Love Without Walls: Learning to Be a Church In the World For the World

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Overview

We see it all around us: Poverty. Unemployment. Crime. Hopelessness. Anger. Disenchantment. Injustice. We want to help. We want to do something. But what? Good intentions are good, but often our efforts at helping others can actually make things worse. And in many communities the church is viewed with suspicion, if not downright hostility. So how can churches effectively serve the needs of their communities in ways that communicate the love and grace of God? According to author Laurie Beshore, churches need to ...

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Love Without Walls: Learning to Be a Church In the World For the World

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Overview

We see it all around us: Poverty. Unemployment. Crime. Hopelessness. Anger. Disenchantment. Injustice. We want to help. We want to do something. But what? Good intentions are good, but often our efforts at helping others can actually make things worse. And in many communities the church is viewed with suspicion, if not downright hostility. So how can churches effectively serve the needs of their communities in ways that communicate the love and grace of God? According to author Laurie Beshore, churches need to step up and take action, but it all begins by learning. You must get to know the people in your community and establish relationships built on mutual trust and respect. This is the compelling twenty-five year story of how Mariner’s Church, a growing mega-church in Irvine, CA, began reaching out to their community and how they made more than their fair share of mistakes along the way. But these hard-earned lessons are now of immense value to a new generation of church leaders trying to serve their own communities that are skeptical, if not understandably suspicious, of the intentions of the 21st century church. Laced with ultra-practical teachings and transferable principles for churches and ministries of all sizes and styles, this is a book filled with potent lessons and powerful stories both heartbreaking and inspiring.

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Laurie Beshore leads the local and global outreach ministries at Mariners Church, an influential mega-church in Southern California. She is a global thinker and frequently speaks on the topic of mission-driven, externally focused church ministry.

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Read an Excerpt

Love without Walls

learning to be a church in the world for the world
By Laurie Beshore

Zondervan

Copyright © 2012 Laurie Beshore
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-310-89310-3


Chapter One

GETTING STARTED

We took risks. We knew we took them. Things have come out against us. We have no cause for complaint. —Robert Falcon Scott

The year 1984 was a tough one for our staff at Mariners. After we went through four senior pastors during a period of seven years, experienced a messy church split, and saw our attendance dwindle from fifteen hundred to two hundred, God had us right where he wanted us—humbled and dependent.

My husband, Kenton, had joined the church staff five years earlier as the college pastor. He was working hard to keep the ministry alive when the elders, in a last-ditch effort to keep the doors from closing for good, asked him to be the senior pastor. After much thought and prayer, Kenton decided to accept their offer, but with one request: he did not want to talk about money for the first year. Because of what the congregation had been through, he didn't want to constantly be asking them to contribute more cash to a seemingly vulnerable enterprise. And he didn't want to start his first full ministry year in the red. "We have to lead with vision, not money," he told the board. "So if we don't meet budget by the end of the year, I'm asking each of you to make up the difference out of your own wallets."

The elders accepted his challenge, and on November 1, 1984, Kenton became the senior pastor of Mariners Church in Orange County, California. Over the next few months, we gained some traction as more people began attending, serving, and giving to the needs of the ministry. Still, just a year later, the church was still operating at a deficit. We were several thousand dollars in the red. So, true to their word, the elders gathered behind closed doors, and when they came out again the church was in the black. Kenton was able to stand at the podium after a year of ministry and honestly report that Mariners was financially stable.

Thankfully, by the next year, we had an altogether different dilemma. Instead of running short on funds, we ended the fiscal year with a ten-thousand-dollar surplus. Some wanted to put the funds into the bank and let it gather interest against future budget needs. Others suggested paying back the elders. Kenton suggested giving the money away.

We decided to give the money away. Looking back, we can clearly see that this single decision altered the culture and trajectory of Mariners Church and changed thousands of lives.

TRUTH AND DARE

I recently talked with Kenton about his line of thinking back then. He said to me, "I was afraid if we didn't give it away, we'd lose our sense of dependence on God."

Although many of our church members supported ministry to the poor in various ways as individuals, our church had never given to anything as a unified body. To his credit, Kenton sensed it would be far healthier to model a faithful dependence on God by giving the money away than to have a growing bank account as a fallback position. But his vision for the money ended there. He thought we would write some checks to a few worthy causes, effectively doing two things: (1) putting the extra money to good use by serving the poor, and (2) keeping us dependent on God. At the time, he had no idea God had a far bigger plan in mind.

Pastor Scott Rae—now a Bible scholar and professor of ethics at Talbot Seminary—was the staff member chosen to lead a team to develop a plan for distributing the money. As they met together, Scott and the team began to believe there was more to this assignment than picking out a few good charities. They wanted to establish a strong scriptural understanding about the church's obligation to the poor and those in need, and so began an in-depth Bible study.

As grounded as the team was, made up of mature followers of Jesus and people knowledgeable about the Scriptures, they soon realized they were in for a life-changing, church-changing surprise. The team discovered that poverty and oppression were cited in Scripture far more frequently than they had known. They saw God speaking passionately about helping oppressed people. "We were not quite prepared for what we found," Scott remembers, "but once we saw it, we couldn't believe we had never seen it before."

FOLLOWING JESUS = COMPASSIONATE SUFFERING

The team fleshed out the details of what a ministry to the poor and needy would look like according to the Scriptures. Based on their study, they identified three key principles:

1. Developing a heart for the poor and those in need is nonnegotiable. Serving is not for a select few, nor is it the special duty of leaders. It is critical to the life of every believer.

2. Compassion means literally "to suffer with." If we are to be compassionate, we must roll up our sleeves and be willing to embrace those who are in poverty and in pain. Service cannot be done from afar.

3. Christian service cannot be separated from Christian faith. The sharing of the gospel message must be at the heart of every ministry.

In March 1987, Pastor Scott and the rest of the leadership team stood in front of the church to propose their plan for spending the surplus money. Their announcement followed more than two years of deep, sincere reflection on what God would most want us to do. When the team finished their announcement, the congregation broke out in spontaneous applause. Nearly a hundred people expressed a desire to be involved in the fledgling ministry they were proposing to start, and a special offering of twelve thousand dollars was taken that day. Our church had heard God's voice. People were thrilled about the start of our journey to understand God's passion for the poor. The stage was set for us to begin an outreach ministry in our community, and Mariners Outreach was born.

While the ministry enjoyed a strong launch that day, our early development was slowed as we tried to understand exactly what we were doing. At the time, there was no blueprint for this kind of outreach program, and challenges arose as we sought God's desire for the what and the how of our day-to-day ministry. Thankfully, because of the solid scriptural work done by our formation team, we were always very clear on the why.

Beyond the why, however, we had a lot of learning to do. We had to learn that seeing people through God's eyes doesn't happen overnight; it happens slowly, incrementally, one day at a time. From the start, we wanted to have the heart of God; we wanted to see people the way he did. We wholeheartedly embraced certain beliefs about the message we had to share and the importance of what we were doing, but many of us struggled with how all of this played out in real time.

One day, this struggle hit me in the face full force. At the time, I was an eager volunteer like everyone else. But I realized I had a long way to go when it came to loving like Jesus.

IN HIS SHOES

It was three days before Christmas. My van was filled with boxes of brand-new shoes generously donated by the people of Mariners for homeless men at the Orange County Rescue Mission. But as I sat in rush-hour traffic, thinking of everything I still had to do to create a memorable Christmas for my family, I was feeling far from charitable.

I'd already done my part overseeing the shoe operation. I'd approved the plan to collect the shoes. I'd encouraged volunteers as they sorted and matched the requests. And I'd celebrated as donations poured in. It wasn't my job to deliver the shoes too, was it?

But things come up—especially during the holidays—and our volunteer driver had canceled at the last minute. There was no time to find a replacement, and I had a big van. Delivering shoes to homeless men became my job.

I arrived at the mission around dusk, just as the guests were lining up for dinner. To drop off the boxes, I had to walk back and forth alongside that dinner line. As you can imagine, many of the men were unwashed. The smell was difficult to take. I felt threatened. I was way out of my comfort zone and afraid. I lowered my head, averted my eyes, and worked fast. I unloaded my cargo in minutes, hopped back in my van, locked the doors, and sped away. My work was done.

But God wasn't finished with me.

Even before I reached the freeway on-ramp, I had a gnawing sensation in my stomach. I knew God was trying to get my attention. It wasn't the first time I had felt this sensation. So I did what I usually did. I tried to reason with him. Sure I'd been a little rude, I acknowledged. But if anyone needed a heart adjustment, it was the volunteer who had flaked out, not me. I'd completed my good deed for the day, and I had a lot of other important things to do.

As these thoughts rattled through my head, even I knew I was being more than a little self-righteous.

I imagined God looking right into my heart, seeing it as only he can. I averted my eyes from the rearview mirror. I didn't want to face myself, let alone God. As I sped down the freeway, a small battle raged in me. He won. I asked for forgiveness. He gave me a big helping of grace but also new insight: I had missed the whole point of my errand.

I realized I had a lot more in common with those men at the shelter than a few dozen boxes of new shoes.

SPIRITUAL BINOCULARS

My experience delivering the shoes was the beginning of a new work God was doing in my life. It was time to confront the selfish spirit that had been revealed in my heart that day.

If it was this painful for me, who had grown up in a loving Christian home, to turn to God after I had sinned, how much harder was it for these homeless men? I feel such pain and shame when I disappoint. It causes me to withdraw and isolate myself. Yet God pursues me, loves me, embraces me even in my mess. He doesn't wait for me to get my act together first.

How will those men at the shelter ever hope to believe in a God who loves like that if his followers keep their distance? The shoes were really just a small token, an excuse, to allow me to get close enough to them to whisper the message of his love and grace.

Once I finally wrapped my brain around that, I took it to heart. God was asking me to join him in an amazing adventure. I began to look at everyone around me as if God were holding up a pair of binoculars for me. I began to read the Scriptures—passages I'd read since childhood and thought I knew pretty well—with a new understanding.

THREE THOUSAND REASONS TO THINK AND DO DIFFERENTLY

The Bible contains more than three thousand passages that speak about God's heart for the poor and those in need. As I studied and meditated on many of these verses, God's truth began to inform and transform my heart, leading to a new vision for our outreach ministry at Mariners Church.

One of the first passages that grabbed my attention was Jeremiah 22:16 (NLT): "He gave justice and help to the poor and needy, and everything went well for him. Isn't that what it means to know me?" We all want to know God intimately, and by asking this question, God makes it clear exactly what it means for us to know him: to know God is to defend those who are poor and in need. This simple statement reveals God's heart and his character, and it shows us that he aligns himself with the impoverished. Serving the poor is not just something nice that Christians can choose, like an optional item on the à la carte menu of following Jesus. It is absolutely essential to knowing God.

In Matthew 25:31–46, Jesus tells his disciples a parable about how he will return and divide all people as a shepherd divides the sheep from the goats. The factor that determines how the sheep are separated has nothing to do with our human measurements for success. Jesus doesn't separate people based on their worldly achievements, their personality traits, or their record of church attendance. The deal breaker is whether they cared for those in need. Those who served the poor are invited into heaven, while those who didn't are sent away.

How can our acts of service for the poor have such a powerful impact on our eternal future? Toward the end of this parable, Jesus gives us a clue. He indicates that these acts of service are really acts we do out of love for him: "I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!" (Matt. 25:40 NLT). In fact, Jesus makes this identification fairly explicit, saying, "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me" (Matt. 25:35–36).

There are people in this parable who are dumbfounded that they have somehow missed Jesus' visit. They ask him, "When did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?" (Matt. 25:37–39). Jesus answers, "Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me" (Matt. 25:40). In other words, God looks at the way I treat those in need and sees in my attitude and actions an indication of the way I would treat Jesus, were he standing before me. Serving those in need is a barometer of my love for God and a fundamental indicator of the health of my relationship with Jesus.

Caring for the poor and marginalized isn't complicated. It doesn't require a great act of heroism. A cold drink, a bit of food, helping a sick person, sharing my home and my time—these are small things, acts of human kindness that anyone can do. In fact, the actions that Jesus refers to in this parable seem so small and insignificant that the people chosen to enter heaven cannot identify anything special they had done to draw God's attention. They engaged in these simple acts out of the overflowing of their love for Jesus, yet they had eternal consequences, consequences that affect the one who gives far more than the one who receives.

God embeds himself among the poor and those in need. This theme runs throughout the Old and New Testaments, and shows up in the words of the prophets, the apostles, and Jesus himself. The poor are central to God's heart. He defends his weakest children.

Those who oppress the poor insult their Maker, but helping the poor honors him. —Proverbs 14:31 NLT

This makes perfect sense to me as a parent. If you hurt one of my boys, you'll have to deal with me, and chances are it's not going to be pretty. I take it personally if my children are insulted or threatened in any way. Conversely, if you treat one of my children with kindness, my heart automatically softens toward you. God says something similar to us: "If you mess with the poor, you're messing with me." But the flip side is true as well: when we help those in need, God is honored and pleased.

If we want to honor God, we must share in his love for his children, particularly the ones in greatest need. Helping others requires that we take action and close the gap between us. Love can't be experienced from a distance. It involves showing up. It requires us to get close to people.

Jesus spent a lot of time with people who had been marginalized or rejected by society: tax collectors, prostitutes, and the like. He may have fed the five thousand, but he also embedded himself with them. He lavished those people with grace. He honored people with his time. He paused on their behalf. He touched them. He healed them. He loved them. They weren't just needy individuals who happened to cross his path. Jesus went out of his way to identify with those who were poor, those who were in need, often going to them instead of simply waiting for them to come to him. Jesus took the initiative and spent his time in places and situations where he would come into contact with the poor and marginalized.

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. —2 Corinthians 8:9

When I study how Jesus served others, I know it is never okay for me simply to wait around for someone to stumble across my path so I can respond to their needs. I have to get out there, risking my comfort to offer Christ's love to those who are hurting. I need to step beyond the walls of my church, my home, my comfort zone, and take the initiative, just as Jesus did to show his love for me.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Love without Walls by Laurie Beshore Copyright © 2012 by Laurie Beshore. Excerpted by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Foreword Kay Rick Warren 9

Introduction: Going Boldly 11

1 Getting Started 47

2 Relationships. And One Other Thing: Relationships 29

Beyond the Walls: A Culture of Poverty 39

3 Bribery 45

Beyond the Walls: The Life You Change May Be Your Own 53

4 Year Fifteen 57

5 The Funnel 69

Beyond the Walls: When Smart Meets Brave 85

6 First Patience, Then Leadership 95

7 High-Capacity Leaders 105

8 Just Love 117

9 Oops, We Did It Again 131

10 The Next Season 141

Acknowledgments 153

Appendix: Outreach Ministries 155

About the Author 159

About Leadership Network 160

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 19, 2014

    Boy 17 <_________________________>(1)

    Part One: My name is William. I'm eleven years old for the last time tonight.<p> I lie in bed, stareing at the wall. My friend Jack is next door (he's turning eleven tonight) and asleep. <p> At least he can sleep in peace. I sigh and close my eyes, trying to sleep. Trying not to think about being taken away forever. <p> i must've drifted off, because a herd my door creak open. I open my eyes a little and see a beam of light shineing on me. 'The Children Police!' I think to myself. I pretend to still be asleep as they lower their flashlights and check my pulse. I was trying try not to panic as they pick me up like a little kid and take me to a black van. They put me carefully inside and close the door, locking it with a click.<p> As soon as we start moveing, i sit up and look around. There is a small blanket it the corner and a suger cookie in a dog bowl. I hesitate before picking up the cookie and nibbleing on it for a while, trying to stay calm. I finish half of the cookie before looking out a small window to see where i am.<p> The van is moveing along on a dirt road, with hills on ethier side. I look straight ahead and see another black van. I see the driver glare at me and shake his head. He's wearing an all black police like uniform but without the badges and hat. I crawl back to the blanket and curl up in it, falling asleep. But no dreams came. <p> continued at next result. Hope you like it so far.

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  • Posted June 5, 2012

    What We Should Do and How

    Love Without Walls, Learning to be a church in the world, for the world. The Leadership Network Innovation Series Laurie Beshore &#169;2012 ( with JJ Brazil, Pulitzer Prize Winner) Zondervan.fm. Publishers ISBN 978-0-310-00000-0 Forward by Kay and Rick Warren Although written to guide church leaders, Beshore’s message will encourage all Christians to pray and seek to be the church God intends, one that truly loves poor people. Three thousand verses in the Bible talk about God’s concern for the poor, so helping the poor is a most important activity for Christians. Beshore’s church, Mariners Church in Orange County, California supports dozens of ministries all with volunteer help. Beshore admits she and her husband, Kenton made mistakes while learning to depend on God for how to love people. Their lessons can transform other churches and lives. Eventually this pastor’s wife discovered ordinary people who had special gifts for furthering God’s kingdom, such as the man who built inexpensive wheelchairs and gave away thousands of them. The author says relationships are the key to successful ministry in any area. Mariners Church began reaching their community through a learning center, helping children with schoolwork. Then they involved parents in positive ways. From there, various other types of outreach developed. This book is an important, encouraging and excellent read. Many Christians could find greater satisfaction in their personal lives from applying ideas in Love Without Walls.

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