Archive for the ‘Church’ Category

Asking this question and answering it make sense if you are part of some kind of performance being presented to an audience. However, in thinking about sharing life and church it is not only irrelevant but dangerous to think of sharing life as part of church. Sharing life together is how church is to be defined and is the most relevant way those outside of the church will detect any truth to what Jesus is about.

Acts 2 and 4 are still in the Bible and we must find ways to do this in the midst of whatever culture we live in. Think of the freedom and refreshment of people who are trying to make life work without Jesus, when they step into lives meshed together in authentic community, serving one another, caring for one another and always available for each other. When we tell them this is “church” they have a bizarre look on their face and we know they have never seen it like this. This group of people go the pub together, play games, laugh frequently, listen to one another, help people rake their leaves, help raise each others kids, and are seriously working at following Jesus. They talk about the stuff at work but offer advice as to how to bring Jesus into the workplace in a way that makes sense.

The meaning of John 13:34 and 35 are more clearly seen in the living rooms, kitchens, garages and yards and people are attracted to Jesus. You don’t have to throw out the Sunday meeting but think about what an outsider sees with regard to the John verses in the Sunday context. Most of what they conclude is that we show up at a meeting on Sunday but there is no way to really observe how this works in real life.

Sharing life with one another is a better context to understanding church than any meetings we might attend.

310/365 Sharing

310/365 Sharing (Photo credit: cheesy42)

An In-N-Out Double-Double cheeseburger in narr...

An In-N-Out Double-Double cheeseburger in narrow depth-of-field focus with a second burger and fries blurred in the background. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I know, what you and I might be prone to say is that we want both the fries and the cheeseburger. But the cheeseburger is the main part of the meal and the fries are on the side. That is always true except at a restaurant  in Boise, Idaho. At Boise Fry the burger is on the side and the fries are the big deal.

We easily live life in ways that show what we believe is mandatory and what is optional. One thing Jesus was consistent with was to regularly turn our thinking upside down. Just when we thought we knew what was right, Jesus would redefine it. “One thing you lack…” he told a wealthy man who thought he was tracking with Jesus. Or how many times did you read about him saying “you have heard it said, but I say…”?

Churches have many names for small groups of people who gather to talk, eat and study together. But it soon becomes clear that these are optional, maybe like the fries on the burger menu. The early Jesus followers knew nothing of this. Acts 2:43-47 opens a world to us that most of us have never experienced. Can you really live like this and have relationships that don’t just consist of a 2 hour meeting? It can be experienced but the group must be treated as the main course. To share life with others means getting dirty together, laughing and crying together, being available 24/7. A knock on the door at 12:30 AM is never seen as an intrusion to your privacy but rather is an opportunity to be Jesus to your friend. There is great cost but the freedom that comes from not being in control is of immeasurable value. God gives us the opportunity to enter these most meaningful relationships. and the world is starving to see it too.

Who do you think would love to make a group like this the main course with you? Ask them!

Success

Success (Photo credit: aloshbennett)

I imagine you have said it yourself or your kids have said it one too many times. You are only 30 minutes in the trip that is going to take several hours and you or they ask “are we there yet?” Our questions and thinking always reflect what we believe is important or how we are putting the pieces of the puzzle in the right places.

A church (which is made up of a bunch of people) is successful not when you can’t find a seat, or the new building is now completed or the number of programs has exceeded the number of days in a typical month. The criteria for evaluating success should not be how many but rather what kind. Are people learning how to be real (honest) with each other, involved in consistently sharing life together, and is their life arousing curiosity from those who intersect their life?

People all over the world are looking for people who will be up front with them, genuinely care about spending time with them and who are figuring out how to eliminate the attractive and myriad distractions that choke the life out of them.

The Thessalonians were impacting people all over the place. They had become the daily headlines in the newspapers. If it were today, word of their changed lives would have gone viral on the internet. Twitter wouldn’t have had enough room to list all of the tweets about how they were focused on what really mattered. Check out 1 Thessalonians 1:7-10 and 2 Thessalonians 1:3.

Get some coffee or a beer with someone this week and talk about this.

English: Dictionary indents. Français : Marque...

English: Dictionary indents. Français : Marques-pages dans un dictionnaire. Deutsch: Daumenregister eines Wörterbuches. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I had a dream last night that woke me up. Not unusual you might say but for whatever reason this one stuck in my mind. I was with a bunch of people in a yard who were yelling at a guy in another yard. The volume kept increasing until one guy screamed “we’re gonna win.” Standing next to this guy I said “define win.” I felt like it was important to elaborate on just what “win” meant. Everyone got quiet and one gal even gave me the finger. I walked away and then woke up.

A lot of life seems to consist of repeating various mantra that neither we nor others have really checked out the validity or source of whatever we are repeating. We just keep on saying it over and over and most of our closer friends believe the same thing anyway. How could anyone have the audacity to suggest something different that would make our definition wrong?

Jesus was the top dog at challenging people’s reasons for belief, ways of living, and whatever he knew violated God’s intention for us. He did it not to show off but because he really did love every person on the planet and wanted them to live life to the max-God’s way. A look at Matthew 22:29 and John 10:10 show this.

So, one of the huge issues today is “church.” What is it? Who’s right? Many are yelling their opinion. Here’s one more. A church is a church when disciples are making disciples (disciple must be defined correctly), as it is challenging that part of the culture that is taking away from God’s purposes, when a framework or network is being developed where people can be real, and when it seen as a journey of people banded together committed to doing life God’s way rather than just showing up at an event. I believe Matthew 5:13-16 and Acts 5:42 capture some of what Jesus was looking for in our doing church.

Doing or being church is simple but unbelievable challenging.

Smorgasbord

Smorgasbord (Photo credit: toastforbrekkie)

We are not on the planet to focus our lives on whatever hobby, sporting event, music venue or shopping event massages our personal interest. But that is how most of us live. We have to work but just wait for the evening or weekend-it’s ours. But then, how do you think Jesus woke up every day? What was he thinking about? Oh, but that’s Jesus and he had a much larger agenda than we do.

When our diet consists of whatever we want , the result is often measureable, but is more likely very subtle. Physically  it shows up quite easily but internally it may take years to notice.

The cost to really follow Jesus is huge because it reaches into the way we think about the use of our time, how we spend our resources, where we live and more. But to settle for what we want to do, or how we want to spend our money or… means we are forfeiting everything God intended for us when he started the whole deal.

John 10:10 speaks about a thief who comes to kill and ruin everything. His focus is you and me. He tricks us with the facade of thinking we are a disciple when we show up at Christian events or by our cleaning up our language when we are there. He convinces us with “you can’t have pure thoughts all the time.” He trains our ears to hear the never ending message of a culture focused on the exact opposite of God’s never changing purpose for us.

“Debit or credit” the thief says. It doesn’t matter. It removes us from using our time and resources for what only matters.

It costs a church to make disciples but the cost not to raise up disciples who make disciples may look good from the size of the building or crowd but the culture yawns with complete disinterest.

Look at the rest of John 10:10, To do it Jesus’ way results in life better than we could ever imagine. But don’t forget Mark 8:36 and 10:17-31-a smorgasbord to remember.

A small group of people in a Bible discussion group are looking at some stuff Jesus said or what the practice of the early church was. They knew that to take Jesus at his word or believe the church was totally on target was going to alter their lifestyle both individually and as a church. So what did they do? Each one began to make suggestions about what Jesus probably meant. It became clear that no one was ready to take Jesus at his word or believe the early church could be a

Rationalizing...

Rationalizing… (Photo credit: gregoryperez)

model for how to do church today.

Slowly over the years we have deliberately minimized or explained away those aspects of following Jesus that disrupt the way we want to live or practice doing church with others. In so doing, we have depreciated what Jesus was all about. In our bent to be comfortable, we do not tolerate anything that is difficult or makes us think. Besides, we don’t know any of our friends who live like this. I mean, it is one thing to be a Christian but this is the 21st century and we have to make Jesus’ hard words fit into this culture. Really?

Does culture explain the gospel or does the gospel interpret what is right or wrong about cultureIn John 6 Jesus is intent on people knowing what he is after. He is coloring outside of their box and he doesn’t care if some are going to bail. He makes no compromises as to what a disciple (follower) is to be, what they are to do and how they are to live. Almost everyone leaves and Jesus watches them walk away. Some probably ran.

And the early church…check out Acts 4:32-35. How do we change this mark of the church to fit our lifestyle? When was the last time you saw this consistently happening?

Whatever else this all means, one thing is certain-Jesus underscores the simplicity of following him while reminding us of the cost.

community

community (Photo credit: planeta)

“I have the right t to do what I want to do, be who I want to be and have what I want to have.”  (1 John 2:15 & 16) Almost every American would agree with this because of our culture’s focus on individualism. Jesus hits hard at this prevalent attitude among people regardless of their religious or political persuasion. He constantly defines commitment in terms that offend our pursuit of what we want or think we need or deserve. His focus on people in need or who are marginalized is so constant it is scary.

The early church knew what Jesus was after, especially when it came to caring for one another. Community was more than a contemporary word thrown around in our innovative new church plants. It meant more than doing a Bible study with a few people once a week. There was real life stuff happening every day or throughout the week that was shared with one another. Needs presented by someone were met without hesitation by others.

Was that really like it was? If so, can we recapture it in our drive by mentality where we drop into one another’s life like picking up an order of fries at McDonalds drive through? Something is truth when it is not defined by culture but by God. It defies the busyness, self-centeredness or anything else that seeks to justify a lifestyle contrary to what the Bible defines as church.

Acts 4:32-35 introduces us to a deeper meaning of ownership and meaningful commitment to one another. There is no place for superficiality here. These people recognized that we are at war with an enemy who seeks to not only create disunity but also to cause us to think and live apart from one another. He doesn’t mind our occasional bumping into one another but he knows the power of people on mission together. There is unleashed power in our life being connected to the Holy Spirit but it is multiplied as we live in community.

Sometimes you just get tired of mowing the grass or eliminating weeds that seem to never find a home except in your front yard. And at other times, you know something must change because the grass is dying and the weeds have figured out the multiplication principle.

We currently live in an apartment complex that has won awards for their xeriscaping throughout the complex. It actually is as attractive as grass, conserves water and requires less maintenance than a “normal” yard.

Established thinking about how to do church or discipleship can be OK if it is accomplishing “…teaching them to practice everything I have commanded you.”-Jesus in Matthew 28:19 & 20. The emphasis is on practicing or obeying everything. But if this is not happening, just tweaking a few words in a mission statement or taking small steps in changing discipleship group material may be like pulling a few weeds out of the grass or flower bed knowing they will only return a few weeks later.

One thing that must change if real discipleship takes place is to “do life” with those being discipled. This was the genius of how Jesus developed perspective and skills in the early followers. Mark 3:14 shows that Jesus wanted the disciples to be “with” him in everyday life. They ate, traveled, slept, cast out demons…together with Jesus. This often requires new thinking. For example, having a discipleship class and sharing life together will accomplish more than just having a 2 hour class once a week for several weeks.

Matthew 9:16 and 17 in the Message translation says it well. “…no one cuts up a fine silk scarf to patch old work clothes, you want fabrics that match. And you don’t put your wine in cracked bottles.”

How can you enter into the life of those you want to help follow Jesus? How can they enter into yours?

weeds

weeds (Photo credit: gusset)

A good turkish coffee

A good turkish coffee (Photo credit: Maria Rosaria Sannino/images and words)

You may have never thought much about jumping out of a plane of any kind, at any elevation or at any time, but we all have a need that for the most part is unmet throughout our lifetime. Adventure, expedition and intimate friendships are a part of the fabric essential for making sense out of life and church. 

Taking a trip with Jesus as the tour guide would have been electric. For him however, it was normal. Traveling to another country with others for a few days and sharing life, while trying to introduce Jesus into conversations over Turkish coffee in a street cafe is thrilling. But it pales in comparison to hanging with other Jesus followers at a local Java cafe and developing meaningful conversations with strangers or acquaintances. Working with other Christians to teach English to Iraqi refugees and having meals together in your apartment can be as significant as traveling 6000 miles from home to do it.

The point is that we need to do these kinds of things together as church and then life becomes something you set your alarm clock for so you don’t miss it. We need to ask ourselves if church for us contains this adventure and connection with others.

The brochure Jesus has used for years to recruit followers stirs something in us that can’t be found anywhere else. It simply says “Come…and you will see.” John 1:39

Let’s do it together.

"Look. I'm not going to discuss my privat...

“Look. I’m not going to discuss my private life with total strangers” (Photo credit: [Filhi][bahthi] photography ( with great hopes ))

You wake up during the night and wonder what that noise is you hear near the kitchen. You stumble down the stairs to find the entire floor covered in water that seems to be dripping from upstairs. You quickly realize there is a problem under the floor upstairs and water is leaking from somewhere. As soon as the sun is up, you call your physician and ask them to come take a look. Your spouse and kids look at you like-what the spank are you doing? “We’re floating in water, get the plumber out here” they say.

Sounds lame, but the way we carry out Jesus’ commands to make disciples and his vision, reveals we are using the wrong tools. We’re using the stethoscope rather than the wrench. How should we make disciples who make disciples in our generation?

A few thoughts-Mark 3:13, 14  We need to help people understand what it means to be with Jesus. He is not really interested in all the religious stuff we do , but is dying for us to just hang out with him. When was the last time you just spent time with Jesus without wanting him to do something for you? You just wanted to be with him.  We must help people develop a meaningful relationship with Jesus rather than getting them on the finance committee.

Acts 2:42-47  Our 2 hour event on Sunday morning and even the small group on Tuesday night are not coming close to what characterized the early church. They don’t demand anything, and certainly don’t reveal what we thought about last Friday night when we were alone. We must help people develop meaningful relationships with each other.

2 Timothy 3:10, 11  The only way Timothy could know these things about Paul was because he shared life with him. We must model what it means to share life together not just show up for events.

What does this have to say about how we do church?