Neighboring

This Week's Top 5...

SONY DSCIf you missed a read this week… Here's the Top 5 most read posts for this week: 1. When is being selfish in the church okay...

2. You're more beautiful than you think you are... 

3. I just can't get rid of this burr under my saddle...

4. Monday Mashup

5. What's On The Other Side Of This Life

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Image is everything...

Image is everything web logo1I've been kind of dwelling on this "image is everything" thing this past week. I had a conversation with a friend the other day where we talked about things that really matter to God. What we both came to an agreement on was the fact that churches and "we" Christians sometimes put more value into causes, programs, movements, pioneering, and innovation rather than dwelling with HIM. I think this is because all of these things whether good or bad give us a better image or appear to entice excitement and mass numbers. In many ways in the church we have bought into the lie that "image is everything."

Being a disciple of Jesus is not about writing books, teaching at conferences, creating causes so people will be excited about church or Jesus. It's not about pioneering or starting movements through our innovation. DON'T get me wrong I know these things can help the mission of Jesus. It's just that sometimes these things take the place of what we are really suppose to be about. It's about abiding in Jesus and going where he is already at. We are then to be obedient to what the Holy Spirit is moving us to do, which is to love God with all that we have, and loving our neighbor they way God loves us, which is sacrificially through grace and forgiveness. Jesus wants us to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.

Ed Stetzer aptly stated, "Too often we pull our cultural values into our grid for measuring church success..." While his context for this statement is talking about church size, I think it could be equally said for how some in the church value appearances or image over people and relationships. Read the whole article here: Rethinking Small Churches by Ed Stetzer

The culture values outward appearances. Success can be only ankle deep as long as it looks and tastes good. That's probably why we are a fast-food nation and why many of us can't wait for the release of the Twinkie next week.

I am not saying that image and outward appearances are all bad. These can be the very things that get a person interested or coming back to find out more about Jesus. In some ways we need to pay attention to image and outward appearances.

What I am saying is that when these things become the measurement of success for the church and for Christians, then we have a huge problem. When we critique a preacher on the delivery of their sermon instead of if they mentioned Jesus at all in their message and preached the gospel. Or if we become so Type-A about whether we kept our people in service too long or the flow of the worship service didn't go right or as we had planned. When these things become the standard bearer for success then we have stopped dwelling in Jesus. If you want to know the end result of this way then read John 15:1-8... Good gospel preaching, causes, programs, movements, pioneering, and innovation should move you to the neighborhood.

I like how Eugene Peterson said about Jesus in The Message, "The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood..." - John 1:14

People > causes, programs, movements, pioneering, innovation, sermon delivery, tight rock concert worship services... The church's mission is people and sometimes people get messy, life gets messy and all we really have in the end is LOVE. Causes, movements, and programs will never take the place of a life spent abiding with Jesus. We must reveal to people a life that is dwelling with Jesus not our latest shiny new ministry toy.

Honestly "image is NOT everything." The heart of the matter is "what image are you displaying to people..."

People > Programs

neighbors street sign

"Be the prepared to be the answer to someone's prayer." - Ramin Razavi

I heard this quote from one of my coworkers a little while back, and it sent off a flood of thoughts about neighboring centric ministry vs programming centric ministry... People > Programs.

The reality is people seek connections and relationships not programs. Programs are tools that help facilitate these connections, and programs can be an answer to someone's prayers, but the purpose is to connect people to people who are made in the image of God. People are the purpose (and in someways the mission = Church) and people make the mission happen. Programs can connect people and programs can meet tangible needs, but programs don't love, programs don't cry, laugh, or show compassion. Ramin mentioned that we must follow Jesus' example and words of "Seeing the people around us..." Really seeing them not just noticing them, but look deeply into the people around us and compassionately move beyond our programs and be able to adapt what we are doing to adequately meet people where they are at. Many times we move people to our programs when we need to relocate ourselves to where the people are - we need to be in their dirt and messiness not the other way around... People > Programs.

Jesus was so good at this. He took every moment to look and see the people around him. In Matthew 9:35-38 we get a glimpse of this when he saw the people around him and he had compassion on them... He stopped and in the moment he saw the people deeply and had an emotional and intellectual reaction to them. He was moved to do something about the people around him and he lead his followers to do the same. In order to do what Jesus demonstrated and instructed us to do, to love God, love our neighbors, and to love one another, we must be in the moment and embrace the relationships around us. Once we do this hen move to bless them in the ways the Holy Spirit instructs us to do.

As leaders, we see our programs connect people, but so often because of this *success* our programs become our mission, NOT the people we are trying to reach and connect to Jesus. In order to prevent our programs from becoming our mission we need to become more people centric and less program centric. In a sense, our programs can become a burden to people, because inadvertnetly there are times we make people feel guilty for choosing our programs over being in their neighborhood and hangingout with their neighbors. This is unfortunate. It can cause people to operate freely uder the influence and guidance of the Holy Spirit, and miss the ministry that God has for them. We take them out of their neighborhoods and distract them with participating in our events and programming…

2987611025_b9a279bba1I must state here, that I am not against programming, because programming helps us meet the felt needs of people (See Acts chapter 6). What I am saying is that our programming needs to be more than just purposeful, it needs to be focused and strategic - moving people to love God, love their neighbor, and love one another. It must free God’s people to be in their neighborhoods to connect and minister the gospel to those that live around them. Can the Church stop trying to be a buffet restaurant and distract God’s people from getting a clear picture of the mission He has purposed us to do? We must free God's people and give them the ability to love the people around them... People > Programs.

*Post adapted from a March 2011 blog post I wrote about neighboring*

Conversation on Acts-like insurrection strategy...

Recently, I posted about a conversation a few others were having about a new strategy for discipleship and church growth (the original posted can be found here Adam McLane). Within the blog post and ensuing conversation, I commented some of my thoughts to the blogger of the original post... I thought it would be helpful if I shared my thoughts on the conversation. Also, this whole conversation started with a blog post he did on reaching parents of students - The Parent Gap. Below is what I posted in the comment area in response to Adam McLane's blog post on finding a new strategy...

"As a church, we have been praying and thinking about the command by Jesus to in-short “love God and love our neighbors.” Through this, it has caused us to rethink the how we do church, our measurements for success i.e. “wins” and over-all strategy. We are nowhere near having things figured out, but the conversation of being the best neighbor our neighbors have ever had, and loving our neighbors not because we want them to be Christians, but because we are Christians have caused us to have deeper discussions of how church would look different, be different, and act different.

I recently launched a home Bible study this summer in my house for high school students. The book we are studying is the book of Acts. I started off the study by telling the 30 high school students it would be great that if one day “soon”, they were the ones leading a Bible study like this in their homes, neighborhoods, and schools and not me! One student said, “then we would be doing your job and the job of our adult leaders. You would be out of a job!” My response was that it would be great if that happened, because then they would all be doing what Jesus commanded and that is to make disciples, and not just me doing it…

Its hard for those of us who are paid staff to think about “new strategy’s” for church, because it can cause disruption and uncertainty in our own lives and livelihood. I have been on staff as a youth pastor on a couple of mega-churches, and I am currently on staff at a mega-church. I know the leaderships' heart is to make disciples, and to see people fulfill the command of Jesus in Matthew 28:18-20. However, realizing that discipleship really begins with depth, which leads to numerical growth, and not the other way around can be daunting and paralyzing for churches of all sizes… It is a cultural thing in many ways.

One of the commentators above stated this about the America church, “They are looking for ways to “keep” people in church, upping their numbers. The church in America has basically been stagnant for decades.” This can true for many churches and staff persons in the U.S.. However, I am encouraged by bloggers such as yourself, others, and conversations similar to this that are popping up all over the country. I am excited that the Father seems to be moving in the U.S church and the hearts of His people, both big and small to realize His plan for the kingdom."

I hope by sharing this with you, we can continue the conversation and seek to BE the church and not just play church..