Trail Blazer Ministries
Base Camp for Life: A Spiritual Journey...

Church vs. Community

4:59 PM
A question that arises a lot in relation to Trailblazer Ministries is: "are you a church?" It's an interesting question, because it touches on an issue that is central to all of us as Christians - what does it mean to be a community in Christ? When cast in this light, my answer to the question is... yes and no.

Let me explain. The word "church" has a lot of different connotations, depending on the context in which it is used. I attend a Baptist church. Jesse attends a Presbyterian church. But we are also a members of the Church (capital "C") that includes all believers in all places and at all times. In that sense, Jesse and I both belong to the same "Church," even though we attend different "churches" (with small "c") on Sunday.

But the question runs even deeper than that. In the practical sense, what does it mean to say that Trailblazer is or is not a "church?" I really like what Chris has shared on this topic. More and more, we see today's Christianity taking a programmatic approach to "doing church." I think the term that Chris used was "event mentality." That is, "church" is what you do on Sunday morning. You get together in a building, sing a few songs, and listen to a sermon. For many people, church is an event that takes place once (or maybe twice) a week, and it involves certain preconceived notions of what we expect a "church" to be.

But is this the Biblical picture of what it means to be the "church?" I don't believe it is. The Greek word that is translated as "church" in our Bibles is "ekklesia," and it literally refers to a "gathering" or "assembly." An "ekklesia" occurred whenever Christians gathered together to study Biblical teaching, pray, partake of the Lord's Supper, and have community-based fellowship with one another (Acts 2:42). In other words, "ekklesia" is not a programmatic concept. It refers to both the general and particular communities in which God's people gather, and may manifest itself in a variety of ways.

So what exactly is Trailblazer? Are we a church?

Again, the answer is both "yes" and "no."

In the programmatic sense, the answer is "no." We are not a denominational body, we do not meet on Sunday morning, and we are not competing with any existing congregations in the Gallatin Valley. Our intent is to supplement the experience of Christians from a variety of backgrounds by providing a venue for genuine fellowship and mutual dialogue. We don't say "leave your Baptist church." Instead, we say: "We want you to become an even better Baptist by deepening your experience as a disciple of Jesus." We actively encourage our members to participate in a local congregation of their choosing and we work in cooperation with many of the local ministries throughout Gallatin Valley.

On the other hand, the answer to the question "are we a church" is an emphatic yes. We may not fit the programmatic paradigm of what a "church" is in today's society, but we are a community of Christian disciples seeking to deepen our experience of Christ. And maybe that's the whole "point" of this adventure - breaking outside of the mold of the traditional, "event" oriented paradigm of church to become an authentic and thriving community of disciples. We are united by a shared belief that it's time to stop "going to church" and time to start "being the church." Our community does not exist only from 7:00-9:00 on Thursday morning. Nor will it exist exclusively within the confines of our worship services. Rather, our community exists throughout Bozeman at all hours, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

As a Christian pastor and seminary student, it took me years to get beyond the inherited paradigm of "church" that I received from previous generations of Christian experience. When I finally realized that the "church" was a community of disciples, rather than a place or an event, a revolution occurred in my thinking. I realized that I didn't necessarily need to be involved with a formal congregation in order to be fully involved with Christ's community. I realized that "starting a church" didn't need to be a legal affair; I could just grab some buddies, a cup of coffee, and a Bible, and I was all set. Church isn't something that happens, church is something we are as a group of disciples dedicated to the message of Christ.

The description that I have chosen for Trailblazer is "a community in Christ." That is what we are, and that is what I hope we will continue to be as we grow and expand our ministry in Bozeman. Let's strive to be a community of disciples here in the Gallatin Valley, living the message of Christ every day of the year. And let's live it for real. Together. One day at a time.

In His Peace,
Pastor Michael
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Which One Do You Want to Be?

2:28 PM
I'm not really big on contemporary Christian music (CCM), but every now and then a song jumps out and grabs me by the collar, and I can't help by appreciate the message behind the music. This afternoon, our church got a chance to hear a song called "My Jesus," by Todd Agnew. The lyrics literally blew me away, and the accompanying video with scenes from "The Passion" only added to the impact. I'm posting the lyrics so that everyone can take a look at them, and I've bolded a few lines that I think are worth considering:

Which Jesus do you follow?
Which Jesus do you serve?
If Ephesians says to imitate Christ
Then why do you look so much like the world?

Cause my Jesus bled and died
He spent His time with thieves and liars
He loved the poor and accosted the arrogant
So which one do you want to be?

Blessed are the poor in spirit
Or do we pray to be blessed with the wealth of this land
Blessed are they that hunger and thirst for righteousness
Or do we ache for another taste of this world of shifting sand

Cause my Jesus bled and died for my sins
He spent His time with thieves and sluts and liars
He loved the poor and accosted the rich
So which one do you want to be?

Who is this that you follow
This picture of the American dream
If Jesus was here would you walk right by on the other side
or fall down and worship at His holy feet

Pretty blue eyes and curly brown hair and a clear complexion
Is how you see Him as He dies for Your sins
But the Word says He was battered and scarred
Or did you miss that part

Sometimes I doubt we'd recognize Him
Cause my Jesus bled and died
He spent His time with thieves and the least of these
He loved the poor and accosted the comfortable
So which one do you want to be?

Cause my Jesus would never be accepted in my church
The blood and dirt on His feet would stain the carpet
But He reaches for the hurting and despised the proud
I think He'd prefer Beale St. to the stained glass crowd
And I know that He can hear me if I cry out loud

I want to be like my Jesus!
I want to be like my Jesus!
Not a posterchild for American prosperity,
but like my Jesus
You see I'm tired of living for success and popularity
I want to be like my Jesus
but I'm not sure what that means to be like You Jesus
Cause You said to live like You,
love like You but then You died for me
Can I be like You Jesus?I
want to be like my Jesus
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The Conversation Continues... In Real Time!

8:14 PM
First of all, let me say welcome to everyone who has joined us on this wild journey we call Christianity. It is truly an exciting time to be a part of God's Kingdom. Throughout the history of the Christian church, God's people have constantly been challenged to re-evaluate their role in the world. Yet, at the heart of Christian tradition lies a shared experience, such that we are always One Church in Christ. It is an experience of grace, of wonder, of a shared yearning to see God's Kingdom manifest in our lives and in the world around us. We find ourselves united in the common recognition that Christ is "emmanuel," God with the us - the fullness of God made manifest in human flesh. In the encounter with Christ, something in us intuitively recognizes the presence of God, and we realize: "Here at last is that Something - or that Someone - that I have been searching for all my life." Our numerous traditions, denominations, and theological approaches are simply reflections of that One experience.

And so we find ourselves ruminating on the questions that led us to Christ in the first place:

"What is God like?"

"How should we relate to God and to one another?

"What does it mean to be a community in Christ?"

It is questions like these that I would like for us to discuss in this blog. These questions are the outworking of our shared encounter with Jesus, and a reflection of our core identity as Christians. I believe it is important that this blog be an open environment conducive to the free exchange of spiritual ideas. We are not afraid to tackle the big questions or venture down paths as yet unexplored. The Christian experience only grows richer as new voices enter into dialogue with Christ and His community.

Too often, our churches have been reduced to lecture halls, in which one voice is heard to the exclusion of all others. Ultimately, God's people only lose when they adopt this approach to ministry, because we're not hearing what God is saying through all of His people. I find myself reflecting on the stories of Jesus entering the synagogues of Galilee and standing up to address the assembled crowds. If Jesus came to our churches today, would we let him stand up and speak? It's something to think about.

That's why Trailblazer exists, and that's why this blog exists. Because you are a Child of God, and you have an experience to share and a story to tell. Anyone who participates in the Trailblazer gatherings will be given full access to contribute to this blog. Think of it as an archive of our experience together as a community in Christ. This archive will continue to grow bigger and bigger as we chip in our thoughts, ideas, devotions, prayers, songs, poetry... heck, even recipes and art pieces are welcome. The point is, this blog will be a treasure of immeasureable worth one day, because it will contain the thoughts and experiences of God's people on earth.

And what could be better than that?
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Welcome to the New Trail Blazer Blog!

8:41 PM
You have reached a group of searching Christians, who just want the best for the world. This is a place where we will talk about our ongoing journey in Christ. Here we will look to Jesus, the "Trail Blazer" and Perfecter of our faith. Hebrews 12:2

We are currently meeting every Thursday morning at 7:00 am at Wild Joe's Coffee Shop in downtown Bozeman, MT. Stop in and join us for a cup of coffee and some lively conversation before you leave for work or school!
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