Tag: Antioch Norman

God Wants You to be A Part – A World Mandate Testimony

World Mandate is more than a conference. It is a catalyst into the dreams of God. Year after year, peoples’ hearts are captured as they learn more about what God is doing in the world around us, and they are invited to be a part.

A few years ago, two missionaries from Antioch Norman had their lives changed by encounters they experienced at World Mandate. We had a chance to connect with them and hear their story. Check it out:

Tell us a little about yourselves:

Ashley: Adam is from Fort Worth, Texas and I grew up in Mexico City since my parents were workers with the IMB (International Mission Board). We both grew up in Christian homes and our parents loved Jesus a lot, so we both came to know Jesus relatively early in our lives—Adam in his youth group when he was 13 and me at home around Christmastime when I was eight-years old.

How did you get connected to Antioch?

Ashley: We both went to school at the University of Oklahoma in 2009 and that same year, Antioch planted a church in Norman. I had an older friend invite me to attend Antioch Norman my first Sunday in town and I loved it.

Adam: I hopped around a few churches during my first semester, but one Sunday I attended Antioch and the pastor talked about Lifegroups, the lifeblood of the church. He shared about how Lifegroups are based on Acts 2:42-47 and that surprised me. Years before, I felt like God said Acts 2:42-47 were verses that would mark my life. So, I decided that Sunday that I would get plugged in with Antioch.

So, your family is currently living in Southeast Asia. When did you decide to move there, and how did World Mandate play a part in your journey?

Ashley: We had separate encounters with God at World Mandate in 2011. While asking God about the nations, I saw a picture of Southeast Asia in my mind, but I didn’t really know what it meant.

Adam: For me, I had a vision of jungle mountains, villages and people. It was so detailed that I could see the specific structure of the houses and the type of clothing the villagers were wearing. I saw various encounters in this vision occur: villagers worshipping God on a mountaintop, people eating around a low-sitting table and a skin disease being healed. It ended with a strange two-syllable word; I had never heard these syllables before, nor seen anything like this place. I continued to worship until the service ended, and when I returned to my hotel I searched for the things I had seen and heard. As I searched, I learned about an ethnic group living in the mountains of Southeast Asia. They were unreached and unengaged, according to Joshua Project. When I searched images of this people, amazingly, the images matched those of what I saw during worship, right down to the style of houses and the type of clothing.

Ashley: When we got married, we decided together that we would look into moving to Asia. At the time, no one was in the area we wanted to go to, but Antioch Norman was looking to send people to a different country in Southeast Asia, so we jumped on board. We’re still not in the nation we hope to ultimately be in, but we’re believing that our time here will be fruitful, we will learn helpful strategies and meet people who will partner with us in the future.

That’s amazing! Living in the nations isn’t easy, but what makes it worth it?

Ashley: One of the things we both love seeing is people grasp small truths of God. We have many friends who are unbelievers and have no real grasp of Biblical truth or understanding of the Good News of Jesus. In these instances, we try to identify ourselves as followers of Jesus by inserting truths about God, stories from the Bible or testimonies of His goodness in regular conversation.

Adam: One example was with our neighbor, Amorn. During a conversation we were having, he asked the meaning of my name, Adam. I proceeded to talk about how it means, “of the Earth” and how God created Adam from the dirt of the earth and His breath. In our country, it’s very common and important to have a nickname, usually one syllable, partly due to the fact that full names can be very long. A few weeks after my conversation with Amorn, he approached me and asked if I had a nickname yet. I said that I did not have one, at which point he said, “Good, I have the perfect one for you. Your nickname can be ‘dirt.’” I asked him why he chose such a strange name, and he responded like this: “Well, you said that God made Adam out of the earth, and since your name is Adam, your nickname should be dirt, because God made you from the dirt.” It was amazing how inserting a simple spiritual story in our conversation caused our neighbor to grasp something about God that stuck with him weeks later, and opened up the opportunity for further conversation.

What would you tell people considering going to the nations?

Ashley: Orient yourself to be a servant and a learner. If you come in with all the answers and a desire to lead others, you’ll miss out on the opportunity to identify with important aspects of Jesus’ character—He was God in the flesh; He had all the answers, and still He came not to be served, but to serve. If you only want to teach, but not learn, you may overlook or neglect what Jesus desires to do in you. Lastly, examine your motives — come onto the field because you have received a Great Commission assignment from God. Do it because it’s what He’s telling you to do. Don’t do it because you feel like as a believer, or even as a member of Antioch, it’s what you’re “supposed to do.” It’s definitely not easy to be overseas, working cross-culturally, away from family and things that feel comfortable. But if God has called you to go, He’ll give you the grace to walk out each day, come whatever crazy situations.

We believe God has something for you at World Mandate. He wants to dream His dreams through you. Will you take a weekend to learn more about what God is already doing and allow Him to speak about how He wants you to be a part?

Tickets for World Mandate are selling out fast, visit worldmandate.com and get yours today. 

Outdo One Another

Competition in the Church is not a pretty thing. We have all seen the danger of comparison and competition that causes division within the Body of Christ. However, there is one passage of scripture that gives us permission to try and outdo someone else.

Romans 12:10 admonishes us to: “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.”  Paul lays down the challenge to make it your ambition to excel over others in showing honor.  That should give some fuel to those of you who like to win.

So what is honor? There are many ways that honor can be defined.  It literally means to place a high value upon; to elevate a person’s status.  Bill Johnson defines honor as;

“celebrating who someone is without stumbling over who they are not.”

Honor is not just in the words we say about others, but it is actually shown in how we treat others and what we believe about others. The Scripture we read earlier says to, “show honor.” It must be tangible and visible, not only in our words but our actions.

No one demonstrated a lifestyle of honor better than Jesus. There was not a person He encountered that did not leave His presence feeling more valuable and significant.  He did not, and does not, see us through the lens of our past, but He sees us through our Heavenly Father’s eyes and from a Heavenly perspective.

The story of Gideon in Judges 6 is one of my favorite passages as it relates to honor. Gideon is minding his own business when the Lord seems to show up out of nowhere and begins to talk with him.  The Lord first reassures him that He is with him but then He addresses Gideon in a way that he doesn’t expect or believe.  God Himself calls Gideon a valiant warrior.  Gideon immediately does what many of us do.  He discounts the words based upon his own image of himself.  He begins to rattle off a litany of reasons that he couldn’t be who God says he is.  Gideon declares over himself that he is an insignificant guy from an insignificant family.

But God sees something much bigger when He sees Gideon. He sees who He created Gideon to be before he was ever born.  He sees the hope, the future and the dreams He longs to fulfill through Gideon’s life. He sees the identity and the victory that Gideon will be able to walk in if he will only have faith and believe. God is looking toward the future and destiny that He has for each one of us and constantly calls us up to His perspective.  When Gideon finally believes the identity and destiny spoken over his life, he actually becomes who God said he was. The question is; will we believe God and take Him at His word?

God always calls us up before He sends us out.

I remember watching an episode of a show on the Discovery Channel called, Gold Rush Alaska. There was a family that sold everything they had to move to Alaska because of a belief that this particular mountain housed $15 million of gold inside of it.  By the last episode, the family had not found any gold and they were out of resources and on the verge of packing up and heading home.  After weeks and weeks of mining through lots of rock and dirt they discovered a small fleck of gold; small enough they could hold it in their hands. By their reaction you would have thought they won the Power Ball lottery.  They begin dancing and rejoicing over a little piece of gold.  Why would they get so excited about something so small and seemingly worthless compared to their investment?  The reason for their celebration was the assurance that despite all the rock, dirt and debris, they knew there was gold inside. It is easy to find the dirt in someone’s life, but the real test of honor is loving people enough to find and celebrate the gold they have inside of them.

This is a principle for how honor works. When we can find a little bit of gold in another, call it out and celebrate it, the worth and value of that individual increases.

In a world where people are constantly being told who they are not, we need the Church to rise up and tell people who God says they are.

 

IN RESPONSE

So how are you doing at finding the gold in others? Your spouse, children, siblings, co-workers?  Aesop’s Fable has a well-known quote:  “Familiarity breeds contempt.”  Contempt means to devalue.  It is the opposite of honor.  The more familiar we get with someone, the greater tendency we can have to dishonor them without realizing it.

There are many people who feel like Gideon. Maybe it’s you or maybe it’s someone in your life.  You may feel weak, insignificant and overlooked, but God.  God has given His Church a prophetic voice to tell others how He sees them and who they are to become.

Take time today to ask God how He sees you and write it down. Then ask Him to show you people in your life that need to have the gold called out in them through YOU!  Everyone is invaluable to God.  He just needs people who are willing to let others know it.

 

By Chris Bennett, Antioch Norman Lead Pastor

Simple Worship

SIMPLE WORSHIP: Entering into His presence and remaining there.

It almost feels ironic to type a definition of something that seems too “simple” to even say. The past five years God has been defining what simple worship looks like in my daily life. For in the depths of our being and the core of our existence, we were made for simple worship. Not just simple songs with a few lines that we might sing during a corporate worship time, but the essence of understanding that worship is a gift we are giving back to Him for giving us the gift of life eternal. We were created to remain in His presence, created for relationship. That was God’s desire for breathing life into our bones.

Before doing, evangelizing, preaching, working…He made us for Him, to be with Him and enjoy Him.

Did you know God doesn’t actually need our worship, but He loves our worship because He gets US! He is so delighted in being with us as we minister to Him.

There is a beautiful progression of entering into His house: thanksgiving, praise, adoration.

We start with thanksgiving, that relates to His goodness. Thanksgiving reminds us of all that He has done for us. We praise Him as we are reminded of His character. His greatness inspires our praise, and our adoration comes from His holiness. As we taste His holiness, we can’t stay the same. We become marked by His love.

When we worship it is a two-way street. As we give an offering of praise, the goal is to always end at His feet and before His face. Being face-to-face with Jesus is simply receiving the depths of love that flow from His “eyes of fire,” His eyes never stop releasing love to us and for us. His love is always intended to penetrate the deepest places of our hearts. The remaining part is just walking out what we were simply created for, intimacy with a perfect Father, the most intentional friend, the kindest Shepherd and the most radical love we’ll ever know.

Out of simple worship, our lives develop a conscious yet unconscious way of remaining in His presence, in every season. We begin to live with the constant awareness that He is ever near. Although His Spirit is in us as children of God, He wants to come upon us. He wants us to walk in a revelation, beyond knowledge that “our light HAS come and the glory of the Lord HAS risen upon us.”(Isaiah 60:1) We are called and invited to go from glory to glory, and we do that on earth by having our hearts set on pilgrimage! (Psalm 84) That means highways in our hearts that point toward heaven and live with a heavenly perspective.

Entering into the presence of the Lord, where you just simply remain, is what takes you from “knowing” you should worship God to “revelation” of wearing His glory.

For we “enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise…” (Psalm 100) we are not meant to just stay in the courts, we were created to move past the courts in to His house where His glory dwells. Oh the vastness of His house, He so longs to show us all! We forget we are always welcome in His home, our praise is the key and our worship is what brings His glory upon us.

IN RESPONSE

I encourage you to ask God to bring you fresh revelation of Psalm 113:3 that declares,

“From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets the name of the Lord is to be praised!”

What an invitation! What an honor to get to worship while washing dishes, driving, in meetings, studying for a test, dreaming of a new business to start or changing diapers. I invite you to remember you have always had keys to the Father’s house, and you don’t have to earn points or win at something to enter in. God is calling like never before to the lonely, the broken, the weary, the one who is still isolating their sin in secret, the disappointed…to COME. The house is open to all in every season, to abide and simply remain.

A Prophetic word for you:

As I was typing this blog post, I began to see each heart as he or she reads the post begin to have a fresh faith for a lifestyle of praise and adoration like never before. (For a person who practices a lifestyle of praise lives above every circumstance until God changes it by His Word and Spirit.) There is a grace being released in this moment for you in every situation to carry His glory. You are going to wear His glory garments into work, into your marriage, relationships, into painful situation and even great disappointment. BUT there is a grace to remain and have joy even in the midst of sadness.

So prepare for the removal of “the troubling foxes, those sly little foxes which hinder our relationship. For they raid our budding vineyard of love to ruin what I’ve planted within you. Will you catch them and remove them for Me? We will do it together.” (Passion translation-Song of Songs 2:15) As you seek His face today let Him remove anything that hinders His presence so you can drink deeply of His love. Hope is rising and praise is increasing more and more (Psalm 71:14)…“For such a time as this!” Get ready my friends…the best IS YET TO BE!!

By Julie Bennett, Antioch Norman Worship Pastor

 

Antioch Discipleship School: Fall Outreach Testimony

Recently, our Antioch Discipleship School sent teams of students on fall outreaches to six locations across the US:

The team that went to Norman, Oklahoma to serve Antioch Norman spent much of their week reaching out to people, specifically international students, and inviting them to a Thanksgiving feast that was to take place during their trip.

The ADS team in Norman

Read more about their trip and hear ADS student, Nathan, share how the nations were impacted from Norman:

“Friday night of the outreach was the Thanksgiving feast. More than 140 people came from more than 64 nations! Multiple people decided to follow Jesus. I followed up with a man named Sumit. He is from Nepal and is in America hoping to work at a hospital for his med school clinicals. He had spontaneously showed up in church the Sunday before our arrival because he “was drawn there and wanted to learn more about Jesus!” The church has been believing for Isaiah 60:1-3 to happen and it was happening that night! Sumit came to the feast and gave his life to Jesus that night. I saw him at  church on Sunday and invited him to sit with me. I got to teach him why we worship and what words like Hallelujah and Amen mean. It was powerful! The nation of Nepal was changing in the seat right next to me. 

ADS students talk to international students at the Thanksgiving feast.

Thanksgiving feast with international students at Antioch Norman

Ross was able to connect with a student from Mozambique named Xadraque. He was familiar with Christianity but also had some Islamic roots. Once he found out Ross was a personal trainer, he could not stay away. He kept asking him questions about training and Ross was able to instantly connect. During the message, Ross could tell Xadraque’s was interested in what he was hearing. Ross shared the Gospel again and Xadraque wanted Jesus! He gave his life to Jesus and was able to meet a member of the international Lifegroup, which is awesome!

Hanging out with middle eastern students

The whole trip was marked by peace and rest as we spent a lot of time praying and walking. We got to serve the church and international ministry and really blessed them.”

The team at the Oklahoma border

Want to know how you can be a part of a fall outreach with Antioch Discipleship School? Get more info here.

Acts of Mercy Disaster Response Training

You never know when a disaster will strike.

In the spring 2013, Antioch Norman brought 12 volunteers to the first ever Acts of Mercy disaster response training. At the time, they had no idea if or when they would use the skills learned during the training. Little did they know that within a few months they would find themselves in the middle of the Moore Tornado disaster response, only a few miles from their church and homes.

The skills learned and relationships made at the Acts of Mercy training allowed their team to mobilize and respond within 24 hours of the storm. Young Adult Pastor Josh Terndrup said, “We are so thankful we were able to be the hands and feet of Jesus when our community needed it most.”

Acts of Mercy is offering the training again this year, February 28th – March 1st at Antioch Waco. The disaster response training equips people to offer emergency relief and immediate care to people in the midst of war or following a natural disaster. Erika Kraus, director of Acts of Mercy, is especially excited about the different experts who will be teaching, offering experiential training for first responders. Erika says, “People will have the opportunity to align their attitudes and values, as well as their skills in a collaborative team environment.  Last year so many people had stories of ways God had confirmed and clarified their calling as well as set them up to successfully engage in serving people in times of crisis.”

This training is not for everyone, but it is an amazing first step for professionals with a background in logistics, medical care, mental health, social work, safety and security or engineering/construction who would like to serve in crisis relief. These particular skill sets can be utilized to practically serve people both locally and globally. It’s an amazing opportunity to get God’s heart to rescue, heal and restore, while empowering and strengthening churches to transform their communities.

Want to become a first responder? Register today.

Changing the World

Each year, Antioch Discipleship School students take week-long trips to church plants around the country to encourage the churches and reach out in their cities.

This year, the 70+ students from the school were divided into five groups and sent around the country.

Lawrence, Kansas

This group of students got to jump in with the Lawrence church the week of their second church service. They spent their afternoons reaching out on the KU campus and around the city in the evenings. One evening, they went to get some ice cream, and a few of them started talking to a group of freshman girls. That morning, someone on the team felt like God gave them a picture of a crescent moon. One of the girls was wearing a shirt that said “Crescent Moon” in large letters. They shared this with the girl, and she was encouraged and eager to meet up again. After meeting with one of the Waco team members several times, she came to church, stayed late to help and got connected to a leader from Lawrence.

Ann Arbor, Michigan

Antioch A2 is a second-generation church plant, sent out just two months ago by Antioch Dallas to reach out to students at the university campuses and the greater Detroit area. In partnering with the Ann Arbor team, the students’ simple goal was to “make friends for the church.” While there, they had the first two college Lifegroup meetings and gathered contact information for many people who were interested in the church as they boldly reached out and shared the Gospel.

Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Thirteen students road-tripped down to Baton Rouge to partner with Antioch BR. The church there started their discipleship school this year with eight students, so the Waco students got to spend a lot of time with them – building relationships and reaching out on LSU campus together. They were amazed at the warmth and openness of the students on campus who were eager to be prayed for and encouraged!

Norman, Oklahoma

The students who went to Norman were so encouraged by the culture of freedom and passion of the church there! The church provides rides to Walmart each week for the many international students at OU that are without transportation. Three of the students from Waco were telling people about this service when they met a girl from South Africa who invited them into her home. After talking to her for a while, she opened up and shared with them her birthday had been the day before, but no one had remembered. The students then bought her a cake, celebrated her and encouraged her with the love of God.

Tempe, Arizona

This team of students loved getting to partner with this church plant from Boston. While there, they reached out to students at ASU, which has almost 75,000 students. One afternoon, two of the girls walked around campus with signs reading “need some encouragement?” and “want a compliment?” hoping to start some conversations. They stopped to talk to one guy who said he could use some encouragement. They prayed and asked God to speak to him, and he felt like God told him how to save his marriage. After sharing more with him, he decided to give his life to Jesus! That night, he brought his wife to the college service, and she gave her life to Jesus as well.

Want to have a week like this? Get more information on Antioch Discipleship School.

The House of God: Antioch Norman (Part 2)

It was December 5th, 2012. Only one year before, God convicted Chris about his search for a building, and now he and Jimmy Seibert were preparing to return to Brazil again.

The night before they left, Chris received a strange phone call: Clark, an old friend he hadn’t talked to in more than a year was calling. Clark was a pastor at Journey Church, a huge church in Norman with multiple campuses.

“Hey Chris, I’ve been praying for you,” Clark said. “I don’t know what your church’s situation is with a building, but…well, I just wanna throw it out there—would you guys want to buy our East campus from us?

Chris was stunned. Why would Clark make such a ridiculous offer? Without discussing the details, they agreed to talk again after Chris came back from Brazil and had a chance to meet with the Elders.

Throughout his week in Brazil, Chris processed everything with Jimmy, and they realized Journey Church’s campus was different from any other building Chris had looked into pursuing. Antioch Norman had been specifically called by God to minister to the poor, and this building happened to be located in the most destitute area of the entire city.

When Chris got home, Clark explained everything.

“We feel like the needs of this area of the city are aligned with Antioch Norman’s vision more than ours,” Clark explained. “We have 450-500 people coming here every week. We’re doing great financially. And we don’t need the money. But, we want to do something for the Kingdom of God.”

Chris waited for the catch, but there didn’t seem to be one.

“We’ve put $2.6 million into it, but we want to sell it to you and leave everything there: the sound, the video, the chairs, the lighting, the kids’ stuff, everything stays,” Clark continued. “Why don’t you guys have your first service in here February the 3rd?”

It seemed too good to be true. Chris left the meeting amazed, unsure of what would happen but confident that God was up to something good. He felt peace about the situation, trusting that if it was from God, the details of money and time would work themselves out.

But just as everything began to fall into place, they hit a roadblock. Journey Church’s leadership wanted Antioch Norman to guarantee they would take out a loan to finance the building if they couldn’t pay for it in 90 days.

The only problem was that Antioch Norman had committed to operating debt free. Chris met with the Elders, and they resolved not to violate a principle just to get into this building.

When Clark found out that Antioch Norman wouldn’t be willing to take out a loan, he accepted the fact that it wouldn’t work out after all. But he invited Antioch Norman to come up with a proposal anyway.

On New Years’ Eve, Chris and the Elders drew up a formal proposal and brought it before Journey Church’s leadership. They knew all they could do was share their vision and their heart, leaving with no regrets if it didn’t work out.

“We don’t care about a building, we care about a people,” Chris began. “But the hardest part about being portable is we haven’t had a land, we haven’t had a people to invest in. We feel called to this area of the city—so what we’re asking is if you really believe this is of God, can we do this for the kingdom and still make it work in a way that doesn’t violate our principle of living debt free?”

The Journey Church Elders asked for the proposal. After looking it over, they promised an answer within the day.

Two hours later, Chris received an astonishing email: Journey Church accepted the proposal! The next day, January 1st, 2013, Journey Church signed a letter of intent. Antioch Norman was going to have a building to call home.

“It was miraculous,” Chris said. “Six weeks before, this didn’t even exist in our minds.”

Antioch Norman hosted their first service at the new campus on February 3rd.

“There is no reason for them to give us this building…it doesn’t make any sense in the world,” Chris said. He knew God was the one behind it all. “We’re gonna always be building the house of God, of course. But as we honored God’s word and did what He told us to do, He honored His promise to give us a building as His response.”

If Antioch Norman didn’t fully believe it before, they do now: God is always faithful to His word. His timing was perfect and the location couldn’t be better. But more than anything else, Antioch Norman learned that God’s house is found not in a physical structure but in the hearts of His people.

The House of God: Antioch Norman (Part 1)

Chris Bennett was at a church leaders’ conference in Brazil when God clearly spoke this to him. It had been almost three years since Antioch Norman had started, and still they didn’t have a consistent location to call home.

Chris, the senior pastor, had started Antioch Norman in a small 150-person auditorium. After only three months, the fledgling church outgrew this space, so they moved to a theater for about a year. Then they had to move again, this time to a high school auditorium. Then they had to move again. And again. And again.

In the span of four years, Antioch Norman changed locations eight times.

“We’ve been a portable church,” Chris says. “I think it’s been probably the best thing for our church because it’s been a real tangible reminder that the church isn’t a building.”

Still, things were difficult. Sometimes they had to cancel Sunday services or change locations last minute. And without a permanent building to call home, the church couldn’t invest in one area of the city and had a difficult time equipping people to be sent out to the nations. Chris and the Elders had labored desperately to find a building, but there didn’t seem to be any open doors.

Then, at the end of 2011, Chris traveled to a church leaders’ conference in Brazil themed, “The House of God.” Sitting in his hotel lobby, Chris was reflecting on the conference teaching and his church’s nomadic history, when he flipped open his bible. The page it landed on was Isaiah 66:

“Thus says the Lord: ‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest? All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the Lord. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.’”

In a moment, God spoke through this scripture clearly, “The reason I haven’t given you a building yet is because you’ve been consumed with a building and not building My house. When you begin to build My house I’ll give you a building.” Somehow Chris had forgotten that God’s house is not a building after all—it’s His people.

Cut to the heart, Chris came home from Brazil and rallied the Elders together. “We’ve gotta go back to the drawing board,” Chris said.  Together, they resolved that until they clearly knew God’s vision for their church and relearned how to do Lifegroups and discipleship, they wouldn’t do anything else.

At the beginning of 2012, Antioch Norman abandoned all efforts to find a building, and began relearning their core values: loving God and loving people. Slowly, the church began to feel at rest about their current building situation. Thankfulness for what they had displaced their frustration with what they lacked.

Chris was reminded of when God gave David the plans for His temple. God was the one who came up with the plans—it wasn’t man that had to somehow figure it all out. God always knew exactly the house He wanted.

Check back for Part 2 tomorrow!