Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Measuring Success - Not Just For Jesus, But BY Jesus

Metric #6: Ministry Done FOR Jesus vs. Ministry Done BY Jesus
The fact of the matter is that humans are pretty amazing creations of God. We have tremendous intellect, strength, passion, and talent. Frankly, people can get a lot done in their own power and wisdom. Unfortunately, this is often precisely what we do.
While we often consider it a good thing to do work for God, it still leaves us able to take the credit. Even better would be to "participate in the divine nature" as the Bible says, and be involved with things that are impossible for us to take credit for.

Instead of being known as a church where people are working (which is good), what if we could be known as the church where God is working (which is best!)?
What this looks like is something each community of faith has to flesh out (literally) on their own. This one may seem a little more abstract than the other metrics, but it is still worth reflecting on. I have to question myself often as to whether I truly have my mind set on "things above" or if I am just existing on a human plane and forgetting the supernatural.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

What I Am Against

In addition to the two previous posts, I do want to concede that it is perfectly all right to follow Jesus and still be against some things. So, here is our list of what we want to prevent or eliminate. We don't want to be associated with any of these characteristics, although many religious organizations often are.

(In no particular order)

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

What I Stand For

As a follow up to my previous post, here is the answer to the question, "What do we stand for?" (Recently, our simple church group did this exercise of brainstorming the things that we want to promote and be known for, things that we would associate with Jesus. The list below is what we came up with.)


What would your list look like?

Wordle: All About Jesus
Click on image to see the list in another format.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Measuring Success - Stand Up FOR Something Good

Metric #5: Publicizing What We Are Against vs. Promoting What We Are FOR
Recent surveys indicate that the number one description that non-Christians use to describe the church is "anti-gay." "Judgmental" and "hypocritical" were high on the list, as well. Is this alarming, concerning, even disgusting, to anyone else? Why in the world would followers of Jesus want to be primarily known as anti-anything?!? That is the best we can do? To come across to people like we are against them when our Guide is for all people?!

Not long ago, I asked some high school students from a Christian organization to come speak to a group of middle school students. Each high school teenager was asked to simply give a short “testimony” of what their life is like with Christ in it. One by one, they stood at the front of the room and commented on the challenges of high school life as a Christian because they don’t party, drink, do drugs, have sex, etc. Not meaning to embarrass them, I followed up with this question: I respect all the things you don’t do as a Christian, but can any of you tell these younger students what you feel like Jesus has told you to do? In other words, what is something you stand for or try to promote as a result of following Jesus? An awkward silence  followed as they quickly glanced at one another. Please don’t take my observation as a slam on these students. On the contrary, I believe they were just “following orders” and doing what “any good Christian” would.
Too many times, churches will get labeled (often rightly so) because of what they are against rather than what they are for. Many people perceive Christianity only as a religion with a bunch of rules and "don'ts." Unfortunately, the Christian church in America gets a reputation for being restrictive and oppressive. Often, churchgoers seem oblivious to how this attitude comes across to the rest of the world, or worse, they take pride in it.
I believe the Bible emphasizes the things that followers of Christ DO and ARE and HAVE, as well. The Christian faith is more accurately identified with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. It is more correctly associated with experiencing freedom because of the truth and the Spirit, and finding wholeness and peace in all avenues of life, and the renewal of the mind. These are all positive, life-giving aspects that Jesus makes possible to all people. These should be the main points of our message to the world. Furthermore, the Christian faith is best evidenced by action - serving, helping, caring - that promotes social justice and righteousness.
Isn’t our foundational belief that the Kingdom of God brings an entirely new reality to the life of a Christ-follower? As the Bible teaches, the veil has been removed by Christ so that we can now reflect God's glory. Through Jesus, we enter into existence that sees life differently. The last can now be first. The weak can now be strong. The poor can now be rich. The least can now be the greatest. Everything that devalues a person is turned on its head. The new life that Jesus makes possible is radical and unmistakable!
Simple churches, and individual Christians, may need to take time to reflect on the legacy they want to leave. Rather than wasting time causing divisiveness by only concentrating on what we stand against, there must be devotion to what we stand FOR. After all, let's remember that the gospel is the good news, not bad news!
I challenge anyone to make a list of the things that you are for. I may even accept my own challenge and share my list in my next post.

What would changing the scorecard in regard to this measure look like in your life?
Can you imagine the implications of training up young people to be DO-ers of the Word rather than focusing on a long list of DON’Ts?

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Amazing Book Offer!!!

Frank Viola’s new book, God’s Favorite Place on Earth, has just released. If you get the book between May 1st to May 7th, you will also receive 25 FREE books from over 15 different authors.
Click to ordering information and easy instructions on how to get your 25 free books.

I have read several of Frank Viola's other books and many of his articles and blogs. I have been challenged, blessed, inspired, educated, provoked, and reformed through much of what I have read by him. I enthusiastically recommend his books!
He has gone totally over the top this time by offering a number of free resources when someone orders his newest book this weekend.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Measuring Success - Baptism

Metric #4: Altar Calls vs. Baptisms
When it came time at the end of each year to submit the pastoral report to the district where I served, one of the blanks I struggled to fill in the most was the number of new church members marked by “professions of faith.” I don't mean to come across as though "altar calls" and "invitations" should be abandoned. There is a time and place for them. Presenting the gospel and being honest about who Jesus is, then praying with someone to accept Him, is nothing to take lightly and it can be a glorious thing. However, it should also be noted that the concept of the "sinner's prayer" has actually only been around for the last couple centuries. Altar calls and invitations were not the modus operandi for "winning souls" in the New Testament. We can make claims about their efficacy in our cultural context, but let's not boast that they are biblical or how things must be done. It's simply not true.
There was, interestingly enough, a very specific method used over and over again. Jesus Himself explicitly taught, modeled, and commanded that it be carried out by His disciples. Of course, I am referring to baptism!

Somehow we have lost sight (I know I have) of the significance of baptizing people. In fact, the Great Commission directs us to baptize people as part of the process of making disciples, yet think about how many denominations and churches actually have rules in place that discourage, or worse prohibit, ordinary (non-clergy) believers from performing that very act! Truthfully, baptisms should be carried out by all kinds of Christians!
There is nothing fancy about this metric. If you, as an individual or group, are not participating in baptisms, then there is probably very little to your claim that you are making disciples. I want to note two things as I conclude this point. First, this is definitely a "lagging indicator" for my involvement with the simple church. I have yet to baptize anyone and the people I often meet with haven't either. This is a confession that I need to do better at embracing this shift in thinking and acting as the church. Second, I want to be clear that I am not saying that a person must be baptized to be saved. Getting wet doesn't make one holy. However, we cannot ignore the fact that there is some kind of connection between salvation and the powerful symbol of baptism. To dismiss that reality is to our own detriment.

What would changing the scorecard in this area look like in your context?
What are our children and youth learning about baptism from us?