What Is So Amazing About Grace

What is so amazing about grace?

 

You don’t deserve it yet God offers it. The person you love the most doesn’t deserve grace. The person you hate the most doesn’t deserve grace. That person could be you.

 

No one deserves grace. That’s why it is so amazing. God offers his grace to us simply because he loves us. For God to love us sounds cliche but it’s the truest of truths. Because of His great love, we have grace.

Locking the Doors of the Church Opens the Doors To Ministry

Imagine if we trashed our traditionalism and shut the doors on Sunday night and Wednesday night. Imagine the ministry that could happen if we released our congregation to live their lives rather than congregating for another sermon. Imagine a church who gathers once a week to scatter every day. Imagine a church who is not bothered so much with meeting with Christians but bothered so much with not meeting with those who are far from God. Imagine a family who gets to spend time together on Sunday nights before their week begins rather than going to the church building for another bible study they probably won’t remember.

Can you imagine or are you so lost in your traditionalism that shutting the doors of your church to allow your people to do ministry in their community and with their own family is too much to bear? Are you afraid of losing another offering? Are you concerned with them not getting enough biblical understanding and encouragement from the morning sermon? Does it squash your pride and your need for more stage time?

Read this story from The Call by Os Guinness.

“The story is told, for example, of two young Dutch priests who eagerly followed news of Martin Luther’s early reforms—brought to them by Guttenberg’s new printing presses. In 1520, they read the revolutionary paragraphs in The Babylonian Captivity. They were stunned. Their whole view of following Christ, and in particular their whole way of leading the church, was wrong. Their response was swift and decisive—the very next Sunday evening they locked the doors of their church.

“Locked their church doors? What on earth for? For security reasons? Or were they hijacking their premises and transferring them forcibly to another denomination? There were in fact no “Protestant” churches at this stage, let alone “denominations.” The priests’ point was theological. At a time when “church” was typically equated with “clerical” and associated with buildings, institutions, and ecclesiastical hierarchies, Luther’s rediscovery of calling blew apart the distortions of the medieval world.

“Yes, the church as a building is essential to worship and certain other aspects of the church’s corporate life. But to make it more is to fall for the perennial “edifice complex.” So the two priests locked the church doors on Sunday night as a statement that followers of Christ were to live their whole lives to God.”

Guinness, Os (2003-10-09). The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life (p. 163). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

Who Are You Today

When we were discussing moving to plant Village Church, I tried to find a way to transfer my job coaching skills. However, there were no job coaching positions where we were going. I was thumbing through Facebook and came across an article about a substitute teacher who was stapling his kids in class. I thought to myself I could do that.  Not the stapling part but being a substitute teacher. Upon doing a Google search to find the article, I found this is not an isolated case. It seems to happen quite often.

Fast-forward three months and I am always asked by other teachers, “Who are you today?” What they really mean is who are you substituting for. It’s like I don’t exist. I’m just a fill in, an authoritative figure or image with the same name. My typical response is the name of the teacher, not my own name. Just yesterday, the principle called the over the loudspeaker into my room for the teacher I was substituting for knowing well that she was absent. In other words, he called me by her name.

I can’t help to think in a small way that is the way we are to live our lives for Christ. We represent Him. We sacrifice daily for Him and His calling. When others see us they should see Jesus in our actions, our mannerisms, our love, and our speech.

That’s not to say that it takes away from who we were made to be. God uniquely created each of us with our own potential and desires. When we try to be who we are not, we are actually robbing God of the gift He gave us to be who He made us to be. It would be crass to slap God and say, “I don’t want the uniqueness you gave me.” I want to be someone else. I know I struggled with that for years.

But we do represent Him. Jesus never said we could be Him but he did say we could do more than he did (John 14:12), that we could have the same potential to make an impact just as He did and still does. 2 Corinthians 5:20 says we are Christ’s ambassadors. Therefore, everything we do in his name is a direct representation of Him. Let us therefore live worthy of that calling.

 

 

 

Shifting the Paradigm of Outreach

Outreach can be defined as any event that gathers the churched with the unchurched for the sole purpose of meeting a need. In my experience, outreach has always been a way for churches to meet the unchurched or dechurched and invite them to church. This is not a harmful motive because the gospel is preached when the people of God meet together. The gospel is experienced when the people of God gather. However it typically has an ulterior motive, that is baiting people for church attendance.

My experience has shown that outreach is more focused on the numbers game rather than being Jesus to one another. What I mean by that is Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35 NIV). Three times in two verses Jesus said “Love one another.”

Notice the motive is love and not church growth. I know it may seem forced to say that church growth is not fulfilling the command of love but what I’m trying to say is the ultimate motive to loving others is because Jesus first loved us (1 John 4:19). Most outreaches are focused first with church growth then love. It’s backwards.

What if we had a paradigm shift?

What if we first focused on loving others by serving others just as Jesus served us. What if we viewed outreach in the sense that we are meeting needs for the sole purpose of meeting needs because that’s what Jesus would do. Instead of even having an ounce of thought in our heart that outreach might inform someone of our church, our gatherings, our worship, or our preaching, what if we focused primarily on feeding the ones who are hungry, loving the unloved, meeting tangible needs, and being an encouragement to the hurting?

We can shift this paradigm by seeing people as God sees them and not as business sees them. God sees people as His creation who need one another for maturity and not as a business who needs others for profitable gain. It is possible to do outreach with one motive, love.

What if we literally threw out the thought that if we reach out to someone (in love) we could get another church attender. What if we seriously considered helping someone, serve someone or give to someone for the sole purpose of seeing them become successful and blessed? I can’t possible believe Jesus would want it any other way.

Recently, here in southern Tennessee, we had ice storms that caused a lot of power outages and electric crews were out for many hours at a time to repair everyone’s electricity. That is their job. I heard testimonies from linemen’s families that they may have gotten four hours of sleep a day during a week of cold hard winter. They risked their lives to find electric lines down and repair them.

A Facebook page was set up to show our appreciation by providing them a lunch and to simply show our gratitude. It’s not a Christian event. It simply is people gathering to give a pat on the back and to thank men for their hard work. We could easily say that was your job. However, the encouragement and blessing to provide them with a small token of gratification does more than we could possibly imagine.

The Church should be doing the same thing. Reaching out to love on people simply because we are to love them. We were never called to build churches. We were called to love God and love others by sharing the gospel and make disciples. It really is that simple.

We can shift the outreach paradigm. We MUST shift the outreach paradigm and quit offering a bait and switch.

 

Being Faithful Says I Love You

When my son was learning to speak, he would tell us he loved us by saying, “I fay fo.” He couldn’t really pronounce I love you very well. It kinda stuck with us and at almost five years old now, sometimes, we say, “I fay fo,” to one another. It’s like our own language that we understand and no one else does.

Recently, while driving and listening to the radio, Chris Tomlin’s Whom Shall I Fear came on. This is one of Levi’s favorite songs. Everytime we get in the truck he wants to listen to it. As we were listening to it this time, Levi caught wind of the lyrics. It sings, “You are faithful, you are faithful.”

He quickly turned to me and said, Jesus love us because the words say “fay fo”. Yeah, fay fo and faithful sound a lot alike. Then I had an epiphany.

When we are faithful it’s as if we are telling God we love him. God is always faithful and he always loves us.

Here’s to being faithful and telling God I fay fo.

Building Community Through Effective Discipleship

 

 

house church

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This is more effective 

than this

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ElevationWorship-PIC

 

 

 

 

 

Stay Focused

Yesterday, I blogged about staying hungry. When we stay hungry we also have to be sure that what we feed ourselves is vital to our health. We can feed ourselves junk food and it will destroy our health or we can feed ourselves healthy food and it will restore our energy and focus.

Speaking of focus… Let’s talk more about that. Let me share with you a story from David Miller’s book AWOL on the Appalachian Trail.

“Strider started the trail with a purist mind-set, but soon joined with a group of hikers who are having a more social experience of the trail. He spent two weeks partying with them in Damascus. The group is ahead at Rockfish Gap, preparing to travel by canoe to Harpers Ferry, bypassing the trail through Shenandoah National Park. Strider is torn between going with them and hiking the entire trail. ‘I can still come back and hike the Shenandoah later,’ he says, echoing a common refrain.”

My family and I moved to my hometown to plant a missional community (church). We’ve been here for three months and already I have received offers to be a youth leader and a worship leader. These are lucrative positions; pastors with great vision, established congregations, financial gain, immediate accomplishment, critical support and existing faith family. If I were like Strider in the previous story, I would be torn between my calling, “hiking my own hike,” or being led away from my calling for a good idea like Strider and “hike the Shenandoah later.”

I love the pastors who called me and felt the need to offer such positions to me. They are really good friends who I’ve done ministry with for years. However they felt they couldn’t go any further without at least marking me off as an option for their local church. I would have done the same. Call it a testing if you’d like.

Thankfully, I am focused on what God has called me to do. Maybe a little headstrong as well. But that’s what happens when you set out to fill your calling. Opportunities will rise to 1) test you, 2) tempt you, 3) see if you are focused, 4) confirm your calling. It will be too easy to be torn because you’ll see the good in both of those opportunities but if you stay focused, you’ll finish strong.

At my last church, we had a filter that we ran every opportunity through. We would ask, “Is it a good idea or a God idea.” Most time it was a good idea and the Good Idea Fairy has no other desire than to get you off track. It will flood your mind with what you could be doing rather than what you are called to be doing. Staying focused kills the Good Idea Fairy.

So if you know what God has called you to, then stay focused. Don’t find another “good idea” while hiking the trail. You started for what God called you to do. Finish strong knowing that you didn’t give into the good ideas.

 

References

Miller, David. AWOL on the Appalachian Trail. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011. 94

 

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