One of my favorite bible verses is Matthew 28:20 where Jesus is about to ascend into heaven and says, “Be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” I remember this verse was used all the time to remind us that Jesus is omnipresent, he’s everywhere which means we’re never alone. You’re going through hard time? Jesus is with you. You’re lonely and having a hard time make friends, keeping friends? Jesus is with you! Having a hard time finding a boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, or wife. Jesus is with you. Facing an impossible challenge? Jesus is with you! You’re not alone. He’s there to be with you, comfort you, and help you through whatever is standing in the way of your happiness, health, or safety. Yet is that the right way to view what Jesus is saying?
A number of years ago I was reading the context of this verse again, Matthew 28:16-20. For some reason I saw what I never saw before.
Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you.
His very next words are:
And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.
Jesus’ promise to be with us always is tied to us going on his mission! He’s saying, “I’ve defeated sin and death through my death and resurrection on your behalf. I’ve created you, my church, to bring my salvation to all people. Go and make disciples, everywhere in the world, by baptizing them and teaching them to obey everything I’ve told you. Oh, Don’t be afraid, go in confidence that I’m now in charge and have all power and I’m going with you. I’m never going to abandon you while you. I’m on this mission with you until it’s completed at the end of the age.”
Now don’t hear what I’m not saying. I’m not saying that Jesus is only with us if we’re “on mission” seeking the lost and making disciples. There’s other verses in the bible that talk about God being near to all people and actively present in the lives of those who look to him. However, this specific promise in Matthew 28:20 is given in context of mission.
We’ve started a new church in the last couple years, and are coming to the 1st year anniversary of our corporate weekly worship in September. Since God has called me back to faith, I’ve had a passion to see all people come to the God who has loved me and saved me. Yet in the last couple years, as we’ve given ourselves wholeheartedly to, and have reoriented our lives around, God’s mission, we’ve seen God everywhere.
Every day, I wake up or leave my house and it’s like I’m going on a crazy, epic, adventure. I say to God, “How are you going to show up today? What are you going to do to me, for me, through me for the sake of your kingdom?” What’s amazing is that we are seeing God everywhere as we go with his mission in mind. His fingerprints are evident all over the lives of the people we’re running into. It’s almost like we can see his hands bringing our little missionary band into encounters and relationship with the unbelieving, doubting, and hurting at just the right time. Why is this? Because he has all authority and he’s with us always in a special way when we’re seeking to see others know Him and grow up to be His disciples.
Some Christians live their lives thinking that God has privileged them, that the world and our culture should be fit to bless them and so they engage in the culture wars to make this a “Christian” or “Moral” nation. Some even wrongly believe that God simple wants to bless his people by removing their difficulties and pain and by blessings them with all sorts of good health, a beautiful spouse, a great career, etc.
One day the world will be perfect. Jesus will come down and save his people, his church. He’ll give us perfect health and perfect bodies as he takes away all sickness, pain, and death. He will give pleasure, comfort, security, and peace. He will give us the riches of his Father’s kingdom as we live with our Creator and Redeemer face-to-face. We’ll have everything we’ve truly ever desired and dreamed of because we’ll have him. We’ll have the best life that we could ever dream of because we’ll have him. Yet that’s not what we have now.
It’s almost as if our land has been captured by an enemy power. The true king has come out of exile. He’s liberated our town. We’ve seen him again face-to-face. He’s going to fight for us and His victory will be our victory. Yet he can’t stay. His mission doesn’t end with us. There’s others to be liberated but he invites us to take up arms and follow him. He invites us to join his mission. Those who stay in the village might see him from time-to-time when he returns between skirmishes or if the people are in danger again. Yet those who join him in battle get to see him every day. The get to see Him work and fight for them. They get to witness his awesome power as he fights for them and his passionate love and he sets captives free. This is the calling of the church, his people.
The World doesn’t exist for the Church. It will one day. Yet for now, the Church exists for the World. We exist for the mission. When we’re on mission we’ll see Jesus in ways we have never dreamed as we walk beside him and see him work in and through our lives for the sake of bringing the world back to him.
If you like this post you might also like It’s Dangerous Business
I ran into a pretty great site called, Church Creatives. They have some great resources and tutorials on graphics and video side of the church. Here is their list of free church graphics:
- LifeChurch.tv Open– Offers free sermon series resources.
- RiseUpResources.com– Offers free church graphics.
- CreationSwap.com– Previously CreativeMYK.com Offers free church graphics.
- Muddy River Media– Offers free sermon series resources.
- NewSpring Ministries– Offers free sermon series resources.
- Elevation Church– Offers free sermon series resources.
- Stuff I Can Use– Offers free church graphics.
- New Worship Media– Offers free church graphics.
picture found here
I’ve been away from Blogging since Christmas. Life has been busy in trying to grow a new church and disciple the people that God has given to my care. Here’s a short testimonial from John and Alex on how God is changing their lives through The Exchange Community.
Our new church, The Exchange Community is starting its weekly gatherings this Sunday, September 8th, at 9am. We’ll be meeting at The Creative Edge, at 160 N Enterprise Ln, Jackson, Mo 63755. I think we are going to cook a brunch afterwards for anyone who would like to stick around. More will come as we solidify plans for the meal.
- What is the common perception of the church today?
- What do you see that’s wrong with the church?
- What is good about the church?
- What do you think the church should be like?
Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these. ~Matthew 19:14
We Love Our Children! Yet sometimes it’s difficult to get anything out of a message or to worship when our kids just won’t cooperate. For some the option has been for one parent to keep the kids at home or to send them to a Sunday school class during the worship gathering. Yet, in these cases, our children never learn the importance of having a rhythm of worship.
We offer an age appropriate story, activity, and snack for our smaller children during our message time. This way they get to worship with their family yet also hear a message at their own level. Just have you children sit with you and we’ll call all the children right before the message and bring them back before the closing song.
We also have a little room for parents with small children to use if necessary.
Here are a few suggestions to help you engage and teach your child about the worship gathering:
- Before worship, talk to your child about why we worship God. Because of the great love that God has shown us through Jesus, we want to give thanks to Him and learn more about his love.
- Communicate your behavior expectations before the gathering begins.
- Have your child do the things you do, stand, fold hands, pray, etc.
- Follow along with them in the bible reading for the day.
- Especially if your children are too old for our kids Corner, sit close to the front so the child can visually engage with the speaker.
- work on elements of the gathering at home with them: The Lord’s Prayer, Apostles Creed, and frequently used songs, etc.
- Talk about the good things that happened at the gathering. Ask your children, “What did you learn about God?”, “What did you learn about his love?”, “What did you learn about Jesus?”, “What Story did they talk about in Kids Corner?”
- Pick up a, “Jesus Story Book Bible” at the local bookstore or in the back of church to help you teach your children about Jesus during the rest of the week.
- Teach them the gathering is just part of the Christian Life. Join a Missional Community to show them how God’s people follow Jesus together and Show his love through.
This is a pretty good video about the problem of Church being inward focus instead of being outward focused. How should we live as Christians? What should be the focus of our churches? It’s worth a watch.
Video Found here
In luke 10, Jesus sends out the Seventy Two into the villages of the surrounding countryside to prepare people to meet Jesus. Before they go, Jesus gives them some instructions on what they should do. Remember how he sent them out? What was his first instruction? He sent them out, two-by-two.
It’s odd that Jesus sent out the Seventy Two in pairs to share the gospel, yet we usually see witnessing and evangelism as a solo experience. We see sharing the faith as our duty or burden that is seems so difficult that we never actually do it, or are not very successful at it. Maybe the reason we aren’t great in witnessing to Christ is that we try to go it alone.
Our Missional Communities are not just support groups for individual missionaries trying to accomplish their individual missions, but they are a group of people who are called to be on mission together. In our MCs, our most successful witnesses are ones that don’t go it alone but invite other Christians on the mission. The sending of the Seventy two shows us that this was Christ’s intention. Now we don’t necessarily need to split into groups of two in order to reach people successfully. But we increase our chances as we reach out in groups.
Some of our members continually try to reach their friends and coworkers and eventually invite them to come to participate in the Story. Yet, they end up not getting very far. I often wonder if it is simply too intimidating to come to a get-together when you only know one or two people who will be there. It gets even more intimidating when you add religion to the evening.
What if we introduced everybody we were trying to reach to other members of our MC and church? Some of our members do this. They invite the people their trying to reach, and another Christian couple from their MC, out to dinner a couple times. Others throw parties regularly and invite their MC members and also the people they are trying to reach so everyone gets to know each other over a number of months. Then when it comes time to invite them to the Story, they already know a number of people there and aren’t afraid of not knowing anyone.
Don’t go it alone. Witness with the help of others.
Consider the following questions and challenges:
- Who have you been trying to reach recently?
- Have you introduced them to other member of your MC?
- Who in your MC would connect well with the person/people you want to reach?
- How can you introduce them? What kind of event, party, dinner, hang out, or entertainment would both parties feel comfortable in?
- Make plans to introduce these two groups in the next 2 weeks?
Picture found here
The other night we gathered our two Missional Communities together to do a little training and to celebrate what God has been doing through our Church planting efforts. At the end, I shared this video from Soma communities because I wanted to remind our MCs what they were working towards, why they were reaching out, why they were sharing and stretching their lives.
Spend a few minutes of watching the video below and dream of what church could be:
- Oftentimes there’s a disconnect between what we read about the Church in scriptures and the church as we know it in 21st century America. How does this video challenge you? How does it give you hope?
- It takes time to plant a church and to share life in a missional community. Much of what we do is to invite people to share life with us, by inviting them to join us in what we’re already doing throughout the week. Still, sometimes to add something we need to let go of something. What is keeps you from having time to share life with members of your MC, or the people you’re trying to reach? What do you need to give up to give of yourself to this new life in Christ as His Disciple?
- Think of all the people in your life. Think of the people in this town and region. For whom is God breaking your heart? How can you start inviting them to share life with you?
- Is there someone who has been discontented with the church that you can share this video with and invite them along on the mission?
Sharing the Gospel or inviting someone to a church service, missional community, or a small group can often feel intimidating. Christians all know that we’re called to make disciples of all nations, to be witnesses of the Gospel to the ends of the earth. We know we’re called to be the light of the world, the salt of the earth. We even want to be effective at this mission. We want to see or family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers know the life and love they can have in Jesus. Yet, at times we don’t know where to begin.
We have all seen or heard about a lot of high-pressure evangelist encounters that seemed more like an argument than a sharing of the hope we have in Jesus. Maybe you’ve actually been the one pressuring someone else to come to become a Christian. Or maybe you’ve sat there and heard a friend or coworker vent about someone who was “trying to push their faith” on them. Perhaps, you were just minding your own business and some well-meaning Christians kept pushing tracts in your face, forcing conversation, and if you, a fellow Christian, felt uncomfortable. We know we don’t want to reach out that way, but we are left unsure of how to go about it.
For most of us we have one big problem with evangelism. We fear others. We’re afraid of what people might think of us after we mention the name of Jesus or the word, Church. We are afraid of what might happen when we step on a stranger’s door step. We’re even a bit afraid that they might view us as that angry judgmental person. Perhaps we have all these fears and negative emotions because we view evangelism in the wrong way.
Tim Chester and Steve Timmis suggest that evangelism is actually meant to be a team activity, that we’re meant to share and show the faith together, over time, through relationships. We recognize here that not everyone shares the same gifts. Chester and Timmis suggest that there are a few ways that everyone can be involved in witnessing: Building relationships, Sharing the Gospel, and Introducing to Community
In their book, Total Church, they share this diagram to show how multiple Christians can be involved in witnessing to one person:
As Christians we should always be interested in knowing new people and getting to know the unchurch people around us. Especially in a church plant, it is essential that all of our member are regularly starting new relationships with people on the fringes of their life, and depening relationships with the unchurched people they know. There are people who are extremely gifted at meeting new people and starting relationships with them.
Sharing the Gospel
When we live the Christian life in front of an unbeleiving world, people will take notive of the way we love, sacrafice, and serve and will ask us of our faith. All Christians all called to be ready to answer when someone asks the reason of our hope. When we have opportunity, and the Spirit moves us, we’re called to speak. Yet, for some this come much easier. Some people can turn everyday conversation into a exhortation to beleive in Jesus.
Introducing to Community
Most of us have people in our lives that are unchurched or dechurched. The difficult thing is trying to figure out how to get them to church or to sit down and talk about Jesus in a productive way. Yet, often times all we have to do is to introduce them to the wider community. It’s hard to just start up a religious conversation and it seem natural. Its even difficult to simply get someone to agree to go to church, yet its pretty easy to ask them to a barbeque or a movie. Somepeople are naturals at connecting people. Someone great in this area might host great parties or plan some great events or they might be simply good at inviting a unchurched friend and beleiving friends to the same place. The more relationships built, the better, because the unchurched person sees the Gospel play out in the lives of Christians. There is also, then, a greater chance that the unchurched person might really connect with one of the Christians, which can open the door to greater Gospel converstaions.
When evangelism becomes a community project, it becomes easy and fun. Everyone has a part to play. No matter your gift. God can use you. He’s save you for this very purpose. Trust in his Spirit to lead you.
- Who do you know that is far from Jesus? How can you start to build relationships with them?
- If you’re not gifted at sharing the faith, who do you need to introduce them to?
- What kinds of events or settings can you imagine your unchurch and your church friends mingling at?
- What strand or strands of evangelism are you most comfortable and gifted with? What other types of Christians do you need to partner with to help reach your friends?
Read more about outreach in missional communities here
Images found here
Are there perfect people in this world, in Church? Have you ever been in a church or a crowd where people acted or seemed better than you? If so, how did it make you feel? Did you feel rejected or accepted? Did you feel like there was hope or did you feel hopeless?
Below is a video that was very popular earlier this year entitled, Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus.
After watching this video:
- Was the speaker saying, ditch the church and be spiritual on your own? Or was he drawing a different distinction between religion and Jesus?
- How does this speaker define religion? Is he right in doing so? What are your thoughts?
- If there really are no perfect people in church and this world, what should it look like when Christians gather as the church? How should we act in relation to other sinners?
- What hope do you have in a church that is a hospital for the sick that tells people “come as you are no matter what you’ve done or how messy your life is”? What fears do you have?
- How does the Gospel address the fears that we have about showing our sin and about allowing sinful people to be part of our lives and in our church?
As Christians we tend to cloister, separate, ourselves from people who are caught in sin. It’s like they are sick and we want to keep them out of our lives in fear of being infected as well. Yet the truth is, we are all infected. We’re all sick with sin. We all need a doctor, we all need healing to differing degrees and in different ways. Jesus said in Mark 2:17,
It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.
In our new church we will encounter many people who “don’t have life together” but it’s okay because we don’t have life together as well. We’re all messed up. We’re all sick. We all need a doctor who is well and who can heal us. We all need him. And when we recognize that, we don’t have to hide or pretend. We don’t have to fear other’s judgment, because Jesus was judged on our behalf. We can be open about what we’re struggling with and allow Jesus to serve and to help us through our fellow Christians. And we can help others as well and we can show them that Jesus accepts, loves, and can help change them too, because he’s healed and is still healing us.
No perfect people are allowed in our Church except Jesus because only Jesus is perfect. We can’t pretend we have it all together, and if we think we do we deceive ourselves. Rather, we can all admit we are all sick and we can rest in his healing perfection.
For more about religion and the Gospel check out The Difference between Religion, Irreligion, and the Gospel.
picture found here