Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Stick to what you are gluing

I decided to glue something yesterday. I know, I am not that guy. You know, the one with "fixing" skills. But, it was just one metal piece to another and the glue tube said it could be done in three easy steps. I cleaned the surfaces, applied the glue (more or less sparingly) and then held the pieces together; with my fingers. 
The good news is the items stuck to each other. The bad news is the items stuck to me as well. I guess there is one other piece of news - I wont be passing any finger print scans for awhile.
It made me wonder about how we try to get people to "stick" to church. We have special meals with invitation cards. We put together "attraction" sermon series with invitation cards and even newspaper articles. We greet first time guests and tell them how glad we are to see them. We make sure the worship time has plenty of explanations for what is happening. 
With all of that we are still only keeping 15% of our first time guests and we are only seeing 2 to 3 first time guests each Sunday. Maybe we need to be unafraid to let those guest stick to us.
So we loose a little personal time. Maybe we end up taking phone calls and texts at odd hours from those guests. We could even find ourselves having to answer questions like, "Do you welcome gay couples here?" 
When we try to glue our guests to our body we are probably not doing a very good job if some of ourselves don't get stuck to them. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Traits needed for good parenting

Most Americans believe good mothers and fathers must be loving, supportive and protecting, but fewer see the necessity of parents having a commitment to Christianity or religion, according to a LifeWay Research survey released May 7. The survey, conducted in March, gauged opinions of the expected roles of parents at a time when Americans typically begin giving thought to Mother's Day and Father's Day.

According to the survey, "Loving" is the No. 1 characteristic deemed mandatory for both mothers and fathers (80+ percent) with "supporting," "protecting," "encouraging" and "involved" sharing the number two slot. Interestingly the characteristic most depicted in movies and on TV, "fun," garnered only 50% of the vote.

What the researchers found concerning was that Americans don't necessarily see as mandatory traits of good mothers and fathers are religious convictions, including being a committed Christian which showed at 35%. But that is not so surprising when we realize the "religious" and even "Christian" are concepts most Americans equate with legalistic and intolerant.

I am more inclined to see the results as Americans accepting the traits that best typify a follower of Jesus as being the important traits for a parent. It is difficult to be consistently loving, supportive, protecting, encouraging, and involved unless you are living your life to a higher standard than the natural requirements in the world. These qualities are not natural. They are normal to God's followers who set aside the natural for His normal.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A sending God

UK blogger Andrew Jones explains: "Missio Dei [the mission of God] stems from the Triune God: the Father sends the Son, the Father and the Son send the Spirit, the Father and Son and the Spirit send the church into the world." So a missional church is about doing God's work in the world today.
Nice, succinct and to the point - as long as I believe the underlying truth, "There is not relationship with God without Christ" which is the first stage of Jones litany. To agree to this truth is to agree to a darker truth, "without Jesus one's eternal future is in hell." Does that make God intolerant? Yes, intolerant of sin. Without Christ there is no hope for you and I or our well meaning friend who has not accepted Jesus. This truth has kept me up more nights than I can count. Here is what Paul said about "his people."
"I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit—I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race, the people of Israel (Rom. 9:1–4).
Brian Jones in Non-Religious Devotional Thoughts 10/14/2013 asks us this series of questions, "How about you? Do you feel great sorrow and unceasing anguish for that non-Christian friend you work with? That Jewish neighbor? That Hindu person who works at the restaurant you frequent? If not, why not? To me there are only two answers to that question: You either don’t believe in hell, or you don’t care that your friends will go there when they die. There’s no middle ground here. Most Christians I meet either don’t believe that their non-Christian friends are going to hell, or worse, don’t care. Are you one of them?"
We may wish they would come to the church but, the commission says "go make" not "come become." The church needs to be attractive - that is part of doing Jesus in the community. The problem arises from making beauty of church more important than making the church mobile.
Mike Breen, pastor at Community Church of Joy near Phoenix, Arizona, says. "The missional church is rooted in not just the New Testament church of Acts, but in the mission of Jesus himself. A missional church lives out the church's three-dimensional calling: to be upwardly focused on God in worship that is passionate; to be inwardly focused on community among believers that is demonstrated in relationships of love and compassion; and to be outwardly focused on a world that does not yet know God."
To do this means an attitude shift described by Pastor Janetta Cravens, of First Christian Church in Macon, Georgia, "We are moving from seeing ourselves as a church who needs members from the community to seeing ourselves as being in a community whose members need the church. We've realized we're here to serve the community in unique ways."

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

We are free to disciple

"Everything is permissible"--but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible"--but not everything is constructive"1 Corinthians 10:23.
When I first read this in my pre-teens I rejoiced. Clearly God had set me free from my parent's crushing hand of tyranny. I could hear the Apostle Paul telling me to engage in any and all pursuits that caught my interest. I had missed the qualifying "beneficial" aspect of the "everything" statement which my Dad corrected for me the first time I came into the house with a cigarette in my mouth claiming God over rode parents. My lesson, though hard come by - Dad was a "rod straightens out the child" kind of person - has been an ongoing tutorial.
Like most people who come to the faith I was very interested in the freedoms of that faith. I mistakenly assumed that as long as I practiced my faith in a way that did not harm God, myself, or my church I was free to live out my relationship with God and others as I pleased. I believe the main reason we, the members of His body the church, do not bring others to church is because we truly believe we are free to not bring them. After all, "everything is permissible." As long as we do not sin we are comfortable, even validated, in our personal relationship with God through Christ. 
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Verse 24 following the text reads, "Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others." That is the definition of "beneficial." How we choose to live out our relationship with God is open to enjoying His bountiful creation "as long as" what we do points others back to Him. God feels so strongly about this He gave as His final command, "Go." While it is true Matthew 28:19's opening phrase is better translated, "As you are going make disciples..." it's meaning in the original language carries the force of command to make disciples. We are not asked to go as we please. We are commanded to make disciples wherever we please to go. 
Just as accepting Jesus as our lord and savior is non negotiable for acceptance by Him so making disciples is non negotiable to living with Him.
Disciplining is not an elective and it begins with a simple invitation to our acquaintances to come and see Jesus through His church. If you are uncertain how to disciple someone else I recommend http://www.multiplymovement.com as a great place to start.