Come to Christ, not just the Church

I’ve been thinking a lot about how we present Jesus. I’ve really noticed something of late.

What I’ve noticed is how much of our language focuses on “church” as the destination. That people are seeking to get others to go to this church service, program, speaker, worship event, etc. There is nothing wrong with any of these things, in fact, I think they are important. But we must be clear, the goal of life is not to get people to go to church, but to go to Christ.

That’s where the disconnection happens, because theologically you never go to church; as a Christian you are the church. You bring church with you. Our message needs to be, come to Christ and become part of the church. Our message is come to Jesus and join the adventure of following Christ together. Our message is good news to all. The church has the amazing role and responsibility of sharing that message. But the church shouldn’t transcend  or replace the message.

So all I’m saying is, the church is important, but it’s important only because of Jesus Christ. So when you invite a neighbor to church don’t stop there. Make sure you invite them to discover Jesus as well. Because the amazing thing is that once someone comes to Jesus, they become the church wherever they are…

Where I Saw Jesus This Week…

A little while ago I was at a party and I discovered Jesus was already there.

One of the biggest guiding beliefs in my life is that Jesus is active in the world already. He is a person, he is risen, and he is already active in places before I get there. So my goal is to find out where Jesus is active and to partner with him there. I just want to join in with what he is doing and where he is.

This happened at a party I was at. I shouldn’t have been surprised that Jesus was already working there because some of his best work happens in parties in the New Testament. But as I mingled and listened, I realized how Jesus was working in people’s lives and I just sought to affirm what he was doing in their lives.

One conversation started with this, “I’m not really religious, and I don’t know if you believe in God or anything. But here is what God did in my life…” We went on to talk about how this person found a prayer answered. After a while of talking they stopped and said “enough about me, what do you do?”  I said “I’m a pastor.”  They responded with “So you probably do believe in God then eh?” Great stuff right. God was already active in their life, I just got to affirm Jesus’ part of their lives and encourage them to keep on seeking God.

A second conversation began with simple confession, that a few followers of Jesus restored this person’s hope in humanity. A few different Christians had given them grace through practical expressions of love. They shared with me that these small gifts restored their hope in humanity, and an opening to God. That’s Jesus actively working in their hearts.

So my challenge for you this week is simple. Watch for Jesus and expect that he is working in people’s lives already. And when you see him active, encourage, affirm, and bless. Partner with Jesus in the lives around you and my guess is that you’ll start seeing some beautiful change and transformation…

Soap Boxes, Couches, and Stories

A friend of mine, Pernell Goodyear, was talking at our denomination’s regional gathering. I was recently going through my notes and really resonated with what he shared. He was talking about evangelism, as inviting people into our lives and walking with others. In his talk he said this:

“Soap boxes and pulpits are not nearly as important as kitchen tables and couches.”

This point really hit me quite hard. His point was simple. Evangelism happens best in the context of hospitality and friendship. Inviting people into your life to see how you live, to ask questions, and to live with you is the starting point. We need to be less concerned with getting our message out there, and more concerned with getting our “lives” out there. To actually connect with people, from friendships, and not only speak the message of grace, but to live it out.

Pernell’s point isn’t to invite someone into your home to “evangelize” or “convert” them. Jesus didn’t do that. Jesus entered people’s homes to hear their stories, to enter into their lives with grace. He entered their homes so that their lives became a part of his story. And we need to follow the same example, practicing radical hospitality with our friends, neighbors, and co-workers, letting their stories intermingle with ours, to see what God might do with the convergence.

So how do we practice this? Well, that’s the easy part, you start opening up your home, inviting neighbors in, inviting friends in, and welcoming others. Start listening to other people’s stories and seeking to discover how Jesus has been active in their lives, because he is. Jesus is already at work all over the world. We need to start joining him in that work by welcoming people into our homes, and starting to share our story, and listen to others…

Kissing Dirty Faces

Today I started thinking about messiness, and dirtiness. I am someone who likes a clean world. And I don’t really like messiness in general. But today my little boy ran up to me when I came home saying “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy” wanting a big hug and kiss.

The only thing was he had a really snotty face, his mouth was full of cookie, and when he gives kisses they are big open mouthed kisses. So did I ask him to clean his face first? No, of course not. I gave him a big kiss, runny nose and all.

The reason this struck me is because we all seem to have different tolerances of “dirtiness” in our lives. But the interesting thing is that depending on the person, our tolerance of dirtiness changes. Hudson running with a dirty face for a kiss gets one, if it was someone else it might not have happened. The point is that our acceptance of “messiness” affects relationships.

Do we allow people to enter our worlds who aren’t clean, perfect, and orderly? Do we actually invite people who are different, messy, and maybe even dirty and unkempt to journey with us? Would we be willing to kiss a dirty face?

This might seem like an odd question, but for the people of God it is a crucial question. The question of acceptance is critical for the church because Jesus demonstrates a radical acceptance of people just as they are. Jesus kisses people with dirty faces, and even dirty feet. People don’t need to change or to be cleaned up to come to Jesus or join his followers. Tax collectors, lepers, and prostitutes came and joined his group as they were without change. Jesus seems to be okay with a bit of dirt, and messiness. The question is are we?

Do we allow people to join with us, and belong without being clean? Do we expect people to behave like Christians before learning to following Jesus with us? Are we okay with some messiness, dirt, and grime in church? These are the questions we, as Christians, need to answer because if Jesus is okay with some messiness, we need to be too.

You know what made the difference for me allowing me to kiss my son’s dirty face? The simple fact that I deeply love him. Love changes how we see people. Love changes how we see messy lives, and broken hearts. Love looks past the outside, the dirt, the sin, the brokenness, and sees someone worth loving. That’s how Jesus sees us and we need to see people in the same way.

So the final question is this: are you looking on people with love? Do you see people as Jesus does? Are your actions those of Jesus, accepting people as they are and welcoming them in? Does who you welcome, and hang out with look like the same people Jesus welcomed and spends time with? Because if we want to learn to follow Jesus, we need to start being like Jesus. Spending time with dirty and broken people.

I can tell you when we start doing that we’ll discover Jesus in our midst. If you want to find Jesus, you need to go where he hangs out; and Jesus has always hung out where people with messy lives and dirty faces are. So why not join Jesus there, loving, accepting, and kissing a dirty face or two…

To Bless ~ To Give Life

This past Sunday we talked about how we are called to bless people.

The main idea was that blessing in Genesis 12 in the Old Testament was tied to giving life. I think this is a much better way to understand it for our lives today. The word bless seems to be one we only use when someone sneezes. “Blessing” can be hard to picture, and even harder to practice.

But “giving life” isn’t hard to picture or practice. Whatever makes someone else’s life full, deeper, meets a need, relieves a concern, frees a worry, or generates love is giving life.

This can be simply listening, fixing a roof, baking cookies, having neighbors in to your house. The possibilities of how to “give life” are endless. This as a church needs to be our calling. God in Genesis 12 has promised to bless us – or give us life and we are then called to bless others or give them life.

  • Imagine what would happen, and how disciples would be made, if giving life to others becomes a major part of our identity and action?
  • What if your house and home was known as a place of life in and for the community?
  • What if in your workplace you were recognized as the person who gives joy, love, and meaning to others?
  • What if your church was known as a place where those in need could find life in practical and real ways?

Doesn’t that sound like God’s Kingdom? It does to me.

So this week go out and start to bless people. To literally give them life. Be generous, be spontaneous, and give life in the context of relationship and share with me here how its going and what’s happened. Because when you share stories of blessing, you are also spreading blessing…

Discussion Questions from this Week Sermon

  • Adult Questions
  • Who in your life can you bless or “give life” too?
  • What needs do your neighbors have, or co-workers?
  • Who has blessed you in the past few weeks? Why not thank them.
  • Questions for Young Families
  • Talk to your children about how you are called to be a blessing to others and to serve. Ask them if they have any ideas who or how they could bless people. Maybe make cookies with them for your neighbors, or a card. Involve them in a giving life to others.

How do you make disciples? #missional

How do you make disciples?

It’s a great question and an important one too. Last Sunday I shared that Jesus didn’t leave his disciples with a 7-step program to making disciples. This is true.

But he did give his followers the Holy Spirit and some guidance. Maybe not a 7-step program but a relational way of life that builds bridges, creates connections, and start the journey of discipleship.

So this Sunday we’re going to discover together a characteristic that is intrinsic to the very nature of the church. We’re going to discover together something we are all called to be that is often the beginning of making a disciple.

Before we get there though: what do you think? How do you make disciples? What’s worked? What hasn’t? What have you learned that you might share with us?

Ecclesiology 101

This Sunday we’re going to be exploring the church and why we exist. We are starting a brand new series on a topic I love…the church.

Now many people have varying opinions about the church. Some think it hasn’t done a lot of good. Some people think it was better years ago. Some people think it won’t last. Some think the church is going to change the world. There is real diversity in people’s opinion on the church. In general I like hearing people’s opinions good, bad, or in-between because you hear their story and experience. But on Sunday what I really want to explore is what is God’s opinion of the church. I want to discover, hopefully together, what this community we call “the church” is all about.

And that’s what we’re going to be exploring on Sunday. What is the church? And what is the church to do from God’s perspective? So we’ll be exploring some scriptures, and stories.

But before we get there on Sunday – what do you think? What are your thoughts? Why does the church exist? What are we called to do? What is our purpose?

I’d love to hear your thoughts, and on Sunday I’ll share with you some of mine. But before then let’s both simply ask God and see what he says…

Following Jesus Means Being Used By Jesus…

On Sunday I shared how God actually chooses to use you and me to accomplish his purposes. He actually wants to use you to impact others, to be apart of their transformation, and to meet others needs.

Lindsay earlier this week made a comment on the blog, that God uses us in all of our awkwardness and weakness. And that struck me. God actually wants to use you as you are even if you feel inadequate, or awkward, or unsure. God’s doesn’t feel at all inadequate, unsure, or awkward about using you and whatever gifts you have to further his work in the world.

This for me is the beauty of following Jesus. There is something beautiful in knowing that God acutally desires my partnership with him; God actually values me as I am now; God believes I can actually do good in this world; and God is inviting me to join in with something bigger than myself. And he desires the same thing for you…

God sees something in you worth sharing with others…

God is choosing you to be apart of his mission of love and life…because you have value to give…

The questions is do you believe that? And if so are you ready to step out? Because God is ready to direct you…