Sunday, March 31, 2013

Lessons I learned... door-knocking:

If you aren't familiar with the term "door knocking" it's where people go from door-to-door, knocking on your door, inviting you to church.  Sounds like fun, huh?  Some would even say outdated?  I find it interesting and inspiring, but I know -- I'm a little weird.

This week, in preparation of our Easter service,  I got the bright idea to knock doors in the neighborhood surrounding where we meet on Sunday mornings.  I've been out door knocking several times throughout the years, so this experience wasn't new to me.  A few lessons hit home for me this week, and I'd like to share what ran across my mind while I was door knocking:

  • As a minister, I have no right to expect the folks I preach for, to invite random strangers to worship with us, if I'm not personally doing that.  Is door knocking the best form of evangelism,  or the most productive?  No, but that's not always the point though.  I think friendship evangelism is the best, where you share your faith naturally, within a friendship that already exists.  But beyond that, I feel we have a responsibly to share the good news with all people, or at least as many as we can, and sometimes that means we need to create opportunities and open doors.

  • If we as a church can't at least invite the people living within eyesight of our location, we really are shortsighted.  We can't really call ourselves evangelistic, if we aren't out encouraging people who see our cars parked every Sunday morning in their neighborhood.  The corollary to this is, we really can't be effective in reaching out to our region if we neglect the people we pass every Sunday on the way to worship.

  • We need more patience.  This truth is twofold: Number one, when you knock on a door, and you have to stand there and wait for a response,  you realize how fast-paced our lives are and we really don't wait for much these days.  Secondly, not every person you talk to is going to run straight to church, throw up their hands in surrender and beg to become a Christian, at least not on your first visit.

  • Without being impatient,  we need to regain a sense of urgency.  People are dying without the Lord, and, Jesus is coming back someday, any day really.  Somehow the feeling of urgency is rekindled when you knock on a few doors.   

  • Something else occurred to me this week too.  We live in a really diverse community.  When you slow down enough to walk through another neighborhood and examine the architectural differences, really see the lawn ornaments people display, and smell the aroma of houses that cook differently than you do, you get a whole new view and appreciation of your town.  You suddenly realize these are real people I've been driving past week after week, and while not everyone lives the same way we do, or sees the same priorities we see, yet we have to meet people where they are; not where we expect them to be.
Finally,  we don't pray enough.  I'll share a quick story with you as an example.  Last week on my first day out door knocking, I was approached by a homeless man.  He was walking down the sidewalk, across the street from where I was while I was knocking doors, and he yelled out to me, so I crossed the street to talk to him...

He was in rags, his shoes were falling apart, his shirt was missing several buttons.  He had grime under his fingernails that seriously looked to be 20 years old.  I know this firsthand, he held out his hand to shake mine, and he didn't let go for quite some time.  My guess was, it had been well over a decade since he last bathed.

He asked me, "Did the Lord Call you?"  I said, "Yes."  He asked next, "What did He call you to do?" I said, "To share the good news of Jesus."  He then asked me, "What are you doing?"  And I said I was out inviting people to our big Easter service,  so I handed him an invitation card and invited him.  He thanked me and walked off with the card.

About 20 minutes later, the same homeless, shabby looking man approached me again.  We had some more small talk, and he asked me an unusual question, at least it seemed surreal at the time... He wanted to know what he could pray about, because he was going to be praying for me...

Thursday, March 21, 2013

What is "church"?

After stumbling across this, I felt it is too good not to share and too important to not comment on:


A few quick thoughts:
The main reason churches flounder, stagnate or become irrelevant,  is because they lose sight of their identity.

Churches are immobilized when they lose their sense of direction &  lose sight of the real purpose of the Christian faith.

Whenever we become inward focused or forget our faith is meant to be multiplied and shared, we die.

I'm inspired by videos like this one, and kudos to the folks who produced it!


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Jesus had faith in the doubters:

This past Sunday, both the morning sermon & our Sunday night small group lesson covered the topic of people being disappointed with Jesus.  We covered John the Baptist's role in Jesus' ministry, and how John was key to Jesus' introduction on the scene, and you'd think John would be more valuable out of jail than within.  Yet at the end of the day, John was asking about Jesus: "Are you who say you are, or do we need to keep looking?"  John doubted who Jesus really was.  His circumstances shadowed his view, understandably so, of who Jesus was, leaving John doubting...

In our Sunday night small group though, we raised a great distinction in the two ways "doubt" in used in the Bible:
One, people who Doubt God is real or doubt Jesus' identity.
And then Two the ones who doubt God will do what He says He will do.
Guess which one God is at ease with, and which one God doesn't tolerate.

God shows a lot of grace and sympathy to the ones who struggle with believing He is who says He is, or who stumble along trying to find out if He's real.  God's patience is short with the religious people who have no doubts of His existence and they firmly believe He is real, but then they doubt God will come through on His promises. 

The amazing insight in this, is not only that Jesus was at ease with doubters or that He was comfortable with their doubts or that He didn't panic and lash out the people who doubted Him: He left His church in their hands!  Think that over for a minute.

Mat 28:18-20 is the great commission. Look back one verse earlier, Mat 28:17 is talking about the 11 disciples (Judas has hung himself already, leaving 11) and while some of the 11 worshiped Jesus, Matthew says "some doubted."  Some doubted?  Some doubted!  And Jesus gives this commission to them too?  That's, unbelievable... It's also encouraging.  Jesus has enough confidence in us, that even when we struggle with our doubts, He still trusts us to do His kingdom work.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Too lofty to even write about:

When it comes to making the world a better place the only real question is: 
Will you make a difference or be indifferent?   

I've been too busy to blog much lately.  We are trying hard to really turn the flywheel at New Song and build momentum, so I've let my blogging slip some.  Today though, I can't shake this thought: We can either turn a blind eye to the suffering and brokenness that surrounds us, or we can partner with God & His people to make a change.  We can't find satisfaction trying to do both, that is, ignoring the needs of the world and seeking God will only frustrate.  They mesh, that is, these come together to bring us wholeness:  when we are serving those who are easy to serve as well as loving the loveless -- helping those who do or don't deserve it, and finding God in the midst of the chaos.  Who are we to judge, as to who is deserving...?

We ask "How?" can we we really make a dent in this mess, because the darkness is so overwhelming.  I'm not naive to fact that the challenges to changing this world are huge.  I don't have to convince you there's plenty of brokenness in the world.   Life is short, and it's painful and depressing for a lot of people; can't we alleviate their woes?  Yes we can.  Think Matthew Chapter 25:31-46, Jesus is saying this is how to it, you serve people as if Jesus was on your doorstep, because actually He is.  Scary stuff.

Maybe this sense of brokenness is pestering me all morning as a result of yesterday's events and our plans for this evening?  Yesterday, Tammy and I traveled into the mountains of Virginia to speak in a rural school on conflict and bullying.  Tonight our church is serving at a local Foodbank, we'll be in the warehouse loading boxes of food to be distributed to needy families.

When Jesus wanted to make an impression on people He used several methods. He told parables, He gave warnings, He set examples, He quoted Scriptures, He did miracles, He offered hope, and He showed up.  Theologically, the most miraculous action believers can do today is to go out and make a difference.  Yes, I think it's pretty miraculous when imperfect, fallible, Christians are out doing good, spreading Hope, making a difference.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Loaded down by legalism...

Last Sunday I preached from Luke chapter 5, on Jesus' parable of New wine & New wineskins.  I covered how legalism interferes with our faith and that a burdensome faith was a barrier.  I shared how legalism is not trusting God to carry the freight, perhaps you had to be there: or click here to see Last week's sermon

For some reason, every day since, I have repeatedly run that sermon over in mind.  That would be a dream come true for most preachers, if the members were doing that...  Anyway.  I realized what my frustration is with legalism   Sadly, legalistic people, immersed in legalism, aren't satisfied until everyone else is a legalist too.  And, the legalist will judge you for not sharing their narrow views.  In other words, it's not enough for the legalist to trust their ability to follow the rules above all else, they are sticklers for making sure you are shackled to a set of rules, particularly their rules.  

In my mind, I imagine their rusty chains tied to a log while the legalist drags their load through the sand.  Without loyalty, but with a deep sense of duty, they have an extra set of chains they want to strap on my leg, and bind me with their load.  

Freedom in Christ is too liberating.  Trade in your rusty chains and let Jesus carry your load.  

Friday, March 1, 2013

Saying I'm sorry:

Today I was working on a presentation I'm to deliver to a school in our area.  A school teacher read one of my newspaper columns and asked if I would speak to their students.  She asked me to address conflict resolution, and I was honored.

I've had some fun putting my presentation together and I'm getting excited about the event.  There's an element I'm including in my discussion on conflict resolution which might surprise you, but I think you'll like it.  Towards the end of my message, I'm going to try to teach the students how to apologize.  I know over the years I've gotten good at making my share of mistakes, and learning the art of a good apology has helped me reduce stress more than once.  

I won't list here my ideas on the craft of apologizing, I'll just ask you to pause and consider how well you've done in this area -- lately   If you think you know how to say sorry effectively, let me challenge you to reconsider this.  And, let me motivate you to do some research on the subject & sharpen up your own abilities   It might just help you salvage a relationship you value...