Monday, November 05, 2007


From the CTK mail bag; a pastor writes to me about the CTK story:

"I truly believe that every major move of God in the CTK story has been birthed out of sacrifice. If you break down the components of our gatherings individually- free coffee, small groups, catchy slogans, casual atmosphere, worship you can understand- there is nothing particularly unique to our story. What is paramount, however, is our willingness to sacrifice. We sacrifice our "reputation" as church people by hanging out with the unchurched. We sacrifice our safety and predictability by taking a chance on broken pastors. We sacrifice our resources through continually being committed to the idea of paying it forward. The sacrifices that have made our story set us on the edge of faith where we position ourselves to fully trust God- or fail. The story of CTK, is not about the noble sacrifices we have made- it is that God has never once let us down."

So true. In fact, it is SO true that I question whether anyone can be satisfied in our story unless they are willing to make sacrifices. There is not enough in this story to satisfy a consumer, only a prosumer. But it is profoundly satisfying to the person who wants to lay their life down for the mission. In short, CTK has never been a good church to go to. But it's been a great church to go from.

One of the early defining moments in the CTK story took place in Laurel, Washington (at the "original" CTK). It was a moment of sacrifice. It took place in the early 90s. At that time CTK was meeting in a small building with an unpaved parking lot. In Northwest Washington we get our share of rain. So the parking lot was full of ruts and potholes. Unless you had a four-wheel-drive vehicle, it was difficult to get in and out of the lot. The condition of the parking lot was adversely impacting the church's ability to reach out effectively to unchurched people. So the folks of CTK did something very courageous that reverberates to this day. They raised over $50,000 to pave the parking lot. People gave (and here's the key word) sacrificially. In some cases, people sold items of value and gave the proceeds to the church. In some case, people took out second mortgages on their homes. In any case, that act of faith set in motion a virtuous "pay it forward" mentality that we are still working with today.

What we are doing is pretty simple, but in no way easy. It is a relatively simple thing to say, "Let's pay it forward." It is a little more difficult to actually take a healthy percentage of our resources and utilized them to build an ever expanding network of leaders. It is easy to say "we are going to keep the main thing the main thing." It is quite difficult to say no to good ideas that come along that are not "the main thing." Sacrifice means that something is given up for the greater good.

The lens of sacrifice should color everything we do and everything we've been given with which to do it. You can't look at a building and think "How can we protect this place?" You've got to look at a building and think "How can we totally use this up for God?" You can't look at a leader and think, "Man, I'm glad I have this leader. I'll hold onto them." You have to look at a leader and think "How could I send this leader out to make an even greater impact?" When we move from a clenched fist to an open hand, God is pleased, and tends to put more in our hands than we could have ever imagined. As the old saying goes, "God will get it to us, if He can get it through us."


Some things can be sacrificed. Some things cannot. There are things that we hold loosely, and others that we hold tightly. This loose/tight balance is characteristic of great organizations according to Jim Collins in Good to Great. The aspects of our story that we hold tight are all intangible. It is our mission, vision and values. These ideas cannot be sacrificed. But the methods we employ to carry out our mission can be held loosely. For instance, I would never fight for our motto (Always a Place for You). I would however fight for our value of reaching out to lost people, however that gets expressed.

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