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August 21, 2017, 9:19 AM

The 6 Million Dollar Man is Not the Best Approach for Church


Yes, you read that right. Yes, I threw out an old television show as a model for Church growth and development. Here's why: Better, Faster, Stronger, More Powerful, All the Tech you can Throw at it, Sleek, Popular...  That describes a few churches who are able to pull off the dynamic approach to worship and ministry. No, they're not bad and evil just because they're the biggest and strongest. They are simply serving their audience how their audience wants served. 

How do we want served? We're a small church in a suburban area that is aging. The house market is slowly turning the median age younger, but its not moving very fast. We arent the quickest to adapt and adopt. The resources (people) are just not plentiful enough to build major programs and make us a powerhouse. 

Is that a bad thing? It is, if you judge a church's influence and ability by the standards of the world. 

A corporation is only successful if it has market saturation and brand awareness. Basically, the world tells us that we need to be the 6 Million Dollar Man to even compete in the church growth market. Is that really the only way we can hope to make a difference? I hope not, because even with inflation and the growth/decline of the dollar, $6 Million is near impossible. 

It is a good thing Jesus measures strength and power with a different metric than the world. Zacchaeus was his choice for a dinner host. He thought parties with tax collecters were a great idea to attend. He touched people who wouldnt be allowed within yards of the temple. He valued women and servants. He taught his apostles to treat people kindly (children especially), and not be blinded by cultural barriers. He modeled strength through sacrifice and service. 

That doesnt look like $6 Million dollar programming, it looks like simple relationships. It looks like gentleness. His model works for us because it is not based on budget or manpower. It is based on loving the people around us. We are not weak because we are small. We are strong because he is strong. Make a difference in someone's life today in a small but personal way, and the Kingdom of God will be that much closer and stronger than ever before. 

(I do wish i made the cool whooshing/electronic noise when I ran like Lee Majors did in the show). 

John 13: 3 - 5 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God;so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.




August 14, 2017, 9:36 AM

Faith...


This is a tough one to nail down. Meaning: kindness was simple -- be kind. Goodness, the same -- be good. But faithfulness - have faith... In what? God, yes. But the question was asked in class yesterday (08/13) "What exactly does faith in God really look like?" 

For many, it means going to church. Period. Faithful in attendance. Surely God will notice how I've adjusted my schedule to meet his, right? 

For others it means including daily study and prayer on top of dutiful attendance. Surely God will notice how I approach him on a daily basis, right? 

I am NOT decrying attendance or daily habitual reflection in the Bible and prayer. Those are essential pieces to being a Christ-follower. But they are not displays of faith. They are displays of habit, scheduling, and a tenacious desire to please God by doing things he wants us to do. Those habits may even include such radical things like giving weekly, serving in a classroom or ministry, or finding service opportunities during the week that help the marginalized and destitute. While all are good things... none of them really require faith. They require scheduling, planning, sometimes elbow grease. 

Faith is a deeper, more foundational element that changes our character, not just our schedules. Reading your Bible every day, if done out of habit or a felt need to do something godly on a daily basis, may have little to no impact on your life other than familiarity with scripture. In the same vein, prayer can be rote, or habitually asking for help as opposed to asking for a deeper connection with God. 

When you have faith in something, it shapes your behaviors, decisions, and hopes. Not just a few minutes/hours a week. There is a tenacity to the faithful that circumstance, storm, or hardship cannot shake. Faith changes the way choices are made. Faith adjusts lifestyles. Faith moves the mountains, it does not just build an easier path around them. 

I recall a story a good college friend told me about his time in Papua New Guinea as a teenager. A mountain tribe was dying, desperate for supplies, relief, and the new found hope they discovered in Christ through scripture. No one could reach them based on the terrain. One person, during a tribal council discussing the need to relocate and abandon their location held for generations, brought up Matthew 17:20 and asked the leaders to pray for the mountain to move instead of the tribe. They did just that. One shovel-full at a time, they moved a mountain. Creating a landing strip for a small plane to reach them, the tribe connected with the world and with the Gospel. Because of faith. True story. 

What mountains have we been content walking around, or abandoning all together? 

Matthew 14: 14 - 21 

14 At the foot of the mountain, a large crowd was waiting for them. A man came and knelt before Jesus and said, 15“Lord, have mercy on my son. He has seizures and suffers terribly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. 16So I brought him to your disciples, but they couldn’t heal him.” 17Jesus said, “You faithless and corrupt people! How long must I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.” 18Then Jesus rebuked the demon in the boy, and it left him. From that moment the boy was well. 19Afterward the disciples asked Jesus privately, “Why couldn’t we cast out that demon?”
20“You don’t have enough faith,” Jesus told them. “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.

2 Corinthians 5:7  For we live by faith, not by sight. 

 




August 7, 2017, 9:15 AM

Good.


I remember a class I taught a loooong time ago in my youth ministry days... I recall it because a) its essential to this illustration; and 2) it has stuck with me all these years.

I asked my class at the time: What is the hardest part about being Christian?  The response that stuck with me: Being good. None of the kiddos responded with discipleship issues. Not one threw baptism and the heavy commitment it is as an answer. No doctrinal issues came up (instruments vs. a cappella, etc...). "Being Good" was the one that got the class talking. 

I think the biggest struggle that was being expressed by this youth group member was this: the definition of good has been skewed. We've been taught that "being good" was the main goal of the Christian life. Now, no one may have specifically said it that way, but we've shaped ourselves into communities that try to do enough good that we tip the balance of heaven and hell in our favor. Church attendance becomes paramount (not that it isn't important, but it is not a criteria mentioned scripturally for salvation), we excel at Bible drills (finding books and verses faster than others), and we can list all the things we don't do because we're good Christians. Therefore, being good is what we assume God must want from every Christian... and we perpetuate that diluted religion. 

Does God want us to be good? Of course! But we need to know the exact kind of good we're dealing with if we say it that way. Mark 10 addresses this issue, with the Rich Young Ruler being a genuinely good person, obedient, and law abiding... but lacking an understanding of what true, godly goodness meant. Following the rules and having a strong list of "don'ts" is a good starting point for establishing character and obedience. It is, however, NOT what defines the heart of a Christian. Jesus addresses that with this young man in Mark, identifying the one area in which obedience had not translated into godly goodness - his wealth. 

This story should be rather alarming. Every one comes to Jesus with a handful of good things we've done or given up for his name's sake. We all come expecting a pat on the back for perfect attendance, consistent offering plate contributions, even teaching Sunday school... We must be ready though for him to turn to us, search us, and identify what has kept us from being truly good. Your challenge this week is to find that place(s) that would have you turning around discouraged because Jesus pointed it out as not being good enough. Discover it and change it. 

And be good! 

 




July 31, 2017, 10:17 AM

Jesus was Really Nice.


Understatement of the year: Jesus was a really nice guy. 

And while that sounds so......simplistic, there is a high value to the concept. Jesus was nice. There were times, yes, where he was aggressive and firm with a lesson. But for the most part (99% of the time) he was kind. Children want to come see him, with all their wiggles and short attention spans: he welcomed them kindly. In fact, he was so kind to them that he turned it around on his disciples for pushing the kids away. Have a disease that separates you from everyone?  Jesus reached out to you kindly. Do you work for Rome? Jesus not only will heal your servants, he will profess to the crowds around about the amazing level of your faith!! 

Jesus was kind... to everyone who could not repay his kindness. Those that knew better were treated a little less kindly. When you get the time this week in Bible study, spend time in the Gospel of John and rediscover the powerful displays of Grace by Jesus. Almost every time, we could excuse anyone for being testy, short, or impatient. And yet every time, Jesus is kind and nice despite circumstance. My favorite t-shirt logo I've seen in recent history is this: "I'm sorry for things I said when I was hungry."  

In John 4, Jesus was very tired and very hungry. And yet he is filled with Grace and kindness towards a woman who could neither reciprocate or even justify talking to him in the first place. 

A closing thought to this quick hit blog: You're never too important or busy to be nice. If anyone could claim that, it is Jesus. "I'm sorry, I'm too busy making sure your path to salvation is complete."  OR: "I'm sorry, but my time is way too short to spend time with your child, your lepers, or your sick and dying servants... after all, you're not Jewish."  Never, ever did Jesus withhold compassion, grace, and kindness. What ground do we have to stand on when we withhold any of it? 

John 4: 4 - 10   4He had to go through Samaria on the way.5Eventually he came to the Samaritan village of Sychar, near the field that Jacob gave to his son Joseph.6Jacob’s well was there; and Jesus, tired from the long walk, sat wearily beside the well about noontime.7Soon a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Please give me a drink.”8He was alone at the time because his disciples had gone into the village to buy some food. 9The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans. She said to Jesus, “You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?” 10Jesus replied, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.”




July 24, 2017, 8:38 AM

Symptoms


After a small epiphany yesterday before the Adult class, I want to explore further a thought that unpacked itself during our class time and sermon. Lack of patience (impatience) is not THE problem... it is a symptom of a greater problem. 

As we examine Paul's list concerning what the Holy Spirit will exhibit in those seeking to be like Christ, the first three are the source... what follows (generally speaking) are results of issues we may have with Love, Joy, and Peace. 

If we do not have a full grasp of a loving life, filled with joy, and seeking peace we will naturally become impatient, mean, not full of goodness, and lack self control (among other things). Too often we point first to a lack of patience as our biggest problem. 

That is not the problem.  How we love, or choose to hate is the problem. The boundaries we have allowed to exist between us and certain people is not a lack of patience with "difficult" people. It is a problem with loving like God loves. When we choose to not see joy in our circumstances, we will lose patience at the drop of a hat. Patience is not the problem. Our hearts and the dark places we have kept hidden are the source. 

Your challenge this week as we continue studying patience is to not just be patient with someone. Be patient because you love someone completely. 

Ephesians 4: 2 - 3 Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your dlove. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.


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