SimpleChurch Journal - 5 new articles


I Cannot Do This Alone

Mentor

I was watching a movie last night about the impact a great coach made in the success of some athletes. The movie is ‘Backwards’ in case you were wondering.

It reminded me that we are not on this journey alone and that we need others, if not formally, than informally to support us in our spiritual journeys.

In some ways, in my former, traditional church days, it may have seemed easier to be surrounded by such people.  At least there were more people ‘around.’  But either way, I find that I have to work at finding and keeping in place the needed support. I need the Fellowship of the Ring, so-to-speak.  As Frodo said, “I cannot do this alone.”

I need coaches.  I need mentors.  I need spiritual directors.   I need missional community.  I need counselors.  I need people who speak prophetically into my life (with wisdom) as friends who know me.

Such people are available when I recognize the need and ask God to provide.  And they play an essential role in our journeys.

Let’s go for God’s best, by His grace, and seek out people who will join us and support us in our destinies.

       
 

Is Better Possible?

ComfortZoneWhen the church stops asking this question, we are in trouble.

When we settle for today’s status quo then we are no longer open to new leadings of the Holy Spirit, we accept yesterday’s movement as good enough, and we are no longer open to what the possibilities are for the future.  In short, comfort zones and stagnation sets in.  We become critics of new things because the ‘old thing’ is good enough.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not just talking about institutional churches or traditional churches, I’m talking about all of us.

We want to settle in and we stop asking, “Is better possible?”

Seth Godin wrote a post with this same title and said:

“Is better possible?

The answer to this is so obvious to me that it took me a while to realize that many people are far more comfortable with 'no'.

The easiest and safest thing to do is accept what you've been 'given', to assume that you are unchangeable, and the cards you've been dealt are all that are available. When you assume this, all the responsibility for outcomes disappears, and you can relax.”

Seth goes on to say:

“If you accept the results you've gotten before, if you hold on to them tightly, then you never have to face the fear of the void, of losing what you've got, of trading in your success for your failure.”

He concludes his post with these words:

“We owe everyone around us not just the strongest foundation we can afford to offer, but also the optimism that they can reach a little higher…  ‘Better’ is a dream worth dreaming.”

Seth is some kind of ‘marketing guru’ whom I quote because his words apply prophetically to the church.  No matter where we are we want to hole up, build a monument, and take comfort that we have arrived somewhere.  The moment we do that, we are no longer leaning into the wind of the Holy Spirit and asking Him, “How can I be more available to you?  How can I press in to seeing more of your Kingdom on earth?  What’s next?  How are you moving today that might shake me out of my comfort zone if I were to join you?  Where have I become backward-looking instead of seeking your vision?  What is your dream for me and how can I grab hold of it today?  Where have I given up that you are just now getting started in?”

I’m excited to believe that, no matter where I am at today and no matter what challenges I have faced, there is more and better that God, by the wonder and power of His Spirit, wants to do in and through my life.  I just need to be willing… and seeking… and looking… and following.

And not settling…

       
 

When I Stopped Officiating

GravesideThis week a friend of mine officiated at his father-in-law’s funeral.  It was his first time in this role.

He did not speak, perhaps, quite like a ‘professional’ might have.  He was not polished nor ultra-smooth in his speaking delivery.  He was, however, personable, real, authentic and deeply moving.  People responded to his display of emotion that was appropriate to the event, and they were stirred by his clearly-held faith convictions.  This was no outsider speaking to a bereaved family.  This was one of them.  And God was present.

Unpolished though he may have been, other family members who have not been walking closely with God, asked him if he would do their funerals as well.  They had experienced something that doesn’t often happen: a relational connection with the one officiating that spoke something into their spirit that stirred a new measure of faith in them.

Too often, when someone dies or is married, it’s easy for people to default back into the mindset of looking for the ‘professional.’  And if we have the background of ‘professional minister,’ it’s easy for us to step into that role at those times.  Suddenly we participate again in the divide between priest and laity and put on our priestly clothes.

One of the best things I did, many years ago, was to stop officiating such events and encourage the family members to step up so that parents marry their children or children bury their parents.  Actually, a close look at ancient weddings from Old Testament through New reveals that such events were family affairs, not priestly-ordered events.

How wonderful it was to see my friend’s mother-in-law immediately turn to him, when the need arose, and ask him to officiate her husband’s service.  She was drawn to him, not as a professional minister, but has someone who had something that she wanted at her husband’s funeral: a personal, real, tangible, faith-filled spiritual person who is connected to the family.  By doing so, she invited the Spirit of God to move amongst that group of people beyond anything imaginable.

Re-ordering our view of weddings, funerals, and baptisms could greatly impact believers’ ability to reach into their own oikos (their extended, relational connections) that the Gospel most naturally flows through.  This I have seen, and it’s a beautiful thing to watch God-at-work in it.

       
 

Joining Jesus

JoiningJesusBook

I am enjoying Greg Finke’s book “Joining Jesus on His Mission: How to Be an Everyday Missionary.”  Here are a few highlights.  (Warning: this is not a book that you can read and not implement… it will challenge you to make some real-life changes.)

“Jesus is in charge of ripening people. Our job is to watch for people who are ripe.”

“So every morning, as we head out for a new day of mission-adventure with Jesus, we can ask ourselves these simple questions: What’s Jesus already up to? Who are these people around me? And what are they almost ready for? Jesus did not give you a mission to do for him. He invites you to come on his mission with him. This is our new missional mindset. We can do this.”

“In the end, joining Jesus’ mission doesn’t require us to know more than we already do but to do more with what we already know.”

“Jesus does the incredibly complex work that requires the Son of God; we do the incredibly simple work that requires a little child.”

“In order to join Jesus on his redemptive mission all we really have to do is: enjoy people; and seek, recognize and respond to what Jesus is already doing in the lives of the people we are enjoying.”

“From now on, heaven has come to earth. There is now overlap. Intersection. Invasion. The kingdom has arrived. The kingdom has come and is now on the loose in our very midst. It is at hand, within reach, very near to each of us. For what purpose? To begin what God had promised from the beginning: the reversal of what has become of the created world since its fall and ruin in Genesis 3.”

“The mission of God is to redeem and restore all things to the Kingdom of God, beginning with human beings.”

“Wherever you go, there you are, and wherever you are, Jesus is already up to something. Therefore, coincidences become God-incidences.”

“When people start to see their daily lives as a mission trip and then participate in a missional community for support, insight and accountability, I see them quickly gaining insight and confidence in how to join Jesus.”

Finke is practical and to-the-point with a “just do it” style of writing.

       
 

Unleashing the Everyday Believer

We tend to honor those ventures that are big and impressive by outward measurements.  We are impressed by Apple and Microsoft for starting in garages and becoming giants in their industry.  Those companies that do not succeed (anyone remember the Commodore 64?) are simply dismissed as ‘less than’ and their contributions virtually ignored.

In many ways, this ‘success’ mentality is still part of how we evaluate the church.  Outward growth in numbers has been a key marker.  Size and fame of a ministry is considered an indicator of its effectiveness.

But are these the true markers of the church of Jesus Christ?  And does this mentality keep us from appreciating the true, everyday heroics of those who daily seek to follow Jesus, bring Him glory, care about others, use what gifts he/she has without looking for recognition?

Doesn’t the truly ‘big’ impact come from the way that God orchestrates the daily obedience of every believer into a tapestry that glorifies Him rather than the superstars of faith?  Isn’t the true church really about the Head who leads and works through every single follower of Jesus having daily, simple impacts on His world?

This changes the focus from size and success of ministry to the, truly, important things that Jesus’ followers are called to do:

  • Helping handProvide relief to someone in need
  • Show love to a neighbor
  • Share God’s love in word and deed
  • Share someone else’s burden
  • Visit the sick
  • Care for the one ignored by others
  • Pray for the lost
  • Etc, etc, etc.

Perhaps the most important change still taking place in the church today is from this mentality of ‘big’ ministry to the everyday, every-person minister being unleashed right where he/she is using whatever spiritual gifts and compassion he/she has to work with… right now… today.

Side Note:

Sometimes I am asked: How is the house church movement going?  But what they really seem to be asking is this: “Is the house church movement going to explode into something really ‘big.’  Because if it is, then I might want to pay attention to it.”

Maybe, in time, it will explode into something measurably ‘big.’  Or maybe it already has.  I don’t know.  But what I do know is that the house church movement is celebrating the gifts and calling of every believer, known and unknown, who is seeking to quietly, daily serve the Kingdom, bring glory to God, love on a neighbor, reach out to someone in need.  And maybe, considering the big Orchestrator who is in control, it doesn't get any bigger than that!

       
 


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