  I’m beginning to see why the role of pastor should only be accepted with “fear and trembling”.  The following verse sobers me.

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Hebrews 13:17

God be gracious.

Downtown February 15, 2011

Posted by clintcarter in Church Planting, Life, Oklahoma City.
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I always smile when this song comes on.  I think downtown is the best place to live in Oklahoma City, hands down.

What?  You say you need more convincing?  I offer you this.

If you’re still not convinced, you might want to consider Tim Keller’s thoughts at these links “Should I Not Love That Great City” and “It Takes a City to Raise a Child”.

Doing something else February 7, 2011

Posted by clintcarter in Church Planting, God.
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This is a good place to be.  I’ve been here before, but I’ve definitely been other places.

There are moments in life when you know that you are right where you are supposed to be.  Moments when there is nothing else you’d rather be doing.  I’ve been in the middle of one of those moments for the past 27 months.

I’m not saying that my life is without challenges and struggles that are bothersome, those are present for everyone in this sin sick world.  But I am saying that in the midst of those, this is exactly what I was made to do.

To be Carey’s husband; Madi, Emma, Payton and Alli’s dad; to be a church planter/pastor here in urban Oklahoma City; this is it.

Hopefully I’ve learned that feelings aren’t enough to dictate whether I am where I’m supposed to be.  In the past, I’ve been in the right place with the wrong attitude and it was torture.  I know that disappointments and failures will test my confidence.  I’m sure I will forget this security from time to time and question my place.

This is the reason I place my hope in Christ.  Ultimately it matters not where I live and serve.  What matters is Who I’m serving?

I’m reminded of the quote by Eric Liddel “I believe God made me for a purpose. . .but He also made me fast.  And when I run, I feel His pleasure.”  I feel like I’m running like I never have before and I feel His pleasure.

Man Crisis September 1, 2010

Posted by clintcarter in Church, Church Planting.
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There is a man crisis in our churches today.  Are you apart of the epidemic?

First Community Gathering April 6, 2010

Posted by clintcarter in Church, Church Planting.
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We held our first public church service this last Sunday!  We had a great time celebrating the person and work of Jesus together.  We met at the Midtown YMCA – the director, Sara, was incredibly helpful and encouraging.

The core group came over to our house at 8am to eat breakfast together.  At 9:00 it was off to the Y to set up chairs, sound, and the children’s areas.  Set up went smoothly and we were done in plenty of time for our 10:30 start.

The service itself was great.  Katie joined me on the violin which added a wonderful layer to corporate worship.  Ben preached out of Acts 17 (you can listen to it at our church website).  We had 50 kids and adults in attendance.

Several people stayed to help tear down and we were done by 12:30.  There are a few things we need to tweak for next month – but all in all it was a great morning.

Is it a big deal? March 23, 2010

Posted by clintcarter in Church, Church Planting.
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Our church (Crosstown) will be having its first public Community Gathering on Easter Sunday.  We’ll be meeting at the Midtown YMCA at 10:30 a.m.  In some ways this is a big deal, but in other ways I wonder whether it is.

It is a big deal because gathering as a group of believers to be reminded of the Gospel through the preaching of the Word, music and sacrament is life-giving.  But then we’ve been doing that on a smaller scale for a couple of months now.

It is a big deal because we want others to be exposed to our church and to the message “Be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20).  But then we’ve already been doing that through personal relationships and our Bible Study.

There the danger of losing sight of the mission or replacing it with a new mission – like putting on quality services every Sunday morning.  A church service can be a vital tool in accomplishing the mission of making disciples, but it is not the mission in and of itself.

There is the danger of mistaking church for what happens on Sunday morning instead of us being the church in the normal, everyday rhythms of life.  People might begin to see Sundays as checking off their spiritual quota rather than investing themselves in a Missional Family to go on mission as God’s children.

There is the danger of parents not discipling their children and assuming that their kids time on Sundays at church is sufficient for their spiritual development.

I was encouraged by this quote from Tim Chester:

People often ask me about our meetings. ‘When do you meet? Where? What do you do when you meet together?’ But if you ask those questions then you have completely missed the point! We’re not advocating a new way of doing meetings. Actually our meetings are not good! The music is poor and the teaching is nothing you’d go out of your way to hear. What matters to us is our shared life: sharing our lives, doing ordinary life with gospel intentionality.

The church will never out perform TV shows and music videos. But there is nothing like the community life of the church. There is nowhere else where diverse people come together. There is nowhere else where broken people find a home. There is nowhere else where grace is experienced. There is nowhere else where God is present by his Spirit.

God, be gracious to us.  As we honor You each week on Sunday mornings, please remind Crosstown that the Gathering is only the tip of the iceberg.  We are not looking to fill our lives with religious activities, but authentic relationships with You and those You put in our lives.  Steer us clear of religious obligation.  May we delight in You and believe Your Good News to the point that it changes us.