Sunday, October 28, 2007

Shades of truth in all things...

This morning I was watching Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and Yoda said:
Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose.
— Yoda, Starwars III: Revenge of the Sith

It's all about the ___________.

During his ministry, Jesus taught a great deal about the Kingdom of God.
From there he went all over Galilee. He used synagogues for meeting places and taught people the truth of God. God's kingdom was his theme — that beginning right now they were under God's government, a good government! — Matthew 4:23

He often told stories to help people understand what the Kingdom was like.
The disciples came up and asked, "Why do you tell stories?" He replied, "You've been given insight into God's kingdom. You know how it works. Not everybody has this gift, this insight; it hasn't been given to the. Whenever someone has a heart for this, the insights and understandings flow freely. But if there is no readiness, any trace of receptivity soon disappears. That's why I tell stories: to create rediness, to nudge the people toward receptive insight. In their present state they can stare till doomsday and not see it, listen till they're blue in the face and not get it." — Matthew 13:10-13

When Jesus sent out the twelve:
Jesus sent his twelve harvest hands out with this charge:

"Don't begin by traveling to some far-off place to convert unbelievers. And don't try to be dramatic by tackling some public enemy. Go to the lost, confused people right here in the neighborhood. Tell them that the kingdom is here. " — Matthew 10:5-7

If you read through the four gospel accounts of Jesus' ministry, it quickly becomes clear Jesus' teaching was centered in the Kingdom. He told stories about the Kingdom to spark interest in people's minds which would draw them into a readiness to live a Kingdom-focused life. Questions he was asked would focus on the kingdom(s) of this world. Jesus' answers would bring back into focus his Father's Kingdom.

I just finished reading the teaching plan for a Bible study. It was a typical teaching plan. But I was struck by it's focus. Where Jesus told the twelve to tell people the kingdom is here, I'm realizing so much of today's teaching is church-focused. As if the church has become the kingdom in the eyes of today's supposed believers.
Here's a list of questions the teaching plan suggests the leader ask:
1. What does this passage tell us about the needs and concerns of those who drift away from the church?
2. Why do Christians sometimes stop attending church?
3. What should other believers do in connection with those who drop out of church?

It is subtle but notice we don't ask about the needs of someone who has lost a focus on the Kingdom in their daily life. We don't ask why a person avoids hanging out with fellow Christ Followers. We don't ask what responsibility we have as Christ Followers to find out why our brother or sister is detaching him/her self from family.

Today, we ask people if they go to church anywhere rather than if they know about the Savior. We invite people to church instead of telling them the Kingdom has come. We give sacrificially to build the church. We serve to keep the church going. We have simply equated church=Kingdom. We are plagued with such tunnel vision about our mere piece of the body that we have lost touch with the sense of the Kingdom that Jesus taught. The success of our business enterprise demands that we gain more market share than the other God-business down the street so today's business leaders channel the focus of the people into brand awareness and loyalty.

Step outside your typical mindset for a week. Accept the challenge to be Kingdom-focused for a week. Scrutinize all the talk and teaching and boil it down to what it's all about. Don't merely equate church as Kingdom like we've come to do. At the end of the week reflect back on where it all aimed... Kingdom or just that little piece? Voice it out loud... say "It's all about the ____________" filling in the blank with whatever you discover.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

TIME Magazine - Why Home Churches Are Filling Up

This article from Time magazine was published in Feb 2006.
Or so thinks Jeanine, who two years ago abandoned a large congregation for the burgeoning movement known in evangelical circles as "house churching," "home churching" or "simple church." The week she left, she says, "I cried every day." But the home service flourished, grew to 40 people and then divided into five smaller groups.

"Oops!" — Bill Hybels of Willow Creek

So in a recent blog post (Willow Creek Repents?) it seems some folks are waking up to the fact that their millions of dollars spent to develop Christ Followers is actually not working:
We made a mistake. What we should have done when people crossed the line of faith and become Christians, we should have started telling people and teaching people that they have to take responsibility to become ‘self feeders.’ We should have gotten people, taught people, how to read their bible between service, how to do the spiritual practices much more aggressively on their own.

Also Greg Hawkins, executive pastor at Willow Creek, in the same article expresses a fundamental change:
Our dream is that we fundamentally change the way we do church. That we take out a clean sheet of paper and we rethink all of our old assumptions. Replace it with new insights. Insights that are informed by research and rooted in Scripture. Our dream is really to discover what God is doing and how he’s asking us to transform this planet.

The multi-billion dollar question is can their "ministries" survive the probable hit when climbing the mountain means some of the lack-luster committed followers don't make the climb. When the kingdoms begin to crumble is there enough resolve to stay the course and continue to build on a new foundation. I'm watching intently!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Little phrases!

Shorter is good. Sinks in more. Makes its point. Here's today's from 1 John 3: in God's reality.

In what reality are you living?

Longmont clerk OKs anti-church petitions

So, put this in the OMGosh! category! And multiple strikes on the OMGosh! scale...
Longmont clerk OKs anti-church petitions

LifeBridge Christian Church plans plan to build a $25 million sports arena, luxury homes, retail space and a mega-church on the property near Union Reservoir.

LifeBridge owns the property but wants to be annexed to Longmont to get help bringing water lines and other infrastructure to the area. The City Council approved the annexation on Aug. 14.

  1. $25 million SPORTS ARENA!?

  2. Luxury homes?!

  3. Retail space and mega-church!?!?

Oh and... they want help bringing water lines and other infrastructure (tax payer funded) but they are tax exempt... please folks you can't have this both ways!

(You may want to stop before this last sentence... this one gets pretty harsh... but there is something in the writings of the New Testament about letting judgement [of the house of God] begin in the house of God by those who are part of the family.) Not to mention how far $25 million could go in helping families and individuals in crises... could Longmont eliminate homeless and poor situations with that money rather than building more places for supposed Christ followers to hide from the world in their own clean community? In another part of the country I'm familiar with two mega-churches are building combined improvements to their buildings around $40 million... and that's in the same community! $40 million spent on luxury space to provide a safe environment for their "members" to fellowship with each other hide away from the very world we're here to influence and help. And all this while their own members sacrifice (dividing a can of beans to feed families of four or more) to give to the building campaigns thinking they are advancing the Kingdom by so doing. Shame on us! Shame on the leaders who have been sucked down the road to believe this is for the Kingdom and pleases God! OMGosh!

1 John 2:6... the same kind of life Jesus lived

"Anyone who claims to be intimate with God ought to live the same kind of life Jesus lived."

...the same kind of life Jesus lived. What does that mean? All of it? Certain pieces of it? This could be the next single-focused reading pursuit!

Saturday, October 6, 2007

All things point to Him!

Several months ago Aaron, one of my fellow followers, explained to me a concept he had been developing a Bible study around. The conversation began with my noting the humor of our friend Ray's synopsis of chick flicks to his wife... it was a very simple and to the point list of three or four things which most every chick flick contained as the marker points of the plot. Aaron's focus took it a little deeper and definitely was on the more serious side of the same subject. I asked Aaron to send to me a written quote of his point. Here it is:
No matter who you are, where you’re from, or what perspective you have in life, all of us can recognize a common theme emerging in the world. We see it in the stories we love, we see it in history, we see it in our own lives. There is beauty and innocence, interrupted by tragedy and sadness, followed by longing for rescue, and hope for a better day. We love the stories best where a hero comes along to set the world right and bring a new day to pass where we return to that place of beauty and innocence again…changed of course…but back home again. That story is older than the middle ages, the roman empire, or even the Bible. It is the story written on the very heart of God…woven into our lives because we were made in His image.

The other evening I was leisurely riding west on Highway 7 in the Brighton CO area (which if anyone knows the area, they would know I was headed toward the gorgeous mountains) as the sun was setting. I was in awe of the picture God was painting before me. I began to think about how things we see, stuff we experience, literally everything we encounter (at least the natural stuff... laws of gravity, workings of the world, etc.) illustrates the creator who spoke it into being if we will only look for Him in those things. They tell us as much about Him and about His ways as do the words of Scripture and as does the life of His Son. So, God... here's lookin' at you!