Monday, May 30, 2011

The Communications of Jesus

Technology is great, especially when it works.  One of the great things we have at our disposal is the ability to pass information from books, sermons, or quotes to hundreds; if not thousands of people in an instant.
One subject I've noticed that can cause quite a stir in the Twitter, Facebook and Blogger circuit is when postings are made about the church.
Honestly, to me the subject of  The Church can be one of the most confusing topics out there.  I've heard pastors spend 30 minutes in their message talking about how the church is not a building but a people united for Jesus then spend the other 30 minutes encouraging people to be faithful to the building. (haha)

Let me say, I LOVE the Church and it's certainly a topic that can push my buttons. I've grown up in church, I've been hurt by the church, I've been loved by the church, I've attended church planting meetings and met with countless pastors on the subject of "The Church."  With that said, allow me to set a little bit of context;  I know it's human nature to quickly run to either side of the ditch when it comes to any subject.  Righteousness and grace, legalism and freedom, Jesus and church, rebellion and religious and so on.  But what we need to remember, regardless of what side of the ditch we end up on concerning an issue... it's still a ditch.
When it comes to statements like, "I love Jesus just not the church"  or "Jesus would spend more time chasing after the one rather than the other ninety-nine" or even "Jesus wouldn't be in the church today" is my concern to what audience in which these statements are made.  The truth is some people hear these statements and lock on to them as the "gospel" when they are nothing more than simple statements made to "relate" or "sympathize" with a generation who doesn't understand the church. Pastor Timothy Keller said it best in his book, The Prodigal God, "The concept of one loving Jesus but not liking the church is just another way to to hide in self deception"

Perhaps if we understood how Jesus communicated, then we'd be more mindful of what we communicate.  Here are five levels of communication we see Jesus use.
1.) The Multitudes:  Jesus taught them in story form and never explained His messages to them.  He knew the multitudes had come for one primary reason: to find answers for their personal needs.  Jesus didn't give assignments to the multitudes.  Jesus didn't try to disciple the multitudes.  Jesus didn't try to develop personal relationships with the multitudes.  Jesus simply challenged the masses to make greater spiritual commitments.
2.) The 70 Associates:  Jesus chose seventy to go before Him announcing His arrival. Jesus didn't attempt to disciple the seventy, he gave them personal assignments but did not enter into personal relationships with them.  We don't know any of their names, just their number.
3.) The 12 Disciples:  Jesus chose these twelve men personally; each of them is named and identified.  We know more about them than we know about the multitudes or the seventy. This is where Jesus spent the majority of His ministry.  Their learning session were in natural environments.  They walked, talked, ate together, they asked Jesus questions and He responded.  He explained His stories to them in detail.
4.) The Inner Circle:  This was Jesus' core group; Peter, James and John were the three that knew Him best and were closest to Him.  These men received His special assignments.  These were the friends Jesus took with Him when He went to raise the dead.  They saw His glory on the Mount of Transfiguration.  They saw His sorrow in the Garden of Gethsemane.  
5.) The Beloved:  Of all Jesus' disciples, only one could say he was the disciple "whom Jesus loved."  John was the only one we know who laid his head on Jesus' chest.  Jesus gave John the responsibility of caring for His aging mother. 

Again let me keep these statements in context to the subject of communication (not salvation or any other subject.)  As I travel I and speak in different churches, I have to be sure to know the audience.  Too often we treat the multitudes as if they are the twelve or the inner circle.
I know I too need to be mindful of who is reading my post on Facebook and encourage all of us as The Church to build one another up in love and remember some things may not need to be repeated, re-posted or re-tweeted because it may cause more harm than good.
In love and unity!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Growth Changes Everything

A young couple are expecting their first child.  Already in their seventh month they explain to a group of friends how excited they are that things have been going smoothly; regular check ups, eating healthy, plenty of rest.  They are ready.
One of their friends asks them what color did they paint the baby's room.  Another asks what bed did they get.  Another couple asked if they will be needing additional diapers and things since they were courious why there has been no baby shower, at least not one they were invited to.
The young couple looked at everyone and them each other as if to say, "what are you talking about?"

"We haven't done any of those things!" The husband exclaims.  Shocked the group of friends start shooting off a check list of questions:  "Have you baby-proofed your house?"  "Car seats?"  "Do you have a crib?"  "Are you going to nurse or use formula?" 
The questions just kept coming.  To every one's shock the young couple just looked at everyone and said, "We've been just so excited about the new growth to our family that we thought the baby would be fine just to be a part of who we are.  We had no idea we'd have to make so many changes for just one addition."

The above story is made up and crazy to say the least.  I don't know of anyone who has ever been expecting a baby to not do some things ahead of time to get ready for the new addition. 
As crazy as the above scene sounds, would you believe this is all too common outlook when it comes to church growth? 

There are three common types of thoughts when it comes to growing a church.  The first is called, "The Revivalist" style.  This method believes, "all we need is a good revival and the church will grow."  While that certainly is a good thought, unfortunately it's not only grossly unbiblical, it's just not true.  The second is called "The Programmatic" style. This thought process follows the belief, "if we can get the right programs and events and ministries in place then the church will grow."  Again, this is a good thought and when done does produce a level of growth; however if that's all that's done then growth will halt and level off quickly.
The third is called, "The Natural" style.  This group comes to the table with the same understanding as the previous two, which is, "God provides the growth, He is in charge" but before the "naturalist" start on any program or ministry they first ask the question, "what do we need to get rid of that is hindering us from growing?"
Now that is one painfully honest question to ask.  Because lets be honest, most things at the church are there because we like them.  We may have even been the ones to make them or invent them or even "birth" them.  But the truth is every level of growth your church or organization goes through will bring new changes.  Much like a family with five children will look, act, operate differently than a family with two children, why?
Growth changes everything.
Don't fall victim to getting so focused for new growth that you don't first answer the tough questions, how will be handle and take care of these new additions?  Are there systems in place to help outsiders become insiders?
Are there things in our church, even good things, that are unknowingly prohibiting us from growing?