Saturday, August 25, 2012

Something More (Part 2)

Since we're planting a church with the motto, theCityShouldBeDifferent, it's easy to talk a lot about the things we want to see changed, in ourselves, in our church and in our city.

And that's ok.

But let's be super, crystal, look down and see the sand and shells at the sea floor in 30 foot of water clear:

Following Jesus is where it's at.

This part does not change. Ever.

Jesus said his followers were to Love God.
                                                        And love people (including each other).
                                                                  And make disciples (followers) of him.

No conversation about "Something More" can skip over the foundation that the Gospel of Jesus is THE Good News that the whole world needs. That our city needs. We can never skip over the grace of God revealed to the whole world in Jesus.

No forms of church or methods are more central than following Jesus. If we have the "perfect" form and don't follow Jesus in love and make disciples who do the same, we've missing everything.


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Something More (part 1)

I'm going to ask a couple of questions, and then answer different parts of them in a series of posts over the next few weeks.  Here is the first question:
"Is church something I go to on Sundays?"
I am leader in a church.  I listen to podcasts and go to conferences where other church leaders talk about the themes of church leadership, what's working well, what's not, and how to follow Jesus with all you are.  It's easy for leaders to either keep doing what we've always done (hey, if it ain't broke, don't fix it), or want to throw rocks at the church and in frustration take pride in a desire to storm out the door of "traditional" church and be more "real," or whatever.

Those discussions have a place and can be super helpful.

We live in the South, and I rarely meet people who have zero experience with church.  Most folks here have had at least a little exposure to church life somewhere along the way.  And they drive past lots of churches all throughout the city.  And those who are not now vitally connected to a church are voting with their lives that "church life" is not for them.

There are lots of possible reasons for that.  Part of what I think is missing for many people is a visible, breathing, person in their life who demonstrates church is not just a meeting you attend where you watch as leaders sing or teach.  Church is not a club you join.  Church is not an event you attend.  Church is not a set of beliefs you ascribe to.  A church is a family, a spiritual family, seeking to connect with God and each other.  A church is this spiritual family seeking to be a part of God's amazing love story where He meets messed up people right where they are, mess and all, and brings freedom.  And He uses His Church to accomplish this.

I like gathering as a church.  A lot!  We usually call this a "Church Service."  I can't remember many times I walked away from one and didn't feel blessed to be there.  I'll say it: I love church gatherings!  Going, participating, putting them on, speaking at them.  Oh yeah!

But there is something more than attending gatherings.

Anytime we face the need to change, it's scary.  And unless the change was our own idea, we usually resist.

I was just looking on my Facebook feed for a quick picture to put on this post, and I found this one from last semester.  My bro, Willie King, is a classroom mentor, and some of the kids from a class he worked with got parent permission and came and helped do a "dash for trash" at a nearby neighborhood. We made 4 trips to this neighborhood, and the kids learned some cool things about working together.  It was fun.

That picture can be a decent little metaphor for "something more".  There's a black dude arm-in-arm with a white dude. That means we must have some things in common that are greater than the things we have that separate.  We're not standing at either person's church property.  And the picture wasn't taken before or after a church gathering.  It's in a neighborhood, at a park.  And the sign we are standing in front of tells simple and compelling story:
You are the vehicle for our city to be different.  
You, church, are the means by which renewal will come. The folks who have voted with their lives not to be vitally connected to a church are not expecting us to do this.  What they are are expecting from us, well, can I say this...they are expecting us to have a lot of meetings, to invite them to our meetings once in a while, and for us to be against some things when it comes election time.

I don't hear people outside the church saying they are expecting church people to be positive, life-giving, generous, willing to sacrifice, loving, listening, humble, and serving.  They aren't usually talking bad about church people; they just aren't thinking about us much at all.

There is something more: A whole life of learning to follow Jesus in his way of love, grace and truth.  Jesus said these markers were the signs of His new Kingdom.  And when people who don't know Jesus yet see these markers, they start expecting more good news, which is exactly what Jesus brings.


paul, on mission for Lake Charles

P.S. We'll unpack this more as we go, but to keep us on the same page, I am NOT talking about burning out for Jesus. I'm NOT taking about being an over-the-top zealot who is constantly talking about church. I am NOT talking about bring at a Bible study or service project every night.  I am NOT talking about the church being a place for people who have overcome all their problems and are now ready to give back - NO, the church is a spiritual family EXACTLY FOR people who have huge problems and need God to provide remedy.  Jesus said his burden was easy. Let's explore this together

Friday, August 17, 2012

No Strings, No Catch...Good News! Bringing fruit to teachers in our city

The word Gospel literally means, "good news."  God knew that we needed some really Good News, so He sent Jesus.

When people see people see church people coming, they should think, "Hey, good news is on the way."  Sometimes when they see us coming, it's like knowing a telemarketer is on the way, and they are looking for a place to hide.  I don't know about you, but with the advent of caller id, the telemarketer's never get to talk to me...if it says "Out of Area" on my home phone, I let it ring.  And if I do pick up and get a script-repeating telemarketer on the phone, I can't wait to get off the line.  Never have I heard from a script-reader and thought, "Wow, this is really good news!"

We are bringing some simple good news to the teachers and staff at a couple of Elementary Schools we are fans of in the city.  We were privileged to be able to do some simple volunteering for JFK Elementary last year, and are doing so again this year.  We also have someone who is a part of theCityChurch whose son attends A.A. Nelson Elementary.

So we are fans of both of these great schools, and as a way of showing we care, we are bringing a fresh fruit basket to their teacher's lounges.  Simple ways to be Good News and to bring that good news with you wherever you go.

Believing that theCityWillBeDifferent, I remain sincerely your servant, paul