My 10 Favorite ‘Christian Organizations’ and Why I Love the Crap Out of Them

Let me just be honest here: I can spend way too much time in my mind and on this blog focusing on the things the Church is missing out on or doing wrong.

I think there’s a place for thinking and talking about those things. If we’re too scared to talk about how we screw up, what are we really accomplishing? But there’s also a huge place for encouraging and praising the work the Church has done in this world. That’s why I’m going to list my 10 favorite “Christian organizations” and why I love the crap out of them.

Note: I say “Christian organizations” because, while some of these organizations are comfortable with the “Christian” label, others wouldn’t necessarily want themselves to be called a ministry but they discuss the things of God, Jesus, the Bible and the Church. And I want to respect that.

So here we go!

The Anima Series | “Giving local artists a global platform for Christ” | theanimaseries.com

Started in July 2013, the Anima Series is a group of young guys and gals who make music, spoken word videos and other ministry tools to reach out mainly to young people. Their YouTube channel has over 162K subscribers and their most popular video – “Who You Are: A Message to All Women” – has over 4 million views. anima

My favorite piece of ministry of theirs is a spoken word called “Not Qualified.” It typifies their work: reaching out to the youth or other believers who may feel like they’re not enough. The Anima Series recently went on a brief tour around America, and post videos on their channel regularly of either funny happenings or spiritual messages.

Bad Christian | “A thriving community that focuses on interacting with culture from an alternative Christian point of view” | badchristian.com

They would hesitate being called a ministry, but what they do has ministered to me. The main outlet of Bad Christian – started by Emery (the band) guitarist Matt Carter and lead vocalist Toby Morrell and their friend and pastor Joey Svendsen – is their twice-weekly podcast where they talk openly and honestly about different issues in Christian culture as well as their own lives. One episode each week includes an interview with someone in the Christian or music scene.

bad_christianMost Christians wouldn’t like some of the things they do – they cuss openly, talk about drinking and sex and have some different views than most evangelical Christians. But it’s their openness and honesty that has drawn me in to loving what they do. They also have a blog and have started a music label with artists like Emery, Kings Kaleidoscope and The Classic Crime.

Cru | “A caring community passionate about connecting people to Jesus Christ” | cru.org

Formerly known as Campus Crusade for Christ, Cru’s main ministry is on college campuses, but also does work in military installations, churches, sports teams, politicians and across the world. There’s something inspirational about a ministry that seems to want to take every opportunity possible to spread the Gospel around the world. I love it.Cru-10-24-11-MASTER-TM

I mainly love them because of their college ministry. Along with other organizations such as Campus Outreach and InterVarsity, Cru is reaching students in one of the most vulnerable places in their lives with the most important message. I was involved in CO in college, but what Cru did was known on campus. Those kids were some of the most joyful, most passionate kids who were involved in their community and involved in encouraging and building up one another.

HeartSupport | “A raw and authentic community where no music fan has to struggle alone” | heartsupport.com

Begun by August Burns Red lead singer Jake Luhrs, HeartSupport is an online community that has grown into a ministry to music fans who need a place to share stories of their addictions, abuse, depression and related things without fear of judgement. It’s a place where mostly young people can find love and acceptance and help for their struggles.

heartsupportA lot of bands are invested in HeartSupport, mainly in the hardcore scene. Bands like Family Force 5, Sleeping Giant, Emery, The Devil Wears Prada, Hawthorne Heights, A Day to Remember and For Today are all a part of the Heart Support community, offering support for people’s hearts, as the name implies. I heard about HeartSupport when Luhrs was interviewed on the Bad Christian podcast, and loved what they do.

NewSpring Church | “Exists to reach people far from God and teach them how to follow Jesus step by step” | Anderson, S.C. | newspring.cc

Yes, a church is a “Christian organization” too. Founded by lead pastor Perry Noble, NewSpring has 19 locations, six of them house churches, across South Carolina with a mission to see over 100,000 South Carolinians give their lives to Christ. Noble’s preaching is open and honest and isn’t afraid to get blunt and honest, and ministries within the church include KidSpring (for kids), Fuse (for youth) and small groups to help people grow in their relationship with Jesus.Website-EVENT-SPOTLIGHT-602x348-NewSpringChurch

I visited NewSpring in Anderson a couple months ago with my now-fiancée and really enjoyed the service. It’s super laid-back – I wore an Arsenal jersey and they played “Can’t Feel My Face” by The Weeknd over the speakers when the service ended – and the topics are relevant and faithful to Scripture. Noble has come under fire from some in the Christian community for some of the things he’s said, but I love his heart and his message.

One Fair Chance | “Each One – Reach One, Each One – Teach One” | Hyderabad, India | onefairchance.org

The next three will be smaller, lesser known on a national scale but each have been very personal to me. The first is “One Fair Chance,” started by my friend Billy Judson. Billy, named after Billy Graham and Adoniram Judson, came to Sanford a couple years ago and completed a seminary degree in Cary, N.C., for the purpose of being equipped to give each Indian “one fair chance” to hear the Gospel. It’s connected to Good News Bible College and Seminaries in Hyderabad, run by Billy’s father, a school which has graduated over 11,000 students. Sixty percent of those graduates have their own ministry.

one-fair-chance-sceneI love the heart of this man, one of the most joyful people I’ve ever met. His passion for his people is unmatched. I wish every Christian could talk to Billy for 15 minutes just to get a glimpse of the vision that he has for his homeland. I miss having him here in America, but I know what he’s doing in India is far more effective for the Gospel than him being here.

Snowbird Wilderness Outfitters | “A Gospel-centered, high adventure discipleship camp in North Carolina” | Andrews, N.C. | swoutfitters.com

This camp for students located in the North Carolina mountains is one of the few places where I have been seriously shaped spiritually. Their main ministry is their summer camp, where college students come and work for the summer to invest themselves in the lives of the middle and high school students that come for a week. There are also year-round retreats and conferences focusing on missions and purity for youth and men’s, women’s, marriage and student ministry conferences for adults.snow

I went five summers as a camper, worked one summer on staff and have been as a chaperone twice. I can’t say enough about the amazing Gospel-centeredness of the teaching and the staff. Their passion for Jesus and for seeing students’ hearts changed is amazing. I certainly plan on hitting up their marriage retreat when I get married, and I see the effect of their ministry on the youth group I hang out with every week. I love that place.

Turner’s Chapel | “A non-denominational church that emphasizes Biblical teaching, missions, prayer, discipleship and family” | Sanford, N.C. | turnerschapel.org

This is my home church, and I love my church. I love the personal ministry from my pastor Bruce MacInnes, I love the community that I have, and I love the youth group that I help serve in. I don’t always agree with everything the pastor says (wrote about that here), but that’s totally OK. It serves the Sanford community with outreach to the homeless and needy and runs Connect Groups where members meet and talk about the sermon and pray for one another. It also gives a significant portion of its budget to missions each year.

Turnerschapel.org_misc_image19512I have the privilege of helping out with the youth group, the same youth group that I grew up in and learned how to be a Christian in. It’s where I’m getting married next summer. It will always have a place in my heart. And as much as I might get frustrated by certain things, I can’t help but call it home. It’s where God has brought me, and I can’t complain about that.

Wycliffe Bible Translators | “Translating Scriptures in more than 70 countries” | wycliffe.org

Wycliffe is by no means the only Bible translation ministry, but it was the first one that came up when I searched “bible translation ministries” on Google. Other ministries include Biblica, The Seed Company and Elam Ministries. These ministries focus on translating the words of Scripture into other languages so that those who don’t have the Bible in their native tongue can get one and read it and grow and know Jesus. wycliffe-logo351

I’ve always been pumped about Bible translation. It started back when I was in high school and I learned about how the first Bible translators who tried to put it in English were martyred for trying, and how much of a blessing it is that we have the words of God in our language. So for me, the value of these ministries is really hard to measure. I love what they do.

XXX Church | Helping people with porn and sex addictions find healing | xxxchurch.com

XXX Church is a ministry focused on helping people battle addictions to pornography and other sexual sin through a number of areas. They’ve created a filtering software called X3 Watch that helps people who want to avoid porn. Their website has a blog that is updated daily with helpful tips. They have small groups called X3 Groups where small groups of people meet online weekly to discuss their addictions and seek freedom together.

UtaIcIm_I’ve given several times to their ministry and have written several times about how much I love what Craig Gross and his team do. The same people also run outreach ministries for porn stars and also provide guidance in areas of sex, marriage and family. They’re blunt, honest and real. I’m so thankful for their ministry. It’s one I would love to be involved with some day.

Advertisements

Jesus Loves Porn Stars. Just Making Sure We Were All Aware.

One of my favorite ministries is Fireproof Ministries. It’s a multi-faceted ministry with several branches, including XXX Church. One of their primary goals is to reach out to those that work in porn and simply love them by showing them the love of Christ.

I recently received, as a perk for donating to a recent fundraiser, a copy of the Bible in the picture above. It’s the Gideons-like copies of the book of Luke they hand out at porn conventions and other events. It says on the front, coupled with a drawing of a man with a “porn ‘stache,” “Jesus Loves Porn Stars.”

I wanted to get a physical copy of this Book of Luke because I wanted to see what exactly they were handing out. I love the work they do and would love to be a part of it some day, Lord-willing.

As part of the colorful intro, Craig Gross, the founder of XXX Church, wrote this:

You see, the Bible says we’ve all blown it. Whether we’re making porn, working in a coffee shop, or running a church, we are all sinners who have “stuff” we need to clean up. It doesn’t matter how much stuff we have; it all makes us imperfect.

The good news is that Jesus knows this and loves us anyway. It doesn’t matter if you got high yesterday or masturbated five minutes ago. He still loves you. In fact, he desperately wants to have a relationship with you. Your “stuff” doesn’t change this fact.

Whether it’s liberals, murderers or porn stars, we in the Church have a complex of avoiding people we disagree with or people whose lifestyles we don’t like. I’m entirely guilty of doing this.I don’t like hanging out with super crazy, Westboro Baptist-echoing, super-Republican fundamentalist Christians.

But when I read things like that, I’m convicted. If my call is to love like Jesus loved, no matter who I’m around, then I’m failing miserably. The Church, for the most part is failing miserably.

What I love about XXX Church is that they’re not going to try to get people out of the industry. That’s not their main goal. I’ve read and heard interviews with Craig Gross and other XXX Church staff. They would love for that to happen, they would love for these guys and girls to get out, but their main hope is that they feel and know the love of Christ.

In their work I see what the Church could and probably should be. Instead of first trying to change behavior, perhaps we should simply try to look at ourselves first and ask ourselves: are we really loving the porn stars? Are we really loving the Democrat in our workplace who vehemently disagrees with our stance on abortion? Are we really loving that guy we saw on the news who murdered his wife?

And I’m not necessarily saying we have to go all out and love by taking action, although that is the ultimate form of love. The question is this: at the base level, is our heart at a posture of love towards that person? Even if we never meet them, do we love them? We can love people without ever meeting them.

I can love the person on Facebook I haven’t seen in years who negatively comments on my blog post. I can love the politician who says everything I don’t like. I can love the woman who drowns her baby in a bathtub.

Why? Jesus did. And I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

And so can we, the Church, the people Jesus has called His own.

The Church Culture of Compassion

If judgement looms under every steeple, if lofty glances from lofty people, can’t see past her scarlet letter, and we never even met her.

I love the Casting Crowns video above because it shows what the church can be and far too often is, but also what it’s supposed to be. Initially, the people at the church throw lofty glances at the woman or try to scoot away from her. But at the end, one girl approaches the main character with a sympathetic hand and sympathetic word.

I wrote a post a few days ago called “The Church Culture of Shame” describing my thoughts on how much the church seems to lack any sense of grace with some people, particularly those within the body of Christ. I’m flattered by the amount of people that read it and have complimented me on it. Thank you, to all of you. It means more than you know.

But as I was driving to get lunch today, I thought of a different phrase – “the church culture of compassion.” It may come across to some who read that last post that I don’t think such a thing exists. But as I thought about that phrase, some examples came to mind. Let me share them with you here. I hope you are encouraged.

Compassion is the emotion that one feels in response to the suffering of others that motivates a desire to help. Compassion is really the act of going out of your way to help physical, spiritual, or emotional hurts or pains of another. (Wikipedia)

XXXChurch – Jesus Loves Porn Stars

I first heard about the outreach ministry of XXX Church on the Bad Christian podcast a couple months ago when they interviewed founder Craig Gross. XXX Church has many different facets, but the one I want to focus on is their ministry to the pornography industry.

In 2002, X3 (for short) sent a team to a popular pornography convention “to love on both the consumer and the workers there. This approach was very different from other ‘religious’ organizations present outside of the convention with their posters and megaphones preaching a message of law and hate.” Ever since, X3 booths have been a mainstay at popular adult film gatherings, where teams hand out Bibles that say “Jesus Loves Porn Stars” on the cover while seeking to love and minister to those in attendance.

Why? To point porn stars to Jesus.

We believe that Jesus meets people where they are. We don’t subscribe to the belief system that God only loves those who live the way we or religion think they should live. We believe that it is when Jesus meets, loves and accepts us where we are, no matter that place that we are transformed by that crazy kind of love. – XXXchurch.com

porndebatejpg-869830e20b0f17bb

Ron Jeremy (left) and Craig Gross.

In addition, Gross has a close relationship with Ron Jeremy, described as “the world’s most famous porn star” in this story on ABC News. The two go around the country doing speaking engagements and debates on the topic of pornography.

“There are certain things I don’t like (about the porn industry), and having Craig around, putting things in check, or when girls want to get out of the business they might go to him, and a few have, who are actually friends of mine,” Jeremy told ABC. “And he ministers to them, brings them into the path of righteousness, and I think that’s great.”

Reppin’ the Misfits

And people call themselves Christians, with “God hates fags” written all over their pickets. They play the Holy Spirit and judge people because of the way they sin different. Social Club will always be the difference. I have gay friends and I’m not ashamed to say it, and I love ’em like Christ did and people are gonna hate it. They know what I believe and they might not agree, but I stand as living proof, look what God did to me. Social Club, “Grace Song”

The attitude that Christian rap group Social Club takes in their songs is not one of judgement or of condemnation, but of love. Their call is for the “misfits,” the ones who may not be accepted by the masses. In the “About Us” section of their Tumblr page, they define a misfit: “A misfit by definition is someone who is ‘different than their surroundings.’ Simply put, we believe in being who Jesus has called us to be and not who the world wants us to be.”

In a church culture that seems to care a lot more than we should about appearances, they don’t care.

“One thing we wanted to do is create an environment of openness and accountability…for the gospel,” group member Marty said in an interview with Rapzilla. “We do life music. We don’t do music that is centered around anything other than our lives…We focus on the misfits and the kids that feel like they didn’t fit in.”

The Christian rap genre as a whole does a great job of showing compassion to all, generally not taking a stance of “we’re better than you,” but seeking to be real and honest and showing compassion in that way. They’re also willing to go to the places others might not be willing to. A group of rappers from the label Reach Records visited Riker’s Island Prison in New York to do a concert and minister to the inmates.

From @reachrecords Twitter.

From @reachrecords Twitter.

“We were reminding people of their value and their worth, and it’s not defined by what society says about us but the intrinsic worth that we have in God, being made in His image,” Andy Mineo said in an interview with Wade-O Radio.

How many other Christian artists would take a trip to one of the most notably worst prisons in America? I don’t think many would.

A Guy Named Zacch

I’m going to share one more story of compassion that you can find in the church. It’s the story of a guy named Zacch.

See, Zacch lived in the city of Jericho working for the government. Something like the IRS. Except he was super corrupt. He stole money from people. Legally. He had everything he thought he needed. He was hated by the religious leaders of the day. Not unlike how some Christians these days view the government of the United States of America.

Then one day a teacher came along. He was pretty popular, almost like a rockstar. Zacch stood on a crowded street, trying to see this teacher. But he was short, so he couldn’t see him. Solution: climb up in a tree. Zacch sat in the tree like Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Angels in the Outfield, peering out trying to see this guy he had heard about.

The teacher walked by and saw Zacch sitting in the tree. Now, this teacher was a Jewish one who talked about Yahweh, the God of the Torah. A religious guy. I don’t know for sure, but Zacch may have assumed that this teacher thought the worst about him. But, looking at Zacch, the teacher said, “Zacch, come on down, man. Let’s grab some food at your place.”

Joyfully, Zacch leapt down from the tree and practically dragged the teacher to his home. He was filled with joy. After talking with the teacher, Zacch made up his mind. He said: “Half of my goods, I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold” (Luke 19:8).

And the teacher responded, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:9-10).

I’ll end with a quote from Tullian Tchividjian’s One Way Love:

Jesus is not being cavalier about wrongdoing or suggesting that greed, and its fallout, is not a big deal. He shed tears over our sin; he came to suffer and die for it. No, this is Jesus identifying with the sinner and loving those who least deserve it. He knows that the only way to break the cycle of retribution and oppression and heartbreak is to demolish the ladder of deserving altogether…God lavishes His grace on the foolish, the weak, the despised, and the nothings so He alone will get the glory. (p. 131-132)