“Our most basic presentations of the good news of Jesus have been filled with assumptions. When we would eagerly tell the unchurched that God loved them and had wonderful plans for their lives, we knew that the word God would evoke the same image that we had. When we would ask an unbeliever, “If you died tonight, do you know for certain that you will be in heaven with God?” we knew it was unnecessary to build an argument for the existence of heaven. But we were wrong.”
-Erwin McManus in “An Unstoppable Force”
In the world today, the church can no longer afford to make assumptions. We must do the work necessary to make sure that we are actually communicating with people Jesus is missing. Our youth ministry is in a kind of reshaping process right now, and I want to make sure that we’re communicating the right things in the right languages.
Otherwise, we’re not really communicating at all…
“…there arose a great disturbance about the way.”
In Acts 19, people were upset. At first, I wanted to write about how when Paul led others to truly live life the “way” Jesus intended – it really ticked off the Jewish leaders. They were content with their system of relating to God through obedience and attendance. Here comes Paul telling people to actually love God and others, take care of others, put others before yourself… revealing the shortcomings of their system.
I wanted to write of my fear that the church is sinking into the same trap the first century Jews were in, and how we need someone like Paul to come along and free us from the “just show up when we open the doors and do what you’re told” religious quicksand.
Then I kept reading.
The synagogue leaders were irate. But, it got worse. Under the guise of devotion to Artemis, a favorite goddess of Ephesus, leaders of trade in the community nearly started a riot! The source of their livelihood was threatened by “the Way”. “If people start worshiping this Jesus, who will be buying these statues of Artemis we sell them?”
When was the last time the church did something that the community really took notice of? I’m not talking about stupid behavior done with God’s name slapped onto it like a badge. I’m not talking about picketing military funerals or bullhorn blasts about whom God hates. I’m not talking about ornate buildings or flashy TV spots. Those things might grab headlines, but that’s not what Paul was doing in Ephesus. He was training people to live like Jesus. And when they did, the synagogue became obstinant and spread lies about them, some tried to mimic them*, and the “whole city was in an uproar.”
Where, today, is the church leading a transformation of lives so deep that social mores are threatened? Have we become more concerned with collecting members than we are about living “the Way”?
*maybe I’m a little twisted, but I find the story of the “Seven Sons” in verses 13-16 pretty funny. Don’t throw Jesus’ name around like a magic token – you might just get beat senseless!
The Coops were out of town for a funeral this weekend, so I was asked to lead worship Sunday. Even though it was kind of last minute and the preparation time was less than normal I really enjoyed it. There were a few awkward moments during practices – mostly because the songs that I’d chosen were not familiar to all of the team. I really appreciate their flexibility. Things went pretty well, and the feedback has been positive.
I have done a lot less leading music lately and I’ve missed that. Our Wed. night student crowd seems to like it when we do music, but I haven’t been able to put together a team to lead. So usually I’m leading with just my guitar. It was nice to play with a band again!
This weekend reinforced for me a couple thoughts I’ve been having lately:
1) I need to be doing more worship musically with our students. There are a few students who have been learning guitar and drums. I need to do more to foster their development and encourage them to use their musical gifts to lead people in expressing our love for God. When I first started in ministry, I could barely put three chords in the right order. God broke through that wall and enabled me to lead anyway, then eventually provided some students who learned to play. For whatever reason, I’ve been hesitant to follow that same path here. I’ve been afraid to let kids play who are more prone to mistakes – too concerned with the shiny, glossy finish on the music. I’m done with that. If the rhythm is off or a chord is out of whack once in a while – it’s still worship if the heart is right.
2) I need to be leading the student ministry with more of a team. There are a handful of wonderful youth leaders here who really care about the students and are heavily investing themselves in the students. But we need more – we need to be functioning cohesively. Which is why I’m hosting a brunch this weekend for a group of people that I hope God is moving toward a place in that team. We need to define our process of discipleship more simply and make sure we all see where we can most help in that process.
According to 1 Peter 4:10, we are to be managers of God’s grace. He has entrusted us with His grace. Trusted us with it. We are to be managers, stewards, and dispensers of His grace. The church must pour out God’s grace to the world so that people may grow in His grace. (Rainer/Geiger)
In Simple Church, Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger make a case for many churches’ need for a “makeover”. The contention is that the church has become too complicated and cluttered with programs – so much so that the real issue, life-changing discipleship, is often not happening. The process of spiritual growth is unclear – people are confused about how to move from one stage of faith to the next in the church. Faithful participation in programs has not consistently led people to become conduits of God’s grace into the world.
I’d like to know what your church’s discipleship process looks like. Especially if you are from here at WestWay, how would you describe (y)our process of spiritual growth? How do we help people continually grow spiritually throughout their lives?
I recently read this book by Jim Henderson and Matt Casper called “Jim & Casper Go to Church“. Jim is a former pastor/author/house painter, while his friend Casper is an atheist. They went to church together to try to evaluate what is going on today in the American church.
While the opinions they offer are only snapshots of single moments in the lives of the congregations they visited, there were enough common elements to their visits to make me take notice. Those of us in ministry very rarely attend another church as a visitor. Because of that, I think we often lose the sense of how what we are doing in our gatherings is seen by those who are visiting. Casper’s perspectives on some of what many in America see as the best of the best churches is very eye opening.
He often asks Jim a question that I think everyone serving in any type of church leadership capacity should ask themselves from time to time: “Is this what Jesus told you guys to do?” Both in large and small churches, from big budgets to small ones, Casper wondered if what was going on in Sunday morning services was really what Jesus was all about. Are “worship services” really reflecting the heart of our Savior? Is the way we “do church” really helping people learn to “be the church”?
“After they talk and stuff at church, why do they always play sad music while they pray?”
This question came to me after a time of response that followed a sermon at a youth event this last weekend. I didn’t have a very good answer. A lot of things flashed through my mind, but none of them would have satisfied the inquisitive young man who’d asked the question.
To manipulate a desired response…?
To keep a mellow vibe…?
To encourage thoughtful response of what you’ve just heard…?
The only thing I could honestly say on the spot was, “I’m not really sure.”
Something else struck me also: “sad music”. If a song doesn’t reach a certain tempo, that makes it sad? The reason this part of his question raised so many more questions for me is probably that I tend to gravitate toward songs that move along at a pace that allows me to think introspectively. (Maybe I’m a slow thinker, so that means slower songs.) But if what seems “thoughtful” to me seems “sad” to a good portion of my students, what am I communicating?
God is sad…?
God is slow…?
God is only found in the slow music…?
That’s not the message I want my students to take to heart. Music’s sometimes a tricky issue in the church. Everyone perceives it differently. It’ll take a lot of work to form a well-rounded, healthy ‘philosophy of music’ in ministry. I’ve just been reminded I need to reevaluate that once in a while. Thanks Andrew.
A couple important parenting tips:
1) Your child is not entitled to most of what our culture is training her to think she’s entitled to.
2) Actions have consequences.
An excellent parenting example: “‘Meanest Mom on Planet’ Sells Teen Son’s Car After Finding Booze Under Seat“.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” -Mark Twain
I pulled this quote from on of the chapter openings of “In a Pit…”. As we look back, we’ll regret the good we didn’t do more than the mistakes we’ve made. Don’t let the fear of mistakes keep you from taking a risk that could have great results.
I finished reading Mark Batterson’s “In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day” recently. The book recounts the Biblical story of Benaiah, mighty warrior/lion chaser/bodyguard/military commander. The gist is that Benaiah seized an incredible opportunity that most sane people would have run from – he chased a lion into a pit on a snowy day, killed it, and was greatly rewarded in life as a result. Instead of running from difficult circumstances and seeking safety at all costs, we can learn “how to survive and thrive when opportunity roars” – the subtitle of the book.
One part of the book that really stuck out for me (besides the title) was the chapter on “Unlearning Your Fears”. Batterson pointed to psychiatric research suggesting the only two fears that are inate to man are the fear of falling and of loud noises. Every other phobia is learned – AND can be UNlearned.
Lion Chasers (those who are able to turn difficult circumstances into rewarding experiences) have learned to face their fears. The key to this unlearning is to have a renewed mind, retooled into the mind of Christ (which is brought about through a consistent diet of Scripture). When I find my security and my very identity in Him, what is there to fear? When I know that I am acting on His thoughts and dreams, what circumstances can shake my resolve?
I like books that ask “what if?” questions. This is one of those books.
“What if the life you really want, and the future God wants for you, is hiding right now in your biggest problem, your worst failure… your greatest fear?”